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!

Why Does God Let Me Stay So Weak?

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I hate weakness. I don’t like being weak. And I have so many weaknesses as a husband, father, and pastor. I want to have it all together. I want to be a strong leader, a loving husband, a wise father. But I’m so weak. I fail so often. Why?

Why does God let us stay so weak at times? Why is it so hard to put sin to death? Why do we struggle and fail so much? Why are we so often weak in our faith?

The apostle Paul knew about weakness. And he didn’t like weakness in himself – at least not initially. Paul had some kind of “thorn given him in the flesh, a messenger of Satan” that harassed him. Some believe the “thorn” was Jewish persecution; many believe it was a physical ailment or disease that affected his eyesight. They believe this since he dictated his letters, and he said it was because of a “bodily ailment” he had originally preached the gospel to the Galatians (GA 4.13). He also said the Galatians would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him (4:15). Also when he was rebuked for calling the high priest a “white-washed wall” Paul said he didn’t know he was the high priest. Yet Paul was a Pharisee who would certainly have recognized the high priest if he could see him.

Whatever his affliction, Paul struggled with it. He didn’t like being weak. He sought the Lord on three occasions about it and finally God gave him some insight into why he didn’t remove Paul’s weakness.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 CO 12:7-10

As Paul sought the Lord about his “thorn” God showed him some things.

First, it was to keep Paul from conceit and pride, having received great revelations from God. Knowledge puffs up. When we have strong gifts or incredible talent it’s easy to become proud. When we have some serious success it’s easy to forget that all our gifts and success is from God. How many gifted teachers of God’s word have succumbed to pride and fallen into sin. How easy it is for us to judge others out of our strengths. How easy it is for parents whose children are doing well to look down on those whose children are struggling or rebelling. So weakness humbles us. Failure keeps us from becoming conceited. And since pride comes before a fall, weakness can keep us from stumbling.

The second reason God let Paul stay weak was to make Paul rely on Christ’s grace – “My grace is sufficient for you.” Pride leads us to rely on ourselves; weakness drives us to our knees to seek God’s grace. Strength can lead to self-sufficiency. Weakness makes us depend on Christ. Weakness sends us to the throne of grace for mercy and grace in time of need.

The third reason God kept Paul weak was to reveal Christ’s power through him – “my power is made perfect in weakness.” The more we realize our weakness, then when anything good happens through us, we know it is the power of Christ, not us. When we have tried again and again to conquer a sin, become aware of our own weakness in the battle, then finally conquer it, we know it was by Jesus’ grace and power. Then Jesus receives the glory. We won’t think we did it by our own willpower but by Jesus’ grace.

Paul got to the place where he was content with weakness! He could be content with insults, hardships and persecutions. And even with calamities! Because he knew that all these things would reveal how weak he was, and the power of Christ would shine through him.

To be content with weakness doesn’t mean we give up trying to put sin to death. It doesn’t mean we quit trying to bear fruit for God. But it means that when we fail, when we realize how weak we are, we won’t despair but turn to Christ and ask him to give us HIS power. HIS strength. HIS wisdom. HIS grace.

Do you feel weak? Confess your weakness to Jesus. (He won’t be surprised). Confess your sins. Confess your failures as mom or dad. Tell him how much you need his grace not to get angry. Tell him you need his grace to love that brother who it’s so hard to love. Ask him to give you the grace to rejoice in your pain and be content in your trial.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 PE 5:6-7

Grace: Give Where You Are Lacking

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We are perpetually in need of grace. All the time and in every way. Our need isn’t just extensive, it’s pervasive. We have need in every area of life because every area is marked by sin. Most Christians acknowledge this, ascent to it. But somehow, some way we still think we’re good. Or at least we think we’re good in certain parts of life. If not “good” we are perfectly willing to think of ourselves as better than others.

In a certain ironic twist, one of the greatest indications of our need of grace is our perpetual self-justification. Our own claim to not need it in certain areas shows how much we do. We put ourselves up and others down. We are willing to dole out some grace here and there, but really only in areas we have knowingly received it in. That’s about the only way we ever show grace – the way we perceive ourselves to have received it.

But most of the time our perception of grace is segmented to a single area of life where God has done a noticeable work. In that area we are generous with grace. In all the other areas we are put ourselves above others.

I am lustful; you are mean. I judge you for being a jerk.

I am cynical; you are arrogant. I judge you for being a snob.

I am dishonest; you play favorites. I judge you for being cliquish.

I am lazy; you are a workaholic. I judge you for being absent from your family

When we give grace to those who struggle with what we have overcome, we are giving from an abundance. We have received much and are passing it along.

When we refuse to give grace to those who struggle in areas we cannot relate to we fail to recognize the real abundance. We look at them and say “I would never . . .” or “How could they . . .” and miss the fact that it is only grace that kept us from being the exact same as they. The call to do unto others as you would have them do unto you is a call to show them the grace you show yourself.

You over look your own sins and weaknesses, knowing you need grace. Do they not need the same? You think of yourself as good in so many areas and look for weaknesses in others. But where are their strengths, those areas in which they think of themselves as good? Can you see those in spite of, or instead of, their failures?

To whom much has been given, much will be expected. You and I, we have received much grace. More even than we recognize. And we can not be stingy with our sharing of it.

Jesus Is Not Only Sympathetic; He Can Change Things

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Jesus is not only sympathetic; he can do something about it.

Before he saved me, I didn’t picture Jesus as having much empathy toward me. I thought of him as distant or indifferent.  After all, he had a universe to run. I didn’t know he cared about me personally, much less loved me. But after he opened my blind eyes, one day I found out he was deeply sympathetic to my struggles.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (HEB 4:15)

When someone’s been through the same thing we have, it’s much more meaningful when they give us their sympathy than someone who’s never experienced it. My wife has endured depression and anxiety in varying degrees, sometimes extreme, for many years, so she’s deeply sympathetic to those who suffer in the same ways. I’ve never suffered that particular way. I believe people are suffering terribly, and I seek to empathize, but I can’t comfort them the way Kristi can. The Bible says we are to put on compassion, so I try to imagine their pain, I try to weep with those who weep, but I have to say at times, “I can’t even imagine how horrible this must be for you.” But Kristi can say, “I know what it’s like. I’ve been there.”

Jesus can sympathize with us completely because no matter what we’re experiencing, he’s been there. First, he is able to sympathize with our WEAKNESSES, for he was weak in his human nature. He got hungry, tired and thirsty. He needed sleep and rest. He knew loneliness. He suffered unbelievable physical pain.

Jesus can also sympathize with us when we are TEMPTED – he is “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He was tempted in EVERY RESPECT by Satan himself, who threw his worst at him. None of us have probably ever known Satan’s worst temptations.  Jesus was tempted to pride, envy, lust, to love the world, to fear man. He was tempted to anger, to laziness, to be impatient with people – you name it. He was tempted to feel sorry for himself when he was lonely. He was tempted to unbelief. He was tempted to give up. Can you imagine how Jesus was tempted when he told his disciples he was going to be betrayed, tortured, mocked, and crucified and they started arguing about who was the greatest?

Jesus not only sympathizes, but he can do something about our situation.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (16)

So often somebody tells me about a hard time they are going through and I may be sympathetic but often I can’t do anything about it. I can pray for them, but I can’t change their situation. I can’t lift their burden or heal them or take their sadness or provide all they need. I might be able to help a little, but I can’t change their whole situation. If I found someone under a massive tree that had fallen in the forest, I’d feel horrible for them, but couldn’t lift it off.  This is why Jesus is a GREAT high priest. He’s not only sympathetic, but he can DO SOMETHING about our situation – he can save, heal, provide and strengthen.

First, look where Jesus is. He is on “the throne of grace.” Charles Spurgeon says:

“It is a throne set up on purpose for the dispensation of grace; a throne from which every utterance is an utterance of grace; the scepter that is stretched out from it is the scepter of grace; the decrees proclaimed from it our purposes of grace; the gifts that are scattered down it’s golden steps are gifts of grace; and he that sits upon the throne is grace itself.”

Jesus, our great high priest, is waiting and longing to help us.

Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you…(Isaiah 30:18 NASB)

What do we receive at his throne? MERCY and GRACE TO HELP in time of need.

Mercy is NOT GETTING what we DO deserve. We should be punished for our sins but at the throne of grace we find mercy. And grace is GETTING what we DON’T deserve – Blessings, strength, power, help, joy. We can be confident Jesus will give us “grace to help in time of need.”

24 hours a day, we can draw run to our great high priest, knowing he’s infinitely sympathetic and infinitely able to do something about our struggles. Jesus has mercy for our failures and grace for our weaknesses and temptations. And he never tires of our requests. We can’t ask too much or too often. So run to your great high priest today. He longs to be gracious to you.

New Spoken Word Piece: Jesus Is For Losers

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the wonderful reality that Jesus isn’t for people who have it all together. He’s for the weak, weary, worn out, burned out, frustrated, and dejected. I’ve been reminded of the wonderful words Jesus spoke in Matthew 9:12 –

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

As a response to this truth, I wrote the following spoken word piece, called “Jesus Is For Losers”. I hope you enjoy it.