How Do We Fight Sin?

-It’s About Your Thought Life!

The Apostle Paul paints a picture, of what spiritual growth looks like, in his letter to the Church of Colosse. He tells these young believers:  “…if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.  When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” Colossians 3:1-4. Let’s think about the implications of Paul’s words—he seems to be saying that a successful fight against sin is won in the “thought life”, right? The battle against the “weeds” of sin is fought in your mind; which, means that it’s either “won” or “lost” in the mind!

-Who Or What Are You Thinking About?

I believe Paul is teaching us a principle that spiritual growth always relates to how highly & how often we THINK of God; and, conversely, how infrequently we think of ourselves! Using farming terminology, meditating on God & His Word is like spraying ROUNDUP on the weeds of sin in your life; and, dwelling on your self is like fertilizing those weeds! Part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to empower us to root sin out of our life; while, living for ourselves is the main cause for sin to thrive in our lives! So, let’s talk about how God’s Spirit supports our work to root out the weeds of sin.

-Your Identity Is Hid With Christ!

Paul reminds the Church of Colosse that their “identity” is in Christ! So, any believer who hopes to be successful in the battle against sin, has to know who they are! See your position in Christ—“…so, IF you have been raised with Christ…” he says in v.1. Your spiritual growth & victory over sin doesn’t begin with YOU, it starts with JESUS! If you know Him as your Savior, you need to figure out that you’ve been raised with Him—Paul is pointing to the bodily resurrection of Christ the 3rd day after His crucifixion; and, he’s telling the believers in Colosse, “…you’ve been RAISED with Him….” You DIED with Him in v.3; and, “…your life is HIDDEN with the Messiah in God.” You DIED with Him! And, you’ve been RAISED with Him! Though you were “…dead in trespasses & sins…” you’ve been made ALIVE, in Him, because Jesus rose from the dead & is ALIVE!

-Know Your Position In Christ!

In one sense, Paul says that our salvation—our place in heaven—is already SEALED! It’s a DONE DEAL! In the mind of God, He’s already raised us up and seated us in the heavens. “But God,” Paul writes the Church of Ephesus, “who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens” Ephesians 2:4-6. We take hold of our identity when we begin, with the Spirit’s help, to kill the weeds of sin in our life; or, to “mortify” the deeds of the flesh. My sinful life was the “old” me; but, that’s no longer who I am! I’m set free from the power of sin!

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Daniel & The Invisible God!

(NOTE: This Concludes Our Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Never Give Up On Prayer!

As I bring this series of posts—on Daniel’s life—to an end, I conclude with an urgent plea not to give up because you don’t get an answer, to your prayers, according to your time line! Instead of quitting, follow Daniel’s example and devote more time to more prayer & fasting! Daniel shows us that because we pray in the spirit, we can’t see—with our physical eyes—the spiritual responses our prayers stir up!

-If We Could Only See!

If we could see into the spiritual realm, our prayer effort would reveal invisible forces of good & evil opposing one another. Unseen spiritual forces are behind every movement! Daniel couldn’t tell, just by observing the Persian Gov’t, that there was a war going on between an “angel of God” & a demonic “prince of Persia” (see Daniel chapter 10). But, if he could have pulled the curtain back, dividing our realm from the spiritual real, just a bit, he would have observed the battle going on in the spirit world. We can only assume, from this text of Scripture, that Satan has “territorial” demons in places of influence, among government leaders, in every nation. That’s why the Apostle Paul later wrote Timothy—in the New Testament—and, told him to pray for kings & all those in places of authority.

-Who Is The Real Enemy?

The REAL ENEMY is not the people we may oppose politically! Our battle, according to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians,  is not with flesh & blood. We need God’s help to see the truth about this! We need to pray for our leaders to be saved! Knowing that our warfare is spiritual in nature, it is our prayers, humility, knowledge of God & perseverance that serve as our best weapons against the spiritual forces of evil in this world; and, the unseen spiritual world behind the curtain that separates us. So, be inspired & encouraged! Daniel prayed! He humbled himself before God; and, he purposed to know God & to understand His ways! And, he persevered! For 21 days, the text says, he prayed & fasted & waited on God to fulfill His Sovereign purpose in His Sovereign time frame! Will you wait on God also?

-Focus On The Unseen!

A Biblical response—to the war going on in the spiritual realm & to life’s problems that result—is to focus NOT on the seen; but, on the unseen! What you see going on in this world will mess with you! It will frustrate you! It will, at times, cause you to question God! It’ll even depress you because it will APPEAR that we’re losing! So, focus on the UNSEEN, not the SEEN! Focus on the invisible God, who is Sovereign, who is Omnipotent; and, who is All-Knowing! He has an unbeatable plan; and, He will get it done! Don’t focus on the political climate of our country; or, the rest of the world! That’s the SEEN! Focus on the UNSEEN God! Pray to Him! He’s the only One who can bring revival & clean up the mess humanity has made of this world! Are you struggling in this area of your life? Make it a matter of prayer! Turn it over to God!

 

 

Daniel: What Revival Looks Like!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-It Starts With Humble Prayer!

I don’t know that there’s a more beautiful & spiritually moving prayer than Daniel’s prayer in the 9th chapter of the book named after him. There’s a humility & a brokenness that’s often missing from the hurried & self-centered prayers of our day! When revival occurs, in the hearts of believers, this is what it looks like! Prayers, uttered by a revived saint,  admits a brokenness & even shame over their sin, selfishness, and idolatry— “Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but this day public shame belongs to us: the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel—those who are near and those who are far, in all the countries where You have dispersed them because of the disloyalty they have shown toward You. Lord, public shame belongs to us, our kings, our leaders, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.  Compassion and forgiveness belong to the Lord our God, though we have rebelled against Him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following His instructions that He set before us through His servants the prophets.  All Israel has broken Your law and turned away, refusing to obey You” (Daniel 9:7-11).  Wow! What brokenness & transparency!

-Admitting Public Shame!

“…PUBLIC SHAME belongs to us…” he confessed in v.7; and, in v.8 he says it again, “…PUBLIC SHAME belongs to us…” Daniel’s greatness, in the eyes of God, was not because he was without sin! None of us are! It was Daniel’s sensitivity to his sin! He admitted the depth of his sin! He owned it! For our world—and, our NATION—to experience revival, it has to begin with the broken humility of God’s people! With us! We, the Church, have to take ownership for our sins—for our IDOLATRY! For our failure to love all the world’s people groups & every kind of sinner!

-Looking In A Mirror!

Daniel didn’t just throw “…our kings, our leaders & our fathers…” under the bus (v.8).  He said, “…WE have sinned against You…WE have rebelled against you…” (v.9).  I fear the American church has been too preoccupied with pointing fingers at political leaders when WE are the real problem! We should be looking in the mirror, spiritually speaking! God will only use a broken church to bring the world to revival!

-Concern For God’s Reputation!

Daniel was concerned that Israel had hurt God’s reputation in the world! “LORD, bring revival to your people,” Daniel prays, “…for the LORD’S sake” (v.17); “…make us a city called by YOUR name” (v.18); “LORD, HEAR! LORD, FORGIVE! LORD, ACT…” (v.19). Did you notice that? “…for YOUR SAKE”, Daniel prayed, “We base our prayers on YOUR abundant compassion” (v.18). Do you pray like that? I’m afraid that, for most of my life,  my prayers sounded nothing like that! Is it possible that the reason so many of our prayers go “unanswered” is because we’re not offering “God-Centered” prayers? Can we begin to pray—as Christ’s Church—that God would act in HIS own BEST INTEREST? And, for HIS GLORY? Let’s do it!

 

Daniel: God Is In The Details!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Even When We Don’t See Him!

There’s a fascinating true story, in the Old Testament of the Bible, that illustrates how God is involved in all the details of our lives; even, when we don’t see Him! The story is about the Prophet Elisha; and, it’s at a time when the Aramean’s are waging war against Israel. Every time the King of Aram lays out a strategy for setting up a camp at a certain place, God tells the Prophet Elisha the details; and, he passes it on to the King of Israel who takes counter-measures to avoid their attack. As you can imagine, that kind of ticked off the King of Aram. He figured there had to be a mole in his army that was tipping off the King of Israel; so, he confronts his army & one of his intelligence officers says, “It’s not our people sharing secrets with Israel! It’s the Prophet Elisha; and, he’s even telling the King of Israel every word you say in your bedroom.” It’s determined that Elisha is in the city of Dothan; so, the Aramean King sends a massive army to surround the city & capture him.

-Open His Eyes & Let Him See!

When Elisha & his servant, Gehazi see that the Arameans have surrounded the city, Gehazi says, “Master, what are we going to do?” So, Elisha told him not to be afraid because, “Those who are with us outnumber those who are with them,” Gehazi looks around with a “what are you talking about” kind of look! And, Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes and let him see!” So, the Lord opened his eyes; and, when he looked up he saw that the mountains were covered with heavenly horses & chariots of fire, ready to go to battle against the Aramean’s on Elisha’s behalf.

-What Was Really Happening?

For one brief moment, God peeled back that layer that divides our world, from the spiritual world, to reveal what was REALLY happening! Now, that story encourages me; and, I hope it encourages you, to know that God is IN the details of our lives! That He’s at work for His Glory & for our good! Because, some times it doesn’t seem that way, does it? This world can be a pretty dark place; especially, if you intend to live your life for God like the Prophet Daniel did—he was willing to do the right thing, in a spiritually hostile environment, and trust God with the results!

-You Can Trust God With The Results!

Doing the right thing does not insure that everything will go right! But, you can trust God with the results! They may not be the results you hoped for; but, they will be what’s best for you—even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time! If you could just peel back that layer that divides our world, from the spiritual realm, you’d see that! Daniel managed not only to survive; but, to THRIVE in a spiritually hostile world! As our own world becomes increasingly more hostile, to our faith in Jesus, we can identify with Daniel! But, like him, you can survive & thrive if you’ll trust God with all the circumstances of your life! We’ll get into Daniel, chapter 6, next time; and, learn how to tame a pit full of lions!

 

Daniel: The Handwriting’s On The Wall!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-The King Was Suddenly Sober!

As the 5th chapter—of Daniel’s prophetic book—opens, the Medo-Persian army has surrounded that great city of Babylon. In his pride, the Babylonian King Belshazzar has thrown this huge drinking party, for all his nobles, because it was believed the visiting army would be unable to penetrate the massive walls of the city.  “At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand. As the king watched the hand that was writing, his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that his hip joints shook and his knees knocked together” (vs. 5-6). King Belshazzar was suddenly sober!

-There Are Always Consequences!

After a failed attempt to gain an explanation, from his “wise men”, the queen mother shows up and encourages the King to seek the prophet Daniel’s counsel.  Now advanced in years, Daniel rehearses the story of Nebuchadnezzar—Belzhazzar’s grandfather—with him; and, concludes with this:  “…you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your life” (v.23).  Like many, in our own day, Belshazzar seemed to think he was entitled to live his life however he wanted with no consequences! Perhaps he thought God would just wink at his sin! There’s a grave danger in over-focusing on God’s love, mercy & grace! We dare not ignore His justice & judgment! We do so at our own peril!

-He Abused God’s Patience!

We can exhaust God’s immense patience! How did he think this would end for him? Was he so deluded that he thought he could live out his life with no regard for the God who created him; and, get away with it? Apparently so! He abused God’s patience; and, God’s judgment was against him— “This is the writing on the wall,” Daniel said, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.  This is the interpretation of the message: MENE means that God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end. TEKEL means that you have been weighed in the balance and found deficient. PERES means that your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (v.25-28).  Times up, King Belshazzar! God is stripping you of the kingdom!

-When God Speaks, We Need To Listen!

This whole tragedy was so unnecessary! Belshazzar should have known better! He knew his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar’s “story”! Some 40-50 years earlier, God had revealed—through the Prophet Daniel (ch.2)—that Babylon would be replaced by the Medo-Persian empire—the very army just outside Babylon’s walls!  And, it all happened, just as God said it would! God’s Word is certain! It’s authoritative! If God says it, you can bank on it! Don’t grow weary over the delay of God’s promise that Jesus will come again! “Scoffers will come in the last days to scoff,” Peter warned (2 Peter 3:3), “living according to their own desires, saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?” When God speaks, please listen!

 

Daniel: Sanity Based Worship!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-God Is Gracious To Humble Us!

When God fulfilled King Nebuchadnezzar’s prophetic dream (Daniel ch.4) and cut him down to a stub, it was truly an act of grace on God’s part! If God hadn’t stepped in to humble him, Nebuchadnezzar would have continued in the “insanity” of his pride; and, he would have died in the “insanity” of his pride! God’s humbling was the most gracious thing God could do for him! It saved him! For the rest of his days Nebuchadnezzar bore the scars of being “cut down” to a stub! A new shoot would grow from that stub as God returned the kingdom to him; but, everyone would know that something happened there! The tree had been cut!

-Worship Is The Basis For Sanity!

Let me make a couple more observations from King Nebuchadnezzar’s story! First, we see that it’s “worship” that is the basis for sanity! When we’re full of pride we’re out of touch with reality! But, humility leads us back to God’s Sovereignty & to worship Him, where sanity is based. Sanity is based in the reality of God & experienced when we worship Him! To worship God is our highest calling! It is worship that separates us from the animal kingdom & the rest of creation! Listen to Nebuchadnezzar’s response:  “…at the end of those days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned to me.  Then I praised the Most High and honored and glorified Him who lives forever…” (ch.4:34ff).  When his sanity returned to him, praise & worship were his response! When we worship God we see Him for who He really is & we see ourselves for who we really are! Worship is the path to sanity because it humbles us & exalts God!

-Testimony Is The By-Product Of Worship!

And, then, giving witness or testimony is the by-product of our worship! “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of heaven, because all His works are true & His ways are just. God is able to humble those who walk in pride!” (ch. 4:37ff). When we give witness to God’s work in our lives, it’s to the praise of His glory! It should be our delight to give Him praise everywhere we go! That is the overriding moral to Nebuchadnezzar’s story—Humble yourself, or God will do it for you! No truth is more fundamental than that—He is God! We’re not!

-Get That “G” Off Your Chest!

If you’ve been trying to wear a big “G” on your chest (“God”) like King Nebuchadnezzar did, I’m going to warn you like Daniel warned him earlier in the chapter:  “Therefore, may my advice seem good to you my king. Separate yourself from your sins by doing what is right, and from your injustices by showing mercy to the needy. Perhaps there will be an extension of your prosperity.” If only he had listened, he would have avoided 7 years of insanity! That’s my plea to you—Stop the insanity! Confess your sin of pride & ask God’s indwelling Spirit (if you’re a believer!) to help you beat it! Stop trying to play “God” with your life! You’re NOT Him! Tear that big “G” off your chest; and, experience the FREEDOM of letting God run the universe! Let Him run your life; and, lead you in His Sovereign plan! It’s the best decision you can make!

 

Daniel: Take Time To Love People!

-Looking After The Needs Of Others!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

When Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to kill all his counselors & wisemen because they were unable to tell the King what he had dreamed, something significant happened that can easily be overlooked. The text says that Daniel came to Arioch, the King’s executioner; and, it implies that he came in a hurry & he tells him: “Don’t kill the wise men of Babylon!” (See Daniel 2:24-26) Why is that significant? Because Daniel—rather than simply fearing for his own life—took time to look out for the needs of others!

-Doctrine Ought To Change Us!

Daniel truly believed that God was Sovereign; so, he didn’t have to fear the future! That’s how “doctrine” changes our life when we truly believe it! We said, in our last post, that the King suffered from “chronophobia”—the FEAR of the future! And, when you’re consumed by the fear of the future, you become pre-occupied with your own life. It was easy for Nebuchadnezzar to just throw away his counselors and discard them once he’d tapped their usefulness. But, because Daniel didn’t live in the fear of the future, he could take the time to love people. I really believe that this act of kindness is a significant part of Daniel’s story that we usually overlook!

-Every Person Is A Soul!

Daniel could have been concerned only with his life & the lives of his 3 friends; but, he showed care and concern for others—even the King’s ungodly counselors, because they were souls who needed saving! He wasn’t so preoccupied with his own needs that he ignored the needs of others. There’s an application here for us—if we live in fear of the future, we’ll probably be so preoccupied with ourselves that we’ll miss all the souls that God is directing across our path! And, King Nebuchadnezzar was one such soul that God had caused to divinely intersect with Daniel. In the next section, it says, “Daniel answered the king: ‘No wise man, medium, diviner-priest, or astrologer is able to make known to the king the mystery he asked about. But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries…” (2:27-29). There is a God in heaven; and, Daniel took the time to introduce Nebuchadnezzar to Him! Time—something our culture claims it doesn’t have!

-We Need To Get Over Ourselves!

There’s another application here that our Western church desperately needs to apply—if we’re going to be faithful to Jesus’ “Great Commission”, it’s going to take time! Time to love people! Time to disciple people! The “Narcissim” of the dominant culture has had a “trickle down effect” on the Church—we’ve become self-centered & self-absorbed just like the world! Our obsession for chasing after the selfishness of the “American Dream” has become a NIGHTMARE for finishing the “disciple making” task we’ve been given! If we’re TOO BUSY to make disciples, we’re TOO BUSY! That’s disobedience! If necessary, let’s remove some of the things from our schedule so we have room to add people—we’ve been mandated to disciple souls for Christ; and, He’s left us no wiggle room to get out of it! Let us love on people!