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Sorry for the long break from posting there guys. The test’s just attacked me this past week. Anyway, I wanna discuss sin tonight. This is a continuation of the previous post’s regarding the Gospel, and you will see why at the end. So make sure you have read those and understand them. To start off, let’s make something very clear first for those of us that do not already grasp this concept. We ALL sin. Every single person that has ever walked the face of this Earth (except Jesus Christ himself) has sinned. Don’t take my word for it, check out Romans 3:23. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. We are broken and imperfect.
I think for this message to really mean something to you, you have to focus on what sins are controlling your life right now. I’m not talking about things like “I accidentally said a cuss word when I hit my hand two weeks ago.” or “I forgot to say my bedtime prayer last night, so Jesus is going to strike me down”. I am talking about sins that CONTROL you. The list is endless, but it could include things like lust, pornography, faithlessness, idolatry, worldly desires, alcoholism, drugs… I could go on all night. Find what it is in your life that you know is not right, yet you continue to do it and can’t seem to stop. Keep that in mind as we discuss sin.
If we have a small view of the sin in our lives (in other words we disregard it, and put it off as not that big of a deal), we basically are belittling the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross. We make peace with our sin. It is almost as if we are saying Jesus Christ died on the cross for no reason, because my sin is not THAT big of a problem. However, we must remember also not to beat ourselves up constantly over the sin in our lives, because then we take the other extreme. If we are constantly mad at ourselves and beating ourselves up over the fact that we sinned, then it is as if we think that Jesus’s punishment was not enough. Why do we think we have to beat ourselves up for our sin, when Christ already took that punishment for us? We must take a midpoint of these two extremes and manage our hearts, so that we can manage our sin.
How can we manage our hearts, so that we can in-turn manage our sins? We have to figure out the root of our sin to take it out. We have to figure out the REASON we are sinning. It’s not enough to say “I struggle with pornography, so I need to keep myself from being on the computer as much”. Your computer is not causing you to sin. That bottle of Jim Beam ain’t MAKIN you drink it. That approach will leave us in a deadly cycle of always falling back into sin. Determine WHY you are sinning. When it comes down to it, the root of ALL sin is idolatry because if we were putting God first in our lives then everything else would fall into place. We would not sin to seek approval from others or from ourselves if God was truly #1 in our life, because if God was #1 then we would know he is ALL we need. Check out Collosians 2:20.
In summary, the only way to eliminate the sin that is controlling your life and destroying you from the inside out is to focus your heart on God. Make HIM #1 instead of lust. Instead of alcohol. Instead of your own agenda and your own personal gain. Your sinful actions are changed through the INTERNAL change that God enacts in your heart. Those sinful actions (a.k.a. idols) must be removed, but what do you replace them with? You must fill that hole in your life that was previously being consumed by sin. What do we fill it with to ensure sin does not continue to reign in us? The Gospel! Now you see how the two are related. Replace sin with the Gospel. Hang out with Jesus more, and the by-product of that will be your sin fading away. My last, and very tough challenge to you tonight is this: How much longer are you going to make peace with your sin? When are you going to make the decision to make God the focus of your life, instead of sin?
Before reading this post make sure you have read the last one, as it explains what the purpose of this one is and how to apply it. Like I said previously, before you can apply the Gospel in your life and begin using it, you must first understand what it is. As usual, I will say I am guilty as charged, but God really opened my eyes to an easy way to comprehend the Gospel, and its in 3-D!
So what do I mean by a 3-D gospel? Well there are three dimensions that we can view the Gospel from that make it easier for us to understand. If we can understand these three dimensions and have a balance of each in our own life, then we will be more effective at sharing it, spreading it, and living it.
1.) The first dimension of the Gospel is the theological aspect of it. This is an area where most of us are either really focused on, or really lacking in. The people who are really focused on this dimension, and forget about all the others like to throw scripture at you about everything and spend 95% of their life discussing and debating scripture. This is a waste of time, because we could be spending time furthering God’s kingdom rather than arguing over the Bible. However, the people who are really lacking in this area (i.e. myself), do not have the means to back the Gospel we are supposed to be spreading with scripture.
2.) The second dimension of the Gospel is the personal aspect. The gospel is supposed to change us personally. Christ died to CHANGE us. We should focus on the gospel in our personal life, to grow and shape us. However, if we become focused on the personal dimension of the Gospel, then we become self-centered and worried more about ourselves than the people around us. But, if the Gospel is not growing you and changing you, then you are missing a crucial part of Christ’s sacrifice for you.
3.) The third dimension of the Gospel is the social dimension. If we have recieved the mercy of God in our own lives, then we are to EXTEND that mercy to others instead of keeping it to ourselves. We are called to assist the widowed, the orphaned, and the oppressed. This is where service comes in. However, we should remember that we are not saved by works alone.
I believe that if we keep a BALANCE of these three dimensions in our life, then we can truly understand the Gospel and understand how to use it for the glory of God. My challenge to you (and myself) is to really dig deep into these three dimensions and see which ones you are lacking in, and which ones you are too strongly focused on.
As Christians, most of us have heard "The Gospel", but hearing it is about as far as a lot of us go. As non-Christians, most have not even heard "The Gospel". This post is more intended for the Christians who have heard the Gospel. For the non-Christians who have not heard the Gospel, I would be HAPPY to discuss it with you and tell you all about it. Contact me via e-mail, facebook, or twitter and I can tell you all about The Gospel, which literally means "The Good News". For those of us that call ourselves Christians, my challenge to you today is this: Do you REALLY understand the Gospel? Can you EXPLAIN it to someone else? What is the purpose of the Gospel in YOUR life? Take a look at I Kings 2:2-3 for a direct command from the Bible to follow the Lord’s Gospel.
The reason I want you to understand this whole Gospel thing is because it should be your guide through life. If you can follow the Gospels guide, then the rest of your life will follow suite (Verse 3 states that you will prosper), but before you can do this you must UNDERSTAND it. Once you understand it, you should strive to live by it. My favorite point made by the speaker of this sermon was this: You don’t have to discipline yourself to pursue the things you enjoy. You don’t have to discipline yourself to play xbox, watch football, hang out with your friends, or whatever you like to do for fun. So why are we disciplining ourselves to make God happy with us? It should be something we ENJOY, and something we do simply because we want to. Once you do this, the rest of your life will fall into place. The sins you struggle with will begin to fade away. God’s purpose for your life will begin to reveal itself. You will feel whole and complete.
So now the only question left to answer is: How do I understand the Gospel? What do I have to do to make this the guide of my life? Well the answer to that would turn this post into a small book, so I thought this post was long enough. Think on this and really try and look at your life to see if you live everyday according the the Gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ. Do you have to discipline yourself to do God’s will for your life? Do you have to discipline yourself to go to church? Do you have to discipline yourself to read your Bible? Do you have to discipline yourself to talk to others about Jesus? Or are you going to church, reading the bible, and talking about Christ because you ENJOY it? The answer to how to understand the Gospel so that you can begin implementing it in your life is in the next post! Comment your thoughts.
To start off, lets read James 3:1-12. The theme of the second paragraph of this passage is the biggest take-away from this lesson. This paragraph illustrates how HUGE things can be completely controlled by something small. James uses the example of how a horse can be completely controlled simply by a the bit we put in it’s mouth. Also think of huge ship, which is completely controlled by a small rudder. This is exactly the power that our tongue can have over us. It can completely corrupt us and corrupt what other people see in us as Christians.
There is more to what James is saying than simply “Don’t say bad words”. The words that come out of your mouth have the power to completely consume someone else’s thoughts. This means you can speak negatively, casting out discouragements, complaints, and negativity, or you can speak positively. (See James 3:9) When we speak negatively, our tongue has been set on fire by hell according to verse 6. Think about the last time someone said something to you that offended you. That is something that is not easily forgotten, because the tongue has great power. James portrays it as a disastrous forest fire that is set ablaze by a single small spark.
So how do we gain control over our tongue to prevent the “hell-fire” from coming out of it? Well take a look at verses 7&8. This almost comes across as hopeless, like we are born to speak evil from our tongue. Now take a look at verse 2, which again says that any man who is not at fault for the words that he speaks is a perfect person who is able to control every part of his body. Once again, we know this is not the case. We are not perfect. We are broken people. This is the why we cannot gain complete control over our tongue, because we all sin. There is hope though. Think about the reason why we normally speak discouragements and negativity. Mostly it stems from the fact that we are trying to bring other people down, so that we can raise ourselves higher above them. This is why there is more to controlling your tongue than simply cutting out “bad-words”. We have to watch our heart as well as our tongue. Our prayer should be to ask God to show us that we don’t need to raise ourselves up. We are called to raise others up with encouragements, and bring glory to GOD! Yet we strive to bring glory to ourselves with our tongue. Ask God to make you aware of this, so that you might use your tongue for bringing God glory instead of yourself.
Today the Preacher man taught the congregation an excellent lesson about how to LEARN from God’s word instead of just reading it to say that you completed your good deed for the day. Of course a lot of us don’t even make it so far as to even READ the bible on a daily basis, much less meditate on it (Guilty as charged…), but that is a whole ‘nother lesson in itself. So assuming you actually do take the time and read God’s word on a daily basis, what is it that you are getting out of it? A nice history lesson? Entertainment? Or maybe even nothing at all?
Lets take a look at Psalm 1:2-5. Verse 2 is where we are instructed to meditate on God’s word. In fact, it not only says to meditate DAILY, but it says day AND night. Wow, and we thought we were doing good if we read the Bible once a day. Verse 3 tells us what we have to gain by actually meditating on the scripture as opposed to simply reading it, and Verse 4 tells what happens if you DON’T meditate on the scripture. Ok, so I know that I’m supposed to meditate on the scripture, but how do I do that exactly?
If you want this to be an interactive blog post, check out Ephesians 1:3-14 and try to put into practice what we are about to talk about as you read. A good start is to simply read a piece of scripture all the way through to get focused first. If you simply jump into the first verse you are studying and start picking it apart then you probably have not completely focused on the task at hand. Whenever I sit down to have some quite time, I usually have a lot of other things going through my mind. Tests, work, friends, and other distractions. Reading straight through a passage can help to clear your mind of all these things. After you feel spiritually focused and the only thing on your mind is you and the Bible, step back from the details of the scripture and read it while trying to get the big picture. Got the big picture of what the author of the passage is talking about? Good, now take a look at each verse individually and look for the details that God is trying to show you. This is really important. After you have picked out every little detail from each verse that God wants to show you, step back again and read the big picture of the passage. Often times you will miss things after looking at the details that you did not notice before. One last thing… When reading a passage that is more like a story than instructional (for those feeling like being interactive, read Mark 6:45-56), it is best to put what you are reading into context by making sure you know what is going on before the story starts. Read a section or two back to see what lead up to the story you are reading. After you know the context of the story, it is really easy to read through it and let the details pop-out at you. They will start to draw you into the story and you will become more and more interested in what is going on.
I hope these tips/lessons will help you spend time in God’s word more effectively. The purpose of us reading our Bibles is not to get history lessons. The purpose of reading it is to hear God’s voice speak to us, which is exactly what “meditating” is. You don’t have to sit with your legs crossed, fingers in a circle, and making a humming noise to meditate. I loved this sermon because I know most of the time I am way too distracted to actually listen to what God is trying to teach me, and I think most of us are the same way. Thoughts? Comments? Post-em!
Today I want to go on a new tangent from the Breakaway material and change it up a little bit. I want to talk about pleasure and how we as broken people put pleasure before God. To start off, take a look at II Timothy 3:1-5. My favorite part of that passage that I want to stress on is in Verse 4: “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”.
The divorce rate in our country is between 40-50%, which means almost half of marriages (Christian and non-Christian) end in divorce. This is outrageous, but what is the biggest reason for people (especially Christian couples) getting a divorce? It’s because they love themselves more than they love their spouse. Our society today thinks that “taking time to love YOURSELF” is a perfectly good solution when we have hard times in a relationship. In reality, this is the PROBLEM! We are more in love with OURSELVES than the people around us. Whether it be spouses, family members, friends, or even total strangers. The love that we have for people should be birthed from the faith we have in God, and that love should OVERFLOW to everyone that surrounds us. Instead, we choose to do what makes ME the happiest. What will be easier on ME. What will make ME feel better. We keep all that love that should be overflowing, to ourselves.
“I think I will skip out on helping the church with that event they are doing because I just have had a bad day”
“I don’t think I’m going to go talk to that guy/girl today because I don’t feel like going over there and asking them how their day is going”
“I don’t think I’m going to read my Bible today, because I have a little bit of homework to do.”
“I think I’m going to go to the movies rather than that bible study someone asked me to go to, because it’ll be more fun.”
These and many others are the excuses/decisions we make because we think it will be easier/more pleasureful on ME. We completely disregard what God wants us to do. A simple question that we can all ask ourselves is this: “Am I living day-to-day by what pleases God? Or by what pleases me?”. I know my answer to that is not what it should be. What is yours? Chris Osborne says the best way to to fix this problem in your life is to pray and ask God to teach you “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep” he loves you. (Ephesians 3:18) Ponder that, learn from it, and remember not to love pleasure more than you love God.
We will pick up where we left off last time at James 1:13. when we are in the midst of our trials, we will be presented with different options of what to do. In the middle of a struggle, these options sound exceptionably reasonable. Here are some examples of what I mean. “Well I have been studying really hard this week, so it will be ok if I just go get drunk tonight because I deserve it.” or “Well I have not been able to pick up a girlfriend/boyfriend in a really long time, so it will be ok if I just make out with him/her this one time.” As a more general example, there are always times when we know something is wrong or sinful, but we do it anyways because we “deserved it” or it “made my life easier” or any other false justifications that we make up all on our own. In other words, we all face temptation during our trials.
My first reaction to this was “Well if God is intentionally putting us through trials, then does that mean he is intentionally tempting us with evil?”. If that was not a ludicrous enough statement on it’s own, we can read James 1:13 to see what James’ response to this question is. We should not blame God. He will test you, but he certainly will not tempt you. Using the example from last time, a coach will test you to make you a better player, but he will not tease you with things that would hinder you, and the same goes for our parents. So now the question is, if God is not tempting me then why do all the sinful ideas present themselves in a time of struggle? James 1:14 says they come from our own personal desires, not from God or anyone else. In fact, the temptation stems from us believing that our God is not a good God because we think the un-Godly way out will be better/easier than the Godly way of dealing with our trials. This shows a complete lack of trust in God on our part when we choose the “easy” way out.
The last point I want to make is that James 1:15 says when we give in to these desires, we are giving birth to sin and that sin gives birth to death. Every time we make a decision to give into temptation and wordly desires, we are killing ourselves a little each time spiritually. Also, for a few more pieces of advice from James about how we should deal with our struggles, read James 1:16-18. I feel they are pretty self explanatory, yet very important.
Any thoughts? Additions? Comment below!
Open your bible to James 1 if you want to follow along, or use the handy links to read the verses. To start off, I want to define “trials” as it will be used in this context. When we talk about “trials” we are referring to the hard times, struggles, and rough spots in our lives. Some examples of trials that we all face could include: Trying to study for a test when we simply don’t understand the material, breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, or losing a loved one. More generally, anytime we say “Geez God, this is really hard. Why can’t you just make this easier for me?” is considered a trial.
The argument that most people use is “Why would a good God let his people suffer so much with hard times?”. The reality is, trials are inevitable for EVERYONE and James 1:2 tells us that when we reach these trials in our lives that we should face them with JOY. Joy?! You mean to tell me that when something is really hard and frustrating the mess out of me, that I am supposed to be HAPPY about it? The only people that are HAPPY when pain comes are either 1.) CrAzY! or 2.) know that something good is coming. Ben used an excellent example. Consider lifting weights in the gym. People don’t walk around in the gym pouting and complaining because their muscles are sore from working out. They are pumped about it (literally). The reason is because they know after the pain of lifting weights, they will be stronger. They will be better. Since James instructs us to rejoice in our trials, that MUST mean something good is coming. For the college students, think about this. Why do we spend hours on end studying, doing homework, and going to class? We are not going to use half the stuff we learn in our classes EVER again. We know that and guess what, so do our professors. So whats the point? Because when our future employer sees that nice degree, they will KNOW that we went through some serious trials to get to where we are now and that we have the STRENGTH, ENDURANCE, and the WISDOM to make it through them and anything else that comes our way (see James 1:12)
That is exactly why God puts us through trials in our lives. So that we can develop strength, endurance, and wisdom. Just as our parents put us through trials as a kid. They do it to make us better people. They do not do it to inflict pain on us and make us hurt, they do it because we need the wisdom and the endurance. Read James 1:3-4 God puts you in situations you don’t know how to handle on purpose. The only catch is, you have to ASK God to teach you in your trials. Read James 1:5-6. If you do not ask God to speak to you and teach you anything, you won’t gain anything from your hard times but bitterness.
As a last point, Ben pointed out three things that we learn from this wisdom that God tries to teach us through our trials. My challenge to you is to reflect on these three points, and when you face trials and struggles in your life ask God to show you these.
1.) Wisdom keeps you from putting your hopes and dreams in things that simply fade away.
2.) Wisdom teaches you that pain is very real, but it is only temporary.
3.) Wisdom teaches you to turn your head upward toward God. To depend on him, instead of looking down at the ground sulking because something is harder than you want it to be.
Read James 1:1-12 for more on this topic. Leave comments on what you have learned, or what you agree/disagree with.
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