Christ and Our Culture

Philippians 3:18-21

The church has always clashed with culture.
Remember when the citizens of Rome were ready for a new day.
They were confident that the future would be as good as the past.
Rome had lasted for 800 years, and there was no reason to think that it would not continue
for another 800 years.

But on the morning of August 24, A.D. the citizens of Rome awoke to discover that traitors
were within their gates.
During the night, Alaric, the Goth, had overpowered the guards at the Salarian gate,
and enemy troops were in the streets.
At dawn they were looting the city.

The barbarians trashed the city, and smashed works of art.
They were taking all the treasures, and they were harassing the citizens.
Most disheartening to the Romans was that the Roman slaves were involved in the looting.
The powerless Romans could do little more than watch as they feebly protested the invasion.

When the Goths left three days later, their wagons were loaded with gold, silver, and works of art.
The city had not been burned, but it had been punished.
The city had not been destroyed, but it had been humiliated.
Some leaders had been killed, but for the most part, Rome could still function.
It was crippled, but not completely devastated.

Jerome, the great historian, remarked that "Rome had taken the world, but was now taken by the world."

Naturally the question was, "Who is to blame?"
The Romans were looking for a scapegoat.
They were seeking a reason why such humiliation and devastation could have occurred.
They decided that the Christians were to blame.
After all it was "their city."

To understand that accusation, we have to think back about 100 years before this humiliating invasion.
In A. D. 312, just before Constantine crossed the Milvian Bridge to conquer Rome,
he had a vision which said to him, "In this sign conquer," and he interpreted his vision
as the sign of the cross.

So he marched his soldiers to the river, and had them baptized as Christians.
The sign of the cross was emblazoned on their shields, and they went forth to conquer
in the name of Christ.

Constantine promoted Christianity, believing that the church might unify the empire,
and that it would provide a new force that would save their classical culture and the empire itself.
He saw religion as so important that he gave the opening speech at the famous Council of Nicaea,
which was convened to debate the doctrine of the deity of Christ.

Constantine was not a theologian.
He cared very little for the finer points of Christology.
But he told the delegates that doctrinal division was worse than war, and he wanted the church
to be unified so that the empire could be unified.
By the next generation, Rome was Christianized.

Of course the pagans did not accept the Christian takeover – in fact they resented it.
Many of them continued to hold to their pagan beliefs, refusing to conform to Christianity
and outwardly, they still held on to their pagan ideals.
They believed that their own gods were just as helpful as the God of the Christians.

Others only added Christian doctrines to those they already held, bringing their paganism into the church,
and the church often accommodated them.
For example, they believed in many gods.
They had a god to invoke when they wanted to sell an object.
They had another god when they wished to buy an object.
They had another god when they took a journey.

With the coming of Christianity, they could not continue to be polytheists, but the gods could retain
their function if they were thought of as saints to whom the faithful would pray.
So when they took a journey, they prayed to St. Jude, or St. Christopher, and others.
Needless to say, for many people, the conversion to Christianity was only external.

Now that Rome had been humiliated by the Golfs, there was a backlash against the imposition
of Christian doctrine.
The people rose up to say that their own pagan gods would have done a better job of defending Rome
than the Christian's God.
They reasoned that Rome had become great under the dominion of pagan deities.

At the same time, they saw that the Christian God just stood idly by, watching the barbarians ram their gate,
and did nothing about it.
The question was could a God like that be trusted?

This was Rome, the center of Christiandom.
If the Christian God was all-powerful, why did He did not intervene to defend His city?
Why should the Christian gospel be proclaimed if God was indifferent to the plight
of those who were called by His name?
So, Christianity faced a crisis in confidence

Imagine what would happen in our day if Christians "reclaimed America."
Imagine that our nation had a distinctly Christian president, a committed Christian Congress,
and a biblically based Supreme Court.
Suppose that Christians were in power, and could make the Bible the law of the land.
Suppose that we could have compulsory prayer in schools, the criminalization of abortion,
and governmental denunciation of homosexuality.

Suppose that freedom of speech was reinstituted for Christians giving congratulation speeches,
and that it would be legal to have Christ portrayed in Christmas pageants.
America would be as Christian as some modern religious zealots would like her to be.

Let us also let suppose that soon after this "takeover" that there would be an economic collapse
that would threaten the very existence of the nation.
Suppose there would be wide-spread layoffs, the banks would foreclose, and even the rich
would not be able to survive.
Suppose there would be soup lines in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago and other major cities.
Suppose all this happened in our "Christian" nation!

The pagans would be angry!
Editorials would call for a return to secularism.
Talk shows would ridicule the claims of Christins, and if only they had a chance to change things,
America will be great again.

Remember, when people are hungry they will always act as if their bodies are more important than their souls.
Christians would be blamed for the economic catastrophe, the layoffs, and the soup lines.
Many critics would openly say that they would prefer an adulterous president with strong economy
to a Christian president whose policies have led to this fiscal disaster.
The credibility of our witness would be challenged.

This was what the Christians in Rome were dealing with.
The fact that Rome was "Christian" and yet it was destroyed.
They had to answer the critics who boasted that pagan deities would've been more vigilant
in defending the city.
They had to face the fact that their national humiliation had happened during the watch of the Christians.

Augustine wrote a book titled "The City of God," which was a reply to those critics.
He attempted to vindicate "the glorious city of God against those who prefered their own gods
to the founder of that city."

This "glorious city" was not Rome, but an eternal city that God was building – this was Augustine's message.
Augustine defended the God of the Christians, insisting that the sack of Rome did not reflect unfavorably
on His character.
He was saying that God had more important purposes than keeping the city of Rome intact.
In fact, Rome was wicked, therefore the invasion was justified, even on human terms.
That was what Augustine was writing.

He was saying specifically, there are two cities: the city of God and the city of man.
The city of man is built by man, and reflects his dreams, hopes, and pride.
The city is earthly, temporal, and capable of being destroyed.
In fact, it will eventually be totally obliterated.

However he writes, there is another city – it is the city of God.
That city will endure forever.
That is the kingdom of God which gives meaning to the world.
This is the city of the patriarchs and prophets, the city of the apostles and the church.
This is the city "which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God."

Two different cities means two different types of citizens.
The city of man is populated by those who live by their own laws.
They are self-seeking, materialistic, and earthbound.
They live their lives according to the rules of fallen human nature.
Obviously, to them the destruction of Rome was a great catastrophe.

In contrast, the city of God is comprised of true Christians who follow God's laws and values.
These citizens see beyond the earthly to the heavenly.
To them, the destruction of Rome was not a travesty.
In fact, the pillage of this earthly city could not deprive them of something that had real value
because their treasure was in heaven, out of reach of the barbarians.

The Christian citizens set their sights on the unseen spiritual world, which has a higher priority
than the temporal.
God stands above history as we know it.
He is not bound by the course of human events.
These are followers of Christ, not the emblems of human government.

These two cities can never be allies, for they represent two different origins, goals, values, and kings.
Someone has said, "By two cities I mean two societies of human beings, one of which is predestined
to reign with God from all eternity, the other is due to undergo eternal punishment with the devil

In eternity past only the city of God existed.
Since the fall of man the two cities have coexisted, but in the future they will be separated.
Each will have its own eternal destiny.
Our present responsibility is to live in both cities, giving each one its due.
We must give to Caesar that which is Caesar's, and give to God that which is God's.

Augustine did not mean that the city of man is destitute of all civil righteousness and justice.
It is true that pagans have built great civilizations, thanks to the virtues they inherited
by those created in the image of God.

Indeed, Christians should be actively involved in the city of man, building it, maintaining it,
and working alongside of those headed to destruction.
But Christians should also have no illusions about building an earthly utopia,
for they must pass through this life with continual opposition from the citizens of the city of man.
They must go to the crumbling empires of the world and spread the knowledge and good news of the gospel.

So then how shall we live on earth as citizens of heaven?

The conflict between the city of man and the city of God continues today in America.
The city of God is trying to learn how to exist with the growing influence of the city of man.
The antagonism between the two cities is sharp and unyielding.
The citizens of the city of God are frustrated and angry as they see the daily disintegration
wrought by the city of man.

In our country, the city of man is built on the practice of self-absorption.
We drifted into radical individualism and the the privatization of religion.
Because truth is deemed not to exist, what we choose for ourselves becomes the truth for us.

Also the city of man is built on the desires of human nature.
Something like that which one Hollywood figure has said, "the heart wants what it wants."
Toleration for every form of deviance has become a national icon.

The city of man is built upon the lie of Eden which is, "You shall be like God."
Regardless of how that godhood is expressed or applied, it speaks of a lifestyle that puts man
at the center of all things and insists for a lifestyle that puts man at the center of all things,
and proclaims that he is number one.
In this it is believed that everyone has the right to approach God (gods?) in his own way
and for his own reasons.

We know that religious freedom cannot be endlessly tolerated in the country
where the city of man is in ascendancy.
Moral disintegration combined with radical individualism is constantly in conflict with biblical virtue.
So the "wall of separation" between church and state is pressed into service to curtail
religious expression at every level.
Even now, the sin of homosexuality is being legitimized, and same sex marriage is also allowed.
God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality.

Imagine a lot of people sailing together on a ship, and some of the travelers insisting
that they have a right to drill a hole in the bottom on their side of the ship.
Indeed, they have their "rights" they tell us, guaranteed by the Constitution.

Those on the other side of the ship are also respectful of freedom, but they shout,
Remember, we are on this ship also!
Your "freedom" could mean our collective doom!"

So there is a conflict between the rights of individuals, and the rights of the larger community.
It is not easy for us as Christians to watch the disintegration of our culture.
It is not easy to see religious freedom being eroded.
With the first amendment turned on its head and interpreted in ways that the founding fathers
would never have dreamed possible.
Freedom of speech is taken away in every area of public life.

School teachers are telling children they cannot write papers on the topic of religion.
Even the word, "God", is systematically being stricken from textbooks.
But then there comes expansive rights given to pornographers, abortionist, and to homosexual advocates.

What should we do?

The churches of today's face the same as temptation as Peter did when the authorities came
to arrest Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.
It was not easy for Peter to see Christ led away, and he was overcome by the injustice of it all.
He reacted to the arrest of Jesus just like a Roman might reacted as instructed by the the high priest
-- he took a sword, and cut off the ear of one attempting to arrest Jesus.

But Christ responded, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword
shall perish by the sword.
Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once but at My disposal
more than twelve legions of angels
?" (Matthew 26:52, 53)

The church always faces the temptation of finding a legitimate battle in the wrong way.
We are always tempted to fight the world with the weapons of the world.
We are always tempted to use a sword of steel instead of the sword of the Spirit.
And today, that temptation is greater than ever.

Thankfully, the Bible has an answer for us.
Our present situation is not very different from that of the first-century church.
Virtually every letter in the New Testament was written to a church that was an island of righteousness
in a sea of pagan values.

For example, Paul wrote the book of Philippians from a jail cell in Rome.
It is a letter of optimism written from a city filled with hostility and violence.
Remember that Nero was ruling in Rome.

There was not a single Christian on the Roman Senate.
There was no Christian, political lobby.
There was no watchdog committee to make sure that the interests of the Christians were being addressed.
There were no courts where the false accusations could be justly resolved.

Paul sat in a prison cell in Rome without due representation.
Christians were often falsely accused without having anyone available to set the record straight.

Most of the epistles in the New Testament were written to help the citizens of the city of God
to know how to live in the powerful, evil, city of man.
The epistles were directed to readers who faced the hostility of the culture.
To them Paul wrote, "Our citizenship is in heaven." (Philippians 3:20)

The Greek word is "politeuma," from which we get our word, "politics".
Paul says that our citizenship, our politics, "is in heaven."

Paul pointed out the difference between the heavenly and earthly citizenship.
He was both a citizen of Rome, and he was also a citizen of heaven.
He recognized that these two cities had two different values, two different loves, and two different lifestyles.

Paul wrote movingly of those who thought of themselves as friends of the cross,
but in reality, they were its enemies.
He wrote of this in Philippians 3:18-21: "For many walk, of whom I have often told you,
and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is distraction,
whose God is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their mind on earthly things.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;
who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory,
by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself

Notice, how Paul contrasts the two citizens.

First, we walk in different directions.

"For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies
of the cross of Christ
." (Verse 18)
We walk where our affections take us, and the cross is despised by the city of man.
To them the cross is foolishness.

It could be that Paul is not referring here to the ungodly pagans, but to the Judaizers who claim
to embrace the cross but added to its message.
They are also enemies of the cross, and their behavior made Paul weep.

A person does not have to be a pagan to be an enemy of the cross.
They just simply have to add human merit as a requirement for salvation.
That also renders the power of the cross of no effect.

There are more enemies of the cross than those who say they are.
Some "friends" of the cross deny its message.
They belong to the city of man, even though they profess to belong to the city of God.

Second, we have different desires.

This is seen in verse 19: "… whose end is distraction, whose god is their appetite
and whose glory is their shame
In contrast, Paul might be referring to the Judaizers who believe that what they ate (or did not eat)
determined their relationship with God.
The phrase, "their shame," might refer to the rite of circumcision, which was believed
to be the mark of a true Jew.
The Judaizers gloried in the shame that accompanied this ritual.

This passage also has a wider application.
For many people, their god is their appetite, either by taking pride in their diet, or by choosing
to overeat and fulfilling every craving of the flesh.
Add to this other appetites such as alcoholism, drugs, and sensuality of every kind.
They glory in that which should give them shame.

Think of today's talk shows!
They act on the assumption that if one reveals the most intimate details of his or her sex life
on national television that the process will bring cleansing and emotional wholeness.
Contemporary man seems to be convinced that he can heal his own soul if only he will be
open, "honest," and otherwise clever.
The most shameful things are revealed, and without a twinge of shame.
Pity these people as they try to purify their own souls by the dirty water from within.
With them light is proclaimed as darkness, and darkness is proclaimed as light.

The citizens of the city of man are characterized by the pleasurable values of this world.
They are deceived into believing that earth can keep its promises, or at least that it is
the only life that really matters.
One way or another, they do all they can to eke out some happiness as they walk the road of life.

Citizens of the city of God have meat to eat of which others know nothing.
They know that one shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
They are learning to be content with God.
And they agree with the Puritans who said, "He who has God and everything else does not have more
than He who has God alone

Third, we speak different languages.

When describing the inhabitants of the city of man, Paul wrote that they "set their minds on earthly things."
(Philippians 3:19)
Just listen to the talk on a bus or at a beauty shop or at a barbershop.
Just listen to what is said in the hallways and the corporate boardrooms of our business enterprises.
The topics of conversation, and even the jokes, seldom rise above the things of the earth.

This is what Jesus had to say in Matthew 12:34, 35:
"You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?
For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.
The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; the evil man out of his evil treasure
brings forth what is evil

In contrast, citizens of the city of God speak a different language.
As pilgrims our speech betrays us.
We speak with the recognizable accent of heaven.
We are disappointed when our treasures on earth are stolen, but we are not dismayed.
We know the difference between the temporary and permanent.
We know the difference between the seen and the unseen.
We rejoice in that which cannot be taken from us.

Fourth, we have different aspirations

The citizens of earth put all their hopes on the news that comes to them from earth.
They long for the assurance of more wealth, power, and personal aggrandizement.
They believe that "you only go around once," therefore they must "grab for the gusto."
Their eyes are glued to the latest fluctuations in the stock market, the world fashion,
or the lives and activities of the rich and famous.

However, citizens of heaven look for the heavenly King.
They "eagerly wait for a Savior of the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state
into conformity with the body of His glory
They look for Him because they love Him, and are eager to "see Him just as He is." (1 John 3:2)

Fifth, we will arrive at different destinations.

To those who belong to the city of man, Paul says, "[their] end is destruction."
They were alienated from God in this life, and will be so in the life to come.

In contrast, we who are citizens of the city of God wait for the return of Christ and the transformation
of "the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory by the exertion of the power
that He has even to subject all things to Himself
." (Philippians 3:21)

As Augustine has said, the two cities will eventually separate and never meet again.

Dual Citizenship

It is clear that conversion to the city of God necessitates an entire change of their lives.
The citizens of God judges the immediate by the permanent.
They see beyond the pleasure, greed, and pride of the city of man.
The new birth introduces them into a whole new family, new values, and new lifestyle
... and above all, a new future.

But we live in both cities, just as the Christians did in ancient Rome.
Augustine argued that we must never forget that our purpose lies beyond this life.
The meaning of history is not found in the flux of outward events, but is found in the drama of redemption.

How can we discharge both obligations?

First, we could withdraw.
That's what the Mennonites and Anabaptists did during the Reformation era.
They would have nothing to do with law enforcement, war, or politics.
They preserved themselves by having as little contact with the world as possible.

The arts, the development of culture, and society in general was evil and to be avoided.
So they studied the Bible with those who agreed with them, and for the most part abandoned
the world to the devil.

This, to a lesser degree, was also the response of the church in America after the Scopes trial.
Remember that was the famous "monkey trial" in which the question was asked about whether evolution
should be taught in public schools.
Given the vacuum created by the retreat of Christians, Christian ideals and art, history, and culture
were replaced by secularism, the cheapness of human life, and a variety of perverse values.

Some believers today advocate a withdrawal from politics, saying that no Christian can serve
in the city of man without compromise and eventual absorption within the secular culture.
This also applied to law, education, and the arts,

I completely disagree with this.

Second, there are those who tell us that we should capture the city of man with political power.
That is, we should overtake its institutions, its power base, and its courts.
Then they would say that the city of God can rule over the city of man.

If ever there was a takeover of culture, it was when the Roman Empire was "Christianized."
When the Christians were in power, they used their standing to enforce Christian values
and Christian theology.
Eventually, the Pope became the highest authority in the land.

And, Augustine himself taught that the Lord had given the church two swords.
That was the sword of the Word and a sword of steel.
They believed that it was the responsibility of the state to enforce God's laws on earth.

The Christians were happy that the tables had been turned.
During those dark days when the church experienced persecution from the pagan Roman Empire,
Christians thought how wonderful it would be if they were in power.
Then they would capture the states institutions and enforce biblical values throughout the empire.

With the coming of Constantine, their wish was fulfilled.
But with the church married to political power, corruption soon ran rampant.
And when the church obscured the teaching of the Bible with its tradition, "heretics" were burned at the stake.

It was woe to the person who did not bow to the authority of the church, for it held "the keys of death and of hell."
The hierarchy of the church was convinced that God's will was being done on earth.
Incredibly with the church now "in power" genuine believers were now persecuted not by secular Rome,
but by religious Rome.
The true believing church insisted that nothing had changed.
They insisted that a sword wielded by a corrupt church were just as much as was the sword of a pagan.

Today, there are some leaders who would tell us that we should "take dominion" of the earth
by capturing its power structure and enforcing God's laws.
They believe that political power can rescue us from the moral and spiritual oblivion
to which we appear to be moving

But is it our responsibility to capture the city of man, overtake it, and make it into a "city of God"?
Can we expect the citizens of the city of man to abide by the laws of the citizens of the city of God?

The third view is that we must learn to serve both the city of man and the city of God,
with devotion to Christ.

We must learn to be salt and light with such spiritual power that society will be changed from the inside out.

We shall see that this approach asserts that would be involved at all levels of society,
but with a distinctly biblical agenda.
It is with the recognition that theology is the first mission of the church – this is the way of the cross.
It is the way of humility.
It is the way of repentance.
And when necessary, it is the way of suffering.

We all grieve because our society does not reflect Christian values.
And we would all agree that in previous generations our society as a whole did not have
what Francis Schaeffer called "a Judeo-Christian consensus."
But there was never a time when this nation was specifically Christian, though there was a time
when it was more directly influenced by the Christian worldview.

For example, hundred years ago we did not have a million pre-born infants killed in abortion clinics each year.
We did not have trash on our television, and we did not have homosexuality taught in schools.
But back then, African-Americans were not seen as presidential candidates either.
Racism was deeply felt and thought, even in our churches.
The rights of minorities were ignored and the poor treated with benign neglect.

The "good old days" were not as good as many people remember them to be.
In every generation it is always been necessary for the church to return to the core of its message.

Jesus warned that in the last days there will be wars, betrayals, apostasy, inequity, and violence.
And Paul expanded this list with his own list of sins in 2 Timothy 3:1-3.
The simple fact is that we will never see all of society transformed.
The consequences of our fallen humanity will always be with us.
The church will always be a minority in our culture.
I pray that it will be a powerful minority, but nevertheless a minority.

Why are we so uptight about the media declaring war on our Christian values?
What else would we expect from the city of man?
Are we hoping for accolades?
Why should we think that the cross should be attractive to the world when the Bible clearly says
that it contains a message that will be greeted with hostility?
Remember the words of Christ: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you."
(John 15:18)

Why would we expect Hollywood and the media to reflect Christian values
when our culture as a whole does not?
The movie producers and television producers will create any movie or program
that the unconverted masses will pay to see.
That is how the city of man does business.

Now that our Judeo-Christian heritage has been pushed aside, we can expect that homosexuality
will be taught in our schools and pornography will flourish.

So what do we do?

We must return to those truths that made the church great.
We must proclaim a message that is nothing less than the direct intervention of God in our world.
Yes, we must fight, but we must fight like Christ, who never wavered from His message
of spiritual redemption in the midst of depressing political and social abuses.

We have a message that can do what politics cannot do.
Look at the past we have today.

Back in the 16th century, God raised up Martin Luther to combat the political and doctrinal corruption
that had accumulated throughout the centuries.
Despite many faults of Luther, he recovered the only message that could possibly transform the human heart.
He knew that there could not be more recovery without theological recovery.

First the Reformation insisted that the Bible alone is a reliable message from God.
This means that all other religions – all other prophets, gurus, and revelations – must be rejected.
This is a message that must be heard again, and our day of pluralism, pop religion,
and "words from God" that should come to some of God's prophets.

Of course, we must be tolerant of other beliefs, and by that we mean that we must respect
the views of others no matter how different they are from our own.
But we must combat a mindless tolerance that believes that every opinion is of equal value
because it arises from an individual's own experience.
Our task is to show the basis and need for the entire Christian message.

Second, the Reformation insisted that salvation cannot be the work of man,
but must be the work of God alone.

Our responsibility is to share this truth with all clarity and conviction with total dependence
upon the Holy Spirit.
We must trust God to do the work that no man can do.

Surely, we should weep over the statistics that are often preached by the pollsters.
Although a large percentage of people claim to be "born again," only a comparatively few
can recite the 10 Commandments or know who preached the Sermon on the Mount.
I've seen some on our major quiz shows who didn't know what the first four books of the New Testament were.

The fact is that many evangelicals proclaim a gospel that is incapable of saving anyone.
So often there is no transformation of life.
There is no change of moral and spiritual directions.

Finally, we must understand that only the cross of Jesus is able to reconcile
men and women to God.

To "believe in Christ" without a clear picture of our desperate need of Him… and not to understand
why His death for sinners was necessary if we are to be saved… will cause our gospel preaching
to fall short of "the power of God for salvation." (Romans 1:16)

It is possible that some who are reading this sermon or listening to this sermon
have never been "born again" by the power of God's Spirit.
If not, or if you lack assurance, that may remind you that apart from Christ we are spiritually dead,
unable to contribute to our redemption.

This is stated clearly in Ephesians 2:1-4:
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world,
according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh,
fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath,
even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us...

But thankfully, God is able to raise our dead souls, and gives sight to our blind eyes.
In ourselves, we do not even have the faith by which we can receive God's forgiveness and redemption.

If we acknowledge this helplessness that we have, God will grant us the ability to transfer our trust
to Christ alone, and we will be converted by God.
That is the promise of John 1:12, 13: "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right
to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood,
nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God

Clearly, we are saved by God's will, not our own.
Again in James 1:18: "In the exercise of His will, He brought us forth by the word of truth,
so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures

This is the message of life that is needed in our confused generation.
The citizens of heaven must return to doing what only the citizens of heaven can do.
We must keep holding on in this life to the next, and encourage others to join us on our pilgrimage
to the eternal city of God.

It must be God first in my life.

The sermon has been adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White
(This is a long sermon. I preached it in two services)