February 1, 2023
Retaining what matters: Overcoming Spiritual Amnesia
Listen to last week’s sermon entitled: Retaining what matters: Overcoming Spiritual Amnesia
Pastor Eric began his sermon on January 29, 2023, by reminding us that the seasons of our lives vary throughout our lifetime. Today, some of us are experiencing storms, while others are atop mountain peaks.
Yesterday, a couple from our church renewed their wedding vows in a spiritually moving ceremony. Although they were legally married, they wanted to reaffirm their commitment to each other in the presence of their church family and before God. Pastor Eric congratulated the couple and invited us to do the same.
Today marks the conclusion of our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. The past 21 days have been extremely fruitful and powerful for many members of our congregation. Furthermore, the fact that many people from outside this church and even people from abroad have joined us for this event left Pastor Eric speechless.
Read Romans 8:26
This year we decided to try something new. In order to facilitate prayer, we established a very basic prayer academy. Prayer can be challenging for many of us. Romans 8:26 states,
Also, the Spirit helps us. We are very weak, but the Spirit helps us overcome our weaknesses. We don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit himself speaks to God for us. He begs God for us, speaking to him with feelings too deep for words.
To put it another way, we have a weakness: we are not praying as we ought to. Prayer is an art that John and Jesus taught their disciples. We must also learn to pray in the same manner. Thus, The Prayer Academy was launched, and 240 people signed up, much to the surprise of Pastor Eric. The YouTube videos will remain available for a few more weeks in order to allow us to revitalize our prayer life and gain a deeper understanding of the principles, forms, and techniques of prayer.
In the past week, Pastor Eric came across some alarming statistics published by the Alzheimer Society of Canada. A recent study conducted by this health charity states that approximately 600,000 Canadians are currently suffering from dementia and amnesia. Moreover, it is estimated that the number of Canadians living with these conditions will significantly increase over the next 30 years, reaching 1.7 million by 2050.
What is spiritual amnesia?
Amnesia is a specific form of memory loss that affects a person’s ability to retain new information or recall past events. Head injuries, strokes, infections, and medications are all factors that can contribute to the development of this condition. Amnesia is not exclusive to the world: some Christians suffer from spiritual amnesia.
In the following section, we will explore some of the ways we can overcome spiritual amnesia.
How to overcome spiritual amnesia?
1 – Never lose sight of where we came from.
Read Ephesians 2:8-9
Our Christian journey was initiated by grace. We were not deserving of salvation, and neither were we deserving of a second chance. If we believe that we do not deserve God’s forgiveness or salvation as a consequence of everything we have done up to this point in our lives, Pastor Eric is here to tell us that we are in the right place. God is known for giving gifts to those who do not deserve them. This is the essence of grace. The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 2:8-9,
I mean that you have been saved by grace because you believed. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. You are not saved by the things you have done, so there is nothing to boast about.
Grace is a gift to be received. It cannot be earned.
In the event that Christians suffer from spiritual amnesia and forget the grace they have been given, they may develop a work-based mentality. A work-based mentality implies that a person’s salvation, or relationship with the Lord, is determined by their own efforts and good deeds rather than by the grace of God. They strive to earn God’s favour by performing good works or by being good enough to please Him. In order for them to maintain their salvation, they must maintain a high level of performance and meet everyone’s expectations. It is clear that these individuals are not free and they are not at peace. There is no true joy in their lives. Guilt and shame drive them to guilt-trip others. Love should motivate our actions. Love must be our driving force. When we do things out of fear of feeling guilty, ashamed, or wanting to meet everyone’s expectations, we are not acting out of love.
Read John 19:30
This is what happens when we forget where we came from. We believe that we have earned our salvation through our own efforts; however, our salvation was a gift of grace, not a work of our own. In the work-based mentality, salvation and forgiveness of sins are dependent upon one’s works, whereas grace teaches that the only works that matter are those of Christ on the cross. A person may only be saved and forgiven by the works that Jesus accomplished over 2,000 years ago when He said, “It is finished.”
Our church’s motto is: “We do good works for God, not so that we can be saved, but because we are saved.” Our service to the Lord is not motivated by obligation, but rather by love and our desire to serve Him. Grace is our guiding force. It is because of His unwavering commitment to us that we give Him our lives. We are graced at our spiritual birth, but we are also graced throughout our lives as well.
Read Galatians 3:1
Galatians 3 states that although the Christians in Galatia had begun their spiritual journey in grace, they were now turning away from it. Following the law, they had forgotten how they had come to faith in Christ through Paul’s ministry. Paul stated in Galatians 3:1,
You people in Galatia were told very clearly about the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. But you were foolish; you let someone trick you.
Paul asked them, “Who bewitched you? Who convinced you that your Christian journey commences with grace and that ultimately you must return to the law, to your own efforts, in order to be justified by God?” Paul reminded them that salvation is not dependent upon obedience to the law. It is based solely on faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice fulfilled the law, but it is through his gift that we are offered salvation.
Read Luke 18:9-14
It was about a year ago that the Lord revealed to Pastor Eric a Scripture passage from Luke 18. This parable was spoken by Jesus to those who regarded others with contempt and were confident in their own righteousness. He said, “A Pharisee and a tax collector both went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee stood alone and prayed, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people who steal, cheat, or take part in adultery, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give one-tenth of everything I get!’” The tax collector is a fraudster and a traitor. He stole the taxes of the Jewish people in order to pay the Romans. The Pharisee thanks God that he is not like the tax collector. How does the tax collector fare in all of this? Luke 18:13-14 states: “The tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even look up to heaven. But he beat on his chest because he was so sad. He said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you, when this man went home, he was right with God, but the Pharisee was not. All who make themselves great will be made humble, but all who make themselves humble will be made great.” The Kingdom of God is governed by this principle.
Pastor Eric drew inspiration from this parable as he prayed for our congregation and all other churchgoers in general. It became apparent to him that some people start out like tax collectors. It is their belief that they do not deserve mercy and that they do not deserve God’s grace. In light of their past behaviour, they believe that God cannot possibly intervene in their lives. Initially, the repentant individual, like the tax collector, asks the Lord for forgiveness, but then something changes. Eventually, the person who was once a tax collector becomes a Pharisee. Over time, the individual forgets that he or she was similar to him, if not worse.
We too are in need of grace, much like the tax collector. It is essential that we remember our beginnings. In the absence of recognition of our origins and the grace we receive, we may become increasingly dependent upon our own strength and abilities.
Grace is defined as unmerited favour. It also refers to receiving God’s power and ability to pursue a godly lifestyle. Someone said,
Grace is God’s divine assistance and empowerment to live a godly life.
Essentially, the strength and power of God help us overcome our weaknesses and live a life that is pleasing to Him. Living a godly life is the result of God’s strength and power, not our own. This is not to imply that we do not devote time and effort to it. We contribute our own efforts, but we rely on His strength and power to see it through. When we lose sight of how our journey began, we may be tempted to rely solely on our own strength, experience, knowledge, expertise, and giftings, instead of relying on God’s grace.
Read 1 Samuel 10:21-22
Saul is a perfect example of this. After Saul was disqualified, the Lord appointed David as Saul’s successor. Saul is remembered for this but are we aware of Saul’s humble beginnings? The Israelites were dissatisfied with the judges and how they ruled, so they demanded a king like the other nations. Despite the fact that this was not part of God’s plan, He granted them their wish. God instructed Samuel to anoint Saul as king. Samuel went to the tribe of Benjamin to meet Saul, who was working in his father’s field. Upon receiving the Lord’s revelation, Samuel anointed Saul as king. In addition to his high stature and good looks, Saul was a strong leader who guided his people through challenging circumstances. Nevertheless, this was not how he began. We gain a good understanding of Saul’s character in 1 Samuel 10: upon learning that he would be the next king, he hid among the baggage. First Samuel 10:21-22 states, “Then he brought each family of the tribe of Benjamin before the Lord, and the family of the Matrites was chosen. And finally, the sacred lot selected Saul, the son of Kish. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the Lord, “Where is he? Is he among us?” And the Lord replied, “He is hiding in the baggage.”
Read 1 Samuel 9:21
The character of Saul was one of humility. He did not engage in self-promotion. In his opinion, he lacked the necessary qualities to become king. In 1 Samuel 9:21, Saul said,
Pardon me, sir. I’m from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of the tribe! You must have the wrong man!” He is asking, “Are you certain that I am capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of kingship? Do you know my family and tribe?
Saul is surprised by this kind of visit, and he questions why such an honour would be bestowed upon him. He expresses humility and doubt about his qualifications for the position. He does not consider himself a viable option. Due to his doubts about God’s choice, he concealed himself among the baggage to avoid being seen. Though he was able to run, he could not evade God’s call.
Pastor Eric wonders how many of us are hiding among the baggage. We avoid frontline positions, the limelight, and the stage. We are hesitant to assume leadership positions due to a lack of confidence in our abilities. Due to our origins or the small and humble tribe we belong to, we tend to believe that God cannot possibly use us. We may run but we cannot hide from our calling.
At New Beginning Church Rockland, we often pray for help, workers, and labourers. When we were praying for a drummer to accompany the Worship Team, the Lord sent us someone from Switzerland. Sadly, our drummer will be leaving the group soon, but God will provide a suitable replacement. If a replacement is not available in the area, the Lord will find a suitable candidate abroad.
We should pray not only for workers, but also for God to assist us in discerning among the existing church attendees. It appears that some of us are like Saul. The time has come for us to assume a leadership role. Clearly, we are concealing ourselves among the baggage. It is now time for us to take the initiative.
Our church has many dreams and visions for the future. Though this may be the case, Pastor Eric is aware that no matter how great our visions are, if we lack a leader, there can be no ministry. In order to lead these ministries, we need both vision and leadership. It will be incumbent upon one pastor to handle everything if the leaders are hiding in the baggage. It is time to leave the baggage area.
Read Exodus 4:10
Are you feeling inadequate or unqualified? Though you may not realize it, the fact that you feel as though you belong to a small, poor tribe makes you an ideal candidate for the Lord to use. Did you know that many great men and women of God felt this way? It is evident in the Bible that God does not use self-promoters, but rather individuals who doubt their abilities. There are numerous instances in the Bible in which God used individuals who felt inadequate or unworthy to accomplish His purposes. Moses is an excellent example. Although Moses is portrayed in the Bible as a strong and courageous individual, he struggled when God called him to speak to His people. As stated in Exodus 4:10,
Moses pleaded, ‘O Lord, I’m just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I’m not now, even after you have spoken to me, for I have a speech impediment.
When Moses was called by God to lead the Israelites, he doubted his ability to communicate effectively and whether they would accept him or consider him credible.
Read Judges 6:14-17
Do you remember Gideon? The Lord called Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites. Due to the fact that Gideon’s family group was the weakest in Manasseh, and that he ranked as the least important member of his family, he feared he was not the appropriate candidate. In fact, he requested a sign from the Lord to confirm that it was indeed the Lord who spoke to him because he did not consider himself worthy of the appointment.
Read Jeremiah 1:6
The great prophet, Jeremiah, said,
O Lord God,” I said, “I can’t do that! I’m far too young! I’m only a youth!
Read 1 Corinthians 15:9
In light of his past, the apostle Paul regarded himself as the least worthy of all the apostles.
In spite of their doubts and insecurities, God used each of them in a very powerful way to accomplish His purposes.
So, what is our excuse this morning? The Lord does not call the equipped. He equips those He calls. Someone said,
God can work through anyone regardless of their qualifications if they are willing to trust and obey Him.
When we make ourselves available to God and we say, “Lord, here I am. Use me”, He can use us regardless of our qualifications. Who limits our potential? We do. Our potential is determined by the limitations we impose on ourselves in this life.
Over the course of his ministry, Pastor Eric has encountered ministers, pastors, and servants of God who have recounted the glory days, miracles, and revivals they experienced when they first embarked on their journey of faith. The question remains, however, where are they now? Some of them have ceased to serve the Lord.
Some of us may regret our past and wish that we could relive our early years because we were not raised in a Christian home. However, Pastor Eric came to remind us today that it is not how we start but how we finish that matters. It may be too late to restore our early years, but there is still time to live for Jesus. As long as we are alive, God is not finished with us.
What matters is what we do from this point forward. Regardless of whether Christ returns tomorrow or ten years from now, we are called to live for Him while we still have the opportunity to do so. However, should we lose sight of where we came from, negative consequences may result. We may, for instance, acquire a work-based mentality where we rely on our own self-righteousness, strength, and abilities. We may also experience guilt and shame as a result of our past mistakes. Pastor Eric has encountered many Christians who love God but struggle with guilt. The guilt, regrets, and remorse they bear are rooted in things that have already been forgiven, yet they continue to harbour them.
Read 1 John 1:9
According to Pastor Eric, it is acceptable for Christians to experience regret and remorse over past sins that lead to repentance, but it is unacceptable for them to live in condemnation and shame after sin has been forgiven by God’s grace. It is for this reason that Jesus died on the cross, to free us from the condemnation and guilt we carry. Thus, if we come to Jesus and confess our sins to Him sincerely, He will show us grace and grant us forgiveness. It is important to understand, however, that once we have been forgiven, we need to live, think, behave, and speak as believers who have received forgiveness. Our forgiveness must also extend to those who have wronged us. If we lose sight of the grace we have received, we will be plagued by guilt, shame, and condemnation. Peace and forgiveness will be difficult to achieve.
Read Revelation 12:9-11
Moreover, if we lose sight of God’s grace, the devil who is depicted in Revelation 12 as the accuser of the saints will have a field day with us.
Lies and accusations will be hurled at us, and we will be led to believe that God hates us, that He rejects us, and expects us to earn His approval, affection, and love. This form of religion, which originates from Satan, is marked by deception. Self-righteousness is used to conceal the true nature of the devil’s evil intentions. It is a lie from the pit of hell. Our journey began in God’s grace, and we should remain in His grace even in the face of adversity.
We also tend to forget that the Word of God can fade from our memory over time.
2 – The Word of God can fade from our memory.
If we forget what the Word of God says, we may end up in serious trouble. Some churches have made decisions that contradict the Bible. In lieu of obeying God’s commands, they have chosen to follow the current trends of this world. There are also Christians who follow trends that are contrary to the Bible. To put it simply, they are striving to live their faith according to their own standards. It is impossible for people to know God’s plan and will if they do not read His Word. There are dangers associated with departing from the Bible, so it is imperative that we read it.
Read Matthew 7:21-27
This is the basis of false religions and cults. They either take a portion of the Bible and make up the remainder, or they twist it in order to make it fit their interpretation. Jesus provides a strong warning about this in Matthew 7:21-23. He says, “Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter God’s Kingdom. The only people who will enter are those who do what my Father in heaven wants. On that last day many will call me Lord. They will say, ‘Lord, Lord, by the power of your name we spoke for God. And by your name we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ Then I will tell those people clearly, ‘Get away from me, you people who do wrong. I never knew you.’”
How can we know the Father’s will if we do not read His instructions?
If we do not follow the instructions found in His Word, who is our guide? According to Matthew 7:24-27, “Whoever hears these teachings of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not fall because it was built on rock. Whoever hears these teachings of mine and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house. And it fell with a loud crash.” In other words, life is unpredictable. Neither the righteous nor the unrighteous are immune to storms. Inevitably, storms will occur, but a house built on the Rock will remain steadfast.
Matthew 7:24, Jesus states, “Whoever hears these teachings of mine…”, which implies that we can attend church, hear a sermon on the Word of God, or even read the Bible, yet still be refused access to the Kingdom of God. It is paramount that our theology be firmly anchored in the Scriptures and not in someone’s experience or dream. As Christians, it is imperative that our faith is fueled by the Bible.
Mistakes are made as a result of forgetfulness. The failure to adhere to the teachings of the Bible can have grave consequences for our lives, not to mention that it gives the devil, the most powerful enemy we face, greater freedom to pray against us. Satan aims to keep us from reading God’s Word by keeping us busy. In the event that the enemy is not able to keep us from God’s Word in this manner, he will attempt to create doubt.
Read Matthew 13:19
Unless he can persuade us to doubt the Bible, Satan will endeavour to deprive us of the ability to understand it. Jesus explains in the parable of the sower that the seeds represent His teachings concerning the Kingdom of God. The seeds falling on the hard soil are symbolic of those who do not understand spiritual teachings. The truth fails to penetrate below the surface, and the devil easily snatches it away from them. If Satan cannot convince us to turn away from the Bible or make us doubt God’s Word, and if he cannot snatch the truth from us, he will attempt to twist it.
Read Matthew 4:1-11
In Matthew 4, after 40 days and nights of fasting in the desert, Jesus is tempted by Satan three times. The devil twisted the Scriptures in order to tempt Christ to place His own needs above those of His Father. Using passages from the Bible, he distorted them to suit his purpose. Thus, it is imperative that each of us read and comprehend the Scriptures in their context. Our understanding can only be achieved with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is not merely a matter of reading the Scriptures. Getting through the Bible is not a competition. Rather, it is about allowing it to permeate our hearts. When we ask the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us, He will do so. He will provide assistance through the appropriate teachings, books, commentaries, or pastoral guidance. In order to understand the Bible, we must go beyond simply reading it. The Scriptures must remain at the forefront of our minds and deep within our hearts.
Read Psalm 119:11
In the words of David, “I study your teachings very carefully so that I will not sin against you.” Do we have God’s Word hidden within us?
Read Deuteronomy 6:6
God spoke through Moses in Deuteronomy 6:6. He said, “These words, which I am commanding you today, are to be on your heart. You are to teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Bind them as a sign on your hand, they are to be as frontlets between your eyes, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” In other words, we must ensure that we do not forget His Word.
Read Colossians 3:16
This passage states, “Let the word of Messiah dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
3 – We must never lose sight of our identity in Christ.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:17
Some believers lost sight of their identity in Christ. As a result, they have forgotten who they are. The importance of remembering who we are cannot be overstated. Second Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” We, as Christians, have been reborn in Christ. One life has ended and a new one has begun. Upon accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, we are given a new identity. No longer are we defined by our past sins and mistakes, but by our new relationship with God. If we forget who we are in Christ, we will continue to struggle and hold tight to our old ways of thinking and living.
To summarize, we must not lose sight of God’s Word, our origin, and our identity in Christ.
The following are some of the characteristics of a new creation:
A – We are adopted in God’s family.
Read Ephesians 1:5
B – We are righteous.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:21
C – We are redeemed.
Read Colossians 1:14
D – We are sanctified.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:3
E – We are united with Christ.
Read Romans 6:5
F – We are heirs of the King.
Read Romans 8:17
G – We are transformed.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:18
H – We are a new creation.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:17
I – We are the Body of Christ.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:27
J – We have a new purpose.
Read 1 Peter 2:9
These are only a few examples of our new identity in Christ. As Christians, we have a new identity that will influence various aspects of our lives. It will affect our relationship with God and others, our understanding of sin, our priorities, and our overall worldview. Our understanding of who we are in Christ is therefore essential.
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