Sunday, September 15, 2019

Selfless Holy Light in a Dark Age of Self-Worship (1st Peter 4:7-16)

Audio Message:

We live in a world that is largely dominated by self interest. All around town, up and down, we see self interest at work. What can I get? What can I gain? We gotta make money. We gotta meet the right people, and get what we need from them. Often times it feels like our lives revolve around what we want and how quickly we can get it.

We live in a time of great abundance and technological brilliance in the United States, yet we also live in a time of depravity and immorality that shocks us and amazes us with it’s level of evil, and toxic culture. The “me” culture is quite dominant. Selfie stick, Facebook profile, twitter account, hundreds of pictures of me, me, me, videos, conversations, my perfect scores, my high grades, and we’ll only show the best to others. We never show people what’s really going on inside of us.

We’ve gotta get the right job. And make sure we get married and have the family. Then we gotta keep buying bigger stuff, nicer stuff, more stuff, and show our neighbors, that we don’t really like how, just how important we are. And that’s life I suppose. That’s the American dream, the white picket fence, the sports car, the fancy house.

There is much more to life than that. And it seems like we’ve gotten so bogged down in the material in our lives, that we lose touch with the spiritual. Life is about so much more than our daily routines, it’s about so much more than work, and habits and eating meals and collecting paychecks. We have to find ways to recapture the wonder for life.

Because if we spend everyday circulating between the cubicle to the computer to the television screen to the bedroom and back again, we will go crazy. We will fade away. And that’s no good. There are ways to reclaim the wonder of life.

Something I like to do, is I wait until night time, usually about 8pm, or 9pm, sometimes even 10pm, and I’ll go out for a walk around my neighborhood. And I live in a safe neighborhood so I’m able to do that. And I stare at the sky, and listen to music, and watch the trees, and the shadows they form, and wander down roads, not really trying to go anywhere in particular, just looking for spots of beauty. Then I’ll look at the moon and the stars, and think

On the weekends I will go out and bike ride at the nature preserve on the outskirts of town. And I delight in the sunlight, the beautiful trees, and everything that is so beautiful about the natural world. I watch the birds fly about, I listen to the sounds of the woods, and then later I’ll walk along the Shiawassee river downtown and maybe sit down, and read my Bible, or pray. There is great wonder in life. There is beauty in the world God created.

Our world is full of interesting paradoxes. Darkness, and light, goodness, and evil. Beautiful sunny days, cold placid lifeless winter nights. Beautiful creatures, birds, rabbits, dogs, cats, and ferocious creatures like lions, wolves, rhinoceros. Glorious sunsets, stunning mountain ranges, and terrible diseases that end peoples lives, and violent earthquakes and hurricanes. Life is a mysterious, wondrous, and terrifying adventure And deep down we know that there is very much at stake. In fact, everything is at stake. Somehow when I’m walking alone at night, or staring out the window in the evening, something inside tells me the clock is ticking, and time is running out.

As the scripture said today, “The end of all things is near.” That was written about one thousand nine hundred and forty years ago. How much more true must they be now, than then?

Our scripture today is essentially calling us to live completely differently from the world we live in right now. This world seems to make us think we’re going to live forever. The scriptures say “the end of all things is near.” This world says “you deserve everything you want” and word says “ be self controlled and alert.” This world says “get yours” and the word says “love one another deeply.”

And it continues, in our scripture today, 1st Peter 4: 9-11 “Open your homes to each other without complaining. 10 Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. 11 Those who preach must preach God's messages; those who serve must serve with the strength that God gives them, so that in all things praise may be given to God through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”

When is the last time you invited someone over for dinner to your home? The word says open your homes to each other, and don’t complain about doing that. That’s a spiritual gifting, certainly, but it’s also something we’re all called to do. It’s the same with evangelism, sharing the gospel, some may be especially equipped to do it, but in truth all Christians must be doing it.

If your gift is to serve, then serve in God’s strength. Serve in the power of the Holy Spirit. If your gift is to preach, then preach God’s messages. And the ultimate goal, to bring glory to Jesus Christ.

If you’re a true Christian, you should be tithing at least 10% of your income. Whenever you get paid, set aside at least 10% of your income to give back to God. It's the first thing we should do on payday, write a check, and set aside at least 10% for God. Of course the New Testament standard is to give all (Acts 2:42-47). But a good starting point is 10%, then slowly work your way up, 11%, 12%, 15%, 20% and more. God has given us everything we have, so it already belongs to Him. Therefore, honor God with your money. For those who reject this simple giving, they may well be called disobedient Christians at the final judgment. Ultimately God does not need our money, this is about obedience, and learning to give.

Unfortunately many don’t believe that Jesus will really return to Earth. Many in fact openly mock the ideas of Christianity. Today they are referred to as the new atheists, they’ve sold millions of copies of their books, like the God delusion. Which is quite interesting, because the word of God actually says, in 2 Peter 3:3-4 NIV, “3 First of all, I want you to know that in the last days men will laugh at the truth. They will follow their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “He promised to come again. Where is He? Since our early fathers died, everything is the same from the beginning of the world.”

This world, this life, everything we worry about and stress about, and strive so hard to get will very soon, be completely destroyed and gone. The word calls this “the day of the Lord” and is referenced many times in the New Testament.

2 Peter 3:10-11 :“The day of the Lord will come as a robber comes. The heavens will pass away with a loud noise. The sun and moon and stars will burn up. The earth and all that is in it will be burned up.

11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, you should think about the kind of life you are living. It should be holy and God-like.”

This is probably the most important thing I’ve learned in my time as a Christian follower of Jesus: How we live matters greatly. Live right. Do right. We will also have to stand before God and give an explanation for how we lived. I remember that everyday, when I’m tempted to live falsely or do something selfish. I remember, and I tremble before God’s throne. God can send us to heaven, or to hell, and he does not show favoritism. He is a just judge, and if we die in sin, that’s it, we’re not going to heaven. So live rightly, live holy, and repent quickly.

As it says in 2 Corinthians 7 “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

In a dark age of selfishness, and self-worship, where we focus on me, me, me and that’s it, when we exhibit the holiness of God, by walking as Jesus walked, we change the world. The gospel spreads through us to others. Nothing can stop it. All of the powers of this world, lies, flesh, evil powers, darkness, sin, nothing can stop that holy light of God that shines from the Father, through Jesus, inside us, through us, and into the world. Lives change. Lost people get saved. Communities are transformed. And new souls are led to a future paradise. Holy light shocks the world, it’s a terrifying brightness to them. They can hardly stand it. Some reject it, some fear it, some flee from it, but some are drawn toward it, those who are being saved.

Holiness changes the world. Jesus works through simple people, like you and me. He is calling people home through us. And if we will walk differently, then we will change the world just like Jesus changed the world when he walked the Earth. Life becomes a holy warfare. And that warfare becomes our lives. We fight, we suffer, we struggle, and we battle for the souls of humanity. We fight against the evil corrupt systems of this world, by shining forth holy selfless light into the darkness. And it changes the darkness into light. All of this brings great glory and honor to God.

As our scripture said today, in verses 12-16: 12 My dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. 13 Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when his glory is revealed. 14 Happy are you if you are insulted because you are Christ's followers; this means that the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is resting on you. 15 If you suffer, it must not be because you are a murderer or a thief or a criminal or a meddler in other people's affairs. 16 However, if you suffer because you are a Christian, don't be ashamed of it, but thank God that you bear Christ's name.”

As we shine for Christ, living holy selfless lives, this will lead to suffering. What happened when Jesus began speaking the truth, healing people, loving people, and teaching the multitudes? He was persecuted. He was hated. People plotted against him. People despised the light that he brought. He threatened their power. Jesus threatened the hold they had over the people. So they fought against him. The darkness of this world always fights against the holy message of Christ. It can’t stand it, because it brings to light their own evil deeds, and convicts them of what they do. So they fight against it. And just that same way they will fight against you. And hate you. And mock you. And try to silence you any way they can.

But instead of being surprised by the suffering we go through, we should be full of joy because we are suffering for Jesus. How did Jesus handle it, when he suffered? He prayed to God in the garden of Gethsemane. He continued to speak the truth. He cared for his disciples. And that moment that Jesus was taken to the cross, Jesus fully submitted to the evil of this world. He allowed it to consume him completely. One looks at the morning of the crucifixion and one could easily think of it as the most evil day in the planet Earth’s history. Jesus God of the universe was brutally tortured, and murdered by the people he designed and created, on the Earth he made by the speaking of His voice. What could be worse? It seemed by outward appearance that evil had triumphed. But that’s the surprising victory of Holy selfless light. When it seems like evil has triumphed, by completely destroying good, it’s the blood poured out on the ground by the victorious dead that waters the seeds planted by their voices, echoing into eternity, far beyond their death, that spreads forth as a mighty forest, hundreds, thousands, millions of new voices rise up in their stead, empowered by that martyrs blood, watered and sustained by that paradoxical victory in defeat, that spreads holy selfless light throughout the world, crushing the darkness that had so believed it had won. But instead, paradoxically God’s victory comes through weakness, brokenness, and defeat. When we allow the evil to overcome us, and strike us down, we come to see that we rise again, stronger than ever, having suffered for Christ, and the blood of our wounds spreads the light even brighter, to more and more people. Indeed, as we suffer for Christ, we glorify God, bringing the gospel message to the lost, and changing and transforming the people of the world. Thus we seek to escape this broken place, destined for destruction, and gather humanity to the new heavens, and new Earth, where we will live in peace and infinite harmony with God, for years and years to come, into an incredible future, an adventurous future, that we can hardly imagine. That is your destiny, if you will decide now, that I will live holy, selfless, true to God, in secret, and in public, living by his decries and commands, and living for Jesus, being a light in the darkness of this selfish world, shocking them with a selfless life of love, goodness, service, and holy giving light.

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