Choice 7: Maintaining Momentum


Series: Life's Healing Choices

Speaker: BJ Chursinoff

We’ve submitted, trusted, and committed. We’ve made room for God to make major changes in our life. But now, if we’re not careful, the dreaded R-word can creep into our life: Relapse.

If we don’t keep the positive momentum going, any one of us can relapse back into the old hurts, hang-ups, and habits that Jesus has been freeing us from. And this is what we’re going to be talking about in this message - how we can keep the momentum going so that we can experience more and more of the freedom God wants for us, instead of going back to where He saved us from.

At the end of this message, Randy will join us to share a bit of his testimony of how Jesus has been working on this process in his life.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

All right, we are almost at the end of our Life's Healing Choices series. We have only one more week to go after tonight's message, and we've covered a lot of ground up to this point, haven't we? In choice one, we admitted that we are powerless to change on our own. In choice two, we agreed that only God has the power to help us change. In choice three, we made a commitment to turn our life and will over to Christ's care and control. In choice four, we examined ourselves openly and honestly and confessed our faults. In choice five, we voluntarily submitted to the change God wants to make in our lives. Then in last week in choice six, we focused on repairing our relationships forgiving others and making amends. We've submitted, trusted, and committed. We've made room for God to make major changes in our life. But now, if we're not careful, that dreaded our word in recovery can creep into our life. Relapse. We don't keep the right momentum going, any one of us can relapse back into the old hurts, old hangups, and old habits that Jesus has been freeing us from. This is what we're going to be talking about tonight.

How we can keep the momentum going so we can experience more and more of the freedom God wants for us instead of going back to where he saved us from. I'm going to do my best in this message to give you a robust understanding of what's involved in the process of preventing relapse so that we can maintain momentum in our lives as we continue to follow our Lord Jesus. So to do that, I'm going to need to show you five things. One, the forces that are at work in our life before you become a Christian. Two, the new force that is at work in your life after you become a Christian. Three, why there is a tension in the Christian life between wanting to live the old way we used to live versus pointing to live the new way God is calling us to live. Four, what relapse is and its predictable pattern. And five, what you must be doing in your life if you're going to build momentum moving forward, living for God so that you do not relapse into your old way of living. Okay, so let's take a look at these five things one at a time.

There are three forces that are always working against the unbeliever to lead them away from God. You can see these on the diagram I put on your outline. I'm going to put it on the screen behind me as well, too. These three forces are the flesh, the devil, and the world. You may remember all the way back in choice number one, we talked a little bit about our sinful human nature. And I shared the illustration that if we were a ball halfway up the side of a mountain and God is at the top. If there his nothing holding us in place, we would naturally roll down the mountain away from God. We do not naturally roll up the mountain to him. That's what our sinful human nature produces in us. That sinful nature that we inherited from Adam is synonymous with a term the Bible calls the flesh. In the apostle Paul's writing, the flesh stands for the natural desires of a person operating apart from God. In Ephesians, chapter two, verse three, Paul says, we too, all previously loved among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts.

And we were by nature children under wrath, as the others were also. The ATS Bible Dictionary says this about the flesh. In the New Testament, flesh is very often used to designate the bodily appetites, propensities and passions which draw men and women away from yielding themselves to the Lord and to the things of the Spirit. The flesh is opposed to the Spirit. And John Piper adds this flesh is any human action, our achievement, without dependence upon the Holy Spirit and without glorying exalting in trusting, treasuring and valuing Jesus Christ. The flesh is something that propels us away from God, and this force is something that comes from within us. You might have noticed this about the flesh which is depicted on the diagram that you have. It's the only force on the diagram that comes from within a believer's life. The other two forces come from outside of us. And so the second force that works against a person is the devil. The devil hates God if he did not know that, but he cannot do anything against God, so he fixes his attention on those God loves, human beings that are made in his image, in God's image.

And he can do something against us. He does every day. And since the devil has put a target on our backs and he fixates his hatred against us, it's in our best interest to know what he's up to. The Bible tells us a lot about how he works. We know that the devil cannot make you do anything that you do not want to do. Did you know that the devil can't make you sin? You can't use him as a scapegoat. You can't say, the devil made me do it, because he didn't. He can't make you do anything. The devil operates primarily according to the pattern we see displayed for us back in the Garden of Eden. Here's how the devil works against us. The devil lies to people to get them to disobey God. And then when we make the choice on our own to disobey God, we bring upon ourselves the consequences of that sin. Do you see the evil genius of Satan? He gets us to dig our own graves and jump into them ourselves without him ever having to pick up a shovel or push us in himself. He doesn't need to lift a finger against us in order to bring harm against us.

He gets us to damage ourselves, and he does this by enticing us to disobey God. Now listen to some of these descriptions that the Bible gives for the activity of the devil. The Bible calls the devil a temper. Matthew four one says that then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He tempted Jesus and he tempts us too. The Bible calls the devil a thief. Luke, chapter eight, verse twelve. The seed along the path are those who have heard. And then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts so that they may not believe and be saved. He will steal away the truth about Jesus that's given to people. He steals that truth away from them so that they cannot believe in Christ. The Bible calls the devil a murderer and a liar, speaking to the Pharisees in his day. Jesus said this in John, chapter eight, verse 44 you are of our father the devil, and you want to carry our your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there's no truth in him.

When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature because he is a liar and the father of lies. Can you see the connection between lying and murder? In this verse, Jesus says the devil was a murderer from the beginning. The devil murdered Adam and Eve in the beginning. Get this by lying to them to get them to disobey God. Death came upon them when they sinned against God, and the devil was the one who incited them to do it by lying to them. The Bible calls the devil a disguiser. Two Corinthians, chapter eleven, verse 14. For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. The devil will not come to you the way that cartoons typically portray him a red goofball with horns, a cape and a pitchfork. And he probably won't come to you in the horror movie version either. Here in the west anyways. That's too obvious. He will most likely come as the most beautiful thing that you have ever seen or heard. That's the power of his deception. He won't be obviously evil. He is deceptively evil. He will come to you by way of that cute guy or girl that starts paying attention to you even though they are a toxic relationship waiting to happen.

He will come to you with the offer of a way to make some real easy money fast that no one will know about or ever find out about. He's an angel of light. Do you get it? He's coming to you as your friend, but make no mistake about it, he wants to rip your life to shreds, leaving you destroyed, covered in guilt, shame and condemnation. The Bible calls the devil a schemer. Ephesians, chapter six, verse eleven. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the Devil. And Two Corinthians 211 says so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. We love this right. God has a wonderful plan for your life. Amen. But did he know that Satan has a plan for your life, too? He schemes against us. Satan's schemes include promoting false philosophies in the world. Philosophies that blind the unbeliever to the truth of the gospel. Satan's philosophies are the fortresses in which people are imprisoned and they must be set free by Christ. So according to the Bible, the devil is a tempter, a thief, a murderer, a liar, a disguiser and a schemer.

And this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the things that Satan is. The Devil does all these things to people all around the world, all of the time. And he's doing it without most people even aware that he is. We live in such an enlightened culture that many people balk at the idea that a personal devil even exists to his advantage. There's a scene in the movie The Usual Suspects where the character played by Kevin Spacey says this the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he did not exist. The devil does exist. He is real. And he is public enemy number one. And as you can see on your diagram, the horse he applies to our life doesn't come from within a person. It comes from the outside of them. This brings us to the third force that works against unbelievers, and that is the world. The world. Now, this one can be a bit confusing of a term because the term world can mean different things in the Bible depending on the context. In One John, chapter two, verse 16, the Apostle says this do not love the world or anything in the world.

If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life comes not from the Father, but from the world. Yet John 316 begins, for God loved the world in this way. So God loves the world, but we're not supposed to, what's with the apparent contradiction? Well, when the Bible says that God loves those world, it's referring to the human beings who live here. He loves the people of this world, and as his children, we are to love the people of the world the same way God does. The parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear we cannot pick and choose whom to love when we are told not to love the world. The Bible is referring to the world's corrupt value system. In Two Corinthians chapter four, verse four, it says that Satan is the God of this age and he has his own value system contrary to God's. The phrase God of this age or God of this world indicates that Satan is the major influence on those ideals, opinions, goals, hopes and views of the majority of people.

His influence also encompasses the world's philosophies, education and commerce. The thoughts, ideas, speculations and false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deception. Satan is also called the ruler of the power of the heir in Ephesians chapter two, verse two, and the ruler of this world in John chapter twelve, verse 31, these titles signify Satan's capabilities. To say that Satan is the ruler of the power of the heir is to signify that in some way he rules over the world and the people in it. Now, this is not to say that he rules the world completely. God is still sovereign. Amen. But it does mean that God in his infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries that God has set for him. When the Bible says that Satan has power over the world, we must remember that God has given him domain over unbelievers. Only believers are no longer under the rule of Satan. On the other hand, the Bible says that unbelievers are caught in the trap of the devil. Two Timothy 226, and they lie under the sway of the evil one.

First John, chapter five, verse 19. So when the Bible says that Satan is the God of this age, it's not saying that he has ultimate authority. It is conveying the idea that Satan rules over the unbelieving world in a specific way. The unbeliever follows Satan's agenda whether they realize it or not. And one John 216 details exactly what Satan's system promotes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Every sinimaginable can be summed up in those three evils. Loving the world means being devoted to the world's treasures, philosophies and priorities. Because of the world's hostility to God, it is full of corruption. So in general, the term world in the Bible refers to the evil system controlled by Satan that leads people away from worship of God. And the Devil uses the world as a tool to lure people away from allegiance to Christ. And like the Devil, the pressure that the world applies to people comes this. This pressure comes from outside of them, not from the inside of them. So these three forces the flesh, the devil and the world all work in harmony to lead a person down the mountain away from God and into destruction and despair.

Instead, our flesh naturally wants to live apart from God. The world has things in it that arouse desires in us and entice us away from God. The Devil whispers to unbelievers exactly what they want to hear. Just go ahead and do it. It's going to be so good. You'll be happy if you just follow your heart and that's exactly what they do. And they roll down the hill away from God. And this has been happening around the world from the beginning of humanity to every person all the way up to today. It's depressing if you think about it long enough. But sometimes against the backdrop of this darkness, something spectacular happens to an unbeliever. If you're here and you're a Christian, I'm going to remind you of what happened to you when you were an unbeliever rolling down the mountain away from God. If you're here tonight and you're not a Christian yet, you're just exploring the Christian faith, I'm going to tell you what can happen to you today if you want it to, because God loves us. He pursues us while we're in the middle of sprinting away from Him, and he meets with us and he reveals Himself to us.

His light penetrates the darkness of our life. His grace stops us in our tracks. His loves overwhelms us. His Gospel finds a place to land in our hearts when we hear it. The message that Jesus loves us so much that he came to live for us, then he died for us, and then he rose from the dead for us so that he could give us friendship with God and eternal life with Him forever. When we believed in Him, we turned our entire life over to his care and control. Remember choice number three? And when we did that, we experienced something that we had never experienced before. That moment we experienced real life for the very first time. That's because in that moment, we believed upon Christ. We were born again. So if you could go ahead and please put up the next slide for us. We became spiritually alive for the very first time when the Holy Spirit came to live in us. In John three six, Jesus told Nicodemus, flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit. A person can be alive physically in the body or the flesh, but dead spiritually.

That's the description of every unbeliever. They have a body that is technically alive. They have lungs that pump oxygen in a heart that pumps blood. They have a soul inside their body that is the seat of their will, emotion and desires, but their spirit is dead within them. They do not have spiritual life, which is the only kind of life that really matters. And it is the Holy Spirit that gives a person this real life. A person who has been born again by God's spirit is made alive spiritually. Ephesians two one says, and you were dead in your trespasses and sins, which means you were at one time physically alive, but spiritually dead. And then in Colossians 213, it says, and when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he God made you alive with Him and forgave us, all our trespasses, he made you now physically alive and both spiritually alive too. It is Jesus who causes his spirit to come live in us and make our dead spirit come to life. Our spirit was dead because of sin, but now it's alive because of Jesus. And if that has taken place in your life, you have experienced a monumental change in your life.

So what change does the presence of the Holy Spirit make in a believer's life? Remember, our sinful nature or our flesh pulls us down the mountain away from God. But now we have something in us that pushes us up the mountain to God. Now we have something in us that gives us the desire to go up the mountain to God. Now we have something in us that gives us the power that enables us to walk up the mountain to God. Now we have something in us that was never there before. When we enter into relationship with God through faith in Christ, god gives us the ability to exit the world's rat race. We become citizens of another kingdom. Our desires turn heavenward and we begin to store up eternal treasure. We realize what is truly important is eternal, not temporal. And that we start and then we stop loving the world. We leave the world behind. When we come to Christ. We're not transported to another planet. We don't leave the world that way. We leave the system of this world. We turn our backs on the way the world works. A world that is diametrically opposed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

John Bunyan, in his book The Pilgrim's Progress, pictures the believer's position as having his eyes lift to heaven with the best of books in his hand and standing with the world as cast behind him. After we are born again and fillin with the Spirit of God, we now know God. We desire to follow him. We have the power to follow Him. We can follow Him right up the mountain. We can honor Him in each and every area of our lives. We've been freed from the power of sin in our life. We don't have to sin anymore. Isn't that amazing? Praise God for giving us that power. Now here's the million dollar question. So why do we still why does the Christian still sin after they're born again? If the spirit who hovered over the waters of creation and who came to rest on Jesus at his baptism, empowering him to do all the miracles he did during his ministry and then raised him from the dead? If that is the same spirit that is now powerfully at work inside all believers. And it is then why do any of us still succumb to the power of sin?

Do you want to know the answer to that question? After we are born again, certain things changed. And after we are born again, certain things remained the same. Our Spirit is made new now. And this is the spirit that we will have forever. Our new spirit will endure through the grave. But our old body and our old soul haven't been made new yet. Our body still gets broken and will die one day unless we're raptured first. Our soul, the seat of our will and emotions, is still the same soul we had before we got saved. And it still desires things that it shouldn't. Once the dead spirit of a person has been raised to life by the Spirit of God, the old desires of the flesh do not immediately disappear. Even though a person is born again through the Spirit of God, they must understand they still possess the old nature with its desires that war against the new nature and the new desires that come from the new spirit that's now within us. On top of that, you may have noticed that when we were saved, we weren't immediately beamed up to heaven to escape the influences and the pressures of this current world system.

And the Devil is still prowling around as the God of this world looking for who he can't devour the flesh. The Devil and the world don't go anywhere after we get saved. They don't go anywhere. Yet. There's a day coming when God will put Satan in hell forever. There is a day coming when God will burn up the current heavens and earth and remake them free from the stain and corruption of sin. There's a day coming when God will give us new resurrected bodies like the one we see Jesus had after he rose from the dead. A body that is incorruptible. Put this all together and try not to be sad that we don't have this yet. But there's a day coming when we will live in a remade world with no source of temptation and a body free from the evil nature within it. There's a day coming when we will be free to worship God forever without any impediments. But we are not there yet, even though we long to be. That's what the spirit in us cries out for. And so, until that day comes, we live today smack dab in the middle of this current tension.

Once a person is born again, a battle begins. The person who has been brought to spiritual life by way of the work of the Holy Spirit within them will want to please God. That's inevitable. But the pull of the world, the activity of the devil, and our temporal physical needs and pleasures are still present. We want to please God. We want to follow him. But we have to recognize and deal with the forces in our life that are actively trying to lead us away from doing just that. And so sometimes sometimes we succumb to those forces working against us and we do go back to the old way of living. That's what relapses in the Christian life. Remember what we learned about character defects back in choice number five and what lies at the heart of our hurts, hang ups and habits. It's sin, and that's all that relapses. I go back to my old way of hurting others. I relapse into sin. I go back to the hangups that bring me so much instant comfort but tangle me up in the long run. I relapse into sin. I go back to the habits that were destroying my life.

I relapse into sin. That is what the flesh, the devil and the world are all conspiring together to lead you to do. As a Christian, as a believer who his filled with the spirit of Christ, empowered to live for him, I choose at times to turn away from living for him. And I chosen to go back to my sin. That's what relapse is. Now relapse shouldn't catch anyone off guard when it happens because we should be able to see it come in a million miles away. That's because the pattern of relapse is predictable. So if you can go ahead and put the next slide up for us, please. This is the predictable pattern of relapse. Phase number one is complacency. Relapse begins when we get comfortable. We've confessed our problem, whatever it may be, and we've started dealing with it and we've made some progress. Then we get comfortable, and then one day we stop praying about it and then we stop working at it. Our pain level has been reduced. Not eliminated, but reduced. And we think we can live with this new reduced level of pain. We haven't thoroughly dealt with our problem, but we don't feel as desperate about it as we once did.

We don't think we need to meet with our support group anymore. We don't think we need to work the choices anymore. We don't think we need to call our accountability partner anymore. And before we know it, we have become complacent. Phase two confusion. In this phase, we begin to rationalize and play mental games with ourselves. We say things like, maybe my problem really wasn't all that bad. Maybe I can handle it myself. We forget how bad it used to be. Reality becomes fuzzy and confused and we think we can control our problems by ourselves. This brings us to phase number three, which is compromise. When we get to this phase, we go back to the place of temptation. We return to the risky situation that got us in trouble in the first place. Whether it's the bar, the mall, Dairy Queen, or that X rated site on the Internet, we go back to that unsafe place like the Gambler who says, hey, let's take a trip to Vegas just to watch the shows, of course. But when we place ourselves in risky situations, we'll likely make poor choices. It may begin with little things, but it won't be long before it all unravels and all the ground that has been gained is lost.

And that brings us to phase four catastrophe. This is when we actually give in to the old hurt, the old hang up or the old habit. The hate comes back, the resentment returns. Or we fall back into the old patterns of behavior. But we need to understand this. The catastrophe is not the beginning of relapse. The relapse began all the way back in phase one with complacency. The catastrophe is simply the end result, the acting out of the pattern. Acting out phase of the pattern. Sorry. So why do we fall back? Why do we fall into predictable pattern of relapse when we know which way to go, when we know the right thing to do? Why do we tend to ignore what we know is right? Four things. There are four things that are flesh, the devil and the world contempt us to do that can lead us to relapse. Here's number one. You can go ahead and write this down on your outline. We revert to our own willpower. We revert to our own willpower. The Bible speaks to our foolish tendencies of trying to make it on our own. Galatians three three. Paul says, are you so foolish?

After beginning by the spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh? We got off to a good start. We've submitted, we've trusted, we've committed. We've made room for God to make major changes in our life. But now, if we're not careful, we may start to think, ha ha, it's me doing this. I'm making the changes. It's my power. And we revert to relying on our own willpower. We consciously or subconsciously think that we can overpower the forces of our flesh, the devil and the world. But the problem is, our willpower didn't work in the first place and is not going to work now. We have a few successes and we suddenly think that we're all powerful and all knowing and can handle everything on our own. Here's number two. Go ahead and write this down. We ignore one of the choices. We ignore one of them. Maybe we get in a hurry and try to move through the choices too quickly. Maybe we decide to skip over a difficult choice. Perhaps the amends seems too hard, and we rationalize that we can do without that one. We think maybe partial recovery and healing will be enough.

But the truth is that we need to follow through on all the choices or the plan doesn't work. It's been tried and proven countless times over. There's no quick fix. You didn't get into this mess overnight and you're not going to get out of it overnight. You need to work through all of the choices to the very best of your ability and at your own speed. Maintain your momentum. Follow the admonition of the apostle Paul that he gave to some other Christians who had fallen back on their original commitment. Galatians five seven. Paul says, you are running well. Who prevented you from being persuaded regarding the truth? Go ahead and write this down. This. Number three we try to recover without support. We try to recover without support. Since the very first lesson, the very first choice, we've learned the importance of someone to share with. Someone to hold us accountable. But some of you may still think I can do this on my own. Just me and God. That's all I need to get well. I'll finish listening to this series. I'll do the first two action steps at the end of each lesson and I'll be good to go.

But I don't need an accountability partner. And I certainly don't need any kind of meetings or home group. Wrong. It doesn't work this way. You're asking for a relapse. God's word tells us why having an pointing accountability partner is so important. We've looked at this verse before, but we need to look at it again. Ecclesiastes, chapter four, verse nine to ten. Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift them up. But pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Each week you receive a message outline that has three action steps for you to complete following each week's lesson. The share about it action step puts you in touch with someone who can help you when you fall down. Someone to encourage you to get up and keep trying. Do not neglect this powerful resource. You can't overcome your hurts, hangups and habits alone. When you're tempted and things go bad, who are you going to call? Don't say ghostbusters. If you do not have anyone to reach out to, you're not going to make it. God created you to be in healthy relationships.

Hebrews, chapter ten, verses 24 to 25. And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting together. If you try to do these choices on your own, you may see short term progress and growth. But without the support of others, you will eventually fall into relapse. That's not a threat, that's just a promise. It's like driving a car at 100 km an hour, then taking your hands off the wheel. You might not crash immediately, but you will eventually. If you don't have a support team when the temptation comes, who will encourage you to do the right thing? If you fall, who will be there to help you up? Go ahead and write this down. As number four, we become proud. The fourth cause of relapse is our pride. We get overconfident and we start to think that we've beaten, this hurt, this hang up, or this habit. We think we've got forgiveness all sewed up and that we've closed the door on our past. Be careful. Scripture tells us in Proverbs 1618 that pride comes before destruction. We need to stay humble or we will stumble. Because pride always sets us up for a fall.

It blinds us to our own weaknesses and keeps us from seeking help. It prevents us from making real amends and from working through all the choices fully. The biggest problem with pride is that it causes us to blame other people for our own problems. It prevents us from seeing the truth. Don't let your pride blind you to your own faults and responsibilities. The Bible reminds us first Corinthians, chapter ten, verse twelve. So whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. You've been working hard on getting it all together. But you don't have it all together yet. The secret to lasting recovery is to live in humility. James 410 says humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. Humility is the best protection against relapse. Your greatest weakness is often an unguarded strength. You may say, I've got this all together. I haven't had a drink in over a year. Watch out. I made my amendments years ago. My marriage could never fall apart. Watch out. I could never get addicted to food again. You best be careful if you think you are standing firm. Be careful that you don't fall. If left unguarded, the relapse plane will fly in and land right in the middle of the very area where you think you're the strongest.

Okay, this brings us to a question that we need to be asking ourselves. Is there anything that we can do to maximize our ability to live a victorious life as a Christian and minimize the chance of relapsing back into the sinful patterns of our old life? Well, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Now, you've probably heard some iteration of the following story before. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy. It's a terrible fight and it's between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority and ego. He continued. The other is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person too. The grandson thought about it for a minute then asked his grandfather, which wolf will win? The old Cherokee simply replied, those one you feed. This is an accurate illustration of the point that needs to be made. Now, if you're not a Christian yet, you don't have two wolves inside of you.

You only have one. And I'll let you guess which one that is. But if you are a disciple of Jesus, then you do have two wolves inside of you, so to speak. You have the evil wolf of your flesh. That old sinful nature that still clings to you. And you have the good wolf that is the Holy Spirit and the new spiritual life that he has given to you. What wolf will win in your life? The flesh or the spirit? The answer whichever one you feed. Whichever one you feed will either lead you down the mountain away from God's presence or up the mountain towards his presence. The apostle Paul taught this very same truth. Listen to how he contrasts the flesh with the Spirit in this passage from the book of Romans. Romans, chapter eight, verse five to 13. For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh. But those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now, the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. The mindset of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God's law.

Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. If indeed the Spirit of God lives in you, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. Now, if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh. Because if you live according to the flesh, you're going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Paul picks up the same theme in his letter to the Galatians. Galatians, chapter five, verse 16. I say, then walk by the Spirit, and you will certainly not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh.

These are opposed to each other so that you don't do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now, the works of the flesh are obvious sexual, immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish, ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I'm warning you about these things, as I warned you before, 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 and self control. The law is not against such things. Now, those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with his passions and desires. We live by the spirit. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. From a practical standpoint, the Christian purposely avoids ending the old fleshly nature and instead practices new behaviors that are driven by the Spirit. Therefore, the Christian must feed on spiritual food and continually yield to God's Spirit on a day by day, minute by minute basis. We need to walk and live according to the Spirit that now lives in us.

We have to choose to bring our soul and our body in line with what the Spirit is leading us to do. The Christian has the power and the opportunity to live a new life, but we have to choose to live this life. We have to choose to invest in this new life. We have to choose to partner with God in this new life. There is no autopilot mode. We can engage in this new life if we don't choose to walk according to the Spirit by default. I will then begin walking according to the flesh instead, and I will begin to roll down the mountain as a Christian. Even though I'm a Christian, I can spend seasons of my life where there are parts of my life that look just like a person who does not have the Spirit of Christ in them. As a Christian, I can fall into patterns of living the way that unbelievers live. And so the Bible exhorts us time and again to make the right choice in regards to which wolf are going to feed. Romans 1314 but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify his desires.

In colossians three five. Therefore put to death what belongs to your earthly nature, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil, desire and greed, which is idolatry. So how does a Christian put the flesh to death and live and walk according to the Spirit instead? It's not going to happen by accident. You will not magically be transported into a vibrant, victorious Christian life. Imagine this two people want to get healthy physically. One person changes their diet, starts working out regularly, and gets enough sleep each night. The other person eats Twinkies for breakfast, never works out, and stays up till 02:00 a.m. Every night. Which of the two people are going to get into healthy shape? The only way we're going to prevent relapse and walk by the Spirit is to train and discipline ourselves spiritually. Paul says in one Timothy, chapter four, verse seven train yourself in Godliness, for the training of the body has limited benefit, but Godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. And in Hebrews, chapter five, verses 14 says but solid food is for the mature, for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

If we're going to grow spiritually, we need to make a choice. We need to choose to discipline ourselves in such a way that we can grow in our ability to walk according to the Spirit that lives in us. We need to work to align our lives with Jesus so that we can walk in step with Him. We need to feed our Spirit so that we'll be able to take steps up the mountain towards deeper intimacy and fellowship with God. Because if we don't, we will roll down the mountain away from Him. You ever wonder why it seems like pastors are always getting on people's cases to try to get them to read their Bible and regularly and to pray regularly? Well, now you know why we do that. It has everything to do with everything we are hearing about in this message tonight. This brings us to choice number seven. It should be on your outline. This one's all about maintaining momentum. I choose in this choice to reserve a daily quiet time with God for self examination, Bible reading and prayer in order to know God and his will for my life and to gain the power to follow his will.

The strength of the Christian spiritual alignment with God's Spirit is in direct correlation to what the Christian chooses to focus on. A focus on God's Word will cause a person to see things from his perspective and react in ways that please God. On the other hand, a focus on popular culture, world philosophy and conventional wisdom will inevitably cause one to take the perspective of the flesh and will subtly, or not so subtly, warp his or her judgment. Living in the world, we are constantly bombarded with the values and desires of the flesh. Unless we take steps to counteract those messages, we will find ourselves out of step with the Spirit of God who lives within us. Feeding the Spirit and yielding to the Spirit are done by reading, studying, meditating, and obeying God's Word and then availing ourselves of all the means of spiritual nourishment that the Word prescribes, such as prayer, fasting and fellowship among others. The more one gets into the Word, the more he or she will desire what God desires. The more a person gets into the world, the more he or she will desire what the world desires. Two Timothy, chapter three, verse 16 says all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God or woman of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

So reading, studying, meditating, memorizing, speaking the Bible will renew your mind and you will be transformed internally because of it. We use the Bible to train ourselves to live for God. Disciplined dedication to God's Word will produce in you the ability to know what God's will is. Giving yourself to the Scriptures will enable you to know God's character and his love and his faithfulness. You will come to know and cherish and hold onto all of God's precious promises. You will be strengthened as you grow in your knowledge of God's power. You will know how God designed life to work, and then you'll be able to stay within the guidelines he so graciously lays out for us. You will know how to distinguish a truth from a lie. You will know how to recognize when it's God whispering something to you or whether it's the devil lying to you. Instead, set aside time every day to be in God's word. This spiritual discipline is what feeds your spirit and strengthens you to live a life worthy of the calling God His placed on you. And don't just come to the Bible for intellectual knowledge, do that.

Just don't do that alone. Actively use the Bible as a mirror to show you what's in your life. Let it encourage you as you grow in doing those things that are pleasing to God. Let it correct you when it reveals those things in your life that are robbing you of the life that Jesus came to give you. Along with spending time in the Bible every day, make sure you spend time praying to God every day. The more you fill your life with the word of God, the more you will know what and how to pray. The two go hand in hand. When people think about praying, they often think about what they should ask God for. That is good. We should ask God for what we need. One Timothy Two, verse one says, first of all, then I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone. There are some things that we are told to pray in the Bible and you're going to find an example on your message outline in the make the Choice section of Some Other Things we can pray there. It's going to walk you through a way that you can pray the Lord's Prayer.

So yes, pray certain things to God. But let me add this. When you set aside time to pray, endeavor to simply spend time in his presence. Just be in his presence, aware of his presence, with no other agenda other than just being with Him. Your skin will change if you expose it to the sun long enough. Your soul will change if you expose it to the sun long enough. We've been singing a song here in Gospel City called Nothing Else by Cody Carnes. Let the lyrics of that song shape your disposition as you approach God in prayer. Here's part of the lyrics. I'm sorry when I've come with my agenda I'm sorry when I forgot that you're enough? Take me back to where we started I open up my heart to you I'm caught up in your presence? I just want to sit here at your feet I'm caught up in this holy moment I never want to leave oh, I'm not here for blessings jesus, you don't owe me anything and more than anything that you can do I just want you I just want you nothing else nothing else nothing else will do.

Set aside time and prioritize daily time to talk with God. Yes. Talk with him. And you're coming and going throughout the day I do that too. But you need to spend dedicated time with Him where he's not an add on to the other things that you're already doing. Do what Jesus modeled for us. Find time to get alone and just be with God. If the Son of God needed and wanted to be alone with the Father, what makes you think that we don't need it in our life? And when you pray, one of the things that you can get around to asking God is to illuminate anything in your life that you need to see, good or bad. Psalm 139, verse 23 says search me God, and know my heart. Test me and know my concerns. See if there his any offensive way in me, lead me in the everlasting way. There is no magic alternative to developing a victorious Christian life. The key is devotion to the Word of God and prayer in such a way that we want God to use them to reveal what's in our hearts so that he can lead us to the pasture of blessing like the good shepherd that he is.

May he lead us up the mountain to the Father and let nothing pull us away from Him. Final thought before I share a brief recap of all we've learned here tonight with all this talk about spiritual discipline, I don't want you to forget for 1 second that this is a love issue. Above anything else, his is what love looks like. What I'm describing for you in the Christian life, you look at any vibrant, healthy marriage that has endured the test of time and trials. Do you think such a marriage is healthy and vibrant by accident? No. It's a great marriage because both parties have given themselves to working on their relationship. They didn't hit the cruise control button after the honeymoon. They worked through the hard stuff. A good marriage is hard work. It takes discipline. But why do we do it? It's because we love our spouse and we want to do whatever it takes to have as much happiness and blessing in our marriage relationship that is possible. And that is the exact same reason why we work on our spiritual disciplines because we love Jesus and he has put that loves into our hearts.

And we want as much happiness and blessing in our relationship with Him as is possible because we love Him. So to recap the Holy Spirit comes to live in the believer, and he makes the believer spiritually alive to God. His presence in us empowers us to live for God. The forces that were at work in your life before you became a Christian don't go anywhere after you become a Christian, they will keep trying to pull you away from God. That's why there's a tension in the Christian life between wanting to live the would he way we used to live versus living the new way God's calling us to live. Relapse his when we decide to go back to our old way of living. And there is a predictable pattern to relapse that we can learn to recognize. And you can make the choice to implement this practice of spiritual disciplines in your life today so that you can build momentum living for God and not relapse into Your old way of living. Amen. Amen. You pray with me, Father. I pray that Your word as it went forth here tonight, finds hearts that are soft and receptive to receive Your truth, Your Word.

I pray, Lord, that you would be building up the saints even now, build up the church, equip us with an understanding of the nature and the dynamic of the spiritual war that all of us are in right now. I pray, Lord, help us not to have our heads stuck in the sand or have a cover over our heads. Help us to be aware, not to be afraid to be aware of what's going on around us at all times. Help us as we're doing that, as we're going in our awareness. Help us grow with our joy and our excitement and our assurance that we're going to win. And it's not because we're great. It's because you're great. You're a great god. And greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world. The devil can't beat you, God, but he can't beat us either, because you're in us and You've claimed us for yourself. So I pray, Lord, more than anything, for those of us who know you here tonight, that you'd stoke our love for you. The flames of our passion for you would be stoked here, that we will leave here tonight wanting to live more on passion, more on fire for you than we've ever before done.

Do that in us. I pray, Father, for anyone here amongst us here who doesn't know you yet, who doesn't have the spiritual life that we've been talking about here tonight, save them right now. I pray, Jesus, reveal you're out of this world love for them. Open up the eyes of their heart to show them their depravity. Show them the weight of their sin. Show them what that's giving them right now in this life and show them what that's going to promise them for eternity unless something happens. Jesus. Show them emblazoned on their heart and mind. You hanging on the cross, arms stretched out, bearing not just the sins of nameless people around the world of all time but your arms are stretched out and the sins of people in this room were put on you. And you died for them so that they could live forever. And you were buried. And then, Jesus, on the third day, you rose again, paving a way for people in this room to have eternal life. Grant them the gift of faith tonight, we pray. Bring them into the kingdom. I pray, Jesus. And as soon as you do, whenever you do, Lord, let this message be emblazoned on their heart, knowing that they need to start working to build faith, train themselves in righteousness, because they love you.

They want to live for you. And that's not going to come easy. So, give us motivation towards that end. Do that, Jesus, because when we live for you, you get glory. And when we live a victorious life, we enjoy the fruit of it. So, everyone wins. Do these things, Jesus, in your name. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

With that said, I'm going to invite my brother, my good friend Randy, to come up and he's going to share a little bit of his testimony with us here tonight.


Would you be willing to... Well, I know you're willing because I already asked you ahead of time! Can you briefly describe what your life was like before you believed in Jesus and decided to turn your life over to follow him?


Yeah. So, looking back at what my life was like before I put my life fully to Jesus as my Lord and Savior, so different, it actually makes me sort of shudder to think, like, where I was at that time. And yet for a lot of people, if they looked at my life at that time, they might have been surprised. They might have thought, "He's got a pretty good life." I'd really set my eyes on what the world told me would bring me happiness. I set my eyes on it and I reached for it. I got into a good university. I was fortunate enough to get into medical school despite all my failings. I met the girl of my dreams. I married Andrea, I have two beautiful daughters, ended up getting a good job at a good hospital, bought a house, all these things, and yet such short-lived happiness. And despite all that, I just felt this when I think back at that time, just felt this void, this emptiness. I remember speaking with a really good friend of mine and I remember just telling him, "I feel tired. I just feel tired of this rat race of life" - as you mentioned earlier in your sermon.

That's how I felt. And I just felt disillusioned by life. On closer inspection, when you look at my life at that time, there's so much sin, there's so much shame, there's regret, there's brokenness. My marriage was in a very difficult place at that time, and it was a very difficult feeling. And the fortunate thing is that I was saved from that place. And I knew God from when I was younger. God had placed people like my family, people in my life even then, my wife, Andrea, who's a Christian. And fortunately, at that time, they were just placed there by God to help guide me back to Him. There's a verse that I clinged to at that time in my walk with God, and I just like to share it. It's from Matthew, chapter seven, verses seven to eight:

Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks, fines. And to him who knocks, it will be opened.


Awesome. Can you remember what the biggest change in your life was after you were born again and the Holy Spirit came to live in you?


Yeah, there's just so many things that changed every aspect of my life. His been touched and changed by God when I was born again and placed my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. If I was to say the biggest change, I would say is the change upon my heart. It's the filling of your heart with God's love. It's hard to put into words. It's this just beyond love, just filling your heart, and you just long to be in God's presence. It's what the Bible tells us, that Jesus is a treasure and life cannot be lived without it. And so having that feeling of God's love and pursuing Jesus, you follow Him. And as you follow Him, your life changes. He restores your heart. He restored my heart. Where there used to be shame, sin, regret, emptiness, sadness, disappointment, anxiety, fear - all these things that were in my heart were now replaced with love. Replaced with just validation and value. 'Forgiveness, mercy, grace, peace. Yeah. And so, I would say in that place now, I desire to be with Him, to follow Him, and he just guides me through all of challenges to pick up my cross and follow Him in every aspect of my life.


The way that you're talking Randy, I want to get born again again, if that was possible! That's so good. My goodness. What's the one thing from your old life that your flesh, the devil, and the world try to pull you back to? And can you describe for us the way that spiritual disciplines in your life equip you to walk with Jesus and not relapse into your old way of living?


Man, there are so many bad habits. It pains me to even just sort of think of different bad habits that I can fall into. But I would say probably the easiest one or the biggest one for me is probably pride. I think I've fallen for that lie to myself from the world, which has told me if you set your eyes on something and you put your effort towards it and you get there, whose you did it, and you get this, like, self-confidence and this, I would say, like pride. And the problem with pride, particularly in my life, and I think for all of us, it just leads to a hardening of my heart. I just... it leads me to brokenness in my relationships, particularly in my marriage, but in other areas as well, your heart just gets hardened. And the truth is that all blessings come from Him. All of these things have nothing to do with anything I've done. It's all to him. It's all to his glory and to his worship and gratitude. And so that's the humility that comes from knowing that truth. And you talked about spiritual disciplines and how important that is.

How would I know that without knowing God's Word and his truth, right? And so spiritual disciplines are so important. I think without them, we can easily, as we talked about in the sermon, about relapse and fall into those habits. And I can feel it. I know that when I'm away from spiritual disciplines, you do fall into those habits and you feel a distancing from the intimacy and the presence of God. And you long to go back, because when you slip away, you start to get a glimpse of where you were before. It's a dark, dark place that you never want to be again. And you know that to return to Him, and you long to be back with Him, and he... he'll... he'll carry you. He'll carry you.


Amen. What would he say to a brother or sister here today who finds it hard to spend time each day ending reading the Bible and spending time in prayer with God?


So let's just acknowledge that life is busy. Let's also acknowledge that there are a million different distractions in the world that will come up and try to steal or pull our eyes away from focusing on Him. But here's the truth, which is in my own life, is when I have placed God first in my life. That decision long ago when I said, Jesus, you are my Lord and Savior, I'm putting you first. And when I did that, incredible blessings like, too numerous to count. And one of the first steps in putting Him first is to actually say, I'm going to spend time with You, Lord. I'm going to spend time in the Word, spend time in prayer. And when you do, you will start to know the beautiful character of God. He will fill you with your truth, he will fill you with your loves. And when you experience Him, you'll never go back to... to being away from Him. And so, absolutely, there are going to be challenges, but just the encouragement is that the first step is to make that devotion to Him and spending time with Him. Yeah.


That's awesome, brother, thank you so much for coming up and sharing.

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