February 21, 2011

"What We Really Believe About God" series (God vs. Mean People)

Today I want to talk about the second part of this series regarding what we really believe about God. I want to talk about God vs. mean people. It sounds kind of silly, but it really is a big obstacle for some people to get past. Yesterday was about whether or not we believed God could do anything He wanted in our lives or someone else’s. Today is kind of the same topic - except today I want to focus purely on whether or not your faith is backed by the belief that God can change mean people, no matter how mean they are.
Think of the meanest person you can. For me, I am thinking of Dr. Doom from the Fantastic Four superhero comics. Not because he does the most evil things of any comic book villain, but because he is just simply pure mean. His greatest desire is to rule the world, and he doesn't care about anyone or anything thing that might inconvenience his agenda in doing so. He'll take the life of a little baby if it happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and he doesn't think twice about it. Completely self absorbed and bent on having what he wants regardless of how it effects anyone else. He would actually destroy the World in order to be in control of it for one second. That's mean.
You can believe that God is all powerful, but when many Christians come face to face with really mean people in real life, they simply do not accept that God would ever waste time to change someone that bad. Many people don't believe that God can change people that bad. Are their people in your life that you think are so mean or stupid or depressed (it doesn't have to be mean), that you think they are beyond the saving hope of God working in their lives? If we took a secret video camera inside your brain and watched you interact with the world around you, would we discover that despite your claim to believe God is all-powerful, that there really are some people you have given up on or don't pray for simply because you don't think they are worth it any more?
Yesterday, I talked about whether God thinks it's worth it or not to work through impossible situations and people. Today, I am asking: "Do you agree with God by the way you live in faith?" Can anyone be so mean, selfish, stupid, depressed, that they just aren't worth the prayer or faith it would take to reach out to them?

First of all why does it matter? What a silly thing to ask. Is this really going to effect my walk with God? Let's look at a couple of verses.
Luke 6:27-36
27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

God has two priorities that He wants us to grow in through the practice of our faith. The first is taking part with Him in His kingdom work. The second is becoming more like His Son Jesus Christ.

1. He wants us to take part in His Kingdom work.
27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Isn't it amazing how many vv in scripture have to do with us praying for stuff. Think about it: (have students read different ones.)
Genesis 20:7
Now return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die."
Proverbs 15:8
The LORD detests the sacrifice of
the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

Proverbs 15:29
The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
2 Corinthians 1:10b-11 On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
Ephesians 6:18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Philippians 1:19
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
1 Timothy 2:1
[ Instructions on Worship ] I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—
James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

It's important to note that we are not agents of change in today's world. The only agent of change is the Holy Spirit. But, God does desire all of us to be conduits. What is a conduit? A conduit is something that allows the transference of something else. A telephone wire is a conduit. It allows the transference of electrical signals that contain the information needed so that people can communicate. Well, you are a living conduit. God wants to work through you to communicate His glory to the rest of the world. He chooses to let us take part in His work so that He can be glorified through us, His crown jewels of Creation! He could accomplish all these things on His own, but He wants us to be involved with Him because He loves us and Because it makes us more like His son.

2. Becoming more like Jesus.
A lot of people have a hard time with the verse, "if a brother strikes you on a cheek, give him the other also." They take this to mean that Christians must be complete pacifists and sacrifice themselves if assaulted if they truly want to follow Jesus' command. This is really bad Bible study at its worst. Look back to Luke 6:20 (Jesus is talking specifically to His disciples)
Go back a little further to Luke 6:13 ( He is not talking to just any disciples, He is speaking specifically to the 12 whom he also names apostles at this time [sent ones].
Go back a little further to Luke 4:14 (Jesus begins demonstrating His ministry to men which covers the next several chapters)
The point of all this is that Jesus was telling His twelve disciples that he was about to send them out with the message that he had been speaking and that they would not be well received. The reference to being struck was in regards to being struck when someone struck them accusing them of blaspheme or causing dissension that resulted from them preaching what Christ gave them to teach (kinda like when Jesus was struck by the guard in the temple the night of his betrayal). This is very specific to preaching the Word. It didn't mean that if someone attacked them on the road late at night and tried to kill them as they were traveling from point a to point b, that they could not defend themselves. It meant, "don't be surprised and take offense when others get angry at you to the point of striking you for speaking the truth of the message I am giving you."
Being a conduit for Jesus doesn't mean being a push over. It means being strong. It means standing up when everyone else doesn't want to hear what you have to say. Just like Jesus.

So in your life, are there mean people who need to hear about the grace of God? Do you want to be more like Jesus? Are you the conduit that God is going to use to change them? Do you need to pray that God strengthens to truly believe He can change the worst people you know?

How can you be a conduit in the following ways?
Mentally (ex. to someone who is feeling worthless, or ashamed)
Physically (ex. to someone who is feeling alone, unloved, or ridiculed)
Emotionally (ex. to someone who is depressed or afraid or really happy) Romans 12:15
Socially (ex. to someone who is an outcast or tries to be really "unique".)
Spiritually (To encourage and disciple with God's Word and timeless truth. How do you put it into practice)?
Live victoriously. You are an Image Bearer.

With you for His glory

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