Episode 1. Living in the Good things of God
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Sometimes we get so caught up in our own “self-improvement program” that we forget completely that following Jesus isn’t about self-improvement. It’s about … well, following Jesus. The …
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own “self-improvement program” that we forget completely that following Jesus isn’t about self-improvement. It’s about … well, following Jesus.
The chameleon is a pretty amazing animal that changes its skin colour to suit its surroundings. Pretty clever little fellow when you think about it. And in a sense, it’s something that we all have a tendency of doing as well. We change according to our surroundings.
It’s one of the reasons that every parent worries about their teenage son or daughter, getting in with the wrong crowd because that wrong crowd can drag them down. On the other hand, if they make friends with good, loyal, honest, decent people then that’s going to influence them as well.
We know that. And if it applies to our teenagers, it applies to us too. It turns out that what we do and say and think and the places and the people we hang around, impact greatly on the things that we do and say and think.
Let me give you an example. It may be that you’re a naturally very positive person but you hang around a bunch of people who only ever grumble and complain and before you know it, you’re grumbling and complaining too.
And then you start thinking that way and seeing the world through their eyes. And one day, you kind of wake up and think, “Whatever happened to this incredibly positive and optimistic person I used to be?”
The more you think about it, the more we’re just like that little chameleon.
Last week we spent some time looking at what it meant to break free from the power of sin. For many people, sin is a four-letter word but actually, sin means “to miss the mark – to miss the whole point of life”. Sin is the thing that robs us of the fantastic life that God always had planned for us.
It’s like an addiction. It’s powerful. You do the wrong stuff, you feel guilty and condemned and it just gets worse and you end up on this downward spiral. This is not some religious guilt trip. You don’t even have to be religious to figure it out. I’m not.
I mean, wives, if you constantly hen-pecked your husband, what you’ll find is that he will withdraw emotionally from you and he won’t want to spend time with you. Doesn’t matter how right you are. And husbands, if all you do is work, work, work, work, work and you never spend time just cherishing your wife, you know she’s not going to want to get intimate with you.
If we’re lazy that has consequences. If we’re angry that has consequences. If we’re envious or proud, all those things have consequences.
So last week, we had a look at the power that God gives us to change. It’s the most amazing power. If you missed it you can listen to those programs again at our website: adifferentperspective.org.
This week we’re going to get really practical, we’re going to look at where the rubber hits the road. How exactly do I live out Gods grace and Gods power so that they remove the power of sin over my life?
Now I want to start today with this very simple reality; you have to change where you live. The best way I’ve ever heard it explained is this; you own two dogs, a big black one and a small white one. Which one is going to be the stronger of the two? The one that you feed of course!
So many people are living under the burden of sin and yet they have the power to take some simple steps to step out of it. Paul the apostle explains this in Romans chapter 8. He talks about the flesh, our human sinful nature and the Spirit – God himself. He says:
If you walk according to the spirit, you’re going to live in the spirit and have life but you walk according to the flesh, you’re going to die. (Romans 8:5
See, this is the “two dog” analogy, which one are you going to feed, which one are you going to live in? The spirit or the flesh? God or our selfishness? Have a listen to how that wise old apostle puts it. he starts out by saying, Romans 8, verse 1:
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
See, if you believe in Jesus, Gods grace means that you’re forgiven. No matter where you are in life, no matter how far you feel you’ve fallen short of Gods goodness. Believe in Jesus, this stuff is for you and for me.
Romans Chapter 8 Verses 5 & 6:
And those who live according to the flesh (the sinful nature) set their minds on the things of that sinful nature but those who are living according to the spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace.
Paul’s asking us here; so which dog are you going to feed, the big black one or the small white one? It’s just a picture you understand but it’s a good one.
And here’s what I’ve noticed about myself. You know, even though Gods been on my case now for a good many years. And even though I’m a much different person today to the one I used to be, I still have the ability to get angry, to be selfish, to argue, all that stuff is still there.
Those desires are much weaker in me now than they were 5 years ago or even 10 years ago. And the reason for that is, when you give your life to Jesus and you accept Him as King, He puts His spirit in you. God’s spirit is so close and that’s how we have a relationship with Him and it’s a beautiful relationship, truly it is. I find such great joy in my relationship with Jesus.
But sometimes, someone in the car in front of me drives just slowly enough so that I miss the green light and I have to wait at the red light and you know something; that makes me ANGRY. How could they do that? Couldn’t they see me in their rear view mirror? Don’t they know I’m in a hurry? I mean really, what I want to do is to honk my horn at them.
Now, just as my blood’s boiling and my hand’s heading towards the horn of the car, I’ve got a decision to make, what am I going to do, pander to my selfish desires or bow down to my God? Walk in my old sinful nature or walk in the spirit?
It’s where the rubber hits the road if you pardon the pun and you know something; the longer I walk with God the more clearly I hear that still small voice of His spirit in my heart, so what ya going to do? Going to walk with Me?
Right at that point where I want to blast my horn at this person I have a decision to make. I can feed the old black dog or I can turn away from it and feed the white one? Which one? And the more I choose to walk in the spirit over walking in my own sinful desires, is just another step of walking with Jesus.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own self-improvement program that we forget completely that following Jesus isn’t about self-improvement, it’s about following Jesus. That’s what it means. Each of those little decisions is a little step. And here’s what happens. I want you to hang on to your hat here, this is the really, really important bit.
When I take a step to follow Jesus, God blesses me! You want to hear that again? God blesses me! In all sorts of different and special ways. I enjoy living for Him, I enjoy the fellowship I have with Him and the peace that He gives me and the miracles that He does in my life and He just blesses me in these little ways.
It’s a great blessing, for God to just drop something on me, to give me joy. I’ve seen God provide so miraculously, you know what that joy does? It has me wanting more, I want more of God’s blessing. I don’t mean that in a selfish way, I mean that, in a sense, I just want to take every breath and every step in the joy that God gives me.
There was a time when Israel wept before God because they realised they’d sinned against Him and the prophet Nehemiah said to them:
Do not be grieved for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
You know something. Every little step I take brings me more joy and He has me wanting more of that and that gives me the power to choose the right way next time and next time. God breaks the power of sin over me because He changes my heart to choose His way, over and over again because it’s a joy to live that way. Pretty cool!