The following is a discussion that came about based on a question to Christians. The question read as follows: Which is appropriate for a Christian to say about themselves?

A. I’m a sinner, saved by grace
B. I was a sinner, but I’ve been saved by grace

For me the real point of this little quiz was to provoke people to think about their identity in Christ and how God truly sees those of us who have been saved. While the names of these participants have been exposed to the internet already, I am going to use only first names here. Also I am going to edit some of the comments for the sake of space but will do my best to keep the original sentiment intact. This exercise confirmed for me what I’ve known for quite sometime which is for the most part Christians have an identity crisis; and when we don’t know who we are in Christ it affects every area of our lives.

The overwhelming majority of people who responded see themselves as sinners, more than twenty, even though they claim to be saved and or born-again. I’ll let the responses speak for themselves. Here they are.

Dave: A. for all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God.

Dona: B. I have been made perfect in Christ…!!!

Tammy: We are still capable of sinning…but with his love and forgiveness “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13

Joyce: A…we are still sinners…but, one day we will be like HIM!!

Ron: Not sucking me into this one.

Louie: Thanks so much for the responses but before I tell you my answer let me ask one more question. When Paul addresses his letters to the saints at Rome, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, etc. is he addressing you? If so does that mean the terms “saint” and “sinner” is interchangeable?

Dawn: A. God’s grace saved me. I’m still a human, still sin and won’t be perfect until He calls me home.

Dawn: I believe yes to your follow up question. Saints and sinners are the same. Saints saved by grace.

Louie: Here’s a thought: Before Adam disobeyed (ate the forbidden fruit) he wasn’t a sinner was he? I would say no. This means we don’t have to be a “sinner” to commit a sin. I think the Bible is clear that if we are “in Christ” we are a new creature (saint). This of course doesn’t mean we cannot commit a sin but according to 1 John it does mean we will no longer “practice” sin. So with all that being said, I think B. is the appropriate answer. If Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost I am either lost or found. I cannot be a lost/found person can I? “By His doing you (me) are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). All of this is the work of the cross. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). “All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in him in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete…” (Colossians 2:9-10).

Tammy H.: This is to your follow up question…saints are not sinless. The word saint means sacred. All who belong to Christ by faith are saints. We are born in sin. You become a saint by being reborn. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t sin.

Tammy H.: I was wrong it is B…sorry. I should have thought longer before answering…

Ron: 1 Cor. 13:9-12: We don’t always see ourselves as he sees us. Face to face is when we see the perfect complete creation. We know that we are complete/perfect in his eyes! Still have to live in an imperfect world in an imperfect sack of flesh! We still make mistakes. Face to face we will know as we are known. Amen

Louie: my thing with this line of questioning is based on my desire for us Christians to really see ourselves as God sees us. Jesus Christ paid much too high a price for us to go around seeing ourselves as sinners. He has bought us with a price, made us whole and set us apart for a purpose. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are a branch for Him to produce fruit through, and we are to be an expression of Christ for the world to see.

Ron: Don’t forget about the thorn that Paul carried around his whole earthly life. Think Grace.

Tim: What difference does it make A or B whether we believe we are a sinner or not?

Louie: Tim, the short answer is we are what we think. If we see ourselves as a sinner we will continue in sin. If we see ourselves as someone freed from sin less sin will manifest. “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Viewing ourselves as a sinner tends to become a cloak for sin. If we see ourselves as that we give ourselves an excuse. Well, I’m a sinner so I guess I can’t help it if I sin, so I might as well.

Ron: Got some people in the Word tonight. If you noticed I never did give my answer. According to the Word I believe in my spirit that the answer is…

Louie: Think about the song “Amazing Grace.” I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Part of being a witness for Christ is telling others I once was one way but now I’m another. It is all about our identity. Here’s another illustration. When we are born we are born a sinner (Pig). When we are born again we become a brand new creature not just a washed off pig. The nature of a pig is to wallow in the mud and like it. Once we are born again we become a new creature let’s say a sheep. The nature of a sheep isn’t to wallow in the mud and like it. No, in fact a sheep may very well find himself in the mud (sin) but rather than stay there he will get up and go the shepherd to clean him. So we are no longer pigs (sinners) we are sheep (saints).

Tim: This is what happens when we take proof texts to try and describe a biblical concept. Paul takes the whole book of Romans to systematically outline the doctrines of Justification and Sanctification. Legally in God’s eyes we are as you say, perfect sinless saints, but experientially we still wrestle with our sinful nature. So in a sense both A. and B. are true. The danger for each is that if we lose sight of our position in Christ we will live like sinners. However, we should not let our guard down to our sinful condition.

Louie: This idea of a sinful nature is a tough one, but I believe once we are born again we no longer have a sinful nature. In fact I believe we humans have no nature of our own. According to Ephesians 2:1-3, we were all dead in trespasses and sins and were “by nature” children of wrath because of the spirit that works in the children of disobedience. The good news is now that we are in Christ we are a “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). So in my view we are either by nature a child of wrath, because of the spirit of error indwelling us, or we have been born again and have become a partaker of the very nature of Christ. Either way we have no nature of our own rather we are joined to the nature of another.

Tammy S.: Sinner does not mean one who sins. In the Word, sin and death means separation. So a sinner is one who is separated from God by sin. The thing is we should only say about ourselves what God says and He NEVER calls His children sinners so neither should we. You know I bowl sometimes but I don’t identify myself as a bowler. I was a sinner, but I got saved by God’s marvelous grace, and now He says I’m a saint. In my spirit I am the perfect new creature that I am going to be throughout all eternity, and I am in the process of renewing my mind to think like the new creature He created me to be. Hallelujah!!

Tim: Oh boy, this could turn into a big can of worms based on our different understandings of the doctrines of the human condition and such.

Karen: I like to say it like this; I am not a sinner because I sin. I sin because I am a sinner born with a sinful nature however now saved by grace in Jesus name.

Louie: There are no worms here Tim just some people discussing what faith in Jesus Christ means. I don’t think there’s any bad vibes here. “Iron sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

Heather: There is none that is perfect…No not one! Salvation is a free gift of undeserved mercy for the sinner, so we are saved by Jesus Christs’ sacrifice and grace. We are to turn from sin and follow Christ. However, we may fall and stumble along the path until we are made perfect in Heaven with our Lord. So we are a sinner, saved by grace. A.

Ron: Are we done yet? Just kidding. Good debate. No winners. Saved by grace through faith. Sinner or saint doesn’t matter what word you use to describe yourself. Saved by grace through faith is what’s important. Amen.

Tammy S.: Thank you Lord for revealing to me who I am in you.

Keith: We are new creatures. Thinking that we are not sinners doesn’t make us not sinners, and having a sinful nature/body doesn’t cause us to sin more…unless we use that excuse. There’s only one human who walked the earth that was sinless: Jesus Christ. There’s no way we can say we ever become sinless, or that we don’t sin anymore. We ALL sin no matter what. So when we do sin, what then? Are you not born again? A child of God anymore? You still are!

Louie: Wow! This was amazing. Obviously there are deep rooted beliefs about whether or not we should call ourselves “sinners” after we’ve been born again. This reminds me of how many people, who have had an addiction, see themselves as an addict forever. To me we have a choice to make either we see ourselves as the world or (tradition) sees us or we see ourselves as the Bible sees us. According to the Word, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I’m going to leave it here but maybe we’ll try another little quiz soon. Thank you so much for the great participation. I’ve learned a lot.

Keith: In addition to being a deep-rooted belief (because of what God’s Word tells us), you/we have to take his Word collectively, as a whole, and base you beliefs on that, not on a verse here and there. **I’m not saying you are I’m speaking in general about KNOWING what God says.

Kelly: After reading all of your posts, I still agree with answer A. Our spirits are saved by faith and God’s grace, and because we seek to be like Him, we ask for His will and guidance in our lives, and we trust Him to “lead us not into temptation,” so to speak. But, while we are still human, our nature is still sinful from birth on. We sin daily…even the slightest rude thought towards another is a sin. Angry reactions and harsh words, even simple sarcasm, to people and circumstances, is sin. Ever thought of another woman Louie? Lust? Ever wished you had as much as someone else? Envy or coveting however you chose to say it. Ever told a teensy weensy, well-meaning lie? It’s still a lie. Ever cursed in your mind but not out loud? God still hears it. Not one of us can say not to any of these. But, as Christians, we know it is wrong, and we repent daily, even minute by minute for some of us (me!!). I am no theologian by any means, and I don’t have 100 verses of scripture to back up what I’m saying. But I DO know I can never lose my salvation, if I am truly saved. And because He lives through me, I can have the strength to go on KNOWING I am a sinner, saved by His grace through my FAITH in Him. It is through that very faith that we turn to Him to forgive us, daily, of our sins and to try to keep from those sins to the very best of our ability. And when I get to see Him, because of my faith and trust in Him, I know I will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I screw up daily, not because I want to, but because I am not God. I am not perfect. But I love Him for loving me despite all my wretched faults. And I will sleep well knowing I am a forgiven child of the King every night. God bless you for making me think on this tonight, I hope and pray I haven’t offended anyone with my beliefs. Goodnight.

Louie: No one is indicating a Christian can’t or won’t sin. The original question was about how we identify ourselves. Jesus himself said, “I came to seek and save the lost.” The good news is once He has saved us we are no longer lost. Whenever a blind man was touched by Jesus he went away seeing, so do we still call him a blind man? When a lame man was healed by Jesus, was he still lame? What about Lazarus? After Jesus raised him from the dead would we consider him to still be a dead man? Look to nature for a minute with me. Have you ever looked at a butterfly and said to yourself, “Look at that beautiful caterpillar?” Pertaining to thoughts, do you think, no pun intended, Jesus ever had a “bad” thought? For instance in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus didn’t appear to want to do what God wanted, He said, “my soul is deeply grieved and sorrowful (thoughts and feelings), even unto death” and “If there’s any other way.” Thoughts and feelings come and go all day everyday and we simply cannot control all of them nor do I think they are necessarily sin. There is a place where a thought becomes lust but simply having a renegade thought doesn’t automatically mean it’s sin.

In conclusion let me saypart of my job as a student of the Bible is to question traditions and rituals to see if they line up with the Word of God. I hope this has rattled a few of you, at least to the point of making sure of what you know. All I ask is that you don’t allow your thoughts and feelings to override what God says to be true about you. Our thoughts and feelings are to be the caboose not the engine.

Louie

 

The Bible tells us, “God is love”, so I thought I would try something. If we were to take the word “love” and insert it into scripture passages talking about God what would happen?

“In the beginning was the Love, and the Love was with God, and the Love was God” (John 1:1). “Love came to His own, and those who were Love’s own did not receive Love. But as many as received Love, to them Love gave the right to become children of Love, even to those who believe in Love’s name” (John 1:11-12).  How about this one? “And the Love became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw Love’s glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Love, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Love by its very nature requires more than one person, right? I mean, I can’t love by myself, there has to be an object of love. This I think is why God as a Trinity, (Father, Son and Spirit), makes sense. Although God is one, just by the mere fact we are told He is love reveals we are dealing in some sense with more than one doesn’t it? Think about it this way; in the scriptures we read where the Son is well pleasing to the Father; and the Spirit’s role is to point to the Son. Jesus said on numerous occasions “I only do what I see the Father do”, “the Son can do nothing on His own”, etc. Then He turned around and, speaking of the Holy Spirit, said, “He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify me, for He will take of mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are mine; therefore I said that He takes of mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:13-15).

While defining love is not so easy to do, one thing is for sure; love is always “for others.” If you take that to be the defining point you will see clearly how God the Father was well-pleased with the Son and the Son promises us the Holy Spirit, who will always take what is the Son’s, which is really the Father’s, and reveal it to us. So the Father points to the Son and says, “look to Him”, while the Son says “Oh no, I can’t do anything apart from the Father”; and the Spirit says, “Pay attention to the Son; because He is the exact representation of the invisible God” (Colossians 2:9).

How does all this apply to me you might ask. Well, this brings us to what the Bible calls “The Gospel” or “good news”. The Good News is this God, who is love, has come to invite us to join Him in this “Love Triangle.” According to Romans six, we that have been baptized into Christ have been joined with Him in His death, therefore we have been joined to Him and raised with Him to walk in newness of life. So we have been co-crucified with Christ and that’s not all. Reading in Ephesians 2 you will discover we have not only been raised, but in fact we have been “seated with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We as a born-again believer, or receiver of Christ, “may now have fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). This is all the work of the Holy Spirit through the Son’s full obedience to the Father, who is Love.

“Whosoever will let him come.”

Louie

The following is an e-mail conversation that took place over a couple days. I thoroughly enjoyed this and hope to do more, but for now I thought I would share it in the hope it helps encourage others too.

Louie: What do you think about discussing a verse or two, and each of us can add a comment or question at our leisure. What do you say? If you’re in then let’s begin with spirit/soul and body.

Check out these verses and let me know what you think.

Hebrews 4:12
1 Thessalonians 5:23

Tracey: I love this idea of email biblically based conversation. So here it goes…Hebrews 4:12 is one of my favorite explanations of dividing between Spirit, soul and body. It gives us permission to be human. For example, the soul, joints and thoughts go together because they all move and we don’t necessarily have control over them. But the Spirit, marrow and intentions are steadfast, unmovable, and where the life is. So, it explains that being human is okay. It doesn’t give us permission to sin, however, but it gives a great explanation of how the Word of God divides the three parts.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 this verse points to my sanctification, as if it isn’t my mine at all, but that of Christ. He doesn’t leave any thing out as if I may mess it up. It is Him who I am depending on for my Spirit, soul, and body to preserve me until the coming day of Jesus Christ.
What a load off of my self effort and we can fully or wholly, depend on Him for our keeping. All parts of us.

Cindy: Is our spirit and soul not the same?

Louie: One of the main things I wanted to look at in these two verses is that spirit and soul are in fact not the same. This is why all three: spirit, soul and body are mentioned in 1 Thessalonians and in Hebrews 4:12 we are told, “The Word of God divides (or distinguishes) between soul and spirit.”

Like Tracey said, “soul, joints and thoughts” are one category and “spirit, marrow and intent” are the other. If you think about the joints of your body and how they are designed to move, and how they coincide with our soul, you will start to see that our soul level was created by God to change or fluctuate. The reason for this is because our soul is primarily made up of our thoughts and feelings (emotions) and they change all the time don’t they? On the other hand, our “spirit” is a bit deeper coinciding with the marrow of our bones which is where the real life is. Then again if it wasn’t for the life in the marrow (spirit) there could be no life or movement in our joints (soul). So the truth is we are spirit beings designed for God’s Spirit, joined to our spirit, to be expressed through our souls (thoughts, feelings, personality).

But the real point here is that we are spirit and if we’ve been born again “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). This means we are designed to live from our spirit, where the life (Spirit of God) is instead of our soul that is designed to move with thoughts and feelings we like and thoughts and feelings we don’t like.

I admit this is a huge topic and I don’t want to write a book here but getting an understanding of this is life changing. Once we see we don’t have to be ruled by our thoughts and feelings, we will begin to walk in the spirit and stop fighting things on a soul level, which will change if given enough time. So we learn how to wait.

Tracey: I was going over this again and something hit me. (not literally) Is that it’s the Word of God that divides. Meaning we live our lives (all 3 parts) as by the Bible (The Word) who is Jesus. This is our guide line, not what the world says, or even our sister (ha), but we let the Word of the Lord divide it, and we live by Him.

Cindy: We have to let the word of God open our eyes to the fact that we don’t have to be controlled by our soul, that the word shows us that we are NOT our feelings. We have to choose to not be lead by our thoughts and feelings, because God is not the one driving the confusion and condemnation.

Louie: Amen to both T and C. Sometimes Christians think the enemy is going to stop his attack once we’re saved. The truth is the enemy no longer lives within the inner citadel of our hearts, but he still has access to our body/soul level. He can still inject thoughts and feelings we don’t like. So the question is what do we do with them once they come? This is where we are told to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Once we realize the thoughts aren’t from God, we turn to Christ and see what He has to say about it. For instance if the enemy says to us “You’re no good and you never will be.” We say, “That’s strange because God says He loves me and has great things in mind for me and I’m not who I used to be” (John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Thoughts and feelings we like and don’t like will continue throughout our lives but we learn to detect their source.

Cindy: What we choose to do with those thoughts and feelings is the point. We know to well how they can be persuaded by the enemy, which in turn causes us to lash out that the ones close to us. Idle time will cause us to fight with the thoughts and emotions that Satan throws at us, and make you totally miserable. Like the Bible says, God gives us an outlet to temptations, so too He gives us a way out of the thoughts…..look to Him!

Louie: That’s right Cindy, we can’t control all of our incoming thoughts but in Philippians 4 we are told what we can do as an offensive. The Apostle Paul said, “Think on these things: whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.” In other words we redirect our thoughts and think of these types of things “On purpose.”

What Hebrews 4:12 is telling us though is it takes “The Word of God” to distinguish between our soul and spirit. This isn’t just talking about the written word but it’s talking about God’s very word to us. When God shows us the difference between our soul and spirit we know it. For instance we may feel angry or jealous but we begin to see those are emotions and not the real “us”. We begin to be able to see these feelings as apart from us rather than thinking they are us. In other words, I’m not angry; I’m feeling angry and so on. This enables us to step back from within and let them pass through without ruling us. We look at anger or jealousy and say, “You’re not the boss of me!”

Cindy: Being able to “just be still” and listen to the voice of God as he instills his word in us to be able to distinguish between what is soul or spirit is a struggle for me at times I must admit.

Louie: Now you’re onto something Cindy. I think most people don’t really want to be still because they are afraid of what God might say to them. One more thing I would like to add to this about Hebrews 4:12 is this whole chapter is talking about entering into God’s rest. I think the key to “His” rest is learning how to walk in the Spirit even while all Hell may be breaking loose in the soul/body level. Jesus promised us His rest if we would just come to Him…Matthew 11:28-30. This is a rest even in the midst of life’s storms.

Cindy: Why is it so hard to walk in the spirit, especially when all that Hell has to offer is being thrown at you and the ones you love? Why is it so hard for us to actually just say, “OK God, here you go, take over”. When your world is falling apart, why is it so much easier to use the excuse of what you use to do in the past for “rest” you are seeking, instead of looking to God for the real rest….because we know the other “rest” just wore us out. Made us ache and cry out in despair. Turn to God, we will tell anyone that quick, but sometimes it seems to be the last resort when it comes to ourselves.

Louie: Wow! This is quite insightful Cindy. Let me quote our friend Brian Coatney here. He says, “Walking in the Spirit is easy. It’s excruciating at times but it’s easy.” In Romans 8 we discover “to be carnally (flesh) minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity (open hatred) against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” So what we really need is to learn to walk in the mind of Christ, which we have according to 1 Corinthians 2:16 “We have the mind of Christ.”

A counselor Tracey and I spoke to before we were remarried seemed to do everything in his power to convince Tracey I would go back to drugs as soon as something difficult came along. Little did he know Christ truly had taken up residence within me, and He would keep me! Later on this man’s wife actually apologized to Tracey once she saw and believed God had truly changed me and it wasn’t just me, or “my flesh”, attempting to “turn over a new leaf.” God did in fact transform me into a new creature. So to make it real simple, the only way we make it is to be kept people. We learn to “NEVER” trust in ourselves, and our old ways, but in the “ONE” who raises the dead!

Sometimes the way things are and the way we see them may be two different things. Since the fall of man all of us start our lives double-minded. We see and evaluate everything to be in one of two categories, either good or evil. This is a good thing because we need to understand the difference. But what if we could start to see how God is working good even in the most evil circumstances?

There’s an interesting story about King David found in 2 Samuel 16 where he and his mighty men find themselves at the receiving end of some pretty awful accusations. A man named Shimei, from the house of Saul, came out cursing and throwing rocks and dust at David saying, “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow!” David’s men offered to stop Shimei saying, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head.” Rather than simply giving the word to shut Shimei up, David said, “If he curses, and if the Lord has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?”

I don’t know about you but this wouldn’t be my first response. You see David had come to a place where he fully understood everything in his life was in God’s hands. Nothing, absolutely nothing, came to him without God meaning it, even a man cursing him. Seeing the bad things in our lives as coming from a loving Father’s hand is much easier to take than stopping short and perceiving it to be coming from the enemy of our souls don’t you think? So learning to see through is the goal here.

Jumping ahead a bit to the story of Job we see a similar instance. As you read the story of Job you will discover God himself actually pointed Job out to Satan. In other words, Satan’s attack wasn’t a surprise and in fact it was meant by God. Job lost his children, livestock, barns etc. and then to add insult to injury his very own wife turned on him. She said, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity (evil)?” Wow! Job had learned to see through the appearance of evil and understood God was in fact all powerful, and whatever evil or misfortune came his way hadn’t caught God by surprise. Job had learned God “works all things after the counsel of His will.”

Looking into the New Testament, we see Jesus standing before Pilate. Pilate has to make a decision concerning Jesus but as he questioned Jesus, and He didn’t respond. Pilate said, “Do You not know that I have authority (power) to release You, and I have authority (power) to crucify You?” Notice what Jesus said: He said, “You would have no authority (power) over Me, unless it had been given you from above…” Jesus, standing before a man who had the authority to declare His judgement, wasn’t out of sorts because He understood God was the ultimate source of authority and even the horror of the cross was ordained by Him. The next time you’re tempted to think God is MIA in you life, remember Jesus was directly in the middle of God’s will as He hung on the cross. Sometimes being in God’s will means experiencing unthinkable pain and feelings of abandonment.

In 2 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul gives us yet another example of seeing through evil to God and His purposes in it. Paul had a great experience where he saw and heard things he described as “inexpressible.” Then he went on to say, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!” Paul understood his troubles to be from Satan but at the same time he knew God was ultimately the one behind it. You see the devil is still God’s devil. In other words, the devil cannot act independently of God. Even though he is always up to no good God has a purpose and plan in all of it.

As Paul prayed to be released from his thorn, his messenger of Satan, God’s response to him was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” So we see God’s plan is to express Himself through us, but we will be hampered as long as we are living with a divided consciousness. My hope is that we will begin to see with what Jesus called the “single eye” which means we know and understand that nothing, absolutely nothing, comes into our lives apart from God. We don’t go as far as to call evil good but we do start to see God actively engaged in all of life’s circumstances whether they are good or evil.

Louie

Sometimes Christians will talk of having a relationship with God. They’ll say something like, “I’m not into religion, I’m into a relationship.” Every now and then they’ll say, “I have a ‘personal’ relationship with Jesus Christ.” Now I don’t have anything against these statements, but I wonder if you’ve ever really thought about what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ really looks like.

In the book of Genesis there’s a story of a man named Abraham. God called Abraham out of his hometown and told him to go to a place He would show him. I don’t know about you but this sounds pretty risky. I’m not sure how Abraham heard God’s voice, whether it was audible or not, but apparently he was convinced it was God because he did what he was told. He packed up his things and set out to discover wherever God was leading him. This is what I would call a one on one, or personal, relationship with God. Abraham had no priest to consult, no Bible to read, no sacrificial system to obey and no temple, or church building to meet in regularly. No, he simply heard God speak to him and he obeyed.

Another man in the Old Testament named Moses was called by God to do something. After Israel had been slaves in Egypt for over 400 years God called Moses to go in and lead them out. If you know the story Moses was quite reluctant at first and actually questioned whether or not God had the right man for the job. You see Moses was looking at himself and seeing his faults but God’s response to him was “who made you?” You see God knew what He could do, it was Moses that wasn’t sure, but he soon was convinced. God showed him little by little he could trust Him so Moses complied.

After Moses had done what God called him to do, and he and Israel found themselves in the desert somewhere between Egyptian bondage and the freedom of the Promised Land, God did something wonderful. God told Moses to get all the elders and come to the Tent of Meeting. “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied.” I think this is showing us right here God does want all of us to be connected to Him in a very personal way. While Moses was God’s man, God wants each and everyone of us to know Him one on one.

If we move on into the New Covenant we see this same thing with Jesus. As the time for Jesus to be handed over and crucified drew closer; He began telling His disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” He told them, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” I think what Jesus is telling us here is not only does He need to dwell in us but He wants us to have a one on one relationship with His Father. You see Jesus didn’t want His disciples to get too attached to Him in the earthly sense. In the Old Covenant communion with God generally came through another man, namely a priest, but now in the New Covenant we are introduced to a brand new way. Jesus said, “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father” (John 16:26-27). Notice He said we, ourselves, would ask the Father.

Because of Jesus Christ we can have a direct line to the Father. We no longer need any other go between because the very Spirit of the Living God dwells within us. It doesn’t get any more personal than that now does it?

Louie

If there’s one thing we all have in common it has to be that we all have to deal with thoughts and feelings we don’t like. Some mistakenly think that since they are a Christian they shouldn’t have “bad” thoughts or feelings but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just because we have invited Christ into our lives doesn’t mean the enemy gives up in his efforts to trip us up.

It is true that through our being joined to Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, we have died to sin. We are told to count on it, stop presenting ourselves to the enemy, and start presenting ourselves to God. Even though we have gone from a slave to sin to a slave to righteousness; as long as we are in this earthy body we will be tempted. Our old boss, Mr. Sin, hasn’t stopped giving us orders, it’s just that we no longer have to listen to him. We can speak right up and tell him, “You’re not the boss of me!”

The Bible tells us, “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:12). God will always provide an escape hatch for us but we still have to choose it.

Our troubles start with a thought. I know during my pre-Christ days I was completely ruled by what I thought and how I felt. This is the main reason I ended up becoming an addict because if I felt bad it was an excuse to use substances. Come to think of it, if I felt good it was always a good excuse to use substances, either way my feelings were in charge.

Now that Christ and I have been joined Spirit to spirit, I have the ability to say no to those feelings, no matter how overwhelming they may seem at first. God calls us to walk after His Spirit rather than our flesh, or merely our human instincts of thoughts and feelings. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. You see, like many others, I never knew there was a way to take charge over my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong we can’t control every thought that comes into our minds but now that we have the Spirit of God we can redirect them. We can see them for what they are and identify whether or not they are coming from the Holy Spirit or from the spirit of error.

We are told in Romans eight that there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ. This means that all of those thoughts and feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing are not coming from God but from the enemy. After all he isn’t called the “accuser of the brethren” for nothing. No, in fact that’s a big part of his arsenal. You see the enemy knows once Christ has us we are out of his hands forever so his greatest weapon is his ability to get us discouraged in order to immobilize us. Because if he can’t defeat us at least he can stop us from being effective in the war against him.

Let me wrap this up by saying, even though we can’t stop every thought from entering our minds we can start to recognize which ones we are to hold on to and which ones have to go. That’s a good defense, but in Philippians four we discover a great offensive too. We are told to “think on these things: whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.” When the enemy of our minds comes along attempting to inject his thoughts into us we simply don’t take it. We then replace those thoughts with God’s thoughts about us, thoughts about how He loves us and wants what is best for us. In fact, according to His word, we that are in Christ are holy, blameless, beyond reproach and dare I say even perfect. So the next time the enemy comes along tell him he’s a liar and you’re not going to listen to him anymore.

Louie

So many people struggle with their past and for many it isn’t pleasant. Tracey and I have talked with men and women who have been abused, been the abusers, had abortions, divorces, addictions, murder, death, betrayal, broken families, etc. Even though all of these things are horrible and painful, the truth is they are in the past. Living in the past is a dangerous place to be and there is nothing you can do about it because it’s as good as it is going to get, whether it’s what you have done or what’s been done to you.

Thinking through life’s problems is a bit like whittling. As you look closer and closer at the problem you will discover what lies at the root is sin. Just who are you anyway? I mean what makes you think you should have it any better than someone else? Are you special? Unique? Or are you just as good a candidate for trouble as the next guy?

When talking about sin I have discovered there are no favorites and no one is excluded. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The big question then isn’t so much what particular flavor our sin is rather what do we do now that we have identified it? The Bible tells us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Well, that sounds fine and good but I can’t stop thinking about it.

There are two sides to this subject. One side is the need for us to find forgiveness for our sins and the other is the need for us to forgive those who have sinned against us. This sounds like the prayer Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” I think these two go together because it is only when we truly receive forgiveness that we can give it. As long as we struggle with whether or not we ourselves are forgiven we simply cannot forgive others. I think this is where many live their lives.

Let’s walk through this for a minute. Okay, let’s say you commit a sin such as stealing, lying or even murder and you come with a broken heart and accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness provided by His death, burial and resurrection. You’re heart is made light, your burden is gone and the life of God’s Spirit floods into your spirit and your’e born again! Then someone does something to you or you remember something from long ago that hurt you deeply, now what?

Jesus told a story in Matthew 18 about a servant who had his debt cancelled but he refused to cancel the debt of someone who owed him. Since he refused to forgive, Jesus said, “his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.” You see when we refuse to forgive others it’s really us who pay the price. The torment of unforgiveness will eat you up inside. Let me walk you through this briefly. Here’s the way this generally works: someone offends you, you don’t forgive them, you become bitter over time and eventually a hardness of heart sets in. The further along this path you go the more difficult it will be to turn around. My suggestion is to simply forgive others. If you don’t do it on any other basis simply do it because of the great debt you have been forgiven.

Sometimes we can ask for forgiveness and not receive it because forgiveness doesn’t always come with a feeling. We simply have to believe God’s word even if we don’t “feel” forgiven. In fact sometimes condemnation sets in and we go under it and find ourselves hating ourselves. Norman Grubb said in “The Deep Things of God”, “we must not stay, even temporarily, under condemnation, when Satan has caught us out. It is the easiest thing to do, and our distressed feelings are really self-pity and pride. It is not so much that we have grieved the Lord that disturbs us, as that we have failed. The acceptance of condemnation is a form of self-righteousness. God has told us, when we sin, to get quickly to the light, recognize and confess the sin, and then He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse our consciences from all sense of unrighteousness…To remain in condemnation, therefore, is really disobedience and hurt self.”

In the end forgiveness is a choice. Either we decide to receive forgiveness for ourselves and forgive others or we don’t, it’s as simple as that. The good news is through the work of the cross we can have our sins forgiven and not only that we can turn around and forgive others too. After all, this is what the cross is all about. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Louie