Summary: We need to focus on what God has done, think about what we think about, and allow the Spirt to control us.
Living the Spirit-controlled Life
Rev. Brian Bill
Last week we learned that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I decided to preach on just one point because I wanted us to get it into our heads and hearts so we will never forget. Let’s see if we can quote Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
In the message we looked at the why, when, what and who. Today our emphasis will be on how to live all this out from Romans 8:2-11. Before we tackle this text, let’s identify six faulty ways to live the Christian life. Three of these are not original with me.
Faulty Ways to Live Our Faith
1. Cliché Christianity. Believe it or not, this past week was Sports Cliché Week. I came across the eleven most overused sports phrases of all time and thought it might be fun to see how well you know some of them. I’ll say the first part of these clichés and you shout out how they end.
* Take it one game at a time.
* Records are made to be broken. We hear a lot of this surrounding Barry Bonds.
* This team has overcome a lot of adversity.
* They control their own destiny.
It strikes me that we default to many Christian clichés as well. Some have sarcastically referred to this practice as “Jesus jargon.” These overused phrases convey little meaning because we hear them way too often. Unfortunately, many of us just repeat the expected vocabulary without really thinking about what the words mean. As a result, they lose their impact. Here are some that come to mind:
* Just have faith.
* God touched me.
* Let go and let God.
* God told me.
Here’s the danger. You and I can say the right sayings and yet our hearts can be far from God. And, since most Christians use these common clichés, it’s easy to fall into a superficial spirituality. On top of that, we can fool others and even ourselves simply by saying the right words. But none of this fools God as the first part of Isaiah 29:13 reminds us: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…”
2. Right Rules. Some of you are trying to live the Christian life by a set of rules: “Do this, don’t do that!” The problem of living by rules is that it can lead to legalism. On top of that, according to Colossians 2:22-23, it doesn’t work anyway: “These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” God is not impressed either as the second part of Isaiah 29:13 says: “…Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
3. Formulaic Faith. Some of us are trying to live our faith by following formulas. These formulas are everywhere: Three Avenues to Answered Prayer, Four Steps to Spiritual Success and Five Ways to Walk in the Spirit. There are at least two problems with formulaic faith. First, it can lead to mechanical Christianity. Second, it doesn’t work very often.
4. Performance Posture. Way too many of us are trying to please God by our performance and some of us think that He will only accept us if we make ourselves acceptable. As the early chapters of the Book of Romans make clear, we will always fall short. If you’re struggling in this regard, see last week’s sermon: www.pontiacbible.org.
5. Extra Experiences. Some people try to live the Christian life by seeking deeply moving, life-changing, earth-shattering, emotional experiences with God. The problem is that experiences don’t last because we must eventually come off the mountain top and resume life in the valley. And, if you seek experiences, you’ll yo-yo in your faith, going up and down depending on the experiences you have. While God uses conferences, camps, mission trips, moving movies, and dynamic speakers, they alone can’t sustain our faith.
6. Coasting Christianity. Some of you have settled into a mediocre, lukewarm Christian life. You might be a coasting Christian because you think Christianity is too difficult.
Do any of these alternatives describe you? Let me say that there is some truth in each one. Most of the clichés we use represent real truth. Rules can be good. Formulas can be helpful. God is pleased when we obey Him. Ecstatic experiences with the Almighty can be life-changing. And finally, Christianity is too difficult – if you try to live it without the Holy Spirit’s power. The life of faith is impossible without the empowering and filling of the Holy Spirit. If you’re looking for a secret to spirituality, look no further than the Holy Spirit.