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Renewing Your Spiritual Vitality

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
January 9, 2023 1:00 am

Renewing Your Spiritual Vitality

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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If Greg Phillips is listening this evening, I threw him a bit of a curveball in that he texted me this morning between the Sunday school hour and Sunday school and said that he was going to choose hymns for this evening and wanted to know where I was going in my preaching.

And I didn't convey to him that I was betwixt and between. Initially I thought that I would preach the message that I'd prepared to preach last Sunday morning and was providentially hindered from doing so. So the hymns that we sang this evening and the last one that we'll sing were chosen in lieu of a message that I'm not preaching tonight. The message I'm preaching tonight is the message that I'd prepared to preach for tonight a week or so ago.

And the nature of the message is such that the later in the month of January we get, it seems to me, the less impactful it is. As we turn the calendar and the New Year starts, I think we all in our minds have a sense, we're not making New Year's resolutions, but we're kind of rebooting, kind of rethinking, we're meditating. We are renewing our commitments to the Lord and we've had time off from work and time to contemplate and to think and to reflect on the past year and think about goals for the New Year.

So it's in that vein and in that mindset that I decided I'd bring this message this evening. We're in Hebrews chapter 12 and I'm going to be focusing on verses 12 through 17. The basic thrust of this passage is clearly exhortation. If you'll notice with me these verbal forms that speak of exhortation, verse 12, strengthen the hands which hang down, verse 13, make straight paths for your feet, verse 14, pursue peace with all people and holiness without which no one will see the Lord, verse 15, looking carefully. So those verses speak of verbal forms and have the force of exhortation. You notice the verse 12 begins with the word therefore and most of you, if not all of you, are aware that the thens and the therefores and the wherefores of the Bible are usually transitions. They're transitioning from teaching to exhortation, from truth to application, from knowing to doing and if you've not keyed in on that or picked up on that, that will help you in your Bible reading that that's the way God has given his word, that the exhortations, the commandments of Scripture are always grounded in indicative truth and that's what we see happening here. I don't want to disconnect what we're going to consider here in verses 12 through 17 from the exhortation that begins the chapter.

And what is going on here? Well, chapter 12 begins with an exhortation. After faith has been carefully explained and defined and illustrated, the writer says in effect, now that you know what the Christian race of faith looks like, it's time for you to engage yourself in that.

Notice again that word therefore. It's moving from the teaching of chapter 11 into application, into exhortation and what is the basic exhortation? Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. And if you've not picked up on that word endurance, I think the focus so often is in running a race that we miss the emphasis on endurance.

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. And then we're told in verse three, consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. Verse seven is in the context of the writer's discussion about chastening and he says, if you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons.

For what son is there whom a father does not chasten? And that's, I think, an important theme that's traced throughout this chapter, the theme of endurance. It's not so much how you start, it's how you finish. The Christian life is a marathon, it's not a sprint, it's not a hundred yard dash. And what caught my attention as I was reading through this chapter in Hebrews is a heading that's, again, the headings are not inspired, but they're very instructive and helpful. At the beginning of verse 12, my Bible has this heading, renew your spiritual vitality.

And I thought that's a good theme, that's a good message to speak to at the beginning of a new year. So tonight, the challenge is on renewing your spiritual vitality. And I've got three points, and let me begin with point number one, and that is recommit yourself to the pursuit of holiness. Recommit yourself to the pursuit of holiness. Verse 12, therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees and make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame may not be dislocated but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

So again, number one, renew your commitment to the pursuit of holiness. Again, these verses resume the metaphor that begins the chapter, the race metaphor. And when you're in a race and you are weary in the race, you need your vitality renewed. What happens when you become fatigued in the race? Well, I'm not a runner, but I'm told that one of the first things that happens is the runner's arms begin to droop. And the position and the motion of the arms are extremely important in running to help maintain proper coordination and rhythm. Your arms actually help you with your stride. And they're the first part of the body that begins to show fatigue. And that's why it says, therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down. What's the second thing that is affected in the body?

Well, the knees, the knees and the feeble knees. Now, it's not my aim tonight to draw attention and draw out of this passage. The emphasis upon our responsibility in the community of faith. Enough to say that the race that we're engaged in is an individual race in a sense, but it's a race that we engage in corporately. We're not racing against one another. We all have our eye on the same finish line. We all have our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

And we have a responsibility, not only for ourselves, but for others who are engaged in this race. So, if you're here tonight and you say, well, I'm doing pretty well. My hands aren't hanging down. My knees aren't feeble.

I feel quite full of vigor and vitality. Well, not everybody is in that condition. There are others around us who are weak. And this is written in a context that we have a responsibility for one another. And again, I'm not going to draw that out because my purpose is different this evening. But maybe that's something to revisit some other time and most likely will be revisited some other time.

But I just wanted to make you aware of that. So, when we experience spiritual hands that are weak and knees that are feeble, what do we do? Well, we renew our spiritual vitality by doing the very thing that we began. Get your eyes back on Jesus. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. That's what we do.

What else does he say here? Make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame may not be dislocated but rather be healed. When a man becomes fatigued in a race, he often, not often, but sometimes has difficulty staying in his own lane.

And when we don't stay in our own lane, we cause problems for ourselves and we cause problems for other people who are also racing, right? Listen to this exhortation from Proverbs chapter 4 verse 25 and verse 27. Let your eyes look directly ahead. Let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.

Do not turn to the right nor to the left. Turn your foot from evil, says Solomon in Proverbs chapter 4. So, renewing our spiritual vitality. Renewing your commitment to holiness.

That's our first point. Verse 14 again, pursue peace with all people and holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Now, that verse is not the easiest to interpret. In fact, there are quite a variety of takes and interpretations on that passage. At first glance, it seems to be teaching that salvation is acquired by works. That if we successfully pursue peace and sanctification or holiness, we will be saved and we will see the Lord.

Well, what do we say about that? The truth of the matter is that a person who is not saved cannot pursue peace with other people and he has no ability of seeking and living a holy life. He has no interest in doing so.

He has no ability in doing so. So, what is this verse about? Well, it's only the Christian who has the ability through the Holy Spirit to live in peace and in holiness.

Only the Christian. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked, Isaiah 57 verse 21. And any so-called righteousness, the best that we can offer to God, even on our best day, is unacceptable. It says filthy rags in his sight, Isaiah 64 verse 6.

So, what is the writer of Hebrews referring to? Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. I think he's speaking of practical holiness, practical righteousness. Positionally, in Christ, we already have peace with God.

We have right standing with him. And because we are at peace with God, we have a responsibility to live as peacemakers in this world. And because we have been counted righteous in Christ, we should be striving to live righteously. And I think what he's saying here is that when there's the absence of pursuing holiness, then there's every reason to believe that Christian faith, right standing with God, is not present.

Anyone who claims to be a Christian, anyone who claims to be right with God, and has no interest in pursuing righteousness, a righteous life, no interest in pursuing and living a holy life, has every reason to question whether they're really truly a believer. That's what he's saying. I don't think anybody sitting here would disagree with that. That's what we've been taught. That's what the Bible teaches.

Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of people who've been deceived because they've done something. And isn't it interesting, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, Many on that day will say unto me, Lord, Lord, haven't we done this? Haven't we done that? And Jesus says, I will say unto them, Depart from me, ye worker of iniquity, I never knew you. Didn't I do?

Didn't I do? And our people think, there are a lot of people who think, they become a Christian by their doing. They've done something. And someone has come alongside, someone in authority, a pastor, someone, and has endorsed that doing and said, that makes you a Christian. And they live their life and there is no fruit in their life. There is no pursuing of holiness in their life. They have no interest in pleasing the Lord and living a righteous life. And yet they'll go to the grave unless God intervenes and breaks in on their life and rescues them from that deception all the way to hell.

So that's what I think he's saying. There is this exhortation for believers to pursue peace with all people. Who is in a better place to be pursuing peace on a horizontal level than those who have been made at peace with Almighty God? That enmity that they had between them and God has been satisfied by the person and work of Jesus Christ.

They are now at peace and therefore they've been equipped to be a peacemaker. It basically summarizes the Christian life. Jesus said all the commandments can be summed up in this, that you love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself. We're to love our neighbor. We're to live at peace with all men.

And we understand that that can be a very challenging thing at times. The scriptures teach we're to live at peace as much as lies within us, as much as our ability to pursue peace with all men. That's the exhortation. So pursuing peace primarily relates to loving men and pursuing righteousness primarily relates to loving God. If we love men, we will be at peace with them. And if we love God, we will be living righteously or holy. So as we're thinking about this theme of renewing your spiritual vitality, the very first thing is we ought to be men and women who are pursuing holiness.

It would be wrong for me to go on to the next point without just stopping and asking, is that something that you are, that's on your radar? Is that something that is a part and parcel of your Christian experience? You are mindful. You are aware that you're under biblical obligation to be pursuing holiness.

Or is that something that's just, I'm saved, I know I'm saved, God has imputed his righteousness to me, I stand before Christ as if I'm as perfect as his own son and that's good enough for me? Well, how do we know that that's true of you? How do we know that you have right standing with God, that God has imputed his righteousness to you?

What's the evidence of that? The evidence of that is you're a man or a woman who has spiritual life. And men and women who have spiritual life are pursuing holiness and righteousness. So it better be on our radar, it better be something that we're weighing and thinking and considering and wondering, how did I do last year? Did I make progress in my walk of holiness?

Did I know success? Did God give me grace to put off sin in some area and make progress in a particular area? Those are things as believers we ought to stop and think through and meditate and evaluate and do inventory in our life.

But if one year just kind of blends into another year, into another year, into another year and we're not giving any thought to this, that's not a healthy sign. The Christian life isn't lived on autopilot. I don't like cruise control on an automobile.

It lulls you into a false sense. Now there are times when you're out on the highway and it helps you in being a little more comfortable when you're driving, but I like the feel of my foot on the gas pedal knowing that it's not far from the brake, right? That's just something personal, something my wife and I disagree about. If we're on a long trip, she says, why don't you put on the cruise control? Because I don't want to put on the cruise control. Now if she were driving, I wouldn't have a problem if she wanted to drive with the cruise control. But my point is that is a bad mindset, bad mentality for the Christian life. We're not on cruise control. The Christian life is described as a race that we must endure many difficulties.

It's a warfare. I've heard Pastor Latour mention numerous times, we're living in lion country. There's a devil roaming about seeking whom he may devour. You better not be going through the Christian life, la zi da.

No, put on the armor of God that you'll be able to stand in the evil day. So, the Christian life. So in order to renew our commitment to spiritual vitality, we must number one, recommit ourselves in the pursuit of holiness. This is an exhortation. This is not a suggestion.

This is not optional. This is a strong exhortation. And as quiet as it is right now, I think you're feeling the weight of that.

And we need to feel the weight of that. Isn't it good of a God to instruct us and warn us and exhort us? That alone ought to tell us that we're not going to get where we need to go. We're not going to live a life that pleases the Lord on our own. That God has to come to us in the scriptures and warn us and exhort us and challenge us. And give gifted men to the church to stand here and preach to you and remind you of these things.

Left to ourselves, we're going to be in trouble. So, in order to renew your commitment to spiritual vitality, we must, you must, commit yourself in the pursuit of holiness. Secondly, you must watch out for the pitfalls that will hinder your pursuit of holiness. Pitfalls.

And he mentions three here in our text. And what are they? Let me mention them to you and then we'll walk through them. Number one, the pitfall of falling short of the grace of God. The pitfall of falling short of the grace of God. Number two, the pitfall of bitterness. And number three, the pitfall of living for short-term pleasure. Those are three pitfalls that will hinder your pursuit of holiness.

Now, what does he mean by that? Notice with me. Verse 15, looking carefully. And in my Bible I've written, looking carefully for what? What am I to be looking carefully for?

I write in my Bible and it helps me. Looking carefully. If someone says, look out, what's your first thought? For what?

What am I to look out for? Well, looking carefully for these pitfalls, lest anyone fall short of the grace of God. Lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.

Now, let's be clear what he's saying so we don't misunderstand. God's grace does not fail, but we can fail to take advantage of his grace. There's warnings in the scriptures. God resists the proud, but he gives grace to whom? The humble. So if we're fostering a spirit of pride in our hearts, it's going to cause us to fall short of the grace of God. We're not going to receive the grace of God.

It's not at our disposal because we're not in a state of humility. God's grace is always available to help us in our time of need. But the question is, are we turning to the grace of God? Are we availing ourself of the grace of God?

Or are we looking to something or someone else in our time of need? There are a lot of empty substitutes that people are turning to that are a poor substitute for the grace of God. Hebrews 4, verse 16, let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Timely graced in our time of need. 2 Corinthians 9, 8, and God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always, having all sufficiency in all things, have an abundance for every good work. So, again, back to the question, how do you fall short of the grace of God? Well, you fall short of the grace of God by not believing it, by continuing in stubbornness and rebellion toward Almighty God.

God's not going to give grace to someone who is resisting Him, not in submission to Him. We fall short of the grace of God by allowing those things to clog up and block the flow of grace in our lives. Jonah, chapter 2, and verse 8 says this, They who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. Those who cling to worthless idols, what's an idol?

An idol is anything that we substitute for God, anything that we put before God. It's something we're looking to, and if we're going to cling to something or someone other than God, we are forfeiting the grace of God. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. It's not that God's being tight-fisted and won't open His hand and give, it's because we have chosen to go another way, and God's not going to grant grace to someone who is in rebellion toward Him. So the first pitfall to avoid is falling short of the grace of God.

Pitfall number two is what? The warning is, don't fall into bitterness. Don't fall into bitterness. Notice what he says, looking carefully, lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. There's something unique about the sin of bitterness. We don't see this emphasis of the root being tied to other vices, but here we see we're to watch out for the pitfall of the root of bitterness. Lest any root of bitterness spring up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. Bitterness can overcome us even as believers if we fester and dwell upon hurts and disappointments.

It's not far away. So watch out for festering hurts that have not been dealt with in a biblical way. And what are some of the ways that bitterness can get a grip on our lives?

Well, hurts between young people, you and your parents. There's a new movement in our day called Reconstruction. People are reconstructing their faith. And what they're doing is they're revolting against their upbringing. The more I think about it, my upbringing was more a liability than it was an asset.

My parents boxed me in, they had boundaries around me, they didn't let me live my life. And they're throwing off all of that and they're reconstructing their faith. Well, I think that's bitter fruit growing out of bitterness. It has nothing to do with godliness or holiness. It's people who do not know Christ venting, looking to blame someone for the place they're in. Be on guard for that. You're going to see it as you're reading and listening.

People are reconstructing their faith. Sounds like something noble, sounds like something helpful. It's not.

It's not. Bitterness can come between friends. We used to be friends and they did this, they did that, they said this, they said that. We haven't been able to resolve anything. They won't talk to me. It's gone on for six months, a year. Be careful.

Bitterness can creep in between you and your boss or the company you work for. They wronged me. I just can't get past it.

I can't get over it. Between you and somebody in the church, between you and maybe your spouse, between maybe you and an ex-spouse. I'm so grieved, I'm so burdened by this condition I'm in right now. I'm divorced.

My ex-mate did this, said that. Is God intended for you to foster that hurt and that pain and become a bitter person? It won't help you. It'll be a detriment to you. It'll hinder your pursuit of holiness.

It will sap away the vitality of your Christian life. But it's not just that. Notice what it says, lest any root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble.

That's what it does. It causes trouble and by this many become defiled. You've been around a bitter person?

You say, well, yeah, I have and I want to keep my distance. Why is that? Well, because they're so bitter, they're so sour, I don't want any of that leaking over on me.

It's a very damaging condition to foster and we're being warned of it. It is a pitfall, bitterness. We're under obligation. I said this in my Sunday school this morning.

I wasn't planning to say it, but it's come to my mind and I think it's appropriate. I had a phone call this week and a person on the other end of the phone said, we're new to the area and we've been looking for a church and we checked out your website and I just have a question I'd like to ask you. I said, well, what is that? And they said, does the church have a dress code? And I said, yes, the church does have a dress code.

And I had my Bible there and I opened it to Colossians chapter three. And I said, therefore, as the elective God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long suffering, bearing with one another, forgiving one another. If anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection. So I said, yes, we have a dress code. We expect Christians, believers to live like believers, to live like Christians.

And this is the believers dress code right here. Well, that's not what I meant. I said, I know that's not what you meant. I know what you meant. But let me speak to another issue.

This is I'm having this conversation on the phone. We don't have a dress code for unbelievers. They're welcome to our church. Church exists for sinners. Jesus was a friend of sinners, so we're a friend of sinners as well. So sinners are welcome to come.

But we don't expect lost people to live like Christians. Right? Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble that way. We wonder, why is someone still acting that way? Well, they're acting according to their nature. They're acting the way you acted before God broke in on your life and saved you.

Right? Don't we get that way? Don't we get impatient? We expect sometimes regenerate behavior out of unregenerate people.

No. We're not interested in making Pharisees. We're not interested in a climate that causes lost people to come in and feel comfortable and blend in. Christianity is not something you catch like the flu. Right?

Get around people that have the flu and you might catch it. I think I'll go hang around Christians and maybe I'll get what they've got. No. It doesn't work that way. Christianity is supernatural, isn't it? Supernatural. It's not something we put on.

It's not external. It's something that God does internally, transforms us, gives us His nature. So, pitfalls to put off. Number one, the pitfall of falling short of the grace of God. Pitfall number two, falling into bitterness.

What is the third pitfall? Guard your life against living for short-term pleasures. Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't finish that story. My mind works that way sometimes.

I did answer the question. No, we don't have a dress code. Come as you are. We expect women to be modest, but not every man has a tie and a coat.

Women wear pants. Let's not look down upon. So, when somebody asks you that question, you don't know where they're coming from, do you? You know where they're coming from here, where they're coming from there. So, I thought, I'm going to do something different. I'll disarm the whole question. Here's the third pitfall. Be on guard of falling into the pitfall of living for short-term pleasure.

Notice what he says. Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright, for you know that afterward when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. The message is a paraphrase of the New Testament.

Listen to how the message renders this verse. Watch out for the Esau syndrome, trading away God's lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. That's what Esau did. Genesis 26, 34 says, And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils.

Then he ate and drank, arose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. The Bible calls Esau a profane person, which in the Greek means a common person, one who lives for the world and not for God. Our English word means outside the temple or not belonging to God. So God is warning here not to live like Esau.

And what is that? Don't sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate and the temporal. Boy, we need that challenge.

We need that challenge. Our present life here on earth is very, very brief. Carly was listening to an interview with John Piper on the computer the other night. It was interesting to hear John Piper say he had some goals, didn't know whether he was going to live long enough to accomplish them. He says, I'm 76 years old and death is not very far away.

And I thought, whoa, that's a riveting statement to make. I'm 76 years old and death is not very far away. Now, he's not dying of terminal cancer, but he's just mindful of the fact that the biggest majority of his life is in the rearview mirror.

I have a brother in Florida. We had a conversation recently and he said, Mike, I heard this one day. Someone said if life was a football game, we're in the fourth quarter. I said, well, Bill, since you're 10 years older than I am, you may have heard the two minute warning. I don't think we like to think that way.

I don't think we like to contemplate that. I mean, I stand before you as a 66 year old. Long life is not in my genes. My dad died in his 60s. My mother died of cancer at 40. My dear brother Gary died of cancer at 66. My grandparents died in their mid 70s.

Unlike Carly, whose mother is 98 and a half and still going strong. And I think it's good for us just to stop and think. I've lived three fourths of my life, maybe longer. What is my life amounted to? Am I pursuing God?

Am I pursuing a life of holiness? That's the destination, isn't it? That's where we're going. And if we're not pursuing that, we must stop and ask, are we are we even in the race?

Are we even moving in the right direction? See, the short sighted person like Esau, he's living for now. He's not worried about eternity.

He's living for now. What will satisfy me now? And that's the deception about sin. There's pleasure in sin. What's the rest of that? For a season.

For a season. I love Titus chapter two that tells us, for the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live righteously, soberly and godly. Where? In this present world, looking unto Jesus, the author or not the author and finisher, looking unto Jesus. No, not looking unto Jesus.

Anyway. Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. The grace of God enables us to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. But the end at the beginning of a new year, we ought to be able to look back with some kind of rejoicing and thanksgiving to God that he gave us grace to say no to sin. And if we if you're sitting here, say, you know what? That's a foreign thought to me.

Right now, as I think back over last year, I don't know. I can't mark a time in my mind where I have the satisfaction of knowing that God gave me grace in the heat of the moment to say no to sin. I've always said yes to sin. Who says yes to sin all the time? Lost man does.

He has no ability to say no. But a Christian has been given grace to say no to sin. So those kinds of exhortations I think are helpful for us to be able to reflect and to assess accurately biblically where we are in our pursuit of God as we're thinking about renewing our spiritual vitality. The short sighted person lives for now. The Esau person lives for the temporal. But the man or woman of God has an eternal perspective, living with eternity's value in view, valuing eternity far more than the temporal.

I love what Jim Elliott said. He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. You'll never be disappointed at saying no to sin and yes to God and yes to righteousness and yes to holiness. Listen to this quotation from Randy Alcorn.

Randy wrote a book entitled Money, Possessions, and Eternity. A startling thing, he says, has happened among Western Christians. Many of us habitually think and act as if there is no eternity or as if what we do in this present life has no bearing on eternity. Being oblivious to eternity leaves us experts in the trivial and novices in the significant.

We can name that tune, name the starting lineup, name the actor's movie debut, name the country's leading expert, export, and detail the differences between computer models or types of four-wheel drives. None of this is wrong, of course, but it is certainly revealing when we consider that most Christians, let alone the general public, do not even have an accurate picture of what the Bible says will happen to us after we die. We major in the momentary and minor in the momentous, end of quote from Randy Alcorn. Well, the challenge tonight is to renew our commitment to spiritual vitality, to recommit ourselves to the pursuit of holiness, to watch out for the pitfalls that will hinder our pursuit of holiness. And number three, to understand what is at stake in your pursuit of holiness. What is at stake here?

Why is this such a big deal? Why is this exhortation so strong? Because there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.

That's why. And from the life of Esau, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot live your life for the temporal and for the now, and at the same time be living your life for eternity. Those two things mix like water and oil.

You can't have it both ways. And notice how verse 17 explains that. For you know that afterward when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

Esau did have an aha moment, but it was too late. When he finally woke up in some extent and realized what he had forsaken, he made a half-hearted attempt to get it back. But the Bible says he found no place for repentance.

Why? Because he selfishly wanted God's blessings, but he didn't want God. He wanted the blessing of God, but he didn't want God. He wanted God's blessing, but not on God's terms.

He wanted it on his own terms. And God doesn't operate that way. You cannot have it both ways. So I think on this second Sunday night of January, it might be very helpful for some here to mentally, in their minds, drive a stake in the ground and say, I'm ashamed of my failures. I'm ashamed of the direction I've lived my life.

I'm ashamed that this has not been on my radar. I'm ashamed when I hear these exhortations. I am driving a stake in the ground. And from this point forward, God helping me with his grace, I'm going to be conscious about this.

I'm going to be intentional about this. I'm going to be begging God for grace and mercy, not to live like Esau. Not to live for the momentary, but to live for eternity.

Because you can't have it both ways. So that's the challenge tonight. To renew our commitment to spiritual vitality by recommitting ourselves to the pursuit of holiness, by watching out for the pitfalls that will hinder our pursuit of holiness, and understanding what's at stake in our pursuit of holiness. What's at stake? Heaven's at stake. Our eternal destination's at stake. It's not my purpose to unsettle anybody here tonight.

None of us have arrived. We're all a work in progress. But God is at work in everyone who he has saved.

If you're a justified sinner tonight, then God is at work sanctifying you. No exceptions to that. There are no exceptions to that.

We agree about that? If you are a justified sinner, God has declared you righteous, made you righteous, acceptable in his sight. He has not put you off to the side.

You're front and center. He's at work in you to conform you more and more to the likeness of his Son. There are no exceptions to that. So there's cause for rejoicing to say, you know what? An awful lot of failures, as I think about last year. But many evidences of grace. I came through those doors on more than one Sunday, feeling defeated, feeling beat up, feeling like I was a lost man, and I sat down to the preaching of the Word, and God invigorated my soul. God came to me and ministered to me through the Word of God. We ought to be able to think about that and rejoice in that, right?

I know you can. And through other means that God uses. There are extraordinary means of grace, and we love that. We love miracles. We love God feeding men with ravens. That's an extraordinary means of grace, but it's extraordinary, right? None of us are going to be fed by ravens, but God has ordinary means of grace. And if we'll give ourselves to the ordinary means of grace, what are those? The ministry of the Word of God, being present when the church gathers, getting engaged with the church body, being ministered to by others, reading the Scriptures on your own, developing a personal devotional life.

Those are the ordinary means of grace that God chooses to bless. It's kind of like you say, well, I don't know. I've tried it. I remember years back, I started in January and I made it to the end of January, but it just didn't seem to make much of a difference. If you went to the doctor and the doctor said to you, the best advice I could give you is to get on a regiment of taking vitamins regularly.

Now, if you took his advice, thought that sounded reasonable, that sounded sound, I understand that would be a good thing to do. Do you take them for a week and go, well, I don't feel that much different. Phooey on this, how long do you have to take vitamins to actually feel different?

I don't know. Most likely it's going to take a couple of years of doing that on a regular basis, but you're going to become conscious, you know what, my overall health is better. Now, here's a man talking to you, he's been sick for two weeks, but I do take my vitamins. But it's like that, right? We don't open the Bible and have our devotions and close it up and go, oh man, do you feel that? That's living on your emotions and feelings and if that's the way you live your life, you're going to fall flat.

No, we feed on the word of God. Some will say, well, I can't. Here people say, I can't remember what I read. Well, can you remember what you ate last week? What's the point? You ate last week, right?

Yeah. You can't remember what you ate, right? But it must have helped you because you're here and you're healthy. That's kind of the way our intake of the word of God to nourish and feed our souls. We need to quit looking for the spectacular and the extraordinary and this feeling that comes upon us.

That's immaturity. I had people come to me and ask me about books. What do you think about Henry Blackaby's book, Experiencing God? I don't like it. You don't like it? No. I don't like its orientation. Too many people have built their Christian life around experiencing God.

All right. Well, what happens when you don't experience God? You're in a ditch. I heard some advice. Well, I heard this adversament on somebody was going to give a talk on how to get from Sunday to Sunday, how to get yourself jacked up so you're not living on fumes from the Sunday high you had on Wednesday, Thursday. You're on fumes.

So what do you do in the middle of the week to keep yourself? I'm like, what? What kind of counsel is that? You know what that kind of counsel that is? That's counsel that grows out of a approach to experiencing God. I want to say one more thing and pray and we'll be done.

Thank you for your attendance, your attention. I'm not trying to fit two sermons into one preaching time, but we talked this morning about Peter and how Jesus had said to him, Simon, Simon, Satan desires to sift you his weight. And he was so confident in himself. And God had a purpose in that because when you go and read 1 and 2 Peter and read those two epistles through the lens of his experience, it's very enlightening, very enlightening. And Peter learned some things and he passed on some strong exhortations based on what he experienced. But one of the things that I didn't mention this morning that comes to my mind tonight is Peter says, he explains in some kind of detail this experience that he had on the monotransfiguration. He said, we were there.

Peter, James and John, we were there. We heard the voice, we saw. And you know, you're thinking, what's he going to say?

Man, I'm longing to have that experience again. No, he says, but we have a more sure word of prophecy. He's a man who had an experience that trumps any experience anybody's probably ever had. He saw Jesus transfigured.

And as great as that was and exhilarating as it was and life-changing as it was, he wasn't building his life on it. We have a more sure word of prophecy. So build your life on the Word of God and don't build your life around experiences. Let's pray. Father, thank you for your word. Thank you for its exhortations. Thank you for loving us enough to exhort us and to challenge us and to remind us of pitfalls. Lord, as we consider the vitality of our Christian life, help us, God, that we might know your grace in the pursuit of holiness, that we might live a life that pleases you and that we might live a life that's effective in our service for you. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-12 11:27:40 / 2023-01-12 11:45:33 / 18

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