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Practical Atheist - Week 2

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All right I'm curious, how many of you have thrown up recently? You've vomited, tossed your cookies, Technicolor yawn, ugh? Last month was birthday month for three people in my family. For Amy, my wife, Anna, my 10-year-old and JoJo, my 4-year-old and so we went to the mall so they could each get one treat. Well, at 10 years of age our girls were allowed to get their ears pierced so Anna wanted to get her ears pierced and she bravely endured the pain with no visible signs of discomfort. Then I took little Anna with her freshly pierced ears to the candy store to get Amy her annual dose of whatever kind of favorite candy she likes and so I got this kind she likes, this kind and a couple of extra kinds for me just in case I need to celebrate with her and they had this little dog bone there in the candy store that was dipped half of it in chocolate and I thought to myself, well that's kind of cool, a joke. A fake dog bone that is really candy that's not really a real dog bone and so I was joking around with little Anna who was with me and I said, hey Anna, don't you think it would be great if we got a dog bone for you. I wanna dog bone for Anna. And then when I looked at Anna, her face had just turned green and evidently the trauma of getting her ears pierced caught up with her and she said, daddy, I'm about to throw up. So I grabbed Anna Jack Bower's style took her out to a garbage can where she vomited everywhere, very disgusting, made me want to throw up. I tried to comfort her while she was puking, trying not to puke. When she settled down I went back inside. The lady had all of my stuff bagged up in the candy store, I gave her some money, took it, didn't look inside, came back out and looked in my little bag and sure enough, the lady evidently thought I was serious about the dog bone because she gave me the fake dog bone candy thing. So I thought this will be fun, I'll mess with my kids. And so I got all six of them together and said, hey who wants a dog bone? They're like, gross dad! I'm like no, it's not really a real dog bone, it's a candy dog bone but it'll be fun to eat and so I started making them eat it and first Katie took a bite and said, eeewww it tastes like a real dog bone and then Mandy, eeewww and they were all kind of freaking out saying it was a real dog bone and I said no, it's just your mind playing tricks on you. Now after all six of them ate part of this fake dog bone Amy said, are you sure it's not real? I said, I'm sure it's not real, watch. I took a bite of it and it was a real dog bone and I kept chewing just to be sure and about that time I got nauseous and I threw up. Since there wasn't a garbage can, I caught it in my mouth, just threw up in my mouth and swallowed it back which made it even more disgusting but you know, it's a nasty feeling to threw up and then especially to swallow it when you throw up and that's a whole other deal. You gag and your body just can't contain something so it throws up. Thank you for listening. Let's dive into our series. This is the Word of God. Isaiah 29 verse 13. Scripture says this, the Lord says these people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips but where are their hearts? Would you help me out? Scripture says, but their hearts are far from me. They come near to me with their mouth, they honor me with their lips but they are not close to me at all. They talk the God talk but their hearts and their actions are not anywhere near me, says the Lord God. And, I think that as God looks at many of us in the world today that is how He would describe us. I call it practical atheism. If you're taking notes, what is a practical atheist? A practical atheist is someone who believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist. Someone who believes in God but lives as if He does not exist. Last week I told you that a recent Gallup pole showed that 94% of Americans claimed to believe in God or some universal spirit. 94% of Americans believe in God but not 94% live as if He exists. It's practical atheism. Last week we talked about the reality of those who claim to believe in God but do not fear Him. Today, I want to talk to you about those who claim to believe in God but don't want to take it too far. They don't want to go overboard with the religion thing. They don't want to be a fanatic. We want to believe in God but still just kind of blend into society. We went to believe in God which is acceptable in our part of the world but we don't want to be a fanatic. And you can believe in God without talking about Jesus. When you believe in Jesus, it does kind of bring some tension. Believing in God is okay but you bring the whole Jesus thing in and you don't want to become one of those fanatical Jesus born again people. We went to believe in God but don't want to be too serious about it. Practical atheism. I want to talk to you today about some verses from the Book of Revelation, the third chapter, when Jesus was talking to some different churches. He talked to seven of them. Six to them He had at least something good to say about before He corrected them. The one we're going to talk about He had nothing good to say about. It was the church and the people in a place called Laodicea. Let me tell you a little bit about Laodicea. It was a phenomenally wealthy city and 35 years before these verses were written, Laodicea was destroyed by this big earthquake and so the whole city was just laid waste. Well, because they were wealthy, they were able to quickly rebuild and they built a beautiful extravagant city much like kind of the world that I live in. They had huge theaters. They had gigantic stadiums. They had public baths that were very fancy and they had these beautiful shopping centers, these big malls. I picture it maybe a little bit like the strip on Las Vegas. It just seems like overnight, boom, it's just like this big just fantastic development that just kind of easily sucks you in to it because there are so many things to enjoy and that's what these people did. They started to enjoy this world and they forgot about God. Here's what Jesus said to them. Revelation 3:14 and 15, the scripture says this, to the angel of the church in Laodicea write, these are the words of the amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. Verse 15, God said this, Jesus said, I know your what? Jesus said I know your, I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. He says, I know your your deeds. We're not talking about what you claim to believe, we're not talking about your words, we're talking about your actions, your works, we're talking about your visible outward life and when I look at it, I know you claim to believe in Me but I don't see it in the way you live. You're not cold, you're not turned off, you're not on fire, you're just kind of, you're just kind of there. You're the middle of the road. Now, this is interesting when you know the history of Laodicea. They were actually a very wealthy city but they had a hard time getting water and so it had to be shipped in and it came from two places, one where there were hot springs but by the time the hot springs got there, they became lukewarm, they cooled off. Another shipped in cold water by the time it got there it warmed up and it was room temperature and so it wasn't hot, it wasn't cold, it was lukewarm. What's also interesting to me is this city, they had these huge religious festivals. These big we're going to sacrifice and put on our big outward show for God and then to celebrate they would drink one of two kinds of drinks, like we do today. They would serve hot drinks or cold drinks because hot tea is good, cold tea is good. Hot coffee is good, cold coffee is good. Hot milk is good before bed, cold milk is good. No one comes in and goes hey, anybody got like a lukewarm glass of milk, one that's been sitting out all day, just kind of room temperature? That's gonna make you throw up and right, and this is kind of what's going on here. So, the important people got served the hot or cold drinks up front. The people who weren't so important got the drinks in the end and by the time they got there the hot drinks had cooled down, the cool drinks had warmed up and it was nasty so that was very insulting to them. Here's what Jesus said, verse 16. He says, okay people, you guys in the church, so because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I'm about to what? Jesus said I'm about to spit you out of my mouth. The Greek word translated as spit is the word emeo and it means to spew, to spit, or to vomit. Jesus is saying, you know what, you should know who I am but you are living as though I don't exist. I can't even stomach you. You make me want to hurl you out of my mouth. I can almost imagine God looking at so much of what is called Christianity today and say I know who I am and I know what I've done for you and I've sent my son, Jesus, so that you could truly live and yet you think just squeezing me into your schedule every now and then satisfies me, a holy God. That kind of living makes me want to puke. I just honestly believe when God looks at the way many of us do life, don't you get it? You know, you say you believe in me but you life as if I don't even exist and I can't stomach that. Who knows what an oxymoron is? Anybody know what an oxymoron is? Anybody know? Yeah, it's not what you call your spouse in a fight. Don't do that. It's not, it's not, it's not what it is. It's when you take two words that are kind of the opposite and you put them together and they shouldn't go together. It's like, yeah, jumbo shrimp. Jumbo shrimp. Government efficiency. You know, they just don't, you know. Microsoft Works. Sometimes, I don't know. Lukewarm Christian. What is that? What is a lukewarm Christian? To be a disciple of Jesus, to be one of His it's to die to ourselves and to live holy unto Him. To be half hearted about the one who bled and died and rose again so we could know God, to claim belief in Him but to live as if He doesn't even exist, lukewarm Christian? What is that? It makes God want to vomit. So, what is a lukewarm Christian? What is one look like? Frances Chan, my good friend, wrote a book called Crazy Love. He detailed a lot of accounts. I took two or three of his and added a bunch of my own to this. What does a lukewarm Christian look like? I'll give you ten qualities of a lukewarm Christian. If you're taking notes, the first one is this. Lukewarm Christians, they crave acceptance from people more than acceptance from God. They want to fit in. They want people to like them, they want to blend in, we don't want to cause any kind of trouble, we don't want to be a religious fanatic because people won't like us anyway so instead of doing what God wants, we often conform to the image of this world and we do what's popular acceptable because we really care what people think more than what God thinks, even though Jesus said, woe to you when all men think well of you. What is a lukewarm Christian like? Number two, they rarely share their faith in Christ and it's really understandable because the bottom line is they really don't believe that Jesus is necessary for salvation. That's why they are lukewarm. You know, if a person dies, you know, hopefully they will be good enough and oh Joe was a good ole boy so hopefully he is in heaven and not in hell because they really don't believe in the power of Jesus Christ and besides they don't want to offend anybody because talking about Jesus is very controversial so they hope maybe their life occasionally will be a witness but we're not going to talk about Jesus, even though Jesus said, if you don't confess me before men I will not confess to you before my Father. What does a lukewarm Christian look like? Number three, they do whatever it takes to alleviate their guilt and it becomes almost an art form. If they feel guilty they'll do whatever it takes to make them not feel guilty which might include going to church once a month but they certainly come in late, sit on the back row, don't give, leave early and never ever engage. But it does make them feel a little bit better about themselves by going to church or if they sin they might pray for the forgiveness of sin, never really intending to turn from their sins, but they pray a little prayer because it helps alleviate the guilt. Around Christmas time when they feel a little guilty because they spent so much stuff, money on stuff they don't need and live such an extravagant lifestyle they may give $20.00 to feed a hungry kid somewhere, pat themselves on the back and feel better because they did something that helped them to alleviate their guilt. What does a lukewarm Christian look like? Number four, they think more about life on earth than eternity in heaven, because that's what it's about, right? It's about our things, our look, our house, our car, our yards, our image, our jobs, our bank account, our 401k and if you want to see them freak out, watch the economy go down and watch them panic. Why? Because you're messing with my way of life, you see. It's all about my standard of living, isn't it? Not about heaven. It's about the here and now, I want more things because things, that's what makes me happy. Number five, they gauge their morality by comparing to others. Oh, I'm not as bad as that person. I may not be any mother Teresa, but I'm not that bad. I mean, compared to them, I mean, so I'm doing this. I mean what's the big deal? I mean, there's a lot of people worse and they become like the pharisee who beats his chest in the temples, I thank my God in heaven that I'm not like that person. They gauge their morality by comparing to others. Number six, the lukewarm Christian wants to be saved from the penalty of sin without changing their ways. Oh God, forgive me. I don't ever intend to really change but forgive me. Thank you. I want enough of you to be okay with you but not so much that you change my life. I want enough of you to go to heaven, but I don't want so much of you that you make me different, or weird, or unusual. Number seven, a lukewarm Christian only turns to God when they are in a bind and they will turn to God, you see, because they do believe in God but God becomes a tool in the toolbox and when the economy gets tough, oh God, I'll pull out my God tool. When my marriage gets tough, oh God, I'll pull out my God tool or whenever someone is sick, oh God, I'll pull out my God tool, but whenever everything is okay I don't really need God so my God tool goes back in the box and I'll turn to you again later when I'm in a bind. Number eight, a lukewarm Christian gives whenever it doesn't hinder his standard of living. Oh he'll give, but truthfully, the lukewarm Christian doesn't give as much as the nonbeliever because studies show that non Christians are actually more generous than Christians, which is the saddest commentary on Christians that I could think of that we would be more stingy, but we will give every now and then as long as it doesn't hinder our standard of living because we've got to have our cars that we're in debt for and our bigger houses and nicer things and all these things because that's what it's about so we'll give if we have some left over and if it doesn't hurt. But don't ask us to sacrifice ever you see, because it's just simply not worth it. Number nine, lukewarm Christians are not much different from the rest of the world. They look the same, talk the same, cuss the same, dress the same, educate their kids the same way, have the same morals, they are entertained by the same things that non Christians are entertained by and they get divorced just as much as anyone else, why? Because they're simply not that much different than anyone else. And, number ten to summarize it all, lukewarm Christians want the benefits of what Christ did without conforming to who He is. That's it. That's the heart of it. That's the root of it. Give me all the good stuff, but I don't want to become like Him. Practical atheism. Believing in God but living as if He does not exist. Lukewarm and God says I want to throw you up. You make me nauseous. Lukewarm. I'll just just open up to you. First, this isn't fun to preach. No fun. Not at all. And what I'm talking about is really a reflection of probably three years of God gutting me and so to expect you to walk in blind and kind of flat footed and you know, for you to go oh I got it, I see it, in 30 minutes it's just really unfair of you, but at the same time, it's really unfair as a spiritual leader to not push you sometimes and we need pushing. We really do and I do. I look at my life and I see too many areas of practical atheism and, for better or for worse in many ways, you are a reflection of my spiritual leadership if you've been here for a long time and, if you've been here for a long time and you're still lukewarm, at some point I have to own that. At some level I have to say well, maybe it's a reflection of my leadership and the bottom line is, here's when God really started opening it up revealing it to me. Years ago, I was, I want to please God in what I preach but I'm still a human being and what you think means something to me. It shouldn't mean that much but it does. If you like it you tend to come back, if you don't you don't come back which makes it hard for us to have a church and so I want to preach what God wants but then I hear from you all, more than God, you give me feedback. Especially those of you with the gift of criticism, you use it and you use it well, and so those thoughts are in my mind. And so one time I was working through kind of the you know, how did I do thing and I felt like God just showed me very clearly that I'd become a full time pastor and a part time follower of Christ and it just took me to my knees. It took me back. I mean, it just shattered me and I know that even though many of you are not pastors, at some level you can probably relate. It could be for you, you just realized it. You've become a full time mom and a part time follower of Christ and it's understandable because those little kids, man, I mean, they take, you know it takes a lot and so you believe in Christ but you put Him aside. You didn't mean to but one day you wake up and go lukewarm. I'm a full time business person, got a good business, you're good at it and successful and it consumes you and you are using your gifts and there's fulfillment and you can measure things and one day you wake up and go you know, I believe in Jesus and everything but you know, I'm a full time business person and a part time follower of Christ. Lukewarm. Or some of you are students and man I remember being a student. I mean, it's tough and you got to, you're trying not to go into more debt and so you are working a job and doing a sport or sorority or whatever and you just wake up one day and you go, I'm a full time student and a part time follower of Christ and God says that makes me want to puke. See, when I read about the people of Laodicea, I think of us. I think of the stadiums, I think of the theaters, I think of the malls and I think to myself in the world that it's so easy to believe in God, it's easy here, it's almost more difficult to serve Him when it's so easy. I live in this world where it's easy to believe in Him and so easy to become lukewarm because it's not like this around the world. I mean there, you want to see where the church of Jesus is hot? You want to see some fire? Go to a place where if you confess Christ they'll kill you. You see, there, if you call yourself a Christian it means something. It means something there. If you're going to call yourself by, you could die. And so guess what they do? They sacrifice and they give and they pray and they're different because they really believe and here it's hard because you can kind of sort of believe and blend in all day long, can't you? See here's what freaks me out, is to know that some of you are lukewarm and you don't even know it and worse yet, some of you know it and you don't even care. Don't even care. I've got enough of God as long as the economy is okay. Hey you know. I think it's hard to be on fire here and the reason is, one of the reasons is because even in a slow economy we're still rich. A lot of you are go I'm not rich, no, no, if you got to church in a car today you are in the top 3% of richest people in the world. People who live normal life look at you and go you're filthy rich and yet we still want to be richer because if we're richer than we don't need God. We can basically design that we have everything that we need and this is what was Jesus was saying to the Laodiceans. He said this in verse 17. He said, you sound rich, I've acquired wealth and I don't need a thing, okay, but He said this, He said, you don't realize that you're what? Help me out, He said you don't realize that you are wretched and pitiful and you are poor and you are blind and you are naked. So, is there such thing as lukewarm Christian? Can those words go together? Can they go together? I don't know, you tell me. I mean, does this sound like Jesus is talking to spirit-filled Christians? Wretched? Not to me. Pitiful, no. Poor, no, it doesn't. Naked. Blind. The prodigal son's father, hey praise God my son was blind but he's still blind. Then here's what Jesus says a couple of verses later. He says this verse 20, okay you guys I know you are going to church, I know you say you believe in me, you're lukewarm. He says this, he says, here I am, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me. I'll come in. But I'm not in yet. It sounds like he's not in. It sounds like he's knocking on the door of those who call themselves lukewarm Christians and said you don't know me yet. It's almost as if he's saying if you knew Me you couldn't be lukewarm and that's kinda of the reality, when I know Him today, I can't be half-hearted about christianity. To be anything less is to be untrue to who He is. To know Him today, to know Him today. Let me tell you who I know Him as today. Who is He? If you get to know Him this way, you cannot be lukewarm. Who is He? He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. He said I am the true vine, I am the door, I am the gate, I am the way, the truth and the life, I am the bread of life, I am the good shepherd. Who is He? He is the one who was humble enough to come in riding on a donkey and yet when He returns he will ride in on a white horse with a robe dipped in blood on his robe and on his thigh will be written the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and out of His mouth will come a sword with which to judge the nations. He is the lion and He is the lamb of God. He is the one who was without sin and born in a cave so no one would ever feel too low for Him and yet he looked at the religious people and said you're a brood of vipers. You don't get me. And He looked at the sinners and said I love you. He looked at the rich and said how hard is it for you to enter the kingdom of God because you have so much to depend on you can't really see your need for me. He was the one who was beaten and bled and suffered and died and rose again so that we could have life and when you know Him and when you recognize for that which you've been forgiven, it changes everything. You cannot be the same. By His power you have been set free. By His power you have been forgiven and all of a sudden you can't be lukewarm. You have to tell people about Him because of what He's done in your life. You can't contain Him. You can't keep it to yourself. You're not that selfish. You've been changed by Him and you want others to know and you're no longer thinking about what people think because you are living for an audience of one. He's not just your Savior, that's self-centered, He is your Lord, the king of kings of your life and you're living for Him and all of a sudden this world is no longer your home. You realize the things of this world they will burn away and you're not that stupid to sell out for things that will not last. Instead, you are heavenly minded and you set your mind on things above and because of that you are radically generous. You see what you have as tools to be used for the kingdom and the glory of God and when you do sin, you repent. You want to change. Not because you're afraid He's not going to forgive you. You know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus but you hate to disappoint Him and you hate to live in the low life of sin. And you are different man, you are different. You are. You are. You are different because you've been changed. You don't have the same values as everyone else. Because you know Him. And, my heart aches for those who don't. You've got enough of Christ to satisfy you but not enough to change you and I apologize for whatever or however I've contributed to that. Taste Him and see that He is good. Half-hearted? He's going to spit you out. Maybe the reason you're not on fire because you don't really know Him. So God reveal yourself to us. Just wreck us, oh God. Wreck us. God, may we see how broken and needy we are so that the good news will truly be the good news. May we deny ourselves and follow your son, Jesus in every way, not half-heartedly, not kind of sort of when it's convenient, but fully devoted followers of your Son, Jesus. Here's how we are going to do it today. Here's what I want you to do. All of our campuses, I want everybody looking up. I don't want anybody looking down, I want everybody looking up and looking around. What I want you to do is, if this is you, I want you to go public, in front of your mom and dad, in front of your spouse, in front of your children, in front of the people in your LifeGroup, in front of people that you don't even know, if you say oh God, I am lukewarm, have mercy on me, I don't want to be that way, I will do whatever it takes to know you. I want to be on fire for you, I am lukewarm, I don't want to admit it but I want to publicly admit it, I want to be on fire. If that's you today, at all of our campuses, with everybody looking you go public and say that's me. Lift up your hands right now. Just lift them up. Lift them up high. Just lift them up high. Now, it's your time, okay? What are you going to do with it? Some of you? You need to cry right now, let it flow. Some of you just make your seat an altar. Just kneel down, don't care about things and you make that an altar, you just pray. Don't wait for me, pray. It's your time. I don't know what to pray for you. Pray. Seek God. Pray. Right know, where you are. Pray. Holy Spirit continue the work in which you started. Continue this work in us. Continue this work. All right, here's the deal. What I've just done to many of you is totally unfair because we have other church experiences coming and you need, many of you need extended time with God. I mean, the rest of the day you might need to pray. You might be fasting now, I'm going to tell you right now, if you're lukewarm, there's nothing more important than what you need to do right now and so campus pastors, here's what I want you guys to do, all of our campus pastors right now, all the campuses. I want you guys to assemble people at the end of the experience and be ready to pray because there are hundreds of you that need prayer and we want to pray with you and I don't want to cut that short. Don't pray 2 minutes and then go home and think every thing's cool. It's whatever it takes. Do it. Now, I want everybody looking up again and I'm going to talk one more time. There are those of you, you are going to recognize I'm not really a follower of Christ. Jesus may look at you and say I see your deeds. I see no evidence. I see no fruit. Okay? I'm afraid today that there's kind of easy believe-ism going around in the church which is okay, I said a little prayer, I'm fine, I'm covered, now I'm going to go on about my life. I don't see that in scripture. What I see is when we surrender our lives to Christ, He saves us by His grace. We can't ever earn that. It's never by works but when we are saved, I'm telling you works follow. You're different. You're different. You're different when you know Him. You are different. There is a life change. I grew up in the church and did not have a life change until I was in college when I met Him. I believed in Him before that but I didn't know Him and I wasn't different. Some of you, people are going to think, man you know, you've been a Christian your whole life and you're going to go you know what, I'm not so sure I am. Jesus take all of me. Others of you, you look like you are way far from God and people are going to like, dude that guy, he's a party, she's a whatever. You know what, you know it. Jesus is standing at the door of your heart right now and he's knocking. Just let me in. Let me in. I want it. You can feel it and you know it. And so what do you do? Don't try to get it all right, just say come in. Come in. and when you do that, He will come in and He will forgive you of your sin and He will make you brand new and He will fill you with his Holy Spirit so you don't have to do life on your own. He will transform you. You will be different. But, don't sort of do this. Don't, you know, hey, yeah, okay, that's good, it'll keep me out. No, no. You're either all in or you just don't even do it cause none of this half way stuff. It's Jesus, don't just save me, that's selfish. Let's start there. Transform me, be the Lord of my life. Everybody looking. Every head up. I'm going public with this. Jesus Christ, I need you. I want to be all in. Save me from my sin. I surrender my life wholly unto you. At this point forward, I am yours. If that's your prayer today, hands up all over the place. Lift them up. Now, leave them up, lift them up, leave them up, lift them up, leave them up, lift them up, leave them up, lift them up, would you applaud these people? Lift them up, leave them up. I want to meet you guys eye to eye. Both of you right there. God bless you. Leave them up. I want to meet you eye to eye. Sir, right back there. Leave them up. I want to meet you. I want to see you. Right back over there, sir, right there. Both you back there. Leave them up, I want to see you bold in front of everybody. Right back over there. Ma'am praise God for you and right back over there. Others of you and over here on this side, right back over there, God bless you. Others of you way back over there. Go public. Bold, up high. Yes, Jesus save me from my sin. God bless both of you surrendering. Others of you say yes. I surrender my life to Him. Would you pray, pray with those around you? Pray, Heavenly Father, save me. Everybody, pray, save me from my sins. Take my whole life, every bit of it. It is yours. Fill me with your Spirit so I can serve you. I am all in. You are now my Savior and you are the Lord of my entire life. Thank you for new life. Jesus take all of mine. In your name I pray. LifeChurch will you worship God for who He is? .

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Posted by: lifechurchopen on Jul 6, 2010

Practical Atheist Week 2

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