Exponential Jesus

road to God

          It seems that some people have an easier time with obedience and their walk with the Lord. We should never compare our walk with anyone else’s because we were fearfully, wonderfully, and uniquely design for a purpose that we may not fully understand until me meet our Savior in Heaven. But since the community we are called to with other believers has us bearing one another’s burdens, I’d like to explore part of the psychology of our walk with God. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

          God begets God. When we focus on God and His design described in His Word we develop a sustaining focus on Him. That focus allows His way to permeate through us and grow in everything we do. As our focus grows the ways that God can intervene in all facets if our life become clear. The Bible talks about lineage and family trees and uses the term begets. Father begets his son and that son begets his son and so forth. The definition of beget says: “give rise to; bring about.” A focus on the ways of God gives rise to more God in you and make God more able to use you through your obedience. This works for His attributes as well. Peace begets peace, joy begets joy, love begets love, and faith begets faith. When the power of God allows the fruits of His Spirit to take root in your heart, they become your new natural, your new foundation. The more you see these attributes growing in you and manifesting in your life the easier it becomes to allow them to move in and through you. Your confidence in the power of God grows and the way He wants to use you becomes clearer. This is why Jesus gave the instruction to seek first the Kingdom. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

          Unfortunately the opposite is also true. Sin begets sin. The deceiver looks for opportunity to turn small sin into a snare and let that compound into larger sin. This can become true as we justify our sin and make it so common that its impact becomes ignored so it grows unchecked. The deceiver can also turn the conviction of sin into guilt and let sin grow through a weakened focus on the Lord. We are told not to allow the deceiver access to our minds to prevent this. Give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:27) If we allow sin to become common and don’t stand up for our conviction we let the new normal drift from God. The more slack we give to the darkness the more it will take, and the pull away from the light becomes faster and less obvious. This is true both in society and in our individual walks with the Lord. Take inventory of your heart and see what you may have been letting slide by and turn those things over to God. His love and mercy are made available to us in Jesus. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

         This idea of exponential growth in the Spirit or decay into sin is part of the way our minds work. The term that I have heard used is ‘positive feedback loop.’ What you feed back into your system will be the basis for your next steps. Letting God in will allow Him to guide your steps as He does for the righteous. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way. (Psalm 37:23) In the same way letting the ways of the deceiver become normal will feed the darkness and dim the light God has placed into your heart. Through God’s perfect love and mercy He allows us to turn back into His arms at any place in this journey. He wants the positive cycle to begin when you are ready to let a moment in His love beget an eternity in His presence.

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.

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.

Loved and Redeemed

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I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:21b-22)

         As we grow in love and obedience to God and develop the wisdom to understand His love for us poured out on the cross, it’s common to feel distant from or unworthy of God. I believe this is because all of us are used to the temporal, shallow love available to us through earthly vessels. Even when people love us with all they have, it still will never compare to the love of the Father. His love is eternal and unconditional. Although God hates sin, His love sweeps away our sin when we return to Him in repentance. We can never be too far gone for the love of the Father to wash us white as snow with the blood of Jesus.
         We can praise God that His mercies are new every day and that He will never give up on us as we are tempted to do when we feel discouraged. Believers must be careful not to see the love of God through the broken lenses of earthly affection. In the same way we cannot see the joy found in God through the broken lenses of happiness. The beautiful thing about God’s love, and also the thing that makes it hardest to comprehend is the fact that it is not based on emotion. There is no condition to His love. Similarly, there is no condition to the joy His love provides, unlike happiness which is conditional and fleeting.
         God created you to be loved for eternity. The deceiver looks to mask that and replace it with lesser versions like lust. The devil knows that one of his biggest problems is when we come into the full realization of what God’s love looks like, and what it looks like for that perfect love to drive out the fear used by the deceiver as fuel to draw us into darkness. Know that God’s love is forever yours. He sweeps away sin and offense for His name sake and not because of you. You can’t do anything to remove God’s love for you which existed before the beginning of time. Let the blood of the Lamb wash you clean and receive the love God came to earth to give you. Let His Spirit dwell in you and lead you to the purpose found in His perfect will and perfect love. He will never forget and of His creation. He knows the number of hairs on your head and knew your sin before your birth. Dwell in His love and let His love dwell in you, for He has redeemed His chosen, He has redeemed you.

Avoid Self-Purification

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                As Christians we are called to live our life in obedience to Christ our Savior. A life lived in submission to Jesus produces spiritual fruit in the believer. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a) Many believers know that a genuine walk with the Lord shows through in that person’s life. They’ve seen people who know the Lord and know what that looks like as it contrasts with the fallen world.

                Many people fall into a cycle of trying to rid themselves of the fallenness in their hearts hoping that cleaning up their life will produce Christian maturity. The problem is they are using their flesh to control their flesh. That is contradictory to God’s design. Trying to control a spiritual process leads to self-reliance and pride. We must remember that the acceptance of Christ comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That indwelling gives us the ability to mature in the truth given by God’s Word and displayed in Jesus Christ.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26) Indwelling of God’s Spirit creates an inward change in our hearts which develops into an outward manifestation in our lives. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

                What we must be sure to understand is: simply trying to correct sin in our lives is futile. What good is there in attacking our sinful nature with a flesh that is also sinful? We must allow the sinfulness in our hearts to be replaced by the Holy Spirit of God. We must allow the darkness of sin to be forced out by the light of God. Just like cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light; sin is the absence of submission to God’s presence in us. The only way to drive air out of a cup is to fill it with water. In this case it is the living water found through Jesus Christ. Focus in being filled with the Holy Spirit and submitting. This will give you the ability to live a life where sin and its penalty (death) have no hold over you.

                The verse below talks about sin returning to a heart it has been removed from. When that heart isn’t filled with the good of God the sin has a place to return to. Think of addictions. When good habits aren’t developed the bad ones have a foothold to reoccur. The same is true with sin in our lives. Let the Holy Spirit dwell in your heart and leave no room for the deceiver to pull you away from the Father.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

Lost in Pride

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                Many people think of pride as someone who thinks they are better than those around them. People focus on the “chest beating” pride that is the most outwardly evident form. The dangerous kinds of pride are the less obvious types. These are self-reliance and self-focus. All pride drives us away from God and opens up a foot-hold for the deceiver. God opposed the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6) Pride is the reason the devil was cast out of heaven and is the source of all sin. The pride of the deceiver is what causes him to oppose God and oppose those who serve God here on earth. Any pride that you hold is a connection to the nature of satan and a barrier to closeness with the Lord.

Self-Reliance

                It is human nature to try and do things for ourselves in our own way. We drift from reliance on God. This sinful nature draws us into a life soiled by pain, frustration, and worry. We feel out of place and unsettled as we try and mask the missing peace with worldly pleasures through more self-reliance. These earthly “band-aides” leave us deeper in despair. Someone who lives in self-reliance builds a house with no foundation. When they fall there is no limit to the depths of that trouble.

                On the other hand, we can fight that nature. We can rely on God. He desires us to rely on His provision and designed us to walk in reliance on Him. We were designed for a purpose and God wants us to walk in His light. If we follow the path of God we a fulfilled and at peace in our journey through life. We draw closer to God in reliance on Him and the deceiver loses his ability to draw on the pride that causes self-reliance. God calls us to humility and submission so that He can lead us in the peace and joy found in Him.

Self-Focus

       Humans are selfish by nature. From birth we think only of ourselves. The dangerous position of self-focus causes many things that create deep turmoil in our live. This kind of pride is the source of anxiety, depression, anger, unforgiveness, etc. It’s sad to see the world turn to medication over God. When we think the world revolves around us or that we deserve more than we do, we fall victim to pride. We are anxious when we think we can control the things around us. We get depressed when we don’t get what we feel we should or feel the way we want. Anger occurs when we feel wronged because we don’t deserve undesired treatment or belong in a certain situation. We have trouble forgiving when we want additional attention for the wrong we perceive. All of those situations find their source in personal opinions on what we think should be true.

       We have to turn to God and realize our mission on earth is to serve the growth of His kingdom and to glorify Him as His image bearers. The world owes us nothing. We have no control over the outcomes when God is in control. People are not focused on how we are affected by their actions because their fallenness causes them to be self-focused. It’s not our job to hold anyone accountable for the pride that we can now recognize. We must show them what humility looks like as they continue to walk in pride. Their escape from the prison of pride is between them and God. Focus on God and His plans. Focus on your involvement in His kingdom and turn away from the temptation to make any situation revolve around you.

 

       The most dangerous part of pride is that pride keeps us from seeing the pride in ourselves and others. We cannot admit the existence of our pride because our pride will not allow it. That is the reason why, even in the eyes of defeat, the devil cannot admit to himself that he cannot defeat God. People cannot see their own pride so you cannot call out their flaw. You must be an image bearer of humility and love that draws them to God’s peace that radiates from you. If you read this and find pride in your heart, you can thank God for that revelation and know that He personally is calling you out of the darkness of sin. You cannot see your own pride without the humility God gives you. The cycle of pride requires Godly intervention to break. Thank God for His continued work in and through you. Love others in their fallenness and draw close to God who loves you too much to lose you to pride, the source of all sin.

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.