Monday, June 25, 2012

Glorification 120624

Romans 8:18-23, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."

As we go through Romans we need to look back and remind ourselves of the truths we have seen so far. Paul has introduced the theme of salvation and the importance of the gospel at the very beginning. Then he introduced the theme of certainty and assurance. In fact, beginning with the fifth chapter the theme of glorification comes in. The ultimate object of salvation is our glorification. Everything that happens to a Christian is "in Christ", and because we are united to the Lord Jesus Christ. Glorification is the ultimate goal of salvation; and we must never stop short of it. We were not saved in order to be observers in heaven.

Instead, we are to be glorified. Glorification is the final step in our redemption and it will not happen until our spirit and soul is reunited with our resurrection body. Our text for today talks about this process and the glory that is to be revealed in us. This is a glory beyond our imagination and is usually not included in Christian teaching, or thinking. John tells us that when Jesus appears we will be like him! We have some examples in the Bible of what it means to be "like him". On the Mount of Transfiguration the three apostles saw Jesus in his glory along with Moses and Elijah. When this happened Jesus glowed whiter than anything they had ever seen. They were so awestruck that they wanted to set up three Tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah! The disciples saw him several times after his resurrection. He seemed to be much the same person except for his scars.

Later on, Stephen saw the risen Jesus standing at the right hand of the glory of God. Then, of course, Paul had his vision of the risen Lord. He was on the road to Damascus to arrest and kill Christians when Jesus appeared to him. The story is found in Acts chapter 9. As they were proceeding on their way a bright light suddenly surrounded them and they heard a voice speaking to Saul of Tarsus. The voice said, "Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?" Saul, later to be called Paul, answered the voice, "Who are you Lord?". Then he heard, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…". Then Saul found that, having looked at the glorified Jesus, he could no longer see! The glory of the Lord was so great that it blinded him. In Revelation chapter 5 we see one example of the glorified Jesus, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth." And then in chapter 19, we see another example of the glorified Jesus. Let me read it for you, "Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." Of these examples we see something that to me is amazing. The risen Lord Jesus appears in many different shapes and forms all of which are awestriking. And we shall be like him!

So, for us, what does suffering have to do with it?

Suffering and future glory. Our text tells us that our present sufferings is not worthy of the glory that is to be revealed in us. Some modern translations, including the ESV, translates the end of verse eighteen, "revealed to us." I believe this is an incorrect translation. Instead it should be, "revealed in us". If we are to be like him then we are not just to observe the glory, we are to experience the glory.

But again, what does suffering have to do with it?

Jesus said we would endure persecution. Let's read, John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me."

Paul had counted everything worthless that he may come to know Jesus Christ. He gave up privilege and position. He knew that his righteousness was worthless and only the righteousness of Christ could count for him. He knew this would cause suffering and it certainly did! But he was perfectly willing to do anything to be like Jesus even if it meant sharing in his sufferings and becoming like him in his death.

Every generation of believers have suffered. Beginning with Stephen, and the other disciples in Jerusalem, persecution followed the Christian faith wherever it went. Paul describes his life this way, turn with me to, 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 "… far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches."

Throughout history, Christians have been persecuted for no other reason than the fact of their faith. And it continues today. I could read you story, after story, of those who've given their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel. Today there are many countries where the only kind of worship is in secret. Sometimes I wonder why there is so little suffering for the gospel in the United States. Is it because we have "freedom of religion"? Or is it simply because we have been brought into the culture and are not distinctly separate from society? We think we are being persecuted when the code enforcement officers won't let us break the rules. Well, in most of the rest of the world persecution is very real. Churches are burned, pastors are killed, people are forced out of their jobs, families shun Christian believers and so on and so forth. But, it's really worth it. We should do everything possible to help those who suffer and be prepared for a time when it may come here.

Glory will be revealed in us — it's worth it! Let's read, 1 Peter 1:3-9, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." Peter describes the suffering of the church as being like a refiners furnace. Going through the fire tests the genuineness of the faith of the church and its individual members. But it's worth it because we have stored up for us in heaven an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. We are to rejoice in this. It serves the purpose of God. In Romans 5, Paul says much the same thing, "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

Suffering produces endurance, which gives us character, which gives us hope. As a result we are not put to shame. Paul was ready to lay down his life for his Lord. And he did not expect that he would fail when it came time to face his death in Rome. He had certainly suffered enough to have plenty of endurance; plenty of character; and plenty of Christian hope.

But what does our suffering and his glory revealed in us have to do with the creation?

The creation and Christians.

The sin of man put the creation in bondage. Read with me, Genesis 3:17-19, "And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” As Paul said to the Romans, "the creation was subjected to futility". "Futility" is not used very often today. But we might say, "It would be futile to try that." "Vanity" is very much the same. It might be that being subject to futility could be translated as "brought to hopelessness". The whole creation lost its sense of hope when Adam subjected it. You see, it was the sin of Adam, that brought the hopelessness into the world.

We don't know what that world of Adam looked like exactly but it was very likely much more magical place than it is now.

The creation waits for our glorification. See what Isaiah had to say in, Isaiah 55:12-13, For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

I have a vivid imagination and every time I read this passage I begin to visualize the thorns going away and the briars disappearing and beautiful trees and flowers replacing them. I begin to imagine the creation that has been groaning, and travailing, waiting for the appearing of the sons of God, suddenly breaking out in singing and applause. Because finally the creation will be set free!

It will be set free. Look with me at two passages, Revelation 21:1 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more." and, 2 Peter 3:11-13, Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Both John and Peter describe a new heaven and new earth. You see we will have bodies! Our resurrected body will not be a "ghost" or a disembodied spirit. It will be real, and glorified, in order to live in a real glorified world.

In order to overcome suffering and to be "more than conquerors", we need to be certain about the glory which is coming to us. We need to always, as the writer of Hebrews says, "…run with endurance the race that is set before us. Looking to Jesus, the founder perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set for him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand the throne of God." Jesus could endure the pain and suffering because he knew without a doubt what the result would be. If we're going to follow Jesus, we too will suffer. We can endure it because we see the glory that will be revealed in us. We walk by faith not by sight. We will look at more of this next week.

All Scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Membership in God's Family

Romans 8:14 -17, "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."

At the beginning of this chapter the Apostle tells us that God has done what the law could not do. He sent his own son to condemn sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. He goes on to show that we are not debtors to the flesh. Now he begins to show us where our real obligations lie. As Wayne Grudem says, "In regeneration God gives us new spiritual life within. In justification God gives us right legal standing before him. But in adoption God makes us members of his family." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

This chapter's theme is the security of the believer, or as the old-time preachers would say, the perseverance of the saints. In order to give us security God had to solve our sin problem. God has worked out a wonderful process to solve our sin problem and bring us into perfect harmony with him. Part of the wonder is that he did all this before he created the universe. Before there was time, as we know it, he had his people in mind.

At first glance one might think that adoption is unnecessary if we've been born again. Obviously it is necessary simply because it's part of the process that God has worked out. It's wonderful that when we were dead in sin God made us alive. That's called regeneration. He gives us spiritual life. It's wonderful also that though we have committed many crimes against him he justifies us – giving us right legal standing before him. Now we see that he has made us a part of his family, legally. We are not merely forgiven; we are children of God; we belong to the family of God. We were not children of God by natural birth; but now we are! We should praise his Holy Name for that.

This process goes beyond the new birth.

Regeneration is a work of God. Read with me, James 1:17-18, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." The Father of lights brought us forth by his will, not ours! One of the big problems the evolutionists have to deal with is pretty simple. How does life come out of nothing? In fact, how does anything come out of nothing? Yet the Bible says that God brought forth the universe out of nothing. Everything that exists was called into being by God. The phrase, "brought us forth", could be translated (and is by the KJV) "begat he us". In other words, the same word that would be used for normal birth is used here. He brought us forth by the word of truth. We are a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Just as we have nothing to do with our being brought into the physical world through a physical birth we have nothing to do with being brought into the spiritual world. When Jesus talked to Nicodemus about being born again he was talking about a spiritual birth. Remember he said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, (our physical birth) and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." It's a mysterious process whereby God puts new life into individuals giving them the power to become children of God.

But, we can't regenerate ourselves. Turn with me to, Ephesians 2:1-5, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—"

It is impossible for a dead person to do anything! Of course we were not dead physically. But we were born spiritually dead. We were subjects of Satan. As such we had no power to do anything spiritually! "But God", what a wonderful phrase that is, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with Christ by grace. A person without Christ can no more bring themselves to life than a stone can come to life of itself. Or that the universe can come into being from nothing.

You see, we are born again to a living hope. Turn with me to, 1 Peter 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,"

He caused us be born again! We did not choose to be born again. Yet we use terminology that seems to say that we do. We ask a person to "make a decision" for Christ. As though saying some words somehow makes us a child of God. It's true, we do have to respond, but we can only respond after God gives us life. He does the work of regeneration in our spiritually dead spirits. He proved that he could do it by raising Jesus Christ from the dead. This new life we have in Christ gives us a "living hope". We usually use "hope" for something we have a vague feeling about. We're not positive something will happen but we "hope" it will. Biblical hope does not indicate something we're not sure about. Biblical hope simply indicates something we may not have yet! The hope we have is alive and well because we've been brought into the family of God. And we were brought in that family by the process of adoption.

Adoption results from saving faith.

We are saved by grace through faith and that is the gift of God. That is regeneration or, the imparting, by God, of new spiritual life to us. It is God who makes us alive with Christ. It was Peter who told us that, "…you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;" It is God's work from beginning to the end

What happens after faith? Turn with me to, Galatians 3:23-26, "Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise." You see what Paul is saying to the Galatians? Before faith came we were under the law but now that faith has come we have become children of God in Christ Jesus. This is a wonderful work of God that brings us into his family. As a result, we cease to be Adam's offspring and become Abraham's offspring — sons and daughters of faith. No longer in bondage. We are heirs according to the promise.

Adoption frees us from slavery. Let's look at, Galatians 4:4-7, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." In our opening text Paul tells us that we have received, not a spirit of slavery, but a spirit of adoption. The spirit of adoption is none other than the Holy Spirit. Here in Galatians, Paul says that we have received the Spirit of his son into our hearts. This is the same thing because after each we're told that we can now say, "Abba, Father". W. E. Vine, in his Dictionary of New Testament Words, tells us that, "It (Abba) approximates to a personal name, in contrast to "Father," with which it is always joined in the NT.… Abba is the word framed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust; "father" expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child." Many would say that allows us to call our Heavenly Father, "Daddy", rather than the stern distant father image that many seem to hold of God. As Vine would say, it's a word that would be used by infants. It certainly implies unreasoning trust and as such is a "love" word used within the family. We have been raised in rank from that of a slave to that of a child in the family.

Witnessed to by Holy Spirit. Our text tells us that, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" This is an amazing thing that we should be called children of God. Turn with me to, Ephesians 1:13-14, "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." This "sealing" of the spirit may not happen at the moment of salvation. Oh, I'm not saying that the Holy Spirit is not present at salvation. The work of the Spirit is essential to our conviction of sin, and our conversion to Christ. Yet, the experiences in the Book of Acts and throughout subsequent Christian history testify to subsequent experiences with the Holy Spirit. Not just a second blessing, but many, many, many blessings. Paul told the Corinthians, "For in one spirit we are all baptized into one body." But this "sealing" and bearing “witness with" our spirits Is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit giving us assurance of our salvation. I disagree with C. I. Scofield at a number of points but I agree with him when he is reported to say, "One Baptism, many fillings, constant anointing." That's the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the saint. As a result of being adopted into the family of Christ we have privileges as well as responsibilities.

Family Privileges.

First of all there is a change in relationships. Turn with me to, 2 Corinthians 6:18, "I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." Repeatedly, throughout Scripture the concept of God, the Father of his people, is used. Jesus taught us to address Our Father in heaven. Throughout the New Testament we find the disciples, the Saints, addressing one another as "brother" or "sister". Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a song about it. It goes like this: "I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God, I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I'm part of the family, The Family of God.

You will notice we say "brother" and "sister" 'round here, It's because we're a family and these are so near; When one has a heartache, we all share the tears, And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.” We need to dedicate ourselves to doing a better job of being "family".

We are loved and cared for. I have two passages of Scripture I want to refer to: the first is found in 1 John 3:1, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him." We were discussing this passage Wednesday night at prayer meeting. Think of it for a moment. The Father has given us a special kind of love, not the love of a friend or an acquaintance, but the love of a real father. And what a father! One who is willing to take rebels, who had through the years ignored his blessings and spurned his love, and put them in a position where they could be called "children of God". Not just called "children of God" but "so we are". We have been brought into the family of God and as such we can enjoy the privileges of family relationships. The psalmist understood God this way. Read with me, Psalm 103:13-14, "As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” He has compassion for us. He knows our weaknesses, in fact, he came to Earth in human flesh because the children (that's us) live in human flesh. Because of our need he walked this earth as a man, took our sins in his own body, nailed them to the cross, took them to the grave and left them there. He did that because he had compassion on us. We are part of the family! We have the fellowship of a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful Father. We have an older brother who bought us with his own blood. We have millions of brothers and sisters as well as mothers and fathers in close spiritual relationship with us. It's a great thing to be a Christian and to enjoy the fellowship of the household of faith. As a result of this fellowship…

We receive many gifts. Turn back with me to, James 1:17, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" Every good gift. Not just some good gifts but every good gift. Not only good gifts but perfect gifts come from above. Lots of things that come into our lives are not well received by us. But we need to remember that they all have come by God or his permission and only after that they come our way. They come from the Father of lights. Our loving heavenly Father.

The gifts we receive have a purpose. They're not just for our enjoyment. However, we can and should enjoy them. Peter talked about them, 1 Peter 4:10-11, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Pay attention to what Peter had to say! Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Peter wrote that "each one" has received a gift. No one is left, out all are included. Some may think that they do not have a gift of any kind but we need to remember that this is what the Bible says and that has to be the truth from God. He has given each one a gift, or a group of gifts, that are ours for the common good. Those gifts are to be used to serve one another. They do not belong to us, they belong to God! We are only stewards of everything that we have. Writing to the Romans Paul said that we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to each one. Our gifts are complementary, that means that they complement or complete each other. If every member of the local congregation would simply accept the fact that God is gifted them in a way that will strengthen the church and carry the gospel message around the world. In order for the message to go out effectively every one of the completing gifts need to come into play. When we all function in the role that God has given us the church will be exactly what God wants it to be. We will be effective in the ministry God has given us.

We have been brought into God's family for our good. We have been brought into God's family for the good of our brothers and sisters around the world. But mostly, we have been brought into God's family for his glory. We are to take the gifts we are given and use them in such a way that in everything God may be glorified in Christ Jesus! We are each to fill the role in the family that God is given us. After all, he is the Father of the family and as such places each of us where he wants us. We have many privileges and advantages in this family. But at the same time we have many responsibilities and will only be completely happy when we are responsible members of the family.

All Scriptures come from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Debtors? No and Yes 120610

Romans 8:12-13, "So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

For much of man's history, debt, that could not be paid, could lead to imprisonment or even death! Paul is speaking to us from a world where that was true. Remember the story that Jesus told? It is found in Matthew, chapter 18. A man owed his master a vast amount of money. His master ordered him to be sold with his wife and children along with all that he had. He begged for forgiveness and was forgiven. That man went on to demand payment from a fellow servant and was unforgiving in his heart toward his fellow servant. The master then put him in prison until he could pay his debt! Well, in a way we owe a debt we cannot pay. Yet it was paid for us! Jesus came to set us free. So do we now owe a debt? No, at least not to the flesh, but we do owe a debt of obligation.

We are really big on being saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God. That's found in Ephesians 2:8-9. Yet we seem to forget that powerful statement in verse ten. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." I think it's wonderful that God prepared, before we were saved, work for us to do — a path for us to walk in. I know sometimes we feel like we're all on our own. We feel as though we have a job to do but were given no details and directions as to how to do it. That feeling is wrong — we have a lot of instruction and a lot of details that we need to follow. The instruction and the details are found in the Bible. We should be familiar with that book so that we can follow instructions. And yes we are debtors. We are debtors to grace and we are children of the King and as such we have lots of "family responsibilities". Instead, we seem to accept the ingrained responsibilities to the flesh that we are declared to be dead to.

Our debt is not to the flesh.
We are born of the flesh. Turn to, John 3:6, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" Jesus, of course, was talking to Nicodemus a ruler of the Jews, a teacher of Israel. This is a man who knew the Scriptures. In a similar manner, Jesus confronted another group of religious leaders, and said to them, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me," (John 5:39) You see, you can know the Scriptures and even search the Scriptures and still miss the point. As long as we walk in the flesh we will fail again and again. Later, Jesus said, "… the flesh is no help at all." (John 6:63) It is possible to know a lot about Scripture and little about the God who is presented in that great book. We have a problem, and that problem is that we were born of the flesh and need to be born of the spirit. Even after we were born of the spirit we fall back into our old habits. Sometimes we refer to the "comfort zone" of a person. That is what we are very familiar with but it's not necessarily good. In fact, if our "comfort zone" is not controlled by the Lord Jesus Christ, guided by His Spirit, it's for sure that it's not right.

We spent our lives developing our flesh. Look at Philippians 3:4 and read through verse 9, "I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ,"

Saul had spent his life developing a biblically-based lifestyle in his own strength and ability. When most of us talk about our old ways we're talking about some pretty bad stuff! But not Saul of Tarsus! He could begin with his birth and show that he had met all the standards of his age and race. Then, on the road to Damascus, he met Jesus and that really messed up his worldview. You can read about it in Acts chapter 9. Saul of Tarsus died that day because he had been crucified with Christ. He was buried with Christ and raised up with him to walk a new life. At some point he realized how much it changed him and he even changed his name from Saul, the Pharisee and persecutor the church, to Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ. In his religious world he had been the cream of the crop. At the same time he was the "chief of sinners". Let me explain that. In writing to Timothy Paul stated that he was the star sinner. He wasn't talking about his ongoing condition he was talking about his past record. Before he was born again he set a record that no one else had met. Like a star athlete in high school whose record is posted on the gym wall Paul could look back to the time when he had been the "star" among sinners. A Christian is declared repeatedly in the New Testament to be a saint. The Christian is not a sinner saved by grace, he or she is a saint who sins. If we'll keep our terminology right we can keep focused on our true identity.

Others of us had a much poorer version of the flesh reflected in Paul's words in Galatians 5:19-21, "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Don't despair when you read that list and remember your past or your present thoughts and temptations. Paul is not talking about some kind of works salvation. "Those who do such things" represents a pattern of life that is consistent not temptations that are stumbled into. Remember the words of our text and I paraphrase, "We are not a debtor to the flesh". Remember also, "The law of the spirit of life has set us free, in Christ Jesus, from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2) We have spent a long time developing our flesh patterns. In fact…

Having spent our life developing our flesh it remains with us. Years after his salvation Paul still agonized over what he had been and how it still clung to his body. Read with me Romans 7:24, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" This passage is often used to show how hopeless our life is but it shouldn't be used for that purpose of all. A quick scan of Romans 7 show us that the word "sin" often refers to an evil power that the Christian struggles against. There is real hope in the fact that we struggle against this evil force. Those who walk according to the flesh don't struggle against it they just try to make it socially acceptable. Also it's not that we have two natures as some would teach. When a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior they become a new creature and have a new nature. Literally, in the eyes of God, a Christian dies to their old life and begins a new one at salvation. However, at the same time the flesh patterns developed throughout their life, and often reinforced even in their Christian life, provides a place (probably in our brain) where this evil force can move in alongside and mess us up. The habits of the old life are left with us. We don't have to rehearse them just because they come into our mind. We don't have to live under obligation to the old way of living. Remember, we have been set free from the law of sin and death.

We are not under obligation to live according the flesh.
We do struggle against the power of sin. Turn with me to: Galatians 5:17, "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." The fact that you want to do the right thing proves that you have spiritual life given from God. One sure sign of Christian conversion is the change in the conscience. What before was simply a "personality trait" or, "that's just the way I am", changes to a sense of guilt and a sense of wrongdoing. But we struggle on, often using our old habits and walking in the flesh, even though we have been set free from it. We do improve in the world's eyes but as long as we are operating in our own flesh we cannot be pleasing to God. The spirit that's been placed in us has a jealous desire to shape us more completely into the image of Christ. That will happen but it will be slow as long as we continue to follow our old habits and ways.

Satan uses the habits of the past. Read with me Romans 7:9-11, "I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me." Paul's old flesh patterns were stirred up by the commandment not to covet, and the more he struggled the more he coveted. Sin deceived him by coming in alongside the commandment and showed him how hopeless it was to fight in his own strength against the power of sin. It killed him spiritually. In the sermon on the Mount Jesus talked about sin being in the mind before the action. To hate one's brother was the seed of murder. To look and lust is the seed of adultery. The more we struggle to overcome the evil the more in bondage we are. If you ever heard the stories of Uncle Remus, you will remember the story of the Tar Baby. Br'er Rabbit was always being chased by the Fox but never caught. One day Br'er Fox had a great idea. He would fashion a doll out of a lump of tar and he would dress it up like a little boy and put it by the road. When Br'er Rabbit approached, since he was very good mannered, he spoke to the tar baby but he got no response. He was offended by this lack of manners so he punched the tar baby and found himself stuck. The more he struggled the "stuckter" he got. Now, Br'er Fox had captured Br'er Rabbit! Immediately Br'er Rabbit begged not to be thrown into the briar patch. He told the Fox to do anything he wanted to do with him but not to throw him into the briar patch. Of course, that's exactly what the Fox did and Br'er Rabbit was able to run away. Well, fighting the flesh with the habits of the past is like fighting the tar baby. The more we struggle the more we are in bondage. We need to remember who we really are and what has really happened to us. Our true biblical identity is what we need to live up to. As we struggle with the flesh we need to remember that…

Christ has set us free. Turn with me to, Romans 7:25a, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" In Romans seven Paul clearly states again and again that his desires have been changed and he has to struggle against "Sin" that lived in his body! His desire was to do right, to do good. He said he delighted in the law of God in his inner being but the law of sin that lived in his body waged war against his choices. So that he asked the question, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" And immediately answers it with, "thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" We cannot free ourselves. If we could then God is very unjust and we know that's not true. If man can save himself them Jesus' prayer in the garden would've been answered with by legions of angels who would have delivered him. You remember he prayed "Let this cup pass from me". But he went on to say that he only wanted the will of the Father. Only Jesus' death on the cross would satisfy the righteous anger of God at the sin of mankind. The debt had to be paid. Remember, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and wages of sin is death. But thanks be to God, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord! So that, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." (Romans 10:9-10) and the result is that…

We are a debtor to grace. 
By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is our only hope.
We need to put to death the old way. Turn with me to, Colossians 3:5-6, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming" This concept is taught many different ways in the New Testament. In Ephesians 4:22 Paul says we are to put off the old man. The ESV and many other modern translations uses "self" rather than "man". That is a poor translation. The "old man" is the Adamic nature we are all born with. We need to consciously put that off. To the Colossians Paul said we are to put off the "body of flesh" by the circumcision of Christ. And again, he told the Colossians, "seeing that you have put off the old man with its practices." We should apply ourselves to the process of putting aside the old. It is identified only with our old life before we met Christ. We may have set some real flesh records in the past but they are just garbage compared to knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection. Jesus used the term "born again" to identify the relationship we have with God. John wrote about it in his gospel at the very beginning…

We have a new identity set by birth. Turn with me to, John 1:12-13, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." Born of God! What a wonderful phrase that is! We once were part of a family known for its rebellion against God. We were born into a family of sinners. Upon our confession of faith in him we are born again into a family of Saints. Saints that sin for sure but Saints nonetheless. We need to research our new identity by studying the word of God. We need to practice our new "family values". Many times in my childhood I remember hearing my mother or father say to me, "We don't do that (whatever it was I wanted to do) in this family." Or, "They may do that in your friend's family but we don't do it in ours." Being a Bray was a very serious business and how we acted was an important part of it. I thank God for that upbringing. But mostly I thank God that my parents came to know Christ and made sure that we kids were exposed to the gospel every week. One of our "family values" was seen on Sunday morning. We went to church and I never remember a time when I would've questioned that. If I had asked, "Are we going to church?" The answer probably would've been, "Is it Sunday?"

Since we have a new identity we need to live like who we are. Turn with me to, Ephesians 5:8-10, "at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." You are not a sorry sinner just doing what comes naturally. It’s important that you understand this. What you believe about your identity is going to make a huge difference because you will “life out” whatever you believe is your true self, your true identity. We are the holy sons of God in Christ Jesus. We don't get holier, more accepted, more justified, or more forgiven. We are to simply experientially “life out” who and what we already are. We are a holy people. Now let's get on with living like who we are.

This passage, Romans 8:12 & 13, sets forth very clearly who we are and how we need to respond to the world around us. If you get nothing else out of this message, I hope you get the statement, clearly stated in the Bible, that we are not in debt to the flesh. When we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead we are: saved, born again, crucified with Christ, raised with Christ, seated with him in heaven, a Temple of the Holy Spirit, a new creature, a child of God… etc, etc.. In short, we now have a new identity but we still have all the old habits and memories and wrong thoughts and decisions ingrained in our lives. We do have a responsibility — a debt — to fulfill if we are to live the Christian life the way it was intended by God. We cannot earn our salvation but we can, should, must, live lives that honor our new identity. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do the works that he has prepared us to do. 
All Scripture quotes are from The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Indwelling Spirit 120603

Romans 8:8-11, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

This passage begins with a confident statement, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” — but we are not in the flesh. Of course, we are in our physical bodies but as believers we are in the spirit. That's our identity! Life will be much easier for us if we live according to our identity. Paul wants us know that we now live under a new law, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, rather than under the old law of sin and death. As believers we have passed from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus and as such we have a new nature along with the habits of the past. Being "in the spirit", describes our state, or condition; it is the exact opposite of being "in the flesh".

Last Sunday I handed out in the adult class a list of Scriptures that reveal our true identity. I'm going to read for you the descriptive phrases but not all the Scripture references. If you want a copy see me after church. According to the Scriptures, if you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior — if you have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord while believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, these statements are true about you no matter how you feel. Please listen to who you are in Christ Jesus.

I am a child of God. I am a part of the true vine, a channel (branch) of His Life. I am Christ's friend. I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit. The Father loves me. I am a personal witness of Christ for Christ. I have been justified and redeemed. I have been justified (completely forgiven and made righteous) and am at peace with God. I died with Christ and died to the power of sin's rule in my life. I have been freed from sin's power over me. I am a slave of righteousness. I am enslaved to God. I am forever free from condemnation. I am a son of God (God is literally my "papa". I am an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ. I am holy. Christ has accepted me. I have been sanctified. I have been placed in Christ by God's doing; Christ is now my wisdom from God, my righteousness, my sanctification and my redemption. I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things freely given to me by God. I have been given the mind of Christ. I am a temple (home) of God; His Spirit (His Life) dwells in me. I am joined to the Lord and am one Spirit with Him. I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God. I am a member of Christ's body. I have been established in Christ and anointed by God. He always leads me in His triumph in Christ. I have liberty because of Christ. Since I have died, I no longer live for myself, but for Christ. I am a new creation. I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation. I am the righteousness of God in Christ. I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; the life I am now living is Christ's life. I am a child of God and one in Christ. I am a child of God and an heir through God. I am a saint. I am blessed with every spiritual blessing. I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before Him. I have been redeemed, forgiven and am a recipient of His lavish grace. I have been made alive together with Christ. I have been raised up and seated with Christ in heaven. I am God's workmanship, created in Christ to do His work that He planned beforehand that I should do. I have been brought near to God. I have direct access to God through the Spirit. I am a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of God's household.I am a fellow heir, a fellow member of the body and a fellow partaker of the promise in Christ Jesus. I may approach God with boldness and confidence. I am righteous and holy. I am a citizen of heaven. His peace guards my heart and my mind. God will supply all my needs. I have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of Christ. I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins; the debt against me has been canceled. Christ Himself is in me. I have been firmly rooted in Christ and am now being built up and established in Him. I have been made complete in Christ. I have been spiritually circumcised; my old, unregenerate nature has been removed. I have been buried, raised and made alive with Christ and totally forgiven. I have been raised up with Christ. I have died and my life is now hidden with Christ in God. Christ is now my Life. I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved. I am a child of light and not of darkness. I have been given a spirit of power, love and discipline. I have been saved and called (set apart) according to God's purpose and grace. Because I am sanctified and am one with Christ, He is not ashamed to call me His. I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling. I am a partaker of Christ. I may come boldly before the throne of God to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. I have been sanctified by His will. I am one of God's living stones and am being built up as a spiritual house. I am a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God's own possession. I am an alien and stranger to this world where I live temporarily. I am an enemy of the devil; he is my adversary. I have been given His precious and magnificent promises by which I am a partaker of the divine nature. God has bestowed a great love on me and called me His child.

This list was compiled by Annabel Gillam and is part of what we've been using in the adult class on Sunday morning.

We are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.

The flesh is our inheritance from Adam. Look at Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” I remind you again, as I often have before, we are born spiritually DOA. This is what we inherited from our father Adam. We were separated from God at birth. The minute we arrived in Earth's atmosphere we began the process of trying to have our needs met. Our greatest need is love. That need was planted in us by the Living God whose very nature is love. We arrive with a ton of needs designed by our Father who wants us to know how much we need him. The flesh tries to meet those needs apart from God.

The new birth gives us a new inheritance. Listen as we read what John said. John 1:12-13, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Receiving Christ Jesus as Lord changes our condition. We have a new standing before God. Once we were born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve now we are born children of God. That doesn't mean that we cannot sin it just means that we no longer live in bondage to sin. We have a new inheritance with a new family. We are now "in the Spirit" and amazingly, the Spirit is in us.

We become a dwelling place for God. Look at Ephesians 2:19-22, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” We are no longer strangers and aliens we are fellow citizens with the saints. We are members of God's household! You see from this passage that the Spirit is in us for a purpose. So that we can be built together into a dwelling place for God by his Spirit. We are reminded by Paul in First Corinthians that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are not our own we have been bought with a price. He has come to live in us. He makes of us a permanent dwelling. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Praise God, if you've placed your faith in Jesus Christ you are his. As such, nothing can take us out of his hand.

The body is dead. Verse 10, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

Not flesh, the physical body. The command was given by God not to eat of the tree of life in the garden of Eden. We find the story in Genesis 3:1-5, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When Eve was deceived, and Adam volunteered, sin came into the world and death through sin. There were two kinds of death there that day. The first was immediate — spiritual death! Fellowship with God was broken! Mankind, who was designed to walk and talk with God forever, lost spiritual life. The second death was more gradual — physical death. This second death is what the apostle is talking about here. Physical death was brought on because of sin. So far as we can tell from Scripture Adam and Eve were incorruptible until they sinned and then corruption came into the world. When sin came into the world death came in through Sin. That death passed down to all Adam's descendents. It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment. The body is dead because of sin.

Because of the power of sin. Turn to Romans 7:5, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” The physical body, because of the power of sin, is in the process of dying all the time. Physically, no one will live forever. The power of sin has come into our lives, inherited from our father Adam, and all of us are doomed to die physically. Sin is the culprit used by the enemy against us.

The body will be brought to life. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” if you don't understand the resurrection of the physical body you are in good company. There are many things in Scripture I don't fully understand. There may be many that I will never understand. The Bible gives us the truth. It has never been disproven by anyone who has seriously studied it. The Bible says that this perishable body will be raised imperishable. This natural body will be raised a spiritual body. The enemy will throw many questions and doubts into your mind. What about the body that's completely burned up in a fire? What about the body lost at sea? And now, with the advent of spaceflight, what about the body lost in space? The same God that created the universe can call back any portion of it any time he chooses for any reason he chooses. If he needs some part of our mortal body in order to constitute our spiritual body. He can do it!

In contrast to the body, which is dead, the spirit is life.

Not Holy Spirit but human spirit. Most translations of the Bible captialize the word "Spirit". However, here Paul is clearly not talking about the Holy Spirit. Otherwise the structure of the passage would make no sense. You cannot contrast the human body with the Holy Spirit. On the other hand you can contrast the human body with the human spirit. In the same way that the seed of death is in the body the seed of life is in the spirit of the Christian. Look at Ephesians 2:4-5 it tells us, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved”. The man who was born dead in trespasses sins has been infused with life in regeneration. We don't have to wait till after physical death. We were dead in our trespasses and sins but God has made us alive together with Christ. Of course, the Holy Spirit brings that life. At the moment of salvation the Christian's spirit is made alive. The life that it is imbued with is eternal life. It's eternal because it is God's life. The life that indwells us is the life that dwelt with the Father before the creation of the universe. It's not our life stretched out into eternity. That would be miserable! It's the new life that God has placed in us that will go on forever. There is no second death for the man who has been regenerated. The Christian's body is dead because of sin but his spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Because of righteousness. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:21 this is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Miss Bertha Smith used to say that this was the dirtiest verse in her Bible. Miss Bertha served as a missionary in China for forty years. As such she learned to follow Chinese customs. The Chinese customarily ran their finger, or a pointer, along the text that they were reading. So you could soon see the favorite passages because of the soil and oil from the fingers transferred to the page as they read. Let's read the passage, “For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Righteousness is not only imputed to us it is imparted to us. Remember, Paul said, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” Romans 7:18 Note he didn't say that nothing good dwells in him (us) that would not be true. Not just "something" good dwells in all believers but God, in Christ, through His Spirit dwells in all believers. So Paul qualified it by saying, "in my flesh". There is nothing good in our inherited human nature. All our righteousness is filthy rags. Therefore God has imbued us with His righteousness. In making us his children he has given us life — life that is abundant and free.

The Holy Spirit gives life. Turn to, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, "Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

The letter is the law and the spirit is the Holy Spirit. The power of sin comes alongside the law and produces all kinds of sinfulness in us. In the same way the power of the Holy Spirit comes in to produce a new birth, to make us part of a new family, to give us a new heart, to give us a new spirit, in short, taking away the death we were born with he replaces that death with life. Jesus explained it this way, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

The flesh is no help at all because it is the Spirit who gives life. We need to live everyday aware of the indwelling Spirit that God has placed in our life. Our body is dead because of sin but our spirit is alive because of the work of God in justification and sanctification. As Jesus said, and I repeat, the flesh is no help at all. He wasn't talking about the physical body he was talking about all the ways mankind strives to meet the needs of his life without God. Only God's Holy Spirit gives life. And when we are born again that Spirit comes to live in our life. We struggle because the old habits — flesh patterns — we have built up all the years of our life resist the work of the Spirit in us. Remember, no matter how you feel God's Spirit lives in you if you are a child of God. I pray that each of you have confessed that he is your Lord!
All Scripture quotes are from The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.