September 14, 2010
Kevin O’brien, Pastor, Ocean City Baptist Church
Living the God Centered Life
Began to think of an area where we leave God out. When a pastor applies his message, you often hear him say, don’t just live this on Sunday but throughout the week. Realized we need to keep God not only in the secular, but also in the religious part of our life.
Walking into some worship services these days you may not always see God in them. The same with our prayer lives—often me centered. We are often consumed with our desires instead of Gods desires.
Throughout history there are those who have not been doing God’s business God’s way. The Pharisees—Jesus said woe to them. They did all the right things for all the wrong reasons. Fasted so people would see, praise them. Did God centered things in man centered ways. We do the same, leave God out. We go to worship, but sing praise songs, only going through the motions. We give because of people seeing us do so.
Another of these religious activities that is prone to this, but often man centered is Evangelism.
Sadly we see these days God marginalized in sharing the gospel. Often we minimize the impact of God in the message of the gospel. Many of the approaches leave out God’s wrath, Jesus’ lordship. We put man at the center of the message—you must be special for God to send his son.
Also, there is a therapeutic method—the best life you can have, become all you were meant to be. Find your purpose in life. What’s at the heart of a message like that?
Evangelism is a personal thing, why do it at all? You would think people would stop rather than do it wrong.
What makes it so tempting to take God out, is the cross at the center. It’s intimidating.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (ESV)
The gospel is folly to man. It’s not what people want to hear. So we change the message just a little to make it palatable. Yes I evangelize, and at the same time I can save face. If we adjust it just a little, we’re giving the gospel and pleasing the world. We think they need the practical results of the gospel so it will make sense and then they will come to Christ. This comes from the fear of man. It’s huge in evangelism.
If you are like most people, the fear of man is always near in doing evangelism. We have a free country, can meet to talk about religious matters, but we fear what people will think of us. The last thing we want people to think is we’re a religious nut.
This morning I want to give us ammunition to fear God more than man.
Look to the apostle Peter to learn to put God in the center of every evangelistic opportunity.
Matthew 26:69-75: “Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (ESV)
Peter had an opportunity to share his testimony, to say “I’ve seen the miracles”, yet before a couple of servant girls, denies Christ. Why would one of Jesus closest disciples deny Christ?
Away from the other disciples, Peter was alone, in fear of them discovering his true self. Perhaps afraid of what they would do to him, scourge, mock, put on trial. Interesting the way he contrasts the boldness of Jesus with the cowardice of Peter.
Jesus remains silent. Jesus responds in a god fearing way, we respond in a man centered way. We hear a message about the gospel, get an adrenaline rush, go into our week, but then an opportunity comes and then we go into evangelistic meltdown.
Thankfully there is grace, second chances.
We see this with Peter after the resurrection. “Peter do you love me? Feed my sheep.”
We may be weak and cowardly, but in Jesus there is unremitting grace.
The next time we see Peter, Acts 2:12-16: “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel… (ESV)
Then he goes on, takes advantage of the second chance God has given him, boldly and in an uncompromising way. Look at verse 22-23, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (ESV)
Here is boldness, a man who has learned from his mistakes.
Here are men who could stone him, mock him, put him on trial, but Peter preaches with boldness. What is the result? About 3000 souls added.
Do you believe that God can use you like this?
We often fear man not only because we fear, but also because we lack faith.
It would be nice to say this is where this ends—unfortunately, just like us, Peter goes back to his old ways.
In Acts 2 victory but in Galatians 2:11-14: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (ESV)
What was the problem? All of sudden Peter is back in the courtyard. Here he is, confronted by men from Jerusalem. He backs down.
Again a question of justification—are we justified by men’s approval or by God?
We do the same, seek men’s approval.
Ever back down when people snicker or see a furrowed brow? When we fear man all it takes is a look to back down.
When asked, “Do you really believe creationism, Jonah swallowed by fish, believe the Bible literally true”? Questions like this enough to make us back down. We see men who look down on us, we back down.
The same happened to Peter in Galatians 2. Like Peter we are all too prone to back down to make the gospel palatable.
Peter does come around, though.
1Peter 3:13-15: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…(ESV)
At this point Peter is able to see past fear of man. Peter had grown, now says, “Always be ready to give a defense.”
Maybe we think this means to have an answer ready, but perhaps Peter means to be courageous, to be ready to share boldly.
If we take the lessons from Peter’s life, we can learn to share the gospel today. Look at Peter in the courtyard, the heartache, the anguish, the backpedaling. Learn that the fear of man only brings tragic consequences. If we will put God in the middle of all things God can do great and amazing things. We need to have faith that God will give the increase.
Learn from Peter at Antioch as well, not to contextualize too much to avoid fear of men.
Stand up for the foolishness of Christ. We preach a stumbling block.
In spite of the past, God can use you from this day forward if you come in repentance and faith. Perhaps he will even use you one day like Peter.
May that be our goal, that young people would come along after us and say, “Wow there’s someone who is courageous.”
May we proclaim Christ in a God centered way.