Summary: Practical how tos in handling problems in our lives

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Sunday, July 11, 2004

Today begins a new series called Getting Our Heads Together. I took that from 1 Peter 4 when I was reading it during the 40 Days of Purpose. I really liked it in the New Living Translation. All the texts I will be quoting are printed in the sermon outline. If you want to refer to the sermon outline, you may if that is helpful to you, but let me read it to you. The audience, of course, is Roman Christians and the issue is how to live as Christians in a secular and immoral culture, and of course, I think that is relevant today. The answer is in the first part of verse 1; it gives you the how. Here is what it says:

Since Christ suffered while he was in his body, strengthen yourselves with the same way of thinking Christ had. . . . Strengthen yourselves so that you will live here on earth doing what God wants, not the evil things people want. In the past you wasted too much time doing what nonbelievers enjoy. You were guilty of sexual sins, evil desires, drunkenness, wild parties, and hateful idol worship. Nonbelievers think it strange that you do not do the many wild and wasteful things they do, so they insult you. But they will have to explain this to God. . . . The time is near when all things will end. So think clearly. . .

If there is any admonition for our day, living in our own culture, we need some clear thinking on issues of our life. Romans 12:2 says this: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The fundamental, essential trait of a Christian - the litmus test, how you know that you have a personal relationship with God and you have passed from this life to the next - is the transformed life. Are you living a transformed life? Well, how are we transformed? Romans says we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Proverbs 4:23 says this: “As a person thinks in his/her heart, so is he/she.” NIV says that the mind is a “wellspring of life,” so in the next eight weeks we are going to be in the process of renewing our minds on various topics.

I find it interesting too that when you look at God’s mission - his life plan for saving the world - when he left the disciples here he gave them three basic tasks to do. Do you know what those three primary tasks were? Preaching, teaching and praying. Some say healing the sick, but it is praying that God will heal the sick, because it is God who heals. Preaching, teaching and praying - the center of two of those is the passing on of information, the renewing of our mind. God knows that we need some bits of information. He knows that we need a different perspective on our life that we are not getting; and he has invested a lot of time and a lot of energy, a lot of resources and a lot of personnel into the renewing of our minds. If that is the amount of effort God has put forth, we need to do the same thing ourselves. The Bible says that apart from God our minds can be dull, blind, depraved, and hostile towards God. They can be easily led astray; they can be confused, diluted; we can live in denial but, and Romans 8:6 says this, but the potential is the mind controlled by the Spirit - the mind controlled by God is what? It is life. So this summer we are going to experience life!

Today we are going to talk about the issue of our problems. How we think about our problems is just as important as our problems themselves. You can discover two people who go through the same exact problem, and that problem for one person will destroy them; and for the other person it becomes a great opportunity for drawing closer to God, and they come out the other side deeper in faith and better in their life.

How do you explain that? The explanation is in how they view their problems. We are going to learn how to view our problems from God’s perspective, but before we do that let’s take a moment to pray and ask for God’s blessing upon today. [Prayer]

What do we do when we encounter problems? Whatever problems you are going through, be assured that God has a purpose for that problem, and that he will indeed redeem it and he will cause some greater good to result from it. Trust God. An example of that, of course, is the cross. If you have seen the movie “The Passion,” that really brings it to light. That is pretty accurate. From the human perspective, if you looked at Jesus, you would say that was senseless, cruel, heartless suffering that anyone can go through, and yet think about it, the most tragic event, the most barbarous cruelty God took, and took that senseless act of cruelty and made something good come out of it. He caused the suffering of Jesus to result in the opening of heaven for us all, and if God can do that with Jesus, think about what he can do with our own problems. Think about the most tragic event in all history, deicide, the death of God, resulted in the most glorious event in history, the salvation of the world, the personal salvation of you and me.

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