Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Commitment of our Hearts

One of the amazing promises of the Gospel is that new life is available in Jesus Christ.  This is the life that God created us to live.

In John 10:10, the very passage Jesus declared his purpose to give people abundant life, Jesus called Satan a thief who steals, kills, and destroys the life God has given to people. Through Jesus, God gives life, but Satan is out there to make sure that life is not enjoyed.

One of the ways Satan robs us of life is to convince us of lies about who we are. When we believe these lies we are prevented from taking the next step forward, we are held down with oppressive guilt, and we are impeded from developing relationships that bring accountability and encouragement into our lives. It is hard to step out in faith when you believe that you are fatally flawed in your character.

The reason these lies are believable is because we know our weaknesses. Each one of us have sin in our lives that we have struggled with for years, and yet have not overcome.

You may have tried to stop gossiping, but every now and then you can’t resist the temptation to pass along a particular juicy bit of information. Perhaps you have tried to quit telling “dirty” jokes, but when you get together with the guys you can’t seem to pass up the opportunity to join in. Then there are the things that you do when no one else is around, from what you look at on the internet to the movies that you watch. All followers of Jesus have sin that seems to stick with them, no matter how much they hate it and struggle to overcome it.

Please remember, this is a common experience for everyone who follows Jesus. Yes, God wants us to overcome the sin in our lives. Sin hinders our relationship with Him and is a stumbling block in our effort to reach out to others with the grace of God.

It is true that God desires sinlessness, but it is also true that God has also promised us forgiveness. John wrote:

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:8-9; NLT)

What John wanted his readers to understand is that God knows we are going to sin, and so He promised to forgive those people who confess and repent. That is great news, and should be a welcome relief in the midst of our guilt and shame.

I believe the implication of this reality is that God is pleased when we enter the battle against sin and start to take action against those behaviors that hold us in bondage. It is through this struggle with sin that God shapes us into the people He wants us to be.

Every sin you commit doesn’t make you a moral failure. As long as we live in these bodies of flesh in a world that is dominated by evil (things opposed to the life God wants us to live) we are going to sin. We need to remember the amazing grace of God, for without the safety net of grace every sin would result in our destruction.

Not only is God patient with us, but He is also actively at work to give us the ultimate victory from sin. We cannot undo the consequences of our sin. This means our only hope is to be rescued from sin. That is what Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection.

This rescue operation doesn't happen overnight. It is a life long process, and this is why the New Testament says we are saved, we are being saved, and that we will be saved. Our rescue began the moment we put our faith in Jesus and it continues until Jesus comes again.

The reason for this long process is because we habits that have been ingrained into our lives through years of repeated behavior, and therefore it will take months, if not years, to overcome these behaviors. In this struggle we are going to win battles and we are going to lose others. It is an act of faith, and it pleases God, when we engage the enemy and begin the long campaign to rid our lives of sin. This is the process needed to develop holy character.

The writer of Hebrews wrote about this truth:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won't become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.(Hebrews 12:1-4; NLT)

These witnesses to the life of faith all struggled with sin in their lives. The great icons of faith in the Old Testament (Abraham, Moses, and David) had periods of life when they disobeyed God and sinned, but God still counted them as righteous. Why did God do this? Because their hearts belonged to Him and they were willing to follow God wherever He led them.

What matters most to God is the commitment of our hearts.

We can beat ourselves up because we still have sin in our lives, but God is pleased when we faithfully follow Him. I am not saying sin is unimportant, what I am saying is that when our hearts belong to God then sin becomes insignificant.

Sin is insignificant because it is no longer our identity. By trusting Jesus our true identity is found in him and we are now counted as part of God's Kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14).

Satan will attack us and try to get us to doubt our salvation by reminding us of the sin we cannot throw off. He wants us to get frustrated and give up.

The Gospel declares that Satan doesn't have the final word. The final word belongs to God, and He has declared that everyone who follows Jesus is Holy (Colossians 1:22). That is the word that we need to hold on to in our effort to become the people God created us to be.

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