Where Will We Stand?

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umbrella in stormHebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

I am taking a break from the blog while traveling for both mission work and a family vacation through the rest of July. Our church family recently began to wrestle with the reality of sin and the power of the Gospel in a way that jarred many of our hearts. I want to share my first raw thoughts as I sought to settle my heart in Christ the next morning after this part of our journey began.

This is our Gettysburg address. It is time to acknowledge the reality of our condition with unified hearts & voices. It is time for the captives to come free from sin. It is time for us to shake our complacency about sin & holiness & purity. It is time to recognize we live on a spiritual battlefield with a real enemy who with full knowledge of what our Creator offers, promises much out of pure hate for our Creator, knowing if we turn away from God’s truth to his deceitful offers that we will be further wounded & enslaved by darkness.

We must decide whether we believe the gospel or not.

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Discipline & Restoration

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ship under waterGal 6:1-5 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5 For each one will bear his own load.

A handful of times in my service as a pastor, we have faced the situation of what to do when a ministry leader is no longer qualified for leadership because of personal, relational sin. Thankfully the Bible gives clear direction for such times if we have the courage to follow. In this entry, I want to point you to those passages with some overview thoughts to get you started.

Why are Some Dealt with Publicly & Not Privately?

ANSWER: Serious Leadership Sin Must be Confronted & Confessed as the First Step Towards Further Discipline Or Restoration to Jesus, His Family & His Mission.

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Life or Death?

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life and death promoRomans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Easter is an awesome celebration of life. The resurrection is real. Jesus lives. But do we? Remember life as a child… Days were filled with fun, play, food and naps. Even school was fun for a while. Slowly however challenges grew, responsibilities took more time and friendships got more complicated.

As we grew life became more of a struggle. At some points… Usually working on that long paper I put off, or working that boring job I didn’t like, or that relationship challenge that seemed to have more pain than hope I found myself asking, “What am I doing? Is this really what life is about?”

Life gets hijacked by DEATH… it feels as if something in us dies.

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Confession Matters

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reflective womanMost believers feel incredible peace when Jesus’ new life is first birthed in them. As a result we want stay close Jesus, enjoying His deep peace & direction. We love the confident sense of being secure and on track in life. This is the core of the gospel. God is real and wants us to be in life changing relationship with Him! WOW!

Who wouldn’t want that? What gets in the way most often? What can fog it out faster than anything else? The answer: our own sin. It often comes without us noticing. Like forgetting to check your tires and being surprised when one is sitting flat in the morning.

This past Sunday we examined a spiritual discipline that can keep this from happening while keeping us spiritual strong in Jesus. The discipline is intentional confession of sin.

1. Why It Matters: Storing Unconfessed Sin is Dangerous to Our Lives.

Psalm 32:3-5 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. See also vv. 1-2, Psalm 38:4-8 and Proverbs 28:13

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Condemning Yourself?

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prison wall      One of the worst feelings we face as Christ followers is self-condemnation. We confessed our sin; embraced faith felt the joy of a renewed life in Him and then wham! Some old behavior that we thought was long gone shows itself in our lives again. What a jerk! Scumbag, pervert. Calling ourselves the worst names in the book we feel more broken and messed up than ever. We should be further along. Past that same old sin by now. Our accuser whispers and we dog pile on ourselves forgetting whose voice started the conversation. In self-condemnation we wonder, “how could I be so bad? Is my faith real? Is God really with me, in me, for me? How could he ever love me?”

This week’s passage touches on the struggle of self-condemnation. What can we do when it leads to swirling doubts about our relationship with God? We all have times that we doubt our salvation. Our sin even if invisible to others shows itself to us. Satan, our accuser, quickly magnifies it and keeps it ever in front of us. He throws it up in our face telling us we are fake and unworthy of God’s grace.

God wants to set us free from the destructive cycle of self- condemnation. Focus on defeating my sin, cleaning my sin, hiding my sin, understanding my sin will do nothing to help in comparison to trusting Jesus and letting Him forgive, clean & heal my sin.

Our Father gently brings perspective by reminding us of some core things. First He already knows the truth about us. He knows all we are and have done. His grace is stronger than our sin. His judgment trumps our own. There is nothing you or I could ever be part of that is beyond the reach of His grace.

Second. What God wants most of us is trust in Jesus. Notice, not holiness, goodness, or moral perfection. Those things come as a result of faith in Jesus in God’s time through the Spirit’s work. God dwells intimately with those who simply truly trust their lives to Jesus.

There is another bottom line truth He reveals that is the ultimate source of confidence in the face of our self-condemnation. But I’ll let you look for it on your own. Reflect on 1John 3:18-24 this weekend. We’ll tackle it together at worship on Sunday.

Real Life Holiness

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      “…anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God…” 1Jn 3:10

holy bible canstock photo

How are followers of Christ supposed to live in today’s world? Specifically how are we to think about sin & holiness. Who decides which is which? What does it look like to practice righteousness? Is this a requirement for a true relationship with God?

Some make their own definition of righteousness. Our age has no sin except that which blocks or violates my personal desires. The biggest cultural fights are for the right to do what I want & become what I want without restraint or limitation of any kind or regard for anyone else.

Even among believers, sin is being redefined faster then melting snow in April. Many seek relief from the struggle by concluding that sin is not the big deal we thought it was and just embracing it when it seems promising.

Others set out clarifying the rules we need to live by if we are serious about God. This sounds good at first but leads either to proud legalism or great frustration. Often it has an angry & panicked tone that judges all who refuse to conform. The error is that it twists what God says to mean that we get to God by practicing righteousness with serious commitment.

Understanding this week’s passage actually brings great confidence and freedom WITH real holiness (1Jn 2:28-3:10). We will connect the dots this Sunday, but I’ll give you a big piece to consider now. We are made holy by Jesus’ presence within us. That is His purpose. It is not what we do, it’s what He does! Look closely for yourself and ask, “what is the relationship between sin, holiness and a true relationship with God? How is this relevant for life today?”