As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year's Prayer

This past year, I did a verse-by-verse study of Colossians. I know it's been shared in this context before, but I felt I should share as well. This is my prayer for all who read this during this new year.

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

May you all have a blessed and safe new year full of great things that God will do.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Psalm 136

This song is well-known for "His mercy endureth forever." After all, that phrase is in every verse. In fact, I think we focus on it so much that we forget the rest of the verses. We read this in church today and the sermon was on the mercy of God. The whole time I was thinking about how this chapter would read if it wasn't written like that. Yes, His mercy endures forever, but the beginning of every verse tells us whose mercy endures forever. Below I have removed "his mercy endureth forever" from every verse, not to rewrite the Bible, but to draw our thoughts to the story of the God whose mercy endures forever.

Psalms 136 (with "his mercy endureth forever" removed from every verse)

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good.
O give thanks unto the God of gods.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords.
To him who alone doeth great wonders.
To him that by wisdom made the heavens.
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters.
To him that made great lights: the sun to rule by day: the moon and stars to rule by night.

To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: and brought out Israel from among them: with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm.
To him which divided the Red sea into parts: and made Israel to pass through the midst of it: but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea.
To him which led his people through the wilderness.
To him which smote great kings: and slew famous kings: Sihon king of the Amorites: and Og the king of Bashan: and gave their land for an heritage: even an heritage unto Israel his servant.

Who remembered us in our low estate: and hath redeemed us from our enemies.
Who giveth food to all flesh.
O give thanks unto the God of heaven...
for his mercy endureth for ever.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Servant to Skin

" For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Romans 7:18-25)

This is probably one of the most commonly quoted portions of Pauline Scripture. The most common usage I've heard is during discipleship, "but my flesh made me do it." I often say to friends during moments of deep conversation, "If I could just skin myself I would be fine." There is truth to that.

The language Paul uses here is very descriptive, very powerful. He knows what is right and he wants to do it but he has a problem. He has a problem called flesh. Yes, he has a regenerate spirit but his body is not regenerate. He still has a propensity to sin. He still has desires to do wrong. His frustration stems from knowing what is right and wanting to do and finding himself not doing it.

To look in context, the rest of this chapter is speaking of the law and our responsibilities to it. For Paul, this would have been a big point because, if you remember, he was Jewish. In chapter 7, he is making a case for our freedom from the law but also stating the benefit of it. Without it, he would not have known sin, but as a born-again believer, he is no longer bound to it. These few verses wrap up that chapter.

It leaves us in a pretty sad spot, doesn't it? Our mind knows what is right but, it seems, is hindered by our flesh. I can imagine Paul looking down at his fleshly hands and clinching his fists as he says, "O wretched man that I am!" The word 'deliver' in that same verse carries the idea of rescuing someone who is caught in a current. Paul feels as though he is drowning, caught in relentless waves of sin, surfacing long enough to catch a breath of air and water. Quickly he is sucked back under again.

That's how it is with many sins in our lives. We struggle, fight for air, and for a fleeting moment have victory. Too quickly we find ourselves back under again, caught in a battle of wills, and too many times the flesh wins.

The last verse perplexes many and I think is skipped over in many sermons on the passage because people just don't know what to do with it. Is it possible to serve two? Is it possible to want to do right but to be completely incapable? That's what he says here right? With my mind I serve the Spirit but with my body I serve sin. So I can't overpower my flesh? It just is what it is? No.

Thank goodness for chapter 8.

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:1-4

This is a favorite misquotation as well. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus..." So, now we excuse our sin and say, "Oh it doesn't matter, because God does not condemn me." You are missing the point; finish the verse, finish the chapter. "...who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." Can you be Christian and walk after the flesh. My answer would be 'yes', I've done it. But read the rest. " For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
You are free from sin, you are free from the bondage to your skin. You do not have to obey your flesh.

It is a decision; it is a choice. It is living in the power of the cross. The same power that saves our soul also frees us from our bondage to our human nature. Yes, we are still human, and very much so, but we are free to live for Christ. How? We walk after the Spirit. It takes discipline, it takes decision, it takes dedication, but it can be done.

I would say this is a great verse when dealing with any works-oriented salvation cult. These verses of Chapter 8 frankly say that the law can't save you. The law can't make you do what is right. From experience, and from what Paul says in Chapter 7, it would seem that, if anything, the law makes us do more wrong. We cannot, on our own, overpower our flesh, but with the power of Christ, we can. Think about this, Chapter 8 goes on to tell us that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us. That power is the Holy Spirit. That is a lot of regenerate power, that is a lot of power to change, and when we live in that power the battle against the flesh becomes much easier to fight.