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Have You Died?

I am a believer in Jesus Christ. A Christian. Not because I have done something special deserving of salvation; in fact, it is quite the opposite. I am saved for the reason that I believe that nothing I can possibly do, no task I can ever accomplish can make me worthy of salvation. Nothing can rescue my soul aside from the perfect sacrifice of Christ, a replacement for the wrath which I deserve. In that moment of repentance and faith in His divine interposition, something extraordinary happened. I died for the first time, and was born for the second. A part of me that was enslaved to self and sin died at that point, and something truly beautiful was birthed in its stead. I am now a slave of Christ after having been reborn. To get to this point, I had to experience death, in a spiritual sense. In fact, it could be called a spiritual suicide to self. Having died, I found life. The words of Jesus in Luke 9:23-24 are my basis for this word-picture:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

Anyone who is a true believer must experience this death. If one has not realized that salvation takes a life change, I would strongly urge him to question it. I, as a young child, was mistaken about my faith, not realizing that being a Christian means I have to kill myself(figuratively) and let Christ mold me into an image of Himself. I deceived myself and thought I could continue to live sinfully as long as I read my bible and attended church. I now see the truth, but I believe and know that many others share this misconception, especially those in the “Bible Belt”. Dear reader, please examine yourself. Have you fallen prey to this line of false thinking?

If one has examined himself and found true repentance, then this post serves as a challenge. Lately, I have found my love for Christ growing, as I see how undeserving and unworthy I am of His grace. The fact that He would still love me in spite of all I have done and continue to do causes me to love Him with a greater fervency. Coming right along with this growth, I am seeing sinful habits and patterns that have slipped into my speech and actions. Also, I am seeing how easy it is to forget my death to sin with friends who are fellow believers. Not necessarily because my friends and I are saying and doing things which are even widely considered wrong, but because of what we are not saying and doing. James 4:17 says,

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Many times, I will myself with my friends talking about things and doing things which are not only worthless, but stupid, for hours upon end. I am dead to sin and alive to Jesus Christ! Why would I allow these habits of sinfulness and times of worthlessness into my life? Paul said in Philippians 1,

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.

To live is Christ! I am reborn; alive to Christ. If I claim Him, I must be an image of Him when I am with believers and unbelievers alike. So such foolishness must be eliminated, and replaced with a kind of fruitful labor, namely love. In every task I undertake, every interaction I have with others, and every thought that enters my mind, I must remember that I am spiritually dead to my selfish desires. If the reader is a believer, remember this fact in everything you do. If the reader has not died to self by repentance, he is lost unto himself, destined for hell. Please, examine yourself. Have you truly died to sin?

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Struggles, The Word

Love As He Loves You. Forgive As He Forgives You.

To all of you who were wondering, the reason I haven’t made a post in a while is because I have been struggling. I’ve been struggling against the sin of the flesh, and it’s been harder than anything I have ever dealt with aside from when I first believed. Praise be to God, for He is strong when we are weak! The only way I can overcome these sins that infect my thoughts and actions is through Christ, as Colossians 1:13 and 14 say:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Oh, His beloved, precious Son, how I long to look like Him! I thank and praise my Father for giving me such hard times, because when we suffer and overcome our sin through Him is when we tend to grow the most.

My struggle was with three sins in particular: jealousy, bitterness, and selfishness. It all starts with the way I view my friends. For the longest time, I have viewed the majority of my friends as the world views them: sources of pleasure, wanting all of their attention to feel good about myself, feeling important, or even loved, in an ungodly way. What was this view of my friends coming from? Selfishness. I did not pursue relationships with them so that they would be built up in Christ, or encouraged by me to follow Him with more of a passion. If I may pause from the story to challenge you. Examine your relationships, your friendships. Have you sought out friendships to encourage the other person in Christ? Or have you chased them because that other person made you feel good about yourself. What about your love relationships? Have you truly kept Christ at the center of that relationship, so that the one you love will look more like Christ in every aspect? Or have you pursued that person they made you feel loved, important, beautiful, or handsome, as the case may be. Please, examine closely. If looking more like Christ is not at the center of your relationship, and it’s goal is not the glory of God, then your friendship with that person at this moment has no eternal benefit. What matters in the end of all things? That, in your life, you glorified God in all things. So glorify Him in your friendships.

So, as an effect of me not having my friendships centered around the right thing, when someone else came along, who was another close friend of mine, and stole the spotlight from me, what do you think my reaction was? Jealousy. The point of my relationships with these people was my own pleasure, so when a friend came along who was more entertaining than me in almost every way, my reaction was jealousy. When he was there, my friends ignored me for him. He deprived me from feeling good about myself. I tried to change how I acted, so that I could get that prideful feeling from my friends again, but it didn’t work. I was still ignored, and that made me angry. I wasn’t content with Christ, with how He had made me, and I still desired that prideful feeling I got from my friends so much.

But, I was also committing another sin towards this person in response to past sins committed by him. Bitterness. I forgave him for what he did, with my lips, but hadn’t truly forgiven him in my heart. I felt a festering bitterness towards him for what he had done, and this made it hard for me to even be around him.

Through help from my parents and the careful examination of God’s Word, I saw my sin, and I saw what I needed to change in my actions and thoughts toward my friends. Love. I need to love them as Christ loves them. As Christ loves me. Forgiveness. I need to forgive them as Christ has forgiven me. If I am to be like Christ in everything, then I should not be hesitant to pour out forgiveness upon my friends. Christ forgave me of my vile sins against Him, an eternally holy God who loves me, by dying on a cross for my sins. So why should I be so hesitant to forgive a friend who has offended me? Here are some passages that have encouraged me, showed me my sin, and what I need to do to combat that sin. I have put off the sin, and now I put on Christ’s love, and forgiveness.

1 Corinthians 13:3-8a: 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.

Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Colossians 3:12-14 12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

I pray that you who are reading will examine yourself according to the Scripture here, and that you will be able to see through the Lord where you have failed, and where you have done well. If you have failed, repent, and pursue Christ’s righteousness, love, and forgiveness. If you have succeeded in these things, rejoice, give the glory to God, and continue to excel still more.

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Struggles

You’re Not Afraid?

I would like to share with you, reader, a struggle I have been dealing with for a very long time and have only recently overcome(through God’s grace and with His help).  As you know, if you have read my About page, I am a lover of music.  When I was an unbeliever about 4 years ago,(I was about 12 at the time) I was under many strong ungodly influences, and came to enjoy listening to artists such as Linkin Park, Tenacious D, Papa Roach, Disturbed, and more recently Dr. Dre and Eminem(the list of  “bad” artists goes on, these are just a few examples). You see, I had this filter for bad music. Here were my two rules: No music that talks about bad things(unless it was catchy), and no music that had swearing in it(unless it was censored, or also really catchy).  As you can probably tell, this filter didn’t work so much.

So as the years went on, I was “convicted” on and off about secular music, and would get rid of it, then get it back.  Then a few months ago, when I was really struggling with listening to music by “bad” artists, but not necessarily music which talked about bad things, I was reading in Philippians, and these verses really convicted me.

Philippians 4:7,8 7  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 8  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Does music which has sexual implications reflect what is honorable, right, and pure?  No it does not.  Does music which swears reflect what is lovely?  Nope.  Should I even be listening to songs which are by artists who are not of good repute?  No, according to this passage in Philippians, I should not.

Now, I’m not saying that listening to secular music is always a sin. I still listen to some secular music. But, only music which is not wrong, does not speak of that which is wrong, generally what you would call the “neutral” stuff.  For example, a song called “This” by Darius Rucker.  It speaks truth, and has good morals, and if it was written by a Christian artist, you wouldn’t question it as a Christian song.  But when speaking to others about music, and mention of a secular song that I like comes up, what I say is different. I say I listen to that song, not that artist. Because if I say I listen to that secular artist, I am supporting someone who is not of good repute, and that would directly violate the quoted passage.

This has been a big struggle for me, and I know that I will still struggle with it.  But with Christ’s help, I can overcome such struggles to grow in my walk with Him and reflect Him better.

Before I finish with this subject, I would like to address an artist whom many new and growing Christians who are also music enthusiasts struggle with listening to.  Eminem has been on top of the music charts for about as long as he has been rapping. He has great skill in the music he makes, and I respect him for that, but he uses it for the worst purposes.  I pity him, because he has gone through so much difficulty in his family, and in his early life, yet is blind to the free gift offered to him by Christ. Instead, his response to the trials in his life is anger and rage at others for what has happened to him and for what he has brought upon himself. The Bibles description of him is found in Titus 3:3:

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

I have made a habit of praying for this man, that someone may be able to bring him the gospel, and that he would accept it. Here is a song describing how lost he is in his own words. This song is clean, listen to it if you so desire. The only reason I am adding it is because after I heard it, it gave me more of a desire to pray for this man, and I grew more somber in my thoughts toward him. It is basically a dialogue between him and his daughter Hailie, whom he is separated from. He sees his mistakes, yet still believes he is going to heaven. http://grooveshark.com/#/s/When+I+m+Gone+clean+/dzghD?src=5

I hope that you will pray for this man, that he will accept the gift of eternal life which is freely offered to him.

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