Friday, December 31, 2010

And So Ends Another Year

Today we commemorate the end of the year 2010.  For some it has been a great year, but for many it has been a rough year.  As our economy gets worse and and wars drag on, I know this year has been hard for many.  It is great how in our minds we box up a year as though it were a world unto itself, but in reality what happened in this year will just continue on into the next.  So although we celebrate a milestone in our timekeeping this evening, time itself marches on to its own beat seeming to ignore the arbitrary markers we put help us know where we are at.  I say that because when you think about it, the new year could just as easily began on July 1 as it does on January 1.  Whether its what minute of the hour, hour of the day, day of the week, week of the month, month of the year, year of the decade, decade of the century, century of the millenium, and any time of all time, it only is as it is because someone some time ago decided to start counting time and enough of us bought into his system until we accept it as normal.  In reality, it is really king of meaningless in the grand scheme of things. We do not even follow the Hebrew calender and so the months and times in the Bible have little meaning in our time system.

I like to think of time though not as counting forward but as counting backward.  In fact, many television stations right now have a countdown going as to when this year will end and the new one will begin.  We will all get in front of our televisions and watch some overly ornate illuminated balls falls down a pole and count down the last 5 seconds of this year and wait for "2011" to light up in big lights, then we will kiss our loved ones, sing "Auld Lang Syne", and watch confetti fall at whatever party we are watching on television.  I am sure we are making plans right now hoping to have some where to spend this night.  I know we are making food, planning on having a good time, looking forward to the end of this year.  It is a night of parties and fun and a night we look forward to for a long time.

That gets me to thinking.  We get so excited to celebrate the end of a year knowing full well that the new year does not bring an end of last year's problems.  We get so excited to celebrate the end of an arbitrary year that at some point enough countries agreed upon to make official, but really has no meaning as the universe did not begin nor was Jesus born on January 1, 0000.  We get so excited to celebrate a day that really means nothing to our lives, holds no promise of anything better, and was not appointed by God to be any kind of "new year."  We get so worked up for all of that, but what do we do get ready ourselves for the end of all time?  We know Jesus can come at any time and we know the party known as the marriage supper of the lamb will be the feast of feasts.  We know that day is counting down on a calender only known by God and when that calender hits zero, it really does actually mean something.  We know that when Jesus returns, the problems of not just the last year but of all your life will cease to exist.  We know that when Jesus returns, it is a time appointed by God. 

So, brothers and sisters, with the same vigor you celebrate the coming of the new year this evening, celebrate the day of the Lord's return.   Celebrate not just a new year but being one day closer to a day that really matters, that being the day of our redemption.  Do not just look forward to a new year, but look for the new earth that Jesus us preparing for us right now.  The Lord is coming, brothers and sisters.  The Lord is coming soon.  Our redemption is drawing nearer still.  Can 2011 be the year of our Lord's return?  Let's live like it will be.
He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Revelation 22:20-21 NKJV

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Would Jesus Get Drunk on New Years Eve

Today I would like to write about New Years Eve.  I know it's not New Year's Eve yet, but I wanted to post something now when everyone is thinking about their plans. Tomorrow night is one of the biggest drinking nights of the year, and sadly that is even true among Christians.  That has really been heavy on my heart today, so today I want to talk about celebrating the New Year.

First of all, we need to ask why we celebrate the coming new year.  Is there some reason deep down in ourselves that makes it so appealing to forget our values for sinful behavior or do we just celebrate because that is what the world does?  I am not saying there is anything wrong with celebrating the new year, but I am saying that you need to ask yourself if even the fact that you are celebrating the new year is an act of wordliness.  I suppose for some, it is celebrating the end of a bad year with hopes for a better year to come.  I suppose for others it is the celebration of a year of blessings.  Of course the source of a better year for the next and the blessings of the year that is ended is none other than God, which makes it rather ironic that we celebrate His goodness for the past year and entreat His goodness for a better year to come by doing something that is an offense to Him. 

Of course things brings to mind another issue and that is where we choose to spend New Year's Eve.  I am sure if you are a Christian and drinking and partying that you would be among nonbelievers.  I mean, if you are a Christian home and you are allowing drunkenness and partying to occur in your own home then you have issues beyond this post.  I daresay that if you allow the celebration of sin in your home, you are NOT a Christian home.  So let us say you are among your unsaved friends and family and what they see is someone just as depraved and worldly as they are.  You have just shown that God has made no change in lives and that you are more influenced by your friends and family around you then you are by the Holy Spirit that dwells within you.  But that brings up an oft-repeated issue in this blog, that being that we are more concerned with losing friends than we are with gaining brothers and sisters.  We are more concerned for friendship they bring into our lives then for Jesus that you need to bring into theirs.  In the end, their place in your life becomes more important than their place (or lack thereof) in Heaven.  That is if you even believe in Heaven and Hell and Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I question that faith because if you really did believe that there was a Hell and the only way to escape that Hell was through Jesus then your behavior would be much different.  You would make it a point for your life to be a witness to the reality of Jesus.  So either you care more for yourself or you just do not believe as much as you thought you did. 

How should we celebrate?  We should celebrate with friends and family for sure, but that celebration should be a witness to Jesus and not a conforming to the world.  We should pray, giving thanksgiving for the year we had and asking the Lord for a good year to come.  We should worship, because it is only by the grace of God that we made it through the year.  We should be a witness to our friends and family, talking about the work of Jesus in our lives and show them that we do not need intoxicants to have fun.  Honestly, if you need intoxicants to have a good time, then you have serious issues.  And so I will leave you all with this passage in Scripture.  Let's enjoy our New Year's Eve filled with the Spirit and not drunk on wine.
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ... Ephesians 5:18-20 NKJV

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Current Weather : The End is Nigh

I did have a subject in mind today, but there is a lesson God has been sharing with me this week through difficult circumstances.  Here in New Jersey, we had a major blizzard into early Monday morning.  There was not much warning for it as just two days before the storm they were only calling for a small chance of snow showers.  Suddenly, Christmas morning those forecasts changed (which have gone back and forth all week but no one predicted the amount of snow we ultimately got).  We were in the bull's eye of a terrible storm and it hit us and hit us hard.  The roads are still in terrible shape and getting to and from work has been rather harrowing.  Just this morning, I truly believe the Lord kept my car straight at one point and pushed me up a hill at another.  This week has been humbling, convicting, and reassuring.  I want to share those thoughts today as I take you through my struggles leading up to the storm and dealing with its aftermath. 

First of all, I let my emotions get the best of me as the reports went back and forth.  This is especially true Christmas warning when suddenly it looked like we were going to get hit really hard.  I was unable to shake the mood all day on Christmas of what I was about to go through.  I have a job where I have no choice but to go to work.  More accurately, I work at a place where I have no choice.  My job is really not that important.  My real error was in that I was listening to weathermen more than I was to God.  Then I was thinking about how so many of us do that.  We listen to weathermen more than we do to God's word.  We plan our lives around their warnings even with their track record of not being able to predict the weather with great accuracy.  If there is a storm coming, we share that news with our friends and family, news reports cover it constantly, and we do all we can to prepare.  Weathermen are often wrong yet they have become our modern day prophets whereas the Word of God is never wrong in its predictions yet we often ignore its warnings.  There is one great warning in Scripture, one storm of a magnitude we can not even comprehend.  The blizzard we had pales in comparison to the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Thailand, and even Katrina, but all of those are nothing compared to what is coming. 
So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?" Luke 21:7 NKJV
Weathermen take many factors into account when predicting the weather.  They study storms, history, computer models, and from all that information they try to pinpoint when a storm will come and what its character will be.  What the apostles were asking Jesus was to explain when the temple and Jerusalem were going to be destroyed.  They wanted to know tomorrow' s weather, but Jesus gives a very long range report.  He speaks of what they will go through but expands His answer to explain the very end of time as well.  Jesus is speaking to us just as much today about the end times as he was to the apostles about the destruction of the Temple.  The short-range forecast ends in verse 24 where the forecast for our time picks up.
And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.  Luke 21:24 NKJV
And this is where we are today. We are in the times of the gentiles and if we pay close enough attention we can hear the thunder roaring in the distance of the coming storm. 
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; "men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Luke 21:25-27 NKJV
Jesus now goes on to give a synopsis of the Great Tribulation.  Revelation gives a much more detailed description, but needless to say it will be a terrible time.  God's wrath will be poured out on all the earth.  Nations will be in distress and the hearts of men will fail them for fear of what is happening and what is still to come.  It will be a time of misery, a time of death and destruction, and a time of sadness and pain.  That time is appointed by God and will come and it can come at any time. 
Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. Luke 21:28 NKJV
And while this time will be a time of terror, misery, and pain for all the earth, it is the time of our redemption for those of us in Christ.  Jesus is coming and we must ready ourselves to be received by Him when he comes.  Look at the signs of the times and look up for our Lord's return is closer than ever.
Then He spoke to them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.  Luke 21:29-33 NKJV
Jesus gives a parable of trees saying how we can discern seasons by the actions of trees.  If they are budding, we know that Summer is near.  Just like we look for those signs for Summer, we need to look at the signs of the end times to know that our Lord's return is near.  Scripture gives us several signs to look for.  First of all, we look to Israel being reunited as a nation.  That has happened.  We are told that the Son of Man will return when the Gospel is preached to all nations.  Jesus is being preached everywhere whether their governments allow it or not.  We are told that there will be a great falling away in the church.  I do not think any honest Christian can deny that is happening and has been happening for quite some time.  The signs are there brothers and sisters, the Lord is returning soon!
But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Luke 21:34-35 NKJV
In other words, Jesus is saying "Pay attention!"  This day will come and if you are not looking for the signs, it will come without warning.  We can not spend our time partying and getting drunk and we can not fill our lives with the cares of this life.  We have to act like Jesus can return today.  Think of how many people even around you who do not know the Lord.  If you knew a storm was coming that was going to put them through misery of the likes that the world was never seen, would you not warn them?  I warned everyone on Christmas about the storm that was coming, but did I warn my family of the storm of God that will engulf the entire world?  If you believe the Word of God to be true, how can you not be out there warning everyone we know that God's wrath is on the verge of being poured out on all the earth. 
Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. Luke 21:36 NKJV
This in interesting.  The Bible is filled with promises of God's comfort through hard times and rejoicing through trials of any kind, but when it comes to the Great Tribulation even our Lord says "look, you do not want to go through this, it is better to just pray to avoid it."  That is how bad it will be. Praise be to God that through the death of Jesus, we all who are in Him are worthy to escape these things.  Through faith His righteousness is imparted to us and by that we are counted as worthy.  But that gift comes with a calling and that calling is to share that news with everyone else.  We must warn the world as to what is coming. We must tell the world that a storm of unimaginable proportions is coming and we know the only way of escape. That is our duty under God. 

I am sure you all remember the tsunami that came seemingly with no warning and killed over 100,000 people.  What if you knew days, weeks, months, or even years ahead of time that the tsunami was coming.  Maybe you did not know the exact day and time, but you knew what signs to look for and you see those signs happening all around you.  What if you also knew how to avoid being killed when that tsunami did eventually come.   What if you knew all of that, saw all of those signs, and then decided that you had other more important things to do or had some drunken party to attend or what if you just did not care and decided to sit on that information.  On who's hands would that blood have been when those innumerable people were killed by something you knew was coming and you knew how to avoid.  The same is true for the souls of all those who will perish by your lack of obedience to warn others of what is to come. 

Jesus does not tell us when and He tells us we will not know exactly when, but a great storm is coming.  He gives us the signs of its coming and those signs are coming to be before our very eyes.  The end is near, Jesus is near.  Please, we must warn others before it is too late..  It may have been bad to have been stranded in the snow because that person did not listen to a weather report, but how much worse will be it to be stranded on this earth during the Great Tribulation because we did not share what is to come. 
Then He also said to the multitudes, "Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, 'A shower is coming'; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, 'There will be hot weather'; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?" Luke 12:54-56 NKJV

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I know Jesus! I know Jesus! I know Jesus!

I have quoted several times in my blog about only boasting that we know the Lord.  I always posted is as assumption as it is what is commanded to us in God's Word. 
Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 NKJV
This command is reinforced several times in the New Testament.  So we know that God wants us to only glory (or boast) that we know Him, today I want to answer why and that answer comes by way of Paul.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ  Philippians 3:7-8 NKJV
The  "what things" Paul was referring to was his heritage and standing in the world before knowing Christ.  These things excelled him in the flesh, but were a loss for Christ.  Anything Paul had was only serving to keep him away from knowing the Lord.  Paul gave everything up to serve the Lord.  Did he miss any of it?  Well, do you miss you garbage when the garbage men take it away?  Paul counted everything he gave up to be nothing but trash anyway.  Christ is more valuable than anything we can ever own and so no matter what you lose to gain Christ, you gained in the end.  There is nothing in this life that we have or have had or can have that can measure having the knowledge of the Lord. 
and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;  Philippians 3:9 NKJV
And now Paul is going on to explain the excellence of knowing the Lord.  If we know Him to be our Lord, we are found in Him.  What this means is that our unrighteousness is replaced with His righteousness through faith in Him.  We know Jesus and in that knowledge we have faith in Jesus and that faith allows God to impart His righteousness upon us. 
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:10-11 NKJV
We love to proclaim the first part of this, but probably mumble the second part.  Knowing the Lord means knowing His power.  Who does not love that?  The power of Christ can be experienced by us through knowing Him.  What on this earth that you can ever had can ever compare with that?  That power comes with something else, though, that power comes with suffering.  I know what you are thinking, how can suffering be part of the excellence of knowing the Lord?  It seems to really go against excellence, and I think that view is where so many Christians fail.  First of all, Jesus suffered and in our sufferings for the Lord, we have fellowship with the Lord.  We have the comfort that no matter what we are going through, the Lord went through worse.  Suffering is also diminished when we realize the last part of knowing the Lord, and that is death.  To experience the resurrection into the newness of our lives in Christ, we must first experience death.  You can't be resurrected if you never died.  That resurrection is symbolized in baptism when we proclaim that we have died to the world and rose again a new creation in Christ.  Just like Jesus, we must allow our flesh to be crucified to experience the resurrected life in Him.  Suffering is a product of the flesh and self.  Knowing Christ means denying ourselves and crucifying our flesh and so what suffering we experienced is diminished for the fellowship in Christ it brings.  Here is what Paul says about suffering:
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,  2 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV
Our suffering, though not pleasant in the flesh, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  In other words, our temporary suffering leads to eternal rewards.  Our knowledge of Christ brings to mind that promise. 

So what is so amazing about knowing the Lord.  Why should we boast in our knowledge of Him?  It is because if we know Him, we are in Him. If we are in Him, His righteousness is attributed to us through our faith in Him.  When we boast about knowing the Lord, we are boasting of His righteousness, we are boasting of his power in our lives, we are boasting of the fellowship of suffering with Christ for the Kingdom of God, and we are boasting of our resurrection in Him to the Spiritual life we now live in Him.  Our boasting is not premised on anything we have done, it is premised on the knowledge of what He has done for us.  And what He has done for us is quite amazing.  He has died for our sins, paying the penalty for what we have done wrong. He resurrected`from the dead, giving us the hope of eternal life.  His righteousness is imparted to us through our faith in Him.  He sanctifies us from our unrighteousness with the promise to complete that process in eternity.  He lives within us, giving us His power, comfort, inspiration, peace, love, and joy as we need it each and every day.  He provides for our needs as we seek after Him.  He is preparing our eternal home in eternity where there is no more death, no more sorrow, no more sickness, and no more sin and all of the presence of God in all His glory lighting our eternal home for all time to come.  As we boast in what the Lord has done for us, others will want to hear more about the Lord.  If we do not boast about what the Lord has done for us, why would anyone have interest in a God we have no enthusiasm for?  So, boast in the Lord.  Brag to your friends and family on what He has done for you life, but back up that bragging with the changed life that comes with the Lord.  Just like it looks silly bragging about a skill you do not have, it looks silly bragging about a Lord you do not love.  Life for God and brag about what He has done for you! 
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."   1 Corinthians 1:30-31 NKJV

Monday, December 27, 2010

O Wretched Men That We Were

Good Monday morning from snowy New Jersey.  Today I want to take us through a passage that is often used to comfort us in our failures.  I do believe that God forgives our sins as we confess and repent of our sins, but I think that we often miss the real point of this passage.  We often stop of "O wretched man" and do not move past there.  This passage is about surrendering ourselves to God after realizing what failures we are.  This passage is just as much about as someone coming to know the Lord as it does someone already saved coming to the knowledge that we can not sanctify ourselves.  I hope that we will all see that today after we go through Romans 7.
 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.  Romans 7:1-4 NKJV
Paul is first addressing the reality of freedom in Christ.  He uses the metaphor of marriage to illustrate that freedom.  I am married to my wife and while we are alive we are bound to each other. She is bound to the law of "Ben" so to speak an is unable to marry someone else.  If I should go home to be with the Lord, she is no longer under the law of "Ben" and in that she can marry whomever she wishes.  That law of "Ben" has died to her and so she is free to put herself under another man.  In Christ, we are dead to the law and the law is dead to us through the death of Jesus Christ.  Jesus, as the Word, became dead to free us from that bondage.  He came back from the dead allowing us to marry Him under the new law, that being the law of grace.
For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.  Romans 7:5-6 NKJV
And now Paul is making that transition to our new lives in Christ where we are no longer bound by our flesh in sin bearing fruit unto death, but we have been delivered to freedom in Christ, freedom from the law and from sin, so that we may serve in the newness of the Spirit having been brought to life.  Whereas before we brought fruit unto death, we not bear fruit for God. 
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.  Romans 7:7-12 NKJV
Now that we learned that the law brought sin into our lives, we must ask if the law itself is sin.  The answer, of course, is that it is not.  The law does not make us sin, it only works to reveal the sin in our lives.  We would have no knowledge that we were sinners were it not for the law.  Our flesh, though, being evil and easily tempted, took those commands as a means for rebellion and not righteousness.  It is kind of like telling a child not to look inside a box.  That child's desire to look into that box was stirred to peak inside that box because of your law.  It was not your command that was evil, but the rebellious nature of the child.  That revelation of our sin through the law and the purpose of our evil flesh to rebel against the spirit brought forth sin into our lives and the fruit of that sin was our spiritual death.  We were deceived by our flesh to rebel against the righteous law of God. 
Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  Romans 7:13-14 NKJV
So now if the law is not evil but through our rebellion to it we become spiritually dead, does that make the law itself death?  Again, the answer is no.  The law is righteous and it is our unrighteousness in how we compare to the law the has become death to us.  It was not the law, but the sin revealed through the law.  We were already dead in our sins, the law just made that abundantly clear.  The problem is that the law is spiritual, but we are in our flesh carnal.  We are slaves to sin in our flesh state.
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  Romans 7:15-16 NKJV
Paul's writing (as even Peter attests to in his epistle) can be difficult to understand.  What Paul is saying here is basically that being that he hates the sin in his life then he agrees with the law that the law is good.  We all have sin in our lives and the response to that sin should be to hate it.  Paul is not excusing sin, he is saying he hates his sin.  If he did not agree with the law that it was sin, he would disagree with the law. But being that he believes in the righteous law of God, he sees the sin in his life for what it is and he hates it.  We must hate the sin in our lives. 
But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Romans 7:17-18 NKJV
Please do not think that Paul is excusing his sin here.  He is only identifying its source.  Paul is a new creation in Christ and in that he is no longer a sinner.  The new man is pure, a new creation of God.  The flesh we still live in is not.  The flesh is still susceptible to temptation and that wicked evil flesh we dwell in continues to try to lead us astray.  Our sin is rooted in our old self, that is our flesh.  Our new self, in the spirit, is vexed by the sin that still dwells in our flesh. 
For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  Romans 7:19-21 NKJV
And now Paul separates the flesh from the spirit.  In Christ, our minds serve the spirit, but our minds still live in our earthly flesh.  We strive to serve God.  We desire to do good for God.  We hate the sin in our lives.  But there remains sin in our lives through the fallen nature of our flesh.  Evil (through our flesh) still exists in us who desire to do good. 
For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Romans 7:22-23 NKJV
And so our flesh is at war with our mind.  It remains at war even in Christ and will remain until Christ takes us from these irredeemable bodies and gives us new spiritual bodies.  In our inward man, we delight in God's law and desire to follow it and do things for God.  In our flesh, we are in rebellion to God wanting nothing to do with the righteous works of God.  It is a war we can not win on our own.  And as we fight and fight and strive and strive with no victory, we come to the point that Paul is at now.
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.  Romans 7:24-25 NKJV
Please do not stop at "O wretched man that I am."  That is where many stop and just accept their own wretchedness.  Paul never declares the war with our flesh to be over, but only gives the hope that in Christ we will ultimately have the victory.  I am not perfect.  I still have my own issues and I hate each and every time I fail God.  I see the war in my own members, and I hate the rebellion of my flesh.  If any Christian tells you they have achieved perfection, they are lying or deceived.  Our victory is complete in Christ, but that victory is not realized until our redemption is realized. 

So what should our response be?  Should we just accept the sin in our lives?  The answer is an emphatic "no!"  To accept that sin in our lives means we have surrendered to our flesh.  What we must do is surrender to Christ.  We must allow Christ to fight and win those battles for us.  We can not make ourselves better for God, but what we need to do is come to that point of surrender.  Unfortunately, for so many, that surrender is to the flesh.  Even in Christ, they live in the flesh.  Those are the carnal Christians.  Those are the type of Christians who feel that playing sexual video games is "fun" or that getting drunk on Christmas is just part of tradition.  They have little to no concern for spiritual matters and what scares me is that they seem to feel no conviction about it.  It is as though in their surrender to their flesh, God gave them over to those desires.  Please do not let that be you. 

Sin lives in our flesh, but that does not mean we have to like it or accept it.  In fact, we should hate it.  We should despise the sin in our lives.  We need to hate it to the point where we cry out like Paul "O wretched man that I am!"  When we come to the realization of just how wretched we are, only then can we surrender our flesh to Christ.  We surrender it to Him and allow Him to fight that war against sin for us.  It is a war that we on our own can never win, but it is a war that Jesus already won on the Cross.  We see ourselves for the wretchedness of our flesh, but God sees us for the beauty of the new spiritual creation we are in Christ.  May God gives you His eyes to see you as He sees you through the blood of Christ.  When we give that battle of the flesh over to Christ, we see His victory over that sin on the cross.  When we see His victory over our sin, then we can grow in that process of sanctification.  We fight a hard-fought war between our flesh and spirit, but it is a war that Jesus has already won.  Do not surrender to the flesh and grow to accept that sin, but rather abide in Christ and in the victory He has already won. 
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:1-6 NKJV

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I am going to write very little today.  I do not want my words to get in the way of what this day really means.  Please, let us all take a break today from exchanging presents, gorging ourselves with food, watching football, and all those other things surround this day we commemorate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us all take time to meditate on these words and what they have meant for our lives.  Merry Christmas, everyone! 
Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11 NKJV

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve

Today I want to share a brief story from Scripture. This is normally our Hall of Faith day, but today I want to share the faith of someone else not in the Hall.  Here is today's text:
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel." Luke 2:25-32 NKJV
We are much like Simeon today in that we live in hope for the Lord's return.  Christmas is often seen as a holiday celebrating the past.  We all have our traditions and memories that we cherish each Christmas. Those traditions are something even I look forward to every year. Even the holiday itself is a celebration of something that happened in the past, that being the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I think we need to be more like Simeon.  I am not saying we should not have our traditions, especially if they are truly centered on the commemoration the birth of our Lord.  What I am saying though, is that while looking back to the birth of Jesus is good, looking ahead to his return is even better. 

Simeon knew that he would not see death until he saw the Lord and spent his days looking forward to that day.  We have the promise that we will see Jesus as well.  We will see Him face to face as we enter into His glory for all eternity.  We may not have the promise that we will see him before we taste death, but we need the heart of Simeon to live as though we do have that promise.  If we live with the hope of His return, if we live with the hope that His return can even happen today, we will live with a faith and peace that nothing can ever shake.  I say that because what else in the world can matter if you believe Jesus is coming that very day. 

Keep your eyes on the future promise of His return.  His birth brought the promise of salvation into this world, but His return will bring us to that promise of eternity.  Praise God, in Christ we are heirs to that promise!
He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.  Revelation 22:20-21 NKJV