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Risking All for Inward Truth

In the previous three presentations, we started with what God tells us and that is that He desires truth in the inward parts.In this presentation, we re thinking about how to feel about God and our faith in everyday life when it comes to being genuine or real.

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In the first three presentations of this series, we’ve elaborated on the human tendency to be deceiving and self-deceiving. If you’ll recall, we took it back to shame – a feeling of being wrong to the bone, inherently defective, or insufficient. Shame is what drives us to cover up. We all want to relate to other people and we’re afraid there are other things about us that will damage our ability to relate, or that people won’t like us or will pull away from us – will create disconnect between us and other people. So, if you missed those three presentations, it might be helpful to listen to those so that you’ll understand more about what we’re talking about in this final one.

What we’re going to do today is go deeper. We started with what God tells us and that is that He desires truth in the inward parts. And we’re thinking today about how to feel about God and our faith in everyday life when it comes to being genuine or real.

I was talking to Dr. Ryan Berlin yesterday. He’s a chiropractor that practices in Cincinnati. He was talking about how all chiropractors are insecure. Everybody makes jokes about quackopractors and all that kind of stuff – especially the medical profession. You know, they kind of look at them as outside the boundary. When you think about why chiropractors feel insecure, it’s because of the accusing, the ridiculing and the blaming that goes on by people who feel better than. Right? And that causes them to feel insecure. I didn’t realize that until he said it. I never met a chiropractor that I thought exuded that, but he says that, underneath it, everybody feels a little bit like they’re kind of on the outside.

In the work that I do, I use a kind of therapy called EMDR. There has been an assault on that therapy by people in the cognitive behavioral field. I know that people in the EMDR camp are saying, “We need more research to justify ourselves,” when, actually, I think the people in the CBT field need to be putting out the research, because I’ve noticed that works as long as you’re thinking the way you’re supposed to, but the minute you pull back to you baseline, fall-back position, all that just goes away. Whereas, the effects of EMDR are there. They just stick with you. But you can’t convince some people of that, so I think a lot of the people in the EMDR camp feel a little bit insecure about their therapy, because it’s under attack. There’s accusing, ridiculing and blaming going on.

So what does that have to do with Christianity? Well, did you know that prayer is not allowed in any school that is funded by the federal government? Did you? Prayer is not allowed in public schools. Did we all know that? From when the first people came over here and started teaching their kids until 1947, that was not the case. That happened in 1947. The idea of the separation of church and state was first articulated by an Englishman, named John Hooker, in the 1500s. And he was talking about the fact that the government in England needed to be kept away from the church to protect the church from the government – mainly the king. The king wound up being the head of the church. And it was a big problem.

The idea was to keep them separated so the government could not control the church, as the king did. So, from Hooker, came the language used by our founding fathers to protect our religious freedoms from the government. And in 1947, that language – the meaning of it – was reversed 180 degrees. It suddenly – all of a sudden – became necessary to protect the government from the church. And that’s why no prayer should be prayed in school – verbal or silent – a gross perversion of one of our basic freedoms granted to us by the Constitution of the United States.

So think about how that makes many Christian children feel when they learn that. I can remember when I learned it. I didn’t go to school until 1950. So that decision had been in place for three years by the time I started school. What message does it send to kids that it’s wrong to pray? There’s something wrong with it? Maybe something wrong with my parents, because they think that’s a bad idea? Something wrong with being a Christian? So what does that do internally? Well, it creates shame. It sends the message that there’s something inherently wrong with that – a same kind of queasy feeling that chiropractors and EMDR clinicians feel about their practice, sometimes, I think.

Have you ever gotten that feeling in your stomach – to know what that’s like – when you just feel like somebody is not approving of you? Well, that’s caused by accusation, ridicule and blame. And, in our country today, it’s not politically correct to be a Christian. Otherwise, it would be okay to pray, right – public school, public places.

So what happens if you state that you’re a Christian? Well, you become vulnerable – subject to accusation, ridicule and blame, right? That’s kind of how it works. So what is the appropriate Christian response to that in America? Well, to say, “It’s a free country. I’ll think what I want to think. And I’ll pray when I want to pray. And I refuse to be ashamed. God’s bigger than you or me or anybody else. So, you can be the way you want to be, but I’m going to be the way I want to be.” But, if we expose our beliefs to other people, then we feel vulnerable to their judgment and their condemnation. But I don’t give a rip. I don’t care. I’m not trying to tell you what to do, and I don’t care about you telling me what to do. I’m going to do what I want to do. And I want to obey God.

What did Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael say? “You can throw us in that fiery furnace and our God is going to save us. But if He doesn’t, we’re still not going to bow down to your idol.” I mean, that was the bottom line there, right? “Even if He doesn’t, we’re still not going to bow down to your idol. We don’t give a rip.”

Daniel prayed with his windows open. He continued right on doing good. He did not let the rumor mill, the accusations, the intimidation prevent him from having his relationship with God. When he prayed in his room with his eyes toward heaven with his windows open, he knew people could hear him out there. And they would know that he wasn’t following the edict of the king, which had a death penalty attached to it. He was making himself vulnerable. But he didn’t give a rip. He cared about what God thought, not about what they thought. He wasn’t trying to cause problems. He wasn’t trying to foment rebellion. He just was going to do what he was going to do.

There’s a scripture in Joshua 24, where Joshua says this to the Israelites – it’s in 24:15:

Joshua 24:15 – “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served, that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

No waffling there. No equivocation. No ambivalence. He didn’t care what they thought. He didn’t give a rip. He was just going to do the right thing. The same thing in 1 Kings 18:21. This is the famous thing where Elijah proposed the contest between God and Baal.

1 Kings 18:21 – And Elijah came to all the people – in verse 21 of 1 Kings 18 – and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him, but if Baal, follow him.” And – of course – the people answered not a word.

We are supposed to be those people that don’t have a word to say. We’re not the kind of people that are supposed to equivocate back and forth, and have doubt, and be intimidated by vulnerability and shame. We’re supposed to be the kind of people that say, “Well, you can do what you’re going to do, but we’re going to obey God. And it doesn’t matter what you think of us for doing that. We don’t care.” No waffling – just steadfast continuous obedience to God.

And then – I labeled this one – telling it like it is – although I suppose all of that is telling it like it is. But in Acts 4:1 – look with me there. Peter and John had just prayed for a lame man and God had healed him. He was, I believe, lame from birth, so he was malformed. And all of a sudden, he’s okay. And it says in verse 1:

Acts 4:1 – Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple and Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. It’s getting back to being like that today, where it’s against the rules to talk about that stuff. And they laid hands on them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening – put them in the tank for the night. Right? However, many who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. Wow! Pretty good-sized crowd. And it came to pass on the next day that their rulers, elders and scribes, as well as Annas, the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst of them, they said, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Well, they shouldn’t have asked that question. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel” – this is respectful – “if we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless – by what means he has been made well – let it be known to you all and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands before you whole.”

Now that answer to that question was going to get them in trouble. But they didn’t give a rip. These were guys that a few days – a few weeks – before were hiding out. They were so discouraged that when they asked Peter what he was going to do, he said, “I’m going fishing. The trip’s over now. The fun has stopped. It’s time to just go back to being the way we were before.” And they were really intimidated by what happened to Christ when He was crucified. But now it’s all changed! Now that they’ve seen Him resurrected and alive, they’re not afraid anymore. There is no doubt or equivocation in their mind. And he said:

V-11 – “This is the Stone, which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” He’s quoting scripture to them now – scriptures that they should know! “Nor is there salvation by any other, for there is no other name under heaven among men by which we must be saved.” Period.

See, Peter didn’t really, at that point, give a rip about what they could do to him. He was just going to tell it like it was. He wasn’t rude. He wasn’t overbearing. He just was respectful and direct.

V-13 – Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. So they’re starting to put two and two together here. And seeing the man, who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. So they were starting to feel a little hemmed in themselves, weren’t they? Hemmed in by the evidence.

V-15 – And when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we can’t deny that” – as much as we’d like to. “But so that it spreads no further among the people” – I mean, we just can’t have this kind of truth getting out there – “let us severely threaten them, that from now on, they speak to no man in His name.” So they’ve gone beyond ridicule and accusation to threats.

V- 18 – So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor to teach in the name of Jesus, but Peter and John answered them and said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you judge, for we cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard.” We’re not afraid of you. We don’t have any choice in the matter. Our job is to tell people what’s going on here. That’s what we’ve been told to do. And that’s what we have to do.” So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. So he’d never walked a step in his life until they prayed that prayer.

V-23 – And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord, and said, “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said, ‘Why did the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing?’” Do you remember that music in The Messiah? Or maybe that’s The Elijah. “Why do the nations rage and the people imagine a vain thing.” “And the kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ. For truly, against Your Holy Servant, Jesus, Whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now Lord, look on their threats, grant to Your servants, that with all boldness they may speak Your word by stretching out Your hand to heal, that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your Holy Servant, Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

They weren’t afraid of being ashamed. They knew they were vulnerable to threats. But they just blew right by that because of the encouragement God gave them.

Hebrews 13:6 – I’ll just pinch one verse out of context….

Hebrews 13:6 – So we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do to me.”

When I hear people denigrating the therapy that I use every day to help people, I don’t get insecure and worried. I have to say that. Why is that? Because I see the results of it in the lives of my clients. And they call me up on the phone years later and tell me, “I feel so good. I’m even better now than when I left.” And I see people rapidly recovering themselves from their past hurts. I know that. I know that. So what do I do? Do I skulk around, secretly performing acts of EMDR? No, I tell everybody I know about how well it works. I’m an eye witness. Right? What does that have to do with anything? Well, let’s go to Acts 2, and verse 32.

Acts 2:32 – “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” – that was the issue, wasn’t it? Did He really come out of the grave? Does He really live now? Is He really God? The Pharisees said, “No,” but the witnesses said, “Yes.”

One of those witnesses was John – one of the “Sons of Thunder,” right? Listen to what he wrote in Revelation 1.

Revelation 1:1 – The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants, things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ to all things that he saw. So when somebody’s testifying – when they’re giving testimony – they’re a witness. So he’s witnessing to the witness. Blessed is he who reads and hears the words of this prophecy and keeps those things which are written in it, for the time is near. That was the intro and then the greeting: John to the seven churches which are in Asia, grace to you and peace from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, from the seven spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.

So what was Jesus a witness of? Well, He was a witness of God the Father, and of the plan that God was working out, and of what God had done throughout history, and how it was all going to turn out in the end. He’s testifying to us, “This is how it’s going to be!”

V-4 – Grace to you and peace from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, from the seven spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

When John wrote that, he was probably an old man in his nineties. The church may have dwindled down to less than a hundred people by that time because of all the persecution – we don’t know for sure – but he was still on the job doing what he was supposed to do. And all of us have been invited into that work. He’s telling us to be witnesses, too – just like He told John.

What kind of witness are you? Can you witness to the resurrection? No. Can you witness to the crucifixion? No. Can you say that you’ve seen how it’s going to come out in the future? No. So what kind of witness are you? Well, to me – there’s lots of places that you can find evidence for what I’m going to say – but, to me, the most meaningful one is found in Mark 5, where Jesus meets a demon possessed man in the region of the Gadarenes. And Jesus cast the demons out of him into a herd of swine. You may recall the story. And when Jesus was ready to leave, this man, who was now free from this terrible experience, it says in verse 18:

Mark 5:18 – When He got in the boat, he who had been demon possessed begged Him that he might go with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He has had compassion on you.” Can you tell people that? Yeah. That’s all it takes. I mean, the answer to the question, “Why be a Christian?” is in your life. And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him. And all marveled.

We didn’t see the resurrection, but we can all tell what God has done for us. You know, when I talk in all my presentations, I use examples of people that have benefited from EMDR. Sometimes I mention that therapy, sometimes I don’t. But, if I’m doing therapy, most of the time I’m using that therapy to do it. And those who listen to those stories say that those examples are intensely interesting to them. Why? Well, because we relate every human experience we hear of to our own. That’s the way we’re designed to operate. We’re designed to be relational.

So what has God done for you? When you tell people that story, they’re interested, because you’re being real. You’re being genuine. You’re opening yourself up to vulnerability – to skepticism. And when we tell people, who do not have God, our story – remember in previous iterations of this series, we’ve talked about telling your story, right? – when you tell your story, they can connect to it at some level. It might not be as a high a level as we would hope, but if they’re human and you’re human, there can be a connection.

So how do we overcome the innuendos against Christianity? I don’t mean that we can overcome it in society, but how can we get past being afraid of it in our lives today – to just let it out, to not give a rip, to just say it like it is? All of those innuendos, and threats, and ridicule and all of that, they were present in the day of the disciples. And now, after three hundred years of freedom, in this country, they’re on the rise again – to create the same doubt and the same distaste for our belief in God.

Let’s go to Hebrews 12:2 – breaking into the middle of one of Paul’s long sentences:

Hebrews 12:2 – looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

“Despising the shame” – what does that mean? Jesus had no regard for the attempt that was made by the devil to shame Him. You know, they hung Him on a cross, between two common thieves, and accused Him of blasphemy. It was a shameful thing that was done to Him. And He, in essence, said, “You know, I really don’t care what you think. I know what God wants Me to do.” He knew that in dying that way, He was going to open the door to salvation for all God’s children. So, for that joy, He endured the cross. And He despised the shame that they were trying to heap on Him. He was a faithful witness. But He had to despise the shame in order to do that.

So we just read chapter 12 – or part of it – verse 2 there. Let’s read what came before that in chapter 11. In chapter 11 of Hebrews, Paul recounts the acts of faith from the very beginning. In every age God’s people have been persecuted, and hounded, and made to feel shame for worshipping God. And yet, in every age, there have been Godly people who suffered rejection, persecution, torture, imprisonment and death in order to witness to what God had done in their lives. And you read the chapter and he starts with Abel, and how his sacrifice put him at risk, and yet he was willing to do that. And then Enoch, and then Noah, and then it goes on to Abraham, and his family, and then to Moses, and then on to the prophets, and David, and the other patriarchs.

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin, which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. See, all these people, they were witnesses, too. They hadn’t seen the resurrection yet either or the crucifixion, but the witness of their life is recorded in scripture. And we’re surrounded with this “great cloud,” he says, “of witnesses.” And they’re to encourage us. They suffered things that are great and they just didn’t give a rip. They just laid it out there. So that’s there to encourage us to risk the vulnerability, expose ourselves to judgment, to ridicule and to shame. What he’s really doing there is inviting us into a select group of God’s heroes – faithful people – who despise the shame and didn’t care what people did to them.

When we started this series, we said that the thing we fear most is damage to our relationships with others. When we think that we are doing something that is going to do that, we feel vulnerable, and we shrink back from it, and we become protective, and we hide ourselves rather than be genuine. We found out that, when we do make ourselves vulnerable to others, that makes us real. And that draws people to us – just the opposite of what we think actually happens. Instead of ruining relationships, it either creates a new one, or it strengthens one that already exists. The same is true in our relationship with God. When we risk rejection of men, we receive acceptance from God. When we risk everything for God, we gain everything with God. When we risk for God nothing, we gain nothing.

Listen to what Jesus said about doing the opposite.

Matthew 10:32 – “Therefore, whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father, who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father, who is in heaven.”