Monday, April 22, 2024

Consumed with God: The Pursuit of God

My wife tells me that I sometimes become nearly obsessed with certain things. I get so focused on something it consumes me. I fall into the pool after staring into it too long. Are you like that?

I have a bit of an obsessive, addictive personality. I want it and I want more. I want to learn more. I want to go all in. If I go I want to touch the bottom.

For many years, my obsession was self-destruction. I slowly destroyed myself in the grips of addiction. I was all in for self destruction. I loved it. I got off on it. I thought it was funny. Desperate laughter. And my punishment was waiting for me in the next life.

Once I became a Christian, a follower of Jesus, I put away self destruction. I chose life, to live and build a new life around a new banner. The banner of God’s kingdom.

It starts by plunging in. You have to cry out to Jesus Christ, believing that he really can change your heart. You go from there to church to learn the gospel, forgiveness of sins and what it all means but it starts with crying out in prayer

Then begins a slow take over of your heart by God. The journey of faith goes on for years, of slow growth.

But I think at some point, we want to move toward going all in for God.

We are consumed by God completely… while our obsession used to be selfishness and self destruction and we were very excited about that, we now pursue knowing God with abandon.

That’s our first point today, pursue God with abandon. Can you do that? Can you learn to love doing that?

I used to love to sit down to drink and smoke weed, and we had our little rituals, places, times, and we went all in for that.

It reminds me of the parable of the treasure in a field, the man finds out this treasure is in this field, so he sells everything he owns to buy the field. He goes all in for this new thing.

There is something exciting and freeing and liberating about going a bit crazy for God.

Early on I said to myself, "I’m going to go all in for this Christian thing." I’m going to do things like pray for an hour at a time or more. I’m going to listen to worship music all day. I’m going to fast for days.

You hit the ground running. I did that 11 years ago and I never looked back. It became my new mission.

I always do things 100%, when it was self destruction, it was destroying myself with all my might. Today it’s chasing God with 100% effort.

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Yet very quickly as I began my relentless pursuit of God, knowing God, knowing His word, I found things in the way in my life, things that we call sins.

I knew it said in the word Romans 6:1l, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Point number two today, to pursue God means to break free from sins.

So I began surrendering my sins to God, and repenting of them. Sometimes they went quickly, other times it took longer to be free. Addictions were challenging to be free from, but with support groups like Celebrate Recovery and other twelve step fellowships, there was hope. Same thing with sexual sin, also very difficult to break free from.

Galatians 5:24 “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

The flesh had to be crucified, my old ways to acting, my old sin patterns, they had to change, and slowly God changed my thinking to fix what was once broken.

Slowly but surely that began to take place. I really didn’t want to leave behind my old selfish ways. But God helped me to see there was a better way.

Yet I knew it would take more than that to be truly in pursuit of God, truly consumed in God.

It would take surrendering my will to God.

That’s our third point today, let God’s will be done in your daily life.

I would need to begin to let God lead my life in a very practical way. Lord, what’s next? Lord where do you want me? God will direct every step of your life. He will make your crooked places straight, if you let Him.

As it says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

And again in John 3:30, John the Baptizer said about Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

All of this occurs dear friends not by strenuous effort, though as we surrender things to God he may give us footwork to do. But no, all of this is done very paradoxically.

It’s done by coming to God over and over and more and more deeply.

We come to God over and over in the power of love, His love for us, our love for Him, and this love melts us. 

That’s our fourth point, let God’s love and power melt you.

Here we find it extremely useful to be a maniac like myself who is obsessive about the things he puts effort into. If I do something, I go all in, so with God, I go all in. I pursue God relentlessly. 

And I fear God. That’s my secret weapon. I really honestly fear God. Not just reverence. But honestly fear, terror even. Is that bad? No. It’s good. It’s so good. It’s victory. It’s the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (Proverb 1:7, 2 Cor 7:1).

But just as much, I love God and the love of God convinces me to want to do right. 

So with the fear of the Lord and the love of the Lord, I find victory within, through two motivations guiding me toward the right, fear and love. 

In all this, I strive to get as close to God as possible. And by getting closer and closer to God, the self falls away. Melts away.

Two factors are at work causing the melting, the fear of the Lord melts self away from one angle of trembling and fear and concern to want to do God’s will. Just as love, the hot powerful love of God melts me away. Then, in the boldness of a child who knows he is loved, I'm able to strike out from a place of strength. These two things burn away the dross and I become the man I was always meant to be. 

This occurs practically in long prayer times, in times of silence, in times of meditation on the word of God, and deep study of the word. But primarily this relationship is drawn into through prayer.

“What is prayer? Prayer is a certain warmth of love. Ah, but more! Prayer is a melting! Prayer is a dissolving and an uplifting of the soul. This warmth of love, this melting, this dissolving and uplifting causes the soul to ascend to God. As the soul is melted, sweet fragrances begin to rise from it. These fragrances pour forth from a consuming fire of love ... and that love is in you. It is a consuming fire of love in your inmost being, a fire of love for God.” -Jeanne Guyon

The love of god, the fear of the Lord, these things get us ready for the final point today, which is to forsake self and be lost in God.

Point number five, annihilation of self brings a void which God fills in you. In this you pass into God, you are consumed by Him, and He becomes your all.

“But how do you pass into God? By forsaking your self that you may be lost in Him! You can be lost in Him only by the annihilation of the self. And what has that to do with prayer? The annihilation of self is the true prayer of worship! It is a prayer you must learn—learn in all the totality of its deepest possible meaning. This is the experience that renders to God, and to God alone, all "blessing, honor, glory, and power, forever and ever." -Jeanne Guyon

Jeanne Guyon calls this a prayer of worship, to allow your fleshly self, your lower nature, to be completely annihilated by God.

It’s either all or nothing. In fact scripture very much speaks in those kinds of terms. God must have all of you. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. There is no partial, its all or nothing. Jesus said you’re either with me or against me. There is no middle position.

Jeanne Guyon continues… 

“Dear reader, there are, in fact, only two truths: the All and the Nothing. Everything else is a lie. God is All; you are nothing. The only way you can pay due honor to God is by your own annihilation. As soon as this wonderful work is done, God moves in.” -Jeanne Guyon

When you allow God to completely take over, you draw so near to Him that the fleshly self is no longer in control, but truly crucified, as the scriptures tell us it must be, then God moves in and reigns in us.

We’ve all met those rare Christians who are really led by the Spirit of God. They are really living crucified lives. And it's beautiful.

I often wonder what that looks like, how do I have that? How do I know I’m living that? It means I’m really totally given over to God’s leading in my life. Nothing resists Him in me any longer.

As Jeanne Guyon says…

“It is true first when God becomes the Master and Lord within you so completely that nothing in you resists His dominion. It is then that your inner being, your spirit, is His kingdom. That is when God possesses you.” – Jeanne Guyon

As Jesus said, “the Kingdom of God is within you.” When we are really crucified with Christ, and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, God really possesses us. We really are Christians, disciples in the world, following the leading of our Master.

Does that seem too tall of an order? I’m sure that’s what you're thinking. Certainly that can’t be possible, can it? Can we really be consumed by God, totally surrendered to Him, truly “dead to self” and ‘alive to Christ”?

It is true. It is also truly a miracle from God when it happens. But you must strike out in bold belief that can God and will do it in you. Just believe that. Don’t argue with it. Don’t stress over it. Don’t ring your hands over it. Don’t doubt. Just simply believe that God can do anything in you.

Then it’s not just possible, but it will certainly happen if you pursue it. Like a wild man, a bit obsessive, doggedly. 

I want all of Jesus, or I want none. I will not go half way. Have the same attitude. All of this. It’s much more fun that way friends. Honestly, when you start getting deep into Christianity, into the supernatural elements, the healing, the dreams, the visions, the gospel spreading revivals, the spiritual gifts, the fasting, angels and demons, spiritual warfare, this is exciting stuff! It’s not boring. It’s when you hang out on the fence and go lukewarm that it’s boring and pointless. When you go all in, it’s an amazing adventure beyond description.

In all this, the purpose is to enjoy God by allowing God to have all of us. That is our destiny, what we were made for, to enjoy God forever!

“…in His kingdom there is fulness of joy. Our ultimate purpose is to enjoy God ... in this life. To enjoy God! This is the very purpose for which we were created.” -Jeanne Guyon

Let’s Review our Main Points:

1. Pursue God with abandon

2. Pursuing God means breaking free from sin

3. Let God will be done in your life

4. Self melts away as we seek God in prayer in fear and love

5. Annihilation of self/flesh brings God’s presence within, which is His kingdom come, and enjoyment of God

Being Transformed from Glory to Glory: 7 Transitions in the Christian Life

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” -2nd Cor 3:17-18

We as Christians are being transformed from one degree of glory to another, from glory to glory.

God has given us many things in nature to tell us about himself. Outer space tells us about his infinite power and how deep God truly is. The four seasons tell us about the cycle of fall, sin, rebirth and renewal. The laws of the universe, gravity, time, the golden ratio, tell us we live in a universe of fixed laws and structures. The word even tells us to "look to the ant" for wisdom. 

Similarly, I think God gave us the caterpillar and the butterfly to tell us about ourselves. To tell us that we need a transformation to become all we’re meant to be.

We start off life as a caterpillar. We move close to the ground, like the caterpillar, six legs, six eyes, close to the ground, focused on earthly things.

Many never make it past this point in their lives. They live and die as a caterpillar, having never experienced the amazing transformation that God can do in their lives.

But today I want to talk about the power of God’s transformations in our lives. So we’re going to talk about a series of transformations that take place in the life of the Christian.

The first transformation is the transformation of salvation.

The unsaved person, the caterpillar is faced with a crisis. It’s the chief crisis for every human being on planet Earth.

It’s the crisis around our own sinfulness, our own inability, our own failures, our own inadequacy.

The crisis is brutal when we realize that our sins are leading us to disaster. We get angry. We get sad. We argue with ourselves about it. We try self help books. We try meditation. We try drinking it away. We try acting out. We try therapy or medications. Nothing touches that empty feeling within.

1. The Transformation of Salvation - lost to born again
We go into a cocoon at this point. If we really embrace the struggle, instead of denying it, and hiding from it, and running from it, if we face the question head on, we go into a cocoon.

We wrestle with the God idea. We wrestle with the pain of sin. We wrestle with ourselves. And as we wrestle and wrestle over, weeks, months, years, eventually, in the sorrow and loneliness and pain, we begin to see a light on the horizon, a hope, in one name, the name of Jesus Christ, and at rock bottom in the deep darkness of the cocoon we cry out to the name of Jesus, and suddenly, we burst forth out of that cocoon as a new creation, a beautiful butterfly, made new, transformed, different than we used to be.

As it says in the word, “2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

That is the first transformation, the transformation of salvation. We go from lost, to saved, sinful to pure, broken to made whole. But that isn’t the end. It’s only just the beginning.

2. Transformation of Surrender - letting God control your life
The second transformation, is the transformation of surrender. This is the moment in every Christian’s life usually maybe a year or a few years after they get saved, that they realize, through a crisis, or conviction, or pain, or sin, that they can’t run their own lives anymore.

They’ve got to let God practically guide the course of their life. They can’t be in the drivers seat anymore, the Lord Jesus must be.

In a moment of surrender, the believer submits themselves to God. They turn their will (choices) over to God, and acknowledge God in all their ways. And God makes their paths right.

As it says in Luke 9:23-24 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

It also says in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

We go into another cocoon, as we know something is wrong with our walk with God. We’re still trying to run our own lives. We’re still trying to be in control. We go into that cocoon, we wrestle with God, we wrestle with ourselves, and argue inside, but I want to run my own life, I want to have a say, I don’t want to go some place I don’t want to go, but in the end, we wrestle through, we get on our knees, realizing God is right and will lead us perfectly, and we surrender our will to God. God, run my life from now on, it’s yours.

We come out of the cocoon, an even more beautiful butterfly.

3. Transformation of Liberty – freedom from sins of the flesh
Next, we consider the transformation of liberty.

The word of God says, “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

I saw in my life as a Christian that I was living in active sins. I was living in gossip. I was living in masturbation. I was living in theft. In lust. I was living in different sins of the flesh.

I kept trying to convince myself that it was OK to sin every day. Christians sin all the time, come on it’s ok! But over and over in prayer it was clear, you must repent of these sins. You can have freedom, because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

So I went into another cocoon. I wrestled within. It doesn’t matter if I sin I’m already saved. It doesn’t matter. God understands. I kept trying to justify it. But the Lord just kept speaking to me about freedom. Real freedom.

And in that dark cocoon I slowly began to believe that Christian can really be free from sin. They really can repent of sins and live pure as He is pure. Not by our own efforts, but by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit within us.

Where the Spirit of the Lord, there is not slavery to sin, there is freedom.

Galatians 5:24, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Over the next few years began a process of victories over various sins in my life. The Lord would convict me of a sin, I would ask forgiveness, repent, and God would help me to find sustained freedom from it. One by one, he peeled the layers of the onion shell away.

I’m not saying I’m perfect today, there I days I have to go before God and repent, but today I fundamentally live in victory, in liberty from sin, because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

So we come out the cocoon a new and beautiful butterfly.

4. Transformation of Humiliation – humbling experience that keeps us close to the ground
In all this transformation we can soon become prideful at our glory and beauty, as God transforms us from one degree of glory to the next.

So God will give us the gift of humiliation, to keep us humble. We experience painful events, we’re shown that we aren’t super human. We become sick, or deathly ill. We experience mental health problems. We have a friend turn against us. We expect to achieve so much at work, but instead our work is pretty average.

These experiences keep us humble. They strip away pride.

Proverbs 29:23 ESV “One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”

And Jesus said, “Whoever makes himself great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be made great.” -Matthew 23:12 GNT

So we go into another cocoon, we want to feel great, we don’t want to be humbled, we don’t want to think of others before ourselves. But God is humbling us. God is humiliating us, it seems like. We wrestle with it. We argue against it. We get mad at God because we feel humiliated. But in the end, by God’s grace, we allow God to humble us, and we learn to keep ourselves humble, by the Spirit’s leading.

5. The Transformation of Battle - spiritual warfare
Fifthly, we consider the transformation of battle.

1st Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

The enemy, demons, Satan, the evil one attacks us. This happens to Christians from time to time. We come under attack. The enemy uses a situation to attack you. The enemy whispers lies to you. The enemy attacks you in your dreams. The enemy messes with your family or friends.

This experience brings us all running to God the Father. It keeps us close to God. We pray through it. We dive into the word of God. We overcome and defeat the enemy by resisting the enemy. We don’t fear the enemy. The enemy learns to fear us. Because we cast him out.

But again, this brings us into a cocoon. Why is God allowing this? Why does the enemy have access to me? He must have God’s permission, just like with Satan with Job. He couldn’t do anything to Job without God’s permission.

But eventually in that cocoon we realize God is allowing these spiritual battles because he loves us and wants to train us to fight and win these battles. And we come out again, having found victory over the enemy, stronger, braver, bolder, and mightier in spiritual combat.

You come out of the battle scarred, wearied, but you can feel your spiritual muscles have grown stronger. I’ve felt it many times.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. -1st Peter 5:10-11

6. Transformation of Transfiguration – an experience with God that changes us (brings us higher up)
You can really never be the same after the transformation of transfiguration. This is one of those experiences that Christians call a mountain top experience, like Elijah at mount Horeb when God showed him his glory. Or when Moses saw the glory of God and his face was shining as he came down from mount Sinai. Or when Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured on Mount Tabor.

This kind of experience will bring a new awe for God. We become more amazed at God’s power and infinite nature. We learn a new level of God’s love.

This experience also very often is accompanied by the fear of the Lord. Moses was afraid. Elijah was terrified and covered his face in his cloak. God’s presence brings the fear of God.

And this often brings us into cocoon. We’re so overcome by the fear of the Lord, it changes us. We become much more devoted to God. We become much more amazed at God. But we’re also keenly aware of just how small we are and just how big God is. It can be very unsettling. When you see into the spiritual realm even for a moment it can shock you. There are things at play in the universe, in humanity, in the fall, that simply make you want to sob uncontrollably.

So we wrestle in that cocoon. But as we allow ourselves to embrace this new, higher view of God, this new reverence, this new love, this new fear of the Lord, it changes us.

Of all these experiences I think the change found in transfiguration, the mountain experience is the most intense.

It almost feels as if you’ve been sandblasted, as if God were so close you feel seared on the edges, a bit burnt on the sides by the experience. It’s amazing. And a bit scary.

From Matthew 17, “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.”

7. The Transformation of Death (to self) - death to self, and final physical death, which is glorification
Lastly, we consider the transformation of death, or glorification.

The transformation of (Death) Glory is when we die to self in some way. This happens all the time. You could call it the journey of sanctification. Over your life you’re slowly conformed into the same image of Jesus Christ, from one degree of glory to the next, step by step, death to self, death to self, death to self, and these changes, which are sometimes quite difficult, make you more and more like Jesus.

God is constantly chipping away at your character and will and emotions and soul, changing you and building you up in Christ.

This is accomplished through the Holy Spirit at work within you, though I assume the whole Trinity is at work on you in different ways, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all working on you.

All of this comes to a point of what we Wesleyans call entire sanctification. We come to a state of spiritual maturity. We no longer live in constant sin and selfishness. We still face temptations. We still make mistakes. But we find ourselves mature in Christ. We are no longer swept along by every random thought and idea, we are firm, grounded in Christ, with a heart of love, and able to serve in many blessed ways.

This occurs throughout all the stages of transformation we’ve talked about today, but I saved it for last because the goal is to reach a place of general maturity.

As it says in Hebrews 5:12-14 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

The Greek word there is teleios which implies completeness, maturity, wholeness, perfect, finished.

Colossians 1:28 says, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”

Additionally, death to self, through this process, finds it’s final completion in physical death itself. This is the final death to self. It’s the final transformation, on this journey of glorious transformations from one degree of glory to the next, the final transformation is physical death itself.

You come to the end of yourself. You come to the end of your ability to live. If you’re lucky and blessed you get to die for Jesus. But, in any case, we all die.

And we go into the final cocoon. This cocoon we wrestle in. I don’t want to die. I’m not ready to die. Yet you can feel death coming. You know it’s here. And I think in the end, we accept our fate, we accept that we will die, and then we simply allow it to happen, at the right moment, by God’s leading.

And the final test of our faith in the cocoon, which we’ve used time and again, in oall our transformations, is to believe and know, that this final cocoon is not fatal, because we will wake up in a new place. And we will be transformed at last, completely, glorification.

We will receive a new body, our sin nature will be gone, and we will be perfect as Christ is perfect. And the ultimate victory is won.

Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Let’s Review our Main Points:
1. Initially we were all the caterpillar (unsaved)

2. God brought us to a cocoon that brought change (crisis)

3. We emerged as a butterfly (salvation)

4. The first transformation is the moment of salvation (born again experience)

5. Transformation of surrender (Letting God run our lives practically)

6. Transformation of liberty (God delivers us from sins of the flesh)

7. Transformation of humiliation (God brings victory over pride)

8. Transformation of battle (Spiritual warfare makes us stronger)

9. Transformation of transfiguration (Mt top experiences reveal who God is to us)

10. Transformation of death to self (sanctification brings us to spiritual maturity)

11. The ultimate death to self is physical death (the final cocoon)

12. The final crisis of death brings us to glorification (where we receive new bodies from Christ fitted for heaven)

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Confession & Repentance from Sins: How does it Work?

"Professor Drummond once described a man going into one of our after meetings and saying he wanted to become a Christian.

"Well, my friend, what is the trouble?"

He doesn't like to tell. He is greatly agitated. Finally he says, "The fact is, I have overdrawn my account" -- a polite way of saying he has been stealing.

"Did you take your employer's money?"


"How much?"

"I don't know. I have never kept account of it."

"Well, you have an idea you stole $1,500 last year?"

"I am afraid it is that much."

"Now, look here, sir, I don't believe in sudden work; don't steal more that a thousand dollars this next year, and the next year not more that five hundred, and in the course of the next few years you will get so that you won't steal any. If your employer catches you, tell him you are being converted; and you will get so that you won't steal any by and by."

My friends, the thing is a perfect farce! "Let him that stole, steal no more," that is what the Bible says. It is right about face.

Christian growth is gradual, just as physical growth is; but a man passes from death unto everlasting life quick as an act of the will -- "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." -D.L. Moody, Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 99 - 100.

Today we’re talking about confession and repentance of sins, and how it works. But first we must distinguish between two types of repentance.

The first repentance is the repentance that takes place when we first receive Jesus Christ as savior. This is a change of mind that leads to a change of action.

We go from a state of unbelief in God, and through various means we come to believe that Jesus Christ really is Lord. We feel grieved over our sins and we ask God through Christ to forgive us our sins. God forgives our sins and we repent, we hate those sins, mourn those sins, and reject those sins. We know that Christ had to die to pay for them. So we believe on Jesus and we repent away from our past sins.

This repentance and confession is a great thing. It’s how we turn away from the world and toward Christ. It’s salvation. It’s glorious.

But mainly today I would like to talk about the second kind of repentance/confession. It’s the repentance of a Christian after they get saved.

You’re a Christian, you love Jesus, you pray, read your bible, attend church, all that good stuff. But you get tempted one day, and you sin.

Maybe you stole something. You lied on your taxes. You committed masturbation. You cussed at someone. You are holding unforgiveness in your heart toward someone who hurt you.

These are what you call sins. And what happens to someone that sins? Someone that sins is doing something against God.

So what do you do? You know you’ve done something bad. You’re feeling convicted about it. Conviction burns within you. That’s the Holy Spirit inside you telling you that you did something wrong.

What do you do? You bring it up to a church elder or pastor.

Depending on what church you attend, you may get several different answers.

At one church they may say, well, you shouldn’t have done that, but it doesn’t matter, you can sin as much as you want as a Christian.

Not true or helpful.

At a second church, they may say well, you need to ask God’s forgiveness and repent of that sin, but, it doesn’t affect your salvation. You can sin as much as you want because your once saved always saved. It may upset your relationship with God, but it doesn’t affect your salvation.

Partially true, but still not helpful. You’ve made repentance optional. You could repent, if you want to have a better relationship with God, but if you don't, it doesn't matter, it won't affect your salvation. Which isn't true or biblical. 

At a third church, they may say well, you’ve lost your salvation. You're doomed now. Again, not helpful or true.

Here’s what I tell my people: You’ve sinned against God. You’ll want to bring the sin to God and ask God’s forgiveness, and then repent. Then you’ll want to take action to try to make sure that the sin doesn’t happen again. Join a support group, or see a Christian counselor, or access resources to help you fight that sin in the Spirit. If you don’t repent, you’ll be in danger of losing your salvation, of falling away over time, because sinning willfully after receiving the truth is deadly and dangerous (Hebrews 10:26). 

When a Christian sins they must follow the teaching of 1 John 1:9, which is speaking to believers when it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

And again in Revelation 3:19 ESV says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”

But you may be wondering, how do I know if I have unrepentant sin in my life? Do I need to search it out?

Jeanne Guyon, in Experiencing the Depths of Jesus shares about this topic:

“Please understand this fact: It is not your diligence, it is not your examination of yourself that will enlighten you concerning your sin. Instead, it is God who does all the revealing.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 74

God will reveal it to you. I think your part is to examine yourself. If you have a strong relationship with God I think it will be very clear and obvious. If you aren’t as close, I think it may be less obvious.

A few times a week, in the past, I would go before God, and simply ask Him to examine me. And God would certainly do that, and he would reveal anything that needed to be dealt with in me.

You’ll sense that God is searching you. Simply allow God to bring out anything in prayer that is troubling to the Lord.

“You might say that when this brilliant light, which is Christ Himself, shines on you and in you, you are under examination. An examination is being given to you by God when this happens. Since it is your Lord who is doing this, and no one else, you should simply remain peaceful and calm before Him as He carries out this exposing.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 73

I encourage you to you pray right now and invite God to examine you.

Prayer: “Father, we bring ourselves before you. We step into the light, as Jesus Christ is the Light, and we ask that you would expose anything in us that is displeasing to you. Bring these things to mind Lord, and guide us to repent of them and ask your forgiveness, in Jesus name, amen.”

Your first instinct when you sin may be to hide it. But that isn’t the right thing to do. God still sees it. And he will hold us accountable for our sins, even as a Christian.

Jesus has paid the price for sin. But if we sin afresh, we must repent afresh and ask forgiveness afresh.

That’s why the Lord’s prayer includes “forgive us our sins.” Because it’s a repeated process. If we sin in the future, we must bring it again to the Lord, ask His forgiveness, and repent before Him. And we are cleansed afresh of that sin as well.

Many Christians wonder, "Are future sins already forgiven?" They are not. That's why we're told by 1 John 1:9 if we sin we must confess and repent of it when it happens. Those in the reformed camp repeat a phrase "past, present, and future" sin is already forgiven. The more Arminian camp would say that past sins are forgiven, future sins must be brought to God afresh and repented of. 

The fountain of Jesus Christ is available not only when we first get saved, but also along the way toward heaven. That is the amazing grace of God. At the moment of salvation he forgives all our past sin. But even if we sin in the future, if we bring it to Him, he forgives us again. That is amazing my friends! 

Let's talk more about what happens after we sin. Sin will produce in us sorrow after we do it.

As it says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

We will know we’ve done wrong. We will feel grieved. And we will want to seek forgiveness.

Please do so! Bring it to God in prayer. Ask His forgiveness in Jesus. Then repent, as best you are able in the Spirit. Then make plans to make sure the sin doesn’t happen again.

What about confession? Well, you’ll always want to confess it to God. But there are times when you may want to confess it to a friend or pastor or elder. If it involves your friend, you may need to confess it to them. Or if the sin seems stuck, like you aren’t able to repent effectively, or it keeps happening, you may need to bring it to a pastor or elder or friend, and talk about it, confess it to them, and ask them to pray for you as well.

What counts is how you proceed into the future. If 10 years ago you repented and believed in Jesus, but today you live in constant sin, does that mean you’re justified? No, you’re headed toward hell. You've fallen from grace. 

But if you’ve sinned the last 10 years and then you repent today and believe in Jesus, you’re now headed toward heaven, and the goal is to continue in righteousness to the end.

As it says in Ezekiel 18:21-25, “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

“But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.”

If you continue in Christ, you will live. If you repent of Christ and embrace sin, you will die. It’s just that simple.

Daily repentance helps us stay on the right track, with Jesus, to the very end.

But again, all of this is about relationship with God. The closer you are with God through Jesus, in prayer and bible reading, the more intimate your contact, the more rare sin will become.

As Jeanne Guyon said…

“Once you have established such a relationship with your Lord, you will soon discover that no fault in you escapes the reproof of God. For instance, as soon as you commit a sin, you are immediately rebuked by an inward sense. It will be a kind of deep, inward burning ... a tender confusion. You see, all things are exposed under the piercing glance of your Lord. He will not allow any sin to be hidden or concealed.” -Jeanne Guyon, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ

In my own life I’ve found the examination of the Lord is near constant. If I sin in some way, it’s immediately plain to me, and I repent quickly in the moment.

As Jeanne Guyon said…

“Continue in this experience with your Lord. After a period of time of experiencing Him in this way, the Lord will become more and more the constant examiner of your soul. It will not be you examining yourself, nor will it be seasonal. It will be the Lord, constantly.”

So in conclusion, recognize that sinning after becoming a Christian does have real consequences. It can land you in hell if you persist in it, or die in that sin. I know many lukewarm voices in the church today will tell you that sin has no affect on your salvation, don’t believe them! Sin leads to hell. 

Jesus came to die to remove our sins, so how can we any longer live in them? (Romans 6:1). At the same time, don’t panic, don’t go crazy, you don't need to live in constant fear of losing your salvation. Just recognize that if you sin, you need to bring it to God in prayer, ask His forgiveness, and then repent, and God will help you to live clean and pure in this life. As it says in the word, “Be holy, for He is holy” (1st Peter 1:15-16).

Let’s Review Our Main Points:

1. First Repentance occurs the moment we are saved, we repent of sin in general and put our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord

2. Lifestyle Repentance occurs after we’re already a Christian

3. Living in Sin is a threat to your eternal salvation (most churches won’t tell you this, but it is in fact biblical and true)

4. Sin will produce sorrow in us that will lead toward God and toward repentance

5. Confession of sin to a friend or pastor may be useful if it’s a repeated sin that you’re having trouble getting rid of

6. If you have a deeply rooted relationship with God, conviction and repentance from sin will come very naturally

7. As you learn to walk in deep communion with God, the process will become near instantaneous, you’ll immediately be prompted, repent and ask forgiveness on the spot

Monday, April 15, 2024

Hope Again: Going from Broken to Soaring in the Storm of Life

My wife and I were traveling to see a musical in Charlotte, Mi Saturday. We’ve often felt a divine connection with the bald eagle. I recall numerous times when God would use the bald eagle to give me a nudge in the Spirit, or give me a sense of hope for the future. I saw eagles talon locking over my car on the highway once and it was right before Chelsey and I would become friends. I have eagle pictures in my house. My step-dad even got me a brass eagle as a gift, because he knows how eagles remind me of God’s promises and hope. It’s the same for Chelsey.

Anyway, we were driving and right over our car we saw a beautiful bald eagle flying. We’ve had some real struggles lately, along with many blessings, so it really spoke to both of us.

I had a period from December through early April where I had constant GI issues, high stress levels, and racing thoughts, ever since going off anti-depressants, after being on them for over ten years. I knew was time to move forward, but the process had left me miserable and struggling. Thankfully, it’s slowly getting better.

Have you experienced a season in your life when you were broken and weary? Did it seem to go on and on? Did it seem to never end? What were you feeling?

I can tell you about numerous experiences in my life when I simply longed for a hard time period, that moment, to be over.

You try to make the best of it. You try to keep a good attitude. But the storm rages. And part of you just wants out.

That brings us to the context of our scripture today. Judah was facing an enemy, Assyria that was threatening to destroy them. But God promises they will be ok.

King Hezekiah leads the nation through this hard time relying on God. But even he becomes deathly sick, but he cries out in prayer to God and God heals him. And Assyria is defeated by God, and driven away.

Yet Isaiah 40, our scripture today, speaks not only of the victories in the past, of Hezekiah and the victory over Assyria, but, it speaks of the future, a time when Judah would be in captivity in Babylon, but would then return home and rebuild the nation.

Have you ever felt like God doesn’t see you? Have you felt that God sees you, but your cause doesn’t seem to matter to Him?

Did you cry out to God? Did you pray? Did you ask God what was going on?

I can think of many circumstances in my life where I cried out to God and said to God, "What are you doing? Where is your help in my time of need?"

We all have to learn something about how God acts in our lives: We can’t predict what he’s going to do. Our moral judgment about God’s actions in the situation are almost always incorrect. Don’t try to say, "Well, here is how and when God is going to help me."

God is very unpredictable, but it’s not random either. What he’s doing is very calculated and intentional. It’s most often intended to teach you something very deep or make an adjustment deep within you.

When you understand that, your trials and problems make a lot more sense.

So it starts out in Isaiah 40:27, with God saying to the nation, “Why do you complain, Jacob?”

You will find yourself in situations where you feel weak. You can’t move. You can’t function right. You are off. Not just for a day, but for a season. For a year. Even longer. You can’t function. You can’t make it.

Your heart grows weary, tired, cold, and you begin to lose hope.

We become like the eagle, sitting on the tree branch, unable to fly, or unwilling to fly.

And we complain, we cry out to God.

And God replies, “Why do you complain?”

The NIV renders it “complain” but it’s actually saying why are you speaking this way?

And it continues, God says..

“Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”?

That is the assumption, when we are going through something hard, and we pray and nothing happens, we think to ourselves, “Where is God?”

It’s at just those times when we need to be reminded who God is.

It’s easy to know “Jesus is my savior” when everything is going great. But it’s when everything is crazy we have to cling to the promise that Jesus is savior.

Let me tell you about the eagle. The eagle during a storm finds a safe place, a nest, a strong branch, and it digs it’s talons in tight.

Eagle talons are extremely powerful. Vets working with eagles have to be very careful because eagle talons can rip through just about any pair of gloves.

The eagle can sense the storm coming.

It may be a beautiful sunny day, but the eagle gets ready, finds a location and locks in. Pretty soon what was once the most beautiful sunny day becomes a bleak, dark, stormy, nightmare.

My dog Sammy, during a storm, he gets terrified. He clings so close to my wife Chelsey that she and him breathe as one. He's part border collie. A border collie can feel the storm in their bones. We Christians can also sense storms coming, in the Spirit. 

As Christians it can be one day everything is going great, and suddenly a storm roles in and we think alright, it’s time to grip on to the cross of Jesus Christ with those talons.

It’s time to cling on to God during the storm. And God will get me through.

We’re all trained to do that. But what do we do when the storm gets worse? Many of you know also, cling on even tighter. Hold fast even longer. Because God trains each of us. 

It's dark as night and the storm lasts so long. It seems like daybreak will never come. 

What happens when you see a light on the horizon, and you get all excited, but then you realize it’s a train light of a 30 car train headed straight for you, during the storm, and you’re standing on the railroad tracks?

What do you do then? Is it time to panic yet?

We each have reached a moment in these storms where we start to lose hope. What is your threshold of sorrow? When do you start to give up?

Isaiah chapter 40 reminds us of the comfort of God in these situations.

It says in Isaiah 40:1-2, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

The trial occurs. The difficulty occurs. The problem plays out. But it also does reach an end, where comfort from God comes.

And we are reminded by God about who He is. Because in the midst of the ongoing difficulty, we start to forget. We start to think, well, it’s just not going to happen. It’s going to fall apart. God has forgotten about me.

We know the scripture. But our emotions go to that place of, “it’s too late.”

But God appears and says to us: (v. 28) "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

God is still God when it seems like it’s over. When it seems like it’s too late, God is still God. 

These are human emotions. It feels real, I get that. It feels so completely real. But it’s not real. It’s not the end. It’s only just the beginning. Or, if it really is the end, it’s still only the beginning, because after even physical death comes new life.

There are different things we go through in life.

The context of Isaiah 40 is a nation, a people, a person even, who has been punished for their sins. They’ve messed up and they are being paid back for it. They are also at the same time receiving forgiveness. You can be forgiven by Jesus, but still have consequences in this world. Sure God forgave you but you can’t change the fact that you hurt that person in your sin. You can’t change the fact of the charges against you. You can’t change the fact that the family is in shambles.

That’s one area where we need to rise up in weakness. After Sin and forgiveness.

A second area is after a trial, God was testing you, it took everything for you to get through it, now you feel broken.

A third area, is spiritual warfare the enemy was attacking you, and you made it through but now you feel weak.

A fourth area, is common sorrow. Life is just tough, it wasn’t God, it wasn’t the enemy it was just bad stuff that happens in life.

Any of these areas can produce a crisis that leads to a spot of brokenness.

Depending on the storm that I go through, it can be one of two things, one, you find me clinging to the tree branch, clinging to Christ, I’m wet, I’m tired, but I made it through.

Scenario two is I’m smeared across the ground over there, in a gutter, drenched, face down in a puddle, in tears, ugly cry, and I’m just not ok. I’ve been in both.

In either of these scenarios, we come out the other side of our struggle, the other side of the storm, and that’s what we’re talking about today: What do you do at the other side of the storm?

The storm is over. But so are you. It didn’t matter that the storm was over because you were done too. As much as the storm disappeared, so has your heart and zest for life.

You have given up. What do you do then?

And why would God wait until you were over to ask you to start again?

Why does it take getting to the point that you give up to reach the goal? Is that some sort of cruel joke? No it is not.

God is bringing you to the end of yourself for the purpose of ending your “self.”

God’s deepest work in us can only occur in the deep valleys of the darkest sorrows of our lives.

It hurts so bad though, it’s so scary, it’s so desperate, that you honestly despair of life itself. I would just say to myself honestly, I hate my life. I wish I was not here. And you really mean it.

Have you been to this floor of the building?

There was an eagle that was raised in captivity, her name was Baekseol. She was a beautiful bald eagle, but she would refuse to fly. She would always walk around on her two legs, but never want to launch off and fly into the sky. What a tragedy! But she had become so accustomed to walking, so trained by life to think she couldn’t fly, that she began to believe it.

It took her courageous trainers to slowly teach her that she could fly and she could learn to love to fly again. And over time she did.

Similarly, in verse 29, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

God gives strength to the weary. Notice who is giving, it’s God. It’s not us producing the strength.

We can’t produce the strength. It’s not there. It’s gone. We’re smeared against a wall somewhere and it hopeless.

God gives the strength. He increases the power level on your battery pack. It’s at zero. Only God can bring extra power.

We start to feel glued to the ground. We start to feel like we can’t dream again, we can’t hope again, but it’s not true.

God give us new strength, out of weariness. What does God have to work with there? Weariness. That’s someone who is fatigued. Exhausted. Tired.

This is a divine recharge, a divine reset. You go from weary to strong and from weak to powerful.

What’s the greatest example of this phenomenon of God bringing sudden change? The disciples from when Jesus was crucified, to the disciples after receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. They went from weak and broken, to powerful and heroic.

Can you dare to dream again? Can you go from clutching the ground, refusing to fly, to jumping off that log, and flapping those wings really hard, to climb back into the sky?

It says in verse 30, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall...”

This is a very clear acknowledgement and it tells me it’s cyclical, this cycle will occur in your life many times I believe.

You will reach moments when you’re tired and weary, even young men stumble and fall.

I’ve battled health problems the last few years that have kept me down, made me sick, made me fatigued, and after a few years of that you start to wonder, how can I keep going? I’m going to have to quit my job. I’m going to have to go live in a nursing home or something.

You long for the days when you played basketball and went to the gym and felt strong and healthy and able to fight the good fight.

If you’re here, don’t assume it’s abnormal. I thought to myself, “Something is wrong!” But it’s not. "God didn’t notice." Of course he does. He sees all. It’s not some abnormality, it’s part of the plan.

But then in verse 31, “...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

Here we find instructions on what to do: Hope in the Lord.

That’s our part in this equation. Do you want renewed strength? Hope in God.

Your instruction is to return to a place of hope in all the weakness and stumbling and falling.

What produces hope? In Romans, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, character produces hope.

Even if you’ve lost hope I think you can find it again in God. You dare to believe again. And that’s enough.

About two years ago I had lost hope in life. My heart had become bitter in ministry. It just so happened my then girlfriend and I had gone to a musical called "Pilgrim" based on the Pilgrim's Progress. After the play, one of the actors came and prayed with me, he played "Hopeful" in the production, and after that moment I found a new softness in my heart return. God can bring new hope out of bitterness.

Then we come to the promise, what happens then, God strengthens us, gives us new power, and then…

“They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31

The goal then is to reach a place where we soar. We’re not sitting on the ground, we’re not flapping like crazy trying to reach the sky, but instead, we’re carried on the wind of God, by faith, we ride on the Holy Spirit wind, and it carries us up into the heavens, so close to God, that we soar on eagles wings.

In conclusion today, where are you at in all this? No matter where you are in this process, you can trust God.

Maybe you’re in a season in life where everything is going pretty awesome. That’s great, but always be ready to hold fast to the Master in a storm. But enjoy the sunlight.

Maybe you’re just going into a storm, if that’s the case, hold fast to the tree which is Jesus, and trust Him through the storm.

Maybe you’ve been in a storm for a while, and you’re waiting for it to pass. Keep trusting Him. But don’t try to predict when it will end. Just say no matter how long it lasts I trust in Jesus.

Maybe you’ve been in a storm for years, and you’re starting to lose hope. Hope again. Hope in the Lord. Don’t give up.

Maybe you’ve been through the storm, the storm is over, but you feel smeared across the ground and unable to move. You feel broken and weak and weary. Believe today, that God will be your trainer, to gently help you to see that you can be strong again and you can learn to fly again.

Maybe you’re just starting to lift off into the light after the storm, you’re believing, you’re seeing your strength grow, and you know that you will soar on wings like eagles.

No matter where you are, believe that God is the one who will restore your strength and give you hope again, so that you can rise up on wings like eagles, to soar in the open sky.

Let’s Review our Main Points:
1. Don’t try to Predict what God is going to do in your situation

2. Difficult circumstances may go on much longer that we hope

3. When you sense the storm coming cling tight to God through Jesus

4. Let God’s word remind you who He is (He is I Am- all power)

5. When it feels like it’s over remember God is greater than emotions

6. Difficulty can be after sin, trials, spiritual warfare or common sorrow

7. After the storm you may feel unable to fly (Hope in God again)

8. God is bringing you to the end of yourself for the purpose of ending your “self.”

9. At the right time God will give renewed strength & recharged power

10. Brokenness becomes hope (flapping) that leads to victory (soaring)

Monday, April 8, 2024

How to Saturate Yourself in the Word of God

“The Bible- banned, burned, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it; dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it is more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints. Pieced together scraps of Scripture have converted whole whole villages of pagan Indians.”
― Charles Colson

What is every Christian in the entire universe told to do constantly? Three words: Read your Bible.

That is a good thing to tell a believer to do. Read that Bible. Read it and reread it!

You see many believers who spend a year going through the entire bible. Again this is a good thing.

But we’re going to talk about how to go deeper with your Bible reading time. We will really not be talking about simply reading the Bible. We will be talking about absorbing the Bible. Making the Bible part of your mind. Putting the Bible in your heart and letting it change your heart.

I think many times when we read the Bible we go at it like a sprint. I’m going to cover as much ground as humanly possible! I’m going to get as far as I can and say, "Alright I read that entire chapter." But did I really absorb it?

So we’re going to look at three ways to do more than just read the Bible, but absorb what it says and embrace what it says and live what it says.

1. Putting yourself in the Moment
– Not every scripture will allow us to be in the moment with the people involved because much of it is song or letter. But, for passages from the life of Jesus, or Acts or the Old testament histories, we can put ourselves in the place.

What did it feel like to be there? What did it smell like? What were the people feeling in that moment?

One example, the resurrection of Jesus. What did it feel like to be there? What was it like for the women at Jesus’ tomb to feel the earthquake, to see the angel, and to be filled with both fear and joy?

Let’s take a look at that moment, it says, Matthew 28:1-7, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.””

What was it like to be there? Picture yourself in that moment. What would you feel? Would you be shocked or terrified? Was it a sunny morning? Was there still dew on the ground? Immerse yourself in the moment.

It's one thing to read it. It’s another thing to put yourself in those events and consider what it must’ve felt like.

Powerful! It will make the scripture more meaningful to you. More close to your heart. More real to you.

2. Reciting the Scriptures - Second, reciting the scripture to yourself. This is again an extremely powerful way of taking the scripture from the page and bringing it into life.

Jesus said blessed are those who receive my word and put it into practice. Not just receive it. But apply it.

One that you know that I recite in prayer every day is the armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-18, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

But you want to personalize it when you recite scripture. Another scripture I recite in the mornings is Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” But make it personal: "I say this the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it."

Another I like to recite is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

When you recite it, you declare it over your life. You begin to claim the promise of that scripture.

When I put on the armor, I know as I pray it, that I’m putting on the armor of God, it’s real. I see in my mind the pieces of the armor of God coming upon my body. Yes, it's metaphorical. I also believe something literal happens in the spiritual realm. 

I don't just recite, I believe that it's really real and really happening.

3. Believe the Scripture / Receive the Promise -
And that leads into our third point, which is to believe the scripture or to receive the promise of the scripture you recite.

This is where it gets deep. You take a scripture from the page, and you read it yes, you declare it yes, but more so, you now embrace it and believe what it says about you.

I’ll give you an example. One I’ve been believing is 2nd Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.”

A surface reading of that scripture says, well that’s nice. But we’re not gonna stop there.

Reciting the scripture says yes these things are true in general.

But again we’re not gonna stop there.

What we do next is to believe the scripture is true about me, right now.

I do not have a spirit of fear. And you require that of your heart and mind, to come into alignment with what God is saying in that scripture.

God has given me a spirit of power.

God has given me a spirit of love.

God has given me a spirit of a sound mind.

I don’t just read or recite it, I believe it, and I embrace it. I let it soak in. That takes reading and speaking it again and again, even every day, every morning. Eventually you memorize that scripture. And you recite it, and as you do, you believe it.

And over time your heart and mind come into alignment with the scripture. You really do start to have a spirit of love, of power, and of a sound mind. And you really begin to lose that spirit of fear. 

The power is in believing and knowing that God’s word is really true. And if God’s word is really true, then it must be true about me because I’m a Christian. If my mind hasn’t caught up yet, then my mind must be required to come into alignment with what God’s word says.

That’s why God gave us scripture, so that we would believe that it’s really true, and really applies to our lives.

And when we really believe God’s word is true and we begin to apply it, then we change.

Of course it’s not going to be enough to just believe the scripture, we will want to apply the scripture. We will want to live the scripture. But as we believe it, we will apply it, because we really believe it.

I think many Christians struggle, I’ve struggled, because I don’t really believe what God’s word says about me. I think it’s true. But I don’t really believe it’s true about me. But it is. It is true about me. And as I believe that… then it is. Because I believe it.

That’s the power of believing.

What if we believed and recited the promises of these seven scriptures? Read them, and believe them, speak them out loud over yourself in the Spirit! 

Philippians 4:19 ESV And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

Romans 8:28 ESV And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

1 John 1:9 ESV If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Isaiah 43:2 ESV  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

What if we really believed those scriptures? What if we really made them part of our heart? What if we spoke them as promises over and over? How would our lives change?

I think we would become more and more people of victory, people who really believe what God says, and we would find great spiritual victories.

In conclusion today, as you read your Bible, or listen to your audio bible, or read your bible app, remember to stop, slow down, and focus in on portions of scripture.

First, imagine what it was like to be there. Put yourself in that situation.

Second, speak the scripture, recite it to yourself. Pray it over yourself and others.

Third, believe the scripture as you read it. Believe what it says about you. And you’ll see yourself begin to change as you apply God’s word to your heart, and live out what it says. 


A Fish Out of Water

My wife Chelsey and I went for dinner for my birthday last night, and the restaurant was super noisy. I was already feeling a bit sensitive on my birthday as many of us do, and it got stressful for me. Many of the people were drinking, and carrying on, having a good time, or so it seemed.

And I overheard some of the conversations. They were talking about worldly stuff, parties, drinking, there was some swearing going on, bragging about conquests, drunken stories, and hysterical laughter.

I’m not against anyone having a good time, but I remember when I used to be like that. Rudderless, I didn’t know what life was really about. I basically just lived to have fun and make a living. If I got drunk and crashed down a flight of stairs I laughed about it. If I stole something I bragged about it. If I chased a girl I told everyone about it.

I was a fish out of water, uncertain what to do, or how to live. Today I’d like to talk to you about fish. We human beings exist in a nitrogen, oxygen, argon environment. That is the environment which we thrive in. For fish it’s different, they thrive in an environment made up of water.

A fish can survive out of water, but not for very long. Similarly, a human can survive under water for a certain period, but eventually they’ll need oxygen again.

So we’re going to compare a fish to the life of a human being on planet Earth.

We all start out as the gray fish. The gray fish represents the sinful human being in the world.

Every human being lives life as a fish out of water. We see this fish and he’s not in water, he’s on land and that’s not good. He goes his own way, he doesn’t know where he’s going or why.

We are like this fish as humans without God. We are lost, we need God, but we don’t have God.

So we slowly become more and more spiritually sick. We get worse and worse over time.

We try to be a moral person. We try to act good and be good. But it never quite worked out.

We didn’t have the power needed to live in an ethical way. Instead the scriptures say that we bore fruit for death.

It says in Romans 7:5, “For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.”

We knew the ten commandments, God’s law, and we tried at times to follow those laws, but being a fish out of water, being disconnected from God, we were unable to follow those commands.

Knowing the law, the commandments didn’t seem to help, in fact it even seemed to make it worse, it aroused our passions and we bore fruit for death.

And more and more we lived, but actually inside we were dead. But this produced an opportunity. Because as we found ourselves dead inside, lost in sin, utterly miserable and hopeless, we began to search for something more.

We began to long for something greater.

Then one day we heard about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We learned that humanity was sinful and lost, but that God had opened up a pathway, a road to himself and away from sin through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We learned that our sins could be forgiven not by trying to be better through the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

And something miraculous happened. We called out to Jesus Christ and asked Him to save us and forgive us, and make us new. And at that same moment, we died. Our old selves died. We repented, turned away from our past sins, and began moving in an entirely new direction.

“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” -Romans 7:6

We find ourselves new creatures. We’ve repented. We’re no longer headed toward destruction, we’re now headed toward eternal life.

Instead of being in the open air, slowly dying, like a fish out of water, desperately trying to follow the ten commandments and always failing, we find ourselves in a new reality, a new system, the system of the leading of the Holy Spirit.

All of humanity finds itself caught up under God’s judgment due to the sinful ways of humanity, under the law, the ten commandments, and condemned to death due to their failure to obey God’s law.

It’s scary stuff.

But does that mean that God’s law is bad?

It says in Romans 7:7, “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”"

I wouldn’t have even known right and wrong if it wasn’t for God’s law. The law is not bad then, it is good. But my sinful self could not follow God’s law. But this put me into a situation that was actually helpful to me.

I found myself pressured by God’s law to realize my own sinfulness, and also realize my need for a savior. God’s law pushes me toward the realization that of myself I’m not enough. I really do need God in my life, and more, at the center of my life.

I can’t do life without God. God’s law taught me that. God’s law forced me to realize that I need Jesus or I’m doomed.

Remember, God’s law made all this possible by pointing me to my hopeless situation and my need for Jesus. God’s law is holy and good and true.

The Apostle Paul gives a classic explanation of what it felt like for a Jew to live under the law, and fall short of it. The Apostle Paul before becoming a Christian was a Pharisees, a Jew who devoutly followed the old testament law. But he couldn’t.

Paul explains this in verses 14-20, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

A fish out of water can’t swim. And I worry sometimes we as Christians fall into this trap.

We are in the water, we’re Spirit led, we’re learning to love God and others. But pretty soon we jump back out of the water and start trying to use the flesh to obey God. But we can’t obey God by the flesh, or by the law, instead we have to walk in step with the Holy Spirit, and let Him lead us out of sin and toward righteousness.

Don’t jump out of the water and start pushing out with your flesh. That won’t work. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us into pure love and righteousness.

Let the Holy Spirit lead you by praying before you take action. Let the Holy Spirit lead you by digging deep into God’s word, instead of pushing out in your willpower. Let God’s Spirit lead you by acting in repentance, not in self-driven efforts that always fall short.

We often try to strike out to defeat some sin in our lives. And we fail and slip back, don’t we? Instead, begin your battle by admitting defeat. Make your first step surrender. Surrender the issue to God, admit you can’t do it without Him, and begin to believe God can remove the issue. Then after surrendering it to God, let the Holy Spirit lead you in actions of repentance, seeking counseling, reading a Christian book, meeting with your pastor, abstaining from the sin, but surrender it t God first.

Only Jesus can change us. Only Jesus can set us free this cycle of wanting to do good, but falling short. Only Jesus can do it!

Paul concludes his explanation of the sinful nature this way, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” -Romans 7:21-25

So in the end what we have is a state of deliverance by God, who sent Jesus Christ to be our Lord. The King comes in, and rescues us. He saves us from this hopeless situation of knowing sin is bad, but being stuck living in sin. He does this by giving us the Holy Spirit, so that we no longer have to surrender to the flesh, we can surrender it to God.

Do you see that Paul when he talks about not doing what he wants to do is talking about life before Christ? So, when we’re empowered by the Spirit of Christ, we now can have victory in that scenario.

When Paul used to say, “I do not do what I want to do” now in the Spirit he is able to say I now am able to overcome sin in Christ. Victory is found in that battle with the flesh.

That’s why in Romans 8 it says, “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” –Romans 8:9-11

So today, we are not in the realm of the flesh anymore. We are fish in good water, the water is the water of life, the living water of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit he lives within us and leads our lives.

If we don’t have the Holy Spirit within us, we are not Christians. I’ve met people who have the Spirit, I’ve met people who don’t. You can usually tell a Christian by the Spirit flowing out of them. You can also tell when someone is operating entirely out of the flesh, and the Spirit is not there.

So we are led by the Spirit, but, we are still subject to human death due to the penalty for the fall. But since we have the Spirit of God living within us, and we know that the Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead, then we can know that God will raise us from the dead as well, after we die.

Lastly, I think Romans 8:12-13 will help us tie this all together. It says…

Romans 8:12-13, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

Some teach that once we have Jesus Christ as savior we really have no obligations at all, we can just do whatever we want. But that isn’t biblical. We’re to be led by the Spirit, it says we do have an obligation, but not to the flesh, but instead our obligation is to, by the Spirit, put to death the misdeeds of the body.

Notice it says “by the Spirit” not by the flesh. Can you put to death the misdeeds of the body by the fleshly nature? Of course not. But in cooperation with the Holy Spirit we can put to death the misdeeds of the flesh. And that is called sanctification, the process by which God makes us more and more like Jesus, conformed to His image is what the Bible calls it.

So as a Christian, we are born again, by Jesus, led by the Spirit of Jesus, to do the will of Jesus, which is continuing to live in victory over the flesh, by the Spirit. And as we live by the Spirit, we head toward eternal life after death. However, the flesh is always with us until after we die. And the flesh will try to pull us back toward the sinful nature. So we learn to live by the Spirit, and then the flesh is kept in check, until we arrive in paradise, when we’ll be transformed, and we’ll no longer have a sin nature. And we won’t want to sin, or have to sin ever again. Praise the Lord! I look forward to that day.

Review of Main Points:

1. Living life without Christ as Lord is like being a fish out of water

2. The Law of God helps us to realize our sinfulness & need for Jesus

3. When we heard the gospel we repented and asked Jesus to save us

4. Our old self died, and a new self was born (of the Spirit of God)

5. A fish out of water can’t swim (we cant defeat sin through the flesh)

6. Jesus delivers us from a cycle of sin, to being able to have victory

7. Though Jesus has changed us, our flesh will still die (the body)

8. The Spirit that raised Jesus will also raise our bodies after we die

9. By the Spirit, we can put to death the misdeeds of the flesh

10. The flesh attempts to pull us back but by the Spirit we have victory