punctuation errors! :) )
I told you I want to help us to let what happened to Ted Haggard remind us all about the most terrible and dangerous power we all have – the power to destroy ourselves.
We saw in the story in John 8:1-11 about the woman caught in adultery, and brought before Jesus, that the greatest lesson he taught the people that day was…
We should let someone else’s sin/failure cause us to look and focus on ourselves, NOT on them!
Let’s pray for Ted, his family, his church but we shouldn’t focus on him! That doesn’t do us any good! Let’s use what’s happened to turn the focus on ourselves!
We all have the ability to destroy ourselves. We’re all weak enough and dumb enough to do it. I know I am!
We started last week by trying to answer these questions:
- How can we really have more victory in our lives?
- How can we really overcome our sin and ourselves?
I told you right from the beginning last week something that should be a real relief to all of us and that’s this fact…
You can’t be good enough. Stop trying!
Until we realize this and admit it to ourselves we’re stuck.
Last week, I told you that there are two things I’ve realized recently that we need to do EVERYDAY if we want to have more victory and overcome our sin and ourselves:
- Daily admit we’re lost and can’t find our way out of this mess.
- Daily admit we’re weak and can’t do what’s right.
It’s this power and freedom in confession – in admitting you can’t make it on your own – that Paul knew when he confessed in Romans 7:14-25…
The first step that Alcoholics Anonymous teaches people is that they have to admit that they’re an alcoholic. They have to stop living in denial. Until they do that they can’t get better!
Last week we saw that our first step to seeing victory is the same thing! We have to become like Paul and be able to admit, “What a wretched person I am?”
We have to not only see that we’re lost and weak, but we need to realize that we’re sinners and we have no way to save ourselves. We need to realize that our bad choices (sins) have made us guilty before God.
This ISN’T about beating ourselves up or condemning ourselves! It’s all about admitting the truth. If we don’t do this, we’re lying and fooling ourselves into thinking we can do it on our own!
It’s not a negative thing. It’s a freeing thing – just like it frees an alcoholic to confess who they are.
Until we get to that place where we admit we can’t do it by our self, then we won’t and can’t get help. We won’t be able to fight against those dangerous desires we all have.
But admitting we need help is just the first step. Our weakness and lostness won’t suddenly be gone just cause we admit they exist!
We saw last Sunday that our only hope to win the fight against these weak areas is to be saved from what we’ve done and what we are. We need to be born again! We need a fresh start – a new nature!
We saw in John 3:1-17 that Jesus told Nicodemus this truth. He told Nicodemus that even though he was a Pharisee who had done everything he could to live a righteous life – that it still wasn’t going to help him see or experience the
He told Nicodemus if he didn’t become born again he was fooling himself. He was still living his life, trying to fight his weaknesses from his old nature.
Jesus told him that seeing the
We have to believe and trust in Jesus for our salvation from what we’ve done and for the strength to fight against what we are. We can only be born again through Jesus!
The only way to be saved from what we’ve done and to even start being able to have victory in our lives is to stop looking to ourselves and our strength, and stop looking for the right information/method to help fight our weakness.
Instead, we all need to LOOK TO, rely on, Jesus! We need to look to what he did on the cross to pay for our sins! When we look to anything else and trust in anything else for our strength (religion, good works, whatever) we’re still dead in the water!
We HAVE to be born again! We have to have a new nature planted within us! We can’t fix or clean the one we have! Jesus is the ONLY way!
We need to look to Jesus and not ourselves. If you’ve only heard about Jesus and it’s all been head knowledge, but you never committed and submitted your life to him, then today’s the day to do it! You can do it right now. Just tell him you believe and want to trust him as your Lord and Savior.
If you’ve been born again already, you need to remember what God’s done in your already and stop looking to yourself and look to him!
Today, I want to look more at how we can see this new life/nature that God’s given us, through Jesus, have more victory over our old life/nature that’s still in us.
So what’s the next step?
If we know we’re lost and weak and can’t save ourselves and we submit and let Jesus into our lives as our Savior (one who saves us from our sins) and our Lord (the boss – one in control), then what do we do?
Before we can take that next step we first have to understand what God tells us he done in our lives when we give our lives to Jesus.
It might be a little DIFFERENT than you think…
When we submitted to Jesus and asked him into our lives and were born again, God didn’t get rid of our sinful nature! It’s still there!
Here’s what God did…
He gave us a new nature to live out of. He gave us a new power to draw from through the Holy Spirit coming into our hearts – God himself!
But, that means we now have a problem: There’s a
I saw this explanation online…
Do you know how a worm gets inside an apple? Maybe you think the worm digs in from the outside. No, scientists have discovered that the worm comes from inside. How’s it get in there? Easy! An insect lays an egg in the apple blossom. Later on, the worm hatches in the heart of the apple, then eats his way out. Sin, like the worn, begins in the heart and works out through a person's thoughts, words, and actions.
Our problem, our battle, is within ourselves!! W.P. Mackay in book from 1888 called “Grace & Truth” said… “Most anxious inquirers seem to think that we have to fight against ourselves in order to be saved, whereas we fight against ourselves because we are saved.”
That battle that we’re having inside, against sin, is not a bad sign! It’s a GOOD one! If you weren’t a Christ-follower than you wouldn’t fight in some of these areas at all! That there’s a fight proves something changed in us!
Paul talks about this battle in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10…
But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud.
8Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9Each time he said, "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. 10Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
A person in AA is taught to always think of themselves as an alcoholic no matter how long it’s been since they had a drink. People in AA count the days or years they’ve been clean. I saw a friend recently who is a recovering addict and he said he was, something like, 140 days clean.
It’s the same with us in our battle against sin/temptation! We still deal with the flesh – our old nature. We have to constantly remember we’re sinners. It has to be a constant daily battle and we need to count our daily victories!
We need to admit DAILY that we’re lost and weak - that we can’t find our find our way out and we’re too weak to do the right things!
Just like Paul says in verse 9… “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When we admit we’re weak and stop trying in OUR strength THAT’S when we’re finally STRONG!
When we think we’re strong and think we aren’t lost anymore THAT’S when we do 2 stupid things that are guaranteed to cause us to fall and mess up: we try with our own strength and rely in our own wisdom!
And what happens? Maybe at first: nothing. Maybe at first we do good in the areas that we weren’t that weak in anyway. But sooner or later, we fail and fall and wonder how we got lost again! The problem is we were trying in our strength – in our flesh.
In Philippians 3:3, Paul says it like this…
We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us.
Mark Bubeck in his book The Adversary said this…
”The flesh is a built-in law of failure, making it impossible for the natural man to please or serve God. It is a compulsive inner force inherited from man's fall, which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness. The flesh can never be reformed or improved. The only hope for escape from the law of the flesh is its total execution and replacement by a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ."
If I want to defeat you and you’re stronger than I am. I’m not going to attack you straight on – when you’re ready! If I’m smart, I’ll wait till you’re not ready - wait till you drop you’re guard, then BOOM – BANG, you’re going down!
That’s what the devil wants to do to us. We can’t ever let our guards down and forget that we’re lost, weak and can’t save ourselves!
Paul says we NOW brag about what Jesus did for us, NOT in what we’ve done!
When we talk to any non-believer it should never be as someone better than them, looking down on them. It should be as one of them! An alcoholic anonymous person says, “I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been clean 4 years 63 days.”
Those two things together “alcoholic” and “clean” are what intrigue someone enough to say, “How’d you do THAT?” People should be intrigued about us in the same way!
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 Paul says…
12If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. 13But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.
How do we control the flesh? I can’t tell you an exact way, but the way has to START by being based on the truth in these two verses…
“1 Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is useless.
Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.”
“The horses are prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”
It takes relying (on the Holy Spirit) and it takes trying (your part)! It takes both prayer and for you to prepare. You can’t succeed with just one of these! You have to have both.
I want to tell some ways I’ve been trying in the last few weeks to control my flesh that have helped me to have more victory…
The first step has to be through submitting to the Holy Spirit and letting him give us the strength and wisdom. Otherwise, we can’t do ANYTHING. We need to constantly turn our will and our lives over to the Holy Spirit.
The confession/admission I’m trying to do at least twice daily (morning and before bed)… “God, my problems are bigger than I am. My sins are stronger than I am. My calling is larger than I am. Without you, Jesus, I can do nothing. I’m lost. I’m weak. I’m a sinner. I can’t find my way. I can’t be strong enough. I will fall short without you. With you I can do all things – I can produce much fruit. The only way I can succeed at any of this is by leaning on and relying on you, Holy Spirit. Help me to do this. Teach me how to do this.”
Old American Indian Man: And The
An old indian man told his young friend that his good nature and bad nature are like two dogs fighting. He sais his good nature is the white dog and his bad nature is the black dog. His friend asked him, “Which one wins?” And he said, “The one I feed the most!”
The second way we can control the flesh and have more victory is by starving our old nature. We can’t ever kill it, but we can make it weaker. You do this by denying your desire/weakness. You say “no” to it. How can you do this?
You need to see the small things that you start doing, early on, that lead to you saying yes to your weakness, then fight/stop those small things!
For example, you need to figure out…
- · If your weakness is anger, what are the small things that you begin doing, early on, that lead to you finally exploding in anger?
- · If your weakness is lying , what are the small things that you begin doing, early on, that lead to you finally lying to someone?
The third thing we need to is feed our new nature. This will help it to grow stronger. We do this by saying yes to the things that are the opposite of our desires. We do this by feeding on God’s word and memorizing it and reminding ourselves of God’s truth.
I told you that we can’t have victory till we admit the truth that we’re lost, weak and sinners, but we also can’t have victory till we know God’s truth about what he’s done for us and what he says about us now!
We have to know the truth of what the Bible tells us about the cross and resurrection. We have to remember what Jesus did and that the Bible says we were crucified with him!
We have to FIRST know the truth in our heads and hearts, so we can know it by experience!
In Romans 6:16-23 Paul gives us another way to think of this, instead of starving one nature and feeding the other one…6 Don't you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you have obeyed with all your heart the new teaching God has given you. 18 Now you are free from sin, your old master, and you have become slaves to your new master, righteousness. 19 I speak this way, using the illustration of slaves and masters, because it is easy to understand. Before, you let yourselves be slaves of impurity and lawlessness. Now you must choose to be slaves of righteousness so that you will become holy. 20 In those days, when you were slaves of sin, you weren't concerned with doing what was right. 21 And what was the result? It was not good, since now you are ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
The choice is who to become a slave to! Paul asks… Do you want to be a slave to sin, which will destroy you – ultimately the cause of death OR a slave to righteousness (right choices) which will lead to life, lead you to God’s purposes?
Some of you might remember this story I told from our Galatians series last year. Charles Swindoll in his book “The Grace Awakening” tells this story…
”It was on New Year’s Day 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was publicly stated, but it was not until December 18, 1865, that the Constitution made those convictions official… Headlines in newspapers in virtually every state had the same message “Slavery Legally Abolished”.
“And yet something happened that many would never have expected. The vast majority of slaves in the South who were legally freed continued to live as slaves! Most of them went right on living as though nothing had happened. Though free, the Blacks lived virtually unchanged lives throughout the Reconstruction Period.
Swindoll later says this…
“I call this tragic. A war had been fought. A president had been assassinated. An amendment to the Constitution had now been signed into law. Once enslaved men, women and children were now legally emancipated. Yet amazingly, many continued living in fear and squalor. In a context of hard-earned freedom, slaves chose to remain as slaves. Cruel and brutal though many of their owners were, black men and women chose to keep serving the same old master until they died. They were a few brave exceptions, but in many parts of the country you’d never known that slavery had been officially abolished and that they had been emancipated. That’s the way plantation owners wanted it. They maintained the age old philosophy, ‘Keep’em ignorant and you keep ‘em in the field’
The amazing thing about what Paul is saying is that through Jesus we now have a choice of who to serve! Before we submitted to Jesus, and began following him, we DIDN’T!
Fourth, we need to is what Paul just told us in Roman’s 6. We need to think of the end results from choosing to give in to our weak areas. Think about what your choice will lead to. Keep that in your mind! Remember what you’re really saying yes to when you say yes to that weakness!
Fifth, we need to do is find someone to be accountable to. In Ted Haggard’s letter he said…
“For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.
Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them.”
We are going to struggle with our old nature until we die. We’re going to fall and sin! We will fall, cause we have this battle within us, we live in a world full of temptations, and we have an enemy – the devil – who wants to destroy us!
We can’t be sinless, but… we can sin less! We can have more victory!
If we are born again, and continually confess and admit our weakness and lostness, if we rely on the Holy Spirit to put to death the old nature and live in the new, if we have someone we’re accountable to, THEN we can be protected from a major fall.
Here’s the promise I want to end with that I want us to always remind ourselves of…
“…where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Before Jesus, sin once reigned because it lead, ultimately, to death. That was the way it defeated us!
But, NOW, because of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, grace reigns because it will ultimately lead to righteousness. Because of grace, we’ll be able to stand and be right before God. It will ultimately lead to eternal life! That’s the way grace gives us the ultimate victory.
If we keep submitting to Jesus and following him through the ups and downs of this battle, then we will make it! That promise is still true for Ted Haggard and it’s true for us!
Grace reigns! Thank God!