September 16, 2009

Greater than the Sum of our Yesterdays

There are a lot of things that can obscure our view of who we really are in Christ. Most of the time these are subtle lies that we have been led to believe through negative experiences and the whispers of the Devil in our hearts; we often don't realize we're holding onto these limiting lies about ourselves until someone points them out to us. Then there's a wonderful moment of realization when we denounce the lie and learn to live by conquering it.

All too often we start to let sin define who we are. When we repeatedly fall to a sin, we start to tell ourselves that we have a problem with it because it's part of who were are... we say that the problem is inherent in our personality and is something we are given towards doing. It is true that we are stuck in the flesh and will always fight temptation... but once we admit Christ as our Savior, sin is no longer something that can control us. It has no legal claim over us. When one has not accepted Christ as one's Savior, one is under the "law." The "law" is that once we sin, we are separated from God because we have betrayed Him and now we must suffer eternal death (how much more when we do it over and over!). Once we know Christ, though, we are not operating under that system. We are under grace. Grace says that when we sin, Jesus has paid the death-price that is a result of that sin.
Romans 6:14
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Romans 7:4
So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to him who was raised form the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
Sin is still sin. It will still happen; but it is not our master anymore. It doesn't have control over our bodies and spirits... Jesus does. As a personal example... I have always struggled with idolizing relationships, specifically a Godly-best friend-marriage type relationship. When I walk down the street and see someone attractive, I usually struggle more with thoughts like "Dang, I'd like to grow old with her." I place so much unnecessary value on the "perfect relationship," and I make it more important that God. I told myself for a long time that it was because I'm such an emotionally focused person that I have this problem; I just have a "big heart" and my idolizing was inherent in that. I was fooling myself into thinking it was my master. It's not. I realized this during a bible study on the topic of identity and I felt so relieved.

If I were reading this blog, I would have a question right now: Sure, this is all well and good, and I believe that I'm not "under the law" and a "slave to sin" anymore, but what does it actually mean for my practical everyday life? What do I do to live this out? What steps should Zach take to live free from the slavery of idolization?

That, my friends, is why we have Romans 7:14 through 8:17. I would encourage you to read the entirety of it on your own, to get the full picture. Listen to Paul's frustrations here... they are common to every human being. He then give us directions to overcome sin...
Romans 7:18-25
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing. Now if I do want I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work withing my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
I usually don't quote such large pieces of scripture, but this one is so full of good verses that I felt I couldn't leave them out. Here, especially in that very last sentence, Paul brings this concept down to Earth for us. We are free in our minds, as slaves to God's law; but our sinful nature is always a part of us. When we repeatedly fall into sin, like Paul does here, what do we do?

There are two key verses from Romans 8 that tell us:
Romans 8:1-2
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:5
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
The first one refutes a very, very common lie of the Devil that we listen to in our hearts; we submit to feelings of condemnation, feelings that points out and stimulates sin. When we wallow in self-pity and defeat because of our sin, that is what we are submitting to; but it is a lie. Don't listen to it!

The second one tells us how to combat our sin. We must set our minds on what the Spirit desires; we need to condition what we think about so that we do not dwell on sinful things. This process can involve stopping cursing, submitting sinful thoughts to God, getting rid of negative things that you surround yourself with... to name a few. Something that helps a lot with this process is finding a group of Christian friends to plug into and get involved with. If hanging out with your closest group of friends causes you to fall into sin (that happened with me), find Christian friends to hang out with and grow close to. Don't leave your "worldly" friends behind (although, depending on the situation, this could be necessary), but get a supportive group of people who endorse your choices. Alone, for too long, you'll fall. I did. I still maintain very close friendships with my non-Christian friends, but it's a little different as I don't participate in all they do.

Find someone, or a few people whom you know are solid Christians that you can trust and talk to them. God will speak wisdom through them, and guide you to live more purely for him and you'll be able to, more and more, escape from sin and embrace a really awesome and dynamic walk with your Lover, Creator, and King. Your actions don't define you. Jesus does... and trust me, he'll define you into a very powerful testimony for Him.

September 6, 2009

Beach Thoughts

Wrote this while reflecting on life, the universe, and everything today at the beach...

I've been going through Acts recently. Really good stuff. At one point, Paul could get out of prison and go free, and he's been imprisoned for more than two years- but he appeals to Caesar and that keeps him in chains (Acts 26:32). Then he gets to witness directly to Caesar Agrippa, the ruler of the Roman Empire, about Jesus Christ. Dang. Talk about being sensitive to God's will and going all the way with it. He knew he would suffer in Jerusalem (the entire church pleaded with him not to go, because they saw this too) but he didn't turn. Do we really need to have something huge happen to us (as in, Paul's dramatic conversion) to get to that level?

...actually, when we get perspective on it, with our first sin and our repeated willful separations from God we committed the worst thing possible... knowing and willful separation from our loving and powerful God. We just need to realize that fact in its truth and entirety, like Paul did on the road to Damascus. When we take the time to really find out and experience how much He loves us, then we see the vastness of our sin and the hugeness of His love that conquers and spans that gap... no matter if you stole a cookie or killed millions. Then we choose: to live like we know that, or not.

For the story of Paul (formerly Saul), check out Acts 7:54 through 8:3 and then Acts 9:1-31 and the rest of Acts.