- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

The following are excerpts of a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Charlie Baile at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church in Derwood.

What is your “precious” today? Those who laugh have seen the final “Lord of the Rings” movie. You know about Smeagol’s continual reference to “the precious.”

To him, the ring was the precious. The irony is that the precious destroys and corrupts whoever goes after it. Isn’t that the way it is in life? Anything in life that we make our “savior” and our “satisfier” other than Jesus will in the end destroy us and fail us.

These things cannot ultimately save or deliver. The Bible refers to Jesus as the precious: “Now to you who believe He is precious. …” (I Peter 2:7). The Bible says in I Peter 1:18-19: “We have been redeemed not with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

What is your precious? Compare that to your love for Christ. Which one dominates your attention and affection? What do you lean on in times of trouble to deliver you? This is your functional god and your savior and your lord.

G.K. Chesterton said, “When a man refuses to worship God, he doesn’t worship nothing — he worships anything.” Any other precious than Jesus will in the end leave you high and dry. I say that because it won’t get you through the final battle, which is death and the judgment seat, when we stand before our maker.

However, the apostle Paul wrote Ephesians 2:2-3: “You once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath. …”

In Ephesians 4:17-24, the apostle Paul lays out the problem and then the solution. The problem that we all have is not God, nor is the problem ultimately a societal problem, or a chemical problem, or a physical problem. The ultimate problem in all of us is that deep in our inner being is a spiritual heart problem that leads to spiritual heartache and a relentless denial of the lion of our conscience.

According to Ephesians 4:18-19, the problem is: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness.”

Before the Holy Spirit intervenes in our lives, we have a heart problem that is irreversible. This “hardness of heart” leads to a head problem, so that our driving inclinations and motivations are all selfish, covetous, greedy and sensual in such a way that we do not please God in our thinking because we are consumed with pleasing ourselves. We had no regard for God. We were alienated from the life of God.

The Bible actually says in Romans 1:28 that God gave them over to a debased mind. It is as though God’s judgment on man in part is to give him over to the perverse pleasures that he is craving.

All things were created by Him and through Him and for Him. Hence, all of our life as a Christian is to be done in such a way that we want Christ to have the pre-eminence.

Do you realize that the Bible describes this downward spiral of sin in Ephesians 4:17-19? It ends with “having given themselves over to greed or covetousness” (Ephesians 4:19). In the original language here is how Louw & Nida (a Greek lexicon) defines the word “greed” in Ephesians. 4:19: “A strong desire to acquire more and more material possessions or to possess more things than other people have, all irrespective of need.”

So, as Christians we no longer live for amassing more and more earthly treasures with little thought of heavenly treasures. We live for amassing heavenly treasures with restraint towards earthly treasures.

Listen to what the Bible says happened to the old man or the old self at the cross. Romans 6:6: “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.”

Second Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”

Romans 8:2: “For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

You must remember this morning as we come to the Lord’s table that Jesus’ death freed you from your sins and that He has given you a new life, a new purpose, and new identity in Christ. Let us go into this New Year remembering that we have been made new by Jesus, and let’s walk with Him in unity and purity as we ask the spirit of God to do only what He can do.

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