2010-04-18 (pm) LD 52 Galatians 5:16-26 Deliverance, Power, Amen
I confess that giving my testimony/message at the Good Friday service was harder that I thought it would be. Maybe I don’t have a typical testimony. No drunken misdeeds. No radical departures. Just a rather normal life in a Christian home, with the normal temptations which are common to all people.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle with sin. I did and I still am. In fact, I’ve never experienced that “deliverance” from a besotting sin that so many people talk about in their testimonies. If anything, my life has been an ongoing struggle against temptation, and sometimes it seems like I lose far more often than I win. Actually, most days it seems like I may never win again.
So it is with some relief that I read answer 127. “By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own for a moment.” Indeed it is precisely when we try to hold our own, on our own that we fail.
And then, it is also comforting to know what we’re up against. We have sworn enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, which never stop attacking us.
In our passage in Galatians, Paul describes this as the sinful nature, which always desires what is contrary to the Spirit. The Spirit desires what is contrary to the sinful nature.
This is precisely my experience. Is it yours? This is, I think, a real explanation for why children do wrong things. I think, no offense to children, that this is just more obviously easy to see in children. As adults, we’re perhaps more adept at figuring out how to hide it.
So, in a child, you might catch them doing something, wrong, like taking a cookie, even after you’ve already told them not to. You walk over to them, and using whatever effective means of discipline you use, you discipline them. Then, when you turn your back for a second, faster than you can say knife, the child is going for the cookies again!
And sometimes, they’ll watch you watch them. They’ll look at you out of the corner of their eye, to see if you see them, and they keep moving toward that which they know they’re not supposed to do!
This is the wrestling that we go through, throughout our lives. We do not do what we want to do. We actively, like that child, blatantly do what we know is wrong. And we’re looking out the corner of our eyes to see if God is watching.
But that’s not how God works, that’s not our relationship in the new covenant. It is significant that we’re not called the new Israelites. Or Israel two. Or Israel 4.1 or whatever iteration it might conceivably be. Israel means, “struggles with God”. We don’t struggle with God. We struggle against our sworn enemies.
And God has already equipped us with everything we need in order to win. We have bazookas, M-16’s, RPG’s, Uzi’s, bayonets, more artillery than we can possibly use at our disposal. And it stems from what we’re called. We’re called Christians. The name Christ means, “anointed”. We’re not struggles with God, we’re anointed by God. We’re anointed with Christ, with the Holy Spirit. And Christ has already won the victory.
In the deepest, most real sense, we’re already delivered from our sins, that’s what we looked at this morning. And because of that, God isn’t going to leave us to flounder about, struggling to fight our own way when he knows we can’t last but a second. God has blessed us with the presence of his Holy Spirit in our lives.
And the Holy Spirit works within us to deliver us from evil. The Holy Spirit whispers in our minds, in our hearts, “Don’t return evil for evil, don’t hit your sister back. Don’t take that cookie. Don’t steal that toy. Don’t look lustfully. Don’t fantasize. Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Be honest; be real.
Now deliverance doesn’t mean we sail through life. Jesus didn’t ask the Father to take us out of the world. We’re not to segregate ourselves from the world. We’re to be in the world, but not of the world. Deliverance means that the world doesn’t win! Deliverance means that the Holy Spirit will equip us to fight against our sworn enemies. So, fight. Don’t get disheartened; don’t give up! Keep fighting. Children, listen to your parents. Try hard to obey them. They have your best interests at heart. They’ve been in your shoes. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to obey. Obey based on his strength, not yours.
And that’s key. That’s point number two, strength, power. If, in answer 127 we read we have no power to stand for a second, then we need power from outside. We need the Spirit’s power to conquer our enemies for us.
Look at what counter acts the sinful nature. The fruit of the Spirit—the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The Holy Spirit produces these things in us. We thwart the Holy Spirit, that’s true. Most of us probably don’t let the Holy Spirit work as much as He could in our lives. But that’s why we pray the Lord’s Prayer, right?
We pray the prayer knowing that we need strength from above. We know that we’ll get such strength because it is God’s will to give it. He is able. He is all-powerful. Jesus, before he ascended into heaven said, “all power and authority has been given to me.”
God also wants to give us his power. God wants to give us the exact thing we need in order to be stronger, more faithful, and more fruitful. Now, say what you will about the movie Evan Almighty, there’s one good line in it. Morgan Freeman says to Evan’s wife, “When you prayed for your family to grow closer together, to spend more time together, did you expect warm fuzzies? Haven’t you been given an opportunity to spend more time?
Often, we struggle because God’s answers aren’t what we expect. Sometimes that’s because we pray for wants instead of needs. But when we do pray for our needs, sometimes the answer we get isn’t the answer we expect. Did Joseph pray, “Lord use me for your will. You’ve given me these dreams. Fulfil them. Do whatever is necessary. Okay, I’m going to go see if I can get a roast beef sandwich from the kitchen.”
But what kind of prayer did Joseph pray from the pit? “Lord, I trust you, but this isn’t what I was expecting. Are you sure this is right? Oh, they’re letting me out! Wow, that was a fast answer! Thank... Sold into slavery? What are you thinking? In Prison? I’m just not seeing where this is going, but I’ll be faithful.
And then, when his brothers came before him and bowed down, fulfilling his dream, Joseph said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
The power of God in our lives may not be what we expect. We might get cancer. We might lose our jobs. We might go through drought, famine, mad cow part 12. Hail, grasshoppers, drought, hail and grasshoppers at the same time!
And through it all we must trust. God is able, he is willing, and he does give us all that is good. And he elicits praise from us. We see God’s goodness; sometimes we see God’s goodness even in the midst of the darkest, harshest times of our lives. We see God holding us, strengthening us, uplifting us, and we give all glory and honour to him. No matter what, we should be able to praise God, and honour him in everything. We are determined that God would get all the glory for every good thing.
Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” The Spirit leads us through life. The Spirit leads us to turn from sin, to turn to righteousness, to turn to God in everything. The Spirit leads us to pray.
The word Amen, assures us that, our prayers, communicated to God the Father, on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, through the Holy Spirit, are heard. The Spirit communicates for us when we cannot find the words to say. When we face agonies, such as Christ faced in various points in his life, the Spirit communicates our difficulties to our loving heavenly Father.
Furthermore, Christ prays for us. Jesus, sitting at God’s right hand, isn’t literally sitting at God’s right hand. That phrase means that Jesus is second in command. All power and authority has been given to him. Just as Joseph was second in command to Pharaoh, in action, he acted as Pharaoh.
When Joseph’s brothers came before him, Joseph pleaded their cause before Pharaoh. Pharaoh was pleased to do what Joseph asked because he was pleased with Joseph. God the Father is pleased to do what Jesus asks because he is pleased with Christ.
When we pray, whether it is the Lord’s prayer, or any other prayer, the little word Amen means that God has certainly heard our prayer. That little word, let it be a reminder to us all, that God’s will is not moved by how many words we say, but rather, by his love for his Son, and his love for us.
Let us commit our lives again to God’s will. Let us trust in the willing service of Christ. Let us surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are delivered, empowered, and certain—Amen!