Hello. And welcome to this teaching from Calvary Albuquerque. We're excited to hear from our special guest speaker, Chip Lusko.
We pray that God uses this message to strengthen your faith. If He does, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.
Why do Christians struggle with behaviors so contradictory to their beliefs? In the message "The Monster and the Master," Chip explores this mystery of the Christian experience. Now please open your Bibles to Romans chapter 7 as he begins.
Turn to Romans chapter 7, Romans 7. And we're going to be in verse 18. Romans 7, we'll begin in verse 18 where Paul writes, "For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells. For to will is present with me. But how to perform what is good, I don't find. For the good that I will to do I do not. But the evil that I will not to do, that I practice.
Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law that evil is present with me. The one who wills to do good, that's me, for I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."
Verse 24, "Oh, wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind, I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
Father, today we open our hearts, our minds, our soul. We relinquish our will to you. Your word which never comes back void but always accomplishes the purposes to which it is sent is opened before us now. And we submit to it. And we commit to its direction. In Jesus' name, Amen. Amen.
Well, "The Monster and the Master," that's the title of our message today. We're going to be exploring together a mystery. And we like mystery. It perks our curiosity. It engages our mind, our intellect, our emotions.
We want to solve a mystery today. That mystery is portrayed for us and laid out-- it gives us context in verse 15, where Paul, in many translations, simply says this. "I do not understand what I do." I don't realize why I think this way, I act this way when it's contrary to my core belief system. This is written by Paul, who wrote about 2/3 of the New Testament, who had at least two personal visits by Jesus, rescued by earthquakes and angels, turned the Roman Empire upside down, had a preview of heaven. And still he wrestled with his behavior.
And I don't think this is some rookie mistake where Paul just got converted and then was confused for a while. Book of Romans was written about AD 55, 57 perhaps. He was converted in AD 35. This was over two decades into his Christian walk.
He's saying, I don't know why it is this way with me. And that's, in one way, comforting because I get that. But it's also a little concerning because it means, well, we could get there too. And so we have to understand that Paul's mystery is our mystery, what we share corporately.
Let's begin our investigation this morning with a look at a Scottish book called The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson. He, by the way, was inspired by our passage today to write this book-- Romans. He was a Scottish Presbyterian. And they asked him, what inspired you to write this book? He said, "my human nature." And it was dictated by Romans chapter 7.
Terrifying story. It's a revealing story. The good Dr. Jekyll, the evil Mr. Hyde-- the same person, just two natures warring within, a virtuous self, a totally selfish side, tenfold more wicked than was even imaginable. And that sin could not be controlled for Mr. Hyde.
But here's the deal. Both of them rejected the mercy of God. Dr. Jekyll by thinking he was too good, Mr. Hyde by diving in evil and wickedness. But what's a common denominator? They both ended up rejecting the mercy of God for different reasons, but the outcome was identical.
Hyde's consuming selfishness caused the law to crush him. But Jekyll's religion-- listen-- drove him away from God just as Jesus predicted. Jesus said, religion doesn't draw you to me. It drives you away from me. And that's what happened to Dr. Jekyll.
You see, the first half of Romans chapter 7 is a war you cannot win. You cannot struggle with sin on your own and prevail. The second half of Romans 7 is a war you can't lose, because now Jesus has vanquished the enemy. You've let the cross do its deadly work in your heart. And now you have certainly prevailed.
And so we understand that Paul is still wrestling with something in a battle, even though-- get it-- the war has been won. The matter is decided. Victory in Jesus, our Savior forever. And I'm not going to sing that verse for you.
This does explain, though, the mystery of inexplicable behavior by well-meaning Christians. Some you're sitting with. Some are sitting in your chair. How is it that a person who has undeniably experienced new birth, has been born again with the proof of a changed life, who has a testimony of faith and good works, and yet this very believer is capable of behaving in a highly compromised way?
Here in chapter 7, Paul comes to grips with what I call "spiritual schizophrenia," "spiritual schizoid." Even in his life, he was massively disappointed, I think, by the overwhelming failure that he constantly confronted. That's what we're exploring and delving into today.
Now here's an issue. Before conversion, we have no problem with sin, do we? No, we just give in to it. We just surrender to it.
We practice sin. We were practiced sinners. And that creates a testimony. I get that. Sometimes it's dramatic. And therefore, we can write books and go on tour and be on TV and be interviewed about how Christ changed our life.
But here's the deal. What happens after the moment of conversion if there's a catastrophic failure in your life? Very often you're scorned. You're humiliated, pinned with a scarlet letter.
And really, you're fallen. And even people use the word-- you've heard it-- "disgraced." Disgraced celebrity, stockbroker, pastor.
Well, let's dissect that word "disgraced." It really means fallen from grace. That's powerful. That's important.
Nothing worse can happen to a human being than to fall from grace. And that's not a call for any man to make. You're going where angels fear to tread when you're saying, that person is disgraced.
You're saying they're fallen from grace? That's a divine decision. God can make it. He will make it.
There is a reprobate condition from which there is no return. But that's not our judgment to make. This is precisely why Jesus said, "judge not."
And that scripture is used out of context and used for the wrong reason, because he follows it up by confirming-- he says, "condemn not." That's the point of "judge not." Of course we can discern behavior and call sin "sin." But you cannot say someone is disgraced.
Thief on the cross might be a prime example of somebody who is disgraceful. But Jesus didn't feel that way about him. He said, "Today you'll be with me in paradise."
Quite the opposite. Do not condemn. That's what that means.
Yet these sins can entangle us, can they not, at any stage or age of life? There is no inoculation for you, no immunity from the war or the battle with sin, even though the outcome is decided. No matter how long you've walked with the Lord or how short, whether you've been with the Lord for one year or you're one year away from heaven, wherever you're at, you're still engaged in spiritual warfare.
And of course, sometimes this is happening secretly. Sometime it happens publicly. But it's always in conflict to our profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Certainly, we have no license to sin because there is grace. Paul emphatically says, "God forbid."
But what is the cause of this maddening inconsistency in my mind and my priorities and lived out in my heart? What is the deal? That's the mystery.
The answer is found in this section of scripture before us today in Romans 7. Let me say, first of all, for me, parachuting into Romans 7 is a kamikaze mission because there's just so much fruit, manna, and mangoes lying around I want to pick up and examine with you together. But we have to stay focused. We have to stay disciplined here.
I realize going through this passage in the short time we have together is like going on a Disney cruise and going to their Sunday brunch with a small paper plate, taking one trip through. I mean, you just-- man, you leave so much behind. And that's how we are.
But I hope I'm going to encourage you today to drill down deeper on your own, especially in Romans chapter 6 through 8. Tim Keller said-- Timothy Keller said that if you don't understand the heart of Romans 7, you cannot understand Christianity. That's how vital it is you have a grasp on these great principles and truths.
So time for "The Monster and the Master." First, we meet the monster. It's no spoiler to say we have met the monster, and he is us. We is him. And that's the way it is. That's the issue.
Let me paraphrase verse 19 for you. Paul says, I do evil. I do evil. Spurgeon himself said, "Beware of no man more than of yourself. We carry our worst enemy within us." It's portable.
Who among us wants a powerless Christian life? Who wants your prayers to go unanswered? Who wants to dishonor God by polluting his temple, to put your testimony in jeopardy and risk leaving a legacy of compromise, unfulfilled potential, and lukewarm living?
Who has that for a mission statement? No one. And yet it happens. It's a danger. We're in jeopardy of it.
No one wants to disobey God. But when we allow sin to reign, we come to the humbling realization every sin is within. Murder, hate, lust, greed, jealousy resides in the depraved and fallen human heart.
If you think it, you can do it. Jesus knew this. That's why He said, if you lust, if you hate, you might as well fornicate and kill, because it happened in your heart already.
The beast of carnality is on display for us in Romans 7. Paul says, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing." That's an exclusive statement in totality. No good thing dwells in your fallen human nature.
We try to redeem it. We want to cover it up or put makeup on it. But it's still what it is. The fact is every sin has a seed within you.
If you followed the popular podcast Serial about a year ago-- it was a murder mystery-- you may have heard the testimony of one of the licensed forensic psychologists and renowned lawyers Charles Ewing. He has been an expert witness in hundreds of murder cases over the years where he interviewed the accused of capital crimes. He had some fascinating observations to make.
First of all, he says most murderers are not sociopaths or psychopaths or serial killers. There's a fraction that are. He says, primarily, murderers are regular, ordinary, day-to-day people that we work with and live near and walk around with.
But here's the observation he makes. They have abnormally nursed a grudge of betrayal. They've allowed a seed of bitterness to take root in their hearts, and it's grown.
They go through, he says, these stages. First, they have the thought of, I want revenge. This is unjust. I want revenge.
And then they allow that bitterness to further take root and to simmer in their heart. And it finally begins to boil over. And one day they have the thought, I could kill that person. That will solve this. I'll have my retaliation.
And they're repulsed by that. They're revolted. They think, I'm not a murderer. I could never do that.
But then a triggering event happens. And something puts him over the ledge. And whether by an act of passion or of premeditation, they commit murder.
And once again, they recoil in horror. Oh, my God, what have I done? That's what he observed interviewees saying.
I have to cover this up. I have to justify it. I have to make it self-defense.
It can't just be me murdering somebody. I would never do that. Do you hear Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in dialogue right there?
We must understand-- this is difficult to grasp-- that all these seeds are in the heart. And they're in the monster's playroom. The monster within you wears many disguises, all with the same goal, to destroy you.
In Paul's case, it was coveting that killed him, the 10th commandment. He was good to go through the first-- well-behaved. But he realized that coveting is the essence of sin.
Coveting is saying you want something beyond God. Coveting is saying what God has provided is not enough. I need to go beyond his parameters.
It's idolatrous. It's coveting, saying God is simply not satisfying me. I'll create my own moral code.
Everyone has a moral code, you know? ISIS has a moral code. They wake up in the morning thinking Allah has inspired them. It's wicked. It's warped. But they have their moral code.
The mafia has a moral code called omerta, the code of silence, the code of brotherhood. Paul had a moral code. You have a moral code.
I found a study that-- do you know most Americans think their own personal moral code is superior to those around them? That's what research has shown. They think they have a better moral code.
Oh, it gets better. They think that since they have a superior moral code, it allows them the leverage once in a while to commit an immoral act. Because, well, I've been so good, I might as well just have one act.
It's kind of like being on a diet where you have a cheat day and you head for Little Caesars. That's the principle. But it's moral immorality. People really think this way. That's why our own moral codes are flawed and doomed and can never succeed.
We have that kind of illogical fatal thinking. That's why the dragon of double-mindedness comes into play right here. It's clearly on view. "It is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me." This shines a bright light on double-mindedness.
Now don't misunderstand. Double-mindedness is not having trouble at Outback whether you're going to have the Awesome Blossom or not. No, that's not double-mindedness. This is a very serious thing.
The word "double-minded" literally means two-souled, two-souled. Yes. You see, a double-minded Christian is always being torn in two directions.
This person has a relationship with Jesus Christ but also has a relationship with a particular sinful obsession. It may be a substance addiction. It could be an obsession for dwelling in bitterness, unforgiveness, and a desire for retaliation for abuse, real or imagined. It could be a fantasy thought life about luxury or lust. This is a miserable way to live the Christian life-- double-minded-- because the Bible says you'll become unstable in all of your ways, unreliable.
What are the signals of a double-minded believer? Well, you find yourself giving in to old habits very easily, not putting up resistance. A double-minded believer finds it almost impossible to stay away from the danger zones in their life, the danger person, the danger location, the danger channel. And you know, in your life, where that soft spot is. You find yourself compromising in the thought life in one primary area, indulging and engaging and entertaining.
Some people mistakenly call this a pet sin. That's a great term, like adopting a little mountain lion cub and playing with it. And then it grows up and eats you.
That's what the Bible says about sin. Sin is crouching at the door, ready to spring and devour you. What kind of pet is that? No.
You find yourself drawing back from radical and total commitment to Christ. Recognize and realize the monster is repulsed by the cross and true spiritual commitment. AW Tozer said this. "There's a generation of Christians coming up who believe it's possible to accept Christ without forsaking the world." Not so. We must pick up our cross, Jesus said, and follow him daily.
Paul echoes that by saying, "I die daily." A Jekyll and Hyde scenario, Stevenson wisely uses a variation on spelling "Hyde." He uses H-Y instead of H-I. He wants us to know the monster hides.
He camouflages. He disguises. Now the beast wants to deceive us. He wants to pretend to be one thing and then spring out and be something quite different.
Here are a few tests for which soul controls your life. What do you desire most? What dominates your thought life?
How do you use your discretionary money? What company do you enjoy? Who do you look up to?
What makes you laugh? What gives you joy? Trace that root, and you'll find which soul is dominating. Someone said, "Tell me the five most important people in your life, and I'll tell you your future."
This brings us to the-- what I call the danger of dominoes, the danger of dominoes. Have you ever heard the diagnosis to a problem, oh, it's all in your head? Well, it is. That is where most of our problems reside and begin.
2 Corinthians says, "Take every thought captive." Literally, that means-- listen-- when you have an ungodly, impure, unproductive, self-destructive thought that's on an endless loop in your brain, take it, by knifepoint, captive and escort it out of your mind. That's what it means.
And replace it by meditating and marinating your very mind upon the word of God. Take every thought literally captive. This takes commitment, determination, and consistency.
You see, thoughts are the first thing to trigger a chain reaction, a cataclysmic chain reaction in your mind. Thoughts create emotions. Emotions create plans.
Plans become actions. And that becomes sin, if they're double-minded. That's the original domino.
Whoever, whatever controls your thinking will ultimately be in control of your life. Paul said, so I don't-- I don't shadow box with my body. "I buffet my body."
Now some of you have read that and go, oh, a buffet for my body. I like that. No, it's not that.
"Buffet" is show your body who's in charge, because your body wants to run the show. It did for so long. It would say, I want a drink. I want sexual pleasure. I want entertainment.
Sure, let's go. You absolutely followed the dictates of your body. Paul said, buffet it. Say, no more are you running the show.
And it doesn't mean we can solve this mystery by moving to a monastery, because a monster is quite content in a monastery. He'd love to be around monks.
Tozer also said, "Sin can lie unrebuked at the very cross of Jesus. It can watch the bleeding victim die and not be the least affected by what it sees. To tell the truth," he writes, "it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more content in a Bible conference than a tavern." It can pretend.
That's Jekyll, rejecting God's mercy because of his veneer of good works. So both rejecting God's mercy, two sides, same coin. This is precisely what Paul has before us in Romans chapter 7 today.
Now let's remember, there are sins of the flesh, and there are sins of the spirit. You have to distinguish between them even though they have the same root and the same fruit. Paul, I don't think-- and we don't know for sure-- wrestled with sins of the flesh as much. I don't see Paul going to happy hour and singing karaoke and whatnot. I see him more dealing with ego and pride and self-righteousness. Nonetheless, sin is sin.
Now here's a good quote. "To be specific, the self-sins are these, self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self"-- do you see any trend here at all? "Self-love, self-admiration, and a host of others like them. The grosser manifestation of these sins, egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy." Feel like taking a selfie now? No. No.
So what is it for you? One soul or two? If you're double-minded, the problem does not remain in your head.
We talk about victimless crimes and victimless sins, and I'm just indulging in having a little fantasy. It never stays in your head. It will always be lived out in your life eventually.
That brings us to verse 23. Look at it with me. "Where we see war, I see a law," the Bible says, "warring against my mind, bringing me into captivity to sin." Another translation says, "But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to sin that is still within."
And that leads us and introduces the dragon of self-destruction, because the monster-- not only is he homicidal. He or she is suicidal. Original sin was suicide. Let's pull the camera back.
God says to Adam and Eve, here's all the trees. Enjoy them. Do what you will. But that one tree, don't eat of it, or you will surely what? Die.
Camera swings to the next scene. Eve is going, where was that tree? First thing she headed for.
That was suicide to eat of that tree. God had surely said they would die. And so that's following in the footsteps of Lucifer, who insanely rebelled against God. Sin is insanity, suicide.
You know, Americans are dying in record numbers today from what is being called diseases of despair-- drug addiction, suicide, alcoholism. Overdose deaths have tripled in this century in our country. New Mexico has the second highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States.
Stories are endless. One is from Walter, who was 12 years old in New York City and got addicted at that age to hardcore drugs. Can you imagine your 12-year-old shooting up heroin, living on the streets?
Finally, actually created a successful music career. But nonetheless, went on a downward spiral of jail, mental hospitals, and hopelessness. Ultimately tried to take his own life, but then found out that Jesus could save his life. And he now is helping others.
Today you'll have the opportunity, some of you, to make a commitment to Christ, to stand up for Him in a way you never have. Or perhaps your religion, up to this day, has pushed you away from true salvation. Today is your day. Don't harden your heart. Prepare yourself to make a commitment to Christ today.
Perhaps someone you know is addicted to self-destructive behavior. Perhaps that someone is you. Today could be your day of freedom.
I wish I had a silver bullet to inoculate you from these problems, as I say, to make you immune. I don't. But I do have a golden key that will free you from the bondage and bring you into liberty and allow you to walk the narrow path of freedom with Jesus Christ, empowered by His Holy Spirit.
The solution is not saying, just say no to drugs or sexual immorality or addictive, destructive behavior. The answer is saying yes to Jesus, because He brings along the complement of the second part of the Trinity of the Holy Spirit. And He empowers you.
Yes, He convicts you. He points to the cross. But He says, I'll walk through this with you.
How do we help others overcome addictive, destructive behavior? Well, I can tell you some ways that don't work. They did a study about hardcore people who wanted to give up tobacco, who wanted to stop smoking. And they used the three basic techniques that are very common-- facts, fear, and force.
The facts are telling them every cigarette takes so much off your life. The facts are, here's the statistics of getting lung cancer or emphysema or some other malady from smoking. Those are the facts. And then the fear is showing them pictures of a diseased lung, of people smoking through a tracheotomy, and the awful things that can happen as a result of tobacco use.
And then force. They had the family throw away cigarettes, not allow them to buy cigarettes, force them to be shamed and humiliated and be isolated. Go smoke down the block.
And for a short term, some people stopped smoking. But the study says, within a very short period of time, 75% of them were back fully addicted. And they were surprised to learn while facts and fear and force didn't work, you know what did work? Friendship, friendship.
Instead of forcing somebody and humiliating and shaming them, they called them and said, you know, instead of that first cigarette and a cup of coffee, I'm going to come over. And we're going to go for a walk together. I'm going to take you through. I'm going to help you get cleansed. And they found that, to their amazement, to be very successful in helping people kick the habit, building a bridge instead of standing over across the street and yelling at people.
Yeah. I think the same thing is true often in the abortion controversy. Of course, I'm aggressively pro-life. Times past in Colorado, I did peaceful demonstrations outside of church hospitals that performed abortions.
And then you saw the demonstrations across from Planned Parenthood. They hold up these grotesque placards of aborted fetuses. It's true and horrific. And shove them in the faces of women trying to cross the street to get an abortion.
But I think a better way is the friendship. That's the fear, force, fact technique. I think a better way is the friendship, wrapping your arms around that teenage single mom and saying, I'll walk through the adoption process with you. I'll help you get through.
I'm not going to condemn you. I'm going to console you. I'm going to comfort you and put my money where my mouth is.
You see, there are many people in our community with deviant lifestyles. As Christians, once we've separated for some time, we begin to be aghast.
How can they behave this way? How can they have this lifestyle?
They're sinners practicing sin. It's inherent. You see?
We shouldn't antagonize our mission field and carpet-bomb those we're trying to reach for Christ. We need to build that bridge over the Grand Canyon that separates.
Remember, very clear, the war is on. But it's not us doing it. It's the sin living in us that's doing it. Well, the topic is war. I'll move you to verse 23.
And one little footnote I'll take time to elaborate on. One of the things we often do to people who are engaged in disruptive behavior is take a screenshot of them at the pit of their life, behaving in a way that's contradictory. We freeze-frame that and play it on a loop.
That's just how they are. And we install this brass ceiling of judgment in their life. That's just the person they are.
And perhaps they have betrayed you in some horrific way. But we aren't allowed to prohibit the grace of God from freely changing them. That's what happened to us. Remember from whence we have come. And so those people have to be liberated and freed and forgiven as certainly as we have enjoyed God's grace.
Well, it is war. But it's a war that we welcome because it's a sign of life. That you're struggling against sin is a sign that you do have that battle going on and you have the promise of ultimate victory. Look, deep within the soul of every believer is the desire to live fully with God, to have that vague feeling of Jesus come into full relief and crispness and clarity, to know Him, to serve Him, to love Him, to be a part of His family.
I think what Romans really is is a huge white canvas, pristine and pure. And the Holy Spirit begins to splash gallons of black paint on it. The reprobate nature of fallen man, the righteous indignation of God's holiness, the wrath of God, we see all these themes in the first few chapters. Oh, man, this is depressing.
Then chapter 5 comes, justification by faith. And then comes the salvation we find here in verse 24. And then we have victory in Jesus, "more than conquerors," "what can separate us from the love of God?" And you realize the Holy Spirit has just created a black backdrop to make His vibrant colors of grace and forgiveness seem more pure and more bright and visible for us.
That's what we need to see today. The point of this talk is not to cause any kind of condemnation. If conviction comes along with it, that's fine, as long as it leads to restoration and relief from the pressure and the burden of a lifestyle that is counterproductive and hurtful.
We're not puppets. We're not robots. We have free choice. We need to soldier up. We need to man up and woman up and realize the war is on-- the war of selves, the war in the world-- even though the outcome is concluded.
You can't control so many things in your life, your DNA, where you were born, your parents, certain things outside, unjust principles of government, and employers, and all the winds of the world. But there are things you can control. Most importantly and first, there's a shadow over the book of Romans. And you know what it is?
It's the shadow of Jesus Christ. He's there waiting. He's there knocking.
He's there urging, saying, look at the world. Look at your heart. I am the only solution.
He's the only hope for you. He's the only hope for your family, your children, our church, our community, our country. That shadow can come-- the light can come on. And you can begin a relationship with him, a real person who loves, who cares, who died for you.
For some, that can begin today. Control what you can. Allow the cross in. Rush to the throne of grace, and find freedom and forgiveness.
But you have choices about other things. You have choices about your body, your tongue, your money, your time. No one can take those away from you. Only you can forfeit the privilege you have to serve God with your body, to give God glory with your tongue, to invest in His kingdom with your generosity, and to spend your time on things that will be eternal and not waste yourself on trivial pursuits. This is why the Bible says, "Yield yourself not to unrighteousness, but give yourself to holiness."
Become a power tool in God's toolbox, that wrench that works just right. But more than that, God wants to empower you. Big difference between a handsaw and a chainsaw, between a pickaxe and a jackhammer. You know what it is? It's the power of the air, that pneumatic power that comes in and gives the jackhammer-- or the break up the hard ground.
Maybe you've been laboring away in God's fields with a pickaxe. He wants to empower you. Maybe you've been trying to cut down the woods with a handsaw. He wants to give you a chainsaw. He wants to empower you.
I tell you what. You don't give chainsaws to three-year-olds. You give them the Playskool saws. And so if we become mature men and women of God, he wants to do magnificent, exceeding things beyond what you can ask or think. He's waiting to accomplish that in your life without exclusion. I can make that promise to you.
Well, now we come to Romans 7:25. And again, we're over 20 years into Paul's experience. His conclusion is, "Oh, wretched man that I am." "Oh, wretched man that I am."
But quickly, he recovers. He reminds himself. Wait a minute. The Gospel, I believe the Gospel.
We have to do that. You have to do that. When you find yourself falling into despair and depression, remind yourself.
The Bible says David encouraged himself in the Lord when everybody turned against him. Peter said, "Stir up your pure heart of remembrance." Paul here reminds himself of the Gospel, of what he believes. He speaks it out loud. "I thank God."
Yes, I'm wretched on one hand. But certainly God's grace is here. I thank God that Jesus Christ will deliver me from this body of death.
Let's pause and examine that phrase for just a moment. Paul was raised in Tarsus. One of the punishments for a capital crime of murder was to take the body of the deceased and strap it tightly to the back of the perpetrator. And he walked around with the decaying body on his back.
I know it's graphic. It's morbid. But that's the picture Paul brings into play here.
You see, God's strategy is not to redeem Jekyll or to revive Hyde. It's to create a whole new creature. It's not urban renewal, where He's going to fix things up.
He created a whole generation of priests, a holy nation. We are new. We are new creatures. We are new creatures in Christ. You see a whole new species, that we would show forth glory to the God who saved us.
So we're like a butterfly at the moment of conversion. And we crawl out of that cocoon. But guess what? Paul says, you've got to drag the cocoon around for a while. And you're trying to flap your wings as a Christian, but you've got this body of death that eventually-- and what a day that will be. Eventually you'll be liberated from this body of death.
Do you know some people go through life never having a truly unselfish thought? Even Christians have never really had a thought that wasn't filtered through a sinful brain, emotional system, psyche and intellect, superego, all the rest. Ah, but the day is coming when the sin will be gone. The curse will be reversed. The effects of the-- there will be no more death, no more tears, no more sorrow.
But from that day to this, we are engaged in a battle. And we must be prepared for-- we're alive, but we're attached to death. That's the mystery we're talking about today.
Now Paul's overwhelmed by this situation, as we can be. So let's get some fast facts about facing the truth as we close today. J. Vernon McGee said, "In this life, the flesh cannot be improved. It will never be removed. So don't try to fix up your flesh, your human nature. Dwell on the Spirit."
He also said, "You have not gotten one bit better by becoming a Christian. The carnal body and all its desires is every bit as evil as the day you were saved and just as capable of inconceivable behavior."
You are a new creature. That day is coming. But there is a difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, beyond sin that ambushes us and occasionally indulges us, and being controlled and dominated by sin.
Spoiler alert. You can sin and still be a saint. And you look at-- I wish we had time to just go one verse forward to chapter 8, verse 1-- "no condemnation to those who walk in Jesus Christ."
Well, here's a surprising fact in a book I've been reading this week. It's called The Internet Can Change Your Mind. Did you know that?
For a long time, psychologists thought your brain was hardwired, a brilliant computer that could do amazing transactions. But it was hardwired. They found that's exactly not the case. It is really an elastic, plastic, neuron superhighway that can be routed and rerouted, just like Google Maps.
You're going to take that and plunk it over here, and everything changes. Your track, how you're going to get there, what you see, how long it takes, elapsed time. Same thing is true of our brains.
This is why the Bible says what? "Renew your mind." The Bible is way ahead of these researchers, you see?
And they're discovering in this book that our minds are very, very elastic. They can be stretched and changed for the good and for the evil. Researchers have found that boys and men who are exposed to lurid sexual images will literally reroute their brains and become unable to respond to normal sexual stimuli and have relationships.
Cambridge University neuropsychiatrist Dr. Valerie Voon has recently shown that men who describe themselves as addicted to porn develop changes in the very same brain area that drug addicts do. Porn floods the brain with dopamine, rerouting the stimuli response. And this can only be changed when you get away from these unhealthy behaviors.
Listen to this. "Describing porn's effect to a US Senate committee, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover of Princeton said, 'It's as though we have devised a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than the original, usable in the privacy of one's own home, and injected directly into the brain through the eyes.'" That's the bad news.
But the good news is the damage can be arrested and reversed by stirring up pureness, by letting rivers of living water flow through your life, cutting grooves like a Grand Canyon of truth. That fresh, clear, crisp water of God's word can flow through your mind. And Jesus said, "Rivers of living water will spring up from your very innermost being and refresh those around you."
That's the kind of life we want. And you can have it starting today. Whatever the condition of your heart, the Holy Spirit can be a power scrubber and scrape off those-- those images are not indelible. They're not beyond God's control.
One day God took Ezekiel into the-- mystically into the hearts of His priests on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He said, Ezekiel, what do you see? He said, I see filthiness and all unclean images.
And God said, right, these are my leaders. This is what they're engaging and indulging in. This is what's carved in the halls and walls of their mind. And the only solution is to allow the Holy Spirit to scrape them off.
That's why the Bible says, "repent." The word "repent" literally means in the Greek, change your mind. So just as the internet can change your mind, the Holy Spirit is more powerful than the internet. It can come into your life and do a magnificent job of reclamation and rerouting and rethinking and truly, as I say, renewing your mind.
We need to stir up our pure hearts. Think on whatever is pure and holy and just. The Bible says, "Give yourself completely to these things." "Think on these things." That should be what's dominating our bandwidth. If your bandwidth is being clogged by worldly, earthly, sensual images, you're going to reap that kind of a harvest.
Now the reasoning to do this warfare is not for salvation. It's to honor God, to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit with whom you have a relationship, and to prevent you from installing speed bumps and obstacles for those around you who need to come to Christ. Your behavior is either repelling or attracting them to our Savior. We need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Well, I always try to explain the keywords in a Bible study. I think we've done that. Look for fresh truths about Jesus, knowing that he didn't just die for our sins. He became sin for us in some way that's unimaginably wonderful. We principalized the text here about how we need to stay away from evil and recognizing the condition of a dead body strapped to our back.
And then I always want to have a call to action, have a take-home truth. See, every Bible study is first for you, and then it's for you to give benefit to others. Corinthians says that you go through suffering so you can apply that truth and experience to others. That's what we want to do today. First of all, make these things resident in your heart and home, and then share them freely with those around you with whom you come in contact with.
Make sure you've met the Master. That's the first call to action. Make no mistake about it. Until you've done that, nothing else in your life matters.
How much money you make, what kind of relationships you have, nothing is important until and unless you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. I can't say that any more clearly or emphatically. Meet the Master because you are a monster.
Well, I looked for one scripture that would really emphasize the take-home aspect. And I found it in James chapter 4, verse 8. It says, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded."
Three verbs, three calls to action. Your marching orders for the coming week and the coming months-- draw, cleanse, and purify. Purify, cleanse, and draw. Purify your double-mindedness, cleanse your hands of evil, draw near to God. Evil doesn't do well in His presence.
Lean back and listen to this paraphrased version of that scripture. And then we'll shut this down. "So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the devil, and watch him flee. Say a quiet yes to God, and He'll be there in no time.
Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Cry your eyes out for your past behavior.
The fun and games are over. Get serious. Get really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master. It's the only way you'll get on your feet."
Let's pray together. Lord, we are grateful for these precious words of truth. Hope they will find a place in our hearts to take root and blossom and bring forth fruit to eternal life.
There are those here today, those watching on the internet, listening by radio, watching the archives, you have the opportunity to make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, to have your sins forgiven, to be promised eternity in heaven, the best thing available, the best opportunity ever. But we have to make that decision. And you, in the quiet and comfort and the counsel of your own heart, you can make that choice right now by saying yes to Jesus, saying no to religion, no to the ways of the world, and yes to the Holy Spirit.
And I pray people are doing that right this moment. This is your time. My God brought you here.
And then for those in the faith who are walking in ways that are destructive, I pray that you would make this a day of pivoting, a turning point, a turning of the corner into new life, not out of condemnation, but out of the belief that God's calling you to a bigger, better, fuller, richer, deeper Christian experience. Make that move as well in that quiet council chamber of your heart.
Let's all pray together. Lord Jesus-- I can't hear you.
--I believe you died for my sins.
--I believe you died for my sins.
I believe your blood cleanses me of all sin.
I believe your blood cleanses me of all sin.
I believe I am forgiven.
I believe I am forgiven.
Fill me with your Holy Spirit.
Fill me with your Holy Spirit.
I believe you are coming back.
I believe you are coming back.
Help me to live for you--
Help me to live for you--
--from this day to that.
--From this day to that.
In Jesus' name.
In Jesus' name.
We hope you enjoyed this special service from Calvary Albuquerque featuring our guest speaker, Chip Lusko. How will you put the truths that you learned into action? Let us know. Email email@example.com.
And just a reminder. You can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for listening to this message from Calvary Albuquerque.