IN CHRIST ALONE

Free from the bondage of the past

I never know what to expect when I minister at the Christian County Jail; each time has its own flavor and tonight did not disappoint me. Tammy Strader, Joyce Zander and I were the only ministers, and Jesus Christ was the main focus. I set out to teach on Romans 8 which talks about deliverance from bondage, victory in Jesus, Christ dwelling in you, and walking according to the Spirit. All these things were talked about, but not by me. Tammy illustrated over and over so clearly what it looks like to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. She mentioned about five things that we have heard our whole life and believed to be the truth. For example, the truth will set you free. What it really says is that if you KNOW the truth, (Jesus is the truth) and the truth will set you free. One more example I thought was really good was when she said, “God helps those who help themselves.” But if you think about it, God helps those who can do nothing for themselves. If we could do stuff without the Lord, we wouldn’t need Him. God was showing them, through Tammy, that listening only to God and reading His word, will we know that we know who God is and the enemy can not trick us so easily. Tammy made us think and she makes a lot of sense. Tonight she said, “every time you make a right decision, you pass up an opportunity to make a wrong decision.”

Joyce gave Tammy and me all the time we needed and we used every bit of it too. Before I knew it my time was over and it was time to call it a night. I didn’t use the notes I had because Tammy nailed it home of what I was going to say. Instead, the Lord put on my heart to share some things that have gone on in my life. I told them my testimony and how I came to the place in my life where I needed Jesus. We all come to the Lord the same way and that is broken, humbled and in need. Once we are born again, we are changed from that moment and our spirit is joined the Holy Spirit. We are perfect, whole, complete and at rest. He completes us, nothing and no one else. Jesus said on the cross, “it is finished.” There was no more to be done. He did it all. He comes to live in us, and He keeps us.

I remember a distinct time in my life that I knew my behavior didn’t line up with who I really am. “The thing that I want to do, I don’t do; and the thing I want to do, I don’t do.” I told them a story of when I was taking pills and drinking at the same time. I blacked out that night, someone told me I threw up, and my best friends boyfriend took me home. I ended up sleeping with him and although I don’t remember it, I made plans for us to sleep together again. It broke my heart to see the hurt in my boyfriend, and my best friends’ eyes. It made me realize that was not who I was. I sought out a church and eventually came to the church of which I am currently a member. My pastor prayed with me and I knew at that moment I was forgiven actually, I was forgiven way before I asked for it. But I needed to agree with God that what I done was not who I was and I wanted to be changed. And He did. I thought it might be hard to talk about this, but the devil will not hold me in bondage over something that I am free from.

I tell this to the girls all the time, “God did not come here to make bad people good, He came here to make dead people live.” Are you alive in Christ today? The Lord is not far away, as a matter of fact, He is right here, right now, waiting for you. He is not going to give up on you, Jesus Christ went the distance to love us, and He is not going to stop now.

It’s Christ alone and nothing else, He made the whole world without your help and He doesn’t need our help now. Just let Christ be Christ in your life and He is able to keep you.

Written by Tracey

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THE RENEWED MIND

We’ve been studying Romans in the jail Bible study. We broke the guys into two groups of three for about 15 minutes to discuss it among themselves before sharing with the whole group. When we came back together both groups shared similar observations and summed up the chapter saying: as believers we aren’t to repay evil for evil.

Whenever I think about Romans 12 I tend to want to hang around the first two verses where Paul pleads for the reader to present all of themselves to God. He goes on to say this is our reasonable, or spiritual, service depending on your translation. Then he tells us we have to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I’ve always thought this was such a huge statement. The way we think or see things determines the way we respond to God and each other.

After the first two verses we go on to read what being transformed and having a renewed mind looks like. We stop thinking too highly of ourselves because all we have God gave to us. We begin to see other believers as part of a body with us whereas we used to see ourselves and others as independent of one another with each of us living our own lives. We begin to discover God has placed a gift and calling in each of us for the purpose of serving one another. We no longer are able to live just for ourselves because God has opened our eyes to our place in the body of Christ.

Brian Coatney, who I share teaching duties with, shared how the old man used to live only for himself. In the days of being lost the only thing that mattered was “Me” and how everyone and everything was going to benefit me. He said he never really thought about things being good or evil just how could he get what he wanted, even by the wrong means, without being caught. Everything is only there to further our own agenda even at the expense of others. Come on, if you’re honest we have all been there haven’t we? Now with our newly transformed and renewed mind we start to see things and behaviors as good and evil and we avoid the evil simply because it is evil. No longer are we seeking to further our own cause but rather we are beginning to want to help others.

Romans 12:15 especially caught my attention. It says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Questions came to mind like are you really happy for others when they succeed or receive a blessing? Do you ever get jealous maybe because someone else gets what you wanted? When someone is really hurting do you hurt too? You see, this is what being a part of the body of Christ is about. It is about being concerned for the well being of others. Before Christ I didn’t care about even myself let alone others. With the renewed mind we start to be “for others” rather than just our own wants and desires.

We finally come to the end. Paul sums up this chapter with “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This is the ultimate expression of Christ. Although Christ never did anything to deserve the treatment he received and never fought back with evil, only love. He understood love covers a multitude of sin. Not only does Paul say not to give evil for evil he tells us to be a blessing to the ones that are being evil to us. He says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink…” Sometimes we just don’t engage with others at all we simply want to stay away. Paul doesn’t give us that option. He tells us we are to engage our enemy but we don’t wage war the way the world does we love them with the love of God and that’s unconditional. That kind of behavior only comes from being transformed.

Being a transformed person with a renewed mind we now see things from God’s perspective rather than just an earthly one. The world sees Christians as crazy because they can’t understand the ways of God. We Christians see a completely different angle on these things. Rather than seeing others as individuals bent on evil we see them with new eyes. We realize maybe they are going through something painful or extremely difficult so rather than punch back at them we pray. Before we would have never thought of that, but now the Holy Spirit lives within us and we are suddenly able to be for them instead of against them.

Written by Louie

PRIDE STICK

Everyone recognizes pride when someone is bragging about themselves or blowing their own horn, as they say. My question is did you realize it is pride when someone is always putting themselves down? It is sort of like a stick, and one end is boasting while the other end is berating.

In Romans 12 we read, “Not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment.” Then turning to Romans 8:1 we see “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It appears that to have a correct assessment of ourselves means we are neither puffed up nor deflated. We aren’t running around saying, “look at how great I am,” nor are we saying, “Don’t look at me because I’m no good.” Some people will say, “I’m just shy.” Well, self consciousness is still pride because it is self-focused. The solution to the pride issue is clear. We take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on Christ. The plan all along has been for us to be Christ conscious instead of self-conscious.

Being self focused appears to be the root problem with us humans. In the Garden of Eden immediately after Adam disobeyed God he became self-conscious. He saw that he was naked and became ashamed. He was already naked yet not ashamed until sin came in. Once sin took up residence within, pride took center stage in our fallen state. From that moment on, we have either been talking too highly of ourselves or degrading ourselves. The point is we have been completely selfish and self focused. Some people are their own biggest fan. Jesus told us how to become something in his kingdom. He said, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Once again, the way of the world is shown to be completely contrary to the way of God’s kingdom. The way to the top in God’s kingdom is to be others focused.

Some have a false humility that says, “I’m no good” but that is just the opposite side of saying “I’m the best.” We replace our self, sin-consciousness with a Christ and his righteousness consciousness. We are told to “look unto” or “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” If we learn to keep our eyes on him we will soon lose sight of ourselves. We are as the moon. We shine a light that isn’t our own and when the Sun, or Son, comes into view our light is completely swallowed up. Let me end by saying,  “Being humble isn’t thinking less of yourself it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Louie