Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sins as opposed to Sin

You might think that "sins" is just the plural form of sin. But in a theological perspective there is a difference. Sins are what you commit. Sin is what is causing you to commit those sins. Can you begin to see a cause and effect relationship?

In his book "The Normal Christian life" Watchman Nee used a good illustration, which I have updated for the current culture. Let's say that somehow we could remove every ounce and every shred of the illegal drugs and wrongly used prescription drugs from the USA in one fell swoop. Bam! Gone! Would that be the end of America's drug problem?

Absolutely not! Why? Because there are cartels and organizations making new supplies that are constantly being brought into the US, and new prescriptions will find their way into the hands of those who abuse them.

And so it is with sin and sins. We commit sins, come to our senses, confess and repent, and are made clean by the atoning blood of Jesus. as the song goes, "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Praise God!

Oh that that would settle it once and for all. No more sins. But it doesn't! It may not be right away but sooner or later we will inevitably sin again. Why? Because our "old sin nature" is still having its effect on us, producing new sins. We need deliverance from the old sin nature (it could be called the "sin engine" in our lives).

The good news is that God has already made provision for just that! In fact it is more than a provision, it is an accomplished fact. How's that?

Galatians 2:20 reads, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

I urge you to join me in thinking about that and even  meditating on that-a lot! You, and your old sin nature have been crucified with Christ. It's a fact! So why don't we have victory over sin? Perhaps because we don't know the facts or, if we do, we choose not to live according to them. The reality is the cross of Christ delivered us from our sin nature. Hallelujah!

More to come...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Normal Christian Life in a Nutshell

What is the "normal" Christian life? What does it look like? What beliefs would we have and what behaviors would we exhibit is we were living it? How different would it be from what we see in the life of the the "average" Christian?

We would do well to ponder these questions.

In Galatians, the Apostle Paul said I no longer live, but Christ lives his life in me. Is that the the normal Christian life in a nutshell?

Watchman Nee said, "God makes it quite clear in his Word that he had only one answer for every human need, his Son, Jesus Christ. In all his dealings with us he works by taking us out of the way and substituting Christ in our place. The Son of God died instead of us for our forgiveness, he lives instead of us for our deliverance. So we can speak of two substitutions, a Substitute on the Cross for our forgiveness, and a Substitute within who secures our Victory."

If I am to move Higher Up and Further In, drawing closer to God and becoming conformed to the image of Christ, I have to get a solid grasp on what is the normal Christian life and how to live it.

Reference: The Normal Christian Life - Watchman Nee (1957, 1977)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Crossing Over Perspective

From today's Our Daily Bread: Richard Baxter writes, “O what a blessed day that will be when I shall . . . stand on the shore and look back on the raging seas I have safely passed; when I shall review my pains and sorrows, my fears and tears, and possess the glory which was the end of all!”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Loving One Another

The New Testament has a lot of words about how we are to be in relationship with "one another." The greatest number of these references relate to loving one another. Here are some of the those verses. In all they are a sobering call on how to live and act.

1. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

2. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. John 15:12

3. This I command you, that you love one another. John 15:17

4. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35

5. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

6. This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11

7. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1 John 3:23

8. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. Rom 13:8

9. Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

10. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

11. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12

12. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 2 John 1:5

13. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12

14. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:17

15. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 1 Thes 3:12

16. Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 1 Thes 4:9

17. Keep on loving each other as brothers. Heb 13:1

18. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:18

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Three Legged Stool

I think we can all agree that God doesn’t leave us to live the Christ-life on our own, without any resources. To me, he provides three key resources upon which we can move forward with hope (defined biblically as confidence and expectation):
1.       Scripture,
2.       The Holy Spirit
3.       One another.

2 Peter 1:3-4 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

Scripture – the Spirit-inspired book of sacred writings about Christian living which is the highest authority for religious belief and practice, and is authoritative for every issue it addresses. “The Scriptures are a perfect treasure of divine instruction. All Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. They reveal the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”

The Holy Spirit – the third person of the Holy Trinity which indwells every believer of Christ acting as a Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, and Standby. We need to just take a step back from trying to solve our own problems and start relying on the Holy Spirit. That is what He was sent here to do.

One Another – the body of believers, the church, which have a wide range of roles for the edification of our brothers and sisters. Some of the roles cited in Scripture are: loving, encouraging, accepting, instructing, teaching, admonishing, serving, being compassionate, praying for and confessing our sins to one another. I’ll write more about this in a subsequent blog.

I think that trying to live the Christian life and achieving the goal of being conformed to the image of Christ without all three legs of the stool is doomed to failure or a colossal struggle. But with all three legs, there is truly hope.

An anecdotal example: I recall a few years ago being approached as a chaplain by a young man who had a relationship issue. He was dating two different young ladies and was having a problem in knowing whether to continue this way, and if not which relationship should be pursued. Compounding matters was the fact the ladies knew about each other and were uncomfortable with this. Wow, I thought, I don’t want to get involved in judging these women and being responsible for the decision. So I said a quick prayer, asking God for wisdom. I was led to ask him to pray whether he could discern a difference in the Godly character between them, as he understood what Godly character was from the Bible. The next time I saw him he eagerly shared that the question has easily led him to move forward with one of the women.

Can you see all three legs of the stool at work in this story? I don’t mean to imply that every situation requires all three ‘legs’ to be at work. But it would be hard to imagine my Christian life with one or more of the legs broken or unavailable.

A prayer: Lord, thank you that you lead us and guide us in so many different ways.
Next time: One Anothering Examined

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Exalt Him (Psalm 46)

God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.
 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
   God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
   he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
 7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 8 Come and see what the LORD has done,
   the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
   to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”
 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.