Jesus: “I Beheld Satan Falling.”

Posted by on September 28, 2006 under Sermons

Would you like to see Satan utterly defeated? Would you like to see him flounder helplessly in total confusion? Would you like to see him fall flat on his face completely disoriented? Would you like to see his power evaporate, his strength fail, and his throne destroyed? Most Christians would love to witness that happening!

Would you like for the Lord to use you personally to help cause Satan’s defeat? Would you like to put "the hurt" on Satan without him being able to hurt you? Would you like to do things that would tumble Satan?

It would surprise me if those ideas did not appeal to most Christians. Why? Most of us have witnessed tragedies that Satan caused. We have seen good people betrayed through evil. Through evil, we have seen godly people fall to their ruin. We have seen heartache and pain caused by evil. Many of us have felt helpless as we observed Satan’s deceptions.

It would be wonderful to "get even" with Satan just once. It would be wonderful to see him suffer the pain he delights in bringing to us, to destroy his influence, to frustrate his efforts. Just once would you not like to witness Satan receiving what he deserves?

If God used you in that way, what would happen? If God used you in that way, what would you have to do to Satan? If Satan were beaten, what would have to happen?

There was a time when Jesus used people to do exactly that! Consider what happened in Luke 10.

  1. Jesus used seventy (70) men as "advance men" to prepare villages and cities in Galilee and Judah to get ready for his coming.
    1. These men would go throughout the entire Jewish region to build a sense of expectation for Jesus’ and his message.
      1. To each of the places they visited, they would inform people, "Jesus is coming here!"
        1. An announcement of this type was necessary in a time without printing, radio, or television to create a sense of expectation.
        2. They wanted even small villages to know they would not be passed by.
        3. The objective was information, not profit.
      2. Jesus wanted the men to know they were going on a dangerous mission.
        1. The opportunity was enormous!
        2. However, the risk was great! The hatred of some was not to be underestimated!
        3. These men would be defenseless–like lambs among wolves!
      3. There were some conditions they had to accept.
        1. They would trust Jesus as they represented Jesus.
        2. They would not travel as usual with extra provisions and clothing.
        3. There would be no bag with extra food for an unexpected situation.
        4. They would not talk to people as they traveled.
          1. Their mission was too urgent!
          2. They must not be delayed as they announced Jesus’ coming.
        5. When they entered a house, they extended the family peace.
          1. If the family accepted their peace, that peace would rest on the family.
          2. If the family rejected them, their peace would be denied the family.
        6. "When you are accepted, stay in that one place–there is no time to move from place to place."
        7. "Wherever you are:
          1. "Eat what you are served.
          2. "Heal the sick.
          3. "Inform everyone that God’s kingdom is near" (the expectation of Israel was close to being a reality).
        8. "If you are rejected:
          1. "Publicly declare they are responsible for the consequences of their rejection–do not even carry dust from that place on your sandals!
          2. "Still let them know God’s kingdom will come soon.
          3. "In the future, God’s condemnation will be terrifying!"
      4. Their basic awareness about their message should be this:
        1. "When they listen to you, they listen to me."
        2. "When they reject you, they reject me."
        3. "If they reject me, they reject God."
  2. The seventy (70) returned with joy and excitement!
    1. Many exciting things happened–obviously more than they expected!
      1. They made the journey just as Jesus instructed them.
      2. They visited hostile places and survived.
      3. They visited receptive places and were well treated.
      4. They healed the sick.
      5. Most excitingly–they had power over demons; they did things many regarded extremely difficult or impossible!
        1. Demon possession was regarded the most difficult form of sickness.
        2. In Jesus’ name they could do that which rarely happened.
        3. Can you imagine what a sense of power they felt?
        4. Can you hear their sense of excitement when they said: "Lord, we were unstoppable! We really did something special!"
      6. Jesus’ reaction to their report is so important!
        1. He agreed something special happened.
        2. In the time of their mission, Jesus said he saw Satan falling as lightning from heaven.
        3. That likely meant Jesus saw Satan losing his position of power and control.
        4. The unstoppable process of dethroning Satan had begun!
        5. Satan’s total defeat had begun.
        6. Satan’s defeat had begun, and nothing bad occurred to Jesus’ messengers.
      7. Jesus’ warning is critical!
        1. "Do not rejoice in the wrong thing!"
        2. The wrong thing was having power over demons!
        3. "Rejoice that your names are written in heaven!"
    2. What was the significance of Satan falling as lightning?
      1. Did it mean Satan could do no damage to Jesus or his followers?
        1. Certainly not!
        2. Jesus was still betrayed, denied, and crucified.
        3. The 12 were still scattered and disillusioned.
      2. However, Jesus’ resurrection meant an end to the power and reign of Satan over all this world–and that was a powerful, glorious moment!
        1. However, not even that moment meant the death of Satan.
        2. It means it is impossible for Satan to defeat Jesus Christ.
        3. It means Satan cannot spiritually destroy people who belong to Jesus Christ.
        4. Yet, Satan still can afflict those in Christ who remain in this physical existence.
        5. That evil power will not end until God’s final judgment.
  3. We must remember two things.
    1. First, Satan–though eternally defeated–never stops fighting us.
      1. When the situation looks promising, we are tempted to feel, "We are really sticking it to Satan!"
      2. With faith, courage, and sacrifice, we can inflict damage on Satan in many ways.
      3. Satan will fight us every way he can as we seek to capitalize on God’s opportunities before us.
      4. You can be assured that Satan also has some special obstacles in store for us.
      5. He will not let us capitalize on opportunities for good without resisting us in every way he can!
      6. He will not give up parts of his kingdom without a fight!
      7. His primary ground for waging war against God is within the church itself!
    2. Second, we must not rejoice in the wrong things.
      1. Do not rejoice in our accomplishments as congregations or individuals–that is not the ultimate war against evil!
        1. Every battle we win at this moment will be fought again by other people.
        2. Every lesson this generation learns in its war against evil must be learned again by future generations.
      2. Rejoice that you let Jesus be your Lord as you pursue God’s will.
        1. Rejoice in belonging to Jesus.
        2. Rejoice as you see others willingly yielding to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

It always is important for us to rejoice in what Jesus has done and continues to do for us, not in what we think we do for Jesus.

But It Does Not Feel Like It!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

At least within our society, we adopt a way to measure life’s experiences. It is a simple, subjective way to measure: Good things feel good, and bad things feel bad. Thus, if something feels good, it cannot be bad; and if something feels bad, it cannot be good.

Most hasten to add that there are numerous exceptions: Discipline rarely “feels” good. Chemotherapy rarely “feels” good. Yet, both are administered and endured because an eventual improvement is sought, but not guaranteed.

My point is NOT that one’s feelings have no value in determining wise and unwise, good and bad, or right and wrong. My point: the Christian who uses only his or her feelings as a primary means to determine (1) the meaning of a scripture, (2) right or wrong, or (3) correct behavior makes himself or herself an inviting target for Satan’s deception.

Before Jesus raised Lazarus, he told Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha thought only of the final resurrection. When Jesus’ affirmed he was the power of life and resurrection, Martha did not “feel” an immediate solution to her grief for her brother. (See John 11:23,24.)

When Jesus was in Gethsemane less than 24 hours before his death (Matthew 26:38-44), or Paul was frustrated by his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), or Peter was afraid of the Judaizing teachers (Galatians 2:11, 12), or Barnabas was deceived by hypocritical forces (Galatians 2:13), “feelings” either threatened to mask or did mask God at work. Jesus’ feelings said, “Death is unacceptable.” Paul’s feelings said, “You can be more effective for God without this thorn.” Peter’s feelings said, “I do not want to experience that again.” Barnabas’ feelings said, “They cannot be wrong about this.”

Thank God Jesus did not surrender to his feelings! Thank God Paul listened to Christ when He explained! May we be warned by Peter’s fear and Barnabas’ deception! Yes, always consider your feelings, but never let your feelings become God’s voice. (If we do not consider our feelings, we will have no conscience.)

Jesus knew God was at work in his death. He saw beyond how he felt and felt grieved for those who caused his death (Luke 23:34). Stephen even saw God at work in his death (Acts 7:59, 60). That is the key for the Christian-to see God working when we experience the distasteful. God often works through human pain and injustice.

Approved By God

Posted by on September 24, 2006 under Sermons

Read Matthew 6:1-18.

We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We are a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Our Lord has instructed us to let our light shine so that when people see our good deeds they will glorify our Father in heaven.

But now he is saying that we ought to be careful not to do our acts of righteousness before people. Instead we ought to do them in secret. Is he contradicting himself? Are we to let our light shine or cover it with a bushel?

There’s no contradiction. We are the city set on a hill. As a church that is salt and light, we don not practice righteousness for our own sakes – we practice righteousness so that world might know God.

This is why there is no contradiction: In the teaching we just heard, Jesus is cautioning us not to do good deeds in order to gain approval from others. It’s all about the reward we expect. Our we letting our light shine so that the world will praise our Father (and come to know Him) or are we concerned with the approval and acceptance of others?

Jesus brings up the hypocrites. A hypocrite is an actor or performer. Jesus is using this term to colorfully describe the people whose acts of righteousness are aimed at getting public acceptance. They need to people to know their generosity. They need people to notice how carefully and accurately they can pray. They need people to see that they observe self-denial and are repentant. Hypocrites – their faith is on display for others to evaluate. That’s what Jesus meant with that term.

Of course, we have modified the term a bit. We’ve taken it out of its pedestrian usage and made it semi-religious. For us the hypocrite is a charlatan, a phony, someone with impure motives. It’s Elmer Gantry trying to bilk the good folk at the tent meeting. It’s the televangelist who asks for a seed offering and then he spends it on a house in Hawaii. It’s the false prophet who manipulates the church and the busybody who doesn’t practice what she preaches. (In our usage, a hypocrite is usually someone else) These are all problems, but that not what Jesus means by hypocrite.

In fact, a hypocrite does practice what he preaches. Notice that the “hypocrites” are gravely concerned about their acts of righteousness gaining the approval of others. They want to be “seen.” They need their reward from others. Jesus mentions three very individual acts of righteousness: giving, praying, fasting. These are three acts in which the individual (the singular “you”) participates in what all the community of the righteous should be doing.

The ones who seek the reward and approval of others is anxious for others to notice that what he or she gives is enough to make a difference. He doesn’t want to be shamed as someone who didn’t give his due. She doesn’t want to be thought of as someone who doesn’t contribute her part.

The ones who seek the reward and approval of others are anxious for others to notice that he or she prays often and prays correctly. He wants people to see how we ought to pray. She wants to pray at the proper times.The ones who seek the reward and approval of others are anxious for others to notice that – well, we don’t fast do we. Kind of hard to get a hold of that in our age of indulgence, eh? So the ones who seek the reward and approval of others are anxious are anxious to let others know when they have given up something important. They want some understanding and just the acknowledgement of their sacrifice.

It’s easy to describe those who seek the reward and approval of others and always think of them as someone else. So I want to tell you how I am complicit in the system of “being seen by others” and if you find yourself there too, then you can share with me in the journey of letting God change you too.

They say that ministers and their families live in a fishbowl. It means that everything we do is visible for all to see. I suppose the fishbowl would apply to a lot of leaders in the church. It would apply to so many of us really. I shared the metaphor of the fishbowl to a friend recently – someone who is not a church leader but is in a highly visible position in society – and he was impressed by the accuracy of the image. All of us feel like our deeds are being monitored. And it becomes natural that if we are “on display” we ought to at least hear what the audience thinks of our performance so far, right? “How am I doing?” as the once mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, used to say.

I get caught up in our habits that put a lot of emphasis on what others will think. Sometimes we as a church will do something simply because we are concerned about what others will think – and it may be something really good. I have sometimes taken satisfaction in doing something because it “looks good for the church.” And there are times we don’t do something because we are concerned about what people will think. I forget that sometimes it is risky to follow Jesus and sometimes people do get upset because I am trying to follow him.

Now on the one hand, our deeds must reflect the glory of God. As a community we are “on display” – we’re the city on the hill. But on the other hand, we cannot make the approval of others our aim. If we want that “Reward” we can get it – and we can get it easily. But the reward we are waiting on is the reward of our father. Our Father in heaven has a view much better than the spectators looking into the fishbowl. He sees what we do in secret. He is able to evaluate us on more than just our public display. Does that comfort you or scare you? If it scares you, then ask yourself what reward you are seeking. If it comforts you then keep focusing on what God wants you to do because of who you are.

Darlene grew up in a faith tradition that emphasized the quality of prayer. If you couldn’t pray right, she was told, then God will not answer your prayers. Darlene was intimidated and she just didn’t pray at church, or even at home. But then she found out she had cancer. She wasn’t sure if God heard her because she was told that her prayers were weak and were corrupted by the sin in her life. But she kept trying to pray anyway. Some friends put me and some of my elders in Texas in touch with Darlene. We visited with her. One of our elders assured her that God loves her. He mentioned that God’s Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8). I asked her, “Darlene, you say you’ve been praying. What do you pray.” She was reluctant to share it. Sort of humble and shy about it. Then she said, “I pray … Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever … And then I say, Lord it’s me again.”

Now what does God think about that prayer? The Lord’s Prayer keeps us focused on God. Whose approval do we seek?

  • Do we seek the some sort of reward from others for the gifts we give, or is it enough to be rewarded by Our Father who gives us our daily bread?
  • Do we seek some sort of reward from others when we engage in personal repentance, or is it enough to be rewarded by the one who forgives us as we forgive others?
  • Do we seek some sort of reward when we pray for or with others, or is it enough to be rewarded by Our Father and to be satisfied that his will is done on earth as it is in heaven?

Whose will is the focus of our discipleship? Your own, or the will of your Father.

    [Quote: Danny Mercer] If we are praying for God’s will and God’s reign in our lives and this church, but aren’t carrying it out, then we are merely actors on a stage who have received our reward already, the approval that quickly fades.

Do you want to get it right … or do you want to be righteous?

Resisting Jesus

Posted by on September 21, 2006 under Sermons

The American society has many great qualities that produce incredible opportunities. Among them are our high degree of individual freedom; our number of personal rights; our economic opportunities; our standard of living; and our educational opportunities. Though troubled, we are still a nation of freedom and opportunity

The irony: with all this, we still produce people filled with problems. Often in our society, there are significant groups of deeply troubled people. A common problem is many do not feel loved and are very cynical about love. "True friends" are a myth. "Lasting marriage" is a myth. "Lasting love" is a myth. Many think there are only two enduring laws in this society. (1) Everyone is out to get everyone else. (2) If you want to survive, you better look out for number one [self].

More tragic is the fact that many feel unlovable. They are convinced they are horribly flawed. They have endured lots of rejection. They have been exploited so much they conclude they are worthless.

Feeling unlovable is produced by many conditions. Some of those conditions: the victimization of racial, economic, or religious prejudice; experiencing forms of social rejection; the absence of love in a childhood home–perhaps the parents being at war with each other, or divorce, or abuse.

The tragedy deepens. People who feel unlovable often refuse love. Sometimes they do not know how to accept love. Sometimes they do not trust love. Sometimes they do not wish to risk being hurt again.

Consider Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

  1. Many of you know this encounter by heart.
    1. Jesus passed through Samaria as he traveled to Galilee.
      1. He passed near Sychar as he came to a well built 2000 years earlier.
      2. A tired Jesus sat down by the well to rest as his disciples went to get food.
      3. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and he asked her for a drink.
    2. A man asking a woman for a drink was not the substance of this encounter.
      1. Today asking for a drink of water is an innocent request.
      2. The significance was not in the request or the need for water to drink.
      3. The significance is found in the fact a Jewish man made a request of a Samaritan woman.
      4. She must have been shocked!
        1. A Jew speaking to a Samaritan in public, a man making a request of a woman in public? Unthinkable!
        2. Jews did not associate with Samaritans!
        3. Jewish men did not speak to women in public!
    3. This was an incredible incident!
      1. By our standards, the Jewish view of women was undesirable.
      2. Consider some statements by the Jewish Mishnah.
        1. Horavoth 3:7–if a man and a woman are in danger, the man must be saved first; if a man and a woman are defrauded, the man’s property must be restored sooner; if a man and a woman are in danger of defilement, the man must be freed first.
        2. Tohoroth 7:9–a woman is gluttonous and nosy.
        3. Ketuboth 7:6–a Jewish woman was to be given a document at marriage by her husband guaranteeing she would receive a sum of money if he died or divorced her.  Unless:
          1. She gave him untithed food.
          2. She did not set aside a dough offering.
          3. She did not keep a vow she made.
          4. She went into public with her hair unbound.
          5. She spun around in the street.
          6. She spoke to a man.
        4. Ketoboth 1:8–if an unmarried woman spoke to an unknown man in the street, it was proof of her fornication, unless the man was a priest.
        5. Aboth l:5–"He that talks much with womenkind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the law and at last will inherit Gehenna."
      3. Jews simply did not associate with Samaritans.
        1. Shebiith 8:10–He who eats the bread of a Samaritan is like one who eats the flesh of a swine.
        2. Kiddushin 4:3–intermarriage with Samaritans is forbidden.
        3. Nidah 4:1,2–a Samaritan woman is to be regarded unclean from the cradle.
        4. Gittin 1:5–no written agreement using a Samaritan as a witness is valid except a writ of divorce and a writ of emancipation.
        5. Ketuboth 3:1–there are certain women with whom a Jewish man could commit fornication and not be tried:
          1. A woman born a illegitimate child.
          2. A woman descended from the Gibeonites.
          3. A prostitute.
          4. A woman taken captive in war.
          5. A slave who has been redeemed or proselytized.
          6. A Samaritan woman.
          7. Read Leviticus 20:10.
        6. Can you imagine how this Samaritan woman felt when a Jewish man she did not know spoke to her in public?
  2. This Samaritan woman began a deliberate attempt to reject Jesus from the moment he spoke to her.
    1. Of the many probably reasons for her resistance, two are obvious.
      1. Given Jews attitudes toward Samaritans, she likely had no kind feelings for Jews.
      2. She likely felt unlovable.
        1. She had been divorced 5 times [Jews and Samaritans followed the Law], and a woman could not divorce her husband–only the man had the right of divorce.
        2. The man she was currently living with was not a husband.
        3. What rejection and abuse!
    2. She tried to reject Jesus’ concern in 4 ways.
      1. When Jesus asked for a drink (7), she asked him why (9)?
        1. She stressed two relevant facts: "I am a woman, and I am a Samaritan."
        2. "Why do you ask me?"
        3. In our words, "Something is wrong here!"
        4. Perhaps her coming alone at noon indicates she was an outcast in Sychar–which, if true, would make her even more suspicious.
      2. When Jesus offered her water (11), she said he had nothing to draw water with.
        1. A thirsty man promising you water does not make sense!
        2. "Are you greater than our ancestors who dug this well?" Or, in our words, "Are you promising something you obviously cannot deliver?"
        3. "Just who are you trying to fool?"
      3. When Jesus promised water that would permanently quench thirst, she asked for that water.
        1. She did not like the task of drawing and carrying water!
        2. "Produce your promise–do not play games with me!"
      4. Jesus then proved he knew about her though he never had met her.
        1. In a final effort to reject him, she used the most prejudicial issue between Jews and Samaritans–"Where is the correct place to worship?"
        2. This was the "hot issue."
        3. Read Deuteronomy 12:1-14–Where is this place?
        4. I think she was confident of how he would answer, and that would give her reason to reject him.
  3. Note how carefully and patiently Jesus dealt with her efforts to reject him.
    1. He treated her like a person.
    2. When she asked in essence, "What are you up to?" he answered, "I have a gift for you."
    3. When she said, "You have nothing to draw with," he said, "We are talking about different kinds of water."
    4. When she challenge him to immediately produce his promise, he said, "You need to take me seriously."
    5. When she resorted to strong religious prejudices, he said, "Your whole concept needs improving."
    6. She then had two choices.
      1. She could walk away from a "weird situation."
      2. Or, she could realize who Jesus was and turn her back on past rejections.
        1. How strange people can be!
        2. Thousands of Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
        3. With all her problems, she saw Jesus for who he was!
  4. Most of us are much like that Samaritan woman.
    1. At some point in our lives we have been hurt, troubled people.
      1. We have felt the sting of rejection when others used us.
      2. We have sinned in ways we cannot excuse.
      3. We have felt guilt that devastated us.
    2. In this state of guilt and self-contempt, we encountered Jesus with his gospel of forgiveness and hope.
      1. Jesus says to us, "Regardless of what happened to you, I see you as a person who I care about."
      2. Like her, we say, "Something is wrong! You cannot know me and still care about me!
      3. Jesus says, "I have what you need! I can make you whole!"
      4. Like her, we say, "There is no way you can keep that promise!"
      5. Jesus says, "I have answers you never knew or experienced!"
      6. Like her, we try to prejudice the issue.
        1. "What about the hypocrites in the church?"
        2. "What about the rules?"
        3. "Is this really sinful?"
      7. Jesus says, "Your whole religious concept is in error–you are not even asking the right questions."
    3. At this point, we have two options.
      1. We can walk away saying to ourselves, "What a weird man."
      2. Or, we can see him for who he is.

Three questions: (1) How do you feel about yourself? (2) Do you know what Jesus can do for you? (3) How are you reacting to Jesus?

They Would Not Do That — Would They?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

There are moments I remember feeling “justified” for doing things that I now deeply regret. There are moments I remember saying things I thought were profound only to discover later that they were only stupid. Unfortunately, life does not have a “do over” button. When “now” anxieties “justify” anxious decisions, later in life [when hopefully we know better because we have learned more] all we can do is live with the regret.

I have seen incredible sacrifice, unbelievable kindness, quiet acts of service, planned thoughtfulness beyond imagination, and forgiveness only because hearts were touched by God. I have witnessed Christians take enormous risks to be kind. I have seen Christians care for people one would not have thought they noticed.

Also, I have seen one elder force another elder to resign because “he is consistently late.” I have had a mature Christian come to my carport before daylight multiple times to put roofing nails under my tires because he was angry with me. I once saw two leading men of a congregation prepare to fist fight each other in a business meeting because they disagreed. I witnessed a congregation’s leadership totally alter their decision process to keep one negative person from vetoing all mission decisions. I have been told by an angry Christian that every problem existing in a congregation was my fault. [None of these incidents occurred at West-Ark.]

In all these situations, Christians felt fully justified in their acts and decisions. Also, all these Christians did some truly godly things. In my judgment, they just got more emotional and anxious about matters than God is. Thus, they decided they were “justified” in settling matters their way instead of God’s way.

When we are dead and not even an asterisk on the horizon, God will still prevail. We need to exercise great care to assist God and not Satan in our anxieties. High on God’s priority list is the godless world learning peace from God’s family.

Paul made this statement to Jewish Christians and gentile Christians who were in such dispute that they treated each other as enemies: “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15).

The Mind of Christ

Posted by on September 14, 2006 under Sermons

In all of us there is a deep desire to be understood. To be misunderstood is unpleasant for each of us. To be misunderstood continuously is a traumatic experience that can easily produce an enormous personal crisis. For example, for a child to feel totally misunderstood by his or her parents can create a crisis that significantly affects the rest of his or her life. Just the experience of being totally misunderstood can convince the child, “I cannot communicate,” “I am hopelessly different in terrible ways,” or “I am inferior to everyone else.” Such conclusions can destroy the person’s attitudes toward self and their confidence in their ability to relate to others. Such attitudes can even lead to troubles in a future marriage: “He (she) just does not understand me!” Such convictions can result in a feeling of worthlessness, humiliation, and self-abasement.

Do you want to be understood? How do you know your understood? Someone does not have to agree with me to understand me. I know I am understood when someone else knows my thinking, relates to my feelings, and can accurately state my view without distortion. I genuinely appreciate the person who grows in his or her ability to understand me.

What has to happen if a person is to truly understand me? He or she has to learn to think like I think and see as I see. Is that not also true of you? Is it not when these things occur that you know you are understood?

I am confident that God is more misunderstood than any of us ever have been. While we, at worst, can be misunderstood for a lifetime, God has been misunderstood for centuries. Even most who claim to be His followers fail to understand Him. Sadly, many people never even try to understand Him. The more we misunderstand God, the more assured we are that we will misunderstand the son He sent.

While it is not possible to totally understand God or Jesus Christ, it is possible to grow in knowledge and appreciation of both of them. It is not necessary for Christians to follow God blindly! Neither of them ask us to follow them blindly!

If we are to understand God better, what must happen? The same thing that must happen to understand us better–we must learn to think like He thinks and to see like He sees. How is that possible? By dedicating ourselves to having the mind of Christ.

  1. We must start by realizing God does not think or reason as we do.
    1. Scripture acknowledges this fact often.
      1. Isaiah 55:8,9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
      2. Isaiah 40:13,14 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?
      3. Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
      4. 1 Corinthians 2:16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
    2. God in his thinking and reasoning is different in:
      1. His concerns.
      2. His values.
      3. His purposes and objectives.
      4. His priorities.
      5. His perspectives and insights.
    3. The Christian objective is to understand God’s will and way by learning to think as He does.
      1. If I am going to follow God instead of my own thinking, I must dedicate myself to understanding all I can understand about God.
      2. Blind, methodical obedience will not pursue that objective.
      3. God has reasons for what He does.
      4. God has purposes He seeks to accomplish.
      5. Without an understanding of God’s reasons and purposes, there are things God wants us to do that we will not do.
      6. Understanding is critical to daily life!
        1. Which child functions best within the family: one who knows nothing of his parents’ thinking, values, and purposes, or the one who knows his parents’ thinking, values, and purposes?
        2. Which employee does the best job: the one who knows nothing about the “whys” of the job, or the one who understands why the job must be done?
        3. Who do you want to build your house: the carpenter who is great at reading blueprints, or the carpenter who understands how the structure is supposed to work?
        4. Who do you want to operate on you: the doctor who knows a textbook inside-out, or the doctor who understands how your body is supposed to work?
        5. There is much difference in acts of informed but blind slavishness and acts that arise from both knowledge and understanding.
      7. God has a will, a purpose that reaches to eternity.
        1. God’s purposes will be accomplished.
        2. He wants to use us in His achievements.
        3. If He is to use us, we need an understanding of what He is seeking to do.
      8. If, as a serious Christian, I am dedicated to building a life with Christ as its foundation, I must understand how God thinks and reasons.
    4. How does a Christian do that?
      1. The most common answer Christians give is, “Study the Bible!”
        1. I fully agree!
        2. However, that instruction to most people is a vague generality.
      2. I would add: “Learn to reason as God does by developing Christ’s mind.”
        1. The best way to learn how God thinks, reasons, and feels is to learn how Jesus thinks, reasons, and feels (John 5:19; 5:30; 6:38; 8:28; etc.)
        2. The better I understand Jesus, the better I understand God.
      3. Jesus emphasized this truth.
        1. On his betrayal night, he said he was going away, and Thomas responded they did not know the way to wherever he was going.
          1. Jesus replied that he was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
          2. Philip asked Jesus just to show them the Father and it would be enough.
          3. Jesus replied in John 14:9,
            “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father’?
          4. In the same conversation Jesus said,
            John 14:23,24 “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.
            John 16:28 “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”
      4. Jesus in human terms, in a physical life, showed us God’s will, purposes, and attitudes.
      5. The more fully I understand Jesus, the more fully I understand God.
      6. I can understand the mind of Christ because Jesus was a man–that fact provides us insights we could not have without his teachings and example as a human.
  1. The specific instruction is for Christians to develop the mind of Christ.
    1. This instruction is clear.
      1. Paul to the Corinthian congregation: 1 Corinthians 2:16–For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
      2. Paul to Christians at Philippi: Philippians 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
      3. Peter to Christians: 1 Peter 4:1,2 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
    2. The mind of Christ:
      1. Considers all of physical life.
      2. It stresses humility as we look at ourselves (Philippians 2:1-5).
      3. It stresses reverence as we look at God (Matthew 6:1-18).
      4. It stresses our attitude toward physical existence (Matthew 6:19-34).
      5. It stresses our attitude toward other people (Matthew 5:43-48; 7:12; Romans 15:1-3).
      6. It stresses compassion (Ephesians 4:32).
      7. It stresses our resistance to the teachings and influence of God’s enemies (Matthew 23).
      8. If you wish to understand God’s values and priorities, listen to Jesus.
  2. We do not follow Christ to learn a religion; we follow Christ to discover a life.
    1. In Christ, we want to learn how to live, and that involves much more than going to church.
    2. In Christ, we want to learn how to value what God values, and to devote our lives to those values.
    3. In Christ, we seek a transformation of our lives as we seek to belong to God in mind and body.

Being a Christian grows into much more than believing Jesus died and was raised to be our Christ. It is bigger than blind obedience. The Christian desires to think like God thinks, to feel as God feels, to understand from God’s perspective, and to see as God sees.

This is not about some form of mysticism, or finding spiritual secrets, or being mentally deceived. It is a matter of learning how to live and die by learning how to think as God thinks through developing the mind of Christ.

Are you a Christian? Have you accepted a religion or have you found a life?

Shock and Amazement

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

I suspect most, if not all of us adults, clearly remember where we were that morning as those events unfolded. I am sure that many of us easily remember the shock and amazement of that day. After all, we are the benevolent, kind-hearted good guys-how could anyone anywhere hate us that much? What did any of those people do to deserve a horrific end? How could anyone think those families deserved such horrible suffering?

We were suddenly and horribly introduced to some harsh realities about the views of some people toward Americans. (May I quickly add not everyone hates us! We need to constantly remember that! It is just as unjust to stereotype others as it is for others to stereotype us!) Yet, we must ask, “Why do some find it easy to hate us?”

  1. People who have nothing, who live in unimaginable poverty without any hope of escaping it, often resent us for having so much.

  2. People who have little opportunity often resent the too common American mindset that thinks the rest of the world exists to support the American lifestyle.

  3. Many people do not like the moral values of our culture, and see American values as a threat to their values. (Do we not fear some of those values?)

  4. Often other people’s perception of Americans is shaped more by movie exploits and TV images than real life in this nation.

Perhaps that day what naivety remained in the American people became a fearful skepticism. There was a time when we as a people were more likely to think good of others rather than bad. No longer. Now na?ve innocence has transformed into a hardened cynicism. Instead of thinking the best of people as our first thought, we too commonly think the worst of people as our first thought.

In this tragedy there is also enormous opportunity. If ever there was a time when we could demonstrate the beauty of Christian peace in God’s family, now is the time. However, we must understand the importance of living at peace among ourselves before we can project the image of peace to a fragmented world. That requires both courage and understanding. Is not faith in Jesus Christ the essence of courage and understanding? The issue is quite personal for all of us: “Do I seek that courage and understanding?”

Trying To Be Perfect (part 2)

Posted by on September 10, 2006 under Sermons

Read Matthew 5:27-37

So when is the last time you made an oath? When is the last time you witnessed someone taking an oath? Presidents and other leaders are sworn into office. A witness in a court is sworn to tell the truth. A bride and groom make a vow, which is a special kind of oath. But what exactly is an oath?

An oath (from Old Saxon eoth) is either a promise or a statement of fact calling upon God as a witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the statement of fact. Technically, to swear is to make a promises that invokes God to hold you accountable to that promise.

Jesus knows about oaths. He also knows how they are abused. Since an oath calls upon God and it just seems sort of pretentious to summon God to witness our business, some would swear not by God, but by heaven. That seems a little nicer. Of course the convenience of swearing by heaven is that this isn’t as binding as swearing by God, so maybe it wasn’t really an oath to being with since an oath technically invokes God.

But Jesus knows the difference and he teaches his disciples differently: Instead of reserving the truth for special occasions like an oath, Jesus’ disciples always tell the truth because we are always in the presence of God.

The same way with vows and covenants. Vows are special oaths that represent covenants between people. Like the covenant between a man and woman in marriage. Jesus knows about vows and covenants. He also knows how they are abused. Moses required the men of Israel to write out a bill of divorce if they were going to get rid of their wives. It was an effort to limit divorce so that the men would practice some sort of self-control and not abuse the women they put out on their own. But in later times the men of Israel developed a process of “scriptural divorce” and created a loophole in the covenant that allowed them to wrap their lust up in legality so they wouldn’t break any rules.

But Jesus knows the difference and he teaches his disciples differently: It isn’t enough to “not commit adultery” or to “stay married to one person.” Not breaking any rules isn’t the same thing as purity of heart. And Jesus did not say “Blessed are the rule-keepers, for they shall stay out of trouble.” No, he said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!”

Lust and adultery are not a problem simply because they break the rules. That’s an immature and imperfect way to view it. The real problem with lust (of any sort, not just sexual) is that it is unbelief. It trades the unseen promises of God for the tangible object of a moment’s desire. We become Esau giving up our birthright for a bowl of soup.

A report on the news yesterday told of the struggle of women in Lebanon and other Arab countries to obtain certain basic rights. In Lebanon there are eighteen legal courts designed to deal with different cultural and religious beliefs about women in society. But what all of the courts have in common is that women are objects – they are subordinate to men.
In America it is very different. Women have rights. In fact, a woman has the right to “make herself” nothing more than an object to be used by a man – but the woman may be fulfilling her own desires. Now which is better, America’s way or Lebanon’s way. If we are only concerned with individual rights, we should say America. But if we understand the teaching of Jesus, then we should say that Americans and Lebanese have the same problem – they are exchanging the unseen promises of God for the tangible. We each have our ways of reducing people to objects for our own benefit rather than seeing people as God’s children.

According to Jesus, lust becomes a problem not because it breaks a rule, but because it distracts us from the purity of heart that his disciples have when they follow him. The instruction to poke out our eyes our cut off our hand is meant to underline how serious this is. It is better to save your whole body than to sacrifice it for the momentary pleasures of the eye or the hand. Likewise, it isn’t worth losing your whole body for those same lusts. When the eye becomes clouded with lust, we can no longer see God.

When our hearts are clouded and impure, we live by lies we tell ourselves. The little stories we make up that justify our fears or our lusts. When our hearts are clouded are impure, something as important as marriage can become a means to satisfy our own selfish desires. But Christ consecrates the marriage of disciples and sanctifies it. He sets it on a stronger foundation than mutual satisfaction and makes it into a covenant of love and selflessness that enables us to practice reconciling forgiveness.

The problem we have with oaths and covenants today is that we apply them only to individuals. They are regarded as nothing more than a personal ethic. When a single person no longer accepts the oath or the covenant, he or she abandons it for personal desires.

But oaths and covenants are based on more than a personal moral code. We are all stakeholders in the oath and covenant. This is simply because we are all accountable to the truth. Truth is something larger than all of us. Not any version of the truth, but God’s truth and God’s will. God’s truth becomes the oath and covenant that binds us to one another in such a way that it is truly the only way we can all live together in any way at all.

The only way we can become perfect is as a people, not as individuals. Jesus never intended his sermon to be practiced by hermits. He is preaching to a crowd. He is preaching to churches. His “you” is plural.

We are going to be perfect together – and this is where church discipline and accountability come in: We tend to think that church discipline means “someone is getting in trouble.” That’s a rather elementary school concept of it. The discipline is always an attempt to help people do better – never to punish. Church discipline is the children of God working together trying to be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are the practice and process of a people living out perfection. Through the process of forgiveness and reconciliation we become more than what we could be if we had simply followed our own desires. We actually improve – we mature and become perfect – when we confront our own lusts, our own desires, our own tendency to wiggle away from God’s charges. And the only way we make any progress is through forgiveness and reconciliation. God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of others.

    What’s great about marriage is that we are constantly in need of forgiveness and reconciliation. There is no way we can live so intimately with another and find ourselves in need of either being forgiving or extending forgiveness. That’s reconciliation. Any marriage counselor will tell you that she would rather deal with a couple who start by owning their own problems than with a couple who blame each other. Confession and forgiveness lead to reconciliation, and the awareness of our weaknesses leads to perfection.

In our effort to be disciples, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect we must go to the cross. One of the values that our elders have encouraged us to undertake as disciples is to “daily focus on Jesus and the cross.” That’s so important, for beneath the cross of Jesus, we are all accountable to one another.

  • The cross rips away every lie we tell ourselves, to say nothing of lies we may tell.
  • The cross exposes the lusts of our hearts and reveals the cost of living only for our own desires (or fears).
  • The cross reveals the stark truth about ourselves and about God. Shameful sin is met with faithful love.
  • So, beneath the cross we truly become one body washed in the blood.

The God of Compassion

Posted by on September 7, 2006 under Sermons

There is a common terminology people in congregations often use that easily is abused. While many Christians commonly use this terminology, most who use it do not understand it. Maybe none of us uses the terminology correctly. I am referring to the terms "faithful Christian" and "unfaithful Christian."

It is more demanding than many realize to discuss faithfulness and unfaithfulness because that discussion involves many interrelated concepts. For example, does God want each Christian to be as devout, as dedicated, as serving, as obedient, as knowledgeable as possible? Certainly! If you are a Christian, God wants you to grow into the most spiritually mature person you are capable of being! He wants complete commitment to Him and to Christ in your life!

While a common commitment to excellence and spiritual maturity must be understood by every Christian, that understanding does not deal with all aspects of who is faithful or unfaithful. A second question is equally relevant. To whom will God be merciful?

Is God a God of compassion? Certainly! Is God a God of mercy? Certainly! To whom will God show mercy and compassion? Many Christians suggest God will show both to people whom they regard as needing it least. The too common answer is that He will show both to the "faithful" Christian.

Let me clearly state I am not talking about the person who rejects Christ. I am talking about people who have entered Christ. This is my question: will God be compassionate and merciful to the "unfaithful" Christian?

That question may make most of us uncomfortable. We do not want to give anyone the impression that he or she can willfully choose to rebel against God and be securely saved at the same time. We certainly do not want to discourage any Christian from dedication to growth and spiritual maturity. Nor do we want any Christian to believe he or she deliberately can exist in spiritual infancy for a physical lifetime and be secure in Christ.

While those are legitimate concerns, they do not address another problem that should be of concern. Who decides who is a faithful or unfaithful Christian? How is that determination made? Is it a matter of church attendance? Is it a matter of locally approved deeds? Is it a matter of positions on certain "issues?" Just how is faithfulness and unfaithfulness decided?

Too commonly, "unfaithful" is used for the person who disagrees with my conclusions or positions, and "faithful" is used for the person who agrees with me. "Unfaithful" is used for someone who does less than I do or does not do things I think are important, and "faithful" refers to the person who does as much or more than I do.

What does it mean to decide a person is "unfaithful?" For many it means God’s mercy and compassion are not available to him or her, or it means he or she is condemned.

I want to share a parable from Jesus with you about God’s attitude toward a faithful and unfaithful Jew. The parable makes a statement about God’s compassion and about human attitudes. The parable is just plain frightening!

  1. Before we examine the parable, let’s consider the need to understand the parable.
    1. Our brotherhood is filled with divisions, clicks, and parties that have decided they have a true understanding of God’s real will.
      1. That is true of most any religious group you examine.
        1. You can see the problem most anywhere you turn.
        2. However, that fact that I see it among us gives me no comfort.
      2. All of our confrontational groups claim the same thing: "We are the faithful!"
      3. What does a group mean by that?
        1. They mean, "God listens to and smiles on us, but not you."
        2. They mean, "When you approach God, it makes Him so angry He listens to nothing you say."
      4. Sadly, the problem does not stop in the universal church.
        1. Similar problems exist in too many local congregations.
        2. The "faithful" in these congregations regard everyone else in the congregation as "unfaithful."
        3. If you could "improve" your congregation by getting rid of someone, who would you get rid of?
        4. Have you ever wondered who would "get rid of" you?
        5. Do you really believe the Lord will forgive you and not forgive him or her?
  2. Consider Jesus’ parable about the faithful and unfaithful Jew in Luke 18:9-14.
    Luke 18:9-14, And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ?God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ?God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
    1. We are told to whom this parable is directed.
      1. It was directed to those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous."
        1. They were confident they were righteous because of what they did in keeping the law of Moses.
        2. Righteousness was merely a matter of obedience.
        3. God was not the source of righteousness; human deeds were the source of righteousness.
        4. They placed their faith in themselves, not in God.
      2. As a result in trusting in themselves, they considered others not like them as nothing.
        1. The Greek word used here is a strong word.
        2. It means to utterly despise.
        3. They are the good people God listens to and loves, but the "unfaithful" ones are evil and despised by God.
        4. They are certain they despise people God despises.
    2. The setting is the temple area in Jerusalem.
      1. The temple courtyards were "the" place to pray.
        1. The temple was the place God’s presence dwelled.
        2. The temple area was as close as you physically could come to God.
        3. Those facts had to make prayer there more effective.
      2. Those close enough to do so were expected to pray at the temple area three times a day.
        1. Thus people assembled at 9 am, noon, and 3 p.m. to pray.
        2. Do you remember that Peter and John in Acts 4 went to the temple at the hour of prayer and healed a lame man?
        3. Do you remember that Cornelius was praying at the hour of prayer when the angel came to him?
    3. The principle character of the parable is the Pharisee.
      1. The purpose of his prayer was to affirm his righteousness.
      2. The fact that "he prayed thus with himself" may mean one of two things.
        1. It may mean he prayed silently.
        2. It may mean he prayed to reinforce his opinions of himself.
      3. He declared himself righteous for two reasons.
        1. He was not like other "unfaithful" Jews–the extortioner, the unjust, the adulterer, or the tax collector (who was near by).
        2. He did the "right things."
          1. He fasted twice a week [a custom followed by then devout Jews every Monday and Thursday–a supposed declaration that they knew their place without God having to act against them].
          2. He gave 10% of all he brought [not just prospered]; he went beyond common expectation.
      4. Please note nothing suggested his claims were insincere or false.
        1. He really thought he was righteous.
        2. He believed he did what was right and important.
        3. His obedience and compliance to tradition was meticulous.
        4. That was all he seemed to know to do–there is no reflection on the internal realities of his life.
    4. The secondary character in this parable is the Jewish tax collector.
      1. Jewish society regarded such people as scum, traitors, thieves to be rejected by "good Jews."
      2. Nothing indicated that the Jewish tax collector was spiritually exceptional.
      3. The fact he stood removed could mean two things.
        1. It could mean he felt unworthy to stand by someone like the Pharisee.
        2. It could mean he felt unworthy to be near the temple.
      4. He did not assume the common prayer position–arms raised, face upward, eyes open.
        1. He was consumed with his unworthiness, so he bowed his head and beat on his chest to declare contempt for his sin.
      5. He said one sentence: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
        1. He declared no self-virtues or religious achievements.
        2. He claimed no spiritual value.
        3. He asked for the only thing that could help–God’s mercy.
        4. He did not ask for mercy because he felt he deserved it, but because he needed it.
    5. God’s reaction in the situation was not at all what is expected.
      1. He was completely unimpressed with the Pharisee’s prayer.
        1. He did not even respond to it.
        2. The man felt no need for mercy, did not ask for mercy, and received no mercy from God.
        3. The man approached God on the basis of his achievements, and that is where God let him stand!
        4. How tragic that he did not realize his need for mercy!
        5. God did not justify the Pharisee!
      2. The compassionate God was so moved by the tax collector’s prayer that He justified the man!
        1. You need to understand God’s concept of justification to fully grasp the parable’s point!
        2. God removed that man’s sins from his account!
        3. In essence, God declared the outcast tax collector guiltless!

  3. We need the proper focus on the parable.
    1. Was the Pharisee wrong in what he did and did not do? No!
    2. Then what was his mistake?
      1. His concept of righteousness was incorrect because it was grossly inadequate.
        1. He thought righteousness was focused on human deeds.
        2. He did not understand the importance of attitude and internal values.
      2. He did not realize his own desperate need for mercy.
      3. He was clueless regarding his own mistakes and sinfulness.
      4. He felt good about himself because of what he did, and not what God did for him.
    3. Was the tax collector right in the evil things he did? No!
      1. The parable does not justify failures and mistakes.
      2. It does not say it is okay to do evil as long as you pray about your mistakes in the correct way.
      3. It does not turn evil into righteousness.
    4. The parable powerfully declares the kind of human response that touches a compassionate, merciful God.
      1. God is touched by human awareness of unworthiness.
      2. God is touched by honest human acknowledgment of sin.
      3. God is touched by honest confession that utterly depends on His mercy.
      4. God is touched by earnest pleas for forgiveness.

The parable says the supreme human expression of arrogance is for a person to believe he is righteous because of his own accomplishments and behavior. It says God does not respond to prayers and lives when we declare we are better than the "unfaithful" Christian. It says we do not prove our spiritual superiority by comparing ourselves to another human.

The parable stings! It hits too close to our lives! It exposes too much of our religious motivations in all their unattractiveness!

Courage and Character

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth fascinates me for many reasons. One reason is found in the fact that Paul chose congregational unity as the first thing to address in this troubled congregation. In this congregation, there was sexual immorality that not even idol worshippers permitted (5:1). Christians attacked Christians in a court system that did not even know the living God existed (6:1). Christians were not considerate of Christians who disagreed with them (6:12-20). Christians disagreed concerning marriage issues (7). They wrangled with each other over idolatry issues (8). They abused communion (11:17-34). They abused spiritual gifts (12). They failed to understand the importance of love among Christians (13). Their questions concerning resurrection butchered the concept (15). With all these problems, Paul addressed the problem of internal unity first (1:10-4:21).

If Christians are going to be a powerful, positive voice in their community, they must practice the love expressed in unity. If unity exists, it exists because Christian respect reigns, not because everyone is in agreement on everything. Moral problems will not reign where such unity binds Christian to Christian. The voice of inconsideration will not speak for Christians bound to each other where such unity exists. Remembrance of our Lord’s sacrifice will not be abused among Christians with the courage to embrace unity. God’s gifts will not be exploited among Christians committed to God’s family in the spirit of unity. Unity based on respect for each other found in God’s respect for us is the foundation of godly behavior and spiritual eloquence. It is the voice that must be heard and respected even by those who do not believe.

One of the strongest condemnations written by Paul was written in 1 Corinthians 3:17, “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” When our anxieties seem to justify an attack on unity, we need to take Paul’s warning to heart. We also need to ready our answer to God for our course of action, for He surely will ask us.

Perhaps a reason for Paul being so direct in this matter of congregational unity is found in this truth: it takes a lot of courage and character to be a person committed to God’s concept of unity. However, it also takes a lot of courage and character to be a Christian. Not everyone shapes his or her life by a resurrection that occurred 2000 years ago.