Friday, September 28, 2012

Christ Won Our Victory

In the last entry, we said that a believer can have no peace until he is right with God. And what keeps us from being right with God? Our sin. We are in a continual battle with our old, fallen, sinful nature (the flesh, in Scripture).

But the good news is this: The victory against sin is already won. 1st John 3:8 tells us, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Isn’t that fantastic? Jesus came to earth “that He might destroy the works of the devil.” What is the primary work of the devil? Sin!

Friend, do you still have a problem with sin? It doesn’t matter what kind: alcohol, promiscuity, drugs, bitterness, envy, laziness, dishonesty. God can rescue you from it. Jesus has already paid the price for victory – the price was His own death on the cross of Calvary.

As a result, you can win over the sin in your life. It’s not easy, nobody says it is easy. In the next couple of entries, we’ll talk about how we can achieve victory in our lives through some practical steps.

But for now, if you are a child of God, can you understand why there is inner turmoil and guilt over sin in your life? That’s God at work. And God will continue to work through your conscience until you deal with the sin in your life. Give your sin over to God. Fall on your knees before God in humble repentance. Ask Him to forgive you, and ask Him for relief from that sin.

If you are not a child of God, if you have never placed your faith in Jesus Christ, yet, you feel that torment of guilt over your sin, that’s God working in you too. He also wants to give you relief. Your answer is also repentance - turning form your sin and turning to Jesus in faith.

The victory over sin has already been won. Now, you need to learn to live in that victory.

During World War II, the Japanese were entrenched on the islands all across the Pacific. After the war was over, for months, sometimes years following the war, pockets of these Japanese soldiers were discovered. They didn’t know the war was over, so they were still fighting, still deadly, still taking casualties. It was incredibly difficult to convince them that the war was over and that they had lost.

In the great spiritual war, the victory has already been won too. Jesus Christ won the victory over Satan upon the cross of Calvary. Satan is a defeated enemy. Oh, he is still powerful, still causing casualties, but it is up to you to surrender to God.
That is the only way. Have you done that? If not, do it now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

But I Sin! What about Me?

God’s original purpose in creation was that we be like Him. Genesis 1:26 says: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” We were made to be like God. Not all powerful and all knowing, or anything like that, of course, but we were made to be moral agents capable of free will, but sinless. Unfortunately, as a free-moral agent, Adam did sin. He did rebel against God and His one lone command.

Adam and Eve believed the lie of Satan that “you shall be like God, knowing good and evil.” But instead of becoming more like God, which they were already created to be, they became very unlike God. They became contaminated with sin.
And we, of course, were born very much like them, our parents, as we inherited their sin - their fallen nature. Genesis 5:3 says: And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image.”

Thus, the image of God grew cloudy. Like a mirror all fogged up or splattered with soapy water and toothpaste, it became hard to see any resemblance of God in us. Hatred, darkness, and death replaced love, light, and life in our world.

But, Jesus came to earth to change all that. Bearing the image of God perfectly, He came with no sin bringing back love, light, and life. The world crucified Him, but to God’s purpose because that cross became the very instrument used to crucify our sin. It was the cross that again fulfilled God’s purpose to make us like Him.

How? In a couple of ways: First, at the cross, Christ paid the penalty of sin. By taking our sin upon Himself, Jesus paid the judicial penalty of death for our sin And when we place our trust in Jesus and in His atoning work on the cross, His suffering was enough. We no longer must bear our own penalty – PRAISE GOD!

As a result, Romans 8:1-2 can say: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. “ Amen, and Amen!

But that’s not all. The second thing Christ did was free us from the practice of sin. He is going to again make us like Him in our actions. We are going to be conformed into His image once again.

You see, when we fell, Jesus didn’t just abandon us to hell, but he made a way of escape. We can escape the just penalty for our sin because of the cross. Likewise, when we believe and become part of His family, He doesn’t abandon us to go on living lives of sin. But He makes a way for us to live like Him.

That’s the point of 1st John 3:5: “He was manifested to take away our sins.” Does that mean we no longer sin if we are child of God? Reading 1st John 3:6 and 9, it appears that way. 1st John 3:6 says: “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” Yikes! I sin! Don’t you? Do we not know God? Are we not abiding in Christ since we sin?

And 1st John 3:9 says, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” Oh, but I still sin! Am I not born again? Does this really mean what it seems to? If it does, I’m on some pretty shaky ground. My solid hope is built on quicksand. If someone born again “does not sin,” what does that say about me? And you? Are we not saved?

Well, here is the good news: In this verse, the King James is not the most accurate translation, because it misses the correct verb tense. Getting that right clears it all up. For instance: Verse 6 reads with the correct verb tense: “Whoever abides in Him does not practice sin; whoever practices sin has not seen Him, neither knows Him.” Verse 9 would read: “Whosoever is born of God does not continue to practice sin.”

Do you see the difference? The true child of God cannot continue to live a life characterized by the continuous practice of sin. He cannot live a life of open rebellion against God. Not and be considered a true Christian.

The unsaved, on the other hand, those who are children of the devil, they continue to practice sin. Sin is an ongoing characteristic of their life. As 1st John 3:8 says: “He who sins (Continues in an ongoing pattern of sin) is of the devil.” And as verse 10 says: In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

Every believer will sin on occasion. John even admits that in chapter 1:9-10. He calls us a liar if we claim not to have sin, and he gives us a remedy so we can receive forgiveness and cleansing. So, yes, we do sin, on occasion. As someone said, “No believer is sinless, but God expects us to sin less.” That believer cannot continue to practice sin as if he were a non-believer.

No great believer in the Bible was sinless. All of them were just like us. All sinned, and many sinned greatly. And Scripture never tried to sugar coat their lives or their actions. Abraham lied about his wife, calling her his sister. Moses lost his temper and struck the rock a second time. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband. Peter denied the Lord three times. All these were great men of God – heroes of the faith - but sin was an incident in their lives, not a settled practice.

J. Vernon McGee explains it colorfully: “If a child of God sins, what’s the difference between him and a lost man? The difference is simply this: when the lost man goes out and paints the town red, he comes back and says, ‘I’ll get a bigger brush and a bigger bucket of paint next time; wow, I want to live it up!’ While the child of God, if he does a thing like that, will cry out to God, ‘Oh, God, I hate myself for what I’ve done.’”

He is exactly right. The Spirit of God that dwells within each and every believer will not give us peace when we sin. Our conscience will be mercilessly tormented by our sin. We will be miserable in our guilt. And we will long for restoration of that peace that can come only from a right relationship with God.

If, as a believer, you fall into sin, you’ll have no peace until you get back out. You can have peace inside only when your life is right with God. The Prodigal Son could find himself in the pigpen, but he will quickly climb back out.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How Do We Know If We're A Child of God?

Many of you know what the theme of First John is: It’s assurance. John wants us to know we have eternal life. He doesn’t want it to be a guessing game, or a, “I sure hope so kind of thing.” 1st John 5:13 clearly stated his purpose in writing this book, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”

So that we may know, John has given us a series of tests we can take. If we pass the tests, we can have assurance. But, if we fail, we’d better figure out why. We just may not be saved. We may have sadly deceived ourselves. At the very least, we aren’t doing so good living the Christian life.

One of these tests is found in 1st John 3:7-8, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

This test is talking about bearing a family resemblance: We are either a child of God or a child of the devil, there’s no other alternative. If we do righteousness, we are acting like our heavenly father. We are bearing his image. That’s evidence that we are His. If we sin, we’re acting like our father, the devil. We are bearing his image. That’s evidence that we are his. You can tell whose you are simply by looking at your actions. Is righteousness a characteristic of your life, or is sin?

But, before we talk about that, let’s define our terms. 1st John 3:4 actually defines sin: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”

This is even clearer in the old King James: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Sure, there are other definitions in Scripture, but this one is the most basic - the most fundamental. What is sin? Sin is anything that is contrary to the law of God. It’s a nice, neat definition

But, wait a minute, this says law. We’re not under the Mosaic Law anymore are we? Of course not, but that doesn’t make us lawless. Look at 1st Corinthians 9:20-21, “And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law (The Jews who were under the Mosaic Law), as under the law (He adhered to the Mosaic law while with them so as not to offend them), that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law (The Gentiles who were never given the law), as without law (not being without law toward God (He was never lawless), but under law toward Christ (the moral teachings), that I might win those who are without law.”

Now look at James 1:25, “But he who looks into (what?) the perfect law of liberty and continues in it (New Testament believers), and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Do you see this? We are not lawless people in the New Testament. We are not bound by the Law of Moses. That’s been set aside. We don’t have to sacrifice the animals anymore, since Christ made the one perfect sacrifice. We don’t have to follow the Jewish calendar of festivals, or their dietary laws. Not anymore.

But we are certainly not lawless. We are ruled by the Moral Law of Christ - the expressed will of Christ outlined throughout the pages of the New Testament.
And even more, it is written on our hearts. 2nd Corinthians 3:3 says: “Written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”

So, what, then, is a sinner? A sinner is someone who is insubordinate to the will of God. It’s doing what we want instead of what God wants. Do you follow this?

A little girl was once asked in a Sunday School class, “What is sin?” She responded, “I think sin is anything you like to do.” She wasn’t too far from the truth.

You see, our problem is spelled out in Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way.”

That’s it: We demand to have our own way, not God’s way. From the baby screaming in the crib, to the rebellious teen sneaking out at night, to the wayward spouse cheating on his mate, it’s always the same. The problem is the BIG “I.” “ I want my way, I’m my own man . Nobody tells me what to do, not my parents, not the authorities, not even God!” And we scream it out in our arrogance and rebellion.

Lawlessness, our rebellion against God, causes us to break speeding laws, cheat on our taxes, loaf on our employer’s time, to walk all over people on our way up the corporate ladder, to lie, covet, envy, and the list could go on and on and on.

Is there an answer? John gives us one in 1st John 3:5 – “And you know that He (Jesus) was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”

There’s the answer - the answer is Jesus. This verse tells us Jesus came to earth with a mission. He appeared on earth (was manifested) in the flesh for a purpose, and that purpose was “to take away our sins.” Isn’t that exactly what John the Baptist said about Jesus? John 1:29 – “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Praise God for Jesus.