One of the main problems of why Christians go bad in their motives and behaviors is that they forget who they are. Too many people who go to church have not a clue of what it is about. Perhaps they once did when the excitement of their new birth in Christ was new and they were growing. But now the noise and busyness of life took over the time slot that was originally reserved for God. So our time and excitement of church becomes clouded, preventing us from remembering what it is supposed to be about. So we forget who we are and what we are called to do.
Thus, week by week we hurry ourselves and drag the family to go to church, through the tyranny of the daily grind and sit in our pews, trying to recover from the exhaustion, hoping our struggle is not in vain. Thus we give little effort to what the words mean when we sing a hymn, what the pastor is talking about at the pulpit, or the beauty of the liturgy and the power and conviction of the words. We are just playing a part in a play without allowing the character to become who we are. Without allowing the purpose of what is going on, the meaning of the service, and the application we are called to respond to get in us. So then church becomes just a routine and not the church that Christ created for us to be.
One of my favorite stories of the old west, is the tail of the Alamo. This is one of the best examples of courage I have ever encountered. In Texas on March the sixteenth, 1836 at 6:30am, the last gunshot was heard, and the Alamo had fallen. After a 13-day siege by over 2000 harden Mexican troops, the bodies of 189 fallen heroes who offered their lives as a last stand to ensure the freedom of Texas. Colonel William Travis, the commander of the fort, was possibly the first to fall while defending the north wall. He was only 26. Jim Bowie, who is known for his very cool knife, was the commander. But, he turned over the command to Travis because he was sick and totally exhausted for standing against the Mexican army for several days and he was possibly dying of pneumonia. He was killed in his bed. He was 41. And Davy Crockett, with a cool raccoon hat, the most famous of them all, went to Texas to help them win their freedom, after he had lost his farm and political carrier as a territorial Governor. He was killed in a small fort to the southwest. He was 50. And 186 others lay fallen by the hopeless odds, and the bold determination that they could prevail.
Colonel Travis was hoping for a garrison of reinforcements, but knew they would arrive too late. So he told his men that they could leave because it was clear they would surely die. Or he said they could stay and make a stand and certainly be killed. So he drew a line in the dirt and anybody that wanted to stay could join him across the line. One soldier, who was already wounded and could not fight asked to be carried over the line, then every one except 1 volunteer joined Travis to stay to the bitter end. The one soldier, who did not stay, carried their story, or we would have never known what happened. Over 600 Mexican troops lay dead. The rest were killed or captured by Sam Houston on April 21st. and won the freedom for Texas.
There are times when courage is called for, when we need to go beyond ourselves in an extraordinary fashion, and a leap of faith. Most acts of courage have been associated with military feats, or with acts of persecution. But God calls us, the average Christian, to the same act of courage that the men at the Alamo exhibited. We may not have to give our physical lives, but we are expected to give ourselves fully to the Lordship of Christ. Too many Christians forget we have been enlisted in an army, and are called to defend the fort. We may not be using guns and artillery, but we have the biggest weapon of all, the power of the Holy Sprit, and the model of love and care to be shown to the world. We are to prevail no matter what the odds may be, or the circumstances we may face, because our hope and courage comes directly from our Lord. He arms us with His presence, and empowers us with His Spirit.
There may be times where we are called to take a stand and be persecuted, and even physically die. But most Christians will never see such persecution, but we will see our family, friends, and neighbors in distresses that need to be protected and saved. When we sit in our pews and do nothing, would be like the men of the Alamo deciding to give up and leave. And if that happened, Santa Ana and his Mexican troops would have overrun Texas because the people were fragmented and not sold on the idea of independence. So the battle cry, "remember the Alamo" would never have galvanized the people of Texas to fight for their freedom, and Texas today would probably be part of Mexico! And perhaps the oil and industrial moderation of the early twentieth century would have happened south of the border: Because Mexico would have had most of the resources to be a world power.
Just a thought from history and what could have happened, and how a small group of people or even just one person can make a difference for our Lord. Too many Christians have decided to make their stand in the pews, with their rear ends firmly planted, and complain that the morals of our society have gone array. Our society has gone array because we have gone array. The troops of the opposition have overrun our country and world because we decided to leave the fort, and have forsaken our call. Just take a trip to Europe and see all the empty magnificent churches, and the decadent and lost societies, whose people find no meaning in life, and seek just like Europe in a generation. (Excerpt from the book, "Pew Sitting" by Richard J. Krejcir)
A. "Balloon Strobe Dance"
This is a variation of a popular youth group game, "Balloon Stomp." Where you tie balloons around the ankles and have everyone try to stomp on others balloons while keeping theirs safe. Here is a variation with an insight.
First do this game as you normally do, then get a strobe light and turn off all the lights in the room and do it again. This is incredibly fun and incredibly difficult. Try not to spend too much time with this, 10 minutes max.
Introduce the lesson by saying, "When we try to do something in the proper light, it can be simple and easy. If we try to do the same task in the wrong light, we will not be able to do it well. This is true when we try to apply God's Word into our lives. When we know what we are doing and why we are doing it, we will get more out of it and be better used by our Lord. When we try to do something with bad intentions or a bad attitude, we will mess it up. Our proper light is who we are in Christ that we belong to Him. The improper light is thinking that we are the masters of our own domain. We may be able to do some "civil" application from His Word, but what good will it do, and who does it benefit?"
B. "Why are devotions important?"
If you try getting a good grade in class without studying the subject, without attending class, without taking notes, without doing your homework, without reading the textbook, how well will you do in that class? If you do some of the requirements, say you attend the class but take no notes or read the textbook, how well will you do? Lets say you do everything well, attend all the classes, take careful notes, do your homework, but never bother opening the textbook, how well will you do?
Well this is how most Christians live their Christian walk. Either they ignore all the "work," do a couple of things, or maybe do it all, but never read the Word, how good will they be as a disciple? God may not give us grades and gold stars now, but He does have a plan for us and a reward in the end. There are some key principles to being a committed disciple, such as prayer, devotions, attending a good church, and Bible study. And when we do some, none, or leave out just one, we will become weak and falter in our walk with our Lord.
If you do not attend a good church or do any devotions, and then expect to be blessed by God, you will find disappointment. If you are just doing 2 of the 4 key principles of being a disciple, but you are not communicating with God, you will find yourself running into discouragement. Then, you cannot be a mature Christian unless you have all four of these principles. Without being in God's Word, you will not mature in the faith and grow in His knowledge. You must do all four to be a mature disciple that God will use greatly.
Can He still use you if you only do some? Well of course He can and will. But how much more and what greater impact will you have in others lives, and yourself when you are complete and centered as His disciple. How much more will we be blessed in the Christian walk to further His kingdom.
Lesson: "STEP VI" APPLICATION!!!
This is the step where the rubber of the tires meets the road. All the previous five steps lead up to this. This is the main point of why we study the Bible, to do something with it. Of course we all do something with it, either we ignore it or we are transformed by it.
We can master all the previous steps, even be transformed by the Word; but, if nothing comes from it, it is meaningless and nearly worthless. This is one of the main points of the book of James. Our faith must have a response to it. Yes we may be saved, but what good is it if we do nothing with it.
With the knowledge we have learned, it becomes our responsibility! And then we are to ask, "how then do I live?" What can I do now, today, or this week to implement the instructions given to me with my relationship to Christ, to others, and to myself?
True application comes only from the result of a life transformed. You may do good works without Christ, but they are out of a sense of obligation and guilt, and not out of a response to our sin nature that has been covered by grace creating a willing and loving heart to model the character of our Lord!
§ The fruits of the Spirit are the result of a life transformed by Christ.
How we are un-transformed: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal. 5:19-21)
How we are transformed: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." (Gal 5:22-26)
§ God uses His Word to transform us, it is what we do, and what He does. He sends us His Spirit, we respond.
REMEMBER: Application comes out of a Changed life and leads to a life transformed! Rom 12:1-3
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER:
· Satan would like nothing better than for you not to do the above!!! Do not procrastinate. Press on!!! Do not assume that because you understand something that you have applied it!!! Do not get frustrated. You cannot expect instant results.
· Studying the Word without putting any application to it is like buying a nice new car, taking it home and keeping it in your garage. Then all you do is sit in it and pretend you are driving, listening to the radio, but never actually turning it on and going anywhere with it.
· When we read God's Word and do nothing with it, we become the biggest fools in the universe!
· This area of putting feet to God's Word is the most neglected aspect of our Christian life! But it is at this part where our lives change and God uses us to change others.
"Discussion:" THINGS TO VIEW, ASK, AND APPLY:
Take your passage, (choose a short book like II or III John or Jude or…) and go through it together or in small groups with these steps.
1. Jesus urged us to build our lives on His Word. (See Matthew 7:24-27)
§ What must I do to make God's Word real in me?
§ When will what I learned end up in my day planner?
§ What is my response?
§ The Word of God is to lead us to model the character of Christ, to be formed in the image of God.
Mediate over the passage you are studying, that is reflect on it, ponder it, and think of it so that you are seriously going over the passage over and over in your mind. Then the memorization will become easier since the verse(s) have rooted in you!Then the life transformed will take effect much easier and completely!
ASK YOURSELF THESE FIVE QUESTIONS:
1. What illustration or analogy can I develop to remember the truth it contains?
2. How does the truth apply to my life?
3. What is my personal prayer regarding these truths? Write it out and present it to the Lord.
4. What changes/improvements could I make in light of the truth? List several.
5. How should I carry out these changes?
If no application comes to your mind, pray, and pray again. Let God show you His way, not our way.
"Application:" Pick one
A. "The Big Tip" (Get several tape recorders and tapes.) Have student practice Reading Their Bible passages and verses into a Tape Player. This is so they can learn to memorize Scripture!
You can do this with NOTES, TEXT, READINGS, etc. Then, play it back while driving, or at the mall, or anywhere, with a "Walk-Man." You can do this with any of your notes, study material, information you have to memorize, even terms and words for science or a foreign language, or math formulas. This is one of the best ways to study!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS WORKS!!!!!!!!!!
B. How can you:
§ Pray to ask God how to implement His truth to you.
§ Tell Others. Remember Matthew 28. The best way to remember what you learn is to teach others.
§ Accountability. Let someone else you know and trust hold you to your promises especially as it relates to the study of God's Word.
Beware!! The more knowledge we have, the more accountability and responsibility we have to God. This is why Moses was not allowed into the Promised Land, when he seemingly disobeyed God by hitting a rock with his staff. It may not seem much of an offense to us, but before God, Moses knew better then anyone else. Fortunately for us today, we have grace!
Have a student read the following passages (it is always better focused to go deep by turning out the lights and light a candle):
"But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you-guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (II Tim. 1:10-14)
§ You can stand in an ice-cream shop all day long and stare at all of the flavors. But no enjoyment or satisfaction will come until you bite into a scoop for yourself!
· Remember the Word of God's purpose is to transform us into the image of God, to model His character!
· Discipleship is following Christ and not just beliefs, ideas, or causes. Too many people are devoted to a doctrine or a cause in the name of Christ, but not Christ Himself! That is how we got the Inquisition and Crusades.
"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time." (I Tim. 1:6-9)