Living In The Will Rather Than The Concessions of God
A Sermon Delivered At:
Lighthouse East Church
New Baltimore, New York
17 March 2002
By: Frank L. Hoffman
Genesis 3:6-7, 21
1 Samuel 15:22-23
Matthew 5:9, 48
Over the past several weeks, we have been talking about how we need to examine ourselves to see who we really are as Christians, and if we are indeed living our lives as Jesus Christ would have us live.
We also concluded that we cannot be a true follower of Christ if we only live a Christ-like life in private.
We must turn our belief into positive action to help make this world a better place, a more Christ-like place for everyone else.
This brings us to today's subject: Living In The Will Rather Than The Concessions of God.
Most of Christianity does not understand the ancient Hebrew understanding of God's grace including concessions that permit us to live outside the will of God in the hope we would come to our senses and return to Him whole-heartedly.
Let's begin this journey by looking at the last thing Jesus told His disciples, as recorded by Matthew in 28:18-20:
18. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20. teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
There are three major things that we are to do as part of the "great commission", as it has become known:
We are to go into the world,
We are to make disciples of others,
And, we are to do so in the will of God.
Why did I omit baptism?
Because baptism is only to come after the others have been accomplished.
Listen to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was killed by the Nazis, said about making disciples of ourselves and of others:
"If there is no element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh...we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ."
Becoming ascetic does not mean that we are to put on monks' habits and live in isolation in the desert. It means to separate ourselves from the ungodly ways of the world.
It also means that we are to live in the will of our heavenly father as an example to others.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48:
48. "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
He also taught us to pray:
10. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Was Jesus lying to us? Was He telling us to do something that was impossible?
Of course not! He was telling us how to live as disciples.
Henry Spira, who barely escaped Nazi Germany with his life when the Holocaust began, saw first hand the hypocrisy of Christians, because they weren't living in the will of God.
Spira said the fact that so many people stood by and allowed the evil to happen was what impelled him to be an activist - not to stand by and allow evil to be done.
This Jew was living a more Christian life than the vast majority of the Christians he encountered.
The Christians Spira encountered were even living outside the concessions of God.
In Matthew 19:3-8, Jesus does a wonderful job of explaining to us the difference between living in the will of God as opposed to living in the concessions:
3. Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?"
4. And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,
5. and said, "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'?
6. "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
7. They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?"
8. He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
The key is in verse 8; God permits us certain concessions because of the hardness of our heart, that eventually we might wake up and repent of our evil ways and return to His will.
Anything outside these concessions is totally evil.
Let's think about a few other examples.
When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and realized that they were naked (Genesis 3:6-7), and God clothed them (3:21), which was symbolically covering their sin, was that the will of God or a concession?
As a hint let's look at Romans 6:23:
23. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Was the clothing of Adam and Eve in the will of God, or a concession?
It was a concession, because God's will was that they were to be obedient.
Was the handing down of the Law the will of God or a concession?
Again, the will of God was that the people were to be obedient to His will, which they failed to do.
The handing down of the Law, was a concessionary guideline for the people to follow so that they wouldn't become totally evil.
Was the sacrificial system what God desired, or was it a concession?
It was a way of participating in God's grace of granting forgiveness to a truly repentant person; thus, it was a concession, because if the people were living in the will of God, there would be no need for a sacrifice.
Let's look at what Samuel told Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22-23:
22. Samuel said,
"Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
23. "For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He has also rejected you from being king."
It is very clear. God wants our obedience and not sacrifice.
Last week we looked at the first Chapter of Isaiah. Let's return there and look at verses 13-15, and as we read these verses, listen to God's anger:
13. "Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies --
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
14. "I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15. "So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
And in verse 21, God even calls these people murderers:
21. How the faithful city has become a harlot,
She who was full of justice!
Righteousness once lodged in her,
But now murderers.
The Lord calls the people who bring and perform these sacrifices murderers because they have killed innocent animals without truly being repentant and without wholly desiring to go forth and sin no more.
They have violated even the concession.
Now let's look at verses 16-20.
16. "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil,
17. Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.
Does this not sound like what Henry Spira was doing?
Is this not living in the will of God?
Of course it is?
It's so simple!
But most Christians keep seeking excuses to live in the concessions rather than in the will of God.
Let's look at God's grace being expressed in the proper manner (verses 18-20)
18. "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
19. "If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land;
20. "But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
In other words, if we act like the evil people of this world, God will allow us to fall into their hands.
On the other hand, if we whole-heartedly repent and obey the will of God, He will redeem us.
This brings us back to Jesus.
Let's look at John 3:16:
16. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Is this gracious act of God what He truly desired to do, or was it also a concession?
What purpose would Jesus' death have served if everyone was obedient to the word of God?
It would have served no purpose, for there would have been no need for His blood to redeem us.
What Father would want his only begotten Son to die for no purpose?
Jesus' atoning death is a concession to our sinful nature.
It is a concession with a hope and promise that people would come to truly believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, and wholly desire to sin no more, and go forth in the will of God, receiving God's gracious redemption.
To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is to reject the sinful nature of this world.
I also believe it is time to reject living in the concessions of God and return to wholly living in the will of God.
This is what Bonhoeffer was talking about. As disciples of Jesus Christ, this is the ascetic nature that we are to have.
There was no death in Eden prior to the Fall. There will be no death in the life to come as we are told in Revelation 6:3-4:
3. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
4. and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
God's intent is one of life and not death. We might say that He is truly pro-life.
It is sin, as we read in Romans 6:23, that brings about death, all death.
Is it not sin that leads to an unwanted pregnancy?
Is it not sin that leads to war?
Is it not sin that leads to capital punishment?
Then, as Christians, shouldn't we be asking ourselves, is our participation in any of these things, or their violent terminations, a part of the original sin or the perpetration of another?
Or, in the case of the raising and killing of animals for food (flesh or by-products), which always results in death, are we not living in the concession of God, as granted in Genesis 9:3-4?
What would Jesus do today?
We need to ask ourselves, where do we draw the line on living in the concessions rather than the will of God?
If your grandmother knitted you a beautiful sweater, and you used it as a doormat upon which to wipe your feet, would you please her? Would she be happy with the way you express your love?
Similarly, how can we say that we love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our might, and with all our mind, and then destroy part of His wonderful creation, as we are doing with the rainforests, and the pollution our factory farms are causing to our ground water, streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans?
Jesus says in Matthew 5:9:
9. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
And Paul picks up on the mission of these sons or children of God and says in Romans 8:18-25:
18. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
20. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
21. that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
23. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
24. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?
25. But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
In this description, Paul is looking at a time when we will abandon our living in the concessions of God, and return to living in the will of God.
Is not the time, now?
If not now, then when?
Living in the will of God is liberating, not only for the whole of creation, but for ourselves, too, because we no longer have the pressures of worldly living.
Living in the perfect love and will of God automatically fills us to overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit, and removes the deeds of the flesh, bringing us peace; for,
22. ...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23. gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
24. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
26. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
Your Comments are welcome
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