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Spiritual Transformation of the Heart

Peninsula Community Church 

Spiritual Transformation of the Heart 

February 18, 2018

Romans 7:15-21 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

How many can relate to Paul here in this passage? How many struggle in the battle between wanting to do what is right but having the tendency to fail to do or to live up to what is right or good? The truth is for too many there is a real battle that rages within us. It might be the amount of food we eat, the amount of alcohol we drink, the way we treat others, or what we think or feel about  ourselves. No matter the issue, the battle rages, but there is a way of hope and it is called spiritual formation or transformation. That is what we will focus on today.

 

Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, there has been a need to deal with the heart and man’s reactions to life itself. This has been the inescapable human problem since the fall. Unfortunately, this problem has no human solution although many have tried to do so by way of human means. Some have tried psychiatry, drugs, and many other things to bring change. I do not discredit these resources because there is a need in many cases to have such things available. Unfortunately, too often, these things become the only source investigated, but in the end they do not always bring permanent change or transformation. The fact is, we need a work of God in us to make this happen in a more permanent and effective way. For example, this week we have witnessed another mass killing. The immediate response by many has been to call for more gun control, but this is not a gun control issue. It is a heart issue. The shooter’s heart and mind had been formed by disappointment, rejection, and low self-worth, and he had come to a place where he would have used whatever means possible to create mayhem and murder.

While the need for transformation is an inescapable human problem, I am afraid that as a whole Christianity has been ineffective in imparting answers to the vital questions of human existence. Now before you misunderstand what I am saying, let me explain. Too often, the Gospel has been liberalized or the message of the Gospel has been softened to the point that it does not bring real change. While the Bible has been and continues to be the source of hope for change, too many do not effectively preach the whole counsel of God in a way that meets the need of man. As Christians, we do not hold the Word as being precious and relevant to our needs. Therefore, many Christians have rejected the Gospel as a source of help, hope, and change. The end result is that we present an ineffective and powerless Gospel by the way we live.

The answer to inner transformation must also be more than the church I attend or the denomination I serve. When we are asked about our relationship with Christ, too often our patented answer is to relate to the church we go to or what denomination we have joined. We often say we are Methodist or Presbyterian or I attend PCC. The answer to our spirituality and Christianity must go deeper than religious associations. We attend an awesome church, but this church in itself is not a solution to permanent change. The real answer must come from a heart aligned with God’s will and His purposes.

A second problem is that we can be so focused on the outward expression of change that we miss the deeper issues of the heart. Too many hold to an inaccurate view that by simply changing the outward man, the inward man will follow. While there is some validity to this, too often this kind of change falls short of its intended purpose. The problem is that while we might change the outward man, the inner man is not necessarily changed which leaves us without the proper motivation for additional change. That is why Paul’s spiritual honesty in Romans 7 is so important for us to consider. There is an ongoing battle in doing what is right, We do what we do not want to do and we do not do what we should be doing.

So what is spiritual formation? For the Christian, spiritual formation refers to the Spirit driven process of transforming our inner being in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ Himself. The result is that what is within us is manifested outwardly. Remember that “out of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15:18-19, Mark 7:21, and Luke 6:45). We speak and act from what is contained and stored in the heart. While the fruit of a changed heart is an outward manifestation of inward change, we must not just focus on the outward manifestation of change. We must align our inward man and our outward expressions of faith to God’s word. With that said, the outward expression of change must never be accomplished at the expense of the spiritual renewal of the heart. When the external becomes the supreme measure of one’s success or spiritual growth we risk not having real or effective change inwardly.

In Mark 8:36 the Scripture tells us For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? In other words, what good is it to gain notoriety, riches, and outward perfection and lose our souls in the process. I also love 2 Corinthians 3:18 which says And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. In the Old Testament man could come into the presence of God without having their faces covered. In the New Testament that changed and now we are invited into His presence without a veil. In His presence change comes and it is from there that we reflect the glory of God in our life. Paul refers to this to as being changed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to the next. This happens one step and one victory at a time.

A number of years ago in the Bronx, there was a problem with people vandalizing abandoned apartment complexes. The city, under Mayor Koch’s leadership, decided to handle this problem by applying decals to the windows which gave the appearance that the apartments were occupied. The goal was to deter vandalism and diminish the number of homeless living in the apartments. As you might guess, this action, a costly solution, did little to change the problem. While having the best of intentions, they were in essence trying to change the outward but the inner problem was not addressed or changed.

This is where we must emphasize that growing into Christlikeness is not based on human attainment. It has been and continues to be a gift of grace. The liberty that is ours in the Spirit motivates us and moves us toward acts of righteousness. Action alone is not enough without the Spirit at work in us. Let me explain this in this way. We can make a decision to be more loving and then try to act more patient and kind, but in the end we fail to be as loving as we desire which can be frustrating and painful. Merely trying to act more loving will lead to despair and defeat, if there is no corresponding transformation of the heart. The same is true of faith. We can try to live an outward faith, but we can fall short without an inward positioning of our heart toward God and His goodness, regardless of what is happening around us.

Since this is a work of grace, this transformation should not be a burden. Grace should be the answer to the weariness of trying to do better and live right. How many have been frustrated at trying to do good but fail over and over? That is Paul’s argument in Roman’s 7 and that is why Paul begins Romans 8 some much needed encouragement. 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 (Romans 8:1-4).

Notice the law was weakened by the flesh. The law was powerless to bring permanent change. The law can be correlated to the outward expression of action. For that reason outward action on its own is powerless but the Spirit of Life can and will set you free. Why is this? It is because the Savior, the Son of God, took on the flesh and sin and He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. He gave us the Spirit that can now leads us to transformation.

Here is the beauty of all of this, God the Father, gave us grace through the death of His Son, who abolished sin by the cross and the power of sin over our life in the resurrection. He also sent His Holy Spirit to reside in us so that we could be guided to truth and reality. He speaks into our heart and He brings change to the inward man so that we manifest that change on the outward.

So how are you doing this morning? How is your heart? Are you being changed inwardly or are you only working on the outward expression? Is God more important you than your church or your issue? Let us pray!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What’s Your Assignment?

Peninsula Community Church

What’s Your Assignment?

April 23, 2017

Acts 1:6-11 – So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Today we will be taking a look at the interaction Jesus had with His disciples just before He ascended into Heaven. This short interaction gives us insight into the calling and the priority He placed on everyone who is a passionate follower of Christ. In His interaction with the disciples, He confirmed that He had not come to establish an earthly Kingdom but one that was to be deposited in the heart of every passionate follower of Christ. His greatest and utmost desire had been and continues to be to reign in the hearts of believers. You see by reigning in our hearts He empowers us to change, change our families, change our communities, and eventually change our government. It all begins in the heart.

Secondly, Jesus confirmed that the Holy Spirit would come to give us the power to be witnesses to those around us. We get to be on mission with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. How awesome is that? As I prepare this message, I am thinking about the theme music from “Mission Impossible.” I am also thinking about the fact that you and I have been chosen for a special assignment. We have been chosen to be ministers of grace to our families, our communities, and our different spheres of influence. If you and I accept this mission, and we should, we will be given everything we need to succeed.

However, there is an important difference between Mission Impossible and our ministries as witnesses. In the movie Mission Impossible if things went south, the organization disowned the team and would act as if they never existed. But as a believer in Christ, if our mission goes south, Jesus will never forget us or abandon us. It is for that reason Jesus promised that if He went away, as He was about to do, He would return. The one truth we can hold onto is that He will not forget us nor will He forsake us.

So with that in mind let us dive into this passage and unpack the truth in this text. In this passage, we find two truths that should encourage us and cause us to focus on God’s initiatives and His work in our life. But before we investigate these statements let me give you one key insight into the success of the church. The calling to follow Christ is for the individual but it is also for the corporate body called the church. Here is the truth. As individuals we are a part of the universal body called the church but we are also connected to a local body. In our case, we are connected to Peninsula Community Church. Because the local church is made up of individuals, the success of the church comes as individuals seek God’s will and His destiny for their life. In the body of Christ, each individual does their part to make the church a success in the sense of providing ministry. We all have a role to play. We all have a calling to achieve and that calling is possible through the truths revealed through this passage.

The first truth exposed here is that the disciples continued to question Jesus about His Kingdom. With all that had transpired, the disciples continue to exert a false expectation about His kingdom. Listen to their question. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” The answer Jesus gave perhaps threw them a bit because He responded by saying “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” In essence, I believe that Jesus is saying stay focused on truth. Focus on the present and not the future or what is to come. Once again, they missed the concept of the kingdom and they lacked an understanding as to the fullness of what Jesus was saying.

Too many times, we can be distracted with issues that do not mean much or at least are not relevant to our ability to accomplish the will of God. While the disciples were still looking for an earthly kingdom, Jesus was trying to establish a spiritual kingdom where He would rule and reign. His kingdom was not made with hands but one established in the hearts of men. You see the disciples wanted something they could touch and feel. They wanted something they could see, but the Kingdom of God was an invisible kingdom made up of individuals who had been given membership into this kingdom by way of the new birth.

Today, we can invite Jesus into our hearts to establish His kingdom within us. In so doing, we are called to live as kingdom people. Peter understood this when he said But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). As the chosen of God, we have the privilege to live as kingdom people.

For that reason, Jesus makes a second statement. In setting up a spiritual kingdom in our hearts and calling us to live as kingdom people, He also fills us with the Holy Spirt to be witnesses of Jesus’ kingdom. We are to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the world. Notice a couple of things here. First, He has empowered us to be witnesses. Notice that He does not state that we should preach, teach, or do any other work. He calls us to simply to be witnesses. He is saying in essence, be the salt and be the light. In other words, the Holy Spirit will shine through us to touch others. The Holy Spirit within us will impact others as we engage them and interact with them. It is noteworthy that we do not have to become the salt or become the light, we are the light and we are the salt because the Holy Spirit is living and abiding in us.

To understand this concept of being a witness, we must examine what it means to be a witness. First of all, we are a witness of Jesus by our actions and the way we interact with the people we encounter. The question to be asked is do we represent Christ in a positive way or do people have an unfavorable view of Him because of our actions? When we walk into a room do we brighten the room or is there a cloud of darkness that precedes us? How do we represent Jesus in terms of our language? Are we encouragers who speak the truth or are we given to unhealthy criticisms, fits of anger, gossip, and lies? These actions and attitudes do not bear a very good witness for Him. In fact, they destroy the witness of Christ.

With that said, we must realize that we are always giving a witness. We can be giving a positive witness for Christ or we can be a witness against Christ. How many times have you watched a court room murder movie or show when the witness for the prosecution turns into a hostile witness and becomes a witness for the defense. If we are believers, we must seek to be a positive witness for Christ. We must choose whose side we are on.

As witnesses, we can be assured that God is using everything in our life to bear witness to who He is and what He has done in us. People are watching how we handle stress, false accusations, hurt and pain, and whatever else comes our way. They look to see how real we are. Do we live a fake a life where we are hypocritical in our approach to life? Do we force others to tow the line while we take advantage of others and do the minimum of what is required? Do we cut corners? Do we act in dishonest ways! Do we lack integrity in the way we handle people, our business, and our work ethic. How is the witness of your actions for Christ?

We also bear witness by what we say. How do we communicate Christ in our life? Is our language and our actions disconnected? Is our speech seasoned with salt?  Do we carry a big stick? And, do we use it to beat the word into people’s lives or do we season our speech with the grace of God? When we are asked about Christ do we come across as arrogant or do we express the love of Christ? Do we draw people to Christ with our speech or do we push them away by our actions and by our words?

As we consider all of this, we must remember that we can be a positive witness for Christ because the Holy Spirit is in us. He, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses. We are empowered to speak truth. He can use us even when we do not realize it. You see my desire is that the Holy Spirit would be so evident in me that what people experience is the Holy Spirit through me but I also desire that His work would flow through me naturally but in a supernatural way.

This is how it works. The Holy Spirit takes our personalities, our experiences, our successes, our failures, our education, and all that we are to speak a message of hope to others. I have often said that the experiences you have can be used to touch others. You will reach people I can not reach because you have experienced things I have not experienced. God wants to use everything in our life as a means to reach those who God has destined for you to reach. God has positioned you within the sphere of influence you have been given so He can work through you.

For that reason we must pray for God to use us! We must pray for God to provide divine opportunities to share His love and grace with others. I can tell you that if you ask for the opportunities, He will open some amazing doors to share your faith with others. When this happens, the Holy Spirit takes our efforts and empowers them to be so much more effective. We do not move in our own power. When we are honest and allow the Holy Spirit to move through us, we will find there are times God will use what we do or say without us even knowing that He is using us.

Personally, I have been amazed at how many times the Holy Spirit has used me when I did not even realize it. Just this week, I have been amazed at the opportunities I have been given.

Several times the door of opportunity has been opened and I have been a vessel used by God to encourage others. In most of these cases I did not even realize the impact I was making until later in the week when they would call or someone would share they had talked to that person. To be honest I did not feel I did very much at all. I was simply present and shared my life with these folks in the moment.  The promise for each of us is that if we seek Him, He will do the same in you, I can promise you that He will.

So as we close today would take some time to ask God to direct your steps. Would you ask God to work out some divine appointments this week? Ask and you will receive.

 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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How Easter Gives Hope to Overcome

Peninsula Community Church

How Easter Gives Hope to Overcome

March 20, 2016

Colossians 2:8-15 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

The week we continue our look at the strongholds that impact our life. If you remember last week we defined a stronghold as a mindset or a thought process that controls our lives. Last week we looked at the fact that we walk in the flesh but we do not use the armaments of the flesh to fight our battles. This week we want to look at the victory that has been won on our behalf. Because of Christ’s death on the cross we have been positioned for complete and total victory. Now before we get into the details of strongholds and mindsets I want to set the stage by talking about the power of God and work of God on our behalf. That is our focus today.

The passage we have before us today issues us a warning but it also gives us a solution for winning the battle for our minds. Paul begins where we left off last week. He states See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. He offers us a warning to watch out for philosophies and empty words that control our way of thinking. In essence, Paul is saying that the ideas presented by a worldview which is not secured in Christ will be found empty and useless.

Paul continues by stating that the full authority of God is found in Christ. Paul states that in Christ the whole fullness of Deity dwells bodily. In other words, Christ is the manifestation of God here on earth because He is God. While that is pretty awesome, Paul goes on to say that we have been filled in Him. What is Paul saying? While it is true that all of the power of God is in Jesus, it is also true that we have Jesus in us. Therefore, we have the fullness of who God is in us. Remember last week we stated that greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Paul explains why here. Jesus who is full of everything God, and who lives in us, has all authority and rulership over the kingdoms of our lives. That makes Him greater than any force that can come against us. So why would we not choose to follow Him and obey His commands.

At the end of this passage, Paul makes an incredible powerful life changing statement. He says look not only was Christ raised from the dead but you were too. Listen to Paul’s words. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

There are a couple of things in this that bears comment. We have been made alive in Him. We who were dead in our trespasses and in the works of our flesh have been made alive in Christ. In so doing, we have been forgiven and the sin debt we had was cancelled. So the shame, regret, and desire to control has been dealt with on the cross and we are free today as a result.

But there is a problem in that the enemy of our souls loves to bring accusation, lies, and half-truths against us (Revelation 12:10). His very nature is to be deceitful and to distort the truth we need (John 8:44). When this occurs we have a choice to make. Will we allow false accusation to rule us and therefore walk in the lie of misinformation; or will we reject the lies and live in the truth that is ours through Christ. What truth is that? It is the truth of forgiveness and the fact that our debts have been paid. The debt we owed has been cancelled and it is been discarded as if it never existed.

A few months ago I received a bill from a doctor who was looking for a payment on some medical work that Michelle had done back in 2006. They had attached a note that read if I did not pay the bill I could be taken to court and I would be reported to the credit bureau. Their note was an attempt to intimidate and pressure us to pay a debt that had already been resolved. But heres the deal. Yes! There was a time that I owed that bill but the debt had been paid and it had been paid in full. Fortunately, for us I had all of my receipts and I was able to go back and locate the bill and the check that that had been written to pay off the debt. I contacted the company and sent them a copy of the check and the paid invoice as well as the monthly statement that showed we were paid in full. There was nothing they could do.

You see in our life the enemy of our souls loves to bring up past due bills that have in reality already been paid. He loves to remind us where we have been and what we have done. He loves to remind us how many times we have been rejected and how many times we have done things that have brought us guilt and shame. He is so good at reminding us of our past but when He does that we can go to the file cabinet of our heart and pull out the paid in full receipt that we were given when we came to know Christ and have confessed our sin. Christ paid the debt. What receipt do we have? Spiritually, we have the cross because it was there that our debt was nailed to the cross. Therefore the cross serves as a reminder that the debt has been paid and it has been paid in full. The debt no longer exists.

Let me give you another illustration. A number of years ago I received a call from a collection agency demanding the payment of a debt we did not owe. Even though I provided evidence that I was not the person they were looking for, they continued to call. Each time they demanded payment of a debt that we did not owe. In fact it was a debt that was never ours. Each time they called they agreed they had the wrong person and said they would not call again. Then one night they called and got Michelle on the phone and started pressuring her with scare tactics and manipulation. It upset her. About the time I got home they called again and I had enough. I asked for a supervisor and after some hesitation they finally had a supervisor come to the phone. Because I had journaled all of the dates and the times they called when the “supervisor” finally came to the phone, I let them have. I told them that I was tired of the accusation and the phone calls. I began to list the dates of the calls and who I had spoken to each time they called. I demanded in that moment that the calls stop or else the next person they would be speaking to would be my lawyer. I must have gotten to them because we never got another call again. Here is the point. The pressure to pay the debt was not removed until I threatened to bring in an advocate to handle my case. You see Jesus is that advocate and he is ready to stand in the gap on our behalf. But we must be willing to stand our ground and make the call for Him to do His work. That is why we pray Your kingdom come, Your will be done. We invite God into our world and into the issues we face.

The scripture here today says that Jesus has disarmed the rulers and authorities. This word disarm literally means to strip or to deny power to. In others Jesus by way of the cross has stripped the enemy of his power to effectively accuse us or use any false accusation against us. Listen to me this morning the debt of your sin and past mistakes have been paid for on the cross. Yes in some cases we suffer the consequences of what we did but the guilt, the shame, and the power of the enemy to hold that over you has been dealt with at the cross and you are free today as a result. The power of that sin has been disarmed and the accuser of the brethren has been shamed and defeated. You have been forgiven so forgive yourself. You must walk in the righteousness you have been given. When the debt of guilt comes knocking, let God open the door. When the debt of past failures comes knocking, let God open the door. When the debt of past sin comes knocking, let God open the door. He has come and we are free because of Him.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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