SLAYING SIN – Part II

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On Wednesday we looked at the first three steps in the process of slaying sin: (1) Knowing that we have been crucified with Christ; (2) Cultivating a hatred for sin; and (3) Confessing our sins. Today we will delve into the final three steps.

Step #4 – Cultivate the spirit of fighting against sin

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:4)

The writer of Hebrews acknowledged the persecution his readers were facing, but he made it clear that it did not rise to the level of what Jesus faced when nailed to the cross. We must fight against sin, therefore, knowing that Jesus fought the ultimate battle for us on the cross. In his classic work, The Mortification of Sin, Puritan pastor John Owen wrote, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” Owen’s language is as strong as it is true! We must cultivate the spirit of fighting against sin every moment of every day.

Step #5 – Cultivate the spirit of fleeing from sin

She caught [Joseph] by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. (Genesis 39:12)

Sometimes the best defense against sin is simply to run away from it! It worked beautifully for Joseph. Joseph had been sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers and was serving in the house of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials. Potiphar’s wife was trying to get Joseph to commit adultery, but Joseph refused, saying “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Day after day, she tried to seduce Joseph. When sin was quite literally clutching at Joseph, he chose to flee from this dread temptation. Joseph left his cloak but kept his character.

Step #6 – Carry Scripture in your heart

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  (Psalm 119:11)

When Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into His wilderness experience, He overcame the temptations of the devil by quoting Scripture. “It is written,” He said. And again . . . “It is written” . . . And again . . . “It is written!” Satan finally gave up and left Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11). What a powerful picture of the protection that the Bible provides against the Evil One! We must carry Scripture in our hearts because we will not always have a Bible with us, much less the time to look up a passage. We must marinate in Scripture and meditate on it; the more we do, the more we will have “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) ready at hand to fight against sin.

So . . . how are you doing in your daily struggle against sin? Remember, keep the cross of Christ in view, and you will experience more and more victory over sin. Greater is the power that is in you than any power that can come against you!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!    

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SLAYING SIN – Part I

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Today and Friday I want to provide you with six practical steps for slaying sin. Remember, in the life of the believer, sin no longer reigns, but it still remains. Because of this truth, we must be serious about our role in slaying sin. Today we will look at the first three steps.

Step #1 – Know that your old self was crucified with Christ

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. (Romans 6:6)

By nature we are all children of Adam. So the “old self” refers to our pre-conversion life in the flesh. But when Jesus shows up, everything changes! The apostle Paul is telling us to see the reign of sin in our old nature as “crucified” and nailed to the cross of Christ. Sin no longer reigns in the life of the redeemed. Keeping this Gospel truth in view is the first step in the process of slaying sin. We are no longer slaves to sin; rather, we are now slaves to our Savior.

Step #2 – Cultivate a hatred for sin

Let those who love the Lord hate evil [sin]. (Psalm 97:10)

Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other (Nehemiah 4:17-18). The trowel was for building; the sword was for his enemies. Our number one enemy is sin. We must take sword to that enemy, and that begins with a holy hatred for it. After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God promised to put “enmity” between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Remember, sin [Satan] hated our Lord Jesus. We must hate sin—all sin—remembering what it has done to us, our world, and our Lord.

Step #3 – Confess your sin

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Because we are sinners, both by nature and habit, every day we are to rest in the rhythm of our redemption every day. And that rhythm is to daily repent of all known sin, knowing that our God is faithful to forgive. Never fear that God will reject you because of your sin! God the Father rejected God the Son in your place. The Father turned away from His beloved Son so that he might look on you with love for all eternity. We simply need to come, humbly and boldly, before the Throne of Grace, knowing that all our sins—past, present, and those still to come—have been nailed to the cross of Christ.

These are the first three steps every believer must take in the process of slaying sin; I’ll lay out the last three steps on Friday. I hope you’ll be back!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!    

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ENDLESS SUPPLY!

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When was the last time you felt like you were running on empty? When you felt like your physical, emotional, or spiritual resources were running out? Well, the next time you get to that place of imagined emptiness, I hope you’ll remember this word of encouragement!

[Elijah] went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread — only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it — and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.'”

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:10-16)

The widow of Zarephath expressed great faith in Elijah’s God. In the midst of a three-year drought and resulting famine, with only enough flour and oil for one final meal for her and her son, she first made the meal for Elijah. Elijah presented this widow with a test of faith and she passed with flying colors!

I wonder if the same could be said about you and me.

In this remarkable passage, we see the promise of an endless supply of God’s endless love. Every day the woman went to the jar of flour and the jug of oil and found enough in both to meet the needs of herself, her son, and the prophet Elijah. Let me ask you a question right now. What “jar of flour” or “jug of oil” do you fear will run out on you? The Bible teaches us to look past our daily need and to fix our eyes on the only One who has promised to meet it daily.

My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

To be sure, each day brings with it the trials, troubles, temptations, and tribulations we have been promised. But along with these difficulties comes our divine portion promised from on high. The widow was sustained for three years in a land that saw no rain. God has promised to meet you in your place of need, moment by moment. The key is to look past the challenges of the circumstances we face and see our God who is ruling over all of it.

Will we trust our God even when we cannot trace Him, as the widow did?

Before travelling to Zarephath, God used ravens to bring Elijah his daily bread. And our God will do the same for you today through countless “raven resources” that He will send your way. Remember, the resources of your Redeemer will never run out. As it is promised, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness (2 Corinthians 9:10).

And if you find yourself one day feeling like you have reached rock bottom, let me remind that this is a very good place to be, for you will then be standing on THE Rock—your Redeemer, who has promised to meet all of your needs and said that He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Now those are promises you can take to the bank—the believer’s bank—and know that there are resources enough to sustain you.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!    

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THE WITNESS OF YOUR WORK

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Are you in full-time Christian ministry? The answer, of course, is YES if you are a Christian. Every child of God is in full-time Christian ministry, regardless of who signs the paycheck at the end of the week.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

Paul makes it clear that every kind of legitimate work—any work that does not violate the revealed truth of God—is a service to the Lord when it is done for His glory and with all of our heart. There is no such thing as a sacred/secular split in the life of the Christian. All of life is sacred and is to be lived out coram Deo—before the face of God.

This was true from the very beginning. Adam and Eve were made by God, made in the image of God, and made to live for the glory of God. Every aspect of their lives was sacred and consecrated to God. This is God’s plan for humanity. What you spend the bulk of your 168 hours doing each week on is not to be divorced from God. Your work is to be performed “as working for the Lord, not for men,” which was God’s plan . . . before and after sin entered into the world.

I often speak to people who describe their jobs as mundane and insignificant. They only say these things because they do not see their work in light of the biblical mandate to use it as a means to bring honor and glory to God. Everyone cannot serve God in the church. But everyone can and must serve God right where they are, in whatever they do. Every job is sacred and meaningful when it is performed for the Savior. The only “insignificant” job in the world is the one where Jesus cannot be found.

So . . . where are you currently serving your Lord today? What is the witness of your work? Remember, when you arrive at the office or wherever you work, you are responsible to bring the sacred and spiritual into the secular by serving God, not men. It comes down to perspective. When you see whatever it is you do as an act of service to God, then you rise above the thought of mere work, to pouring yourself out as an act of worship to your God.

With this kind of perspective, the Lord Jesus Christ will take whatever the world might call “mundane” and turn it a masterpiece for His glory! For many of your coworkers, you will be the only Bible they ever read. What have they been reading lately? How attractive have you been making your God?

The witness of your work will be an instrument of both salvation and sanctification in the hands of your Savior . . . when you are working for His glory.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!    

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IS GOD FORGETFUL?

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Is God forgetful? He certainly wouldn’t be our omniscient God who knows everything all the time if He forgets things! So how do we reconcile that truth with the following passages?

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)

“I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

What Isaiah and the author of Hebrews are telling us in saying that God will remember our sin no more is that, once our sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, God the Father refuses to bring them back up and hold them against us. He will never remind us of our past transgressions; it’s as if He has forgotten all about them.

And let me say that if you are being reminded of your sins, God is not the source. It could be Satan, a family member, a friend, or simply someone who wants to hurt you. But it is never God. If you have placed your trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, God has promised to remember your sins no more.

Another way of saying this is that when we are in Christ, God is no longer our Judge. He is “Abba, Father!” All of our sins—past, present, and still to come—have already been judged in Christ and paid for by His precious blood, shed on the cross for you and me. When Jesus said “It is finished,” He meant what He said! Never again will God hold us accountable for our sins and He will never drag them up from our past. We are freely, fully, and forever forgiven.

You and I must remember this truth moment by moment, because we don’t forget what we have done in the past. At times, the memory of our past sins can put a stranglehold on us—so much so that we seem to be frozen in place spiritually, paralyzed from making forward progress. Knowing the full forgiveness we have in Christ, strengthens us to say these words with the psalmist:

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 12:5)

You see, we don’t need to try to hide our sins or cover anything up. God is faithful to forgive and we, knowing that we are fully forgiven, need only to be faithful to continually confess our transgressions and repent. This is the true freedom the Gospel brings. The next time you remember one of your past sins, remember that God chooses to remember your sins no more.

This is living life in the shadow of the cross, which is the only place where the true Light does shine into our darkness.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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PURSUING PEACE

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Everyone pursues peace. Some look for it in their personal achievement; others seek it in a relationship. Sadly, most are looking for peace in all the wrong places. But the Bible makes it clear where we will find it:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Galatians 1:3)

The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear where peace will be found . . . on the other side of God’s grace. The great Reformer Martin Luther wrote that “Those two words, grace and peace, contain all that belongs to Christianity, because it is God’s grace that forgives us of our sin and His peace that quiets the conscience.” Make no mistake, there is no peace apart from the grace of God. Peace simply cannot be found in anything smaller than Jesus. God designed it that way!

Think about it this way; if we could find peace apart from the Prince of Peace, we would never sense our need of Him. And the very first thing we need in order to find the peace that passes all understanding is the forgiveness of our sins. When we are in Christ and our sins are forgiven, we receive the first fruit of our justification: peace with God. We are no longer on the run from God; rather, we have been reconciled to God by the cross work of Christ. The very fact that we will never find lasting peace in anything other than Jesus tells us that He alone is what we really need and what we must pursue.

There are many things in life that are designed to disrupt our peace, from waves of challenge to seasonal storms. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, we have a peace that simply cannot be displaced, no matter what we are currently facing. The writer of Hebrews assures us that “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (6:19). Jesus is our Almighty Anchor; when we are united to Him by grace through faith, we have a peace that cannot be shaken.

So . . . where have you been looking for peace lately? If you are searching for it in anything smaller than Jesus, you must know that lesser thing simply cannot deliver what it promises. Only the Prince of Peace can make good on His promise of peace that will strengthen you in every storm and comfort you when the waves of challenge are rolling over you.

Remember, grace always precedes peace and peace always follows grace. Keeping that truth before you will help keep His peace within you, regardless of the circumstances you are facing.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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HANG UP THE HIGH SCHOOL “LETTER” JACKET!

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If you spend any time watching television, you’re probably familiar with DirecTV commercials featuring the actor Rob Lowe. Today’s message of encouragement is drawn from the ad in which “regular” Rob Lowe has DirecTV and enjoys his wireless setup and great picture, unlike the “peaked in High School” Rob Lowe, who still has cable. High School Rob Lowe doesn’t mind the fact that he still has cable, he says, because he is still the captain of his high school football team. He is still wearing his high school “letter” jacket and looking to his past to find his identity in his present . . . which is paralyzing his future.

The same message is delivered in the sitcom Community, where Troy, the jock character, is still wearing his high school letter jacket at Greendale Community College. Considered his signature item with its large purple “R” embroidered on the front left of the jacket, Troy’s letter jacket serves as a constant reminder for him and all the other students of his previous life at Riverside High, where he was the star quarterback. Eventually Troy settled in to the new season of life as a college student.

QUESTION: Have you settled in to your current season of life—in whatever station this finds you in—or are you looking to your past to find your identity in the present?

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

There is no “peaking in high school” for the people of God. God has wonderful plans to prosper you with an unimaginable future, one built upon the foundation of a holy hope. Your identity is never to be found in your past. It is only to be found in your Prince. God has you right where you are for two incredible reasons: His glory . . . and your good! The key to living His perfect plan in your imperfect life is to learn from the past, live in the present, and lean into your promised future.

Whatever challenges you are facing today . . .

  • Marriage difficulties
  • Parenting a prodigal
  • Opposition at the office
  • Stress at school
  • Friendship fallout
  • Relationship speed bump
  • Peer pressure

. . . your God is at work, both in you and through you. Remember, your identity is never to be found in anything you have ever done, are doing, or will ever do. Your identity is only to be found in the One who can meet you in your place of deepest need and move you into a future of unimaginable joy. This can be your daily experience when you refuse to live for anything smaller than Jesus.

Hang up that proverbial high school letter jacket and hang on to Christ alone!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!    

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