Youth

Common to Man: The Process of Sanctification

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39 - Common to Man

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“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-13)

Mortification of Sin

We’re jumping in and continuing on from last week, still on the topic of self-discipline and are continuing our discussion of what it means to take following Jesus seriously.

When we become a Christian and start following Jesus we are given an inward drive towards becoming more like Jesus – more holy, more righteous, more loving. “Be holy as I am holy”, God says to His people, and then gives us the help to do that.

We’ve talked before that we don’t do this in order to get saved but out of love and obedience for the One who saved us. We know we’ll never achieve perfection in this life, and that, because of our sinful nature we’re going to keep breaking God’s laws and doing wrong – but now that we are Christian we hate that sinful part of us, because it was sin that has messed up the world, our lives, and is what required Jesus to die on the cross. So we confess those sins every day in prayer, are thankful that God’s grace is so big and that the blood of Jesus covers all our sins past and future so we can be forgiven, and then we ask God for more help, more love, more patience, more kindness, more generosity, more self-control in the coming day to live better. Not just to be a holier than thou Christian prude, but because we’ve seen how sin hurts us, others, and our relationship with God.

That’s how Christians see sin. That’s why we work hard to get rid of the sins in our life – what believers used to call the “mortification of sin”. We work with God to try to mortify, or kill, or subdue, the fleshly, sinful desires inside us that cause so much trouble.

God uses some pretty serious, life and death language when speaking of how we should deal with our sin and practice self-control. Listen to Colossians 3:1-6 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming.”

Sanctification

So, because sin is so serious, a believer engages in a process called sanctification. To sanctify something means to set it apart for special use, to be made holy. Grandma’s special china collection is sanctified by the fact that it is cleaned and then kept carefully in a china cabinet. Your favourite hockey card is sanctified by you taking it from the collection, putting it into a special protective case, and then mounting it on the wall. You are sanctified by Jesus as you are taken from the enemy camp into his kingdom, from death to life, from slave to sin to freedom in Christ, and made one of His special people.

If you remember way back in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 it told us, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

We cannot be righteous without Jesus. We can’t redeem ourselves. And we cannot purify or sanctify ourselves without Jesus. The Gospel of Christ tells us the consequences of our sins – death, hell, pain, suffering, fear, addiction, brokenness. It tells us that Jesus has come to save us from all that by taking the penalty for sin upon Himself, wiping out its effects by taking God’s wrath against sin for us, dying on the cross, and then rising again to show that He has destroyed sin’s power – and then invites us to follow Him. This is what it means to be born again. When we are chosen by God and accept His invitation we are immediately sanctified. Jesus’ perfect sacrifice made it so that all our sins are perfectly dealt with and if we died today we would be with Jesus forever.

But at the same time, while we still live on earth we continue to deal with the echo effects of sin all around us. So, while we are perfectly clean in God’s eyes, perfectly accepted, perfectly redeemed, we also enter the process of sanctification in order to become more like Jesus every day. We use a lot of different phrases to describe this today. We talk about growing in God or becoming spiritually mature, but whatever we call it, part of that process is the mortification, or killing, of the sinful parts of ourselves that affect our daily walk in this world. We will never become perfect, but we continue to struggle against and work towards holiness. We “put to death therefore what is earthly in [us]…”

Going Through the Motions

Now, just like today, some of the people in the Corinthian church thought that since they professed faith in Jesus, went to church, and joined in the Lord’s Supper, they could then live however they wanted. Remember the context of eating meat offered to idols and causing those around them to stumble in their faith by going against their consciences. They figured that since they were Christians, they could do whatever they wanted! Paul wanted them to be absolutely clear that wasn’t true, it was a false belief, and so he used multiple examples

This still happens today. Young people who have gone to church their whole life are especially in danger of this way of thinking. They have gone to church for as long as they can remember, can quote verses from the Bible, serve in a couple places each week, go to Youth Group or Small Group, they can answer some Bible Trivia questions and take communion each month… so they figure they’re good. They’re covered.

The Bible says, be careful. There’s a big difference between saving faith and merely going through the motions of a believer. Of course, this isn’t just about youth. I’ve seen this at all ages. People who attend sometimes, do a little volunteer work, and say they believe… maybe they even had a tearful conversion at a summer camp or walked down an aisle at a crusade – but they’re not engaged in the daily battle against sin. And they’re not just disengaged, they don’t actually care.

This is most acute when the young person turns 18 and moves out or goes off to college or starts a job and is getting paid and is then given the freedom of an adult. Suddenly it becomes clear that their faith is extremely thin, they haven’t been working on their sanctification at all, and within a short time, they are in real trouble. They weren’t Christians, they were merely covered by the grace of their Christian parents.

It wasn’t they that decided not to look at pornography, it was the fact that it wasn’t available in the house. It wasn’t they that decided not to waste hours on the internet and video games, it was their parent’s rules and schedules. It wasn’t they that decided to watch their tongue, it was the peer pressure from their Christian friends. It wasn’t they that decided reading the Bible. going to church, being cautious about friendships, and the rest was important, it was enforced in by house rules.

And when they get that first taste of freedom from those rules, their true level of sanctification really shows. Soon they are addicted, indebted, depressed, lethargic, have turned their back on the church, and have just enough understanding of God to blame and resent Him for all their problems. Again, I don’t want to pick on just young people, I’ve seen this in seniors too, where the only thing that kept them from blowing up their life was external pressure, not internal sanctification.

This too is all over scripture. The wheat and the chaff, the good seeds and bad, parable of the sower, the sheep and the goats, wolves in sheep’s clothing, whitewashed tombs, play actors (Matt. 3:12; 13:1-30; 5:15; 25:31-46; 23:25-27) are all phrases where Jesus talks about people that look like Christians to everyone else but are not really saved. These people talk about God, come to church, and receive the blessings of being a Christian without ever turning away from sin and towards Jesus.

Think of it like a strong smell. Coffee shops have a distinct smell. So do hockey and curling rinks. So does a workout gym or the Body Shop store. You’ve probably had that experience when someone comes home from a night out and you can tell exactly where they’ve been just by the smell, right? They walk by and immediately you just what they’ve been doing because they carry the smell with them. My wife used to work at a place where she always came back smelling of bagels. She’d have to change her clothes and wash her hair before it would come out. I had the same problem when I worked at the pulp mill. I always came home smelling of black liquor, which is basically the waste product from turning trees into pulp. It smells a lot worse than bagels and there were times I would have to strip down right in the doorway and leave my clothes in the garage rather than bring them in the house.

In the same way, a non-believer who comes to church and hangs around Christians can pick up their smell – their lifestyle choices, their joy, kindness, high morals, honesty, etc. but not actually have faith in Jesus at all. They can even stay so long they start to believe they are Christians without actually giving their life to Jesus.

Israel and Us

Let’s turn back to our passage. As we saw last week Paul used himself as an example of spiritual maturity and self-denial, but now he goes the other way and uses Israel as an example of spiritual immaturity. “The perfect example of believing the false notion that one can be saved and then live a faithless, God-less life can be seen in what happened to the Jews’ ancestors in the wilderness…”[1]  He phrases this as a warning, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

These were people who were saved by God as Christians are. They had multiple, manifold, manifest spiritual blessings. Miracles galore. Their story is every Christian’s story. They were rescued at a great cost from an oppressor, delivered from death by the blood of the lamb, redeemed from slavery, and given a new life. They were guided by God’s presence, given direction in the wilderness and darkness of life. They had a law-giver and spiritual leader to follow, just as we do in Jesus. As they trusted in God their enemies fell before them and behind them. And all along, they were given daily provision to sustain their bodies and souls. Every day they saw a new act of God’s love for them. Paul then drives the point home reminding them that Jesus is God and was the one protecting and providing for the Israelites, just like He does for us!

A People Overthrown by God

But now look at verse 5, “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” This should give us all great pause. God worked miracles, set them free from slavery, and provided for them along the way – but their hearts were not with Him. They were like the young person living with Christian parents, or the citizen living in a civil country. They had the blessings of being a child of God, surrounded by the smell, but their hearts were not with Him.

The word “most” is a pretty big understatement since out of the thousands that left Israel, only two were allowed into the Promised Land! The rest were left to wander and die in the wilderness. They were people of God, who saw God’s miracles, but died in faithlessness.

So, what happened? It is the same story from the beginning of Genesis all the way to the end. They didn’t have faith, they didn’t believe what God had said, they didn’t trust in God alone for their salvation. That’s what God desires. The path of Salvation is fairly simple. It means trusting that what God says is true and believing that His way is the only way.

It was like that for Adam and Eve, many stories of the Israelites in the Old Testament, the Pharisees and Judas in the New. God’s message was clear, they chose not to believe it, and were therefore condemned and “overthrown” by God.

Common Temptations

In verse 6 we read, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” Sometimes people wonder why we have the Old Testament when we have the New, or what value there is in the Old Testament. It’s ancient, full of difficult things to read, and the New Testament seems so much nicer.

This verse tells us one reason why. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is immutable, unchangeable. The God who wiped out Sodom and Gomorrah, killed everyone in the flood, and instituted blood sacrifices as the only way to appease His wrath against sin is the same God who came to earth as a baby, wept over Jerusalem, died on the cross, and taught us to love our neighbours. The Old Testament was Jesus’ Bible, the Apostle’s Bible, and the first church’s Bible, and was perfectly sufficient for teaching about faith, salvation and life. The Old Testament doesn’t tell a different story, but gives us the beginning of the story and we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t study it. Paul says that the stories we read of the Israelites and how God dealt with them are examples for us that we should learn from.

So what are we to learn? There are four main sins that are highlighted. Let’s read together, and notice how serious these warnings are. Starting in verse 7: “Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

The temptations the ancient Israelites went through are the same as we go through today, and the sins they commit that separate them from God are the same too. The stories of the Bible are there to instruct us, warn us, encourage us, and teach us about ourselves and God. So I’m going to ask you to do a little digging in your soul to see if these are represented there.

The first mentioned is idolatry, which references the story of the Golden Calf when Moses went up to the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments and while he was there Aaron and the rest of the Israelites crafted an idol to worship in place of God. It wasn’t that they were simply tempted to put their faith somewhere else, it was that they actively chose to reject Yahweh, formed a false god of their own, and then “sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play”, meaning they copied in the cultural, pagan festivals they saw around them.

They did, essentially what I’ve been talking about with young people and cultural Christians. While Moses was away they threw all their beliefs out the window and then worshipped, feasted, drank and danced the way they always wanted to, showing what was really going on in their hearts.

We do the same today as we turn away from God and put our faith and trust in things of our own design – money, insurance, diet, human authorities, or when we dabble with pagan things like horoscopes or superstitions. We can make money, comfort, food, or sex our idol as we turn to it to save us from pain, guilt, shame, fear. Remember the context of the Corinthian church eating food offered to idols and realize that Paul was also speaking of Israel’s example of eating, drinking and partying like unbelievers, throwing off God’s standards and doing whatever they felt they wanted to do regardless of how it affected themselves or anyone else.

If you want to know what idols you have in your life, ask yourself: what you do and what do you reach for when you hit a crisis hits or when you want to celebrate?

The second temptation for the Israelites was sexual immorality. Pornography, lustful thoughts, wandering eyes, sexual fantasy, adultery, and the rest. For them, this was tied to their idol worship. They used the golden calf and worshipping false gods as an excuse to sin sexually. Once they had crafted a god of their own, or borrowed one from a neighbouring nation, they worshipped it as the unbelievers did – which included sexual sins. As we’ve already learned, this was a huge temptation in Corinth, but just as much in ancient Israel.

The further you wander from God, the more you believe what the world believes and act like the world acts, the easier it is to fall for the temptation toward sexual sin. We’ve already talked a lot about that so I won’t belabour the point, but notice God’s punishment here. You might think, “Well, that’s back in the olden days, God doesn’t do that now!”

Listen to the words of Jesus in Revelation 21:5-8, at the end of the Bible: “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’”

You may think Jesus is the warm and cuddly version of God that doesn’t care about sin, lets everyone do what they want, and lets everyone into heaven, but I assure you, He’s the same as He was with the Israelites. He may wait on the punishment, but I assure you that your faith is revealed in your actions and though you may not take your sin seriously, but Jesus sure does.

Does that mean a Christian who sins sexually can lose their salvation? No. As we said before, the difference is sanctification. The difference is that you hate that sin and want to be rid of it. Do you?

The third temptation was put Christ to the test. What does that mean? It means questioning God’s reliability. It’s when we declare God unreliable and then force or demand that He proves himself to us. The Israelites “put Christ to the test” as they told Moses that God and him don’t know what they are doing, that they would surely die of hunger and thirst, that life was better under slavery, that God was holding out on them, refusing to give them their favourite foods, and ultimately that God wasn’t strong enough to defeat their enemies. Over and over they said that God had left them and demanded more and more miracles. (Numb 21, Exo 17)

The Pharisees “put Christ to the test” too. Even though they had heard of and even witnessed multiple miracles, they continued to bring false charges against Jesus, tried to trick Jesus into making mistakes, and then demanding Jesus prove Himself with more miracles (Mark 8:11, Matthew 12:38-39). They even did it as He hung on the cross.

Satan “put Christ to the test” in the wilderness as he tempted Jesus to work miracles for wrong reasons – even tempting Jesus to force God Father to prove His love and prove Jesus’ was special by jumping off the top of the temple!

Have you done this? Atheists love this game. They love mocking Christians and telling God to dance for them, write in the sky, do a crazy sign, and then claiming God doesn’t exist when He refuses to play their game. Do you do this? Do you ever tell God that you’ll believe or obey if He’ll do something for you? Do you ever put yourself in a situation where God has to act just so you can see if He’s real? Do you ever question if God is good or His ways are right, and then deny Him when things don’t go your way? The Bible is clear that is a very serious sin.

Jesus responds, “An evil and adulterious generation seeks for a sign…” Jesus never rebukes or corrects people who are genuinely seeking Him out of need, but He also knows when people are coming with wrong motives.

And the fourth temptation was what is here called “grumbling”. Grumbling isn’t simply talking to God about tough things in your life that you don’t like. God wants us to bring our frustrations, concerns, worries and all the rest to Him. Grumbling is akin to complaining. It’s that low-level murmer in the heart where you keep telling yourself how horrible your life is, how it’s out of control, how the universe is out to get you, that God isn’t helping, nothing is right, there’s not enough money, time, energy, health, or anything else. Your friends aren’t really that good, your house isn’t right, your technology isn’t good enough, your spouse isn’t good enough, your life is too hard, too hot, too cold, too noisy, too quiet… murmur murmer grumble grumble complain complain.

This one is very difficult for me and one of my greatest temptations. I’m a child of discontent and have a very critical heart. I know this about myself and I have to be very careful about it. Why? Because grumbling is spiritually destructive and debilitating. It shows a lack of faith in God, a belief that He is unloving towards you. It’s a lack of contentedness and shows a misunderstanding of grace. It is the belief that you inherently deserve more than you have and God is unfairly holding out on you. It destroys your worship, your prayer life, your relationships, and your witness to others. A grumbling spirit leads to fighting with others, and envy, jealousy, covetousness. (James 4:1-3)  “I hate that person. Their life is better than my life, their job is better, the have more of what I want…. And I hate God too for not giving me what they have.”  There’s a big difference between complaining to God and complaining about God. Job complained to God but didn’t sin. Israel complained about God and did sin.

What about you? Are you a grumbler?

Conclusion

This section ends with, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

God is faithful. He is for you. He wants your sanctification and wants you to be more holy, because more holiness leads to more joy. He wants your spiritual success and knows what you need in order to grow. He knows your breaking points. Your temptations are not unique to you and he has given you scripture, fellow believers, and the Holy Spirit within you to help you understand them and get through it. And, when you are faced with the burden of temptation, God promises two things: a way out of the temptation, and the strength to endure it. The escape may not be immediate, but He promises that if you trust Him, lean on Him, ask Him, then you will have the strength to endure the temptation and mortify that sin within you – and then grow stronger in faith and in sanctification.

[1] Life Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians, Pg 135.

Is Halloween Evil (and Should Christians Participate)? (Carnivore Theology: Ep. 49)

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Halloween

Halloween is coming up soon, so the CT guys perform a skit and take on the perennial question of whether a Christian should participate in Halloween or not. We didn’t realize how heated the discussion was going to get!

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You Are Not An Animal! (Youth Camp Talk)

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1 You Are Not An Animal

The Elephant Man

Have you ever heard of the movie The Elephant Man? It’s a pretty famous movie from 1980 – which I know is a long time ago, but bear with me. It won lots of awards and was quite popular at the time.

It’s based on the true story of man who lived in the 1800’s, named John Merrick, who suffered from a condition or syndrome that caused his body to grow abnormally. His skin was thick and lumpy and his head grew large bones that caused it to be so heavy that he couldn’t even lie down because if he did he couldn’t breathe.

His father and mother rejected him, he left school at age 13, couldn’t find a job, and ended up touring with a circus group as a side-show named “The Elephant Man.” At some point a doctor named Frederick Treves came to The Elephant Man show and invited him to come to the hospital to be examined and photographed.

Soon after that meeting Merrick went back on tour as the Elephant Man, but was robbed and beaten by his manager. He eventually made his way back to London, but since he couldn’t speak well, they didn’t know what to do with him. They searched his pockets and found doctor Treves’ card in his pocket and brought him back to the hospital. Though they couldn’t do anything for him medically, they allowed him to live there for the rest of his life. He and Doctor Treves actually became good friends and he received a lot of visitors from wealthy and famous people.

The movie spends a lot of time exploring John Merrick’s life as The Elephant Man side show, and how abusive his show managers were. Throughout the movie we are shown that despite his physical deformities the Elephant Man isn’t a horrible monster, or an animal, but a human being worthy of dignity, respect and protection. Eventually his fellow side-show friends help him flee his managers and he runs to the train station in London where he is forced to run through the public.

Here’s what happens:

Before he collapses you can hear him yelling to the crowd, “I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I… am… a… man!” He had to shout it because people didn’t see a human being when they saw him – they saw an animal, a monster, a freak – but not a human being.

More Than An Animal

Now, why am I telling you this tonight? Because I’m angry on your behalf – for something you’re probably not even angry about. It’s because you, yes you, right now are being treated like The Elephant Man. You are being told over and over, all day long, that you are an animal. You are being treated like an animal, and you hardly even know it.

I wish you were angry about this, but it’s so subtle and so pervasive in the culture around you, so overwhelming from so many of your teachers, books, movies, blogs and friends, that you don’t even notice it anymore. It’s like asking a fish what water is like – it’s all they know so they can’t describe it – you’re immersed in it.

I want to tell you tonight that you are more than an animal. You are a beautiful creation of God, a person with a heart, a soul, a mind and a body. The world tells you over and over that you don’t have a soul. It teaches you that your mind is just a series of electronic and chemical impulses coursing through the grey matter in your brain. They tell you that your choices don’t matter, that your feelings come from only natural means, that you are driven by evolution, instinct and predisposition. Some people equate your worth with that of a housepet, a chicken or a cow. They believe you are an animal.

In school, as you learn the Theory of Evolution – regardless of whether it’s true or not – you are taught alongside that you that you are merely an animal, a descendant of scum, with simple, biological instincts that drive everything you do. And after doing some reading about it, I believe your school treats you like an animal too.

They tell you that your body is coursing with strong, natural drives that you can’t help but follow. Have you ever been told that you have the choice to say NO to the feelings that are happening within you? Most likely not. More than likely you’ve been told that everything you feel and experience is “natural”, right? How many times have you heard that term, “it’s natural”, or “it’s biological”, as an excuse for doing something? What that means is that “I’m an animal and I can’t help it.”

Telling people that they can simply say NO doesn’t occur to them. Why? Because they believe you and I are animals.

The End of Right and Wrong

When was the last time you heard something was right or wrong, moral or immoral, good or evil from one of your non-religious teachers or friends? People without belief in God can’t really talk about right and wrong because they have no baseline for what’s right and what’s wrong. They don’t have an authority or a book that tells them the rules – so they make them up for themselves. If you ask them if stealing, murder, swearing, or war or any number of other things is “wrong”, they don’t say “yes, that is wrong”, do they?

No, instead they talk about “the situation”, “personal choice”, “biological drives”, “what’s right for you or me”, but never “what is right and wrong.” “Well, that might be bad for you, but it’s ok for me. Well, that’s what you believe, but I believe different, and that’s ok too. Well, it’s good for me, but it might not be good for you. It depends on the situation!”

They can’t speak about rock-solid morality because they gave up the whole idea of right and wrong when they decided that human beings are merely animals. We would never say a tiger is wrong for eating a zebra, right? We’d never say that a dog is wrong for barking at a noise, right? We’d never say an elephant is wrong for stampeding, right? They just don’t know any better. That’s what some people think about humans too. We’re just animals, so there is no right and wrong.

Sin Safely

The best that they can talk about is: “safety”. They can’t tell you what is “right and wrong”, so the best they can come up is to talk about what is “good for you” and try to convince you to do things “safely”. Even if that thing is wrong, immoral, sinful, unhelpful, dangerous, or harms yourself and others, they can’t use those words – so they use the word “unsafe”. Have you heard this? I’m sure you have!

Let me give you a few examples of how they think:

“People want to do drugs, nothing is going to stop them, but we can’t say ‘doing drugs is wrong‘. We know they are dangerous, so we need to try to let people do drugs as safely as possible. We’ll tell people that cigarettes, alcohol, pot, and hard drugs can destroy your body and mind, that  it’s not a “heathy choice”, but because people are just animals, the only way to help is to try to make doing drugs as “safe” as possible. So we’ll get the government to sell the drugs, and pay for places for people to do drugs, and then offer services to help them when they get sick and addicted. Then at least they’ll be “safe” as they do it. After all, people are basically like animals that need owners to take care of them.”

The government is really talking about this right now.

Or another:

“People want to eat sugar and garbage, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them – kids and teenagers are way too stupid to make healthy choices, they’re just animals after all.”

For a while they though that since kids are just little animals, and garbage is the only thing they’ll eat, we’ll fill the school cafeterias with cheap food, pop and candy machines – at least they’ll be eating. Then they figured out that the kids were all addicted, sick, fat and stupid because of what they were eating. But they couldn’t turn to the food and snack providers and say, “feeding kids garbage is immoral and wrong”…so they tried to force schools to find “healthy alternatives”? It makes me angry because these companies and schools treat you as though you are no smarter than a monkey in a cage, or mice in a laboratory. They’re using you to make money. After all, you’re just animals who can’t make good decisions, right?

Or another:

“People want to have sex whenever they want with whoever they want, and nothing is going to stop them.”

They know that doing that is actually quite dangerous, but since they’ve thrown out the Bible and any form of morality, they can’t simply say, “this is the good way to have sex, and this is the bad way.”  So instead they try to teach kids how to do something dangerous as “safely” as possible. They are working overtime trying to keep people (children, teenagers, and adults) from killing themselves and others with heartbreak, diseases, and all sorts of abuse problems, by inventing something called “Safe Sex”.

They get the government to pay for condoms and pass them out because they don’t think people can say no. And worse, the government pays to kill any of the babies these people make, so they can keep having sex. After all, they think, all these people, even the babies, are just animals, pieces of tissue. And we can’t expect them to follow any rules in regards to sex, right?

The World Needs Animals

A lot of our society actually depends on having you to act like animals. Consider the advertisements you see. Food, toy, and cell phone commercials are no different than shining a laser in front of a cat and watching them chase it! “Look, a shiny thing! It’s so bright! Your little brain likes shiny things, right? You should get a credit card because then you’ll get more stuff! You like stuff don’t you! We know you’re too dumb to read the agreement for the credit card or your cell phone contract… and we count on that.”

Advertisements manipulate your most basic instincts: Look, a shiny… go get the shiny! Look, buying this will give you friends… you want to be part of a pack, don’t you? Look, buying this will make you powerful… you don’t want to be weak, do you? Look, buying this will make you attractive… you don’t want to be ugly and forgotten, do you? It’s all primal – they don’t want to you think, and count on the fact that you won’t think! After all, you’re just an animal, right?

The idea of us saying “NO” doesn’t occur to them – because most of the time we don’t. Why? Because they think you’re an animal, designed to consume whatever they feed you, and then crap out money for them. It’s actually quite insulting, when you think about it – and that’s what makes me angry. I know how awesome you guys are. I know how creative and amazing you guys are and it makes me angry that they treat you like animals and not people.

But here’s the thing that makes me even more mad… most of the time they’re right! We do act like animals! – I’m including myself in this because I get sucked in too. Too often we live up to (or more like live down to) their expectations.

You are a Special Creation

So, I want to yell something at you today. The same thing that the Animal Man shouted: YOU ARE NOT AN ANIMAL! YOU ARE A HUMAN BEING! YOU ARE A PERSON! You are special. You have been created in the image of God with dignity, worth and purpose. You are a being unlike anything else in the universe, someone that the angels look upon and marvel. You are the perfect unity of body, mind and soul. Though you are part animal, you are so much more. You have the ability to love, create, choose, and rule this world.

Every part of you – from the way you look, to the parents you have, to the skills you possess, to the weaknesses you struggle with – was designed specially by God, each part carefully chosen, “knitted together” in your mother’s womb, to make you unique among everyone else – there is no one like you.

At the very beginning of the world, when there was nothing, God said, “Let there be Light!” and from there created everything with order and beauty – the sun, moon, stars, water, fish, birds, animals, plants, everything. And then He paused.

He paused and God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit said to each other, “Let us create man in our image”. That’s a huge statement! We are not animals. We are beings who bear the image of God. That’s why the 2st commandment says we shouldn’t make “graven images” – because we already have an image – us! Looking at other people reminds us of the presence, the person, the image of God.

In Psalm 8 David sings about how we can see how amazing God is by looking at His creation, and how amazing it is to be one of His creations. He says,

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens….  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him….  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet… the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea….  O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

David is overwhelmed as he thinks of what it means to be one of God’s creations. How carefully we are made, “crowned with glory and honour”. We are His image, His creation, His choice, His design, His idea, His artwork, His child, His beloved…

Then in Psalm 24 David sings again about how since God is the Creator of all things, everything we see is all His – He owns it – including every single human being – including you and me. He says:

“The earth and everything in it belong to the Lord. The world and all its people belong to him.”

But in the next verses, after looking at God’s power, holiness and perfection, He realizes that He has a problem. That’s probably happened to you too, right? You look at the 10 Commandments, the stories about Jesus, the expectations that God has of you, and even listen to the conscience that God put inside you, and you realize there’s a problem. People don’t live up to who God created us to be. He says, “Who may go up on the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy Temple?” What he means is, “You’re amazing, God and I’m one of your creatures… but I’m so different than you! How can I possibly live with you?” That’s a problem.

But then, in the next sentence he says, “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts…”. What David is building to is the realization that the only way we can be who we have been created to be, which includes living in harmony with God, is by an act of God changing our hearts.  But how do we become people “with clean hands a pure hearts”?

Salvation

God has no problem understanding right and wrong. He invented it. Yes, He’s angry and disappointed at how much sin we have in our lives… but He doesn’t want to leave us that way. He knows we are weak, that we’ve killed our souls with sin, that we often live like animals and not His special creations. But that didn’t stop Him from coming to save us.

Let me read to you from Romans 5:6-10 which talks about who we were before Jesus came to earth, what He did, and who we are after. It says:

“Christ died for us while we were still weak. We were living against God, but at the right time, Christ died for us…. In this way God shows his great love for us. We have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death. So through Christ we will surely be saved from God’s anger. I mean that while we were God’s enemies, God made us his friends through the death of his Son.”

That’s how salvation works. That’s what Christians mean when we say that we are “Saved by Jesus Christ.” God treated his Son Jesus like an enemy so we wouldn’t have to be.

He saw that we, through our disobedience and by living like animals, were killing our souls and making ourselves into enemies. That sin required punishment – the punishment of death – and Jesus took that punishment for everyone who would be willing to believe it and accept Him as the one who saved them. Jesus died, so that God could declare us to be people with “clean hands and pure hearts”.

Why would God do that? Because God has a personal interest in making sure that you are as amazing as possible! You bear His image! You are one of His! Therefore He wants to save you, heal you, fix you, restore you to Him, and make you into the best image of Himself as possible. That means He gets more glory, and you get to be the person He created you to be. It’s an incredible arrangement.

“A New Creation”

But it doesn’t end there. God doesn’t leave us in our sin, but pulls us out of the muck, cleans us up, and changes us into different people. This is why Christians talk about being “Born again”. The change is so dramatic that it’s as though they have been reborn into a different person!

Let me read from 1 Corinthians 5:15-19:

“Christ died for all so that those who live would not continue to live for themselves. He died for them and was raised from death so that they would live for him. From this time on we do not think of anyone as the world does. It is true that in the past we thought of Christ as the world thinks. But we no longer think of him in that way. If anyone belongs to Christ, then he is made new. The old things have gone; everything is made new! All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself. And God gave us the work of bringing everyone into peace with him. I mean that God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. And he gave us this message of peace.”

It says “we no longer think of anyone as the world does”? Another translation says, “We regard no one according to the flesh.” In other words, what he means is that Christians don’t see people as animals. We don’t believe that people are stuck in their sin, that they have no choice, that they can’t help it. We believe every person is someone special that God loves, that God can change, and who can make the choice to say “yes” or “no” to what is right and wrong.

That’s the invitation I give to you tonight. I don’t address you as animals without a choice, but as God’s amazing creatures, made in His image, able to choose for yourself. Will you accept what Jesus has done for you? Will you believe that he died on the cross on your behalf? If you haven’t, now is the time.

And if you already have, then let me ask you to believe that you are at peace with God. He’s not punishing you – He already punished Jesus so you wouldn’t have to be. If you believe in Him, then God has made you new. From the moment you put your faith in Him He began the process of destroying the parts of you that were stuck in the muck of sin, fear, anger, addiction, and lies. He gives us all we need to live as Divine Creations and not mere animals.

Every day, as we read His word and talk to Him, hang out with His people and tell others about Him, God continues the process of making us more and more like Him – more and more into who God created us to be.

In the words of 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin [that’s Jesus], so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” That’s the gift of a relationship with God. Step back into what humans were created to be, not animals who live out their fleshly desires, but special creations of God that live lives of righteousness, beauty, peace, love, hope, courage, joy, freedom, holiness and light.

So I ask you to remember that you are not an animal, and to connect with the one who made you into a creature with a body, mind and soul.

Tonight I want you to spend some time thinking about your life, your actions, decisions and your motivations – if you’ve been living as an animal – from instinct believing you have no choice – or as a person know knows they are much more – someone with a conscience, a heart, who knows right and wrong, and who listens to the creator.

I invite you to consider who you really are, and to talk to God about who you are on the inside. Ask Him to forgive your sins and to change your heart so you can live as a human being as you give your life to Jesus Christ.