Text: John 8:20-24
Today’s sermon is more of an instructional than a preaching or teaching session. Today, I’ll probably be saying some things that I would rather not say and you might find them offensive & I’d like to apologise upfront for this.
Some of the behavioural patterns I have seen exhibited by people under my care as a pastor have been rather troubling & I would like to address some of them in this message in instructing us to help us measure up and conform to the fullness of the measure of stature of Christ.
Here Jesus is having a discourse in the synagogue (today, we’d refer to this as being in Church). We can also conclude that He was speaking to Godly people in the synagogue.
Let’s list some of the main points of this passage of Scripture that we’ve read:
1. Jesus in this passage was telling the unbelieving Jews listening to Him that they’d die in their sins.
2. He also made clear that He is from above, while the listening audience is from beneath/below.
3. That they’re from this world while He wasn’t from this world.
(John 17:14) “I have given them Your word and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world”
In this passage, Jesus is praying for His disciples. Here we see that a disciple is someone who’s received God’s word into his life. They are believers.
He then points out that the world will hate you (because you’re not part of them) if you’re a believer. If you’re not hated by the world, then it’s probably because you’re no different from them yet.
The disciples (just like the Jews) were part of the world before, but when Jesus came and brought them the word, they stayed with Him & believed in His divinity. They thus became called out of the world.
So, generally speaking believers in Christ who have received His word & believed in His substitutionary death, burial & resurrection for their sins have been called out of the world (separated from its lifestyle & mannerisms) and don’t belong to it anymore. It means they live in the world, but they aren’t of & don’t belong to the world anymore.
So, where then do we belong if we aren’t of the world anymore?
(Phil. 3:20) “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ”
(Eph. 2:19b) “… but fellow citizens with he saints and members of the household of God”
Our citizenship is of heaven, it’s of the Household of God – God’s family. We don’t belong to this world anymore, when Christ called us, our citizenship was transferred from the world to heaven. You are now a member of God’s family.
However, you can’t belong to two families at the same time. You can’t claim to be a part of God’s family while still behaving like you belong to the world.
(Psalm 68:6a) “God sets the solitary in families…”
If you don’t accept this call of God to join His family means you’re still in the world. And there are also some people who’ve apparently answered this call of God, but their lifestyles are no different from that of the world as they still think and act like they belong to the world and not heaven.
What is cultural Christianity? It’s a brand of Christianity practiced by those who claim to be in Christ, but they think, act & have a mindset like the people of the world.
Everything they feel, see & understand is interpreted in the light of their traditional upbringing. These are Christians who have left the world, but their minds are still imprisoned by the world. They are saved, but they still are not saved.
They are supposed Christians who have come out of the world, but they are controlled by the mindset that’s from the world and not by God’s word. As mentioned earlier, this is as a result of their upbringing.
Man is a spirit, who has a soul & dwells in a body. The spirit is that part that resembles God; it’s that creative spark from God that brought man to life. The soul is another spiritual aspect of man; it’s the seat of your mind (conscious & subconscious), emotions & will.
A quick flashback to one of our previous topics Paradigm Shift will remind you that the mind is split into the conscious & subconscious parts. The conscious part of our minds is the one we have control over and with which we think & reason. It’s the part of the mind that can be educated & empowered intellectually. Everything that you store in the conscious part of your mind eventually seeps into your subconscious and most involuntary actions we make issue from the subconscious part of our minds.
You can consciously reprogram your mind to receive or reject the information you obtain; you make judgements in the conscious part of your mind. However, once information is stored in (the conscious part of) the mind, it tends to seep into the subconscious.
How Do You Feed The Subconscious?
1. By becoming aware of it with your conscious mind
2. By staying long enough with that thought, idea or practice (continuous meditation & repetition)
3. By involving your emotions (either positive or negative)
You (as an individual) are the sum total of your subconscious. Your subconscious is shaped by what you have been exposed to, from what you’ve carried over from the world, been taught by your parents, learnt by watching others, the media and cultural influences.
The combination of all these factors & influences is what has shaped your subconscious and personality; they’ve made us what we are today. This as you can see is a result of a lot of influences over a long period of time, so it definitely can’t be changed instantaneously.
How do you change the wrong notions that are in your subconscious?
1. Make a conscious effort to learn & focus on the right thing.
2. Practice the new things you’ve learnt to be right repetitively.
3. Love the new notion/action.
Following these steps will see you superimposing a new way of thinking on the wrong notions in your subconscious and this will lead to your acting out the new. Right way of life subconsciously.
Here we see Paul challenging a man who was lame from birth to walk because he saw & knew he had the faith to be healed. Part of the reason why God puts a shepherd over you is because he can see certain things that you can’t see. Alongside your faith in God, you need to have faith in your pastor.
(v.11) When the man was healed and the people saw what happened, they referred to
Paul & Barnabas as gods in the form of men. This came from what’s in their subconscious, the things they’d learnt over time from their various sources of learning.
These were people in the church who were supposedly saved, but not saved in their minds (souls) yet.
Man is a spirit, whose spirit is saved once he becomes born again (2Cor. 5:17). But the soul is not saved immediately; it is in the process of being saved (Phil. 2:12; James 1:21, 1Pet. 1:22). Man’s body is not saved yet and will only be redeemed/saved at the return of Christ (Rom. 8:23).
Once a person comes to Christ, a third of him is ready for heaven. His spirit is ready for heaven (Col. 1:22), but the soul is being purified – that’s why man sins.
Notice that these “Christians” at Lystra were probably young in the faith, people whose souls were still trapped in the world. They were worshipers of God who still had the mindset of the world. This is the near total personification of cultural Christian.
Unfortunately, people of this kind seem to be more predominant in the church today.
Some Characteristics of Cultural Christians:
1. They are more conscious & afraid of the devil’s power than they are of God & His word.
· God’s word such as what He said in Isaiah 54:17 & Luke 10:19, pale in comparison to their fear of the devil.
2. Their belief system is still what they received while they were in the world (such as a man believing it’s the wife’s responsibility to give him a male child or believing that the spouse they marry can be a source of good or bad “luck”)
· Unfortunately, we are all culpable in some form or the other. Practically every one of us are still held bound by our cultural mindsets than we either realise or want to accept.
What’s The Bible Definition Of A Christian?
A bible Christian is a believer in the Words of God, one who believes in the substitionary death, burial & resurrection (and also His ascension to heaven) of Jesus with a lifelong commitment to obedience & discipleship. In addition to this, such a person has received & committed himself to the Holy Spirit to dwell in, empower, guide him and to transform his thinking to enable him conform to the thinking of Jesus and empower him to fulfil Jesus’ words as well. (Rom. 10:9-10, John 1:12)
The challenge we have as Christians today is how to live in two worlds at the same time. How do we manage this? How do we live in this world and refuse to allow this world to shape or control our thinking, attitudes and lifestyles? How can we live in this world, but are not of the world?
(Rom. 12:2a) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
When your mind is renewed, you won’t attribute miracles you see performed by God in the Church to Zeus like the people in Lystra did, you’ll give the glory to Whom it belongs – God. When your mind is renewed, you won’t see every little thing that goes wrong as the result of bad luck or the work of your enemies or because you did something that wasn’t culturally acceptable like receiving something from someone who offered it to you with his/her left hand. Your mindset will be informed by Ps. 37:23 “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord”.
Steps To Renewing Your Mind:
1. Recognise the power in God’s word
· You have to acknowledge and realise there’s creative power in God’s word that can change your life.
2. Spend time with the word of God
· Read it, study it & meditate on it. (Phil. 4:8)
· It’s by this process that you assimilate God’s word into your subconscious mind and can thus act “automatically or reflexively” based on the word in any situation you find yourself. The physical acts in line with what is abundant in the heart (Luke 6:45, Prov. 4:23)
· Believe the word of God because it’s not the word you “quote” that will save you, but the word you believe.
3. The power of the Holy Spirit
· The Holy Spirit turns the word in your heart into a sword in your hand.
If you don’t renew your mind with God’s word when crises come your way you are going to act based on what is abundant in your heart. So, if God’s word isn’t abundant in your heart what are you going to act based on?
Let’s look at the case of Abraham. When God called him and promised him a son but it hadn’t come to pass for about 10 years, he and Sarah resorted to traditional means of him having a son.
When God’s sanctioned method (in your estimation) seems to not have worked in meeting your need, what will you fall back on? It’s most likely going to be what you learned in the world (from your culture & tradition).
(Gen. 16:15-16; Gen. 17:1) Here we see that when Abraham resorted to traditional means of meeting a need in his life instead of following God’s way, it resulted in God breaking off fellowship with him for 13 years. If you have a means outside of God for meeting your needs then what do you need Him for?
If you want God to help you, you have to serve Him faithfully & live a blameless life. Then you’ll see Him step into your situation & turn things around for you. But if you’re going to resort to your traditional, man –made methods don’t expect Him to intervene or make things better in your situation.
Prayer: LORD, please heal our hearts and bring us back to You. Have Your way and make us Christians that You’re proud of. Help us fall in love with Your word again & shape us into being more of Your image likeness. Break every resistance to You in our lives in Jesus’ name we pray.