The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Freedom of Speech


"That I may speak boldly as I ought to speak" - Ephesians 6:18

 

Should skin heads and white supremacists be allowed to voice their views in society? Should Black Lives Matter, anarchists, socialists and communists be allowed to do the same? Should Christians be allowed to freely voice and share the gospel? Should people of all faiths be allowed to freely share their beliefs? We can't justify curtailing the freedom of speech for a group because we disagree with their message. Free speech is arguably a God given right and is definitely a constitutionally protected right. I understand this doesn't cover for instance shouting "fire!" in a theatre and causing a stampede harmful to people. No, but the freedom to express ideas needs to be protected. 

 

Understand just what is going on in our country. Wake up. There's something demonic happening. Where you see deception, chaos, rioting and violence you can know for sure the devil is at work (e.g. Acts 19:21ff.). God works in an orderly way (1 Cor. 14:33 and 40). What we see happening is a demonically inspired and driven attack on a nation friendly to freedom and as such, a friend and help to the spread of the gospel. There is a battle for the soul of a nation God has used in the world for His purposes. Arguably no nation has been associated with God's purposes like America outside of Israel itself. America has never been perfect, but she has been greatly used by God. The enemy has been working long to stop this by bringing America down to the basest most vile levels of sinful living. Unfortunately, he has won many battles to this end. But the war is not over and there is still hope. There's always hope in the Lord. 

 

There is presently a very overt move by MSM to cherry pick whose speech (e.g. Liberal progressive speech versus conservative speech) is and is not acceptable effectively silencing opposition. If you've studied any history you know this is indeed a fascist/communist/totalitarian strategy. The lines of battle can be clearly seen. They are exposed. That's good because identifying the enemy and their positions is the first step in defending against them. 

 

Our country and freedoms are under attack. If we do nothing how long do you think it will be before sharing and proclaiming the gospel is attacked in similar free-speech-stifling ways? It's arguably already happening. Some welcome persecution for its faith purifying benefits. But let's fight for and use our freedoms for the glory of God while we still can. 

 

There is a concerted attack on our freedoms and our constitution. There is in fact a revolution, an insurrection underway. The "useful idiots" being used for this revolt are anarchists and a student body that have been indoctrinated and propagandized in our public education institutions for the last 50 or so years. We are reaping the consequences sown by removing God and His word and any godly influence from our educational system and replacing them with humanistic/socialistic/communistic world views. Sound extreme? Sound alarmist? Sound irrational? Wake up my friend we're in a revolt like it or not, a revolt and societal battle for the heart and soul of our nation. 

 

What to do? 

 

First pray. You saw what happens in last year’s election when people pray. Through prayer the tide of godlessness was stemmed. Keep praying! God's not finished with the United States of America. 

 

The great portion of scripture by the apostle Paul on spiritual weaponry and armor is punctuated with these final words: 

 

Ephesians 6:18-20 - "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."

 

We need to pray and then "speak as I ought to speak." The time for silence is over. It’s time to be heard. In fact, it's long overdue. It's time to put our armor on and "speak the truth in love" Ephesians 4:15). 

 

Second, act. Get informed with what's going on. Know your Bible and seek His truth and what is righteous action. Get involved. Serve. We are in part culpable for our state of affairs because of our self-imposed isolation from society. We have mistakenly removed ourselves from the world for fear of being influenced by it. We are guilty of misinterpreting holiness and separation from the world as isolation from it. We are guilty of cowardly retreating into our homes and churches and shutting the windows and doors and waiting for it all to end. We are guilty of selfishly living out our individual personal lives with little to no thought or care for others and especially the lost. We have been like Nero fiddling in our self-interests while America burns. 

 

Jesus never taught isolation from the world, He taught infiltration and influence of the world as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Infiltrate and influence for the glory of God. He said to be IN the world but not OF the world - John 17:14-18. He specifically prayed' "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one." When we remove ourselves from the world therefore we put ourselves in a position contrary to what Jesus prayed for us. That's not good. 

 

We have used the idea of being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14) as an excuse to neglect our responsibility as citizens of the country God has sovereignly placed us. This never meant we have no interactions with the lost. It simply means we don't partake in their sin. How will they be saved if we don't share the gospel with them in word and deed? Get in there and be a holy influence! 

 

To be "subject to the governing authorities" (Rom. 13) doesn't mean to relinquish responsibility to government, it means live in line with the system of government God has placed you. We are in a democracy, we need to know and use this system to promote holiness and righteousness. Read about the Wesleys, Whitefield, Wilberforce and the Abolitionists, read about those used by God to influence this world in godly ways. 

 

We have been silenced by the siren of recreation and self-concerns. We have taken ourselves out of the game. We have been willfully disengaged. Shame on us. We need to repent of this, pray, and be revived by our Lord. We need to be informed with what is going on around us. We need to be engaged and involved in working to influence the world toward godliness in godly ways. Yes, this means we should be politically involved. We are blessed to live in a democracy where we have a say. We need to exert and fulfill our responsibility to voice our concerns and vote for those who will stand up for them as our representatives. 

 

Lastly, hope in the Lord. We need to hope in Jesus and let that hope purify us (1 John 3:3). What does this mean? It means to live in a state of readiness for the return of Jesus. Look around you. Look up to the sky. Look at the natural upheaval in the world, the wars and rumors of wars, the globalism, the evil and immorality, look at Israel, look at prophecy. Does anyone doubt the Last Days are fast approaching? Therefore, live with eternal priorities. Live to facilitate and promote justice, righteousness and holiness. Live to save souls. Live in a way that if Jesus were to return, you wouldn't be ashamed at how He found you living. Live as though He were returning today. He just may well be.

 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Rushing Mighty Wind

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” - Acts 2:2
Wind is a powerful force in nature. If you’ve ever seen or experienced a hurricane, tornado or cyclone, you know this all too well. Jesus instructed the disciples to wait for an empowerment promised by the Father (Acts 1:4-5, 8). This power would come in connection with the Holy Spirit. The word “Spirit” is translated from the Greek term pneuma which literally means breath, a current of air, or breeze. Therefore it’s appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit is inaugurated by the coming of a mighty rushing wind from heaven. This isn’t the first time we see wind used in scripture. God uses wind to convey various aspects of His powerful influence. An examination of the use of wind in scripture sheds light on the power of the Spirit received at Pentecost and available to us today.

First, wind is used by God to bring His judgment. God blew in a plague of locusts upon the Egyptians (Exodus 10:13). God comes to discipline the unfaithful “on the wings of the wind” (2 Samuel 22:11).  The prophet Nahum illustrated God coming in judgment in a “whirlwind” against His enemies (Nahum 1:3). The Holy Spirit blows into the lives of sinners seeking to convict them of their sin (John 16:8-11).  

Second, wind is used by God to end God’s judgment. The Lord sent wind to dry up the waters of the Flood of judgment (Genesis 8:1). He used wind to blow locusts in as well as blow them out during His plagues on Egypt (Exodus 10:13 and 19).  Like a great vacuum the Spirit draws people toward Jesus where they can find salvation from the judgment of sin.

Third, God uses the wind to bring a blessing. God used the wind to part the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape from the pursuing enemy Egyptians (Exodus 14:21). In the wilderness God used the wind to bring the blessing of a harvest of quail for His hungering people (Numbers 11:31). God heard the prayer of Elijah and blew in rain to refresh the droughted land (1 Kings 18:44-45). Like the wind, the Holy Spirit brings tremendous blessing to the believer. The Spirit brings the blessing of the presence of God.

Fourth, the wind of God is powerful. Elijah was God’s instrument to defeat the prophets of Baal. But after the victory Elijah ran in fear from Jezebel and grew depressed. The Lord got his attention by sending a mighty wind that tore into the mountain where he was standing (1 Kings 19:11). The Lord got Elijah’s attention with a mighty wind. Then He spoke to him with a still small voice.

The power of wind can come in a sudden gust. Wind can begin in a small funnel that builds in strength. There were only about 120 disciples gathered in the Upper Room. They were obediently praying for the Promise of the Father. God habitually uses small things, small groups to manifest His might and power. His does this to make clear the Source of His power.

The power bestowed at Pentecost has had worldwide influence. There have been miraculous healings and prophetic fulfillments. Societal wrongs righted and darkness dispelled by the light of the Lord. The power of the Spirit has moved on people to build hospitals, schools, and bring societal order. But the most significant impact has been the piercing of the heart of sinful humanity with the truth of the Gospel. Millions of souls saved. Myriad disciples made. The Spirit breathed God’s revelation truth in an eternally relevant Book, the Bible. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mat. 24:35). Such power is a category infinity in wind strength!

Fifth, wind is invisible but real. Jesus used the wind to illustrate the Holy Spirit cannot be seen (John 3:8). To this day with all our scientific advances meteorologists still have difficulty calculating the wind. You don’t see the wind coming. You don’t know it’s there until it touches you. You may not see the Spirit, but He is always there.

Sixth, wind can be used by God to shake us up.  A hurricane can be a frightening experience. On the ocean wind can make waves that change a comfortable voyage into a perilous ocean venture.  It was a mighty wind sent by God that shook the ship Jonah was in and stopped him from his rebellious retreat (cf. also Psalm 107:25-30). Jesus can calm the storms in our lives (Matthew 8:26). Storms caused by the winds of God are meant to lead us to Him. The Holy Spirit can use windstorms in life to wake us from spiritual lethargy.

But Satan can kick up storms too. He is limited by God. But he can wreak havoc nonetheless. It was a mighty wind in the book of Job that destroyed the house where Job’s children were dining and killed them all (Job 1:18-19). Where the wind is from is important for us to discern. The powerful wind in Job brought a severe trial. The powerful wind of the Spirit brings power to serve and witness for the glory of God. God can use all things for good (Rom. 8:28). That is a powerful statement when you think it through.

Seventh, wind moves things. It is the wind that blows into the sails of a ship and moves it (Acts 27:7, 13-18). Even though people can be big and sluggish like ships the wind of the Spirit can move them. A sailing ship without wind is dead in the water. Without the Spirit we can’t move. The Holy Spirit is able to move the unmovable. The Holy Spirit is able to drive us to our destination.

Eight, wind blows away the chaff. Chaff is the discarded outer portion of wheat. Those who harvested wheat took the cut stalks to a threshing floor where they beat them until the kernels of wheat separated from the outer skin. The threshed wheat was then tossed into the air so the wind would blow away the chaff. Chaff symbolically is a type of sin. It represents that which is unwanted, superficial, lightweight, spiritually.  The Spirit blows away ungodly refuse in our lives (cf. Psalm 1).

Ninth, wind is a sign of the Spirit bringing life. In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet Ezekiel is brought “in the Spirit” to a place where he sees a vision of a valley of dry bones. God directs Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones. When Ezekiel obeys a wind comes from God and breathes life into the dead bones (Ezek. 37:1-14). Just as this prophetic vision pictures God sending a wind to bring life to dead Israel in captivity, so too does the Holy Spirit come as a wind upon Christians who have been trying to minister and serve in their own strength. The wind of the Spirit is a symbol of bringing life to that which was dead or dying. When the wind of the Spirit blows He brings new life to the unsaved and refreshing to those out of breath.

R.A. Torrey said, “A real revival is a time of quickening or impartation of life. . . . Only God can impart life, therefore, a revival is a time when God visits His people, and by the power of His Holy Spirit, imparts new life to them, then through them imparts life to sinners dead in trespasses and sins.” [1] Revival is the Spirit blowing and bringing life to that which is out of breath or dead. We need a breath of fresh air from the Spirit. We need a holy breeze from the Holy Spirit. We need the mighty rushing wind of the Spirit to blow again.  Join me in making that our prayer.





[1] R.A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer and the Prayer of Power, (Alachua, FL: Bridge –Logos, 2009) p. 218.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

“Against You, You only, have I sinned” - Psalm 51:4

Does the punishment fit the crime? As a society, we frequently ask that very question about criminal cases in the news. We are appalled at the light sentences given to abusers, pedophiles, drunk drivers, rapists, murderers, and the like. We are aggravated and disgusted when victims are treated like criminals and criminals appear to have more rights than their victims. We sense there is something inherently wrong, unjust, when we see such things. When the sentence doesn’t fit the crime, it has a destabilizing effect on society. But I would like to apply this question to an even more important area, eternity. Will God actually sentence people to hell? Does His eternal punishment fit the crime of our sin? Are we guilty of crimes of sin deserving of a sentence of hell?

At present atheism seems to be going through a cycle of popularity in society. But those who do accept the existence of God, (and statistically they still remain in the majority) frequently doubt that God would send anyone to hell. They may accept that God would send those to hell who are guilty of the most heinous crimes, but they don’t see themselves as that bad. In general people feel they will be good enough to get into heaven and avoid hell.

While statistics show a trend away from orthodoxy, studies continue to show that a majority of people believe in a heaven and a hell. A significant portion of the populace still accept the gospel, i.e. “confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior” as means of going to heaven. But there is a growing majority of people who are unclear about what determines their destiny. Those who choose to reject the gospel say their eternal destination is based on one of three things: keeping the Law of the Ten Commandments; their basic goodness; or a view of God that disallows a sentence to a place called hell. What does God say about this? What does He tell us in His word?

 

The first thing we need to consider is what has God revealed about Himself in His word? God is holy and He commands His followers to be holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 1 Peter 1:15-16). God’s revelation of Himself says He has an aversion, a revulsion to sin:

·         Habakkuk 1:13a - You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.

God states that sin separates us from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). The Bible says if we allow sin to reside in our hearts God will not hear our prayers (Psalm 66:18). The Bible says God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). God and sin do not mix.

 

What is hell? Hell is a place created by God for the devil and demons (Mat. 25:41). It is a real place. The Bible also says the person who sins, “is of the devil” (1 John 3:8; cf. also Eph. 2:1-3). The wicked or sinners will be turned into hell (Psalm 9:17). God will cast the sinner into hell and therefore we ought to revere Him (Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5). Hell is a place of everlasting fire, punishment and torment where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat. 25:41, 46; Rev. 19:20). Though not created by God for people, those who sin will be cast there to join the devil and his demons (Rev. 21:8).

 

What is sin? God has given us a Book called the Bible which is a manual for life. This Book explains the problem of sin and its solution. This Book explains God has given us laws that explain how we can experience prosperity, blessing, fullness of life (Joshua 1:8; 1 Chron. 22:13). God’s law consists of rules, principles, statutes, and God’s judgments. God’s laws tell us the parameters of what He says right and wrong is. Living within the parameters of His word and law is righteousness. Living righteously (i.e. keeping the law) assures we will experience life as He created us to live it. It will also assure that we don’t harm others. Sin is breaking God’s law in word, deed or thought. John put it this way, “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17a). Sin beaks our relationship with God. Sin causes pain in our relationship with others, including God.

 

What does sin look like? In Exodus 20 God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. These ten laws of God given to His people serve as the summation of His Law. There were 613 lesser laws given but the Ten Commandments serve as the bedrock of the Law of God. These Ten can be described as:

 

1.      Not having any other God’s except Almighty God.

2.      Do not make any images or idols of God or any other gods.

3.      Respect God’s name; don’t use it in vain.

4.      Keep the Sabbath.

5.      Honor your parents.

6.      Don’t murder anyone.

7.      Don’t commit adultery; stay true to your marriage covenant.

8.      Don’t steal anything.

9.      Don’t lie or bear false witness against anyone.

10.  Don’t covet.

 

Sin is when we break such laws. All sin is against God and His Law (Psalm 51:4). The first four are vertical and directly against God while the last six are horizontal and indirectly against God but directly against other people.

 

What is the penalty for breaking these laws? The penalty for breaking God’s laws is death. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). God says, “Behold. All souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). It’s at this point that some might respond, “Isn’t that harsh? Does the punishment fit the crime? Isn’t God loving?” Yes, God is loving, but God is also holy, just and righteous. God is of purer eyes than to look on wickedness. Breaking or disregarding His law is rooted in pride, rebellion and is wickedness. “Wickedness” as spoken of by prophet Habakkuk means acts of deceit, treachery, faithlessness (Habakkuk 1:13). God will not even look at such things; He will put them out of His presence.

 

Does the punishment of God fit the crime of sin? Let me share a personal story from my youth. When I was a kid during the summer time we’d play outside from morning to night. We’d get on our bicycles and ride all over the place. We’d play sports. We’d chase each other all around. And sometimes, when we were going through a particularly long dry spell that made the dirt crusty we’d have “dirt bomb” fights. That’s when you collect clumps of dry stony dirt and throw it at each other. It was kind of like a summer version of snow ball fighting. Well, one time we were having a monumental dirt bomb battle and had all suffered some direct hits. We accepted that as part of the game. You hit and got hit, no problem. We got to the point where we called a mutually agreed upon cease fire. But now what? What would we do for the rest of the day. I don’t know who it was but one of our crew got the brilliant idea to hide in a tree line adjacent to a busy road and start throwing dirt bombs as passing cars. We collected our ammunition and snuck up to the tree line. We lay in wait, waiting for the call to let her rip at some unsuspecting motorist. (Yes, it was dangerous and not the brightest idea. We could have caused an accident. But we were kids and out for fun at others expense. We didn’t really give it a lot of thought.) Waiting, waiting, hold, get ready, and in the distance we saw the perfect target, A CONVERTIBLE! And the top was down. As soon as that bright shinny top down beauty passed by we let her rip. Bang, bang, bang, clunk, screech! That screech indicated we had made direct hits. But what we didn’t figure is that “screech” part of the motorist pulling over to the side of the road, GETTING OUT OF HIS CAR, AND COMING AFTER US!

 

Needless to say, the fun in that game blew out as fast as air out of a popped balloon. We did what any other kid our age would do, have an instant moment of regret and then run like the blazes on an escape route. We thought we could run pretty fast but this guy proved to be an Olympian-like sprinter. We split up and kept running. I stayed with a friend of mine who lived in an apartment nearby. We glanced back only to have our terror heightened when we saw that the just pursuer had sovereignly chosen us to chase. We ran down a hill, through a parking lot, up some rear stairs, and into the apartment. We ran as fast as we could but that guy wasn’t giving up. Then we did what any other kid of that day would do in such a situation, we ran to the nearest mother for protection. We ran to my friend’s apartment as our “city of refuge” and once inside one glance of his mother at our fear laden faces told her she needed to go in protection mode. We ran to my friend’s room and literally hid and listened.  Almost instantly we heard loud banging on the metal apartment door. My friend’s mother spoke through the door in an effort to calm down our pursuer. He must have cooled down a bit. Then she opened the door and reasoned with him. We heard some raised voices and shouting and then a calm. Moms can be pretty diplomatic you know. He left and we soon felt the consequences when news of our exploits traveled over the Mom’s phone network. Believe me there were consequences of varying degrees and I can’t remember ever having another dirt bomb fight after that.

 

What’s the point? The point is that when you’re throwing dirt bombs at your buddies there’s little fear of offense but when your target becomes an adult the offense will be noted and punished. We often minimize our sins because we limit their definition to our horizontal plane. But when we see our sins on the vertical plane of God, that our sins are against an Almighty All-Powerful Adult God, our sins take on much more severity. Throw something at an equal and offense is minimal. Throw something at an Authority and there are consequences. Throw a dirt bomb at a friend and it’s no big deal. Throw a dirt bomb at and adult, or an elderly person, a police officer or president, and you’re in deep trouble. Sin’s severity is measured by who it offends. All sin is ultimately against God and severely offensive. The Bible states, “Against You, You only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). Think about that. When we see sin as against God Almighty, no sin is a “small” sin.

 

Let’s pretend we are in a secular worldly court. The judge is just a regular human being in a position of authority. Before him is brought a man who has disrespected, rebelled against and murdered his parents, has murdered numerous other people, has committed adultery on numerous occasions, has stolen repeatedly, has lived the life of deception and is a compulsive liar, and is driven by a lust for more of what he already has enough of. In addition to that this criminal is disrespectful and disobedient toward the judge. He curses the name of the judge and won’t rest and calm down when the judge orders him to. What would you say about such a man? What would a just sentence for him be? He’s a parenticidal, homicidal, sex crazed, thieving, lying, lustful man. If anyone was due the death sentence certainly he would be!

 

But you say, “That’s not me! I’m not that bad.” The Bible warns us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom. 12:3). The Bible says we should examine and test ourselves to see where we stand with God (2 Cor. 13:5). Let’s do that.

 

Have you always honored your parents? We may respond that there have been times when we’ve dishonored or rebelled against our parents but not always. Maybe you are in rebellion against your parents now. Maybe you’ve rebelled against them in the past. How much rebellion against your parents can be equated with dishonoring them? Any amount! But what about parenticide? You say, “I haven’t killed my parents. I’m not that bad.” Jesus said that if you’re angry with someone or call them a fool or something equivalent to that it’s as though you’ve killed them in your heart (Mat. 5:21-26). That’s His standard of judgment. Have you ever been angry with your parents? Parenticide!

 

Ever murdered someone? Here we are not talking about killing of a human being in the line of duty such as with a policeman or military person. Here we are talking about murder. And again, Jesus’ standard equates anger with murder. Ever get angry with someone? Murderer! Probably a mass murderer!

 

How about adultery? Ever commit adultery. “Oh no, I’ve always been faithful to my spouse” you say. But Jesus’ standard here is higher than mere actions too. He said if we even have a lustful thought about someone we are guilty of committing adultery in our hearts (Mat. 5:27-30). Even have a lustful thought, a fantasy, anything about anyone anytime other than the one you are married to? This includes those who are single. Ever have a lustful thought? Adulterer!

 

Ever stolen anything, anything, anytime? How much do you have to steal to be considered a thief? Anything, even a paper clip that makes you a thief. How about lying; ever spoken a non-truth? Ever lied about your age, your weight, your income, your past, your present, ever lied at all? Liar! Ever wanted something someone else has? Ever wanted more of what you already have enough of? Ever yearned for something, lusted after it? Coveter!

 

So far we’re finding we’re not as different from our imaginary criminal as we thought ourselves to be. We’re finding we’re parenticidal, homicidal, sex crazed, thieving, lying, lustful just like that man. We haven’t even considered our relation to a Judge who is God Almighty, All Holy, perfectly just and righteous. Has He always been first and foremost in our lives; our thoughts and actions; our priorities? If not that’s blasphemy. Have we idolized God? Have we defined Him as we see Him or want to see Him rather than how He has revealed Himself to be in truth? Your God is your master passion. If anything takes priority in our lives besides God we’ve broken the second commandment. That’s idolatry. How about the way we have referred to God? Ever used His name as a four letter curse word? Ever referred to Him and used His name in a profane way, even a common or irreverent way? If so that’s taking the Lord’s name in vain; that’s disrespecting the God of glory! How about observing His Sabbath? Some will say, “Oh, that’s just for Jewish people.” But wait, the Sabbath of God is holy and there is a principle here. To rest on the Sabbath is a demonstration of faith and trust in God to provide for you. We rest trusting that God will supply our needs. The Bible says whatever is not done in faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). God has done so much for you, He has been so faithful and true, and will you distrust Him? That’s offensive to God.

 

So to the charges of parenticidal, homicidal, sex crazed, thieving, lying, and lust we can add the highly offensive to God charges of blasphemy, idolatry, profane use of God’s name and distrust of God to our ledger. Now, do you see a bit more how the death penalty for sin is appropriate? The wages of sin is death. The soul that sins is deserving of death. And death here is not annihilation. The death sentence here is an eternal sentence of existence in a place called hell; a place of darkness, loneliness, regret and torment. That is a just sentence for the sinner.

 

If you were to stand before God charged with such offenses would He pronounce you guilty or innocent? Does that matter to you? If it doesn’t matter to you I would like to give you further warning. In the gospels Jesus performed countless miracles and taught powerful truth. The religious of His day refused to heed His words or acknowledge His work. There came a point where they could not believe (John 12:35-41). Refusing to respond to God leads to hardening of your heart. The more you refuse to turn to God from your sin the harder your heart becomes and the harder it is for you to do so. Only God knows when a person reaches this point of no return. But why risk getting to that point?

 

What can we do about our sinful state? The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). The Bible states:

 

·         Acts 17:30-31 - Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

There is a Judgment Day coming. You may have been ignorant of your sin predicament before but you aren’t now. Where do you stand with God?

Let me say first that salvation from sin is not a matter of keeping the laws of God. God’s law exposes our sinfulness and shows us the futility of trying to keep them in our own strength (Rom. 7:7). The law shows us we are sinful (1 Tim. 1:8-11). And the law in pointing out our sin also leads us to the solution for our sin problem, Jesus (Gal. 3:24).

God calls everyone to repent of their sin. To repent means to respond to God, to turn to Him. To repent means to have a change of heart that leads to a change in life action. No one can come to God unless God draws them to Himself (John 6:44). God has been reaching out to you. The Holy Spirit has been convicting you of your sin (John 16:8-11).  “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth” (Psalm 25:10). The truth is you are guilty as sin before a Holy God. But God is merciful. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. He has made a way for you to be justly forgiven. He has made a way for you to have your sins wiped away so that it will be just as if you’ve never sinned (e.g. Rom. 5:1). He has made a way for you to replace death with spiritual eternal life. He has done all of this through Jesus Christ.

The Man ordained or anointed and chosen by God to make the way for salvation from sin is Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the cross for you and for me; for sinners. Jesus lived a life of perfect and without sin (1 Pet 1:18-19). He died on the cross, the just for the unjust, to pay our death penalty for us (1 Pet 3:18). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).  That can happen when we put our faith in Him. It isn’t a matter of us doing some good works or religious activity (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Jesus has done the work for us; the work of salvation is compete; “It is finished!” (John 19:30). We need to receive by faith what God has provided for us in Christ.

God who is Holy is also gracious and loving. Humanity has a humanly insurmountable debt of sin. But God has made a divine way for lost humanity to be redeemed from that debt of sin. He has made a way for humanity to be saved from their sin by sending His One and only Son Jesus to die on the cross in our place. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This work of Jesus has been shown to be valid and completely satisfactory to God by His resurrection from the dead. Therefore this work of Jesus for salvation can be put to our account; we can be forgiven all our sin (past, present, even future sin) when we put our faith in Jesus as our Savior. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10). The saving transaction is put to our account by faith. It is offered by God freely to us by His grace and appropriated to our account by faith. God’s grace is God’s Redemption at Christ’s Expense. The faith that saves us is Forsaking All (other alternatives) I Trust Him. Salvation is not about something we do, it is all about accepting by faith something Jesus has done for us.

Salvation is freely provided by God but it wasn’t cheap; it cost Christ His life. We justly deserve the death penalty. In His mercy God makes a way so that we can avoid the death sentence we deserve. But God goes beyond that and gives us what we don’t deserve, His precious promises of a personal eternal relationship with Him. Jesus said eternal life was knowing Him and the Father (John 17:3).  The Bible says:

·         Philippians 4:19 - And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

God promises to meet all our needs.

·         2 Peter 1:3-4 - 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

God promises to change us and make us like Jesus (cf. also Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 2:21; 1 John 2:6). And you know what else? When we accept Jesus as Savior by faith, God forgive our sin, but He also gives us spiritual life by indwelling us with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9-11). When the Holy Spirit indwells us He pours His love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). And this love, lived out in and through us, fulfills God’s law! (Rom. 13:10). Those are incredible truths. Jesus promises us abundant life (John 10:10). The appropriate response to God’s grace is to receive it and love God for it (Jon 1:12; 2 Cor. 5:1-16).

Think of it, justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Does the punishment fit the crime? Is God fair with us? What do you think now? God is incredibly loving and giving. In light of Holy God the more important question is do we deserve God’s grace? The answer is no we do not. But thank God that He gives it to us anyway. Thank God our salvation is contingent on Him and not us. Now, what will you do? I hope you will turn to God in Christ and be saved.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Where Are All the Miracles?


“. . . And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about . . .” – Judges 6:13

Where are all the miracles? We look at the Bible and see miracles. Where are the miracles today? Miracles are happening today. Miracles can happen today. God is no different now than He was in Biblical times. God is immutable; unchanging. Miracles attest to the reality of God (e.g. Acts 2:22). But it seems the miracles that are happening today are happening in faraway places in underdeveloped parts of the world. Is there a connection? Has our science and technology, our modernity, gotten in the way of miracles? Perhaps, but I think there may be a more rudimentary explanation.

In the Old Testament a man named Gideon asked the same question. When the Angel of the Lord called on him to deliver God’s people Gideon said, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13). In other words, “Where are all the miracles?”

It’s interesting that the LORD doesn’t respond to Gideon’s question. Instead it states, “Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14). The LORD put His finger on a pressure point of Gideon. The truth of the matter was that Gideon had nothing in himself that could be associate with “might.” Gideon was quick to react, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15). Gideon was weak. God knew it. But God works through weakness. “And the LORD said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:16).

God was going to teach Gideon a major life truth. All we need is God. All Gideon had was God. And all Gideon needed was God. You may not be in agreement with all that Martin Luther the Reformer did, but some words he uttered captures the sense of the Lord’s conversation with Gideon. Luther, when under persecution, said, “One with God is a majority.” That’s the truth!

But where are the miracles? Well God would deliver His people from the Midianites. He would use only 300 men led by Gideon to defeat an army described “as the sand of the seashore in multitude” (Judges 7:12). That was certainly a miracle. But Gideon’s initial response to the Angel of the LORD indicates this was a time when miracles had stopped. And today we look around us and miracles aren’t that common. Have you ever seen a miracle? Some have, but most today would probably say they have not. Why is that?

We see many miracles in scripture. But we have to understand that the Bible does not contain every detail of history. For instance the Book of Acts contains many accounts of miracles, but we need to remember that those miracles occurred over a period of about 30 years of history in the early church. In light of that duration we get a better perspective on the occurrence of miracles.

A “miracle” is defined as an extraordinary unusual event manifesting Divine intervention in human affairs. Something that is extraordinary and unusual is by definition not common. But sometimes it doesn’t seem like there are any miracles happening around us. Still we ask, “Where are the miracles?”

If we go back to Gideon and look at the context in which he asked why there weren’t any miracles happening, we see it stated, “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years” (Judges 6:1). Maybe there were no miracles happening then and maybe there are few miracles today because of the sin of God’s people. Maybe it was a way of God to get the attention of His people. Much of the world and our own nation is steeped in sin. There is a globalization of immorality. And the church is not immune to it! There is sin everywhere.

The Midianites were so oppressive of God’s people that they moved into caves for protection. Today too many Christians are isolating themselves from the world for protection. Isolation is not the answer. Jesus called His followers to be salt and light; to purify in order to preserve the world and to shine light into the sinful darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). You can’t do that by isolating yourself from the world.

The Midianites were destroying “the produce of the earth,” the crops of the people. God’s people were “greatly impoverished” by the Midianites (Judges 6:2-6). Today the Midianites take the form of deficit spending, war costs, public school indoctrination and a host of other parasitic vermin that is sapping not only our secular resources but the resources of our spiritual heritage.

Finally the people called out to God. Finally they had enough. Finally they came to the end of themselves. Finally they realized they could only turn to God. When will we get to that point? When we do finally God will answer. What did God say? What will He say?

It states, “the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage; 9 and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 Also I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed My voice.’ ” (Judges 6:8-10). God points His people to the Exodus, a time of incredible miraculous manifestations. He also recalls how God had cleared out the Promised Land for them. But then He adds, “But you have not obeyed My voice.”

Miracles, even the Exodus and conquest of the Promised Land, didn’t lead God’s people to obey God. Jesus recounted the story of a rich man in hell who upon seeing the consequence of his life of luxury begs Abraham to get word to his five brothers so they won’t have to follow his eternal destiny. Abraham’s response was, “if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded through one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The reason we don’t see miracles today is because our motive for wanting them is wrong. We think if God would just perform a miracle it would so impress people that they would fall on their knees and repent. But scriptural history tells us different. God’s own people saw Egypt, the mightiest empire of their time defeated by the miracles of God. They saw the Red Sea parted and then closed up on the Egyptian army. They saw water from the rock. They ate manna from heaven and quail dinners provided by God. God parted the Jordan River. He brought the walls of Jericho down. He made the sun stop in the sky. He defeated enemy after enemy for His people. He did countless other miracles. And still they disobeyed Him!

In the Gospels we see Jesus turn water to wine, the blind made to see, the lame to walk, lepers healed and our Savior rise from the grave. We see the disciples follow in the steps of their Master healing and delivering people from demons. We see numerous miracles and still so many stray.

Why no miracles? There are no miracles because, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). The hypocritical Pharisees sought a sign from Jesus and Jesus didn’t grant their request. In fact Jesus said it was an evil and adulterous generation that seeks a sign (Matthew 12:38-39). Herod was eager to see Jesus so that he might see Jesus do a miracle (Luke 23:8). Simon the sorcerer was rebuked by Peter for wanting to purchase the ability to perform miracles (Acts 8:14-25). Miracles sought with wrong motives are not granted.

But not everyone asks amiss. Who is to say our motives aren’t pure when we see a suffering child or adult and ask God for a miraculous intervention? But go deeper. What is so bad about going to be with the Lord? To live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). When our loved ones are hurting and we are begging the Lord for help, our emotions are so upset it’s hard to wade through and know our motives. If a miracle is to occur it must be according to God’s will and for His glory. That is the criteria we must bow to.

Why no miracles? Gideon’s weakness and lack of faith was evidently representative of the lack of faith amongst God’s people at that time. The Gospels indicate that the lack of faith hinders the manifestation of the miraculous (Mark 6:1-6)

If we follow the pattern of Gideon, he asked for a confirming sign to authenticate it was indeed the Angel of the LORD he was talking to (6:17), he prayed for the Angel of the LORD to wait for him to bring an offering to him (6:18), and we see that it was in the sacrificial offering that the Angel of the LORD confirmed who He was through a sign of igniting the sacrifice into a fire (6:19-21). Then Gideon encountered peace in the presence of the Lord (6:22-24). Gideon named the place YHWH Shalom, or The-LORD-Is-Peace.

After this Gideon was sent on a mission to overturn and destroy a pagan altar of Baal (6:25-35). This was to build Gideon’s trust in God. God mercifully further confirmed to Gideon that He would deliver Israel through him (6:36-40). And then God miraculously delivered His people from the Midianites with only three hundred men (Judges 7).

So what is the pattern? First confirm that it is the LORD that is talking to you about the miracle you seek. Second, through prayer and worship wait for the LORD to confirm His will. Third, let God’s peace guide you (cf. also Col. 3:15). Then let God direct you to strengthen your faith in preparation for the miracle He will do. Then follow the leading of the LORD and be ready for Him to do a miracle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Way of Escape


“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  - 1 Corinthians 10:13

Many people, unfortunately Christians included, struggle with bad habits or addictions. Many are enslaved in sinful lifestyles. These people are conscience convicted that what they are doing or the way they are living is sinful, but they feel powerless to change. Their conscience gnaws at them from within. So frustrated have such people and those who love them become that they have been reduced to justifying their sin and condoning, even promoting sin as “normal,” and “natural” even though the clear testimony of God’s timeless Holy Word says differently. The thought is that by making the sinful behavior socially acceptable the pain or problems will go away. They won’t.

Though the gnawing of conscience may seem ruthless like a predator pursuing its prey, it is meant to be so. You see, God is longsuffering; it pains Him to see anyone caught in the talons of sin. And sinful choices lead to painful sinful consequences. Such consequences may be an arrest, jail time, and the horrors of incarceration. It may be disease such as sexually transmitted diseases   or disease connected with substance abuse. There are physical consequences to sin. There are mental anguish consequences. Sin wrecks relationships. There’s always shame involved in sin; shame for the offender; shame for their loved ones.

The most serious consequence of sin is that it distances us from God. “Your iniquities [i.e. perversity, depravity, sin] have separated you from God; and your sins [i.e. habitual sinning] have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (e.g. Isaiah 59:2). “Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the LORD your God, and the fear [i.e. reverential awe and concern] of ME is not in you” (Jeremiah 2:19). Sin separates us from God.

But God is not willing that any should perish in sin (2 Peter 3:9). God loves us. He looks down on our sin produced plight and pities us. He proves His love in the sending of His Son Jesus (Romans 5:8). He provides salvation from our sin so that we can spend eternity with Him through faith in Jesus (Romans 5). This is where our liberation from sin begins, through spiritual birth in Christ (John 3; Romans 6). But God doesn’t just forgive our past sins, He provides a way for dealing with present and if need be future sins. God’s word proclaims, “For sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14a). If you’re looking for a solution to your sin problem, read on.

The normalization of sin, such as we see regarding same-sex attractions (e.g. LGBT+), open marriage (i.e. adultery), sex before marriage (i.e. fornication), sologamy (marrying yourself), polygamy (marrying many), and a host of other Biblically aberrant life choices, only serves as a band aid on a cancerous condition. We live in an age of people who don’t much care about truth or right and wrong unless it is defined in a way that gives license to sin. But no matter how you try to erase or rationalize or justify away sin on your own, there is a consequence. And the consequences of sin involve pain, suffering, sadness and emptiness.

A person can disregard their God-given conscience that tells them their sinful choices are wrong to the point where they kill it and make their conscience lifeless. But the consequences will continue. Pain in the body tells us something is wrong. Pain in relationships and the way we live is also an indication something is wrong. Pained thoughts tell us something is wrong. All the pain and discomfort and unrest and chaos tells us something is very wrong. Isn’t there a way out? Isn’t there a way of escape? Yes there is! But it’s not coming out to proclaim your sin, its coming out of your sin. There is a better way. There is hope. There is a way of escape.

How can we escape such enslavement and experience liberty? It begins with Jesus. Jesus is the way (John 14:6). Jesus said if we abide in His word we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32). It is in the word of the Lord that we will find the way to liberty. The word tells us there is liberty from sin available in Jesus. God reaches out to us when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sinful predicament (John 16:8-11). Once convicted of sin and in faith we express a willingness to leave our sin behind, the Spirit points us to Jesus as Savior from sin. Through faith in Jesus God forgives our sin (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:21). Then through faith in Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit we can be freed from the dominion of sin in our lives (Luke 4:18; Romans 6:14; 2 Corinthians 3:17; James 1:23-25). I encourage you to look up these scripture references. But God who loves us so incredibly, has given us a promise in a single verse of scripture so that in the simplest of ways we can understand His way of escape from the pains of sin.

There is one verse in the Bible that gives us the way to liberty in Jesus and that is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where it states:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 

This is a verse every person seeking freedom from sin should memorize. It’s one of the most important and precious promises of God in all of scripture. Let’s study this verse and identify the steps to liberty in Jesus.

First, understand that temptation is common to everyone.  Paul is inspired to say, “No temptation has overtaken except such as is common to man; . . .” Temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted and He did not sin (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15). Temptation overtakes everyone. Temptation to sin is not sin; it only becomes sin when we decide to give in to its sinful lure. This is what James explains for us in his epistle where it states:

  • James 1:12-15 – “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” 

These words tell us that there is a blessing for those who endure, or who victoriously resist the lure of temptation (James 1:12). Here we also see that temptation is not “by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13). There are no grounds for blaming God for the temptations we experience. It’s wrong to think or say, “Well, God made me this way so I’ll live on even if the way I’m living is sinful.” Don’t blame God for the temptations you face. God is not unjust or the Author of sin. He did not create us to live in ways that He calls sinful.

If not God, then who is the source of our temptations? The answer, we are! Yes, Satan is referred to as “The tempter” (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), but James lays the blame for temptation on our doorstep. He says, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:14). Those desires emanate from our flesh or sinful nature. Since our first parents sinned, every subsequent human has been born with a sinful nature or a propensity to sin. God created us to have a loving relationship with Him. Love is a beautiful thing. But love isn’t love without the capacity to choose to love. Adam and Eve were put in a wonderful place to enjoy the Lord. But they chose to not love God. They disobeyed Him (Genesis 3). The rest is history. We have been suffering ever since. But God is merciful and has provided a way out of sin.

We as human beings are guilty in our first parents; in their sinful choice. Sin entered the DNA of humanity with the sin of our first parents. We, because of them, are infected with sin. And the sinful nature is that part of us which is selfish and self-serving, self-promoting and self–satisfying. While we are not morally culpable for such planetary or universal sin, we are culpable for sinful choices we make. God’s grace gives us an option to not choose to sin. But the sad story is that human beings choose to sin. In our own strength we are hopelessly addicted to sin.

Our inner thought life comes into play here. And what we feed our mind has a consequence. If we feed our mind junk by looking at or listening to sinful things, it will produce in us sinful behavior. For instance, what did you think would happen when you watched that program or website, or watched that video or porn? Did you think you could subject yourself to a flood of profuse refuse and filthy language and it not find its way into your own words? What did you think would happen when you entered that bar or club? What do you expect will happen when you put yourself in a sin-saturated environment? It infects our thoughts. It penetrates our heart. It all sets a person up for “desires” to be further enticed. It all plays a part in setting a person up for the lure of temptation and the Tempter. James says, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:15).

These verses offer both hope and horror because they tell us of the consequence of the decisions we make in the face of temptation. When we choose to give in to temptation and sin it works death in our lives. When James says, “When desire has conceived,” he means when those inner sinful desires are tempted they give birth to sin and when the single act of sin becomes a habit or even an addiction, it works death in our spirit. Relationships die, good reasoning dies, right thinking dies, accurate perceptions of reality die, and our fellowship with God is greatly hindered. The more we sin the more it is as though we cover ours ears so that we can’t hear the Spirit. The more we sin the more we depend on ourselves and consequently the weaker we get spiritually. You can argue all you want about whether a person can or cannot lose their salvation, the greater point is that when you feed your mind and heart with sin it is like a cancer that eats you up and works death in your life in all areas, especially your spiritual sensitivity and your fellowship with God.

But the opposite is also true, if you resist temptation and choose to take the way of escape God is faithful to provide, each time you resist in the strength and way He provides you will become stronger in your faith and more spiritually sensitive and closer in your fellowship with God. Paul was inspired to say it like this:

  • Galatians 6:7-8 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

The choice is clear, choose life, or choose death.

Getting back to our verse in 1 Corinthians, notice too what is “common” to man. Temptation is common to man. It does not say, “Sin is common to man.” Yes, believers remain weak and flawed and there is no such thing as sinless perfection in this life. But we don’t have to adopt a defeatist attitude toward sin and temptation. John wrote that his first epistle was aimed in part to help his readers not to sin, but if they did, he wanted them to know they had an Advocate, Jesus who had the means of forgiveness and cleansing from sin (1 John 2:1-2). When tempted you do not have to give in and sin. But how can we escape? Let’s go on with our verse study.

Second, understand that victory and liberty depends on God’s faithfulness more than it does yours. Paul writes, “but God is faithful, . . .” The key to victory begins with trusting the Lord and His faithfulness. If we depend on our faithfulness we will fail because we are weak (compare Romans 7 and 8). The Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26). It is God who works in us (Philippians 2:13; 4:13). God is faithful to help us when we are tempted. But how does He help us?

Third, understand God has promised to be faithful TO NOT LET YOU BE TEMPTED BEYOND WHAT YOU ARE ABLE. Paul states, “who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, . . .” This phrase is both encouraging and challenging. God knows our limits and weaknesses. He knows us personally, even better than we know ourselves (Psalm 44:21; 139:1,23-24; 1 John 3:20-21). This is comforting because we can face temptations knowing God is in control and won’t allow us to be overwhelmed. But this is challenging too, because when we give in to temptation and do sin, these words tell us we are responsible for that sin because God has been faithful to show us a way out, but we have not taken it. You see, with every temptation that overtakes us, God has promised to limit its lure so that it will not be overwhelming to us, IF WE FOLLOW THE NEXT STEP.

Fourth, understand God has promised to make a way of escape from the temptation. Paul goes on to say, “but with the temptation will also make the way of escape . . .” Just as surely as we will be faced with temptation to sin in this life, God is faithful to always provide an escape route so we don’t have to give in to the sinful thing we are being tempted with. There is a way out, always! That way of escape may be as simple as turning off the TV or computer. It may be not entering a sinful place. It may be deciding to heed God’s warning and ending a sinful or tempting relationship. In every sinful danger zone we enter in this world, God promises to show us the way of escape. We simply need to be attentive and desiring to please Him and follow His warning signs that point us to the way of escape.  

We don’t’ have to sin, but if we do, Jesus is there to be our advocate and basis to go to God for forgiveness. Look at these verses mentioned earlier but quoted here from the first epistle of John where it states:

  • 1 John 2:1-2 – “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 

John was a realist and well in tune with the reality of humanity, even saved humanity. He wrote his first epistle in part to help his spiritual children to not sin. The phrase “that you may not sin” expresses what is grammatically the “Subjunctive Mood” of the verb “to sin” (Greek hamartano) which means to miss the mark to err, . . . to sin . . .  trespass.”[1] The idea expressed here is that of possibility. John is saying to us that it is possible not to sin when tempted. But he goes on to say, “And if anyone sins . . .” Again he uses the Subjunctive Mood with the verb “sins” telling us that it is also possible that we will sin. If we do sin, Jesus is our Advocate with the Father who will forgive us on the basis of Jesus propitiation or His sacrifice on the cross, which satisfies His just requirements.

Earlier in John’s first epistle the means to secure forgiveness and cleansing from sin is through confession of it to God. John says:

  • 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

To “confess” here means to see our sin from God’s perspective. It is not merely being sorry, it is more a repentant revulsion at what we have done and a desire to be cleansed from the impurity sin has brought to our heart. The word “confess” (Greek homologeo) means to assent, i.e. covenant, acknowledge . . .  con (pro-) fess, [2] This verb is also in the Subjunctive Mood expressing possibility and it is also in the Present Tense of the Greek grammar indicating an ongoing action of this verb (Present/Active/Subjunctive). The idea is if you are confessing. This door to forgiveness is always there and we should always take it, sincerely sensing the death-working nature of sin we have allowed to enter us when we give in to temptation.

All of this tells us that we have a decision to make when faced with temptation. We either choose to give in to temptation and sin or we choose not to give in to temptation and not sin. What does Paul go on to say in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that will help us make the right decision not to give in to temptation and not sin?

Fifth, understand you can be liberated from your temptations. Paul concludes, “that you may be able to bear it.” You can bear it! It is possible to defeat your bad sinful habits and destructive addictions. You may be thinking, “But I can’t, I’ve tried.” You are correct in one sense, YOU can’t do it, but remember; we must lean on God’s faithfulness to gain the victory. God has said He will be faithful to provide an escape for you so you don’t have to give into temptations, if you have thoughts that say, “God is not faithful,” or “I can’t do it, there is not escape,” then where do you think such thoughts are coming from, THE LIAR, SATAN who is playing on your flesh (John 8:44). You need to take those defeatist thoughts captive in Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We need to prayerfully ask God to show us the way out of our sinful habits and addictions and when He does show us the way out, by faith, relying on His power, we need to follow His escape route.

God’s way of escape is always Scriptural. Look to God’s word for insight and direction in the way to escape sin in the times of temptation. God’s word is specifically designed to guide us in the way we should and should not go in times of temptation (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Titus 2:11-12; Hebrews 4:12; 1 John 2:1-2). When you prayerfully seek the help and direction from the Lord in His word, He will answer you and point you in the way you should go. He never fails to do this; you can count on Him to show you the way of escape in His word (Psalm 119:9-11). Your ability to avoid and resist sin and live victoriously in the face of temptation is in direct proportion to the amount of scripture in your life.

 

God’s way of escape is precautionary. It’s a lot easier to stop something you never let get started. God’s word warns us clearly about so many sinful behaviors. It would be best to heed the word of God from the start and not indulge in anything that God prohibits (See 1 Corinthians 6).

 

God’s way of escape can be difficult.  God’s way of escape is not made difficult by God, but by us when we allow sinful patterns or situations to arise in our lives. If we disregard the scriptural and precautionary steps of God’s way of escape allowing ourselves to indulge fleshly lusts and sin, once sin gets its foot in the door, it can be very hard to evict. There is a measure of pleasure in sin, otherwise why would anyone do it. Moses chose to turn away from the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24-26). Sin may have a measure of pleasure, but it is “passing,” it is temporary and fades. But oh! What a persistent and often permanent measure of pain and suffering it leaves in its wake!

 

Paul said those who seek to live godly lives would be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). The people around you won’t necessarily help you. Your old friends don’t want you to leave your sinful ways because that brings them to terms with the sin you are leaving behind that they may still want to indulge in. When you identify sinful behavior and seek to leave it behind, that brings conviction to those who would rather indulge the same kinds of sin. Misery loves company and sinners don’t want to be convicted of their sin. This, for example is why the LGBT+ communities do not only want society to leave them alone, but they want societies approval for their sinful lifestyle (Romans 1:18-32, especially verse 32). God never tells us that taking his way of escape is easy. He simply tells us it is possible and we do not take God’s way of escape in our own strength but in the strength He provides when we seek Him out to help us (Philippians 2:12-13; James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:8-9).

 

God’s way of escape is often common sense. Our “common sense” comes from God; it is not something we come up with. Therefore, there are some very practical common sense, logical things we can do to keep tempting situations from overwhelming us. Maybe you need to clean house and get rid of any paraphernalia that would tempt you to give in to temptation. If you have a history of substance abuse, don’t keep a pipe, bong, rolling papers, syringe, etc. around for sentimental purposes. If you are married but struggle with sexual temptations like adultery don’t keep your little black book with all your old girlfriends or boyfriend’s names and numbers in it just for a memento. You need to clean out the leaven, even the small sinful things around you (1 Corinthians 5:5-7). All of this is common sense.

 

Also, if you have difficulty with pornography on TV, computer, phone, or other device, arrange it so that when you are using these things you will not be alone, but with someone who will motivate you not to entertain sinful temptations. With the advent of IPhone and IPad it’s harder to avoid temptation, but not impossible. Remember God’s promise.

 

If you are an addict of some kind, maybe you need to change who you hang out with or the places you go. Watch the trick of the enemy who will urge your flesh to rationalize and reason that your old friends won’t get saved unless you hang with them. That’s hogwash! God desires their salvation far more than you do and He is able to save them with someone else if need be. You need to get spiritually grounded and mature in your faith, otherwise you will put yourself in a situation where you are primed to fall and sin again. That would be a bad testimony and counterproductive to how God might want to use you. Plan ahead and take steps to not put yourself in tempting situations. And if a tempting situation catches up to you, prayerfully ask God to show you the way out and give you the strength to take it.

 

God’s way of escape is always there, but only good for those who really want to follow it. Here is the conviction and challenge. An escape route is only good if you take it. If you are drowning and God throws you a life preserver, and you push it away, or ignore it, you will drown and it is your decision to do so. You have to ask yourself, “Do I really want to escape? Do I really want to follow the Lord or sin? Do I want to allow this sin to threaten my fellowship with the Lord? What is more important to me, the Lord and His good path, or my sin?” Jesus said

 

  • Matthew 7:13-14 - “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” 

There is a way out, a way of escape. Jesus said it is a narrow way. It is narrow because His way is the only way (John 14:6). He will give you clear and direct plans of escape. We have to accept them and take them by faith. Remember, God is faithful and won’t let you be tempted beyond what you are able. That’s His promise. You can depend on it. When tempted, pause and prayerfully ask God to show you the way out. He will do it and give you strength to follow it to liberty in Jesus.

 

 



[1]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.
[2]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.