Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
It's not God's intention to save you and then let you wallow in your bad habits. He's in the transformation business. We're told in Ephesians 4 to put on the new man and use our renewed minds.
Today, how to walk away from your old lifestyle and begin anew. 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, when we fail to deal with our anger before the sun goes down, that anger can grow into a deep bitterness. Not only that, Dave, but if that anger simmers, it can explode and people can do some very foolish and evil things when they have an explosion of anger.
So anger must be managed in the power of the Spirit, in submission to God, His Word, and also with help from other people. It must be under our control. We here at Running to Win are very pleased with the fact that God has given us the opportunity not only to be on radio, but to have a digital presence around the world. Last year, we had over three million sermons and radio programs that were downloaded or streamed. Over 40,000 people have downloaded our app. We are doing this to get the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible. And this is a very special time because in two days at the end of this month, it's the end of our fiscal year and we'd like to end strong. And for any gift that you give during this period of time, it will be doubled. Here's some info.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Of course, I'm going to be giving you this information again at the end of this message, and I'll also bring you some encouragement. For now, let us listen to God's Word. Now, it's okay to be angry if it's righteous anger. God is angry every day with the wicked, it says in the Psalms. But when you are angry, do not sin. My experience has been that when I'm angry, I do things that I later regret. I sin.
The Scripture says don't do that. Handle your anger constructively. Resolve it.
Take care of the issue. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. I've often jokingly said that after 29 years of marriage, Rebecca and I had the rule that said that we would never go to bed angry, and we've kept that.
But I do recall one summer when we didn't go to bed for two weeks. And when it says don't let the sun go down upon your anger, I had somebody who said, you know, if that's what the Bible says, I'm moving to the North Pole during the summertime. Notice what he says. Three things. Don't sin when you're angry. Secondly, resolve it. And thirdly, do not give the devil a foothold. Why does Paul say that there?
Atopos, a place. Stranger comes to your door, and the minute you open it, he puts his foot in it, and you tell him to leave, and he's got his foot in it, and you can't get rid of the guy. That's the way the devil is. Now, I think that that would apply to all of the issues that are listed here, but to anger, especially in this sense that anger does something in rupturing relationships that is very, very difficult to buy back. You get angry over and over again. You ask forgiveness over and over again. The forgiveness is granted over and over again, but pretty soon it means nothing because your relationships have been so frayed and your credibility is so shot, and anger often does it. The Bible says that when you're angry, sometimes the tongue gets involved, obviously, and it is set on fire of hell.
Wow. Now, how do you get rid of anger? You get rid of anger by resolving it and saying no to the devil and getting rid of the foothold that has some of you bound for years. You can't even hear a message. And the reason that you can't hear is because your mind is so filled with this anger that you don't even acknowledge is there, but it's been there and it's still there.
Angry at God and angry at others and angry at circumstances and anger, anger, anger, and it destroys and it breaks and it ruptures and it messes up relationships. Do not give the devil the devil atop us. Don't let him have the foot in the door. I don't have time to tell you, but you know there are people who ask the devil to leave and he doesn't.
And the reason he doesn't is very clear. The scripture says in the book of James, it says, dearly beloved, submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. There are all kinds of people who have not submitted to God and they're expecting the devil to flee because they throw a verse of scripture at him. Not necessarily.
Well, we must hurry on. Stealing. He who has been stealing must steal no longer but must work doing something useful with his own hands that he may have something to share with those in need. You heard about the thief who read the verse this way. He who has been stealing must steal.
No longer must he work doing something useful with his own hands. There are people who steal from their employers. Factory workers take tools home and office workers take things home. They steal. There are people who steal from the government every April 15th. And there are people who steal by gambling.
They want somebody else's money for which they did not work and money that they do not deserve and therefore the curse upon our land. And then they of course steal from God. You say, well, I've got this problem. Yeah, I'm a gambler and I'm a stealer. I steal. I just, I was in my genes.
I was born this way. Remember, we talked about that. Well, I have an answer for you. Go to work. You say, well, I'm unemployed. The Bible doesn't have a footnote here and say, well, you know, you work. But of course you're off the hook if you don't have a job.
No, you find something to do. Even if you do it free for somebody, you work. And then it says that he may have something to share with those who are in need. You give. You give. I don't take some of the stealing out of your system. Next time you who struggle with gambling, you want to gamble a thousand dollars?
Don't do that. You give it in the offering plate. Then at least you know you're going to get it back at a high rate of return in heaven. But you give. Develop a spirit of generosity. You know, I marvel at some people who say that all that the church wants is your money.
Well, as Bill Burchy pointed out, that's not true at all. It's not just that we want your money. We also want your blood. You visitors need to have that explained to you.
We actually had a blood drive here a couple of weeks ago. Of course, all that we want is not money. We want God to bless you.
That's what we want. But those who steal, when they develop a habit of generosity, they discover that it's much easier to put off that old cloak of theft and put on the new cloak of generous giving to the poor and to the work of God's ministries. Well, let's hurry on. Gossip. We're going to skip verse 30 for just a moment because I'm going to come back to that. Verse 29, do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen. Do not let unwholesome words come out of your mouth. You say, well, the story's true.
Doesn't matter whether it's true. You may be just telling it to somebody who has no right to the information and somebody who's not a part of the problem. We should not allow unwholesome words to come out of our mouth. We should not allow words of malice and anger and cutting to come out of our mouths. When I was in Bible school, I used to talk a lot. Some people would say, well, there's some things that just never change.
Still do. But I remember talking about somebody, and I guess I was talking about them very unfavorably, and one of my classmates came to me after lunch and said, you know what you ought to do? You ought to go memorize Psalm 141, verse 3. That's all that he told me. He said, just go memorize Psalm 141, verse 3. I didn't even know what the verse was, and I found my Bible and opened it. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth. Guard the door of my lips.
Wow. I needed it. And I've needed it plenty of times since then, too. I've said things that I wish I had not said, and the words are out of your mouth, and you wish that you could take them back, but you can't. But notice it says, do not let unwholesome words, but words that edify people. You say, well, how do I get rid of that old piece of rag that is dragging me down, and how do I put on my new clothes? You consciously and deliberately say things that will edify and build others up.
Wow. Think about that for behavior. And then, of course, we have also here bitterness, and here I'm skipping, and as I mentioned, I'm going to miss verse 30 for now. We just had verse 29, unwholesome words.
We'll skip verse 30, and then we get to verse 31. Get rid of all bitterness, and here I think he lists six different aspects of bitterness. Get rid of all bitterness and rage. Oh, you say I fly into a rage.
Well, get rid of it. Anger, it's related. Brawling.
Wow. You think of living with a brawler. Oh, God help those who do. Slander, along with every form of malice, just in case Paul didn't get it all, he says, every single form of malicious thinking. And how do you take care of that?
Well, the answer is right there in the text. It says, be kind and compassion one to another, forgiving each other just as Christ in God forgave you. It's the only way you can siphon off the hostility. I remember counseling a person who had a lot of forgiving to do because they had been victimized, no doubt about it, terribly mistreated, and they went to a secular counselor, or maybe even a Christian counselor, I don't know, but the counselor said, well, you don't have to forgive until you feel like forgiving, and if you don't feel like forgiving, then you don't have to forgive.
I thought, oh, brother, imagine. You don't have to forgive until you feel like forgiving. How long do you think it's going to be before this person feels like forgiving? Is there anyone here who has ever felt like forgiving?
I mean, join the human race, you guys. Far too much piety for me. I've never felt like forgiving. Forgiveness is a choice and it is also a process. You choose to forgive and you do it like Jesus, who kept punting the ball to a higher court, who when he was reviled, reviled not in return, when he was threatened, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to him that judges righteously and kept saying, God, you take care of this because I could blow these people away right now. I wouldn't have to forgive. I could call 12 legions of angels and they'd sap these people, but I keep punting the ball to you because you judge righteously, and God has not yet even judged those people who mistreated Christ. Christ said, that's okay.
I know it's going to happen someday. So you forgive as you've been forgiven. You bear the hurt and you set the person free and you set yourself free. I told you that what we need is a new self and God gives us that. The Bible says that we are created with a new self to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. That's in verse 24.
I've said that we need a new set of clothes and I've listed five or six different garments that have to go to be replaced by some new clothes. But also I believe that a very important part of this text is we have to develop a new sensitivity, a new sensitivity. And now we come to verse 30. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. When you believed in Jesus, the blessed Holy Spirit came to reside in you and he actually goes with you.
He even goes with you on the L. He doesn't leave you or forsake you. He goes with us no matter where we are and he resides in us and now it says do not grieve him. Have you ever sensed the grieving of the Holy Spirit? I know I have. I've known instances in which I have grieved him. I was aware of it while I was doing it.
Don't do that. You say, well, what is it that grieves the Holy Spirit? Well, slow up. Anything that is unholy because he is the Holy Spirit. So anything that is unholy that comes into our lives, anything that we nurse within us, any sin that we cherish and hide under our tongues, anything therefore that we cherish like that, that is actually a grief of the Holy Spirit and if I might say, what we should do when we think about sinning is let us remember the grief of God, the grief of God. See, we think that the Holy Spirit is impersonal. I mean, I know that we know theologically that he's personal, but somehow we think, well, okay, I'm doing this and he's there, but it's not affecting him very much. Oh, yes, it is.
It is. It hurts him. It grieves him. It is the grief of a jilted lover because we are married to Christ or engaged to Christ and now we're off with other lovers and the pain is deep. So it says, stop grieving the Spirit. The Spirit of God has been given us so that we are sealed until the day of redemption. We're going to arrive like a registered letter that's been mailed on earth that arrived safely in heaven and between earth and heaven, the seal cannot be broken. Only God could break it and he's promised that he won't. So we're going to arrive, but meanwhile, this Spirit that has been given to us oftentimes is grieved because of our sins.
Couple of bottom lines here. First, it's God's intention to change you from the inside out. You see, I gave you some instructions here on how to take off these old clothes and replace them with something else, but that doesn't mean that you're doing it just as a humanist would or as a behaviorist would. You are doing that because you already have, as a Christian, the new self that has been created in you by God. You have that new nature, you have the blessed Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit of God is not subject to your environment.
He is not, what shall we say, limited in his power because of your genetic makeup. There is a part of you that escapes behaviorism. And that's why God can hold us responsible and that's why the Bible can say, now that you are a believer live this way. It's a change of behavior done by God in which we cooperate.
We cooperate in this part of the process. Salvation is a free gift, but the process of struggling with sin and resisting the devil, which is very difficult to do sometimes, all that is a part of our work. You know, there are some people who just expect to be holy by not doing anything but showing up in church every Sunday. Well, I should be holy. I mean, I'm in church. Holiness does not come simply by being in church.
Though being in church is a good idea, thank you for coming today. Holiness comes as a result of our love for God and therefore our successful struggles with sin. And the struggles never really end, but we do become more Christ-like. That's what holiness is all about. So we can be changed from the inside out by God, but there also has to be a willingness on your part.
Marie sang just a moment ago, finally yielding everything to him. There is actually a breaking process that God sometimes takes some people through because they will not listen to his word for love nor money. Well, if they're gamblers, they might for money, but you understand. We can be changed from the inside out and our greatest motivation, listen carefully, our greatest motivation is a love for God. You see, there are some things that rules will never keep us from. There are some actions and some thoughts and struggles that we will never be kept from simply because we make up our mind we're going to do better. And there are some things for which especially if done in secret that we would have no motivation to change except for the fact that the Spirit of God is there. God is there and God sees and God the Spirit hurts. He is grieved.
He is grieved even by that which we hide. I've often told you about Augustine, sometimes pronounced Augustine, who had a great impact on the Christian church, which I will not tell you about, but his conversion is well known to you how he picked up the Bible and was reading Romans 13. He heard a child actually read Romans 13 and was converted, but he had a mistress.
He was an immoral man. And after his conversion, his mistress was coming to him along the street and Augustine turned and ran. And she thought that maybe he didn't recognize who she was, so she shouted at him and said, it is I, it is I. And he turned back and shouted, but it is not I, it is not I. You might be the same woman, Augustine says, but I am not the same man.
Why? Because of the specific intervention of God in his life in saving him, in granting him a new nature and giving him a Holy Spirit, the blessed Holy Spirit, that is really over and above all of the environment and the genetic sinful makeup that all of us participate in. Of course God can change you, of course.
Question is, are we available to him? We talk about the Holy Spirit. You know, there's that old story that I like to tell, the true story of how they took grain from the pyramids and they planted it 3,000 years old or more, 4,000 years old, and it grew. Unbelievable. Took this grain, planted it. For 4,000 years, the life was in the kernel, but nobody could ever see that it was there and there was no evidence and it did not bear fruit. But in the process of being put into soil that was moist and the sunshine and the hard shell softening, the life came out.
Some Christians, boy, you look at them, you never really know that they were converted. Holy Spirit in them? Yes. Spirit is grieved? Yes.
Because they refused to fall into the ground and die. There is such a thing as death finally to self and to reputation. And then the transformation happens. Let us pray. Father, we stand in such need, we all do. We stand in such need of your love and grace. We stand in need of your forgiveness. We stand in need of your deliverance.
We think of those bound by habits and sins. We pray today that you might come and show them that they do not need to be that way by the action of your Spirit and of your Holy Word. We ask in Jesus' name, Amen. Amen.
I do trust that all of us desire to die to self. Jesus Christ emphasized the need to do that so that the life of the Holy Spirit is seen within us. May that be our prayer today.
Well we here at Running to Win are so greatly encouraged because not only are we in 21 different countries in four different languages, but as I mentioned at the beginning of the program, we have a digital presence that goes around the world. We want to use all of the technology that is available to get the gospel to more people and all of the resources on moodymedia.org are free and of course we're so thankful that as a result of this, people's lives are being changed. Now there's something I want to share with you and I want you to listen carefully.
Tomorrow is the end of our fiscal year and we'd like to be able to end strong and not only that, but every gift that you give during this period of time will be doubled. Here's some information so that you can help us. You can go to rtwoffer.com or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.
I'm going to be giving you that info again, but I want to thank you in advance for helping us, for joining the Running to Win family. Many of you have been listening for years and you say to yourself, I have been blessed. Well, your gift would help us to bless others. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Remember that your gift will be doubled. That gives you an opportunity to bless us and to bless us again.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thank you so much for helping us. This ministry also belongs to you. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Pastor Erwin Lutzer concluding Breaking a Stubborn Habit, the fourteenth message in his series Between Heaven and Earth, taken from Ephesians. Next time we turn to the provocative topic of becoming like God. Plan to join us. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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