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Sunday, 1 October 2017

'WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?'

Rev. Brent Russett
By Rev. Brent Russett
Pastor of Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Ottawa:
http://www.sunnysidechurchottawa.com/   

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PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, October 1st, 2017:
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Broadcast Notes:
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What is a Christian?

            Good morning and Welcome to good news in the morning. I am so glad that you have tuned into the program today. My name is Brent Russett. I am the Lead Pastor at Sunnyside Wesleyan Church here in Ottawa. I have been pastoring there for 27 years. One of the things I love to do is show how God’s word that was written a long time ago, connects with our world right now.

            I know that some of you who are listening have been followers of Jesus for a long time, and I know that others of you think of yourself as spiritual, but you are not really sure of this Christian thing, and I know others of you just curious how people of faith think. I trust that wherever you are on yours spiritual journey, that you will find this program interesting and informative, and I believe that for those of you desire it, God can use a program like this to take you another step closer to Him.

            This morning I want to talk about what it means to be a Christian. There are a lot of people who call themselves Christians, but are they really?

            For some, being a Christian is mostly cultural. Christians have their own sub culture. In this sub-culture certain things are acceptable and certain things are not acceptable. How many times you should go to church in a week. How should you live on Sundays. Much of this kind of cultural Christianity revolves around a building.

            I believe that it is important that you be in community with other Christians. If you are in community, then a culture will be created by that community. If the culture that is created is good, that is good thing, if the culture that is created is bad, that is a bad thing. But true Christian faith does not revolve around a building or a community culture.
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            Some would say that to be a Christian in our world is to fight for justice. We are a people who take helping the marginalized seriously. We are a people who want to help with poverty, we want to fight injustice, we want good to triumph over evil.

            I think this is an important part of being a Christian in our world. But if this is the only thing that gets emphasized in our faith, we become organization to do good – but that is it.
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            Some would say that to be a Christian in our world, the most important thing is to think Christianly. The first step towards thinking Christianly is to know scripture. The bible is where we learn about God about ourselves and about this world. What you believe is really important.


            But then to think Christianly is to be able to go further than this and be able to use that mindset to think about the issues of the day. How should we as Christian live within a democracy, within a capitalist system. What do we do with issues like euthanasia, and abortion, and transgender? How do we respond and how do we live in a world that takes no thought of God.

            I believe thinking Christianly is really important in the times in which we live. I believe that many people’s inability to think Christianly has made them easy prey for political movements, or church fads, or for cultural movements that try to co-opt the gospel. When the gospel gets co-opted by these kind of things we do a disservice to the kingdom

            This morning as we look into Romans 8, it is going to take us to the core of what it means to live as a Christian in this world. What we are going to find is that at the core of what it means to be a Christian in this world is something ---supernatural. The gospel is not just something that we just believe in, but as we look in our passage we will see that it is God actually acting on us and in us in ways that are both supernatural, and yet tangible. Or to put it another way, if there is not something supernatural going on in your life – you are not a Christian.

            Here is what I want you to consider. If God were to disappear from our lives we could still have a Christian culture, we could still fight against injustice, we could still learn to think Christianly about our world. But if God were to disappear from our lives we would not be Christians, because at the core of what it means to be a Christian is something supernatural.

            The question you will need to ask yourself is, are you experiencing the supernatural.

            Come with me to
Romans 8:5–11 (NIV) so that you can see what I mean.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Verse 5
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

            When Paul talks about the FLESH, he is not talking about physical as opposed to the spiritual. He is not talking about our bodies – in that case my scales shows that I am more fleshly than you. -no that is not what he is talking about.

            Some versions translate this world  flesh as the sinful nature or the carnal nature – which gets at the idea of what Paul is talking  about. When Paul talks about the flesh he is talking about the corruption or our desires, he is talking about our baser instincts, he is talking about that which is within us that wants to do wrong, he is talking about having all our desires centered around me and what’s mine. That is the flesh, that is the sinful nature.

            He gives us some indicators about those who live that way. Let me walk you through verses 5- 8 on what is says about the flesh.

            He says if you’re living out the flesh or out of your sinful nature you are going to set you mind on the desires of your sinful nature. Your sinful nature has desires or cravings – and you live out of those cravings when your mindset becomes one of – how do I get what I want -even when I shouldn’t have what I want.

            Your mind is going to be governed by those desires. You do what you do to have those desires met. You can tell people who live like that because they are hostile to God. They don’t submit to God’s laws. In fact they cannot submit to God’s laws. And when you are in this state, you cannot please God. The result of living this way is spiritual death.

            Now I know that this sounds horrible when it is said this way. But the thing is, I know a lot of nice people who live this way. Life is about me and about what I want. Now we have become very civilized about it. So we have to pretend that we are not that way – so I will help you so that you will help me – but it is all about me. I will give, but I give because of the feeling I get when I give. Life is all about me and what I want and how I feel.

            Now here is where it gets a little complicated. As a Christian, are we supposed to live as if we have no desires – or are we supposed to live in a way where we are always pushing against what we want to do.
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            The answer is, - it’s complicated. Because, if you are truly a Christian, then you have another nature in you. It is a spiritual nature that is formed in you by the Holy Spirit. This nature also has desires.         

            Back to verse 5 – Christians are not governed by the flesh or the sinful nature – they are governed by the spirit. They set their mind on what the Spirit desires. What the spirit desires is also going to be experienced as a want deep in you life. When your mind is governed by these desires they will be full of life and peace.

            Just a passing note, one of the main themes of this passage of scripture is life, and how to really live. How do you live in such a way where you come alive.

            So as a Christian you have a spiritual nature that the Holy Spirit has formed that gives you desires. That is supernatural.  But Paul gets more explicit.

Romans 8:9–11 (NIV)
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

            The best definition of a Christian that I know is, “one in whom Jesus dwells,” or one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.” What our passage is saying is that if you are Christian then the Holy Spirit dwells in you. And if the Holy Spirit does not live in you, then you are not a Christian.

            It doesn’t matter than you believe the right things, or go to the right church, or do the right thing around justice and mercy, if the Spirit of God doesn’t live in you then you are not a Christian. You do not belong to Christ.

            The Christian life is a supernatural life. It is the Spirit of God living in you, kind of life.

            Paul talks through Romans on how the Spirit of God comes into our lives. He has told us that  


Romans 6:23 (NIV)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Romans 10:9–10 (NIV)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

            How does the Spirit of God get inside you – well it is not a formula. But it is coming to terms with the fact that God loves you but you are a sinner – by what you have done, and by the fact that you are part of the human race

            But Jesus died and paid the price for our sin, but his work on the cross must be received by faith. God longs to give you eternal life. Your part is to respond to God, by confessing that Jesus is Lord, and believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead – and you will be saved. God’s Spirit will enter you and reside in you.

            I spend time on this this morning, because the bible says test yourself, to see that you are in the faith. Too many time, there are people who are in the church for years, and they have adopted the culture of a Christian, and the work of a Christian, and they even know the beliefs of a Christian, but they have not made that leap of faith, which allows them to be truly Christian. I want you to know that if that is where you are at – Jesus wants you to be truly saved.

MUSIC- Wake up Oh Sleeper Graham Kendrick 3:57

            Well back to our passage in Romans 8. You know how we talked about flesh, the sinful nature

Romans 8:5 (NIV)
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

            If the Spirit of God lives within you, then the Spirit of God is putting his desires in your heart. Sometimes it is easy to know if a desire that is in your heart is from your sinful nature, or if it is from the Spirit. Sometimes though, it isn’t so straight forward.

            Is my desire for rest good, or is it laziness. Is my desire to build and to accomplish good or am I just feeding my own ego. Is my desire to say yes, or no, to the requests that are asked of me, driven by my desire to please people, or my desire to protect myself, or is it the right thing to do.

            That is what Paul is getting at in verse 14
Romans 8:14 (NIV)
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

            One of the evidences that the Spirit of God is in you is that you are led by the Spirit of God. Now when I think about being led by the Spirit of God, I think about the big things:
Job opportunities, and Career, and relationships, and getting the big directions for life.

            And I believe that God wants to do that in our lives. But that is not what he is talking about here. He is talking about flesh versus spirit.

            He is talking about living in such a way where there is a supernatural element to those complicated decisions.

            Explaining what it feels like to be led by the Spirit is challenging in that it is not a one size fits all. When a decision is to be made you may get what some people call, a check in your spirit. Deep down, you may not be able to explain why – but you know it is wrong for you at this time.

            Some people are primarily led by that. There are other times when you just know deep down, that this is the right thing to do. You just know at the core of who you are – that this is good. Some people are primarily led by that.

            I am not talking about the things that God has already told us. You don’t have to pray about “should I steal that candy bar?” because God has already told us in his word that stealing is wrong. I am talking about those things in life that are life choices. Should I serve in this way, or give in that way, or become involved in this, or should I go to there. There is an expectation that God will lead in those things.

            If that kind of leading never happens to you, then you are going to have to ask yourself, am I truly a Christian.

Romans 8:14 (NIV)
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

            The passage goes on
Romans 8:15 (NIV)
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;

            Part of being led by the Spirit is that we are not led by fear. We are trained in this world to make decisions on the basis of risk analysis. We are sold things on the basis of fear. Unless you stop and think about it, you don’t realize how much of a temptation fear can be. But part of being led by the Spirit is that we are not led by fear.

            Here is the thing. When life is all about you and what is yours and all your desires are wrapped up in that – then you have a lot to lose, and when you have a lot to lose you have a lot to fear. We are slaves to that which we are trying to hold on to. That slavery brings fear. The fear of loss.

            But for those in whom God’s spirit lives,  catch the rest of verse 15
Romans 8:15 (NIV)
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

            . I know that a woman could bristle at this idea of sonship. But Paul was using the Roman analogy, of adoption of sons. This usually happened when a wealthy person had no heirs. He would adopt a son, and that son would inherit everything. The main point of this is we have been given a full inheritance by God. We have entered into this close relationship with God – Abba father, could be translated Daddy.

            So women you have to deal with being called sons of God just as men, you have to deal with being called the bride of Christ.

            The point is that if God has given you a full inheritance, will he not also have your best interest in mind. So if he is leading you, fear is not where you need to go – he will take care of you.

            Romans goes on
Romans 8:16–17 (NIV)
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

            If you are a child of God, there is something deep inside that lets you know that. Again this is supernatural. There is sense deep down that we know we are saved, we know we are God’s child. Is it there all the time. No – but there is this deep sense some of the time, that it is true.

            Again, if that is something that you have never experienced then, you need to go to God and ask him for it, or what you have to do to get it. It is supernatural, and it is part of what it means to live out your Christian life.

            At its core the Christian life is supernatural. The Spirit of God is placed in us. We are given desires of the Spirit. We are led by the Spirit. Our spirit’s naturally turn to God as our father. The Spirit tells us that we are God’s children. At the core the Christian life is the supernatural.

            I want you to know that, because I think there is a danger that we might forgetting it. We could become cultural Christians where we do all the right things. But that doesn’t make you a Christian, because being a Christian is a supernatural thing.

            We could become social justice Christians. I think that this is one of the ways that God is leading his people to engage our world these days. However, doing works of social justice, does not make you a Christian. If you go there, before you deal with the supernatural pieces of being a Christian, you may look like a Christian but you won’t be a Christian.

            You could learn scripture and get good theology. But even the devil believes the right things. You could hold nuanced views on the issues of the day and be able to articulate a clear ethic – but if you go there without dealing with the supernatural – you have missed real Christianity.

            The definition of a Christian is, “one in who Christ dwells”. That is going to be seen by the Spirit’s desires are placed within you. That will be seen by the fact that you are led by the Spirit, in living out those desires in this world. That will be seen where you know, deep down in your knowledge that you are a child of God.

            If that doesn’t describe you, I would entreat you to work this out. Talk to God about it.  

Let me pray for you.

Lord Jesus, for those who this message is spoken to, where they need a fresh touch from you, or they need to come into a relationship with you that they never had before, I pray, Lord, that they would come to you and say, "Lord, I believe you died for me, I'm a sinner. Take away my sin, please. I'm going to follow you. Come into my life. Fill me with yourself. Give me your desires. Lead me in a way where I know that I'm a child of God.”
 Lord, I pray that for people who honestly pray this prayer, that you would just meet them right where they're at and that it would speak into their lives. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

            And Thank you for listening this morning.

            This program is on the air by the grace of God and donations of many faithful people.

            My name is Brent Russett, and it has been a privilege to bring you Good News in the morning.
           
 By Rev. Brent Russett
Pastor of Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Ottawa:
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PODCAST LINK to the CFRA broadcast:

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