Do you know what your mission or purpose is as a Christian? Most people don't have a defined mission, you can tell by the way that they live that they don't have a purpose. It is hard to accomplish something when you have not clearly defined what it is you are trying to accomplish. This is why we have developed a mission statement for Berean Bible Church, we want all of you to understand what our purpose is. Our Mission: to influence friends who are living in spiritual darkness that they also may know the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ. To put it simply our mission is to be a godly influence. God wants Christians to influence the world in which they live. To demonstrate this turn with me to:
Revelation 3:15-16 (NKJV) "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Christ tells the Laodiceans He wants them to be either hot or cold. What does he mean by this? What is the significance of hot and cold? Many interpret hot as being on fire for God and cold as indifference to the gospel. The descriptions of hot and cold as spiritual conditions, though familiar to us, would have been completely foreign to first century Christians and it's foreign to the Scriptures.
Is Christ saying that he prefers indifferent and unresponsive Christians to lukewarm Christians? Would Christ prefer that you were either on fire for Him or completely unresponsive to him? Where does that leave most Christians who are not on fire for God? Should they become indifferent to become more pleasing to Christ? Christ clearly says, "I could wish you were cold or hot." To be lukewarm makes him sick. What does he mean?
Let me give you an explanation of hot and cold that suits the historical and geographical context. Laodicea was situated between two other important cities, Colossae and Hieropolis. Colossae, wedged into a narrow valley in the shadow of towering mountains, was watered by icy streams which tumbled down from the heights. Hieropolis, on the other hand, was famous for its hot mineral springs. These springs flowed out of the city and across a high plain until they cascaded down a cliff which faced Laodicea. By the time the water reached the valley floor, it was lukewarm, putrid, and nauseating. At Colossae, therefore, one could be refreshed with clear, cold, invigorating drinking water; at Hieropolis, one could be healed by bathing in its hot, mineral-laden pools. But at Laodicea, the waters were neither hot (for health) not cold (for drinking).
In other words, Christ accuses Laodicea of being ineffectual, good for nothing. The Laodicean church brings neither a cure for illness nor a drink to soothe dry lips and parched throats. The sort of Christianity represented by Laodicea is worthless. The church provided neither refreshment for the spiritually weary, nor healing for the spiritually sick. It was totally ineffective and thus distasteful to its Lord. When Christ says, "I would that you were cold or hot",He is not saying that outright apostasy is preferable to mediocrity; rather, He is wishing that the Laodicean Christians would have an influence upon their society. Laodicea was fruitless, ineffective, and thus worthless.
We, as believers, are called to influence our society, our culture, our world. God allows us to remain on earth after salvation for this purpose.
Matthew 5:13-16 (NKJV) "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 "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.
The principle function of salt is to preserve by stopping decay and to act as an antiseptic. It has a healing effect like the healing waters of Hieropolis. The individual Christian is to function as salt. Each believer is to be an influence through his Christlike life and character in every sphere he finds himself. Christlikeness influences society almost automatically. Someone who is Christlike radiates His influence in any group he belongs to. The lukewarm Christian has no influence. If a Christian doesn't influence his world, he is "good for nothing"according to Matthew 5:13. According to the Laodicean letter, he is lukewarm and nauseating to God.
The scriptures make it clear, God wants us to be a Christlike influence in the world in which we live. I think we all know that. We know that we are to be a godly influence but how do we do it? How do we influence our world?
That's a good question, I'm glad you asked it. I would like for us to spend the next several weeks developing an answer. I want to give you a formula to aid in our understanding of how we can influence our world. CL + CP + CM = MI. The MI stands for Maximum Influence. If we follow this equation we will have a maximum influence in the lives of others. Now, since we have seen that God wants us to be an influence, I would hope that all of us would want to be a maximum influence.
If we are going to be a maximum influence, there are three elements that are a must: CL stands for a Christlike Life, CP stands for Close Proximity, and CM stands for Clear Message. If you are living a Christlike Life in Close Proximity to unbelievers, and if you have a Clear Message, you are going to be a Maximum Influence. You will truly fulfill your mission and honor God.
Let's look at the first part of the equation this morning, a Christlike Life or CL. I really believe that our influence starts here. Before we ever begin to tells others about the gospel message, it needs to have had a transforming effect on our lives.
When Jesus called his disciples, he said, "Follow me," and that command had not been improved upon. The whole matter of the Christian life is the matter of following Christ, to become like him in all we do. John put it this way:
1 John 2:6 (NKJV) He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
If you are abiding in Christ, which results from studying and obeying the Word of God, you will be living as he lived. If that standard sounds kind of high to you, it's because it is. And the only way that you will ever achieve it is in total dependance upon the Spirit's power.
If we are abiding in him, we need to be living like Him. Does your life reflect Christ? When you live in a Christlike manner, the world takes notice. What was Christ like? What do we need in our lives to make us like Jesus Christ? I see two attributes on which everything else hangs: love and holiness.
James 1:27 (NKJV) Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
The word religion here is threskeia, and it has to do with the performance of the outward aspect of worship. Pure and undefiled outward worship boils down to two things:
1. Love -- to visit orphans and widows.
2. Holiness-- to keep yourself unspotted from the world.
When believers are living Christlike lives of love and holiness, they will have an influence in society. If you live a life of integrity and truly love others, you are going to make a very attractive impression on those around you.
Let's first look at love. If we are going to live like Christ, is there any doubt to the need of love in our lives? This character quality will set us apart as God's followers?
John 13:34-35 (NKJV) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
When we live a life of love, we will stand out in the society in which we live. Walking in love is living a Christlike life.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
The Greek word used here for "imitators" is mimetes. This is where we get our word mimic. We are to mimic God in the area of love. Jesus said that to love was the greatest commandment.
Matthew 22:36-40 (NKJV) "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
In the gospel of Luke, a lawyer asks Jesus for further clarification on this command by asking, "Who is my neighbor?" That's a good question. If we must love our neighbor, it is good to know who it is. Jesus answers him with a parable.
Luke 10:30-57 (NKJV) "Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 "Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 "Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 "So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 "On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'"
In this story, we have a man with a need. A priest and a Levite, who were full time servants of God, come upon this man on their way home from serving in the temple. They ignore this man and walk by on the other side of the street. The very law that they claimed to serve demanded the opposite treatment:
Exodus 23:4-5 (NKJV) "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. 5 "If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.
Now, if they were commanded to help an enemy's animal in need, how much more should they be quick to help a person in need? They saw the man's need but refused to respond. They were hypocrites!
Then a Samaritan comes by. Samaritans were hated by the Jews, they were religious outcasts. But this Samaritan responds to the man and cares for his needs.
The Lord shows that our neighbor is any person in need, whose need we know and whose need we are able to meet. If we refuse to respond to the need, we are not loving our neighbor.
Luke 10:36-37 (NKJV) "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" 37 And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
How do you think that hurt man felt toward the Samaritan? Do you think that the Samaritan had just won a friend? You better believe it. When we reach out in love to people with a need, our acts of mercy open up their heart to us like nothing else could. Jesus tells us all to, "Go and do likewise." We are all to reach out in love to those in need showing them mercy. As we live like this, we will have a great influence for Christ.
Our society is much like the priest and Levite in the parable they don't want to get involved. Years ago, Kitty Genovese was attacked and beaten for thirty minutes while 38 people watched from their windows. Nobody called the police. Nobody came to her aid. Kitty died that night as 38 people watched in silence.
Andrew Mormille, a seventeen year old, was attacked while riding the subway. He was repeatedly stabbed while 11 riders watched. Not one of the 11 came to his aid. We can almost understand that fear of being hurt themselves kept them from helping. But this next story shows that the basic problem is indifference. We are too self-consumed to care for others.
Eleanor Bradly tripped and broke her leg while shopping on Fifth Ave in Manhattan. Dazed, anguished and in shock, she called out for help. For forty minutes people walked around her and over her, no one helped. Finally a cab driver stopped and helped her.
When love sees a need, it doesn't go the other way, it goes into action: Jim McNulty is a detective constable in Scotland. He went online one day to report that a London officer had been killed in the line of duty and two others injured. On reading this, comrades from other countries wondered why bulletproof vests hadn't worked. McNulty explained that the government doesn't provide vests for police officers in Great Britain. Las Vegas Police Lt. Dennis Cobb immediately responded via email offering his spare vest. Within days, McNulty was deluged with messages from police all over the United States and Canada offering their vests, which were due for replacement but still effective. A few weeks later, an initial shipment of 30 vests was transported free of charge to London's Heathrow. Since news of the program broke, thousands more vests have been sent to Britain. McNulty said, "All the officers here are absolutely astounded at the lengths their fellow officers in the United States have gone to for them." --Michele D. Kinnamon CompuServe Magazine.
As we reach out in love to those in need, we will have an influence. As we reach out in compassion to those who are hurting, we demonstrate the love of Christ. We imitate God and open doors to share God's wonderful gift of love. When we make sacrifices, for others it moves them. It makes them stop in their tracks and ask, "Why would you go out of your way for me?" Loving others who are in need make us an influence.
So if we are going to live a Christlike life, we need to love those around us and we also need to walk in holiness. Now that we understand what it means to love, we also need to understand what holiness is. Holiness is living set apart from sin. It is living according to the precepts of God's word. Nobody likes a hypocrite, and that is what we are when we talk about our relationship with Christ and live in sin. We are hypocrites and hypocrites have no influence in their world. Let me share with you a few elements of a holy life.
Honesty-- We live in a society where honesty is rare. When we are known as people who are honest and truthful, we will have an influence.
Ephesians 4:24-25 (NKJV) and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another.
Being honest would include things like putting in an honest day's work, and keeping our word no matter what it cost us. Psalm 15 gives us some insight into righteous living.
Psalms 15:1-4 (NKJV) LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? 2 He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; 3 He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; 4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
Another area where holiness is manifest is in Commitment to marriage -- With the break down of the family and home, a strong marriage and home is a brilliant testimony.
Ephesians 5:22-25 (NKJV) Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
Husbands, we are to model Christ's love for the Church by the way we love our wives. And wives are to model the Church's submission to Christ by their submission to their husband. As we honor our marriage covenant, we are a testimony in a world that has no idea of commitment.
When Dr. David Livingstone was working in Africa, a group of friends wrote him: "We would like to send other men to you. Have you found a good road into your area yet?" According to a member of his family, Dr. Livingstone sent this message in reply: "If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all." That is commitment!
We also need to be people of Moral Purity-- with all of the moral perversity around us, we stand out when we live pure lives. Not telling dirty jokes, or using foul language, and avoiding pornography.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NKJV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
Sexual immorality would include adultery and fornication-- sex with anyone that you are not married to. Any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin. No matter how our president tries to redefine adultery, the Bible is clear -- it is any sexual contact with someone who is not your spouse.
Believers, when we live a Christlike life, walking in love and holiness, we will have an influence on the world in which we live.
A well-known professional golfer was playing in a tournament with President Gerald Ford, fellow pro Jack Nicklaus, and Billy Graham. After the round was over, one of the other pros on the tour asked, "Hey, what was it like playing with the President and Billy Graham?" The pro said with disgust, "I don't need Billy Graham stuffing religion down my throat!" With that he headed for the practice tee. His friend followed, and after the golfer had pounded out his fury on a bucket of golf balls, he asked, "Was Billy a little rough on you out there?" The pro sighed and said with embarrassment, "No, he didn't even mention religion."
Astonishingly, Billy Graham had said nothing about God, Jesus, or religion, yet the pro stomped away after the game accusing Billy of trying to ram religion down his throat. What had happened? Simply this: The evangelist had so reflected Christlikeness that his presence made the pro feel uncomfortable.
I wonder, do unbelievers sense our godly influence? If we are identified with Christ and walk in love and holiness, they will -- before we even mention Christ.
Our influence in this world is very important. We make a difference when we live a Christlike life. Russell Kirk said, "Without Christian culture and Christian hope, the modern world would come to resemble a half-derelict fun-fair, gone nasty and poverty-racked, one enormous Atlantic City."
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