“5 Reasons God Allows Those Thorns in Our Lives” September 21

 

5 Reasons God Allows Those Thorns in Our LivesPaul was one of God’s most faithful servants. Why would God allow something so difficult in his life that Paul called it “a thorn in the flesh”? Could the reasons be the same reasons He allows “thorns” in our lives? If so, we would do well to better understand them.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 33 & 34
Psalm 109.1-5
Proverbs 25.25-26
2 Corinthians 12.1-21

 

5 Reasons God Allows Those Thorns in Our Lives

 

2 Corinthians 12.1-21:

My Grace is Sufficient

 

Here in chapter 12 Paul talks of being taken up to the “third heaven” either literally or in a vision (vss. 1-4). The things God spoke to him there were so incredible, that he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to help him keep his feet on the ground and remember that it was all about God and that he was just a vessel.

But were there other reasons for Paul’s thorn? Could they be the same reasons God allows “thorns” in our lives, too? Verses 7-10:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you ...


5 Reasons God Allows Thorns in Believers Lives:

 

1. To reveal our spiritual maturity (or lack of; vss. 5-6).

Nothing tests our character or helps us grow in spiritual maturity like tests and trials (Jas. 1.2-5). It’s easy to claim faith in God and change in us when life is easy, but when our faith is tested, we may find there are areas where we’re trusting in something other than Christ.

2. To humble us (v. 7).

None of us is immune to pride. Pride is not something Paul was tempted with or maybe you are, but not me. Pride is something with which we all struggle. It’s just a matter of how and where it shows up. Tests and trials keeps us real with ourselves.

3. To draw us to Himself (v. 8).

Paul “pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from [him].” It’s easy to get lackadaisical about our time with the Lord when things are going well, but when times get tough, believers run to their Father.

4. To display His grace (v. 9a).

When we bring our troubles to the Lord, we want Him to simply remove them. Paul did, too. But often, God’s answer is to give us the grace to walk through them, instead. He teaches us to apply His Word to specific situations and grows us in faith and trust in Him. Through it all, God does what only He can do, especially in us.

5. To perfect His power (v. 9b).

When we see our own weakness and cry out to Him, God’s power can work in and through us in amazing ways. Suffering and hardship remove the dross of self-sufficiency, selfishness, and pride and make us pure channels for God’s power.

 

When I Am Weak

 

When Paul recognized God’s purpose in his trials, he could proclaim, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

If we stay focused on how much we dislike the trial or get into self-pity and a why-me attitude, we miss what God wants to do in and through us. But when we surrender our pain and suffering to Him, admit our weakness, and rely on His strength and wisdom, He does great things.

 

Just a note about verse 4: Paul said when he was taken up into heaven, he heard, “inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” If the great Apostle was not permitted to share what he saw of heaven, it certainly should make us question the claims of those who say they did and have come back to tell us all about it.

Whether it’s our own experiences or those of others, we always need to filter them through the lens of Scripture.  Continue reading

“The Cost of Turning Our Backs on God” September 20

 

Turning Our Backs on God - When Jesus spoke truth to the rich young ruler, he turned and walked away. And Jesus didn’t stop him! If we as individuals, or even as a nation, are determined to continue turning our backs on God and refusing to live His way, He will let us! But the results could be disastrous.When Jesus spoke truth to the rich young ruler, he turned and walked away. And Jesus didn’t stop him! If we as individuals, or even as a nation, are determined to continue turning our backs on God and refusing to live His way, He will let us! But the results could be disastrous.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 30-32
Psalm 108.7-13
Proverbs 25.23-24
2 Corinthians 11.16-33

 

The Cost of Turning Our Backs on God

 

Isaiah 30-32:

Do Not Prophesy to Us Right Things

 

Over and over throughout these passages God is warning His people to not rely on themselves or their own wisdom and not to turn to false prophets who merely tell them what they want to hear. He also warned them not to turn to outsiders, other nations, no matter how strong they look. The message is “I am sovereign—I am in control.”

He warns them that all the false prophets, all the strong nations, all the wisdom of man will ultimately be brought to nothing. With all the problems in our country today many cling to the idea that some leader, some program, some philosophy, some scientific discovery will solve our problems nationally and individually. We are so much like the people in Isaiah’s time (30.9-13):

Children who will not hear the law of the LORD;
10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.
11 Get out of the way,
Turn aside from the path,
Cause the Holy One of Israel
To cease from before us.”

12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel.

“ Because you despise this word,
And trust in oppression and perversity,
And rely on them,
13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you
Like a breach ready to fall,
A bulge in a high wall,
Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant.

 

Turning Our Backs on God - When Jesus spoke truth to the rich young ruler, he turned and walked away. And Jesus didn’t stop him! If we as individuals, or even as a nation, are determined to continue turning our backs on God and refusing to live His way, He will let us! But the results could be disastrous.The list of things we no longer want to hear as a nation is endless:

  • That rebellion and disrespect is wrong (1 Sam. 15.23). Consequently, we disrespect police officers and other authority figures. Our children, in turn, disrespect us, their teachers, and anyone else who tries to tell them what to do.
  • That marriage is to be between one man and one woman for a lifetime (Matt. 19.4-6). Consequently, the rate of divorce and of couples living together without marriage happens across all levels of society in huge numbers and without any shame. And now so-called gay marriage has become the law of the land.
  • That sex is holy and reserved for the marriage bed (Heb. 13.4; Rom. 1.24-32). Consequently, sex outside of marriage in all of its forms is rampant: adultery, fornication, rape, incest, molestation, homosexuality, pornography and more.
  • That life is precious and God is the giver and taker (Acts 17.24-25; Ps. 139.13-16). Consequently, abortion is now called a woman’s right, euthanasia has been openly debated and practiced, murder is rampant in many of our cities, and mass shootings because of anger, hate, or political ideology happen all too often.
  • That work is God-ordained and the way God provides for His people on a day-to-day basis (2 Thess. 3.10; 1 Tim. 5.8). Consequently, we have husbands and fathers who find every excuse possible not to work and provide for their families, people who know how to “work the system” going from agency to agency, organization to organization, even church to church getting every handout they can, and others who live much of their lives dependent on the government. (Bear in mind, that other passages commanded God’s people to care for the genuinely needy and unable to work.)

And if we continue going our way and turning our backs on God, things will get worse, but the answer is the same today as it was thousands of years ago: to return to God, not to become independent, but God dependent:  Continue reading

“The Most Powerful Force in the World” September 19

 

The Most Powerful Force in the World - With the destruction from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey fresh in our minds, few would doubt the sheer force of storm driven wind and rain. And we've all seen images of earthquakes and other natural disasters.   Man made destruction can be just as powerful: war torn countries, the effects of suicide bombers and terrorism, and our own twin towers. Now another enemy threatens with missile launches and nuclear tests.   But are any of those the most powerful force in the world? And, if not, what is?With the destruction from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey fresh in our minds, few would doubt the sheer force of storm driven wind and rain. And we’ve all seen images of earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Man made destruction can be just as powerful: war torn countries, the effects of suicide bombers and terrorism, and our own twin towers. Now another enemy threatens with missile launches and nuclear tests.

But are any of those the most powerful force in the world? And, if not, what is?

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 29
Psalm 108.1-6
Proverbs 25.21-22
2 Corinthians 11.1-15

 

The Most Powerful Force in the World

 

Proverbs 25.21-22:

Three Stories

 

Another Monday morning. Jeannie would have to pray. She and Sue were the only two women on a job that was hard enough without Sue’s constant antagonism. It was made worse by the fact that, as far as Jeannie knew, she had never done anything to warrant her hatred.

The cheating began just a few months into their marriage. Mary had cried, yelled, spied on him, and threatened to leave. Each time Joe would tell her he was sorry and promise to break off the affair. But before long, she’d overhear a conversation, someone would call and hang up, or Joe would stay out all night and she’d know.

Karen’s husband worked hard. He came home every night. He paid the bills. But week-ends were a nightmare. Before the sun set on Friday, Bill was well into a bottle of bourbon and the more he drank, the angrier he got. More than once he had pulled out his gun and waved it around, even pointing it at Karen.

 

Jeannie’s Story

Each workday Jeannie determined to be kind to Sue, in spite of her cursing and cheap shots. But there were days when she went home in tears and cried out to God for another job.

Then one day after a particularly angry outburst, Sue stopped and just stared at Jeannie. “What is wrong with you? Everyday you come back and treat me right no matter what I say or do!” What followed were tears, but this time they were Sue’s and not Jeannie’s, as she poured out a story of heartbreak and abuse. Eventually, she accepted an invitation to attend church with Jeannie where she found the grace to let God heal her heart.  Continue reading

“What Are Strongholds?” September 18

 

What Are Strongholds? And how do we tear them down?When the Apostle Paul talked about strongholds, what did he mean? Could we have strongholds in our own lives? And, if so, how do we begin tearing them down?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 27 & 28
Psalm 107.33-43
Proverbs 25.20
2 Corinthians 10.1-18

 

What Are Strongholds?

 

2 Corinthians 10.1-18:

The Weapons of Our Warfare

 

Verses 3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

Notice three words in this passage: “arguments,” “knowledge,” and “thought.” The strongholds Paul talks about here are not physical and they are not demonic in the sense of “demon possession” or as a spirit holding us captive to some behavior (“spirit of alcohol,” or “a spirit of nicotine,” or “a spirit of lust,” etc.).

They have to do with arguments, knowledge, and thoughts—our thinking, ideas, and beliefs. The strongholds we have to battle are false ideas, false religions, false doctrines, and false philosophies—wrong thinking. We fight them on our knees and with “the Word of Truth.” The way to overcome strongholds is by replacing lies with truth.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2.15).

 

Plausible Lies

 

It’s easier to see some of the big lies or strongholds that keep people in bondage—lies like false religions and cults. But there are many more plausible lies, lies that are easier to believe and buy into.

  • A plausible lie: A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body.
    The truth: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139.16).
  • Plausible lies: Kids are going to have sex. We just need to teach them how to have “safe sex.” Or, God certainly doesn’t expect me to be chaste; after all, I’m only human! Or, that was for Bible times; this is a different culture!
    The truth: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification. that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4.3-5).
  • A plausible lie: Homosexuality—God made them that way, so they can’t be expected to change.
    The truth: Homosexuality like all sin is part of our fallen nature, but we are redeemable. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
  • A plausible lie: About dating or marriage—I know he’s not a Christian, but how else is he going to get saved? At least he comes to church with me and I’m sure he’ll become a Christian.
    The truth: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God …” (2 Cor. 6.14-16).
  • A plausible lie: God wants me to be happy!
    The truth: God does want His children to be blessed, but he first wants us to be holy! “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1.15-16). Happiness if fleeting, but holiness leads to joy unspeakable!

But there are other, more religious sounding lies.

  • A plausible lie: How could a loving God send anyone to hell? That’s not the God I serve!
    The truth: God isn’t sending us to hell. We’re already lost and He sent His Son to rescue all those who will believe (Jn. 3.16; 1 Jn. 4.9).
  • A plausible lie: All religions lead to God though they may call Him by another name.
    The truth: Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14.6).
  • A plausible lie: Jesus just loved everyone. We should do the same. After all, who are we to judge?
    The truth: We should love everyone, even our enemies, but part of loving means there are times when we need to speak the truth in love (Gal. 6.1-2; 2 Cor. 7.8-11; Prov. 27.5-6).
  • A plausible lie: It doesn’t matter what I believe about God and the Bible, as long as I love Jesus.
    The truth: What we believe about God and His Word as revealed in the Bible matter a great deal. It affects how we handle tests and trials, how we reflect Him to a lost world, the level of our trust, and our ability to have peace and joy no matter what our circumstances. For more on this, check out my post, “Good Doctrine Matters.” In that post I explain how some false doctrines sound good, but have a nasty downside.

We, of all people, should not buy into the plausible lies that the world uses to argue against the truth and keep people in spiritual blindness and bondage! But we also need to be on guard against the religious sounding lies that can destroy our testimonies, keep us discouraged, or cause us to doubt God’s love.

Let’s purpose in our hearts to tear down those strongholds, first in our own hearts, and then to prayerfully share the truth with others.

 

What Are Strongholds & How Do We Tear Them Down?

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Isaiah 27 & 28:

Woe to the Drunkards …

 

Verse 1 of chapter 28 says, “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower which is at the head of the verdant valleys, to those who are overcome with wine!”

This passage is written to the ten northern tribes represented by Ephraim. The area where they lived was very lush and fertile. God had blessed them with an abundance of beauty and fruitfulness, but they were puffed up with pride as if they had caused it and had wasted God’s blessings on “drunkenness”—their own sensual pleasures.

Verses 7-8 present a very unpleasant picture: Continue reading

“Step Where I Step” + LINKUP

 

Step Where I Step - I recently started attending a Bible study taught by a dear friend. During this week’s lesson, she told a story that I loved.

A young man who was an avid hiker wanted to propose to his girlfriend, but he want to do so at a particularly scenic spot in the mountains where he hiked. His girlfriend, an “indoor girl,” agreed to go, but was having a difficult time with the trek. As she struggled with the ascent, he encouraged her by saying, “just step where I step.”

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival

 

Step Where I Step

 

And that’s what she did, step by step. That “indoor girl” followed the young man she had grown to love and trust.

She made it. He proposed.

And later she said, even though it was challenging, it was so worth it! In fact, she said, it wasn’t as hard as it looked.

As my friend, Marie, was telling the story, I thought about the Christian walk. It, too, can be a challenging journey. It’s filled with steep ascents, unexpected turns, scary cliffs and falling rocks. It tests our stamina and our courage, at times.

But I wonder, do we make the journey harder than it needs to be, because of our failure to truly follow in the foot steps of our Savior?

 

Step Where I Step - A young man who was an avid hiker wanted to propose to his girlfriend, but he want to do so at a particularly scenic spot in the mountains where he hiked. His girlfriend, an "indoor girl," agreed to go, but was having a difficult time with the trek. As she struggled with the ascent, he encouraged her by saying, "just step where I step."


Follow Me

 

Just as surely as He did to those first twelve disciples, Jesus says to each of us, “follow me.” Just step where I step.

Too often, we’re walking in our own strength, trying to do what we should through self-effort and wondering why it’s so hard.

We end up exhausted, burned out, or frustrated, because the Christian life can’t be done in our own strength (Matt. 9.26).

This isn’t just a problem for new believers. In fact, as we grow in Christ we may be more prone to self-effort. After all, we know the drill. We speak the language. We know what we should say and do. We’re not as desperate for His help and guidance, not clinging to Him one step at a time. We’ve walk the path before and can easily think, “I’ve got this.”

God knows our tendency and out of His love for us will take us on new paths, steeper journeys than we thought possible, so we see our need for Him. When He does, we’re sometimes shocked at our responses.

We may respond with sinful anger that we thought we’d dealt with years ago or find ourselves tempted with another sinful habit.

In our heart of hearts, we sometimes think “after all I’ve done to serve You, Lord, why would You allow this?”

Why would my child rebel after I’ve raised her right?

Why would my business fail after I’ve tithed all these years?

Why would my spouse walk out?

How can I be struggling with this?

It’s not fair!

That’s when we must look to Jesus and the path he walked ahead of us. We need to step where He stepped … when He was betrayed, misunderstood, falsely accused, arrested and crucified. We need to follow in His steps as He forgives those who reject and sin against Him today.

We need to forgive the unforgivable (Rom. 5.8; Eph. 4.31-32).

We need to love the unlovable (Matt. 5.43-48).

We need to submit to the harsh and unreasonable (1 Pet. 2.18-21, 3.1-2).

We need to bless those who revile us and do us wrong (1 Pet. 2.23).

We need to refuse revenge and overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.17-21).

We need to release the prodigal to His love and consequences, yet stand ready to welcome him home (Lk. 15.11-24).

We need to refuse to be like the prodigal’s brother (Lk. 15.25-32).

We need to follow His steps as He loves and forgives us when we turn to other gods and commit spiritual adultery (Jas. 4.1-4).

 

Step Where I Step - We won't make it to the summit by hacking out our own path.


The Impossible

 

We’ll soon realize that we can’t do that in our own strength. We won’t make it to the summit by hacking out our own path.  Continue reading

“The Only Way to Perfect Peace” September 17

 

The Only Way to Perfect Peace - Wars, terrorism, the rise of Islam, North Korean nuclear missiles, riots, and political unrest … Is it possible to have perfect peace in today’s world?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 25 & 26
Psalm 107.23-32
Proverbs 25.18-19
2 Corinthians 9.1-15

 

The Only Way to Perfect Peace

 

Isaiah 25 & 26:

Perfect Peace

 

Chapter 26.1-4 is a picture of the church and its blessings. Verse 1 says we have “salvation for walls and bulwarks” and verse 3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” The NLT says, “whose thoughts are fixed on you.” And the NASB says He will keep the one whose mind is “steadfast.”

When we belong to Him, our assurance of salvation (Jn. 10.27-30) is a wall or bulwark around our hearts and lives. We can trust that we are secure in our relationship with Him (Rom. 8.31, 38-39).

In verse 3, the word translated stayed or fixed means to “to lean, lay, rest, support, put, uphold, lean upon.”

The word steadfast means “firmly fixed in place: immovable, not subject to change: firm in belief, determination, or adherence.”

When our hearts and minds are steadfast, immovable, resting in the truths of Scripture and supported by God’s faithfulness to keep His promises, we will have perfect peace.

To get there we must spend time in His presence, saturating ourselves in His Word, talking to Him and listening as He speaks to our hearts. It’s impossible to trust someone whose character we don’t know, but as we read of His faithfulness to the generations before us, as we learn how He works in our lives through prayer, as we meditate on His promises we come to know Him. And when we do, we’ll be better equipped to put our faith and trust in Him.

Verse 4:

Trust in the Lord always,
for the Lord God is the eternal Rock (NLT).

Christ is our eternal, never changing Rock. Trusting Him is the only way to true, lasting and perfect peace.

That peace should carry over into every part of our lives as our reading in Psalms illustrates.  Continue reading

“Where Will You Spend Eternity?” September 16

 

Where Will You Spend Eternity? - We will all live forever. The question is ... where? Will it be in a place where Jesus said the fire that shall never be quenched and the worm does not die? Or will we spend eternity in the presence of God where he will wipe away every tear, where there will be no sorrow and no more pain?

We will all live forever. The question is … where? Will it be in a place of eternal punishment, where Jesus said there is fire that’s never quenched and the worm doesn’t die? Or will we spend eternity in the presence of God where He will wipe away every tear and where there will be no sorrow or pain?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 23 & 24
Psalm 107.10-22
Proverbs 25.17
2 Corinthians 8.1-24

 

Where Will You Spend Eternity?

 

Isaiah 23 & 24:

Judge of the Whole Earth

 

In chapter 24 of Isaiah, the pattern of the book changes. Instead of talking about God’s judgment on specific nations, the prophet begins speaking to the inhabitants of the earth. This prophecy is more general in nature.

It. certainly. had a near future meaning, possibly the devastation brought about by Sennacherib and his Assyrian army or by Nebuchadnezzar and his armies from Babylon.

But it also has a yet future application in the events of the Tribulation. The book of Revelation talks about the incredible destruction that will take place during those terrifying seven years.

The next few chapters of Isaiah will continue talking about God’s judgment on the world, but there is also comfort in these passages for those who belong to Him. Even in the worst of times, God cares for His own! And as for the Great Tribulation, I don’t believe those of us who have made a decision for Christ now will be around to see it. I believe it will be proceeded by the Rapture of the church:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4.16-17).

What about you? Do you know that you will “always be with the Lord”?

We will all live forever (1 Cor. 15.50-54). The question is … where? Will it be in a place separated from God, where Jesus said the fire is never quenched and the worm doesn’t die (Mk. 9.43-44), a place of eternal torment? Or will we spend eternity in the presence of God where he will wipe away every tear, where there will be no sorrow and no more pain (Rev. 21.4)?

Sadly, there will be those who attend church, do good things and think they’re OK with God, who will realize too late that they were not truly saved (Matt. 7.21-23).

What about you? Where will you spend eternity?

If you cannot say that there has been a time in your life where you recognized your need for a Savior, a time when you accepted Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross for you personally and surrendered your life to Him, cry out to God now and ask Him to save you.

 

Assurance of Salvation

 

Perhaps, you’ve prayed a prayer or had an emotional experience at some time in your life, but you still have doubts.  Continue reading

“What Are Presumptuous Sins?” September 15

 

What Are Presumptuous Sins? - We all sin in many ways. Even when we desire to do right, our motives can be self-serving. But David, the man after God's own heart said, "Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression." What are presumptuous sins and why was David so concerned about them?We all sin in many ways. Even when we desire to do right, our motives can be self-serving. But David, the man after God’s own heart said, “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.”

What are presumptuous sins and why was David so concerned about them?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 21 & 22
Psalm 107.1-9
Proverbs 25.14-16
2 Corinthians 7.1-16

 

What Are Presumptuous Sins?

 

2 Corinthians 7.1-16:

Sorrow that Leads to Repentance

 

In a previous letter Paul had rebuked the Corinthians for their unbiblical behavior. In verses 8-12 Paul followed up and revealed the reason he was willing to say things that were hard to say and hard to hear:

8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. 9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner. What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.

Sometimes we must be willing to speak the truth in love even if it means offending someone, risking our friendship with them, or not being liked. No one wants to do so unnecessarily, but when we see a pattern of sin in someone’s life, Galatians 6 tells us:

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Notice that even when we must speak to someone who is caught in a pattern of sin, we are to do it in a spirit of gentleness, examining ourselves first and continually, lest we fall into sin ourselves in the process.

 

Presumptuous Sins

 

On another note, as I reread today’s reading I started contemplating MacArthur’s notes on verse 1. In reference to the phrase “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” he says, “False religion panders to the human appetites represented by both ‘flesh and spirit’.”

I believe that is the reason men and women can appear religious on the outside, even serving as priests or pastors or are involved in ministry in some other way, while excusing drunkenness, sexual immorality, theft, or other sins. Their religious activity sometimes causes them to believe they have somehow earned a little favor or collateral with God.

On other occasions, they excuse immoral sexual appetites like adultery, fornication, homosexuality, or child molestation by rationalizing about “all the good they do.”

But perhaps the most pernicious way, religion keeps us bound up in sin is by seeing it as a system that cancels out or appeases God. Because I’ve sinned, I must do penance by praying a certain prayer over and over or performing some other act of contrition. It’s like writing on a spiritual blackboard, “I will not talk in class,” a hundred times.

It leads us to think when tempted, “I know this is wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway. Afterwards, I’ll ask God to forgive me and take the consequences.” Continue reading

“Delayed Obedience = Disobedience” September 14

 

Delayed Obedience = Disobedience - Just as we should not put off getting our lives right with God initially, neither should we put off obeying God in the ongoing day-to-day areas of our lives. Delayed obedience = disobedience.Just as we should not put off getting our lives right with God initially, neither should we put off obeying God in the ongoing day-to-day areas of our lives. Delayed obedience = disobedience.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 19 & 20
Psalm 106.32-48
Proverbs 25.13
2 Corinthians 6.1-18

 

Delayed Obedience = Disobedience

 

2 Corinthians 6.1-18:

Delayed Obedience

 

2 For He says.
“ In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Salvation is both a onetime event and an ongoing process. The new birth that Jesus talked about in John 3 is a onetime event. Just as we were born once physically, we are born again once spiritually.

But that is just the beginning of the process of changing and growing and becoming more like Christ. Paul said:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2.12-13).

Just as we should not put off getting our lives right with God initially, neither should we put off obeying God in the ongoing day-to-day areas of our lives. Delayed obedience = disobedience.

 

Delayed Obedience = Disobedience - Just as we should not put off getting our lives right with God initially, neither should we put off obeying God in the ongoing day-to-day areas of our lives. Delayed obedience = disobedience.

In what areas have you stubbornly refused to obey God?

Is there a relationship that needs to be reconciled (Matt. 5.23-24)?

Is there a habit of the old man which needs to be put off and its biblical alternative put on (Eph. 4.22-24)?

Has God called you to some area of ministry yet you have failed to prepare yourself or get in motion (Rom. 12.6-8; 2 Tim. 2.15)?

Have you failed to grow in your understanding of God’s Word (2 Tim. 2.15)?

Have you been lazy about memorizing and meditating on the Scriptures (Ps. 1.1-3, 119.9, 11)?

Do you pray regularly or only when there is nothing else you can possibly do (Lk. 18.1; 1 Thess. 5.17)?

Is there some other area where you have failed to obey God?

Have you been faithful to share the gospel with those in your life or do you procrastinate thinking … maybe later?

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Isaiah 19 & 20:

Future Mercies

 

Even as God through the Prophet declares judgment on Israel and the surrounding nations, He looks forward to Christ’s millennial reign on earth.  Continue reading

“Are You Whining or Shining?” September 13

 

Are You Whining or Shining?

We’re called to be different! But when it comes to how you respond to circumstances, tests, trials, the state of our nation, economy or politics … are you whining or shining? And why does it matter?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 17 & 18
Psalm 106.32-39
Proverbs 25.11-12
2 Corinthians 5.1-21

 

Are You Whining or Shining?

 

Isaiah 17 & 18:

A Remnant … Whining or Shining?

 

In these chapters God through the prophet continues to warn of coming judgments, but reminds them there will always be a faithful remnant (Is. 18.6).

As we see what’s happening here in our nation, we cannot give up or lose hope. We must realize that it’s our calling to be part of that faithful remnant. We are to be salt and light.

Philippians 2.14-15 says we are to:

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that [we] may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (emp. added).

How’s your light? Is it bright and clear? Is it dim and hidden by junk (sin or the cares of this world)? Or do you just whine and complain like everyone else?

If we are going to give hope to a lost and dying world, even in the midst of discouraging times and setbacks, we must point to the only source of real hope. Our hope cannot be in the government, the hope that our nation will wake up and turn back to God, or any person or event.

Our hope must be in all the truths and promises of Scripture: God’s free offer of salvation to those who will believe, His divine supports here and now to those who belong to Him, the reality of heaven and the promise of eternal rewards. And while our saltiness may sting at times, it must be balanced with a brightness that will cause others to want what we have.

 

Are You Whining or Shining? - We’re called to be different! But when it comes to how you respond to circumstances, tests, trials, the state of our nation, economy or politics … are you whining or shining? And why does it matter?


Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 106.32-39:

Holding Out the Light, Not Taking Part in the Darkness

 

As the psalmist continues to recount the history of the Israelites, he includes these verses about their involvement with pagan religions, even taking part in the most detestable practices.

Verses 35-38:

35 But they mingled with the Gentiles
And learned their works;
36 They served their idols,
Which became a snare to them.
37 They even sacrificed their sons
And their daughters to demons,
38 And shed innocent blood,
The blood of their sons and daughters,
Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
And the land was polluted with blood.

In 2 Corinthians 6.14-17 Paul said:

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God …

17 Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord …”

Because we have not obeyed that command, like the ancient Israelites of Isaiah’s time, we are often more a part of our culture then we are separate from it. We are so afraid of being called “intolerant” or of being accused of being narrow minded or ignorant that we have accepted the world’s philosophy on many things or at least been intimidated into silence while unborn babies are being killed, history is rewritten, and truth becomes relative.  Continue reading