The One Word That Kills Spiritual Growth (5/21/17)

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Are there areas in our lives where we’re doing things which are in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus but we’re convincing ourselves that we’re innocent of doing anything wrong? We can all say “yes” if we’re really honest with ourselves. The next question is: Are we willing to change and be faithful to Jesus even if it means stepping out in faith, trusting God and perhaps even walking alone?

After all, there’s no question that following Jesus is downright difficult at times. Sometimes family members shy away from us because of our faith. Co-workers avoid us and perhaps even mock us for taking Jesus too seriously. Sometimes our bosses will ask us to do things that are morally wrong but saying “no” to them might cost us a good paying job. It’s easier to ignore people than it is to work at restoring broken relationships with them. Turning a blind eye to suffering and injustice is much easier than standing against it. And the list goes on and on…

Refusing to live by biblical principles because they’re too hard to follow or because they’re unpopular among the people around us leads us to compromise our faith. Oxford Dictionaries says one definition of Compromise is to “accept standards that are lower than is desirable.” God allows us to live in a world where we have to continually choose whether or not we’re going to be a disciple of Jesus or compromise our faith in order to make life easier.

Three of the Jewish refugees living in Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem had to choose whether or not to compromise. Daniel 3:1-18 says “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose to be faithful. If we read the rest of Daniel 3, we see that God rescued them. When we look at Hebrews 11:35-38, we read about other believers who chose not to compromise their faith and they suffered because of it. God doesn’t want us to compromise when it comes to walking with him whether we suffer or not.

Even Jesus, the Son of God, had to decide whether or not he would be faithful. Right before he was arrested, Jesus took his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew what was coming so he chose to spend some time in prayer. His prayer in Matthew 26:39 was “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” In essence, he was saying, “Father, I know what’s coming my way and I don’t want to go through it. But if this is the only way you can redeem creation from the curse of sin, I’ll do it.”

I realize you and I are not Jesus. We are not fully human as well as fully God. We’re just human. However, Paul writes in Philippians 4:12-13 – “12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” The same power that helped Jesus remain faithful in the Garden of Gethsemane is in us. We don’t have to compromise either.

Perhaps you’re thinking – “What’s the big deal? Why does it matter if we compromise once in a while? We still have salvation.” That might be true but compromise kills our spiritual growth. How does it kill spiritual growth?

Psalm 119:1-3 says “Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.

Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— they do no wrong but follow his ways.”

While we understand that we’re no longer required to keep the Old Testament laws, the writers of the New Testament are very clear that God expects the followers of Jesus to live by high moral standards. Living by the teaching of Jesus and the moral code he gives us means that we “do no wrong” in God’s eyes. Failing to be faithful to Jesus and his moral code means we’re compromising with the world. This leads us to “do wrong,” or sin. Compromising with the world is sin in God’s eyes.

How does sin affect our relationship with God? Isaiah 59:1-2 says “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” The more we sin, the further away we get from God and, ultimately, Jesus.

There’s one more thing that compromising with the world does that most Christians never think about. In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus says 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Another question we need to ask ourselves is: How many treasures am I losing in eternity because I’m storing up treasures on earth by compromising now?

If we want to walk closer with Jesus, we have to quit compromising simply because compromising makes life easier. Jesus is calling us to stand with him and be faithful.

Today we’re going to have another altar call during the closing hymn. I’m asking you to come forward and pray for forgiveness for the areas where you’re compromising and to ask Jesus to give you the strength you need to be faithful.

Recently someone asked to have a time of repentance where people could do it while sitting in the pews. I understand why this person asked to do this. However, let’s think about something for a moment. If you’re not willing to come forward and take a stand for Jesus in here, the safest place in the world to do it, how much of a stand are you taking for Jesus outside of the walls of the church? Most likely you’re not. You’re compromising because you’re afraid of what others will think or because it makes your life a little easier.

We have to start taking a stand for Jesus somewhere. This is a safe place to start.