April 11, 2021
The Power of His Presence
Overcoming the Wretched Man Syndrome
Sunday, April 11th, 2021
Welcome! We had such an awesome Easter weekend remembering and rejoicing in the complete and finished work Jesus did on the cross for us, and all who believe in Him! We have been set free from the power of sin over us. We have been redeemed and made righteous before our holy God because of the blood of Christ that was shed, making peace for our sin. We have been given new life because Christ chooses to make our heart His home and His Spirit lives in us. We have a whole new meaning and purpose for living, to glorify God and reflect the love of Christ in this world around us! We are His ambassadors here on this earth, sent out to use the gifts He has placed within us not on our own, but as part of the Body of Christ, working with all other parts of the Body to build His Church. We each have a role in advancing His kingdom here on earth. How cool is all of this?
We scarce can take it all in, right? When we truly step back and ponder the magnitude of what we have been given; it’s summed up in this truth: we have Christ Himself in us! The hope of glory-living in you and me!
For too many they don’t fully realize the gift they have. They believe in Jesus. They pray for Jesus to help them and others they love. They listen to His Word and even read it, but they never fully accept and receive the gift God offers them. This gift is the power of His presence in a continual flow in and through their lives. Too many continue to live independent of Christ and call on Jesus only in times of need and then forget about His presence the rest of their days. Too many call for help, but then take the reins back because they have a better plan or are impatient and want results now. Too many work so hard trying to be good for God and end up failing miserably over and over again, frustrated about what they are doing wrong.
Jesus Christ Himself is our gift. Not just for a promise to join Him in heaven one day and avoid eternal damnation for our sin, but He is our gift here and now in this life. He is with us in every way now. He tells us for those who believe in Him a river of life will well up inside them. He is the river-His presence welling up inside of us as our life source and guide.
But like any gift we receive, it’s only valuable and useful as we use it. If you receive a gift but keep it in the package it came in and tuck it away in a closet so it stays safe from harm; what enjoyment do you have from it? What use is it to you? More than likely it will become out of sight and out of mind, until you clean out that closet and remember, “Oh yeah I forgot all about this.” Still in mint condition, but completely unused and never enjoyed.
So it can be with our gift of Jesus Himself. If we are not tuned to Him- listening and looking for His flow within, we can become numb to His presence. We can forget He is with us and act solo in our own power. We can become filled with fear, anxiety, depression, anger by trying to handle the pressures of this world on our own. This is not for you and me. We have Christ in us. We have His mind, His power, His wisdom, His strength and courage. We have His peace and everything we need to lead a godly life by His power at work in us. This is the key!
Let’s pray and invite His presence to fill this place and our hearts as we worship Him. Let us be willing to invite Him to move in us and encounter Him through His Spirit today. Open your heart to experience our Living God.
THIS is what we’ll be focusing on in this series, becoming aware of His presence and learning to host His presence naturally in your days.
I am nearing completion in a course I have been taking that focuses on this and really helps us discern what it means to have Christ living in us. The author of a couple of the books and one who put the course content together, is also president of the school I attend. Prior to getting this school established he was a pastor for many years and through his journey he learned to naturally flow in the Spirit of Christ on a daily basis. Notice I said “learned”. Because this is not natural for any of us. We all have to learn to tune to the Spirit within us and hear His voice. He said even serving as a pastor for the first 10 years, he didn’t have the right understanding of the truth, “Christ in me.” He preached his heart out week after week and yet had a member come up and lovingly say to him, “I can’t hear one more sermon on what I’m supposed to do as a Christian. I am failing miserably at all this and all it does is create more guilt in me. I just can’t do it.”
That really hit him and he had to admit, he felt the same. The more he studied and wanted to learn about following Christ, the heavier his burden felt.
Have you ever felt like this? Like you can never measure up as a good Christian-you constantly get it wrong? Or that you could never possibly do all the things we’re told to do in the Bible-it’s just too much? Do you walk around feeling guilty or in shame for your failings and shortcomings?
Is the load heavy to be a good Christian?
The pastor knew Jesus said, “29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 29-30.
His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Either Jesus was wrong or the pastor, like so many of us, was missing something. I’m banking on the latter that we are missing something in understanding this truth when we walk around with heavy burdens.
If you can relate, you’re in good company. Even the Apostle Paul who wrote much of the New Testament struggled with a seemingly endless inner battle. He wanted to do the things that would glorify God but recognized instead of doing those things far too often, he reverted back to doing things he knew he shouldn’t be. Things that gratified his own desires vs. living for Christ.
Does this sound familiar-whether it be our thoughts or our actions?
Paul refers to this as the Wretched Man Syndrome. We all live this to some degree. We can be consumed by this and when we are, being a Christian, is not very much fun honestly. It’s the opposite of fun and joyful. It’s painful, frustrating, disappointing and overwhelming. Paul identifies what causes this syndrome and what the answer is to overcoming it.
Here’s a hint that kicks off this entire series we’ll be in: it’s all about hosting HIS presence! It’s all about Jesus.
Romans 7: 15, 20-25 NIV
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
- The Illusion of “I”
We as humans live under different illusions in our lives. One of them being that “I” can control my life, and that I am in control. We can deceive ourselves and try to believe this is truth, but it’s not. We may want to control, but we’re definitely not in control. Just look back over this past year and see how many things were and are outside of your control.
This truth gets especially important when it comes to our faith. Do we believe Jesus truly is the Son of God sent down from heaven to be our sacrifice and redeemer from the penalty of sin? Do we believe He died and rose again and His Spirit now lives in us?
I would venture to guess all believers would say YES I believe this!
So then what is our understanding of who controls our life? Is Christ merely coming along for the ride with us still in the driver’s seat? Is He merely there to assist us should we call on Him?
OR is He truly Lord of our lives as we say He is? Is He living through us now?
When we first believe in Jesus and receive Him as our Lord and Savior it is an act of faith. We simply believe in our hearts and we receive His Spirit. It’s wonderful and we’re filled with joy and hope! But then after a while as we try to learn how to live as a Christian, we want to look to rules and regulations to be our guide rather then feeling the flow of the Spirit in us. What happens when rules become more important than the flow of the Spirit? Over 2500 different denominations pop up for one; man starts operating in his own ability to uphold the Law or the rules and therefore put him/herself right back into slavery under the Law. The very Law that Jesus died to free us from so that we might live in Him.
The Galatians struggled with this too. They freely believed as the Gospel was shared; but then in time they started listening to others about things you needed to do to be a good Christian. They started mixing rules from the Law back in and everything was getting very confusing and muddied. Can you relate?
Paul asked them this question and it’s one we need to answer to.
Galatians 3: 2-3 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
If we receive the Holy Spirit by our believing in Christ, which comes from faith in who He is and it has nothing to do with anything we did or how good we are. Why would maturing in our faith have anything to do with our own abilities? Do you hear me today? To grow in the fullness of Christ-has nothing to do with how many good works we do or how many rules we follow. It has everything to do with realizing He is within us and letting His presence manifest more and more in and through us.
Growing in Christ is not following rules; it’s following Him!
Galatians 2:20 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
2. Inner Wars
But until we really receive this revelation that we no longer live; it is Christ who lives in and through us, we have inner turmoil. We have inner wars between our flesh (what we want) and the Spirit (what God wants). Our flesh will never be in agreement with God. It repels God. Our spirit joined with His Spirit, will always desire the will of God. It can’t want anything different. It is our spirit who desires the presence of God, not our flesh.
Romans 8: 6-7 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
Do you hear the difference?
Here’s a practical example we all know and struggle with:
We are called to love our enemies.
Anyone groaning at this one? Eye rolling? Why? Because we don’t want to love someone who comes against us.
Our response is to defend ourselves or our stance and attack back- or disassociate with them. Fight or flight right?
But as a Christian we know shouldn’t do either. We should love them. So we say to ourselves through gritted teeth, “I will love this person if it kills me!” Insert forced smile. And it will feel like it’s killing you.
But if you are strong willed you can outwardly force yourself to show the appearances of loving that person-inside you will be having not so loving feelings expressed. Or maybe you feel dead inside because by will you have forced yourself to shut down any anger or hostility towards another.
How often do we do something like this? How are we really feeling about Christianity when we try to live in this manner?
We try to be good. We try to do right and all the while we have this inner war raging inside us.
Try evangelizing in these moments! “Doesn’t this sound grand? You too could be like me and have all this! Accept Christ and you could be filled with inner war, guilt, tension and condemnation! Don’t you want what I have?!”
“Ummm…no thanks. My life is complicated enough.” Which makes us feel even more miserable because we’re not drawing anyone to Christ either. In fact, we’re probably repelling them from Christ. Truth be known.
Do we really think this is what Jesus meant when He said love your enemies? To just fake it outwardly and rage against them inwardly? Is He setting us up to fail? We’re supposed to experience love, joy and peace in Christ.
Did you catch that? We experience love, joy and peace IN Christ.
You and I won’t be able to truly love our enemies in our own ability-we will fail and it will feel awful. But IN Christ we call upon His love that is perfect and abiding in us, to flow through us towards that person. We call Christ to love them because He does and we ask for His eyes to see that person as He sees them. We ask for His understanding and compassion to manifest in and through us. IN Christ we do experience love, joy and peace, even with our enemies.
Romans 8:13 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Living in the flesh leads to death. Our physical bodies will eventually die and they begin to fail as we age or get sick. We all know this. Our habits that feed our fleshly desires also lead to death. Maybe not a physical death, but death to life, peace and joy. Think about when you are most alive and full? Is it when you are completely consumed with self and giving into your every whim and pleasure? Or when you are others focused and giving to them? The latter right? By God’s design. We find life and peace in the Spirit as we act in what the Spirit tells us to do.
Notice the key to who is putting to death the misdeeds of the body. Is it you or me? No. If by the Spirit you put the misdeeds of the body, you will live!
This means we stop striving in our own power and we draw forth the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the one with the power to put to death the misdeeds of the body. You won’t overcome addiction in your own power. You won’t stop lying in your own power. You won’t change your eating habits in your own power. You won’t stop the cycle of negative thinking in your own power. You won’t stop being consumed by anxious thoughts or living in fear in your own power. It won’t happen and you know it, because you have tried and failed. Maybe again and again right? We need to stop living according to the flesh and start releasing the power of the Spirit in and through us.
We need to take “I” out of the equation and insert Christ. For whom the Son sets free is free indeed!
3. Set Free by the Law of the Spirit
You see we were never designed to live on our own. We are a vessel created to be filled by the presence of God. We were never meant to live under the Law after Christ died and resurrected, because we can’t fulfill it. Only Christ could and did. Through Christ we have been set free from the burden of the Law and we now live by faith in what Christ has already accomplished. We are free in the law of the Spirit because the Spirit aligns with the will of God.
Romans 8: 1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:14-15 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 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.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
His Spirit at work in us is transforming us into His image. It is not by our ability or doing. It is His presence manifesting in us transforming us from glory to glory.
Conclusion: Salvation through Jesus brings peace, joy and lightness to our souls and spirit. We live in this truth as we honor Christ who lives through us. Let us remember it is not about our striving, but all about releasing His presence. Let us rest in the finished work of Christ in and through us. How freeing is this?
Let’s pray: Father God we thank You for the gift of Your Son Jesus who died for us, to pay the ransom for our sins; who rose from the grave and sits at Your right hand today and forever reigning supreme over all creation. We thank You for the gift of sealing us with Your Holy Spirit, that is Christ in us, as we believe in Him! He is with us all the time and we have His presence and power to draw from always. Help us Lord not to be consumed by the desires of our flesh or to strive to be good and do right in our own power, but rather let us yield to Your Spirit’s flow within us that leads to life and peace. Help us seek and ask for a greater manifestation of Your presence. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Ephesians 3: 20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Final Blessing: 1 Thessalonians 5: 23-24 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.