The following is the text of a sermon presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on October 12, 2008.
In our society, people who claim to be very knowledgeable in the handling of certain tasks and abilities are all around us. We have skilled laborers who can build massive structures, bridges, and roads. We know that there are talented carpenters and tradesmen, and there are people who are experts with white-collar jobs and responsibilities, including doctors and lawyers. These are all descriptive of some form of expertise that is a valued part of our society and that allows it to function and perform at a high level. We rely upon experts to perform jobs and tasks in our society because of the output or quality of the work that is expected when the experts are involved.
Whether or not we realize it, we are also experts, but perhaps not in the way you might realize. This has little to do with the level of your education or your chosen profession, if none at all. In order to become an expert at something, it involves regular practice and repetition. Please keep this in mind, as we will be exploring where are expertise is, and where we all should have a desire to be if we are truly following God’s heart and will for our lives.
We discussed recently how life can move along as expected, and in many ways predictably, but then a sudden, unexpected event would take place that has an effect on us. The event now turns what was routine into a time of our lives where we are thrown off a little and somewhat knocked off balance. We realize that these events are part of life and are not really unusual. We are given guidelines from God’s Word on how to deal with both the routine and the unusual events of our lives. God calls for us to remain consistent in our approach and to always focus on Him in all circumstances. Proverbs Chapter 3 has a select group of verses that we often refer to, but let’s look at the first part of Proverbs in its entirety for an even clearer picture of where our focus will be:
My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands; for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being. Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will find favor and high regard in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. Don’t consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
First, we are encouraged to remember His teaching, which is the instruction that comes from reading, hiding it in our hearts and meditating on it as well as instruction that we receive in Bible study and other settings where God’s Word is being shared. To keep His commands is to read what is stated, note them and follow them. With this learning, we are called to remember his teaching. To remember something is to bring to the forefront of our minds and act upon the information. Our minds have the capacity to take in a tremendous amount of information, and we sometimes may remember something from months or years ago because of a stimulus that we experience. On the other hand, it is also natural for us to forget, or fail to remember something. We can get annoyed with ourselves because we can get up and go to another room and then forget what we were getting up to get in the first place, or we may remember something that is complex in nature but another simple thing just slips our mind! It is also natural for us as human beings to forget, or not remember to think about the things of the Lord under normal circumstances. In fact, it is easy to conclude that, as we are human beings that live in a fallen world, sometimes the things of God are the furthest things from our minds. While we know that we should follow Christ in all that we do, as the Scripture states, and that we may even have the desire to do so, it is not a natural act for us to do so. This is not a trivial matter. The mind is very powerful, and Jesus knows the carnal tendencies of the human mind and addresses it in Matthew 5:27-28:
You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.
We can fall into sin very easily and quickly, because, to be succinct, we are experts in the practice and execution of sin. Our expertise comes from our being born in sin and from the regular and consistent practice of sin in our lives. This is not meant to be anything other than a declaration of truth that God already knows about us. We do what comes naturally to us, and in many ways without giving it a conscious thought. Our acts of sin in our lives have been developed from childhood. Listen to how Paul expresses frustration over how he struggles with sin even as a mature adult:
Romans 7:18-19, 22-25
For I know that nothing good lives in me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. For in my inner self I joyfully disagree with God’s law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.
What is Paul saying here? It is very easy to commit sin, but we all have to look to Christ as our Savior, who not only died on the cross in our place to take upon our lifelong sin and to forgive us for our sins and our sinful nature, but ask for Jesus Christ to renew our minds and give us the desire to want to learn more about Him and about how to truly hide His Word in our hearts.
…you took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new man, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.
In Proverbs 3, it is the focus on God’s Word that preserves us with a long, happy and fruitful life. A life of sin, on the other hand, can be both physically and mentally debilitating. The verse that summarizes the consequences of sin after making choices to follow your own desires rather than what God desires:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In addition to seeking God and His Word in the process of developing expertise in following Jesus Christ and overcoming our expert dealings with sin in our lives, God wants us to practice living in such a way that Proverbs 3 states very eloquently in verses 3 and 4:
Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will find favor and high regard in the sight of God and man.
For all of the discussion about faith, we must never discount the effect that we, as believers of Jesus Christ, in our ministry, have a profound effect on those around us by our actions in Jesus Christ. We can become experts for Christ in how to show others how to live for Christ and to show ourselves as different, in fact, strangely different, in a world where sin is commonplace. The act of showing loyalty and faithfulness is that where we are loyal, or consistent, with our commitment to Christ, and that we are faithful to Him. In doing so, you will express these same qualities in your dealings with others. They will be visible because of your commitment to Christ. They will be “tied around your neck” figuratively, because everyone will see your actions. You will have the thoughts of God “written on the tablet of your heart,” and others will see that in your behavior. Your actions will reflect your attitude and your service for Christ. Will you measure up?
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.
Note that these actions are all part of the greatest commandments of God’s Word! God wants you to love the Lord with all of your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Deuteronomy 6:5-9, Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:37-40). In doing so, you will lay the foundation in your growing expertise of following Christ.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.