Sunday, October 23, 2011

Escaping The Zombie Life

I've never shared online a sermon that I've given before. However, this Sunday (October 23) I had the opportunity to share at our church with our pastor on vacation. I really struggled putting this one together, even though I have preached many times before. Finally, it started to come together as I worked on a hook, and it actually became the theme for my talk. It is a unique sermon for me, and I had one friend who was interested in hearing it - so I thought I'd share it here.

It makes for a long blog post, but I hope you are blessed by it.

Tis the season for horror shows.

I actually can't watch them. My imagination is too active and too sticky - I will retain what I see and it will keep coming back to me. Don't like it, so I don't watch them.

Zombies are such a big deal in pop culture right now. I did try to watch Zombieland earlier this year to be up on things. In the movie the main guy, Columbus, has an attractive neighbor in apartment 406, whom he silently crushes on her. As things start going crazy in the world, he finds her banging on on his door, asking to stay with him. She barely escaped an encounter with the undead, and wanted some company after her trauma.

They dozed on the couch, but Columbus woke up just in time. Miss 406 apparently had a closer call than she let on, because her eyes were sunken, her skin was pale, and she hungered for more than his company.

He jumped away just before he got more than a playful nibble on his ear. I suppose he got away as it was too early in the movie for the hero to die, but I couldn't deal with the suspense and violence of her chasing him around.

This is something I can control - whether to subject myself to something like that movie.

Still, the zombie theme makes me think of the struggles we have in the Christian life.

See, she didn't come in to his apartment intending to munch on him. She was infected by a virus (as most zombies are) and she was driven to fulfill her flesh. Desire for flesh. Whatever.

Have you ever felt like this - not able to control what you want to do? At least we're not alone. We have good company in Paul.

Romans 7:14-24
     We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 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. 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.
    So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 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. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

The sin nature in us is powerful. Paul is talking to Christians in this passage. These aren't people who need Jesus - but people who have already found Him. In Romans 1-8 Paul talks about the three stages of Christian life - the full process of salvation.
  1. Justification - The initial entrance into the Kingdom (what most people think of as salvation, when our debt is paid).
  2. Sanctification - Discipleship; growing in Christ. 
  3. Glorification - Eternal life in heaven.
So how do we get out of walking in the sin nature?

Galatians 5:22-25 tells us about the fruit of the Spirit. Beautiful attributes are listed: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. However, as my pastor has said recently, we are not responsible, nor are we able, to live the Christian life.

We can't manufacture the fruit. I have an apple tree. I can talk nice to it. I can encourage it, exhort it, but I can't get a nice red apple unless - there is death.

I'm amazed at my compost pile each spring. The dead leaves and grass make rich soil, helping life come to my garden and fruit trees. So it is in the Christian life. We live by dying.

Francis Shaeffer says in his book The Finished Work of Christ says, "Jesus didn't die on the cross just to die on the cross. Jesus died on the cross in order that we might be redeemed. Likewise, we are not called upon to die daily just in order to be dead;, we are called upon to die daily in order that we might experience the reality of being alive with Christ" (p155).

We will see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives by dying to ourselves.

Romans 8:10-13 says:
    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. 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.
     Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 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.

I've heard this termed the "resurrection life." If we can submit to the Holy Spirit day by day, we can walk in the life intended for us - not the life we struggle through.

Schaeffer says, "It means that, through faith, I am to die to all things both good and bad, but then to take my resurrected body, as though I had already been raised physically from the dead, and step back into this present world, to serve in the power of the indwelling Spirit" (p188).

We won't be these physical bodies that are shuffling around waiting for the grave. Salvation is not waiting to get into heaven. Like I said, that is the third aspect of salvation. As Schaeffer said, we can live as if we're already in that state. It becomes a battle to submit or yield everyday.

Romans 6:12-14
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

"You and I have the possibility every moment of our lives to hand ourselves to the Lord, to be that out of which He will bring forth all that is wonderful. 'Yield yourselves' (the phrase from Romans 6:13 in the King James for 'offer') is an 'active passivity.' People are naturally afraid of that which is only passive, but we should be afraid of that which is only active as well. Our calling is to active passivity. God will bring about our sanctification, but we are called to be active partners in the process as we yield ourselves to Him" (Schaeffer, p172). 

This is a major challenge to us as modern Americans. We like our individuality and our own initiative to carry us. I wake up most every morning with an agenda, whether it is to work hard, play hard, or even veg. If we can learn to submit day by day to the Spirit's leading, we won't be mindlessly shuffling along in our lives, but we can truly walk in the glorious adventure God has for us. Even if we have to do something - work, care for family, etc. - if we give it up each day. He can make something new with it.

Our fruit will grow as we let the Spirit lead. The fruit will come in season, and provide what we need at that time. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)

I didn't intend to follow a zombie metaphor through my whole sermon. I was going for a hook, but it certainly is one that can be used to speak Kingdom truth. Not that I'd recommend any zombie movies as spiritual guidance.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Jason. Bet the people were blessed to hear your words.