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The Battle Against Sin Is Actually Part of God’s Plan

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The Battle Against Sin Is Actually Part of God’s Plan

We have it in our heads that if we struggle with temptation, if we fall into sin from time to time, there must be something terribly wrong with us. Everyone else seems fine. We must be pretenders. But the truth is everyone struggles with something. The battle itself is part of living in the already … but not yet dilemma.

Through the cross Jesus overcame sin and nailed them on it. Yet still we have to fight the battle against sin. And I am convinced we will fight that battle until the day we die.

That’s basically what the writer of Hebrews says.

God uses the struggle against sin to grow us, so don’t be surprised by it.

Don’t be discouraged by it.

Fight the fight (Hebrews 12).

Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Now he holds the honored position—the one next to God the Father on the heavenly throne. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.

You struggle against sin, but your struggles haven’t killed you. You have forgotten the encouraging words that God speaks to you as his children:

“My child, pay attention when the Lord disciplines you. Don’t give up when he corrects you.

The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.”

Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family. On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? For a short time our fathers disciplined us as they thought best. Yet, God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him. We don’t enjoy being disciplined. It always seems to cause more pain than joy. But later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right.

 

Strengthen your tired arms and weak knees. 13 Keep walking along straight paths so that your injured leg won’t get worse. Instead, let it heal. Try to live peacefully with everyone, and try to live holy lives, because if you don’t, you will not see the Lord.”[1]

 

Every single one of God’s children lives between the “already” and the “not yet.”

Already Jesus reigns, but His final kingdom has not yet come.

Already sin has been defeated, but it has not yet been completely destroyed.

Already God has given you his Word, but it has not yet totally transformed your life.

Already you have been given grace, but God’s grace has not yet finished its work.

We all must wait for the final end of the work that God has begun in and for us.

But be assured, GOD IS AT WORK EVERYDAY!

“He who began a good work in you will will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

IMPERFECT? Yes.

PERFECT? Absolutely!

 

[1] Hebrews 12:1-14 GW

It All Comes from Him

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It All Comes from Him

We would be nothing without God. Our life would not exist. Our accomplishments would never have been achieved without God. Take a look at Jesus’ words in the prayer he modeled for us, “For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”[1]

  • Thine is the Kingdom = God created and owns all things.
  • Thine is the power = God gives life and energy to all things.
  • Thine is the glory = God gets all the praise, credit and glory for all good.

In Him we live, and move, and have our being![2]

The Jesus perspective clearly influenced the thinking of the Apostle Paul when he wrote, “God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep that it is impossible to explain his decisions or to understand his ways. Who knows how the Lord thinks? Who can become his adviser? Who gave the Lord something which the Lord must pay back? Everything is from him and by him and for him. Glory belongs to him forever! Amen!”[3]

All praise goes to God because all that we have, and all that we will enjoy through all eternity, comes from God alone.

The Jesus perspective influenced Jude 1:25 “Before time began, now, and for eternity glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”[4]

When you think about your life, what do you have? What have you accomplished? Is there anything you have that you did not receive from God?

It all comes from Him.

Sometimes we say of high achievers, “Look what she’s accomplished. She’s a self-made woman.” My question is, did she create herself? Did she create the miracle of birth and will herself into being? Did she determine the level of her own mental capacity while still in her mother’s womb? Did she give herself the ability think, dream, plan, and implement great things?

Part of the problem of mankind is our hunger to take the credit for what was given to us from God. The Bible says God gives thrones. He sets up kings. He brings them down. How difficult it is for powerful world leaders to remember this.

God said in Isaiah 42:8: “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another. Listen to Me Israel, I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last. Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens. When I call to them, they both stand up.”[5]

The Jesus perspective understands that someday all of the earthly accomplishments will pass away. Every great work of mankind will be swept into the dust bin of eternity.

You can listen to Pastor Ron’s message, Living the Jesus Perspective here. 

[1] Matthew 6:13 KJV

[2] Acts 17:28

[3] Romans 11:33-36 GW

[4] GW

[5] KJV

Anger Can Move You to Action

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Anger Can Move You to Action

When you look at the ministry of Jesus about the only people He ever got angry at were those who loved worship more than they loved man. The Pharisees were in that group. They loved their rules. They loved their worship. But they didn’t love people.

So, what did Jesus do at the beginning and at the end of His ministry? He thoroughly cleansed the temple (John 2). This story is borderline bazaar. The same man who said, “turn the other cheek” turned over tables. The same man who said, “Love your neighbor” physically drove the moneychangers out of the temple!

Jesus’ anger moved Him into action. And Jesus paid a dear price for it. This act of anger was a challenge to their authority. It so infuriated the Jews that it motivated them to begin planning His murder.

Sometimes godly anger will lead us to do what we would otherwise not do, it will lead us out of our comfort zone so we will FIGHT the good FIGHT.

In the “good fight” the shock value very often leads to change. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful protest stirred an entire nation into action and laws changed, hearts changed, and life got better for the powerless.

In this story, Jesus did something shocking to challenge God’s people and stir up their thinking. Jesus knew that three years from this Passover, He would become the Passover lamb slain for the sins of the whole world.

The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. He found those who were selling cattle, sheep, and pigeons in the temple courtyard. He also found moneychangers sitting there. 15 He made a whip from small ropes and threw everyone with their sheep and cattle out of the temple courtyard. He dumped the moneychangers’ coins and knocked over their tables.[1]

Jesus was very aware that He lived in a dangerous world. He needed to be smart, but He also knew He needed to speak up. So He did. The Old Testament Jewish form of worship involved bringing a living sacrifice to the house of worship; cattle, sheep, and pigeons. This was part of the worship but some had turned it into personal gain.

What was Jesus so offended by? Was it the fact they were bringing all those messy animals into the house of God and it would get dirty? No. Jesus was offended because these men were exploiting the guilt of the worshippers. They were profiting from it. That’s what angered Him!

It’s good for us to examine ourselves:

  • What motivates my anger? The true condition of our heart is exposed by the things that anger us.
  • Do I primarily get angry about the things that inconvenience my life, or am I angered by the injustice that the powerless experience?

The last night we were in Athens, Greece we saw a large group police in riot gear coming by. There were 2,000 protestors. Our guide said, “It’s a challenge but what are those poor people supposed to do? I would do anything for my family!”

There are so many thorny issues in every society. As followers of Christ we must examine every issue through the lens of biblical values, not just through our own personal opinion.

It’s really not so important how I feel about an issue. What’s most important is, how God feels about it?

  • How would God have me to think about this matter?
  • And what, if anything, does God want me to do about it?

[1] John 2:14 GW

A Right Way to Show Anger

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A Right Way to Show Anger

But our emotions must be examined. They must be sanctified and controlled by the Holy Spirit, or they can easily become sin to us.

Today we’re looking at anger and here’s the deal. Did you know that anger should not always be suppressed? There’s actually a right time and a right way to show anger.

I grew up in a family system that didn’t allow anger (Amish were pacifist). My dad would say, “People don’t get mad. Animals do!”

Consequently, I always thought anger in any form was wrong. People who protested for any reason were always wrong (unions/civil rights movement). Good people never show anger. They never speak out. But I have grown up since then. I have come to realize that silence is not always golden. Sometimes it’s plain YELLOW!

Anger can be a powerful emotion for change. If it’s used in the right way it accomplishes much good, but used wrong, it destroys.

The key is found in Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry, but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”

The Amplified Bible says; “Be angry [at injustice, at ungodly behavior], yet do not sin; do not let your anger last until the sun goes down [causing you shame]. And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, by nurturing anger, by harboring resentment, or by cultivating bitterness].”

They tell us this election, perhaps more than others, has been fueled by an angry electorate. If that’s true of you, be sure to check your heart. Be certain that you are angry for the right reasons.

And how can we know? Begin by asking yourself, is God angry about the same things that anger me?

Ask yourself, “Is my anger driven by a sense of self-protection or am I more upset about those who cannot protect themselves?”

In the Old Testament, God was angry at His children, Israel because they loved worship but didn’t care one bit about the injustice all around them.

  • God said, I’m tired of you being in love with worship but showing no love to those who are powerless, who daily experience injustice.
  • He said, I hate your festivals, your incense is detestable to Me, your worship has become a burden to me.

God said to the Israelites, be angry about the powerless. Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

God also became angry when His people were living in sin but still gathering to worship and acting as if everything was just fine.

Jeremiah 7:9-11 “Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears My name, become a den of thieves? I have been watching you!”

Jesus quoted these very same verses when He cleansed the temple.

You see, God’s is always more concerned about the condition of our hearts than the mere form of our worship.

Faith—An Antidote for Fear

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Faith—An Antidote for Fear

Another antidote for fear is faith. Recently we talked about spiritual warfare and the importance of our spiritual armor. One piece of your armor is the shield of faith, which stops the flaming darts of the evil one.

Listen to me. Our faith in Jesus is more powerful than we understand. Faith is more than belief in God or a particular doctrine.

Faith is the very thing that preserves our soul, our sanity in the battles of life.

The last thing Paul wrote before his death; “I have finished the race, I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith.” Faith sustained him.

Keep in mind Timothy was a pastor (see previous blog Showing Concern for Others—Antidote for Fear). Pastors are not immune to fear. So to his distressed son, Paul wrote, “I’m reminded of how sincere your faith is. That faith first lived in your grandmother, Lois and your mother, Eunice. I’m convinced that it also lives in you.”[1]

Paul was convinced that faith was still in Timothy, but it clearly sounds as if Timothy was not so sure about it! So Paul spoke faith over him.

“Don’t lose your faith son! Faith will SAVE you!”

[1] 2 Timothy 1:5 GW

Whatever is On the Inside Comes Out

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Whatever is On the Inside Comes Out

Inside Out, a new blog series launching today, deals with our emotions. Whatever is inside always comes to the outside. Jesus said it’s impossible to stop ourselves from speaking what’s on the inside; for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”[1]

We want to examine what healthy biblical emotions look like. We want to use Jesus as our example.

Here’s what we know for sure. Jesus experienced all five emotions; fear, anger, disgust, sadness and joy. And yet His emotions never controlled His reactions. His emotions didn’t drive His decisions or lead Him to sin.

Our fears must be challenged.

If we allow fear to grow unchecked, we give it the right to be our master, and a horrible master it will be.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Pastor Timothy; “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”[2] Why did Paul write that? Because Timothy was completely overwhelmed with fear and was walking away from the ministry.

  • Fear disempowers us.
  • Naked fear enslaves us.
  • Fear left unchallenged will make us feel like a helpless victims, even though we aren’t.

Someone said that 90% of the things we fear never come to pass. But do you know what that proves? Fear actually works!

Have you ever thought about some of the things we fear the most?

We fear:

  • important decisions.
  • living in a world that seems out of control.
  • losing our jobs.
  • finding out we have a serious illness.
  • And most of all we fear our own destructive impulses, impulses we can no longer resist, and with that fear is the greater fear of being disgraced and losing respect.

Isaiah 43: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, your Savior.”[3]

[1] Luke 6:45

[2] 2 Timothy 1:7

[3] Isaiah 43:1-3 NKJV

You Gotta Serve Somebody

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You Gotta Serve Somebody

 

Three years ago, my Thursday morning men’s Life Group went through a book, God’s at War—Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart by Pastor Kyle Idleman. It really challenged us to deeply examine our lives. We had to ask ourselves, Are we truly putting God first in every part of our lives?

Exodus 20:1-2 says, Then God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.[1]

In the words of Bob Dylan, “You gotta serve somebody.”

Everybody has a god! The question is, who is your God?

Our gods have power. And our gods are many. A god is whomever or whatever we look to for security, deliverance, provision, or fulfillment. And here’s what ends up happening. Whatever or whomever you place as god in your life—you worship—because gods must be worshiped.

In Exodus God says, let’s get this relationship clear. If we are going to be together, I have to be the ONE and ONLY. ““Never have any other god.”[2] And that is the number one commandment of the Ten Commandments: You can have NO OTHER GODS.

Never make your own carved idols or statues that represent any creature in the sky, on the earth, or in the water.[3] There is something about our gods that cause us to bow before them. They demand to be worshipped. They demand CONTROL. So if you want to discover what your gods are, all you have to do is look at what you venerate, what you honor above all things or people.

Idolatry is so dangerous because it affects your children and your grandchildren.

Your gods become their gods! Exodus 20:5 says, Never worship them or serve them, because I, the Lord your God, am a God who does not tolerate rivals. I punish children for their parents’ sins to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.[4]

So if alcohol is your god, then chances are very good your children and your children’s children will also bow down to that very same god. But, if God is your one and only God, then chances are very good that your children and your children’s children will only bow down to Him.

So, I ask you today—whomever or whatever do you serve?

 

Listen online to the complete message at http://www.lakeviewchurch.org/2016/05/15/gods-at-war-week-1/

[1] GW

[2] Exodus 20:3 GW

[3] Exodus 20:4 GW

[4] GW

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