Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Compromising with the World

We’re all under a bit of pressure, aren't we?  People work on us, to live like they do. Think about this, we live in a world full of sinners.  We work with them; we have them in our families, for our bosses, co-workers, teachers, and classmates.  They think it’s weird that we aren't interested in living like they do.  In fact, they think we’re weird.

At our weekly Bible study, my wife reminded me of something that happened to me, before I became a full-time pastor.  My co-workers were talking about a television show they had seen the night before, and they asked me if I had seen it.  I just answered, “I don’t have a TV.”  That’s all I said.  I wasn't being judgmental… I didn't see the show, because I don’t have a TV, but people got very upset.  “You’re preaching to us all the time!” they shouted, “You’re always judging us.” 

I said, “I’m not doing anything like that.  I didn't say TV was bad.  I didn't say you were bad for watching it.  I didn't even say what you were watching was bad.  All I said was “I didn't see it, because I don’t have a TV.  Sheesh.’”

I know a number of people who are sinners that don’t have TVs.  They just think it’s a waste of time, so they don’t have one.  I wonder if people get that upset when they say they don’t have a TV. 

Can you see there is a pressure to conform to what they do and think?  The problem is that we’re called to be separate.  Today, I’m going to post a message on compromising, from this portion of scripture:

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Promises are Conditional

By Adopting the Gospel to the age, men have crippled the Gospel.

The problem is that we live with people who don’t think the way that we do and we end up with this pressure to compromise.  We need to be careful of this, because all to often they can influence us away from God’s will, look at this story:

The city of Glasgow in Scotland was settled by a religious people who adopted a motto:  “Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Gospel.”  As one generation succeeded another, the city grew into an important commercial and industrial center.  Business loomed larger, in the minds of civic leaders, than religion.  Finally, its Chamber of Commerce voted to shorten the motto to make it read: “Let Glasgow flourish.”

Glasgow was established as a place that would flourish through the preaching of the Gospel, but over the years there was a pressure to move from the Gospel to business.  I believe that one of the reasons Glasgow began to flourish as a business and industrial center, in the first place, is because of the people’s reliance on the Gospel.  In time there was a drift away from the Gospel as the heart of the city’s values to business and commerce.  This is a valuable warning for you and I, we can also drift from God’s will as the center of our value system to the desire to “get along” or be acceptable to those who live in the world apart from the will of God.  I want to illustrate this with a look at the life of Solomon:

1 Chronicles 28:5-9 (NKJV)
28:5 And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. 6 Now He said to me, 'It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father. 7 Moreover I will establish his kingdom forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and My judgments, as it is this day.' 8 Now therefore, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, be careful to seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever. 9 "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.

In our text, David is anointing Solomon to be the King over all of Israel.  It’s interesting that Solomon was chosen because he wasn't the first-born.  Amnon and Absalom were both  born before Solomon, but they had died as a result of their sin:  Amnon in the rape of his half-sister Tamar, and Absalom in his rebellion against David, the king.  Solomon was chosen and God made a promise to him; that his family would rule over Israel forever.  That promise carried the condition that he was, “steadfast to observe my (God’s) commandments and my (God’s) judgments, as it is this day.”  It is a similar situation with us.  There is the promise of Eternal Life but that promise is also conditional.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)
7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

Jesus isn't talking to sinners, here.  He’s talking to the church.  The things He mentions, prophesying, casting out demons, doing wonders are the signs of them that believe.  He’s talking to His followers.  What is the criterion for entering the Kingdom of God?  Doing the will of His Father in Heaven.  Look at what He says to those who don’t so the will of His Father, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!”  IF we want to inherit the kingdom, THEN we need to do the will of God – follow His commands.

If Solomon will be faithful about following God’s commands, then his descendants will rule over Israel, forever.  If we will follow God’s commands then we will have Eternal Life:  The same promise and the same conditions.  The problem for Solomon was that at the end of his life he wasn't living up to the conditions of that promise.  He wasn't following God and the kingdom was taken away.  How did he get to that point?  What led to final breakdown that caused his family to lose the kingdom?  Why is this a warning for us? It’s because the same thing can happen to us!

Compromise Leads to the Decay of the Will of God

Did you know that most of the great Ivy League universities were founded to teach Christianity? 

Harvard University was founded in 1638 with a special view to training pastors.  Up until 1700 more than half of its graduates went into the ministry, but by 1869 spiritual Harvard lay on its deathbed. 

Yale, from its 1701 beginning, was more conservative.  Its president addressed students on such topics, as “The Bible is the Word of God.”  A Yale Gospel group traveled about the country in evangelistic ministry.  Yale’s once evangelical stance has disappeared.  Out of 400 graduating students, 54 percent said they have no belief in any God. 

Dartmouth College was  founded to train missionaries to the Indians.  Princeton in its early days insisted the faculty “be convinced of the necessity of religious experience for salvation.”  Yet both left their orthodox paths and secularized.

What happened to those universities, which are now such a hotbed of atheistic thought? How did they turn out that way?  Not by the universities’ presidents, they and the trustees remained evangelical until the beginning of the twentieth century.  The real pressure came from the alumni.  They turned out more and more unsaved alumni, who could give or withhold donations.  They demanded a voice in the universities’ policies and the universities compromised their stand for the Gospel for money.  Compromise destroys our stand for the will of God.

Let’s go back to Solomon, what was it that caused him to turn out of the will of God?

1 Kings 11:1-2 (NKJV)
11:1 But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites-- 2 from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, "You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love.

Solomon married seven hundred wives from all the nations that God had told Israel to drive out of the Promised Land.  God told them He didn't want them to intermarry because they would cause Israel to compromise its relationship with God.

Compromise is always costly – and sometimes fatal.

The people we have relationships with, it doesn't matter if it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship, have an influence on us.  We find ourselves being drawn into the same things as those we hang out with.  Do you know how I became involved in rock climbing?  My friends were rock climbers.  Do you know how I got started drinking heavily?  My friends were heavy drinkers.  This is natural; this is what bonds us together.  We have like interests.  What’s that old saying?  Birds of a feather flock together.

In the US there is an interesting dynamic among immigrants.  Chinese immigrants tend to seek out other Chinese immigrants.  Mexican immigrants live around other Mexican people.  We have places like, Little Italy, Chinatown, Korea-town and others.  People who immigrate from other cultures tend to seek other people with the same cultural values. It’s comfortable, but the interesting thing is that this can suppress assimilation into American culture.  There is always that pressure to assimilate, but it’s easier to resist when you surround yourself with people that share your birth culture.  That’s why God wanted Israel to drive out the other nations in the Promised Land.  There would be pressure to assimilate with the prevailing culture, especially if you've married into that culture.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 (NKJV)
6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."

This is the reason we encourage you to have relationships within the church.  Its why we encourage you to make the church the center of your life, because as we are together and building relationships with each other it helps us to resist the temptation to compromise with sin.  

God said, “Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.”  Have you seen that in your life?  Do you friends encourage you to behavior that is an affront to God?  To behavior that God would consider sin?  They don’t have the benefit that we as Christians have.  They don’t hear the Word of God all the time.  They don’t understand sin and its affect on us. 

Solomon, when he became king was an example for the people.  He went to God and when God offered to give him anything he asked, he wanted only wisdom to benefit his people.  He want ONLY God’s will for his life.  At the end of his life, though, he’s building altars to foreign gods; he’s encouraging people to worship on the altars of idols. 

1 Kings 11:5-8 (NKJV)
11:5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. 8 And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

He allowed himself to be influenced away from God’s will, by his wives and concubines.  He couldn't remain strong in the face of this influence.  He wanted to please his wives.  He wanted the relationships to remain close.  He compromised his stand for God.  How sad, because he lost it all, in order to feel close to them.

God’s answer to that was to split the kingdom.  The lands of eleven tribes when to Israel under a different king, and the land of one tribe, Judah, went to Solomon ‘s descendants.  They received Judah, only because God wanted to honor Solomon’s father, David not Solomon.

1 Kings 11:11-13 (NKJV)
11:11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen."

Solomon and his descendants lost out on God’s promise and the kingdom was destroyed.  Solomon’s influence on Israel remained through his son who was a brutal king, and who continued to worship pagan gods.  Eventually, for this very reason God judged Jerusalem and its people were carried off to Babylon.

Avoiding Compromise

We make the same mistakes with our friends.  We want relationships with them to be close.  We want to please them and sometimes, to please them, we have to compromise our stand for God.  We do things that aren't right.  We ruin our relationship with our God over our relationship with a friend or relative.

You know I have friends that aren't Christians.  I’m not saying you have to end those relationships.  I have friends and family that aren't Christians, but I don’t let them influence me.  I don’t feel a need to please them all the time.  I keep my relationship with God strong, I pray, I read my Bible; I come to church services, every time, because I understand that those things will keep me strong enough to resist the pressure to compromise.

I don’t believe that one church service a week is enough to keep you from compromise.  If that’s all that you’re involved with the Word of God then it’s going to be difficult to resist temptation.  The Word of God equips you.  The Word of God strengthens you.  I have a friend who calls his midweek service the refueling service.  We need to refuel.  If you want to go somewhere you need to put gas in the car, right?  No gas – no go!  Look at God’s will for us:

2 Corinthians 6:16 (NKJV)
6:16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."

As we live in God’s will for our lives He will dwell in us.  He will walk among us.  He will be our God. 

It’s easy to drift out of God’s will unless we continually strengthen and equip ourselves. After all, we live in the world; it’s difficult to live in the world and not conform to the world, BUT that’s what we’re called to do.  We’re called to be separate, to be holy, to be set-aside for God’s use.

Our weekly Bible study, at this writing, is called "GOD IS ABLE." God is able to keep us from falling, from backsliding, from drifting into sin. God is able to help us to stand up for what’s right and to resist the pressure to compromise.  Some of you are hanging out with people that aren't good for you, and they are leading you to compromise and you know you’re doing things that aren't right. Learn how to stand; be equipped by the Word of God.  Every church has people who are examples for you.    People that can help you to overcome compromise. Just being with the people of God can help you.

I say this all the time to my congregation, pray, come to church, and read your Bible.  Those things will help you to keep away from compromise, which is deadly to Eternal Life.

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