Monday, April 16, 2012


If you are a Christian who has been outside the fold of mainstream, institutional Christianity for any length of time, you have probably realized that some Christians consider you to be dangerous.

The other day, my wife was emailing a woman to ask about a local homeschool co-op limited membership.  The limited membership would allow us to go on field trips with the group. My wife asked if we should send our twenty dollars before or after we are approved for membership.  The woman e-mailed back and said we would have no problem getting in as long as we attend a "mainstream" Christian church and agree to their statement of faith.

Since we don't attend a mainstream Church,  we realized in the minds of many Christians, we are considered "dangerous".  They believe we will have some sort of influence on people and lead them astray from the established truth.

If you are considered "dangerous", that might actually be a good thing, because that may mean that you are being "effective".  Jesus was considered to be "dangerous" and was sent to his death. He rocked the boat,  ruffled some feathers, and caused a stir!  When we actually listen to the Father's voice and obey him, it is the religious, institutional people who get offended most, not the world!

John 12:9-11
 9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

Unbelievable! They wanted to kill Jesus for raising Lazarus from the dead?  Furthermore, they wanted to kill Lazarus because he was telling people his testimony!  Jesus was a very "effective" man, but to the chief priests he was "dangerous".  He was upsetting their control over the people, and that's what religious institutions are usually all about - control!

Who actually persecuted the early disciples first?  Was it the Romans?  No, it was the Jewish religious leaders.  Yes, the Romans persecuted them later, but it was the Religious leaders who were the first to persecute real Christians.  Why? because Christianity upset their positions of authority, and it drew the people into a real relationship with God that skirted around the prescribed rules and methods they had set up.  They couldn't control that!

When Jesus died, the veil that separates us from God was torn in two.  We have free and bold access to the presence of God; no more priestly mediators, no more "order of Worship" is necessary.  However, it is ironic that Religious systems have been trying for the last 2000 years to sew the veil back up and put it between us and God again! 

It is considered "dangerous" thinking to believe that you can hear God's voice for yourself and worship him wherever you are.  It is considered "dangerous" to interpret the bible with only the Holy Spirit to guide you.  It is considered "dangerous" to learn from God outside the guidance of a seminary or religious institution.  It is considered "dangerous" to question a leader's decisions or actions.  It is considered "dangerous" to question doctrine or traditions.  It is considered "dangerous" to heal, cast out demons, or do miracles.  It is considered "dangerous" to say you had a dream, vision, or revelation from God.  It is considered "dangerous" to exercise spiritual gifts, expecially the gift of tongues.  It is considered "dangerous" to do what God tells you to do, even if it looks foolish.  You get the point, these are all things that can't be controlled!

John 7:15 - 17
The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.17If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

Jesus learned from the Father, not just by going to a religious school.  He may have attended school when he was young, and he most certainly celebrated the Sabbath and went to the Synagogue.  He learned from those who were wise, but most of all - he had a relationship with the Father, and he was taught by him!

I am not saying that seminaries and churches are never helpful, but I am saying that we need to be able to hear from God for ourselves.  Do we need to receive wisdom from others?  Absolutely, but we also need to learn to question authority(without rebelling), and get our direction from God first.  He will tell us to do things that are abnormal and seem absurd to some, but we need to do them anyway. 

The most effective Christians are the ones who are not afraid to be different, labeled as "dangerous", and who will step out in faith.  We need to be able to go against the grain, break the mold, rock the boat, and swim upstream without fear of Man.

Galatians 1:10
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Please hear my heart.  I am in no way condoning rebellion, lack of accountability, or disparaging leadership.  What I am saying is, you can still be a follower of Christ outside of traditional, institutional Christianity.  In fact, you will probably be a more effective Christian :)

God may call our family to join a Church or even start a Church at some point.  But it will be for a purpose, it will be led by His voice, and it will be different than we or others would expect. We are determined to do nothing out of a desire to meet our own selfish needs or be part of a good church club.  It would be nice to get rid of that feeling that we are "dangerous", but at what cost?

John 15:5
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sinner or Saint?

Is a Christian still a wretched sinner?   What does the bible actually say about this?  Do we still have an old nature or do we have a new nature?  If you really have a new nature, what is that new nature like?  Can someone have two natures?

A post on the blog Modern reject states the following in very bold words:
We’ve all heard Christians say it and we’ve most likely said it ourselves: “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”
We tell unbelievers that we are sinners just like them, only difference is, we’ve met Jesus, accepted His gift of salvation, and been saved.
And let me just say, this is completely false.
That’s right. We are lying when we speak these words. We are not sinners. We are something quite different…
You see, somewhere along the way Christians got the idea in their minds that they need to refer to themselves as “sinners” and not saints. Yet, the Bible, more specifically, the New Testament, does not refer to followers of Christ as sinners in the present tense.

The world seems to know that there is a sharp distinction between a sinner and a saint, but why don't most Christians understand this?  This is a serious case of mistaken and confused identity.

If you are a Christian, and have always believed you are just a sinner saved by Grace, you are in for a real treat. Get ready to be set free and released into a completely new and radical way of seeing yourself as God sees you!

A Sinner is not a Saint, and a Saint is not a Sinner!

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Paul reminds us that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. (Rom. 5:8) Catch that? Paul did not write that Christ died for us while we were still sinners so that we could remain sinners.  Look at Romans 5:19 - we are made Righteous through the obedience of Christ.  Also, notice the contrast between the words "sinners" and "righteous".  You are either a "sinner", or you are "righteous".  You cannot be both.  You must stop seeing yourself as a sinner, and see yourself as God sees you, as a righteous saint.

Romans 5:19
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

Good Heart, Bad Heart 

It is very common to hear Christians quoting Jeremiah 17:9 -  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

Many take this to mean that all men's hearts are deceitful and wicked, including Christians.  But is this really true of the new covenant Christian?  No, a Christian is one who has a good heart, whose heart has been changed through the new birth, the soil of this kind of heart is fertile and fruit-bearing. This kind of heart hear's God's truth and lives it out.

Luke 8:15
But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.

Did you catch that?  "a noble and good heart" So it is possible to have a good heart!  And here's how it happens - God gives us a new heart the moment we are born again and surrender our life to him!

Ezekiel 36:26
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Hebrews 8:10
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Matthew 23:26
Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Matthew 12:35
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

Matthew 23:26 shows us that is possible to have a cleansed heart that is pure.  How wonderful and freeing is that?  Matthew 12:35 also shows us that it is possible to be "good" and have "good treasure" stored up in our heart with "good things" coming out of it.  Amazing!

John 7:38
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Matthew 7:18
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

Jesus said that two types of water can't flow from the same source.  Jesus also said a bad tree can't bear good fruit!  I'm telling you loud and clear - if you are a Christian - you are a good tree! You are not a bad tree!  The scriptures are so clear - I could go on and on with scripture after scripture!  You cannot have two natures - one good, the other bad!  Any object or being cannot have two natures. For example, Wood is wood, that is it's nature!  Gold is Gold, that is it's nature!  Your nature is either sinner or saint  it cannot be both!  You are a born again new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! 

The Struggle between Flesh and Spirit

Yes, we will still struggle with the Flesh, but I can prove that many reference where some translations say "sinful nature", the actual greek word used in many instances is "sarx", the word most often translated to "flesh".  It is more accurate to translate that word in these cases as "flesh", not "sinful nature".  For example, in Romans 7:18, the NIV translates "sarx" as "sinful nature", but the New King James more accurately translates it as "Flesh". Yes, we still struggle with the "flesh", but the flesh is simply our old patterns of behavior and ways of behaving.  The flesh is not our nature.  "Sinner" is not our nature.  Wicked and Deceitful are not our nature. 

Sin is an invader to be fought against and removed, like a speck of dust that gets in your eye or a sickness that invades your body.  If we have a speck of dust in our eye, we take it out.  If we have sickness, we seek healing from it.  It shouldn't become part of who we are!  If we have sin, we need to confess it, repent of it, and then have nothing to do with it!  We are not to identify ourselves with the sin.  Sin is not a part of us, it is something to get rid of!  Since we are "in" Christ, when God looks at us, he sees the righteousness of Jesus, he sees the new creation.  He doesn't see our faults, sins, and failures.  Isn't this amazing!  If God doesn't identify us with our sin any longer, why should we!

Here is an example: If we get angry, the enemy is the one who brings shame and condemnation, saying things like "you're just an angry person, you'll never overcome this, you are an evil sinner!  We must not receive that curse to our identity, instead we must declare the truth like this.   "I am a saint, I am righteous, I am holy, sin has no place in me!  Jesus, cleanse me from this sin, remove its effects from me, and fill me with the Holy Spirit so I can walk free from this sin!"  This type of response sows to the Spirit, and you will reap a harvest of righteousness because you are drawing near to God.  The first type of response pushes you away from God because you believe yourself to be unclean, dirty, and unable to go to God for the grace you so desperately need.  Here is the lie we begin to believe.  "If God hates sin, and I am a sinner, he must detest me."  But, if we are able to separate our identity from the act of Sin, we can partner with the Holy Spirit to war with it and overcome it.  We will hate the sin,  but not hate ourselves.  This mindset will empower us and fill us with the desire to be free from the sin. This mindset will then enable us to turn to God, drawing on his love and grace to overcome it.

Example:  Two men are walking through a dirty, muddy parking lot.  One is dressed in a new, clean, white Tuxedo.  The other is dressed in old, dirty, oily overalls.  Which one of these men is going to want to stay out of the mud more?  You guessed it, the clean one.  When we see ourselves as clean, we will have no desire to partake in sin.  We will desire to remain pure and undefiled.  This is a much more powerful motivator than the lie that we are dirty, rotten, filthy sinners!  Of course, we must never forget that the only reason why we are clean and pure is through the love, grace, forgiveness, and power of God!  We are completely dependent on him! 

It's time to start believing the truth, rejecting the lies and shame.  We are saints, born again new creations, sons and daughters of God, full of boldness and confidence regarding our identity "in" Christ!  Anything less is faithlessness and a denial of the real power of God to transform lives and hearts!

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

The new creation is Holy and Righteous. 

Ephesians 4:23-24

23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

 You are holy and pleasing to God

Romans 12:1 

 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Some will raise an objection from 1 Timothy where Paul states he is the Chief of sinners or Worst of Sinners.  Here is my response to that.

1 Tim 1:12-16."I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- OF WHOM I AM THE WORST. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, THE WORST OF SINNERS, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life."

I have a hard time believing that Paul was actually talking about himself in a present tense being the "Chief of Sinners" Literally. I believe he is talking about what he would be like without Christ. He is very aware of his weaknesses and the ugly sinfulness Christ has delivered him from.

Whatever the flesh once manifested itself to be in our lives--some extreme form of evil, whatever we have done that is now, in our own sight, bad or ugly --we have to remember that is an area of weakness that needs to be guarded very carefully, because we can return to that in an instant, no matter how long we have been Christians. There is that aspect of realizing the depths from which we have come and where we could fall back to without Christ. However, I believe the scripture also has to be examined in context to be clearly understood.

Paul refers to the time when he was persecuting and killing those who followed Jesus (past tense). Paul no longer did these things - it would be ridiculous to state that Paul remained a terrible "sinner". It would bring no glory to Christ if Paul's life did not change. Pauls life was radically changed when he encountered Christ. It brings great glory to Christ when the worst of sinners comes to him and their life changes in such a dramatic, black and white fashion. Here is Paul - a persecutor, blasphemor, and violent man - now he is gentle, humble, peaceful, and loving. Did he still sin? Of course! Did he still have the capacity to fall back into grievous sin without the grace and love of Jesus Christ?  Sure!  But was his identity still a wretched sinner? Absolutely not!

I believe there is a strong distinction in the New Testament between a sinner and a saint. However, sometimes our behavior may not line up with our identity. A sinner will sometimes act Saintly, and a Saint will sometimes act sinfully. As we become more secure in who God says we are, and the radical change that has taken place in our nature, our behavior will change.

I love the past tense descriptions of our old way of life in Eph. 2:1-3. There is no question in my mind that we are no longer sinners, but we are now saints!

Eph. 2:1-3
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Overcomer or Overcome?

 A couple weeks ago, I was pondering the significance of being an overcomer in the Bible.  I was amazed to see how many times the phrase "to he who overcomes" and the word "overcome" are used. I realized that being an overcomer is not so much something we do, but it is who we are.  As Christians, it is our true spiritual identity.  The only way to truly overcome is to live out of that identity.  We are overcomers by faith, it is our inheritance as children of God.
1 John 4:4 teaches that every believer is an overcomer. This victory is something that every child of God partakes in. It is not based upon what the believer has earned or achieved, but it is based on WHO indwells the believer!
1 John 4:4
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 5:4
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

The issue of our identity:
Genesis 32:28
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Interesting that Jacob was given a new name because he had overcome.  Receiving a new name is a symbolic and prophetic way of communicating our true spiritual identity as a child of God.  There is great power in learning who we really are, what our true names are.

Revelation 3:12
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

We need to see ourselves as overcomers, not as those who are overcome.
2 Peter 2:20
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.

We have the spiritual DNA of Jesus Christ, THE overcomer.  Since he has overcome the world, so have we.
John 16:33
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Why is it significant for Jesus to say that we can have peace and be of good cheer because he has overcome the world?  Because it was his plan that we would live "in him", "abiding in him".  As long as we abide in THE overcomer, Jesus Christ, we are also overcomers by default.

Every generation and every culture has it's issues and struggles to overcome.  In the seven churches of Revelation, Jesus points out issues he sees with each church, but then he concludes with a promise to those who overcome.
  1. Revelation 2:7
    “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’
  2. Revelation 2:11
    “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’
  3. Revelation 2:17
    “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’
  4. Revelation 2:26
    And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—
  5. Revelation 3:5
    He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
  6. Revelation 3:12
    He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.
  7. Revelation 3:21
    To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
If you are a true Christian, you are an overcomer!  You are more than a conqueror!  You CAN do all things through Christ, who strengthens you!  You HAVE overcome the world! You have overcome Satan!  You are seated(past tense) at the right hand of the Father because you are IN Christ, THE OVERCOMER! 
Ephesians 2:6
and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

You are not defeated! You are victorious, triumphant!
2 Corinthians 2:14
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

I like the way Ed Tandy Mcglasson says it in "The Difference a Father makes".
Ed Tandy McGlasson Ministries
He says you are either a "Survivor" or a "Thriver".  A survivor does his best to just get through the day, but a Thriver is one who squeezes everything possible out of Life, making the most of every opportunity.  That is how Jesus lived, and that is how he desires each of us to live.
Jesus lived under the smile, blessing, and approval of his Father, he was not living out of a desire to gain his Father's approval or the approval of others.  If we can also live out of this kind of identity as ones who are beloved by the Father, we will also understand our identity as an overcomer, a "Thriver".

However, the enemy has labeled many of us and imparted to us  a false identity.  Many of us were cursed by parents who didn't know their identity either, survivors.  When we really understand who God has created us to be, receive the Father's blessing and purpose into our lives, we will not want to settle for just surviving any more.  We will begin to live as Paul described in Philippians 3:12-14.
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

When we communicate with our children, it doesn't do a whole lot of good to berate them and beat them up for their failures and mistakes. But it does a tremendous amount of good to remind them of their true identity.  When they are complaining, remind them of the fact that they are overcomers.  When they make a mistake, we can say something like, "That's OK, you'll get it next time - because you are an overcomer, you are a Champion, you can do all things through Christ, you have what it takes to succeed!"  If we keep speaking like this in faith to ourselves, and to our children, we will eventually get it.  Something will change deep inside of who we are, and we will truly see as God sees. Instead of seeing ourselves and others as failures or survivors, we will see overcomers, champions, thrivers, victorious, able to do all things.  We will see ourselves and others through the eyes of Faith, we were born to overcome!

Disclaimer: I haven't read anything off the web-site, I just searched for and liked this painting.