Sermon delivered at Grace Presbyterian Church, October 27, 2002

Moving the World
by Pastor Bob Burridge 2002
Reformation Sunday, 2 Corinthians 10:4

It takes a lot of force to do a simple thing like opening a can of paint.
If you could get hold of that little lip around the edge it would take a lot of pulling power to lift it up. But we don't do it that way. A simple thing like a screwdriver can pry it up much more easily.

When we use a tool that way its technically called a lever. The screwdriver is the lever and it rests on the edge of the paint can which becomes a fulcrum. When you press down on the long side, it rotates on the fulcrum so that the short side moves upward to lift the lid.

A lever takes a little effort and multiplies it's force. The long side moves farther but with little force needed. The short side moves a shorter distance so all the work is given back in added force. The same principle is used every day to get little jobs done without much thought.

The math of it was worked out over 2000 years ago by a mathematician named Archimedes. He lived in Syracuse, Sicily from 287 BC to 212 BC, more than 200 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. He was also quite a philosopher. He is best known for saying,

"Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth"

He meant that if he had a place to put a fulcrum, even the earth could be moved. Of course there is no fixed place you could rest a long enough lever to actually move the planet. No one would really want to pry the earth out of its orbit anyway.

But he made a very good point that shows where our world is in trouble today. The reason we see so much confusion and uncertainty is that modern thought has no fixed point. By denying there is anything absolutely right and true for all people at all times we have entered an era of moral weakness and ambiguous standards.

We are living in a time where the world needs to be moved. Not to another orbit around the sun, but to another line of thought, belief and behavior.

There have been events that have moved the world into amazingly new directions in the past. Without much thought we could all name some of those earth-changing events.

Our ability to exercise dominion over God's creation as God commanded us in Adam has made some dramatic turns throughout history:

  • the taming of and use of fire was one of the first
  • the use of the wheel and axle (which is another form of a lever)
  • the use of metals and the development of tools and weapons
  • the use of electricity, steam, internal-combustion engines, rocket power and nuclear energy all have moved our world out of some former path into a faster highway.

Our moral and spiritual growth has been moved into new directions by God's covenant with man, his revelation to the prophets, the writing of Scripture, and the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The direction of the church has been moved by the conversion of emperors, the printing press, the Reformation and the missionary movements.

We are again in a time where the world needs to be moved into a new direction. But to do so we need a reference point, a fixed place to put the fulcrum. That's what the Reformation principle is all about.

We who are of the Reformed tradition can change the world. 485 years ago this very week, Martin Luther posted 95 Theses for debate on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. The challenge was to re-examine what was believed and practiced by looking to an absolute and fixed standard, the Bible, God's word.

We live in an age ripe for reformation thinking. Our world is sinking in the confusion of uncertainty, immorality, violence, and covetousness. Where sin is inconvenient, our technology enables people to use their imaginations. They can sin vicariously, virtually, through computer simulations and special effects. There is a tolerance for evil that makes it seem wicked to judge anything as immoral. There is a false intellectualism that mistakes innovation for enlightenment.

But we have a fulcrum, a fixed point. We have a lever that lets our weakness exert a powerful force.

There is a fixed point that never moves or changes.

The only unchanging and ever firm foundation is God himself. The nature of the Trinity is the basis of every truth and reality. He is the standard that defines everything and tells how it is designed to be.

The New Testament explains that Jesus is a member of that Trinity:

Romans 11:36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Colossians 1:16-17 tells us about the foundation provided by him
16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -- all things have been created by Him and for Him.
17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

This One and Only God holds all things together to serve his purposes. This means there really is a distinction between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood. Its not just a matter of our perception of things or personal opinions. There really are things that are right and true in the mind of God.

This is the fulcrum, the absolute fixed point around which everything else turns. If there are to be changes, the One who made and upholds all things must be the foundation. There is no other solid ground on which to find firm and sure footing as we attempt to move the world.

It shouldn't be us against the world. It should be us representing the Almighty God who transforms the world.

The idea that there is such a fixed reality underneath everything challenges the fallen soul and the presumptions of the world. Those who are dead in sin, separated from fellowship with God, try to excuse their guilt and blind themselves to moral law by treating all things as uncertain, depending upon man's present wisdom and views.

But there is under it all a solid rock upon which all else depends.

We can know where that fixed point is.
We can know what is right and true.

God hasn't remained hidden and unknowable.
He has spoken and has given us a written word so we can know what's right and true. The rock we are to stand firmly upon has been revealed and we have it in our Bibles.

Psalm 19 tells us about the power of that written word:
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

This is the lever.
When we use that powerful word, resting in faith upon the solid foundation of the eternal and powerful God who spoke it, our limited effort is multiplied as we are used by God to accomplish mighty things.

This is why Bible knowledge is so important. To presume we can change lives or improve our world without it is the utmost of arrogance and foolish pride.

In 2 Corinthians 10 the Apostle Paul wrote,
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,
4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

And in 1 Corinthians 1_27-29 he reminded us ...
but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.

We love that old hymn, How Firm a Foundation which begins with the words,

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!

It's been sung in countless times of worship, and was chosen for the funerals of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Robert E. Lee, and others.

The lyrics are based upon the words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 43:1-5 but particularly ...

Isaiah 41:10 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'

But there is another element:

the Savior makes us able to use this power rightly.

Along with the Bible, and its declaration in the words and lives of Christians, we also need the transformation that takes place by God's grace. He must give us eyes to see and hearts to believe and honor God in our lives and thoughts. As Jesus said in John 6:44

"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him ... "

1 Corinthians 2:14 explains, But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Aside from his spiritual empowerment that comes when we rest in Christ by faith, the changes our neighbors and world truly need are impossible.

But when the redeemed combine their obedience to God's word, with prayer for his blessing upon their work, their feet stand on that solid ground, the firm place to stand, and they take hold of that lever of the inspired word and they will see God's power transforming souls and moving the world.

So then:

What do we do if we are to be modern day
reformers of souls and of the world?

First, we must be well informed by God's word.
It's not optional. We need to know and obey what he tells us in every area of life. The word is powerful. Trust in it with confidence.

Paul reminded Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 ...

that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Knowing God's gracious word, we ought to respond with gratitude and honor toward God. It stirs us to humble and thankful prayer and worship as individuals, families and as a church. It compels us to confess and abandon those thoughts and behaviors that offend God.

And we must respond out in the world where God has placed us to serve. It humbles us while it gives us confidence that we can successfully serve Christ's Kingdom. It makes us want to bring our friends and neighbors to know the Savior and join us in worship. It will direct us when we vote, when we work, when we talk with friends.

We stand as part of a great history of spiritual ancestors:

The Apostle Paul and Silas came in this power to Thessalonica.
It was a confused era. Paganism and rampant immorality ruled the culture. Judaism had confused God's word with Rabbinic mysticism and false teachings.

But God had set the stage for the advance of his kingdom: The power of the Roman Empire provided for safe travel. The spread of the Koine dialect of the Greek language opened communications.

When these representatives of the gospel arrived in Thessalonica many were changed. The corrupt religious leaders came to silence them but they were no where to be found. So they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city authorities and made this accusation:

Acts 17:6 ... "These men who have upset the world have come here also;

They believed the Apostles were stirring the whole world to sedition against Rome. By the influence of these simple Jewish men, empowered by the Word and the Holy Spirit, things were changing, the world was being moved.

In 1517 Martin Luther didn't set out to break away from the church with his 95 Theses.
But again, it was a confused era. The corrupt Roman church leaders had confused God's word. Oppression and greed ruled the church with dishonesty and false teachings.

But once more, God had set the stage for the advance of his kingdom. The invention of the printing press was bringing God's word to the masses of people. Discontent and abuses made the oppressed people hungry for deliverance.

It was then that this scholarly Augustinian Monk posted 95 questions for debate. He challenged the church to test what it taught and practiced by comparing it with God's word. Luther used the lever of God's word resting upon God's unchanging power and promises to move an obstinate world as individual souls were changed.

The errors were exposed and a new era displaced the old for the glory of God.

As the reformation spread, Luther was called before a church council at Worms in 1521. He was threatened with excommunication. Even his life was in danger. To save himself he was asked to retract the teachings. Luther replied with what is often called "the speech that shook the world" His concluding words were these ...

"I cannot choose but to adhere to the word of God, which has possession of my conscience; nor can I possibly, nor will I ever make any recantation, since it is neither safe nor honest to act contrary to conscience! Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; so help me God! Amen."

The same reformation spirit drove men like John Calvin in Geneva and John Knox in Scotland. Here in the United States it moved Robert Lewis Dabne, the Hodges, B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, Cornelius Van Til, Francis Schaeffer and others of the reformed camp.

They used the same lever of God's word, resting on the solid foundation of the God who gave it. In the power of the Holy Spirit, that which seemed unchangeable was transformed. The odds against them were immense and seemed insurmountable. But the power of God is no match for the futile efforts of rebellious, even powerful, men.

Here we are today:
Once more we live in a very confused era. God's word is corrupted by the popular and powerful churches of our world. Immorality has become the standard. Violence is glorified. Authority is mocked. Greed and lust drive the hearts of those among whom we live. Very few dare to rest their lives on the word of God and hope in his grace alone.

But God has once more prepared the world with unprecedented opportunities. Never before have we had the ability to communicate that we have today. The internet has provided a simple way for us to have conversations with people all over the world to explain God's word and his ways, to publish our ideas in written form for anyone in the world to read on our web-sites, and to produce audio and video copies of lessons and sermons to give to others.

Never has so much Bible information been available for study. But never has it been so horribly mixed with error and false ideas. The unraveling of truth from error is hard but not impossible.

By the power of God's word resting upon eternal truth revealed by God himself, we can challenge those in our world to discover what is right and true.

It's our duty to influence our world and
those around us wherever we can.

But it's not to be left to massive programs or visionary efforts. They impersonalize the work of the Kingdom of Christ. They tend to aim for superficial or emotional changes rather than a real spiritual transformation.

God calls us each to make an individual effort where we are as God makes us able.

We have the gospel with its amazing power to change things. 2 Corinthians 10 encourages us with the same promise of God that empowered the Apostle Paul:

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,
4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

We have what world needs - a firm and fixed foundation, a reference point for what is right and true. And we have the powerful word of God which, when empowered by the Holy Spirit, tells us his promises and teaches us his ways.

We are the reformers -- called by God to rest the lever of the gospel upon the fulcrum of God's promises, to press upon it, and to move the world.

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