Living in Canaan

As a Pastor, I often wonder, how do Christians impact culture and society with the Gospel and faith. More than knowing the Word and understanding the truth, but relating the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world.

As the Children of Israel left Egypt, they were heading toward the Promised Land, ancient Palestine, aka, Canaan. The land was filled with pagan people who worshiped false gods like Baal, the moon-god, and Asherah, his female counterpart, Moloch, and others. Their worship involved deviant sexual conduct, sacrifices of children, and many other atrocious practices.

Christians as people of the Book (the Bible), carefully trying to discern the times, it seems appropriate to consider that the church is living in a modern form of ancient Canaan.

The society we are a part of carries out the practices of the ancient pagan religions. It is a very self-centered (narcissistic) rather than god directed society, but the values and practices are not a whole lot different. Sexual deviation is obvious. Just watch anything media based and it’s almost impossible to escape some form of sexual expression. Sex is not about pleasing a god, but satisfying the self. Abortion is the modern child sacrifice, and the altar is women’s rights. Lying, tolerance, becoming rich, being a celebrity, being important, and more are the norms.

The church in a sense is living in Canaan.

Remember that Israel was told going into Canaan to eradicate the pagans living there. Run them off, destroy them and rid the land of pagan worship. Don’t let it be a temptation to you. Our dilemma is not that we are in the promised land, that is in the future when God brings the saved into heaven with him after the return of Christ; we have the God-given responsibility to live among the pagans. Their values and influence are powerful and many Christians have compromised their faith, mixing Christianity with the unholy and ungodly practices of the rest of the world.

How do we live in the world and not be a part of it. We can’t separate from them and live on an island and not be an influence to them. We can’t change the laws and force them to believe or at least act like Christians. We can however, present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them, living by faith, guided by the Bible and the Holy Spirit, showing Christ’s love, fellow-shipping with other believers, and letting God protect our souls while we risk our lives to lead them to Christ.

Too many believers have forsaken the task, holing up in their church buildings and homes, protecting themselves from the influence of the world and making a small almost immeasurable impact for Christ.

The Bible is clear, we are on a mission, a spiritual mission, a war for the souls of people. They are not the enemy, as one preacher (whose name I’ve now forgotten) I heard a long time ago say, “they are captives of the enemy.” The enemy is the devil, Satan himself and he has captured the hearts and souls of the majority of people in the world. For the Christian, it is as if we have moved into Canaan without pushing out the pagans.

The way, is to hold to the truth and be aware of how people accept truth and gain understanding. That is the hard part. The truth is easy. God the Creator loves all people and wants so see them saved (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 2 Peter 3:9), and sent Jesus (John 3:16-17) to save the world through faith in him. And as Peter said, “there is salvation in no other name given among men (Acts 4:12), we have the answer.

Learning how to relate the answer means we need to learn how the modern, spiritual Canaan may relate to and accept the answer. That’s the hard answer.

As we are told, preach the truth in season (when it is popular and acceptable) and out of season (when people don’t want to hear it and even try to stop the preaching of the Gospel).

Do I have the actual answer to every circumstance? No! But God’s Spirit and the teaching and leadership of others who know the truth and have listened to the Spirit can lead into being able to living in Canaan and be obedient to the mission God has called us to in Christ.

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I Believe in the Unusual

THE UNUSUAL

Seeing an orca is pretty unusual.  You’d have to spend time hanging around the ocean on a boat to see them or go to Sea World.  In 2000, I watched two killer whales, a mama and her baby playing in the wake of the cruise ship we were on.  It was pretty cool, they would swim back and forth and through the boat’s wake, playfully enjoying that moment.th (1)

Surviving a den full of hungry lions or a fiery furnace is pretty unusual.  In fact, I have never heard of any story where this happened other than Daniel and the lion’s den and Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) in the fiery furnace.  For most people that is very unusual, and pretty frightening if they were condemned to those fates.

But, God in his power and wisdom protected and saved these men.  He closed the mouths of the lions and prevented the fire from hurting his servants, who stood firm and faithful even though the culture said just go along with it, and the law said these are the consequences if you don’t.

What is unusual may be that someone had that kind of faith.  The CIA teaches their recruits that when they are captured by an enemy, the interrogation and cruel and inhuman treatment will continue, relentlessly, and endlessly until they break and reveal their secrets or they die.  So the first rule for a CIA operative is do not get caught.

Christian history is filled with countless followers of Christ who stood firm like Daniel and his three friends, and either died for their faith as these men were willing to do, or endured persecution until they were released.  God does not tell us do not get caught; he does say stand firm and trust me.

I believe in the unusual.

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Irrelevant Church

It is has always been a concern that the church may be irrelevant to contemporary culture and society. The questions: can the church realistically speak to the society in which it has been placed; can society understand the tenets of faith and the value of belief (in the Savior, Jesus Christ); will the church make a difference that saves the lives of sinners and benefit the world around it?

The church began in the mind of God, and was a part of the kingdom purpose of Jesus’ ministry on earth, and was established on the Day of Pentecost with the power of the Holy Spirit of God (see Acts 2).

Bill Gaither composed a song in the 1970’s called The Church Triumphant. “Let the church be the church; let the people rejoice; for we settled the question, we made our choice. Let the anthem ring out; songs of victory swell; for the church triumphant is alive and well.” Bill Gaither, like myself and many others love the church. We should because the church is the bride of Christ, reflecting his glory in the present world until he returns and we experience the Church Eternal.

The church is triumphant because of one fact: it is the church of Christ. He is the victor; our triumph is based on no other truth and reality than the death and resurrection of Christ to save the church. We are victorious over sin and death. We are freed from sin and live holy and righteous lives in gratefulness for our Savior. We are eternally hailing Jesus for the quality of life that is set in a permanent relationship of love and honor with Almighty God.

Our salvation makes us victorious over our culture, but are we, the church, irrelevant to our culture? Does our faith, our hope, and our Savior make sense to the society in which we live?

The group of churches which I have been associated with throughout my life seems to almost constantly continue to be mired in the past. Though the message does not change, God is Creator and loves us; Jesus is the Savior; salvation is offered to all people regardless of race, gender, status, or anything else, the message we share with the world gets lost in 1950’s rhetoric and 1970’s methodology. In other words, we tend to favor being old fashioned and if it was good enough for my grandpa, it is good enough for everyone. That may be true, but not always.

Then, there are the churches and church groups and denominations whose purpose is less about the message of the Gospel and almost completely about serving and helping others. They go out of their way to provide food and clothing for the needy, and help those who are behind on rent and utilities. They have a comprehensive social aspect to their focus. It is often called the “social gospel.” In a lot of cases, they ignore the Gospel of Christ to serve as Christ served by helping those in need, thereby making the gospel less about salvation and more about Christian service to the world.

Then there are churches who are very concerned with missions. One church I served focused almost 20% of their budget on missions, both foreign and domestic. That is substantial. I have heard of churches that intentionally increase their missions giving 1% at a time (maybe annually, or every five year). And I heard of one church whose missions giving was 70% (I suppose that includes both foreign and domestic missions). Most churches support missions either directly or through a mission organization like Christian Missionary Fellowship International (www.cmfi.org), Team Expansion (http://web.teamexpansion.org/) , Outreach International (http://oionline.org/)or any of a number of other mission organizations. Fortunately, with few exceptions, the churches that support missions at a level of 10% or more of the giving their church receives tend to be very evangelistic.

But the relevance of the church to our society; is it relevant?

How do we become relevant if in fact, we are not?

Let’s consider the three S’s; Send, Serve, Support.

The three types of churches described above tend to focus on one the three S’s, sometimes to the exclusion of the others.  Some churches are better at one than the others and some churches have more opportunity with one of the S’s than the others.

But the New Testament Scriptures show us through teaching and example, that all three; send, serve, and support, are essential to the church not just reaching their society with Jesus Christ, but it keeps them relevant to the culture in which they are set.

First, we the church are sent. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel and make disciples of all people, immersing them in the name of the Father (God), the Son (Jesus the Christ), and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow everything I have commanded you (“you” being the apostles, “them” being the church)” (Matthew 28:19-20; my paraphrase). Jesus has sent his disciples, the church to preach the Good News of salvation in Christ to those we encounter. The church is to go into the whole world with the Gospel.

Second, we are to serve. The model of serving comes from Jesus. He met a lot of people’s needs, many times through healing. He got down on his hands and knees and washed his disciple’s feet like a servant. Paul informs us in Philippians 2 that Jesus came in human form and took on the capacity of a servant. And the early church followed Jesus’ example as they cared for the widows (Acts 6) and sources outside the Bible tell us they saved discarded babies and raised them as their own (no one did that in those days). James tells us that true religion involves not letting the evil of this world spoil our righteousness and to care for widows and orphans. The aspect of caring would be broader if James wrote his letter in the 21st Century.

Third, missions support. When a missionary takes the Gospel to another country: that is their one focus. They usually are unable to have an occupation wherever they are at, either practically or legally. They need support to enable them to preach the Good News in places that don’t have the Bible or haven’t ever heard of Christ. Supporting missions financially is significant and important. Paul received support from several churches (and individuals). There were times he couldn’t work to support himself (time constraints, imprisonment, lacking opportunity) and the church, especially Antioch, provided financial support to enable Paul and his companions to preach the Gospel.

When the church (and we mean both the world-wide church at large and the local church) as they study the Word and put their faith into practice by going with the Gospel to their area (Sent), and helping in big and small ways in their communities (Serve), and provide financial assistance to world-wide missions (Support) God provides a focus that allows them to know their culture and bring the message of Christ to the world in a relevant way.

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Read This Article from Relevant Magazine online

It is interesting that all at once there are several discussions about Christian -vs- Saints.  Here is a good one. Why-They-Called-Us-ChristiansClick on the link and it will take you to the Relevant article entitled, “Where the ‘Christian’ Name Really Came From.”

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/where-christian-name-really-came

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Christians and the Political Process

I personally lost track this year with the presidential election. I admit I must choose who to vote for according to my values which are informed with the Bible. I must live according to my conscience in voting for any elected official. I must admit that I fear the direction our country is taking is like the fall of the Roman Empire with the administration, but my participation in the political process has been askew. Though I do believe I voted correctly, the way God would have me choose, I did not live peacefully and quietly in this area of life.

My conscience is guilty. I lost track of what scripture informs me about my role in this world.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Instead of peaceful and quiet living, I have stirred up stress with disagreements about who and what to vote for. I apologize to all who I have encountered this way. I pray for your forgiveness and look forward to living peacefully in the future, choosing to vote according to my conscience as it is informed with God’s word and the Holy Spirit.

Let me encourage you to make that your path too. While praying for our elected officials, trusting wholeheartedly in God’s wisdom and understanding though we may not have access to it now.

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PS: It is and will be hard to keep my big mouth shut and my thoughts to myself in this area. I pray to God for his strength, help and guidance.

What I Learned From the Sandy Hook Massacre

The more often these kind of tragedies happen, the more I realize just how vulnerable and exposed we all are to such atrocities. The first time something tragic happened that hit me was when a 10 or 11-year-old girl comes home from school and begins taking orders for a school fund-raiser in a town of 4-500 people; small town America. The last time she was seen was on the corner of one of the streets until about two weeks later when her body was found in a ditch a couple of miles from the town, molested, raped and murdered.

The US government is trying to determine what to do to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook happening again. I fear there is going to be too much of a knee-jerk reaction that does not address the heart of the issue which is the heart and soul of the people who carry out these tragedies.

After some contemplation, I have learned these truths and realities.

Morality is not relative. The thinking of a lot of people is that whatever we think is right at the time is what is right and what I think is right for me is right me, but what is right for you is not necessarily right for me. Everyone is appalled by what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary and calling for justice and measures for the future prevention of such events. Therefore there must be a standard somewhere and somehow that we measure this by.

If you are reading this, you will already know what I am going write. Moral values, right and wrong come from one standard that never changes throughout time and history and the basis for the standard is in God Almighty and the standard which comes from his unchanging character is found in the Bible, God’s Word.

Sin is real and it is violent. Not all sinful acts are acts of violence but the character and nature of sin leads to it. God through the Apostle Paul related to us in the book of Romans that all people have sinned. Sin is a part of every person’s life. Some of the rest of the book of Romans especially chapters 4-10 give us information about how to overcome sin. But sinfulness will sooner or later, if given enough time lead to violence. In the Bible, the account of the flood which Noah and his family were saved from was on account of man’s violent nature (Genesis 6:11 ,13). Meaning since humans were made in God’s image, the violent acts against mankind were acts against the image of God. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was as a result of violence (Genesis 18:20, 21; 19:9). Violence is found throughout the history of the world. Sin is the culprit behind all of this.

Sin corrupts completely, the longer it is not dealt with. In some people corruption spreads faster than in others. It may take more than a life-time for someone to become completely corrupt, but the fact remains that people like Nero, Hitler, and others became corrupt at young enough ages to carry out crimes against humanity (as we call it). The tragedies of Columbine and Sandy Hook and others illustrate this corruption and the despair in the lives of the perpetrators.

Government, political, public & social programs are not fixing the problem (and never have). Only redemption can change the situation. Only the spiritual change of being “born again” in Christ can make the change. I am not saying that public programs might not help, but true transformation comes from a transformation of the heart and soul and that only comes from surrender to and forgiveness given by Jesus Christ (Romans 12). Programs change external conditions not internal issues.

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The Lukewarm Christian (Casual Christian Part 4)

There is no form of Casual Christianity which we want to have any part of.  Here is what we have looked at so far.

1st – We considered what it means to be a Christian – Acknowledging Jesus; Believing in who he really is; and Committing ourselves completely to Christ by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus.

2nd – the Christian Atheist – Christians who live as if there is no God

3rd – the Cultural Christian – Christians whose faith is guided by what the world thinks

Now we are examining a third form of casual Christianity – the Lukewarm Christian!  Some have called this the Comfortable Christian

@Revelation 3:14-22

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

The book of Revelation gives us seven letters to seven churches located in Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey.  These cities are in the very middle of the first century world which are New Testament times.  The churches in these seven cities were suffering persecution and tribulation from the Roman government, or they would very soon (as history reports they did).  There would be pressure to conform to the times.  To worship just like everyone else.  To set Christianity aside, at least for a moment or two to so they would fit in with the rest of society!

Laodicea is the seventh church that Jesus talks too, the last church he addressed in Revelation.  Just like the other six churches, Jesus knows all about what they are experiencing.  His vision is not blinded to the struggles the church goes through.  He knows how the church is reacting to the pressures they are experiencing.  Jesus is with the churches and gives them solutions to their problems.  And with Laodicea we find the solution to the problem of being lukewarm Christians – Christians without zeal for the Lord.

Jesus who is the Amen and the Faithful and True Witness has nothing at all good or positive to say about them.  His words are words of discipline.  These people are not as they should be and Jesus’ words, his promises, and his judgments will happen for sure.  They are God’s values, they are God’s judgments, and of course that is exactly who Jesus is, he is God.

Jesus is also the “firstborn of creation” or rather the “originator” of it all.  Implying that he rules it, he is the ruler of all.

So we’ve got a church that is lukewarm!  They are not cold like the water in Colossae which comes to them from about 10 miles away, nor are they hot like the springs that come from Hierapolis that comes from about 6 miles the other way.  The water from these two spots were piped into Laodicea because it did not have a water supply of its own.  So once you got the cold water from Colossae to Laodicea, it wasn’t cold, it was lukewarm.   And once you got the water from the hot springs at Hierapolis to town, it was lukewarm.  In fact, the water that came into Laodicea didn’t taste very good.  It was disgusting.

The hot water, when it was hot was good for medicinal purposes and the cold water as long as it was cold was refreshing to drink.  But lukewarm water was blah.

The point of describing lukewarm water is that it is disgusting.  Jesus finds the lukewarm church to be other than what HE, their Lord desires.

The reason for their self-satisfied, uncommitted manner is that they think that since they are rich, that they were wealthy people, that they really didn’t need anything. They thought they were fine, they were set for good.  They were coasting as Christians and here’s why they had this attitude.

Laodicea was a banking center.  Because of the wealth, there were leisure and cultural aspects, such as gladiatorial games (think modern day sports) and theatre (our movies and celebrity worship); comfort (time off, freedom to do whatever we please), diversions of all kinds and all sorts of things to relax with and take your mind off of things.  It was an important city because it also had a major textile industry.  Clothing was made there and they had a very unique product, black wool.  Since it was a rare and exotic fabric, it was expensive, very valuable.  Oh, and, there was a medical school there and the city was famous for its eye salve among other medical breakthroughs.

So their attitude was, “We are doing great!  We don’t need anything.”

Jesus is telling the self-satisfied church, “I want water that will refresh me, but you remind me instead of the water that you are always complaining about.  You’re lack of zeal makes me want to vomit.”

Their wealth was a problem.  It had made them too comfortable and blinded them to what their faith was about.

What are the dangers of material wealth which can lead us to Spiritual poverty?

  • Self-sufficiency, trusting in what you have acquired, it is enough, I don’t need anything else.  So I don’t pray, I don’t rely on other Christians, I don’t pay attention to the preaching and teaching (it really doesn’t matter), I don’t even have to go to church.  I’m alright!
  • Pride, look at what I have done, at how much I have accomplished by myself, for myself.  One church I was with was raising $20,000 extra dollars to add to the building, purchase a van, and accomplish a couple of other things for the church’s ministry.  In less than 3 months time, all the money had been pledged and more than half of it had been received.  One of the elders, while leading songs one Sunday said to the congregation, “Give yourselves a hand for what you’ve done.”  Pride goes before a fall and I can tell you about that another time.
  • Thinking you don’t need or you don’t want any outside help including help from the Lord.  Prosperity causes blindness to reality.

Bible commentator Craig Keene says “I fear that the problems of Laodicean Christians are most like our own.”  We’re just like them in many ways.  American Christians are very self-satisfied and many individuals and some churches have no energy and zeal for doing anything, loving and trusting God and Christ and sit back with the attitude, “We’ve got it made!”

Richard Sterns of World Vision (he was formerly CEO of Lenox Inc. makers of fine China), “If the book of Revelation were written today and there was a letter to the church in America, I think it would decry the fact that our materialism and wealth have deafened our ears and blinded our eyes to the cause of the poor.”

Every American is rich.  Even those that are considered poor by our standards in America are wealthier than a majority of the rest of the world. Wealthier even than the wealthiest of kings from the past up until the last 500 years or so!  And many Christians cannot see their spiritual need, how poor and blind they are because they have so much.  They are comfortable and settled and trust in what they have and ignore what God says about things and the needs of others.

What is “true religion”?  James tells us.  It is to look after widows and orphans, or to apply it to our times, those who are poor, helpless, and oppressed and to keep yourself unstained by the world, to be pure in heart, to be holy, to be free from sin @James 1:27.

What Richard Sterns was getting at is that we can hear about suffering elsewhere and often we will find theological or even sociological reasons that it won’t happen to us, and we even avoid actually spending our wealth, even in the church on those needs.  Our walk . . . can make us spiritually poor.

There is a church that a friend of mine used to preach for.  He was their minister for many years, but resigned after challenging them and they balked and refused to act.  They had accumulated an excessive amount of savings, in the tens of thousands of dollars and wouldn’t touch it for any reason whatsoever.  There were missions in need and they wouldn’t help.  The camp they supported could have used extra funds and they refused.  There were people struggling with rent and utilities that they could help but they would not touch this money that they had been saving for decades.  It had been ten years since I last heard about this church, but I just learned that they are still the holding the money, they still haven’t touched it.  They are rich in wealth, but where is their spiritual sense of purpose and action.

The lukewarm church and lukewarm Christians are people who possess the name Christian, but do so without the power of God because they think what they have makes them ok.

Jesus has a solution to lukewarmness.  Here’s what he says in the text.

1st – Though you possess what makes you feel comfortable, Jesus advises that you buy true wealth from him.  Trust in him not in your material riches.  Material riches are not for making us comfortable, that is an American doctrine not a Biblical doctrine.  Riches are for you to help spread the good news and provide for the needy.  Besides, your riches will be destroyed sooner or later.

2nd – Though you think you are clothed, you are naked before God, so buy clothes from Jesus that will cover your nakedness.  The true clothing of Christianity is not self-sufficiency but humble trust in Christ.  One of my favorite series of sermons is looking at what the scriptures tell us to wear.

3rd – “Repent and become totally committed to me,” Christ says.  “Let me build a fire of zeal for true faith and true religion in you and free you from what makes you taste horrible to me.  Then you will be like refreshing water.”

4th – Open the door and let Jesus come in and eat with you.  The last meal of the day is the meal of intimate fellowship.  That is where the relationship grows and bonds are enlivened.  Let Jesus come in and let him develop the relationship of faith and hope and trust and joy with you.  He wants to be your life.

John is helping the church see their behavior as Jesus sees it.  Their vision has been cut off due to their complacency.  They have relied upon themselves and not God.  By their own self-sufficiency they have shut Jesus out.

Jesus is calling them on it.  He loves them, so he will discipline them inviting them to repent and become committed again.  He promises them that if they will come alive, they will rule with him.  That does not mean we will be kings like Christ is king, but that as his people, we are the ruler’s people, we belong to him, we are his people, the King’s people.

You trusted in your riches and wealth and thought you were good.  But you are actually wretched and poor, blind and naked.  You are not as you think you are.  You have not examined and evaluated your life.  Because it is distasteful to me, if you remain this way, if you do not change, you do not let me in, then your eternity that you once trusted in is at stake.

Let’s examine the characteristics of the lives of those who are NOT lukewarm Christians (taken from Voice of the Martyr’s book, _________________________ with my comments added).

1. They have an eternal perspective and are energized by what the rest of the world cannot see or even perceive.  They see beyond this world to the eternal realities.  Rather than live for the moment, which is a worldly characteristic, they look to the next knowing this life is not all there is.

In the fall of 1982, the Michigan State Spartans came to Madison, Wisconsin to play the Wisconsin Badgers.  During the game, when the Michigan State would make a play or score, the crowd would cheer.  Though their team was being trounced, the home crowd responded as if they were winning.

As it happened on that very day, eighty miles away the Milwaukee Brewers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the World Series.  Football fans at Badger stadium were listening on portable radios as the Brewers soundly defeated the Cardinals.  The cheers had nothing to do with the action in the football game the cheers were related to a reality no one could see.

2. They have committed, trusting faith in God which is usually bracketed with prayer and the Bible.  Their faith is out of this world because they have complete dependence on God and when they pray they KNOW God hears and answers their prayer and that His Word, the Bible will guide them into truth, understanding, and wisdom.

When we think about someone whose total dependence is in God, we will think of missionaries who have no one to rely on than God, or martyrs who have lost their lives for their faith.  People like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (you know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

When they wouldn’t bow to the idol, and were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, they said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” Daniel 3:17-18

Total dependence on God!

3. They take obedience seriously.  Obedience to God has powerful implications for every aspect of our lives.  God revealed his will for us in his moral law, epitomized in the Ten Commandments, and Jesus summarized the law and highlighted its importance with this statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” @Matthew 33:37-40.  Then, just before returning to heaven Jesus left his disciples with this admonition: “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the end of the age” @Matthew 28:18-19.

So if we are determined to obey God, we must continually ask, “Do my actions express love for God and my neighbor?” and “What can I do to bring the Good News of Christ to others, to make disciples?”  And then do it!

Why does this work?  How does this inspire zeal and devotion to Christ?  Because once a person has become a Christian, they continue to allow Christ into their lives.

Let me show you from another passage and a different lens eternal perspective about committed Christians.

@Hebrews 11:13-16; 32-40; 12:1-3

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[a] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.  39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

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