Summary: Because of our idenification with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, we can know, grow and show.
The Freedom You’ve Always Wanted
Rev. Brian Bill
I came across an article this week called “The Fruit of the Word” that was unsettling and yet it resonated with me (www.breakpoint.org). Here are a few quotes: “The contemporary evangelical Church is the most Christian-educated generation of believers in all of Church history…Never before has a generation of believers had so many options and opportunities for studying and hearing the Word of God. Sermons, Sunday School classes, Bible study groups, TV and radio ministers, tapes and CDs, retreats, workshops and seminars abound week after week, month after month, year after year. [I would add that we also have a seemingly infinite number of resources available on the Internet as well]…You have a veritable monsoon of Christian teaching raining down on the evangelical community every day of the week…the field of the evangelical Church is sown and re-sown with the Word of God, and watered and re-watered with the rain of God’s truth.”
The article then makes this rather stunning conclusion: “The world complains over and over about our shallowness and hypocrisy…What’s wrong? Why is the most Christian-educated generation in all of church history so devoid of the fruit we should reasonably expect to find?”
George Barna has pointed out, in study after study, that the way Christians behave is not appreciably different from the way non-Christians live their lives (www.barna.org). On a pastoral level, I’m often discouraged when I see Christ-followers falter and fail or when I see church members chuck it all. Sometimes I wonder if what I do makes any difference at all in the disciple-making process. Maybe my sermons are too shallow, too deep, or they just don’t matter at all. Maybe I’m not praying enough, which is certainly the case. On a more personal level, why don’t I practice everything I preach?
G.K. Chesterton once said: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Warren Wiersbe notes that “too many Christians are ‘betweeners,’ living between Egypt and Canaan, saved but never satisfied; or they live between Good Friday and Easter, believing in the Cross but not entering into the power and glory of the Resurrection.”
Maybe that’s because we’re still living in bondage to sin.
The habits and customs of the Eskimos of North Alaska have remained very much the same for 500 years. They have developed an ingenious way of catching the polar bear, which provides them with meat, clothing, fat for cooking, and tools from the bear’s teeth and bones. However you don’t just go out and catch a polar bear. Here’s what they do. They first kill a small seal and drag the carcass across the snow leaving a trail of blood. They then take a double-edged knife and freeze the long handle about two foot deep into the snow leaving the double-edged blade protruding. They then place the carcass over the blade and wait patiently for the polar bear.
The polar bear smells the blood in the snow and follows the tracks to an easy meal. After saying grace he chows down on the seal. The Eskimos are smart because they know that if they use a small seal rather than a large seal, the bear will still be incredibly hungry even after eating the seal. He devours the little seal, cutting his tongue on the knife. The bear licks the knife some more, and then licks, and licks and licks some more. The more he licks, the more his tongue bleeds. And the more blood he tastes, the more he licks. Sadly, it’s the taste of his own blood that kills him!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the more we lick the sharpness of sin, the more blood we shed. And the more blood we shed, the more we want. It’s like we’re trapped…and we are. We’ve fallen and we can’t get up on our own. If we don’t break away from the bondage of sin it will destroy us.
One of the keys to communication is to know your audience. Let me just make sure I know who’s here today. Can I see the hands of everyone who is a sinner? That’s good. I feel at home with you. This is a church for sinners and we don’t really have anything to offer you today unless you’re a sinner.
In the first three chapters of the Book of Romans we learn that we are all sinners who have been separated from God. In chapters 4-5 we’re introduced to the topic of justification. Those who put their faith and trust in Jesus have been declared righteous. Beginning in Romans 6, we’ll see that we’re more than just sinners; we’re also saints. While justification takes care of the penalty of sin, sanctification addresses the power of sin. Using Lazarus as an illustration, S. Lewis Johnson says that justification brings us from the tomb while sanctification delivers us from the old “threads.” John 11:43-44: “When He had said this, Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’”