What Are You Giving?

Christianity, Religion

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20-21.

In one of the most famous passages in the New Testament, Nicodemus the Pharisee came to Jesus to talk about salvation and eternal life. During their conversation, Christ tells Nicodemus that salvation comes only from God, and only when one is born again of the spirit. Along with this, the gospel writer records Jesus giving a bit of teaching that would go on to be one of the most recognizable and familiar verses in Scripture.

“For God so loved the world,” said Jesus to Nicodemus, “that He gave His only son so that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.”

It is a verse we all know by heart. It is one that we teach children as soon as they can talk. It is a verse that we know so well that we fail to see what Christ was really communicating to Nicodemus.

Jesus’ teaching in John 3:16 is not about the “amount” or “degree” of God’s love for the world; He is not saying, “God loved the world so much that He gave His Son.” Instead, the teaching is about how God demonstrated His love for the world: God loved the world, so He gave His son; in doing so, God showed that giving is the natural display of love. Christ is using God’s action as the basis of a model for how to properly demonstrate love. Loving means giving; to love is to give. God loved the world, He gave His son to save it. Love and giving are interconnected and inseparable.

Paul follows up on this notion of connecting love with giving in his letter to the Galatians. He speaks of how his former sinful self has been crucified with Christ, and that he now lives a new life because of Christ. Paul tells the Galatians that he puts his faith in Christ because Jesus “loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:21). Again, we see the same formula, love=giving. Jesus loved Paul, so He gave His life for Paul; Jesus loved humanity, so He gave His life to save them.

Loving means giving, that’s the formula Christ gave us, both in word and in action.

The question we must ask ourselves, as followers of Christ who claim to love Him, is what are we giving to Him? Are we fully submitting to Him, giving Him full control of our lives, or are we only submitting to Him on our terms? What about the others in our lives whom we love, our families, our friends? What are we giving for them? What of our churches, what do we give for them? If giving is the display of love, how well are we displaying our love for Christ?

Christ showed us that loving means giving something; love means sacrifice. He demonstrated how to love by giving His life for you and me, and He did this willingly and without hesitation; no questions asked. Though we may not be called upon to demonstrate our love in this same manner, we are still commanded to follow His example; the formula is still applicable today– loving still means giving.

Christ loved us and showed us He did by dying for us? We who love Him, what are we giving for Him? How are we demonstrating our love for Him who showed His love by being nailed to the cross?

Artwork: photo of sculpture “Christ Being Nailed to the Cross,” by Christopher Slatoff (https://www.christopherslatoff.com/jesus-being-nailed-to-the-cross)

But God.

Christianity, Religion

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” Ephesians 2:4-5.

After reminding the Ephesian believers that they had once been dead in their sins and transgressions, the Apostle Paul penned what would become two of the most famous verses in all of Scripture. In doing so, Paul presents the entire Gospel in just a few short words, and he highlights the drastic change that was brought about in each believer. What is truly amazing is that Paul’s entire treatise, the whole of his incredible argument and exposition, can be summarized with two words, “but God.”

We were wretched and despicable, and we sought only to please ourselves, but God was rich in mercy. We were enslaved to sin and death, but God loved us. We were fallen and broken, but God chose to restore us. Despite all of our many sins and failures and shortcomings, God loved us; not only did He just love us, but He loved us with much love–with great love. While we were still broken and tarnished–while we were still dead in our sins–God saw in us the creation which He had made and which He had said was good. We deserved eternal separation from Him, but He withheld from us the punishment which we deserved; He showed us grace.

Adam and Eve’s sin in Eden required two things: 1-something had to die to cover Adam their nakedness, and 2- Adam and Eve had to be removed from God’s presence. Due to His incredibly holy nature, God cannot be in the presence of sin; sin–and those containing it–are destroyed by His very presence. God could have required Adam and Eve to die for their sins; He could have made them remain in His presence and be destroyed. God could have done these things, but He did not. Instead, He spared them from what they deserved; He showed them grace. He loved them and did what was best for them. He sent them away from His presence, but with the promise that one day, the broken relationship between Him and mankind would be restored.

Everything that occurs in the Holy Writings after Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden is the story of “but God.” For no other reasons than His great love, mercy, and grace, God continued to pursue a relationship with His creation. Despite the fact that man was enslaved to sin, God still sought him. God pursued mankind with the sole purpose of recreating that unity that had once been enjoyed in Eden. Throughout the Bible, God calls out to man; He pleads for man to return to Him. It is as though God was saying to humanity “You don’t remember how incredible our relationship once was, but I do. I remember that you were good. You can’t remember because of your sin; because you are dead. Come back to me, and I will make you alive. Come back to me, and I will make things even better than before.”

God did just that. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to be the ransom demanded by the sin that was holding us captive. Christ’s death settled our account and broke our chains; His blood purified us of stains of our sins and made us able to enter God’s presence once again. God loved His creation so much that He transferred the punishment that we deserved to His one and only son. We were only able to receive grace–only able to avoid getting what we truly deserved–because Christ took God’s wrath for us. God loved us so much that He allowed someone else–His son–to take our punishment for us; Christ loved us so much that He actually took the punishment for us. God and Christ both did this to free us from sin and restore that Edenic relationship. That is love; that is a great love. That is love which requires our full devotion and thanks and adoration.

Paul–through the inspiration of the Spirit–encapsulated all of this in “but God.”

Remember that you were dead in your sins, but God made you alive.

Artwork: “Exodus,” Marc Chagall, 1952-1966.

Dead.

Christianity, Religion

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1

Paul wasted no time in getting to his point when writing to the Ephesian church, nor did he pull any punches. After writing several lines of praise to God, Paul immediately launched into a sermon discussing the glorious work accomplished by God through Christ in each believer. However, in order to make sure the Ephesian believers understood how incredible this work was, Paul had to be sure the Ephesians understood how they had been prior to Christ changing them—they had to understand that they had once been dead.

Since Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, humanity has been fallen. Every person is born spiritually dead and enslaved to sin. We are ruled by the lusts and desires of our flesh, and our only motivation is to satisfy ourselves in any way possible. Though we be physically alive, the shackles of sin keep us bound to the grave and to death. Prior to redemption and regeneration, our spirits are like dead carcasses, and it is in this state that Paul reminds the Ephesians that they had once been.

We too must remember that, before Christ, we were also dead. There was nothing good within us. We were ruled by the “prince of the power of the air,” the accuser—the Satan. He lorded over us and encouraged us to indulge each and every one of our desires, all the while leading us closer and closer to destruction. With each sin we committed in the name of our self-indulgence, we forged another link in the chains which bound us to death. We were so busy worshipping ourselves that we failed to see we were standing in our own graves, and we neglected to see that we were created in the image of the God who could free us and restore us to the dominion for which He made us.

We must remember how lost we once were—how truly dead we were—so that we never grow complacent with how alive Christ has now made us. We must remember the chains that He broke and freed us from as He languished and died on the cross. We were dead, and we should still be dead, but Christ changed everything. He freed us from bondage; He made us alive.

Don’t forget that you were dead, for when you do, you will cease to be in awe of the cross.

Artwork: “Head of a Drowned Man,” Theodore Gericault, c. 1819.

The Sons of Saul and the Son of David.

Christianity, Religion

“There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” 1 Samuel 9:1-2

“And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him….And Saul eyed David from that day on. The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David evaded him twice.” 1 Samuel 18:8-11

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2

“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Philippians 3:4-7

There is no doubt that David is one of the most significant figures of the Old Testament. He was a shepherd boy from a small town in the middle of nowhere who became the greatest king in all of Israel’s history, and the model by which all future Israelite kings were measured. David sought after God, and God loved David; so much so that He promised David’s descendants would be on the throne in Israel forever and, one day, the Messiah would come from David’s line.  The Davidic Covenant is one of the most crucial components of the Hebrew Scriptures, and it further highlights the importance of the figure of David.

David was not without his enemies. One of the most intriguing aspects of the early narratives about David’s life is his struggle with Saul.  During the period of the Judges in Israelite history, the Israelites began demanding that they be given a king to rule over them so that they might be like the other nations. God allowed Israel to have a king, after warning them that this would eventually lead to the same sort of oppression they had experienced in Egypt, and the man selected to be the first King of Israel was Saul–a tall and handsome man from the tribe of Benjamin.

Though  Saul looked the part of a king, he possessed no leadership abilities. His reign was marked by constant fighting with Israel’s enemies. Saul often wavered as a leader, and this was ultimately his downfall. Saul’s failures a political leader were made worse by his shortcomings as a spiritual leader. Throughout his reign, Saul moved further and further away from God, at one point going so far as to summon a psychic to summon the ghost of the prophet Samuel. Due to his constant rejection of God, God removed his favor from Saul, and God appointed David to be the next king.

David, being anointed as the new king would set the stage for the conflict between him and Saul. As David increased in popularity throughout Israel by his exploits on the battlefield, Saul descended further and further into jealousy, bitterness, and paranoia. Saul became determined to kill David, and for the remainder of his rule as king, Saul and his armies chased David and his men all across Israel. Saul viewed David as a usurper who must be dealt with. Despite Saul’s repeated attempts on his life, David never retaliated against Saul; he still respected Saul as the king and the appointed ruler of Israel. Eventually, Saul would die, and David would become king, and Israel would know a time of peace and prosperity that it would not know again.

In the Book of Acts, we are introduced to another man from the tribe of Benjamin named Saul. This Saul was a zealous Pharisee who viewed with hatred the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. These followers of “The Way” preached that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of Israel, the promised Son of David. In just the same way that King Saul became determined to kill the “usurper” David, Pharisee Saul and those with him became determined to root out and destroy the “heretical” followers of Jesus. Saul the Pharisee was present when the first follower of Christ was killed, and he “took much pleasure” (Acts 8:1) in the killing of Stephen. Saul the Pharisee– Saul the Persecutor–was resolved to destroy the followers of the Son of David, just as his forefather was bent on destroying David. He would stop at nothing to stamp out this movement, going as far as to chase Christ-followers all over Israel and beyond, just as David had been.

This Saul–Saul the Persecutor–would make a radical change; he would become a follower of Jesus, the Son of David. On his way to Damascus to round up Christ-followers, Saul encountered someone unexpected–Jesus. This meeting changed Saul–now Paul– and no longer would he hunt down followers of Christ; instead he would go on to be a preacher, missionary, and theologian. Paul traveled throughout the known world, starting churches and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, teaching all that Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of David. Paul would evangelize the Gentiles and would suffer much for the name of Christ: he would survive numerous beatings, whippings, being stoned nearly to death, shipwreck, and being bitten by a venomous snake. He would speak before kings and rulers and philosophers. Paul is proof that God can and will use anyone–even those who fight against Him–to accomplish His will.

The sons of Saul–those who are opposed to Christ– are still hunting down those who follow the Son of David. The world will never be the friend of the follower of Christ. We see how David was treated, how Christ was treated, and how the early church was treated; we should expect no less. The world will always view the radical Gospel of Christ as a threat, and the world will stop at nothing to crush this movement. When we are met with this opposition, we must remember that David never took up arms against Saul. We must also remember that Christ commanded us to pray for and love those who persecute and do harm to us. We must fight back with our love and with our prayers. We must pray for the Sauls who have yet to become Pauls.

Artwork: “Saul Tries to Kill David With His Spear,” Giovan Francesco Barbieri, 1646.

Awake, Not Woke.

Christianity, Religion

“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep…The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:11-12

The Apostle Paul focuses his attention in Romans 13 to one subject: how to live as a Christian amid a non-Christian culture. For Paul, the solution was simple—the Christian must be better than everyone else. Not better in the sense of being superior to others; rather being better in that the Christian is going to hold his or herself to a higher standard. The Christian is going to strive to live a life of higher quality, and in doing so, is going to be the model citizen and neighbor.  Paul’s rationale makes sense; after all, Christians should live differently because they are reflecting the change Christ has made in them. 

Paul goes to great lengths to underline the importance of the fact that believers have been changed by Christ. No longer are they sinners lost in the darkness of the night of their sinful stupor; they have now been awakened by Christ. The awakened soul of the believer is cleansed and regenerated. The believer no longer lives in the night as they did when they were sinners, but now lives in the light of the day. Just as one sheds their night clothes before they start the day; the new believer sheds the clothes of their sinfulness and clothes themselves with the armor of Christ.

Paul makes it as clear as he possibly can. Previously we were sinners. We lived in the night. We were so lost in the night that we were lulled to sleep by our sins. Everything about us was darkness. But Christ came, bright as the morning sun, and brought light to us. He awakened us from our spiritual slumber. He forced the night to flee from us. He changed us. Now that we are awake, we must go into the world—clothed in His glittering armor—and help spread that light.  We live humbly and peacefully with those around us, and we boldly preach His Gospel. We tell others how to come into the light by believing in the Son of God, who died to set all men free from slavery to sin.  We preach no other gospel than Christ crucified and resurrected, for there is no other gospel which can save souls.

Today there is a lot of conversation about being “woke,” meaning being aware of social ills and injustices, and working to correct them. The problem, however, with being “woke” is this: for many involved in such movements, there is a denial of universal truth—there is no Truth that is undeniably constant across time or from group to group. Instead, truth is subjective and relative to one’s experiences and interpretation. Therefore, people who are “woke” and fighting on the same side on one battle might find themselves fighting against one another in another battle, because their truth is not set in stone. Since there is no absolute Truth, there can also be no definitive answers to the problems which plague society. When there is no Truth, everything is true. When everything is true, nothing is true.

As Christians, we must remember that we are awake and not “woke.” We have the universal Truth: that man is fundamentally flawed and fallen and sinful, and that the Son of God—Jesus Christ—came to Earth to save us from sin. As His followers, we must work to make the world a better place and to fight against any of the social injustices that we see—we do this because it is the consistent application and outpouring of our belief in Him; this is part of spreading the light. This is part of living the type of life Paul urges us to live.  But we cannot let the Gospel become subservient to any sort of social gospel; this is idolatry. Any message that diminishes or seeks to take precedence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a false doctrine.

Anyone can be “woke,” but only someone filled by Christ with the Holy Spirit can be awake. Only Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit can change the hearts of men and women and cause real change to take place in this world.

We are called to preach and teach Christ crucified and resurrected, and to reflect Him in all we do. This is our duty–nothing more, but absolutely not anything less.

Artwork: “Wake. Up. Now.” Esperanza J. Creeger

Kill Sin.

Christianity, Religion

“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

Paul’s Letter to the Romans is quite possibly the most significant of the New Testament works outside of the Gospels. It is, undoubtedly, the most important of the epistles, and as such is the first epistle listed in the New Testament canon. The theological and doctrinal richness of this letter is such that one can study it time and time again, and after each reading come away with new insights.

In Romans, Paul spells out some great theological truths for the Roman Christians. He takes these concepts, many of which later church leaders would continue to wrestle with, and instructs the Romans on how to apply these truths to their lives. Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in Romans 8, a chapter in which Paul tackles such topics like our debt to God, how Christ paid our sin-debt, and God’s eternal love for us.

While discussing these weighty topics, Paul addresses one of equal importance: How are the new Roman Christians—any Christians, for that matter—to live? Paul wastes no time in getting straight to the point on this issue. The Christian has two options: 1-to live according to the flesh, or 2- to live according to the Spirit. These two choices are mutually exclusive—one cannot do both; choosing one means going against the other.

Living for the flesh means just what one might assume it to mean—seeking after one’s sinful desires and fulfilling them. A flesh-driven lifestyle requires no work, for it is our natural state. There is no standard to uphold, for anything goes, and everything is permissible. A flesh-minded person does not concern themselves with God nor with the things that would be pleasing to Him. Quite simply, the flesh-driven lifestyle actively seeks everything that is not God; it actively seeks sin.  Paul makes it clear for the Romans; those who live this way have only one final destination: death. This death is not merely of a physical nature, but also a spiritual death in which one suffers eternal separation from God and comes to the ultimate realization of the error of their ways. It is as Paul would say elsewhere in Romans, “the wages of sin are death,” (Romans 6:23).

Paul contrasts this flesh-driven lifestyle with that of the Spirit-filled lifestyle. In the latter, those who are filled with the Spirit –those are living according to Christ’s call—put to death the deeds of their body; they not only flee from sin and temptation, but they put their sin and sinful desires to death. This not accomplished by any deed of the individual person, Paul makes it clear that this is only possible through the power of the Spirit. Only through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in His followers can this occur. When we seek Christ first and to live as He calls us to, we kill our sin. What Paul is saying is this: if we live according to our desires, we will fall into sin; but, when we live in the strength of the Spirit, it allows us to defeat those sins. In this sort of life, in which one wholly relies on Christ and is filled with the Spirit, there is life. David comes to a similar conclusion in the Psalms when he penned “A perverse heart shall be far away from me; I will know nothing of evil,” (Psalm 101:4) David knew, just as Paul was trying to teach the Romans, that the one living for God must live differently than everyone else.

This raises hard questions for us: do we hate our sin and do we try to kill it? Or do we try to push the envelope and get as close to sin as we can?  We will never be free from sin in this world, so do we live in the power of the Spirit and trust in it to sustain and deliver us in times of temptation, or do we indulge and then attempt to justify and rationalize our choices and behaviors? To use Paul’s words, do we live according to the flesh, or do we live by the Spirit? Does it break our hearts when we sin or have we become like the Israelites of Jeremiah’s day who “no longer blush” at their sins? (Jeremiah 6:15). We must remember that living for the flesh leads to death, and sin will rob us of the joy of our salvation.

We must seek to kill our sin when it confronts us. Yes, Christ offers us forgiveness when we do sin, but He died so that we might live differently. Sin is like a fungus or cancer–small and unnoticed at first–but left unchecked, will devour an entire body from the inside out. That is what Paul was trying to get the Romans—and us—to understand. Sin is no laughing matter; it is life or death.

John Owen (1616-1683), an English Puritan minister, said it best: “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”

Art credit: “Dance of Death,” Michael Wolgemut, 1493.

One Man.

Christianity, Religion

“As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Romans 5:18

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul spells out some of the most crucial theological and doctrinal truths of Christianity. Romans is the longest of the letters found in the New Testament, and Paul fills this letter to the brim with solid teaching for the Roman congregation. Centuries later, the Roman Epistle would inspire a German monk named Martin Luther to speak out against the doctrinal malpractices of the Catholic Church and initiate what would become the Protestant Reformation. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is an essential work theologically, doctrinally, and historically.

The church in Rome was composed of many Jews and Gentiles. We know this because Paul spends a great deal of time and attention in the Letter addressing various issues surrounding both camps of believers; for instance, Paul spends quite a bit of time discussing the role of the Law and how it is surpassed by faith. Paul’s main focus, however, are universal truths that apply to both the Jewish and Gentile believers: that all humans—Jews and Gentiles alike—are sinners. Humanity is fallen and in rebellion against God.  “For all have sinned,” writes Paul, “and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It makes no difference if one had the Law or didn’t, humans are sinners and need redemption.

In Chapter 5 of the Letter, Paul traces the origin of this sinful nature back to its starting point: man’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Through Adam’s willing disobedience to God, he brought forth sin in upon all of humanity and all of creation. “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all have sinned”(Romans 5:12). Adam’s original sin plagues all of humanity to this very day. This is evidenced in numerous things, but most significantly through the existence of death. The consequence of sin is death, and death serves as a constant reminder that we live in a fallen and broken world—all of this becauseof one man’s sin. If this seems harsh or unfair, consider this: you either have a low view of the severity of sin, or you have a low view of the holiness ofGod.

There is hope. Paul uses the model of sin coming into the world through one man to present something equally, if not even more, remarkable. Through Adam, we have death, but in Christ, we have life. Christ’s act of righteousness—his sacrificial death on the cross—paid the price for our sins. He atoned us; he justified us. Christ settled the debt between God and man. Christ undid what Adam had done. Where Adam failed in disobedience, Christ thrived in obedience. Just as the world was damned through the action of man, the action of another man—God Incarnate—brought hope and forgiveness. As if that weren’t enough, wrap your mind around this: Christ did this for you and for me while we were still actively rebelling against him. Paul wastes no amount of paper or ink communicating this point:

“Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

“God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10)

Paul wanted to Roman Christians to know that Christ did something amazing for them even while they were actively sinning and rebelling against him. That still holds true for us today. For every sin that you and I have committed or will commit, Christ went to Calvary. He endured every lash with the whip that tore and ripped his flesh; he endured being mocked and beaten and spit upon by the Roman soldiers; he endured Pilate’s questions and Herod’s chides; he endured the crowds crying out for Barabbas—whose name means ‘Father’s Son’—to be freed while he knew that he was the true Son of the Father; he endured the chants of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” from the religious leaders who claimed to know the scriptures, while he was the author and embodiment of those scriptures. For these sins, for your sins, and for mine he was marched through Jerusalem while being cursed, he was stripped naked and nailed to the cross. For all of our sins, he languished upon the cross while the cynics taunted and tested him and told him to prove that he was the Messiah by coming off the cross, while each of his friends and disciples deserted him. For you and for me he endured being condemned and forsaken by God.

Christ died so that we might live. He died for us while we were actively living in opposition to him. There is no greater love than that.

photo courtesy of blog.oup.com

Internal Conflict.

Christianity, Religion

“I do not understand myself; I do not understand my own actions. I do not do the things I want, instead I do the very things I hate.” Romans 7:15.

Sin makes our lives overwhelmingly complicated. Every day we feel the battle that rages within us: the struggle between our fleshly desires and our desires to seek the things of God. Though we desire to be righteous, we may find ourselves, at times, stumbling headfirst into sin. Why do we do this? Why is sin still so appealing to us, even though we know there is no pleasure to be found in it? How can we seek to serve God, and still feel such a strong desire for sin?

Fear not, for we are in good company. The apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome that, at times he doesn’t even know why he acts the way he does. How often are we baffled by our own actions? More than likely, quite often.  There are two forces at work in the spirit of man; the first is our sinful nature, bestowed upon us at the time of the fall of man. Because of this sinful nature, mankind is always inclined to sin. Left to our own devices, this sinful nature would destroy us. The sinful nature of man forces man to seek pleasure and self-gratification above all else, no matter what the cost may be.

But, there is another force at work within us, and that is the spirit of God. When we are called by God to be His children, we are given a new spirit, one that has not been soiled or tainted by sin. It is this spirit that seeks to serve God and to please Him.

These two spirits are constantly at war within us, one trying to dominate the other. But ours is a journey of spiritual growth, not spiritual perfection. We will never be perfect. We will sin. There will be times when we do the things we hate instead of the things we know we should do. Try as we might to continually subdue our sinful nature, there will be times when it gets the better of us. But, thanks be to God that we are forgiven of our sins, and that Christ will always pick us up and set us back on the right path.

Do not try to fight this battle alone; Christ is on your side. Always look to Him for guidance and direction. He overcame every sin and temptation this world could hurl at Him. He will give you the strength to overcome the fleshly desires of this world, but more importantly, He will forgive you when you stumble and fall.

You are what you think.

Christianity, Religion

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–keep these thoughts in your mind.” Philippians 4:8.

More often than not, sin begins in our heart or in our mind. in this world full of temptation and sinful behavior, we do not need to look far to find things that will lead us astray from God and straight into sin. The challenge for us is to focus our minds daily on God and to not allow ourselves to be swayed into following after our own desires. In other words, the more we think positive thoughts that focus on God, we will be that much more able to resist the temptations of the world–this is the true power of positive thinking. It is only by focusing our hearts and minds on God that we are able to overcome the sinful desires and temptations we are confronted with.

If you desire to be a righteous person, start by thinking righteous thoughts.