The New Me!

Peninsula Community Church 

The New Me!

November 11, 2018 

Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I love some of the advertisements that promote certain weight loss products. They usually show the amount of weight loss by way of two contrasting photos. The first is a picture before weight loss and the second is one after weight loss. It is interesting to me that when you look at some of these photos it seems that the before weight loss picture is often taken from the worst possible position. It is a side profile view, with poor lighting, little makeup, and so on. The after weight loss picture is taken with bright lights, makeup, and the best side showing on the photo. Paul in this passage is in essence taking a before and after picture for us to see where we have come from, and how much we have achieved as believers in Christ. The difference is that he does not use any special lighting or photographic tricks, he simple gives us an honest contrast of the difference.


In this passage Paul takes a snapshot of what a mature, committed, passionate follower of Christ looks like. He contrasts the old man with the new man who is in Christ. He identifies  certain attributes and characteristics that formulate our actions and reactions to the world around us before our relationship with Christ. But he also gives us the contrasting view of what a passionate follower of Christ looks like. You see the passionate follower of Christ has put off falsehood, and they now live in truth. They used to get angry without dealing with the anger quickly, but now they are quick to settle the anger before it gets the best of them. They used to steal and take advantage of others, but now they are honest. They do a good days work with the reward of helping others. They no longer talk down to others. Their language encourages and builds up rather than corrupts and tears apart. Finally, instead of being harsh they are now gentle. Wow what a change! Wow what a difference between the old man and the new man.  

The question for us is why is it necessary to examine all of this? The reason is evident in the first verse of Ephesians 4. It is here that Paul lays out an argument for how we are to live. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). Notice the contrast between way the world lives and how passionate followers of Christ should live their life. Paul urges us to walk in a manner, certainly a different manner, that is worthy of the calling to which we have been called. We have been called to a new way of living. We have been called to put off the old man which is controlled by lies and deception, but the new man is led by true righteousness and holiness. 

In Ephesians 4:17 Paul reemphasizes the fact that we do not live like the world when he stated. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. What’s the point being made here? It is that we cannot behave like the culture around us. We cannot act like those who deny Christ, or those who acknowledge Christ but who reject His power and His relevance in their life. 

Last week we saw this exchange as a three step process. First, we put off the old self which is corrupted by deceitful desires. Second, we renew our minds. Third, we put on the new self which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. In Ephesians 4:25-32 Paul defines in real terms what it means to “put off the old self” and to “put on the new self.” In these verses, Paul shows us a set of contrasts to compare the old with the new. As we read these contrasts, we must remember this is not simply a behavior change. We do not just stop this and then do this. These actions are a response to the renewing of one’s mind. It is a process. As our minds are being taken out of the world and into the word, we will supernaturally stop certain behaviors and will participate in other behaviors. It is also noteworthy that true salvation requires change. If there is no change after salvation, then one may want to consider one’s salvation. 

From this verses, I suggest five key areas that highlight a transformed life in Christ. Let us look at these. First, our integrity is affected by this transformation. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Notice by putting on the new man and the renewal of our mind, we put away falsehood. The corresponding response is that we live from a perspective of truth. We do not just reject lies, we live by God’s absolute truth. The old man was defined by deception and lies, but the new man is defined by a life of truth and reality. Walking in truth is a response to the transformed life. 

There is power in living in truth. Mark Twain is credited with saying that “if you never tell a lie you never have to remember the truth.” What a freedom! What a way to live! Living in truth also means that we do not have to be something we are not. We do not have to misrepresent ourselves with our neighbors and friends. We can be real and that is certainly freeing. There is an amazing freedom when as a new man we walk in truth and not in the power of past lies. As passionate followers of Christ our lives should be marked by an attitude of honesty and truthfulness.

Second, our emotions are affected by this transformation. Paul exhorts us to Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. While we use to respond in an unrelenting anger, we now address our anger quicker. When one does not deal with anger from a Biblical perspective, there is a tendency to respond without a filter. In so doing, we say things and do things that have lasting negative effects. We can also clam up and make life miserable for everyone around us. 

It is noteworthy that Paul does not condemn anger, but rather he suggests there is a better way to deal with anger. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we responded to anger differently? What if we actually talked about issues? What if we actually listened to one another? The problem is that when we walk in unhealthy anger, we begin to focus on the lies that have been propagated. We feel we have to fight for our rights and our way of thinking. The issue here is not whether we are angry, but how we handle anger. Anger left to its own demise leads to bitterness. When bitterness takes root, bitterness begin to control our actions and our responses.

Third, our responsibility changes. When living as the old man, we were often tempted to take the easy way out. It was easier to steal and cheat than it was to work an honest job. When we exchange the old for the new, we no longer seek to take the easy way out but we work and we work hard. Paul stated Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Notice what Paul is saying here. You use to steal but not any more. You should now do an honest days work so that you can bless others as God leads and directs you. 

The motivation given for work was not to accumulate wealth, but to have something to share with others. We were takers but now we are givers. Why? It is because we have learned to work and achieve good things which leads to provision, so that you can help others and not just mass great wealth. In so doing, we become less self centered and more others focused. 

There is another view to this as well. Sometimes we can deplete others by our actions. This is true especially when we walk in anger, we have corrupted talk, and we deal in falsehoods. We steal life from others by our actions and our words, but when we learn to give more than we receive, life will change for us and it will be a positive change. We will bless rather than take away. 

Fourth, our communication changes. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Rather than corrupt language that destroys, we speak life. The word corrupt means to decay, rot, or become bad. In the language of the day, the word was used of rotting vegetables. Paul is saying do not let any corrupt or decayed language come from your mouth. Rather than destructive language we now speak in a way that manifests grace and life. This does not mean that we never deal with problems, but we always work from the position of grace. We look to build up and not tear down and not cause rottenness.

Finally, our demeanor changes. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Rather than harshness, we are gentle with those we encounter. I think we can agree there is a lot of harsh rhetoric in our world today. We would rather yell, scream, accuse, judge, and diminish others rather than speak the truth in a way that is gentle and kind. The old man was bitter, but the new man is tenderhearted. The old man was filled with wrath and slander, but the new man is forgiven and offers forgiveness to all they encounter. After all our model for this is Christ. He is the template and our new life comes from Him. We forgive and live differently because He has forgiven us. As a result our very demeanor begins to change and we begin to live differently in every area of our life.  

So if you had a picture of your old man and one of your new man, what would they look like. Are you making progress? Are you living differently today? Are you a different person because of Christ? I trust that is the case! 

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Put on the New Man

Peninsula Community Church

Put On the New Man

November 4, 2018

Ephesians 4:20-24 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Scripture on several occasions speaks about exchanging the old for the new as a spiritual act of acknowledging God’s ways and His plan for our life. Paul in particular paints this picture of taking off and then putting on. In our passage today, we have a sense there is an imperative on our part to make this happen. This imperative challenges us to ponder the relationship between our faith and the ordinary affairs of our life. We all have faith to some degree and it is how we work out our faith in every day life that makes a difference. 

Research shows us that how we respond to others and how people respond to us can be conditioned on what we wear. The studies show that what we wear effects us psychologically and emotionally. Reader’s Digest reported that one study suggested that what we wear can even create a greater desire in us to exercise and workout. So, what we wear is important. While physical clothing is critical, what we wear spiritually is just as critical.

In essence, Paul is exhorting us to put off our old self. He is saying change your clothes and change what you wear. Paul is saying that we should take off the vestiges of our previous life which is focused on one’s self and is motivated by sin. In place of the old self, we put on the new self which represents a life focused on Christ and a new way of living. What Paul is doing is setting up a stark comparison between the old man and the new man. The old man is ruled by deception but the new man is ruled and guided by true righteousness and holiness. 

John Piper suggests that in verses 17-21 there are multiple layers of corruption we must deal with. He states that our root problem is a hardness of the heart. Because of the heart being hardened one’s understanding is darkened. A darkened understanding leads to a gross ignorance of one’s true reality. This ignorance causes individuals to yield to covetousness and licentiousness without little or no filter. This results in an insatiable desire for the wrong things. Since these desires are in not in alignment with Christ, poor choices are made over and over. This leads to a life of guilt and nothing of eternal significance is accomplished. When all is said and done, to function from the ideology of the old man causes one to be alienated from the life of God. Our hardness, darkness, ignorance, promiscuousness, and futile behavior are the marks of living dead men. But, there is hope because we can put off that old man and put on the new man that is full of life and vitality. What was hopeless now has life. What was dead is now alive. 

As we read this exhortation, the wording here supports the idea that we are to do something. We cannot depend on others to take this action. It is our personal responsibility to take off the old self. It requires discipline and steadfastness to God’s plan for this new life. And yet while it is our responsibility, God empowers us to do this. He has provided the means and He has made the way for us to accomplish this task, if we will surrender to Him and take steps toward Him. 

We exchange the old for the new because the old clothes represent what we were, but as Paul says this is not how you learned Christ. That is who you were, but it is not who you are now. What was in style then is no longer vogue now. We put off our old self, because we are not that person any more. We are a new creation and serve to glorify Him in this new way of life.

While the old man is based in a hardened heart and in deception, the new man is based in a heart that is alive, renewed, and focused on truth. Here, Paul instructs us to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. The new man looks a lot like God, because we are created after His likeness in true righteousness and holiness. We can live out the demands of the old self and be manipulated by the deceptive ways of our old man or we can be renewed in God’s righteousness and holiness. True holiness is contrasted with the lust of deceit which is foundational to decisions made by the old self. The new man however functions from the depths of truth. The old man is motivated by the lies of a life a part from Christ. The new man is motivated by a life founded in Christ and in relationship to Him. 

We no longer have to live from the deception of sin but from the power of truth based in God’s righteousness and holiness. Notice something here. Righteousness and holiness is not something we put on. However, when we put on the new self we are taking on righteousness and true holiness. We can finally begin to live as we were created to be: righteous and holy. 

While Paul exhorts us to put off the old self, he also gives us a critical step that must be taken to help us to be the person we are called to be. We do so by being renewed in the spirt of our minds. Paul knew that the mind is the one organ in the body that most effects the outcomes of our life. He knew that, in the end, the mind is the entrance way to the heart and that what we believe and what we focus on determines outcomes and determines our perspective on life. 

This is a reminder of Paul’s words in Romans 12:2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Paul is saying we can allow the old self to be conformed and manipulated by the world’s schemes and attitudes, or we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The choice we make determines the focus of our life and determines how we will live life. This is critical because we worship that which we focus on. 

The renewal of our minds does not happen in a vacuum nor does it occur by osmosis. We have to take progressive steps toward making this happen. There are many things that happen to us without effort but we must take the step to renew our mind. How do we this? We do so through prescribed spiritual disciplines. 

First, we must be students of God’s word. When we are students of God’s word, we begin to understand God’s purpose and plan for our life. God’s word is a textbook for living. The Bible speaks to our heart. It gives us commands to follow. It instructs us on sin to avoid. It instructs us on the knowledge of God, so we see whose we are in Him. In reading Scripture, we get to know God more, and we get to experience the grace He gives us through the pages of His written word. 

We also need to engage in worship and prayer. This is not just corporate worship, but the personal prayer and worship we do in the secret place of our prayer closet. We meet with God on a personal level. It is there we experience God’s grace and power in a new and exciting ways. We pray and communicate with God. It is there we receive His support and His wisdom. We not only communicate with God, but we give Him the opportunity to communicate with us. It is in our private closet of worship and prayer where we grow and we begin to understand God more. Let me ask you. If you had an opportunity to talk to your favorite author, your greatest hero, or your favorite person in history everyday in a private setting, with no one around to interrupt you, would you do it. We have the opportunity to meet with the greatest man who ever lived every day all day. We do that through our worship and prayer. 

We also renew our minds as we join in fellowship with other believers. We stimulate others in their growth and we are stimulated in our growth by their words and their actions. In fellowship, we are challenged with ideas and processes that force us to think about our ideologies and the way we think. It is the iron sharpening iron that causes our minds to be renewed. It is in fellowship that we are encouraged and we encourage others.  

Paul closes this passage with a list of a number of aspects of what this life looks like when we are renewed in our mind and we are putting on the new man. Time does not allow us to look at each one of these but listen to Paul’s words of Ephesians 4:25:32. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Here is the final point. We cannot control others. We cannot be responsible for how others respond to God, but we are responsible for ourselves. We are responsible for how we walk out being a child of God and taking on the new man. Will you accept that challenge? Will you accept that new way of life? It is an adventure and an adventure worth taking. Will you wear a different set of clothes today? He will empower you to do so!

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Dressed for Battle

Peninsula Community Church 

Dressed for Battle

October 28, 2018 

Ephesians 6:10-13  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

In today’s world many professions have a dress code of sorts. Football players wear uniforms. These uniforms identity the team, the player’s number, and their name, usually. The uniform in essence serves to identity who they are, whose team they are on, and it provides a level of protection or security. A fire fighter wears turnout gear which includes a helmet, a jacket, pants, boots, gloves, and ID badge. These items are worn to identify who they are and for protection. A police office wears a uniform with a badge, a bulletin proof vest, a radio, and cameras. These items serve to identify who they are and the vest, camera, and radio serves to protect them. The same is true in regards to the spiritual armor Paul calls us to wear. By wearing the armor, we are identified by our Lord and people know what team we are on. By wearing the armor we are protected from the enemy’s schemes. To be effective we must wear it. It cannot stay in the closet.

It is noteworthy that in our passage, Paul instructs us to put on the whole armor of God. As I was preparing for this, I was struck by the fact that he exhorted us to put on the whole armor, the complete armor, all of the armor. The insinuation is that we are not to go into battle half dressed. Doing so makes us vulnerable and gives room for the enemy to attack the areas not covered by the armor. Without the whole armor of God we are in fact set up for defeat because the enemy is very aware of our weaknesses when we are not fully dressed. Our enemy is the master of distraction. He is the master of deception and falsehood. He is the master of distortion and he seems to know right where to attack because he knows the spots that are uncovered. 

We are to put on the complete armor therefore we cannot pick and choose which part we will wear. We must put on the complete armor. Why is this? It is because we are less than effective when we pick and choose what pieces to wear. Paul exhorts us to stand in God’s strength and we do that best when we put on the whole armor of God. In doing so, we stand and do not give room to the enemy. We stand strong so he does not advance against us or the kingdom of God. As believers, we are to stand because God is the One who wins our battles.

In preparing for this, I was thinking about what Paul exhorted us to do. It was critical enough that he said it twice. I had an amazing thought in this regard. If this armor protects us from the schemes of the enemy, then we need the complete whole armor to fight against and counter those schemes. We cannot go into battle half dressed. For example, it is possible that we can put on the helmet of salvation but fail to put on the belt of truth. We are saved, or at least we believe we are, but our actions and thoughts are not founded in truth, because we do not have the belt of truth securely fastened. The result is that we become tormented by falsehoods, lies, and half truths presented to us. We begin to believe the lies and live as if the lies are true. The result is that we believe we need to work harder, strive more, and be more perfect. We can believe that we are never good enough or righteous enough for God. The result is that we are never satisfied with our relationship with Christ, with others, or our circumstances. We feel defeated because we have not settled the truth in our minds that we are believers who are saved by faith and through His grace.

Without the belt of truth, we will have a distorted view of God and of ourselves. From the beginning of time, the enemy has been at work to distort the truth and cause mankind to believe the lie about who God is and what He requires. It is for that reason, so many think that God is angry with them, and that they have done too much for God to redeem them or set them free. The helmet of Salvation along with the belt of truth leads to correct thinking. 

It is also possible that we can have the helmet of salvation on but fail to strap on the gospel of peace. When this occurs, we tend to look to other sources rather than the gospel of Christ to bring us peace. In the end, this causes confusion about our identity and whose we are. In our world today there are so many voices that are speaking into our life. Media continues to tell us we are not good enough unless we drive a certain car. We are not beautiful unless we wear a certain makeup or drink a certain drink. We are not attractive unless we wear a certain aftershave or dress in a certain way. If we could only win the Mega Ball or the Power Ball drawing! These voices tend to give us a false identity. They cause us to strive to be something that God never created us to be. 

When pastoring in New York, I had a lady call me to ask my advice about a very important subject but I had to chuckle because she prefaced the question with “I have talked to my psychiatrist, my psychologist, my counselor, my medical doctor, and my other pastor, and I was wondering what you thought.” One of her major issues was the confusion she had because too many people were speaking into her life and were giving her conflicting opinions. She was not looking for truth, she was looking for the answer she wanted to hear.

There are a lot of great people in the world with a lot of worldly wisdom and wise sayings. But, we need more than witty sayings, and worldly wisdom, we need the power of God at work in our life. We need the power of the gospel to guide and direct our steps. We need the wisdom of God to be at work in us. That wisdom only comes from the gospel of Christ. When our feet do not have the gospel strapped on we will be misdirected and misguided. That is why David stated so clearly that God’s word was a light unto his path. It was the source of his decision making and it was the source of his hope (Psalm 119:105). Without the Gospel of peace, we can roam aimlessly through life and never realize that we have been called to a greater purpose. That calling is to influence those around us. We are called to go where God leads and do what God calls us to do. 

We can have on the helmet of salvation but fail to secure the breastplate of righteousness. Without the breastplate of righteousness we can believe that we have to work to be good enough. We try to live by the rules without grace. We try to tow the line without the power of God. We fail to remember that we are righteous by His righteousness. It is only through His shed blood on Calvary that we are righteous. It is imputed to us and not earned. That is truth.

We can have the helmet of salvation but forget to wear the sword of the Spirit. The sword is one of two offensive weapons we have. Without the sword of the spirit we are often more reactive than active. We are often misguided in our focus in terms of our enemy and who that is. Without the sword of the spirit we try to fight battles in a way that God never intended. We try to fight battles that have already been fought and won by our Lord. We become weary and tired because we are fighting with weapons God never intended for us to use. When we surrender to the Spirit, we will have His power to assist us and guide us. 

We can also have on the helmet of salvation but not hold the shield of faith to extinguish the fiery darts that the enemy flings at us. Without the shield of faith we are susceptible to the darts and painful parts of life. Sometimes faith is all we have to make it through. We do not see the future very clearly, but faith keeps us going. We do not know how we will endure, but by faith we keep moving forward. After all faith is the assurance of things hoped for and confidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The fiery darts seek to cloud our vision, but by faith we see through the darkness to the light of day. 

Finally, we can have the helmet of salvation but miss out on the greatest offensive weapon we have and that is prayer. Without prayer we easily become discouraged and distraught. Prayer is the greatest weapon we have in our arsenal. Prayer is our connection with command central. It is our connection with God alone. It is the source of power. 

As a soldier, you would never go to war without proper training, weapons, and protective gear. The Bible is our training guide. Our life experiences and our spiritual walk become our boot camp. The temptations, trials, and attacks we face are all a part of the warfare. As a Christian engaged in spiritual conflicts, you must never leave home without the armor of God! And let me tell you it is much better than American Express. 

As we close, I came across this prayer in regard to the armor of God. Let me share it with you. Equip me, Lord with the belt of truth. May your truth rule in my heart and be in my mind and on my lips today. Equip me Lord with the breastplate of righteousness. Apart from You there is no righteousness, but through Jesus I have been “born again” and made righteous in Your sight. May I live as a righteous person. Equip me Lord with feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. May I reflect the Gospel in my words and actions, that through me, with my every encounter, others may be drawn one step closer to You. Equip me Lord with the shield of faith. May I take You at Your word concerning promises about the present and future—promises of everlasting love, abundant life, and so much more. Equip me Lord with the helmet of salvation. Remind me that nothing can separate me from Your love and that I’ve  been saved by grace. In Your grace, help me to say “no” to all ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life (Titus 2:12,13). Equip me Lord with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. May Your Holy Spirit reign in my life and bring to my mind just the right Bible verses to be in my heart and on my lips. May I be “filled with the Spirit” and ready with Scripture as You were, Jesus, when the devil tempted You. And, finally, keep me in an attitude of prayer. Remind me to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.” Cause me to be alert and always praying for the saints; to be joyful and to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

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Preparing for Battle

Peninsula Community Church 

Preparing for Battle

October 14, 2018 

Ephesians 6:10-13  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

This is the third installment of our stronghold series. Today, we will begin to focus our attention on the preparation needed for battle. As many of you know, I am a football fan and particularly an Alabama Crimson Tide fan. When it comes to football, there are a couple of things that every team understands they need to do before the next game. It does not matter who the foe is or how big the opponent might be, the preparation is generally the same. 

Throughout the week the team and the coaches are reviewing film from previous games and from the games their opponent has played. They are looking for weaknesses, finding strengths, and looking for patterns that can be useful on the field of play. They do not just watch film, they are also on the practice field preparing and running plays that will be used in the game. They are in the weight room exercising and they are doing PT on the field. Why is this? It is so they will be prepared for the battle that will take place on the field of play. They want to be stronger, faster, and smarter than their opponents. 

In this passage, I believe that Paul gives us some insight into how we can prepare for battle against our opponent. We must realize that we cannot wait until we are in the battle to prepare, we do so in advance. When it comes to football teams, they do not wait until game day to prepare. They are preparing everyday for the next game. They prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally. Think about this, can you imagine what would happen if our arm forces waited until the day of battle to prepare and learn to fight. Football teams and armies prepare before the battle. For us, there should be no exception. We too need to prepare and be ready for battle before we face the enemy. We must also acknowledge that our battle does not take place on Saturday at noon or Sunday at 1:00 PM. The fact is we are in this battle every day. 

As we look at Paul’s words, we gain a better understanding how we can prepare for the battles we face. The first insight from Paul is that we need to know our strength. More importantly, from a spiritual standpoint, we must understand where our strength comes from. Even more so, we must know Who is our strength. Paul begins this passage with the words be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Be strong in the Lord! What a powerful request/command by Paul. When it comes to the battles we face we must recognize that our strength is not in our ability, but it comes from the Lord. Scripture is replete with instructions about strength. In 2 Samuel 22:40 we find David making this statement of truth. For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. As we prepare for battle, we must know that our strength comes from the Lord. 

The word used by Paul for strength is the Greek word “endunamousthe.” The root of the word is the Greek word “dunamis.” The idea presented by this word is that the power is resident within. Dunamis is where we get our word dynamite. Endunamousthe literally means to impart ability or to empower. Paul is saying here that we are empowered to fight this battle because of the power that is resident within. As the power of dynamite is resident within the dynamite, so also all of the power we need is already resident within us. The real power of dynamite is not fully realized until the fuse is lit and the powder within the dynamite is ignited. 

Our power comes from God and not from anything we do on our own. That is all of the power we need and it is unleashed when we need it. John Piper reminds us that we are empowered through our union with Christ. Our connection with Christ empowers us and imparts to us great strength. That is why the words of Isaiah 40:28-31 are so awesome. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Look at the use of the word strength in Isaiah’s passage. God does not tire or grow weary. He is always at work on our behalf. We do get weak and we faint in the activity of life. When that happens, He increases our strength. Secondly, while everyone faces struggles that weaken them and cause exhaustion, those who wait upon the Lord shall see their strength renewed. Think about that. We can be weak and weary, but God’s power, the power resident within us, empowers us to keep going, to keep enduring, and continues to enable us to overcome every issue we face. 

To have that kind of insight brings joy and that joy is found in the wellspring of His strength. In Nehemiah 8:10 we find that we do not have to be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. John Piper stated that it’s a remarkable point delivered to Nehemiah and a people who were ravaged by war, weakened by insecurities, and constantly reminded of their own fragility. And this is where we find our strength: for life, for pain, for trials, for marriage, for child-raising, for missions, for everything. The strength we need for this life is found in the essential joy of God. Paul also recognized this inherent power when he stated I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). 

Secondly, while we need to know our strength, we also need to know our enemy. In this passage Paul reminds us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. When it comes to football teams they can get distracted by the hype and the media that is seen and heard. They can focus on the negatives or they can get overconfident in the positive press. They can also get distracted by looking beyond the game they are now playing. They are not in the moment and are looking to the wrong enemy. You see their battle is not with the media or the fans, it is against the team they are playing. 

The enemy also loves to get us distracted to the degree that we begin to fight against the wrong enemy. Know this! Our family is not the enemy. Our job is not the enemy. Our friends are not the enemy. Our enemy is the demonic forces that are at work against us that desire to neutralize us and diminish our effectiveness in the world around us and the community we live. That is the enemy we need to face.

Finally, while we must know our strength, and our enemy, we must also know our equipment and get prepared for battle. In the case before us, we must put on the armor of God. We must be dressed for war and for battle. We must put on the armor provided for us. When the team enters the field they must be prepared for the game. They suit up. They have on their shoulder pads, their helmet, their cleats, and so on. They are suited up and ready for battle. 

Let me give you one thought about this idea of suiting up and being ready for battle. There this an incredible story in the Old Testament. David had consulted with Saul. David agrees to fight Goliath as no one else was stepping up the plate. After Saul and David agreed to allow David to fight Goliath, Saul offered David his armor. David refused it as it did not fit him because it was not the right armor for him. You see the world will try to get you to wear armor that you were never intended to wear. The problem was not Saul’s armor. The issue was this was not God’s plan. David’s trust was in the Lord. He had learned to rely on the strength of the Lord. It was not the armor he wore, as much as the spiritual armor that protected him and kept him safe.

The world is ready to give us all kinds of armor to wear. It does not mean that the world’s armor is always bad it just means that it is not always the best or God’s best. Think about it. Positive thinking is certainly a mindset we need. But a positive mindset without God creates in us a spirit that is self-focused, arrogant, and self-serving.

It is also important to note that the armor of God is something we wear all of the time. We are active in the battle, not reactive. When the enemy attacks your thoughts, it is not the time to try and put on the helmet of salvation. When the enemy presents you with the lies about who you are, and who God is, that is not the time to put on the belt of truth. When the enemy presents false doctrine that is not the time to try and find the sword of the spirit. We are equipped before hand, because we know we face our enemy all of the time. That is because we never know when we will encounter one of his schemes that want to take us out. Over the next couple of weeks we will review the armor we need to wear and how those parts of the armor is best used for maximum effectiveness. 

For now how are you doing? Do you know where your strength comes from? Do you know your enemy? And lastly, are you prepared for battle by knowing your equipment? Doing so allows us to be effective and gives us the upper hand in conquering the enemy and the strongholds in our life. 

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Strongholds Part 2

Peninsula Community Church 

Defining Strongholds

October 7, 2018 

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Today, we will look at the second part of our study on strongholds. The goal is to learn about these strongholds so that we can understand how to break free from those things that hold us in bondage. I love the author’s perspective here in Hebrews 12. Lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely. There are weights and sin that cling to us in such a way that it seems almost impossible to rid ourselves of them. We try but these things continue to arise and continue to impact us in negative ways. It seems that no matter what we do they are always there and we are always dealing with them. It reminds me of the plastic that clings to us and no matter how much we try and rid ourselves of it, it is there. 

As we look at this subject let us take a moment to review how we define what a stronghold is. Last week, we established that a stronghold is anything that diminishes the knowledge of God in our life or reduces how we see ourselves as a creation of God. That is the power and role of strongholds. Because our knowledge of God and our understanding of ourselves as a creation of God is impacted, these things affect us emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and mentally. Our whole man is impacted. Our whole life is affected. These strongholds become weights that minimize our growth and our effectiveness.

Because we have a diminished view of God and a misunderstanding of how God has created us, our relationships and our circumstances are affected. That is why we never truly sin to ourselves. We can say this will not hurt anyone else but that is a lie. Our sin and the strongholds we hold onto impact our jobs, our relationships, our future, and so much more. That is why it is critical that we both recognize and deal with these issues.

When we have issues because of our misunderstanding of who God is and how we have been created, we can believe that it is impossible to overcome the issue because we have sinned too much and what we have done is too great. We are often deceived into believing that we are the way we are and that will not change. Thus we never progress in dealing positively with our attachments and strongholds. We in fact get deeper rather than getting relief. Suddenly, the snow ball effect begins and the small manageable issue is suddenly a giant snowball out of control. Most of the issues we face did not start over night but slowly we become entrapped. The truth in this regard is that is that most of the issues we deal with in life did not happen overnight or in a instant. And yet it seems that all of a sudden we find ourselves embroiled in a fierce battle. 

How do these things happen? Let me give you a few things that might be helpful. First, weights occur because of the small steps toward compromise and the result of bad decisions. Strongholds are often the result of a series of smaller steps that we take or a series of bad decisions we make. That is why we say that our choices have consequences. The decisions we make today effect us tomorrow and beyond. We are battling strongholds in our life today because of the decisions we made at some juncture in the past. John Piper has stated that today’s decisions will determine what we will become tomorrow and how we will respond to the knowledge of God. That is so true.

In the Old Testament we find the story of Esau. A series of decisions by Esau changed the trajectory of his life. Esau took the temporary pleasure offered to him by his twin brother Jacob to satisfy his hunger, a bowl of stew. In doing so, he forfeited his future inheritance. He chose the now instead of what was promised to come. He chose temporary pleasure by forfeiting the eternal blessing promised to him as the firstborn son.

What temporary fixes are we choosing today? Is it the bottle? Is it a drug? Is it a sexual relationship? Is it uncontrolled anger? Is it gambling? Is it spending that is out of control? Is it isolation? Is it control? Is it an unhealthy love of money? All these things are temporary solutions but can have lasting effects on us! 

When we choose the temporary over the eternal, the easy over the hard, the false over the true, it leads to deception and bondage. It is possible that Esau lived the rest of his life wondering what life would have been like if he had not made these decisions. As we know the awesomeness of God is found later in his life. Because of God’s grace, Jacob and Esau were reconciled and their relationship was restored. It is amazing that we have the privilege to take steps toward God. There is healing from very bad choice and decision we make.

Secondly, unnecessary weight comes upon us when we fail to endure. We are living in a society that fails to endure in marriage, in our jobs, in the church, and in so many other parts of our life. It is a normal way of life it seems. It appears that a consistent long-term obedience is hard to come by. No one is perfect but when we fail to endure and push through, we can succumb to the bondage of giving up. When things get hard we run. When things are tough we give up. The result is that we begin to live with rejection and without a vision for a new day. We talked about this last Tuesday in our men’s study. We fall into bondage when we fail to endure and live out the promises we made. To fight the battles and overcome the weights in our life we must endure. The reward for those who endure is eternal life (Matthew 24:13). 

Thirdly, weights are realized when we do not walk in forgiveness. When we fail to walk in forgiveness we are prone to debilitating emotional strongholds that can control our lives and our way of reasoning. Forgiveness allows others to control us. By not forgiving others we give control to others. By waiting for someone to apologize before we offer forgiveness gives that individual power over us. It is for that reason that we must learn to let go of the hurt, pain, or anger we experience for our own sake. We need to release others so that a root of bitterness does not grow in us. That is the problem when we do not forgive others. We are filled with bitterness, anger, and hatred. Therefore, we must release others so we can be healed. 

Fourth, weights occur when we do not effectively deal with the hurt and pain we have experienced. Rather than release the pain and hurt we hold on to it. Instead of releasing our hurt and pain we weaponize it. We use it as an excuse for failure. We use it against others. We use it get our way. In fact, we become so good at it that we do not even think we have a problem. We begin to think everyone else is the problem and fail to accept any responsibility for our part of the problem. 

We often use our pain to cover up and hide our issues. We can hide our hurt so deeply that we can believe that we can never love again. We can hide behind the pain so that we protect ourselves from any future hurt, or so we think. We turn to drugs, alcohol, sexual relationships, and so on to numb the pain in an attempt to live a normal life. But, the more we depend on these things the less we live in reality. The less we live with the truth of God’s love for us and the destiny of God’s purpose in our life. 

So what do we do? In this passage, we find a couple of specifics that introduce us to how we should deal with strongholds. We will look at this more deeply next week. The passage begins with the letting go of every weight and sin that clings to us and keeps us from running the race we have been called to. It is amazing that when we start to have problems, these things seem to never let us go but they keep fighting and battling us. They cling to us. No matter how we try they are there.

The term here is an athletic term. It refers to the one who runs a race that must rid themselves of everything that hinders them. I have known runners that wear heavier clothing and they wear weights while they are practicing, but when they are in the race they get rid of everything that would slow them down. We must shed the hindrances and the bondages of our life so we can run an effective race for Christ.

The second part of this passage calls us to focus on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. The point being made is this. We began this relationship with Christ by faith and it is that faith that will sustain us. When we have problems if we are not careful our focus will be misaligned and our hearts will be out of focus.

In the final analysis, we have to make a decision. We have to determine that we need and want to change. We have all heard it said that when they reach bottom they will change. There is truth to that but we do not have to wait until we reach the bottom. We can make a conscious decision to lay aside every weight and sin that so easily besets us or clings to us today. 

It is not easy but this works begins with a decision that we want to change and are tired of the way we have been living, and we are tired of giving control over to someone or something else. It is a decision that we will do whatever it takes to overcome the enemy’s purposes for our live and align ourselves with the purposes of God. Are you ready? I know you can do it! It begins with a simple decision to focus on Christ, the one who is the author and finisher of our faith.

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Understanding Spiritual Strongholds 

Peninsula Community Church 

Understanding Spiritual Strongholds 

September 30, 2018 

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Over the last few weeks, and especially this week, our eyes have been focused on the events surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. This has unsettled so many on both sides of the issues. The way this has been handled, the words that have been spoken, and the lack of substantial evidence should not surprise us. Let me say this, I believe that Dr. Ford has most likely suffered some traumatic event in her life, but it is unfair to accuse one that seems completely innocent. The Bible is explicit that in the last days we would find ourselves facing the truth that right would be wrong and wrong would be right. The enemy is having a hay day and is causing division on so many levels and not just politically. It is happening in government, yes, but, it is also happening in communities. It is happening in our relationships. It is happening within us. It is happening all around us.

With that in mind I would like to take the next couple of weeks to review the power of strongholds and the various aspects of spiritual warfare. During this time we will look at the spiritual influences that impact our life. We will examine the affect of these spiritual influences on us and on society. We will review the process of how strongholds are established in our life. I ask that you pray as we begin to discuss these things, as I know that we will face opposition and will face our own level of spiritual warfare in greater ways. But, I think it will be worth it. 

As we begin, perhaps it would be helpful to define what a stronghold is and how demonic influences impact us. I love what Max Lucado says. A stronghold is a false premise that denies God’s promises and diminishes the knowledge of God. In our passage today, Paul states that a stronghold  “sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” It attempts to magnify the problem and minimize God’s ability to solve it. That is the greatest impact of a stronghold in our life. It seeks to destroy or negatively impact the knowledge of God in our life. It’s goal is to distort truth and distract from that which is God’s word and God’s truth. Its goal is to keep us from seeing God for who He is and to see how He has created us.

In my opinion this is the bottom line for most of the issues we face. I remind you that these issues in their most basic understanding are not political but are spiritual at their core. The things we face today are a fight for rulership and authority in our life. It is a battle for control. It is a battle for the moral high ground. It is a battle that goes beyond democratic and republican parties. This is not a political battle but it is certainly a spiritual battle for the soul of mankind. It is not an American issue. It is a battle for spiritual dominance and a reset of the Biblical worldview.

Because these are spiritual issues, most of the problems we face are a result of the fact that God’s influence in our society has been reduced and in many cases has been removed. We have removed prayer from the public arena. We have removed God from our schools. We have not asked God to be at the forefront of our decisions and actions. In fact, in many arenas God is the problem and therefore He must be removed. The result of removing God from the public debate is that we are becoming more and more godless as a nation. We are becoming more interested in political power, self-exaltation, and selfish gain than being a God fearing nation. 

I have argued for some time that most of the issues, if not all of the issues, we face today are a result of satanic influences that move men against God. Whatever the issue, it is spiritual at its core. Whether it is abortion, feminism, gay rights, abortion rights, sexual identity, pornography, or any of the many other issues that are at the forefront of our society, these issues are spiritual at their core. In reality it is an argument against God’s design for the world. Many of the issues we encounter are in reality contrary to what God desires and to His character. 

In our passage today, we are confronted with the idea of spiritual warfare. We fail too often because we fail to understand that we are in a battle and it is a battle for truth and righteousness. It is not just any truth or righteousness, as defined by those around us. It is a matter of what God believes to be true and what He believes to be righteousness. You see once we move off center, in regard to God’s truth, we subject ourselves to strongholds and negative spiritual forces. 

So what do we do. First, we must be aware that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. Here is the point we do not fight like others do. We fight with God’s arsenal. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 6:12. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Notice here that our battle is with spiritual forces whose purpose is to destroy our view of God. If these forces go unrestrained, they will hold sway over this world and will control our thoughts. 

Here is the truth, our battle is not with liberals or the unsaved. Our battle is against demonic forces that influence people with negative attitudes and false doctrine. When God and God’s truth is rejected long enough, God will allow man to believe whatever they want. He will allow man to do whatever he wants. That is what Paul says in Romans 1. Those who refused to acknowledge the truth and refused to acknowledge God, as God, have become futile in their thinking and their hearts have been darkened. 

Sadly, today we are looking at hearts that have been darkened by sinful choices and their thinking is futile as a result of rejecting God. They have become futile in their thinking which blocks truth. It is noteworthy that the word futile comes from a Latin root word that means “leaky.” Because they are futile in their thinking, they are incapable of producing any useful result. Why do we scratch our heads at some of the decisions those without Christ and those who have been captivated by demonic influences make? It is because their thinking is futile and is not producing any positive results. Their hearts have been darkened. That is why many can do horrific things without batting an eye or thinking twice about it. 

Secondly, in this process, we must not attack people but we must attack problems. That is why Paul states that our warfare is not of the flesh but it is spiritual. The enemy loves to get us to the point where we make the person the problem, but it is the spiritual dynamic that is at work and that makes the difference. Certain people are the tools of demonic influence but they are not the problem. The stronghold in their life is the problem. Rather than attack the person, we must address the spiritual influences that affect them so they are healed. 

Thirdly, we must pray for those who are darkened in their thinking. Judge Kavanaugh’s daughter had the right idea. We need to pray for those who would attack righteousness and a Godly worldview. I wonder if we realize how powerful a tool we have through prayer. Here is the problem so often. We are quick to post our views on Facebook, and talk around the tables at McDonalds, and the water cooler at work, but how much have we really prayed? How much have we humbled ourselves so that we are coming from the purity of a heart that is focused on God’s will and purpose? Certainly we are angry and we a filled with sadness about a process that has become convoluted. We are dismayed at the level of spiritual influence that is working against the knowledge of God, but in all of that we must focus our attention on our own heart. Last week we talked about giving grace. Grace is given when we humble ourselves before God and focus our attention upon Him with prayer.

2 Chronicles 7:14 comes to mind in this moment. Listen to God’s words. Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. Did you notice what this says? If we do these things God will answer. There is hope in prayer. 

Fourth, we must destroy the arguments and lofty opinions about the knowledge of God. How do we do this? We present the truth. We live the truth. We breath the truth. Truth is the best way to destroy arguments and lofty opinions. Paul continues to tell us that we must take captive those thoughts which diminish the knowledge of God in our life. This is both a personal response and a corporate response. But, we cannot have a positive corporate response if we are not willing to deal with our own futile thinking and the places where our hearts are darkened. 

As we close, let me give you three things that help us take other thoughts captive and that should encourage us. First, God is the origin of all things. He is the creator of all the heavens and the earth. He has it under control. Secondly, He is the Lord of all things. Congress is not Lord! President Trumpet is not Lord! God is Lord. He has been and continues to be our Lord. The enemy’s work does not change the fact that He is the Lord of all things. Thirdly, we are accountable to Him for all that we do. One of the things that rubs man the wrong way is to present an authority higher than he is. We do not want to surrender to any one. We are our own god and we are self-sufficient to the degree that we do not need anyone else in our life. But we must recognize that we are not our own god. We live in authority to God who is higher than all of us. That brings healing and that brings us hope in a convoluted and a spiritually bankrupt world. 

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Giving Grace

Peninsula Community Church 

Giving Grace

September 23, 2018

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

As we wrap up our Amazing Grace series this morning, I want to close with one last concept relating to grace. It is about giving grace to those we encounter. The fact is we will all encounter EGR people at some time. EGR people are those people who need extra grace from us. They are the people who irritate us and cause us great consternation. They are the pebble in our shoe and the bur in our saddle. So often, we are negatively impacted by their actions. It seems we cannot escape what they do or how they act. These people rub us the wrong way. They offend us. They say things that cause us to blush. We can feel intimidated by their very presence. We know this because when we are in their presence, our demeanor changes. These are the people that we see in Food Lion and we turn and will go the other way to avoid them.

It is noteworthy that Jesus had EGR people in His life. His own disciples at times were EGR people. He was repeating Himself over and over. They could not catch the message of His heart. They failed over and over again to grasp the magnitude of His mission. Then of course there were the religious leaders of His day. They were constantly trying to catch Him in a misstep so they could accuse Him of falsehood to diminish His mission and power among the people.

The question we need to answer is this, how do we deal with EGR people? To find solutions we turn to Scripture as it is replete with steps to deal with people who irritate us and create problems in our life. Paul himself was embattled by those who required extra grace. He penned the words of this passage to remind us that we have a way to deal with those who need extra grace. What does he suggest?

To begin with Paul defines those who are to take these actions and show grace. It is God’s chosen ones who must show grace. Who is God’s chosen? It is you and I who have accepted Christ as our personal Savior and our Lord. It is those who have a made a personal commitment to follow Christ with their whole heart, mind, and soul. This message is to those who love God and desire to be a passionate follower of Christ. However, regardless of one’s spiritual foundation or maturity, these actions will assist you with the EGR people in your life even if you are not a believer.

The actions Paul suggest are contrary to the way many people respond to those who irritate them or meddle in their affairs. But as we must remember there is much that God calls us to do that runs against the societal norms and acceptable behaviors of those around us. Look at how Paul describes what our response should be. He says, Put on then, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Do you get this list? Do you grasp what Paul is saying here? 

Our attitude toward the EGR people needs to be different when we represent Jesus, the one who modeled this lifestyle to us. We need compassionate hearts filled with kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love toward the EGR people around us. It seems to me that in the society we now live, people are too busy getting even, having their own way, and manipulating outcomes rather than obeying Paul’s advice. 

When it comes to EGR people we are often quick to follow the letter of the law but slow to give grace, which is the spirit of the law. We want to get even or shut them up but that is not God’s described plan for us. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). It is the all sufficiency of God that gives us grace to give grace to others. 

The concept that is presented here is that when we obey the law without recognizing the grace of God, the law kills. The problem is that we become more concerned about the law than about discipleship. That is why Paul states that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. What a contrast? In keeping the law by grace we honor God and we acknowledge His Lordship in our lives. You see to simply keep the letter of the law causes one to become prideful, arrogant, and unfeeling toward others. 

When Jesus came to earth, He turned the ideas about the law upside down. He did not deny the law nor did He replace the law. He did bring about a different process for carrying out the specifics of the law. Jesus turned the attention of His hearers to the necessity of having the law within one’s heart and out of that motivation one should seek to obey the law. When we carry out the letter of the law, we too often do so because of a legalistic approach which becomes overbearing and harsh.

We see these principles played out in a couple of passages but one stands out to me. In John 8:3-11 we have the following story. In this story we have the comparison of Jesus who gives grace and those who kept the letter of the law. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

In this story, we find that the Scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus that had been caught in adultery. Notice they brought the woman and placed her in the middle of where Jesus was meeting. They were keeping the law but did so harshly and unlovingly. They stated to Jesus, as if they needed to, that the law required such a woman to be stoned. Notice their motivation was to entrap Jesus. They did not have any mercy on this woman and they did not give her grace.

But notice what Jesus does. He responds with grace and love. While the Scribes and Pharisees were more concerned about the letter of the law, Jesus was more concerned about the person and her healing and growth. It is noteworthy there is never a denial of what the woman had done or why she was there in the first place. She was there because of her sin. Her sin was not denied by the Pharisees, in fact it is magnified. Jesus did not deny her sin but He moved toward her with grace and truth. The Pharisees were selective in the way they enacted the law, which is the antithesis of what grace is all about. The law actually required that both the male and the female to be stoned. They in essence were picking and choosing which law they would enact and how they would enact it. That is a sign of a person who does not follow grace’s mandates. Through grave we obey the whole law but with a different heart, a different purpose, with a different outcome in mind.

It should be noted that the kind of grace-giving that Jesus models does not delight in calling out sin and is it not prideful about being a truth-teller. The person who practices Colossians and God-inspired grace giving is a person deeply committed to the spiritual vitality of others and deeply attuned to their own spiritual poverty without Christ. He or she has a spirit led humility and a willingness to go the extra mile for others. This is all a part of a deep devotion to the family of God, to one another, and for the glory of God. And perhaps, most importantly, a grace-giver has positioned his/herself to receive from friends the very same truth and grace that he or she is committed to giving.

When we face those who need grace, we can listen to one of two voices. We can listen to the critical life killing letter of the law, or we can listen the amazing grace that Christ models. I would suggest that there a few reasons why and how to give grace. Notice the last two things that Paul mentions in Colossians. We must learn to give forgiveness and put on love. Forgiveness received and forgiveness given is a sign of the grace of God in our life. A grace filled life is a life that flows in giving and receiving forgiveness. A letter of the law person is one who has grown bitter and does not easily forget what others have done to them. 

We must also put on love. Our attitude, our motivation, and our reaction to others must be because we love God and we love people. We must show love to everyone because the expression of your love may be the very thing that may win your friend, family member, coworker, or business partner to the Lord. In fact, Jesus made an incredible statement that bears noting here. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

So how are you doing? Are you a letter of the law Christian or a Spirit driven grace giver. How you deal will others will forever change your life for good or bad.

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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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