Category Archives: heart

The Master of the Call

The gospel of pragmatism has caused the fall of many Bible teachers, from television evangelists to pastors, even seminary and denominational leaders.  The continual focus on the call, the goal, causes a blindness to foolish decisions, to deceptive marketing, even to sinful behavior.  Churches and ministries overlook immorality or try to deal with it inside the organization.  They fear that the negative publicity would “hurt the ministry.”  Mishandled funds, mistreated people, misled followers—all must be kept “off the record.”

So what is really wrong with this?  It sounds right to be dedicated to a call.  God gives a special call to a person and that person should bind himself to it, right?  Wrong!  No disciple of Jesus is bound to a call.  We are bound to our Lord.  He is the focus of our hearts, not the call He has given us.  In fact, a case could easily be made from Scripture that the call of God would happen almost naturally for the person who follows the Lord.  The call is never the important part; the relationship is what is important.

When God told Moses that he would lead the people out of Egypt, Moses only had to do the next thing God told him.  Moses was not responsible for the success of the mission.  Moses does not get scolded for the people’s unbelief.  God was going to do this and He was going to use Moses.  When God sent Abraham to settle the new land, it was the same thing.  When David conquered the Philistines, Solomon built the Temple, and Nehemiah led the people back to the land—God made sure of the success.  It was God’s project.

We are often puzzled by the call of God to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar.  But think about that in the context of this gospel of pragmatism.  Abraham had already shown himself to be the pragmatist, trying to accomplish the call of God in his flesh, by the birth of Ishmael.  But Isaac was the child that would begin a special people who would number more than the stars.  Isaac was the call, the goal.  Yet, Abraham had learned to look to God first.  He had made mistakes.  When God told him to sacrifice Isaac, it was the end of the call.  But Abraham had his eyes on the Lord, not the call.

Ask the leader of the movement what he would do if God told him to stop.  Ask the pastor what he would do if God told him not to build the new building.  And when an obstacle is discovered, immorality in leadership or embezzlement or something like that, and the leadership of the organization wants to cover it up to protect the ministry, ask why the ministry must keep going.  If they answer that God would never end the ministry or change the goal, they probably are no longer looking to Him.

Too often we have heard of church and ministry leaders who overlooked too much, who compromised too much, in serving their goal.  The precious ministry they protected with lies and cheating and stealing and covering up still died.  By taking their eyes off the One who called them, they opened themselves to error and sin and destroyed the very thing they believed they must protect.

 

When a believer receives a call and focuses on the goal, rather than the Lord, the implementation of the call is left to the flesh.  The person’s background and values interpret the call.  All kinds of personal preferences can become “principles” when the flesh interprets the call.

And the more the flesh is involved in the call, the more the person’s own sense of value will be tied to it.  Because the call is seen as his own and the interpretation of it is his and the energy in it is his, he cannot see a difference between the goal and himself.  No one else will be good enough to lead it.  Those who challenge the goal, challenge the man.

Finally, when the goal becomes a monument or affirmation of the man, he will protect it at great cost.  It must not die or even suffer loss.  He may do things for the sake of the ministry that are against his own principles and hurt people he truly cares about.  But he will see no choice.  And when it collapses, so will he.

 

The goal for any believer is to walk with the Lord.  When the Lord places a particular call on the heart of a person, the Lord Himself will accomplish it.  The person who is called is, in a sense, along for the ride.  The call is not the Lord.  The Lord is the master of the call.

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The Dilemma

Grace 101

One of the simplest reasons it is difficult for people to lose weight is because you have to eat.  You don’t have to smoke, in order to survive.  You don’t have to drink or do drugs to survive.  Yes, I know it feels like it when you are quitting these things, but the point is that you can quit them.  You can’t quit eating.  So we have to learn to do other things: eat less, eat smarter, use up more calories, etc.  We all know the drill.  But you still have to eat.

It causes great stress when we are expected to stop doing something we must do.  Or, we can state the opposite as well: It causes great stress when we are expected to do something we can’t do.

Adam and Eve, their children, and the generations that followed were somehow expected to survive an existence where they were drawn to the Lord by the need in their hearts, but unable to reach Him and reconnect with Him.  They had lost their communion, their unity, with Him and had no way to restore it.  No matter how much they wanted to return to the Lord, they couldn’t.  The one thing that could connect them with the heart of God, His life in them, was gone.  That’s why He told them they would die.

There were certainly people who knew and loved God before the cross.  I think Adam and Eve remained close to God and He cared for them.  We know that He interacted with their family.  But it wasn’t the same.  The life was gone.  The relationship was so much less than it was in the Garden.

In the Garden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God.  I expect that they laughed with Him and each other.  Their life was so much better than anything we can imagine.  But the only example we have in Scripture of anyone else enjoying that kind of relationship with God was Jesus.  We see glimpses of it as He walked in the garden with the Father.  His times of prayer were true communion with the Father.  No one else had that.  There were hints.  Enoch walked with God.  Moses talked with God.  Abraham and David and Isaiah had special relationships with God.  But always from a distance.  Always less than what was.

But the need was there.  Humans were made to live in communion with God.  Nothing would be right until that was restored.  The tension and sadness in the heart allowed sin to compound.  Separation grew to hate.  Hate grew to murder.  Murder grew to war.  Loss led to grief.  Grief led to depression.  Depression led to self-destruction.  Trying to satisfy the longing, the emptiness, either became the ambition or the destruction of humanity.  Human history, human religion, human art—all reveal the effect of this inherent suffering.

From the beginning, God had a plan of restoration.  Yet, He knew that humans would develop their own plan as well.  The two plans grew until a day of choice would come again.

 

Grace 101 is a simple attempt to explain what has happened to us and what God has done for us.  So much of what we have learned has been confused by sectarian doctrines and theological jargon.  It is sometimes difficult to see the message the Lord wants us to understand as we read the Bible or worship together.  The series of posts will be found in the category called Grace 101 and begins here.  Enjoy!

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Stolen Treasures

A recent article at Recovering Grace, entitled “Moving On,” prompted me to think about the reason it is so difficult to move forward after being victimized by legalism.  As I have worked with those hurt by legalism over the years, I have often heard stories about what happened five, ten, maybe thirty years ago.  These folks still struggle against the lies they were told and the anger they continue to feel toward those who misused them.  I have come to the conclusion that a great deal of the difficulty of moving on has to do with the treasures that were stolen.

Each of the following could be an article in itself, but let me just introduce the problems legalism created by stealing these treasures.  You may think of more precious things that were stolen, but these are the ones that have come up most as I have communicated with victims.

The character of God.  Legalism presents an angry and vengeful God who wants to see us fail and then will punish us when we do.  He rejects us when we sin and puts us into situations to test our faithfulness.  He even punishes us for the things our great-grandparents did.  But this is not the God of the Bible.  Yes, I know the Bible speaks of the wrath against sin, but the message of love—forgotten by the legalist—is the primary message of Scripture.  God loves us and draws us by love.  When the love of God is set aside and His anger becomes the focus, where do we go when we are afraid?  The Lord may be a strong tower for His people, but the victims of legalism can’t run to Him and feel safe because they think He is angry with them.  I have often asked parents this: “When your children sin, and they will, do you want them to run to God or away from God?”  The character of the God you introduce is important.  Stealing away the love of God and substituting an angry or vindictive spirit is damaging.

The message of the Bible.  So many times people have told me that they simply cannot read the Bible anymore because all they see in it is condemnation.  The message of love and peace the Bible brings was stolen from them and replaced by a system that almost always forced them to see shame in its pages.  Not only was the Bible blamed for bringing the challenges of the legalist lifestyle, it was a constant killjoy.  “Because the Bible says,” was the refrain that supported every legalistic action, no matter how cruel.  But the Bible tells us of the love of God.  It was given to proclaim the message of His heart toward us—which is very good.  Stealing the real message of the Bible is a great sin against both the believer and the seeker.

The new heart of the believer.   How many times did we hear, “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked”?  Victims of legalism are told never to trust their hearts, which meant never to trust their own judgment.  Sadly that meant that they were only to trust the judgment of those above them, which opened them to all kinds of abuse.  How can anyone go through life successfully and joyfully without the ability to trust their hearts?  I remember, when I first understood the great error of this, asking why we should delight in the Lord.  The Scripture says that if we delight in the Lord He will give us the desires of our hearts.  But if our hearts were as wicked as we were taught, why would God give us those desires?  Of course, we were told that He would change the desires of our hearts to the right thing, but that didn’t really help much.  The truth is that the believer has a new heart, one which the Lord uses to communicate with us.  When He connects to the new spirit in us, He connects to the new heart.  (See Ezekiel 11:19)  But when legalism stole away our ability to look within and trust our hearts, it took away our opportunity to hear the voice of our Lord.

The love and joy of others.  Legalism is a system of condemnation and comparison.  It sets us up to put others down.  If I can’t ever be good enough, I can at least be better than you.  We learned to judge and condemn others, rather than to understand them.  We learned to compare ourselves with them, rather than to listen and care.  We learned to keep them at a distance just in case, rather than to love them.  In legalism, we learned to mistrust God, others and ourselves.  But the Lord gave us each other for good.  We learn love from each other and others give us an outlet for our love.  Relationships are good.  Yes, they can be difficult, but they are meant to teach us about ourselves and how to trust God.  The message from the beginning, according to John (1 Jn 3:11) was that we should love one another.  But legalism pushes us away from each other.

 

I have come to believe that those who leave legalism must rediscover these treasures.  Some will seek them outside the faith.  Others will stumble around trying to find them within different legalist systems.  But they know, in every part of their being, that the treasures are worth seeking.

So let me summarize what I have found.

God loves you.  He has never not loved you and He has never stopped loving you.  Nothing you have done has changed His love for you.  All that He has done, through Jesus, has been because of His love for you.

The Bible consistently tells of this love, if you can look past the old legalist system to see the truth.  I have suggested that people read through the book of John just for one purpose, to see the love of God.  The message is very clear.  From beginning to end, the Bible tells of God’s love.

Those who have come to Jesus have received from Him a new heart.  It’s true!  The old has passed away and the new has come.  If you listen for God’s voice, you will hear words of love and affirmation.  Never will He condemn or shame you; that’s another voice.  Always He calls with a kind voice of acceptance.  And you can trust that He will lead you, through your heart, because of His love.

Others are good for you.  Yes, they struggle and stumble through life just like you do.  They sin and they hurt people.  But you don’t have to trust them in order to enjoy them or even love them.  You are called to trust the Lord.  He may lead you to people who are very different from you and you will learn from them.  We were meant to live in relationship with many people and God expresses His creativity in the styles of their lives.  Put away your expectations and let others fail.  Then you will begin to see how God loves you even through others.

Whatever time it takes, seek the treasures.  They are still yours.

 

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What I will be

I am not what I was but I am what I will be.

Chances are that you have heard that line differently.  We are usually told, “I am not what I was and I am not what I will be.”  But where does that leave us?  Many believers accept that they live in some kind of “no man’s land” between what they were and what they will be.  They believe that they are no longer lost in sin, because of Jesus (or their participation in the church), but that they are still broken sinners waiting to be forgiven and redeemed and accepted when they die. There is no victory, no righteousness, not even any joy for them because they have not arrived at their goal.

We understand this, of course.  We still suffer the limitations and indignities of earthly life and we trust that will change.  We still do things we don’t want to do and we look forward to a time when that will no longer be true.  In other words, we don’t feel like saints and we don’t act in the way we think saints should act, but we expect that we will someday.  Our present may not be as bad as our past was, but it isn’t as good as we believe our future will be.

Now, if you promise to read the rest of this post, I will concede that there is an important point here.  I don’t know what it will be like to live without the influence of sin, but I long for the day when sin is out of my world and my life forever.  I believe that will be a wonderful day—and that it will be quite different from today.  My thinking will be completely uncompromised.  My choices will always be right.  My heart will respond only to Jesus.  What a day that will be!

However, the only things that will be different in that day are that sin will be gone in you and in me and that we will finally know who we are.  In a sense, the only differences will be in our behavior and in our understanding.  We will finally think like saints and act like saints, because we will finally feel like saints.  Our experience will catch up with the truth about ourselves.

You see, nothing spiritual will change in those who belong to Jesus when they die.  We are as saved right now as we will be when we stand in Heaven.  We are as clean and forgiven and righteous today as we will be then.  Our thinking will catch up; our environment will certainly change; but there will be no substantial difference in us.

This is the wonder of Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

The work that was necessary for you has already been done for you and in you.  When you came to Jesus, you accepted the work of Jesus on your behalf.  Nothing more needs to be done.  You can’t add to what He has already done.

So the proper Christian goal for the New Year is not to be a better person.  You can’t make yourself better than Christ has already made you.  The proper Christian goal is to become what you are, to think according to the truth about you.

I believe that learning to live in His presence, to walk with Him through the day, is the best way to begin thinking in the right way.  They claim that you begin to think like the people you are with.  How does Jesus think of you?  He loves you and values you.  He knows what He has done in your life and who you really are.  If you and I can begin to think of ourselves in the way He thinks of us, our lives will be full and free.

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So it begins

Words of affirmation.  We need them.  We need to hear that we have done well.  We need to hear that someone cares.  We need to know that we are valued.

Among the things legalism takes away in families and in churches, even in marriages, are the simple pats on the back for a job well-done.  The father was always trying to push the son to do more and better.  The job was okay, but not as good as could be.  The preacher couldn’t talk about victory without talking about the cost (which, of course, no one had yet paid).  We receive the list of things we ought to do and are told that we will never do them enough or correctly.

In the comic strips recently, the little girl took her list of resolutions to her family members.  These were the things she had resolved others should do for her.  That sounds ridiculous—until we realize that’s what a lot of parents and preachers do.  They give us lists of things that will make them look better—if we will only do them.  We are made to feel like failures so they can feel better about themselves.

NO MORE!

It is my prayer that everyone reading this will join me in affirming the truth about ourselves in Christ.  Read these things out loud because they are true about anyone who belongs to Jesus.

I am loved!

I am accepted!

I am good!

I am valuable!

I am strong!

I am righteous!

I am forgiven!

I am free!

I am victorious!

Now, if you can say those and still be sad or grumpy, you are more determined than I am.  I read those things and know they are true about me because of Jesus and I add a couple more.

I am happy!

I am full!

I am successful!

I am at peace!

We have been made to be influenced by words.  These are the words that should surround us and seep into our hearts throughout the New Year.

Let it begin!

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What the New Year means for me

Well, we are still here.  12-21-12 was not the day.  2012 was not the year.

I still believe there will be an end to this world.  I still believe the words of the Bible when it speaks of the end times.  But however much promise that holds for us, it isn’t where our hearts should be.  We may have a home in Heaven waiting for us, but we are still here.

And I don’t think that’s bad news.  Our Lord is active in this world.  We had a great time yesterday in our little church sharing good news about the healing touch of God in the people for whom we had been praying.  We aren’t even a charismatic church!  We just believe that we should be praying.  Nor do we have any particular expectations of the Lord, except that He hears us and He loves us.  And we know that He is active.

I don’t usually make resolutions, although there are things I would like to accomplish.  The truth is that I have accomplished much more this year than I could have expected and I didn’t do a lot of the things I would have resolved to do.  So, I am learning to trust the Lord with my days and my life.  My primary goal is simply to follow Him.  He will lead me to be the husband, father, pastor, counselor, writer, and whatever else He wants me to be.

But I do think that writing has produced one desire in me: I want to see others more as people.  I want to treat others with value and respect and compassion.  Really.  As much as that scares me and threatens my idea of my need for private time and focus.  I want to see others more in the way Jesus sees them.

You see, all this writing about narcissism and legalism has made me realize that it is the heart of Jesus to value each person.  It is too easy to see the clerk at the store or the customer service person on the phone as just a tool of some system.  It is easy to blame those poor folks for whatever frustration I am experiencing.  So I want to approach each interaction with kindness and respect.  I don’t want to be just one more reason they have a bad day.

And my writing on grace reminds me constantly that I don’t need to win or get what I want according to this world’s ideas.  My identity is secure.  If I suffer a loss on a transaction, that’s not the end of my world.  If I look foolish in front of others, I am still who I was before.  My life is full and free because of Jesus.  He is all I need.

Perhaps a New Year gives me a little incentive to refocus.  I know that it is just another day with a different number.  Everything in my life is still the same.  But today I can remember who I am and what I have been given.  And today I can encourage someone else.

God bless all of you with a wonderful New Year!

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Grief

I have a good friend who recently lost his mom.  There was little warning, just a few days of struggle then a sudden snatching away.  His heart is breaking as he tries to understand the loss.  Added to his pain is his concern for his father, whose health was and is very frail.  He is aware and concerned that he may lose both of his parents in a short time.

Grief is the process of understanding who you are now that the person you love is gone.  So many have said that it would be easier to lose an arm or a leg than someone so important.  Grief is filled with fear, anger, worry, and loss.  When these special people are taken away, the support structure on which we depend seems to be weakened.  Where will the words of encouragement come from today?  Who will be there tomorrow, no matter what?  What will I do without her?  Grief is a dark cave we must enter.

My prayer for my friend is that he will soon understand that the love he received through his parents was from the Lord.  There really is no other source of true love.  The support and encouragement and stability my friend found in his parents is still there.  They were the channels used by the Lord.  It was a blessing for him to have them for so long, but the love will never end.

Paul said that love never fails.  Other important things fail, but not love.  When all the things of this life fade and we ourselves are taken away, love will be the one firm foundation under us.  John understood as well, teaching us that “God is love.”  Because love comes from the heart of God, love is eternal.

For many of us, Christmas is a time of memories and twinges of grief.  It doesn’t seem to matter how long ago that special person left us, the feeling returns easily.  Not as intense, perhaps, but still very real.  But understand and remember that the love came from the Lord.  It hasn’t gone away.

It will take a while for my friend to feel secure and at peace, but he will.  He will because he trusts the Lord who loves him.  He will understand that the love of God is just as real, no matter who stands with him.  Friends may fail and families drift apart, but the love of God is more secure than the sun or the stars in the sky.  When even those are gone, that love will remain—and be enough.

My friend, I grieve with you, but not as one without hope.  My hope and yours is in the Lord.

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Evil in the World

What do you say after an event like the one that happened Friday?  It feels like you have to say something, but almost anything seems trite against the horror of little children being executed by a madman.  My wife and I have come up with a little thing that helps us to understand the strange and, often, troubling things people say in times of stress.  “When you have a choice of two or three things you could say, you will almost always choose the dumbest.”  So often we walk away from a brief conversation and wonder why we said what we did.  And, just as often, we have to walk away forgiving the other person for what he or she said.

So I am simply going to say this: there is evil in the world.  Sometimes the evil bursts out in ways that bring terror and grief.  Sometimes the evil is so plain to see that we can’t explain it away or excuse it.

People all over the nation are crying out for gun control, as though more gun control would stop such violence.  The people of China are not allowed to own guns, but children have been attacked with axes, box cutters, meat cleavers, and knives.  In fact, 22 children were slashed in Henan Province on Friday, the same day as the Sandy Hook School killings.  This isn’t about guns, or mental health, or divorce, or public schools—this is about evil.  Evil uses whatever it can to bring harm.

The young man who committed this act worked evil.  The evil in his heart grew and twisted and festered until it found a way of expression.  In Romans, Paul speaks of sin as a force within him, even as a believer (Rom. 7:17).  Sin takes advantage of the world and its cruel influences to twist our flesh and move us to do things we regret.  Sin is evil and sin is in each person.  Sin is as natural to us as breathing air.

That’s why we need a Savior.

The limited and tilted picture we get of the young murderer is of someone who needed to know in his heart that he was loved.  Yes, I understand that he had some diagnosed psychological problems, but the story so far speaks volumes about the lack of security and love in his life.  We may never understand what finally snapped in him, but I can’t help but wonder if things would be different today if he understood the love of Jesus for him.

As you go about your business today, love people.  Sometimes it is hard and the only love you may find is a little more patience and a decision not to say what you think the person deserves.  But, if the love of Jesus is in your heart, share it.  And don’t be afraid to tell people where it came from when they ask why you are kind.

Love is the one thing that multiplies as it is shared.  You have more for yourself as you give it away.  Yes, there are people who cannot accept love and people who use your love to take advantage of you.  I don’t blame anyone for being careful.  Loving someone is not the same as giving in to their addictions and cruelties.

The evil of many generations apart from God—the evil of a culture that is becoming increasingly narcissistic—the evil of a church that seeks to appease God through lists and rules and legalistic standards—has found its way to the hearts of our young people.  They are struggling in ways few of us ever did.  Sexual promiscuity, drugs, homosexuality, suicide—these are part of their lives now.  They need to know the love of Jesus.

Be sure to tell your kids and grandkids what you are learning about being loved.  It will make a difference!

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Failing

Some of the hardest times for us are those times when someone sits in judgment of our work.  Whether it is from a teacher, a mother-in-law, a boss, or whoever, it is hard for us to listen to criticism.  It seems that no matter what we tell ourselves, these people are sitting in judgment of us as people.

You know what I mean.  Somehow a negative comment about a presentation becomes, in our hearts, a negative comment about the person.  When someone criticizes a messy house, the homemaker feels it as a personal wound.  When the boss says the job could have been done better, the employee believes that his job is in danger.  If he loses the job, he will be a failure as a husband and father and man.  You can come up with your own illustrations, I am sure.

But why do we do that?  Why do we assign negative comments about our work to ourselves as people?  Why don’t we just shrug our shoulders and try to do better next time?  Probably because we were trained to think that our work is who we are.  When we made our beds, we were good children.  When we spilled our milk, we were told that we were careless.   We learned that “stupid is as stupid does.”

We learned the opposite also.  We learned that good little boys and girls do what they are told.  They clean themselves and their surroundings.  They do their chores and keep their promises and know when to be quiet.  Orderly children are good children.

So, when we hear judgment or criticism, we receive it into our hearts.  Most of us are not able to simply take it and use it to better our actions.  We have to go through the process of talking ourselves out of feeling rejected and worthless.  Poor quality work makes us poor quality people, we think.  Failure makes us failures, we think.Failing

But that’s a lie!

This week we are going to look at the idea of failure and judgment and identity.  Check back tomorrow!

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Influences

Do you find yourself doing things you don’t want to do?  Do you find it hard to do the things you want to do?  Does it seem like there is something holding you back in some instances and something pushing you forward in others?  And does it seem like, in order for you to succeed, you have to first overcome you?  In other words, do you find yourself battling against yourself?

The things that move us to act and feel were built into our lives very early.  In fact, most of us cannot remember the particular events that taught us certain ways of reacting to the world around us.  Words that were spoken to us, things that were done to us, failures, successes, and fears—these things came to us a long time ago and we began to build our lives around them.  Now, as adults, these things continue to affect our thinking and we find it difficult to understand why.

For the most part, this is what I call the flesh.  It is how we learned to cope with life apart from God.  So let me try to explain what’s going on.  Some people will find this too simple, but I think it fits with Scripture and makes sense.

Someone has determined that there are three primary influences in our lives, apart from the Lord: the world, the flesh, and the devil.  That’s okay, as long as we understand what is meant by each one of those.  When you were born, you were brought into a world filled with sin.  Your parents, and all the others who touched your life, struggled with sin.  The world system you grew up in was stained by sin.  People hurt each other and used each other and the world was built around and upon this sinful structure.  That’s the world.

As you grew up, you learned about life and about others through the sin system of your world.  You learned how to manipulate life and how to react when life hurt you.  You learned that certain things were desirable and others were painful.  As you learned this, you put together a way of thinking that became a default method of coping with life.  Certain things caused you to be afraid and you acted on your fear in order to be safe.  Other things attracted you because they gave you something you wanted, something that made you feel good.  That’s your flesh.

But there is also an active force working against all people.  It’s called sin.  I believe that sin appears in our lives as a force to pull us more and more away from the Lord.  There is also a person the Scripture calls the evil one who works to deceive us and bring us into sin.  The force I call sin is not the same as the evil one, but they will seem much the same.  The evil one is a real person who speaks words of condemnation and temptation into our minds and hearts and sin stands ready to welcome us into its traps.

So, all of these things are at work.  I use the present tense because I see nothing in the Scripture to indicate that any of these have stopped in the life of the Christian.  The world system is still around us.  The flesh is still active in us.  The devil still hates us and wants to deceive us.

However, you and I are different.  We are not what we were.  We are new creations.  We no longer have to look at the world and believe that it is our world.  We no longer have to think that our flesh is who we are.  And we no longer have to be afraid of the enemy or unaware of his lies.  Because Christ is in us and we are in Him, we have a whole new existence.  Now, instead of being apart from the Lord, we are apart from sin.

Careful.  I didn’t say that we no longer sin or that sin is no longer a part of our lives.  Paul spoke of sin as an active force at work in him.  But it no longer rules over us and no longer defines us.  Today, because of Jesus, we can look at sin as something different from who we are.

So the power of the Christian life comes into play when we begin to see these three primary influences as separate from ourselves.  They are not us.

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