Victoria Park Christian Centre
Suite 1, 342 Albany Highway, Victoria Park 6100, Western Australia
The Bible tells us that death is our last enemy. If you’ve attended a funeral that uses the common prayer book you will have heard the words, “Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down like a flower. In the midst of life there is death!” Life is fragile. This is a fact and try as you might to dismiss the morbid – the reminder of death – you can’t it’s everywhere – on the news, in the newspaper, all around us even in our families.
Just like the ostrich, most of the world wants to put their head in the sand and foolishly ignore this problem – hoping it will magically vanish. They hide the “seven signs of aging” with Botox, collagen, creams, potions, hair dye and strenuous exercise regimes. Sometimes scientists have tried to find the secret of eternal life. It’s nothing new. Alchemists in all ages and cultures have sought the formula for the elixir of life but tonight I’m going to divulge its secret.
The prophet Hosea speaking for God says that God will deliver people from the power of the grave (Hosea 13:14). Later in the gospel of John the secret to eternal life is revealed to be belief in Jesus (John 3:16). However, so many are not willing to submit to God’s conditions for eternal life. They refuse to acknowledge Jesus as the source of eternal life but are quick to blame God when our enemy death stalks. If Jesus is the only answer to eternal life as the Bible claims and they leave Him out of their lives how can they blame Him when the enemy moves in?
Jesus, the Sustainer of life (Hebrews 1:3) was ejected from school assemblies. They didn’t want Him near their children and so now the devil stalks school corridors. We all remember Columbine in the US, Dunblane in the UK, La Loche in Canada and the rest. “Where was God when this happened?” unbelievers ask. “You asked Him to leave and refused His protection”, is the reply. It’s the same question with the sustaining of life. “Why did God allow those innocent children in India, Africa or elsewhere to suffer?” is universally asked. “Did they ask for His protection?” is a very able reply.
Paul writing to the Romans helps us understand how to receive eternal life (Romans 8:9-11). He explains that when you become a true believer in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of Christ, that’s the Holy Spirit, comes to live in you. Without this vital ingredient, the Spirit of Christ in you, you cannot have eternal life. It’s this spirit of life that will give you life and will raise you from death. No Spirit of life in you – no eternal life. So it’s vital that you get the Spirit and you do so at salvation when you truly put your faith in the character and work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This is done by grace (that means it’s free) it cannot be worked for or bought. Why? We could not afford it, that’s why it’s free. It needed the precious and sinless blood of the son of God (Peter 1:18-19). If you haven’t got that main ingredient in you – the Spirit of Jesus then you are not seeking it with all of your heart. For, you see the Bible promises that if we seek then we will find (Matthew 7:8).
If you have the Spirit of Christ in you then in the next few verses from Romans 8 Paul tells us clearly how to apply eternal life (Romans 8:12-13). He tells us that it begins with an obligation – that means that there’s something that we have to do and that is to live by the Spirit and not the flesh. This means that we must live to please the Spirit not ourselves for the eternal life to take effect. What Paul is saying is that we must not live as our human nature wants but as the Spirit of Christ directs. We must die to live is what Paul is saying (Galatians 2:20). This sounds like an oxymoron but is it? You see people in the world are afraid of death but not afraid of sin which is the cause of death according to the Bible (Romans 6:23). They will spend a great deal of time trying to prevent death but not a second trying to prevent sin which is the wages of sin! If our minds are governed by our flesh (human nature) then it’s hostile to God and so it will lead us into the enemy sin camp with holds death. Our mind led by human nature is at odds with the Spirit of God and so we cannot please God through listening to it (Romans 8:7-8). It must be crucified.
Paul also helps us here. He says that even though we are alive we must consider ourselves, our human nature and fleshly wants, as dead once we have the Spirit of Christ in us (Romans 6:11). A sign that you’re on the right path is the fact that the “I” in your life is dying. As you cannot crucify yourself ask God to reveal the truth of this to you. Ask Him to show you yourself crucified in Him. Ask Him until it happens. Persevere as this is another vital ingredient. It may take some time. Are you willing to consider yourself dead to your own wants and say no to selfishness? Are you prepared to read what the New Testament says about holy living and let the Spirit of Christ who is in you crucify your own lusts and passions and kill off the sin? You see this is an integral part of being a Christian. Jesus tells us that you must pick up your cross (Matthew 16:24). It’s not Jesus’ cross but yours and you need to pick it up and crucify your flesh. Let yourself be led by His Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ within you. Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s too much for me. Too hard – I keep on stuffing up. Too time consuming – I’m a busy person and all that Bible reading and prayer… Too painful – I don’t feel like it, it hurts!” What do you think Jesus would say to that? It wasn’t too hard, time-consuming or painful for Him for die for you.
The final step is given to us in the book of Galatians. It’s Christ being formed in you (Galatians 4:19). Paul uses the analogy of pregnancy to help us. Are you pregnant with Christ and forming Him as we speak? Paul explains that the Christian lot is to take great pains to assist people to receive the Spirit of Christ. Then it’s to help them put to death their old nature as they form Christ in them. Although we are assisted by other Christians in the labour – the pregnancy is all ours. The labour and all the pain is ours as Christ is formed within us when we crucify our fleshy nature.
In a pregnancy there will be different trimesters. In the first trimester life is very weak. The Christian life begins at the point of weakness. Even though the spark of life within you is tiny you are no less pregnant than at full term. More mature Christians – parents and pastors – must be content to receive the first trimester Christians and safely gather them in. Someone may be a Christian in their spiritual first trimester. As they cling onto the life within they may be clinging on to you. Take it as labour pains that you must endure for them. This will advance your own development in Christ.
They tell me that during the first trimester a woman’s body will undergo many changes that will affect almost every organ system in her body. She may be nauseous and tired with swollen feet. It will be the same with Christians in their first trimester – we’ll find them nauseous, tiring and swollen with so many sins. However, we must help them and put up with their shortcomings (Romans 15:1). Like a woman in her first trimester they’ll have to make many changes to their daily routine to accommodate the changes. For a pregnant woman it may be going to bed earlier, avoiding certain luxury foods that could contain listeria such as mould ripened cheese (like brie or camembert or gorgonzola) and even paté. For a Christian in their first trimester it may include avoiding certain friends, music, mouldy habits and addictions. There’s a list of foods to be avoided by pregnant women at the clinic, the doctors and even on the internet so that they have no excuse. There’s many lists in the Bible that explain to new Christians what they must avoid for a healthy spiritual growth. Galatians 5 and Colossians 3 are just two of them. Bear this in mind, we are not supposed to think that people are not Christians just because they are very imperfect as they may be in their first spiritual trimester.
No woman is content to remain in her first trimester as she wants to move to her second. She will not try to restrict the growth of the child but accommodate it by cooperating with it. Looser clothes, ultrasounds and regular check-ups are the way to go. Likewise until Christ is fully formed in us we must allow the Spirit to do His work and cooperate fully. If you’ve been a Christian a while and are stuck in your first trimester then shame on you! You are restricting the growth by not cooperating with the Spirit of Christ. You are missing your pregnancy check-ups that help you along the way (Hebrews 10:24-25). You’re missing your ultra sound by God (James 4:8) and you’ve not put on sin-loose clothes (James 5:16).
Christian, if you believe that meekness, gentleness, humility, faith, joy, hope and patience are divine fruits that just plop out of you that’s like believing that a baby can plop out of you without any labour on your part. What about the gifts of healing, miracles, wisdom and knowledge etc. Do you believe that God gives them to any lazy Christian? On the contrary, he works together with us to will and to do these things (Philippians 2:12,13).
In order to have a birth there has to be a fertilized egg at the start. Even though there may appear to be other symptoms, without the egg, it would be a phantom pregnancy. Beware of spiritual phantom pregnancies as you too must have Christ within. Then you need to cooperate with the life within and put it above your own personal wants. Then follow the correct paths for a healthy spiritual growth by attending church and allowing others to speak into your life. Become accountable to the more spiritually mature. Read God’s word daily and adjust your life to the advice within.
A woman is willing to suffer labour pains. Why? It’s because she wants to have the joy of seeing her own child birth out of her. Are you willing to suffer the necessary labour pains for the joy of forming Christ in you? He was willing to suffer the cross for the joy of redeeming you (Hebrews 12:2). How is it with you today, Christian? Are you following in His footsteps so closely that when death creeps up on you the life inside will deliver you up to eternal life?
This message is from a sermon given by Andrea Lock at Victoria Park Christian Centre on 23 October, 2016. If you have a question about our church services or ministry please use the contact form below.