Comfort in Our Perfect Storm

In Mark’s gospel account, we read about John the Baptist and Herod. Herod was full of fear and confused when he listened to John, but he wouldn’t harm him, because Herod knew that John was a holy man. He even enjoyed listening to John, though John spoke against Herod’s sin of marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias.

In giving the account of how John’s death came about, Mark writes, “A strategic day came when ….

This word in Greek for strategic day is eukairos and might be translated for our modern ears as “the perfect storm“.  Some might say, “all the stars were aligned“. And while this word could be used in the positive, it is used in the New Testament only twice, and both occasions are in the negative. So some might even say this describes the time or times in our lives when the ___ hits the fan.

We all have days, phases and periods of time when the stars are aligned against us, so to speak. Times when everything seems to be intent on hurting us. And while the modern American church is consumed with telling us how great we are, how great the world is, and how to smile big puppy-dog grins while positively confessing positivity, the truth is as Jesus promised: In this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33)

The second use of this word is in Hebrews 4:16, and it’s here that we learn why it’s so important to comprehend grace, to cease from our own works, to rest in God, to apply the cleansing of the blood of Christ to our minds, to our conscience. All this gospel truth is there for the deeper issue. Good News truth removes the barriers that keep us from entering into His presence. The gospel message removes the wall of our condemnation that keeps us inside ourselves, alone.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

We could hope in this world. John the Baptist could have hoped in Herod’s disposition toward him. But then came Herodias, and Herodias’ daughter, and a banquet, and witnesses, and an oath fueled by lust, and a deceitful trap — the perfect storm, the stars were aligned and the truth came to pass — in this world you will have tribulation.

So how do we prepare for that day? Or, how do we recover from that day?

Jesus went on to say, “but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world”. We know that Jesus passed from death to life and conquered sin — our own sin. We know we are in Him because we share His mindset, and we have the promised Holy Spirit, God’s down-payment to us for a better day (Eph 1:14). We have tribulations and trials, but our hope isn’t here in this world. Our mindset is that of pilgrims, passing through, respecting the natives while we press on to our homeland. And in that journey, we grab and hold and cling and refuse to let go of the love of God who does not condemn us but who is for us and on our side. (Rom 8:31, 34)

By God’s goodness, in His grace, through His grace, when our perfect storm comes and everything is against us, we conquer still, and we do this because the cold realities of this world are not our hope. In the middle of it all, when we’re stuck in the thick of oppression, we walk with Jesus into the throne room of the Creator and we meet him face-to-face in Christ, and He meets us, and we encounter His glory — and then we know Him without words. We watch Him keep His promises and praise fills our hearts for this God who is our Friend and our Father.

Our comfort is not here. Our Comfort is in the throne room.

The Church vs. The Bible

Church: Do Good and Grow
Bible: Grow in Mercy and Do Good (Rom 12:1)

Church: Christians are “in the flesh” when they sin
Bible: Only sinners can be in the flesh, Christians are “in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9)

Church: Positive Thinking is the Gospel
Bible: Union with Christ in His death and Life is the Gospel (2 Tim 2:11, Rom 6)

Church: Salvation is “giving your life to Christ”
Bible: Salvation is laying your old life aside and receiving Christ’s life (Eph 4:22,24)

Church: We need continual forgiveness
Bible: The one-time sacrifice of Christ does it all; asking for new forgiveness is actually unfaith (Heb 10:12, 14, 18; Eph 1:7, 4:32)

Church: You become better and better until the day you die, but will never become perfect
Bible: You are perfect in Christ, and sin in your flesh will never ever get better in this life (Heb 10:14; Rom 7:14, Rom 8:20-25)

Church: “Christ is our victory” = work hard, become better in the flesh, then Christ is our victory
Bible: Christ is our Victory = Christ is our Victory (1 Cor 15:57)

Church: you are “positionally” righteous
Bible: You are righteous now, by faith in Christ (Rom 4:5)

Church: Grace and law must be balanced
Bible: You are under Grace; you are not under law. Mixing the two causes brain-splats (Mark 2:22; Gal 3:3; Rom 6:14; Rom 7:1)

Church: God wants to deliver you from the power of sin
Bible: God has already delivered you from the power of sin (which is the Law) (1 Cor 15:56-57, Rom 6:14)

50 Shades of Grace?

It’s probably old news to everyone by now, but I overheard a Christian woman the other day proclaiming that she was free from law and under grace, and she was going to go see 50 Shades of Grey with her boyfriend, and nobody had a right to tell her not to go see it because she’s not under the law of condemnation.

Look, I don’t know anything about this movie, and I really don’t care about the movie — what piques my interest is this lady’s attitude, her mindset. For the time being, I’ll assume that 50 Shades of Grey is the most God-Awful thing since Aunt Martha’s holiday fruit cake.

After hearing this lady — her words, her tone and her attitude — I thought “Well, I’m a Christian too, and I am not under the law of condemnation, but in agreement with the law of God, and I have been ‘en-lawed’ to Christ with the law of God … So, how is it that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness, and somehow I could claim to be united with Him and want to be entertained with the same?”

We all sin, but a Christian — a Christian for reals — does not want to sin. Sure, it happens. We have the same temptations as everyone, and sometimes we give in to our temptations. Do I mean that as a message of licentiousness? No, it’s just reality. However, when we run with the world, make excuses and at the same time claim to be free, we may be showing ourselves to be liars who deceive ourselves. [1 John 1:6-10]

My motivation is to reach Christians with the gospel (yes! Christians!) — the good news of righteousness and life found in Christ, not in our own goodness. I have this passion because for years I was a Christian without knowledge of the good news for living. I was going to heaven because of the righteousness of Christ, but the here-and-now was all filled with DO, DO, DO! After a while, so much DO DO starts to smell like doo-doo.

The sort of mindset that I had actually prompted more sin. Anyone living in condemnation is living in frustration. God doesn’t condemn us, reality does. And God wants that condemnation to bring us to a knowledge of our spiritual death, where we say “I don’t have it in me; I have the appearance of some-good, but I definitely don’t have anything at all that resembles All-Good, and it’s All-Good that matters for eternity”. Only when we get there, to that point, do we even have a desire to move in to the Land of Promise, where we eat the fruit from a Tree we did not plant – where we get Christ’s righteousness given to us in simple faith. But we can get stuck in the religion of Christianity, off in the ditch on the right, striving for perfection in our behavior that simply will not come — by the design of God Himself, we are subjected to futility so that our hope will be in Him, and not in ourselves. So to stay in that mindset of expecting behavioral perfection is continual frustration, and sooner or later it prompts more rebellion.

Seeing the reality of condemnation and being set free is the most wonderful thing in the world. But friends, being set free, being brought out from under the law of condemnation and en-lawed to Christ is not the same as continuing in sin. To continue in sin is to fall into the ditch on the left. When Paul was asked “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase”, his reply was a big, fat, strong, “Absolutely Not!”

To continue in sin means to stay in a life, or mindset, of following sin. Paul says this is impossible for a Christian, because — by definition — a Christian is someone who has been united with Christ in His death. This is bible-speak for repentance. And repentance is bible-speak for a change of mind — from one mindset to a different mindset. And in bible-logic, a change of mind leads to a changed lifestyle. Anyone who sees their own need for the Savior also detests their own sinful lifestyle. It can’t happen any other way. We can’t want a Savior unless we see that we have need for salvation from the wrath of God against sin.

If a person doesn’t see and detest their own sins, then that person doesn’t need a Savior. They might enjoy church picnics, bazaars, community service, networking, powerful worship songs, goose-bump experiences, messages from Reader’s Digest, topics about money, health, wealth, etcetera, etcetera, blah blah blah … but they don’t need Jesus. And that is how Paul counters the opposition that says “Oh, you just wanna use the gospel of grace to sin”. Paul shows them they don’t understand what they’re talking about.

We cannot live with Christ without first having died with Him. Any so-called grace message that claims we can, has fallen off the road of the gospel to the ditch on the left. Those of us who know the weight of the law fill our time reaching those who are on the ditch on the right — those who think they can live by law and call that Christianity. Paul had an even bigger, fatter “No Way In Hell” for that paradigm. But there is another ditch — the pitfall of lawlessness, which is a denial of sin. Denial is where we say “_____ is not sin” when God says “_____ is sin”.

In the ditch on the right, the message is “Look! I see sin! Bring in the law! That will certainly curb sin like it did in the whole old testament </sarcasm>”.

But on the left, the message is “Look! There is no such thing as sin, so let’s do whatever is right in our own eyes!

Friends, a denial of sin could be an indicator to us that we walk in darkness and do not have the truth in us.

We know we are children of God because we are led by the Spirit. We know we are led by the Spirit when we have the mindset of Christ and not the mindset of the world.
So to those who call themselves Christians and claim their freedom to enjoy sin, I say “Go! Go enjoy yourself! You can do what you want! I’m certainly in no position to condemn you. But as for me, I have the Spirit of Christ in me, and Jesus doesn’t like seeing movies like that, so I’m not going to force it on Him”.

I know what it’s like to live in the ditch on both sides of the road, so I would be a fool to condemn anyone else. That’s not my heart, and it’s not Christ’s heart. But there is a place for reproof and correction — in gentleness. I am very thankful to those people in my life who have gently corrected me instead beating me over the head with the truth. Had they been forceful, sin (living with me) would have prompted more rebellion. I thank God that He put people in my life who truly knew that it is “the kindness of God that leads people to repentance”.

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7 NAS95)

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

“because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:7–9 NAS95)

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:14)

Are you nullified?

I don’t nullify the law of Moses. The law nullifies me. Nullified, I am free from sin and joined to Christ.

The Greek word katargeo is translated variously as to nullify, to sever, be released from. In more detail, it means: to cause something to come to an end or to be no longer in existence — abolish, wipe out, set aside; to cause the release of someone from an obligation (one has nothing more to do with it) — be discharged, be released.

There’s a thread with this word in Paul’s teaching regarding the law of Moses and our relationship to the law as Christians. Here’s a summary of that thread, from Romans:

I don’t sever the law through faith, I establish it for its purpose: to nullify me, to bring death. Now, being united to Christ in his death, I am severed from the law and I am free from sin because I have died (those who have died are free from sin). Having been severed from the law, I am now free…. free to be joined to Christ Risen, to serve in newness of the Spirit.

Romans 3:31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
(I don’t nullify the law)

Romans 6:6-7a … our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
(The law nullified me)

Romans 7:2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is nullified from the law concerning the husband.
(now I am nullified to the law)

Romans 7:6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
(having been nullified to the law, I am now free to be joined to the risen Christ and serve in newness of the Spirit)

A recap, using ‘sever’ for katargeo:

  1. I don’t sever the law of Moses
  2. The law severs me
  3. I am now severed from the law in union with Christ in His death
  4. Having been severed from the law, I am now joined to the risen Christ and serve in newness of the Spirit.

Be careful Christian, for to reintroduce law into your life is the same as to nullify Christ, to sever yourself from Him, in which you are cursed and Christ will be of no benefit to you.

Galatians 5:4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

My Good News Trumps Your Bad News

… continued from The Bad News Truth, Part 2

If we take our child to the doctor for a cold, and the doctor looks at us and says, “You don’t have cancer”, we’ll think the doctor is crazy and incompetent. Doesn’t that fool know that we’re here for our daughter who just needs an antibiotic and a lollipop? But what if we’ve been going through chemo and radiation for a year and coming home sick, beating our chest and heaving our stomachs to the porcelain god? The words of that doctor will ring like blessed freedom to us, and we will celebrate with joy. We’ll call all our friends and tell them the good news! We’ll post on Facebook a hundred times and everyone will post back and tell us how happy they are for us!

“I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.” (Luke 15:7 HCSB)

The Good News only makes sense in the face of the BNT – the Bad News Truth.
God loves us. I know — we hear that all the time. We’re inoculated by now. Those are just three words. There’s no tie-in to the reality.

Look up in the sky — everything that exists in the heavens is a testimony to us that God is real, and that his Presence interacts with our own dimension. Look at the seasons, winter brings death, and spring brings life, another testimony to God’s reality. Look at your grandma — or the stranger on the street — when she shows you kindness and loves you for no good reason, and ask yourself, “why is there good in the world?”. That’s another testimony to God.

What’s a testimony? A testimony is God’s marketing campaign. Creation is His flyer announcing His business. Selfless love is His slogan, and Jesus is His Logo.

The Creator is real, He is there, He exists, and more than that, He is a Person with thoughts, mind, and emotions. He is our Father. And no matter what our earthly fathers were like, or weren’t like, even if they weren’t there and our mothers raised us alone, this Father is here, and He is Good, and He is involved, and His thoughts are on us constantly. God loves us. Not just three words, but reality.

God loves you. Really. He loves you. Seriously.

We may think we’re not worthy of His love, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not true, because He made us worthy of His love, and more than that, He loved us before He made us worthy of His love. And even if it were true, which it ain’t, He’d love us anyway just for the sake of His name and reputation as The God of love. We can’t lose, even when we think we can. No matter what mind-trick the enemy plays on us, God wins. And He wins big.

Love can be a cheap word. It just doesn’t do much for some of us. We have no way taking the word in and associating it with something. We were raised on TV or left alone at home, or we had parents that couldn’t express love, or some other reality —perhaps a darker one — has made it hard for us to get it, to unpack it in our minds.

Here are few good ways to make associations and see what is meant by love when we say “God loves us”:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22–23 HCSB)

There’s only one fruit here, and all the other words are descriptions of that fruit. And if the fruit of the Spirit is ‘love’, and “God is love”, and “we love because He first loves us”, then this is how it comes down, from God to us:

God has joy with me, God is peaceful when we are together, and we are always together because nothing separates me from His love in Christ, He is kind to me, He is good to me, He’s faithful and will never lie to me, He’s gentle and that’s amazing isn’t it? The Creator, who is a consuming fire, is gentle with me, and I can trust Him to be self-controlled — I never have to fear getting hurt by Him.

Here’s another one. See what it means to you when you read about love, knowing that God is love, and not only will He express this kind of love through you, but this is His love for you:

“love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8 HCSB)

God loves the ungodly, and He meets us in our mess and pulls us out of the mire. He gets down into the stink with us and lifts us up. And friends, that makes absolutely no sense to us unless we’re honest with ourselves and the world, that we have cancer and we’ve had it a long time and it stinks, and it hurts, and it covers us, and we want to be free from the pain, and the burden, and the tired ache and the worry of death.

And so it is, the thing that matters between us and God is the Obedience of the One, Jesus Christ.

“For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

This truth comes to life for us in simple trust. This is God’s promise to us: righteousness. It’s valid and legal because Christ made it legal. We step into it and receive it in faith, believing God’s promise, assured of it because Christ made it legitimate.

“Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17 HCSB)

We receive all that God has done for us — the obedience of the One — in simple faith, a dependent trust in God that He will do what He promises to do. Just like Abraham with his own promise from God, who “did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, because he was fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Romans 4:20–24 HCSB)

The Bad News Truth, Part 2

… continued from The Bad News Truth, Part 1

But God…

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4–7 NAS95)

God loves you, and although the rules are against you, he has found a way for you to win. It’s simple really — He didn’t change the rules. He didn’t rig the game. He knew His Son could beat the game, playing by the rules. So His Son came into the world and lived by the rules and was obedient to God to the point of death. He willingly died a death for sin that He didn’t deserve so God could be legally just in giving you a righteousness you don’t deserve. And that righteousness, friends, is your ticket to a new life that begins today and continues on to the other side into eternity.

Why the big fuss about righteousness? Because God is both righteous and a consuming fire. Nothing unrighteous can enter His presence without being destroyed. Unrighteousness in God’s presence is not like oil and water, rather it’s like a paper airplane flying into the sun. That thing gets burned up way before it gets close.

“For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned!The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.)”
“His voice shook the earth at that time, but now He has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven.”
“for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:18–21, 26, 29 HCSB)

We think this is no big deal for us — this righteousness thing. But that’s because our thoughts whip out excuses whenever we hear accusations.

So maybe it helps to think of other people. It’s easy to know that God is righteous, and that the murderer [who went to jail for killing three old ladies in their sleep last year out on Old Pine Box Road] will not enter His presence. The same for the thief who broke into our house last year and cleaned us out, leaving only the bills from the credit card company on the kitchen counter.

But we are the murderer, and we are the thief. We get angry with people and our anger is murder in the mind. We drive by huge homes and wish we lived there. We want what others have and that, friends, is coveting, and coveting is lust. And the consequence for those things that happen in our minds is death. Friends, we are NOT the righteous Pharisee who thanks God that he’s not unrighteous like that guy over there beating his chest, praying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner”.
We are the sinner and the rules exist to show us there is something wrong in our heads, something that is opposed to God. Those rules exist so that we will see we have a need and bend our knee and beat our chest and pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”.

Then — but only then — will we see that we have need of something we don’t possess.

But don’t stop there, friend. That’s only half the story! That’s the BNT, the Bad News Truth. That ain’t the Good News, that’s just the reality.

Continued at My Good News Trumps Your Bad News

The Bad News Truth, Part 1

person 1: You’re wrong.
person 2: No I’m not.

person 1: You shouldn’t have done that.
person 2: Whatever.

person 1: You’re a liar.
person 2: I had a good reason.

person 1: You’re in big trouble.
person 2: I’m okay.

person 1: You’re a failure.
person 2: Who are you to say that?

person 1: You’re not kind.
person 2: Neither are you.

I overheard this conversation the other day. What do you think about it? The first person sounds like a real jerk, doesn’t he? But you know what? This conversation took place in prison, and the first person was a mother whose child was killed by the second person.

Okay, I admit it, I lied. Well, I don’t really lie ever, but sometimes I fib a little, but I only do it for the effect, so it’s okay. The truth is, this is really the law of Moses telling us the cold, hard facts — or, if you’re a Gentile, it’s the work of the law in our heart. And the second person is our thoughts denying the truth by making excuses.

“They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse them” (Romans 2:15 HCSB)

The thoughts of our mind work like a switchboard connected to our conscience. In comes an accusation, out goes an excuse.

The thoughts of the natural mind will always strive to make us appear to ourselves as good people. When an accusation comes, our thoughts shift toward an excuse. None of us wants to think of ourselves as a bad person. We all want to think highly of ourselves. Even the person who is always going on about himself, about how terrible he is, seeks pity from someone else who will make him feel good about himself. But for most of us, this is an internal exchange. The moment any thought of accusation comes, we flip it and find a way out. Even Bill Clinton didn’t commit adultery – you see, it’s all about how one defines the word “is”. Accusation. Excuse. Here are a few of the popular excuses:

“I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay”
“Who are you to tell me?”
“It’s alright, everybody does it”
“I was born this way”
“It’s not my fault”
“I’m basically a good person”
“I was taken off the booby too early”

… and on and on and on, ad infinitum. If we weren’t ourselves, we’d be bored with ourselves. Always the same old thing. Excuse making. But why is that?

We do it because we instinctively know that there is a God, and there is a life and a judgment after this one. And we instinctively know that only good people will come out of that judgment and go into eternal life. That’s what the Bible says, right?

“There is no favoritism with God. All those who sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all those who sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For the hearers of the law are not righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:11–13 HCSB).

We know that we have to be perfectly righteous or we will perish. We know we will be judged by our deeds. “He will repay each one according to his works:” (Romans 2:6 HCSB)

We know we have to be diligent and persist in goodness in order to get to immortality: “eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality;” (Romans 2:7 HCSB)

Friends, we know all this because we are hardwired to know this. But inside our heads, our thoughts will hear our conscience and will always seek to be right. Our friends can’t tell us the truth or they risk becoming our enemies. Our enemies tell us the truth but it’s because they’re evil and it’s not really the truth. If we tell ourselves the truth about ourselves, then we are sick and need a doctor to give us Prozac. A little pill. A glass of water. A little denial. Call me in the morning. For $150 per hour, we find someone who understands us. A friend with a couch and a clock, a momentary reprieve from the cold hard facts that keep pressing in on us. And if that’s not enough, our good friends Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker, and Mary Jane will help us ignore it all. We’re a tight group and we like to hang. We hang out, and we hang over.

But here’s what we don’t know.

We aren’t righteous; there is none righteous. No one will go into immortality. In our own choice, all of us everywhere have gone away from God.

“as it is written:   There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10–12 HCSB)

“We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.” (Ephesians 2:3 HCSB)

But God…

… continued at The Bad News Truth, Part 2

Conquer Life in Weakness with Power

Conquer Life

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
(Romans 8:32)

All things. God will graciously give us all things.

This passage isn’t saying that God will give us a Mercedes, a big house on a hill, and a fat bank account. It’s saying that God will give us all of God’s love in all situations, in spite of our inability to be perfect in our behavior and no matter what happens in life.

Paul says all this after having expressed his struggle with the power of sin in chapter seven, then concluding that even with the power of temptation and the failure to live with perfect behavior, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk according to the Spirit.

When Paul uses the phrases walk according to the Spirit and walk according to the flesh, he is contrasting those who have put on the new mindset of submitting to God’s way of thinking with those who walk in their own worldly mindset. Those who walk according to the Spirit still have temptation from sin, to sin. The temptation is not us — not our darker side — it is sin. Sin is a wild beast with a mind of it’s own, and it lives with us, in our flesh. In modern terms, we might say that our DNA was mutated at the fall of Adam and Eve, and we are less than what we were intended to be. We are genetically predisposed to rebel — and we can even put on a “good face” while doing so, because from Adam we all know both GOOD and EVIL, apart from God. We have our own version, our own mindset now, apart from God. And with that, we suffer the consequences of both pride and shame – the bad things that both good and evil bring.

The sin deficit that lives in our flesh is different for different people and expresses itself differently. The rebellion is shaped, molded and formed into particular expression through upbringing and environment. But whatever the expression, it is rebellion. Whether it is “good” rebellion or “evil” rebellion, it is still rebellion — humans living according to their own way of thinking.

What do we — those of us who walk according to the Spirit, with our new mindsets, thinking and living life God’s way — what do we do when we are tempted and fail? Like Paul shows us by example, we thank God and move on, knowing that there is no condemnation!

“Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24b–25a)
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

After telling us that there is now no condemnation for us, in spite of our failings, Paul explains that our weakness is there by God’s design. God Himself intended that we would know Him, love Him and walk with Him in weakness, so that our hope would not be here, but in eternity. God Himself subjected all creation to futility, and the plan is to set creation free when God’s children are revealed in glory (the resurrection).

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
(Romans 8:20–21)

In the resurrection, there will be no more sin housed in our flesh. We will have new bodies with no distortion. But now, at this time, we are saved in hope — meaning in a position of sure hope and confident expectation, looking forward to that time, in the condition of not yet having it.

“For in this hope we were saved…”
(Romans 8:24a)

But the resurrection is not here yet. “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25). We are subjected now to the same futility to which the creation has been subjected, so that we will desire eternity, and look forward to our confident expectation of the resurrection.

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
(Romans 8:23)

It would be easy to get discouraged when having a mindset to follow God and honor him with our bodies, with our lives, with everything about ourselves, but seeing this condition of futility where we do what we don’t want to do, and fail to do what we want to do. But friends, this is God’s design. Even our weakness is His plan. We don’t lose heart because of our weakness, but thank God that there is now no condemnation for us. What matters is the heart — that it is subjected to Christ — that the old way of thinking and acting in rebellion to God with our own version of GOOD and EVIL is put away. What matters is that the “general way of doing business” has been changed. “For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6 HCSB)

It’s not our perfection of behavior that makes us children of God. What matters is whether or not we are led by God’s Spirit. “All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.” (Romans 8:14 HCSB)

The fact that our behavior falls short, and we know it, shows that we are aware of God’s way. The fact that we hate it shows that we are led by God’s Spirit. “For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:5–9 HCSB)
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12:9 ESV)

If we have the mind-set of the Spirit, then that proves we have the Spirit. We judge this by comparing our mind-set with the mind-set of God revealed in Scripture. If in anything we have a different mind-set, we submit our thoughts to God’s thoughts. “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Philippians 3:15).

So take comfort! Nothing can bring a charge of condemnation against us who are in Christ. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:33–35)

Nothing, including our weaknesses, can condemn us. And along with “nothing” is everything else that happens in life too: “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

No!  We conquer in everything!

How do we conquer, and what does it mean to conquer? We conquer through God, knowing that He loves us and has accepted us based on Christ’s death.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

And “all things” is the love of God in every situation. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)

Friends, we conquer life — with weaknesses and tribulations — through knowing God’s love for us. To conquer well, we need to be filled up to all fullness with God’s love. This involves the mind and the heart. There is a knowing that is head knowledge, and that’s important to have, very important. But there is also a knowing that is beyond head knowledge, and that is important to know by experience. This knowing of God which is beyond head knowledge comes from encountering God in His glory. This Knowing works in tandem with our thoughts, but it is seated in the heart. This kind of Knowing is the kind that erupts in praise of God spontaneously after revelation of God in the spirit.  Paul wrote, “I bow my knees and pray to God that he would grant you, out of the abundance of His glory, to be given power in the Spirit to know God’s love with a knowledge that goes beyond knowledge — so that you may filled up with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19, my summary)

The power to know God’s love comes from God’s glory. If we want to know God, we need to know His love in a way that goes beyond our head knowledge, and the way to get that knowledge is to have a face-to-face encounter with our Creator, to encounter His glory.

Knowing the love of God is knowing God. There is no formula for overwhelmingly conquering life. There are no universal Seven Steps. In all our weaknesses and tribulations, there is only knowing God, in His glory, from His glory and to His glory. This knowing of God invades our hearts with power and conquers us with love. And in this love from God, we overwhelmingly conquer in everything, even with weakness.

God is all about weakness. The eternal Son of God on the cross, dying a shameful death, that is weakness and love. And that is how God wins.

Be filled and conquer life!

Promises, Faith and Hope

God's Promise

Promise and faith — these two always go together, and where you see them, you will also see “hope” nearby!

In Romans we are told that Abraham was credited with righteousness because he believed God. What was it from God that he believed? Promises! Specifically, when Scripture says that he was credited with righteousness, the promise he believed was that he’d have a son.

“For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”” (Romans 4:3 NAS95)

When Abraham believed this, Paul says he “hoped against hope” — meaning he continued in hope even when it looked like there was no way that the promise could be fulfilled. He considered his own body which was “as good as dead” because he was so old. He considered the deadness of Sarah’s womb because she was so old. Yet he trusted God!

While the situation looked bleak, he had hope! He had hope because he knew that God is powerful and he was convinced that what God promised, He was also able to bring about.

If we are united with Christ, then we get to share with Him and look forward to receiving His promises. God promises He will never forsake us or leave us. Christ promises us we will have tribulation in this world. We are promised the Spirit. We are promised that we don’t have to worry about what we will eat or drink. We are promised comfort in our affliction. And much more!

God wants us to know that He can be trusted to keep His promises. Not only that, but it’s even better… He so much wants us to trust him that He makes an oath that He will keep His promises. Friends — it is impossible for God to lie. When He promises us something, it is a sure thing. When He makes an oath to keep His promise, it is *exponentially* sure.

“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:17–18 NAS95)

God can’t lie when He promises, and God can’t lie when He makes an oath. So when He makes an oath to keep His promise, you can doubly trust Him. Our father cares so much for us that He wants to make it easy for us to have faith — He DOUBLE PROMISES.

So here’s the BIG question: What is the BIG Promise? You know, … the One Big Kahuna Promise that makes or breaks us as Christians. You know the one … it’s the one that religious people dance around, forever learning but never coming to a knowledge of… it’s the one you never hear about when preachers are talking about money, health, wealth, prosperity, prophesies, charismatic gifts, revival, community service, and so on…

Friends, those other things may or may not have value, but this is the promise that defines us, by which we, believing, have a right to call ourselves children of God:
“But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” (Romans 4:5 NAS95)

This one makes us or breaks us. This is the big one that seems impossible. We know who we are, in our flesh, alone at night… when no one else is looking. When we’re honest, and if we judge ourselves by God’s holy standard rather than our own “let me off easy” standard, we fall way short. We fall so short of perfection that it’s impossible that we could become perfect. In light of God’s holy standard, which Jesus clarified to be spiritual in nature, we look at the deadness of our ability to birth righteousness from ourselves. Just like Sarah, the womb of our flesh is dead, so to speak.

But God.

What is impossible with man, is possible with God, and in HOPE AGAINST HOPE we have what we do not see. The hope of righteousness, given freely in Christ, appropriated *now* by faith, awaiting our bodies in the resurrection.

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever …..”
(Hebrews 6:19–20a NAS95)