Friday, July 27, 2007

Whose Slave are You?

I heard an illustration recently about a man walking down a street in a major city with a sign on his shoulders. The front of it said, “I’M A SLAVE FOR CHRIST.” On the back of it, as he passed, you read, “WHOSE SLAVE ARE YOU?” It is a good question because all of us are slaves to one or the other of two masters: Sin or Righteousness -- Sin or Christ. We have no other choices in life. By the very nature of being human, we are made to serve something beyond our power and be cont rolled by the same. We are either slaves to Christ; or slaves to sin.

If you recall, Romans Chapter 6 began with the question, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (verse 1). And the question was asked again in verse 15: “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” And if you’ll further recall, the answer to both questions was a resounding no!

Now, read the last verse of Romans 6: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (verse 23). This is Paul’s final argument for why we should not, and cannot go on living in sin or being ruled by sin.

Let’s break down this verse. “The wages of sin is death.” This is God’s unalterable law. The creator of the universe demands that the penalty for sin be eternal death. Just as the law of gravity demands that what goes up must come down, so sin must bring death. The Greek word translated “wages” was commonly used of rations that were given to soldiers in military service. It was compensation for services rendered. Just as someone today receives wages from an employer. If you earn death by your sin, you will certainly receive it. God pronounces eternal hell on unbelieving sinners because they have earned it.

“…but the gift of God is eternal life.” This is the other side of God’s unalterable law. If God gives sinners their due wages, then a believer receives something they do not deserve: eternal life. Eternal life is not a wage, but a gift. You cannot earn it because you do not deserve it. It simple cannot be earned or purchased by good works, church attendance, giving money, or even religious rituals. You will find nothing in Scripture to come close to suggesting this. Eternal life is the free undeserved gift of God! “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

So why is a gift so much better than a wage? Because earning wages depletes us and we hope that the wage will make up the depletion. But getting gifts depletes no one. Wages imply that the master needs our work, and so he has to pay for it. Gifts imply that the master does not need our work and does not have to pay a thing. Bottom-line: Being a slave to Christ is the sweetest slavery in the world. Whose slave are you?

– Pastor Mark

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Yielded Life

Have you had any trouble with sin this week? “No,” you say? You are also a bit arrogant then because you know very well that you’ve had trouble with sin. As a matter of fact, if you say you haven’t had trouble with sin, that is proof that you have had trouble with it.
I John 1:8 says if we say we are without sin, we make God a liar! If we are saved, God has delivered us from sin by His grace. But we still live in human, fleshly bodies and that is what causes us problems with sin.

If we are Christians, then inwardly we are cured of the sin dilemma. But we have choices to make everyday in a world that is ruled by sin. In Romans 6:11-23, the Apostle Paul shows us that God did not come into our lives to improve us. He came in to replace us! And that happens only when we live a yielded life:

“Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” – Romans 6:13

What does that mean? Too often we read a passage of Scripture and we believe it simply because it’s God’s Word, but we haven’t a clue what it really means. Right? Well, when we realize that in our human, fleshly bodies (which are dying) lives the inordinate flesh that seeks to influence us to sin, we make a choice not to allow that and that’s called salvation. That’s step-one. Paul is telling us that we need now to consider the members of our bodies: hands, feet, eyes, whatever you want to call a member of your fleshly body. Paul calls it a body of sin. And we’re told not to yield it anymore as an instrument of unrighteousness.

Sometimes we forget what the word “yield” means. It’s not just traffic terminology. It comes from two Greek words. One word means “alongside,” and the other word means “to place yourself.” The picture Paul is drawing here is amazing! Paul is saying, “Don’t keep putting yourself in a position where you can be overpowered by the flesh. It’s just waiting for you to do that. Don’t keep yielding yourself. Don’t keep putting yourself “alongside” that kind of thing. (That thing could be pornography, gossip, unwholesome entertainment, non-Christian friends who negatively influence us, alcohol, television, you –fill-in-the-blank _______.) Instead of yielding ourselves to that, instead of accommodating the flesh, Paul says accommodate God: Yield yourselves to God. That’s how he replaces us. And that word “yield” is aorist active imperative. That means that grammatically it is a command! The aorist tense means DO IT! Just do it. If you’re saved – you need to train your senses to line up under Christ. Accommodate yourself to Christ. Put yourself where you can be influenced by the Sprit of God and not by the flesh. What does that mean for you this next week? -

Pastor Mark

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Death to Sin . . .

Sin is something we’ve known about since childhood. Our parents and Sunday School teachers instructed us regarding the sins of stealing and lying; and as we grew into young adults, we added alcohol and premarital sex to the list. Pastors and evangelists warned us that other things were sins too: failure to evangelize our neighbors and feed the hungry. What’s sad is that this is the entire scope of far too many people’s understanding of SIN.

We cannot begin to confront SIN until we really understand SIN as a singular entity. SIN is something quite different from that of a bad deed accomplished or a good one neglected. Sin is a universal and willful refusal of human beings to acknowledge that God is God! Even if we could find a way to conquer individual sins – subduing our tongue, our passions, curbing our appetites, meeting the needs of those far and near - we would still not have escaped the power of SIN.

The purpose of salvation is that we might be reconciled to God and be delivered from SIN. God wants us freed from SIN so we can fellowship and commune with Him. SIN needs to die. Throughout Romans Chapter 6, Paul gives several analogies of the death of SIN: baptism, being buried, being planted, crucifixion, slavery and widowhood. There are great contrasts in each of these analogies. And Salvation vs. SIN needs to be the same way. Each Christian should have two volumes in his or her life story: Volume I - Before Christ and Volume II – After Christ. Salvation in Christ is that powerful that it literally brings death to SIN.

Incredible as it may seem, God seeks our fellowship and our communion. He wants to dwell among us. This is why God went to all the trouble to build the temple in the Old Testament – so that He might “dwell among us.” (Exodus 25:22) God wants us to be able to “see” Him and “experience” Him. (As Job did. Remember our study of Job?) The first step is Death to SIN. But it does not end there. In order for this to occur, purity and holiness are required. As Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

Sanctification is the procedure by which we become holy. It’s the means by which we are set apart, separated and consecrated from anything that is unholy. One has likened sanctification to a new government. (Think Iraq here.) There’s a new governing body, but there are still insurgencies and uprisings. Same with life after salvation. Sanctification is a process that God has designed to conform us into Christ’s image so that we can reflect Him in all that we do. It does not happen automatically. It all depends on our own moment-by-moment choices – Faith choices, non-feeling choices where we say, “not my will, but Thine,” -- are the only choices that allow sanctification and a complete and full Death to SIN.

- Pastor Mark

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Road Ahead . . .

Throughout history, Christians have pondered the road ahead of them, contem-plating God’s plan for His people. And many times, that road was not as appealing as poets portray. Nowhere and at no time has God promised clear blue skies and flower-strewn paths to enfold us all our lives through. Not at all. What God has done throughout history is teach His people to trust and to come humbly prostate before Him. He has taught His people “not to lean on our own understanding,” and that He “shall direct our paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

In Scripture, we meet some of His people who faced some obviously uncomfortable roads. We meet people who fought Giants, crossed the Red Sea, crossed over the Jordan River, wandered in the wilderness, were held in captivity, thrown into burning furnaces, and tossed into a lions’ den. But what does this have to do with Crane Chapel?

I’d like us to ponder the road ahead for Crane Chapel in this last half of 2007 and on into the future. In doing this, we must consider the mandate and the last words of Christ to both His disciples and to Christians today: “Go and made disciples.” When Christians recognize and appreciate that this is our primary and foremost purpose, God promises both His power to do the job and His presence to support and encourage us.

Crane Chapel needs to engage in the “Go…” We need to go down the road of making disciples. The creative energies, the wide-open opportunities and the existing ministries of our church need to center on the “Go.” The body functions best when all its members are engaged in what it was designed to do. And evangelism is best accomplished when all of the the church has a genuine desire to seek the lost for Christ.

Crane Chapel has a Divine purpose. The road ahead for Crane Chapel -- no matter what lies around the turn – needs to be one of uplifting and encouraging one another to “make disciples.” That’s our mission. The charter has been set by the Lord of the Church. Let’s “Go!”

- Pastor Mark E. Goossen