"There have always been hard times. There have always been wars and troubles--famine, disease and such-like--and some folks are born with money, some with none. In the end it is up to the man what he becomes, and none of those other things matters. It is character that counts." --Louis L'Amour Chancy
It may be hard for us, as twentieth century Americans, to believe, but character does count. And when there is a lack of character, we all suffer. I'm sure that most of you have heard what happened to Eugene Robinson last week.
Super Bowl XXXIII will be remembered as John Elway's best moment. It will also always be stained as Eugene Robinson's worst.
Robinson -- the leader of the Falcons, the player with the Super Bowl ring, the Super Bowl experience (He played in two Super Bowls with Green Bay, and leads the NFL for interceptions), the supposed wealth of character-- abandoned his teammates 21 hours before kickoff on a seedy intersection in downtown Miami.
Police said the Pro Bowl safety ( known as "the Prophet" for his strong religious beliefs and Bible-thumping recitations) was arrested for offering an undercover officer $40 for sex on Biscayne Boulevard, a major street frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers. Biscayne Boulevard is about a 30-minute drive from the airport hotel where his teammates, in addition to his wife, two children and other family members were staying.
The arrest occurred about 12 hours after a Christian athlete's group selected him the winner of the Bart Starr award, an honor bestowed for high moral character. When he won the award Saturday afternoon, Robinson bust into tears and profusely thanked his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Robinson was nicknamed "The Prophet" because of his deep religious beliefs. All week Robinson had been professing the importance of his wife and children and was constantly preaching biblical values.
Robinson said he apologized to his family, his teammates, and the entire organization for causing such a shocking distraction the night before the Falcons appeared in the NFL title game for the first time in their 33-year history.
Robinson was released from jail at 11 p.m. Saturday, but spent the entire night praying and being consoled by teammates. Without any sleep, he started the Super Bowl and was burned on the biggest play of the night -- an 80-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith late in the first half.
While maintaining his innocence, Robinson was contrite at a post-game news conference. ``What I want to do now is apologize first to my Lord, Jesus Christ, secondly to my wife and kids, and thirdly to my teammates and the entire Falcons' organization for the distraction that I may have caused them,'' he said. ``I regret I was not maintaining the standards I have set for myself."
What I want all of us to understand this morning is that Robinson was not only not maintaining the standards that he had set for himself, he was violating the standards that God has set for all his children and did, in fact, blaspheme the Word of God by his conduct. Character counts! This is what Paul told the Philippians and all believers.
Philippians 2:15-16 (NKJV) that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
This is a process. The literal Greek reads, "In order that you might become blameless and harmless." This is what the Lord wants from all of his children, we are to be blameless and harmless.
The word "blameless" means: "irreproachable, living a life at which no finger of criticism may be pointed." Let's look at another use of this word:
1 Thessalonians 2:10 (NKJV) You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;
Paul tells the Thessalonians that he has lived a "blameless" life among them. They could not accuse him of wrongdoing. We are called as believers to live a life of holiness and moral purity that a finger of criticism cannot be pointed at.
We are not only to be blameless but are also to be harmless. "Harmless" doesn't mean: "someone who won't harm you," it has to do with being pure, innocent, unmixed. It was used in the vocabulary of primitive metallurgy to talk about pure gold, pure copper, or any metal that did not have impurities. It is used of wine or milk which is not mixed with water. When used of people, it implies motives which are unmixed. This same word is used in:
Romans 16:19 (NKJV) For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.
The word "simple" is the same Greek word which is translated "harmless" in Philippians 2:15. It means: "unmixed."
We are to live a life without fault and without flaw. In these two ethical terms, we catch a glimpse of God's ideal for his people. In their character and conduct, there should be no feature on which the outsiders would pass a critical verdict.
The third term Paul uses is "without fault." It means: "faultless, blemishless." This Greek word is also used in:
Ephesians 1:4 (NKJV) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
This speaks of our relationship towards God. This does not mean that there will ever come a time in our lives when we will be sinless.
In these three words (blameless, harmless, and without fault), we see that; blameless expresses what the Christian should be to the world. When the unsaved look at you, they should see you as blameless. There should be no moral or character defect that they can point to. We should also be harmless; this expresses what the Christian is in himself, he is not a hypocrite.
"I know a lot of people are saying that I'm just another hypocritical Christian," Robinson said. "I deserve that." He does deserve that, he was not living a life that was without flaw or fault. He was preaching one thing and living something else.
We should also be "without fault"; this expresses what we should be in the sight of God. In your fellowship with God, you should be without fault.
Then Paul calls them "children of God."
Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.
We, as God's children, are to imitate our father. When people see us, they should see a reflection of our Father. When you claim to be a Christian, people form their opinion of God from your life. To them, you represent God, or at least you should. We bear the Father's name and must be consistent to live a life that will speak well of the name we bear.
Ezekiel 36:22-23 (NKJV) "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. 23 "And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD," says the Lord GOD, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.
Our upright character and morally pure lives put God on display to the world, and when we don't live as we should, we profane God's name.
Listen to what MSNBC contributor, Ray Glier, said about the incident with Robinson:
"Robinson was supposed to be the steadying influence in a secondary that has improved greatly since the start of the season. It was a secondary that looked like it had no leadership.
'I thought he played a pretty good game,' cornerback Ray Buchanan said. 'Once we got on the football field, that pretty much squashed it.' Garbage! Robinson had a rotten game. It looked like the shame was wearing him down. The truth is, Robinson is in big trouble because he set himself up as a Christian of the highest order, a bible-thumper preacher, who is, incidentally, nicknamed "The Prophet." He preached virtue all week and then he goes out looking for sex -- allegedly.
Robinson will likely appear at church next Sunday and at various community functions. He will confess his sins but, like Bill Clinton, he will not admit any guilt. That's fine. We just care about the football game. And it looked like Eugene Robinson played a bad football game because he was an embarrassed father and husband."
God's name is being profaned because of Robinson's behavior. Christianity is being mocked.
Philippians 2:15 goes on to say that we are to live blameless, harmless, and without fault, "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." How we live affects the world in which we live. The main issue in verses 14-16 of Philippians 2, is evangelism. Evangelism is primarily a matter of God's children shining as lights in a dark world, and doing that effectively comes down to two things-- character and content. It's not just what you say, it's what you are. What you are gives you a platform for what you say. The man who shared the gospel with me was able to do so because his life demonstrated the reality of what he believed.
We often fail to realize how crucial to the purpose of God is the behavior of his people. As God's children, we are to live blameless, sincere, blemishless lives. This would be easy if we lived in the garden of Eden, but we don't. We are to live this way in a crooked and perverse world, and it is difficult, very difficult.
Paul goes on to say-- "among whom you shine as lights in the world." The word "lights" means: "to give light." You live in a dark world, your purity of character will make you stand out as lights. God's light is to be reflected in our lives. The word "shine" means: "to shine or give light." We are to demonstrate the life of God. Just as:
Psalms 19:1 (NKJV) The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
We, too, are to declare His glory.
Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV) "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Our light shines by our character and conduct. When we live sinfully, we vale God's glory in our lives. Over and over in the Word of God we are told to live in a manner that is worthy of the gospel:
Colossians 1:10 (NKJV) that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
1 Thessalonians 2:12 (NKJV) that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
We are to live consistent with what we know, with what we teach, with what we preach, and with what we believe-- this is character!
We are losing all credibility today because we say one thing and do another. We live one way and preach another. We must live worthy of the gospel or we destroy our effectiveness and become a group of hypocrites.
We do not behave "in a manner worthy of the gospel" in order to go to heaven. That would be salvation by works. We walk worthy because our names are already written in heaven and our citizenship is in heaven.
Remember, the only Bible some people will ever read is the one demonstrated by our lives. An unknown author has put it this way: "You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day. By the deeds that you do, and the words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithless or true. Just what is the gospel, according to you?"
Our lives should be lived in view of, "Will this promote the gospel of Christ?"
2 Corinthians 3:2 (NKJV) You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
Titus 2:1-10 (NKJV) But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
This is why we are to live in obedience to the instructions of verses one through five-- "that the word of God may not be blasphemed." When you live contrary to these things, you blaspheme the word of God.
The Southern Baptist have come under fire from the secular media lately because they are calling for women to live in submission to their husbands. I want to tell you all that that isn't something the Southern Baptist made up. That is what God expects of Christian women. The word "obedient" here is hupotasso. It is a military term and means: "to line up under authority." Ladies, when you don't submit to your husbands authority, you are blaspheming the Word of God. This principle applies to men and women-- when we live contrary to the teaching of the word of God, we blaspheme God's Word.
6 Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.
Do you see what he is saying? Your enemies should not be able to find anything evil to say about you. Your life should be lived in a manner that gives your enemies nothing to condemn you for. This is a Christ like life.
9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
The word "adorn" here mans: "to decorate, or make attractive." The way you live can do one of two things: you can blaspheme the Word of God by your life, or you can adorn the doctrine of God. We can actually add to the beauty of the gospel by our lives, by our daily conduct. The NIV Bible translates verse 10 this way:
Titus 2:10 (NIV)..... so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
Do you understand the importance of that? Your life either makes the gospel attractive or repulsive. That is a sobering thought.
You affect and impact people in one way or another for good or for bad. The quality of your life is the platform of your personal testimony. By the kind of life you live, you build a platform on which what you say is made believable. Paul has stressed first their character, then he talks about their message.
"Holding fast the word of life" -- Now he is talking to them about offering to the world the message of life. When our lives are light, people are inclined to listen to our words.
What is the Gospel? There is much confusion about this, we must make sure that our answer is biblical. Let me share with you briefly the Gospel. 1. All men are sinners (Romans 3:10). 2. The wages (payment) for our sin is death (separation from the Father), eternal damnation (Romans 6:23). 3. Christ died for our sins, his death was substitutional (Romans 5:8). 4. You must personally trust what Christ did for a payment for your sins. You must trust his work alone to get you to heaven (John 3:16).
The gospel is not "Ask Jesus into your heart." Nowhere in Scripture is anyone told to "ask Jesus into their heart." Nor does it say that Jesus comes into our hearts. What we are told is to "believe" in Christ with our hearts -- to the Hebrew mind, the heart refers to the thinking process.
Romans 10:10 (NKJV) For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Nor are you saved by praying the "sinner's prayer." We are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone. In order to believe in Him, you must know who he is and what he has done. Before you can believe, you must have knowledge. You can't believe what you don't know.
The testimony of the church in America is at a very low level. It is immoral, lazy and selfish. We are not living lives that are becoming to the gospel. We are all too often making the gospel repulsive and not attractive.
Our sin not only affects us, it affects others. David's sin affected all of Israel.
1 Chronicles 21:2 (NKJV) So David said to Joab and to the leaders of the people, "Go, number Israel from Beersheba to Dan, and bring the number of them to me that I may know it."
1 Chronicles 21:7 (NKJV) And God was displeased with this thing; therefore He struck Israel.
1 Chronicles 21:14 (NKJV) So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell.
Because of David's sin, 70,000 Israelites died. When we sin it affects more than just us. Robinson's sin affected his wife and children, his team, and his fans.
"Reputation, I can deal with that," Robinson said. "But the hurt to my wife means much more to me than that because I truly do love my wife. I love my kids. I'm sorry I had to drag them through this type of deal. The ramifications are far-reaching. You have no idea of the gravity of the situation as I see it and how it's going to affect people."
You don't sin in a vacuum. Your sin not only hurts you, it hurts those that your life touches.
As Christians we proclaim the standards of the Word of God, when we don't live up to the very standards we proclaim, we become hypocrites. We must show the world the power of God by our holy lives.
Is Eugene Robinson just a big hypocrite? I don't think so, but it seems he forgot the warning of:
1 Corinthians 6:18 (NKJV) Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
"Flee sexual immorality" -- This imperative is not isolated, on thirty eight occasions in the Bible believers are commanded in one way or another to flee fornication. Hugh Hefner says, "Sex in any occasion", the new morality says, "Sex within a love context," the Bible says, "Sex within a marriage context and only with your spouse."
At times this may mean an actual literal fleeing from fornication-- like Joseph from Potiphar's wife (Gen. 39:12). But it may also require refusing intimate friendships with people to whom one is improperly attracted, refraining in dating relationships from bodily contact that prematurely arouses sexual desires, or avoiding places that make pornography available in print or on television and movies. It applies to the mental level. We are to flee any thing that will cause us to lust, to fuel our illicit desires. To most of us this is a call to flee mentally from any lustful thoughts.
The dangers and harm of sexual sin are nowhere presented more vividly and forcefully than in the Proverbs.
Proverbs 7 (NKJV) "My son, keep my words, And treasure my commands within you. 2 Keep my commands and live, And my law as the apple of your eye. 3 Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," And call understanding your nearest kin, 5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman, From the seductress who flatters with her words. 6 For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, 7 And saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, A young man devoid of understanding, 8 Passing along the street near her corner; And he took the path to her house 9 In the twilight, in the evening, In the black and dark night. 10 And there a woman met him, With the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart. 11 She was loud and rebellious, Her feet would not stay at home. 12 At times she was outside, at times in the open square, Lurking at every corner. 13 So she caught him and kissed him; With an impudent face she said to him: 14 "I have peace offerings with me; Today I have paid my vows. 15 So I came out to meet you, Diligently to seek your face, And I have found you. 16 I have spread my bed with tapestry, Colored coverings of Egyptian linen. 17 I have perfumed my bed With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with love. 19 For my husband is not at home; He has gone on a long journey; 20 He has taken a bag of money with him, And will come home on the appointed day." 21 With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, With her flattering lips she seduced him. 22 Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, 23 Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it would cost his life. 24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth: 25 Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths; 26 For she has cast down many wounded, And all who were slain by her were strong men. 27 Her house is the way to hell, Descending to the chambers of death."
The Bible's advice for avoiding fornication is simple: stay as far away as possible from the persons and places likely to get you in trouble. Passion is not rational or sensible, and sexually dangerous situations should be avoided or fled from, not debated.
Are you fleeing fornication? Or are you toying with it? This is a very destructive sin that causes much damage. May we realize its seriousness and keep on fleeing from it.
Now, you don't have the popularity of Eugene Robinson, and chances are your sins are not going to be made known nationally, but someone is watching you. If you have made it known that you are a Christian, people are watching you-- your neighbors, co-workers, spouse, children-- to see what Christianity is all about. What does your life tell them? Albert Schweitzer said, "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."
A father was teaching his son about how a Christian should live. He told him that Christians should forgive their enemies, help those who are in need, treat all people with justice, and tell others about the love of Christ. When the lesson was over, the little boy asked, "Dad, have I ever met one of those Christians?"
How about you, have your family and friends ever met one of those Christians?