Stop Trying to Fix Yourself!

Everyone has struggles of the flesh. Whether your struggles are life-controlling issues, such as substance abuse, Stop Trying to Fix Yourselfuncontrollable habits, or you are longing for more meaning in your life of faith, this book explores the scriptural teachings that guarantee the life lived more abundantly. Jesus said, “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Most religious practices (even those under the title of Christianity) are built on a flawed principle. They seek to strengthen the flesh and depend on coping mechanisms, and try to force our source of weakness to become our strength. This can only create very limited success, and is often a guarantee of failure. God’s design is to die to our weakness, and grow in the life where the Spirit is more than willing to empower us to live and thrive in a fruitful life, built around acceptance and perfect fellowship with God. You can’t fix the flesh. You can’t fix yourself. It’s God’s job to subdue your sinful flesh and empower you to live and thrive in the life of the Spirit. God is your strength; not your condemner. God is your righteousness, not your punisher. As you learn to walk in the Spirit, you’ll understand the Bible’s statement, “Now all things are of God. Old things have passed away. Behold all things are new.” You were meant to bloom in every circumstance, and the Bible says that a joyful and fruitful life is a guarantee. This book explores the principles that help you grow in this promise! The ebook version is only 99 cents.

The glory of your weakness

When is the last time you felt discouraged or defeated in your Christian life? Everyone experiences defeat, but the Bible presents a benefit for your failures that most Christians are completely unaware of.

The average Christian blows it in some way, and they feel the perception of God’s anger. They feel the perception of their guilt. They promise God their best, make oaths never to act out in certain ways, and try to cover their shame with good works. Do you know what? Your good works can NEVER cover your sins. It can never take away your shame, failure, or guilt. There is only one thing that can cover your sins. 1 Peter 4:8

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."

That word ‘love’ is the Greek word ‘agape’. Agape is the love of God – it is never the love of mankind. We can produce philia love – or friendship love – but only God is the author of agape love. The principle here is that we are to be fervent in our expression of agape love. Love that we have first received from God. The Bible says that the agape love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Agape is the gift of God’s love, invested into each person who is born into faith through Christ.

God’s agape love covered all our sins; therefore, we are to be fervent to take the agape poured into our heart, and extend it toward others in the faith. Just as agape covered our sins; if we are fervent in expressing agape toward each other, their sins will become irrelevant to you. Why do churches fight and Christians become divided? If there is war within the church, agape is being suppressed. If you are expressing agape toward another and building your relationship upon the knowledge of agape that unites you, division becomes impossible.

A few years ago, conflict began to emerge in a group of believers I was part of. One individual had a difficult personality, and it rubbed others the wrong way. There was no intentional wrongs being done, but he just came across abrasive and forward in his approach. I confess that I also did not like this man, but I felt the Spirit convicting me of the fact I was not expressing love. After some internal prompting, I decided to resolve my feelings of conflict. Though I didn’t like his personality, I knew for certain he was a Christian, and since we both are in God’s circle of agape love, I knew I had no choice but to practice what I preached or become disobedient to God.

I invited him for coffee with only one goal – to find common ground so we could experience unity in the Spirit. Over time I discovered that as the foundation of our relationship solidified, the things that bugged me about him became irrelevant. I didn’t even try to stop being annoyed, nor did I try to change him. As agape ran its course, the petty things faded from view and I stopped noticing them.

In the past, I was unable to relate to Christians from other denominations and those who held beliefs I didn’t agree with. Non-essential doctrines and differences became dividing lines. The differences were the focus and not agape. Errors in their beliefs were the focus, and not agape. I’ve seen my previous attitude throughout many churches. Many times I’ve heard, “If you don’t believe our way, you aren’t welcomed here.” Or, “If you believe that, you don’t belong in this church.” Is this the message of Christ?

Certainly there are essential Christian truths that can’t be compromised. There may be doctrines and beliefs in other Christians we sincerely believe are wrong. But an interesting thing happened when I left the rejection mindset and began to view people as God views them – at least as much as humanly possible to see them as God does. When I meet a fellow believer from a different background, and I start building a relationship based on agape, a friendship develops and I am able to honestly discuss differences without conflict. Two friends searching the scriptures and hashing out what is true and what is based on assumptions is very edifying. Two friends discussing differences makes for great discussions. Two opposing denominational trenches does not. I have been able to share my insights with people who I could never have influenced in the old sectarianism mindset. And I’ve had my own assumptions challenged and discovered insights I would never have discovered.

This is what is meant by fervent love. Fervent is the Greek word ektenes, which means to stretch out toward someone or to do something without ceasing. Fervent love is to extend agape toward someone and refuse to abandon agape love until we are established in each other’s lives. It is to extend agape into the life of someone so the faults that would have offended us are covered. Just as your sins were covered by God’s love, your fellow Christian’s sins and failures are covered by that same agape love. If agape is the focus, everything else will be fade under its covering.

It’s when we don’t recognize our own weaknesses that we hold others to a standard we also fall short of. I can see your weaknesses with perfect vision – if that is my focus. But I can scarcely get a glimpse of the depths of my own weaknesses. The great irony is that the weaknesses we do see discourage us, but they pale in comparison to those we cannot see.

There is one fault that alienates us from God. Self-righteousness. Look at James 4:5-8

5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?"
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Let’s take note of a few things here. It does not say that God resists the sinner. Many people say that they minister like Jesus did. Most churches would claim they are following Jesus’ lead, but this is far from the truth. How many sinners did Jesus condemn? We have no record of a single time. The woman in adultery was not condemned. In fact, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. God and sin no more.” The woman Jesus met at the well had been divorced five times and was now shacking up with someone who wasn’t her husband. No condemnation. Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax collector who admitted he had used the Roman system to pilfer others for his own wealth. No condemnation. He dined with drunkards and prostitutes, drawing the condemnation of the religious leaders, but never did He condemn them. Instead, Jesus called Himself the physician who was healing those in need.

Yet Jesus did condemn some. Consider these quotes from Jesus:

“You are of your father the devil.”

“You will receive the greater damnation.”

“You brood of vipers. How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”

“Inside you are full of rotten bones and all uncleanness.”

“When you influence people, you make them twice the child of hell as yourselves.”

“In your heart, you are full of extortion and self-indulgence.”

Harsh words, no doubt. But who was the target of these words of condemnation? The prostitute and sinner? No. These words are the condemnation of those who held the highest achievement of religion. These are the religious leaders who dedicated themselves to the study of the Bible and were looked upon as the pinnacle of moral excellence by the culture they led.

You see, God is not calling you to achieve moral excellence. He is not calling you to measure up to His standard of righteousness, good works, or religious effort. God is not even asking you to overcome your sins. No, the call is to humble yourself, submit to Him, and He will lift you up. Then once you are upheld by the strength of God’s power, Satan can do nothing but flee. And the call is not to resist sin, but to resist the temptation of the devil. And the most powerful tool in the devil’s arsenal is your self-righteousness. Once you put your eyes on yourself, you are no longer looking to Christ, are no longer submitting to God, and are no longer humbling yourselves. Once your faith is based on your power and your abilities, you are now outside of God’s power and God opposes the proud. The proud says, “I have made myself righteous. I am good for you, God. I can become righteous for you. I can resist Satan with my own will.” Consider the words of Ephesians 6:10

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Finally. This word speaks volumes. When you finally grasp the truth of the gospel, it’s all about being strong in the Lord and not in yourself. The truth is that once you fail, you are closer to God’s power than when you think you are succeeding. This principle is taught well in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

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, 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.

What is the thorn in your flesh? Is it lust? Anger? Greed? A physical infirmity? Your weakness is a gift of God. Strange words? It is true. The sins you think are driving you away from God are driving you to His power. Religion – even Christian religion – blinds us to this vital truth. We are told to try harder. We are taught that if we can get sin out of our lives, God will accept us. We are taught that if we do enough righteous acts, God will be pleased with us. It’s a lie. It is your humility that pleases God. Humility leads us to faith, and faith unveils the power of God in our lives.

When Paul came to the end of himself, he prayed in desperation. He thought that if he could just get the thorn out of his life, he could achieve spiritual success. God allowed him to struggle, pray, struggle, and pray again, and again. Once Paul reached the end of himself, God revealed this basic truth, “Your weakness weans you off yourself and drives you to My power.” Once Paul understood this truth, everything changed. Instead of saying, “God make me strong,” or “God get me out of this,” he started looking at his weaknesses as the unveiling of God’s power. Then instead of saying, “If only I could get rid of this,” he embraced it. No, he gloried in it. He rejoiced in the weakness.

This word is for you as well. What is the weakness defeating you? It may be delivered by a messenger of Satan, but instead of defeating you, God uses it to unveil His power in you. Your sins drive you out of self-righteousness and into faith in His righteousness. Then His righteousness drives sin out of your life. This is a gift of God, for God is not allowing you to be robbed of His glory. When you can glory, you are missing out on the glory of God intended for you. God uses your failures to reveal His power in you. Then the more you understand you are weak, and you are trusting in His strength, glory is inevitable.

Be strong in the Lord – not be strong for the Lord.

Let’s look at another amazing passage – 2 Corinthians 13:4

For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.

It’s all about Christ. You are weak in Him that the power of God may be strong in you. This is the common theme throughout the Bible. When Hebrews 11 goes through the examples of faith, it adds this important truth in Hebrews 11:32-34

32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:
33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

In weakness, these icons of faith were made strong. Everything they accomplished, they did so in human weakness so the power of God could rest upon them. God doesn’t pick the most valiant conquerors. God picks the weak so He can be their valiant strength. When God raised up Gideon to lead Israel out of the oppression of the Median kingdom, this young man was hiding in a vat in order to thresh wheat. He was afraid of the bands of raiders that would steal their food if he did it openly. The nation was in desperate poverty, and God picked an unknown young man, hiding from the raiders, and an angel was sent to proclaim God’s call. The angel began his words with, “Hail, valiant warrior.” Valiant warrior? This lad, who had never fought a battle and was afraid of his enemies was called a valiant warrior?

God was looking at what He would accomplish through Gideon’s strength, and God was calling the reality of what was not yet revealed as though it were an accomplished fact. In God’s will, it was already an accomplished work, and Gideon was being called into the victory God had already declared.

Let’s conclude with two passages that explains how God’s invitation is not limited to our weakness. Not only that, but God reveals His greatest works in those who are incapable of accomplishing the work. Let’s look at Romans 4:16-25

16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
17 (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations ") in the presence of Him whom he believed– God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be."
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
22 And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness."
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

Just as God did in Gideon’s life, so He did with Abraham, and so it is with you. God looks at your life and calls those things that are not as though they were. This was not only written for Abraham, but it is for you. And you, by faith, agree with God’s declaration and it is accounted to you for righteousness apart from your own works. Are you fully convinced in God’s declaration of you? Or are you looking at your weaknesses and declaring these as your trust. Or are you looking at your accomplishments and your own righteous acts, thus nullifying the promise of God. It is by grace that the power might be in God and not you.

Let’s end with one last passage, 1 Corinthians 1:27-31

27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God– and righteousness and sanctification and redemption–
31 that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."

Why does God choose the weak things and the foolishness of the gospel to accomplish His work? Why does God do His work in ways the world can’t understand? And in ways the church doesn’t even understand? Because no flesh will glory in God’s presence. God chooses our weakness to reveal to us God’s power. You are a possessor of God’s power. God doesn’t choose you for your abilities, talents, or status. If God is going to use these, the flesh must first be made weak and our confidence in ourselves must be stripped away.

More times than not, God picks those who lack human ability, and He uses their weakness to do His amazing work so we will stand back and say, “Wow. It’s all about Christ.” Until we understand this truth, we limit the power of God in our lives. Though God can use those who don’t understand this, the things these ministers in this limited faith are accomplishing pales in comparison to what God desires to reveal. How much greater would we experience God’s power if we stopped looking out ourselves and started trusting in Him. Even when we see our failure, it is an invitation to rest in the power of God.

God rewards you for faith in Him, and though it is His work, God rewards you as though it were your works. It’s the amazing love of God. God wants you to inherit all He has, and all He asks is for you to be humble and trust in Him instead of yourself.

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

The Prodigal Brother

In the previous studies, we looked at the prodigal son and the prodigal’s father. The heart of the story is not about the son, but the love of the father. The parable of the prodigal was introduced by Jesus when the religious people of that culture criticized Him saying, “This man receives sinners and even eats with them!”

They were appalled by the concept of having fellowship with people of lesser character. As we discussed in an earlier message, in that culture, to sit down at the table with someone was to proclaim your acceptance of that person. No respectable leader would be caught speaking to a prostitute, thieving tax collector, or drunkard, much less would they dare to dine with them and acknowledge them as acceptable.

Instead of criticizing their judgmental attitudes, Jesus first explains how God cares enough about the sinner, that He would go out and seek to save those who are lost in their sins. Later, Jesus will begin to explain how the law condemns anyone who is born into a sinful nature, for not even the elite religious thinker can avoid sin. They may hide it from public view, but they cannot purify the sin inside.

In Matthew 23, Jesus was moved with compassion to rescue the masses from the burden placed upon them by religion. He condemned the heavy weight placed upon those deemed to be sinners and explained to them the true acceptance by God is to be humble. Through the scriptures, we understand that humility is recognizing we are all incapable of becoming righteous by our best efforts, and we then acknowledge all good is a gift from God. It is God’s righteousness, given to those who recognize they can do nothing, and then turn to Christ. The humble depends upon God’s gift of grace. The proud still thinks they can achieve goodness by making themselves perfect for God. The self-righteous has rejected the gift of grace, and is making themselves into a rival of Jesus by presenting their own works in the place of Jesus’ work.

The law was given to reveal to man the perfect standard of good. Since Adam’s fall, man has looked to himself for good. He still believes the lie, “You can be like God to know good and evil.” It is in human nature to fashion rules into something we can keep. For this reason, God gave the law. Man has always tried to reshape the law into something self-affirming, but God is constantly reminding man that if we fail to keep the whole law, we are guilty. If we fail in one point, we are guilty of the whole law. Therefore, there are two things you should know about the law. It is the standard of perfection based on God’s character. It is also the revelation that you cannot find perfection in yourself. It is intended to drive you away from trusting in your works so you are forced to look to the cross.

Religion can spruce up the outward appearance. Anyone can present a perfect façade to the world and other religious people, but the most religious and the most morally bankrupt have the same problem. They have a rotten sinful nature, and though some may mask it better than others, at our core, we all are in the same position. This is why Jesus said, Matthew 23:27-28

27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The very people who were condemning the riffraff of society had the same problem. You can paint a tomb white, but it doesn’t change what is on the inside. Those who are looking at the outer shell will be impressed. Those who are decorating their outer appearance can give the pretense of perfection, but just below the surface is rottenness and corruption. We are all in the same boat.

But the good news is that it doesn’t matter. As we have discussed before, when we trust in Christ, we have the promise that the Holy Spirit circumcises (or cuts away) our old inner rottenness, and replaces it with a new nature, born after the Spirit. It is born of God, abides in God, and is a partaker of God’s divine nature. From this point on, the problem is no longer our inner corruption, but remaining in the mindset of the outer flesh.

The problem with religion is that it blinds the self-righteous to their need, and blinds the immoral of their deliverance. I say ‘immoral’, but the truth is that every person has the same heart. Some sins are just more socially acceptable or easier to mask than others. Let’s illustrate this with the story of the airplane pushers.

A certain village was settled in a valley encircled by a massive mountain range. Their forefathers had been banished to this place and they still lived in extreme poverty. The limited resources made every day a fight for survival. No one had ever successfully crossed the mountain ridges to discover what was on the other side. Generations ago, their forefathers wrote of a land of abundance, but they had no way to reach it.

One day the Lord spoke to a man and gave him a message for the village. The people were to build an airplane according to specific instructions. If they trusted and obeyed, they would soon discover God’s promise of a land with every need met. No one knew what an airplane was, but it was the only hope of escaping this place. The man carrying God’s instructions assured the people God’s plan was perfect, even if they didn’t understand. These impoverished people rejoiced at this word and began constructing the airplane.

Though they didn’t understand, they built it according to God’s message, and soon they had a plane at the foot of the mountain. The base of the mountain was a gentle slope, but the higher the mountain went, the steeper and more rugged the terrain. Soon the Lord spoke again and instructed them to take the plane over the mountain. The strongest men were placed at each wing, and the rest pushed from behind. Then the journey began. For a while, things went fine. It was tiring, but the plane moved steadily up the rising slope of the mountain. But then they reached the first cliff.

The people reasoned out a new plan. They roped the plane, and after many struggles, they pulled the plane over the first small cliff. They pushed the craft along until they reached the next cliff. It was higher and steeper than the one before. With great effort, they tried to scale the cliff with the plane, but failed. They regrouped and came up with a new plan. They would disassembled the plane, climb the cliff, and reassemble it again.

Some argued against this plan. Their instructions was to take the plane up the mountain, not pieces of the plane. They had to stick with the original word. The disagreement became so great, the village divided. The majority sided with disassembling, and those holding to the original plan were left without a plane, so they built their own airplane.

Those who carried the pieces scaled this cliff with great effort, only to find the next cliff was higher and steeper still. What’s more is they were barely started on their journey. It was clear that the only way to make it would be to do the best they could. They reasoned that if they could get one piece to the top of the mountain, God would honor their efforts and reward them. They would focus on getting the most important piece to the top.

The people began arguing over which was the most important. When they could not agree, they divided again. Those who thought the wings were what God wanted called themselves the wing nuts, and they focused on carrying their valued piece. The holy rollers said the wheels were most important. The visionaries took the windows. Each group set out to get their piece to the top.

Those with the lightest pieces made fast progress. The strongest among them soon climbed the highest. Everyone began to bog down as the mountain became more treacherous. The complete plane crowd made no progress, but they kept trying and repairing their plane. God would be pleased because they were the most faithful to the original instruction. Each group looked down at those below and were sure God would honor them because of how much more progress they had made than others. Each group began measuring themselves against those below, and obedience was based on how much better they were than others instead of the impossible task of climbing the mountain.

The weaker among them became frustrated and gave up completely. They returned to the valley, and were considered as outcasts. As they looked back to the mountain, from a distance the highest achievers looked no different than those at the lowest cliffs. No one was even a fraction up the mountain, so why bother?

One day a man showed up in the village. He told them it was impossible to get the plane to the top of the mountain, and it was never in their power to do so. God never intended for the people to carry the airplane. Those who had made it the highest hated the words of this man. Their identity was now wrapped up in how much better they were doing than other groups, and especially the mere valley dwellers.

The man readied the plane and invited any who would come to enter the plane. He claimed he could use the wind to lift the airplane and guide it over the mountain. All they had to do was get inside and rest.

“That’s preposterous,” the elite of the village cried. They condemned anyone who would trust in this ridiculous doctrine. God instructed them to take the plane over the mountain. They could not accept that taking the plane was to get in it, and not to bear it on their backs. Besides, how could God measure their worthiness if their efforts meant nothing?

They scoffed at the idea that the wind could have the power to safely lift this plane. They had seen evidence of the wind many times. Sometimes it knocked things over. Sometimes it turned the windmill. One nutcase even built wings for his arms and flapped around like a fool. He never left the ground and no one had flown with the power of the wind.

Those who believed, climbed in the plane and were amazed that this mass of material could fly. The wind was able to use the wings to create lift? The power was in the wind, and not in the plane itself? The mechanics of the plane only served to receive the wind? Their limited understanding couldn’t comprehend how this was possible, but they rejoiced when the mountains that had been their prison for so many years drifted powerlessly under them as the plane carried them to the promise God had given them.

Their best efforts had been worthless, but now they also realized their weaknesses and limitations were irrelevant. Once they were carried by the wind, the mountain that once imprisoned them had no power at all.

This mindset is why God’s people could not comprehend the message of Christ. Those who compared their success against those who appeared weaker scoffed at the gospel, for it said they were all hopelessly imprisoned by the law. Those who saw the impossibility of climbing the mountain of holiness and perfection rejoiced at the gospel message.

You mean to tell me that nothing is about what I do for God? It’s not about me fulfilling the perfect standard of the law? The law only served to reveal to all of us the impossibility of measuring up to God’s nature. Even today, those who look at their accomplishments by comparing themselves to those with greater limitations will feel self-righteous, and their identity is wrapped up in self-glorification. But if we turn and look at the mountain, the cliffs of human limitations, sin, and our nature that weighs us down, we will understand why religion cannot please God. When we look at others, we might feel proud. When we look at our own weaknesses, we might feel defeat. But when we look at Christ, we discover that our works are irrelevant. Our sins are irrelevant. Our limitations are irrelevant. We are trusting in His works, His power, and His strength.

This is what the prodigal son discovered. When he turned to his father, he was focused on his defeat, but the father revealed to him that all his sins and failures were irrelevant. All he had to do was turn away from what was worthless and enter into the fellowship of agape love. Yet his brother wasn’t focused on the love of the father either. He was looking at himself and comparing his works to his brother’s failures. Look at Luke 15:25-32

25 "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
27 "And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 "But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
29 "So he answered and said to his father, `Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.
30 `But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 "And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
32 `It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’"

Which of these brothers were denied love or fellowship? Neither. The son who fell into sin allowed the world to rob him of experiencing love, but once he turned back, he found that the only thing between him and the father’s love was his rejection of that love.

The brother who didn’t fall into sin also missed fellowship. Because he counted his brother as unworthy, he refused to participate. Yet the father refused to cast his brother out of the party just because the older brother put that condition in place. The self-righteous brother withdrew because he thought his younger brother was unworthy. Yet it was he who missed the joy of fellowship, not the brother who returned from sin.

This is you and I when we deem someone a sinner to be shunned. We are all in the same boat. My sins may not be as blatant as the outcast of society, but we both have a sin nature. We both are incapable of becoming righteous. We both are incapable of fulfilling the law.

Human nature is masterful at self-deception. When we see the law, we shape it into something we can keep, and then we convince ourselves we are righteous. I go to church, but they don’t. Yet is my heart in worship of who God is and what He has done for me? If not, I might as well not be here. I’m not doing God a service by being here. If I am in a spirit of worship, then I am also in a humble spirit of receiving from God. I then understand I am only righteous because He has given me His righteousness. The only difference between me and the one I deem as a sinner is that they have not yet discovered God’s gift of righteousness. They become righteous the same way I did – by grace through faith. It is a gift of God not of works so I cannot boast.

We recreate many laws in order to create a standard by which we can feel as if we’re measuring up, but that’s mere religion and will not be honored by God. I’ll give an example. Some claim that unless we keep the Sabbath, we are guilty of violating God’s law. The Sabbath is Saturday. Yet these people don’t keep the Sabbath? Do they travel to church? Do they get their kids ready? Do they cook, set the table, clean up, or do any chore or work in any way? The law of the Sabbath is to do no work – at all. Don’t buy, sell, or exert yourself in any way. Not only can you not work, but it is also a violation of the Sabbath to allow a stranger with you to work. That includes supporting businesses or allowing someone else to do the work for you. Oh, and don’t buy or sell on the Sabbath.

Yet we have shaped the Sabbath into something we can keep, and then we feel justified for keeping our version of the law. We are breaking the Sabbath and then placing ourselves above God by rewriting the law to fit our culture and lifestyle. It’s not just us. Jesus said to the law-abiding Jews, “Moses gave you the law, but none of you keep the law.” And no one disputed Him because deep down they knew they were guilty, though they tried to cover their sin with human effort.

Yet the word Sabbath means rest. That’s why Jesus said, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” It’s also why the Bible says, “We who have believed do enter that rest.”

If you are in Christ, you are a Sabbath keeper, for He is that rest. If you are in Christ, you have kept the law, for the Bible says in Romans 8:3-4

3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Just in case you may misunderstand the wording here, let’s bring in Romans 8:9

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

If you are in Christ, you are a fulfiller of the law. The law is fulfilled by faith. Your faith is to trust in Christ, who fulfilled the law, and you trust in His gift of grace, which blesses you as though you have kept the law. It’s all about trusting in Christ.

The message of the prodigal is all about the love of God, your Heavenly Father, given to you. God does not love you because of what you do or don’t do. He loves you for who you are because of who He is. God is love, and He loves you because that is His nature. He invites you into His agape fellowship because He is glorified when you receive His goodness. And then He blesses you for receiving grace.

Back to the story of our airplane pushers. When they landed in the land of promise, some who had made the most progress on the mountain were stuck in that mindset. They met together and discussed how much God had been pleased with their work on the other side, and to receive the greater blessing, they had to show God how much they were willing to do for Him. So they began climbing the mountain from the other side. They persuaded others to follow them.

When they felt beaten and famished, it must be that God was not pleased. They had to be strong enough to conquer this mountain. Now they had God’s strength, so they would use it to defeat the mountain.

As the Restoration of Mountain Climbers grew in popularity, others began climbing with them. Again people began feeling defeated and falling away. They were shunned, just as they had been on the other side. Someone came to the group and said, “Turn around and look. All you need has already been given,” but they were scorned and counted as offenders. Even in the land of plenty, many lived as though they were on the other side. The same mountain that defeated them before, continued to defeat them. They couldn’t understand why God wasn’t blessing them to climb. Some enjoyed the promise and lived by faith in what they had been given. Others returned to the self-righteous mindset and lived as though they had never been delivered.

The truth is that God will never bless you to accomplish for Him what He has already accomplished for you. Even a Christian, if he or she returns to the law, will live as someone under the impossible burden of the law. They will be tempted to reject others because they are again looking at themselves instead of the giver of all things.

If we look to anything other than faith in Christ, we are under a burden not intended for us. We are also blind to the love of God. The Bible says that when people read the law as their focus for obedience, the veil is placed over their hearts. That veil is only taken away in Christ. While under the veil, the only measurement we have is our works and the sins of others. Both are false measurements.

The prodigal son could not receive love because he was focused on the false promises of sin. The prodigal brother could not receive love because he was focused on his false righteousness and refused to be in the fellowship of those he deemed unworthy of love. Yet he was rejecting the Father’s love just as much as his brother did. Unfortunately, it’s easier to recognize our weaknesses when we fall to sin than when we fall for religion.

Regardless of which side you are on, God’s love does not change. He pleads with the prodigal sinner, and the religious sinner. Any who will come will rejoice in the fellowship of God’s love.

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

Prodigal’s Father

Last week we discussed the prodigal son, and how he believed his sins drove him away from his father’s love. However, his failures revealed the depth of his father’s love in a way that he could not understand until he had nothing but failure to offer him.

In the same way, we don’t understand the depths of God’s love for us until we begin to understand that we have nothing to offer God but sin. In the flesh, even our righteous acts are sin, for as Jesus said, everything that is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is of the Spirit. The works of the flesh cannot produce anything of the Spirit.

When we begin to grasp this truth is when we begin to understand that God doesn’t love us based on what we have done or not done, but based on who He is. God loves you because He is love, and the only barrier God has established is our faith in His word of promise.

Let’s begin studying this truth by looking at love by comparing the Old Testament to the New. The unveiling of our need began when Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation in the garden. It began with questioning God’s love. Genesis 3:5

"For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

How subtle temptation can be. Man already had the knowledge of good. The only thing he lacked was the knowledge of sin. Before sin entered, man was God-conscious and only saw the good coming from the Lord. Once he stepped into sin, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened, and though nothing in life had changed at this point, they became ashamed. They were ashamed because they now looked for good in themselves instead of receiving the righteousness of God. From the beginning, it has always been God’s intention to be our righteousness instead of demanding righteousness.

Once man set out on a quest to make himself good by human effort, the law began to take shape. In the beginning, there was only one law – don’t eat of the tree. Once the tree was taken away, man was in sin, but incapable of understanding his inability to be righteous outside of God. The Bible says that where there is no law, sin is not imputed. In order to reveal to man that good only comes from above, God began unveiling the law in order to drive mankind into the knowledge of sin outside of Him. The Law cannot make us good, it can only reveal our sin. Look at Romans 7:9-10, 12-14

9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.

12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Let’s look at how the law was introduced, how it drives us to the knowledge we are sinful by nature and cannot become unsinful, and then see how God uses our weakness to reveal His love. In order to reveal the power of His love, God first based the Old Testament law on our love. Look at Deuteronomy 6:4-5

4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

The law was based upon the command to love God with all – not part – of our life. All your mind. All your heart. All your strength. If you fail to give God everything, you are guilty of breaking the law. The nation of Israel was put under the law, and they could not keep it. They began to shape the law into their culture, and then they strove to accomplish it through a never-ending expansion of the law. The question has always been, “Are you doing enough? Are you loving God enough?”

When the lawyers asked Jesus which was the greatest commandments, He quoted the above passage, but He used the word ‘agape’, which is the love of God. Man’s love is ‘philia’, or friendship love. Philia love is dependent upon receiving. Philia love dies or weakens when it is not returned, but agape is the unconditional love of God. Take time to read 1 Corinthians 13. This explains agape love – it seeks not its own, is not provoked, rejoices in truth, endures all things, and so on. It is beyond human capability to fulfill this. What’s more, is that if you do good deeds, and do not have agape love, your good works profit nothing. Look at 1 Corinthians 13:3

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Agape cannot be earned, nor can it be produced. Either our works are produced by God’s agape love, or they are worthless. Even our good deeds are mere acts of the flesh. This is why Isaiah 64:6 says that all our righteous acts are filthy rags in God’s sight.

This is what those focused on the law could not comprehend. This is why grace was a threat to the religious community at the birth of the church, and why trusting in grace is viewed as a threat today. No one wants to believe that their works profit nothing. Yet once we understand the love of God, we discover this doesn’t matter, for by faith we receive the greater blessing than what we were trying to earn before.

When Jesus quoted the law, it was always to reveal to those who trusted in their works the reality of their guilt. To the Pharisee who thought they were keeping the law, Jesus dismantled all their works. They brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus knowing He would not condemn her. They said, “She was caught in the very act. The law says she must die, but what do you say?”

Jesus stooped down and began writing in the dirt. I imagine he was writing the secret sins He knew they were guilty of. Lust, greed, hatred. Perhaps He wrote the command to love God with all our soul, heart, and strength. Then underlined the word ‘all’. Why is Jesus writing these things, they wondered. Then they demanded, “The law says she must be stoned. What do you say?” The law had already condemned this woman, now those who trusted in the law thought the law could also condemn grace. But the reverse was true.

Jesus stood up and said, “Whichever among you is without guilt, let him be the first to cast a stone.” Then He returned to highlighting their sins in the dirt. One by one, they dropped their stones in frustration and walked away.

Under the law, we are all guilty. And if you look to your works or righteousness – or anything from yourself, you will find guilt instead of righteousness. And that is the purpose of the law. Look at Romans 3:19-20

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

The law was intended to show you are guilty because God wants you to understand that you are loved, not because you do good works. Not because of the sins you manage to avoid. Nor does God deny you because of your sins or lack of good works. God doesn’t love you because of what you do or don’t do. God loves you because He is love. God defeated sin for you in order to reveal that nothing can stand between you and the love of God. Nothing but your refusal of His love. People refuse God’s love because they either don’t believe God loves them because of their failures, or because they believe they can earn His love by human success. But the law never produces righteousness. It only reveals whether a person is already righteous by nature.

After the incident with the woman condemned by the law, Jesus began revealing how they are also under condemnation. He said, “You have heard it taught that if a woman leaves her husband for another, she has committed adultery. But I tell you, if you even look at a woman to lust after her, you have already committed adultery in your heart.”

To those who boasted of their righteousness, Jesus revealed their sin. The rich young ruler who said he loved his neighbor as himself was instructed to sell everything he had and give it to his poor neighbors. To those who condemned murderers, Jesus said that hatred in the heart makes you a murderer. To the person who condemns the thieving tax collectors, the Bible says that greed is equal to thievery. To the one who condemns idolaters, loving wealth is idolatry. Every sin we can observe is already in our own hearts, even if pride blinds us to its reality. Pride blinds us to our guilt, but the law reveals our condemnation. A condemnation that is removed in Christ.

Do you love God with everything? Every thought is based on love for Him? Every action is out of a love for Him? Everything in our heart is grounded in love for God? Our love for our neighbor is so great that we give from our own table to them?

Anyone who trusts in the law or believes they are keeping the law is deceiving themselves. Anyone who thinks they love God enough is living a lie.

That’s the bad news of the law. But the good news is that Jesus fulfilled the law for us to give us God’s favor, bore the penalty of sin for us to take it out of the way, and gives us birth into new life by the Spirit whose life is from God.

The Old Testament law is, do you love God enough. The New Testament says, “It’s not about your love at all. It’s about His love.” Look at 1 John 4:16-19

16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
19 We love Him because He first loved us.

It was never about our love. It has always been about God’s love. In the beginning, man enjoyed fellowship with God until his focus was turned to himself. Remember the account of the tower of Babel? Their goal was to build a tower to heaven. Man’s goal has always been to make himself good, yet every good and perfect gift comes from God, not from man. The law reveals to you and I that our efforts can never be good enough, and it doesn’t matter. Our failure reveals God’s love.

The law was never about man. It has always been about God. The law unveils God’s perfect character and nature, and it unveils our inability to be perfect or attain to God’s standard of perfection – a standard that has always been about God. Now we see the promise, it isn’t about your love for God, but His love for you. God couldn’t have made this clearer than 1 John 4:10

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

It’s not that you love God, it’s that you know and believe in the love God has for you. That is the message of the prodigal son. It wasn’t about the son’s love. It was that the son could not comprehend the love of the father until he had nothing but failure to give to his father. It was then that he discovered the father loved him only because he was his child, and because that was the father’s nature. It was never about the son. It was about the father’s love for the son.

This is you. You are the focus of God’s love. He loves you because you are His child, and His love transforms you. But that transformation cannot take place until you come to the end of yourself – the point where you stop looking to you and begin to know and believe in His love for you.

You see this in the disciples of Jesus. Peter boasted of his love for Jesus. He proclaimed his willingness to fight for Jesus, die for Jesus, and affirmed that he would never forsake Jesus – even if all these others do. Who was the only disciple to deny Jesus? It was the one trusting in himself and his own love for God.

All the others forsook Jesus and fled for their lives – except one. John went to the palace with the crowd arresting Jesus. He is the one who helped Peter get into the courtyard where Jesus was being tried. He was the only disciple at the crucifixion. He was the one Jesus spoke to from the cross when Jesus delivered His mother into John’s care so she would not have to watch Him die. Now look at how the Bible describes John in these passages?

John 13:23

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.

John 20:2

Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."

John 21:7

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!"

John 21:20

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following,

Do you notice anything unusual about the disciple Jesus loved? Have you noticed this only appears in the gospel of John? John is called the disciple whom Jesus loved, but this only appears in John’s own writing. John endured because he understood the love of Christ for him. Never does he boast about his love for Jesus. In John’s latter years, he writes to the church and says, “It’s not that we love God, but that He first loved us.” Following this he says, “We have known and believed in the love He has for us.”

From here we have the promise that perfect love casts out fear. No fear can abide in the heart that is receiving perfect love. Human love can never be perfect. Perfect love is God’s love received into our hearts. When you understand that you are the disciple God loves, you will begin walking in confidence. Fear is forced out of your life, for the disciple God loves has no fear of judgment, but has confidence – even in the day of judgment. God loves you so much that He was punished for your sins. Someone who lives in that kind of love could never fear judgment.

There is no fear in life, for God has promised that He has worked out all things for your good – this includes now and in the future. If you know and believe in the love God has for you, and His love has already prepared the way, how can you fear anything this life can throw at you? Look now at Daniel 10:19

And he said, "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!" So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me."

You are God’s greatly beloved. God’s beloved has no fear, but peace. And where does strength come from? God strengthens you and it is by His grace we stand. Don’t believe the lie that Jesus loves you and defends you to the Father. Indeed Jesus is our advocate, but He defends us when the accuser tries to condemn us with the law. Your Heavenly Father loves you and you must know and believe in His love. Look at the words of Jesus in John 16:26-27

26 "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you;
27 "for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

You and I are in that day. He is referring to the day when our redemption was complete in Christ. The barrier of the law was removed, sin was taken out of the way, and now the love of God is unveiled in all its glory. When we fall into a humanistic religious mindset, we falsely think God is pleased based on what we do for Him. Not so. Let’s wrap up with Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

All of this is based on knowing and believing in the love God has for you. Have faith in His love for you. Many children go through rebellious attitudes during the transition from childhood to adulthood. During the dark years of adolescence, children doubt their parent’s love. I’ve heard children say, “My parents hate me,” when I know for certain that youth’s parent would give up everything for their child’s good. They work to provide every necessity, education, and gifts. Yet if a child disbelieves in their parent’s love, they will live life under a false ideology and their own perception becomes a reality in their lives.

We do the same with God. He has done everything to unveil His love for us, yet if we place ourselves under the perception of condemnation, we’ll live under condemnation, doubt, and frustration. We can live as a child who has an unpleasable father and never experience the love given to us.

During Jesus’ last prayer, He said the following in John 17:22-23

22 "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:
23 "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Your heavenly Father loves you just as much as He loves Jesus. You have the glory of God resting upon you, but you can live as a condemned man or woman. Or you can walk in God’s strength and trust in His love.

Know and believe in the love your Father in Heaven has for you. If there is one truth that will transform you into the victorious Christian life, it is this. Once you begin to believe in God’s unconditional love, you will begin walking as a child of the Kingdom. Once you understand you are loved, not because of your own abilities, but because God delights in you solely because you are His beloved child, you will experience a life of love. And God’s agape love transforms lives because it is the power of God within you.

Abide in God’s love. Know and believe in the love He has for you. In this rests all the promises of the life we have been given. It’s all a gift of God’s love for you. You are the disciple God loves!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

The Prodigal Son

For the next three weeks, we are going to study the parable of the prodigal son. We call it the prodigal son, but it’s more than just a story about a wayward son. It’s one of the richest illustrations ever told. It’s about a son whose life was changed by the love of his father, and a brother who didn’t understand grace.

We are going to study this story from all three perspectives, that of the son, the father, and the brother. Let’s begin by reading the entire illustration from Luke 15:11-32

11 Then He said: "A certain man had two sons.
12 "And the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.
13 "And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
14 "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
15 "Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 "But when he came to himself, he said, `How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 `I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19 "and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."’
20 "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
21 "And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 "But the father said to his servants, `Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
23 `And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24 `for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
27 "And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 "But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
29 "So he answered and said to his father, `Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.
30 `But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 "And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
32 `It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’"

Prodigal Son

You and I are either the prodigal, or the brother. Keep in mind that Jesus told this parable in response to those who criticized him for showing acceptance of prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors, and other sinful people that the religious community shunned as unworthy of God’s acceptance.

In the ancient Jewish culture, to dine with someone is a declaration of acceptance. No Jew would ever dine with someone they didn’t consider respectable and acceptable. Do you remember the story of Jesus and the woman at the well? When Jesus asked her to draw out water for Him, she was shocked. No Jew would dare speak to a Samaritan. They were considered polluted people. They would not even acknowledge their presence, and certainly wouldn’t stoop so low as to ask one for help. Jesus not only spoke to this woman, but He spent two days with the Samaritans, dining with them and teaching them.

If you want to understand the heart of the Father, look at Jesus. We like to separate the Father and the Son as though the Father is angry and the Son appeases Him. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Father sent the Son and the Spirit empowered Him to perform miracles, teach, and fulfill the mission He came to accomplish. The Bible says that Jesus, though He existed in the form of God, veiled His glory and took upon Himself the form of a bondservant, and came in the likeness of sinful flesh.

The power of Christ was veiled for His earthly ministry, and His power on earth was the same power we have on earth – the ministry of the Spirit. This is why the Bible speaks of Christ this way in Luke 4:18-19

18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."

This is also why Jesus said in John 14:12-13

12 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
13 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

God is not a seething angry judge. Wrath is against sin, not against you. When Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God, judgment was satisfied and we now have absolute confidence in the Father’s love toward us. Look at 1 John 4:17-19

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
19 We love Him because He first loved us.

You are not of fear, but of confidence. Your confidence should not be in yourself, or you will never have confidence. In Christ, the Bible says we have been given the adoption of God as sons. Until we became children of God, we could not have confidence. If a servant rebels, what happens? He will not be treated as a son, but as an offender. Yet we are not servants, but sons. Both men and women are sons of God.

Have you ever noticed how the Bible always talks about us as sons of God? We are sons of the inheritance? In the ancient culture when the Bible was written, women didn’t inherited the possessions of their father. They married into the inheritance of their husbands, but unless there were no sons, they did not inherit the estate of their family.

Though men and women have different gifts and callings in scripture, they both have the same inheritance, for the Bible says that in Christ there is neither male nor female, bond or free, Jew or Gentile. We are all one in Christ. When it comes to our lives in the flesh, we are male and female, but when it comes to the inheritance, we are all counted as sons. All who are of faith are counted as sons – there is no difference. There aren’t kings and queens in God’s kingdom. There are kings and priests – and we are blessed through faith and not gender.

Also absent from the kingdom is slave verses master. In the biblical culture, slavery was not a racial ideology as we think of in light of the 17-1800s. Slavery was the solution to bankruptcy. When someone borrowed money, but were unable to pay it back, they paid the debt through servitude. When borrowing money, the servitude would have been agreed upon before a loan was made.

In God’s kingdom, we are not slaves, for the debt has been paid through Christ. A son can never become a slave, even if he squanders his inheritance. Do you think the prodigal son understood his father’s love?

This immature young man had no concept of the value of his father’s love. Jesus uses this illustration to shock the hearers who didn’t understand God’s love. So he used a rebellious man’s love for money to drive the point hard. A son could not inherit the father’s wealth until after his death. Therefore, this young man is saying, “I wish you were dead. But since you don’t look like you are dying, I want you to just get out of the way and give me what I’ll get if you were dead.”

All the father had to say was, “No.” The young man would have had to stay, but this father understood that forced obedience was not valuable. He divided the inheritance and gave all he had to both his sons. The younger son probably sold off the cattle and goods, then took the money and said, “I’m out of here.” He left without caring how much his father loved him.

It was probably years that he was gone. He partied hard, and everyone is a friend to the big spender. Once the money was gone, the lad had to begin earning his keep. But life threw him a curve. A famine hit the land. In order to create a famine, there would have to be several years with no rain. No crops in the field meant no one was hiring laborers. The only job this man could find was helping a pig farmer.

You need to understand how low this job would have been to a Jewish man. The most vile creature on earth was a pig. Jews would never eat or even touch a pig. Not only that, but they considered themselves unclean if they touched anything or anyone who had come in contact with a pig. In an act of pure desperation, this man took the worst job imaginable.

The famine continued, and the young man grew so desperate that he not only worked in the pig sty, he also began eating the refuse thrown to the pigs. The food not fit for human consumption was the only thing he had available.

While choking down this vile slop, he finally realized he was as low as anyone could go. No friends. No money. No shelter. No food. Even the slaves back home had food, clothing, and shelter. He then rehearsed a speech that he would give to his father and headed home.

Do you think this young man had perfect love? Did he trust in his father’s love? Did he have any comprehension of how much his father loved him? No to all of the above. When he was at home, he wasn’t looking at his father. He was looking at the desire of temptation. After pursuing what he thought would bring fulfillment, he inherited the consequences of his life’s choices.

Do you think he was focused on the father’s love when he came to himself? No. He was still thinking about himself and his desperate situation. He didn’t think his father could love him. He looked at his sins, life’s choices, and the consequences of his own actions. He was certain that his sin had driven him away from his father. He would beg to become a slave just to survive.

How many sins did the father make his son recount before forgiving him? None. Did the father withhold love from the son? No. He loved him even while he was living in debauchery. The father knew the son could never understand his love until his son came to the end of himself. The love of the father never changed. The only thing that changed was that his son could never understand how much dad loved him until he had nothing in his life worthy of love.

Many of you are the prodigal son, or have been there. I have been there. In the past, I thought my sins were driving me away from God, but I discovered they were driving me to Him.

It was not until I had nothing to offer God but sin that I discovered God doesn’t love me because of who I am, but because of who He is. It isn’t until we understand that all we have to give to God is our sin that we can then understand that everything is about His love and not our efforts.

The prodigal son illustration was given because the people who thought of themselves as good were looking at Jesus and saying, “Why are you accepting these people who are bad?”

It isn’t until we understand that we have nothing good to give God that we can begin to comprehend the depth of God’s love.

The son practiced his rehearsed speech, and when he came to his father, something unexpected happened. While he was a long way off, the father ran to meet him. Before he could say a word, the father embraced him and began kissing him. A little is lost in translation here. There are two words used for ‘kiss’ in the New Testament. One means a fraternal kiss, or the common kiss on the cheek used in many cultures. The other means to kiss repeatedly. A good example of both usages is found when a woman known for her sinful lifestyle came when Jesus was dining at a Pharisee’s house. People were amazed that Jesus allowed this sinful woman to wash His feet with her tears. It was vile to be touched by such a woman.

Jesus explained how that someone with little sin doesn’t recognize the love of God, but a person who is hopelessly in debt to sin loves much because they are loved much. When they recognize the depth of the love of God, they recognize how much of a treasure they have been given. In this interaction, Jesus says the following in Luke 7:45

You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.

The first usage of the word ‘kiss’ is ‘philema’, which is a sign of respect and acceptance. It’s a fraternal kiss on each cheek. The second usage of the word kiss is the Greek word ‘kataphileo’, which is the act of continually kissing someone. It is to kiss again, and again, and again, and again.

I once saw a mother whose child was rescued from a well. The rescue was televised. She didn’t know if her son was alive or dead until a rescuer went down the shaft and came up with the child, safe and sound. She embraced him and kissed him over and over. This is what kataphileo is communicating, and it’s the word used in the prodigal son.

Before the son could say a word, the father embraced him with a bear hug and kissed him again, and again, and again, and again. Then they wept together until the son could speak. Then while the son is saying, “I have sinned,” the father is commanding the servants to put good sandals on his feet. While the son is saying, “I am not worthy to be called your son,” the father is crying out, “Bring the best robe for my son. Put the family ring on his finger.”

Was the son worthy? No. And that’s the point. It wasn’t about his worthiness, but about the father’s love.

Your faith is not about your worthiness. It isn’t about your sin, or ability to not sin. It’s not about your righteousness or works. It is about the father’s love for you. If you could be worthy, you miss the greatness of God’s love. It is when you have blown it to the point where you know you smell like you’ve been in a pig sty, you’ve been driven to despair by your sins, that is when you can understand the love of God.

God loves you because God is love. Your sins, failures, and weaknesses do not drive you away from God. They drive you to the reality of His love for you. It is only then that you are able to understand how much God loves you. When you understand that all you have to give God is filthy rags, that is when you will see God joyfully take away your rags and give you the robe of righteousness.

The sad reality is that we rarely can grasp how much we are loved until we have failed so miserably that we can no longer deceive ourselves into thinking we can please God by anything other than faith. Let’s wrap up this portion of study with Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

It’s not works, righteousness, moral excellence, or religious activities that pleases God. It is faith. Faith says, “I know and believe in the love God has for me.” Faith says, “I am righteous because I am receive the righteousness of Christ.” Faith understands that all I can give God is my sins and failures, and He gladly gives me His goodness and righteousness. Faith is to believe in God’s grace, not our abilities or lack thereof. Faith reveals that my sin is not God’s barrier, and it isn’t sin that overthrows grace, but grace that overthrows sin.

Faith says, “It’s not about me, but it’s about Christ. It’s about His work given to me as a gift of God’s love.”

God transforms you through His power and gifts of love. You don’t make yourself acceptable to God. You are accepted in Christ, and it’s God’s job to transform you into His likeness. The more you learn to trust in God’s love, the more His love forces out of your life the things that hinder you.

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

The Resurrected Life

Last week we looked at the promise that we were buried with Christ and our sinful nature was taken away. This leaves our flesh unemployed, but us free to pursue life in the Spirit. This week we are going to look at the life in the Spirit. Let’s begin by looking at John 12:23-25

23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
25 “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Jesus was about to face crucifixion, and He first pointed at His own life to teach that until He dies, a fruit-bearing life cannot emerge. He immediately transitions into connecting His work to our lives. You also cannot live until your life has died to the flesh. Until you die, you remain alone. If you maintain this temporal life of the flesh, you cannot live, but death remains upon you. But if you die with Christ, eternal life emerges. To understand how we died with Christ, I recommend reviewing the earlier message, The Crucified Life.

Let’s take a few moments to see how His death produced our life. Look now at Isaiah 52:13-14

13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men;

Who is God’s servant? According to Philippians 2, Jesus existed in the form of God, but veiled His glory and took on the form of a bondservant for the purpose of becoming obedient to death. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him.

This was foretold here in Isaiah. He will be exalted, but before that, we will be astonished at His marred appearance. Jesus will be marred more than any man. This prophecy given before Christ was speaking of his two-fold punishment. Jesus was first marred by being scourged with a cat of nine tails. This is a whip with pieces of sharp rock or other tearing material woven into the tip. It was intended to rip the flesh with each stripe. The whip would strike the back, and the punisher would yank the whip back to intentionally tear away the flesh.

This was normally the end of punishment, but Jesus was also condemned to die, so He was led away to be crucified. Condemned men were humiliated by having them carry their cross up the hill where they knew death awaited them. Because Jesus was so marred, He didn’t even have the strength to carry the cross, so a bystander was summonsed to carry it for Him.

Six inch nails were then driven through His wrists. Most translations use the word ‘hands’ but the Greek word for hands also includes the wrists. The hands didn’t have enough strength to support a human body, so crucifixion used the gap between the two bones in the wrist. It’s also one of the most painful places to be pierced.

Nails were driven between the space in the center of the feet, two to three inches behind the toes. Another agonizing place to be pierced. When someone hung from the cross, the weight pulling against their chest made breathing nearly impossible. Each labored breath required the convict to push up on the nail in their feet so they could release the pressure against their ribcage. Crucifixion was intended for maximum pain, and maximum humiliation. Knowing this makes the next passage clearer, Isaiah 53:3-6

3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
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.

Isaiah 52 says that Jesus is about to be highly exalted, but before this He will be marred more than any man, and He must go through the shame of Isaiah 53. Man will hide his face from Christ. This means the people will disown Him. Everyone will turn their backs on Him. His disciples will forsake Him out of fear, and the people will turn their backs on Him out of hate.

Satan is delighting in the torment, yet God was working a magnificent plan. The very stripes being laid on Jesus’ back were creating the flow of love that would soon be offered to His enemies for redemption. His bruises were for our sins. His stripes were for our healing. His rejection was for our acceptance. During the midst of this brutal act, God was laying your iniquities upon Him, so that your sins could be put to death in Him and new life emerge. Until you die with Him, you remain dead in your sins. But when we trust in Him, we are accounted as dead indeed to sin, but alive to God. And we are promised a new life – which we receive when we put our trust in Him. Look at this amazing promise from Ezekiel 36:26-27

26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

And this is from the Old Testament! God is foretelling of the day when God will take away our stony heart of sin and give us a new heart that is tender toward God. He then takes our dead nature away, and gives us a new spirit. Not only that, but His own Spirit will also be placed within us, and we will then have perfect fellowship with God.

Your old nature based on a spirit born into sin can never have fellowship with God. But when God takes away our sin, He gives us a new spirit AND His Holy Spirit. This is why we are called the temple of God.

But wait! There’s more! God then promises to be the driving force of good in our life, so that He causes us to walk in His ways and do His will. This is why the book of Romans tells us that the Gentile Christians, those who knew nothing about the law, did by nature the things written in the law, proving that the law of God was written on their hearts.

It is only when people are taught to walk in the flesh that they begin to struggle with sin again. We are called to walk according to our new nature, then the old sins have no power. Sin is defeated in the life of the Spirit. It cannot be defeated by human effort. Nor can faith be lived through human effort. We learn to walk in new life, and then righteous living is a natural way of acting. It is by nature that you keep God’s ways. It cannot be by forcing our flesh to live by a godly standard.

The Spirit subdues the flesh to make us instruments of righteousness. The flesh cannot be the focus, for it cannot change itself. Or as the Bible says, “The body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” Life lived through the flesh will always produce sin. But you are not in the flesh if the Spirit of Christ is in you. Now you must learn how to walk according to your nature, and not according to the dictates of the flesh.

The resurrection of Christ is your power. Look at Romans 8:11-15

11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors– not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
13 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.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 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.”

It is God’s Spirit that gives life to your mortal bodies. Everything of God comes through the Spirit. One of the evidences of life is God’s Spirit transforming your outward life into an instrument of righteousness according to the inward man – a new nature born by the Spirit. You cannot make your body become a Christian. You cannot redeem your body. Until your body is changed at the resurrection, it will always be dead because of sin. Thankfully, we are given two important promises here.

Your body is constantly given life – if you are in the Spirit. Second, your body is always in sin, but you are not subject to the body – it is subject to you. The only way sin can reign over you is if you submit yourself back into the flesh.

You are given new life, and that spirit within you desires the things of God. The body desires sin, but when your mind is focused on the Spirit, you are walking by faith and God subdues your sins, God empowers you to walk in His will, and God empowers you to do His works. It is His Spirit working in you; not you working to produce good works for Him.

Sin has no power in the Spirit. It is God’s work and He blesses you for possessing His free gift of life. Let’s now look at Romans 4:23-25

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

The resurrection is your justification. His death was the payment for your sin, and His life is the deliverance of your justification. You live because He rose. You are justified through the resurrection, not based on your own actions or merits. What must you do to please God? According to the Bible, without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith in what He has done. Faith in His works. Faith in His righteousness. Trusting in His resurrection.

When the people asked Jesus, “What must we do to work the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom the Father has sent.” Jesus was sent, and your only work is to believe on Christ! You are saved by grace through faith, not of works. You now live by grace through faith, and not of works.

Works is God’s Spirit performing His will in you, and then He gives life to your mortal body so that you can outwardly manifest the life that is being transformed inwardly. The more your mind grows in faith, the more your outward life will both depart from sin and do the works of God.

Because of the resurrection, you have new life, and you are freed from sin. Look at Romans 6:4, 7-12

4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

Your old nature was buried, and you now are in the new life. It is an accomplished fact, if your faith is in Christ. If you have died with Christ, you have been (past tense) freed from sin. Sin no longer has dominion over you. You are free. Death has no dominion over you, for as we looked at last week, sin and death condemned sin, but Jesus condemned sin in the flesh and nailed both our sin and the law that condemned us to the cross. You are free.

If this is true, why does sin trouble us? Why do we struggle with sin? The Bible says we are no longer under the law, because we are no longer in the flesh. We now have the law of faith and the law of righteousness. Our new nature does not need the letter of condemnation, for it desires to serve God alone.

Yet the Bible says that we can submit again under sin and the law. The Bible says, “Do you not know that whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey? This is true whether we are submitting to sin leading to death, or obedience leading to righteousness.

The flesh rises up and wars against your mind, demanding your submission to its desire to sin. If a child walks onto a playground and says, “I’m in charge,” what happens? If he has a strong personality, he might convince many, if not all, the children to submit to his claim of authority. But what happens if someone says, “No, you aren’t the boss?” His authority is gone. His authority is dependent upon your submission.

Now what happens if your boss comes up and says, “This is what I want you to do?” He has authority and either you do what has been commanded or there will be consequences.

Your authority comes from above, not from the earth. Your flesh is dependent upon you being convinced you must submit to its demands, but the Bible says, “No. Reckon yourself dead indeed to sin, but alive to God.”

To reckon is to account something as true. It is to believe, knowing something is certain. You have certainly died to the flesh; therefore, when you reckon that to be true, you will be stripping the flesh’s claim to authority over your mind. When you reckon yourself alive, you are putting your trust in the truth of God’s promise of life.

Let’s conclude by looking at Isaiah 54. Isaiah 52 speaks of Christ’s exaltation after He is marred more than any man. Chapter 53 explains the purpose of the crucifixion. He was wounded for your iniquities, striped for your healing, bruised for your sins, and rejected for your acceptance. Everything negative to you has been laid to His account, so that everything positive with Jesus is laid to your account. Isaiah 54 gives us a glimpse of how we now are viewed by God. Look at Isaiah 54:8-9

8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the LORD, your Redeemer.
9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.

In the Old Testament, God gave a rainbow as a symbol of His promise to never flood the entire earth again. Never again will He wipe out all life on earth because of man’s sin. This is a certainty and God cannot lie. It will always stand as a promise.

Now that the work of Christ has been completed, a new covenant of God has been given. God has sworn that once we are in Christ, He will never again be angry at us or rebuke us. Our sins are cast into the depths of the see. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. His anger was laid upon Him, so His favor could be laid upon you.

Do you believe God’s declaration of His oath of promise? It’s only found in Christ. When you put your trust in Christ, you are now under the covenant of promise, and the Bible says that we are saved from wrath through Christ.

For a moment, God hid His face. Through the law, man was under condemnation. Man could never attain to righteousness, and that is the purpose of the law. It showed how helpless we are to rise to the acceptable standard of God – which is perfection. But that moment has passed. Now we have passed from death to life, and are accounted as sons of God – both male and female. This is explained in Romans 5:1-2

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

We are all inheritors of the promise. Never again will we be under wrath if we are in Christ. That is God’s oath. This is a certainty!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

 

You died with Christ and are now free!

Let’s begin this study with Colossians 2:8-14

8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;
10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The Bible explains that each person who enters the world has been born through Adam. Through him, we inherit our sin nature. We aren’t sinners because we committed sin. We committed sin because we were sinners. That nature is born into sin and seeks to serve itself.

From early childhood, we begin to demand our ways while also learning how to develop a selfish attitude based on our sin nature. This is why it is impossible for man’s efforts to make him righteous. Even if we do good by human standards, it still is born through a sinful nature and is ultimately self-serving. We do good because it makes us feel good. We sacrifice because it makes us appear honorable. Honorable to those watching, and honorable to our own egos.

Jesus said that whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The flesh cannot produce spiritual fruit. It can only produce flesh and decorate it with man-made works. This is also why Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of our righteous acts are filthy in God’s sight.”

One thing that is often overlooked by Christians is that we are not only receiving Christ, but He is crucifying our old nature. Not only is Jesus taking our sins out of the way, but He is taking our fleshly nature out of the way, and He is taking the law that kept us in bondage out of the way with it.

Christians often focus on the front-side of the cross. We have little trouble understanding that Jesus paid for our sins, but that is not all Jesus accomplished. Jesus took our sins completely out of the way, took our sin nature out of the way, and gave us His life and His righteousness. You are righteous because you are a possessor of the righteousness of God in Him. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:21

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

It is NOT your righteousness that pleases God. It is your faith in Him so that you are a receiver of God’s righteousness. He took your sin out of the way through His death. He also took your sin nature and the burden of the law upon Himself. The barriers between you and God have been taken out of the way, and a new nature is born. We’ll look at our new birth in detail next week, but let’s take a moment to focus on the work of God to remove our sin and sinful nature.

Before Christ, you had one nature. It was a corrupt nature born through Adam. After Christ you also have one nature, but this nature is born of God, has its life in God, and abides in the Spirit. Look now at 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.

Old things have passed away. Your old man was crucified with Christ and taken out of the way. This is what the Bible means when it speaks of the circumcision without hands. In the Old Covenant, God provided a living symbol of what He would one day perform for us. Every male child had to be circumcised in order to enter into God’s covenant of promise. The flesh of the child’s foreskin was cut away as a symbol of God’s working. The child had to do nothing. They were unaware of what was happening to them.

When Christ came, God unveiled the meaning of circumcision. He alluded to this even in the Old Testament. Look at Deuteronomy 30:6

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

We are the descendants. This is why the Bible says that anyone who is born of faith are the children of Abraham, who is the forefather of the Jews. The outward foreshadow of circumcision became the inward working of the Holy Spirit at our new birth.

Before Christ, your nature has a bent toward sin. Your heart is sinful, corrupt, and incapable of pleasing God. You cannot enter into God’s promise because your sinful nature is incompatible with the life of the Spirit. But when the message of Christ is preached, the Holy Spirit reveals the joy of the Lord as He draws us to submit to His call. Anyone who responds by faith receives new life. But that new life cannot occur until the circumcision of Christ occurs first. The Spirit cuts away your old nature, buries it in Christ, and a new life in the Spirit is born. This is what is meant by being born again.

You cannot enter into God’s promise while the old nature is within you. God circumcises the fleshly nature away, we enter into the covenant of promise, and we are born as a new man and receive the promise that now all things are new and of God. Old things have now passed away, and behold all things are new – and all things are now of God!

If you put your trust in Christ, you are now buried with Christ! The old nature that ruled you is dead, buried, and taken out of the way. Look now at Romans 6:4-7

4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 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.
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

You are not trying to get rid of an old nature – if you are in Christ, that old man (or fleshly nature) has been crucified with Christ. Past tense. It is not your work, it is the work of Christ. Your body of sin is now unemployed.

In the next few weeks we are going to look at the source of sin and why we still struggle, but we must first understand that our old nature is dead and gone. There is a little confusion in the way verse 6 is translated. Most translations say things like, “The body of sin might be destroyed,” or, “The body of sin might be destroyed.” ‘Might be destroyed’ is translated from a single Greek word, ‘katargeo’ which literally means to become unemployed.

Our sin nature is gone, but sin remains in our flesh; however, the flesh is now unemployed. It once ruled us, but now has been rendered idle. This is why the Apostle Paul said that sin in his flesh wars against his mind, trying to bring him back into captivity. We’ll discuss this in detail at another time, but what’s important to understand now is that the nature that sin once ruled has been taken out of the way. We are born into a new nature that is born of God.

Let’s look at another passage that can help us get our minds around this truth. Look at Romans 7:1-6

1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another– to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

I love this illustration. The Bible begins by presenting the law and our obligation to it. As long as you are alive, you are under the law. Every sin creates judgment. The Bible says that by the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified. Righteousness cannot come by the law. The law is a reflection of God’s perfect standard based on His perfect nature and character. The Bible also warns that if we offend the law on any point, we are guilty of the whole law. The law is not a grading system. There is no 80% good. There isn’t even a 99% good. The law takes our lives, acts of sin, sinful thoughts, intents of our heart, obedience, disobedience, and compares it to the whole law. The Bible even says, to know good and to not do it is sin. The Bible also says that anything not of faith is sin. Have you ever not trusted in God? Or been afraid to step out in faith? What about the command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Have you had any thought that was not based on the love of God?

The law says, “Are you perfect.” If the answer is ‘no’, you are guilty. Now this passage is presenting this problem. It compares the law to a husband. The husband is perfect. The law is good, holy, and pure. Unfortunately, we who are born under that law are not. The law has no tolerance for sin, for all sin is a challenge to God’s authority and an assault on perfection.

Anyone born under the law remains under the condemnation of the law unless the law dies. Yet we know the law cannot die, for it is eternal. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the word will never pass away. The comparison is that we are married to the law from birth, and unless the law dies, we cannot be free. Yet now we see the love of God presented to us through Christ, but we can’t be joined to Christ because our marriage to the law can never be annulled. It must die before we can be free, but it can’t die because it’s eternal.

Then the Bible gives an amazing solution. The law can’t die, but you can. And Jesus, the embodiment of the love of God cares enough for you to bear the penalty for your sins and die for you. While that will take care of your sin, it won’t free you from the law. So God offers an amazing solution. Be crucified with Christ, die to the law, and the one who has died is no longer under the law.

Your old nature was born through the flesh and is forever bound to the law of condemnation. God now promises, let Me put your flesh to death, and then you will be free from the law and born into a new law – the law of faith. The law of life in the Spirit. Now look at Romans 8:2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Once you are in Christ, the law of condemnation has no power. Let’s add one last passage to this topic. Galatians 5:18

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

In Christ, you are a spiritual man or woman. You are not under the law, but in Christ. You have a new nature whose life is in Christ and a nature that desires the righteousness of God. This is why the Bible says, “The Gentiles who did not know the law, did by nature the things found in the law, proving that the law of God was written in their hearts.

Our new nature is a partaker of God. Its nature is to act in accordance to God’s will, because its nature is to do so. It is only when we submit our minds to the flesh that sin rises up to trouble us.

In Christ, you have a new life. The condemnation you once had can no longer condemn you. You now have the promise, “Now all things are of God.” You were crucified with Christ, set free from the law and all its condemnation. Now there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. But this gift of God is only received by faith.

God is calling. God has expressed the amazing love He has for you in the person of Christ. The Bible says that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. Did you know that you were the encouragement of Jesus when He was facing the torture of the cross? The joy of your reconciliation was the joy set before Him, and He endured for your hope of redemption. This is the love of God given to you.

You died with Christ, you are free from the law, you are free from condemnation, and all you must do is receive His gift by faith!

Eddie Snipes 2014
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