It’s almost a dirty word. One that nobody wants to use, and certainly not a word that anybody wants to be identified with.
In today’s culture of shame, you can probably think of any number of words that fall in that category, and that society has taken to referring to by their first letter, as if that makes it any better.
I tried to find a letter word that didn’t have an offensive meaning and it was really hard, the best I could come up with was: The Z-word. Which of course is . . . Zombie.
The word that I’m talking about today isn’t any of the words you might be thinking about. We can’t even refer to it by its first letter, because that’s already been taken. Although is some ways they are similar.
The word I’m talking about, you have probably figured out already from the graphics etc. is the word surrender. And nobody likes to talk about surrendering.
There are any number of historic speeches that people can quotes either verbatim or parts of, speeches like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream.”
Another one of those speeches was given by Winston Churchill on June 4, 1940 in the British House of Commons in the midst of World War Two.
And that words that people remember are: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender . . .”
An interesting side note is that there was no audio recording of the original speech. It was given to the house of commons and portions of it were read on the BBC. Churchill eventually produced an audio recording of it in 1949. However, many people, after the war, claimed they heard Churchill speak the words on the radio, but all they heard was a BBC news report quoting his words. Human memory is a marvellous thing.
The scripture that was read this morning includes one of my favourite verses, and it was a verse that I clung to during the first 10 years that Cornerstone was in existence, and 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.
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.
There are a couple of thoughts there, we ought not to get tired of doing what is good and we will reap a harvest of blessing.
But the doing what is good apparently isn’t a guarantee that we will reap a harvest of blessing. And the harvest of blessing isn’t necessarily a direct consequence of the doing what is good.
There is a condition that we find at the end of the statement that says, “If we don’t give up”. If we do give up, who knows what will happen.
And there are a plethora of quotes and pithy sayings out there about giving up, “Don’t stop when you are tired, stop when you are done.”
“Do you remember the guy who gave up? Neither does anyone else.”
“97% of people who quit too soon are employed by the 3% who didn’t give up.”
And it was Harriet Beecher Stowe who said, “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
Over the next seven weeks we are going to be looking at things we need to surrender as Christians. Our will, our speech, our anger and our appetites. But this morning I want to focus on some things that we shouldn’t surrender, things that we need to hold dear and defend.
Have you ever had a line from a song that seems to occupy a permanent place in your mind? A line that you often go back to or seems to pop up just when you seem to need it the most. Maybe it’s a reminder of “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me” or perhaps “I’ve got a brand-new pair of roller-skates, you’ve got a brand-new key.”
One of those song lines that seems to have a permanent place in my head is from the Cooper Brothers, a Canadian band from the seventies. The song was from the year I graduated from High School in 1978, maybe that’s why it stuck. The line is this: ”Dreams never die, just the dreamer.”
I would suggest that you should Never Surrender Your dreams
The Apostle Paul had a dream of eventually being able to preach in the city of Rome, which was the epicentre of the known world. When he wrote to the church in Rome he penned these words: Romans 1:15 So I am eager to come to you in Rome, too, to preach the Good News.
Paul felt compelled to go to Rome, not sure what it was that drew him to that city but it was a dream for him.
And all kinds of obstacles were in his way, distance, expense, not to mention the persecution that was happening to Christians from the power of the Roman Empire and from the Jewish religious establishment.
And in the book of Acts we read Acts 19:21 Afterward Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem. “And after that,” he said, “I must go on to Rome!”
And then when he finally starts on his way there are storms, and ship wrecks, snake bites and people wanting to kill him. Plenty of reasons for Paul to give up on his dream. And not just reasons, but good reasons.
It was John Wooden who wrote, “Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.”
And it became apparent that Paul wasn’t going to give up on his dreams. Maybe he had read the words of Roy Williams an Advertising guru from Texas who wrote, “Every dream of the future is a seed. But until your dream falls into the ground and dies, it cannot burst from the ground and deliver the harvest you seek.
Is your commitment strong enough to survive the death of your dream? Will you be found still hanging on when hope has fled, the room is dark, and everyone believes you a fool?”
I don’t know what your dream is, and I don’t really need to know, it’s your dream. But I do know that a life without dreams isn’t much of a life. That it is dreams that add colour to your life and purpose to your life.
But sometimes it seems like the dreams are futile, that they will only ever be dreams. There will be times that it appears like the dream has died. But I would challenge you to not give up on your dreams. To hold firm to your dreams.
My dream when we returned from Australia was to start a vibrant thriving church, and I think that dream is coming to fruition, although the dream isn’t finished.
Now as I dream of what could be, I see Cornerstone impacting lives in the village of Kenenday in Sierra Leone, of reaching people with the gospel in Sackville and Beaver Bank, of having our people travel to places like the Bahamas to provide life giving water after natural disasters. The dream continues to grow and thrive.
But there was awhile that people scoffed at the dream, when we were having services at the LeBrun Centre in Bedford and there were thirty-five or forty people on Sunday morning, and I was working two other jobs to keep the doors open.
Our District Superintendent at the time, HC Wilson, once commented to the district board of administration, “I don’t know if I need to rescue Denn from Bedford or Bedford from Denn.”
It seemed like the dream was dead. But God kept it alive in my heart, and there were times that the song rattled around in my mind, “The dream never dies, just the dreamer.” And as long as I had breath and a pulse I was convinced of the validity of that dream.
And lives have been touched, people have been introduced to Jesus, wells have been drilled in villages across west Africa and more recently thousands of gallons of fresh water have been produced for people in Marsh Harbour Bahamas because of a dream God gave me twenty five years ago.
Never. . . Surrender . . . Your Dreams.
Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Never Surrender Your Convictions
2000 years ago believers lived in a society that was diametrically opposed to what Christ and the church taught.
It was a society consumed with sexual excesses and where violence was the norm. Politicians were out of touch with the everyday people and Christianity represented a very small minority of the population.
And there were conflicts everywhere they looked. Everyday things, like the meat they bought in the market. Often times the most affordable meat had been sacrificed to gods in the plethora of temples in Rome. Could or should a Christian eat meat that had been offered to a false god?
Historians tell us that prostitution was legal, public and widespread. One source recorded this,
“Towards the end of the empire, the concept of remaining faithful to one’s spouse became very much associated with the Christians who were growing in number but not always well seen by their fellow Romans and were referred to as the lot who were stupid enough to share everything except their wives.”
The Roman Historian Cicero stated: “The supreme law is the wellbeing of the people.” And that sounds good, but the reality was the people who Cicero was talking about were the ruling class, the 1%. The rest of society were simply there to provide for that group.
If a child was born with a disability in many cases it would be killed or simply left to die.
And most of the believers in Rome had come out of that background. There was no Christian heritage, no grandparents praying for their grand kids.
And then there were those in the church who promoted the theology that if all sin could be covered by God’s grace and if grace was good then the more you sinned the more grace was given. So sinful behaviour was seen by some as a public service.
And Paul is writing them telling them to not let the world or false teaching be their model. The NLT translation says don’t copy the world, other translation tell us to not be conformed to the world. The word that Paul used meant to copy a fashion. And we know that fashion changes. Instead the Roman believers were told that that there was something greater than the changing tides of society. There was a transformation that God offers his children.
Listen again to Paul’s words, Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Those words are as valid and relevant today as they were 2000 years ago. Christians are a small minority in a world that thinks differently than we do, that acts differently than we do, that values different things than we do and celebrates different things then we do.
And the temptation is there to embrace the values of the world, to copy how they world thinks and what the world believes.
But God’s word is still urging you to allow God to transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
And just as the morals and convictions of the majority were diametrically opposed to Christianity and the church 2000 years ago, we stand in a world that is constantly seeking to squeeze us into their mold. They demand that we think the way they think, tolerate the things they tolerate, believe the things they believe and celebrate the things they celebrate
And when we don’t, think like they think, tolerate what they tolerate, believe what they believe or celebrate what they celebrate then they call us hateful and intolerant. But we mustn’t surrender our convictions.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who wrote, “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.”
Jesus told his disciples, that they were to be different and we weren’t to hide that difference, Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
And light by definition is different than the darkness. We are not supposed to emulate or imitate the darkness we are supposed to stand in contrast to the darkness. Regardless of how popular darkness might be.
And it only takes the light from one candle to reveal how dark the darkness is. And those who embrace the darkness don’t appreciate being shown how dark it is.
But it’s not just the world that urges us to compromise, sometimes that pressure comes from within. In the book of Revelation there are seven letters addressed to seven churches, and to the church of Pergamum these were Christ’s words: Revelation 2:14 “But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.”
Sometimes the pressure comes from other churches or other believers to surrender our convictions, to become more relevant to society. But really is that what we are supposed to be, more like the darkness?
And I know that you know this, but I’m reminded of Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:12 Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.
Never . . . Surrender . . . Your Convictions
When Jesus was describing what the future held for those who followed him, he warned his followers in Matthew 10:22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.
Which leads us to the next point,
Never surrender Your Relationship with Christ
We all know someone who had a vibrant relationship with Jesus who has walked away from that relationship. And regardless of what our theology might be, we all agree that is a tragedy.
Over and over again in the New Testament we are told to hold firm to our faith. Jesus tells us in Luke 9:62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
And Peter warns us in 2 Peter 2:20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before.
I’ve been in the pastoral ministry for a long time and there are things that grieve me, that make me sad. When I lose a Christian friend through death, I grieve their loss in my life. But I truly believe that they are with their God and without pain and suffering. My theology allows me to rejoice in the grief.
Having people who have never experienced God’s grace, reject it, that grieves me. But the reality is that has always happened.
Jesus was rejected by people who met him personally, there should be no surprise when people today choose to not to accept the grace and forgiveness that is offered to them.
And when people choose to leave Cornerstone. I don’t think that the average person in the pew understands how a pastor feels when someone leaves the church, and please if that ever happens with you, please resist the urge to tell me to not take it personally.
Over twenty years ago when we had a number of people move on from Cornerstone, another pastor told me that I shouldn’t feel unique and reminded me of the story told in John 6:66-67 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
But that is life, and we get over it, in most of those cases I know that those folks are going to find another church where their needs can be met, and where they will be fed better.
But my heart breaks when I see people walk away from Jesus. When I see someone, who had a vibrant passionate relationship with Jesus turn and walk away from God.
Often times to satisfy some temporary pleasure. I am reminded of Thomas Watson’s words “What a fool who, for a drop of pleasure, would drink in a sea of wrath.”
And there would be those who say that if someone could walk away from Christ it was because they had never really been a Christian. Really?
Let’s go back to the words of Peter, 2 Peter 2:20-22 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”
I wonder how Peter really felt?
Never . . . Surrender . . . Your Relationship With Christ
I would say this today, if you have surrendered your dreams or your convictions or your relationship with Christ that it’s not too late to get those things back.
What it requires though is a decision and an action.
None of those things are unforgivable. And the solution is within your reach.
You need to choose to pick your dreams up from the dust. You need to choose to stand on your convictions and you need to choose to return to Christ, to confess your sins and ask his forgiveness.