God Lives In Us

I was reading 1 Chronicles 16 today, about David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

It struck me that David’s unbounded joy is for God Himself, His presence, coming to live in their midst. David writes this song:

“That day David first gave to Asaph and his colleagues this song of thanks to the LORD: Give thanks to the LORD! Call on his name! Make known his accomplishments among the nations! Sing to him! Make music to him! Tell about all his miraculous deeds! Boast about his holy name! Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and the strength he gives! Seek his presence continually! Recall the miraculous deeds he performed, his mighty acts and the judgments he decreed, O children of Israel, God’s servant, you descendants of Jacob, God’s chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; he carries out judgment throughout the earth. Remember continually his covenantal decree, the promise he made to a thousand generations – the promise he made to Abraham, the promise he made by oath to Isaac! He gave it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as a lasting promise, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion of your inheritance.” When they were few in number, just a very few, and foreign residents within it, they wandered from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another. He let no one oppress them, he disciplined kings for their sake, saying, “Don’t touch my anointed ones! Don’t harm my prophets!” Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Announce every day how he delivers! Tell the nations about his splendor, tell all the nations about his miraculous deeds! For the LORD is great and certainly worthy of praise, he is more awesome than all gods. For all the gods of the nations are worthless, but the LORD made the heavens. Majestic splendor emanates from him, he is the source of strength and joy. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the nations, ascribe to the LORD splendor and strength! Ascribe to the LORD the splendor he deserves! Bring an offering and enter his presence! Worship the LORD in holy attire! Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is established, it cannot be moved. Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be happy! Let the nations say, ‘The LORD reigns!’ Let the sea and everything in it shout! Let the fields and everything in them celebrate! Then let the trees of the forest shout with joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth! Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good and his loyal love endures. Say this prayer: “Deliver us, O God who delivers us! Gather us! Rescue us from the nations! Then we will give thanks to your holy name, and boast about your praiseworthy deeds.” May the LORD God of Israel be praised, in the future and forevermore. Then all the people said, “We agree! Praise the LORD!””
‭‭1 Chronicles‬ ‭16:7-36‬ ‭NET‬‬
https://www.bible.com/107/1ch.16.7-36.net

What is my point? Well, when you become a Christian, a true Christian, God Himself comes to live in you…IN YOU. Let that sink in. He is not just present in a tent in the middle of the city, but the Holy Spirit lives in your very body, and is with you all the time!

So, does that reality cause you to rejoice like David did? That is a major key in our battle against sin…loving God so much more than the sin, rejoicing in His presence, singing for joy because He lives in us.

David sinned again and again after this time recorded in 1 Chronicles, but he is still called a man after God’s own heart because it tore him up and he always repented, went back to God and confessed his sin and begged forgiveness. His love for God would not let him become characterized by his sin. He never gave up and turned his life over to sin.

Does God really live in you? Do you rejoice because of that reality? Or does the thought turn your blood cold, and put a damper on your “enjoyment” of life?

Think about it.

In Him,

George

Confess, Apologize, Ask Forgiveness–What’s the Difference?

Over the years, after coming clean with my wife and working with other men who want to make a change in their marriages by dealing with hidden sin and its consequences, I have found time and again that folks don’t know the difference between asking forgiveness and apologizing, or just telling a story and confessing sin. I think it is extremely important to use the right words and phrasing when working on reconciliation with someone you have sinned against. Using specific words and asking specific things transforms your thinking, and very much indicates whether or not you are taking Personal Responsibility for your sin.

As an example, I could go to my wife, take her hand, look her in the eyes and say, “Honey, I need to tell you…yesterday I went to a pornographic website and watched movies for a couple of hours.” It is surprising how many men think that qualifies as a confession, and they expect to hear, “I forgive you,” as a response. On the contrary–I did not even confess to my wife, much less ask her to forgive me! I just gave her a recital of facts.

I look at 1 John 1:9 and the word used for “confess” is ὁμολογῶμεν. The definition/connotation of that Greek term, per Strong’s, is “to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent”. It means you agree with God or others regarding what you have done. That goes way beyond just stating what was done. A confession would be, “Honey, I know it was wrong, but yesterday I downloaded and watched a pornographic movie. I betrayed your trust and sinned against you.”  That states what was done and agrees that it was a sin. 

It does not apologize or ask forgiveness for what was done, so it should not expect an “I forgive you” as a response (even though God says he is faithful and just to forgive our sins if we confess them to him). 

Speaking of an apology, what is the difference between apologizing and asking forgiveness?

An apology is saying you’re sorry, such as saying, “I’m so sorry!” Or “My apologies!” when you accidentally run into someone while walking through the store. It is not tied to sin, since an apology does not express having committed one. “Sorry” is an even more dangerous term when dealing with sin because too often it means “I wish I hadn’t done that; I don’t like the backlash.” Sometimes it just means, “I’m sorry I got caught. I’ll be more careful next time.”

Asking forgiveness combines confession and asking someone to forgive you for sinning against them. For example, “I downloaded a porn movie and watched it yesterday. I know it was very wrong of me to do so. I sinned against you, and betrayed your trust by committing adultery against you. Will you please forgive me?”

Can you see the difference?

So why is the correct language important?

Being intentional in thought, language, action–everything– is a huge part of breaking free from bondage to sin. 

And repairing broken relationships. 

And building trust. 

And brokenness.

Using specific, intentional language requires that you think about what you say, which over time helps to renew your mind. It is a big part of taking Personal Responsibility for your sin, acknowledging that you have hurt others and damaged relationships by your actions. Over time, when you are tempted to sin you will recall what you are going to have to say to those whom you sin against, and it will change your behavior.

There is more to the conversation. After confessing and asking forgiveness, you need to ask, “Is there anything else you need to hear me say?” Then, once you have gone through everything that needs to be said, ask, “How does my sin make you feel?” That will lead to another round of confessions and asking forgiveness. Keep cycling through until everything has been discussed and worked through. It takes time, but the resulting reconciliation and change in the way you think is well worth it!

In Him,

George

Terminology for Sin

Terminology is very important, in that it helps us recognize Truth. So, SAA may have good reason for using general terms in meetings, but those terms are not meant for use in our discussions as brothers in Christ. God calls sin sin. He calls it adultery. He does not call adultery a “mistake”, but sin. It is a good mindset to get into by calling things what God calls them, to help you see your actions and thinking through His eyes.

Remember, you are not a victim of your past, because you cannot be an innocent receiver of the consequences of your own choices. You have to see yourself as a man whose identity is in Christ, not in the man of the past. Concentrate on right thinking all the time. Take full personal responsibility for making sinful, detrimental, wrong choices, and determine that you will do differently from now on.

Eternity

Dear George,

The Bible says “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23a) which means not just dying physically, but eternal death and punishment. Rev 20:11-15, “…And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done…Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire…”

The only recourse for us is the other half of Rom 6:23, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Also note, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” John 1:12.

Jesus said multiple times things like, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:12. 

1 John 2:3-6 “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

George, you must be characterized by obedience to God. You must display love for him, or for your wife. You must display immediate conviction for your sin or a desire to repent and make things right with God and those you sin against. You need to take some time daily and deeply consider where you will spend eternity based upon having received Christ as your Lord, your Savior, your Master, your Deliverer, and everything else he is to those who love him.

Decide today whom you will serve, and do not harden your heart!

Note to Self

Dear George (note to self),

You are personally responsible for everything you do, to the God who created this universe. The Bible says every idle word we speak will be called to account at the final judgment, saved and unsaved alike.

Jesus stated very plainly that if you love him and love God, you will keep (attend to carefully, take care of) his commands. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:21 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” John 14:23,24

All of his commands are written down in the Bible. It is your personal responsibility to learn what his commands are, and to decide all on your own to obey him. When you choose to disobey God, that is sin, and shows a lack of love for him. Jesus was tortured and died to pay the price for every single time you disobey God.

A lifestyle of sin demonstrates that you don’t love God, and are not a Christian. A Christian is deeply convicted over sin and (as a result) changes lifestyle to stop that sin (maybe not overnight). Life is a long process of becoming sanctified, changing to be more and more like perfect Jesus. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” Philippians 2:5

So, it is not anyone’s job but your own to keep you pure. Other people can help, and the Holy Spirit is with every Christian to remind us of God’s commands in scripture. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

God gives us all the grace (spiritual strength) we need to obey him. “Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,” Romans 1:5

At the end of it all, though, it is still an individual choice every time to obey God (or not).

Openness, Brokenness, Freedom

I have been part of Whatever It Takes Ministries pretty much since the beginning. The main motto is Open, Broken, Free, referring to how being open about sin in my life leads to my being a broken (humbled) man, free from bondage to hidden sin.

Originally, I had the idea that this was a point-in-time occurrence. I could confess everything, get all my garbage out in the open. Then I would be like some of the men I knew, who talked about an experience of being totally broken before the Lord, on my face and weeping, a cathartic instance of becoming (in one fell swoop) a broken man. All of this would set me completely free from all temptation and bondage to sin.

I did the “open” bit in 2005, when I came clean with my wife, boss, pastor, oldest brother and sister, and a lot of other people. I wept before God and my wife as a “broken” man. I did break free from the bondage of masturbation which had ruled me for 28 years. However, that short period of being open and broken did not set me free for the long term, and within a few months I started back into pornography and hiding my sin. I finally got caught almost a year later and had to start over…

So, now I have a different perspective. Open and Broken is a start, but it is not enough. Instead, it must translate into a lifestyle of Openness and Brokenness, leading to an ongoing Freedom from slavery to sin.

Openness is the theme of 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” ESV‬‬. Note that it is a walk, an ongoing thing, not a point in time. Whenever I stop practicing openness, I lose fellowship with God, with my wife, with fellow Christians.

Brokenness, in my opinion, is best shown by “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus didn’t just humble himself once, but He lived a life of doing the Father’s will and not His own (as Jesus made clear in the Garden of Gethsemane). Walking in Brokenness is decision by decision, choosing to obey God rather than sin.

Living in Openness, walking in Brokenness, perforce leads to a life of Freedom from bondage to sin.

As stated multiple times in Romans chapter 6, Jesus’ death and resurrection not only took the punishment for our sin, but also set us free from sin. If you are not a Christian, you are still a slave to sin. If you are a Christian, you have absolutely no excuse to continue a life of sin.

May God bless you and keep you, and may you live a life of Openness, Brokenness, and Freedom.

George

ADDENDUM

A couple of posts ago I talked about how I realized that I am all the things 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not – I envy and boast, I am arrogant and rude, I insist on my own way, I am irritable and resentful. 

Yesterday it came much more clear: in light of what Jesus said are the two greatest commandments, I am not just failing to love – I am in sin!

I know most of you are saying, “Well, duh!” but I don’t think I have ever looked at it that way before. It is sin just as much as adultery and gluttony and lying and all the others that seem so obvious. In fact, if I am honest, it should be considered the greatest sin since it directly breaks the greatest commandment – to love God, and the second to love my neighbor. 

I confess (agree with God that I am in sin) and repent (turn away from my sin), and purpose to live a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit!

George

MY VIEW ON SALVATION

I was going back and forth with a friend the other day, and I think it encapsulates my bottom-line view on salvation:

(Paraphrase, starting with my friend’s question)

“How do you know you are chosen to believe in Christ?”

“Because I do believe in Christ, and I am genuinely convicted by the Holy Spirit for my sin. Otherwise, I wouldn’t care. Faith is a current thing. Not based on a date I said a prayer, but based on current, ongoing, persevering  belief in what God has done through Christ. It is not dependent on my faith to make it so, but I do have to receive His free gift and He will give me the ability to persevere to the end. I believe, from what I see in scripture, that we can reject God’s gift. Even some who profess belief and do things in God’s name are just lying – doing it for show, not out of love. I have been horribly convicted this week of how little I really love God and my family – but I still have salvation in Christ, and am determined to love and serve God instead of my own selfish, prideful, self-righteous self.”

“But it still is more than likely that I am not chosen for glory but wrath. I can not say that I am adopted just because I think I want to be. Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc. all say that my thinking that I am saved based on scripture, works, or feelings does not mean a thing. Paul knew he had met Jesus and was given the gift of repentance, faith, life, etc. I think that I have met Jesus but I am still nothing but a hypocrite, a vessel of dishonor, as a foil to those of honor.  Just because I know I owe God worship with my life does not make me a son. I may pray for mercy but still be rejected, and God is still right, and I understand that and am trying to accept that.”

“God says He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to eternal life. All the theology and self-pity in the world doesn’t excuse your rejecting the free gift of salvation that He has offered to you. It is up to you to obey His will and be saved, or reject His will to the end and be damned. Your choice. You can’t choose to be saved, since Jesus’ death and resurrection are accomplished fact. However, God leaves it up to you to reject His gift or receive it. You can find all kinds of theological works to muddy the waters, but it doesn’t change His will or what He has done.”

Right or wrong, there it is.

Peace,

George

BROKEN? I DON’T THINK SO

“…love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or proud. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” 1 Corinthians 13:4,5 ESV

Last Sunday, August 23, 2015, I came face to face with how little I really love God and my wife and family.

As I told some of my close friends, when confronted with how poorly I have been treating my daughter…

“Instead of humbling myself and letting the Holy Spirit rule my tongue, I spoke completely in the flesh and spewed a lot of venom at [my daughter] and [my wife]. All my pent-up selfishness and resentment and blaming others and all kinds of junk came forth. Wagging my finger at [my wife] and telling her it’s her fault I’m shut down emotionally. Telling [my daughter] she’s irresponsible and lazy and making her feel worthless. A comment [my daughter] had for me later was “I feel like you destroyed the part of me that for so long has been your little girl.” [My wife] said for the first time in all our marriage regret entered her mind and heart.

I don’t know if our relationship will recover. The only hope is for me to truly love God, and then [my wife] and my family. I am lazy, and I don’t pursue God. I don’t do the hard things. But I have to change that.”

So, am I a broken man? I guess, in the area of sexual immorality, I have brokenness in that I allow the Holy Spirit to rule over my flesh in that area when temptation comes along.

How about the verses above?

I certainly envy and boast a lot. I can’t let one of my kids be the center of attention – I have to come up with something from my distant past to prove that I am at least as good or as cool. I can’t just praise them.

Arrogant? Definitely! Rude? Certainly! I talk down to my wife, children, co-workers, just about everyone. Not consciously most of the time, though I can be cruel in doing so when I get going.

I insist on my own way often, usually through passive-aggressive means, whether at home or work. I pout, or put on the martyred look.

Irritable? Always! Especially when I get pushed to do something I don’t want to do, or when my direction is suddenly changed by other needs (unless I get to jump in and be a hero, which stokes my ego).

Resentful? I gave my wife and older children an earful of how resentful I am that I have put in so much hard work over the years to give them everything they want, only to receive ungratefulness in return. What a joke! The main thing they really wanted was ME, being engaged in their lives and eing there for them instead of running off to serve everyone else, since it is easier and more gratifying to serve outside the home, in a way more people will see.

My wife says she wants me to BE, not to DO. To BE a man of God, a man in love with God. I can see so clearly how I have failed.

Time to CHANGE!

FATHER’S BLESSING

I was asked to give the father’s blessing over the students in my daughter’s college program at the parent appreciation banquet last week.

God gave me scripture to craft together, and I’d like to share what he gave me:

Father’s Blessing 2015

Men and women of Verity, class of 2015, it is my honor to speak over you the father’s blessing.

More than anything, I pray that you will continue to be students of scripture, that you may know God’s wisdom and gain understanding and insight from Him, to receive His instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity. May you continue to increase in learning and obtain guidance from the Lord. Remember that a healthy fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; receive His words and treasure His commandments. Make your ear attentive to wisdom, and incline your heart to understanding, for the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. As you walk in integrity, God will guard your path and watch over you. You will understand righteousness and justice and equity. Wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will watch over you and understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil. Let your heart keep God’s commandments, for length of days and years of life and the peace they will add to you. Do not let steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. That way you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight. Fear the Lord, and turn away from evil – it will bring healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty. You will be blessed when you find God’s wisdom – she is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

As you follow the Lord, and obey his commands, may you receive that which God promised to Israel. Blessed in the city, and blessed in the field. Blessed be your children and the fruit of your work. You will be blessed when you come in, and blessed when you go out. May the Lord cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you, and God bless all that you undertake. Let all the peoples of the earth see that you are called by the name of the Lord. Be faithful to Him, and the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you honor the Lord your God.

Women of Verity, may you be like Ruth, who was presented a choice between the comfortable, pagan world she knew, or following the one true God. She chose the path of humility, becoming one of the poorest of the poor, only to be redeemed and lifted up to become the wife of the owner of the land. May you be like Esther, who could have kept her mouth shut and lived a luxurious life as queen, but chose to put her life on the line for her people by acknowledging her God. For such a time as this, you, too, have been trained up – stand ready for the call.

Men of Verity, may you be like David, who is called a man after God’s own heart. Not because of his great virtue, but because when confronted with his sin, he repented in sackcloth and ashes, begging God for a purified heart. May you be like Isaiah, who knew he was unworthy to stand in the presence of a holy, holy, holy God, yet when the Lord cried out for a messenger he burst out with, “Here am I, Lord! Send me!” He carried a message to multiple generations of the kings of Judah, knowing it would be virtually fruitless for the present, but would have everlasting impact. Be ready when God calls, and be bold to proclaim whatever message He gives you.

May you all be salt and light in this dark world, bringing glory to God by the good works that you do. As Jesus commands in Mark chapter 16, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” The good news that Jesus Christ is the only Way to God, the ultimate Truth, the only One who gives us everlasting Life, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. The message that it is only by His perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead that the penalty for our sins is paid in order that by receiving Him, we have the right to become children of God and live with Him forever. As He commands in Matthew 28, go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. Behold, He is with you always, even to the end of the age.

Finally, may the grace of Almighty God, the fellowship of Jesus Christ, his only Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit, be with you now and forever. Amen!