Rejecting Mediocrity…

based on Psalm 15; Romans 8:1-14

In a recent sermon on Romans, John Piper conclude his sermon on sin by clearly stating that we can either be killing sin or sin will be killing us. And I quote from the conclusion of that sermon:

In Romans 6:2 Paul poses the question, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” And his answer is that we can’t. If we died to sin by being united with Jesus in his death, we can’t stay married to sin. The faith that unites us to Christ disunites from his competitors. The faith that makes peace with God makes war on our sin. If you are not at odds with sin, you are not at home with Jesus, not because being at odds with sin makes you at home with Jesus, but because being at home with Jesus makes you at odds with sin.

Therefore, I call you and urge you, for the sake of being God-centered, Christ-exalting, soul-winning, justice-pursuing, passion-planting, coronary Christians, don’t live according to the flesh but “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body.” Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.

The choice is easy – either be actively killing off sin in your life or let it be killing you. Sin is like the water pot in which the frog gets placed. The tepid water is comfortable, but as it begins to heat up the frog, being an amphibian acclimates and adjusts his body to the different temperature until is too late and he is boiled alive. And so it is with too many people claiming to be Christian.  One must ask the question – Why do we sin?  We don’t have to.  We are not compelled to. It is ALWAYS a choice to sin, to act on our desires, to act OUT our desires, to seek to fulfill our fleshy self-perceived needs…

When all the time, God has given us a way out.  The book of Romans concentrates on a theological issue called Justification. It is the reason we are NOT condemned. It is the reason we can turn from sin.  It is what breaks the bondage we have to sin.

In the movie “Papa was a Preacher” a young employee of the local grocery store watches as an old drunk steals food. The young man’s pained face shows that he wants to stop the old drunk, but as the drunk looks up at the young man – they both know that each other knows what is happening and the drunk just shrugs his shoulders and leaves the store.  The young man is then seen putting money in the cash register till to pay for the drunk’s pilfering, accepting the responsibility to make right on the situation. The grocery store owner has apparently watched all of this transpire and allows the the young man to pay for the stolen goods only saying “old John and I have an understanding.” Old John is justified not by the agreement of the store owner but by the actions of the young man.  He is justified, when he could be condemned.  Justification and condemnation are opposites.

For the Christian believer there is Justification not Condemnation…

  • Because the actions of Jesus have fulfilled the Law for us;
  • Because the Perfect Sacrifice was made for us, our sins were atoned for, the price was paid on our behalf;

We are not condemned.  We, also are told that we are therefore no longer in bondage to sin (as we discussed last week). We are therefore free to not sin, to choose obedience, to seek to live in the Spirit by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We, therefore, CAN AND WILL, if we believe, be about the crucifixion of our flesh and all of its desires… Spiritual people live according to the Spirit. Sinners according to the flesh.

  • Fleshy people love fulfilling the desires of the flesh: they are all about good eats, good drinks, comfortable living, convenient engagements, they love satiating their senses of taste, smell, vision, hearing, feeling…
  • Fleshy people seek to experience the matters of the flesh while they may. Yet live, all the while allowing the cancer of sin to spread and to eat away at their destiny…
  • But those that are Spirit (Holy Spirit) minded people seek spiritual nourishment above everything else.
  • Spirit-minded people put prayer, fasting, witness, worship, praise and service ahead of everything else, ahead of all fleshy matters like eating and comfort, and convenience.

We are either killing sin or sin is killing us.

Seeking the fleshy matters, we are told, is enmity (that is active opposition toward or hatred of God)! The desires and interests of our flesh tend to drive us too seek to care for ourselves, to preserve ourselves, rather than trusting God for that.

Those that seek to fulfill the desires of the flesh cannot please God we are told in this morning’s lesson. They chase after the whims of the flesh and in so doing are carried away from God’s provision for them even though they may believe they are pursuing God’s will for them.

But those in whom the Spirit of God is pleased to dwell don’t become entangled in those types of concerns: what they shall eat or what they shall wear or where they shall live, or what they shall drive…because God has promised to provide all of those things for the Spiritually-minded person…as He sees fit, maybe not as nice, as big, as tasty, or as comfortable as we might like, but as He sees fits…as he knows our true needs and what is best for us,  so a part of this is a matter of trusting him to provide sufficiently for our needs more than our desires. It means letting go of our desires for the sake of serving him, not following our desires and thinking we can serve him at the same time. And it may and probably does mean living on a whole lot less than we would selfishly choose for ourselves.

Those who trust in God to provide, gladly put away these fleshy matters, they put to death those desires, the sinful side which dares not trust God to provide in these situations, the sinful side which dares not risk allowing God to decide how much is enough or putting God to the test in these matters…

It is only by the Spirit of God that we are, in fact, able to overcome these selfish, sinful tendencies.  In His resurrection Jesus broke our bondage to sin. NO ONE HAS TO SIN. Sin is always a choice; a choice to act out on the desires which confront us. Conscious or unconscious though that choice may be, habitual or non habitual, it is a turning away from God to care for ourselves, to seek our own well-being, putting our desires for ourselves ahead of God’s desires for us.  Seeking what we want or like over what God may want for us.

Likewise obedience is always a choice and may always be chosen over sin, consciously or unconsciously, habitually (if you have been a believer long enough) or through a struggle (if you are still young in the Lord).  With maturity in the spiritual life comes that ease of avoiding sin. But you must choose to label sin as sin and to treat it accordingly – as the very thing which drives you away from God’s presence, strength, and power.  Sin and God cannot abide. It’s one or the other.

There are, we therefore see, two ways of dealing with sin. The first way is to deny it as sin, to label it as acceptable to God and to perish. The second way of dealing with sin is to fight it as sin and to live.  Sanctification is the process whereby we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, becoming increasingly more useful to Him as we become decreasingly useful to Satan.  But it requires an earnest, almost insatiable desire for the things of the Spirit, a chasing after God, as seeking His will above absolutely everything else in life.

We are either killing sin or sin is killing us.

Knowing the will of God requires having His discerning Spirit at work within you.  He has promised it to those who seek it but you must seek it above everything else in life.  It is that pearl of great price. It not only cost Jesus His life but it will cost you yours at least the fleshy side of it.

Seeking the Spirit of God is the most costly endeavor ever.  But it also has the biggest payoff, as well. It means laying aside the sin, the desires of the flesh which so easily entangle. It means setting aside your safety, your health, your well-being, your financial security, your friends, your family, and everything else YOU think YOU need. Are you willing to lose everything for the all surpassing greatness of knowing and living in the will of God and knowing therefore that your salvation is secure? In knowing that your salvation is secure is the greatest freedom one can find anywhere, the freedom to risk any and every thing…

One time while I was in Kenya, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Valerie Elliot Shepherd. Valerie and her husband Walt were serving as PC(USA) missionaries in the Congo.  Valerie and I had a chance to talk about her father Jim Elliot and his martyrdom for the Kingdom. As he wrote in his journal when making the decision to enter the mission field in 1948 – “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Jim and four other missionaries had made contact with the now famous Huaorani (or Auca) Indians of Ecuador – a fiercely unreachable group who killed every outsider who had ever attempted contact with them. After making, what they thought was a friendship by flying overhead in a Piper aircraft and lowering buckets of gifts, and receiving gifts from the Huaorani as well, they opted to land their plane and eventually had a visit which included taking one Huarani for a ride in the airplane.  On January 8, 1956 they set down for another visit and were never heard from again.  Their bodies were found downstream torn apart just as  wings and fuselage of the plane.

Life was difficult for Valerie (just 10 months old at the time) and her mother Elisabeth Elliott. She was clear to point that out in our visit. But while she regrets never having truly known her father, she does not regret his sacrifice.

Some of the missionary community there in Ecuador, stayed on, hunkered down and continued to try to make contact. In time relationships, even friendships were developed.  Souls were saved. The five families who had lost their husbands and fathers were eventually invited back to receive the apologies of the Aucas and to allow the Aucas to seek forgiveness for those actions.  A tear-filled celebration of reconciliation was held and to this day the Huaorani remain steadfast in their faith, having even become evangelists to other surrounding tribes.

Because five men chose to allow the Spirit of God to work within them without regard for their well-being or safety.

Now I am not suggesting you need to go to Ecuador, or Mexico, or even to Raleigh. But consider what great things God can and will do with and through you, if you will but put away your sin, your concerns with the things of the flesh, the worries you possess about your future, what you will wear, what you will eat, whether or not your health will hold out. News flash. It won’t.

But what, I dare to ask, will you hear when you come face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ?  Will he say “away from me I never knew you. You were always too busy doing for yourself, you never really needed me.”

What do you need to give up, today (and forever) to hear the voice of the Lord.  What are you leaning on, what are you depending on, what do you think you have to do for yourself because God may not?

You are invited into a mess; a mess of personal disinterest, of personal irresponsibility, of foolish recklessness, when you cast all of your cares on Him who cares for you.  Do you want to obey or do you want to decide for yourself? Do you want to be the one who is able to and who will eventually live on God’s holy hill as Psalm 15 describes the righteous person?  Or are you happy walking through the valley of the shadow of death? Do you want to know the depth of His Spirit? The breadth of His love?  Are you willing to fast from your savings, from your vacation, from your professional pursuit to seek God’s will? Will you pray? Will you worship? Will you give sacrificially? Will you risk everything to know Christ the crucified; the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, even becoming like Him in His death so as to somehow to share in the glory of His resurrection?

Make the decision today, to put the sin behind you AT ANY COST. Change homes, change jobs, unretire, use your hard fought economic success to advance His cause and not your own. Commit yourself today to constantly keep His word before you, to give up those things which keep you from attending Sunday School, from worshipping while on vacation, from daily fervent Bible Study and prayer, or from any and everything which keeps you from clearly hearing his voice and following where he rightly leads.

God neither overlooks nor disregards our sin. Our sin separates us from him. As long as we continue to sin we make a mockery of the cross.

He does forgives sin, but only as we repent, that is turn away from it…leave it…and turn to Him.  You can’t love God and live in sin.  The two are incompatible.

You are either killing sin or sin is killing you. Which is it?

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

May the Lord have mercy upon all of us. Amen.