Monthly Archives: August 2016

Walking in the Spirit – What Difference Does It Make?

Peninsula Community Church

August 21, 2016

Walking in the Spirit – What Difference Does It Make?  

Romans 8:1-5 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

I do not intend this to be political but many of you have heard the comments made by one of our leading candidates for president. When questioned about the Benghazi events, Hillary Clinton responded with the words “What difference does it make?”  While the acts of that night in Benghazi made a big difference in the lives of those involved, this same mindset can be applied to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can ignore His work and the command to walk in the spirit or we can follow His word and live a passionate fulfilled Christian life.

I would like to look at this question this morning and the reason I want to do that is because we will focus our attention on what we think is important. Jesus addressed this succinctly in Matthew 6:27 when He stated For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Jesus knew that where we place our passions and the things we give our heart to is the thing we will follow and to which we will commit our life. I had a personal experience that illustrated this to me in a powerful way. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of playing golf with Clayton Bunting, Elmer Towns; co-founder of Liberty University, and golf pro John Ross at the Cascades Golf Course at The Homestead in Virginia. It was a great week and I learned so much about the game of golf while playing that course. One of the things I learned is that I had a tendency to focus on the obstacles in front of me rather than the goal of getting the ball on the green. You see when there was a water hazard I would focus on the water hazard rather than on getting the ball beyond the hazard. And as you might guess I would hit the ball into the hazard more times than I care to mention. It was all because I was placing my focus on the wrong thing.

While Paul is not talking about golf here he is talking about a way of life. In fact, he is talking about something much more important than the game of golf. He is talking about having a meaningful life. He is talking about choosing to focus on the Spirit rather than the works of the flesh. Do you see it in this passage? Paul says to set your mind on the things of the Spirit. Why does he say this? He said it because he understands that what you focus on is what you will do. If we focus on the flesh we tend to act out the things of the flesh. If we focus on what we cannot have and what we cannot do, the desire within us to have those things will rise up and begin to control us. The result is death and pain. So how do we focus on the Spirit and why does it make a difference?

Paul defines focusing on the Spirit in a couple of ways. For one, he calls us to set our minds or to focus our minds. Here is what he says. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. The idea that is presented here is that when we focus on either the flesh or the Spirit we generally come under the influence of the work of either of these motivating factors. To understand this we must understand that the flesh represents the five senses. It is what we see, what we hear, what we touch, it is what we taste and so on. It also represents the mind, will, and emotions. You see none of these in themselves are wrong, it is only when they are not focused in the Spirit that the outcomes can become wrong or evil. When the flesh is the starting point of our decisions, then we are in trouble. We must begin with the Spirit.

Secondly, Paul calls us to walk in the spirit. This also speaks of direction and focus. In Scripture one’s walk represented one’s lifestyle and their actions. We see this in Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Notice here that Paul deals with the Romans 7 phenomena of the dichotomy of wanting to do one thing but actually doing something else. It is the war within us that creates this turmoil. But we must choose who or what we will follow. We must determine that the Spirit will control our lives and then must seek to walk in the Spirit.

Paul then continues to detail what the flesh looks like and then what the spirit looks like in Galatians 5:19-23. There is a marked difference between the two. Here is the beauty of all of this. Paul makes it clear that we need to focus on the Spirit and not the flesh by relying on the Holy Spirit within us. While it is a choice, we have the Holy Spirit as a motivating factor for us. So with that said let us look at a couple of things about the Holy Spirit so that we can understand the benefit of following Him, setting our mind on Spiritual things, and the difference it makes!

First of all, we need to understand that if you are a believer in Christ you already have the Holy Spirit in you. He is in you and He is acting on your behalf. He is present with you because He is the third part of the Trinity. We sometimes forget this. We forget that He is at work in our lives. For some, we attempt to avoid His work because we have seen the abuses and the false teaching that have come out of some circles as it relates to the Holy Spirit. You see the problem is that I think with get caught up in the debate on tongues and miraculous signs to the point that these things are the focus of our discussion and we forget that He is at work in us. As I noted last week, I grew up in an old time pentecostal church. It was a chandelier swinging, pew hopping, dancing, tongue talking church. Through the years I have seen the good and the bad in churches both Pentecostal and non Pentecostal. I have seen that which was real and powerful and I have witnessed the fake and that which was a manipulation of truth.

As a result, it would be so easy for me to avoid any discussion of the Holy Spirit because of my history but that would force me to miss so much of what the Scripture says about His work. The fact is He is a real person and needs to be recognized for His role in our life. In fact, as Paul states we need to set our minds on the Spirit and not reject His work. In John 15:26 Jesus said that when He left the earth there would be another who would come to walk with us and to guide our lives. That is the Holy Spirit. Here is what Jesus stated But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. And then in John 17:7 he stated Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Jesus reminded us in his message to the disciples in John chapters 15-17 that the Holy Spirit leads us to truth. Here is just one of His statements in this regard. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (John 16:13). Just as much as Jesus is truth so is the Holy Spirit. Think about this. He was present when the worlds were formed. He was the co-author of the Scriptures. He was present at the baptism of Christ. He is a real person with the real task of leading us to real truth. And how much do we need truth and integrity in us today?

Thirdly, He leads us to an understanding of the truth. The Holy Spirit does not only lead us to truth but He leads us to an understanding of what is truth. Have you ever taken a class in school where you received truth about a certain subject but understanding the subject was another issue altogether? You see we can know a certain truth but not understand how that truth applies. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. He leads us to truth but He also leads us to make application of the truth into our lives. You see the Holy Spirit is more about transformation than He is about information. God’s desire has been and always will be our transformation. He desires that we change for the good. That is the benefit of walking in the Spirit. Does it matter? Yes it does!

Fourthly, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf when we don’t know what to pray or even how to pray. The Holy Spirit directs us. Paul made this observation. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27). Here is an amazing thing. There are times where we are battling great issues in our life. There are times where we do not know how to pray or what to pray. It is in that moment that Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf. Sometimes it is with groans and utterances we might not understand but the Holy Spirit does pray for us and that is all that matters.

So what difference does it make? It makes all of the difference in the world. He is with us and if we focus our attention on Him and His work we will find that living life will become much easier. Note that I did not say easy, I simply said easier. Remember Pauls words. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

So what do you focus on? Do you focus on joy and peace or do you focus on anger and fear? Do you focus on the promises of God or the condemnation of the enemy of our souls? Do you focus on the work of the Holy Spirit in you that teaches truth, transforms your life, and assists in our prayers or do you focus on what you can do alone? Does it make a difference? By all means it does! It is your choice. It is your decision on how you will live and what the outcomes of your life will be. So let us choose wisely. Choose today to follow after the Spirit and to follow His leading so that we can become effective, passionate followers of Christ.

The Scripture is clear. If we walk in the Spirit you will not walk in condemnation according to Romans 8 and you will be able to master the flesh or sin that controls your life. Remember we said it would not be easy because the great tempter is always biting at our heals but be faithful and you will see the fruit. Next week we will continue to look at the work of the Holy Spirit in our life to see how we can be more effective in the Kingdom of God.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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No Longer Condemned

Peninsula Community Church

August 21, 2016

No Longer Condemned

Romans 8:1-5 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

I love Romans 8. I love it because it is regarded by many Christian scholars as the greatest chapter of all the Bible. In fact, in reading many of the commentaries on Romans, Chapter 8 has been described as “the mountain peak” of Scripture and “the chapter of chapters for the Christian believer.” Many commentators quote a German author by the name of Spencer who many years ago said “If Holy Scripture was a ring, and the Epistle to the Romans a precious stone, Chapter 8 would be the sparkling point of the jewel.”

For me personally, Romans 8 and in particular Romans 8:1 is one of those passages that have been used in my life to stake a claim to Christ’s promise of hope and the abundant life here on earth, as well as the life to come. You see, for such a long time I felt condemned on several levels. For one, I believed that if I just followed all of the rules everything was going to be ok. Boy was I wrong. I followed the rules, did what was right, and yet things continued to fall apart in my life. The result was a sense of failure and a sense that God could not do what He said.

Not only was I being condemned by my actions but I was also being condemned and judged by those around me. Although it was not always a reality, I felt that people would discourage and judge me rather than build up and encourage me. I allowed the voices of others to determine what I would do and be, rather than being obedient to Christ’s plan for my life. The downside is that I became more concerned about what people thought about me than being obedient to God. When I failed to live up to what people thought I should be, I began to sense a huge level of condemnation and judgement being imposed upon my life.

When I came to Christ I felt a bit betrayed and lied to as the pastor implied that everything would be great if I just followed the rules. The rules were different but the emphasis was on keeping the rules and not on a relationship with Christ. As a believer, I turned to Scripture but because of my religious background and the teaching I received, I was once again condemned because I never felt I could live up to the all of the rules and the requirements that were laid out. I was being counseled that I needed to follow all of the rules and be obedient. That all sounded good and it sounded right so I began to attempt to follow the rules and be the obedient person I needed to be. The problem however is that I would read the Scripture to see what the rules were rather than to determine who God was. The result was that my life sounded much like the words of Romans 7. The things I wanted to do I didn’t do and the things I didn’t want to do I did (Romans 7:13-20). It was a battle royal for my mind and my heart.

The battle continued to rage within me until I grew in the Lord and in my understanding of the Gospel. I came to a couple of conclusions that began to change my life. I would like to share these with you. First of all, I discovered that the law/the rules were weak and were powerless to accomplish what I needed (Romans 7:5-6; Romans 8:3-4). My study and my understanding led me to see that the law was a good school master (Galatians 3:24 ASV). It was a good teacher but it was powerless to make a difference in my life.

I love the commercials from Life Lock Security company. You may have seen them. In particular I love the one where there is a bank robbery in progress. Those in the bank look to the guard on duty to help them. His response is that he is not a security guard he is only a security monitor. Because he was only a monitor he was powerless do anything about the robbery. I love what happens. During the robbery, he leans over to those on the floor and says “oh yeah, there’s a robbery.” The law in itself was a good monitor for sin and was good at pointing to sin in our life but it continued to be powerless to do anything about the sin. The work of the law was critical in that it served to detail the boundaries of our life. We need boundaries and we need guidelines but those guidelines do little to change our heart or our mind. We need something different. We need Christ.

That brings me to second thing I learned. To live a life without condemnation is a choice. The choice is centered and focused on how we live. Paul offers us two choices. We can live by the spirit or we can live by the law (Romans 8:4-8). You see the law according to Paul brings sin to life. We must understand that the law did not create sin because sin was was a part of man’s life long before the law was given to Moses by God. In fact we see sin full blown in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).

In our final moments here I would like to look at this phrase. But I would like to look at this phrase in reverse in order to build a case for God’s grace and the freedom that comes as a result of His work on the cross. Paul statedTherefore there is now no condemnation.”

We begin with the term condemnation which is defined as (1) the expression of very strong disapproval or (2) the action of condemning someone to a punishment. It is to be condemned or judged. Condemnation is a legal term in that you are given sentence equal to your crime. Paul has already declared the penalty for sin was death. Remember his words. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But through Christ there is eternal life thus the penalty of sin of has been paid. It is for that reason there is no condemnation for us. No sin a believer can commit; past, present, or future – can be held against him if that sin has been forgiven, since the penalty was paid by Christ and righteousness was imputed to the believer. And no sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision.

The second word is this passage is the word “no”. In Christ, there is NO condemnation. In the New Testament when writers wanted to emphasize a particular word, they would put it at the beginning of the sentence. That was their way of saying, “This is important.” In the Greek the first word is not “therefore.” The first word in the Greek is the word “no.” The fifth word in our translation is first in the original because Paul wants to emphasize in the strongest possible way that there is no condemnation. That’s why he took the word “no” and moved it to the front. There is therefore, no condemnation. You might translate it this way: “There is no condemnation—none whatsoever—for the believer in Christ Jesus. Secondly, Paul uses the strongest word possible for the word no in the Greek language.

Do you know what that means? We may stumble, we may fall, we may trip, we may make a thousand mistakes, we may sin and we do, we may get off the path, we may go astray, we may have a thousand problems, but for the believer in Jesus Christ, there is, therefore now, no condemnation because God has said it is so. You can struggle, but you’re not condemned. You can fall, but you’re not condemned. You can trip, but you’re not condemned. You can stray off the path, but you are not condemned because God has said He will not condemn those who are in Christ Jesus.

The third word in this passage is the word “now”. The gift of no condemnation comes to us as a gift but a gift that must be received. Now speaks of a future hope but a present reality. The word now “distinguishes two conditions of a man, namely, his condition under the law, and his condition under grace,—that is, his natural and his supernatural conditions. For by nature we are children of wrath, but now God has rendered us accepted in the Beloved. This benefit was effected the moment you accepted Christ as your Savior. The “now” contrasts the believer’s new state with the old, which had passed away. Hallelujah!

And finally there is the word “therefore.” The word therefore is a powerful word that must not be taken lightly. It is a word that directs our attention to something that comes before. In this case the word points us back to what Christ has done for us. I love the way Romans is laid out. He begins in Romans 1 & 2 by defining the life without God. H continues to show us why we need Christ and He shows us the way of escape And the power of change that comes to us.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Are You a Victim or a Victor?

Peninsula Community Church

Are You a Victim or a Victor?

August 14, 2016

Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The passage before us today is a powerful passage of grace and comfort. As we look at this passage the question I ask of you is  this, Are you a victim or are you a victor? How do you live your life? I ask this because how you live your life will determine if you live as a victim or as a victor. The fact is we all feel sorry for ourselves at times. We all get down in the dumps but the difference is that we should not stay down. A problem arises when we get beaten up by the world and the circumstances we face over and over. Too often the result is that we begin to experience a victim mentality.

A victim mentality is realized when one blames others for their problems or they make excuses for the issues they face. Victims focus on the past. You know one is a victim when they are always looking back to what was rather than what is. They are looking back at what people have done to them. Victims focus on the hurts and the wounds they have experienced. The world around them is not fair and they feel they are always getting the raw end of the deal. Victims tend to never be happy or content. They would rather blame others and their circumstances than take responsibility for themselves and their actions. The result is they believe they are helpless and they feel they have no control over anything. Victims are also great manipulators as they use their victim mentality to control others and get what they want. How sad? How defeating that is?

When we look at our society we see a world that is filled with people who exhibit a victim mentality. They look back and blame others for their problems. By blaming others they do not take responsibility for their own actions and too often they justify their bad actions by what has happened to them. We see this act in the race issues of our day. We see this in the lives of so many who have committed the heinous act of mass murder. Too often because they were picked on by others they took their anger out on others. So many believe they are victims and then use that belief as an excuse to sin and do wrong. They justify their sin because they are “victims.”

But that is not the story of true Christianity. That is not the story of a passionate follower of Christ. Why? It is because of passages like this that give us hope and give us the power to move from living under the thumb of victimization to become a victor over the issues of life. It was never God’s intent for us to live as victims but it was His desire for us to live as victors and overcome whatever the world throws at us. The fact is life is not fair but being defeated by the circumstances of life has never been a part of God’s plan. If so, Christ would have never come to earth as a human to suffer the shame He did. He would not have proclaimed that “It is Finished” on the cross. He would have never proclaimed “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Paul would have never stated that “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.”

So what does this passage offer us. First, we find that God is for us. What an amazing thought. The God of all creation; the God that formed the heavens and the earth is for me. He is on my side. He cares for me. Here is the larger message that is presented. Because God is for us I do not have to live a life of rejection which causes me to feel victimized. I can be free and live a liberated life without the entanglements of past sin or actions done to me. I can walk in Christ’s forgiveness and His loving touch on my life. Paul said “If God is for me who can be against me.”

That is why David, the little runt of the family, was able to confront the giant, Goliath. He had  confidence in the fact that God was with him. David made this proclamation. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head” (1 Samuel 17:37, 45-46). Why did He have this confidence and subsequent success. It is because He knew God was with him. So today whatever giant you are facing know that God is with you. He is for you and He is fighting on your behalf.

Secondly, we cannot be charged with any sin that has already been forgiven. In our legal system there is legal defense called double jeopardy. Double jeopardy is a procedural defense that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges in the same case following a legitimate acquittal or conviction. In the spiritual realm, we have been forgiven and the debt of sin has been removed and yet the enemy of our soul loves to accuse us and fight us on the basis of past sin that has already been removed by way of forgiveness. This act of the enemy comes by way of intimidation. You see one with a victim mentality is easily intimidated and offended. They are filled will the guilt of past wrongs and hurts. But that is not the life of the victor.

Thirdly, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Think about that for a moment. There is not one thing on earth or in heaven that can remove us from His love. This means that we do not have to live in fear. Victims are controlled by fear. Fear causes them to reject faith and reject the hope that is in Christ. One of the greatest fears we have is to believe we are  unloved and unwanted. But here Paul assures us that there is nothing that can separate us from His love. You see His gift of love is not contingent on our actions or the actions of others in our life. It is not contingent on our circumstances. His love for us is based in the one giving the love and God loved us before we knew Him or had ever received Him through the Holy Spirit.

Paul asks Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” Tribulation equates to the everyday problems of life. This is interpreted as pressure and represents the pressures of life. The second word is distress which means the constriction we feel when we are under pressure. The word persecution is just that. It is the idea of being persecuted for the bad we do and for that matter for the good. Paul continues to define the kinds of issues that cause us to become unsettled. They are famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword. Paul is saying that none of these things will cause God to stop loving us because His love never fails.   

Notice too that in this passage Paul assures us of the love of God two different times. One of the principles of understanding Scripture is that when something is stated more than once it is important and we should take notice of the subject presented. Notice how God showed us His love. He loved us so much that He willingly chose to send His son as a gift to remove sin from our lives. He sacrificed Himself for us. Paul then poses this thought. If God is willing to give us His son is there anything that He is not willing to give us. You see this gift is the very essence of His love. Remember John 3:16. “For god so loved the world that He gave His only son.” God loves us and has sealed that love through the gift of His son.

Fourthly, Paul states that we are more than conquerors. Think about this for a moment, we do not have to live as a victim but we are victors. But notice the wording here. Paul states that we are more than conquerors. Think about it. Do you get it? We don’t just survive. We don’t just get by. We go beyond just conquering and we live victoriously. You see this means that we don’t simply exist. We don’t just do the minimum and expect success. We move beyond the status quo and the issue of being controlled by others and our circumstances to now live as conquerors. Listen to the words of Jesus on our behalf. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We are victorious because of the work of Christ in us and when we receive Him and live out His will and His word we will be victors in a victim’s world.

As believers we are only as good as the one we serve and follow. In this case, we are only as good as the god we serve. We can serve the gods of intimidation, fear, and victimization or we can choose to serve the God of love and dependability. Joshua of the Old Testament said it best. Choose you this day who you will serve. If you are going to serve Baal or the gods of this world then serve Baal. But if you serve God then serve Him with all of your heart, your mind, and your soul. Move from being victimized and enter a world of freedom and power that exists only as one follows whole heartedly after God.

Are you with me? Are you ready to live a life full of victory and power? I am and I commit myself today to do just that.

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