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Thursday, January 27, 2011

“God’s Answer to the Sinful Nature”

(part 2)

“You, my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love.”
Galatians 5:13

When we conclude that “asking forgiveness” is an acceptable substitute for exercising self-control, it will not be long until we use the liberty it brings to indulge the sinful nature! In very short order, we will begin to see “asking forgiveness” as a sort of spiritual reset button! Rather than exercise self-control, or one of the other fruit of the Spirit, in a given situation, we choose to indulge our flesh. We opt to push the forgiveness button rather than exercise any spiritual discipline.

Suppose you struggle with watching inappropriate shows on television. One day your spouse is gone, the kids are at school and you are alone with your television set. You pick up the remote and begin to scan through the channels. As you are flipping past one of the channels you catch a glimpse of a couple “less” than fully dressed. Knowing that you do not need to watch those kind of shows you continue flipping through the channels. All of a sudden your flesh begins to say… “Let’s watch it!” Eventually, you find yourself back to that channel. This time you decide to see what is on. The Holy Spirit cautions you again! Instead of heeding His lead, you determine to cater to your flesh. Later you begin to feel the weight of remorse for your disobedience. You realize you are out of step with God. However, you do not repent. (And by repent, I mean, take action to prevent being drawn in by it again.) Instead, you simply ask God to forgive you. Believing that this will bring you back in step with the Holy Spirit!

When we attempt to substitute “asking forgiveness” for “exercising the fruit of the Spirit” we cheapen the grace of God, negate the need for repentance and make a mockery of the cross of Christ. In essence, we are telling God… “I am interested in Your forgiveness, but I am not interested in pleasing you!” Remember, just as the works of the flesh gratify the desires of the sinful nature, it is the fruit of the Spirit that gratify the heart of God.

I think it is good for us to bear in mind that the God we serve is just as much a “Just” God as He is a “Forgiving” God. This may get me in trouble with some religious folks, but I don’t think God is as “good” as some of you are making Him out to be! We put ourselves in a dangerous position when we start to believe that our unwillingness to exercise self-control will be adequately covered by God’s grace.

Romans 14:10-12 tells us:

“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
Some of you have been out of step with the Holy Spirit for a long time. You have found yourself “asking forgiveness” over and over, but you continue to find yourself indulging the sinful nature. My counsel to you is to stop trying to perfect “asking forgiveness” and start exercising the fruit of the Spirit.

Jesus shed His blood so that our sins could be forgiven, but He gave us the “fruit of the Spirit so that we can live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Pastor Scott Burr http://faithandworshipseries.blogspot.com

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

“God’s Answer to the Sinful Nature”

(part 1)

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I ward you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature- with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Galatians 5:19-25

As believers, there is a conflict that is happening within us between- “what the sinful nature desires” and “what the Spirit of God desires.” Galatians 5 gives us a vivid description of these “works of the flesh”…these attitudes and behaviors that cater to the desires of the sinful nature. Paul warns that this type of living- living to indulge the sinful nature- has eternal consequences:

“I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Galatians 5:21

As I meditated on this passage of Scripture, I was forced to stop and consider: “How do we, as believers, manage this conflict within us between the flesh and the Spirit? How do we respond when we are tempted? How do we react in times of trouble?”

God’s answer is found in Galatians 5:22-23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.”

The fruit of the Spirit is God’s response to the sinful nature. The fruit of the Spirit, do not simply reflect the character of God, but they are “responses.” Responses that gratify the Spirit of God! Just as the “works of the flesh” gratify the desire of the sinful nature, the fruit of the Spirit gratify the heart of God.

Galatians 5:24 says that: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passion and desires. Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Keeping in step with the Spirit is about managing conflict by consistently responding with the fruit of the Spirit. When we respond to temptation or trial by gratifying the flesh we get out of step with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, after we have indulged the sinful nature and found ourselves out of step with God…we have somehow wrongly determined that “asking forgiveness” puts us back in step.
Notice from Galatians 5:22-23 that “asking forgiveness” is not a fruit of the Spirit.

Too many people suppose that asking forgiveness when they choose to indulge the sinful nature is as good as exercising the fruit of self-control from the start. When faced with temptations, they reason that the difficulty or their unwillingness to “exercise self-control” will be adequately covered by God’s Grace.

We have confused what it means to “ask forgiveness” with true repentance. Asking forgiveness simply acknowledges our remorse for having participated in the acts of the sinful nature. We are asking God to extend His mercy towards us. It calls for action on God’s part, but none on our own.

Repentance, however, calls for action on our part…to flee, forsake, and turn away from the fruitless deeds of darkness. Repentance brings us back in step with the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Scott Burr http://faithandworshipseries.blogspot.com

Thursday, January 13, 2011

“The True Christmas Spirit”

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.”
Ephesians 4:17-21

This may seem like an unlikely Christmas passage, but ultimately it is a reflection of what the true Christmas Spirit is all about. As Mary sat holding Jesus, the day after He was born, I wonder if she knew how things were about to change! Her and Joseph’s life, of course, was changing. Just ask anyone with kids. Introducing a child into your family dynamic changes things…more work, less sleep, amazing joy!
But did she realize that with His birth, the way that man approached God was about to change…how we think, the way we live, our relationships with one another?

The coming of Christ that day changed things! Mary and Joseph were changed! The shepherds were changed! The Magi were changed! In essence, it is the purest example of the Christmas Spirit. Being in the Christmas Spirit is not about wearing festive clothes, hanging lights, putting up a tree or giving gifts. The Christmas Spirit is about “living a changed life in light of His coming.”

It is a telling thing really. How many of you “the day after Christmas” feel enriched, alive and full of hope? How many of you feel depleted, drained or at best unchanged? Luke 2:8-16 tells us how the shepherds came to know of Jesus’ birth. Upon hearing the news, they traveled to Bethlehem to “see this thing the Lord had told them about”:

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in a manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.”
Luke 2:16-18

Scripture tells us that they returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen! They didn’t go home, take down their tree, put away their decorations and go back to business as usual! They came back enriched, alive and full of hope. For most folks, Christmas is over on December 25th. Most of you probably already have your trees down and your decorations put away, but that first Christmas…things were just getting started! People’s lives were being changed.

Matthew 2 tells the story of the three wise men. Matthew 2:1-2 reveals how they reacted to the birth of Christ:

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

These wise men, from the east, were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. With great expectation, they watched the skies, night after night, waiting for the sign of His coming. Upon seeing the star, they did not simply, congratulate one another and go back to their day jobs. These men, changed by the light of His coming, traveled hundreds of miles, leaving comfort behind, to go and worship:

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of frankincense, and myrrh.”
Matthew 2:11

I’m here to tell you that the 1st Christmas season did not start with a Black Friday sale and end with His birth! The Christmas season started with His Birth! It took the Magi two years to get there and two years to get home! Their whole lives changed course “in light of His coming”! That is the real Christmas Spirit!

That is what Paul was saying to the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 4:22-24:

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Living a changed life is the purest expression of the Christmas Spirit! Are you in the Christmas Spirit?

Pastor Scott Burr http://faithandworshipseries.blogspot.com