Last week, Harold Berman spoke about being born again and that
the foundation of our faith is Yeshua, through whom we become
a new creation, with spiritual gifts and blessings through the
Holy Spirit. Tomorrow, we'll celebrate the baptisms of Joseph
Pill and Jason Brass as they make a public declaration of their
decisions to have Yeshua as their Lord and to devote their lives
to serving Him. All of us who are Believers have at one time
or another made that decision that the things of this world are
secondary to the things of God and have decided to live as servants
of God through holy, devoted lives, loving our God and loving
But, we live in a broken world. At the same time that the Spirit
of God leads us towards holiness, goodness and love, our flesh
(i.e. our human nature) leads us towards the pleasures of this
world. It says, 'You deserve this' - whether it is food, leisure,
possessions, revenge, hatred, sexual immorality, etc. It reminds
us how good it feels to fit in, especially when the Spirit is
calling us to do just the opposite and stand out and share our
faith or stand firm to avoid temptation and sin.
So, how do we as Believers live as God wants us in this broken
world? How do we resist temptation and stand firm in our faith?
Tonight, we'll discuss what the Scripture tells us in this area,
specifically focusing on (1) our nature as a new creation in
Messiah, (2) our calling to put off the old self and renew our
attitudes, (3) our need to live in an environment of prayer and
Scripture and (4) our responsibility to support one another as
a community of faith. Hopefully, we'll leave here encouraged
in our faith and renewed in our conviction to live as God wants
us to: as new creations in this broken world.
Our Nature as a New Creation
In ensuring that Joseph and Jason were prepared for their baptisms
(again, tomorrow at 10 am at Walden Pond), the elders asked them
to explain the basis for their faith and to explain the Gospel
as they understand it for their lives. Understanding the Gospel
is key to our lives as Believers. The Gospel can be summed up
in two verses: (i) John 3:16, which states,
"For God so loved
the world that he sent His one and only son, that whoever believes
in Him shall not perish but have eternal life;"
and (ii) Romans
"all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption
that came by Messiah Yeshua."
In other words, we were separated
from God by our sin, but God provided an atoning sacrifice for
us in Yeshua, through whom we are cleansed of our sin and presented
as a new creation in the eyes of God. As Harold reminded us last
week, we've been 'born again'. We are NOT the same people we
were before we became Believers. This is GREAT NEWS! This is
life-changing news. We have been redeemed! God loves us! Through
Yeshua, we will have eternal life! These facts must change how
we see ourselves and how we see our world. On Monday, I had a
great discussion with a guy from work about the subject of eternity
and God's plan for our lives. He agreed with me that there must
be something more than just our 80 or so years here in this flesh.
As Believers, we don't just speculate that there is an eternity
- we know that there is an eternity and that we will spend it
with God. We also know that we are not just accidents here, but
rather that God knows each hair on our individual heads and has
a plan for our lives corporately and individually.
Understanding that we are a new creation, an eternal creation,
changes how we look at the world, how we look at our own personal
circumstances and our real needs. A couple of weeks ago, Garrett
Smith taught us from a passage in Titus that I would like us
to read again. Please turn to Titus chapter 2:11-14:
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has
appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness
and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and
godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed
hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Yeshua
the Messiah, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness
and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager
to do what is good."
One of the reasons that I gave in to sin
before I became a Believer is that we had no reason not to. I
can't tell you how many times I said to myself, "Well, I know
this is wrong, but everyone else is doing it." As Believers,
it doesn't matter what everyone else does. It matters what God
wants. We are now His children. He has bought us for a price;
He has redeemed us from our old lives through the death of His
son the Messiah and He has made us into new creations through
the resurrection of His son, that we may now live lives devoted
to Him, not to our flesh.
Calling to Put Off the Old Self
We all have baggage that we wish was not there. For those of
us who accepted Yeshua at a later point in our lives, we most
likely have a good deal of baggage. In the Scriptures, the baggage
from before we became Believers is called our 'old self'. With
regards to eternity and salvation, the slate has been wiped clean
- in God's eyes we are white as snow, free from the stain of
our old life. However, while that is true in a spiritual sense,
our flesh still remembers that life and the devil loves to use
it to draw us back, away from where God wants us to be. Paul
notes this in Romans 7:21-23,
"So I find this law at work: When
I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner
being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in
the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind
and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my
Because our flesh does not disappear the moment we
become Believers, God calls us to actively put off our old self,
to be self-controlled and to resist the devil. Please turn with
me to Ephesians 4:22. Ephesians 4:22-24 says,
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your
old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the
new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
What does it mean to put off the 'old self'? It basically means
to examine our lives and remove any old habits or actions which
are contrary to behavior we would expect from a Believer. This
includes course or vulgar talk, gossip, sexual immorality, etc.
These things are examples of the old self, which needs to be
set aside because we have been born again as new creations. These
things are absolutely unacceptable as recurring behavior for
Believers in Messiah.
Hand in hand with a change in our habit patterns is a change
in our mindset and attitudes towards life in general. Whereas
we once looked only to this world and its desires as the basis
for our actions, now we are called to look at the world through
God's eyes. As many of you may know, my father was the first
Believer in my family (I became a Believer one month after him).
One of the things that my dad has told me was most striking to
him and instrumental in God drawing him to Yeshua was a tract
that was left near his seat on an airplane. This tract spoke
of three key areas in life: physical, emotional and spiritual
and called the reader to take an inventory of each aspect. What
my dad realized was that his whole life had been focused on his
physical and emotional life, but he knew nothing of a real spiritual
life and never looked at either his life or life in general from
God's point of view. This was likely true for many of us, to
varying degrees. The point is that we are called as Believers
to be driven first by the God's will, then secondarily by our
physical and emotional needs. This is what Paul speaks of in
Romans chapter 12:1-2, where he states,
"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. 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."
It is this change in our attitudes
and worldview that, along with the Holy Spirit, enables us to
put off our old self and its actions.
Our Need for an Environment of Prayer and Scripture
So, this all sounds pretty straightforward - through Messiah,
we have been made into a new creation and, as a result, actively
put off our old self as we change our attitudes to be consistent
with God's will for us and the world. Makes sense to me. Does
this make sense to you? Great. But, there's one major problem
- the devil and his use of our flesh as a tool for his purposes.
We are all subject to temptation and sin. Both [the book of] Isaiah and [the book of] Romans
remind us that we have all sinned against God, that none of us
is righteous. The devil loves to use temptation to lead us into
our old sins and even into new ones where possible. God's kingdom
is not one of self-help and self-empowerment. The Gospel is not
that we can all focus our energies and our mental effort and
muster the ability to overcome our weaknesses. God's kingdom
is one of a cooperative relationship with our creator. Yes, we
are a new creation. And, yes, we are called to put off our old
self and renew our attitudes. But, a vital truth that we must
all grasp, lest we be naïve and be trapped by the devil, is that
we need God. To have any chance of overcoming sin and transforming
our minds, we need to live in an environment of prayer and Scripture.
Please turn to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14 verse 38.
In Mark 14, Yeshua is with the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane
after the Passover seder now known as the Last Supper and before
he was arrested. Yeshua himself was troubled because he knew
he shortly would suffer greatly and give up his life. There could
easily have been temptation to run away from God's plan, as Jonah
the prophet had tried to do. Yeshua's answer was to pray. He
also knew the disciples would face the temptation to run away
and be scattered after his arrest and death, so his instruction
to them was to pray as well. Looking at Mark 14:38, Yeshua speaks
to his disciples and says the following:
"Watch and pray so that
you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but
the body is weak."
The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
God knows we are weak. His answer to that is to have us pray.
Yeshua set for us the best example of a life of prayer. Throughout
his ministry, he regularly left the disciples at various times
of the day to pray. The passage in Mark we just mentioned is
a perfect example of this. We are to pray in the morning, pray
in the evening and pray throughout the day. By praying, not only
are we inviting God to intervene in our lives, we are also setting
Him as a priority and focus in our lives and acknowledging Him
as our Lord and king.
In addition to prayer, we need to devote ourselves to the study
of the Scriptures. This is not the study of Scriptures for the
sake of knowledge alone, but rather that we might discern the
will of God and be encouraged in our faith and walk. As is written
in Romans 15:4,
"For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement
of the Scriptures we might have hope."
We are to surround our
lives with God's Word at every step. As we are reminded every
Shabbat in the V'Ahavta (Deut. 6:5-9):
"These commandments that
I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on
your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when
you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Paul further emphasizes the importance of the Scriptures in the
life of a Believer when he uses the metaphor of the sword of
the Spirit in the book of Ephesians.
It is only in an environment of prayer and Scripture that we
can stand firm and overcome the temptations of our flesh.
This environment needs to start with personal disciplines of
regular prayer and Scripture study. We need God in order to conquer
sin, both for his encouragement when we succeed and stand firm
and for his mercy and grace when we fail and fall short.
Our Responsibility as a Community of Faith
Yet, our walk as Believers is not an individual walk. We must
be part of a community of faith. Yes, we have individual responsibility
and yes, there may be times in our lives when we cannot be part
of a living community of faith. BUT, our responsibility as Believers
is to support one another as a community. The community of Believers
is not just a social community, but one of true fellowship, which
includes prayer, encouragement and accountability. In Eph. 5:19-20,
Paul encourages the community of Believers in Ephesus to
"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and
make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to
God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Yeshua
We are surrounded by the world and its mindset
all week long. We at Sar Shalom need one another to remind us
of God's perspective and the fact that He is the priority in
our lives. I would encourage each of you to pray for one another
and look for opportunities to pray with one another during the
week, even if it's just over the telephone. Look for opportunities
to discuss Scripture together. Let's invest in each other's lives.
We are not islands; God knows that while our spirit is willing
our flesh is weak. That is why he has given us each the responsibility
to support one another in a community of faith.
It is in this context of a community of faith, in an environment
of prayer and Scripture, where we can stand firm as a new creation
in Messiah in the midst of this broken world. The devil loves
to paint our old habits and patterns as better than they were
and to deceive us into forgetting all that God has given us in
our new lives as Believers. Do not be fooled - any statement
that your old, pre-Believer ways were better or not so bad is
a pure lie. Statements that sin in moderation is acceptable is
also a lie. Be watchful of subtle pull of the flesh. Yeshua didn't
just tell his disciples to pray; he also told them to be alert.
The apostle Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 5:8-9,
and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring
lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm
in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout
the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
and must stand firm against the temptations of this world. We
must remain alert and self-controlled. We must actively seek
to change what we do and how we do it to avoid the temptations
that bring us back to our old, pre-Believer lives. We must encourage
each other daily, spurring one another on towards godly behavior.
We should avoid areas of temptation and should be aware of those
of our brothers and sisters in Messiah. The devil would like
nothing better than to deceive us and deter us from following
God has given us a new hope for eternity, a vision for His plan
for our lives and those around us. Let's leave here this evening
refocused on the fact that we are a new creation and put off
our old selves with our old attitudes. Let's refocus our disciplines
of prayer and Scripture study and take renewed steps to support
one another as a community of faith. I know that these things
may be easy on Friday evening but much harder on Sunday night
or Monday. But God is faithful, His Spirit is faithful, and His
Word is trustworthy and powerful.
I would like to leave you with this Scripture from 1 Corinthians
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And
God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you
can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way
out so that you can stand up under it."