Thursday, April 13, 2006

Easter 2006

Romans 8:11
If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Life and death are words that conjure up in our hearts profound thoughts, these two disquieting words “life and death” are central to everything we do and think,
and Easter touches both of these two central questions for the human being.
It brings new meaning, it gives fiber and root to our faith and every culture has its own view of life after death, therefore they will offer you many answers, that are mutually exclusive. Some will say that we’ll live in paradise with thousand virgins
Others deny paradise, instead they propose many reincarnations, man cannot understand the concept of eternity, and man cannot grasp the concept of his own death that is, ceasing to be.
I am here to tell you that in Christ, we find the answer to our existential restlessness. Blaise Pascal, the 15th century French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher wrote: “But what does all this restlessness and helplessness indicate, except that man was once in true happiness which has now left him?
So he vainly searches, but finds nothing to help him, other than to see an infinite abyss that can only be filled by one who is infinite and immutable. In other words, it can only be filled with God himself.”
He was right, in the resurrection of Christ, we find fulfillment, why? Because we have a promise: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, you will also live”, that is why if we deny the bodily resurrection of Christ, we don’t have any hope of eternal life. Paul makes it very clear: “17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor 15).
Can one call himself a Christian and yet deny the resurrection of Christ? How central is the importance of Easter for Christianity? It is like a man who lived all his life in the desert lands, an eremite or hermit. One day, browsing through some old dusty books, he laid his eyes on plans on how to build a boat and he decided to build one for himself
the problem was that he has never seen the sea or any body of water, and really didn’t believe it existed. His well- traveled friends tried to help him out, to enlighten his understanding of reality, they brought him some National Geographic magazine showing images of the sea, the great lakes, but he always refused to believe: you made this up! -How can I be sure that it is true? Finally someone asked him: “do you know the real meaning of what you’re building in your backyard? He said: no, but it sure looks good.
For Christians, everything we believe, hangs on a marvelous fact in history, the resurrection, otherwise we will be like the eremite building boats on dry land, saying that you believe in Christ, but relegating his resurrection to a corner makes you just like that hermit. “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
God’s original project for man was that he would never die. In the garden of Eden, death was not an issue, but since the fall of man, death entered into our vocabulary, since then, we live in a mortal body, it decays, it dies, but through Christ, God has given man a chance to rediscover eternity, but it can’t be done with this corrupted body that we have, the only way to be transformed, is letting die the old body and being resurrected with a new one.
According to the Bible this transformation is done through the Spirit, who dwells in you, no other force in the universe will ever have this power, the power to give life, to make something anew, even the scientific process of cloning animals, proves that an exterior force has to be at work. The cells won’t start to reproduce, until somebody begins to manipulate all the scientific equipment .Christ is the author of our life, and He is our hope, just read : “54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ( 1 Cor 15)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Thoughts for a spiritual pilgrimage

Thoughts for a spiritual pilgrimage

The seed and the wall

The seed and the wall
Life by the Spirit
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. `…..22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. “

Our sinful nature, will always be in conflict with the Spirit, and the easiest way out of this conflict, is either to rationalize sin, and then cauterize our minds, or crucify our flesh and desires. It takes discipline, it takes pain to let go of our little idols, pride, immorality, sensuality, envying…it takes God to do this job in us, for it is He who enables us to resist those sins, and it is the Holy Spirit who make us bear fruit.
Every metaphor in the Bible is circumspectly chosen, they are there for a reason, and it seems that, the metaphors of nature, planting and harvesting, were most used by the Lord, and here, Paul uses it too.
Why is Paul using the term fruit? Because it conveys the idea of progressive growth, that may be invisible for a season, but one day will be visible by all. The problem is that the seed of the Spirit was planted in a very difficult soil, a sinful soil, our hearts, that is why we can expect internal conflicts, as the seed grows in us, to become a beautiful fruit tree. Growth is mysterious and invisible, we don’t see it happening, it takes time, you don’t feel it minute by minute, there will be seasons, when the tree won’t grow, and experience an apparent failure, but the seed is there, and the seed was planted through the saving grace of Christ, and Jesus promised us: “16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. “( Jn 15)
Here is the other part of this: spiritual growth is inevitable, every true Christian will grow and change in the course of time. You just have to be patient, and persevere in your pilgrimage, here in my hand, is a cement block and here is a seed, which one is more powerful? It is easy, the seed wins, always will, how? I was driving to church one day, and I noticed a very old building with its front wall almost collapsing, because a small seed found its way into a small breech, a tall tree grew out of it, breaking the wall in half, if botanical growth has this power in its gradualness, let alone the Spirit of God, God is at work in you, you’ll change, you’ll bring forth fruit in your life, you’re not saved by fruit, but there is no fruitless faith. Some of you are Christians for a long time, but you still struggle with an harsh and inconsiderate personality, and no wonder you have no close friends, maybe you got used to a worrisome lifestyle, and it seems that, there is no joy in living and you wonder: where is the joy that God has promised as fruit in your life? Remember, a seed can be a long time in that wall.
The problem is that, some of you are giving up on yourselves:” I am like that, I will never change!” Some sort of spiritual atavism, if you turn your back on the path of purity, and decide that you’ll settle for a lower kind of commitment with the Lord, and try to live this hybrid lifestyle “Christ on Sunday”, and a non- committed lifestyle during the week, God will have to set a rescuing plan in motion, and that may be painful, therefore, repent now, I am not talking about perfection in life, but direction in life. If you have a sinful habit, a secret in your life, make it a battle, don’t ask for a truce, change and bearing fruit is an internal issue, and also a supernatural action of God that requires transformation, conversion.
Martin Luther and John Wesley prior to their conversion,wrote bible commentaries, lived religious lives for many years, peoples lives were being touched by them, making others bear fruit of the spirit, but they themselves were not bearing fruit until Christ became real in their lives, had a love relationship with Him.
Let me finish by asking you why did Paul list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control and call these attitudes fruit, not fruits? He uses purposefully the Greek word “karpos” singular,
The answer is simple, they always come together in our lives, when Christ came to live in us He gave us this multi-faceted fruit. Jonathan Edwards told us that in the 16th century.
Let me unpack it for you: if you have gentleness but have no self-control or faithfulness at all, and some people come to you for counseling, because you are non-judgmental, the reason could be because you have no discipline to resist sin in your own life, that is, why you are so understanding, you just dealing with your own conscience, it’s a imitation gentleness, doesn’t come from the Spirit, even a non saved person can show these beautiful traits of character. What is the solution then? If you feel you are growing in your spiritual life, this morning then is a time to rejoice, but what if I am not willing to live at this level of my spiritual life, always battling with the same old habits? I would say :
1) “take seriously into consideration who you already are: “24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 
T he main problem in your life, are the thing s you crave for, find those things that are becoming more important to you than Jesus Christ, things and habits that are running your life, and declare war on them finally, find a quiet time to be still before the Lord, be in silence, hear the Spirit whispering in your heart, the supper is a perfect time for that, reminding us that this is time of renewal, a time to be remembered of the Father’s grace that died for us , so we can go and bear much fruit.