Emancipated! No Longer Slaves Of Sin

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Sin often comes on strong, and we feel like we have to give in to it.

That temptation to lust is just too strong. We just can’t stop worrying. If we don’t give vent to our anger we feel we’ll explode. We’re born slaves of sin and do its bidding all our lives – UNTIL Jesus saves us. And he saves us not only from the GUILT of sin, but from the ENSLAVING POWER of sin.  We can conquer sin.  We can put it to death.  I’m NOT saying it is easy, or that we don’t have to fight, that we won’t fail and struggle at times, but I believe the Bible says we CAN overcome it and make progress in becoming more like Christ.  We are not hopeless, powerless slaves any more.

In Romans 6, Paul tells us:

WE DIED

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (1-2)

We must stop sinning because we’ve died to it. A dead person doesn’t get angry or covet or lust. He’s dead to those things. We’re spiritually dead to those things. Done with them, even if we FEEL like we have to give in to them. We died to sin when we were joined to Jesus:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (3)

When we believe in Jesus God baptizes us into Christ. Plunges us into him, makes us one with him. One with his death and burial. We’re dead and buried to our old life of sin. And…

WE HAVE NEW LIFE

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (4-5)

One with Jesus’ resurrection, we can now walk in newness of life. We have a new power to conquer sin.  The old life is gone.  As a result,

WE’RE NO LONGER SLAVES

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (6)

Imagine a slave in the days of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. As he leaves his old life walking away from the plantation where he was a slave  his master sees him and yells, “Get back here!” At first the former slave feels all the old fears come rushing in. His first instinct is “I have to do what he says.” Then he remembers, “Wait a minute! I’m no longer a slave! I don’t have to do what you say.”

WE’RE FREE

For one who has died has been set free from sin. (7)

This is the truth whether we feel like it or not. We’ve died. We don’t have to sin. We have been set free from its enslaving power.  But when we’re tempted we still FEEL like we have to sin. What do we do?

CONSIDER

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (8-11)

In his earthly life, Jesus was subject to temptation. But when he died he died to sin. He was finished with all temptation. So, since we are one with him, we are to CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin. No matter how strong the urge, we can say, “I’m dead to that.”

DETHRONE

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (12)

Don’t let sin rule you. Dethrone it.  Don’t obey those passions and feelings. You don’t have to. And especially…

DON’T PRESENT

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness…. (13)

Flee temptation. Don’t drink if you’re tempted to get drunk. Put the computer where everyone can see the screen if you’re tempted to impurity. Here’s the principle: Stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as you can. Don’t offer your eyes, ears, hands or any part of your body to sin.

DO PRESENT

…but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (13)

Present yourself to God in prayer. Use your body for righteousness. Use your hands to serve someone. Use your tongue to encourage someone.

SIN DOESN’T HAVE TO DOMINATE US

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (14)

You’re in a new place – under grace – not under the dominion of sin. Grace will transform you.

Remember, you don’t HAVE to sin. You died to it and rose to a new life in Jesus.  It’s a fight.  You will fail at times.  When you do, simply confess your sins to Jesus our advocate in heaven and he will forgive and cleanse you.  But no matter how many times you fail don’t forget the reality of your new life in Christ.  Sin will have no dominion over you!

God Has Done The Big Thing. Surely He’ll Take Care Of The Lesser Things.

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Israel had a short memory.

They had been miserable slaves to the king of Egypt who seemed to have all power over their lives. They had no means of escape, yet God heard their groaning, and struck Pharaoh and Egypt with plague after plague, then brought Israel out of Egypt loaded with their gold and silver. Then God miraculously split the Red Sea and brought his people through on dry ground, then Israel watched the sea come back together and engulf the Egyptian chariots who pursued them.

Though God delivered them and provided for them again and again, they couldn’t seem to remember his faithfulness. In their unbelief, every new challenge they faced made them doubt the goodness of their God. They failed to make this important connection: If God did the big thing for them, he’d surely do lesser things. If God delivered them out of Egypt, he’d surely provide for their needs.

A short memory wasn’t just the problem of the generation who left Egypt. It was Israel’s constant failure over the years. We see God reminding his people again in Psalm 81:

I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder; (6-7)

I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. PS 81.10

God says to his people: Don’t forget who I am: I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. I did the big thing. I saved you when you couldn’t save yourselves. So ask me to provide for you – open your mouth wide – expect me to meet your needs – and I will fill it – I’ll do the lesser thing and answer your prayers and provide for you.

We too need to remember this truth: God did the big thing for us – he saved us from our sins and his wrath by sending his only Son to live and die and rise for us – surely he will do the lesser things – provide, protect and help us.

God has done the big thing – he saved us. Surely he’ll take care of all the lesser things we need.

God could say to us:

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of your land of Egypt – your slavery to sin, your misery, your condemnation and hopelessness.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it – ask me and I’ll give you all you need.

Romans 8:32 puts it this way:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

God gave up his most valuable thing – his Son Jesus on the cross – he sent Jesus to be broken and to pour out his blood for sin, then he poured out his horrific wrath upon his Son’s soul, withdrawing every shred of mercy and love from Jesus’ awareness. He did this for us all. After doing this, how will he not graciously give us all lesser things? Surely God will give us all we need to glorify him. Surely he will give us mercy and grace and strength and help. Surely he’ll provide for our needs.

So open your mouth wide and God will fill it. Open your mouth today in praise and thanksgiving. Open your mouth wide in prayer. Ask for whatever you wish. Nothing will be greater than Jesus. Open your mouth wide in expectation that your heavenly Father will answer your prayers.

 

What Is This World Coming To? Exactly What Jesus Said It Would Come To.

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photo credit: Maxwell Hamilton via photopin cc

Every so often I hear someone say in despair, “What is this world coming to?” This kind of comment usually comes in response to a doomsday report of some kind. You know the kind I’m talking about…

  • Statistics show that kids are more sexualized now than ever, and that 70% of kids will have sex before graduating high school!
  • A new report says that 45% of Americans think that God wants them to be happy more than anything else!
  • A pew poll report shows that church attendance is at the lowest mark in twenty years!
  • Studies now indicate that the current presidential administration is the most anti-Christian administration of the modern era!

When we hear these kinds of reports and stats, our gut instinct can be to throw our hands up in despair, panic, or disgust. We are shocked at the behavior of young people these days. Shocked at the levels of immorality at universities. Shocked at the apathy of people toward spiritual things. Shocked at the spike in gay marriages. Shocked at the smut being produced by Hollywood. Shocked at the increase in sexual promiscuity in our culture. What is this world coming to?!?

Whatever happened to the good old days, when a fella could leave his car unlocked without fear of having his stereo stolen? Whatever happened to the days when kids would actually respect authority? Whatever happened to the good old days when young men and women actually treated each other with courtesy, instead of trying to sleep around with each other?

I would venture to say that many conservative television shows, and radio shows, and blogs, and podcasts, perpetuate the “what is this world coming to?” attitude. It’s not uncommon for talk radio hosts to spend three hours lamenting the decay of morals in the world.

But we shouldn’t be shocked or dismayed. The world is coming to exactly what Jesus said it would come to, and this actually gives us a lot of hope.

A GODLESS WORLD

The simple reality is, we live in a godless world. Of course, I don’t mean that there isn’t a God, or that the true and living God is not active in our world. I mean that the natural state of every person is wickedness, godlessness, and evil. It has always been this way, and it always will be this way.

In Genesis 6:5, God looked down on the earth and was grieved by what he saw:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

God brought the great flood upon the earth because the wickedness of man was great. Every intent, every desire, every thought, bent toward evil. Doesn’t sound that different from today, does it?

Acts 17:16 says, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” As Paul walked through the city of Athens, he became acutely aware that the city was absoutely jam packed with false gods. Athens was not a moral, upright, virtuous city. It was a city full of idolatry.

When we see evil and wickedness in the world, we shouldn’t throw our hands up in despair. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised. Evil and wickedness is not an anomaly; it’s the norm. The evil we see in the world isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s not like things have suddenly gotten out of control in the last fifty years. Wickedness has been standard practice since Cain killed Abel.

So why does this give us hope? Hold on, I’m getting there.

IT GET’S WORSE

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but things are going to get worse. Before Jesus returns, evil and wickedness is going to increase in the world. Speaking of the last days, Jesus said:

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12)

Lawlessness and wickedness and godlessness isn’t going to decrease, it’s going to increase. In fact, it’s going to increase to such a degree that many Christians will find their love for Christ going cold. Dang, son. That’s some serious, intense, lawlessness. Contrary to what the Beatles proclaimed, it’s not getting better all the time. It’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11, Paul spoke of the “man of lawlessness”:

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

At some point, the “lawless one” will come, and he will come in power, with false signs and wonders. He will be so impressive, so powerful, that many unbelievers will be deceived by him. The wickedness promoted and perpetuated by the lawless one will be on a colossal, sickening scale.

It’s already bad, and it’s going to get worse. But don’t throw up your hands in despair. There’s good news.

DON’T DESPAIR

The good news is that, in spite of the wickedness which fills the world, the gospel of Jesus Christ will continue saving sinners! Yes, evil is powerful, but Jesus is more powerful! Yes, Satan prowls about like a roaring lion, but Jesus is the great lion slayer. Jesus encouraged Peter that the church would not be overcome, and would even stand against hell itself:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

Jesus isn’t particularly concerned with the most recent Barna report, or church growth study, or the state of Hollywood. He will build his church, and there is absolutely nothing that can stop him.

Even as Jesus talked about the spike in lawlessness, he also promised that the gospel would be proclaimed in ALL nations:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

And when the big, bad, man of lawlessness appears, Jesus will take care of him too:

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8)

When Jesus returns, he will utterly decimate the man of lawlessness. Farewell, lawless one! King Jesus has arrived!

DON’T LOSE HOPE

Should we be concerned about increasing immorality in the schools, and on television, and in politics? Sure. Where appropriate, we should stand for righteousness. And, of course, we should instruct our kids how to think biblically about the sin they will most certainly encounter.

But if we’re constantly outraged, disgusted, discouraged, or panicked, then we haven’t come to grips with the Bible’s grim description of the world, and we aren’t fully trusting in our coming, conquering, reigning king.

Yeah it’s bad. Yeah, it’s gonna get worse. But the gospel will continue to triumph, Jesus will remain on the throne, and Jesus will finally rid the world of wickedness.

The God Of The Impossible

 impossible_cubeThe angel Gabriel told Mary that she would experience the impossible. She would miraculously conceive and bear a child while still a virgin.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” LK 1:31-33

To conceive a child without any involvement of a man is and always will be impossible. Yet God is the God of the impossible. He is the one who invented the laws of nature. He can circumvent them if he chooses. If conceiving apart from a man was impossible enough, this child would not only be a human, but he would be God – “the Son of the Most High.” “Most High” is an Old Testament name of God. This child would be the long awaited descendant of David, the Messiah, whose kingdom would last forever. Gabriel told Mary that not only would God do the impossible, but he would go beyond the impossible to do what she could never have dreamed.

And to build Mary’s faith that God could do this he said,

“And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (36-37)

Elizabeth had conceived a son “in her old age”. Luke 1:7 says that she was “advanced in years.” Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah had never been able to conceive, though they’d tried and tried. On top of that, she was now well past the time when anyone could get pregnant.

But God is the God of the impossible. Nothing is too hard for him.

And if you think of it, here’s an even greater impossibility: for sinful men to come to God. Unless God changes someone’s heart, they will never come to God. For we are born in sin, at enmity with God, hostile to him. We have no interest in God, no taste for him, no desire for him. We are born loving darkness. We love sin. We hate the light. No one is good. No one seeks for God. All have turned aside and become worthless. It is impossible for us in our natural state to come to God.

Not only is it impossible on our end, it is impossible on God’s end for sinners to come to him, unless of course, something happens. For he is infinitely holy and will not tolerate sin in his presence. No one can stand in the presence of the Consuming Fire unless they are sinless and perfectly righteous. He is high and lifted up and dwells in the holy of holies, where no one stained by sin can possibly enter.

But nothing is impossible with God. He changes the hearts of those who despise him. He gives saving faith to those who don’t believe in him. He causes those who love sin to hunger and thirst for righteousness. He makes the proud humble. He washes filthy sinners clean and clothes them with the righteousness of Christ. He makes those who disdain him long for him with a pure and holy passion.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Are you facing an impossible situation? Do you look at it and see no earthly way it could change? Maybe you look at a family member who seems to have no interest in God at all, and it seems like he or she is just too far gone to save. Nothing will be impossible with God! Maybe you can see no way for God to provide financially for you – remember Jesus fed crowds of 5000 and 7000 from a few fish and loaves of bread. He spoke to typhoons and calmed the winds and waves. When he needed money for the temple tax he told Peter to go fishing and he’d catch a fish with a coin in its mouth.

Nothing will be impossible with God. Maybe you feel like you can’t break out of a sin you are ensnared in. You’ve tried to quit and you can’t. Nothing will be impossible with God. Whatever you are praying for, unless God has made it absolutely clear that the answer is no, then keep asking, keep knocking, keep seeking. Maybe it’s a sickness you’ve had for years. Keep asking, knocking seeking. Yes, God is sovereign and he takes us through afflictions and he promises to work them all for our good. Sometimes he doesn’t answer in the way we would like, but don’t quit asking!

Don’t give up! Nothing is too hard for our God. Nothing is impossible to him. Who knows, this may be the Christmas he answers your prayers.

Share The Gospel. Even If You Do It Poorly.

The gospel involves words.

It is the glorious message of the redemption God has provided for us through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  We should try to  share this message whenever we can.

But the gospel is more than words – it is the power of God.

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18

The power of the gospel isn’t in the speaker. The good news of Jesus is powerful because it is the very word of God and the Holy Spirit infuses God’s word with power.

It is the Holy Spirit who causes someone to be born again, not our persuasiveness.

God saved Charles Spurgeon through a simple gospel message given by a humble speaker:

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. I turned a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Church. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved….

The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now it is well that preachers be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was—“LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH” (Isa. 45:22)

He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimmer of hope for me in that text.

The preacher began thus: “This is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It aint liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look.

“But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay!” he said in broad Essex, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some say look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some on ye say ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ “

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me, I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!”

When he had . . . . managed to spin out about ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger.

Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “And you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.” Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live!

I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought . . . . I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. 

There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, “Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.”

I love this.  The poor shoe maker or tailor wasn’t eloquent.  He probably had never heard the word “eschatology.”  To Charles Spurgeon he seemed “stupid”.  He didn’t pronounce all his words correctly.  But he shared the good news. He shared the simple core of the gospel – Jesus was crucified, died, was buried, and rose from the dead.  And God attended his simple message with life-transforming power and raised Charles Spurgeon from death to life.

This is liberating when we share the gospel with our children, friends and relatives. It’s not our brilliant articulation that saves anyone – it’s the power of the word of God and the Holy Spirit. Of course we want to express God’s truth as clearly as we can, but even if we stumble and share the gospel imperfectly, it is the power of God that saves.

We must do all we can to teach our children about Jesus and bring them up in the fear and instruction of the Lord. We should read the Word to them and teach them. We should encourage them to turn to Jesus. But we can’t cause them to be born again. We must diligently share God’s word then pray and trust that the Holy Spirit to give them life.

Let this encourage us to share the gospel, even if we do it poorly. I don’t encourage you to be stupid. But our feeble words plus God’s mighty power is all God needs.