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Victory over Sin

What does it mean to Walk in the Spirit?

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust (strong desires) of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

The Scriptures have revealed to us that the sin in our lives is rooted in our desires.  We are tempted by our desires and then, as these desires further develop in us, the result is sin.  The book of James says it this way:

“But each man is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin.” James 1: 14 – 15

Knowing, then, that our desires are the root cause of sin, it is important for us to understand how to deal with our strong desires and the lust of the flesh.  According to this verse in Galatians 5 (quoted above), walking in the Spirit is the key to changing or overcoming our fleshly desires and, therefore, it is the key to our victory over sin.  The Scriptures in Galatians 5 continue as follows:

“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Galatians 5: 17

We must understand that there is a conflict within us between our fleshly desires and the Spirit, and we must make sure that we are following (or walking after) the Spirit and not after the flesh.

And later in the same chapter of Galatians it says this:

“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5: 24, 25

Christians who are well versed in the Scriptures understand that they must put to death, or put an end to, the strong desires of their flesh that are tied to their old nature, and that are tied to this world and the things that this world has to offer us.  We have shifted our desires and affections to spiritual things rather than physical things, setting our hope on the promise of eternal life in heaven and the unseen reality that accompanies this spiritual, heavenly future place for us.

I have written in more detail on this topic in the past, focusing on the need for us to put to death or crucify our passions and desires, and the shift of our hope from the things of this world to the promise of heaven and eternal life.  Here’s a link to one of the previous posts on this topic: https://flaniganjames.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/walk-in-the-spirit/

In this writing, I would like to focus more on a Christian’s spiritual mindedness. Christians must also make a change in the way that they think in order to correctly walk in the Spirit.  They must shift their dependency on their natural minds and lean more on the guidance and direction of the Spirit.  I can tell you right now that this is utter foolishness to the non-Christian, and unfortunately, is foreign to many Christians.  Christians must learn to look to the Spirit and not to their own natural, logical thoughts as they are guided through this life.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” Romans 12: 2

In order to better understand this truth, we must remember that we are made up of three parts.  We have a spirit, a soul, and a body.  The body is all that is physical in us: our organs, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones.  The soul consists of our mind, our thoughts, and our emotions.  The spirit is the part of us that is connected with the Holy Spirit and is also linked to our conscience.  By the spirit we are able to discern spiritual things.

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.  The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2: 12 – 13

In the light of these three areas of our being, as Christians, it is our goal to have our spirit rule over our soul and body.  For the secular or unspiritual man, their spirit is dead, for we must be born of the spirit in order for our spirit to come alive.  As a result, there are only two possible conditions: their body, or flesh, rules over their soul (mind), or, their soul has partial rule over their body.  Some people have disciplined their bodies to submit to their soul and are able to control their body, keeping their body under submission, but this control from their soul does not work in the long run, and it does not make them spiritual, although some religious people suggest that physical rigor produces spirituality (this is not true).  The Apostle Paul, when speaking of physical religious restrictions, said this to the Colossians:

“These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh.” Colossians 2: 23

Attempting to focus on training our body to obey our mind or will is not a solution; it will not make us spiritual and therefore cannot produce love in us.

As Christians we must not be fooled into thinking that we are spiritual if we have our soul (our natural mind) rule over our body. This does not make us spiritual and is not enough!  We must have our spirit, in tune with the Holy Spirit, to be ruling over our soul, and then our soul to be ruling over our body.

Our unspiritual desires can originate from our soul, not just from our body.  I think this is an error that can lead to problems for Christians. We must recognize that our natural minds can also be the source of unspiritual desires that are contrary to the Spirit and therefore can lead to sin.

To be clear about this, it is not wrong to have desires from either your soul or your body, but we must recognize what they are and not allow them to “conceive and give birth to sin” as the verse in James (quoted above) suggests.  We must be able to recognize when they are in conflict with the spirit, or when they are taking too deep of a hold on our lives, influencing our emotions and actions.

Additionally, we must recognize that walking in the Spirit is not always about suppressing or guarding against desires that lead to sin.  We also need the Spirit’s direction in our lives.  We need to know God’s will and work to accomplish His desires.  We need to go with the spiritual “flow” of things in our lives, and not succumb to the flow that comes from our carnal, natural mind.  It is important that we are able to discern the moving of the Spirit in the day to day circumstances that we encounter so that we are in tune with His guidance and direction.

I would like to refer now to a portion of Scripture in the Gospel of John that I believe illustrates the difference between using our logical, natural mind and following the leading of the Spirit.  By the way, there are many, many places in the Scriptures that illustrate this, but I happened to be reading this recently.  The account is in the 21st chapter of the Gospel of John.  The background is that a group of disciples including Peter and John, a total of about 7 men, were by the sea of Tiberias.  We’ll pick up the story from the Scriptures here:

“Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.  But when morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’  They answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’  So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.  Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ “ John 21: 3-7

Let’s examine what was happening here.  First some background: For those of you not already familiar with this portion of Scripture, you should know that this event occurred after the death and resurrection of Jesus, but it was before they Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples on the day of Pentecost.  You should also know that these men were fishermen by trade and had fished these waters for many years, learning from their parents, who were also fishermen.

Exactly why Peter decided to go out and fish is not clear, but I would think that since it was part of his livelihood, he most likely had assessed the conditions and thought that this was an ideal time to go out to fish.  I would also think that he was against wasting time, both his time and the other six men with him.  Using his experience as a fisherman and possibly some other logical and sensible reasoning, he decided to go out to fish for the night, and his fellow disciples, trusting his leadership in this, decided to join him.

On the following morning, after being out fishing all night, which I assume meant that they spent the entire night casting their nets and hauling them in only to find them empty, they were returning to the shore and were confronted by a man who told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat and they would catch fish.  They didn’t know that it was Jesus.  For some reason, they listened to the man and it turned out to be exactly as he said, they caught many, many fish, so many that they could not haul them into the boat.

Immediately, we see what seems to be a very reasonable and logical endeavor, initiated by Peter, who was an expert fisherman, ending in complete failure.  And then, what seems to be unreasonable and illogical, to listen to the directions of some stranger on the shore, resulting in a bountiful success.

I wonder what the disciples thought when the stranger called to them.  Why didn’t they question him since they didn’t know that it was Jesus?  I think they must have had some spiritual discernment to know that there was something happening spiritually, even though they didn’t immediately recognize that it was Jesus.

The lesson here is simple.  We must recognize, no matter how much we think we know, or how much of an expert we think we are, or how reasonable or logical we think our plans are, that our natural minds are far inferior to the knowledge and direction of the Spirit of God.  We must therefore be more inclined to look to the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction, then to look to the logic and reasoning of our natural minds.

I am not saying that it was evil or necessarily wrong for Peter and the other disciples to go out to fish that night.  We must recognize that if they would have stayed on shore for the night and saw Jesus the next day, that it is possible that Jesus could have directed them to go out and drop their nets and catch many fish.  It would have saved them a night of toil that got them no fish.

I also find it interesting that the disciples didn’t ask Jesus for help.  His actions were not a response to their requests.  It seemed that Jesus knew they hadn’t caught any fish and came to their help without them asking. God knows what we need before we even ask for it; He knows our situation and what is best for us.

Here’s what’s hard: we are not always able to hear clearly from the Holy Spirit to get direction from Him, and are therefore tempted to move out on our own without waiting for His guidance.  I have found in my own life that waiting is always better and when we are following the direction of God’s Spirit, we can be assured that His plan will work best.  We need to hone our skills of discernment so that we can recognize the leading of the Spirit or recognize when it is our own natural minds.  We need to understand that many times what is logical and reasonable is most likely from our own minds and many times God’s direction will appear to be unreasonable and illogical.  I believe that this is because He will get the glory from the results when we know that the direction came from Him and not our logical and reasonable thinking.  This is difficult for many Christians because following the direction of the Spirit can make us look stupid, or unwise according to worldly wisdom, or put us in a position that is against all sound reason and therefore in conflict with our friends and family.

Walking in the Spirit means that we are aware and aligned with the moving of the Spirit, depending more on His direction and guidance than on our own natural mind and the associated logic and reasoning.  Functioning in our own natural mind will bear little or no fruit whereas functioning under the direction of the Holy Spirit will always be productive.  I have learned the hard way that every time I move out on my own energy and planning it ends up being a waste of time and effort.

There are times though that following our natural mind and thoughts can get us into spiritual trouble.  We can miss God’s plan and purpose in certain circumstances and this can be wrong and evil.  The best example in the Scriptures is that of Peter rebuking the Lord for saying that He was going to suffer and die at the hands of the religious Jews.  Here’s the account of this situation in Matthew:

“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised on the third day.  Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to you!’  But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God but the things of men.’ “ Matthew 16: 21 – 23

In this situation, Jesus called Peter “Satan” because he was “mindful of the things of men and not mindful of the things of God.”  In other words, he was being led by his natural mind and not following his spiritual mind.

Our natural minds are limited to the information from this physical world or what Jesus called “the things of men” in the above quote.  To Peter, who was looking only at the physical situation without a regard for the spiritual (things of God), it was perfectly logical and rational to conclude that it was a bad idea for Jesus to go to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed.

It should also be noted that Peter may have thought that he was aligned with the things of God since he had incorrectly interpreted the Lord’s purpose, thinking that He was going to establish His physical kingdom at this time.  We too must be careful that we are not basing our thinking incorrect information that would possibly mislead us into thinking that we are being spiritual but in fact are carnal.  Being open to the guidance of our conscience and the help of the Spirit should correct this situation.  In other words, when we are walking in the spirit, attempting to follow the flow of the Spirit and align with the things of God, we must be open to the communication of the Spirit and the guidance of our conscience.

In summary, walking in the Spirit is not just putting to death those things that are associated with our physical body, but it requires that we also put aside our logical natural thinking and instead be guided by the Holy Spirit.   We do this by prayerfully listening to His voice, that still, small voice that we have come to recognize as the Lord’s voice.  We also must allow our conscience to guide us as it is connected to the Spirit’s guidance.  Although listening and following the Spirit’s leading can cause us to look foolish to others, it will be the best and most productive path for us to follow.  Learning to walk in the Spirit in this manner takes time and practice and we will possibly fail or miss it, but God is faithful to help us and correct us in all of our efforts when we do so sincerely seeking to please Him.

May the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ bless you with the ability to hear His voice clearly and with the strength to follow Him wholly and completely until the end.  Amen.

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The Lord Requires Obedience

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15: 22

Obedience to the Lord is difficult for us because it first requires that we recognize and submit to the authority of the Lord, and then for us to be attentive to Him about what He expects from us, and finally, we then must determine in our hearts to heed His requirements.  For most Christians it is easy to accept His love and forgiveness, to receive His many benefits like His guidance and direction for our lives, or His healings of body and mind, and His many blessings.  It is much more difficult for Christians to turn over the “reigns” of their life to the Lord totally, submitting to His commandments and instructions in every area.

My purpose in writing this message is to encourage Christians to pay attention to this need to obey the Lord, not only the commandments that are written in His word but also in the things that He has placed upon your heart, and has spoken to you about individually.  This is a reminder that obedience is important to the Lord.

Some Christians are confused about obedience, thinking that any one mentioning it as a requirement is being legalistic.  This idea is false and is only used as an excuse by those who wish to continue in disobedience.

The New Testament of the Bible does not remove the requirement for obedience to God’s commands, but rather supports it. It first exposes the error of the Old Testament of attempting to be obedient to God without faith, and thinking that this faithless attempt at obedience will merit a place in God’s family and kingdom.  The result of this erroneous approach of focusing on obedience without having a true, living faith, is that God’s requirements are eventually either made less important than, or even replaced by, men’s requirements, rituals, and traditions.

Although the Israelites from the time of Moses on were attempting to make themselves right before God by focusing on being obedient to the laws that were given to them through Moses, they failed because they did not have true faith.

“But that Israel who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law.  Why? Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” Romans 9:31-32

J.B. Phillips translation of verse 32:

“And why? Because their minds were fixed on what they achieved instead of what they believed.”

But the error of the Israelites and the later shift in the New Testament to faith and grace, does not remove the requirement that we must be obedient to God’s rules, laws, commandments, etc.

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then releases one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 17-19

On the contrary, the New Testament now gives us the power to keep the laws and commandments of God by giving us a true, living faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We now can walk in the spirit, having the law written on our hearts and doing by nature the things that God requires.  By becoming spiritual in nature, we can walk in love, and love fulfills all of the laws of God.

“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

As Christians, with the Holy Spirit intimately connected with us and abiding in us, our conscience is alive and fully functioning.  So rather than focusing on a list of do’s and don’ts, we can now allow our conscience to guide us as we focus on walking in the spirit and walking in love.  We need to be assured that our conscience is clear, allowing the Holy Spirit the freedom to show us clearly what needs to be corrected when our conscience is accusing us.

“They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts. While their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them”  Romans 2: 15

My main point here is to emphasize that Christians need to be mindful of this requirement of obedience and that God expects obedience from us.  As stated earlier, this means that we need to recognize and submit to His authority and all authority that has been established by Him, and we must be open to His directions and instructions for us, listening to His voice and heeding it.

There is a very interesting portion of Scripture from the book of Jeremiah that emphasizes this need to be open and aware of the Lord’s instructions and to obey them:

“Then came the word of the Lord to Jeremiah saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ‘Will you not receive instruction to obey my words?’ says the Lord. The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are performed; for to this day they drink none, and obey their father’s commandment. But although I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, you did not obey Me. I have also sent to you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying “Turn now everyone from his evil way, amend your doings, and do not go after other gods to serve them; then you will dwell in the land which I have given you and your fathers.” But you have not inclined you ear nor obeyed Me. Surely the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commended them, but this people has not obeyed Me.”’” Jeremiah 35: 12-16

I find it interesting that God was aware of the obedience of the sons of Jonadab to their father.  He is aware and honors our obedience in all circumstances.

As for the error of the Israelites, the Lord says there are two (vs. 15): “But you have not inclined your ear nor obeyed Me.” The two are: 1) not listening, 2) not obeying.

By not “inclining their ear” I assume He means that they were not attentive to His instruction; they didn’t listen for it.  I say again, this is the important lesson for us, to be aware of the requirement of obeying His instructions and listening attentively to His voice.  Also, we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and our conscience.

One last warning: we are very good at making excuses for ourselves for why we don’t obey the Lord.  Don’t deceive yourself.  God knows your heart anyway so there is no sense in making excuses.

In 1 Samuel chapter 15, Saul was instructed by the Lord to destroy completely or exterminate the Amalekites, but he didn’t do so and was rebuked by the prophet Samuel and was rejected by the Lord.  When Samuel confronted Saul, he first made an excuse:

“But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord God in Gilgal.” 1 Sam. 15:21

Samuel’s response was longer than this, but the gist of it was in the above quote at the start of this writing:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam. 15: 22

After this Saul admits to Samuel that he sinned:

“Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.’” 1 Sam. 15: 24

In closing I urge you to listen attentively to the Lord’s instructions for you, and be strong and committed to perform them completely.  God will honor this obedience both now and in the future in heaven.

I leave you with this exhortation that Paul the Apostle gave to Timothy, his son in the Lord, regarding the law:

“Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk,  desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” 1 Timothy  1: 5-11

Amen.

Jesus is the Second Adam

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”  1 Cor. 15:22

Back in the late 70’s my sister moved from our hometown in PA to Denver  to work at a new job after graduating from college.  While there she got involved with a religious group called the Unification Church whose founder was Sun Myung Moon.  At the time I did some research into Moon’s teachings, comparing them to the Bible.  Having concluded that his teaching, the “divine principle”, was a lie and not based on biblical truth, I then attempted (unsuccessfully) to convince my sister of the error.

The reason I mention this is because Moon’s divine principle teaches that Jesus failed His mission.  Here’s a quote I found under the Unification church in Wikipedia: “Unfortunately Jesus was unable to complete his mission of perfecting the world and went the way of the cross”.  Moon claims that now, since Jesus failed, that he (Moon) is the new messiah who came to establish a “true family” to correct and restore what was corrupted by Adam and Eve, to accomplish what was the original mission of Jesus.

Was the real mission of Jesus to get married and establish a “true family” to create a divine lineage to perfect the world?  Absolutely not. There are no prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah that aligns with this thought.  Also, Jesus was resurrected and is still alive.  He appeared to His disciples and never mentioned any “change in plan” to them.  He didn’t say, “Hey guys, I was supposed to get married and start a family, but that didn’t happen so someone else will be coming to do this.”  On the contrary, here is what Peter spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost:

“- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men, “ Acts 2: 23

In another version it says “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God”.  Clearly, Peter saw this as God’s plan, and this was also inspired by the Holy Spirit to be included in the Scriptural account.

Paul, in his defense to King Agrippa recorded in the book of Acts, stated that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of Moses and the Old Testament prophets by suffering and then being raised from the dead:

“To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that Christ must suffer, and that by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles” Acts 26:22-23

Why would Moses and the prophets predict that Christ must suffer and rise from the dead if His real mission was to start a new family?  There is no prophecy about the Christ coming to start a new family!

Also, the Scriptures confirm that Jesus was successful and victorious, having been elevated by God the Father to be seated above all things in this age and the age to come:

“according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  Ephesians 1: 19-23

So Moon claimed to be a “second Adam” in the sense that he came to correct what Adam had corrupted.  Moon claimed that by starting a “true family” and a new “divine” lineage from this family, the world will be perfected, and put back to the state that it was in before the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden.  Unfortunately, this claim is false and does not align with the truths that are revealed in the Scriptures.  As I stated above, Jesus was successful in His mission and He has corrected the results of the sin of Adam and Eve.  Jesus is the second Adam. Let’s look closer at this.

So what was the mission of Jesus?  Jesus came to establish the promise of eternal life for all men.  He did this by conquering death.  His righteous life and obedience to the will of God the Father, submitting to His death on the cross as a sacrifice of redemption for all men’s sin, resulted in His subsequent resurrection from the dead.

Man’s real enemy is death; the death that was brought on by Adam.  This death has brought hopelessness, resulting in bondage.  Jesus came to gain victory over death and to establish a living hope to free us from bondage.

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [i.e. died].  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.  Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” 1 Cor. 15: 20-26

And also:

“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’  ‘O Death, where is your Sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’  The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 15: 54-57

Jesus’ death on the cross has also reconciled us with God, or restored a right relationship with Him.  As we put our faith in God’s promise though Jesus, we are then pardoned of our past sins, receiving forgiveness and justification by the sacrifice of Jesus.  Adam’s act of disobedience brought sin to all men resulting in God’s wrath.  Jesus’ act of righteousness resulted in forgiveness for all men, justified by His blood.

“But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only that but we also rejoice in God through Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.  Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.  Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. “ Romans 5: 8-12,14

Jesus was the second Adam because He corrected what Adam had done.  Adam brought death; Jesus brought eternal life.

“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” Romans 5:18

“so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Romans 5: 21

This foundation that Jesus laid by conquering death and reconciling us to God is the very foundation of our Christian life that we must build on.  It is the basis of our faith.

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it.  But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  1 Cor. 3:9-11

It is the ploy of the enemy to get us to focus on this world and not on the next.  Our true hope is not for a change to occur in this current world, but rather our true hope is for a new heaven and new earth that will replace this current world.  This current world will be destroyed by fire.

By the way, Sun Myung Moon has claimed that he is the second coming of christ and that he will establish a new world order by starting a true family.  Jesus warned that many will come in His name claiming to be the Christ.  It is interesting that recently one of Moon’s sons committed suicide by leaping to his death from a 17 story building in Reno, Nevada.  As a result of this suicide, even those who are not familiar with or accept the Biblical warning against false christs should be questioning the validity of Moon’s family being  “perfected” and restored from the results of Adam’s sin.  The only true correction and perfection will occur when Jesus returns – the true second coming.

Having our hope set on some promised change or restoration that will occur in this world is not Biblical.  When we have our hope set on a false promise of change in this world, we ultimately get caught up in the things of this world.  Focus on this world will feed the flesh, even if the promised future is based on good things, like God’s kingdom and love, etc., it’s still in this world and will keep the flesh alive.  Material possessions, fame, success, pleasures, etc. will all become a part of the situation when the focus is on this world.  Of course, they will be sugar coated and seen as good and necessary for the progress of the movement towards the worldly hope.

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. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8: 5-8

Don’t be deceived or fooled.  The Bible instructs us to consider ourselves as temporary residents and pilgrims just passing through this world on our way to the promised hope for a new heaven and earth. We await the return of Jesus Christ, the King, to establish His kingdom on this new heaven and new earth.  The old, cursed ones will be destroyed.  This is our blessed hope.

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.  God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’  Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ “  Rev. 21: 1-5

This is the hope that I am waiting for.  I reject any lie that suggests that we should shift our hope from that new heaven and earth, to some promise of “perfecting this world.”  Please remain steadfast in this hope.

“And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will give of the fountain of life freely to him who thirsts.  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son”  Rev. 21: 6-7

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.

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This week I was reading the book of Micah in the Old Testament. God used Micah to confront the sins of the people of Israel and Judah:  “Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil upon their beds!  When the morning dawns they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand.  They covet fields, and seize them; and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.”  And regarding idolatry and witchcraft: “…and I will cut off sorceries from your land, and you shall have no more soothsayers; and I will cut off images and your pillars from among you, and you shall bow down no more to the work of your hands.”   And He reminded them what the Lord had required of them:  “…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Most of the writings of the prophets were to rebuke the people’s sin.  God is a holy God and sin is of extreme importance to Him, as indicated in His Word.

Jesus said that if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, or if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to go to heaven without an eye or a hand, then to go to hell with them.  Here Jesus uses an extreme to make a point.  What is more important to you than your eye or your hand?  Yet, they are to be discarded, or removed, if they cause you to sin.  Essentially He is saying that sin is of critical importance.  Sin is a major theme throughout the New Testament, in the teachings of Jesus, the writings Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John, yet we don’t like to hear about sin.  Sin is uncomfortable or even painful for us to deal with.  There is guilt associated with it that gives rise to pain.  Or our pride can get in the way of us admitting our sin.

Another way of saying this is that God requires holiness from us, and not just a “positional” holiness that comes from us accepting the covering of the sacrifice of Jesus, but we need to literally walk in holiness.  I’ve heard the response to this kind of statement many times: “we can’t be perfect!  Nobody was perfect except for Jesus…”  Unfortunately, for many Christians, there is a misunderstanding of both sin and holiness.

One of the first things we need to understand is that the holiness that God desires is equal to walking in love.  The scriptures say this: “..for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”  And “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”  Jesus also said “All the law and all the prophets can be summed up in this one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is the real requirement, that we love one another and love God “with all of our heart, mind and soul.”

The second truth that we need to understand is that sin is a symptom of a deeper issue.  It’s comparable to fruit on a tree.  If the fruit is missing, the issue is at the root of the tree.  Like the parable that Jesus told, there may be a need to dig out around the root and refill it with better soil or manure.  For Christians, the root cause of our sin is our misunderstanding of faith and hope.  True living faith, combined with a living hope will produce a godly love in us, a spiritual love that fulfills the law and causes us to walk in holiness.

When the Israelites were given the law, they failed to attain the righteousness of the law because they didn’t pursue it with faith.  Romans 9: 31&32: “but that Israel who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law.  Why? Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works.  They have stumbled over the stumbling stone…”  In verse 30, immediately before these verses, it states: “that the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith.”  And again, this was, I believe, a literal righteousness.  The Gentiles were walking in love and therefore fulfilling the law, and they were doing this because of their faith.

Let me summarize at this point.  God requires of his people to walk in holiness and righteousness, or really to take on his divine nature which is one of true love and not selfishness (see 1 Corinthians 13).  The means of attaining this is through faith, but we need to be careful that we understand the biblical faith that is required for this.

There is another important component that I need to point out, and that is that true faith will cause us to be spiritual.  When we are born of the spirit, we then learn to walk in the spirit.  The law is spiritual, as it explicitly states in Romans 7:14: “We know that the law is spiritual…”, so we must be spiritual to fulfill the law.  It is also interesting to note that the scriptures also say that “God is Spirit” and “God is love”, so it stands to reason that we need to be spiritual to truly walk in love and fulfill the law.  I also like what it says in Galatians 5: 16, “If you walk in the Spirit, you will not gratify the deeds of the flesh.”

But how do we become spiritual?  I would like to talk about this more extensively in the future.  In short, we need to fully and totally immerse ourselves in the reality of the promise that has come to us from Jesus as the Messiah.  This world is cursed and we don’t belong here, but Jesus has made a way for us to become a part of a future world that will be established by the true and living God.  We must place our hope and desire totally in this future promise, and separate our hopes and desires from this current cursed world.  The scriptures advise us to consider ourselves dead to this world system, but alive to the new systems where Jesus has gone.  Jesus also said that we should store up our treasures there with Him, in heaven, and wait for Jesus to return and establish this new system here, destroying the old system.  If you truly do this, you will become spiritual and will learn to walk in love.

Being spiritual also means that our inner desires have changed.  What we long for, what we covet, and what we are living for, all is now focused on spiritual, eternal, things rather than earthly, temporal, things.  This is the real key to victory over sin in our lives.  James 1:14 & 15 shows us that sin is really an outgrowth of our desires.  “…but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”  So as we put to death these earthly desires in our heart, and set our affections on things above that are spiritual and eternal, we will correct the root cause of the bad fruit of sin, and the result will be the good fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law (Galatians 5: 22&23).  Verse 24 of Galatians 5 goes on to say “and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  In other words, they have dealt with the root cause of sin, and are now producing the good fruit of the spirit, rather than having the deadly symptoms of sin.