Travel This Week

I will be teaching at Blue Ridge Chapel School of the Prophets this week.  Much of what I preached this Sunday came from last week’s blog.  Feel free to read them again!

Have a great week.

How Compromise Leads to Sin

Judges 16:18-20 ( NKJV ) 18When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart.” So the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hand. 19Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 20And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.

Out study of Israel and their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land has led us to the borders of Canaan.  God instructed them to possess the land.  This meant they had to drive out the current inhabitants and occupy the land themselves.  This week we have been focusing in why they had to drive out all the Canaanites.

The Lord instructed Israel to make sure that there were no Canaanites left in the land they were to possess.  If they left any of the Canaanite system in Israel’s territory, it would cause them to compromise.  Compromise would lead them to sin and sin would keep the Lord from blessing them fully.  It would also hinder to do will of God.  The same is true if we allow compromise in our lives as Christians.

It is possible to serve God with compromise is your life.  Israel did it in the Promised Land.  They never did drive out all the inhabitants yet they finally produced the Messiah.  They were blessed of God at times; however, the compromise they left in the land caused them endless problems.  It finally resulted in the splitting of the nation into to two parts with only the southern half serving God.  This led to captivity and more bondage.  

You can be a Christian and allow compromise in your life.  Most Christians do, but we must ask the question, “at what cost?”  Compromise exposes you to the risk of sin.  We need to see sin for what it is; a dangerous toxin that can destroy us.  (Romans 6:23)  Why expose yourself and your family to something so destructive?  It is simply not worth the risk.

Sometimes we seem to get away with allowing compromise.  We may not see the bad affects; however, I have found that if it does not affect the person it will often manifest in their children.  I refuse to take that chance.  Compromise will affect your witness.  Jesus said we are to be salt and light to the world.  How can we “flavor” or “enlighten” those around us if we are compromised.  Jesus said salt that is no longer salty is worthless.  If we allow enough compromise in our lives, we risk becoming worthless to the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes we think our compromise is hidden.  No one else knows about it so we are not affecting anyone else.  This is a dangerous idea.  We must remember that we are not just flesh.  We are spirit, soul and body.  Compromise always affects us in one of those areas.  If we do not see its affects outwardly, we can rest assured that we will see them inwardly.

Compromise affects our soul by stealing our peace and joy.  We do not feel the presence of God the way we should.  It can even lead to hardness and cynicism that can eventually bring real destruction.  Compromise affects our spirit by weakening our faith and sense of righteousness.  1 John 1:9 contains a wonderful promise but also a warning.

1 John 1:9 ( NKJV ) 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Thank God for the promise of forgiveness and restoration in this verse.  However, if our righteousness were not affected by sin we would not need to be cleansed of unrighteousness.  When we allow sin, we compromise our right standing with God.  This does not mean we are no longer his children.  It does mean we are cut off from the sense of that relationship and we are living outside of it. 

When my children chose to disobey me, and they occasionally did, they were still my children.  However, they could not comfortably come into my presence.  They could not partake of the benefits of our relationship.  If a child’s bad behavior persists long enough and is bad enough, they will no longer feel welcome in their parents’ home.  They will live outside of its protection and comfort.  That is what happens with us when we allow compromise to lead us to sin.

The story of Samson is a clear example of how compromise can lead to sin and destruction.  Samson is in the great hall of fame of faith in Hebrews 11.  I must concede from his inclusion that he did something worthy before the Lord.  Having given Samson his due, I want to point out the darker side to this story. 

Samson lived a life of compromise.  He was strong because of a vow called the “Nazarite vow.”  This vow required certain behavior.  The most important in the story of Samson was the requirement that he never cut his hair.  As you follow the narrative of his life, you will find that he continually did things that were not quite godly. 

Samson went places he should not go.  He spent time with people he should not have.  He ate and drank things that were not right for him.  We see a pattern of attraction to women that were outside of God’s requirements for Israel. 

When he wanted to marry a woman from the nation of the Philistines, his parents asked him to reconsider.  They knew that God had labeled such unions as compromise.  However, Samson was used to getting his own way.  He did not care what his parents wanted, he wanted what he wanted and that was the end of it.

His spirit of compromise caused problems in his own wedding plans.  He ended up killing people that really had done him no wrong.  His compromise brought danger on his people.  Samson did deliver them from the wrath of the Philistines, but it was wrath his compromise had brought upon them.

Samson displays one compromised attitude after another.  He causes many problems for himself, his family and his nation.  The one thing he never did was cut his hair.  Because he did not cross that line, the anointing of God was always there to strengthen him when he needed it.  However, he continually stayed too close to that line.  It was only a matter of time until the devil pushed him over it.

The story of Samson and Delilah is very famous.  She is the scheming foreign woman who cut Samson’s hair and robbed him of his strength.  Today’s verses are very telling.  Samson got up thinking that this time was like all the other times he had compromised, but it was not.  Compromise had taken him so close to the line that he finally crossed it.  He did not cut his hair, but he put himself in such a compromised situation that the devil had easy access to him.

Samson’s condition was not Delilah’s fault.  It was not the Philistines fault.  It was Samson’s fault.  If he had not cultivated a compromised lifestyle, he would not have been with Delilah.  If he had obeyed all the commandments of his vow, he would have never been with that kind of woman in that place.  His compromise led him to sin and sin led him to destruction.

I do not want to end up like Samson.  He did some great things, but compromise wrote the final chapter of his life story.  Do not let compromise write the ending to your story.

How to Recognize Compromise

1 Corinthians 10:23-24(NKJV) 23All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 24Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.

Yesterday we looked at Exodus 34:10-16 in light of the 10th verse. God said he wanted to do awesome things for them and through them. We can see that everything else God says to them in this section of scripture flows from that motivation. If they do not drive out all the inhabitants of Canaan, they are not going to be able to fulfill the call of God on their lives. As we saw yesterday, the reason they will fail is that they will eventually make covenant with the Canaanite people allowing the ungodly system that governs Canaan to affect them.

We need to understand that they will not begin in sin. At first, it will just be innocent sharing between cultures. However, God warns them that if they allow those cultures to stay in their land, they will eventually make covenant with them and fall prey to the false, evil gods they serve. Once that happens, God will not be able to bless them the way he wants to and they will have a much more difficult time fulfilling the purpose of God.

The problem we are talking about is compromise. Israel would not be in sin if they had contact with these people. I should note that it was sin for them to disobey God by not driving them out. The contact itself was not sin. The contact was compromise. The problem with compromise is that it puts you in close proximity with sin. When that happens, human nature is such that sin will invariably follow.

God does not want us to cut off all contact with people who do not believe as we do. Yesterday we read in John 17 that we are to be in the world. We are to have contact with people of other beliefs and cultures. How else can we hope to reach them for the gospel? What we cannot do is allow them to have influence in our “land.” We cannot allow any influence to gain control over our lifestyle except the Word of God.

Today’s scripture could be used to justify bad behavior. It almost seems that Paul is saying nothing is sinful. It is very important that we learn to interpret the Bible with the Bible. You cannot read much of Paul’s writing and come to that conclusion. Paul believed in living a righteousness life before God. However, he understood something about people. Each of us must recognize that some things are acceptable to us personally and some things are not.

Paul said all things were lawful to him. He did not mean things that violated God’s commandments. Those things are always wrong for everyone. However, many things are not covered directly by the commandments of God. In their day, one of the major questions was whether a Christian, in good conscience, could eat meat that had been offered to idols.

They knew they were not to worship idols, since that was covered in the Ten Commandments. Nevertheless, it would be quite common for a person selling meat to be a pagan. In the process of obtaining blessing for his business, he may have offered his meat to his idol for blessing. Should a Christian eat this meat?

Paul’s personal conviction was that there was nothing wrong with eating it. He knew that the idols were nothing. They represented demonic powers, but just because a pagan had asked a demon for a blessing on his meat did not make it defiled. In another place, Paul said that food is sanctified by the Word of God and pray if we receive it with thanksgiving. That is why we say grace over a meal.

However, he also says in 1 Corinthians 10 that if we are told the food is offered to idols we should abstain from eating it. This would seem hypocritical if Paul did not explain. Paul would not abstain from eating because he believed the food was defiled. He would abstain from eating because it might lead someone else to compromise. If in that person’s heart, it was wrong to eat the meat, for them it would be sin.

There is much more to learn from this scripture, but my point today is about compromise. Paul is telling us we cannot do anything that will lead someone else to compromise. If that is true for others, it is doubly true for each of us. Some people could eat meat offered to idols and it would not compromise their conscience, therefore they would not be putting themselves under temptation to sin. Others, if they ate, would be put in a compromised situation and they could end up in sin.

Do not put yourself into any situation where you feel compromised. My stance is this. If I am not sure it is not sin, it is a potential source of compromise and I need to stay away. Sometimes I feel I can go ahead and do something not covered by the commandments of God. Nevertheless, if those older, wiser and more experienced in the things of God than I am do not do it, I will not do it. When you are in doubt about anything, assume you do not need it. That will save you a lot of trouble. Paul says some things that are not sin are also not helpful. We should stay away from those things.

Let us look at one more scripture from the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:29-30(NKJV) 29If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

As you read these verses, do you really think Jesus is advocating plucking out eyes and cutting off limbs? Of course, he is not. If that were valid Christian doctrine, we would have churches full of blind, limbless people. Every one of us can say that we have had times when our eyes, ears or hands have participated in sinful things. What is Jesus’ point here? It is not our eyes, ears or hands that cause us to sin.

What really causes us to sin? It is compromise that causes you and me to sin. We sin because we are tempted. We are tempted because we allow things in our lives that subject us to the pressure of the flesh. We may go places where the flesh is glorified, where people are doing things we know we should not do. We allow our eyes to see things that stir up lusts that we have a hard time resisting. None of this is sin in itself. It is all compromise and if we allow it near us we will eventually sin.

Israel had to drive out every compromising influence from Canaan if they were going to be fully successful. We must look at our lives and cut off anything that is putting us in a compromised position. You may believe you can be around certain things and it will not affect you. You may be right and you may be wrong. You do not want to find out you were wrong by experience.

Not only that, but you do not want to lead someone else into compromise by your liberty. We are all in this together. Every Christian is called to be an example to the world around them. That is what Jesus meant when he called us “salt” and “light.” We are examples for those younger than we in the Lord are and for the world looking at us from the outside.

The Lord says that we should not even give the appearance of evil. (1 Thess. 5:22) Remember, God wants to do awesome things for your and through you. Do not let compromise in any form keep you from those awesome things.

No Compromise

Exodus 34:10-16(NKJV) 10And He said: “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. 13But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images 14(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.

As we have seen over the past two weeks, it was the will of God for Israel to possess the land of Canaan. This meant they were to drive out everyone that inhabited the land when they got to it. It also meant they had to occupy it fully. Anything less would have been unacceptable. They had to go all the way with the Lord if they were going to accomplish the will of God without hindrance.

We must also follow God all the way into our land of promises if we are going to fulfill our destiny. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” That needs to be our testimony as well. One of the keys to accomplishing this lies in the scripture above. To our ears, this sounds harsh, but let us examines it a little more closely.

First note verse 10. God makes a wonderful promise to Israel. Look at this verse in the New Living Translation.

Exodus 34:10(NLT) 10The LORD replied, “Listen, I am making a covenant with you in the presence of all your people. I will perform miracles that have never been performed anywhere in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people around you will see the power of the LORD—the awesome power I will display for you.

God wants to do awesome things for us. He wants to do awesome things for you. We need to remember that everything he says to Israel in the next few verses is in light of this verse. God does not command Israel to drive out the Canaanites because he does not like them. He tells them to drive out the Canaanites because they will keep Israel from experiencing the awesome things God wants to do for them.

Let me remind you of something about the Canaanites. They had a choice. In the story of Rahab the harlot in Joshua chapter 2, Rahab chose to align herself with the Israelites. When the walls of Jericho fell, she and her family were saved. The Israelites received her as a fellow Hebrew. How do I know this is true? I know it is true because she is listed in the genealogy of Jesus. If she had simply been a slave or outcast living among the Israelites, that would not have been possible.

Being one of God’s chosen people was never primarily about race. It was always about covenant. If a person accepted the covenant and agreed to live as the law required, they were accepted as a Hebrew. I believe that all of the Canaanites had the same opportunity as Rahab. God knew that they would not make that choice, but the testimony of Rahab says they could. It was not the individual that God hated, it was the system. If they were willing to leave their Canaanite system and embrace the Covenant of Abraham, they could have been saved. If they were not willing to leave that world behind, they had to be destroyed.

We find the same thing in our covenant. It would be absurd for us to think that Christianity was dependent upon a person’s race. The Bible says that God will draw people from every “kindred and tongue.” It has always been his desire to bring people from every land, language and culture into relationship with him. However, we cannot embrace him and the world. We must chose one or the other.

James 4:4(NKJV) 4Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

To be a Christian means you must chose friendship with God over the world. Jesus said it this way.

John 17:14-15(NKJV) 14I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

We are in the world. That is not going to change until we die or Jesus returns. However, Jesus says we are not of the world. We cannot be like the world. We cannot identify with the world. Just as the Canaanites could be saved if they would become Hebrews by choice, we can be saved if we chose Jesus as our Lord and Savior and become a child of God by choice.

This is important to understand as we look at the rest of today’s scripture. God does not hate the Canaanites. He does not hate those that are not born again Christians in the world today. He hated the sin of the Canaanites and the system that grew up around that sin. The same is true today. We often say, “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” This has become a bit of a cliché, but it is a foundational truth.

What was God saying when he told Israel to drive out all of the people living in Canaan. He was saying drive out their sin and the system that cultivated it. Why was this so important? It was important because God wanted to great and mighty things for Israel. As long as the ungodly influence of the Canaanites sin oriented system existed, it would hinder what God wanted to do for them. The system had to go.

What does this mean to us? The world is a system. The world system has grown in the earth because of the fall of Adam and Eve. This system came about because sin had to be controlled or it would have destroyed man. However the more the system seemed to control sin, the more the system was corrupted by sin. When we become a Christian, we become part of another system, the Kingdom of God.

That system is far greater in influence than the world system. However, we must choose to be part of the Kingdom of God. We gain citizenship when we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior. We can choose the blessing of the Kingdom or the curse of the world system. That choice is up to us.

The world system can be very persuasive. The more we allow the influence of the world into our lives, the more it will tempt us to compromise. The more compromise we allow the more of the curse we allow. The more compromise we eliminate the more of the wonderful power of God we will see manifested. It is just that simple.

I must drive out everything that leads me to compromise. If I do that, then the blessing of Exodus 34:10 will be manifest in my life. If I do not, the blessing is hindered. Where are you allowing compromise? I did not ask you what sin you have in your life. Compromise in itself is not sin. However, compromise brings us under the influence of sin. Take a little inventory. You may be surprised.

Saved to the Uttermost

Hebrews 7:25(NKJV) 25Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

In our study of Israel’s journey from Egyptian bondage to their destiny in Canaan, we have found that God commanded Israel to possess the Promised Land. This involved first driving out the Canaanites, then moving in, and occupying the land themselves. Both of these are aggressive ideas. God will not do these things for the Israelites. He will provide power and he will go before them to help them, but they are going to have to fight aggressively for what God has given them.

As we come to the close of 2011, I believe that the Lord is telling us the same thing. We have many promises from the Lord. In his second letter to the church, Peter calls them “exceeding great and precious promises.” However, we must understand that, although they belong to us because of what Jesus did, we must fight to possess them.

There are many things to be said about this, but let me begin the week with a simple thought. God did not save us to leave us short of the goal. He wants us to walk in “abundant life.” He wants us to fulfill everything for which God created us. He did not deliver Israel from Egypt for anything less than the full possession of the Promised Land. He wants to save us to the “uttermost” of our potential.

Israel had many wonderful experiences on their journey. However, God did not save them for those wonderful experiences. They were all necessary and had a part to play in Israel’s preparation for possessing the land of Canaan, but they were not why he saved them. He saved them to possess the land of Canaan so that the Messiah could be born to them in that place. Everything else was to lead to that.

Likewise, God did not save you for the experiences you have as a Christian. He saved you to play a role in the history of your day. That role may not be recognized by anyone but God; however, he has a role for you.

Let us look at some of the experiences Israel had along the way. We have talked extensively about the encounter at the Red Sea. God supernaturally destroyed the Egyptian army and brought them through the waters of the Red Sea as though they were walking on dry ground. What a magnificent experience. I want to see the video in Heaven! However, God did not deliver them to cross the Red Sea.

They crossed the wilderness with a chain of miraculous events. They had a pillar of cloud and fire to protect them and to guide them. They had water from a rock that followed them wherever they went. They had manna, bread that appeared on the ground every morning, until they reached Canaan. They had quail come to them so they could have meat when they tired of manna. These were powerful experiences, but God did not deliver them for the wilderness.

At Mount Sinai, they had a direct encounter with Yahweh. They heard his voice and saw his presence in the form of thunder and lightning over the mountain. Moses went up to meet with the Lord in person. They received the Ten Commandments written by God himself. They learned the laws that would become a major part of their national identity. It could be said that it was at Sinai that Israel became a nation. However, God did not deliver them for Mount Sinai.

On their journey, they had many other supernatural experiences. Their shoes and clothes did not wear out for 40 years. God continued to guide them and speak with them through Moses. They won battles against some enemies and were protected from others with no fight at all.

Some of the experiences they had were not good. Many died because of rebellion. A whole generation had to watch their parents die without ever seeing the Promised Land. All of these experiences, both good and bad, were necessary for Israel’s preparation to possess the land of Canaan. However, if they had settled for any one of these experiences they would not have reached God’s goal for their deliverance. They needed to go all the way to Canaan. Nothing less would do.

I have been a Christian for over 43 years. I have had many wonderful experiences with God and hope to have many more. Some of the experiences that have taught me the most have been the most difficult. However, God did not save me for these experiences. God saved me for a purpose. If I choose to stop at any point on my journey, I will not fulfill his purpose for my life.

I believe that too many of us settle for some good experiences. Others quit because of some bad experiences. As Pentecostal or charismatic Christians we know that we can feel the presence of God. We know that joy and peace can be tangible experiences. We know that we can feel the touch of physical healing in our bodies and we know that God will do miraculous things to meet our needs. However, we must not settle for any of those things. We must continue on our journey until we fulfill all of what God has for us.

Look at Paul’s words in his letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 3:12-14(NKJV) 12Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

We can see that Paul, with all his experiences did not believe he could just sit back and enjoy them. He would not quit if he had some bad experiences. He would press on to the high calling. Too often, we settle for a calling, but God wants us to go all the way to the high calling. What is this high calling? It is to fulfill completely what we have been created to do.

Probably the last letter Paul wrote was his second epistle to his son in the faith, Timothy. He has lived a long time. He has come a great distance from Philippians 3 where he pledged to press on to the high calling. Let us see how he has done.

2 Timothy 4:6-8(NKJV) 6For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Paul knows he will die soon. However, he is not afraid. He is able to say without hesitation that he has done what he said he would do in Philippians 3. He did not stop short of the goal. He did not settle for a life less significant than God intended for him. To many around him it might seem that Paul was a failure, however, those of us who read his letters today know otherwise. Thank God, Paul finished his journey.

Do not settle for a Christian life that is less than it can be. Do not allow the experiences of life, whether good or bad, cause you to stop at whatever level you currently occupy. There is more. There is more to know. There is more to do. There is more to experience in the Lord. Most important there is a purpose for which you were created.

I want to be able to say with Paul, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I challenge you to obtain the same testimony.