Sermon January 16, 2005 : Galatians 2:20

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda | Translator: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Length: 54:22
  • Date: January 16, 2005
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

Galatians 2, verse 20, and repeat with me in Spanish when I read in Spanish. It’s just verse 20, and just a rough translation here: “with Christ I’m jointly crucified and I no longer live, but rather Jesus Christ lives in me, and that which I now live in the flesh, I live it the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me”, so that’s the English, the Lion of Juda translation, Galatians chapter 2, verse 20.

I’ve taken this verse as a point of departure really, and I hope to go from there to other verses in scripture for the meditation that I want to carry out with you this morning. As I said earlier I just returned from visiting the city of Medellin in Colombia. I thank the Alsate family who took me up there and there’s a brother here that belongs to that family was sort of the instrument that God used for me to be there and were wonderfully hospitable to me and just gave me a wonderful time there and I thank the Lord for them. I thank them as well. Medellin is a quintessentially Latin American city, it’s like a microcosm of Latin America. You know you can see through that city all the wonderful aspects of Latin American culture and at the same time the brokenness of Latin American culture as well and of Latin American continent. You know if you can imagine like a big mount made of putty and a thumb pressed from the top into that mount and makes a deep indentation. The city of Medellin is in the center of that indentation and then from that depression it just flows to all the different sides of the mountains that surround the city. It’s a very spectacular site. All over the sides of those mountains where the population has grown you have the extremes. You have the very wealthy people with large expanses of lands, living in very luxurious houses and also large condominiums. You also have very large extensions of poor people with extreme needs and living in very crowded small spaces. You know in Latin America you can see those extremes living right next to each other. Any country that you go in Latin America including my own, the Dominican Republic you can see this. You can be living in a very upper class neighborhood and you walk 2 blocks down the street and you’re in the middle of extreme poverty. All of a sudden a huge extension of poor neighborhoods, one after the other. And I think, I see July saying: yes, and that’s the way it is also in Asia and in Thailand, in Indonesia, in these places.

Another thing that’s interesting about Medellin is that people are very spiritually oriented. They love God, they feel a lot of spiritual need in their heart and they’re very sensitive, very respectful to the religious experience. They’re very needy of God. There’s a lot of people who have just a lot of religious sensitivity. Taxi drivers they pass a church and they do the sign of the cross. There’s a huge need and people who know of God they know of religion, they have had a religious kind of connection, but they don’t know the God of religion. They haven’t had a personal experience with Jesus Christ, they don’t know how to communicate with God through prayer, or they don’t know how to read the Bible and so there’s huge need in that sense. You know it’s also a city of huge sensuality, of great strong sexual energy that permeates the city itself and that manifests on the way people dress, the way they relate to each other, men and women, and so on an so forth. That doesn’t make it exceptional at all, it is like that in so many other countries in Latin America, I think all over the world, really, just strong…. And Medellin has been know of course because of the Medellin cartel and I know that a lot of people, when I said that I was going to Medellin they said: pastor, will we see you again ever? And they were afraid for me and they thought that I was going to be kidnapped as soon as I got off the plane. That was not the case at all. I felt very safe there, really, beyond places I think nobody goes, no matter what, but you know Medellin was not exceptional. I think that the devil just chose Medellin as he could have chosen any other city in Latin America but you know that was the place. But there’s huge need, spiritually. I mean, that community needs, certainly cries to break the yoke of the enemy on its life. There’s a huge need in Medellin for healing because as we know the city of Medellin was, as I said, the site of the Medellin cartel and really that was like a dark cloud that covered the city and that whole region and many, many people died and the drug culture and the culture of death and violence permeated that city for many, many years and the people in the taxi cabs and the pastors that we met in the churches that we went, speak of the drug culture in that time, when Medellin was sort of taken over before the killing of Pablo Escobar and the breaking of the Medellin cartel, they speak about those times as if the city was kind of under a cloud of darkness and they need spiritual healing, they need emotional healing. As I said a lot of people were killed and a lot of loss of life and fear everywhere and all kinds of craziness was taking place in that time. That has improved a lot but it’s still very much…. I think evil is just kind of waiting to see if it has the opportunity to get back in control again.

It just reminded me as I looked at this city of the masses in Latin America just as we can say about Africa and about every other country in the Third World, all over the world, of course, I mean. Everybody needs Christ, Christ is very much needed in the first world, in the industrialized world, Western world, but as I saw those teeming masses, those people walking desperately in the streets and selling everything that they could lay a hand on, I was reminded of the huge need that there is in our continent for Jesus Christ, for churches that will preach the gospel and for people that will go and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I looked, you know, the Lord gave me a little space in my hotel where I could take a chair and hide myself and look down upon the center of the city and see these people desperately selling in their carts, all kinds of fruits, objects of all sorts trying to eek out a living and I was reminded of the words of Jesus Christ when he said, when the Bible says that “He saw the multitude and He had pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. One of the things in my conversations with many of the pastors was made clear to me, and I don’t want to sound critical at all, because again I think this is prevalent all over the world and all over Latin America really, but you know many of the pastors spoke critically of each other and of many of the churches there, and there was this sense that there’s still the need for many more churches, credible churches, churches that will serve as a refuge for those masses. The church of Jesus Christ needs to get its act together, certainly here in Boston we need to get out act together, so that we can provide people who are in need of that shepherding and that refuge that they need so that when they come to church they can sense that they’ve arrived to a place of rest, that they can receive good counsel, good teaching, good the word of God, good living, love, support, shepherding, so that they can become the people that God wants them to become.

All I’m doing here is just setting up, sort of a stage and giving you a kind of report of my trip and just hopefully to instill in you, as the Lord has done in me, this sense of the need that there is of a gospel. Being there has intensified my concern and my sense of commitment to the Lord to be a resource for the kingdom in a time of great, great need in the world. So I’m just giving this report as sort of a way setting up the essence of my meditation and the thought that I want to share with you. I think the essence would be, we can put it in a form of a question: who will go? We can phrase the message in the form of a question: who will go? Who will go? I mean, in these areas of need and even here in our own city of Boston there is so much need and who will go except us, and who will be that church of Jesus Christ, the refuge that people need if not our congregation, our church, and God is reminding us that He’s seeking men and women, He’s seeking churches, He’s seeking workers, because there’s a huge need. This is the time. This is the time.

God needs for us to live minimally in a sense, to live with a basic, in the basic way and to give all that we can give on to the Lord. Most of us think the other way. We think: well, I will benefit as much as possible, I will make sure that all my needs are attended to generously, I will take care of all the things that I need and then whatever is left I’ll give it on to the Lord, no? That is the way that we most often compute in real life. This is why when we read in Galatians 2:20, this idea. Paul says: “with Christ I’m jointly crucified”. When Paul says “with Christ I’m jointly crucified and I no longer live but Jesus Christ lives in me”, he was an example of a man who had given all for Christ. He had taken his great academic training, his pharisaic identity, his prestige, his self image and had put it all at the feet of Christ who said to him “I need you to go out and to preach my gospel and to let people know that I have died that they might have eternal life”, and so when Paul says that “I’m crucified jointly with Christ”, he’s saying I, like Christ, have also given my life. I’ve given it all for Christ. Now, I no longer live, now only Christ lives in me. What I live now, I live it in the knowledge, I live it in the faith of the son of God. You know what Paul is saying: I have lost my life, I have lost my identity, I have lost my dreams, I have lost my priorities and I have put it all in the hands of Jesus Christ that I might be constituted as an instrument for God. He says what I live now I live it in the faith of the son of God, in other words whatever I live, whatever I do I do it in terms of my faith as a child of Jesus Christ who has been redeemed by his blood, purchased by blood and therefore I no longer belong to myself, my dreams, my plans, my projects, my priorities are now lived in terms of the Kingdom of God. That is what gives me my identity now and that’s what gives meaning to my life.

God needs for us to live in such a way that when we enter here into this church what we have is a bunch of ghosts coming into the temple, people who have died and now people who have been resurrected to a new identity, lived in terms of Jesus Christ and the claims of the kingdom and the needs of the kingdom. People who are dead but now have been resurrected in Jesus Christ. This idea that Paul so much preached about that when we receive Jesus Christ we die and this is the whole meaning of baptism, that you die, you go like through a ritual death, so to speak, and you lose your identity, your human identity in the sense that you no longer live for the world, what the world wants of you or what you want of the world. You no longer live according to the priorities that ungodly live for, you live now in Jesus Christ and you have a new identity, a new identity has been imparted on to you. It’s like those Palestinian suicide terrorists that before they become suicide candidates they are literally buried many times in order to help them go through the process of dieing and so renouncing life, so they can be better prepared to give themselves as a suicide terrorist and die. In a sense they bury them literally to help them visualize what it is to die so that when they come back up they say: I’ve died anyway, so you know if I go and I blow myself up that’s just the final piece of the process, but I’ve already done mentally.

Let’s go to Romans chapter 6. we can see this a little bit better. Romans chapter 6 verse 3. It says: “don’t you know that those of us who have been baptized in Jesus Christ, we have been baptized in his death? Because we are buried jointly with Him for death through baptism so that in the same manner that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead by the glory of God therefore we also may walk in a new life”. You know this is the meaning behind baptism or one of the anyway and a very profound one. When you are buried in the water for a moment you disappear on to the world, like you were dieing and then when you get back from the water, you emerge with a new life, a new identity. It’s a very powerful symbolic gesture that we’re carrying out through baptism. But we need to internalize that and its consequences which is that now we need to live in a new life. Christ needs men and women who have gone through that process of dieing and who have come back to life, so to speak and who now are simply instruments, property of the kingdom, totally yielded on to the needs of the kingdom, who will do whatever is necessary so that his purpose will be carried out on the world and we are called to live that. Any other kind of living, any other kind of Christian living is fiction. It’s pure pretension, it’s not authentic. Authentic Christian living means that you have died to any of your own priorities and now the priorities that occupy your heart are the priorities of a Kingdom of God. You are a property of the Kingdom of God. I pray that all of us will be able to say to Jesus Christ: Lord kill me so that I might live now to Jesus Christ.

God has been speaking to me in a very personal way about dieing and about giving to the Lord whatever is left of me and of yielding so that God can use me the way He wants to use me. He’s saying that to everybody here in this congregation as well: we must die and we must give ourselves because there are things that we are still hanging on to and we must yield them to the Lord. Even when we think that we have given everything, there are hidden pieces that we have not yet given to the Lord and we need to yield those things to the Lord and there needs to be a radical surgery that God needs to do in order that we might give it all to the Lord.

Jesus has said if the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies then it will bear much fruit but if it does not die, it will remain alone, unfruitful. And that is really an analogy for what we must experience in our lives and whatever is left of us must be thrown before the feet of Jesus Christ and thrown to the fire that we might then be able to be used of God.

In Second Timothy, 2:21 it says: “…therefore if anyone cleanses himself of these things, these things are the sins of life, the sinful attitude, then he will be an instrument for honor, sanctified, useful on to the Lord and ready for every good work”. In that verse what the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy who is an aspiring pastor, he says, if you cleanse yourself, if you purify yourself, if you sanctify yourself, if you get yourself to the point where there is no mixture, and that’s quite a task, but we have to try as much as possible with the help of the Holy Spirit, then at that point you will be ready to be used by God. At that point you will be an instrument which will worthy and it will be inevitable that you will be used.

I was reminded of another passage in Jeremiah chapter 15, verse 19. the Lord tells Jeremiah, a prophet who has already given so much, he’s been in prison, he has preached the word of God at great personal cost and yet the Lord still says to Jeremiah therefore the Lord says, if you convert I will restore you and you shall remain before me and if you separate the precious from the vile then you shall be as my mouth, let them convert themselves to you and do not you convert yourself to them”. You see, there’s a process here: if you separate the profane, the sinful, the merely biological, the carnal from the spiritual and you come to that point in your life that your concentration on God and your calling is laser like purified, you are a concentrated being, you have died, you have gone through the crisis of deciding who are you going to live for and by and you are completely committed to the Kingdom of God and you have done your homework and you have allowed the Holy Spirit to kill you, and cleanse you, and sanctify and purify you, then you shall become as my mouth, says the Lord, when you speak it will be my mouth speaking through yours, then you will be able to do like Elijah who said: as the Lord lives before whom I stand, this is the favorite saying of Elijah, when he was going to make a powerful proclamation, because we will always then be living before the presence of God and we can speak then with the authority of God. God wants men and women through whom He can speak with his full authority but they must pay the price of dieing. In this world that we’re living with so much need, where there is such crisis going on and the multitudes are huge and the satanic powers have been given freedom to roam and to do their evil intent with more freedom than ever before, God needs men and women who are sanctified, purified, concentrated, who have died, who have gone through the crisis and who are now able to carry his word with the power of the Holy Spirit. Worthy vessels, sanctified vessels, concentrated vessels, but we must pay the price.

There’s another character I want to speak to you in connection with this meditation. The Lord spoke to me about him this morning, Jeremiah 45. The character of Baruk speaks to my heart this morning as well in the context of what I’m speaking of workers that are needed in a context of great need and great urgency and Baruk is a very obscure character in scripture but here in chapter 45, let’s just read this. It says here that Baruk complains to God and he says; oh always me, because God has added all kinds of sadness to my pain and God sent him a message through Jeremiah and said: thus said the Lord, here I am preparing myself to destroy that which I built and to pull out that which I planted and this entire and you are seeking for yourself greatness. Do not seek it because now I am bringing death upon all flesh, says the Lord, but you will be allowed to escape with your life. This book is written in the context of impending destruction that God was going to bring upon Juda because of its sins. The Babylonians were at the door ready to destroy Israel, Jerusalem in particular and all the tribe of Juda and to take them in captivity to Babylon. Their way of life was going to be destroyed completely. Apocalypses is going to descend upon Juda and here’s this man who apparently some sort of erudite, colorly person and he’s complaining and he’s saying: oh always me, here I am. Apparently in Baruk’s heart he was thinking about all the things that he was going to lose and maybe he was thinking even about his plants and his profession and his dreams of personal greatness and of personal acquisition and success, and God discerned that in His heart and says: here I am, getting ready to destroy that which I love, which I have invested and you are concerned about your own life, and about your own dreams of greatness. It was a scandalous kind of moment that God was projecting here. This hole idea that we are living in a time of great, impending cataclysms all over the world, I think God is preparing to soften the world for the last huge presentation of the gospel and there are needs, there are urgent needs all over the world and it’s in all the great cities of the world, and in all the great extensions of lands of the world and in a time of impending transformation, of cataclysmic readjusting of the world many of us are still thinking about our own petty dreams, priorities, needs, comfort and God is saying: how dare you when my heart is aching because there is so much destruction that needs to be brought upon human kind, so much suffering, so many souls that are going to go to hell, and here you are thinking about your own petty existence. Be glad that I let you escape with your life, at least you have that much in you, but do not accuse me somehow of cutting off your dreams and your projections of personal greatness and personal achievement.

I bring this to the level of painful specificity. All this stuff is very nice when we speak about it in theory, in kind of a mystical fashion, but in the case of our congregation in particular we have just been blessed by God with the permission from the city of Boston, after many months of huge struggle with the city and with our neighborhood to be allowed to build our new temple. And I believe that God wants to bring a larger place where we can have more people. If you come to the 12 o clock service we are completely full, this service is already quite full and if God is going to bring the harvest that we know God is bringing in the next few years to our church, we need a bigger place in which to bring those new souls and that requires people who will have a giving heart. We’re not doing this just because the pastor decided to have a bigger temple, in a sort of a tribute to the church’s greatness, we’re doing it because it’s a need and it is necessary for our people to give generously, to give and that is part of the Christian walk, the Christian soldierly living which is that when there’s a need in the Kingdom of God we say: here I am Lord.

God works in a very coherent way. He prepares His places, He prepares his people, He prepares his message, and then when everything is ready He gives the next assignment, the next portion of the plan and so we need to be ready, we need to be prepared. God will need people to disciple, God will need people to evangelize, God will need people to counsel, God will need leaders to complement the work of other leaders and that’s you and all of us who are here in order for God to do what He wants to do, the major work that He wants to do in this time.

God asks us today to make a commitment in our hearts, in our spirits to serve him, to die for him, to live for him, to consecrate ourselves in the context of great, great need.

Just say to the Lord: Lord, I yield to you, I give my life to you. I consecrate myself to you. Let’s just say to the Lord: Lord, I want to die, kill me that I might live again in your image, the image of a servant, the image of somebody who has been now consecrated to live according to your plans and to your desires, to your specifications. Just consecrate yourself to Him. Whatever you live, whatever identity you adopt in life, whether you’ll be a professional identity or whatever it is, as colorly identity, live it in Jesus Christ, live it in the faith of the son of God who died for you. Live as an instrument for Him. Whatever you have, whatever you achieve, acquire, acquire it and use if for the Kingdom of God, give freely to the Lord and God will bless you. Like Baruk he says I will give you your life as the prize, that’s all that we can aspire to have from God, our own being rescued from the fire of hell, the preservation of our life. If you give your life to the Lord the Lord will bless it and sanctify it and put it to shine like the midday sun. Just yield your life. Lord we consecrate ourselves to you. We consecrate this church to you, father. We consecrate ourselves to your purposes. Today, use us Lord. Kill us father that we might live to a new life with Jesus Christ. Give us a new identity, Lord. Give us a new reason to live. Father it’s so hard to die. It is so hard to die. Forgive us because we cling to our life. Lord, you take the knife and do the work. We give you freedom. We give you permission to do that today, Lord. Convert us. Change us. Change us, Lord. Consecrate us.

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