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August 12, 2018 The Incredible Shrinking Person

 

 

Scripture reading: Luke 2:39-40; 51-52; 2 Peter 3:18

 

[I. Introduction] When I was a boy I saw a science fiction movie entitled The Incredible Shrinking Man.  It was released in 1957 but I watched it on television several years later. For a young lad it was a thrilling movie although, by today’s standards, the special effects are so outmoded. The movie is about a man who, because of being exposed to radiation, begins to shrink.

 

There is a phenomenon among God’s people that can be described as a shrinking. I refer to individuals, not to churches. We have already seen that the churches in America and in the West are on the decline. They are shrinking. Today, I want to address the incredible shrinking person.

 

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. [1]

 

Here we see that God’s will is that we be sanctified. If we have surrendered our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in his sacrifice at the cross on our behalf then we have been justified, that is, made right with God, our sins being forgiven. But there are still many things about us that are not conformed to the Lord’s will. We need to be sanctified. To be sanctified means to be set apart. We are a people that are set apart from the world and set apart for the Lord’s use. This is a life-long process. It is life-long because, to use the common vernacular, we are so messed up!

 

But look at verse 23 carefully. It is not just Paul’s wish – it is God’s wish because Paul was inspired – that we would be sanctified. But that we would be sanctified completely! Amen! Let us be sanctified. God is the one who does it. But, unlike justification which is the work of God alone, in sanctification the Lord requires our cooperation. We must seek it and we must endeavor to conform ourselves to the Lord’s will. The Holy Spirit provides both the motivation and the power, yet we must cooperate with him. It is possible for a disciple of the Lord to sow to their flesh rather than the spirit (Galatians 6:7-9;Romans 8:12-17; I Cor 3:1-3). The Lord is faithful to do it (verse 24). Are you faithful to cooperate? Although Paul does not qualify the completion of our sanctification here – it reads as if unconditional – he does so in many other places. The Lord is faithful to sanctify us completely if we cooperate with him!

 

Verse 23 states that our whole spirit, soul, and body can be kept blameless when the Lord Jesus returns to the earth. See then, that man is tripartite. That is, he consists of three parts. He has a body. He has a soul. He has a human spirit.

 

The body is self-evident. The soul is really who we are. It is our mind, our emotion, and our will. Our human spirit is the deepest part of who we are. Upon regeneration the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our human spirit. We contact God with our human spirit because that is where the Lord comes to dwell once we become a Christian.

 

We ought to understand that we are to grow in each aspect of our being. We are stewards of the bodies and souls that God has given to us and we must care for what God has entrusted to us.

 

[II.] We must care for our bodies in order to please God and please ourselves.

 

40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. [2]

 

This verse is about Jesus shortly after his birth. Jesus grew in his body and he became strong. The favor of God was upon him. God’s favor is displayed when we are healthy and strong. But, he did not just grow in his body. He grew in wisdom as well. He was growing in stature but he was also growing in wisdom. Wisdom is a function of our soul.

 

When he is 12 years old this statement is repeated about him.

 

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. [3]

 

Our bodies stop growing in our late teens or early twenties. Girls stop growing sooner than boys. Although we stop growing, we must still care for our bodies. They have been given to us by God and we ought to give them better care than we give any other physical object.

 

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. [4]

 

We are not to destroy God’s temple. Your body is the temple of God if you belong to Christ. A person can destroy God’s temple at once by suicide. I saw a brief video a few days ago about a young man who survived his suicide attempt of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Only 1.6% of people who have jumped off the bridge have survived. That is less than one out of fifty. He relates that as soon as he stepped off the bridge he regretted his decision. But it was too late. He hit the water at 80 mph. Most people die when they hit the water because of that speed. He said that, as soon as he hit the water, he was in more pain than he had ever felt. He could hardly stand it. But he came up and caught his breath. He was in too much pain to swim. If a Coast Guard boat had not been right there, by providence, he would have drowned. They saw his jump and pulled him out of the water.

 

Of course, suicide destroys you. It is self-murder. But one can destroy their body slowly as well as quickly. You can destroy your body by smoking, by eating more than one needs to, by eating food with little or no nutritional value, i.e., “junk food,” even by inactivity. As good stewards of our bodies we will be careful about what we eat and how much we eat. A good steward will exercise.

 

7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.[5]

 

The apostle says that training our bodies is of some value. It is good. But the good is limited because it is only applicable to this life.  If we train ourselves for godliness, the sanctification of our souls, it helps us in this life and the life to come!

 

When we do care for our bodies by eating well and exercising we will discover that even our dispositions are changed. This is because, although we are composed of three parts, they are interrelated. Our bodies effect our minds and our minds effect our bodies. Our spirit effect our minds and what goes into our minds effects our spirit. When we have a sense of physical well-being it effects our mood in positive ways. If we care for our bodies we will please ourselves.

 

The only things that will keep you from being a good steward of your body is a lack of self-control and laziness. Make the right choices!

 

Because of the fall of Adam our bodies will waste away and we will all die. We will all turn to dust. But, while we have our bodies let us be good stewards of them.

 

So, we must care for our bodies in order to please God and please ourselves. We do not want to have a shrinking body as far as health is concerned.

 

Of more importance than our bodies are our souls. Our bodies will turn to dust but our souls will live on forever.

 

[III.] We must care for our souls in order to please God and please ourselves. Your soul is your mind, your emotion, and your will. If we do not use our minds then, not only will they not grow, but they will shrink. For lack of use any faculty we have will diminish. This includes our minds.

 

In the 1973 comedy, Sleeper, with Woody Allen a health-food store owner is cryogenically frozen and brought back after 200 years. The world has changed and the U.S. is controlled by a dictatorship. Allen becomes a hero as he tries to overthrow a plan to clone the dictator. While on the run he finds a 200 year old Volkswagen in a cave. He gets it, turns the ignition, and it starts. The scene is funny because we all know that  car that has been sitting around for 2 years without being started or operated won’t start, let alone 200 years. Lack of use degrades things. For lack of use our minds diminish.

 

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.[6]

 

The apostle tells us to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. I tell you, the more we grow in the knowledge of Christ the more we will experience his grace. If we neglect the knowledge of the Lord then our experience of grace will shrink and our minds will shrink.

 

We can exercise our minds in many ways. Mathematics, logic and logic problems, puzzles, and reading are all good ways to keep one’s mind fine-tuned. These are good but the knowledge of Christ is better.

 

9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;[7]

 

We should be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and increasing in the knowledge of God! Are you increasing in the knowledge of God?

 

Besides our minds being exercised our will should be exercised. Many there are who make no concerted choices. They simply do whatever they feel inclined to do. If they are hungry they eat. If they are bored they choose the path of least resistance and turn on the television or look at the internet. Those often are not wise choices because there are better things to do with your time and it is often better to not eat. If we consciously make good choices in the little things then when a more serious temptation faces us our wills will have become accustomed to making wise choices instead of choices based on feelings.

 

When it comes to our emotions many Christians allow negative emotions to dominate their souls rather than the ones that portray a healthy soul. For one, we are called to be joyful yet some experience depression.

 

We must not get these two things confused: normal and common. There is one meaning of the word normal that defines it as a synonym for what is common or average. I do not mean it in that sense. In using the word normal, I mean that which functions in the way it was designed to function. When it comes to people, that which is healthy. God does not intend for us to be depressed. He intends for us to be joyful. It is not normal to be depressed. However, it is a common experience among people, including God’s children. Elijah was depressed once.[8] But he should not have been. Jeremiah was depressed when he was thrown into a pit. It is a common experience but it is not normal.

 

I said earlier that, even though we are tripartite, each aspect of our being is affected by the others. Hormones and other chemicals within the body can effect our emotions and can be a causative factor in depression. This, however, is only a small percentage in cases of chronic depression – less than five percent.[9] Even though only a small minority of people have a chemical basis for depression, drugs are widely prescribed to combat the malady. This is the wrong approach. The vast majority of depression is caused by wrong thinking. This is not only the testimony of Scripture but by reputable psychologists as well.[10]

 

Therefore, the child of God needs to get their thinking right if they find themselves afflicted with depression.  What is the cause of depression? The primary cause of depression is unfulfilled desire. It is sometimes true that the person experiencing depression may not even be aware of what their desire is. It may be an unspoken desire. It may be a desire that is not identified by the depressed individual. Nevertheless, when a desire or expectation exists and it appears that it will not be fulfilled, depression results.

 

Since the cause of depression is unfulfilled desire, we must first identify what the desire is that is causing the problem. Usually, the one who is depressed knows what it is. But not always. If we do not know we can ask ourselves two questions: “What could change in my life that would lift my spirit?“ And, “Why would that change things?”

Once we know the desire then we can solve the problem by one of three ways:

 

  • Fulfilling the desire (sometimes not easy and sometimes wrong to do)
  • Making a plan to fulfill the desire and methodically working it. This brings hope.
  • Changing our desire. Our desires are subject to our will. (This is, often, the easiest solution.)

 

For more detail on these solutions, see the sermon Elijah and Weakness.[11]

 

The other, more underlying, cause of depression is being focused on our own selves rather than God, God’s will, and God’s plan. Whenever we focus on ourselves rather than something outside of ourselves emotional difficulties arise. These difficulties might be anger, excessive excitement, or depression. This is true even in activities unrelated to the Lord and his revelation. For example, many people who suffer from gloominess discover that when they give themselves over to working diligently at their jobs, putting in a good day’s work, they come home feeling better. Minimally, they feel better while they are working. (This may also have to do with the fact that God created us to work [Gen 2:15].) How much more true is it when it comes to our calling as disciples of Christ? When a Christian begins to live for themselves rather than for Christ and the church then emotional difficulties will arise. And, I am not talking about Sunday mornings. Sunday (or Saturday for some folk) worship is only a small part of our calling. We should be living for Christ and the church seven days per week. This includes outreach because the church is the called-out of God and we are to bring those in who have been chosen by God (We do not know who those are so we simply share the gospel with all.).

 

Do you want to be joyful rather than gloomy? Start obeying the Great Commission! Even if you do not see results (people come to Christ through your word), God’s word will not return to him void. Someone else may reap what you have sowed many months, or even years, later. Even if you do not see results you will experience joy in simply sharing the gospel.

 

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

       Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation 6 and my God.

       My soul is cast down within me;

therefore I remember you

       from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,

from Mount Mizar. [12]

David was cast down. But when he hoped in God, when he focused upon God, he had hope. And hope lifts one up.

 

3 You keep him in perfect peace

whose mind is stayed on you,

because he trusts in you. [13]

 

Here is a promise of God! It is true and it is sure! If we fix our minds upon God and we trust him then we will be kept in perfect peace! Since we are under the new covenant now, we fix our minds upon the Lord Jesus and we trust him. If we do this we will have perfect peace. Not just peace, but perfect peace!

 

Excepting chemical imparities, if we are depressed then it must be the case that our minds are either not stayed upon Jesus or we are not fully trusting him. Because God’s word is always true!

 

[IV.] Finally, we must care for our human spirit. We can read the word of God. We commune with the Lord in prayer. We get away from distractions and meditate upon the Lord, i.e., practice solitude. And, most simply, we call upon the name of the Lord. When we call upon him all we are doing is asking for his presence in a fuller way within us! One man of God put it this way: “…this causes the heavenly transmission to function in our experience to bring the divine essence of Christ into us.”[14] It sounds a little mystical, but this is our experience!

Let’s call upon him now. Oh Lord Jesus! Oh Lord Jesus! Oh Lord Jesus!

 

[V. Conclusion] What have we seen? We have seen that we are either growing or shrinking. We are to grow! Grow in faith, grow in knowledge, grow in grace. There is no such thing as being static in the Christian faith. We are either growing or shrinking. If we are growing then we are being sanctified.

 

We must be good stewards of what God has given us. We care for our bodies. We care for our mind, our will, our emotions. In growing our emotional health we saw ways to avoid or overcome depression. We care for our spirit.

 

Let us not become the incredible shrinking man. If we do then the cat will eat us. The cat is just the devil. If we shrink we make ourselves vulnerable. Let us put away petty and trifling activities and serve the Lord with a fervent spirit. Let us grow!

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Th 5:23–24). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 2:40). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 2:52). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 3:16–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 4:7–8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Pe 3:18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 1:9–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] See the sermon Elijah and Weakness here: http://nsbcwinfield.com/august_7_2016_elijah_and_weakness_part_five

[9] From notes taken during a graduate-level counseling class from Covenant Theological Seminary.

[10] Two of the most successful psychological approaches to depression and other deleterious coping mechanisms are Cognitive Behavior Therapy (Founded by Alfred Adler) and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (founded by Albert Ellis). They both affirm this truth.

[11] See footnote 8.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 42:5–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 26:3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[14] Witness Lee. Source unknown.