Archive for March, 2016

“When the Lord Speaks Your Name!”

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Easter Sunday ~ March 27th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

When the Lord Speaks Your Name!

John 20:11-18

 

In the gospel of John, the Easter story begins with Mary the Magdalene. In John 20:1 we read, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” Early … while it was still dark … as though Mary couldn’t sleep for sorrow. She rises to come to the place where they buried Jesus; there she finds the heavy stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb and the body of the Lord is not there. Mary runs back to the house where the disciples were staying and she brings a couple of them back with her, Simon Peter and John; and even after they have left the grave, Mary remains behind, weeping.

 

In John 20 we see a very desperate, confused, and helpless woman. The scenes of Good Friday are still overshadowing her mind. It was such a tough day. So, early while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb to mourn, perhaps to speak to the dead rabbi through the stone door.

 

Mary is in real despair. Even the wonder of seeing the angels cannot distract her; even if they seem to speak kindly to her, they are not helping her find her Master; so she turns to someone, anyone, who can: even the gardener or the caretaker – maybe she doesn’t mistake Jesus as the gardener so much as she wants Him to be the gardener – the man in charge of the place, and bound to know all the comings and goings. In desperation, we grasp at straws.

 

In her desperation, Mary couldn’t recognize the Lord Jesus Christ who was standing right before her talking to her. In John 20:14 we read, “She turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.” Here is the question for us this Easter Sunday: What brings about the transformation of Mary? In my opinion, it is God’s grace that rescues us when we hit rock bottom. What we see in John 20 is an act of grace. It is in the midst of our desperation and hopelessness, our mess and confusion, that God extends His grace to us. So, where do we see the grace of God in here?

 

First: The Risen Lord Reaches out to Mary

Mary couldn’t figure out who this stranger was. She thought He was the gardener. Yet, He reached out to her. As I mentioned, she was talking to him, but couldn’t recognize that was Jesus. In reaching out to Mary, the risen Lord shows an act of divine grace. Jesus didn’t have to appear to Mary. Whether she was or wasn’t one of the inner circle of disciples is unimportant. He could have appeared to her along with all the others later that night or at any other time. So why come to her that morning? I think He appeared to Mary to prove His grace, to show her and the rest of us today that He is still near to us; that the aloneness and the pain, that the Good Fridays of our lives, are not the final word, but rather, that our Lord may speak, at any time, a word of grace, comfort, and hope to us.

 

Second: The Risen Lord Calls Mary by Name

Grace also shows itself in another great way in this story. The Risen Lord not only reaches out to Mary, but also speaks Mary’s name. He speaks her very name! In John 20: 16 we read, “Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward Him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).” It’s not that Mary Magdalene finally recognizes His voice or His intonation, but that she understands that He knows her. The real blessing for us today is not we know Him, but He knows us.

 

The real power and beauty of this passage are in Jesus addressing Mary by her name. He speaks her name in Aramaic, ~ Mariam ~ not even in the classic Hebrew. That’s how He knows her – and us: completely, deeply, from birth, knows our names and nicknames, knows our hurts and knows our ticklish places, knows the things we try to hide, knows everything we need, and comes to us, speaking our name in the language we best understand, calls to us in the exact manner that will cause us to see Him. Here is such a profound love – as Jesus keeps coming to us, and a perfect grace – as He speaks so that we will know He is there. O, what a Savior!

 

Friends, as we celebrate Easter today, may the voice of the resurrected Lord be an old familiar one to us too. And because He still reaches out to us and calls each one of us by our name, may His voice be the sweetest sound you hear today. Happy Easter Elmer Presbyterian Church family!

“On the Road to Calvary!”

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Passion Sunday ~ March 20th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

(Click on the arrow to listen to the sermon)

 

On the Road to Calvary!”

Psalm 24:7-10; Luke 19:41-44

 

A little boy was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mom. His dad returned from church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, “Why do you have that palm branch, dad?” “You see,” replied the father, “when Jesus came into town, everyone laid down palm branches to honor Him, so we got palm branches today.” The little boy replied, “Aw man! I miss one Sunday and Jesus shows up!” You never know what you’ll miss, so I’m glad you’re here today!

 

Today is a big day. It’s Palm Sunday. Jesus is heading to Jerusalem for the last time. He is on the road to Calvary. Although we can easily see the joyous celebration the crowds had for Jesus thinking He is the one who will set them free from the bondage of the Roman occupation, I think Passion Sunday is about something of a greater importance. Jesus is on the road to Calvary. He is not going to Jerusalem to hear the crowds shout “Hosanna.”  Nor did He come for the first part of the week. No, Jesus came to Jerusalem for Good Friday. He is on the road to Calvary.

 

The Paradox of Palm Sunday

As Jesus entered Jerusalem on that first Passion Sunday, there was a stir and all the people took notice. Matthew tells us that “the whole city was stirred and asked ‘Who is this’?”  The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” As you can tell, everyone was so excited. However, their passion and excitement will soon evaporate. The question I would like to ask this morning is very simple. How does this story come together with ours?  How does this story relate to ours today? Are we the modern day equivalent of those who lined the road from Bethany to Jerusalem with palm branches waving?” Two important observations as we look together at Psalm 24 and Luke 19 this morning:

 

First: Palm Braches Don’t Live Long

The problem with palms is that once you cut the branches from the tree, they don’t live long. The problem with Palm Sunday is that the excitement of the crowds didn’t last very long. A few short days later when Good Friday came, many of the same voices who shouted “Hosanna!” were also shouting “Crucify Him!” This was a sign that their love for the Lord was shallow and based entirely on their hope of what exciting things He could do for them.

 

They wanted to follow on the road to the throne, but they would not follow Jesus on the way to the cross.  They were more than eager to wave palms before the coming king, but they would not give their allegiance to the Suffering Servant. Are we also so shallow that we will wave palms on one Sunday a year and sing hymns of praise to our Lord, but refuse to obey the Servant king? You know, no one has any difficulty accepting and following a glorified king. The real issue for us today is to follow a crucified Messiah. The real challenge for us today is to keep trusting not on Palm Sunday but on Good Friday.

 

Second: The Cross and our Culture

I guess the question I am asking this Passion Sunday is: Are you, am I, willing to walk toward the cross and to live our lives according to what the cross demands? It isn’t a pretty life but it is a fulfilled life.  Are we willing to follow Christ and end up where Jesus did? In Romans 8:17 the Scripture teaches us if we share in His suffering, we will also share in His glory. Can we stand our ground when we get mocked and ridiculed for our beliefs especially in this skeptical age? Many will turn away to pursue the ways of the world and live lives ignoring the demands that are called for when we pick up our cross and follow. Few people find the way even though the signs are all around us.

 

As the cross was pressing in on Jesus from all sides, He would not try to go around it. He would not take the easy road nor would He try and go over it or under it. Obedience to God was more important to Jesus than anything else. The cross is against the mindset of our culture. It was against the mindset of the crowds on Palm Sunday. The contrast was so evident that day. While Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the crowd celebrated a Messiah of their own imagination. Are we following in the footsteps of the Messiah or the crowd?

 

A few years ago, Larry King interviewed Joel Osteen, the Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest Protestant Church in the United States, located in Houston, Texas. The Membership of Lakewood is over 43,000. As you may know, Larry King is Jewish. Yet, his questions that night reflected a profound insight into the Christian faith. He asked his guest, “Yours is a Christian church isn’t it?” “Oh, yes,” answered the evangelist. “Well,” King continued, “I have never been to your church but I’ve watched your TV broadcast and I didn’t see a cross anywhere. You have a huge stage with a large globe depicting the earth. But there’s no cross in sight.”

 

The evangelist’s response was that his daddy who also had been a preacher didn’t have a cross in his church either, just a large map of the world with pins indicating all the places the gospel has spread. I’ve got no idea if Joel Osteen or his father knows about the work of Philip Reif, a psychologist at the University of Chicago. Reif says, “Any church that keeps preaching on the cross is not going to growbecause in our culture what we’re interested in is success, not sacrifice.”

 

When you think about it, for many Christians, Holy Week is without a cross because we skip most of Holy Week. So many Christians jump directly from Palm Sunday to Easter, leapfrogging right over all the unpleasantness. Many churches do Palm Sunday without even a nod at the Passion story so that Palm Sunday becomes “a dress rehearsal for Easter.”

 

Why include Jesus’ suffering in the joyous festivities of Palm Sunday? Why are Maundy Thursday and Good Friday indispensable aspects of Holy Week? Why is it important to remember Jesus’ suffering and death? Because in this world and in our lives there is suffering and death and to remember Jesus’ Passion is to become aware anew that we are not alone. There is One, the Son of God, who is with us, who shares our pain. Because, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Because we know the cross was so central to Jesus’ life and ministry and it should be the same way to us. In Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Friends, we do not triumph over suffering. But the truth is we triumph through suffering. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Amen!

“Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #4

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday March 13th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #4

119:89-96; 2 Timothy 2:1-7

 

Today we wrap up a four-week series of messages based on 2 Timothy 2:1-7. My goal is to help us understand the nature of the Christian life. I’ve found the passage from 2 Timothy 2 a very helpful one. The apostle Paul uses three analogies, in describing the Christian way of living: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. The last two Sundays we covered the first two analogies, Christians are likened to good soldiers and committed athletes.

 

In the image of soldiers, we are encouraged to endure hardships and avoid all kinds of entanglement. In 2 Timothy 2:3-4 we read, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”

 

In the image of the athlete, we are encouraged to consider the nature of the Spiritual race. In 2 Timothy 2:5 Paul uses a key word to describe the nature of the race. He uses the word “compete.” “Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” The word compete comes from a Greek root word which is agon. We get an English word directly from this Greek word – the word is Agony. The Greek word speaks of the striving, anguish, agony and pain of those who run a race. Christian life, therefore, is not a playground; it’s a battlefield. Christian life is not a picnic; it is a life of agony. In Luke 22:44 we read about the Author and Finisher of our faith who ran the race till the very end. Luke says, “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

 

Paul’s third picture, the picture of a hard working farmer, is found in 2 Timothy 2:6. We read, “The hard-working farmer will receive the first share of the crops.” As we look together at this last analogy, pleas allow me to underscore two important observations:

 

First: Persevere Like a Farmer

What is the picture here? What the Scripture is emphasizing? What does it mean to be a hard-working farmer in the Christian life? I believe the emphasis is on hard work. We are to work even when there is NO evidence of any harvest. I assure you it is so hard to do so. Farmers only harvest for about 2 weeks a year. But do they laze around for the rest of the year? No – farmers always doing something. They are hoeing, or fertilizing, or sowing, or weeding, or fencing. Even when they cannot see any action, they keep working hard.

 

The story of this old farmer captures the idea of what Paul is saying here. The story is told about an old farmer who was very ill. He called his two sons to his bedside and said, “My boys, my farm and the fields are yours in equal shares. I leave you a little ready money but the bulk of my wealth is hidden somewhere in the ground, not more than eighteen inches from the surface. I regret that I’ve forgotten precisely where it lies.” When the old man was dead and buried his two sons set to work to dig up every inch of ground in order to find the buried treasure. They failed to find it but as they had gone to all the trouble of turning over the soil they thought they might as well sow a crop, which they did, reaping a good harvest. In autumn, as soon as they had an opportunity, they dug for the treasure again but with no better results. As their fields were turned over more thoroughly than any others in the neighborhood they reaped better harvests than anyone else. Year after year their search continued. Only when they had grown much older and wiser did they realize what their father had meant. Real treasure comes as a result of hard work.

 

It should come as no surprise that the things in life that are the most important take honest effort and hard work. In Galatians 6:9 we read, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” And that’s what we are to do, too. We need to keep following and trusting Jesus even when it seems like the foolish thing to do. We need to keep working for Jesus, even when it seems like there is nothing happening. The reward that God promises to His children who keep working hard is that they will receive the first share of the crops.

 

Second: The Christian As a Reflective Learner

After his three illustrations, the apostle Paul adds a request and a promise in 2 Timothy 2:7. “Consider what I am saying, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.” If Timothy thinks over these analogies God will give him insight into the nature of Christian living. We notice that revelation and human thinking are brought together in Paul’s instruction. Paul does not promise that God will give any revelation without Timothy’s doing any thinking. Nor is it that Timothy’s thoughtfulness alone will give him understanding. Rather there is a combination. Timothy must do the thinking and God will do the revealing! Responsible human activity with God’s blessing upon it will bring spiritual understanding. He will understand “everything”. That is, Timothy will grasp the many-sided implications of the analogies Paul has used.

 

On one hand, Paul’s words here are a call to us to engage in serious study of the Scriptures. He wants Timothy to give the Word of God a very serious attention. It will not be enough to expect heavenly illumination if Timothy will not spend time meditating on the meaning and significance of God’s words through Paul. On the other hand, heavy study alone will not be enough either. With all the thinking that Timothy does, something additional is needed. The Lord Jesus Christ must give understanding. Christian study the Scripture on their knees, perhaps not literally but in their attitudes. We need God’s help. With all our thinking, all our study-aids, there is need of something over-and-above human thoughtfulness. Psalm 119:96 says, “To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.” That’s why we need the Lord to give us understanding in all things.

 

Friends, from these three pictures of faithful Christian living, we glean that Christians should be: dedicated like soldiers, disciplined like athletes, and diligent like farmers. My friends, this is normal Christianity. Nothing less than this will stand the test. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” 1 Corinthians 15:58. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Amen!

 

“Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #3

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday March 6th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #3

Philippians 3:12-14; 2 Timothy 2:1-7

 

Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65), the first century Roman philosopher once said, “Life is like a play; it’ s not the length but the excellence of the activity that matters.”   Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. It’s living above the curve; it’s going the second mile; it’s refusing to give anything less than one’s best. This is what Paul wanted to see in the life of Timothy and in our lives today. He is giving us a ‘how to’, if you will, of living with spiritual excellence.

 

Today we continue our series of messages on 2 Timothy 2:1-7. As mentioned, the Apostle Paul uses three illustrations, three analogies, in describing the Christian way of living: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. Paul encourages Timothy to willingly embrace sufferings for the sake of the gospel; a tough sell in our comfort-oriented culture as I said last Sunday.

 

Last Sunday we had the chance to reflect upon the analogy of the soldier. The spiritual warfare is real! The question we asked, “What makes a good soldier?” 2 Timothy 2 gives us two important qualities that every good soldier possesses which are necessary in our lives if we are to be good soldiers for the Lord – enduring hardships and avoiding entanglement. As we do so, we will please our commanding officer, the Lord.

 

The Italian polymath, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) once took a friend of his to see his masterpiece of the “Last Supper.” The friend’s first comment was, “The most striking thing in the picture is the cup.” The artist immediately took his brush and wiped out the cup, saying, “Nothing in my painting shall attract more attention than the face of my Master.” Nothing should mean more to us than to please God, our commanding officer.

 

This morning we move into the second analogy. In 2 Timothy 2:5 we read, “Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” The athlete was another favorite metaphor for Paul. Paul often likened the Christian life to a race. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 he says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” As we look together at this analogy this morning, please allow me to share with you two important observations:

 

First: A Rule Keeping Athlete

Our text says athletes must compete according to the rules. Every sport has its own rules. So, what does it mean for the Christian to compete according to the rules? Well the literal Greek says, “the athlete is not crowned unless he has contended lawfully.” The word “lawfully” should give us a clue. Paul was saying if we intend to receive the heavenly prize we must live according to the laws or rules God has set down in His Word.

 

A few years ago I heard the story of a woman who was a world class runner. She had been invited to run in a race in a nearby state. She got her directions over the phone and left early the morning of the race to be there on time. When she got to the town, she could not find the race. She stopped at a service station to ask for better directions. The man told her that he knew a race was taking place at a nearby shopping center. She told him that this must be the race, got her directions and drove furiously to get there. She jumped out of her car, ran to the sign up table to let them know she was there, jumped into the pack of runners just as the started said, “You’re off!”

 

She ran brilliantly. In fact, she could not believe how fast she really was. She was so fast. She finished the race in first place beating everyone. Just then, however, she saw a sign hanging at the finish line that made her heart sink. The sign told the name of the race. She was at the wrong race. She had run the race on the wrong course.

 

Many people are doing the same today. They are running the wrong race! They are running for money, for fame, for pleasure, for security, for self-centered dreams, for many other things, but they are in the wrong race. Even if they finish in what appears to be first place, they lose. In the race of life you must be on the right track. To enter this race, you must receive Jesus Christ as your Savior. You can’t run your way into this race, Jesus pre-qualifies those who come to Him and receive Him by faith. It is called Salvation. You are not saved by your effort, but by His grace. But, once you receive Him, you are in the race. You are to live your Christian life like an athlete lives for his or her sport.

 

Second: The Nature of the Race of Faith

In 2 Timothy 2:5 Paul uses the word, “compete” to describe the nature of the race. “Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” The word compete comes from a Greek root word which is agon. We get an English word directly from this Greek word – the word is Agony. The Greek word speaks of the striving, anguish, agony and pain of those who run the race. This athletic word is used by Paul often to speak of the commitment necessary to be the right kind of Christian.

 

Now, what is the purpose in this illustration? God desires that we understand that the Christian life is not a picnic. The Christian life is not a rose-strewn path. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but once we are saved we enter into a kind of agon, a life of dedication and commitment to excellence for Christ. An Athlete does not expect his or her practice and play to be easy. They know that the way will be hard and the competition difficult. But the athletes have a saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” We have to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Too many people who claim to know Christ act like they are on a cruise where their every wish should be met and their every whim satisfied. Christian life is not a playground; it’s a battlefield. Christian life is not a picnic; it is a life of agony.

 

Friends, today we are invited to examine ourselves. As we come to the Lord’s Table, we bring ourselves into the light of God’s mercy and grace. How have you been running? How has your training been going? Are you consistent, day after day, hour after hour? Are you disciplining all parts of your life, so that you will grow in Christlikeness? Are you working hard, willing to endure suffering? How is your focus? Are you focusing on Jesus? Are you ready and alert, keeping your eyes fixed on Him, expectantly awaiting His return? Friends, this is the race of faith — the most important race of your life, the race whose goal is eternal life with Christ, made perfect in Him. I encourage you to run your best in this race. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #2

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday February 28th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Of Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers!” #2

Psalm 27:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:1-7

 

A Minister stood at the door of the sanctuary to greet his church family after a Sunday worship service. As the Minister saw a church member approaching him whom he does not get to see more often, the Pastor thought to encourage the church member to walk faithfully with the Lord. As they shook hands, the Pastor said, “Brother, you really need to join the army of the Lord.” The man did not know what to say and wanted to just escape the situation, so he replied, “I’m already in the army of the Lord, Pastor.” So the Pastor enquired, “Then why do I only see you at Christmas and at Easter?” The man whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.”

 

Today we continue our meditations on 2 Timothy 2:1-7. The Apostle Paul uses three illustrations, three analogies, in describing the Christian way of living. Three important images the Apostle Paul shares with us in 2 Timothy 2: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. Paul encourages Timothy to willingly embrace sufferings for the sake of the gospel; a tough sell in our comfort-oriented culture as I said last Sunday. The question we wrestled with last week was: Where do we find the strength needed to stand our ground and endure opposition? In 2 Timothy 2:1 we read, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” We are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

 

Christians are in a spiritual warfare. The devil, the world, and the flesh are real enemies. These spiritual enemies are out to destroy the testimony and effectiveness of the believer. This morning we will spend sometime with the soldier analogy. The question I would like to ask, “What makes a good soldier?” I believe that there are two common traits, two important qualities, that every good soldier possesses which are necessary in our lives if we are to be good soldiers for the Lord – enduring hardships and avoiding entanglement. Please allow me to briefly address these two qualities this morning:

 

First: Endure Hardships

In 2 Timothy 2:3-4 we read, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.” By all reports, throughout the history of humanity there appears to be more difficult place to live than on the battlefield. In the field of battle, conditions are less than ideal, at the mercy of the weather, whether it be snow, rain, sleet or scorching sun. The little sleep a soldier receives in battle is not in a warm bed, but in a few blankets on the hardened ground. The food eaten by soldiers in battle is sparse and of poor quality. But those who would ultimately win the day are those who are willing to endure the hardships.

 

In 2 Timothy 3:12 the apostle Paul warns his young friend Timothy that anyone who wishes to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will face persecution. Paul knew this too well for as he wrote this final letter to his dear young friend, he was chained as a criminal to a Roman guard. As the messenger carried this message to Timothy in Ephesus, the blade of the executioner was sharpened, and perhaps as Timothy read these words of exhortation, Paul may have already departed this earthly life. Enduring hardships for the sake of the gospel is a part of our Christian call. Think about how many of the early Christians lost their lives for their faith, even today how many around the world do the same.

 

I tell you the truth, this commitment, the commitment to endure hardships, will be tested and tried in so many ways. It will be tested and tried from spiritual battle, discouragement, feelings of inadequacy, and even temptations from within the church itself. But based on the grace God gives, we will be able to endure the hardships.

 

Second: Avoid Entanglement

“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairshe wants to please his commanding officer,” says Paul in 2 Timothy 2:3-4. Any good soldier knows that he or she has no place in civilian affairs when they are at war. Good soldiers know that they must focus on their purpose and their goal, or risk being caught off guard when their enemy attacks.

 

Throughout Scripture, God warns His children of the dangers of worldliness, telling us to separate ourselves from the world and to recognize that we have been called out of the world. For Paul, the reminders of the draw of worldliness were fresh in his memory as all of his so called friends had abandoned him at his hearing in Rome and he writes of one called Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10 telling Timothy that it was the love of the world that caused him to leave.

 

When we visited Egypt earlier this month, a lot of church leaders there shared with us the reality of persecution of Christians. Often, pastors and leaders would ask us: how can we pray for the Church in the United States of America? I would always ask prayers for the temptation of worldliness. For the persecuted church the choice is clear and cut, it is the choice to live for Christ and die to all, or to abandon Christ to embrace the temporal things this world has and save their lives. But for us it is so much more difficult to avoid worldliness. Can worldliness be summed up in what we wear, how we speak, where we go, what we watch? Can we draw some sort of distinction between godliness and worldliness in a culture which tells us that everything is acceptable; that encourages us to be Christians who behave in every way like the others around us?

 

Friends, have we avoided entanglement with the world? Would you classify yourself as a good soldier of the Lord? A good soldier is a fighter that you can depend on to keep fighting until the victory is won. Are you that good soldier? Can Christ depend on us to keep fighting, even when we feel weak, even when we’re tempted to give up?

 

Let me conclude with the encouraging words of the Scriptures in Psalm 27:1-3, “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” Good soldiers of Jesus Christ, endure hardships and do not get entangled in things that are not honoring to our Lord. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Amen!