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Weekly Word

Entries in Condemnation (2)

Monday
Jun102019

Will You Walk with Me?

Romans 8:1-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Pentecost Sunday, June 09, 2019.

Pentecost Sunday emphasizes the giving of the Holy Spirit to God’s people, which is described in Acts chapter two.  In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is very active.  However, He comes upon certain individuals, at certain times, for a particular work such as: prophesying, miracles, and even physical exploits in the case of Samson.  During this time, God promised that a day would come when His Spirit would be poured out upon all God’s people.  Thus, in the New Testament at the day of Pentecost, we see God’s Holy Spirit come: to dwell within believers versus come upon them for a moment, to do so with all believers versus a select few, and to do so continually versus at special occasions. 

As a feast in the Old Testament, Pentecost celebrated the middle of the Harvest and points to the great harvest of God among mankind.  In one sense people are harvested when they are taken from the field of the world, bundled together with other believers and eventually brought into the barn of God.  This analogy does miss the other sense in which believers are called to become fruitful in their life.  In that sense we are not harvested until we leave this earth.  Harvest points to God’s desire to have humans in His family.  It is His work of drawing mankind back to Himself.  Thus, it is all about relationship.

The title of this sermon comes from the fact that Romans 8:1 refers to walking with the Holy Spirit as opposed to walking with the flesh.  This ties back to the Garden of Eden where God would come down to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day.  This relationship between God and humans is adversely affected in Genesis 3.  What used to be a wonderful thing filled with joy (God’s presence in the Garden) had become a fearful thing filled with dread because of their sin.  Yet, God in His mercy speaks of help that will one day come to help them against their adversary the devil.

Our passage today is on this side of the cross of Jesus and a long history.  Today, I would like us to recognize that Jesus and his apostles continued this theme of calling people to quit running from God and walking with the devil by following the desires of your flesh.

Will you walk with me?  This is the question God asks every person today through the work of His Holy Spirit and those who believe in Jesus.  No, it won’t be easy.  Your greatest enemy will actually be your own fleshly nature, but it will give you life and peace with God rather than death and condemnation.  I pray that we will be a people who choose to walk with God.

Christ invites us out of condemnation and into life

Verse 1 makes a statement about those who are “in Christ.”  The statement is simply that those who are in Christ Jesus are not under condemnation.  Before we delve into the statement itself, it is important to recognize just how a person comes to be “in Christ.”

It is Jesus who first invites us to come to him.  In Matthew 11:28 he states, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  His invitation is for people who are in a place, or legal status, of condemnation before God.  Thus, in Romans 8, Paul is not talking about a feeling of condemnation, but an actual legal guilt before God.  Jesus calls people out of that place to himself.  Those who come to him leave their condemned state behind and enter into a place of forgiveness, life, and peace (again, this is about a relational peace between us and God, not a feeling of euphoria).

When Jesus went into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to continue this calling of people to Jesus.  Yes, the believers of Jesus also have a role in this, but they are to do so with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Only He can convict people of their sin and the judgment that hangs over them.  Only He can convince them that their righteousness is not good enough, but that the righteousness of Jesus was intended to give them freedom and life.  It really is a work of the Holy Spirit when a person comes to believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Without His gracious work, they would not choose to believe.

So, the Holy Spirit brings us to Christ and asks us to choose.  Will you walk with Jesus?  Those who choose to follow the Holy Spirit into Christ by putting their faith in Jesus enter into a new standing before God.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence within them and causes them to become spiritually alive, which means they can sense God and interact with Him).  They are saved from the judgment that looms over them because the righteousness of Christ covers any sins that they have.  Even more, they are adopted into the family of God and made co-heirs with Jesus. We become the children of God.

Having chosen to follow the Holy Spirit into the new place before God called being “in Christ,” our walking after the Spirit shouldn’t stop there.  In Romans 8, Paul is speaking about this new standing we have before God and emphasizing that we are those who keep following the Holy Spirit now that we are in Christ.  This brings up the issue of our flesh, which Paul also talks about in this passage.

The flesh can refer to muscles, bones and tendons.  However, in this context Paul uses the term flesh to refer to that part of us that is drawn away from God towards sin.  It is so connected to our bodily appetites that the simplified word is used.  Context helps us determine if the word merely means flesh, or if it is referring to the tendency towards sin within us.

In verse 6, Paul points out that this choice leads us into one of two directions.  If I follow the flesh then I will find death, but if I follow the Spirit of God then I will find life and peace.  The devil is good at using our past life in sin against us as a means of condemning us in our hearts and minds.  Through this, He is able to rob people of their inner sense of peace.  However, the devil cannot touch our standing before God.  He can only attempt to convince you to walk away from Christ on your own.  Yes, I was a sinner and unworthy of the grace of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit drew me to Jesus and says that I can be clean if I will only believe.  Remember this always.  If God has removed you from your deserved condemnation, why would you continue to participate in condemning yourself?  And, if God has declared us to be at peace with Him, why would I worry that He will change His mind and go to war against me at any moment?  Why would I interpret every bad thing that happens as proof God doesn’t love me anymore?

Be careful of looking back at your past life and dwelling there.  If we look back, may it be in order to learn from our errors and to draw strength in order to press forward in Jesus.  However, let us not look back and become stuck in the quicksand of fear and depression.  God has not led us to this point to abandon us!

My flesh tries to pull me back into condemnation

In verse 7 Paul speaks about the challenge that lies before the Christian each day.  The Spirit is faithful to lead us to accomplish those things in your life that He has for you.  Yet, our sinful nature (or flesh) keeps trying to pull away from Jesus and back towards that place of condemnation.  In fact, we are told that the flesh is hostile to God and the things of the Holy Spirit.  The word translated as “enmity” or “hostile” has at its roots in the idea that it hates the things of God.  My flesh wants me to follow its desires and whims, but when I follow the Holy Spirit, I am led away from pleasing my flesh and its whims.  This doesn’t mean that we never have any joys and pleasures.  It just means that those joys and pleasures are not my focus.  Rather, the Spirit of God is my focus.

I know that there is a part of us that wishes or thinks that God might zap us and make our flesh go away.  However, this is not His way.  He puts His Spirit within us to help us to say “no” to the flesh and to say “yes” to Him.  God’s way teaches us to become spiritual warriors against our own evil desires, rather than to focus completely on the evil of others.

Satan’s mindset is the way of death because it focuses on others and uses them as an excuse for its sin.  It is interesting that our flesh will focus on others when it comes to sin and yet, focuses on self when it comes to love.  The Spirit of God calls us to flip this and focus on ourselves when it comes to sin and to focus on others when it comes to love.  Our flesh hates this. 

In verses 9 and 10, Paul challenges us.  If the Spirit dwells in us, which He does if we have put our faith in Jesus, then we are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit.  This is just a different way of describing this new state in which we find ourselves before God.  Being “in Christ” is to also be “in the Spirit.”  Yes, we still have flesh to fight against and we will not feel like we are in the Spirit during those battles.  However, we are in His Spirit because that Spirit is within us working to help us overcome sin and our flesh.

This leads us to verse 11, which makes a powerful statement.  The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is dwelling in you and leading you.  It will give life to your mortal bodies!  Pause and meditate on that for a moment.

There are two ways in which this can be applied.  First, the Spirit gives us life spiritually in victory over our flesh in this life.  As we walk this Christian life, we are given eternal life by the Spirit of God and victory over the flesh (not without wounds and failures).  As we choose to follow the Spirit of God, or as some of the translations say “walking after the Spirit,” or “walking according to the Spirit,” we obtain a wellspring of life within our soul.  This life is experienced each day as He gives it to us in victories over sin, and spiritual accomplishments.  We grow spiritually and bear fruit in Jesus (a process that does not happen overnight).

However, just as Jesus was physically resurrected, so too, we are promised the same.  This is the second way in which verse 11 can be applied.  At the day of Resurrection, we will physically receive the eternal life of God in a new body.  Though it will be physical, it will not have the propensity to go towards sin, neither the physical decay and weaknesses of these mortal bodies we now have.  This becomes the capstone to our salvation as God completes every promise to us and then some.

Final Thoughts

The Holy Spirit is not someone that we can define and use against each other.  There is a lot of water under the bridge when it comes to the Holy Spirit and especially the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Too often, it has been used as a kind of badge of accomplishment against other Christians, particularly certain gifts including speaking in tongues.  However, in so doing we forget that the Holy Spirit is not an inanimate object or a force that we operate.  He is a person who is capable of being grieved and resisted.  Some of the fleshliest things that have happened in the Church were done “in the name of the Holy Spirit.”  We cannot follow our flesh and then call it the Holy Spirit.  This is the same kind of thing the Pharisees did.

So how should a believer navigate this area?  First, quit worrying about speaking in tongues and spiritual gifts.  Instead, focus upon the One who is busy working in your life and wants you to cooperate with Him.  Focus upon the Holy Spirit.  Were you actually led to believe in Jesus, or were you simply looking to use church for your own ends?  If you were actually led to believe in Jesus then the Holy Spirit led you to that place.  If you surrendered and embraced Jesus in faith then it was the Holy Spirit who made you spiritually alive and even now dwells in you.  No one can take that away from you regardless of what spiritual gifts may or may not have been expressed in your life.  Quit worrying about what others think and start listening to what the Holy Spirit thinks.  Choose to follow Him.

Lastly, recognize that the Holy Spirit wants to lead you and empower you to do the work that Jesus has given you.  Pray each morning for the Lord to fill you with His Holy Spirit and to help you to listen to Him.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will empower you so that you can be more effective in your own life and the life of others.  Be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but don’t focus on what that must look like.  Rather, keep surrendering to the Holy Spirit and being open to what He is doing in your life.  I know that people can take what I have just said and twist it to their own ends, but those people will one day have to give an account to God.  Today, however, the Holy Spirit calls out to you.  Will you walk with Me?

Will You Walk audio

Thursday
Mar242016

Wicked Judgment

Luke 22:63-71.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 20, 2016.

Today is Palm Sunday, the Sunday only days before Jesus is crucified.  Palm Sunday is all about the question, “What will you do with Jesus?”  Will you receive him as your king and the Lord’s anointed, or will you reject him and put him to death?  Mankind as a whole is looking for some kind of superman who will have the wisdom and power to fix the problems of mankind.  This same desire morphs into the desire to build some kind of artificial intelligence that can take all the data of the world and somehow tells us how to fix all our problems.  In Jesus God has offered mankind the perfect king who has all wisdom and power.  He is the only one authorized by God to rule over all of mankind and creation.  All other attempts to put the whole world under one man or group of men are essentially rebellions against God’s man.  The judgment of Jesus was and will be righteous.  However, the passage that we are looking at today demonstrates the opposite of this.  The wicked judgments that lead to the crucifixion of Jesus are themselves proof of man’s inability to accomplish this pipe dream of building its own superman.  This is the all too common story of men abusing their power and the crowds of people who love to have it that way.

Jesus Is Mistreated

The treatment of those who are arrested has been historically one of “guilty until proven innocent.”  Many people have been beaten and abused long before any guilt had been established.  The presumption of innocence has been recognized as a noble principle that civilized societies will seek to uphold.  History has taught us that such noble aspirations are often tossed aside.  Thus we see the all too familiar story playing out with Jesus.  He has been questioned, but there has not been a trial.  Yet, we see those who held him beating him.  This rough treatment is allowed to happen because the leaders who are present believe Jesus deserves death.  They have a particular end in mind for him regardless of any legality.  When you put Matthew, Mark and Luke’s testimony side by side, you see that this has been a kind of “midnight trial” at the High Priest’s home.  The trial at dawn before the Sanhedrin becomes a kind of for form only trial.  They had rehearsed the points that had already been hammered out in the night.  Thus Jesus is arrested and put on the cross in a matter of hours.  Such rush to judgment and haste to execute is spoken against all throughout the Bible by God.

We also see that they enjoyed the mistreatment so much that they mocked him.  Most likely all manner of uncivil and course things were being said.  However, we are given an example.  Jesus was known as a healer and a teacher, but also as a prophet.  Thus they blindfold Jesus and take turns hitting him.  They then ask Jesus to figure out who hit him.  If he is a prophet surely he should be able to prophesy who hit him.  Such a wicked game is made only more so by the fact that Jesus was able to know exactly who hit him.  Yet, that was irrelevant to our Lord.  This is the attitude of our Lord.  While the whole world is ripping his flesh like ravenous wolves, he is silent doing the will of God and making their salvation possible.

It also says that they spoke blasphemously about him.  Thus they reproach him, rail against him, and say things about him that are blatantly untrue.  Basically they make him out to be a deceiver and a liar who has come to destroy the nation.   This is particularly sad because Jesus had come to save us from such a being, the devil.

Jesus Is Officially Condemned

Starting in verse 66 we see that the scene changes.  Having spent the night calling witnesses and seeking legal cause to execute Jesus, the leaders are ready to go public.  This public trial is where they will jump through the hoops so that they can say they did everything right.  The council here is the Great Sanhedrin, which was composed of 70 elders and presided over by the High Priest.  They were typically priests, scribes, and Pharisees.  As dawn breaks they move their grilling of Jesus to the official place for trials.  It is likely that there are some members of the Sanhedrin that were not at the High Priest’s home earlier (Nicodemus would be one such likely member).  However, a majority of the body are already in on the arrest and judgment of Jesus.  There is no question how this council will rule.

This trial seems to go pretty quick.  Thus they quickly put the question to him.  “If you are the Christ then tell us.”  Jesus points out that they are not interested in the truth of whether or not he is the messiah.  Jesus had dealt with these leaders over the last 3 years and had been grilled by them over and over again, especially over the last 5-6 hours.  They will not believe regardless of any proofs Jesus has given and could give at that moment.  Jesus also points out that if he were to question them they would simply not answer and refuse to let him go.  We see an example of this several days before in Luke 20:5-7.  They challenged Jesus on where he got the authority to teach in the temple compound.  Jesus told them that he would answer their question if they would answer one of his.  After they agreed, he asked them, “John’s baptism, was it from heaven or men.”  The leaders had reasoned out that if they answered heaven then Jesus would challenge why they didn’t believe him and be baptized by him.  Yet, if they answered from men, the people would stone them because the people believed John was a prophet.  Thus they answered, “We don’t know where it is from.”  Jesus had often shut down the attacks of these leaders and shown how flimsy their line of reason was in public.  He could clearly do so again.  He could remind them how unable they were to judge whether John was a true prophet and yet now they presume to know for sure that Jesus could not be the Messiah.  But none of this would help.

Thus Jesus repeats the two offending statements in front of the official governing body.  The first offending statement is a reference he makes to Daniel 7:13-14.  Now Luke records a brief statement made during the day trial.  However, Matthew and Mark record a longer statement made during the middle of the night trial at the home of the High Priest.  Jesus says, “You will see the son of man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Compare this to the Daniel passage in which Daniel is shown the successive world empires.  They want to have the kingdom of the world, but it will be taken from them and given to a particular person.  Daniel 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!  He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.  Here we see two beings, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man who would come on the clouds of heaven and receive an eternal kingdom.  The understanding of this passage is that the Ancient of Days is God the Father.  The mystery “Son of Man” is described with terms that give him divinity.  First he rides the clouds, which in the Old Testament is only spoken of by God.  Also, he receives an everlasting kingdom.  It is understood that the Jews did not have a concept of the trinity.  However, it is not often recognized that they had an understanding of Two Powers in heaven.  They believed that there was an invisible Yahweh and then a visible Yahweh.  This is often seen in the passages that refer to the Angel of the Lord.  When Jesus references this passage, he knows that they see the being as a divine character that is the visible representation of the invisible Yahweh.  Later this view would be declared heretical because it was too helpful to the teaching of Christians.  This was not something they would accept.  Jesus could not be this divine character from Daniel 7.  Thus they question him further, “Are you the Son of God.”  This phrase simply means divine just as Son of Man means human.

The second offending statement that Jesus makes is in response to their question.  Jesus admits that he is divine.  “You rightly say that I am.”  Our world is in great turmoil today.  The sea of mankind is being tossed to and fro by many winds.  Satan is preparing himself for his final assault upon mankind and the claim of kingship by Jesus.  There is no room for being on the fence or hiding in the shadows.  War is being unleashed in the heavens.  Which side are you on?  Do not take the side of violent men who abuse power in such a way as to execute an innocent man.  Do not participate in the violence of leaders, nor in the violence of fellow citizens who love to participate in social violence of any kind.  Jesus demonstrates to us the heart of God.  Though He has all power and authority, still He does not abuse that authority.  Yes, there is a judgment day coming to the earth, but it will be the righteous judgment of one who laid his life down for us all and not the wicked judgment of those who will kill anyone in order to keep their power and authority.  Choose this day whom you will serve.

 

Wicked Judgment audio