Good morning, welcome to Christ’s Community Church. Today we’re continuing with part three of our series Soul Activity and we’ve seen in so many different ways, just in the past two weeks, how it is easy to feel overwhelmed. And I know that there are some people who have the innate ability to juggle a dozen different responsibilities at the same time and never seem to get rattled. Before most of us, and certainly myself included, it’s almost as if it’s a spiritual gift to be in this constant state of being overwhelmed. I personally am inclined to always add to my responsibilities, taking on more than I can handle, and I end up paying for it, with too much stress, too little time, and the quality of what I do suffers as a result.
Now we all know, theoretically, how we should be managing our time. But it’s kind of like managing your weight, isn’t it? It’s easy to say what you’re supposed to do, to consistently consume no more calories than you burn and exercise regularly to keep in shape. It’s easy to say, but it’s just not always easy to do. In fact, there are a large number of fitness experts who make a very good living giving this very obvious advice.
And you know, the same could be said about finances. If you need to get your finances in order, you just need to spend less than you earn. And once again is very easy to say but not always easy to do. For myself, when I find myself feeling overwhelmed, the greatest obstacle to getting back on track is the feeling that I can’t catch up, because when I feel like catching up is impossible I tend to not try at all. You know, if I believe that I could work 16 hours a day and still never make a dent in all that needs to be done it just leaves me to procrastination. And procrastination just leave me to getting further behind which leads to more stress, which leads to less productivity, and it goes on and on and on.
The problem is, when we go through life like this, where you feel overwhelmed at work, at home, in your relationships, and in your spiritual life. If you feel like you are so far behind that you can never catch up, that you’re in this constant state of flux, you’re always overwhelmed, always moving in a dozen different directions, and every day is just intimidating, then you’re in the right place, because today we’re going to talk about the tormented soul. Today I want to share with you three keys to overcoming a tormented soul.
Now if you’ve been with us in this series, you’ll remember that we really are not our body, that our bodies are merely a house for who we are. We are a soul with a body, and so when our bodies die, we don’t die, because our souls live on eternally. That’s why Jesus asked the question in Mark’s Gospel:
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
While many people are focused on keeping their body healthy I want to talk about keeping our souls healthy. You see, because so many people look fine on the outside, but there is a war raging for their souls kind of like what the apostle Paul talks about in Romans chapter 7 saying:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).
There’s this internal battle, this war raging against the soul that really manifests itself in so many different ways; because you want to accomplish something, you want to be useful, you want to make an impact for the kingdom of God, you want to excel in your job, you want to be used by God, you want to be an effective parent, but like Paul, “What you want to do you do not do.” Your overwhelmed, because you took on extra projects, you volunteered to help out, you obligated yourself, and yet you find yourself overcommitted and unable to do it all.
Or maybe you done this before, where you promise God that you’ll never ever do this again as long as you live. And then next thing you know you do it again and you’re plagued with guilt because of this inward conviction. So you cover-up your sin, because you don’t want anybody to know. You come to church and you put on the mask that everything is going okay, but inside your soul is tormented because of secret sin.
The apostle Peter addresses this in his first letter when he said:
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
We find ourselves in this battle, this war against our souls, and we find ourselves tormented because of the sinful things that we’ve done, because of the lies that we’ve chosen to believe, and the lives that we’ve determined to live. It’s an easy trap to fall into, it’s a mistake that’s almost always made with good intentions, and it’s not because we’re lazy, lacking ambition, or unmotivated. We’re doers, we want to make a contribution, we have a high expectation of ourselves, and we want to see things accomplished; but we do something that breaks the heart of God, we feel guilty, and were tortured by it.
David experienced this and described it this way in Psalms chapter 38:
“…my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear” (Psalms 38.3-4).
Sometimes we’re tormented because of the sin we secretly carry. David was overwhelmed, he didn’t have the strength to carry the burden, and he was tormented in his soul.
What is it that is tormenting your soul today?
There are so many people who believe the lies that are spiritual enemy, Satan, whispers to us in our souls, and they are tormented in their souls. Day in and day out they are a prisoner of something that’s not true. And what happens is the enemy lies to you and tries to connect what you did with who you are. Yet he tells you, “You did that so you are bad, you failed so you are a failure, you messed up so you might as well keep on doing it. And after you hear of the lies long enough you begin to believe that you’ve got a carry this secret to the grave; when the reality is that Jesus already took it to the grave. You’ve been set free!
Today, I’m going to share with you three keys found in first Peter, to overcoming a tormented soul; the first of which is to get into the enduring Word of God.
The apostle Peter tells us this in verse 22 saying, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:22-25).
Chapter 2, verse one: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1-3).
There is a war against your soul and the first key to overcoming that is to “crave pure spiritual milk”; to develop a strong desire for the Word of God. And the best way to do that is to read it. I’ve learned that the more time I spend in the Word, the more time I want to spend in the Word, because there’s no such thing as a saturation point with the Word of God.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.”
And I have found that passages of Scripture that I read and understood and believed and followed when I was 36 years old continue to speak to me today many years later on a different level. Jesus said in John chapter 5,
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
God’s Word is always fresh, Hebrews chapter 4:12 tells us,
“For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
John chapter 17 tells us that God’s Word is truth (vs. 17) and it exposes our hearts and our minds to the truth regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment. There’s transparency with God and with our other brothers and sisters in Christ. We get into God’s Word because it is truth and the truth is always the best. Proverbs chapter 28 says it this way:
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
That’s why I always encourage you to build relationships with each other, to do life together, and to open up God’s word together. To get to that place of unity where we can pray for one another, where there’s consistent spiritual encouragement, where we hold each other accountable, where we confess our sins, and where we find peace for our tormented souls. And then the second key to overcoming a tormented soul is to stay connected to Christ the Living Stone.
God said through the prophet Isaiah, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things” (Isaiah 59:1-3).
When you’re wrestling, tormented in your soul, there may be a separation from God, not a lack of belief, but a separation. The apostle Peter challenged us to know who we are in Christ and to stay connected to him. In verse four he tells us
Chapter 2 verse 4, “As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
"See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
"The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," 8 and "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall."
They stumble because they disobey the message — which is also what they were destined for” (1 Peter 2:4-8).
It’s interesting that Peter would use the metaphor of living stones since earlier Jesus had personally said to him in Matthew chapter 16,
“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18).
And Peter didn’t always get it, but he understood that Jesus was not saying that he was the foundation of the church. He knew that Jesus was the foundation of the church and he understood that he like us, is one of the living stones that make up the building of the church, neither one of us anything in ourselves, but together a mighty church, a majestic structure. Peter is saying stay connected to Christ, the living Stone, because your role is to be a living stone in God’s building also. And then verse 9,
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Now our identity is found in Christ the living Stone, and here he teaches of the priesthood of believers, meaning that we all have equal access to God, but we also equally belong to one another as those living stones. As we stay connected to Christ, it’s important that you know who you are in him, because that affects the content of our lives. Our worship, our prayers, and our ministry is all a sacrifice to Christ. And the Bible says that you are a rock. A living Stone, part of God’s temple. You are a priest, a bridgebuilder, and you belong to God. When you become confident of your identity, of who you are in Christ, you want to stay connected to Christ, because you will have peace in him. Therefore, the third key to overcoming a tormented soul is to keep a distance from sinful desires.
Peter tells us to stay connected to Christ we need to keep a safe distance from sin. He said it this way in verse 11:
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
He says, because of who you are in Christ there are certain things that we can’t even afford to think about, because sinful thoughts fan the flame of sinful desires, and sinful desires wage war against the soul, tormenting the soul. Peter says that we’re to view ourselves as aliens and strangers in the world, having the same mindset as the old hymn…
“This world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
The apostle Paul said it this way…” (Jim Reeves).
Now for those of you who have been to a foreign country you know what it’s like to be an alien and stranger. You know, the customs and the food are different. And it’s impossible for us to visit a foreign country and not feel just a little out of place. Here Peter is reminding us that we must never forget that we are foreigners and that there is another place that we call home. The differences between America and other countries are merely cultural, but the difference between this world and our home in heaven is spiritual and ideological. And here’s what I mean:
The world tells us to believe one thing and God tells us to believe another.
The world tells us to think one way and God tells us to think another.
The world tells us to live one way and God tells us to live another.
And here, he’s telling us to keep a distance from sinful desires. Don’t get comfortable with the world way of doing things, keep an attitude of alienation, and make an effort to live above the crowd. Peter said it this way in verse 12,
“Live such good lives among the pagans (the unbelievers) that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).
Notice he says, “Though they accuse you of doing wrong” and they will, the world will. If you seek to live for God there will be times when you’re accused of either doing the wrong thing or doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. For example:
When you remain true to your convictions you will be accused of being narrowminded.
When you are confident in God’s direction for your life, you will be accused of being arrogant.
When you refused to back down in the face of opposition, you will be accused of being stubborn.
And when you experience God’s blessing in your life, you’ll be accused of doing it all for your own glory.
Though they accuse you of doing wrong, your challenge is to live in such a way that their accusations don’t have any staying power. You keep a distance from sinful desires and the apostle Paul said it this way in first Corinthians chapter 10:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Even then you may feel tormented in your soul, but God always provide the way out. You may feel trapped, you may feel helpless, and you may feel tormented in your soul, but with Christ there is always a way out. You get into the enduring word of God, you stay connected to Christ the living Stone, and you keep a distance from sinful desires. If you do those three things you can be free of the torment of your soul. You can be free from your lusting, you can be free from your lying, you can be free from that secret sin, and God will bring healing. The door is open and the Bible says,
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Jesus Christ paid your sentence of death becoming sin for you. He did the suffering so that you could be free, so that you could walk out the door, and so that you could be transformed. Some of you are at a crossroads in your life right now. The choice is yours. No longer do you need to live with a tormented soul. But you have to ask God for help and you have to trust God with the consequences. It may not always be easy, but by his grace you can do it.
I want to share one more Scripture from Peter and then were going to take a moment to be still before God, to reflect and do business with him. The Bible says this in 1 Peter chapter 2: verse 24:
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).
Jesus is the Shepherd and today you are returning to the Shepherd and overseer of your souls. It’s time to purify our souls, because he who the son sets free is free indeed. As we close let’s take our needs and burdens before God in prayer.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
May 07, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.