Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Week In Review

Why Are You Feeding the Dead? (Part 2)
Preached March 25, 2007
By Minister Jewel D. Williams

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

In the scripture Romans 8:1-15, let us take a quick look at some points Paul is trying to make.

Vs 1-2 – Freedom is available to all that trust in Christ. You no longer have to be in bondage to sins you commit or to those committed against you that keep you from walking in the fullness of Christ. Sometimes the things done to us, keep us from trusting God. Because others have rejected us, we then reject God. God had to show me recently I was doing the same. Because I was feeling rejected and unloved, I in turn was doing the same to the Lord. I was blaming him for what was happening to me, instead of simply trusting that whatever he allows in my life is not to destroy me, but to make me better. He will take all things, not just some and work them for my good.

Vs 3-4 – Jesus took on every sin conceivable and stood in our place and received my punishment and yours so that God could exchange his righteousness (holiness, purity) for our unrighteousness, sinfulness and wickedness. And we need to stop trivialize our sins by such words as I made a “bad choice”, or a “mistake”, or that’s “just the way I am”, or the one I hate the most “I have always been this way” then you need to release it and let him change you before, that sin in your life leads you to bondage and from bondage to eternal damnation. It is sin if it is not in line with God, and you know he wants you to release it. When Christ took our sins, he opened to us the potential for victorious living. Hear what I say, I say potential because it does not manifest itself until we begin to walk in it.

That is why we must do as the scripture tells us. I had to set us up so that we can understand what God is speaking to us next,

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness…But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. - Romans 6:6-13, 8:10

So I have a question. If you are dead to the flesh and alive to the spirit, why are you feeding a dead body? You or I should not be feeding the flesh. 1 Cor. 5:31 reads, “I die daily”. Which is dying to the lusts of the flesh daily. I believe however that we should understand this differently, not I die daily because our flesh will not die on its on, but I will kill daily (meaning I am active in the dying process) my flesh. I should not be feeding the desires of a fleshly appetite, but I should be feeding the Spirit that lives in me. I should be feeding the Spirit the life giving sustenance it needs to live. What are you doing daily to feed your spirit? Most of us get up in the morning and we rush to take our showers, brush our teeth, and get our morning coffee so we won’t bite someone’s head off, without our caffeine fix. But most will probably push the snooze button a few times to take that extra few moments of sleep. So we rush to our cars having taken care of our physical body’s needs, but our spirit man is still hungry. We didn’t get up and pray, we didn’t stop to read our word and meditate on it. So we jump in our cars and maybe we will or maybe we won’t listen to a Christian radio or CD. And some even if they have the music on, they are too busy yelling at the slow person in front of them and having road rage. And by the time you get to work, you’re probably frustrated, and your spirit man is still hungry, because he hasn’t been fed yet.

We most likely will not stop too often to read our word during the work hours, we rarely will stop to pray but we surely will not try to miss too many trips to the candy machine or lunches. So we will come home from work with a full physical stomach but a weak hungry spirit. We might stop and read the word now that we are home. But sadly, no, we have too many things that are too important to put aside to do that. We have work we have brought home, or we just need to relax because we had a hard day, or maybe your favorite movie is coming on so you just want to kick up your feet and relax. So you go to bed and maybe you’ll give a quick, weak attempt of a prayer when you say, “Lord thank you for today” and go to bed.

And day after day you continue in this way, and your spirit man is being starved of the nutrients it needs to survive. Yet your flesh is not being denied, so it continues to control your actions, and your motives. That false trinity is in full control. Everything is being decided through the “me, myself and I”. And because of that, many of the trials you are about to face or because of your own doing. Did you hear me? Some of the stuff we are facing is not because the devil came along and did something to us, but because we have gradually been building our flesh and weakening our spirit so we have a battle going on inside. And for some of us when the first trial comes along, we are knocked off our feet because our spirit man is not ready to handle the trial. There is going to be a battle between what the spirit man needs you to do and what the flesh wants to do.

As I was preparing for today, I began to think about how to give us a visual of what is transpiring inside of us. Many of you may have read of the story from Matthew 22 and the similar story in Luke. In Matthew the king is preparing a feast for a wedding for his son. The invitation was sent out for all to come and partake of the feast. Many didn’t want to come. So the servant went out and got others to come, and when they did come, they did not have on wedding attire. In the story in Luke it talks about an invitation going out for all to come to a feast, but many came up with excuses why they could not come. It was because of their stuff, their work, or their relationships being more important that the feast. So this is the visual my mind began to see. When God saved us and removed us from condemnation (or conviction, and sentence of death for our crimes) to liberty (freedom), he also opened up to us all the provisions we need to be able to stand. He sets a table before us filled with all that we need to feast our spirit man on. He prepared a wedding banquet to celebrate, the body (us believers) being married to or joined to his Son, Jesus. Yet what happens is we have this feast set before us, but we either refuse to come and dine because our stuff, our relationships or other things are too important or when we do come, we come as an offense to God.

Let me ask you a question? How would you feel if you prepared a meal for a friend and you made sure everything they need was in the meal and then they come to your house and instead of going to sit at the table, the go straight to the garbage can, lift the lid and begin to eat out of it? Well first you would think, what is wrong with them, they sure do need deliverance, eating out of the garbage, they have lost their minds. Then you would be offended that they would treat your meal so carelessly. Image if you will then how we look when we come to the most wonderful buffet table you can think of, the table that the Lord prepared for us to eat from? Let me tell you what’s on the menu of this feast. Today maybe you have a taste for how to win a battle and God prepared a meal for you to feast on about David and goliath and how you can strike down the giants in your life. Maybe you need some reassurance, so He prepared for you the psalms to digest, where he promises to take care of his anointed, or that he will be your hightower, your fortress. Or that he will give you rest under his wings. And when you eat from God’s word, it is sweet to your taste. So God provides this feast for you to help you grow, but you decide you would rather not eat from his banquet table. You decide instead to go to the garbage can, lift the lid and began to eat. The very thought of someone eating from the garbage can when you have provided for them is offensive to you, but how much more is our offense to God, when he provides us with what we need to build our spiritual man, but we refuse and continue to feast on that which weakens us and continues to give our flesh control. And all because we have made other things more important than him and we make excuses after excuse for offending him. So we have to ask the question, are we killing our flesh daily or are we feeding ourselves on the garbage that continues to resuscitate our flesh?

The Week In Review

Writing Assignment #6 – Church and Witness

The purpose of the church has often been misunderstood. Some believe church attendance is all that is necessary to be saved and others believe it has no importance in today’s world and one can live without the church intervening. Both of these views are distorted regarding the purpose of the church. The Bible is the source that best defines the relevancy of the church.

Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines the church as, “a local assembly of believers as well as the redeemed of all the ages who follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord” (275). This definition calls for one to broaden their understanding of church. It is one’s local assembly but it is more than the walls or the building. The early church met in the Temple courts and Jewish synagogues, as well as in the private homes of believers (Acts 5:42). Richard Howard, in his book Newness of Life, states, “On the other hand, an overemphasis on the importance of the Church as the mystical body of Christ tends to ignore the clear teaching of the New Testament that every man must personally respond to the Cross in faith” (118). The church is the body of believers (those that have personally accepted Jesus Christ as Savior). The church is also made up of the believers that come together to worship the Lord in the local congregations.

The early church gives believers today an example of what the body of believers should look like. In Acts 2:44-47, the believers came together and there was unity among them. They took care of each other’s needs (they were not depending on governmental help) and they had fellowship with one another. There was singleness of heart (all were there for one purpose, to serve God) and God added to the church. The significance of this scripture is to show how working in unity will bring forth fruit (God adding to the church).

Howard makes this point to his reader, “It seems clear that it was to emphasize the unity of the Church, that the individual believer was a vital part of a collective whole. The human body offered a vivid metaphor” (121). In Howard’s book he uses the metaphor of the church being a body. All the parts are important to the whole.

The Bible uses other metaphors or models to show what the church should look like. The writer, Arlo F. Newell in his book, The Church of God as revealed in Scripture, explains these models when he writes, “Various figures of speech make plain the New Testament idea of the Church. It is a flock (John 10), all of one fold, following the Shepherd. It is the family of God (Eph. 3:15), composed of all who have been born again. It is a city whose inhabitants are all saved and recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Heb. 12:22). It is a house or building (1 Tim. 3:15) comprised of ‘living stones…built into a spiritual house’ (1 Pet. 2:5), ‘joined…and built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit’ (Eph. 2:21-22)” (40).

The church, therefore, is the body of believers (flock) that belong to God and are being lead by the Shepherd (Jesus). Jesus is the head of the church. Newell states it this way, “The church is the body of Christ; hence it is only natural that he should be the head of his own body. He is ‘head over all things for the church, which is his body’ (Eph. 1:22-23). ‘He is head of the body, the church’ (Col. 1:18)” (41).

Howard points out that when one becomes a part of the church, there are some things one must do outwardly to show what has taken place inwardly. Howard states, “Christian water baptism was the visible gate of entrance into the new fellowship. When it is realized that baptism relates to the Christian Church as circumcision did to the covenant of the Hebrew people, the importance of baptism becomes clear…Water baptism produces outer authentication of one’s faith in Christ, even as the coming of the Holy Spirit provided inner authentication” (122). Howard is not stating that baptism is what will save but it is a sacrament, which is not normally optional in fulfilling (123). Another sacrament Howard points out is participation in Communion. “The man of faith finds a new fellowship, becoming part of the Church and the body of Christ. This new fellowship is entered through the visible gate of baptism and is maintained through participation in the sacrament of Communion” (Howard, 125).

One should attend a local church or congregation to fellowship together with other believers. This fellowship will help the individual to be accountable to others as wells as in growing in their faith and understanding. Each member is a vital part of the body and no one is more important than another. Each member is also given gifts to use within the body (1 Corinthians 12:3 – 11). God’s Spirit administers spiritual gifts to each member of the body. These gifts are not given for selfish reason but to help the body to function as God has ordained it to.

In the book, Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies: Missions, the author Gailyn Van Rheenen In a figure shows this important point, “God originated the mission, Jesus Christ enacted the mission, the Holy Spirit gives power to the mission, the Church carries the mission and the World hears the mission” (18). This gives the ultimate purpose of the church. God through Jesus initiated the mission of reconciliation to the lost of the world. This mission is not based on human efforts (or work, lest any should boast) but God directives. God created this purpose when men were still lost in sin. The church then becomes vital because it is the avenue God chose to convey the message of reconciliation. The Holy Spirit empowers the people (body of Christ) to tell the message. This is the great commission for all believers to go and tell the world the message of Jesus.

It is important to give the message of reconciliation to non-believers so they can have fellowship with God and not simply to be a part of our local congregation. It is important, however, to encourage those that God adds to one’s local congregation. God commands us to love one another and be united because we are members of the body together (Eph. 4:25). God calls for unity among the believers (even if we do not all attend the same church), as it states in Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” It is important for new believers (as well as all believers) to have the teaching needed to be able to live a victorious life.

As the early church worked together, the Lord added to the body. If the church today is going to continue to grow and reach the lost, believers must be cheerful givers of themselves to kingdom work. Attendance in the local church is essential for the believer to grow personally and to learn how to reach the world for Christ. When the believer is active in the body, then the body grows stronger and God’s mission is fulfilled.

Work Cited

Howard, Richard E. Newness of Life. United States of America: n.p., 1975.

Newell, Arlo F. The Church of God as revealed in Scripture. Anderson, IN: Warner Press, Inc., 1983.

Rheenen, Gailyn Van. Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies: Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible. 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc., 1988.