Posted on 02/17/2013 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)
*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***
Public Prayer Requests:
*** there are no public prayer requests this week ***
REASON TO REJOICE
I have a reason to rejoice
I have a reason to clap my hands
I have a reason to lift my voice
and sing praises to the great I Am
I have a reason to move my feet
and take the Gospel into the street
I have a reason to lose my will
and let Jesus take full control
For you have set me feet to dancin'
You have filled my heart with joy
You have freed me from my passions
and filled me with the Holy Ghost
You have set my heart on fire
Fill my soul with your desire and
Melt me Lord 'til only you remain!
WHEN THE SPIRIT
When the Spirit of the Lord
moves in my heart
I will praise as David praised
I will praise, I will praise,
I will praise as David praised
Sing... Clap... Dance... Pray...
NONE LIKE YOU
There is none like You
no one else can touch my heart like You do
I could search for all eternity long
And find there is none like You
Your mercy flows like a river wide
And healing comes from Your hands
Suffering children are safe in Your arms
There is none like You!
*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***
Almost seven years ago, at our physical world church, we were having a time of worship together, and I suddenly became very strongly aware of my own human weaknesses, and of all the things with which I struggle. And just like many Christians probably do, I sometimes get frustrated with those invisible barriers that often seem to keep me from progressing into a deeper relationship with God.
And I confessed to God my feelings that overcoming some of those 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, while I knew it was Scripture and was therefore true, 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. And 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? I think many of us 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 that 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.
Some time ago we talked about the fact 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. Well, that's as hard to adequately explain as this experience. But 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, and says that we are His 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? Well, 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 what it means for us to abide in Him, by pointing to His love -- "abide in my love". And then He tells 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 those seven years ago, 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 too just might need a little more insight into this issue of doing "all things through Christ."
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 the life He gives, but we're unwilling to crucify our flesh; it's almost as though we forget that if Jesus had not died, He would not have been raised from the dead; and in the same way, 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
I know we talk about holiness and repentance a lot, but that's because it's VERY important. 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 very beginning, is to have intimate fellowship with you. Sin breaks that fellowship and builds a wall between you and God.
God is completely holy, and by his very nature he can not fellowship with sin. That's why we're 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.
And 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 those 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 to 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.
I've heard a number of people try to justify their sin by saying that God wants them to be happy. But what they don't realize is that their sins are destroying them. Lasting happiness never comes from self-destruction, only sorrow, regret, and pain.
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.
And 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 to live "through" him?
I'm sure you've heard the statement that became really popular a few years ago that says, "What would Jesus do?" But I believe most of us let the true implications of that question pass us by. I know I have.
After all, 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. And if we follow the leading of the Spirit of God as He moves within us, we will remain in Christ.
Scripture tells us that 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're afraid that you'll just fail, keep in mind the fact that 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, God. 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! We seem to think, or to feel as though, because we haven't had our next breakthrough yet, and because we may have wrestled with some 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."
And as you continue to make the choice to seek after God with your whole heart, as every time you fall you get back up, ask for forgiveness for and choose to turn from anything which displeases Him, and as you stay in the Word, filling yourself with the Word of God, and staying in Jesus by doing what He would do, then you will be living through Christ, and He will be living through you.
In myself, I can do nothing. But I can do ALL things THROUGH Christ who strengthens me.
And when you get wrapped up in the daily cares of life, just take a moment to put your attention on Jesus, even if it's just to thank Him, give him a word of praise, or just tell Him you love Him.
When you face temptation, you 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 your mind wrestles with whether to compromise with sin, you can remember that if you choose even the smallest bit of sin, you are choosing to love sin and thereby hate God. And if you have already given in to that sin, you can ask for forgiveness and then turn your attention on Jesus.
After all, it's not your own righteousness that pleases God, but Jesus' righteousness that you wear like a garment. And you walk in and live through Him as you choose to put on His righteousness every day and in every situation. And it's not by your own power and might, as though all the pressure is on you, but it is by the Holy Spirit who lives in you and who, as you surrender to Him, lives through you in a way that pleases God.
We've talked numerous times 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.
Let's close today's service with a time of ministry and prayer. This altar is open, and you're invited to get out of your seat right now and make your way to the front, and just spend some time seeking after God in prayer, worship, and surrender.
And as a minister of reconciliation to God, I'm asking each one of us to be reconciled to God today. Whatever 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; it's not worth giving up your 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 in the room to your left for a time fellowship, and you're invited to make your way over there when you're ready; but for now, let's take some time and make that choice 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.
*** listen to audio for closing prayer ***