A Christian’s Relationship with Sin

There is something fundamentally different between a Christian, and a non-Christian. Something that goes deep to the core of the person and changes them.

Everyone is born a sinner (Romans 3:23), which is someone who “transgresses against divine law” (Oxford Dictionary). This is the spiritual state that we are all born into. We are slaves to sin, spiritually dead. In this state we are only concerned with things of this world, the things of the flesh, and we are enemies of God.

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” – ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

While we are still sinners, while still being enemies of God, we are offered this wonderful gift of salvation. But do we really know what that means?

We have many in our culture who call themselves Christians because they go to church, give tithes, and try to live a good life, according to our cultural standards. But is that all there is to being a Christian? Is it nothing but us trying to live a good life, and to live up to some religious obligations and moral code?

A Christian is more than that. At that moment of forgiveness we are not simply forgiven of our sins but that dead, and rotting sin nature within us is made alive and set free from sin. This is a very real change that makes a Christian something new from that moment on.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” – ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This change within us completely changes our relationship to sin. No longer are we slaves to sin, but we are set free from that sinful nature. Instead of being proud of our sin and eager to hold onto and justify those sins that we enjoy, now we are disgusted by sin. We see it for what it truly is and we try our best to get rid of it from our life. Not out of some moral obligation but because we truly want nothing to do with it.

It is this relationship to sin that sets Christians apart from sinners.

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” – ‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

No, this isn’t saying that a Christian doesn’t ever sin. Pay close attention to the phrasing, particularly the words “abides” and “keeps on”. “Keeps on” in reference to sin, and “abides”, which has a similar but deeper meaning, in reference to following God. (We will be discussing this deeper in an upcoming article.) 1 John says the same thing but using a different word. Can you pick it out?

“Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” – ‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:7-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In this passage the word Practice stands out and it is an important part of what is being said.

prac·tice

ˈpraktəs/

noun

1. the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use.

2. repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.

verb

1. perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

2. carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

(Oxford Dictionary)

To practice something, is to “keep on” doing it. Habitually, regularly, repeatedly.

“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” – ‭‭John‬ ‭8:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Before we are a Christian we are a slave to sin and we continue to do it. Usually we have a moral code that we come up with where the things we enjoy doing are seen as okay, and the things we don’t like are seen as the line that nobody should cross. We do have a few things we see within ourselves that we try to change to make us better people, according to some cultural standard, but we have this whole list of things that God says is a sin that we justify and try to make ourselves happy to live with. We practice those sins, not realizing that we are a slave to it. Trapped in a way that makes it impossible to escape, if we even wanted to.

And then we became a Christian, and all of that changed.

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” – ‭‭Titus‬ ‭3:3-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Not only have we been regenerated, changed to the core, but we have the Holy Spirit within us. These things are not just some fanciful wishful thinking to sound spiritual and religious. These are very real changes.

“How can we who died to sin still live in it? … We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. … So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” – ‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:2, 6, 11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

A Christian is someone who has been awakened to the war that we have with sin and we no longer want to hide it or justify it, we want to get rid of it!

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” – ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is the battle. Flesh versus spirit. Paul shows this struggle in Romans 7.

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” – ‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:14-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is the process of justification, the process of God working in us to get rid of the sin within us to make us holy, as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). This is the struggle. We are not perfect and will never be perfect while in these bodies, but by the grace of God we do have a real chance against the flesh nature of our bodies so that the life of a Christian is no longer marked by a practice of sin, but by a practice of righteousness and holines. We may stumble from time to time, but our walk is one of righteousness.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” – ‭‭1 John‬ ‭1:5-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This passage sums up the struggle well, going back and forth to say that we are not perfect, but we have been cleansed, forgiven, made new. We no longer walk in darkness.

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” – ‭‭1 John‬ ‭2:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is the life of the Christian. Not one of boasting and bragging about how good we are, because we know that on our own we are filthy sin filled creatures. But we boast in Jesus Christ, because by His mercy and grace, we have been cleansed and made new. Not by our own works, but entirely by His work within us.

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is why Christians try our best to live righteously. Not out of some religious obligation, but because sin disgusts us and we want nothing to do with it. Because God is holy and we want fellowship with Him.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – ‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When a Christian tells a non-Christian that they are a sinner and need repentance, it isn’t because Christians think they are better than others. It is because we truly care about people and want them to know this freedom from being a slave to sin. We want them to know God and His loving kindness and forgiveness.

A Christian doesn’t walk around in shiny white robes, pointing out every spot and blemish on others clothing and telling them they had better clean themselves up. A Christian is someone who knows how dirty and awful their own sin is, and wants to share about the God who, despite our filth, gave us new clothes and washed us and called us sons and daughters. We just want to share with you that you too can be washed clean and set free. Not because of me, or anything I can do, or because I’m better than you, because I’m not. But because of God. He is the one to be praised for this awesome gift.

Sinner, I beg you, let go of those shackles you are holding on to trying to justify and accept your sin. It’s killing you, weighing you down, and you can never free yourself. But the one with the key stands ready to help any who lift up their hands and ask for forgiveness.

He died to get that key that will free you.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – ‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Problem with Getting too Comfortable

In the previous article we discussed how we do not need to go to other countries to do missions, but that our mission field is right here, where we live and work and spend our day to day life.  But we don’t see the area we live in as our mission field.

Why is that?

Taylor Mansion
Taylor Mansion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think the main reason we see this as not being our mission field is because we have made this our home. We have put a lot of time and effort into making this a safe and comfortable place to live where we can sit back and relax from the stresses of life.

But our citizenship is in heaven – Phillipians 3:20

We have forgotten that the earth is not our home.  As Christians our residence is in heaven, not on earth.  Our time on earth is just a temporary stopping point where we focus on our mission before heading home.

We are citizens of heaven, not of earth, not of the U.S., not of the middle class lifestyle, but of heaven.

But instead of living for the mission we forget about it because we get comfortable and distracted in the business and entertainment of our day to day life.

When I was in the Navy I would travel for weeks or months at a time.  Being away from my home was tough.  I missed my wife and my home, but I was there for a mission.  Sure I had a little bit of fun when I could, but my main focus was to do my mission for the military while I anxiously awaited the day I could return home to the one I love.

It should be like this for us.  We should be anxiously awaiting our return home, to see Jesus, the one we love more than any other.  We should not distracting ourselves and making our lives here comfortable enough that we do not care about the mission, about Christ, or about heaven.

Peter urges us to treat this life as travelers just passing through and to avoid the lifestyle of those around us.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh – 1 Peter 2:11

Abstain from the passions of the flesh?  That’s no fun.  God gave us these passions to enjoy ourselves with while we are here, didn’t he?  The problem with our culture is that we are all about the passions of the flesh above all else.  They become our obsession, but when we accept Christ we are told to deny ourselves and not let our flesh, our desires, or our passions become our master.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, – 2 Corinthians 5:1-2

Our home here is supposed to be nothing more than a tent.  And by tent I do not mean we are only supposed to have structures made with fabric sides and zipper doors.  It means that what we have here is temporary, something we can throw away and lose if we are called to, not something we attach ourselves to that keep us grounded where we are.

Why are we so determined to purchase homes when they just tie us down?  Renting a place many say is throwing away money, but if you are not sure that God wants you to stay in that area then renting frees you up to just go when God calls you elsewhere.

Again, I am not saying that it is wrong to buy a house, but what I am saying is look at how our lifestyle decisions effect our ability to fulfill our mission.  It just shows where our focus and our treasure really is.

Paul even goes a step further and says that everything he gained in this world is now considered a loss, garbage even, in the mission for Christ.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ – Phil 3:7-8

Your car, house, cell phone, computers, clothes, all of it is nothing more than garbage compared to us knowing Christ!  How do we even try to compare the importance of the mission that we have to save those who are lost with our toys and gadgets?

So why do we obsess over this garbage so much?   Why is it so hard for us to believe that we are citizens of heaven?  Why are we so determined to settle down and make our home here on earth?

We will look at that more in our next article.

Don’t be discouraged.  These articles cover some deep topics that are close to our heart, but our God is gracious and merciful.  Keep reading to the end. 🙂

Why Should a Christian Read the Bible?

Reading the Bible has been called a ‘means of grace.’ For the Christian, it is both a privilege and duty. When people focus on the duty but misapprehend the privilege, discouragement is swift to follow.

 Why do you read the Bible?

The idea Christians must read the Bible is common knowledge within the Christian community. However, it is the experience of this author that many Christians have trouble articulating why they should.

Can you answer that question?

To the satisfaction of others?

To your own satisfaction?

If you can, how well does your answer sustain your efforts? Do you struggle to take time regularly to read your Bible? If you struggle, you are in good company as many faithful Christians do. This author does.

So, right up front we have two fundamental “why” questions we need to answer before we get into the hows and wherefores: one theoretical to explain the habit, the other existential, as relates to motivation.

For many Christians, I fear the answer to both questions is the same common, but incorrect answer: “The Bible says to do it, so I am supposed to do it.”

Why is this incorrect? Does the Bible say to do it?

In fact, yes, the Bible’s own testimony places knowing the scriptures as fundamental and right, even commanded. It does so in both Testaments, Old and New. See for yourself:

Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV)

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

New Testament:

2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

1 Peter 3:14-16 (ESV)

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Even a quick reading of these three passages reveals God’s concern for our comprehension and exposure to his Word.

The Deuteronomy passage uses references to putting scripture up all over the place, particularly the body. The purpose is to show how much God wants the scripture to penetrate our hearts and minds.

The 2 Timothy passage tells us all Scripture is valuable because it is God breathed. That means all of scripture issues forth from God, it is his, and is therefore true and holy.

Paul lists a slew of great uses for scripture, but it is all God breathed. More on that in a moment.

1 Peter is less direct, but the context is the believer under duress, being asked to give a reason for his/her faith, and the hope that is in them.

Can you explain the gospel to the soldier holding a loaded gun to your head? What about at your execution for conversion to Christianity?

Peter is commending his Christian audience to be ready within such a context. Their daily reality was life or death persecution. While that was roughly 2000 years ago, Peter’s call to be ready has lost none of its weight, even for those of us free from such severe persecution.

So it is valuable. Still, what is my motivation?

Why read it?

If you answer that question with the imperative of “because I am supposed to,” you have missed the point.

An imperative is a command. The command to read, study and know scripture is either directly or indirectly present in all three passages given above. However, the command is not the justification for obedience, it is what obedience looks like. It is meant as guidance only. Relying on the command to motivate you will only wear you out because motivation comes from somewhere else.

Where is the motivation to read the Bible?

In the military, a soldier trains to be ready, and a good soldier takes training seriously. The question is not whether you are going to use the training soon but that you are a soldier, and by definition, you are to be ever ready. That is your identity: soldier. This is doing because of identity and action that flows out of identity is at the heart of these three verses.

In Identity…

All three passages are written to God’s people. The original audiences were varied, being separated by time and space. Their IDENTITY as God’s people was the common thread uniting them all. They were his children, and by implication, He was and is their Father.

So the command to know scripture, to let it penetrate your heart through constant exposure and deliberate study is a constant theme throughout the whole of scripture. You are supposed to know your faith so well, the cold press of a gun barrel fails to silence its message—that imperative command is built upon the foundation of Identity in and with God.

Reading the Bible for duty’s sake misses the point of all three passages. It is a reason, but lacks sustaining power. When times are hard, duty will be a burden you long to put down. It may even break your back. You need more than an “I told you to” when the going is rough.

Our call to be students of the Word is built on the Christian’s identity as an adopted son or daughter of God. Family tradition demand we know scripture like Jesus did. If you are a Christian, an authentic life requires regular reading and study of the scriptures as much as being human requires sleep, oxygen and vitamins.

Why Read the Bible?           Authenticity

Authenticity demands you be true to your identity and reading the bible is authentic to the Christian identity.

Christians should read the Bible because knowing His Word is required to know ourselves and our heritage. This is where it all connects with the scriptures being God breathed (2 Timothy 3:14-17). God is our Father and we should be about the family business. To do this we must know who he says he is and what he says about us. The Bible is your best repository of such things.

If this is true, how should we go about reading the Bible? Is there a proper way or will any way do as well as another? How do you maximize your Bible reading?

These questions and more will occupy the next installment of this series.

 

NOTE: This is the first post of a series on reading the Bible.

The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

Written by Josh

The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

The greatest gift ever given came as a baby, and we would do well to reflect and remember who He is and why coming as a baby was necessary.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

(Luke 2:11-12 ESV)

This week, the Carolers at my local grocer filled the air with holiday cheer by singing “Away in a Manger.” We sing songs about him, but who is the baby with ‘no crib for a bed?’ They don’t include scenes of Jesus crying or pooing in the church plays, but we have manger scenes, not ‘inn scenes.’ Jesus situation was very human, gritty and Real.

Most Christians will say Jesus is God (note the activetense of the verb) while most non-Christians say Jesus was just a man. In my experience, we in the church have responded to the doubt around us by stressing the divinity of Christ to the exclusion of his humanity. While we should stress the divinity of Christ, we must not ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ as it were and conceptually sacrifice His humanity to protect His divinity.

When we sing about Jesus’ birth, it’s very easy to think of Jesus as either a man or as God only. But Scripture holds these two ideas in tension without apology so we must as well.

Simply put, the Incarnation is a key tenet of Christianity. If you don’t believe it, you give up the entire enchilada of the faith. Why? First, without the Incarnation you do not get the Jesus of the Bible. Secondly, you lose the Savior of infinite worth but human identity.

Without being God, Jesus’ death would be of limited value, but being God, his death is of infinite value, so there’s no internal limit to its saving power (he can cover our bill). But, without being human, Jesus’ life could not fulfill the Law Adam broke for us nor could his death on a cross take our place. Only a human could be a propitiation or substitute for us. So it is precisely the Incarnation that empowers Jesus’ victory over sin and death in the cross and resurrection. For as Hebrews says he took on flesh and blood like us so he could intercede on our behalf as our propitiation (Hebrews 2:9, 17).

Who does scripture say Baby Jesus is?

He is Immanuel, God with us. He is the Eternal Logos and maker of all things, yet he is also a man who grew in wisdom and stature before both men and God, who got tired, was tempted, suffered true anguish in Gethsemane, and was crucified and died.

Only by permanently shouldering true humanity could God the Son stand in our place as the Second Adam. (That’s right, the Incarnation is permanent.)

What is the Incarnation?

The Eternal Word (Logos), i.e. the 2nd Person of the Trinity, took on flesh (permanently became human) and is forever now the God-Man, fully God and fully Man, joined together in a union comprised of two distinct natures (human and divine) neither of which being confused or blended, but distinct and yet somehow together in a way we can better describe than understand.

The boys back in the day called this the “hypostatic union.” It is a mystery, kinda like gravity. We can describe gravity, and tell you about its results, but truly master it? Nope. But what would you expect from the Trinity?

So, as you prepare to celebrate Christmas, mull over how the greatest gift given came without a gift receipt: the giving of the Son by the Father in the Incarnation.

If you really want to get into the Spirit of the Season, find the nearest baby and cuddle it. Be gentle, they’re fragile, but hold that baby close and contemplate how Jesus was like that: small, weak, frail, in a real sense dependent. He ate, slept and pooped just like you and I did when we first showed up. Yet, in the mystery that is the Incarnation, he was at the same time still fully God, somehow through his divine nature, still upholding the universe (Heb 1:2-3 and Col 1:16-17). Wild—Strange—Real.

This should humble and encourage us: God the Father, gave us his Son who willfully became human forever altering himself to honor the Father’s will, so as to make all things New. We can move through our day with a kind of courage that comes from knowing God the Son loved us so much he was willing to endure what we do and more, just to rescue us while we were still his enemies.

That kind of love does not abandon or quit on a person, it can and should propel us as we go through whatever providence brings our way, because if He would do that for us, we can trust Him in it with assurance and hopefulness no matter what comes. That doesn’t mean we like it or even enjoy all that life brings for life brings thorns and thistles. Still, we can deal with such knowing knowing we are not being abandoned to be cut by them. God the Father took the Evil of His Son’s crucifixion and used it to redeem the world and the resurrection is our proof.

Merry Christmas. This week I invite you to the following passages about Baby Jesus, why he came and how his unique status as the God-man made possible what he accomplished in his life, death and resurrection.

Virginal Conception Predicted:

  • Isaiah 7:14
  • Isaiah 9:6-7

Jesus Humanity:

  • Matt 1:22-23
  • Luke 1:68-69
  • Luke 2:29-32
  • Luke 2:40
  • Luke 2:52
  • John 1:1-18
  • John 4:6
  • John 10:30

Purpose and Result of His Coming:

  • John 1:1-18
  • Galatians 4:4-5
  • 1 Peter 1:10-12
  • Philippians 2:5-8, 9-11
  • Hebrews 2:9, 14-15, 16-17

 

Are you living in sin without realizing it?

As a Christian it goes without saying that I try to avoid sin in my life. I do not get drunk, do drugs, hate other people, steal, kill, or cheat through life. We do such a good job, in fact, of avoiding sin that we get prideful and arrogant. We think we are doing good enough and are better than others that we do not really analyze our life to see if we are living a life for Christ or are living in sin.

To make matters worse, everything around us, including society, is trying to camouflage sin, making it seem less wrong or even making it okay to do. It is not until we see someone actually living a righteous life that the camouflage gets removed and the sin is exposed as what it is.

Removing the camouflage on my sin

I love to drive. I do not know what it is about driving, but I just love to get out on the road and drive. And I am a person that does not speed. Well, you know, nothing *that* fast. I usually stick to about 5 miles per hour over the speed limit and on the highways I go with the flow of traffic. It is not really “speeding” because everybody else on the road does it.

And by saying “everyone does it” I am not trying to be cliche or anything like that. Literally, every person I know thinks that five miles over is the norm, and rarely do you find cops that will pull you over for this making it seem okay in the eyes of the law.

Then I went on a trip to South Carolina to visit my friend, Sean. Sean is not like everybody else… Sean has this crazy notion that the speed limit, is actually the speed limit. He takes the law seriously, even when it is inconvienant or slower.

It is a refreshing sight to see someone who takes something seriously. Sean took the speed limit seriously, and did not speed if he could help it. And this convicted me. Seeing someone else living the way we know we should live removes any excuse that we could use to avoid living like we know we should.

No more excuses

Now I have no more excuses to continue living the way I was. I know that not only do I know I should live righteously, but it is also very possible to live righteously. So I no longer speed; but for real this time.

This makes me wonder, what else is in our life that we think is normal and acceptable behavior but the Bible tells us is sin? Anything breaking the law is wrong, including speeding, pirating software, music, and movies, not paying taxes or any number of other things.

Be Holy

God tells us to “Be Holy for I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:16) which makes it clear that we are to be holy, set apart, not living like the rest of the world. Why must we be holy even though everybody else is having fun in sin? Because God is holy, and we are taking on His name and representing Him.

When you sin, you are not giving yourself a bad name, or the church you go to. You are really giving God a bad name and image. How can we dare take on that responsibility and then continue living in sin using the excuse that “everybody is doing it?”

When Christians let the norms of society define what is right or wrong, we are really in trouble.

Living for God, not for yourself

Not only do we regularly sin by doing actions we shouldn’t, like speeding, the church is also involved in sins of omission, or the sin of being disobedient. Most of the church is lazy, not living for God at all and just doing what they want to do. Rarely do people prayer read their Bibles, let alone actually witness to people.

We are not to live this way!

Christians have a calling, and we cannot ignore that calling just because everybody else does. Sometimes this is hard to see, which is why we must look to those who live their faith like they believe it. People such as Francis Chan, for example. When we see these people living their faith it should convict us to live for God with all of our life instead of the 2% we give Him now.

So take some time and listen to sermons from Francis Chan or other pastors, and spend even more time praying and reading God’s word. This will help you to identify what sin is in your life that you may not even realize.

Following God

1 Peter 1:13-21
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’

“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

Do you consider yourself a Christian? Many people call themselves Christians because they like the “love story” that it involves. Being a Christian isn’t just a romantic story of a Creator who falls in love with His creation. Being a Christian is a battle, constantly we are battling good and evil.

With that in mind, always be prepared to do battle. In order to prepare, what will you need to do? For one, equip yourself with a weapon. That weapon is the Word of God. We need to read it daily so that we are ready for any battle that comes our way.

If you are in warfare, would you go out into the battlefield one day without putting on any armor or carrying a weapon? You are on the front line, and there comes Mr. Christian walking along the front of the battlefield playing his Nintendo DS, oblivious to the fact that the enemy is right behind him and he is being shot at and being hit from all directions.

Being a Christian IS a battle, not just a metaphorical battle, but a real one, with real casualties and real POW’s. And most of us don’t even care enough to equip ourselves. You wouldn’t walk onto a battlefield unarmed, then why would you walk into your daily battlefield with the devil without arming yourself with the Scripture every day?

Keep ready, fix your hope and trust on God and keep ready every day of your life. If we are going to be obedient to God, then we can’t align ourselves with the devil, we can’t conform ourselves to the world. This world is at odds with Christ, so we can’t be conformed to this world and to Christ. We have to choose one side or the other. We were once conformed to the world in our ignorance, when we rejected Christ, and we were captive in lust and every other wicked thing under the sun. But now we have freedom from that, we are not conquered by lust or any other sin.

Now that we are followers of Christ, we need to conform ourselves to Him. This means we need to try and be Holy like He is Holy. Are you doing what you can to be Holy like God? Or do you call yourself a Christian while being just like the world? How can you call yourself a follower of Christ if every action through the day reflects the world, which is the enemy of Christ?

God will judge you for what you do, so if you call yourself a follower of God then you had better act like it, because you are going to be judged by it. We are not redeemed by silver and gold so we don’t need to concern ourselves with silver and gold while on this earth. We are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ and that is what we need to focus on every day.

We have such an honor to not only serve the Creator of the Universe, but to be called His children. If we have this great honor, then we need to make sure that we represent Him who we serve.

God has given us so much, and asks so little of us. But most “Christians” are not even willing to give the little that He does ask.

“You shall be holy, for I AM holy”

How much do you even try to be holy?

Suffering for God

1 Peter 4:1-2Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

Jesus suffered a lot during His ministry, especially near the end. The reason that He suffered was because He stood up for what was righteous and godly, and would not be persuaded by the world or its views.

We need to understand that we are not only to stand up for what is godly and righteous in the first place but expect that because we do we will encounter resistance and persecution.

Imagine that the world and its views are a moving river, and Christians are a rock that stands out above the water, not moved by it. The water constantly rushing past causes damage, erosion and the force of the water can even break off pieces of the rock and then what happens? The rock travels down stream with the current.

We need to be strong, no matter how much the world wants us to follow their current, or how much we get pushed or encounter resistance. We need to stay standing strong.

for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin

Peter was not saying that if you are encountering persecution then you have conquered sin. It’s saying that if you come to the point where you are standing up for what is right enough that the world lashes out at you, then it is likely that you are living a life that is uncompromising in your position to the world.

Also a person who suffers greatly for Christ is likely to have such an impact on their life that they come to the point of hating sin. Persecution tends to give one the desire to serve God even more!

1 Peter 4:3-5For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.
In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.
They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

We spent too much time living like the rest of the world, we don’t need it anymore. Now our main focus needs to be on serving Christ, not any desire of this world. The people in this world are doing things purposely against God; we need to stay far from it. We all used to do the same stuff, trapped in the same sins, but Jesus Christ freed us. We were once lost in this dark world but thank the Lord that he turned on the light for us and showed us the way.

After all of that, why would we want to go back into the darkness? The world will think that we are weird because we do not do what they do. They will make fun of you and make it seem like you are just wasting your time, it’s no big deal if you go to a club with some friends, it’s no harm to just joke around about sex and use crude language. But it is a big deal and God will deal with each and every person one day.

When you are tempted, or someone is making it seem like you are just being silly because of your belief, they may get you to think that it’s no big deal, but it is!!! Don’t give in. Stand up for righteousness, and you will be rewarded in a lot better way than getting a buzz from drinking or from temporary physical pleasures from pornography or adultery.

1 Peter 4:6For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

After Jesus died on the cross, but before the resurrection, Jesus went to Hades to preach to the people that were there. There are two compartments in Hades, one was the place of torture, the other is called Abraham’s bosom. Jesus preached to both compartments, one he preached judgment (Peter mentions it earlier in his letter) the other He preaches the gospel. Even though they (and us now) were judged by men for what they did, because they lived to follow God they were rewarded by God!

Verses 7-11 go slightly off subject before it gets back on track, so I’m going to move on to verse 12 right now. Be sure you go back and read it when we are done though!

1 peter 4:12-13Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

We all know that it’s nothing strange when we are tested or tempted. We go through trials all the time and we need to be prepared for it. Instead of complaining or worrying about it, we need to be glad that we are going down the same road that our Lord did. No matter how hard of a time we have with situations, we do rejoice once we see the glory of God coming through in a situation. No matter how tough we have it, as long as God is receiving Glory then we can rejoice!

1 Peter 4:14If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

We are glorified when we suffer for Christ. Peter even gives a blessing to those who suffer for Him! God’s blessings are so great, aren’t they? By suffering for God, we show that we have the Spirit of God in us.

1 Peter 4:15-16But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

What good is it to suffer for doing wrong? If you are being punished because you murdered someone then you are just like anybody else from the world. But we stand out from the world, we are not like everyone else, we suffer not because we do something wrong, but because we are dedicated to following Christ!

1 Peter 4:17-18For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Now “if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Just because someone goes to church doesn’t make them a Christian. Here we have a warning that there will be judgment among the church. Those who live righteous lives, but don’t follow Christ or abide in Him, those who never put their faith IN Jesus, they will be judged. How much more will the ungodly and those not in churches be judged?

When you think of those being judged, remember that they are spending eternity in Hell! An eternity separated from God. What are you doing to minimize the amount of people that die without God? Are you living comfortably, or living a busy life only to gain wealth for yourself? Or are you doing things to make an impact on the kingdom of God?

1 Peter 4:19Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

Commit yourself fully to the Lord, no matter what those around you think! You will not regret it. I have never heard a Christian say that they are glad they waited so long before they came to Christ. It’s like putting away money for savings, you can never start too early and when you do start, you wish you would have started years before.

We have such a faithful Creator, commit yourself fully to serving Him. No matter how much the world stands in the way or tries to distract you. This will not only help you, but bring Glory to God almighty!

Reflections on 1 John 3

Some verses that stuck out to me during my Bible time.

1 John 3:4-5 (NLT) Those who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of God. 5And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, for there is no sin in him. 6So if we continue to live in him, we won’t sin either. But those who keep on sinning have never known him or understood who he is.

There is a difference between committing a sin and continuing to sin. Even the most faithful believers commit sins at times, but they do not cherish a particular sin and choose to commit it. A believer who commits a sin repents, confesses, and finds forgiveness. A person who continues to sin, by contrast, is not sorry for what he or she is doing. Thus, this person never confesses and never recieves forgiveness. Such a person is in opposition to God, no matter what religious claims he or she makes.

Because Jesus lived a perfect life and sacrificed Himself for our sins, we can be completely forgiven. We can look back to his death for us and know that we need never suffer eternal death (1 Peter 1:18-20).

1 John 3:8-9 But when people keep on sinning, it shows they belong to the Devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil. 9Those who have been born into God’s family do not sin, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they have been born of God.

We all have areas where temptation is strong and habits are hard to conquer. These weaknesses give satan a foothold in our lives, so we must deal with our areas of vulnerability. If we are struggling with a particular sin, however, these verses are not directed at us, even if at the time we seem to keep on sinning. John is not talking about people whose victories are still incomplete; he is talking about people who make a practice of sinning and look for ways to justify it. Three things can be used to find vicotry over prevailing sin: 1) seek the power of the Holy Spirit and plug into God’s Word; 2) stay away from tempting situations; 3) seek the help of the body of Christ–be open to their willingness to hold you accountable and to pray for you.

“They can’t keep on sinning” means that true believers do not make a practice of sinning, nor do they become indifferent to God’s moral law. All believers still sin, but they are working to gain victory over sin.

1 John 3:12-13 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was right. 13So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

Cain killed his brother, Abel, when God accepted Abel’s offering and not his (Genesis 4:1-16). Abel’s offering showed that Cain was not giving his best to God, and Cain’s jealous anger drove him to murder. People who are morally upright expose and shame those who aren’t. If we live for God, the world will often hate us, because we make them painfully aware of their immoral way of living.

1 John 3:19-20 It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, 20even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Many people feel guilty because they think they are not doing enough to show proper love for Christ. Their consciences bother them. John has these people in mind in these verses. How can we escape the gnawing accusations of our consciences? Not by ignoring them or rationalizing our behavior but by setting our heart on God’s love for us. When we feel guilty, we should remind ourselves that God knows our motives as well as our actions. His voice of assurance is stronger than the accusing voice of our conscience. If we are in Christ, He will not condemn us (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 9:14-15).

It’s not your environment

Genesis 5:23-24 “Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”

The time period that Enoch lived, was that pre-flood period where there was extreme sinfulness and wickedness upon the earth. People were so utterly wicked that we haven’t even seen in all of post flood history any society act as wicked as they.

Yet here we have Enoch who, living in the midst of such wickedness, was a righteous man and walked with God. This offers an important lesson for us today. Enoch’s life proves that no matter what environment you live in, no matter how ungodly and wicked those around you are, that you can live a godly, upright life.

So if you’re living in sin, and blaming the fact that no one around you knows God, that you cannot go to church, that if you only lived somewhere else you could then start living a godly lifestyle, remember Enoch. Never use your environment as an excuse to sin, that kind of excuse holds no weight in the Bible, thus it holds no weight with God.

1 Peter 1:3 states “As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!”

This verse only comes to show how little of an excuse we Christians have for living in sin…Jesus GIVES us all we need to live a godly life. Yes maybe your environment makes it harder for you to live a more godly life, but know that where it is harder to follow God, God equips you with even more tools for you to be an overcomer.

So, Christian, if you are stuck in your walk, continually blaming those around you or blaming God for placing you in an environment that on the outside may seem non conducive to growing in Him, stop the blame game and point the finger back at yourself. We will be held accountable for our OWN actions, not the actions of those around us. If we are continually sinning, it is because we are allowing ourselves to give into temptation; WE are the only ones to blame when we make bad choices.

I guarantee that if you blame the place where you live on the fact that you’re continually sinning…that even IF you were placed in the most perfect environment possible for spiritual growth, that you would STILL be making up excuses and justifying your sin…because it’s really not a problem with our environment, it’s a problem within us.

Only when we learn to take responsibility for our own choices and learn to fess up to our own failings, can we truly be brought to that place of repentance…and only when we repent knowing that it is our OWN sin, not the sins of others that causes us to fall, only then can we truly learn to rely on the Lord for the tools to live a godly life and thus be brought into an ever growing, godly lifestyle and walk with our Lord.

How Should Christians Deal With Suffering?

WHY WE AS CHRISTIANS MUST SUFFER

John 16:33 – This world is full of suffering, we are not exempt. Suffering is a sign that we are alive.
1 Peter 1:7 – Tests our faith to prove it is strong and real faith that gives glory to Jesus.
James 1:3 – When faith is tested Endurance can grow.
Proverbs 3:11-12 – God, being our Father must discipline us to show his love for us. Discipline is a sign of his love.
Hebrews 12:7-8 – God disciplines his children, we are his children.

WHAT SUFFERING DOES TO US
James 1:4 – Develops perseverance.
Perseverance – perseverance = makes one steadfast.
Steadfast = firm in belief, determination, or adherence : LOYAL.