Monday, January 29, 2018

Ephesians 2: DEAD

Ephesians 2:1-10

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time,gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Apart from Christ, a person is not enough.  I am not enough.  Not only am I powerless to do the good I want to do for the Lord, but because of my sin, I am dead. 

D - Dead people cannot make decisions.  If I went to a graveyard and invited the citizens there to a party, they would have the choice to come or not, but they could not make that decision.  I would have to somehow make them alive.  This is what Christ does for us.  If you follow him now, it is because he first loved you and made you alive by his Spirit.

E - Enough.  Any good thing you do is not enough to atone for your sin.  But Jesus lived a perfect life and his sacrifice is enough to cleanse you and make you alive again.  It is by grace you are saved. Not your free will.  Not your decisions.  Nothing in you caused God to choose you for salvation.  Jesus did it all. 

A - After you are saved, you will show the "incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us."  Your good deeds are an ends, not a means.  They don't save you.  They are a sign that you are saved.

D- Do what God has called you to do.  We are God's workmanship, created for good works in Christ.  Before the Holy Spirit came upon you, you could not do them.  After he has come, now you can. 

And step 1: remember you still have a sin nature, but praise God, it does not have to rule you.  But you still need discernment and the Scriptures to guide you as to whether you should follow your gut or not.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

SIN acronym

Step 1: Remember that you still have a sin nature


Sold to wickedness
1 Kings 21:25, “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited.”

What does Ahab’s wickedness have to do with my sin?  Ahab was one of the most notoriously wicked kings of Northern Israel.  He married the Phoenician princess Jezebel for a trade relationship.  She led him to worship Baal.  Baal worship included sleeping with prostitutes to induce the god Baal to sleep with his consort Asherah so that they could produce rain.  Some Baal worship also included sacrificing children in fire.

Has my sin ever been this bad?  I have never slept with anyone other than my husband and I have fought the pro-life cause for a long time.  But I have an idolatrous heart that places loves above my Lord and a wicked mind that takes pleasure in wrong things.  And everybody has some beset sin that they are born with.  Lady Gaga is right.  Before Christ saves you, you are born that way, though that way is sin, and it takes many forms.

God wiped out a whole generation of people in a flood because they were all naturally wicked, but he graciously saved Noah, Mrs. Noah, their sons, and their sons’ wives.   And those eight were sinners, too.

In sin did my mother conceive me, Psalm 51:5b

David wrote that line in a Psalm where he repented of his sin of taking a married woman as his own wife and then killing her husband.  Nobody knew about that sin except God and maybe Joab.  But God revealed David’s sin to Nathan who called him out.  And David repented.  Through God’s grace, David did good things.  He stood up for God against a nine-foot-tall Philistine that everyone else feared.  He spared his enemy, King Saul, when Saul tried to kill him out of jealousy and fear of God’s judgment.  He showed kindness to Saul’s crippled grandson, Mephibosheth, when he had every right to kill him.

But through all his goodness and devotion to God, David still had a prideful sin nature that came out the first time he marred more than one woman, and then really came to a head when he happened to see Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, bathing from a rooftop, slept with her, made her pregnant, and then had Uriah conveniently on a front line in battle and killed. 

And despite all our deeds, we still have pride, and our sin nature still lives.  We cannot be fully Christ’s until that sin is gone.

No one is righteous, no, not one, Romans 3:10b

Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  Paul captures the believer’s struggle perfectly.  Praise God, he sent Jesus to die for my sins and for the sins of all believers.  You don’t have to stay in your sin.  Even if you really love your sin, the Holy Spirit will convict you, show you Jesus, and change your heart so that you no longer desire it.  It will even become ugly to you.  And he will give you Christ’s goodness so that you can love Jesus more than you hated your sin.  Please believe in him.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Romans 7: which to follow: my heart or the Spirit?

I decided to read Romans 7 because it is one of the texts cited at Celebrate Recovery this past week.  I was wanting to read more of it because of Paul's struggle with sin even though he is a Christian now.

The first question that popped in my mind is about verses 1-6 when Paul talks about marriage and divorce.  A shallow question would be, is it a sin for a divorced woman to remarry when her ex is still alive?  Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't.  I personally believe that she is free to marry if she did not initiate the divorce and if her husband has cheated on her or is abusive.  Jesus said she can divorce if the man is unfaithful.  Abuse is another form of unfaithfulness because the man has broken his vow to love and cherish his wife.  And she should be able to start again.

However, that is not the point of this chapter.  Paul is comparing our sinful nature as that ex-husband who is still alive and Christ as that new husband who we want to marry.  If you are in your sins, you cannot come to God because God cannot look on evil.  You will explode in flames of God's wrath.  Your sins will not be forgiven.  Either you will die for them, or somebody will take your place.  And that perfect somebody is the only perfect man, Jesus, who is also God the Son.  He takes that punishment, sends his Holy Spirit to change your heart, and now you can come to God through Christ and his blood that covers you.

Christ has taken all my sins on himself and given me his righteousness, and so I can come to God's presence humbled and grateful.  At the same time, I still live on this planet where Christ's kingdom has not been consummated.  And I still live in my old body and soul which has been weakened by sin.  Although I have God's Spirit inside me, I still have my old sinful nature nagging at me.  It's like, it's not quite dead yet (why does Monty Python and the Holy Grail come to mind right now?).  It's not getting better, but it is still kicking.  And that is why when I need to make a decision, I can't just go with my gut.  I have to take in serious prayer and Bible reading. 

Let's use Paul as an example.  Before he was a Christian, he hated Jesus and persecuted Christians, killing even women and children.  He probably had lots of anger and never struggled because there were no competing voices inside him.  Now that Christ has come and changed him, he probably still has anger.  You can see his biting sarcasm as you read scenes in Acts and in his epistles.  He now struggles between anger/hatred versus his new love in Christ.  He cannot just do what he wants because the old Saul still calls out to him.  He cannot go with his gut.  He must follow Christ.

I am a Christian.  I don't remember a time when I did not believe in God.  I remember being about 6 or 7 and saying to my mom, "At church, they talk about God as if he is real."  And she said, "That's because he is real.  He's just invisible."  So I believed.  Then another time we were talking about a sister I had that had died in infancy.  She talked about heaven, and I said, "Is heaven real?"  "Yes, it is."  So I believed.  Then when I was 11 years old, Dad came home from a Promise Keeper's conference and introduced me to Christian rock music, and I decided I wanted to follow Jesus completely and make him my world. 

Since then, I have struggled with making close friendships, loneliness, mental sins, bad temper, and even anger.  Although I have loved Jesus and believed him as long as I can remember, I still have sin, and so I can't just make decisions based on how I feel.  I must be humble and read Scripture, pray, and even take advice from others.  To do otherwise would be denial, the key word from CR, this past week.  You can't deny that you still have a sin nature, and you must not follow your heart.

Do you feel such tensions in your life?  How do you deal with them?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Hosea: fallow ground

In this blog on Kelly Needham's inductive study on Hosea, I will go through her techniques, and then just jump to my conclusion.

Here is the text: Hosea 10:11-15

11 Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 13 You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, 14 therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off

1. Define words such as thresh, harrow, and fallow.

Thresh means to separate grain from a plant, usually with a flail or repetitive motion. 

Harrow is an implement consisting of a heavy frame set with teeth or tines that is dragged over plowed land to break up clods, remove weeds, and cover seed.

I usually think of the term "harrowing" to describe a scary experience.

Fallow means farmland that is left plowed and harrowed but unsown so that it will regain its fertility.

When God calls someone to repent, that person's salvation is all the work of God and nobody else.  Nothing you did made God choose you for salvation.  He just did it because he wanted to.  But afterward, you have to work to repent and change your life.  And God usually dumps your whole world upside-down. And it is harrowing.  I discovered anger and impulses in my life that need to be totally stripped away, and it has not been fun.  I've even experienced a threshing, a return to boring repetition that seems meaningless and back to square one.  Maybe soon I will see a light at the end of the tunnel and be restored to something else.

2. Look at the cross-references.

3. Use the rest of the Bible.

4. Reread the passage.

At the end, the main thing I thought about was the parable of the sower that Jesus tells.  There are four soils.  One is a path where seed falls, but birds eat it up and nothing happens.  The other soils are rocky or thorny.  Plants grow for a time but soon die away due to having no true root in Jesus or by being choked by worries and other people.  And the last is good soil where the plants thrive. 

And I think, the good soil was probably rocky and thorny once.  It might even have been a path.  But God came with a bulldozer and cleared the land and slowly chipped away things I thought were important so that I could focus on the Lord and not worry about what other people think.  It's painful, but it's wonderful, too.  It makes me realize that I'm not as amazing as I think I am.  But God is.  I am not enough, but Jesus is.