Sunday, November 24, 2013

Walking Dead, Finale

Walking Dead, Finale

Well here we are at the end of our series The Walking Dead.  It was been a seven week journey though Biblical accounts of people who were given their lives back.  Sometimes it was simply metaphorically, in the case of the 10 lepers that we looked at on Thanksgiving Sunday.  These people weren’t literally dead, but they might as well have been. When they were diagnosed with leprosy they were declared to be dead, they had to leave their homes and their communities.  Their spouses were permitted to remarry and their estates were divided amongst their heirs.  And so when Jesus spoke, and they were healed they were literally given their lives back.  It was like they had been dead, and then they were alive.

But in the rest of the cases we looked at we see those who were literally dead.  They had no life in them, the word that was used in the original accounts was Nekros, which was the Greek word for dead, and there was no other meaning.

The title for our series comes from the AMC television series by the same title and the show focuses on a Deputy Sheriff by the name of Rick Grimes who is wounded in a shoot-out and wakes up in a deserted hospital.  When he ventures outside he discovers himself in a post-apocalyptic world that is now inhabited with zombie or walkers as they are called in the series.  So for three seasons, now into their fourth Grimes and a group of survivors have been fighting the walkers and trying to find the cause of the plague.

We have mentioned several times for those who have been concerned that we might be straying over to the dark side with all this talk of Zombies, these arent the zombies of voodoo and witchcraft, more frighteningly is that this was caused by something of this world.  And in a world with biological warfare and the jury still out on GMOs who knows this might be a reality someday.

My personal view is that this is all a nightmare that Rick is having in the hospital, that when he wakes up the world will be normal again and the series will be over.

So with that said, we need to introduce this mornings message with a spoiler that happened in the last episode of the second season.  So if youve been working your way through the series and havent gotten to the last episode of the second series this would be a good time to put your fingers in your ears and sing, La, la, la, la, la. 

Because in that episode Rick finally tells the group what he learned at the CDC, the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta.  He says “Were all infected. At the C.D.C., Jenner told me. Whatever it is, we all carry it. 

Up until that time the survivors felt like they were different than the walkers, that they were safe, but now they realize that there isnt much that separates them from those they fear.

Sometimes as Christ Followers we separate ourselves from others thinking that what makes us different is something within us.  There are times that we are guilty of being like the story Jesus told in Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I dont cheat, I dont sin, and I dont commit adultery. Im certainly not like that tax collector!  It’s so easy to get into that “I’m so glad I’m not like those people” mode.
But you see, a dog isnt a dog because he barks, he barks because hes a dog.  And people arent sinners because they sin, they sin because they are sinners.  We are told in Isaiah 64:6 We are all infected and impure with sin.   You see whatever it is, we all carry it.  The theologians call it inherent depravity or original sin, but the truth is; we all carry the sin gene.
So lets go back to the scripture that was read earlier, specifically the fifth verse of Ephesians 2 where we read, Ephesians 2:5 Even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by Gods grace that you have been saved!)

What does it mean to be dead?  What is this death that we talk about?   Well it was Alice Thomas Ellis who wrote, Death is the last enemy: once weve got past that I think everything will be alright.  

It was Timothy Leary who wrote “How you die is the most important thing you ever do. It’s the exit, the final scene of the glorious epic of your life. It’s the third act and, you know, everything builds up to the third act.” And Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who observed  “Dying is something we human beings do continuously, not just at the end of our physical lives on this earth.”

 And I think we all share the sentiments of the tombstone that ReadI expected this but not yet”.

The words, death, dead or dying are mention over 1300 times in the Bible.  The past six weeks we have looked at what begin dead means and more importantly what not being dead means.  The question I need to ask today is this, Are you dead?

You say, “don’t be foolish preacher, I ain't dead.”  For the most part we understand that.  We know that you aren’t physically dead.  But are you spiritually dead?  Are you walking this old earth alive in the body but dead in the spirit?  Are you one of the Walking Dead?

In each of the cases that we looked at during our series, there were those who were dead.  Lazarus was dead, the widows son was dean, Eutychus was dead and Jarius’ daughter was dead.

And so these provides for us an illustrative base from which to proceed with the analysis of the aforementioned inquiry into the metaphysical condition of your soul.  That is to say those who were dead will be our example.  Are you dead?  Well the only way you can know for sure that you are not dead is to know that you are alive.

Now understand we aren’t talking about the undead here, we are talking about the dead dead.   The undead don’t exist, there are no Zombies or Walkers.  Regardless of what you look like before your first cup of coffee.  Dead is dead and alive is alive. 

1) The Dead Have No Appetite. When a man is dead, food no longer holds any interest for him.  You can have filet mignon wrapped in bacon, stuffed mushroom caps, baked potatoes, sour cream and chives and fresh strawberries and cream and he won’t care.  Dead people don’t have Big Mac attacks.  They don’t crave for food.  Pizza, ice cream, burgers, fries, not even Chinese food interests the dead man.  While a man is alive he gets hungry on a regular basis, some of us more regular then others.  The dead man though is unmoved by food. 

One of the symptoms of the spiritual dead man is a lack of appetite for God.  Now lack of appetite for God does not necessarily mean lack of appetite for church.  The problem here is that many people get God and church confused.  You can have an appetite for church without having an appetite for God. 

Your church appetite may be because you like the music, or perhaps the preaching, or because it is a social occasion, maybe it adds to your prestige.  There can be many reasons why you like church and God may not come into the picture at all.  No hunger for God indicates a lack of spiritual appetite, which is usually indicative of spiritual deadness.

One of the easiest ways to diagnose your appetite is by watching what you eat.  I love burgers!  When we eat out the first thing I look for on the menu is there burgers.  I have often regreted not ordering the burger but seldom have I regretted ordering the burger.  This gourmet burger craze is heaven for me.  I could eat burgers seven nights a week.  I haven’t but probably could have burgers for breakfast.  I have an appetite for pizza, I should have that type of appetite for fruit and vegetables, and even though I like a good crisp slightly tart apple I prefer burgers. 

Through the years Angela love chocolate, dark chocolate, light chocolate, milk chocolate any type of chocolate.  When our kids were home we knew what their favorite foods were, Stephen was really into very expensive seafood, lobster and scallops and the like, he never actually bought them but he certainly enjoyed eating them.  When Deborah was in high school she developed a real love for soup.    It’s very easy to tell what we our appetites are if you know us. 

It’s the same in the intellectual & spiritual level as well, what are you feeding on?  Do you have a desire to feed on the things of God?  Where do you feed your soul?  Do you feed your appetite in front of the idiot box or reading God’s word?  Now I’m not advocating throwing your television out but it cannot supersede the time you spend with God.  When you read your bible you are feeding on the things of God, after all he did call it the bread of life.

Some people can’t figure out why they don’t grow spiritually, there’s a good chance that it’s because they don’t feed on the word of God.  Back when computers were still in their infancy there was a term that said, “Garbage in, Garbage out.”  And that applies to our spiritual lives as well.

If you are only being fed by Ellen,  CSI and Duck Dynasty you probably aren’t getting the spiritual nutrition that you need, even if the Robertsons pray at the end of every episode.  If your view of the world is shaped entirely by Fox News, Time Magazine and CNN you probably aren’t seeing the world with God’s eyes. 

Do realize that during the year we have a half a dozen Life Groups happening through the week at Cornerstone?  Catering to virtually every group in the church, they are an opportunity to feed on the things of God.  But just as other people can’t physically eat for you they can’t spiritually eat for you either.

Do you have an appetite for the word of God?  Do you seek it out or do you find it boring?  Do you feed on what God says or do you have no appetite for the things of God?  No appetite means no life and that means that you are dead.

And even though you might fake your appetite, God knows what it really is.  I’ve obtained a reputation through the years as being a real coffee hound, someone who drinks a pile of coffee, (can you pile coffee).  But I don’t really, I usually drink two cups of coffee in the run of an average day, don’t drink any coffee at home and yet people perceive me to be big coffee drinker.  Sometimes we can give the impression that we have an appetite for the things of God but it’s just an illusion.

2) The Dead Have No Activity.  A strange thing about dead people is that they are usually very still.  No matter that they had been quite active previously, when they die they have to stop, I mean they have no choice.  That’s going to be the hardest thing for me when I die, it will take me three days just to get caught up with the work I have to do.

Lazarus, Eutychus, the widows son and Jarius’ daughter had all been normal active people, but when they died they became motionless.  They were without activity.  The spiritually dead person is usually without activity.  Somebody else can lead or host a life group, work with the teens, help with the children’s ministry, work on the social committee, serve on the board.

Now it’s not that they are totally without activity, it’s just that they are just without kingdom activity.  They find time for other activities, duties and functions but they never have time to work in the church, strange thing that.  There’s room in their lives for the Lions Club or school activities or sports activities, but if you ask them to commit time to ministry, they will tell you “Well Pastor, family comes first.”  Well actually if the truth was known family probably comes twelfth after work, play, hobbies, school, sports, television, friends, yard work, the cottage, fishing, crafts and defleaing the dog.  But God’s work definitely comes after family, regardless of what rank family actually is.

3) The Dead Have No Direction.  Now that is really redundant because lack of motion translates so often into lack of direction.  Those who were dead didn’t have to know what direction to go in cause they weren’t moving, they was quite content to head in whatever direction they’d been laid in.

Sometimes though we are moving but we’re not sure what direction we are supposed to be going.  It’s like we’re all guys who don’t want to admit that we don’t know the way and we certainly aren’t going to ask for directions.  But guess what?  We got to.   

Many people sense a lack of spiritual direction in their life but it’s cause they ain’t asked the way.  If you want to know where God wants you to you gotta ask.  And when you talk to God that’s called prayer.  A sign of spiritual deadness is a lack of spiritual growth or spiritual direction. 

God does not direct the dead.  Doesn’t have to cause they’re not going anywhere. 

4) The Dead Have No Love at one time those who were dead had probably loved all kinds of people, their friends and their family.  People that they went to the synagogue with.

But when they died their love died with them.  Dead people can’t express their love and neither do dead churches.  The spiritual appetite, spiritual activity and spiritual direction, which we have seen is indicative of life, must ultimately produce Love.  A love that touches people and communities for the lord Jesus Christ. 

How is your love quotient?  How do you exhibit your love to the people who surround you?  And not only do we have to love people, but we need to tell people that we love them.  We need to express our love now because there will come a time that we are unable to express it. 

In the Book of the Revelation, which is the last book of the Bible Jesus spoke to the Church in Ephesus, which is the same church that the scripture that was read earlier was written to.  And He commended them for all they did and then he said this Revelation 2:4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”
That’s not necessarily something I would want said about me or about this church.  I truly believe that if we were to try and find a secret weapon for reaching people it would be love.  Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek Community Church just outside of Chicago makes this statement.  “If you create a loving community, first time seekers will sniff it and say “I want in.”  Crusty old veteran believers whose hearts have shut down will warm up again.  Arrogant people will have their pride melted.”  That’s my desire for Cornerstone.

How do you measure up?  Are you dead or alive?  If there’s no appetite, activity, direction, or love then it’s probably time to take a spiritual pulse, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that you won’t find a pulse at all.

You have expired, deceased, passed away, you’re no longer with us, you’ve kicked the bucket, you’re done dead.  You may not think so, but like Christ said in Revelation 3:1 “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.”
Well then if you’re dead then what do you need, well there are some who say all that people need is a good example, and there are those who do their very best to provide that good example for society. But  let’s face it have you ever tried to be a good example to a dead person?  It is really quite hopeless.

Oh no someone says, what they really needs is encouragement, they need to know that the possibilities are endless.  Now I think that encouragement is wonderful, enthusiasm is contagious.  But you can never encourage a dead man to be anymore then dead. 

Others would tell us that the most important thing is a person’s environment, that if we can get them out of their negative environment that everything will be all right.  But face it even if a dead man’s not in the funeral parlor he’s still just as dead.  

And education isn’t the answer either.  As important as education is, you can’t educate the dead, although some of my high school teachers certainly tried.  But face it if a person is dead then their most pressing need is life.  Very simple, when you are dead what you need more than anything is to be alive.  The word life or live is mention 1458 times in the bible, that’s almost one hundred more incidence then death.

You say fair enough preacher I need life where do I get it from.  After Lazarus died his sister asked Jesus the same question and here is his reply, John 11:25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.
And he told the disciples in  in John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
Life can only be given by the life giver and that is Christ.  He gives life, not in teaspoons but in buckets, in 100-gallon drums.  John 10:10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.  
Let’s go back the scripture we started with Ephesians 2:4-5 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 

So did you catch that?  Because Jesus didn’t stay dead, we don’t have to stay dead.  But it’s not because of how good you are, it’s not because of what you do, it’s all because of what Jesus did and what Jesus offers.  That is what grace is all about, remember, getting what we don’t deserve. 

Next Sunday we are planning a believer’s baptism in both services, and that is a fitting way to end this series on the dead being given new life, listen to what Paul writes to the believers in the city of Rome.  Romans 6:3-4 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Do you see the symbolism?  We died to our old lives and were buried with Christ by baptism.  And then just as Jesus was raised from the dead we are raised in baptism.  I truly believe that Baptism is the first step of obedience for a Christ follower and if you have taken the challenge of following Christ but have resisted his command to be baptised I would challenge you as to why.  What has stood in your way of obeying that command?  If you think believer’s baptism isn’t necessary then you need to go back and reread the New Testament and see what Paul said about baptism, what John said about baptism, what Peter said about baptism and what Jesus said about baptism. 

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