Friday, July 31, 2009

Lost but Located

Day 4: God’s Expectation

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” ~ Leviticus 19:2, ESV

“When we rely on ourselves, we easily slip into finding comfort in material things and each other, rather than in God. But one who truly loves Christ—one who pledges himself to a life of holiness—does not fall back on such things, nor does he seek warm, comfortable feelings; he prefers, instead, to endure great tests and hard labor for Christ.” ~ Thomas À Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, p. 74

Today is the last full day of Hi Teen 2. I hope that you have enjoyed the week, but more than enjoyment I hope God has spoken to you and has provided direction for your life. Today, as we focus on being found by God, take some time and invite God into your evening. Ask the Father to fill your heart with spiritual wisdom so you can understand the hope to which He has called you (Ephesians 1:18).

Luke 15 has formed the foundation for the week. The fifteenth chapter of Luke records three parables which illustrate the wonderful love God has for us. The shepherd loses a lamb so he goes on a search for it. When he finds the lamb he throws a party in celebration. A woman loses a coin and she rips her house apart looking for it. When she finds the coin she throws a party in celebration. A son takes his inheritance and runs away from the love of his father. The father spends his days in prayer and waiting, and when his son comes to his senses and returns home, the father throws a party in celebration.

The parables of Luke 15 share the common themes of lostness, being found, and celebration. I hope this truth has been made real in your hearts. You are so precious to God, that there is a celebration when you come to your senses and return home. God wants you to be part of His family.

What should our response be to the reality that God has allowed us back into His family? Our first response should be one of repentance, turning back to God. After we have taken the step of repentance, what is the next step that we are to take? The next response we should make is that of holiness. Holiness, like repentance, is a word we hear a lot at church and we read about in the Bible, but we are often uncertain what it means.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary explains holiness like this: “a term in Hebrew probably meaning separate from the ordinary or profane. Also in Hebrew and in Greek ‘holy’ implies connection with God or the divine. Thus, God is holy and people, things, and actions may be holy by association with God. Holiness may also include the ideas of being dedicated to God and purity from what is evil or improper.”

When we repent we dedicate ourselves to God. The expectation God has for those who repent is that of living a holy life. We become holy when we value and pursue the things of God. Instead of trying to find happiness in the values of the world we pursue the life found in values of God.

What does living a holy life look like? I believe Jesus gave us a picture of holiness in the Sermon on the Mount, which is found in Matthew chapters 5-7. This is especially true with the section we have labeled the Beatitudes.
Read Matthew 5:1-12

Each one of the eight beatitudes speak of values of God that are contrary to the values of this world. In order to be blessed by God, we must begin to pursue what He says is the most important rather than continuing to chase after the values of the world.

Our culture tells us that self-esteem is important and that we should feel good about ourselves. I like what Erwin McManus said about this reality, “When we are in love with ourselves, we are prone to listen only to what we want to hear. We become more than willing to trade insight for affirmation. We want to feel good about ourselves more than we want ourselves to become good (Stand Against the Wind, p. 22). Instead of self-esteem, Christ tells us that we should value being poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit means that we acknowledge that we are spiritually bankrupt and unable to pay the debt of our sin. All we can do is throw ourselves at the feet of God and beg for His mercy, for we have nothing to offer Him with which we can buy His favor.

We live in a society that loves to be entertained. One of the greatest sins, in the eyes of culture, is to be bored. Television, music, movies, and the internet provide countless options for us to be entertained. Why do we want to be entertained? We want to be entertained so we don’t have to engage the real world. It is the people who are are engaged in the world, confronting sin, helping the needy, and loving the outcasts who mourn. They mourn because of the way sin robs people of life. Only those people who value others and give their lives away to service, instead of entertainment, will live holy lives.

Shows like American Idol reveal to us the value our culture puts on fame. We want to be recognized and have people pay attention to our lives (in a small way that is what Facebook is about). Jesus showed us that it wasn’t about fame and recognition. He avoided the limelight when he could, because for Jesus it wasn’t about the honor, it was about serving. That is what meekness is all about. To be meek means that you don’t use your power or strength for self-promotion, instead you use it to serve others and to glorify God.

Greedy is the word that would describe many of us. We have more money and stuff than most of the world, and yet we want more and more. Our culture is driven to pursue money and things. However, instead of craving money and things, the Lord tells us that we should hunger and thirst for righteousness. Biblical righteousness has three components: it is right standing with God, it is moral obedience, and it is helping those in need. What are you craving?

One of the great tragedies which exists in our country is that of abortion. Abortion is pushed as “pro-choice” and as a woman’s right, but it ignores the God-given right of life the baby possesses. When we insist on our rights, we ignore the wrongs done to others. Jesus expects those who follow Him not to insist on their rights, but to help those people who have been wronged. People who are pursuing holiness show mercy instead of insisting that their rights be recognized.

There is one cultural value that seems to be thrown in our face more than any other, and that is sex. We are told that the happy life is a life filled with sex, and so sex appears on the covers of the magazines that we read, the TV shows we watch, the music that we listen to, and the thoughts we think. Our lives are polluted by sex. There is a time and place for sex, but when it is removed from the context of husband and wife, it defiles our lives. Rather than a heart filled with pornography and lust, the child of God guards his/her heart with Scripture and prayer. It is the pure in heart who are able to see God.

Our culture is also very competitive. We have a deep desire to win. This is not always a bad thing, but what is bad is the desire to win at all costs. When that is your philosophy, it doesn’t matter if you lie, cheat, or steal as long as you come out on top. Once again Jesus tells us that we need a different value, and that value would be peace. Instead of bringing conflict into people’s lives, we are to do what we can to bring healing and peace to people. This is especially true as we seek to help people find peace with God.

There are many more values that could be mentioned, but the last one I will point out is our desire to be liked. We want people to like us, and in the process we often compromise our integrity. To be people who are holy requires that we be people of integrity. The price of integrity is persecution. We may not face physical beatings and death because of our faith, but when we proclaim the truth of God’s love and the salvation found in Jesus Christ, we will be disliked. People will make fun of us, spread gossip about us, and find other ways to hurt us. If we are going to be holy, we must acknowledge God, regardless of the consequences.

This is what I want you to remember today: God expects His children to be holy. In order to be holy we have to change our priorities and values. Rather than looking to the world to determine what is important, we look to God to discover what He holds to be important. To be holy like God is holy requires that we re-order our values to match God’s values.

Open your journal to the first blank page and write The Cost of Holiness as the header. Jesus taught that before we follow Him we should count the cost of following Him. Holiness, since it is connected to following Jesus, has a cost associated with it. Take a moment and ask God to reveal to you what it will cost you to live a holy life. Maybe it will cost you friendships as you begin to hang out with “unpopular” people. Perhaps it will mean the end of a romantic relationship because you make the stand that sex is God’s gift to husbands and wives. Maybe you will get made fun of because you refuse to cloud your mind and heart with drugs and alcohol. Perhaps it will cost you the support of your parents when you decide to give your life to the ministry of teaching God’s Word. There are a number of different costs associated with holiness. Write down the first idea that comes to mind.

Take a moment and ponder what you wrote down. What emotions does it bring to your heart? If you have trouble thinking, ask God to calm your heart and mind so you can think clearly. Write down the emotion that you feel.

Read Colossians 1:9-14
Write a short prayer to God. Confess to God that you have lived your life guided by the principles of the world rather than by the principles found in His Word. Ask God to fill you with spiritual wisdom and understanding so you can live a life worthy of His Son Jesus. Thank God for rescuing you from the kingdom of darkness and bringing you into the Kingdom of Light. Finally, ask God to give you the strength and courage you need to break free from the values of the world and to live a holy life.

I hope you can leave camp tomorrow with the knowledge that God loves you. The world has a way of robbing us of this wonderful truth. I guarantee that within the next week something will happen which will cause you to doubt the love of God. I urge you not to be deceived, and to remember that you are precious to God. When Satan whispers in your ear that you are unloved and worthless remember what God has spoken through His Word: God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4:9-10; NLT). God loves us. May that truth be the guiding force in the way we live life.

Point to Ponder: God expects His children to be holy.
Passage to Remember: Matthew 5:1-12
Prayer to Pray: Father in Heaven, Thank You for a wonderful week. I want my life to honor You and be worthy of the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus. May I praise You with my life as well as with my lips.

Lord God, I ask for the strength and faith to make the right choices and the hope to stay the course even when things are difficult. Help me to listen to the Holy Spirit as I seek to live a life that is worthy of Christ Jesus...(Finish in your own words)

“The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough to it for its sparks to fall on us.” ~ John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church, p. 33

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