Sunday, February 16, 2020

Lord Build Me in Speech

Yiddish folklore offers a telling tale about our words. One such man had told so many malicious untruths about the local rabbi that, overcome by remorse, he begged the rabbi to forgive him. "And, Rabbi, tell me how I can make amends." The rabbi sighed, "Take two pillows, go to the public square and there cut the pillows open. Wave them in the air. Then come back." The rumormonger quickly went home, got two pillows and a knife, hastened to the square, cut the pillows open, waved them in the air and hastened back to the rabbi's chambers. "I did just what you said, Rabbi!" "Good." The rabbi smiled. "Now, to realize how much harm is done by gossip, go back to the square..." "And?" "And collect all your feathers."-From Hooray for Yiddish.

Words are powerful. We see this theme in James chapter 3 played out, but it’s also a theme strung through the entire book of James. Words are very powerful. They can do great good. I can encourage someone, and their spirits will be lifted. I can pray with someone, and those words will bring life. In fact, in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we see that God spoke, and the world was made. That’s how powerful words are.

Words can do great good. Indeed, how many of us heard the gospel through spoken words, or someone reading the Bible to us. In fact one of the key ways that I got saved, was I watched this movie over and over called “The Life of Jesus” which was a word for word translation of the gospel of John. I must’ve watched that movie one hundred times, loaded up on drugs, and beer, and then one night it finally dawned on me, that Jesus could save me. And the rest is history.

That’s how powerful words and speech are! They can bring great life.

It can also bring great destruction. Think back in your life, to a time when you heard someone say something terrible about you. Maybe it was during middle school or high school. Maybe it was a bully teasing you. Maybe it was a teacher who didn’t like you. Maybe it was even a parent, mom or dad, or a family member, who said terrible things to you. And they probably did that because their parents said the same things to them.

I can recall even to this day, moments when someone said something so terrible it was ingrained on my memory for life. They say sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Well, that isn’t true. They don’t break skin or tear bone, but they burn inside.

I remember during basketball practice some guy asked me what was wrong with my chest, I have a concave on my chest, from my birth, and from that day on I was so ashamed of my body, and how I looked.

I remember when a friend and I went up for a pass in gym class, and I came down and accidentally landed on top of him. And he got hurt. It was an accident, but several of my enemies took the opportunity to attack me, making it seem like I did it on purpose. In fact they attacked me in the locker room later. And one cupped his hand and smashed it against my ear.

I remember something else. Something I did. There was a handicapped kid who was in a wheel chair. And we would go and make fun of him. And I participated in it. I made fun of him, in that hallway. And I regret it. Thankfully Jesus has forgiven that in me.

Maybe it’s easy to remember times when people did it to us. But how often have we been the guilty parties? We see someone we don’t like, so we spread rumors. We blast them in the community. People have done it to us here, spread rumors about us, and then people will leave the church, because they believe the rumors. Words, have, power.

Now what’s interesting is some of us don’t gossip or slander others or complain about others, but I know what you do do. You talk down to yourself. Your inner voice beats you up day and night. And that needs to stop. Some of the ways you talk to yourself, are ways you would never talk to your worst enemy. You need to speak to yourself, with the same love, and forgiveness and patience that you give others. When you let your inner voice go off shaming you, would you please stop, and ask yourself, would I talk to a friend like this? Then change that inner voice to encouragement, and reciting what God’s word says about you.

I am a child of God.

I’m redeemed by the blood.

My sins are gone, I’m holy in Christ.

God is my Father and he loves me.

That’s why it’s important to memorize little portions of scripture to repeat in our minds, or out loud, when we start having negative thoughts. When you start thinking, whats the point of life, I should just go sin, block that and say no, I am born again of the Spirit. I’m destined for paradise. I’m holy as God is holy. Change that internal dialogue.

Gossip is very tempting you guys. Even at training in Chicago, when I was at seminary, certain friends would gossip, and part of me loved to listen to it, to hear private things about people, and then laugh and mock them. But as soon as I left, I would feel upset with myself, so ashamed, and so convicted by the Holy Spirit. Gossip can seem fun at the time, but later we see the damage it does.

So here’s the rule I try to live by. And some of you have heard this from me. If I hear gossip or hear a conversation heading in that direction, I’ll just jump in and say, “That’s over, that issue has been dealt with, we’re gonna pray for them, and let’s move on.” Or simply, “Let’s not gossip, let’s talk about something else.” Cut that off. I don’t want to hear it. Let’s talk about something positive, something good.

But do you know what’s interesting about controlling or speech? Our scripture today said this: “We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.”

And in verse 2 it said, “2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”

It’s interesting that it says if we can control what we say, we can control everything else about ourselves. So this is apparently the secret to learning self control. Learning to control our speech.

So when we talk about others, a friend or stranger, or another church, or even a political candidate, or local leader, we ought to consider the formula of Alan Redpath. During a time of difficulty in his ministry, he set up a formula for speaking of others or controversial issues:

“T--Is it true?
H--Is it helpful?
I--Is it inspiring?
N--Is it necessary?
K--Is it kind?

If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, I will keep my mouth shut! And it worked!”

I want to touch on one point just briefly about controlling the tongue and it’s in verse one of James 3. It says “not many of you should become teachers, because teachers will be judged more strictly.”

This verse makes me tremble before God. I know it by heart, James 3:1. I repeated it a lot during seminary to my fellow cadets. All of us will stand before God at the end of our lives and have to give an account, and answer for the decisions we made. And the things we said.

In fact Jesus himself said, “You must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. –Matthew 12:36

So every person in this room will have to answer for our words. And we’ll be judged. But for me, a minister, and Zachary, who teaches Bible, and Lexy, and others in here who become Bible teachers or pastors or other ministry leaders, we will be judged more strictly. We will be judged by a higher standard. Because God called us to share his word, and if we didn’t do it right, or taught false doctrine, or only spoke on the feel good verses, we will be in a lot of trouble.

Jump down to James 3, verses 8 through 10 which say, “The tongue is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.”

And maybe that’s where you’re at right now. You’re learning to be encouraging. You’re using words to bless people and bless God. But then you’re also later on using words to curse others, and mock others, and using your words to complain and argue.That’s not good my friends. Let’s put those old ways aside, because they are dead and gone with our old selves. And let’s put on the new self in Christ Jesus, speaking good and not evil.

But I must confess brothers and sisters, I sinned in my words just recently. I was talking to a good friend of mine, and she shared with me about something terrible she did recently. And I spoke harshly to her about what she did. And she became very angry with me. And later I realized, I was right, but I was too harsh, and too mean spirited about it. So I apologized to her. And I also asked God’s forgiveness for what I’d done. And What’s what we’re supposed to do. James 3 says we all slip up in many ways. The point is that we recognize the mistake, we make it right, we get with God and ask forgiveness, and then we do better in the future.

In conclusion we see the final section of James 3, which my Bible titles “True Wisdom comes from God.” And really that’s what verses 1 through 12 were talking about, being wise with our words. And this section concludes with a call to live humbly, honorably, doing good works. And it says if you really understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life. It challenges us to not live in bitter jealousy, or selfish amibition, or boasting, or lying, because those things are demonic. Evil.

Verse 17 & 18 say, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

The final passage says that we are to be called “peacemakers.” So it says that we’ll spend our lives going from place to place, planting seeds of peace in others lives, and then having planted those seeds, we will gather the harvest later on in life, of righteousness. Of a beautiful holy life. We’ll see those seeds that we planted across Owosso, across Durand and Caledonia and Corunna, and Perry, years later, we’ll see people who we helped, who we encouraged, and we’ll see how they helped others, and how those good deeds spread out everywhere, to more and more people until thousands of lives were affected by our actions of living lives of being peacemakers. What a glorious way to live, let’s all live that way, using our words to spread goodness and faith, and love and truth. Alwayss, because that will make the world a better place. Amen! Hallelujah! 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Lord Build Me in Action

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

The boy jumped, because he trusted his father. The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known.

Donner Atwood.

We live by faith in God. But what use is our faith if we don’t actively live it out? Just like the boy who is afraid, in the burning building, he can’t see his father below with his arms wide open, but he believes that he is there. He has faith that his dad is there even though he cant see. That’s kind of like our faith in God. We know God is here, active in our lives, we know he’s helping us, and guiding us. But what good is it for the boy to believe that his dad is there? The house is still on fire. The flames are close. He has faith, yes. But what needs to happen? The boy needs to take action. And maybe that’s the hardest part. He needs to jump off the house and into his father’s arms. And in the same way, our faith in God, is useless, empty, and dead unless it’s followed by action, by works.

As the founder of the salvation army said,” Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again -- until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.

William Booth in The Founder's Messages to Soldiers, Christianity Today, October 5, 1992, p. 48.

Our scripture today said,”14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

In other words, “faith without works is dead.”

The scripture continues:19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.[f] Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?”

We’ve gotta live this out people. We’ve gotta really walk the walk. Otherwise we’re just playing games at church. And there’s no point to that. We’ve gotta go through the process, of being a Christian, we’ve gotta walk through the steps and really do it.

Do you want to go to heaven when you die, or hell when you die? Jesus came to save us from our sins, and give us new life. We will all have to stand before God at the end of our lives and he will either judge us by the ten commandments, and we’ll be guilty and be sent to hell forever. Or we’ll be judged according to the perfection of Jesus Christ, who is our savior, and we’ll be sent to paradise forever. It’s true, it’s real. Make your choice. Where is your future going to be? Let me share you with how we can walk the walk in action, so we do live like Jesus, and evade the torments of hell.

The first step of faith is to know God. You can come to dinner church and hear about Jesus Christ over and over again. You hear it, you like it, you can tell there is power there, but you’re just observing it from the outside. We’re floating around the outside, saying yes God is real and I appreciate his ways.

But here’s where the change happens: Go from believing that God is real, to living with God inside you. You go from saying that God is there, to having God as your personal father.

Have you made a decision to receive Jesus Christ of Nazareth as your personal savior? It’s between you and Jesus. Nobody else. Embrace Jesus! How? Ask Jesus Christ of Nazareth to be your personal savior. Give your entire life to Jesus. Whisper in your heart, Jesus Christ I make you the Lord of my life. I give my life to you. You died for me personally on the cross. All my sins are nailed to the cross. You suffered and died for my lies, for my misery, for my emptiness. Jesus I am yours, and you are mine.

That’s the first step.

The 2nd step, is action. Joining a life group here at the citadel. Getting fed from the Bible each week. You learn to pray, to talk to God, to study the Bible, and to grow in holiness. We change. We see sins fall away. We develop relationships with other people here in the church. This is vital. This is huge, as far as action goes.

The third step is dive into discipleship groups. You go deeper with God. You begin to study theology, and spiritual disciplines. You begin to identify your spiritual gifts, and you begin to learn how to share Jesus with lost people out there. You learn to give and serve.

The fourth step, is serving brigade, you join teams, like the prayer team, like setup, like kitchen, evangelism, you practice your Christian faith by doing good works. You become a volunteer. You begin to use your gifts for God’s glory.

In a moment we’re going to give you an opportunity to respond to the message today, but first, we our scripture today concludes by sharing two examples of faith in action. It says:

“21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”[g] He was even called the friend of God.[h] 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath,[i] so also faith is dead without good works.”

Faith is action my friends. God builds us through action, through us making decisions and then following through on them. Have you made a decision to grow in your faith? Now is the time to step out.

I’d like to invite Zach, Lexy, and Johnathon to go to your stations. You’ll notice that on our four pillars we have marked “Dinner Church, Small Groups, Discipleship, and Serving Brigade. These are steps 1 through 4. In a moment we’ll invite everyone to stand, and choose which step you are on.

If you’re at step 1, you come to dinner church regularly, great, then you’ll go and stand by the first pillar, and Johnathon will talk with you, and pray with you.

If you’re at step 2, you’re wanting to attend life groups, or you’ll already doing that, join Zach at the 2nd pillar, and he will share with you.

If you’re at step 3, discipleship and soldiering, or you want to move in that direction, join Lexy at the 3rd pillar.

And if you’re feeling God calling you to serve, to help, to put your gifts into practice, please join me at the 4th pillar. And we’ll talk and pray.

Everyone please stand, we’re gonna pray, and then please find the pillar that you’re at right now or you’d just like to learn more about.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Lord Build Me in Obedience

I've read that when Edward VI, the king of England in the 16th century, attended a worship service, he stood while the Word of God was read. He took notes during this time and later studied them with great care. Through the week he earnestly tried to apply them to his life. That's the kind of serious-minded response to truth the apostle James calls for in today's Scripture reading. A single revealed fact cherished in the heart and acted upon is more vital to our growth than a head filled with lofty ideas about God.

One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.

Chambers, Our Daily Bread, March 4, 1993.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Is it too much? Is it too hard? Sometimes when we read the Bible, we wonder, can it really be done? It seems like so much, it seems like such a high standard. I’ve wondered that at times.

But I’ll tell you this, it can be done, but it doesn’t happen all at once. It happens over years and years. So we have to be patient. But we also have to be dedicated to the process.

“One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.” It’s not enough to sit in church and learn about what the right things to do are.

We have to come the point where we say alright, how do I put this into practice? It’s time to fight those hard, hard battles with our faults and failings.

In verse 21 of our scripture today it says, “ 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Get rid of the filth in your life. Clear it out. That’s what James writes. Clear out the evil, and humbly accept the word planted in you. Many of you here have that word planted in your heart. God is at work. You’re feeling drawn to pray, to study the Bible, and to come to church. You’re feeling a discomfort in your heart with things in your life that are wrong. There is an upset in your heart, in your stomach, and you can feel it. That is called “conviction. “ Conviction is when God’s Holy Spirit which lives in our body, is telling us something we do is wrong.

We feel it when we smoke a cigarette, or we feel it when we swear, or when we lie to someone, when we tell someone we’re here, and we’re actually somewhere else. Or when our friend leaves the room, we steal something off their counter top. Or when we use a drug, or get drunk, or when we masturbate, or sleep around with people. We feel dirty. We feel the sin. And the Holy Spirit whispers to us: “Don’t do that. Put that away.”

We have free will, we have the choice to either stop, or continue. That is a sacred gift from God. But I challenge you today, don’t just listen in church, then go out during the week and do whatever you want.

Sincerely try to live it out. Sincerely try to live like Jesus each week.

In the book of James it says, “23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

So you’re starting your day, and you look in the mirror as you brush your teeth and get ready. And you tell yourself, “I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus.” But then as you jump into your daily routine, you immediately forget that you’re a Christian.

You live selfishly. You lie. You steal. You gossip and slander people. You spread rumors. You yell at someone. You curse and yell at God.

You’ve forgotten who you are. You’re a Christian. How can we transfer this head knowledge, this Bible truth into our real everyday lives.

We can do that. By praying through the day, by whispering prayers in our minds during the day. We can do that by remembering the words of the Bible and storing them in our minds.

And pretty soon we will be swearing less, we will be less selfish and helping others more, we’ll be lying less, we’ll be gossiping less, and pretty soon those things will vanish entirely. But we have to remember who we are.

I am a Christian. Say it with me. I am a Christian.

So if we remember our face in the mirror, that I follow Jesus, then James says, “. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

If we diligently seek to follow God’s ways, his perfect law, then we will be blessed in all we do.

We see this truth, of not just hearing God’s word, but living it out in the middle paragraph, and then in the two paragraphs above and below it, we see a common theme connected to this:

Verses 26 and 27 say, “26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”

And above in verse 19 it says, Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Sometimes it seems like some of us can be quick to speak and quick to get angry. That’s not what God commands of us. Be slow to speak. Be a listener. Be careful what you say.

The tongue, our words, can be so incredibly destructive. They can also be such a great blessing. Reign in your tongue. If your someone who gossips and spreads rumors, pray to God, and ask Him to help you stop. It can feel “fun” to talk gossip, and to swear, and cuss, but it’s so destructive, and it leads to pain and misery. So don’t do it. Shut that off. And ask God for help to do that.

Now this can be challenging. And as we begin to try to practice our faith, we’ll come upon setbacks. I remember being a new Christian, and thinking wow I’m a mess, I’m not doing this right. I was smoking, I was swearing, I was living in lust and watching movies and videos I shouldn’t have been watching. But here’s the thing guys. Don’t beat yourself up.

I’ll say that again, don’t beat yourself up.

God is patient with you. But don’t play games with God either. God does not play games with us. He loves us, but he knows how we truly are. So do your best to ask God for forgiveness after you sin, and declare before God, your desire to change, your repentance, of turning in a new direction.

There will be setbacks. But keep fighting, keep praying, and you’ll see month by month, and year by year, God slowly changing you.

It’s not over when we sin. Because the word says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -I John 1:9.

God is our daddy, so run to Him when you make a mistake, and ask for His help and His forgiveness.

Let’s finish by looking briefly at the last verse, 27 which says, “27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

So here James is giving us an example of how to live out what we believe. Serve others before we serve ourselves. Go visit the elderly in their homes, or in nursing homes, visit widows, go into the jail and share the gospel with prisoners, go and share God’s love with children at orphanages. Bring some bread and food to your neighbor, or go spend time with a friend in the hospital. Get out of yourself, and all that selfishness, and help somebody else. That is the hardest thing. We’re all so incredibly selfish sometimes, myself included, wow, so self-centered, everything about me and what I want, but instead God calls us to think of others and their needs and their souls.

So that’s our word for today, and its best summed up in this phrase “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Do what it says guys, that’s my battle too. It’s all our battles. Don’t just hear it, do what it says. And I find great joy from God in that. 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Lord Build Me through Struggles

The book of James is on fire to me whenever I study it. It bursts forth with life, with the Holy Spirit of God these words are mighty and intense, and raw, and brutal. The book of James is written to the lost twelve tribes of Israel, as they are scattered and persecuted in the nations. They’ve lost everything. They’re enduring extremely difficult times. And through those awful difficulties God is building them into heroes of the faith.

Lord, Build us. We are your temple. So build your temple. We are your people. Build your people. Construct us, brick by brick. Pound the nails into the wood planks, as you construct us. Burn the impurities out of us through the fires of affliction. Save us from the pit of hell, by burning through us now, and thus transforming us, by the blood of Jesus, into new beings, forged in the fires, mature, strong, free from sin, and pure in Christ.

What is suffering in this life compared to eternal victory in the next? We think our lives are so important. Our lives are but a few puffs of smoke, a few years, we travel this Earth, and then one day we are gone. For many this life will be the best they will ever have, and their eternity will be in a place of fire and torment. In fact the sad reality is that many will go there, because they just aren’t willing to receive Christ and change their ways.

But for us, we are citizens of another country, pilgrims and travelers on a journey home to paradise. And this life is the worst we will ever have to see. One day, the memories of this broken world won’t even come to mind anymore. But today it’s hard. And why is it so difficult? Because of all the many trials and temptations we have to go through. There is no beating around the bush the trials of this life are so very hard.

Our scripture today says very plainly: “2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

What? What is this madness he is saying? When we have troubles, when our car breaks down, when we lose a loved one, when we relapse, when we battle with serious health problems, chronic pain, James writes that we should consider it an opportunity for joy? What!

Yes, joy, because , and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this, but, we should be happy because it means our faith is being tested and when our faith is tested in this process, it produces something called “endurance.”

Endurance is the ability to stand strong in the long term, to withstand difficult circumstances without giving way.

So God allows us to go through very hard times, for what reason? To build me. To Build us. Every difficult thing you’ve gone through in your life has prepared you for this moment today. And more will come. And as we proceed through trials week by week and month by month, we’re slowly transformed.

God is buiding us through the hard times. And it pleases God when we patiently go through these difficulties. Jump down to verse twelve and it says, “12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Testing and temptation are mentioned there, and these are two different things. Testing is a situation that challenges our faith in God. This would be something like losing a job, or developing a serious health problem, or chronic pain. And we might be tempted to wonder why God would allow such a thing to happen. This is testing our faith. And the best way to respond when that thought comes up, why God, is a simple statement: God, I trust you completely. Your plan is right even if I don’t understand. God loves that kind of sincere trust in Him.

Temptation is something altogether different. Temptation is when we’ve been sober for a certain amount of time, and one night we’re having a bad day and we feel tempted to go buy a bottle. Or we’ve been honoring God in our sexual conduct, but one night we feel so lonely, and we feel tempted to go try and meet someone and fornicate. And in those times, God calls us to resist the temptation, and pray, and seek God, and overcome the temptation.

This isn’t easy. It’s not easy to fight temptations, especially if you’re depressed, or lonely, or sick, or having a bad day. I confess to you church that I recently did just that, I fell to a temptation. I should’ve resisted, but I didn’t. But here’s the amazing thing about God.

Even if we fall to a sin. And give in to temptation. We can come before God on our knees, in tears, and sorrow, and cry out to God for forgiveness, according to the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. And that blood cleanses us once again. And we are made right. That is amazing grace, that he washes us clean AGAIN, even after the first time, when I got saved 7 years ago. His blood still is at work, cleansing me once again when I turn to Him and repent, and change my ways. Amazing grace.

Now we might wonder, is God tempting us? If so, why? Well the answer to that is simple: James writes: “13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong,[c] and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”

God doesn’t tempt us. We’re tempted by our own sinful desires. And the evils of this world. And eventually those desires can drag us away, and into sin. That’s why I try to shut down sinful thoughts as soon as they come into my mind. I’ll just say out loud, “No, that’s not who I am in Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Because those desires give birth to sinful actions. So we go from thinking about it, to then going out and doing it. Boom, sin takes over. Then as we do it over and over, that sin is allowed to grow. And if we keep doing it over and over, then that sin matures within us, and gives birth to spiritual death.

Meaning we give so much room to the sin, and we do it over and over, and it grows so strong that we stop praying, we stop reading the Bible, and we leave the church all together. I’ve seen it happen many times. People hide a sin in their life, and eventually it takes control and drives them right out of the church.

It’s like the old eskimo man who told his grandson this story: Once upon a time a man had two wolves that lived within himself, one wolf was vicious and mean and bit anyone who came near it, And the other wolf that lived within him was mighty, strong, brave, selfless, good, and pure. And they constantly battled inside the man.

The old eskimo’s grandson looked at him and said, “Grandfather, which wolf won? The evil wolf or the good wolf?” And the old eskimo replied, “The one he fed.”

If we feed our addictions, our sins, and give them all our time and resources, then those sins will drive Jesus from our lives. If we feed our Christian life, through prayer, study, attending groups, listening closely at church, then Jesus will put sin to death in us.

Which will win? Sin or Jesus? The one you feed. So feed the Christ spirit in you, not the sins of the past.

Our scripture today concludes in this way: “16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.[d] He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.[e] 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”[

You are God’s prized possession, and He has given us his word. But we’ve got to follow it friends. We’ve got to live it. That is the goal of our series “Build Me.” To live out our faith, to grow in grace, and live free from sin. 

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