An eternity perspective

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I  do,  forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.
Philippians 3:12-15 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/php.3.12-15.NKJV

We are being prepared for our final destination today. We are either serving the one master who makes us more like  Christ, producing love through a grateful, faithful,  repentant life of service and self control. Or we are serving that great enemy of self that is driven by pride and vanity and jealousy and haughtiness and isolation because we are blind to and unbelieving about things eternal. Or we are serving evil, knowing that what we are doing is wrong, but still letting our lives be a stumbling block to others and an enticement to serve the purposes of ac rebellion against the way that is best and most abundant for all.

Yes, the problem isn’t always that we don’t realize the need to change, the need to be a good example for others, the need to offer help to others in need – the problem sometimes is that we just don’t care about anyone enough to make a change,  to entertain the concept of stepping out of our comfort and complacency and idleness into a place of personal sacrifice, self control, and trust in the Lord in the midst of a life of trials,  tribulation,  and suffering.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/jhn.16.33.NKJV

People will say, but God wants me to be happy and protected and safe and prosperous “right now”. And I tell you that God is more focused on your eternity than this short breath of a life that is like the blink of an eye. Yes, He lives you and will help you “right now” in the troubles you are facing,  but it will be from the eternal mindset and purpose that is His – not the immediate and urgent and anxious mindset that the world has taught us to trust in. The world tells us to only trust in what we can see and touch today,  right now. While God tells us to have Hope and Faith in things unseen that are not yet ours.

And when we start understanding and believing God for eternal purposes – when we start receiving revelations of the blessings eternal,  those things that nourish our soul,  those things that feed and heal and help those around us – those temptations,  and false idols in our lives,  and those things like earthly riches and wealth and comfort and security and trust in our own strengths and abilities are revealed as poisonous traps for the short sighted and blind.

Being blind to eternity is like the difference between getting a high interest loan for one night of wild partying that saddles you with debt you can never pay back and will leave behind for your family after you are gone – versus living reasonably within your means so that you can avoid unnecessary anxieties, so that you can help others around you while you are hear,  and so that you can leave an inheritance for your family to help them after you are gone. But we are not just talking about money and comfort on earth for ourselves and our families – we are talking about our eternal souls.

You see,  once we understand and believe in the Word of God, once we believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ in our hearts, and aren’t just flirting with the idea and concept of Jesus Christ in our minds – once we make Him Lord of our lives instead of just claiming His name as our Savior – or while perspective changes from this life to eternity.

And when our perspective changes, it changes our priorities as well. Loving and serving God with our WHOLE life becomes our WHOLE priority – not just one thing in a list of priorities. And having this priority places us into His Kingdom service now, because we are His body,  His church,  His hands and feet, His voice, sent to pour out His love and blessings into the lives of others so they might find and know Him and come to understand this new perspective and these new priorities.

We do not “invite Him into our lives” so that He can help us accomplish our own selfish “right now” desires. He comes when we seek Him and He abides in us and changes us to desire His will,  to be eternity focused,  to turn away from the trappings of this world, to be Kingdom minded,  faithful servants of a righteous,  holy,  perfect God who says “Go and sin no more” and who also says “if you do sin, you have an advocate”.

But if we know and love Him, “Go and sin no more” is our plan A and we have no intention of using testing that safety net,  even if we are glad that it is there. If falling into the safety net is our Plan A, we must ask ourselves if we are really focused on walking that thin, narrow path to its final destination, or do we just enjoy the experience of going up the ladder a bit so we can fall? I don’t want to see people going down into the pit,  but I know that He says few will find the narrow gate and walk the narrow path that leads to eternal life. Few will live in the perspective that they are paying on towards their eventual goal of eternity, of salvation. Few will live with their priority being God’s will and His Kingdom work playing out in their lives.

Many will be be satisfied with an empty and powerless concept of Jesus that offers them a “someday redeemable ticket to heaven redeemable after death” – they will deceive themselves with a combination of “once saved,  always saved” and “I’m just a sinner” and “only God can judge me” that is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is not following the way,  the truth, the life – but that is the broad way that leads to destruction.

Yes, we are meant to die to Christ and walk as His follower,  as His disciple,  as messengers, ambassadors, as a royal priesthood TODAY. And we do this because we are a new creation,  with new desires and perspective and priorities. And we do this so that He might use us for His work,  for His purposes TODAY, that can have eternal implications for the lives of those around us – that they might recognize Christ in us – that our testimony and our love and our service might be just what God uses to usher them back into the fold. Because at some point, a Christ minded person’s perspective has moved past self to a place of serving and loving Godc and others, willing to sacrifice “right now” knowing that eyebrows is so much more important.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it? ” So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:25-37 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/luk.10.25-37.NKJV

No excuses, faith. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget about the law.

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.
People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 
Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.
Romans 3:19-28, 30-31 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.19-31.NLT

Continue reading “No excuses, faith. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget about the law.”

Love like Christ?

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
John 13:34 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.13.34.NLT

The NEW part of this commandment is not to “Love each other”. Even in the Old Testament, the Jewish people we instructed to love their neighbors as themselves.

Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

God’s voice did not change in the new testament, the message has been the same all along – it’s just that Jesus Christ came to demonstrate it fully revealed, and to open our eyes to what real love looks like, and to teach us what the Spirit of the Word of God looks like in contrast to the Letter of the Law. He came to open our eyes from a perspective of obligation and sacrifice – to a perspective of mercy, faith, and opportunity.

The NEW part of Christ’s commandment is “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” It’s about us being like Christ. — Hold on, hit the brakes, are you really saying that I need to follow in His footsteps? — Yep, I sure am, but let’s hold onto that meat for a moment while we drink some milk and prepare ourselves for a hearty meal. Let’s talk about “our way” for a moment.

You see, we can make asking us to love our neighbor easy on ourselves, because we look at the word love, examining the letter of the law, and we start to tear it down into a measuring stick where we say to ourselves, “Well, I don’t really know my neighbor or care about them, but I don’t steal from them or cause them any problems, so that’s loving in a way.”

Mankind is very good at arguing whether or not we’ve met the “requirements of the law” – we even have a lucrative profession whose whole purpose is to tear apart the wording of the law and speak for us in a court of law. But when it comes to the things that matter, it doesn’t matter if our tongues are silver enough to argue how well we measure up to the requirements. In fact, Christ expects us to be truthful and for our words to flow from our heart and from the Holy Spirit who guides and teaches us.

Luke 6:45
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.  For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Matthew 10:19-20 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.10.19-20.NLT

So Christ expects us to love like He loves. He reveals something revolutionary. He wants us to be like Him. In fact, He sets the bar amazingly high, telling us to give open handedly to others without expecting payment in return, He tells us to turn the other cheek to those who hurt us, He tells us to love and forgive those who consider themselves our enemies, He tells us to not be angry with others, to not even look at someone in lust. And He does this so that if we decide to measure ourselves by the law, it should become immediately clear to us that we will fall short of perfection.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.23.NLT

And it isn’t that the law itself is bad, but that man’s perspective about the law was perverted, was twisted:

Psalm 19:7
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
Romans 3:19-20 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.19-20.NLT

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Romans 8:3-4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.8.3-4.NLT

He makes us right through faith.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
Romans 3:22 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.22.NLT

And this is because He is changing us, reconciling us back to God, so that we are living for God and loving others like He demonstrated love for us.

He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:15-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.5.15-21.NLT

Yes, He is making us like Him. He is revealing to us this great mystery. He is restoring the relationship that is the very essence of our being alive and freed from death.

God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.
Colossians 1:25-28 NLT
http://bible.com/116/col.1.25-28.NLT

So we should ask ourselves – am I following His commandment to love others like He demonstrated? Am I still a slave to sin? Am I a son being reconciled to be like Him? And I don’t have the excuse of “I can’t” to fall back on, because “He can”. The question them becomes “Do I believe? Have I fully accepted His Lordship over my life? Do I have this relationship with a living Christ who is in me?”

It’s a pretty important question, friend – one with eternal consequences. Yes, now we are past the milk and getting into the meat. Are you still a slave, or are you a son?

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
John 8:34-36 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.34-36.NLT

And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”  So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.
Galatians 4:28-31 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.4.28-31.NLT

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:1, 5-5, 7-8, 13-14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.1-14.NLT

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
Galatians 5:16-18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.16-18.NLT

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:19-25 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.19-25.NLT

Debauchery and Imperfection

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Last night at the jail, my message was on our imperfection but His perfection – about Him reconciling us to be more like Him – about experiencing His touch upon our lives now, not just after our hearts have stopped beating. It was about coming broken daily to see His healing and correction continue to take place in our lives. It was about looking not at ourselves,  but looking to Christ for our salvation.

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I started out the message singing a very broken and imperfect delivery of the children’s song “Jesus loves Me”, standing in that cell block amongst some who were attending the Bible Study and many who sat in their bunk areas far away. This was clearly a broken and imperfect performance as the song lifted out of my range and my voice cracked and I even laughed at myself at one point. You see, I can normally sing fairly well,  but I had asked the Lord to use me however was best to deliver His message tonight, not so that I would receive any glory or honor. And for a message on imperfection, He was doing a great job of it in the opener – and I started into the message, letting the Holy Spirit guide us along the night’s journey into the Word of God.

In the middle of the message, I was mentioning Galatians 5 and someone said their translation had the word “debauchery” and they asked what it meant. My immediate thoughts trying to explain this old word that is rarely used today went to sexual immorality and promiscuity, but it covers so much more than that. My answer was imperfect and left room for improvement – yet again demonstrating that we don’t have to be perfect (nor will we be this side of judgement) in order to share testimony and truth about the Word of God.

You see,  it isn’t just about sexual things,  but it means any excessive indulgence that separates us from walking in the Spirit and giving God glory. I’m thankful for my brother,  Michael Mcleymore, who was there beside me, ready to quickly assist with greater clarification,  explaining that it could be anything taken too far,  even wasting our day away playing video games or watching TV in excess instead of using the day for the glory of God.

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It is about excess. Taking the things of this earth that exist for our survival,  for our health, for our enjoyment – and perverting their use from their natural intended purpose for which we should be giving God thanks and praise,  and instead perverting them into something excessive and distracting from God’s glory.

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And it all comes down to who is the Lord of our life. It comes down to our individual choices and decisions,  moment to moment,  breath by breath,  and who we are choosing to serve and glorify with those choices. Whether we are using our lives for their intended purpose of bringing Him glory and honor – sharing the Good News, loving and serving others, making disciples,  equipping the saints, walking in the Spirit, and obeying His commandments – or if we have made it about ourselves and we are proving it by our excessive enjoyment of worldly pleasures and lack of concern for God and for others.

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Settling and getting comfortable with our own imperfections will allow them to grow into debauchery. But walking this path of reconciliation with Christ,  seeking His healing touch daily will help us identify, cut away, cast off, and be delivered from those things that have no place in the life of a vessel of the Holy Spirit. Choosing to feed the flesh with individual decisions will exercise those fleshly desires in our lives,  or choosing to submit and walk in the Spirit will exercise His strength in overcoming those temptations and evil influences in our lives.

So we should ask ourselves, not whether we are perfect or imperfect – because if we don’t recognize that we are imperfect, how deep have we fallen into the darkness. But we should ask ourselves,  what path am I choosing to walk, the narrow path that is seldom chosen, or the broad way that leads to destruction?

de·bauch·er·y dəˈbôCHərē/ noun
noun: debauchery; plural noun: debaucheries
excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures.

“a life of self-absorption and debauchery”

synonyms:
dissipation, degeneracy, corruption, vice, depravity;
immodesty, indecency, perversion, iniquity, wickedness, sinfulness, impropriety, immorality;
lasciviousness, salaciousness, lechery, lewdness, lust, promiscuity, wantonness, profligacy;
decadence, intemperance, sybaritism;
turpitude

Ephesians 5:18 ESV
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Romans 13:13 ESV
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

Romans 1:26-27 ESV
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

2 Timothy 3:16 ESV
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Ephesians 5:1-33 ESV
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.