Thursday, August 16, 2012

Grace: A Higher Standard

Last time I wrote to you, we were discussing “Freedom From the Law”.  I would encourage you to read that post, before you read this one, as it will provide much of the background for what this post is about.

The 10 Commandments, or the ministry of death and the ministry of condemnation, was a good thing, but it’s only purpose was to show man that no matter how hard he tried, he could never meet God’s standards.

Then, Jesus came, and grace and truth came through Jesus.  Not only did grace and truth come through Jesus, Jesus was (and is) full of grace and truth.  

That grace is what enables us to live a life free from sin!  I don’t have to try to live by the 10 Commandments anymore, because when I try to live by the 10 Commandments, I’m trusting in myself to measure up and hit the mark, but when I trust in the grace on the inside of me, and trust in Jesus, who is Grace, I can hit the mark every time.

Well then, how should a Christian, who is full of Grace and Truth (or Jesus) live their life?

Here’s the thing, I can’t give you a list of “do’s and don’ts” on how to live your life.  Jesus didn’t even do that.  However, He did have this to say in Matthew 5:21-22 and 27-28.

“21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘you shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement.’

22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

“27 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

28 But I say to you that whoever looks a a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I know what you’re thinking right now.  “I thought you said Jesus didn’t give us a list of do’s and don’ts?  That’s what it looks like to me.”

I know it does, but that’s because you’re reading it through the eyes of tradition.

You see, the issue is that too many believers would rather manage their flesh than reckon it dead.  They’re looking at the letter of what Jesus said, rather than the spirit of it.  

Jesus is dealing with conditions of the heart here.  He’s saying, “I know that you know not to murder, but I’m telling you that hatred without a cause is the beginning of murder, and it starts in the heart.”

He’s saying, “You know not to commit adultery, but when you lust, that is the beginning of adultery in the heart.”

Jesus is more concerned with the condition of your heart than He is your actions, because He knows the condition of your heart will determine your actions.

So, when I’m trying to manage my flesh, and trying to say, “Ok, what can I do, and what can I not do?” I’m not living up to the grace that has been placed on the inside of me.

But, when I say, “I’ve been born again, and this life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God,” and I begin to trust in that grace that is inside of me to live right, and I trust in that grace to correct me, and I trust in that grace to show me what to do, I’m living up to the higher standard of grace.

When I miss it, I only miss it because I’m not trusting in grace-I was trying to do it on my own.  So what do I do?  Repent, and it’s over and done with.  The word “repent” simply means to change one’s mind.  So, when I repent from sin, all I’m saying is, “I’m changing.  I don’t want any part of this any more, and I am turning from it.”

So, grace calls us to have our hearts right, and then enables us to make our hearts right, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you see how simple grace is?  How freeing it is?  Do you see, that even though grace is a higher standard than the law, I don’t have to struggle to measure up, because Grace Himself will enable me to measure up?

You see, I don’t have to try to make sure that I’m not going to lie, because I’ve got truth on the inside of me.  I don’t have to make sure I don’t lust after a woman, committing adultery with her in my heart, because I’ve got grace inside of me.  Grace enables me not to lust.

If you’re struggling with sin in your life, stop trying to manage it!  Grace has a higher standard, and yet, that higher standard is easier to achieve than the fulfilling of the law.  Just say, “Jesus, I trust in you.  I thank you that I’m free from ‘whatever you are struggling with.’”  Then, whenever the opportunity arises, just trust in the grace.

Do you see how easy that is?  We’re not dealing with the flesh, and flesh management.  We’re dealing with the heart.  And when you deal with the heart, it will control the flesh.

Grace has given me a higher standard to measure up to.  How am I going to do it?  Especially if I couldn’t measure up to the law?  I’m going to put my faith in the grace.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Freedom From the Law

I’m going to say something that may shock some of you.  Are you sitting down?  Good.  Here it is.
I have stopped trying to live my life by the 10 Commandments.
Are you still with me?  Don’t close the page just yet.  Hear me out (more importantly, hear the Word out) before you decide if I’ve gone off the deep end.
I have stopped trying to live my life by the 10 Commandments.  Do you know how freeing that is?  
I can hear it in your voices now, “Yea, it’s freeing because if you don’t live by the 10 Commandments, you can do whatever you want.”  And, “Well brother, aren’t you just giving Christians a license to sin by saying something like that?”  Man, Christians have been sinning without a license for years.  What does it matter if I give them one?
Let’s go to the Bible for a little more light on the subject.
In the book of Exodus, we find God giving the law to the Israelites.  And watch what He had to do here.  
Ex 29:36-37 “36 And you shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement.  You shall cleanse the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to sanctify it.
37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and sanctify it. And the altar shall be most holy.  Whatever touches the altar must be holy.”
So, we can see in this passage that sacrifices were offered to atone for sin.  You see, for man to be holy under the Old Covenant, he had to keep the law.  God knew this was impossible.  He instituted the practice of offering a sacrifice to cover up for when man missed it.  That’s what the sacrifice was for.  
Hebrews addresses this too.  In chapter 10 verse 1 it says this,

“1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”
So, the sacrifices were instituted by God to cover sin, which He cannot be a part of, since He still desired a relationship with His family.  
The reason they had to be instituted is this - God knew that no matter what man did, He couldn’t keep the law.  He knew that man would try as hard as He could, and fail miserably.  
In fact, the Apostle Paul goes as far as to say, in the book of 2 Corinthians 3:7 and 9 to call the law, and the 10 Commandments both “the ministry of death” and “the ministry of condemnation”.  
Wow.  The ministry of death.  The ministry of condemnation.  The 10 Commandments.  I never would have put those two together.
Why does it call it that?  Well, let’s look at what Paul, by the Holy Ghost, had to say about it in Romans.
Romans 7:8-12 (MSG) “Don’t you remember how it was?  I do, perfectly well.  The law code started out as an excellent piece of work.  What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it.  The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me.  Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it.  But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it.  The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong.  So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead.  But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.”
I like the way the King James translates verse 9.  “For I was alive without the law once” but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”  He then goes on to say that the law, which was ordained for life, was death.  
1st Corinthians 15:56 tells us that the law is what strengthens sin.  When you attempt to follow the law, it strengthens the hold sin has on your life.
So then how have I been able to stop trying to live by the 10 Commandments?  It’s quite simple really.  
John 1:14-17
“14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 
15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Did that hit you the way it hit me?  
The law (the ministry of death and condemnation, remember) was given through Moses, but GRACE AND TRUTH came through Jesus Christ.  The Word (Jesus), FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH!
Wow.  So, now, the Bible has drawn a line in the sand.  There’s the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of death, and Jesus, who is full of grace and truth!
So then, what is this grace?  Oftentimes, we just think of it as a free gift.  Unmerited favor.  But it’s so much more than that.  Grace is an enablement.  
Hebrews 12:28 says this, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may SERVE God ACCEPTABLY...”
So, grace is what enables us to serve God acceptably.  Wow.  
You see, when I’m trying to serve God by following the law, I’m actually strengthening sin in my life, because I’m trusting in myself to measure up.  This brings me right back to death.

But when I trust in the grace, it isn’t about what I can do in the natural. It’s about what He can do.

I don’t need something to show me I can’t do it on my own. I know I can’t. But I know that the grace of God, which lives within me, can. I trust in that grace to measure up. I trust in that grace to hit the mark.
I believe we have a little more ground to cover.  Romans 4:15 in the New Living Translation says this, “For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)”
What does that mean?  
I’m going to give you an example I heard Dr. Creflo Dollar give.
If I’m driving on the Autobahn in Germany, I can drive just as fast as I want.  In fact, I might come into the house smiling from ear to ear.  You ask, “What are you so happy about?”  I would respond, “Man, I just got my car up to 150 MPH!  I have never driven that fast before!”
But, if we’re in the United States, and I came in from driving at 150 MPH, I would be checking over my shoulder, making sure there were no cops around, following me.  I would probably be shaking and out of breath.  When you asked me what was wrong, I’d say, “Dude, I just went 150 MPH...I hope the cops don’t find out!”
Do you see the difference there?
Where there is a law to break, it brings punishment.  But without a law, there is no transgression.
So, even though there is no law to break, what is my responsibility?  Is it ok to drive 150 MPH on the Autobahn, and endanger myself, and kill other people in an accident?  
It’s wrong.  But, there is no transgression for simply going 150 MPH.  However, if there is a law against it, even if I don’t endanger anyone, I’ve transgressed the law by driving that fast.
So, we still have God’s standard of behavior, but there is no law to measure up to.  Just grace to rely on.  Where the law said not to commit adultery, and therefore made adultery a temptation that people fell into, grace enables me not to commit adultery.
Grace is the enablement to measure up to God’s standard.  
So, in not trying to keep the law, and trusting in the grace of God, I can serve God acceptably.  I can please Him in everything I do.  
I’m not trying to do this on my own.  I let the grace that is in me do the trying.  I let the grace do the measuring up.  (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Even if I miss the mark, Jesus has already dealt with the sin.  I just repent and move on.  I keep trusting in the grace to empower me to not yield to the sin.  I trust in the grace to enable me to live a life pleasing to God.  I trust in the grace to allow me to do what I’m called to do.  I trust in the grace, and since I trust in the grace, I don’t have to trust in the law.
Galatians 3 refers to the law as a tutor, or a schoolmaster, designed to bring us to Jesus.  It did that by showing us we couldn’t measure up to God’s standard on our best day.  But then we were brought to Christ, and justified by faith, and we are no longer in need of a tutor.

Look out for my next post, later this week, entitled, “Grace: A Higher Standard”.  
I’m going to end with this verse.  Let it penetrate you, and permeate your spirit.
Galatians 2:19-21, and 3:2-3
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
   Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”
“Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God's Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?”

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Seed Will Meet Any Need

There are many principles in the Scripture that are important for us to live by, but one of the most important is often overlooked.  Now, this may or may not be intentional, but I do know this-the principle of seed time and harvest is one of the most prevalent themes in the Bible.

In Genesis 8:22 we see one of the first mentions of it by name.  You can see it earlier in Genesis if you look for it, but for the purposes of our study, we will start here.

Genesis 8:22 is after the flood that covered the earth, and God had this to say to Noah,
"While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest...shall not cease."

God Himself said it in His Word-as long as the earth is still here, and it is, seedtime and harvest will be here!

Now, people have gotten the mistaken idea that God only wants them to sow because He wants their money.  No, nothing could be further from the truth.  We find in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that sowing seed was a way for you to open the door, so that God could BLESS you!  Hallelujah!  How exciting is that?  God doesn't just want my money, He wants me to give, so that He can give me even more, so I have more to do His work with!

Look at 2 Corinthians 8-9, and study it for yourself. (see all postings in this blog labeled "Prosperity")   God wants you BLESSED!

That's why this is one of the most fundamental principles in the Kingdom of God.  Mark's Gospel, and the 4th chapter, lays this out perfectly.  In fact, this chapter is one of the best prosperity chapters I've ever read.  There is so much meat in here.

Mark 4, and verse 3,
"Listen!  Behold, a Sower went out to sow...8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased, and produced" some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."

Then, look at the 26-27 verses.

"And He said, 'The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow..."

The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  That refers to sowing.  This is the basis for the entire Kingdom!  There's no recession in Heaven, because it's a seed based economy!  As long as we're sowing, we're bound to be reaping!

Now, seeing that Jesus placed such an emphasis on sowing seeds, how can this apply to us?  The title of this post is, "A Seed Will Meet Any Need," so what does that mean?

The answer is this-if you have a need in your life, sow a seed.  God will show you what to sow, how to sow, and where to sow, and then, if you let Him, He'll even show you where you're going to be reaping.

So, if you need healing in your body, don't just sit there, and cry about "poor old me, I feel so bad."  No, BLESS God, get out there, and start praying for somebody else!   Someone else needs healing, and as you sow that healing seed, you're paving the way for your harvest.

It's the same thing financially.  I'll give you an example in my own life.  I was believing God for a new job (at His direction-I'll be touching on this soon), and I had a job interview come up.  Well, I knew I needed increase financially.  I felt in my spirit that I needed to pray a few hours before the interview, so I did.

Now, when I prayed, God spoke to me.  I don't mean I heard an audible voice, but inside my spirit, clear as day, I heard the Lord tell me to, "Sow an additional $20 to the Copeland's Ministry, above and beyond your normal partnership."

He didn't have to wait long for me at all.  As soon as He instructed me to do that, I said, "Yes Sir, I'll do it."  I went to my computer, and sat down, and immediately sowed into their ministry.

Fast forward a week and a half (should sleep by night as rise by day, in Mark 4:27), and I got a phone call-I had the job!  Hallelujah!  I then found out how much they were paying me, and my jaw just about hit the floor.  In a week an half, God had increased my annual salary $20,000!  That's THE BLESSING at work!

Now, it's important to know this-I didn't sow $20 believing I'd receive $20,000 back.  I knew increase would come, but I was waiting on His instructions.  I sowed because He said to do it.  That's the way we need to operate.

Did you know that God operates by this principle too?  What is the most famous verse in the Bible?  John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son..."

Like Jesse Duplantis is so fond of saying, "God sowed Christ, and He reaped Christians."

This is the way the Kingdom functions though.  This is the way you and I are supposed to live.  If I have a need, my first thought shouldn't be, "How can I meet this need???"  No, BLESS God, it should be, "What can I sow?  Dear God, I need to sow something!  Tell me what it is Sir!  I'll obey your command!"

So, what do you need in your life?  Is it healing?  Prosperity? Strength?  I don't know what it is, but I do know how you can get your answer-sow a seed!  Find out where He wants you to sow, and then do it.

A seed will meet any need!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Seeing Light

Let's start this post off by looking at the 36 Psalm, and the 9th verse.  It says this.

"For with you is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light."

I believe that passage contains one of the most powerful revelations known to mankind, and we have skipped over it, and treated it as unimportant.  (I'm including myself in that group.)

The revelation is this: In the light of God, you see more light.

What does that mean?

Well, the answer is really very simple.  When we get light on a subject from God, let's say healing or prosperity, too often we want to sit, and wait until we see the whole picture.  But, that's not how God intended for it to work.  He wants us to walk in the light that we have!

What does that mean?  If you learn God wants to BLESS and prosper you, and that you need to tithe and give to activate THE BLESSING, don't sit there and wonder how God is going to meet your needs!

No, BLESS God, you begin to tithe, you begin to give, and as you walk in the light that you have, He will give you more light,  whether it's a place to be, a person to help, a job to take, a phone call to make.  But, you would not have gotten that light if you hadn't walked in the light you had already received.

Psalm 119:105 says it this way,

"Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path."

What does that mean?

A lamp to your feet means the light is only shining around your feet.  That's the area that's illuminated.  It's lighting up the path around your feet.

Now, if you were to sit there, and say, "I'm not gonna take another step in the darkness until I get some more light, and can see what's out ahead of me," you would be wrong to do that.  All you have to do is take a step.

Step forward, and the lamp to your feet moves with your feet.  As you begin walking in the light you have, you'll begin to move forward, and see new things you haven't seen before.  That's what this means-when you walk in the light, you get more light.

Will you walk in the light?  If God has spoken to you, don't sit around and wait.  Do what He said to do.  He'll show you everything you need to know as you come to it, because in His light, we see light.

Walk in the light.  Be ready to receive more light.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Receiving from God

"Do you want to enlarge your capacity to receive from Me?"  The Lord asked Brother Keith that question some time ago, and His instructions were this, "Cultivate a lifestyle of thanksgiving."

What is a lifestyle of thanksgiving?  What does that look like?

I can tell you right now, there are too many Christians, myself included, who walk around complaining about what isn't going right, instead of being thankful for what is.

You see, too many times, we paint the picture that a Christian's life is going to be easy.  It's going to all "pie in the sky".  Well, no, that's not Biblical at all.  The Christian's life isn't going to be easy, but you can win every time.  The Bible tells us that, "Whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4).

So, as a Christian, we are supposed to be overcomers.  More than conquerors.  That's how we are supposed to live our lives.

But what about when things aren't working out just like you thought?  Maybe you thought you were supposed to get a particular job, paying a certain amount, and you didn't get it.  Maybe you know that the Bible says you are the healed of the Lord's, but you are fighting off some symptoms, and you have been for some time. 

Is that the time to get down, and beat yourself up, and say, "This faith stuff just isn't working..."  No!  This is the time to rejoice!  Be thankful!

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "How can you rejoice and be thankful at a time like this?"  It's very simple.  You make a choice.  You say, "I'm going to be thankful, no matter what."

Why is that important?  Well, the Bible tells, "Now thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph in Christ." (2 Corinthians 2:14).

What does that word always mean?  I looked it up for you.  It means, "Every time; on every occasion; without exception, all the time; continuously; uninterr-uptedly, forever, in any event; at any time".

It seems to me like God didn't leave any room for His Word not to work.

If that's the case, we ought to be giving thanks to God, because He is always causing us to triumph!

Furthermore, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Bible tells us, "in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  Notice, He didn't say that everything was His will-remember, we live in a fallen world, that sin has corrupted-but He did say that no matter what, we are supposed to give thanks!That means there is always a reason, a chance to thank God.  If you're still taking in breath, that's a reason to thank God.  If you have one arm that's hurting, thank God the other one doesn't.  If you're knee is bothering you, thank God you're feet aren't!

You see, when you focus on the negative, you begin to close yourself off.  You shut down your heart, and your ability to receive anything.

Think about it for a second.  When you are focused on the negative, and what's going wrong in your life, how likely are you to receive someone correcting you, or trying to help you?  Not very.

You see, that's a trick of the enemy.  If he can keep us looking to the negative, and saying, "Look how bad it is, I don't know how any good can come of this," we will always live in the negative.

Look at the 17 chapter of Jeremiah with me.  Starting in verse 5,

5  Thus says the Lord:    
   "Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    And makes flesh his strength, 
    Whose heart departs from the Lord.

6  For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
    And shall not see when good comes,
    But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
    In a salt land which is  not inhabited.

7  Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    And whose hope is in the Lord.

8  For he shall be like a tree
    planted by the waters,
    Which spreads out its roots by
    the river.
    And will not fear (see) when heat
    But its leaf will be free,
    And will not be anxious in the
    Year of drought,
    Nor will cease from yielding 

So, what is God trying to tell us here?  Well, first off, if you aren't thankful, you aren't trusting God.  There are no two ways about it.  We read earlier that God always causes us to triumph.  So, if I was trusting Him, I would be thankful, because I know I would be winning every time.

So, the unthankful person is like the cursed man.  Even when good things come his way, he doesn't see it!  He inhabits the parched places in the wilderness.  Do you see now why Brother Keith said that unthankfulness makes you dumb?  If you aren't thankful, you'll be in the wrong place, and even if something good were to happen to you, you wouldn't even see it or recognize it as such.

But, let's go ahead and be like the BLESSED man here.  He's like a tree, planted by the waters, always yielding fruit.  In fact, He is so close to the life source (the river, which represents God), that even when the drought (heat) comes, he doesn't fear it, or even see it!  He doesn't stop producing in the year of drought!

The thankful man is not moved by what he sees.  The thankful man is not moved by what he hears.  The thankful man is not moved by situations here on the earth.  The thankful man is moved by one thing, and one thing alone, and that is the Word of God!

He is staying positive, and staying thankful.  No matter what comes his way, He has something to thank God for.  Even if all he's got left is the fact that he's still taking in oxygen, that's something, and he is going to be thankful for it.

Thanksgiving keeps your heart open and receptive, more able to hear from God.  It is a vital part of life for us, if we want to live in THE BLESSING.

So, determine this for yourself today: Do you want to receive more from God?  Do you want to increase your capacity to receive from Him?  If the answer is yes, then begin to cultivate a lifestyle of thanksgiving.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Living Free From Condemnation

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."  John 3:17

I want you let those words sink in for a minute.  Jesus was not sent by God to condemn you.  He was sent to save you.  

What does that word, "condemn" mean?  Well, the dictionary defines it like this:

express complete disapproval oftypically in public; censuresentence (someone) to a particular punishment, esp. death• officially declare (something, esp. a building) to be unfit for use• prove or show the guilt of• (of circumstances) force (someone) to endure something unpleasant or undesirable

So, now that you know what that means, this verse makes more sense.  Jesus wasn't sent to condemn you, but to save you! (As a quick side note, the Holy Spirit will convict you of sin and wrongdoing, but He will never condemn you)
So, since condemnation isn't from Jesus, we can simply conclude that it comes from the devil.  
Condemnation is one of Satan's oldest attempts to make Christians ineffective while on the earth.  When you are submitting to that condemnation, you are alloying the devil to be the lord over your life in whatever circumstance it is.  

For example, when you sin, you know you have been forgiven of that sin because of 1 John 1:9.  But, a little while later, the devil comes around to remind you of what you did.  Now, here's where "The rubber meets the road", so to speak.  

If you begin to feel bad, and get upset, and ask God for forgiveness again, the devil has gotten you into condemnation.  But, if you just sit back, smile, and say, "I don't know what you're talking about, Mr. Devil.  You're going to have to go talk to my Father about it.  But He doesn't remember it either," you go free.  

That's exactly what happened to Paul in the 28th chapter of Acts.  If you remember, he was being taken to Rome as a prisoner, but his real reason for going was to preach before Caesar.  He told them to Captain of the ship to stay in port at a particular location, but they didn't listen to him, and went headlong into a massive hurricane.  After a few days, an angel appeared to Paul, and told him that the ship would be destroyed, but there would be no loss of life.  They were then shipwrecked on an island.

So, Paul is building a fire in the 28th chapter of Acts.  In verse 3, it says, "But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand."  So, Paul has now been bitten by a poisonous snake.  

Now, watch this closely.  Verse 4, "So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.”"

They called Paul a murderer.  Do you remember the beginning of the book of Acts?  Paul was a murderer, and held the coats of the men who stoned Stephen.  He was on his way to Damascus to kill more Christians when he was stopped by Jesus, and got saved.

Clearly Paul understood forgiveness.  He knew he was forgiven.  How else could he say to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 7:2, "Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man."

You see, he was forgiven, and he knew it, but the devil is trying to get him back over into condemnation. At one point, he had been a murderer.  But, when he made Jesus the Lord of his life, that murderer died, and a new creation was born.  

So, the devil was trying to get him over into condemnation here.  But, Paul refused to bow to the pressure of condemnation, and subsequently stayed on THE BLESSING.  When he stayed on THE BLESSING, he was able to shake that snake off, and not be affected by that poison one tiny bit.

Now, I am of the firm belief that if he had gotten into condemnation over this, he would have died from the snake bite, because he would have separated himself from THE BLESSING, and his connection to God.

Submitting to condemnation makes you subject to same penalty Jesus freed you from.

So, I want to encourage you to live free from condemnation.  Don't let the devil, or people, condemn you.

When they try, you just smile real big, and say, "I've been forgiven according to 1 John 1:9, and my God is faithful and just to forgive me of my sin, and cleanse me from all unrighteousness!  I refuse to be condemned.  I'm forgiven.  Now Satan, you get out of here and leave me alone in Jesus' Name!"  

You watch, he'll run so fast, he'll be gone before you know it.  

So, I want to encourage you this week-stay free from condemnation!  You don't need to live that way.  You go free, and live life the way God wants you to-overflowing in every arena of life.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Encouraged by the Thorn

Perhaps nothing in the Bible has started as much conversation, and as many arguments, as Paul's thorn in the flesh.  What was it?  Who gave it to him?  How did it effect Paul?  Most people see this passage for far less than it really is, and what it is is an encouragement to you and me!

So, to really dig down deep into this, let's take a look at what Paul said.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

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.

So, first things first, let's look at who Paul said sent this messenger.  He never said God sent it.  He said this was a messenger of Satan, sent to buffet him (some translations say harass).  In fact, if any translation says God put this thorn on Paul, I would recommend that you be very careful looking at that translation, if you ever use it again. 

The second thing we need to look at is what this "thorn" was.  Now, "Thorn in the flesh/side" was a Hebrew idiom, or saying, similar to what we would say today, regarding something being a "pain in the neck/butt."  You can see this in Numbers 33:55, Joshua 23:13, and Judges 2:3.  Now, if you were to say something was a, "pain in the neck" today, would you be referring to a literal pain, or figurative?  It's clearly not physical.  That's not what Paul was talking about.  In fact, if you look back a few verses, he told us exactly what the thorn was!

2 Corinthians 11:

24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 injourneys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

That's what the thorn was he was referring to!  It wasn't sickness, and it sure wasn't disease.

Now, for the exciting part.

In verses 8 and 9 of chapter 12, Paul writes this.

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.” 

Now, the word "grace" there is the Greek word "charis", which means a supernatural empowerment or enabling.  How does this change the meaning of this verse?

Paul said, (and I'm paraphrasing), "I asked the Lord three times to take this away from me.  He said, "I've already done everything about this issue that I'm going to do.  Use the supernatural empowerment (grace) I've given you to get rid of it, so you can show off just how strong I am!"

How awesome is that?  Jesus didn't tell him no-He said, "USE THE GRACE I'VE GIVEN YOU!"

So, be encouraged!  No matter what's going on in your life, don't ask God to take it away-use the Grace to remove it, and give the glory to God!  He loves to show off for His children.  Proverbs tells us that the "eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on the behalf of those whose hearts are perfect towards Him."

This is an active thing with God.  He's constantly looking for another way to show off in your life.  Use the grace He's given you, and let Him do just that.