Answers to the Sin Problem

In my quest through the Bible I have been searching for a faith that really works. As a recovering sinner (much like an alcoholic) I used to believe it was just a matter of time before I sinned again (had another drink) and so I never was free.

How could I pretend to love God if I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) obey him? It felt like I was Judas, constantly stabbing Jesus in the back. This haunted me. I was never free to simply just love Jesus and be me. The looming threat of sin weighed me down.

How would any of us like to be married to a spouse who said, “I love you and all but it’s really only a matter of time before I cheat on you again.”

I think we can all agree, that relationship is doomed. Yet this is the attitude many Christians have toward God. I have heard many Christians say, “but we’re only human” to explain away our sinfulness. Apparently being “human” means being prone to and destined to betrayal and backstabbing, selfishness and strife, adultery and idolatry, drunkenness and failure.

Is this really what it is to be human? Is this what God had in mind when he started this whole thing and made humans and said, “It is good”? Wouldn’t he know more about what it means to be human since he authored us all? And wouldn’t he, through his marvelous plan of redemption, also make provision for us to be restored completely to our intended state as “good” humans?

I know that he has.

I don’t know about you but I want to obey God and be faithful in my heart to him and be good. My infidelity to God has plagued me over the years and I thought, “There must be a cure!”

Indeed there is.

Jesus didn’t leave Paul forever stuck in Romans 7. Romans 7 describes the universal plight of every fallen human that even though we agree with the truth and want to do good we inevitably do the wrong that we hate instead. This is slavery to sin. Paul grew in faith into the salvation described in Romans 8 – life by the Spirit of God. The Spirit’s activity in our lives is paramount and absolutely vital to the salvation experience.

I have come to see through my reading of the Bible that the Holy Spirit essentially is the Christian life. His presence in our lives is our eternal life. All Holy Spirit-less forms of Christianity are counterfeits. Thankfully the Spirit of God is freely given to everyone who believes in Jesus, to all who look to him for salvation.

Snakebit!

Numbers chapter 21 describes a time when the Israelites grumble against God and against Moses and even despise the manna God had been providing for them. So God sends poisonous snakes into the camp. Many were bitten by these snakes and some died. The Israelites came to Moses and confessed their sin and pleaded for releif from the snakes. God then instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and attach it to a pole. All those who had been bitten then need only to look at the bronze serpent and be healed.

Jesus references this very story as an illustration of the cross. Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” John 3:14-15 NIV

Every last one of us has been bitten by the deadly snake of sin. We could decide then, and many do, to sit around and moan and complain of our snakebites. We can choose to fixate on our snakebite and watch it fester and ooze puss.

We can look on as it discolors our lives an ugly shade of black and blue and feel within ourselves the absolute bitterness and misery that sin inflicts upon us. We could then look for help in therapy and counseling or in self help books. We could seek the answer at the bottom of a bottle of alcohol, and then, in turn, seek the answer by getting sober. We could search for our healing by eating healthy or by working out in the gym.

OR, we can get on with the business of salvation and find real healing in Jesus. The only answer, the only healing that can be found for all of sin’s poisonous effects – both for those sins that you have done and including all the sins done against you – is to look to Jesus. Look no further. The search is over. If you have found Christ, you have found everything you need.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 NIV

I don’t know about you, but as for me, I am tired of showing off my ugly snakebite. Instead, I will choose to look to Christ and find my healing and salvation and I encourage you to do the same.

Getting Practical:

How do we look to Christ or fix our eyes on him?

Faith: First things first. We need to put our faith in Jesus. If you don’t have faith in Christ, you don’t have the Holy Spirit which is the only cure for the sin that ails you and who is the only power over sin. Sincerely ask Jesus to save you! The Bible tells us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). It is truly amazing how he responds to and rescues those who will humble themselves enough to simply ask for help.

Word of God: Are you reading the Bible? God’s word does a work in our lives, exposing the pride and sin which is our greatest enemy.  We can be set free as we confess and repent of our pride and sin.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13 NIV

Talk with God: Don’t talk to God, talk with him! Do you talk with him everyday? How is your conversation with God coming along? Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so keep the conversation going!

Obey: Once you have the Holy Spirit, you now have the power to say no to ungodliness and worldly lusts.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14 NIV

Do you obey him and by the Holy Spirit put to death the misdeeds of the body? God promises to never give us more than we can handle, you have his word on that:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

Start seeking the Lord earnestly. He will be found by all who seek him with all their heart.

“…You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD…” Jeremiah 29:13-14 NIV

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Eat His Flesh, Drink His Blood… What?

I woke this morning with Jesus words on my mind.

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53 NIV)

Let me tell you that first of all, Jesus is not talking about some bread and some wine, or “communion” as we commonly misunderstand it. He is talking about a whole different level of communion – a real communion – with him. To think he is talking about wafers and wine actually becoming his flesh and blood is only a sad distraction that only serves to rob Jesus words of their real power.

Jesus uses this hyperbolic language to powerfully drive home a point. One of the most important points that we need to hear is in this statement. Jesus intent is to shock his Jewish listeners  – with this talk of eating flesh and drinking blood – into really paying attention… into adopting a whole new mindset and worldview… or not.

As it was, most who had been following Jesus stopped following Jesus after this teaching. It was hard to “swallow”. He explains later that these words are spirit and they are life.

Here is a link to a really good and very insightful presentation of what it means to eat his flesh and drink his blood: http://loveintruth.com/amf-docs/flesh1.htm

In the above article (the link) he says at one point: “Jesus is teaching us that we need to depend on Him utterly, moment by moment, in order to survive.”

Just as Jesus taught in John 15 that He is the vine and we are the branches. He supplies our life, moment by moment dependence and trust. It isn’t like gas in a car, as if we just stop in every once in a while to get refueled, but a plant. We all know the moment you sever a branch it is dead. It may look alive for a while – like a rose in a vase, or a christmas tree – but it is dead. It is cut off from it’s source of life. So, two things are important:

  1. To be connected to our source of life – Jesus.
  2. To stay connected to our source of life – Jesus.

What connects us to the vine – to Jesus – our source of life? What can we do to stay connected? Leave a comment below!

I Read the Bible in 66 Days… So What? Now What?

I read the Bible in 66 days… so what?

The truth is, if I am not a more loving person; more obedient to Christ and more like Christ; if I haven’t really changed for having read the Bible, then what was the point?

I think we all have an amazing capacity to disregard the most important things in life (such as paying attention to what our Creator and Savior has to say to us). Just consider the fact that we all just have one short life to live and yet we twitter it away entertaining ourselves. We waste our lives watching T.V. or movies or playing solitaire or facebook games or by watching youtube videos of cute kittens and other such time-wasting nonsense. Or even worse, we misspend our lives pursuing sin.

 If we don’t obey the word and really live the word, then can we really say that we are the “good soil” that Jesus talked about in his parable of the soils? (Read the parable here). Aren’t we instead the hard soil, thorny soil, or the rocky shallow soil? But only the good soil produces the fruit of the Spirit – which is love.

Jesus own brother James tells us:

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
(James 1:21-25 NIV emphasis mine)

So this is what we must do:

We must confront ourselves, and keep on persistently confronting ourselves with the Word of God until we change… until we become like Christ in every way… until we truly love and God’s Spirit is glad he made a home in us (if he indeed has). Incidentally, the Bible tells us that we aren’t even saved if the Holy Spirit is not in us! I once shared that fact with a few Christian friends and they argued with me! But this is what God’s word says!

“Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8: 8-9 NIV)

In subsequent posts, I plan to give the top highlights of my journey through the Bible, but this blog is about taking a frank look at the seriousness of taking God and his word seriously.

THE BIBLE IN 90 DAYS CHALLENGE!

Even though I have just finished reading through (and praying through) the entire Bible I am going to read it again starting January 1st.

Why am I going to read through it again so soon?

While I definitely learned a great deal about God and grew in my relationship with him, I know there is so much more work to be done in my heart. As I read through God’s Word this time it grated against my pride and ego (as it is designed to do) and for portions of the time that I was reading it, I reacted with resistance and fear. In many ways I was still running away from God. This is what sin does! It runs from God! But we must not let sin have its way to the detriment of our souls. We must keep coming to God!

But here is some really good news: We can change! It just requires perseverance and persistence to come to God and to really listen to what he has to say! Jesus will conform us to his image by his Spirit if we just keep coming to him and obeying him! Jesus said, “make a tree good and it’s fruit will be good”. Jesus can and will “make our tree good”, but he alone can change us. We can’t change ourselves!

There is a REALLY AMAZING episode of the show Person of Interest (Watch it here) that really spoke to me recently about change. I loved the last few moments of this episode! (If you must, just skip to the very end to watch it).

Jesus once said:

“But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:5-9 NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be fruitless! Jesus warning is real! If we remain fruitless (loveless) we are in very real danger of being condemned. (Incidentally, there was an actual real fig tree that Jesus condemned and it withered instantly. He had likely looked for fruit on this tree every time he passed that way on all his trips to Jerusalem and never found any.) The Bible warns about people who are “ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”.

I don’t want this to be true of me, do you?

Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. And if the Son sets you free, you shall free indeed!”

This is not a matter of reforming our flesh (the sin that lives within us). No, sin cannot be reformed, but must die every day as we pursue a life of following Christ. Our victory over sin is found as we simply receive the victory Christ gives us, by faith. It’s that easy! Yet our pride does not allow for something as simple as victory by faith, does it? If we didn’t work really hard to kick our habit, if we didn’t overcome anything on our own, then our pride cannot accept it. This is why people pass up their victory over sin. They are too attached to their pride.

I sense that there is still a transforming work God wants to do in my heart and life and so, starting on January 1st, I will be reading through the Bible once more, but this time, I will do all I can to obey, live, and act on what I read and not resist God. (I will also be reading it in 90 days this time). Who will join me?

(Bible in 90 Days Challenge!)

Please leave a comment below! Disagree with me about something? Tell me! Challenge me!

How am I supposed to grow if no one ever challenges me? How are you supposed to grow if you never allow yourself to be challenged? Read the Word in the new year and let it challenge you to change!