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Reengaging the Spiritual

Reengage  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  44:22
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Today is a general introduction to something on my mind and heart where I believe God is taking us. And as we continue our journey toward discovering our mission and vision for Sunnyside, which I believe is essentially to help people reach their full potential in Christ (spiritually, emotionally and physically), I want to move more toward the spiritual realm, and in particular spiritual gifts. Understand, that these spiritual graces that God provides are a part of reaching our full potential for the purpose of building up the church, and helping others reach their potential.
Reengaging the Spiritual
Today is a general introduction to something on my mind and heart where I believe God is taking us. And as we continue our journey toward discovering our mission and vision for Sunnyside, which I believe is essentially to help people reach their full potential in Christ (spiritually, emotionally and physically), I want to move more toward the spiritual realm, and in particular spiritual gifts. Understand, that these spiritual graces that God provides are a part of reaching our full potential for the purpose of building up the church, and helping others reach their potential.
Listen to , and as I do, pay attention to the theme of potential - of becoming more than what we are, and embracing we’ve been created to be.
… to equip his people for works of service (ministry), so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11–15 NIV
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Did you catch the key words - Built up, reaching unity, becoming mature, attaining to, growing … these are all words of action, growth, forward movement. They are words of becoming something other than what we are at this particular moment - specifically, becoming teleiōs - complete or fully developed.
Did you catch the key words - Built up, reaching unity, becoming mature, attaining to, growing … these are all words of action, growth, forward movement. They are words of becoming something other than what we are at this particular moment - specifically, becoming teleiōs - complete or fully developed.
So you can see that God expects growth, and He desires for us to reach maturity and to become fully developed in Him - not so much out of rules and demands, but out of love and what is best for us as His children.
Coming to completion in Christ is what is best for us and the world. And to help us do that, God has provided His Word, His Spirit and spiritual gifts or supernatural abilities.
1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given [you don’t possess this until God gives it …] for the common good.
Common good meaning advantageous or beneficial. In other words, He provides these supernatural empowerments so we can be and live our best for His glory and for what is best for the world.
Common good meaning advantageous or beneficial. In other words, He provides these supernatural empowerments so we can be and live our best for His glory and for what is best for the world.
But before we can really talk about being empowered by the Spirit (spiritual gifts), we need to have another conversation. I believe we need to talk about the spiritual in general. It doesn’t do a lot of good to talk about the ooohs and aaaahs of spiritual gifts if we’re not engaged in or believe what Scripture teaches about spiritual things. When I say spiritual things, I’m talking about the spiritual or unseen realm – that there are forces or beings exist that are beyond our physical senses, our physical world.
Now, why would I suggest we begin there? Because not every Christian believes in the spiritual. For instance, according to the Barna Group,
40% of American Christians believe Satan is not real, but rather a symbol or metaphor of evil.
38% believe that the Holy Spirit, like Satan, is merely a symbol and not a living member of the Trinity.
That’s troubling! If we don’t believe in what Scripture teaches about the reality of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual realm, then we won’t believe what it teaches about spiritual gifts. Beyond beliefs about Satan the Spirit, the civilized Western church has in many ways ignored the spiritual realm, or in some cases has gone too far.
It’s hard to find that “balanced” Biblical worldview. Now I believe in general, we’re comfortable acknowledging that there is a spiritual component to our existence. We’re somewhat comfortable acknowledging that there are angels and demons, spiritual warfare - there’s a Heaven and Hell. We can sing songs cherubim and seraphim without knowing what they are; we can read narratives of Jesus and the disciples casting our demons, or angels appearing to people etc. It seems like we’re ok with that discussion if it stays within a little Bible story, but don’t start talking about that stuff in our modern world.
My suggestion is that we cannot afford to ignore the spiritual realm, good and evil and that we need to reengage the spiritual, of course within Biblical boundaries. We need to understand that our physical world and a spiritual realm coincide, coexist. The spiritual realm is not something that we get to experience when we die - it’s here now. And we need to become comfortable about spiritual things and here’s why -
There are roughly 4,200 religions in the world today.
Of the world’s population, 31% is Christian, 23% is Muslim, 15% is Hindu, 7% is Buddhist
and so on. Somewhere in there you have folk religions, Wicca, astrology, New Age etc. Clearly, most of the world believes in the spiritual. The world really is comfortable with the spiritual or unseen things.
For some reason, we have this notion in America that no one likes to talk about spiritual things and that is just not true. Look at how many TV shows and movies are about Witchcraft and hunting ghosts or paranormal, UFO’s, shows about religion …. It’s all around us and it strikes me as odd, that the Church is sometimes the least comfortable talking about spiritual things. We who believe that we have the truth as revealed by God in Scripture, should be the most comfortable with spiritual topics of discussion.
So, I guess my question is this - why have we, in some ways, opted to become a civilized organization, rather than a spiritual one. I have three thoughts and three challenges: (of course, I’m speaking in general terms - not every person and not every congregation, but as a whole)
1) We have embraced a dignified religion
If you look at Church history, there are good times and bad times. And overall, the Church has been the largest, most active compassionate organization in the world. But even so, over the last 300 years, we’ve embraced enlightenment over faith. What do I mean?
The enlightenment period or age of reason (late 1600s - early 1800s) was a time of great scientific discovery, exploration and philosophy. In many ways, it was a time of medical and scientific advancements. But it also demystified much of the world and universe – some positive; some negative.
The enlightenment gave positive explanations to creation and debunked many myths and superstitions. But it also opened the door to reject anything spiritual (baby / bathwater). And unfortunately, the Western church, in some ways has chosen enlightenment over the spiritual. Like Israel, who wanted to be like the surrounding nations and have a king, the Church opted for logical rational explanations, rather than being comfortable with the spiritual. We want hard proof, not faith. We want to appear dignified and rational like the world around, and not like some religious nut-jobs.
Let’s be honest - we don’t want to appear weird? We really don’t want to look different, act different, dress different - living by faith makes us the oddballs and we don’t like that.
And the reality is, is that we’re called to live by faith, not by sight. We’re called to live by faith, and sometimes living by faith goes against certain paradigms and systems and sometimes calls us to do the unusual and odd.
The challenge here is to evaluate your life. In what ways have you and I embraced dignity over the spiritual? In what ways do we keep the “spiritual” at arm’s length because we don’t want to appear radical, weird, or ….
My second thought is this -
2) We have embraced safe religion
In many ways, we want a god or a religion that keeps us safe. And believe me, our God does indeed protect us in so many ways that we cannot comprehend. But when safety becomes our god or our primary desire, we lose some of the reality that the Judeo-Christian faith is really not safe. And the Bible is full of moments when God sent His people into the danger zone, into the unknown (and still does) - but we fear the unknown.
Most of us are probably not familiar with spiritual things or the spiritual realm. We have this spiritual paradigm that’s been passed down to us, and in some ways, it’s relatively safe (we go to church, we go to work, we go home). In the midst of that, we acknowledge there are angels and demons, but they’re over there, they’re really not in our worldview. We know they’re real, but they don’t fit into my box.
I would guess that a lot of us really don’t take into consideration what the Bible teaches about spiritual things - good or evil. And I would even suggest that many of us are not familiar or comfortable with what other people believe or practice in regards to spiritual things. How many of us would be comfortable talking with a Witch or ….
And because there’s a lot of things we don’t know or haven’t experienced or don’t know how to respond, it creates fear (fear of the unknown), or we can convince ourselves it’s just fantasy. Or, because we worship safety, we believe “God would never ….”
Encountering the spiritual is a normal Biblical worldview. There are 194 verses in the Bible that mention angels (good and evil). According to Scripture, angels can interact with our world. They can speak to humans, deliver messages, engage in supernatural battle etc. (and they don’t have cute chubby butts)
Satan is mentioned in 47 verses; the Devil is mentioned in 32. There are 223 verses that talk about other gods (little g). The Bible speaks of fallen angels, demons and evil spirits that can possess humans, animals and cause physical and mental affliction. It speaks of cherubim and seraphim, which are winged creatures that surround God’s throne. The Bible mentions having dreams and visions. God forbids the practice of witchcraft, divination, of seeking out omens, spiritists or mediums who make contact with the “other side.”
Why would God mention these things if they weren’t real? This is crazy weird uncomfortable stuff, but it’s real. And it’s not “safe.” We don’t need to live in fear, but we do need to have a healthy dose of reality.
So here’s the challenge: Evaluate our lives and see how far we have removed ourselves from spiritual things. How much have we embraced safety over authentic faith that truly follows Christ anywhere - even to the dark and dangerous places of the world.
We don’t go looking for demons, and angels etc. We seek first the Kingdom of God (). We keep our eyes on Christ; however, as we follow Him the spiritual realm will become more real.
Here’s my 3rd thought -
3) We embraced a convenient religion
When Scripture tells us to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Christ, when it tells us to keep in step with the Spirit, when it tells us to first seek God’s Kingdom, when it tells us to crucify the flesh and so on - that grates against our “life is all about me” attitudes.
To live in a world where we are truly guided by the Holy Spirit, surrendered moment by moment - where it truly is His will be done, where we encounter and battle against spiritual forces in high place, it’s an inconvenience. It’s an inconvenience to our flesh to get out of bed in the middle of night and intercede in prayer, to wrestle against dark forces. It’s an inconvenience to tell children they can’t watch this or read that or play that video game because of wicked influences. It’s an inconvenience to live differently than the rest of the world. It’s an inconvenience if I want to go one way and the Spirit says go another.
Now, deep down inside, we know that it’s not an inconvenience to serve the Living God - it really is a joy to serve and to obey, but I wonder if we limit our spiritual maturity and spiritual engagement because to truly live a spiritual life means we’re not in control of anything in our lives.
So I guess my challenge here is to check ourselves and see if we’re really surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His spirit.
Conclusion
This was just a general introduction to where I believe we’re heading. We can get so caught up in the affairs of the world and politics that we forget we’re spiritual beings and there are spiritual forces at work in this world, both good and evil.
Over the next several weeks, I hope we reengage the Biblical worldview of spiritual things, that we reengage the spiritual
If you don’t know Christ …
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