Yom Shayni, 29 Av 5777 — יוֹם שֵׁנִי כט אָב ה' תשעז Monday, 21 August 2017
Living As Believers In A Broken World

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 our neighbor.

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 3:23-24

"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 members."

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 the Messiah."

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.

Conclusion

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,

"Be self-controlled 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."

We can 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.

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 10:13 -

"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."