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The Struggle to Survive

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The Struggle to Survive

Text:  Revelation 2:1-11

Big Idea:  Hold on to Christ in times of trouble.

Purpose:  To teach people how to live out a Christian life in a secular world.

Introduction:

Let me share a few news stories/editorial opinions with you from the recent past:

            1.  A few weeks ago, valedictorian Brittany McComb was delivering a speech to her graduating class.  The speech had been revised by school officials to delete any reference to Jesus Christ, although they were willing to allow generic mention of God and religion.  As Brittany was about to conclude her speech, officials cut the microphone, suspecting she was going to thank Christ for her success.  An organization that advocate free speech said the school was correct in stopping this speech.  At the same time this is happening, US soldiers overseas are required to provide copies of the Koran to terrorists who have been captured.

            2.  The Episcopalian Church Assembly has been debating whether to allow clergy to perform official ceremonies to bless same-sex unions.  Even the clergy who oppose this is very careful to tell others that they don’t want to change anyone, but they just want to get along with others who disagree.  At the same time, more and more people support allowing same-sex couples to adopt.

            3.  Not one, but two US Circuit courts, have ruled that the procedure called partial-birth abortion cannot be outlawed.  The Supreme Court is being asked to outlaw this brutal and cruel procedure to take the life of an unborn baby.

            4.  The city of Grand Rapids is being accused of banning free speech in court by a lawyer because there is a city ordinance that bans erotic nude dancing. 

           

Do you ever feel like the world has turned itself on its head?

What is happening all around us?

            -Christians are accused of hypocrisy

                        -because they confess sin and yet called to lives of righteousness

            -Christian leaders are mocked if they insert themselves in any political debate

            -Anyone who says sex should be reserved for marriage is dismissed as outdated

What kind of impact does this world have on our faith?

            Let’s face it:

                        -we do not want the world to shape our faith

                        -but we cannot ignore that we live in this world

            The Churches that received the Revelation lived in a similar world

                        -they had to feel like strangers

                                    -while orgies, debauchery ruled the day

                                    -they were accused of cannibalism (Last Supper)

                                    -accused of orgies, because communion was called love feast

                                    -accused of atheism because no images

                                    -accused of political disloyalty – because would not say Caesar is Lord

                                   


Sermon Body:

COMMENDATIONS:

The churches are commended for:

1.  Perseverance in the face of wickedness.

            -they held on to Christ, despite challenges, despite differences from the world

2.  Purity against false teachings.

            -they did not let the teachings of Nicolaitans to influence

            -The Nicolaitans are a largely unknown group, but whatever their errors, they gave

                        unwarranted license to people to live like the world, much like Balaam did in

                        Numbers.  It was Christian liberty taken to a radical extreme.  This mindset

                        makes the world change the church, rather than the church changing the world. 

3.      Enduring Persecutions

      -Despite accusations, they held steadfast.  They did not wander, buy into the world                             around them.

They were commended for taking a defensive stance.

            -not allowing the world to adversely affect them

            -because the church is supposed to be a place of refuge

                        -to be in God’s presence

I often hear that Christians are sheltered

            -usually a criticism

            -I don’t take it that way

            -I want a shelter in God’s presence

                        -a Sabbath-place, where the world is not the primary influence

                        -But God Is.

Extreme choices for dealing with a secular world are not real options:

A.     Completely withdrawing from secular world

            -meaning never interacting with world

            -Amish, Mennonites try this, with some success

                        -but often create a new legalism – with huge loopholes

                                    -no phones, but use neighbor’s phone,

                                    -no modern bikes, but can use rollerblades

                                                -what does this have to do with holiness?

B.  Embracing the world, making the church in the world’s image

            -Balaam’s error – could be married to pagan and maintain identity

                        -think the way the world thinks – maintain identity

How do we live in this world?

            Romans 12:  Do not conform to patterns, but be transformed by mind-renewal

            Common answer:  think of Christian/Biblical matters

                        -which is a good idea

                        -transforming of your mind

                                    -not conforming to the patterns of this world

            Better answer:  think about this world from a Christian perspective

                        -not just doctrinal matters:  sanctification

                        -but how do I live a life at work

                        -How would God have me use my wealth?

                        -What does entertainment tell us about God? 


WARNINGS:

1.  Forsaking love may lead to losing your light.

            We can become so defensive about this world

                        -that we are no longer living in a way that reflects God’s love

                        We grow battle-weary, notice minor differences

                                    -and in the process, lose sight of love

            I think we are blessed by new generations – coming to know Christ

                        -encouraged by their growth, love, takes the edge off of our battles

            Jesus warns the church – your light is snuffed out by these battles

                        -and you know it is true

                        -never drawn to churches that proclaim battles

                        -more likely drawn to ministries that demonstrate Christ’s grace

Old song:  “They’ll know we are Christians by our love”

2.  Suffering for Christ's sake is inevitable.

            In this world – with divisions

                        Do not expect that we will ride through unscathed

                        Our minds might be corrupted

                        Our character, motives questioned

                                    -Christian politicians are almost always questioned

                                    -that is why we pray for them

                        Our faith mocked, we will even suffer loss

                                    -but Jesus has promises. 

PROMISES:

1.  Those who overcome will eat from the tree of life.

2.  Those who are faithful will receive a crown of life.

3.  The faithful will only endure a short suffering.

4.  Those who overcome will not be hurt by the second death.

            Two promise about life, and two about suffering

            Two about overcoming, two about being faithful

Those who are faithful to Christ and resist the world

            -will not have to fear the length of suffering

            -and will have life

Conclusion:

                Years ago, BJ Honeycutt was a character on the TV Show, MASH.  When faced with a temptation to live like those around him he said this:

            “I live in an insane world where nothing makes sense.  Everyone around me lives for the now, because there may not be a tomorrow.  But I have to live for tomorrow, because for me there is no now.”

            For Honeycutt, tomorrow was seeing His family, but for Christians, that hope is eternity in God’s presence.

            We live differently in this insane world,

            -because we live for a greater tomorrow

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