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).

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

BROKENNESS AND OBEDIENCE

Have you ever prayed, “God, please change me! Make me the man you want me to be!”?

I have. Plenty of times.

On one hand, God does change us – that’s progressive sanctification. Through trials, and renewing our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit, by knowledge and reproof and correction from His word.

On the other hand, the prayer is usually meant as, “God, please flip the switch in me that will suddenly take away all my temptation to sin. Please make me behave like a Christian!”

That version doesn’t really fit scripture.

Have you ever really read the Great Commission?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) (emphasis mine)

Jesus states that He has given the apostles commands which are to be obeyed. He doesn’t say that people will be suddenly changed, and have no responsibility for how they live after becoming disciples.

Earlier, Jesus said:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV)

and

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…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…Jesus answered him, ‘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 14:15,21,23-24 ESV)

and

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)

God makes it abundantly clear throughout scripture, Old and New Testament, that He commands, and expects us to obey out of our love for Him.

THAT IS WHAT BROKENNESS IS ALL ABOUT!

Brokenness is not God forcing me into the image of Christ, so that in spite of my desire to sin He causes me to do what is right anyhow. Asking God, “Lord, please make me a broken man!” is like praying, “God, please force me to love you!” God wants loving, obedient servants, not blindly obedient robots. He wants the willing, voluntary slave, not forced labor.

Many times, when in the midst of temptation, I would pray, “God, please help me!” (meaning, “God, please intervene and do something to prevent me from committing this sin!”)

God’s response over the years has been, “I already have helped you. Jesus died to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again!”

I am without excuse! God is the sovereign Creator of the Universe – He gets to set the rules! It is my part to love and obey.

The most beautiful bit, should I choose to accept it, is that God doesn’t just put it all on me to bear alone. As he says in Romans:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 ESV)

and in John:

“’And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…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 14:16-17,26 ESV)

He commands, He expects love and obedience, but He also gives us encouragement, reminders, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to conquer the nature of sin that still plagues us! (See Romans 8 and Galatians 5, for a start…)

So, when you are beset with temptation, and sin rears its ugly head, and you feel utterly hopeless and stuck in bondage, don’t shake your fist at God and ask Him, “WHY?!?” Instead, stare at yourself in the mirror, take a deep gut check, and admit that you are making a decision – whether you will a) draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and the finished work of Christ on the cross, and take the path of brokenness in loving obedience…or b) shake off God’s hand and take the path of disobedience, sin, and destruction. Every day. Every hour. Every temptation.

You have to decide.

The Love of God and the Peace of Christ be with you always!

George

BROKENNESS: WHERE’S THE HOLY SPIRIT?

So, you’ve become a Christian…walked the aisle, prayed the prayer, spoken in tongues, experienced miraculous healing, received Jesus into your heart – whatever your starting point might be. The point is, you are a Christian, and now you’re wondering why you are not automatically walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Why do I keep sinning? Why doesn’t God do something to stop me?” I know – I have had the same thoughts, the prayers of, “God, please help me!”

I don’t want to give the impression that God doesn’t give us power and strength to resist sin, but for a long time I didn’t really latch onto God’s answer to my cry: “I already did help you. My Son already died and rose again to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again – it’s all in there. You don’t have to sin. You’re free from slavery to sin!”

I didn’t want to hear God’s answer. I wanted Him to give me brokenness – to force me to obey. I didn’t want to have to choose not to sin, to discipline myself “…and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5)

Let’s go back to Galatians 5. Just because the Holy Spirit is living in me does not mean that I am allowing the Holy Spirit to control me, to guide me, to shape the way I think and act. There is a constant battle between the flesh (the lustful desires and actions laid out in 5:19-20) and the Spirit. God does not force us to obey Him – he leaves it up to us to decide to love Him and serve him and to choose to walk in the Spirit. It is all our choice. God lays out the gift before us, and gives us His Holy Spirit to live in us when we become Christians, but we still have to choose to obey. He won’t force it.

If we keep feeding the flesh, keep choosing to give in to temptation instead of choosing to humble ourselves and accept the Holy Spirit’s help, we won’t live godly lives. If we continuously choose to disobey God, then we have to wonder whether we were ever saved to begin with, since a true Christian is not characterized by the continuous choice to rebel against God (as opposed to desiring to obey, and failing because I am not accepting the help God is holding out to me).

It can be confusing, and lead to despair if we let it. Satan wants to convince us that we can never really follow God, and that he doesn’t really love us because he doesn’t make us obey. We need to be like Paul, who perseveres even though he sounds discouraged and frustrated with his own ability to follow God: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:15-25

Paul does not give up the fight, and neither can we! We must be determined to follow God, and focus our hearts and minds on the Spirit rather than the flesh, fighting hard with every weapon we have; prayer, scripture, fellowship, etc. That is why openness is so key: “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. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7-9

Note how John ties together openness (walking in the light) with fellowship with the verse we have all probably memorized about being forgiven when we confess our sins. It all goes together. Without openness, no brokenness. No brokenness, no confession. No confession, no forgiveness and cleansing.

So, all that is to say, just because I am a Christian does not mean that somehow I will automatically walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and be devoid of sin. Instead, it means that my greatest desire will be to love God and obey him, and that even though I still sin I keep bringing it to light, keep confessing, keep changing into the man he wants me to be. Everyone seems to know Romans 8:28, but 8:29 gives the purpose: “For to those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brothers.”

I hope that helps, somehow.

Blessings,

George

THIS IS NOT BROKENNESS

Psalm 36:1-4 (HCSB)
1 An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked person: There is no dread of God before his eyes,
2  for in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to discover and hate his sin.
3 The words of his mouth are malicious and deceptive; he has stopped acting wisely and doing good.
4 Even on his bed he makes malicious plans. He sets himself on a path that is not good and does not reject evil.

This passage is key in my own journey toward Christian brokenness. Not only have I had to discover my sin by admitting it is sin (masturbation, gluttony, misuse of money, deceitfulness), but I also have to learn to hate my sin. Until I have done both of those things, I cannot break free from bondage to my sin, and I cannot set my family free from the effects my sin brings into the home.

I cannot lie – I still have areas where I have not learned to fully hate my sin. I don’t hate gluttony enough. I don’t hate my lifestyle of living in debt enough to pursue being debt-free with gazelle-like intensity (Proverbs 6:5). I am still malicious and deceptive in my speech, even though I try very hard not to be. It takes a long time to change habits that developed over 40 years.

The main point is, I can’t give up! At least, not if I still claim to be a Christian, seeking after God, becoming more like Jesus each day.

It is not easy, but you can do it! I can do it! By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and the Blood of the Lamb! Openness and Brokenness! For God’s glory!

And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death. – Revelation 12:11

Under His Blood,

George

BROKENNESS VS. SELFISHNESS

I am selfish, self-centered, self-sufficient, and lazy. None of these character qualities lends itself to brokenness. It is always amazing to me that my wife continues to stand by me, continues to love me, continues to forgive me!

It is all too easy for me to take my eyes off myself and start thinking, “Why am I always the one who has to be wrong? It seems like I am doing all of the apologizing. I thought this relationship was supposed to be equal participation, both giving 100 percent!” Then come the whisperings of our one true enemy, Satan…”You know she doesn’t really love you. She just wants you to fulfill her every desire – you’ll never be good enough.”

Is it really true? Are we both supposed to give 100 percent? Yes! However, is my behavior predicated on my wife doing her part, and am I relieved of my responsibility if my carnal flesh says she doesn’t? Not if I truly love God and love my wife like Christ loves the Church! (Note that I know my wife loves me and honors me, and that she fully gives 100 percent to our marriage. I am the one giving less, and the log in my own eye is what I see projected onto her)

Ephesians 5:28-33 (HCSB)
28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church,
30 since we are members of His body.
31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.
33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

When I really think about it, I have to look at Jesus Christ during the hours before His crucifixion. He was beaten, the flesh ripped off his bones, ridiculed, vilified, and hung on a cross. At any point during He could have looked around and said, “Forget it! If you’re not going to love me and treat me with respect, I’m not going through with it! You can figure out how to appease God’s wrath on your own, you ungrateful wretches!”

Jesus didn’t give up on His bride. Instead:

Romans 5:6-11 (HCSB)
6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die.
8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!
9 Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath.
10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, ⌊then how⌋ much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!
11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him.

Praise God! How can I, who profess to be a Christian (a “little Christ”), strive to do any less? I am weak, and sinful, and overly ruled by my flesh, but I also have the unlimited power of God’s Holy Spirit living in me! Halleluiah!

So, brothers, never give up the fight. Don’t sit there, staring into your navel, wishing things were better or different. Get up and fight! Love with all God’s strength! Unite with your wife against your common enemy! God will be glorified if you do!

Peace,

George

BROKENNESS IS…TRUSTING GOD

These verses gave me a lot of comfort today:

In You, O Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me. Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. (Psalms 31:1-5 NKJV)

I was reminded that a huge part of brokenness, choosing to obey God’s will rather than my own will, is trusting Him!

May you be encouraged, as I am,

George

WHERE’S THE BLOOD?!?

It has been at least a couple of years since I’ve heard her say it, but when I would confess my sinful moral failures to her in the years after coming clean, she would ask me, “Where’s the blood?!?”

She references Hebrews 12:4, “In you struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (ESV)

You may say, “That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean literal blood…that stuff about pluck out your eye and cut off your hand is just figurative.” (Matthew 5:29,30;Matthew 18:8,9;Mark 9:43-47).  I don’t see any evidence to indicate that Hebrews 12 is talking about figurative blood.

Maybe I have a different perspective.  Back in the day (it’s been a few years) I would take part in Pankration – full contact martial arts mixing striking, kicking, and grappling for knock-out or submission (nowadays, MMA).  When I fought, sometimes I’d win, sometimes not – but I was a dogged fighter.  I never gave up easily.  Whenever I did lose, you can bet there was literal, red blood on my gi as testament to my resistance.

That is a mere earthly, flesh and blood struggle. Our resistance to sin is in the spiritual realm, and has another model – Jesus Christ.  You say, “He is the Son of God! He can’t sin!” True, but He was tempted:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (ESV)

Also, when dealing with temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane, He shed real, literal blood:

“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:41-44 (ESV)

So, dear friends, the next time you are tempted…

Shed some blood in the struggle! Draw on the power of the Holy Spirit, and don’t give in! Be like Christ and say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done!”

Peace,

George

CRUCIFY THE FLESH

Francis Chan on crucifying the flesh in his book Forgotten God:Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

“When you decide to put to death—to crucify—your flesh, you are by default choosing the way of the Spirit. You are leaving one path and joining another. The new path of walking with the Spirit will undoubtedly have its share of twists and turns. At forks in the trail, you will, at times, choose to follow the desires of your flesh, even though you left that path long ago.

The way of the Spirit is not a gentle downhill grade. Often, walking with the Spirit is an uphill trudge through all sorts of distractions and difficulties. But while the path is winding and difficult, you are constantly moving in a particular direction, and that direction is set by the leading of the Spirit. At some point along the way, you agreed with God that you were not meant to be ruled by your fleshly desires and passions (like anger, self-indulgence, immorality, etc.), and you removed the central role that these things once had in your life. Perhaps you have not yet made this decision. Understand that it is a decision everyone must make. It cannot be done mindlessly, not when we are talking about something as intense as crucifying. Each of us has to decide whether we are going to crucify the flesh, whether we will truly walk with the Spirit. It is a choice. And it is crucial.”

AN OLD ESSAY

Here is an essay I wrote back in 2000, before I came clean with my wife and family.  I had plenty of knowledge, but wasn’t living by it:

1John 2:16 says “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” These are three destroyers that may overwhelm the human spirit. The lust of the eyes is a destroyer of spiritual relationship, taking one’s eyes off the appropriate target (God, one’s wife, a God-given job, God’s provision) and stirring up discontentment (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods). Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 5:28 that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”, thus destroying the spiritual relationship with his wife and God.

The lust of the flesh is a destroyer of physical relationships. It pollutes what 1Corinthians 6:19 calls “the temple of the Holy Ghost”. Abuse of the body through drugs or gluttony or fornication reduces the mere physical ability to serve the Lord. Of the marriage relationship, Mark 10:8 says “And they twain shall be one flesh.” Adultery and fornication introduce multiple persons into that one flesh, detracting forever from the marriage relationship ordained by God. While I do not believe a Christian can be possessed by a demon, I do think that indulging the lust of the flesh invites the presence of demons and their influence.

The pride of life is a destroyer of self, putting oneself on a level higher than that ordained by God. One cannot be prideful and also be a true servant, because a servant must not put self first. In John13:14 Jesus set the example and told his apostles, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Too often we are captivated instead by Satan’s sin, “”: For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:” as he says in Isaiah 14:13. When we suffer from this “I” disease, we must be cast down and broken before being built back up by God into the Christians we are meant to be – extremely painful, but necessary.

All three – the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life – are rooted in selfishness. To break free, we must be true Christians (“little Christs”), and live as selflessly as the God/man we model ourselves after.

The other side of the coin is man’s spirit, which must be properly fed to withstand these attacks of the flesh. Genesis 1:26 says “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, while John 4:24 says “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Thus our spirit is the portion of man created in God’s image, designed for worship and fellowship with Him.

Diligent study of God’s Word (either the written word or in the person of Jesus Christ – John 1:1) is required to learn how God would have us live. 2Timothy 3:16 says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Action is useless if it is for the wrong reasons, and the Word teaches us what should truly motivate the spirit – love.

John 16:3 tells us “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” The Spirit of God is sent to come alongside us to lend guidance in our daily Christian life. The Holy Spirit is the “still small voice” mentioned in 1Kings 19:12 which speaks directly to one’s own spirit giving direction, motivation, and adding strength to the desire to perform God’s will. Without the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of wisdom and of understanding” (Isaiah 11:2) it is impossible to correctly understand God’s Word.

The spirit within feeds itself and builds defenses against the attacks on the flesh by lust and pride. A spirit which is well-fed by God’s Word and in tune with the Holy Spirit will be robust, filling the heart and pushing aside the influences of carnal man. Galatians 6:8 – “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” A poorly fed spirit will be small and weak, easily succumbing to the worldly influences within and without. Let us all pray to be filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit, the better to serve God and reflect His image to all men!