Friday, February 26, 2010

Crucified With Christ

Quoting from the book Victory Over the Darkness by Neil Anderson:

"Generally speaking, all unbelievers are partakers of the old nature characterized by sin. Personally speaking, before you came to Christ you were one of those individuals. You were a sinner because it was your nature to sin; that is known as our old self, or as the King James Version says, the "old man"."

The New American Standard Version says it like this:

1 Corinthians 2:14
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

So what happened to our "old man", or "natural man" at salvation?... He died. Not physically of course, but the old nature we had in our inner man, the one we inherited from Adam. And what was the method of our old man's execution?

Version: NAS

Romans 6:6-7
6. knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him], that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7. for he who has died is freed from sin.

Colossians 3:3
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

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

Galatians 6:14
But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

At salvation we are placed "into Christ", the one who died on the cross for our sins. Being "in Christ", our old self, our old nature, died with Him there. And why did it have to die? Romans 6:6 tells us that the old self was independent and disobedient to God, so it had to die in order that "our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

"Death is the ending of a relationship, but not of it's existence. Sin hasn't died; it is still strong and appealing. But when your old self died with Christ on the cross, your relationship with sin ended forever. You are no longer in the flesh, but "in Christ". Your old self - the sinner - and your old nature- characterized by the sin which was inevitable since you were separated from God - are gone forever because you are no longer separated from God."

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

This doesn't say that we are sinless, The death of our old self formally ended our "relationship" with sin, but it did not end sin's existence. Sin and Satan are still around, but sin's power over you has been broken.

Romans 6:7-14
7. for he who has died is freed from sin. 8. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9. knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master 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. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, 13. and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin [as] instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness to God. 14. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.

There has been a lot of scripture that basically says the same thing to us. At salvation our old nature dies, and we become a new creature "in Christ".

We are no longer under any "obligation" to serve sin; to obey sin, or to respond to sin. We must realize this and incorporate it into our identity. Yes, we may sin, but we are no longer compelled to by our nature.

This is part of our new Identity In Christ. A simple statement, but a life-changing TRUTH. 

Sin's power over us is broken!

You may say, OK, this is good, but how does this affect my everyday life?
Have you ever said, "I know that this is wrong, but I just can't help myself?" Have you ever felt like you are powerless to quit a bad habit? Do you have problems with your mouth, the things you say, a bad attitude, nagging thoughts and little sins? I had these kinds of things in my life that I just could not get past. I thought it was just "me" and that I would never be able to get beyond them. Not until I realized that God's Word declared me dead to sin was I able to realize that, yes, it would be possible for me to quit them. Life changing and freeing.
Click on  Crucified With Christ as sung by Phillips, Craig and Dean. A powerful song, with a powerful message.

May we all remember this,

(concepts and quotes taken from
Victory Over the Darkness )

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

God Provides a Way for Our Salvation

There were some comments on the day when we talked about our salvation that I want to address, because they are so very important. Important views on how we see God the Father, His Son Jesus as our Saviour, and God's viewpoint and treatment of the unsaved.

I know there are many wonderful people in the world that are not Christians. People that are caring and help others. People who lead a pious life, who dedicate themselves to helping the poor, feeding the hungry, and taking care of the sick. People who spend their lives working for the betterment of mankind; but if they have not asked Jesus into their hearts they will not be living eternally with Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit in Heaven. I know to some this may seem harsh and narrow minded. I understand how you might feel this way. This is how God has established this, it isn't something that organized religion has just came up with.

One of the most quoted verses in the Bible is John 3:16. Most of us memorized this in Sunday School when we were very young. But have you read and contemplated the next two verses? Sometime we don't get the complete thought and explanation in just one verse, or if we take it out of the original context.

Version: NAS

John 3:16-18
16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. 18. "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Then the Revised Standard Version says it slightly different:

Version: RSV

John 3:16-18
16. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

God provides a way for our salvation. He is perfect and just and loves us so very much. Because of His holiness we cannot come before Him unless we have been "justified". Jesus provided that sacrificial "payment" on the cross. We are now covered in the blood of Jesus. When Father God looks at us He sees that covering on us. We still sin, yet our belief and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, allows us the redemption from that sin.

So many people use the argument against Christianity of "How could a loving God condemn us to eternal death and damnation in a place such as Hell?" Because they have that thought they cannot get past it to see that God is loving and kind and good. They have not read the 17 and 18 verse of John 3.

Let's read it again: 17. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. 18. "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Our lack of belief in Jesus as God's Son and Savior of the world, causes us to condemn ourselves. God does not point His finger at us and send us into the darkness of eternity. We do it ourselves with our unbelief. You may say, It's the same thing, but it is not. God in His great mercy and love has set up a way for us to be delivered. If we do not choose to believe we are condemning ourselves.

Look at it this way: If a ship was sinking and a life boat was provided we have the choice to take a seat in the lifeboat and in doing so find salvation, or we can stay on the sinking ship and then curse the life boat captain for condemning us to death. Make sense?

God does not condemn us. Our lack of belief in Jesus Christ condemns us. Now as the thought that a good person might not make it to Heaven, I have to say, that being good does not get you to Heaven. 
Feeding the poor, finding new cures for disease and all the good intentions in the world will not get you there. There is only one way to Eternal Life and Jesus Christ is the Way.

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

And as to the thought that a good God could not and would not condemn those to Hell that had not heard the salvation message, I will tell you what I believe. I believe that the Holy Spirit makes Himself known to each and every human being. They may be in another "religion" or without one, but I believe that God will personally seek out each one of us and give us an opportunity to know Him. Then it is up to the person to either accept or reject this approach of the Holy Spirit. This may be up for debate, but I feel this is what the Bible speaks of in Romans the first chapter.

Romans 1:20
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they (mankind) are without excuse."

God's creation speaks of Him and causes all mankind to know that God does exist.
So for those in other religions, I believe God is so good that He desires no one perish. That does not mean all will go to Heaven. He will attempt to make Himself known to those who do not know Him. Each person then has an opportunity to be willing to hear more about Jesus. And if you are in a church or denomination that holds no "spark" of the Holy Spirit, I would seek God if that is where He wants you. If you have been in a religion, or even a denomination that offers you no hint of the power of the Holy Spirit I would question if that is where you are supposed to be.

Matthew 28:18-20
18. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20. teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

This doesn't let us off the hook for evangelism and the spreading of the Gospel; we are clearly called and mandated to do this. But I do feel like that, even those who have not heard the Gospel message of Jesus Christ will be given a chance to know the Truth. They are given a chance to know Jesus. I have read (can't give you particulars on this, but I know that I have) that certain people groups in various parts of the world have had dreams and visions of Jesus, without ever having been exposed to the Bible or missionaries.

So we see that God does all that He can to bring us to the point of salvation. He is good, loving, not desiring anyone not know Him. But inevitably the decision to ask Jesus into your heart is your own personal decision. If you have not done that, please pray for Him to do that right now.

Love, in Jesus,

Monday, February 22, 2010

Before and After

Friday we looked at the idea of having two natures living within us; good and evil, the "black dog" versus the "white dog". We saw scripture that disputed this idea for the born again Christian. Let's look at the word "nature" pertaining to our spirit and soul and see what the Bible has to say about our "nature" after we have accepted Jesus as our Savior.

Version: NAS

Ephesians 2:1-3
1. And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2. in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

2 Peter 1:3-4
3. seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
The verses from Ephesians speak about our "old" nature, before we knew Jesus. It clearly says we were dead, living in the lusts of our flesh, and children of wrath. The verses from 2 Peter tell us that we have escaped the corruption and are now partakers of the "divine" nature of God. Comparing these two verses show us that we didn't add a new nature on top of the old, but we exchanged our nature.

I have a great example, that all of us moms can appreciate (dad's too, or anyone else who has been around a baby). As babies go there is the obligatory dirty diaper to deal with. What if instead of taking off the diaper in question and doing a clean up, we just decided to put a new fresh diaper on top of the old dirty one? Well, that would solve nothing, huh? Dirty, stinky, messy, and uncomfortable. Putting a fresh clean diaper on over the filthy one would do nothing to change us, only "appear" fresh on the outside. But it wouldn't take long for the "stink" to find it's way out, and some other unsavory "matter" also.

Salvation and putting on the "new" nature of Jesus Christ is a "change" in the best way of thinking. The old dead, stinky life we used to lead is exchanged for the new fresh clean "nature" that God will give us.

Ephesians 5:8
for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light

This scripture that we looked at on Friday really says it. We were not IN darkness, but we WERE darkness. At salvation we don't walk into the light, we BECOME light. Just as Jesus is light, we are in Him and He is in us, so we become light. God has changed our basic nature from darkness to light. We aren't just thinking about improving our nature, our nature is already changed. We need to learn how to walk in harmony with our new nature.

We need the nature of Christ within us so we can BE like Christ, not just ACT like Christ. We were not given the power to imitate Jesus, but to really BE like Him. Becoming a Christian is not a matter of acting like one until you become one, it is a matter of becoming a Christian, then we learn to walk as one. We are not based on performance to become a Christian. "Measuring up" and doing good deeds will never get us to heaven. To address the idea of "gaining our way to heaven" with good intentions and good deeds doesn't fit the Biblical criteria for salvation. We could never be good enough or do enough good deeds. Our salvation is based on our acceptance of Jesus Christ and nothing else. 

God knows we cannot solve our problems of our "old nature"; our old sinful self by simply improving our behavior. He doesn't say "Here are my standards, now you need to measure up to all the rules and regulations." In fact He did allow that for a time, and that was known as the dispensation of "the Law". (the Old Testament during the time of Moses until the time of Jesus.) And by the way, we didn't do a good job. He knew He would have to change our nature. He has to give us an entirely new self, the life of Christ in us, which in turn provides the grace to allow us to change.

This fact that we have a new nature is really exciting to me. Years ago when I was struggling with wrong behaviors and bad habits the knowledge of this radically changed my thinking. "You mean I'm not trapped in the sin cycle?" That one piece of information was enough to wake me up. It was a long road, and I'm still not "there" but finding out that I wasn't on a treadmill of sin operated by the enemy was absolutely liberating.

We are starting to get into the "meat" of this study. Hope the new schedule will be easier to keep up with. Thank you everyone. I know that many of you take time out of your super busy schedules to meet here everyday. You cannot know how much I appreciate each and every one of you!

love, in Jesus,

(concepts taken from Victory Over the Darkness
by Neil Anderson)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tug of War

"You may have heard the illustration of the two dogs. Some people say we have two natures within us vying for control of our lives. They claim that our old sin nature, which we inherited from disobedient Adam, is like a big black dog. Our new nature, which we inherited through Christ's redemptive work, is like a big white dog. These two dogs are bitter enemies, intent on destroying each other. Whenever you involve yourself in worldly thoughts or behavior, you are feeding the black dog. Whenever you focus your mind and activities on spiritual things, you are feeding the white dog. The dog you feed the most will eventually grow stronger and overpower the other."

This may be an interesting analogy to explain our sinful behaviors, but let's see if this is truly a Biblical way of looking at our lives. Let's look at the following scripture verses to see if the theory of the two natures inhabiting our lives sounds like what God has to say about us.

Version: NAS

Colossians 1:13
For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

Romans 8:9
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

Ephesians 5:8
for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if any man is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

This idea of the two natures and the power we allow them, may be an idea about an "unregenerate" or unsaved person. But once we accept Jesus into our hearts things change. We are "delivered from darkness", "we are not of the flesh, but of the Spirit". We were "formerly darkness, but now we are children of light", and we are a "new creature". So in looking at these scriptures we can see a big difference in the concepts.

To me this sounds like a tug-of-war; an opportunity to have a split personality in our spirit. Brings to mind the idea of the little man in the red suit with horns and a pitchfork, on one shoulder and the little angel with a halo and wings on the other. Both whispering in our ear the advantages of their influence.

The author states, "If we see ourselves part light and part darkness, part saint and part sinner, you will live in a very mediocre manner with little to distinguish you from the non-Christian."

All this goes back to our Identity in Christ. We need to have a strong belief in who God says we are. We need to believe the scripture verses about us being "IN CHRIST". This is why I have spent so much time on knowing our "identity". If that concept is not fully believed and accepted in our way of thinking we cannot move on in our Christian growth. We get caught in the quicksand of failure and stagnation.

"Satan knows he can do nothing about who you really are, but if he can get you to believe you are not different from the natural (unsaved) person, then you will behave no differently from the natural (unsaved) person."

But you may be thinking, all this "new creation" stuff sounds good, but why do I still behave like an unsaved person? Here are the words of Paul, speaking about his old life. Ever feel like this? Why do I still do things that are not godly or Christlike?

Romans 7:15
For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I [would] like to [do], but I am doing the very thing I hate.

Because we don't really KNOW our true identity in Christ. The fact that we are changed from saint to sinner by Jesus atonement, His death on the cross for our sins, and resurrection, may be understood and acknowledged, but we have not allowed it to penetrate our heart and spirit.

Many pastors and preachers tell us from the pulpit, we are still "sinners", (and yes, we all still sin) but that is not our identity in Christ.  Here again, we cannot be confused with what we do versus who we are. This goes back to the last lesson where we discussed our "words", not only to others but to ourselves.  If we continually call our children, stupid, losers, a person who will never amount to anything, etc. Will they not believe it? Even if they are good solid kids with a high IQ and motivated; will our words not, over time, begin to tear down their self esteem?

The same holds for our consideration of ourselves. We have been born again, but if we continually call ourselves "sinners", "just barely hanging on", or any other negative description will we too not be in danger of believing it? Negativity in our thoughts and words concerning ourselves and others, shape our opinions and begins to create an atmosphere of defeat.

The "inner change" that the previous scripture verses describe is the result from our "justification"; what happens the moment of our salvation, in our spirit. The outer man's change of our personality, thinking, and emotions occurs throughout our lifetime and that is "sanctification".

Let's look at the diagram from chapter 1 of the study.

Our spirit is changed from darkness to light at salvation, justification, and our outer man is changed over the course of our lifetime by studying the Word of God, prayer and an attitude of willingness and submission to the Holy Spirit.

So let's think of ourselves as that new creation In Christ, and not get caught up in an idea of good dog, bad dog tug of war. We are in Christ and He is in us.

love, in Jesus,

(quotes and concepts taken from
Victory Over the Darkness
by Neil Anderson.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don't Fret the Test

A few years ago God spoke to me about the concept and idea of a "test". I had always thought about the word and idea as being something of a negative. On the order of "severe trial".(oh, no!)  I hadn't thought about the concept of a "test" in any other terms. I just thought about it like a parent who would say "Don't test (try) me in this!"

So when God started talking about "tests" I then started cringing and dreading and thinking something bad was getting ready to happen. But when I started listening, God began to show me about the idea of a test being an examination, assessment, or a way to "qualify" an individual. Just like when we are in grade school we were "tested" to make sure we were ready to move up to the next grade. It wasn't something horrible, although I have never enjoyed those kinds of tests either. No matter how we look at the word, it always means qualifier, or examination.

I mentioned last weekend that God is seeming to move me "out" more. He's calling me to do a few things that I haven't participated in for awhile. I've been home this last year a lot of the time because of my health. Gee I hate to say that because it makes me sound like an old woman, which I am NOT.  (hey, what's old anyway!?) I've needed to slow down this last year and get my head on straight and find some balance in my life.

"Finding balance" has been an issue with me my whole life. Everything I do tends to be at 500%, so this has been a really important year for me. I've been in a "time-out" so to speak, where God said to me. "Let's sit and rest for awhile, listen to me, and let's sort things out."

Starting my first blog, then this blog, was born out of my need for finding balance, staying connected, and feeling as if I still had a purpose in life. OK, so more to the point lest I ramble too much, I've been in a little test these last couple of months. God asked me to post everyday here on the Bible Study Blog. It's been amazing to see Him sit me down and then give me the topics and words to share, concepts to study, and then the communication level that we all have with one another.

I know that it's hard to keep up with these posts for many of you who have busy schedules. Hey, it's been hard for ME to keep up and I'm the one writing them. LOL! My desire was to post and then give a day for everyone to read and digest and ponder, so that's where I am right now. Without sounding like I'm negating my commitment, for the time being I will be posting about 3 times a week. Hopefully, every other day. Then there will be more time for you to read and respond if you'd like, and not lose out on the momentum that we're having with the study. Originally, I had thought that my daily posts would be short, but it hasn't happened that way. I guess I just like to be thorough and need more words to convey the topic. So, I'm going to post, hopefully, every other day. I don't like "legalism", but I knew God was calling me to do more than I had when I started the blog back in October. I'm not backing off, just going to have a little more time between posts so we can all read, study and hopefully respond more. I haven't had much time to do that, or to read anyone else's blogs.

So remember the next time you are going through a "test", that it's not meant to be a hard thing, but a learning experience. Tests show us what we can do, and prepare us to move on to what God is doing next.

I'll just keep repeating that to myself. OK?


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Constructing" the Body of Christ

Having raised two girls who are now 29 and 35, I have learned as many lessons as they have. I was a loving parent, but not always a "model" parent. I didn't always approach a situation or react to them in a Godly manner. I'm the first to admit it. Sometimes I was as big a child as they were. I have yet to meet the "Perfect Parent", and looking back on my parenting skills I'd have to say I could have improved in so many areas. I've had to apologize to my girls for my shortcomings during their growing up years. I wish I knew then what I know now. My hind sight might not be exactly "20-20" but it's much better than it was at the time. I refer to this time in my life, because I think back on handling matters with sometimes more negativity than positive ways of handling things. I'm no Dr. Phil, but thank you Lord, that I've learned a few constructive things along the way.

The author of Victory Over the Darkness recounts a conversation he had had with a pastor friend that was bemoaning the congregation of his church. "They are all a bunch of "losers". What can I do to get out of my church?" Dr. Anderson in turn, asked him. "I wonder if they are really losers or if they just see themselves as losers because that's how you see them?"

This brings up such an important fact: How do we perceive others? How do our impressions of other people color our opinions and relationships with them and about them? I used to make snap judgements on people. I think we all have opinions, that is just human nature, but how long do we take to form them? Is it based on their appearance, way they speak, way they dress, job they may have? Are we looking at them through our own eyes or through God's eyes? Just as we talked about in the beginning of this study, we need to view people the same way God sees them; as a child of God, wholly loved and accepted by the Father. I have learned this over the years. I have asked God to show me beyond the surface, to see someone's heart, and to be able to relate to them as He sees them, not just view the outside and the obvious. I guess this is referred to as "putting ourselves in someone else's shoes".

So then, if we see someone as a "loser", and we treat them as such, will that be the image they also see of themselves? What if instead, we see our brothers and sisters in Christ as saints, redeemed, and totally loved in Jesus? Will they then see themselves in this same way and begin to reflect this understanding in their own attitudes, actions, and behaviors? This is where I could have improved as a parent. Speaking positive affirmation more than I did. Frustration with situations I didn't know how to handle, caused me to see the negative instead of seeking God for positive reinforcement with my words.

As stated by the author, "I believe the greatest determinant for how we treat people is how we perceive them. And how do we express our perceptions of people? Primarily by what we say to them... Studies have shown that in the average home, for every positive statement, a child receives 10 negative statements. It's only slightly better in the school environment; 7-1. It's no wonder so many children are growing up feeling that they are losers. Parents and teachers are conveying that perception every day in how they talk to their children...studies go on to say that it takes four positive statements to negate the effect of one negative statement...We affect others significantly by what we say about them, and what we say is significantly determined by how we perceive them."

Version: NAS

Ephesians 4:29
"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment], that it may give grace to those who hear. "

The word "edify" means to improve morally or intellectually, enlightenment, guidance in education, to improve information, and knowledge. In other words to be constructive and build someone up, not tear someone down. Our words affect others and bring change. It's better to be positive in our addressing of someone or a situation, rather than to be negative and to ultimately tear down someone; Constructive assessment, instead of negative. It's all in our attitude and perception of others.

Version: NAS

Ephesians 4:11-13
11. And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, 12. for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13. until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.

This is the scripture passage that Jesus spoke to me back on June 16, 2001. He said, "This is your call". And it has been my driving force since then. To build up the body of Christ.

Yesterday's post on our salvation was an eventful one for me. Stepping out there to discuss a topic that is very controversial. We all have such varied ideas and thinking. Thank you for the opportunity to see brotherly love at work. I think we all said how we felt about the subject in love, and hopefully no one was offended or changed their minds about anyone. I really hope not. I have seen churches split over matters such as this, end time prophecy, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, just to name a few. Thank you, that we can all discuss and view what others have to say in respect and love. I could have skipped over this subject, but I chose to dive in instead.

If you would like to read the theology and doctrine with scripture references behind my position on this, please go to the Official Website of the General Council of the Assemblies of God and type in "Security of the Believer" for several articles on this. It's a broad reference to both theories on this topic. It's interesting and nonthreatening no matter what your viewpoint.

( Hope everyone still loves one another.)
Love, in Jesus,

(concepts taken from Victory Over the Darkness
by Neil Anderson)

Monday, February 15, 2010

What about our Relationship with God?

Having read all the "I Am-In Christ" scriptures and finding out that as Christians we are totally accepted by God we might be wondering about what happens when we sin. Does our failure in this area interfere with God's acceptance of us? Let's look at a simple illustration.

When I was born physically, I had a father. His name was Richard. As his daughter, I have his blood running through my veins. Richard and Debra are "blood related". Nothing I could possibly do would change that. No act or mistake. We are related by blood. But is there anything I could do which would affect the harmony of our "relationship" as father and daughter?

Certainly. My attitude and behavior caused at times a strain or conflict in our relationship. What did I need to do to keep our relationship in harmony? I needed to be obedient. Our relationship issue was settled at my birth; the harmony issue became dependent upon my behavior and obedience.

In the spiritual realm, when I was born again I became a member of God's family. God is my father and I enjoy an eternal relationship with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Version: NAS

1 Peter 1:18-19
18. knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19. but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, [the blood] of Christ.

The issue of "Eternal Security" is a real hot button of debate. Here is where I differ somewhat with the author of this book. I will try to state my case in a succinct manner. If you do not agree with me, I totally understand. I have voiced my opinion loud and clear on several occasions in the past. But my understanding of eternal security changed after study and prayer and asking God many questions concerning this matter. Up until that point I had believed that no matter what you did as a Christian, no matter how you acted, what you said, or what you stood for, you were still going to heaven. "Once saved always saved". Now believe me, I know all the scripture that supports this. But let's just view this from the common sense viewpoint of ourselves and God. I don't believe we are to throw common sense out the window in our viewpoint of God.

When we are born again it is a matter of forgiveness of sin, confessing publicly and acknowledging Jesus as our Lord and Savior, then surrender and asking for Jesus to come into your heart. We use our will to get to that decision.

Some denominations go the other extreme. They believe you can lose your salvation more easily. I know both these viewpoints as I have been a member of both of these denominations.

Let's use Adolf Hitler as an example, or any other maniacal despot from history for that matter. Ruthless killing, desiring complete control, hideous actions and ways of thinking. Some say mental illness, I say pure evil. Now what if as a young boy, Adolf had made a profession of faith at his local church. What a sweet young boy. Then as time went by there became no evidence of his relationship with God. No evidence whatsoever. He manifested into the dictator and murderer that he has come to be known for. Do you think that Adolf will be sitting next to Jesus at the marriage supper of the Lamb? Not unless he had a complete and utter profound experience of salvation right before he shot his companion Eva and then put a bullet in his own head.

Now some of you may be ready to argue with me at this point. Some would say, "Well, he just never actually had a salvation experience." But I will say this. I believe some people have a real salvation experience, but for some reason or circumstances they find they do not want God in their lives. They deny their relationship with Christ and basically lock the door to their heart. It is not easy to lose your salvation. Almost impossible, and it is not done with our failures or actions. Salvation is lost when we make a clear statement to God that we are done with Him. finished. over. We tell Him to get out of our lives and never come back. This is part of the "unpardonable sin", blaspheming of the Holy Spirit. I believe that before this happens we are given every opportunity to patch things up with God, even if we are angry and feeling hopeless and lost.

Version: NAS
Luke 12:10
"And everyone who will speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him.

God will have the Holy Spirit do everything to comfort and change our heart. Our will is still our will. I believe just as our will says yes to Jesus and the Holy Spirit to invite Him in. We can choose our will to "evict" the Holy Spirit and say NO to anything He desires to do for us. It isn't about mistakes, hurts, disillusionment, or "backsliding". It's about a conscious decision to sever our relationship.

Think about Peter in John Chapters 18 and 19, when Jesus had been arrested. He denied Jesus in front of others, but he was sick in doing so. He made a horrible decision to deny his knowing Jesus, but he was not evicting Him. Peter was terrified of being arrested also. He was a coward, but not someone that denied Jesus in his heart.

Now, as I have said, I know the scripture, but I also know the scripture that supports the loss of salvation. And I'm not going to "debate" this. You have your opinion and I have mine. All I ask is that you put it before God yourselves. Seek God on your own, without "church doctrine" in mind. Even as a young person I had questions on this subject. No answers that my church tried to teach me fully covered all the areas of this. It just didn't make sense to me. Evicting the Holy Spirit is not a matter that most of us would even consider doing or being involved with.

You ask me how I know? By experience. There was a time that I came into deep disagreement with God. He had told me something was going to happen. It didn't happen when I thought it should. I was so angry I said some things to God that were really bad. I had a vision of myself going over a cliff. He grabbed me by the neck and rescued me. I knew at that time that He wanted me to not continue, that if I continued in the way I was feeling, acting, and the things I was saying I would be putting my eternal relationship with God in jeopardy.

So having divulged this belief that I have. I will still say, As a Christian, we cannot change God's mind about us, and we are always in Relationship with our loving Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ. As long as we willingly choose to be His child we will remain so. No matter what. And if you are worried that you have lost your salvation, please do not worry, you have not. If you have lost your salvation, you will not care.

Love, in Jesus,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weekend Comments and a little more on the subject...

Hey Everyone!
Hope all of you have someone sweet to celebrate
Valentine's Day with,
even if it's your favorite pooch or kitty!
The main thing to remember is that Our Heavenly Father
has promised us all His love and affection,
so if you are without "human" affection
 with a spouse or loved one,
just know you are not alone, God is there!

I walk around with guilt alot of the time, over one thing or something else. I try to be diligent and do everything "well". Just know that I feel bad by not responding to each of you like I had in the past.  Each and every comment from you is so very important. Not just for me, but for everyone else out there. So just because I'm not personally responding on the comment form, please know that I read and pray over each one of you, thanking God that you are there, reading and responding to His gentle nudges. Please don't ever think your comment is not important, because it is.

I have to admit, that posting every day has been a little of a challenge for me. I know that you all don't get a chance to read every post. If it were up to me, which it isn't, I'd be posting a few times a week and giving you time to digest what is being said. As I said, I am not in charge here, God is. I know this is an exercise in commitment and study, not just for me, but for some of you as well. I know there are people out there that are reading this that need a life line, just like I do. So for some of you that are here, but never comment, I want you to understand that God is doing this for you just a much as for those that leave a comment regularly. I'd love to hear from some of you. I'd love to have that personal connection with you.

For those of you that read my other blog, Common Ground, you may have read where I will be moving into a larger flea market shop space next month. I had gotten to the place that I was "neutral" in this matter. I could let it all go if God so desired. But He saw fit to bless me with a "desire of my heart" and that is to stay involved in this junk business that I love, just a little longer. This has been part of my time "consumer" as of late. I know alot of you "professional junkers" spend way way more time involved in this than I could at this time. I've been home alot this last year, and now God is moving me "out" a little more. Just wanted to share some personal "stuff" here.

I love you all so much. Last week I was really feeling down, and you helped me realize there is a bigger purpose in this than to just sit down and write for an hour or so. I think there is a book or two in me and God is training me to be disciplined in the area of writing.

OK, enough of me. This last post was a little hard for me to put out there, because I know a few of you are personally dealing with some trying issues. Please don't think I'm being trite and condescending to your very real and difficult situations. You all are in my prayers. I know God is working in your lives.

* I removed a comment that I had made concerning Smith Wigglesworth as I realized this was written before I "checked the facts". I had written something that I heard someone else speak about. Good lesson here. I need to verify something before I write about it. I apologize to all of you, I will be aware of this in the future and not make a statement unless I have better researched a biography.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Love is in the Eye of the Beholder

I'm going to take a little detour from the book today and add in something that God brought to my attention. It follows the lesson from yesterday about "Relationships". I have a strong personality and I readily admit I can come off as bossy. I don't mean to be, but I sometimes can appear to be. I'm a real "matter of fact" type person today after years of being wishy-washy, so I tend to say what I think.(in love, of course) I always try to preface anything I say by being upfront in describing myself as one who has been there and have the T-Shirt to prove it. I'll let you read this passage of scripture and then we'll talk.

Luke 6:41-42
41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Luke 6:37-39
Judging Others

37"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." 39He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?

I was just minding my business, putting in my contact lenses this morning when wham, this verse hit me between the eyes.

In regard to relationships, how many of us, especially when it comes to our spouse's personalities or habits, have a laundry list of things that we'd like them to be working on? ...Hmmmm?... It's so easy to see fault in everyone else when for some reason we don't see fault in ourselves. I'm modeling my T-Shirt now...ya like it? 

Let's look at that first scripture that talks about the sawdust that we are trying to remove from our "brother's" eye. The comparison is amazing. A piece of sawdust verses a piece of lumber. How can we even see clearly to help someone else when we have a monstrous obstruction in our own life. This goes back to the concept of getting our relationship right with God first, before we start trying to work on relationships with others.

Finger pointing and accusations can start flying in a relationship so easily. I have found that really the Lord is interested in working on me, then He promises to do the same for everyone else. I can allow God and the Holy Spirit to show me the route to change, then get busy following it. Then I can pray for my husband, friend, relative, child or business partner. I can talk with them, pray with them, encourage them, even study the Word with them, but I don't need to "judge them". That's up to God.

Judging, condemnation, and unforgiveness; those three things can wreck any marriage or relationship. Then it says "give, and it will be given back to you". I always thought of that in terms of money. But what about "time, energy, love, companionship, help, encouragement, kindness, compassion, etc.? Today, I'm thinking that if I give my love, I will get love spilling over. If I give my time and energy to someone, someone else will give their time and energy to me when I need it. See what I mean? If we could take the criticism and complaints, turn them over to God, then be ready to "give" how much better would our relationships be?

Let's look on the inside, let God have control of our hearts, submit ourselves unto God, then let Him show us the best way to be "in relationship".

I guess this is a pretty timely message for Valentine's Day, whadaya think?


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Relationships: 101

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to do some marriage counseling with a couple from our small church. This couple was in an extreme situation, and I think the pastor who usually did the counseling was at a loss to help them. Knowing that I had been involved in Freedom In Christ Ministries, the pastor felt there were some spiritual attacks directed toward one of the spouses, so they were turned over to me. When I heard their story, I was amazed at some of the bizarre behaviors that were occurring. After prayer with them, I knew God would have to totally lead me in helping them. It was impossible in "the natural". "In the natural" is my phrase for doing things the world's way and the world's way of thinking. There were deep seated issues here that needed to be addressed as individuals. Relating to the other as a spouse was secondary. Getting right with a spouse, a friend, a relative, or anyone else, begins with getting right with God, individually, first.

As in the words of the author, Neil Anderson, "It's hard to make any relationship work unless we are in right relationship with our Heavenly Father. The first thing we must realize is that God is our loving Father and we are His accepted child. This is the foundation truth for our spiritual identity. We have been declared "righteous" by Him because of our faith in Christ. As long as we believe that and walk accordingly, our daily experience of practical Christianity will result in growth. But when we get our eyes off of our "identity", and try to produce in our daily experience the acceptance God has already extended to us, we will struggle. We don't serve God to gain His acceptance; we are accepted, so we serve God. We don't follow Him in order to be loved; we are loved, so we follow Him."

Believing what the Bible says about us is the key to a successful relationship with God and then resulting in good relationship with others. Satan, our enemy, will try to convince us that we are sin-sick, unworthy and unacceptable; someone who will never amount to anything. Believing the lies of Satan will lock us into a defeated, fruitless life. Believing God's truth about ourselves and our Identity in Christ will truly set us free.

Romans 6:1-6
Version: NAS

1. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2. May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3. Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5. For if we have become united with [Him] in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also [in the likeness] of His resurrection, 6. knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him], that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin;

These verses have truly made an impact upon me and my thinking. Newness of life, and that my old self was crucified with Jesus, so that sin might be done away with...I no longer had to be a slave to sin.

It's amazing the amount of baggage we all carry around, even as born-again believers. So many things shape our outlook on life and our inward look at ourselves. I've talked alot about my own experience, and how I perceived myself. It all affected my relationship with my husband, family, friends, and my children. I had wrong ideas and understanding about God. Those effected me, my personal choices in life, and then how I treated others. Not until I realized that I was totally loved and accepted by God, and that I had access to Him, that resulted in confidence, did my life start to change. Old hurts and confusion were lifted off of me. I began to see myself as God saw me. I started to let go of the old ways of doing things and reacting to those around me. God began the task of healing my wounded feelings and life. Thank you God, that you are not satisfied to leave us in our state of humanity. Thank you for loving us so much that You desire us to live a life of freedom and Truth!

Blessings today as we learn to walk in
Freedom and Truth,

(concepts taken from Chapter 3
Victory Over the Darkness)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No Spiritual Bandaids

How many of us want and need a "quick fix"? Problems in our lives that we look at, shoot up a prayer to God, and then try to cover up from everyone else? No time to deal with the issues, just a need to have the matter taken care of? 

 "God, please fix this!!!"

We might be able to get away with this for a while, maybe even a long while, but eventually we will realize the "problem" is still there. Nothing healed, nothing resolved, nothing really fixed. Oh, it may look a little better. But is it a lasting solution, or is your problem just sitting there, or maybe the problem is even "infected"?

When our older daughter was about 13, she and a friend had been riding a motor scooter (which I had forbidden but she did it anyway) out in our rural subdivision. The streets were not "paved" with concrete, but more of an asphalt surface, you know, hardened tar and gravel. Well, the inevitable happened; a spill on the bike and a screaming, crying kid, limping up the driveway with blood covering her bare legs. She was in a lot of pain and no "I told you so's" were needed. Now, what if I had just wiped off the blood and put on a bunch of band aids?

I called the doctor, and this was his advice. Put her in a warm tub with some Epsom salt, and be prepared for some time to work. Having worked in the ER, I am accustomed to a little blood, so I did what could have been done for her there. Tweezers in hand I set about the job of removing debris and gravel. An hour or so later, and after hearing a few, "NO!, NO's" She was cleaned up and slathered with Neosporin and some bandages. The healing began, but not until the junk was out, and the wound cleaned. A quick fix would not have beneficial here. Time, information and some work were critical to see this resolved in a way that would permanently have a good outcome.

Do we have behaviors that God has been trying to speak to us about? Attitudes and ways of thinking that are non-productive? How about relationships that are difficult and a source of constant concern? Just like a physical ailment, injury, or disease, we cannot ignore problems hoping they will go away. A quick fix, usually doesn't last, and can cause more harm in the long run.

Our spiritual lives can be this way. A lot of debris, hurts and pain. Incidents that are major sticking points in our lives. We can't make any progress because we don't allow God to get in there and do the work.

We need to give God permission to teach us and show us what kind of steps we need to take, to see healing and lasting change come to our lives.

Seeing lasting change in our spiritual lives takes a little effort and attention. It takes time in prayer and reading God's Word; Bible study and listening for God's direction in our life. None of these things can be accomplished by snapping our fingers. Our development as Christians takes time. Salvation is immediate, but the renewing of the mind and our conforming to the likeness of Jesus can be a process.

One of the complaints that I had about my early years and into young adult life was that I was out of balance. I had been taught "doctrine" (not always the truth), but didn't have any "practical" information on how to live my life. It was all about what I should "believe", but nothing about "how to live" the Christian life day-to-day.

Then we can go the other direction in that we just want to know what to do, without having a belief system to back it up. We need both; good doctrinal understanding about God, and then practical teaching about our Christian walk. We won't be able to find the steps for our future and a healthy Christian life, attitudes, and relationships if we don't have a good foundation of who God is, and how He feels about us.

It's critical to realize that we need to establish our Christian lives on what we believe, instead of forming beliefs based on how we behave.

This will be the only way to see our identity in Christ really causing us to move forward. We need the proper Identity In Christ, and then the correct doctrine and theology to go with it. Don't skip the doctrine part to get to the "quick fix". Let's let God teach us about Himself, have that firmly planted in our hearts, then allow that knowledge to bring change.


concepts taken from Chapter 3,
Victory Over the Darkness

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finding and Keeping Our Identity IN CHRIST

The difference between the first Adam and the last Adam, Jesus Christ, spells the difference between life and death for us. Perhaps it is best stated in scripture:

Version: NAS

1 Corinthians 15:22
"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive."

The phrase "in Christ" is the most critical element of our identity. So let's look a little deeper to see what this really means:

We weren't born "in Christ". We were born into sin, thanks to Adam and his sin in the Garden of Eden. So, what is God's plan to transform us from living like Adam to living like Jesus? When Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus, He told us in John 3:3, "We must be "born-again". Our physical birth brings us only physical life, but Jesus promises us spiritual life, "Zoe" life, through Himself.

John 3:36
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life..."

When we become believers and have that re-birth experience we have our name written the the Lamb's Book of Life.

Revelation 21:27

and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

The "lamb's book of life" is literally a list of names of those who have asked Jesus into their hearts as Lord and Savior.

Contrary to what a lot of Christians believe, eternal life is not something you get when you die. We are spiritually alive in Christ right now. We were born again spiritually at our "salvation experience". We take on the "Zoe" life. When we die physically, we will exchange our earthly bodies for another "heavenly" type body. But our spiritual life in Christ will continue on; our spirit will move on to be with Jesus in heaven.

As in the words of the author, "Salvation is not a future addition; it's a present transformation. Eternal life is not something you get when you die. Eternal life is something you possess right now because you're "in Christ"."

Being a Christian is not just a matter of "getting something"; forgiveness of sin, and eternity in heaven with God, but we receive a new nature. Being born-again transformed us into someone who didn't exist before; a saint, a divine masterpiece, a child of God, and a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

It's not what we do as a Christian that determines who we are, but it's who we are that determines what we do.

When we have our identity straight; knowing that we are a child of God, a new creation in Christ, it will affect how we think, our decisions and our outlook on the future. Knowing we are God's child, loved and cherished by Him, we will be raising our heads and feeling hope and optimism, not feeling defeated, unloved, and condemned. Knowing who we are "in Christ" will absolutely change our life.

Version: KJV

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

1 John 3:1-3
1. See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and [such] we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. 3. And everyone who has this hope [fixed] on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

So leave behind the identity with Adam, and find your true identity "in Christ" with Jesus. Think of yourself as the new creation in Christ. Look over the list of "Who I Am in Christ" from the earlier post of January 28, and start believing them. Believe what God has to say about you, then find your actions and life start changing too.

in Jesus,

concepts and ideas from Chapter 2,
 Victory Over the Darkness