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Jamie Johnson
1 June 2014

Not Paupers

NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered to a group of residents at Kings Daughters Community Health & Rehabilitation Center on June 1, 2014.

Last month, my wife and I were going through boxes, cleaning out the house and getting ready for a yard sale. Part of this was going through a box of office supplies. In that box, I found pads of paper and Sticky Notes. I mentioned to my wife how I could use these at the office. You see, at the office, I had been using paper scraps and old receipts to scribble notes on. That was my habit. I shared this with my wife and she said that we did not have to live like paupers using scraps. Rather, we should use what we have. How often do we as Christians fail to realize what we have in Christ and instead choose to live like paupers? If any are in Christ, even if they are poor in this world, they are not paupers. In Christ, we are not paupers and we should not live as such any longer!

Jon Bloom wrote in Ten Reasons to Memorize Big Chunks of the Bible that one reason to memorize is "[b]ecause the Bible is too accessible to you." He adds, "It's strange how having an abundance of something can result in our neglecting it. If the Bible's always there on our tables, tablets, phones, computers, and on the web we can dip in, read sections, search for key words when needed, but feel no urgency to really internalize it. Memorizing is one way to fight that delusion." Just having Bible is a blessing! We need to count our blessings. Ephesians 1:3 states, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (NASB). Did you hear that? Every spiritual blessing! How often do we as Christians fail to realize the significance of what we have in Christ and neglect it? Sometimes we live as if we have no blessings at all when He has given us every spiritual blessing! Rather, we live in the flesh as slaves to our sinful habits.

Matthew Westerholm wrote of his habits in Make the Switch in Life and Worship about a time where the electricity went out in his home during a winter storm. He soon realized that the whole area had lost power. He called the power company, which told him it would be repaired in 6 hours. Next, he told his wife about it. He further shared the following:

I got out of bed, walked to the bathroom, and closed the door. Then, I did something which I've thought about a hundred times.

I flipped the light switch.

Now, why did I do that? I had observed darkness on my entire block, and I was told by experts (the power company) that the power would be off for another six hours. I had even told my wife that the power was off. But now, by my sleepy self, I was acting like my house still had electricity. Why did I do that?

...

We know God loves us. We have seen his love demonstrated for us. We've been told by experts (like the apostle Paul), and we've even told others of God's love for us and for them. But in our day-to-day walk, we still flip the switch. We live with a social paranoia, desperate for the approval of others. And when we don't get that approval, we feel powerless.

We know that God will take care of us. We have seen countless instances of his goodness. We've memorized the verses and counseled people walking through difficult times. But in our day-to-day walk, we still flip the switch. When trying situations arrive, we default back to worry and fear because we feel powerless.

...

Perhaps the analogy might be clearer told another way. Imagine that you've lived your entire life in a log cabin and always needed to light candles to navigate your dark home. One day, the phone rings with the power company on the line. "Congratulations," they say, "we have added your house to the electrical grid. You now have power in your log cabin."

Imagine turning to your spouse and sharing the good news. Your whole family plugs a computer into the wall and together explores the web for an hour. But then, they put the computer back into its box and get out the candles for dinner. They have electricity, but they act as if power-less.

How many of us are living powerlessly, succumbing to our fleshly habits instead of walking by the Spirit? How many of us are using scraps instead of useful things with purpose? How many of us are living like spiritual paupers?

Maybe you are young in life and see the developing carnal habits. Maybe you look at your life and see your old habits. Maybe you have lived for many years and you see a track record of being burdened under habits instead of yielding to Christ. All of us have wasted time. Yet, the fact that you are reading/hearing this means you have time. Even now, if you are in Christ, you can live for Him. Even if it is reaching out to only one other soul, it is significant. Jesus spoke in Luke 15:7 the following: "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (NASB). It may be a small act of care by simply acknowledging someone with a greeting or it may be sitting with someone in grief. It may be standing by and listening. It may be sharing the Gospel with someone. We all have opportunities to break beyond the mold of our habits and live life with purpose, not as paupers. After all, there are even prisoners who start Bible studies!

As new creations in Christ, we are to give up our old habits; we are not to live as spiritual paupers. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (NASB).

When one sees a "therefore" in Scripture, one should ask, what is it there for? In looking at the context of 2 Corinthians 5:17, we see the verse just before it (v. 16): "From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer" (NASB). Doing things according to the flesh is doing things according to old habits. And again, in verse 16, there is another "therefore." What is it there for? Verse 15 says, "and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (NASB). So, we have verse 15, which says that Jesus died and rose so we would no longer have to live in our old habits in the flesh - for ourselves - but as new creations. Verse 16 says that as a result, we no longer live according to such habits of the flesh since we regard Christ in Truth. Then verse 17 says that as a result in Christ, we are new creatures. Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead so we who are in Him no longer have to live fleshly habitual lives, but instead walk in newness in Him.

Yet, we still sometimes choose to live like paupers. We who are in Christ: may we realize who we are in Him! He wants so much more for us! Though we are not characterized by spiritual failure, sometimes, we fail. Still, in our feebleness, He beckons, calling us to rest in Him and trust Him -- even with our failures out of our old habits, even with our running to old vices instead of Him. He still beckons and draws us near.

Recently, a friend of mine was diagnosed with leukemia and in our correspondence, he wrote the following about life:

We get one shot at this and I have already wasted too much of it. Thankfully his redemptive power is great enough to take that waste and use it for my and others' good and his glory. However, start to live today intentionally.

May we stop wandering along flipping a dead switch without power. Nothing will change unless someting new is introduced - a perspective, an activity, an approach, a prayer, a belief. Ask God today what habits you are enslaved to and how He can be glorified in spite of and in your deliverance from them. Ask God what needs to change in your life today. And if you have not trusted Christ - His perfect life as God in the flesh, His perfect sacrifice in your place at the cross and His rising again - then that is the first change that must occur. Then, you will be rich in Him, not paupers.


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