Don’t look down!

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.I think a lot of times we take a passive and defensive approach when we fight temptation. This powerful draw or pull we experience towards the carnal and wicked desires of our flesh is something we must “not give into” instead of something we must overcome.

Temptation is a powerful foe. And it is a powerful force. But the approach of “to not give in” leaves us with very little to do but to concentrate on both our potential and desire for sin, and ourselves. Ironically focusing on both of these can actually lead us to fall to temptation.

The word of God illustrates temptation and sin in many ways. One of them is the idea of falling. The first sin ever committed is known as the “fall of man.” And we say it all the time. Falling into sin. Falling to temptation.  Now think about falling. It’s allowing gravity to have it’s way. That force is always pulling on us, but we don’t fall all the time. We fall when we become unbalanced. But more importantly, we fall when we cease to stand.

I’ve never started my day thinking, “I hope I don’t trip on the stairs today.” or “I hope I don’t loose my balance when I’m walking.” And I doubt you often think such thoughts either.

No, we simply think about all the things we have to do. We have tasks of varying importance and responsibilities to fulfill. We’re not focused on the idea of failure, we’re focused on the idea of success.

Why is it then, that in our Christian life, we can become so focused on “not messing up.” I know for myself, I can become easily involved in that defensive approach to life. I don’t want to give into eating that cookie, or having that lustful thought. I don’t want to give into covetousness, or allow pride in my life.

The Bible tells us again and again to resist temptation. Resist the devil. Fight against sin. And we must do all of that. But we must remember that our Christian walk is more than just learning to say no to things. The focus is so much higher and the purpose is so much richer.

Colossians 3 says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Did you notice to focus of this verse? Seeking what is above. Our key to defeating temptation is not wrapped up in saying “no” to wickedness as much as it involves saying “yes” to righteousness.

Saying no to that cookie will only get you so far. Contrast it with being wrapped up in healthy meal planning and intentional nutrition.

Saying no to lustful thoughts will only help so much. Contrast it with purposing to meditate on God’s Word and direct your thoughts towards honoring God.

The illustrations can go on and on.

When we continue reading in Colossians 3 we see several verses which touch on leaving behind and taking off sinful lifestyles, but the vast majority of verses following continue to focus on righteous and holy living. I would submit to you that this is the balance that our lives require.

Realizing how Christ has called us to focus on things above. Putting off what is filthy. And putting on the righteousness He has prepared and provided for us.

You don’t shout, “Don’t fall” to a tightrope walker, and you don’t say, “Don’t miss” to your buddy trying to shoot a basket. Don’t tell yourself- “Don’t sin!” in your Christian walk.

When you’re up high and in danger of falling, you don’t look down, because focusing on failure will make it harder to succeed. Don’t make such a fatal mistake in your Christian walk. Don’t focus on the temptation you must overcome or the sin you must avoid. Focus on the King of rightesousness who provides a way of escape, the One who died to make you a new creature, and the wonderful life of purpose He has planned for you.

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What if you lost a finger?

Around 8 months ago, I stepped on a scale and my jaw dropped. I was like, I do not weigh ___. I do not. I was horrified. I knew I was not healthy, but it had been so gradual, that I never noticed how terrible it was.

Something finally clicked inside of me and I decided that this was not ok. Determination or desperation grasped me and without knowing how, I knew I would find a way to become healthy. Eventually, I found a plan and I stuck with it. Over the next months I consistently restricted my diet and exercised without wavering, and I lost over 50 pounds. I’m not telling you this so you can be impressed, but because I want to share an idea with you.

You see, I had always wanted to lose weight. For over ten years I had been saying I needed to. But I didn’t NEED to. I wasn’t desperate. I wasn’t determined. If I could lose weight, or eat cake . . . well the cake might win or it might not. And that’s how I lived. Saying I cared, but living like I didn’t.

I feel like that’s how we are often in our Christian walk. We have addictions and pet sins. And we say, “I need to stop doing x.” But we don’t feel like we NEED to. You see, we’ve become accustomed to our sinful stumbling Christian walk. Just like I had become accustomed to carrying around an extra 50+ pounds.

Changing our lifestyle would be uncomfortable. And we don’t feel the pressing urging need to change.

Christ once said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

That’s how seriously Jesus took sin. This verse is mainly speaking about salvation and coming to Christ initially, but it still carries the meaning of the seriousness of sin.

Take a moment and consider.

What are you allowing in your life that is unwholesome? What sin are you aware of, and comfortable with?

Take that sin, and picture it right now.

Would you let someone chop off one of your fingers so you could do it again?  Willingly be maimed for life:

Because you felt like gossiping about your coworker.

Because you wanted a second piece of cake.

Because you wanted to think an immoral thought.

Because you wanted to: Fill in the Blank.

Does it bring an entire new meaning to taking sin seriously?

It does to me. I would never sacrifice a piece of my body so I could eat a piece of cake, or do any of those things.

And yet we sacrifice our fellowship with God- something far more valuable than our bodies- for a moment of pleasure.

Last night I met with an old friend who noticed my transformation. I told him excitedly how I had decided one day and it all came into place. He looked away wistfully,

“I wish I could lose weight like that”

Immediately I jumped in, “You can, just do this and this!” I began to explain my journey. He shrugged his shoulders,

“Ahhh, I don’t feel like doing all that, it’s such a hassle. ”

I walked away so full of sadness. I couldn’t help but be reminded of all the times pastors have told me to do daily devotions, pray, or seek God – and I said to myself,

“I wish I could have spiritual victory, but that’s such a hassle.”

 

Do you love death?

I’m pretty sure anyone reading this  would answer a resounding “no!” Well, perhaps not. There are a few fringe groups of people who may announce that they have a loving relationship with death. But since they haven’t died, there is only so much they can say. Death does carry a fascination for most people, but they say they love death, they probably don’t understand the nature of it.

But do you know that you can metaphorically love death.

You might be thinking, I love life. I don’t want to die! But in reality, you’re living a life that will bring you death.

In Proverbs 8:30, the personification of wisdom says, “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”

If you hate wisdom, you love death. It’s that simple.

If you filled a room full of people, and asked them, “Do you hate wisdom?” Few to none would raise their hands. But oftentimes we hate wisdom in little ways.

We neglect to listen to our parents. We think that we can have it all figured out. We disregard our pastor’s message. Or our friends advice.

Look at it another way. Are you actively seeking wisdom? Are you looking for wise people to mentor you? Do you spend time searching the scriptures for guidance?

Do you love wisdom?

I would venture to say that for every bit you edge away from loving wisdom, you move towards hating it. The difference between love and hate is not black and white. Sin is missing the mark. There is no in between. Either you hit the mark, or you missed it.

Are you satisfied with how you love and seek out wisdom? Or do you need to work in that area? I challenge you, choose to love wisdom. Live your life searching it out. If you love your life by loving wisdom, you will probably find yourself with more of both.

“Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not . . . For whoso findeth me [wisdom] findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.” Proverbs 8:33,35

Is God directing? Or are you just uncomfortable?

Throughout our lives we will feel uncomfortable with the way things are. Seeing how something needs doing and nobody’s doing it can really wreak havoc in our minds. Tension can grow and we can find ourselves with the urge to act in a way that God is not leading us.

Such was the situation with King Saul in 1 Samuel 13. At this time the Israelites were in the middle of a military conflict with the Philistines. The people were scared and the prophet Samuel had not come to make an offering to God yet. The people literally scattered and were hiding.

The Bible tells us that they were hiding “in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.” Literally anywhere they could hide, they were hiding.

Imagine King Saul. He’s King! He’s responsible for these people. He wants to lead them to victory to protect their homes, but Samuel needs to offer a sacrifice to God and ask God for direction.

Samuel isn’t there.

In verse 8 we find that Samuel said he would be there in 7 days, but he hadn’t come. In the end, Saul made the offering, and Samuel arrived as soon as he was done.

Saul didn’t wait for God’s timing or God’s direction. As a result he lost many opportunities to serve God and he found himself in disobedience.

Saul tried to do a good thing for a good reason, but he failed to trust God- the most important part. If Saul had walked in faith, he would have not been so anxious to make a sacrifice without the man of God.

I challenge you, if you find yourself uncomfortable because of a situation in your life, pray for God’s direction. God wants us to walk in faith. God wants us to trust Him! If we are reacting in fear, we are in sin. It doesn’t matter how “good” the thing is. It doesn’t matter how “good” our intentions are. What matters is our complete trust and total surrender to His will!

“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23

Government corruption- it’s here to stay

There is a valuable gem in Ecclesiastes 3, if you read too fast, you will miss it. It says, “And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.”

To make it short, in the government, and in the lives of believers- there was sin.

Solomon’s observation isn’t a yin yang idea, it’s about the prevalence of sin in earthly life. In this life, we will never escape sin. It’s not up for debate, no matter how righteous you are, no matter how hard you strive for right living, you will fail. This extends to all areas of your life, and it’s not just limited to you.

Others will fail as well.

This isn’t something we like to ponder, but it’s something we can learn from. If we know that people are flawed just like us, we can expect them to make mistakes. Instead of hating them, or getting angry, we can practice patience- knowing we have just as many flaws.

This applies to people in authority as well. Solomon spoke of sin in the lives of the righteous, but also in places of judgment. The police, the judges, the politicians- all of these will have flaws. They will have sin. They will have wickedness.

Does this mean that we give up on our government and our personal lives? No. But neither do we become endlessly frustrated at the sight of sin. God requires our our patience and perseverance in order to conquer sin in our lives. He also calls us to pray for everyone in authority.

Sin is not acceptable, but knowing that it’s unavoidable can be a comfort to us when we fail. God expects our very best, and that means we never stop the fight against sin in our lives. But God also understands that we are incapable of sinlessness. If we come to Him in humility and repentance, He will never turn us away.

“For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalms 103:14

 

God wants you to judge . . . only certain people

Do you know that the Bible actually expects us to judge people?

 

But not everyone.

The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 5. In this chapter, Paul is writing to a church that has allowed many of their members to remain members while they lived with obvious sin. These sins that the church tolerated were so terrible Paul says that such sins weren’t even found among the heathen.

Christians were behaving worse than unsaved people!

Obviously, there was a major problem. Paul essentially tells the Corinthians that they need to start making judgments about the people in the church. In this passage, we see that Christians have the authority to tell other Christians to either change their behavior, or leave the church.

One Bible version says, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”

Did you catch that? We aren’t supposed to judge people who aren’t saved. Only those who are.

How do you enact judgment? Do you speak to a brother in Christ when they are losing their way? Do you encourage them to get on the right path?

How do you behave towards the unsaved? Do you cast judgment and condemnation on them? Or do you allow God to judge them?

Let us always remember that we are responsible for holding the Church accountable to God’s commands. It may not be fun, or politically correct, but if someone continues in open sin without changing, we need to send them away. On the flip side, people who do not claim to be Christians, are not for us to judge. God judges them.

Let us show God’s love by encouraging Godly lives in our fellow Christians, and allowing God to be the one to judge the world.

It’s in the fine print

We’ve all been there. When you sign a contract thinking you know what you’re getting, but in fact you don’t. That contract that left out the fees. That olive oil that was 95% canola. That used car that wasn’t really represented properly. The world is filled with liars, crooks, and people who just shade the truth a little. And it’s easy to get bamboozled if you don’t read the fine print.

Salesmen like to point the way to the so called “benefits” of trading what you have for their merchandise, and they always seem to leave out drawbacks. It’s just the same way in our spiritual lives. From the earliest record we have, Satan advertises that eating the fruit will make Adam and Eve, “as gods, knowing good and evil.” And he was right. What he decidedly lied about was all the repercussions that would bring.

Eve was deceived and tempted, and Adam fell.

Even today, Satan loves to advertise sin as something that will bring pleasure. And it does, even God says that sin brings pleasure for a season. But in the end it brings complete destruction. That was in the fine print.

Just like your financial life can be destroyed if you make decisions without considering all the consequences, your spiritual life can be destroyed as well. If you look at the world, Satan and those deceived by him will tell you to enjoy this sinful pleasure or that immoral desire, but in the end it brings destruction.

God tells us very plainly. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 No hidden fees, no fine print, it’s all in the open. Choose God- Choose life. Choose sin- Choose death. It’s that simple.

I challenge you, next time some unrighteous thing seems like fun, or the easier way, remember how things really are. Remember the truth of God’s Word and choose life. God’s looking out for your interests, and He wants you to live an abundant life. Won’t you choose Him today?

“For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Galatians 6:8

Shouting for joy!

There is always a punishment for our mistakes. And since we are human, we will always be making mistakes. So in the end, we will spend our lives being punished over and over and over again. Or will we?

Psalm 32 says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity . . .” Now, seeing that there is a man whose sin is covered and whose transgression is forgiven, there must be a way to become said person.

David says, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” David was speaking of himself! When David laid all his sin on the table and hid nothing from God, and repented and asked for forgiveness, God forgave him, and covered his sin.

Another time in scripture, David was guilty of adultery and murder. Under the law, he was worthy of death. After David repented, God told Him through the prophet Nathan, “The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” God made provision to cover the punishment of David’s sin.

God is gracious. He does not always punish us like we should be punished. Many times his forgiveness comes with overwhelming grace and we do not need to suffer the full punishment for our sin.

I challenge you, whatever you are guilty of, come boldly unto the throne of grace, so you can obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. God may chose to cover your sin, as he covered David’s, and even if he chooses not to, you can praise Him for his forgiveness and justice.

As David said, “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.”

Let’s praise God He forgives us, and always gives us another chance!

 

Will you stand in judgment?

Psalm 1 is a beautiful description of the righteous man. This servant of God, has nothing to do with sin. Not in his lifestyle, partial participation, or even occasional activity. He desires and delights in God and in His law. Because of His obedience and desire for God, he stands tall and brings forth fruit while others fall away.

Because of his innate strength gained from God’s blessing, he will remain when the wicked pass away. After the Psalm mentions the ungodly falling away  like chaff, verse 5 says, “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” This seems to imply that the righteous man will stand in the judgment and in the congregation of the righteous.

But what does it mean to stand in judgment? Is God saying that the wicked won’t be judged? Obviously not. In this passage, I believe standing in judgment means to stand as a judge. As 1 Corinthians 6:2 says, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” God will appoint people to be judges when he returns, and the wicked will not fill those positions.

In contrast, the man who delights in God and lives rightly, will. It’s easy to live the Christian life, sinning without care and repenting later. After all, once you’re right with God the slate’s clean? Right? Well, not really. There will always be the consequences of your actions. You will have negative effects from your sin, and so will others.

Our lives must be lived for Christ to have maximum influence. Someday our lives will be over, and we may very well see the impact of every thought or deed we have produced. It may be that even though we are saved, we may not be counted worthy to judge very much in the next life. As Christians we must focus on the eternal. Our lives are too short and precious to be lived for ourselves. I challenge you, be like the righteous man in Psalm 1 who completely shuns evil. You will see how much God can produce through your life. You will stand in judgment- and in the congregation of the righteous.

What did God do wrong?

There is a common idea in the world that says something like, if we worship God, we’re doing Him a favor. Like it’s our “duty” but really we’re helping God out when we do something right. In reality, we’re doing ourselves a favor. And we’re doing the only reasonable thing.

In Jeremiah 2, God is pleading with the people of Israel to come back to Him. God desires revival for His people, and as He calls to them, He asks a question that can really make us think.

One question He asks is in verse 5. He asks, “Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?” What a thought! We will consider breaking it off with someone if they treat us wrongly. God asks those who have turned from Him, “What have I done wrong?” “What sin did I commit?”

God has never done anything amiss. He is eternally righteous and just. If you find that your life is being lived in a way that chases after vanity, realize that you have ceased to seek after God. It is a fundamental axiom of the universe that God is perfect. He does nothing wrong. He commits no sin or injustice. So the question asked in the scripture is obviously rhetorical.

God has given us life, provision, and the promise of an eternal relationship. Why would we turn from Him? What could bring us to turn from our fellowship with Him? Nothing but our own selfishness.

I challenge you, if you have turned from God in any way, go back to Him today. God calls after you just like He called to the Israelites. He is ready to receive you, if you will only turn to Him.

Won’t you turn to Him? After all, what evil has He done to you?