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Weekly Word

Entries in Spiritual Growth (3)

Monday
Mar062017

Growing Spiritually 2

We apologize that there is no audio for this sermon.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on February 26, 2017.

As we continue our focus on God’s purpose that we should grow spiritually to be like Jesus, it is easy to envision the perfect environment where all bad things are removed and we are protected in an enclosed, even hydroponic, environment.  Wouldn’t this be the best way to ensure spiritual growth?  Of course we know that this is not how God has chosen to do it.  It is easy to chafe against the wisdom of God in this matter, and why He allows difficult things in our life.  The truth is that there are ways in which we can never grow without adversity.  We must also recognize that spiritual growth does not follow a perfect linear increase without hiccups.  However, I believe it would be a mistake to see our spiritual growth as a series of failures and successes.  It is often in our “failures” that we grow the most in Christ.  Thus the believer should learn not to run from difficulties and try to hide their failures.  Instead we can walk in the confidence that, regardless of our mistakes, God will work all things in our life to help us grow spiritually.  So we must learn to trust the Spirit of God who is daily making us new.

The renewal of our inner being is at odds with the outer

In this chapter Paul has been sharing some of the difficulties that he faced as an apostle.  In verses 8-9 we see that though it was difficult, it was not enough to destroy him.  He was continually under the threat of imprisonment and death, but through it all, the life of Jesus was being revealed to those who believed.  Think about the reality of that.  We need to break out of the kind of thinking that believes God will remove all obstacles for those who love Him.  No honest reading of Scripture will ever sustain such an idea.  Faith is always lived out over the top of obstacles, and each of them was allowed by God.  Paul contrasts his inner man with the outer in this passage.  So we will work through focusing on first one and then the other.

The outer being.  In verse 16, Paul doesn’t go into detail because it is not the specifics he is trying to get across.  He suffered persecution that physically weakened him (pain, sufferings, and arrests).  He was also growing older.  Thus when Paul says the outer man is perishing it points to the bodily vigor and strength that is being consumed.  All the saints have had to face the difficulties of a body that increasingly refuses to cooperate.  In the face of such perishing it is easy to be discouraged.  I am always amazed when a 70 year old complains that they can’t do what they used to be able to do.  Yet, I am sure it will be just as frustrating for me when I get there.  Can we just recognize right now that growing old and watching our outer body perish is a major part of God’s spiritual growth in our life?

In verse 17 Paul uses a word that is translated “afflictions.”  His outer body endured all manner of afflictions.  In fact the word is elsewhere translated “tribulations.”  A good picture of this would be a vice that is given a quarter-turn ever 5 seconds.  The pressure continues to build up until we feel like we can’t take it anymore.  Yet, Paul calls them “light” and momentary.  But, we will come back to that later.  The situations never feel light and momentary.  They feel extremely heavy and like they will never end.  I am not scoffing at Paul’s choice of words.  Rather, I want to avoid the mistake of pretending like trials are easy.  When we pretend like trials are easy then we diminish the glory of what lies ahead.  No matter how heavy and long your affliction may be, the glory that is ahead of you is so amazing that it will cause you to not even give the afflictions a second thought.  We see this same dynamic with grace and sin.  If we pretend like sin is no big deal, then we actually end up diminishing the grace of God.  Our sin is so horrendous that it required the God of heaven to come down, become a man, and die a horrific death in order to save us from them.  If we see sin for what it really is, then we can see God’s love for how great it truly is.

In verse 18 Paul notes how easy it is to be focused on and only thinking about what can be seen.  This is the thing that we usually pay attention to.  Our outer being is mainly impacted by the visible.  Of course, through science we have learned that there are unseen things that lie beneath the visible things.  Throughout history we have often made wrong conclusions because we only focused on what we could see.  We had to develop ways to discover and “see” that which was invisible to the naked eye.  This has lead to a better understanding of the physical world in which we live.  Am I trapped in a mindset of only see the visible and how it affects my visible body?  The Word of God calls us to a greater spiritual reality.  We are not mere physical beings.  We have an inner, unseen part that is called our soul and spirit.  This is the part that continues on when our physical bodies can no longer live.  So let’s look at this side.

The Inner Being.  Being ruled by the desires, fears and understanding of our body does not lead to renewal and spiritual growth.  Rather, it leads to death.  The believer recognizes that God offers us life to our inner being (“is renewed day by day.”)  Yes, through the resurrection we will one day receive an eternal physical body.  But this life is not about trying to make that happen.  Our spiritual growth must happen over the top of a perishing outer body.  So, we may take care of our body so that it can last as long as possible, but our real focus is on growing spiritually.  We daily live in a process where God is renewing us day by day.  It may not feel like it on some days.  But, He is working throughout your life to renew your spirit.  To be renewed is to be brought back to the condition you were made to be, or as God intended us to be.  This word “renewed” is used in one other passage- Colossians 3:10.  There it says that we have to “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”  Notice that a choice is involved in this.  There is a part that God is doing and you will have to trust Him.  But, there is also a part that we must do by cooperating.  We have received knowledge through Jesus Christ of what God intends us to be.  Thus we cooperate by putting off the desires, fears and understandings of our old, fleshly self, and embrace the truth and love of God.

Next Paul says that the inner man is in a process of achieving an eternal weight of glory.  So let’s go back to those light and momentary afflictions of verse 17.  They are light because they cannot destroy our spirit.  Sure it can crush my body, but not my spirit.  They are momentary because they can’t outlast our spirit.  They can only last as long as our body and then they are over.  Yet, they are working for us an eternal and heavy glory.  So Paul is telling us that our faith and trust in God in the midst of these difficulties will be rewarded in such a way that we will not care about them anymore.  No one who wins the Olympics complains about the hard work they endured to get there because of the heavy glory they have won.  Yet, we are winning a place of glory that is beyond this present world.  It gives us a place in the eternal world that is coming and a place among the great heavenly beings around the throne of God.  We will take our place beside our Lord as His coheirs and as His Bride.  Yes, it is hard to imagine that because we can’t see it right now.  But this is exactly the process that we are going through.  This life is where our faith is tested and proven worthy of an eternal weight of glory.

Lastly in verse 18, Paul teaches us that our spirit keeps its focus on that which is unseen.  Though he doesn’t explain what the “unseen” is, we have many passages that help us understand this.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  We cannot see the final reward of our faith.  However, God does give us little rewards in this life, from time to time, in order to encourage our faith.  But, we must not lose sight of the greater reward that still lies ahead.  We cannot see the judgment and removal of all wickedness from the earth and the heavens, but we will see it one day.  Even though we go to our death bed, yet we shall see it with our own eyes, as the Lord Jesus shouts the shout of resurrection and we are raised up with eternal bodies.  In this life we talk about spiritual maturity.  But the truth is, when a mature believer passes away into the presence of the Lord, they are like a baby who has been brought to term and is ready to be birthed into eternity.

So let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and know that, despite what we see happening in the natural and despite our perishing bodies, God has spiritual growth and renewal for our inner being.

Tuesday
Apr162013

The Holy Spirit and Sanctification

Today we will start in Romans 15:14-16 as we look at the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a believer.  As you read this passage you will see that Paul is concerned that the Gentile Christians live a life that is pleasing to God.  In this context he reminds them that they are “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

The word “sanctify” or “sanctification” is the process by which one is made holy.  Though the word may sound strange, it really focuses on separating someone for God’s purposes.  The holy person now belongs to God.

The Holy Spirit Makes The Believer Holy

This word is related to the word “saint.”  When we hear the word, we are tempted to think that it can only refer to a small number of people within the church who do miracles and such.  However, throughout the New Testament “saint” is used to describe

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Tuesday
Oct232012

Hungry For God’s Word

Today we return to our study of 1 Peter, starting in Chapter 2.  Unfortunately we are unable to supply the audio for this sermon.

You may not connect being hungry with the Bible.  However, this is a metaphor that is employed throughout the scriptures.  Like bread is to the body, so God’s Word is to our spirit.  Just as some foods are not as good for us as others, so certain thoughts and ideas are not as good for us either.  What do you hunger to eat spiritually?  If it isn’t God’s Word then you might be in spiritual danger.  Let’s look at 1 Peter chapter 2.

We Need To Desire God’s Word

Peter ended chapter 1 with a powerful reminder of the place that God’s Word had in their salvation.  It was through the Gospel that was preached to them that they believed and were born again by the Holy Spirit.  However, the Word is not just powerful in making us spiritually alive.  It is not just something that we need to get started and then can go on without.  We need it every day.

Peter instructs them to have a desire or yearning for God’s Word.  It is not the Bible’s fault if I don’t desire it.  It is “good food.”  It is exactly what my spirit needs to grow and be alive in this world.  So, if I do not desire it then the problem is in me.  That is why Peter commands them to desire God’s Word.  Change your mind, change your actions and your heart will follow. 

Laying aside the old nature is a necessary component to approaching God’s Word.  In fact much of God’s Word reminds us of this need and explains why it is necessary.  Laying aside is a picture of taking off things that are hindrances.  Putting on the proper attire for dinner with your spouse also involves taking of the dirty clothes of the day.  When we approach the Word we are approaching a very intimate thing that God provided for us. This is clearly not an exhaustive list.  However, lets walk quickly through the five things mentioned.   Malice is any ill-will or evil inclination we might have towards others.  Deceit involves craftiness and hidden motives that are generally for the benefit of self.  Hypocrisy is a form of deceit in which we pretend or act differently than we really are.  Envy is a step beyond jealousy.  It doesn’t just wish it had what you have, but desires to take what you have and despises the benefit.  Lastly, evil speaking is a very broad category.  It can spoken behind another’s back or spoken to their face.  Either way it involves saying bad things with our mouth that hurt others.

This brings us to the analogy of a little baby.  All babies need to grow and all babies yearn for milk.  Our spirit has been born again by the Word and we need it to spiritually grow.  Thus we need to yearn for it.  Growth is not just about size.  A baby can grow in size and still remain a “baby” in mind.  Thus spiritual growth is not just a matter of a certain number of years reading Scripture.  Just as a baby takes in food, digests it, and draws life from it, so we too must spiritually take in God’s Word, digest it, and draw life from it.  Notice that food only gives a baby the strength to grow physically and mentally.  However, choices are made along the way.

The word translated “pure” in reference to the milk of the Word is closer to the idea of sincere.  It literally is “not deceitful.”  God’s Word does not have any hidden motives for its own ends.  It is the sincere Word of God.  To embrace it we are going to need to “un-embrace” those philosophies and ideas of the world that are deceitful.

Do you think that you can spiritually grow to the point that you are like Jesus?  God is able to do that which is impossible.  However, we must want it.  We are going to have to go after it by hungering for his Word.  When we receive God’s Word like a child it will yield spiritual growth.  But if we approach it as an adult who has it all figured out, our own deceived nature will blind us to the Truth and keep us from new birth and life.  In verse 3, Peter seems to be alluding to Psalm 34:8.  “O, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”  Taste points to an intimate experience.  I haven’t just observed the LORD.  Rather, I have fed upon his Word.  I have taken it in and found his ways to be good.  That doesn’t mean nothing bad happens.  It is good in that it is helpful and beneficial and righteous.  Peter is not so much questioning their experience as he is emphasizing the “oughtness” of their needed desire.  If you’ve found the LORD to be good then you “ought” to desire his Word.

We Are Being Built By God

Next Peter uses two metaphors that come directly from the Temple in Jerusalem.  The first has to do with the temple building itself.  We are living stones in a new temple that God is building.  This building is a spiritual temple that is made of people instead of stones.  Thus, before God allowed the 2nd Temple to be destroyed, he first had his faithful, Son Jesus lay a foundation for a new one.  The temple in some ways is finished in that it is spiritually functional and the Spirit of God dwells in it.  However, in another way it is still being built as new believers are added to its coursework every day.  Notice that these stones are rejected by the world but chosen by God.  He doesn’t choose us because we are perfect, but because we are shapeable.  Many great stones of this world will not allow God to shape them.  Many great builders of this world have no place for Jesus himself.  They reject him as an unfit stone.  When you embrace Jesus you are no longer a part of those who “fit” in this world.  But worry not.  God fits you into his spiritual temple.  You have a place in his temple given by him.  No one can take it from you and you have every bit as much right as any other stone to be a part of God’s temple.

There is a personal and a corporate sense to this.  In a personal sense, God works on you to make you into his temple.  It is a work that goes the length of our life.  All along, though, His Spirit dwells within us and communes with us.  On a corporate level, we have been placed in his temple.  We are already shaped and fitted into place.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you do not have a place in God’s people.  That is a work that God does by His Spirit through His Word.

The next metaphor is the priests who worked in the temple.  We are holy priests in His new temple. Israel was used to priesthood being defined by biology or genetics.  You had to be a levite.  However, all believers in Jesus become priests in God’s new temple.  Not just priests but holy priests.  God is holy so we need to minister before him in holiness.  How can I do this?  Clearly I must first be “clothed” with the holiness of Christ through faith in him.  But I also need to pursue personal holiness by repenting of sin and removing it from my life.  This is part of my spiritual act of worship.  When I lay sinful thoughts, desires, and actions on the altar, I am allowing them to be destroyed in honor of God.  I also minister to God through prayers, praise and self-denying acts of loving service in Jesus name.  Lastly we minister by mediating between God and the lost of this world.

Peter uses Scriptures from Isaiah and Psalms to point out that Jesus was rejected.  He was the chief cornerstone of the new temple, but the builders rejected him.  The builders also rejected those who believed on Jesus and followed him.  We must not reject God’s Word, but rather desire and yearn for it.  That is how God builds us up into his holy temple and his holy priests.  You cannot receive Jesus AND reject his word.  How often people try to say something like this, “I believe in Jesus, but I can’t accept this verse here….”  Or they say, “Jesus never said what the Old Testament says.  So I believe in him but reject it.”  Those who say such things are deluded.  Jesus is the Word and the Word is speaking of Jesus from Genesis 1:1 all the way to Revelation22:21.  None of the Scriptures are in contradiction to Jesus and Jesus is not in contradiction to the Scriptures.

In verses  9-10 Peter ends with reminding them that they had become the people of God.  Israel had been identified for so long as the people of God.  But in Jesus God is doing a new thing.  For “whosoever will” of Israel that would join themselves to him, he took a remnant and put it together with people from every tribe, race, and tongue on earth to be the people of God.  Jew and Gentile alike in one body that belongs to the Lord, we have been chosen by God, made royal through our adoption into his family, made holy by Jesus, and special to him.  Special is literally the idea of purchased.  God “paid good money for us.”  We are special not just because we cost so much, but because God was willing to pay so much.  In fact, it is he who makes you special.  Don’t look at yourself trying to find something special.  You look to Him.  He is the special one who makes us rejected ones special.

Food For Thought

The enemy knows that his only hope is to get us to reject or ignore God’s Word.  That way we will not only fail to grow, but we will also spiritually die.  He hates what you have and what you stand to gain.  He will do anything in his power to convince you to throw away the best thing you could ever have.  Don’t be deceived by this world.  Let God fit you into his people and shape you into his temple that he loves to dwell within.