Walk In the Spirit and Overcome!

Spirit vs LawThere is a wrestling match going on inside every believer in Christ. It is the war between the Holy Spirit Who has intertwined Himself with our very being and our flesh, that part of us that acts and decides apart from the influence of God. One of the most common questions Christians ask is, “Will I ever be done with the fight, or will I always struggle like I do now?” And the answer is yes and no.

Obviously, we’ll be done with the fight and live on in infinite victory when Jesus comes to put an end to the war forever, but in this life, is real victory possible? The answer is twofold.

In Galatians 5:16-18, Paul tells us on the one hand, that it is impossible for the believer to overcome the power of the flesh. He says, “you cannot do the things that you want.” He also said in Romans 7 that he was always involved in a battle between the flesh and Spirit and couldn’t seem to feel any sense of total victory. The battle rages on. In our flesh, and as long as the old, dead body of sin hangs around, we are rendered virtually incapable of any triumph – we wrestle on.

Thankfully, however, there is a contrasting thought that, though seemingly a paradox, runs alongside our inability to overcome. It is the absolute and abiding power of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul says, “You cannot do the things that you want, but if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

We typically think of the “law” in the Bible as the mosaic law, the commandments and ceremonies that Moses gave to Israel. But the word “law” in this context more likely refers to the nature of things, such as the law of gravity or in this case, the law of our flesh. As lost sinners, we are bound to the natural law which essentially binds us to a life of continual sin. But…

If you are “led by the Spirit” however, there is freedom from the law. Galatians 5:16 is a key verse in the Christian life, “This I say then, walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Each verb tense is continuous, so literally, anytime you are continuously walking in the Spirit, you will not be fulfilling the lust of the flesh. Anytime you are not walking in the Spirit, you’ll be susceptible and vulnerable to the intense desires of the flesh, which by nature, craves the fleeting pleasure of sin.

You’re going to fail again. Why? Because you’re made of flesh. But in this moment you can have victory if you’re willing to be led by the Spirit of God. The question then becomes, are you more yielded to His control now than you used to be? Are you growing in your submissiveness to Him? Are you making forward progress in your intimacy with God?

Thank God the ability to overcome the flesh is not in me – it is in God. My willpower alone will usually let me down, but the power of God operating within me by the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit is unstoppable. Don’t just say “no” to sin, say “yes” to Almighty God!

Let Go of Some Old Labels and Live a Limitless Life!

Limitless LifeI’ve been anticipating the release of my friend Derwin Gray’s new book Limitless Life for many months now. There are books that come along that hold the key to restoration and healing for a great number of people, and I believe this is one of those books.

Derwin addresses a subject near to all of us – labels. Some are good, many are bad, and because of our broken nature, we tend to allow the negative to stick hard and long. But God has other plans. He has other labels for us to wear that clearly identify us as His child, His purchased possession and co-inheritors of His glory and Kingdom.

In Derwin’s words, from the introduction…

A label is a soul-tattoo that is ingrained deep in our hearts, so much so that it determines how we see ourselves. And how we see ourselves determines how we live.

A false label leads to living a lie. And a life built on a lie places you in a spiritual prison. Jesus wants to give you, free of charge, labels that are true. And His labels will set you free (John 8: 32).

A destructive label leads to living a destructive life. There is soul-thief, a dark enemy that wants to nail ruinous labels to your heart so he can steal your life. Jesus wants to give you life-giving labels that release your potential for the good of the world. He said, “The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life— life in all its fullness” (John 10: 10 GNT).

I first read the book several months ago before its release and now I’m leading Grace Hills Church on a journey through it’s message. We’re reading and studying it together and we’re going to be transformed by it. We’re going to help people move…

  • From Afraid to Courageous
  • From Addict to Free
  • From Mess to Masterpiece
  • From Orphan to Adopted
  • From Damaged Goods to Trophy of Grace
  • From Religious to Grace-Covered
  • From Consumer to Contributor
  • From Purposeless to Purposeful
  • From Worker to Worshiper
  • From Failure to Faithful

At the end of each of these chapters, Derwin includes three challenges – one for the head (a new way to think), one for the heart (a prayer to pray), and one for the hands (a call to action). I would challenge every reader to slow down and absorb the content of this book and then truly work through these challenges to really live a limitless life.

Derwin has even assembled material for churches who wish to journey through this together. In our case, I’m preaching a six-part message series and we’re giving a copy of the book to every family in our church so that we are reading it together as a body. We’re launching small groups that will study the concepts in the book together as well.

I’m excited to see what happens as people get this book, devour it, and begin to live an abundant, joy-filled, Spirit-empowered, limitless life.

Watch the Limitless Life Trailer

Get the Book & It’s Accompanying Resources

Anyone Who Believes HAS Eternal Life

ForverLiving forever is only a good idea if the life lived is a quality one. Who would want to live forever in a state of pain or disease? Death, in a sense, is a gift of ultimate deliverance from a world of suffering. So when we talk about “eternal life,” we’re not merely referring to the quantity of time one lives but to the quality of that life.

In other words, when Jesus said, “anyone who believes has eternal life,” (John 6:47) He was making it clear that eternal life is a current possession and not merely a vague promise about a never-ending future. To anyone who believes in Him, Jesus grants a new kind of life – an eternal one – a life intertwined with the life of Jesus. We have heaven’s power at our disposal today and its presence to enjoy in the future.

You may not “have” much in this world, but if you know Jesus, you have eternal life in Him, and no one can take it away. So enjoy it to the fullest here and now and in the ageless eternity to come!

photo credit: Rares M. Dutu

Where Jesus Is Present, Life Is Abundant

Green FruitIn the flower bed in front of my house are two arborvitae trees. They are the same age, purchased from the same nursery on the same day. One is green and lush and the other is dead and brown. On the outside, it’s a mystery as to why one would thrive and one would die, but inside the root, one of the trees is diseased in a way that disconnected it from its source of nourishment.

People who are connected to Jesus have roots in the life-giving soil of a saving relationship with Him. The Bible says that those who delight in Him…

are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

– Psalm 1:3 (NLT)

Our rootedness in Christ should show the world our life and our vibrancy. It’s a shame for a Christian to seem dull, dead, and fruitless because it’s a poor reflection on the Savior with whom we claim to be connected.

Ask yourself – am I a fruit-bearing, life-giving child of God? Am I firmly rooted in Him in such a way that I breathe life into the world around me?

photo credit: chikachika72

Take Up Your Cross… Daily?

DailyFor most of us, the cross is a religious symbol. It hangs on the wall of a church or on a chain around our neck. And what we do with the cross physically usually happens in our minds too. We think about the cross at church on Sunday. After all, it’s a “church” thing.

But Jesus didn’t see the cross as a mere religious symbol. And He didn’t want His followers to see it that way either. We know this because of one single word He used as He defined what it meant to follow Him…

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross DAILY, and follow me.

– Luke 9:23 (NLT)

Daily? As in, every day? Taking up our crosses means dying to self, laying aside our own agendas, ambitions, preferences, and comforts. It means following Jesus and thinking of others no matter the sacrifice necessary… daily.

With that one word – “daily” – Jesus denied us the ability to think of cross-bearing as a mere religious thing for Sundays. All of a sudden it’s:

  • Laying aside our right to be right in every argument.
  • Deciding not to take revenge and make things even.
  • Choosing to forgive and release people from their debts to us.
  • Putting the needs of others before our own.
  • Loving a spouse who doesn’t love us back equally.
  • Working hard for a boss who doesn’t reward us accordingly.

Don’t misunderstand. None of these equal dying on a cross. But they embody the spirit of dying to self. And if we can die to self, we can become everything God has in mind for us to be.

2012: We’re Just Getting Started

Combine in Wheat FieldIt’s day one of a new year. It’s also day one of the rest of your life. 2011 is behind us and a clean slate is before us. January 1 is always a day of high hopes and sometimes unrealistic expectations.

If you have the idea that this year will be free from any problems, you’re already in for a rude surprise. There will be interruptions in our plans, new obstacles, and unexpected trials. Such is life. But life this year can also be pretty awesome in spite of the inevitable valleys we will encounter. It can be a year of victory because of Jesus Christ, who died to set us free and rose from the dead to set us loose upon the world to share His grace with others.

In the New Testament book of Galatians, the apostle Paul writes about the kind of year I want you and I to enjoy…

Don’t be misled – you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially those in the family of faith.

~ Galatians 6:7-10 NLT

Respect the Unbreakable Laws of God

There are certain laws God has put into place and we are powerless to break them. One is the law of time. We can’t speed time up or slow it down. We can only be better stewards of the time we’ve been given. Another is the law of sowing and reaping. We will always reap what we sow, somewhere, sometime. If we live for sinful, selfish pleasures, we will reap the results of selfishness – a short term gain and a long term loss. If we live for God, we will reap eternal benefits, beginning now in this life.

Live with Eternity In Mind

Keep going. When you’re weary and worn out, keep going. When the world around you has beaten you up, keep going. When temptation just won’t go away, keep going. Don’t stop. Keep advancing. If you are in Christ, you’ve already won. Your crown is waiting.

Keep Doing Good

In The Art of the Start, a book about entrepreneurship, Guy Kawasaki devotes his final chapter to developing a basic ethic for starting things. Rather than closing his book with a challenge to grab all you can, while you can, Guy issues three other basic challenges:

  • Help many people.
  • Do what’s right.
  • Pay back society.

I believe Guy’s inspiration was scripture. I like Dallas Willard’s timeless definition of the word discipline. He says it’s simply “doing the next right thing.”

Reap the Harvest

My favorite definition of evangelism is from Bill Bright: “Evangelism is sharing Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, leaving the results to God.” We can’t control outcomes – that’s in the hands of a sovereign, all-knowing God. But we can control inputs. That is, we can determine what we’re willing to invest. And the more we’re willing to invest, the more we harvest, in God’s time and God’s way.

I can invest my time. Over Christmas, I spent a little time with my grandmother who is in her 90’s. She told me this might be her last Christmas. She says that every year, but this year she said it with a smile and then proceeded to tell me that she had talked with God about it and she’s let Him know that she’s had enough time and she’s ready whenever He is. We don’t know how much time we have on earth, but we do know that if we survive this day, we will have spent 24 hours on something. We might as well spend it on eternal things.

I can invest my talent. God has shaped us to serve Him and others. We might try to hide behind a facade of meekness, but we need to acknowledge that God creates good things and gives people abilities that need to be re-invested into His purposes.

I can invest my treasure. I can either spend it on things that will burn up, rust out, and blow away or I can store it up for eternity by investing as much as possible into eternal things. There are only two things that last for eternity – God’s Word and people – and no other investment opportunity compares to investing in the spreading of God’s Word and the redemption and healing of people.

Keep going. We’re just getting started.