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Freedom from Sin

Why wait until you are married to have Sex?

I recently watched a YouTube video about empires that are in decline.  It was a historical lesson that listed all of the characteristics that were present immediately before the collapse of the large empires of the past.  I had heard similar discussions before and many of the same characteristics were mentioned: loss of value in a debased currency, extreme government debt, large disparity between the poor and the rich, etc., but this time they mentioned something I hadn’t heard before that was somewhat surprising: people have an obsession with sex.  Of course, the point they were making was that the United States had all of the characteristics that were historically present just before an empire went into severe decline or collapse.

Would you agree that the United States has an obsession with sex?  Maybe you haven’t thought about it.  Maybe we all have become so programmed and brainwashed by the constant bombardment of sexually explicit television, movies, music, advertisements, education, and the activities that surround us every day that we are unaware of how obsessed we have become.  Our hearts have become hardened and our consciences have been scarred.

My observation has been that the decline of morality with regards to sex is happening rapidly at an exponential rate.  Perverse things that were unheard of a decade ago are common place now.  For example, displays of homosexual or lesbian sexual encounters are becoming common in the mainstream shows and movies, and are presented as being cool and chic.

I was very saddened and upset when I recently read an account of a young lady who was brave enough to disclose in her public blog that she was a virgin, but that it was a cause for her to be insecure and shamed.  She felt that some of her friends and acquaintances would shame her because of her choice to be a virgin.  She also felt that when she would finally meet her soul mate, that he could possibly be taken back or upset because she was a virgin.

It is completely absurd to me and I can’t even imagine that a man would be disappointed to find out that the woman that he has fallen in love with is a virgin.  When I was a young man and had fallen in love with a young lady, I wished that she was a virgin, and also wished that I was a virgin!  How sad it is that for someone who has chosen to follow God’s plan and do what is righteous and correct, that they would be made to feel like an outcast or an oddball.  It is very sad that the moral integrity of our society has deteriorated so greatly.  Truly the Scripture has been fulfilled that states that good will be seen as evil and evil will be seen as good.

The special intimacy that is associated with sexual intercourse should be preserved for you and your spouse only.  It should be cherished and held in high esteem by you both for as long as you live.  It is most valued when marriage is entered into with both bride and groom being virgins!

My mother was born in 1930, so she was a teenager in the mid to late 1940’s.  She has told me that she and every female friend that she knew at that time were virgins.  To this day (she is now 86 years old), the only man that she has ever had sexual relations with was my father, her husband.  I see this as very honorable and righteous, and I know that she has absolutely no regrets about this!  How far we have come in the last 70 years or so!

There is a direct correlation between our society’s obsession with sex with the accompanying sexual promiscuity, and the destruction of the family unit.  There have been countless teenage pregnancies resulting in single parent families and the problems that accompany that situation.  There has been a dramatic rise in the divorce rate that I believe is in large part due to sex related issues such as infidelity, the use of pornography, or a poor sexual relationship between spouses.  There have been millions and millions of abortions, that I believe to be the murder of innocent unborn humans, and that they have caused psychological damage to millions of women that have impacted their view of sex and therefore their marriage relationship.

God’s directions and His guidance are for our own good.  He knows what is best for us, and His laws have a purpose.  Disregarding His laws will have consequences as we will reap what we have sown.

I am writing this so that my Christian brothers and sisters, especially if you are young, can clearly see the value of God’s way to wait until marriage before having any sexual activity.  As difficult as this may be in our current society, it will be a worthwhile investment in your future and more specifically in your future life together with your spouse.

As Biblical Christians, although we are deeply saddened and disappointed by the moral demise of our culture here in the west, it is not unexpected, since the Scriptures warn us of these things occurring in the last days:

“Bu know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

As Christians we must also stand for what we know to be right and pleasing to God, no matter what the rest of the world thinks or no matter what pressure our peers put upon us.  This may require facing persecution in many forms, but we must remain strong.

Let’s look closer at the major reasons why waiting is best.

The first and most obvious reason is that all sexual encounters between a male and a female have the potential to end in a pregnancy.  There is no such thing as a 100% fool-proof birth control method. Once sexual activity begins with a couple, it is likely to continue and become more frequent, increasing the potential for a pregnancy to occur.  The high percentage of teenage pregnancies and abortions in our society is a confirmation that birth control isn’t a guaranteed prevention of pregnancy.

It should be the privilege of every newborn human being to come into this world with an established family in place, with two loving parents who are committed to one another for the rest of their lives and who are committed to raising and nurturing their children through childhood into adulthood.  A child’s home should be like an earthly heaven for them.  Following God’s plan of refraining from sex until the family nucleus is established is the best way to guarantee this loving environment will exist for all newborns.

The second major reason is a spiritual one and therefore non-tangible, yet very real non-the-less. The Bible reveals that there is a special, spiritual union between a man and women that occurs during sexual intercourse, where the “two become one flesh”.  The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, warns the Corinthian Christians that as members of Christ (i.e. spiritually united with Christ) they should not then be united with a harlot or prostitute.  Here is the full context:

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?  Certainly not!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her?  For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’  But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.  Flee sexual immorality.  Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” 1 Corinthians 6: 15-18

The union that occurs during sexual relations is very real and very deep.  Therefore, when this union happens outside of marriage, the inevitable separation is extremely painful.  Those who feel that they are not impacted have only made themselves impenetrable because they have hardened their hearts into an unhealthy state.  Some, as a result of experiencing the pain of this separation after their being sexually united, vow to never allow themselves to enter into the same deep love again, so they harden their heart.  Sadly, this callous-hearted approach to relationships is unhealthy and causes damage, even when they eventually enter into a marriage.  Let me spell this out clearly:  if you choose to enter into a lifestyle that includes casual sexual intercourse outside of marriage, you will be forced to harden your heart.  This hardening of your heart is unhealthy and abnormal, and not what God intended for us.

My final reason is very simple and straight forward:  God requires of His children to refrain from sexual activity outside of marriage. Period!  If you are a child of God, then you must be obedient to His commands.  The Scriptures are very clear that fornication (sex outside of marriage) is forbidden and is a serious transgression.  Here are some supporting Scriptures from the New Testament:

“Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication…” Acts 15: 19-20

“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1: 24-32

“Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10: 6-11

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness…” Galatians 5: 19

“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;” Ephesians 5:3

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;” 1 Thessalonians 4:3

“..as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 1:7

For those of us who have already stumbled on this (including myself), we are thankful that there is forgiveness and restoration through Jesus. It is never too late to turn from sin and God is able to give you what is needed to be victorious, and to restore what has been damaged.  Remember also that the root of the problem is in our thoughts, in our minds, and in our desires.  We must deal with our inner man and control our strong desires.

I hope that this information has strengthened the resolve of those who have chosen to remain pure until marriage, and maybe the Lord would even use this to convince some to choose the better path of remaining a virgin.  If even one person is encouraged or convinced, it would be well worth it to me, even though I realize that this topic is unpopular and may turn many readers off because of its “political incorrectness”.

For parents, maybe this will give you some information to share with your children as they must also decide on their lifestyle.  There is a great challenge in abstinence from sex since all current forces and influences in our society are contrary to righteousness in this area.

Remain strong and steadfast and be encouraged that Jesus will come and bring His reward with Him for those who are faithful.  This world will get worse and worse and I will not be surprised if we get closer and closer to the state of Sodom and Gomorrah, resulting in an increase in persecution for those who are faithful to the truth.

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12

Amen.

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Have You been Freed from Sin?

“We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin.” Romans 6: 6 & 7

Bob Dylan, who recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature, went through a “Gospel phase” back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s putting out a few albums of Gospel songs that he had written.  One of his songs, that won him a Grammy award, was entitled “Gotta Serve Somebody” and the chorus went like this:

“But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”  Bob Dylan

In other words, Dylan is pointing out that there is no neutral position, you are either serving the Lord or you are serving the devil.  Interestingly, in response to this song, John Lennon put out a song entitled “Serve Yourself” suggesting that this was the better alternative.  I think that this was Dylan’s point, that when you think you are serving yourself, you are deceived and are actually serving the devil.

I would like to look closer, from a Biblical perspective, at this idea of “serving somebody” and the implications.  As we will see, it is directly related to our freedom from sin.

Paul’s letter to the Romans was a treatise, or a formal exposition of the principals of the Gospel.  In chapter 6 of Romans, when discussing freedom from sin, Paul says this:

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6: 12-14

…and then this:

“Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6: 16-18

…and finally:

“For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.” Romans 6: 19b

The word “yield” used in these verses is “paristemi” in the original Greek and is defined as “to stand by or near, to place a person or thing at one’s disposal, to stand by to help, to stand ready”.

These verses were obviously the source of Dylan’s lyrics.  It appears that he simply extrapolated from “yield to sin” to “serve the devil”, much as Paul interchanges “yield to righteousness” with “yield to God”, and Dylan also changed “yield to God” to “serve the Lord”.

Here’s what important: if you make the transition from yielding or presenting yourself to sin to presenting yourself to righteousness you will be free from sin.  But what does this really mean?  And how does one make this transition?  We need to drill even deeper.

Perhaps at the core of this is the understanding of what it means to “yield your members to sin”.  We looked at the original Greek word for “yield”, essentially meaning to put oneself at another’s disposal to help or serve, let’s now look at the original Greek word for “sin” – “hamartia” which generally means to “miss the mark, wander from the path of righteousness, or to violate God’s law”.  In this usage, the meaning is a bit different as noted in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon:

“In this sense [hamartia] as a power exercising dominion over men (sin as a principle and power) is rhetorically represented as an imperial (domineering) personage.”

Paul is saying that to “yield our members to sin” is to be positioned and in a mindset that enables the principle of sin to exist and have power over our life.  Furthermore, Paul is saying that we should not make ourselves available to, or present ourselves to, this powerful principle of sin.  The principle of sin that he is referring to is explained in chapters 7 and 8 of Romans.  The principle is this: when we have our minds and focus set on our flesh, that is, on pleasing our earthly physical desires and passions, it will result in the fruit (or works) of the flesh, that is, sin.

“Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5: 19-21

Paul describes in chapter 7 of Romans how when we see the truth of God’s laws and agree with them, but are still focused on the flesh, we are trapped in a cycle of sin and death (the principle of sin).

“We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Roman 7: 15 & 16

In chapter 8, Paul more explicitly defines the principle of sin and the condition of being focused on the flesh:

“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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8: 5-8

Please note that when Paul said in Romans 7:15 that “I am carnal” he was not saying that he was currently following the flesh or living to please the flesh. No, he was saying that apart from Christ, we all are born as carnal beings and sold under sin, but when we are in Christ Jesus, we are no longer under the influence of this carnal part of us.  This is clear from the follow on verse in Roman’s chapter 8:

“But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you.  Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Romans 8: 9

Now we come to the most important question: How do we make the transition from being yielded to the principle of sin, over to being yielded to the principle of righteousness?

The answer: death!

Let me interject here that I am aware that only a very small amount of people will read this article simply because the word “sin” is in the title.  And now that I mention death, I wonder if even these few will now turn away.  I hope that your hunger for the truth will cause you to recognize that the only way to true life is by death, I don’t mean a literal death, but to die with Christ!

Paul begins his discussion of freedom from sin with the truth that we have died with Christ in baptism.

“How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6: 2-4

We were born into this world and lived much of lives with our focus on improving our physical condition, pleasing our physical desires, with our hopes set on the things that this world offers, with an attitude of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  This was our mindset.  This was our lifestyle.  Whether we knew it or not we had yielded ourselves to this sin principle, what the Bible calls the principle of sin and death.  We didn’t know any different because it was the world that we were brought into and what we were programmed to do by our surroundings.  The result was entrapment to sin, to some extent, some deeper and more serious than others.  This was our old self, and we are instructed by the Scriptures to put the old self to death:

“We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” Romans 6: 6

The old way of thinking and living needs to die!  We must change our attitude and our focus.  We must now yield ourselves to doing what is right and good.  We must shift our focus to pleasing God and not ourselves.  We must now consider ourselves as being removed from this world system, and that we are now children of God and citizens of heaven and part of a spiritual, not physical, system.  The things of this world should not hold a grasp on our hearts anymore.  We now walk in newness of life with a spiritual focus.  We walk now not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

“So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” Romans 8: 12-13

It should be noted that considering yourself as having died with Christ is an act of faith.  Putting to death your old self is an act of faith. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like modern western Christianity emphasizes the focus of our faith on these things, but rather emphasizes putting the focus of our faith on being forgiven of our sins and on making requests of God.  It would seem that the fruit of this neglect is that many are not truly set free from sin.

Remember too that we must continue to walk in this newness of life with the old self dead.  Why else would Paul have written these instructions if it was not needed by the brethren to remind them to continue in this mindset.  Our old self wants to come back to life and again take control of our lives leading us to being yielded to sin and again back into bondage.  The way out is always the same: put the old self to death.

True faith combined with the truth that we must die with Christ and that we must shift our hope to heaven and to our resurrected body leading to eternal life, will cause us to be spiritual being, having our minds set on the things of the spirit.  Being spiritual is the key to walking in love!  It produces the fruit of the spirit in us!

Please read for yourself these chapters in Romans and prayerfully request that the Spirit would reveal the truth even deeper to you for your Christian walk.  These truths are extremely valuable and will profit you in the next life!

Remain in Christ Jesus and remember this:

“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 (principle) of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law (principle) of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

Amen.

There is Only One Gospel – It Produces Love

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1: 6-9

The apostle Paul wrote this warning to the churches of Galatia close to 2,000 years ago.  I firmly believe that this same warning also applies to Christians today, and was not just a one time warning unique to the situation that Paul was addressing at that time.  I believe that there are Christian teachers and church leaders today who “pervert the gospel of Christ” in a similar manner, to varying degrees, as was being done at that time.  Historically, there has been a tendency for Christian organizations to digress from the core elements of the gospel, focusing on “religiosity” rather than producing true Christian character and love.  Even today there are many Christian churches that would be considered spiritually dead.  This letter to the Galatians addresses the cause of this problem that leads to death.

If you read the entire letter that Paul wrote, you will see that he is essentially saying that there is no other means of restoring our relationship with God, no other way to remove the curse from Adam and Eve’s sin, no other way of salvation from this present evil age, no other way to become spiritual, no other way to be transformed to walk in love, and no other Messiah sent from God for this purpose, but only the Gospel message that Paul had previously preached to them about the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, and what He had accomplished on our behalf through His death and resurrection, and which is only attained by us through faith as a free gift from God.

I thought that it would be valuable for us to look at the main underlying components that support the Gospel so that we can protect ourselves from unknowingly turning to any other proposed “different” gospel.  Paul touches on these components throughout his letter to the Galatians.  Let’s consider some of these:

The Truth

“You were running so well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  Gal. 5:7

The Gospel is based upon the truths that have been revealed in the Bible.  We must be very clear about how we establish truth in our minds or the Gospel can potentially become compromised or even abandoned.  Truth should be established through recognizing the authority of God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures.  The writings of the Bible are not mere writings of men, but are revelations inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“And we also have the more sure prophetic word, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation (or origin), for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1: 19-21

We must remember that there are very few things in this life that we can rely on as being absolute truth.  We cannot trust the teachings of men as being absolute truth, although they may perhaps contain some portion of truth that may apply to some circumstances.  At best, any truths coming from men are limited in their scope to this physical realm, as well as limited to our recent time frame; anything beyond that is guess work and unreliable.

Many of us are able to hear from God by listening to the still, small voice that speaks to us for guidance and encouragement.  Although I encourage this type of communication with God, I also must caution you that this is not the same type of anchor for our soul as the absolute, authoritative truth that comes from the Scriptures.  Our natural minds often interfere with our ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s communication and therefore we must always check our understanding of what God is speaking to our hearts against the Biblical truths which are absolute.

As a side note, I recently read a beautiful story about a Christian woman who saw a homeless man outside of her grocery store and wanted to buy some food for him.  The Holy Spirit spoke to her and said she should buy him bananas and some protein bars.  She wanted to buy him some fried chicken instead, thinking it would warm him up, but she listened to the inner spiritual voice and didn’t get the chicken.  When she gave the man the bananas and protein bars, he was very grateful.  Immediately after giving them to him, there came another woman with some fried chicken for the man, much to the original woman’s surprise and joy, bringing her to tears.  She though how great it was that God had a concern for this homeless man in this way.

It is beautiful thing to be able to hear from God directly, but we must not use it for determining the absolute truths that establish our understanding of life and that anchors our soul.  Only God’s Word, the Bible, can be the authoritative source for our truth, and the source for the Gospel message.  Be warned that following your heart or the teachings of men without the guidance of Scriptures can lead you astray into the error of false gospels.

True Faith

“Now it is evident that no person is justified (declared righteous and brought into right standing with God) through the Law, for the Scripture says, The man in right standing with God [the just, the righteous] shall live by and out of faith and he who through and by faith is declared righteous and in right standing with God shall live.  But the Law does not rest on faith [does not require faith, has nothing to do with faith], for it itself says, He who does them [the things prescribed by the Law] shall live by them [not by faith].” Gal. 3: 11 – 12 (Amplified Bible)

The situation that Paul was confronting at Galatia was about religious Jews who were attempting to recruit the Galatian Christians to Judaism and to follow the Jewish religious rituals and practices, focusing on the Mosaic laws.  The problem with this, as Paul pointed out, is that being “religious”, that is, focusing on keeping a set of regulations and adhering to ritual practices, does not require faith.  In other words, a purely “religious” person’s “life” comes from following religious regulations and practices; this is what gives them satisfaction and comfort, relieves their guilt, and makes them feel like they are accepted by God.  Unfortunately, when we focus our lives on keeping religious rules, rituals and regulations, it puts us into bondage because there is no resulting spiritual growth produced from this activity.  The bondage is a result of remaining focused on our “flesh”; only true faith can take us out of our fleshly focus.

In contrast, when we put our faith and trust in Jesus, and the promises of God, we have spiritual growth and are free from the bondage of the flesh.  Our “life” comes from the reality of being true children of God and heirs of His kingdom.  This is where our satisfaction and comfort comes from: knowing that our relationship with God has been repaired, our sins forgiven, and our future home in heaven is secured for us and waiting.  We look forward for the final return of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, who will establish the final Kingdom here, including us with our resurrected, immortal bodies.  This is the true faith that causes us to be born of the spirit and sets us free from the bondage of the flesh.

Be advised that any proposed gospel message that does not require faith and that keeps our focus on this physical world, and the material things within it, is an erroneous, false gospel.  We will need discernment to recognize this because the proponents of these false messages will surely make the claim that the focus is spiritual and that faith is involved, but we must look deeper into the reality of true faith and true spirituality as defined by the Scriptures.

I believe that there are many “Christian” churches that have shifted the focus of their message to regulations and practices and have de-emphasized the need for true faith.  It may not be explicitly stated in their doctrines and preaching from the pulpit, but it is communicated by other means, requiring the congregation to focus on church attendance, donations, volunteer work, participation in church functions, etc, rather than having the main emphasis and focus on true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We need to be careful not to fall back into flesh based activity, but rather remain in a place that focuses our affections on spiritual things, requiring our faith to be strong.

Hope

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Gal. 3: 25-29

The truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ  has as its main focus the hope that we have in the future promise of eternal life in heaven with a resurrected body, living in the glory of the kingdom of God as His children with an inheritance waiting for us.  This hope allows us to shift our affections from this physical world, which feeds our flesh, to the spiritual world that causes our spirit to come to life.  Being in Christ means that we have removed ourselves from this physical world in our minds and hearts, having put our flesh to death by dying with Christ.  This is the true power of the Gospel message; no other message is needed since this blessed hope with its transforming power is fully available through Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Bible.

“Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.” Galatians 4: 28

Love

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” Galatians 5: 5-6

In the above two verses in chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul reaches the climax of his letter, culminating his warnings and arguments with the fact that what really matters is “faith working through love”.  So we see that if we embrace the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and place our faith in what has been promised to us as children of the living God, our hope is then established, our flesh no longer rules our lives but rather we shift to becoming spiritual beings, new creations, with the realistic power to walk in love.  Love is the goal; if we are not able to love then something is wrong – something is missing.  In that case perhaps we need to re-examine the gospel that we have accepted to make sure that it aligns with the true Gospel as revealed in the Bible.

A few verses later, Paul again reinforces the concept of love. He shows them that the essence of the law is really about love:

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. Galatians 5: 14

In the amplified Bible, the word “fulfilled” is replaced with the phrase “complied with”, which I think better explains that we can’t just ignore the law completely, but rather, if we are truly walking in love we will be complying with all the precepts of the law.  Again I say that the problem with the law is that if we focus on the law by itself and pursue abiding by its precepts without true faith, then we will not, and in fact cannot, become spiritual, and therefore cannot walk in love.  Without true faith we cannot adhere to the law.

“For if a Law had been given which could confer [spiritual] life, then righteousness and right standing with God would certainly have come by Law.” Galatians 3: 21b (Amplified)

For Christians the key is to become spiritual; if we are spiritual we will be able to walk in love with the law written on our heart.  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul explicitly states this need for spirituality in our battle against the desires of the flesh that hinder our ability to love.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do 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 prevent you from doing what you would.” Galatians 5: 16-17

When he says “doing what you would” I believe that equates to walking in love.

Be warned though that you must make sure that you have the correct biblical definition of love (not the world’s definition), and likewise, the correct biblical definition of being spiritual.  Many religions use the term spiritual and love to describe their activities, but these do not align with God’s meaning as revealed in His Scriptures.  Seek Him to help you gain the true understanding of these!

I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire book of Galatians for there are many other truths brought out in this letter that can help us in our walk with the Lord.  I hope you have found these insights helpful.  God bless!

Are You Really Free?

“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32

A little over a year ago I wrote a message for this blog entitled “Truth Brings Freedom” and began the message with this same quote from John 8.  That message focused mostly on the ability to discern truth from lies, suggesting that the lies that we believe are keeping us in bondage, so when we remove the lies and replace them with truth, we will experience freedom.  In this message I want to expound on this idea with more focus on the concept of freedom, and our understanding of what true freedom really is.

To get a better understanding of true freedom we need to look closer at what Jesus said in John 8 in the verses that surround our quoted verses above.  Jesus starts the discussion with this statement:

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ’I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

In the verses following this one the Jews challenged His statement and His authenticity, but Jesus reminded them that His testimony was true, especially since His Father in heaven has bore witness to Him.

Continuing the discussion at verse 23:

“He said to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’ They said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all?  I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’ They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.’ As he was saying these things, many believed in him. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’  Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’“ John 8:26-38

Here is what is important to glean from this passage:

  1. Jesus is communicating truth that has come from His Father in heaven who is the Divine Creator of the world and all those in it. This is not like the teachings of other men but is unique in that it is the equivalent of the Creator communicating directly with His creation.
  2. By believing that Jesus is the “Anointed One” from above who is the very representation of the Creator’s voice, and by following His instructions and teaching as His disciples, we can be truly free.
  3. Many of the Jews of that time who heard this message mistakenly thought that they were already free, not understanding the type of freedom that Jesus spoke of.

How is adhering to these truths that Jesus communicated the source of our freedom?  Why were the Jews confused about freedom?  I would like to explore these questions to give us a better understanding of true freedom.

At this point I would like to tell you about an experience I had in the past.  When I first got serious about my Christian beliefs, speaking openly about them and turning from the sins in my life, I had friends and family members that approached me, probably with good intentions, questioning my situation.  From their viewpoint they saw what I was doing as a restriction of my freedoms.  They warned me about how much I would be missing out on in my life by living with these restrictions. What was interesting was that I personally felt that I experienced a positive change regarding freedoms in my life being a Christian.  I felt freer with more happiness in my life.   I had stopped my alcohol consumption, late night carousing, and sexual promiscuity, among other things, and they saw this as an evil that was restricting my freedom.  My response: I was now free to do what was right!

Consider this Scripture verse in John 8:

“Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” John 8:24

The source of confusion about freedom for many people is a lie that they believe.  They see an individual’s freedom of choice as the ability to choose to do whatever we want whenever we want.  But most adults quickly learn when they break out of their parental restraints when transitioning from childhood to adulthood that the situation surrounding our freedom is not as simple as we imagined in our youth.  We learn that every choice has a consequence.  We learn that freedoms come with responsibility.  As such, our choices are actually limited.

For example, we could in theory chose to not eat or drink ever again, but as a result, we would die, so it really isn’t a choice and no one in their right mind would purposely choose to do that.  All of us would (I think) understand and agree with the fact that there are limitations to our choices.  In support of this, we find this understanding in movies and TV dramas that present this limited choice scenario in the story line.  The question arises, “How could they do such a thing?” (e.g. sell national secrets to the enemy) and later we learn that, “their child was kidnapped and they were threatened with death so the person really had no choice but to concede!”, and everyone agrees and understands that they “had no choice”, or in other words, their choice was limited by circumstances.

Not all of our decisions have immediate consequences, but some consequences occur much later or are not as apparent, and this is what makes for even deeper complexities.  For example, if we choose to smoke cigarettes, it may be a long time before there are negative consequences, or we may even think that we will beat the odds and never experience problems because our body is resistant or we will quit before any negative effects occur.

My point is that we all are faced with limits to our choices and with situations beyond our control that impact our choices.  Although we may be free to do whatever we want whenever we want to in theory, in a practical sense our choices are limited by consequences.  Most importantly there are moral and ethical choices that we make that can have grave consequences that may not be apparent or that can be deceiving.

Most of us would agree that our real desire is not to be free to do whatever we want but to make the wisest choices in our lives resulting in the best consequences.  I would like to suggest that the restraints that impact our choices are represented by a set of laws or principles that govern our world and dictate the consequences of our choices.  Wisdom would conclude that we therefore should accept this situation and make decisions accordingly to align with these laws and principles so as to have positive results.  Doesn’t life teach us quickly the foolishness of making choices that go against the principles that surround us? You might say then that the freedom that we want is related to doing what is right, rather than what is wrong.  True freedom comes from the ability to do what is right!

Let’s look closer now at the moral and ethical principles or laws that exist in our world and cause consequences to our decisions.  This is a critical issue in this discussion.  Consider if these laws were dreamed up by men and have evolved randomly over hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years and are still evolving, and have been put into place by the consensus of the majority.  If this were true,then these laws would become somewhat nebulous.  The majority of people could be wrong, or the laws could be ready to evolve further or, if we are smart enough, we can discover ingenious ways to get around them.  Or maybe the opinion of the majority will shift and change resulting in new laws.

On the other hand, if these laws were put in place by a Creator and He has made them immutable, set in place forever with no way of getting around them, then we would be wise to understand the nature and purpose of these laws.

As Christians we believe that our Creator has put these moral and ethical laws in place.  He has also revealed information about His laws for us and all of His creation in the Scriptures.  When we were converted to Christianity we no longer viewed the world from the standpoint of a random, nebulous, evolutionary system, with rules based on popular opinion, but rather as a clear-cut and purposefully designed creation with purposeful, well designed laws put in place by the Creator.  The laws in place reflect the authority of the Creator, and in fact, He has revealed that due to the disobedience of our first parents, there have been increased restrictions put in place, most notably our physical death.  Fortunately for us, the Creator has sent His Messiah, or Anointed One, or Christ, to set us free from the bondage that has resulted from our inability to function properly within His legal system.

In the passage from John 8, Jesus was making it very clear that the information and teachings that He was presenting came from the Creator.  His information was far superior to any other so called “geniuses” who have read books and observed the world for a few decades and came up with their view of reality from their limited perspective.  The teachings of Jesus are from “above” not from “below” and are therefore absolute truth. Jesus was there in the beginning and was communicating what He had “seen in the presence of the Father”.  This is absolute truth that we can be assured will guide our lives to true freedom.

Let us look also at some of this information that was revealed by Jesus, since it is also pertinent to our freedom.

The Scriptures have revealed that there are evil entities involved in our world, namely satanic or demonic entities that have been allowed to have some influence on humans.  According to the scriptures, Satan and his demons can influence our thinking, affecting our choices, and seems that the more we choose to go against God’s laws, the more influence that Satan is allowed to have on us, in some cases resulting in demon possession. It is also fortunate for us that the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, has defeated these demonic powers and made a way for us to be free from their influence.

“And you he made alive, when you were dead though the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 2:1-2

“When any one hears the world of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart;” Matt. 13:18

Most importantly, it has also been revealed that every human being will one day, after they have died, stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and give an account of what they have done.  Not only will our choices have consequences in this life, but they will have eternal consequences.  This is extremely serious!

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.” 2 Cor. 5:10

“Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purpose of men’s hearts. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.” 1 Cor. 4:5

Let me summarize at this point: The truths that Jesus has communicated to us are the key to our freedom because they are from the Father in Heaven the Creator of this world.  Our Creator God has put in place purposefully designed moral laws that govern our world, and it is therefore wise for us to adhere and function within these laws, and foolish to ignore or purposely attempt to circumvent these laws. Disregarding or not adhering to the moral and ethical laws of God will have grave consequences not only in this life but also in the afterlife.  It is a lie to think that we are free simply because we can do whatever we want with no restrictions.  True freedom comes from believing and accepting the revealed truths of the Creator and adhering to God’s instructions, teachings and laws.

Let me point out one further critical truth:  It is impossible for us to adhere to these laws without a faith in the Creator and His Messiah.  In other words, if we choose to live our lives apart from God without the realization that God’s laws govern His creation, then we are doomed to suffer the consequences of non-compliance.

The sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross is the starting point for our freedom in that it frees us from the penalty of sin, allowing us the promise of eternal life.  When we accept this sacrifice, we also enter into a covenant with the Creator, dying to this physical world system and shifting our attention and affections to the promise of heaven.  This causes a spiritual birth that frees us from the influence of Satan and gives us the ability to walk in love, having shifted our life’s focus from our personal advancement to pleasing God.  As we will see, this is the pathway to true freedom.

I would like to look deeper at the nature and purpose of God’s laws to complete our understanding of true freedom and the moral decisions that we make.  First though, we must realize that it has also been revealed that mankind has another problem: Knowing God’s law is not enough; it takes more than just knowledge of the law to obey the law.  The Israelites were shown clearly the laws of God, in detail, but they were unable to obey them.  In fact, the Scriptures also reveal that they were trapped in a cycle of disobedience and guilt that spiraled downwards to spiritual death.  (See Romans chapter 7)  As we will see, God has made a way for us to fulfill His laws.

Looking closer at God’s laws, we come to understand that the majority of His laws are focused on the way that we treat each other.  We are told in the Scriptures that love fulfills the entire law!

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:8-10

This is the core issue: our ability to love God and to love one another on the one hand, and on the other is our selfishness or focus on our own advancement or pleasures, putting ourselves before others.

As Christians, we are actually free from the laws of God in the sense that the transformation that occurs in us from being self-seeking, worldly minded to becoming “new creations” that are “born again” in the spirit and able to walk in love.  We now can naturally fulfill the laws; the laws are written on our hearts.

“As I have said before, the Christian position is this: I may do anything, but everything is not useful. Yes, I may do anything but everything is not constructive. Let no man, then, set his own advantage as his objective, but rather the good of his neighbor.”  1 Corinthians 10: 23-24 (J.B. Phillips)

As we see from this scripture verse, when we shift the objective of our life from gaining “our own advantage” to “the good of our neighbors” we fulfill the law and we are free from the consequences. This is true freedom.

Isn’t it amazing that our Creator has designed this world so that the laws that govern it support those who walk in love, and place into bondage those who walk in self-centeredness.  The laws that govern our world have not come about coincidentally from random activity during millions of years of evolution.  On the contrary, they are amazingly and efficiently designed with the most valuable asset in mind: love.  This love is the very nature of God and includes justice, fairness, peace, joy, patience, gentleness, and hope.

“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32

We come to know the truth by continuing in the words of Jesus.  These words are recorded in the Scriptures, in the Holy Word known as the Bible.  The truths contained in the revealed Word are the source of freedom.

Walking in the spirit includes a realization that God’s laws are perfect and that we can experience the true freedom from bondage and undue suffering as we walk in love.  This power to love is the result of our faith, by dying to this world, living with our hopes and affections set in heaven, transforming our minds to conform to God’s ways and a spiritual perspective, and with the Holy Spirit living inside of us.  This is the truth that Jesus has provided for us that will truly set us free!

Thinking back about those family members and friends who were concerned about my freedoms, I think that their concerns revealed something about the condition of their own hearts.  They had placed a high value on their own “freedoms” or, more accurately, their choice to not adhere to God’s regulations due to their own immediate benefits without regard for the future consequences.  At the root of this was the fact that they really didn’t believe in Jesus or His teachings.

There is an interesting irony in this:  the person who thinks they are “free” because they live apart from the restrictions of God’s laws or guidance, but follow what they think is right, they are actually in bondage.  When someone purposely restricts themselves by following the teachings and principles of their Creator, they become free.

People who live apart from God’s Word without the understanding of His truth experience varying degrees of bondage, some may be very painful.  And yet they are unaware of the source of the bondage, but only see the resulting symptoms.  Jesus came to set us free, not only for this life, but most especially, for the day that we stand before Him in heaven.  We can have forgiveness for past sins as well as the ability to be obedient to His law of liberty by walking in love.

“The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:15-17

 

Secure Your Inheritance

“For of this you can be quite certain: that neither the immoral nor the dirty-minded nor the covetous man (whose greed makes him worship gain) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” From Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus – Chapter 5 – J.B. Phillips Translation

We humans have a tendency to twist things in the Scriptures to align with our desires.  The Bible states that we are “saved” from God’s wrath and judgment as an act of His mercy and grace, and that we cannot earn this by our good deeds or by keeping His laws, so that no man can proudly boast that he has earned God’s forgiveness and pardon (God owes him).  Some Christians have twisted this to say that our good deeds and keeping of the law is therefore not important, or they have twisted it to say that any thought of our righteous actions having an impact on our acceptance to God and our salvation is contrary to His grace and is “salvation by works” and therefore is erroneous.  The Scriptures are clear: we cannot earn our pardon by our good deeds, but we can disqualify ourselves by our evil deeds. We must prove the sincerity of our faith by allowing it to transform our inner man so that we change our actions from darkness to light, from evil to good, from selfishness to love, from carnal to spiritual.

But we humans want to have an excuse to continue in our old nature, and yet feel that we are accepted by God and are His children. We want to have the pain of our guilt removed, but not have to experience the pain of putting to death our flesh, leading to victory over our sins.

I have encountered professing Christians who have reacted adversely when I suggested that God expects us to be literally righteous and free from sin, and that we must have a clear conscience regarding sin.  They confronted me in anger: “Are you perfect?  No one is perfect but Jesus!  If you say you are without sin you are a liar!  Even the Scriptures say this in 1st John!”

Some of this thinking comes from the “Eternal Security” doctrine or “Calvinism” that some Christians adhere to.  It states that once you are “saved” (said the sinner’s prayer), you are always saved no matter what you do, good or bad.  This doctrine is based on the idea of predestination, that God has chosen us before we were born to be children of light, and others are “predestined” to be children of darkness.  Our infinite God knows the future, so, of course, this is true, but it is impossible for our finite, limited minds to fully comprehend this.

The eternal security doctrine also says that if a professing Christian has immorality or sin in their lives, either God is going to change them so they don’t need to worry, or they were not “saved” in the first place (they are children of darkness).  I don’t agree with this view.  I believe that although God knows what we will do in the future, He holds us responsible for our actions and He expects us to deal with our flesh and to strive towards living and acting in love, like Jesus.  Some Christians are using the eternal security doctrine as an excuse to continue in sin.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that living a righteous, holy life is not important, or that all Christians sin, that Christians aren’t perfect, they are just forgiven (I once saw a bumper sticker that said this).  Yes, our transformation takes time and we will struggle with some sin in our lives.  God doesn’t reject us when we sin, but He expects us to make every effort to purge our lives from sin.

Consider for yourselves what the Scriptures say regarding the expectations of holy, righteous living:

“As obedient children, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15-16

“For this is the will of God, that you should be consecrated (separated and set apart for pure and holy living): that you should abstain and shrink from all sexual vice, that each one of you should know how to possess (control, manage) his own body in consecration (purity, separated from things profane) and honor, not (to be used) in the passion of lust like the heathen, who are ignorant of the true God and have no knowledge of His will, that no man transgress and over-reach his brother and defraud him in this matter or defraud his brother in business.” 1 Thess. 4: 3-6 (Amplified Bible)

“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and ‘Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity (sin).’” 1 Tim. 2:19

“Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and morn and weep.  Let you laughter be turned to mourning and you joy to dejection.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.”  James 4: 8-10

“And by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says ‘I know Him’ but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him truly love for God is perfected.  By this we may be sure that we are in Him: He who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”  1 John 2: 3-6

“We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” 1 John 5:18

I think it is very clear from the Scriptures, not only in the above quotes from the New Testament, but from the main principles communicated in the Gospel and taught by Jesus, that we are expected to live a holy, righteous life free from the bondage of sin.

Don’t be discouraged if you are struggling with sin in your life.  God is able to strengthen you and He promises to aid you in your efforts.  He also promises that no temptation is too powerful for us to resist; He won’t allow us to be overpowered by temptation.

My goal here is to encourage you.  Remember that we have the key to victory.  If we set our affections on the things above, where Christ is, and not on the things of this earth, placing our hopes fully in the promises of God, we can have victory over our flesh.  Having a false hope in the things that this world has to offer is the root of our problem with sin.  Also, God has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us, aiding in our transformation.  We have everything we need in Christ to obtain a victory over sin in our lives.

I believe that our enemy, the devil, wants to distract us and catch us off guard, not focused on living a holy, righteous life.  Much of western Christianity has fallen into this trap and allowed sins such as pornography, adultery, greed, jealousy, envy, strife, drunkenness, drug use, sexual promiscuity, etc. to put them into bondage.  Many of these sins are so rampant in our society and so well accepted that Christians are blinded to them or powerless over them.  And now they have been led to believe by the leadership of some western Christian church organizations that holiness and righteousness is not important because we are “saved by grace, not by works.”  Instead, these leaders should be admonishing their congregations to focus on pursuing holy, righteous lives by dying to their flesh, not focusing on material blessings, or spiritual manifestations, or even on gaining more converts by evangelism.

The same admonition that Paul gave to the Ephesians applies to us today.  Here is the rest of his words from the 5th chapter of the letter:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them, for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,  always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” Eph. 5: 1-20

Let us also be wise and make the most of our time here on earth.  This will secure our future inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jude’s Warning
The letter from Jude is one of the last books in the Bible, just before the book of Revelation.  It was written by a man who was believed to be the brother of Jesus and a leader in the early church.  The book is quite short, and a quick read.

At the start of the letter, after the greeting, Jude mentions that he would have rather written about his common salvation with the intended readers, but felt compelled rather to write a warning.  I’m sure that Jude was excited about his faith and wanted to share his excitement with others who felt the same as he did.  It’s always more rewarding to find a connection with other Christians and build one another up with your mutual faith.  At this time though, Jude felt it was more important to put out a warning.

Christian leaders and elders have two major responsibilities to the Christian community: First, to encourage and build up the brethren to continue in their spiritual walk of faith with their hope set on heaven, resulting in sanctification and the attaining of spiritual maturity; second, to warn and guard the brethren against false teaching or concepts that cause them to drift away from the core truths of the Christian faith.  Jude, in this letter, was doing the latter.

Jude’s warning is summarized in verse 4:

“For admission has been secretly gained by some who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

In other words, there were people who had become a part of their activities and fellowships, who joined in to their gatherings, and were part of the Christian community, who were ungodly, but they were not recognized as such.  Christians were engaged with these ungodly people, and were exchanging ideas and teachings.  Jude was warning that their teaching was in error.

Jude describes the teaching as follows: first, they pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness; second, they deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Let’s look at both of these errors.

Grace is perverted when it is used as an excuse, or shield, for ungodly behavior.  The word “licentious” means to lack moral or legal restraint. These people were either promoting or making an allowance for sinful behavior, or they were taking sin lightly.  I’m sure that the argument is similar to what is promoted today among some Christians, that since we can’t be perfect and will have some sin in our lives, we must accept that God will forgive us because we have been “saved”.   They say that we are all sinners and are only saved by God’s grace and mercy towards us, therefore we can allow for some sin in our lives (and God will understand because He is merciful).  The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans gives a similar warning against this same error to men who were  ungodly in their behavior:

“Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”  Romans 2:4

Remember that the repentance mentioned in this verse is not referring to just feeling bad about the sin that was committed, but it means that we must truly change and sin no more.

It is very clear in the scriptures that God expects us to be holy and blameless.  He wants us to live and walk in righteousness.  Yes, it is possible for us to live in this manner; if it were not so, why would Jude and Paul warn against this perversion of grace?

“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” 2 Peter 3:14

“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matt. 5:48

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.  For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” 1 Th. 4:3-8

Holiness and righteous living are only possible if we become spiritual.  I believe that the root cause of this error is that Christians want to remain carnal and worldly, and are unwilling to die to the things of this world and to their flesh.  Only death can lead to life, and it is spiritual life that leads to godliness.

It is true that we have all sinned and it is not within our power to erase that sin from our record.  Only the mercy and grace of God, shown to us though Jesus on the cross as a payment on our behalf, can make a way for us to be acceptable to God, allowing us a place in heaven.  No man can boast before God and declare that they have earned a right to be forgiven and allowed to enter heaven.  It is also true, that once having received God’s merciful forgiveness and acceptance, that we can disqualify ourselves by continuing in sin.  Our ungodly behavior can cause us to be rejected by God, even after we have been saved.  This is exactly what Jude is warning against.

The second part of Jude’s warning has to do with denying the Lordship of Jesus:

“…and (they) deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Although they could have possibly been verbally and directly denying that Jesus was the only Master and Lord, I think that the second part of the error that Jude mentions is related to their first error of licentiousness.   It is impossible to submit to the Lordship of Jesus if you remain carnal, or “in the flesh”.  You cannot serve two masters, either you will serve the flesh, or you will serve Jesus, but not both.  When people are allowing sin to reign in their lives, they must deny the Lordship of Jesus. Our conscience will also bear witness to this, that any sin in our lives is an offense to the Lordship of Jesus.  If we choose to continue in sin, then we will be forced to also deny the lordship of Jesus.

“And this is the condemnation, that the light (Jesus) has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”  John 3:19-21

Next Jude gives several examples of how God deals with ungodliness.  Jude first mentions how God was merciful to the Israelites by saving them from slavery in Egypt, but later he destroyed them because of their unbelief.  He also punished angels for “not keeping their proper domain”, and punished Sodom and Gomorrah and cities around them for “having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh.”  These were all done as example for us to learn from and to recognize that ungodly behavior will not go unpunished.

Jude continues by describing some of the behavior of these ungodly men, comparing them to men who had committed grave error in the past as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. He then reminds them that the apostles of Jesus had previously warned them that there would be such evil men in the world that they would encounter in the future in the “last time”.

Jude ends his letter with this recommendation to the brethren:

“But you , beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Verse 20

This was Jude’s direction for how the Christians should have been behaving, and how to protect against the erroneous teaching.  This is good direction for us also: we should build ourselves up and mature in our faith and  we should pray. We should walk in God’s love, and we should wait and look for the hope we have of eternal life in Christ Jesus.  I wholeheartedly agree with this recommendation of faith, hope and love.  Amen.

Be Free from Sin

“For he who has died is freed from sin”  Romans 6:7

Most people only accept something as true if they understand it completely and there are no outstanding questions pertaining to it.  As Christians, there are many things that we don’t totally understand but we must accept as true.  We have to come to grips with this approach to our understanding of life. There are many shows on TV and movies about detectives solving crimes.  They examine the facts and pursue leads.  They continue to expose more information and as soon as something makes sense and they answer all the unknowns, they then accept it as being true.  There are many other shows with scientists or doctors that take this same approach.  As Christians though, our approach must be different. Truth for the Christian is based on a revelation, not on our complete understanding of the facts surrounding the truths.  This can be difficult for us, just like it is difficult for some children to listen to their parents who have a deeper knowledge of some circumstances and establish rules that the children can’t fully understand. Our heavenly Father has revealed things to us in His word that we can’t fully understand, but we must accept as truth.  Logically, this makes perfect sense that some things that God has revealed cannot be fully understood by us.  We must remember that our knowledge is limited, but God’s is not.  In fact, we don’t even know how much we don’t know.  Our knowledge may be the equivalent to a single drop of water, compared to God’s knowledge equal to all the water in the oceans.  We are also limited to this physical world, but God is not.  We have very little understanding of the Spiritual world.  Recent discoveries, such as quantum mechanics, or the study of the physics surrounding sub-atomic particles, shows us how much we really don’t know, as one leading scientist once said, “ I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Some things God doesn’t want us to know or we don’t really need to know, but must trust in God and accept what He had revealed to us.  This is the exercise of our faith. This may be a subtle point, but I think it is very important that we recognize our need to accept truth based on the revelation in scripture, without totally understanding it.  We must allow the truths of God’s word to sink deep into our minds and thinking and become a reality.  The world is saturated in the mindset of proving and understanding the totality of things before accepting them as true.  This mindset can influence what we allow to enter into our subconscious minds so we must fight against it. I am not saying that we should not attempt to more fully understand the truths that are revealed, but we must realize that our increase in understanding comes not from discovering more facts to support the truth or discovering all of the unknowns, but it comes from piecing together multiple revealed truths that support one another.

The Truth of Adam’s Sin and its Impact on Mankind

An important part of the Christian world view, that I don’t fully understand, is the fact that Adam’s sin has been passed to all mankind.  It is not clear to me exactly what happened when Adam sinned.  I know that Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden, and the world was cursed, although we don’t know exactly what the world used to be like in the garden, nor do we know exactly what the curse had done to our current world.  I know that Satan somehow attained more power over our world, but it’s not very clear the extent of that power.  What I would like to look at though, is the truth about sin and its reign upon mankind as a result of Adam’s sin.

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…..“ Romans 5:12

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners……”  Romans 5:19

“…that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”  Romans 6:6

“But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin…..”  Romans 6:17

Reading through Romans, it is very clearly revealed that as a result of Adam’s sin all mankind was impacted; all mankind has been enslaved to sin.  Like I said, I don’t understand it completely, but it is true. It is interesting that we normally think of sin as a verb, or as an action that people do, but here in Romans 6 and 7, it is presented as a noun, as a thing or an entity. For example in chapter 7, it refers to sin as something that “dwells within us”.  It could be that there is some part of our human nature, passed on by heredity from Adam, that causes us to sin.   This would support the statement in Ephesians 2:3 “..and were by nature the children of wrath.”  I don’t completely buy this concept of a “sin nature” that is purely a biological part of us.  I think there would be more spoken about it in the epistles if it were the case. After reading, meditating, and studying this portion in Romans many times (I encourage you to read through Romans yourself), this is my take on this.  I think that Paul is referring to a condition that we have been placed in as Adam’s offspring that entraps us.  I think that the condition is the result of us being born into this world system.  It’s a result of us being in this physical world, in our flesh, facing death, with no hope outside of this life, focused on the physical things of this life and this world, focused on our own satisfaction and pleasure, and being encouraged to pursue success and fulfillment in our lives with the physical resources surrounding us.  Being in this situation makes us “carnal” by nature.  We are ensnared by this system and the result is an inability to do what we may even know in our mind is right according to our Creator.  By being born into this condition and being strongly influenced by our surroundings, we are powerless to resist following after our physically based desires that lead us into sin, or disobedience to God’s regulations. Being in this condition, when we are presented with the knowledge of God’s regulations the situation becomes worse.  The regulations expose the disobedience that we may not have been unaware of, and attempting to change while still being carnally minded is impossible.  This results in guilt that pushes us farther from God. Paul explains it like this:

“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. 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 (principle), that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law (principle) in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law (principle) of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  Romans 7:18-24

The use of the word law could be confusing in these verses.  I think the term “law of God” clearly means the law of Moses and all the regulations that God had given to His people.  The other use of the word law is better defined as a principle or a repeatable behavior that is present.  Paul explains that we are captive or enslaved to this principle that leads to sin and then death.  He also explains that this principle of sin is in our members.  I believe that it is this “sin”, or rather “principle of sin” that is passed to us from Adam.  If Adam had not sinned, we would not be in this situation, nor would we be faced with these conditions that invoke a behavior that leads to disobedience to God’s laws.

Death is the cure

This understanding then leads us to the next truth that is revealed, that is, that we can be freed from this cycle or pattern of sin and death that entraps and enslaves us by “considering ourselves as dead” to this physical world by dying with Christ.  This death with Christ changes the conditions that have enslaved us.  It changes the underlying conditions that create the captivity to the principle of sin.  In essence, we can die to “sin”.

“How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”  Romans 6:2&3

“”Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.” Romans 6: 6&7

It’s this death that truly changes us.  We are transformed from being carnally minded to being spiritually minded.  All of those pre-conditions that have placed us under the slavery of sin can be removed. Our focus can be on heaven rather than this life; we now have a hope of eternal life and have victory over death; our desire is now to please God, rather than pleasing ourselves; we can be in this world but not of this world; we can store up our treasures in heaven and set our affections on those heavenly things. Ironically, this death leads to life, and in fact, you can’t find the new life unless you first die.

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death that he died, he died to sin once for all; but, the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon (or consider) yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Amen.