Fellows, Lord's Day last Pastor John read from Paul's Letter to the Galatians chapter 5 verses 16 through 18 “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
In this ninth installment of Freedom in Christ, Pastor John reminds us by reference to the Holy Spirit that God is “triune” that is, three persons in one. This divine reality may seem alien and weird at first, but surely best understood and appreciated if you think of it this way: The Father above, the Son beside, the Holy Spirit within. This time, Pastor John laid out for us how we truly have freedom that the Christ came down to earth for us to have, if we are indeed “indwelt by the Holy Spirit”.
How's this? Pastor John began, as he normally does, to teach us through illustration:
When teacher Rand was still a young man, at a time far back in the mists of the 20th century, there was a big tennis star from Sweden named Bjorn Bork. As Pastor John recited, Bork won eleven of the “Grand Slam” tennis tournaments and quite dominated the sport for a while. But his domination required not only strength and talent, but also EFFORT.
Then, quite unexpectedly, he hung up his tennis racket and quit the game. Eventually he told people “I just didn't enjoy tennis anymore” Why was this? “I was just burned out” he said.
“Burnout” is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion brought on by too much effort. Burnout is not about results good or bad, but about the EFFORT. It most often occurs in situations we can't control.
By contrast, how is it when we are filled with the Spirit? Just as Pastor John told us: what matters first is not effort or determination but TRUST. This is the real meaning of “in God we trust”.
Pastor John read from Galatians chapter 5 verse 25: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
This means that we should open our eyes (and ears and heart) to accept wisdom through the Spirit. Because of the dark, fallen world in which we live this means war – what else could we expect. As Christians we must expect spiritual war throughout our earthly existences – today until the last breath of each of us.. It is ot bad people but the evil forces behind them. To survive we must be constantly in the Word.
Read from Paul's Letter to the Romans 8:6-7 “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so,”
and also from
Romans 12:2: “ Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
By this renewing our minds – day in and day out - we can be transformed into what we are supposed to be. By contrast, if we fill up on the empty spiritual calories of this world...
I don't believe that there is one of us who doesn't know immediately what “empty spiritual calories of this world” means. But anyway, Pastor John urged us not to put ourselves in places where we will fail. Remember that video clip about the chicken nuggets being made in front of the first-graders? Even when they were fully aware of the “gross” nature of the chicken parts from which the delicious-looking nuggets were made, they chose them anyway.
Sin is like that: surrender to “guilty” pleasures. By contrast:
In Matthew 4:4 “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The word. Pastor John gave us a little lesson in the Koine Greek in which the New Testament was written. In the verse from Matthew above “word” is not from the Greek “logos” meaning “written word” but from the Greek “rhéma” meaning “living word”. We heard the story of the atheist studying from the Bible for some weeks with a Christian. For long it made no impact on him. Suddenly, he jabbed at John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life”. This startling change came about not through the will of the Christian or of his atheist friend, but through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which the atheist did not resist. It is through this amazing power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to overcome the darkness, the evil spirits, of this world. Not through our own effort and determination, which can only succeed for a short time before we have burnout, but through our humble acceptance of the Holy Spirit.
We must have the right attitude. It is not our self-centered saying “God, you owe me” but “God please be with me for I cannot do it of my own” Pastor John illustrated it further through a famous old story about an old Cherokee chief teaching his grandson about life:"'A fight is going on inside me,' he said to the boy. 'It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.' He continued, 'The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.' The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: 'Which wolf will win?' The old Cherokee simply replied, 'The one you feed.'”
Sin is like that: feeding “guilty” pleasures at the expense of your soul.
Pastor John told the old story of the Eskimo knife carefully coated with blood and left where wolves who compete for prey with the eskimos, would find it. According to the story, wolves lick the blood, the guilty pleasure that they cannot resist. They cut themselves on the blade without realizing it. It leads to their destruction the same as sin leads to ours. It feels good, looks good. But it is a matter of life or death. By contrast, being filled with the spirit of God is like filling a sail with wind. But: is our sail properly pointed? Not being oriented to the Word that our sails be filled with the Holy Spirit is how, trying to do it by our own power, we become powerless and burned out. It is the same power that spoke the universe into existence and raised Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the power to overcome anything and everything.
By daily staying in the Word we keep our sails turned to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are oriented thusly, the attractions of this world grow dim. And, as C.S. Lewis (the author of The Chronicles of Narnia) once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
In such a circumstance we know for sure as the Apostle John said (1 John 3:2-3). “soon and very soon I will see the King”