WordServe Church “Food for Thought” for Aug 2, 2015
- Sermon Title: “Journey to Freedom and Fulfillment” (Guest Preacher Emily Motley)
- Audio Link (check HERE on Sunday afternoon for the latest sermon)
- Sermon Scripture: Exodus 6:5-7
Quick question amidst the frenzy of freedom-oriented celebration in America on July 4th: does God have anything to do with the 4th of July?
What if I said at least one American President in the past 50 years said God did have a part to play in American independence? Any guesses as to who?
I don’t know anyone who wakes up in the morning and decides, “Today… I’m going to do evil!”
I know they’re out there, but for most of us, evil is not on the daily task list. At least, not intentionally. Perhaps that’s why it’s easy to glance over verses like 1 Peter 2:16:
“For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil” (1 Pet 2:16 NLT)
Wait… what does Peter mean to not use freedom as an excuse to do evil? Freedom and evil don’t go together. Or do they?
Why do Jesus followers think they have to be perfect 24/7?
In my experience, this incredible “pressure of perfection” leads to one of two outcomes:
1. Heightened anxiety and stress, or
2. Giving up on the faith because it’s too much
#2 is not an option for a Jesus follower, and #1 can’t be God’s will for our lives. So what are supposed to do?
What if we stopped pursuing being perfect and started pursuing the author of perfection?
I am still making this transition in my life. The need for this shift has come as a result of three observations:
In the past, I’ve worried that if I’m not perfect, I’ll make God look bad. But the more I think about it, the more I believe the opposite is true. Consider these examples:
I don’t plan to stumble or get angry, but I’m not as frantic about being perfect because I know that even in my imperfection, or perhaps even because of my imperfection, people can see more of God.
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Cor 12:9 NLT)
If something is important, you don’t throw it away. You hang on to it at all costs.
And If you really want to see what’s important to people, don’t look at what they hold on to when times are easy. Instead, watch what they fight for. Watch for what they refuse to let go of despite being battered and beaten.
Have you ever seen people who simply will not give up on God, even when they’ve stumbled or face suffering? When I see that, I am reminded of how valuable God is. And I’m encouraged to hang on just as tightly to my own faith in God.
None of that comes from being perfect.
I had a friend who wrestled in college. He and I kept similar schedules at the gym. He asked at one point if I wanted to be workout partners. I was excited! But after about two weeks, I began to beg out of workouts. Why?
Because I didn’t want to be the guy that went next on the weight machine! I was always reducing the weight by over half of what he used. And rather than encourage me (which was his intention), I became even more discouraged.
Our Christian walk is not much different. If you’re so far out ahead of others, (i.e., “perfect”) people won’t be able to relate to you. And rather than encourage, you might actually discourage them in their walk.
I’m not saying we should purposefully stumble and sin. I’m simply saying that if we do (as humans occasionally do), we shouldn’t be afraid that God will be seen as less.
In fact, I think people will see:
– More of God’s character
– More of God’s worth, and
– God will be more reachable for others
So, I have decided to stop pursuing perfection, and start pursuing the author of perfection.
Who’s with me?
“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12 NRSV)
Where have you seen God’s grace in human weakness? How has the pressure of perfection affected your life? Share your experiences via comments!
Maybe you’ve heard or personally experienced this dilemma: “If I have accepted Christ and am a believer, then why do I still struggle with sin?”
This can be a devastating question for someone new or weak in their faith. We can begin to question: maybe my belief in Christ didn’t work and I’m not really saved… maybe I just need to believe harder… maybe I should just give up because no matter how hard I try, I still sin. Take a look at this issue throughout history and we quickly see we aren’t the first ones to struggle with this question.
Sadly, we won’t be the last either.
Why? Because of a subtle but important distinction in what our belief in Christ does for us, and what it does NOT do. I’m talking about the difference between birth and growth. (In more formal terms, justification and sanctification). So, what does our faith do… and not do?
Belief in Christ frees us from the PENALTY of sin: If we were to use a courtroom analogy, we receive a pardon, or a sentence of “not guilty” at the point of our belief. Because of what Christ did on the cross, we don’t get what we deserve.
Belief in Christ fress us from the POWER of sin: We are now free to choose another way. Sin no longer clouds our minds and judgment so that we see no other option. We can get guidance, counsel, strength, because of our relationship with God that has now been realigned.
But here’s the kicker: Belief in Christ does NOT kill sin. Consider every encounter Jesus has in Scripture with demons: in every case, the demons know exactly who Jesus is… in other words, they believe Jesus is the Holy One of God, but they still sin (e.g., Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). In fact, they take sinning to a whole different level. They are demons after all.
Said simply, I am saved from the power and penalty of sin, but I am not free from sin. At least, not yet.
This is the stumbling block: so many people feel that belief in Christ should kill the sin within them. But then they sin… and for the life of them they can’t figure out why. And worse, they can’t seem to control it. Perhaps it’s shame, or embarrassment, or a feeling of hopelessness, but whatever the cause, the result is that people give up on their faith everyday because their expectation doesn’t meet the reality in their life.
There’s an important difference between believing and following. Think of it this way. Before knowing Christ, we live our lives in the prison of sin. When we believe and receive Christ, He comes and unlocks the prison door from the outside. But unless we open the door and follow Him outside, are we really free? We have to put movement in our faith. The movement to follow Him and not stay where He found us. I guess that’s why our faith is often described as our Christian walk!
So, what do we do about this? Here are two steps to get out the door:
1. Recognize the situation: Sin is still alive and well, so don’t let your guard down. Understand that while the door may be unlocked, you can’t stay in your cell and be truly free. Old habits and old haunts have to go. And don’t be surprised to find that your new-found freedom is only the first salvo in an ongoing battle.
2. Commit to follow Christ in every aspect of your life: This is a daily choice, but the good news is that you’re not alone as you strive to follow Christ. He promises the Holy Spirit to guide, teach, counsel, and encourage you. The difference between the demons and us is not what we believe, it’s about what we do with what we believe.
How do we do this? Well, you’ll have to tune in Thursday for my next post, “Saved FOR… what?” In the meantime, be encouraged… there is help for you today, in this moment. Praying a simple pray of belief with a commitment to follow will unleash the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
You might say, all heaven’s about to break loose!
What has been your experience in this struggle? What advice have you provided to others who struggle with sin and belief? Use the comments to join the discussion!