The Helplessness Of God!
In this world there is an eternal battle being waged between sin and God. Both sin and God have their weapons for the battle. What are the weapons? Human beings! Every person is either a weapon in the hands of God or a weapon in the hands of sin!
Have you ever thought that both sin and God are helpless without human weapons?
"Both God and sin are looking for weapons to use. God cannot work without men. If God wants a word spoken, He has to get a man to speak it. If God wants a deed done, He has to get a man to do it. If God wants a person cheered, encouraged, strengthened, helped, He has to get a man to do the lifting up. God, as it has been said, is everywhere looking for hands to use. And it is the same with sin. Every man has to be given the push into sin. The invitation to sin has to be offered to every man. Sin is looking for men who will by their words or example, seduce and invite others into sinning." (Daily Study Bible, Romans, Barclay, p. 87-88)
Every man can make a choice as to whether he will be a weapon for sin or a weapon for God. Every man has the power to exercise great influence for good or great influence for evil. Every man must choose to yield himself to either God or to sin. Both God and Satan are helpless unless they get men through whom they may work!
"We hear a great many sermons about might and majesty and power of God; we would be well sometimes to think of the helplessness of God, that without us and without what we can do God is quite and totally helpless. He has got to get a man! We are the Body of Christ, literally hands to do his work, feet to run his errands, a voice to speak for him. This is the Church's task; to be the body, the hands, the feet, through whom Christ acts." (The Life of Jesus For Everyman, William Barclay, p. 94-95)
Every man must yield to his members to sin as weapons for wickedness or he must yield his members to God as weapons for righteousness. There is no neutral ground. He that is not for Christ is automatically against Christ.
What are some of the members or parts or activities of human personality that both Satan and God are seeking to use as weapons for their respective causes? Among the members of human personality are the Mind, the Mouth, the Movements of human actions, and the Motivations of human influence. Both sin and God are seeking to use as weapons the minds of men, the mouths (words) of men, the movements (actions) of men, and the motivations (influence) of men. Surrender to God! Be God's weapon for righteousness!
"O God, I see that every person is mastered by someone or by something. I choose to be mastered by You. I place myself in your hands to be used as a weapon for righteousness and holiness!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is so mighty that He has chosen to be 'helpless' without me! How humbling and yet how ennobling to me!
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
The Battlefield Of The Mind!
Perhaps the greatest battlefield today is the battlefield of the Mind. Because ideas and thoughts profoundly affect human behavior, both Satan and God are seeking to capture the thoughts of men for sinful or holy purposes respectively. God wants to use men as His weapons to Christianize human thoughts. Satan wishes to use men as His weapons to corrupt human thoughts.
Wrote Paul to fellow believers, regarding the battle for the mind: "The truth is that, although of course, we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare, but powerful in God's warfare for the destruction of the enemy's strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ". (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Phillips )
There have been many human thoughts and ideas which have have not acknowledged the authority of Christ. The thoughts of Frederich Nietzsche have been used as weapons for wicked purposes. It was Nietzsche who thought that love was the 'slave morality'. He totally misunderstood the Christian ethic of love, and instead turned love into a spineless characteristic of weak people. Nietzsche influenced Hitler's philosophy which in turn resulted in a ghastly world war that took millions of lives! The thoughts and philosophy of man became the weapon for great evil, causing untold suffering!
Contrast the ideas of Nietzsche with the ideas which John Wesley taught. The theme of Wesley's life and writings was love. His Biblically based ideas of Christian love saved England from a bloodbath, the kind of bloodbath which France experienced in the French Revolution. Wesley's ideas brought untold human blessings to mankind!
Think of the ideas of John Bunyan which he penned while he was a prisoner because of religious persecution. His book, 'Pilgrim's Progress', written while he was imprisoned, is considered the best known book in all Christian literature apart from the Bible. Millions have been immeasurably blessed by the words and ideas of John Bunyan during the last three centuries!
Every human category of thought must be brought into subjection to Christ's way of thinking. Every person is called to yield his mind to God as a weapon for righteousness.
"O Christ, as King, you are increasingly bringing my thoughts into captivity to your kingdom purposes. Quicken, renew, and cleanse my mind by your transforming power. Teach me to think your thoughts 'after you'."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The 'Christianizing of thoughts' is a high and holy calling. The struggles against evil are won on the battlefield of my mind!
Matthew 12:36-37, James 3:6-12
We Create Our World By Our Words!
Have you yielded your mouth–your words and speech–as a mighty weapon for righteousness? "O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise." (Psalms 51:15)
You will be judged by your words! Jesus said: "I tell you, on the day of judgement men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned", (Matthew 12:36-37) "He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life; but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction." (Proverbs 13:3)
We create our world by our words! Negative words create a negative environment. Positive words create a positive environment. Words can elevate or words can destroy! Words can build up or words can destroy friends during adversity! Words can sooth or words can sear! As a man speaketh, so is he!
Words are powerful weapons for either good or for bad! Bad words have devastating consequences; good words have powerful results! "With it (tongue) we bless the Lord and Father, and with it (tongue) we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God." (James ):9) The mouth can be a powerful weapon for righteousness or a powerful weapon for wickedness! Wrote James, "If a man can control his tongue he can control every other 'part of his personality!" (James 3:2, Phillips) One can be tongue-controlled only if he is first God-controlled! God alone is powerful enough to tame the unruly tongue of men! "The tongue is as dangerous as any fire, with vast potentials for evil. It can poison the whole body; it can make the whole of life a blazing hell." (James 3:6, Phillips)
Think of the powerful effect of words! "The human tongue is physically small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of!" (James 3:5, Phillips) During World War II, words of Churchill and Roosevelt moved millions in the Free World to sacrifice greatly to save democracy for the future. How powerful were their words for good!
Words should be accurate reflections of one's personality, expressions of one's being. "To the Hebrew, his 'word' was an almost physical projection of his person. His word was personal. He was frugal with words lest by carelessness his words betray him." (A Theology of Love, Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, p. 42)
One's words are either weapons for God or weapons for sin. The gossiping tongue is a powerful weapon of Satan. The charitable tongue is a powerful weapon of God. Don't destroy reputations. Instead, use your words to heal broken characters!
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." (Psalms 19:14)
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger. (Proverbs 15:1) I will create a peaceful world through peaceful words!
Proverbs 15:1-4, Proverbs 15:22-23
Forceful Words Backed by Forceful Lives!
We are seeking to apply the truths of Romans 6:12-14. The 'Jerusalem Bible' interestingly translates this portion of Scripture as follows: "That is why you must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies or command your obedience to bodily passions, why you must not let any part of your body turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin; you should, instead, offer yourselves to God, and consider yourselves dead men brought back to life; you should make every part of your body into a weapon fighting on the side of God; and then sin will no longer dominate your life, since you are living by grace and not by law".
Every part of man is to be offered to God as a weapon for right purposes. We have noted thus far the weapon of the Mind and the weapon of the Mouth.
Deceptive words are Satan's weapons to deceive human minds! Wrote Paul to Titus, "For there are many… who will not recognize authority, who talk nonsense and yet in so doing have managed to deceive men's minds. They must be silenced, for they upset the faith of whole households, teaching what they have no business to teach for the sake of what they can get". (Titus 1:10-11, Phillips)
Job 6:25 says, "How forceful are right words!" Right words are forceful as weapons in the hands of God, because right words are backed by right lives. Words which are forceful are words that are backed by an authentic Christian life and experience. Words become hollow and empty when they are spoken by shallow lives. Out of the abundance (or the shallowness) of the heart the mouth speaketh! (Matthew 12:34)
"J. Wesley Ingles reminds us that the great Christian words are no more than a mockery to our cynical age because they have often been spoken by lips while betrayed by hands and feet. They must become incarnated again in the living, daily experience of Christians profoundly involved in life by lips and hands that move in harmony. He said, 'Every abstract word is hollow until we pour life into it. Honor, glory, sacrifice, loyalty, love, joy, peace, courage and endurance, faith and faithfulness, democracy and brotherhood, justice and mercy–what are these? Words. Abstract words. Hollow words–until we fill them with deeds, with life, and hence with meaning. The great words of the Christian faith–grace, forgiveness, redemption, faith, hope and love–all are hollow words until we pour out our Christian experience into them'. Yes, the great words are hollow; and yet, filled full of life, they could shake the world again…" (A Theology of Love, Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, p. 43)
"Let the words I speak truly reflect the life I live–a guileless life, a life free from deception. Let the 'Christian words' I speak be filled with meaning, because they are backed by a God-filled life!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will say what I mean, and mean what I say, lest I fall into temptation and sin! (James 5:12)
Are You a Weapon For God?
According to Romans 6:12-14, God is looking for weapons to use for his holy causes. God wants you to yield your Mind to Him as an instrument of righteousness. God wants to use your mind–as–a weapon on the battlefield of ideas, with the goal of "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ". (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Your Mouth with its words must also be yielded to God to be used as a mighty weapon for righteousness. Let loving words be a projection of your loving self.
Your involvement in redemptive Movements (actions, works, good deeds) is to be used by God as a mighty weapon to tear down the strongholds of Satan in human society. You are to invade society with loving actions and redemptive works. Let your life be full of good deeds. Involve yourself constantly in 'love projects'. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven". (Matthew 5:16)
The movements of men either glorify God or they advance the cause of evil! We must spend several devotionals looking at this weapon.
Think for a few moments of the millions of unborn babies who have never had a chance to live, simply because a consenting doctor and a consenting mother have decided to abort the baby rather than allow it to be born a healthy child! The Supreme Court which represents thousands with their liberal views regarding abortion, has been used as a destructive weapon of sin to kill millions of unborn babies! The liberalization of laws regarding human life is surely one of the cruelest weapons of Satan today!
Recently I received a letter from a local 'Right to Life' chapter in which the following appeared: "Even as I write this, the U.S. Senate is still trying to reach a compromise on whether or not to allow Federal funds to pay for abortions. We are in a sorry state when millions of Americans must finance something they morally oppose. But, united we can win. This is an issue on which all Christians can work together for the glory of God and to accomplish His will".
In contrast to those who have yielded themselves as instruments of sin unto wickedness, there are many who have yielded themselves as instruments for holy causes. There are many who are redeemed and purified and who are "zealous for good deeds". (Titus 2:14) There are many who are steadfast in their labors for God–mighty weapons in God's hands. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
"O God, 'I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do'." (Edward Hale)
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: 'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for Christians to do nothing!' I will involve myself in some redemptive movement!
"Christianity Is a Social Religion"
Those social movements in which you are involved will either be weapons for God or weapons for sin. Said Paul, "Do not yield your members to sin as weapons of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness". (Romans 6:13)
Do not involve yourself as an instrument for the cause of Satan's dark kingdom, but rather yield yourself as a weapon to advance the cause of Christ's righteous movement.
Said Wesley: "Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, in all the places you can, in all the ways you can." Wesley believed that faith was practical, expressing itself in social involvements. Said Wesley: "The Gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness." "Faith working by love is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection." "Christianity is essentially a social religion, and… to turn it into a solitary one is to destroy it."
Appearing in our local newspaper (The Coloradoan Newspaper, December 17, 1974) were these words, concerning the social dimensions of Christianity: "In the Scriptural perspective, religion is not just inward piety and a special, enclosed circle of virtue and belief, but is explicitly directed toward renewing society, to correcting ills, righting wrongs, and relieving poverty".
It was the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote, "To allow the hungry man to remain hungry is blasphemy against God and one's neighbor, for what is nearest to God is precisely the need of one's neighbors".
Compassionate involvement in redemptive movements–this describes the social witness of the earnest believer! Notes William Sangster: "The power of even one man or woman with God is immensely potent".
We are told that when Abraham Lincoln saw the slave market at New Orleans for the first time, he said, "Let's get out of this, boys. If I ever get any chance to hit this thing, I'll hit it hard". Lincoln was a mighty weapon in the hands of God to destroy one of society' s greatest evils–slavery. His Emancipation Proclamation freed thousands from the bondage of slavery.
You can help change your world! God wants to use you as His weapon! The society of which you are a part is not a Christian society, but even society can be at least partly 'Christianized' through your efforts! What a high and holy calling!
"Forgive me for retreating from society's problems. I am part of society, therefore, society's problems are my problems. Help me to be part of the solution. Deliver me from the trap of corporate irresponsibility which says: 'Everyone's responsibility is no one's responsibility'! Make me, O God, responsible to society because I am responsible to you! Through Jesus' redeeming Name."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Good actions on the part of enough good people can change the course of history!
Galatians 6:1-10, Matthew 13:33
Leavening Influence Of a Committed Minority
The society of which we are a part is not a Christian society, but God can use every believer as a mighty weapon for righteousness, holiness, and social justice.
"With men and women experiencing… 'full salvation' Christ is seeking to invade the world. It is His World!–the place of His incarnation, the scene of His Cross, and holding still His borrowed and discarded tomb. His followers are not to sneak through the world teaching it as little as they can; but claiming it, asserting His Kingship over it, challenging evil wherever they meet it, and admitting no segment of life as alien to His rule. Art, science, politics, commerce–all are His." (Daily Readings, William Sangster, p. 246)
Notes Perry Cotham, "We should call America a pagan nation, inhabited by a minority of committed Christians… Ours is a pluralistic society, and committed, evangelical disciples of Christ are truly in the minority. Lest we despair, recall from both Biblical and secular history that the character of a nation is not necessarily determined by the majority of its people–a deeply committed minority is quite sufficient… If God spared an entire nation because of the dedication of one woman named Esther, if He spared multitudes because of the prayers of one man named Moses, if God would have spared Sodom for ten righteous Sodomites, then will not the Almighty spare this great nation because of the leavening influence of some truly converted people?" (Politics, Americanism and Christianity, p. 234)
Never forget: "The good influence of godly citizens causes a city to prosper, but the moral decay of the wicked drives it downhill". (Proverbs 11:11, Living Bible)
Earnest Christians always have had a deep concern for the social needs around them. Those who are most alive to God are those who are most alive to 'people-problems'. Love for God is best demonstrated by love for one's fellowmen. In her study of early Methodists, Dr. Mary Alice Tenney observes: "Perfect Love operates in two directions; vertically toward God, horizontally toward man. Early Methodists really loved men… they went into dirty garrets and nursed sick old women. Even noblemen did that sort of thing, denying themselves luxuries in order to do it. It got right down among the needy, the evil, even the criminals, and showed them what real friendship and compassion are… If Love could be allowed to work in the world today among the Great Hungry here and overseas, as it was released by the Methodist Revival, the ground work for world change would be laid". (Living In Two Worlds, p. 112-113)
"O Father, help me to be a weapon for good in your hands. A weapon is meant to be used. Use me to destroy the evil things around me, without destroying the evil people around me who need to be cleansed from evil!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will stop just saying I love people; I will really love them, and show it by my actions! (I John 3:18, Living Bible)
James 2:14-26, James 1:27
"Both-And" Or "Either-Or" Persons?
Christians are called to bear the sufferings of the world redemptively. Christ suffered redemptively for mankind. Christians are to follow the example of Christ. "Though living in this kind of a world is costing us pain, it is costing God more." (Christ and Human Suffering, LS. Jones, p. 194) Remember, the Gospel has a cross at the very heart of it. The cross on Mount Calvary is the outward revelation of the cross which has always been on the heart of God! Jesus shares the suffering of every man. "He is cold in the chilled bodies of the poor, he is lonely in the outcast, is hurt in the guilt of the sinner, is part and parcel of every life." (Ibid, p. 161)
Every Christian is to enter into the suffering of the world–to lose himself helping to redeem the sufferings of others. "If one part (of the body) suffers, all parts suffer with it." (1 Corinthians 11:26) Every Christian is a part of the body of Christ.
As important as prayer is, prayer must never become a substitute for compassionate action. "A wealthy farmer prayed in his family circle that his unfortunate neighbor might not starve. When they arose from their knees, his little girl said to him, 'Daddy, you needn't have bothered God with that, for you can quite easily keep them from starving'." (Christ and Human Suffering, E.S. Jones, p. 191)
Christians are to be weapons in God's hands to affect social change. As such, Christians are called to deal with the 'root' of social problems, not simply with the 'symptoms' of social problems. "Any tackling of the problem of suffering that does not go to the sources of that suffering as they are found in evil systems is lacking in spiritual intelligence. Judged by that simple test much of our Christian work could scarcely pass the intelligence test. We try to bailout suffering from individual lives and leave in full operation systems which are the direct and positive cause of that individual suffering." (Ibid, p , 182)
"Shall we rescue individual slaves or shall we strike at the slave system? Shall we pick up individual drunkards and leave the liquor traffic to manufacture drunkards? Shall we rescue the wounded in war or shall we strike at the war system? Shall we pick up the wounded by Jericho's road or send someone out to get the thieves? The obvious answer to all these questions is that we should do both." (Ibid, p , 182)
Sensitive Christians are not "Either-Or" persons, but they are "Both-And" persons.
"God, help me, like you, to be holistic. Help me to be a 'both-and' Christian. It is both Doctrine and Ethics. It is both Creed and Life. It is both Inner Experience and Outer Conduct. It is both individual salvation and social action. It is both Devotion and Service."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not choose between an 'individual gospel' and a 'social gospel'. The whole gospel includes both!
Matthew 5:13-16, John 17:9-19
Heavenly Visions With Earthly Concerns!
We have said that sensitive Christians are not 'either-or' persons, but 'both-and' persons. "There is no real choice between an individual gospel and a social gospel. If it is to be a whole gospel, it must include both. We tend to alternate between a social or an individual emphasis, and do not hold them in a living blend. The individual must experience a personal transformation, but society must also undergo that same transformation before the Kingdom of God is an actuality. It is not true, as claimed by many, that all we have to do is to regenerate the individual and the regenerated individual will necessarily apply the gospel to the social order. The fact is that this does not usually work, unless the content of the social application is put into the teaching concerning individual regeneration." (Christ and Human Suffering, E.S. Jones, p. 183)
Which emphasis comes first, the personal or the social? "If religion does not begin with the individual, it never begins, but if it ends with the individual–it ends!" "Service without devotion is rootless; devotion without service is fruitless." (New Man For Our Time, Elton Trueblood, p, 29,25)
The Christian is a man with a heavenly vision, but filled with earthly concerns! In fact, the man who is most living for heaven ought to be most living for his fellow man. "That is why the moral earnestness of revival converts had much to do with the abolition of slavery, the temperance movement, a growing concern for child welfare, medical aid for the sick, education for all, women's suffrage, the reclamation of the socially lost such as the prostitute and the criminal, and the giving of the gospel to those where its truth had never gone." (One Divine Moment, Robert Coleman, Editor, p. 107)
He whose head is in heaven ought to have his hands and feet most actively at work on earth! A Christian is a man who is living in two worlds. He who is most alive to spiritual visions ought to be most responsive to human needs, for the man with the heavenly vision is seeing Reality from a broader perspective. Being alive to the spiritual realm ought to automatically include all of the material realm. Said one to John Wesley during his search for spiritual reality: "Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven? Remember that you cannot serve Him alone. You must therefore find companions or make them; the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion". (Blueprint For A Christian World, Mary Alice Tenney, p. 83)
"O God, I feel your call upon my life, the call to open the eyes of the blind and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sin, and inheritance among those who are cleansed by faith. (Acts 26:18) Help me to fulfill my calling!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will seek to be a person who translates a clear heavenly vision into a practical Christian ministry!
2 Peter 1:3-11
What Does 'Separation From The World' Mean?
A Christian should be a person with both a heavenly vision and a practical earthly concern, a person who is concerned in personal salvation and social redemption. Today, however, there appear to be too many who are very concerned about heavenly matters, but quite unconcerned with earthly problems. Why is this so? For several reasons, some of which we wish to look at during the next two or three devotionals.
For one thing, Evangelical Christianity has overly reacted to Liberal Christianity which has preached a 'social gospel' which includes a minimum concern about the hereafter. In reacting against the social utopias which the Liberals have sought to build upon earth through human reformation and political legislation, Evangelicals have sought to re-emphasize personal regeneration, with a consequent de-emphasis upon the need for involvement in social problems.
Also, Evangelicals have so emphasized 'separation from worldliness' and the importance of escaping "the corruption that is in the world through lusts" (2 Peter 1:4), that well-meaning Christians have separated themselves not only from worldly practices, but also from worldly people who have worldly problems. Are not Christians supposed to separate themselves from everything that might pollute their pure and spotless lives? Does not the Scripture say, "Come out from among them and be ye separate and I (God) will receive you?" But in dealing with this problem of misplaced separation, let us remind ourselves that while Jesus was a man of heavenly vision, he never separated Himself from the needs of people. He was a friend of publicans , harlots, and sinners of all kinds. The Christian must ever be a man with a clear heavenly vision who translates that vision into a life of practical action.
There are well-meaning Christians who have been taught that one of the 'signs of the times' is widespread lawlessness, social disorder, and intensified evil. Some Christians feel that social disintegration is an inevitability, and that therefore Christians can do nothing to stop this process. If society 'in the last times' is inevitably going to 'go to the dogs', why exert so much effort in trying to redeem society? These fatalistic Christians reason: "The world is predicted to get worse and worse before Jesus returns, so don't fight this inevitability. Save your energy for better things–like the cultivation of your own soul. Wait until Jesus comes back again. Then the world will enjoy universal peace, and the evil human systems will be cleansed of their evil". Are these fatalists right in their thinking?
"Guard me, O God, from two dangers–the danger of naive optimism and the danger of cynical fatalism. On one hand, help me realistically to see that total redemption of society can only take place when the 'Prince of Peace' returns to earth. On the other hand, help me hopefully and persistently to work for the partial redemption of social structures, as your transforming power is released through me."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The stubborn structures of corporate evil will yield to the tougher touch of divine power!
"Everybody's Job Is Nobody's Job"
In the last devotional we looked at the fatalistic attitudes which some Christians have regarding the possibility of social transformation. This fatalistic attitude toward the world is destructive of redemptive action in society. Christians are called to "occupy till Jesus comes", and this means to minister to the world's many hurts. This means aggressive and loving involvement in human institutions and worldly systems.
Another hindrance in dealing with social sickness is collective irresponsibility. You have heard of the old adage, "Everybody's job is nobody's Job", We can also add: "Everybody's guilt is nobody's guilt". Many social ills are not healed because no one personally feels responsible for the problem or for the solution to the problem. Who feel s personally responsible to feed the starving Africans or to house the wandering refugees or to clothe the shivering orphans? Who feels personally responsible for the deprived, discriminated, discouraged?
"If a group of people can be made to share the responsibility for what would be a sin if an individual did it, the load of guilt rapidly lifts from the shoulders of all concerned. Others may accuse, but the guilt shared by many evaporates for the individual. Time passes. Memories fade. Perhaps there is a record, somewhere; but who reads it?" (Whatever Became of Sin, Karl Menninger, p. 95)
Some are hindered in any meaningful involvement in social concerns for they feel insignificant as an individual. "I am only one person, what can I do?" comes from the lips of many. It is time to realize that good actions on the part of enough good people can change the course of history! Recognize that Christians may exercise a powerful influence on society even though they may be a small minority. Notes Billy Graham, "Joan of Arc was only one woman, but she saved France. The whole city of Florence was transformed under the preaching of one Roman Catholic priest by the name of Savonarola. Martin Luther was one man, but he nailed some theses on the church door at Wittenburg and altered the course of European history. One (modern-day) man, Aleksander Solzhenitzen, with nothing but a pen in hand, stood up against the entire Soviet empire. They didn't know what to do with him. He didn't stand with a gun, he stood with moral courage. The whole world admired him." (Decision Magazine, January 1976)
Jesus went about healing all manner of sicknesses, and so must Christians today! This healing ministry includes society with its many ills. You are only one person. Don't underestimate your influence as one person. Unite with other redemptive persons and become an instrument of healing in society.
"Help me to accept both my personal strengths and my personal weaknesses. Help me not to be depressed by feelings of self-contempt on one hand, nor to be inflated with feelings of self-conceit on the other hand. Help me to lose myself in order to find myself in service to others."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not allow the complacency of corporate irresponsibility to rob me of the concern for personal accountability!
2 Timothy 1:1-5, Luke 17:1-2
One Link In The Long Chain Of Life!
"Are you a weapon for God?" That is the question around which we have clustered all our thoughts in our daily devotionals for the last several days. "Put yourselves in God's hands as weapons of good for His own purposes," (Romans 6:13, Phillips) God is looking for weapons for His holy causes. God wants you to yield your Mind with all its thoughts, your Mouth with all its words, and your Movement's with all their resulting actions, deeds, and projects.
Also, God wants you to surrender your Motivations to Him. Every person motivates or influences others for either good or bad. Every person consciously or unconsciously persuades others to think a certain way or to take a certain course of action. Influence is a mighty weapon for either God or for Satan.
Sin perpetuates itself through the power of influence, and that influence is felt from generation to generation. Even after you are dead, your influence lives on! The intangible force of influence is great! Your life will influence future generations!
The story is told a young man who was living recklessly and irresponsibly. He seemed to have no regard for anyone but himself. This wild young man began to study biology. While he was looking at small one-celled organisms through a microscope, he noticed how quickly the cells divided, forming another generation. He was struck with a startling insight–each generation was simply one link in the long chain of life. Applying this simple observation to himself, the young reckless man vowed that he would no longer live irresponsibly, for he knew that his actions and attitudes would influence future generations, for either good or ill. If he was only one link in the chain of life, he would be a strong link!
What kind of great grandchildren do you wish to have? The life you live will help determine the outcome of your great grandchildren! You are Shaping future generations!
Exodus 20:5 reveals the power of influence: "I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation". Now God never brings punishment arbitrarily upon anyone, so why does God bring punishment on the descendants of those who hate him? Because the descendants have been influenced and taught to hate God! We teach our children by precept and example to either love righteousness or to love sin! We mold our children to become either objects of judgement or objects of mercy. God-lovers or God-haters!
"O God, help me to be a strong link in the long chain of life. Help me to live responsibly, knowing that with every decision I make, I am either helping or hindering future generations. Help me to pay the high price for the richest of all gifts–the gift of a godly example lovingly offered to future generations!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I determine to live in such a way that my great grandchildren may have reason to rise up and honor me!
Psalms 19:14, Psalms 55:21, Matthew 12:34-37
Powerful Influence Of Words!
People are greatly influenced by the quality of one's companions. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be fooled. 'Bad companions ruin good character.' " The company one keeps molds the quality of one's life, and the words one listens to affects the quality of one's thinking. Many children and youth are very impressionable. What they see and what they hear greatly influence them! There are too many young people keeping company by the hour with the wrong Hollywood Stars on Television! Need we stress that bad influence through TV corrupts good manners?
The influence of words is immense. This can be illustrated in numerous instances. "It is more than one man's opinion that George Whitefield was the greatest evangelist ever to come out of Britain, and certainly no one would deny him a high place in the history of preaching. His genius was his uncanny ability to persuade people. Once, Benjamin Franklin heard him speak. When Whitefield appealed for money, Franklin resolved that he would give him none. As the appeal continued, he decided he would give him his pennies. But Whitefield's oratory was so persuasive that next Franklin thought he should give him silver coins. By the time the collection plate was passed, however, Franklin was so moved that. he contributed all he had in his pockets, even the gold coins…
"A portion of Ebenezer Porter's inscribed memorial to Whitefield includes these words, 'Bold, fervent, pungent, and popular in his eloquence, no other uninspired man ever preached to so large assemblies or enforced the simple truths of the gospel by motives so persuasive and awful, and with an influence so powerful on the hearts of his hearers"." (Pulpit Giants, Donald Demaray, p. 161,164)
The power to persuade through words, both in speech and in writing, is a mighty weapon for both God and Satan. Who can tell how far-reaching will be the influence of even one man's words!
"Who among his neighbors at Down–in rural Kent, only sixteen miles from London Bridge–knew that Charles Darwin would shake the world? Even to his own gardener he seemed half-mad at times, watching worms for forty years and ready, it was said, to give credence to any foolish idea that was put to him… So worldly! So foolish! And yet his work was so world-transforming too! Who of those who saw the bearded figure of Karl Marx day after day in the library of the British Museum could have guessed that he would stamp his thought upon an age… ?" (Daily Readings, William Sangster, p. 63)
"O God, divinely empower my words in order that they may be your weapon to destroy worldly arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God. Use my words to take every thought captive to obey Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will jealously guard my eye-gate and my ear-gate, lest an enemy intrude and destroy the fortress of my inner life!
1 Corinthians 10:31-33, 1 Corinthians 11:1
What You Are 'Speaks' So Loudly!
The influence of character is also immense! Pope John Paul I served as Pope for only a month before he died. He was a man who will be remembered, not for his great accomplishments, but for his great character; not for what he did, but for what he was! His life and character influenced a large portion of the world–inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church!
Someone said, "What you are speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you say". Pious words not backed by a godly life are empty!
In the church of my childhood there was a handful of godly older folks who deeply influenced me. I watched their lives carefully. Their loving words were backed by loving lies! Among those godly people in that small, white-framed church was my godly grandmother. She influenced me to become a Christian. During a period of deep spiritual struggle one time, I was walking alone outside. Tears were streaming from my face. I fell on my knees, and I declared to God that if I ever got 'religion' that I wanted the kind that my grandmother enjoyed! I was attracted to Christ because of her godly character! Most people come to Christ because of a powerful godly influence.
In one of his books, William Barclay recounts a parable by Laura Richards. It goes like this: "A man sat by the door of his house smoking his pipe, and his neighbor sat beside him and tempted him. 'you are poor', said the neighbor, land you are out of work and here is a way of bettering yourself. It will be an easy job and it will bring in money, and it is no more dishonest than things that are done every day by respectable people. You will be a fool to throw away such a chance as this. Come with me and we will settle the matter at once," And the man listened. Just then his young wife came to the door of the cottage and she had her baby in her arms. 'He is fretful and I must hang out the clothes to dry.' The man took the baby and held him on his knees. And as he held him, the child looked up, and the eyes of the the child spoke: 'I am flesh or your flesh', said the child's eyes. 'I am soul of your soul. Where you lead I shall follow. Lead the way, father. My feet come after yours.' Then said the man to his neighbor: 'Go, and come here no more'."
"It would be better for that man to have a millstone hung around his neck and be thrown into the sea, than that he should trip up one of these little ones." (Luke 17:2, Phillips) "O God, little eyes are constantly watching me. Little feet are closely following me. Little ears are carefully listening to me. I am the best Christian someone knows! Help me never to 'trip up one of these little ones'!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To be godly enough to say–'Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ'. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
2 Corinthians 7:1-4
A 'Pointer' At The Crossroads Of Life!
Notes William Barclay, "There is only one thing which is worse than sinning oneself, and that is teaching another to sin. It is one of the grim truths of life that someone must always present another person with his first temptation, must give him the first push into sin, and it is a terrible thing to introduce a younger or a weaker brother to the wrong thing. Someone tells of an old man who in his death-bed seemed worried and distressed by something. When asked what was the matter he said that, when he was a boy, he and some companions had been playing at a cross-roads in the middle of a common. There was a signpost there and it was loose in its socket. They turned it round so that its arms were facing in the wrong directions. And the old man said, 'I cannot stop wondering how many people were sent on the wrong road by the thing we did that day'. There can be no regret like the regret of having sent another on the wrong way. It was Paul's proud claim that his guidance and his influence had always been towards the best". (Daily Study Bible, Corinthians, William Barclay, p. 244-245)
He stood at the crossroads all alone, With the sunrise in his face; He had no fear for the path unknown, He was set for a manly race. But the road stretched east, and the road stretched west; There was no one to tell him which way was the best; So my chum turned wrong and went down, down, down, Till he lost the race and the victor's crown, And fell at last in an ugly snare, Because no one stood at the crossroads there.
Another chum on another day, At the selfsame crossroads stood; He paused a moment to choose the way That would lead to the greater good. And the road stretched east, and the road stretched west; But I was there to show him the best; So my chum turned right and went on and on, Till he won the race and the victor's crown; He came at last to the mansions fair, Because I stood at the crossroads there.
Since then I have raised a daily prayer, That I be kept faithfully standing there, To warn the runners as they come, And save my own or another's chum.
"O God, use me as your 'Pointer' at the crossroads of life! Many there are who may take the low road that leads to destruction unless I am at the crossroads to point them to the high road that leads to life! Give me the joy of pointing many to you!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will be a signpost for righteousness for the many whom I meet today!
Discussion Questions On 'Are You a Weapon For God'?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following vivid statement: "Every person is either a weapon in the hands of God or a weapon in the hands of sin!" (Note 1 John 3:7-9, 1 John 5:11-12) (Do you agree or disagree with this statement: "Both God and Satan are helpless unless they get men through whom they may work!" )
Describe in terms of functions which the church fulfills, illustrations of the truth of the following statement: "We are the Body of Christ, literally hands to do his work, feet to run upon his errands, a voice to speak for him. This is the church's task: to be the body, the hands, the feet, through whom Christ acts."
What are some of the members or parts or activities of human personality that both Satan and God are seeking to use as weapons for their respective causes?
According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, what is one of the greatest battles today that Christians are involved in? Give illustrations from your own life that demonstrates the reality of this great battle.
What evidence is there from the Bible that we will be judged by our words?
Tell what is meant by the statement: "We create our world by our words!"
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "One can be tongue-controlled only if he is first God-controlled." (Note James 3:5-10) 8. What did J. Wesley Ingles mean when he wrote, "Every abstract word is hollow until we pour life into it."
What significance does the performance of good works have, in the believer's attempt to be a good 'weapon' in the hands of God? (Note Matthew 5:16, Titus 2:7-8, Titus 2:14)
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for Christians to do nothing."
To what extent should evangelistically-oriented and evangelically–oriented Christians be involved in the social, moral , and political issues of our modern-day? If individuals are converted to Christ, will the social and moral problems in society automatically be healed or is it necessary for Bible-believing Christians to take initiative to work through the political processes to correct some of society's problems? Is not the Gospel of Christ concerned in both individual salvation and social reform, and should not the earnest believer be invovled in realizing both of these goals?
Discussion Question On 'Are You a Weapon For God'? (continued)
What is your response to the following statement from Edward Hale: "I am only one person, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do." As a Bible-believing Christian, what do you feel that you can do to help fulfill God's redemptive purpose in His world?
Tell why you agree or disagree with John Wesley's following statements: "The Gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness. Christianity is essentially a social religion, and… to turn it into a solitary one is to destroy it." (What Scriptural basis can you cite to support your answer?)
How do you react to the following statement by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "To allow the hungry man to remain hungry is blasphemy against God and one's neighbor, for what is nearest to God is precisely the need of one's neighbors."
What is the motivation (Scripturally speaking and practically speaking) for believers to be involved in art, science, politics and commerce?
Is America basically a 'pagan' nation or a 'Christian' nation? What evidence can you cite to support your conclusion? In light of your answer, how should evangelical Christians respond?
What evidence from history can you cite to show that God spared a nation from divine judgement and destruction because of the intercessory prayers and leavening influence of a committed minority of Christians?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Love for God is best demonstrated by love for one's fellowmen." (What Scriptural basis can you cite to support your answer?)
Tell why you agree or disagree with E. Stanley Jones' statement: "Though living in this kind of a world is costing us pain, it is costing God more."
What is the relationship between prayer and compassionate action, as these two activities relate to the believer's response to human needs?
Give examples to illustrate the truth of the following statement: "Christians are called to deal with the 'root' of social problems, not simply the 'symptoms' of social problems."
Within the teachings of Christianity, which emphasis comes first, the personal or the social?
What does it mean for a Christian to be 'living in two worlds'?
Discussion Questions On 'Are You a Weapon For God'? (continued)
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "He who is most alive to spiritual visions ought to be most responsive to human needs, for the man with the heavenly vision is seeing Reality from a broader perspective."
Today there appear to be too many sincere Christians who are very concerned about heavenly matters, but who are quite uninvolved with earthly problems. Give several reasons why this may be so.
What is meant by the statement: "Everyone's guilt is nobody's guilt!"
How powerful is your godly influence as a weapon in the hands of God? Do you agree with the following statement: "The life you 1ive will help determine the outcome of your great grandchildren! You are shaping future generations!" (Note Exodus 20:5)
Can you illustrate from your own 1ife and experiences the truth of the statement: "The influence of words is immense."
Can you share from your own experience the impact and influence that a godly person or persons had on your own life?
Is there someone (perhaps a child or a youth) whom you sense is standing at the crossroads of life, that you can influence to take the 'high road' with Christ rather than the 'low road' of sin?