Monthly Archives: July 2014

All Because He Lives!

ALL BECAUSE HE LIVES!

“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, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:9-11.

What if Jesus had not risen from the dead? Paul could write with confidence to these mostly unknown Roman believers because of one thing. Jesus rose from the dead and because of that, He sent His Spirit to live in those who believed in Him.

To be a baptised believer in the Roman Empire in his day was a perilous choice because every believer was in danger of facing death at the hands of a hostile Roman government. Christians were a distinct group. It was not possible to sit on the fence because no one in his right mind would risk death unless he were thoroughly convinced and committed to Jesus as Lord.

So Paul could say, “I know that God’s Spirit lives in you.” If you were a believer, it was a given. The indwelling Spirit of Christ was for them then, and for us now, both the confirmation and the guarantee that they belonged to Christ and experienced all the blessings and benefits of their union with Him.

Because of the Holy Spirit’s presence in them, they were assured of the resurrection of their bodies from the dead although they were still subject to physical death because of the presence of sin. They would die, yes, but that would not be the end. Just as Jesus rose from the dead because death could not hold Him captive forever, those who belong to Him, who are in Him and are united with Him by His Holy Spirit, will also rise from the dead because death cannot hold us prisoner either.

How can that be since we are human beings, part of this present corrupted world and therefore subject to the death that came upon the whole universe at the Fall? Paul understood that we shall still die – our physical bodies are still part of this earth. But that will not be the end.

The Bible teaches us that, as God’s sons and daughters, we have an inheritance; we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. But what do we inherit? Read what Peter wrote:

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4.

We inherit God’s nature in which we participate through His promises. Since God is perfect – there is no corruption in Him – He cannot die. Death could not hold Jesus because He, too, was sinless in His earthly life as the Son of God. When we are joined to Him by faith, death cannot hold us either because we have been made the righteousness of God in Him.

And so, just as Jesus rose from the dead, we will also be resurrected when He returns to complete the restoration of all things. Then we will experience the fullness and completeness of our inheritance – eternal life.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Romans 6:22.

Can you understand the process? Faith in Christ leads to the gift of righteousness and the presence of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit in us enables us to obey God; obedience leads to holiness – separation from sin and learning to think and live like God (because we have inherited His nature); holiness leads to eternal life.

What Jesus died on the cross for us, and through His resurrection from the dead, He removed the barriers to reconciliation to the Father. He gave us back the Holy Spirit who had departed from man at the Fall. He made possible a life of obedience to Him which will lead us to appropriate our inheritance and eventually to be raised from the dead to experience the fullness of eternal life. It is now up to us to work out in partnership with the Holy Spirit what He has already worked in us.

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.” Philippians 2:12b, 13.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Flesh Or Spirit?

FLESH OR SPIRIT?

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:5-8.

But, for Paul, it’s not all good news!

The bad news is that all have sinned. The good news is that Christ died for all. The bad news is that not all people are saved. The good news is that all who believe in Jesus Christ are no longer under condemnation. The bad news is that those who are still following the desires of their fleshly nature are under the sentence of death. The good news is that those whose minds are focussed on the Holy Spirit are alive and at peace with God.

Where once the distinction was between Jew and Gentile because the Jews thought they were better than the Gentiles. They had the law of God and they didn’t worship idols like the Gentiles did, so they thought, so they were favoured by God and the Gentiles were not.

But now the distinction has shifted from race group to faith group. There are still two kingdoms at work, not Jew and Gentile but the kingdom of God and the dominion of Satan. How do we know to which kingdom we belong? It depends on who controls our minds. With who or what are our thoughts preoccupied? Since what we do and who we are begins in the mind, what we think in the end determines our destiny.

The person who is focussed on self; self-indulgence, self-fulfilment, self-gratification, is clearly still living in the realm of the flesh. Selfishness dominates; the world is very small, consisting only of self and those who can contribute to the pleasure and satisfaction of selfish desires.

The person who has escaped from the clutches of the flesh through believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and receiving the salvation He bought for us through His death, has a new focus – the Spirit of God who lives in his heart and enables him to set a new direction in his life. Instead of pleasing himself and satisfying every fleshly whim, he now wants to please God and enjoy God’s peace and do his will.

Life and peace – isn’t that what everyone wants to enjoy? But the pursuit of life and peace takes people down different paths depending on what they believe. The woman Jesus met at the well outside the village of Scar in Samaria believed the life was about being loved by a man. The path she took to fulfil her desire, however, took her into more and more guilt and shame and left her lonely, dissatisfied and despised by her fellow villagers.

Jesus gently revealed to her that the love she thought that a man would give her, would never satisfy her inner need, because only God’s love and a life lived for Him would bring her the love and peace she craved. Jesus called it “living water”. Drinking deeply of God’s love revealed through the gift of His Son would satisfy her thirsty soul forever. But she had to make a choice. She could not carry on with her old life. It was killing her. She had to turn her back on what she believed and embrace a new faith – a faith in the Messiah she had just met, who came to lead her out of her slavery to sin and into the realm of a new Master

We all have to make the same choice if we are to experience the life Jesus made possible for us, and the inward peace that will hold us steady as we navigate all the stresses and demands of this mortal life. It is impossible to have one foot in each kingdom. It’s either God’s kingdom or the devil’s domain. It can never be both…and…

When you choose God’s way and trust the Lord Jesus, you are on the way to everlasting life!

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

No Condemnation!

NO CONDEMNATION!

“Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because, through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life, has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4.

Ahhh! Romans 8!

Like a breath of fresh air in a stuffy room comes the grand climax of Romans 8. The first seven chapters of Romans are gloomy and depressing, but for a reason. Paul must make clear how desperate our situation was until God stepped in with His solution

In one grand act of intervention, God sent His Son into a hopeless and helpless world to rescue us from our plight. No condemnation! What magical words after setting the scene of our despair. But how many believers are still trapped in their insecurity and fear because they have failed to embrace those two liberating words!

The woman who was caught in adultery and dragged before Jesus for sentencing knew what it felt like to hear His words, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and leave your life of sin.” She had just been pardoned by none other than the Son of God and escaped the death penalty to go free, both from guilt and from the life that had imprisoned her for so long.

It was not Paul but God Himself who had pronounced the whole of mankind “Not guilty!” But how could He do that? Someone had paid the debt and set all the prisoners free. It was the season of Jubilee then, the time for setting prisoners and slaves free and we are still living in that season until Jesus comes.

But what if we sin again? No condemnation! What of those who have committed heinous crimes against humanity? No condemnation! What about those who died before Jesus came? No condemnation! What of those who have not yet been born? No condemnation! What about those who have never heard about Jesus? No condemnation!

Jesus died for the sin of the world – before the foundation of the world. What does that mean? From God’s perspective, although He sent His Son into the world at a point in time, and He died on a specific day in history, the effects of His death are for all people for all time. Does the mean that all people are automatically saved? Of course not! God’s forgiveness must be personally appropriated to become effective in our lives.

God’s holy law can do no more than show us where we have gone wrong. Only the power of God’s Holy Spirit can set us free from the power of sin to live a new life of righteousness in Christ Jesus. The struggle is over. The voice of condemnation has been silenced. Whose voice do we hear when we feel condemned? It is not the voice of God nor the voice of conscience because God has pronounced over us, once and for all, His verdict, “No condemnation!” It is the voice of our enemy, repeating what he hears about himself.

By offering Himself as an atoning sacrifice, Jesus both agreed with God’s verdict that all people are guilty of breaking His holy law, and He accepted in our place the punishment that God required. God carried out His sentence on Jesus that we might go free.

“…God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them…” 2 Corinthians 5:19.

No condemnation! Do you believe that? Have you received His verdict? You are free! Like His words to the guilty woman, Jesus says to you, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and leave your life of sin.”

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

The Beast Is Dead!

THE BEAST IS DEAD!

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work in me.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:21-25.

Despair! Was there ever despair like this?

Trapped by a power much stronger than himself, Paul felt as though he were caught in the claws of an enraged beast which was destroying his life and he was powerless to overcome it. Have you ever felt like that?

Years ago I was in a relationship that produced ongoing cycles of anger, resentment and bitterness which lasted until I was able to forgive, only to begin the cycle all over again when the same provocation happened. In despair I cried out to God, “How will I ever get free from my old nature?” I, who am not given to seeing visions, had a vision that morning on my knees.

I found myself in a walled garden. It was springtime and the garden was full of new growth. There were trees and flowers everywhere; new plants were coming up and the garden promised to be very beautiful. But there was also a huge black beast in the garden. It was pacing up and down, trampling the plants, and causing destruction wherever it walked. I cried out to God, “O God, how can I get rid of the beast?”

I heard a voice say, “Turn around.” As I did so, my vision changed. I was inside an ancient tomb. The tomb was empty, but there were signs that a body had been there; bloodied grave clothes lay on the stone slab. Again the voice said, “Turn around.” As my eyes became used to the gloom, I saw the beast lying dead on the floor of the tomb. My heart leapt for joy.

Once again my vision changed; I was back in the garden but this time there was no beast to destroy. The trees were heavy with luscious fruit and the flowers were in full bloom. There were no weeds and the paths were neatly laid out. Jesus, the gardener, was walking with me in the garden. “This is my garden,” He said. “The fruit belongs to me. You may walk in my garden but you may not pick the fruit.”

When the vision faded, I felt light-hearted and free. I understood that God had given me a vivid picture of Romans 7 and 8. The beast in my vision was my old nature, ruthlessly destroying everything wherever it walked and I had not power to control it. But…Jesus put the beast to death when He died on the cross. When He rose from the dead, the beast was left lying in the tomb. It no longer had the power to destroy in my life.

The garden represents my life, and Jesus, the gardener is in control. By His death He has put to death the power of my old nature to control me and to destroy what He is cultivating in me. As long as I allow Him to take care of my garden, my life will bear fruit for Him because the beast is dead and no longer has any power to destroy what He is growing in me.

Despair has been changed to hope. I am no longer a slave of sin. My old nature remains but it lies dead in the tomb. Its only power to influence me depends on whether I allow it to do so by believing that it can still hurt me. As long as I believe the truth that Jesus has set me free from the power of my sin nature, I can choose to obey God and allow the Holy Spirit in me to strengthen me to obey.

Once again, it’s a partnership of faith between me and God. I believe what God has said; I make the choice to obey Him; by His grace He enables me to do what I have chosen and He gets the praise!

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Civil War

CIVIL WAR

“As it is, it is no longer I myself but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:17-20.

Spoken like a true Hebrew!

Every year, during Elul, the last month of the Hebrew calendar, prior to the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah or Rosh Hashanah) which preceded the most holy day of the year, (Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement), a trumpet was blown daily as a reminder to every Jew to prepare for Yom Kippur. This was the day when God judged and forgave all sin for another year.

Preparation consisted of three things, teshuvah, tephillah and tsidaqah – repentance, prayer and works of righteousness. However, repentance was not about turning away from sin but returning to the person God created them to be. Prayer was not about petitioning God but about turning towards Him and learning to think like Him. Works of righteousness were not about doing things for less fortunate people even though they were undeserving, but about being merciful and generous to others because God had shown mercy to them.

Paul recognised that sin was an invader, illegally occupying the person God had created him to be. This was not as God intended. He had been taken over from conception by a squatter who had no right to be there but whom he had no power to evict. He differentiated between his true self and the sin that ruled his life. He was not making excuses for his behaviour or trying to evade responsibility for his choices, but rather recognising that God was not responsible for what he was because sin was not in His blueprint for man.

God is good (functional) and everything He made, including man, was good (functional), working together in perfect harmony with His nature and with one another. The entire universe was created to be a unit. It would remain that way as long as human beings, who were to rule the earth, chose to live in harmony with God’s will.

When man chose to disobey God and set up his own rules, he and the whole universe became dysfunctional. He has repudiated God’s right to tell him how to live by giving his allegiance to a usurper, and paid the price God had warned him about – death. He was still man, made in God’s image with the potential to be one with God, but now his bent was towards rebellion. There was a foreigner in charge and he was obligated to obey Satan because he had seized control.

Paul recognised that his sinful nature was dysfunctional, incapable of obeying God and doing the right thing. There was civil war in his inner being. He longed to be obedient to his Creator, but he had no power to change his nature which was under the influence of the enemy and driven by enmity towards God.

He was trapped in this inward conflict with no hope of ever getting out of it by his own efforts. The problem was that, legally he in the dock, judged guilty, living in shame and fear and awaiting sentence on the Day of Judgment. By his own sinful life, he proved that he was in cahoots with the usurper and rightfully declared guilty.

What a terrible plight he was in. He knew he was condemned yet, at the same time, he yearned to be free to worship God and follow His ways. He was inside his prison cell peering wistfully through the bars at the beautiful world outside, with no way to get out and enjoy the freedom that should have been his.

What was he to do? He needed someone to step in and rescue him.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.