Challenges and Opportunities in our Present World
When we look at the world around us in 2009, we see many challenges and obstacles. We are in the midst of an economic recession unrivalled since the 1930s. We see social, political, and religious division in our nation. We are a nation divided between those who are trying to do what is right and those who don't seem to even care about what is right. We heard only a few days ago that interest in organized religion in the usual sense is at the lowest it has been in our country for a long time, perhaps ever. But if we can look past the obstacles, we can see several profound opportunities--if only we can look in faith.
The Opportunity of Crowning Christ as King in our Lives: Heb 12:1,2 "Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." There is no opportunity like the present for doing this. 2Corinthians 6:2--"(for he saith, At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee, And in a day of salvation did I succor thee: behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation"): Micah, our preacher, has been absolutely right when he has preached about keeping an eye on the god who says he is god number two. God #2 may be saying that just to keep us from recognizing that he is really god #1 in our lives. The longer god #2 can keep us from identifying him for what he functionally is--namely, god #1--the longer he can keep us from moving affirmatively to get him out of our lives.
About seven weeks ago I emailed as many of you as I had current email addresses for about my discovery about what my god--little "g"--had become in my life. Food had taken on a position of way too much importance in my life. I didn't just need to go on a diet--I needed to change my attitude about the good food God had given me. I am glad to say that by now I have lost ten pounds, but I still have a long way to go. And when I lose the next forty or so pounds, I can never go back to the god of food again. I will be able to give myself an occasional treat, but I can never go back to living to eat instead of eating to live. The attitude I had wasn't right, no matter what the scales said. I needed, and still need, to take hold of the opportunity to crown Christ as my king. Said Paul in 2 Corinthians 6: 17-18, "Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." The unclean thing can be anything that stands between us and the Lord.
Are you one who has no addictions? Praise the Lord! Are you more typical? Do you have a "sin that doth so easily beset you?" While we around Dover have economic opportunity--while we have the Christian friends that we have--while we have a Christian family who loves to be our support group--set about destroying the idol that is trying to hide on our secret shelves, saying that he is god #2, all the while really being god #1.
What does opportunity look like? One picture of Opportunity shows her as an unremarkable female in ordinary clothing as she is approaching people, but when she has passed, she is dressed in fabulous raiment and on the back side of her head, has no hair. Once Opportunity gets past us, we cannot seize her, even by the hair of her head. Whether we are talking about Opportunity in regard to putting away a sin that trips us up too often or too easily, or Opportunity in regard to several of the other things about to be discussed, let us remember to recognize and seize opportunity.
I remember what a Black principal in East Texas said to me about the education, the doctorate, that he let slip past him. When he was in his late 20s-early 30s, he had a chance to drop everything and go back to school and get his doctorate. He allowed himself to instead get absorbed in a few details about the immediate career he had in front of him. Then his first child was born. Then the second. Then before long he looked around and he was in his late forties. What would have been so easy for him as a young married man without children was now impossible. Opportunity had passed him by. When he learned of my ambition he urged me to get my education. As he put it, "I keep reaching for the rungs on the career ladder, but for me, they are now all stripped off. Climb your ladder before it is too late for you also."
It is said that when the Spanish explorer Cortez reached the shores of the New World with his ships and his crews, the first thing he had them do, on order of treason if they did not do it, was to burn the ships. His crews thought he was crazy. "What will we do, with the ships gone, if this adventure in the New World doesn't work out? How we will get home?" At this, a smile--perhaps in his case a bit of an evil one--crossed his lips. There wouldn't be any going home. He was committing himself and everyone around him to making it work in the New World. After the ships burned, there was no more talk of What Might Have Been. There was also very little experimenting with this method and that method of solving the problems they encountered. Instead they had to work together to choose one strategy to each difficulty they faced and make it work. Cortez was dumb as a fox.
In the same way, when each of us faces "sin that doth so easily beset us," it may be useful to burn our ships behind us. Tell enough people that you are changing the way you are living that you know you will never be able to go back to What Was.
The Opportunity of Showing the World our Changed Lives: I began with the topic of each of us bringing our own lives into submission to Christ because that's where evangelism has to begin. It has to begin with our own lives being transformed by Jesus Christ. Said Paul in Romans 12: 1,2, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God." So having our lives changed from futile, wandering, meaningless lives of the world to abundant lives in Christ Jesus is what the Christian life is about. It's about riding over sin, about escaping the bonds and snares of sin, and living lives "soberly, righteously, and Godly in this present world" (Titus 2: 11). And aren't we glad that Christ is not looking for sacrifices that are pummelled and bloodied, but rather wholesome and free from sin? Ephesians 5: 25-30 " Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church; because we are members of his body."
We have an opportunity to show the world something very different from what they usually see in the name of religion. Instead of seeing disciples of the Dhali Lama who give everything they have to a leader who owns five Mercedes Benz cars, they can see a Christ who gave his innocent life to help us. Instead of seeing Hindu swahmis who talk their followers into making them rich, let the world see Christians who can't outgive God. The world has become cynical of religious leaders who want to be "given to."
The Opportunity of Evangelizing both here and Abroad: Within a few weeks we will enter a new phase of our visitation program. As many of us who can give one night a month to visit people who are not just the sick or shut-in, but also those who may be wandering away from the church or who have never been members, let us do so. If you have ideas about how this could best be done, please forward them to me or one of the other elders.
We have elected to postpone our mission to Rio Bravo for a year until the border violence abates, but our prison ministry, World Bible School ministry, CCSC, and Southern Christian Home continue. We are in the beginning phases of planning a vacation Bible school here for this summer, and VBS has evangelistic overtones. See Diane Walters, Donny Forehand, Diane Walters, or me if you would like to help.
The Opportunity of Being Part of the Church That Does Doctrine Right: When it comes to teaching what the Bible says, and teaching all that the Bible says, even our denominational rivals have to admit that we teach the Bible. There is no creed or statement of faith tucked off in a corner somewhere. In concept, our Lord created His perfect church. If we did everything just exactly as He told us to do it, we would be the perfect church.
Our imperfections in the Lord's church come from implementation problems, not design ones. The Lord did not design an imperfect church. Nor was the church a "stop-gap measure" until He could come again, as some denominationalists allege. The church of Christ wears His name in humble obedience to Christ because wearing a man's name or a name other than what the New Testament uses would not be a symbol of humility, but rather of arrogance. Think of what a husband would feel if his wife decided to wear another man's name? Well, the church of Christ does not wear a man's name for the same reason. It's part of our submission to Christ.
We wear the name, but we are striving to do so much more than just wear the name. We read the Bible and discuss it often with each other. We are growing in the Lord and are becoming more like him each day. It is a huge advantage to be part of the church that does doctrine right. Doctrine matters: 1Ti 6:3-5 " If any man teacheth a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain."
Let us seize the opportunities that are before us.
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