From Prisoner to the Flesh, to Student of the Word

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
Acts of the Apostles 20:24 NLT

My life without Christ at the center was worth nothing. The wrong and selfish choices that I made brought bad consequences for myself and for those around me. My carnal nature had me chasing sensuality and all kinds of temptations that never satisfied me long term,  but only left me wanting more. I provided an example to others around me that led them into darkness and into their own bad consequences.

“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
Luke 6:43-45 NLT

And don’t think that being compliant to parts of the law makes you a good tree, because outward compliance is not the same thing as inward obedience. Compliance and regret is not the same thing as repenting and turning to God. We can fool men,  but God knows our heart – that part of us that is deceitful above all things – it is our heart that is weighed by God, at what will either be our final moment of salvation or judgement.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:12-14 NLT

Do you see how outside of Christ, our lives are worth nothing? Don’t you understand that the time and money invested in the things of this world will be dust, but that the fruit of the Holy Spirit that you bear,  and the seed of the good news of Jesus Christ that you plant (both in your actions AND your words) will have eternal consequences?

We cannot take our things with us when we die and our bodies lie decaying and rotting in the ground and the worms and maggots are eating our flesh – but we can invest into this world and into others the love of Jesus Christ,  our Lord and Savior,  and see it pay benefits and multiply in the lives of others. His love multiplies when it is shared,  because I walk away with more for having shared it with you, and you walk away with more for having received it. And God’s Word multiplies in the same way,  because it IS love,  it is good news,  it is the hope that the world is in need of.

So we must ask ourselves if we are fulfilling our purpose, if we are bearing good fruit,  if we are tapped into the vine of life.

We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.
Luke 1:74-75 NLT

So we must ask ourselves, have I been rescued from my enemies? I’m not asking you if you once had an emotional reaction to a sermon. I’m not asking you if you once claimed Him with your lips. I’m not asking if you were once founded under the water. I’m not asking if you attend church. I’m not asking if you read your Bible. I’m not asking if you pray to Him. I’m not even asking if you share the gospel or if you do good works for your fellow man. I’m asking,  have you been rescued, has your heart been changed, are you His?

Are you serving Him without fear of punishment? in holiness and righteousness? In inward obedience and not just outward compliance?

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
1 John 4:16-18 NLT

Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour,  knowing that it is your belief that saves you and that faith is what He counts as your righteousness?

So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!”  And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.
Romans 4:16-25 NLT

Like I said before,  my life without Christ was worth nothing – but Him living in me,  and working through me,  to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the midst of these fiery trials – and Him showing the seeds of love,  of hope,  of faith,  of this Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ – it is everything.

I am no longer a prisoner to my flesh, I am a student of the Word of God. He is my teacher,  and over time,  I am becoming more like my teacher. He is my new master,  and He is such a more pleasing one to serve,  because His guidance is pure and right and good and leads me into all kinds of wonderful blessings instead of just the bad consequences that I used to reap.

You too have chosen a teacher, friends. You have chosen a master. You have chosen who you will serve. So who is it that you trust? Whose will is it that you are seeking to follow? Set your eyes upon your master,  whether it is yourself, or whether it is the Lord. That trickster will teach you how to serve yourself,  knowing that it is the path to destruction. But there is another voice,  the voice of the Good Shepherd, who loves you and offers you a new life,  a life tapped into the vine of life.

Choose who you will serve, friend.

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord , then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord .”

The people replied, “We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods.

Then Joshua warned the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord , for he is a holy and jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you abandon the Lord and serve other gods, he will turn against you and destroy you, even though he has been so good to you.”

But the people answered Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord !”

“You are a witness to your own decision,” Joshua said. “You have chosen to serve the Lord .”

“Yes,” they replied, “we are witnesses to what we have said.”

“All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord , the God of Israel.”

The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God. We will obey him alone.”

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day at Shechem, committing them to follow the decrees and regulations of the Lord . Joshua said to all the people, “This stone has heard everything the Lord said to us. It will be a witness to testify against you if you go back on your word to God.” Then Joshua sent all the people away to their own homelands.
Joshua 24:14-16, 19-25, 27-28 NLT

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