Final Instructions: Live the Good Life
Today, the primary worldview competing with the Christian faith is a philosophy called Postmodernism. It’s a philosophy that is difficult to define and “get an handle on” — the proverbial nailing-jell-O-to-the-wall kind of exercise. It’s chief characteristic is the deconstruction of truth. Wow, now what in the world does that mean? Postmodernism rejects the very notion of truth as fixed, universal, objective, or absolute. All truth is relative, and the individual is the sole arbiter of what they believe is true and what isn’t. ILLUS. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary describes the various was to understand truth through the analogy of an home plate umpire calling a baseball game. Three umpires are discussing balls and strikes. The first umpire says, "There's balls and strikes, and I call 'em the way they are." To which the second replies, "There's balls and strikes, and I call 'em the way I see 'em." Umpire three, obviously annoyed, says, "You guys are both all wrong! They ain't nothin' 'till I call 'em."
Umpire #1 is thoroughly modern in his disposition. He believes that there is objective truth—a strike zone that is hard and fast. He is purely objectivity. Umpire #2 understands that there is a strike zone, but it’s not hard and fast. There is some subjectivity to his calling of balls and strikes. This is especially true if he really blows a call and tries to make it up later in the game. Umpire #3 has taken the dive into the postmodern pool. He has abandoned the idea of an objective or even subjective reality that exists independently of his own ideas and perceptions.
Richard Rorty—a noted Postmodern philosopher—asserts that truth is made rather than found. Objective true simply does not exist—all truth is socially constructed. That is, social groups construct their own "truth" in order to serve their own interests. Example: Thou shall not murder is not an all-encompassing truth proposition revealed by holy God. It is merely a social contract generally agreed upon by human culture because anything else is just ... well messy. When a culture decides that Thou shall not murder is merely a relative truth which can be abandoned when a society deems it necessary, then anything is permissible and legitimate including ethnic cleansing on a staggering scale.
Little imagination is needed to understand that this radical relativism is a direct challenge to the Christian gospel. Our claim is not to preach one truth among many; about one Savior among many; through one gospel, among many. We do not believe that the Christian gospel is a socially constructed truth, but the Truth which sets sinners free from sin—and is objectively, universally, historically true. The Christian tradition understands Truth as established by God and revealed through the self-revelation of God in Scripture. Truth is eternal, fixed, and universal. As the late Francis Schaeffer instructed, the Christian church must contend for true truth. There is no greater true truth that the church must contend for a Savior who came to redeem sinners from the wrath of a holy God.
In a world of competing worldviews, believers are to prove all things.
I. PROVE ALL THINGS
- some Bibles translate this verse as test all things
- what does Paul mean when he writes to the Thessalonians, test all things?
- he implies that in a world full of spiritual counterfeits, believers are to put to the test truth proposition that comes along
- I believe this is especially true of prophecies which he has just mentioned in the previous verse
- but we should also carefully evaluate everything
- the word examine refers to testing something for authenticity
- ILLUS. Have you ever seen one of those old westerns where a cowboy flips the bartender two bits for his drink of whisky, and the bartender immediately bits down on it to make sure that the coin is authentic and not a piece of led?
A. CHRISTIANS MUST CAREFULLY EVALUATE EVERYTHING THAT TOUCHES THEIR LIVES
- almost every day you are called upon to make value judgements about ...
- people ...
- events ...
- products ...
- news ...
- opportunities ...
- philosophies ...
- situations ...
- you need to make those evaluations under the guidance of Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit
- 1 John 4:1-6 "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood." NIV
- if you don't believe me, just ask Jacob!
- OK–some of you think about it, you'll get it
- it is easy to be beguiled
- that's a good biblical word that is often translated as deceive but which means to seduce wholly
- when we do not carefully evaluate the things that cross our paths it is easy to be wholly seduced
- ILLUS. Millions of Americans, many of them true believers, have been seduced by various religious cults because they did not follow Paul's admonition of testing all things. The Mormons are one of the fastest growing religious groups in the world and the vast majority of their converts come, not from evangelism, (that is winning them to Jesus), but by conversion from another Christian denomination. The two biggies are from Catholics and Baptists.
- 2 Timothy 4:1 -4 "In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." NIV
- Paul understands human nature well
- he knows that men are often guided by the passions of their emotions
- that is why it is so important to test all things
- it is still the greatest threat in the believer's life today — that we will not test all things
- you must learn to evaluate all things in the light of Scriptures and the leadership of the Holy Spirit
- as a believer, you have to accomplish two tasks ...
- hold on to the good
- avoid the very appearance of evil
II. HOLD ON TO THE GOOD
- ILLUS. In the game of Football, the middle linebacker is a pivotal player on the defensive team. Once the play begins, he has only a few seconds to recognize what the other team is doing and to make a decision of how he is going to respond. He then positions himself to go whichever direction the ball is heading. His performance is based on his evaluation of what is happening and his response to it.
- this is the same thing that you have to do as a believer
- once you have evaluated what is taking place around you, you have to position yourself to respond
- in that response you have two choices
- you can respond to our culture by aligning yourself with the world
- ILLUS. We have an illustration of this in the Scriptures. Demus was a young man who traveled with the Apostle Paul in many of his missionary journeys. In the Book of Philemon, Paul calls Demus his fellow worker. But something happened to Demus. Sadly, Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy, "for Demus, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. . . ." (2 Timothy 4:10) NIV
- ILLUS. We have an illustration of that in the Bible as well. Joshua is an Old Testament illustration of a man who carefully evaluated the situation before him and chose to do it God's way. At a place called Shechem Joshua had assembled all the nation of Israel. In a speech, he reminds them of their history and God's provisions in their wanderings. His challenge is to follow the Lord's will rather then the world's ways. In chapter twenty-four Joshua makes one of the great faith-statements of the Bible: "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15
A. HOLDING ON TO THE GOOD MEANS ACCEPTING GOD'S STANDARDS FOR LIVING
- Satan is constantly trying to lead us astray or beguile us
- he tempts us to do the right thing for the wrong reason or the wrong things for the right reasons
- we fall into his traps by the vacuum left in our souls when we are not fully surrendered to the authority of Christ in our life
- those standards are found right here
- hold on to the good
- the verb hold fast is in the present tense, and is an active, imperative
- Paul means to grab it right now, hold on fast, and never let it go
- avoid every kind of evil
- what is the evil believers are guilty of?
- anything that separates us from the love of God, the fellowship of believers, or self-integrity is probably due to making wrong choices
B. GUIDANCE FOR MAKING RIGHT CHOICES
- when testing everything there are ten questions you need to ask
- does it glorify God?
- does the Bible indirectly say it is wrong?
- can it enslave your will?
- does it harm the body?
- will it hurt your spirit?
- can it harm others?
- can it hurt the conscience?
- does the majority of best spiritual Christians you know think it is wrong? i. can it be done in good faith?
- would Jesus do it?