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A Kingdom Response: Living in the Real World
Scripture: Proverbs 9:10-12
Track 13 of 13 in the American Idols series
Running time: 33 minutes, 25 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.

"A Kingdom Response: Living in the Real World" August 26, 2007

In Luke Chapter 18 Jesus asks a terribly penetrating question. The start of the chapter, Verse 1 is a story about a persistent widow. It's a parable that Jesus tells. It goes like this: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. There was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' For some time he refused, but finally he said to himself, even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because of this widow, this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming."

"And the Lord said, 'Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night. Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice and quickly. However, when the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?'"

God will do his part, he says. Have no doubt that God will do the part that he is destined to play. But the penetrating question is, will he find faith on earth? Will he find faithfulness? Will he find his people being his people? Will he find us doing the thing that God has called us to do? It is in my opinion a terribly penetrating question. When he looks around Quincy, Illinois, will he find faithful people, living out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in the context of a culture that stands radically against most everything that we believe?

We have spent the summer trying to unmask a number of what I have called American Idols. We spent our time talking about things like pragmatism, just because it works that makes it right. We've talked about the issue of busyness, finding our value in the fact that we seem to have lots to do and everybody thinks that we're important. We have talked about the whole issue of moral relativism and how the world says everything can be okay all at the same time, and we are pretty sure that that's not true. We've talked about affluence and how we have this somehow inherent desire within us just to have a little bit more than we have right now.

But we've tried to talk about a variety of sorts of issues that infiltrate our thinking that defect our attitudes, that somehow address us at the behavior level of our lives, and we're not even always aware that they are there simply because it's the world we live in. It's what we grew up with. It's our educational system. It's the thing we learned. And they are not all bad. They are just what they are.

But in the context of that kind of cultural bias in the context of that kind of world, which, by the way, is the world we live in, the real one, not the one that exists necessarily in these four walls. In that world where we have to face life everyday the question is, will God find faith on earth? Will we live successfully as a christian? Counter- culture.

We've been looking at the book of Proverbs. We have been trying to just take some of that wisdom from Proverbs over the course of this summer and ask, is there anything that we can learn from those particular wise sayings? And we have tried to come at it from four different directions virtually every week. One of the things we've asked is that we do some reflecting. We try to ask good questions. Are there things that we should be able to look at and determine where this particular way of thinking is going to lead us? Is it possible for us to look at this and say, is this going to ultimately meet my deepest needs? Is this way of thinking going to be God honoring when we're done?

And when you think about what these cultural ways of thinking do to us, you can't hardly escape this conclusion. They make us really self-absorbed. When I reflect on all of those cultural idols, all of those things, what they have in them that is good as well as what they have in them that causes us probably to be less than we ought to be ultimately, where we end up is that they focus their primary attention on us. And so we become self-oriented, self-absorbed in everything we value around us, getting things our way, when we want them, the way we want them. And, quite honestly, without spending time repreaching all of those sermons, the answer to that is, you are going to be really unhappy if that's the way you live your life, because ultimately you are going to end up alone and dissatisfied, because the world will never be able to give you enough to ever quench human selfishness.

We've asked the questions and we've tried to ask, are there things that we could learn from other people, are there things we learned from our parents, from our friends, is there some instruction that we have come across that has made an enormous difference in our lives. And over the course of the summer I've tried to at least highlight some things that were important to me along the way. I'm not the standard by any means. I'm just trying to help you think of things that might have happened in your own life.

But I have vivid memories of a pagan father who still taught incredibly important values about generosity and about caring for people, and I can remember one particular day walking into my father's restaurant and seeing a family full of people occupying two different booths being fed a meal, and I remember hearing them say as they were leaving, the father calling my father aside and saying to him, as soon as we get where we are going, I will send you the money for today's meal. He never worried about that. This family was hungry, they were traveling through, they stopped and had the courage to say, Is there any chance you would feed my children? And so my dad sat them down and fed them.

It's a value. It's an instruction that I learned in my life. If you are ever hungry and you don't have any money, come see me. My wife will feed you. Ask her if that hasn't happened to her on more than one occasion when I have brought somebody to the door and said, oh, by the way, he would like lunch.

You know that, right? You've had it in your own life. You know those experiences of things that you have observed other people and you have said, that's a value I want to incorporate into my life. Well, that's what we are going to try to do this year, by the way. I feel absolutely compelled, and I think our staff have agreed, that we honestly believe that one of the best ways to help you absorb wise values is to put them into practice. And so we are going to try to turn things inside out -- clothes included. The guys are going to hand out some bookmarks for you. It's a thing to stick in your bible or tack onto your refrigerator to just remind you of our Wednesday evenings that are coming up, and here is the cycle. I will just remind you of them one more time.

Starting this Wednesday night, that's this Wednesday, like three days from now, are we all on the same calendar page here, the 29th of August we are going to start back into our Wednesday evening program. It's the only night in September that we are going to have a meal, or at least the only time we are going to have a meal is on that first rhythm of the cycle, and it's going to be a Game Masters BBQ. And I don't even have to tell you. If you have been there, you can just nod your head and say, yeah, that's worth coming for, and if you don't like that, cheese pizza.

But a lot better than the physical food is going to be the spiritual food because our friend Danny Climer, that our congregation has supported now for several years now out New Hampshire at Restoration House Ministries, is going to be here to talk to us about the life of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount. And he is going to spend some time on that first evening just helping us transform our thinking about how to live Christ like, how to live wisely in our world.

And then immediately after that we are going to turn right around and we are going to pray. The next week, September, we are going to come back here. It's one of the times we are going to pray in our building. And there are going to be stations for you to go and pray at, stations that reflect our families, reflect our community, reflect our schools, reflect our world, reflect our church, and we are going to come together and we are going to spend some significant time asking God for the ability to live wisely in our world. And then September 12th we are going to go clean up the streets of Quincy in an act of service, and we need to you to sign up for that. That's the reason for the T-shirts. You can buy these T-shirts. You can order them today. You can order them on Wednesday. We'd like for you to wear one of these. You don't have to, but it will cause people to pay attention at least. If you are used to wearing a suit and you wear one of those, everybody goes (indicating). Is that you? But we need you to sign up today for that cleanup so we know how many people to count on.

We are just going to walk the streets, and we are going to do it for just no other -- there are two reasons for doing this. One, because service will change your life. It will turn you inside out. It will make you less self-centered, and it will impact our community. People will want to know, what are you doing? And we are going to tell them, we are cleaning up the street. Why? Because we care. Because we think it's what Jesus would do, and it's what we are going to do. And you can take this home, stick it someplace where you cannot forget it, because we want you to understand that we believe that these kinds of actions are the kinds of instruction that will be useful in your life to help shape you into a disciple who follows Jesus and lives wisely in our world.

Now, I readily admit not all of you care about living wisely. Don't take that offensively. But you haven't made that choice yet. You haven't decided, I want to live wisely. You haven't made the decision that you really want to do that, and that's all right. Come and we'll try to convince you that it's a good choice. It's a good way to do that. We've talked about correction. We've talked about those times when God comes into our life and he reminds us of things that just frankly they smack you upside the face and they say, hey, listen.

I was struck by it last week again when I told you about the fellow in Azerbaijan. I got a letter just yesterday. On August 8th, August 8th, 2007, TCM student Zoier Bolaef (phonetic) from Aliabad, Azerbaijan was sentenced to two years in jail. Officials have repeatedly denied petitions for church registration, and now they accuse him of holding illegal meetings under the guise of religious activity without concrete authority and without state registration.

He was accused of setting a dog on the police during a raid of a Sunday worship service. After 50 people signed petitions saying that didn't happen, they dropped those charges. He is accused of attacking five policemen -- this is a guy who has heart problems -- damaging a police car. And even though all these charges are groundless, he has been held for two months pending trial.

During this time he has been repeatedly beaten, suffered two heart attacks, and now suffers severe kidney pain. He is being kept in a place called the frog pool where prisoners are kept for usually only short periods, no toilet, no ventilation. His family is going into debt to get him food and have been denied opportunity to see him since his arrest. He is 44 years old. He has a wife, and two children, and they are being denied birth certificates for their children, which means they cannot go to school, they cannot go to the hospital.

And I'm asking the question to a group of Americans who can drive here freely on Sunday morning and nobody even notices that you came in the building, will God find faith on earth? This challenges me. See, I'm not even sure I want to wear an inside out T-shirt and have somebody say, what's that for, and I might have to admit I'm a preacher.

The fourth question we asked was, does the bible say anything about this? And that's what I want to turn to this morning just for a little while to kind of wrap up this series on American Idols is to ask this question, will God find faith on the earth? Our text this morning is going to come from a multiple group of places, but let's just look at some to start with.

Proverbs Chapter 1. We began here. We are going to come back here. Proverbs Chapter 1, Verse 7, he begins the book this way. It serves as a bookend to Chapter 9, which is the first major segment of Proverbs. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." Halfway through this first section, Chapter 4, is a similar statement. Proverbs Chapter 4, Verse Number 10, "Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom, and I lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered. When you run, you will not stumble."

Or our primary text this morning, Chapter 9, the other end of this first major segment in the Proverbs. Proverbs Chapter 9, Verse 10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the holy one is understanding. For through me your days will be many and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you. If you are a mocker, you alone will suffer."

Wise living. It's not new information. It's not a new idea in the economy of God to talk about wise living. He started talking about that clear back as he gave the law to the Israelites hundreds of years before this. One of the things that he says in the context of the giving of the law is this comment: "And now, oh, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all of his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and to obey the Lord's commands and decrees.

It's a common theme that runs through the scriptures. Live wisely. In fact, you can't hardly turn to a part of the bible that doesn't have that context in it. Colossians Chapter 4, Verse 5, "Be careful how you live among those who are outside." In fact, that word be careful how you live is often translated live wisely. Live in a way that demonstrates that you have paid attention to the thinking of God.

Ephesians Chapter 5, Chapter 5 at the beginning of this lengthy section about what the christian life looks like, the first thing he says in Chapter 5, Verse 15, "be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise, but as wise." Wise living is the heart of the christian life.

First Peter Chapter 2 reminds us that we are to live our lives in such a way that even though the world would slander us they would see by the goodness of our lives that they are not correct and they would be attracted to God so that they would be prepared for him on the day that he comes again. A chapter later in First Peter Chapter 3 he says, be ready always to give an answer for the hope that lies within you. An answer is always the response to a question.

There is something in the life of a christian who lives in this world wisely that elicits the response of other people. They want to know, why are you like that? They want to know, how did you endure that? They want to know, what gave you the ability to get through that? And he says, be ready to give them an answer to those questions.

In fact, that's the very transition that we're making into this fall, living your life in such a way that you impact the people right where you live. And this is not about how many people can we get to come on Sunday morning to visit our church. Though, you know, we're certainly open to you bringing anybody you want to bring. The real question is, how will people see Jesus in your life where you live, in your neighborhood, at your place of employment, the place that you go to have recreation? How will they see you when you go to the restaurant, when you drive your car, when you're shopping in the store? What's going to happen in your life that God is going to be able to use you to impact Quincy, Illinois, or your particular neighborhood for Christ's sake?

And during the fall we're going to do that kind of series of events where every discipleship group and every bridge community is going to be doing the same material, Andy Stanley's "How to Know the Will of God," and we are going to ask, how do we live so that the will of God becomes readily apparent in our life so that wise living impacts our world, because that's the call. Live wisely. Live in such a way that people see in you the characteristics and the trait of a life frankly that can't be explained any other way.

And by the time we get through the fall and you've heard me hammer that theme, let's see, 13, 14 times is about how many weeks we'll have before we get to 2008. When we get to 2008, the first thing we are going to do is jump right into First Peter and then into Daniel, and we are going to ask this question, how do you live a life that matters? Because we are absolutely convinced that we need to live wisely right where we are and impact people where they live.

So where does that wise living come from? The text says it comes from a fear of the Lord. So what's that? The bible says the perfect love casts out fear. So it can't be terror, right? Wrong. It can be. I'll get there. But you know what it means? The fear of the Lord means to stand in wonder, to be dumbfounded, the absolute awe that we feel in the presence of God that we know because God is ultimately sovereign and he is above all.

It is the feel, by the way, that was created -- and I know some of you probably don't even like these things and you think that they are extravagant and you think that they are just absolutely ridiculous, and I share some of those feelings, but I have to tell you I walked for the first time in my life several years ago into Yorkminster in England, a big cathedral, and I walked in and I went, wow! It wasn't -- it wasn't what I thought it would be. I thought my response would be, oh, man, what a waste. My response was, Oh, wow! Because I understand something now that I didn't understand when I first became a believer, and that is that architecture matters, that it says something about God.

And I know that we don't build cathedrals anymore because, well, quite frankly, we can't afford them. We don't have serfs that can do that, and we can't go raid countries and get the stuff to build them out of, and we don't have hundreds of years to put them together, but that was the point. You walked into this place where God was, and you were supposed to go, Whoa! Because when you come into the presence of God you're supposed to go, Whoa! He is supposed to so capture you that you just are absolutely in awe of who he is. Therefore, he says, knowing the fear of the Lord we are not terrified by him in any tragic, harsh sense. We are terrified in the sense, oh, I don't belong here. He is way greater than I have ever imagined. There is just a little piece of me, there is just a little piece of me that sometimes wonders if we haven't made God too much of a friend. Oh, I know he is, and one of the great privileges that scripture talks about is that he is our friend and we can be called the friend of God. But sometimes I wonder, sometimes I wonder if someplace in our desires to know God personally we have gotten such to the place that we just kind of walk in and trample all over his courts. We treat it as if we belong there. We don't even bother to take our shoes off. We come marching in there, okay, God, here I am. Aren't you glad to see me? We have the audacity on Sunday mornings occasionally, although it doesn't happen here thankfully, we have the audacity to sometimes say, okay, God, we are all gathered. You can show up now.

He says that the wisdom that it takes to live rightly starts with an understanding that we live in absolute total awe of God, wonder. And so Isaiah says, "I saw the Lord high and lifted up and he was absolutely terrified." And when you read the book of Revelation and they see Jesus for the first time and they encounter the throne room, they go flat on their faces and they faint because it was more than they can handle.

And there is, by the way, a number of occasions in scripture where this word the fear of the Lord is in a context where the correct translation is terror. Now, I know God doesn't want you to be afraid of him, but can I let new on a little secret? You never want to be on the bad side of God. That's not a threat. It's just a fact. You just don't want to be on the receiving end of the justice of God, because when he exacts justice in this world, there will be no question who was right and who was wrong.

And so the writer of Proverbs says to his son, my son, pay attention to the terror of God. Stand in awe of him because that will lead you to a life of worship. It will lead you to a life of obedience. It will lead you to wise living. Because everything you do you will do in the context of desiring to honor God by this choice, by this attitude, by this decision, by this behavior. That's worship. He says in Proverbs Chapter 9 that this wisdom of the Lord comes by fearing the Lord and by a knowledge of God. Knowledge in the New Testament or in the Old Testament is used in two fundamental ways. It means exactly what it sounds like it means. It means to know something. You need information. You really do. You need information. You need to know something about God if you are going to know how to act like God and behave like God and expect God to be honored by it.

Because I knew -- because I knew that my father was a generous man, I knew how to handle people who came to the door when he wasn't there, because I knew what he would do. I knew it was okay for me to give things away, because he did. That was who he was.

You want to know how to respond in a situation and say, I'm not sure what I ought to do, well, what would God do? Well, if you don't know who God is, if you haven't spent some time spending time with God, if you haven't tried to figure out who God is and how he acts and what his character is, then you won't know how to respond in those situations. But if you know God is a generous God, if you know that God is a gracious God, if you know God is a compassionate God, then you know how to respond. If you know the activity of God, if you just have that information, if you know the scripture, if you know the text, you already know the response. You know what you are supposed to do.

Scripture is abundantly clear about almost everything. So when it comes time to make one of those choices, you don't have to sit back and scratch your head and say, well, I wonder if it's okay for me to have an affair? Well, God has pretty well spoken on that already. Keep the marriage bed pure. Well, all right. God said that, so I guess I don't have to make that decision, do I? Just the knowledge of God.

Which, by the way, is why we encourage you to study your bibles. It's why we encourage you to get into a discipleship class. It's why we encourage you to be a part of a small group. It's why we would say to you, today is a good day to sign up for women's bible studies for the fall. In fact, it's not only a good day, it's the last day you can sign up without paying an extra fee. We want you to know God so that you know how to act like God wants you to act.

But knowing also is a statement of intimacy. It's a statement of knowing someone. It's a statement of relationship. It's a statement of having entered into a relationship with someone so that you know them like no one else knows them. And that's the way the bible describes our relationship with God. In Jeremiah Chapter 31 he says, there is coming a day when everybody will know the Lord in a new covenant situation.

I sat on the plane on the way to Vienna the other day, and I sat down from the long flight from Washington D.C. to Vienna, and there was a nice young fellow sitting there. And I normally try to avoid conversations because I'm just kind of a shy person, and I'm -- you know, I would just as soon sleep anyway. It's going to be a long night, and I enter into this brief conversation. He's a young 30 something year old reformed Jew. I think I slept an hour or so out of the eight that we were in the air because the rest of the time we were talking.

And one of the questions that I was asking him was, are you Jewish by birth or by decision? And the answer was, both. But, see, you don't ask a christian that, because you can't be a christian by birth. You can only be a christian by decision. That's the difference between the old covenant and the new. In the old covenant you are born in a family, and because you're born in a family, you're in. You don't have to like it. You don't have to do it. You just have to own it. It's yours.

But to be a part of this covenant, to be a part of this family, you had to make a choice, yes, I want in. You could have been born in a christian family, you could have been raised by christian parents, but at some point in your life you had to wake up one day and say, I'm in by my own choice, because I want to know God. And so Jeremiah says and then Hebrews repeats, in this covenant you don't have to say, do you know the Lord, because if you are in the covenant you know the Lord. That's how you got in. So if we ask this question, do you know the Lord, what we're really asking is if you made a decision to be a disciple of Jesus? Have you given your heart to Christ? Have you said yes by faith to Jesus? Have you identified with him in his death and resurrection through christian baptism? Have you committed yourself to know and walk wisely in our world? And I'm here to tell you there will be days when walking wisely will be hard and it will be harsh, because it runs against the culture.

But I'm pleading with you that we give God the right answer to this question. Will he find faith on earth? And the only person who can answer that question is you. When he comes to you, will he have found faithful living? He will -- he will if you have given him your life, if you've given him your all, if you've made him the Lord of who you are. Let's stand. Let's declare that together.

[Transcribed by GN12]