Freedom Gone Bad

Jesus Christ set you free from the penalty and power of sin. His death, burial and resurrection broke the chains that bound you. Now that you belong to Christ, sin has lost its power and control over you.

Sin wants it back. Through the temptations of the world and the desires of the flesh, sin subtly works to regain control. You don’t have to listen or give in. You have Jesus Christ living in you. You are one with his Spirit. You are free.

Listen to this message I delivered at Church Without Religion in Lubbock, TX. I share how God works out this freedom in your life everyday as you abide in his truth.

The New Desires of the Heart

Most of us are familiar with Ephesians 2:8-10. This is the passage quoted most often to affirm that salvation is a free gift, not something that can be earned through human effort. Here is the passage:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Most of us stop with verse 9. When we do, we miss the full impact of God’s purpose in saving us by grace. According to verse 10, this gospel message extends well beyond that moment when we cross over from death to life. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection ushers us into a new way of life altogether, one characterized by good works.

These good works have been prepared for us beforehand by God. And as a new creature in Christ, we are to walk in them. But how do we know what they are?

In one of their many conversations with the Lord, the disciples asked Jesus this: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:28)

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).

Paul echoes this truth in Colossians 2:6: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” This new life that we have been raised to live is a life of faith. But this still begs the question concerning good works. Isn’t there something that God wants us to do other than merely trust Him?

In a word, no. We are His workmanship. What counts as far as God is concerned is faith in Jesus. As we trust Him and our hearts respond to the leading of His Spirit in us, we will see the good works He has prepared for us begin to flow through us. And they will be recognizable.

Here is how. First, God gives us new desires. Paul calls them the desires of the Spirit. According to the terms of the New Covenant, these desires equate to the laws God puts into our minds and writes on our hearts. They flow from God’s love and are different, night and day, from the desires of the flesh.

Forgiveness is one of those desires God’s Spirit works in us. It is not normal, humanly speaking, to want to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply. But as children of God, forgiveness of others is a work God has prepared for us to walk in. We know it because God places that desire to forgive in us.

Next, the results of walking in those desires, living them out, can be attributed only to God. We can never be sure how someone will respond. Our imaginations are quick to jump to the negative possibilities, but God always has a better outcome in mind.
Calling up all the courage that we can, we step out in faith and extend forgiveness. What we first experience happens inside. Extending forgiveness calms the soul, brings peace to the heart and turns an anxious moment into one that surpasses understanding.

And then we see God’s work within the relationship. Maybe not instantly, but over time, it becomes clearer to us just how He is working what was a painful situation together for good. Couples on the verge of divorce have testified to the power of forgiveness in restoring their marriage. Assemblies of believers that were divided have come back together as they have walked in the forgiveness of God.

What happens both within and without is far too extraordinary to attribute to human effort. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Let’s walk in them.

How to Walk in the Spirit

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). To live in the Spirit is to be controlled by the love of God. This new life we have been raised to walk in is faith in Jesus Christ expressed in love to others.

Through His Spirit, God has poured His love into our hearts and has given us the desire to walk by faith in Jesus. As we do, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Learning to say “no” is the by-product of saying “yes” to the Spirit.

It is important to understand this distinction. So many well-intentioned believers spend a life time trying to overcome sin in their lives. They wake up each morning with this prayer on their lips: “Lord, please help me to not sin today.” At the end of the day, all they have is another unanswered prayer.

A better prayer is this: “Lord, teach me to abide in you and to follow the leading of God’s Spirit in my life.” God’s Spirit is never going to lead you into sin. He leads you to trust in the Lord, to live righteous and upright lives. He leads you to love and serve others. If living out the Spirit’s work in your life, you will automatically be saying “no” to sin. Peter put it this way:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Walking in the Spirit is trusting God to complete the work He began in you. You can count on Him to complete this task, even when you do not fully cooperate. This is His promise: “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…”

When we do get off course, and we will, the Holy Spirit merely recalculates our journey and continues His work in conforming us to the image of His Son. He does so without condemnation. Nor does He manipulate us with fear and guilt to get us back on track. He uses our mistakes, reminding us of the forgiveness we have in Christ, and works them together for our good. He comforts our hearts with this amazing promise: “that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

You are not alone on your journey. Jesus is there with you every step of the way. Trust Him, rely upon Him, and live out what He is working in your life. When you do you will be saying “no” to sin and “yes’ to the will of God.

The center of God’s will, that’s the place where believers are to live their lives. Temptation may look exciting; the world makes sure of that. But it has nothing on its menu that can satisfy the soul and bring contentment to the heart.

The world promises happiness, but delivers pain, sorrow and misery. There is only one person who does deliver on his promises, Jesus. And He gives so much more than mere happiness. Peace, contentment, a life of godliness and love: these are His gifts of grace to us.

And there is nothing more rewarding than experiencing Jesus living His life through you.

It is time for us abandon ourselves to Jesus, to put all that we are in His hands. It is time for us to live out Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Let’s walk by the Spirit and discover that His will is good, pleasing and perfect for us.

The Practical Work of the Holy Spirit

Apart from God’s Spirit, we do not have the power to live the Christian life. But with Him in our lives, we can experience Christ’s life in abundance. Here are six key ways that He makes this a reality for you.

  • God’s Spirit makes you alive in Christ.

Titus 3:4-5 (NIV)
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

  • He assures you that you are a child of God.

Romans 8:16 (NIV)
 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

  • He, as your comforter and counselor, guides you into all truth by taking the things of Jesus and making them known to you.

John 16:13-14 (NIV)
 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.

  • He gives us the power to understand and experience the love of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

  • He works in you to will and to do of God’s good pleasure.

Philippians 2:13 (NIV)
 For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

  • He expresses the fruit of His life through you.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The disciples recognized that what happened to them at Pentecost was, as JB Phillips wrote: “…quite plainly the invasion of their lives by a new quality of life altogether. They do not hesitate to describe this as Christ living in them.” You have received the same gift. God’s Spirit is alive in you, and manifesting the life of Christ through you.

The Temple That God Built and the Purpose of Pentecost

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples they would “be baptized by the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4, 5). Jesus described it this way: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” What it all meant, they were not sure, but it had to do with the Holy Spirit and power.

On the morning of the day of Pentecost, their wait was punctuated by the sound of rushing wind, and tongues of fire. These men, the disciples, were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke languages unknown to them.

The sound brought Jerusalem to life. Activity in the city began to move at a rapid pace as the people hurried to the place where the disciples had gathered. They were curious. What is this strange thing that is happening?

Peter stood and offered the words of the prophet Joel as the explanation—the long awaited gift of God’s Spirit had come. God had a new dwelling place on earth—the hearts of men.

His dwelling place was once in the tabernacle that Moses built. This tabernacle traveled with the people of Israel through the wilderness. Within the tabernacle was the Holy of Holies, which was considered to be God’s earthly dwelling place. Exodus 40:34 says the “glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” God’s presence was seen as a cloud on the tabernacle by day and a fire by night.

David envisioned a more permanent dwelling place for God, a temple built according to the pattern given to Moses. But God prohibited David from building it. That assignment fell to Solomon, his son. When the construction was complete, Solomon dedicated the temple.

2 Chronicles 7 records the scene: “As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.’”

Solomon’s temple was destroyed. A new one was built years later and was refurbished by Herod, but God’s glory never filled this new one. God had something else in mind, a temple not built by human hands.

On the day of Pentecost a new temple was dedicated, and God’s glory filled it by the giving of the Holy Spirit. The tongues of fire and the sound of rushing wind indicated His presence. Believers in Christ had now become the dwelling place of God.

Jesus’ death on the cross made this reality possible. He cleansed us once and for all so that He could take up residence in our hearts. Paul described it as Christ living in us, our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). This event happens afresh every time a heart responds in faith to the message of Christ, and the fire of God comes to live inside.

Where does God live today? In the hearts of his people. We are the temple of God. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Relationship Destroyer #2 – The Braggart

The word boast in Greek, which is only used in 1 Corinthians 13:4, comes from a word that means braggart. Braggarts brag or boast. It’s what they do. But not God, not love.

You probably know people who love to brag and boast. They talk about their accomplishments, and all the stuff they have, and who they know, as if they are special or superior to everyone else. They think more highly of themselves than they ought, as Paul would say. They make you feel “little” in their presence. How could you call that love? It’s not.

The Bible calls it worldliness. John the Apostle wrote, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For every¬thing in the world, the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does, comes not from the Father but from the world” (I John 2:15-16). Boasting does not come from God. Here is the reason.

Boasting is nothing more than a lie. Think about it. Those who boast and brag think they are superior to everyone else. Is that true? They may have more stuff and greater accomplishments, but does that make them better than anyone else. According to the Bible, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We all stand as equals at the foot of the cross.

Those who boast put others down. They humiliate those who, in their opinion, do not measure up. This was happening in Corinth. The rich in Corinth looked at their wealth as a sign of God’s approval. They despised the poor and would not associate with them, even at the Lord’s Supper. Paul confronted this evil head on. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Those who boast are self-centered to the max. They seem to live to put others down. The dignity of others is of no concern to these braggarts. Paul warns that this self-centered bragging will be one of the causes of trouble during the last days. His words are alarming: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (2 Timothy 3:2-5).

Aren’t you glad that God is not like this, that He does not brag or boast? He could. He has much to boast about. He spoke, and the world came into existence. He conquered death. Who are we in comparison? Yet, He is mindful of us. I love what the writer of Hebrews had to say about Jesus: He is not ashamed to call us brothers. Jesus became one of us, was tempted like we are and tasted death so that we could become like Him. That’s love, a love that does not brag or boast, but reaches out.

Yes, we are humbled in His presence, but we are never humiliated. We may feel that He is miles away, yet in grace He draws us near. In love, He calls us, who were sinners by birth, His own. This is God, the One who “…chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31).

Excerpted from Love Is – http://loveisbook.net/

Seven Relationship Builders

Relationships…talk about the ultimate challenge in life.

relationship

Learning to get along with another human being is just plain hard. It is an experience filled with heartache and pain and personal turmoil.

Your beliefs get tested and all your inner struggles and insecurities get revealed.

Yet, you power through because you know relationships are the best part of life.

You want to care and to be cared for. You want to know and to be known. You want to love and to be loved.

This just doesn’t happen. Relationships are built. They start with a good foundation and then with the right building materials grow and deepen over time.

Jesus is the foundation. He has equipped you with everything you need to build enduring and fulfilling relationships.

As you trust Him, you will see these seven relationship builders forming and shaping every relationship you have.

  1. Patience
  2. Kindness
  3. Truth
  4. Protection
  5. Trust
  6. Hope
  7. Perseverance

Relationships are the best part of life when they are built on the love of God.

The Cure for Worry!

I have yet to meet a person who does not worry. It’s part of our DNA. Some people are more prone to it than others. It’s just a fact of life; everyone worries to some degree or another.

Jesus understands this.

He doesn’t get mad at us when we worry.

don't worry

But he does let us know that we don’t have to worry. This was one of his main points in the Sermon on the Mount. Here is what he said; “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). Then he added, “don’t worry about tomorrow” (verse 34).

“Worry” is an interesting word in the Greek language. It refers to a care or anxiety that is troubling. This kind of worry, according to The Complete Word Study Dictionary, “brings disruption to the personality and the mind.”

Life can be very troubling at times to all of us. This trouble can wreck us on the inside and even shut us down. When this has happened to me, I’ve felt trapped, almost functionally paralyzed. It’s no wonder Jesus tells us not to worry.

But what’s the cure. How can we power through the troubling times? How can we turn worry into peace? Here are three important truths that have helped me.

  • Cast your cares upon Jesus. Both Peter and Paul met with troubles of every kind. Worry could have consumed both of them, but they learned to cast their cares upon the Lord. They both knew the Lord cared for them (1 Peter 5:7), and that his peace would guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6, 7).
  • Give thanks. Paul encourages us to give thanks in all things and even equates this as God’s will. I admit that seems hard to do, especially in the most trying of times. But even in those times…
  1. Jesus is actively working all things together for your good (Romans 8:28).
  2. Jesus is meeting all your needs according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).
  3. Jesus’ love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:7).
  • Seek the mind of Christ. God’s Spirit lives in you. Trust him to give you wisdom for the situation. He will not let you down. His ways will lead to growth and maturity for you.

Yes, we all worry. We get agitated, confused and unsettled about life. When that happens, know that Christ and Christ alone can soothe your heart and ready your mind for the situation. As Proverbs 3:5, 6 states; “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

This is the cure for worry.

Seven things you need to know about repentance

On yesterday’s broadcast, someone asked about repentance. We have discussed this at length before. You can listen to that broadcast  below.

I also spoke about repentance recently at Metro Bible Fellowship. You’ll find it at the end of this post as well.

When it comes to repentance there are seven things that are important to know.

  1. Repentance is a big word, a God word.
  2. Repentance is initiated by God. In Acts 18:11, Luke wrote that God granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.
  3. Repentance is a change of mind and it conveys the idea of turning from sin to God. Bonnell Thornton described repentance this way: Some often repent, yet never reform; they resemble a man traveling in a dangerous path, who frequently starts and stops, but never turns back. Repentance covers the whole process of turning from sin to God.
  4. Repentance is most often used to describe the conversion of the lost. It is the process of going from unbelief to belief in Jesus Christ.
  5. Repentance is accompanied by godly sorrow. This is much deeper than merely feeling sorrowful for getting caught doing something wrong. Godly sorrow recognizes the emptiness of the life of sin and the painful consequences it brings about in the lives of others. 2 Corinthians 7:10
  6. Repentance cannot be reduced to a formula. Confessing sins and asking God to forgive those sins does not equal repentance. Far too many believers apply this formula on a daily basis, yet never experience a change of heart or mind.
  7.  God’s kindness leads us to repentance. “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4) This kindness is most clearly seen and experienced through faith in the finished work of Jesus regarding the forgiveness of sins.

I’ll end this post by sharing two quotes on repentance.

Evangelical repentance is repentance of sin as sin: not of this sin nor of that, but of the whole mass. We repent of the sin of our nature as well as the sin of our practice. We bemoan sin within us and without us. We repent of sin itself as being an insult to God. Anything short of this is a mere surface repentance, and not a repentance which reaches to the bottom of the mischief. Repentance of the evil act, and not of the evil heart, is like men pumping water out of a leaky vessel, but forgetting to stop the leak. Some would dam up the stream, but leave the fountain still flowing; they would remove the eruption from the skin, but leave the disease in the flesh. –Charles Haddon Spurgeon

True repentance will entirely change you; the bias of your souls will be changed, then you will delight in God, in Christ, in His Law, and in His people. –George Whitefield

Broadccast: 

Metro: 

Four Promises That Will Change Your life

This is an astonishing claim. But it’s true. I am talking of the four promises, or provisions, of the New Covenant.

The writer of Hebrews described these promises as better than the promises of the Old. And indeed they are.

They are laid out for us in Hebrews 8:10-12. I’ve numbered them for ease of reading.

  1. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
  2. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
  3. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
  4. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

 These are better promises because they satisfy our deepest needs. We need power and the internal motivation to live out the Christian life. We need assurance that we belong to God and that He loves us. We need God, to genuinely know Him. We desperately need to know our sins have been forgiven once and for all.

On all of these points, the New Covenant provides. Jesus’ finish work guarantees all of these promises. I’ve juiced each one down to one word. In this New Covenant we have

  • Power
  • Assurance
  • Relationship
  • Forgiveness.

The world, religion and even the flesh make outlandish promises, but they never deliver. Not Jesus. In Him, you have everything you need.

Take hold of these four promises and your life will never be the same.