Michael Youssef - How Shall We Live Now? - Part 1
This is the question that I have been hearing from people all over, the young, the old, and the in-between, "How shall we live now"? I hear it from non-believers. How shall we live now, as we watch our culture disintegrating before our own eyes, when we watch our culture losing its moral moorings, as we watch and see Western civilization that has been built on the Protestant Reformation is now bereft and falling apart, as we see our world living in fear of terrorism from without and fear of the invasions in our bathrooms and our locker rooms in the inside, from the inside of the culture?
How shall we live now as we watch and see governments aiding and abetting the destruction of families, when leaders who are supposed to be role models, when they stand and put their hand up on the Bible and say that they will defend and protect, when in reality they are destroying, and devastating, and become so narcissistic? How shall we live now?
Most if not all of the total focus of this series of messages will be from Scripture, but I need to confess to you and I need to come upfront and let you know that I have been influenced greatly, actually, by Saint Augustine of Hippo. Many of you know the name. If you have not read his classic book, "The City of God," I recommend it highly. It's 1,600 years old, but it's as relevant as today. It is all about God's people, who belong to the city of God, living in the city of man. Saint Augustine makes a distinction between the city of man, which is characterized by self-love, with the city of God, which composed of those who love God and want to serve him with all of their heart faithfully.
And as we will see from the Scripture throughout this series of messages, that the city of man will never become the city of God. Are you with me? The two cities are different in origin. The two cities progress along separate paths. The two cities moving to a radically different ends. Nonetheless, those of us who belong to the city of God must know how to live in the city of man. One verse I want to share with you, because that happens. Whenever those who belong to God wander off, those who once honored God and cease to honor him must remember that there are consequences to that. And when Israel did this and God's hand was taken off them, they became victims to the terrorists of their day, the Babylonians.
As a matter of fact, in Habakkuk 1:6-7, here's what God said. He said, "I'm raising up the Babylonians, that are ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are feared and dreaded people; they are a law unto themselves and promote their own honor". This was Israel's destiny when they turned their back on God. This was the destiny of any culture, society, community when they turned their back on God and rejecting him. Terrorism from without and militant anti-Christian influence from within. As I'll show you in a minute, that's the formula that has been used before and it's being used now.
The year was 410 A.D. Rome, which has been besieged by the barbarians, now fall at the hands of these barbarians. Well, these are equivalent to the terrorists of today, just like Israel once fell in the hands of the Babylonians who are the modern-day terrorists of today. Before that, Rome was a superpower of the day, just like Israel was under King David and Solomon. Rome stood for hundreds of years as the master of the world, and Rome received and accepted immigrants from all over the world. Rome was the essence of power, and culture, and civilization, but suddenly they've gone. They've been swept away by invading barbarians. Believe it or not, it was not long after the fall of Rome that the Pagan citizens of Rome blamed the Christians for the fall of Rome. Sounds familiar?
The truth is this, the Christians in Rome at the time were just as shocked as their Pagan neighbors, just like the faithful Israelites were shocked because they said, "God will never take his hands off us. We are God's elect. We are the apple of his eye. Nothing is gonna happen to us". They were so confident and they never looked in the mirror and realized that they have moved away from God and they moved away from their biblical moorings, and then were shocked when the Babylonian hoards came in and devastated them. A century before the fall of Rome, 100 years, Constantine embraced Christianity and he brought Christianity to the empire.
Nearly 100 years that Christians had been protected in the Roman Empire before the fall. And in the midst of the confusion, providentially, God raised a man from North Africa, the modern-day Tunisia, to live in Rome, by the name of Saint Augustine. His first name is Aurelius, though he never liked that name because he was named after the Emperor Aurelius, and he never used it. I'm sort of giving you the background and explaining to you the incredible similarities between our time and the time of the fall of Rome. The similarities are incredible. There's similarities also between our time in which we live now and that of Israel prior to the Babylonian exile, and that's why I find Jeremiah so comforting as I read him and as I read what he was going through just prior to that time coming in and they're grabbing the Israelites and taking them to Babylon.
Today, we have very powerful forces that are blaming Christians for every illness in society. We have the Islamists who slowly but surely taking over Europe and the West. Then you have the lobbyists from within who are trying to lobby legislatures for perversion and self-indulgence. And so, the formula, you've got those from without and those from within, and that is the formula for disaster. Watch and see how every trouble, every trouble in society is blamed on what they call the Islamophobes and the homophobes. I have never been a phobe in my life. I love everybody. I've never hated anyone and I deliberately everyday pray for those who set themselves as my enemy. Deliberately, because that is our command. That's who we are. We are called to love our enemies and to pray for those who are persecutors.
And you see, they begin with that, but tomorrow, Christians will be deviant and the parasites, just like the Nazis did in Germany. And that is why the Lord has burdened me with this series of messages, "How Shall We Live Now"? As Paul said to the Philippians in chapter 2, verse 15, "To live a blameless life, as pure children of God without fault, and yet we are living in a crooked and depraved generation". How shall we live? Today, we see barbarian occupying every contemporary citadel. Today, they have seized every fortress in the Western culture. Today, they are occupying some of the highest offices in the land. Today, they are in the classrooms. Today, they are in the legislature. Today, they are in the school boards. Today, they are college professors. Today, they are in seminaries. Today, they are in the pulpits. And yes, today, they are in the pews. Back then, the barbarians were defined as those who are not exposed to highbrow art and literature.
Now, the barbarians are those who live by power, pleasure, perversion, and self-indulgence, rather than live by principle. The term "history repeats itself" is a biblical term. God delivers his people. God's people initially thankful and grateful, and they worship God. God's people, in time, forget God's goodness and God's deliverance and they plunge into independence. God calls them back again, and again, and again. And when they refuse, God takes his hand off. They pay the price or the consequences of their seeking independence from God. They come crying to God and God delivers them again. History repeats itself, right? It's very biblical. Cycle continues.
Even when you look at the Bible as a book in its entirety... I know some of us have live verses, and live chapters, and those, so it's great, that's fine, keep it up. But look at the Scripture as a whole, see it as a book, you're gonna discover that this repetition runs through the Scripture from beginning to end. The Bible begins with a wedding in the city of God between a man and a woman, and it ends in the glorified city of God with a symbolic wedding between the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and the bride, the church. The Bible begins with Adam and Eve as vice-regent of God in the world and it ends with Jesus and his believers reigning and ruling in the globe.
The Bible begins with a man and a woman who were full of peace, and tranquility, and joy in the city of God, and it ends with a place of far greater tranquility, far greater peace, and far greater joy in the city of God, the New Jerusalem. But in between the beginning and the end, you and I, men and women who belong to the city of God, must know how to live in the city of man. Not just live, but function, and be effective, and be fruitful even in the city of man. The Bible is not only systematic, it's not only organized plan of God, it is consistent.
The Bible is God's self-revelation. Make no mistake about it. That's why they want to outlaw it. That's why they are banned from school. That's why they're now taking it out of libraries. You see, the Bible is God's self-revelation. If you wanna know God, read his Word. The Bible is God's revelation of what he has done. The Bible is God's self-revelation of what he's gonna do in the future. But the Bible also is God's self-revelation of what he's doing now in our midst. First and foremost, please don't take what I'm gonna say lightly. It's always, always rebellion and independence, always, read it, read in the Scripture, that will take a person, it will take a family, it will take a community, it will take a society, and yes, a nation, from the city of God to the city of man.
It started in Eden. It was Adam and Eve, and we inherited it all. And when Adam and Eve said, "We're not sure really what God said. We're not really sure what God meant by this. We're not really sure that what he said back then is relevant for today," or "We know what God said, but we can't help our urges. We know God wants us to submit to him, but we choose to usurp and live by our feelings," and that caused man's removal from the city of God into the city of man. And we will see throughout the series of messages, it's repeated thousands of times throughout the Scripture.
In the last 7,000 years, it's repeated so many times. And while that first city of God was created picturesque, it was created full of provision, it was created with its own protection, Adam and Eve found themselves on their ears, living in the city of man, simply because they wanted independence. Don't wanna submit to authority. We don't wanna submit to the authority of God. The problem is this. Listen carefully, please. When they were in rebellion and they sought their independence of God and their indulgence, it was just dandy. But when they found themselves thrown out into the city of man, they lived the rest of their lives in regret.
Make no mistake about it, the Bible said that sin is pleasurable for a moment. A moment of being inebriated paralyzes you for life. A moment of being high can destroy life. A moment of self-indulgence can give us AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. A moment can take you from supposed happiness to eternal destruction. The city of God first was picturesque, and secondly, it was a place of God's provision. It was filled with every truly satisfying fruit, not only to Adam and Eve, but to all of creation. Adam and Eve found their work in that city of God to be purposeful, to be fulfilling, to be enjoyable, to be delightful. And the difference between those who belong to the city of God living in the city of man and those who belong to the city of man living in the city of man is their view of work.
Did you know that? Did you know that? Their view of work differ considerably. The believer sees his work as fulfilling, as purposeful, as really serving God. As Paul said many times, we're not working for the boss, we're working for the Boss, because he's the one who sees us and he's the one who rewards us. The non-believers resent work, try to goof off. And I'm not saying all of them, don't misunderstand me, but so many growing in society now among the young people, they want everything given to them on a platter, no responsibility. Sadly, we have seen the end of this movie again and again.
See, when you see your work is for the glory of God, you cannot wait to go to work. You honor God with the first fruit of your labor. You become a blessing, not just to yourself and to your family, but to others. But when your work is for your own glory, work ceases to be fulfilling, and that's what happened here with Adam and Eve. So, the city was picturesque. The city was full of provision. Thirdly, the city was a place of protection. Listen carefully, please. I want you to hear me right. When Adam and Eve were in harmony with God, they became in harmony with each other and they were in harmony with their environment. Always the case.
And just examine yourself. I know in my own life, if I have a sin in my life, unconfessed sin in my life, I am not in harmony. I'm not in harmony with God, I'm not in harmony with myself, I'm not in harmony with others. Test me on this. And this is what happened. You see, they were in harmony with God, and therefore everything else fell in place. And that's what made the city of God, Eden, to be a paradise. It doesn't matter where you live, it can be a paradise if you are in harmony with God. The walls that the Bible talks about that enclosed the city of God is symbolic of God's protection. It was symbolic of God sheltering Adam and Eve. It was symbolic of God guarding them.
And now, my beloved friends, the walls are broken everywhere. The walls are broken and our families are in danger. Through the years, I have people who have asked me, "Why was the tree of knowledge of good and evil in that perfect place"? Listen carefully, great question. The tree was there to remind them that they were not their own. It was there to remind them that they are God's own possession. It was there to remind them that they are accountable to God. It was there to remind them that they cannot escape judgment. And that is why it is not by accident that while sin defeated our first parents, first man, in the garden city of Eden, sin was defeated by the Second Adam in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam fell and we all fell with him; but in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was victorious, and we who belong to him shall be victorious and we are victorious. In the Garden of Eden, sin infected all of humanity; but in the Garden of Gethsemane, the antidote for sin was discovered. In the Garden of Eden, Adam experienced death as a consequence of his rebellion; but only in the Garden of Gethsemane can we experience life, real life, eternal life. And so, that is why, if you have never looked to Gethsemane for your salvation, if you've never looked to Gethsemane for your eternal life, now is the time, today is the day. Just as one tree in the garden defeated Adam, another tree, the cross, gave Jesus victory.
Just as one tree in Eden ruined Adam's future and made it bleak, the tree of Golgatha, the cross, has given to you hope and future. And which tree do you look to every single day? Ask yourself the question. Eden or Gethsemane? The tree of knowledge or the tree of the cross? The tree in Eden was the source of temptation, but the tree on the cross can give you power over temptation every time. Every time. The question is, do you belong to the city of God, living in the city of man, by faith, or are you down in the dumps and discouraged? Do you belong to the city of man and living in the city of man?
Today you can get out and go to the city of God, for only the cross of Jesus where he shed his precious blood for you can give you purpose in life. Only the cross of Jesus can give you hope in the midst of hopelessness, can give you life in the midst of death, can give you light in the midst of darkness, it can give you joy in the midst of sorrow, it can give you peace in the midst of turmoil. That is why we belong to the city of God, and no matter how bleak it may look, no matter how dark it may get (and make no mistake about it, it will) you walk with your head held high, "I belong to Jesus. I belong to Jesus". Knowing, believing this, practicing this, not just intellectually as paying assent to this, but every single day and every moment of every day, "I belong to Jesus. I'm gonna reign and rule with Jesus in the city of God".