Friday, November 03, 2006

Message from Romans 8 with the State of the Church and call to Adventure

Life in the Spirit – Romans 8:1-14 by Pastor Tom Sims

October 29, 2006 - Baptist Temple, The Fellowship of Joy

On October 29, I felt called to preach this message in my major series on Romans and sub-series on Life in the Spirit. Because of some critical issues in our church, I used our church’s situation as a primary means of illustrating these points from scripture. Because this message is so vital, I have preserved it and reproduced it for you. May it serve as a blessing and a challenge.

I. Life in the Spirit is Grace-Based.

1 -Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 - because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 - For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 - in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

  • There is no condemnation. That means no condemnation - none. People in Christ Jesus are free from the limitations of powerless law and impotent regulations. We have been liberated to live a new life on a higher plane than even the requirements of the law. We have been bound in the past to sin and death. Now we are bound only to Jesus Christ.
  • God’s requirements are satisfied. There is nothing we can add to what Jesus has done and nothing needs to be added. He is the sin offering and He has been successful in doing what nothing else could do.

Implications for our mission and ministry:

· This is the primary message the world needs today. We need to speak out against sin and for morality, but if that is all we do, we give an unbalanced and false message. The world will only know what we are against. The Christian message is so much more.

· There is a hunger in Fresno for this message of redemption, liberation, and freedom from condemnation.

· There are many needs in our city and God has placed us here for a purpose. We have been rated #1 in the nation for concentration of poverty. We have the highest concentration of churches in the state and the highest concentration of poverty in the nation – and much of that is within 1-3 miles of our church. Much greater is the spiritual poverty. We are the Methamphetamine capital of the nation. We have an alarming drop-out and teen pregnancy rate. With all these needs that God has placed us in the center of the city to address and care about, the number one need in every person’s life is to know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and freedom from the law of sin and death.

Are you aware of this reality in your life? You will never be free to pursue what is God’s best for you and the gracious riches of the life in store for you until you have stopped being a slave to the law of sin and death. Pray this prayer with me…”Lord Jesus, I give my life to You and receive your free gift of eternal life. I am Yours and Yours alone. Liberate me from sin and bind me only to You. Amen.” You are now enlisted in the service of sharing that good news with others.

II. Life in the Spirit is Desire-Driven

5 - Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 - The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 - the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 - Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

  • It is the result of a new mind-set. The old nature of sin is a dead end street. We will focus our minds on sin or we will focus them on what the Spirit desires. We are not Buddhists seeking to obliterate and annihilate desires. We are Christians, seeking, through the Spirit, transformed desires.
  • It results in submission. God wants to give us the desires of our hearts. As we submit to Him, He will plant His desires in us and can then trust us to give us what we want deep inside our Spirit filled lives.

Are you living in the adventure? Where are your passions and desires? Early next year, we will embark on a study called, “Chasing Daylight.” It is the story of Jonathan in the Bible who learned to sieze his Divine moment. Like Jonathan, the very thinking of the person who is led by the Spirit of God is on a different plane. We are always going for the manifestation of God and His will in every situation. Our desire to be about His purpose grows the more we know Him. We become God’s opportunists, quickly turning every challenge into an opportunity to seek His face and His leadership. We become passionate about His desires.

Implications for out mission and ministry:

· We are not here for ourselves. Not in this church and not as a church in this community. We are not here because this church meets our needs. That is not the essence of the call to be a part of a church. We are here because God has placed us here and because of what we can do together to transform our city and its desires.

· Survival is not our primary purpose. Like Esther, if we perish, we perish, but we must be about His purpose.

· Here are some alarming statistics. We need about an unrestricted $8500 a month to meet our bare-bones obligations as a church. That means: no secretary, no paid youth or children’s workers including nursery, no raises. However, it keeps our doors open.

· The reality: We made it in April after not making it for two months and going in the hole. May: just over $5000, June: less than $4800, July: $6840, August: $5000, September: $4431. We borrowed designated funds to keep from laying off the pastor, turning off the power, shutting down the water, defaulting on some loans, and losing our insurance. That money is still due and we need to keep going. When I tell you these things I also give a message of hope, so you lose the bluntness of it, but it is serious and we will have to make some choices and seek God.

· But what have we accomplished in the midst of all that? Look around at the many ministries and lives changed. We are growing in attendance. God is working in remarkable ways. I was astounded at the Association meeting last Saturday as ministries were noted. We have had a significant role in most of them either as sponsor, as sending people to be involved, through Jack’s leadership or my leadership, or by nurturing someone along the way. We truly are a mission center here in the heart of the city.

      • Graffiti Abatement – We are actually changing the way our neighborhood looks and the way people feel about where they live. We are doing it in the Name of Jesus and telling people about Him along the way. At the same time, we are working with youth who have offended the system and need to make restitution.
      • Skate Church – Over 25 kids are enrolled in this vital ministry. They are at-risk and now they are being touched with the gospel.
      • Jack’s Juvenile Hall chaplaincy and our church’s participation through him in the Christmas parities where 199 kids were saved last year, At Risk Ministries, the ARMS camps and so on.
      • We offered leadership in the Association Children’s Camp.
      • Significant ministry this summer and a potential church start in Stratford.
      • The opening of a neighborhood thrift store.
      • An excellent Vacation Bible School with many decisions for Christ.
      • Powerful impact on the lives of young men through the Set Free Training Center and sponsorship of the Set Free Church.
      • Hosting of a music ministry and a counseling center.
      • Hosting and board leadership for Christian Women’s Job Corp.
      • Leadership in the Association through online ministries and Networking/Fellowship.
      • Food ministry – temporarily on hold, but has been significant.
      • We are host to the Hmong Baptist Church and through them have sponsored over 200 churches around the world.
      • Powerful ministry in the Philippines through Florante Torres. Many are coming to Christ.
      • Our Cooperative Program gifts and prayers take us around the world.
      • We had an impact on India through the India Children’s Choir this summer.
      • Former members of our church are serving as pastors and staff members around the state.
      • We have a unique partnership with Iglesia Nueva Vida involving a joint bilingual worship service between both of our churches every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. No one in our city has anything quite like this.
      • One of our members graduated at Golden Gate Seminary through Seminary extension.
      • We co-sponsor and host Equip Bible Institute.

Only God could make all of this and more happen!

· That is what it is about and that is why we are here – not to survive, but to thrive, not for ourselves, but for the kingdom, not our kingdom, but God’s, not to enjoy earthly comforts, but to enjoy God together with God. Our city cannot afford to lose this church or its influence!

· We must seek what God desires. Some opportunities:

    1. The Hmong are interested sharing the load and equity of this property.
    2. We have some entrepreneurial possibilities.
    3. We are growing again and will grow. But we need a sense of the passion and desire of God for this church. Pray with me this Wednesday (November 1) for a day of fasting and prayer. You don’t have to skip all your meals. Some of you cannot skip any. Some could skip all. But lay something aside as a kind of fast. I will be here from 2 to 5 PM. Perhaps you’d like to take an hour or more or less for focused prayer for our church and your pastor to have a keen sense of God’s desire for this church and this city.

III. Life in the Spirit is Spirit-Led

9 - You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 - But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 - And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

  • The vivid contrast between sin-control and Spirit-control. It is about who and what controls us. Is it sin or is it God through His Spirit? We belong to Jesus Christ. When we belong to Him, He directs us, but it seems a lot like our desires being fulfilled because He works from within us.
  • The vital contrast between death and life. We have been called to life, not death. The Spirit way is a living way.

Implications for out mission and ministry:

· We are not dead. We are living and God is using us. Pastor Johnny Mendez inspired the attendees at our Mid valley Southern Baptist Association’s annual meeting with this very sentiment. We are alive because we have been made alive in Christ.

· We are not controlled by the sinful nature, and that includes the discouraging circumstances in which we find ourselves. We are not problem driven; we are purpose driven.

· The hunger and poverty of this city need not dominate us in the sense that they defeat us. They are a part of our burden, but they are not signs of death.

· God has a plan and He will lead us. He knows what He wants to accomplish in and through us and will show us.

· We will be having two Solutions Summits on Tuesday nights, from 6:30 – 8:30 in November. The first will be on Election Day, November 7, next week. There we will explore some things we can do as a church and pray together about those solutions. The second will be November 21. There, we will offer some specific opportunities and suggestions for those of you who wish to undertake personal projects to earn money, a portion of which you can give back to the ministry. If you desire to be an entrepreneur for the Kingdom of God you need to come to both summits, but you will get some real tools and opportunities in the second.

· Our church must be a Spirit-led body.

Do you believe that you can be Spirit-led life? If you are a Christian, the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, just as He lives in this church. That gives you a great advantage. He is active in you, leading, guiding, equipping, filling, speaking to you and planting His desires in your heart, preparing you for greatness. Life in the Spirit is mystical. We need to turn off the distractions of negativity and listen to the still small voice, responding in confident faith to the call of God. Giving itself is a spiritual exercise of faith, an adventure of making yourself and your resources available to God for miraculous manifestations of His power. If you have not started giving through tithes, offerings, and special blessings of God, there is a great door of opportunity for you. If you have stopped, you can start again. If you are already doing all you can, ask God to bring new resources into your life with which you can participate more in His work. God is able and God will lead.

IV. Life in the Spirit is Relational

12 - Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 - For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 - because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 - For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 - The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17 - Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

  • We are sons of God and know it. You have an identity that nothing can duplicate, imitate, or frustrate. Your relationship with God through Jesus Christ defines you and His Spirit informs you.
  • We are heirs of God with all the benefits and responsibilities and co-heirs with Jesus Christ. We really do not have a shortage. God has it all and He will invest in us as we are willing to invest in His purposes.

Implications for out mission and ministry:

· We have an obligation. We cannot quit. We cannot close our doors. We cannot abandon our mission or our mission field.

· We are a family of servants, each related individually to God. We are the sort of family that everyone needs.

· Our presence in the city is God-ordained. We are here in the stead of other churches and Christians. Their participation and help is welcome, but we are not waiting for it. Perhaps He will lay it upon the heart of some of our brethren to come to our aid as we labor in the city. Perhaps not. Either way, we must remain faithful.

· As Jesus came to live among us, became poor for us and suffered on our behalf, He has also called us to share His suffering and struggle and part of that is His concern for the poor. We share the sufferings of Christ as we share the poverty of the poor in the city in which He has placed us. We don’t have to remain poor. Nor do those to whom we minister and with whom we share the liberating message of Christ, but I believe that lifting ourselves out of poverty is going to be related to lifting the people of our city out of their spiritual and physical poverty. Otherwise, there is no point to us being here. The Spiritual life is about relationships, first to God, and through Him to each other and to others.

Do you know who you really are? You are a member of the Body of Christ and a joint heir of God with Jesus Christ. You are extremely wealthy and together, as a Body, we have no need that is too great for God to meet. Individually, you have all you need to lead a victorious, Spirit-led and Spirit-filled life. Let’s get on with it.

This message is © copyrighted, 2006, Thomas B. Sims, All rights reserved.

(Scripture quotations, NIV © 1999, International Bible Society)

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