Sunday, February 23, 2020

Lord Build Me in Repentance



Glory to God our heavenly Father who has made all the things we see, and the things we don’t see, and the world in it’s majesty around us. He’s made the bright shining sun, and the moon at night, the stars in the sky, the trees, the forests, the rivers, and the valleys, to the mountains high and the oceans deep, God’s glory is manifest all around us.

Indeed God is great, and mighty in power. So far beyond us. And at the end of our lives, we will appear before the judgment throne of God and answer to this great God. So we ought to humble ourselves before God.

To this point in our lives many of us were living for ourselves, to satisfy our own selfish desires. But now that we know God is real and He will judge us, we ought to humble ourselves before God. Give yourself over to God now, and change the path of your life. Do things differently. Change your weekly routine. Change how you live.

Many of you have done this. You’ve set your heart and your desires in a new direction. You are reaching out for God and seeking Him. And as a result of your new faith, you’ve had to endure a series of battles and struggles. You’ve had to endure health problems, temptations, difficulties, chronic pain, being attacked by people you trusted, being mocked, losing jobs, and even being physically attacked. Why? Because your new faith is being tested and refined through the fires of difficulty.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. That’s what you’re doing, when you pray, and when you seek God, and when you fight through a temptation or a struggle. You’re resisting the evil one. And these trials are making you strong and more like Jesus. Satan will flee from you when you resist him.

Come close to God. Seek God and find God. That is a simple, yet profound thing. Spend time with God. Instead of sitting in front of the tv, shut it off, and read a chapter from James, or from John. Spend some time in prayer, each day, in quiet prayer, in a quiet room. And what’s amazing, is that when you earnestly seek God, you come close to God, and then wow, God comes close to you.

Have you ever felt that? Maybe in worship and singing in dinner church, or during private prayer time, and you suddenly feel the presence of God. It shines in you. You feel Him. You sense Him. And you are amazed with His glory.

And it says, “Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

And that is what I want to call you to do today, is call you to sorrow, sadness, and deep grief. We all do this to a certain extent in our lives, when we go struggles, when we have a breakup, or a big change happens in our lives. We grieve, feel pain, and struggle. We sit back in quiet rooms, and we ask big questions about life and ourselves.

For many of us, our loyalty is divided between God and the world. We live in an age of the church where so many Christians and churches are lukewarm. We’ve got one foot in the world, and one foot in Christianity. One foot with Jesus, one foot with the world.

Our scripture today said: “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.”

What a scary thought, that if we make ourselves friends with the world, we also become enemies of God. But what does God mean when he says “friendship with the world.” Well, I think it means that you’ve set your heart on loving the things of this life. You love movies, you love your house, your car, your elaborate vacations, and you don’t really care that much about God, or the next world, or God’s commands. It’s like becoming comfortable in the world, and kind of ignoring passion and love for God.

Now there are things in this world that I really like. Coffee is one, I really like coffee. I’m also a big fan of apples, not sweet apples, but more tart apples, that have a bite to them. I enjoy certain kinds of movies, I really like art, and I really like finding rare and interesting music, bands, and deep music. That’s all fine. There are things in this world that we like, and really enjoy. But I’ll tell you this, I love God more than any of that. And I would give up all of that stuff to be with God, and live with God forever in paradise.

One pastor said it this way, I can’t remember who, but he said, keep a light grip on the things in this world. Because you’ll have to give all them up eventually.

And I think it was Billy Graham who said, “I’m a pilgrim, just passing through this world.” One Christian commenting about the life of a friend of his, said he didn’t keep many things, his home looked as if he could pack up and leave at any time. It was like he knew he was just passing through this world and headed for another one.

Does that make sense? Yes it does.

Our scripture today also said this, “Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.[b] 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

“Do you think the scripture have no meaning?” That is a question I would ask many Christians in this day and age. Because they don’t really seem to believe the scriptures. They believe slogans, like “once saved always saved.” They believe what preachers tell them, but they don’t really study the scriptures for themselves.

God is passionate that the spirit which he has placed within us should be faithful to him. That’s very interesting. God is indicating that we need to be obedient to Him if we expect to attain to paradise. “But pastor I can’t lose my salvation by being disobedient can I? I can’t lose my salvation by being a friend of the world can I?”

“Actually, yes you can. Sorry if that upsets the apple cart of protestant reformada theology but I go by what the Bible says, not by the doctrines of man demand. If something in the Bible upsets my theology, I let it be upset. I live by the Bible not the theology of man. That's sacrilege in protestant circles, to value the word over the protestant ideology, but I don't care. I'm accountable to God, not the opinion of protestant evangelicalism. So I'll trust God's word over any theological doctrine that papers over certain difficult scriptures.

But our scripture also says “And he gives grace generously. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

If we make any mistake, if we mess up in any way, all we have to do is come to Jesus, ask for forgiveness, change our ways, and then he makes us clean again. That’s the great thing about Jesus Christ our savior. At any point in our Christian journey, if we screw up, make a mistake, get caught up in sin, all we have to do is come to Jesus, ask Him to help us get free from sin, and ask his forgiveness and boom, we’re clean again.

That brings us to this issue of repentance. It said in our scripture today, “9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

If we’re living in sins of the flesh, we need to get free from them. And this process is called repentance. That’s why I said earlier, find sadness, sorrow, and grief. That comes from God’s Holy Spirit inside us. We start to grieve over the sins we are struggling with. We keep thinking about it over and over. This needs to leave my life. I need to break free from it. And we feel the futility of trying to break free on our own. But then we’re reminded that if we cry out to God he will set us free and do the impossible. This process sometimes takes days, week, or months, of feeling this emptiness, this unsettled feeling about this sin in our lives. We feel in struggle about it. We feel sad. We feel empty and miserable about it. Then we realize, I can pray to God and express my sorrow to Him, and He will break every chain. We repent. And that sorrow drives us to break free, and that holy good feeling comes over us when we realize that God has now delivered us from that sin.

There may be times in the future when we feel tempted to sin in that way. There may be times when we have to grit our teeth and fight really hard against temptation. But slowly over time those temptations grow less and less powerful. And eventually, it’s a far off distant temptation, that barely even affects us. I’ve been free from alcohol for 7 years. In the first few months I would not even go near the alcohol aisle in the store. I was afraid. But now I can walk right past it, and it doesn’t bother me at all. The Holy Spirit has removed the power it used to have over me. Amen. Same with cigarettes, I quit 1 year after becoming a Christian. It was really hard. The struggle was insane. I was so tempted. I couldn’t be near people who were smoking. But eventually it’s power grew less and less until it was almost nothing.

Now, some try to play it both ways in the Christian walk. I’m gonna go to church on Sundays, and during the week I’m gonna have pre-marital sex, I’m gonna smoke, I’m gonna drink, I’m gonna do drugs, I’m gonna lie, steal, cheat, and gossip about people. But hey it’s fine I’m under God’s grace. No, it isn’t fine. No you aren’t OK. You are in great danger. And if Jesus returned today, which is possible, you would not go to paradise, you would go to hell. I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt anyone's feelings, I’m not trying to scare you, but it’s my job to tell you without any bias what is the truth in the Bible. That’s the truth. You need to go through this process of sorrow over sin, conviction, and Holy Spirit empowered repentance.

This is the not so fun part of Christianity, repenting of sins you guys. It’s the tough part. But I want to tell you guys that it’s so worth it. The joy you find in the Lord, as you grow to look more and more like Him, is just amazing. And the truth is many of these sins suck the life out of us, they leave us feeling broken and miserable. When we’re finally free of them, we feel so much better. We feel so much closer to God. It’s amazing. It’s so worth it. Is it hard? Yes. Is it painful at times? Yes. Is it worth it? 100% yes. So worth it. The truth is deep down I desperately want God to change every part of me to be like Jesus. Just remember it’s not all gonna happen at once. This is a process that goes through our whole lives, month by month, and year by year. So embrace it. It’s good. It’s tough, but I love it. Amen.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Lord Build Me in Speech




Yiddish folklore offers a telling tale about our words. One such man had told so many malicious untruths about the local rabbi that, overcome by remorse, he begged the rabbi to forgive him. "And, Rabbi, tell me how I can make amends." The rabbi sighed, "Take two pillows, go to the public square and there cut the pillows open. Wave them in the air. Then come back." The rumormonger quickly went home, got two pillows and a knife, hastened to the square, cut the pillows open, waved them in the air and hastened back to the rabbi's chambers. "I did just what you said, Rabbi!" "Good." The rabbi smiled. "Now, to realize how much harm is done by gossip, go back to the square..." "And?" "And collect all your feathers."-From Hooray for Yiddish.

Words are powerful. We see this theme in James chapter 3 played out, but it’s also a theme strung through the entire book of James. Words are very powerful. They can do great good. I can encourage someone, and their spirits will be lifted. I can pray with someone, and those words will bring life. In fact, in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we see that God spoke, and the world was made. That’s how powerful words are.

Words can do great good. Indeed, how many of us heard the gospel through spoken words, or someone reading the Bible to us. In fact one of the key ways that I got saved, was I watched this movie over and over called “The Life of Jesus” which was a word for word translation of the gospel of John. I must’ve watched that movie one hundred times, loaded up on drugs, and beer, and then one night it finally dawned on me, that Jesus could save me. And the rest is history.

That’s how powerful words and speech are! They can bring great life.

It can also bring great destruction. Think back in your life, to a time when you heard someone say something terrible about you. Maybe it was during middle school or high school. Maybe it was a bully teasing you. Maybe it was a teacher who didn’t like you. Maybe it was even a parent, mom or dad, or a family member, who said terrible things to you. And they probably did that because their parents said the same things to them.

I can recall even to this day, moments when someone said something so terrible it was ingrained on my memory for life. They say sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Well, that isn’t true. They don’t break skin or tear bone, but they burn inside.

I remember during basketball practice some guy asked me what was wrong with my chest, I have a concave on my chest, from my birth, and from that day on I was so ashamed of my body, and how I looked.

I remember when a friend and I went up for a pass in gym class, and I came down and accidentally landed on top of him. And he got hurt. It was an accident, but several of my enemies took the opportunity to attack me, making it seem like I did it on purpose. In fact they attacked me in the locker room later. And one cupped his hand and smashed it against my ear.

I remember something else. Something I did. There was a handicapped kid who was in a wheel chair. And we would go and make fun of him. And I participated in it. I made fun of him, in that hallway. And I regret it. Thankfully Jesus has forgiven that in me.

Maybe it’s easy to remember times when people did it to us. But how often have we been the guilty parties? We see someone we don’t like, so we spread rumors. We blast them in the community. People have done it to us here, spread rumors about us, and then people will leave the church, because they believe the rumors. Words, have, power.

Now what’s interesting is some of us don’t gossip or slander others or complain about others, but I know what you do do. You talk down to yourself. Your inner voice beats you up day and night. And that needs to stop. Some of the ways you talk to yourself, are ways you would never talk to your worst enemy. You need to speak to yourself, with the same love, and forgiveness and patience that you give others. When you let your inner voice go off shaming you, would you please stop, and ask yourself, would I talk to a friend like this? Then change that inner voice to encouragement, and reciting what God’s word says about you.

I am a child of God.

I’m redeemed by the blood.

My sins are gone, I’m holy in Christ.

God is my Father and he loves me.

That’s why it’s important to memorize little portions of scripture to repeat in our minds, or out loud, when we start having negative thoughts. When you start thinking, whats the point of life, I should just go sin, block that and say no, I am born again of the Spirit. I’m destined for paradise. I’m holy as God is holy. Change that internal dialogue.

Gossip is very tempting you guys. Even at training in Chicago, when I was at seminary, certain friends would gossip, and part of me loved to listen to it, to hear private things about people, and then laugh and mock them. But as soon as I left, I would feel upset with myself, so ashamed, and so convicted by the Holy Spirit. Gossip can seem fun at the time, but later we see the damage it does.

So here’s the rule I try to live by. And some of you have heard this from me. If I hear gossip or hear a conversation heading in that direction, I’ll just jump in and say, “That’s over, that issue has been dealt with, we’re gonna pray for them, and let’s move on.” Or simply, “Let’s not gossip, let’s talk about something else.” Cut that off. I don’t want to hear it. Let’s talk about something positive, something good.

But do you know what’s interesting about controlling or speech? Our scripture today said this: “We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.”

And in verse 2 it said, “2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”

It’s interesting that it says if we can control what we say, we can control everything else about ourselves. So this is apparently the secret to learning self control. Learning to control our speech.

So when we talk about others, a friend or stranger, or another church, or even a political candidate, or local leader, we ought to consider the formula of Alan Redpath. During a time of difficulty in his ministry, he set up a formula for speaking of others or controversial issues:

“T--Is it true?
H--Is it helpful?
I--Is it inspiring?
N--Is it necessary?
K--Is it kind?

If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, I will keep my mouth shut! And it worked!”

I want to touch on one point just briefly about controlling the tongue and it’s in verse one of James 3. It says “not many of you should become teachers, because teachers will be judged more strictly.”

This verse makes me tremble before God. I know it by heart, James 3:1. I repeated it a lot during seminary to my fellow cadets. All of us will stand before God at the end of our lives and have to give an account, and answer for the decisions we made. And the things we said.

In fact Jesus himself said, “You must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. –Matthew 12:36

So every person in this room will have to answer for our words. And we’ll be judged. But for me, a minister, and Zachary, who teaches Bible, and Lexy, and others in here who become Bible teachers or pastors or other ministry leaders, we will be judged more strictly. We will be judged by a higher standard. Because God called us to share his word, and if we didn’t do it right, or taught false doctrine, or only spoke on the feel good verses, we will be in a lot of trouble.

Jump down to James 3, verses 8 through 10 which say, “The tongue is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.”

And maybe that’s where you’re at right now. You’re learning to be encouraging. You’re using words to bless people and bless God. But then you’re also later on using words to curse others, and mock others, and using your words to complain and argue.That’s not good my friends. Let’s put those old ways aside, because they are dead and gone with our old selves. And let’s put on the new self in Christ Jesus, speaking good and not evil.

But I must confess brothers and sisters, I sinned in my words just recently. I was talking to a good friend of mine, and she shared with me about something terrible she did recently. And I spoke harshly to her about what she did. And she became very angry with me. And later I realized, I was right, but I was too harsh, and too mean spirited about it. So I apologized to her. And I also asked God’s forgiveness for what I’d done. And What’s what we’re supposed to do. James 3 says we all slip up in many ways. The point is that we recognize the mistake, we make it right, we get with God and ask forgiveness, and then we do better in the future.

In conclusion we see the final section of James 3, which my Bible titles “True Wisdom comes from God.” And really that’s what verses 1 through 12 were talking about, being wise with our words. And this section concludes with a call to live humbly, honorably, doing good works. And it says if you really understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life. It challenges us to not live in bitter jealousy, or selfish amibition, or boasting, or lying, because those things are demonic. Evil.

Verse 17 & 18 say, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

The final passage says that we are to be called “peacemakers.” So it says that we’ll spend our lives going from place to place, planting seeds of peace in others lives, and then having planted those seeds, we will gather the harvest later on in life, of righteousness. Of a beautiful holy life. We’ll see those seeds that we planted across Owosso, across Durand and Caledonia and Corunna, and Perry, years later, we’ll see people who we helped, who we encouraged, and we’ll see how they helped others, and how those good deeds spread out everywhere, to more and more people until thousands of lives were affected by our actions of living lives of being peacemakers. What a glorious way to live, let’s all live that way, using our words to spread goodness and faith, and love and truth. Alwayss, because that will make the world a better place. Amen! Hallelujah! 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Lord Build Me in Action




One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

The boy jumped, because he trusted his father. The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known.

Donner Atwood.

We live by faith in God. But what use is our faith if we don’t actively live it out? Just like the boy who is afraid, in the burning building, he can’t see his father below with his arms wide open, but he believes that he is there. He has faith that his dad is there even though he cant see. That’s kind of like our faith in God. We know God is here, active in our lives, we know he’s helping us, and guiding us. But what good is it for the boy to believe that his dad is there? The house is still on fire. The flames are close. He has faith, yes. But what needs to happen? The boy needs to take action. And maybe that’s the hardest part. He needs to jump off the house and into his father’s arms. And in the same way, our faith in God, is useless, empty, and dead unless it’s followed by action, by works.

As the founder of the salvation army said,” Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again -- until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.

William Booth in The Founder's Messages to Soldiers, Christianity Today, October 5, 1992, p. 48.

Our scripture today said,”14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

In other words, “faith without works is dead.”

The scripture continues:19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.[f] Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?”

We’ve gotta live this out people. We’ve gotta really walk the walk. Otherwise we’re just playing games at church. And there’s no point to that. We’ve gotta go through the process, of being a Christian, we’ve gotta walk through the steps and really do it.

Do you want to go to heaven when you die, or hell when you die? Jesus came to save us from our sins, and give us new life. We will all have to stand before God at the end of our lives and he will either judge us by the ten commandments, and we’ll be guilty and be sent to hell forever. Or we’ll be judged according to the perfection of Jesus Christ, who is our savior, and we’ll be sent to paradise forever. It’s true, it’s real. Make your choice. Where is your future going to be? Let me share you with how we can walk the walk in action, so we do live like Jesus, and evade the torments of hell.

The first step of faith is to know God. You can come to dinner church and hear about Jesus Christ over and over again. You hear it, you like it, you can tell there is power there, but you’re just observing it from the outside. We’re floating around the outside, saying yes God is real and I appreciate his ways.

But here’s where the change happens: Go from believing that God is real, to living with God inside you. You go from saying that God is there, to having God as your personal father.

Have you made a decision to receive Jesus Christ of Nazareth as your personal savior? It’s between you and Jesus. Nobody else. Embrace Jesus! How? Ask Jesus Christ of Nazareth to be your personal savior. Give your entire life to Jesus. Whisper in your heart, Jesus Christ I make you the Lord of my life. I give my life to you. You died for me personally on the cross. All my sins are nailed to the cross. You suffered and died for my lies, for my misery, for my emptiness. Jesus I am yours, and you are mine.

That’s the first step.

The 2nd step, is action. Joining a life group here at the citadel. Getting fed from the Bible each week. You learn to pray, to talk to God, to study the Bible, and to grow in holiness. We change. We see sins fall away. We develop relationships with other people here in the church. This is vital. This is huge, as far as action goes.

The third step is dive into discipleship groups. You go deeper with God. You begin to study theology, and spiritual disciplines. You begin to identify your spiritual gifts, and you begin to learn how to share Jesus with lost people out there. You learn to give and serve.

The fourth step, is serving brigade, you join teams, like the prayer team, like setup, like kitchen, evangelism, you practice your Christian faith by doing good works. You become a volunteer. You begin to use your gifts for God’s glory.

In a moment we’re going to give you an opportunity to respond to the message today, but first, we our scripture today concludes by sharing two examples of faith in action. It says:

“21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”[g] He was even called the friend of God.[h] 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath,[i] so also faith is dead without good works.”

Faith is action my friends. God builds us through action, through us making decisions and then following through on them. Have you made a decision to grow in your faith? Now is the time to step out.

I’d like to invite Zach, Lexy, and Johnathon to go to your stations. You’ll notice that on our four pillars we have marked “Dinner Church, Small Groups, Discipleship, and Serving Brigade. These are steps 1 through 4. In a moment we’ll invite everyone to stand, and choose which step you are on.

If you’re at step 1, you come to dinner church regularly, great, then you’ll go and stand by the first pillar, and Johnathon will talk with you, and pray with you.

If you’re at step 2, you’re wanting to attend life groups, or you’ll already doing that, join Zach at the 2nd pillar, and he will share with you.

If you’re at step 3, discipleship and soldiering, or you want to move in that direction, join Lexy at the 3rd pillar.

And if you’re feeling God calling you to serve, to help, to put your gifts into practice, please join me at the 4th pillar. And we’ll talk and pray.

Everyone please stand, we’re gonna pray, and then please find the pillar that you’re at right now or you’d just like to learn more about.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Lord Build Me in Obedience



"I've read that when Edward VI, the king of England in the 16th century, attended a worship service, he stood while the Word of God was read. He took notes during this time and later studied them with great care. Through the week he earnestly tried to apply them to his life. That's the kind of serious-minded response to truth the apostle James calls for in today's Scripture reading. A single revealed fact cherished in the heart and acted upon is more vital to our growth than a head filled with lofty ideas about God.

One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it."

Chambers, Our Daily Bread, March 4, 1993.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Is it too much? Is it too hard? Sometimes when we read the Bible, we wonder, can it really be done? It seems like so much, it seems like such a high standard. I’ve wondered that at times.

But I’ll tell you this, it can be done, but it doesn’t happen all at once. It happens over years and years. So we have to be patient. But we also have to be dedicated to the process.

“One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.” It’s not enough to sit in church and learn about what the right things to do are.

We have to come the point where we say alright, how do I put this into practice? It’s time to fight those hard, hard battles with our faults and failings.

In verse 21 of our scripture today it says, “ 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Get rid of the filth in your life. Clear it out. That’s what James writes. Clear out the evil, and humbly accept the word planted in you. Many of you here have that word planted in your heart. God is at work. You’re feeling drawn to pray, to study the Bible, and to come to church. You’re feeling a discomfort in your heart with things in your life that are wrong. There is an upset in your heart, in your stomach, and you can feel it. That is called “conviction. “ Conviction is when God’s Holy Spirit which lives in our body, is telling us something we do is wrong.

We feel it when we smoke a cigarette, or we feel it when we swear, or when we lie to someone, when we tell someone we’re here, and we’re actually somewhere else. Or when our friend leaves the room, we steal something off their counter top. Or when we use a drug, or get drunk, or when we masturbate, or sleep around with people. We feel dirty. We feel the sin. And the Holy Spirit whispers to us: “Don’t do that. Put that away.”

We have free will, we have the choice to either stop, or continue. That is a sacred gift from God. But I challenge you today, don’t just listen in church, then go out during the week and do whatever you want.

Sincerely try to live it out. Sincerely try to live like Jesus each week.

In the book of James it says, “23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

So you’re starting your day, and you look in the mirror as you brush your teeth and get ready. And you tell yourself, “I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus.” But then as you jump into your daily routine, you immediately forget that you’re a Christian.

You live selfishly. You lie. You steal. You gossip and slander people. You spread rumors. You yell at someone. You curse and yell at God.

You’ve forgotten who you are. You’re a Christian. How can we transfer this head knowledge, this Bible truth into our real everyday lives.

We can do that. By praying through the day, by whispering prayers in our minds during the day. We can do that by remembering the words of the Bible and storing them in our minds.

And pretty soon we will be swearing less, we will be less selfish and helping others more, we’ll be lying less, we’ll be gossiping less, and pretty soon those things will vanish entirely. But we have to remember who we are.

I am a Christian. Say it with me. I am a Christian.

So if we remember our face in the mirror, that I follow Jesus, then James says, “. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

If we diligently seek to follow God’s ways, his perfect law, then we will be blessed in all we do.

We see this truth, of not just hearing God’s word, but living it out in the middle paragraph, and then in the two paragraphs above and below it, we see a common theme connected to this:

Verses 26 and 27 say, “26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”

And above in verse 19 it says, Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Sometimes it seems like some of us can be quick to speak and quick to get angry. That’s not what God commands of us. Be slow to speak. Be a listener. Be careful what you say.

The tongue, our words, can be so incredibly destructive. They can also be such a great blessing. Reign in your tongue. If your someone who gossips and spreads rumors, pray to God, and ask Him to help you stop. It can feel “fun” to talk gossip, and to swear, and cuss, but it’s so destructive, and it leads to pain and misery. So don’t do it. Shut that off. And ask God for help to do that.

Now this can be challenging. And as we begin to try to practice our faith, we’ll come upon setbacks. I remember being a new Christian, and thinking wow I’m a mess, I’m not doing this right. I was smoking, I was swearing, I was living in lust and watching movies and videos I shouldn’t have been watching. But here’s the thing guys. Don’t beat yourself up.

I’ll say that again, don’t beat yourself up.

God is patient with you. But don’t play games with God either. God does not play games with us. He loves us, but he knows how we truly are. So do your best to ask God for forgiveness after you sin, and declare before God, your desire to change, your repentance, of turning in a new direction.

There will be setbacks. But keep fighting, keep praying, and you’ll see month by month, and year by year, God slowly changing you.

It’s not over when we sin. Because the word says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -I John 1:9.

God is our daddy, so run to Him when you make a mistake, and ask for His help and His forgiveness.

Let’s finish by looking briefly at the last verse, 27 which says, “27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

So here James is giving us an example of how to live out what we believe. Serve others before we serve ourselves. Go visit the elderly in their homes, or in nursing homes, visit widows, go into the jail and share the gospel with prisoners, go and share God’s love with children at orphanages. Bring some bread and food to your neighbor, or go spend time with a friend in the hospital. Get out of yourself, and all that selfishness, and help somebody else. That is the hardest thing. We’re all so incredibly selfish sometimes, myself included, wow, so self-centered, everything about me and what I want, but instead God calls us to think of others and their needs and their souls.

So that’s our word for today, and its best summed up in this phrase “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Do what it says guys, that’s my battle too. It’s all our battles. Don’t just hear it, do what it says. And I find great joy from God in that. 

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