Randall E. Ricker
May 31, 2014
The title of today’s study is Remaining Strong in a Changing World. As we read the history about the beginning of the United States, we can see that the founding fathers recognized the sovereignty of the God of the Bible. They quoted the Bible in their many letters. Other nations valued the Bible, too. For example, the Peace Tower in Canada contains verses from Psalms and Proverbs. But we are not in a perfect world where everyone lives by the Bible, and in some ways it is getting worse.
In past generations people got divorced for non-Biblical reasons. They stole, committed adultery, got drunk, and committed fornication. It happened a lot, but most people disapproved of that kind of behavior. Even the people doing it at least usually knew they were doing wrong. Turn to Ephesians chapter 2 where the apostle Paul talked about that condition of the world.
Ephesians chapter 2, verse 1: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
It talks about the prince of the power of the air. We know that is Satan with his broadcasts and his influence. From the time of Adam he has influenced people to do wrong. Some people don’t seem to resist that influence at all. Others seem to make some effort at it and seem to have some success with it.
This verse talks about conducting ourselves in the lust of our flesh and fulfilling desires of the flesh and the mind. People live for things that we want and things that will make us feel good, whatever they are. Living our lives always for ourselves is how we may have lived before we were called. There is a lot of that going on in the world even now.
In this generation fewer than in the previous generation seem to try to live by the Bible. One author called that contra-Biblical behavior. In other words, against the Bible. Now things like greed, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, fornication, abortion, and divorce are all considered okay by much of the population. It is a world that has changed, and we as Christians have to learn how to survive in it and how to remain strong in it. Today the subject is how to remain strong in a changing world. I have several points.
KNOW WHAT IS REQUIRED OF US
Point number one is know what is required of us. We can say quite a bit about that. Turn to Deuteronomy chapter 10, verse 12: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?”
Notice this word “require.” It says, what does the Lord require of you? It is #7592 in the Strong’s Concordance (1995 edition). It means to request or to demand. God demands certain things of us. That’s good because it gives us guidelines. Children need guidelines. You have probably heard about that in terms of child rearing. As adults we need guidelines, too. We need to know what is right and what is wrong and what is required. As we go through these items in Deuteronomy 10, we see “to fear the Lord.”
Turn to Proverbs chapter 9. This happens to be a memory verse, if you like memory verses. Proverbs 9, verse 10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.”
“By me” is referring to wisdom.
To fear the Lord and to have a proper healthy respect for God is the beginning of wisdom and will result in a long life. It helps us know what is required of us. We fear the Lord, and then walk in His ways. This was the second point in Deuteronomy.
WALK IN GOD’S WAYS
Turn to I John chapter 2 where it talks about walking in God’s ways. I John chapter 2, verse 3: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
Verse 6 is another memory verse. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
We are to walk as Christ walked. We talk about someone walking. It is how they behave. We talk about walking in righteousness. It is how we behave. How did Christ walk? What did He do?
For one thing, He kept the commandments and taught people to keep them. We can remember that. Other things He did was He taught the people. He healed them. He fed them miraculously. Christ did all that He could, and as the Son of God, He could do some things that we can’t do. But there are some things we can do. He taught. It is not always our place to be teaching, but sometimes it is. Sometimes we can teach someone. We can’t heal miraculously, but we can pray for healing. We can do things in many ways to assist people who are sick or injured. We can’t miraculously feed people, but we can give someone a bag of groceries or money for food. We can help. We can do all kinds of things for other people. That is how we can walk as Christ walked. Doing good things for people and keeping the commandments are to walk in His ways.
Deuteronomy chapter 10 had said love the Lord. That was another way to know what is required of us. I John chapter 4, verse 19: “We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
If we think we are going to love God and we are told to love God, we must love our brother first.
In Deuteronomy 10 it said to serve the Lord. Turn in your Bible to Mark chapter 8. What do we think of when we say “serve?” The word “serve” really means to work for somebody and to be a servant to them. If we are going to be a complete servant to God, we are basically going to be giving our lives to God.
Mark 8, verse 31: “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’ When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’”
In verse 33 when Christ rebuked Satan, we understand from the later verses why He said that. He is saying that, if you are going to follow Christ, you have to deny yourself and take up your cross. Here was Christ who had denied Himself, and was going to take up His cross in a literal way. He says, whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses it for the gospel will save it. Christ was doing all this, and He was saying that the disciples really need to be doing all this, too. They need to be serving God and giving their lives.
We have studied this before how we are to become living sacrifices. We are to live God’s way of life. We are supposed to be trying to grow and overcome, because if some of us can become firstfruits and that 144,000 number gets fulfilled, what’s to stop Christ from coming back and putting an end to all this misery? We can serve the Lord in that way. We can serve the Lord by interceding for people. If someone in the Church has a problem or someone outside the Church has a problem, we can pray to God. It’s called intercessory prayer. We pray to God, asking Him to intervene.
We are certainly grateful for all that God has done for us. We had a sermon a few months ago titled Did You Say You Love Jesus? talking about how sometimes people put too much emphasis on what God has done for them, without realizing or remembering that they need to serve God—serve the Lord. I can paraphrase a famous quotation by saying, ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God. There is a time for that. There is a time to ask favors of God, and there is also a time to ask God what we can be doing to serve Him.
In Deuteronomy 10 it says to keep the commandments and the statutes. Turn to Matthew chapter 5. This is after Christ made it very clear that we are to be keeping the commandments. Then in Matthew 5:21 He begins to raise the bar, as we like to say. In other words, start talking about the intent of the law. Matthew 5, verse 21: “You have heard that it was said to those of old,
‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to this brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
It is not enough just to refrain from killing people, but not to be angry without a cause. We are not to be looking down on people. We are not to be insulting to people.
Verse 27 is another example of the intent of the law. Matthew 5, verse 27: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
It is not only just don’t commit adultery, but don’t even lust after someone to commit adultery with them. It is showing the behavior we are supposed to be having. We want our behavior to be biblical and not contra-biblical. We also want our entertainment to be biblical and not contra-biblical, too.
It said keep the commandments and the statutes. The statutes are really the details of the law. There are the civil statutes like what are the crimes and what are the punishments. That was for a physical nation. They were very good statutes, but we are in the United States and Canada and elsewhere where people are listening to this. The laws are different, and the punishments are definitely different from what is in the Bible. We can’t live very well by those statutes. We have to live by the statutes of the country that we are in.
There are other statutes, such as ritual statutes, including sacrifices. Remember in Hebrews chapter 9 and 10 if we read that carefully, we see that Christ replaced all those sacrifices and all those rituals. They are not to be done anymore.
Another type of statute is the festivals. Leviticus 23 lists them. We won’t turn there right now, but we find nothing to tell us we should not keep the festivals anymore. In fact, we find evidence in the New Testament that the apostles and Jesus Christ kept the holy days. We do also except for the sacrifices that are mentioned, because, as I said, they are no longer needed.
Statutes include clean and unclean meats. What kind of meats should we be eating? Remember God designed our bodies. He knows what is good for us. He told us what meats we should eat and what we shouldn’t be eating, so we follow His instructions as a matter of health. Also since our God gave us these instructions, we honor Him by following them as well.
My first point was to know what is required of us.
DAILY BIBLE STUDY
Point number two for remaining strong in a changing world is daily Bible study. Turn to Acts chapter 17, verse 10: “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
They were studying their Bibles daily. We can do the same thing and search our Bibles daily, learning what is biblical behavior and also proving what we have been taught, so we are sure we know why we believe what we believe. We back it all up and see that it can be proven.
In II Corinthians chapter 4 it talks about being renewed, and one of the ways we are renewed is by daily Bible study. II Corinthians chapter 4, verse 16: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”
We are renewed day by day by Bible study and in a moment we will see by prayer. We study for understanding and for instruction. We could read examples of people doing right. We could be inspired. There are all kinds of good reasons for daily Bible study. It should be daily because you can think of it this way: we have to eat every day. You can’t say I ate yesterday or the day before, so I don’t think I’ll eat today. That doesn’t work. We need food from the Bible daily, too.
Point number three for how to remain strong is daily prayer. That is one of the ways we are renewed. Turn to Psalm 55. Psalm 55, verse 16: “As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.”
Psalm 55:17 is another memory verse. David prayed three times a day. We can probably do that, too. It’s easy for us to pray at least twice a day, evening and morning. At noon it may be harder if we are working or in school, but usually we can at least break away for a couple of minutes and have a word with God. Maybe we can’t kneel down and maybe it’s going to be brief, but at least we can do something. Stay in contact daily. We can thank God for what He has done for us. We can intercede for other people. We can ask for our own needs, and we pray for the kingdom to come. Pray for God’s kingdom to come.
Point number four for remaining strong in a changing world is to fast. We want to fast occasionally. Zechariah chapter 8 mentions some fast days that we have adopted. Zechariah 8, verse 18: “Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”’”
The original fasting was for the physical temple which had fallen. Now we can fast for the condition of the fallen spiritual temple—the Church. It is all broken up with all kinds of false doctrines and fighting going on. We can fast for that. We do the best we can. It is a voluntary fast. Those are voluntary fast days, and we have chosen to do them as well as we can. Then there is fasting for the Day of Atonement which is not a voluntary fast, although for certain medical conditions no one would expect you to fast on that day. At least spend the days as you are able in prayer, study, and meditation. You may choose to take other days during the year and fast as you are able.
Isaiah 58 tells us what a good fast is and what can be accomplished. Isaiah chapter 58, start reading in verse 2: “Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’”
When people fast and they are doing something wrong in the process, they will notice that God is not answering their prayers. They ask, why didn’t God notice?
Continue in verse 3 of Isiah 58: “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers.”
If we are doing as we please on a day that we just don’t happen to be eating, it is not going to do us nearly as much good. Exploiting laborers could certainly be employees. Also as we know, there are many harsh branches in the Church where the leading ministry are oppressing the other laborers such as the ministry below them or the members.
Verse 4: “Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness.”
People sometimes fast for the wrong reasons, hoping people will get what they deserve in a bad way.
Continuing in verse 4: “You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?”
People don’t need to be looking like they are fasting. We are told that elsewhere. It is not for an outward show.
Verse 6: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?”
We realize that the whole world is under the prince of the power of the air that I mentioned before. The world is held captive by him. We fast that God will release the world from that condition.
Verse 7: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?”
Here is where we are talking about some of those physical things we can do for people that I talked about a little while ago. Or in a spiritual sense, share the bread—share the teaching of God’s Bible with people, and bring to the house—the Church—people who are cast out. We see the naked, and we cover them. This is someone who doesn’t have the clothing of righteousness and isn’t growing and overcoming. Maybe we can help them.
Verse 8: “Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”
If we do all the right things as we fast, then good things come of it, such as healing and righteousness.
Continue in verse 9 of Isaiah 58 where there are a few more instructions: “If you take away the yoke from your midst, the point of the finger, and speaking wickedness [in other words, more things we had better not be doing], if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul [more comments on doing good for people], then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.”
The Church is represented by the moon. We reflect the light of Christ just as the moon reflects the light of the physical sun.
Verse 10: “Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.”
In other words, the darkest part of it would be like the noon sun. If the darkest part of us is like the sun, imagine how bright the rest of us are going to be!
Verse 11: “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy our soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
We will be like a watered garden. We will be producing fruits of God’s Holy Spirit. We want to be producing those fruits of the Spirit, so we can remain strong in this changing world.
Verse 12 of Isaiah 58: “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundation of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to dwell In.”
This is what we will be as we rebuild the spiritual temple.
Point number five on how to remain strong is to avoid temptation. James chapter 1 says a lot about temptation. James chapter 1, verse 12: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”
We are drawn away by lusts, by our own desires. We begin to realize what our weaknesses are, and if we are going to be drawn away by those weaknesses and led into sin, there are certain things we just need to avoid. People know what their weaknesses are. If someone has a bit of a drinking problem, then don’t go to the bar, or don’t have one drink if you can’t stop. Alcoholics know that. That is just one example. There are other things. If there are certain types of things that we know are tempting us, just avoid them.
Here it says, desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin. This desire that is wrong, leads to sin. When sin is full grown, it brings forth death. Think of it this way. Sin being full grown means you have been taken over by sin. Once you have been taken over by sin, the wages of sin is death. We don’t want that to happen, so we have to be careful avoiding things we know we have no business messing around with.
II Corinthians 10 tells us to control our thoughts. II Corinthians chapter 10, verse 3: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds…”
We can use God’s spiritual weapons to pull down the strongholds of the prince of the power of the air. We can resist him.
Verse 5 of II Corinthians 10: “…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”
II Corinthians 10:5 is a memory verse, if you like memory verses.
We bring every thought into captivity. We bring our thoughts into captivity, so that we are not tempted by things that are our weaknesses. After all that, even trying to avoid the temptation, we may not be successful in avoiding it. If we are tempted, then we have to resist. Resist the temptation.
We don’t want to be part of contra-biblical behavior. We don’t want to even include the contra-biblical behavior in our entertainment. We must not think that the world and this contra-biblical behavior is okay.
MOURN AND THEN BE POSITIVE
There is a time to mourn over the condition of the world, but let’s make it a very brief time to mourn. We want to be positive people overall. We realize bad things are going on. We don’t need to dwell on them. We understand they are wrong. We don’t want to get pulled into them. Instead we want to consider Philippians chapter 4. Philippians chapter 4, verse 8 tells us what we ought to be thinking about most of the time and the vast majority of our time.
Philippians 4, verse 8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
We can go through the details of this. I did it the last time I spoke when I did a study on Philippians, so I won’t say too much about it. It says whatever things are true. Remember what is true is God’s promises. God’s promises are true, and we have to believe those promises. One of those promises is that there will be an innumerable multitude. For there to be an innumerable multitude living God’s way of life, people will have to repent of their contra-biblical behavior.