Dead or Alive

January 16, 2011

Good, you’re sitting down, I have some bad news for you, some of you are dead. Now it’s not as bad as it sounds, it might be reversible, if we catch it in time.
The title and theme of our services from now until the middle of February is “Health Check” and our focus will be on our physical and spiritual health, because the two are really interconnected. In 3 John 1:2 the apostle John is writing to his friend Gaius and as part of his greeting he writes Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.
And often we err one of two ways, some folks focus on their physical bodies and ignore the spiritual side. They are concerned with making sure that they eat right, get enough sleep and get regular exercise but they never stop to think about the eternal. All of their energy is focused on the here and now and they miss the there and then. They obviously missed the bumper sticker that says “Eat right and exercise and die anyway”. They might give a nod to the eternal and make a token attempt at connecting with God but they can’t or won’t find time to actually develop a relationship with him. And if they spent half the time and energy on spiritual things as they do on their physical bodies I’m sure the results would be amazing.
Seriously what if we were as committed to finding time for God as we are finding time for the gym, or for walks. What if we were as concerned about our kid’s spiritual health as we are about their physical health, if church had the same priority in our lives as sporting events did? How would your children’s hockey, soccer, and baseball coaches feel if you treated practices and games the way some people, not you but some people, treat their kids church and youth group attendance?
But on the other side of the spectrum are the folks who get all spiritual and focus all of their energy on their spiritual development and ignore their physical bodies. They view what they have simply as a temporary container, just a vessel to house their soul during the time they are on this earth, and while they may not say it their lives are certainly testimony to their belief that it really doesn’t matter how they treat their body. And that belief certainly isn’t new as I mentioned last week the Gnostics were riding that pony two thousand years ago. The spirit was good and the body was bad, just a necessary evil to house that which was eternal.
But that belief is at odds with what Paul told the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.
And then he tells them why 1 Corinthians 6:19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? So if our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit it sounds like something we should take care of. And some folks use that scripture to explain why they don’t smoke or drink but ignore it when it comes to basic maintenance of the temple.
Unfortunately, some Christians don’t view their bodies as a temple.
I was at a conference two weeks ago with 1700 of my closest friends and we were driving from the airport to downtown Jacksonville and suddenly my GPS said “Now take exit 334d on the left”. On the left? We were in four lanes of traffic and I knew that we were going to have to take exit 334d but who puts an exit on the left, unless you’re in Australia. And I looked back and there was a tractor trailer pulling up beside me and one of my passengers yelled “go for it, it’s a rental.” They were kidding, I think. Well the upside is we got to see a whole lot more of Jacksonville then we had originally planned.
But too many people view their bodies like they would a Budget Rent-A-Car and they see their salvation as the extra insurance you buy. If everything goes well, that’s fine but if not, well we paid for the protection. Instead we need to see our bodies not as a rental but as a keeper but it goes beyond that because our bodies are gifts from God. And often how we treat gifts is indicative of how we view the gift giver.
Some folks talk about when they get to heaven and are given a new body, a glorified body, but really if we haven’t done that good of a job with the one we have now, if’n I was God, I’m not sure I’d trust us with the upgrade.
In the scripture that was read earlier Paul compares our spiritual state with life and death and tells the Christ followers in Rome that they are either dead or alive, there’s no middle ground, and we know that. If you are almost dead you are still alive.
Dead is a word that we don’t often use in today’s society. The year Angela and I got married I had a summer job at the Sussex health center, and every once and a while you’d hear an airline voice say “Code 10, room 115, code 10 room 115.” Now if you worked there you knew that someone had died. Angela worked at the Kiwanis nursing home that same year and you’d think that with all those old people there that the occasional one would die. Uh-huh, not once, what did happen is that “they expired.” That’s right expired, come on parking meters expire, driver’s licenses expire, people die. With one exception, I will probably expire but it will only be because I forgot to mail in my renewal. People don’t even pass away anymore they just pass.
People die and it really doesn’t matter what we call it or don’t call it. But what is death what is dead, well glad you asked. Collins English dictionary death: dying, end of life, end, extinction, annihilation. But there has to be more to it than that.
Alice Thomas Ellis
said
Death is the last enemy: once we’ve got past that I think everything will be alright. And Robin Williams, wrote “Death is natures way of saying ‘You’re table is ready’.” I think we all share the sentiments of the tombstone that read “I expected this but not yet”.
Timothy Leary “How you die is the most important thing you ever do. It’s the exit, the final scene of the glorious epic of your life. It’s the third act and, you know, everything builds up to the third act.” And Elisabeth Kübler-Ross summed it up when she wrote “Dying is something we human beings do continuously, not just at the end of our physical lives on this earth.”
The words, death, dead or dying are mention 1238 times in the Bible, I know because I counted them. The question I need to ask today is this, are you dead? I mean really, if you are dead you don’t need health you need life!
You say, “don’t be foolish preacher, I aint dead.” For the most part we understand that. We know that you aren’t physically dead. But are you spiritually dead? Are you walking this old earth alive in the body but dead in the spirit?
That’s the question, but how do we find the answer? Well here are some hints that you may have passed.
1) Dead People Have no Appetite. When a man is dead, food no longer holds any interest for him. You can have filet mignon wrapped in bacon, stuffed mushroom caps, baked potatoes, sour cream and chives and fresh strawberries and cream and he won’t care. Dead men don’t have Big Mac attacks. They don’t crave for food. Pizza, ice cream, burgers, fries, not even Chinese food interests the dead man. While a man is alive he gets hungry on a regular basis, some of us more regular then others. The dead man though is unmoved by food.
One of the symptoms of the spiritual dead man is a lack of appetite for God. Now lack of appetite for God does not necessarily mean lack of appetite for church. The problem here is that many people get God and church confused. You can have an appetite for church without having an appetite for God. Your church appetite may be because you like the music, or perhaps the preaching, or because it is a social occasion, maybe it adds to your prestige. There can be many reasons why you like church and God may not come into the picture at all. No hunger for God indicates a lack of spiritual appetite, which is usually indicative of spiritual deadness.
One of the easiest ways to diagnose your appetite is by watching what you eat. I love pizza! I could eat pizza seven nights a week, and have the leftovers for breakfast. I have an appetite for pizza, I should have that type of appetite for fruit and vegetables, and even though I like a good crisp slightly tart apple I prefer pizza. Angela on the other hand is a chocoholic, loves chocolate, dark chocolate, light chocolate any type of chocolate. Our son, Stephen on the other hand is into very expensive seafood, lobster and scallops are his favorites, he doesn’t eat them because he’s a poor starving artist, but his dream is some day to be successful enough that they will be main stays of his diet. It’s very easy to tell what we have appetites for if you know us.
It’s the same in the intellectual & spiritual level as well, what are you feeding on. Do you have a desire to feed on the things of God? Where do you feed your soul? In front of the idiot box or reading God’s word? Now I’m not advocating throwing your television out but it cannot supersede the time you spend with God. When you are reading the bible you are feeding on the things of God, after all he did call it the bread of life.
Some people can’t figure out why they don’t grow spiritually, there’s a good chance that it’s because they don’t feed on the word of God. Back when computers were still in their infancy there was a term that said, “Garbage in, Garbage out.” And that applies to our spiritual lives as well.
If you are only being fed by American Idol, Dr. House and the Big Bang Theory you probably aren’t getting the spiritual nutrition that you need. If your view of the world is shaped entirely by McLean’s, The Evening News and CNN you probably aren’t seeing the world with God’s eyes. Do realize that at various times this year we will have a half a dozen different study groups happening at Cornerstone? Catering to virtually every group in the church, they are an opportunity to feed on the things of God. But just as other people can’t physically eat for you they can’t spiritually eat for you either.
Do you have an appetite for the word of God? Do you seek it out or do you find it boring? Do you feed on what God says or do you have no appetite for the things of God? No appetite means no life and that means that you are dead.
And even though you might fake your appetite God knows what it really is. I’ve obtained a reputation through the years as being a real coffee hound, someone who drinks a pile of coffee, (can you pile coffee). But I don’t really, I might drink two cups of coffee in the run of an average day, don’t drink any coffee at home and yet people perceive me to be big coffee drinker. Sometimes we can give the impression that we have an appetite for the things of God but it’s just an illusion.
2) Dead People Have no Activity. A strange thing about dead people is that they are usually very still. No matter that they had been quite active previously, when they die they have to stop, I mean they have no choice. That’s going to be the hardest thing for me when I die; it will take me three days just to get caught up with the work I have to do.
Dead people used to be normal, active people, but once they died they are become motionless. They are without activity. In the same way the spiritually dead person is usually without activity. Somebody else can lead a small group, work with the teens, help with the children’s ministry, work on activities, and serve on the Leadership Team.
Now it’s not that they are totally without activity, it’s just that they are just without kingdom activity. They find time for other activities, duties and functions but they never have time to work in the church, strange thing that. There’s room in their lives for the Lions Club the School activities and sports, but if you ask them to commit time to ministry, “Well Pastor, family comes first.” Well actually if the truth was known family probably comes twelfth after work, play, hobbies, school, sports, television, friends, yard work, the cottage, fishing, crafts and defleaing the dog. But God’s work definitely comes after family, regardless of what rank family actually is.
3) Dead People Have No Direction. Now that is really redundant because lack of motion translates so often into lack of direction. Dead people don’t have to know what direction to go in cause they aren’t moving, they are quite content to head in whatever direction they’ve been laid in.
Sometimes though we are moving but we’re not sure what direction we are supposed to be going. It’s like we’re all guys who don’t want to admit that we don’t know the way and we certainly aren’t going to ask for directions. But guess what? We have to.
Many people sense a lack of spiritual direction in their life but it’s cause they ain’t asked the way. If you want to know where God wants you to you gotta ask. And when you talk to God that’s called prayer. James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. A sign of spiritual deadness is a lack of spiritual growth or spiritual direction.
God does not direct the dead. Doesn’t have to cause they’re not going anywhere.
4) Dead People have No Love at one time those who are dead probably loved all kinds of people their friends, their family, those they worshipped with.
But when they died their love died with them. Dead people can’t express their love and neither do dead churches. The spiritual appetite, spiritual activity and spiritual direction, which we have seen is indicative of life, must ultimately produce Love. A love that touches people and communities for the lord Jesus Christ.
How is your love quotient? How do you exhibit your love to the people who surround you? And not only do we have to love people, but we need to tell people that we love them. We need to express our love now because there will come a time that we will be unable to express it.
In the Book of the Revelation, which is the last book of the Bible Jesus spoke to the Church in Ephesus. And He commended them for all they did and then he said this Revelation 2:4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!
That’s not necessarily something I would want said about me or about this church. I truly believe that if we were to try and find a secret weapon for reaching people it would be love. Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek Community Church just outside of Chicago makes this statement. “If you create a loving community, first time seekers will sniff it and say “I want in.” Crusty old veteran believers whose hearts have shut down will warm up again. Arrogant people will have their pride melted.”
How do you measure up? Are you dead or alive? If there’s no appetite, activity, direction, or love then it’s probably time to take a spiritual pulse, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that you won’t find a pulse at all.
You have expired, deceased, passed away, you’re no longer with us, you’ve kicked the bucket, you’re done dead. You may not think so, but like Christ said in Revelation 3:1 “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.”
Well then if you’re dead then what do you need, well there are some who say all that people need is a good example, and there are those who do their very best to provide that good example for society. But let’s face it have you ever tried to be a good example to a dead person, it is really quite hopeless.
Oh no someone says what he really needs is encouragement. Now I think that encouragement is wonderful, enthusiasm is contagious. But you can never encourage a dead man to be anymore then dead. Others say “No, no it’s environment” but face it even if a dead man’s not in the funeral parlor he’s still just as dead. And education isn’t the answer, you can’t educate the dead, although some of my high school teachers certainly tried. But face it if a person is dead then their most pressing need is life. Very simple, when you are dead what you need more than anything is to be alive. The word life or live is mention 1414 times in the bible, that’s almost two hundred more incidence then death.
You say “Fair enough preacher I need life where do I get it from?” Good question and a question that was asked and answered two thousand years ago by Jesus, in John 11:25-26 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” And in John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. And again in John 6:48 Yes, I am the bread of life!
Life can only be given by the life giver and that is Christ. He gives life, not in teaspoons but in buckets, in 100-gallon drums. John 10:10 My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Maybe you are more familiar with it in the King James Version John 10:10 ” I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Now Romans 6:23 the wages of sin is death. Now the question is are you dead? We all are or were, that is the wages of sin but that same scripture continues to say Romans 6:23 but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Sin is death, God is life, and the choice is yours.