Real Impact

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Real Impact

2 Timothy 3:1-5
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.(NIV)

How many of you, like me, when you turn on the news, you just begin to feel angry?  Doesn’t it just seem that things are going from bad to worse?  A debate is on the news and they have the group of people who are arguing for some wicked and corrupt agenda and then you have the Christian trying to stand for what is right being mocked and ganged up on.  It seems that every day you see a story that is so ghastly and cruel that it seems a new all-time low as been hit, until tomorrow comes.  I heard a story about some parents who were frustrated with their kids behavior.  As punishment they tied him to a tree overnight.  The next day they went out and his behavior didn’t improve, so they tied him back up for the day.  When they went back out that evening they found the boy dead.  What are we to do? 

I heard about a man who had his daughters locked in the basement.  He never interacted with them or even spoke with them.  He would only throw them scraps from the table from time to time.  For years and years they lived like this.  When they were found they looked as if they had escaped from a concentration camp with hardly any ability to communicate, their lives destroyed.  I cannot help but wonder how many children are living in such environments today, or worse?  When will they be rescued?  Will they be rescued at all?  What are we to do?

You watch Dateline and they have their famous show “To Catch a Predator” where they catch grown men who try to seduce young children online.  The men they catch are seemingly ordinary men, truck drivers, teachers, doctors, military men, even religious leaders.  And you think of your children or grandchildren, knowing there are thousands, even millions of people who would jump at the chance to terrify them, mistreat them and take them away from you.  What can I do?

1 John 5:19
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.(NIV)

Isn’t that the truth?  Last week we talked about praying for God’s kingdom to come.  Look around you.  Isn’t it evident that the world is under control of the evil one and that the will of God for the most part is being opposed and neglected throughout the world?  And yet here we are.  What are we to do?  Our education system is bent on teaching children that they are the product of a cosmic burp and share the same purpose and meaning as that of an earthworm.  Did you know that only one out of four Christians will leave college with their faith?  We see on the news of kids gunning down their classmates and kids with no decency, respect, reverence or awe for anything that is good, holy, or pure.  Do you ever look at it all and just feel helpless?  What are we to do? 

Some would suggest that there is nothing you can do.  A low self-image is comparatively common today.  Many people have crippling inferiority feelings.  Sometimes their origin is in a deprived childhood, sometimes in a more recent tragedy of being unwanted or unloved.  The pressures of a competitive society makes matters worse.  And other modern influences make them worse still.  Whenever people are politically or economically oppressed, they feel demeaned.  Racial and sexual prejudice, and the trauma of being declared ‘redundant’, can undermine anybody’s self-confidence.  Technology demotes persons, as Arnold Toynbee once put it, ‘into serial numbers punched on a card, designed to travel through the entrails of a computer.’  Meanwhile ethologists such as Desmond Morris tell us that we are nothing but animals, and behaviorists such as B.F. Skinner that we are nothing but machines, programmed to make automatic responses to external stimuli.  No wonder many people today feel worthless nonentities.”  What do we do?  Is there anything we can do?  It seems we are faced with overwhelming odds in an antagonistic world that is falling father and farther from the truth.  “Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”  Are we just to sit back and wait for the end?

      “No Christian can be a pessimist, for Christianity is a system of radical optimism.”
 W. R. Inge quotes

How many of you serve a God that is a difference making God?  No matter how big the problem, our God is bigger.  He is a God that brings light out of darkness.  He is a God of justice and mercy.  He is a God that brings life from death and hope from despair.  His wisdom is unsearchable, his power is unfathomable, his glory unapproachable, and his love is unstoppable.  Amen?  How many of you believe that God can and will make a difference in this world?  Now, how many of you believe that God wants to use you? 

Matthew 5:13-14

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

C.S. Lewis - Satan and his imps planning their strategy for attacking the world that’s hearing the message of salvation.  One of the demons says, “I’ve got the plan, master.  When I get to earth and take charge of people’s thinking,  I’ll tell them there’s no Heaven.”

    The devil responds, “Ah, they’ll never believe that.  This Book of Truth is full of messages about the hope of Heaven through sins forgiven.  They won’t believe that.  They know there’s a glory yet future.”

    On the other side of the room another says, “I’ve got the plan.  I’ll tell ‘em there’s no hell.”

    “No good,” he says. “Jesus while He was on earth, talked more of hell than of Heaven.  They know in their hearts that their wrong will have to be taken care of in some way.  They deserve nothing more than hell.”

    And one brilliant little imp in the back stood up and said, “Then I know the answer.  I’ll just tell them there’s no hurry.”  And he’s the one Satan chose.”

You may be saying, okay but realistically, what can I do?  I’m not a millionaire, I’m not a TV personality and I am not politician.  What can I do?  How can I be salt?  How can I be light?

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 2We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.(NIV)

Paul would have written this letter around 51 A.D.  Perhaps one of the first if not the earliest Epistle of Paul in the New Testament.  Thesssalonica was a city founded in 315 BC by the Macedonian general Cassander who named it after his wife.  Thessalonica was made the capital of the Macedonian providence in the Roman Empire in 167 B.C.  It was a very significant city in Paul’s day. 

We look at all our problems and the wickedness in the world that makes us feel so helpless, but Paul had his own problems to deal with.  Paul came preaching to the Thessalonians the gospel.  We read that the Jews of the city became jealous and wanted to dispose of Paul.  They drug his friend Jason to the courts in a mob because they were so angry with Paul and since they couldn’t find Paul the took Jason.  Later when they learned Paul went down to Berea, the mob followed him down there to try to get ahold of him.  Three years form the time Paul likely wrote this letter, an emperor named Nero would take the throne of the Roman empire.  He would blame Christians for burning down some of the slums in Rome (which Nero himself likely started).  He used them as a scapegoat.  So he would torture them, and light his garden at night by burning them on stakes.  So how does Paul respond?  Paul was a man of “radical optimism.”  And when he writes this letter you can se it in the letter that Paul is happy.  Paul is thankful to God for them.  Why?  Because they didn’t give up.  They heard the gospel and were cut to the heart.   They suffered for their faith, but they didn’t lose their joy.  They saw the way Paul lived…and they sought to live like him.    

Paul was happy when he was writing this letter to the Thessalonians.  You read the epistles to the Galatians, and you see Paul isn’t very happy.  He writes to the Corinthians and says, “I cannot address you as spiritual, but as worldly.  Can’t you guys stop fighting?”  In his second letter to the Corinthians he says, “I hope when I come there I don’t have to use my authority to tear you down.  I want to build you up.”  My translation, “Don’t make me pull this car over!”  To Titus he tells him basically to go straighten out those liar, brute, gluttonous Cretans.  But not to the Thessalonians.  Paul is happy, he is excited and thankful and joyous as he writes to them.  Why?  Because of the way they live their lives.

Paul’s optimism in changing the world and advancing the Kingdom is not through a political movement or a social agenda.   Paul’s focus and passion for changing the world, the thing he prayed for and rejoiced in was an example of a living faith.  When Paul points to the power of his ministry with these Thessalonians he focuses primarily on the conviction of the preached word and the example of his life and faith.  Paul says in essence, “You heard the word and were touched in your heart and therefore you followed our example.  Now, we don’t have to say anything, because your example speaks much louder than our words ever could!”  Paul is excited by their example.  He says their example and message of their faith is spreading and making an impact in the whole world.

We live in a messed up world.  A world that is racked with pain and suffering and every sort of injustice.  You are the salt of the earth, YOU are the light of the world.  Jesus said, on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it.  The church is not a building, but a people.  You are the church and Jesus said the gates of hell wont be able to keep you from busting through and conquering.  Instantly our minds flash to scenes of battles in our favorite movies.  But that is now how the church triumphs.  The church triumphs through example.  Do not underestimate your example! 

Paul says, your lives reveal how you have really turned your life from worship of false gods to the true and living God, and how you eager await his Son from heaven.  Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 

When is the last time someone said, “Ya know, there is something different about you.  You don’t complain about stuff like everyone else at work.”  When is the last time someone said, “How is it that you always seem so calm in the midst of all the havoc that we are all going through with these layoffs?”  When is the last time someone said to you, “Ya know, I just wanted to say thank you cause you are the only one around here that seems to care about me.”  Paul says their example reveals that they are waiting for God’s Son to be revealed from heaven.

A teacher of a preaching class stood up at the front before his students.  In his hand he had a white card.  He said to the class, “if you want to change the way you preach and the way you live.  If you want to put some fire in your heart and in your message and transform the way you look at life and people, take this sign and put it on your desk where you will see it every day.  Then he flipped the sign over and on it read two simple words, “Perhaps today.” 

True lasting impact:  A life of faith that is lived in longing for the coming of the Lord. 

Your life is a book, and people are reading it.

If you look at your life and find it is not worth much, do not forget there is another book.  The Lambs book of life.  Revelation 20

Every day in Christ you can begin a new chapter.

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