28 November 2006

So, what does a Christian look like?

If you drive in East Tennessee for a while, you'll find that it's not always easy to get around. I used to live out in the country, and I learned rather quickly that just because a road started out going north, it could very easily wind up taking you east. Well, our walk with Christ is very similar. Some people start out on the right path. They may take a turn that looks OK, but before they know it, they are headed in the wrong direction. Much like the story of a man known as "Wrong Way" Corrigan.

...on July 17, Corrigan took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York. He took off in thick fog and headed east because airport officials had told him to lift off in any direction except west since there were some buildings at the western edge of the field. They fully believed Corrigan would turn his plane around and head west toward California once he cleared the airport's airspace. To everyone's surprise, he kept flying eastward. Corrigan insisted that his visibility was so poor that he could only fly by using his compass and claimed his compass indicated he was heading west.

Approximately 26 hours into his flight, Corrigan claimed to have finally dropped down out of the clouds and noticed that he was over a large body of water. Knowing that it was too early to have reached the Pacific Ocean, Corrigan looked down at his compass--and because there was now supposedly more light to see by--suddenly noticed he "had been following the wrong end of the magnetic needle." Within a short time, Corrigan was over Ireland. He landed at Baldonnel Airport, in Dublin, after a 28-hour, 13-minute flight.

When officials questioned Corrigan about the incident, he explained that he had left New York en route to California but had then gotten mixed up in the clouds and flown the wrong way. He also explained about the fog and his mistake with the compass, but they did not believe him. As authorities continued to press him for "the truth," Corrigan finally ended the situation by replying: "That's my story."

(hat tip U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission)

Now this tale was rather humorous and everything turned out rather well--no harm no foul. But you know, there are so many people today who are like Wrong way Corrigan, whether they know it or not. And unfortunately, the stakes are so much higher, and the results infinitely worse. Millions of people think that if they gain some great enlightenment through Buddha, they will reach some paradise. Millions of Hindus believe that if they live through enough "good lives", they will reach Nirvana. Millions of Muslims believe that if they do enough "good things" for Allah, they will reach their paradise. And there are so many more religions that teach that if you do enough, or live a good enough life, that you will have a wonderful eternity.

But, like Douglas Corrigan on his famous flight, they are indeed headed the Wrong Way. In the Book of Matthew, Jesus tells us that the road that leads to eternal life with GOD is narrow, but the way to everasting destruction is wide. And that way to destruction is getting wider every day. The question is, can we even know that we are on the narrow path? If we can know, HOW do we know? How can we know our compass is pointing us in the right direction?

In the book of 1st John, the apostle gives us a framework to follow to know if you are indeed saved. There are 5 questions that must be answered.

Question #1--
1st John 1:6--"if we say that we have fellowship with GOD and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not do the truth." In other words, if we say that we are saved, yet continue to do the things from which we need to be saved, then we are probably not saved. In other words, before we prayed our prayer, if we were adulterers or liars or pornographers, and we continue to be adulterers, and liars, and pornographers, then we can not say, beyond a shdaow of doubt, that we are saved. Now, let me just explain one thing: I've seen bumper stickers that read as follows:

"If you sin, you're not saved
1st John 3:8-9"

Well, that's one of those things that you have to say "There's a grain of truth in that." The verses theyrefer to read like this--"He who commits sin is of the devil...whoever is born of GOD does not commit sin." Now, does this mean that if we slip, and if we screw up and do something we shouldn't, that we are not saved. NO. What John is saying is this: That after we come to know Our Lord Jesus Christ, if we continue to continually sin, then we can not say that we have been born again. To answer question 1, John says in verse 7, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship wth one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all our sins." If we strive every day to follow the example Jesus Christ gave us while He walked the earth, then we are in the Light, and His blood makes us clean.

Question 2--1st John 1:8--"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." How many of us have gone to a church where there was a group of people that was better than everybody else? People who would have drowned if they walked outside in the rain? My family took me and my sisters to a church like that when we were kids. We stopped going after about a year or two. And it took about 20 years to get me back into church. You see, Satan loves to see people stay away from church. And if he has to use "church folk" to do it, he will.

On the other hand, there are people who don't have a problem with sin. They don't see sin as a problem: "To each his own, whatever floats your boat--it's not up to me to say what's right or wrong." They deceive themselves and the truth is not in them. Because in order to be convicted of our sins, to feel that remorse we need to feel because of our sins, we need to be shown by the Holy Spirit. And if you have not allowed the Holy Spirt to show you that you have indeed sinned and that you need to ask our Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness, then you won't seek that forgiveness, and you will remain in darkness.

But, praise GOD! verse 9 says that
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." If we have a broken light in our apartment, and we just go on about things as if that light isnt broken, then we will stumble around in the dark. But, if we call the office, and ask someone to fix that light, then we will be able to see. Likewise, when we say we have no sins that need to be forgiven, and pretend there is no problem, we are in darkness. But if we take our sins to GOD, and confess--that is, we get our spirit in line with His Holy Spirit--then those sins will be forgiven, and we will indeed be walking in the light of His truth.

Question 3--
1st John 2:3--"Hereby we know Him, if we keep His commandments." How do we keep those commandments? And if we break one, does that mean we don't know Him? Listen to what David wrote in Psalm 37:23--"The steps of a righteous man are ordered by GOD...though he may stumble, the LORD shall uphold him with His mighty hand." Well, there are Ten Commandments listed in the Book of Exodus. Thou shalt not have any other gods before Me, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, etc. But remember, these 10 were boiled down to two by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 12:30--"Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second one is like it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Basically, He summed up the entire Old Testament in 53 words. If we love the LORD our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, we will not have any gods besides Him. We will not bow down to statues and images. We will not use His name in vain cursing. We will remember that our Lord Jesus Christ is our Sabbath and in Him alone we find rest. And if we love our neighbor as ourself, we will honor our father and mother. We will not kill our neighbor. We will not steal from our neighbor. We will not commit adultery against our spouse. We will not lie about our neighbor. We will not covet--that is, to desire something so bad you would do ANYTHING to have it--anything that belongs to our neighbor. In other words, we will be like what it says in verse 5: "But whoever keeps His word, in him truly is the love of GOD perfected: hereby we know that we are in Him."

Question 4--
1st John 2:9--"He that says that he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness even until now." In other words, if we say that we are "in Christ", that we are saved and belong to Him, we cannot say that we hate someone, beause if we hate someone--anyone-- for any reason, then we cannot say that we are saved. I gotta tell ya, whenever I see some supremacist group trying to justify what they do by twisting the Scriptures, it galls me to no end. How anyone can try to use the Bible to justify something like that? There's only one way. There's only one being who can twist GOD's word like that and teach men to do the same. That is Satan. Listen to 1st John 3:15--"Whoever hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life living in him." We who once walked in darkness have seen a great light. That light is our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to let that light shine not only on us, but we need to let that light shine in us, and come out from us. Now, this does not mean that if we get mad someone for a while, that we are lost. We are not going to get along with everybody all the time. In fact, Paul almost hints at this in Romans 12:18--"If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." There are people I don't necessarily get along with all the time, but, I still love 'em. Stephen will tell you, there are some who say that we should not use musical instruments during worship service, but he still loves 'em. So to put John's words and Paul's words together, and to put them into today's language: you may not get along with everybody, but ya gotta love 'em. They might hit ya, they might talk about you or someone you know like a dog. And as hard as it may be, you gotta let go of that stuff. If you have to, remember they did worse things to Our Lord Jesus Christ. We're not going to be able to get along with everybody all the time. But we need to do our part and at least try. And we need to love them because if we love our brother, John says in 1st John 2:10--"He that loves his brother lives in the Light, and does not cause others to stumble into sin."

Question 5--1st John 2:15--"Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man loves the world, then the love of the Father is not in him." Now, don't misunderstand what John is saying, because in John 3:16, it says that, "GOD so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." What he is saying here is this--if you would rather surround yourself with the things of this earth--the things that society in general says that you should embrace--movies, TV, entertainment, or whatever sexual morals--if you value the opinions of the day's culture over what GOD would have you to do, that is the "love of the world" that John is talking about here. And if this present world, rather than GOD, is the object of your love, then you have to ask yourself if the love of GOD is truly in you. But there is a solution to this: I'm going to offer my own translation of Romans 12:2 here--"Do not let this world--this culture, this society--squeeze you into it's mold, to look like it. But rather, let your mind be renewed, by GOD's Holy Spirit, so that you may be living proof of what GOD's good, perfect, and acceptable will really is."
What is that will? What is GOD's will for our life? 1st Thessalonians 4:3 says--"This is the will of GOD: your sanctification..."--your being set apart from the rest of the world. This is also His will--your salvation--2nd Peter 3:9--He "...is not willing that any man should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

Now, lest you think that GOD changed from a vengeful, wrathful GOD in the Old Testament to a fuzzy, namby-pamby GOD in the New Testament, listen to Ezekiel 18:21-23--"But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live;...None of the transgressions which he has committed will be remembered against him...Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?...and not that he should turn from his ways and live?" In other words, GOD does not find pleasure in people dying in a wicked state. He wants them all to be His children. And Jesus is waiting for all to call upon His name, no matter how bad they think they may be.

Hebrews 2:11 says of Jesus, "He is not ashamed to call them His brothers." So, GOD's will is our salvation--eternal life with GOD, and our sanctification--being set apart from the rest of the world. How do we know we have eternal life within us? (1) We stop walking in darkness, and turn our back on the sinful things we used to do; (2) we turn to the light, confess to GOD those sins in our life (3) we keep His commandments; (4) we remember to love others and not to hate; and (5) we love GOD more than the things in this world.

In conclusion, here's something to remember: Satan cannot stand the light. He operates in darkness. Fighting sin is a lot like having a mosquito buzzing around your head when you're trying to sleep. You can lay there in the dark, swat at it, and lay there and listen and you dont hear it, so you think its gone. Then you hear it again, so again you swat at it in the dark. Then you listen and listen. Then you go back to sleep. Next thing you know, you wake up itching, and you feel that little bump. You know he gotcha. What does a mosquito do when it bites? It draws blood, it can spread disease. But, if you get up out of the bed, turn on the light, you can see the mosquito, and you can get rid of it. Likewise, if there is temptation buzzing around you--and you know what it sounds like--if you ask GOD to shine His Light on the sin buzzing around you, He will deal with it and destroy it.

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