Understanding Sin

Understanding Sin

Sin is anything that comes between God and us: any person, place, attitude, belief, desire, or activity. It includes sins of commission and sins of omission. Satan is behind it all twisting and spinning the truth, tricking us into sin.

 

I was fooled as a young man. I was sure if I worked hard enough, I could get it all done and provide food, clothing, shelter, and transportation for my family. Which I did, but did not realize how my wife was becoming a single parent because I was never at home. She needed me there. Not as a worker, but as a husband and father; to go through life together and deal with all the stresses that a young family faces. I did not love her as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). I eventually figured it out.

 

Christ is the Key

Jesus is the ONLY way to overcome sin. We can not do enough or be good enough to overcome the attack of the enemy. It is beyond our design or ability. I fought against lust for 25 years. I knew I was saved but did not understand why lust would not go away. Pornography and racial prejudice and a lot of other stuff went away, but not lust.

It finally was revealed to me I was fighting against sin with my flesh. I was trying to be “good enough” through the works of my flesh–my human nature. I knew I was saved by my faith in Jesus, and I would spend eternity in heaven. But, I believed a lie from hell for 25 years that I could overcome lust by denying myself that indulgence. It never worked. I continued to see the pretty girl and have thoughts beyond what I knew were proper.

 

Trust in Him

During a moment of solitude, I finally got it. I was trusting Jesus for eternity and me for today. That’s wrong! I knew Him as my Savior but not as my Lord, especially for today. I was half-dealing with the sin in my life in my way. I was not trusting Jesus with this. I was picking and choosing how I wanted to be a Christian–and lust would not go away! I was trying to overcome sin with my flesh–by being good enough. It was not working.

By faith, we trust Jesus for eternity. Similarly, Jesus can be trusted to save us and deliver us from the daily attacks of sin we experience. He empowers us to obey the Bible’s commands on how we treat one another and have relationships. To “love one another as I have loved you” when that “other” happens to be someone not very lovely. When we choose not to love the unlovely, that attitude is sin and is coming between God and us. We need to release Jesus and His Power in our lives for today.

 

Take Up Your Cross

Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus can see the end from the beginning. He knows what flesh is about–He was a man. He knows we need to hear something pretty severe to break the grip sin has on us for today–kill the flesh. Not physically kill yourself, but spiritually, give it up!

If a Roman soldier told you to take up your cross, he meant you were going to die. Jesus carried His cross to His crucifixion. To deal with sin in this world today, we must see ourselves as crucified with Christ (Romans 6:3,6,8) and follow Him (take up your cross daily and follow me). Put Jesus between you and the sin. HE CAN DEAL WITH IT–He has, and He can overcome sin–you haven’t and you can’t. Do this by FAITH in Him; the same faith you are trusting in Him to keep you out of hell at your death. Follow Him today–right now, to deal with the sin in your life!

Hopefully, you knew Christ as Savior and Lord from day one. I did not. It took me 25 years to break the grip from hell that was distorting my life. I fought it well; I never gave into it. But what a waste of time and effort! I should have changed long ago to make disciples and teach them to obey His commands– as He commanded me (Matthew 28:18-20).


Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

“I know we are all in the same family, but the Holy Spirit seems to always be out of town–I don’t know him very well.” One morning a member of my men’s group shared this comment, and it made me think.

Why is it that many of us understand God and Jesus, but we are a bit fuzzy on the Holy Spirit? Christians celebrate the birth and death of Jesus with Christmas and Easter. We have vivid Bible stories of God creating the world, God speaking to Noah to build the ark and guiding Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. But things slow down with details on the Holy Spirit. Or do they?

Why don’t we know the Holy Spirit the way we do God and Jesus? We are aware of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but for some reason, it is harder to put words with the Holy Spirit. We don’t have the same understanding as we do with God and Jesus.

This was another result of the fall from grace when Adam dropped the ball in the Garden of Eden. He stood there and watched as Eve believed a lie from Hell and did nothing to stop it. Furthermore, he tried to blame what happened on God and Eve. He took no responsibility for his failure to step up and be the man God created him to be. And it repeats to this day. This “fall” is when sin entered the world. It’s where the sinful nature that we each are born with came from.

 

What the Bible Says

The Bible has a lot to say about the Holy Spirit, but our fallen human nature doesn’t want to hear it. We don’t want to embrace the Holy Spirit because He convicts our sinful lives. Our innate sinful nature doesn’t want to understand.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” John 14:16-17.

Jesus was speaking here to the disciples as he was preparing to leave them. Later in the passage, Jesus described the Spirit as a counselor, who will teach us and remind us of what Jesus has said. Later in the book of John, we are told that the Holy Spirit will also convict the world of their guilt.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul explains that without the Holy Spirit we are not going to “get it”–we will not understand what Jesus, the Bible and God’s plan for humanity is all about.

“God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God… The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God” 1 Corinthians 2:10-14.

In Galatians, Paul tells us to live by the Spirit, and not by our sinful nature; these two natures are contrary and will conflict with one another.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentlenesses, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

 

The Devil’s Conspiracy

Could it be we are falling victim to a conspiracy to keep us locked in our sins? Why don’t we know the Holy Spirit very well? The devil does not want us to. Satan and his demons are behind this conspiracy to keep us from knowing and understanding the Holy Spirit.

The enemy manipulates our sinful human nature to the point that we do not want to be convicted of our sin (John 16:8). There are things about sin that we enjoy– that’s one reason we go there. Without the Holy Spirit’s conviction, we are not going to break from sin on our own. The shattered lives we witness every day are a testimony of NOT knowing the Holy Spirit and not living by the Spirit and not being led by the Spirit. Those shattered lives are the opposite of that–doing life by the world’s ways.

 

We Need the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the crucial link to overcome sin in our lives today. His conviction calls us out on our sins. When we ignore this, we will become hardened and calloused to sin. Continuing to do this long term allows sin to become a way of life.

The Holy Spirit is the power that raised Jesus from the grave, and that power is there for us to overcome sin in our life. We tap into that power when we believe the gospel–that Jesus died for our sins. By our belief in his death and resurrection on our behalf, we too can be free from sins and the devil’s grip on our life today! The Holy Spirit gives birth to our spirit; we are “born again” by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Without the Holy Spirit, we try to overcome sin on our own–by our flesh, will power, human nature, or be good enough. If that got it done, our world would be free of sin by now. No one wants to perpetuate the downside of sin–we only want to enjoy the pleasures. We have all tried to break free of sin, and it’s adverse effects, but man can not do it on his own. This is what Jesus was all about. He came, He lived, He died to pay the penalty for OUR sins. There is nothing about us that will ever be sufficient for our righteousness before God, apart from Jesus Christ. That would be like driving your car to the moon–you can’t do it!

If we allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and unrighteousness and choose to accept Jesus, God will forgive us of our sins. We will be acceptable to Him in heaven for eternity. If we also identify Jesus as Lord of our life for today, we can finally break free of sin’s grip on our daily life. Our Savior died on a cross at Calvary–our Lord rose on the third day–He is alive!

“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

 

Receiving the Spirit

So, how do we receive the Holy Spirit?

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.'” Acts 2:38

Jesus told us that whoever believes in Him, “streams of living water will flow from within him.” The flowing water is the Spirit, whom his followers would receive. In Acts, Paul had a conversation with some disciples regarding the Holy Spirit. “They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus… When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them.” So, we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior! When we accept Christ, God immediately seals us with His Spirit.


One Another

One Another

The Bible is full of commands for being in relationship with each other, especially the marriage relationship.  Some of them are listed below. Our natural human nature tends to be selfish and does not embrace most of these behaviors.  When we choose to know and follow Jesus Christ as Lord, we gain the power that brought Christ back to life, the power to recreate our human nature as a new man and we are much more able to follow Christ and live for today, the way He has shown us to live.

Do unto others

  • Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you”

 

Love one another

  • John 13:34-35  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
  • Hebrews 13:1 “Keep on loving each other as brothers.”
  • 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
  • 1 Peter 2:1-3  “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

 

Respect one another

  • 1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
  • Ephesians 5:33 “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

 

Accept one another

  • Romans 15:7 “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, to bring praise to God.”

Serve one another

  • Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
  • 1 Peter 4:10  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

 

Bear with one another

  • Ephesians 4:2  “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

 

Submit to one another

  • Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

 

Encourage one another

  • Hebrews 3:13  “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
  • Hebrews 10:24  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”
  • Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Do not judge one another, Do not grumble about one another

  • James 4:11 “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them, speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”
  • James 5:9 “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”

 

Be hospitable

  • 1 Peter 4:9  “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5: 14-22 “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other, and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

 

Be humble

  • 1 Peter 5:5  “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”

 

Why would I want to do this? Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we will obey His commands.

We also know that God loves us unconditionally. Take a look at His never failing, unending, persevering love for you. He has promised nothing – that includes nothing you can do – will ever come between you and God when you embrace and accept His Son. 

What if God designed marriage to make us both happy and holy? Your marriage should be a reflection of God’s love for the church; it serves as a vivid metaphor for the central message of the Gospel. Most of us don’t really have marriage problems, we have Jesus problems. We don’t want to do what He said do. You and your spouse can love and respect each other like God does – unconditionally – with His help. 


Putting Jesus First in Your Relationship

Putting Jesus First in Your Relationship

Marriage seems to be struggling today, and everywhere you look, couples are having trouble. God’s plan for marriage looks different from the average marriage today. In Genesis, He talked about a man leaving his mother and father and becoming one with his wife. What has happened? How have we drifted so far, and how do we get it back? Sin is the problem, and loving others the way Jesus did is the solution.

Improving Relationships

The Bible has many commands to us regarding being in a relationship. Which skills do you need to improve on?

  • Love one another as I have loved you.
  • Serve one another in love.
  • Pray for one another.
  • We are to esteem others more highly than ourselves.
  • We are to take an interest in the needs of others.
  • Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. He gave Himself up for her.
  • Wives are to respect their husbands.
  • Forgive one another as you have been forgiven.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (Philippians 2: 5-6).

“However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)

If Christ, who deserved it all, but didn’t exalt himself, why do we?  Why do we think we are “all that.” Why do we want to make our own rules for how to go through life?

 

Our human nature does not want to do these things I just listed. None of what I just said, that Christ said for us to do, is dependent on the other person’s behavior or whether or not we feel they deserve it.

 

Unconditional Love and Respect

The skills listed are things we can do regardless of the other person’s behavior. Emerson Eggerichs says, “Our response is our responsibility.” We are responsible to God for our actions while we are on this earth. And it doesn’t matter how the other person acts.  When we love and respect others unconditionally, we want them to reciprocate, but the Bible doesn’t say anything about that.

 

I struggled with this. It didn’t make sense to me to do all this good stuff with no assurance it would be reciprocated. So, I started picking and choosing how I was going to go through life. I now know I never did understand how to love others well. You see, I was hung up in lust. Lust I understood, but godly love–true unconditional love–I did not fully comprehend for a long time.

 

When I was about 13 years old, we had a revival at the church I grew up in, and I consciously told God no, I did not want to follow Jesus. I had found out about pornography by then, and I knew God was going to have a problem with that. So, in my teenage wisdom, I thought it best to leave God out of my life.

 

Later, Jane and I got married, and we had three daughters. My career grew, and I was still ignoring God. I dedicated my time and energy to making money, being the provider. I spent most of my time working, while Jane’s at home with three kids. I might bathe somebody or read them a book at bedtime, but she’s pretty much a single mom. But I didn’t understand what her problem was. Why is she mad at me?

I later learned that during these early years, what we were doing was drifting apart. Life was coming at both of us hard and fast, and we were looking to self to get through it. I was not there for her, and she was not in my world at work. My priorities of job and family were out of line, and nothing was working well for me. When I was 35, I found 30″ sweetgum trees in a field of no-till cotton that was about 10″ tall. This is before RoundUp Ready cotton, and I was looking at a nightmare. Meanwhile, back at home, my six-year-old daughter had started cussing.

 

I was saved right on the edge of that cotton field. I told God I was making a mess, and I needed help. He’s been helping me ever since. The relief and peace He has given me are incredible!

 

Today and Every Day

It was not enough to give my life to Jesus Christ; I needed to give Him each day. I was able to break from pornography, my language cleaned up a lot, and my racial prejudice changed dramatically. I started to read the Bible a lot. The Bible spoke to me in ways it never had before. I started listening to Christian radio–BBN. The preaching and teaching I heard made a lot of sense. I read Christian books; I started writing stuff down, trying to make sense of it all. But I had a severe misunderstanding that took me years to figure out.

 

I was trusting in myself for today, not Jesus. That is sin! I continued to be hounded by lust. I tried to justify it and then later to break free of it. I could not shake it. We can’t overcome our sins without Jesus. God created us to depend on Him for what we don’t know. But I didn’t know that back then. I was operating on the principle that if it feels good, do it.

 

Finally, I had a revelation from Christ. I saw Him clearly. He was on the cross and looked as bad as Isaiah described Him, and He said to me, “Is this not good enough? Do I have to go through this again, before you choose me for today?” I felt so ashamed and now choose Christ, and his unconditional love, for today. His love is the antidote to sin in your life. Learn to love and respect others the way Jesus does for us.

 

Obedience to God

The writer of Hebrews tells us the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and did not enter God’s “rest” because of their unbelief and disobedience. When we choose to accept Christ, He will resist temptation on our behalf. Now, we may enter that rest, spoken of in Hebrews, and come in from the desert! Christ gives us back our peace, hope, and joy that the enemy has taken.

 

If the enemy continues to beat you down, and your life, your marriage, or your relationships do not have the joy they should; then read Romans 6 and ask yourself “Am I crucified with Christ?” Don’t do it by your flesh–do it by your faith! 2 Corinthians 5:15 reminds us “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

 

Being Crucified with Christ

Not only is Jesus the way to overcome sin for today and live a life of freedom from it–He gives us the power to do so. Jesus told us in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus was telling us we need to die to ourselves daily. He knows when we follow our self-interests, we will go the wrong way. We need to see ourselves as crucified with Christ and follow Him.

 

And He is here with us! He says, “follow me.” Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

So, here’s how you can be crucified with Christ. To make it work, all you have to do is have the presence of mind to choose Christ before you respond by your flesh when sin attacks. The thought flashes through my mind that I have NO DOUBT He is taking me through eternity. Likewise, He will guide me through today. Then I’m able to do what I know is right, and OVERCOME SIN! At that point, I “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” I am dead to sin, and that list of skills at the beginning is a lot easier to accomplish. I’m a lot closer to loving others the way Christ does.

 

Christ-Centered Relationships

So, for our relationships to grow, we have to follow God’s guidance and be obedient to His commands. Only faith in Jesus can change your life. We need faith that He is who the Bible says He is and that through Him, we can overcome the sin we face daily.

 

Stop relying on worldly advice to fix marital problems with spiritual roots. Go to the Bible, where the institution of marriage was created. How is what you are doing working out for you? Are you happy? Is there peace and joy in your home? Are you and your spouse living as” one” or as roommates? What about your children? What’s coming out of their mouths? (Mine quit cussing as God transformed our family). When you choose to do marriage God’s way, the rate of divorce drops to around 1 or 2%. Don’t believe the lie from hell that you can fix it without Jesus.

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

 

How well you love and respect your spouse does not determine where you spend eternity; your love for Jesus does. And He said, “If you love me, obey my commands.” One day each of us will stand before our maker on a holy day of judgment (2 Co 5:10). We will stand alone, and He will ask, “What did you do with the Life I gave you?” What are you going to tell Him?


Are You Crucified with Christ?

Are You Crucified with Christ?

The power that resurrected Jesus from the dead, and that allowed Him to triumph over sin is available to us today in our battle against sin. However, we have to receive and accept it by knowing Jesus as not only our Savior but also our Lord.

In Luke 9:23, what did Jesus mean when He said: “…deny self, take up your cross daily and follow me”? What was He trying to say, and why did He use these words to say it? He meant to shoulder whatever burdens we face in life and to trust Him. And beyond that, I now know He meant exactly what He said.

Romans 6:6 “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. “

2 Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

 

Christ’s Resurrection for Today

When we believe in Christ for salvation, we know Him as our Savior for eternity. When we give him control of our life today, we know him as our Lord. By His death He paid the penalty for our sin, He overcame sin. By His resurrection and our identification with that, He overcomes our sinful nature. He delivers us from not only sin, but also our sinful nature. We are a new creation in Christ if we will accept this. Not only do we go to heaven when we die, but we live life abundantly, and we have DELIVERANCE from sin while we are alive. Is that beautiful or what!

 

Trusting in Jesus

We can’t be good enough through works to bring about our salvation, and we can’t resist sin enough to be free of it. When we trust Christ for both of these, we have true victory! It is by faith that we trust Christ for eternity, and through faith in Him breath by breath, we are delivered from daily sin!

 

When the enemy comes after us with temptation our response should be “I give up– I’m dead (crucified with Christ). Lord Christ, please resist this temptation for me”. Childlike faith. The temptation is not sinful because we WILL be tempted. The sin is giving in to temptation and indulging. Only Christ can overcome Satan; we can’t do it.

 

Understanding Sin

Whatever bad choices or behaviors we had released endorphins in our brain and gave us pleasure. That is why we kept going to them; it felt good. Now we have burned sin into our mind, and that is why we can’t deal with it in our flesh. Until we choose to believe this, we will not live a full and abundant life. If we make bad choices long enough, we create strongholds where we have allowed the enemy to camp out within us.

 

But, there is still hope! The Bible teaches we are to take all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) and to pray for the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8,9).

 

How can we accept the beating and crucifixion Christ endured on our behalf and call Him our Savior only to continue sinning and thinking it’s okay? I know–this is who I used to be! Christ did not go to the cross for us to be “happy.” When we accept Christ as our Savior, we should also trust Him as our Lord for today. I am not bold enough to accept Christ for my salvation; go about my daily life cleaning it up here and there; but then, still indulge my flesh as I desire. He has given me forever; I will give Him today!  

 

It Takes Faith

Hebrews tells us the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and did not enter God’s “rest” because of their unbelief and disobedience. The writer also says we are to encourage one another daily to beware of sin’s deceitfulness. When we accept that Christ lives in us and He will resist temptation on our behalf (just like He was crucified on our behalf), we may enter that rest today–and come in from the desert!  And take back our peace, hope, and joy that the enemy has stolen from Christ-followers. If the enemy continues to beat you down, read Romans 6 and ask yourself, “Am I crucified with Christ?” Don’t do it by your flesh–do it by your faith!

 

Take Up Your Cross

So what does “take up your cross daily” mean? I used to think it meant to bear the burdens we all have in our lives, but I now realize it means to die to self. In Jesus’ day when a Roman soldier said: “Take up your cross,” it meant you were to be crucified! Could it be that when we die to self and trust Christ, the enemy can’t touch us?

 

Are you ready to take up your cross?