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BEING A LIVING TESTIMONY OF THE FACT THAT CHRIST DIED FOR ME
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
12 MARCH 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
Preparation: (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
9. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you,
and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,
10. and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.
As we have been learning from God’s Word over the past several weeks, we are to
be cautious of those we follow, so that they would not lead us astray by their
words or lives.
The primary way that we can discern the character of these self-serving individuals is to read our Bibles daily, consistently and in such a manner that we will read through the entire Bible at least once a year, and to study His Word.
By inserting a mirror in the path of our look at the character of others, we also took a look at ourselves to see if we were doing what was right before the Lord, so that each one of us might repent of anything in our life that wasn't as it should be.
And then last week we talked about the importance of being willing to receive God's forgiveness, and the promises and assurances that come along with it.
So, in the logical sequence of events in our walk toward the cross of Christ, we are again today going to talk about ourselves and in particular, "Am I being a living testimony that Christ died for me?"
Now turn with me back to our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Deuteronomy 29:10-18.
Israel is nearing the time when they will be crossing over the Jordan into Canaan, the promised land.
They had been standing before Moses, listening to a recap of the many things that had happened to them on their journey from Egypt.
This was to have been a journey that was to lead them away from sin, so that they would follow and love the Lord their God with all of their heart and with all of their soul and with all of their might.
But Israel had not been doing that fully; thus Moses is also telling them of the blessings they will have if they follow the Lord their God and the curses that will befall them if they do not follow Him.
So...as we have done before, in order that we truly understand what God is telling them and us, let us go back these 3,500 years and stand there with the Israelites.
10. "You stand today, all of you, before the Lord your God: your chiefs, your
tribes, your elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel,
11. your little ones, your wives, and the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water,
Everyone is standing before the Lord; there is no one excluded, so that none of us would have an excuse.
12. that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God, and into His
oath which the Lord your God is making with you today,
13. in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God doesn't want us to come to Him to satisfy some whim of His or to feed His
ego. God is above all of that.
Those kinds of thoughts are worldly in nature and likewise sinful. God is holy and righteous, and there is no sin in Him.
For our own good, God wants us to do these things and to come to Him with a whole heart so that He can establish us as His own people.
But most of Israel and most of the Christian church do not look like God's people. We look and act like the rest of the world in much that we do and say.
Let's listen in a little further on what is being said and why God wants to make this covenant with us.
14. “Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath,
15. but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today
Just because we don't come to church, and hear the word and receive the fellowship of the body, does not free us from the responsibility of what God's word is telling us.
16. (for you know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the
midst of the nations through which you passed.
17. "Moreover, you have seen their abominations and their idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which they had with them);
18. lest there shall be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there shall be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood.
If we have heard the truth, and that truth has set us free from the land of sin
in which we formerly lived, then we should continue to walk away from sin.
We should not desire to return to our former life.
Just think about all of the political corruption, warring madness, injustice, and indifference to the suffering and death of millions of our fellow human beings and billions of animals every year, which are part of this fallen world.
We need to walk away from these things and never return to them.
We should seek the perfection and heavenly will of God.
Our lifestyle, which reflects the innermost recesses of our heart, should so shine before others that they would desire to have what we have.
But if our heart's intent is to return to the land of sin and the corruption of the earth, then we will appear as a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood, both of which will bring death instead of life.
So, in living the life that God set before us, we are to bring others into the body so that all might be healed from their former lives.
This is particularly true with families.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a radio program, and they were talking about Christian marriages.
The number of broken homes among church members and non-church families is almost the same at fifty percent.
But the number of divorces among families that go to church together reduces to one in about five.
And even more dramatically, those families that read and study God's Word together only have a divorce rate of one in forty.
God wants us to have the good life and to be happy.
Proverbs 21:19 tells us:
19. It is better to live in a desert land,
Than with a contentious and vexing woman.
And the reverse is also true.
But what is really better is to live together in love, and particularly the love of the Lord, so that we would look forward to being together after the work day, or in the evening and the morning, and to do all those things that we dreamed we wanted our families to do together, and to experience the joy of that fulfillment.
It's all part of being a living testimony.
It's all part of accepting the covenant that God desires to make with us.
Our lifestyle can give us all the joy, and even more than we ever desired, or it can destroy all the good things for us and those around us.
In our New Testament lesson for this morning, Paul tells us how to live so that we have the abundance of God's gifts for us.
Let's turn in our Bibles to Ephesians 5:1-17, and learn how to improve what we have or how to restore what was damaged or even to rebuild on what was lost.
God really wants us to have the good life, but we have to want it too.
1. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
2. and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
The fragrant aroma that God smells is not the death and suffering of Jesus
Christ on the cross, nor is it the death of an animal that is offered up in
It is the smell of burned up sin that is soothing to the Lord, and that fragrance only comes from our true repentance.
And in so removing our sin from us, we become "imitators of God, as beloved children."
The removing of sin from our lives, after we have done something wrong, is not enough.
3. But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you,
as is proper among saints;
4. and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Greed or covetousness or participating in immoral acts and gathering where there
is gossip, swearing or the telling of dirty jokes, so that we may be accepted as
one of the group, is a sign that we are not thankful.
If we are not thankful for what we have, then God may withhold other things from us.
But if we are truly thankful for all that we have, then God seems to pour out His blessings abundantly upon us.
Instead of grumbling over what we don't have, be a living testimony of Christ by doing what He told us to do in Matthew 6:33.
33. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."
God sees the true intent of our hearts, and He blesses according to what He sees.
As we're thinking about this, we need to remember that in God's kingdom there is no pain or mourning or death.
So if the products of suffering and death are still part of our body, soul,
and spirit, what do you think that God is going to see?
A pure heart, though, does not just seek after material things, but is primarily set upon serving God in any way that He desires, even if it be unto death.
5. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or
covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ
6. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
This is what we spent so much time talking about in our study of Balaam.
Losers want company, and they will do anything they can to pull down others with them.
But in Jesus Christ there are no losers; there are only winners.
And all who are living testimonies that Christ died for them are winners.
Walk away from those people and situations that pull you down.
7. Therefore do not be partakers with them;
8. for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light
9. (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
10. trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
If we are still darkness, or just seeking the darkness, we can not also be children of light, for we are not truly "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."
11. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even
12. for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.
Do you hear what this is telling us?
Not only are we not to participate in these things that separate us from God and His blessings;
Not only are we to stop whispering tantalizing tidbits in each other’s ears, in order to pull others down to our own level;
But we are to expose these things on the spot.
Yes, on the spot!
And if necessary, to turn around and walk away from them and what they are doing as a testimony that Christ died for us, to free us from such things that only bring destruction.
No one can ever say that these sinful things ever improved their family life or made them a better person, for they don't.
Instead, they take us away from our families.
They consume our money.
They lead us into relationships that can destroy our families.
They make our families lonely, and even bring them down to that depraved level, so that they begin to seek similar things for themselves.
Living in and seeking darkness only destroys.
13. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
Yes, if we make a stand for Jesus Christ we will most assuredly become visible
and be as a light shining into the darkness.
I can testify to the truthfulness of this fact, for the more I made my stand for Jesus Christ and the more visible I became, the more I saw people seeking the light, and the more of God's blessings I experienced; and those blessings overflowed upon my family.
We have never been more happy in our lives.
14. For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you."
It's all true!
God's Word never lies!
God's Word is always the truth, and all that He says will come true.
But we must awaken!
15. Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise,
16. making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
17. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.