#2042 –The Key to Improve Our Behavior (26 April 2009)

The Message

Dr. Juan Carlos Ortiz
Pastor, Reformed Church of America & Interim Senior Pastor, Crystal Cathedral

Special Guest

Richard Stearns
President, World Vision U.S.

Special Music

Joyful, Joyful
All Creatures/Alleluia
Salvation is Created
O For a Faith that Will Not Shrink

The Message

All of us would like to be perfect citizens hopefully. And all of us would like to be perfect children of God. But if I would ask how many are perfect citizens and perfectly good, nobody is raise their hand because this is easier to say then to do it.

But if we don’t count with the help of God Himself we will never be able to improve our lives and there are many people who have very bad lives. That are very wicked in life and they sometimes think “I would like to be better but I can’t.” It’s like some of those who want to quit a habit like drugs or pornography or smoking or drinking and they can’t. Some of us, because we were born in this race that has a tendency to be rebellious just like our parents Adam and Eve. It’s difficult for us without help to accomplish the dreams that we want to accomplish but there is help. There is help and this help in theology is called grace.

Grace, grace is to receive something and expect it. Grace is to receive something that we never thought about and grace is something that most people do not believe it exists. They said there’s no something like a free lunch. But my friends grace is a free lunch and dinner and life. Grace is much more than you can think and expect. Grace is exemplified and fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ that gave Himself for us.

We have an agnostic friend he tells us always oh I admire you. We are so great, you are so good, you are so this, so that, that we get embarrassed, you know? I never begin because this is such a wonderful relationship that it’s very difficult even to express because some people don’t believe it. This is what agnostic neighbor is watching, he says how can.. you are different, do you know what that psychologist implied and told us? You are not normal. What is normal? We’ll fight? Oh!

Do you know we had living with us a guest in our home from Argentina? And we didn’t know them. They were believers over there and we got a letter that their child had been born with a horrible defect that only there was one person in the Children’s Hospital of San Francisco that could fix that problem. So these people tried to bring their child here. To make a long story short, we invited them to come to our home. And we live in those days close to San Francisco. So they lived with us one year because it took many operations to that child. Otherwise he would die.

So when they were six months in our home, we were coming from the hospital and the man and the woman, they were the couple there, they said to us “could you stop the car for a moment? We have something serious to tell you.” So we got out of the freeway and we went to a parking place. Said, “What you want to say?” He said, “My wife and I are very worried because it is six months we live with your house with you and we never saw you fighting. And we know you are not fighting because we are in your house. And you are afraid that we are going to tell others of Pastor Ortiz and Martha fight. Listen: fight, we will not tell anybody because you have helped us so much that we want you be normal!” Martha smiled and said “no, we don’t fight because we don’t fight and we don’t fight, not because we are good, because we have decided to forgive each other every time.” And it’s true. Martha is not perfect. Don’t tell her that I said that. And I’m not perfect! You can say that, she will believe it.

Listen we are an average couple, we are like every body. We have the same temptations, the same trials and the same circumstances but we have one thing that maybe makes us a little different and what we have is that we have somebody who is helping us to be at least a little bit better than the rest. Because you know, my friends, if you have Christ and your neighbor doesn’t there has to be some difference or not. I am one that believes if you have God in your life. If you have Jesus Christ and all He needs if you are filled with the Holy Spirit there has to be a difference between you and the rest of the fellow worker. The rest of the schoolmates, the rest of your neighbors, the rest of your business companions there has to be some difference.

So it is impossible actually to be that perfect, perfect citizen, that perfect neighbor, the perfect husband, the perfect father, the perfect child of God unless we have faith in somebody stronger and greater than us and that is willing to help us. It’s impossible without faith.

So my message today says if you choose because this is the situation. There is freedom of choice. God made us free; we can do whatever we want. Now some people said that God shouldn’t have given us free choice. That He should have been done and make good people and we all would be good people. No He wants if we do something He wants to have free people that love Him because they love Him. Listen other wise we will be robots, we love you, we love you, we love you. You know it’s like if you want somebody to tell you I love you and you make a cassette and you put it I love you and this is yourself. Free choice is very important so we have to choose to love God, to choose to please God, too. We have to put something from ourselves, but you know even if we choose sometimes it’s very, very difficult to accomplish our desires of that kind of perfection or at least to be willing to be a little bit better.

And anyway Jesus is also our example. When Jesus came to earth He came to be the example, the type of person that God wants you and me to be: to be like Jesus. He’s the paradigm, He’s the standard. Actually the scripture says that God predestined humankind to be in the image of Christ, that Christ would be the first born among many brethren. Oh my goodness. But attention Jesus is not only the example and the paradigm, Jesus is the enabler for those who want to be like Him. He promised. He promised. “I will give you a new heart and I will put My own spirit in you. And I will help you from inside to be like Me to do My will.” I will help you. He will not force you but He will help you if you decide to be like Him. He will not force that will. You will not become an automat but yes, if you say yes to God, Jesus, yes fill me come into my life. He will come. So He is the example and the enabler.

The scripture that I have for today says, it’s from Peter chapter 2 that says: “All things pertaining to life and godliness have been granted unto us by the knowledge of Him who called us to His glory and excellence. And by Him we have been given His precious and magnificent promises that by them you may become like Him.” Look at this: all things pertaining to life and godliness means all things pertaining to this life and godliness means all the things that pertain to the spiritual life.

What is life? Life is to be good neighbors good citizens, save water, recycle, don’t put garbage in the drain that goes to the sea, etcetera. Love your wife, your children, be an example, the best father, the best mother but not only that but also godliness. God expects us to have good morals, good ethics, He expects us to worship Him, to obey Him, to serve Him. You want a perfect citizen and you want a perfect believer? That’s what is our goal to be like Jesus?

So I am a father, I have children. You know my children are free. If they would do what I want, they will be all pastors, but that’s not the case. I wanted one to be a physician, a doctor, and he said I want to be a musician. He became a musician. I expected the other one to be a pastor and he said no I want to be a businessperson. Well he is a businessperson. You know this is the positive of free choice because this is why we have so many specialties, trades and things. We have engineers, we have garbage collectors, we have everything you know? Thanks to that artist; otherwise we would be all the same.

But also there’s a negative side of freedom. Is that we can choose to be and to do evil. And we have today some children that get into drugs, get into the wrong crowd. Children that become big and they become cheaters, business people that they, you know, how our country is today, is part of that corruption in business, in politics, in all those things because there is a choice. That’s the freedom.

So this is the good news and this is why we church exist and this is why preachers are is to call people; those who are willing to be better there is a way. Jesus Christ has promised to enable us. He said I will give you a new heart, I will take from you that heart of stone, dry, cold, hard and replace it with a tender heart. And I will put My spirit in you and I will help you to do My will.

That is grace. Grace, salvation, grace is to be able by the mercy of God, grace is to be able by the divine intervention of Jesus Christ in our life the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit working together to make the person that you want to be and that God wants you to be. That is the grace of God. And there is a method to accomplish that. The method is not that you have to do an effort no. I think that Adam and Eve made an effort. But you know Adam and Eve for me are the example of the whole of mankind, the whole of humankind, womankind too. The example is that they were weak as we are weak. You know the weakness of Adam is much, much weaker than ours. Because you know he was in the Garden of Eden there were thousands and in the world millions of trees they could eat from. Only one they were for only one! There were no other woman there to tempt him, there were no other men to tempt her, there was no drugs, no alcohol, no television, no nothing. Only the fruit of one tree and they failed. Imagine Adam and Eve in San Francisco or Anaheim or Garden Grove. They were weak. And you know we have the same situation, the same situation. You know I don’t think that God was too upset because they ate of the fruit of the tree. I believe that the problem of Adam and Eve was more not the fruit but their attitude after they ate the fruit. Because for parents the disobedience of a child is not a problem. Parents always have the capacity to forgive.

Now how many times your children disobeyed you? Can you count them? And what did you do? How many times did you forgive them? All. Even if they fall in jail you go to visit them. You put a lawyer to see if you can put him out. Why? Because you love them. You know God loves us. It was no problem for God to disciplining of Adam and Eve, it was what they did after. Instead of saying “Father, Father, Father we failed and we are sorry, you know, forgive us, if You give another chance we’ll try not touch that tree anymore.” What do you think God would have done? What would you do? You know it happens to us with my wife.

I travel a lot so poor Martha she had to be doing so many things and still disciplining of the children that’s too much. So what she said to them was when Daddy comes.. I was the bad guy. When daddy comes. Now sometimes they came to the door and said, “Dad, Mommy’s going to tell you something I did and she is right. I was wrong I did this.” I never, never punish my children when they recognize their fault. And even the Bible was very clear, that if we confess our sins we are going to be forgiven. Always! But Adam and Eve, no! They said well “I’m not guilty, it’s the woman You gave me.” And she said, “I’m not guilty, it’s Satan. You allowed Satan to be in the garden that’s Your fault.” That’s what they meant. Excuses, excuses instead of facing the music and repenting and asking for help and forgiveness.

Now God is the same today and we are like Adam and Eve today. We need somebody that loves us. Please, He helps us and second if we slide down and fall He will say come on, get up, I forgive you, let’s continue the perfecting work. So this is grace not only that God will help you but every time that you fail He will forgive you not because you deserve it. Sometimes I wonder do our children deserve all we do for them? In one sense no, if we look at their works or their behavior but because they are my children, the word deserved doesn’t exist. The word deserve doesn’t apply to our children. We have them because we love them, whatever.

The same thing is with God. Now God offers us not only to help us but also in case we fail to forgive us, to keep on perfecting us because if He forgives us and we go astray, He cannot keep on perfecting us. So it’s a matter of starting a relationship with Him and maintaining ourselves close to Him. So if we fall He restores us and continues to work in us. And says this scripture that I read for you that all that we need for this life and for godliness had been granted unto us by the knowledge of Him, Jesus, who called us to His glory and excellence.

You know the word glory is reputation. The glory of God is the reputation of God and we are called to be part of that glory, part of the reputation of God. My neighbors should say that God must be good because look at this person. We are part of God’s reputation. Our life, in the office, in our factory, in our neighborhood, whatever we are, we are the reputation of God so we are called to glory, to reputation and excellence not to mediocrity. Now I know that I’m not excellent but I am in the way? Wait a moment let me see what will happen. And one day even this body will be transformed and I will be seated with Christ. Wait a moment we are all in this train of perfection so I will never get off the train because that is the perfecting train that goes towards eternity. And what are these promises? These promises, like the ones I quote, “I will give you a new heart” is that Jesus in us, as Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.” The promises are like coupons, coupons.

You know since I preach here many of you are speaking with accent. You know when I arrived to America from Argentina more than thirty years ago I saw in the newspapers coupons no? Coupons. It said if you bring this coupon when you buy your pizza you will get two pizzas. Argentineans, we don’t believe those things because in our country all are cheaters, you know? The politicians, the entire whatever, you know the story of poor Argentina that even Eva said don’t cry for me Argentina. So when I saw those coupons I said to my wife don’t believe, this is a trap. Maybe you go with a coupon and they ask your address you know don’t. And so we never used those coupons. Until one day I went to the pizzeria and I was in line behind another man and he bought a pizza and paid $12.50 it was a big one. So I went behind him and I bought the same thing I said and I paid $12.50. When the pizzas came they gave to him two pizzas and to me one pizza. So I went to complain, I said listen I paid just like him and you gave him two pizzas! Oh, he said, because he brought the coupon. Ah!!! It was true, the thing about the coupons!

And you know something? This book here is a coupon book. Oh!!! It’s full of promises. This is why, when we read this book, we should read not just because of the letter of the book, but the promises that Jesus gives in it. And what is a promise? Promise is something you have to believe! This is why Paul says the righteous person shall live by faith. By faith! We don’t have to make an effort. The key is faith. God wants you to believe Him like He wanted Adam and Eve to believe Him, that He was love. 

“Therefore, all things pertaining to life and godliness have been granted unto us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ who called us to glory and excellence.” And by these things He has given to us His precious and magnificent promises. Precious and magnificent promises that for them you may become partakers of the divine nature.

 Let us pray. Wonderful Lord, I need You. I need to change. I understand that my life is not always pleasing to my family, my neighbors not even to myself or to You but I believe Your word. All things I need to please others and to please You have already been granted to me in Jesus Christ. If any person is in Christ is a new person. I believe Your promise of a new heart. I believe that Your spirit will fill my life and help me to change. Lord, I believe in You and because I believe and live in You, here I will be able to accomplish it. Amen.

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