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.’

To be Saved or NOT to be Saved

What does it take to be a “good Christian”? Romans 3:10-12 says “none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” So if no one is righteous, no one understands, no one seeks God, and if all have become worthless then what does it take to become a “good Christian”?

The word “good” here really has no bearing since being a Christian is really what it is about, because in order to be a Christian one must follow Jesus, after all that is what a Christian is, a follower of Christ. So the real question then becomes what does it take to be a Christian? The answer is simple and complex at the same time because becoming a Christian is somewhat simple while being challenging as well. To become a Christian you must “declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” and then you will be saved “for it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:9,10). Likewise, Matthew 10:32 states that “whoever acknowledges me [Jesus] before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father [God] in heaven.”

Becoming a Christian is a relatively simple process on the outside but complex on the inside because Satan wants us for himself and will do anything within his power to keep us from accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. He comes only to “steal and kill and destroy,” but Jesus has come to give us life in the fullest (John 10:10). There is a spiritual battle that is taking place when someone comes to a place of decision or is being led to a place of decision of whether or not to accept Jesus. This is a battle that can often times be seen, but is more often likely to be felt by the pre-Christian. It is a battle of the heart of whether to acknowledge sin and confess it before the Lord and to hand over one’s life to Him or to continue living for self by following the ways of Satan.

Romans 3:23 states the “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is no exception here. We are all sinners and do not have the ability to be righteous in the eyes of God on our own accord. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23) and “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). So how does one become born again? “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Which brings us back to confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead that allows us to be saved (Romans 10:9-11).

Becoming a Christian is a battle, but outside of the battle it is a relatively easy process; we must accept that Jesus is Lord and profess it. Once we become a Christian though the battle continues. Just because a person is a Christian does not mean that Satan has given up on us. For me this is a sign that once saved always saved may not apply. I do not know if once saved always saved is true or not. I would rather be certain that I am saved and thus I will do what I can to live a life that glorifies God, though I will fail, I will continue to try.

Jesus came to give us life, but we still have to accept it and to live that life and this is where it becomes tricky because to whom much has been given much will be expected (Luke 12:48). The greatest thing that we can be given is life through Jesus Christ. In Him we are promised a place in His Father’s house; we are promised life eternal. So if we have been given the greatest thing of all then how much more is expected of us than the person who has not been given life?

This is where things become really tricky, because the world has been conditioned to believe that there is no absolute truth or that God would not send people to hell when the reality is that we live in a world of absolute truths, which is why we have laws. I do not believe there is a single person who does not know that it is wrong to kill someone, this does not stop people from doing so, but it is an absolute truth. We know that it is wrong to take something from someone else that does not belong to us, this is an absolute truth. We live in a world of laws created on what people believe to be absolute truths so to say that there cannot be only one way, one truth, or one way to receive life eternal does not hold water. Absolute truth is all around us and is evident in life and for those of us who have truly given our lives to Jesus we know that this is true regardless of what the world may think.

Being a Christian requires that we live life differently. Having the Holy Spirit living within us leads us to live a life that is different from that in which we used to live, but it is just a leading, we still have a choice to make which is where we so often go wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I have ignored the guiding of the Holy Spirit, the voice inside of me showing me truth, and done my own thing only to have it blow up in my face. And let me tell you that these things may not always blow up in our faces right away; we may go a long time before we see the results of our turning from God, but our choices always come with consequences. Refusing to follow God comes with consequences such as financial difficulties, struggles in marriage, struggles in parenting, addictions, instability in life, and death. But following God begets life and it fills our life with the Fruit of the Spirit, “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control” (Galatians 5:22).

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). Belief in God is not enough. Our belief, our faith, our acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior needs to be expressed. When we accept Jesus as our Lord we receive the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and leads us in truth.

John 14:15-21

“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

Being a Christian is about obedience, but it is about love first. Notice that Jesus did not say obey my commandments and then you will love me. Jesus said, “if you love me, obey my commandments.” The only way to be a “good Christian” is the only way to be a Christian; we must love Jesus and obey His commandments. But how is it that we come to love Him?

How is it that we can come to obey Him by our love for Him? This is truly the question and this is what keeps so many of us wandering and not truly living the life that we are to be living. Matthew 6:33 says to “seek first the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” The way to learn to love Him is to seek first the Kingdom of God. We must be diligent in our study of His Word, we must be diligent in seeking to honor Him in all that we do, we must trust the voice of the Holy Spirit living inside of us and when we do He will provide us with everything that we need. We must show Him our love by seeking to honor Him in all that we do and He will provide. His provision may start as peace or joy, it may be something monetary, He may begin to restore your relationships, but your life will begin to take noticeable change and you will learn that He is faithful in all things. And as we begin to learn how much love God has for us we will learn to love Him more. 1 John 4:19 says that “we love because he first loved us.”

Being a Christian starts with understanding that God loved us so much that “He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). There is nothing that we can do to earn life; all we can do is lay it down for the one who laid it down for us. When we realize how much God did for us we begin to understand His love and in turn our love should represent the love that He has for us, because it is through Him that we have life and will receive His blessing.

Deuteronomy 15:4-6 states that “There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. The Lord your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.”

God has provided us with life eternal, but often times we are quick to forget what He did for us and we do not have the resolve to live a life that honors God and the gift that we have been given through His Son, Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for us.

James 4:1-10

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: if you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble.’

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

How close are you to God today? Have you wandered away? Does your life represent what you have been given?

God’s Word is clear! We must love Him and obey His commandments. If we do not do both we are only fooling ourselves into believing that we are honoring God. The gift of life through Jesus Christ is the greatest gift that we could ever receive. When we truly follow God we will be blessed in our life. We will certainly still have trials, but we must remember to always seek first the Kingdom of God and where we have been proud of our sin we must turn from it with sorrow and humility and draw close to God once more through repentance and by living a life that honors Him. There is only one way, one truth, and one life and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). All others lead to death and destruction. Which way will you choose today? God is waiting to bring His love and power through you and me, all we have to do is to love Him and to follow Him and He will do the rest.

My Hero Saved my Life

child-164318_640I had the pleasure of meeting a woman today who was on her way to be with her son and her granddaughter. Her son has been in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant and has been searching for 3 ½ years for a suitable donor. Recently his daughter, who just turned eighteen, decided that she would be the one to donate the bone marrow that he needed to save his life. She is sacrificing her body and will endure pain so that her father can have a fighting chance.

When someone saves someone else’s life we consider them a hero. This young lady will be considered a hero to her father and many others around them. It is people who perform selfless actions that protect or save others from harm that receive such honor of being called a hero. They put their own health and safety at risk for other people, but they don’t do this for the praise of men, rather they do it out a place of selflessness within themselves. They do it because they are more concerned about others than themselves.

When I was thinking about this today it struck me that we have all had someone who endured pain and suffering to save our lives, to give us a fighting chance at life. Jesus gave up his life on the cross so that we could have life. He endured mockery, beatings, insults, and even death on a cross so that we could have life.

Jesus is the ultimate hero. He gave everything that he had so that you and I could have life eternal, and all that He asks in return is that we confess with our mouth that He is Lord and believe in our hearts that He was raised from the dead by God (Rom. 10:9). When we do this we are promised life. We are promised to be saved from the impending death and judgement that awaits all people. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24).

Jesus gave his life for you and he gave his life for me. I have accepted him as my Lord and Savior, have you? If you have not I invite you to simply ask for Him to come into your heart and to lead your life. You are precious in God’s eyes and He wants to embrace you in his arms and protect you. All you have to do is say yes, He’s always listening and He’s always waiting.

God bless you all!