~Killing The Flesh~

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As we know, there is no shortage of boldness in our world.  When you think of our political leaders, they are quite bold, often in an arrogant way, to impose their societal vision, values, and beliefs on others. If you’re a teacher, or state worker, you know how boldly Bureaucrats can regulate every manner of living, speaking, teaching, and thinking.  Secularists self-righteously applaud their own tolerance even as they openly, flagrantly, boldly, suppress the slightest expression of Christian faith in the public sphere.  Entertainers boldly flaunting their hyper-immorality—shoving their perversity into our faces, indoctrinating our children with their crass lyrics, all the while denouncing everything that’s good, decent, and holy.

But there are other kinds of boldness.  What about the boldness of the adulterer or the fornicator?  What about the gossip who stirs up dissension? The thief or robber who enters another’s home? The sluggard who feels entitled to the fruits of their parents labor, or worse, their neighbor?  What about greedy lendors who brazenly prey, and financially exploit, the weak. Or the greedy debtors who boldly charge up their credit card with no intention of repayment. The son who rebels against his father can be quite bold!  Or the man who abandons responsibility to his family while pursuing relations to another woman. What about the woman who boldly aborts her unborn child? Or, the homosexual or lesbian who ensnares another man or woman in their sin?

There is an abundance of boldness in our culture.  But it’s boldness about all the wrong things! We’re bold about evil, about sin, and about our rights, freedoms, and entitlements.  But where is the boldness for what’s “excellent and praiseworthy?”  For “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.”

People are unapologetically bold about all that is evil; meanwhile Christians are apologetically timid about all that is holy and good.

What’s needed isn’t “fleshly” boldness.  When boldness is driven by the flesh, it is enormously destructive.  Look at the trail of destruction that exists in your family alone, or our community, or state, or nation.  We don’t need more fleshly boldness.

What’s needed (now, more than ever) is “spiritual boldness”—a boldness that’s born out of vital relationship with the Spirit of the Living God.  Spiritual boldness does not derive its confidence from the flesh, or from the world, but from the mind of God.  In your outline, let me share some things that are distinct about Christian boldness. . .

Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in the Inspired Word.  

What convictions do you hold about the word of God?  1 Peter 1:23 describes how the word is “imperishable”, “living and abiding” and is like a seed.  Whereas the flowers and grass fade away, and the flesh/ glory of man withers…  The word of God cannot be destroyed, nor will it ever pass away.  We don’t have to understand how the word works, we just need to be faithful to plant it.

2 Timothy 3:15-16 says the Bible is able to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

In 2 Peter 1:20-21 were told, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

In Isaiah 55:11 God says, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

A couple of thoughts.  First, to the degree that our boldness is tuned to the Word of God, it’s redemptive.  To the degree that our boldness is of the flesh, it kills and destroys.  Understand that boldness with the Word of God—preaching, teaching—has revived nations.  Where has boldness in the flesh done anything good except corrupt, kill, and destroy.  Our boldness needs to be trained by the Word of God.

Second, greater boldness is needed by all of us to inject God’s word into conversations.  In John 6:63 Jesus told his disciples, “My words are spirit and life.”  When timid Christian withhold the word, it’s like a farmer withholding seed.  You cannot reap a harvest of righteousness if you never plant anything.

Parents often ask, “why are my kids so disrespectful, crass, self-centered…”  Well, you reap what you sow.  If you plant the word deeply you won’t ask those questions of your kids, family, or culture.  God’s word doesn’t return void, God’s word is spiritual and alive, it accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it.

Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in the Spirit’s Activity

Another basis for boldness is the Spirit’s ongoing activity.  In John 16:8 Jesus promised the Spirit would convict the world in regard to “sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment.”  This is great news!  We don’t have to be fanatics, or extremists about this stuff.  If there is sin, the Spirit will show it to a person.  We don’t have to scream, and yell, and shout, and hold demonstrations.

If there is something holy, righteous, good, the Spirit will show it for what it is.  And the Spirit daily reminds people they are accountable before God for their life.  Why else do you think people justify themselves, and plead their case, and boast, “But I’m a good person?”  It’s because deep down people know they’re accountable to God.

This is why Paul tells the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “. . . When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (NIV)

We don’t have to convict people, that’s the Spirit’s work.  Our job is to faithfully and boldly plant seeds.  We are to hold out the Words of Life.  The gospel does not advance in the power of self, by intimidation or bullying, by shaming and giving guilt trips.  Let the Spirit do what He does… and you and I can do the planting just as God’s asked us to do.  The Spirit wins hearts and minds.

Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in the Spirit’s Power             

Like the Apostle Paul, I sometimes find myself in places of “weakness, fear, and trembling.”  Every week our pastoral staff encounters situations for which there is no human wisdom or human answers or human remedy… or financial resources.  If you’re a spiritual person, you have great advantage.  Like the early in Acts 1:8, its mostly a matter of waiting for God to clothe us with power.  But if you’re an unspiritual person, what power is available to you, beyond your own strength?

When we help unspiritual people, they keep returning with the same problems.  A person comes needing gas money, or food, or some help.  We encourage them to trust God, we teach them how to pray, but most do not.  They get relief and continue on their godless path until they again hit rock bottom.  And then they’re back at our door. Apart from faith in Jesus, there is no power for the godless.   There is just the rough, godless, hard, lifeless, joyless, impoverished road you’ve always walked.

But with faith in Jesus Christ, there is real hope, there is real power!  Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, of it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . .” Ephesians 3:16 speaks of how God has granted that those in Christ to “be strengthened with power through His Spirit.”

Particularly noteworthy are Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:10-20 (see NIV).  This weekend we honor the soldier.  Our country has the most powerful military of any nation that’s every inhabited the earth.  We also have the finest trained men and women.  But there is a limit to what fleshly warfare can achieve—as we’re well aware!

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

The Spirit’s power is unleashed through prayer and proclamation of the Word.  Our first priority when someone comes to the church in crisis is to first listen, but then pray with people and share the word with them.  That is the greatest help/resource we can provide.

R.A. Torrey observes how the Spirit is like the wind.  The wind is invisible, and mysterious.  We don’t see from where it comes or where it goes.  It turns the windmill (not at Southwind Park, but other windmills).  It fills our sails, drives the vessel out to sea, churns up the dust, shakes foundations, and affects everything material and physical.  The wind is indispensable—it strengthens, fortifies, anchors, roots, tests. In the same way, the Spirit is invisible, we don’t see him but we feel his power.

Trust God’s word!  Pray!

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Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in our Eternal Hope

I want to end with this final idea.  If we’re led by the Spirit, we could very well pay a great price with our life.  Every sign points to an ever increasing hostility toward churches, and toward Christians.  Around the world, this hostility is in full season.  I think of the many soldiers, who have lost their lives, confronting evil around the world.  There is a price that is to be paid for boldness—one that involves flesh and blood.

In Ephesians 1:3 Paul reminds us that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

In Ephesians 4:30 Paul urges us then, not to grieve the Holy Spirit “by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, “For all the promises of God find their YES in Jesus. That is why it is through him that we utter our AMEN to God for his glory.  And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

After they had destroyed Jesus’ body, God raised Jesus from the grave by the power of the Spirit.  There are those who can destroy the flesh, but cannot destroy soul.  God can destroy both.  But if you’re in Christ God promises to preserve both body and soul.  God promises to give us a new resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15), and he promises that our Spirit will dwell with him for all eternity (2 Corinthians 5).

We don’t have to be afraid.  We can have boldness and courage about the things that matter for eternity.  This was the hallmark of the early church.

Be bold. We have the Inspired Word of God… the Spirit is actively at work, all around us in the world… The Spirit by virtue of our faith, is powerful to save us…  Finally the Spirit seals us, so that death can never lay claim on us, so that we can never be separated from God…  but ushered into presence where we’ll dwell with him forever.

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