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Salvation

Knowing Jesus: Jesus did not sin

By | Christianity, Knowing Jesus | One Comment

The more we know, the more jaded we often become. And as society has changed over time, our need for heroes has changed as well.

There was a time when we wanted people that we could look up to—who were just better than we were in some way, usually in terms of their character. But as time has gone on, we’ve become somewhat jaded as more and more of the people we put on pedestals cannot withstand scrutiny. We idolize athletes for their physical ability and then are shocked to find that their character is flawed. We learn that a large number of so-called public servants are nothing of the kind, and as their deeds come to light, we realize that the image we constructed was wrong, and we often feel betrayed by that. We feel fooled.

It’s just safer to pick heroes who are more like us. They’re flawed, they make mistakes, they don’t force us to evaluate our own moral or ethical character, because they tend to do the things that feel right emotionally. Maybe that’s why our society loves to elevate celebrities who live lives of complete moral abandonment: they’re doing what we wish we could do!

On the other hand, if heroes are too “good,” we distrust them. Or we just find them dis-interesting. We like our role models dark, complex, maybe even a little twisted. We like them in many cases because the anti-hero doesn’t shine a light on our own failings.

More and more, people try to do that with Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t fit the earthly hero mold

“He was just a man. He liked to go drinking with friends. He fantasized about sex. He didn’t care about following the law. He was a lot more like me than the “religious types” have been telling me. And you know what? He didn’t like religious types, either!”

And the only thing those claims are based on is the simple truth that we don’t like the idea of a pure and undefiled savior who might actually demand the same from us. Hebrews 7:26 describes Jesus as “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”

Does that sound like a hero who would fill the theaters? Not from a worldly standpoint, but it’s the kind of hero we needed to save us from our own sins.

We’ll talk more in future blogs about Jesus’ relationship to the law of Moses, the legal system under which he lived. But whatever we say about how Jesus lived and the decisions he made, we have to start with the simple fact that Jesus did all things by the will of God, and without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. — 1 Peter 2:21-23

The penalty of sin is death

Why is this so important to understand? Because it is a cornerstone of faith in Jesus Christ, in that he came to this earth to die for our sins. If Jesus had sinned, then he would have been deserving of the penalty for sin, which is death. We often don’t like to think about that, because it seems so unreasonable that a single relatively harmless act—such as lying, being disrespectful to a parent, swiping something that the other person didn’t even need anyway, or any number of minor offenses—should result in a death sentence.

But that is exactly what the Bible teaches: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. — Jam 1:14-15

Why is sin such a big deal to God? Because it is a violation of God’s purity. John talks about the concept of light and darkness a lot in relation to God’s nature, whether because it is literally true or because it is the best analogy available to describe why God cannot abide sin. Darkness cannot co-exist with light, and sin cannot co-exist with God because it is foreign to His nature.

Sin was not in Jesus’ nature

Jesus was tempted “in every respect as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). When we recognize that Jesus was divine as well as human, we can understand how he could withstand temptation time after time, while we find ourselves failing. It was not in Jesus’ nature to sin, because Jesus was divine . But he understands what it feels like when the world and its influences tugs at your being. I’m not sure how that worked, although I have some opinions on it. Regardless, all we need to know is that Jesus lived a sinless, blameless life, and no one before or since has done that (Romans 3:23).

If Jesus did sin, then he could not have offered a perfect sacrifice “one time for all” on behalf of you and me (Hebrews 9:27-28). We would still be without hope, and our guilt would still separate us from God.

That should impact the way we think about sin in our own lives. Do we just accept it? Do we believe that we can come to God and have fellowship with Him if we’re unwilling to deal with the sin in our own lives? Jesus’ message was consistent: if we want to enter the kingdom of Heaven, we need to be willing to repent of our sins and seek a life of holiness (Matthew 3:2, 11:20, Luke 13:2-5).

Are we setting that expectation? Being a Christian means being a disciple (Acts 11:26), which means we try to follow him, emulate him, obey him in every way that we can. We know that we often fail, and when we do, Jesus is the advocate for all who are in his body (1 John 2:1-6, Ephesians 5:23). But are we seeking the Lord when we’re holding on to our own sinful lifestyle?

 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” — 1 Peter 1:14-16

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no 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 become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. — Ephesians 5:1-12

Our message to the world is not that we’re following a flawed, fleshly man who will make us feel good about the people we are now. We’re following the pure and holy lamb of God, who can make us into the people God wants us to be.

God requires that you show your work

By | Christianity, Salvation | No Comments

Most of us at some point in our lives have sat in math class, staring at a sheet of paper containing all kinds of equations, some of which quite literally looked like Greek to us!

We spotted one of the problems, and we just happen to remember that the teacher worked it out on the board a while back, and the answer was 144. So we wrote “144” in the answer blank. But the problem was we knew the teacher wouldn’t accept the answer. She told us we had to show our work.

The reason for that, looking back, is pretty obvious. It’s not about just knowing the answer; it’s about understanding how to get to the answer. Because we probably won’t memorize the answer to every single math problem that comes our way in the future, and at some point, we’re going to have to work through the reasoning processes that help us figure out the answer on our own.

The case study in an obedient faith

So what does any of this have to do with following Christ?

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “ Abraham!” And he said, “ Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” — Genesis 22:1-2

To fully understand the gravity of this statement, you have to go back even farther, to chapter 15, when a childless, aging Abraham is reminded by God of the promise that he would become a great nation. Abraham asks how this is possible.

And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. — Genesis 15:3-6

Abraham believed against any rational expectation (Romans 4:19-21) that God would bless him with a child. This wasn’t just Abraham saying “Well, I guess it might happen, and if it does, that’s great.” He was convinced that it was going to happen, and it was going to happen the way God told him it would take place.

He was so convinced, that when God told him to go offer that son on an altar, he got up early the next morning and went to do just that. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abraham was so sure of God’s promise that he believed that if he killed Isaac, God would simply raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

When Abraham took Isaac up the mountain, he told the servant that accompanied them, “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” One way or another, Abraham was planning to come back down the mountain with his son, alive. And God rewarded that faith: “Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.”

Faith leads us to obedience, not rationalization

There are so many lessons here that it’s hard to pick just one, but the easiest is the one that we often don’t seem to understand from a theological standpoint. God expects us to show our work. And if we refuse to show our work, He is not going to consider us faithful.

The idea that we don’t have to do anything in order to please God other than to “believe” is one that has taken root over time in religious circles to the point that many think God expects nothing more from us than to acknowledge that he’s there, and maybe try not to kill anyone. Aside from that, they say, God saves us regardless of what we do, what choices we make and whether we do what He asks us to do or not.

The reality is that the belief/faith that the Bible speaks about doesn’t allow for this. Because first and foremost, belief is actually a work. It is something that we do! Jesus calls it a work in John 6:29. And over and over, Jesus insists that faith and inactivity are incompatible:

Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great. — Luke 6:46-49

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. — Mat 7:21

The fruits of the spirit are not described as actions (Galatians 5:22-25), but they each inspire action. Does a long-suffering person lose his temper on a regular basis?  Does a person who is kind sit back and do nothing when someone is in need of help and he has the means to assist? When the Spirit of Christ is working in us, those actions ought to be part of our lives not because they are works that earn us approval, but because it’s who we are. And if those works aren’t taking place – if we’re not bearing fruit – then the obvious question is, “what is missing?”

If my faith doesn’t feel like work, it likely isn’t really faith.

Faith accepts God’s terms of salvation

Second, faith does not dictate terms. It does not impose on God the idea that He must save in a personal, unique way for me, as opposed to the way in which He has said He will save all who seek Him.

If Jesus taught that we must be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:16) and we tell people, “Actually, he that believes and is NOT baptized” will be saved, how are we showing faith in the teachings of Jesus? Would we not simply say “Maybe I don’t understand everything about how grace, faith and obedience work together, but I know Jesus said do it, and so I’m going to do it and not question him?”

Instead, many teach that we can simply “invite Jesus into our hearts” with a simple sinner’s prayer, which is never once found or taught in scripture. (Please respond to this post if you can find it anywhere, I’d be happy to have that discussion!) The idea is that if Paul says we are saved from faith “apart from works,” then that must mean that there’s nothing I can do to affect salvation.

Faith and obedience can’t be separated

When we start discussing salvation with the premise that all acts of obedience should be lumped under the term “works”, and then say that as a result, Paul is discussing obedience in the book of Romans, and he is therefore talking about “salvation by faith apart from obedience” (as opposed to “faith apart from works”, Romans 4:5), we’ve made a false assumption and our entire premise is now flawed. I know this because in the same letter, Paul says as much:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. — Romans 6:16-18

Paul again says that the ministry of the gospel of Christ is to “bring the Gentiles to obedience” (15:18).  To make it even more clear, Paul goes so far as to spell out in Romans 10 how the concept of “calling on the name of the Lord” works through an active and obedient faith, or as he says in Romans 1:5, “the obedience of faith.”

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. — Romans 10:12-17

Over and over, the Bible speaks interchangeably of the concepts of unbelief and disobedience (Hebrews 3:18-19, for one). James talks about the idea that faith apart from works is dead (James 2:26).

So why the apparent contradiction? Because so many use Paul’s treatise on faith as a theological discussion on the method of salvation, when what Paul is really discussing is the reason for salvation. We are saved not because WE willed it, or because God looked at our lives and considered us worthy of salvation, but because God made a way for us through Jesus Christ—”not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).

The obedient conversion of Paul

Paul didn’t nullify Jesus’ command that his disciples be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:16). In fact, he confirmed it in the story of his own conversion, when he recounted Ananias’ statement: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).

That’s not a “sinner’s prayer.” Paul had been saying the sinner’s prayer for three days (Acts 9:9), fasting and begging forgiveness for his blasphemy and murder. The answer to that prayer was a man from God telling him to give his life over to Jesus, submitting to his will. That submission started by obeying the command of God without getting into a debate over whether it should really be required of him or not.

It’s God’s plan, and God gets to dictate how it works. He is not bound by the theological conclusions that men come up with because they cannot reconcile a salvation that is not earned and yet still requires obedience—a salvation that offers mercy and forgiveness for those who walk according to the spirit and not according to their own will and sinful impulses.

God does not expect us to be perfect. But He expects that when He says something, we believe it and we do our best to follow it. Submit to God’s will—all of it. Allow the word of God to shape you, rather than you shaping the word of God. Seek the will of the Father, just as Jesus did.

Show your work.

 

Knowing Jesus: The severity of sin

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Last week, we talked about Jesus’ focus on seeking the lost. He never missed an opportunity to teach or influence, and displayed a single-mindedness that sometimes seemed like obsession to his disciples.

There’s an important implication to that: if it’s so important to seek the lost, then being lost must be a truly horrible thing. And for all the discussion of Jesus’ willingness to eat with sinners—to seek out the marginalized—sometimes what is missed is that Jesus lived a life that rejected sin. He did not sin, and he did not tolerate sin.

After healing the lame man in John 5, Jesus found him in the temple and admonished him, “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Even in the situation of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus did not condemn her because he was not a witness and had no standing under the law of Moses to render a judgment. But, he added, “go and sin no more.”

How seriously did Jesus take the idea of sin?

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. — Matthew 5:29-30

Many will argue that Jesus is being figurative, but I believe he meant exactly what he said. Obviously, no one’s hand or eye is the cause of sin; sins come from our heart. If my heart wants to lust, I will have lustful thoughts whether I can see or not. But Jesus is saying that sin is so deadly that it will separate us from God, and that there is absolutely nothing in our life that we shouldn’t be ready to give up in order to avoid it.

He understood the consequences of sin, and he understood that it is important not only to avoid sin, but to help protect your brothers and sisters, and do everything we can not to be a hindrance. Jesus reserved his strongest condemnation for the one that becomes a stumbling block and causes another Christian to sin: “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

What did Jesus go through because of sin?

The idea that Jesus wasn’t concerned about sin, or that accepted it or tolerated it, flies in the face of everything scripture says about him. It becomes even more unbelievable considering what Jesus would have to go through personally in order to redeem us from the consequences of sin.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. — 2 Corinthians 5:21

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” — Galatians 3:13

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. — 1 Peter 3:18

…But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. — Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus knew first-hand the consequences of sin. He loved us enough to take the payment of sin on himself, but he fully understood the destructive nature of sin. He understood God like no one else because he was one with the Father, and he understood what the Law of Moses was intended to teach us through the ceremonial sacrifices, with the image of a priest, whose beautiful white linen robe became drenched in the blood of a dying animal: sin is ugly. It is death. It corrupts and stains what God has intended to be pure and undefiled.

And Jesus came to deliver us from it. So let’s not allow ourselves to call back into that from which we’ve been freed!

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. — 2 Peter 2:20-21

 

Knowing Jesus: Seeking the lost

By | Christianity, Knowing Jesus | 2 Comments

Jesus came to this world in order to accomplish a number of things, and we read about them throughout scripture—some in Jesus’ own words, some revealed to us by the apostles whom Jesus had entrusted with the Gospel message (John 14:26, Matt. 10:27).

But there was one particular mission that Jesus seemed to embrace with every moment of his life, maybe because he knew that those moments were limited. It was simply this:

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” — Luke 19:10

He continually sought out (as we will discuss throughout this series) and engaged those people who most needed him. When the disciples found him speaking to a woman at the well in Sychar when he (presumably) should have been focused on how hungry he was, he responded:

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?’ Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. — John 4:34-36

Jesus sought the sinner when others did not

As with everything, Jesus referenced the work given to him by the Father. But with Jesus, it was never strictly about obedience. It was a genuine love and concern for those whom he had no doubt watched for a long time. People who were struggling in their walk with God. People who had given up altogether and were walking away. People who were so removed from a knowledge of God that they wouldn’t know how to return even if they wanted to!

And let’s not forget the people who were no longer welcome to return, at least not in the eyes of many in the religious community.

As Jesus told the religious leaders of the day, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

All of us needed a savior, even the “righteous”

It’s worth noting that while Jesus often referred to those who were healthy, the reality as we learn in scripture is that none of us are truly healthy outside of Christ. There were many men and women in Judea at the time of Christ who were striving faithfully to serve God, and that had a true love for Him. But they still needed a savior, just as we all do today. Isaiah, in predicting the suffering savior, makes it clear that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Some were already at the doorstep, setting their mind on the kingdom and waiting patiently for their deliverer (Luke 2:25, Mark 15:43). And some had to be found and coaxed back to the fold. Jesus knew where his efforts were best spent.

He didn’t ignore or push aside the people who had already come to him, and in fact continually encouraged them, saying “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father speaks as the voice of God to the indignant brother saying “you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31).

But, he adds, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.”

Taking up the seeker’s mantle

The message to the disciples and to us would seem to be that if our Lord was so consumed with concern over the souls of the lost, then we ought to feel that way, as well.

Paul wrote about this mission’s passing from Jesus to his apostles:

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. — 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Have we taken up the mission which has been passed on to us?

What does “victory in Christ” really look like?

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We’re all familiar with Philippians 4:13, which says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” For many of us, Paul’s statement has become a daily encouragement, a rallying cry to success. It’s used in any number of situations: “I can survive this crisis.” “I can win that race.” “Anything I choose to do, Jesus Christ will give me victory.”

Except, when I look at my life, I can’t help noticing that I’ve failed. A lot. I bet you have, too.

There are some things that I’m just not very good at, and even for the most talented of individuals, there are real limits to what they can accomplish. So is Paul’s statement just an empty platitude where I can know God CAN empower me to do something, but He may not actually do it?

Or maybe, the question isn’t whether God will help me achieve whatever goal I choose, but whether I am choosing the goal which God has promised to help me achieve.

Notice the context:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:10-19

Paul’s labor in the gospel

Paul is discussing financial assistance in his missionary work, and he says that even though there were times when he hadn’t received any support, he was still able to abound in God’s work. He even points out that the he didn’t really need the Philippians’ financial support. God’s work was going to go forward regardless. Whether he was deprived or in abundance, Paul did the work of an apostle.

Because when Paul sought to do God’s will, Christ gave him strength to succeed, no matter what.

Paul writes one of the great odes to salvation in Romans 8, and in that chapter he makes another statement about the assurance of success through God’s power: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” And while we often quote this passage to assert that anything that happens to us – good or bad – will eventually turn out to be a blessing, the context seems to be addressing something else.

The chapter is addressing how we as Christians can be assured of life in Christ despite any obstacle we might confront. We are “fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him” (v. 17) and that despite those difficulties and trials, we live and wait in hope while receiving intercession from the Spirit, which occurs “according to the will of God” (v. 27).

Paul then says that “for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son.”

For those who love God, “all things working together for good” means “God’s will is being accomplished in my life.” Not “I will eventually get the outcome that I judged in my eyes to be the right one.”

I believe what Paul is saying here is that no matter what you suffer in this life, no matter what obstacles are placed in your way, God’s will will be done and you will have victory in Christ. Because it is God’s plan to conform you to the image of His son, and everything we undergo in this life is working to help mold us into that image. Our faith, being tested and refined through persecution “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

Victory isn’t about earthly success!

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. – Romans 8:35-37

Is Paul really talking about winning an athletic event there? Or passing a test in school? Or getting a promotion at work? I would submit he’s talking about much more important things than that. When a Christian conquers, he conquers over sin. He conquers over death. And that victory is completely unaffected by whatever anyone might do to that person.

If I am determined to serve God, what can possibly be done to me that will prevent it? Does the behavior of ungodly people around me stop me? It didn’t stop Lot (2 Peter 2:7). Do divisive brothers and sisters in the church stop me? There were plenty in Corinth who continued serving God faithfully despite it.

Did Paul and Silas stop serving God when they were thrown into prison (Acts 16:25)? I can serve the Lord in stocks or chains just as well as I can serve the Lord walking around free. And if someone were to end your life for serving the Lord, then your last act on earth would be a resounding success.

No one can stop you from serving God

If we are presenting our bodies as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1), then we know that we can serve God no matter what anyone does to us, no matter what our financial circumstance, no matter whether we’re destitute and homeless. I can lose everything in my life – just like Job lost everything including his health – and my service to God can go on.

When I’m tempted to sin, God gives me a way of escape (I Corinthians 10:13). When I stumble and sin, God forgives me and encourages me to keep trying. When I am unsure of what God’s will is, I have the word of God revealed in scripture to guide me. We have “all things pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). And even as I work at bringing others to Christ, I know that it’s not me, but “only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

If I fail at serving God, it’s not because I didn’t have everything I needed to succeed. It’s because I chose not to try. So let’s set our minds to serve God, and let Him give us the victory.

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