Redeemed, Renewed, and Transformed

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let me remind you and me that “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1). Jesus Christ died on the cross to free us from the slavery of that world that is Satan’s. Jesus Christ died so that all who put their trust in Him and follow Him will be redeemed and given a new life. No longer must we follow the ways of the world. No longer are we enslaved by the desires of our flesh, but we are being renewed by the life giving Spirit of God that lives within us.

Galatians 4:21-31
21 Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? 22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. 23 The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise.

24 These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. 25 And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26 But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. 27 As Isaiah said,

“Rejoice, O childless woman,
you who have never given birth!
Break into a joyful shout,
you who have never been in labor!
For the desolate woman now has more children
than the woman who lives with her husband!”

28 And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. 29 But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit.

30 But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.

I am a fan of the written Law because it gives me something written that can be followed, but I need to be careful because it is not the Law that saves. The Law kills and does not provide life. It is only through following Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit that we receive life. It is only through loving obedience to the Holy Spirit that we become transformed and the time may come when our lives reflect portions of the written Law, but they are only a reflection because we have been filled with the real thing. We possess within us the power of God that saves, His life giving Spirit that was sent by Jesus when He ascended into heaven for our sake.

Galatians 5:16-26
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

Following the Spirit creates true spiritual fruit within our lives that following the Law cannot do. Following the Law instead produces that opposite, because it is out of our own personal power that we follow the Law, not the Spirit’s. When we put our trust in the Law we are really putting our trust in ourselves and while following the Spirit may seem like a blind and unassuming faith it is the only kind of faith that truly brings life. When we follow the Spirit in our redemption our spirit is renewed and our life is transformed. When we give up our lives as Christ did in loving obedience and submission to the Father we die to ourselves and our selfish ambitions and are raised with Christ who is seated at the right hand of God our Father (Mark 16:19-20).

The Law was meant to show us our sin, but the Spirit was sent to lead us in life. Following the Law only produces death, but following the Spirit yields fruit in our lives that is pure and far better than we could ever hope to achieve through following the Law. Jesus Christ is risen and we have been set free from the chains of bondage that we were once wrapped in if we put our trust in Him and follow Him with all of our heart. It is then that our lives will be transformed and will produce the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

May God bless you immensely with the fruit of the Spirit as you place your trust and your love in Him. May He guide you through the renewal of your Spirit which leads to life to put to death the sinful desires that once enslaved you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Numbers 6:24-26
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’

Set Apart for God

Today’s message is a little bit harder to swallow than most, but none-the-less it is God’s Word. In 2 Corinthians 6 verses 14-18 Paul is warning the believers in Corinth about partnering with unbelievers. First off it is important to realize that there were a lot of false teachers who were infiltrating the church and spreading a false message. They presented themselves as Christians, but did not bear the message of Christ. Secondly it is not saying to hate unbelievers or even to be harsh towards them. Instead it is about the believer and follower of Christ setting themselves apart from the world. It is about not being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

As Christians we are exhorted to Love God and to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40) and by the blood of Jesus Christ we have been made holy for all time (Hebrews. 10:10). To be made holy means to be set apart to God. In the Old Testament the level of holiness determined who could enter the temple of God. Those who were unbelievers or non-Jews, for this example, were not allowed past the outer courts, Jew’s the inner courts, priests the Holy Place, and the High Priest the Holy of Holies and only once a year. The closer to God people got the more holy they needed to be. Luckily for us the curtain of the temple which separated man from God was torn when Jesus was crucified (Matthew 27:51) and because of that we are now able to approach God directly, but we are still to make ourselves holy, confessing our sin to God and repenting, when we approach Him. What that means for us today in regards to the following passage is that we must not team up with those who follow Satan, those who do not follow God, and we must remain Holy so that we can remain in close fellowship with God.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18
14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:
“I will live in them
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
Don’t touch their filthy things,
and I will welcome you.
18 And I will be your Father,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

This does not mean we should not talk to unbelievers, but it does mean that we need to be on guard, it means that we must realize that as long as they choose not to follow God that they are considered enemies of God, until such a time that they choose to follow Him. Military personnel are a prime example of this. When deployed to a combat zone military personnel are often times out in the midst of the “enemy” sometimes the enemy is known and has a face, while other times the enemy is unknown and hiding amongst civilians. Military bases are generally more safe than being “outside the wire” or outside the confines of the base and less vigilance is needed within the confines of the base; however, when going outside of the base everyone needs to remain super vigilant for their own safety and for the safety of their team. That does not mean they are to be rude or mean to people, but it means they must be on guard because there could be someone waiting to cause them harm, and at the same time there may be others who do not want to be associated with the enemy.

As Christians we must be vigilant when we are associating with non-believers so that we do not become like them. We must remain aware that Satan is out to attack God’s people in any way that he can and he will use those who are under his control to do his work, even people that we might consider friends and family. We have been called to live a different life than those who do not follow God. Of course these people may be great people, but if they are not for God then they are against Him and we must be on guard when around them so that we do not go astray.

Being a Christian means that we must go out into the world in order to share the Gospel, but that also places us at risk. On the extreme side of things there may come a time when you feel as though you cannot minister to a friend and you may feel as though you can no longer be around them because of their refusal to accept God’s message, but only you can make that determination as you are so led by the Holy Spirit living within you. Remember it is our responsibility to spread the Gospel message to the world around us and when we place ourselves in the proximity of unbelievers we must not waiver in our beliefs and in our love for God. This is a hard place to be, especially for new believers and those who are weaker in their faith because when we first come to Christ and when we are not firmly grounded in the Word of God we can be easily led astray.

People should always be able to recognize that you are a Christian, even if you are with someone who is not. We are not to hide in our own little safe bubbles where nothing can harm us because then we are doing nothing to let the world know how great our God is, but we must be ever vigilant when we are in the world so that we do not become seduced by the ways of the world.

May God bless you today as you faithfully and courageously follow Him. May He keep you out of the hands of the devil even when you are in close proximity to those who follow his ways. May you be a light to a dark world to bring people to the only one who can provide a full and satisfying life, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen and Amen!

Numbers 6:24-26
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’

Don’t be a Stumbling Block

Yesterday we saw that God desires our love for Him and for others above knowledge.  Today we will look deeper into what Paul was teaching.  It is true that God desires for us to love Him and to love others, but that does not mean that He doesn’t desire for us to gain knowledge and understanding.  He absolutely desires for us to know all there is about Him and His decrees, but above that He desires for us to not become a stumbling block for others because of our “superior knowledge” (1 Cor. 8:10).  Paul said,

1 Corinthians 9:19-27

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.  When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ.  When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law.  Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.  When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from the law so I can bring them to Christ.  But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.

When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ.  Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.  I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training.  They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step.  I am not just shadowboxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

Paul, who had experienced Jesus like no other had and who had great training in the Word submitted himself to others in love so that he could lead them to the truth that can only be found in Christ.  He put himself in the shoes of others so that he could speak to them and interact with them in ways that they would understand.  He did not let his knowledge get in the way of others knowing who Christ was, instead he humbled himself and spoke in love and humility.

Often times we think that we can win others to Christ by knowing enough about the Bible or about God, but that is rarely the case.  Paul could have argued anyone to Christ through his knowledge if anyone could have, yet he chose to love them and to speak to them in ways that would speak to them the best.  We have the opportunity to do the same when we are talking with others.  We can have all the knowledge there is in the world, but if we do not love others our message will fall on deaf ears.

So seek to learn all that you can about God, but do not let your knowledge overshadow the love that you have for others.  We have each been given a unique set of stories through which we can share the love of Christ with others.  We have been given living proof that God loves us and that He changes lives.  Share your story, love others, but above all love the Lord your God who loved you while you were still a sinner by sending Christ to die for you (Romans 5:8)

May you be filled with overflowing joy as you encounter the Lord today and share life with others around you.

Numbers 6:24-26
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’

Knowledge or Love? Which is Better?

1 Corinthians 8:1-3
Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Man has a desire to learn and to gain knowledge and understanding about things, but when love is sacrificed in pursuit of knowledge or put aside to pursue knowledge then nothing has been gained. In a world that is becoming increasingly more disconnected with one another we need to stop sometimes and realize that it is love that God desires. He desires us to follow Him, but He desires us to follow out of our love for Him. He also desires for us to love one another.

Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Knowledge is good, wisdom is better, but love and to be loved is the desire of God’s heart and man’s heart. Take a moment to slow down today and to really love people. Put aside your differences and the reasons you may not like one another and love as God has called us to love.

May God bless you today as you bless others.

Numbers 6:24-26
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’

THE LOST AND LONELY

When was the last time that you felt truly lost or alone? Do you remember what that feels like? Maybe you feel that way right now. Maybe you’re not physically lost, but you feel like you’re lost in your life without any direction.

It happens to all of us at some point in time or another along our Christian walk; we lose sight of Jesus and we feel lost and alone and it is a horrible feeling. There is a feeling of helplessness that overwhelms us when this happens and we wonder what went wrong or how did we get so far away from God that we can’t seem to hear His voice anymore.

Now try to think back to before you knew Jesus and how you felt. Chances are that if you really think about it you can remember feeling utterly lost in life and completely alone; like you had no purpose in life. Or maybe you found your complete purpose in your job, or family, friends, or whatever else we turn to instead of God and still you felt empty.

This feeling of desperation and being lost is something that people go through every day all around us. There are possibly times in which they feel like things are coming together for them if only they can maintain what they are doing, but then…BAM…something happens again that puts them right back where they started if not even further back and the cycle starts over again.

Yesterday I posted a poem that I felt like God placed on my heart after finishing reading the book “Exposed: True Stories of Messy Survivals from Rolla, MO.” It is a book of seven stories from seven people who were saved by Jesus and how they came to know Him. It was written by people from Christian Life Center in Rolla, Missouri and it shows just how messy life really is and it reminded me how it feels to not know God.

It is a book of pain, desperation, fear, addiction, etc… But it is also a book of hope and life in Jesus Christ. It is a book of reality. It is a book about the people who Jesus gave His life for. He came to heal the sick and to help the lost find their way home. Jesus said that it is not the healthy who need a doctor, it is the sick (Mk. 2:17). Often times we tend to forget what being a Christian is really about, we forget that Jesus came to heal the sick.

After Jesus’ death and burial He arose and appeared to many people before He ascended into heaven and before He left He Commissioned all who would answer the call to follow Him when He said,

Matthew 28:18-20 (New Living Translation)

I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Being a Christian does not mean going to church on Sunday, or singing in the choir or on the praise team, it does not mean reading your Bible, it doesn’t even mean living a moral life. Although all of these things are a part of being a Christian they alone do not bring life. Being a Christian means doing the things that Jesus did and answering the call of the Great Commission. It means that we must not raise ourselves up above others and think that we are better than them. It does not mean that we must have everything together. It does not mean that we should preach to people about their sin, rather we should walk alongside them in their struggles in prayer and encouragement that God desires more for their life.

Being a Christian means that we must love God first and foremost. We must love Him more than anything else in our life. This takes time and faithfully following Him, but when we start with loving God above all else He changes our hearts for others. He helps us to see the hurting people all around us. He gives us compassion and love for our neighbors, people on the street, our friends, and our family.

If you call yourself a Christian you have been given a portion of the light of the world and it is your job to let it shine so that others can find their way. It is your job to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in your heart to humbly follow Him wherever He would call you to go and to do whatever He would call you to do.

There are lost and lonely people all around you. There are people hurting and in despair in which you have influence. You have a responsibility to share the love of Jesus with them. Don’t worry about what you know or don’t know. People don’t really care what you know until they know that you care about them. So love on people and be in prayer for them especially when you are with them. And when you feel the Holy Spirit prompting you to share your story about how God redeemed you; about how God changed your life when you started following Him, then share it in love and listen to your friend. Listen to what they are saying and how they are feeling and trust in God to do the rest.

There is nothing that any of us are going to say in our own power that will convince someone that they need Jesus, only God can do that. All we can do is to come along side what God is already doing in that person’s life and share how God has changed our life and then when they give you permission and are ready to listen we can tell them all about Jesus and maybe even have a chance to lead them to the Lord. But, even if that chance to lead them to Christ never comes for you stand strong in knowing that God is leading them and desires for them to know Jesus even more than you do.

You cannot fail if you share your faith in love. The only way you can fail is by keeping silent. The only way you can fail is by not loving and by trying to convince someone by your vast understanding of the Bible. Just like you needed to be ready to hear the Word of God spoken in truth and love they must also be ready and until God brings that time to pass they will reject everything that you try to tell them. So relax and trust that God has everything in His hands and that He wants to use you and then pray, pray, pray, and when you sense that God wants you to act then act and understand that He is doing all the work, but He is allowing you to join in with what He is doing so that He can deepen His relationship with you and show more of Himself to you.

We have a glorious God who wants to bring people to Him. He wants to reveal the love that He has for His people and He has given us the opportunity to join in with Him to share that love. The choice is yours and the choice is mine to follow Jesus’ example and to love the people around us, even those who may seem hard to love. What will you chose to do?