Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Luke #30 - Sanctified, Set Apart, and Different

Luke #30 – Sanctified, Set Apart, and Different

“The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:2b-3 – King James Version).

I know I have told you before, but I was convicted of my sins at the age of eight and knew that Christ was the only answer for that bondage. It took seventeen years for me to surrender to Him. Thank God Almighty that He kept the conviction upon me, for without that shame He gave me I don’t think I would have ever turned to Him. One of the main reasons that I would not turn to Christ was that I understood that my lifestyle and attitude had to change. I was convicted of that at eight. How do you think I felt at eighteen? At twenty-five? Not only was the conviction sharper and more intense, but the habits I had at eight had multiplied and deepened. Where at eight I was a braggart and proud, at twenty-five I was a drunkard, a liar, adulterous, prideful, deceitful, slanderous, foul-tempered, selfish…the list could go on and on. Now friends I tell you truthfully that I don’t like remembering these things accept where I can assure someone that God can forgive anything and heal even the most wicked of sinners, of whom I am chief. My problem was that I did not want to let go of these things. All of these sinful attitudes and habits had been infused into my life; had become part of who I was. For the most part I had found a way, at least in my mind, to justify them. I convinced myself that none of these things were my fault and those things that were my fault I convinced myself were all right. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I knew that to know God meant that He would give me new life and that the old life had to pass away. That was hard to swallow!

John the Baptist preached repentance. People don’t seem to like that message. It is a hard message to hear; that we must change. The common argument today seems to be stated this way: “Jesus was forgiving and accepting of every lifestyle.” Well…Jesus was forgiving, but He would tell the person “Go and sin no more.” Another popular argument is stated in this way: “God would want me to be happy.” PHOOOOEY! God would never want a person to be happy if being happy meant living in sin. Take homosexuality for example; it’s a sin and God simply does not approve of any kind of sin. The person coming to Christ MUST realize that. They MUST turn away from that kind of lifestyle. Does that mean they will NEVER struggle with it again? No, and it would be ridiculous to think otherwise. The church gossip must turn away from that sin as well. The sin of gossip and homosexuality are the same in God’s eyes.

Repentance was John’s message. He wanted people to be prepared to know Christ and serve Him. To do that meant they had to turn from sin. To turn from sin is to turn to God. Yes, a person can straighten up and live moral, but without turning to Christ the guilt of sin is still upon that one. To turn to God is to turn from sin. Yes, a person can think about God, try to talk to God, and even go to church, but if they do not confess their sin and seek God’s forgiveness they have not really turned to God at all. And don’t think confessing is good enough…it must be partnered with forsaking those sins as well. The person that tells me they have turn to God but not did their dead level best to turn from sin has not met Holy God.

To be a Christian does not mean walking a church aisle, reciting after the preacher, getting dunked in the baptistery, and having your name put on a church role. To be a Christian means to trust Christ with everything…it is a transformed life! Listen now, if you are out there today reading this and you think you are a Christian just because you got dunked after VBS one year or sprinkled after confirmation, check yourself. Why you can dunk a donut…does that make it a Christian. You can sprinkle your lawn…does that make it a Christian? I mean it with the utmost love. There has to be change! Are you different? What work has Christ done in your and heart?

The Christian is set apart; different from the world. John the Baptist was set apart from religious society. He ministered in the wilderness by a river, not in Jerusalem at the temple. He ate locust, drank honey and dressed weird. Did that set him apart? No, he lived in such a strange fashion because he was already set apart.

Will going to a Christian school make you set apart? Will not cussing make you set apart? Will reading your Bible make you set apart? Will attending church make you set apart? Will not cheating on your taxes make you set apart? Will not drinking set you apart? Will telling people about Jesus set you apart? Will getting baptized set you apart? Will joining the church set you apart? Will teaching Sunday School set you apart? NO, NO, NO! Any of those things can be done in the power of the flesh. What we should experience is a desire to do those things AFTER meeting Christ, becoming transformed and letting HIM set us apart with forgiveness and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We won’t even desire to serve God until we are set apart. Read Isaiah 6; it’s the account of Isaiah’s calling. Isaiah met the Lord and realized how sinful he was. God cleansed him…set Isaiah apart…and Isaiah’s response was a resounding, “Send me!”

Trust me on this one…better yet, trust Jesus…He will take our heavy yoke (the one we don’t want to put down) and trade us a lighter one. That being said, we can’t do it our way. We must repent, be changed, be set apart, and be different from the world around us. After all, is God like us? If He is truly at work in us, we will become more and more like Him all the time. When that happens we will continually become less like our old selves and less like this world.

It WILL be hard to let go of sinful thoughts, attitudes, and habits that we have come to embrace, but God is the trade off…now that’s a good deal! Are you sanctified? Are you set apart? Are you different? Has knowing Christ meant only church attendance, or public morality, or is it your “get out of hell free card”? If that’s all He is to you, repent. That’s not relationship and that’s what He desires. Experiencing God requires change. The question before us is simple: “Will we turn from our way and turn to God?”

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