Teaching them to obey

But what does He tell them? What does He tell them?

Well of course, He says if you have a little bit of faith you can move this tree—just tell it, “Move,” and it’ll move. And then He tells them this thing about their servant. Right? Do you see what He’s saying to them? Do you see what He says? “So you wanna have faith, huh? So you want me to increase your faith, huh? Ok, let me give you understanding into faith. What one of you, if he has a servant who’s gone out all day and plowed and then comes into the house, says to him, ‘Well sit down and eat with me.’ No, that’s not what you say. ‘Serve me, and then afterwards you can eat. And then you have the privilege as the servant to stand beside me or behind me and say to yourself, “I’ve only done what I ought to have done. I’m the servant.”‘”

What does that have to do with faith? Everything. Everything! Because faith has to do with authority. Faith, obedience and authority: inextricably bound, and everything about that little teaching that He gave to His disciples was about authority and knowing your place. God has placed you. If you don’t acknowledge who you are and where He’s placed you, you can’t begin to have faith. You’re in structures of authority. You have to acknowledge that before you can begin to have faith in God, before it’s possible. And without that acknowledgement, without that acceptance, it’s a deal-breaker. It’s just a deal-breaker, you can’t have faith.

The 2011 ClearNote Fellowship Conference was titled The Great Commission. Here is Pastor Max Curell’s sermon, titled Teaching Them to Obey.

(This is sermon 4 in a series; see also sermon 1, sermon 2, sermon 3, and sermon 5.)


Outline

We’ve removed the plank of obedience
Removing planks from beneath our feet
Keith Green
A radical change in the character of God?
We need to trip the breakers
We’ve removed the plank of authority
Unworthy slaves and faith
A centurion and faith
Knowing your place and faith
We’ve removed the plank of the Holy Spirit
We don’t believe in the fulfillment of the promise of the prophet Joel
Justin Martyr and Trypho the Jew
The mind set on the flesh is enmity towards God
Conclusion: We must live by the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh


Well let’s continue with our all-day dinner on the lawn, hearing preaching, which is a joy.

Matthew 28:18-20,

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Let’s pray.

Father, we come to you now asking, with our hands open, please, would You give to what we need. We don’t even know most of the time. But You are the good Father, and so we look to You now. Give to us from Your word, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

We’ve removed the plank of obedience

“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”

This word ‘observe’ is a word that can be translated ‘obey’, it can be translated ‘keep’ — how many of you are familiar with soccer? Do you know of a position that is the goal…keeper. Well, this is what we are, we are the keepers. We are supposed to be the keepers of the commandments of Jesus. We act to protect, we act to live in, we act to obey, the commandments of Christ.

Today though, the concept of obedience stumbles us before we even get to the idea of specific commands. A couple of years ago I spent some time on the internet looking at websites of other churches, and I was looking specifically at their mission statements, and a lot of churches do reference the Great Commission in their mission statements online. It was surprising to me though just how many of the churches quoted the Great Commission thusly:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

The end. No reference to obedience. A reference to making disciples, and as we’ve heard already, we can understand that concept in our culture today without any connection to obedience. Discipleship without obedience is where we are—we call ourselves Christians, and yet we have no connection to the discipleship described in the New Testament and observed with various degrees of waxing and waning throughout church history.

Removing planks from beneath our feet

What happened to us? What happened to us is that we started removing planks from beneath our feet.

Out here in the north yard of the building we’re constructing a playground, and you see two towers out there that look disturbingly like hangmen’s scaffolds, right? But there are planks across so you can stand; and if we were to go out there now and climb up onto the towers and one at a time remove the planks from under our feet, one at a time we would be falling down to the ground, right?

And this is what’s happened with the church: the church has through the past years been removing these planks, and we find ourselves with no context, no Rosetta Stone, no grid to understand what God has called us to do, no way for Him to speak to us in a way that we will follow and interpret, because we’re removed from the concept, the very basic concept, of obedience. And one of the planks, that we’ve removed—I’m going to talk about three—is the plank of the commands of Jesus.

Matthew 7:21-29,

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell–and great was its fall.” When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

We’re familiar with this passage. Even as little children, many of us sang the song, right?

“The wise man builds his house upon the rock…”

Do you know that song? It’s foundational to our understanding, but have we made the connection in our culture as we have marinated in the culture’s understanding and hatred of authority and of obedience and commands. Have we taken it in so that we have no understanding, practically, of what it means to build our house upon a rock? To do the will of the Father.

We don’t. We don’t do the will of the Father. There is no restraint, no speaking of God’s ‘no’, no self-denial, no discipline. The only non-negotiable principle of evangelicalism today is that everyone can have all the candy that they want. That’s it. You can have all the candy that you want. There is no ‘no.’

Keith Green

I was driving to Toledo this past week, and I spent some time listening to the music of Keith Green. I have, 20 or 30 of his songs on my iPod, and so I’m driving along listening to my iPod with a pad of paper in the passenger seat, writing the sermon as I’m driving through Ohio (and I didn’t get stopped, that’s amazing). Keith Green if you don’t know was a Christian musician from the 70s and 80s, he’s now dead, but as I was listening I was struck again by the openness with which he spoke of obedience and bearing your cross in this life. He preached in his concerts, telling those in attendance that they would or would not go to hell depending on what they did with Jesus Christ.

I remembered also that he was at one time a part of the original Vineyard Church before it was a denomination, I think—there was just one church called ‘The Vineyard,’ and he was a part of that original church. I also remember, having been in the Vineyard myself, that there’s a famous story of him as he went to visit one of the Vineyard church’s small groups, that he went into the house and nobody was there. And so what did he do? He heard some noise out back so he went out back, and there’s the swimming pool, and guess what the whole small group is doing? Swimming, naked. And so Keith Green is just appalled!

But that is evangelicalism today. We have Bible studies and then we go out and we swim naked in the pool—or whatever the equivalent of that is—not having any real connection to obedience to God. And so Keith Green disciplined them—immediately disciplined them. He ended up leaving the Vineyard and moving to Texas to establish Last Days Ministries. I mark his death as the end of any serious appeal to discipleship in contemporary Christian music for the last 25 years. That’s where I put his death: right there. And we wouldn’t consider him reformed, and we wouldn’t consider him all kinds of things—but he preached, calling people to repentance and obedience to God.

And Christian music has just followed the church! And the church has just followed the world. We have not been the keepers. We have not guarded and loved and cherished and dwelt in the commands of Christ. We’re the antinomian generation. We’re the generation that says that we have grace and that therefore we’re freed from anything morally binding against us. We’re free, because we have grace.

And as Jesus was speaking to the disciples and He says, “Many will come on that day and say, ‘Lord, Lord'”—you know, this is our cloaking device, this is what we think is covering up our nakedness. We go around in the church today and we say, ‘Lord, Lord!’ And it’s all around us. It is the evangelical church—“Didn’t we prophesy, didn’t we cast out demons, didn’t we perform miracles? Didn’t we build a $400 million dollar mega-complex with a prayer balcony?”

Grace is now the only talking point of the average professor of Christianity. Obedience is never the talking point, unless it’s obedience to some culturally acceptable and championed action. So we can talk about obedience to being kind to the environment, we can talk about obedience to not trafficking in human beings—that’s always my favorite, you know, churches in Wisconsin, rural towns, you know, saying “We’re so sorry that we’ve been trafficking in human beings, we’ve been selling people down the pipe.” It’s ridiculous! Of course there are people who traffic in human beings, but we don’t need to repent of it! I don’t have anybody in my closet at home, tied up with a rope, do you?
We can talk obedience in disaster relief and how many water bottles we took to the victims of Katrina.
And we can talk about tolerance.
And we can talk about tolerance.
And we can talk about tolerance.
And then we can talk about tolerance.
And then we can even get around to talking about tolerance.
And then we can talk about acceptance (which is strangely like tolerance).

A radical change in the character of God?

Stephen referred earlier to the dispensationalists, and we have this in us: we want to tout a radical discontinuity between the old and new covenants. We don’t talk about it, we don’t understand the concepts theologically of continuity and discontinuity, we don’t talk about those things generally, but what we’re really proposing is that there’s a radical difference now in the character of God and in the way by which men can be saved. God has become gracious, and by extension salvation becomes gracious. God has changed!

This is our radical discontinuity: God has changed and salvation has changed, and now we are saved by grace and not by works anymore. And we’re eager to preach this gospel, a gospel that’s completely composed of what the British call ‘sweeties’—just candy, more candy. This is our gospel: candy. Yes, yes, yes—candy: have some more candy. And the home of this person today is the typical megachurch, the typical colossal church sitting on the major intersections in the areas serving the large stores in suburbia in our country. This is where this person goes to church.

I was having a conversation with a young man who attended a megachurch in a city near here, and he was gushing about all the conversions that were taking place in his home church. I asked the young man if he thought that church was making disciples through teaching the the observance of Jesus’ commands. And he said, “No, I don’t think so, probably not so much.” Then I asked him if someone could truly be a disciple of Jesus without a trajectory of obedience to Christ’s commands, and he said something along the lines of, “Are you saying that they’re not really having conversions? Is that what you’re saying?”

I happen to know the pastor of that church, and that pastor had once confided in me that he was concerned that they, that church, seemed to be teaching people a lot of stuff about who Jesus was and the poor and being relevant, but that they didn’t seem to be making any disciples. I asked him if the problem might be the lack of discipline, that is, that they were not saying God’s ‘no;’ and after his ears had recovered from hearing me say the D-word—and I’m not kidding, his neck jerked when I said ‘discipline’; he’s pastoring a church of 6000 people and his neck jerked—but after he got his composure (because when I said ‘discipline’ he said, “Well what do you mean by that?” And I said, well, you know, essentially saying God’s ‘no’; going to people and confronting them with their sin; Matthew 18) he thought for a minute and he said, “Well, you know, yes, I believe that’s really a major part of the issue.”

God has not changed. There is radical discontinuity between the old and new covenants, but it has nothing to do with the character of God. Men in both ages were and are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, one looking forward, believing in a promise and later added onto the structure that would be established with Christ’s kingdom, the other standing on a Rock revealed and a covenant firmly established by faith through Christ because of the grace of God.

We need to trip the breakers

A good indicator of whether an evangelical knows God at all is the existence of the fear of the Lord that motivates in the acknowledgement of and obedience to the commands of his Lord—particularly those commands that give His ‘no.’ The first thing you teach a little child, the first thing they should understand is ‘no.’ But that’s not how we are! We can’t stand ‘no.’

This morning I find out we have two air conditioning units that have the same problem here in this building; and the problem is that for some reason, the logic boards at a certain time get messed up and they start making it hotter instead of colder, which isn’t of course what you want. And so what we have to do (we’ve had the guys in three times) is go upstairs physically and trip the breakers, and when we trip the breakers it resets the logic boards on the air conditioners and they start making cold air again.

That’s what we need! We need to reset, we need to trip the breakers, and we need to realize that in order to be obedient to God we have to believe that He has commanded us and that those commands include His ‘no’ and not just His ‘yes’. And that God is pleased to lead us with ‘no’.

There’ve been times in my life when I have been primarily carried in God’s kingdom and in my personal walk in obedience to Him by mostly knowing the ‘no’. And it was ok! It’s more than ok—it’s vital! We can’t live without it! You can’t live without God’s ‘no’. You can’t obey Him without His ‘no’.

Trip the breaker. Reset. Understand that those around you need it to be reset, and speak to them about obedience to God and the vital reality that they need to understand His ‘no’.

We’ve removed the plank of obedience.

We’ve removed the plank of authority

We’ve removed the plank of authority. Has authority been brought up yet in the conference? Are we starting to get the idea with authority? Authority, obedience and faith are all just inextricably connected—just bound up.

Unworthy slaves and faith

Look with me at Luke 17:5-10.

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'”

Now I hope you’re getting the initial weird thing that I got when I started reading this passage. The disciples said to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” And what you expect Him to say is, “Meditate real hard, fast for a long time;” you know, “Bear down. Do something!”

But what does He tell them? What does He tell them?

Well of course, He says if you have a little bit of faith you can move this tree—just tell it, “Move,” and it’ll move. And then He tells them this thing about their servant. Right? Do you see what He’s saying to them? Do you see what He says? “So you wanna have faith, huh? So you want me to increase your faith, huh? Ok, let me give you understanding into faith. What one of you, if he has a servant who’s gone out all day and plowed and then comes into the house, says to him, ‘Well sit down and eat with me.’ No, that’s not what you say. ‘Serve me, and then afterwards you can eat. And then you have the privilege as the servant to stand beside me or behind me and say to yourself, “I’ve only done what I ought to have done. I’m the servant.”‘”

What does that have to do with faith? Everything. Everything! Because faith has to do with authority. Faith, obedience and authority: inextricably bound, and everything about that little teaching that He gave to His disciples was about authority and knowing your place. God has placed you. If you don’t acknowledge who you are and where He’s placed you, you can’t begin to have faith. You’re in structures of authority. You have to acknowledge that before you can begin to have faith in God, before it’s possible. And without that acknowledgement, without that acceptance, it’s a deal-breaker. It’s just a deal-breaker, you can’t have faith.

A centurion and faith

Have you all seen the billboards on the side of the road that have the water spigot coming out, and water comes out, and then it has a wine glass at the bottom, and when the water hits the wine glass it turns purple, and then the sign just says, ‘Believe’? And they’re supposed to make you think about believing. Well here’s a better picture of that from the Scriptures.

Matthew 8:5-13,

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

Which, I love that statement. Because it’s like Jesus—when else does He ever say that? Not really usually ever. But He says it because He’s setting it all up, you understand: “I will come and heal him!”

But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great [understanding of authority] with anyone in Israel”

You see where it says that? No. Faith, authority, obedience: inextricably bound together. You can’t pull them apart. This man knew faith! Jesus said, “I haven’t seen it anywhere like this. This is amazing.” And all the guy did was talk to him about knowing who he was. “I am a centurion, I have guys that are over me, I have guys under me, I know how it works, I understand authority. All you have to do is say the word—I know who You are. I know who’s over You and I know who’s under You and I know what You can do. All You have to do is say the word and my servant would be healed.” And Jesus says,

“I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel…many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

And the centurion’s servant was healed.

How do you put that on a billboard? That’s what should be there next to the word ‘believe,’ you understand? Not water and a wine glass, but the centurion.

Knowing your place and faith

Know and accept who and where you are.
Are you a sinner? Have you realized that you’re a sinner yet?
Do you know who you are in relation to God?
Do you know that God is holy?
Do you know your need of Him?
Do you know that you’re helpless before Him and that you must humble yourself and call out to Him for mercy?
Are you a man? Are you a woman?
Are you a husband, are you a wife?
Are you a son, are you a daughter?
Are you an elder? Are you a godly older woman?
Are you a younger woman with a family? Are you a church member?
Are you gifted at this, are you gifted at that?
Whose authority are you under? Who is under your authority?
Do you know who you are?
Have you accepted the place that God has put you in?
Have you accepted your place in life as God has ordained it?

I’m not asking you to accept your sin. I’m asking you to accept your sex! I’m asking you to accept that you live in authority in the context of a family, I’m asking you to accept that God has created the church as a structure for you. Have you believed it and accepted it? Can you rest in that? Can you just lay back and recline and say, “Oh, ho, ho, ho—life is good, because I know who I am! And I know who’s in control of who I am: God is!”

Paul even said to the slaves to rest in that! They’re the only ones to whom he said, Well if you want to you can try to get freed. Right? And slaves who didn’t have benevolent masters. You will not begin to have life until you begin to embrace the truths of your situation. Then you can begin to have faith.

Well now some of you are saying, “I’m glad I’m not a dispensationalist, and I’m glad I’m not a reviler, and I’m glad I’m not like that tax collector over there.” And I just want to say to you, God has something for you too. He has something for all of us.

We’ve removed the plank of the Holy Spirit

The third plank that we’ve removed is the plank of the Holy Spirit. The plank of the Holy Spirit.

The power of God in our lives. John [1]6:5-15,

“[And] now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment…”

You know, He’s going to be gone, He’s leaving, and once He’s gone the absolute standard picture of righteousness isn’t going to be before their eyes.

“…concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

How often do you speak of the Holy Spirit?
How often do you speak of the Holy Spirit?

We don’t believe in the fulfillment of the promise of the prophet Joel

You know, Reformed people—and I think we have a lot of Reformed people here today—Reformed people don’t talk much about the Holy Spirit. We’re almost functionally like the Ephesians that Paul came across—those twelve men. And when he came across them he said, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we didn’t, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And if you get around Reformed people, that’s what you feel like. “Well, uh—no, no—I’d never—huh! Tell me all about Him!”

How could it be true that we have come to be anti-Spirit? I mean, we are reformed, right? We have doctrine. We have the law. We have the regulative principle! We know how to regulate. The law is our talking point.

We don’t talk about the Holy Spirit unless it’s necessary as part of the careful doctrinal insights that we’re trying to impart to the person that we’re talking to. And what we argue for is a radical continuity, unlike the dispensationalists. But it’s not a continuity about what you might think I’m going to say. I’m not talking about baptism. It’s a radical continuity that says that there’s not really a fulfillment of the promise of the prophet Joel, or at least there’s no obvious expectation that promise will be fulfilled in us today, now. And if you don’t know what that promise is, listen to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, starting at verse 16,

but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy. AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’

Moses gathered together the 70 elders, and when he had gathered them together, the Spirit rested on them and they prophesied. And they didn’t do it again, it says—just that once. And oddly enough, two of them weren’t in the assembly and they were in the camp, and a man came running to Moses and he said, “Moses, they’re prophesying in the camp! Stop them, stop them!” And what does Moses say? A humble man, what does he say? “Yes, let’s stop them! It’s bad enough that these guys are prophesying too with me, you know? It’s making me look like just one of the group!” No, that’s not what he said.

“Are you jealous for my sake?”

Moses said,

“Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!”

And Peter stands up and preaches, and he says, It’s happened. Things are different. It’s never been like this before! It’s radical! The promised prophecy of Joel is poured out on the church.

“Well, well no Pastor Max, you’re wrong—I mean, I believe in the giving of the Holy Spirit.”
“Yeah?”
“Sure, sure. We have Pentecost Sunday every year, like clockwork.”
But where is the evidence of your Pentecost and my Pentecost? I don’t wanna hear you recite the catechism. (That’s good that you can.) I want to see power. I want to see fruit. I want to see you acknowledge God’s radical inauguration with and continued pouring out of His Holy Spirit on you and His church so that when men encounter you they’re not wowed by your mastery over theological concepts but they marvel and glorify God as they observe your good deeds!—your otherliness, your godliness. And they can do nothing but say, “Wohhhhh! How could that be?” and turn their attention to God and praise His name.

Justin Martyr and Trypho the Jew

One of my favorite people in church history is a guy named Justin Martyr who lived somewhere on and after 100 A.D., and Justin Martyr was an apologist-philosopher-prophet-evangelist; and if you want to understand kind of what I think Justin Martyr was like, you know that Doug Wilson goes and debates guys like Christopher Hitches and they do these power debates? That’s how I think of Justin Martyr a little bit—this is the kind of stuff he did. He would get into these kind of public debates with all types of men. He died in about 165 A.D. after having been in one of those debates, where the opposition wasn’t pleased with how he had debated and so they had him beheaded, and that’s how he died a martyr’s death.

But my favorite account of Justin is his dialogue with the Jew Trypho. And in this dialogue Justin is asserting that Christianity is the new law for all men. He is telling Trypho essentially that an hour is coming and now is—you know that phrase? “An hour is coming and now is,” it should bring you back to Jesus with the woman at the well, she is standing there and she says, “Well, you Jews worship in Jerusalem; we worship here,” and Jesus says, well, salvation is of the Jews, first of all, and then He says, “But an hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” He says they won’t worship in Jerusalem or in your mountain—something new. Something old is passing away.

So Trypho is talking with Justin Martyr and Trypho says—smiling; he’s laughing at Justin, Justin’s not a Jew and he’s one of these Christians, and Trypho kind of respects him and likes him—and so he says,

I approve of your other remarks and admire the eagerness with which you study divine things, but it were better for you still to abide in the philosophy of Plato or some other man, cultivating endurance, self-control, and moderation rather than be deceived by false words and follow the opinions of men of no reputation.

Like Jesus and the apostles.

If then you’re willing to listen to me (for I have already considered you a friend), first be circumcised, then observe what ordinances have been enacted with respect to the Sabbath and the feasts and the New Moons of God, and, in a word, do all things which have been written in the Law; and then perhaps you shall obtain mercy from God. But Christ, if he has indeed been born and exists anywhere is unknown and does not even know himself and has no power until Elias come to anoint him and make him manifest to all. And you, having accepted the groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing.

And so Justin Martyr responds, and he says,

I excuse and forgive you, my friend, for you know not what you say, but have been persuaded by teachers who do not understand the Scriptures; and you speak, like a diviner, whatever comes into your mind. But if you are willing to listen to an account of Him, how we have not been deceived and shall not cease to confess Him although men’s reproaches be heaped upon us, although the most terrible tyrant compel us to deny Him, I shall prove to you as you stand here that we have not believed empty fables or words without any foundation, but words filled with the Spirit of God and big with power and flourishing with grace.

I think about Peter at the Day of Pentecost, standing in front of all those people. They don’t understand it, and Peter says, “These men are not drunk! You’ve got it wrong! They have the Holy Spirit, and He has transformed their lives and filled them with power.”

The mind set on the flesh is enmity towards God

Where do we need to go? Where do we need to go?

As I was preparing for this I was trying to think of a paradigm in the New Testament that would help us to understand this life in the Spirit, obedience to Christ’s commands, and I was convicted immediately that I was not using the Scriptures’ terms to discuss this in the New Testament. Because I started to read about all the places where it started talking about the flesh and the Spirit, and I realized how infrequently I had ever talked to you and others about putting to death the flesh and living by the Spirit. And the two places in the Scriptures that are most filled with this paradigm are Romans 8 and Galatians 5; and Romans 8, starting at verse 2,

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

The mind set on the flesh is death. The mind set on the flesh is “hostile toward God,” it says in the NASB. But the King James version is better here for that word ‘hostile,’ because it uses the word ‘enmity.’ “The mind set on the flesh is enmity towards God.” And you understand the difference between the mind being hostile and the mind being hostility, right? There’s a difference between being hostile and being hostility. And the mind set on the flesh is hostility toward God.

The law cannot overcome the flesh! It cannot break the hostility. It cannot break the enmity. But those who live by the Spirit can put the flesh to death, because they have the power of God in His Holy Spirit to do so.

As Joseph said earlier, the old man is put to death and a new man is raised up.

Galatians 5:13-26,

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

No candy! You can’t have any! That’s what your flesh wants–no. You cannot do, you may not do, the things that you please.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

There is no law. They’re like weight watchers. They have foods that count as nothing, right? You can eat all of them you want! The fruit of the Spirit, there’s nothing against it. It’s what we are to live in, it’s how we are to present ourselves to one another. It’s what we are to be alive with and bearing in our lives.

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Conclusion: We must live by the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh

And so we must live by the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh. It is enmity to God. And when we are living in that way, we will be obeying the commands of Christ. We will be living in the obedience of Christ. And we will be the fulfillment of the Commission that He gave to His apostles all that time ago. But we have to let go of this world. We have to be like the grain of wheat and fall into the ground and die. Our flesh has to be done! And from that ground God by His Spirit will raise us to life, a spiritual life that is bearing fruit to Him that will last eternally.

The last verse I want to read is from Luke 11:11-13,

“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

And He is the power of our lives, filling us, giving us power over our flesh.

Pray with me, please.

Heavenly Father, please, please, please, I am evil, and I would never give a stone to my son or daughters when they needed bread. And You are good, and You have given us the promise that if we would ask, that You would pour out Your Holy Spirit on us.

Father, make us alive to the commands of Your Son. Make us alive to obey You. Make us alive to love Your law. Make us alive to love every bit of Your character, to want it for ourselves. Make us alive and filled with power by Your Holy Spirit so that we can war against our flesh, so that we can say no to our flesh, so that we can put it to death, so that we can put our hands around its neck and strangle it and live in the Holy Spirit, bearing fruit to righteousness.

Father, give us Your Holy Spirit, please. Thank You for Your kindness and Your goodness toward us.

Thank You for Your grace toward us, Father, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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