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Previous Message From Virtual Church

Sin, Responsibility, Self-control, And Living Under God's Protection

This message is being written during the last week of September 2001. The United States was brutally and savagely attacked on September 11 of this year. Since that time, controversy has raged within Christian circles, churches, and denominations. This controversy concerns the issue of God's protection. Some Christians believe that the protective hand of God has been removed from the United States due to the sinful and permissive society within the U.S. Some Christians have stated, then retracted statements, indicating the U.S. is "getting what it deserves." This message tries to address the issue of God's protection in the lives of individuals and in the life of nations. It is the longest article ever posted on the web site yet much more could be written about this vital topic

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (NIV)

Zachariah 1:3 Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: `Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, `and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty. (NIV)

Psalm 119:52 I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them. 53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law. 54 Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. (NIV)

What are the consequences of diminished self-control and self-discipline?

As a minister relates, there is wisdom to be gained from working with persons who are homeless. What causes homelessness in people can be a lesson we might not want to learn. Homelessness is caused by a lack of self-control and self-discipline on the part of the homeless person. The causes of the lack of self-control and self-discipline are varied. Some people never learn self-control or self-discipline. As children, some homeless persons never had a home life of nurture, love, and discipline. Some people make grave mistakes in their life and these mistakes break down the self-discipline and self-control they once had. Some people are abused and hurt as young people. When a child is hurt or abused their life is fractured to the point of not being repaired in human terms. When a person's life is fractured, they have limited self-control or self-discipline. When a person has limited self-discipline or self-control then bad things happen in the person's life. A life lived that is out of control is a life full of pain, darkness, suffering, and sin. In most cases, homeless persons are incredibly immature. A four-year-old child has limited self-control. The homeless person has the limited self-control of a small child yet they have an adult body and commit adult sins. A nation or a civilization that lives with limited self-control or limited self-discipline suffers the same consequences in the life of a nation that a person we call homeless will suffer.

1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (NIV)

How does sin connect to self-control and self-discipline?

People sin and they know when they sin. Satan tempts people and when people have limited self-control, temptation brings people down. Every homeless person has a story. Most of the time the story is about why and how they are homeless. The story they tell, colorful, truthful, untruthful, and sometimes heart wrenching, is almost never about how they lack self-control. Occasionally a homeless man will admit he cannot control things, but usually, the homeless person plays the sophisticated blame game of blaming others or society for his or her state of homelessness. The fact is that a homeless person is homeless because of factors they do not control. In most every circumstance, these factors are based in sinful desires that are (without repentance and acceptance of Christ into their heart) uncontrollable by the person. The homeless person cannot stay within the boundary lines set up by employers, the court system, the society, or the nation.

Are there consequences to sin?

God has set up boundary lines over which we should not cross. Since we are free to do what we want, we can live within those boundary lines or live outside of them. Many people try to live on both sides of the line. For example, people behave themselves at work but commit immoral acts outside of their work. When people cross over the boundary line put in life by God, bad things surely happen. When a person has little self-control, bad things happen in the person's life. In many instances, bad things not only happen in the person's life, the person spreads the darkness they carry to other persons including family and friends.

What does Satan want?

Satan wants everyone to fall away. Satan wants everyone to turn away from Christ and walk over the boundary line of right living instituted by God. There are definite consequences to crossing the boundary line. In society, when you break the law and are caught, you will most likely be prosecuted and then you will be made to pay the penalty. In your family life, when you break a moral law, you may get by without being caught for a while, but when the truth becomes known, the ties that bind your family together are broken. When you break the law, any law, there is a price to pay. Common sense would tell anyone not to break the law. However, in the lives of some people, common sense seems not to exist.

What is the connection between human behavior and God?

Proverbs 10: The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment. (NIV)

In a person's relationship with God, when someone breaks one of God's laws, there is a penalty. When someone turns away from God by breaking one of God's spiritual laws, one of the penalties is a lack of God's presence in the person's life. God abhors sin. This should be no surprise. What so many persons reject is the connection between human behavior and God. Sinful man does not want to admit there is a connection between sin and God. To admit a connection exists between God and our behavior makes us responsible to God. We do not want to be responsible for our sinful behavior. When we come to accept our responsibility for our sin, we are then able to repent or turn away from the sin. In the life of a homeless person, the person must admit there is a connection between lack of self-control and self-discipline and their being homeless. Unless a homeless person comes to grips with the cause of their difficulties, there is no hope for getting their life in order. When a sinful man or woman does not come to grips with the sin of life and does not repent there is no hope for getting life in order until they repent.

Joshua 2:20 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, "Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did." 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua. (NIV)

What is the problem with connecting human behavior to God?

The problem of admitting there is a connection between human behavior and God is, for most persons, a problem. This connection problem can infect the soul of a nation. Most persons believe that a nation steeped in sin does not have to pay a price for being in sin. Most persons believe sin is a personal matter. Most persons believe the individual sins of the citizens of a nation have no effect upon the life or destiny of the nation. However, just because the citizens of a nation believe or say there is no connection between a life of sin and God does not mean there is no connection. Persons who are steeped in sin do not want to hear that a nation that goes against God will pay a price for going against God.

Do people create their own disasters?

Homeless people do create their own disaster in life. A criminal who is caught and is then sent to prison has created his or her own disaster. A family that lives in sin creates its own disaster. A company that violates the law, perhaps by trying to evade taxes, if caught, will create its own disaster. A company that does not diligently manage the business of the company creates its own disaster. A government that does not diligently manage the tax money it receives creates its own disaster. There are connections between what we do in behavior and whether we bring disaster upon ourselves. A person who worships Satan or who rejects the call to repentance by God creates the disaster that surely lurks in the person's life. Not living according to God's laws and commands has a consequence.

Genesis 19:24 Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah--from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities--and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (NIV)

Can a nation bring disaster upon itself?

Any nation that does not live according to the laws and commands of God brings disaster upon itself. The problem of coming to grips with this reality is that in some cases it takes a long time for the disaster to occur. A despot who ravages the population of a country can live out a natural life and die of natural causes. It would appear there is, in the life some despots, no connection between being a horrible despot and the outcome of life on earth.

What are the consequences of turning away from God?

The only way the ungodly person can maintain his or her position that no connection or consequence exists between human behavior and God is to reject God. God has entrusted the earth to us as a human race. God has entrusted the life of a family to the members of the family. God has entrusted your life to you. You are responsible for your life. A family is responsible for the kind of family life the family enjoys. The citizens of a nation are responsible for the national life the nation enjoys. The former Soviet Union is an example of a nation that turned away from living according to the laws and commands of God. When a nation turns away from God, the internal rot will eventually take a toll on the nation. Eventually, the rot begins to eat away at the persons who maintain the military, the government, and the infrastructure. Eventually, the ungodly nation, like the Soviet Union, crumbles.

Psalms 5:11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. 12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (NIV)

How does protection from God work?

We enjoy the protection of God, not necessarily as a total and unequivocal protection from God, but we enjoy the protection of God according to how willing we are to live according to God's laws and commands. God is not necessarily a bodyguard. If God protected us totally then we would never get sick, be attacked by viruses, or even get old. Unfortunately for us, we live in the reality where Satan can inflict pain and suffering upon us. However, we must realize that we can often be more of a direct enemy of our life than is Satan. Often we do what we know what we should not do. We fall down and turn in wrong directions when we know in advance what the consequences of our actions will be. In most cases, we know we are violating the law of God but we still go ahead and violate that law anyway.

The protection of God is like a building we use as a shelter from a storm. When we are in a storm, we want the security of a shelter or building. To get the security of a building we must go into the building because the building does not come to us. The way we live our life as a person or as a nation determines whether we are inside the building and enjoy the protection or whether we live outside the building and outside of the protection. A person who rejects God and who rejects the idea of living a devout and godly life clearly takes a chance at the outcome of their life. People know they are taking a chance with God when they take the chance. They will even say they know they are taking a chance with God by living a life of sin. A nation also takes its chances. A nation can live outside the protective building of God and take its chances. In fact, it is because a nation can "get by" with living outside of the building of God (even for a long time) that the nation chooses to live outside the building.

How does humility connect to our behavior and God's protection?

In the life of every person and in the life of every nation a day of recognition must come if the person or nation is to endure. In the case of Russia, they have still not recognized the consequences of living outside the will of God. The nation of Russia is still just as full of ungodliness as it was when the Soviet Union was a mighty world power. In our personal lives and in our national life we must come to a state of recognition there is a connection between living within the will and laws of God and the presence of being in God's protective building. There is a connection between being humble and godly before Him and what happens to us as a person and as a nation.

Why do we want to "do our own thing?"

If we live in sin as a person, we invite our own disaster because we chose to live outside God's protective building. If we live in sin as a nation, we invite our own disaster because we chose to live outside God's protective building. Generally, we live in stupidity and denial about the connection between God's protection and our way of life. Satan does not want us to recognize that we can live within God's laws and receive some benefit. Satan clearly screams at human beings to live any way they want without any consequence. Satan clearly screams at the people of a nation to live any way they want, do any sinful thing they want, or break any law or commandment of God without any consequence. Satan wants you and all the people of the world to believe you can "do your own thing" and get by with it.

Do we reap what we sow?

A person can create a monster in their lives by how they live their life. A person can start using drugs or alcohol and these substances become a monster. A person can be vile and hateful toward others. The seeds the person sows will grow and the hatred sown will produce a crop of more hatred. A nation that sows the seeds of hatred will reap hatred. A nation that does not reject sin but even goes so far to embrace sin as a lifestyle will reap the seeds of sin. On a personal level, what you send out comes back. If you send out hatred and venom, you will receive back the bite of the snake.

Is patriotism the same thing as repentance?

Patriotism is running rampant in the United States today. On September 11, 2001 the United States was viciously attacked with casualties that outnumber Pearl Harbor. The United States is more unified today than at any time since Pearl Harbor. However, patriotism is not repentance. Waving our beautiful flag does not substitute for repentance and coming to Christ on our knees in humility and godly sorrow.

How do we find the protection of God?

As of this writing (October 1, 2001) the United States and a few of its allies are set to bomb and inflict damage on the nations that harbor terrorists. However, bombs will not put us into the protective building of God. The only way we can enjoy the protection of God's building is to go to God's building by repenting, coming to Christ in godly sorrow, and asking Him to come into our heart. To live under the protection of God we must live in His building by living within His rules, laws, commandments, boundaries, and love.

What happens if we want to live life "our way?"

If we continue to puff ourselves up in pride, ego, lust, lies, and live in the glory of our own power, we are set to be destroyed from without and from within. If we do not thank God for His mighty blessings and live for Him in humility we are standing outside of His protective building and we invite the storm to beat us up and devastate us. Homeless persons, in nearly every case, insist upon living life their way with little self-control or self-discipline. We are called as a person and as a nation to live life His way. God's calls for a person and a nation to live a life that is godly and self-controlled. When we do not live life His way, we invite disaster upon our heads.

Can God give us a guarantee of protection?

We cannot manipulate God by pretending to be righteous. We cannot gain God's favor by pretending we are righteous. We enjoy God's favor by being humble before Him within our heart. God requires that we repent from within. God knows whether we repent of not. We cannot fool Him. We do not want to admit this, but there is a connection between the true godliness of a nation and what happens to the members of a nation. The protective cover of God exists in a person's life according to how godly a person is. This does not mean godly people do not suffer…because they do. This does not mean godly people are never victimized…because they are. This does not mean that godly people do not die in the body…because they do. This does not mean that God gives us some kind of ironclad guarantee of no pain and no suffering for being His child…because everyone has pain and suffering. What God can guarantee to a person or to a nation is that getting outside of the will of God will create a condition where bad things can and do happen. Conversely, when we strive as a person and as a nation to live within the will of God and live according to His commandments there is a an earthly benefit. When we live within the will of God, we can and will prevail by ascending into heaven on the wings of angels.

What does God require from us?

In the Christian view, we live a godly life for we know that Christ died for us, and because we love Him. Because we love Him, we are more than willing to make sacrifices that require us to reject sin and immorality. Because we love Him, we are willing to endure any hardship to serve Him. Because we love Christ so much, we are willing to forego what some may call the protection of God.

Can we secure our future?

Our future earthly security as a person, family, group, or nation is up to us. The future of our civilization is up to us. If we, as a civilization will come before God in true repentance, accept the sacrifice of His Son for us, and accept Christ as our Savior, then our future is secure. If we choose to take our chances and continue to sin without guilt or shame then our future is in doubt.

Does God protect people?

God does not protect people from getting old and dying. No matter how devout and godly you are, you will get old and your physical body will die. We want protection, especially when we realize that we are vulnerable and that death can come at any moment. Yet, God does not do this basic thing of keeping our bodies young and healthy. What we do with this truth is quite revealing about our attitudes. God does not protect you from getting old and dying but you can do things to protect yourself. It is a scientific fact that you can eat right, exercise, and avoid harmful substances and harmful environments. Clearly, God has created a life system where you have the power to stay healthy longer. Like many other circumstances in life, God leaves a lot of our personal health, safety, and welfare up to us. If we approach life from that standpoint, that we are to be fully responsible for our lives, we are in a position to responsibly protect ourselves. Because of our sin, our inclination is to shirk our responsibilities and constantly expect Him to do for us many of those things that we could do for ourselves.

Who is actually responsible for what happens in my life…me or God?

Without weaseling out of this answer, the truth is that you are responsible for what happens in your life. We give God credit for things God did not do and blame God for doing things He did not do. Most of all, we also fail to give God credit for doing what He has done. The action and interaction between God and man is shrouded in mystery. We walk the path of life by faith. Some persons have little faith in God. Others have enormous faith in God. The rubber meets the road, so to speak, when faith is turned into expectations about what God will do and not do for us. Quite often people want God to deliver the goods and services in exchange for faith. To speak about a God who constantly delivers in exchange for faith in Him without any true love for Him shows a lack of humility on our part. Conversely, there is, according to some, a price to pay for lack of faith in God.

How are faith and love connected?

Faith in God and love for Him are two separate entities. They are easily mixed up and combined. If you truly love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might, then it makes no difference to you what God delivers in your life. The idea is to love God unconditionally. That means that your love has no expectations about what God will do for you in the present or into your tomorrows. If you love God unconditionally, you may be unmercifully persecuted. Yet, if you truly love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might you will never get angry at God for not coming to your rescue.

What does God expect from us?

We are all children of God but we do not need to act like children. To constantly expect God to fill our every need is to act like a small child. God gave us immense gifts and abilities. He expects us to use these gifts and abilities. Obviously, there are daily areas of our life where we need God. We need God, some days, every moment. We must recognize we have weaknesses, needs, and deficiencies. However, just because we have weaknesses, needs and deficiencies does not mean we should fold up our lives and expect God to do everything for us. This is where love and faith intersect. If you love God enough, this immense love for God works to strengthen you, embolden you, and enhance the ways God works in your life. Immense love for God and weak faith cannot exist in the same soul at the same time. Most of us cycle back and forth between immense love and weak faith.

What will God provide?

We cannot get from God everything we want and everything we think we need. This is because we are plagued by sin and we consequently want and need the wrong things. God will not give us what we should not have. God will not give us what we can derive or provide on our own. God will not change the realities of this reality. God will not override our free will so we will have to make decisions on our own. We will have to think on our own. God will not prevent us from being tempted but He will supply us spiritual power to resist temptation. God will not prevent us from breaking His laws and commandments. Because of free will, faith in God and love for God is optional.

Do people have to obey God's laws?

No, you do not have to obey God's laws and commandments. As believers in Christ, we believe that unrepentant sinners spend eternity in hell as a consequence of their lack of repentance. Repentance occurs when we turn away from breaking the laws of God and in godly sorrow, turn to Christ. As Christians, we believe there are consequences for breaking God's laws. Non-believers do not believe there are consequences to breaking God's laws or they know there are consequences and decide to take their chances. Non-believers can maintain this position because some consequences to breaking God's laws do not appear in this life. Persons are free to break any laws (either God's or man's) they want. Persons can break every commandment or law of God and die without any apparent earthly consequence.

Why should we obey God's laws?

With respect to God, we should obey God's commandments because we love Him. However, obedience should be based upon love rather than trying to get what we want from God. When we are obedient and obey God's commands to get from God what we want we are trying to abusively use God. When we obey God's laws because we love Him because He first loved us and we then expect nothing from God in return then we are mature and essentially grown up.

What happens when a nation does not live under God?

When a nation quits truly being a nation under God, then sin can run rampant. Walls of military security, police security, and financial security are weakened and eventually the civilization crumbles from within or is attacked and crumbles from without, or in many cases, both. Dictators, despots, and truly evil persons become leaders in a nation steeped in sin. Terror, turmoil, killing, war, and a police state are often the result for a nation that does not go to find shelter in God's protective building.

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018