Whatever You Want

Ecclesiastes 11:9
“…Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.”

It is not uncommon for a person to go from church to church, and pastor to pastor, until they receive the counsel they want to hear; instead of the counsel they need to hear. I have known people to leave the church they have been attending simply because they received advice or admonishment they did not like. It is in those times, Solomon’s words seem to be most fitting. He declares, we are free to do whatever our heart desires, but we must understand, a day is coming when we will give account for those decisions, and the actions that followed.

A married couple, who has failed to apply the Biblical principles to their marriage, may grow farther and farther apart, until they choose to end their marriage. They may even use phrases like, “we fell out of love” or “it is better for the children, for us to part than to fight” or “we never really loved each other anyway.” The end result is, they are choosing to do what they want, regardless of what God says. It is important to realize, a day is coming when we will answer for the life we lived. Difficulties are not reasons to end a marriage, but to work on the marriage.

A dating couple may feel the pressure to become sexually active. They may begin to justify their actions because they are in love. They too have a choice, either to obey God or follow their heart. It is important to keep in mind, we will stand before God for our decisions.

Whatever scenario we can imagine, we find ourselves face to face with the decision to either obey the Word of God, or to follow the desires of our own hearts. I recall sitting with an individual who began to tell me all the reasons for the decision he was making. He told me of the difficulties he was facing and his desire to be happy. After listening to him for quite some time, I replied, “Where is God in the equation?” His answer stunned me, he declared he did not care, he just wanted to be happy.

Whatever you are facing, remember, we will one day stand face to face with Christ. It is His desire to richly reward us with eternal life and treasures in heaven. Whatever momentary happiness we think we will derive from disobedience, will soon be forgotten in the light of eternity’s rewards.

Pastor Jim

 

Breakdown 

Galatians 2:18
“For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”

Many different metaphors are used in the Bible to describe what happens when a person receives Jesus Christ. We are born again, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, made alive, and much more. Each of these is designed to reveal different aspects of salvation. Being born again speaks of our new lease on life, being forgiven asserts that nothing from our past will ever be held against us, and being made alive points out the fact that salvation is a supernatural work of God, which cannot take place without the Holy Spirit.

There is another very important aspect of Salvation that Paul alludes to in this verse. When we believe in Christ, we are set free from the sin that once held us captive. Like Israel, under the Egyptian yoke, we were held captive by sin until Christ set us free. What our resolve could never accomplish, Christ did through the cross. The moment we believed, there was a freeing from many of the sins that gripped and held us captive. Paul now warns of the danger of becoming bound again to the very sins we escaped.

Galatians 2:18 “For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”

One of the great mistakes many Christians make, is to think they can outgrow the temptation of sin. We only need to scan the pages of Scripture to find that great, godly, and mature men, fell into sin when they built again that which had been destroyed. Let’s be careful not to open doors in our lives that should be closed up tight, or to walk down paths that will cause us to fall.

Pastor Jim

 

Like Animals

Ecclesiastes 3:18
“I said in my heart, ‘Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.’”

Webster’s dictionary defines science as, “the accumulation of knowledge; particularly the knowledge gathered through the scientific method, which involves observation and experimentation.” In that regard, Solomon was a scientist of the highest quality. He spent much of his life in the pursuit of knowledge, through both observation and experimentation. He was a student of many fields of science, but perhaps, more than anything else, he studied human behavior. Watching the way fallen men and women behaved, caused him to come to the conclusion that humans are nothing more than highly evolved animals. Solomon’s conclusions were impacted by the lab he used for his experiments. Over and over he used the phrase, “under the sun”, which meant he was looking at things through the eyes of the natural, without any regard to the person, work, or Word, of God.

When we remove God and His ways from the equation, it is probable, we will consider man to be little different from other mammals. Men who give no regard to the ways of God, are driven by their appetites: when hungry they eat, tired they sleep, thirsty they drink, angry they fight, and on and on the list goes. It include any emotional drive that wells up within us. Jesus declared, when a person believes in Him, he becomes born again, and is given an entirely new nature. Instead of being driven by his natural impulses, he can be controlled by the Spirit of God.

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, suggested true freedom is found when an individual chooses not to be controlled by his natural impulses, but voluntarily places himself under a system of ethics outside of himself. Without saying it, he was echoing the words of Paul the Apostle, who said, “if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” Galatian 5:16

The Bible declares, God created man in His image, but through sin, we have taken a downward fall, resulting in our becoming more and more animalistic in our behaviors. Fortunately, God provides a cure for the fall. When any person trusts Christ for salvation, the Bible declares he is born again, with a brand new nature, which reveals itself by a desire to do that which is pleasing to God.

Pastor Jim

 

Time To Wake Up

Romans 13:11
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”

I can remember times, as a child, when I had to wake up very early for an event I was looking forward to. I would set my alarm, and a backup, then wake up over and over again through the night to check the time. I did not want to sleep in and miss out. I recall, one morning, hearing the alarm go off, getting out of bed, getting dressed and walking out to the living room, where I put on my shoes. After a few moments, I heard my mom’s voice asking me what I was doing. As I began to answer, I noticed all the lights were on and my parents were watching television. It was eleven p.m., I had only been asleep for about an hour, and had dreamt I heard the sound of my alarm clock.

Paul is writing about the most important of all events, encouraging us not to sleep in and miss out. He writes concerning Salvation, reminding us, we are nearer to the return of Christ than any other time in human history. Just as there are signs that morning is approaching, so there are signs that Christ is coming. It is foolish to ignore the warnings and continue on in our spiritual slumber. Instead, we must live life prepared to face eternity. Paul tells us three necessary things to do in order to be prepared when the trumpet sounds and Christ calls us home.

First, we are to cast off the works of darkness. After Lazarus was resurrected, Jesus commanded that his burial clothes be removed. Those clothes were fitting for a dead man, but not for the living. They would stink of death and restrict life. In the same way, there are behaviors that might have ‘fit’ us before we came to Christ, but we must be cast aside. Paul mentions partying, drinking, sexual sin, lust, envy and strife. These things should remain in our past.

Second, we are to put on Christ. Christianity is not all about what we don’t do. Instead, it is about living for Jesus and becoming like Him. As we focus on growing in Him, we find His character traits become a part of us. We become more loving, merciful, kind, giving, compassionate and selfless. Paul referred to these as the fruit of the Spirit. It is important, at times, to do a Spiritual checkup to see if those traits are developing in our lives.

Finally, we are told not to make provision for the flesh. In other words, we must be careful not to make it easy to sin. If you are on a diet, it is probably not a great idea to watch “Cup Cake Wars”, or hang out at a bakery. In the same way, we all know the temptations we face and must remove ourselves as far from them as possible. Christians who live near the fence are the ones who are constantly falling in and out of sin.

Jesus is coming back! Let’s be ready when He comes. Let’s live so that we hear Him say, “Well Done!”

Pastor Jim

 

Striving Against Sin

Romans 6:1
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”

Paul boldly declares, because of the manifold grace of God, it is unreasonable for a Christian to continue living in sin. He explains why we should put our old lives behind us, and also gives practical steps on how that is to be accomplished. Notice, he explains what happened to us when we received Jesus Christ. Declaring, we were buried with Him through baptism into death.

We have seen, over and over, as we journey through the Bible, the result of receiving Christ is life. We become the partakers of eternal life as we follow Christ; we begin to experience abundant life. Here, Paul speaks of another truth. In addition to being made alive, he explains that coming to Christ also involves dying. The life lived for self, in pursuit of sin, and driven by fleshly desires, is crucified when we receive Christ. Paul declares, since we died to sin, it is unreasonable for us to live in sin. After laying down the doctrinal aspect of this truth, Paul gives some practical insights in how to lay sin aside, and live a righteous life.

He writes, “Reckon yourself dead Indeed to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:11) The word reckon is a thinking word, meaning to consider. Since you are dead to sin, consider yourself dead to sin. Treat sin the way a dead man treats food. It is no long driving him. Dieting is difficult, it seems the moment we decide not to eat something, it is the moment we find ourselves surrounded by it. Our senses step into hyper mode, and we can smell sweets from a mile away. The battle rages within us, like a soldier fighting off an enemy invasion. We battle against the sights, smells, and memories of the delicacies we are trying to avoid. But truth be told, the moment we die, that battle will be over. Dead men don’t diet, they don’t need to, because the cravings of the flesh are gone. In the same way, if we consider that we are dead to sin, it is something of the past life, then we have taken the first step toward overcoming it’s hold on our lives.

Next Paul writes, “don’t let sin reign in your life.” Reign means to rule. Sin has a way of getting a hold of us and forcing us to do its bidding. When we first begin to toy with sin, we think we are the master, and it serves our desire. But it does not take long before the roles are reversed, and we realize we are under the control of sin. Paul is warning of that danger, but also instructing us on how to overcome sin’s hold on us.

He goes on to say, “do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).” Our members are our body parts. Before coming to Christ, we used them to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. We used our minds to think of clever ways to sin and avoid getting in trouble for it. We used our eyes to look at sin, our ears to listen to it, our feet to lead us into it, and our hands to accomplish it. Now that we have come to Christ, we should use our members as instruments for righteousness. How have you been using yours? In what way have you used your mind, eyes, ears, feet and hands for the Kingdom of God?

Practically speaking, there is only so much time in the day. If we are giving ourselves over to the service of the Lord, we are going to have less time to give to sinful folly. In addition, we will find, the grip sin’s hold on us begins to weaken, and we, like Paul, will be able to speak of many of our struggles as victories.

Pastor Jim

 

Set That Aside 

2 Chronicles 34:31
“Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.”

Josiah’s story is a common one. While few have ever been king of a country, everyone who has responded to the Lord has walked a similar path as he did. First, Josiah made a decision to follow the Lord. This decision soon led him to a discovery of the Word of God, which in turn led him to make dramatic changes in his personal life, and his sphere of influence. We read that after he made a stand for the Lord, he called others to stand with him and,

Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers.”  2 Chronicles 34:33

A true commitment to Christ will always result in a change of lifestyle.

This was true of Asa,
2 Chronicles 14:2-3 “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images.”

It was true of Jehoshaphat,
2 Chronicles 17:6 “And his heart took delight in the ways of the Lord; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah.”

And it must be true of us. When Jesus called people to follow Him, it was necessary for them to leave their past lives behind. He made abundantly clear that following Him meant denying self, taking up our cross, and going in a new direction in life. During his short ministry, he encountered many who took Him up on this offer and left all to follow. Tragically however, He also encountered many who refused to follow, because they refused to give up certain lifestyles, beliefs, or practices. Most of us are familiar with the Rich, Young Ruler, who, although he recognized who Jesus was, refused to give up what was necessary, in order to follow Him.

Paul made it clear that laying aside past behaviors continues to be a requirement for following Christ. He wrote, Romans 6:1 ” What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”

Romans 6:12-14 “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

One of the evidences of true conversion, is that we are willing to lay down our old life to follow Christ. Are you clinging to anything that Christ is calling you to lay aside? The solution to finding freedom begins with confession. If we confess our sin He will both forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9)

Pastor Jim

 

Looking Ahead

1 Chronicles 28:8
“Now therefore, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, be careful to seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever.”

David lists two very important reasons, even motivators, for keeping the commands of God. First, he states by doing so, they would posses the land. Second, they would have something to leave behind for the next generation. These same principles should motivate each of us to live according to the Word of God.

The land of Israel was an integral part of the promise of God. Declaring they would possess the good land, was a way of saying they would experience the life God intended for them. Jesus referred to abundant life as the possession of every one of His followers (John 10:10b). This life is found when a person receives Christ, and walks according to the Word of God. Instead of making decisions that will bring immediate gratification, we should be seeking the ways of God, and making decisions based on His promises.

Realizing the effect on the generations that follow us, is another great motivator for walking with the Lord. Too many decisions are made in life without considering the long term consequences. Marriages end because things have become difficult; not realizing others are watching and our decisions effect everyone around us, especially our children. Laws are passed that give a generation freedom to behave in immoral ways. These decisions will have a long term, devastating effect upon the generations to come. They not only weaken the nation and put us under divine judgment, but they also confuse young people, causing them to grow up with baggage that will make the rest of life difficult to navigate.

We would all do well to take the advice of David and seek the commandments of God.

Pastor Jim