Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Gray Area (Part 1)

Take a close look at that picture. If you stare at it long enough, you will start to see gray. In reality there is only black and white...but our minds automatically create areas of gray. This is a lot like how we live our lives and even live our our spiritual walk.

Last night, Tyson confronted some of the biggest gray areas in our lives...it was powerful, it was straight-forward, it was truth...

He also made a point of reminding us that often we read the Bible and say "Oh, that doesn't apply to me." or "That's for that person over there...or those sinners out there." But no, the Bible is relevant to your life as a believer. The Bible is black and white...and it's our sinful nature that creates gray areas.
Without God we have no power, no hope, no promise...but because he lives, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
Proverbs 28:1 The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.
When you live for yourself and in the world, you are constantly running, unsure and scared. But when you live for God...your life is characterized by boldness. He created us to be bold, the enemy is the one who wants us to be confused, beat down and discouraged...but confusion is not of God. "Bold as a lion." It's impossible to be bold if you don't know what you stand for. God tells you in black and white...the Bible is the flawless, inspired word of God...it doesn't steer you to back down and be defeated...he tells you everything you need to know. The only way to be bold is to stop living in the gray areas...you are to hunger and thirst for righteousness...seek his face.

Your life should change the atmosphere of a room when you walk in. You should be so full of his presence that people can't help but notice Him...not you, Him.

We live our life in the gray...we don't know for sure what we believe. It's human nature to see how close to sin we can get without getting caught. Joshua Harris did an excellent example of this:

You can't live your life in the world and follow God. You can't live in the middle because there is no middle.
Romans 6:16-18 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
You are a slave to something...you have to decide what you are going to be a slave to...sin or obedience. You have to actively fight the battle and choose to put off your sinful nature and put on righteousness on a daily (sometimes moment to moment) basis. (Check out Colossians 3, Ephesians 4:20-5:2, Galatians 5:13-26, and 1 Corinthians 6:18-20)  The gospel to unbelievers is a message of hope and freedom and conviction...not telling them don't do this, don't do that...you're going to hell. The gospel to believers is a message reminding you that God freed you, he made you new...and you have to choose to follow him rather than go back to your old ways. Sort of like the Israelites, God brought them out of slavery but they complained because freedom wasn't what they thought it would be and there was still strife and trials...so they wanted to go back to slavery. We have to choose not to be like the Israelites...even though we are free and made new, it's still easy to fall into the trap of sin.

Alcohol is an easy and sometimes attractive form of temptation. Many people question where the line is...some say that consuming any alcohol whatsoever is a sin, others say only if you're completely wasted...but in reality, the Bible tells you plainly.
Proverbs 23:29-35 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. "They struck me," you will say, "but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.
To be drunk is a sin. Don't take it to a legalistic view though, to have one drink isn't a sin...but to be in any state of drunkenness is a sin. You wake up emptier than when you went to bed.
Romans 13:11-14 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Don't look for ways to indulge your evil desires (don't try to get close to evil). Our lives should not blend in. Wild parties and being drunk is not what you were called to. The world should not be able to confuse us with themselves. When has alcohol ever done anything for you? When was the last time you woke up and said to yourself, "Wow, I'm so happy that I got hammered last night!"? No! That's called a hangover! You're still empty and still searching.  Jesus is the only thing that will fill you up once and for all. He's a lot better than alcohol. Some people are reading this and thinking "You don't know anything about me or what I've gone through...alcohol helps." Some people drink to dull the pain and the hurt...they don't want to feel the sorrow and the brokenness. But in reality, pain comes into our lives to turn us back to God...not to send us to the bottle. Pain is there to make you realize that nothing in this world can satisfy or heal you like God can.

Premarital Sex is another thing that we make into a gray area. It's probably one of the easiest things to fall to...it's something that the world tells us is okay, it's no big deal and no one will know.  The Bible is very clear about this subject and tells a very different story from the world (which it usually does...being that the Bible is God speaking and the world is sin speaking)
Ephesians 5:1-14 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
Sexual immorality has no place in God's people. Sex is designed specifically for one man and one woman under the unity of marriage. Just because your pastor or parents don't know about it doesn't mean that God doesn't know. What you do in "secret" might be secret to other people but it sure isn't a secret to God.

Remember when Jesus was tempted by the devil? The Holy Spirit led him to be tempted. If Jesus wasn't tempted then he wouldn't have been human. He was tempted exactly like you and I. The devil led Jesus to the highest point overlooking the land. He told Jesus that all he had to do was bow to him and he would give Jesus all the nations. Um...stop...rewind...the devil, is promising Jesus the nations. Sounds pretty crazy right? Well it is. Jesus already has all authority and dominion over all the nations. He is the author and finisher of our faith and the creator of all! The devil was trying to sell something to Jesus that was already his! That is exactly what the devil tries to do when you feel tempted in this way. He's trying to sell you something that is already yours. You don't have to follow satan to have a sexual relationship that is already yours when you are within the parameters that God set for you! (One man, one woman, only in marriage)

Don't just give yourself away...
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
In the words of Beyonce...put a ring on it.

It's not just about the actual act of premarital sex...it's also about your thoughts.
Matthew 5:27-30 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Yeah...it's pretty intense, but Jesus never was seeker-friendly. He always told the truth. The truth is what sets you free...even if you don't want to hear it sometimes. Here he's talking about lust. To even look at someone with lust is adultery. Our flesh lusts for the world and wants to drag us down. We have to crucify our flesh.  This isn't just about telling you what not to do...it's about focusing on what we were created to do. When you look at the problem, it gets overwhelming...but if you know the way to get the answer (worship, study the Bible and draw close to God), it's easier to solve the problem. If we focus on what we were created to do, then it becomes easier to crucify your flesh. It's still a daily battle don't get me wrong, but God is near. The closer you get to God, the easier it is to put off sin and to put on righteousness.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
We as Christians sometimes get so judgmental and homophobic...yes it's a sin, but in reality, it's no greater than your sin of lying or cheating or lust or adultery. If you take notice, homosexuality isn't the only sin that is mentioned in that passage. No sin is worse than any other sin and we have to realize that this is an area of gray that we create. You cannot stand for him if you are standing in the gray.

We were all born with a sinful nature. Some of us are tempted in ways that others aren't. You might argue that you were born that way...and I'd agree...yes, you were born a sinner. BUT!!!! You do NOT have to be a slave to your sin! It is your choice to give in to your sinful desires rather than battling it and putting on righteousness. Jesus didn't reject the world...he embraced it as it was and he died to make it new and break the shackles that bound us to sin. No relationship could ever satisfy you the way that Jesus can. He will make you new. Turn and run to him, don't run back to your ways like the Israelites.

This next one might surprise you a little...but hang with me.

Worship If you get the chance, check out Genesis 22. It's the first time the word worship appears in the Bible. Originally, worship wasn't lights or sound or music, worship was a sacrifice. Giving what you had and not expecting anything in return. Worship is not an experience...worship is a lifestyle. Worship with your life. Worship when you feel like it and even when you don't because God is worthy of your worship every single moment.

If you want to be bold like a lion and not live in the gray areas, if you want to know what you stand for...then pick up the Bible. The Bible is what God gave you to help you live your life and discern his will for you. If you don't read the book then you are spiritually dead...don't believe me? Then try eating once a week and see how fast your body fails. The Bible is our DAILY bread, not our weekly bread. 66 books, 40 authors, 3 continents...but 1 theme - the restoration of humanity through Christ...only God could do that. If you want to see change in your life, if you want to know how to live, then pick up the book. Know God, seek his face.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Read God...he tells you right there in black and white. There's no gray when it comes to God.

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