Isaiah 53:4, “Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
Many people profess contrition for actions they have taken when they are just sorry they got caught. You see true confession, true repentance, means that one has to acknowledge some very unpleasant realities. The first thing that one has to acknowledge is their wrong attitudes. In Isaiah 53:4 that is exactly what is occurring as the future Israel repents of their wrong attitudes about Christ.
The first thing that is stated is the reality that sin has negative consequences. Verse 4 says, “Surely He has borne our griefs.” The Hebrew word that is used here for “griefs” is translated to mean “sickness.” This involves things like disease, infirmities, calamitous things that occur because of sin. This is coming from the perspective of what sin produces in a person’s life. We all know people, or maybe ourselves, who have lived a life of sin being addicted to one thing or another and their life becomes a steady stream of illness and injury. Sometimes we jokingly call this “hard living” but there is nothing humorous about it. These are the “griefs” that are produced by sin. This is then looking at the objective, outward agonies, struggles and issues that are a result of sin in our lives. But Christ bore these “griefs” for us. He carried the load of our sin and the “griefs” that are a result of that sin. When you really stop and think about it. Most of the problems that we have in life are the result of sin. They are either the result of our own sin or the sin of others.
Matthew 8:17 says, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Psalm 41:3 says, “The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.”
The second aspect of the consequence of sin is the inward effects of sin. Verse 4 continues and says that Jesus not only bore our “griefs” but He also “carried our sorrows.” The word “sorrows” is translated to mean pain. This involves the subjective, inward effects of sin. Sin is viewed here not as a moral issue but rather through the lens of the distress and devastation that flow out of it in our inward lives.
The Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus Christ picked up all that sin produces in our lives and He carried it on His back. Psalm 16:4 says, “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.”
This is what sin does to us. Not only are there the outward results of sin like disease, injury, broken relationships, fractured families, prison, rehab, and on and on and on. These are then the inward effects of sin like depression, anxiety, a feeling of emptiness and other emotional and mental conditions. We live in a an over medicated society and much of this medication is of the psychotropic kind. Why? Because we are a people who are emotionally and mentally frail because of one thing… sin. Most people spend their entire lives trying to find meaning but most of what they look towards for meaning leaves them empty and desperate. We are collectively like the writer of Ecclesiastes, in that we have tried everything to find ultimate satisfaction and all that we get out of this is more devastation.
This is all part of the true repentance, the acknowledgment that we alone are responsible for our sin and the understanding of the destructiveness of sin. At the end of verse 4 though comes the confession, it says, “yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” This is their confession. They didn’t respect or value Him at all. That is what the word “esteemed” means. They didn’t think He died for their sins, they thought He died for His own sins.
They thought Jesus was “stricken” which means to strike violently; they thought He was “smitten” which means to be beat to death, by God. They thought the one who was without sin was being punished for His own sins. Then it says that He was “afflicted” which is translated to mean “to be bowed down.” They believed all of this happened not to pay for their sins, but as God’s wrath against Jesus for His own sin.
This is their confession then, “We didn’t understand, we didn’t see who He was. We didn’t believe that He was the Messiah. We considered Him nothing we had the wrong attitude about Christ. We had a sinful attitude about Christ.” This is where most of your friends, acquaintances, family members, and neighbors are today. They have a wrong attitude about who Jesus Christ really is. They think that He is some sort of, philosopher, shaman, revolutionary, self-help guru, or social justice warrior. Or they view Him as the great deliverer from their temporal dire circumstances. They however do not understand that He is the Messiah and that He will deliver them from the ravages of sin. Sin is their greatest need and it is your greatest need.
Tomorrow we will turn our attention to verse 5 and the acknowledgment of our wrong behavior as a key component of true repentance.
Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship.”
One of the joys of serving as the pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Craig Colorado is that God has graciously blessed this Body of Christ with two phenomenal ministries: Eagles Nest Preschool and Calvary Baptist School. One the times that I look the most forward to every week is chapel time with the students.
This past week I spoke to the CBS (Calvary Baptist School) students every morning except Friday. The text which I taught through was Romans 12:1-2; 9-21. In this passage Paul, under divine inspiration, gives us the marks of the Christian life. Sadly so many Christians struggle with living the Christian life. They struggle with sin, busyness, misappropriated priorities, and on and on and on.
Why is it like this for so many professing Christians? I believe it is because far too many Christians have a consumer mindset when it comes to God. We want God for what God can give us. This is what I wanted to challenge our students with this week, to have the right perspective on God. I pray that the Holy Spirit blessed them with His rich knowledge and understanding.
Many Christians try a lot of different formulas in the pursuit of fulfillment. They attend conferences, read books, listen to Christian radio, watch their favorite TV preachers in the quest for the desired results of being in a relationship with God. They change churches in search of some sort of supernatural emotional experience. This is the attraction for some in the charismatic movement. They are always on a quest for the benefits of being a Christian. But oddly enough we are never promised very many, if any, temporal benefits. In fact just the opposite is true; we are promised trials, tribulations, suffering, and hatred from a good portion of the world.
Most Christians have it all backwards I’m afraid. Instead of focusing on themselves they are to be completely focused on God as Paul admonishes here in Romans 12. Romans 12:1 says that we are to be a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.” The supreme calling of every Christian is to worship God, to glorify God, to exalt God. True worship then involves every aspect of our lives, not just one hour on Sunday morning. True worship involves much more than just prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. It involves such things as sharing with others, especially those of the “household of God,” but it is certainly not limited to them. In Hebrews 13:16 it says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have…” Why? Because “such sacrifice is pleasing to God.”
As I was teaching in chapel on Thursday morning this week one third grade boy made this observation: “Once we are saved we are supposed to be a completely different person.” That young man got it. My prayer is that you will as well over the next days and weeks as we by God’s grace work our way through this wonderful passage of Scripture . May God bless you with the riches of His knowledge and understanding.
Romans 12:1b, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
We dedicate ourselves to many different things in this life. We sacrifice our bodies and ourselves to work, to play, to physical fitness, to various different hobbies and activities. Some people sacrifice themselves on the altars drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, and alcohol. But as Christ-followers we are to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice” to God. But how many of us really understand this and how many of us then really do this? The second element in rendering ourselves to Christ as a “living sacrifice” is that of offering Him our “bodies.” Actually this is the logical result of giving our souls to Christ in salvation.
The word “present” in the Greek is the word paristemi and it means to “place beside, to present, stand by, and appear.” It was most often used to describe a priest placing an offering on an altar. This means then that we are to yield and surrender ourselves to Him. 1 Peter 2:5 says that we are “to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” God already has the inner man, but He also wants the outer man as well.
So if God has our soul, why does He also want our bodies? Because our bodies are more than just what houses our souls. Our bodies are where our old humanness resides. Our humanness is part of our bodies, our souls are not. Our body includes our humanness, our humanness then is part of the flesh, and the flesh is where sin lives.
Romans 7:5 says, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” In that same chapter in verses 20-21 Paul writes, “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” This was the struggle of the great apostle Paul and it is a struggle that we all identify with. We all have bodies and in those bodies resides the evil seed of sin and so therefore our natural inclination then is toward sin. Which is exactly why we are called to sacrifice our bodies as a “living sacrifice” to Him. We are to replace the sin nature with the nature of our new birth in Christ.
To understand what Paul is saying here it is instructive to understand the Greek philosophy of dualism. Dualists believed, and it was very prevalent, that the spirit, the soul was basically good, and the body, the physical was basically evil. They then considered the body completely worthless, it was going to die anyway, so what one did in the body didn’t really matter. Well, as one can imagine this led to all kinds of immorality.
Dualism unfortunately is alive and well in the church today. We participate in and tolerate sin because people think , “that’s just of the flesh,” or “that’s just what we are naturally,” or “I was born this way.” We divorce the body from the soul much the same way the ancient Greeks did, thus absolving the soul from any responsibility. Many people who attend church regularly sincerely believe that their spiritual life is in no way tied to their physical life. This is why sex outside of marriage is rampant in the evangelical church. This is why supposed Christian couples live together before marriage at alarming rates. This is why the divorce rate among evangelicals is the same or higher than the population at large.
Words have meaning, but often times in the church today we treat God’s Word like it is just a collection of platitudes. Paul is not dealing in platitudes here in Romans 12, nor anywhere else for that matter. Notice what Paul says about the nature of this “living sacrifice.” It is to be “holy and acceptable.” The word that is used here in Greek is the word hagios which is the word of “holy” and it means “to be set apart for and by God.” Our bodies then are to be set apart for God because we have been set apart by God. The word “acceptable” is translated to mean “well-pleasing.” We are to live a life that pleases God. We are not pleasing God when we continue in sin. God is not pleased or amused with our immorality.
All of this is logical, it makes sense. Paul writes at the end of verse 1, “which is your spiritual worship.” The word “spiritual” here is translated from the Greek word logiskos and it means “reasonable and rational.” What Paul is saying is that in light of Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!” Then verse 36 says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” So in light of that, to present ourselves as “a living sacrifice” is only logical. It only makes sense that we would give our soul and our bodies completely to Him in worship.
Romans 12:1a, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
If you have ever had the experience of being in any kind of theater production, whether it be a church play, a school play, or Broadway; they all have one thing in common: you are being asked to portray something you are not. You are playacting which is why they call these productions a “play.”
The third element of living a life of worship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is that of offering our minds. You see it is in the “mind” that the “new creature,” the new person, the new nature, and our old nature are intertwined. It is in our minds that we make the choice whether or not to express our new nature in holiness or whether we will fall back into our old nature of un-holiness.
Paul is giving his readers here an imperative. “Do not” he says, “be conformed.” The word “conformed” is translated from the Greek word suschematizo. This word refers to having an outward expression which does not represent what is really on the inside of a person. This was most often used to describe someone who was playing a part, or acting. Just like that high school play you were in, they are playing a part, it is not who they really are. The verb that is used here is actually a passive verb which means that Paul is saying: “Do not allow yourself to be ‘conformed to this world.’”Why? because it is not who you are, if you are in Christ. This is not a suggestion.
Paul is commanding Christ-followers to avoid masquerading as a worldly person. J.B. Phillips wrote, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mould.” As Christ-followers we are not to allow ourselves to become like the world and culture that we are surrounded by. We cannot allow ourselves to be so influenced by the world that we become just like it.
The word “world” is translated from the Greek word aion which is translated to mean “age.” This then refers to the present sinful age which we live in. This is the “world” system that is dominated by Satan who it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 is “the god of this world.”
Unfortunately many Christians walk through life with no real discernable difference in how they live in comparison to the rest of the world. Christians tragically seem to want the world’s entertainment, fashions, language, music, and attitudes. We pursue much of this just like everyone else does despite the fact that these things do not conform to the standard of God’s Word. This is completely unacceptable to God. The great tragedy of this is that the modern evangelical church seems more determined to pattern itself after the world than after the revealed word of God.
The world is an instrument of Satan and we must never forget that! We see this in the spirit of rebellion that so dominates our culture today. IN addition to open rebellion of any kind of authority is the rampant acceptance of falsehood, error and outright false teaching and false religion in the world today as well. All of this is an instrument of the “father of lies,” Satan. Satan uses deception as people are drawn to any teaching that promotes self and pride.
Instead of being just like the world and being “conformed to this world,” we are instead to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” This is once again a passive imperative. We are being commanded to allow ourselves then to “be transformed.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” We are to aspire to live a “transformed” life but that is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is why Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18 that we are to “be filled with the Spirit.”
How does this happen? “By the renewal of the mind.” Outward transformation only happens when there is an inward change of mind. And that only happens when we saturate ourselves in God’s Word which is why David wrote in Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” God’s word and the consistent daily exposure to it is what brings about “the renewal of the mind” and when our mind is renewed through God’s Word our outward lives change as well.
This is really one of the main purposes of Biblical preaching and teaching. We are not to stay the same and we are not to be “conformed to this world.” We are instead to be new creatures in Christ and part of that process is when we begin to think like Him, when His thoughts replace our thoughts. Colossians 1:28 says, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Colossians 3:10 says, “and having put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Then verse 16 of that same chapter says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” The “new self” is fostered “in knowledge” and that knowledge is the knowledge of God which is found in His Word. We are to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly.”
The third element of living a life of true worship is submitting our minds to God. He has our souls, our bodies, and our minds. A mind that is submitted to the will of God is a mind that is saturated in the Word of God.
Romans 12:2b, “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I ashamed to say that my blog postings have been very sporadic indeed and for that I apologize. It has been well over a month since I last posted. Talk about slacking off!
The last time I posted we were in Romans 12:1-2 and we were looking at the marks of genuine repentance. You will remember at the time that I mentioned that I had shared some of this with our Calvary Baptist School students during chapel time. My concern in doing this was my deep conviction about the lost state of much of the church in America today. I have come to believe, from experience unfortunatly, that there are many, many people in churches; attending church, tithing, helping, serving, and yes even preaching who are lost. They do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they think they do but they don’t. What has brought me to this highly offensive conclusion is that in many churches what passes for “Christian” living is not Biblical at all. Most churches and most people who attend church are far more concerned with self, with living for self, and for having their needs met, than they are with the God of the Bible.
With this in mind I spent some time with our students in chapel at the end of the school year asking the question: “How do I know I am a Christian?” To answer that question I focused on Romans 12 and also on the book of 1 John. This shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer but in the church today the answer to that question is too often grounded in emotion, experientialism, personal opinion, and tradition; but not in the Word of God. There is so much confusion in the church today, a self-imposed confusion I might add, is it any wonder then that people question what it really means to be saved?
So we turn, as we always do, to the Bible to find the answer to life’s questions. Before my hiatus we learned here in Romans 12:1-2 that the first mark of genuine repentance is that we give ourselves to God. We give God our soul; we turn it over to Him. The second mark is that we give our bodies to Him as “a living sacrifice.” The third mark then is that we give Him our minds, we no longer focus on the things of the world but now we focus our minds on the things that glorify and honor Him.
The fourth mark, which we come to today, is really sort of an implied mark of genuine repentance; we give our wills over to Him. “You may discern” is what is called a purpose/result phrase. In other words when a person becomes a believer, their mind is then “transformed.” This means that their ability to think, their ability to reason morally, and their spiritual understanding are able to properly assess everything and to accept “what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable and perfect.”
You see it is not our natural inclination to understand and to accept what is “good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul writes “what is good” which very simply means that the man or woman who has been saved, has then had their mind “transformed” is then going to innately know what is “good.” The person who has had their mind “transformed” by God is going to know what is “acceptable” to God and what is “perfect” in the eyes of God.
A “transformed” mind then will produce a “transformed” will. This means that the person who is genuinely saved will then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, eagerly put aside all of their own plans and desires and will completely accept God’s plans and desires, no matter what the cost. This is a continual, lifelong process. It involves a God given, strong desire to know God more and more each day, and to accept and follow His purpose for our lives.
The product of this “transformed” mind is a “transformed” life that does the things which God has declared to be holy, righteous, perfect, acceptable, and good. This is what genuine repentance looks like.
Matthew 5:1-2, “Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:”
The greatest sermon ever preached was of course preached by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on a little hill in Galilee. Up to this point in the New Testament, in the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus had been virtually silent; his words had been very few with the exception of chapter 4 verses 17-19 and verse 23. This was His first time in the Gospels that He gives us an extended sample of His teachings in one setting. In this extended message the Lord Jesus gives us the foundational truths of the Gospel of the Kingdom which He had come to proclaim.
What we know as the Sermon on the Mount is really the manifesto of the new Monarch who is going to usher in a new age with a radical new message. The truths in this sermon were a direct challenge to the legalists of Jesus day and these very same truths continue to challenge us today.
The King’s manifesto is very closely related to the message of the Old Testament and is actually a reaffirmation of that message. That being said, the emphasis of the gospel, which means “the good news” was radically different from our understanding of the Old Testament. The message of the gospel is a clarification of the message of Moses, David, the prophets, and the other writers of the Old Testament. In addition to this clarification the message of Christ struck at the very heart of the corrupt Jewish tradition of His day.
The last message of the Old Testament in Malachi 4:6 is, “And He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” The contrast to that is found right here at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes where we find this treasure of blessings. The Old Testament ends with a warning of a curse; the New Testament begins with the promise of blessing. The Old Testament is characterized by Mount Sinai and the giving of the law with its thunder and lighting and smoke and warnings of curses and judgment. The New Testament on the other hand is characterized by Mount Zion, with its grace, its salvation and healing, and its promise of peace, joy, and blessing.
The Old Testament law demonstrates man’s need of salvation, and the New Testament message offers the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as with all solid gospel presentations, our Lord begins with a presentation of the law so that people would understand their sin, then would come the offer of salvation from those sins. The Sermon on the Mount clarifies the reasons for the curse and it shows us that people have no rightoueness that can endure God’s scrutiny. The new message offers blessing, and this then is the Lord’s opening offer to mankind.
What is so radically different here is that the blessedness that Christ offers is not in anyway dependent on our effort or on self-righteousness, but instead on the new nature God grants to us. The good news is that of blessing. The bad news is that we cannot achieve it no matter how hard we try and no matter how self-righteous we are or religious we are.
You see the Old Testament is in many ways the book of Adam, whose story is very tragic. Adam was the first king, he was given dominion over all of the earth and he was commanded to rule it and to subdue it. But he fell shortly after he began his reign and that fall brought about the curse which the Old Testament begins and ends with.
The New Testament on the other begins with the presentation of the new sovereign King, the One who will not fall and the one who will bring a blessing instead of the curse. The New King is also all we need, He is the last Adam. After Jesus there will be no other ruler, no other sovereign.
I believe in our day and age of milquetoast Christianity, of half measures of faith, and of market driven churches, the Sermon on the Mount is more important than ever. We live in an era in which it is enough to call oneself a “Christian,” in which it is believed that all one has to do is join a church and they are then automatically a Christian. All the while they are living lives that are in no appreciable way different from the world. What we find in the Sermon on the Mount is the Lord Jesus Christ throwing a grenade into the middle of all of our pretend Christianity. This is what a Christian really looks like; this is how a citizen of the kingdom of heaven lives. This is radically different from what most of us call Christianity. This puts to rest the canard that all we have to do is just sort of add a little bit of Jesus to our lives.
So as we jump into this study of the greatest sermon ever given there are five reasons why the Sermon on the Mount is so important to the church today:
First of all in a culture, and I mean church culture, in which we are told in one form or another that we need to be like the world; the Sermon on the Mount shows us the absolute necessity of the new-birth. You cannot be a Christian and be completely devoid of the fruits of the new birth. The standards of the Sermon on the Mount are very high and very demanding, far too demanding to be met in our own power. Only if we partake of God’s own nature through Jesus Christ are we then able to fulfill these demands. The standards here go way beyond those of Moses in the law, demanding not only righteous actions but righteous attitudes – not just that we do right but that we be right. There is no other part of Scripture that demonstrates to us our desperate situation without God.
Secondly, the Sermon on the Mount drives us to Jesus as the only hope of meeting God’s standards. It we cannot meet and live up to the divine standard, then we need supernatural power to enable us to do so. The proper response to this sermon is that it will lead us to Christ.
Thirdly it gives us God’s pattern for true happiness and true success. The Sermon on the Mount reveals the standards, the objectives, and the motivations that, with God’s help, will fulfill what God has designed for us to be. In this we find the roadmap to joy, peace, and contentment.
Fourthly it is perhaps the greatest Scriptural resource for witnessing, for reaching others for Christ. A Christian who lives out these principles in their life will be a spiritual magnet. They will attract others to the Lord who empowers them to live as Jesus did. A life that is obedient to these principles is the greatest tool for evangelism in the church.
Lastly, a life that is obedient to these truths is the only life that is pleasing to God. That is the Christian’s highest reason for following Jesus’ teaching – it pleases God. What pleases God is a people who are radically committed to living how He has asked them to live.
Matthew 5:1-2, “Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:”
The Sermon on the Mount which is the greatest sermon ever given by the greatest preacher to ever preach, is a grenade that is thrown into the middle of the comfortable existence of many American Christians. In this message our Lord and Savior spells out for us, in detail, what the life of a Christian is supposed to look like. This is not the American Dream; this is the call of Christ to live a life that is radically different from the life that most of us live.
The setting for this message wasn’t a mega church, it wasn’t a 20,000 plus basketball arena turned church; the setting was a very simple mountain side in Galilee. His audience was “the crowds” whom Jesus always seemed to have endless compassion for. Whether “the crowds” were physically ill or healthy, financially poor or rich, politically oppressed or powerful, religiously insignificant or influential, ignorant or educated, Jesus had compassion on them all. Jesus attracted all kinds of people from every walk of life and every social class.
Everything that Jesus says in this sermon is said publicly to “the crowds.” His intention here is not to help them find their best life now, or to find purpose in their life, or help them make more money and be more successful. His purpose here is to drive them to recognize their sin and their need for a Savior, which He was. Until they believed in Him and until we believe in Him then the demands of the Sermon on the Mount can only show us just how far short we are from meeting God’s standards. This message is designed to confront men and women in their desperate condition of sinfulness.
In this sermon Jesus establishes a standard of living that is the opposite of everything the world practices and holds dear. To live this life that He prescribes here is to live a life that is one of blessed happiness. Here is a completely new approach to living, one that results in joy instead of despair, in peace instead of conflict – a peace that our world cannot understand and cannot have. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” This blessedness is one that cannot possibly be produced by the world or by circumstances, and it cannot be taken away either by the world or by your circumstances. It is neither produced externally nor destroyed externally.
Because of its seemingly impossible demands, many evangelicals maintain that the Sermon on the Mount only applies to the kingdom during the Millennial Age. The logic is: how could Jesus command us to be perfect as it says in Matthew 5:48? The teachings that we find here in the Sermon on the Mount are for believers today, as they were for believers then. These teaching show us the very distinctive lifestyle that should characterize the direction of the Christian life, no matter what age that life is being lived in. The problem is that these standards seem to rarely characterize Christians. Instead the standards of the world have seemed to overwhelm believers and believers then seem to conform to the world.
You see this new way of living that Jesus calls on us to live comes from a new way of thinking, and that new way of thinking comes from the new life we now have in Christ. These are God’s standards for those who He has created in His own image and who He has recreated in the image of His own Son. Romans 8:29 says,“For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Those who do not follow these standards as a general rule of life cannot legitimately call themselves believers.
As the Sermon makes very clear, internal changes have to lead to external changes. When our attitudes and our thinking have been changed then our actions are going to fall in right behind that. John MacArthur writes of this passage, “If our inner life does not make our outer life better, our inner life is deficient or nonexistent.” In James 2:20 we are told, “Faith apart from works is useless.” In Ephesians 2:10 Paul tells us, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before, that we should walk in them.”
To put this very succinctly and some would say bluntly: to claim to be a follower of Christ, to claim to have His Spirit without obeying the standards of God is to be a liar. To follow the Spirit in the right attitude and the letter in the right action is to be a faithful child of God and a loyal subject of the King. My prayer is that we will be a Bible of His Word, not just readers or hearers of it, but most importantly that we will be doers of the His Word. That will lead to Revived Churches all throughout this land and the world. Our world desperately needs a church that takes to heart the standards and admonitions of the Lord in His Word.
2 Corinthians 2:15-16, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
Several years ago I had the privilege of attending the T4G (Together For the Gospel) Conference in Louisville Kentucky. One of the speakers was Matt Chandler who is an author and the pastor of a multi-site church in the Dallas Texas area. Matt used a term I had never heard that day, “bread truck Mondays.” He explained that a “bread truck Monday” is unique to pastors. When a pastor has had an especially difficult Sunday he might wake up Monday morning and wish that he was the bread guy. You know, the guy you see in the super market stocking the bread shelves, he drives from store to store delivering bread. He listens to sports radio while he does his deliveries and no one bothers him. No one complains about the length of his sermons, or the music, or the myriad other things that a pastor hears every Lord’s Day. To a pastor who is at times inundated with concerns big and small, both significant and trivial, this can have a certain appeal. A few weeks back I had a “bread truck” week.
Many of you know the trials and tribulations that the dear saints here at Calvary Baptist have been through in the last year. You are no doubt aware of the attempt to oust me from the pastorate here at CBC last winter, but God was faithful and I am still here by His grace and His provision. A few weeks ago we had another week of trial and struggle. Some of it was of my own making as I did not handle two incidents very well at all.
That Wednesday night, a few weeks back, I was part of a meeting involving our school here at the church that quickly devolved into something that was anything but Christ-centered or Christ honoring. One of the things that was said about me was that when I walk in the room people feel the tension. I have to say, that hurt. I went home thinking about that statement that evening and well into the night and the next day. No one likes to be told that they cause people physical discomfort when they walk in a room or a building. That is not the kind of impact a pastor wants to have.
The next morning I awoke and did my usual morning routine and spent time in Bible study and prayer. A thought occurred to me during my time of study that morning: the more we expose ourselves to the truth of God’s Word, the more we marinate in it, the more His Word then becomes a part of us and who we are. I shared this thought with a dear brother and he reminded me of 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.
You see sometimes our mere presence is offensive to people. To some people who are saved or are being saved, we are the sweet aroma of eternal life, we represent the wonderful truth of God’s Word. To others we are a reminder, however subconsciously it may be, that they are lost and they headed to an eternity of death.
There is a battle of light and darkness going on in the world, boy have I learned that this past year. And when we are faithful to God’s Word, when we consistently study His Word, when we preach His Word without compromise it is offensive to people, and even at times physically repulsive to some.
I am reminded of 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” When we, whether that be individually or corporately, desire to live life in a way that is faithful to the word of God we are going to offend some. Why? Because if we turn to the next chapter of 2 Timothy verses 3 and 4 it answers that question: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Many professing Christians have created a Jesus that is not the Jesus of the Bible and when confronted with the Jesus of the Bible they are deeply offended. Our task is then spelled out for us in verse 5, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
The reality for me and this is a reality I am constantly reminded of, is that many in the church are lost. I am reminded of John MacArthur’s comment that when he began in the ministry he would have never imagined that most of the persecution, ridicule, and trials he would face would come from inside the church. The reason for that is that tragically many in the church do not know Jesus. They know a Jesus, just not the Jesus.
While I do not enjoy trials and tribulations, I have seen the blessing that this has been both in my own life and in the life of the dear brothers and sisters at Calvary Baptist. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” God is using our difficulties for His glory and for the good of His people and for the good of those who are lost.
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