Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My 6 minute sermon - A tension for faith

Some people have asked for a copy of my sermon (and by some I mean Rachel). I thought I'd post it on here in case anyone else was interested in reading it. It deals with the tension of trying to do things in God's strength, while also being the people that do things. 

Keep in mind this sermon was meant to be preached to our class - some terms like sanctification are already defined for us in class so I don't define them again. It isn't just a monologue or blog post, but I believe it's something God wanted to share with those going into ministry - well really any christian that struggles with the tension described below. 

A Tension for Faith

One of the first things I was taught when I came back to Christianity, was the danger of living a performance based life. Our pastor has drilled this into our heads over and over again; that we are to minister out of the overflow in our heart based on the love and power of Christ, and not on our own strength. As a Campus Minister I would walk this tension – trying to minister in his power but having no idea what that looked like! All I knew is that it was supposed to be in His power. I would meet with the pastor for updates and struggle through this with him – I’d lay out what I was doing, why I was doing it and the struggle to get it right. He’d look at me and say “that sounds exhausting” and he was right. It did. I stopped striving to do God’s work and had started striving to not be striving. I was working to stop working. It was exhausting and, frankly, infuriating.

All of us in this room love people genuinely. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t love God and others sincerely. From conversations in the break room, I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this tension. I mean, we all know the lines… we are not justified by the gospel, and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow and are renewed. Paul is drilling it into our heads. He is kindly showing us the truth that we don’t understand the gospel. So what do we do with that?

As we’ve learned in class, and can see in the bible we can only do good things through the power of Christ. When we get saved, I think we understand the basis of redemption story – we are sinners, and Christ in His mercy and power dies for us, and his blameless life is now our blameless life. We are made right in God’s eyes, and are saved from judgment. I mean, that’s good news. But it doesn’t stop there.

Matthew 22 records an account of a conversation between Jesus and some Pharisee’s. One of them asks the following question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.”

As a Christian and someone in ministry I long to live a life that glorifies Jesus. When I look at my past, and where I came from, and most importantly what He saved me out of, I am moved in love to act. When I see the plans and peace He has for me, I long to share that with others, that they might experience this great love.  But trying to do this in His strength, not my own, seems harder than just doing it myself! How do we really know we’re serving as people sanctified by the gospel, and not obedience or the law? Because Romans tells us that we are wicked and sinful. Even in our new life state, we have a human nature.

One night at student called at 1am upset and needing to talk, as I hung up the phone planning to drive over to her house to chat with her, I thought, am I going to do this because it is the leading of God in my heart? Or is this my opinion of what a Campus Minister does? More pointedly, am I helping lead her towards greater intimacy with Christ, and or am I trying to become her functional savior?

In Romans, Paul says in chapter 7:4 & 6, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.  Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”

We have already heard that we can’t fulfill the law, not even the abridged two commandments, loving God and others. But, thank goodness, we read in this scripture that we have died to the power of the law when we died with Christ. We are united with him, the blameless powerful one. The solution to your problem is faith in Jesus and relational intimacy with him.

This is a tension that we will endure as long as we live. I am preaching about this today because it is the work God is doing in my heart and will continue to do.
You can look at the tension and see this big awkward thing to struggle through, or you can see it as an opportunity to grow closer to Christ and actually practically believe that God can do all that He has promised. It is in this tension that we see that the solution is far more simple than the struggle. It’s Jesus; relationship and intimacy with Jesus.

I have no formula. I have no system to help you love your neighbor as yourself in Christ’s strength. All I know is this; these tensions in life are opportunities for faith. Faith, in the new nature he has given you. Faith, that he has already fulfilled this commandment for you. It is within this tension that faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, sets you free. It is a beautiful, miraculous, wonderful opportunity for relationship and intimacy with Christ. From there, faith and action flow together.

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