Christianity 201

April 6, 2017

Feel Like Staying Put or Turning Back? Romans 8:12-17

Catching up from last week, this week we’re featuring two back-to-back devotional studies…

…by Clarke Dixon

Do we look forward to meeting God in heaven, yet are not particularly enthused about walking with Him today? Last week we looked at perfectionism as an error we can fall into regarding our walking “according to the Spirit.” (Romans 1:4) This week we look at another problem; not expecting enough from the Holy Spirit. We may speak of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and yet keep Him far from our hearts and minds, preferring to keep Him in our back pocket so to speak. Are we treating the Holy Spirit like the Health card we carry around in case we need it? Are we treating God like an insurance policy to file away rather than a Person to be in relationship with? Do we nurture an excitement about God’s salvation when we look far ahead to the journey’s destination, but hold an apathy or ambivalence toward God’s presence with regards to our next step?

Romans 8:12-17 makes a case for getting excited about God’s presence, not just at the destination, but over the course of the whole journey.

12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:12-17

Biblical scholars point out that these verses echo another experience of a people on a journey with God:

  • verse 12 – When God led Israel out of Egypt, they were under no obligation to the Egyptians. There was no reason to think “perhaps we ought to stay here.”
  • verse 13 – In leaving Egypt, to go back would be to face hardship and death, to keep going forward would be to face blessings and life.
  • verse 14 – As a father leads his child, the people of Israel were led by God through a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of smoke by day.
  • verse 15 – Israel had a choice: go back to Egypt and be slaves to the Egyptians, or keep going forward as God’s son.
  • verse 16 – God’s presence with Israel was powerful confirmation of what was said to Pharaoh: “Thus says the Lord: Israel is my firstborn son.” Exodus 4:22
  • verse 17 – Israel looked forward to the inheritance of the promised land. But Israel was not there yet, God would not simply transport them Star Trek style. They must follow His lead through the wilderness building their relationship with Him along the way.

The experience of rescue from slavery linked with “sonship” to God is reflected by the prophets

I thought
how I would set you among my children,
and give you a pleasant land,
the most beautiful heritage of all the nations.
And I thought you would call me, My Father,
and would not turn from following me. Jeremiah 3:19

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.
3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them. Hosea 11:1-4

While in the wilderness Israel was prone to complaining and even expressing their desire to go back to Egypt. From our perspective, we see that and think “Are you crazy? You would rather go back to being slaves to Egypt than go forward as a son of the living God!? Do you not want to move forward into the amazing inheritance He has prepared for you!? Do you not understand the amazing privilege you have, the close relationship with God Himself, and your future hope despite the current discomfort!?” Of course hindsight is 20/20 and having an objective view of what is going on is easier for us now than for the Israelites at the time.

Are we being objective about our own situation? Living with the hope of heaven as the destination but little concern for God’s leadership in our lives now is like saying we want to reach the Promised land while staying in Egypt. It does not work that way. For the Christian to live an unaffected life is as silly as the Israelites wanting to go back to Egypt. We have been rescued from what is behind, we will want to keep moving forward. We have been given the opportunity to join God’s family as His loved and free children, leaving behind our identity as slaves to the human sinful nature. God’s presence is with us for the journey and He leads us as our Father. Why would we want to dig in or turn back? Let us keep walking according to the Spirit.

12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:12-17

All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Read today’s devotional at Clarke’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

 

August 22, 2016

Freedom and the Ministry of the Spirit

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post

by Russell Young

There is another aspect concerning freedom in Christ that needs to be considered and is expressed in the manner in which the Spirit ministers in the believer’s heart.  Sin is lawlessness; for the believer it is failure to obey the law or the rule of the Spirit.  “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.” (Jas 4:17, NIV) There are several important revelations in this passage.  The believer must know or must have been informed concerning that which the Spirit expects of him and for sin to have occurred he or she must have rejected the command of the Spirit.  Further, the command or knowledge is specific and personal to him or her.

The Spirit does not convict of all sin at one time.  If he did, the believer would be overwhelmed.  Christ is for us, not against us. He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30, NIV) and John wrote: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 Jn 5:3) Like anyone undertaking a cleaning project, one part is tackled at a time and the Lord will persist in his heart and mind-cleaning endeavours within the believer until he has accomplished his goal or until rebellion takes place to the point that the Spirit’s call and ministry is quenched.  The Lord will even discipline and punish those who are rejecting his cleansing ministry. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Heb 12:5-6, NIV)

It is important to appreciate that the believer is no longer subject to completing the law as given to Moses; however, he or she is required to complete the law as given to them by the Spirit who will fully satisfy the same righteous requirements of Moses’ law, if he is obeyed.  Therefore, it is the commands of Christ though his Spirit that are law for the believer. As stated, the commands are specific and distinct for each person as the Spirit ministers to accomplish the personal transformation of each believer.  The commands of Christ are made known through the Spirit to each who would have ears to hear.  That which is a command for one person may not be for another at that point in his or her transformation.  In this way Christ can work gently and efficiently in each believer’s life.

All sin is offensive to God however, even those not revealed by the Spirit.  There are sins about which the believer is aware and which he knowingly commits or has been informed by the Spirit that he has committed (known sins) and those about which he has been left uninformed. “Known sin” is to be confessed and forgiveness sought. (1 Jn 1:9) Unknown sins are also offensive to God, and Christ as high priest will mediate these.  A mediating ministry of the high priest is to offer a sacrifice for sins committed in ignorance. (Heb 9:7) Consequently, revealed sin is to be confessed and stopped; unknown sin will be mediated by Christ as high priest. Accordingly, the burden placed upon the believer is light.  When he is convicted of sin, he is to repent and confess so that he might gain forgiveness.

The issue of judging other believers can be clarified at this point.  One believer is not to judge another-to do so leveling judgment at Christ.  His Spirit is working in each believer individually for that one’s cleansing and transformation; he or she is Christ’s “workmanship” (Eph 2:10), not another’s. Therefore, while the Spirit may have revealed sin in one person’s life, he may not yet have revealed that same sin in another’s. A brother or sister in the Lord needs to be encouraged but they do not need to be burdened by the convictions of another. “For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?” (1 Cor 10:29, NIV)

The freedom that comes to those in Christ is great.  The one who confesses faith in him and who has pledged his lordship has been relieved of the burdens of his or her past sins and of the Old Covenant laws and he or she has been given the Spirit of righteousness and is to be led by him, confessing sin when it occurs and avoiding it when alerted. He is not freed from obedience to Christ, however. It is through obedience that eternal salvation is gained. “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” (1 Pet 2:16)

January 5, 2015

Two Types of Freedom

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This appeared recently at the blog Bouncing Back, which was listed on the blogroll at Thinking Out Loud but from which we apparently had never mined an article for use here at C201. The author is Rich Dixon. Click the title to read this at source, and then take a few minutes to look around Bounding Back.

chainIt is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

There are two kinds of freedom.

Freedom from allows life without oppression, injustice, tyranny, abuse, or violence. Freedom from insures my right to live my life as I wish as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others.

Freedom to is about opportunity to serve, to use my gifts, to make a difference in the world.

I think Galatians 5:1 refers to freedom to.

Freedom from, it seems, places the focus on me and my rights. Freedom from is worldly freedom.

Freedom to is about what’s right. It’s about sacrifice and service.

Interesting to note that Jesus willingly sacrificed freedom from. He invites us to join Him on the journey of freedom to for which He died.

But let’s never forget that God values worldly justice for the oppressed, the poor, and the marginalized.

Learn to do right; seek justice.    
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

Seems to me that social justice happens when those who understand freedom to deploy it, regardless of consequences, to ensure everyone’s access to freedom from.


The start of the new year is always a good time to remind readers who have joined us recently that Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest spectrum of the Christian blogosphere. An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we each see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. You might even decide to make some of these a daily habit. Any advertising appearing at the end of an article does not originate with C201, nor are we aware of it. Scripture selections almost always appear in green to remind us that God’s Word is life!

June 3, 2014

Devotional Potpourri

From the blog, Deeper Christian:

I have found over these last two months, that even despite incredible busyness, intimacy with Jesus and time in the Word does NOT have to wane. It doesn’t need to be diminished. Granted, it may look different than it normally does, but intimacy with Jesus does not need to be an up-and-down roller coaster experience – it truly can be consistent, steady, and ever-increasing!

I came across a tremendous quote by T. Austin-Sparks the other day, which I want to leave you with. May Jesus ever be the centrality of your life!

The mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit is that such a life is continually and ever more and more occupied with Christ, that Christ is becoming greater and greater as time goes on. The effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is to bring us to the shore of a mighty ocean which reaches far, far beyond our range, and concerning which we feel—Oh, the depths, the fulness, of Christ! If we live as long as ever man lived, we shall still be only on the fringe of this vast fulness that Christ is.

Now, that at once becomes a challenge to us … These are not just words. This is not just rhetoric; this is truth. Let us ask our hearts at once, Is this true in our case? Is this the kind of life that we know? … Is that true in your experience? That is the mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit. Christ becomes greater and greater as we go on. If that is true, well, that is the way of life.


From  a review of C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity at the blog Stray Thoughts:

From the chapter “The Practical Conclusion”:

[The Christian] does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us.

From the chapter “The Great Sin”:

Pleasure in being praised is not Pride. The child who is patted on the back for doing a lesson well, the woman whose beauty is praised by her lover, the saved soul to whom Christ says, “Well done,” are all pleased and ought to be. For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to please. The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, “I have pleased him; all is well,” to thinking, “What a fine person I must be to have done it.”

That was immensely helpful to me. I don’t know if anyone else experiences this, but sometimes when you receive a compliment, then you feel a rush of pleasure, that feel guilty for that pleasure and feel you need to redirect the attention to the Lord, and in trying to do so sound awkward and overly pious. For that reason, when someone, say, sings a solo in church that I enjoyed, I try to tell them it blessed my heart rather than just “I enjoyed your song this morning.” Though I mean the same thing by both sentences, the second one makes people feel awkward and self-conscious. This thought did help me to understand it’s not wrong to feel pleasure in pleasing someone else or accepting a compliment.

From the same chapter:

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is a nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who tool a real interest in what you said to him….He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.


From the blog, Cindy By The Sea:

The weather is finally warming up here in Northern New Mexico and I had the opportunity to go out walking along the river yesterday afternoon…

I have a favorite spot where the water spills over some rocks creating a mini rapids of sorts. I sat for a while yesterday watching a trio of ducks and a piece of wood that was caught up in the fast-moving water. It made an interesting contrast and brought several thoughts to mind as I watched.  The wood  circling round and round in a never-ending cycle — bobbing into the current and back out again — unable to release itself permanently from the currents strong grasp – this in contrast to the ducks, who smart enough to stay out of the faster moving water paddled freely and placidly about.

It occurred to me as I watched from my position along the bank how like that piece of  wood I often am. They don’t call it drift wood for nothing. Without arms to swim or feet to paddle, the wood is completely at the mercy of the current. And without a change in water speed or depth, the wood would continue in that same cycle perhaps forever – or until the summer runoff subsides and the water level drops leaving the wood exactly where it was but this time stuck – stuck in the mud and going nowhere.

As I was doing my Bible reading this morning, I thought of these words from the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:17  –

 “…. where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom”. 

Yes, freedom!  And, as trite as that may sound it is exactly true.  For in and of ourselves, we are powerless to change much about our lives and the situations we find ourselves in. We can try this and try that but, it is only by God that we will find permanent release and change that will last. A thought I hope that will stay with me the next time I find my self “caught in the current” of life.  Less reliance on me and more on the one who has the power to effect a permanent change – after all, it is he who controls the water does he not?

I love how God speaks to us through the simple things, don’t you? It has made a difference in my day today – I hope it has in yours.


 

From 2003, the final newsletter of Elizabeth Elliot:

I bid you farewell with words from a hymn written by Anna L. Waring in 1850:

Father, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me,
And the changes that are sure to come
I do not fear to see;
I ask Thee for a present mind,
Intent on pleasing Thee.

I would not have the restless will
That hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do
Or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child
And guided where I go.

Wherever in the world I am,
In whatsoever estate,
I have a fellowship with hearts
To keep and cultivate .

May 23, 2014

Captives are Set Free

 

Six months ago we introduced you to Pastor Jesus Figueroa, who was born in Tijuana, Mexico and today pastors a 700 member church in Los Angeles. I really like the format he uses, beginning (as we do here sometimes) with a variety of translations, then some devotional thoughts, and then related verses. Each day’s writings are posted in both English and Spanish.  I strongly encourage you to read this at his blog, Word for Today, and then take some time to look at other articles.  Click the title below to read:

To Proclaim Liberty to the Captives

Topic: We Are Called to Proclaim His Liberty

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,Because the Lord has anointed Me

To preach good tidings to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives….”

Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV)

Daily Reading Plan

Ezra 1-2

Bible Versions:

Isaiah 61:1 (NLT) – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

Isaiah 61:1 (NIV) – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners….

Devotional Thought:

The prophet Isaiah pointed to a future when Jesus would bring freedom for all those bound by the chains of the enemy. His ministry was very sharp and clear: to proclaim liberty those who are imprisoned! As Isaiah 49:9 declares even, “That You may say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ They shall feed along the roads, and their pastures shall be on all desolate heights.” Glory to God! What a blessing to know that Jesus came to bring the good news to a humanity in need.

The message that we read this morning in the book of Isaiah is still one that the church should be preaching today. These words should be the center of all of our message to a humanity that finds itself in grave need. There are a multitude of people who are imprisoned in their own sins—people who for years have been in prisons of depression and affliction of the enemy. Many of them think that there is not one ounce of hope for their lives! The will of God is that they would not stay the same, but as 2 Timothy 2:26 tells us, “…that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

Our mission today is to continue to proclaim the freedom of the gospel amidst a world in darkness. We must take seriously the great responsibility that God has given us, a commission to proclaim freedom! The message is, “You do not have to live under the bondage of the enemy”; Jesus breaks the chains! I wonder: are we willing to proclaim this message? Can we hear the cry of those who find themselves bound? We must have an ear tuned by prayer to hear the cries, as Psalm 102:20 says: “To hear the groaning of the prisoner, to release those appointed to death….” The best that we can do, having been made free in Christ, is to carry this message of freedom to others.

Topical References:

Isaiah 42:6–7 (NKJV) — “I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand;

I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.”

Luke 4:18 (NKJV) — “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed….”

Isaiah 49:24–25 (NKJV) — Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of the righteous be delivered? But thus says the Lord: “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible be delivered; for I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your children.”

Psalms 102:20 (NKJV) — To hear the groaning of the prisoner, to release those appointed to death….

2 Timothy 2:26 (NKJV) — …and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

January 20, 2014

If We Love the Father…

In addition to running different kinds of content here, sometimes we’ll run something with a different style. In today’s post, a writer simply blogs out of the overflow of her pastor’s weekend sermon. Have you ever been so filled with a message you heard that it just overflows from you?

The writer’s name is Dacia Wilkinson. As far as I know, we’re not related! She’s a mother and an author and either an Aspie or a parent of one. The blog has the curious title, It All Started With Heathcliff and the blog piece is titled The Only Thing That Matters.


“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts if faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6

Love is what counts. And love that expresses itself through … vs. 22 … “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such thing there is no law.”

Today, Pastor Don Sharp said these are not attributes to strive for … that these are given to you by Christ when you choose to trust Him as your Savior.  I believe my head tilted to the side at his words – kind of a “Huh” in Tim Taylor tone. And I listened harder.  And yes, after a straightening of the head and the settling of the words into my soul, I understood.

Daily, we allow selfishness, pride, anger, judgment, these things to stand in the way of the perfect gift of love we’ve been given. Daily, yes … WE do.  We allow our joy to be stolen. We allow worry to enslave peace.  We allow immediacy and frustration to overtake patience.  We allow hurry and self to shove over kindness.  We allow picking and choosing to overshadow faithfulness.  We allow anger and division to distort gentleness.  We ignore self-control.  WE do these things and by our fruit we are known. We show, sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like (vs 19-21).  These are allowed.  These we celebrate and portray on television.  We say, “Go girl!” to disrespect. And then, we go to church, raise our hands, and pretend to love God.

I said Pretend.  Yes, I did.

Harsh. True. Sad. Man. So many in our churches live this way. So many. Me. Man.

The truth stands …

If we loved the Father, we would obey the Father. 

Vs 16 states, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Vs 24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

I John 2:6 …” Whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did.”    And what is that?

Micah 6:8 … “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Jesus tells us how in Matthew … Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself.  All the Law and Prophets hang on these.

Love.

Mercy.

Grace.

This love of God’s that he so freely offers to us all – unconditional and beautiful – it covers sin and brings those who follow Him to grace and mercy, which he bestows freely.

Free.  Freely.  Freedom.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”  Ah ….  Galatians 5:1.  “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

It is not of God that we walk in anger, range, jealousy. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of sound mind,” says I Timothy 1:7.  God has given to those who love him — power, love and a sound mind. Within our hands, our minds, our hearts is the capacity to love like He does. To show grace and mercy. To move self out of the way. To choose life. To choose to love in sacrifice. To choose sacrifice.

This love given freely produces joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Not you. You cannot produce those things – not on your own. Everyday, choose to sacrifice fleshly feelings and open the Word as a reminder of the gift of freedom to love. And remember ….

The ONLY thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  Not church attendance. Not good deeds.  Not the man-made rules of the church – lots of churches with their doctrine and their by-laws, their catechisms and their classes.  None of these.

You cannot manufacture it. It’s given to you by God himself and never of your own accord.

Fall in love with God, meditate on his word. Pursue the words of Christ.  Love God. Love your neighbor. Boom.

Faith expressing itself through love.

October 27, 2013

Forgiving Each Other…As God Has Forgiven You

forgiven forgive

Some thoughts on forgiveness, from Neil Anderson at yesterday’s and today’s devotional at Crosswalk.com:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free ~Galatians 5:1

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you ~Ephesians 4:32

How does God intend for you to resolve hurtful, controlling past experiences? In two ways ….

First, you have the privilege of evaluating your past experience in the light of who you are now, as opposed to who you were then. The intensity of the primary emotion was established by how you perceived the event at the time it happened. Remember: Your emotions are a product of how you perceived the event, not the event itself. As a Christian, you are not primarily a product of your past; you are primarily the product of the work of Christ on the cross. The flesh, which represents how you processed those events according to the world and without Christ, remains. But you are able to render it inoperative.

When a present event activates that primary emotion, many people believe what they feel instead of believing what is true. For example, people who have been verbally abused by their parents have a hard time believing they are unconditionally loved by Father God. Their primary emotions argue that they are unlovable to a parent figure. They believe what they feel and their walk is off course. Believing the truth and walking by faith is what sets us free.

Now that you are in Christ, you can look at those events from the perspective of who you are today. Christ is in your life right now desiring to set you free from your past. That is the gospel, the good news that Christ has come to set the captives free. Perceiving those events from the perspective of your new identity in Christ is what starts the process of healing those damaged emotions.

God’s good news about our identity is revealed in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” This is what you must believe first in order to be set free from your past.

The second step in resolving past conflicts is to forgive those who have offended you. After encouraging Cindy, a rape victim, to deal with the emotional trauma of her rape, I said, “Cindy, you also need to forgive the man who raped you.” Cindy’s response was typical of many believers who have suffered physical, sexual or emotional pain at the hands of others: “Why should I forgive him? You don’t know how badly he hurt me!”

“He’s still hurting you, Cindy,” I responded. “Forgiveness is how you stop the pain. You don’t forgive him for his sake; you do it for your sake.”

Why should you forgive those who have hurt you in the past?

First, forgiveness is required by God. As soon as Jesus spoke the amen to His model prayer–which included a petition for God’s forgiveness–He commented: “If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14, 15). We must base our relationships with others on the same criteria on which God bases His relationship with us: love, acceptance and forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35).

Second, forgiveness is necessary to avoid entrapment by Satan. I have discovered from my counseling that unforgiveness is the number one avenue Satan uses to gain entrance to believers’ lives. Paul encouraged mutual forgiveness “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Unforgiveness is an open invitation to Satan’s bondage in our lives.

Third, we are to forgive like Christ forgave in order to keep our hearts from bitterness. Paul wrote: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31, 32).

Your act of forgiveness will set the captive free, then you will realize that the captive was you!

Prayer: Loving Lord, thank You for making me a new creation in Christ. Help me walk away from anything in my past that is restricting my freedom.

Continue reading archive editions of Neil Anderson’s writing at Daily in Christ; you can also subscribe to receive his messages daily by email.

Today’s two-for-one special: After preparing this, I found this quotation on Tim Keller’s Twitter feed:

When you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.

July 9, 2013

The Truth Everyone Seeks

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Today’s post is shorter, but rich in scripture. The writer is Mitzi Smith who blogs at Written Reality, one of the blogs at Faith Village. This originally appeared as 7 Gifts of Truth Everyone is Seeking:

Why do we push the boundaries?

Our world creates such distortions, it’s difficult to find anything real. Yet, we often push the boundaries to connect within it.

We keep truth quiet in the name of peace until our silence creates our own world war. [tweetable]

We set aside truth in the name of tolerance until our tolerance becomes our own belief. [tweetable]

We blur truth in the name of acceptance until our blurred vision blinds all reality. [tweetable]

One glance across today’s headlines conveys these consequences. Living our own truth will all too soon lead us over the edge into a pit of our own warped devastation.

Reading the Bible isn’t a homework assignment or an option for extra credit from the Creator. God doesn’t provide His Word of Truth as punishment. He gives us His Word to keep us grounded in reality.

Liberal thoughts enslave us. God’s boundaries set us free. [tweetable]

God’s Word is a gift of Truth, not to bind, but to offer a prosperous life of freedom and joy.

7 Gifts of Truth

1. Truth provides security.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  Ephesians 6:14

2. Truth gives freedom.

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

3. Truth gives life.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

4. Truth offers direction.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:5

5. Truth sets apart His people.

 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. John 17:17

6. Truth provides His presence.

The Lord is near to those who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. Psalm 145:18

7. Truth offers wisdom.

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Psalm 51:6

April 29, 2013

When Computers Set Ministry Agenda

Romans 8:14 (NIV)

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Most of you probably have some type of agenda/organizer that came with your computer. There are also programs available to pastors and churches that are more specialized; more specific. They are capable of setting the agenda for all sorts of things from a one-year preaching arc to visitation to church finances and everything in between.

In A. W. Tozer’s day the personal computer or laptop had never been envisioned, let alone the smart phone. Instead, he wrote about the most progressive office organizing tool of his day, what we know now as the Rolodex. The article he wrote was titled, “Beware the File-Card Mentality.”

It is part of human nature to want to organize, to put things in boxes and people into categories. It’s part of our DNA to compose lists, make charts and have a diagram for just about everything. Our ability to visually simplify things is not all bad; where would we be without maps? But there are dangers implicit in doing this in a church or ministry environment.

A W TozerTozer wrote:

  • The essence of true religion is spontaneity, the sovereign movings of the Holy Spirit upon and in the free spirit of redeemed men.
  • When religion loses its sovereign character and becomes mere form, this spontaneity is lost also, and its place comes precedent, propriety, system — and the file-card mentality.
  • Behind the file-card mentality is the belief that spirituality can be organized. Then is introduced into religion those ideas which never belong there — numbers, statistics, the law of averages, and other such natural and human things. And creeping death always follows.
  • The danger comes from the well-known human tendency to depend on external helps in dealing with internal things.
  • [This mentality] divides the Bible into sections fitted to the days of the year and compels the Christian to read according to rule.
  • From the road in, it looks like a good idea to work out a system of sermon coverage, mapping out the doctrines of the Bible as a farmer divides his acres, allowing a certain amount of time during the year for sermons on the various Bible truths so that at the end of a given period, proper attention will have been paid to each one. Theoretically, this should be fine, but it will kill any man who follows it, and it will kill his church as well and one characteristic of this kind of death is that neither pastor nor people are aware that it is come
  • It is a deadly thing and works to quench the spontaneous operation of the Spirit.
  • The glory of the gospel is its freedom. The Pharisees, who were slaves, hated Christ because He was free. The battle for spiritual freedom did not end when our Lord had risen from the dead. It still goes on…

All of the above is mostly word-for-word, but for Tozer’s final paragraph, I have to paraphrase this to make it relevant to our century:

  • It will indeed be a cause for mourning when the work of God is entrusted wholly to the webmaster, the ‘tech pastor,’ and the IT department.

December 13, 2012

The Yoke’s On You

Back in June we introduced the blog ministry of Scott Daniels at The Rest That Works. Today’s post appeared there a few weeks ago under the title, Yoking around with Jesus

 You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
~ Bob Dylan

   
       Not to say that we’re a bunch of cattle, but the yoke thing is growing on me (a typical Jesus paradox).

        I knew the yoke was often used in the Bible to talk about servitude and oppression, but before researching for the rest that works, I wasn’t very familiar with it as a positive image other than when Jesus used it in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me . . . Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Turns out, the image is common in rabbinic teaching, both from Jesus’ day and ever since. One popular teaching is: “Whoever takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah (The Judaic Law), they remove from him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly concerns, and whoever breaks off the yoke of the Torah, they place on him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly concerns” (Avot 3:5). According to this teaching, it’s one or the other—the ways of God or of the world, the yoke of fear or the yoke of Divine Love. As Bob Dylan says, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna serve somebody.

Jesus Teaching Yoke Is EasySo it’s very interesting that Jesus used the image to talk about rest — it’s such a contrast, even with much of Judaism. He was standing within Jewish tradition but saying that his work leads to relief from both the ways of the world and a burdensome experience of religious Law—and that’s exactly what I have experienced by aligning with him through the rest that works. Aligning with his “yoke” frees me to flow with Divine Love. It has the opposite effect of what one expects from the image (servitude and labor).

Jesus was saying many things in using the yoke image: First, he was saying, “Do what it takes to come into alignment with me and Divine Love. It will take some effort, but doing so will free you internally. You’ll learn to keep the conditional ways of the world where they belong—in the world. This will free you to work in a whole new way.” Second, he was saying that as we learn to settle into God’s love with him and work from there, we’ll finally experience a sense of relief inside that the ways of the world or dogmatic religion cannot give—peace that passes human understanding. There is a precious gift involved. There is a pearl of great price.

By definition, condition-based ways of doing things simply do not work to give what we really want—the inner peace and meaning found in being loved and loving unconditionally with God. When we align with and settle into unconditional love, we are freed to move freely and lightly in the world without being burdened inside with whether or not we “make the cut” or “are good enough.” We also become better able to free others from those conditions—- that’s love.

Almost everything in the world is conditional. That’s how things work in the world. It’s how society is organized. It’s how things are governed. Meet the conditions, and you’re in. Fail, and you’re out. Challenge them, and you’re threatened until you get back in line—back into the yoke of fear that governs most things in our world. It’s the cycle of how things work. We’re always moving in and out of the fears of that cycle, and until we come home to God’s unconditional love, those fears govern us inside. They govern our minds. They rule us. That’s just no fun. It’s a continual burden that wears our souls down.

It takes work to move into alignment with Divine Love, but it’s always worth it deep down inside. It feels so much better to feel an unconditionally loving spirit moving in us instead of fear, evaluations, accusations or threats. When those movements of spirit are dominant, we end up not liking or even respecting ourselves. We may be successful in the eyes of the world, but not our souls. We cannot be at peace inside when that is the case. We’re like the push-me-pull-you of Dr. Doolittle fame.

But there’s more at stake than just inner peace. We have so much more to offer others when we live in alignment with God’s love. The most loving thing we can do for others at any given time is to check our internal alignment and be moving with Divine Love. It’s for us, but not just for us. It’s for our world, starting with our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors—whoever we are with. For this is how the kingdom comes, heart to heart, one heart at a time.

Jesus’ invitation to enter the rest that works is a sweeping one. It’s a big deal. Coming into alignment with him and working with him in his “yoke” delivers us from fears and veiled threats, inside and out. But it does more than that. The discipline involved takes us beyond pie-in-the-sky hippie thinking. It’s not just about rest, but also what works. In this sense, it is hard work—checking our internal alignment as we go takes a lot of spiritual discipline. But the rewards of moving with Divine Love so exceed the rewards of any other way of living, there’s no question it’s worth it. Divine Love means so much to us that there’s no comparison with anything else. When we’re in the zone—feeling Divine, Creative Energy flowing in and out—we laugh at ourselves for ever valuing anything more.

Jesus’ way and truth really does set us free from the burdens that wear us down in the most spiritually serious ways. We need to work in the world, and want to, because there’s work well worth doing with our Creator who is creating out of Divine Love. We want to create good things, we want to keep our families safe, we want to do what’s right, but not because of threats, not because someone will get us if we don’t. We want to do what Love beckons us to do with God because it’s our innermost desire, for ourselves and for others. When we’re working in that zone, we know that we’re fulfilling out purpose on the planet. It feels right deep down inside, even if there is hard work involved. It’s work worth doing. In fact, it’s worth everything and our souls know it.

And that’s no yoke.

More power to you in escaping the yoke of fear and settling into the unforced rhythms of Divine Love with Jesus. He will work with you if you’ll let him. He’s saved me in ways I can’t even begin to explain—especially from myself. Just ask him for help and guidance and pay attention. Look to align with Divine Love and look for leads, inside and out. He’ll work with you from there.

April 7, 2012

The Nuances of Grace and Resurrection

This story is widely blogged:

In What’s So Amazing about Grace?, Philip Yancey recounts this story about C. S. Lewis:

During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.

They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.

The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions.

Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

After some discussion, the conferees had to agree.

The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.

While I like the story, had I been present, I would have challenged the notion that other religions have verified accounts of resurrection. One of the other things that sets Christianity apart is the evidence for the resurrection; evidence which forms the themes of countless books on Christian apologetics.

But where I want to go with this today is this: If you think about it, grace and resurrection are somewhat similar ideas. The DNA present in the concept of grace is embedded in the concept of resurrection, and the DNA of resurrection is embedded in the concept of grace.

Both represent a ‘pass’ if you will.

I sin, but forgiveness is made available by the grace of God.

I die, but in expectation of being raised to eternal life just as Christ conquered death.

I avoid having to perform acts of penance or go through acts of contrition in order to recover my spiritual dignity; I simply need to sincerely ask God’s forgiveness, it is a gift from God, not involving effort or earning.

I avoid having to wonder if my remorse was sufficient, I can receive assurance from God’s Word that my transgressions are forgiven, because he is ever-faithful and ever-just.

I avoid a meaningless death, but die knowing that this is not the end; that death itself is a gateway to something greater that God has in store; something my eyes have never seen, my ears have never heard, my imagination has never conjured up.

Now, some will argue that avoiding the consequences of sin and someday experiencing the reality of victory over death is really the same thing; and I would agree. The two are linked.

But imagine — and you don’t have to — a belief system that includes both grace and resurrection. Why would you look anywhere else?

October 6, 2011

Neil Anderson on Prophecy

Throughout October we’re looking at devotional and study materials located at one of the largest repository of online resources by Christian radio broadcasters, OnePlace.com   This time, Neil Anderson looks at manifestations of prophetic gifts in  a piece he titled, The Proper Use of Prophecy.

The Bible says there is only one intermediary between God and man, and that is Jesus. False prophets and teachers often function like intermediaries. When God sent the prophet Nathan to David, it was for the purpose of bringing conviction in order to establish righteousness. In the church age, bringing conviction is a primary ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The proper use of the gift of prophecy would reveal unrighteousness in order to establish people in Christ. Once people are living righteously with the Lord, the Holy Spirit will lead them. False gifts will not consistently promote holiness but often will specify decisions concerning direction in life. That function is the role of the Holy Spirit alone,
...because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.(Romans 8:14).
Some churches encourage their members, including the immature, to come into the fullness of the Spirit with manifestations. I ask, “Why not the fullness of the truth?” It’s the fullness of the truth the Holy Spirit has promised to lead us into. I’m deeply concerned for young converts in ministries that push for them to seek total manifestations of the Spirit. Many have not had the time to understand the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets. The church at Corinth had similar problems. They were exhorted by Paul to get back to the basics of faith, hope and love, and govern very closely the use of tongues and prophecies in public worship because God does everything decently and in order,
But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
A pastor received a letter from a former staff member who was dismissed for moral reasons. The letter contained a prophecy for the pastor’s church. I asked, “Why would God give a prophecy for your church through this man?” I suggested that they shouldn’t even read it since it would function like a curse. Everything that happened in the church would be evaluated by the prophecy (either to substantiate it or invalidate it).
If a person or church is earnestly seeking the Lord, God will work through the lines of authority He has established in His Word.
Prayer: Father, protect me from false teaching and guide me into all truth by Your Spirit.
~Neil Anderson

October 10, 2010

It Is Hell, It Is Hell With My Soul

No peace like a river attendeth my way,
My sorrows like sea-billows roll
This heart-breaking lot has just taught me to say,
It is hell, it is hell in my soul

My sin — Oh the grief of this guilt in my heart –
My anguish, not part, but the whole,
All adds up to loss, and I bear it alone;
It is hell, it is hell in my soul

Now Satan can buffet, sore trials can come
When life is all out of control;
My conscience just burns, and dark memories haunt
It is hell, it is hell in my soul.

But, Lord haste the day that will chase off this night,
And scatter this doom from my soul.
With tears I repent, so, dear Lord, let me know
There is hope and relief for my soul.

With great condemnation I fall at Thy cross,
To confess, not in part, but the whole
Of a sin-blighted life, and to cry to be cleansed,
And to plead, “Take control of my soul.”

~Leonard Ravenhill