The Heart of a Healthy Christian
Basic commitments to remain healthy in Christ
In a recent issue of Meat & Poultry Magazine, editors quoted from Feathers, the publication of the California Poultry Industry Federation, telling the following true story. It seems the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has a unique device for testing the strength of windshields on airplanes. The device is a gun developed by Texas A&M that launches a dead chicken at a plane’s windshield at approximately the speed the plane flies. The theory is, if the window does not crack from the carcass impact, it’ll survive a real collision with a real bird in flight.
Well, the British were very interested in this and wanted to test a windshield on a brand new, high speed locomotive they were developing. They borrowed one of the FAA’s chicken launchers, loaded a chicken and fired. The ballistic chicken shattered the windshield, went through the engineer’s chair, broke an instrument panel and embedded itself in the back wall of the engine cab. The British were stunned and asked the FAA to recheck the test to see if everything was done correctly.
The FAA reviewed the test thoroughly and just had one recommendation–“Use a thawed chicken.” Those guys really laid an egg–birdbrains. Their thinking was scrambled. The yolk is on them. They must have really been fried. It is very easy to miss an obvious fact. It’s easy to miss the most important issue.
We Christians do it all the time–that’s why God warns us not to miss the most important issue, the heart. Husbands can’t verbally trash their wife and pretend it will make no difference spiritually, when God warns in 1 Peter 3:7, your prayers may be hindered. Believers can’t gather for corporate worship when they are angry at another Christian in our midst, because Jesus says in Matthew 5:24, “Leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Christians can’t serve in the church while refusing to deal with sin in their life. Psalm 66:18, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” God is very concerned about us keeping short accounts and having healthy hearts. A healthy heart is one that is submissive, obedient and willing to do whatever God asks. God wants our hearts warm, tender and alive–not frozen, hard, or indifferent.
Jesus warns you in Matthew 15:8 not to be, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.” Like using a frozen chicken, each of us can miss one important detail. Everything can look good on the outside, but we have a frozen heart on the inside. Today, I want to X-ray the difference between a healthy Christian and a sick Christian, which is also the difference between a healthy church and a sick church.
Why? Because church life is going to get harder, not easier. Because we are still on a wagon train and have not yet settled into a permanent base of operations. Because what makes us a church is not a gym, a tent, or a building–but a heart-driven people. The Church is not a building but a body–not a place but a people. And our health will not be determined by a hot address, but by a holy assembly. What are some of the key commitments that produce spiritual health in a Christian, in a family and in a church?
#1 Trust in the SUFFICIENCY of Christ for all your spiritual needs
When someone doesn’t trust in the sufficiency of Christ, they look to a familiar form or an external program to meet their felt need. They say, “I grew in a Sunday school class, so I need a Sunday school class to grow now. This program made all the difference. I got saved in a teen choir, so we need a choir for my kids. You have to give up all your external forms of dress, programs, and buildings and trust in the sufficiency of Christ.
The true child of God has everything they need in life and to live godly like Christ. There is no new experience, seminar, event, program, group or structure we need to become what God wants us to be. We can be content in Christ. Read God’s promise in 2 Peter 1:3, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us [how much?] everything pertaining to life and godliness.” God says He has given us everything we need for life and for living godly.
And do you know what everything means in the Greek? No, it means all–nothing left out, nothing more needed, complete, sufficient, abundant. As Ephesians 1:3 says, “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.”
But you say, “Hey, I know I have everything I need, but now I need to work it out for myself, right?” Wrong! God says in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing [what, Paul?] that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” All of these verses together, ask one crucial question. Is Jesus enough? Can He satisfy the deepest desire of your heart? Does He fill your life to overflowing? Is His love enough to satisfy your need? Does His person quench your deepest longing?
Simply, is your faith a Jesus “and” religion, or a Jesus “alone” relationship? Do you remember what Jesus said in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” In other words, your commitment to Christ comes first and is higher than any other commitment. In order to grow to be a healthy Christian, there is a need for you to cut out extras—non-biblical preferences, some freedoms, time wasters God does not require in His Word.
Healthy Christians are willing to abandon anything except Christ and what He commands. Healthy Christians are never fully satisfied with their growth, but they are content with Christ as their first love. And a healthy church keeps things simple enough for believers to focus on Christ and not other people or things–even good things. The only way for you to stay healthy is to keep your hearts focused on the sufficiency of Christ. Is the Lord enough for you, or do you have some other priority, focus or relationship you are using to foolishly try to make you complete or happy? What else do we need to grow healthy?
#2 Take full RESPONSIBILITY for all your sin
Never forget, all your problems, pains, hurts and struggle are the result of sin. Sin is the disease that robs you of your spiritual health. The Great Physician brought you back to life, since sin had killed you and you were dead. But now He wants to help you get over the effects and symptoms of the sin disease. But that requires you to admit, turn from and get help in your struggle with sin. Let’s face it–you don’t like to admit sin. You really don’t.
We love to hide from the responsibility of sin and we love to blame others. We actually learned to hide and blame in the garden. What’s the first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned? They hid. Then when confronted, Adam blamed–who? Not Eve–Adam blamed God. He said, “It was the woman You gave me, God.” Then Eve blamed, saying, “It was the serpent’s fault.” And the serpent blamed, saying, “Ssssssbpbpbpbpb.”
Since the first sin, you and I have been hiding from God and blaming others for our sin. That’s why it’s fashionable today to play the victim. “I can’t have normal sexual relations with my spouse, because I had a promiscuous past. I don’t love my spouse anymore, because she doesn’t meet my needs. I can’t get to church in the winter—it’s too cold. And in the summer—it’s too hot. (And in spring it’s too nice.)”
Today it’s in vogue to say your bad behavior is the fault of your parents, environment, upbringing, race, family history, circumstances or economic status. Now there are some horrific situations where one is literally forced into sin—so they are a victim. I am not addressing those, but the other 99% that involve your choice. Look what God says in 1 John 1:8,10, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.” Translated, if you say, “It’s not me, you’re not His.” Non-sinners are non-Christians.
I had a shocking conversation with a relative. We were talking about how Jesus came to save us from our sins, and she said, “I’ve never sinned.” I was shocked. I know this lady. She’d pretend to be poor and get merciful people to send her money, even though she had over $300,000 in the bank. She lied, stole, cheated and gossiped worse than a soap opera. She would take the salt and pepper shakers from restaurants when she liked them. Yet she really believed she’d never sinned.
God’s Word says in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, not even one.” James 1:13 and 14 clarifies this further. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt any one. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”
The Bible says, “Don’t blame God–you are at fault.” When you blame someone or your circumstances—ultimately, you’re blaming your sovereign God who controls all those variables for your sin. But James says whenever you choose to sin, you alone are the one to blame. And whenever you do not take full responsibility for your sin, you clog the work of God in your life. At that point, until you deal with your sin, you are no longer walking in the Spirit, but in the flesh. So what should you and I do? Say, “That’s bad”–the Bible calls this . . .
First John 1:9 explains confession this way, “If we confess our sins”–to confess means to say the same thing, to agree, to see things eye to eye. When you became a child of God, you agreed with God that your sin was your fault. Genuine Christians continue to see eye to eye with God about the awfulness of their sin. They’ll take responsibility for their own sin and won’t blame others for their sin.
You won’t call sin an accident, defect, error, or weakness. You will call it what God calls it, an abomination, a choice–a sick, willful choice. You won’t be a broad confessor—“Sorry for all my sin.” No, but a specific confessor saying, “Lord forgive me for my lack of gratitude, or giving, or harsh words this morning.”
And verse 9 continues, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John says when we confess, God gives us a fresh new start in our walk with Him. This is crucial to the health of any Christian. No one can remain spiritually healthy who doesn’t agree with God about the sin in their life. But it’s not enough to just point out the clog and say, “That’s bad.” God says . . .
Remember the words of Jesus when He forgave the woman caught in adultery? Here she is, lying face down in the dirt, broken, naked and repentant. Jesus sees her sorrowful, repentant heart and says, “I don’t condemn you. But go and [what?] sin no more.” Jesus says this pattern of adultery has got to stop and if you are truly repentant, it will. I forgive this sin, but prove you’re deeply repentant by being willing to forsake this behavior by the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Second Corinthians 7:11 in the NIV defines true repentance for us. “See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” This morning, if a man were to climb over the seats all the way to the top–and as he stepped over each row, he stepped on one of you. And every time he stomped on a foot, he’d say, “Sorry.” Crunch, “Sorry.” Smash, “Sorry.” Stomp, “Sorry.” Would you consider his confession sincere? No! If you commit an intentional sin and say, “Oh, sorry.” And then a day later say, “Oh, sorry.” And then the next day say, “Sorry.” Is that any different?
Confession isn’t enough–the pipe is clogged. That’s bad, yes–but clean it out. Repent! Go and sin no more! Otherwise, you’re clogging the work of God in your life. Confess, repent, and if you can’t seem to break the bondage of sin? Get help. The Bible calls this . . .
In a healthy church, Christians are free to admit their sin to one another. Not opening your entire dirty closet for everyone to see, but asking a few godly friends to help you overcome certain sins with prayer and accountability. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Godly friends can help a lot when dealing with tough sin issues.
Speaking of sin, Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Your spiritual health begins by taking full responsibility for your sin–not blaming, not rationalizing, not saying it’s someone else’s problem, or I’m a victim. But saying, it’s my problem, I must turn from it. And if I don’t see change, then I get help.
Mega-churches don’t. Phony churches don’t. Church growth movements don’t. But healthy churches expose sin, talk about how to overcome sin, warn about the consequences of sin, encourage Christians to deal with sin and learn to confess sin to each other. And healthy Christians confess, repent and get help with their sin. How else can we remain healthy?
#3 Depend on the HOLY SPIRIT to live your Christian life
You can’t remain healthy as a Christian through a routine–there must be an alive relationship. When you try to fix what is needed in the church with a program, a conference, an event, or a facility, you and I eventually will get sick. Spiritual health only comes as we depend upon the Holy Spirit. We remain healthy when we yield, submit to, walk with, are controlled by and depend upon the Holy Spirit to empower us, live through us and change us.
In Galatians 5:16 God says, “[continually/habitually] walk [literally, conduct your life] by the Spirit and you’ll not carry out the desire of the flesh.” You will not live out the fruit of the flesh if you walk in the Spirit. Have you ever struggled with (Galatians 5:19 to 21) immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20loving things more than God, being tempted to follow a horoscope, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, fighting with others, 21wanting what others have, getting drunk, or going to sinful parties? or other things that are spiritually unhealthy?
Then walk in the Spirit. You don’t have to live fleshly. You see, healthy Christians don’t say, “I can’t obey, or I can’t love my spouse.” Healthy Christians know they can obey God. Theologically, a true Christian can’t say, “I can’t live for Christ,” but what they actually are saying is, “I won’t live for Christ,” because the Bible says you can. So how does the Spirit strengthen me? When we depend upon Him.
When you became a Christian, you were indwelt with the third person of the Trinity, the person of the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” And dependence upon the Holy Spirit results in spiritual health. Just as a car depends on gasoline to run, just as we depend on food to be nourished, or we depend on water to get clean, we also depend upon the Holy Spirit to live healthy. As God Himself said in Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.”
So how do we depend upon the Holy Spirit? Since He is the Spirit of Truth, we will live according to the truth of God’s Word. Since He is the Holy Spirit, we will live holy–admitting, turning from and getting help with our sin. Since He is God, we will submit to Him in prayer, asking for His help, seeking His wisdom, and trusting His leading. That is why Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Filled is a command to obey. it’s plural, referring to all of us. It’s continual action, meaning every moment of every day, 24/7. And it is passive, meaning you can’t force the Spirit to fill you, but you can welcome Him to fill you, seeking His control by dependently engaging your will, following His Word, confessing all sin and yielding to His leadership. The Bible warns you the Holy Spirit can be grieved by our choice to sin, and quenched by our choice to not obey His Word. So we need to make sure there is no known sin in our lives, squelching the Spirit’s control.
And when we depend upon the Holy Spirit, He will produce His fruit in our lives, which is the answer to all of our needs. Think of a problem and see how the fruit of the Spirit provides the answer. I can’t get along with ______ . . . the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love. I’m so sad all the time . . . joy. I’m really upset about . . . peace. I keep losing my temper . . . patience. I treat them badly because they . . . kindness. I just want to hurt them . . . goodness. I’ll never get back with my ex . . . faithfulness. I can’t help but hit them . . . gentleness. I can’t stop eating and vomiting . . . self-control.
You don’t need psycho-analysis to get spiritually healthy, or to cast out the demons of depression in your life, or to dig up all your past resentment of your parents, to visualize yourself without the problem, to help your child have better self-esteem. No human technique can make you spiritually healthy. Anything not of the Spirit is fleshly, worldly, sinful or temporal. Any change made without Him will not be internal transformation, but a mere external conformation. All you need is for the Holy Spirit to fill you and live through you. Don’t miss the obvious.
Are you trusting in the sufficiency of Christ? Are you taking full responsibility for your sin? Are you depending on the Holy Spirit to live your life? How else will we remain healthy?
#4 Follow the SCRIPTURE to live God’s will
The Word of God is the medicine needed to live healthy. The Bible is our spiritual food. Christians get sick when they begin to think, “I just need fellowship, not Bible study.” Christians become unwell when they take Bible preaching for granted. Christians get sick when they don’t apply the Word as a doer. Churches get in trouble when they focus on programs over principles. Can you imagine just reading part of a prescription on a medicine bottle? That is a little like a Christian who ignores the entire Bible.
Very much linked to the work of the Holy Spirit is the fact that God keeps us healthy through the Word of God. As Colossians 3:16 commands, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you [and what will happen if I do? The exact same thing as being filled with the Spirit] with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
How does God keep us healthy? By filling our minds with His Word so it alone becomes our guide, food, medicine and light for every problem, decision and direction. As Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The Bible, through the Spirit, is God’s change agent. Jesus said this so well in His prayer in John 17:17, “Sanctify them [change them] in the truth; Thy Word is truth.”
How does the Bible get into your life in order to help you live spiritually healthy? By regularly hearing the Word, reading the Word, studying the Word, memorizing the Word, and meditating on the Word. When you do, the Word becomes second nature. You begin to think Bible. When someone cuts you, you bleed Bible. You’ll begin to act more like Christ, since God’s Word is God’s will. You will be healthy.
But understand, it’s not ideas about God that keep you healthy. It’s not seminars that quote a few Bible verses that keep you pure. It’s not the lightweight, fun-talk, tickle sermons around the Bible that bring godly change. It’s not a thought for the day that will keep you spiritually strong. It’s verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, book-by-book, where God’s Word is interpreted correctly, clearly understood, and obediently applied–the author’s intended message. Don’t miss the obvious about God’s Word–churches and Christians who remain healthy are those who focus on teaching, learning and applying the entire Bible. And a final attribute of the spiritually healthy heart is to . . .
#5 Function as a living member of a LOCAL CHURCH
When you are battling a disease, it is always easier when you do it with someone else. When you are trying to lose weight, it is easier with another. When you are trying to win a team sport, it is easier when you are all working together. A healthy Christian functions as a living member in the local church the way God describes.
This is not a place to go on Sunday–this a people you are worshipping the Savior with others. This is not a facility, but people closer than friends you’re roped to like mountain climbers. This is not a club, but Christ-followers who need each other like a kidney needs a body to remain alive. Like a sheep needs a flock in order to not be picked off by wolves. Like a building needs every brick to remain a strong wall against the enemy.
Christians who are inconsistent in their attendance, who don’t give, who don’t treat the church as their family, who refuse to join a ministry or build up one another in close relationship will get sick or stay weak until they do. Paul says it in Ephesians 4:15 to 16, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, 16from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” One version translates, “When each part works as it should, the whole body grows.”
God says interdependent relationships in a Christian community is where each person ministers their gift to the entire body, causing the growth of everyone together. Your inter-connectedness and service to this church causes all of us to grow healthy. God designed all of us to mature together in Christ. When we all do our part, all of us grow. When any one of us fail to do our part, we retard the health of the entire church.
First Corinthians 12:27 NIV says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Part of the reason many of you were not spiritually healthy for long periods of your Christian walk is you were in a church where walking in obedience to the Word of God, and becoming like Christ was not a passion, a priority. Your growth was hindered because the Word wasn’t taught, or people were not in the Spirit, or not admitting sin, or not relying upon Christ alone but on programs. Your growth was hindered by the others around you.
And all of us here could return to that condition if we don’t all choose to become fully functioning parts of the church body. Not an organization, not a sports team or your favorite parachurch group–according to the Bible, those are all extra. God commands each of us to use our giftedness in service to a local church body. Peter says to the Church in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” If you are visiting today, welcome and thanks for coming. But if you have made FBC your church home, act on today’s truth and go after these five.
1 GIFT The Lord has gifted you to serve in His church–not merely attend, but to faithfully give yourself away in service out of love for Christ and obedience to His Word.
2 GIVE The Lord has given you resources to invest in his purposes. FBC is not a wealthy church, it is filled with faithful, sacrificial givers. Be a faithful steward of your resources.
3 GROUP We are a very small church to those who are interconnected in ministry or to a community group. It is what the Early Church did and it is what we do–meet house-to-house.
4 GREET Those of you who are family, need to intensify your greeting and getting to know new folks. To maintain a biblical local church, make it your goal every week to meet someone new to you and enfold them in Christ’s love and into the body of Christ.
5 GOSPEL Make certain you have the heart of a born-again believer–the Gospel will give you a heart where you will want to serve, want to give faithfully, want to be interconnected and want to love the stranger. Is that you?
Those of you more mature in the faith, grab onto the truth with these three challenges.
DISCIPLE Invest into others–right now more than ever.
DOCTRINE Uphold and instruct others into a proper view of God.
DIRECT Lead others, don’t merely tell them–show them, take them by the hand.
Those of you who are not in Christ, respond to one challenge . . .
TURN from your sin, depend in faith on Christ’s death on the cross for your sins, His resurrection from the dead and as your God who you follow with your whole heart. There is no joy, peace, or love if you are not in Christ.