ARE YOU NORMAL?
A. Are you NORMAL? (Turn to the people on the right and left of you and ask “Are you normal?”)
1. No one wants to be ABNORMAL! Am I right?
a. One of the least COMPLIMENTARY things one can say about another is, “He’s nice, but he’s a little STRANGE."
Our children learn this early. One of their most persuasive ARGUMENTS to get parents to purchase some item is, “Everybody’s got one!” This implies that if your son or daughter doesn’t get one, then he or she will be ABNORMAL. And we parents certainly can’t stand for that! After all, what will the NEIGHBORS think if we have an ABNORMAL child in our home? So we run to Macy’s or to Best Buy and buy whatever it is that will make them NORMAL!
b. So, are you NORMAL?
2. I suppose the question we should be asking is, “What is NORMAL?”
If you ask this question of people from different CULTURES and BACKGROUNDS, you will receive different ANSWERS!
What might be NORMAL in America is not NORMAL in other parts of the WORLD, and vice versa. I’ve traveled extensively in other parts of the WORLD, and I tell you right now, we Americas are considered extremely WEIRD. In fact, some of the things that people do here in the North would be considered strange in the Southern part of this country.
A few years ago I interviewed with a church in New Haven, IN, just outside of Fort Wayne. It was my first time to be that far NORTH. I was born and raised in Oklahoma, and at that time I was preaching in Texas. If you think I talk FUNNY now, you should have heard me back then.
During a question and answer session, one of the ladies of the East Allen church asked, “If you move to Indiana, will you be willing to change some of your SOUTHERN MANNERISMS?” I told her that I didn’t know that I had SOUTHERN MANNERISMS. (DO I HAVE SOUTHERN MANNERISMS?) I then asked her to clarify her question. “Well,” she hesitated, “do you think and act like Texans are the only people on earth?”
I replied, “No way! . . . But those OKIES are sure hard to BEAT!” (I remained in the South.)
B. But what about Christians, are they NORMAL?
1. Listen to Peter in 1 Peter 4:1-5 (READ) -In v. 4 Peter said, “They (those in the world) think it STRANGE that you do not do the same UNGODLY things they do...”
Peter is saying that “to people of the world, it is NORMAL to live an IMMORAL LIFE.” Those who don’t embrace their LIFESTYLE, are considered WEIRD or ABNORMAL. This adds to the Christian’s dilemma: No one wants to be considered STRANGE or ABNORMAL. Therefore, how should a Christian respond to the IDEAS of the
2. Because one submits his or her life to God, some have the idea that LIVING as a Christian ARDUOUS, DREARY, and terribly ABNORMAL.
One man speaking to a preacher about his SALVATION sincerely remarked, “I’d like to be a Christian, but I’m afraid that I couldn’t live a NORMAL life any more.”
3. Living as you were DESIGNED by your DESIGNER is the most NORMAL thing you can do.
Anything else would be out of HARMONY and CHARACTER and NATURE of God. What God CREATED in the Garden of Eden that He described as “VERY GOOD”- Genesis 1:31—when man WALKED in perfect HARMONY with God, is what God INTENDED for MAN-KIND.
The problem is, man has been living SUBNORMAL for so long that he has come to believe that NORMAL is ABNORMAL. God’s Word redefines what NORMAL really is!
I. WHY DOES THE WORLD CONSIDER CHRISTIANITY ABNORMAL?
A. There are two WORLD VIEWS in our culture.
1. The non-Christian WORLD VIEW (Peter refers to this view in v. 3)
For the non-Christian, the purpose of life basically is to find PLEASURE. He marshals his TIME, ENERGY, and RESOURCES toward that end.
At the basis of each decision are these questions: “What would I like best?” “Which would I prefer?” The more PLEASURE he FINDS and the more DISPLEASURE he AVOIDS, the more SUCCESSFUL he thinks his life will be.
The person who did not pursue PLEASURE or try to avoid DISPLEASURE if at possible, would be considered ABNORMAL to the non-Christian world view.
This WORLD VIEW can be seen by looking at the Roman Arena in the first and second centuries when Christians were thrown to the LIONS. The Romans, who believed the PURPOSE of life was PLEASURE, could not understand those STUPID Christians.
There was certainly no PLEASURE in being RIPPED APART by a LION. All they had to do to be FREED was say, “Caesar is Lord.” But they wouldn’t do it! And, to the Romans, it just didn’t make sense.
2. The Christian WORLD VIEW (Peter refers to this view in v. 2)
The Christian also enjoys PLEASURE, and he doesn’t like DISPLEASURE. But that’s not his PURPOSE in life. For the Christian the PURPOSE in life is to GLORIFY God. He devotes his TIME, ENERGY, and RESOURCES toward that END.
At the basis of each DECISION are these questions: “What will bring more HONOR to God?” “What would He have me do?” When the WILL of God is involved, PLEASURE has nothing to do with it. A Christian is aware that this life is only TEMPORARY. He realizes that what is most important is PLEASING God and not PLEASING himself, even when it may be PAINFUL.
There will always be a clash between these two WORLD VIEWS. Jesus predicted it when He told His disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I choose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you”- John 15:
B. The problem is that Christians are constantly tempted to JUSTIFY their behaviors and lifestyles by the non-Christian WORLD VIEW, because we want to be viewed NORMAL.
1. Since our culture is based on the PLEASURE PRINCIPLE, we try to point out that faithfully serving the Lord brings more PLEASURE.
a. Therefore, to be NORMAL we want our non-Christian friends to realize that being a Christian is not DEPRIVING but
To get this point across we ADVERTISE our YOUTH FUNCTIONS by saying that “they will be FUN!” We ask people to come to WORSHIP because “they will ENJOY it.” We PROMOTE our get-togethers with 3 words: “FOOD, FUN, and FELLOWSHIP”, which is fine!
I believe Christians can have just as much FUN as anyone, but it’s sad that we have to go back to the PLEASURE PRINCIPLE, the non-Christian world view, to justify our Christian activities? And then when we have “FUN ACTIVITIES,” we feel the need to turn right around and justify them to the RELIGIOUS by adding how “SPIRITUALLY UPLIFTING” they
b. We are caught between two WORLDS trying to JUSTIFY what is NORMAL from the Christian WORLD VIEW and the non-Christian WORLD VIEW.
2. We have to understand that we are not to be Christians simply to “fulfill our PLEASURE and double our FUN.”
During the Roman PERSECUTION, there was no PLEASURE—short or long run—in this life while being DRAGGED through the streets by a running HORSE instead of DENYING the FAITH. But it was still the RIGHT DECISION to HOLD ON to that FAITH.
Even today there are those who remain FAITHFUL to Christ although they are MALICIOUSLY RIDICULED by their PEERS. There are those who REMAIN strong in the FAITH even though their HUSBAND or WIFE is an UNBELIEVER and makes their lives DIFFICULT because they have CHOSEN to serve Jesus.
When the WILL of God is involved, PLEASURE is not the MOTIVATION. Now, often the BEHAVIOR of the WORLD and that of the CHRISTIAN are COMPATIBLE. They don’t always CLASH. There are a lot of PLEASURABLE ACTIVITIES that are considered neither SPIRITUAL or IMMORAL!
Even so, the Christian lives the way he or she does simply because it is RIGHT—no other reason. Whether it is FUN or PLEASANT has nothing to do with it. If we are BLESSED with HEALTH and PROSPERITY, that’s fine—PRAISE Him! Yet, if because of our FAITH we are THROWN to the LIONS, that’s fine, too. PRAISE GOD!
II. WHAT IS NORMAL FOR THE CHRISTIAN?
A. It is NORMAL to live as we have been DESIGNED by God.
1. How God has DESIGNED us, is the way He wants us to LIVE.
God created FISH. He placed within them the need and desire to SWIM through the WATERS and be FREE. Wouldn’t it have been CRUEL and out of CHARACTER for a WISE, LOVING God to DESIGN fish with that need and desire and then PARALYZE them so they couldn’t SWIM as they were DESIGNED? God didn’t do that to FISH!
God created BIRDS. He placed within them the need and desire to FLY and to SOAR through the HEAVENS. Wouldn’t it have been CRUEL and out of CHARACTER with a WISE, LOVING God to DESIGN birds with that need and desire and then make their WINGS unable to do what they were DESIGNED to do? God didn’t do that to BIRDS!
God created MAN. He placed within him the need and desire to ENJOY life and be FREE. Wouldn’t it have been CRUEL and out of CHARACTER for a WISE, LOVING God to DESIGN man with that need and desire, and then COMMAND him to live in a way that is UNNATURAL and contrary to that DESIGN? God didn’t do that to
2. Christianity is life’s greatest SERENDIPITY—meaning that what we find or gain from our pursuits was not our OBJECTIVE.
3. Life’s greatest SERENDIPITY is found in Matthew 6:33- “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
If you attempt to find JOY, PEACE, and HAPPINESS through WORLDLY PURSUITS, you will not find them. . . . Oh, you’ll find a COUNTERFEIT of them, but not the REAL THING. They don’t come that way. It’s UNNATURAL. Those QUALITIES come ONLY as a by-product—a SERENDIPITY—of SERVING God.
B. It is not NORMAL for the Christian to live in SELF-IMPOSED MISERY!
1. Some will ask, “If all that is true, and Christianity brings inner PEACE and JOY, why are there so many TENSE, UNHAPPY, RELIGIOUS FANATICS?”
a. There are those Christians who live MISERABLE lives because they truly believe that is what God has called them to be.
b. 1 John 5:3- “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.”
There was a story told of a MISSIONARY who, several years ago, arrived in Africa for the first time and immediately began visiting several VILLAGES. In one of them he felt COMPASSION for the WOMEN who struggled to CARRY heavy BURDENS upon their BACKS. He promised them RELIEF, and immediately ordered several hundred WHEELBARROWS to be shipped to the village.
When he finished his tour several weeks later, he returned to the VILLAGE where he had the WHEELBARROWS sent. There they were LINED UP in neat rows, going UNUSED. The NATIVE women explained that while they appreciated his KINDNESS, they had FOUND it was just too BURDENSOME to carry their LOAD and the WHEELBARROWS, too.
c. There are Christians are heavily BURDENED by RELIGIOUS DEMANDS they place on themselves, because they feel that is how God wants them to live.
I genuinely believe that we should be CONSCIENTIOUS Christians, but we can go to such EXTREMES where we can hardly MOVE for FEAR that we might be SINNING against God.
This is not the SPIRIT of the New Testament or a result of properly following Jesus Christ. If you are MISERABLE, don’t BLAME God. He has nothing to do with it. Your PERCEPTION of God might, but not the REALITY of God.
2. Then some will ask, “What about all the FUN THINGS that I’ll have to GIVE UP if I become a Christian?”
a. That’s a FAIR question and a common MISUNDERSTANDING.
I was brought up to think that. I was reared in an ULTRA CONSERVATIVE church, and to me, Christianity was nothing more than a LONG LIST of a lot of FUN THINGS Christians weren’t supposed to do. If ever asked, “What does it mean to you to be a Christian?” I would say, “Well, you can’t DO this and that and this . . . and you sure can’t do that!”
b. You do not have to GIVE UP one single thing that’s GOOD for you to be a Christian!
Oh, to be sure, there are definitely some things we have to GIVE UP. Christians are known for the things they STAND FOR and STAND AGAINST. But we only GIVE UP those things that DESTROY us or cause PAIN and UNHAPPINESS.
What the Non-Christian WORLD VIEW says will result in ones HAPPINESS and FULFILLMENT, has proven to be the DOWNFALL of so many. Oh, SIN is PLEASURABLE, but it’s also very DESTRUCTIVE!
c. Proverbs 14:12- “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
Ask the man who wakes up in the DRUNK TANK at the COUNTY JAIL with VOMIT all over his clothing if getting DRUNK is FUN now! Ask the man whose ADULTEROUS RELATIONSHIP cost him his FAMILY. Ask the woman whose CARELESSNESS with her COMPANY’S BOOKS cost her JOB. Ask the TEENAGER whose FASCINATION with GUNS and DEATH led to a MASSACRE at SCHOOL.
I visited with a young man this past week in the COUNTY JAIL who had been ARRESTED for DRUG POSSESSION. He had just been RELEASED from PRISON last November, and now he is going back in where he will probably be for the next 3 to 5 years. When I visited with him he wasn’t LAUGHING. There wasn’t a SMILE on his FACE—only DREAD. FOLLOWING THE PATH OF THE WORLD ALWAYS LEADS TO DESTRUCTION!
C. Christianity is what we were DESIGNED for.
When we follow the DESIGN of the DESIGNER, it FITS and it feels GOOD. We have been DESIGNED with different kinds of NEEDS. Those NEEDS can be classified as PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, SOCIAL, and SPIRITUAL. By following God’s Word, we can fulfill everyone of those NEEDS.
That’s why people in the WORLD who claim to have no BELIEF in God cannot find true FULFILLMENT. They’re always in SEARCH for something to give them PLEASURE and SATISFACTION. They don’t realize that their YEARNING is for God. They can never find true HAPPINESS and SATISFACTION until they TURN to Him.
A. Are Christians NORMAL?
1. It’s the most NORMAL thing that this life offers.
To those in the WORLD we may be a bunch of ODDBALLS, but we know BETTER. Serving God doesn’t make you STRANGE. It makes you SAVED. It makes you FULFILLED. But it doesn’t make you WEIRD!
2. Yearning for God is the most NORMAL and NATURAL thing in the world.
When we RECOGNIZE and RESPOND to our SPIRITUAL needs (which are NATURAL and NORMAL) along with our other NEEDS, then our entire LIFE takes a NEW DIMENSION, and a NEW SATISFACTION.