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A Season of Change
By Pastor Bruce Sikes
A believer shared with me recently that someone she knows had been invited to visit a new church for a special Sunday service. This person has been a regular attendee of another church for many years. A couple days later, he reported back to her and was very excited. He said, "The pastor of that new church I attended preached from the Bible!" "No really!" he exclaimed, "Straight from the Bible!"
It is great to see the joy, the revelation, the freedom experienced by someone who has heard the pure unadulterated Word of God proclaimed from the church pulpit! At the same time, it is terribly sad to see a regular church member of a "mainstream denomination" be so amazed at hearing a pastor preach from the Bible.
Why was he so astonished? Well, it's because the pastor of his church does not preach from the Bible. Unfortunately, his pastor, like so many others of the "seeker sensitive" ilk, slides the Bible verse of the day smoothly into their Sunday morning "talk" where it will blend in amongst all the feel-good pop psychology catch phrases and, if need be, the occasional gentle admonishment toward healthy living and improved relationships. All the while, the congregation is entertained with silly skits, flashy video clips, slick self-indulgent music performances, and a good dose of pithy, humorous quips.
There is nothing to make anyone feel the least bit uncomfortable, anxious or convicted...all sweets and no meat. Many of our 21st century churches have become diabetic as a result. The church needs a change of diet. It needs exercise.
You and I need to push the sweets away and seek healthy good food which will nourish and help build up our body. If it's not being served at our Sunday morning table, we need to get off our pew-warming posteriors and go to a place where the solid food of God is being served on a regular basis.
Life is way too short to waste another day waiting and hoping to be fed a bit of solid food. You cannot live on sugar highs from Sunday to Sunday and expect to grow. You will become addicted to sweets and lose your ability to discern good food from bad. Look at what the writer of the book of Hebrews says about this.
"Warning Against Falling Away"
"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:13-14)
Are you in training? Are you exercising your faith every day? Are you challenging yourself? God is not going to force His will on you, but He gives us all the tools we will ever need to strengthen and grow our spiritual bodies. It is up to us to pick the tools up and use them, especially the Bible and prayer.
You are responsible for your own spiritual health; not your spouse or parents, not your friends, not your pastor, and not your church. Do not allow a spirit of fear, intimidation, or peer pressure prevent you from making the changes you know you need to make, so that you can become ALL that God wants you to be for HIM. Do not settle for less in your life.
Often a believer who sincerely wants to become more Christ-like is stopped dead in their tracks, paralyzed with fear and doubt. They are reluctant to publicly change and adopt Christian habits because of what other people may think and say. Ironically, these people are frequently the ones closest to the believer: coworkers, friends, and even family. Why is there fear? Because they know our faults and weaknesses and are apt to point them out to us as we strive to change. They forget this verse...
"You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat." (Romans 14:10)
This is a definite reminder for us all. Each of us is responsible for the condition of our own souls. To that end, it's also our obligation to give freedom and support to those who want to change and become more Christ-like in speech, attitudes, and lifestyle. We should not only support them, but we should join them in seeking to be closer to the Lord.
We know our faults. None of us is perfect. We do not claim to be. We confess our sins and keep pressing toward the Goal. The Apostle Paul puts it this way...
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. “(Philippians 3:12)
We must never stop working to advance our walk with Christ. We must never stop working to be more obedient. We must never stop working to understand more of the Bible. We must never stop working to pray longer and deeper. We must never stop working to share our faith. We must never stop working to know Jesus more personally, more intimately. When we stop working, our faith stops. You cannot follow Jesus and stand still.
...Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny self and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)
Following Jesus is a workout. But what great work it is! The benefits and satisfaction we receive far outweigh any stress or pain we may encounter. Earthly rewards and honor are only temporary; Christ's rewards are eternal! This is why Jesus asks us to deny self. Self denial is a tool. When we deny self, we make more room for God in ourselves and thus become stronger.
I have a friend whose husband is a Captain in the military. He recently returned from very intense and harsh training intended to make him resistant to enemy combat tactics, and even withstand torture. The level of training he endured at the hands of his own compadres involved more mental and physical pain than most of the rest of us have experienced from our own civilian work, school, and the so called "enemies" in our lives.
Yet he willingly submitted himself to such tough training so he could make himself a stronger and better-prepared soldier. What's more, his army purposely subjected him to the hard, stringent training so as to better equip him and make the entire army more powerful and effective.
Both he and his army know that victory cannot be taken for granted. Victory comes with a price: hard work and sacrifice, and, if need be, the very life of the soldier.
In every conflict there are Victors and Losers.
Losers are usually poorly trained and ill-equipped. Their confidence is low. Even with the best equipment, a soldier and army must have the courage to use it. Losing generals and armies promise victory to their people. They send their soldiers out under a whitewashed banner proclaiming, "Victory is Ours!" All of this, as they are losing ground to the enemy and their people being taken captive.
Victors, on the other hand, usually have this in common: good training and good equipment. They allow themselves to be changed, to be made better, to rid themselves of bad habits - bad habits will kill you. But that is not all. They also posses courage and confidence, confidence in the training they have received, and in the army and cause for which they fight.
I am not talking about a worldly war for property and politics; I am speaking of God's Host, His Army, the Remnant of God, the Church. We are soldiers in that Army.
Victory is already ours, not because of anything we have done, for we are weak, but because Jesus Christ has already fought for us and shed His blood on our behalf, breaking the power of evil, sin and death.
"They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Revelation 12:11)
Our duty is to obey, to change no matter what the cost to ourselves, so that we may be all we can be for Christ. We are an Army of One, and that ONE is Christ!
In this world of ever increasing wickedness, the Lord has given His Church, His Remnant, this small precious time in history to ready ourselves for His return. Moreover, so that we may help prepare the way and make straight paths for His coming. Time is short. Do not waste a second. The season of change is upon us. Now is the time to change for Christ!
For Christ and His Remnant,
Pastor Bruce Sikes
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