2 Corinthians 5:17
Are we established as Christians?
We could easily look at this church which has been here for the past 165 years, and conclude that it is an established church in this community.
However, as we look at it from within, we can easily see that it's struggling for survival.
For something to be truly established, it has to take on the position of permanence.
It has to be something that has been here for a long time, and is expected to be here for a long time to come.
So, I ask again, "Are we established as Christians?"
As we look at ourselves, as we would like to be, we may get an entirely different answer from what those on the outside may say of us.
You may wonder why I'm asking this question.
It's because of what is taking place in our midst and in the world around us.
Let's just look at one aspect of being a Christian, or what our first hymn for this morning called attention to: that we are to be established in God's word.
And this is exactly what we are told in Psalm 119:38:
Establish Thy word to Thy servant,
As that which produces reverence for Thee.
The result of a recent poll states that about 90% of all white people in this country consider themselves to be Christians.
Do you think that this represents what God would consider to be a true situation?
No! Not likely.
So, if we, who consider ourselves to be Christians, can so easily see this false representation, how do you think the world views all Christians as a group?
Probably not very positively.
Listen to what another recent survey found.
Only 23% of white people read any religious material at least once a week.
This doesn't mean that they read the Bible, but any material from any faith, even a magazine.
The reason that Christians are so weak, and perceived to be so hypocritical, is that so few are really established in God's word.
And if we're not fully established in God's word, then how can we truly reverence God.
For if we truly reverenced God, we would consistently live by His word.
In our second hymn for this morning, Nearer Still Nearer, we are presented with the Scriptural truth that we must become nearer, and increasingly nearer to God in this lifetime, if we are going to be able to enter heaven.
We can't continue to live as the rest of the world, and move nearer to Christ.
We cannot separate and combine something at the same time.
Because of the sins of the world, the worldly way of life separates us from God.
If we are going to become one with Jesus Christ, we must separate ourselves from the ways of the world.
Listen again to what we are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away, behold, new things have come.
This simply means that if we are truly born again, then we should no longer desire to live as the unsaved world lives.
We should want to keep ourselves pure as Christ is pure.
I hear people complaining all the time about their health, and they use it as an excuse not to come to church; they use it as an excuse not to become established in God's word.
In this case, I lift up Gloria before you as an example. She rises above her physical pain to be established in God's word.
Now consider again some of these people who are "too sick" to be established in God's word. If there is a bus trip to a gambling casino, they'll be on it, along with some of the people who are of the church.
This is inconsistent with becoming established in God's word.
This lifestyle draws us away from God; and this is just one example. There are many more similar enticements all around us.
We are to be new creatures in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are to separate ourselves from the ways of the world.
And this situation is nothing new; Jesus faced the same problem 2,000 years ago.
The majority of the people of the synagogues and temple had hardened themselves to the ways of God.
These people became so hard of heart, they didn't even recognize the Prince of Glory when He was right before them in bodily form.
And just in case we try to make excuses for them by saying that they may have been zealous for God, and as such they didn't believe in Jesus as being the Son of God, we would be wrong.
Remember, there was no one more zealous for God than Saul, the apostle Paul.
Yet the moment he encountered the Lord on the Damascus Road, he believed and changed his lifestyle and his life.
Have we of the church truly encountered Jesus and become a new creature in Christ, established in His word?
Because if we have not, those who have been turned away from the church, by our inconsistencies and hardness of heart, will come to the Lord on their own.
I have met some people who are so sensitive, so filled with love and compassion, that it just has to be coming from God.
But, because of the hardness of heart of most of the people in the churches and synagogues, they don't believe that their gift is from God, so they look elsewhere.
It is also this same hardness of heart that is the root cause of many of the chronic illnesses that people complain about, and use for excuses.
It is the hardness of heart that is indifferent to the pain and suffering of animals that are a part of their diet, a diet that is the main cause of their chronic diseases, as many doctors have proven.
Hardness of heart in one aspect of a person's life will most likely spread to other areas as well until it is removed by God's perfect and unconditional love.
Jesus faced such hardness of heart conditions many times during His ministry. Listen to what we are told in John 12:20-23:
20. Now there were certain Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast;
21. these therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
22. Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came, and they told Jesus.
23. And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
On the surface, this might seem like a strange way for Jesus to answer, but it isn't.
Jesus came to the children of God, the Hebrews.
He came as their Messiah, and for the most part they rejected Him.
Now, those who are not Jews, those who are not of the synagogues and temple are coming to Him, seeking Him out to turn their lives over to him, to be established in His word.
Thus, as Jesus says, the time of His ministry to Israel was drawing to a close.
It was the time of His ultimate sacrifice.
It was the time for Jesus to be glorified, and to draw all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, to Himself.
We, too, must be drawn to Jesus, drawn to His cross; and we must become part of His sacrifice upon the cross.
We must die to ourselves and our formerly worldly ways, and must become new beings in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We must be born again!
Jesus Christ was crucified 1,970 years ago.
And our final hymn for this morning asks us a question about that day.
It asks, "Were you there?"
Now, from a worldly standpoint none of us are even 100 years old, let alone 2,000 years old; thus, none of us who are worldly and physical could have been there.
But as spiritual beings we can be there and should be there.
In fact, if we are truly born again, we must be there.
That which is heavenly and spiritual is timeless.
We can and should be both here and there, all at the same time.
We need to feel Jesus' pain.
We are not only to feel the fleeting pain of the nails in his hands and feet, and the overall agony of the crucifixion; but we are to feel the long-suffering pain in his heart, the real pain, as he took upon himself the sins of the world.
We are to feel His pain to such an extent, that we can no longer contribute to it, by living as the world lives.
We must consider carefully and honestly who we really are.
We must consider carefully and honestly, if we are really established in God's word.
And we must consider carefully and honestly, if we have really been to the cross of Jesus.
And then we must look at ourselves as we really are, before God, and consider if we really are new beings in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This can be a hard "amen" to express, but I will say it anyway, as I pray we all will.
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