Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Compulsive Christianity

Judges 14-16

The third hurdle on the Highway to Holiness is Compulsive Christianity; it is a lack of discipline to purity that leads to acting on and being led by intuition and impulse while believing they are being led by the Spirit. They may simply be full of passion when they think they are full of the Spirit. When we don’t grow in maturity then our sense of empowerment becomes a sense of entitlement. What was meant to build them up brings them down. They may have powerful faith, but they have powerful feelings, and their compulsion is stronger than their conviction.

Careless Christianitylooking for an opportunity outside the will of God leads to idolatry while you think it is the favor of God – they get taken from, taken away, taken over, and taken out.

Crisis Christianityrebellion against the authority of God leads to false repentance while you think it is loyalty to God – they lose their place and they die after the altar or even at the altar.

Now we will look at another OT type that shows us believers who may be saved but they aren’t sold out. We saw that Careless Christians are not really walking in any fullness. Crisis Christians have achieved some things but they let other things rob them of God’s fullness in their lives. Compulsive Christians have seemingly great victories but they have to because they unnecessarily put themselves in harms way. They are in and out of God’s blessing and can even go in and out of His fullness. Their losses mount and they often become a casualty.

Compulsive Christianitymisusing the power of God leads to an immature and impatient faith while you think it is victory and vigor – they lose their strength, lose their witness, lose their leadership, and die with the enemy.

Today we want to take a look at one main character, the strongest man who ever lived. Samson, the last of the judges, is listed in the faith hall of fame (Hebrews 11:32), but he lived an up and down life, in one crises after another. When you have seen God move in your life and through your life, and yet you remain a Compulsive Christian, you may think it is all just great victories, but it is really more defeats. You see God’s power manifest in your life, but you are having to be rescued by God’s gift when you should be walking in more godliness and then you wouldn’t be so hit and miss. Proverbs 4:23 – we must be diligent about guarding our heart. Samson wasn’t and one lesson is this; your gift is not your guard. His power was overcome by his passion.

Judges 13:4-5, 24-25 – (Numbers 6:1-21) – if you will consecrate yourself to the task, the Lord will give you power to overthrow your enemies (sin and self). Samson was a Nazarite, not for a season, but for life. The vow of a Nazarite was about setting oneself apart for devotion to God. A Nazarite, by vowing not to cut their hair, drink no wine or eat no grape, and avoiding contact with anything dead was supposed to be disciplined. We are supposed to be disciplined to the point of giving up things we love, Samson wasn’t and his power became his problem. Jacob 600 years earlier – Genesis 49:16-17 / Judges 18:27 – He never fully committed so he never fully entered into what God had given him the power to achieve. David nearly 100 years later did. Through Jesus Christ God has given you the power to enter into His fullness, but we look aside to lesser things! We don’t value God high enough, we don’t really want it because we don’t think it’s worth it, or when we have a measure of it, we think we can’t lose it! Learn from Samson.

Three women Samson shouldn’t have seen: the Philistine girl in Timnah (14:1-15:6), the harlot in Gaza (16:1-3) and of course Delilah (Judges 16:4-20). When we don’t discipline ourselves, this is what happens to us, we act on impulse. Wrong attraction leads to wrong action.

Judges 14:1-4 – As soon as he sees her he wants to marry her, as if that justifies the impulsive behavior. People see something they know is wrong but they must have it, and they try and make it right with God afterwards. God used Samson in spite of his sin, not because of it. God would have used him in a greater way if he would have done things God’s way. Though God makes even the evil of men serve His purposes, it never justifies the evil they do (Acts 2:23). No matter how much good God can bring out of the bad things we do, He brings more good out of our obedience, and we experience less pain. It’s not that God won’t let you suffer (Philippians 1:29), but we should suffer for doing well not for doing wrong (1 Peter 2:19-20, 3:17).

Judges 14:5-9 – breaks one part of vow – Not supposed to have anything to do with grapes (be in the vineyard) or touch a dead body (getting the honey from the dead Lion’s carcass). Significantly, Samson did this after he was exceptionally filled with the Holy Spirit. This shows that even an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit does not automatically make you godlier. It gives you the resources to be godlier, but it doesn't "do it to you." A person can be wonderfully gifted by the Holy Spirit and yet very spiritually immature. That is a major problem among Christians today; people presume giftedness is godliness. That dead thing may have something sweet in it, but it may be poison. He didn’t tell his parents where he got the sweet stuff because they would know he broke his vow. To the victor belong the spoils, but sometimes the spoils will do just that, spoil you. He had outward consecration but not a real inward communion. Eventually what is on the inside will come out, as we see with Samson.

Judges 14:10-11 – this was literally a drinking party (breaks another part of vow) which was the custom of the land. Samson may not have partaken, but he put himself in a place where it could easily happen. When 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says “Abstain from all appearance of evil” we must take into consideration that we cannot avoid looking bad to some people. To those we would say this: if you look for sin, you will find it, but how about looking in the mirror first, you will find all you can handle right there. However, here Samson was on the downward slide. Don’t fool yourself; you cannot just act like the world just because someone else does. It will cost you.

Judges 14:12-20 – Samson poses a riddle as a wager for fine clothing, but his wife tells the others the answer. He did what he shouldn’t have done, acting impulsively to get her, and couldn’t stand the nagging, he gives in and he loses the gamble. He gets mad and destroys thirty of the enemy’s men to pay off the debt. The Spirit of the Lord did not come upon Samson to avenge the hurt feelings of a husband. God's strategy was larger: (Judges 14:4). Therefore He used this occasion to pour out His Spirit on Samson to fight against the Philistines. Of course, he loses his wife in all of this. That compulsive sin you entertain will nag you until you give in. The answer that the Philistines gave back to Samson is clever because it not only answers Samson's riddle, but it humiliates him at the same time. What is sweeter than honey and stronger than a lion? Love, of course! Their riddle not only told him the answer to his riddle, it hinted at how they got the answer, through his own lover. That’s what happens when you are a compulsive Christian; you get riddled about, back and forth, a victim of your own plots. When you compulsion is greater than your conviction, this is what happens.

Judges 15:1-20 – Samson finds out he has lost his wife and becomes enraged. God is going to use Samson’s anger for His purposes, but this doesn’t justify Samson. God used Samson greatly, but it cost him greatly. He could have been blessed if he had done things God’s way. Often when God uses a compulsive Christian, people get helped but the person gets hurt. He sets the crops of the Philistines on fire. They retaliate by killing his wife and her father. Samson then slaughters some of them mercilessly and retreats to a hill. The Philistines follow with a greater company of men. Now Samson shows great faith, by letting the men of Judah take and deliver him over to the Philistines. Then the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him again, and he kills 1000 men with only the jawbone of a donkey. After the great battle he grows very thirsty, and he turns to God, acknowledging Him for the deliverance, and asking for help, acknowledging his weakness. God miraculously provides water for him. It is like a church member who listens to the correction of others and becomes disciplined or submits to discipline, he or she is given the power to overcome with a great victory. God will always provide for God’s work, done God’s way. When you do it right God will do you right. God can get you the victory no matter what the odds.

Judges 16:1-3 – Now after all this good Samson gets compulsive again, he has developed no self-control. He has not disciplined himself, and he falls for the wrong thing again. Even Christians who are mightily used by God can fall into blatant sin. He wasn’t fully devoted to God; he compartmentalized his life. Like Samson, many see God’s stuff for ministry but not for maturity. Jesus lays claim to our entire lives, and ministry without maturity is meaningless to us as far as growth is concerned. Despite his sin, and because of God’s greater purpose, Samson is able to use his supernatural strength to escape the Philistines when they try and take him again.

Judges 16:4-21 – Delilah enters the picture. She probably did have strong feelings for Samson, but her need for wealth overcame her need for warmth. 1100 pieces of silver were over 140 lbs., and so this was a lot of money. Eventually, compulsion is willing to pay any price. Samson knew he was on the hook, but he thought he could be cleverer than his compulsion, he hadn’t learned from his riddled relationship before. So he lies to Delilah, not once, not twice, but three times. You’d think he would have the sense to stop all this and leave her, knowing what she wants to do to him. He thinks he has everything under control, but he is being controlled. He gives in as he did before to the constant nagging. You keep giving in to that thing and it will find a way to finally conquer you. It will never leave you alone until you leave it alone. You can’t just play it off and play around you have to stop sleeping on her knees and get out her tent! Now Samson has his hair cut (so he has completely broken his vow). A threefold cord is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12) but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. It took nearly 20 years for this to happen but it did. Samson's strength was not in his hair, it was in his relationship with God. He worked against that relationship to the point where God finally departed from him, in the sense that Samson lost his supernatural strength. When your compulsion finally triumphs over your conviction, God does what it takes to get us to depend on Him for real. What does God have to do, pluck out your eyes so that you will see how blind you are?

Judges 16:22-31 – His inward slavery became outward in manifestation, yet still there was hope. Samson’s hair, and we suppose his heart for God, were coming back. When we get this far-gone we have to bear the torment of our captors, but we must cling to God. We thought our compulsion was only hurting us, but it is victory for the enemy. We lose our spiritual strength, sight, leadership and witness. The strength God will give us then is so that we may die to self. Samson in his life was a picture of you and me in our weakness, and a picture of God and His saving work in Christ in his strength. Samson in his death is a picture of Christ, bringing justice and taking the wrath upon Himself, and it is a type of those who die to self being crushed with their sins. If Samson can do it, so can you, because Jesus died for that compulsiveness, and He can set you free from it. Now we are going to go over some thoughts about this problem.

If you don’t grow in character then you grow in compulsion and your own charisma will be the cause of your collapse. Your power becomes your problem. Your strength becomes your weakness. You rely on your gift instead of relying on God. If your character doesn’t grow in proportion to your anointing, it will crush you. Proverbs 18:16 says that a man’s gift makes room for him, but the Bible also teaches us here that a man’s gift makes doom for him if he doesn’t guard his heart. 1 Corinthians 9:27 – Paul knew this lesson and warns us that just because others are helped doesn’t mean you are holy. Perhaps the ultimate example is Judas Iscariot. You could do all the exploits of Jesus, but more important than being conformed to the image of His charisma is being conformed to the image of His character. Instead of using God’s tools we need to become His tool, His workmanship, and allow our communion with Him to change our inside.

If you aren’t obeying you aren’t being empowered by God, even of there is a measure of it in other areas of your life. Whoever empowers you you’re obligated to obey, and if it is disobedience because of a lack of discipline, you will become a slave to your compulsiveness.

Now don’t look down at Samson or others you know because you’re compulsion is to something little or not so bad, in your opinion. We are not talking only about compulsion with regards to habitual sins, but also compulsive behavior in the use of spiritual gifts and things like that. When we don’t have a disciplined spiritual life, and one that is growing, then we can be spiritually compulsive or impulsive and out of order. We won’t be trusting in the timing of God.

James 1:8 – ID (impulse / discipline) problem. To be led by the Spirit is to be a disciple, and disciplined, not led by intuition and/or intentions. Many think being filled with the Spirit means we can trust our feelings but being filled with the Spirit means we can test our feelings.

The problem is that many seek only an outward manifestation, a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit at work extrinsically, rather than an inward transformation, a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit at work intrinsically. This leads to an inconsistent spiritual life, where one keeps getting seemingly moved by the Spirit but does not get moved within their spirit. They may soon become dependent upon continual “signs” to keep them in the flow spiritually (psychologically).

As a consequence, the believer seeks to imitate or duplicate this “power” within their personal life, and begins to rely on feelings, impressions, etc., believing that they are being Spirit-led. A wrong view of God develops, and God and His leading becomes a projection of their best feelings. They bring God down to their level, and presume their intentions to virtue are God given. But our own righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and we must depend on the continuing counsel of God’s Word, not on our feelings. The Psalm of David needs to be prayed – Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins (Psalm 19:13).

Faith is not an impulse; it is not compulsive in nature. Many who operate under impulse power think they are moving in “the anointing” but really what they’ve got is not the anointing but the annoying. We think being spiritual or moving in the Spirit is being disciplined to be impulsive, as if we are now learning to trust our feelings. Instead it is learning to rule over our feelings, not that we are dispassionate or unfeeling, but we learn to process thoughts, cast down imaginations, and be pressing on to the mark of the high calling, which is character, not charisma.

We want instant godliness so we walk the aisle grab hold of the altar wail and howl and have a fit but we don’t attach concrete action to our decision. It is half hearted and it won’t work for long. We want to get all of life fixed in one sweeping moment and that is only impulsive behavior. We treat a certain prayer or meeting or decision to be like superman going to the telephone booth we come out and presto super Christian but that won’t do it. A consistent walk it is not created in a singular moment, a day, a week, or even a year, but by a moment-by-moment choice to line your will up with God’s. Sweeping changes are often swept under the rug of regret when we cannot have it all right now, but impulsiveness is what got you in your predicament in the first place!

To begin the process of discipline, realize that new beginning each day (Lamentations 3:21-26 / Philippians 3:14). Get in a routine; you have to put God in your routine. People think they’ve waited so long that they’ve paid they price but they haven’t paid the price and that’s why they’ve waited so long. Pay the price daily (1 Corinthians 15:31-34).

Have you ever met someone who is an adult in years and who thinks this automatically makes him or her a mature adult, when clearly they aren’t? Maturity is not marked by years but by learned experience, wisdom, and prudence. Some never submit to the refiners fire and so therefore God has not fashioned and forged them for their ministry. Some na├»ve novice may enter into the upper echelons of the visible church world but they have not entered into the wisdom of God and when their platform is shaken they have no foundation and they will fall hard. We long to have great spiritual insight and strength without daily seeking God. We desire to be great teachers and preachers of the Bible but never spend time searching and studying the Scriptures! There are no short cuts. We must deny the lesser to gain the greater! Discipline is hard work, but there is pleasure and fulfillment in working hard and attaining a goal. You don’t really want it because you don’t think it’s worth it. Deny yourself and find the fullness of God.

Build before the storm hits; crisis time is not the time, prevention not reaction. Build for the one time you need it, not for the regular times you don’t really need it as much. If you are not sowing when the times are good, you will have nothing to eat when they aren’t. Not because every day is a calamity but because one day it will be. For people that don’t build every day is a calamity. Don’t wait till the well runs dry. Don’t be overconfident, remember Samson, don’t let your marriage, finances, spiritual life slip. Be in spiritual communion, not in selfish compulsion.

11 comments:

Even So... said...

Yeah, I know it is long...

Even So... said...

If you read the recent post "The Secret to the Spiritual Life" you can get a much shorter version and somewhat of a synopsis of this message's meaning...

Gojira said...

Oh, J.D., this is a most excellent post, as you have given us wisdom from our mighty God and Savior.

"Faith is not an impulse..."

Brother, you nailed that!!!!!!

Gojira said...

"He never fully committed so he never fully entered into what God had given him the power to achieve. David nearly 100 years later did. Through Jesus Christ God has given you the power to enter into His fullness, but we look aside to lesser things! We don’t value God high enough, we don’t really want it because we don’t think it’s worth it, or when we have a measure of it, we think we can’t lose it! Learn from Samson."

Nuggets of wisdom; nuggets of truth, flowing out from God to us from you. Conviction and humbling coming from this sermon. This is really excellent, J.D.

Even So... said...

Thanks, I didn't think anyone would actually read this because it is so long, but I posted it anyway because I really do think it is worth reading...

Anonymous said...

Hey JD, I am all caught up with these Saturday Sermons and stil here. Melissa was not feeling well last night as well this morning. I pobably sould have been there at Church but I really didn't want to leave her.
I think I'm going to ask Dan for a copy of the sermons on this subject so we can hear your inflections as well as reading them.
It was very long but...... well worth it!

Marcian said...

I agree with those who say that Judges is an excellent mirror of today's postmodern Christianity, where "every man did as seemed right in his own eyes." Paris Reidhead preaches an excellent sermon on Judges 17 called Ten Shekels and a Shirt. I was reminded of that as I read this sermon.

Being from what I call "The Entitlement Generation" I tend to want everything now, without waiting for it. My generation doesn't really know what sacrifice is, as our parents worked hard to give us everything they went without. But that doesn't fly with Bible study. I am gritting my teeth as I slow down and pace myself through the Matthew Henry Commentary. It's been almost a month since I started, and I'm already on Genesis 2!!! This seemed like a hopeless effort, but every day I read a few verses and Henry's thoughts (as well as his excellently cross-referenced verses within the text) I realize that I will not easily forget what the few sentences mean, and how they fit into the whole plan of salvation.

Here's to slowing down...

Even So... said...

Thank you all for reading this long one, it is part of a seven message series, this was the third one...

Macian, you said Paris Reidhead preaches an excellent sermon on Judges 17 called Ten Shekels and a Shirt. I was reminded of that as I read this sermon.

If you thought that then you should definitely read the first installment in this series, on those very same chapers and events, called "Careless Christianty"...in it I do give a hat tip to Reidhead by using that phrase, although the material is all original with me, you might still think I lifted it from him...

:-)

Of course I have been told many times that I write like this or that preacher, and that is probably because I have drunk from their well, and some of the godly ideas now flow out in my own words through my own experience, and also, yours or others' point of reference bears witness with that because you too have read them and me, and it "rings a bell", which I believe to be the bell of truth...

Even So... said...

Actually as I looked over it again, in written form I used a different phrase (silver and a suit), but I was indeed thinking of that sermon when I wrote that phrase, and I am certain I used it at least once when I preached it live...

Marcian said...

I would say that is a blow to those who believe the Bible is open to subjective interpretation. When you are asking God alone "What does this mean?" His Holy Spirit will illuminate the truth within that endures throughout all generations. Because as Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun.

Even So... said...

Indeed, we just see different shades of it, as through a glass darkly, but when the full radiance of Christ appears, then we shall KNOW all truth, as it resides in Him, and we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is...

This event is one reason why my blogname is...

Even So (come Lord Jesus)