Does God Choose Us – Or Do We Choose Him?

Does God choose us or do we choose Him?From the days of the early church — Christians have been concerned about the possibility of losing their salvation. However, Scripture is very clear that once salvation is obtained – it will never be taken away.
Christians are never in danger of losing what God has freely given to them. Romans 8:29-30 clearly reinforces this truth.

29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (these are Christians).
30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

These verses describe God’s unbroken pattern of redemption. They say God knew His people in advance – that’s before He ever created them. And then the passage talks about the steps of redemption – from being chosen all the way to glorification. Glorification is when God completes His redemptive work and makes His people just like Himself.

Now, we know many people do not become believers. So, does that mean God chooses some people to be saved and excludes others? And — if that’s true – where does faith fit into the process? You see, the Bible teaches that faith is also necessary to be saved.

For example, let’s look at Hebrews 11:6.

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him (in this case to be saved) must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

There are other passages which say the same thing. For example, Ephesians 2:8-9 says,

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed (it takes faith to believe). And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

This passage says it takes faith to believe — and God provides it — as a gift.

Romans 10:9-13 is another example. It says,

9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead (that’s all done through faith), you will be saved.
10 For it is by believing (through faith) in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth (through faith) that you are saved.
11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”
12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him.
13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13 NLT

So, having faith is an essential part of being saved.

Now, all these passages seem to be in conflict with Romans 8:29 which says God chooses those who are saved.
So how do we make sense of all this?

Well, scholars have been trying to do that for centuries. However, there is still much confusion. But, there is one explanation that may clarify this apparent dilemma. And that explanation is this — God CHOOSES EVERYBODY He creates to receive salvation. John 3:16 – which is perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible — says,

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Notice the passage uses the expression, “the world” That includes every human being God has created. 2 Peter 3:9 says God wants everyone to repent. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. So, having said that – how does free will of human beings fit in to the process of salvation?

Well, the answer is — even though God chooses everybody to receive salvation — they HAVE TO CHOOSE HIM BACK TO GET IT. They have to make a decision to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation.

God is committed to our free will. He gives everybody the ability to choose, and He will not override it. So, God offers salvation to everybody, but He leaves it up to each individual to accept it or not.

Now, that doesn’t mean God will not try to influence people’s decisions. He does that all the time, but He won’t change people’s decisions – once they have made them.

That’s it for now. Next week we will talk about the process of redemption that God uses.

Until then – have a good week …

God’s Greatest Promise

Romans 8:28 is God’s greatest promise It says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 is God’s greatest promise It says,

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Notice Paul used the word, “everything”, in this verse when he said that God will work things out for good. In the Bible everything means everything. It means there’s nothing left out. There are no qualifications or restrictions on what God can and will do.

Now it’s pretty easy to use good events and circumstances for good purposes, but what about bad events and bad circumstances? These are things like sinful failure – pain – lack of faith – death – horrible loss – and so on. The passage says they are included too. Remember God promises to work “everything” together for good and remember “everything” includes everything.

We can find a good example of this in the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt where he became a slave in the home of a high ranking official. During that time, he was falsely accused of a sexual crime he did not commit, and he was put in prison for many years. However, God turned this adversity into good. Pharaoh heard that Joseph could interpret dreams, so he got him out of prison to interpret some of his dreams. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph that he put him into a position of great power. In this position Joseph was able to save his people from starvation. Years later when Joseph’s brothers finally realized Joseph had done this — they were afraid. Let’s look at what happened in Genesis 50:18-21.

18 Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. ‘Look, we are your slaves!’ they said.
19 But Joseph replied, ‘Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?
20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people’.

That’s a great story and there are many others like in in the Bible. That leads to a question. How can we use the promise of Romans 8:28 in our lives?

Well, first of all, we must be Christians. Christians love God and are called according to His purpose for them. Now, they may not always love God as they should, but they have the love of God in them which helps them get progressively better at accomplishing that.

So, how can we use this promise in our lives? Very simply — we must EXPECT God to take our trials, our tribulations and all our adversity and use them for good. Why would we EXPECT that? Well, because that’s what God says He will do. We don’t know how He will do it. We don’t know when He will do it. But we believe He will do it, because God ALWAYS does what He says He will do.

So, when we are in a situation where we are going through some difficulty in life – or difficulties — we need to pray and invoke God’s promise in Romans 8:28.

Here’s an example of how to do that.

Lord, here’s what is going on with me (tell Him all about it). In Romans 8:28 You promise to work everything for the good of those who love You and are called by You. I believe You will do that for me, because I am a believer. I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Lord, I don’t know how You will do it or when You will do it. I just know You will do it. Thank You for Your promise and for what You are about to do. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen

That’s it for now. See you next week…

The Hope Of Our Salvation

The problems in our created world started when Adam and Eve sinned, and God put a curse on creation. As a result, no part of nature exists today as God originally created it to be. Paul talked about this in Romans 8:20 where he said, “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse.”

The story of God’s curse on creation is described in Genesis 3:17-19.

17 And to the man (Adam) he said (God speaking), “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.
19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”

So, one couple’s disobedience caused all of creation to be corrupted. Decay, disease, pain, death, natural disasters, pollution and all forms of evil came into existence. The Law of entropy, which is the constant and irreversible degradation of matter and energy, also came into being. These are conditions that creation has endured since the fall.

However, Paul gave us some hope in Romans 8:20-22.

20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope,
21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
22 or we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

God promises a time of restoration — which all nature groans for in hope and expectation. Paul likened this groaning to the pains of childbirth. Like Eve – whose sin brought the pain of childbirth – nature also endures its own kind of labor pains. Just as human birth pains usher in new life – so nature’s birth pains usher in restoration Unfortunately, we don’t know when this will occur. So — as creation “eagerly awaits” for this to happen — it groans.
And not only does creation groan for restoration — but believers do as well. This is described in Romans 8:23-25.

23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.
25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

So, believers look forward to the day when they will receive full rights as adopted children. This will be an inheritance that they will receive in heaven. This is described in 1 Peter 1:3-4.

3. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again (that’s the first step), because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,
4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

Verse 23 also says we will receive new bodies. These new bodies will be like the one that Jesus received at His resurrection. They will be eternal and will be perfect in every way.

Verses 24-25 call this our hope. Hope is the firm belief and confidence in God’s promises. The hope of our salvation is based in Jesus’ promise in John 6:37-40.

37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.
38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.
39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.
40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:37-40 NLT

I can’t think of anything more reassuring than that. We will never lose what Jesus has given us, and He promises to never take it away.

Well, that’s it for now. See you next week…

Dealing With Fear

Romans 8:14-16 says the following:

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. Romans 8:14-16

This is one of the richest and most encouraging passages in all of Scripture.

OK, so what is a child of God? We hear that expression a lot. People often say that everyone is a child of God. However, that is not what Paul is talking about in these verses.

Paul is referring to people who has been saved by God. These people have accepted Jesus’ payment for their sins and are completely forgiven. When they did that – they became acceptable to God – and He changed their status. Ephesians 1:4-5 tells us about these changes.

4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Verse 4 says God chose us — in Christ. That means He has always planned to have Jesus pay for our sins, and He did that so He could choose us. Verse 5 says that when God chooses us, He adopts us into His own family – and that’s when we become children of God.

However, this brings up a question. Why do some Christians still doubt their salvation? They think they are saved, but they are not sure.

Well, I think the main reason is these Christians don’t consistently practice important and necessary Christian disciplines. So, what do I mean by that? Well, many Christians do not consistently study the Bible — they often neglect prayer — they do not consistently attend church — and they often neglect fellowship with other believers. These are necessary Christian disciplines that must be continually practiced.

And even worse than that — many Christians get distracted by the world and begin to accept the world’s values.

All these things take focus off their relationship with God, and that always leads to doubt.

This is particularly true during times of pain, sorrow, failure, disappointment and other similar distractions. And — of course Satan is always ready to take advantage of such circumstances and plant uncertainty. He wants Christians to be ineffective, and he accomplishes that by causing them to doubt their salvation. However, the Holy Spirit is available to counteract that.

Verse 15 says we are not slaves to fear. That’s another comforting verse.

1 John 4:16-18 says,

16 God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

So, a question that often comes up is how can we use this verse when we are afraid? How can the Holy Spirit expel all our fear?

Well, I think the first step is believing that the Holy Spirit has the power to do that — and that requires faith. The second step requires acting on that belief.

A good way to do that is ask God to implement 1 John 4:16-18. I have included a sample conversation with God which demonstrates how to do that.

Lord, I am afraid of: (tell God what you are afraid of). You say in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love will drive out all fear. I believe You are perfect love and You can do that. So, I ask You to do it in this situation. Please remove all my fears and replace them with Your perfect love. Thank You for Your promises. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for driving out my fear. Thank You for giving me Your mindset. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen

That’s a prayer God will answer, because He says He will.

Well, that’s it for now. See you next week…

Let The Holy Spirit Have Control

Romans 8:5-13 focuses on how the Holy Spirit helps Christians deal with their sin natures.

5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.
6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.
8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)
10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God (saved).
11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.
13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

In verse 5 Paul makes a contrast between believers and unbelievers.

He says unbelievers are dominated by their sin nature, so they think about sinful things. In contrast Paul says people who are controlled by the Holy Spirit are believers — and they want to please God.

This verse is often misunderstood. Many people think Paul is talking about Christians — who let their sin natures control them. They call these types of Christians – “carnal Christians”. However, the term “carnal Christian” is an oxymoron. It’s actually a combination of mutually exclusive terms. A person can’t be carnal (that means he follows his sin nature) and be a Christian at the same time.

Now it’s true that Christians will follow the suggestions of their sin natures from time to time, and they will commit sin. Paul himself experienced that – as he described in chapter 7 of Romans. But Christians also have the Holy Spirit of God living within them — and their sin nature is no match for Him. The Holy Spirit is working in each Christian — with the goal of making them perfect, and He promises to complete the work. This is in Philippians 1:6.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you (Holy Spirit), will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 NLT

OK, so — if this is true – and it is – Christians can’t be controlled by their sin natures. If they were, the Holy Spirit couldn’t complete His work.

In verses 6-10 Paul continues discussing the contrast between believers and unbelievers.

He says, since unbelievers let the sin nature control their minds — that leads to death – which is separation from God forever in hell. On the other hand — believers have the Holy Spirit. He can control their minds which leads to life and peace with God.

However, believers are still human beings and they still have a sin nature, and it continues to exert its evil influence – as it’s always done. In Galatians 5:16-17 Paul talked about this.
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives (that means we can choose to do this). Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

This means Christians don’t have to meet the Law to be righteous – they can follow the Holy Spirit instead. So, Christians have a choice — which unbelievers do not. They can choose to follow the Holy Spirit.

In verses 7-8 Paul says unbelievers can never please God.

That’s because unbelievers have not been changed by God – either spiritually or physically. They are still the same. They still have their sin natures, and they DO NOT have the Holy Spirit. So, they don’t have the necessary resources to live godly lives.

In verses 9-11 Paul says believers are not controlled by their sin natures.

Verse 9 they have the Holy Spirit, and He controls them. Paul adds parenthetically that if they didn’t have the Holy Spirit they wouldn’t be Christians.

However — in spite of what Paul says – many Christians wonder if they do have the Holy Spirit — and if He really controls them — because they still sin.

Well, the best evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence is change He makes in Christians. One of the most significant changes is the growing love Christians have for other people. 1 John 4:19 says, “we love each other because he loved us first”.

In verse 10 Paul says the physical bodies of Christians will die, but God gives them life anyway. Paul is talking about spiritual life. He says, even though the physical body of each Christian will die – their spirits will never die, because they are right with God. The penalty for their sins has been paid. Their sins are completely removed and forgotten by God. And they have the Holy Spirit living within them. So, God gives them life eternal.

In then in verse 11Paul says that the Holy Spirit will give Christians new bodies which will replace the ones that died. These new bodies will be just like the body Jesus received when He was raised from the dead. It will not have a sin nature. It will be perfect. And it will last for all eternity.

In verses 12-13 Paul emphasizes the believer’s responsibility to eliminate sin through the power of the Holy Spirit.

He says believers are no longer under any obligation to follow their sin natures. They have the Holy Spirit living in them, and they can choose to follow Him.

However, in verse 13 Paul says if they continue to follow their sin natures – they will die.

Paul is not warning Christians that they can lose their salvation and end up in hell. He said earlier in Romans 1 that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. What Paul is saying — is that a person who overtly and regularly follows his sin nature — is not really a Christian. This is true no matter what his religious affiliations or activities may be. In Matthew 7:16-20 Jesus told us that His true disciples would be known by their fruit.

16 You can identify them (Christians) by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.
18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.
19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.
20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Matthew 7:16-20 NLT

In verse 13 Paul also says Christians have the resources of the Holy Spirit to resist and put to death the deeds of their sinful nature. THAT IS A PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL CHRISTIANS.

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 Paul said,

3 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do.
4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.

The best weapon we have is in the Person of Holy Spirit.

A New Way To Live

Born a sinnerThe Bible also talks about a problem that all human beings have – namely the sin nature. This condition has been true ever since the fall, when Adam and Eve sinned. When they fell — they acquired the sin nature — and they passed it on to all their descendants. David acknowledged this in Psalm 51:5. He said.

“For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

Imagine that! At the moment of conception, he was a sinner – which means he immediately had a sin nature. That’s not only true of David, but it’s true of all human beings. As a result, in Romans 3:23 Paul said,

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

God’s glorious standard is perfection, and nobody is perfect. Consequently, everyone is under God’s condemnation. That’s because God cannot accept imperfection. Instead He demands compensating payment for it. That’s because God is perfect, and His system of justice is perfect. His scales of justice have to be in

Now, man is not simply influenced by his sin nature – he is OVERPOWERED by his sin nature. This is a condition from which he cannot escape. That’s very important to understand. Sin is ever present. It becomes a defiling disease which corrupts and degrades each individual. Sin is grievous, because it steals peace and joy from the heart – and puts trouble and pain in their place.

BUT – even worse than that — sin produces a curse on the sinner’s soul. Hebrews 10:26-27 paints a terrifying picture of what awaits sinners.

“Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth (gospel), there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies.”

In Mark 16:16 Jesus said,

“Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

So, the conclusion is unregenerate sinners have no future — except eternal damnation in hell. Hell is often called the second death in a place called the lake of fire. I know this is harsh, but this is what God says is the fate of unrepentant sinners. I think He is being graphic, because He wants everyone to understand and repent.

OK, that’s the bad news. However, there is some good news. Paul wrote about it in Romans 8:1-4. Let’s look at what he said.
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins (sin’s control is condemnation).
4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Prior to these verses Paul talked about his problem with sin in Romans 7:15-25. He said,

15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.
17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.
19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.
22 I love God’s law with all my heart.
23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. (Paul is talking about the influence of his sin nature)
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin (sin nature) and death.
25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Paul knew that he would continue sinning – EVEN AFTER HE WAS SAVED. He still had a sin nature, which he couldn’t get away from. That’s what he meant when he said he was a slave to sin. Just like slaves couldn’t get away from their masters – Paul couldn’t get away from his sin nature.

In verse 24 we see how upset he was. He said, “Oh, what a miserable person I am!” But then in verse 25 he exalted when he realized the answer to his dilemma. He said, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Paul realized that even though he was going to continue sinning, he was not going to hell. He was not condemned.

So, what does this mean for Christians? Well, Christians ARE FORGIVEN for their sins. There is nothing left FOR God to judge. THAT’S GOOD NEWS!

In Romans 8:1-4 we see that Christians have the power of the Holy Spirit, and they are forever released from the power of sin — which is condemnation. Christians are completely exonerated from the penalty of their sins, because Jesus paid their penalties. BOTTOM LINE – CHRISTIANS WILL NEVER GO TO HELL.

This opens the door for a new way to live. Christians have some tools to fight sin in their lives. Whenever the temptation to sin shows up, they can say “no” to the suggestion to sin and then ask the Holy Spirit for power to make that “no” stick. That’s it! The Holy Spirit will respond.

Well, you might say that sounds like a mind game. But it’s not. It’s very real and practical.

It simply requires believing that it’s true and will work. Doing that requires faith. Remember faith is BELIEVING what God says is true and ACTING on it.

See you next time …

The Gospel And Baptism

The Gospel and BaptismBefore the Lord Jesus went back to heaven, He left two ordinances for the church – Communion and Baptism.
Communion is perhaps the better known and more widely practiced of the two. People do it often and its purpose is clearly understood.

However, baptism is not as clearly understood, and consequently it is not emphasized as much. In fact, there’s a wide variety of opinions about its meaning and its importance. As a result, many people who call themselves Christians are confused and have never been baptized — at least not according to New Testament guidelines.

So, I today I am going to talk a little about baptism — what it is and why it’s necessary for every Christian to be baptized.

To begin with — baptism is based on understanding and accepting the gospel. So, what’s the gospel? Very simply the gospel is God’s plan for saving human beings. Saving them from what? You might ask. The answer is called, “The human condition”. OK, so, what is that?

Well, the human condition is described in the Bible. The Bible says that all human beings are sinners. A sinner is someone who can’t live a perfect life, and of course, nobody can do that. So, from time to time all human beings break God’s moral standards of behavior. These standards are listed in the 10 Commandments. So, each time a standard is not met — that’s called sin. Sin can take the form of words, thoughts or actions or any combination of the three.

Sin separates us from God, because God is perfect, and perfect beings cannot accept imperfection, which is what sin is. To be acceptable to God — human beings must pay a penalty for each infraction of His standards.
The penalty is death. In this case death is defined as spending eternity in hell.

Now you might say that’s pretty harsh. Human beings are imperfect. They can’t be acceptable to God – unless they pay the penalties for their sin — and the penalty for sin is hell. So, it sounds like all human beings are headed to hell.

This causes a problem for God., because he loves human beings and wants to have an eternal relationship with them. However, sin prevents that. So, God decided to pay all the penalties for all the sin that all human beings would commit. He did that through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus – Who is fully God – came to earth as a man and took the death penalty that all human beings deserve. He died in our place. And since all our death penalties are paid – God offers to forgive us. A person who accepts God’s offer is called a Christian, and he/she enters into a permanent relationship with God.

Now, when a person becomes a Christian there are a number of changes that God makes in each person. The first change God makes is He removes all sin from the Christian. That’s every sin – past – present – future. No sin is missed. So, when God looks at the Christian – He sees no sin. And on top of that God doesn’t remember any of the sins that were removed. It’s as if they never existed.

The next change that God makes is He gives the righteousness of Jesus to each new Christian. What does that mean? Jesus took all our sins on Himself, and He paid their death penalty in full. That’s why – just before He died – He said, “It is finished”. In exchange for taking our sins — He gave us His righteousness. That’s a pretty good deal – He takes our sin away and gives us His righteousness. You see Jesus is perfect, pure and holy and we are not. So, when He takes away our imperfection, He puts His perfection in its place.

Now, I hasten to add – this is a spiritual change. He doesn’t do anything with our physical bodies. He leaves them just as they are. They are still imperfect, and they contain our old sin nature which caused our sin problem in the first place. The old sin nature still suggests evil behavior – just as it did before we were Christians — and sometimes we listen to it and commit sin. That leads us to the next change.

God gives us His Holy Spirit to live within us. The Holy Spirit is also God. The Holy Spirit’s job is to change us and make us perfect like God. So, over time we sin less and less and become more and more like Jesus. Remember we already have the righteousness of Jesus, which was given to us spiritually. Now the Holy Spirit is slowly bringing us up to that standard – but He does it at the physical level. So, as we continue to live under His control, we become more and more like Jesus. This whole process is called becoming a disciple of Jesus.

Just before Jesus went back to heaven He gave His church a command to make disciples. This is called the Great Commission, and it’s expressed in Matthew 28:18-19.

“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’”.

The way we make disciples is to tell people about the gospel message — the same one that we just discussed — and then ask them to believe and accept it. If, and when they do that, our next job is also defined in the passage. It’s to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

OK, so what is the significance of baptism? From a physical point of view – baptism is a ceremony in which a person is immersed or submerged into water. However, there’s significant symbolism associated with baptism that also needs to be understood. Baptism is actually a picture of what happens when a person accepts the gospel message and becomes a Christian. Before baptism — before a person is actually immersed into the water – he is his former sinful self.

During the baptism ceremony he is immersed into the water. This is a picture of him being cleansed of sin.
He has accepted Jesus’ death as a substitute for his own death penalty, so, all of his sins are paid for. When he comes out of the water — that’s a picture of the completed work of salvation. His sins are gone — they are all removed — and God doesn’t remember any of them. And he has the Holy Spirit of God living within him. He is a new man.

That’s what baptism symbolizes. It’s an outward expression of an inward change. Baptism is a public declaration — acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior — and accepting God’s forgiveness.

Jesus wants us to do that. Let’s look at what He said in Matthew 10:32.

“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

Let me close by saying baptism is not a complicated procedure. There are many religions and sects that want to make it complicated. For example, there are legalistic religions that teach one is not a Christian if they aren’t baptized. That’s not correct. The thief on the cross was not baptized. Yet Jesus told him that he was going to heaven.

There are religions that teach that full immersion is not necessary — that sprinkling is sufficient. However, that’s not biblical.

There are religions that teach baptism of babies is a legitimate form of baptism and is all that is necessary.
This is also not biblical. Babies know nothing about the gospel — much less having made a profession of faith in it.

Baptism is a simply a command of Jesus. We are to be baptized when we become Christians. Jesus said if you love me you will do what I say. So, let’s be obedient and do what Jesus says. Let’s get baptized.

See you next week…

Struggling With Sin

Overcoming Sin NatureLast week we talked about our sin nature. We said it is a defect in character which prevents us from being consistently righteous. We said everybody has a sin nature – including Christians. So that means ALL Christians still struggle with sin – even after becoming believers. Let’s look at 1 John 1:8-10.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.
9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

In Chapter 6 of Romans Paul said that the power of the sin nature is broken when a person becomes a believer. He said believers have “died to sin” and they are no longer “slaves to sin”.

So, this raises a question. Why do Christians continue to sin in view of these changes?

Well, to answer that question, we need to review the meaning of the expressions — “died to sin” and “slaves to sin”. “Died to sin” means that the power or control of the sin nature has been broken, which is why Paul said the believer is no longer a “slave to sin”. OK, so what does that mean?

Well, before a person became a believer, the sin nature was in total, control. The person would do whatever the sin nature suggested – usually without any hesitation. Paul called that condition, “slavery to sin” (meaning slavery to the sin nature). However, when a person became a believer, Paul says God broke that control. However, God does not REMOVE the sin nature. It’s still there. So, the urge to sin is still present. That hasn’t changed, but the compulsion to sin has changed. The sin nature has lost its power.

To fully understand the implications of that — we need to know what else happens when a person becomes a believer. What happens is called regeneration – regeneration simply means being made new.

OK, so what’s new? Well, God gives the believer a new nature. He calls it a new heart, and this new heart gives the believer a desire to pursue God and His righteousness. At the same time God gives Christ’s righteousness to the new believer. So, the believer is now holy, unspotted and unblemished in God’s sight.

These are major changes, but they are spiritual changes only. God does not change the physical side of the believer, and that’s where the sin nature is located. Since the sin nature is still there, it continues to act as it always has.

However, this gives the believer a choice – which he didn’t have before. He can choose to follow his new nature or he can choose to still follow his sin nature. The sin nature still makes the same suggestions to sin – just as it did before, but the new nature makes suggestions for righteous living. So, the believer can which one he wants to follow. Sometime he chooses to follow his sin nature.

Paul did that occasionally. One of his biggest sins was pride. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about being taken into heaven where he received special revelations from God. This was a special privilege, and it could have made him proud. Apparently, he had a predisposition to pride. But God had a plan to deal with his pride. Let’s look at the story.

7 …….. so to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NLT

OK, so what does this all mean? It means that — as believers – we will still be tempted to sin. However, we can so “no” and decide to follow our new nature which wants us to be righteous.

However, we need power to do that. Fortunately, we have it through the presence of the Holy Spirit. So, at the point of temptation, we can say to the Holy Spirit, “Please help me follow my new nature”.

That’s it, you may ask? Yes, that’s it!!!!

See you next time….

Dealing With Sin Nature

Overcoming Sin NatureIn Romans 6:14 Paul said,

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”

The law that Paul is talking about is the law of Moses handed down by God on Mount Sanai. He is talking to believers, and he says they don’t have to live under the law today, because they have the freedom of God’s grace.

Paul explains what this means in Romans 7:4-5.

4 So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.
5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.

I know this explanation might sound confusing – so let’s see if we can make some sense of it.

Paul says believers are freed from the “power of the law” – Why? — Because they “died with Christ”.

So, what is the “power of the law”? In verse 5 Paul tells us. He says “when we were controlled by our old sin nature, sinful desires were at work within us”. He said the law aroused these sinful desires, and they produced sinful deeds – which resulted in death. That’s “the power of the law”.

The law causes our sin nature to act. Our sin nature is a character defect that we all have. It becomes operative when we are faced with one of God’s commandments. For example, when the Law says “don’t get involved with sexual sin” the sin nature says, “sexual sin feels good, so I am going to do it anyway”. That’s pure rebellion, which is the definition of sin against God.

OK, so what does Paul mean when he says that believers have “died with Christ”?

Well, it simply means accepting Jesus death’ as payment for our sins. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all sin, and Paul says when we accept His payment –we have “died with Christ”.

Now, when we have “died with Christ”, God makes some significant changes in us. The first change God makes is breaking the control that our sin natures have over us. That means for the first time we can say “no” to the evil suggestions of our sin nature. The second change is a heart transplant. God puts a new heart in us that motivates us to follow Him. And the final change is the Holy Spirit. God sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and empower us so that we can make our “no” stick.

In verse 4 Paul says these changes unite us with Christ and give us what we need to live a victorious life. He says these changes allow us to pursue a harvest of good deeds for God.

Now, does this mean that believers will never sin again? No. Even though the power of the sin nature is broken, believers will still listen to it from time to time. It still makes the same evil suggestions that it did before we accepted Jesus’ payment for sin. And these suggestions are still very attractive, and sometimes believers will succumb to them.

However, we have to remember that all sins are paid for by Jesus – even the ones committed after salvation. So, when believers sin, they must immediately confess it to God. He promises to forgive and cleanse them. This is described in 1 John 1:8-9.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.
9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

So, this is how to live the Christian life. Let’s recap.

1. Don’t try to meet the righteous requirements of the Law on our own power.
2. Say “no” to the suggestions made by the sin nature.
3. Depend on the holy Spirit to provide the power to make the “no” stick.

That’s it!

Now I know there will be times when we won’t follow this procedure perfectly. Sometimes we will fall and commit sin. But, when we do, we must confess it to God immediately, and He will cleanse us – so we can keep going – until the next time. This will become a life long process. The good news is the frequency of sinning will decrease over time.

Ok, that’s it for now…. See you next time.

How To Deal With Sin

How To Deal With SinSome people think that they can sin as much as they want to, because God will forgive them. The Apostle Paul addressed this issue in Romans 6:1-2. He said,

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?

Paul used the expression, “keep on sinning”. This refers to habitual and persistent sin. It’s the intentional, willful act of sinning. It’s an established pattern of life. This is not just occasional sinning — it’s unrestrained sinning – on a continuous basis. People who sin like this have little or no consideration of any moral implications.

In the same verse Paul answers his own question. He says, “Of course not!” And then he asks a rhetorical question – “Since we have “died to sin”, how can we continue to live in it?”

So, what does that mean? Well, people who have “died to sin” are Christians. They can’t continue to sin as they formerly did when they were unbelievers. The expression “died to sin” refers to several changes that God makes in Christians when they repent and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. First, He puts His life in them by giving them a new heart and new spirit. This makes them want to pursue righteousness. They lose their desire to pursue a life of persistent sin. God also gives them the Holy Spirit to guide and empower them.

In view of these changes Paul asks — how can believers continue to habitually and persistently sin?

Now this doesn’t mean believers stop sinning. They still do — but the difference is — they do not live perpetually in sin as they did before. Let’s look at 1 John 3:9.

“Those who have been born into God’s family (Christians) do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So, they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.”

John is saying the same thing as Paul. However, Paul uses the expression, “died to sin” to describe it..

Now, to better understand Paul’s argument — we have to understand the scope of salvation. Salvation consists of 3 components – justification, sanctification and glorification. These are different phases of salvation, and they flow together.

For example, when believers repent and accept Jesus’s payment for their sins, they are justified — God declares them righteous. And then God immediately begins sanctification – He starts developing Christ’s righteousness within them. So, justification and sanctification are interconnected — one flows to the next.

The process of sanctification is progressive. That means it continues over one’s lifetime. It’s completed on the day Jesus comes back to establish God’s eternal Kingdom. That’s when the third component of salvation called glorification becomes operative. Glorification occurs when all the work of sanctification is completed.

Alright, in view of this — let’s summarize Paul’s argument. His first point is Christians can’t continue to sin as they did before, because God has made substantial changes within them. Paul calls these changes, “dying to sin”. That gives Christians the ability to live a new life. Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

OK, so how can Christians use this in dealing with sin? Well, Ephesians 4:21-24 tells us how.

21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him (this means accepting salvation).
22 Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.
23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.
24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

This is how Christians deal with their sinful natures after being saved. You see – the sinful nature still exists – God has not taken it away. The sinful nature still makes the same evil suggestions it did before the Christian was saved, and these suggestions are still attractive.

So, to resist them — the passage says, “throw off your old sinful nature”. But what does that mean? We can’t discard them, because they are still part of us.

So, what it means is to simply say, “no’ to what the sinful nature suggests. When we do that — we are drawing a line in the sand. We are saying “we are not going to let our sin nature control us anymore”. That’s what Paul means when he says, “throw off your old sinful nature”.

And then – and this is very critical — we ask the Holy Spirit to renew our thoughts and attitudes. That will help us make our “no” stick. We are still the same weak persons we were before we were saved. God knows that — and that’s why He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us.

And finally, we put on our new nature which God has placed in us at the moment we were saved. Remember God put a new heart and new spirit within us — which makes us want to pursue righteousness.

Here’s a prayer we can use to help us each time we are faced with temptation.

Dear Holy Spirit. I am tempted to (tell Him what the temptation is). I have said “no” to the temptation. I do not want to sin. I ask you to renew my mind. Make this sin as hateful to me as it is to you. Give me the power to make my “no” stick. I want to follow the new nature that you’ve put in me. Please empower me to do all these things. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen

Well, that’s it for now. See you next time.