Saturday, April 29, 2017

What Just Happened?

Congratulations! You’ve just made the single most important decision of your life! Your choice to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is something that has absolutely changed everything - everything in your life now and everything in your eternal future! This one moment in your life has changed so much, it’s easy to miss some of it. So grab your Bible and take some time to walk with me through what has just happened to you.
(I encourage you to look the Bible references up in your own Bible. This will help you learn to navigate this precious book - and once you see these references in your own Bible, you can highlight them if you’d like)

Because You’ve Made Jesus Your Lord

#1 - You’ve been delivered from Hell

Matthew 25:46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Without Jesus, every person on earth is going to Hell. That’s simply how it is.
It’s not that God wants them to go to Hell. On the contrary, God didn’t make Hell for humans - He made it for Satan and his fallen angels. (Matthew 25:41) No, God has done everything He could to save people from Hell! And He has saved you out of there!
Look at Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death (this isn’t about your body dying, it’s referring to Hell itself), but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Glory to God!
You’ve been saved from eternal death and have been given eternal life!
In fact, you may have already heard a verse that says this same thing - John 3:16. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him (the Son - Jesus) will not perish but have everlasting life.
You don’t have to be afraid of leaving this life anymore. Once you check out of this life, you go instantly to be with Jesus! This wasn’t true before salvation - your sin wouldn’t allow it. But now Jesus has wiped out everything that was separating you from Him!

#2 - Your past sins have been completely washed away

This is why you came to Him, right? You knew you were a dirty, rotten sinner. David said it this way in Psalm 51, “My sin is always right in front of me…” And this is why you came to Jesus for help.
Well I’ve got good news for you - He has helped you!
Every single sin, every single bad decision, every time you hurt someone, every time you knew right but chose wrong...all of it has been washed away! You now stand before God as someone with no trace of sin...completely righteous!
2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God “made Him who had no sin (Jesus) to become sin for us so that we may become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus took all that filthiness and sin to the cross. In return, He gave you His own righteousness! As far as God is concerned, you are just as righteous as Jesus Himself.
He carried your sin, so that you can carry His sinlessness (1 Peter 2:24).
Now, God says that He won’t even remember those things that you did wrong (Hebrews 10:17).
And what’s more...this forgiveness doesn’t just extend to what you did before your salvation. 1 John 1:9 says very clearly that if you sin from this point forward, you need only to confess it to Him and He will once again wash away all of it!
You, my friend, are permanently righteous! Hallelujah! (That means “Praise the Lord!”)

#3 - You’ve been made into a brand new creature

Now, obviously you still look the same. You still have the same hair, the same scars, and even the same tastes. You still enjoy the same things (although as you grow in faith, some of these desires will be curbed by your righteousness). If you liked football before you were saved, you’ll still like it after salvation. If your thing was comic books - you’ll still have that interest afterwards. If this is the case, then how can we say that you’re a brand new creature? Doesn’t all of this prove that you’re still just the same person?
Not at all!
You were created with three parts. They are your spirit, your soul, and your body. (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
What other people see as the real you - what they see and hear and touch - is your body. That is the “suit” that you live in - a temporary “tent” that functions as your home here on earth. One day, you’ll take that tent down and move to your new home. 2 Corinthians 5:1 NLT “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in Heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands.” So you are living in the same body as you were before you were saved.
You have also been given a soul. This is what you use to connect with other people. Your soul is made up of three things; what you think (your mind), what you’ve always wanted to do (your will), and the things you feel (your emotions). Just like you have the same body, you still have the same soul now as you did before you got saved.
The fact that you still have the same soul is sometimes a good thing - all the things you’ve learned, all the memories you have, and even the skills you’ve honed in your lifetime...these are all housed in your soul. So you wouldn’t want God to wipe that all out upon salvation.
But you’re going to discover that these things in your soul are going to start giving you problems. All the sins you enjoyed, can still cause pleasure (Hebrews 11:25). The ungodly entertainment that you fed yourself with can still entertain you. And all the wrong kinds of relationships that you were a part of still feel binding on you. Thankfully, God has provided a way to overcome these conflicts, and we’ll talk about that in point #7. Don’t give up my friend!
The real you is your spirit. God is a spirit (John 4:24), and you were made in His image (Genesis 1:27). This means that you are a spirit. So the correct way of thinking is this; you are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live inside a body.
Before you were saved, you were dead in your spirit. Ephesians 2:1 says this, “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.” With your spirit dead, you were left to live by your natural soul and fleshly desires - like a brute beast. But when God called you out of that mess, and you gave your life over to Him, look at what happened! Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.”
Your spirit, the real you, was just re-created when you were saved. This is what it means to be “born again” (John 3:3). God has become your Father (1 John 5:4) and you are a brand new creature. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 and know this means you! “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

#4 - You were separated from the world you’re living in

As we’ve already said, the world is going to Hell without Jesus. We were all a part of the fray. We were by nature “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). But when you got saved, you were separated from all of it.
True, we still live here - we have a job to do here now - but we don’t belong to this world any longer. In John 17:16, Jesus had this to say about you and I: “They are not of the world just like I am not of the world.
Jesus came down from Heaven to earth to live here and fulfill God’s plan. He was here in the world, but He didn’t come from it. That’s the way it is with you and I now. Our new spirit was made by God in Heaven and sent to the earth with a plan. We live here, but we’re not from here.
1 Peter 2:11 tells us “Dear friends, I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” You’re a foreigner here. This means you’re never going to blend in with them any longer. You’re different now - in the same way an ambassador from another country is different from the country he lives in.
This is where your responsibility now lies - you are now called to live out your separation from the world. 1 Corinthians 7:31 tells us that we should be using the things of this world, but 1 John 2:15 says that we should not love the things of this world. This is major - if you’re going to live in God’s system, you’re going to learn to depend on Him and not the things of the world that you used to look to.
You’ve been brought out of the kingdom of darkness and have been brought into a new kingdom - a kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:13). You are now as different from your old worldly buddies and the culture you were raised in as light is different from darkness.

#5 - You’ve been given the same measure of faith as every other believer

Romans 12:3 “ God has dealt to each one the measure of faith.
You probably think that you made the choice to believe in God, right? But the truth is, God gave you that faith! And He didn’t give any one of us more than another. We have all received the same measure of faith, it’s the faith that you used to believe what you heard about the Gospel and what Jesus had done for you.
Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing. That’s how it worked with you, my friend. You heard someone talk about God and how good He was, and hearing that brought faith. This is how we all received the faith that we have.
As you grow in the Lord and go one in your Christian walk, you’re going to notice people that seem to have no problems believing God in every situation. It will seem like their faith can move mountains and change bad situations around in an instant. When you see these people walking in faith like this, you may even end up saying something like, “I wish I had that kind of faith!”
But look back up to Romans 12:3...we all received the same measure of faith! How is then that some people have more faith than others? That’s simple, they have grown and strengthened their faith over time.
The Bible compares faith to a seed (Matthew 17:20). Like any seed, it can be grown into something bigger and stronger than it was at the beginning. God gave you the same faith as everyone, what you do with it is up to you! Are you going to keep it as a seed in your pocket, or are you going to grow it and become “strengthened in the faith?” (Romans 4:20)
How do you grow your faith into something more, something stronger? It’s simple; faith comes by hearing! You continue to grow your faith by continuing to hear God’s Word (another term for the Bible). This is why getting into the pages of the Bible is so important. It will feed and strengthen your faith as you read it and keep it on your mind each and every day!

#6 - Every promise that you see in the Bible has been freely given to you

There are some amazing promises that God has given to his people! This is one reason you need to spend daily time reading the Bible, you will never have faith in a promise that you don’t know.
Think about this, if you never heard that God would save you from your sin, would you believe it? No you wouldn’t. You didn’t receive that promise of salvation until you knew about it!
There are more promises in the pages of the Bible that also are received by faith. This is why reading that book each day is so important. It’s similar to a legal contract or a will - studying it will reveal the new entitlements (or blessings) that you have access to!
There are so many promises of God in the His word! Peace instead of fear, joy instead of sorrow, triumph in the face of trouble, healing from sickness, prosperity and provision...all of these are now available to you! As you read these promises in the Bible, keep your faith out there!
Just like salvation came by faith, each of these promises are received by faith! (Hebrews 6:12) You my friend, have so much more at your disposal than you know right now...but as you grow in the Lord, you will begin to stretch out faith and see these promises be kept in your life.
Lastly, whenever you see a promise from God in the Bible and you wonder “does this apply to me?” - remember 2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’”

#7 - You’ve been given the grace to completely obey God

God’s grace saved you. Ephesians 2:8 says that you were “saved by grace through faith.” That grace invaded your life, washed away your past sins (Ephesians 1:7), and pointed your life in the right direction. But that wasn’t the end of it! He didn’t leave you to walk alone!
So many people think of Christianity as an attempt to reform your life. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. The reality is, you have been given a grace that will completely transform your life! His grace will empower you to follow His directions. You couldn’t obey God before salvation - your fallen nature wouldn’t allow it. But now, by grace you are completely free to do whatever He says to you!
Hebrews 12:28 says that we serve God by grace. 1 Corinthians 15:10 tells us that His grace will actually work through us. This is complete freedom from sin!
So yes, your soul still likes to do things its own way. Yes, you still have all the habits and hangups that you had before salvation. But the great news is you now have all the grace you need to completely annihilate all of that old mess!
If you fall back into sin, God’s grace will catch you. Just turn back to Him again and allow His grace to start working in you all over again. Sin’s grip has been broken off of our lives...praise God!

#8 - You’ve been made a part of Jesus’ body on Earth

Ah we come to what you were expecting. Now let’s talk about church. Do you really need to attend a church? Absolutely! But there’s more to it than that. It isn’t that you are now required to go to church. You have been made a part of Jesus’ church!
Ephesians 1:23 tells us that the church is also called the Body of Christ. This is exactly how it functions. Jesus is the head, He’s in charge. Like the body working with the head, we go where He sends us and do what He tells us. And now you have been made a part of this body.
You need to gather together with other believers. You grow from them and work with them. There are gifts that Jesus gave to the church (Ephesians 4), men and women who teach us and help us grow in the faith. The church is where the truth is made known and Satan’s lies are exposed. You need a church to connect with!
Hebrews 10:25 “...not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but encouraging one another, and so much the more as you see the day [of Jesus’ return] approaching.” God makes it clear to us in this verse, gathering together with other believers isn’t optional - it’s absolutely necessary for us.
But this isn’t about the rules, it’s about who you are now. 1 Timothy 3:15 calls the church “the house of God.” It’s where we come together to meet with Him together. Now look at 1 Peter 2:5, “ also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…” Do you see that? We are compared to spiritual stones that together make up a house for God.
God has a church for you, and He’ll lead you to it. Once you get there, make this decision; “I am not moving from this spot - this is where God placed me, and this is where I’ll grow!”

So welcome to the family brother/sister! Thank God for your decision to follow Him, and He is faithful to finish the good work He started in you!
I want to leave you with one final thought. Luke 15:7 “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” That moment you prayed and confessed Jesus as your Lord, Heaven erupted in shouts of joy over you! Right now, my friend, angels are celebrating your salvation!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Where Truth is Grounded

1 Timothy 3:15 “...but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Satan’s main weapon against believers (indeed, his only weapon against us) is lies and deception. He is a master of propaganda, half-truths, and delusion. These are his fiery darts that Ephesians 6:16 speaks of. He shoots them from every direction. The world is monotonously pumping lies into our ears from social media, schools, TV, and the industries of news and music. Worldly friends unknowingly pick up those lies and continue to bombard us with them. And as if that weren’t enough, our own thoughts and emotions will betray us and amplify those lies…until...we just...accept true.
But just because something is believed - either by you or the majority of people - does not make it the truth. What is truth? Jesus makes the answer clear in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.” It’s so simple, many believers have missed it - God’s Word is the truth! Psalm 119:160 further clarifies this point by saying, “The entirety of Your word is truth.” The Bible, in its completion, is the one and only truth. Your thoughts, conversations, entertainment, and education are only true to the extent that they agree with the Word.
If your enemy is going to get you to buy into a lie, he must first separate you from the truth of the Word. Here’s how his tactics generally work:
First, he’ll do everything he can to keep you out of the Word. He’ll make you too busy, give you more entertaining options for your time, or simply try to make you believe that it’s not that important to you. If he can keep you out of the Word, you'll have no defense when the lie is introduced.
Next, he’ll introduce a lie using one of his myriads of spokesmen. It may sound something like this, “It’s that time of year again; everywhere you go, people are getting sick.”
He’ll then try to influence your surroundings to get you focused on a circumstance that seems to support his lie. A simple tickle in the throat could lead to thoughts like “Oh no, I can’t get sick now! I just knew someone was going to give me their germs!
And then, he’ll even use someone close to you to confirm his lie. “Hey, are you ok? You don’t look so good!
What’s his end-game? His ultimate goal is to get his lie to come out of your mouth. If he can accomplish that - then he’s got you. Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Is there an answer to these lies? Yes! Speak the Word of God!
The lie is “You must be coming down with something.”
The truth is “By His stripes, I am healed.”
The lie is “Those people don’t even like you!
The truth is “Jesus has broken down the wall of division, and made me accepted.”
The lie is “The Bible is just a book written by religious men, it doesn’t really apply to you.
The truth is “All Scripture was breathed from the mouth of God.”
The lie is “That woman can offer me more than my wife can.
The truth is “Rejoice in the wife of your youth, and always get caught up in her love!”
Now imagine this: Satan has just finished crafting one of his masterpieces. He then delivers this lie to his minions, who begin to introduce it into a believers life. They spend weeks keeping it in his ears, in front of his eyes, and in the back of his mind. They know if that believer buys into it, it could destroy him and everyone around him.
But one Sunday morning, when that believer sits down in church, the preacher delivers the truth from the pulpit and exposes the lie for what it is. Then as John 8:32 puts it, that truth makes him free. How frustrating that must be for the Father of Lies! And yet this happens, thousands of times over, every week! This is what your church should be, a pedestal (which is the actual term for word “pillar” in 1 Timothy 3:15) that the truth is set upon. Your church is where God intended to put His truth on display.

Now think carefully about the doctrine of “I don’t have to go to church - I’m saved and that’s enough.” Who benefits from a believer accepting that idea? Does that strengthen the Truth in your life, or separate you from it? Do the pages of Scripture support that teaching? Or is it possible that this idea is one more weapon in your enemy's arsenal?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Promise of Grace

Without grace, even the New Testament becomes the Law.” -Pastor Tracy Harris

Everyone knows about the ten commandments – these make up the foundation of what is called “The Law.” If you're not sure what they are, let's take a quick look:

Following these commandments bring righteousness and blessing on someone's life – disobeying them will bring condemnation and judgment. But we have already established this fact; no one can keep these commands. Ten simple rules to follow, and we've all failed miserably.

At least we're living in the New Testament, right? On this side of Calvary, God's grace has freely forgiven us for breaking His original commandments. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace...” (Ephesians 1:7). Now that we've been freely forgiven of all sin, there's no more commands for us to follow, right?

Actually, would you care to guess how many commands are in the New Testament? Ten? Twenty? One hundred? Would you believe that there are one thousand and fifty new commands for the Christian to follow? If we were lost with only ten to keep track of, we must be completely hopeless with more than a thousand! There's no way we could even remember all of those – let alone keep them! Doesn't this put a believer in a worse place than they were before?

That would certainly be true if we had to keep these commands by ourselves. But we don't have to do this alone; we've been given something that makes it all possible – grace! Let's look again at Hebrews 12:28, “...let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably...” We can only serve God by grace, not by trying.

When we try to obey God, we're depending on our flesh to do what's right. This is what Paul calls “the weakness of the Law in Romans 8:3. The reason the trying to keep the law never works is because your depending on your weak flesh to follow God's commands. But if you read the end of Romans 7, you'll discover that the flesh will never be able to follow God's commands.

This is why we need grace, to empower us to serve God and obey his commands. Look at what Paul says about grace in 2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Where the flesh is weak, God's grace brings power. The result of this empowering grace can be seen in Psalm 119:32 “I will run the course of Your commands, for You shall enlarge my heart.

When you try to obey God, you'll fail. But when you step into the spirit and have faith in God, you'll find sin losing it's grip on you! Let's take another look at Romans 8, this time at verses 2-9:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit...”

The only way to keep the righteous requirements of the law is to stay in the Spirit – by fully trusting in God's grace.

And what is it we trust in? Put your hope completely in this one truth: God has never given a command without also giving the power to keep it! Let's take a quick tour through scripture and illustrate this point:

When God commanded Moses to move forward – He gave the power to split the sea.
When God commanded Joshua to capture the Promise Land – He gave the power for victory.
When Jesus commanded the man with the withered hand to stretch it out – He gave the power to be healed.
When Jesus called Peter out on the sea – He gave the power to walk on the water.

Now look at Lazarus. If there was any man that was weak in the flesh, it was this one! He had been dead for four days – and Jesus commanded him to come out of the grave! Lazarus didn't have the strength to get up...he was dead! But what happened? The command carried the power to obey it! This is what grace does for us, it empowers us to obey the commands of God – any command.

This is the power of grace – Grace turns any command in scripture into the power to obey! As you read the words of scripture, remember this; any command you read is actually a promise to empower you to obey. Put your faith in God, and He will enlarge your heart to obey every word He says...This is the Promise of Grace!