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WALKING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD

(First Steps Sermon Series)

Westgate Chapel 12/09/01 a.m.                   2 Corinthians 3:18

PROPOSITION:  That the goal of the Christian life is personal transformation that brings glory to God.

i.    introduction

-     THERE are some key prophetic voices being heard all over America right coming from across the spectrum of evangelical and Pentecostal churches.

-     JIM Cymbala’s books are calling us back to the basics of prayer, faith, and the power of God.

-     GEORGE Barna’s alarming research tells us that there is no perceptible difference in lifestyle between people inside the church and those outside the church.

-     RICHARD Foster is another, although less known prophetic voice, professor of theology, and author of the classic, Celebration of Discipline.

*     Richard Foster believes that there is a second reformation coming to the church.

*     In fact, without it, he doubts the church will survive far into this new millennium.

*     He believes we are on the threshold of a Reformation of Sanctification.

-     WE really are in need of a Reformation of Sanctification.

-     THE problem is that over the last fifty years the Church has been promoting a consumer brand of Christianity….that has offered innumerable benefits. A feel-good religion that has lacked the power to truly transform lives, and we are paying the price for it in the nation today.

-     IF the Christian life is about anything, it is, first and foremost, about transformed lives.

-     IN coming to Christ you have exchanged the kingdom of this world for the kingdom of God. The Bible says…

      “…you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)

-     IN Romans 6:13 it says,

      “…offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.

-     IN I Peter 1:23 it says,

      “For you have been born again… through the living and enduring word of God.”

-     AND in 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says,

      “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

-     THE Christian life is much more than getting your sins forgiven and your marriage restored and heaven when you die.

-     IT is about a lifetime of transformation, of radical lifestyle change!

-     AFTER all you have crossed over the bridge (which is Jesus Christ) into the kingdom of God…and now the rest of your life is about growing into the lifestyle of God’s kingdom.

-     EVERYTHING is changed…

*     Your passions are changed.

*     Your conversations are changed.

*     Your relationships are changed.

*     How you treat other people is changed.

*     What you read is changed….the kinds of movies you watch is changed.

*     Your music comes under a new standard.

*     What you do for pleasure comes under a new standard.

*     Your humor is changed.

*     Your stewardship of your…

•     time is changed

•     energies is changed

•     giftings is changed

•     family life is changed

•     finances is changed.

-     LET’S face it, you and I are under new ownership and new management. We belong to a holy God and are empowered for holy living by His Spirit within (1 Corinthians 3:16).

-     THESE changes are not forced on us…by the church or anyone else.

-     THEY come out of a heart that has been changed…and wants now to please God.

-     THE verse in the Bible that best sums up the purpose of the Christian life is 2 Corinthians 3:18,

      “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

-     AND the goal of this personal transformation is not our own well-being (although that is one of the results). The goal is that God be glorified through our lifestyle (Ephesians 1:11-12).

      “In him we were also chosen…(12) in order that wemight be for the praise of his glory.”

-     THE Lord has confirmed in many ways, to Westgate Chapel, in the last 8 months, that revival has begun in the Northwest!

-     AND one of the over-arching characteristics of genuine revival is the absolute transformation of the lives of God’s people…it is one of the incontrovertible evidences to the world that God is on the throne and the Gospel of Jesus is the real deal.

ii.   THE SOURCE OF TRANSFORMATION

-     WELL, Pastor, I believe you. But how do I go about making these changes in my life?

-     THE very first step is getting a new heart.

-     THE Bible says that your heart is the well spring of your life (Proverbs 4:23).

-     SO unless you and I get a new heart, all that can come out of us is the old garbage.

-     AND the only way to get a new heart is to be born again (John 3:3).

-     WE have talked the last two Sundays about what happens to you when through faith you cross over the bridge (which is Jesus) into the kingdom of God.

*     You are reconciled to God.

*     He gives you a new heart. You become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

*     And the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your life….your body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16)

-     AT that moment you receive power over sin…and the journey of transformation begins.

-     ONLY now it is not you producing the changes in your life, it is the power of God’s Spirit at work through you to change you.

-     MANY of your old habits and sinful ways will fall away immediately.

-     I HAVE heard Christians tell their story about how they immediately…

*     …had a love for others that was never there before.

*     …stopped using filthy language.

*     …stopped abusing their bodies with drugs, or alcohol, or illicit sex, and had no more desire for those things.

*     …had a desire to serve others.

*     …made things right in broken relationships.

-     THAT is one of the ways you know you stepped across the bridge of Christ into the kingdom of God (Assurance of power over sin).

-     THOSE sins that held you in bondage fall away by the power of God over sin.

-     IT is the victory over sin that Jesus provided for you and me on the cross.

      “…everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

-     NOW listen very carefully.

-     I HAVE known very few Christians in my lifetime who have, at the moment they were born again, received immediate victory over every sin in their lives.

-     THIS is NOT an excuse for any one of us. Nor is it a weakness in God’s provision…but most of us live in an “already but not yet” state of sanctification.

-     WE are “already” made clean, sanctified by the blood of Jesus…which is our standing before God.

-     BUT in the day-to-day of life we find ourselves in the “not yet.” We are works of God in process.

-     LET me explain.

-     IN many of Paul’s writings he describes the Christian as already sanctified (cleansed from the pollution of sin). For example, 1 Corinthians 1:2,

      “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus…”

-     BUT he also writes to the Christians,

      “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

-     THE “already” of our sanctification is the finished work of cleansing us that Jesus provided on the cross.

-     THIS is what gives us confidence and peace and gratitude….which is what fuels our striving to be holy in our day-to-day lives.

-     IT is important for us to remember that even though we are Christians with a new heart there is still what John Wesley calls a “disposition of the human heart to sin.”

-     SOME of our hearts have been disposed to certain sins through a lifetime of bad habits…habits that do their best to cling to us, even when we have been made new in Christ Jesus.

-     AND it is that disposition of the heart that must be trained in righteousness….a life-long pursuit for the Christian.

 -    BUT it is a life-long pursuit NOW with all the resources of God’s Spirit within you. It is guaranteed victory.

      “Therefore, my dear friends…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13..page 1162)

-     LOOK at verse 13 with me!

-     GOD is working in you….giving you His power (grace) for both the will (means for deliberate action) and the action itself of righteous living.

-     THAT is grace!

-     ONLY God’s grace can produce holiness in you and me.

-     IF we do it by our sheer willpower or self-discipline, who gets the credit? You  and I do…and the result will be pride, which is sin.

-     IF we don’t care and live any way we want….the result will be sin.

-     SO, the only means you and I have to transformation….the kind that results in God receiving the glory…is God’s grace.

iii.  THE PATH WHERE GRACE IS IMPARTED

-     OK! Where do I get a daily supply of that life-changing grace of God?

-     THAT is where Philippians 2:12 comes in. It is the part you and I have to work at.

-     BECAUSE there is only one place where life-transforming grace is poured out.

-     AND it is a place.

-     GOD has clearly specified a place where He pours out grace into His people…and it is found in no other place than the one He has specified.

-     FOR the sake of our study on “the steps of the kingdom of God,” let’s call this place a narrow path.

-     I AM not talking about a physical place, although it does have a very definite geography.

-     AND the “work” of the Christian life that Paul refers to in the verse I just read to you from Philippians is the work of you and me getting ourselves onto this path where life-changing grace is poured out.

-     SO, where is this path where the life-changing grace of God is poured out?

-     IT is the disciplines of the faith!

-     THE disciplines of the faith are what place you and me on that path…where grace gets poured in.

-     AND it is the grace of God that changes us…not the disciplines.

-     THAT is important to remember…in case we are tempted to take credit for the change.

-     THE disciplines just put us into the geography where God pours out grace by His Spirit.

-     WHAT are the disciplines of the faith?

-     GOD has given us many.

-     THEY include:

*     Bible study (Psalm 119:11).

*     Prayer (Jeremiah 29:13, Ephesians 6:18).

*     Worship (John 4:23).

*     Fellowship with believers (Hebrews 10:25).

*     Serving others (Mark 10:44).

*     Giving of your finances (Luke 6:38).

*     Fasting (Mark 6:17-18).

*     Submission (Ephesians 5:21).

-     IT is the absolute priority of every Christian to get themselves into the disciplines of the faith.

-     THERE is no other means of grace. And without grace there will be no transformation….other than the initial burst of life that soon withers and dies for lack of moisture or thorns choking it out.

iv. conclusion

-     IT is important for you to know that the attitude with which you and I approach the disciplines is faith.

*     Faith that we will meet God in the practice of the disciplines (Hebrews 10:22).

*     Faith that He will draw near to us through the disciplines and impart grace regardless of what we are feeling at the time (James 4:8).

-     IT is important for you to know that the Holy Spirit in you is the agent of the Godhead who will energize you in and through the disciplines (2 Corinthians 3:18).

-     DECIDE now the time and space in your life that you will give yourself to this priority of the disciple of Jesus.

-     START with some achievable goals.

*     A daily Bible reading plan (see appendix).

*     A daily time of prayer (see appendix).

*     Don’t miss times to be together with other believers in worship and prayer (Hebrews 10:25).

*     Commit yourself to the study of God’s Word with other believers in a SS class, or small group Bible study.

*     Start tithing, making Jesus Lord of your finances….the place closest to most of our hearts.

-     TAKE personal responsibility for getting yourself on that path where God’s grace transforms your life (Romans 12:2)

      “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

-     THIS is a huge part of living the life of the kingdom of God.

-     IT is a lifestyle!

-     AND do not forget…that as you apply yourself to the disciplines FAITH is the catalyst not the mechanics…

      “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:16)

-     LET’S live it together….and encourage each other in this all the more as we see the Day of the Lord getting closer.

 

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