We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.
WHEN TO SAVE A DROWNING MAN
Watchman Nee tells the story of his stay in China with twenty other Christians. The bathing accommodations were inadequate in the home where they were lodging, so they went for a daily dip in the river.
On one occasion, one of the men got a cramp in his leg and began sinking fast. Mr. Nee motioned to one of the other men, who was an excellent swimmer, about the drowning man. To his astonishment, however, the man did not move. He just stood there and watched the drowning man.
Mr. Nee was agitated, but the swimmer was calm and collected. Meanwhile, the voice of the drowning man grew fainter and more desperate. Mr. Nee hated the swimmer who just stood and watched on the shore when he could have jumped into the river and rescued the drowning man. As the drowning man went under for what looked like the last time, the swimmer was there in a moment, and both were soon safely on shore.
After the rescue, Mr. Nee chewed out the swimmer, accusing him of loving his life too much and being selfish. The response of the swimmer revealed, however, he knew what he was doing. He told Watchman that if he had gone too soon, the drowning man would have put a death grip on him and they would have both drowned in the river, and he was right. He told Mr. Nee that a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.
Such is the case with our salvation. When we stop trying to save ourselves, then the Lord can step in and save us when we yield to Him. When you see the struggle that is a sign that you’re sensitive to sin and that is where God can help you.
AUGUSTINE AND THE FOUR STATES OF MAN
In the 5th century AD, St. Augustine wrote about the “4 States of Man”:
* The first state of man (the haec sunt prima) is “living according to the flesh — with reason making no resistance.” This can be seen in so many ancient cultures and religions (and unfortunately more than a few in our own time) with their human sacrifices, their idols, their pagan ceremonies, and even cannibalism. Human life — without power — was lightly regarded. Animals, especially domesticated animals, were often valued more highly than human life. Reason often vanishes when weighed against lust and self-gratification. Even today, this seems to be coming full circle.
* The second state of man is “recognition of sin through the Law . . . but sinning knowingly.” It was so important for Satan to remove the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and courtrooms. It was critical for him to “separate church and state.” So long as people knew the Law, it would not be so easy to ignore the Law. Without the reminders of the Law, we easily return to the first state of man. Does any of this sound familiar?
* The third state of man is “faith in the help of God — but he perseveres in seeking to please God.” Man has begun to be moved by the Spirit of God. We are already standing with one foot in the hell which we have created, but in the “third state”, man knows it. So he still struggles against his own sinful nature because he has not yet been fully healed.
* The fourth state of man is “the full and perfect peace in God.” This we find in harmony with Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see how far we have departed from God.
Augustine adds, “The will of man is always free, even and particularly when it can no longer will to do evil.” But Adam and Eve were not gods, “and their ‘free will’ would not have sufficed, even in paradise, to merit immortality. Divine assistance was needed. Their immortality could only continue by their continued relationship with the Divine. So how much more do we need God’s help since our fall?”
Augustine continues, “Even the good merits and qualities which people may display toward one another are gifts from God. Every good quality comes from His grace. God’s mercy is the ground of salvation. Therefore, let no man boast. Out of faith spring hope and love. We hope only in God — not in men and not in ourselves.” (“The History of Doctrines”, Reinhold Seeberg, p. 366)
Dorothy Sayers wrote, “If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace.”
It is October 14th, and the sun is reflecting mirages of water on an Air Force base runway in southern Florida. The silence of the scene is interrupted as a long-winged plane touches down on the runway and taxies to the hanger. A thousand planes a day go through this same routine, but this one plane’s payload is different from all the others. Its payload is just a few rolls of film, but the information on that film will shape the events of the world. It will shift the balance of power in the world. The film is transported to a top-secret laboratory and developed. It is sent to the Pentagon and then to the Oval Office in the White House.
The date is 1962, and a young president, John F. Kennedy, just 44 years old, sits at the desk. The decision he makes moves the armies of the most powerful nation in the world. The crisis he faces is one of immense proportions.
The photos taken were from a U2 reconnaissance aircraft. One picture in particular revealed that the Soviets had placed medium-range missile silos in Cuba. These missiles were capable of reaching strategic targets throughout the United States.
The risk of world conflict hadn’t reached this level since WW2, and it involved the two greatest superpowers in the world.
The president moved decisively, ordering Premier Khrushchev to halt all further deliveries of weapons and to immediately dismantle the missile sites.
A broadcast to the American people let us know the gravity of the situation. The president said, “This secret, swift, extraordinary buildup of communist weapons is a deliberate and unjustifiable challenge to our national security, and it will not be accepted.
America braced for what was to come. President Kennedy ordered an immediate naval and air blockade of Cuba.
Premier Khrushchev decided he would test this young president’s fabric. He would challenge this nation’s resolve. He would confront the standard of our convictions. The Soviet ships sailed on toward Cuba.
The world held its breath in nervous anticipation as hours crept by and ships grew closer and closer to one another.
As kids we played a little game. We called it ’chicken’. You want to see who is going to flinch when challenged. In national politics, you call it ’brinkmanship.’ Brinkmanship is the willingness to expose oneself to risk, to press the limits of safety for a cause. It is the walking of the tightrope of disaster.
The Soviets were going to press the boundary, walk the line, and see just how much they could get away with.
The Soviet ships were 100 yards away from our American ships. Our Navy was on full battle alert with orders to stop the Russians at all costs.
Some of you recall those moments as people were glued to the radios and TV’s to see who would flinch, who would fire, or what the world would look like in this latest age of nuclear war.
With just feet to spare, at the brink of disaster and destruction, the Soviets turned.
This incident in world history has a living parallel in our daily lives. Many are involved in a dangerous game of spiritual brinkmanship. We walk the very boundary of sin in our lifestyle. Balancing precariously, we move toward the cliff’s edge. Dangling our toes over the abyss, we tempt the fall. We struggle with bad habits that become self-destructive patterns. At the same time, we are saying, “Oh, don’t worry about me’ it’s okay, I’m a Christian.”
The other day I was driving in the morning commute and I saw this phrase on the bumper of a car in front of me. And I started thinking about what the phrase means (I think about all kinds of stuff during my morning commute because I don’t want to think about work.) So I’m going down the freeway with my hands at ten and two (because this was the tricky part of I-52 West where all the people wanting to take I-5 North wait until the last twenty feet before the off-ramp and then try and jump the line of cars waiting to take the ramp) and I’m thinking I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t mean to “let go” of the steering wheel because that wouldn’t do anyone any good at all. So I was thinking what does it mean “Let go, Let God” and our lesson this evening is going to address that question. Let’s examine the meaning of “Let go, Let God.”
I.Let Go of Our Agendas
A.…and let God direct our paths.
1.Whether or not we are intentional or not, we all have agendas for our lives and for our futures.
a.Some are more immediate than others, some more sophisticated, some are better planned out than others but they do exist.
b.Most of us are not simply drifting through life.
2.The priorities we set, the standards by which we make our goals and gauge our success, the plans and dreams by which we live our lives are all part of our personal agenda.
3.These determine the consistent pattern of decisions and actions which illustrate the agenda by which we live.
B.God has a better design for our lives than any we can devise for ourselves.
1.As we examined last Lord’s Day; God is our good shepherd. He is our provider, our guide, our protector and our host in this life and the life to come.
2.His agenda for His children is for a blessed life, a righteous life, a life lived for a greater purpose than we could ever establish for ourselves using the priorities and standards of this world.
3.Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
4.We must be willing to let go of our own agendas in order to accept the agenda of God.
5.Accepting God’s agenda requires that we accept God’s truth.
a.Before we can accept God’s agenda we must choose what will be the foundation for our lives: the social, ethical, and moral codes of God or those of the world.
b.What we believe to be true affects every aspect of our lives.
6.To let go of our agendas and take steps down the pathway of God’s plan for our lives requires that we decide, once and for all that we believe that the Word of God is true for every condition, circumstance, and situation.
7.We need to accept the Word of God as our standard for right and wrong, for true and false, and for good and evil and in having accepted it we need to do every thing in our power to make it the foundation of our lives, the basis of every principle, attitude, motive, and action. Letting go of our agendas and letting God direct our paths.
[Having chosen to let God direct our paths we need to give Him the proper place in our hearts and…]
II.Let Go of Our Idols
A.…and let God have the center of our hearts.
1.There is a statement made by Jonah towards the end of his prayer to God when he was in the belly of the fish that speaks directly to this thought.
Jonah 2:8 “Those who regard worthless idols, Forsake their own Mercy.” NKJ (Forsake their hope of steadfast love. ESV Forsake their faithfulness NASB)
2.Anything that we hold in higher regard than God becomes an idol to us, worthless as Jonah says, but an idol none the less. And by putting our focus, our energies, our devotions into these worthless idols we forsake the mercy of God and lose the hope that is available to all through His steadfast love.
3.1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
a.Note that this command is absolute, not relative. It does not say: “Don’t love the world too much,” but “not at all”.
b.The “world” here does not mean the earth or its people (God Himself so loved the world that He gave His Son to save its people), but rather the world as a “system” or “worldview” made up of ideas and beliefs that exclude God.
c.We are not to love the things which are sought merely to pamper the appetite, to please the eye, or to promote pride in living. These are the objects sought and made into idols by the people of the world; these are not the objects to be sought by the Christian.
d.The secular worldview places little or no importance on God, instead focusing on “All that is in the world” and in opposition to God.
B.All that is in the world…
1.All that is in the world is not from God and when we put them at the center of our heart they become worthless idols and cost us the love of the Father. All that is in the world falls into one or more of these categories:
2.The lust of the flesh.
a.The lust which has its seat and source in our lower animal nature. Satan tried this temptation first on Christ:
Luke 4:3 “Command this stone that it be made bread.”
b.Jesus spoke of how adultery begins not with the act, but with the desire – with looking at another person with lust in one’s heart (Matthew 5:28).
c.While we often limit this category to refer mostly to sexual lust, any sort of selfish or greedy cravings simply to satisfy one’s physical desires in rebellion against God could also be considered “lust of the flesh.” This would include anything purely physical, exploitive, and self-centered.
3.The lust of the eyes.
a.Sins of craving and accumulating possessions (bowing to the idol of materialism) fall in this category. While sex may also be included here, people’s “eyes” can lust after many things – Eve wanted the fruit that was “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6), Achan saw the beautiful robe from Babylon and the silver and gold (Joshua 7:21), and David saw a beautiful woman bathing and wanted her (2 Samuel 11:2-3). People would have to be blind not to see anything, but believers must not become obsessed with what they see.
b.The avenue through which outward things of the world, riches, pomp, and beauty, inflame us. Satan tried this temptation on Christ when he showed Him the kingdoms of the world in a moment.
4.The pride of life.
a.Some versions translate this as “pride in possessions.” It refers to both the inward attitude and the outward boasting because of an obsession with one’s status or possessions. The word “pride” suggests this person brags in order to impress people, but the bragging may stretch the truth.
b.Literally, “arrogant assumption”: vainglorious display. Satan tried this temptation on Christ in setting Him on the temple pinnacle that, in spiritual pride and presumption, on the basis of His Father’s care, He should cast Himself down.
5.The love of God and the love of worldly things are incompatible. If you give place to the love of the world, the love of God cannot dwell in you; and if you have not His love, you can have no peace, no holiness, and no heaven.
6.A Christian cannot live with a divided heart, responding one moment out of love for God and at the next turning to the world for pleasure. If we want to demonstrate (to ourselves, as well as to God) that we know Him, we must let go of our idols and let God have the center of our heart.
[James 4:4-5 “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?” Which means we need to…]
III.Let Go of Our Old Selves
A.…and let God have our new selves.
1.If we are honest we can relate with the church in Corinth when Paul wrote to them in his first letter:
I Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
2.When we become Christians we must let go of our old selves, the lives that were led by the agenda and idols of the world and let God take over. Paul wrote of this often:
a.Ephesians 4:21-24 “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
b.2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
c.Romans 6: 4-11
3.Knowing we have put our old selves away we must have the same attitude as Paul: Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Letting go of our old selves and letting God have our new selves.
To let go and Let God means to give back to God that which is already His, our lives. When we Let go and Let God we adopt His agenda for our own, we make Him the center of our heart and we devote ourselves to doing His will and in doing so we will reap the benefit of His love and His blessings and His promise of eternal life through our belief in His Son.
Over and over the scriptures make it clear that the ultimate offering God desires from us is to give our lives over in complete dependence on His ways. So for us it remains to Let go, Let Go!!!!