Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Living a True Story

October 1, 2017 I preached a sermon that concluded my series on Sharing Your Faith Story. The final sermon was Living a True Story. It is about the final step in sharing with another person the reason for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. The point was that if we are saying that Jesus Christ is lord of our life and all things are centered in him, and we have a  hope that gets us beyond the difficulties of life, then our living must bear that out. How we live, our behavior, matters in telling and sharing our faith story.

Due to emotional issues that came to a head, the sermon and the response to the sermon got beyond my control. There were some issues that developed. There were some emotional burdens that I took upon myself that weren't necessarily mine to bear. And I wrecked my soul.

I am working to be better now.

But I still stand by the sermon. I stand by its word as prophetic and Holy Spirit inspired. It is not easy to hear. It is easier to read. So I am presenting both media formats. Below is the transcript (from YouTube) of the sermon. Below that is the video.

If you are a solid Trump supporter, you will not find this sermon edifying. If you support him and believe in his character differently that I do, then please, do not consume this sermon. There are other messages from others messengers that you will by edified by. This is my sermon. This is what the Holy Spirit inspired within me to proclaim. If you cannot bear to hear that, then I humbly ask that you not respond in hostility.

So far I've talked about four keys to unlocking our faith story; of being able to share it. The first one was to sanctify Christ as the Lord of our life - to put Christ at the center of who we are and everything that we are and move everything else around Christ so that everything in our life kind of flows out from Christ. So that was the first one putting Christ at the center.
Second we need to prepare our story by looking back over our life and asking ourselves how and why we came to believe what we believe and to be able to put that into a small short story that we can tell people.

Third we need to learn to listen to people and hear when they're asking for hope. In particular asking for why we have hope so that we can then share that story with them in that moment when they need to hear why we think that there is something that is above and beyond the life that we have
here on earth.

And then two weeks ago I talked about communicating our faith story. That we need to do that in a caring way. That we need to do that as we tell that story. It needs to represent what we know about God. It needs to represent the goodness and the graciousness of God that has come into our life.

Today I touch on the final key that kind of gets our story into that place where we can share it and the final key is really, actually it goes back and it relates to the beginning of sharing our face story. It goes back and it connects to the very beginning of this process. The last key to our faith story is this we have to live a true story. We have to live a true story.

Our faith is not what we think. Our faith is not what we feel. Our faith is what we live. It is what comes out of our thinking and our feeling. Faith is how we conduct ourselves when we're by ourselves or when we're with others. Faith is how our life is shaped so that when we go forward from that moment of moving into faith it is it is the pattern of behaviors that we live out. When you look through the entire New Testament you realize that faith is not the intangibles of thought or feeling. Faith is the tangibles of how we behave in the world. Faith is that which matters so much to us that we are willing to pattern our lives around it. Our lives flow out of faith.

Peter talks about this and that's kind of where, you know, I've been grounding this sermon series. In this first letter of Peter, and I've been using first Peter 3 13 through 17, where Peter says,
now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good but even if you should suffer for righteousness sake you will be blessed have no fear of them nor be troubled but in your hearts sanctify Christ as the Lord always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you yet do it with gentleness and respect having a good conscience so that when you are slandered those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame for it is better to suffer for doing good if that should be God's will than for doing evil
And Peter right there at the end of that talks about our behavior. He talks about us and what we're doing in the world. And I want to jump back to the second chapter 9 through 17 where he addresses this just a little bit more:
you are a chosen race a royal priesthood a holy nation a people for God's own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light once you are not a people but now you are God's people once you had not received mercy now you have received mercy beloved I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable so that when they speak against you as evildoers they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation be subject for the lord's sake to every human institution whether it be the emperor as supreme or to governor's as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good for this is the will of God that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people live as people who are free not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil but living as servants of God honor everyone love the Brotherhood fear God honor the Emperor

Will you join me in a spirit of prayer:
Almighty God as we have been brought forth out of darkness and into the wonderful light that is your grace we give you things we thank you that our lives have been transformed from the inside but that inside transformation works itself out to the outside that we may hold special and dear the connection and relationship and love that we have for you but more importantly than that that that love works itself out in and through and around our lives so that others may see how we are in love with you so let our lives be be done in such a way that our faith is visible that those who see us and those who know us will see our deeds as a glory to you in this message me my words be yours that I would speak wisdom and truth according to your will in your world may our lives be lived in such a way that it is an honor to you and a glory to your name Almighty God Father Son and Holy Spirit

For whatever reason, we don't know the specifics of it but for whatever reason, the community around which the church resides that Peter is addressing the community had turned against the Christians. They had begun it, basically a smear campaign. They had begun to spread around the community the word that these Christians were evil; that these people in this community were truly a horrible people. And he says in multiple places throughout First Peter, “you've been slandered”. I mean he comes right out and he says, “look we know who you are. We know your nature, your goodness. We know the quality of you are, so we know that the things that they are saying are not true.” But he looks at what the situation in is he says, “you know if you're going to respond to this; if you're going to respond to the things that they’re saying, there's really only one really potential response. That you have there's only one way that you can respond to the things that people are saying.” And he says throughout the letter the only response to the slander that you are experiencing is authentic Christian behavior. That is the only response to what is being said about you.

Peter knows the validity of what these Christians believe. He knows how they think. Remember Peter was probably in somehow related to this community and they're coming to believe. He was the first preacher on Pentecost. He was the one that stood up and said to those gathered people in Jerusalem this is the Christ, this is the one that we believe in, He knows what they're thinking about Jesus is. He knows how they feel about Christ and what Christ accomplished. He knows how valid their beliefs are.

But he says the only way to respond to what is being said is not with what you say. The only way to respond is in what you do. The answer to the problems that they are experiencing is not communicated by them sparing out the things that they believe. It is communicated by how they behave among the ones that Peter calls the Gentiles.

When we look at first Peter 3 14 through 18 there's a pattern that shapes out there and that's what I've been going through. You know he says first of all you need to sanctify Christ as Lord of your life then you need to be ready with a story to share. Third you need to be ready because people are going to ask you for the hope that is within you. And fourth whenever you communicate that you need to communicate it with caring and concern and being able to to express that that grace that you've received. And finally he says when they slander you, you will be able to prove them wrong.

Grace upon these people because Peter says look you're going to have to conduct yourself the way Christ wants you to be conducted and then people are going to talk bad about you. You need to live an authentic Christian life and then have people talk bad about you because when they talk bad about you that's when you're gonna have the opportunity to explain about the hope you have. When they talk bad about you that's when the openings are going to happen. When they start to slander you and they call you evil and they talk about all of the horribleness that is about Christianity, that's when the door is open to answer a question. This is the hope that I have.

Stop and think about that for just a minute. Has anyone ever told you that your perfect opportunity to witness is when people are bad-mouthing you? Has anyone ever said to you that the time to share your faith is when people are calling you evil? When they're saying you're a horrible rotten person? What do we instinctively think? “Well if they're gonna call me a horrible rotten person, I'm just gonna ignore ‘em. I'm gonna turn the other cheek and I'm gonna go.”

But Peters saying when they slander when they're calling out on you, your authentic Christian behavior is what unlocks the door to be able to tell them about your hope. This is why I said the fifth key is the it goes back to the first. When they start slandering us that's when we work harder to do good. When they talk bad about us that is when we work harder to show them that our behavior is something different. This entire lesson of us sharing our faith story begins with people seeing our behavior. It begins the ability to be able to tell somebody, “this is why my life is the way it is.” It doesn't begin with us being able to bring them into the church and bring them down to the altar and have them kneeling and then we talk to them. That's not where it happens. It happens when they start talking about us and they're saying well you know what? Those Christians don't do any good. And then we have the opportunity to say, “well let me show you some of the good that I can do.” And then they're gonna say “why on earth would you do that.” ... “Here's the hope that I have.” You see how it fits together.

It begins with us doing good, to prove what it is that we believe is true. It is the first chapter of us telling our faith story. Our doing good is the beginning of being able to say this is why our lives are different. Throughout the entire letter of 1st Peter, he sprinkles throughout the writings of these Christians how important their behavior is and what quality our behavior has in our being able to communicate our message. First of all in 1:15 he says you are holy you are to be holy in all of your behavior because God has made you holy. In 1:17 he says God impartially judges everyone according to each one's work so we are to behave we are to conduct ourselves in fear of that judging. In 1:22 Peter says you are to be unhypocritical and fervent in your love for one another. In 2:1 he says we are to put aside all malice deceit hypocrisy envy and slander. In 2:12 he says we're to keep our conduct excellent among the Gentiles so that they may see our conduct and they might glorify God because he follows that up into 15 by saying when we do right we shut up the few foolish people. In 2:17 we are to honor all people and love the Brotherhood. In 3:1 we’re reminded that by our behavior, especially respectful behavior in 3 2, we can win others to Christ. In 3 6 we are to do what is right. In 3 8 we are to be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, humble spirited. In 3:13 we are to prove zealous for what is good. In 4:4 Peter says you can surprise the Gentiles by not participating in the excesses that they live in. In 4:8 he says we're to keep fervent in our love for one another. In 4 9 we're supposed to be hospitable. In 4:10 we are to employ the gifts that we have been given by serving as good stewards of God's grace.

Do you see the pattern here? It's only five chapters long but in every chapter he talks about the behavior that we are to conduct ourselves in. Peter sprinkles throughout this letter this message about how we are to behave. And we as Christians are to behave as right and holy in loving in all manner of conduct in the world so that when people look upon our lives, when they see us behaving in this manner, even if they are slandering us it can be proven false. Whenever we behave in these loving and good and right and holy ways we have proven that our life is not what we have moved from or what evildoers people say we are. It truly becomes a mark of us living to a different standard. We are supposed to live our life in such a way so that when people call us names, when they think a certain way about us, they begin to scratch their heads and they say well wait a minute I never knew Christians were like that. I never knew that's how they behaved. I've never met a Christian like you before.

Have you ever had somebody who's a non-believer say that to you; have you ever had a non-believer say I never knew Christians acting like that? It should make a stop and think what kind of Christians are they seeing what kind of Christians are people seeing in the world that they've never seen a Christian behave with holiness with goodness with love in the world

I wasn't gonna do this I probably still shouldn't do but I'm gonna get political.
I don't want the word to get in the way.
As of today we stop calling the President of the United States a Christian president. Christian's do not behave the way that man has been behaving. Nothing that he has done has been loving. Nothing that he has done has been good. Nothing he has done has been holy. We stop associating with him today.

Unless he repents for all that he has done, we cannot call him Christian.
Can we can we honestly say that he has behaved in the manner of Christ to people in the world?
Can we honestly say that he is behaved in the manner of Christ for people in his own nation?
Can we honestly say that he is behaved in the manner of Christ for people in his own household?

We stop associating with him as Christians. We associate with him as our president. We have to. And we honor him as such. But brothers and sisters I'm being political because Peter brings it up. We are to honor our Emperor but we do not have to associate with a man who drags down the name and the Church of Jesus Christ.

I am sorry but I have to say this because every time I see a Christian stand up and defend his behavior it reflects on me and he does not represent what I represent. I'm sorry he does not; he just does not. And if I offend you I am truly sorry. I am sorry that I am saying these things but we are not judged by our words we are judged by our behavior. Not just by the others in the church but by the culture around us and by God. We are judged.

If you don't think behavior matters go and read what people are saying about Christians when the president speaks. When they look at the church and they say he represents Christianity what does that say about us? What does that say about us? What does that say about our witness? What does that say about our ability to say I am a Christian? Because I am not judging him as an evildoer. I am judging him as a brother in Christ. And if I was his pastor I would tell him you need to repent. You need to stand up in front of this nation and you need to tell people that you are turning around and going the other way because you're not acting in love. And brothers and sisters I would tell any of you the same thing if you were behaving that way. Why? Because our behavior matters.

And if we stand up and we say well I'm a Christian and then we turn around and we behave in unloving ways how does that reflect on a God who is love? If we say we are a Christian and yet we stand up and we belittle and we demean and we tear apart the lives of people, how does that represent a God who heals and puts back together? If we stand up in our lives and we tear apart what is good and holy and loving how does that represent a God who is good and loving?

It is not about what we say. It is not about the songs that we sing. It is not about how good our talk is. It is not about how many times we say the name Jesus Christ. It is about how we treat people. That's Christianity. That is faith.

Faith is not what we think. It's not what we feel. It is how we live. Peter does not sprinkle throughout the letters of this or throughout the words of this letter the reminder that how we behave matters just because he thinks about works righteousness. He says if we are going to live in a culture that continues to slander us, if we're going to live in a culture that continues to demean our witness, if we're going to continue to live in a culture that wants to rip apart everything that we say that we stand for, then our behavior matters. And we must show them that we do good. We must show them something different so that by our behavior we can show those words to be foolish; so that by our behavior we can turn slander into truth; so that we can prove zealous for doing what is good and they will look at us and they will say maybe there's something to that because I've never seen a Christian behave like that.

If I've offended you today I'm truly sorry... I will not repent for what I said. I will not go back on what I said. We are called to a higher standard of behavior in our lives. We are called to a different standard of living in the world. And if we are going to call ourselves by the name of Jesus Christ, we're to live a true story.