Well, it’s back to school time! That reminds me of a few stories. J
It was the little girl’s first day at school and the teacher was making out her registration card. “What is your father’s name?” She said, “Daddy.” “Yes, I know he’s your daddy, but what does your mother call him?” “Oh, she don’t call him anything. SHE LIKES HIM!”
Or how about this one? The teacher said, “Why don’t you brush your teeth? I can see what you had for breakfast this morning.” Boy, “What did I have?” Teacher, “Eggs.” Boy, “You’re wrong! THAT WAS YESTERDAY!”
Little Mary, just home from her first day at school, was asked by her mother, “Honey, what did you learn today?” “I guess not enough,” replied Mary, “I’ve got to go back tomorrow. (Jokes from: http://www.sermoncentral.com/print_friendly.asp?ContributorID=&SermonID=60919)
Back to school. Back to reality. For some of you it is back to work after a vacation or back to work following the weekend. And that daily schedule, that daily routine, whether school or work or other routines of life, that is real life. And how we do the “dailyness” of our lives is really what determines our success or failure as Christians and citizens. Whether you are a student and teacher returning to school or in some other season of life, we are all called to stand up for Jesus we as go throughout our days.
1 Corinthians 15:1 “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.”
Students, teachers and all of us, wherever we are we need to STAND UP for Jesus. Those who take “the stand” in a courtroom are those who are witnesses to something that they have experienced firsthand. They have something to say that impacts the situation at hand. They have a relevant contribution to make. Christian, do you believe that what you have experienced about Jesus and what you know to be true about a relationship with God through Him can impact other people’s lives in a positive and relevant way? If so, we must be serious and intentional about taking a stand as a witness of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Look at the verses that follow I Corinthians 15:1. They talk about what we are to take a stand for:
1 Corinthians 15:2-8 “2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
The only hope of salvation for anyone anywhere is to believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to make peace with God. There is no other way to get to Heaven. That may sound narrow, judgmental, archaic or exclusive, but it doesn’t change the truth. Jesus is “THE way, THE truth and THE life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.” (John 14:6)
When Jesus preached the truth about the way to peace with God and the way to Heaven, He wasn’t concerned that it would turn people off to hear that there was just one way. Rather, He was burdened to share it as much as possible with as many people as possible because since there is just one way, He didn’t want anyone to miss it. The Good News about the One Way is that everyone can choose it! It’s not “one way” for a few or for some or for 144,000 like the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, but it is one way for all! No one is left out of an opportunity to embrace the Way!
How do we take a stand for Jesus and the Gospel in 2012 to make sure everyone gets to hear about the Way to Salvation?
We must be willing to stand for Jesus by being a WALKING WITNESS of our personal experience with Jesus Christ.
We enjoyed the Olympics as a family this year more than any other year. We watched almost every night and our family favorite, perhaps yours too, was the gymnastics competition. Gabby Douglas won 2 gold medals.
SHOW GABBY’S PICTURE
When asked how she dealt with the pressure of the competition, she replied, “I meditate on Scripture!” She commented on her Olympic victories by saying, “I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me.” Wow! In a moment when she certainly deserved praise as she had worked hard, very hard, for years, and with great sacrifice to get to the Olympics, she didn’t take the praise, but only the blessing of being able to be in the spotlight for the purpose of glorifying God!
SHOW ALLYSON FELIX’S PICTURE
How about Allyson Felix who won 3 gold medals in track and field? She said on national TV, “My faith inspires me so much. It is the very reason that I run. I feel that my running is completely a gift from God and it is my responsibility to use it to glorify him. My faith also helps me not be consumed with winning, but to see the big picture and what life is really all about.”
SHOW DAVID BOUDIA’S PICTURE
Or how about David Boudia, a gold medalist in the diving competition? He testified: “It’s all about glorifying God. I approach the practices and the competitions the same. I’m at peace when I’m doing those things and it’s for God and His glory.”
“Whatever happens at the end of this Olympic Games is completely out of my control, God is totally sovereign over everything.” (He shared that that realization also helped him overcome depression.)
SHOW WILLIAM REID PRIDDY’S PICTURE
William Reid won a Gold medal in Men’s Volleyball. Following His win he said, “I believe that God is most glorified when I use the gifts He has given me to the best of my ability, whether I am on international TV or just training,”
Christians should be given “to pursuing greatness (no matter what you are doing) in the name of God and clinging to the strength He provides. Not with the end goal of winning – though it can be a goal and is part of the process – but rather to become more like God and glorify Him.”
SHOW JACOB WUKIE’S PICTURE
One last example. Jacob Wukie who won the Silver medal for archery may have had the most poignant and crystalized point of any I have heard. He said, “I will be living my life for Christ, seeking to know Him more, and seeking to be used by Him to influence the lives of those around me so that they might know Him as well.”
“So that they might know Him. . .” When our goal is to make sure that others know Christ we are walking witnesses. In the halls of your schools, in the locker rooms after sports practices, when you are out with our friends on Friday night at the football game or when you are texting your friends and posting on Facebook, students, is it your goal to make Christ known to those around you? Are you taking opportunities to speak about Christ and what He has done for you? Do you friends know you are a Christian because of what you say and do?
You know the absence of things in our lives can serve as a witness to those around us. We can be a witness by not speaking and not doing certain things as well. When students are gossiping about others students, are you joining in? When students are complaining about their teachers, are you taking part? When there is bullying taking place, are you involved? When you are at the party and the alcohol comes out are you trying to fit in by participating? When the Facebook drama starts about who broke up with who or what someone did to who, are you adding fuel to the fire? Adults, think through your life, your workplace, your conversations with others, are you participating in comments and activities that compromise your ability to be a walking witness?
Makayla Escue has decided to eliminate some things from her life in order to let her life “speak” to those around her about her serious desire to be a follower of Jesus. I’ve asked her to share her testimony with you about decisions she made just this past week:
Pastor Jonathan’s message really spoke to me on Wednesday. I realized I was not living my life the way God would want me to! I realized that I would not be watching stuff like Jersey Shore if God was sitting right beside me! His message was about what you “like” not just on Facebook but in your regular life. The music we listen to, the tv shows we like and even movies! I had been watching stuff like Jersey Shore and not really thinking about what I was watching! Then I realized that the show wasn’t glorifying God! I also “unliked” all of the inappropriate things I had liked on Facebook. Pastor Jonathan has really made a huge difference in my life since he has become a part of TVCOG! He has brought me closer to God and made me realize the person I really am! I know now how to live my life so that I may glorify God, and I intend to do so!
If I were to adopt a motto for living, it might just simply be: I exist to know Christ and to make Him known to others. Do the things you say and do and the things you don’t say and do reflect you are standing for the Gospel? Remember our theme verse for 2012? II Corinthians 5:20: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” God intends to speak through your life and mine. Are you a walking witness?
We must be willing to stand by transporting the TRUTH wherever you go. If something is true it is true on Sunday morning. It is true on Monday in the lunch line. It is true on Tuesday at practice. It is true on Wednesday at the bus stop. It is true on Thursday in the hallways. It is true on Friday night at the football game. It is true on Saturday at the movies and the mall. And if we are Christians, then we are living by the truth. Therefore, the Truth lives in us and travels with us wherever we go!
2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”
What makes Christianity distinct is the teachings of the Bible. Christianity isn’t a man-made religion based on human ideas, but it is a God-ordained way of living based on God’s own Words given under inspiration of the Holy Spirit to people who wrote them down. Ideas and principles based on anything but the Word of God cease to be Christian. Therefore, if we are to live Christian, we must hold up the Word of God as truth and never compromise what it says if we are going to stand up for Christ.
I didn’t say we must be willing to debate and argue with people in order to stand. I didn’t say we must label, name call or put people down in order to stand. I didn’t say we should boycott or picket in order to stand. Simply, we are called to hold up the truth as truth. It is a simple fact that the truth divides people. Some adhere to it. Some don’t. Scripture warns us that a time will come and has come that people won’t welcome or accept the truth. Listen to 2 Timothy 4:3-5 “3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations. . .”
Those who don’t embrace the truth will never be happy about truth being told because it exposes a standard to which they either don’t subscribe to or have fallen short of. That’s the point. Truth is supposed to point people to the standard and expose the fact that left to ourselves we can’t meet the standard. Being truth tellers is part of the “cross carrying” we are to do as Christians. Are we willing to speak the truth and claim it as truth even if there are those who oppose it? Are we willing to speak the truth even if it costs us friends or money?
The pressure to conform to the standard of this world is greater than ever before, and the consequences can be steep. Recent hoopla surrounding COO of Chick Fil A, Dan. Cathy’s right to say he believes in the biblical view of marriage as defined between one man and one woman started a firestorm that I don’t think anyone saw coming. A boycott was called for by people who didn’t agree with the truth and leaders in different cities threatened to stop Chick Fil A from opening in their towns. Mr. Cathy words weren’t hate-filled or demeaning. He simply answered a question truthfully and there were consequences as a result.
Students, my heart goes out to you and my prayers are with you. You really do have it tougher than any previous generation. When I was growing up, evolution was still taught as a theory. Now if you don’t believe the earth is millions of years old and that we evolved from apes, you are the outcast. How can you hold up truth in the classroom and hallways of your school in a responsible, respectful way? It’s tough!
When the Bible is touted as just another book of literature, when the taking of a life through abortion is called a right or choice rather than murder, when tolerance has replace truth as supreme, what is our response? We cannot expect non-Christians to embrace the truth, agree with the truth or want to live by the truth, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are still called to promote the truth. “Am I trying to win the approval of men or God?” (Galatians 1:10) People who are trying to please God will be promoters of truth. They will want to spread truth and speak truth and live by the truth.
Where many Christians have gone astray is the speaking of truth “in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) Listen to these 2 verses: 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 “Be on your guard; STAND FIRM in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything IN LOVE.” As you are standing firm in the faith, holding on to the truth of God’s Word, stand in love at the same time!
How about instead of saying, “You’re wrong,” say, “Let me tell you about my experience” or “Let me share another way of thinking on that subject” or “Can I tell you what the Bible says?” The main point of sharing the Gospel is that we communicate God’s love. The Gospel is based on the fact that God loves the world and has made a way for us to know Him and live our best possible life. God isn’t trying to kill our fun or make us jump through hoops by giving us His truth. The truth of God’s Word has been given to us because of love. When you love someone, you want them to have the best of everything. God has given us His Word because following it enables us to do that! If you aren’t a truth promoter and a truth teller, you have to question if you really love them.
I believe the Church as a whole around the world has lost the art of loving communication in our culture. Speaking the truth in love means you never speak for the purpose of argument. You never speak with the goal of being right or winning. You never speak with the desire to hurt anyone. You never speak in anger. You never speak to put someone in their place or to try to embarrass them. You can share the truth without being confrontational in your attitude. Your goal is always to communicate God’s love to the person you are sharing with.
If you speak the truth but without love you will always regret it. As Christians, if there is an opportunity we should never miss it is the opportunity to love someone. Speaking truth without love will always leave you with regret. However, if you speak the truth in love and the person doesn’t receive it or there are consequences to pay, if you are truly following Christ, even though it cost you something personally you will never regret it. You don’t know what the seed of your truth telling will harvest in someone’s life down the road.
Stand up by being a walking witness. Stand up by being a transporter of truth and stand up by standing in the gap for those who don’t know Christ yet. Ezekiel 22:30 “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. “ The sin of God’s people was so bad that God started looking for someone who would be an intercessory prayer on behalf of the people, but He couldn’t find anyone. God has always intended to accomplish His agenda through men and women who would be willing to be used by Him.
One of the biggest ways we take a stand against Satan is through prayer (Ephesians 6:18). One of the biggest ways you can love people is by praying for them. The Apostle Paul demonstrated his love over and over throughout his letters as he prayed for those he was teaching and trying to help grow in their faith. One of the greatest ways to see the power of God unleashed is through the offensive weapon of intercessory prayer. It is true that prayer changes things!
There is a gap between people and God. Therefore, they are exposed to the enemy in a very vulnerable way. You and I know Satan is real. You and I know Satan is out to destroy us. We are fighting Him with our faith, with our praise and worship, with our knowledge of God’s Word, with our offensive prayers for protection, and by pleading the blood of Jesus over our lives. Your unsaved classmates and students and friends and family and co-workers don’t have that same awareness and weaponry at their disposal. God is calling for a new generation of prayer warriors who will stand in the gap and pray prayers of protection and deliverance and salvation on those who are walking in darkness. Did you think before you came this morning that you could stand up for Jesus by getting on your knees?
Teachers, what about anointing the desks in your classroom with oil and walking around and praying for each student? If you aren’t sure how to do that on your own and you want someone to come with you, call me. I’ll work something out. If I can’t be with all of you I will find people to come alongside you.
Students, what about anointing your friends’ lockers with oil that you want to pray for? What about doing a prayer walk around the track at your school or around your school building? What about asking your teachers if you could pray for them to have an incredible year without classroom drama and with rooms that would be filled with students who are focused and ready to learn? What about asking to meet with the principal just to tell him or her that you are praying for them or better yet, how about asking to pray for them right there?
What about praying at the water cooler in your workplace and over your co-worker’s desks? What about praying for your boss? When was the last time you prayed for your unsaved friends and family? While we need words and actions and are expected to use those tools, I say with conviction that prayer can do more to lead people to embrace truth than our words and actions combined! Without prayer, it will be a human effort to persuade people. When we pray, the Holy Spirit gets to take the lead!
So, what about you? As you head back to school or go into work tomorrow, are you willing to be a walking witness? Could you come to an altar this morning to ask God to use you and give you opportunities to be bold for Him? Are you willing to be a transporter of truth wherever you go? Are you willing to come and stand in the gap for those in your life that still need to say “yes” to the Lord?