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

Daily Commitment is Important

dusty_bibleIt’s November! For most people it means getting out the Christmas decorations, planning road trips, and stuffing turkeys. For me it means I have to write. A LOT!

November is the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s a crazy challenge to write a 50,000 word (or longer) novel in 30 days. Crazy, I know.

Last year when I reflected back on the challenge and how I beat it I realized that one of the most important things was to just commit to write daily. Each and every day I did something to work on my novel. Some days I only wrote 100 words, some days I wrote 10,000 words. Most days were in between.

Focusing on the project daily is extremely important to completing this challenge because taking a break, even for a single day, makes it really easy to turn that into a two day break. Then three days.

And before you know it months have gone by without writing. Getting into this daily habit also made the writing itself easier.

This year is no different than last. It’s the daily commitment that gets me through the challenge. Writer’s block, being tired, all of those excuses get put aside because I have to get my word count in! I don’t have time for excuses.

In the past couple of weeks since I started preparing for this crazy writing challenge I started to let things slip. I haven’t had time to get any articles out on ETM, for one. But also, I quit reading my Bible consistently.

When taking on a huge challenge, whether it’s writing a novel, organizing an event, practicing for an upcoming competition, or just daily life with a full schedule, setting aside the Bible gets way too easy. We fall into the trap of thinking the Bible is just another motivational book, so it seems easy to let it fade into the background of life.

But reading the Bible is a big deal. It’s the weapon we use in this battle taking place between our spirit and our flesh.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105 ESV

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4 ESV

One of my favorite quotes is from Ravi Zacharias says:

The biggest battle you will face in life is your daily appointment with God. Keep it or every other battle will get bigger.

Keeping ourselves focused on God and drawing close to him is a daily battle against our sinful nature. The more we read the Bible the closer we draw to God and the easier it is to walk by the spirit and not the flesh.

I once read a book on fasting suggesting that weekly, or at least regular, fasting was important because it helped prepare the heart to hear from God. It wasn’t the act itself, because it isn’t the food we eat that gets in the way of listening to God. But the sacrifice of giving up food, something your body craves, to make God a priority, to focus that time on Him; that is what makes the difference.

In the same way, sacrificing some time out of your busy day to focus on God does something to us. It isn’t simply the act of reading something, but it’s making a concerted effort to make God an important part of our day, and it helps prepare our heart to follow the Spirit instead of the flesh.

Thankfully I have a godly wife that was there to help remind me of the importance of not sacrificing that time I should be spending with God. Walking in the flesh because we haven’t fed ourselves spiritually opens us up to a lot of temptation, hurt, and sin. It isn’t worth it. Especially for a husband who is trying to lead a house spiritually. It doesn’t take long for the enemy to come in and strike when we set down our weapon. A single decision made when we are following the flesh can have devastating consequences for a family.

We are in a spiritual battle, and a single day of not being prepared can be lethal.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  – Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

I urge you, take a few minutes each day to read the Bible. It’s important. Very important. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just reading one chapter, or even finding a single verse to meditate on throughout the day. Anything to feed your spirit and help you to win those battles against the flesh.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 ESV

Fanning the Flames of Passion for God

The previous article in this series on Neglecting our Mission Field talked about how we are ignoring our mission field and focusing on entertaining ourselves and living a life of comfort due to the fact that we do not have an understanding of how much God loves us and we do not love Him as we should in return.

Colored campfire
Colored campfire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have another problem as humans.  We are like camp fires.  If a camp fire is left alone it will eventually burn itself out to where it is nothing but smoldering ashes.  We need constant attention and constant fuel to keep the fire strong.

This is why reading the Bible on a daily basis is crucial to our walk.  As well as praying, going to church to fellowship with other Christians, listening to sermons, and even reading articles that encourage us online.

I have fallen into this cycle many, many times with God, as well as with my wife.  I notice there are times when I just feel so much love for my wife that I want to do absolutely anything for her. I want to please her and make her happy, and I want to give her everything she deserves.  Then there are other times where I start to focus on myself more.

I have found that it is really difficult to focus on yourself and on anybody else at the same time. When I am focused on what I want I start to put my own desires over those of my wife’s.  It is not that I am mean or abusive to her or anything like that, I just don’t treat her with the love and attention she deserves.  I forget to go open the door for her or I get frustrated when asked to do something that gets in the way of what I want to do.  The more selfish I get during that time the less I focus on her, or on God.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. – Galatians 5:16-17

Then I just have to stop and think, to remind myself how much she loves me.  To remind myself about the commitment that I made to her, that when I married her I made her holy to me and set her apart from anybody else, including myself! She is the one that I will adore and give all of myself to.  I need to find those things that fan the flames of passion and love for my wife or for God, and commit to do them.

And it is the same way for a Christian’s relationship with Christ.  We sin and stumble so we do not always have a perfect relationship with Him despite the fact that He is perfect to us.  But then we remember how much He loves us and that we committed to make Him holy and set apart in our lives, to make Him our Lord and master.  And it is that love that drives us to not care about ourselves, to not care about our wants but to follow and worship Jesus and to love what He loves, which includes His mission.

When we have that love, we can’t help but love others more than ourselves.

When we realize that love, we can’t help but want to give away our stuff to help others and to spend our money helping others rather than spending it on ourselves.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

But how do we fan the flames of our relationship with God?  The absolute biggest way is to spend time with Him.  Read the Bible, pray, focus your thoughts and attention on Him.

Want a crazy thought to show us how much Jesus loves us?  Ask yourself this, how much does God love Jesus?  Do you think it is a lot?  A whole lot?

Of course it is a lot!  But then Jesus says

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you – John 15:9

That is crazy! Jesus, the one who is perfect and Holy and who knows me and every wicked, sinful, evil thing I ever did or ever will do, He  loves you as much as God loves Him?

Do you believe that?

If you do, that is awesome.

If you don’t, if you are like me and struggle with believing the fact that God loves you completely and fully this very moment, then do not fear.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will show you this love that “surpasses all knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen – Ephesians 3:20-21

There is Freedom from Porn Addiction!!!

Machew is a guest writer for ETM, and as such the views expressed in this article may not be the views of ETM and its staff.

My Testimony:

I used to be a porn addict from my high school years to my third year of college, 1 year into being a Christian. I found that the more I looked at it, the more it attracted the demonic around me, and the more power it had over me because of my agreement with the enemy for it as an acceptable form of coping with my loneliness and inner pain. I didn’t know that this was why I ran to porn at the time, but later found out as God showed me the huge hole in my heart. When I became a Christian and found out that it was not an acceptable way to cope with this, I found out how much power it had over me. I found myself not being able to stop no matter what I did. I went through 8 months of day and night prayer, non-stop, “God help me! I don’t wan’t to do this anymore!.” I felt ashamed of myself, and like I was the filth of his kingdom. I felt like I was a failure as a Christian many nights and that I should just give up. But I didn’t want to give up without a fight. As time went on it just seemed more and more hopeless that I would ever be free from its lure and control. After 8 months of crying out to God, when I just about had it and felt like I just wanted to give up, God showed up in my room in power, and I fell to the floor sobbing in a fetal position all night long, as God told me:

“Matthew you are my precious son, I have never been disappointed in you, and you have brought my heart so much joy”

I thought to myself: “Is He talking about the same Matthew here?”

God: “Matthew, I have so enjoyed watching you these past few hours, you are the source of so much of my joy. You need to know that there is nothing you can do that can separate you from my Love for you and who you are.”

I realized something that day. The reason I felt so trapped in it was because I believed that my sin still separated me from God, and made me feel like God was turning His face away from me. This was shame that the enemy put on me to convince me that I couldn’t approach God. I found out through an encounter with God that this was not true. I kept hearing, “my blood was enough for you.” But I also kept hearing that voice of guilt trying to get me focused back on everything that was wrong with me. Then I heard God say “Don’t let yourself focus on what the accuser is saying to you, you are my son. The only thing you need to do is to be my son! That is who you are and nobody will take you away from me!”

How the enemy kept me trapped:

The sadistic strategic trap of introspection

I found out that I had to take personal responsibility over what I allowed myself to focus on, and that the enemy only had power over me when I made an agreement with him. The way he kept me trapped was to tempt me, then put this fear on me of sinning so that I would feel powerless to do anything about it, then fall into sin, then he would accuse me of doing it over and over again to make the problem seem so big in my head. Later the enemy would continue to plant fear in me of doing it again. The enemy does this to give you the belief that you are trapped and can’t do anything to get out of it.

A good definition of fear is: faith in a lie. The enemy keeps us trapped in sin by having us fear the sin we feel trapped in, then accusing us of doing it until shame is all over us and the problem is so big in our head that we fear it more. This was the endless cycle that I felt trapped in. God showed me all of this and what the enemy was doing in me and freed me from my addiction. To this day(about 6 years) I have been free from this addiction and live in the victory of Jesus in this area of my life.

The common theme in all of this is: The enemy wants to get you to focus on yourself and everything that is wrong with you(introspection) instead of focusing on God’s acceptance and Love for you, and who you are in Christ. If the enemy can get you to see all the problems you have as really big (using tools like: fear, shame, guilt, thoughts that seem like yours but are really lies planted in your head by the enemy) they soon become bigger in your head than the God that can free you, and he empties you of any faith you have that you can be free. The enemy will always try to manipulate you into a place where you believe you are hopelessly left to deal with your problems by yourself (living under the law, which Paul warns against).

I posted this in the hopes that it would help people on here that are struggling with this. There is victory in Christ over porn addictions, and the enemy is a liar. It is the enemy that tempts us, and our choice to give into it. If the enemy can convince you that you are powerless against his temptation, then you will fall into temptation. But if you realize that the enemy is just trying to intimidate you and is trying to convince you that you can’t resist him, then you can realize there is nothing to fear and lift your sword and give the enemy a good wap on the head, “Get behind me satan!” The enemy knows that you are the one with all of the power over yourself (Self-Control, Galatians 5:22-23), so he works overtime to convince you that you don’t have this power over yourself and that he has power over you. Don’t let him talk you out of your self-control any longer! It is for freedom’s sake that Jesus has set you free (Galatians 5:1).

Believing satan’s Lies Opens the Door the Lies of Undermined Self-Worth:

When you come to a place of hopelessness, the enemy then works to undermine your view of yourself and your self-worth with further attacks of lies about yourself. The enemy will often plant in your head thoughts of how worthless you are and how God must see you as a rebellious and worthless son/daughter. Don’t believe this for a second, they are lies from the pit of hell. God was willing to come to earth and humble Himself in making Himself vulnerable to human weakness by coming as a human (Jesus), and be beaten and tortured brutally, then be nailed to a cross in a brutal death, while everyone was in rebellion and sin against God. While people were mocking Him, spitting in His face, and shoving a crown of thorns down his head, he prayed for the Father to forgive us and died on that cross receiving the full wrath of God for your sin (past, present, and future: Hebrews 10:10). You were worth it to Jesus, for Him to endure all of that punishment and even death! Think of how much worth Jesus must have for you to be willing to go through all of this. Jesus did this all for you, so that nothing could separate you from His Love (Romans 8:38). He did everything that was needed on your behalf for the Father to fully approve, accept, and Love you. The Father now sees you as His perfect, beloved son/daughter.

If you struggle with the lies of little self-worth and/or that you can’t control yourself, repeat these declarations over yourself:

1. I no longer believe the lie that I need to fix myself before approaching God

2. I no longer believe the lie that I cannot control myself

3. I no longer believe the lie that I need to fear the enemy’s temptation to guard myself from sin

4. I renounce all power that the enemy has over me in Jesus Name and no longer believe the lie that he has any power over me

5. I no longer believe the lie that I need to fear sin

6. I break all ties with the spirit of fear, shame, and guilt and say that I no longer give you permission to influence me.

7. I no longer believe the lie that sin has a hold over me.

8. I believe the truth, that Jesus freed me from the slavery of sin through His death on the cross and resurrection. (Galatians 2:20-21, Meditate on Romans 8 carefully)

9. I believe the truth that if I repented and meant it, then I have fully repented for my sin regardless of my past addiction

10. I believe the truth, that because I have repented of my sin, my Father in heaven loves me and accepts me right where I am because of the blood of Jesus over my life.

11. I believe the truth, that because of Jesus’ death on the cross I can approach the throne room of God with boldness to ask for help. (Hebrews 4:16)

12. I believe the truth, that God is very eager and happy to help me anytime when I feel lacking and weak.

13. I believe the truth, that I can freely have the fruit of the Spirit of self-control at anytime and that I do have complete control over myself.

14. I believe the truth that in my self-control, I control me, and I don’t have to allow anyone or anything else to control me.

15. I believe the truth, that I am a son/daughter of God, and that I start out and live everyday seen by the Father as the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:29, Galatians 4:7, Titus 3:7)

The easiest way to give into the enemy’s temptations is to forget who you are as a son and daughter of God. When you don’t remember who you are, and the authority that you carry as co-heirs with Christ, then you will believe the enemy’s lies. You are all sons and daughters of the most High God!

 

Lastly pray this prayer:

Father thank you that you Love me, and you are delighted to help me out of my addiction. I come to you with boldness as your son/daughter and lean into your embrace and power to free me from addiction to porn. I ask you for help in showing me what causes me to run to this porn, and ask you to deliver me from everything that causes this to even have any appeal in my life. I surrender my life to you Jesus and Your power working in me, and invite You to be my main help for me to have the freedom that you paid for on the cross.

In the Name of Jesus, Amen!

Much Love & Blessings,

Machew

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

 

Jesus Freed You From Sin!

Written by Guest Writer Matthew Guillot

So today I realized what an integral part fear plays in temptation. The enemy will tempt you but couple that temptation with the fear of falling into the temptation, and the fear of losing control. The enemy will do whatever he can to convince you that you are incapable of controlling yourself, and once you believe that lie, he has got you right where he wants you. The enemy can continue to bombard you with tempting thoughts and emotions, and because you are convinced you don’t have control over yourself, you are much more pliable to these temptations and to give up because you have lost hope of resisting the devil (fear of the devil, or his ability). Additional thoughts of how “powerful” the enemy is (sometimes intimidation) may also be the focus of his bombardment. This is to prop himself up in your mind to also lead to fear of the enemy, and hopelessness to resist. So ultimately the goal of the enemy is to get you to forget who you are and how much self-control you truly have, and to get you to a place of hopelessness and fear.

If you give into the temptation and sin, then the enemy can accuse you of the sin, making you feel guilty and ashamed. The enemy then starts working on convincing you that you need to keep your distance from God, because God is either upset with you or you haven’t repented enough and need to jump through hoops before God accepts your repentance. The enemy will suggest by thought, hoops from the bible that Jesus said is impossible to do without Him. And because you have convinced yourself to distance yourself from God, you are hopelessly left to your own ability to try to jump through these hoops. The enemy knows this will ultimately lead to you being discouraged more. Another tactic the enemy uses if he can’t get you to try to distance yourself from God, is getting you to focus on yourself. The enemy often uses the tactic of convincing you, that you need to always be introspective and on your guard all the time. If the enemy can get you to try to defend yourself by your own effort, then he knows that eventually (most of the time very soon), he will be able to tempt you again and take you down the all too familiar path to sin. Only Christians who are afraid of the enemy’s temptation or the enemy, find it necessary to always be on their guard. Our protection is our faith in God, not our own ability to guard ourself. (Ephesians 6:16)

If the enemy is able to convince us that we have no ability to control ourselves or resist temptation, or resist him, we fall into guilt, shame, hopelessness and fear; and go down the repetitive cycle of being tempted into sin. And because our own ability to resist doesn’t cut it, the enemy is able to eventually get many people into depression, and even feelings of rejection, loneliness, or neglect from God. The enemy’s goal is either to get us into deeper and deeper depression to commit suicide, or, if he can’t get us to kill ourselves, keep us in a place where we unwittingly choose to keep parts of our hearts from God because of our perceived uncleanliness from our sin (shame) and/or the fear of coming before God.

Romans 6:17-23(NASB)

“17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Notice the contrast Paul uses and the past tense verbs used to describe our past condition in sin and present tense verbs for our current freedom from sin (exception “became” describing something Jesus already did to free us).

What we need to realize is that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for all of our sin once for all. He died on the cross with all of our sin in mind, and nailed all of it to the cross. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Notice that Jesus does the cleansing, not us. It also says Jesus is completely faithful and righteous to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness, not just some of it and and leave us to deal with the rest; ALL! The Bible also states in past tense that Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from slavery to sin.  However, God will not violate your free-will if you choose to put up a wall to keep yourself from God (even just parts of your heart from God), because of your perceived “unrighteousness”. The enemy knows this, and this is why he works hard at this strategy to convince you that you can’t approach God and that you shouldn’t, that you are now unrighteous before God. The enemy’s goal is always to get us to forget the cross, and to not focus on Jesus. The enemy knows that as soon as you let God into the picture, he is toast. This is why the Bible says to first “submit to God” then if you “resist the devil…He will flee.” (James 4:7) Not the other way around.

We are no longer slaves to sin. But Jesus never intended for us to live out this reality by our own ability. Jesus went to the Father to send us a Helper, the Holy Spirit!!! (John 14:26) The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into ALL truth (John 16:13), brings into remembrance everything that God has said and is saying (John 14:26), instruct us in the way we should go (John 16:13, Acts 16:6-10), and give us His (God’s) character and attributes (fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-24). In other words He (God/Holy Spirit) empowers us to live a righteous lifestyle. Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5) You have the ability inside of you to resist the devil every single time successfully and confidently. But it is not your own ability but the Holy Spirit inside you. What is happening when you are operating under the Holy Spirit’s ability (His fruit)? God is letting you operate in character and traits that are not your own, and with the outpouring of His Spirit inside of you they manifest as if they were your own attributes.

It is extremely beneficial over the long-term if we can learn how to operate with His fruit regularly, allowing Him to completely empower us. As we do this our thought patterns completely change because we come to the realization after multiple times that we actually can be free from sin. Once we are convinced of this, our true nature, free from sin can finally come out, without our minds being in conflict with the reality and truth of our freedom. The Bible tells us that Jesus already freed us, but this freedom won’t manifest in our lives until we truly are able to believe it. Unfortunately our carefully enemy-orchestrated experiences tend to tell us otherwise, and it is easy to be convinced that we aren’t really free. The enemy keeps us in his cycle of thought patterns, fear, hopelessness, guilt, and shame to try to ensure that we will never have the perception of ourselves that God has (the righteousness of Christ, perfect, spotless, and without blemish), so that we will never realize the freedom Jesus paid such a heavy price for. This is not to say that we will never sin, but that sin is no longer our compulsion and is supposed to be rare, abnormal, and awkward for us.

If you are saved and still feel like you have the compulsion to sin (sin nature), it is most likely because you are believing a lie about yourself, about your relation to God, or other people. Sin can seem like a viable coping mechanism to those with wounds and pain from past or present offenses. Believed lies from the enemy are always the root of what perpetuates wounds and pain, which is the cause of any Christian’s current desire to sin. Ask the Holy Spirit if you are believing a lie, and ask Him to replace this with the truth, depositing His truth deep in your heart.

Don’t let the enemy keep you in bondage and slavery to sin anymore. Jesus already paid for you to be free!

Much Love,

Machew