Posted on 10/22/2006 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
Good morning! Let's get started today by putting our minds and hearts on Jesus.
Throughout our week, everything else has our attention. Many of us have jobs, inside or outside the home; many of us have families; all of us have friends, and if you don't think you have any, stick around for our time of fellowship after the service and that will change.
All week we've been putting our attention on everything else. But nothing in our lives, no matter how important they may be, is worth our attention like Jesus.
So for the next 30 or 45 minutes, let's put our full attention on him. If you have a television or radio on, turn it off. If you're having instant message conversations, put them off until later.
Jesus left his place of glory in heaven and took on human flesh. He lived in this world and suffered the same pains and struggles we all have. He was tempted in every way we are. He reached out with love and compassion and healed the sick, delivered those bound by sins, cast out evil spirits, and even raised the dead.
The he allowed the people he created to beat him to the point of death, rip his beard out of his face, spit on him, mock him, nail his hands and feet to a splitery cross, and then gamble for his clothes while he hung there pouring his blood out for you and for me.
He didn't have to do that. He could have remained seated in heaven, surrounded by angels and creatures who day and night worship him, seeing his power and majesty and giving him the honor and worship he deserves.
He chose to live a lifetime away from that, a lifetime of being mocked and mistreated by the little people he created, and he did this for one reason and one reason only:
He did all that so that he could have fellowship restored with you.
He did all that so that you wouldn't have to pay the penalty for the sins you've committed, and so you could be set free from those sins.
His blood washes those sins away and his Holy Spirit gives you the power to say "no" to those sins and "yes" to Godliness. It is sin which separates you from God. And he paid the ultimate price so you could have your past sins washed away and be brought back into fellowship with him, and so you could live a holy life and continue to have that unbroken fellowship with him.
If you haven't accepted God's free give of Salvation today, if you've let sins and the cares of this world come in and therefore interfere with your fellowship with God, or if you just feel distant from him this morning, let's take a moment to get things right, to get every hinderance cleared out of the way, so we can enter his presence together with fullness of fellowship, and fullness of joy.
Let's all stand to our feet as we approach the Father with prayer.
Lord God, we come to you this morning bare before you. You see the deepest, darkest corners of our hearts and minds, and there is nothing hidden before you.
We ask Lord that you forgive us for our sins. So many times we turn again and again to that which greives your Holy Spirit, and thereby we step out of fellowship with you.
Restore us this morning to that place of intimacy with you.
Some of us have never come to that place of surrender to you. Some of us have practiced some form of religion, or gone through religious rituals, in an attempt to satisfy that longing deep in our hearts to be right with you.
But today we want to stop looking for some other way to be right with you. We come to the cross, Lord, asking you to forgive us for our sins. We believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Word of God made flesh, and that he paid our death penalty, taking our sins upon him on the cross. We know he rose again bodily from the dead, just as he told us for thousands of years he would do. And we know he is seated in glory, and standing in the gap for us today.
Come into our hearts, Lord Jesus. Make us a brand new creation. We turn away from our sins -- sins of the body, sins of the mind, and sins of the heart, for we know only true repentance is evidence of true faith. And with the power of your Holy Spirit, we choose to live for you, in growing fellowship with you, for the rest of our lives.
Now draw us into your presence, Holy Spirit. Wrap your arms around us, and fill us with yourself. May we step into a deeper, more intimate life with you today.
And it's in Jesus' name we pray.
Let's remain standing and worship our King together. Click-touch the pulpit for a notecard, and let's keep our minds upon Jesus, seeking the fullness of his presence today.
EVERY MOVE I MAKE
Every move I make I make in You
You make me move Jesus
Every breath I take I breathe in You
Every step I take I take in You
You are my way Jesus
Every breath I take I breathe in You
Waves of mercy
Waves of grace
Everywhere I look
I see your face
Your love has captured me
Oh my God
How can it be?
Salvation, spring up from the ground
Lord, rend the heavens and come down
Seek the lost and heal the lame
Jesus, bring glory to Your name
Let all the prodigals run home
All of creation waits and groans
Lord, we're heard of Your great fame
Father, cause all to shout Your name
Stir up our hearts, Oh God
Open our spirits to awe who You are
Put a cry in us so deep inside
That we cannot find the words we need
We just weep and cry out to You
I SEE THE LORD
I see the Lord seated on the throne, exalted
And the train of His robe
Fills the temple with glory
And the whole earth is filled
The whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
With His glory
Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy is the Lord
Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy is the Lord
HE WHO BEGAN
He who began a good work in you
He who began a good work in you
Will be faithful to complete it
He'll be faithful to complete it
He who started the work
Will be faithful to complete it in you
If the struggle you're facing
Is slowly replacing
Your hope with despair
Or the process is long
And you're losing your song
In the night you can be sure
That the Lord has His hand on you
Safe and secure
He will never abandon you
You are His treasure
And He finds His pleasure in you
Thank you Lord for your presence with us here today! Thank you that as the music fades away, our time of fellowship with you does not fade. We continue to worship you today by listening intently to what your Spirit and your Word say to us today.
You may be seated.
The title of my message today is "Through Christ."
God started giving me this message last Sunday morning as I stood with believers at our home church, worshiping God together. I was made especially aware of my own human weaknesses, and the fact I struggle with things just like all of us do. I get frustrated with those invisible barriers to progressing into a deeper relationship with God just like many of us do.
And I confessed to God my feelings that overcoming some issues is something I just can't do.
In my spirit I heard God say, "You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you." And I must admit to you today, I was a bit disappointed.
"Yes," I thought to myself, "I know Jesus will give me the power and help me overcome."
But then the Holy Spirit underlined one word of that verse to me, and that one word continued to churn and grow in me. That one word is "Through".
"I can do all things THROUGH Christ who strengthens me."
And for the next few minutes, let's open up God's Word and see if the Holy Spirit will bring that Word alive to us in a new way, so we can find more freedom in our lives and so we can walk more deeply with God.
What does this verse really mean? We tend to skim over it lightly, thinking, "Yes, God gives me the power to do anything." And yet the word that jumped out to me in the context of wondering how to overcome, was the word "through".
In the original Greek, this word carries the meaning of "in the interior, within the limits of; a place of rest."
Let's look at some other Scriptures which tie in with this issue of doing all things through Christ.
Romans chapter 8 verse 37 tells us we are more than conquerors through Jesus. Let's read a few verses surrounding this one, and then we'll talk about it.
Reading from Romans chapter eight, beginning with the first verse:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We begin this passage by hearing there is no condemnation to those who are IN Christ Jesus. And once again we may ask ourselves, what does it mean to do things THROUGH Christ and to be IN Christ?
That verse continues by saying, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit."
Several years ago, after a time of worship, prayer, and deep fellowship in the presence of God, I felt the leading of the Spirit to walk around the neighborhood praying for my neighbors.
As I walked out the door and onto the sidewalk, I had an experience which I had not experienced before, nor have since. I don't know how to describe it except that I was walking inside of someone much larger than I. It was as though I was walking inside of the Spirit of God, going where he was going, and praying what was on his heart to pray.
We read a couple of weeks ago that while God appears in three distinct persons throughout Scripture, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these three are completely one and the same. I know I was walking quite literally that day in the Spirit, and I was praying quite literally through Christ, as he was walking and praying through me.
In John chapter fifteen, Jesus sheds some more light on the issue of being "in" him and living "through" him. Let's read from John fifteen, beginning with verse one:
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He cuts away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
So Jesus starts by comparing himself to a vine, we being the branches. He says if we remain in him, we will bear fruit. If we don't, we will be cut away and will wither; and in the end we will be burned.
He goes on to say that if we abide in him, and his words abide in us, we will ask what we desire, and it will be done for us. And this is one way in which God is glorified, and that is by our bearing good fruit, which is what marks us as his disciples.
But what does it mean to abide in Jesus? Let's read on, picking up with verse nine:
9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
And here he points us toward a very important truth. He clarifies our abiding in him by pointing out his love -- "abide in my love". And then he proceeds to tell us how we abide in his love:
10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
So we abide in Christ by abiding in his love. And we abide in his love by keeping his commandments.
While this is all true, and while it shines a light into our hearts if we are choosing to live in a state of disobedience to God's Word, it does not answer the question I had last week, and the feeling that I would never be able to overcome.
If God is telling you to do something, or if he is telling you to lay something down, but as hard as you try to obey you continue to fail, you might need a bit more insight into this issue of doing "all things through Christ" just as I did.
But before we reach our destination here, let's read a few more Scriptures which talk about what it means to abide in and live through Christ.
Let's read from Second Corinthians five, starting with verse fourteen:
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;
15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him that way no longer.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,
19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not charging their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
This begins by revealing a mystery; that because Jesus died for everyone, then by proxy, everyone died. And it says Jesus died for us all, and those who live should not live for themselves, but for Jesus, who died for them and then rose again.
When we can't seem to overcome our old ways of doing things, or perhaps a sin that has us bound, do you think just maybe it's because we are unwilling to let our flesh hang on the cross with Jesus? We want his life, but are unwilling to crucify our flesh, forgetting that if Jesus had not died, he would not have been raised from the dead; likewise, if we do not die to our sinful nature daily, how can we expect to have that newness of life and that resurrection power that comes with it?
This passage goes on to say, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
And in verse nineteen we read, "that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not charging their trespasses to them..." and in verse 21, "For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him."
I'd like to take a moment here to point out the places we've just read which mention being "in" Christ:
"If anyone is IN Christ, he is a new creation..."
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are IN Christ Jesus..."
"We are more than conquerors THROUGH him who loved us."
"As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide IN me."
"He who abides IN me, and I in him, bears much fruit..."
"If anyone does not abide IN me, he is cast out and withers..."
"If you abide IN me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it will be done for you..."
"I can do all things THROUGH Christ who strengthens me."
And now that we've laid the foundation with Scripture, I'd like to expound upon that Scripture a bit, then we'll close with prayer and a time of ministry.
The first thing I would like to point out here is this:
God Wants Us to be Holy
And if you wonder why, here are three reasons God wants you to be holy:
First, so you can have deep fellowship with him. What he wants and has wanted from the beginning of mankind, is to have intimate fellowship with you. Sin breaks that fellowship and builds a wall between us and God.
God is completely holy, and by his very nature he can not fellowship with sin. That is why we are commanded to not fellowship with sin: it is because we can fellowship either with sin or with God. Not both.
In Luke 16:3 we read, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other." And while Jesus was talking about money, he was stating a universally-applicable truth, that no one can serve two masters.
During a period of my life when I was not walking with God, I comforted myself by thinking, "Then my sins must not really be my masters, because I don't hate God."
And yet I had the same mistaken idea of what love means, as well as what hate means.
And what is love?
Love is being in unity with, standing behind, fighting for the advancement of, promoting, working to strengthen, working to build up.
What is hate?
Hate is being at odds with. It is loving that which is hated. It is doing that which would tear down. It is standing behind that which is in opposition to.
When we choose evil, we choose that which is at odds with God. It is loving that which God hates. It is doing that which would tear down the kingdom of God, lead people into bondage and away from God, and tear down all who follow your lead. Hating God is standing behind that which is in opposition to God.
When we choose evil and sin, we choose to be in unity with it by our actions, we choose to stand behind it, fighting for the advancement of it, promoting it, working to strengthen it, and working to build it up.
Both love and hate are choices, not feelings. And when we choose that which is contrary to God, we are choosing, regardless of our feelings, to love evil and hate God.
So the first step toward walking in and living through Jesus is to choose a life of holiness. This doesn't mean we won't fail. It simply means we won't stay there when we do. If I fail for a moment, I should immediately turn to Jesus, asking for forgiveness; then I should worship God, for true worship breaks the bonds of the enemy from our lives.
A second reason God wants us to be holy is because it's for our own good. When we disagree with God by participating in that which is not in agreement with him, we are destroying ourselves and those around us.
A third reason God wants us to be holy is so we can be a witness. Jesus said "He who does not gather with me scatters." And throughout Scripture we see a recurring theme that there is no middle ground; you either are a friend of God and an enemy of the things of this world, or you are a friend of the things of this world and an enemy of God.
So how can we witness Jesus to others when we are choosing to be an enemy of God?
Galatians chapter two verses seventeen through twenty tell us,
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!
18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
But one last time, this question begs to be answered: "What does it mean to be "in" Christ and live "through" him?
A few years ago the saying "What would Jesus do?" became quite popular. I'm afraid most of us let the true implications of that question pass us by. I know I did.
But for us to live "in" Christ, don't we need to be where he is and do what he is doing? It tends to boggle our minds to thing that God lives in us and moves through us, and yet we need to remain in him and move where he moves.
The Spirit of God within us is the same Spirit of God moving in the world around us. If we follow the leading of the Spirit of God as he moves within us, we will remain in Christ.
As we saw a couple of weeks ago, Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus said, "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it will be done for you." And so we know that if we stay in God's Word both by reading it and then by living it, then we will remain in Jesus, and his Word will remain in us.
Just so we can see where we're going, let's go back to where we began, and that was with a question: How can I overcome the things with which I continue to struggle?
And how can we live a life of holiness? How can we remain in Jesus so we will be more than conquerors through him? How can we do all things through Christ who strengthens us?
First we must make a choice. And let me point something out here: if you have that pulling at your heart to make the choice for holiness, but you have been hesitating because you don't want to try and then fail, keep in mind the fact you wouldn't even desire to make that choice if the Holy Spirit weren't calling you to do so; and if the Holy Spirit is calling you to make a choice to live completely for God, he will give you the direction and power to do it.
"Okay", I thought, "I've already made the choice for holiness. I've already made the choice to walk in deeper fellowship with you. But I continue to fail, and I still seem unable to get beyond those things that keep holding me back."
And God answered. Sometimes we human beings are quite dense, and after all these years it finally dawned upon me that I'm not dead yet. I'm not dead yet! I think that because I haven't had my next breakthrough yet, and because I may have wrestled with this particular thing for many years, It's hopeless.
But this promise from Philippians 1:6 remains true, that "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it."
As I continue to make the choice to seek after God with my whole heart, as when I fall I get back up, ask for forgiveness and choose to turn from anything which displeases him, and as I stay in the Word, filling myself with the Word of God, and staying in Jesus by doing what he would do, I will be living through Christ, and he will be living through me.
In myself, I can do nothing. But I can do ALL things THROUGH Christ who strengthens me.
When I get wrapped up in the daily cares of life, I can take a moment to put my attention on Jesus, even if it's just to thank him, give him a word of praise, or just tell him I love him.
When I face temptation, I can run toward righteousness, remembering that 1st Corintians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
And when my mind wrestles with whether to compromise with sin, I can remember that if I choose even the smallest bit of sin, I am choosing to love sin and thereby hate God. And if I have given in, I can ask for forgiveness and turn my attention on Jesus.
Last week we talked about having daily worship experiences. If you don't know what it means to be so wrapped up in God's presence that everything else fades away and you have no worries, no stresses, no fears, no doubts; if you don't know what that is, then I urge you to search after that time of intimacy with God.
Living in and through Christ is a moment-by-moment decision. And it begins with making that decision today. "Even if I might mess up a million times, I am making the choice today to remain in Christ, choosing only that which pleases him, filling myself with his Word and walking in it, and staying in his presence through prayer, thanksgiving, praise, and worship.
The ministry team can come to the front, as we prepare for a time of ministry.
As a minister of reconciliation to God, I'm asking each one of us to be reconciled to God today. Whatever else there is in your life today that may be coming in between you and God, it's not worth giving up your fellowship with God, your chance to be right with him and to build up his kingdom, choosing to love him, rather than tearing down his kingdom in you and those around you.
I'm only a messenger. I can't make you right with God. But the one who can is here today. He's the one who brought you here today. He's the one who is tugging at your heart. He's the one who we've all rejected and hated by choosing things which are against his nature. And he's the only one who can fill us, surround us, and set us free.
This altar is open for prayer. Don't hold yourself back from God any longer. Run into the arms of the Savior and let him set you free today!
In a few minutes we'll meet next door for fellowship; but right now, let's make that choice to choose to be holy, to immerse ourselves in God's Word, to live by that Word, and to trust God to complete the work he has begun in us, changing us from glory to glory into the image of his Son.
Come to this altar and let's pray together. If you need ministry or prayer, instant message one of the ministry team. Come!