Restraining Your Selfish Nature
3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Once you recognize your sinful state before God and embrace Christ’s redemptive work, you are righteous in the eyes of God. The law has no ability to condemn you any longer.
Then what?! Are we to go on sinning that grace might increase? No. We are new creations in Christ. We are the workmanship of God created to do good works. That is what we are made for! Good works means we are meant to be like Jesus in whatever circumstance that we find ourselves! Is that easy? No. What prevents this happening in our lives? Well, what is it that tempts us? Where do we need to change? What aspect of our lives are driven by pride, pleasure or possessions? This is where our selfish sinful attitudes and desires drive us away from Christ. And this is what we will be working on for the rest of our lives. In my opinion, this is what the majority of the Bible is about. How are we to live best in God’s world? This is our forever challenge, restraining sensual indulgences!
- The Forever Challenge
- Restraining our sinful selves
This issue is basic and fundamental to us reflecting the image of God. We also end up reflecting the image of the snake! Lust of the flesh, Lust of the eyes (greed) and pride.
Adam and Eve: Saw that it was pleasing to the eye (lust of the eyes) desirable to make one wise (pride) and good for food (lust of the flesh)
The most basic fundamental law: The Shema: 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater
Love God with your mind (your thinking)
Love God with your emotions (your feelings)
Love God with your will (your strength)
I would call all of these things your soul, your personality, all that you are. To divide it up sometimes makes it harder, but if we divide it up, we can see how in each of these areas we can be under attack and we can see how we can strengthen each of these aspects of our person.
- This is a battle for freedom
Freedom of choice. (Will)
Freedom to love. (Emotion)
Freedom to serve God wholeheartedly! (Weeding our double mindedness) (Mind)
God to Cain:
(Cain is dealing with the temptation for overwhelming pride)
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
- Why are you experiencing this temptation?
- Recognize that freedom comes from submission to God’s good will!
- Sin desires to have you by force of slavery.
- God desires to have you by force of loving submission! (Adam and Eve failed in the garden. Jesus succeeded in the Garden.) We will do one or the other.
- This is a personal battle
Why are you susceptible to this temptation? (Why are you angry?!) Or to Adam and Eve (Have you eaten…?)
Consider this: if you will just do right, you will be OK! This is what is at stake: you will be accepted!! So, if you find out what you are doing wrong (there is something wrong with his sacrifice) and change it, then you are good. What is Cain fixated on instead? Able is accepted and he is not. Pride. What is Cain not willing to do?
This temptation seeks to own your will, your mind and your emotions.
Drawn to possessions to make you happy? Need to shop in order to be happy? Need to have something to make you happy? How long does the happiness last? There is a never ending set of different things that advertisers will sell you to make you happy!
Need to be beautiful? Plastic surgery, expensive designer clothes, expensive makeup etc. Why not just be satisfied with the way that you look? I mean it’s all relative anyway? Women of the middle ages were valued if they were heavy and pale. Why? Because it was a sign of affluence!
Southern California at the cult of beauty, plastic surgery, bulimia, anorexia, competition, hatred of self. A never ending challenge to change the way that you are into something that you are not. And it is driven by the desires of others. Do not step into this stream!
The answer to these questions can take a lifetime to ferret out! The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked! We lie to ourselves. But God knows and reveals our hearts, especially by the Word of God Hebrews 4:12
Your life is where according to this passage? V.3 Hidden with Christ in God. Where do we need to look to find life?
Ok, from our passage today, this is what we are dealing with! If we are going to follow Jesus Christ, pattern our lives after His teaching and example, then we will approach our lives from this perspective!
We are human personalities. We are psychological, emotional and willful beings. We can be directed by our emotion, thinking and will. Primary among these three is our will.
- Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done
Set your life focus on things above!! Hearts and minds
- We will direct our desire on Christ
Love God will all of our heart, mind and strength (the totality of our soul!)
Valuing God’s character and desire above our own.
Ephesians 3 foundational prayer for Ephesians 4 action.
Ephesians is divided at the end of chapter 3. First three chapters all about what God has done for us. It is salvation from eternity past to bring all people together in Christ following His teaching and example.
- We will direct our minds on Christ
How? Studying scripture, listening to teaching, following the Holy Spirit, pursuing and paying attention to wise counsel.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; (Possessions, success, pleasure)
but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Love, service, giving etc.)
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. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.
And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.
11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
- We will direct our wills on Christ
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling!
God is at work within you.
God is working to direct your will.
God is working to direct your action for His good pleasure!
You can decide today to intentionally spend time pursuing the life that is hidden with Christ in God!
III. Specific Prescriptions for Following Christ
Are there exercises we can do that prepare our emotions, our thinking and our wills to follow Christ in the moment?
- Pursuing the knowledge of Christ
Bible study for a specific purpose. What is Jesus like? How does He act? What does He desire? What does He do with His time?
Going to church to learn about Christ and as an outlet for service.
Going to church to worship and focus our hearts on Christ.
Having our lives transformed away from fleshly culture by having our thinking and values changed. Our minds are literally renewed. I am not swayed by advertising. I am not given to liking things because my culture tells me they are good. I consult Jesus and the real desires of my heart.
- Giving, Prayer and Fasting
Clearly giving fights against greed
Clearly fasting fights against being driven by desire
Prayer and pride? Yes. Prayer fights against our pride by causing us to rely on God instead of self. And by connecting us to the real source of all good and wisdom and love.
- Get alone and pursue Jesus personally
In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
You life is hidden with Christ in God.
You can be agitated that things are hidden and harder than they would be otherwise, or you can be excited that God has greater life for you!
God is at work within you to direct and strengthen your will
God is at work within you to direct and empower your behavior.
Trust and obey (one thing) so that you will see God at work in your life right now today.
Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you, then speak about God to others.