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.’

Matthew 1:18-25

Relationships have changed so much over time that today we have such things as “trial marriages” in which people will move in with one another prior to marriage or even talk of marriage. According to an article written in 2012 in Berkeley Science Review almost half of all marriages end in divorce. It goes on to say that roughly two thirds of Americans will cohabitate before marriage and that roughly half of those “trial marriages” result in actual marriages and of those who got married there was a greater percentage of marriages that ended in divorce than that of a more tradition view of marriage.

Things used to be different though. During the time that Mary became pregnant she was betrothed to Joseph, which in the most basic of terms meant that they were married. There would have been a form of contractual agreement between Joseph and Mary’s family in which an agreed upon “bride-price” was set and Joseph would have had to pay that to Mary’s family. During this time of betrothal they would have been considered bound together, much as a married couple would have been, but they did not live with one another, nor would they have been allowed to have sexual relations with one another. Any infidelity would have been treated as adultery as is seen in Deuteronomy 22:23-24, “If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death.”

The consequences for premarital relations was death, so when read in Matthew that Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph but was now pregnant through the Holy Spirit this would have been a big deal. How could she deny that she had not been with a man if she was carrying a child? The marriage would have been over. Her family would have been humiliated and she would have likely been stoned to death. Certainly God would not allow this to happen. Let’s read about how God orchestrated the whole thing and see what happens.

Matthew 1:18-25, ESV

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Joseph had every right to publicly shame her, but he had mercy on her. He could have taken her before the magistrate and had her stoned to death, but instead he had planned to call off the union, as was his right, but he planned to do so quietly or in other words without stating an offense or reason. His love for her was so great that not only did he not want to see he stoned, but he also did not want to see her harmed in any fashion. As he was contemplating these things though an angel of the Lord came upon him and explained to him what had occurred.

Consider for a moment the enormity of the situation that Mary and Joseph had found themselves in. First Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel who tells her that she will become pregnant even though she had never been with a man. Then Joseph finds out and as he’s contemplating what to do he too is visited by the angel of the Lord who told Him what was to happen and that Joseph was to take Mary as his wife. Imagine trying to explain this to the family. The contract would have been broken and the couple would have been shamed. But we don’t ever read about that happening.

In the world we live in today of premarital everything and baby daddies hardly and eye would have been blinked at this situation. We have become numb to this and it has become acceptable by so much of the world today. This was not the case for Mary and Joseph though and yet they followed the Lord’s instructions and would eventually conceive Jesus while Mary was still a virgin which fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Matthew 1:24 says that as soon as Joseph woke up he took Mary as his wife, probably immediately. In other words he completely believed the angel that had appeared to him and took it to be a word from God and he did exactly as the angel had told him and he took Mary as his wife, but had no relations with her until after she gave birth to Jesus.

The first chapter of Matthew started with tracing the genealogy back to Abraham showing that Jesus was a descendant of Abraham and thus fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant which stated, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Gen. 22:17-18). Jesus being the fulfillment of this prophecy and covenant shows that Jesus possesses the gate of his enemies and all of the nations of the earth will be blessed by Him.

Likewise, we see Jesus’ genealogy traced back to David in order to show the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant which stated, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne of God. It is through Him that we receive life everlasting.

Finally we see the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 when Jesus is conceived by a virgin. All three of these are extremely important because they show that Jesus is the Messiah and that prophecy has been fulfilled through Him. This is the very fulfillment of prophecy that so many have rejected and the reason for the separation of the Jewish people and Christians. The Jewish people do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah and are still awaiting His arrival while Christians know that Jesus is the Messiah and as we continue to venture through the book of Matthew we will see even more prophecies fulfilled through Jesus who is Christ.

It is so extremely important for us to understand how much Jesus did and fulfilled when He came to earth. It is important for us to be able to know that the evidence of His authority as God was foretold thousands of years before He was born of the virgin and that through Him we can have the confidence that He is the Savior of the world and not just a prophet. It is through Him that we receive life and that we have been given the Holy Spirit it guide us in our daily walk and to lead to a right relationship with God if we will only follow His leading.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). Because of this we need to be confident in who Jesus is and why He came to do what He did. It is because of this that we must seek Him daily and know in our hearts that Jesus is who He said He is and that He saves. It is because of this that we must boldly stand on the Word of God and share it with our friends, family, and our neighbors. “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:14). When we believe in the Word and follow we are given life through Jesus and a heart that longs to see people brought to the path that leads to life rather than seeing them face death.

Following Jesus needs to bring about change in our lives, otherwise we need to seriously question whether or not we are saved because the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life. Jesus himself told us that those who find the gate are few. Are you one of the few? Will you help others to find the way or do you hate your neighbors so bad that you would rather see them die? This is the reality of what happens to those who do not have someone who is willing to show grace and love and mercy to them, just as Jesus has done for us. This is what happens when we let fear conquer us and we are more concerned about self-preservation than saving other people. We have the power to save through Jesus Christ. I’m not pointing fingers in saying this because I struggle with this too, but we have a responsibility to let our light shine in the dark world around us and when more of us begin to do that the world will become a brighter place and it can start with your neighborhood or your family or your place of work.

Joseph and Mary boldly accepted the word that they were given from God and though they faced trials of many kinds they remained faithful. They lovingly obeyed God and they were blessed because of it. They were blessed even in the midst of facing the humility of becoming pregnant before being married. They were blessed even though they had to travel a great distance be counted in the census where they would come to give birth to Jesus in some sort of barn, likely in a cave. Joseph and Mary were blessed, but they faced their fair share of struggles, yet they remained faithful. Jesus said that “in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Following Jesus is messy, but our days on earth are limited and few and our life in heaven is eternal when we trust and obey.

God’s Economy

In my life I have always tried to conduct myself with a high degree of integrity in any job that I have ever had and it has allowed me to do well in every job that I ever had. I was always open and honest with my intentions and with what I was doing. I gained trust and respect from my supervisors and would often times be chosen for advancement above my peers who had been in the job longer. I took pride in my work and wanted to know everything about my job as well as the jobs of those around me. I wanted to be someone that people could count on to do the right thing and to get the job done without having to worry about following up after.

I took great pride in all that I did and I put my trust in my hard work and abilities. This is not what God wants for our lives; I was worshipping myself and relying solely upon my own abilities. I was not following God; I had not yet put my trust in Him, and did not understand His economy. My work ethic aligned with what God would desire for us, but my motives were entirely wrong. God wants us to operate with integrity and honor because of who He is and to trust that He will provide. He does not want us to work every waking hour and to do everything that we can in our own power to succeed.

When we do our own thing we may build up riches for ourselves monetarily, but what about the riches in our lives? Galatians 5:22 says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” When we put out trust and faith in God and follow His way with all of our hearts we receive the fruit of the Spirit in varying measure and increasing measure, but when we do it on our own we miss out on all that God has for us. When I did not put my trust in God and follow Him all that I had was self-pride to show for all of my hard work. Nothing I ever did was enough, I always wanted more, and I was anxious about having enough or losing it all.

Things started changing when I started following God and putting my trust in Him though. I still conducted myself in the same manner when it came to work, but my motivation was entirely different and my reward was entirely different as well. Sure I still fell into prideful actions at times and I am still prone to that because of my sin nature, but I no longer worry about having enough. God has shown up in miraculous ways to provide for me and my family. When I started putting my trust in Him and doing things properly He began showing me how He works.

When I first started going back to church I always tithed, but did not really understand what it was doing for me, because I had not been able to see the blessing. I was still operating the rest of my financial life by my own standards rather than God’s and it quickly all came tumbling down. I reached a point of having no money left and not knowing how I was going to pay my bills. I had no food, no gas, no money and I had two mortgage payments that I had to figure out how to pay even though I was making decent money.

So what changed in my life? Well I was broke in every way I could think of. My pride was broke, my bank account was broke, and my heart was broke as I saw everything that I had worked so hard to get was on the brink of being lost. I was broke and it broke me in my Spirit and brought me to my knees in one of the first truly submissive actions and prayers in my life. I fell to my knees and cried out to God to forgive me and to help me. I didn’t even know what I was doing, but I knew that nothing I was doing was working so out of an act of desperation and complete brokenness I cried out.

What happened next still astounds me to this day. God provided a way out by getting me offers on both of my houses that I had for sale within 24 hours. This was the first tangible moment of recognizing God’s power and love in my life. Looking back from this point I can see that He was always their protecting me, but this was the turning point in my life. I still had a lot in my life to fix to get to a place of being unburdened financially, but this was a start. I started tithing with a different heart after this and began trying to live life in a way that would honor God with my finances.

Within five years God would completely wipe out all of our debt, I got married during this time, and He has provided us with the security of knowing that He will always take care of us as long as we follow His lead. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it and we have been able to experience the fruit of the Spirit in our lives through trusting in God. He has provided for us in ways that we could have never thought possible.

You see God does not rely on our abilities or talents to provide for us. He will use us with everything that we are willing to give Him and He will provide for us out of His bounty as we submit our lives to Him. It has taken us many lessons to get to where we are in our lives and I am certain that we still have a lot more to learn, but I know that God will always provide for us and take care of us.

Deuteronomy 6:10-13 says this,

The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name.

Up to this point the Israelites that Moses is speaking to had been pulled out of slavery and oppression in Egypt and had been brought through the dessert in wandering and were about to enter into the Promised Land. During all of this time God had led them through the wilderness testing them in order to prove their character to see if they would obey His commands. He fed them with manna from heaven. During all of this time their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not blister or swell (Deuteronomy 8:2-4).

Let’s put this a little further into perspective. During the census’ that were taken throughout the time of the Israelites in the dessert the number of males who were twenty years of age or older who were able to go out to war was roughly 600,000 people. These census’ are recorded in Exodus 12:37 and in Numbers 11:21, 1:45-46, and 26:51. These numbers did not count the women and children that were with them. Even if this number were only doubled to account for women and children the total number of people that God led to the Promised Land would have been 1.2 million people or the population of Dallas, Texas. The number of people was probably closer to 2-2.5 million people though which would mean that the amount of Israelites that God led was roughly the same amount of that of Houston, Texas or Chicago, Illinois.

God is able to provide in ways that we just do not understand and in ways that we cannot comprehend. Our work and efforts will never truly provide us with any security. Take a look at the Great Depression if you think otherwise. If the value of the dollar is nothing than it does not matter how much money or power you have because multiples of nothing always ends up producing nothing. We must never take for granted what we have now and we must not put our trust in our own abilities or possessions. The only thing that we can put our trust in is God who provides us with all that we need when we entrust our lives to Him and follow Him in all that we do.

God’s economy does not falter, unlike man’s economy. God’s promises never come up short, unlike man’s. The Word of God is unfailing and is trustworthy. It is the only thing that gives life and when it is trusted and follows the blessings that are reaped are more than anything we could ever obtain in our own power.

Joshua 24:14-15

So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua made his choice, instructed the Israelites to make their choice, and we all have a choice to make today. Will you serve God or will you serve something else. We all serve something or someone, who will you choose to put your trust in and serve?

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?

My Choice

I long to follow your ways oh Lord

You give me strength in times of weakness

You fill my heart with laughter

You guide me along the path of righteousness


Your ways are perfect in every way

So why is it that I still falter

Still get scared

Times where I lean upon my own understanding


You teach me to trust and to obey

But there is always another way

I always have a choice

Life or Death!


The path to life is narrow

The path to death is easier to follow

But your ways are greater than my ways

Your desire for me is even greater than my own


I choose to trust in you

My God, My Savior, My Friend

Set a lamp upon my feet

Show me the way to life


You have given me all there is

You have given me love

You have given me patience

You have given me your Son


I choose to follow

I choose to trust

I choose to obey

I choose you God