Faithlife Sermons

Dying and Living

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Living for Jesus means dying to our old sinful nature, and living out our new natures in Jesus Christ, allowing Him, by the Holy Spirit, to live His life in and through us.

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A Lesson from Israel
Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in Israel, live during Biblical history? Have you ever looked at Israel’s history and wondered how they could drift so far away from God’s rules for Holy living? Have you ever wondered why it was so hard for them to obey God’s will? Have you ever thought that you could have done better than they did?
In all honesty, even though the church belongs to Christ, even though we have the Holy Spirit living in us, it seems like we’re hardly more advanced than the Israelites who roamed the wilderness for four decades. Or for the Israelites who so quickly turned away from following God after entering the Promised Land.
But what we lack and what the Israelites lacked was not moral fortitude. The Pharisees really, truly tried to honour God with their righteousness. But they based their righteousness their own abilities. They thought that they could earn God’s approval by how they lived. Indeed, they thought they could get right with God, apart from God.
Now, again, it is easy to criticise, from our side of history. When you read passages, like the one I mentioned this morning, telling the Israelites that they must choose life, must choose to follow God’s commandments in order to live and receive blessing. It makes sense then that your focus would be on working at such things by your own strength.
And yet, God demonstrates the truth repeatedly. Israel was trapped, helpless in Egypt. They were trapped by the Red Sea. They were stopped by the raging, flooded Jordan River. Each time, every time, God stepped in and rescued them, overcame their obstacles, responded to their faith and trust, providing perfectly every time. And this is true, not only for the nation, but for individuals also. Consider David vs. Goliath, Elijah and the widow of Zerephath.
What has your experience in living for Jesus been like to this point? Have you struggled with doing good? Have you strived hard to do well? Have you been frustrated by failure? Have you found yourself, cruising along, doing really well, and then before you know it, you’re sinning again?
What about you, children? Do you intend to disobey your mom and dad? Do you intend to react with hitting, or harsh words to your siblings or friends at school?
Have you knuckled down and tried harder and harder, only to experience failure, and then after failure, shame and guilt and finally a conviction that God can’t possibly love you anymore. Pastor Matt Chandler explored some of this in last week’s Bible Study.
In his series, the Explicit Gospel, he reminds us that the apostles went to great lengths to teach Christians the gospel. The gospel isn’t merely for converting new Christians, it is vital for living a Christian life.
So, what should a Christian life look like?
It is a life of repentance.
Repentance, we learned this morning is a changing of the mind. Turning from what is wrong to what is right. It involves two things, dying and living.
Dying to our old self, involves turning away from our old way of thinking. Everyone has this inside them. Everyone, born in church, outside of church, raised in church, not raised in church, everyone has this default position. The default, sinful nature position is hating God and hating neighbour.
To repent, to turn to a new way of thinking, is to hate sin, to see sin as sin, to run away from sin. This is contrary to our nature. We want to be like, to steal Matt Chandler’s illustration, we want hang out with lions or tigers, have them as pets. But eventually a lion or a tiger is going to do what they do, eat other things.
Our sinful natures are always going to push us to do the things it wants. And, Satan is right there, helping it along. Sometimes we are hung up on this stage. We’re on total defence! We watch out and guard our hearts and our minds. We close off. We draw lines in the sand to help us, and when we think we have it figured out, we encourage others to stand with us behind the same lines.
But it isn’t about lines. It is about knowing what the sinful nature desires and wants. It is about knowing ourselves the temptations we face as individuals, as a congregation.
Make no mistake; this is extremely difficult. We like the things our old natures like. The old nature corrupts the good things. To carry on from this morning, food is good; it gives nourishment and strength. But eating in excess is bad. Eating good food without exercise is unhealthy. Relationships are good. Love is good. But love outside of God’s created order is bad. Adultery is bad. It corrupts other good relationships in attempts to find some other fulfilment.
So, we need to vigilant, aware of how our own natures and the devil conspire against us with half-truths and lies. And we need to know the truth, the commandments to be able to spot the lies.
Now, what helps us, really helps us, but so often isn’t emphasised is the rising to new life. We focus on the dying. How fun is that? Dying is no fun, necessary, but not fun.
They say the best defense is a good offence. In other words, you shouldn’t focus on keeping control of the puck in your own zone. Controlling the puck in the opponents zone is great defense. They can’t score, and if they do manage to gain control, you still have a zone to go through before they get a scoring chance.
Living only on the defense in Christian living is dull.
Look what the catechism calls us to do! Live in wholehearted joy in God through Christ! Doesn’t that sound great? Wholehearted joy! Who wouldn’t or couldn’t use some joy?
God promises wholehearted, indescribable, amazing, live giving, empowering joy through Christ! This in turn produces a love and delight in how we live.
We love and delight to live according to God’s will. Being connected to God is like the joy the Israelites felt as they left Egypt. It is the joy felt, after they safely crossed the Red Sea and saw all their enemies drown.
When we are plugged into God’s joy through Christ, our minds are focussed up. We focus on God. We desire to do his will and every kind of good work.
So what are good works?
Again, the catechism helps us understand. First, they arise out of true faith.
This is good. We need to pause and think here. True faith is sure knowledge, wholehearted trust, granted to us by the Holy Spirit—that God has freely granted forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness and salvation, all this solely by Christ’s merit, given by grace.
True faith is trust. It is trusting that we’re granted forgiveness, granted righteousness and saved. In faith, we trust that we have righteousness. Righteousness is the power to live rightly. We have this already, through Christ in us, the hope of glory.
One Simple Test
But how can we be sure whether we’re actually living rightly. By one simple test, does it conform to God’s Word? The protestant reformation happened because Martin Luther tested the righteousness taught by the church at that time. He saw that it did not conform to God’s law, and was not for God’s glory.
Think about it. Listen to the arguments that people make in challenging what has long been held as true according to the scriptures. The arguments will reveal whether or not they have God’s glory in mind, or their own. When a television preacher tells people that God will take him home unless they give a certain amount of money, he doesn’t have God’s glory in mind.
When someone says the church must do this or that, you can tell whether or not they are focussed on God’s glory. If we, Springdale look back at our recent history, we can see that at times very few people had God’s glory in mind. If there were indeed two sides to an issue, then neither side was willing to sacrifice for God’s honour and glory. Rather I suspect that both sides claimed to be serving God’s glory. This is a very fine line to walk, at times. But we all have to ask ourselves, “Can I surrender what I really desire, for the good of someone else?” What would conflict in the church look like if instead of insisting on our own way, we insisted on our neighbour’s way? I suppose it might look like the way people drive in PEI. Pastor Albert Kooy was telling us about PEI drivers on Friday. He said, at four way stops, people wave everyone else forward. A person, who has right of way, might even stop, to allow someone to turn left. He said no one uses horns there. They’re very polite, and very focussed on others.
The church should be like that! That’s what God commands us to do! Consider others more important than yourself. Sacrifice your rights for someone else’s! It’s impossible, humanly speaking, but nothing is impossible with God.
Finally, let’s be aware that there are many things of human tradition or opinion that are not based on biblical teaching.
Last week, I was talking to Peter and Wilma and we got onto the subject of Sunday observance. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that Sunday replaced Saturday. Rather the Sabbath was pointing us to Christ. We find true rest, when we rest in him. Doesn’t he say, “Come to me all who are weary and heavily burdened? Come to me and find rest for your souls.”
Interesting that he says rest for your souls, not your bodies. So why are we constantly focussed on what we do with our bodies, and not focussed on what we do with our souls? If you examine all the regulations regarding resting on Sunday, they’re focussed on the physical, aren’t they? We’ll get into this when we study the fourth commandment.
So, repent, turn from old way of thinking, and think new. Think according to the scriptures. Die to your old nature, which you must do constantly, daily. Daily feel sorry for sin, daily hate it, and run away from it. Daily receive the wholehearted joy in God through Christ. Find your satisfaction there. That’s the only true place for true satisfaction. Live according to God’s will, doing good works.
Good works come out of true faith. Remember, just as the Israelites couldn’t save themselves, couldn’t cross the sea, couldn’t cross the Jordan, nor could they live Godly lives on their own. Nor can we. We need Christ in us, living in and through, living his righteous life through the Holy Spirit in us.
We need to do what we do for God, not for ourselves. We need to do God’s law, not human tradition or opinion.
Okay, so what are you sitting there for? Get out there and live in the wholehearted joy of God through Christ! Amen!
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