Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Runners in a relay race have to work together.
When it comes to winning, no one is more important than anyone else. As darkness gathers, believers in life's race need to work together in purity and humility to advance the cause of Christ at high personal cost. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, as you take stock of what's happening now, how much time do we have before the real darkness engulfs our country?
You know, Dave, I can't predict that with accuracy, but all that I know is that it is getting dark, and it is getting even darker. And we see that on every hand. You know, I believe that this series of messages is absolutely critical for us to understand biblically, to understand historically, the lessons that the Church of Jesus Christ needs to learn. Some of you have heard a few of these messages, you haven't perhaps heard them all. Would you like to have them in permanent form so that you can listen to them again and again and share them with your friends? For a gift of any amount, we're making that available to you. Here's what you do. Go to RTWOffer.com.
That's RTWOffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And now let us listen carefully as we talk about the darkness, even the darkness that is surrounding us. There's a second word, and that is the word unity. You'll notice in verse 7 he says, the end of all things is at hand, therefore be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love one for another because love covers a multitude of sins.
Be hospitable to one another and so forth. When Peter was talking about unity, it wasn't so much unity between Christian groups because they didn't have communication in those days like we do. He was speaking about the unity of individual congregations. Now we learned in this series that one of the reasons that Hitler could trample over the Church is because it was divided. Remember, I told you the decision that was finally made that every pastor had to make a choice as to whether or not he would take a vow to Hitler or not.
If the Church throughout Germany had stood with one voice and said no, they'd have been much more powerful. And in the very same way, whether individual congregations or denominations, the stronger we are together, the more powerful our impact will be, the more courage will be given to those who are weak to stand. And I think that the essence of unity is given here.
Prayer. Prayer keeps uniting us with God. It keeps our relationship with God open and then love, which bonds us together.
And if we have love and loyalty one to another, we will be much more inclined to draw some lines to stand where we need to stand and be as committed as we need to be in the midst of a society that has increasingly drifted toward paganism. And so what we can do is to recognize that God uses unity. Whenever you have division, division dissipates energy. Division is often used by the devil. Now sometimes there has to be division over doctrinal issues, over the impurity of the gospel. Thank God for division, for essentials.
But I'm talking about those things that are not essential, but oftentimes they are personality conflicts, they are individual points of view, and they become the means by which the sheep are scattered so that the wolves can get the individual sheep without having to take on the whole herd or facing the shepherd. The second word to stand strong is unity. If the first is purity the second is unity and the third is humility. Notice it says in verse 10, as each one has received special gifts, employ these in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks let him speak as it were the utterances of God.
Whoever serves let him do so by the strength which God supplies so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom be glory and honor and dominion both now and forever. Why is humility so important in our battle? Why does it say that even when we give a witness to people we should do it with meekness and fear?
It is because the world is hard, the world is cynical, the world is unbelieving, and when they see hardness and harshness and anger from us we are acting just as they act. I don't need to tell you that the battle for our freedoms oftentimes has fallen into the hands of those who may be on our side but who sometimes speak viciously and with anger and do not give a good representation of Jesus Christ when interviewed on television. And as a result there is this tension and this division and though what they may say may be right they do not say it with a meekness and the gentleness and the compassion of Christ. We must fight but we must fight like Christ. You say well wasn't he angry? Yes he was angry but interestingly Jesus Christ was angry with the religious people who had a form of religion but inwardly they were filled with rot. That's who he's angry with when he was very gentle when dealing with sinners who were deceived by their sins.
I need to gently say this. Will you remember that God hates pride in conservatives just as much as he hates pride in liberals? And when we see conservatives blasting out and they have all the answers and all that you need to do is to follow them and they're going to change America, God hates that kind of pride even if it's coming from somebody who may have some good ideas and somebody whom we may support. Watch it. It's so interesting to see when we have someone who is liberal who is elected you see the mood in the church is oh let's not get involved in politics let's just have Bible study and prayer there is no way that we can do anything and then we have conservatives who are elected and everybody says see we can win America back after all. Let me remind you that we might win America back but there's much more to it than simply electing conservatives to Washington however happy we may be that there are some there. Number four I use the word reality.
Reality. I love this passage picking it up in verse 12. Beloved do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing as though some strange thing happened unto you. But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of his glory you may rejoice with exaltation.
If you are reviled for the name of Christ you are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you just that far but keep your finger on verses 14 and 15. We have such a poor sense of history I think and pardon me for saying that over and over again I hope it encourages you to read church history. I have people coming to me and say pastor do you think that anything in history has ever been as bad as it is today and I want to say it has seldom been better.
It has seldom been better. This whole experiment of giving freedom of religion to people in America and Canada and a few western nations is a rather new notion. If you go back into history you discover that that seldom happened.
The Christian church has always been persecuted right on from early Rome and after the Christians took charge under Constantine the true church continued to be persecuted and thousands were drowned and and burned at the stakes. Why do we why do we think it's so strange? Why should we be surprised when a principal tells a handicapped girl that she cannot read her Bible on the bus because the bus is school property and there can be no Bible reading on school property? Why should we be surprised at that? Why should we be surprised when we find that occultism is being taught in our schools or immorality is being taught? Should that really surprise us?
Folks that's the way it is in the world and we may be surprised in America but actually there are many who would give anything for the freedoms that we still have left. The scripture says do not be surprised. You know there are different kinds of suffering. There's physical suffering, there's emotional suffering, but the Bible indicates that there's a kind of suffering that means so much to God it means more than suffering that comes to you because of cancer. It means more than suffering that comes to you because of the difficulties in your background. It is a very special kind of suffering and that is the suffering that we have with Christ. It is suffering in justice. Suffering in justice. If you have ever been fired from a job because you were honest or because you did not play the same kinds of manipulative games that other people that if that has ever happened to you, you are to be envied.
You are to be envied. That's what the text would say. It says that if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests on you and why should we be surprised when that happens?
The big shock is that it does not happen more often than it does. By the way, notice he goes on to say how we should suffer when we are reviled. Verse 15, by no means let any of you suffer as a murderer. You see, if somebody takes your life or kills your child, don't retaliate. Don't be a Christian who has committed murder. Don't murder an abortion doctor.
That's not the way to do it. Do not suffer as a murderer or as a thief. See, in those days, Christians often had their property confiscated. It says in the book of Hebrews that there were those who when they had their property confiscated rejoiced that they thought that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ.
I don't think that I've met many people who I know who would rejoice if their property were confiscated, thrilled with the opportunity of suffering for Jesus. But it says do not be a thief. Don't steal it back. Don't be an evildoer.
Don't be a troublesome meddler. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let them not feel ashamed but in that name let him glorify God. That's what we are supposed to do when it comes from the standpoint of handling suffering. And you just simply live out your convictions. Do whatever you need to do.
Work through the school system if you can work through it. Try to effect change lovingly and sweetly. And if that does not happen, there has to be some other alternative that God has for you, whether it is homeschooling or some other kind of way in which the problem can be solved. But you do what you need to do and you don't feel sorry for yourself. If you suffer for a Christian, you are blessed.
And the text says the Spirit of God and glory rests on you. Suffering creates a great opportunity for the blessing of God. Finally, there is the word eternity. Eternity.
We are so time bound, aren't we? We look at things in terms of years. God looks at them from the standpoint of all of eternity and a long, long period of time. Notice in 13b, the last part of the verse, he says, so that at the revelation of his glory you may rejoice with exaltation. God is preparing us for the revelation of his glory. And we have the privilege, therefore, of looking at things through the lens of eternity. But in addition, he says in verse 17, for it is time for the judgment to begin at the household of God.
That's an interesting verse. He's saying that you're going through a time of tribulation. That is God judging you Christians. He is disciplining you. And if it begins with us first, if Christians have to go through such turmoil, wow, what is the outcome going to be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
It can only fill in the blank there. And if it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved. And he doesn't mean here as if to say that salvation isn't free. What he means is that once we are saved, it is with difficulty that we get into the kingdom of heaven because of our trials and our persecutions and so forth. He says, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? If God is willing to look down from heaven and see his people suffer and not intervene and just let it grind in all of that agony, if God is willing to do that, think of what it's going to be like for those who are godless. If those who have accepted his son are not exempt from the trials of life, think of what's going to happen to those who reject his son. And then he says, therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful creator and do what is right. You do what is right. You take your lumps as from the hand of God.
A couple of comments that I need to end with today. First of all, we don't need freedom in order to be faithful. Remember, we don't need freedom in order to be faithful. Peter didn't say, well, you know, actually, I have to tell you, you can't be faithful as a church because you're in a hostile culture. The state is against you. Therefore, there's no way that you can really serve God.
No. Peter says the opposite. He says the worse the state is, the more opportunity you have to glorify God. And we can fight for freedom and we should fight for it and we're glad for all those organizations out there that are trying to keep our freedoms, but we do not need freedom in order to be faithful. The church seldom has had freedom.
The church frequently has been faithful. Second observation, we don't need many people. We don't need a lot of people to have a great impact. You never know what God will do.
Just a little bit of salt can preserve quite a bit of meat. You don't know what God might still have in mind for America. We can be pessimistic, but we don't know. God may send a great awakening. Do you know that in the 18th century, Britain was in such sad shape that they would disband parliament in mid-afternoon. They could not continue because all of the members of parliament were drunk. Babies were being killed. Children were working in the factories. Immorality was rampant.
Cruelty. And then you had the great revivals under the preaching of John Wesley and Charles Wesley and Whitfield. And you have a great movement of the spirit that historians say kept England from the French Revolution. We do not know what God may still do in America. And he may begin doing it in America as you witness in your office, in your factory, in your hospital, in your bank, to the person next to you.
It is all part of the way in which God will work. It's not going to happen through the media. It's not going to happen because we all elect the right persons even though we would like to see whomever elected. It's going to happen when the people of God say, right where I am, I'm going to stand for Jesus. And finally, we don't have to win in this world to triumph in the next. We really don't have to win in this world to triumph in the next.
If you take the long-range view, you can see that. You know, Jesus, if you look at him only narrowly, that is to say through the cross, and you think of Christ dying on that cross, if you see Good Friday with all of its horror and its blood and its shame, it looks like Christ was a failure. But you need to look at it through the eyes of Easter Sunday and the ascension and the eventual triumph of Christ. And then you realize that what looks like a failure on a Friday becomes a tremendous victory on a Sunday. And we don't need to win. We really don't need to. We need to be faithful.
I like to tell that story of the girl who, during the Boxer Rebellion in the year 1900 in China, they marched into a school one time and they said, all the Christian students, you have a choice to make. We put a cross flat on the ground outside. Here was the decision. Trample on the cross and you'll go free.
Walk around it in respect and you'll be shot. The first eight students trampled on the cross and they were allowed to go free. The ninth, a girl prayed that God would give her the grace to do what she knew she should. And she walked around the cross in respect and was shot.
And I'm told that all the other students in the school also walked around the cross and because of the power of her example, they were shot too. Now the question is, did they win? Well, you know, that's a difficult question to answer depending on your perspective.
Here there are school children who die young. In one sense, they lose. But we do not have to win in this life in order to win in the next.
We do not have to. God calls us to be faithful here and he will make it up for us. The scripture says, the spirit of glory and of God rests on us. In the 1600s, there was a horseman by the name of Ferris, the horseman. Whether this is true or a legend, I do not know, but the story is worth telling. He was training some horses and the story goes that one day the whole herd of horses, the whole herd of horses suddenly began to stampede toward a mirage in the desert and he blew his horn and he kept blowing it and blowing it and five mares turned around and the rest of the herd went stamping over to the mirage.
And the story is that it was those five mares that were used to breed the very famous Arabian horses. You know what God does when times get tough? And this is true whether it's church state issues or whether it's your personal struggles or whatever. God blows his horn and he tests his people to see how many will be faithful and obedient no matter how tough it gets. And he says that if you are, upon you he says, the spirit of God and of glory will rest, will rest.
If we could look at it from the standpoint of eternity, wouldn't it be much better to be among those who were faithful to God in Nazi Germany even though it cost them their lives and their families than those who went along with a regime who lived but who now are accountable to God. God is with us no matter what. We will, will triumph for it is he who will cast down our enemies. Let us pray. Our Father, we thank you today for the privilege and the great honor that it is to live at this time.
Surely no time in American history has been as interesting, as exciting, and as challenging. And we pray Father that as we have the opportunity to interact with people that we might always represent Christ, that we might be able to stand for that which is right no matter where it takes place to stand against evil and that you might make us all that we should be even if times get more difficult. We thank you that we are filled with nothing but joy and hope for we have all of your promises and the strength of your character to help us through. For that Father we praise you in Jesus name. Amen. You know my friend we should be spending time on our knees interceding for the Church of Jesus Christ today because we are facing tremendous challenges.
You know as you've been listening to this series of messages entitled Hitler's Cross, how the cross was used to promote the Nazi agenda, perhaps you missed some of the messages or there are messages that you would like to hear again. We're making them available to you in permanent form. For a gift of any amount you can go to rtwoffer.com or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now I'm going to be giving you that contact info again.
I hope that you have an opportunity to find a pencil to write down this information and I want to thank you in advance for helping us. We believe that this ministry which is in 20 different countries in four different languages is blessed because of people like you and we exist to give you resources to help you make it all the way to the finish line. So here's what you do go to rtwoffer.com that's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the series of messages on Nazi Germany, God and Hitler who was in charge.
An excellent question. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337 and from my heart to yours today. Let me thank you so much for your prayers, for your faithfulness, for your willingness to allow us to come into your home, your car, wherever you are that you listen to Running to Win.
We thank you for that privilege. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. The Bible tells us to run life's race to please Jesus whose sacrifice on the cross bought the forgiveness of our sins. Next time we begin a series on the life of a man who ran his race just like that. We'll meet someone who was chiseled by the master's hand. Join us as we trace the life of Peter, a man renamed by Christ. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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