Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Complete Christianity 1

This is the seventh in a series of eight are links to the first six...

Careless Christianity

Crisis Christianity

Compulsive Christianity

Compromised Christianity

Conforming Christianity

Continuous Christianity

And now our primary text for today

Daniel 3

When we are talking about Complete Christianity, we are talking about a mature faith, walking in the fullness of all God has given us both to do and to be in every situation we find ourselves in. This is complete Christianity, trusting God no matter the outcome, for the joy set before us, not necessarily in the here and now and especially not in the immediate. We have been calling this series the highway to holiness. Now we are not talking about moral goodness, we are talking about becoming like Christ and glorifying Him in all we do. Those four messages we started with are not things you need to do they are things you need to see and then get out of the way, avoid them, let God deal with them.

Complete Christianity is realizing the character of God, entering into a full trust for every situation in life. No matter how dark it may seem you can see His light shine and you give off that light (Philippians 2:15). You can say with Jesus “not my will but thine be done”. Jesus reveals the character of God and becoming Christlike means less you and more humility. You realize that He is good and so you trust Him, not your definition of what is good but trusting that He knows better than you do. You are realizing His character in that you are making it real, you are becoming like Him. This is what it is, now what does it look like, and how can we get there?

We said that Conforming Christianity is where situations don’t distract you but cause you to focus instead. Continuing Christianity is cashing in on the idea that we are preserved to persevere through the process. Now Complete Christianity is where you glorify God in everything even death, perseverance being the end of it. Going back through our series, we see that you must avoid those 4 negatives and learn to use every tough situation as positives and you keep growing in that. You avoid the pitfalls and learn to focus when distractions come about and then you let your light shine in the dark places, and as you keep doing that you keep getting better at it, and learn to stay in the fullness of God. This is what walking in God’s fullness is, it is conforming and continuing and not hindering. This is Complete Christianity. To shine as lights in the world our only job is to not quench the fire (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Recalling our earlier sermons, we have a desire for purity; we care about holiness so we don’t look for an opportunity outside the will of God. We have a devotion to purity; we are committed to holiness so we don’t rebel against the authority of God. We have a discipline to purity; we cultivate holiness so we don’t misuse the power of God. We have a discernment of purity; we are cautious about our holiness so we don’t align with people away from God. We realize the purpose of God so we focus on Him in our situation instead of it distracting us, we realize the power of God so we persevere, and we realize what Romans 8:28 really means.

This Bible is filled with the message of trusting in God despite the outcome, no matter the cross we might bear (Habakkuk 3:17-18 / Romans 8 / Philippians 2 / 2 Corinthians 4 / Revelation). People today seek the fullness of God apart from personal crucifixion with Christ, and the result is either a limited or a counterfeit experience. The fullness of God flows from the cross, Calvary was before Pentecost historically and it is experientially. The only way into the fullness is through our acceptance of our crucifixion with Him. We are made conformable to His death, and then we know the power of His resurrection and fellowship of His sufferings. Pray to be filled and then stay to be filled, pray in it and stay in it.

We will look at 2 texts in the next 2 weeks. The first, the OT story of the three young men in the fiery furnace, gives us an example of OT people who were willing to trust God in spite of any outcome. The second shows us Paul’s recipe, if you will, for living in resurrection power.

We are not taking about a life deeper than the Scriptures indicate, not some esoteric, elitist notion of a super knowledge, not some deep mystery not revealed in the Bible, not gnosticism or mysticism but fully entering into the fullness the Bible depicts and exhorts us to enter into. There are many passages about walking in the fullness of God’s grace (Ephesians 3:19 / Philippians 1:11 / Colossians 1:9, 2:2 / Hebrews 6:11-12 / Ephesians 6 / 1 Peter 1:7-8, etc.).

Our first passage I like to call “The Fire Of Obedience” (Daniel 3:18). It is relevant in that it deals with situational pressure not uncommon in today’s world. We aren’t subject to being thrown into a fiery furnace, but the emotions and the temptation to compromise are the same.

The young men had been obedient in some smaller details earlier in Babylon. Recall how they were not eating the polluted meat, but trusted God by eating only vegetables. The obedience of faith is about being obedient in the small things first. Obedience in “little” areas opens up true faith to be used in “big” areas, not God doing something “big”, and then you obey in the small things. Are you waiting for God to do something big before you let go and completely obey? How many times do you compromise on the little things?

These young men knew that God was able to deliver them, but they did not presume that He would. These men knew that they were innocent in God’s eyes, but that they were indeed guilty of disobeying the unjust law. They were ready to suffer the flames of the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar rather than suffer the fiery furnace of Hell. They were obedient to God’s will, believing as Job did – Though he slay me, yet will I trust him (Job 13:15). They did not whine about injustice, and did not use excuses to compromise. They could have reasoned, “why not just give in this once, for ten minutes?” Or, “we will be able to help our brethren more by staying alive”. But they did not compromise God’s glory for the sake of their own skin.

The obedience of faith is concerned with matters of eternal importance, more than matters of earthly importance. Even in death we have victory, because we are not to fear them that can destroy the body but cannot destroy the soul (Matthew 10:28). Do you complain out loud or to God about having to do more than others? Do you complain about injustice and/or persecution? Do you try to help God out by bending the rules?

These young men knew that they were doing what was right. They knew that their God was God. But they didn’t try and vindicate themselves by shouting down the King with taunts such as, “Our God will save us, you loser!” They didn’t presume upon God by acting holier than thou about their faith. They had confidence in God; but in His overall love and purpose for them, not in a belief that they would be shown as righteous before men.

The obedience of faith is living out your faith before God and man, not giving lip service to God and provoking man. These men did not put their faith in a vacuum, everyone knew of them. But they did not live their faith with a microphone, either. Do you think that if you are “doing what is right” that no harm can come to you? Do you chide others about their sin? Do sinners see God’s grace when they encounter you, or do you trumpet your personal faith?

How tragic it is to see supposed Christians today ignoring the lessons observed here. Some are waiting for God to move, while He is waiting for them to move. Some separate themselves from the culture so much that they never encounter the lost outside of church functions. Others browbeat people with the fact that they are “saved”. There are many who believe that they are sanctified, when they are only sanctimonious.

In this life we will all have to go through some fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12). Everyone will have to go through a fiery furnace. There is the one the world puts you in for not doing it their way, but that one God uses to burn off the impurities, as a refiners fire. The other type is the one that awaits those that bow down to the idols of this world. The question is, which one do you want?

Money, reputation, friends, and family, even your own life: there is nothing Jesus can’t take away from you, they are secondary not primary, only Christ is primary (Luke 14:26 – nothing come before God / Matthew 15:4 – obviously hate isn’t hatred / Matthew 6:24 – choice of the two). If you love God rightly you love other things in the right context. You won’t be one that says, “I can’t love a God who let my baby suffer”. God may take them away from you (Ezekiel was told a day ahead of time his wife would die and he was not allowed to mourn for her / Job lost everything in a day and never found out why). Romans 4:20-21 / Hebrews 11:19 – Abraham’s faith in God meant that he was prepared to do anything.

We love the stories of great deliverance like S/M/A or Daniel in the Lions den, but in Hebrews 11:36 and following we see “and others” who didn’t get it all good, yet they were praised, they too are in the faith hall of fame. We don’t see their names because they are too many to number. This passage in Hebrews is telling us that more often than not this is the case. In our Christian walk, we will have stories of great deliverance, but other times we must suffer through. Some will escape but some must endure; both are of faith and we don’t decide which we get. Get it straight and decide ahead of time; if your theology and your devotion are based upon your circumstances you will come to the conclusion that God doesn’t love people.

Next week we will talk about Paul and resurrection power. This is how it works. It is the big picture of the process not the details because what God uses in your life is your own experience. This isn’t cookie cutter Christianity; just because we are all in the same process doesn’t mean we all go through the same experiences. It isn’t just “do this and this” and then “poof” like magic you get it all and you’re done with it. It is a continual process with continual progress. The more we submit to it the more we will see it work.

When we look at Paul and S/M/A we see what it can look like, but what I want you to do is see the big picture, to get a hold of it. The situations of life either harm you or they hone you, they either make you dull or sharpen you to the things of God. They either hinder or help; it is all about what you do with distractions. Remember, when I say distractions I’m not talking about things that take away your devotional time or things that keep you from church, I’m talking about tough situations that would cause you to focus on them more than you focus on God in the overall sense. Study the material on Conforming and Continuing Christianity.

Looking at it in reverse, Complete Christianity is continuing in the conforming. Looking at it forward it is undergoing the conforming process continuing in that despite how hard it may get and that is completeness, it is a growing and knowing and showing thing. You keep walking in as much fullness as is being brought your way. Again it is about focusing in on Christ and that is what transforms us; the sharper our focus becomes the sharper we get. Also remember that this doesn’t mean we become a monk; that actually defeats the process. We may go away as Jesus did for certain times of solitude with God, but we must get back down from the mountaintop and live the life with the light shining to others. It is not isolation but insulation.

Planting thankfulness and allegiance despite outcomes when everything is good is saying you will serve God even if everything is bad. It produces humility, and so the good won’t spoil you when its all good and it bears fruit if and when it turns bad because you have been giving thanks the whole time and renewing your mind. The secret to contentment in Christ is endurance (Philippians 4:11-13). God gives the increase all we do is till the soil, plant the seeds, water the ground and pull out the weeds. His light, His fire, His power; our part is to halt the hindrances. Stay away from the deceptions, stay focused during the distractions, and stay consistent in your devotions. Remember the doctrine of perseverance when your faith seems to fail, God started it and He will finish it. Keep looking to Christ. Be filled with all the fullness of God.


Susan said...

"To shine as lights in the world our only job is to not quench the fire" So true. Great teaching.

Frank Martens said...

Thanks bro!

The team leader of Zambia has a son here in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul area) taking some classes through the church... I'm planning on getting in touch with him and talking and stuff.

Keep the prayers coming :) It's a huge thing on my heart right now and I'm really hoping things work out. The biggest things on my prayer list right now are making sure I stay diligent in living cheap and getting my car debt down to a point where I can sell it with no overhead.

G & P!

Even So... said...

Thanks Susan...

Frank, will do...

Marcian said...

I just want you so know that I am so thankful you are following God's leading and bringing this to us. You play such an important role in the body. I am starting to understand that I cannot do everything, and it makes me appreciate those who are called to do other things much more. So, thanks.

Even So... said...

Thank you for the encouragement...pray that I may continue to fulfill that to which I am called...