God’s Spirit vs Man’s Flesh

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          Any believer has struggled with the duality that exists when we accept Christ and receive the Holy Spirit to fill our once calloused heart. God takes away our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. God’s children become vessels for the Holy Spirit to manifest itself in their lives and reflect His light to the rest of the world. Even with the power of God dwelling inside us we still struggle with the pull of sin as our flesh tries to draw us into worldly comforts and pleasures. The pieces of Romans 7 below show Paul, the greatest New Testament advocate for Jesus, discussing the struggles of the duality that exists in the converted believer.

15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. (The Holy Spirit shows us our sin through conviction. Taking a view of our sin through spiritual eyes allows us to see how it differs from what God desires for us. God has written the law upon our hearts and we can sense its goodness.)  17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (The power of God inside us creates a duality that allows us to see the sin we are born into. We sometimes find ourselves repenting to the Father for sin and feel helpless in our struggle with the pull from the fallen nature of our flesh. We must rely on the power of God and not on our own strength to as fuel for this struggle. This is why we should spend time in His Word and in Hos presence to focus us for each day’s battle.) 21 So I find it to be a law (always present struggle) that when I want to do right, evil (temptation) lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being (spirit), 23 but I see in my members (flesh) another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:15-23) We see the law of sin, which guides the flesh, pulling against the law of God, which guides our spirit, in constant battle within believers. One side has the positive charge of God and the other has the negative charge of sin and the energy that is created between the two is conviction. Because we are made new in Jesus, given a new heart and a renewed mind we are able to sense the energy in our internal polarity and allow that conviction to guide our hearts to Christ and His love, which outweighs the law of sin.

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:5-6)

          Living in the flesh drives people into sin and the worldly pleasures that create a bigger void. Those are the fruits of death that drive us away from God and His Spirit. God allows the conviction that His love creates to draw us to Him and the eternal treasure we build for ourselves as we walk in His light allowing His Spirit to guide us in the battle with the flesh. The duality and conviction in a believer’s heart, many times, leads to guilt and that was never the purpose. That guilt is of this world because there is so condemnation for those who are in Christ. That misguided guilt should be refocused as conviction that proves the Father is calling you into His arms. Believers should not let that conviction manifest into shame but smile because that feeling proves that the Holy Spirit has your heart and God’s love is allowing you to battle your flesh as you work toward sanctification. Find comfort in your conviction, find strength in your duality, and know that your Savior allows you to be forgiven as you realize that the sin of your flesh is not who you are anymore. See the struggle of sin with your new spiritual eyes and let the love of God fuel you.

God Shows Himself to All People

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          In the following piece of scripture it is revealed that God reveals Himself to all people. He makes His presence and power clear through His creation. Every person in this world has had a moment where they marvel at nature, an indescribable joy, a new born child, the kindness of a stranger or some other moment that caught their attention. They are looking into the face of God and have no idea how to explain the way their spirit seems to illuminate in the presence of the power of their Creator.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man….. (Romans 1:18-23a)

          God makes His presence clear to all and it is the darkened heart that denies the source. The heart is blinded by false wisdom, pride, arrogance, and sometimes shame that covers God’s presence. They idolize the things of this world and are willing accept the happiness of earthly moments as an exchange for the joy found in earth’s Creator and Sustainer.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature (creation) rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25)

          God puts eternity in all men’s hearts. He has put eternity into man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  He creates a longing that is meant to seek Him but gets soiled in man’s fallenness and then given over to addictions (alcohol, drugs, pornography), sin (greed, lust, envy), and idolatry (money, sex, vanity, attention); all in attempt to fill a void that only the Father can fill. How many people that seem successful by worldly standards later admit that they are truly empty? They sink deeper into despair when they are lost because the world they are meant to shine light into by reflecting their creator blows out the flame they have built for themselves. They seek a powerless source and neglect the only everlasting God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

          God, in His infinite wisdom, even went so far as to come to earth in the flesh and show His love to us through His teachings and eventually the sacrifice of His body as an atonement for our sin. He presented His plan in the Old Testament through prophecy and then fulfilled it in Jesus. He made the Word flesh so that His glory could be visible. God literally loves us so much that He left Heaven and stood among us to fill that void and reconcile us to Him. God has made His presence clear throughout history and the arrogance and blindness of man has seen them explain away God in exchange for something they can control and take credit for discovering. Science does nothing more than give man a false sense of power and control. It doesn’t explain away God, it just proves His methods and shows His glory to a world that must sink deeper into the darkness to avoid the eternal light.

32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)

          All history shows people seeking God. The Greeks had gods that lived on Olympus, the Egyptians built statues and monuments, and many other religions have designed gods to suit their desires and fit into a cultural box they have created. The true God placed that longing into all men and then showed Himself through creation for all time. He has no need to change to suit man so they have chosen to change Him into a powerless imaginary god or deny Him all together in their pride and arrogance. Know that all men have felt His calling, they have felt the emptiness only He is meant to dwell in, and they have seen him with their eyes.

          It is up to us as believers, who have allowed His Spirit to dwell within us, to reflect His light and His love so that the lost can find their way home; because we are more proof that God is going to show Himself to every person we will ever meet.  

Reflecting God Together

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          Some of the most difficult and yet most rewarding things we can have in life is relationship. If we narrow that down to the relationships of Christian believers with one another it creates a unique, potentially volatile, and potentially powerful environment. The passion that our Savior invokes is beautiful but sometimes misplaced when believers try and reflect their gift or ideal onto other people on the same journey with Jesus. It’s difficult to see two Christians unable to respect and love the uniqueness that each brings to the Church and potentially to each other’s lives.

         There are many times that people expect a reaction, a particular overlap of ideals or opinion, and that causes turmoil that doesn’t need to exist. The Lord put an analogy on my heart and it prompted me to write because I was also shown a few pieces of scripture that stoked a fire for this topic.

       We see in Isaiah where even God Himself realizes that anger pushes away the potential relationship that only the love of His new covenant through Christ can allow. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made….I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. (Isaiah 57:16-17) This is often the case when emotion causes an angry reaction where no resolution can be reached and God’s love is absent. In turn a soft heart created through the reflected love of Jesus allows His light to be reflected in the situation and lasting growth and resolution to truly exist.

         A mistake we see, and the basis of my analogy, is when people have difficulty accepting the different views, reactions, and personalities in a church family. They want the relationship to involve a “mixing” of ideals to form a comfortable commonality. I imagine a person with a “red” personality/viewpoint trying to walk alongside a “blue” personality/viewpoint. In order for either of them to feel accepted or understood they try and create a comfortably “purple” relationship/situation. If the emotional/ideological mixture is an “oil based blue” and a “water based red” there is an unconformable tension. The boundaries that exist keep a resolution/relationship from existing. Now imagine for a moment that each of God’s children was allowed to reflect the light of God into the situation as they are loved and accepted for the beauty and uniqueness of their light. The two lights discussed above would make the beautiful purple light needed to flourish. Neither color requires mixing to be complete, but the completeness found in Christ reflects His light and allows their unique spirits to shine. Now imagine we have many lights reflecting God into the church. All of the colors in the light spectrum reflected together create a perfected white light that IS God’s love. their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)

         I hope that anyone reading this can not only see the uniqueness and value of others but also those same qualities in yourself. God made you in His image to reflect His light into the darkness created by sin. When you pursue the Lord and encounter other lights on your journey, reflect yours as brightly as you can. You don’t have to be understood or understand the others. You don’t have to have a commonality to love one another and grow. If there are ten different colored lights in the same fixture/situation/church, the world will only see the glorious “white” of God reflected in union through love  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus: For Our Sake

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30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. (John 12:30)

        Many times as we read the gospels, where Jesus is walking among the people, he says something similar to the quote above. Lazarus died so that God could reveal Himself through Jesus to the people. The quote above was when Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to the cross and God audibly confirmed that His name has been glorified through the Son. God speaks out loud as Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan so that people would hear. We can think about the fact that any time Jesus prayed out loud to the Father it was for the sake of those who were witnessing it. He was part of the trinity, He is God, so any audible prayer was said so that you could hear what a perfect heart sounds like in communication with its creator.

        Now think about the times that Jesus did things for the people’s sake and they would or could not comprehend it. He was indignant as He went to the tomb of Lazarus to raise him because the people could not understand. They cried because they could not comprehend that ‘the Resurrection’ was walking in their midst. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Now imagine how His heart must have ached knowing that He was going to go to the cross to be crucified for a world that did not understand. Even His followers could not comprehend the way the events were unfolding at that time. Jesus went to the cross for our sins willingly but imagine His hurt when He was unable to help them understand. He did all thing for their sake even though they could not receive the message.

        We are called to be the image bearers of Jesus and to be witnesses to His life and message. Do you sacrifice yourself for the sake of the lost? Do you take the extra steps to allow the spiritually immature to draw closer to understanding through you? We are called to live not for ourselves but for the Kingdom. That command sounds very big and might be intimidating since we are saved by a Savior who sacrificed His life literally. We can rest assured that the Spirit of God will make it possible, but also that our obedience to the Kingdom could be as simple as being patient and smiling while we explain the truth of God or being calm and showing the believers who are dependent on milk how to cut their spiritual teeth on the meat of God’s Word. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready (1 Corinthians 3:2) you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food (Hebrews 5:12) Take the time to love others for the sake of God’s Kingdom, let that love show even when it’s hard for the sake of the immature or lost, let your heart reflect the light and love of God for your sake as you draw closer to the perfect image of Christ. As you reach out to the world remember the blood poured out for your sake so that you could pour out love for someone else’s.

Open Eyes Toward Jesus

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       The religious leaders that Jesus encountered had been blinded by the law and the man-made religion that stemmed from it. The leaders created variations that profited them as leaders and at the same time kept the people blind to the purpose of the law, the message of the Torah, and the revelations of God through His prophets. It all pointed to the coming Messiah. When He stood in the midst of these leaders they were blind to their God in plain sight. They could not see that He was a fulfillment of prophesy and a fulfillment of the undefiled law. Let’s look at what Jesus says when He confronts these men and then take another step at what else can steal our sight. Knowledge of who Jesus is will help us to recognize Him with open eyes.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39)

       Jesus is not referring to His judgement here. Think about how this applied to the religious judgement of the Jewish Leaders through the law. Jesus wanted the people to see the heart of God, and He wanted to fulfill the law (with love) that had separated the people from God. The purpose of Christ was to open our eyes to mercy through love and close them toward the judgement and condemnation of the law.

40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:40-41)

       The Pharisee were so lost in the religion they had created through faulty human interpretation of the law that they were too blind to see the author standing in front of them. The author and perfecter of our faith came to give a 3 year, one man ‘panel discussion’ about Himself (The Word) and they couldn’t let go of the picture they made in exchange for the real thing. When we look past Jesus and try to rely on religion, the residue of sin (guilt) remains because human effort cannot remove it. Only the blood of Christ is capable of removing the stains that sin has left on us.

 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)

 All who came before me are thieves and robbers,…10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:8,10)

       We have all seen John 10:10 above used to refer to satan but it refers to a much larger group of things to which the devil belongs. Jesus says two versus prior that all who came before Him are thieves and robbers. Not only before Him in time but before we accepted Him for our salvation. It refers to false prophets, man-made religious ideas, false teachers, and even the law itself when compared to the Messiah. Anything other than Jesus: steals the opportunity to know God in personal relationship, kills the indescribable joy that only comes from Jesus, and destroys the freedom that comes from the promise of eternal life in the presence of God. While this definitely describes the deceiver it also points at anything that fills the empty place in your heart designed for Jesus. It could be people, beliefs, material things, or even sin that we haven’t put down at the foot of the cross. Jesus is the source of the abundant life we seek and anything less is robbing us of our sight and the full potential found in Christ.

Accused But Never Defeated

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In the Gospel of John, chapter 8 verses 2-11 we find a story we all know about the woman caught in adultery. This story has so many things in common with the way people treat each other even now. Let’s look at the story, broken down with comments, and please recognize the way Jesus not only defeated the manipulation but also reflected the love of God into the circumstance to reveal yet again how love triumphs over law, always.

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.

       Those who were not caught up in a selfish pursuit to condemn what would render their service to the law futile (Pharisee) were eager to drink from the living well. Those who were lost in their posturing, worldly religious position, and misguided interpretation of the Word were looking to discredit the Savior at any cost.

 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.

       There are many issues to take note of here. Where is the man caught in the act with her? Where is her husband who would have taken part in catching her in the act because nobody else would have been more aware of the situation? Also take note of the way they address Jesus: “Teacher” or “Master” in the King James Version. They are trying to find fault in Him and they address Him in a way that allows them to discredit Him from that very position, as if to mock Him and His teachings all together.

 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

       They are using the sin of the woman to try and condemn a sinless man. They are also using the law to condemn the love of God that Jesus came to express. The law is being used against the fulfillment of the law (Jesus). It’s not her sin they are worried about, they are trying to condemn Jesus at her expense and for their selfish purpose.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.

       Jesus doesn’t give His attention to the accusation. He doesn’t feed into their plans to derail His teaching. In fact, His lack of attention makes them pour more emotion into their purpose. Jesus in His perfect wisdom brought them to a point where one statement would send them into retreat. He let their ignorance, selfishness, pride and emotion drive them into a place where they would expose themselves when the perfect nature of God was reflected into the situation. They had no foundation when the love of God washed over the situation.

 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

       Look at how the accusers left: Oldest to youngest, leaders to followers, high stature to low stature. I see the elevated men leading the younger men into this confrontation. The Pharisee that have their worldly position and authority at stake are followed by the mislead men to who they are teaching the law. This is a common problem where people blindly follow fallible leaders and never seek God on their own to form the relationship that allows God to grow in them. They are blind to a truth that they have never been exposed to.

 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:2-11)

       Now we see the perfect love of God triumph over the law. We see the fulfillment of the law through Jesus break through the constraints of religion. We see the light of our Savior break through the darkness of accusation and condemnation.

      Let yourself stand there and be in that moment. Watch Jesus write on the ground. What is the Spirit telling you He wrote? Think about that. See the love of God defeat the law. See Jesus triumph over religion. See hearts changed and not condemned. Take note of God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, God’s love, and the salvation found in His Son.

A Savior that Never Lets You Go

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       Once you give your heart to God and accept Jesus as your Savior, you belong to the One that will never let you go, never cast you out. Just as a good father will never cast out his child, your perfect Father unconditionally holds on to the hearts given to Him .

 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40)

      We can know that our knowledge of God and His Son is because the Holy Spirit has drawn our hearts into unity with the Father. God calls His children to Him and through our perfect Savior we find salvation and eternal life. We were chosen by God to walk in His love.

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

       Many will say they know God but their life will bear no fruit. They will not give their hearts entirely to Him and know the peace and joy that can only come through the creator of the universe. God calls the hearts that He knows will belong to Him. The religious deeds and meaningless words do not fool a God who sees a man’s heart. He also sees the intentions of a misguided heart. Good deeds from a foul heart do not please God as much as a misguided deed from pure heart. An imperfect deed done in love pleases a God who sees through human frailty.

“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

       God cherishes His children; and Jesus, who came to earth to reconcile us to the Father through His perfect sacrifice, will never let you go, never leave you, and will love you without condition. Jesus will leave the 99 to find you when your heart wanders because He cherishes what belongs to Him. Give your heart and life to the perfect Father, who leaves it in the care of His perfect Son, who gave His life to make it pure and give it eternal life. Be held by the one who will never let you go.

12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:12-14)