“While I had been a committed Christian for many years, my primary identity was defined not by God’s love for me but by what others thought of me. This negatively impacted every area of my life – marriage, parenting, friendships, leadership, even my hopes and dreams. But now I had lost the fear of what others might think or say. There was no longer anything else left to lose. I had given so much of myself away that I no longer recognized myself. Gone was the creative, outgoing, fun, assertive Geri. Now I was sullen, depressed, tired, and angry.” Geri Solquist
Christianity doesn’t mean to live by the rules…rules are good, but living by the rules doesn’t capture your heart. You can not speed and curse the police at the same time. Christianity isn’t a formula: go to church and life is good. Going to church, praying, reading the Bible, helping your neighbor with a problem are good things to do, but you can’t earn your way to salvation… I like the way one person described the Chrisian life, he called it the third rail:
“How does the Holy Spirit work in my life? … it’s the difference between being in a car or on an elevated train. A car runs on the principal of storage. You put gas in the tank and you drive it. You burn the gas and when you’re out of gas, you stop, you get more gas, you run it again, you burn it, you get more gas, you keep on driving until you run out. … On the other hand, an elevated train runs on the contact principle. You have the two rails on the outside and the electrified third rail in the middle. What is it that keeps the elevated train going? As long as the train stays in contact with that third rail in the middle, it will go and go and go and never stop. Too many people think that walking with the Holy Spirit is like riding in a car. You get filled with the Holy Spirit and you get run down and you get filled up again and you get run down. So they’re constantly up and down, up and down, being filled and emptied, being filled and emptied. That’s not the Christian life of the New Testament. The New Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit is always here. Our job is to stay in contact with the Spirit. When we stay in contact with the Holy Spirit, he continuously provides the power we need for effective Christian living. “Those who live in accordance with the spirit” it says in Rom. 8:5. “controlled… by the spirit… the spirit of God living in you…” A constant connection, living by the third rail… the spirit of God in you… Jesus said, “I will send you the spirit who will live in you…” a constant connection…
The Spirit in you gives you A New Way of Thinking. Rom. 8:5-8. Some of us need a new mind… we can’t think properly, we get all muddled…
Famed baseball player Yogi Berra perhaps helps us most in the confusion of our minds: Here’s some of his snippets of wisdom:
A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore.
Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours.
If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.
Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.
You can observe a lot by just watching.
Your mind without the Spirit is so confusing…what’s the scriptures say… sinful nature vs. spirit filled nature:
Death vs. life and peace (I love the word peace…)
Hostile to God vs. submissive to God’s desires for us
Cannot please God vs. pleasing God
When you encounter Jesus Christ, he gives you a new way of thinking. We usually think of a heart transformation when we think of being a Christian, but the Lord says : “The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:28-30). Mind is in there…
I love the story I heard years ago of some young school girls that took a tour of a monastery. One of the monks was a young twenty something young man with blond hair, muscular body, handsome, and the giggly school girls were having a hard time understanding the commitment this young handsome bachelor had made. So they pressed him, asking him what he did all day, what his life was like, obviously implying that with his good looks he was wasting his life. He could not get through to them, so finally, with a bit of frustration, when asked for the 15th time what he did all day, he responded, “I think.”
When you run with the wind, with no hindrance, no condemnation from Christ, the Lord gives you a new mind, to think with his values, peace, life, doing his will. To be able to think with the values of Christ is a gift from God when you give your life to him and live by the third rail of the Spirit, that constant contact with the Spirit in you… How often when we pray we ask the Lord to change this, don’t let that happen… regularly include in your prayers a cleansed mind, a refocused mind for what the Lord wants us to think about… how easy it is to dwell on the unhealthy, or for your mind to wander… perhaps you have a mind that is damaged
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Let a mental transformation take place in your mind. Let the very shape of your thinking be changed by the renewing of your mind.
This is the truth behind all Christian education. It’s why Sunday School is important – God cares about our minds. Small groups. Reading the Bible. Fill your mind with the Word of God. Mental transformation takes place by the careful, intentional, repeated, deliberate, thorough study of the Bible. As you study the Bible, it will change the way you think. And as your thinking changes, so your life will change. As you become aware of the Spirit in you, the way you see the world with your mind will change – “those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Lord, let me desire what you desire, let me see what you want me to see. If you know Jesus Christ, it will make a difference in every area of life. The way you speak, the way you talk, the way you write, the way you relate and yes, the way you make decisions.
A New Way of Behaving. READ Romans 8:9. What is the true nature…it’s a question we all ask of ourselves from time to time… we desire people know us for who we truly are… we wish we could change our nature, our character, the substance of who we are…
I enjoy hearing Morgan or Steve Lagerway talk about their hunting trips… they know the animals, the nature, the habits, how they will react in certain situations… the true nature of the bear, what the deer will do naturally, the cougar, the pheasant, whatever it is… it’s part of the hunt…tracking the animal, figuring out the patterns of where and what the bear is eating….
We are the same way… one person told me yesterday, “contrary to what some people think, I do have a heart.” We have a nature…the way we react in situations… What is your nature? How do you describe yourself? When stress hits? When somebody asks you to do something you’d rather not do? Some people know how to push your buttons. Some people push your buttons and they don’t even know it. You see them and react… One young man used to complain about how he was always getting in trouble at school, he had a temper, and the other students knew how to get him angry and found it highly amusing to watch him throw desks across the room. Who pushes your buttons? How do you stop yourself? In your nature will you cheat, steal, abuse, how badly do you want to win? Your nature: quiet, loud, soft, harsh, not only what you react to, but how you react….
We have a god given personality, wired a certain way. The only question is what controls our basic nature: is it sin within, or is it the Spirit of God? When you are controlled by the Spirit, your behavior will change, how you react in those situations.
In vs 5-8 the focus is on the renewal of your mind, and in vs. 9-11, the renewal of your behavior. When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the Spirit renews your thinking and your behavior…control is a huge part of the Christian life. A connection with the third rail means we are controlled by the Spirit. Only God truly knows the human heart, but when I see somebody whose actions are quite contrary to their words, professing Christ yet still behaving in ways that seem so contrary to the things God values, I have to wonder what’s going on… the Lord redeems the way we think and the way we behave.
Verse 9 gives us a clear definition of what it means to be a Christian. A true Christian is one who has the Spirit of Christ within him. One mark of genuine Christianity is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He takes up residence inside those who know Jesus Christ. When you say, “Lord Jesus, I want you as my Savior,” the Holy Spirit answers that prayer by coming into your life. The Third Person of the Trinity comes to live within you. That’s what Paul means when he uses the phrase—"in the Spirit.” To be “in the Spirit” means that the Holy Spirit himself moves into your life.
This is the third rail way of living, the constant connection. Anyone want a car that never runs out of gas? When I was young there was nothing better than an unlimited Smorgasboard… when I was in grade school I’d go along on outings with my father when he’d take the young people to the Royal Fork, and how much Doug Groves and Lance Massey could eat… That’s what the Holy Spirit does for us – unlimited connection…
The promise of God is that even as sin takes its toll in our lives, we are still alive in the Spirit. READ Rom. 8:10. This is why our hope, our attitude, goes beyond our abilities, our age, youthfulness in Christ has nothing to do with years! I know people with a lot of years that are very young, and people with few years that feel very old and worn out… the Lord’s promise is to renew your mind and your behavior. One more amazing truth:
A new nature is based on an amazing future… READ Rom. 8:11
We have the promise of future resurrection. That’s the amazing perspective that gives us the assurance of victory. Live by the Spirit, stay connected to the Spirit, and we have the assurance of victory…. The Spirit who raised up Christ will one day raise up your mortal body out of the grave. Verse 11 is an explicit promise of future resurrection from the dead. The Holy Spirit who presently lives within you is like a “down payment” on God’s future deliverance. Do Christians die? Yes, we die like everyone else. But death for us is not the end. When Jesus returns, your body will be raised from the dead--
God’s promise of a completely new life beyond the grave puts everything in perspective. If you know you have a secure future, that is motivation for living an amazing life today beyond the heartaches and worries. It’s the reason to create a little bit of heaven today with the way you behave, and treat other people.
You can run with the wind forever when you live by the third rail, the constant connection with the Holy Spirit who lives in you. The Spirit will renew your mind and your behavior based on the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! We are promised a glorious future with Christ. Giving your life to Christ means he will stay connected with you through his Spirit, giving you a new way of thinking and a new way of behaving. Amen.