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Why We Sin…and the Truth That Sets Us Free

We sin for the same reason that Eve sinned – we believe that God’s way is NOT the way of joy and happiness. In short, we are tempted by a lie, the same lie the enemy told Eve: “God does not have your best in mind.” This is what the Serpent insinuated to Eve in the Garden:

“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 (ESV)

Paraphrased, the enemy said: “Eve, the only reason God told you not to eat that fruit is because He is not on your side – He doesn’t want the best for you.”

In other words, He doesn’t love you.

In our day, the lie regarding God’s character forms the heart of Satan’s temptation in our lives. And we soon find ourselves leaning toward pride, impurity, deceit, anger, greed, and a mile long list of other sins.  All because at heart, perhaps subconsciously, we don’t believe God’s heart toward us is kind, and therefore, living according to God’s ways is not in our best interest.

The Truth That Sets Us Free

But what if there were something that could convince us down deep in our hearts of God’s love? What if there was a truth that, applied to our hearts, convinced us once and for all that God did have good plans for us, that His ways are best? Might that truth enable us to say no again and again to the powerful but “passing pleasures of sin”? Well, I have good news (so to speak!). Jesus said that we would know the greatest kind of love – when someone substitutes himself for another so that the other might live…

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (ESV)

And ever after He said this, Jesus’ followers have been drawing our attention to the love of God found when Jesus offered Himself on our behalf…

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 (ESV)

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:5-8 (ESV)

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 (ESV)

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. (Gal 2:20 ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)

The truth stated over and over again in the New Testament is that the cross is THE WAY that God has demonstrated His love for us. The cross is a demonstration of God’s love because it is where Jesus substituted Himself for us. In other words, understanding the substitutionary atonement of Christ leads to understanding His objective love. Therefore, if you want to convince someone that God has their best in mind, point to the cross. And if you want to be convinced yourself of God’s kind intentions toward you, look at the cross…and remember His love. As Pastor Matt Chandler illustrates….

“It was the cross that wooed me out of depression after the oncologist told me I would have two years. (I thought), ‘Is God against me?’…And yet it was the cross that sits on the right hand of our stage that in our sanctuary, wrestling with the Lord, that I was reminded, ‘How can you for a second believe I am not for you?'”

Therefore, Calvary is not only the glorious act of God that takes our sins away; but contemplating it is also one of the great ways we avoid doubt and sin going forward. Now this kind of contemplation is not a quick-fix on Tuesday to stop sinning on Wednesday but a lifetime project to help us in our struggle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Since we so easily forget His love, we need to be reminded again and again throughout our lives. No wonder Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper – He wanted us to remember that we are forgiven…and he wanted us to remember that we are deeply loved.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 (ESV)

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Beat (box) on the Accuser

Read this with a bit of the hipster going on your head…

The accuser of the brethren

has been getting down on me,

‘cuz he’s always pointing out my sin,

and just won’t let me be,

But I know that he’s a liar,

Jesus came to set me free.

And when I overcome him,

I will live eternal-ly.

Note – this is a little ditty, parts of which ran through my head during college days. Honestly, I think I came up with it (not that it’s going to win any awards soon), but as I was about to claim authorship, a little voice in my head said, “Are you sure you wrote this?” And I’m not – maybe I heard it somewhere – who knows? This next part, however, someone else definitely wrote…

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death…” Revelation 12:9-11 (ESV)

For Friday, December 18th: Revelation 13

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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When the Morning Star Rises…

Satan’s tactic all the way back to the Garden of Eden has been to call into question the truthfulness of Scripture: “Has God said…?” – the question he has planted in the minds of believers again and again through the centuries.

So, when false teachers came amongst the Apostle Peter’s followers, they apparently followed the same Satanic strategy…and Peter rose to the defense. He began by reminding them of his life-changing experience on the Mount of Transfiguration:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV)

And he said that this incredible experience powerfully confirmed the Scriptures…

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 2 Peter 1:19 (ESV)

We always do well to pay attention to the “prophetic word”, Peter’s terminology for the Scriptures. But take note of what he compares the Bible to…he says it is like a lamp shining in a dark place.

That’s what it feels like doesn’t it? The world is getting darker and darker, and shining the lamp of Scripture lights the way for us. Of course, we still stumble and fall often…for it is yet night.

But Peter says, the dawn is coming. The day will dawn and the morning star will rise in our hearts, and at the deepest level possible…we will know.

These days we shine the flashlight of His Word to navigate through a very dark world, but on that day the bright Sun will shine, and night will be no more, and we will know. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, we will know because we will see with the blazing light of midday that all we had hoped in  and all we had hoped for through the long night…was true.

For Wednesday, November 17th: 2 Peter 2

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Where the Prosperity Gospel Goes to Die

“If ever there was a biblical chapter that prosperity theology teachers should avoid, this is it! The heroines and heroes of faith hardly ‘named it and claimed it…'” – from the study notes on Hebrews 11, The Gospel Transformation Bible

The prosperity gospel tells us that God always wants us wealthy and healthy, and that when these conditions are not present, the depleted state is evidence of our own lack of faith. It is a pernicious lie, and responsible for deep pain and misunderstanding among many of God’s precious saints. And you understand why – how do you suppose someone feels who is sick or poor and yet has tried to “exercise faith” to make these conditions go away? Answer: lousy…like a loser Christian who has come up short in the godliness department. Indeed, I know the story of a woman who died from a disease “believing God” for a miracle, and then I heard of a saint who afterward said that the death needn’t have happened – the woman had just needed more faith.

But if “God doesn’t want you sick”, and “sickness is always from Satan”, then what hope do I have to pray for healing? Apparently God stands powerless to help, except, I guess, if I speak “words of faith” or “animate His power by MY belief”???? Prepare two fingers and open mouth. So you see, illness may not always come from Satan, but the prosperity gospel always does.

The truth is that God is ultimately sovereign, and in His sovereignty and goodness, sometimes He decrees suffering. Romans 8 contains a section explaining just that, and the purpose is always to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28).

After all, what, pray tell, do the health and wealth-ers do with this…

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated–of whom the world was not worthy– wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, Hebrews 11:37-39 (ESV)

Heck of a life for a “child of the King”, right? It surely must surprise many that a child of the King was sawn in two. And yet royalty is a good description, for we read that of them, the world was not worthy. And as to wealth, a great theologian once said, “money ain’t everything,” and it seems that Moses agreed, for he obeyed God’s calling, eschewing riches for a greater reward:

He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. Hebrews 11:26 (ESV)

So you see, there is a reward to look forward to. It is beyond this life, though; God calls us to live for the Kingdom…which is to come.

Health and wealth…indeed!

 

For tomorrow, Thursday, October 1st: Hebrews 12

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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3 Ways to “Take Care” in the Most Important Thing

“Take care, then, how you hear.”

Jesus offered this comment after he explained the Parable of the Sower, a lesson about how the Word of God does or does not bear fruit in an individual’s life. Take care, then, how you hear.

So, it’s not enough to hear. We must hear carefully.

Here then, are 3 lessons from this parable to help us to take care to hear the Word well.

1. Pray against the enemy when reading for yourself or sharing the Word of God with another.

“…the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts…” Luke 8:12 (ESV)

There is a reason that Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one.” As the Lord’s prayer suggests (“our daily bread”), every day we should pray this prayer against the enemy of our souls. Lucifer is the one who comes and takes away the seed that otherwise can bear fruit, 30, 60 or 100 fold.

2. Beware of affliction…and affluence.

“…choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life…” Luke 8:14 (ESV)

I believe, as many have said before me, that affluence is the real problem, though affliction will choke the word also. But for every 10 men who can survive trials and trouble, only one can survive a fat bank account. Either way, when either of these come your way, hold fast to the Word.

3. Cultivate patience.

“…they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (emphasis mine) Luke 8:15 (ESV)

When it comes to the Word, patience is paramount. The person who reads God’s book for a week and says, “It hasn’t done anything for me,” will never taste the sweetest fruit that comes from years in the Scriptures. When it comes to sowing the Word in my own heart or the heart of my children or friends, time and persistence wins the day. Keep on keeping on. Stay in the word. There is a special blessing that comes to the man or woman who faithfully spends day after day, year after year…in the Book of books.

 

Here’s something from the archives along these lines for your encouragement: A Highly Motivating and Not-Often Considered Reason to Read and Meditate on Scripture Regularly

 

For Monday, July 13th: Luke 9

 

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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On Cutting Satan’s Throat and the Joy of Luther

Martin Luther, who married a former nun named Katherine, called Paul’s Letter to the Galatians,

“…my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Katherine.”

High praise from a man who adored his beloved Katie, and Luther’s commentary on Paul’s letter to the Galatians shows his love. So today, as we start our reading of this wonderful letter in Scripture, I thought I would include 5 of my favorite Luther quotes (we’re just scratching the surface here) from the first chapter of his commentary on Galatians. (By the way, a FREE electronic version of the translation I used is found here. Get the Kindle app and download it to your computer or smartphone.) Now, let me say, Luther is fun. He was, after all the guy who said, “I fart at the devil.” And so there is lots of fun to be had in this majestic work that had a part in saving John Wesley, but also some serious words about the good yet despair-inducing law, and of course, glorious words about the gospel.

1. Help in dying (Galatians 1:4): “Learn to believe that Christ was given, not for picayune and imaginary transgressions, but for mountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained.

Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair, particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails the conscience. Say with confidence: “Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. The truth is, I am all sin…”

2. Dealing with the Devil (1:4): “If he says, ‘Thou shalt be damned,’ you tell him: ‘No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my sins. In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat, Satan. You are reminding me of God’s fatherly goodness toward me, that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure…'”

3. On the German people (1:6): “At first we Germans are very enthusiastic, but presently our emotions cool and we become slack. When the light of the Gospel first came to us many were zealous, heard sermons greedily, and held the ministry of God’s Word in high esteem. But now that religion has been reformed, many who formerly were such earnest disciples have discarded the Word of God, have become sow-bellies like the foolish and inconsistent Galatians.” (Unfortunately, Luther was a bit of a racist, but you gotta love that sow-belly epithet)

4. About the church he pastored (1:6): “A man labors for a decade before he succeeds in training his little church into orderly religion, and then some ignorant and vicious poltroon comes along to overthrow in a minute the patient labor of years. By the grace of God we have effected here in Wittenberg the form of a Christian church. The Word of God is taught as it should be, the Sacraments are administered, and everything is prosperous. This happy condition, secured by many years of arduous labors, some lunatic might spoil in a moment.”

5. The importance of the Bible (1:11, 12): “God creates faith in us through the Word…Hence the best service that anybody can render God is diligently to hear and read God’s Word. On the other hand, nothing is more perilous than to be weary of the Word of God. Thinking he knows enough, a person begins little by little to despise the Word until he has lost Christ and the Gospel altogether.”

 

For Tuesday, June 16th: Galatians 2

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Weapons of Our Warfare

Dress Grey. Like I said, all smiles - a lover, not a fighter.

All smiles in Dress Grey – like I said, a lover, not a fighter.

I’m not much of a fighter, but I did try.

As a cadet at West Point, I reluctantly learned to use the pugil stick (Sorry, the image to the left will have to do – no pictures of my fighting exploits remain). Pugil sticks are those giant Q-tip like “weapons” that you have perhaps seen in movies. In actuality, the pugil stick is used to simulate fighting with a bayonet. So there are moves you learn: “Butt to the head”, “slash”, “jab”, etc.  Yeah, loads of army fun.

My squad leader for the second half of basic training (a.k.a. “beast barracks” at West Point) was a guy named Dan Cox. Dan was a Firstie (senior) when I got to know him – he was quite the leader, the captain of the hockey team, and had actually been the pugil stick champion of his entire plebe class. So when I tell you that I had one of the best trainers in Cadet Cox, I’m not exaggerating, yet I was still pretty much a lost cause.

My problem was that I would get into the ring with my opponent (whoever the lucky guy might be) and after the whistle or whatever would signal the beginning of the match, my adversary would invariably begin to pummel me. Pummeling hurts, even with giant Q-tips, and I would instinctively turn my back to the pain. Now, you understand that this was simulating bayonet warfare, and turning your back was absolutely the worst thing a pugil stick fighter could have done. My trainer Dan may have won his plebe tournament, but I his protégé was out in the first round.

If only my closet were this organized today...

If only my closet were this organized today…

I may have quit West Point, but it was at the Academy where I first learned about the real fight, which no one can ever quit. More than once, the Apostle Paul calls this Christian life –  warfare, and in 2 Corinthians 10, he tells us how we are supposed to fight this war:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (ESV)

What is that divine power? Paul doesn’t say exactly, but he gives some hints…

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)

The weapons we fight with are not of the flesh – they are spiritual, and through them we destroy strongholds and arguments, like the lure of the idol of mammon or the lies of the prince of darkness.

So when I sit down over lunch to share the good news with a friend, I want to be sure to fight with the powerful spiritual weapons at my disposal. I don’t just use philosophical arguments. No, I wield the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God in the Gospel (Ephesians 6:17). And I approach the meeting with prayer, for the saying is true: “You should never talk to men about God before you talk to God about men.” And finally, I rely on the Spirit of God, for no man was ever converted without Him.

We are in a fight for the souls of men and women, for eternal life or eternal death. So we fight the enemy head-on with the weapons our Commander has supplied…and we never turn our backs.

For Wednesday, June 10th: 2 Corinthians 11

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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