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SEARCHING FOR A BETTER LIFE – Restraint | Sermon from 9/15/2019

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There were two events that took place in the summer of 1969 that in many ways defined the decade of the 60’s. The first took place on July 20 when man first landed on the moon.

Moon Landing 1969

I don’t remember the event, but my Mom said that my great grandmother literally could not believe it was happening. For her, there was no way men could be walking on the moon that she could see up in the sky. In her world, that just wasn’t possible, but it was possible. The moon landing changed our nation and world because it expanded our horizons. It opened the door to further space exploration and scientific discoveries. We were living beyond the boundaries and it was good.

About a month later, another significant event took place on a dairy farm in Bethel NY. What started as a three day music festival for about 40,000 people turned into a cultural event for over 400,000.

Woodstock 1969

Woodstock came to symbolize a generation that wanted to live beyond the boundaries of socially acceptable norms. It pushed the boundaries in sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Some people saw this cultural revolution as a good thing, others as not so good. I’ll let you decide that. What is unmistakable is that Woodstock remains a symbol of the cultural freedom that so many were pushing for during the decade of the 60’s. It is a symbol of living beyond the boundaries.

Sometimes moving outside the boundaries of our thinking and living is good because it opens up new and exciting opportunities. Advances in science, medicine, technology and space exploration are only possible because people are willing to push the limits and think outside the boundaries of what is possible. Sometimes living without restraint is good, but sometimes it is not good. It is often boundaries that protect us, keep us safe, and make life better.

When I was in New Orleans several years ago some friends and I asked the doorman at the hotel to suggest some places for us to visit. He took out a map and circled several places and then drew some boundaries on the map. He said, whatever you do, don’t go beyond these boundaries. It is not safe. Those were boundaries we didn’t cross. We knew that restraint and living in those boundaries was essential for a better life – for life itself.

As we search for a better life, we need to understand the value of boundaries and living with Restraint. Specifically, we need to understand the value of living within God given boundaries. In fact, many times the better life we want will only be found by living within the boundaries set for us by God.

Last week we looked at the better life list that God gave his people in the OT. We know this list as the 10 commandments and what these commandments established were clear boundaries. Look at the first three commandments. Each one set a boundary for people in how they were to live in their relationship with God.

You shall have no other gods before Me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

These are clear commands that gave direction to God’s people and as long as they lived within these boundaries, as long as they showed restraint, life was good. We also see this in the last 6 commands God gave the people.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet.

Here God is setting boundaries in our behaviors with one another. These are community or social boundaries that are not only necessary for people to live together in peace, but they are essential for good relationships and needed if we are going to experience a good life in community. When we exercise this kind of restrain in our relationships with one another – we all experience a better life.

So the 10 commandments show us that restraint and living within the boundaries God has established is good, and that some boundaries always need to be honored, but if we think about the life and teachings of Jesus, we see that at times he called us to live outside the boundaries. Jesus challenged long held traditions and at times pushed people outside long established boundaries.

A great example of this is seen in the area of what was considered clean and unclean food. For generations, only certain animals were considered clean and everything else was unclean and could not be eaten, but in Acts 10, Peter, the leader of the Christian community, had a vision where he was told by God to get up and kill all kinds of unclean animals and eat them. At first Peter resists this saying he has never eaten anything unclean or impure, to which God said, “ Do not call anything impure what God has made clean.” In this vision God was making all kinds of unclean animals clean. God was extending the boundaries of what was acceptable and calling his people to live within new boundaries.

So here is the gift and the challenge for us in Jesus. The gift is that in Jesus we have been set free. In Christ, boundaries have been expanded and we are free to experience so much more in life, but the challenge is to know where the new boundaries lie because the better life God wants for us is still found when we experience restraint. Paul says, while all things are permissible for us, not all things are good for us. So we need to learn how to live within the boundaries God has for us, we need to learn how to live with restraint in the midst of God’s freedom.

The first step in living with freedom within God’s established boundaries is to walk with God. Walking with God implies a relationship with God. Walking with God implies slowing down and intentionally being with God, listening to God, and talking with God so we can learn all that God has for us.

Several years ago, 5 friends and I hiked up to the top of Mt. Washington. It was a perfect day, but a long and strenuous hike. As we were coming down the mountain I was feeling good and had gotten out in front of my friends. I often like to be in the front of the pack in hiking and this time I had gotten very far out in front. In fact I was so far out that I didn’t realize my friends were miles behind me and that one of the group was having trouble. I also had all the maps so when they came to confusing areas along the trail, they didn’t know what to do.

Finally I realized I needed to not just stop but start hiking back. When I found my friends, let’s just say they weren’t happy with me. I had broken relationship and trust because I was no longer walking with them. Fortunately they were gracious and forgiving people and we can laugh about it now, but I learned something important. Walking together means walking together. Walking with God means being intentional in being with God, not getting too far ahead or behind, not thinking that we know the way so that we head out on our own, but being intentional in being with God day by day by day.

Next month we are going to explore more about what can help us walk with God when we enter into our 3 Relationships campaign. A relationship with God is just one of the 3 Relationships, but is perhaps the most important because how we engage God in his word, and in worship, and in prayer, and in our daily lives is key to experiencing the best life possible.

Not only do we need to walk with God but we also need to walk away from sin. Ephesian 2:1-3a

Paul is saying that all of us at one point in time walked in sin. We followed our own way. We lived according to our own selfish desires, and at times we still fall back into that way of thinking and living. Walking away from sin doesn’t happen once, instead it needs to be something we consider and commit to every day. Paul goes on and talks about some of the specific things we need to walk away from. Ephesians 4:22-32

We need to walk away from selfish desires and deceit. We need to walk away from lies and anger and unwholesome talk. We need to walk away from bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice. In all of our lives there are things we know we need to walk away from. There are things that in all of our lives are destructive to our hearts, and lives and relationships and we need to learn how to walk away. Every time we are able to walk away from sin we are living within the boundaries God has set for us, and every time we live within those boundaries, every time we live with restraint, we experience a better life.

But at times it is not just walking away that is needed, we need to walk in new life. Going back to Ephesians 4, we not only see the importance of walking away from what is bad but also walking into what is good. This means we not only walk away from bitterness and anger, but we walk into love, forgiveness, and compassion. The better life isn’t just found when we walk away from sin but when we walk in and put on the new life God has for us in Christ.

We experience the better life when we learn to walk with God, walk away from sin, and walk in new life. This is what a life of restraint looks like and what it means for us to live within the new boundaries God has set for us. As we walk, there are two important things to remember.

#1 – be quick to obey. When we hear Paul tell us to take off the old self and put on righteousness, we need to do it. When we are told to walk away from anger, bitterness, and resentment we need to do it. When we are told to walk in forgiveness, compassion, and love, we need to do it. We need to not just hear these words and direction but be quick to obey. The sooner we obey, the sooner we experience the better life.

#2 – be quick to serve. Ephesians 5:1-2. Be quick to love, but the specific kind of love Paul calls for here is sacrificial love, a love that gives selflessly, a love that serves. Making the choice to serve each day, adding that to our better life list, helps us walk with God, walk away from selfishness which leads to sin, and walk more fully in the new life God has for us. This week find one way to serve someone and experience the better life God has for you.

Next Steps

Searching for a Better Life – Restraint

What kind of boundaries does God set for us in the 10 Commandments?

  • Are you living with restraint in these areas?
  • How can living within those boundaries help you experience a better life?

Jesus brought us freedom and established new boundaries.

  • What old laws and traditions did Jesus remove or revise?
  • How does this help set us free?

Walk with God

  • What specific practices help you daily walk with God?
  • In what way can you more intentionally walk with God?

Walk away from Sin

  • Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and 4:17-5:2
  • Where do you need to learn to walk away?
  • Pray with more conviction, “deliver me from evil.”

Walk in the New Life

  • Read Epheisans 5:3-6:9
  • Where do you want to experience new life?

To experience a better life, we need to more fully understand the 3 Relationships to which God has called us. Learn how to experience a more vital relationship with God, the church, and the world, by signing up to be part of a 3 Relationship small group this October. For more information on the 3 Relationships go to bellefontefaith.com/3R or contact Pastor David Carter at david.carter@bellefontefaith.com.

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