BY DESIGN

March 19, 2018

  “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5).

  Acknowledging our insufficiency and appropriating His all-sufficiency are the basic building blocks for our growth in the “not I but Christ” life.

  “There is no child of God that has set his face to go through with Him, who has not grieved over the weakness of his love for the Lord Jesus. Our hearts have mourned, and we have suffered when we have realized our selfishness and mixed motives; the weak, unstable love we have for Him.

  “Truly none of us can rejoice in our love for Him. But when we begin to apprehend His great, eternal love for us, our hearts are filled with joy. And we praise Him for His love, His longsuffering and patience; and we magnify His Name for that love which never fails.”

  “When we slip out of communion with God, how wretched we are, and how we contribute to the unhappiness of others! Whereas in communion with our Father there is power to enable us to resist the devil, to enjoy the Lord and to promote the true blessing of His own. May we have our Lord Jesus constantly in held in highest esteem in our hearts.”

  “Nothing but an intelligent and growing acquaintance with the Lord Jesus can satisfy the renewed heart. The very mercy that delivers a soul becomes a hindrance unless the Lord Himself be the one Object.”

  “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Got Pruned?

March 12, 2018

Got Pruned?

A great mystery surrounds the spiritual growth of the hungry-hearted believer.

The Spirit gives a foretaste of a deeper life before the believer is led into the fulness of it. Many believers mistake their foretaste for the fulness, not realizing that the Lord is just beginning to lead them

The hard-heartedness of our nature is the failure of our youth—our spiritual youth, as well as our natural youth; eagerness to run in God’s path, but not apprehending what the path is, or what it requires to walk in it. On the other hand, when the cost is counted, and our weakness known, the energy begotten of self-confidence being gone, we need a stimulating call on God’s part, to get out of the persistent occupation with our weakness now, as with our strength before.

Suffering is not meant by God to be loss and deprivation. Satan says that it is. God means suffering to result in increased spiritual capacity, which is the basis of added responsibility, trust, and fruitful sharing. The branch of the vine may bleed from the drastic pruning and feel stripped of much glory; but more and better fruit is the vinedresser’s vindication.

But we being of such stubborn nature, like the Apostle Paul, ‘kicking against the prods.” Thus, the school of the desert, the wilderness wanderings, the warring in our hearts with what we should and what we most heartily do naught. There is as much left undone in our lives as what ought to be done. Thus the reason that God is a Vinedresser and we the vineyard.

  “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49).

Thank God, He is patient, or we would be branches thrown in the fire.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

A special thanks to our prayer warriors, and a big shout to the encouragers. I can’t tell you how many nights I come to the keyboard and think there is no more to be poured out. And yet He gives more, all glory to God, He is worthy of all our praise. And to Ms. Kelly, yes, these are all rough drafts, “grammar be damned “ (G. K. Chesterton)

The one and only

March 10, 2018

TRUST YOUR BIBLE

In 1889 a schoolteacher told a ten-year-old boy, “You will never amount to very much.” That boy was Albert Einstein. In 1954 a music manager told a young singer, “You ought to go back to driving a truck.” That singer was Elvis Presley. In 1962 a record company told a group of singers, “We don’t like your sound. Groups with guitars are definitely on their way out.” They said that to the Beatles. Man is prone to make mistakes. Those who reject the Bible should take the time to look at the evidence before they come to a verdict.

  1. It is unique in its continuity.

    If just 10 people today were picked who were from the same place, born around the same time, spoke the same language, and made about the same amount of money, and were asked to write on just one controversial subject, they would have trouble agreeing with each other. But the Bible stands alone. It was written over a period of 1,600 years by more than 40 writers from all walks of life. Some were fishermen; some were politicians. Others were generals or kings, shepherds or historians. They were from three different continents,

    and wrote in three different languages. They wrote on hundreds of controversial subjects yet they wrote with agreement and harmony. They wrote in dungeons, in temples, on beaches, and on hillsides, during peacetime and during war. Yet their words sound like they came from the same source. So even though 10 people today couldn’t write on one controversial subject and agree, God

    picked 40 different people to write the Bible—and it stands the test of time.

  2. It is unique in its circulation.

    The invention of the printing press in 1450 made it possible to print books in large quantities. The first book printed was the Bible. Since then, the Bible has been read by more people and printed more times than any other book in history. By 1930, over one billion Bibles had been distributed by Bible societies around the world. By 1977, Bible societies alone were printing over 200 million Bibles each year, and this doesn’t include the rest of the Bible publishing companies. No one who is interested in knowing the truth can ignore such an important book.

  3. It is unique in its translation.

    The Bible has been translated into over 1,400 languages. No other book even comes close.

  4. It is unique in its survival.

    In ancient times, books were copied by hand onto manuscripts which were made from parchment and would decay over time. Ancient books are available today only because someone made copies of the originals to preserve them. For example, the original writings of Julius Caesar are no longer around. We know what he wrote only by the copies we have. Only 10 copies still exist, and they were made 1,000 years after he died. Only 600 copies of Homer’s The Iliad exist, made 1,300 years after the originals were written. No other book has as many copies of the ancient manuscripts as the Bible. In fact, there are over 24,000 copies of New Testament manuscripts, some written within 35 years of the writer’s death.

  5. It is unique in withstanding attack.

    No other book has been so attacked throughout history as the Bible. In A.D. 300 the Roman emperor Diocletian ordered every Bible burned because he thought that by destroying the Scriptures he could destroy Christianity. Anyone caught with a Bible would be executed. But just 25 years later, the Roman emperor Constantine ordered that 50 perfect copies of the Bible be made at government expense. The French philosopher Voltaire, a skeptic who destroyed the faith of many people, boasted that within 100 years of his death, the Bible would disappear from the face of the earth. Voltaire died in 1728, but the Bible lives on. The irony of history is that 50 years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society moved into his former house and used his printing presses to print thousands of Bibles.

The Bible has also survived criticism. No book has been more attacked for its accuracy. And yet archeologists are proving every year that the Bible’s detailed descriptions of historic events are correct.

You can mock, you can laugh in derision, but the only people being martyred today are people who believe in the bible. It is estimated that over 150,000 people per year are killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. No other religion is being attacked like Christianity, the simple reason is it is the only true way to God.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Continue to pray for Joe,

pray for Courtney and her failing health,

for Greg M. and his battle with addiction.

Melissa and sobriety and abstinence.

And for Beth Ann as she battles with an eating disorder

and for Olivia, 23 and facing the partial removal of her stomach, and her ovaries and a large part of her colon.

Thank you all for your prayer support, send your prayer requests and comments to scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com God bless.

READ, READ, READ

March 8, 2018

Can we know truth? Where is it found? Can we logically verify it? Is there an ultimate authority? Are there absolutes which can guide our lives, our world? Is there meaning to life? Why are we here? Where are we going? These questions—questions that all rational people contemplate—have haunted the human intellect since the beginning of time (Eccl. 1:13-18; 3:9-11).

Many claimed to have answers to these ultimate questions, but after research and reflection I found that their answers were based upon (1) personal philosophies, (2) ancient myths, (3) personal experiences, or (4) psychological projections. I needed some degree of verification, some evidence, some rationality on which to base my world-view, my integrating center, my reason to live.

I found these in my study of the Bible. I began to search for evidence of its trustworthiness, which I found in (1) the historical reliability of the Bible as confirmed by archaeology, (2) the accuracy of the prophecies of the Old Testament, (3) the unity of the Bible message over the sixteen hundred years of its production, and (4) the personal testimonies of people whose lives had been permanently changed by contact with the Bible. Christianity, as a unified system of faith and belief, has the ability to deal with complex questions of human life. Not only did this provide a rational framework, but the experiential aspect of biblical faith brought me emotional joy and stability.

  1. I believe the Bible is the sole inspired self-revelation of the one true God. Therefore, it must be interpreted in light of the intent of the original divine author (the Spirit) through a human writer in a specific historical setting.

  1. I believe the Bible was written for the common person—for all people! God accommodated Himself to speak to us clearly within a historical and cultural context. God does not hide truth —He wants us to understand! Therefore, it must be interpreted in light of its day, not ours. The Bible should not mean to us what it never meant to those who first read or heard it. It is understandable by the average human mind and uses normal human communication forms and techniques.

  1. I believe the Bible has a unified message and purpose. It does not contradict itself, though it does contain difficult and paradoxical passages. Thus, the best interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself.

  1. I believe that every passage (excluding prophesies) has one and only one meaning based on the intent of the original, inspired author. Although we can never be absolutely certain we know the original author’s intent, many indicators point in its direction:

  1. the genre (literary type) chosen to express the message

  1. the historical setting and/or specific occasion that elicited the writing

  1. the literary context of the entire book as well as each literary unit

  1. the textual design (outline) of the literary units as they relate to the whole message

  1. the specific grammatical features employed to communicate the message

  1. the words chosen to present the message

  1. parallel passages

Recent statistics (which can mean anything you want them to) show that actual bible reading is down by 37%. I blame it on social media, everyone is more concerned about ‘likes’ than heaven or hell.

Of course, we have no idea what segment of society was polled or where.

I have often written about the versions of the Bible, and although I still stand by those suppositions, I’d like to say “read any version you want, just read”.

It’s about quality, not quantity. I still remember reading a ‘comic book’ style of the bible and quite enjoyed it. if you are worried about understanding the bible while you are reading then get the “life application bible” that comes in many different versions. Get large print so it’s easier to read. Read with a plan or just flip it open and read anything you want.

I just bought Chuck Swindoll’s study bible, it’s a little lighter on notes than I expected and there isn’t a large print version yet, but it’s an excellent place to start and to trust.

You can find any version you want free as an app online, just read. Used bookstores are filled with bibles (I’m not sure that’s good or bad).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Paid in Full

February 26, 2018

My three favorite books of the Bible, Genesis, Isaiah, and Romans. If I could have only one Book it would be Romans. I’ve done more sermons in the Book of Romans and more in chapter 7 and 8; so here is one of my favorite passages.

Romans 8:1-13

In Romans 7, Paul showed us that Christians still wrestle with remaining, indwelling sin are defined in the Glossary.. He says: “But what I hate I do” (7:15). But, at the same time, Christians have experienced a revolution in consciousness—a real disgust over sin and (now) an inability to find any lasting pleasure in it: “But what I hate I do.” These two facts keep us from either the legalism that says: Real Christians don’t struggle with sin anymore, or the permissiveness that says: Real Christians are human; they sin just like anyone else. The Spirit of God has come in and transformed our “inner being” and self (7:22) so we want God and holiness, but our “flesh” or “sinful nature” is still powerful enough to keep us from doing what our new desires want.

But Romans 7 does not say everything about the Christian life. Our new condition—a “double nature”—can actually lead to more distress unless we “live … according to the Spirit” (8:4*.). Paul gives us directions on how to live in the Spirit. Unless we do, we will find ourselves continually doing what we hate.

No Condemnation

Before showing us how to live according to God’s Spirit, though, Paul wants to show us how God’s Son has given us life. Verse 1 begins “therefore”—he could be reaching right back to sections such as 3:21-27 (as John Stott suggests) or to the previous two chapters (Douglas Moo’s position), where Paul has characterized the Christian as one in whom sin is still powerful, but whose inner “true” self is “a slave to God’s law” (7:25), and who can look forward to being rescued “from this body of death … through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

However far back in his letter Paul is looking, the great truth of 8:1 is captured in two words: “no condemnation *.” These two words tell us of our position as Christians. To be “not condemned” is, of course, a legal term; it means to be free from any debt or penalty. No one has any charges against you. A person who is in Christ Jesus is not under any condemnation from God. Paul already said this in Romans 5:16 and 18.

This is tremendous! It means God has nothing against us! He finds no fault in us. He finds nothing to punish us for.

However, the phrase Paul uses is not simply that Christians are “not condemned.” This is a much stronger phrase than that. He says that for Christians there is no condemnation at all. It doesn’t exist for us. It’s not that we have moved out from under it for a while, but that it could return. No; there is no condemnation for us at all—it doesn’t exist anymore.

The reason it is important to mention this is that many think that a Christian is only temporarily out from under condemnation. Many want to limit the meaning of this phrase to our past, or to our past and present. But Paul is saying categorically that condemnation no longer exists at all for a believer. It is not waiting in the wings to come back and cloud our future!

Many believe that Christians who confess sin and then live a good life are forgiven and are, at that moment, not condemned. But they believe that, should they sin, they are back under condemnation until they confess and repent again. In other words, if a Christian man were to sin, he would again come under condemnation and could be lost if he died in that state. If this were true, then Christians would be people who are always moving back and forth, in and out of condemnation.

But this view doesn’t square at all with the comprehensiveness and intensity of Paul’s statement. Paul says quite literally that condemnation itself no longer exists for us—“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). Thus, the moment we come into Christ Jesus, condemnation is gone forever. There is no more condemnation left for us—it is gone. There can never be condemnation for us. There is nothing but acceptance and welcome for us!

The Problem of Forgetfulness

The great twentieth-century Welsh preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that: “Most of our troubles are due to our failure to realize the truth of this verse.” What happens if we forget that there is “now no condemnation”?

On the one hand, we feel far more guilt, unworthiness and pain than we should. From this may come drivenness from a need to “prove ourselves”; great sensitivity to criticism, defensiveness; a lack of confidence in relationships; a lack of confidence and joy in prayer and worship; and even addictive behavior, which can be a reaction to a deep sense of guilt and unworthiness.

On the other hand, we will have far less motivation to live a holy life. We have fewer resources for self-control. Christians who don’t understand “no condemnation” only obey out of fear and duty. That is not nearly as powerful a motivation as love and gratitude. If we don’t grasp the full wonder of “now no condemnation,” we will understand each word of the rest of 8:1-13, but completely miss the sense of it! Lloyd-Jones summed this up with a useful illustration:

“The difference between an unbeliever sinning and a Christian sinning is the difference between a man transgressing the laws of … [the] State, and … a husband [who] has done something he should not do in his relationship with his wife. He is not breaking the law, he is wounding the heart of his wife. That is the difference. It is no longer a legal matter, it is a matter of personal relationship and … love. The man does not cease to be the husband [legally, in that instance]. Law does not come into the matter at all … In a sense it is now something much worse than a legal condemnation. I would rather offend against a law of the land objectively outside me, than hurt someone whom I love … [In that case] You have sinned, of course, but you have sinned against love … [so] You may and you should feel ashamed, but you should not feel condemnation, because to do so is to put yourself back ‘under the law.’”

(Romans Chapters 7:1 – 8:4, pages 271-272)

No Slavery

Verse 1, then, reminds us of the central argument of Romans 1 – 7: there is no condemnation for sin for believers. Verse 2 explains a second aspect to God’s victory, on our behalf, over sin—there is now no bondage to sin, either. “Through Christ Jesus” (v 2)—through faith in him—”the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” As we saw in Romans 7 (see Romans 1 – 7 For You, page 168), Paul uses the word “law” to mean:

God’s law or standards.

A general principle.

A force or power.

So in 8:2, “the law” seems fairly clearly to carry the third meaning. The Holy Spirit comes to free us from bondage to the sin within our hearts. So verse 1 tells us we are delivered from the legal condemnation of sin; verse 2 that we are being delivered from the actual power of sin. Put another way, salvation deals with our legal guilt (v 1) and our internal corruption (v 2).

Some people wonder about the relationship of verse 1 to verse 2. Paul basically says: There is no condemnation for Christians because the Holy Spirit frees us from sin. This could be read to mean that our sanctification by the Holy Spirit is the cause or the ground of our justification —that it is as we fight sin and obey God that we are made right with God.

But all of Romans up to this point denies that. Instead, Paul is likely saying: We know we are out of condemnation because God has sent the Holy Spirit into our life to free us from sin.

How God Did It

In verses 3-4, Paul shows us how God has achieved the two aspects of salvation (no guilt, no bondage). First, God sent his Son to become human (“in the likeness of sinful man,” v 3) and become a sin offering. In other words, the death of Christ defeats sin legally, by paying the debt. Second, God did this not simply to defeat sin legally, but to wipe it out actually in our lives: “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who … [live] according to the Spirit.” The work of the Holy Spirit within us empowers us to obey the law (albeit never perfectly, and thus never in a way that contributes to, nor undermines, our salvation). The great British pastor John Stott explained it this way:

“We are set free from the law as a way of acceptance, but obliged to keep it as a way of holiness. It is as a ground of justification that the law no longer binds us … But as a standard of conduct the law is still binding, and we seek to fulfill it as we walk according to the Spirit.” (Men Made New, pages 82-83)

But why did God send his Son to bear our condemnation, and send his Spirit to break our bondage? Verse 4 tells us that everything Christ did for us—his incarnation (“sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man,” v 3), his death and his resurrection—was all in order (for the purpose) that we might live a holy life. This is an amazing point. The thing Jesus lives for, the purpose of his entire life, is to make us holy, fulfilling “the righteous requirements of the law.” This is the greatest possible motive for living a holy life. Whenever we sin, we endeavor to frustrate the aim and purpose of the entire life, death and ministry of Jesus Christ! If this doesn’t work as an incentive for living a holy life, nothing will.

Mind Matters

In the rest of this section (indeed, in the rest of the chapter), Paul is going to focus on the second great benefit of being “in Christ”—overcoming sin in our lives. After all, as he has shown in heartfelt detail in chapter 7, not only is there no hope in ourselves for our salvation, but there is also no hope in ourselves for our obedience. For any real change, we cannot rely on our own efforts, but only, as Paul now explains, on the work of the Spirit.

How do we overcome sin with the Spirit? Or, to put it another way, how do we “live in accordance with the Spirit” (8:5), in the way that our inner self truly desires (7:22)? The people who do this are those who “have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (8:5). Paul says that the connection between living and thinking is a tight and close one. Literally he says: “For those being according to the flesh mind the things of the flesh, but those being according to the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit.” In other words, whatever you have set your mind on shapes your lifestyle and character. What does it mean to “mind” something or “set the mind”? Even in English, when the word “mind” is used as a verb, it has a stronger meaning than simply “to think about.” It means to focus intently on something, to be preoccupied with something, to have the attention and the imagination totally captured by something.

The twentieth-century Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple once said: “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” In other words, wherever your mind goes most naturally and freely when there is nothing else to distract it—that is what you really live for. That is your religion. Your life is shaped by whatever preoccupies your mind. The overcoming of sin in our lives begins in our minds; and victory over sin is only ever the result of having minds set on the Spirit.

Questions for Reflection

Do you ever feel under condemnation? What causes you to feel this way; and how will you make sure you remember “there is now no condemnation” next time?

In what way(s) will knowing that Jesus’ ministry was in order to make you holy motivate you to live differently today?

What do you do with your solitude? How will you fix your thoughts on the gospel today?

Part Two

The Things of the Spirit

So a successful fight against sin begins by “mind[ing] … the things of the Spirit” (8:5, AV translation). This is not the same thing as simply thinking about religion all the time, or theology in general. The “things” of the Spirit would be those things to which the Spirit draws attention; to “mind” the Spirit would be to be preoccupied by the things that preoccupy the Spirit.

What are those things? In the rest of chapter 8, we will see that the Spirit comes to show us that we are sons and daughters of the Lord. We will explore this more in the next chapter, but it is worth seeing here what the “things” or truths the Spirit wants us to “mind” are:

Verse 14 will tell us that: “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Verses 15-16 will tell us that the Spirit removes a fear of rejection and assures us that we are God’s beloved children.

Verses 26-27 will tell us that the Spirit gives us confidence to approach God in prayer.

In other words, the rest of Romans 8 tells us what the Spirit is preoccupied with: how in Christ we are adopted, loved and welcomed.

A parallel passage is Colossians 3:1-4: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated … your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Here, Paul tells us to be preoccupied with “things above”: We are to remember that we have been raised with Christ and are accepted in him before the Father. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned here, but the principle is the same. We are to be preoccupied with our standing in Christ. We are to drill into our minds and hearts his love and adoption of us. To “mind … the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5) means never to forget our privileged standing or the fact that we are loved, and to let this dominate our thinking, our perspectives, and therefore our words and actions.

Everybody Minds Something

Ultimately, Paul says, everyone will “mind” something—we will either be preoccupied by the things of the Spirit, or “the sinful nature” (v 5). “Sinful nature” is how the NIV1984 translates the Greek word sarx—ESV and NIV2011 render it “flesh.” It is the desires and would-be-dictates of our senses, a worldview that is worldly rather than godly and self-centered rather than Christ-focused.

Whatever preoccupies the mind controls the life—and one preoccupation results in death, the other in life and peace (v 6). Clearly, someone who does not possess the Spirit of God, and is therefore not a Christian (v 9b), is facing the eternal death of just condemnation from God. But it is not simply, or even primarily, future life and death that Paul has in view here. Rather, he is referring to the brokenness and sense of dislocation that are experienced in this life by those who “have their minds set on what [the sinful] nature desires” (v 5). God created mankind to flourish in relationship with him, enjoying knowing him as we live in his world. So being controlled by our own desires rather than his can only lead to a life that is far less than life should be. It must lead to conflict (internally and with others) instead of peace, to slavery instead of freedom (see Romans 6), and to death rather than life.

We can take any negative emotion and see how this works out. Let’s say I am becoming extremely worried about something. Concern is unavoidable unless you are a totally uncaring and indifferent person. If you care about causes or people or goals, you will worry or have concerns. But if the worry becomes debilitating , it is because I am forgetting that I am a child of God, and that my heavenly Father would only exercise his control over the universe in a way that would be loving to his own. Over-worry is forgetting the “things of the Spirit.”

Another example is when guilt and a sense of unworthiness drive us. A sign of this is when we take on too many things, when we assume a crushing number of responsibilities, because we are trying to “work off” or “make up for” our sin. In this case, we are also forgetting the “things of the Spirit.” 1 John 3:20 says: “Whenever our hearts condemn us … God is greater than our hearts.” If we remember we are adopted children, we “go over the head” of our hearts when we feel unworthy.

Hostile to God

Romans 8:7 is simple and stark: “The sinful mind is hostile to God.” The mind is not neutral ground, and cannot love one preoccupation without rejecting the other. A mind “that is set on the flesh” (ESV translation) must also be treating God and the desires of his Spirit as an enemy. This is why our minds are, naturally, unable to deal with sin. We may realize that a particular impulse is unhelpful, or that a certain course of action is destructive. We may even decide to cut it out, and may do so successfully. But the root of sin is still implanted in the mind—hostility to God. So sin will still grow unchecked in our lives.

And that hostility makes us incapable of pleasing God. Verse 8 is an equally striking statement: “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Left to ourselves, we are totally unable to live in a way that causes our Creator to approve of us. Why? Because the mind that drives the actions is acting out of hostility to him. The person controlled by their own flesh is able to have a thought that is good, or perform an action that is right. But it cannot please God, since it is thought or done in enmity toward him.

Here is a helpful illustration: a man in a rebel army may look after his comrades, may keep his uniform smart, and so on. Those are “good”—but they are done in hostility to the rightful ruler. You would never expect that ruler to hear of this rebel’s conscientiousness or generosity and be pleased by his conduct in rebellion!

But none of this needs to be, or ought to be, the way “you”—Christians—live (v 9). Every Christian is “controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit,” since the Spirit lives in anyone who belongs to Christ. When we received Christ and became righteous in God’s sight, the Holy Spirit came in and made us spiritually alive. The Christian has a body that is decaying (v 10), yet also enjoys a spirit, a mind, that is alive.

And, Paul says, not only must our spirits/minds not follow our flesh now, but one day our flesh will follow our spirit. In Greek thought, the physical was bad, to be rejected and hopefully one day to be left behind; the spiritual was good, to be embraced. Verse 11 overturns all this: ”He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Someday, even our bodies will be totally renewed and made eternally alive by the Spirit. There is no dualism (body bad, spirit good) here—one day, both will be perfected.

For now, though, there is still within us the remaining sinful nature, which is hostile and inimical to our growing spiritual life. And even as we look forward to our bodies being given life (v 11), we must “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (v 13—the end of this verse is best seen as the end of a sentence, unlike in the NIV). As John Stott argues, Paul is still likely referring to an experience of life, and death, now—not in the future. Paul says here: If you let the remaining sinful nature alone—if you allow it to prosper and grow—there will be terrible trouble. Instead, you must by the Spirit attack and put it to death. The more you put to death the sinful nature, the more you will enjoy the spiritual life that the Holy Spirit gives—life and peace (v 6).

Mortification

This process of “putting to death” is what earlier theologians used to call “mortification.” They got it from the old King James Version translation of the verse: “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (v 13).

So what do verses 12-13 tell us about what mortification is, and how we do it? First, it means a ruthless, full-hearted resistance to sinful practice. The very word translated as “put to death” (Greek word thanatoute) is violent and total. It means to reject totally everything we know to be wrong; to declare war on attitudes and behaviors that are wrong—give them no quarter, take no prisoners, pull out all the stops.

This means a Christian doesn’t play games with sin. You don’t aim to wean yourself off it, or say: I can keep it under control. You get as far away from it as possible. You don’t just avoid things you know are sin; you avoid the things that lead to it, and even things that are doubtful. This is war!

Second, it means changing one’s motivation to sin by remembering to apply the gospel . This process of “mortification” goes deeper than merely resisting sinful behavior. It looks at the motives of the heart. Verse 12 says: “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature.” This is a critical statement. “Therefore” refers to the statement before, in which Paul tells us we have been redeemed by Christ’s righteousness and will someday be totally delivered from all evil and pain in the bodily resurrection. Then Paul turns and says: “Therefore … we have an obligation…” Some translations express it differently: “We are debtors, not to the flesh” (NRSV). Paul means that if we remember what Christ has done and will do for us, we will feel the obligations of love and gratitude to serve and know him.

Paul is saying that sin can only be cut off at the root if we expose ourselves constantly to the unimaginable love of Christ for us. That exposure stimulates a wave of gratitude and a feeling of indebtedness. Sin can only grow in the soil of self-pity and a feeling of “owed-ness.” I’m not getting a fair shake! I’m not getting my needs met! I’ve had a hard life! God owes me; people owe me; I owe me! That’s the heart attitude of “owed-ness” or entitlement. But, Paul says, you must remind yourself that you are a debtor. If you bathe yourself in the remembrance of the grace of God, that will loosen, weaken and kill sin at the motivational level.

Therefore, “put to death” (v 13) is just a sub-set under “mind the things of the Spirit” (v 5). Mortification withers sin’s power over you by focusing on Christ’s redemption in a way that softens your heart with gratitude and love; which brings you to hate the sin for itself, so it loses its power of attraction over you.

In summary, then, we kill sin in the Spirit when we turn from sinful practices ruthlessly and turn our heart from sinful motivations with a sense of our debt to love and grace, by minding the things of the Spirit.

Preaching Grace to Our Minds

This means that, if we are serious about mortifying the misdeeds of the body (and verses 6 and 13 should offer sufficient motivation to take this seriously!), we need to preach grace-centered mini-sermons to ourselves throughout our day, and especially when tempted.

Remember, your life is an expression of your mind (v 5). And many Christians try to control themselves with law-centered mini-sermons. We say to ourselves things like: If I do that, God will get me or: It’s against my Christian principles or: It will hurt people around me or: I will be embarrassed or: It will hurt my self-esteem or: I’ll hate myself in the morning. Some or all of these may be true—but Paul tells us they are inadequate! They don’t kill sin. That is taking your temptation to the law and using fear to deter yourself.

But we are to use the logic of the gospel on ourselves. Look what God’s done for me! Is this how I respond to him? We’re to take our temptations to the gospel, and find God’s love for us, in sending his Son to the cross and his Spirit into our hearts, showing us the vileness of that sin, motivating us to love our Savior, and removing our desire to live according to the flesh.

Here is how one Puritan pastor, John Owen, preached to his heart with the gospel:

“What have I done? What love, mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on? Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Spirit for his grace? Do I thus requite the Lord? Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash? … What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? … Do I account communion with him of so little value? … Shall I endeavor to disappoint the [very purpose] of the death of Christ?” (John Owen, On the Mortification of Sin in Believers)

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Matthew, he’s been really ill and in the last week has been rushed to the emergency room twice, they still don’t know what’s happening.

Pray for Rosie, cancer in her ear, removed a tumor the size of a grape. Long process ahead for her, she’s 36. Pray for healing and calmness.

THE MAN

February 23, 2018

THE MAN

I had a business meeting downtown today and after it was over I saw a bookstore; it’s one of the oldest in town. It’s famous for being feminist, liberal, (redundant right?) New Age and never has carried a bible in the store.

But there in the most prominent spot, the Man, Billy Graham’s first book, originally published in 1953, and then again in 1984, “Peace with God.”

I was very surprised, I picked up the book and went to the counter and said, “how many Evangelicals come into your bookstore?” her answer; “only those from out of town, but he’s the Man.”

I was surprised at first but then thought she’s right, he is the Man. From dirt poor to one of the most recognized Christians in America and respected probably by all.

It has been a long time since I have read any of his books. What took me by surprise was the passion. Right from the very first sentence. His deep conviction that America has gone off the rails and is skidding into the abyss.

I waver sometimes about how bad it really is versus maybe it’s not so bad.

Truth is it’s probably worse than any other generation. Simply because we suffer from electronic brain rot. With most people, especially kids, spending a minimum of 8 hours a day on an electronic device.

But that’s not what this devotion is about. It’s about what is the legacy you have as a Christian. In your home, on your block and in your world. Where is your heart, and money and time being spent? How much money do you have saved and how much do you contribute, not just to church, but to other good works.

How about swearing? Fidelity or chastity?

Like the old Christian rock tune says, “how much evidence is there if they had to convict you of being a Christian?”

Just food for thought.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Preston Ryan, 11 years old and has brain cancer.

For Billy J, 13 years old and shot his neighbor 9 years old….on purpose.

Pray for his family, his dad is a police officer.

For Randall H, his brother 77, had a stroke today.

And so you don’t get bummed out. Jessica, a young drug user and prostitute gave her heart to the Lord today and has been taken into a Christian Home for Girls. When I laid my hand on her shoulder to pray for her she flinched, big tears welled up in her eyes and she just sobbed that someone would touch her and it would be innocent.

We are not the world

February 19, 2018

It’s always good to know who your enemies are. And, may I tell you, beyond the shadow of any doubt or peradventure, that you that you have three enemies at least, and they are three big ones: the world, the flesh, and the devil. And, no Christian can afford to be ignorant of these enemies, for, to be ignorant is to be unprepared, and to be unprepared is to fall and to go down in shame and disgrace and ignominious defeat.

Now, of these three enemies, I want to just take one, and talk to you about that one enemy—and, that one enemy is the world. And, I’ve entitled this message “Your Friendly Enemy,” because the world seems so friendly, so charming, so innocuous, sometimes beautiful, sometimes helpful, sometimes harmless. But, I want to warn you that what the Bible calls the world is an enemy and a deadly enemy.

Now, what do we mean when we say the world? We have to be very careful because we’re certainly not talking about the earth—Planet Earth. Sometimes the word cosmos, that’s translated “world,” speaks of Planet Earth. For example, it does, in Acts 17, where the Bible says the Lord made the world and everything that is in it (Acts 17:24). There’s nothing evil about the rocks and the trees, the birds, the ocean, the fields, the mountains. Thank God for these things. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies how they grow” (Luke 12:27).

There’s nothing wrong with the material physical universe, and never think that there is. And, when the Bible warns about the world, it’s not warning about Planet Earth. Do you have that?

When the Bible warns about the world, it’s not warning about the people of the world. The Bible says, in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). There, he’s talking about the people of the world. Now, if God loves those people, we ought to love them. “Red and yellow, black, and white, they are precious in His sight.” He’s not talking, therefore, about the physical universe or the physical earth, he’s not talking about the people, some 5 billion of them now that live on Planet Earth.

When the Bible uses the word world, what does the Bible mean? When the Bible says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world”—1 John 2:15? Well, it’s the word cosmos. And, what does that mean? It means a system, an order.

there is a system that the Bible calls the world, which is the world of wickedness—and we’re told, not to love it. 1 John 2:15: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love [this system], the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

What we are talking about—this ungodly system—first of all, it has a prince. The prince of the world is the devil. Now, the Bible makes that plain. For example, in John 12:31, Jesus called the devil “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). What Jesus meant by that, is that Satan rules this ungodly system. He is the prince of this world. In John 14:30, again, he says, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). That is, Jesus had no itch the devil could scratch. But, there again, Jesus called the devil “the prince of this world.” And, in John 16:11, He spoke, “of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11).

This world has a prince, and the prince of this world is Satan himself. That’s the reason the Apostle John said, in 1 John 5:19, “And we know that… the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). The whole world, the whole system, lies in wickedness. And, the word wickedness there may be personified. It literally means the whole world lies in “the wicked one.” And, the word lieth there actually means, “to sleep in the bosom, or the lap, of one.” That is, Satan’s got this whole world in his hand.

We sing “God’s got the whole world in His hands,” but, actually, the Bible says that Satan has this world in his hands. This whole world lieth, sleepeth, in the bosom, in the lap, of the wicked one. So the world—put it down, number one—has a prince.

There is an enticing network of ideas and values that the devil has skillfully woven together in order to attract you as a child of God. For example, 1 Corinthians 2:12, speaks of the spirit of this world (1 Corinthians 2:12). 1 Corinthians 3:19, speaks of the wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 3:19). 1 Corinthians 7:31, speaks of the passion of this world (1 Corinthians 7:31). And, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s from the schoolhouse to the courthouse, from Madison Avenue to Wall Street, whether it’s Hollywood or your neighborhood—it makes no difference. There is a philosophy that is permeating all that we see out there, and, my dear friend, it is your enemy.

The world wears a cloak or disguise, whenever a freedom is taken away from you that means the world is winning. Think of every dictator, every socialist, that is the world, trying to control all you do. Who rules the world, the devil, who controls the tv you watch, the media you listen to and read, the devil. If you haven’t put on the filter of God’s word and spirit you are being brainwashed into believing one thing. That you need the world, the system, government to take care of you. No self-reliance, no individuality, no ability to protect yourself.

Here sign up for free food, free housing, free education, free health care, surely you’ve heard the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” there is no such thing as free, all this free stuff is borne on the back of the taxpayer, the distribution of wealth, socialism.

So any political figure in any country that promises to take care of you by robbing you of God given rights and freedoms is of the world and therefore of the devil. So how comfortable do you want to be? That’s what it really comes down to.

Now there is a difference between being provided for by God and a handout.

That moron standing on the street corner with the cardboard sign reading “God bless you.” is part the world, he’s depending on your guilt that your comfortable. He’s telling you he deserves to be taken care of, by you!

Ok, my blood pressure is shooting up, stay tuned.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

the hard way

February 17, 2018

  “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).

  John 3:16: The Savior laid down His life for His enemies. Have you ever thought of John 3:16 in that light? God, knowing that there would be those that would turn their backs on the greatest gift ever and the few who would accept the gift.

 1 John 3:16: We are to “lay down our lives for the brethren.” The death of the Cross spells love for both friend and enemy.

  “If we get a wrong idea about the inward working of the Cross we shall lose our own enjoyment of God’s love and fail to manifest that love to others. We have no doubt that, for the sinner, the Cross is the outstanding expression of God’s love, but when we realize that it brings us, as believers, into a very personal experience of being crucified together with Christ, we are apt to lose sight of the love of God.

  “We set our teeth, as though making up our minds that from now on everything is going to be grim and harsh. It almost seems that the carnal Christian may be cheerful and happy, but the crucified ones must expect to pass into a gloomier experience. Nothing is farther from the truth. The Cross will always bring us back to the love of God in ever-increasing fulness.”

The challenge of the Cross, the insistence that we have been crucified with Christ, may sometimes appear to be a dark and forbidding message. The Cross is not the end: It is the way through to His end. God is working for something beyond the immediate; He is working towards the glory.

  “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

school of faith part three

February 14, 2018

PART THREE WITH A RANT IN THE MIDDLE. (never be afraid to speak your mind, no one has to agree with your point of view, but we do need to express our opinions)

The School of Faith part three

God’s photograph album of all his believers has his saints with warts and all. I mean, I’m glad because really if Abram is the father of all them that believe, that can be an encouragement to me. Because when I see how God helped Abram in his faltering faith then I can learn how God can help me in faltering faith.

Genesis 12:1: “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country”—underscore that—”and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will shew thee.” Nothing could be clearer than that. Get out. Leave your kindred and go to the place that I will show thee. Did he do that? Well go down to Genesis 12:4-5: “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him.” Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t he say leave your kinfolks? Yes. Who is Lot? His nephew.

So first of all our faith falters or fails when we don’t follow the direction God gives us. Not being obedient to the Word of God. I’m always amazed at how people will say they believe the bible, literally, but refuse to follow the principles laid out in verses. For example; “not being unequally yoked” II Corinthians 6:14; that applies to marriage, business, all aspects. But it also has other applications, now these are just my personal applications from years of marriage counseling; a rich girl marries a poor guy, personally I’ve never seen it work; if they try to live in the ‘poor guys’ lifestyle, she’s unhappy. Either the daddy wants to ‘promote’ the guy or the keeps giving money to daughter, so she can be “supported in the manner she’s been accustomed to.” It never works out satisfactorily.

Or the mature Christian marries a newly saved person, oh, their marriage might make it but there is always discontent or frustration, or worse a compromise of values. Water seeks its own level(yes, there are always exceptions).

But, they didn’t go straight to Canaan and they didn’t leave everything that they had behind. Rather than going all of the way, he settled in Haran.

Now, does that remind you of anybody you know? I’d call them half way Christians. I mean, they’re saved, but they only go, it seems like they half way. Rather than forsaking this world as our Lord has taught us to do, we have those hang over sins. I mean, we bring the old things with us, just like Abram did. And, out there are the promises of God, but they’re unclaimed promises. And so, we’re sort of out of paganism, but we’re not into Canaan.

It’s kind of like the discussion of tattoo’s, mine are ok, because they’re Christian tattoos not pagan. Or they’re ok, because I’m not a pagan. Yet the bible says don’t do it. Will tattoos send you to hell, NO, will they cause confusion, probably, will they make you more spiritual, definitely not.

We do have this command in 1 Peter 3:3–4: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Granted, this passage is directed at Christian women, but there is a principle here that may be apropos: namely, a person’s external appearance should not be the focus of our attention. Much effort goes into “elaborate hairstyles” and “fine clothes” and jewelry, but that’s not where a woman’s true beauty lies. In the same way, tattoos and body piercings are “outward adornment,” and we should be careful to give more effort to the development of the “inner self,” regardless of our gender.

In relation to tattoos and body piercings, a good test is to determine whether we can honestly, in good conscience, ask God to bless and use that particular activity for His own good purposes. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The New Testament does not specifically command against tattoos or body piercings, but it also does not give us any reason to believe God would have us get tattoos or body piercings.

An important scriptural principle on issues the Bible does not specifically address is if there is room for doubt whether it pleases God, then it is best not to engage in that activity. Romans 14:23 reminds us that anything that does not come from faith is sin. We need to remember that our bodies, as well as our souls, have been redeemed and belong to God. Although 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 does not directly apply to tattoos or body piercings, it does give us a principle: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” This great truth should have a real bearing on what we do and where we go with our bodies. If our bodies belong to God, we should make sure we have His clear “permission” before we “mark them up” with tattoos or body piercings.

I don’t condemn them, but I will never endorse or promote them. It’s one more sign of how much more like the world we’ve become, and I believe they are a sign that most preachers are failing to reach out and make meaningful connections and relevancy to all generations. But that’s just my opinion, and comparing them to another abuse like overeating, is a straw man, and like comparing apples to oranges.

We’re sort of separated from sin, but we’re bringing some sins with us. In other words, it’s just a time of compromise. Now, I’m speaking to many today, you’re saved, and if you died right now you’d go to Heaven, but your faith is so weak. Now, I’ll tell you one of the reasons your faith is so weak, because you’re like Abram was with worldly compromise. Now, what’s the result of worldly compromise? I’ll tell you what is, it’s weakened faith.

Not a popular message, I’m sure, but trust me my heart is in the right place.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

The School of Faith part two

February 13, 2018

God wants you to know if your faith is real or whether it is bogus. Your faith is more precious than gold, 1 Peter 1:7, and again I want to tell you that a faith that cannot be tested, cannot be trusted.

Now, so many times we get the idea that if we’re trusting God—that if we are obeying God, if we’re doing what God has tell us told to be—it will be all milk and honey. As a matter of fact, that it’ll be all honey and no bees. That is not necessarily so. So many times when we get saved we say, “Now, wonderful, I’ve trusted God and He’s brought me into the land of plenty.” We think it’s all milk and honey, but it’s not necessarily so.

You’re going to meet the devil, you’re going to be tested in many, many ways. And, many of us are tested in ways after we got saved in ways that we never were before we got saved. Sometimes we get married and we think, “Oh, this is the land of milk and honey.” And, God brings heartaches and tears and trials right into the land of promise. And, you know, it is so. Sometimes in our prayer life we pray—and we’ve been told prayer is the land of promise—to trust God. And, we pray and people have simplified this matter of prayer. And they say, well, you know, God always answers prayer. Sometimes He says, “Yes,” and sometimes He says, “No,” but He always answers prayer. (make sure you keep reading).

Sometimes He doesn’t say anything. Have you noticed that? I mean, sometimes you just pray and you don’t seem to get an answer. And, I mean, it just seems to be darkness out there. Famine in the land of plenty. Sometimes we go to church and we get the idea that, you know over in church everything’s going to be wonderful. Oh boy! You know, all the sinners are out there and all the saints are in here. Ain’t necessarily so folks. I think it was one great theologian who said that, “The church is kind of like Noah’s ark,” he said “We wouldn’t be able to stand the stench if it weren’t for the storm outside.”

I’m not saying that the church is a failure. I’m not saying that at all. But friend, I’m going to tell you whether it be in your prayer life, whether it be in your marriage, whether it be in your salvation, whether it be in your church life, or wherever it is God will bring you into the land of plenty, but He’s going to test you there. He’s going to test you there in ways you’ve never thought. He’s going to see what your reactions are going to be. Go and read the book of Judges, just read chapter 2, a land filled with lots of ‘ites’, Hittites, Canaanites, all these ‘ites’ with just one idea, something more appealing to your 5 senses.

When testing comes don’t try to understand it. Learn something else. As Christians we do not live by explanation. We live by promises. We do not live by explanations. God has not promised to explain it to you. As a matter of fact, he says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).

Real faith is obeying in spite of circumstances or consequences. Did you hear it? Real faith is obeying in spite of circumstances, a famine, or consequences. If I perish, I perish. I am going to go where God sends me, and I’m going to stay where God puts me until God moves me. I’m going to live by faith.

God will test your faith to find out whether you have the real thing. Now, God knows, but he wants you to know. God’s not trying to find out something about you, He wants you to find out something about you.

I’ve said this many times, being a Christian may be the hardest thing you ever do.

Stay tuned

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Nurses, especially Surgical Nurses in general, do you know they have one of the highest divorce rates. They harden themselves to not feel all the pain going on around them and they don’t realize they are shutting out their families as well.

We’ve started a group therapy for nurses to reconnect with their feelings and families and it has been amazing. And helping them to become better time managers and not get burned out if they want to stay in their career field.