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Occupying the Mind with Christ!


Romans 8:2-3 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.


Just what is the sin nature? Is it not the desire that we all have from birth to try the things that we are told not to do? Surely, we think we are being deprived of some privilege or pleasure when we listen to the "thou shalt not" decrees of God. Isn't that how Satan convinced Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit? He told her that eating that fruit would open her eyes (that is, give her understanding she didn't presently have), and it would make her "like" God. I don't think Satan has to speak to us in that same way anymore, because it is in our nature to try anything that has a "Don't do that!" associated with it. If we tell a child not to touch a hot stove, usually they have to touch it to see why they shouldn't touch it. Most of them don't ever touch one again.

When we are told not to do something and when we try not to do it, we tend to center our thinking on the negative rather than centering our thinking on the positive. We tend to live our lives by trying to keep from offending God which is a burden that most of us cannot bear. Instead we need to live our lives positively, with a desire to please God and then we will have neither time nor energy to fixate on what we should not do. Neither will we spend our time wondering what great pleasures are eluding us because we have chosen not to do the things that God says we shouldn't do.

The law has great power over our lives and it will always defeat us. Paul himself makes that clear when he says in Romans 7:19, "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice." It is possible to deal with this problem like the unregenerate (unsaved) would and say that it is impossible to keep the law, so why try? Or we can relegate the principles of the law to another day and say that they are not relevant in our society. Or we can do like Paul and recognize that the only solution is Christ. Paul says, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 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 7:24-25)." I think Paul is saying that the mind that has been regenerated through the new birth is occupied with Christ, is motivated by the desire to please Christ, and is no longer occupied (or maybe I should say preoccupied) with the sinful desires of the natural man (or flesh).

A person who lives by the law is living a defeated life according to Paul. His life will be a life filled with burdens because, if he is honest with himself, he will know that he has not lived up to his own standards let alone living up to the standards of God. It was that conviction of sin that led those of us who are saved, to come to Christ for an answer that reformation and our own efforts could not achieve for us. When we trusted Him, we found grace and mercy and deliverance from the condemnation and burden of the law. Christ bore those burdens for us and now we are free from the law. Free, that is, to serve voluntarily and devotionally the Lord who delivered us. By serving Him and not the law we are led by the spirit. Our life is lived positively and not negatively. We are occupied with what is good and not with what is bad but tempting. We may from time to time yield to the temptations of the flesh but our occupation is with Christ. Our focus is on heaven and not on earth. Our victory is in the resurrection and we don't have time or energy to squander on trying to "keep the law."

Paul says in Romans 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." We can and should thank the Lord for the power of the Holy Spirit that frees us from the power of the law. The Holy Spirit leads us in the same path of holiness that the law would have led us, but the Holy Spirit does that by keeping our focus on Christ.


Meditation for the week of August 7, 2011

What am I Missing Here?


(Jeremiah 17:5) Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.

(Jeremiah 17:7) "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD.


The political process of electing Presidents and Congressional representatives never stops in the U.S. It is enough to give a real Christian a real headache. We tend to talk freely about politicians who can solve the problems in the U.S., but in the political process I never hear about the need for regeneration by trusting in the Lord Jesus to get us back on the right moral track. I hear each candidate saying that they are the answer to our problems and that they can change things for the better. Many of these candidates claim to be Christians. Now if they are Christians, their mandate is found in Matthew 28:19-20 where the Lord says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." The political process does not accomplish that commission. Only the preaching of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ accomplishes that since the Lord uses the preached Word to bring people to faith in Him. That faith will bring about real change by changing people from the inside out and giving them a new life, a new spiritual King, and a new destiny.

If Christians are the answer to our problems, why don't Christian politicians act like Christians in their campaigns? For example, a Christian is to esteem others better than themselves (Philippians 2:3). A Christian is to be quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19). A Christian is to honor the present leaders (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17). A Christian is to show the 15 characteristics of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. That includes being patient, not being envious, not promoting themselves nor should they be filled with pride. Proverbs 27:2 says, "Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth." How many politicians could win debates and elections if they adhered to these standards? So my question is, "Why do we Christians always want to vote for Christians if they are bound to lose if they act like Christians should act in their campaigns?" What am I missing here? The debates and campaign speeches that I have heard and the sound bite ads that I see and hear all violate these basic standards of decency. The general thinking seems to be that if you don't tear down your opponent and if you don't exalt yourself, you simply won't win. Even candidates that try not to tear down their opponents, still exalt themselves as though they are the answer. Of course, after the elections everyone is disappointed because, in the real world, nobody can solve our problems like they say they can during the campaigns.

The stage is being set for the world to accept a man who says he can bring about peace and economic stability to the whole world. We read about that man in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and in Revelation 13. I am concerned that Christians will have wasted their time on political reformation instead of spiritual regeneration. As a result there will be enough unsaved religious people left after the Lord comes to convince the world that the missing people have not really been raptured. After all, if the rapture had occurred wouldn't all these well meaning religious people be gone? The stage is being set for the man of sin (antichrist as some call him) to take control and deceive the world after the Lord comes because everyone is looking for a man with the answers, but they aren't looking to Christ. That seems to include many who call themselves Christians. The only problem is that this man will require the world to worship him and not Christ in order to buy or sell in the marketplace. He will be a deceiver and murderer just like Satan who is his boss.

If I am right, what should Christians do? We can't stop what God has predicted will happen. But we can get back to the business of putting our trust in the Lord and not in men and women in the political system. We can get back to the business of being evangelical in the Biblical sense. We can warn people that things are going to get worse before the Lord sets up His physical kingdom and things get better.

My hope is not in the best of the best in the political system. My confidence is in the Lord who died to save me from my sins. I am not looking for a man who can save us politically. He doesn't exist. Only one Man met those qualifications in the history of mankind and He was crucified. I am going to trust that Man because He can save us eternally and I am going to preach that Man. He can give us the real change that we need.


Meditation for the week of August 14, 2011

Does God Punish?




Most of us would like to think that salvation solves all of our problems. A Christian's path is supposed to be downhill (even though we are traveling up to heaven), the wind is supposed to be at our back, the bank account is supposed to be always sufficiently full, our friends are supposed to treat us like we are really their friends, we aren't supposed to get sick and our marriages are always supposed to be stress free. We may have those conditions in our lives for a little while, but then reality sets in and we find out that life can be hard, hard, hard!

When the problems come (and they will), many of us have been taught to believe that we have done something wrong and that God is "punishing" us. We may have done something wrong, but I am glad that God is not "punishing" us if we are saved. He may be correcting, instructing, or chastising us, but the punishment that we deserved because of our sins was taken care of at the cross. Christ was punished in our place. God does not demand payment twice.

We tend to use punishment and chastisement in the same way in our normal every day speech. They are not terms that mean the same thing in the Bible. The only time in the new testament that punishment is linked with a believer is in Corinthians 2:6 which says, "This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man." This "punishment" really would be better translated censure, penalty or rebuke. This man had been excommunicated for persisting in sin but had apparently repented and was now living a Godly life. He didn't pay for his sin, but as long as he was persisting in that gross sin, he was removed from the assembly since their internal discipline had not corrected him. Now, it turns out, God had corrected Him while he was excommunicated and he needed to be restored to the assembly.

Punishment is the legal penalty required by the law when the law has been broken. It looks backward and makes people "pay" for their sins. God's punishment involves vengeance, wrath and condemnation and is going to inflicted on those who reject Christ. Chastisement is always a means of correction, instruction or discipline and is always looking forward. Many of us punish our children because of their disobedience when in fact we should be chastising them or disciplining them in such a way so that they don't do what they did again. I would call this correction. But chastisement and discipline can also occur when no correction is needed. Job was chastised because God knew he could be trusted with the trial. He had done nothing wrong. God makes that clear. Job was used to show Satan that there are people who worship God because He is worth worshiping. They don't worship Him so that He can be a genie in a bottle, giving them their every wish. Sometimes the best are chastised the most so that they can be better.

When we become followers of the Lord, we become disciples. Disciples are learning a discipline. Some of us put in a lot of effort and paid a lot of money to learn a discipline. We took tests to prove we had learned the lessons. So it is with our profession of faith. We may need to be tested as we make progress as disciples. From time to time we may need to be corrected as well. But as believers, we are never punished. That was taken care of on an old rugged cross outside the city gates of Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. God will not punish His Son and those of us who trust His Son as well.

If today, there are things happening in your life that you don't understand and that are causing you pain, you may have done something that needs to be corrected. If that is true, you will know what it is. We don't correct our children without telling them why they are being corrected. Neither will our heavenly Father. On the other hand, your problems may be simply because the Lord is trying to make you stronger and better. Either way, the chastening is the evidence of God's love, because whom the Lord loves, He chastens.


Meditation for the week of August 21, 2011

Will there ever be peace in Jerusalem?


Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you." (Psalms 122:6)


Jerusalem is a very important city as far as God is concerned. Melchizedek was King of Salem or Jerusalem long before it was established as the capital of Israel. He was also priest of the God Most High (Genesis 14:18). Jews think this is where God created the earth. However, it is best known as the city that rejected Christ and crucified Him outside it's city gates.

Jerusalem doesn't appear to be part of the conflict that Abraham was involved in during Melchizedek's reign. The city probably had peace at that time. It certainly had peace when Solomon reigned. There is going to be a future peace when the Lord sets up His Kingdom and the True Prince of Peace reigns. But right now, at this point in history, there is no peace in Jerusalem. There is constant conflict in that city. The jews are certain that it is theirs by Biblical decree, and the Muslims are certain that Allah wants them to control it (and to kick the Jews out). So why are we to pray for the peace of Jerusalem? Because when peace comes there, the Savior will have come to set things right in this world and there will be world wide peace. No matter how many wars are fought and no matter how many leaders promise peace, there will be no lasting peace until the Lord comes. Jerusalem is an object lesson of how the Lord works. When we truly worship the Lord, when we honor Him and His name, we have peace When we turn away from Him there is nothing but turmoil.

Sinners cannot have true peace until they have turned from sin and self-will to the Savior. They cannot know what it is like to have the burden of sin lifted until they trust the Lord. Jerusalem has experienced that same thing. When they were worshiping Jehovah, they were blessed and were at peace. When they turned away from Him as a nation, God turned away from them and sent them into captivity. The last dispersion was in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus destroyed the temple and the city. Until today, Israel, as a nation, has never acknowledged that they have crucified the Messiah. God calls them rebellious children in Isaiah 1:2. Blessing is associated with the Jews since the Lord was a Jew and was the descendent of Abraham. Abraham was promised that his seed would bless the earth, yet the Jews today are not at peace because they have not repented and believed in their own Messiah. They will not be at peace until they do.

Christians sometimes act as though the present Jews in Israel are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, just like Christians. While individual Jews are believers in Christ, the Jews leading the nation, for the most part, are not. They are not the friend of Christ, and they are not the friend of Christians at the present time. The nation must repent of its sin of rejecting Christ before God can come and establish Himself with the nation. They have not done that yet, but they will. Isaiah 53:5 may very well be the confession of the nation when they have lost every battle and are about to be overrun by their enemies at the end of the tribulation period. When all is lost and the Lord comes on the white horse and wins the last battle for them, it will be because the nation has confessed, "Why He was wounded for our transgressions!" That is the same confession that sinners make when they are truly repentant and ready to accept the Lord on His terms.

Yes we pray for the peace of Jerusalem because that means we are praying for the Lord's return. But while events in the world tell us that time is short, we can't rush God's time table either. The Jews have not yet repented. They are not yet ready for the Lord to reestablish His kingdom with them.

The more important question is, "Have we truly been humbled and made to see that as sinners we cannot save ourselves?" Have we ever come to the point where we realize we are lost? Any attempt to bring people to faith in Christ before that point is reached in their lives is fruitless. Salvation is urgent, but again, we cannot rush the work of the Holy Spirit when it comes to seeing people saved. The work must be done in God's time and in God's way.


Meditation for the week of August 28, 2011