Think Biblically |3-15-2020

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-10-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand how to think biblically. This was apart of a series of sermons given during the Unshakable 2019 winter camp for our church’s youth group.]

Intro

During this weekend we are going to learn what it means to have an unshakable faith and tonight is all about how to think biblically. How to have a worldview that is able to withstand all the worries we have about our world. What I mean by thinking biblically is thinking the way Jesus thought.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus was constantly pointing everyone he talked to back to the Word of God. During that time this would have just been the Old Testament, which is the first half of your Bible. Now the Word of God is the whole Bible: Old and New Testament.

Needless to say, no matter what situation Jesus found himself in he always thought biblically. Everything Jesus did and thought was aimed at obeying God the Father. How can we purpose in our minds to do the same and obey Jesus? Tonight, we’ll learn how to do just that as we read part of a letter written by Paul the Apostle.

In the book of Colossians we read:

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (2).”

After this, Paul then goes into a whole bunch of stuff that can distract us and reminds us to stay focused on Christ. He ends this section of the letter when he says:

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (3).”

Now from these two passages, we can gather three main takeaways on how to think biblically. How to think like Jesus thought in spite of the world around Him. To think biblically is to keep walking, to wise up, and to wake up. By learning how to train yourself to think this way, you will add the first brick of many to your unshakable faith. Let’s learn the first way, which is to keep walking.

Keep Walking (v. 6 – 7)

Most people remember when they first met God. Those of us who have had this encounter can either remember the exact moment or even the feeling we had when we encountered God personally for the first time. I know for me it was more of a connecting the dots over time than a specific moment.

You probably have a similar situation where you either in an instant felt the presence of God immediately or discovered Him slowly over time. However that went down for you, that was just the beginning. This first step in your walk with God was just the key cornerstone in what could one day be an unshakable faith.

You may have even had mentors or youth pastors who showed you how to live the Christian life. But in spite of all of that excitement, life happened. Things changed and you changed along with it. For some of us, we stopped walking with God.

In verses 6-7, Paul reminds us about this very common problem of walking away because of all that is happening in our lives. The first way that we can think biblically is to get our heads in the game and keep walking with God. To endure the attacks that we get hit with and to keep going as Christians.

During my last Strongman comp, I did the most difficult lift of my entire life: a 450lbs. axle bar deadlift for 4 reps. It was brutal. My body was aching from the overhead pressing event where I tweaked a muscle in my lower back, I almost blacked out with each new rep, and was just stupid tired.

But the worst part of the lift was the mental game. I was wrestling with my thoughts. “Should I give up? Is this too difficult? Why try when I’m competing with an active duty captain in the U.S. Army and another guy who is qualified for Strongman Nationals?” I was this close to giving up, yet I exceeded my limits and kept going in the competition.

[Ironically enough, I never shared this strongman example when I preached this sermon. At the very last second, I changed examples. Literally when it was time to share this example during the message, I chose not to and instead shared about a conversation I had with my Granddad about college. Not sure why, but it seemed like the right move at the moment.]

Like that day when I could have given up, we too must keep walking in our faith with God. Remembering why God’s grace leads to our gratitude. Enjoying life with Him and growing in our knowledge of God as we learn from others much wiser than us. Speaking of wisdom, let’s look at the second way that we can dedicate our minds to thinking biblically and that means we need to wise up.

Wise Up (v. 8)

In verse 8 of chapter 2, we read of another threat to thinking biblically and that is the distortions of truth that the world offers. The way that the world tries to find the truth is like taking a picture with a broken lense. They have the right desire, but will never get the ideal result. Like us before we knew God, they are just looking at the big picture the wrong way. Everything is distorted without God who brings all things into focus when we draw near to Him.

With this in mind, we need to wise up and be careful of all of the stuff that is out there. These days, everything is trying to get your attention. Everyone is desperate for you to give them your time. According to a YouTube press release, about “one billion hours [of video content is] watched daily” on their platform (4). There is a battle for your mind and to fight it, you have to think biblically.

Now this verse isn’t saying that all knowledge outside of the Bible is bad or evil. I mean, how would you learn about Algebra if not for the Muslim mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi who invented it? Without his work, we wouldn’t have Algebra and you wouldn’t hate math. So like 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” Until proven true, take everything with a grain of salt. You’ll know if something is the truth when it has been tested and proven to be true. This is the second way that we can think biblically.

Wake Up (v. 1 – 3)

The final way to think biblically is to wake up. We need to wake up and realize our main reason for being Christian in the first place. We are here to know God and make God known. The Gospel is the wake up call of the world and we are the messengers.

We’re not here to get caught up in the nonsense of what is being fought over today. We have to stay focused and remember that we have a mission from up above. We have a task at hand and that is to tell others what God has done, is doing, and will do through us as Christians. We need to focus on Jesus in our life on the daily and then when that’s dialed in, show others how to do the same.

[Here I added more in my sermon journal where I wrote “show, then tell.” For the uninitiated, to show then tell is a film idea. The idea that a picture can say a thousand words and our examples in how we live do the same. Don’t remember the exact wordage, but that was the concept.]

Conclusion

To wrap up, we need to think biblically if we want an unshakable faith. We must keep walking, wise up, and wake up to keep our mind focused on God. Until the whole world hears the good news of Jesus, our mission is loud and clear. Think about it and we’ll talk in our small groups in a minute. Let’s pray.

This was a really stressful weekend because it was my first time co-running a winter camp with another leader named Sierra. We worked all day running the camp the whole weekend and by the time came for me to share my sermon, I was quite exhausted. I wasn’t as tired as last year’s winter camp, but a different type of tired because everyone came to us with their problems versus last year where we just solved problems that were there.

Anyways, I was scrambling to write the outline in my sermon journal as the worship team was doing their set before it was my time to preach. I think the sermon was fairly straightforward and had little hiccups. It went as planned for the most part. The concept for this whole sermon series I outlined as far back as August of 2018 at a leader retreat, so the main ideas had been in my mind for months by the time I shared this message. Then again, I’ve always been a clutch preacher who is changing things at the very last second pretty normally, so take that as you will. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Colossians 2:6-8
  3. Colossians 3:1-3
  4. https://www.youtube.com/yt/about/press/

Leaving So Soon?

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

There is an epidemic in the church. This brewing problem has been growing exponentially since the 1950s when the youth culture truly took root in the West. It was a time of peace after WWII when the war for the hearts of the next generation flourished under the guise of prosperity and progress.

Whether that be the technological advancements, the race relations that led to the Civil Rights Movement, or the sexual revolution that changed the way we process perversity versus pleasure. This youth culture, Gen Z especially, has been in the process of a mass-exodus of sorts in fleeing the church to join the culture. According to various studies, “70 percent of youth stop attending church when they graduate from high school. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church (2).” As my good friend Andrew Morrison keeps saying, “we are on the verge of a second 1960s counterculture revolution” and this revolution is going to get ugly.

Now who exactly is leaving and why are they leaving so soon? To be precise, the youth from middle school to college are leaving the church. By ‘the church’ I mean that as both Christianity specifically and religion in general, as the youth embrace the pressures of society to conform to the inward and outward expressions of sin. This grand departure is happening primarily in the Western part of the world (i.e. North America and Europe), which is due to a number of circumstances.

From personal online investigation to public inquiry with others in this age range, I have whittled down the leading reasons as to why the youth are leaving so soon to 5 options. These 5 options include a) unable to freely question, b) not enough reason to believe in God beyond morally therapeutic deism (3), c) not challenged or tested to do otherwise in their way of thinking, d) objective truths have been exchanged for relevant subjectivism, and e) other undisclosed reasons that are specific to the individual. Regarding the last option for instance, the problem of suffering has caused a lot of people to leave because of both immense personal doubt and sorrow, along with the theological implications over any given situation of suffering (natural disaster, miscarriage, rape, etc). Another notable example for the final option would be the controversial views of the church as it is both pro-life and for traditional marriage, rather than pro-choice and in support of non-traditional forms of marriage.

This ‘generation gap’ of the youth rebelling against the truth has been an issue that has always been present within the church as it lies in direct conflict with the culture and its way of thinking. For the youthful in particular, one of the greatest choices one can make is whether to go with the flow downstream (i.e. the culture) or go against the flow upstream (i.e. the church). Once one chooses either option, they must therefore reject the other for we are to be in the world, but not of it as Christ’s church (4).

The question remains: how do we avoid leaving so soon or if we have already left, how do we come back home to Christ and in fellowship with His church? As I have thought upon this topic, I believe the answer lies in one of my favorite books in the Bible: the book of Colossians. It is here where I think the young believer, such as you or someone you know, can find solutions to this inveterate problem in the church.

Just as the prodigal in Luke chapter 15 left to indulge in sin and was still a son of his father, we too are sometimes in a state of being a prodigal, but we do have the hope of always being a child of God as believers. There is always the hope that no matter how far a believer temporarily runs away from God, they still have the opportunity to turn back and ask for forgiveness. In the book of Colossians, we find 5 factors that will guide us on the straight and narrow or for those of us who have already left so soon, a way back home. The first of these factors is a matter of the mind.

1) Protect Our Minds

“I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument… See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (5).”

In this day and age, the battle for the mind has never been a more intense struggle for the youth. Whether we acknowledge it or not the Enemy, the World, and even our own sin nature desire to corrupt our minds to the point of permanent decimation. Do not give in to those temptations. Resist and fight back by protecting your mind as you hold fast to the truth of Christ’s victory at the cross and pray for the LORD to do a work within you.

Know what Jesus died and rose again for in the first place. Know the truths of Scripture. Most importantly, stay on guard spiritually. This is where apologetics is key for personal devotion in the believers life. Apologetics is the sledgehammer of evangelism because it destroys strongholds of skepticism hiding in our hearts, but also acts as a chisel of continuous refinement as we seek to be more Christ-like as believers. Apologetics protects the mind, but prayer solidifies that defense like nothing else.

By knowing the truth and consistently learning to be better equipped mentally, the believer is that much more ready for the battle of the mind. Nothing can stop the truth and if Jesus is the truth (6), then we can have full assurance in times of doubt that what we believe is worth fighting for in the end both mentally and spiritually. Fight off the mental warfare of this world system that is intent on crushing you.

Get up and brush off those books. Be a student of God by protecting your mind with the truths of God’s Word and His glorious Creation through the avenue of apologetics, while at the same time constantly praying for God to shield your mind from what knowledge cannot protect you from. We live in the information age and we should act like it for once as the church. The best offense is a better defense. Be an apologist, not an apostate. Be informed, not uninformed.

2) Purpose In Our Minds

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (7).”

After the mind is protected, it must be redirected to the things of God. To purpose in our minds and to think upon the spiritually good, rather than the spiritually bad will ensure a sober mind for the backsliding believer seeking to please God. Be sober and be vigilant as the Apostle Peter once said (8). Think like Christ thinks. As Daniel purposed in his mind to honor the LORD by obeying the Mosaic Law (9), so too we must purpose in our minds to honor God above all else through the process of renewing our minds (10). It will take time to reconfigure the way you think, but it is a natural change as you turn back to God.

3) Purpose In Our Church Body

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (11).”

From the mental to the social, Paul lines out how we should purpose and aim as the church to live as one body of believers submitted to the authority of God’s Word. There must be a deliberate attempt to be in constant fellowship with other believers because it is what unifies the Bride of Christ in a way that glorifies God. We bear burdens, we forgive sins, we wisely teach, we wisely admonish, and most of all love because He first loved us.

As Christians, either we are one or we are none. As was said by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses (12).” Be active in both the local church you attend and the church at large. Pray with believers and seek God. Camaraderie is the key in a community, especially for us as the church. As the 1st century Christians lived (13), so we should live in fellowship with one another in Jesus name.

4) Purpose In Our Hearts

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (14).”

For most, if not all who leave so soon, it is a matter of the heart. By a matter of the heart, I mean to say a combination of internal motivations and external attitudes we may have in our day-to-day living. These things must change as we purpose in our hearts not to live like we once did, but to live according to what the LORD insists for each and every one of us. The Israelites had to purpose in their hearts as they chose to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength (15). Once you know how to love God, only then will you be able to love.

Later on in history, we find Ezra the priest and scribe displaying this fourth point in action as he “set his heart” on learning the Word of God, living out the Word of God, before teaching others in a like manner (16). Yet before any outward actions took place, Ezra had to fix his heart and aim it towards God. We must do likewise, if we intend on getting right with God before our inevitable prodigal exodus or on the way back from one. We must set both our minds and our hearts on the things above, not on the things below.

5) Purpose In Our Speech

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person (17).”

Nothing says that you are looking to change quite like the way you transform the way you speak to others. How do you communicate to people? To family? To friends? To enemies? Can you truthfully say that you speak with a courteous and tactful manner that stands out from when you chose to leave God or before you were even with God? Is there a difference in the way you talk from when you were a prodigal to now as another member of the pasture of the Good Shepherd?

Eventually, on the way back to the loving arms of the Lord you should notice a change in the way you speak. Not just in vocabulary, but most importantly the intent of your speech in the first place. Why do you talk in the first place? What is the intent in what you say when, where, why, and how you say it? Jesus put special emphasis on what we say (18) as it can lead to either our declaration of our salvation in Christ or our damnation away from His grace.

In his book, Fool’s Talk, author Os Guinness lays out the biblical pattern in which every believer should speak both publicly in social gatherings and even privately in our hearts and minds. He argues that everyone is a fool. Either you are a fool for Christ or a fool of the world. As Jesus put it when preaching on the Beatitudes, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (19), so in all things learn to speak wisdom. Like salt, speak in a way that preserves the humanity of whoever you talk to, while simultaneously expelling the hardheartedness of their sin nature. It’s about time we spoke like fools.

Final Thoughts

It’s a hard road leaving sin to seek the Savior, but is totally worth it in the end. Adjustments will be made both consciously and unconsciously as you grow more spiritually attuned to God’s liking and as the Holy Spirit does His refining work within you. If we return back to God, then we will radically change in three main ways: our thought life, our feelings, and our speech. This trifecta can be seen in the return home for the prodigal son of Luke 15 and is a pattern that has been seen in every prodigal throughout time.

Be against the flow, not with it! Return to the Lord and all His goodness! Put on the full armor of God and doing all to stand up to sin, stay standing. I pray that God would do a mighty work in you as He guides your mind, heart, and words to be in alignment with His Word.

Why are you leaving so soon? Your life with God has only just begun! Stay and see what the triune God has in store for you. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://www.churchleaders.com/children/childrens-ministry-articles/166129-marc-solas-10-surprising-reasons-our-kids-leave-church.htmlhttp://crossexamined.org/youth-exodus-problem/. See also Galatians 5:7-8 when Paul the Apostle address the same issue in the first century.
  3. http://www.christianpost.com/news/top-3-false-christian-beliefs-leading-americas-youth-astray-american-family-association-172100/
  4. NASB John 17:9-16
  5. NASB Colossians 2:4, 8
  6. NASB John 14:6
  7. NASB Colossians 3:2
  8. KJV 1 Peter 5:8
  9. NASB Daniel 1:8
  10. NASB Romans 12:2-3
  11. NASB Colossians 3:12-17
  12. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (P. 86)
  13. NKJV Acts 2:42, NKJV 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, NKJV Hebrews 10:23-25
  14. NASB Colossians 3:23-24
  15. NKJV Deuteronomy 6:5-7
  16. NASB Ezra 7:10
  17. NASB Colossians 4:5-6
  18. NASB Matthew 12:36-37
  19. NLT Luke 6:45