Today’s post is something that’s a theme for me as a pastor. I see my job as a shepherd. The job of a shepherd is to get the sheep from one place to another. The job for every pastor is to get his congregation from earth to heaven. But there are some difficulties and they are that 1) there must be a change that takes place in you, in order for you to get from here to there and 2) that change has to be lasting and permanent. You have to grow spiritually. What is growth, it’s overcoming your flesh. In other words there should be a greater distance between you and the sin you struggled with before.
I was sharing some of what I was going to write with someone and they said, “You have to show them how to change.” This person was recommending that I deal with specific sin that I see in people’s lives.
I can easily do that, but to me, I think that you probably already know that some of the activities you’re involved are sin and that you know what they are. You know when you’re sinning. But if you don’t let me offer this:
If you’re smoking, stop it. Smoking is sin. If you’re getting drunk, stop it. If you’re fornicating, fornicating is sin. What is fornicating? It’s sexual intercourse without being married to the person. If you’re stealing, or you’re selfish, or you’re gambling or you’re cheating, all of these things are sin. If you’re doing any of them or all of them you need to stop.
But I wonder if that’s helpful. Because most Christians already understand those things are sin and I believe most Christians are sincere about their salvation. So, I’m offering this post today as help for you; as one way to find deliverance. Deliverance, in a purely practical sense, means that God helps you to quit the sin that plagues. The sin that plagues you is the sin you can’t seem to kick. I think this is the bigger problem, you know that what you’re doing is sin, but you’re not sure how to get past it. There are some things that will help you to find deliverance and today I’m going to highlight those things for you.
Romans 8:5-11 (NKJV)
8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
You Have a Place in the Move of God
We like to think that when we’re dealing with God that God does things for us. But in reality God does things through the decisions we make. He doesn’t pull out a magic wand and just “poof” our problems and addictions away. He works through the decisions we make to empower us to change. If God just changed us without our involvement we wouldn’t need the exhortation of the Bible. We would just pray a prayer and our sinful nature would automatically just disappear. If we are honest with ourselves we realize that none of us have stopped thinking about sin completely.
Why didn’t God take away your sinful nature? Why is it there that are still sins that you can’t shake? It’s because God doesn’t work like that. If He did Adam and Eve would never have sinned in the Garden of Eden. If He did then we wouldn’t ever struggle with sin after we got saved. We do struggle, though, some more than others. How do I know that? I know that because I know that I sometimes struggle, too.
So the question becomes, “How can I ever find deliverance?” First, you will never be completely free from sin this side of Heaven. The default position for us is to live in our flesh. We’re carnal beings, carnal means, of meat or flesh. In other words we have appetites that relate to making ourselves feel good. We all want to feel good. The Bible calls it the “pleasures of sin for a season.” Why drink? It feels good; it temporarily makes us forget our problems. Why fornicate? It feels good; we feel what feels like love. That’s why we sin because it makes us feel good and we all want to feel good.
I’m sure if you examine whatever sin you are involved in you will see that in some way it makes you feel good and because of that it’s difficult to escape sin. It goes against our nature. There is good news, though, and that is that sin can be overcome. We just have to take action to make it happen.
Romans 6:6 (NKJV)
6:6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
So, there it is, we have to crucify the old man. All that really means is that we put the will of God before our appetites or as our text puts it, be those, “who live according to the spirit.” Be spiritually minded rather than carnally minded. If the default position is to be carnally minded, then how do we overcome to be spiritually minded? We have to make a decision to overcome the flesh and then take the actions necessary to make it happen. Our desire to live in our flesh is relentless, it’s like a flood, it just comes no matter what. The Bible tells us the enemy also comes in like a flood.
Isaiah 59:19 (NKJV)
59:19 So shall they fear The name of the Lord from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.
He comes in like a flood; he’s relentless in his temptations. God will lift a banner against him. Do you know what a banner was used for? A banner was a call to the battle. It showed the place where the battle was taking place. God raises the banner but we have to fight the battle.
The devil relentlessly drives us to live in the flesh. He doesn’t force sin on us he only appeals to that appetite to feel good. We call it temptation and it’s relentless. Everywhere we look we see something that is appealing to that desire to feel good. The only way to overcome sin in your life is to stop the flood of temptation.
Deliverance 101: Damming the Flood
If this were a college course today we would call it "Deliverance 101: Damming up the Flood." Let me start with an illustration:
Say that you live near the beach. Your House is right on the beach, and every night the tide comes in and destroys it. You build it as strong as you know how, but every time the tide comes in; it comes in like a flood and destroys your house. So you decide to build a brick wall to keep the ocean out.
A wall will keep the water out. A wall will protect your home from the flood. So, how you build the wall will depend on how valuable your home is to you. If you don’t care too much you will just do what’s easy and hope for the best. If your home is valuable to you, you will do whatever it takes to protect it. So, how valuable is your home?
Let’s go back to our illustration: You start to lay the bricks and at first you are very careful to put the bricks in. But the work is hard and the bricks are heavy, and it stops being fun to think about how well your house will be protected. So you skip a brick here and there.
This is how a person who doesn’t place a lot of value of their home will build the wall. He’s done what’s easy. He didn’t invest too much into the protection of his home. There are people in church who think that way about their salvation. They think, “I’m getting enough of the word of God at one service a week.” They think, “I don’t need to read my Bible. I don’t really need to pray that much. I can be late every service and miss out on worship. I can just attend church once a week…mostly…and it’ll be all right; but do you know what you’re really doing. You’re leaving bricks put of your wall and every time you leave out a brick it leaves a hole in the wall that the tide can come through. If you leave out too many bricks when the tide comes in your wall won’t stop it from destroying your home again. If the wall has too many holes it’s worthless as a protection against the flood.
Those things I mentioned, church, Bible, praying, worship, those are opportunities to enter into the presence of God. Every time we’re in the presence of God we strengthen our faith and our resolve to live for Him. Every time we’re in the presence of God we add another brick in the wall. If we build a good strong wall, we’ll keep out the flood. Living in the Spirit is really just living for Jesus.
Secondly, we will never overcome sin through willpower. We can’t say, “I’m not going to sin,” and keep sin from happening. Say, for example your sin is drinking. You can’t keep yourself from drinking just by saying, “I’m not going to drink. I’m not going to drink. I’m not going to drink.” Ask any sobriety counselor. They will tell you you’re always a recovering alcoholic not an ex-drunk. Let me illustrate a truth for you.
Don’t think about a pink elephant. Don’t think about its big floppy ears. Don’t think about the little purple flowers printed across its back. Don’t think of the big trunk with all its wrinkles. Don’t think about it! What were you thinking about? You were thinking about a pink elephant.
If you’re using willpower to stop drinking and you say, “I’m not going to drink.” What are you thinking about? The answer is obviously drinking. Now, think about a green giraffe. Look at the long neck. Look at how it reaches into the trees to eat leaves. Look at how it wiggles its ears, the way it chews slowly. What are you thinking about now? You’re not thinking about a Pink Elephant.
If we concentrate on not sinning what we’re really concentrating on is the sin. But if we turn our thoughts toward Jesus and we concentrate on Him we’re not thinking about the sin. So, how do we focus our thoughts on Jesus? At church we preach about Him. In our Bibles we read about Him. When we pray, we have direct access and conversation with Him. The more we concentrate on Him the less we think about the sin and how good it feels.
Third, what we receive from our salvation is in direct proportion to what we put into it. If we put forth a lot of effort we will have a large return. It’s like bank interest. The bank used to actually give interest that amounted to something. They don’t anymore, well; they still give interest it just doesn’t amount to much anymore. Your interest was given based on what you put in the bank. If you wanted more interest you had to deposit more money. The same is true of Christianity: if you want more from God you have to put more into receiving from Him.
We expect God to do for us. Some of you look at God as someone who exists to meet your needs. However, what you receive from God in terms of deliverance is in direct proportion to what you do to overcome.
I had a friend who was a heavy smoker. He smoked more than one pack of cigarettes a day. He always said, “God is going to deliver me one day,” but do you know what happened? He died of Lung Cancer. He expected God to “poof” away the sin, so he never took the step to get rid of his cigarettes. He never stopped smoking. He never threw them away and took the steps to build a wall against it. Had he done those things God could have delivered him.
If we want deliverance we have to take the steps to get it. We have to make sure that we keep the holes out of our wall of protection. We have to learn to focus our minds on Jesus and his plan for our lives, and we have to be willing to take the steps to receive deliverance. Deliverance is a partnership with God
Deliverance is a Partnership with God
I hear people say, sometimes, “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” There’s no rule in the Bible that says, “You will attend church!!!” but did you know that Jesus attended church, regularly?
Luke 4:16 (NKJV)
4:16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
4:16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
That verse right there tells us that Jesus regularly attended synagogue. He went to church. If you are a follower of Christ, that’s what Christian means, are you following Him to church? Another illustration:
Diets have directions. They tell you that you can and can’t eat certain foods: That you have to eat certain amounts and quantities of certain things. If you follow the instructions you will have success in your diet. But what if you change the instructions and don’t follow the diet and basically do whatever you want? Will you lose weight? Maybe, but it will only be by accident, not because you followed the diet.
There are guidelines to help you find deliverance, but you have to follow them. I’ve heard the Bible called “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” The Bible has instructions that will help you to live out your salvation successfully, In other words to make it to heaven, but you need to read the instructions.
There are a lot of people these days that are struggling with doubt and confusion. The problem is that you’re not following the directions. For example, in our church, I never know if people are coming or not. I’m usually worried in the moments before Church starts because the place is empty. Someone who wants to protect their home, because they see it as valuable is going to be there to make sure they get all the bricks they need.
Worship service is a part of the service. It helps to prepare you to receive the word of God, but some don’t give it any importance and that’s a mistake. Worship will help you to focus on Jesus and take your mind off the sin.
Sin is oppression. It’s a hardship. Serving God is a blessing. I have to be honest, as a pastor, I’m concerned, because I see some people beginning to struggle and doubt. I’m seeing them have less and less interest in their salvation. I’m seeing them leave more and more bricks out of their walls and I know the outcome of that.
There is a guy who spent four years in my church. Over the years he gradually started coming less and less. First, it was a couple of weeks a month. Then he would come one month on and one month off. Then he missed five months in a row. I tried to talk to him about it and he got offended and now he says he won’t come back. You know that is? That’s a guy whose wall couldn’t hold back the flood. In every church there are others who are going in that same direction. It won’t help for them to get mad at their pastor for telling them the truth. It will help for them to seek the power of Jesus to change your life and deliver you from sin. Deliverance comes through Jesus Christ. It’s about resurrection power. We’re dead in sin but raised to eternal life through Jesus. It’s a partnership with God…You have your role to play.