Sunday, May 22, 2016

Enough with the Selfies

Enough with the selfies.

And you thought that selfies were harmless.  When selfies first came out I thought taking pictures of yourself with a cell phone was a passing fad.  But no, it seems that they are here to stay.  All kinds of people are taking pictures of themselves, from the famous to the unknown. 

And they take their pictures with their new clothes and their old clothes, blue clothes and no clothes.  Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book.  They take their selfies at births, weddings and funerals. There seems to be no limit to where or when someone will take a selfie.  But in case, like me, you thought selfies were a new fad here are Arnold and Ellen Hog using the first selfie stick ever in 1926.

And while they may seem like harmless fun there has recently been a number of studies linking the habit to Narcissism, (that is self-love), addictive personality traits and other mental health issues.

And selfies aren’t new, before you could take a picture of yourself there was always the person who was demanding that you take a picture of them.  If you go back through your prints you will find them, at birthday parties, weddings and family events.  Even though it wasn’t their birthday party, their wedding or their family.

And long before there were camera’s there were selfies, I mentioned the link between selfies and Narcissism.  The term Narcissistic means “love of self” and it comes from a Greek myth about the young hunter Narcissus.  Narcissus was known for his beauty and he was his own biggest fan. 

One day while walking by a pool he saw his own reflection in the water and not realizing that it was just a reflection he fell in love with it.  

Unable to pull himself away from his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live and he stared at his reflection until he died. 

And the philosophy of selfies goes clear back to the fall of mankind, the idea and question of “What’s in it for me.”   But it doesn’t end there, I read somewhere that Alice Roosevelt once said of her father Theodore, “Father always had to be the centre of attention, when he went to a wedding he wanted to be the bride.  When he went to a funeral, he was sorry he couldn’t be the corpse.”

And well this focus on self has been around forever, it is a philosophy that fits in with the concept of Holiness that we’ve been talking about for the past couple of weeks?

We started by talking about the Call of Holiness and it was there that we discovered that Holiness is being completely sold out to God’s will for our lives.  And last week we looked at the Way of Holiness and peeked into Isaiah 35 where the prophet told about the Highway of Holiness.  And we discovered that when we stayed on the highway of God’s will that we would be safe from the Devil and that it was a way that ultimately led to heaven. 

And so this week we are looking at “The Price of Holiness”.    And maybe you are thinking “a price, I thought holiness would be free?”  Well it is free but it’s not cheap. 

Because if living a Holy Life means that God is in control then it means that self has to relinquish control, and that is costly.

Paul was so serious about that concept that he tells us in the scripture that was read this morning Romans 6:6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.

And that is a metaphor that he uses over and over again in his writing, listen to the words he wrote in the book of Galatians when he says Galatians 2:20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Did you catch that?  “Our sinful selves were crucified with Christ and my old self has been crucified with Christ.”  Wow, and in 2016 that statement really doesn’t mean a lot to us, but 2000 years ago it was an incredibly powerful statement because crucifixion was something that everybody was at least somewhat familiar with. 

It's only been in the past hundred years that civilized societies have stopped killing people in public.   As a matter of fact, it’s been almost 150 years since the last public hanging occurred in Canada. And while the last public execution happened in Canada in 1869 and in the US in 1936 public executions still happen in countries around the word and they remain the same type of spectacle that there were 2000 years ago.

When Paul wrote to the Galatians crucifixion was a common form of punishment in the Roman empire and they were done where everyone could see them.  So when Paul told the early believers that they needed to crucify themselves if they wanted to live a holy life they knew exactly what he meant.  But do we?

What does it mean to have crucified your old self?  And how do we do that?

Let’s start with the fact that while It’s Simple, It’s not Easy  Isn’t that the reality of life.  In case you are wondering I have lost right around 60 lbs in the past 15 months. Actually people will often ask how much weight I’ve lost and I tell them a thousand pounds, but recently 60.  I feel like Erma Bombeck who said “In two decades I've lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.”

I have discovered that losing weight is simple, but it’s not easy.  All you have to do to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than your body needs.  That’s simple.  You figure out how many calories your body needs each day to maintain your present weight and then you eat less than that. 

It was celebrity trainer Subodh Gupta who wrote “If you keep on eating unhealthy food than no matter how many weight loss tips you follow, you are likely to retain weight and become obese. If only you start eating healthy food, you will be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to lose weight.”    Sure sounds simple enough.   And so I use the Weight Watcher Plan and use the app on my phone to track what I eat.  Simple, right?

But it’s not easy because I really like food, and the food I like isn’t the food that I can eat lots of.  And sometimes I just feel like eating something that doesn’t fit in my plan, or at least doesn’t fit in my plan at the end of the day.  And while in theory it’s simple, it kind of goes back to what Yogi Berra said “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.”

And so in theory, living a holy life is simple.  You simply do what God wants you to do.  Done.  But what about in practice?

But it’s not easy, and those who say it’s easy lie.  2000 years ago Paul wrote Romans 7:18-19  And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 

Sound familiar?  And if that was all that Paul wrote then we would feel like there is no hope for us.  But Paul goes on to tell us that he found the solution, Romans 8:12-14  Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.  For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Did you catch that?  “You have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.” 

So, to live a Holy life is Simple, it’s just not easy.  And the bible never says it will be easy, as a matter of fact by describing the process using the metaphor of crucifixion it tells us just how difficult and painful it can be. 

So what else does Paul tells us about the process  Galatians 5:24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

The next reality here is that It’s Something You Have to Do  In other words nobody else can do it for you and you can’t do it for anyone else.  Our decision to live a life that is obedient to the will of God will be just as personal as our decision to become a Christ follower.

In the same way that while most everybody thought Denn should lose weight, even if you were too polite to mention it, only I could make the decision and do the work of losing weight.

It’s the same with deciding to live a holy life, that is a life that is in the centre of God’s will and obedient to God’s will.   The preacher can’t do it for you and your spouse can’t do it for you and your parents can’t do it for you.

And while God can’t or won’t do it for you, in the sense that he won’t take away your free will and force you to live a holy life, He’s willing to help in the form of the Holy Spirit.    With God’s help you can do it. Do you believe that?  But you have to want to.  And it is a partnership.

Here is the mystery of that partnership.  You can change your mind but you can’t change your heart.  Only God can change a person’s heart. But God can’t, or more correctly, won’t change your mind, that is the free will aspect of the relationship.  And God won’t change your heart until you change your mind.  You have to want to change, you have to want to enter into the relationship.

The scripture that I just read from Galatians is part of a section that begins with the words Galatians 5:16  So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  

And just before Paul writes about our sinful nature’s being crucified he had written about what the acts of the sinful nature looked like and warned the early church in vs. 21 Galatians 5:21  . . . Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 

And then he goes on to talk about the type of life we will live and the characteristics we will exhibit if we crucify the sinful nature and allow the Holy Spirit to have control.  And those characteristics are called the Fruit of the spirit and they are supposed to be evidenced in all areas of our lives.  And even though I’m sure that you are all intimately familiar with the fruit of the Spirit here they are again.  Galatians 5:22-23  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Charles Spurgeon was the preacher at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London in the late 1800’s it was a mega-church before anyone knew what a mega-church was, and Spurgeon wrote,
“Faith (Holiness) is not a piece of confectionery to be put upon drawing-room tables, or a garment to be worn on Sundays; it is a working principle, to be used in the barn and in the field, in the shop and on the exchange; it is a grace for the housewife and the servant; it is for the House of Commons and for the poorest workshop.”   And the person who will make that decision to live an obedient and holy life will be you.

But it wasn’t only Paul who used the cross and crucifixion as a metaphor for living obediently as a Christ follower.  One day when Jesus was preaching to the crowds he told them.   Luke 9:23  Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  How often did Jesus say we’d have to take up our cross and follow him?  Daily.   So choosing to live a holy obedient life isn’t something that’s done once, It’s Something You Have to Do Everyday

Since I started with the weight loss analogy and it’s something that most people can identify with, let’s stay there for a little while longer.  I have decided to lose weight more times than I can count, and I have started to lose weight more times than I can count.  But fifteen months ago I made a decision to make it a daily commitment. 

I track my meals every day, and if there are days that I don’t do well, then I learn from it and put it behind me and move on to the next day.  But if I stop working at losing weight then I stop losing weight.  The commitment 15 months ago would be worthless if it didn’t translate into daily action.   

Jesus knew that if our Christian life was going to be successful then it need to be an ongoing commitment.  And it starts each day when you give your day to God and reaffirm your commitment to live in obedience to His will for your life.

And that isn’t a long list of rules.  One day an expert in the religious law asked Jesus what the most important commandment was.    And Jesus replied by saying Matthew 22:37-40  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

In his book “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”, John Wesley wrote “Yea, we do believe that He will in this world so 'cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, that we shall perfectly love Him, and worthily magnify His holy name.'”

So, what is our commitment as Christians?  Love God, love others.  And you do that by obeying his teaching.  And you know what his teachings are by reading his book.  And most days you will be presented with the choice to obey God or not to obey God.  

One person described it like two dogs fighting inside of him, one representing evil and wickedness and one representing goodness and purity.  Someone asked him, “Well which one wins?” And his response was “Whichever one I say ‘sic him’ to”  Which one will you say “sic him” to?

Earlier in the message I referenced Romans 7 where Paul talked about doing the wrong things that he didn’t want to do and not being able to do the right things that he wanted to do.  And most of us know what that feels like from time to time in our Christian walk.  But then we turned the page and read in Romans 8 that Paul was able to win the battle that he was talking about, and he continues by writing in Romans 8:37  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.   Not just victory, but overwhelming victory.

The Result is Victory  You can win, you can have the victory, you don’t have to live in defeat.  Do you believe that?

The Corinthian church had all kinds of problems and in his letters Paul addresses many of those issues but he reminds the believers again and again of the truth and the promise of victory.  Listen to his words in 1 Corinthians 15:57  But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle John wrote to the early church and told them  1 John 4:16-17  We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.

Those promises weren’t just for Christ followers 2000 years ago they are for us today.  As we live in God, our love grows more perfect.  And maybe you’re thinking “But Denn it’s hard, it’s not easy.”    Exactly, it’s the hard that makes it great.  If it was easy everybody would be doing it, if it was easy Paul wouldn’t have referred to it as crucifixion. Instead he would have said it was like baking a cake or falling off a log or as easy as pie.    

But remember the end result, the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control.  That’s the victory.

And we don’t always get it right, sometimes we blow it, we say something or do something we regret and we know is wrong.  Sometimes on my weight loss journey I blow it, and often like when we blow it in our spiritual lives it is often intentional. 

I know I shouldn’t do it, I know that eating The Sydelle Fries at Sydells on Rocky Lake Drive probably isn’t the wisest thing to do.  Sydell fries are home cut fries topped with Montreal Style Smoke Meat, gravy and Cheese.  And I have never accidental ate them thinking they were a salad.

But if that happens, I have two choices.  I can say “Wow I blew it; I guess I’ll never get this weight loss thing” and give up and pretty soon I’ll weigh what I used to weigh.  Sound familiar?

Or I can say “Wow, I blew it, tomorrow I’m going to do better.”

The bible tells us in 1 John 2:1-2  My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.  He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

God’s desire is that you not sin.  I assume that is your desire as well.  But the promise is there, note that John writes “If” you sin, not “when” you sin.  But if you sin, Jesus is there, he wants to pick you up and brush you off and forgive you.  He’s extending his hand, but you have to take it.  He won’t pick you up unless you want to be picked up, The choice is yours.

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