Marks of the True Christian (Romans 12:9-21)

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Let love be genuine. (Truly place the well-being of others above your own.) Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Allow evil to cause uneasiness in your spirit. Don’t let it have a foothold, sin should not be overlooked in your life. Focus on the things of God and see His peace and joy in those things, not worldly imitations.) 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Always encourage and lift up one another as you would a best friend. Be a force that lifts up and never tears down.) 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Don’t be lazy in pursuing the purpose of God with your life. Let the passion for Jesus in your spirit show through as you serve the Lord and make His name known through your reflection of His nature, which He has placed in you through the Holy Spirit.) 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Seek first the Kingdom and God’s purpose, then your hope will find a foundation in Him. Allow God to work through tribulation to combat complacency. Seek Him in prayer for strength, direction and understanding.) 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Be one of the tools God uses to build up the Kingdom. Allow the gift He has placed in you to contribute to the body of believers known as the Church. Be accommodating and open to the many gifts that come together in the name of Jesus.)

            The following verses are completely contradictory to the ways of the world. This is proof that they are of God because His ways are contradictory to the ways of fallen man. His light opposes the darkness and eternal life through mercy opposes the death in sin. If our hearts and actions were to resemble the description in the following verses, we would change the world to resemble something closer to what God designed originally. Let your own well-being be laid aside for the bigger picture that is God’s Kingdom. Suffer by letting your personal satisfaction and comfort, which are temporary, become second to growing the people around you. The ways that the Holy Spirit describes through Paul below are the real way to win hearts for Jesus and truly love those that are in this world. Imagine the compassion below being shown to you at your lowest point, when you were at your emotional ugliest. How much of the darkness that had crept into your heart would have been forced out by the light of God shown through the unconditional love and self-sacrifice shown below. Sacrificing yourself isn’t always laying down your life. Sometimes is laying down your comfort, your pride, or the walls you’ve built to protect yourself from emotional pain. Let Jesus take that from you. Place your fear at His feet. Let your fearless vulnerability draw the lost to the Lord. Be different because the Kingdom you serve does not resemble the world that it is saving.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty (do not exalt yourself above another), but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (do not be too blind to see God’s new direction) 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Even at the expense of you comfort and pride) 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Their wrong of another will be magnified in the light of your love through the conviction of God) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Overcome the evil of this earth with the goodness of God. Be the difference you were designed to be.)

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.  

Is God What You Expect Him To Be?

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I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know… I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:4-6)

The context of this verse is the prophet Isaiah describing how Cyrus, the King of Persia who would rule 150 years later, was going to be used by God to direct the path of His chosen even though he was not a follower himself. It goes to show that God will use all things for the good of those who love him. Your Heavenly Father will use the faithless to be examples of a Godless life, and that sin and evil to convict us leading us back to the joy found in His goodness. God created all things and even those things that are found in the darkness of this world can point us back to the light of Jesus. Many things that we know are not of God are meant to straighten our walk, allow us opportunities to show God to that situation, and develop our spiritual maturity.

There are many times when believers put up emotional and spiritual barriers to keep the fragile joy they cling to intact. It’s that kind of believer that leaves the lost feeling rejected or unworthy. The things that are being blocked out are potentially tools from God to grow faith, compassion, and wisdom. The joy found in Christian isolation is not what God has in mind. That isolation stunts growth and reduces the reliability on God for that joy. Isolated joy is fragile and conditional, Heavenly joy is the light that should not be hidden when set upon a hill. Don’t build walls so high that we miss God or Godly opportunity in all things. Don’t let the ugliness of the world tarnish the opportunity be a reflection of the Holy Spirit.

Look and be amazed at all of the ways God shows you His glory and all of the unexpected ways He gives you and opportunity to grow. Don’t live in a box of expectation and try to place God in there with you. Remember that the Pharisee  had an image of the Savior and how He would act, then killed Him when He didn’t fit their expectation.

 

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

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[ they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Sin In The Eyes of The Law

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         If Adam’s disobedience was the match that started the deadly fire that we call sin. The law was the dry forest that allowed the fire to run wild, consuming people in their fallen nature like trees in their flammable nature. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Romans 5:20) God then provided His only begotten Son as a rain storm of His Grace to extinguish the fire of sin. just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:21) The transgression of Adam, which created in all of us a fallen nature leading to death, was redeemed through the sacrifice of Jesus who knew no sin. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

        To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. (Romans 5:13-14) The law could not conquer sin because death was still the result. Even perfect adherence to God’s law resulted in the same death that existed before law established and magnified sin and the fallenness of man. God had to come to earth in the flesh to redeem us from the disobedience of Adam and disobedience of man in turning away from God’s law. Jesus had to fulfill the requirements of the law to set us free from the penalty of death. The law given through Moses was fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

 

Adam-Moses: No Law, No Spirit   (People turn away from God)

The world was held under the rule of death. All humanity fell into the depravity of sin with no way to know God as His name was lost through generations. It fell into such disarray that God flooded the world that showed no promise of redemption.

Moses-Christ: Law, No Spirit   (People turn away from God and the law)

God gave Moses laws that would guide His people to be set apart and to keep God their focus. The laws were protection from their fallen nature and a way to keep God and His faithfulness at the center of their lives. They turned away even when God gave them direction and guidance.

Christ-Eternity: Spirit, No Law     (God comes to find His people)

The death and resurrection of our Savior gave us access to the Holy Spirit which writes the law upon our hearts. The love we are commanded to give to God and to our neighbors fulfills the requirements of moral law. As we walk in the newness of life and obedience to God we are not subject to the death penalty of sin.

Marks of a True Christian (12 of 12)

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Never be wise in your own sight

Being wise in our own sight grows arrogance in our hearts. True wisdom accepts reproof and direction. (Proverbs 9:9) Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning Being wise in your own sight will not only slow your ability to grow closer to the infinitely wise God, it’s outward manifestation will draw people away from us preventing us from being able to speak God’s truth into their lives. People who profess a quality about themselves prevent the true admiration and connection found in humility. This goes for the admiration and connection of people in need to us as well as our admiration and connection to God.  The haughty nature of self-professed wisdom breaks the flow of God’s spirit through a believer as a vessel. We reflect the light of God. If we allow ourselves to get tarnished in arrogance, the light doesn’t brighten the world the way it is intended to through His faithful.  

Marks of a True Christian (11 of 12)

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Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly/ so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all

The absence of harmony and the presence of arrogance create an uneven terrain with which we identify with the people around us. Not only are we prevented from growing people but we are prevented from personal growth as well. The ‘lowly’ have a point of view that has great value. The lowly of spirit draw us closer to God in their desperation and need. The lowly of wealth rely on the provision of God in a much deeper manner than the more successful. The lowly in years exude a child-like faith that we are all called to and can learn from. The ability for all of God’s children to find harmony can grow in the power of their diversity. The mingling of views and the intertwining of spiritual gifts draw us closer to the infinite God in understanding and praise for the depth we can never truly comprehend. Live peaceably as much as that depends on you. Don’t let your anger or pride the determining factor in the harmony of your life. Leave that to the Lord and watch the amazing people He brings into your life so that together we can mature in spirit and see Him better.