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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!

Finding the Right Path In Life – Jesus

Sandy PathJesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father except through me.” I remember a Bible college professor paraphrasing what Jesus meant with these lines:

I am the Way… walk Me.
I am the Truth… know Me.
I am the Life… live Me.

Jesus, paraphrased by Dr. Jesse Thomas

I love that! I wrote last week about getting off the wrong path, but that can never be the end of the story. To jettison ourselves from any path, we need a new path to follow, and for the believer in Christ, that path is the person of Jesus Christ.

In other words, it’s not just about doing all the right things instead of doing the wrong things. It’s about being involved with the right Person, Jesus. He is the right path. When we walk “in Christ,” and we’re coming to know Christ, and we’re living as Jesus lived, we’re guaranteed to be on the right path.

So how do you find and walk the right path, the path that is Jesus?

  1. Trust Him. Once and for all, completely trust Him as your one and only Savior.
  2. Hear Him. Get to know His voice through His Word.
  3. Talk to Him as you live, as you walk, and as you do life.
  4. Follow His example, emulate His character, and imitate His behaviors.
  5. Serve Him, by serving others in His name.

Here’s hoping you find the right path, that you fully commit to trusting, hearing, knowing, following, and serving Jesus!

Photo by jwtwel.

Kumbaya, My Lord!

What does that mean, anyway? Actually, it means “come by here.” We didn’t sing Kumbaya at camp this week, but God definitely showed up! This was my first experience with church camp… ever! I’d been to Conservation Camp in elementary school and hated every minute of it. This week was vastly different. For one thing, thirty-six people got saved!

As I reflect on camp, let me just share the highlights… The quiet mornings by the lake while the kids slept were great. Waking up by singing the song “Climb, climb up breakfast mountain” was quite nice too. Teaching the college-agers brought about some good discussion. I enjoyed watching activities such as human foosball and playing softball. I was encouraged by fellowshipping with members of other churches. Most of all, I loved the worship time. It was awesome to watch kids “own” the service and take their needs to the altar, many of them inviting Christ in as Savior or rededicating themselves to a thoroughly Christian walk.

What did I not enjoy? Only the noises and odors that are the natural result of sharing quarters with a bunch of boys!! Nonetheless, the cabin was comfortable enough and we really weren’t in it much anyway. I’m definitely going back next year, the Lord willing, and I hope to take twice as many campers with me!

Graduation Day

DSC01030Today was kind of tough… for Momma anyway. We saw our little girl “walk the line” to graduate from Preschool. The theme was What A Wonderful World, which all nineteen graduates sang together. They actually played Pomp and Circumstance as they marched in. She got a diploma and an award for Developing the Most in Confidence throughout the year. We’re so proud!

Angie handles moments like these with a mothering sadness. Her little girl will never graduate from Preschool again. I, on the other hand, handle things a bit differently. While Mamma shed a few tears, I was frustrated that the camera wasn’t working quite right. For me, it’s just one more step toward adulthood, which is the goal. I know that the time will fly and I’ll be crying at her wedding far too soon. Nevertheless, I tend to look forward to each next occasion while Angie wants to hang on to her little girl.

One thing I know, I’m going to enjoy another graduation someday. I’m not referring to Ella’s High School graduation, though I know I’ll enjoy that too, but the day I “walk the line” at the judgment seat of Christ. On the one hand, I view that day with trepidation – there is so much more to be done here in this life. On the other hand, I can’t wait for the eternal reward God has promised to all who place their faith squarely in Him alone.

Our little baby is all grown up… or at least about to head for kindergarten, but I feel that we have so much work to do. If she’s out of the house by eighteen, then we only have fourteen more years to prepare her heart to be forever sensitive to the Savior’s voice. We want to pray her into the family of God, model a genuine love for Jesus, and watch as she surrenders herself to His will daily. May God so prepare us for our graduation day!

The Lord Who Heals and the People Who Worship

I must confess, as a Baptist, it took me a rather long time to come to understand the healing nature of God. We Baptists, as Adrian Rogers put it, “believe in miracles, but trust in Jesus.” I still believe this is best. But I also freely admit that in our reaction to the extremism of “healing evangelists” like Binny Hinn and other obvious hucksters and false prophets, that we have a tendency to write off all supposed healings as a mere charade.

Scripture, however, clearly teaches that the Great Physician, through His miraculous touch, heals the bodies of many people. Such was the case for the entire camp of Israelites in the wilderness when they reached the bitter waters of Marah. I’m inclined to believe that these poisonous waters made many of the people quite ill. So God steps into the picture, sweetens the waters, and heals the people. So He reveals to them another title for Himself – Jehovah who heals you.

Fast-forward about fifteen hundred years to Matthew, chapter fifteen. A Gentile woman comes to Jesus and His disciples, begging for a demon to be cast out of her daughter. I am especially moved by her form of worship. First, the text declares that she “cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is demon-possessed.'” Amazingly, “He answered her not a word.” She chases God and He delights in the pursuit. She was apparently persistent for the disciples asked Jesus to dismiss her, saying, “for she cries out after us.”

Jesus continues to stonewall her by explaining that He was sent with Israel as His first priority, so why should He perform miracles for a Gentile woman? His remaining just beyond her reach is really an attempt to lead her on in her pursuit of the Almighty, and of course it works. “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!'”

Instead of responding to her cry, Jesus argues that He really shouldn’t be casting such great miracles before the dogs of the Gentiles. She wisely continues her pursuit, presenting a responding argument that as a dog, she’ll gladly take the crumbs that fall to her. What a great lesson she teaches us. Our worship must always have a heartfelt ring of “Whatever, whenever, however God, just bless me!” to it. So He gives in and heals her, thrilled at her great and faith-filled pursuit. Oh, for such demanding hunger that argues with God for His blessings!

In the next paragraph, Matthew records for us that multitudes came to Him and were healed, “so the multitude marveled when they say the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”

Jesus is the Great Physician, the mighty Healer of the children of men. I find it sad how we overlook the miraculous nature of God. We like to bring Him down to our level. “Well, you know I just think that in modern times, He heals through modern medicine…” Yes, He invented all of it and yes, He uses it, but let us never forget to look for the miraculous and to ask, to beg, to plead for His blessing.

I had a conversation a couple of years ago with a good friend who used to sit under my preaching every week, but who had moved to another town, gotten married, and attended a church of a different denomination. He related to me the story of a funeral that he attended. As he watched the mourners pass the casket to pay their last respects, his heart cried out within him, “Why did nobody ask God even once to heal her?”

Our answer, as good traditional Baptists, might be, “Well, it was just her time, it just wasn’t God’s will to heal her.” Though my friend and I may not agree on all things, I support his question. Why do we no think to ask, to beg, to plead with a worshipful heart to the Almighty Healer to perform miracles. I don’t believe He will always heal, for people do get sick and die, but shouldn’t we at least ask Him?

The theological argument that has arisen from this issue relates to the atonement, and whether or not physical healing for all of God’s people was purchased at the cross or not. I think it’s a moot point either way. The cross proves He heals in the ultimate way, spiritually and eternally. Healing didn’t necessarily have to be purchased, in the sense of a financial transaction, by His atoning death. He was already able to heal, but His atoning death was the ultimate picture of the great work of an Almighty Physician to heal the diseases of the spirit, the soul, and the body.

I think we have naturalized God and have forgotten that He’s a God of tremendous power, who is overwhelmed with compassion, and who desires to give unspeakable peace and joy to His children. He is just as alive and well today as He was in the days of Moses and Jesus. As the old song puts it, “He is able to deliver thee!” So ask, pray, beg, be an intercessor, anoint with oil, believe that He will work miracles, but ultimately trust His decisions no matter what.