Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Come and See

Every child of God should desire to see others come to know Christ as Savior and Lord. That being said, we must always realize that “winning” someone to the Lord is not our job; yes we may get to participate in the process and the Lord certainly does desire to use us to that end, but ultimately the ministry of the Holy Spirit is what brings others to faith, not us (Titus 3:5; John. 3:3-7).

Sadly though, George Barna says that only 6 out of 100 Christians will ever share their faith in their lifetime. Wow, what a sad statistic. To be honest, it begs the question as to whether they are truly saved, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.

I don’t think may folks understand today what the purpose of the filling of the Holy Spirit is. There is so much bad teaching on this subject that is mostly turned inward. When in reality, it is about empowerment. It is empowerment to preach the gospel. Look at what Acts 1:8 says, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."Did you see that? The purpose of the filling of the Holy Spirit was to empower them to be his witnesses from Jerusalem to the remotest part of the earth.

A witness is someone who merely testifies to what he knows to be true. The woman at the well was a witness when she said "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done” (John 4:39). Notice that she did not “win” anyone to the Lord, instead the people simply “believed on him” as a result of her sharing her witness (John 4:39-42). As a matter of fact, there are many examples in the Scriptures of people coming to the Lord because of the testimony of a witness (Mark 1:40-45; 5:18-20).

Truth be told, we all have a testimony or a witness and there are two ways that we can share that testimony: with our lives and with our lips. It was St. Frances of Assisi who once said “Share your faith with all men, and if necessary, use words.” Our lives are our greatest testimony.

Sadly, too many Christians (real or not) say one thing and do another. I believe that it is the reason many do not come to the faith today. They have actually become a stumbling stone to those outside of the faith. It was Mahatma Gandhi, the famous Hindu who once said when asked what he thought of Christianity and he said, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians.” It’s sad that so many Christians have a problem with putting their feet to their faith. They are all lip with no life.

Acts 1:8 says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Notice that Jesus said “you shall be (that is in the imperative) witnesses to Me”.

There are many examples of people coming to Jesus simply because of the testimony of a witness who told them what Jesus had done for him (e.g., the leper in Mark 1:44-45, the demon possessed man in Mark 5:18-20, the lame man in Acts 3:8-11, Zaccheus in Luke 19:5-10, and there are many more.

We all have a testimony as to what the Lord has done in our lives. The trouble is that we have been so intimidated by "what to say" that we haven’t been saying anything at all.  

The truth is that soul winners are always talking about Jesus. They are testifying to his miraculous power to save. Not only because of what He has done in other people’s lives, but because of what he has done in their own. It’s not secondhand knowledge. We just need to start telling folks what Jesus has done for us and maybe they will want to come and see for themselves (John 4:29).

Friday, April 18, 2014

How Do We Get Victory Over Sin?

Several years ago I taught a series of messages that dealt with questions that we all have. To get these questions, I asked my then congregation to submit them to me and I would do my best to answer them in a series of messages called “Life Questions”.

The first that I dealt with was how to get victory over sin in our lives. To that end, I introduced the question with an illustration about a sign that was found in west Texas with a ranchers name signed in blood red paint at the bottom which read, “STOP. I know you're thinking about crossing this gate. What you should know is that if the Coyotes, Cactus, Mesquite, Heat, Dust or Rattlers don't get you, I will.”

That sign reminds me of sin in our lives. No matter how hard we try sometimes to avoid it; it just seems to always be there. With that in mind, there are really only two kinds of people in this world spiritually speaking. There are those who are saved and there are those who are not. I’ve referred to them before as the “saints” and the “aints”. Yes, I know that it is grammatically incorrect, but so is “yonder” and it’s in the Bible.

So, whether you are a saved or unsaved, we all struggle with sin. We have a sin problem as a matter of fact. For clarification, when I use the word “unsaved”, I am referring to those who are spiritually lost by biblical definition. These are they who have never submitted their lives to Christ.

Those who are lost really have no power over sin in their lives. They are absolutely helpless. Essentially, they have chosen to make this journey on their own without the help of their Creator. Therefore, sin rules over them. Paul spoke of this when he said, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

Of course, the opposite of unsaved is saved. So, the primary focus of what follows is to those who have indeed given their lives to Christ and really do want to get victory over sin in their lives. To that end, I will offer ten solutions that I have found in Scripture. It is by no means exhaustive.

First, to get victory over sin we must realize that sin is a common problem to each of us. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. That simply means that none of us are above it and are all tempted. As a matter of fact, the Bible goes on to say that we are all tempted in the same way.

John said in 1 John 2:15-17 that we are not to “love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

We have all struggled with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, but Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13b that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

That means that God is indeed faithful and will never allow us to be tempted so far that we cannot resist it. In other words, He promises to always give us an out. Unfortunately, that leaves us with only one conclusion and that is that there is absolutely no excuse for our sin.

Oh, we live in a culture that blames everything on something or someone else for sure. No, what we have done is taken our sin and given it names and attributed to diseases and other people. But in the end, sin is sin and the reason we commit sin is because we are sinners. That’s why it is so condemning.

In reality, we do have the ability to be sinless. I mean Paul did tell the Galatians that if they walked in the Spirit they would “not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16) did he not? Truth be told, if we all stayed in the Spirit 100% of the time we would not struggle with sin, but alas, that is our problem.

Second, to get victory over sin we must understand that the root of our problem is lust. James said in James 1:14-16 that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” He also said that we “lust and do not have” and “murder and covet and cannot obtain” (James 4:2a).

Radio personality Paul Harvey tells the story of how an Eskimo kills a wolf. The account is grisly, yet it offers fresh insight into the consuming, self-destructive nature of sin. "First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. "Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder the wolf licks the blade in the arctic night.

So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue, nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his OWN warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more--until the dawn finds him dead in the snow!" It is a fearful thing that people can be "consumed by their own lusts." Only God's grace keeps us from the wolf's fate.

Third, to get victory over sin in our lives we must understand that our salvation did not get rid of the problem. Paul speak to this in Romans 7:15-24 when he says, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

So, our sin problem will not go away until we are dead or until the Lord comes back. We are all sinners saved by grace. In the meantime, we do need to learn how to fight it and win. So, how do we fight it?

Fourth, to get victory over sin in our lives we must consider ourselves dead men. Okay, what does that mean? Paul said in Romans 6:11-14, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

Paul also said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me.”And again in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

The bottom line is that dead men do not get offended! Dead men do not gossip! Dead men do not sin! Remember that, as far as God is concerned, we are physically dead men and corpses don't give in to sin - they can't.

Fifth, if we want to get victory over sin in our lives we must all Christ to take control of our minds. Yes, you heard me. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”

There must be a determination on our part to serve the Lord. Paul said, “I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:25).

In the end, we must allow the mind of the master to be the master of the mind if we are to triumph over sin in our lives.

Sixth, we must believe what the Bible says about forgivness. Again, Paul said “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Yes, the sins on this list are vile, but no sin is beyond forgiveness.

John said in 1 John 1:9-10 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

Believe what the Bible says in regard to God's forgiveness. You see, the devil tries to guilt us over our sin and attempts to push us away from God. Guilt is from the devil and is a tool to push us away from God and His people. Conviction is from God and is a tool to pull us to God and His people.

Seventh, to get victory over sin we must occupy our minds with pure thoughts. That’s right. Trash in is trash out. That’s what Paul meant with he said to the Philippians “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things”(Philippians 4:8).

There are so many things in the world in which we live that are warped. I mean everywhere that we turn is filth. It comes in through the gates of our eyes and ears. It is unavoidable, but we must make every effort to keep ourselves pure. We must take care what we allow ourselves to see and hear. For most, it would be a tremendous step if they just turned off the damned television.

Eighth, if we want to get victory over sin in our lives we must know the Scriptures. When Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4, he responded to each and every temptation with the Scriptures. He did not hand out the philosophies of man by quoting Oprah or Dr. Phil. Instead, he quoted Scripture in the face of the enemy.

An encouragement that I give to those who are struggling with a particular temptation in their lives is to memorize verses from the Bible that deal with that particular sin, and when the Tempter comes to start quoting them to him just as our Lord did during his time in the wilderness.

Ninth, if we want to get victory over sin in our lives we must learn how to forget the past. Paul said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before (Philippians 3:13). We have all messed up and we will again. We must learn how to accept God’s forgiveness and move on. It’s like the old preacher said one time, “When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.”

Tenth, if we want to get victory over sin in our lives we must not live in denial. That’s right. Denying who we really are by hiding behind others and excuses will not work. John said in 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Again, sin is an issue in all of our lives and will continue to be so until the day the Lord takes us home but it is still inexcusable.

The conclusion of the matter is simple. If you are not a Christian right now, do something about it by coming to Christ just as you are and ask for the help that only he can give. If you are a Christian and are struggling with sin, don’t deny it. Repent, keep pressing forward, and remember the things that we have discussed. Blessings!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Message Player

For those who have asked. I was finally able to update my message player and it is working fine now. Blessings.