But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Daily Readings – Joshua 23-34, Mark 6, Psalm 66

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

What a beautiful verse. There is power in a public declaration that your house will serve the Lord. This is a verse that has become one of the most popular verses in modern Christianity. If I had to guess, I bet this single verse can be found hung proudly in more Christian homes than any other verse in the Bible.

When reading the entirety of Joshua 24 today and the surrounding verses, something struck me today. As beautiful as this verse is, and as much we like to profess it as Christians in America on decorations we hang by our doorway, it is also a good example of what we tend to do with the Bible in general in America.

We tend to water it down. We have a tendency to pick isolated verses that give us the warm and fuzzy version of faith we desire and not dig into the rest.

Here are verses 16-22

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”

Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”

Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”

“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

When Joshua was making this bold proclamation and the Israelites were recommitting themselves to follow the Lord, he did not pull any punches. When we declare that we are turning our life over to God, he expects us to honor that. There are consequences when we don’t.

We are human and will always fall short in moments of human weakness. God knew this and, in his divine wisdom, sent his son to pay the price for our sins so that we could still have a relationship with him and inherit eternal life. We serve an amazing father in Heaven that gives us more grace than we deserve!

Even if we truly turn our lives over to Christ, there will be moments of weakness.

However, what we see throughout the Bible is that there is a difference between momentary human weakness, and turning sin into an idol that we worship.

We see this again in Psalm 66:16-20 today.

Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!

Our natural tendency is to want to focus on verses like, “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” 

It is less exciting to think about the verse immediately before, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

Again, there is a big difference between, “If I had I sinned…” and “If I had cherished sin in my heart…”

One speaks to momentary weakness; the other speaks to idolatry.

The combination of these verses really stood out to me today, because I think we have a tendency in the American Church to preach a gospel of confession without repentance. We have a tendency to put out there a message of, “Believe in Jesus and your sins are forgiven and you have punched your ticket to heaven!”

In the Bible what we actually read is that even demons believe in God and shudder. What separates Christians is acting upon those beliefs. When we gloss over this portion of the gospel, we do a massive disservice to those we are doing life with. If someone has given over their life to Christ, there is fruit in that person’s life. You can see a change. That is spoken of over and over again throughout the Bible.

These changes are not the reason someone is saved. You cannot do enough good deeds to earn your way into heaven. That is why Jesus came. Life change is not the way into Heaven, but it is the evidence that someone has genuinely given their life over to Jesus and not just simply believed in him.

I love what Joshua did when the Israelites said, “We are in! Sign us up!” He didn’t leave it at that and celebrate. He didn’t treat it as if the sale had been made, his motivational talk had worked, etc. He challenged them. He told them what they were committing to truly meant.

If we profess to be Christians, have we done this for ourselves? Have we looked inwardly and asked God to reveal any strongholds in our hearts? Have we asked him to show us any metaphorical altars we have built in our lives that are taking the place where he is meant to dwell?

I want to have the type of faith that produces fruit. I want to constantly be asking God to refine me. I want my family to truly serve the Lord and not just have the pretty artwork hanging by the front door.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Is that something we are willing to declare today? When Joshua goes on to challenge us about what that is going to take, are we willing to reaffirm that statement?

Thought to ponder

What altars have I erected in my heart? What sin do I not only succumb to, but also actually cherish, that may be keeping me from experiencing full life in Christ?

Throwing out your mismatched socks

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 27-28, 2 Corinthians 5, Psalm 54

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 

I am sure I am not alone in the challenge that lay before me this past Sunday night. It was a monster a didn’t want to face, a personal challenge I had been putting off tackling, an ever present stress that resurfaced once or twice a week that I simply didn’t want to ever deal with…

It was our mismatched sock box.

At the point of writing this I have 3 daughters that are 9, 7 and 3 years old. Over the last nine years we have had lots of growing feet, fun patterned socks purchased, and mysterious disappearances. I need someone who lives on the conspiracy theory fringes of the Internet to prove for me definitively that this is undeniable proof that aliens exist and that they feast on socks. I frankly have no idea how else this happens!

In any case, every time we do laundry and a new sock exists without a match, into the box it goes. In theory there will be a day where we tackle this monster. Unfortunately, like most challenges we put off facing in life, the longer you put it off, the larger it grows.

Sunday I decided it was time to tackle it. After getting 100% of the laundry done, scouring the girls’ bedrooms for any strays that were tucked under dressers, lost in a corner, etc. I was confident I had 99% of the socks I would ever find ready to be matched. Then I went to battle.

By the end I had found an additional 45 matches between the five of us. Success!

And there were 91 socks left over…

What?!

First of all, how did we ever get to the point over nine years where we accumulated 91 unique socks between our entire family? Secondly, how could we possibly have lost 91 socks? Mind-boggling.

I gathered them up and finally did what I should have done a long time ago; I threw them out.

I started to think Sunday about how much less annoyance I would have experienced over the last nine years if I had been comfortable throwing away one sock a month when the pair came up missing as opposed to clinging to the lone remaining sock. Instead, every time a new sock was added to the box, I grew frustrated. I watched it grow and grow and felt like an idiot. How does this keep happening? And why am I hoarding these?

As I was lying in bed Sunday night I began to smile thinking about the fact that we tend to do that with almost everything in life as Christians.

In 2 Corinthians today, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

Whatever struggles have existed in our lives, Jesus wants to wipe the slate clean and make us into a new creation. Whether these be self inflicted challenges and sin issues that we struggle with, or circumstances that occurred in our lives that we had no control over, Jesus wants to give us freedom. He wants to release us from the bondage. He wants us to walk out of that prison cell into freedom. He wants us to truly be a new creation and not just pay lip service to that notion. He wants us to genuinely turn these things over to him.

So much easier said than done, but worth fighting for!

I know that I personally find it hard to find that perfect balance in life when it comes to processing the things that have happened, considering why I am wired the way I am, and digging into these issues to understand myself better; and letting certain things go so that I can really embrace that the old is has gone and the new is here.

I think there is a healthy balance that can be struck.

I wish over the last nine years our sock box had a one-week limit. Throw it in the box temporarily and if the missing sock turns up over the next week as we do the rest of the laundry, great! If not, throw it out. Don’t be a slave to the thought that, “Maybe one day, the partner will return!”

I think the same general principle applies to giving things over to Christ. I believe it is critical to really process events that have happened in our lives, ask God to show us what lies we believe because of these events, what negative thought patterns arose because of them, and what habits we have formed as a result that keep us from living full lives with him. However, there are times where I think I have processed these things to death and it is just time to give it over to God and let it go.

It is time to throw out the socks. It is time to believe Jesus and trust that we really are capable of being a new creation. We don’t need to remain in bondage. We don’t need to fall into the same old habit pattern. There is freedom. The prison cell door is standing wide open. We really do have the ability to just walk out at any time if we choose to fully submit to him.

Again, easier said than done. However, I believe that one of the weapons of the enemy is telling you to hoard the socks. “Don’t let go of that event just yet. Don’t fully forgive that person for what they did. Don’t fully release yourself from the guilt and shame you feel over that decision you made and trust that the blood of Christ is enough to cover it. Plus, do you really believe you are a new creation? Save the socks. There might be a day where the other one shows up. Just tuck them away where you won’t see them all of the time.”

Unfortunately, when we refuse to turn things over to God, every time we lose another sock, we once again find ourselves confronting the entire box all over again. Every negative emotion, self destructive pattern, forgiveness we have been refusing to give, guilt, shame, frustration, anxiety, etc. comes flooding back immediately. They were just sitting there waiting in the closet waiting to remind us that, “we really aren’t a new creation”. They are sitting there telling us that we will never be enough.

Throw out the socks.

Jesus paid it all and freedom is waiting there.

If you have one more load of laundry to do in your life and you really need to dig into some issues that you have refused to deal with for the longest time, do the load. Don’t be afraid of what might come out of it. Get with a trusted friend, a counselor, a pastor, etc. and dig in. Let’s find whatever matches we can so that healing can take place and we can accept the free gift that Christ has given to us.

Then throw it away. Stop letting whatever it is control your life. You really are a new creation! Freedom has been waiting there all along. We just need to stop believing the lies that we still have a little more to fix in our lives before we can fully experience it.

Thought to ponder

What socks have I been hoarding? What laundry is there to still do in my life so that I can find some matches and then let it go?

Sharing our sin

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 21-22, 2 Corinthians 2, Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

Psalm 51:1-15

David had a long and hard fall. He went from being the shepherd boy chosen to be king, the savior of his people who slay the giant, and “a man after God’s own heart”, to an adulterer and murderer. It is hard to picture a fall from grace more pronounced than David’s.

We all fall short of the glory of God throughout our life. We may never commit adultery or murder, but Jesus told us in his sermon on the mount that, You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” And also, I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

The question is not whether or not we sin and fall short of the glory of God. The question is; how will we respond?

Throughout large chunks of my life I wanted to run and hide. I wanted to avoid time with God. I didn’t want the shame and guilt that I knew would accompany time with my father in Heaven because of my unrepented sin. This was a common path for me to walk. Sin, feel the weight of guilt and shame, withdraw from God, repeat.

At other times I would go down a different path in relation to sin issues in my life. Often I would just want nothing more than to minimize the sin in my own life as not that big of a deal. “I mean, look at that guy! I am in pretty good shape compared to him!”

I know I am not alone in this.

Having spent a large chunk of my life in careers where I am mentoring others, I will often ask the question of fellow Christians, “What has your heart captive right now? What sin issue have you been struggling with recently?”

One of the most common answers I hear is pride.

I always want to smile. I can relate. For the longest time, that would have been what I said as well. Pride is a nice, simple, relatable, and comfortable sin to confess. No risk of people viewing me differently because of struggling with pride! In fact they might appreciate my spiritual maturity for realizing my own weaknesses!

We all nod understandingly as Christians when someone says they struggle with pride. “Me too brother, me too.”

It is far more difficult for most of us to say:

“I am unbelievably materialistic. I compare myself to other people constantly and never feel that I will have enough. I will never have the house I desire, drive the car I want to drive, have the body I want to have, etc. I have spent far more time looking at Black Friday ads than time in God’s word over the last week.”

or

“I have been addicted to porn for as long as I can remember and it causes me to view women as objects and I hate myself for it. I lust constantly and I don’t know what to do about it. I have repented of it and sworn it off forever more times than I can count.”

or

“I am constantly gossiping about others. I don’t know why I can’t stop or why I do it, but I find myself frequently speaking negatively about other people when I am unwilling to bring up those same items to that person.”

or

“I can’t stop eating. I know that I am in a self-destructive pattern that is not God honoring in any way shape or form, but when I am stressed, felling down, or struggling with anxiety, I turn to food instead of God. I struggle treating my body like the temple God created it to be and I know it is slowly killing me.”

or

“I think I might be an alcoholic. I might not get black out drunk, but it is hard to remember a week where I didn’t have several beers 4-5 nights or the week or more. I certainly turn to alcohol as an escape instead of turning to God. I worry what path I might be on and where it might lead eventually.”

There is an endless list.

Far easier to tell that Christian friend, “I am struggling with pride.”

I love David’s response today.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

David says, Lord use me. Give me strength, joy and a willing spirit. I want to use this fall to help others. I want to teach others your ways and declare your praise!

An amazing thing happened for me when I started being comfortable calling out every sin in my life, even if they seemed small or insignificant. God was faithful.

The battle was so much easier to fight when embracing the truth that the Holy Spirit truly does reside within us and wants to help if we will simply acknowledge the errors in our ways and ask for help.

I also realized quickly that we all struggle with the same things and that all of the condemnation I feared from other brothers in Christ was not coming. I lived for so long thinking that I wasn’t worthy of love, because I couldn’t seem to form good enough habits! I couldn’t seem to achieve Christ-like perfection! What was wrong with me that I would try and try and try again and year after year I struggled with the same stupid things?

“Don’t worry God, I will figure this out eventually.”

But there was no way I was going to confess what was going on in my life to others. What would they think? I am supposed to have it all together. I have worked hard at being a respected leader and mentor for others. How would people respond?

What I have found over and over again is that there is freedom in living authentically with other brothers and sisters in Christ. I have repeatedly found my fears to be unfounded and simply an attack from the enemy. In fact, when other people see your willingness to kick shame in the teeth and lay your struggles out there, you will find many people immediately want to follow suit. We all desperately want to be known fully and loved fully, baggage and all.

God can do amazing good through us when we are willing to live authentically with others and open up about what is happening in our lives, regardless of whether they are obvious sins like David’s or if they are quiet sins of heart that we would prefer to minimize as small and insignificant. God wants to use our falls to demonstrate his glory and bring freedom to others that have not yet experienced it fully.

David understood this.

So what will your prayer be today about areas you are currently struggling with? Will it be, “Lord, help me overcome this thorn in my side?” Will you be focused on somehow conquering this on your own?

Or will it be like David? Instead of hiding from your sin, will you write Psalms about it? Will you use it help others struggling with the same battle? Will you use it to bring glory to God and sing his praises because of the work he is doing in your life, how far he has brought you, and how he loves you unconditionally even in your sin?

We will all fall short. There is freedom in embracing David’s approach when we do!

Thought to ponder

If a brother or sister in Christ asked you what your current battle is, how would you respond?

 

 

 

A thorn in our side

Daily Readings – Numbers 33-34, Psalm 45

On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

“‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

Number 33:50-56

As we will see throughout the Old Testament in coming months, the Israelites would have been well served to follow God’s command. Instead they did not clear out the lands that God had prepared for them and it ended quite poorly. The inhabitants in their land truly did become barbs in their eyes and thorns in their sides, ultimately leading to the Israelite’s exile.

It got me thinking this morning, how many times have there been in my life where I conveniently set aside a command of God’s and then dealt with the challenges for months and years to come?

It is easy to have a mindset that we will see throughout the Old Testament, where we want God to swoop in a remove any negative repercussions from previous decisions the moment we turn back to him. We want God’s grace to be accompanied by instant removal of any lingering consequences.

The truth is that God is a loving father who is waiting there with open arms ready to welcome us back home when we turn back to him. His love is infinite and the grace he gives us is all encompassing. However, like all loving fathers, that doesn’t mean that there is not still discipline required.

With virtually any sin issue in our lives, there are almost always self-inflicted challenges we have to deal with on the backend. These challenges may be with our health, finances, career, emotional health, trust with others, etc. Sin issues in our life almost always leave behind some “inhabitants” in our lives that we are forced to deal with as thorns in our side.

When we are out of line with God’s commands, but eventually choose to turn back to him, it typically takes patience and effort to fully remove the thorn. It takes truly accepting the grace we have been given through Christ on the cross and walking out of our new identity. It requires not allowing that identity to be shaken when we are pushing through these negative repercussions.

It takes remembering who God has said that we truly are. We are sons and daughters of God. We are loved more than we can ever imagine.

Fortunately, when we are walking closely with God, there is so much more peace in our lives, even when dealing with the negative repercussions of previous actions. God will be there every step of the way with us as we trudge through these challenges.

When my daughters misbehave and I can tell they truly are sorry, every ounce of me wants to immediately remove the consequences we have set for those actions. I want to immediately say, “Never mind! I know you are sorry! Let’s go back to playing games!” However, I know that it is important that actions have consequences. I tell them how much I love them, that I only want the best for them, and that I am really excited to go back to having fun soon, but there do have to be consequences.

How much more loving and wise is our Father in Heaven?

So when you are living out repercussions, remember that this is not God being mad at you. Once you have turned back and repented of this sin issue, God is overjoyed. That doesn’t mean the ramifications immediately evaporate, but if we walk through those challenges with Christ at our side, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.

Thought to ponder

What thorns in my side still exist from current or previous times where I was not walking in line with God’s will? Have I given that area of life fully over to God?

Tacking on verse 25

Daily Readings – Leviticus 1-4, Psalm 31, Romans 7

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Romans 7:15 

I believe this simple verse is one that every Christian can relate to in a powerful way! There is an intense desire that exists within most Christians to be perfect. When we fall short, shame and self-condemnation comes flooding in.

Why can’t I kick my drug problem? Why do I still get so angry all the time with people I love? Why can’t I seem to avoid gossiping? Why am I so consumed with materialism? Why can’t I get my pride under control? When will I be free of my porn addiction? When will I stop over-eating? When will I be free of my jealousy? When will I stop caring so much about what other people think about me?

I think we all frequently feel like Paul when he cried out, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!”

Unfortunately, most Christians stop our train of thought there. I know I did for the vast majority of my life. I would be doing well for a while in regards to some sin issue in my life, eventually my flesh would wage war against my mind the way Paul described, I would give in to sin once again, and I would be left thinking, “What a wretched man am I!”

I would sincerely pray to God, “Lord, this is the last time! I am done with _______. I want to live for you! I won’t do it again!”

The cycle continued.

Good for a while, sin again, hate myself, confess…good for a while, sin again, hate myself, confess…

Why wasn’t I strong enough? Why couldn’t I get it all together? What was wrong with me?

For so long I wanted to win the war against sin. I wanted to wage that war that Paul described and emerge victorious. If I could somehow put the right systems in place, have the right accountability, form the right habits, read the right books, do all the right things; surely I could conquer this. Surely my spirit could conquer my flesh!

I don’t think I am alone in this approach.

The problem for most Christians is that we never get to verse 25. We never get to the part of this cycle where Paul rejoices and declares, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

We stop at, “What a wretched man am I!”

Shame is a powerful tool in the hands of the enemy. Satan wants nothing more than you attempting to do it alone. He would love an army of Christians who are looking for the right tactic to conquer the sin in their lives. He rejoices when he sees us broken and defeated, promising God, “This will be the last time…”

Satan trembles when God’s people instead choose to give thanks immediately in these moments. He wants no part of Christians who, immediately after falling short again, have a spirit of profound thankfulness overcome them. He is terrified of us collectively living out of our new identity in Christ and giving immediate thanks to our God who chose to deliver us while we were still broken.

Too many Christians allow sin issues in their lives to keep them on the sidelines. Too many tell themselves, “God could never use me. I need to get my stuff together first.” Too many of us do not walk through our day expecting blessings from God and asking the Holy Spirit to abide in us throughout the entire day because we do not yet feel worthy. Paul did the opposite.

Here was the greatest evangelist of all time and yet, today, we see him struggling with the same challenge we deal with. Why do I keep falling short?

The beautiful difference comes when we tack on verse 25 and choose thankfulness over shame. The beautiful difference comes when we embrace that fundamental truth that Paul understood. We are still human. We will always fall short from time to time. We can never be perfect in our own strength. The war will always rage on.

Today, when you feel those moments coming and you are tempted in some way or another, choose thankfulness. Smile quietly to yourself and acknowledge that the battle is already won. In these moments of temptation in the past, when I have chosen, “I am so sorry Lord…” it is usually followed by me trying to win the battle in my own strength and  eventually falling short. When, in these moments of temptation, I choose to smile and think of the sacrifice made on my behalf and whisper, “Thank you Jesus.” it is far easier to turn away and win that individual battle.

Jesus came in the first place because we are incapable of winning the war on our own. Today, instead of this being a source of shame, make it a source of overwhelming joy and thankfulness! Today, tack on verse 25.

Thought to ponder

What is the most prominent area of sin in my life where I have tried for too long to wage war in my own strength? Am I willing to give that over to God today and give thanks that he has already delivered me?

Stop fixating on your sin!

Daily Readings: Exodus 39-40, Proverbs 6, Romans 6

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 6:2-4, 12-14

 The picture Paul paints in Romans 6 of us being buried with Christ and rising again with him to live a new life is so powerful. It is easy to forget this part of the gospel in today’s world and simply focus on salvation. When we hear the good news of the gospel preached, it is frequently focused on the fact that Jesus came down to earth and willing gave his life for us so that, upon our death, we could have an eternal life with God that we were incapable of earning on our own. This by itself is the best news ever shared! What we frequently overlook is what Paul shares with us today.

Jesus also dies so that we could be reborn and die to our previous sinful ways right now as well!

The mistake I find myself falling into when I think about this portion of God’s promise is continued self-condemnation. Why do I continue to sin? Why do I keep falling short? Have I not fully turned my life over? What more do I need to do to conquer this sin issue or that sin issue in my life? I want to be better!

The problem, when I am stuck in this mindset, is that I am entirely focused on me. When thinking like this I have a tendency to read, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness…” and immediately fall back into frustration towards my lack of ability to be perfect. I fall back into striving. I fall back into wanting to do it under my own power.

My focus immediately is so self-focused that I don’t allow myself to fully internalize the second part of that sentence, “…but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.”

 I have often heard that it is almost impossible to kick a bad habit without replacing it with a good one. If all you are doing is striving so hard to not sin, focusing on developing your will power more and more every day so that you can avoid that stumbling block, you inevitably trip over it again…and again…and again.

Paul tells us instead we should focus on offering every part of ourselves to God as an instrument of righteousness. He didn’t say a picture of righteousness merely to be looked at. He said instrument. Instruments are meant to be used.

This rang incredibly true for me this morning. The only times in my life where I barely struggle with sin are the times where I am entirely focused on serving others. When I am focused on making a difference in other people’s lives, providing for their earthly needs, being a listening ear, and sharing the love of Jesus. In these stretches of time sin has very little power at all over me. I am not really even thinking about it.

When I am focused on me? Oh man…Satan has a very easy foothold in my life at that point.

If we stop at the point in Romans where Paul talks about dying to our sins and just run after that, we end up striving. We end up fixating on sin and putting it on a pedestal. However, when we decide we want to rise again with Christ in a new life focused on serving others, grace comes flooding in.

Jesus came not only to give us eternal life and pay the price for our sins; he came to give us a new life here on earth as well. He came so that we could break free from bondage and walk out of that jail cell of our own creation. He came so that we could be righteous instruments for God to use here on earth.

So stop focusing on conquering your sin today. That work has been done for you already on the cross! Focus instead of being an instrument God can use all day long however he sees fit and watch what happens!

Thought to ponder

How can I be used as a righteous instrument by God today in my everyday walk?

 

Gouge it out!

Daily Readings: Exodus 5-6, Psalm 19, Matthew 18

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

-Matthew 18:6-9

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest Jesus isn’t a huge fan of the sin we allow to maintain a foothold in our lives! This idea of gouging out your own eye wasn’t just some over exaggeration Jesus threw out casually when shooting from the hip one day; it was virtually one of his greatest hits! We saw him give the exact same advice when delivering his Sermon on the Mount back on Day 5. Jesus takes the sin in our lives extremely seriously!

We know, as Christians, that we are saved by our faith in Christ and accepting him as our Lord and savior. We cannot avoid sin entirely. We are human and live in a broken and fallen world. We are incapable of perfection, which is why Jesus came to earth to present himself as the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. However, Jesus wants us to accept him as our savior AND our Lord. Not just our savior. So what does that mean to accept Jesus as the Lord over our life?

Well, for starters it means praying the prayer that David prayed in Psalm 19:13.

Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

David does not pray that God would keep him from all sin. We will always have moments of weakness and sin in the moment. There will be stumbling blocks that we don’t see coming. David prays that God would keep him from willful sins.

There is a huge difference.

Through the help of the Holy Spirit, God wants to help us get better and better at conquering all of our sinful impulses that previously ruled our lives. However, it may take some time to allow God to fully break down our former habits, especially deeply ingrained ones. However, we can immediately choose to turn away from willful sins.

If you struggle with Alcoholism, be honest with yourself about what your triggers are that put you back into your old habit patterns. Stay away from bars. Avoid putting yourself in situations that tend to take you down that path. Get all of it out of your house. Let Jesus gouge it out! If you struggle with pornography and tried to quit over and over again without success, have you been willing to put accountability software on all of your devices and not just your computer? Have you taken legitimate steps to say, “No more! Jesus, I want you as LORD, not just savior.” or have you simply prayed about it without gouging it out? The list goes on.

If we are unwilling to take legitimate steps to gouge out these sins from our lives, then they become willful sins. They are no longer, caught off guard and didn’t see the stumbling block coming, type of sins. We are actively choosing to allow them to maintain their foothold. We want Jesus as simply savior, but would prefer avoiding embracing him as Lord over our lives.

Here is the thing, life is so much more rewarding, peaceful, and rich when we let go of these things! Jesus isn’t calling us to a bland, lesser version of life where we no longer “get to sin”. He is calling us to so much more!

A close friend of mine, Jason Redoutey who helps run Hearts Alive and Free Ministries, once said something to me that hit home. “Satan wants us to believe that sin is the fun stuff that you don’t get to do.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Earlier in Psalm 19:7-8 we read this from David:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.

We should gouge sin out of our life with passion, not to “earn salvation”, but to allow Jesus to give us the good stuff! I have found over and over again in my own life that the words of David are true. When I am walking closely with Jesus and allowing him to work on my heart, I naturally desire to follow his commands. Sin no longer is the “fun stuff I don’t get to do”. Instead, by gouging it out of my life, God truly does give joy to my heart, wisdom to my decisions, and refreshment to my soul. Jesus loves you like crazy and wants you to experience the good stuff! He wants you to live life to the fullest and to cast off the millstone from your neck!

And that is something I would sign up for every day of the week!

Thought to ponder

What sin do I struggle with in my own life? If I am honest with myself, would God tell me that it is a “willful sin” like David spoke of because I have been unwilling to gouge it out? How can I gouge out this sin from my life so that Jesus refresh my soul even more and give me even more joy in my heart?

As always, thank you for reading! Your comments are a constant source of encouragement. If you think this post would be a help or encouragement to someone else, feel free to share it!

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: