Sin, Repentance, Righteousness, Judgement

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in  it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. – James 1:21-25 NKJV

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under  the  sway  of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. – I John 5:16-21 NKJV

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let  yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you  do these things to  your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. – I Corinthians 6:1-11 NKJV

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are  dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. – Revelation 22:14-15 NKJV

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. – Ephesians 5:1-7 NKJV

But we know that the law is  good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. – I Timothy 1:8-17 NKJV

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. – Hebrews 12:12-17 NKJV

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the  testimony  of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. – Hebrews 10:26-31 NKJV

Where can safety be found?

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,  and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
Jude 1:20-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jud.1.20-21.NLT

Some of us are friends – not even because we know each other,  but because we know Christ. Once we know that our enemies are not flesh and blood, the world begins to be filled with the opportunity of friends – because even those imperfect people doing things we might not agree with, or even those that we find opposing us are just in need of the same rescue,  the same grace,  the same deliverance that we ourselves accept daily.

Continue reading “Where can safety be found?”

Do I train like my dad, the Ironman?

And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
Luke 5:11 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.5.11.NLT

My dad, Jim Ballinger, is 64, and he is an Ironman. In fact,  he is training for Ironman Florida right now. We talked yesterday and he shared with me that the training that he does is tougher mentally than it is physically. He explained that he has no one training with him this time and the long sessions can feel lonely at times. I asked if he ever tries listening to something in one ear while he trains,  but he explained that the distraction is too dangerous since there are situations that come up that you must be prepared for our you could be caught up in an accident. Other people aren’t very mindful or aware enough to look out for someone riding a bike 100 miles or running a long distance as they train for an event that seems foreign or impossible to most of the world.

A few hours earlier, my wife and I had run into, Mark Foster, a great friend, pastor, and fellow child of the One True God in the produce section at Ingles as we gathered our groceries for the week. Our discussion was on the focus and dedication that it takes to successfully walk in the Spirit and to “Go and sin no more.” But our conversation was about that it is possible with great focus and dedication and training,  that we are not yet perfect,  but our goal is to strive after perfection – to live our lives as a sacrifice,  making Christ our addiction,  seeking first the Kingdom of God.

The parallels between training for an Ironman and training for our final destination to be proven before Christ as a good and faithful servant have never been so clear to me as now. As I study this Word of God and learn to recognize those things in my own life that are tricks of the enemy,  I become equipped with the tools to battle and overcome those temptations in my life. And for most temptations, they flee from me once I am equipped in that area. But some return. And some return with stronger friends,  and I must continue to learn and grow and equip myself for battle.

Some would say, but your salvation is complete,  the battle is already won, Christ has completed the work – to which I would say,  “Yes, I am His and He is mine. That work is done and He is faithful and true. My salvation is complete. But my testimony is not.” You see, if I make it only about my own salvation, if I take this heaven ticket,  place it in my back pocket for the day I die,  and do nothing for the Kingdom of God,  if I turn back from the plow and try to use have as an excuse to remain in sin,  not battling to see sin overcome in my life, not sharing this gospel with others who are lost,  not making disciples and baptizing in His name, then how can I say that I’ve “left everything and followed Jesus”?

And as we train and as we grow in discernment, being equipped with more understanding of how to recognize and battle the tricks and traps of the enemy, those areas of our lives that need correction – unfortunately  this healing to our spiritual eyes also comes with the ability to see it in others. And while we are called to use it to strive for righteousness ourselves and do battle against those things in our lives that would spill our garments,  our testimony to the Lord – it can create division and separation and isolation from the world. We can find ourselves on a long,  narrow road, seemingly running forever,  with no brothers or sisters running beside us to the end – but Christ is always with us.

You see,  we are not just meant to look at our own salvation and celebrate when so many of our brothers and sisters are either lost in the darkness or are still soiling their garments. If we only use the grace that we’ve received to remain the same as the world in every other aspect of our lives other than a once a week praise and worship and a check to someone else who is serving the Lord,  then how precious and valuable can we say that the Lord is to us? Are we not like Israel, turning back to our idols in this world? Loving wealth,  comfort,  pleasure,  sports,  hobbies, loved ones,  more than we love God who died for us and offers us His hand in eternity?

So let’s lay down everything. Let’s set our sights on serving the Lord. Let’s count the cost and realize that Christ is the ONLY thing of value that we can cling to. Let’s get addicted to Christ.

And let’s train radically, to the world as if we were racing for the impossible. Let’s set our eyes upon striving for the righteousness of a life where we “go and sin no more”. But let’s remember even when we slip that He will catch us.

Today,  I ask you,  are your eyes set firmly upon your Lord and Savior? Are you training to show yourself approved? Or are you caught up in the distraction?

Focus.

Run.

Train.

Be diligent.

Strive for perfection,  not so that you may be found perfect (because you are not), but so that the Lord may be honored in your continued effort,  and so that your life shines as a living and undeniable testimony to others that the Lord has touched you,  has changed you,  and is doing a mighty work in you and through you. Do not worry about the stumbles,  even when visible to others – let the discipline you receive even be a testimony and a warning for others. Better that the Lord be honored as faithful and true than for me to shrink back from running the race to my best.

Righteous? Sinner? Who are you?

Today’s Manna – Our Daily Bread
http://bible.com/116/hos.14.9.nlt
Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.

Observation
Oh what a sin it is to think ourselves wise, to set ourselves upon the throne of self exaltation in a prideful stance. If we think ourselves so wise,  if we think that we are so understanding, why do we still find ourselves stumbling? Why do we still find ourselves falling short daily of the glory of God?

Continue reading “Righteous? Sinner? Who are you?”

Don’t get it twisted

Don’t I just love making it all about me.

And isn’t that one of our greatest problems?

Don’t we make ourselves the center, the focus, telling ourselves excuses like,  “If I don’t look out for number one, who will? ”

I’m going to tell you.  You’re wrong on at least two counts,  friends. Just as I have been myself.

You see, number one isn’t you or me. We can wish it to be true all day long, we can delude ourselves with pride and illusions of self grandeur, but that self we see in the mirror each morning is but flesh and bones and dust that will return to dust, when our alloted time is over,  when our breathe ceases to rise in our chest,  and when our bodies are returned to the ground.

Number one is not self,  but is Almighty God in the heavenly spiritual realm that is eternal and neverending.

And number one doesn’t need looking out for at all. But we sure do. Without guidance and instruction,  we find ourselves in all kinds of compromising autistic and troubles.

In fact,  without guidance, without help for us from the real number one,  we become a slave to self. We discover that we don’t know love – but we have bought the poor substitute of lust, where it is about what am I getting from this person – instead of what can I give. We realize that we don’t know unity as one with another in holy matrimony – but we’ve traded it for a fleshly and carnal union of our bodies that keeps score and tallies what is owed to me by that other person that I do not consider as one with me. We seek reasons to keep ourselves separated and divided and to only be loyally to ourselves.

Oh,  we are a rebellious and wicked generation. Only the mercies of God are wide enough and deep enough and long enough and high enough to forgive us for our many faults and shortcomings through the grace of the full revelation of God through this Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Even the kindness that we feign towards others, don’t we find it to be manipulation in hopes that we will receive kindness in return?  Or is it done so that others might think us kind? Or even worse, might we do it so that we can tell ourselves that we are kind,  trying to cover up and hide the truth that we know about ourselves,  about our true darkness, about our idol of self that sits upon the throne of our lives?

Oh,  how I have wearied the Lord with my life. It shames me to share the glorious Word of God from a vessel of clay,  from an earthly pot that has previously cooked such deadly delicacies and served them out to friends like poison when I was unaware of my purpose and calling. It humbles me that the Lord might use even me as an instrument of His grace and mercy and power and glory. It humbles me and strikes fear in me of how little I understand and comprehend of the fullness of His glory.

But,  you see,  it isn’t about me. It’s about Him. It’s about His glory and His honor. And I can talk about it all day,  but I need to walk it as well. And even the walking, I find isn’t about me – because when I rely on myself,  when I think myself strong, I soon find myself face down on the floor from my stumbling.

But face down before the Lord is not a bad place to be. In fact it is a wonderful position of Spirit to become accustomed to,  because we cannot seat ourselves on the throne that is His at the center of our lives if we are humble and contrite at the foot of the throne.

Even as we rise up,  and as we go out,  and as we put on this armor participate in this battle – we must be vigilant and mindful that we are an instrument,  a vessel, a clay pot to be used. The question then becomes what am I being used for? What is inside my vessel? And we can tell by what we are serving to those around us.

Are we giving them nourishing fruit of true,  selfless love and kindness and gentleness and truth and peace and patience? Or are we serving the bitter and poisonous concoction of lust,  manipulation, anger,  jealousy, envy,  strife, gossip, and wickedness that is driven by our focus on loving ourselves instead of loving and honoring God by a life loving and honoring others.

Oh,  how far we are fallen. But thank God for His mercy and grace that can reach down and touch even me when I am humbled before His throne,  fully aware of my need for Him to be seated firmly at the center of my life.

Ezekiel 36:22-36 AMP
Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: I do not do this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations to which you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name and separate it for its holy purpose from all that defiles it–My name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them–and the nations will know, understand, and realize that I am the Lord [the Sovereign Ruler, Who calls forth loyalty and obedient service], when I shall be set apart by you and My holiness vindicated in you before their eyes and yours. For I will take you from among the nations and gather you out of all countries and bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness; and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall heed My ordinances and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses, and I will call forth the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine on you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field, that you may no more suffer the reproach and disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you shall [earnestly] remember your own evil ways and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominable deeds. Not for your sake do I do this, says the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your [own] wicked ways, O house of Israel! Thus says the Lord God: In the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities I will [also] cause [Israel’s] cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the desolate land shall be tilled, that which had lain desolate in the sight of all who passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited. Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.

Do you see that there are promises that the Lord makes with regards to His chosen people? Are we foolish enough to think that we chose Him and earned or salvation by turning to him by anything of our own doing or power? Or do we realize that even our hearing His call and responding was not contingent upon our own strength, but was a result of our surrender to His authority?

Are we foolish enough to be satisfied seeking a ticket into heaven for after death – instead of living an active life as part of the Kingdom of God while our bodies are still dying?

Is it about me,  or is it about God?

Are we foolish enough to be working our good works and “ministries” in hopes of rewards, acting like a hired hand – instead of laying down our lives for others, equipping ourselves, in hopes that He might see fit to use us for His glory and honor, knowing that any crowns,  any rewards, are His work through us,  not works of our own?

I find myself foolish at times,  friends. I look at my mistakes,  my stumbles,  and I have to admit to you that I wish that it was different. I wish that my heart was already perfected and fully made whole into a reflection of my beloved,  Jesus Christ. I wish that I could walk a life of perfect love right now, today. But even that is all about me,  friend.

You see, my imperfections even as I reach for righteousness,  they make me even more aware of the glory that is Christ Jesus – and I realize that it isn’t about me. It’s about Him. If there is change in me, it still is barely a shadow of the Christ that touches my life.

You see, I don’t want to be the light,  I want to see the light,  know the light,  show the light. Because it isn’t about me at all. It’s about YOU. He speaks through me to touch YOU. He loves YOU. He cares enough about YOU to use even me, too reach out and speak to YOU.

So hear His voice, hear His call,  and then you too will understand that it isn’t about you any longer,  but it is now about Him.

I’m thirsty, how far is it to the bar?

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When we get thirsty,  we look for something to drink. It’s natural, we don’t have to remind ourselves consciously to seek water when we realize that we are thirsty,  we don’t have to teach ourselves how to drink water, even new born babies know how to drink.

Jesus taught us a little bit about being thirsty and drinking. In fact,  a lot of His lessons center around thirst and drink. His first miracle was turning water into wine. He told the woman at the well that He could give her living water and that she would thirst no more. He also told us that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled.

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But many of us hear “righteousness” and we immediately think of hypocrites and “churchy” people who look down their noses at us because of where they believe they are compared to where they perceive us to be. But you see,  we are all standing on fallen ground if we are examining and comparing our works against each other.

Only Christ’s work through us is worthy and righteous, and none of us should take credit for that to use it to boast or compare ourselves against others, because only He is worthy of praise and honor. It is His righteousness that we receive that redeems us, our own works cannot earn righteousness.

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Righteousness is not a measuring stick for us to stand beside,  measuring ourselves and comparing ourselves against others. It isn’t even a measuring stick for us to compare our today to yesterday and either be despondent or proud over our progress.

Righteousness is like a high bar set so that when we are extended fully on the tips of our toes,  and reaching with every fiber of our being,  and extending our fingertips, they can brush ever so slightly against it for a moment. It is meant to keep us ever reaching forward, not content that we have arrived or achieved our goal.

This is what it means to thirst after righteousness, to look beyond the evidence of our daily shortcomings,  to remember that Christ is at work inside us, and to reach eagerly for the high bar daily,  even moment to moment,  decision to decision, with faith that our lives will be filled with the presence of that touch of the Lord’s hands on our lives when we reach forth towards the high bar.

Psalms 42:1-3 NLT
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?”

If we believe that we have arrived,  if we feel that we have grasped the bar firmly within our hands and that we are righteous,  I fear that we may be walking blind in the darkness, unaware of our true situation.

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If we once touched the bar,  and that was enough active spiritual exercise to keep us satisfied with low impact religious practice but not reaching for the bar daily, I fear that we are settling for a false peace that provides little growth or fruit in our lives.

If we are measuring ourselves by the laws of men,  if we are eagerly checking off the list of rules that we are not breaking, I fear that we are stumbling over the letter of the law that leads to death.

But if we are thirsty for righteousness, if we are reaching for the bar,  if we are led by our goal of loving and honoring God with a life of loving and serving others – then even when we know that we aren’t grasping the bar firmly and that we aren’t touching that bar quite as often as we would like to – this is the humble, spiritual position of a child of God reaching out to his loving, heavenly Father.

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It isn’t about where you are.

It is about where you are headed.

And we aren’t headed anywhere if we aren’t reaching out.

Our desires drive what we are reaching for, so what we are reaching for either testifies to our faith,  or it betrays our unfaithfulness.

What am I reaching for today?

Is it something that will glorify and bring honor to the name of the Lord – or is it all about me?

Is it something that will serve others showing them forgiveness,  kindness,  gentleness, patience, peace,  and mercy – or is it all about me?

Am I looking at where I am in my spiritual walk instead of keeping my eyes firmly focused on the goal ahead,  the high bar of Christ’s example and teachings?

Am I thirsty?

Am I reaching?

Let’s stretch forth our hands towards the high bar today,  friends.

Not so that we can be proud of any progress made, but so that we might remain humbled by our constant reaching,and that our fingertips brushing against the presence of the Holy Spirit will serve as a constant reminder of the price paid for His victory over our lives.