Called to Rise Above
by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Ephesians 4:17-24
I. I found an article the other day by Ray Gonzalez, of Mexico, that started me thinking ...
There's Shorty, just standing ... scoping out the morning. Where will he strike today? Like a tiger, he is smelling the air to see where he may find prey. Shorty is a local drug addict. He has been on heroine for over 10 years. He washes windows at the local gas station, a good way to check out which cars are worth breaking into.
This morning Shorty will get a 2.00 dollar fix at about 9:00 a.m. It will only make him feel normal. After washing windows (pan-handling) he will get his midday fix at just about 12:30 p.m., this time it will cost $5.50. He will go back to the gas station and plan the evening with his buddies. They will consider their best hit, an empty house or an unlocked car. They might break into a home and steal a VCR (hot item) and they will sell it for $10.00. In all they might make $50.00 from stealing and selling. With that they will get their $10.00 fix that will hold them over till the next day.
From time to time, the police will arrest him and lock him up for a couple of weeks and then he's out again doing the same thing. To Shorty, life has simply become a life of instinct. He cares little about his family or what other's think of him. He has lost all sense of shame. Time in jail is time wasted. It doesn't remind him that he is more than an animal. Now, Shorty believes he is an animal ... like a leopard in a jungle and so he acts like one. Now it is simply nature to him to steal and use drugs.
Today's society has many Shorty's, addicted, not necessarily to drugs, but addicted and doing whatever it takes to obtain their fix. It is nature for many to get an abortion, gamble or fornicate. To others, being on top, exercising dominion over others is their addiction. It is simply nature to trample over whoever gets in the way. As one relative once said as we sat at the table to eat, "why wait for the others, let’s dig in, after all, it's a dog-eat-dog world."
The Lord calls us to overcome, to pass over the human standard (Matthew 5:20). He knows the competition and the power of the flesh. Yet he calls us to beat our bodies and to run against our passions (I Corinthians 9:27). With His help, we will win. Saying its only natural to act like an animal is to deny the existence of God.
In the movie "African Queen," with Humphry Bogart as Charley Amot and Katherine Hepburn as Rose, there is a wonderful scene that brings to light this article. After getting drunk, Mr. Arnot justifies himself; "It's only nature that a man should take a swig every once in a while". In turn Rose, a devout Methodist, reveals her faith; "Nature, Mr. Arnot, is what we have been called to rise above".
As God's children, let us have His image and in all things, let us rise above the instincts of the flesh.
Well, got to lock the gates, Shorty and his buddies are on the prowl.
A. Throughout the Bible we find people who act more like animals than humans
1. Esau, who sold his birthright in a very large, wealthy estate, for a bowl of bean soup because he returned hungry after a hunt - Hebrews 12:16-17
2. The Israelites turned to celebrating the flesh while Moses was on Mount Sinai - I Corinthians 10:6-12
B. The number of warnings to leave the ways of nature, the flesh, and the world is staggering.
II. Do not walk as the Gentiles walk - Ephesians 4:17-24
A. Useless thoughts, without reason
1. We all were once foolish - Titus 3:3
B. Excluded because of ignorance
1. I Peter 1:14-16
a. If they really understood what sin was doing to them, it would not be nearly as appealing.
b. But most never stop and think. They just do and are surprised there are consequences.
2. It is a darkness that keeps the practitioner blind to the truth - Ephesians 5:5-8
3. It is practiced because they did not know God - I Thessalonians 4:3-6
C. Excluded because of stubbornness
1. To reject God’s desire for our holiness is to reject God - I Thessalonians 4:7-8
2. It is due to being self-willed - II Peter 2:10
3. We are not to be like the donkey - Psalm 32:9-10
D. Calloused to sin
1. Sin can sear the conscience - I Timothy 4:1-2
E. Given over to sensuality
1. In the past we lived for the lusts of men, but no longer - I Peter 4:1-3
2. Dead when we indulged in the desires of the flesh - Ephesians 2:1-3
III. This was not what led us to Christ
A. The body is not for immorality - I Corinthians 6:13
1. We are not here to gratify the desires of our bodies.
2. We are here to please God - Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
B. This world is passing away - I John 2:15-17
1. So many people put so much effort into something that will not last.
C. We must consider ourselves dead to sin - Colossians 3:1-7
1. We have crucified the flesh with its desires - Galatians 5:24
2. The reason we are united with Christ in baptism is to crucify sin and be freed from its slavery - Romans 6:6-7, 11-14
D. To give into sin is to further spread sin - Romans 6:19
E. If we live according to the flesh, then we must die with the rest of the world - Romans 8:12-13
1. What is born of flesh is flesh - John 3:6
IV. No longer must we live for ourselves, but for Christ - II Corinthians 5:14-15
A. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me - Galatians 2:20
B. Make no provisions for the flesh - Romans 13:12-14
V. Rose was right, we have been called to rise above nature, to be something incredibly special - I Peter 1:13-16