Where Will Your
Beliefs Lead You?
Have you ever contemplated how many people
have risked their lives to give you the opportunity to sit where you are
sitting at this very moment? Have you ever thought about the innumerable
people who have lost their lives taking that risk? Those individuals believed
that whatever was worth living for was worth dying for. Those who leave
an indelible mark on our world are those who have the courage to cry, "Give
me liberty, or give me death." Ultimately, all freedom is bound up in a
willingness to die for something worth living for.
Timothy McVeigh was a fanatic who sacrificed
himself for his warped beliefs. The thing so striking about his life was
that he was willing to boldly lay his life on the line for what he believed.
Unfortunately, what Timothy McVeigh thought was worth dying for wasn't
worth dying for. But he still staked his life on what he believed. When
he was facing death, I thought, how sad it was that he wasted his life.
He staked his life on his warped beliefs.
What Are You Staking Your Life On?
Ultimately, all of us are staking our
lives on our beliefs. Every person in this audience is staking
his/her life on something. You may not be as bold or warped as McVeigh,
but you are staking your life on what you believe.
Belief is of such a nature that it requires
us to stake our lives on it. You may not boldly proclaim, "Give me liberty
or give me death," but nevertheless you are staking your life on what you
believe. Have you ever examined what you really believe? If you haven't,
you need to, because your life is wrapped up in what you believe. You are
giving your life for what you believe. Whether you fully realize it or
not. This is the sobering part about all of this.
Whatever you are living for---you are
dying for. Whatever you spend today doing, you are dying to do
it. You have given one day of your life for it. Make no mistake about it.
You will die for what you believe, regardless of what you believe. On judgment
day each of us will be judged for what we believe. On that day we will
fully realize that we staked our lives on our beliefs. It may be so incremental
that we don't realize it at the time; nevertheless it is true.
It is no accident that life in Christ
begins with a burial. Baptism is a commitment to die for what we
believe. That is bold. To be crucified with Christ. To commit yourself
to die with Christ. That is what baptism represents (Romans 6:1-4). It
symbolizes dying for Christ. It symbolizes the idea that we are just dying
for a new way of life.
This may seem harsh to a modern world. However,
I want you to remember that you are dying for your lifestyle regardless
of the style of life you have chosen. You already believe that whatever
is worth living for is worth dying for. It may not seem to be the case,
but that is the truth. You are making that choice consciously or subconsciously
however subtle it is.
A drug addict is willing to die for what he/she
is living for. Sexually promiscuous persons lay their lives on the line
for their lifestyles. How many lay their lives on the line for bad habits
daily. Our willingness to die for what we believe may not seem to be as
fanatical as Timothy McVeigh's approach to life. But ultimately it is.
Whatever we have chosen to live for we must die for. That is the very nature
You can't live in this world without
believing in something. Even if you say you believe in nothing,
you believe something. To believe in nothing is to believe. Your belief
in nothing will direct your life.
I want to ask you life's most important
question. Is what you are presently
living for really worth dying for? Are the beliefs that direct your life
at this very moment worth dying for?
Do you know how to tell whether something
is worth dying for? By asking yourself what difference it will
make when you physically die?
I eagerly expect and hope that
I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now
as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living
in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose?
I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with
Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I
remain in the body. (NIV)
Paul's beliefs had a firm grip on his life.
Fortunately, his beliefs did not originate from a warped perspective of
life. The beauty of Paul's life was that it was so wrapped up in the life
and death of Christ that whether he lived or died death was a joy. Will
there be joy at your death?
Judas’ body was left upon a garbage heap.
(With the reward he got for
his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body
burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard
about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that
is, Field of Blood.)
"For," said Peter, "it is written
in the book of Psalms, 'May his place be deserted; let there be no one
to dwell in it,' and, 'May another take his place of leadership.'" (NIV).
When the Old Testament spoke of bodies left
lying in the street or on a garbage dump, it was an indication that those
people failed to live for something worth dying for. Do you remember wicked
Jezebel? Upon her death her body was left lying in the street; the dogs
came and licked her blood. It was her judgment for living a life wasted
upon herself. It was a sign to all Israel that her life was an abomination
to God. It was God’s signal to the world about her fateful end.
1 King 21:23-26
"And also concerning Jezebel
the LORD says: 'Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.' "Dogs
will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of
the air will feed on those who die in the country." (There was never a
man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged
on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after
idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.) (NIV)
When they went out to bury Jezebel after her
death they could find nothing to bury.
2 Kings 9:36-37
But when they went out to bury
her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. They
went back and told Jehu, who said, "This is the word of the LORD that he
spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at
Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel's flesh. Jezebel's body will be like refuse
on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say,
'This is Jezebel.'" (NIV)
The judgment of God upon Jezebel and Judas
are object lessons for us today. They were visual lessons for that world
and ours about the judgment of God. Today we speak of hell, but then they
spoke of a wasted life. For a dead body to end up on a garbage heap or
to end up lying in a field for vultures to devour was a sign from God.
When you see God's vengeance against the heathen
in the Old Testament, you may think that God's judgment upon the heathen
world was unusually cruel. You must remember the heathen were cruel people.
They burned their own children alive as a sacrifice to Molech. They did
this to entreat the idol god for personal gain. Of course, today we don't
burn our babies to idol gods. We simply take the morning after pill. Or,
maybe we sacrifice them to the gods of neglect and abuse.
God's judgment then is to remind us of the
tragedy of misspending our lives for worthless beliefs. It is an object
lesson about God's judgment that is to come in the final day.
Timothy McVeigh wanted his ashes to be given
to one of his friends. He wanted him to dispose of them without telling
anyone the location. No one will be able to say hear lies Timothy McVeigh.
In the Old Testament that would be a sign that he wasted his life. That
If you continue to live by the beliefs you
now hold, how will your life end?
Will your life end up on a garbage heap?
Where Does Your Confidence Lie?
Our beliefs not only direct our lives
but they supply the power for living. Our beliefs empower our world
for good or evil. How powerful are the things you are dying for? Can they
really give you life? We know that they will take your life, but
can they give you life? How much power do they give you for living a truly
We are looking for the strength within our
selves. We are told to believe in ourselves. When we look within for the
power for victory we are limited by what we believe in ourselves. Suppose
someone says, "I know I can do it because I have confidence in myself."
What power is that person depending upon to get the job done? Their confidence
has mere flesh and bones. How much of our energy for living is derived
from looking at life's past accomplishments? We take an inventory of what
we have done, then, tell ourselves that we have the strength to do it.
Or, we may tell ourselves that we can't do it.
Why not choose to believe in someone
more powerful than anything we can imagine. A life in Christ is
not dependent upon what we have the ability to accomplish. It is not dependent
upon privilege or personal achievement?
For it is we who are the circumcision,
we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and
who put no confidence in the flesh--though I myself have reasons
for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence
in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people
of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to
the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic
righteousness, faultless. (NIV)
You will never discover Christ power for living
until you flush your belief system of everything but Christ. Here’s what
I mean. Our achievements are always related to our agenda. Whether spoken
or not we all have this destination where we’d like to arrive in life.
Our achievements are rungs on that ladder. If you’re pursuing your own
agenda you’ll constantly be on the wrong ladder. You dreams and goals and
plans must give way to God’s dreams, goals and plans for you.
Paul had no confidence in his fleshly
accomplishments. The apostle Paul had accomplished a great deal
through privilege, conviction and achievement. The achievements of those
Jewish teachers who were trying to denigrate Paul's character were put
to shame by his portfolio. They couldn't hold a candle to his faultless
legalism. However, Paul realized that his legalism didn't hold a light
to what Christ had done for him.
But whatever was to my profit
I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything
a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my
Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that
I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my
own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--
the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ
and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his
sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain
to the resurrection from the dead. (NIV)
He had to die to all of that so that he could
enter into the fellowship of sharing in Christ's sufferings. We share in
Christ suffering when we do the difficult thing. Do the unpleasant thing.
Do the right thing, because it is right.
To believe in Christ is to place our
confidence in what he has done for us and will do for us. It is
to reign with Christ in the power of his resurrection. Paul's legalism
couldn't begin to give him the power for living that Christ resurrection
gave him. To tap into this power Paul had to denounce the privileges and
achievements of the past. He put no confidence in the flesh. The purpose
of Paul dying to his past was to become like Christ in his death.
That same power, which crushed the forces
of darkness at the resurrection, resides within each of us as Christians.
Because we have a right relationship to God, his Spirit indwells our beings.
God’s Spirit gives each believer the
ability to do supernatural things. We’re all given these things
called spiritual gifts. These are God-given-abilities. They are not miraculous
gifts but they are directed by God's supernatural power. When we use them
in service, the people we serve experience life-change. These gifts are
many and varied: teaching, preaching, encouragement, giving, administration,
leadership, creative communication, service, evangelism, deliverance …
the list goes on and on.
God wants to use you in a powerful way. You
will never discover or use your spiritual abilities until you flush your
own belief system of everything but Christ.
Surrender and submission to God is the only
way to know the power of Christ’s resurrection.
Not that I have already obtained
all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold
of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider
myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what
is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal
to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some
point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only
let us live up to what we have already attained. (NIV)
Paul was an achiever, but when he met Jesus
on the road to Damascus, he took a hard look at his life. He concluded
what he had been trying to achieve was a bunch of garbage. He decided that
he would stop putting his confidence in himself. He placed his confidence
in the power of God as he pressed toward God's goal for his life.
Jesus warns us to live for something
worth dying for.
And if your right hand causes
you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose
one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. NIV
Whoever finds his life will
lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. NIV
For whoever wants to save his
life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What
good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his
soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of
Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he
will reward each person according to what he has done. NIV
What good is it for a man to
gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? NIV
If you believe and achieve the world's agenda
for your life, will you gain anything in the end?
The whole tenor of the book of Philippians
is that if you want to live a powerful joyous life you will have to discover
a life that gives power for living. Paul found that life in Christ.
You have heard the saying, "Get a life!" What
kind of life have you got? When you look at your achievements, is there
anything literally worth laying down your life for. Is there anything there
that will lift you above the ruins of this world? When life is over will
you be able to look back and say that your life was spent doing something
worth dying for. What is the value of what you are doing in comparison
to your life?
How much of our lives are poured into being
successful in the eyes of the world? Is what the world or the church expects
of us really worth dying for?
Thankfully Paul saw the rubbish pile his life
was built upon before it was too late. What about you?