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The Power of Respectable Living
08/27/2006
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Track 6 of 8 in the Transforming Story: As We Live It series
Running time: 39 minutes, 26 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


"Respectable"

It all started in the Garden. Literally, all of it. God not only created man and woman, He established the boundaries of our relationships, gave us meaningful work to do, and established purpose in our lives. It all started in the Garden.

It all fell apart there too. Man rejected the authority and wisdom of God and "did his own thing." As a result, shame entered the world. There was no longer room for intimacy without embarassment. Toil entered the world. Work was no longer merely pleasurable; it now included sweat and sore muscles. Relationships were fractured. It wasn't long before we experienced murder. It was down hill after the "Fall" in the Garden.

God didn't establish "rules" for His own pleasure. He is not a "cosmic killjoy." He knows what's best for us. He knows that relationships are healthiest when they are established on integrity and honesty. He knows that work goes best when we have a larger purpose than a paycheck. He knows that sex/intimacy belongs in a loving, monogamous, married relationship.

God calls His people to both trust and obey. He calls us to trust His wisdom. He really does know what's best for us. Integrity, purity, chastity, honesty...they are all worthy pursuits. He calls us to trust Him...that He knows what will make our lives fulfilled.

He also calls us to obey. Even when the commands seem somewhat arbitrary or restricting, He expects us to obey. Not to prove He's bigger and stronger, but because He's proven He's more loving and wiser. We obey because we trust.

The inside of a cage must look a lot like a jail. I suspect within the heart of every hamster or canary is the longing for freedom. What they don't know is, there's a cat just waiting for them to get "free."


Sermon for Sunday, August 27, 2006
6th sermon in an 8 part series
"The Power of Respectable Living"
"The Transforming Story: As We Live It"
(1 Thessalonians 4:1-12)
Copyright 2006 G. Charles Sackett

I want to invite you back to the garden. It's where we started this year and it is so foundational to what we are going to be talking about this morning that it's important that we start there again. We've been telling this story since the very beginning of the year--about creation and how God put in a world that is utterly magnificent and gave us meaning and purpose and value. We followed that story over those first several months of the creation and the fall and then the covenant with God's people and the coming of Christ and then ultimately his final coming. I want you to go back to that first story for just a little bit because it sets the stage for what we're going to do today. Genesis, chapter 1–just a reminder of some of that basic information that forms a foundation of who we are and the story that we tell–the story that we live in relationship to each other and to God. Genesis 1:26, "God said let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female, he created them. God blessed them and said be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." There is this magnificent creation in which God produces people in his own image and he gives them this meaningful work to do–to tend the garden. He gave them incredible opportunity for relationships that had enormous meaning, including relationship with him.

You come over the second chapter and you get to see a bit more of that starting in verse 15 of chapter 2. "The Lord God took the man and he put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, you are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die. The Lord God said it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all of the birds, all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. And so the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air, and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and he closed up the place with flesh. And then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man and he brought her to the man. The man said this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."

In this remarkable creation story, there is work with meaning, responsibility that has pleasure, relationships that come with their own rewards. It is a perfect place in a perfect world. Another way of looking at that is to say that they had sex without shame and friendship without fear and gain without greed. It was the kind of world in which God had created things to work the way they're supposed to. He laid the foundation for life as it's supposed to be lived, and it all started in the garden. Of course, as you know, the rest of it all started in the garden, too, when we began to see the deterioration of life as it's supposed to be lived. We began to see the falling apart, the demise of the world the way God had intended for it to be lived out in his creative order. Just a brief recount in chapter 3, just to remind you of the deterioration, the fall. You know the story how that they were tempted and they succumbed to the temptation. Here are the consequences of their choices. Verse 14 of chapter 3, "The Lord God said to the serpent, because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock, and all the wild animals. You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your off spring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel. To the woman he said I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. To Adam he said, because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, you must not eat of it; cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return." Do you notice the imposition now of pain and labor and sweat and toil and difficulty and it isn't long into the story that we begin to see that in fact broken relationships abound.

We started this year talking about the story, learning the story, just simply having the story in front of us. We've been this summer talking about how you live that story. How do you translate that story into everyday life? What does it look like? If I'm going to try to see it in somebody like you, what do I want to see in you as I see this story come to life? I think that's what Paul tries to address in our text in I Thessalonians, chapter 4. If you want to come over there, we're going to spend our time in the first half of the fourth chapter. Everything that I'm going to try to tell you this morning finds its roots in that chapter. You're invited to just kinda follow along in it and see the phrases and the words that might be responsive, might be responsible for what I'm about to say. It starts like this, "Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God." That's the nature of the whole sermon series. That's the nature of the Christian life, isn't it, to ask this question? How do I live a life that pleases God? That strikes me as fundamental to any disciple's question. How can I live my life in a way that is honoring to God, that somehow gives him pleasure, that produces for him that which he desires? Not what I want out of it, but what does God want out of it? And Paul goes on to say in those first two verses "I've instructed you how you should live in order to please God as in fact you are living. And now we ask you and we urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus." It's not that they weren't doing it. They were. They were living the life that God wanted them to live. He says I just want you to recognize that there's always room in your life to continue to grow in that relationship, to grow in that life that God finds pleasing. And he says, rather subtly you notice, in the end of verse 2, "I give you these instructions on the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ." On the one hand he says I urge you to do this. I challenge you to do this. I call you to do this. He never quite says I command you to do this but he lays that at the feet of the authority of Jesus and says it's not like this is a suggestion, okay. What he's about to say in this text is what God desires from every Christian who claims Jesus as the Lord of their life. He's going to break this down into three very practical areas of life. They just don't get any more direct nor any more practical than the three categories that he's going to give us to work our way through.

I invite you to come to the first category. It's the most ... interesting. Look at the first verse of the section, verse 3. "It is God's will that you should be sanctified [that word means to be set apart or to be holy], but you should abstain, or should avoid sexual immorality." Right from the very start, the very first thing that he addresses in this text about practical Christian living is to say that sex is sacred. It's not sordid. It is not selfish. It is a sacred gift from God and it must be viewed that way if it is to be what God desires in human life. Read with me through that text, verse 3, he says you should avoid sexual immorality, follow along here, "that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God, and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his holy spirit."

One of the things that has to be understood from the very outset, it started in creation, it runs its way through the teachings of Jesus, and it ends up here, is that sex is God's idea. You didn't think it up. He's the one who created the hormones in your system. He's the one who produced in you the longing for a person other than yourself to be a part of who you are, to be a partner in your life. It was not just an overdose of caffeine that made you feel this way. This is a God thing, and until you and I understand it as a God thing and put it in the context in which God puts it, we're never going to be able to deal with it effectively.

I love the little thing you saw on the screen. I'm sorry you didn't get to hear the nice music in the background, but did you notice what it looked like? Here's this wonderful little innocent canary sitting in his bird cage. As it fades away, outside the bird cage is a cat with his tongue hanging out, just waiting for the bird to escape. So often people feel like God is this cosmic killjoy who has them wrapped up in a cage trying to hinder them, trying to keep them from doing all the stuff that's fun, trying to put limits on their life, trying to stop them from being real human beings. He's certainly giving you a message that you're not getting from anybody else. All you've gotta do is look around a little bit at the world around you. Listen to a little of the music, watch a few of the tv programs, go to a couple of the movies. You are not getting the same message from the world that you're getting from this particular text and it's incumbent upon us to understand that God is not some cosmic killjoy trying to stop you, but in fact, rather than seeing yourself in a cage as if somehow your freedom has been limited, you might want to understand that occasionally cages are protective-- that the boundaries that God puts around us are not to stop us from having a good time. They are to protect us from the evils of the world that will ultimately, if not immediately, destroy us.

In this particular text, what we come to is a very simple idea–sex, human relations are God's idea but they belong in one context only and that's the context of marriage. If you don't hear anything else, at least hear this much this morning before you kind of dismiss me as being old and old-fashioned. There is only one place in which a man and a woman are ever supposed to have a sexual relationship and that is in the context of their marriage. It doesn't happen before that and it doesn't happen outside of that. One place, one place only when this thing that God has created, this gift that God has given us, this gift that God has created within us to want belongs in one place–in marriage–no place else. Did I say that clearly? Nod you head yes if I said that clearly. All right. I'm not trying to be an old prude. I'm not trying to be harsh. I'm just trying to give you the reality of this thing. That's what God says from Genesis to Revelation. There's one place for a legitimate sacred union–it's in the context of a marriage. It isn't because God's trying to stop us from having a good time. It's because God knows what we need to know in order to understand what our life is really like, and this text is so abundantly clear about how that works. Do you notice the language of the text? There is to be no sexual immorality. But don't read that (parents, if you want to cover your children's ears, now is a good time) don't read into that only physical union. Do not be deceived by Bill Clinton and the rest of our culture. There's a great deal more to sexual relationships than just physical union. Do not be deceived. This word is a word that means everything from pornography to adultery. It's the very word from which we get the word pornography and he says do not let this be a part of your life. Get it out. Why? Because when you don't practice this kind of ... and here's the word we haven't used in a hundred years ... when you do not practice chastity and fidelity, you defraud your brother. See, this word is not just a private word, it's a community word. Any time somebody violates the fidelity, the faithfulness of a marriage or they violate that purity law of chastity prior to getting married, they are not only rejecting God, that's the language of the text, making his word invalid, that's what the word means. You have a covenant that is invalidated with God, but you also are violating the person with whom you have made a covenant or the person you will eventually make a covenant in life. You defraud them, you harm them, you hurt them. This word, this idea, this concept is that in fact sex is a good thing when kept where it belongs in the context of marriage. It's unfortunate that we can't talk about that where you guys live. It's not that you're the only ones that need to hear it. I'm just going to say it because, you know, when you talk to kids, the adults pay attention. They want to know what you're telling them. Some of you have seen the billboards around town, the abstinence billboards. A guy and a girl sitting there saying no, not me, not now because it will spoil my future. Well, okay, but I have to tell you a secret. That's not near a good enough reason for abstinence. Do you hear this text? When you make Jesus the Lord of your life, when you claim him as your savior, you are saying to him I want to live a life that pleases you. The only life that pleases him for single people is a life of chastity and for married people, a life a fidelity or faithfulness. Those are the only two options available before God. Now I'm not here to lie to any of you. I think it's time that the church get honest about this topic. We've tried being dishonest with people. We've told them don't have sex outside of marriage because you'll feel really horrible about it and it will make you feel really awful. Probably not, you'll probably like it. I'm sorry parents. You may not have wanted them to hear that. People have sex because it's fun and yes, one day they may wake up and really regret it. But that's a lie to tell them that they're automatically going to feel bad if they violate this command. The only way to keep this thing in control is to understand that it is an act of discipline to be a chaste person, not, let me spell that. C-h-a-s-t-e, not c-h-a-s-e-d. One young girl was talking to her mother and her mother introduced the idea of being chaste. And she said well, really, mom, I don't care so much about being chased. I kinda like to do the chasing. We're talking about keeping yourself pure before God so that God can use you more effectively and so you can live a better life. This isn't about, it's not a sermon on STD's, it's not a sermon on all the things that can go wrong. This is a sermon that finds its foundation in one place in the church when you give yourself to the lordship of Jesus, what you're saying is I will live to please God and that means husband and wives, you keep yourselves to yourself. And to those of you who are single, you save yourself until God open this door to the right relationship with somebody in marriage only. Did I say that? In marriage only. It's a communal thing as well and this is part of what I really appreciate about Paul's passage is this relationship question. I want to introduce you to a book. I would highly recommend it to everyone of you parents and I would encourage you kids to read it as well. It's called "Real Sex" by Lauren Winner. It's printed by Brazos Press. It's the best book I've read in a long time on this topic. It's very honest and clear. She talks about her own failure as a Christian, as a non-Christian before she became a Christian. She talks about her own struggles as a Christian as she moved through singlehood and dealt with her own sexual infidelities, and she puts it in the context of a relationship with God and a community of faith, and we've not done that. We've not talked about how this is communal in nature. I'm not talking about the 1960's when we all got together and had kind of a mutual, I mean when they all got together and had a mutual thing. Let me be clear on that one.

Talking about the fact that this is a community thing. You're my brother. You're my sister, and we belong to each other. In fact, it's really a fascinating thing when you think about the church and marriage. I know what the preacher says. He gets you up here in front of everybody and he says I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride. That's all I'm gonna ever say, but that's not all we're saying, is it? We're giving as a community of believers, as friends and family before God in a wedding, what we're saying is okay, it's all right from now on. You can now move into a relationship that God had created for you to have in this context and the problem is, as a community we don't want to deal with the communal nature of this thing. We don't want to hold each other accountable for it. We don't want to talk to one another about it. I can still remember, this goes back a long time–30 years ago– when one of our young girls was getting ready to marry a non-Christian. By the way, that's another topic that the bible is very clear on that subject. And one of the guys that had been youth sponsor in our church went to her and said, Connie, do you think this is a good idea? And she gave this classic response: what business is it of yours? It's all of his business. He's her brother, her sister. You may not want me to ask you the question, but there's a good chance I'll walk up to you sometime and ask you about your life, and I won't mean just how was work today. That's my responsibility to you as a friend, as a brother, as a sister. I expect you to hold me accountable in the same way.

I have to confess to you that when I was doing the research for this particular sermon on this particular text, I found myself (1) embarrassed by what I was reading, (2) frightened for our young people, (3) tempted by some of the things I was reading, and (4) deeply grieved that we have to deal with this issue. There are things going on in our world that have always gone on. It's just that they're going on so rampantly and with such tacit approval from the world that it's scary. I just gone done talking a few minutes ago with Kristin Benz. I didn't realize that Kristin was the one who had been responsible for putting up the abstinence posters in our community as a part of her job. What she told me was that was as much as they could say. They tried to get abstinence curriculums into our school system and they won't let them in. They do not want your children being taught abstinence in our schools. I think as parents you ought to do something about that. I do not think you ought to sit silently by and let a school board tell you that you can't teach your children the one thing that will keep them from having disasters in life or one of the things that will keep them from having some natural disasters.

Well, I can't stay on that for a long time. I have other things in this text we need to talk about. Let me at least say this much. One of the things I appreciate about Lauren Winner's book is that it is honest in this sense–that this is a discipline. It is not easily come by. When you have engaged in sexual relations, for you to come to the place that you are going to discipline yourself, it is difficult work to discipline yourself. That's why he says in this text you have to learn to control your body. It's about delayed gratification which none of us are very good at in any arena of our life. It's about disciplining yourself in the same way that we do all spiritual disciplines. You learn how to read your bible. You learn how to pray. You learn how to fast. You learn how to practice solitude. And there are days that you succeed and there are days that you fail, and in the context of the church, that's why we have grace and help and accountability, and we see this as a journey that we're on together to get to the place that we live lives that please God.

But he goes beyond just this topic and he says in the next few verses, verses 9 and 10 that living a life that pleases God means seeing relationships as real, not as artificial, not as menial, not as forced. He says in verses 9 and 10 "about brotherly love we do not need to write to you for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other and in fact you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia and yet we urge you brothers to do so more and more." He says "the church, as the church loves people but I want to urge you, I want to encourage you to love people even more than you love them now." See part of the issue we're facing right now is how in the world do you love people. How do you love somebody? The challenge is to love them but you can't just love people with words, can you? It was 1969 when I was given this definition of biblical love. I hate to even think how many decades ago that was, but it stuck. I have never forgotten it. Love is a committed concern for another person's well-being without thought for what you're going to get in return. Love is being concerned about another person's life, whether their physical life or their spiritual life, without worrying about what you're going to get back, what you're going to get out of it. When the church talks about loving its world, it talks about giving itself to the world in a way that demonstrates, that lives out, that produces a loving act without any concern for whether or not it gets anything in return. And so we're going to do that. We try to do it all the time, but we're going to put some tangible feet on that act of loving our community. October 4 is coming. It's a Wednesday. It's going to come right on the heels of our first session of the Gathering, which by the way starts very soon. You need to get it on your calendar. But on October 4 we're going to do something about loving our community. We're going to go grocery shopping and we're going to deliver food to needy families–people who need food to eat. So if you know people who need that bag of groceries, you need to let us know. I've already had somebody come to me and say I have a whole list, and I said see Lindi. She's making the list. We want in a tangible way from this body at least on one occasion to be able to say to as many people in our community as we can say it. I hope we're overwhelmed by the number of people we're asked to do this for. I hope it presses us into a spirit of generosity beyond anything we've dreamed of. I hope it's not two or three families that we have to do this for. Not that I want a lot of needy people. I just want us to be able to say because it's a challenge to us to put our love into action. It's not because of what it's going to do for them, it's for what it's going to do to you to be forced to say do I really love this person. Tangibly. And I'm going to ask you to walk down the same road I walk down and try to figure out whether you really mean it.

I got a call last week from Pat. I didn't know who Pat was. I was given a heads up by the ladies out front that there was a phone call coming through. Three or four words into the conversation I knew what this was going to be. I almost cut him off and said Pat, just tell me what you need so I can get it for you and bring it. I didn't. I let him do his whole spiel until he got to the place that he finally said well, I've got a cooler but I don't have any ice and I really don't have any water to drink and think I've got some cheese and crackers but I don't have any lunch meat. Do you suppose that you could bring me something? And I said yea, you hang around there. I'll bring it down. He's at the Bel Aire Motel. I said I'll drop it off this afternoon. We've got an ice machine, we've got water, that's not a big deal. So I go down, I stop at Aldi's. I get some groceries. I drive down to his place. I knock on the door. I hand him his stuff. We have a brief conversation. I turn around and I drive off and as I'm driving off I'm thinking to myself as I'm patting myself on the back for the wonderful good deed I've done, are you willing to invest your life in Pat? Are you willing to create a relationship with him? Are you willing to go back again and again and again, even if you get nothing out of it? And I have to tell you the answer that I came up with as I drove down 12th Street was ... no I'm not. And I've been thinking about it all week long. The call of this text is if I'm going to please God, I have to live a life where I love people ... practically love them without any thought for what I'm going to get back. That's a love that Paul talks about that genuinely pleases God.

Rex sent me this story this week. It's fascinating. It comes out of Mississippi. Twelve-year-old Joe invited Christ into his heart, made a decision for Jesus. On October 6, the church where he made that decision voted not to accept blacks in their church and voted Joe out because he's biracial. At that meeting the preacher resigned immediately on the spot as did a local sheriff who was a member of the church. He and his family also resigned their membership from that particular body. The church's comment was they were afraid Joe might come with his people and they'd have blacks in the church. The family with whom Joe was staying when he was introduced to the congregation and thus introduced to Jesus made this comment: "people have got to realize we're all God's children. It's not God so loved the white people, it's God so loved the world." If that's how God loves people, you tell me how we can love them any less. The call to a life of pleasing God is to love, really love, blindly, without thought for what you're going to get back. You just love them.

So Paul not only introduces these two practical things, how we love people and then our relation with them physically, but he introduces one last topic in verses 11 and 12 when he says "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and you will not be dependent on anybody." He says that living a life pleasing to God is a life that sees work as meaningful, not as mandatory, not as menial, but it sees work as the way God created it. That's why this text is so closely aligned with the Genesis text that God gave us work that mattered. He gave us work that was meaningful. He helped us understand that work was not a curse word, it wasn't a four-letter word, that part of a human being is the desire to be productive, to work, to be meaningful. He says there are two reasons for it in this text ... your witness so that outsiders will not look down on you and secondly for your means, so that you can take care of yourself. This text is not about, you need to understand this context. This is not about people who can't work physically. It's not about people who live in a social system where it won't be allowed for them to work, this is not for those for whom it is out of their control. This is for those of us who can do something about it. And the context is they believed so much that Jesus was coming so quickly that they just all quit working and let the church take care of them. And he says that's not how you do it, that disciples of Jesus, Christian people are the best workers in the bunch because they have a mission. They've been sent into the world to be God's representatives whether it's at the trucking firm or the high school or the hospital or wherever it happens to be. If you're a disciple of Jesus, you ought to be the best worker there because that is God's reputation. It is his witness. You are the person that people look to and say that's what being a disciple looks like. And so he calls us, he challenges us to have work that is meaningful and to see it as meaningful, not because necessarily it's something we like, but because it puts us in a place where God can use us to be his witness. And he says and it takes care of us. The basic biblical challenge is if you can take care of yourself, you don't let somebody else take care of you.

Now the bible knows everything about taking care of people. That's not an issue. You remember the early book of Acts. There were widows who didn't have any food and so the church rose to the occasion and they fed the widows. But if you read the rest of your new testament, you come to I Timothy and what you'll discover is those same widows who were cared for by the church were restricted in their care if they were able to work. You take care of the ones who can't, you challenge the ones who can to go to work. That's the nature of the way we function as a community. We care for people at the very best level, and if the best level is helping you by giving you something, then we do. But if the best level is challenging you do to better on your own, then that's our obligation. I don't know, maybe you're not at all like me and it's unfair for me to be the one standing up here ‘cause I'm the one doing the talking, but I suspect that I'm not the only person in here who is a skeptic when they see the sign on the side of the road "Will Work for Food." You know, my gut response is then do. And I understand, I've been in those situations where people can't. I know that. I've been in situations myself when there wasn't an immediate job available. And here's my dream. I don't know if this could ever happen but here's my dream. I would love for a dozen of you who have places of work that could say to me, if you get somebody like that who comes to the church and needs a job, you call me and I'll employ them. If it's a day or two or a week or a month or a year, I'll take a chance on them, because I'd love to be able to say to the person who calls me on the phone, if you've got something for me to do in exchange for this, I'll come do it because I'd like to be able ... now here's the bad part of me ... to call their bluff and on the other hand, I'd like to actually give them a job. And we've tried to do that here. We've had people come and do things for us here at the building simply so that they didn't feel that they were taking, but actually they were earning which is a far better thing. I dream of the day when in our church office we have a list of those who have work to be done and we can say we're going to take a chance on this person just because the church called. And yes, we may be sending you somebody who isn't serious and yes, we may send you a nut. I don't know, but I'd still like to have that chance to be able to help people at the level that they need to be helped because I think that's what this is about. It's about having work that matters so that you can care for yourself as well as so that you can be a witness for Christ.

Well, the bottom line is this ... what Jesus is calling us to is respectable living ... the kind of living that creates an image of God that is powerful and valid and important. It's a call in this text to live in such a way that you please God and in the pleasing of God you are a powerful witness in the world of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. And it infects the very most basic parts of our life. I mean, for crying out loud, it affects our job, it affects our relationship with one another, it affects our sex life. It doesn't get any more practical than this ... that you let Jesus come in as the Lord of your life and you begin to make one simple decision–I will live every aspect of my life in order to please God.

Now hear me. Everyone of us at some way or another in some part of our life or another has already blown it. So there's a word you need to hear that comes all through scripture and that word is grace. God understands that self-control, delayed gratification, good work habits, good relationships do not come easily to any of us, so there's room for forgiveness and there's room for forbearance. This is a discipleship issue and discipleship implies one thing ... the discipline of growth. And so you make a decision, you determine today that I'm going to start to live a chaste, faithful life. I'm going to make a decision today to be the best person out there in the community I know how to be and living in relationship with other people, genuinely loving them at the best of my ability. But you start by saying that's where I begin. I begin right here, and if I fail, I'll start over again. I'll come for confession, I'll do it again. It starts with you offering yourself with the intentionality that I want to live like a disciple, and when I fail, I'll just come back and do it again. I'll just keep trying. You may have decisions you need to make, and if there are public decisions, I invite you to come. It may be that you just need somebody to pray for you in the midst of your own personal struggle, and if you want to come here, we'll have somebody come and pray with you. But all of us are being challenged by this text to make a fundamental decision to live like a disciple who pleases God in every way. Stand with me and let's sing this.

[Transcribed by PU4]