Living Sacrifices

The Bible teaches in the following passage how we are to live as Christians.  Living sacrifices are a greater influence to mankind in this sinful world, much more than a dead sacrifice.  Martyrs cannot preach the Gospel any more.  Martyrs are not able to witness anymore.  It takes someone alive in Christ to continue the work of winning souls.

Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!   “For who has known the mind of the LORD?  Or who has become His counselor?”, “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

  • These scriptures speak to us of the greatness, the wisdom, the mercy and the love of God toward His creation.  That’s US.  You and I are the objects of God’s attention.  Did you know that?  That is something to get excited about.  God loves you.

Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

  • Let us look very carefully at these first two verses of chapter 12.  Note that what is about to be said is not to the world, but to the church, to the people of God, that people who call themselves “Christian.”
  • There is not a worse advertisement for the church and the work of the church than those who call themselves “Christian” and live like the world. 
  • Someone said “If you run with the goats on Saturday night, don’t expect to smell like a sheep on Sunday morning.”
  • There is more to being a Christian than shedding a few crocodile tears at the altar.  It is walking straight after you go out the door.
  • There is more to living for Christ Jesus than the 10:30 or 11:00 worship hour on Sunday morning. 
  • There is more to being a Christian than joining a church or living a creed.  It is called dedication, consecration, sanctification and a whole lot more.  Be a good advertisement for the Lord.

Give your all for Him – He gave His all for you.

  • I beseech you – I implore you, I beg you.  Remember this verse is addressed to the people of God.  Did you know that some people in the church need to be coached, begged, counseled, and convinced of what is right and what really is the truth?  People attending church may point to a particular sin and say, “I would never do that.”  Yes, you would if sin is in control.  If you have not been truly changed by the saving grace of Jesus and the indwelling power of the Spirit, who knows but God what you are capable of doing.
  • Brethren – to the house of faith.  That is you and I.  This passage is addressed to us, the church, the believers, the body of Christ.  One passage of Scripture states that “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”  Another states, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, what of the ungodly?”  As ambassadors of Christ, we must be holy, blameless, walking worthy of the calling that Christ has called us to. 
  • Is holy living popular today?  In some churches it will get you in trouble if you preach it.  Let’s look at someone who lived in the early 1700’s who was not popular because of his stance on holiness – John Wesley.  Here is a single passage from the journal of John Wesley:

1738
Sunday a.m., May 7, preached in St. Lawrence’s, was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday p.m., May 7, preached at St. Katherine Cree’s church, deacons said, “Get out and stay out.”
Sunday a.m., May 14, preached at St. Ann’s, can’t go back there either.
Sunday afternoon, May 21, preached at St. John’s, kicked out again.
Sunday evening, May 21, preached at St. somebody else’s, Bennet’s maybe, deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.

1739
Tuesday, May 8, afternoon service, preached in a pasture in Bath, 1,000 people came to hear me.
Sunday, September 9, preached to 10,000 people three weeks in a row in Moorfields

It may not be popular, but most people really do want to hear the truth.

  •  By the mercies of God – How do you measure the mercies of God?  Were it not for the mercies of God, you and I would not be here today.  It is only His great mercy that we are able to get ourselves out of bed, dress ourselves, feed ourselves and find our way to the House of God.  We take so much for granted.
  • It is only because of His mercy that we were born in this great country.  Yes, it is a great country even with its sin. 
    • It is only because of His mercy we have a place like this beautiful sanctuary to worship in.
    • It is only because of His mercy that somebody somewhere told us about the saving grace of Jesus.
    • It is only by His mercy that we have a mind capable of coming to the conclusion that He is the one who will take us, shape us, and make us in the image of his own self.  GLORY!!!
  •  That you present your bodies – You cannot present your body to serve God and continue to allow your mind and your will to go unbridled and service the flesh.  It’s all or nothing. You cannot walk the fence and serve God.  The devil, the enemy of your soul, can duplicate everything in the Christian’s life.  Everything except one thing.  Think about it.  The devil cannot duplicate consistent holy living.  You must have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing and holy before God.  You are just not strong enough on your own.  You need help!  God’s help – daily, hourly, every moment 24/7 365.

Psalms 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength.  A very present help in time of trouble.”

James 4:7 – “Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

You cannot get past the temptation if you are debating the devil or continuing to dwell on the temptation.  The scripture says to first, submit to God.  Another passage says He will give you a way of escape.  To resist the devil so that he will flee from you may take many forms.  One way would be, instead of dwelling on the temptation, go and do a good deed, start singing praises to God, or reach for your Bible.  Do anything except debate the devil unless you can quote him a scripture or two.  BUT IT STARTS WITH SUBMISSION TO GOD.

Ephesians 5:8 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.

  •  A living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God – A lot of things have come down the pike regarding the term “holy” or “holiness.”  What does the Word of God say about the matter?  It is not what Aunt Tillie, Uncle Joe or grandmother says.  It is not what a church organization says.  It is not what some ecclesiastical potentate of some sort says.  It is what “thus says the Lord.”  Are you pleasing to God?  That is what matters.
  •  Your reasonable service – Reasonable, rational, intelligent, logical, not in any way unreasonable.  He never demands or asks anything you cannot do. 

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

1 Corinthians 6:20 – “For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

  •  Do not be conformed to this world – You do not belong to this world any more.  You are a child of God.  Act like it; speak like it; live like it.  You are fashioned after, shaped as, conformed like Him if you indeed have received Him.  You are not your own.  You belong to Him and you belong to each other.  When you live in a manner less than your Heavenly Father intends for you to live, you bring reproach on Him, on the church and on each other.  We are all part of the same body, so we need to have respect for Him, for the church, for each other.

1 John 2:15-16 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Romans 6:6-7 – Know this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

  •  Be transformed by the renewing of the mind – When you came to Christ, you had a heart transplant, but you also needed your thinking rewired.  That did not happen necessarily at the same time.  You were changed, but the change did not happen automatically.  The mind changed when God’s presence so overwhelmed you at your request and His delight as you became one with Him in the sanctifying grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
  •  That you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God – If we are living as we should, we will show forth the Lord’s glory in our life and be in His perfect will.  Are you living in His perfect will?  Is your life bringing glory to Him?

Being holy is not a dispensational thing.  God has demanded holiness from all time.  Look at one more example of a man who tried to live holy – John Chrysostom.

John Chrysostom was one of the greatest of the Greek Church fathers.  He lived in A.D. 347-407.  Pastor of Antioch and Bishop of Constantinople, he was called “Golden Mouth.”  He preached a lengthily series of sermons on Genesis, Matthew, John and Romans, most of which are still available today.

As a very young Christian he was brought before the emperor, who said that if he would not give up Christ; he would be banished from the country.  Chrysostom said, “You cannot, for the whole world is my Father’s land.  You can’t banish me.”  The emperor said, “Then I will take away all your property.”  “You cannot.  My treasures are in heaven,” was the reply.  “Then I’ll take you to a place where there is not a friend to speak to.”  Chrysostom replied, “You cannot.  I have a friend who is closer than a brother.  I shall have Jesus Christ, forever.”  The emperor finally threatened, “Then I’ll take away your life!”  The answer was, “You cannot.  My life is hid with God in Christ.”  And the emperor said, “What do you do with a man like that?”

I AM

Jesus said “I AM”

  • “I am the living bread.”  John 6:51
  • “I am the bread of life.”  John 6:48
  • “I am the good shepherd.”  John 10:11
  • “I am the light of the world” – John 8:12
  • “I am the door of the sheep.” – John 10:7
  • “I am the door.” – John 10:9
  • “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  – John 14:6
  • “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” – Rev. 1:8
  • “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” – Rev 1:18

Who am I: – married, in love with my spouse, talkative, college grad, music lover, gardener

What describes you?

  • I am a child of God, heir with Jesus Christ!

Romans 8:12-17 – Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

  • I am not ashamed!

Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

2 Timothy 1:12 – For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

  • I am redeemed from the hand of the enemy!

 Psalm 107:2 – Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.

  • I am forgiven and delivered from the power of darkness!

Colossians 1:13-14 – He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

  • I am persuaded!

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

  • I am saved by grace through faith!

Ephesians 2:8 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

  • I am crucified with Christ – I am alive!

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

  • I am free!

John 8:37 – Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

  • I am a new creature!

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

  • I am more than a conqueror!

Romans 8:37 – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

  • I am what I am by the grace of God!

1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

  •  I am my brother’s keeper

Cain asked:

Genesis 4: 9 – Am I my brother’s keeper?

Jesus answered that:

Matthew 19:19 – He said you should love your neighbor as yourself.

Freedom and Responsibility

Romans 8:5

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.

Romans 6:5-7 – For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:13-14 – 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.

Galatians 5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:13 – For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

  • Setting our minds on what the Spirit desires is not something that happens automatically after salvation.  Following the Lord is still an act of our will.  Remember that Jesus does drive His sheep; He leads them.  When we are being driven, we have no choice but to move.  But when we are following, we can choose to move or not.
  • After we are saved, after the Holy Spirit takes up lodging within, we have a kind of “barometer” at our spiritual core.  This barometer senses any decrease in fellowship with God, warning us that something is amiss.  We can make things right again by asking Jesus to expose our old bad habits or whatever is disrupting our fellowship with Him.  This is called daily confession.  As we allow ourselves to be refined our communion with Him is restored on an even deeper level.  No earthly pleasure is worth losing that communion—not even for a short time.
  • Things may be difficult.  Things may be hard to understand and at times things may seem like they are going nowhere but down, down, down.  Put your trust and confidence in Jesus and they will change.
  • Don’t give up.  God says, “I will bring to pass what I have promised.”  God says, “Don’t’ be discouraged by the enemy.  His is a defeated foe.  You will be victorious.  You must stand in Christ.

Wages of Sin vs. Gift of Eternal Life

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Wages – something worked for and expected to receive; earnings received for work accomplished.
  • Sin – the job or the thing done whereby wages are expected.
  • Death – sin’s ultimate retirement plan; eternal separation from a loving God.
  • Gift – gratuity, something we did nothing to receive; something freely given.
  • Eternal life – the gift itself.

1 Peter 1:4 – to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Exodus 20 lists very clearly and plainly the Ten Commandments.  Our permissive society has tried to water down, to dictate, to expand, read between the lines what is/what is not allowable under the Law, undermining God’s Word.  If this was done in the political realm, it would be akin to treason against the law of the land.

In Matthew 22, Jesus narrowed these Ten Commandments down to only two.

Matthew 22:34-39 – But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Can we say we obey these laws?  At various places throughout the Word of God we see specifics about obedience, about the Law, about “thus saith the Lord God,” but all the additional things related by writers in both the Old Testament and the New Testament refer back to the original ten commandments given by God to Moses to give to the children of Israel. 

  • Commandment #1 – You shall have no other Gods before me.  (Exodus 20:3)

You have to ask yourself, according to the Word of God, what constitutes a god?  (Exodus 20:4-5)

  • Commandment #2 – You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.

You have to ask yourself, according to the Word of God, what makes something an image, or an idol that would fall in this category?

  • Commandment #3- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Do we take the Lord’s name in vain when we call ourselves Christians or Christ-like and then behave otherwise? 

  • Commandment #4 – Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  (Exodus 20:8)

You have to ask yourself, according to the Word of God, what is it that breaks the law of the Sabbath?

  • Commandment #8 – You shall not steal.

Stealing includes stealing from God.

Malachi 3:10-11 – “Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!”  But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’  “In tithes and offerings.  You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the Lord of hosts;

  • Commandment #9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What is a lie?  Stretching the truth; falsifying any record (income tax, expense reports); implying something that is not true; swearing to factual events.

Matthew 22:37 – Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

  • Hypocrisy will not do
  • Lip service will not do
  • Half-hearted service will not do
  • GOD WANTS YOUR ALL

Sin is sin; a lie is a lie; stealing is stealing, adultery is adultery, disobedience is disobedience.  You cannot justify your life before God if you have sin in your heart.  You cannot explain away sin when you stand before Him.

Isaiah 53:6 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

This is My Bible

Psalms 119:105

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path

My Bible tells me what I was:

  • A sinner, lost, undone, chained, condemned, bound for hell, bound for separation from God’s love, eternal torment, without hope.
  • Dead in sin and trespasses.
  • Without hope, eternally lost.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

My Bible tells me what I am:

  • A blood-bought child of God
  • Free from sin
  • Pardoned
  • In right standing with God – In God’s favor
  • Changed (not chained)
  • Access to all the power of God
  • With faith I the redemptive work of God
  • I’M SAVED AND I KNOW THAT I AM

Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 6:17-18 – But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

1 Corinthians 1:30 – But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption

Hebrews 10:10 – By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

My Bible tells me what I shall be:

  • It tells me what I shall be
  • Forever free from temptation
  • Forever free from sin
  • Reunited with loved ones forever
  • With Jesus
  • Have a home

John 14:1-3 – Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 –  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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Sin’s Wages – God’s Free Gift

Romans 6:16-23

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Slave – no rights/required to obey/death imminent

Romans 12:1 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Genesis 2:17 – but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

  • Welder – dollars/wages
  • Waitress – dollars/wages
  • Lawyer – dollars/wages
  • Doctor – dollars/wages
  • Farmer – dollars/wages
  • Sin – Death

1 Corinthians 9:7 – Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?

  • Who goes to war at his own expense?  Somebody has to pay the cost.
  • While we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly! – Christ’s expense!
  • E – Every
  • V – Vile      
  • I – Indecent
  • L – Liability
  • S – Selfishness
  • I – Indifference
  • N – Negligence
  • G – God’s
  • R– Riches
  • A – At
  • C – Christ’s
  • E – Expense

He paid a debt He did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. But now I sing a brand new song, Amazing Grace – all day long. Christ Jesus paid a debt I could not pay.

  • Whatever you sow you shall also reap.  God’s justice is under obligation to give sinners their wages.

Galatians 6:7-8 – Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. I owed a debt I could not pay.

Hosea 10:12 – Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

  • A free gift  = eternal life
  • Grace – charisma – a blessing of salvation upon sinners

1 Peter 3:4 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

Give Me Freedom

Romans 6:16-18

Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

Show me a person who is not a slave!!!!

“One is enslaved to passions, a second to profit, a third to status and everyone to fear.”  Seneca, first century Roman philosopher.

What are you a slave to?

Romans 6:16-18 – All of us were ( “were”) slaves to sin for Christ saved us by the shedding of His blood on the cross when we finally got around to recognizing that we had been a slave to sin.  We came as sinners to the foot of the cross and acknowledged our need of a Savior.  He forgave us.  Yea!  Hallelujah!

There is no moral authority today – if it feels good, do it!

Proverbs 30:12 – There is a class of people who are pure in their own eyes, and yet not washed from their own filth.”

Isaiah 5:20 – Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.

Romans 12:1-2 – I urge you by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Some of us, still knowing we were forgiven, remained in slavery, bound to some of our sin or at least some of the beggarly elements of servitude.  What should have been a radical transformation and total about-face seemed partial or non-existent.

Oh yes, we were saved but we certainly had not been really transformed in the way we thought, talked and behaved and continued to live our life.

Story is told of a young man who had an addiction to donuts, eating six or seven at a time.  He was very overweight.  He worked on it and lost a lot of weight.  He woke up one morning craving a donut.  When he arrived at work with a donut, his coworker questioned him, saying “I thought you had given up donuts.” 

His response:  “I prayed and told God if there was an open parking spot right in front of the donut shop when I went by, I would know it was okay for me to stop and get a donut”  What he did not tell his coworker was that there was an open parking spot on his eleventh time around the block.  That’s about the way we treat temptation.

We read our Bible when we thought about it and did not have anything else to do like a favorite TV program, shopping, watching a football game, watching “As the Stomach Turns”,  going to Olive Garden or McDonalds or whatever else was transient gratification.  (That’s a big word for “current need for self-satisfaction.”)  We prayed, especially when we got into trouble.

A Christian is someone who changed – transformed – made new in His image – set free from slavery.  That’s really the crux of this whole thing.  We had gone through the motions of being set free, but we were still in fact enslaved.  Christ had forgiven us up to that point (repeat) of our asking for forgiveness.    

The Bible say “For He (Christ) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  We had, so to speak, by asking forgiveness, emptied the backpack of sins on our back.  Sins we had carried around, or was it a duffle bag full, or maybe it was two duffle bags full or maybe it was a wheelbarrow and a duffle bag.  For me it was a dumpster – not the kind sitting out back, but the kind they drop off at a house getting a demo job. (sins)

Actually we were still enslaved, though forgiven.

Don’t misunderstand me – Christ did forgive us when we asked Him to – no more guilt from all the baggage of sin.  No real change, however, we just started stacking up the whole rotten, stinking load again.  We were still enslaved – saved from our sin of the past but now we are like a totally irresponsible person and our enslavement begins all over again in a life of guilt and shame.

We had prayed – maybe we shed a few crocodile tears, maybe some minor course correction but really still enslaved.  If we are to be Christ-like there should be some change in our life.

The book of Jeremiah is a book of doom in so many ways; a tale of God’s wrath and judgment for man’s failure to follow Him.  But hope is intermingled there.  Jeremiah 29:11 says  “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

 That scripture is the promise of hope that even in our sin, our turning away, our rejection of Him who loves us, even in the midst of His judgment He offers hope.  He offers us the best that we could ever hope to have.

That’s what Jeremiah is about….that sums it up.  It’s not about simply turning from sin because it is wrong.  It’s not about simply turning from sin because it means a turning back to God.  God wants these things, but He wants them because, like any good father or husband, he does not want us suffering the consequences of sin.  You may be forgiven from your sin but that sin put a scar on your memory that you may never forget and Satan will taunt you over it even though you are now a follower of Jesus.  Believe me, I know from a personal standpoint and I’m old.  He wants to provide something far more wonderful than our dreams and hopes could imagine.  He wants His people to be in good marriages (remember – we are the Bride of Christ) not just because it is right, but because it is through marriage, through our relationship with Him that He can shower upon us love, security, purpose, hope.  It is where He can demonstrate what the union between god and man is meant to be.  Paul used marriage as a way to explain the church’s relationship with God.  God wants us to avoid sin and turn to Him, because he has been planning since the foundation of the earth to give us good things. 

We turn away from God’s commands out of fear, anger, rebellion, stupidity  and we miss not simply heaven, but in the here and now we miss an abundant life.  There is hope amidst the judgment, joy among the bitterness, grace amidst the sin.  God promises in Jeremiah that “when we get serious about searching for Him and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you are not disappointed.”  God is not a lover that disappoints; He is not a shady salesman or politician.

This passage of hope in Jeremiah comes after he says in the preceding verse that “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years of captivity are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home.”  This promise does not negate His judgment of the consequences of sin, but God, knowing the rejection of Israel (and of us) having dealt the punishment we deserve, He gives His people a second chance.  He says He has plans for them, to take care of them, to not abandon them, to give them a future, a hope.  The people who so poorly treated Him are offered the keys to the kingdom, so to speak.  It is proof that God’s wrath and judgment are not enough to extinguish His love or His belief in His people.

Jeremiah is a book of judgment laced with hope.

There is a consequence for sin but we have hope. 

We simply were not free.  We were still enslaved.  We had experienced

Christ’s free gift of grace, but it was like we were – in spite of His grace – bad, bad, bad.

Romans 6:1-4 says “What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may more abound.   The answer – No – No – No

Romans 6:3-6 – Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Galatians 5:24 – Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

We have been set free.  Let us walk in that freedom in obedience to God.

I’m free!

An Invitation From God

Revelation 4:1-2

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”  Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

  • We were all born in sin.  Because we are the offspring of Adam and Eve, we have sinned.

Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

  • We are all, unless we have received Christ, potential residents of hell.  There are those who say there is no hell.  There are those who say the only hell is here on earth.  There are those who say that hell is the grave.  When you are dead, you cease to exist.  When you are dead, you are dead.  There are those who say there is no proof of a hell.  They say it is just the religious fanatics that have concocted the idea of hell to somehow control people with their own brand of right and wrong.

But wait!  There is proof of hell.  There is one who died, went to hell and preached, and then returned to earth and testified about it.  I am willing to take His word for it.  How about you?

1 Peter 3:18-19 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,  by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.

  • Hell and heaven are not entrees, like in a cafeteria.  You cannot just go, take a look and decide whether you want to stay or go to the other place.  Hell is a place – a real place.

It is logical, even you and I can figure it out for ourselves.  God is a God of fairness.  It just makes sense.  Would he not prepare a place for those who do not wish to be with Him in heaven.  Hell is there for those who willfully and knowingly wish not to live with God.  God, has prepared this alternative for all those who reject Him.

Most of us live in homes with many different rooms.  Two to three bedrooms, a kitchen, maybe even a family room or den.  If you need all the conveniences of your nice home, you will not like it in hell.  There will be no comforts and room like that.

Consider the heat.  The Bible says it is a place of heat and torment.  That torment will never let up, never diminish.  If you do not tolerate heat too well, do not plan on going to hell.

Even if you could deal with the heat and torment, think of being in a place where God has removed His love?  God’s love is the explanation for our existence.  God’s love is the explanation for our welfare.  It is the love and grace of God that sustains us.  To be shut off for one hour, one day from the love and grace of God – the very thought is intolerable.

  • There are souls in hell. 

Luke 16:19-31 – There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.  So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’  “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,  for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

The rich man could remember when he was here on earth.  He could feel the flames.  He was so alive that he was praying in hell.  Prayers prayed in hell are prayers prayed too late.  Prayers prayed in hell are just like the prayers that are prayed here on earth when we know we have sin in our life, but do not care to change.

You may be in comfort and convenience here on earth.  Your job or your retirement may be secure.  Your financial situation may be good.  But if death should strike you down, would you lift your eyes in hell?

You may say, “I’m ok.  I’m a pretty good person.”  Your own goodness is not what keeps you out of hell.  There is only one thing that keeps you out of hell and that is accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and lord.

Mark 16:16 – He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

When you pray, it is not ceremony, not just repeating pious words.  It is praying heartfelt, sincere words to a loving God who is standing with open arms and ready to forgive.  It is meaning what you say, not just today, but tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.  It is remaining faithful to the words of your prayer.

John 3:16-18 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believe in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

If you go to hell, you are in the home of the fallen angels.  Your neighbors will be demons.  Sinners will be your companions.  Think of Hitler, Stalin and all the evil men in the past.  No such thing as comfort there.  Nothing but malice, envy, strife, violence, weeping and grinding of teeth.  We sing songs bout heaven, but there will be no singing in hell.  There will be nothing to rejoice about.  No getting right with God in hell.  It will be too late. 

  • Jesus will judge the nations.

Matthew 25:31-46 – When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’  “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’  “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’  “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

  • Jesus invites you

John 6:37 – All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

  • Have you made your reservation?
  • Have you sent your RSVP note in?
  • Have you told Him, “Yes, I want to be with You – in heaven?

Back From the Dead

Romans 6:8-11 (New Living Translation)

And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:8-11 (Amplified Bible)

Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus.

This testimony is not my testimony of how a life is changed.  It is rather a statement of fact of what God will do in a life, when that person surrenders to Him.  I want to focus on the goodness and the love of Jesus Christ my Lord and Master and for Him to receive all the glory. 

Looking back on my life from the post salvation view, I believe that I was called by God to the ministry at about the age of thirteen.  I was the sixth of seven children born in 1940 to poor parents who were still struggling from the affects of the Depression.  They had purchased a three room house in Bethalto Illinois in 1936 and attended the church just three or four blocks away.  We all lived in that three room house, minus two children that had died in infancy, along with a grandmother.  Togetherness…yes. 

I attended that church every time the doors were opened but even though I had experienced a closeness or call of God at thirteen I never was baptized, nor did I ever take communion.  No one ever questioned this fact.  Today I ask myself, why did they not question.  The deacons that passed out the Communion, the Pastor, the Sunday School teachers I had had, even my own parents never questioned this.

When I was eighteen, having finished high school, and having no job, I went into the Air Force and eventually spent twenty years, retiring in 1979.  Of course, as is often the case, I drifted away from Church and what relationship I had with God. 

I went deep into sin.  Drinking, carousing, smoking, cursing, dirty stories, porn, drugs, and all the things that sin does over time.  I was calloused to the things of God, even though my position in the service was working in the Chaplain’s office.   Again, no chaplain or supervisor ever questioned my behavior.  I was foul in my language and what I lacked in size I did very well at trying to make up for with my mouth.  My biggest problem was the alcohol.  One drink was never enough.  I believe now the reason I had this insatiable addiction to booze was due to lack of self control and insecurity.     At eighteen I weighed just 110 pounds and because of my insecurity, I was scared to death to say anything to anyone.  I was a different person when I was drinking.  I couldn’t remember my insecurity when I was drunk – so I drank.

On more than one occasion after a night out on the town drinking, I would come home in a taxi or someone would drive me home.  Several times I had to go looking for my car the next day.  Many times I just drove drunk not remembering a thing the next day.  God was merciful for He spared my life on many occasions when I was in that condition.  I remember one occasion as I was driving home in the middle of the night, drunk as usual, I heard an inward voice say to me, “Your mother’s praying for you.”

While I was stationed in Taiwan in 1973-74 my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I went back to see her on emergency leave because family did not believe she was going to live.

Up to this point I was without question, a sinner, lost, undone, chained, condemned, bound for hell and its torment, and without hope, bound for eternal separation from God’s love.  I was doomed, eternally lost.

Romans 5:8 (New King James Version)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

On my way back to Illinois on emergency leave, I had a layover in Seattle-Tacoma Washington International Airport.  All I could think about was my mom and losing her.  I was thirty four at the time.  It was past the hour of the bars being open, so I was alone with my thoughts, or so I thought.

At some point there in the middle of the terminal, while I was alone with my thoughts, there appeared what I would describe as a street sign. One part of the sign where the name of the street would normally appear said heaven and was pointed upwards.  The other part of the sign was pointed downward and it said hell.  As if this wasn’t enough of a shocker, I heard a voice inwardly that said, “And which way are you headed?”

Of course I knew enough about the bible and church that I knew where I was headed.  In my heart I answered and then I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.   Hallelujah.

I got to St Louis International Airport and my brother picked me up.  I went to my sister’s house where my mother was staying.  She was taking chemo and radiation treatments and could not stay by herself.  I said nothing about the airport encounter to anyone. 

Several days later my mother was feeling a little better and she wanted to go home to her house and her own bed.  She told my sister that Paul could go with her and if she had any problem she was only about six blocks away.  That night as she slept in her own bed and I lay on the sofa I could not sleep.  In the wee hours of the morning I could sense an awesome presence of the Lord.   I believe His presence was in the whole house.  My mother was one of those great prayer warriors we often hear about.  That was probably the main reason she wanted to go to her own house, to have His presence.  I slipped off the sofa and sat on the floor near the door of her bedroom.  After a few minutes, she said, “Paul, is that you?”  She wanted to know if anything was wrong.  That is when I told her about what happened at the airport.  Her statement when I finished telling her of my encounter was “I knew something was different about you.”   My mother went into remission and lived for another five years when the cancer returned.

I went back to Taiwan where I was stationed.  The first thing I did when I got back was look up a fellow serviceman I  knew attended church.  He told me where we went and that Sunday I headed to the church.  

Of course, this foul mouthed, drinking serviceman was no longer foul mouthed and drinking every night of the week.  It did not go unnoticed and I began telling what God had done in my life.  The little church suddenly began to have other individuals and families that did not attend church show up.  A revival was truly in progress. 

The four or five busses going to the base some thirty miles away suddenly became filled with new Christians.  No more cursing, no more dirty stories were heard.  Instead, bibles were being read, questions about scriptures were being discussed.   One weekday we took a bunch of musical instruments up to the base from the church and did a gospel music concert during the lunch hour at the dining hall. 

Fast forward…now out of service…now a graduate of Bible School…now a definite call to the ministry.   In 1984 God gave me a Christian wife to work with me in my ministry.   Victory Tabernacle, Alpha Chapel, Bible Fellowship Church,  House of Prayer, Gospel Lighthouse, New Life Tabernacle, all churches where we served and Missionary to Iloilo Philippines along with Jessica our youngest daughter.  She is also a minister today.

Today I am retired – but you can never completely retire from God’s call.  My wife and remain active in our local church and try to share God’s love whenever and wherever we meet someone in need.

I am so thankful for a mother who never gave up but kept praying for me.  I am so thankful for the mercy and love of God that kept me and brought me back to Him.

Never give up praying for your family.  

  • Matthew 19:26

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”