In our society it seems that we are fast becoming devoid of God. It’s seems that everyone’s pursuit is in self-gratification. It’s about ‘who I am’ and not about ‘who anybody else is’. We have a world that worships self without regard to another person.
But the reality of it all is that we live in a generation of people being raised to consider only themselves. We have become a society of selfish people – people who put self first to the detriment of any others. You could argue that our societies obsession with Human Rights is a direct result of that – we talk about the rights of others but in actual fact are motivated by selfishness – the concept that we have a right to be rich, famous, healthy. A right not to be offended or to have anyone who disagrees with our worldview allowed a voice.
We are raising a generation that thinks of nothing but itself. Look at the most popular shows on TV – Xfactor and Britain’s Got Talent – shows that are about the self – my right to perform, my right to be famous regardless of talent or apptitude.
Life wasn’t much different in the days of Isreal’s Judges. For those of you who are reading through the Bible with our E100 readings this is where we are headed this coming week. The Book of Judges.
In chapter 17:6 says there was no king in Israel and everyone did as they saw fit in their own mind. This phrase is going to come up several times. As a matter of fact, the book ends that way; “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Just looking after self! But in reality, there was a king and His name was God. But the people lived as if there were no God.
Joshua had led them faithfully for many years as Moses had before him. But now with Joshua gone trust in God starts to ebb away. It’s fine for a generation or so – Those that had been around when Joshua led them and remembered what God had done for them. But slowly that generation passed away and the people were left with little knowledge of God but second-hand pass-me-down stories that seemed to fantastic to be true.
The children of Israel drifted slowly away from God. God had certain plans for them. He had brought them into the promise land and fulfilled His covenant made with Abraham. But the children of Israel started to ignore the God of theie fathers, breaking the covenant.
St Paul dealt with this in his day – He wrote to the church at Ephesus and begins, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:1-2). He was speaking of the devil. All of us have lived at one time gratifying the sinful ways of our sinful nature and we followed its desires and thoughts..
Paul dealt with it, They dealt with it in the times of Judges. And we’re dealing with it today. We have become self-gratifying. In such a way that we begin to separate ourselves from God in doing what we want to do. We are fast approaching having a generation of people who, like the Israelites at the time of the Judges, no longer have any foundation of God in their lives.
Many of the people of my own age and younger are not just people who don’t go to Church, they’re people for whom Church is not even remotely a relevent issue. They are the children and in many cases the grandchilren of people who have never regularly been part of a worshipping community.
Most of us here went to Church as children, most of us here grew up as children of (generations of) church members – I know that many of you have woreshipped in this very building since you were tiny. But you are a the last generation for who that is, by and large, true.
Today’s families are third generation non-church, third generation for who God is not a relevent part of their lives.
In Judges 2 verses 12 and 13 the children of Israel slipped slowly further away from God, they became less and less governed by his laws and understanding and responses to His ways. The ‘old laws’ no longer mattered and they started to follow other things – they followed and worshipped various gods and idols. They were content with doing whatever was going on with the people around them. This was one of the things that God warned them about, “Don’t be involved with other people’s religion.” But they did anyway and were pulled away from God.
Verse 10 says, “After the whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew not the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” “I just want to go to church. I don’t want to read my Bible or study it.” I know nothing about God. Sometimes we can become complacent just like the children of Israel.
Something else happens in a life without God. Sin reigns and sin enslaves us. It binds us. It captures us. We are restricted in what we can do by the chains of sin. Look down to verse 14. Read it in regards to the children of Israel and what they were doing.
“In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them.”
They took advantage of them. When sin comes into my life and I’m a slave to sin it restrains what God can do in my life. When we are separated from God and His power source then we are literally restrained and restricted from what God can do.
Even though He is all-powerful, if I’ve chosen to walk another path, His power in my life is restricted. I’m taking myself away from the power source and what God can do.
In John 8:34 Jesus said to his audience “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” As I’ve said before, you will be a slave to something. Sin enslaves us and we are destined to fail. In verse 15 of Judges 2 says, “Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them.” We will be defeated if we continue to allow sin to reign in our lives. Romans 7:14 says, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.”
The amazing thing about this whole story is when the Isrealites got so low they cried out to God. And God heard them. He sent judges. He sent Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Abimilech, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. God sent them to deliver and bring them out of their depression and to put them back on the road again to do what is right.
Just as soon as a judge dies, guess what? They go right back to where they were, to a life without God. How many of us could raise our hand and say “I’ve been there?” I remember when my walk was strong. But I can also remember when my walk was weak. I remember coming back to be strong and fell back into weakness, strong and then weak. But God still delivered them.
When we consider where we are now and what we have in Jesus Christ that a life without God is terrible. A life with God brings salvation and we are restored to His relationship through Christ Jesus. As God the Father delivered His people back then even though they were sinful, God sent His Son to die for me even though I was sinful. He brought me into a relationship with Him over and over again. He can do it in your life today! No matter what you have done, no matter where you have been, God calls you home.
Again the words from Jesus in John 8:35-36, “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Allow Jesus to set you free from sin. The apostle Paul says in Romans 6:7, “Anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” Now when you take the contents of chapter 5 and 6 and put them together in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he’s talking about the One, Christ verses the one Adam and how Adam brought sin into the world and how Christ came to redeem us from sin. In Romans chapter 6 after speaking about grace in chapter 5, he goes on and says, “Should we go on sinning so grace should abound?” He says, “no, God forbid. Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?” You have died and are freed from sin.
There was a son who decided to go off and live in a world of his own. Tired of his dad bossing him around. Tired of doing this and that. So he went off. His dad gave him what belonged to him. He went away and he spent everything. He lived a very wild life. One day, he found himself with no friends because there was no money. He found himself eating with the pigs. He decided, “I can go home to my father.” Jesus tells the story in Luke 15. The big thing of the story is what Jesus tells about the father. The father doesn’t sit with condemnation in his heart toward the young man that has chosen a wayward life outside of his family. But he looks upon him with grace and favor. He runs to him, which is not done in that day and embraces him and puts a ring on him and a robe and puts slippers on his feet. He embraces him as his son and he brings him into the family and rejoices because what was lost is now found. No matter where you have been or what you have done, your Father wants to embrace you. God wants to embrace you, to restore you to His family. With God, not only is there restoration and adoption through Christ, He wants us to respond in repentance. God brings forth the promise of eternal life. That’s our God! That’s life with God. He loves us so much.
C.S. Lewis tells a story about an artist that was cast into a dungeon. She was able to bring her paper with her, her parchments, and her charcoal pencils. Her only light came through a barred window that was so far up that she couldn’t reach it to see out. Things happened to her in this dungeon. You can imagine being a woman in captivity and the things that can happen. She becomes pregnant and gives birth to a child in the dungeon. As the little boy grows, she tells him about the world outside; about it’s golden fields and gorgeous skies and the sound of the ocean and all of the beautiful things of the world. She thought that maybe he understood. But when she looked at him, she knew he didn’t. So she began to draw pictures to show him what it looked like. In all of that, he still didn’t understand because his vision of the world was all black charcoal on parchment paper. His idea was that the world inside was much better than world outside.
Have we become so complacent with where we are without God that we don’t know what a life with God is? Maybe our concept of being made in the image of God is some stick figure. I’ve got to tell you, God has so much more to promise us. He’s got so much more that He wants for you in your life. God wants us to have things that we can’t even comprehend beyond this world. But it’s your choice today whether to live with God or to live without God.