HANGING OUT WITH SINNERS

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

I spend my days hanging out with sinners.  You might think that unwise, but according to the above scripture, I have no choice.  Everyone I come in contact with fits into the category of “all”. Of course, so do I.  So everyone who associates with me is associating with a sinner.

Now there are two categories of sinners, those who have received Jesus as their savior, and those who have fail to do so.  Those who have not received Jesus as their savior still have the opportunity to do so.  It is the job of those of us who are saved to encourage those who have yet to receive Him.  Thus, it is important for saved sinners to hang out with unsaved sinners.

(2Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 

Since it is our Father’s desire, we should all the more want to please him by doing our part to bring others to Christ.  Jesus hung out with sinners like us. He healed, fed, taught us how to live, and then he died for us.  We should approach the unsaved with the same heart that Jesus had for us all.  We should love, pray for, help in times of need, and share our testimony with one another.

THE WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE

Christians are not called to stamp out the evil of the world by killing bad people.  We are trying to let the Holy Spirit clean out the evil in us. And we are called to share the truth of how we received forgiveness of our sins and started on this road to righteousness.  We are soldiers of the gospel led by our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Jesus overcame the world through humility and wisdom. Jesus, who is all powerful God, did not smite the heathens and bring down fire and brimstone on the evil nations, but through self-sacrifice, he defeated our enemy, and he is our example of how to fight evil.

“The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of this world (2 Corinthians 10:4).”

At the end of the Jewish exile in Babylon, Zerubbabel was called on by the Lord to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.  The prophet Zechariah was given this word for Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).  Zerubbabel, who was facing what appeared to be an impossible task in an impossible environment, was reassured that the Spirit of God was going to provide what was needed to accomplish the task and overcome the obstacles.   

How much more will God’s Spirit within us complete the task of ridding the earth of evil and establishing his Kingdom?  Through his church he will accomplish this.  We just need to do the work that he sets before us.  We wait in faith for the reveal of his conclusion.

I will leave you with these words from the Apostle Paul found in Ephesians 6:10-17,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

THE BEST INVITATION

(2Peter1:3&4The Message) Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the one who invited us to God.  The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you – your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.

Jesus came to invite us to know God personally, and intimately.  And in that relationship we have everything we need to live a Godly life.  The closer we are to him the more like him we become. 

Then there are the promises of God.  Topping the list is eternal life.  Physical death has now becomes a mere transition into eternity.  We have become his children, and he is our Father.  God has promised to watch over us and provide for us.

All these things are possible because Jesus died and rose again on our behalf.  He walked among us giving us an example of a Godly life.  He is our teacher, our mentor, and our advocate.  Jesus invites us to come to him that we might receive all that the Father has prepared for us.  This is surely, “The best invitation we ever received”.

PAST SINS

(2 Peter 1:9) But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Have you ever been tormented by your past sins?  I ask this question because I have.  Throughout my years as a forgiven sinner, I occasionally find myself wallowing in the memory of past sins.  Darkness begins to loom over me, and I fall into a self-loathing pile of self-focused misery. The only ones celebrating are the demons who have been whispering reminders of past sins in my ear.

When I realize what has been happening, I pick myself up and read the truths found in Scripture.  My sins have been forgiven and forgotten by the Lord (Psalm 103 11-12).  There may be ones here on earth that remember those sins, but my sins don’t even exist in God’s kingdom.  I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.  The old has passed away (Romans 6:4-11).

I regret the things I did in the past and the hurt I caused, but Jesus died for those sins so I could have new life.  Jesus gave me the opportunity to start over.  That is where my focus should be.  This opportunity is also available for those I hurt, and I pray for them that they too will find new life in Christ. 

We have a common enemy who delights in bringing us down, stealing our joy, and making us ineffective in God’s kingdom.   Satan and his demons are out to kill, steal, and destroy.  They revel in tormenting us.  Through Jesus we can put them aside.  I sometimes forget this.

FINDING PEACE IN SUFFERING

(1Peter 4:1&2 The Message) Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.  Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

As we get older there seems to be an unending parade of pain traveling through our bodies.  I woke up this morning with a sprained ankle.  It was fine when I went to bed.  Suffering pain seems to be inevitable.  However, we have a choice in how we deal with it.  Pain and suffering can cause us to draw into ourselves and wallow in the misery, but the above Scripture passage helps us to redirect our thinking.

 Self-centeredness is rooted in our sinful nature, but God can use our suffering to teaching us to be other-centered.  Looking outside of ourselves is always a challenge. When we’re in pain it is much more difficult.  Yet, I have recently found that focusing on others brings peace to my soul even in the midst of suffering. 

GOOD GUY OR BAD GUY?

 (Romans 7:18) For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Last week I had a very bad week.  Everything on my job went awry.  By the end of the work week, I became out of sorts, angry, and unkind.  The previous week wasn’t much better.  So I spent the last two weeks failing to be what I think a good Christian man should be.

When reading back through my recent posts, I came across this statement, “In the circumstances of the day, I am more helpful, kind, gracious, loving, and patient (The Everyday Miracle).”  When I read these words of mine, I must confess that the contrast with this statement and my behavior during the last two weeks got me a little chocked up.  I had regressed.

 So, I asked myself, “Who am I?”  Am I the good guy or the bad guy?  Paul discusses this dilemma further through the rest of Romans chapter 7.  For me, the last two weeks provided a lesson in humility.  I am not the good guy or the bad guy.  I am a redeemed sinner fully dependent on the mercy and grace of God.  He has made me his child, and he disciplines me as he see fit.  Through this rough time, he has reminded me that without him I can do nothing.  Only in him can I successfully deal with my sinful nature.

I’m confident that God loves me, and he forgives me.  I can move on from this time, but I’ll need to keep this lesson in mind that I need him in all things.

OH, TO WALK WITH GOD

(Genesis 3:8-11) Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

We were never meant to walk alone.  We were designed to walk with God.  In the beginning, Adam and Eve walked with God, but they fell into sin and that changed the innocent life that they were given.  Sin separated them and subsequently the rest of us from God, but he has provided a way back.

(John 3:16)  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

God, through Jesus, provided a way for us to again walk with him.  God is just, so he gave his son that justice might be served.  Jesus died on the cross to take our place and bring justice to our sin problem.  Jesus opened up the path for our forgiveness that we might again walk with our God.

God is very excited for us to join him.  Go ahead and step into the way that he has provided for your return.  Surrender your self-will to his will.  He is trustworthy, and he loves you dearly.  God will be delighted when you return to him. 

THE EVERYDAY MIRACLE

“We are not meant to be seen as God’s perfect, bright – shining examples, but to be seen as the everyday essence of ordinary life exhibiting the miracle of his grace.”     (Oswald Chambers – My Utmost for His Highest)  

Every day, I wake up in the morning, get out of bed, and go about the day.  Then, I go to bed at the end of the day.  Yet there’s a difference in these days.  I’m not the same person that I once was.  The days are more meaningful- more useful.  I live supported by God’s grace.

In the circumstances of the day, I am more helpful, kind, gracious, loving, and patient.  This has come about without my effort.  I surrendered my life to God, and he changed me into a nicer person.  He has been gracious to me. The result is that his grace courses through me and flows to others.  That is the everyday miracle of his grace.

GOD IS CLOSE TO ME

(Ephesians 1:3-6) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us for adoption to son-ship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves.

(Romans 8:10, The Message) But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells – even though you still experience all the limitations of sin – you yourself experience life on God’s terms.

I have often chastised myself for not being closer to God, but if God lives in me, I’ve recognized that it’s impossible to get closer to God.  So I conclude that what I’m lacking is an awareness of God’s closeness.  He’s there; I’m just not paying attention.

I’m working on a routine to keep myself aware of his presence.  When I awake in the morning, I say good morning Father, and I spend a few minutes thanking him for the various aspects of my life and for his grace and mercy.  From there I go to my chair and read a devotional page from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  Then I continue reading the book of Scriptures that I’ve currently chosen concluding with a time of Prayer.  During the day, I find Christian music keeps me attuned to his presence.

Doesn’t this sound like a great plan?  It works to some extent, but my lack of consistency often disrupts the plan.  The important truth in all of this is that God’s love for me does not waver. 

Plan or no plan, I’m still his.  He chose me to be his from the very beginning, and nothing will change this fact.  He is always close to me, and I’m working on keeping an awareness of his closeness.

THE HOLY SPIRIT LIVES IN ME

John 14:15-17, “If you love me, keep my commands.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – The Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

I was thinking the other day about the fact that the Holy Spirit lives in me.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to me the moment I believed and surrendered my life to him.  At that moment, I had a definite awareness of new life.  I was changed!  For a short time after that, I was conscious of a distinct difference in me. Then I got used to my new life.   

Now after many years of walking with the Lord, I believe that the Holy Spirit Lives in me, but I seem to have no clear perception of his presence.  As I pursued this before the Lord, I had this thought.  What would it be like if God removed the Holy Spirit?   

In horror, I recalled the desolate life I was leading before He sent his Spirit.  Ok!  I get it. I saw the answer to my deliberations very clearly.  The blessed and happy life I now lead is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.  He leads me and guides me and fills me with new life.  I thank you, Holy Spirit.  I love living my new life.