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When The Strong Become Weak: Samson - Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
July 12, 2015 6:00 am

When The Strong Become Weak: Samson - Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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Well, good morning Summit Church, at all of our campus locations across the Riley Durham area, and welcome to all of you, and Happy Lord's Day. If you have a Bible, I'd love for you to take it out right now and open it to the book of Judges, chapter 14. We are in toward the end now of a series called Broken Saviors, and this is actually our second week looking at Samson, who has to be one of undoubtedly the most colorful characters in the Bible. The story of Samson, I explained to you the first week we were in this, is a tale about the week becoming strong, and the strong becoming weak. This will not come as a surprise to many of you, but Samson has always reminded me a lot of myself, but not for the reasons that you probably think.

Samson's greatest enemy is himself. I had a friend at MIT who, about the same age as I am, when he was putting the final edits on his senior thesis there at MIT, he said it was just dotting a few i's and crossing a few proverbial t's, and he said, I watched to my horror as, at the top of my screen, the text of my senior thesis began to change line by line into gobbledygook, just, you know, wingdings or some kind of font. He said, just destroyed my paper. Some nerd at MIT had written a computer virus that destroyed everything that he had worked on. I feel like computers have gotten a lot better, and they keep that kind of stuff from happening now, but some of you that are my age or around, you can remember, I mean, just the horror that was that kind of experience, right?

Has that ever happened to you? For people that come up with computer viruses, since there's no redeeming purpose for them at all, but Samson has a virus, and that virus is going to destroy him. His problem is not that he doesn't have the physical strength to deliver Israel. The problem is that he is internally weak.

He's his own worst enemy. That's why I feel like Samson. Any of you ever look at your life and you look back on certain things and you just say, look at what I messed up? Why could I not just have controlled myself? Why could I not just have held my tongue? Why did I have to say that? Why did I have to go there? What if I had just said no?

What if I just not ever returned the phone call or not chosen that group of friends or not chosen to be with that person on that night? I want to show you this weekend that every morning when you wake up and you look in the mirror, you are looking at the greatest enemy of both yourself and what God wants to do through you and your family. The problem is not that God's power is not abundant and available to you. The problem is that you and I are our own worst enemy. Specifically, today I want to direct some of this towards you men. Honestly, there may be nothing more important than many of you ever here because God has given you a lot of opportunity and a lot of strength. I want to show you how some of you are sabotaging yourselves the way that Samson did.

Girls, don't feel like this is going to leave you out. The Old Testament scholars point out that Samson was supposed to represent all of Israel. There are a number of clues in his story that anybody that was familiar with Jewish history immediately upon reading this would have said, he's describing Israel. For example, both Samson and Israel came into the world through a miraculous birth. Remember the whole story of Manoah and his unnamed wife who are both older and there's a miraculous birth?

That's like Abraham and Sarah who in their old age give birth miraculously to Isaac who becomes the descendant to whom the nation of Israel comes. For both Samson and Israel, God takes something weak and makes it incredibly strong. Both Samson and Israel were given a special law code that was supposed to separate them from the nations around them.

It's called the book of Leviticus. Samson was drawn to foreign women just like Israel was drawn to foreign gods. Anybody reading this picks up that Samson and Israel's stories are kind of one. So Samson is Israel's story and if you listen, what I'm going to tell you is it's probably your story also. The first week we looked at Samson's birth.

This week we're going to look at his life and his death. So if you haven't done so already, take out your Bible, turn it on, scroll down to Judges 14. The first story of Samson's adult life opens up with him informing his mom and dad that he wants to marry this hot Philistine girl that he's seen in town.

Can you be attracted to one of our girls? You've got to go take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines. This is not racial prejudice by the way. It's just that they want him to marry somebody who shares his faith. But Samson said back to his father, and this is key, get her for me for she pleases me well. If I had to boil down all of Samson's weaknesses into one statement, that would be it. Samson's primary driver in life is he does what pleases him. And he is not going to let anybody, he's not going to let any wisdom, he's not going to let his mom and dad or even God get in the way of what he wants. He's always going to follow his heart and he's always going to be true to himself.

This is like a Disney movie in reverse. Samson rejects his parents wisdom and lets his heart decide. Except this story shows you where that line of thinking usually leads. Verse four is a little phrase that is a very important phrase to give you the bigger picture of what's happening. His father and mother did not know however that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. Now what does it mean it was from the Lord? Well it doesn't mean that it was a wise decision because it was clearly a simple and unrighteous decision.

It just means that his choice to marry this woman was something that God was going to use. See let me step back for a minute and help you see the bigger picture of what is happening in Israel at this point. Israel at this point has grown really comfortable in their captivity. I showed you a couple weeks ago they're not crying out for deliverance from the Philistines. They don't even want deliverance from the Philistines. They like the Philistines.

They are comfortable in their captivity and they admire the Philistines. This is the greatest threat that Israel has ever faced. It is elimination not by extermination, it is elimination by assimilation. This is always the greatest threat to the people of God. You see when the enemy comes after the people of God to exterminate us, we usually rally ourselves to put faith in God and he acts on our behalf. But when the enemy comes to make us comfortable in the world and begins to entice our heart away from God and help us to assimilate into the world that we are a part of so that we are attracted to all of the power structures that are here, that's when he really destroys and eliminates us.

That's exactly where Israel is. But God had not saved his people just to keep them alive. He'd saved his people for himself. He wanted them to be a special people for him and they're about to lose that because they're so comfortable in the Philistine world. So what God needs to do is stir up a little conflict.

Enter Samson, a hot blooded testosterone ridden impulsive meathead on roid rage. Now before I move on from this, do you see how God sometimes does this in your life? Your heart starts getting way too knit to this world, too enticed by popularity or comfort or money. And so what God does is he starts to stir up some trouble. This is what God has always done with his people because he is doing it in mercy to try to keep you from being so comfortable in the land of the Philistines. People many times ask me how I feel about the Supreme Court decision to mandate gay marriage.

I think there's no question it was a wrong decision. But I recognize that God can be in that, like he was in this decision Samson made, purifying and strengthening the church. You see, I would say that believers, we believers have grown entirely to at home in this country. Many churches, churches we probably grew up in, do God and country Sundays. And I'm all for patriotism. But when I say God and country, the first country you ought to think about is your heavenly one. And when I say be thankful for freedom, the first freedom you ought to fall to your knees and celebrate is your freedom in Christ. And so God sends stuff like this along just remind us who we belong to and where our real country is that our main help doesn't come from Washington, our main help comes from the Lord, and that our real home is not in North Carolina, our real home is with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.

Church, you can be assured from statements like the one you just read in verse four, that just as it was with Samson, there is not one stray molecule in all the universe that God is not using for the completion of his purposes for the church. Hollywood does not dictate where this world is going. Washington does not dictate where it's going.

Wall Street doesn't dictate it. I don't know if you realize this, but all of history is being performed for you. Because God is preparing for himself a people and God takes the nations and everything's and he has a purpose for it and preparing the church. The next episode in the Samson story is the lion and honey incident that we talked about a few weeks ago. If you weren't here, it basically goes like this. Samson throws this beer keg party to celebrate his engagement.

A few days before the party, a lion attacks him. And we have that great little line I pointed out to you today. Judges 14 six, and he tore the line in pieces as one tears a young goat. Now, I spent the last couple weeks doing extensive Hebrew word study on that phrase.

And I will still tell you that after my extensive Hebrew study, I still have no idea what that phrase means. Like one tears a young goat. Evidently, goat tearing was common in those days. It was just it was what you did on game night in ancient Israel. But what did you do for the fourth?

The usual played some cornhole, set off some fireworks, tore a few goats. Just you know what you do. That's what he does. A few days later, he's passing by the same spot. He sees the carcass of the line that he's killed. He notices a beehive that is in the abdomen, which sparks an idea for a riddle. So he goes to this party and he gets there's 30 Philistine guys there. And he says, I got a riddle for you. And let's make it interesting. You can guess the riddle seven days before this party's over, then I'll give each of you a suit of clothes.

But if you can't guess it, you got to give me a suit of clothes. And they say, Okay, we're smarter than you because we're Philistines and you're a dumb Israelite. So what is it? And he says, All right, here's the riddle out of the eater came something to eat out of the strong came something sweet. Now, clearly he's talking about the honey that came out of the abdomen of the lion, but they get together and they put their heads together. They can't figure it out. So they go to his bride to be who is a Philistine.

Remember? And they're like, Hey, you're one of us. You better tell us what this riddle is. And if you don't, we're going to kill you and your father. So she goes to him and says, Samson, what's the riddle? And he won't tell her. So she pulls the oldest trick in the book. She begins to cry. And she says, you don't really love me. We are starting our marriage with secrets.

I'm going to go on to a talk show. And so eventually, he caves and he reveals the riddle to her. And she then tells the Philistines and they solve the riddle. Samson ever the helpless, hopeless, romantic says that great little line verse 18.

If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle. What a way with words that guy has verse 19 verse 19 in the spirit of the Lord rushed upon him. And he went down to ask a lot and struck down 30 men of the town and took their garments and gave them to those who had told the riddle.

In hot anger, he went back to his father's house. In other words, he went and killed 30 Philistine guys and took their clothes and that's how he paid his bet. Hey, here's my question for you. Why would the spirit of God fill Samson to do something petty and vindictive? Well, because God's got a bigger purpose. And that purpose is creating division between the Philistines and the Israelites. So even though Samson is being sinful, God is using it for his purposes.

He's creating division. In verse 15, after some days, Samson went to visit his wife with a young goat. All right, there you have it. B-Y-O-G. It's bring your own goat.

Just what you do for date night. And he said, I will take my goat and we will tear it and then I will go into my wife in the chamber. And her father said, I thought you hated her. So I gave her to your buddy is by the way, she's got a younger sister who's you know, better looking than she is. Why don't you take her and Samson's like what verse three and Samson said to them this time, this time I will be innocent in regard to the Philistines. When I do them a harm.

All right. So in other words, he knew the first time he was being petty and vindictive, but this time he feels justified. Verse four. So Samson went and caught 300 foxes.

How did he do that? And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each of their tails. And then he set fire to the torches and he sent the foxes out into the grain field to the Philistines and set fire to the grain fields and the olive orchards.

Now, as far as practical jokes go, that one is awesome. Verse six. And Samson said, I swear I will be avenged on you.

And after that, I'll quit. Verse eight. And he struck them hip and thigh with a great below hip and thigh is a Hebrew way of saying he opened up a can of whoop trash on them.

That's sort of like just a euphemism for that. And he went down and stayed after that in the cleft of the rock of Edom, which was a small Israelite outpost. Well, the Philistines come down to eat him. And they say, verse 10, we've come to take Samson to do to him what he did to us. So 3000 Israelites, men of Judah, go down to where Samson's staying. And they say, Don't you know the Philistines are rulers over us?

What have you done? See, they don't want deliverance. They want peace. They don't want to stir up any trouble.

They're comfortable. Verse 12. Samson said to them, Just promise me you won't attack me yourselves. And they said, No, no, we will just bind you and give you into their hands. So they took two new ropes, and they brought him up from the rock.

Verse 14. Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that has caught fire. And the bonds just melted off his hands. And he looked around and he found the fresh jawbone of a donkey. And with it, he struck 1000 men. He did the whole hip and thigh routine on them.

This is all pretty cool, except of course, he's not supposed to be touching anything dead. And the jawbone of a donkey. Verse 16. And Samson saying, my favorite part of the story, and Samson saying, with the jawbone of a donkey heaps upon heaps with the jawbone of a donkey. And as soon as he had finished speaking, verse 17, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand.

How cool is that? With the jawbone of the donkey still in his hand, he composes a song. And I know it doesn't rhyme in English, but it would have rhymed in Hebrew, and I think you got to hear it more like an M&M kind of rap. With the jawbone of an ass, I have piled them in a mass. It took the jawbone of an ass and I had a blast or something like that.

And then he drops the jawbone like he's dropping the mic and just sort of walks off. I'm telling you, storytelling doesn't get any better than that. Chapter 16. Then Samson went to Gaza, Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute and he went into her.

Whoa. Now he's not just with a Philistine girl, he's with a Philistine prostitute. And Gaza, by the way, is the capital of Philistia. So in other words, he is getting more and more brazen. You say that, getting more and more brazen in his sin. Well, the Philistines find out what he's doing. Verse two, they surrounded the place. Sent an ambush for him. They kept quiet all night saying, we'll wait until morning, then we'll kill him. Verse three, but Samson lay until midnight. And at midnight, he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron. Now, what lesson is there in that for us? Nothing. That's just an awesome story.

I mean, the dude rips the city gate up and carries it a half mile. You just got to write that down. Verse four. After this, he loved a woman whose name was everybody. Delilah.

That's right. In Hebrew, Delilah sounds like the phrase nighttime. If you go back and read the first two or three verses of this chapter, you'll see that the word night keeps recurring.

Night in Hebrew literature represents darkness. So now Samson is operating in the darkness. And now he is falling in love with Delilah, the nighttime, the darkness, and now he is sharing a bed with the darkness.

You see what's happening? This is the end. Verse five. Verse 10. So he lets her tie him up with those bow strings. Verse nine. She had these men, Philistine men, lying on ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, the Philistines, the Philistines are here, Samson. But he jumps up and he snaps the bow strings as the thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. In other words, like he had toilet paper wrapped around him.

He just blew it off. Verse 10. Then Delilah said to Samson, behold, you have mocked me and told me lies.

Tell me really how you might be bound. So he said, okay, it wasn't new ropes. No, it shouldn't be one new bow strings. It was new ropes. So she ties him up. And then she says, Samson, the Philistines are upon you. Verse 12. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.

Same deal. She's like, you got to, you're mocking me, you're telling me lies. Verse 13. He said to her, okay, okay. If you weave the seven locks of my head into the web or the loom and fasten it tight with the pin, then I'll become weak and be like any other man. Whoa. Now he's talking about the hair.

See how close he's getting? Well, she does it. She weaves his hair into a loom. And then she wakes him up and she's like, Samson, the Philistines are on you.

She waves his hair and he's going to start and says, he whips the loom out of a wall, sort of swinging it around the room attached to his hair. Where were the Philistines? Verse 15, she said to him, how can you say I love you when your heart is not with me, you've mocked me these three times and you've not told me where your great strength lies? And she pressed him hard with her words day after day and urged him and his soul was vexed to death. Hasn't Samson been in this same situation before, What would he tell her? Guys are stupid.

Write it down, right? He doesn't have the strength to withstand her displeasure. Every man wants harmony in his home. And that's usually a good thing, but there are a lot of men who in pursuit of that harmony will cave where they should not cave. Verse 17. And so he told her all of his heart, and said to her, a razor has never touched my head. I've been a Nazarite to God for my mother's womb.

If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, I could become weak and be like any other man, verse 18. And Delilah saw and recognized that he had told her all of his heart, and she sent and called for the Philistines and said, he's told me all of his heart, come again, verse 19. And she made him sleep on her knees.

By the way, do you see how overconfident he has become? He just told her his true secret. And he's so comfortable that he goes to sleep on her knees.

He is so confident that his strength will never leave him. God's about to wake him up. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks off his head, verse 20. And she said, the Philistines, aren't you Samson?

And he awoke from his sleep and he said, I will go out just like other times and I will shape myself free. But he did not know that the Lord had left him. See, he's like Israel. He doesn't even know he needs deliverance. He doesn't know he's out of fellowship with God. Verse 21, the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They actually would have burned them with a metal prong and then dug out whatever remained. They brought him down to Gaza and they bound him with bronze shackles.

And he ground at the meal in the prison. Samson here gives you a picture of the trajectory of sin. Sin always starts fun. And anybody that tells you otherwise is not telling you the truth. I've told you about the country preacher who's like, anybody tell you, if they tell you sin ain't fun, then you ain't doing it right. Right, it starts fun. It just never ends that way.

It ends in situations like this one. I remember when I was in high school, one of my youth pastors teaching through this passage and his outline, I can remember it. Sin binds, sin blinds and sin grinds. Now I'm not into cheesy Southern Baptist outlines, but that's a pretty good one. Because what you're seeing is the trajectory that sin takes you on. It starts with beer keg parties and prostitutes and strength and Delilah. It ends with somebody blinded and in darkness and captivity and the monotony of grinding day after day after day. And it's showing you where that leads.

Maybe you shouldn't let your heart decide. Verse 22, but the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. What a great verse.

We'll come back to that. Verse 23, now the Lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their God and to rejoice. Sin our God gave us Samson our enemy into our hand.

So they throw this big party. And when the people saw Samson, they began to worship their God. Verse 25, when their hearts were merry, they said, bring out Samson so he can entertain us.

So they bring him out and they start mocking him and making him do tricks. And Samson is standing there in all this mockery. And he says to the young man who was leading him by the hand, he said, let me feel the pillars on which the house rests that I may lean against them. And Samson calls out to God and he says, God, I know that I've sinned.

I know that I got myself in the situation. But one more time, one more time, give me that strength and let me be avenged against the Philistines. And Samson grasped the two metal pillars in which the house rested.

And he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And then he bowed with all this strength and the house fell upon the Lords and upon all the people who were in it and him as well. So the dead whom he killed through his death were more than those whom he killed during his life. Now what is it that we are supposed to learn from Samson's life? If Samson is supposed to represent all of the people of God, what are you and I supposed to learn?

I have three, at least three major things here. Here is number one, we are our own worst enemy. The problem is not that God has not made us strong enough. The problem is not that God has not given us power and promise and blessing. The problem is we have an internal weakness in our character that causes us to sabotage the good blessing and the power that God wants to bring through us. So let me break down Samson's weakness for you into five basic components.

I introduced them to you a few weeks ago. These are the five basic components of weakness, specifically male weakness, but I would say it applies to men and women alike. Number one, Samson is impulsive. He is commanded by his lust. He gets hungry, so he eats. He gets angry, so he strikes out or walks away.

He sees a girl that he wants and so he takes her. That one thing alone will destroy your life. I was reading this article this week. It was about texting and driving. You've probably read an article like this before. It was basically saying that everybody now knows the problems with texting and driving. We've all heard the stats. It repeated them just in case you didn't know them. They said you are 23 times more likely to have an accident when you have a phone in your hand than when you don't.

23 times. They said that texting and driving slows down your response time behind the wheel more than drinking and marijuana combined. So if you're gonna text in front of your kids while you drive your car, you might as well go ahead and tell them you can drink, smoke marijuana, and then get behind the wheel because that's about what it does. Now the article is saying we know that. We know that. And nobody here needs to be convinced it's dangerous.

But we all still do it. This article was saying why do people keep doing it when they know? And they said here's why and I thought it was fascinating.

They said because in the moment that the text comes in, the impulse is I have to respond. I need to, I gotta say this back. I gotta find out what she's doing. I gotta post this on Facebook. I gotta say what he said. I gotta say this witty thing back. And we can't control the impulse so we are willing to put our lives, our family's lives, other people's lives at risk because we are too impulsive. Now the whole point of this is not don't text and drive. That is a point that you should make sure that you don't.

But I say what if you think about that as a metaphor for your life? That it is your inability to control an impulse that ultimately is how the enemy destroys you. Proverbs 25, 28, a person without self control is like a city that's been broken down and is left without walls. In those days city walls kept out wild animals, it kept out criminals, it kept out the enemy. And when you have a city without walls, any enemy can just walk in and ravage the place. A person without self control may know everything there is to know. They may have great intentions like many of you.

But if you can't say no to the desires of your heart, the enemy is going to ravage you like he did Samson. I read this, I've told you before about the marshmallow test remember where they, kids, I saw another one recently. It was in New Zealand. A thousand kids they tracked over four decades. And they said we measured everything you can measure, IQ, health, material wealth of the family, relational harmony in the family. They said the one factor that determined how much money the kid made, how happy his or her marriage was, the one dominant factor in all of those that so far exceeded all the others was whether he or she was able to control her impulses. It was by far, it was more important than wealth, more important than IQ, more important than social harmony in the home they grew up in, simply whether you can control your desires if you do not develop this, you are going to wreck your life.

And I know so many people, Christians, whose one criteria for decisions they make is it pleases me well. Which one, when you make a decision, what's more dominant in your thinking? What pleases me or what pleases God? Think back through the major decisions in your life, what you chose to major in, where you went to college, who you married, where you chose to live.

What is the dominant factor? Is it what pleases you or what pleases God? Samson hoped that his decisions would also please God, but Samson made sure that his decisions would please him. Are you desire led or spirit led because you cannot be both? And if you were going to follow Jesus, you were going to learn to say no to what you want because you always say yes to what he wants and where it conflicts with what you want, you put his over yours. And some of you are being ravaged by the enemy because you cannot control your anger impulses, you cannot control your lust impulses, you cannot control your pride impulses.

It just speaks and you move and you're like a city that's broken down without walls. Which leads to number two, compromise. Compromise. Samson treated the commands of God casually. He didn't mind breaking them. You can probably, think about it, you can probably hear him asking himself, I don't see what this would hurt.

Drink a little wine, beer, what does that hurt? I see lots of people do that. Oh, well, maybe I should touch something dead. I've done it before and nothing happened.

Cut my hair, how could my hair possibly be connected to my strength? It doesn't make any sense. You know that when you and I evaluate the commands of God, isn't that the same question we ask? I just don't see what harm it's going to have or going to cause. What if, listen to this, what if the harm was not in the consequences of the action itself? What if the harm was driving out the presence of God from your life? What if the compromises you make in integrity, what if it's true you could get away with them?

What if it's true that everybody else was doing it? What if it's true that you don't see what harm it could cause because everybody in this business does that? What if the harm that it caused was it drove off the hand of blessing of God on your business?

What if you are like, hey, I don't see what harm, look at the little pornography is, it's a little harmless fun, it's not affecting my marriage, or maybe I'm not even married, what harm could it cause? What if the harm is that it's causing the spirit of God to remove his hand of blessing off of that part of your life? You see, my parents taught me when I was in high school and I first started to make money, they said, here's why you give to God. Here's why you give the first fruits to God, because you want the blessing of God on that part of your life. And so for all these years, I said, whenever I make money, I give God the first fruit. It's not like, they explained to me, it's not like you're earning God's blessing. It's that you can be sure that you'll drive it out, however, if you steal from God, and you want God's blessing over this part of your life. And so all these years I've done that, and I've told you before, you cannot out-give God. God has always put his hand of blessing on that, and it's something that I do, because I know that I want his spirit more than I want anything. I want his spirit in my ministry, I want his spirit in my marriage, I want his spirit in my parenting, I want his spirit in my finances, I want the blessing of his spirit everywhere, which means that I will not compromise God's laws and standards, even if I can get away with it, because the greatest danger is that the spirit of God would pull back his hand of blessing off of what we do. Samson teaches you, don't take ever the blessing or the presence of God for granted.

What if the real harm was not in the consequences of the action, what if the real harm was in the God that you offended through what you did? Number three, Samson is unteachable. Nobody can persuade him to do something different. He knows best, his heart knows best, which connects to number four, he's a loner. Now let me treat both of these together, since they correspond, did you notice that nobody's a part of Samson's life in all the stories?

Samson's a loner, he's a one man show, he's Wreck-It Ralph, just walking around destroying stuff. Here's my question for you, are people close enough to your life they can actually speak into it? How about this, are you correctable? Would the people that are closest to you, your spouse, your kids, your parents, would they say that you respond well to criticism?

Would they say that you're teachable? You can go ahead, look at your spouse right now and just shake your head, say no, you're not. How about this, what areas are off limits for people to comment on in your life?

You ever know people like this? Oh you don't, don't talk about it, you can talk about other areas, but don't you talk about that one, don't you critique my parenting, uh-uh. Don't you talk about my marriage, don't you talk about my business. Whatever area is off limits to criticism in your life is exactly the area that the enemy is destroying you. Because you are walking in pride, you are unteachable, you're just like Samson, and that's where, Proverbs 18 one, an isolated man will always begin to serve himself. Whatever part of your life you isolate and make immune from criticism, you will always begin to serve yourself.

It's like that phrase I gave you a couple weeks ago, things that grow in a secret garden always grow mutants. There is no such thing as an isolated, healthy Christian. People who get serious about Jesus get serious about the church, because the church is God's plan A for how he works in your life.

And there are many of you at all of our campuses who every week, this is an event you attend, it's not a community you belong to. God will not change your life through preaching alone. He changes your life through community. Which means you need to go to a starting point, you need to get involved in a small group, you need to get involved in a ministry team. You're like, but I listened to your sermon three times, I podcasted and listened to it over and over again.

It doesn't matter. God changes your life through relationships, not through preaching alone. And you need to act on this. Some of you need to do that this weekend. And some of you are listening by podcast, and I love you, I really do.

And thank you for your letters that you send me every week and tell me how much you like the podcast. But if this podcast is keeping you from getting involved in a local church, stop listening to the podcast. Yeah, but there are no good churches in the area I live in.

A weak local church is better than a strong message you listen to every week in isolation. Things that grow in a secret garden always grow mutant. He was a loner, he was unteachable. Number five, he was proud. Samson was proud, you see that in at least three ways. A, he assumed he'd never lose his strength. B, he never gave God glory for it, never.

C, he felt entitled to use his blessings for his purposes. Let me ask you this, do you go through life thinking, I'll always have these opportunities, I'll always have this ability to make money, I'll always have this strength. Canvas pastors last week preached on James 4, are you somebody who says tomorrow I'll do this, and then I'll retire there, and then I'll buy this, and then I'll live there. And James says, all such boasting is foolish for you do not know what tomorrow brings.

Your life is like a vapor that appears for a moment and vanishes away. And one statement by God, one moment, God takes it all away. If you walk in pride, you assume that tomorrow will be just like today, and you're not concerned with the will of God, you're concerned with pleasing yourself.

How about this question? This question, do you use your gifts to direct more attention to yourself or to God? Right now, your talents, your abilities, are they mainly spent in pursuit of you and your kingdom or in pursuit of the kingdom of God and the glory of God? Do you realize that your gifts and opportunities are all on loan from God to use for his purposes? If you're getting ready to go into college, here's a question, if you're getting ready to go into college, have you honestly said to God, God, here are my talents, here's what I'm good at, where do you wanna use them? Or are you only making decisions based on how you think you can build your own kingdom? If you are in business right now, have you ever come to a point where you said to God, these skills, these opportunities, they come from you? How do you want me to use this business, this skill?

How do you want me to use it for your kingdom? I am not saying that when you ask that, God's gonna put most of you in a full-time Christian ministry like me. In fact, most of you, he's not going to do that. I'm not even saying he's gonna send all of you to Central Asia to be missionaries.

Like a third of you, he'll do that with, but the other two thirds, he's gonna leave right here. What I am saying is that when you understand that strength has been given to you by God for a purpose, you'll start to ask, God, not what do I take with these opportunities and strength, but what do you have for them? And you'll walk in humility, not pride, because you recognize they come from him. That's the essence of Samson's weakness. And that virus destroyed him and the incredible power that God had given him to bless and to save. And that same weakness, that same profile of weaknesses is what's destroyed.

Problem is not that the power of strength is not there. The blessing is there. The grace of God is there.

It's that you sabotage yourself, which leads me to number two. The world needed somebody greater than Samson. The world needed somebody greater than Samson. Remember, the first time I preached on this, I showed you this is the last story in the book. It's the finale. Oh, and it starts out so well. Oh, miraculous birth.

Oh, the guy who comes really strong. This is gonna be awesome. Don't you love it when you get to the finale of something? Like you readers, when you read a book and it's a good mystery novel or something, you get to that last chapter and you're like, oh, it hadn't resolved.

How is it gonna resolve? And then when I do that, when I'm at the last chapter, I go somewhere where I cannot be bothered by my four children. I go lock myself in the bathroom and act like daddy's in the bathroom and I just got that book and I'm just reading through it because I don't wanna be destroyed. Or if you're not a reader, the series finale of some show you've been watching.

Isn't that an awesome moment? I invite friends over to watch a good series finale. There's nothing worse than a bad series finale, right? Can you say lost, right? They were dead the whole time, what?

So can I have the last seven years of my life back? All right, so here you come to the finale. Here you come to the finale of the book of Judges and it starts out so well. Imagine you're an Israelite reading this and you get to the end and you're like, what? That's how it ends?

There's got to be more to this story. And then 1100 years later, Jesus of Nazareth shows up. And if you're paying attention, you start to notice that there's all these things that are similar between Jesus and Samson.

Both of them are born miraculously. Jesus was born to a virgin. Like Samson, Jesus was given incredible strength. He had power over demons and disease and death that could speak a word and destroy them. Like Samson, Jesus was betrayed by somebody who acted like his friend and then handed him over to the Gentile oppressors. Like Samson, Jesus was chained up and tortured and then put on public display and mocked.

Like Samson, Jesus would die with his arms outstretched. Like Samson, through that death, when it looked like he was defeated, he actually defeated the enemy. But unlike Samson, Jesus wasn't put in chains for his sin. Jesus was put in chains for ours. Samson was a strong man made weak through his own sin. Jesus was the mighty God who voluntarily became weak to save us from the chains of our sin. He was mocked in our place, persecuted in our place, died in our place. And see, that's good news because we're all like Samson. We're all people who have been driven by our lust.

We're people who compromise and are proud, who've lived for ourselves and not God. But Jesus was wounded for that and bound for that. The chastisement for our sin was put upon him.

And when we behold that, it changes us. When you see that Jesus was given for you, and you open yourself up so that Jesus can live in you, it infuses into you the fortitude of character that gives you the ability to be strong where Samson was weak. When you see that Jesus accepted you freely by his grace because he paid your penalty, even though you lived like Samson lived, it is then that you are freed from the power of the impulses and the insecurity that made you weak like Samson. Which brings me to number three, the third and final thing we can learn from Samson's life. It is never too late to cry out to God. It's never too late to cry out to God. When Samson calls out to God, he's as low as you can possibly get, right?

He's in Dagon's temple, bound, blinded, grinding at the mill. And from the middle of Dagon's temple, he calls out to God. That's where that verse 22 comes in. The hair of his head had already started to grow.

Here's why that's important. Listen, it's a symbol. God's mercy is like Samson's hair grow new every morning. And they keep growing back even where sin has shorn them away. And for many of you, you've shorn away God's mercy from your life and it just kept growing back. It just kept coming back and it's actually there this morning. And even from the middle of Dagon's temple where you are right now in the midst of being blinded and grinding and the monotony, one act of faith. Because God's grace never left.

It just started to grow back in your life and it's as it left you. Some of you have seen that video that went viral a couple of weeks ago of a homeless man. You've seen this?

Sarasota Springs, Florida art gallery puts out this piano on the sidewalk and this homeless man comes up, sits down. I thought he looked remarkably like Matt Papa for whatever it's worth. In fact, I thought, did Matt Papa just pull that off? Is that a joke?

No, it wasn't. This man sits down, this man sits down and you're expecting, this is a homeless man. The man starts playing the most beautiful music.

Turns out it's come sail away by sticks. But it is beautiful because it's from the 70s. And so it starts playing it and it just blows everybody away. Everybody's just like, and so somebody pulls out their phone and they start to film it. And they post it on YouTube.

And as of yesterday, I think it had 16 million views. Well, it gives this guy this ability to tell his story. And it turns out in 1998, he had gone into depression because his wife committed suicide. He was an ex-Marine, his wife committed suicide.

They had a newborn son. And so he turned to drugs and alcohol and things kept going wrong. And so he got deeper into drugs and alcohol until eventually he lost his home. The social services came and took away his son when his son was three years old because he couldn't take care of him anymore. And since that time he'd been living on the street. Well, so this video, somebody starts a GoFundMe account for him and they, I think there's $60,000 in it now that's gonna be available to him when he gets out of rehab.

This old college that he dropped out of, was kicked out of, has offered him a scholarship now to come back and finish his education. And they've reunited him with his son for the first time in 15 years. Now, I don't know where this story is gonna go because these things don't always turn out well, I realize that, but listen. When I heard that story or watched it, there was something beautiful about the picture of it all, but here you got a guy that this song has stayed with him since he was a kid. It was always in there and he just sat down and he just let it out and that song became the source of new life for him. God's grace over your life is like that song. It's never left, it's still in there and it just started to grow back after sin shorn it away and all you have to do is turn and embrace it.

I don't know where this guy's story is gonna turn out, I hope it turns out well, but I know where your story can turn out. If you just turn and begin to embrace that song that God has sung over you since the day that you were born and that song is Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound That Saves a Wretch Like Me. That God has always been faithful, he's never let you go, he's always watched you and when you walked away and when you put yourself in day God's temple, he just kept singing the song. This morning if you turn and you embrace that song, he'll change you. Samson became in his final act a hero of faith.

Hebrews 11 lists him as a hero of faith. That's where some of you are. Some of you feel remorse for your past life and remorse is good, but if remorse stops with remorse, it'll turn into self-loathing or bitterness. Self-loathing, I hate myself for what I did. Bitterness means I hate you for what you did to me. Remorse is a good starting place, but repentance is better because repentance goes past remorse, listen to this, and says not only did I mess up, but God offers me a new beginning. You need to stop looking at yourself feeling remorse for what you did and go into repentance, which is about what God can do. And if you just bow your knees and embrace the lordship of Jesus and his grace and forgiveness, that song will lead you into life eternal. Why don't you bow your heads if you would. I sincerely believe that at all of our campuses God has brought some of you to this very moment because you're in day God's temple.

Your marriage, your children, your life, it's those five weaknesses that have ravaged you. But there's a song, Amazing Grace. The Bible says if you will confess your sins, that he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If you're not a believer, that means saying to Jesus, you're the Lord and I'm not, and I surrender. I'm receiving his gift of salvation right now.

If you are a believer, it means just acknowledging where you have gone astray and asking God to restore what you have destroyed. I'm gonna leave you for just a couple of moments to sit with the Holy Spirit on this and pray. If somebody brought you into this church and you wanna pray with them, just lean over right now at all of our campuses and just say pray with me. And I'll pray with you. If you brought that person and you can see something's going on in their life right now, then you lean over with them and you say, let's pray together. Let's just take a couple moments and you do business with God. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in this and our worship teams will come and they'll lead us from here.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-04 12:54:36 / 2023-09-04 13:15:09 / 21

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