Louie: The Bible is a radical book; Check out what it says in 1 John 3: “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. NO ONE WHO IS BORN OF GOD PRACTICES SIN, BECAUSE HIS SEED ABIDES IN HIM; AND HE CANNOT SIN, BECAUSE HE IS BORN OF GOD.”
What are we to make of this kind of talk in a world that constantly declares, even as a born-again believer, we are still sinners, or we sin everyday?
Tom: It’s not individual acts of sin to which this refers. It’s the continual practice of sin. We all sin – ALL Christians – but someone who continually practices sin reveals the absence of the Spirit and true rebirth. Paul spoke of the sin “which so easily besets us” and the constant battle with sin in his letter to the Romans. Luckily, if you have been born again, your sin is covered in light of eternity. However, in this life, the continual practice of sin will damage your fellowship with God and if it goes too far, God may “turn such a one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that the soul will be saved in the Day of the Lord.”
Louie: I agree we all have the ability to commit sins; but I don’t believe Paul taught we had to live in a constant battle with sin as you say. Paul actually shares the revelation of victory with us at the end of Romans 7–“who will deliver me?” “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He then goes on in Romans 8 to tell us “there is now no condemnation…and Christ Himself fulfills the Law within us” 8:3-4…earlier in Romans 6 he said, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it? I guess my question is how much sin can Christ keep us from?
Tom: You will be in a constant battle against sin until the day you die. Don’t let anyone – particularly any preacher – tell you otherwise. If they do, it’s not Biblical teaching. I’ve dealt with the “there is no more spiritual battle” teaching before. It’s false.
Louie: No one ever said there’s not a battle, but for the most part the battle is on the level of temptation not sin. On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” We are called to walk in what Jesus Christ accomplished! He has won the battle against sin! According to the scripture we are told to “reckon ourselves dead to sin and stop presenting our members as instruments of unrighteousness.” “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” To me this means “sin is not my master” therefore I do not have to let sin into my life anymore. This is one of many radical things we are told in the scriptures. It’s up to us as individuals whether or not we believe and live in what it says. “HAVING BEEN FREED FROM SIN, YOU BECAME SLAVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS”–Romans 6:18
Tom: That’s the key. “For sin shall not be master over you.” We will always have a constant battle against temptation – and sometimes actually fall into sin and have to deal with it – but sin must never become our master. When sin becomes our master we lose fellowship – not relationship – with God. The point I wanted to emphasize is that we will never be free – in this life – from the reality of temptation and sin. In light of eternity, we have already been forgiven and our salvation ensured from the day we were born again. Sometimes Christians confuse the process of sanctification – or cleansing from sin. I have often run into the teaching -begun by the Kenneth Hagin-Kenneth Copeland error – that Christians no longer have to battle sin because we are no longer subject to it. That teaching is false but can be very deceptive when Christians do not understand the process of sanctification.
Louie: How much freedom from sin was purchased on the cross? 80%? ,90%?
Tom: Freedom from condemnation in eternity and the power to resist it in this life.
Louie: What about “NOW” there is no more condemnation?
Tom: Now we are no longer condemned by God because of sin because Christ has paid the price. Does not mean we don’t face trials and temptation in this life.
Louie: I agree. Some of this conversation, like most when it comes to Spirit stuff, is difficult because we are talking about eternal things while still living in the temporal realm. I think that’s why rather than divide the two up so much, we learn to see it’s really “both and” rather than “either or.” When talking about sanctification I think it’s a done deal and it’s also being worked out. We are walking in eternal promises of freedom while still traveling through a temporal, time-based existence. The question is how much of the freedom promised to us are we able to access now?
The following is a conversation I recently had via. E-mail with a friend dealing with their past. Many people, even after coming to Christ, have trouble handling their past. I hope this will be of some help.
Brian: I’ve come to realize that my battle in my mind is the past. But I guess I knew that without reading the book by Joyce. And that I need to get back to church.
Louie: I’m glad to hear that. I thought about you Sunday when the Glovers were singing “Still holding on.” Does this mean we’re going to see you Wednesday? I hope so, we’re in the last part of Romans 3. As far as reading the Joyce Meyer book goes, we all need reminders from time to time. I have several books I read over and over again, and it still seems fresh each time.
Fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).
Brian: I’m just tired of the set backs that I seem to have and the past haunting me.
Louie: Someone once said, “we live in the enemy’s camp and he has a right to shoot at us.” The good news is we have the armor of God! If you don’t mind, let me pry for a minute and ask you, what is it exactly about your past that’s haunting you?
Brian: I can sing that one!! My past, but to be honest mostly mine and her past together. And then my past comes into play saying go back (to my old lifestyle) and forget it all, but I can’t and won’t do that.
Louie: So you’re having difficulty letting go of past hurts and the temptation to use comes up, promising to silence the unwanted thoughts, right? Well, we both know where that leads now don’t we? All you’ll get from that is a hangover, and then you will still have to deal with whatever is troubling you, but then it’ll be with a pounding headache accompanied by guilt and shame. One thing that keeps me from drinking is that I can continue to tell others how long it’s been. Tracey and I went to Gulf Shores one time, and I really thought about drinking, but simply couldn’t justify it in the end so I didn’t. Months later I was sharing the story about being tempted to drink with some guys in jail and one of them said, “Well, did you?” And I loved that I could honestly tell them…No!
Maybe this will help you. Tracey and I have a very spotty past life too and all I can say is God has a way of getting us through. What finally got me is realizing Christ is enough. I remember thinking how much I wanted to get back together with Tracey; but eventually I came to the conclusion me and God had to get things straight whether or not she and I ever did. Now I know Tracey loves God and is willing to choose Him over me and that gives me the ability to trust her. As long as you and Cindy keep your focus on Christ He will work this out.
Brian: Your exactly right. Its a pounding headache or being strung out with the problem still there. Only difference is your adding more problems to it. That’s why I know I can’t do that and I thank God that I can’t. The main thing is that I wanted this for so long with her and now I have it but now the past is haunting me. All that happened between us is there when I look at her, when I’m laying in bed. It’s killing me inside. I’ve prayed about it and prayed but it seems like its driving a wedge. And its hard to even mention the main part that’s haunting me.
Louie: You know that’s the enemy, right? I guess the real question is “Are you a new creature?” and “Is she?” There are plenty of things Tracey and I could bring up and throw at each other about our past foolishness, but we have both made a decision to move forward in Christ.
I remember a time when we all worked together and I told you I didn’t trust Cindy. That was very true at the time, but I do genuinely believe there has been a change in her. Obviously I don’t live with her, but I do work with her for several hours everyday and from what I’m seeing she loves you and really wants this marriage to work. You two picked each other above all others. Marriage is a commitment based on trust which means we can’t always know what’s coming around the corner but we have agreed to stick it out. The truth is it takes a miracle, because we humans, left to ourselves, really aren’t very trustworthy, but with “Christ in you”…and “her” a miracle is what we’re living everyday.
Brian: I do remember that. I truly believe she is a new creature now. She is a changed woman, I truly believe that. I see that. Yesterday on my way home from work something came up and got me thinking. It was like a voice saying my problem in the relationship is that it’s a healthy relationship. I don’t know how to be in one. All I’m used to is a relationship with drinking, drugs and fighting or arguing all the time. Its opened my eyes in a way.
Louie: I think you may have nailed it right there. It’s difficult to be in a “healthy” relationship if you’ve never known one or seen one modeled in front of you before. This is what is so awesome about the Spirit of God because He can show you the way. I would venture to say we have all had our share of wrong relationships simply because we didn’t know God. The good news is now we do.
One more thing just came to me. I remember thinking I would wall myself off in order to keep from getting hurt. That sounds good at first, but eventually you realize the same walls that keep you safe also keep you from any real connection with others because nothing can get in or out. Life and marriages are risky business, but in the end they are worth the risk. I hope to see you tonight at Coffee Connection.
Brian: That’s true. I’ve never been in a healthy relationship. Mine and hers sure wasn’t healthy at first, I mean before we had a true relationship that is. And also not having a father around but not sure that would play a part. But your right it is hard to be in a healthy relationship and that just hit me yesterday. But it shouldn’t be that hard you wouldn’t think.
Louie: I think sometimes when you are accustomed to “drama” or “upheaval” it becomes your comfort zone. The flesh gets used to being charged up and it can seem unusual if it isn’t, like nothing’s happening. The truth is life is full of days when nothing seems to be happening, but you just do what you do anyway. The other night at jail we read some scripture and the guys didn’t really have anything to say or add to what we were reading, but we plowed through anyway. As I walked away from there it appeared like nothing was accomplished, but I know God’s word will do exactly what He wants it to. Sometimes it seems like we’re “doing time” ourselves but with God nothing’s wasted and if it’s done in the power of His Spirit it will bear fruit.
As far as marriage being difficult, I think we just don’t know how far mankind has fallen. Sin has disrupted everything in creation; so getting along even with someone you love can be a task. I think this is God’s way of teaching us His unconditional kind of love, a kind of love that puts others first and dies to selfishness. It takes the Holy Spirit living through us to make it happen that’s for sure.
As many know the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians is sometimes referred to as “The Love Chapter” and rightfully so. I don’t intend to pick through that whole chapter but I would like to focus your attention on one aspect of it. “Love believes all things & hopes all things.”
My wife Tracey and I found ourselves divorced after five years of marriage. Addiction had completely taken over and ruined our lives but thankfully that’s not the end of the story. After being separated and officially divorced for two years things started to change.
I think it was the year 2000 and I found myself in a methadone treatment program realizing my life was going nowhere. I had a church background and apparently God wasn’t finished with me quite yet. I began an honest and diligent search for answers and direction in life by attempting to read the Bible. Even though at first it didn’t go so well, I was not giving up! I found myself going to church for the first time, at least the first time I really wanted to be there, as an adult. Of course I had attended a few times in the past to soothe Tracey’s desires but never open to receive anything from God.
Now at the age of 31 I found myself truly seeking for the truth I knew was in the Bible but couldn’t quite piece it all together. So I started going to church looking for someone to help me understand the Bible. I knew the answers to my troubles were in that book I just needed someone to show me how to fish them out. As God would have it, after several weeks of attending I ended up at the altar, with Tracey mind you, praying. My prayer was simple. I prayed, “God, you have to show her (Tracey) I mean business!” That was it! I opened myself up for God to do what only He can do and guess what? He did it! That night on my way home I was radically transformed. Jesus called it being born-again.
It wasn’t very long afterwards, Tracey and I began to talk seriously about getting re-married. She had been living in an apartment owned by a couple who just so happened to be marriage counselors. When Tracey told the man she was going to be moving out because she and I were remarrying he asked her if we would come talk to him first. She asked me about it and I agreed to speak with him first. For those that don’t realize, just the mere fact I agreed to meet with this man, whom I didn’t know mind you, is proof I had been transformed.
We sat in this mans living room for 3 hours listening to him discourage Tracey from marrying me again. He said I would go back to drugs as soon as the first real difficulty came along. Yet another proof I was a new man. The old Louie wouldn’t have stayed to listen to him that long but I knew what had happened to me and knew God had this whole thing and thankfully Tracey did too. She knew me well enough to believe God truly had transformed me so she took the risk and the rest is history. We have been married for 14 years now for the second go at this thing called marriage.
You see love truly does “believe all things and hope all things.” Many times the way someone or something looks or feels isn’t the best way to evaluate them. Jesus had run in after run in with the religious leaders of his day. Time and time again they made the wrong call about Him and His disciples. They got on to Jesus for eating with sinners and went as far as to accuse Jesus of having a demon.
I am not writing this to point a finger of accusation at this man necessarily; but he presented himself as a Christian counselor and yet seemed to have no hope that Christ had, or could change me. When dealing with others and their walk with Christ we aren’t called to be naive but just remember “Love hopes all things and believes all things.” I think this means we never give up hope for others and we continue to believe with, and for, others no matter what. Never forget Christ can transform anyone who is willing to open themselves up to Him.
Many people have heard the gospel message in part but when they hear it fully they seem shocked. This past week I have had the privilege to share the gospel during our weekly Bible study on Wednesday, our monthly visit to prison on Saturday, Sunday School class and in our local jail Sunday night. During each of these opportunities there was at least one person truly enlightened through the sharing of the full gospel message. There is nothing better than getting to be a part of what God is doing in people’s lives and the joy of watching the lights come on in their eyes as they begin to understand God’s love for them on such a deep level.
As I prepared for bed on Sunday night, I found myself reflecting on the past five days and was simply amazed. Since I’ve been teaching the Bible I have had many memorable moments but this week has really been extraordinary. Wednesday night Bible study found us discussing Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6. For those unfamiliar with these verses let me just say I think they are the core of the gospel message. They establish for us that through the cross we, that place our faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, are to consider ourselves as having been joined with Him. In other words, we too have been crucified with Christ! While this is plainly taught over and over throughout the letters of the Apostle Paul, I saw clearly this week many have never really heard this. One lady in our Bible study was so effected by this understanding she chose to stay with us rather than go to a meeting she previously planned to attend. She simply couldn’t tare herself away from the scriptures.
On Saturday night I shared Romans six with the ladies in prison and the response was the same. All but maybe one of them never took their eyes off of me as I talked. I joked with them saying, “Isn’t it amazing how this has been in your Bible the whole time?” You see while many may have read Romans 6 not many really believe what it says. For instance one of the ladies made the comment that “We, meaning Christians, still sin everyday.” While she’s not alone in this view, I simply asked her the same thing the Apostle Paul asked in Romans 6:2-3, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” As our time at the prison came to an end, a few of the ladies excitedly said, “I’ve never heard preaching like that before!” While I’m not sure what she specifically meant, I think it’s because we didn’t berate them to do more, and try harder, instead we shared with them that God loves them so much He has done it all through His Son Jesus Christ and by faith we have become one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). As we left them one lady said, “You need to tell everyone that message, I know that’s what I’m going to do right now!” as she made her way back to her dorm.
For the sake of any who misunderstand, let me just say, no one is advocating that a Christian can’t sin we are simply saying we don’t have to. While the gospel to many means we have come to God in repentance and He has forgiven our sins in order for us to enter Heaven one day, the gospel message is really much more remarkable than that. According to the scriptures, we who have received Christ have been joined to Him in an inseparable, eternal union. God sees us as having died in Him and been raised back as a brand new creature in Christ. This is not just an old sinner who has been washed off, patted on the back side and told to try a bit harder this time. This is a creature in which God’s Spirit is joined to your human spirit in a way that has never existed before.
One reason many have such difficulty with counting themselves as dead to sin is because we far too often live from our natural senses rather than simple faith in the Word of God. What the Bible calls walking in faith or walking in the Spirit is a foreign concept to the natural man. In fact the Bible tells us the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Maybe we’ll discuss that a bit more some other time. For now I pray God will clarify for you what being born-again really means according to the scriptures.
I recently talked with someone I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. He just came from shooting pool in a bar, and I just came out of Bible study. Oh what a difference Christ makes.
As Tracey and I spoke with him he asked, “What are you guys doing?” I thought to myself, well I sure am glad you asked. Tracey said, “We just finished Bible study!” then she invited him to come next week. He immediately seemed to glaze over and said, “I don’t have any use for the church thing.” I spoke up and said, “We’re not talking about “church” we’re talking about Jesus Christ.” We then proceeded to share a brief version of our testimony with him. As I shared with him about how I had become extremely addicted to pills and was basically killing myself, he said, “Now, that’s because of choices you made!” I quickly agreed with him and said, “You are exactly right! It was choices I had made but thankfully God rescued me and saved me from myself”, and Christ is now my life. As we ended our conversation, we shook his hand and let him go on his way. We may never know what kind of affect we had on him, but I’m believing our words will ring in his ears for a long time. My prayer is God will never stop pursuing him until he relents. He didn’t seem to have any hope but because of God I could see what God wanted for him.
The Bible clearly tells us “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” While most seem to focus on the fact we’ve all sinned, I think God’s attention is probably more on the missed glory. It seems God’s plan was for us to be joined with Him in His glory. That begs the question, just what exactly is His Glory? The Strong’s concordance tells us, the Greek word for glory is (doxa) meaning–“dignity, glory, honour, praise, worship.” If you look into the root word for doxa (dokeo) it is defined “to think, to seem truthfully, be accounted, please, be of reputation, seem good, suppose).
What can we learn from the idea that we have fallen short of God’s glory given this definition? I suppose one could say we have all fallen short of God’s dignity, honour, praise and good reputation. So, in other words, we have all failed to live up to what God designed us for. The good news is, while we failed it didn’t have to be for good. God didn’t give up on His purpose and plan for humanity. His plan was to get us back into His glory and to get His glory back into us. This is where two of the Apostle Paul’s favorite phrases come in to play:”In Christ and Christ in you.” Christ is our only hope of glory.
You see God’s plan all along was for us to be His representative on the earth. God said, “Let Us make man in our own image and let them have dominion.” So we were designed to be the visible expression of the invisible God. Of course after the fall we found ourselves quite a bit less than God’s intention. We became earthly minded creatures who became distracted with basic animalistic needs and desires. Rather than being God-conscious we became self-conscious. Rather than being heavenly-minded we became earthly-minded and death was the only way out of the fix we were in.
So, God became a man, an earth creature, in order to rescue us from the fall and lift us back into His glory. Through Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, God joined us to Him in order to convey us back in to His glorious kingdom. Ephesians tells us, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” Since we have been raised with Christ, we are told in Colossians “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).
The salvation offered through Jesus Christ is so much more than a ticket to heaven. God’s idea of salvation is for us to be fully restored to His former glory. We are told “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (Jesus Christ), and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross…” (Colossians 1:19-20). It doesn’t stop there either. If you read a bit further you’ll discover “in Him you have been made complete…” (Colossians 2:10). Christ in you, is the hope of glory! When God’s Spirit moved back into you through your regeneration, the Glory returned and His image was restored!
My wife just left. It’s probably not what you’re thinking though. She actually did just leave but it was to share Jesus with some female inmates in our local jail. She always wants me to pray with her before she goes and tonight was no different.
It’s funny how God speaks to you sometimes while you’re praying for someone else. One time as we prayed it dawned on me how the story of Jonah fit in with being in jail. Think about it for a minute. Jonah was running from what God had told him to do and he found himself in a dark, cramped, uncomfortable place. For Jonah it was the belly of a whale but for the men and women in jail and prison maybe it’s a cell full of people they don’t know or even like. Either way they are there and have no way of getting out until it’s time, just like Jonah. The hope is that, like Jonah, when the time comes for them to get out they will go and do what God tells them to do.
Tonight as we prayed Tracey prayed that the women would be receptive to God. As she said that what came to me was, “How could they not?” Of course we all have had our times when we didn’t want to hear about God or from God but I think it’s only because we hadn’t seen Him as He really is. The truth is if we get a clear picture of the loving God described to us in the scriptures we can’t resist. He’s irresistible! After Tracey finished praying I prayed and my prayer basically consisted of asking God to show Himself to these women in a clear and personal way because I know if He does that they will be drawn to Him like a moth to a flame.
The Bible tells us to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8a). Once you draw near to Him we are told to “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8a).
I realize not everyone is called to minister to men and women in jail and prison; but I challenge you to pray for them. I ask that you would simply pray that they would come to see Jesus Christ really is the answer to their problems no matter what their charges are or how long they have to be incarcerated. God can do miraculous things through them even though they are behind bars.