Pastor Leith Anderson has written in his book, "Dying For Change," that no matter how hard Christians might try, none of us can make it become 1954 all over again. Like it or not, we have to face up to the fact that the world around us has dramatically changed. The world has changed:
1. Politically/Geographically - The 1990's will be remembered as the decade of globalization. Modern technology and global technology have dramatically shrunk the world. One turns on a television and can see events occurring live on the other side of the globe. What happens in Frankfurt tonight will affect what happens on Wall Street in the morning which will in turn affect what happens in Sydney this evening.
2. Mobility - 35% of all Americans move every year. Commuting takes several hours each week in urban areas and American's purchase cars at a price which once would have bought a fine house. The Navigator, Lincoln's new SUV, has a base sticker of $40,000 dollars. When Cathy and I purchased our first home in 1978, it cost us $36,000 and had a mortgage payment of $380.00 which caused me to have to work three jobs to afford.
3. Aging - For the first time in American history, there are more adults over the age of 65 than there are teenagers. The fastest growing age group in America is now those over the age of 85.
4. Culture/Morals - Most of us are aware of how great of a change has occurred in this area of our lives. There was a time in America when a general agreement prevailed about what was right and what was wrong. Abhorrent lifestyles and behaviors were noted as so. Today there is an aggressive effort to normalize almost all kinds of behavior as "an acceptable choice". The result is a growing, younger generation experiencing a moral drift over what is "correct" behavior.
If all of those changes were not enough, some of you have experienced unexpected change which has personally affected your lives as well as the lives of your families.
Vocationally- Some of you have seen your company fold up their tents almost overnight. Others of you have discovered that your once valuable skills are expendable and no longer needed. Some of you have been cast aside with little concern after many faithful, productive and dependable years provided to your employer.
Maritally - Some of you are now sailing in the sea of singleness. It may have occurred in spite of your best efforts. You may have been once married to a partner you were certain would be faithful for the remainder of your life. Tragically, he/she broke the vow of faithfulness and you find yourself no longer wanted or needed. Others of you made a grave error of judgment and the consequences have been deep, painful and costly. Still others of you have lost your beloved mates to death and you are learning to cope with life again.
Economically - Some have financial debts that resemble Mount Everest and you wonder if you will ever be able to climb over it. Your every thought is preoccupied with schemes, plans, strategies and long-shot hopes of escaping in a few days what took years to create.
Relationally - A change may have occurred in a close relationship in your family or friends. You may have an "empty nest" at your home. Bedrooms once noisy with the voices of children and friends, stereos and TV, remain still and quiet in darkness. A conflict has occurred and broken the telephone calls, the golf game and hamburger suppers, the sharing of news and shared vacations.
As much as we might dislike it, change is a rolling tide which crashes in on every area of our lives. But instead of just adjusting to the changes as they come, we can be involved in making some changes ourselves.
In the book of 2 Kings, we are introduced to one of the greatest and most positive "change-makers" in all of scripture. His name was Josiah and his story is told briefly and succinctly in two chapters in the book of 2 Kings. The biography of this King is found in:
2 Kings 23:25 (NKJV) Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.
Josiah is one of the most remarkable people in scripture. He became King of Judah when he was only 8 years of age.
2 Kings 22:1-2 (NKJV) Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. 2 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
He was preceded by his grandfather Manasseh, who ruled over Judah for 55 years. His years as King were marked by repeated wickedness. He opened the floodgates of Judah to astrology, spiritism, wizardry, wickedness, human sacrifice, immorality and idolatry. At Manasseh's death, Josiah's father, Amon, followed his father in a similar reign of godlessness. As equally wicked as his own father, Amon was assassinated after only two years of ruling Judah as King.
Josiah was made King at the tender age of eight years. Can you imagine a third grade child being made ruler over a land? Yet, for 31 years, he ruled the land more effectively and honorably than anyone before him. Though he could not turn back God's judgment over the many years of wickedness, his reforms provided a brief respite from the pervasive wickedness that had infected Jewish society. He is described by one Old Testament scholar as a "reign of brilliant sunlight before the final darkness came".
Anyone who was able to accomplish what Josiah accomplished is someone whose life should be evaluated and considered. Do not underestimate what he did. Chapter 22 tells that as the temple was being repaired, the workers uncovered a book of scripture which no one even knew to exist. It is believed that what was found was the Book of Deuteronomy. When Josiah read it, he immediately knew how far the nation had drifted from God's instruction and he brought the people to a national day of Bible reading and prayer.
2 Kings 23:1-3 (NKJV) Now the king (Josiah) sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. 2 The king went up to the house of the LORD with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. 3 Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.
We see here that Josiah himself read to all of the gathered nation the book of covenant that Moses made with God on behalf of the people. The effect this reading had on Josiah and the nation was dramatic. A national campaign was begun to destroy all shrines, cultic centers, articles for worship and priests of the false gods which had overtaken the land. Shrines were broken down, articles for worship were destroyed and priests which had led the people away from God were executed. Josiah, almost single-handily, delayed the judgment of God for another generation for the nation of Judah. What does his life teach us about being a positive change-maker in our homes, in our church, in our culture and in our nation? Here is a simple "A -B - C" formula for success Josiah implemented.
1. ACCEPT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO DO THE RIGHT THING.
One of the reasons for the disintegration of morals in society is that we have a glaring absence of people failing to take responsible positions in society. Several years ago, NBA star, Charles Barkley, stated in an ad campaign for Nike shoes, "I am not a role model" . He could not have been more wrong. Like it or not, he was a role model at that point in his life due to accomplishments as a basketball star.
Whenever parents, consumers, elected officials, educators, corporations and congregations fail to honorably face up to their responsibilities - society suffers significantly.
I received a joke via e-mail yesterday that sadly, yet vividly, demonstrates our societies unwillingness to accept responsibility.
Dad - Son, come in here, we need to talk. Son - What's up, Dad? Dad -There's a scratch down the side of the car. Did you do it? Son - I don't believe, if I understand the definition of "scratch the car" that I can say, truthfully, that I scratched the car. Dad - Well, it wasn't there yesterday, and you drove the car last night, and no one else has driven it since. How can you explain the scratch? Son - Well, as I've said before, I have no recollection of scratching the car. While it is true that I did take the car out last night, I did not scratch it. Dad - But your sister has told me she saw you back the car against the mailbox at the end of the driveway, heard a loud scraping sound, saw you get out to examine the car and drive away. So again I'll ask you, yes or no, did you scratch the car? Son - Oh, you mean you think you have evidence to prove I scratched it. Well, you see, I understood you to mean did "I" scratch the car. I stand by my earlier statement, that I did not scratch the car. Dad - Are you trying to tell me you didn't drive the car into the mailbox? Son - Well, you see sir, I was trying to drive the car into the street. I mishandled the steering of the car, and it resulted in direct contact with the mailbox, though that was clearly not my intent. Dad - So you are then saying that you did hit the mailbox? Son - No sir, that's not my statement. I'll refer you back to my original statement that I did not scratch the car. Dad - But the car did hit the mailbox, and the car did get scratched as a result of this contact? Son - Well, yes, I suppose you could look at it that way. Dad - So you lied to me when you said you did not scratch the car? Son - No. No, that's not correct. Your question was "Did I scratch the car?" >From a strict legal definition, as I understood the meaning of that sentence, I did not scratch the car... the mailbox did... I was merely present when the scratching occurred. So my answer of "No" when you asked "Did I scratch the car" was legally correct, although I did not volunteer information. Dad - Where did you learn to be such a wise guy? Son - From The President of the United States.
The example of Josiah reminds us just how much difference one person can make when exposed to the truth of the word of God. This young man radically changed his life and the life of his nation to conform to the instructions of God's word. He did not let the fact that he was young dissuade him from doing the right thing. He did not let the fact that he had inherited the moral chaos of Israel keep him from doing the right thing. Instead of making excuses, he set out to do the right thing.
Don't ever think that you are the only person who has difficult circumstances going on in life. Some of us want to let our circumstances be excuses for not doing the right thing. Teenagers might say, "It is hard to do the right thing today". Do you think it is any easier to do the right thing as an adult in the business world? A single Christian might say, "It is hard to do the right thing as a single in today's world". Do you think it is any easier when one is married and providing for their family? One might say, "it is hard to do the right thing when you are poor?" Do you think it is any easier to be wealthy and be tempted to allow money to become the god of your life?"
Everybody has their own obstacles in accepting the responsibility to doing the right thing in life. I would suggest to you that achievement in life is not determined by external circumstances but instead by one's own internal response to external circumstances. Josiah has no easy task undoing more than 60 years of evil by his own grandfather and father but he determined to be a positive change-maker in spite of such adversity. The first key to doing so in your own circumstance is to accept your responsibility to do the right thing whoever and wherever you are in your life right now.
2. TAKE ACTION, DO SOMETHING
It is one thing to know what is the right thing to do. It is a far different thing to accomplish it. One may rationalize, analyze and organize ones life in such a way to excuse obedience to God's word, yet the admonition of scripture is clear.
James 4:17 (NKJV) Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
The scriptures are clear about the response Josiah made.
2 Kings 22:2 (NKJV) And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
Why do we find it so hard to do the right things when, in fact, the world admires the man who has the courage and conviction to do what is right? A pastor told the following story of an experience he had while pastor of a church: A man in his community was quite kind when he was sober but dangerously mean when he had been drinking. Somebody asked this pastor to visit the man and he agreed to do so although that was the last thing he wanted to do. He told about going to the edge of town where this fellow lived. Upon arrival, he saw liquor bottles everywhere he looked. Suddenly, the degradation that all of this drinking had brought upon his life created some kind of "holy wrath" on this young pastor. He looked at this man and said, "I hate what all this has done to you and it is time it stopped!" Without even thinking about the possible consequences, this pastor began gathering up the fifths of whiskey and other kinds of hard liquor in his arms and took them out to the back of this man's house. One after another, he threw every bottle against the rocks until he had destroyed every single bottle! The other man stood there, open-mouthed, watching what the pastor was doing. When he was finished, he looked at this pastor and said, "Preacher, you are a mean motor-scooter!"
Could it be time for some of us to rediscover some kind of "holy wrath" against the sin in our own lives? Isn't it remarkable the impact God's rediscovered word had on Josiah? Particularly so in light of the fact that he had not been raised in a Christian home. All children are a product of their environment and they tend to repeat what they grow up observing. However, in Josiah's case, in spite of two generations of wickedness and evil which had touched his psyche, Josiah made a significant change of behavior. It reminds us that God's truth is so powerful that when the truth gets into your thinking and actions, it can overcome a destructive lifestyle.
Doing the right thing has both negative and positive implications to it. On the negative side, it means there are some things which should cease to occur in one's life. That explains the actions of Josiah in 2 Kings 23:1-24. Josiah put to a stop evil and wicked actions. For some of us to do the right thing right now, it will require you to stop and desist from certain actions and attitudes which absolutely are not right. However, never forget that there is also a positive implication to doing the right thing. For Josiah, it was repairing and restoring the temple to a central place of worship, as is seen in 2 Kings 22:3-7.
I read a story about the artist Whistler whose most famous work was his painting; Whistler's Mother. A man bought one of Whistler's more expensive pieces of art and asked the artist to come and assist him in determining where the picture should hang in his home. When the artist arrived, the man moved the painting from one wall to another and asked the artist which location he believed to be best. Whistler responded by saying, "You are going about this all wrong. What you need to do is to move all of the furniture out, hang the picture where it is prominent and then rearrange the furniture in relationship to the painting".
That is how it must be for us in accordance to God's will for our lives. We sometimes seem to want to add God's will as an additional piece of furniture to our lives when what needs to occur is for us to move everything out of our lives and give God the central and preeminent place He deserves.
Colossians 1:13-18 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
The word "preeminence" is the Greek word proteuo, meaning: "to have first place" or "to be above all else." Does this describe Christ's position in your life?
The negative side of doing the right thing is denial. The positive side is dedication. Dedication to what? Dedication to Bible study, to prayer, to obedience, to discipline, to financial accountability with God, to obedience in all matters as His will is revealed to each of us.
3. CLAIM YOUR GREAT RESOURCES.
This is the final piece to becoming to be a great and positive change maker. There is one great key which was missing from his grandfather and father's life. It was the Word of God; the Holy Scriptures. Notice what occurred in:
2 Kings 22:8-11 (NKJV) Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, "I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9 So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, "Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the LORD." 10 Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it before the king. 11 Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes.
Scholars now believe it was the Book of Deuteronomy which was presented to Josiah. This book records the re-teaching of the original law from God by Moses to the second generations of Jews in the desert. Before they were to enter into the Promised Land, Moses taught them what God expected from them in actions and in attitudes.
The logical question is "Why had God's word been hidden?" Apparently, during the wicked reign of Mannaseh, the religious leaders had hidden the word of God lest the evil King destroy it. Isn't it interesting that as long as the Word of God remained hidden that the nation went from bad to worse? However, when the Word of God was rediscovered and practiced, the nation was restored to its rightful place.
May I make a observation? The cultural and moral shift which has occurred in our land has left us as a society adrift with no anchor in a sea of sin and sorrow. No one seems to know for sure what is right and wrong anymore. We are becoming more and more like the people in the day of the Judges when scripture says about the day and age "Every man did what was right in his own eyes". My further observation is that at first glance, such a lifestyle is very appealing but a careful observation exposes it as absolutely deadly for individuals and for nations. There is one source of authority which will not be shaken and it is the Word of God. It is a book of absolute truth with no mixture of error in it and it is capable of exposing the truth in every circumstance of our lives. The primary reason Josiah was such a capable change-maker was because he CLAIMED THE GREAT RESOURCE OF GOD'S WORD AS A GUIDE FOR HIS LIFE.
A teenage boy, David, took these steps and changed the course of his nation.
1. He accepted His responsibility to do the right thing.
1 Samuel 17:32 (NKJV) Then David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine."
David was at the battle front only because his father had sent him there to take food for his brothers. He could have said, "I'm just a food delivery boy, let someone else fight the giant." But he personally took responsibility to do the right thing.
2 .David took action.
1 Samuel 17:40 (NKJV) Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.
While all the warriors of Israel were hiding, David went out to fight with the giant. He took action.
3. David claimed his great resources.
1 Samuel 17:46-47 (NKJV) "This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 "Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands."
David's strength was his trust in God. He knew that the battle was the Lord's and in the power of the Lord, he changed the course of the nation Israel.
God's word still has the power to bring about positive change in our lives and righteousness in our nation. God's word should not be hidden; it must be rediscovered. God's word doesn't need to be argued about; it must be studied. God's word doesn't need to be worshiped; it needs to be obeyed. I want to challenge you to begin making positive changes in your life today. I want to challenge you to begin making changes rather than permitting changes to make you.
1. Accept the responsibility to do the right thing.
2. Take action.
3. Claim your great resources.