Overcoming…

What do overcomers need to overcome in order to be an overcomer? Not sin according to many of today’s evangelicals…

First, let me raise a question. Is it even possible for a mortal to “overcome”? And a second question: If it isn’t possible, why does God speak about it? Is He presenting us with a tantalizing target that he knows we will never hit?

Think back to the Old Testament for a little. Peter told the crowds in Acts 15 that the church should not put a yoke on the neck of the gentiles that neither the Christian Jews or their forefathers had been able to bear. In other words, the Jews had never really accomplished what the Law required. It was always a step beyond human capability. But Peter went on to say that both the Christians and their forefathers would be saved through the grace of Christ.

So, God’s people never were overcomers in the truest sense of the word. But it’s different now. Or isn’t it? When you read the Sermon on the Mount, it appears that the target has moved. And it seems to be as far out of reach as it ever was.

But would God give us a target that was out of reach? Let’s consider a few more thoughts.  In 1 Cor. 9:27 Paul wrote, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” He seems to be taking the concept of overcoming literally. In fact, this passage is in the context of running a race and running it with the assumption that he could win.

So, is the target out of reach? Paul didn’t seem to think so, though he realized that he could miss it.

John also talked about overcoming. In 1 John 5:4 he wrote, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

Does this mean that the idea of overcoming is just an abstract concept? Is he saying that if you are a Christian you will overcome— but you actually won’t? That your faith will bridge that gap between what you should be, according to the target, and what you really are, in the human flesh?

To add to the dilemma, let’s go back to Revelation. John used the word “overcomes” eight times in Revelation. Each case appears to be a caveat. Let me list them…

  • Those who overcome will eat of the tree of life (2:7)
  • Those who overcome will not be hurt by the second death (2:17)
  • Those who overcome and keep God’s works will have power over the nations (2:26)
  • Those who overcome will wear white garments. Jesus will not blot their names out of the book of life. He will confess their names before the Father and the angels. (3:5)
  • Those who overcome will be a pillar in God’s temple, will receive the name of God and the New Jerusalem, and the new name of Jesus. (3:12
  • Those who overcome will get to sit with Jesus on his throne (3:21)
  • Those who overcome will inherit all things and be the sons of God.
  • Those who don’t… ???

God hates sin because He is holy. He hates sin even if one of His children commits sin. Isaiah 59:2 states this:

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.”

People have written entire books on this question. I haven’t found anyone that gives an answer that seems satisfactory to me. I’m not planning to write still another book about this, so let me summarize how I deal with this in my own life.

First, I know that God loves me so deeply that I can’t even comprehend it. He assures me in His word and by His Spirit that He absolutely wants me to be an overcomer and join Him in eternity. He proved this to me by sending His Son, Jesus, to die for me.

Second, I know that I can trust God. He knows my heart and I believe that He will do His part in this whole scenario. He tells me to overcome, so I believe that He will help me in the battle with sin and evil. He has also promised me that His strength will be made perfect through weakness and that His grace is sufficient to deal with my weakness (2 Cor 12:9).

Job put it this way: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Can I do any less?

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Php 2:12, 13 (NKJV)

To summarize once again, to me this seems to be saying this. I do my part by obeying Christ and He does his part by showing me what that means. He also gives me the desire and the power to do so. I can safely trust Him to make these reach together even though I can’t quite understand how they can.

I can safely leave this in His hands.

Revival Verbs

From Psalms 51

One evening King David went for a walk on the roof of his palace. Close by the palace was another house, and a young woman was taking a bath on the roof. His lust got the best of him and he had his servants bring her to the palace. He committed adultery with her. When she told him she was pregnant, he tried to manipulate circumstances so that it would appear as if her husband was the father. When that didn’t work, he had her husband killed and married her. It seems he thought everything was covered up. But one day the prophet came to visit him and he realized that God knew.

David faced a lot of reaping. But the worst part was the guilt he felt. He had sinned against Bathsheba. He had sinned against her husband, Uriah. But most of all, he had sinned against God, and he loved God more than anyone else. He wrote this Psalm when this finally sank in and he realized the depth of his sin.

Read this passage carefully and note the verbs David used. They tell a story about the depth of his anguish, as well as the depth of his repentance.

Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your loving kindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, With burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

Have Mercy…This is our only hope. When we realize the depth of our sinfulness, mercy is our only way out.
Blot out…The very memory of sin brings back the memory of our guilt. I can’t blame David for wanting it gone.
Wash me… Blotting it out still leaves the stain. David is saying, please God wash away the stain, and…
Cleanse me… So that I can forget. And so that I never do such a thing again. [Can you sense his agony?]
I_acknowledge…There was no use in denying it any longer. He had sinned and he would need to face the repercussions.
Purge me…He had already asked God to wash him and cleanse him. Purging is stronger. Use a stronger soap please, God. Scrub me.
Wash me…Again. It seems that the stain just won’t go away.
Make me hear…In case I’m tempted to forget the sinfulness of sin.
Blot out…Again. Is there no end to regrets? No way to get rid of guilt? No salvation? Yes there is…
Create in me…Already you can see the hope growing in his heart. A hope for a clean heart once again.
Renew within me…He had peace at one time. He had God’s spirit in him. He wants it back, no matter what the cost. Only by having God’s spirit can he shake off the horror of his guilt.
Restore to me…Joy? How can he hope for joy? Every again. But the blight of sin doesn’t last forever for the person who repents. David will laugh again. He will rejoice. He will lift his hands to heaven in praise. Because he has been restored.
Uphold me…The Spirit of God can do for us what we can never do for ourselves. He can blot out the past and cleanse us. Even the very memory can lose its edge in the joy of forgiveness and the presence of God.
Deliver me…Take away the guilt. Take away the memory. Take away the very desire to sin. I don’t want to fail you again God. Deliver me.
Open my lipsI will no longer be quiet. I will tell others what you have done for me. I will show by my life that you have forgiven and delivered me. I have been broken, Lord. I am not the man I thought I was. I failed. I hurt people around me. Most of all, I will praise thee.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise

FINAL UPDATE: Should You Self-Publish?

Final Update: Feb 2019

To read my original post, CLICK HERE

I receive a check from my publisher well within the promised time-frame. At this point, I feel that the bad press I’ve read about Christian Faith Publishers is mostly fake news. 

I’ll say several things here, then lay this post to rest.

  • When self-publishing, YOU are in charge of your success or failure. Don’t expect that giving the publisher extra money to promote your book for you is going to do much.
  • Be prepared to DO YOUR OWN PROMOTION WORK
  • Watch over every aspect of the work, from editing to layout to online promotion. Step in and insist on changes when you see a problem
  • Make sure that your project is as good as you can get it before you give it over to the self-publishing world. Have it read by critical reviewers who know what they are doing. Pay for good content editing by an experienced editor, no matter how good a writer or editor you might be. 
  • Be patient. It all takes time. 

To read about the original project, click HERE

 

We’re Back in Business

Drop in…

Have a chair, drink some coffee or tea, and relax. I’m still rethinking my blogging purposes but as far as I know my site is back in working order. I’ve switched all you email followers to a mailchimp list and you should receive any new posts that way. If you’d like to be on that list, sign up in the sidebar. You’ll receive a follow-up email to ensure that it was you that entered your address and that you really want to go ahead.

Thought for Today

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

1 Peter 4:10 NLT

Some people seem to have many gifts, and some have fewer. But all of us have at least one. It doesn’t matter so much how many gifts we have. What does matter is how we use them. The person who only uses his gifts to gratify or glorify himself has lost a big blessing. So does the person who refuses to use his gift, for whatever reason.

I like how the NLT gives this passage, even though it is somewhat of a paraphrase. God has given you a gift, and probably more than one. Use those gifts unselfishly.

Blessings to you today. Have you been blessed in some special way? Drop a comment below and tell us about it!

Construction Ahead

I ran into a snag recently, so I’ve been looking for a new theme for my site. I’ve finally decided on this one, but it will take some reconstruction to get it where I want it. You can, however, read my blog and all the other pages. I’m keeping everything operational as I work on it.

If you have thoughts or suggestions, add them to the comments below or go to the Contact Me Page. I’d be happy to hear from you (as long as you’re not a spammer).

How can I know I am born again?

Read: John 3:1 – 21; 1 John (whole book)

Nicodemus…

One day a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus. Jesus told him that unless a person is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. This confused Nicodemus. How could he, as an adult, be “born” a second time?

Nicodemus didn’t realize that Jesus was speaking about a spiritual birth, rather than a second physical birth. Jesus clarified that — first you are born of water (a natural physical birth), then you are born of the spirit (a spiritual birth). He even restated this — your flesh is born of someone else’s flesh, and your spirit is born of the Holy Spirit.

By now Nicodemus was more confused than ever. Maybe you are too.

Born of the Spirit?

Jesus explained to Nicodemus about the Spirit. The Spirit is like the wind. You can’t see the wind blow, but you can feel it blow. You can also see the results of it blowing. So, the wind blows, and the tree branches move. Or the shingles fly off your house. Or garbage blows across your lawn. You can’t see the wind, or where the wind is coming from, but you can see what it is doing.

That is one way to know if you are born again. Is the Spirit doing things in your life? Things that you can’t tell where they are coming from? For instance, something might tell you to give a twenty-dollar bill to a homeless person. Or to pick up a hitch hiker and speak to him about Jesus. Or apologize to someone for something you said about them.

By default, we do bad things, ugly things, selfish things. But when we are born of the Spirit our default changes and we want to do good things.

A Child of the Light?

Jesus also talked to Nicodemus about the Light. A person who has not been born of the Spirit doesn’t like Light, because it exposes him. It shows clearly how selfish and evil he is. But when a person has been born of the Spirit, he embraces Light. The Light helps him to see. It leads him to do good, to be unselfish, to be unafraid of being seen.

If you are born again, other people will see it by the changes in your life. And you will see it because you are no longer afraid of the Light revealing you.

“Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.”

How do you Worship?

Worship is…

Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (Matthew 6:6, The Message)

 

Lord, I have shut the door,
Speak now the word
Which in the din and throng
Could not be heard;
Hushed now my inner heart,
Whisper Thy will,
While I have come apart,
While all is still.

Lord, I have shut the door,
Here do I bow;
Speak, for my soul intent
Turns to Thee now.
Rebuke Thou what is vain,
Counsel my soul,
Thy holy will reveal,
My will control.

In this blest quietness
Clamorings cease;
Here in Thy presence dwells
Infinite peace;
Yonder, the strife and cry,
Yonder, the sin:
Lord, I have shut the door,
Thou art within!

Lord, I have shut the door,
Strengthen my heart;
Yonder awaits the task—
I share a part.
Only through grace bestowed
May I be true;
Here, while alone with Thee,
My strength renew.

© 1923, Ren. 1951 Hope Publishing Company , Carol Stream, IL 60188.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.