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Now That We Still Have Christmas With Us, Where Do We Go From Here?

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Now That We Still Have Christmas With Us, Where Do We Go From Here?
 
A Sermon Delivered to
The Compassion Internet Church
 
3 February 2013
 
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Joshua 24:14-15
Ruth 1:16-17
1 Peter 1:8
1 John 4:11-21

Preparation Verse: (1 Peter 1:8)

And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.

If the true spirit of Christmas is really with us, then we, more than likely, will also be feeling that inner conviction of the Holy Spirit.
 
Sometimes we're not really sure what this means. So, today we're going to center in on this inner conviction, and decide for ourselves, where do we go from here? Or more specifically, personally, what does God want me to do?
 
The answer to the question “Where do we go from here?” is quite simple in its outward appearance, but it is one requiring our total commitment. God wants us to walk with Him.
 
And before we can truly learn to walk with the Lord, we must get off the fence.
 
The Lord doesn't walk on fences. There was no semi-commitment by Him when He died on the cross for us. He wants us to make that same kind of commitment. We are either for Him or, unfortunately, we are against Him. There is no half way point.
He wants us to make that committed stand.
 
Joshua made such a stand, as recorded in the 24th chapter of the book bearing his name. Note verses 14 and 15.

14. "Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
 
15. "And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Joshua most assuredly made his stand for the Lord, and in the process, he challenged the Israelites to put away their other gods and serve the Lord with him.
 
You may be saying, "I don't have any other gods. What's he talking about?"
 
Well, I am going to challenge us also, for perhaps we do have other gods with us, but just don't recognize them. We may have a god of money, or a house god, or a four wheeled god that requires constant polishing; and then there is that god that sits in most of our living or bed rooms that we seem to spend hour after hour watching.
 
Another god is anything that we put before the Lord our God. If these things are more important than the Lord Himself, then, unfortunately, we are serving another god before Him.
 
Ouch! That hurts!
 
Sure it does, and that’s good; for we're being convicted.
 
Why? Because at times we're all guilty of having some other god before the Lord our God.
 
What I am hoping to relate to you, and to me as well, is that perhaps today is just that perfect day when we resolve to put away those gods. That does not mean that we cannot have those things, but it most certainly does mean that they must take a distant second to God.
 
Ruth made that choice also, as we see in our Old Testament lesson for today. Naomi spoke three times to her daughters-in-law to return to their families, and eventually Orpah listened to the call to return to her former life and gods, but Ruth clung to her mother-in-law.
 
And what did Ruth say?  (Ruth 1:16-17)

“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

Have you made that kind of choice?
 
Ruth made that choice, and God honored it. She went on to become the grandmother of King David, and from the line of David came the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
If you haven't made that choice, is there something holding you back?
 
If there is, I urge you to fight against it. It's your free will choice. But, I can tell you from personal experience that you will never regret committing everything over to Jesus, and truly making Him Lord and Savior of your life.
 
Perhaps we should go back and reflect a little on our New Testament lesson for this morning (1 John 4:11-21).

11. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

It might not be so hard to love those in our families or even those here at church with us, but what about others? What about those who are different from us? Can we love them just the same? How about those who are in prison and have done such evil things against us? Can we love and forgive them?
 
Perhaps this is one of the things that are holding back our total commitment to God.
 
God can free us from burdens such as these, if we are willing to let Him.

12. No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
 
13. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

When we truly submit to God's will, the power of the Holy Spirit abides with us, and it is this power that will overcome any of our own shortcomings. We don’t have to do it on our own. God will do it for us, if we will only let Him.
 
And when this happens we can say with confidence:

14.  And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Is this confidence; is this assurance for everyone? It most certainly is!

15. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

And then we can say:

16. And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
 
17. By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in the world.

Wow! What this is saying is that if we are perfected in God's love, then we will be like Jesus, right here on the earth.
 
And if we're not perfected in God's love, why aren't we? Could it be because we're afraid? Afraid of being hurt? Afraid of the unknown? Afraid of committing to something we don’t want to do, such as truly loving and protecting all so called “food-animals”?
 
God doesn't want us to fear His love, or even fear being hurt. He loves us and wants us to accept that love. Why?

18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
 
19.  We love, because He first loved us.

Or at least we should love God, because He does love us very much, and has loved us since the beginning of time.

20. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
 
21. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

What does this perfected love relationship have to do with our commitment to God or, for that matter, to idols?
 
It has a great deal to do with it.
 
As we said before, anything that we set up before God is another god, an idol.
 
We must allow God’s perfect love to flow through us to every part of His creation, including every other human being, every other animal, and the environment in which we all live.
 
Our prejudice is such an idol. God commands us to love. If we are prejudiced toward someone, human or animal, such as loving our dog or cat, and eating a chicken or cow, then we don't love them. So in this case, isn’t the god of prejudice being given more authority in our lives than God Himself? Therefore, we have put another god before God.
 
Hate is another god, and so is fear. And all of these other gods will be cast out if we submit to God’s perfect love.
 
Therefore, what God is telling us is that we can't serve two masters. We can’t be a slave to the physical possessions of money, home, car, television, or even food and clothing.
 
And in exactly the same manner, we can't be a slave to our emotional problems either; for if we give into them, and serve them, then we have set aside the Lord, for these things work against Him.
 
We have to put away these foolish things, these other gods, and serve the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might.
 
Each of us must make our own free will choice.
 
If we want the true spirit of Christmas with us always, we really have only one choice. We must choose God.
 
Today is that perfect day to remove these other gods from our presence, and return to serve God through our true repentance.
 
Choose for yourselves whom you will serve. If it is the Lord, then tell Him so. But if you are unwilling, and choose the gods of this world, then do that.
 
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord and do our best to be as Jesus wants us to be, by learning daily how to more perfectly walk with God.
 
I pray you won't refuse that precious Christmas gift of Jesus Christ, but that you would continually rejoice with the love of God flowing through you for evermore.
 
What are you going to do?
 
Where are you going from here?
 
When you leave this place today, will it be with a new or renewed commitment to Jesus Christ? Or, are you going to leave Him behind?
 
What are you going to do?
 
We pray it will be to serve the Lord our God with every part of our being and everything we have.
 
Amen.