You know, our world is full of people who stand out from the crowd. Whether it's in the world of sports like RG3 or industry like Steve Jobs or music like Carrie Underwood or religion like Mother Teresa. These are people that other people know who they are.
Other people remember what they do. Other people are influenced by their lives and this is what we want to talk about today as we continue in our study of the book of Genesis. We want to talk about us as followers of Christ being people who stand out from the crowd around us and who influence those people for the Lord Jesus Christ. So we're going to be in Genesis chapter 17 but before we dig in, I think a little review would be in order. If you've been with us, you remember that in Genesis 17, God appears to Abraham and he reconfirms his covenant with Abraham. Three promises to be specific. Number one, promise number one, that Abraham would become the father of multitudes of people. Number two, that God would give Abraham's descendants through Isaac, the Jewish people, the land of Canaan. And promise number three, that God would single out the Jewish people to have a special relationship with him that the rest of the human race would not have. And then after reiterating all of this to Abraham, God then gives Abraham a final command and that's where we pick up.
So are you ready? Okay, here we go. Verse 10, Genesis 17. God said further to Abraham, this is my covenant which you shall keep between you and me and your descendants after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you in every generation to come. Every male who is eight days old shall be circumcised. Thus my covenant shall be etched in your flesh as an everlasting covenant. Now, I don't know how many of us here have ever done an exhaustive study on the subject of circumcision.
Anybody? Yeah, okay, I didn't think you had. But if you did, here's some of what you would discover. You would discover that circumcision was not invented. It did not begin here in Genesis chapter 17. It was actually practiced before Genesis 17 in the ancient Near East but sporadically. In other words, circumcision was never the defining mark of an entire race of people until here in Genesis 17 when God made it the defining mark of Isaac's descendants and then Jacob's descendants, that is the Jewish people. And even to this day when a newborn Jewish baby male comes along on the eighth day exactly the way the Bible says, there is a huge ceremony held called a bris which literally in Hebrew means covenant because this is the sign of the covenant between God and the Jewish people.
And there's tremendous rejoicing and there's tremendous celebration. Folks, the point is that whether they're religious or not, whether they're observant or not, whether they keep kosher or not, whether they go to synagogue or not, not every Jewish male in the world is circumcised because circumcision is the universal sign of being Jewish. You say, Lon, you're right, that is more information than I ever needed on circumcision.
Well now, wait a minute. This is a Bible teaching church, right? And circumcision is in the Bible so we teach on it. Amen? You say, but Lon, that's enough.
Okay, I agree. So let's move on to what the question is that we really ought to be asking and that is why. I mean, why did God command that for all time in eternity every Jewish male was to be circumcised? And the answer, God tells us right here in this chapter in verse 11.
We already read it but let's go back and look at it. God says, if circumcision will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. In other words, the point of circumcision is to highlight the fact that the Jewish people are God's specially chosen people.
Circumcision was a permanent outward marking, a sign that set Jewish people apart from all other people as belonging to the true and living God because God knew that other men would see this, other men would ask about this difference and that would create a platform for Jewish men to tell non-Jews about the true and living God of the universe. So let's summarize. What have we learned so far? We've learned that God wanted His people, the Jewish people, to stand out from the crowd in an obvious way.
A way that would provoke interest, a way that would provoke questions and a way that would create a platform for them to tell people about the living God of the universe. Do we all understand this? Do we understand this? Okay. Now, that's as far as we're going to go on that topic but we're going to stop now and ask our most important question and you know what this is. So all of you at Loudoun and all of you at Bethesda and all of you at Prince William and around the world on the internet, down on the edge and here at the Tysons in the main auditorium, are you ready? Here we go. We need a deep breath.
Are you ready? Here we go. One, two, three.
That was so weak. Come on, you can do better than that. Come on. This is Christmas.
One, two, three. Oh, see, wasn't that better? You say, Lon, so what? I mean, you know, are we ever going to stop talking about circumcision here? And I mean, I mean, if I were to invite a neighbor to church and they were to say, well, what are you all talking about now? And I say, circumcision. I mean, who's coming to church to talk about that?
OK, I promise is the last week we're talking about circumcision. OK, but there is a lesson here for you and me as followers of Christ today. Listen to First Peter, Chapter two, verse nine. Peter says, But you, that is, if you know Christ, you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. The Bible's telling us that as followers of Christ, we are God's chosen people, not physically like the Jewish people are as a nation, but spiritually. Now, we need to stop for a moment and make sure we're clear about what the Bible is not saying here. The Bible is not saying that we as Christians have replaced the Jewish people as God's chosen people on earth. Or that we have inherited their promises or that we have taken over their covenants.
Not at all. Romans 11, verse 28. From the standpoint of preaching the gospel, the Jewish people are enemies for your sake.
Why? Because they oppose the preaching of the gospel. But from the standpoint of God's choice of them as His chosen earthly people, they are beloved for the Father's sake. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, for the gifts and the calling of God on the Jewish people are irrevocable. What God gave the Jewish people, what God promised the Jewish people, what God covenanted with the Jewish people belongs to the Jewish people and it always will. And Peter is not saying anything different when he calls us God's chosen people.
You say, well then what is he saying? He's saying that as Christians, as the church, God has set us apart unto Himself spiritually as a chosen people, as a royal priesthood, as a holy nation, as a people belonging to God on the spiritual level. We are a spiritual people who belongs to God. And why has God done this with the church? Well, very simply, the verse continues that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Hey, as born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are God's chosen people spiritually.
And as such, God wants us to stand out from the crowd, not by circumcision, but rather by our behavior so we can attract proper good attention because of that behavior which creates for us a platform that we can use to share Christ with people. Got it? Got it?
Yes. Now, Peter goes on in his letter to tell us four ways that we can stand out from the crowd and create this kind of platform. And I want to say that these four things we're going to talk about are the marks of a true disciple. A true disciple of Jesus is not a person who shows up at church every once in a while or who joins the choir or who sings a few hymns or who even puts a little money in the offering plate. That's not the mark of a disciple. My friends, the disciple is distinguished by the way he or she lives.
That they live in a way that causes them to stand out from the crowd. They live in a way that causes them to have a platform with people to share Christ. And so these four things describe what a disciple looks like and how they run their lives. And remember, God didn't say go out to all the world and make believers. He said go make disciples.
It is not God's goal that you just be a believer or that I just be a believer. He wants us to be a disciple. You want a definition of a disciple? I'm going to give you one.
Here we go. Peter mentions all four of them. Number one, the first way in which we as disciples should stand out different from the crowd is by living a life of moral excellence. Peter says, 1 Peter 2-11, Dear friends, I urge you to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior morally excellent among unbelievers so they may see your good behavior and glorify God. Look, as disciples, the first way God wants us to stand out from the crowd around us is by living distinctively holy lives.
Christ honoring biblical lives, non-sinful lives, morally upright lives. And not just in the big things like murder or embezzlement or kidnapping, but really even more importantly in the everyday things of life. Dirty jokes and cursing and foul language with sexual impurity and sexual innuendo in it, lusting over women or men for that matter.
Unethical business practices, gossiping, backbiting, cutting people up with our tongues, ungodly scheming to get ahead, cheating, lying, stealing, affairs, adulteries, sex outside of marriage. Folks, these things have become so commonplace among the people of America today. The people of America today have their consciences so dulled by years of sinful behavior. They don't even notice this stuff anymore, but when we as Christians come along and we live differently, not out of self-righteous pride, but out of a genuine love for the Lord Jesus Christ, people notice.
And when they notice, there's our platform to give a witness. You know, when I came to Christ at the age of 22, I had a filthy, filthy mouth. I mean, the stuff that came out of my mouth beyond comprehension. And then I started reading the Bible and I read Ephesians 4 29 which says, Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth. And I read Colossians 4 verse 6 which says, Let your speech always be full of grace, seasoned with salt. And the Lord convicted me about my dirty mouth. And with the power of the Holy Spirit's help, I stopped cursing.
I cleaned up my mouth and it's been cleaned up, thank God, for 40 years. Well, a few years ago, I was playing golf with an unbelieving friend of mine. And we were talking about something, I don't even remember what it was. And I got myself a little worked up, whatever it was.
And I said, you know what, to be honest with you, I don't give a flying flip about that. And he said to me, Lon, he said, you know, for a moment there, I thought for the very first time in all the years I've known you, that I was going to hear you say an adult word. That's what he said, an adult word. I felt like saying, well, have I been saying childish words all these years?
An adult word. And you know what, there was my platform. God handed it to me. And I said, no, my friend, I said, when Jesus Christ saved me, He saved my mouth right along with the rest of me. Praise the Lord. Now listen, that wasn't the whole gospel presentation, but it was a witness. And listen, please don't think that unbelievers around you are not watching everything you do, every word that comes out of your mouth, every action you do, every reaction you have, every attitude you display, and when we live a life of consistent moral excellence, it speaks to them, because they're not used to seeing that. This is how a disciple lives. Number two, a disciple lives second of all, and the way we can stand out from the crowd second of all, is by submitting to human authority.
Peter says it. 1 Peter chapter 2 verse 13, he says, submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority, for such is the will of God that by doing right, we may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Hey, as Christians, we are to obey the laws of our land.
We're to pay our taxes honestly. We're to honor our parents and honor our husbands and honor the elders of our church and honor the police and honor government officials and everybody in authority over us. We're to respect our boss, both in front of his or her face and behind his or her back. We're to seek to be the best employee our company has, the most loyal, the most diligent, the most hardworking, the most dedicated to promoting peace and harmony in our organization. And the reason we're to do this is not because we own stock in the company or because we agree all the time with our boss's decisions, but because as disciples we are under authority.
And we understand that. You know, a few years ago, before I came to this church actually, I had a very good friend who was the manager of a giant food store over in Maryland, in Lanham. It was right near Washington Bible College. And I got to know him at church and he was telling me he had come to Christ. He was a pretty much brand new believer. And his passion was to reach every single employee in his store for Christ.
Well, what a wonderful passion. So he thought, well, what I need to do to the best of my ability is start hiring students from the Bible College. These are people who are Christians. These are people who are preparing for the ministry and let them become part of the meat department and the produce department and the cashiers and everything. And they will help enhance my witness throughout this store for Christ.
Sounds like a solid theory to me, doesn't it to you? Well, I saw him a while later and I said, hey, how's that thing going with hiring all these Bible colleges? He said, I had to stop that. I said, why? He said, because they were the worst workers I had. They were lazy. They were undependable.
They were disloyal. He said, and I had my unbelieving employees coming and complaining about the Bible college students. He said, it was hurting my own personal witness and inhibiting my ability to reach them for the Lord because of their behavior. Now friends, that's terrible, isn't it? I agree with you. So let me go from preaching to meddling and ask you, what would your boss say about you?
Ouch. I mean, does your behavior at work enhance your witness for Christ or does it hurt it? Does the way you respond to authority enhance your witness for Christ or does it hurt it? One thing about a disciple, they understand what it means to be under authority and they do it cheerfully as under the Lord.
Number three, what does it mean to be a disciple and to stand out from the crowd? Number three, it means to forgive other people. 1 Peter chapter 3 verse 9 says, do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with blessing. Colossians 3 verse 13 says, forgive others as the Lord forgave you. Now friends, without a doubt, forgiving people who have hurt us is one of the hardest things to do.
In fact, the reason it's so hard is because it's downright unnatural for our human nature to do that. This is why Galatians 5 verse 20 says that the works of our flesh are hatred, strife, jealousy, anger. German poet Heinrich Heine said, we should forgive our enemies but not before they are hanged.
Welcome to the flesh. The truth is, my friends, that true forgiveness from the heart is so rare in our world that it commands people's immediate attention. And it gives us a platform where we can say, you want to know why I forgave them? I forgave them because the Lord forgave me. And you know what?
He's anxious to forgive you too if you'll just let him. Not the whole gospel but a witness all brought on by our willingness to forgive other people. Number four and finally, mark of a disciple, a way we can stand out from the crowd. Number four is by trusting God even through suffering. 1 Peter, again, verse 19, chapter 2. For this finds favor if for the sake of conscience towards God a person bears up under sorrows. For Christ left us an example that we should follow in his steps.
And what is that example? Here it comes. He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth. While being reviled, he did not revile in return.
Look, here it is. While suffering, he uttered no threats but he kept entrusting himself to him, to God who judges righteously. This behavior that the Lord Jesus Christ modeled for us, trusting the Lord even in the midst of his suffering, has enormous impact on people around us when we do this who are watching us. Because when a non-believer sees us as a follower of Christ, having a tranquility of spirit even in the middle of sorrow and suffering and pain that they know they wouldn't have if the situation were reversed and they were going through it. Friends, it makes them want to know, how can we do this? And it gives us a witness to say, I have a sovereign God who has a sovereign plan for my life, who's in complete control and even though I may not understand, I know this God is working for my good and I'm trusting him. It's a witness. You know, my daughter Jill turns 21 years old next month.
I can't believe it, honest, that it's been 21 years. And as many of you know, my daughter Jill has severe disabilities. She has mental retardation. She is non-verbal. She wears a diaper all day. She needs 24-7 care.
Jill would go out in the winter and freeze to death and never even know she needed a coat. And she's probably had 6,000 grand mal seizures or more in her life, with numerous nights in the hospital and the rescue squads coming and the whole thing. I have to tell you, Brenda and I have suffered more in these last 21 years than we ever suffered combined in the years before that. But you know, before God, we have tried with all of our heart to trust God through this, to believe that God has a sovereign plan because he does, to believe that God is working that plan out for our good and Jill's good because he is, and then to trust Christ even though we don't understand exactly what he's doing. And not too long ago, I did an interview with PBS. And we talked about Jill a little bit because they wanted to know all about my family, the reporter that was here. And when we were off camera, the lady sat down and we were just sitting there and she turned to me and she said, How have you done it?
I said, Done what? She said, How have you done all those years with Jill? And I said, Well, ma'am, I said, We've had wonderful friends who've stuck with us and just stood by us and prayed for us. I said, We've had a wonderful church family who, you know, has just allowed us to be what we needed to be to take care of our daughter. But most important of all, we have a sovereign God that we believe is in control of this whole thing and has a good plan.
Look at Jill's house over there. You see part of this plan. And ma'am, we believe that God knows what he's doing, even though we don't understand. Was it the whole gospel? No. Was it witness?
Yeah. And it was brought on not because of our suffering, but because of our willingness to do our best we could to trust God in the suffering. Listen, folks, everybody here has suffering. Every believer in this room has sorrow and tragedy and every believer watching by satellite has difficult times. You know, that's a constant in our lives. And we often ask God, Why are you doing this to me?
Why are you sending this into my life? But a disciple understands the answer to that. A disciple understands that suffering can be converted into witness if we handle it right.
And that God sends suffering into our life so we will rise above our flesh, which always despises suffering. But a disciple rises above their flesh and says, Now, if I trust God, I can turn this into a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what a disciple does. We follow the example of Jesus who kept entrusting himself to God in the middle of his suffering. And so if you've got suffering in your life today, and I'd be shocked if you didn't, please, if you want to be a disciple, let me urge you.
Stop resenting it, hating it, and trying to get rid of it, and see it instead as a way of trusting Christ and converting it into a witness for people who are watching. That's what disciples do. All right, we're done.
Let's conclude. What have we learned today? Well, we've learned that we as Christians are God's chosen people spiritually. And that God wants us to stand out from the crowd as true disciples of Christ, not by circumcision like the Jewish people were to stand out from the crowd, but by our behavior.
And what behavior are we talking about? Number one, by living lives of moral excellence. Number two, by submitting to human authority cheerfully from the heart. Number three, by forgiving other people genuinely as unto the Lord. And number four, by trusting God even through suffering. And then, friends, by using the platform this gives us not to exalt ourselves, but to point people to the Lord Jesus Christ who enables us and empowers us to live this way.
That's a disciple. And that's what God calls you and me to be. I hope we'll aspire to this with Lord's help. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, thank you today for challenging us not to be content just to be a believer who has eternal life and is going to heaven.
That's a good thing. But the Great Commission didn't say go ye into all the world and make believers. It said go ye into all the world and make disciples. And teach us what distinguishes a disciple from everyone else around him and her.
It's these things we've talked about today. Lord Jesus, may we aspire for higher ground. May we aspire to stand out from the crowd as disciples. May we aspire for our life to create platforms for witness everywhere we go. Lord, challenge us to live that way for your glory. And we pray these things in Jesus' name. And what do God's people say? Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-26 09:49:51 / 2023-04-26 09:59:40 / 10