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Why do we have such a hard time quitting sin?
a. We enjoy sin
God, make me good, but not yet.
b. There is much to do
When a person becomes a Christian, he usually undergoes some radical life changes, especially if he has had an immoral background. Through the first steps of spiritual growth and self-denial, he gets rid of the large, obvious sins. But sad to say, many believers stop there. They don’t go on to eliminate the little sins that clutter the landscape of their lives.
Gordon MacDonald, in his book Ordering Your Private World, told of an experience in his own life that illustrates this truth. "Some years ago, when Gail and I bought the old abandoned New Hampshire farm we now call Peace Ledge, we found the site where we wished to build our country home strewn with rocks and boulders. It was going to take a lot of hard work to clear it all out....The first phase of the clearing process was easy. The big boulders went fast. And when they were gone, we began to see that there were a lot of smaller rocks that had to go too. But when we had cleared the site of the boulders and the rocks, we noticed all of the stones and pebbles we had not seen before. This was much harder, more tedious work. But we stuck to it, and there came the day when the soil was ready for planting grass."
- Our Daily Bread.
On Trial for Sharing the Gospel
17 and 18 years old, Pakistan, 1997
Anila met Perveen at school. As their friendship grew, Anila gave Perveen a Bible and taught her Christian songs. Perveen quickly learned Christian songs and began to teach them to her younger sister when her parents wern’t home. Perveen’s parents soon learned of the songs. Being strict Muslims, they were not happy about them. But rather than confronting Perveen right away, they had her younger sister try to find out where she was getting this Christian influence.
Anila eventually invited Perveen to a Good Friday service. When the young Muslim herd the Gospel presentation, she immediately accepted Jesus. Perveen became very excited about her relationship with Jesus and saw great changes take place in her life. She read her Bible and praised God boldly. Anila knew that, before long, her friend would encounter opposition from her family.
Perveen’s parents were furious when they learned of her conversion. They had previously arranged for her to marry a Muslim man. When Perveen again refused, she ran away.
When Perveen’s parents could not find her, they accused Anila and her pastor of kidnapping her. They had Anila arrested. Anila was slapped and beaten in front of her parents for over nine hours. Finally she was taken to prison.
Anila’s pastor and his family were taken to prison on the following day. Anila and her pastor experienced horrible tortures in jail. She was whipped sixteen times (five times would make a normal man pass out). When they were released, Anila could not sit for two months, and her pastor could barely walk from the bruises on his hips and thighs.
Perveen was later found by her family. In Muslim nations, children are often severely beaten for converting to Christianity. Others are killed by their own parents or siblings for apostasy, converting to another faith.
To restore the honor of his family, Perveen’s brother stabbed her to death. He then turned himself in to the local authorities. As is not uncommon in such situations, he was eventually released without incident.
Anila was then arrested on charges of kidnapping.
She was imprisoned, then released on bail a little more than a month later. She and her family went into hiding, as their lives were threatened by radical Muslims.
Jesus Freaks, dc Talk & The Voice of the Martyrs
Albury Publishing, Tulsa Oklahoma, ©1999
A. Todd Coget
Many Christians have been infected with the most virulent virus of modern American life, what sociologist Robert Bellah calls "radical individualism."
They concentrate on personal obedience to Christ as if all that matters is "Jesus and me," but in doing so, miss the point altogether.
For Christianity is not a solitary belief system.
Any genuine resurgence of Christianity, as history demonstrates, depends on a reawakening and renewal of that which is the essence of the faith—that is, the people of God, the new society, the body of Christ, which is made manifest in the world—the church.
[Harm of Radical Individualism, Citation: Chuck Colson, The Body (Word, 1992), p.32]
LEAVE IT UP ALL YEAR LONG
Not too many years ago newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson, a Kansas man who repented, who came to faith in Jesus Christ. What made his story so remarkable was not his conversion, but the fact that as a result of his newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because the statute of limitations on the case had run out, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. But because of his complete and total change of heart, he not only confessed his crime, he voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money! That’s repentance – radical reconstruction of the heart.
Of all the decorations you have, this one is the most important of them all. It’s invisible, because it first takes place in your heart. The Holy Spirit changes you through the Word, and through baptism. It’s visible, because you become empowered to show your repentance in your...
CLARION CALL OF ONE
The actions of a few are often a clarion call to courage. It requires radical sacrifice and radical commitment to accomplish these things. All that it takes is for one man to refuse to surrender!
Anyone who is familiar with Winston Churchill understands that he was such a man who refused to give in to surrender. His first statement as Prime Minister to the House of Commons on May 13, 1940 was this: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."
Three weeks later after the capture of Dunkirk, Churchill rallied his nation with these words:
"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
Five months later, reporting on the war situation to the House of Commons, Churchill said,
"Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey; hardship our garment; constancy and valor our only shield. We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible."
In a unique speech to the London County Council, July 14, 1941, he referred to a "comradeship of suffering, or endurance" and told Hitler and his Nazi forces: "We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst-—and we will do our best." And later, "We shall never turn from our purpose, however somber the road, however grievous the cost."
He stirred the boys of Harrow School that same year on October 29:
"Do not let us speak of darker days; let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days: these are great days-—the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race."
He pressed, motivated, and drove his countrymen to a victory over the German armies that bombed and harassed them in World War II. One man can make a difference!
(From a sermon by Philip Harrelson, "What the King Desires" 1/30/2009)
Sermon Central Staff
RAVI ZACHARIAS: CHANGED LIVES SHOW THE TRUTH OF CHRIST
In his book Has Christianity Failed You? Ravi Zacharias points to one of the greatest proofs for the truth of Christ and the reality of his resurrection: the changed lives of Christians. He writes:
"During the course of nearly 40 years, I have traveled to virtually every continent and seen or heard some of the most amazing testimonies of God’s intervention in the most extreme circumstances. I have seen hardened criminals touched by the message of Jesus Christ and their hearts turned toward good in a way that no amount or rehabilitation could have accomplished. I have seen ardent followers of radical belief systems turned from being violent, brutal terrorists to becoming mild, tenderhearted followers of Jesus Christ. I have seen nations where the gospel, banned and silenced by governments, has nevertheless conquered the ethos and mind-set of an entire culture."
Then in his own words, Zacharias lists examples of Christ’s power to transform lives:
"In the middle of the twentieth century, after destroying all of the Christian seminary libraries in the country, Chairman Mao declared that...Christianity had been permanently removed from China, never to make a return. On Easter Sunday in 2009, [however] the leading English language newspaper in Hong Kong published a picture of Tiananmen Square on page 1, with Jesus replacing Chairman Mao’s picture on the gigantic banner, and the words "Christ is Risen" below it.
"I have also been in the Middle East and marveled at the commitment of young people who have risked their lives to attend a Bible study...I have talked to CEOs of large companies in Islamic nations who testify to seeing Jesus in visions and dreams and wonder what it all means. The British author A. N. Wilson, who only a few years ago was known for his scathing attacks on Christianity...celebrated Easter [in 2009] at a church with a group of other church members, proclaiming that that the story of the Jesus of the Gospels is the only story that makes sense out of life and its challenges. [Wilson said], 'My own return to faith has surprised none more than myself...My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known—not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in light of the resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.'
"Matthew Parris [a British atheist who visited Malawi in 2008] wrote an article titled "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God." [Parris wrote], 'I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa...I used to avoid this truth...but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it."
[Ravi Zacharias, Has Christianity Failed You? (Zondervan, 2010), pp. 105-107. From a sermon by Michael McCartney, Experience the Spirit in the Resurrection, 5/11/2011]
DON'T DO CHANGE ALONE
With a new year just around the corner, most of us are busy scribbling down resolutions. We desire radical change in the way we look, the way we behave, the way we make our living. But if research regarding New Year's resolutions is at all true, most of us will fall short of our goals. Why? In his book Who's Got Your Back?, author Keith Ferrazzi says it's because we too often go it alone when trying to change.
Consider the story of Jean Nidetch: Jean was overweight as a child, she was overweight in high school, and despite endless diet regimens, her waistline kept expanding throughout her twenties and thirties ... She fit the medical definition of "obese." Jean tried diets and pills that promised to take off the pounds, but she always gained back the weight she lost.
In 1961, at age 38, Jean started a diet sponsored by the New York City Department of Health. After 10 weeks she was 20 pounds lighter, but starting to lose motivation. She realized that what she needed was someone to talk to for some support ...
Since she couldn't get her pals to make the trek with her to Manhattan to sign up for the official health department regimen, she brought the "science" of the program to their living rooms in Queens. Jean and her friends would all lose weight together. Out of those first meetings grew Weight Watchers, widely recognized as one of the most effective weight-loss programs in the world.
Nidetch's idea was simple: Losing weight requires a combination of dieting and peer support. She held weekly meetings with weight check-ins and goal setting to promote accountability, coupled with honest, supportive conversation about the struggles, setbacks, and victories over losing weight. Eventually, Nidetch, who'd lost seventy-two pounds, rented office space and started leading groups all across New York City. In 1963 she incorporated. As of 2007, Weight Watchers International had retail sales of over $4 billion from licenses, franchisees, membership fees, exercise programs, cookbooks, portion-controlled food products, and a magazine. Nidetch retired in 1984, leaving behind a legacy that has saved the lives of literally millions of men and women. As the company's current CEO, Dave Kirchhoff notes, "Though the science of weight loss has evolved over the years, the core of Jean's program--support and accountability--has remained constant."
(Keith Ferrazzi, Who's Got Your Back? (Broadway Business, 2009), pp. 9-10)
THE NEW DISHWASHER
In the fourth year of his layoff from his job, Dad gave Mom a dishwasher for Christmas.
You have to understand the magnitude of the gift: Our old house had its original wiring and plumbing, and neither could handle the required installation. There was no spot in the small kitchen for such a large appliance. And we hadn’t even been able to meet the mortgage interest payments for over six months.
But Dad hated the thought of washing dishes; he would rather do anything else. And Mom had undergone major surgery that spring, a radical mastectomy for breast cancer, and found it difficult to do any work requiring the use of her arms.
No large box appeared, no new plumbing or wiring was installed, no remodeling of the kitchen occurred. Rather, a small not...
THE PADDED CROSS
Well, here I am, Lord. You said, "Take up your cross," and I'm here to do it. It's not easy, You know, this self-denial thing. I mean to go through with it, through...yes, Sir. I'll bet you wish more people were willing to be disciples like me. I've counted the cost and surrendered my life, and it's not an easy road.
You mind if I look around over the crosses? I'd kind of like a new one. I'm not fussy, You understand, but a disciple has to be relevant these days.
I was wondering -- are there any that are vinyl padded? I am thinking of attracting others -- see? And if I could show them a comfortable one I'm sure I could win a lot more.
And I need something durable so I can treasure it always. Oh, is there one that's sort of flat so it would fit under my coat? One shouldn't be too obvious.
Funny there doesn't seem to be much, choice here -- just that coarse rough wool one I mean, that would hurt. Don't You have something more distinctive, Lord I can tell You right now, none of my friends are going to be impressed by this shoddy workmanship. They'll think I'm a nut or something. And my family will be just mortified. What's that? It's either one of these or forget the whole thing? But, Lord, I want to be your disciple. I mean, just being with You, that's all that counts; but life has to have a balance, too. But You don't understand -- nobody lives that way today! Who's going to be attracted by this self--denial bit? I mean, I want to, but let's not over do it. Start getting radical like this, and they'll have me off to the funny farm, know what mean?
I mean, being a disciple is challenging and exciting and I want to do it; but I have some rights, You know. Now let's see -- no blood, okay? I just can't stand the thought of that, Lord ... Lord? Jesus? Now, where do you suppose He went?
(QUOTED in January, 1976 from Carlyle Saylor in "Christian Deaf Fellowship" PULPIT HELPS, March, 1982
In a December 2002 article by English columnist Brendan O’Neill called “Eat Drink, Be Merry,” he wrote this: (Show Picture) “Guess who’s plastering posters around the UK this Christmas with the words ’I wish the baby Jesus had never been born’ on them? A Satanic group dreading another celebration of the Christ child’s birth? Radical atheists who want to open our eyes to the futility of religion? In fact it’s The Samaritans, Britain’s trendy ’listening charity’, which is keen to flag up just how ’excruciating’ the season of goodwill can be. The cheery charity says the anti-baby Jesus slogan is ’an attempt to illustrate the dread with which some people view the festive period,’ when ’increased expectations of "high spirits" among family or friends can lead to a deflating sense of anti-climax if they fail to materialize.”
The Samaritans, who offer emotional support to the vulnerable, say the slogan is an attempt to illustrate the dread with which some people view the festive period.
The real problem is that some people focus on the wrong things at Christmas. Christmas can be a time of incredible hope if we focus on Jesus’ incarnation and the cross and empty tomb that followed.