ANIMAL PLANET SERMON SERIES
HARMLESS AS A DOVE
JUNE 20, 1999
As you know, we have been in a series called Animal Planet. During the opening session we learned from the dog how to break the cycle of sin. Next we looked at the majestic eagle and understood how to multiply our vision. Then we talked about, in the third installment, the camel. We saw from the camel how to master materialism. Well, today we look at the dove. The dove is beautiful. It is mentioned in scripture and used to illustrate the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity or the Godhead. God, the Father. God, the Son. God, the Holy Spirit. The dove is used to picture, to show us, the role of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit looms large in the Bible. In fact, the dove has to be working just for one of us to make the initial commitment to become a Christ follower. We have to understand something. It takes commitment to begin the Christian life and also commitment has to be continually built as we walk and talk and live for the Lord. The dove, the Holy Spirit, is active in this entire deal.
How does someone, though, begin to make a commitment to Christ? And what role does the Holy Spirit play, specifically, in it? Someone steps over the line of faith by understanding the four-fold formula for Christ’s commitment. This formula rhymes. To make it work I need three volunteers to hit the stage. You. You. And You. Let me grab a mike right quick.
Tell us your names if you would. Winston. Myra. Daniel. We are talking about the four-fold formula, the process for Christ’s commitment. I have tried to break this down so that you will never, ever forget it. That is why I have built it around a rhyme. The first part of this formula is, “God’s love from above.” Say it. God’s love from above. Winston, you are going to be God. Walk right over there and stand. So when we think about Winston, it is God’s love from above. The Bible is a book of love letters. The Bible talks about God’s love. It says time and time again that we matter to God. We are much-loved people. We are loved so much, we can’t even comprehend it. God’s love from above.
The second part of this four-fold formula is, “Our bad, that’s sad.” Myra. Myra traveled to Israel with us recently. I am going to use you to represent all of humanity. We have a bad that is sad. I learned that term bad from playing a lot of sports. People would mess up on the field or on the court and say, “my bad”. Well, this is a real bad because we have all committed cosmic treason. We have all messed up. We have all missed the mark. We have all sinned. Myra, I want you to just walk a little to the right and stand. “God’s love from above” and “Our bad, that’s sad.” So, we have a problem. We have this cosmic chasm. We have this gap, this distance between ourselves and a loving God.
Well, God could have said, see ya. But He didn’t. What did He do? He did something. Even though we don’t deserve it, even though there is nothing we can do to merit it, God’s love from above was so great that He came up with a solution for our pollution. “God’s solution for our pollution.” Daniel, I want you to be Jesus. Take Winston’s hand and stretch it out. Now we go to the fourth part of the formula. “My call to Christ’s all.” Here is what Christ did for us. Jesus Christ died on the cross for all of our sins; past, present and future. I had a student ask me this week about that very concept. He wondered if he became a Christian and then sinned and left it unconfessed, would he go to hell? I said, no. Once you are in God’s family, you are in. You can’t get out. That is why the Holy Spirit uses the term adoption throughout the Bible. How many of you here were adopted? Let’s give them a round of applause. Because if you are adopted, you are in great company. Jesus was adopted. Joseph wasn’t his father. And back in Biblical times, parents could disown a biological child but they couldn’t get rid of an adopted child. So once you are adopted, you are in. That’s it.
So, Christ died on the cross for all of our sins. When we sin after we become a Christian, it might break our communication with the Lord, but not our relationship. When my children do something wrong against me, when they turn their backs on what I have set forth, I am still their daddy, but we might have communication problems.
- “God’s love from above. Our bad, that’s sad. God’s solution for our pollution.” Christ died for it all. The work has been done. Now, “My call to Christ’s all.” We have a choice. We have a decision. We have a say so. We either respond to it or we don’t. And the dove draws us to Christ. The Holy Spirit draws us to Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts us, shows us that our good works can’t do it. All of our philosophies and all of our thought processes, no matter how incredible they might seem, still fall miserably short.
Myra, if we say yes to Christ, if we make the call to God’s all and receive Christ, here is what happens. Walk with me. We connect and we get to God through Christ. We make a commitment on the interior of our lives and Christ comes in and we are signed, sealed and delivered. We are born again. We are adopted into the family of God. We step over the line and that is it. It is based on commitment. Who is involved in the process? The dove from above. Thanks very much. Thank you for being part of this illustration.
Let’s not forget the four-fold formula based on commitment is, “God’s love from above”, “My bad, that’s sad”, “God’s solution to my pollution” and “My call to Christ’s all.” That is how we begin the Christian life.
We can’t stop there, though. Commitment is at the very core of our personal relationship with the Lord. Commitment transcends every single thing that we do. I define commitment this way. Commitment is the God-given, dove-empowered ability to stand. Commitment is the God-given, Holy Spirit-empowered ability to stand. OK, everybody stand. Remain standing. That is what commitment is. Let’s say it together. Commitment is the God-given, Holy Spirit-empowered ability to stand. Please be seated. To stand. How do you spell stand? S T A N D.
Several weeks ago I was praying about commitment and thinking through it. S T A N D. I was asking God how I could help people to really get a grasp on it. He gave me this. To see, to think and to act because of a new direction. That is an acrostic there. To see, to think and to act because of a new direction. Stand. That is commitment. We need it in our marriage. We need it in dealing with children. We need it on the dating scene. We need it in the marketplace. We need it every single place where we walk and talk and live and act. We have to have commitment, that God-given ability, Holy Spirit-empowered ability to stand.
Check out Psalm 34:8. The first part of commitment is that the Holy Spirit will empower me to see. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Taste. This word taste does not mean just check it out, just nibble on it. It means try it, eat it, consume it. You will love it. God is good. He has the best for your life and mine. We might not always see it that way. But in God’s eyes, from His perspective, it is good. And part of commitment is seeing as God sees.
Last weekend, right after our 10am service on Sunday, I flew to Atlanta, spent the night, spoke to a pastor’s conference and from there flew on to Mobile, AL to speak Monday night at our Beach Retreat. I thought I would take my 7-year-old son, EJ, with me on the Beach Retreat. He had never gone before. I wanted to spend some time with him. So we flew from Atlanta to Mobile. We landed. Our flight was late. I had to drive about an hour and a half and I was scheduled to speak in an hour and a half before all of the students. We were driving through Mobile not too much over the speed limit. There is one thing that the Deep South has that Texas is just getting. Krispy Kream Donuts. Now you know that I am a health nut. I rarely cheat on my diet. But let me tell you something, Krispy Kream Donuts called me. You can talk about other donuts all day and all night but they pale in comparison to Krispy Kream. I hear there is one opening up in Grapevine. So when I gain about 30 pounds, you will know why.
EJ and I were driving in the rental car toward the beach and I knew there was a Krispy Kream coming up. I told EJ that since we hadn’t eaten and since I would have to be speaking in just a little while, we would go to Krispy Kream for our dinner. We pulled in, ordered lots of donuts. I hate to tell you this but I had eight donuts. It was sinful. It was gluttony and I loved every moment of it. EJ ordered the chocolate glazed. He had gotten chocolate everywhere while telling me what a great dinner it was. After he had polished off the last one, he looked up at me and in all seriousness said, “What’s for dessert?” Talk about taste and see. The Christian life is so phenomenal, it is donuts for dinner, plus dessert. That is how good it is.
Let’s look at the T word, think. Philippians 4:8. Another part of commitment. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is anything excellent and anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I have got to ask you and, men, let me challenge you right now, what consumes your mind? What do you put before your eyes? What kind of television shows, books, movies or web sites do you frequent? I read last week that the Playboy web site receives 5 million hits a day. So, if you say, I am going to be a man of commitment, really follow through, a man of integrity and you are putting trash before your eyes and into your brain you know what happens. Garbage in and garbage out. I challenge you to do some replacement work. Replace those things with things of God.
I think back on my life. When I grew up in my teens and early twenties, there was not a lot of great Christian music out there. I listened to a lot of rock and roll music. Now I am not at all saying that rock and roll music is all bad or demonic or from the pit of hell. Some of it is. But I am embarrassed by all the lyrics I know. Just name a group from the 70s and 80s and I can sing their songs. But if you think about those lyrics, and especially those videos, man, a lot of it is just trash. Well, someone challenged me years ago concerning the music that I was listening to. They challenged me to do some replacement work and I did. I made the intentional choice to think on different things. So I began to listen to some different groups like DC Talk, the Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Delirious. They are in our bookstore. If you are into music that is putting stuff in your mind about sex, rebellion, the occult and other things, throw it out and replace it with the same cool beat but with different lyrics. It will change your life. So, Dads, especially on this Father’s Day, what are you thinking about?
Another aspect of STAND is act. What I put in my mind will play out in my actions. James 1:22. “But prove yourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Have you ever been really thirsty and wanted an ice cold Coke. You go to the refrigerator and begin to drink one and find it to be just flat. A lot of people delude themselves when they hear messages, when they go to small groups, when they hear worship music, but they don’t do it. It doesn’t translate into action. They don’t put shoe leather beneath it. They don’t live it out. We need to live it out.
I am all for Bible study. I am all for knowing God’s word. We have to know the information. But the Bible was written for life change, not just for information. We are not to worship the Bible. We are to allow its words, inspired by the dove, the Holy Spirit, to change our lives. We need to apply what we know.
My brother, Ben, is a noted author, radio talk show host and teacher. He administers one of the largest singles groups in the world. He told me that a couple of months ago someone walked up to him after one of his talks and said, “I just want to go a little deeper into God’s word.” You know what Ben replied? “Well, I don’t know about you, but I am still working on love thy neighbor as thyself.” Pretty powerful stuff. If I just apply what I know right now and never learn another thing about the Bible, it would take me hundreds and hundreds of years to get it right. How about you? Yes, know the word. Yes, study the Bible. But apply it, live it out. Let it translate into action.
We are talking about commitment, the God-given, Holy Spirit empowered ability to see, think and act because of a new direction. Let’s talk about the word new. II Corinthians 5:17. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.” We are talking about the interior stuff, aren’t we? We are talking about the dove giving new life. The old things have passed away. Behold the new have come. The Christian life is not talking about rehabilitation. It is talking about recreation. And the spirit of God does that. We are not just talking about turning over a new leaf. We are talking about a miraculous, supernatural work done by God through the Holy Spirit.
D is direction. II Thessalonians 3:5. “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” Part of commitment is allowing God to direct you. We had hundreds of students in the ocean over the past several weeks. Our trainers, the adults who chaperoned the groups, put up two or three buoys every afternoon and we told the students to swim in the ocean and stay between the buoys. We were really into safety. Everybody had a buddy. But here is what would happen. You may not realize it but when you play in the surf, the undertow is pretty strong. After awhile the students would be way outside the buoys playing but had no idea that was where they were. Our trainers would blow the horn, direct the kids to get out of the water and walk back to the area between the buoys. We were helping them with their direction. That is the Christian life. That is commitment. God says stay between the buoys. Yes, the currents of our culture will pull us, the undertow will try to take us away, but through God’s precious Holy Spirit, the dove from above, the church that is alive, we can remain between the buoys. Commitment, the God-given, Holy Spirit empowered ability to see, think and act because of a new direction.
What does the Bible say once we get into commitment? What are we supposed to do? It is a private thing, a personal thing, yet God comes along and tells us to illustrate our commitment. We are to come out of the shadows into the light. We are to move from the private to the public. We are to walk out of the stands and onto the playing field. In other words, we are to go H2O. We are to get baptized.
I want to talk to you about baptism. You won’t believe the roll the dove played and plays in baptism. Christ’s baptism is recorded in three of the gospels. That is the event when we see all three parts of the Trinity; God, the Father, God, the Son and God, the Holy Spirit. God, the Father said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” God, the Son was baptized. God, the Holy Spirit descended on Christ in the form of a dove. In the form of a dove. So a lot of you who have made this commitment need to go H2O.
Baptism is big in the Bible. After 3,000 people were converted to Christ at Pentecost, Simon Peter said, in essence, go H2O. When the Ethiopian eunuch, a man of status and wealth, committed his life to Christ in his chariot limo, Phillip said, go H2O. When Cornelius and his entire household committed their lives to Christ, they were told to go H20. The priority of baptism. It is so big, Christ was baptized.
Well, what is the process of baptism? Baptism should occur only after someone is old enough and mature enough to make a faith commitment. Look at all the baptisms in the Bible, every one of them. They all occurred after someone had made this commitment. Then they were baptized. Baptism does not make a person a Christian. But it should occur on the heels of our choice to know Jesus Christ personally.
Now I know that many of you were baptized as infants and that is good. My wife was in the Lutheran church. If you were baptized as an infant, I challenge you based on scripture to be rebaptized because now you are old enough to make a mature faith decision. There was no way that you understood as an infant the implications of faith in Christ. Your parents had the desire for you to be a Christ follower. This baptism will be a fulfillment of their whole deal, their dreams and desires for you.
What is the purpose of baptism? We talk a lot about purpose here in the church, the purpose for marriage, for family, for our lives. What is the purpose of baptism? It illustrates our private decision in a public way. When you are baptized you are saying that you are standing. Go back to our acrostic. When a person is baptized, they are saying they are committing. They are going to see, to think, to act because of a new direction. And they are going public with that. They are willing to be held accountable. When someone goes under the water, that represents the old life. When they come out of the water, that represents the new life.
How about the procedure of baptism? Some churches sprinkle. That is fine but there is not one reference in the Bible of anyone being sprinkled. Other church pour water on the participants. Some dunk people three times. Here at the Fellowship Church, we only dunk you one time. But our pastors like to see how long you can hold your breath. The record is…. I’m only kidding. Just joking.
We baptize by immersion. Why? Because every baptism in the Bible is by immersion. It best illustrates the new life. It best illustrates what happens when Christ comes in. If you are going to bury something, you submerge it. The water symbolized the complete forgiveness of our sins; past, present and future. Also we identify with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. We are saying that now we are walking in newness of life. The first thing on Christ’s agenda the moment He comes into our life, He places the dove in us and the interior begins to change. Then that permeates our exterior and we are new creatures. We are people of commitment listening to His voice and doing His deal and following His plan.
So I want to challenge you to get baptized. Next weekend hundreds of people, I believe, will get baptized. We are dedicating the whole weekend to this exciting time. Baptism is for the local church. It is one of the ordinances of the church. There is communion and there is baptism. Baptism symbolizes what Christ has done for us. So I challenge you, I beg you to be baptized. It is a spiritual high point. It is an obedience deal. You see, if you trust the blood of Jesus to save you, to cleanse you and to secure your eternity, but you don’t trust enough to come out of the shadows and onto the stage, I have got to wonder in a theological and pastoral way if you really know the Lord. That is no guilt trip thing. It is just me speaking to you from God’s book.
So if the dove above resides inside, commit. Go H2O and STAND; see, think and act because of a new direction. A new direction.