Crossroads Fellowship

Thursday, November 30, 2006

God Promise of Election Fulfilled (Part 3)

Now you can almost hear the cries of the people saying, “Why does God find fault in us and condemn us to hell if he hardens and shows mercy as he sees fit?” Paul, again by inspiration of the Spirit, knew that this would be the case and so answered the question as it was asked. Here is what he says: You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? Romans 9:19-24

God in his perfect and infinite knowledge is working out his plan. Our knowledge is admittedly limited, yet God knows all. He knows every decision we will ever make, he knows the consequences of each of those decisions. He is surprised by nothing, and can learn nothing, because all knowledge is already His. And so God having this perfect knowledge forms some of us as people who will be saved, and forms others of us as tools whom through he will manifest His glory by our destruction! We with our limited knowledge try to understand and reason this out, and thereby shake our fists at the one who made us and yell, “Why did you make me this way?” Yet this is all part of God’s perfect plan for the peoples of all ages.

It is like a clay pot trying to understand why it was made as a washbasin, while another pot was made to be used as decoration. The pot, the created thing, can not know the full mind and will of the creator. It is simply impossible for a full understanding to come to the pot. It is likewise, simply put, impossible for us to fully understand the why and how of it all. As we find ourselves unable to comprehend we are tempted to throw our hands up and say I need not go out and share the gospel, I need not go out and work for the Lord, for I can not affect things one way or the other. Yet nothing is further from the truth. The truth is that we can not know on whom God will have mercy and whom he will harden. He knows, but we cannot. Yet through his sovereign will he has deemed the Gospel to be taken to people by the mouth of willing servants. We have to admit that we don’t know, and therefore we serve him by taking the message to everyone who will give us the time to listen.

Lord Jesus,
You know, and I admit that I don't know, whom will be saved and whom is doomed to destruction. However I will not let my limited knowledge be a reason to disobey you by not sharing the gospel. On the contrary Lord make my limited knowledge of who will be saved be the reason that I share the Gospel with everyone I meet. Let me be spurred on to share, that I might be a vessel of righteousness and not a vessel of wrath.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

God's Promise of Election Fulfilled (Part 2)

You can almost hear the cries of the multitude saying that God is full of injustice, accusing God Almighty of being a tyrant, and harsh dictator. We have seen that God always fulfills his promises to his people, yet we see that in fulfilling them to the child of faith that the child of the flesh has seemingly been left out in the cold. Paul, being full of the Spirit of God, knew that it would be the cry of the people as well. And so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit here is what this apostle penned: What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:14-18

How many of us have sought and sought the Lord for the salvation of a friend or loved one only to see them die in their sin and spend an eternity in Hell? When we have prayed and prayed and this happens our flesh wants to jump up and say God is unjust! Yet can we truly say this, can the Israelites say this about God either? The answer is no, we can not say this. You see the scriptures are clear that God shows mercy to those whom he pleases and that he hardens the hearts of whom he pleases. All the while fulfilling his promises, and working out the salvation of man. This too is part of God saving us, that all of our salvation relies upon him and his mercy. God uses each one of us how he sees fit, because God’s personal glory of Himself is God’s chief aim. His mercy and his hardening work in complete unity with his justice, because it is all who God is. It is so crucial for us to understand that God works his sovereign will as he sees fit, and it is not unjust, it is perfectly just, even if we don’t understand it fully. This is a truth that we need to believe and accept by faith, and then we can seek to work it out to understanding.

Lord God,
I may not understand how you work out callings and election unto salvation. Yet I believe that you are in control. I want to understand this truth because you have inspired the apostle Paul to write it down that we might now and grow in the knowledge of you. So I pray that you would open the eyes of my heart and that my understanding may become clear.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

God's Promise of Election Fulfilled (Part 1)

Paul was crushed for his lost brethren, the Israelites. He longed to see them come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He sought their salvation by prayer and petition as well as sharing the Gospel with them. He was so crushed that he even made the bold statement that he would give up his very own salvation, and be cut off from Christ for the sake of their salvation. Yet in all of this he never wavered in his faith towards God. We have seen in the beginning of Romans 9 how Paul longed for them. Yet the first half of verse six speaks volumes. Here is what the apostle says: But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son." And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call-- she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." Romans 9:6-13

The word of God had not failed, and Paul still had much faith in the Lord even though his brethren by natural descent were cut off. His brokenness for them, and longing for their salvation pushed him to seek the Lord for understanding of why things were the way they were. Paul could have gotten upset and walked away from the Lord claiming that God’s promises were no good. Yet he did not, instead he turned to the scriptures to search out the answer, and relied upon God to illuminate them so that he might understand. Paul’s understanding became clear as he sought the Lord. It was the children of faith, the children of the promise who acquired the promise by faith that would be heirs. Physical descent meant naught, only faith in the promise.

Abraham had two sons, the child of the flesh Ishmael, and the child of the promise Isaac. Through Isaac God’s people were named, not through any act of physical descent, but through God’s sovereign choice and fulfilling of his promise. Again Isaac’s children saw the promise pass through Jacob (Israel). Before they were even born and had done neither good nor evil God gave the promise, and the child of the promise who believed the promise was an heir to God’s glorious riches. God’s word and promises never failed, they were always fulfilled, and they were fulfilled not by the flesh but by faith in the character of God. This is why Paul had strong faith, because even though he wanted his brethren saved, and even though he did not immediately understand why they weren’t, he did not give up on God, rather he sought the Lord to give him understanding. He did this because he knew that God could be trusted to fulfill His word.

Glorious Father,
Your word has never failed. Even though I do not understand always the way that you choose to make things work, I know that your word is good and your promises endure forever. Lord may I, like Paul, never lose sight of your faithfulness. May I always know in my heart that you will fulfill every good word you have spoken. In Christ's name, Amen.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Does God Worship Us?

This may sound like a crazy question that I am asking. But I think the answer to this question will shed a lot of light on many of our problems. Let's take for instance the story of Achan. We know that Achan was one of the Israelites that was present at the battle of Jericho. And he took some of the spoil of the city that was to be devoted unto the Lord. This stealing of the spoil brought a curse upon the nation of Israel and at the next battle at a little town called Ai they got whipped. At the root of what Achan did is a false view of God and his character. Achan deep inside might have held a belief that God's chief end in life was to make man happy. Yet scripture is clear that making us happy is not God's chief end, but that His glory is His chief end.

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Isaiah 48:11

If you ask people if God worships us or we worship him everyone is going to quickly say that we worship him. But then we will ask each other to pray for such ungodly things. I have had people ask me to pray that their divorce would go smoothly. I reply why are you getting divorced? The reasons are various, but very seldom have I ever heard a reason that was a biblical reason. At the heart of this prayer request is a total disregard for God's laws and commandments about marriage, because we think that God lives to serve us and make us happy. Or someone will tell me about thier financial woes and ask me to pray for them a better job, and maybe help them figure out a budget. As we look at thier budget they don't tithe or give anything to God. You show them plainly in scripture where they should give tithes and offerings as a part of their budget and they shrug it off saying that the tithes were recieved at a different time and place, but God wants everyone now to keep all their money and provide for their family.

Or take for instance the church hopping epidemic in America. We have a church on every corner practically, and people are free to choose from any of them. A person will go to a church and be there for a while until the preacher or Sunday school teacher brings up sin, repentance, righteousness, or judgement. Then the person will leave the church giving the reason that the leaders are too hard on the people by calling them to repentance from sin, and turning to God. They then go to a church that preaches feel good messages that get you excited about your family or yourself, and excited about being alive. We go for what makes us feel good about us, all the while saying that it is God's will in our lives. Though we scarce want to admit it, we hold a deep belief that God worships us more than we worship him. This is why we not only seek after sinful things such as divorce, or stealing the tithe or devoted things of God. At the heart of all of these problems we think God's chief aim is to make us happy, but the reality is this:

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Isaiah 48:11

Father God,
May I always keep in mind and hidden in my heart that all that you do and all that you are is for your glory and for no one elses. Lord may I always see that even when you give to me good things that my happiness is part of you bringing glory to yourself, and may I always know that if something I want takes away from your glory that I should crucify that desire seeking only what you would have for me. Jesus may I worship you only, and may I never be guilty of thinking that you worship me.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Are You Crushed?

Are you and I really crushed and overcome with grief and anguish at the fate of the lost? The quick and easy answer is yes, but I think we need to look further into this question before we give an answer. We need to look deeper into what it means to ache for the lost. The apostle Paul ached for his lost brothers, the Israelites. Listen and you can almost here the anguish in his voice. I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Romans 9:1-5

Paul had great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart for his lost brothers. He even makes the bold statement that he would even dare to wish that he himself were cut off from Christ for the sake of the Jews being saved. They are God’s elect people, to whom adoption, glory, the promises of God, the Law, the temple service, and even the patriarchs belonged. Yet they were lost and outside of the mercy of God. Even the messiah, who Paul said is God himself in the flesh, was born into the world through them. Paul knew the blessing of God, and he knew the curse that was upon those who were not born again. And he dared to make the statement that he would trade his own salvation that they might be saved. That is a heart for the lost. That is the heart of God as well. God laid down his own life that the lost might be saved. Is your heart cry for the lost so powerful that you would contemplate giving up your own self for them? Would you wish that you were cut off from Christ so that others might be saved? That is crushed for the lost, and it is where God wants us.

Father of Mercy,
I come to you and humbly confess that I am not broken for the lost the way you want me to be. So I ask you today to break my heart, that I might be willing to lay down everything to seek and save the lost by bringing the Gospel of Christ to them.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Just How Good The Promise Is

As our faith in God’s promise to grow us in sanctification and holiness becomes more solid we can truly see how good that promise is. The apostle Paul brags about the power of God. I choose to use the term brag, because isn’t that what worship of God really is, us bragging about how awesome He is? Here is how Paul boasts about the Lord. Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:33-39

Here is what Paul is saying. Who can bring an accusation against God’s children, let alone get a conviction of the crime? No one can accomplish this, because it is God who justifies us, the very judge the charge would be brought to. We can not be condemned because Christ not only died, but he also rose again, and is standing before the throne of God interceding for us. So who can separate us for him? No one can, that is who. No matter what happens, life nor death, trial nor tribulation, angels (which Satan is a fallen one) nor rulers, mountains nor the very depths of the earth. Nothing can separate us from the Love of God is Christ. For our lives are hidden in Christ with God. Praise the Lord that just makes me want to sing and dance!

My response to you is this alone. GLORY to God in the highest!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

We Can Trust God To Make Us Holy!

So how are we to know that we will truly be able to see this promise come to pass in our lives when we seem to so often struggle with personal holiness? The easy answer is that we, as Abraham did, believe God and trust in his character as God. However it is one thing to give mental assent to this, and yet is entirely another thing to believe it to the very core of our being. But God knows that we will have this crisis of faith, and being patient, loving, and kind he gently reminds us that he can be believed. Here is what God says through the apostle Paul. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

God has laid out a plan for spiritual prosperity for us, promising us that we can attain new heights in personal holiness as we press onward trying to attain the prize. Yet this is hard for our minds to understand, perhaps even totally incomprehensible as to how this works. Yet rather than having our darkened understanding hold us back, God reminds us about another area where we can not comprehend the “how” of the matter, yet it still works.

God says, “My child I spared not Jesus to die for your sins, giving up my only begotten son in your place. How then will I not complete in you the good work that I have already started? You can trust me.” That is the heart of Romans 8:32 the way I understand it. We can trust God. You and I can put all of our eggs in his basket because He alone is worthy.

Father of Jesus the only begotten,
May I ever know thee more, and ever trust thee only, resting in your promises because you alone are worthy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Truth About Prosperity Theology

A lot of the “feel good” preachers of today love to quote Romans 8:31 to get the people pumped up and ready to go for God. They say, “If God is for us who can be against us?” Then they try to get the people fired up and living on prosperity theology. They shout, and dance, and use all the right catch phrases to get everyone excited. But then the folks leave the church building and the excitement of the moment fades, and they go back to their ho-hum life. And the preacher says, “It is because they lacked proper faith that they did not receive the gifts.” I have a different reason why I think it didn’t work for them though. I believe that it is because the preachers and teachers are not rightly dividing the Word of God. I think it is because they are using a scripture that has nothing to do with worldly prosperity to teach the doctrine of worldly prosperity, which is a heretical doctrine in my opinion.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I know that the Lord wants to prosper His children. However the way he wants to prosper us has nothing to do with the way the “world” understands prosperity. If we want to truly understand the prosperity God wants for his people we need to look at prosperity in the proper context. So let’s look at it properly here in the book of Romans. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28-31

This is one of the most amazing passages on the prosperity God wants and has for us in the entire Bible. Let’s pick out some key promises to see just how amazing this is. First, for those who love God ALL things work together for good! Second, those who he justified he also glorified! Third, if God is for us, who can be against us? These words are amazing, they are amazing promises that are there for those who would receive them. But these promises are all to often twisted to be about wealth, health, and happiness, and far to seldom are they viewed in the context of the passage of scripture from which they are drawn.

We know that at this point of the book of Romans Paul has been hitting sanctification, or holiness, very hard. He is trying to bring light to the reader’s darkened understanding. And this is a place of amazing height, a pinnacle if you will. Paul is saying this to the Romans and to us. Men and brethren all things work together for your good, if you have been called according to God’s purpose, and here is your good. The people that God foreknew before he laid the foundations of the world were not only to be saved, but they were also predestined to be holy as the Son is holy. This is so that Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers, and not a son of God alone. You see God called us, justified us by Christ’s blood, and then glorified us by giving us a place of honor. We are a part of the royal family. And if this is God’s plan for us, to become holy as He is holy, who can thwart it and stop it from happening?

This is God’s prosperous plan for us. He is going to prosper us spiritually, to not only make us sons by adoption, but to also teach us what it is to live in the family, and to become like the family. A person who is adopted into a family who lived a long time in another family has to unlearn his old habits. Even though he is a part of the new family, the things he did in the old family sometimes come up and happen again. Yet the Father adopted him into the new family BEFORE he lived up to the new family’s standard, promising that he would give all the help the son needed to live rightly in the new family. I want you to be pumped up on prosperity, I want you to be excited about God prospering you, but I want you to be excited about the real promise of prosperity and not a lie that men like to tell. You can live holy because God has already glorified you by giving you a place of honor is his family, and you CAN learn to live in it if you will just believe God, and believe that he wants it for you. This is God’s prosperous plan for your life.

Father God,

I know that I have been adopted into your family, and that you have given me a place of honor as your child. Lord help me to live this out in my life by fulfilling your promise to me to be able to live holy by your power. Father I admit that I have not always believed this, and have thus made you out to be a liar because of my unbelief in your plain word. Forgive me for this and help me as I seek you. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Let's Suffer For The King!

God’s word, the Bible, tells us in Romans 8:17 that we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with him. It is through suffering that we are granted our adoption into the family of God. However this could almost sound likes a works based righteousness if we are not careful. So I would like to explain the scriptures as I understand them, and why this is not a works based righteousness, but rather faith based. So that we can understand what this requirement of suffering really means. First let us hear what the apostle Paul has to say of this suffering.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:18-27

Paul says this suffering is nothing compared to the glory that is going to be revealed to us. Even if we hope for a glory we can not see or yet comprehend. We hope and wait in patience for the revealing of this glory. The Spirit helping us in our weakness as we wait for it. We struggle hoping for this, and longing for it, even though we are not sure exactly what it means or how it is to be revealed. That is why the Spirit intercedes for us with these deep groanings, because we don’t even know how or what to pray. We were saved in this hope, and we long for it, crying out for it. All of creation cries out for it.

This crying out for the glory to be revealed, all the while denying ourselves and fleshly desires, and this seeking after the promise of God to know him more fully, this is the suffering we must partake of. Repentance from our sin and the desire to sin is suffering. Repentance means even though it feels good to my flesh I will suffer my flesh to die, in hopes of the glory yet to come. This suffering is not a work that gains us righteousness, but it is because of repentance. Repentance is not easy, it is hard, and you and I will “suffer” as we walk in repentance. Repentance might mean we lose old friends as they choose to continue in a path of sin that we can not join them in. And losing those old friends might hurt, but I consider losing them as nothing compared with the glory that is to be revealed.

Maybe for you this suffering means letting go of old habits or activities such as drinking, or sexual promiscuity. Maybe it means you have to quit reading your horoscope, and calling the psychic hotline. Maybe it means that you have to go fishing (or some other hobby) a little less, and spend a little more time reading the bible, or praying, or ministering at your church. In our modern western culture we want to say that we can do all things and bring glory to God through all things, but isn’t this really just a way to satisfy the desires of our flesh all the while pretending that it is Godly.

Let’s be honest with ourselves and God right here and right now. Do you read your Bible every single day with out fail? Do you pray for your church, your pastor, your family, missionaries, etc. every single day without fail? Do you actively minister in your church by teaching Sunday School or Children’s Church, do you attend the prayer meetings, do you attend the worship services, do you tithe, do you go beyond tithing and make offerings? Are you really suffering by leading a life of self denial and repentance, or are you and I just saying we are suffering, and yet really just living our lives and “playing” church? The Christian life is not an easy life, and it involves suffering. David Aderholt recently wrote the following: “Stop Christianizing the American dream! This is not about you. You are called out and separated to do the will of God! Not your will, God’s will. I hear testimonies all the time and they are almost invariably about how God gave them some part of the American dream. It is all too often about their wants and their desires . . . all to seldom about God’s wishes and desires. This is about the King, the Kingdom, the wants of Heaven, the Pleasures of the King, and my small role in the whole affair.” I would like to add, let’s suffer for the King!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

An Heir of Holiness!

The oldest heir of a household in the nation of Israel held a place of high honor. This son would receive a double portion of the father’s property when the inheritance was divided. Further in Israel it was all but impossible for someone outside of the father’s clan or tribe to inherit his property upon his death. That is why Paul using the illustration of being a joint heir with Christ is so significant in making a statement about our position with God. The apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit asserts the following: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17

It is very important to note here that we are not considered as slaves when it comes to the inheritance of God but as being his heirs. In Genesis God instructed Abraham through the mouth of his wife Sarah to cast out the slave and the son of the slave that they not share in the inheritance. So she said to Abraham, "Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac." And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. Genesis 21:10-12 Paul directly quotes this passage of scripture in Galatians 4:30 making the same point there as is being made here.

The slave, the child of the flesh, can not and will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But you and I are not children of the flesh, but sons through adoption by the Spirit, and therefore can share in the inheritance. But what shall we inherit? In this passage of scripture as we look through it is obvious that Paul has been speaking of sanctification (holiness), and it is that sanctification practically lived out in our lives that we can inherit. We don’t have it by ourselves, only God has it by himself, but because of adoption we can inherit it. I don’t know about you but inheriting the holiness of God sounds pretty good, and I definitely want to share a portion of that! However if we are to inherit as a part of the family we have to suffer as a part of the family as well. That is why Paul says at the end of verse 17 "provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."

One who adopted me and made me a joint heir. May I truly live, walk, and be a child of yours. Father may I suffer with the suffering of Christ in order that I too may be glorified with him.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Progressive Sanctification (Progressive Holiness)

As we move through studying Romans we again are reminded of the fact that we are not debtors to the flesh, and slaves to its sinful desires if in fact the Spirit of Christ dwells within us. I think perhaps we need to be reminded of this fact because we view being “dead in the flesh and to sin” as being just theoretical. However this death is no mere theory, if we are born again of God’s Spirit the new has come and the old has passed away. The life that I now live I live to Christ, because he lives in me and gives my mortal body life. This is a vital truth, and we must constantly be reminded of it. Here is what Paul says yet again on it: You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:9-13

Paul is saying here that we have, as believers, life in Christ and life in Christ only. Our body, with all its sinful desires, has died because of sin. Yet the Spirit of God will give life to our physical bodies. If you have repented of your sins and put your trust in the savior you are no longer alive. The old self was put off and died and never got back up, but the new self recreated by God’s Spirit took up immediate residence in your mortal frame. This is why we are not debtors to the flesh, because the flesh is dead and cannot collect the debt. Therefore knowing this vital truth I choose not to live according to the flesh, but by the power of the Spirit I choose to put to death the deeds of the flesh (or stop sinning) so that I might live fully consecrated to God.

Let me put it this way. If I had gotten saved and had a million dollars and the new me wanted to build a Christian orphanage, but I had set that million dollars originally to build a porn shop, and even had business partners who were counting on my million, would I have the right to withhold the money from the porn partners. What Paul is saying here is that not only would I have a right to withhold it, but I would have an obligation. Pornography is a deed of the flesh, but when reborn my flesh died, and I no longer had to serve it because I owed it nothing because it no longer lived to collect the debt. Would the business partners be upset? Would they pressure me for the money? Of course they would, but if I live by the Spirit then I put to death the deeds of the flesh. I am free from the old obligation to build a porn shop, and am now free to help build God’s Kingdom. A porn shop is an extreme example I know, so let me bring it closer to home. You and I are free to no longer watch dirty movies, and only take in wholesome movies instead. You and I are free to no longer fight with our spouses, and discuss things calmly instead. You and I are free to love the way God intends us to. So let us remember to quit living according to the flesh which we crucified with Christ, and start living for the Spirit that gives us life. As we live for and by the Spirit we will not sin because God’s Spirit will not sin. But it is a choice to live in the truth, or to believe and practice a lie. The longer we live this truth the better we will get at not sinning, and this is what we call progressive sanctification..

Father God,
May I no longer live as a debtor to the flesh. May the truth that I owe the flesh and the sin life nothing sink into the very depths of my heart and soul. Help me to learn how to walk and live by your Spirit, so that I may lead a holy life.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is Your Mind Hostile To God?

I want to take a moment to look at Romans 8:7 very closely. Here is what this very important verse says: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Romans 8:7 There are very many people in the world that claim to be Christians, but use the grace of God as an occasion of the flesh. They would misquote scriptures pointing out that all things are permissible yet not all things are profitable as an excuse to indulge in activities very clearly pointed out as sin in the scriptures. I will give three examples here of this type of activity. These activities, that are clearly pointed out in scripture, as being sin should not be done under any circumstances. Yet if we say that we should abstain from these sins we are accused of legalism. So as we work through this keep in mind what Paul said when he stated the mind that is set on the flesh (sin) is hostile to God.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 Sexual immorality would be considered unlawful sexual conduct. This could be sex outside of wedlock, adultery, pornography, lust, homosexuality, etc. We are told to flee from this sin, yet many people say that they can commit these acts and God is still pleased with them. Yet Paul is clear in Romans 8:8, the verse that follows the one we are looking at, that those who are in the flesh (sinning) can not please God.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices Colossians 3:9. Lying would be telling people anything that is not true with the intent to deceive. We can look at lies from one end of our human spectrum to the other. From lying to your boss about why you are late to work, lying to your spouse about where you have been, or even lying to your children when they ask you a hard question that you don’t want to tell them the truth about. If the intent is to deceive then it is a lie. I know a lot of people are going to really be blown away by this, but do you deceive your kids into believing a fairy puts money under their pillow when they loose a tooth? Well it is a lie, because you tell them that with the intent to deceive them into believing it. And it means that you are hostile to God in your mind.

What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience-- I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? 1 Corinthians 10:19-29

This last passage of scripture, which is the oft misquoted scripture where people say that all things are lawful, clearly points out that you can do all things, but not all things build up, but it also says that if you know that it was offered to idols DO NOT EAT THE FOOD. People use this passage to say that they can read books such as Harry Potter, which is about sorcery which is forbidden in scripture (I can hear the cry of the multitudes shouting at me LEGALISM!), or have Indian fetishes such as dream catchers or other such things. When we do this we are ignoring the part where it says if you know that it is pagan DON”T DO IT. I think we do it not so much to disobey God intentionally, but because it has been taught wrong to most people. So let me address this passage quickly in light of Romans Chapter 8:1-8.

John Piper once stated in a book he wrote that when he finds things in scripture that seem to disagree it is then that he really digs in trying to find out what it means, and how to reconcile the apparent contradiction. 1 Corinthians 19-29 seems to say you can do all things, but then say you can not. I think the key to really understanding this is in Romans. In Romans 8:1 we are told that those who are in Christ are no longer condemned. We no longer have to feel condemnation and guilt, for we are free. Free to sin, or free not to sin. Not free to do what we want and free to ignore God’s law. And if we do something sinful, such as eating food offered to idols, or having a fetish in our house that we didn’t know was a fetish, or other such things then we don’t need to feel condemned for it, and lay down and die. We just need to say I am a child of God, set our mind on the Spirit, repent (and get rid of it because repent means confess and forsake), and continue to grow in holiness. If the bible says it is sin, it is sin, and no amount of God’s grace is going to make it not sin. It is not legalism to submit to God’s laws and obey them out of love, because Jesus said himself that if we loved him we would keep his commandments.

Dear God,
May I see that obeying your law and submitting to your holy requirements is not legalism, but rather it is my love for you in action. May I not use your grace as an occassion to sin, but rather may I use your grace as a means to stop sinning and learn to live holy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Renew Your Mind

The principle of living in sin, and giving into sin because of our feelings of condemnation and our mindset is not just a mere theory. We need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (mindset) in Christ. Paul is making a desperate plea for that renewal of our mind as explains the principles of condemnation and a mindset of sin. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8 Those who live according to the flesh, by continuing in sin, do so because their mind is set on the sinful desires of the flesh.

Why do we set our minds on the things of the flesh, the sin life? It is because the enemy our souls, the great deceiver Satan, would have us to believe that there is no other choice. I have spoken to many people who tell me they continue to sin because it is just the way it is. But it need not be so! If we set our mind on the things of the flesh it is death. This death is more than physical but it is emotional and spiritual as well. If we walk through life feeling as though we have no choice but to sin, then we will be emotional destroyed, and spiritually impotent.

The apostle Paul makes an interesting point here. The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God. The only people that I know that are hostile to me I consider my enemies. So aren't we actually making ourselves enemies to God, even if only temporarily, when we set our minds on the condemnation of sin, and the subsequent sin life? The carnal mind does not submit to God’s law, not because it doesn’t want to, but because it can’t. May Romans 8:8 really hit home with us. If we continue in this fleshly mindset we cannot please God. And that is why our mind needs to be transformed and renewed.

Gracious God and Father,
I know that I cannot please you in my mind is set on the things of the flesh. Lord renew my mind and heart that I may set them on the things of the Spirit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Free From Condemnation!

One of our biggest struggles in life is a feeling of guilt and condemnation. Men and women the world over feel the weight of never being able to measure up. We struggle and toil to meet standards that we will never meet, and achieve goals we will never achieve. This is nowhere more true than in the spiritual realm. The inadequacy we feel as we seek to worship and serve God can become overwhelming as we try to achieve it by our own power. The apostle Paul though brings us great tidings and glad news. Here is what he says on the subject of condemnation. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

As repentant and trusting believers in Jesus, we are no longer condemned and under the sentence of death. Our righteous judge in heaven, God, has passed sentence on us for our transgressions of His holy law. Yet for those who have received the gift of eternal life another has borne our condemnation and punishment. This is an important truth that is vital to the holy living, and effective service of those who would call themselves Christians. I want share an example briefly about prison life to better illustrate the point.

One of the most rampant places for crime to happen is not in the ghetto, or out on the streets. Rather it is in our prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities around our nation. Naturally we can assume that much of this crime happens because of the high concentration of criminals, however it is my belief that much of it also happens because these men and women incarcerated there are already condemned and have nothing to lose by their actions. For the prisoner serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, what is there to lose if he gets mad at someone and beats them or worse?

Many times even if an inmate is released from jail or prison on parole they continue to commit crimes. Partly this is due to the fact that once a convicted felon, always a convicted felon. A felon, a condemned man, can hardly find a good job, if he is a sex offender he has to register his whereabouts, and his past crime(s) carry continual condemnation. However if he could ever escape the condemnation of the past, he again has something to live for. Let's look at something else we see happen often. For instance a man might be tempted to hit his wife but holds back knowing that it is a crime, however one day he snaps. Once he hits her he figures that he is already guilty so he might as well get his money’s worth, and he beats her senseless.

Condemnation and guilt are extreme motivational factors to continue in a path of sin as well. We figure, “I am guilty already I might as well go all the way.” But the word tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If a man looks with lust he is guilty of that sin, but if he is born again he need not continue by looking more, or acting out his lust, because if he is in Christ he is not condemned. And this makes him free from the uncontrollable desire to sin, and allows him to choose to live holy. Our weak flesh can not fulfill the law, but we stand no longer condemned because Jesus paid it all and we are free to choose rightly.

Lord Jesus,I stand as one who feels condemned and helpless. Yet you have said in your word that I am no longer condemned if I am in you, and you are in me. So Lord please help me to live this out, and help me to remember that I am free to do the right thing. I love you and want to serve you, so may my service be pleasing and acceptable in your sight. Amen

Monday, November 13, 2006

Breaking Legalistic Bondage

The heart cry of Paul – perhaps even your heart cry. Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? The answer – Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:25 The man who is saved is justified in the sight of God on the basis of Christ Jesus’ shed blood. We are automatically washed clean and declared innocent before a Holy God! But positional sanctification and practical sanctification are very different. We are giving the position of sainthood by our calling and election, but we must learn to practice that sanctification.

Who is saved that has never struggled with sin after they were converted? None that I have ever met have automatically been able to live holy and blameless lives after salvation. Another apostle, John, writing to believers in 1 John 1:8 says that if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and make God out to be a liar. We in the C&MA talk about the crisis of sanctification. Here again in Romans chapter seven Paul describes that crisis. In very short paraphrase it goes like this.

I want obey God’s law, yet I keep on sinning. I am trying and struggling, and the more I try the worse it gets. God I can’t do this, I am so wretched and filthy who will save me from this vicious cycle of sin and death. Jesus! This is who will deliver me – Jesus! I will serve God with my mind, and my flesh will serve the LAW of sin! The serving the law of sin is not serving sin it is serving it’s law. The law of sin is this – death! So I will let my flesh and all it’s sinful desires die, and I will serve the Lord with my mind and spirit.

Once my flesh is dead the only way for it to live is for Christ, by his Spirit, to bring it to life. And if that happens it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. That I believe is what the apostle Paul means here by serving God with the mind and the law of sin with the flesh. Each one needs cry out to God – oh save me from this body of death dear Lord, save me. Then and only then will the chains of legalism be broken off of us. Then and only then will we be able to obey God and grow in holiness.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Legalistic Bondage (Part 4)

It was Paul’s desire, before Christ, to live a life that was holy and acceptable to God. However he was deceived into believing that he could obtain that goal by legalistic observance of the Law of God. His zeal to be holy, and yet seeing how unholy he was had become a constant losing battle. Here is what he says on the subject. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:15-24

I want to make a very bold statement. Paul, or Saul of Tarsus as he was formerly known, was truly passionate for a right relationship with God. Even as he presided over the death of Stephen as the coats of those who stone Stephen were laid at his feet, he truly wanted a right relationship with God. Many better theologians, teachers, and pastors may disagree, which is their right, but it is what I believe. I will explain why I believe that here briefly. Paul loved the law of the Lord, and wanted to follow it. Paul hated sin and did not want to practice it. He was constantly at war within himself trying to follow every law, but constantly failing. God’s holiness would tug him this way, and sin and evil would tug that way. He was a prisoner to sin, and wanted to be free from that captivity.

The problem was the deception that the enemy of his soul, Satan, had pulled on him. He had Paul convinced on some level that he could purify himself, but the more he tried to clean himself up the more he found out just how dirty he was. Paul was spiraling down, down, down. So much so that his hearts cry was – WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM! WHO WILL DELIVER ME FROM THIS BODY OF DEATH? Legalism had bound, gagged, imprisoned, and thrown away the key on poor old Saul of Tarsus (or Paul). My dear brethren has your cry ever matched Paul’s cry?

It is my hear cry, who will deliver me. I can not attain holiness by legalism. Save me, sanctify me, wash me clean, and teach me to walk in your ways.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Legalistic Bondage (Part 3)

So are God’s commandments not to be followed and obeyed because they only bring death? The answer to that is emphatically NO! Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. Romans 7:13-14 It is important for Paul to note to us that death did not come to him through the commandments. That which was good, the law, did not produce death in him. Rather it was sin, or breaking the good law, that produced death in him. As sin produced death in him through the commandments, and his breaking of them, sin was shown to be sin – a deadly poison. And it became evil and nasty beyond all measure.

I think that it is very important that we see Paul’s point that he is making here. Paul is not condemning the Law in this passage of scripture. He is not calling the Law of God useless, or wiping the Law away. The apostle is explaining to us that legalism, and every legalistic behavior is incapable of saving us, but God’s Law is good. Paul is urging us that the time honored religious system of observances of the Law will not bring us into proper relationship with God. Paul even states that the law is spiritual, it is of God, and it is good and holy. The Law is right and proper, yet only when it is rightly and properly used. Paul constantly urges everyone to abstain from sin, yet not become legalistic. It is the constant struggle to walk the line between legalism and liberalism. And because we are sold under sin, and have to struggle with sinful desires, we constantly will need to grow in this knowledge and practice.

Father God,
I struggle so with walking in the Spirit and denying my sinful flesh. I know that your law is good and holy, teach me to walk in your paths oh God.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Legalistic Bondage (Part 2)

Once we have seen sin for the deadly poison that it is we can make a choice as Paul did. It is important to point out that Paul first made the wrong choice. This is a man that was living as a Pharisee at one point, and was an enemy of the church, a persecutor of the brethren, and responsible for the death of many martyrs. Paul states to us his bad choice here and how it made it, hoping to warn us away from the very same peril in our lives. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Romans 7:10-12

What does Paul mean the very commandment that promised life proved really to be his death? The answer lies in Proverbs. My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; Proverbs 7:1-2. You see the Word here stated that if the commandments were kept that the keeper of said commandments would live. Sin, evil, and Satan seized the opportunity to twist the word of God and deceive Paul, as well as countless others down through the generations. Keep the commandments and live seems so simple, but the deception comes in the fact that no amount of law keeping can ever atone for our past law breaking. God’s laws and commandments are holy, righteous, and good. However even the best of us are not.

My dear brethren I urge us to not be deceived into thinking that we can keep the commandments and live. Jesus was the only one who could and did do that, the rest of us though needs to face the music. Paul is warning us here of his legalistic folly, let us hear the warning, and heed it.

Heavenly Father,
May you open me further still to your truths. May I never tread in legalism, but may I hear the voices of those that have gone before me clearly, and may I alwasy follow the leading of your Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Legalistic Bondage (Part 1)

The next portion of our daily study is best looked at as a unit. However to do so would take more time each day than every person has to commit to this study. So I will break it into several parts, but each part needs to be viewed as just one portion of the larger whole.

As we begin to move through chapter seven of the book of Romans we are embarking on one of the toughest journeys that one can make spiritually. It is so important that we understand what God is saying to us through the apostle Paul here in this passage, yet we can only understand it with much diligence, prayer, and meditation. If we fail to understand what Paul is saying here then we just might be missing the whole point of the Gospel, and why Jesus even came. With that being said I would like to remind you what God via Paul has said. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. Romans 7:5 Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, zealous for the things of God and for the observance of the law. (See Philippians 3:3-7) Even with all of this though he was still bearing fruit for death! This leads us to the verses I want to look closely at now.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. Romans 7:7-9

Are we to say that the law is bad and sinful? Like the apostle Paul we answer NO! The law is not sin, breaking the law is sin. If God had not given the law we would not know what sin was. When God gave the law though it did not bring life and salvation, but instead it brought death and further separation from God. How did this work? Paul would explain it like this – I would never have known what coveting, or desiring other people’s things was if the law had not told me not to. However once the law said that I should not covet I said ok, I won’t covet. But instead of being able to quit coveting I found out just how much I was coveting. The law did not make me covet more, it merely pointed out all of the places that I was already doing so.

You see apart from the knowledge the law brought sin was a dead thing that didn’t make any sense, but once I had knowledge of the law I saw sin as the deadly poison it was, and I withered under its weight and inwardly died. Does this mean that the law is bad and that we should not abstain from sinning? No that is not what it means, but it does mean that we need to redefine in our own minds what the law is for.

Dear God,
Help me to understand your word. Open my mind and heart to hear your voice. May I meditate day and night on your precepts and your glorious works and ways. May you be my hearts cry. Amen!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You're Free To Get Married

What does freedom in Christ mean? How does one attain and live in this freedom? Is freedom really free? These are all good questions that I hope to answer as we look at chapters seven and eight of the book of Romans. The apostle Paul opens chapter seven with an illustration about the law using the example of marriage. Here is what he has to say: Or do you not know, brothers--for I am speaking to those who know the law--that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. Romans 7:1-6

I want to pay special attention to the first verse of this passage for a moment. Paul says that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives. When we look at the original Greek we see that this word translated as binding carries the definition of being the lord over, ruling over, or having dominion over. Paul then uses a typical lawful marriage to explain this principle. A woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as both of them live. However if her husband were to pass away, she would be released from that marriage and could be free to marry another. It is a very simple concept really and very easily applied to our situation as Christians.

Paul says likewise we are free from the lordship, dominion, or rule of the law over us if we have die to the law through Christ. The dominion of the law is not the dominion of a savior, the law brings the death sentence on each one of us, because each of us is guilty of breaking it, and the punishment prescribed in the law for transgressing it is death. Christ died for us though, and his death can be substituted for our own. Once we die to the law through Christ the law can no longer exercise dominion over us.

We therefore are free from its lordship over us, and are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We serve God then not under the old written code of rules and regulations that can not save, but we serve in the new life of the Spirit. Our service goes from one of legalistic obligation that can do nothing, and changes into one of a relationship with our Lord and Savior that is wonderful to be a part of. If you die to the law through Christ, you are free to be married to the bridegroom, Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus,
I want to be know you and be fully known by you. I know that I am set free from the lordship of the law, and that I am free to be wed to another. I choose to accept your proposal, and to wed myself to you. I understand why the church is called the bride of Christ, and I want to live as your bride in that sense forever.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Free Gift!

Before we move forward with chapter seven of Romans I would really like to take a look at Romans 6:23 closely. This is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible, and I know that statement is going to raise a lot of hair on the back of a lot of necks, but it is true none the less. Here is what the verse says: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 How is this verse misquoted so often you might ask? The answer is simple. We most often hear this verse being used for evangelism, telling folks that the free gift of God is life eternal if they will repent and believe. And the statement that eternal life is his free gift for those who are born again is very true, however the passage of scripture, namely Romans 6, that this verse comes out of is not a passage of scripture dealing with salvation.

This passage of scripture is dealing with the deeper life of sanctification. We are urged to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ. Then we are urged to present ourselves as instruments of righteousness. Next we are urged to view ourselves as slaves of righteousness and of Christ. And that end statement, to saved people not unsaved, is the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Eternal life is the deeper sanctified life. And because it is eternal we can live it now. Probably all throughout the ages this verse will be used in evangelism, but it is a tragedy that in so doing we overlook the fact that this verse is really one of the culminating points on holy living. Personal holiness is a gift of God, a free gift of God. And you will hopefully see through Romans 7:24, 25 that Paul again states that Jesus gives us the power and ability to be saved from our wretched body of death and live a sanctified life, consecrated unto God.

Blessed Heavenly Father,
Oh that I may see that the free gift you have provided is more than life in heaven with you. May I see that it is also living the deeper life here and now! Praise you Jesus for all you have done!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I'm Just A Slave!

We say that the love of Christ controls us, but why is this so? If we are free in Christ then how can we be controlled? The apostle Paul would have us to believe this is the case because of an ownership issue. The word Christian, which is what we call ourselves, would even seem to affirm this truth all the more. There are those who say that Christian means “Christ like,” and yet others would say it means “follower of Christ.” While both of these definitions of Christian are good definitions, I would put forth that Christian is best defined as “slave of Christ.”

We know that the Greek word for Christian is Χριστιανός, or chistianos. In my study of this word I have come to the conclusion that it is actually from two roots. First it comes from Χριστός, Christos, which is the anointed one, the Son of God, the Messiah. Ianos is of Latin origin and carries with it the connotation of being owned by the one whose name precedes it. So if you are owned are you not a slave? This definition of the words is supported throughout scripture with the many references to us being bondservants are slaves to Christ and righteousness, but none is more influential than what we see here in Romans.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:16-23

As we present ourselves as instruments of righteousness, we are really selling ourselves to God. The Word of God states that we were bought with a price. 1 Corinthians 7:23 If we are owned by God, then his ownership of us means that we must obey him. Interestingly enough God owning us happens by an act of our free will when we decide believe God, and trust in Him alone. So what I am saying here is this. Once we have presented ourselves as instruments of righteousness to God, we can walk in that knowing and realizing that he owns us. If we will walk in this truth, then we will begin to see progression in our holiness, and see the fruit of our sanctification – eternal life.

Lord Jesus,
Help me to see that I am just a slave to righteousness and to you. Help me always to remember that walking in holiness is an issue of ownership, and because you own me I will obey you. Yet I am weak and unable to follow you perfectly, and because of that I cry out to you to fill me with your Holy Spirit that I might be able to manifest holiness in my life. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Legalism vs. Love

Many well intending people down through the years have used the freedom we have in Christ as an occasion for the flesh. The apostle Paul in Romans 7 and 8 teaches very clearly the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. However we have misinterpreted that freedom, and used that freedom to gratify the desires of our flesh. To the person who reads scripture, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, there are very many warnings against sin. Even as believers we are admonished to not sin. My dear brethren we need to remember exactly what sin is in order to understand the warnings. Sin is transgression of the Law, or lawlessness. This definition is given in the New Testament, in 1 John 3:4.

There are those who would say that in trying to keep the commandments of God that we are indulging in the legalism that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees and other sects. The only appropriate response to that is this. Why are you seeking to keep the commandments? Are you trying to keep yourself from sinning so that you can be right with God, or are you doing it as a response to God’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness? If the former, then legalism it is, and it is of no avail! If the latter then it is true and proper religion! Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 Paul echoes these sentiments in his second epistle to the church at Corinth. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 2 Corinthians 5:14.

Having said all this though I think the apostle states it best in his epistle to the Romans when he makes this one powerful statement! What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Romans 6:15 You see as Paul gets ready to deal with the freedom we have in Christ in chapters 7 and 8 of the epistle to the Romans he first deals with the fact that that freedom does not grant license to sin, or break God’s commandments. It is important to remember that just because we are under grace that we are not allowed to go on sinning. If the Word of God says NO then no it is, if it says YES then yes it is. Let us seek after personal holiness because we love God, and for no other reason than that the love of Christ controls and compels us!

Father God,
You are the creator of all things, and giver of life! For that I praise and thank you. I praise you even now because you have saved a wretch like me, even though I daily struggle to walk holy. Lord may I walk holy out of response and worship of you, and not out of legalistic obligation. Lord God may my Christianity be more than superficial - - may my Christianity be sacrificial - - may my faith in you cost me something, namely may it cause me to crucify my flesh daily and live unto you.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Instruments Of Righteousness!

We have now asked the question of whether or not we make a practice of sinning, or whether we stumble and fall into sin. When this question has been settled we can move on, but until the answer is known we can not move forward into the deeper life of sanctification. The Christian and Missionary Alliance, which I am a part of, has always had an emphasis on teaching people to live the deeper, sanctified, consecrated life. I recently heard a missionary friend speak on the consecrated life, and how it is that we can find ourselves consecrated to God. In doing this he used the call of Isaiah to teach it. That call looks like this:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." And he said, "Go, and say to this people: "'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." Then I said, "How long, O Lord?" And he said: "Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled." The holy seed is its stump. Isaiah 6:1-13

I would suggest to you that if you find yourself diving headlong into sin than you probably have not went through this crisis moment answering the call to the deeper life that God has for you. Choosing to live a life set apart for God is not undertaken lightly. As you can see Isaiah answered the call, but the life he was called to was hard, preaching to an unresponsive people. Christian the consecrated life is always hard in the flesh, but if you chose it, and walk according to the Spirit, you can succeed in it. The apostle Paul puts the call to the deeper sanctified, consecrated life like this: Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14

If you are to answer the call of the deeper life, there is no more simple way that to do this. Present your body, mind, will, and emotions to God as instruments of righteousness. If you have been born again of God’s Spirit you do not have to live a life full of sin. Sure there will be times in your life that you sin, but when you present your whole being to God as an instrument of righteousness then you will find the deeper life is attainable. We were made holy at the time of salvation, by Christ’s imputed righteousness, but living holy is a different story. If you take the time to focus on doing the will of God, that is being an instrument of righteousness, then you don’t even have the time to get involved in a lot of sin, let alone letting sin reign in your body.

Dear brothers and sisters living holy isn’t a matter of attaining perfection, it is a matter of surrendering your will to God, no matter what it means. It is my prayer that this helps in answering the question of whether you practice sin, or stumble into sin. And either way I urge you to embrace surrender to God, presenting all of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

Dear God,
I surrender all, I surrender all! Now I ask you to help me leave it surrendered to you. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Are You Really Dead?

In talking about dying to ourselves and coming alive to Christ I run the risk of sounding ever so redundant. However the apostle Paul felt it necessary to repeat himself a lot on the subject of crucifying the flesh, and living for and through Christ, and not for the flesh. Again the apostle states the following: Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:8-11 Redundant as it may sound it is important that we are constantly reminded that we are dead to sin. This is why Jesus commanded that we take up our cross daily and follow him. Luke 9:23

Dear Christian are you dead to sin? And by that I mean are you living for Christ and no longer seeking to satisfy the desires of the flesh? By this I mean do you hate your sin as God hates it? I am not asking if you never sin, I am asking do you hate your sin. Do you abhor when you sin, that is to regard it with extreme repugnance? Or when you sin do you merely laugh it off? If we are truly dead to sin then we hate sin as much as God hates it. It doesn’t mean that we are perfect, and never sin, but it means that when we sin it breaks our heart.

When you look with lust do you feel the weight of the sin afterwards, or do you eagerly await your next chance to look again. When filthy words come from your mouth, do you go red in the face from embarrassment, or do you make excuses why the words you say are ok? If for you to stop sinning it meant you had to get rid of your computer, or your TV, or your car, or you had to make new friends, would you be willing to do it? Or will you merely say that this is the way the world is and so what you are doing is ok. For Paul makes it very clear, as does Jesus, and John, and many others:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Luke 13:1-5

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: 1 John 3:4-10a

Do you make a practice of sinning, or do you fall and stumble into sin? If you fall and stumble into sin and feel the weight afterwards then Christ can help you to become more holy if you will just trust in him and reckon yourself dead. If, however, you dive headlong into sin the progressive sanctification can never be yours until first you examine yourself and find out whether or not you are in the faith. Read 2 Corinthians 13:5 for a hard question.

Almighty God,
Speak to my heart, show me truly if I am a child of thee. If found to be your child then continue to work in me that I might count myself dead to sin and alive to Christ. If a child of yours I am not then lead me into true repentance and faith. May I worship you in spirit and in truth. In the glorious name of Jesus!