Have you been crucified

If there is one thing that really bugs me about some preachers today it’s that they lie I mean they don’t just tell little lies, they tell great big whopping lies. theological lies and spiritual lies. They tell their people things that aren’t true, and things that are heresies. And the biggest heresy that is preached today is that Christianity is the be all end all of life.

 These preachers would have us believe that all we need is a little dose of Christianity and everything will be alright. And they tell us that if we are good enough, and holy enough and spiritual enough, and give them enough money then God will make us healthy wealthy and wise. And then they tell us that when we accept Christ into our life as Lord and Saviour that everything will be alright, and nothing will ever go wrong, and that we’ll always be happy and that we’ll never be sad, and that my friends is a lie, a lie conceived in hell to discourage believers. In that type of preaching Christ has become a genie in a bottle and Christianity is the crazy glue that is always ready to patch up all of life problems.

 Dietrech Bonhoffer was a theologian who died in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and he had a term for these promises, he called it “Cheap Grace, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without remorse, life without sacrifice” And I really don’t think that is what Paul had in mind when he wrote in the letter to the Galatians 2:19-20 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
Paul writes about being crucified and that doesn’t sound like cheap grace to me, so this morning I want to look at some of the marks of a crucified Christian.

 1) If You Are Crucified: You Are Heading In One Direction. If you are going to get anywhere in life there are two things you are going to have to do. The first is that you are going to have to establish a goal. It sounds a bit simplistic but you’d be surprised how many people out there haven’t got a clue where they are going. The second thing that you have to do is head in the direction of your goal.

 Doesn’t matter what area of life we are talking about those two criteria have to be met. Set a goal and then head in that direction. If you’re going to take a trip then you need to know where you’re going. If you wanted to go to Toronto you’d need to head west. Makes sense doesn’t it if you headed north you’d get wet and end up in Labrador, if you headed east you’d get wet and end up in Ireland, If you headed south you’d get wet and end up in the West Indies. So you head in the direction of your goal.

 The same applies to your career, your family and your life. You need to establish a goal and then head in that direction. In our Christian walk our goal is heaven, and the road to heaven is your Christian walk. And once Christ sets you on that road through salvation the quickest and easiest way to get to your goal is to stay on the road.

 The year I graduated from college I accepted a position as minister of young adults in a church in up state New York. While we were there some good friends of ours got married back in New Brunswick, considering that both Angela and I were in the wedding party we decided that it would be appropriate if we actually attended the wedding. The problem was that I had to be back for the Sunday Morning Worship at First Wesleyan and so I left Saint John at four in the afternoon figuring on a 12 hour drive. Half way back I heard forecasts for freezing rain and snow through New Hampshire and Vermont and thought to myself, “self maybe the mountains wouldn’t be a good place to be tonight.” so I took a right turn in Bangor and headed up to Quebec. Before I was through my 12 hour trip took 16 hours. Why? Because I got side tracked.

 The prophet writes in the book of Isaiah 35:8-10 And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
Now as far as I can tell the prophet is telling us that we are safe on the highway. In the will of God you are safe from falling. There may be ups and downs on this road but if you walk it in obedience then you won’t get side-tracked. And if you stay where God wants you then you will be safe from a spiritual fall.

 The trouble comes of course when you climb down off of that highway and start playing in the gutters of the world. When my kids were little if you were to put them in ten acres of spotless purity with a single mud puddle in the middle they would find the puddle. It’s like dirt radar.

 There are Christians like that! They can be walking along that long, wide, clean stretch of highway and that one puddle of sin looks so good that they just have to get off the highway and wallow in the puddle. And then they wonder why they are so dirty. We gotta stay on the road.

 One of my favourite characters in the Old Testament is Abraham and we read a little bit about him in Genesis 12:1-3 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
Pretty neat promise isn’t it? Now I don’t know about you but I would have had problems with the I will make you into a great nation part. I may be a little slow, but I would figure that a great nation would require a little bit more then one old man, one old lady and their household help. But Abraham took God at His word. He put his share of the town house that he shared with his dad up for sale with century 21 BC, loaded all he owned into his U-haul camel and hit the road.

 It ended up being twenty five years that he followed God before he had the son he was promised, but he was facing in one direction. What we have to realize is that when God points you in a direction he doesn’t always make it a five year plan or a seven year plan. In 2009 we have become super time oriented and we say “I have X amount of time God, so if I can fit your will into that slot then we are in business.”

 In contrast to Abraham were the children of Israel. God led them out of Egypt and through the wilderness, and He brought them to the very border of the Promised Land, but they weren’t headed in one direction. They were torn between serving God or serving themselves, torn between easy living and sacrifice and as a result they wandered aimlessly for forty years.

 In the Gospel of Matthew we read Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Now the biggest mistake that we can make is to presume that Jesus was just making a monetary statement. An attitude statement, yes. A spiritual statement, yes. A commitment statement, you betcha. But to simply read the words of Christ as pertaining to money is to belittle and demean the intent of Jesus words.

 You cannot serve both God and self, you cannot serve both God and work, you cannot serve both God and your wife, I mean spouse. Anything which has control over your life other than God is sin. The question has to be asked, “Would I give it up for God?” If the answer is “no”, or “I’m not sure” than your motives need to be examined.

 The Wesleyan Church takes a stand against smoking and drinking and drugs, do you know why? “Well brother, I would suspect that the Scriptures tell us that our bodies are a temple, and because those things can damage the temple we should avoid them” OK, but what about flying and driving do we ban those too? What about shower and bathtub accidents?

 The reason that smoking, drinking and drugs are wrong is that they form dependencies. When you can’t go through the day without smoking you are serving the God of tobacco. And you can’t serve both God and tobacco. When you can’t go through the day without a drink then you are serving the God of alcohol. And you can’t serve both God and alcohol. When you can’t live without the next high then you are serving the God of dope. And you can’t serve both God and dope. Amen brother preach it ride that pony.

 Do you know that you can’t serve both God and caffeine? Do you know that you can’t serve both God and food? Do you know that you can’t serve both God and sports, or God and dancing, or God and television or God and music? When anything becomes more important than your relationship to or service for God then it is wrong. And it is idolatry just as sure as if you were bowing down to a golden calf.

 When you have be crucified your eyes are set in one direction. When you have been crucified with Christ your eyes are set in the same direction as His. Which direction are you heading? Whose interests are you serving?

 2) If You Are Crucified: You Have No Plans Of Your Own. Very simply put when you have been crucified you relinquish control. “Well I think I’ll just get down off of this here cross and wander over there for a bit.” Oh not you won’t.

 If you are going to be crucified with Christ then you have to give your plans and your desires over to Christ. When I was in College I took some flying lessons and I discovered that the most important words that you could say or hear in the cockpit were “you have control”. And that was to ascertain just who was flying the airplane. Because when you have two different people trying to make one airplane do two different things then you have problems.

 Now either you have control of your life or Christ has control of your life but if you are both trying to have control then you are heading for a certain disaster. The problem is as I see it is that God doesn’t always want to do things our way, funny that. I’m sure that Moses wanted to call in the corps of engineers to throw up a bridge over the Red Sea. And Gideon would have been a lot happier to go into battle with 30,000 men rather than the 300 that God had in mind. And I’m sure that Joshua was looking for a celestial battering ram and not a cheer leading squad. But we have to realize that when our plans and God’s plans differ that chances are that His plans are the right ones. We aren’t asking that you check your brains at the door but we are asking that you let God have control. And that doesn’t mean that life has to be a drag. Just because you’re not in control doesn’t mean you have to be bored.

 In July of 1981 three of Atlantic Towing’s salvage tugs headed for Little Cornwallis Island, 75 miles east of the magnetic North Pole. The Irving Cedar was towing a 420 foot long, 100 foot wide, 8 story high floating ore processing plant. I was on that tug, but I was just a lowly deck hand. Captain Thomas Pullen, Royal Canadian Navy retired was the ice master, Captain Peter Garland was the tow master, and Captain Robert Pendelton was the tug master. Richard Lambert was the first mate and Rod Cadman was the second mate and by the you got down to where I was you didn’t even get a say in what you wanted for breakfast. That didn’t make the trip any less of an adventure, “well I can’t be in charge so I’m going to sulk and make life miserable for everyone around me.” I chose to go to the North Pole under those conditions, and if I had the choice I’d do it all over again. It was great, beautiful scenery, and an adventure in every sense of the word. Just as our lives were meant to be adventure, after all it was Jesus who said about us in John 10:10. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
3) If You Are Crucified: There Is No Turning Back. “Hey Guys, I’ve changed my mind, you want to let me down, no, OK.” That’s not the way it works and you’d better make sure that is the direction that you want to go.

 Luke 9:57-62 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

 Billy Sunday was a pro-baseball player in the states who became one of the greatest preachers of all time and he said “When a man starts to follow Christ and looks back it’s only a matter of time until he goes back”

 When Moses led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and into the wilderness there arose a certain amount of discontentment and they said things like Exodus 14:11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? and in Exodus 16:2-3 There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”
not to mention Exodus 17:3 But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?”
These people wanted to go back and they weren’t making any bones about it.

 Check out the story told in Acts 12:25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them. It’s not all there though it kind of carries on in Acts 15:37-38 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work.
Now then, John Mark was a believer and in all probability a very sincere Christian, but he was not aligned with the will of God at that point in his life. He still wanted to be in control. and so he had no problem turning back. The problem was that John Mark needed to be crucified, he needed to nail himself to the cross.

 Nine time out of ten when you haven’t been crucified as soon as God’s will and your will conflict then you pick up your toys and go home. Unfortunately that is the easiest thing to do at times, even to the point that if the church is going in a direction that we don’t want to go in, or if the church isn’t going in a direction that we want to go in, or if the church’s plans and our plans aren’t the same then we get a pout on and don’t co-operate, or we stop giving, or stop attending and that is c-a-r-n-a-l, carnal. And if your attitude is “If’n it’s not done my way then I’m not going to support it” then you’ve got an attitude problem and you need to give Jesus a hammer, and handful of nails.

 A while back I came upon a beautiful poem that really speaks about what our lives as a believer is often like, perhaps you are familiar with it.

 Butt Prints in the Sand
One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some strange prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”
Those prints are large and round and neat,
“But Lord, they are too big for feet.”
“My child,” He said in somber tones,
“For miles I carried you along.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.”
“You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt.”
“Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand.”

 Remember John Mark? Well we run into him again when Paul writes to Timothy in the book of 2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry. And in the book of 1 Peter 5:13 Your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark. And it’s the same John Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark. What was the difference? Crucifixion, he had nailed his will to the cross.

 4) If You Are Crucified: It Signifies Surrender. Crucifixion of self very seldom happens without a fight. We don’t sing as we go, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to be crucified I go.” It’s not an easy step, but it is one that signifies the surrender of our will into the hands of God. And sometimes that happens all at once and other times it happens step by step, as each area of your will is broken and reshaped by the master. And I believe that crucifixion of self is a place that each one of us has to come. And I also believe that without crucifixion that you become ineffective for Jesus Christ.

 And just as some people are lead to salvation by the Holy Spirit and don’t enter in, there are also people who God has told that they need to be crucified and they brace their feet and say no. they refuse to surrender, and they become spiritually barren. They are still a Christian and they are still going to heaven but they’ve lost the joy of the Lord in their soul.

 5) If You Are Crucified: It Can Be Painful. Physical crucifixion weren’t no day in the park, and neither is spiritual crucifixion. it sometimes means giving up things you enjoy, and sometimes it means giving up people you enjoy.

 For some it means nailing their music to the cross, and I don’t just mean that rock and roll stuff either. Some others need to nail their cigarettes to the cross and for some others it means dropping their bottle at the foot of the cross. Some of us need to nail up our eating habits, the preacher included. And we all need to watch what we are doing with our leisure time. How about your TV viewing habits? Your videos? Your movies?

 Nobody said it was going to be easy. But if we walk with Christ, then there will be many times that we have to put His will ahead of our will and to do that often times we’ll need a hammer and nails to hold our will down. Paul writes in Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
And do you know what the problem with living sacrifices is? They keep crawling off the altar, maybe the answer is that they need to be nailed down.

The Persistent Decision

It was the spring of 94 or the fall of 94, I get them confused, only because we were in Australia and it was April, which is fall there but spring here. Regardless of what it’s called it was April and in April in Queensland you could get these really neat torrential rainstorms that lasted 15 minutes. And when I say torrential, I mean torrential. It’s like round them up Noah one more time.

 It was a beautiful day I had the kids to a softball practice and we were driving home when we saw it. It looked like something out of a movie. It was a literal wall of water. We were driving under a clear blue sky and up ahead the sky was black and you could see the edge of the downpour hanging like a curtain in the air.

 When we drove into the rain it was like driving into a carwash, and we were probably no more than a couple of hundred metres in when we noticed a car coming toward us pull over and stop. The driver obviously had enough of the storm and the horrible driving conditions and decided to quit and let the storm pass by.

 What he didn’t know and I did was that if he had of kept driving in just a matter of a minute or so he would have driven out of the storm onto dry pavement and beautiful sunshine. As it was he was sitting still while the storm was moving over him and eventually he was going to have to drive through it all over again. Why? Because he had quit when he should have kept going.

 So we are at the end of my series on the Traveler’s Gift. To bring you up to speed if you have missed any of the weeks, or to probably just annoy you if you have been here for all seven sessions and you are thinking: if I hear this one more time I will scream. Who has been here for all seven messages? Tired of it yet? Discovered something interesting this week, The Traveler’s Gift, became the first book in American publishing history to make the best-seller list in six different categories simultaneously.

 So here we go, the author of the book Andy Andrews had what he referred as a normal middle class childhood, his dad was a preacher and his mom a home maker. That changed the year Andrews turned 19, his mom died of cancer and his father was killed in a car accident. Through a series of less than wise decisions young Andy found himself homeless living under a pier on the Gulf coast of Alabama.

 A man he only knew as Jones came into his life and challenged him to become what God had created him to be. Jones got him reading biographies of famous people and eventually he would go on to read over 200 biographies of people who he felt had excelled in their lives.

 And he found there were seven characteristics that successful people share and he decided to implement them in his life. He eventually became a comedian, headlining in Vegas and opening for people like Kenny Rogers, Joan Rivers, Randy Travis and others. He said that he kept putting the Seven Decisions into his routine and finally Kenny Rogers said “why don’t you write a book about them?” And the rest as they is history.

 The Traveler’s Gift is a novel and in it we are introduced to David Ponder, a man who has problems. He has lost his upper management position, he has a sick child and is broke. As he drives toward home after losing his minimum wage position in a hardware store and contemplating suicide he misses a corner and his car careens toward an oak tree, and at that point through unexplained circumstances he is able to travel through time meeting 7 historic figures who offer him direction for his personal success.

 So in week one we looked at the “Responsible Decision” and we joined with David Ponder as he met with Harry Truman in Potsdam Germany on July 24th 1945. It is the closing days of the Second World War, the Germans have been defeated and President Truman is about to make the decision that will end the war with Japan. And he tells Ponder that he needs to understand that where he is in life is because of choices he has made. And that week we looked at the choices that Adam and Eve made in disobeying God. And I challenged you to accept responsibility for your lives. That we are today, the good the bad and the indifferent is because choices we have made. We will no longer blame our parents, our friends or circumstance and it’s only as we take responsibility for the past that we take control of our future.

 The next week we looked at the “Guided Decision” . The hero of our story now finds himself standing in Solomon’s throne room . And King Solomon tells Ponder that if he is going to succeed in life than he will need to choice wisdom. And we looked at the story in the scriptures about how Solomon, as a new King, was offered the desires of his heart and how he asked for the wisdom to guide his people well. And so we looked at the challenge of finding wisdom in our lives and how we find that wisdom by reading books, by learning from others and by seeking the wisdom of God, through prayer and the reading of his word.

 From ancient Israel Ponder goes to Gettysburg Pennsylvania where he discovers the “Active Decision” . It’s July 2 1863, the American Civil War has been under way for over 2 years and this battle would prove to be pivotal in deciding who would win at Gettysburg and ultimately which side would win the war.

 And it was the actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, a 34 year old school teacher from Bangor Maine, who lead an almost suicidal attack against the Confederate Army that made the difference. And he tells Ponder that if he is going to succeed in his life he will need to choice action, to do something, to push forward and take a chance and a risk in order to change his world. I looked at Peter who upon seeing Jesus walking on the water on the sea of Galilee said “If it is you Lord tell me to come, and I will” and how Peter alone among the twelve took a chance and did the impossible.

 And then it was onward to the “Certain Decision” . From Gettysburg David Ponder is transported to October of 1492 on the deck of the sailing vessel the Santa Maria just days before Columbus would land on the “New World”. I wonder if the folks of that little Island ever thought, “Well there goes the neighbourhood”?

 Columbus who had spent years trying to find someone to sponsor his expedition in the belief that the world was not flat but round and after years of rejection and disappointments found those sponsors in King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Columbus reminded Ponder and us to hold tight to our dreams and visions even in the face of disappointments and we looked at what we learn from our disappointment that week focusing on the story of Joshua and Caleb standing at the edge of the Promised Land.

 The “Joyful Decision” was next and it was from Anne Frank a 14 year old Jewish refugee, hiding from the Gestapo in an Amsterdam attic, that Ponder received this direction. She encouraged him to find his happiness from within instead of from circumstances. And that week we looked at how we could find happiness in our lives. First by choosing to not complain, then by choosing to be grateful and finally by choosing to smile.

 Last week was the “Compassionate Decision”. From German occupied Holland Ponder finds himself whisked back in time to once more stand on the Battle Field of Gettysburg, this time four and a half months after the battle was over in the presence of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was there to dedicate the war cemetery at Gettysburg and that is where he delivered the address that begins with the words “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” And it was Lincoln who encouraged Ponder to “Greet each day with Forgiveness.” And so last week I spoke about forgiveness and the necessity of forgiveness in the life of the Christ Follower, and we looked at several fallacies about forgiveness. That it needs to be asked for, that it’s a feeling or that it means that once you have forgiven someone you have to trust them. Forgiveness is about the past, trust is about the future.

 And here we are at decision number 7. And it is at this point that the book changes a bit, the other six decisions were given to David Ponder at specific points in history by historical individuals. This time Ponder finds himself in an immense warehouse stocked with a variety of stuff. Pictures, inventions and achievements. And his host is the Angel Gabriel, wings and all. And Gabriel tells our hero that he is standing in “the Place that never was” Gabriel goes on to say “This is the place where we keep all the things that were about to be delivered just as a person stopped working and praying for them. The contents of this warehouse are filled with the dreams and goals of the less courageous.”

 And Gabriel encourages Ponder and us to embrace the “Persistent Decision” and to persist without exception.

 And so we go back to the scripture that was read for us earlier, in particular Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Think about it we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. There are two thoughts here; the first is the reward or the harvest of blessing. The second is giving up. And you can either obtain the reward, or you can give up but you can’t do both.

 I sometimes wonder about the harvest of blessings that have been missed because people gave up to soon. Could the cure to cancer have been one more experiment away for a researcher who just tired and quit. Did we miss another Gretzky because they didn’t want to get up that early to practice so they quit. Perhaps the person with the potential to be the greatest political leader of our time got discouraged and quit and now works in an office all day.

 But more important then that I wonder what potential is in this congregation, the potential perhaps to change the world, the potential definitely to change lives. I wonder what blessings are there for us to reap if we don’t quit

 Because, we cannot, cannot, reap the harvest of blessings if we quit, it will not happen. So the question then is this: why do people quit? I mean face it we live in a generation of quitters.

 And really there are all kinds of reasons to quit.

 I’m sure that every one of us could think of some reasons why we should chuck everything and give up whatever it is that we are doing. Don’t tell me why you can’t go on, don’t tell me why you have to quit. People have told me why they were quitting as a spouse, why they were quitting as a parent, why they were quitting their job or why they were quitting school. And they had pretty good reasons and do you know what? I don’t want to hear, because I know that you’ll have a good reason, but good reasons aren’t what God is looking for.

 Does the scripture say in Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we have a good reason for giving up. No and it doesn’t say you will be rewarded if we can provide an excellent excuse for giving up.” No it says Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
This morning we are going to look at what happens when you quit.

 1) If You Quit You Will Never Come Up To Your Potential. God has a plan for your life; God has something special for you to do. God can perform miracles through you if you are willing. God doesn’t just use preachers, God doesn’t just use singers, God uses special people and all of God’s children are special.

 God has a plan for every Christian here, every man, woman and child. God has something for you to do. God has a special plan for you, and they do not, do not, and do not include giving up. When God gives us a task he expects us to stick with it until He release us, not until we release ourselves. And don’t go blaming your quititis on God. I used to have a laugh at college; Christian colleges are a scream sometimes, especially when it came to dating. And I used to love the line that couples used when they were breaking up; well it’s just not God’s will for us to be together. Why not tell the truth? They were tired of one another, he had seen a prettier girl or she had seen a better looking guy. Why blame God?

 But I’ve seen it carried to an extreme, when a pastor who left his wife and child for a married woman later testified that it was in God’s will because he and his wife weren’t happy and God wanted all of his children to be happy. If you quit, don’t blame God, he doesn’t want anything to do with it. And listen up; quitting is a sin if it moves you out of the will of God.

 It bugs me to see churches where things are happening and the pastor quits, or the people quit him and the church never reaches its potential. Now sometimes it is time to leave. But why does God only call pastors to bigger churches. I would suspect that it has more to do with the callee then the caller. When we were planning on moving to Australia Laurel Buckingham the pastor of Moncton Wesleyan church counselled me against it because he felt that I hadn’t finished my work in Truro. And even though I obviously felt that he was wrong he said something that has always stuck with me and it was this “The will of God is more often thwarted through opportunity then obstacles.”

 Think about it. Quitters never live up to their potential and they will be sorry because of that. This is important so perk up, and write this down. We will be judged not only on what we have done but we will also be judged on what we should have done but didn’t, ouch. James the brother of Christ wrote this to the early church in James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

 There are things that need to be done, projects that need to be completed, there are lives that need to be touched, there is potential that needs to be fulfilled, and they will never be done, completed, touched or fulfilled if you quit. God has given you a barrel full of potential don’t destroy it by quitting. God has a multitude of special plans for you, and none of them include the word quit. Quitters never come to their full potential.

 2) If You Quit You Will Damage Your Self Respect. I have never met a quitter with a positive self image. “Oh I’m no good, I can’t succeed at anything. Everything I do is a failure; I’ll never amount to anything. I can’t do anything right.” How would you know? You’ve never stuck at it long enough to discover whether or not you can make it. And every time you quit it gets easier to quit and easier to feel bad about yourself, all over again. “What an utter failure I am.”

 When I was a teenager we had horses, and my folks insisted that we take riding lessons, and while I was learning to ride my instructor gave us some profound advice, he said, and I quote, “every time you fall off your horse you will get back on a better rider.” Now why I don’t ride in the Olympics I will never know because as many times as I fell off I should have become the best rider in the world. But the secret wasn’t the falling off it was the getting back on.

 When my sister was about fourteen she took a really bad spill off of her horse. The horse bolted, Dianne got dumped and walked home covered in blood. When she got home she was bundled into the local hospital and stitched back together again. But it took a while to get her back in the saddle again. She didn’t want to ride, because she was afraid of falling off again. And she never regained her self confidence on horse back.

 Friends if you fall in your Christian life, get back on again, don’t stay off cause the longer you stay off, the more you’ll put yourself down. Don’t give the devil the satisfaction of your quitting. You aren’t a failure, prove your self worth by getting back up and back on.

 The biggest problem is that when you don’t feel good about yourself, you won’t feel good about your fellow man. When you feel this high then you won’t be happy until everybody else feels this high. And if they don’t then you are going to make it your business to ensure that they feel just as low and rotten as you do, after all isn’t that what it means when it says bear on another’s burdens. Don’t let yourself become negative, don’t let your quititis affect your view of everybody else’s life and projects. Some people have quit so many times, and have become so negative that they see problems in every solution.

 3) If You Quit You Will Lose Your Dream, your vision the hope -which God has given you. Every one of you either has dreams right now today, or you had dreams yesterday and lost them. Dreams of what you want for tomorrow, for yourselves, for your children and for your church. And when you take away the dreams, then you might as well take away the life. To live without hope for tomorrow is not to live, it merely exists. Proverbs 13:19 It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools refuse to turn from evil to attain them.

 When you quit time and time again you don’t lose your dream you give it away. Whatever vision you had just shrivels up and dies inside of you. You’ve never seen a dream fulfilled, you’ve never taken a vision through its natural course, you’ve never had a hope realized. So why dream? Why hope? Why see visions? That happens to churches doesn’t it? Pastor comes in with dreams and sets goals for the church and for whatever reason they aren’t met, and the pastor quits, and the church loses the dream, and if that happens enough then finally the church is unwilling to dream dreams and have visions, and we are content to become a caricature of what we ought to be. It doesn’t have to be that way, because you can see your dreams, hopes and visions through to fruition, just don’t quit.

 4) If You Quit It Will Encourage Others To Quit.
Have you ever noticed that quitter’s band together? There are a couple of reasons for that the first one is deep and thought provoking. And that is this “birds of a feather flock together”. Winners don’t want to hang around with quitters and quitters don’t want to hang around with winners. And the reason that winners don’t want to hang around with quitters is that they find it depressing. The reason that quitters don’t want to hang around with winners is that they find it depressing. I mean face it if you finish dead last in a race, the last place you want to be is with number one.

 And so quitters and losers band together, because success reminds the failure of where he is, or where he thinks he is. And you say, “Oh it’s terrible nobody notices me, I’m not appreciated, I’m taken for granted, I’m not needed, I quit.” And somebody else says, “funny that, me too,” and somebody else says, “Me three” and pretty soon you have a whole bunch of unappreciated people who have quit. And they all get together and have a great big pity party or poor me party. Know what I mean?

 Christian listen up, there are people who are watching your life, and they just need one excuse to throw up their hands and say “I quit, I’m through.” Don’t let your life be that excuse. No man is an island, your life influences somebody. Parents it may be your child. Children’s worker it may be a student. Teen it might be a friend. I don’t know who you influence but I know that you influence somebody who if you quit, will take it as an omen that they should quit too. And listen up because this is scary, when you quit and by doing so encourage or influence somebody else to quit, you are responsible not only for your failure but also for theirs.

 Fail not, do not give up, don’t quit. But don’t count on everyone cheering you on. People won’t understand, we live in a society where quitting is normal. And your persistence will be seen as a rebuke to those who quit. Andy Andrews writes “People will encourage you to quit if you’ve persisted, because society no longer holds a penalty for quitting . . . as long as you persist a little bit.”

 But in the long run it won’t matter because it’s not their life and it’s not their success it is yours. And so let me end this series with two quotes, the first is from the scripture we started with this morning, Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

 The second comes from that great American philosopher Dr. Seuss “You have brains in your head.You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

 So today will you commit to preserve without exception?

 

The Compassionate Decision

He just kept right on smiling. It didn’t matter what they did or what they said he just kept right on smiling. They were American army officers and he was their Korean house boy, and for what ever reason they gave him a hard time about everything, he wasn’t fast enough, he wasn’t polite enough, he wasn’t good enough, but he just kept right on smiling. They had rented a house in Seoul and he was the servant, he cleaned, he cooked and he served and no matter how hard he tried he seemed to fail in their eyes. They ridiculed him and they humiliated him in front of their guests and he just kept on smiling. The more he smiled the more they seemed to be determined to break him and their humiliation of him got even worse if that was possible, but he just kept right on smiling.
One day a visitor came to the house, it was another American officer but he was cut from a different piece of cloth and he was horrified by the way his fellow officers were treating their house boy but he was also fascinated by the boys response, no anger, no tension, apparently no ill feelings and so after awhile he got the boy aside to find our what his secret was. “Why is it that no matter what the men say you just smile back?” he asked. “What is you secret?” The boy didn’t hesitate at all before responding “My secret is that every day, just before I serve them their dinner, I spit in their soup.”
Not bad, but not forgiveness. There are people here today who just keep right on smiling. They have been hurt by someone, and yet they don’t appear to let it bother them. A true Christian, it would appear that they have the Lord’s Prayer down pat where it says Matthew 6:12 Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.
At least that’s how they appear on the outside. But on the inside they are spitting in that person’s soup, everyday. And my friends that is not forgiveness. It may make us feel better but it doesn’t bring healing.
We’re are getting close to the end. For those who have been here over the past number of weeks you know that I have been using the book “The Traveler’s Gift” as a springboard for my preaching this summer.
To bring you up to speed if you’ve been at the cottage through July or if you are a guest today. The Traveler’s Gift is a novel written by Andy Andrews, the subtitle is 7 Decisions that determine personal success. As a young man traveling a self destructive path Andrews’ life was turned around after he began reading biographies of people he considered successful. His goal in his words was to answer the question “Is life just a lottery ticket, or are there choices one can make to direct his future?” After reading over 200 biographies Andrews determined there were seven characteristics that these “successful” people had in common. “What will happen,” he mused, “if I study these seven common denominators and harness them in my own life?”
Those seven characteristics became the central focus for The Traveler’s Gift. The lead character of the book, David Ponder through a series of unexplained circumstances has the opportunity to meet with seven historic figures who each give him one piece of advice. These pieces of advice or “Decisions” are meant to enhance Ponder’s life and make him a better person.
And so upon meeting President Harry Truman he is told to embrace the “Responsible Decision” that is to understand that he is where he is in life because of choices he has made. That applies to each one of us; at verious points in our life we chose how we would respond to our educational opportunities, what we would do for a living, who we would marry and how we would spend our money. Each of us is where we are in life today because of decisions we have made throughout our lives, we can not longer blame our family, our friends or our circumstances. And it is only when we accept responsibility for our past that we can take control of our future.
Secondly we are introduced to King Solomon in the “Guided Decision” and Solomon challenges Ponder to choice wisdom. So we looked at how when offered the desires of his heart Solmon chose wisdom and how we can gain wisdom in our lives. Through reading books, through the advice of others who are wiser than we are and by seeking God’s direction through prayer and reading his word.
From there Ponder travels ahead in time to meet Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, a 34 year old school teacher from Bangor Maine and a hero of the American Civil War. His heroic actions at the Battle of Gettysburg turned the tide for the Union troops and may very well have been the pivotal point in the War between the States, changing not only the history of the US but of the world. And in the “Active Decision” Chamberlain tells us to choose action. And we looked into Matthew’s Gospel to the story of Peter walking on the water, and how because he was willing to take a chance, to take a risk and to take action he alone among all the disciples experienced the impossible.
From the Battlefield of Pennsylvania Ponder finds himself in the Atlantic Ocean on the deck of the Santa Maria where he receives direction from Christopher Columbus. Columbus who had faced 19 years of disappointment in trying to find a sponsor to finance an expedition to prove his theory that the world was round and not flat encourages our hero to adopt the “Certain Decision” to remain committed to his dreams and visions even in the face of overwhelming disappointment.
That week I spoke on Joshua and Caleb standing at the very edge of the Promised Land and facing the disappointment of the People of Israel not wanting to claim the land that God had promised them. And we looked at what we can learn from our disappointments and how to face them.
Last week I looked at the “Joyful Decision” and it came from Anne Frank a 14 year old Jewish refugee, hiding from the Gestapo in Nazi Occupied Holland. Anne challenges David Ponder to face life with a smile. And so we looked at what it would take to choose to be happy. That we needed to choose to not complain, that we needed to choose to be grateful and we needed to choose to smile.
From Amsterdam in October of 1943 Ponder is transported backwards almost exactly 80 years to stand once again on the battlefield of Gettysburg. But this time the guns were stilled and our hero finds himself in a tent speaking to President Abraham Lincoln just moments before the President was to dedicate the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Remember this was the site of the Battle of Gettysburg were just 4 ½ months before close to 35,000 troops were either killed or wounded when the Union troops held off the advance of the Southern Army. It’s interesting that years afterwards George Pickett who was a Confederate General involved in the Battle was asked, why his charge at Gettysburg failed, he replied: “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”
But back to the story, in the course of their conversation Ponder asks Lincoln what he would do when the war was over, what his first priority would be? To which the president responds “The first morning after all hostilities cease, I will greet the day with a forgiving spirit.”
When David questions him on that Lincoln tells him “It’s a very simple concept actually, and it is the single most important action I take on a regular basis. Forgiveness allows me to be an effective husband, father, friend, and leader of this country.”
And so today we look at the “Compassionate Decision”
So where are we? Right with the scripture that was read earlier.
You know the story. Jesus has been teaching and out of nowhere Peter pipes up and asks: Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
What makes me think that as Jesus had been teaching Peter had been stewing. Thinking about something someone had said about him or did to him, perhaps more than once. Maybe five time or six times and he was getting tired of turning the other cheek. And to be truthful if this was more than a hypothetical situation and Peter had already forgiven the person multiple times he was a better person than most of us. But he wasn’t ready for Jesus’ answer Matthew 18:22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Seventy times seven! That’s crazy, why that: is naught, naught, carry the four, three is seven, seven is four and wow, that’s almost 500 times. How can you forgive someone 490 times for doing you wrong?
Jesus must have seen the look of unbelief on Peter’s face because he says: Matthew 18:23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.
And then he tells this story to illustrate the forgiveness that is so essential to belonging to God’s Kingdom. He tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who was doing up his accounts and discovered that one fellow owed him millions of dollars. Actually the original text says ten thousand talents. Not a figure drawn out of the air, instead it represented the largest amount of money in Greek thinking. The talent was the largest denomination of currency, much like our one hundred dollar bill, and ten thousand was the largest number in Greek figuring, anything above that figure was merely abstract.
And so this one man owed the largest amount possible that Christ’s audience could conceive. When the man couldn’t pay his debt, the King decreed that the debtor and his family should be sold into slavery to at least get back a partial return on his debt. The debtor began to beg his master to relent and the master did. He granted the man a pardon, cancelled his debt and set him free.
As you can well imagine the man was over the moon. That is where our scripture ended this morning and where the story should have ended but it didn’t. As the man was walking home he ran across a man who owed him a few thousand dollars, again the original says one hundred denarii, which means nothing to us but was trifling sum in comparison to what he had been forgiven.
He seemed to have forgotten the forgiveness shown him and immediately demands payment and when the man can’t pay he has him thrown into prison. When the king heard about this he was not visible impressed, called the man back and said Matthew 18:32-33 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’
And then the rich man had the servant thrown into prison where he was tortured until he could pay, which was obviously never. Jesus sums up the story by saying, Matthew 18:35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
It is impossible to translate the amount of money that was owed by the two men and Jesus never meant for it to be a precise amount it was the difference that was important, one was too large to be imagined the other was too small to be bothered with. The smaller debt was approximately 1/600,000th the size of the larger debt.
The lesson being that no matter what it is that you have to forgive it doesn’t compare with what God forgave you for. There is a line in the Lord’s Prayer which tells us the urgency with which we need to forgive. Matthew 6:12 Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. You understand what you are praying when you say that, right?
So instead of looking at what forgiveness is this morning I want to take a few minutes looking at what forgiveness isn’t, because when I talk to people about forgiveness, and you’d be surprised how often that subject comes up in my office, these are usually the objections I hear. They are not adverse to forgiveness but they often have reasons why they can’t or actually won’t forgive.
Forgiveness is not a Matter of Being Asked. Often people will say “But they haven’t asked for my forgiveness.” Somehow we have come to the mistaken conclusion that forgiveness is something we bestow upon someone like the Queen bestows a Knighthood. That we wait until they come grovelling asking for forgiveness. But nowhere in the bible does it say that people have to ask us to forgive them before we do. Not there.
Forgiveness is not a reward to be earned it is a gift to be given.
Understand by forgiving someone you aren’t doing it for their benefit you are doing it for your own benefit. What happens when we don’t forgive someone? We are consumed with anger and bitterness. We spend time plotting to get back at that person, replaying the incident over and over again in our minds and they are going blissfully along with life.
Author Isabelle Holland reminds us “As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a rent-free space in your mind.”
You understand don’t you that 90 % of those who you need to forgive either don’t know they need to be forgiven or don’t care? And that goes back to the fact that 73% of statistics are made up. You cannot allow your emotions to be held hostage by others. Just let it go.
Forgiveness is not a Matter of Feeling Sometimes when I talk to people they imply that they have not yet come to a place emotionally where they are ready to forgive. “I’m just not ready yet.” You need to understand that forgiveness is an action not an emotion. It is something we do not something we feel and like every other action or activity we will choose to do it or not.
Her name was 66730, or at least that was the name she went by. Her father had died in a German Concentration camp as did her sister. Her freedom, her dignity, her humanity had been stripped away by those who imprisoned her and yet she survived. And not only did she survive she went on to minister to some of the very people who had been responsible for what had happened to her. You probably know her as Corrie Ten Boom and she said “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” And I would suspect that Corrie Ten Boom had a lot more to forgive than any one of us.
This really goes back to every element in “The Traveler’s Gift” and that is that this is a choice and you will either choose to do it or you won’t.
Forgiveness is not a Matter of Trust Often I will hear people say “How can I forgive them when I can’t trust them?” Two different issues. Forgiveness is about the past, trust is about the future. Sometimes we hear people say “you haven’t forgiven if you haven’t forgotten.” That isn’t true.
What happens when you cut yourself? You often scar. Even after the cut is healed over and no longer hurts there is still a reminder. I was rooming with a couple of other pastors years ago and they started comparing scars. One had been in a horrific car accident while the other had numerous surgeries for cancer when he was a pre-teen. Let me tell you the scars were impressive. Then they looked at me. So I held up my hand and said “Once when I was changing the oil on my VW convertible the wrench slipped and I got a really nasty cut on my hand.”
When we have been hurt by someone, emotionally, physically, spiritually it hurts and will often leave a scar. With forgiveness the hurt will go away but often times the scar will remain. If someone takes advantage of me in a business deal, I can forgive them but I would be silly if I allowed them to do it again. Goes back to “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”
And if they broke the law they need to be accountable to the law even if you forgive them, you can forgive them for what they did to you but it is not in your power to absolve them of criminal behaviour.
And often it is the person who did the hurting who equates forgiveness with forgetfulness. The person who breaks their wedding vows is hurt because their spouse doesn’t trust them. Duh. The abusive parent can’t understand why their relationship with their kid can’t be the same as other parents and kids have, even after they’ve been forgiven. Because the scars are still there.
Now understand that the scars fade and we are reminded of the hurt less and less. Time may not heal all wounds but it heals a lot of them. But understand this, you can’t earn forgiveness, it is a gift, but you have to earn trust. Forgiveness is about you, trust is about them.
It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said “What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on I can longer believe you.”
Forgiveness is not an Option. If you are a Christ Follower you cannot simply choose to not forgive someone. Not an option, not at all. Two scriptures to close this message and they do not need explaining or commentary.
The first one comes at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:14-15 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
And the second was part of the story we read earlier Matthew 18:34-35 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”