June 08, 2010

Little White Lies series "God helps those who help themselves."

One of my favorite shows is House. It's a show about a doctor whose job it is to figure out and treat really difficult diseases. It is part CSI and part ER. One of the shows that I watched recently was about a boy who came in with a very evasive disease that no one could figure out. Even House was baffled until he learned the key to the case. Upon taking the history of the boy at admitance, the parents told the doctors everything about the boy , but they excluded one little truth that turned out to be the case cracker and eventually saved the boys life. The little truth they excluded was that the boy was adopted by them at birth. They had told the doctors that they were his parents and had given the doctors all their medical history as the boy's family medical history. The reason they told this little white lie was because they had never told the boy he was adopted and they didn't want him to find out this way through the doctors, besides, they loved him like their own and that was what was really important. The problem was that diseases are passed from parents to children , but the mothers milk is the only thing that protects a baby from some illnesses as a child through the antibodies that are passed from the parents milk. In this case, the baby had recieved it's mothers illness but had never recieved her antibodies to protect him from the illness because she never gave him her milk - she put him up for adoption right away.
While the parents were trying to protect their son, they almost killed him because they told a little white lie that seemed insignificant to them. As a good doctor can tell you when diagnosing your health, a little white lie is never insignificant. It's the same with our spiritual health. If we base our relationship with Christ off of little white lies, then we may not be as healthy as we think. We might even be in great danger.

Today, I am going to start by looking at the first of three little white lies that many Christians believe and operate by.
"God helps those who help themselves."
"Well, I know that not true." you say. I bet you do; but I think you might be surprised to see how pervasive this little white lie is in all of our lives.

Who has ever thought to themselves that after doing something wrong or after being absent from God for a long time, that you weren't in a good enough place spiritually to go to God in prayer? Most of us have. That's proof that this little white lie is still affective in our lives. One of the most difficult things to really keep focused on, really keep right there in front of our eyes at all times, is that we are completely dependant on the Righteousness of Christ that covers us. The only reason we have a relationship with our Heavenly Father is because Christ placed His righteousness on us. We will never be righteous apart from that. This doesn't mean that we can do whatever we want - I'll talk about that tomorrow - what it means is that our security, our eternal salvation, is completely wrapped up in the finished work of Jesus. Our relationship to God as a child to a Father is never going to weaken, because Christ's work will not weaken. We may suffer consequences for wrong behavior, but the relationship will always be accessible.

It's hard to believe this though. Let's look at a story that helps us understand why.

Acts 10
1At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, "Cornelius." 4And he stared at him in terror and said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea." 7When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
Let's skip ahead now to look at what is happening at the same time to Peter.

Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." 14But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." 15And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common." 16This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
17Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. 20Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them." 21And Peter went down to the men and said, "I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?" 22And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say." 23So he invited them in to be his guests.

That's pretty interesting isn't it? It kinda looks like God is helping a guy who was doing the best he could on his own, so the little white lie we are talking about tonight, God helps those who help themselves, looks true.

Let's look at one more part of the story.
The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." 27And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me."
30And Cornelius said, "Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.' 33So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord."
Gentiles Hear the Good News
34So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ ( he is Lord of all), 37you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles
44While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
Now let me ask you a trick question. Who is this story about, Cornelius or Peter? Who ends up learning the big lesson associated with the story? Peter (and the rest of the Jewish Christians).

If we look at the story from Cornelius's point of view like it's about him, then we think we read a story about a God who helps those who help themselves. But if we turn the story around and see it from Peter's perspective, we see a God who is teaching the Jews that salvation is not just for them anymore, it's for everybody. He had to pound it into Peter's head three or four times before he got it though. God helped Peter, who wasn't helping himself, and he used Cornelius so that Peter would understand that God wanted His salvation to go to all the other gentiles who couldn't help themselves!

Usually today, if God wants us to do something, it is either for our growth and maturity or the benefit of others. God doesn't reserve his help for those who give it their best effort first, He gives it to those who can't help themselves in the first place, and once again, that includes all of us! Remember that. He is always there for you no matter what you are going through. If you need more resources to help you through something, check out the websites I have linked to the right. They are some of the best resources and counselors available.

With you for His glory

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