The Misconceptions of SLAVERY and FREEDOM

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Jeremiah 34:8-21; Romans 6:15-23

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF, AND SLAVERY ISN’T AN EXCEPTION

A study of history shows that great civilizations of the world averaged about 200 years and the people of the world have followed this timetable:

The people go:

From slavery to spiritual faith.

From spiritual faith to courage

From courage to liberty

From liberty to abundance

From abundance to selfishness

From selfishness to apathy

From apathy to dependence

From dependence back to slavery.

–The Bible Friend

FREEDOM IS PART OF GOD’S NATURE [Jeremiah 34:13]

At the beginning of Israel’s history, God made a COVENANT with His people to make them FREE.  He would be their God and they would be His people,  There would be times of slavery, but He would always be there to free His people.

And today, God expresses Himself as a God who wants us to live in freedom.

He said this in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom).”  (2 Corinthians 3:17 Amplified Bible)

So part of God’s nature is the idea that He wants us to be FREE!

Freedom should be a characteristic of God’s people.

Jeremiah 34:14

God made it part of Israel’s social connection.  God instituted a “Year of Jubilee”.  

God provided a way for Israel to keep from hurting one another financially.  When used properly, no one became more important than God.  Everyone would be cared for properly.  [See Leviticus 25:10 for reference]

The terms of God’s covenant, or agreement, allowed service of one Hebrew to another but never slavery.  God also specified a six-year limitation of that service with the seventh year jubilee release of further obligation.

Finally, the king and the people during Jeremiah’s day agreed to the letter of the law. 

The problem was that the people misused this, enslaving people economically.  God never wants us to use our freedom to abuse someone else’s freedom.  Instead, we should be in the business of “setting people free” by using our God-given FREEDOM as our responsibility.

The Bible warns us that we shouldn’t use our liberty to sin.

1 Peter 2:16 (NIV)

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

Charles Kingsley said,  “there are two freedoms–the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought.”  If we are to be truly free we must follow the latter, not the former.  [Footnote [i].]

The trouble comes when we take the liberty and freedom which God has given us and abuse it. 

In the case of God’s people, they were taking their repentance back and were showing repentance only to get God’s favor.  They never truly wanted a change.

They wanted the benefits of freedom without the responsibility that comes with it,

Jeremiah 34:16 (NIV)

[16] But now you have turned around and profaned my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished.  You have forced them to become your slaves again.

God doesn’t like it when we take the FREEDOM which He has given us and we misuse it.

Look at what He tells His people:  They aren’t truly changed people and as a result, they reap the consequences:

THE LORD WILL SET US FREE!

He released us from the penalty of every sin in our life.  Therefore, we are to forgive others as He has forgiven us.  And sometimes we do that…for awhile.  But then we remember what he said about us, what she did to us and, like king Zedekiah we change our minds and back into our debt they go.

So how can we have true FREEDOM–the real deal?

 


“What then [are we to conclude]?  Shall we sin because we live not under the Law but under God’s favor and mercy?  Certainly not!” (verse 15 – Amplified)

(*See v. 14) – For sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you, since now you are not under law [as slaves], but under grace [as subjects of God’s favor and mercy].

To live “under grace” means FREEDOM to do not what we want but what we ought!

It means FREEDOM for obedience, not an excuse for disobedience.

SIN DOES MATTER!

Freedom doesn’t mean the absence of rules.

We live in a free country, but I’m not free to go into your house and take your television.  There are laws in a free country.  People come to live in America because it offers an opportunity to a better way of life (not lack of laws).  The same is true about living for God.

Romans 6:19

“I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations”  (vs. 19a).

Paul admits that SLAVERY is an imperfect illustration of Christian life (God is not like the slave master’s of Paul’s day), but he uses it because it helps us (who have “weak” minds) understand a basic principle–

  • God is our Master to whom we owe total commitment.

So here’s the challenge:  Let God–NOT SIN–rule your life (vs. 19b).

“Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.”

Christians who live as SLAVES of SIN, must no longer live as SLAVES to SIN!

The Big Idea:  Since everyone is a SLAVE–either to SIN or to GOD–it’s best to choose the slavery that gives the best results.  It’s an either-or situation.  Either you’re a slave to sin or a slave to God.  There’s no middle ground.

The question is not if we bow down before a master, but before which master will we bow to?  There’s no such thing as an uncommitted Christian!

The Truth About Freedom:

WRONG THINKING #1:  Many people think serving ONESELF is freedom.

The TRUTH is that “freedom” from God is SLAVERY

Romans 6:16 (AMP)

[16] Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God).

John 8:34 (NIV)

[34] Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

WRONG THINKING #2:  Many people think serving GOD is a loss of freedoms.

The TRUTH is that “slavery” to God is FREEDOM from the power of sin (vv. 17-18).


The second word of the Book of Romans is “doulos” (Romans 1:1).  But Paul was happy to be a slave, a servant, a “doulos” of Jesus Christ.

“Righteousness”  the conduct pleasing to God.

“the standard of teaching to which you were committed” – We are committed (handed over) to the teaching of Christ Jesus like a slave is handed over to his master.  The teaching doesn’t belong to us, we belong to it.

Believe It Or Not, Our Freedom Comes With Consequences

  • Slavery to sin leads to SHAME (vv. 20-21a).

[20] When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.   [21a] What benefits did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?

  • Slavery to sin leads to ETERNAL DEATH (vv. 21b, 23a)

[21b] Those things will result in death!

[23] For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

ETERNAL DEATH – The eternal separation from God in hell begins after death.

  • Slavery to God leads to HOLINESS (v. 22a).

[22a] But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves of God…

HOLINESS can mean either the state of holiness or the process of sanctification (living that’s increasingly God-centered and world renouncing.

  • Slavery to God leads to ETERNAL LIFE (v.v. 22b, 23b).

Eternal Death is a “wage” earned; Eternal life is a “gift” received.

THE SLAVERY OF CHRIST – (Matthew 20:28)

Christ, in a sense, became our slave.

He gave His life as a “ransom” for us so that we could be free.  He now asks us to give our lives to Him.

What Jesus has done leads us to what to do:  Become SLAVES of Righteousness.

FREEDOM doesn’t mean the absence of rules.

“I am using as example from everyday life because of your human limitations” (v. 19a.).

Paul admits here that slavery is an imperfect illustration of the Christian life, but he uses it because it helps us understand a basic principle:

God is our Master to whom we owe total commitment

The Big Challenge:  LET GOD–NOT SIN rule your life.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Commentary:  Proclaiming Freedom by Jim Erwin, July 6, 2013.

Footnotes:  My Favorite Illustrations by Herschel H. Hobbs, Nashville, TN: (Bradman Press, 1990).

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White Jr..

The Interlinear Bible: Romans 1:1 (Strong’s Concordance 1401.  Greek Word, “doulos”.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or were noted in images.

Images/Photo:  Google Image search.

 

 

 

 

Eternal Security GUARANTEED!

At the core of every human being is the desire to be APPROVED–to be liked.  Our self-esteem is often set by the opinions of others around us.  And from those opinions, so many of us feel bad about ourselves.  That deep down inside our soul we have a sense of failure–failed either to please those around us, ourselves or our heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul seems to reinforce our own notions of failure in the first seven chapters of the Book of Romans in the Bible.

In my flesh, that is my old nature, Paul tells us,  “dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:5).

Paul sums it up at the end of the chapter by saying, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24)  Then he answers his own question without taking a breath:  “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25).

So it’s not through our own efforts, through our family line, through our associations or deeds that we receive acceptance–but it’s through the efforts of Jesus Christ on our behalf that we are rescued, cleansed and loved and then empowered and changed by that relationship.

Acceptance Brings Security Forever!

“I DON’T WANT TO GO!  DON’T MAKE ME LEAVE!”

One of the saddest stories I’ve read was about the biological mother of this young boy who had won a bitter legal battle to reclaim her son from his adoptive family.  When she arrived with her lawyer to take him from the only home he had ever known, the terrified 4-year-old little boy pleaded with those he knew as Mommy and Daddy not to give him up to this complete stranger.

“Don’t make me go,” he begged.  “Please, please don’t send me away!”

Without an understanding of the courts, lawyers and legal codes, the boy was removed and left to wonder what he had done to be banished from those who had always said they loved him.

Some Christians live with the terrifying insecurity that in God’s mind lurks a willingness to send them away if they fail or disappoint Him.  Despite their love of God, they fear that God will withdraw His love from them and remove them from His heavenly home forever.

In the Bible, however, God promises His children that once He sets His love on them, we can be secure in that love forever!

The place to begin to understand a believer’s security with God is with God,–for a believer’s security is not rooted in the believer, but in the believer’s God.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:1 (GNT)

“There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.”

This one verse should be tattooed on everyone’s hand–printed on paper and posted on your fridge, and memorized by every believer.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how you’ve acted, who you are–how much you think you’ve failed–if you are truly in Christ, you are NOT condemned anymore.  Think about that, let it settle in.

God isn’t sitting in heaven with a big hammer in His hand, waiting for you to mess up so He can whap you on the head.  That’s hard for us to accept–quick to judge ourselves–so Paul goes on to tell us why this is a reality.

Romans 8:2-4 (AMP)

[2]  For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and death.

[3]  For God has done what the law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Slirit].  Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice].  [Lev. 7:37]

[4]  So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the ways of the Spirit [our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the Holy Spirit].

We are under a new authority–jurisdiction now–it’s like when you leave your residing country, you are no longer under your country’s laws, but the law of whatever country you go to.

By believing in Jesus Christ, you left the country called “the world” and have joined God’s kingdom–and are now under a new law–a law called “the law of the Spirit of life.”

So, in Christ, we are not condemned because we’ve been set free–[in verses 1-4]. 

Set free from what?

Romans 8:5-8

So set your mind on the Spirit–

That’s easier said than done–but it’s important to see the distinction.  I think one of Paul’s points is that we have been empowered and set free–the chains have been broken–so we can now choose which mind will control us.

Before I was a Christian my sinful nature controlled my mind.  There was a little tract being passed around at the time by the Billy Graham organization during his Crusades around the country called “Have you heard of the Spirit-filled life?”  Inside it showed the life of a person who doesn’t have Jesus–priorities, hope. actions–all out of whack with no order or purpose.  We are controlled–either by the sin nature or by the spirit nature–the Spirit of God.

A life controlled by Jesus has order and purpose.

The order becomes more evident the more time you spend in the relationship in Christ.  There’s a wonderful promise here in that even though we continue to live in bodies we live with a nature that’s opposed to God–one day our perishable bodies will put on an imperishable nature.  Like Jesus, we will have a perfect, indestructible body without a flesh nature–won’t that be wonderful?

So where then does our loyalty lie?

Romans 8:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, brother and sisters, we have an obligation–but it is not to the flesh to live according to it.  [13]  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

We have an obligation Paul says–it’s the idea of owing a debt to someone–like a mortgage to a bank.  God gave us life through the Spirit, so we are in debt to Him, He owns us–it’s a spiritual reality we need to make in an outward reality in our lives.  We are no longer indebted to our sinful nature–in fact, we need to put to death the flesh.  [vs. 12-13]

In our Godly relationship, closeness to God means we lose control but given a new nature (verses 14-17).

There is so much here in the above verses and the main point is this: the fleshly nature leads to death and fear–fear of punishment and condemnation.

But when we come to Christ Jesus, we don’t get condemned and we are welcomed into a special, close relationship.

“Abba” was the cry of a child to its daddy.

Not only that but we are now heirs to God’s riches–and boy does He have riches–not the kind you spend in a store, but the kind you live off of for the rest of eternity!

Also, looking at the end, there’s something to sharing in Christ’s sufferings that’s part of the process of becoming a child of God.  [vs. 17-b]

Look at what Paul says about it:

Having this new relationship with Christ Jesus means we will be changed.  Right now, creation itself has been waiting since the fall of mankind for the day when we receive new bodies.  It hasn’t happened yet–but it’s coming.

In the meantime, “eagerly wait for it with perseverance”, Paul says.

How–when we seem to be in constant battle with the flesh and spirit? 

Keep reading on:

There’s a lot of theology in these verses–“predestination and foreknowledge”–commentary, books, etc..

It’s at the bottom of an argument between Calvinism and Arminianism:

Calvinist believe God chose who He was going to save and we had little to do with it.  Armenians believe that we chose God and God had little to do with it,  My position, like a few others, is in the middle–I believe God knew beforehand those that would choose Him and so predestined them–that there is a balance between actions of God and actions on man when it comes to salvation.  What I want to focus on here is in verse 28.

Do people really believe this?  A more literal way to translate this would be:

“to them that love God, all things work together for good according to His [not our] purpose.”

In that case, this Scripture is true:

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness.  Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Once that repentance happens, ALL THINGS work together for good.

The word, “work together” is a good one–it’s where we get the word synergy.  

Synergy is where more than one thing works together well–“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  [Dictionary.com]

An isolated event in ones’ life might seem bad at the time–like my visit to the hospital for four days last January from an acute respiratory infection.  But because my illness brought me to a hospital bed, I was able to share and comfort the hospital chaplain intern who came to tears sitting in a chair next to my bed over a rebellious daughter who was living in sin.  Through my sickness, God gave me the wisdom and confidence to be of some comfort.  It “worked together for good”

The word “good” means:  “BENEFIT”.  It’s not “good” like “virtue.”  

God isn’t saying “well you’re going to suffer but it’s a good thing to suffer.”  “No pain, no gain!”

There’s an actual benefit that God works through circumstances–yes there will be pain and suffering at times, but know that part of this relationship we have with Jesus means in the end, God will work even the bad to our benefit.

Now we might not see that benefit till we get to heaven–and that leads to Paul’s final major point in this chapter:

Belonging to God’s family means facing death, but receiving a rich inheritance.

God is on our side and we need fear no enemy–losing our job or sickness, or hardship or even death and taxes.

What a wonderful picture God is building–accepted into a new family (the family of God).  For ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD,  and God, who was our enemy, is now on our side–but it gets better!

Romans 8:37 (NIV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

So we can CONQUER in God.

The base word for “conquer” means “a means of success.”  Not only that but it’s a “super success.”  An individual, a group of people, can’t be a “conqueror” and be a failure at the same time.

Sin no longer has mastery, trials no longer hold terror, life is no longer something to be dreaded…BECAUSE we ARE conquerors.

Now that doesn’t mean we are free from suffering and pain, BUT we are always connected to the One who works for our benefit–NO MATTER WHAT!

Paul puts the cap on this wonderful chapter of promises with this:

What more could we ask for that “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (vs. 38-39).

God so wants to convince His children that His eternality of His love for them that He devotes an entire chapter in His Word (Psalm 136) in which every one of the 26 verses repeats the PROMISE:

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

And so, if He ever stopped loving a believer in Christ Jesus, He would be lying about His LOVE of being “steadfast” and “forever.”  If God ever allowed anything to separate one believer from His love, He would be a liar.

What great confidence we have then,  There’s no one, nothing, no event, and at no time that you can be torn from God’s loves in Jesus.  There’s no reason to say, “Oh, God can’t love me anymore after what I’ve done.”

Oh yes, He can and does!    Far from separating from you, He wants to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).

___________________________________________________________

~ CREDITS ~

Commentary:  Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., “Secure Forever” by Donald S. Whitney.

Bible Translations:  Good News Translation (GNT); New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV). Amplified Bible (AMP).

Images:  Google Image search.

When Is “Enough”, Enough?

6a011168574e19970c01539046a676970bI was in a local pet store one day, wandering up and down the aisles, looking for the unusual, when I heard a constant rattling…almost annoying sound.

And the mystery was revealed.  HAMSTERS running in their little wheel as it spinned, running with all their might, but never getting anywhere.  They are running, the wheel is spinning, but nothing else changes.

In my close observation, I knew the spinning wheel is there for their exercise, but I wondered if the hamster might be thinking to himself when the wheel starts spinning,

“Yeah, I’m on my way now. Nothing can stop me.  I’m breaking out of this joint!”

The HAMSTER follows his trails in the cage, runs in the spinning wheel, giving everything he’s got, only that he hasn’t moved from inside the cage where he’s trapped.  There is nothing he can do to break the cycle on his own because there is a much more powerful, larger being, with vastly more intelligence already determined how his life will be spent and where he will go.  Sad commentary if you are a “pet” lover.

Many times, I too have felt like the little hamster;  I’m running in circles like the hamster but never getting anywhere.

That brings me to the Scripture found in Deuteronomy 2:1-3:

[1] THEN WE turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea, as the Lord directed me; and for many days we journeyed around Mount Seir.

[2] And the Lord spoke to me [Moses], saying  [3] You have roamed around this mountain country long enough; turn northward.

I want to direct you to look at a story presented in Deuteronomy; of a people in God’s Word that were caught in the same spinning wheel of life.  They seemed to be going nowhere because they had lost direction and just kept running in the same circle.

stock-photo-illustration-of-wheel-121045525

God had plainly set their path but for nearly 40 years they were on a journey to…how should I say it…NOWHERE!

Finally, the day came when they realized they didn’t have the answers; they had no true direction; and that someone greater than themselves had to direct their path if they were ever going to be anything other than mindless runners on the spinning wheel of life.

The sad part is that countless thousands had died in the process of running in circles while never finding the real meaning of existence, dying in a vast wilderness with their dreams and hopes lost forever.

God had made a way when He delivered them from the SLAVE PITS of Egypt.  A way for them with a greater PURPOSE, A DESTINY that would change their lives forever...IF… they would only follow His direction and remain FAITHFUL to His Purpose for their lives.

But FREEDOM has a price; and TRUE FREEDOM demands limitations.  Freedom without limitations becomes ANARCHY, which I see happening in our city streets today.

TRUE FREEDOM can only be found by following GOD’S PLAN; and everything else only leads to another form of SLAVERY; either to SIN within ourselves; or to the controlling hand of someone else who will dictate to us the conditions of life.

We will truly need a FIRM FOUNDATION to rely on; that won’t be shaken or changed with a determination to ‘stick to it’!  Of course, the only TRUE FOUNDATION is found in Jesus Christ, our Savior and the Word of God that will never fail, nor ever change.

Psalms 37:23-24:

[23] The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step].

[24] Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him.

God never promised us a PATH without a few falls.

In service, in ministry to the saints or to the surrounding community.  He never said that life would be easy, not facing problems.

What He did PROMISE was that we would never be forsaken and even when we fall, the Lord will keep us by His hand.

God ALWAYS provides a way for FREEDOM to reign and for the VICTORY to be won if we just keep on, keep’n on in following Him.

ISRAEL began their journey; but they had much to learn, and so God predetermined them to take a long journey to get to their final destination:

Deuteronomy 2:1

THEN WE turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea, as the Lord directed me; and for many days we journeyed around Mount Seir.

03990_000_bible-photo-2

From the pits of BONDAGE in Egypt, relating to our DELIVERANCE from the grip of SIN under the hand of Satan, Israel proceeded into the WILDERNESS, and area called Mount Seir where they wandered for many days, in fact, for 40 years.  They just kept going around in circles, moving their camp many times along the way.  Sometimes staying in one place for a few years, and then moving to another when the water ran dry, or the grass was gone for their animals.

I wonder how many times ISRAEL experienced a deja-vu moment in their wanderings?

How many times did one Israelite look at another and say,

“You know, I think we’ve been here before.  Something about this place looks familiar and I know I’ve climbed this mountain before.  I feel just like we are running in CIRCLES and nobody knows which way to go.”

I see the same thing happening in the world today.

Mankind has no clue of direction; history just keeps repeating itself and we don’t learn the lessons of the past.

The PATH has already been laid in front of us and we begin to wonder in our own understanding leading us to nowhere.  Our world has lost its way; no man has the ability to LEAD the human race to a place of perfect peace and safety; and every day the race just gets faster while the destination more obscure.

The same thing happens in the CHURCH as well, for we are the church.

Christians often express their concerns and just keep running in circles, never accomplish what they want to in their lives.  I know this to be true because I have been there before.

That place in MINISTRY where doubt and a critical spirit raises its ugly head...A MOUNTAIN blocking the progress of my journey.  Every day seems to end in disappointment and frustration because nothing ever seems to change.

Some of us struggle with the same old self-created HABITS and the WHEEL is spinning; we are trying as hard as we can but nothing is changing.

Let me give some encouragement in the Lord if you are in this position of “wheel spinning”–going around in circles.

Just keep on running, but run where God tells you to run.

The BAD HABITS may be A BAD TEMPER; A CRITICAL SPIRIT (I’m guilty!); LACK OF SELF-CONTROL…etc.

The BAD HABITS start out as mole hills and become mountains because we won’t quit talking about them.

In effect, we just keep CIRCLING Mount Seir just like Israel did for all those years.  The march goes on, time passes, but nothing seems to really change.  When is “Enough” enough?

And the LORD spoke to me saying, “You have roamed around this mountain long enough; turn northward”  (vs. 2, 3).

Things began to change for ISRAEL, and all the things in your life are changing as well.

Sometimes the CHANGE happens so slowly its unnoticeable at first, but eventually the CHANGE will be great.

Israel’s attitude changed one step at a time.  With each step forward they drew closer to the end of their journey.  Like the old saying, “How do you begin a journey of a thousand miles? By taking the first step.”   

And so it is with our walk with JESUS.

Those whose FAITH is too weak, fall by the wayside as the SEED of the gospel stolen from the heart; they will die right beside the path of life.

But the strong in the LORD, those who ‘sell out’ to God; serve Him with all their heart, mind, and soul and will remain FAITHFUL to the end; they will not only SURVIVE the JOURNEY…but will become VICTORIOUS over ALL THINGS!  (Luke 1:37)

God doesn’t give up on His people.  Though many never saw their PROMISE LAND; never occupied that land; God never forsook ISRAEL.

God won’t give up on you or me either!!  We are going to WIN the battle.  Romans 8:37 says, “Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him [Jesus] Who loved us.”  Have you ever heard of a “CONQUEROR” who ever lost a battle?  If they did, then they wouldn’t be called “conquerors”.

Whatever you are going through right now, you are going to OVERCOME this mountain in your life; if you just remain FAITHFUL until the race is won.

It’s time to quit circling around MOUNT SEIR.  Enough is enough!  Move on!!!

The ISRAELITE’S backs were facing the Promise Land, meaning they were going the opposite direction where God intended them to go; so God turned them around and placed them back on the right path.

The name “SEIR” means holiness; and they were wandering for 40 years just learning to be holy people unto the Lord!  Without HOLINESS–no man can see the Lord and you can’t see the PATH to walk in.  You are walking BLIND.

Now I began to think deeper about Mount Seir; how that it could represent some of the great mountain ranges in our lives that we must overcome.

I’ve already mentioned some of the HABITS which you, no doubt, have already mentally added to.

All of these things are just huge MOUNTAINS that seem to loom over us with DOUBT, and FEAR, and maybe SHAME.

So how do we get rid of that mountain (s)?

If you had to move a mountain and there was no way around it, or through it, how would you do it?  You would start by moving one rock at a time.

Just like you begin a journey of a thousand miles with one step–you move a mountain by moving one rock at a time.

Moving Mountains, One Rock at a Time
Moving Mountains, One Rock at a Time

Now sometimes you can speak to that mountain and YES, God can and will move some of the mountains out of your way.

BUT…there are MOUNTAINS in our lives that we are going to have to work on ourselves. Maybe for a lifetime.

Those MOUNTAINS are there for a purpose and you just have to keep moving them–one rock at a time until they are behind you instead of in front of you.

The TASK of OVERCOMING your mountain may seem impossible; but then that’s where God begins to work for you (Luke 1:37).

He makes the IMPOSSIBLE possible and He will not allow you to be overcome!

Banana-Oats-Fitness-Cookies-Howie-in-the-mountains

In your struggle to move your mountain, you will have times when you feel like you’re finally WINNING THE BATTLE!

Then suddenly…you find yourself in a pile of rock rubble, wondering if the VICTORY will ever come.

I have experienced this in my own life, finding myself in the “rubble” of CRITICISM.

I may go on for days, weeks, without being critical of someone or some thing.  But just when I think I’ve overcome it, here it comes again.  Often, my beloved wife of 51 years will give me that look without saying a word, knowing that I’ve lost my way–again!

But little by little, one STONE at a time, that MOUNTAIN is coming down.  I believe that most of my mountain has been moved; but there are still a few rocks and yes, boulders, that have to go.

We still have a lot of MOUNTAINS to move in our Christian lives.  None of us have cleared them all.  The KEY is to remove them and not just keep CIRCLING around them.

Never accept the excuse that “That’s just the way I am.  I can’t help it!”  That is a cop out!

We can’t allow ourselves the luxury of CAMPING on the wrong side of the MOUNTAIN forever when VICTORY in Jesus can only be found on the other side.

REMEMBER what the Lord said to Moses and the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy 2:2,3…

“You’ve been going around in circles in these hills long enough; go North” (The Message bible).

What mountains are you facing as you read my thoughts in this blog-study?  

Whatever it is, you can begin dismantling it right now!  Give it to JESUS; seek His help. Why move it alone?  You can do ALL THINGS through Christ Jesus, who strengthens you, but you have to let Him lead.

I am moving my stones right now!  What are your STONES?  There is no better time than right now to move NORTH!!

IN JESUS’ NAME

 


Photo Credits:  Photo Pin and Google Images.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted.

What We Believe Determines How We Behave

A Lesson Learned From My Grandfather–

When I was young and impressible growing up, my grandfather had a habit when outside–always walking with his head down–as if he was looking for something that he might have lost.

My grandparents lived in a different part of Southern California than my parents, so visiting them on holidays and weekends during the Summer were a real treat for me.  That was where I first learned to ride a  bicycle which was stored in the garage just for my use–and learning to roller skate on the miles of sidewalks surrounding my grandparents home[no sidewalks to skate on where I lived].  All because it was something to do while not getting in someone elses hair.

Eventually, as the Summer days grew hotter and physical activity for even a young became uneventful,  I would watch my “granddad” puttering in his carpentry shop attached to the homesteads garage.

Now I never learned much from watching, because of my impatience.  But it was still a treat to see how granddad could fix anything with his hands!

One day I decided to ask him why he always walked around the yard and side patio with his head down.

“Well son, that’s a good question.”  And I waited, and waited, and waited for his answer.

Keeping my FOCUS set!
Keeping my FOCUS set!

“If you keep your eyes on where you are walking, you will never know what you might find.”

I immediately followed up the question with a question:  “Like what granddad?”

He pointed his aged and well calloused finger to a small crack in the paved walkway.

“Look over there Mel.  What do you see?”

“NOTHING,” I replied.

And then, slowly bending over, he proceeded to pick up an old, weathered copper penny and placed it in his open palm.

“Do you see what you been missing all this time?” he asked.

After our conversation, he walked back to his small little workshop while I wondered if there was a deeper lesson here.

I hesitated for a minute, not wanting him to see what I was about to do.  Getting down on my knees, I began searching intently, in every cranny and crack in the payment.  There must be more TREASURE out here…more COINS hidden… if I just keep looking and watching with my head down like granddad.

What We Believe Determines How We Behave:

The story I shared becomes a good picture of how many people live in our society today.  They are constantly searching for something because they know there’s got to be more to life.   But they never find it if they don’t know what it is they are missing.

Breaking away from the past…

If you want to break away from your past, then where you put your eyes is very important.  Although my grandfather never wanted to break away from his past, at least I don’t think he did.  Where he put his eyes was of importance to him.

Colossians 3:1-4:

Instead of looking down, the apostle Paul challenges us to LOOK UP! :

[1] IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

[2] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.

[3] For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.

[4] When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [splendor of His] glory.

LOOKING UP! 

Colossians 3:1 establishes the TRUTH…

Since we have been RAISED WITH JESUS…we have a new status and therefore A NEW LIFE.  We now have a POWER SOURCE for living.

I remember at the age of 20, driving home from work after a  graveyard shift; getting out of my car and kicking the rear tire, hurting my foot in desperation cry, “There’s got to be more to life than this!”  It wouldn’t be until 10 years later would I discover the POWER SOURCE.

Being positioned to LOOK UP.

BELIEVERS have died with Christ Jesus, been buried with Him, have been raised with Him, and as Ephesians 2:6 states, we have been seated with Him in heavenly places.  This is our position, but we must assume these truths on a daily basis to break free from the past.

That’s why Paul writes,  “set your minds and keep them set on what is above”–

I’m sure you heard the phrase, “He/she so heavenly minded that he.she no earthly good.”  Personally, I would consider that phrase if directed to me, as a compliment.

It’s more likely that people today are so worldly-minded that they’re no heavenly or earthly good!

IF WE TRULY SET OUR HEARTS AND MINDS on things above…

We will experience POWER and FREEDOM here on earth.

The word “SET” means to seek something out with a desire to possess it [i] Footnote–like a dutiful grandson on his hands and knees while seeking a penny with great desire in the cracks of cement.

The word Paul uses is in the present tense, which implies that we’re to continue to SEEK the things above.  It’s NOT a one-time decision, but a daily activity.

JESUS puts it this way in Matthew 6:21:  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

When I was a youngster, the TREASURE I sought–where my heart was–was to be found with my head downward.  Even as a spiritually immature Christian, my FOCUS was directed to what was in my wallet.

If our FOCUS is on things that will ultimately rust, tarnish, break down, or burn up…our energy and emotions will be misplaced.

If we SEEK JESUS–allow Him to become our ultimate treasure, then our hearts will follow.

Our knowing “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

This is a reminder to us all.  JESUS is supreme and in control of all we have, all we do, and where we go on earth.  Christ is exalted (lifted up!) and sits at the right hand of the Father; He is sitting down, not standing up.

One of the most often quoted Old Testament Bible verse is Psalm 110:1:  “The Lord says to my Lord:  Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.  The word shows that His redemptive work is now complete.  “IT IS FINISHED!”

BELIEVERS HAVE TWO RESPONSIBILITIES:

Our FIRST RESPONSIBILITY–

To “set our hearts on things above.”

Our SECOND is to…

“set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

This literally translates,  “Keep on thinking, as a matter of habit, on the things above, and not on things on the earth.”  Our FEET must be on earth, but our MINDS must be in heaven.

So thoughts can, and will influence our actions…

So, if we place our THOUGHTS ABOVE and not on earth, our BEHAVIOR will reflect those things that matter to our Father in heaven.  This is not an easy thing to accomplish.  We are bombarded by outside influences–the worlds way of thinking about world events around us, material obsessions, etc.

PLACING OUR MINDS ABOVE…

This requires a never-ending effort on our part because by NATURE, we have a tendency to LOOK DOWN as my grandfather’s habit transpired, instead of LOOKING UP!

But if we fix our eyes on the things above, GOD will change our desires; and if we change our mind, GOD will change our heart.

FIVE REASONS TO “LOOK UP”:

#1.  We’ve died (verse 3 a.).

When looking back at the CROSS where we DIED POSITIONALLY in Christ Jesus, we have no obligation to live like we used to live.

This parallels the verse in Galatians 2:20, where Paul share his current spiritual position by saying “I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…”

#2.  Our life is hidden with Christ (v. 3 b.).

The image I get here is a large BANK VAULT.  My TREASURE is stored away in my account–SECURED in trust for eternity.

#3.  Christ is our life (v. 4 a.).

By realizing that Christ is our life today, we should have a new attitude towards anything that may happen to us.  There should be nothing to fear!

#4.  JESUS will come again! (v. 4 b.).

When I was growing up and getting the news that my grandparents were coming, I would be so excited…I would wait looking through the front screen door with excitable anticipation:  Are they here yet?

Since JESUS is coming again, it makes sense perfect sense we should be looking up continually…not knowing the exact time of His arrival, but knowing that He will soon be here.

The phrase “WHEN” is better translated “WHENEVER Christ appears”.  The FACT of His return is certain but the time is indefinite.

#5.  We will appear with Him in glory (v. 4 c.).

The verb “APPEAR” means to make visible what is invisible – [ii] Footnotes.

When JESUS returns, the real position of the BELIEVER, which has been hidden to the world, will be made known.  Better translated, “whenever Christ appears.”

CREDIT: jonathanselby.com
CREDIT: jonathanselby.com

1 John 3:2 (Amplified Bible):

“Beloved, we are [even here and now God’s children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God’s children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is.”

REMEMBERING WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST JESUS:

Paul has been urging us to LOOK UP and REMEMBER:

—  Who we are now…

—  Who we once were…

—  Who we will be when Christ returns.

Some QUESTIONS to ask ourselves after reading and meditation on God’s Word today:

—  “Where am I looking?”

—  “What does my mind focus on?”

—  “What gets my hearts attention?”

READERS, we must all make a conscious effort, a deliberate daily decision to LOOK UP!  Set our minds and hearts on heavenly things.  Our outlook determines our outcome.  Keeping our minds and hearts in the right place will often determine where we end up.

HAVE YOU MADE THE DECISION?

 

FOOTNOTES:

[i]…[ii] Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.

PHOTO CREDITS:

 “Keeping my focus set” – Photo Pin  and jonathanselby.com/pg25pics html

SOURCED COMMENTARY:

Brian Hill’s “Breaking Freedom From the Past.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS USED:

Amplified Bible and New International Version.

 

 

 

CAUTION: Careful Thinking Before Walking On Thin Ice!

BLOG’S TEXT–1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (AMP):

[19]  “For although I am free in every way from anyone’s control, I have made myself a bond servant to everyone, so that I might gain the more [for Christ].  [20]  To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to men under the Law, [I became] as one under the Law, though not myself being under the Law, that I might win those under the Law.  [21]  To those without (outside) law I became as one without the law of God and lawless toward Him, but that I am [especially keeping] within and committed to the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law.  [22]  To the weak (wanting in discernment) I have become weak (wanting in discernment) that I might win the weak and over-scrupulous.  I have [in sort] become all things to all men,in a that I might by all means (at all costs and by any and every way) save some [by winning them to faith in Jesus Christ].  [23]  And I do this for the sake of the good news (the Gospel), in order that I may become a participator in it and share in its [blessings along with you].”

THINKING BEFORE YOU TAKE A RISK IN THE “WHAT If’s” OF SOCIETY:

Spectator Sports are a big part of people’s lives everywhere.  Whether it be Soccer, Cricket, Tennis, Golf or in the Pacific Northwest this past week–Playoff Professional Football–the Seattle Seahawks.  Personally, I’m more of a baseball fan, but with Seattle’s lack of success in that area…maybe more of a Football enthusiast of late.  And you are right, just a “fair-weather” sports fan.

5887222774_7f1ccc9f3aCareful Thinking Before Taking Risks–

MY PURPOSE:

My purpose for writing this blog is NOT to “throw rocks” at churches in communities for doing things out of the ‘ordinary’ ; in being transparent ‘real people’ for Christ.  For the apostle Paul did so on many occasions.  My only purpose is to remind church leaders to READ THE CAUTION SIGNS; to THINK first before taking a risk of going against the gospel truth–stepping out on the ice regardless of what the results may be.

A few definitions of the meaning– On Taking Risks

(“Exposure to) the possibility of loss, or other adverse or unwelcome circumstance; a chance or situation involving such a possibility”~ Old English Dictionary.

And… “RISK can be seen as relating to the PROBABILITY OF UNCERTAIN FUTURE EVENTS.”

I ran across a few comments in The Seattle Times, a Seattle based newspaper on how churches would respond on a Sunday morning; when a local sports team was playing the ‘BIG GAME’ at 10 AM PST –[the set-aside time for Worship and Praise for many churches–and not the a pastor’s Message on a stage].

Let me give you just a few of their comments before I proceed with a ‘”Word detective” investigation; on THINKING FIRST before you speak or act in the community of non-believers and… the believing “sheep” of the church.

Seattle area pastors response after holding earlier services on Sunday– that will finish before kickoff and followed by a football watch party:

LOCAL PASTOR:  “…and we will get crap from other churches.”

Just a few miles from Notre Dame University, the lead Pastor  at a local community church noticed that attendance at Saturday services dropped dramatically whenever Notre Dame was playing.  So this season he invited people to watch the games at church on a big-screen TV and attend worship services just before or after the games.  The pastor quotes Scripture, noting that the apostle Paul became “all things to all people” to connect with as wide an audience as possible.  “You adjust your ministry to reach out to people in the most effective way in their culture,” he said.  Is his THINKING incorrect?  That depends and I will investigate in God’s Word regarding actions taken in the ministry of the local church.  Then you can decide.

Now you might be wondering where I’m going with all of this and what does it all have to do with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, and that is a good question.  For quoting Scripture without putting it in CONTEXT might be seen as relating to the PROBABILITY of uncertain future…taking risks in the outcome.

Different priorities?”–Maybe…

If I saw a sign with the word “CAUTION”, I would be sure to read it in  context–thinking first before ignoring the “why’s” and “the what for’s”before ignoring the warnings.

Before returning to the Bible verses in 1 Corinthians, turn to The Gospel of Matthew to see how Jesus prioritized in a lesson taught:

[24] “When they arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the half shekel [the temple tax] went up to Peter and said, Does not your Teacher pay the half shekel?  [25] He answered,  Yes.  And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him [about it] first, saying,  What do you think, Simon?  From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or tribute–from their own sons or from others not of their own family?  [26] And when Peter said,  From other people not of their own family, Jesus said to him,  Then the sons are exempt.  [27] However, in order not to give offense and cause them to stumble [that is, to cause them to judge unfavorably and unjustly] go down to the sea and throw in a hook.  Take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find there a shekel.  Take it and give it to them to pay the temple tax for Me and for yourself”  (Matthew 17:24-27 AMP).

Now Jesus certainly wasn’t libel to pay any tribute, but a lesson needed to be understood by His disciples.  I love the word, HOWEVER ” in Scripture.  It tells us that ‘in spite of what was just said…’  there is more to come.  And JESUS continues the conversation…in order not to give offense and cause them to stumble…”  (verse 27).

So the FREEDOM that comes with Christianity also comes with cautions/warnings.  And thinking about the cautions before taking a risk in an outreach ministry, can sometimes put you in a place of inaction in the community of believers.  Everyone, and I mean everyone is watching!

It’s Like Walking On A Razor’s Edge–

1 Corinthians 9:19, 22:

“I’ve made myself slave to all” (verse 19)   AND   “I have become all things to all men”  (verse 22).

CAUTION: You are on the brink of idolatry, compromise and worldliness to sin–you are walking the razor’s edge between fruitless separation and unprincipled expediency.

If you fall one way, you are no use–no connection with the world; fall the other way, you are no use because you are just like the world.

How then does a person keep their FAITH and their FREEDOM and their RADICAL ZEAL to win people to Christ and not just copy people?  The answer is, thinking hard about your relations to the Law of God–the way Paul did.

Long ago, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, the philosopher prophet of the twentieth century, warned us that America had become a part of “the post-Christian culture.  Today we have almost been silenced by anti-Christian forces claiming that we are trying to impose moral values on this rampant decadence.  The truth is that they have tried to impose their immoral values on us.  They are generally doing a better job of corrupting society than we are of cleansing it.  May God help us to become the restraining influence we should be on a corrupt world.   From Tim La Haye and Jerry B. Jenkins’  A 90-Day Devotional PERHAPS Living Every Day In The Light Of Christ’s Return TODAY-page 60.

A “Priority”–

If the church spent as much time and effort on preparing to WORSHIP and PRAISE on Saturdays and Sundays–regardless of the clock–, as the world prepares to celebrate and give glory to football teams, then the churches in America would be filled to capacity–without gimmicks, or new programs.  Ask yourself the question: How are we prioritizing in ministry to reach the city for Christ?

“Gut Check”–

I once invited a co-worker to attend a morning church service with my family.  His response was somewhat shocking to me at first because I wasn’t thinking that I would get the following response:

I’ve been there done that before.  Get up on my day-off and go to church and noticed that the people in church were not any different in their actions than the people I hang out with at the local PUB on Saturday nights.  So why bother to get up on Sunday?  I’ll just have my own church at home.  Thanks for the invite, but I’ll pass.”   OUCH!

“My priority is to win unsaved people in the community and bring them to Christ–at any cost!”

A noble statement, but is it the real reason of your actions, are you thinking of the outcomes before you become an ambassador of Christ?  Is your FAITH in the outcome of your ‘doing’ activated by LOVE (Galatians 5:6) or is SELF the activator?

The ‘Frank Sinatra Syndrome’:

A lawyer asked Jesus a question to test Him:  Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principle kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light–which are heavy?]    And He replied to him,  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.    This is the great (most important, principle) and first commandment.    And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.  (Matthew 22:36-39).

What Human Needs Are–

Unless our entire body, soul, and spirit are totally in love with Jesus–we will be ineffective in loving ourselves.  And if you can’t love yourself then how can you be effective in your city, your church, etc.?

The psychologist Abraham Maslow has given us a theorist list of human needs, essentials in society:

1.  Safety/Security–the need for structure, predictability, stability and freedom from fear and anxiety.

2.  Belongingness/LOVE–the need to be accepted by others and to have strong personal ties with one’s family, friends, and identifying groups.

3.  Self-esteem–the need to be recognized by oneself and others.  Also includes the need to know that one has some effect on her/his environment.

4.  Personal fulfillment–the need to reach one’s potential in all areas of life.

5.  Identity–goes beyond a psychological “sense of self'”.  Theorists define identity as a sense of self in relation to the outside world.

6.  Cultural security–is related to identity; the need for recognition: one’s language, traditions, religion, cultural values, ideas, and concepts.

7.  FREEDOM/Liberty–is the condition of having no physical, political, or civil restraints; having the capacity to exercise choice in all aspects of one’s life.

8.  Participation–is the need to be able to actively partake in and influence society.

Now are these “HUMAN NEEDS” inclusive in TAKING RISKS?  Maybe.  When I first investigated this area of basic human needs, something jump off the viewpoints of the theorists:  SELF–“I have a need to be LOVED, to have IDENTITY, SELF-ESTEEM, ETC.”  I like to call it The ‘Frank Sinatra Syndrome’--I want to do it “my way”.  That only edifies your/my SELF IMPORTANCE and not the LOVE OF JESUS.

“CAREFUL THINKING [IN LIBERTY/FREEDOM] BEFORE TAKING RISKS”:

Galatians 5:13 AMP:

“For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom (liberty); only [do not let your] FREEDOM [LIBERTY] be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another.”  (I added the word “liberty”  to the AMP).

What then is our Liberty, our freedoms in our cities as Christians?

1.  Liberty is constrained by our love of Jesus–if you do not LOVE Christ, forget all the rest of the principles and do it your way.

2.  Liberty/Freedom SHOULD NOT cause another person to stumble, be made weak, or turn from Christ–This is a MAJOR POINT!  It’s the only one that says that a person sins against Christ.  And “that person” can be a “non-believer” or a “believer” in Christ.

3.  Liberty should be edifying–does your liberty build up the body of Christ?

4.  Liberty should not be enslaving.

5.  Liberty should always glorify Jesus–does your freedom truly bring glory to Jesus?

6.  Liberty should help you toward your goal Goad has set.

7.  Liberty should be worthy of the TRUTH–the Gospel–does your liberty hinder the gospel of Christ?

Are you a C.I.N.O.? (Christians in name only):

The principles I have laid down for you [‘recognizer of God’s truth’ contained in the Gospel message] and are but CAUTION SIGNS to make you think first before stepping out on the slippery ice and taking a risk of  falling through.  There’s no such thing a “part-time Christians’ recorded in the Bible.

Self-denial first–

God’s Word confirms this principle, when the apostle Paul tells the believers in the city of Corinth:

“For the LOVE of Christ controls and urges and impels us, because we are of the opinion and conviction that [if] One died for all, then all died;    And He died for all, so that all those who live might live no longer to and for themselves, but to and for Him Who died and was raised again for their sake”  (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 AMP).

One important characteristic for all of us who profess our belief in Christ Jesus and so necessary for church leaders is self-sacrifice: giving up our rights for the benefits of others and for the glory of God.

2963891607_de1f38bb32

Why?  Because a leaders life is so determinative, influential in the cities and on other people.  And you know if Christ Jesus and His Word are being emphasized– and it’s not all about you, then wearing a button on your shirt won’t be necessary.  The city will know who you represent.  Careful thinking first and  LIVE LIKE JESUS–SHARE HIS LOVE!