1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 2:12-13; Romans 12:1-2
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
One of the prerogatives of the Holy Spirit and a pastor who is listening to His leading is that he can change the sermon for Sunday – if you were coming to hear the message about the 4th command in the 10 Commandments – how to honor your father and your mother you will have to come back (that is a good thing). Oh by the way the 10 Commandments aren’t going anywhere they will still be there when we get back to them. Three events that the Holy Spirit has utilized this past week changed the direction of the sermon.
1. I had a doctor’s appointment on Friday – so early in the week I looked at the calendar and realized that I was to go in for a checkup and one of the things I was supposed to have been working on was my weight. In the last fifteen years weight seems to always be an issue every time I go to the doctor. I thought about canceling the appointment. I have tried a number of different weight loss programs and they all have failed because of an accountability factor – the only one that worked for me has been “weight watchers” because they have an accountability factor.
2. Secondly, after worship / praise team practice on Wednesday night we got to talking about getting the cart before the horse in other words talking about the developing programs in the TOTB meeting without first looking at our own spiritual shape. That book that Sharon asked if I read some time ago and have quoted from it came up in the conversation – Sharon asked if I remembered reading about the apple tree toward the end of the book. I hadn’t quite finished the book so Wednesday night – Thursday morning I finished (Gee thanks Sharon another sleepless night).
The author of the book—Clare De Graaf was struggling with cultural Christianity and truly following Jesus but not ready to take the plunge. He writes (and this is good so I want you to listen closely); “I went to a pastor friend who knew me well. I gave him a litany of all the things I was doing: I taught Sunday school, served on mission boards, tithed regularly, believed every word of the Bible to be true. I was a nice guy! Ask anyone! (The Pharisees had nothing on me.) “So, what’s wrong?” I asked. “What am I missing?” “Clare,” he said, “if you found a dead branch, stuck it in the ground, then wired apples to it and glued leaves on it, would you have an apple tree?” I almost laughed out loud before it began to sink in that he was describing me. I was the dead branch trying my best to look good to everyone, including God, without actually having surrendered my life to the lordship of Jesus. I wasn’t trying to give God the glory and make him look good. The goal of my life was to make me look good! (De Graaf, Clare (2013-02-05). The 10-Second Rule (pp. 183-184). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)
I left on a Selah moment (some Psalms 71 include the word Selah). The meaning of the word is not clear, but the best description is that it comes from a musical mark meaning "stop and listen,” or “pause and calmly think about that” or as one of my mentors said it means “chew on it.” I left Wednesday night chewing on our conversation and it was rather uncomfortable chew.
I am not saying we shouldn’t be thinking outside the box; I’m saying we need to make sure that whatever our vision is, whatever we are planning has Christ first. We shouldn’t be hanging fruit on our manufactured tree. We need to be the actual fruit tree – which bears fruit not just hanging fruit. We will come back to that in a moment.
3. Walking up to the parsonage thinking about our conversation – if the neighbors dogs hadn’t been barking and my 3 dogs (actually there not mine) all standing at the front window I might have kept walking and Selah right up the street. After getting to the parsonage I did some more chewing on it and then eventually I looked at my emails and found an interesting email. I will only share part of it. Subject heading read We Are In A Spiritual Battle
Dear Pastor Cook,
I am a member of Calvary UMC in Martinsburg, WV. You are probably wondering why I am writing to you. Well, it is Divine intervention, a leading of the Holy Spirit… Our church is literally dying. We have lost members through death but also because our church has lost its mission that is to carry out the Great Mission… My son is one of those.
This past Sunday our pastor preached a sermon regarding things that have become extinct and things that should be extinct. He and I have had discussions regarding the direction that the Methodist is taking that is not in accordance with the word of God. He believes that I am too narrow minded and living in the past. He states that the church is “evolving” and we must go with it…
Now as to why I know that the Lord lead me to you. During our pastor’s sermon Sunday, he read the lectionary scripture from Mark regarding the driving out of demons. He commented that today we consider these things as mental illness which they knew nothing about. I was so upset that I almost came out of my seat. By the way, I am the pianist for our early service or I would have left. I have read all the scriptures since then regarding the driving out of demons. I have researched on the internet. I know, and always have, that the word of God is true. Jesus did drive out demons. There is no doubt about it. It is very clear. This evening I decided to Google demons and the Methodist church. When I did, here was a link to your website. When I clicked and then saw Richwood, WV, I was so excited and said, Thank you, Jesus. I read your sermon (I believe that she looked at the series of sermons I preached on Mark and found the one I preached about casting demons into the swine, “What’s Wrong With this Guy – Mark 5; or maybe the one on Satan Is Alive and Well) and was excited that I had to call my friend in Christ...
Your sermon is exactly what I was looking for. As I was talking to Cheryl, I clicked on the links on your website and was so impressed, that I almost cried. This is how the churches used to be… . There is definitely a falling away. I know that if there is not a miracle from God that the doors of our church will close…
We will keep you in prayer and I ask you to pray for us also. May God bless and keep you. You have a lovely family. Your congregation is truly blessed to have you.
What type of shape are you in your spiritual life? How is your spiritual condition?
Are you soft?
Are you flabby?
How much excess weight are you carrying around?
How often do you exercise? Once a week for an hour or two?
What spiritual exercises do you do?
I. How is your spiritual life? Have you had a check up recently on your spiritual life? What would the outcome of that check-up look like? Is the doctor calling for a loss of weight? Are we to start walking? Do we need to get rid of some anxiousness in our lives? What is your spiritual condition?
I would like you to participate in self-examination of your spiritual condition this morning. Let’s look at our lives and discover our spiritual strength.
First, are you a Christian? Let me ask this way are you a disciple of Christ? Do you have a spiritual pulse? We need to be alive before we do an exam. If you are not alive spiritually then what is being done is an autopsy. What do I mean by disciple? Define discipleship:
1. Discipleship isn’t a program or an event; it’s a way of life.
2. Discipleship isn’t for beginners only it is for everyone who has accepted God’s grace found in Christ Jesus.
3. Discipleship isn’t just one of the things that church does.
4. The word disciple comes from the Greek word “manthano” which means to learn or find out, to understand. Simply a disciple is a learner – a follower of the Master.
5. As disciples we are to be “learners” or “apprentices”.
6. A disciple is a person that is in submission to the Teacher. – Capital “T” and to the teachers of Christ’s principles.
7. The first Spiritual Check-up question is: Are you alive in Christ / disciple of Christ?
Secondly, after establishing that you have a spiritual life we need to look at our red blood cells – the oxygen levels that carries and prevent us from being anemic.
That begins with our devotional life – what’s your diet?
How meaningful is Sunday morning worship to you? Is it helping you to grow?
Do you have private worship time? Do you have a personal devotional time?
How meaningful is your private worship?
Do you feel that you are getting to know God better through public and private worship?
Are prayer, Bible Study, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines part of your spiritual walk?
Let’s also look at our intellectual life.
Do you feel that you know the Bible? Are you a student of the Scripture? Do you understand the Scripture you are reading? Is it becoming a part of you?
Are your doubts and questions being answered? If not what are you doing about it? Are you willing to search for answers?
Do you understand basic concepts of theology like: justification, grace, sanctification, gifts of the Spirit, etc.
White blood cells fight off disease and we have white blood cells that do cleansing and renewing of our spirituality. We need inner healing and working of spiritual white blood cells in our lives.
1. How are we doing relationally with others?
a. Do you feel you are a more loving toward others?
b. Are you more forgiving?
c. Are you less judgmental?
d. Do you still find yourself tearing others down through anger or jesting?
2. Do you feel stronger against temptations?
a. Have you become more patient?
b. Are you less angry?
c. Are less greedy?
d. Are your lustful attitudes in check?, etc.?
3. Do you see yourself becoming more pure in motive, thoughts and lifestyles?
D. Blood pressure – hypertension and exercise.
1. Are you able to turn your work / vocation over to God and be used by Him in any setting?
2. Are you learning to let go of desires for things? Have you learned to turn your finances over to God? Have you learned the blessing of tithing?
3. Are you able to explain to others why you are a Christian?
4. Are you concerned with injustice and social evils and are you doing anything about those concerns?
Is your life in balance? Do you have regular time with God and family as well as work? Are you having time for yourself?
II. Will Rogers said, “even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” I believe that is very similar to what Paul commanded in Philippians Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV) We are called to discipline ourselves and to work out our faith. It means that we need to get into shape spiritually.
Like anything you want to do; you have got to start now. It is like dieting you can’t start tomorrow because tomorrow never comes.
Don’t wait for all the problems to be solved before you start or for the perfect time to start because you will be waiting forever.
Never use your limitations as an excuse to start because the Lord who lives in you is greater than any limitation you might think you have.
Change your language from “I have to” to “I choose to” because when you say I have to it automatically produces resistance. This subtle change has a powerful effect on what you do.
It is impossible to fail, because with God’s help everything is possible.
B. Remember I said I had a Dr. Appointment on Friday: Blood Pressure was great, nothing to be alarmed about as he checked my heart; ankle and Achilles Tendon still swelling but making progress; weight not so good – I was to lose weight – gee I gained 7 pounds. Dr. Willis said that I needed to do something with an accountability factored in.
C. And accountability is true for spiritual growth as well. I have found that my best periods of spiritual growth have been when I have been part of a small disciple group where we were accountable to each other.
D. If you truly want to be alive in Christ – excited about following Him and be a growing maturing Disciple of Christ then I would like to challenge you a couple of ways:
1. Take your spiritual life and growth seriously – what we do in TOTB, in worship, in VBS, Sunday School, all must be centered on Christ – it’s not about us; everything we do must be centered around Christ and becoming spiritually mature. We ought to constantly be transforming into the image of Christ. Commit yourself to the journey of becoming a maturing transforming disciple of Christ.
2. Do a spiritual check-up – see where you are in your walk with Christ.
3. Come Tuesday night at 6:30 PM for Basic Spiritual Training. We will look at some basic disciplines to living a Spirit-Filled life for Christ.
Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Offering of our self
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.