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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Live as God's People - September 12, 2010

In today's world we hear a lot about fanatics, radicals, fundamentalists, and extreme beliefs and behaviors.  Unfortunately, being a "fan" of God can have a negative connotation.

As I write this today, I can not help but think of the tragedy of 9/11 that took place nine years ago.  Like many others, I think about what I was doing when I began to hear the news.  I remember rushing home from work over my lunch hour so I could see the news footage.  I remember calling my wife, who was traveling and was in Texas, to try to figure out what was happening and how we would get her home.  I remember the anger that begin to grow as we learned who did these unthinkable acts of terrorism.  I remember the pride and patriotism I felt for the heroes of Flight 93.  As I think about the events of that horrible day, I promise myself that I will never, ever forget.

However, as I study the lesson for today, I am convicted about some of my feelings.  Peter reminds us that we were once not a people; but now are the people of God who have obtained mercy.  He urges us, as aliens and strangers in this world, to abstain from sinful lusts and desires and to live good lives among the pagans.  What does all this mean?

As I watched the news reports of the pastor who wanted to burn the Koran, I thought of fleshly lusts and desires.  Peter told us that we are to rid ourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  While I can not judge the intents of anyone else, I do need to examine my own heart.  How do we live as God's people and still be an active part and witness to our current world.  If we are strangers and aliens, how can we have an influence?  How can I balance my life as an American citizen (of which I am extremely proud and grateful) and that of a Christian?  Can it be done?

As an American, I believe the pastor has every "right" to burn the Koran.  Nevertheless, with all the rights that we have, we often forget about responsibility.  Jesus said, "To whom much has been given, much is required."    We have been given many rights and freedoms in this country; therefore, I believe we are required to be responsible in the application of those rights.  Just because we have the right to do something does not make it right!  Responsibility.  This is what we are lacking in America and what is lacking in this situation.

As I thought about book-burning, my thoughts went to Acts 19.  We read there (verse 19) that many brought their books of witchcraft and burned them.  At first, I tried to justify the book-burning with this passage.  However, there is a distinct difference!  The people who burned the books in Acts 19 were those who had previously participated in that witchcraft.  They had converted to Christianity and wanted to destroy the former previous influence on their lives.  They did it publicly as a witness to all men.  Unless the pastor in Florida is a converted Muslim, I do not see his actions as the same.   I see it as a political ploy and an attempt to gain publicity.  In Acts, we see the Word of God prevailed and grew.  Today, we see dishonor and reproach.  Why?  Because we are not truly living as God's people.  We are not laying aside malice and deceit.  We are giving in to our own fleshly desires.  Therefore, I oppose this book-burning because it is not the responsible thing to do.

Then, my thoughts turn to the mosque that some want to build near Ground Zero.  Again, I think about rights versus responsibility.  Do they have the "right" to build there?  Perhaps.  If they meet all the zoning requirements and everything else is legal, I would say they do.  However, it is not the responsible thing to do and I oppose it from that perspective.  It is very disrespectful and hurtful.  It is not being responsible.

As we see these things in our "real" world, we have to look at Scripture and see how we are to live in this "real" world.  We have such an opportunity TODAY to live out our faith.  We must do so.  We must avoid the trappings of this world and truly live as God's people.  We have such an opportunity right now to live out our faith and be an example to those around us.  The question is not about what others should or should not do.  No, the question is:  What will YOU do?

I will step out on a limb here and say that we MUST be fanatical about God - but not as the world defines it.  When we are truly fanatical about Him, we will live as His people, and we will avoid the works of flesh that are manifested around us and we will do good among those around us.

Study Text:
1 Peter 1:22-2:12

Focus:
To recognize we are sojourners in this world and live as citizens of God's kingdom.

Outline:
1.  Love Each Other
     A.  Love Fervently
     B.  Remember What Lasts
2.  Believe His Word
     A.  Single-Minded Desire
     B.  Accept or Reject
3.  Glorify God
     A.  By Being God's People
     B.  By Godly Living

At the end of this study, we will be able to describe  the results of fervent love; identify different ways people respond to the Gospel; and consider how living as a pilgrim here can lead others to glorify God.

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