January 14, 2015

14 Jan 2015

Message:  “2015 – Your Choice!!”

Preacher Larry

         As we begin 2015 we have an excellent opportunity to begin “anew,” so to speak.  Many people, when the new year begins, make resolutions to do something differently during the next year.  What I propose is that we all examine ourselves and see if there aren’t some parts of our daily life that need some changing.  So tonight I want to look at some of the things that may cause us to “Drift Away” from God.  Things that we “neglect” on purpose as well as unintentionally.   Some of those things get in our way, and cause us to make bad choices, instead of good ones.

The Bible says in Heb 2:1 NKJV, “We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away… How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Note the words “drift” and “neglect.” Those words should set off alarm bells! Sam­son’s decline was so gradual that he didn’t even realize it was happening. Like flipping a switch, he’d gotten used to drawing on the power of God and overcoming every enemy and obstacle. But sin and self-indulgence became his undoing. When Delilah said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’… he awoke from his sleep, and said, ‘I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!’ But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. Then the Philistines took him” (Jdg 16:20-21 NKJV). When you neg­lect God you begin to “drift away.” Your prayers aren’t as effective. You’re no longer a godly influence on those around you. You slip back into old habit patterns. You refuse to forgive those who’ve offended you. You fail to make amends to those you’ve hurt. You start doing what’s expedient and comfortable instead of what’s right. You harbor attitudes of fear and resentment. You feed your old nature and neglect your new one. These are all signs that you need a spiritual check up. Ask God today to highlight those attitudes, activ­ities, and relationships that need to be dealt with and start weeding them out.  The good news is that when you’re obedient to God’s Word, and the Spirit’s leading, you regain your spiritual vitality, and God can use you more effectively.

But, you see, it’s under our power, not to “Drift Away” from the ways of the Lord.  It’s hard.  It’s a constant battle.  But it’s our choices that get us in trouble.  When Daniel was taken prisoner to Babylon, he was quickly promoted to leadership in the king’s palace. But as a Jew he refused to “defile himself with the royal food and wine.” (Da 1:8 NIV)  Could his choice have affected his career, or even cost him his life? Absolutely! But what we choose to do under pressure, results from one of two things:

(1) Clearly es­tablished convictions we live by.

                           or

(2) Fuzzy convictions we’re willing to compromise for per­sonal gain.

Hard times don’t make you, they reveal you! In a periodical called, “Leadership Gold,” John Maxwell writes: “After visiting twenty cities in seven days, it was good to be coming home! As the small private jet approached the runway, we were celebrating the success of the week. Then, in a moment, everything changed. The plane was hit by wind shear and dropped straight down to the runway, the wheels hitting out of balance. All conversation stopped and our eyes widened as we realized we were in danger. The pilot, without hesitation, pushed the throttle and launched the plane back into the air…We all realized that could have been it! We sat quietly as the plane circled the airfield, and a few minutes later we landed safely. As he got off the plane, John asked the captain, “When did you make the decision to put the plane back into the air?” He replied, “Fifteen years ago.” He went on to explain how as a young pilot in training, he decided in advance what decision he would make for every possible air problem. His decision was made long before the crisis. So have a game plan in place, “before,”  the problem arises.

Choices—they’re the determining factor in how your life turns out. When Solomon came to the throne as a young man, he prayed for wisdom to make the right choices in life. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “There’s a choice you have to make in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”

Some of us make life harder by making bad choices; others move through life more easily because they make good choices. The truth is, you don’t always get what you want but you always live with the consequences of your choices. Observe:

(1) Your choices reveal who you really are. Theologian H. P. Liddon observed, “What we do on some great occasion will probably depend on what we already are; and what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline.”

(2) The higher you rise, the more difficult your choices become. King Solomon could have had any woman he wanted. Sadly, he chose women who turned his heart away from God (See 1 Ki 11:4).

(3) Your choices change you for good or evil. Once you choose, you become a servant of that choice. It impacts your life, and often the lives of others. C S. Lewis said: “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central point of you, the part…that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumer­able choices, you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature.” So you must make your choices prayerfully and wisely. 

Making choices is hard sometimes, but as a Christian it is even harder.  The world wants you in there corner but God has your back.  You could compare it to a “Combat Zone.”  Salvation enlists you into the service of Jesus, the King of Kings. His battles become your battles, and His strategies your strategies. There are no exemptions; you’re “In for the duration.” Satan has declared war on you, and it’s “conquer or be conquered.” He will attack you on three fronts. Let’s look at each:

  1. The attack from the world.  Ever feel like you don’t “fit in”? You’re not supposed to! “Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God” (Jas 4:4 NLT). The line has been drawn; there’s no peaceful coexistence in this war.

    What is “worldliness”? It’s not being “in” the world, but being “like” it. It’s not “mixing” with the world, but “blending” in with its self-centered values, its “relative” morality, and its attitudes toward God, His cause, His Word, and His people. The world’s hunger for power, popularity, and self-promotion, contradicts the principles of Scripture. “Genuine religion in the sight of God [is]…refusing to let the world corrupt you” (Jas 1:27 NLT). Jesus told us to avoid becoming swept up in the world’s obsession with material things, or its fear of not having enough to meet our needs (See Mt 6:25-34). You are called to be “salt” and “light” (See Mt 5:13-14). You are to be the influences not the influenced. When the world “can’t,” tell you apart from them, your light has gone out and your salt has lost its flavor.

  1. The second front you will be attacked on is “The attack from the flesh”. Your most vulnerable point is your “flesh” which drives you to do your own thing. Its motto is “It’s all about me!” From start to finish it “looks out for number one”, always wanting to be “first in line”. That’s the genetic makeup of our flesh. And it can’t be saved, sanctified, or spiritualized because “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (Jn 3:6 NKJV) and nothing else. “The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other. They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should” (Gal 5:17 CEV). So how do you control your “flesh”?

        (1) Make a choice. “Choose today whom you will serve” (Jos 24:15 GWT). During the American Civil War thousands of Yankee and Confederate soldiers were killed by “friendly fire.” Why? Because they lacked uniforms that identified the side to which they belonged. Be clear about which side you’re on, and let those around you know it.

        (2) You control your flesh by “Cutting the supply lines to the flesh. In war time generals devote a lot of attention to blowing up bridges, highways, and railroads to deprive the enemy of the vital supplies they need to win. Your flesh can’t control you if you cut off its supply line. “Don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (Ro 13:14 NLT).

        (3) You control your flesh by Maintaining regular communication with base command. Even well-trained soldiers with the finest equipment and best officers can’t win when they’re cut off from base command. So stay in touch: “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion” (Eph 6:18 NLT).

One Bible teacher writes: “Cell phones can be lifesavers.. .but the batteries have a lim­ited lifespan and need to be recharged. One weary weekend I was as drained as my cell phone battery. I went through my evening routine, dutifully placing my cell phone in its ‘recharging cradle.’ Unfortunately, I neglected to plug the cradle into the wall. Next morning I woke refreshed—but my phone was no better than the night before. It was in the right place.. .but it wasn’t connected to the power source! Sometimes the consequences of not ‘plugging in’ can be more severe…many people dutifully march to church every week, but leave as drained as when they came. They’re in the right place, but they’re not plugged in to the power of God.. .and without that it doesn’t matter if you sit in a pew or on a barstool.. .You can study the Scriptures for hours on end, ‘always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (2Ti 3:7 NAS); you can even do great things for God but lack power in your life. If I’d left my cell phone on the charger for days or weeks instead of overnight, it wouldn’t have helped. Multiplication of effort isn’t a substitute for true power.. .Guard against things that disconnect you from the power source.. .obviously sin will do that, but so will weariness. We can’t remain connected if we’re weighted down by busyness. We can spend so much time doing things for God that we neglect our rela­tionship with Him.” Jesus said in Jn 15:4 NLT, “You cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” That means reading the Bible, praying, and resting in His presence.