Understanding SEX–One Christian’s Point Of View

Scripture Study:  1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

 

At the end of their first date, a young man in a bygone era took his favorite girl home.  He decided to try for that important first kiss.  With an air of confidence, he leaned his hand against the wall of the house, smiled, and said, “How about a goodnight kiss?”  [I never had that kind of confidence as a teen!]

“Are you crazy?” she said.  “My parents will see us!”

“Oh come on!  Who’s gonna see us at this hour?”

“No, please.  Can you imagine if we get caught?”

“Come on, they’re all sleeping!”

“No way.  It’s too risky!”

“Please.  I like you so much.”

“No,  I like you too, but I just can’t!”

“Pleeeeease?…”

Then to their surprise, the porch light came on, the door opened and there stood the girl’s sister, hair tousled, in her pajamas. 

With a big yawn, in a quiet, sleepy voice she said,  “Dad says to go ahead and give him a kiss.  Or I can do it.  If need be, dad will come out on the porch and do it.  Whatever you do, tell your date to take his hand off the intercom button”  [source: semi-joke@yahoogroups.com]

There was a time when a kiss on a date was considered “risky”.  Now couples are expected to jump into bed together, if not on the first date, at least by the time they get serious with each other.  So-called virgins are laughed at.  They are considered weird and sex outside of marriage has become the norm in our society, even among Christian singles.  In  a recent study found at ChristianMingle.com, Christian singles between the ages of 18-59 were asked,

“Would you have sex before marriage?” 

The response?  63% of the single Christians responded, “YES”.

Kenny Luck, Executive Pastor of Ministries (Crossline Church), in response to the survey, said, “[Christian young adults have become] sexual atheist.  In other words, God has nothing to say to them on the subject of consequences or at least anything meaningful enough to dissuade them following their own course of conduct.  It’s the ultimate oxymoron.  A person who at once believes in a wise sovereign and loving God can also believe simultaneously that he/she shouldn’t, cannot or will [let them] inform their thinking [about them] sexually.”  (See Footnote [i].)

There’s Got To Be Another Way!

And there is!

Exodus 20, where in just one short sentence, God tells us how to have fun, fantastic sex without all the hang-ups:

“You shall not commit adultery”

There you have it!  Keep sex exclusively within the marriage relationship and you will enjoy true intimacy.

You see, God is the One who created SEX; and when He did, He called is “VERY GOOD” – Genesis 1:31

Sex isn’t some “dirty” little secret of every married couple.  It’s a beautiful creation by God.  One pastor called it “God’s Wedding Gift,” after a wedding ceremony.  The point is, I believe, “Don’t spoil the gift!”  Don’t take what God created as good and beautiful and ruin it by taking it outside the context of marriage.

All of this takes us to our passage of Scripture in 1 Thessalonians 4:

GOD WANTS YOU TO BE HOLY (OR SANCTIFIED, SET APART) IN ALL YOUR BEHAVIORS.

That means He wants you to be set apart, different, special, not like most of the rest of the world, cheapened sex.  Specifically, God wants you to abstain from sexual immorality–ie, any kind of sex outside of marriage.  WHY?  Because sexual purity is God’s will for your life.  It’s why God wants purity for His people because He loves them so much.  You see, God doesn’t say, “Abstain from sexual immorality”, to kill your enjoyment.  On the contrary, He wants you yo enjoy life more, more abundantly than you thought was possible…till it overflows!  (John 10:10)

Sex outside the boundaries of marriage leaves you feeling empty.

But a passionate relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the most fulfilling, satisfying thing you will ever experience.  God is passionate about you.  That’s why Jesus died on a cross for your sins.  He did it so God could have a relationship with you, a mind-blowing relationship beyond anything selfish, self-centered act He can ever give you.

SEX ITSELF IS SACRED!

SEX IS SPECIAL!

Sex is a holy thing in a marriage, and any kind of sex outside of marriage cheapens it.

1 Thessalonians 4:4-5

Don’t be driven by your passions like people who don’t know God, no!  God has set you FREE from that through the Cross.  Instead, control your bodily urges with holiness and honor.

You see, SEX is NOT dirty.  It’s holy and honorable within the bounds of marriage.  It’s special!  It’s sacred!  Don’t cheapen it by taking it outside the context of marriage.

INTIMACY Explained.

Gerontologist Dr. Karl Pillemer wrote a book, 30 Lessons for Loving, drawn from 700 interviews with older adults.  He discovered that older adults, “place intimacy as a high priority” in their marriages.  After 55 years of marriage, I can say AMEN to that conclusion.

An example, was Jennie B., an 82-year-old widow who married her first and only husband in their mid-20s and was sexually active throughout their 47 married years.  Jennie explained, “There’s an intimacy that comes later that is wonderful.  You can hold hands with this person you love and adore, and somehow, it’s just as passionate as having sex at an earlier age.  There’s such a sense of connection and intimacy that grows out of a long relationship, that touch carries with it the weight of so many memories.  And many are sexual.”  [See footnote [ii].]

That’s the beauty of sex within the long-term commitment of marriage.  The intimacy only grows the older you get with a whole lot less effort.  But if you take sex outside of marriage, it becomes a cheap thrill with diminishing satisfaction.

Sexual Immorality Robs Others.

SEX outside of marriage is stealing.

It’s taking something precious that belongs to someone else.

1 Thessalonians 4:6a (ESV)

[This is the will of God] that no one transgresses and wrongs his brother in this matter…

Literally, no one should “go over” and “get more” in the things concerning his brother.  In other words, when a man sleeps with a woman who is not his wife, he robs that woman’s husband; and if she’s not married yet, he robs that woman’s future husband.  He robs that woman’s husband of his wife’s purity.  He robs that woman’s husband of a beautiful relationship that they could have enjoyed without the entanglements of previous sexual activity.

Don’t Go Messing Around With Someone Else’s Property.

“Returning from Sunday School one day, where the Ten Commandments had been the topic, a young boy asked his father, “Daddy, what does it mean when it says, ‘Thou shalt not commit agriculture’?  He didn’t quite pick up on the word “adultery”.  But there was hardly a beat between the question and the dad’s smooth reply:  “Son, that just means that you’re not supposed to plow the other man’s field.”  (Reader’s Digest, July 1979, pg. 87, http://www.SermonCentral.com)

Don’t go messing around with someone else’s property.  Don’t rob your brother of the joy of a pure and holy relationship with his wife.

Sexual purity is important, because #1, it pleases God; #2, Sex itself is sacred; #3, Sexual immorality robs others; and #4, Sexual purity is important, because…

SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE ISN’T SAFE.

It’s hazardous.  It’s downright dangerous, not only to your body but your soul as well.

1 Thessalonians 4:6b (AMP)

“For the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we have already warned you solemnly and told you plainly.”

There are very real physical AND spiritual consequences of sexual sin.  A devoted Christian mystery writer, Dorthy Sayers, put it this way:

In our society, there are two kinds of laws:  The law of the STOP SIGN, and the law of the FIRE.

The STOP SIGN law says when the traffic is heavy on a certain street, and as a result, the police department or the city council decides to erect a STOP SIGN.

They also decide if you run that stop sign, it will cost you between $25-$35.  If the traffic changes, then then they up the ante.  The police department or the city council controls the law of the STOP SIGN.

Then there’s the law of the FIRE.

The law of the FIRE says that if you put your hand in the fire, you’ll get burned!

Now imagine for a moment, that all of the nations of this entire world gathered in one great assembly, voting unanimously that from here on out, FIRE would no longer BURN.  The first man or woman who left the assembly put his or her hand in the fire and discovers the law of the fire is different than the law of the stop sign.  Bound up in the nature of FIRE itself is the PENALTY for abusing it.

So Ms. Sayers says, the moral law of God is like the law of FIRE.  You never break God’s laws; you just break yourself on them.  God can’t reduce the PENALTY, because the penalty for breaking the law is bound up in the law itself.   (Hadden Robinson, “Crafting Illustrations”)

Sex outside the context of marriage will burn you every time.

You may escape the STD some of the time, but you can’t escape the emotional, psychological, and relational damage it always brings.

And finally, SEXUAL PURITY is important, because…

GOD GIVES YOU HIS HOLY SPIRIT

God Himself dwells within and helps you live a holy life.  He gives you the resources to do what He has called you to do.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

God gives to you when you are SAVED–“born again”–His Spirit who helps you live a holy, sanctified life in this world of ours.  Without Him, you could only fail, and His commands would only frustrate you.

But with Him, you can live the life God has called you to live.  All you need to do is TRUST Him!

That’s the GOOD NEWS in all of this!

Even if you’ve already failed in the area of sexual purity, invite the Lord into your life and let Him begin to clean you up from inside out.  God wants you to enjoy life with Him at any age, whether you are newly married, married for 50 years or more, or without a spouse.  Just open the door of obedience to Him.  And if you are reading this post from one Christian’s point of view, and living the single life, God has laid down the standard.

The Standard of God.

What seems to be a secret with so-called Christianity in the 21st Century is that God has standards for us to follow.  God’s standard is His will for which you are to live as a Christian single.  If you are truly saved you will be moved by the Spirit of God inside of you yo live by His will and not your own.  And that will is that you live your lives in holiness, sanctification, set-apart and transformed from the world’s standards.

I’ll give you two familiar Bible verses read and think about regarding your lifestyle as an encouragement.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  Kenny Luck, “Sexual Atheism; Christian Dating Data Reveals a Deeper Malaise,” The Christian Post, 4/14/14.

Footnote [ii] :  Mark Tapson, “Is Sexual Variety the Spice of Marriage?” Acculturated blog, 4/1/15; http://www.PreachingToday.com.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.  [CopyRights may apply]

Bible Translations:  The NIV Bible; The Amplified Bible (AMP); The English Standard Bible (ESV).

 

“Giving $20 Explanations to a 50 Cent World” Is Difficult!

SCRIPTURE – 1 PETER 1:13-20

Be Holy…How is this even possible?

I have had difficulties over the years just being a decent husband and father to my three kids.  How am I supposed to be as HOLY as the One True Living God?  I’m just human.  I make mistakes, many of them.  So does HOLY mean I just need to follow a bunch of rules?  A list of things I’m supposed to do and things not to do?  Like, be nice to others?

I’m a good person, mostly, so does that make me HOLY?  Great questions!

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)…

[15]  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  [16] for it is written: “Be holy because I am holy.” 

Peter isn’t introducing a new concept here.  He’s repeating a principle laid down by God in the Covenant [See footnote].

With all that in mind, let’s see what the Bible says in Psalm 14:2-3 (AMP)…

[2]  The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, dealt wisely, and sought after God, inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him [of vital necessity].

[3]  They are all gone aside, they have all together become filthy; there is none that does good or right, no, not one.

And in Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)…

[6]  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.

Both Psalm 14 and Isaiah 64 are in the Old Testament from the time before Jesus’ birth. 

But even in the New Testament, after Jesus, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:1-3 (AMP)…

“O YOU poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians!  Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom–right before your very eyes–Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified?  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?].  Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly?  Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”

There were believers in the early church who were trying to be HOLY; trying to be acceptable to God based on their human efforts.  They believed that they had to continue living up to all the rules; the list of all the “do’s” and “don’t’s” in the Old Testament Law.

The Apostle Paul’s Reminder…that HOLINESS is not just based on our OWN EFFORTS of being good–HOLINESS is WHO WE ARE, based on our RELATIONSHIP with Christ Jesus!

We CAN’T earn God’s favor…

We CAN’T earn His love and mercy…

We CAN’T earn HOLINESS through our own efforts, it’s a FREE GIFT being offered to you right now!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

[8] For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–[9] not by works, so that no one can boast.

HOLINESS isn’t just who we are…it’s how we live.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 says…”For God did call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”

Let me go back to 1 Peter 1:17 again…

[17]  And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short].

2 Corinthians 5:9 explains it more plainly by saying…“So we make it our goal to please Him. whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

I don’t want to confuse anybody on this point. This has nothing to do with whether or not you are accepted by God.  He offers you a position in His kingdom, in His family, as a “FREE GIFT”… you just need to place your faith, your acceptance, your commitment to His Son Jesus to become accepted by God.

For most of us, growing up in a loving family brings back memorable times.  Our parents loved us and we loved them not for what they did for us materialistically, but because of who they were in our lives.

In appreciation of that LOVE, we, in turn, wanted to please them, respect them, honor them by our actions in response to that LOVE by our obedience.

As a child of God, we should want to please our Heavenly Father on how we live out our daily lives.  But how do we do this?

I’ve already mentioned how being HOLY is not following a list of rules, a lost of do’s and don’t’s. What I did discover in reading and studying God’s Word in this passage of Scripture are THREE things that Peter gives us in helping us to live in HOLINESS:

#1.  PREPAREDNESS

First, we are to prepare our minds for action.  Look at 1 Peter 1:13 again:  “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.”

I’ve been glued to my TV, watching every afternoon and evening of late the Winter Olympics in Pyongyang, South Korea.  I particularly noticed how the athletes prepared beforehand to compete.  The visualize what they are about to do…they prepare their minds to intently focus on what needs to be done.

As Christians, we are to do the same thing.  In fact, the Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:7 (b) “…train yourselves to be godly.”

A lazy athlete will never perform well…neither will a lazy Christian.

When we allow our minds and hearts to be filled with the world’s garbage, then we won’t be prepared to live in HOLINESS.

We MUST prepare our minds, folks!

#2.  IMITATION

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”  (Quote by Oscar Wilde).

I think a better way to phrase that quote would be is that God much rather us to resemble His Son, than “flatter” Him.

Then, in verse 14, Peter says…“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”

So, the SECOND thing we are to do is to be OBEDIENT.

We are to IMITATE Christ: We turn away from the temptations the world presents to us and we live in OBEDIENCE to our Heavenly Father and His Word.  We won’t know how to IMITATE Jesus unless we do the first thing of preparing our minds.

When we study God’s Word (our bible), we will grow in understanding of Jesus Christ which makes the second thing possible, because the Holy Spirit develops us…makes us more mature…changes us to be more like Jesus.

But it’s still A CHOICE…

We must choose to turn away from temptation and instead turn to God.

Ephesians 5:1 says,  “Therefore be imitators of God (copy Him and follow His example), as well-beloved children [imitate their father]”  (AMP).

We should ask ourselves, “Is this something God would say?”  “Is this something that I would be comfortable in watching if Jesus was sitting next to me?”  “If I do this, will it PLEASE my Heavenly Father?”

We IMITATE Christ in everything we think…everything we do…everything we say.  And as we grow in maturity as “sanctified” (set apart, made HOLY) believers, then we will become better and better at imitating Christ and not the world.

This is the path of HOLINESS!

“you also be holy in all your conduct” – 1 Peter 1:15

KEYWORD is “ALL”- “in ALL your conduct.”  

NOT some of your conduct…

NOT when you feel like it…

NOT just on Sunday when you come to church…

ALL your conduct!

WHY?  Because as believers, we are CALLED TO BE LIKE HIM!

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

#3.  LOVING ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST JESUS

And the THIRD thing…living our lives in HOLINESS we must LOVE each other…regardless!

Boy, that can be hard to do sometimes.  But you see, you alone can’t do it without the prompting of the Holy Spirit!!!

1 Peter 1:22 reads in the Amplified Bible…

[22]  Since by your obedience to the Truth through the [Holy] Spirit you have purified your hearts for the sincere affection of the brethren, [see that you] love one another fervently from a pure heart.

Jesus says it Himself in the Gospel of John…

John 13:34-35 NIV)

[34]  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

[35]  By this [LOVE] everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Living our lives in HOLINESS isn’t easy.

There’s a story I read this week about an artist who was making a statue of an elephant out of a huge chunk of marble.  Someone asked him, “How do you do it?  How do you turn this piece of rock into a beautiful masterpiece?”  The artist answers him and says, “I just chip away, chisel the pieces that don’t look like an elephant.”

Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

[10]  For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), created in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

LIVING THE “GOOD LIFE” IN HOLINESS!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

FOOTNOTE:  Note:  Also read Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2 and 1 Thess. 4:7-8.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV) and the Amplified Bible (AMP).

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Sermon Notes:  “Sanctified Saints” by Jeff Strite on July 16, 2016 – Sermon Central.

Our Umbrella of “Goshen”

TEXT:  John 17:11-19 NAS TRANSLATION.

Jesus is praying to the Father in behalf of His disciples, saying  [11] “And I am no more in the world; and yet they themselves are IN the world, and I come to Thee, Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are.  [12] “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  [13] “But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves.  [14] “I have given them Thy word; and the world hated them, because they are not OF the world, even as I am not OF the world.  [15] “I do not ask Thee to take them OUT OF THE WORLD, but to keep them from the evil one.  [16] “They are NOT OF THE WORLD, even as I am not of the world.  [17] “SANCTIFY them in truth; Thy word is truth.  [18] “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I have also sent them into the world.  [19] “And for their sakes I sanctify MYSELF, THAT THEY THEMSELVES ALSO MAY BE SANCTIFIED IN TRUTH.” 

6307059684_4f7747965cTHE UMBRELLA’S PROTECTION:

Living in the Northwest of America, you almost get use to the weather.  Well, almost!  Although I keep an UMBRELLA in the trunk of my car, the old saying in this part of the land when seeing an umbrella is,  “The must be a tourist!”.  After all, you can’t live under the protection of an UMBRELLA all the time.  Or can you?

In John, notice what JESUS says in verse 15:

“My prayer is NOT that you take them out of the world…”  ~ John 17:15.

JESUS didn’t want the Father to lock us up in Fort Knox; gold protected by steel, concrete, bobbed-wire, security guards,  impenetrable to the outside world.

Back in the Old Testament…

GOD did provide the protection needed for the Israelites.  The Book of Genesis tells us God went to a great deal of trouble to send the people of Israel down to Egypt in the days of Joseph.  Granted there were 70 or so of them at the time, but once Jacob and his sons moved to Egypt, they were given a special land called “the land of Goshen.”  That’s where they lived for the next 430 years or so.

The Land of Goshen
The Land of Goshen

Isolation–

Israel was literally isolated from the rest of the world– sheltered, protected from the influence of paganism and the outside world.  They had limited contact with their Egyptian neighbors and hosts; Egyptians were vegetarians, where the Israelites were meat eaters.  GOD created a cultural barrier of the two people s.

Now GOD could have done the same with us today…

Once we’re BAPTIZED into Christ Jesus, GOD could have whisked us away to some isolated and exotic land.  Personally, I pick an island in the Caribbean.

It would be wonderful for GOD to just take us away from this world’s temptations and lusts.  To a tropical paradise where we would sing praises for the rest of our lives.

BUT, that’s NOT what GOD had in mind.  JESUS prayed that we would NOT be taken “out of this world.”

JESUS prayed that we NOT be physically ISOLATED from people around us.

As Christians, God intended us to LIVE IN this world…but NOT OF this world.  As Peter wrote that we are to live “as aliens and strangers in the world.”  (1 Peter 2:11).

God has entrusted a very SPECIAL MINISTRY once we’re SAVED!

We are to be “the salt of the earth”; “the light of the world”–

GOD saved us to represent Him as Christ’s Ambassadors right where we are.  But there is a danger in that.  We might become like our neighbors–WATCH THE SAME MOVIES; READ THE SAME BOOKS; LISTEN TO THE SAME MUSIC.

The DANGER for Christians…since we LIVE IN the world, we might become LIKE the world and think like the world.  The apostle Paul warns us in Ephesians 4:17-20:  

This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,  being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart,  and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.  But you did not learn Christ in this way.

So if that’s the DANGER and GOD isn’t going to isolate us from temptation, how does GOD protect us under His umbrella as JESUS prayed in John 17?

SANCTIFICATION: 

“SANCTIFICATION” is a $20 word meaning “being set apart”.

Examples:

When you are attending church, you might have recognized people sitting in the “sound booth”; they, are “sanctified.”  They are “set apart” from the rest of us.

When your pastor is up on the stage preaching…“sanctified” from the congregation; set apart.

Anyone who is SEPARATED from the rest of us is “SET APART” and are SANCTIFIED.

A Powerful Tool…

Now as simple as it sounds, God has given us SANCTIFICATION, as protection under His Umbrella.  It’s the setting ourselves apart from the rest of the world while living IN the world, allowing us to be God’s servants to those around us.

THE FREEDOM OF BEING A SERVANT:

Your car is a wonderful thing.

– It helps you to go to church,  the grocery store,  a friend’s house, or drive to the country.

Your vehicle gives you almost total freedom to go anywhere, do anything.  But driving a car can also be dangerous.  The force of your car running ahead on into a tree with speeds of 55 or 65 mph; having the effect on your body, as if you were to fall from a 6th or 7th story window to the ground.  I read that it’s not the fall that kills you…it’s the sudden stop.

Over the years, manufacturers have created protection for us from this kind of danger:  Seat belts, Air bags, Bumpers, designs of the chassis allowing the front of your car to absorb most of the impact.  You are literally encased in a metal box that contains all the aforementioned protections and that METAL BOX literally “sanctifies” you while you drive down the road.  You are SET APART from the rest of the world; you are IN the world, but not OF it while you are in the car.

That is what SANCTIFICATION does for us.  When GOD sanctifies us, He “sets us apart” from the dangers of the world.  And when GOD sanctifies us this way…we are FREE to live IN this world, but not OF it.

We’re not locked away in a closet somewhere…we’re not walled off from people around us that need to know the LOVE OF JESUS.  We are FREE to be GOD’s Ambassadors; Servants IN a lost and damaged world.

How Does GOD Sanctify Us?

Here are several ways I discovered where GOD accomplishes this:

—  We are “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:16)

—  We are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Corinthians 1:2)

And when we become SAVED, we are added to His church that sets us apart–sanctifies us.

LIVING UNDER THE WORD UMBRELLA:

JESUS praying to the Father says in Verse 17:  “Sanctify them by the TRUTH; your word is truth.”  John 17:17.  The word TRUTH is found in your Bible and the Bible is God’s tool to help us to be set apart from the world.

Paul wrote,  “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”  (Romans 15:4 NIV).

And he told Timothy:  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NIV).

Thus, when we study and take-to-heart GOD’S WORD, His word IN us, teaches and gives us hope.  We become equipped for not just a few, but for every good work.

How can the Bible do all that?

JESUS tells us in the TEXT:  GOD’S WORD SANCTIFIES US….it PROTECTS US.

That was what David wrote about when he said:  “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee”  (Psalm 119:11 NAS).

And in Psalm 119:9, David wrote:  “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Thy word.”

When we use God’s Word correctly, the Bible becomes a “sanctifying umbrella” for our hearts, our minds and our souls.

God’s Word IS Truth.

We need to be so familiar with God’s TRUTH–you know it, you believe it, you live your life by its counsel.  By contrast, if you don’t guard your heart with God’s given word, you’re prone to be influenced by lies OF the world.  And if you hear those lies enough, you start to believe what the world believes.

PROTECTION COMES WITH A CHOICE:

When Jacob and his family were encouraged to go down to the Land of Goshen, where they would be protected from hunger, plagues, neighboring influences, they must CHOOSE:  Live their lives UNPROTECTED in their current circumstances,  or live PROTECTED under God’s “umbrella” in a foreign land.

Living in the Northwest of America, the rain seems somewhat constant.  You never know whether to make plans or not with RAIN always in the forecasts.  Now you can sit in your homes 365 days of the year; set apart from the elements or you can venture out with preparation.  I CHOOSE to have an UMBRELLA in the trunk of our car, or near an exit door of the house.

With the SANCTIFICATION UMBRELLA close at hand,  I can be IN the world without being OF the world without protection.  The UMBRELLA is God’s Word and it comes with a choice.   Either you can use it, or ignore it!

WHAT IS YOUR CHOICE?

Protection in the Storm
Protection in the Storm

Sundaykeepers: An Infringement or A Liberation?

1924 Olympic Photo
1924 Olympic Photo

“Instead of involving ourselves in what pleases us, the Sabbath is to be a day devoted to what pleases God!” (Franklin).

Eric Lidell  (in the film that portrayed his life, “Chariots of Fire”), was a participant in the 1924 Olympics.   As one of the world’s premier runners who was unwilling to run one day he considered the Sabbath.  If he would have entered the 100 meter event on that day–the Olympics, rather than God, would have become the “god” that determined his righteousness.

Referenced Scripture: God’s Instructions for us on the Sabbath Day–

[21]  “Thus says the Lord:  Take heed to yourselves and for the sake of your lives bear no burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem.  [22]  And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy (set apart to the worship of God), as I commanded your fathers”  (Jeremiah 17:21-22 AMP).

SABBATH BACKGROUND:  “HOW LONG HAS THERE BEEN A SABBATH?”

“THUS THE heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  [2] And on the seventh day God ended His work, which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. [Heb. 4:9, 10.]  [3]  And God blessed (spoke good of) the seventh day, set it apart as His own, and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had created and done”  (Genesis 2:1-3 AMP).

*When did God make observance of the Sabbath official?

1.  CAIN and ABEL – Genesis 4:1-8.

2.  The first time the word SABBATH is used in Scripture is in The Second Book of Moses Commonly Called EXODUS:

“See, the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day the bread for two days; let every man leave his place on the seventh day.  [30] So the people rested on the seventh day.  [31] The house of Israel called the bread manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and it tasted like wafers made with honey”  (Exodus 16:29-31).

3.  The Ten Commandments (4th Command).

*How long has there been a problem with the observance of the SABBATH?

Obviously, CAIN had a problem with the SABBATH observance.

Obviously, the Israelites had a problem with the SABBATH observance:

— The Exodus manna.

— The Ten Commandments.

— The Folks in Jeremiah’s day.

— Today!

*Why is it so important?

— God created it and called for its observance!

— God “blesses” those who observe it and withholds His blessing from those who don’t!

— God wants us to prove Him (the law of the ‘double blessing’)!

COMING FROM A CHURCH BACKGROUND:

I have come to understand over the years that PEOPLE with a Christian background– usually believe their only major obligation is to attend a “church service” ; one that usually takes about an hour in duration.

The most diligent may also attend a Bible Study and or a second service, but few see the SABBATH as an entire day to be observed.  When people from this background learn about the SABBATH day in Scripture, they have little experience in how to keep it.

The SABBATH Question Today:  “What is the purpose of the Sabbath?”

This question was addressed by JESUS to the religious leaders of His day in all four of the Gospels.  I want to direct your attention to His conversation on The SABBATH Question:

ONE SABBATH while Jesus was passing through the fields of standing grain, it occurred that His disciples picked some of the spikes and ate [of the grain], rubbing it out in their hands.  But some of the Pharisees asked them,  Why are you doing what is not permitted on the Sabbath days?  And Jesus replied to them, saying, Have you never so much as read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him?  How he went into the house of God and took and ate the [sacred] loaves of the showbread, which it is not permitted for any except only the priests to eat, and also gave to those [who were] with him?  And He said to them,  The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.  And it occurred on another Sabbath that when He went into the synagogue and taught, a man was present whose right hand was withered.  And the scribes and the Pharisees kept watching Jesus to see whether He would [actually] heal on the Sabbath, in order that they might get [some ground for] accusation against Him.  BUT He was aware all along of their thoughts, and He said to the man with the withered hand,  Come and stand here in the midst.  And he arose and stood there.  Then Jesus said to them, I ask you, is it lawful and right on the Sabbath to do good [so that someone derives advantage from it] or to do evil, to save a life [and make a soul safe] or to destroy it?  The He glanced around at them all and said to the man, Stretch out your hand!  And he did so, and his hand was fully restored like the other one.  BUT they were filled with lack of understanding and senseless rage and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus”  (Luke 6:1-11 AMP).

Are Your Beliefs A Burden or A Blessing?

Too Much Luggage
Too Much Luggage

  Was this picture of ‘Too Much Luggage” to be burdened with, what Jeremiah was speaking about, “bear no burden on the Sabbath”?

The following are some LAWS that either still are or once were in effect in various places in the United States:

— In Iowa, it was a LAW that one armed piano players must perform for free.

— In Wyoming, you cannot take a picture of a rabbit during the month of June.

— If you keep your donkey in a bathtub in Georgia, you may be arrested.

— In Harper Woods, Michigan, it is illegal to paint a sparrow and then sell it as a parakeet.

— In Connecticut, a pickle must bounce to be considered a pickle.

— In Hood River, Oregon, you need a license to juggle.

And in the State of Vermont, it is illegal to whistle underwater!

I can imagine that the stories behind these LAWS are just as humorous as the LAWS themselves.  Did someone drown underwater during a whistling contest in Vermont?

Two Incidents Concerning the SABBATH LAW Are Brought Forward in Luke 6:

The mounting opposition from the religious leaders was reaching a climax.

1.  The first occurred on “the second-first Sabbath (literal translation).  EXPLAINED: “the first Sabbath was the first one after the Passover.

2.  The second was next after that: 

Wiersbe:  “By their strict and oppressive rules the Pharisees and scribes had turned the Sabbath Day into a BURDEN instead of a BLESSING God meant it to be, and JESUS challenged both their doctrine and their authority.”

What does it mean to ‘not work’ on the Sabbath?

The SABBATH was made for humanity not humanity for the SABBATH!  The Sabbath is to be a BLESSING for us.  It’s a GIFT, not a set of rules and regulations to burden us, but a gift to be received.

Burdens or Loads we sometimes carry as “Sundaykeepers”–

According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary (page 145), burden, a heavy load, but also psychological and spiritual anxiety (Deut. 1:12; Gal. 6:2, 5).  Now the Hebrew word for burden in Jeremiah 17:21-24 is referring to ‘carrying goods’, but I believe it can also refer to the psychological and spiritual ‘burdens’.  The ones which can weigh heavy on our spirit (heart), to the point of feeling a load upon on our shoulders. 

How then, can we lighten the load?

JESUS tells us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you rest. [I will ease and relief and refresh your souls.]”  (Matthew 11:28 AMP).

A “Sundaykeepers” Burden–

Oh how I remember when our kids were living at home and the JOY of going to church on Sundays.  Sounds great doesn’t it? But many times, the experience would become a curse instead of a blessing.  A load that parents must bear!  Really?

Waking them up on Sunday mornings, fighting with them to get ready– so we could leave and arrive on time.  And when they were little, and riding in the car, they would say such awesome and inspiring words to mom and dad: “He hit me; her leg is on my side of the backseat; I want to go back home.”  And when we all arrived at our destination (the “church”)…we’d climb out of the car and say, “Try to smile everyone, okay?  It’s Sunday!”  Then Dianne and I praying as we walked down the steps to the Worship Center’s entrance, that God would accept our thanksgiving and praises for the Sunday services.  Was I carrying too much luggage? Was I carrying a load, a burden before Worship ever began?  Could I even worship at all?  The answer was obvious:  “NO!”

If I would have only meditated on the words of the prophet Jeremiah during those particular Sunday mornings:  “And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day”  (Jeremiah 17:22).

OUR BELIEFS AND PRACTICES OF THE SABBATH SHOULD BE BASED ON GOD’S RULES!

God’s Word [His “rules”] are for our benefit and not our misery. 

God doesn’t say, I’ve got you now, you dirty rotten sinner!  You’ve broken My rules again (ha, ha, ha).  Our beliefs should have its basis on God’s Rules (His Word) and under the Lordship of Jesus.

“He is Lord of the Sabbath”–

O.T. :  Many Laws and few principles.

N.T. :  Two laws, many principles.

Christians are not required to keep the SABBATH LAW but should observe the SABBATH PRINCIPLE:

“[9]  So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath rest reserved for the [true] people of God:  [10] For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own [Gen. 2:2]”  (Hebrews 4:9-10).

QUESTION:  “What is Our Duty then on the Sabbath?”

Some may say…it’s to REST!  But ‘resting’ is not our duty.  RESTING is only one of the things we should do on the SABBATH.  I like how Moses puts ‘keeping the Sabbath’ for the Israelites and the sign given by Jehovah God:

“It is a sign between Me and the Israelites forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased and was refreshed”  (Exodus 31:17).

Some may say…to do good to others!  But this is not our duty!  HELPING OTHERS is only one of the things we should do on the SABBATH.

ANSWER:  Jeremiah 17:22, 27   tells us, first and foremost, “Keep the sabbath day holy”.

The word “HOLY” means to “sanctify to separate from the world; to consecrate or dedicate to God.”  I like the way Dan Allender speaks about the word “holy” in his book SABBATH:

“Holy beauty must be crafted from material that’s loved.”

HOLY means set aside, not lost in the sea of everything else.

Throughout Scripture, God stresses the importance of making this day a holy day:

“But if you diligently listen to and obey Me, says the Lord, and bring in no burden [‘physical’ or ‘mental’] through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath say holy (set apart to the worship of God), to do no work”  (Jeremiah 17:24).

THE BLESSINGS RECEIVED DURING JEREMIAH’S DAY AND THE BLESSINGS RECEIVED TODAY!

I wanted to focus on the BLESSINGS for being “Sundaykeepers” and not all the religious implications of observing the SABBATH:

National Perpetuity–

JERUSALEM was the center of the theocracy during Jeremiah’s day and it should remain forever.  The essential and fundamental position occupied on the Sabbath amongst Mosaic institutions of his day.   It was in this way that the idea and authority of Jehovah God be perpetuated in the heart of Israel.

National Prosperity–

It is a godly banner raised by Israel, presented with a promise, to the surrounding regions and nations.  There is no lack of gifts nor of willingness to give.  Only a time of PEACE and abounding HARVESTS.

National Unity–

JERUSALEM is the ‘bull’s eye’; focal point, the meeting place of many ‘spiritual trains’:  “…from the cities of Judah…from the land of Benjamin…from the Lowland, from the hill country, from the South”  (Jeremiah 17:26). In this way, the brotherhood and the solidarity of the people were sealed.

National Faith–

This is the national outcome, even the beginning of religious observances.  It is the tendency of true religion (true Christianity today), it increase upon itself and cannot remain stationary.  Therefore this outburst of enthusiasm of Divine services are evident in peoples lives.

HOW ARE TODAY’S “SUNDAY-KEEPERS” VIEWED BY OTHERS?

Now that should be easy to answer at the end of this blog:  Insert the word “Christian” in place of the word “National” :

Christian Perpetuity–

Christian Prosperity–

Christian Unity–

Christian Faith–

When you enter your particular place of worship this week, to honor and praise His holy Name during the Sabbath, remember to separate yourself from life’s ‘doings’, ‘stresses’, heaviness and be liberated and refreshed on the Sabbath Day:

BLESS the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me,

bless His holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits–

(Psalm 103:1-2)

Set Free on the SABBATH
Set Free on the SABBATH