Questions About God, Part 2

Question: Why does God seem so violent in the Old Testament and Jesus so loving in the New Testament? 

Many people have struggled with the apparent contradiction between the violence and vengeance of the Old Testament and the love and grace of the New Testament. To address this question appropriately, let’s review a few Bible basics:

  • The OT and NT are not separate “books.”
  • The OT and the NT each focus on primarily different time frames of redemptive history. The OT is primarily about God and His covenant people, the nation of Israel. The NT is primarily about Jesus and the origin of the Church, the body of Christ.

The characterization that God in the OT is angry and violent but that Jesus in the NT is loving and peaceful fits well with our polarized times. 

However, the idea that the OT God is opposite of the NT Jesus violates the clear teaching of Scripture and the nature of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — God is three in ONE.

God the Father and Jesus the Son are one and the same — they don’t have different personalities, they aren’t in conflict or contradiction with each other. In fact, during Jesus’ 3-year public ministry recorded in the NT, he never tried to separate or distinguish himself from the OT God. He never spoke against God’s activity in the OT.Just the opposite actually occurred. Repeatedly, Jesus emphasized that he and “the Father” were one and the same. See John 1:18; John 5:19; John 5:22-23; John 10:30; John 10:37-38.

 If OT God is righteous and forceful when dealing with sin, then we must expect that NT Jesus is the same. And if NT Jesus is loving and caring, so is OT God. Perhaps our greatest error has been to think of OT God and NT Jesus as two separate beings. Instead, we should be speaking of the “God of the Bible.”

The Bible reveals God as One who abhors evil and sinfulness, and He always will. The Bible also presents God as forgiving, merciful, and gracious, and He always will be.

The Old and New Testaments do not present one-sided, polar opposite depictions of the God of the Bible. Rather, the OT shows the full range of God’s character, and the NT also shows the complete spectrum of God’s attributes. In both Testaments, God the Father and Jesus the Son are revealed as compassionate, peace-loving, forgiving, patient, kind and judging. And they are also portrayed as being wrathful, powerful, and violent against evil and sin.

God’s approach to those he loves and his approach to sin and evil do not change from the OT to the NT. Any dissimilarity between the OT and NT can’t be attributed to difference in God Himself (who is immutable). Perhaps the reason we struggle with the full picture of God throughout the Bible is because our definition of love is too small.

We get in trouble when we just try to view God through only one lens or aspect of His character. We cannot view God’s perfect love without also viewing His justice. And we can’t view his justice without his love, mercy, and grace. God’s sense of justice and his holiness are undervalued components of his love. 

The cross is the primary example of the fullness of God’s love AND the fullness of God’s holiness and justice. Instead of God’s wrath being poured out against us in the OT form of plagues, army invasion, or fire from heaven because of our sin, Christ suffered. See 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 1 Peter 3:18. Jesus, God the Son, took the punishment we deserved and in so doing satisfied God’s holy and justifiable wrath against our sin and evil.

The thing that changed from the OT to the NT was not God’s wrath (or God’s love); it was our role in receiving it. God, in the greatest act of love and grace, took it on himself to protect us.

Together the OT and NT present one singular, compelling story. The overarching story of the Bible is God’s relentless pursuit of reconciliation with a humanity that rebelled against and rejected him. It takes both the OT and the NT to fully explain the magnitude and magnificence of God’s plan.


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Questions About God

Question: Where did God come from?

The basic answer to this question is that God did not come “from” anything or anywhere. God’s statement about Himself is that HE IS — a statement of His all-encompassing existence. See Exodus 3:14; Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8.

This question may be asking the question, “Who made God?” And again the simple answer is that no one made God. He has always existed. He is eternal which means He has no beginning and no end. Because He had no beginning, He did not need to be made.

I know that’s hard for us to understand, because everything we see around us had a beginning. But God had no beginning. See Isaiah 40:28. We must understand that God’s eternal nature transcends time and space. See Colossians 1:17; 1 Timothy 1:17; Psalm 90:2. His Existence, to express it from a human perspective, is from everlasting past to everlasting future. So God always has been, is right now, and always will be. He is eternal.

Question: Why does God declare what He will do and then allows His mind to be changed by appeals from David, Solomon, etc.?

What this question is addressing is the immutable nature of God. Immutable means unchanging over time and unable to be changed. God does not change. See Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29. So how do we reconcile the immutability of God with an event in Scripture when it appears as though He does change His mind? Biblical Example — Exodus 32.

If anyone were to change his mind, it must be because new information has come to light that was not previously known, or the circumstances have changed that require a different kind of attitude or action. Now, if God changed His mind, it cannot be because He has learned some bit of information that He did not previously know, for God knows all (Ps. 147:5). Therefore, it must be because the circumstances have changed that require a different attitude or action. But, if the circumstances have changed, it is not necessarily the case that God has changed His mind. It may simply be the case that, since the circumstances have changed, God’s relationship to the new circumstances are different because they have changed, not God. 

See Exodus 32:9-10. When Israel was at the foot of the mountain engaged in idol worship, God told Moses that His anger was burning against them and He was prepared to destroy them in judgment. However, when Moses interceded for them, the circumstances were changed. God’s attitude toward sin is always anger, and His attitude toward those who call to Him is always an attitude of mercy. See Exodus 32:11-14.

When Moses said that God relented, it was a figurative way of describing that Moses’ intercession successfully changed the relationship of the people to God. He brought the nation under the mercy of God’s grace, and out from under the judgment of God. God does not change, neither His mind, His will, nor His nature.

Question: Can you speak to the apparent Scriptural conflicts between the portrayal of God as all-knowing (ahead of time, what will happen) vs. God as being surprised or disappointed about Israel’s rebellious behavior (such that he grieved ever creating them)?

See Genesis 6:5–8. We also see examples of the “Lord’s regret” with Israel (golden calf in Exodus , 12 spies) and with making Saul king (1 Sam 15:28-29). The grief and pain of human sin was not felt only by humankind. God himself was grieved by the sin of humankind.

As a personal, relational Being, God’s activity in the world is subject to change and allows for all the same dynamics we have in our personal relationships. There was always bound to be conflict in covenantal history between God and human beings, but this does not mean there is conflict within God’s Himself. As God’s ways appear to us, there will be change and variation, but as God is in his character and essence there can be no variation of shadow due to change (James 1:17; Mal.3:6; Heb. 13:8; 2 Tim. 2:13).

When God reflects on the disobedience of his creation, he uses a word that makes sense to us: the word “regret.” But this doesn’t mean God was ignorant about their propensity to sin or caught off guard by their rebellion. 

As John Piper points out, God is quite capable of lamenting a state of affairs he himself foreknew and brought about (parenting example). In other words, God’s regret is not comparable in every way to our regret. God can look at His creation and say “I’m grieved that they sinned; I regret that I made them” while still maintaining, “I never change my mind.”

It is the nature of our covenantal relationship with God to know God as one who responds and reacts, which ought to appear to us all the more amazing because it is the nature of our covenant keeping God never to lie, repent, or change his mind (Num. 23:19).


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Questions About Cultural Hot Topics

Question: When someone tells me “that is what I believe”  then my response is a gentle “But that isn’t Biblical.” I’m sure there is a much better response — what would that be?

“For the Bible Tells Me So” isn’t going to work for most skeptics. So instead, let’s lean into the narrative, the example and teachings of Jesus, the principles in Scripture, instead of just one liner rules or answers. Blind obedience vs. informed and rational reasoning leading to choice.

Question: Where does the Bible stand on Abortion, homosexuality, aliens (legal and illegal)? These are hot points in our faith that have become politicized.

Traditional Christian faith holds that life begins at conception. So the taking of a human life, even an unborn child, is considered murder which violates God’s specific command “Do not murder.” Additionally, the Bible always recognizes the prenatal phase of life as that of a child and not a mere appendage to the mother’s body to be aborted at will. See Luke 1:31; Luke 1:36. In the prenatal phase both Jesus and John the Baptist were recognized as individual human beings well before the time of delivery. 

The Bible recognizes that God is active in the creative process of forming new life. See Isaiah 44:2; Psalm 139:13-16.

The Bible recognizes that God has plans for the unborn child. Only He knows the potential of this new life. See Jeremiah 1:5.

The Bible recognizes that God is sovereign in all things, including the quality of life of the unborn child. When people set themselves up as God to determine if a life is worth living they are usurping the sovereignty of the Creator.

God inspired Moses to include in the Scriptures a law that brings the sanctity of the lives of unborn children into focus. Exodus 21:22-23.

Homosexuality: already covered in previous messages.

Aliens (legal and illegal): While the Bible doesn’t speak directly to immigration, it does talk about how God’s people are to treat foreigners and strangers who lived among them. Israel, God’s chosen nation, always had foreigners among them. See Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Leviticus 19:33-34.

In the New Testament, the challenge placed before the Jewish Christians (disciples, etc.) was to promote equality and community for all races. See Galatians 3:26-28.

While we are citizens of this great nation (USA) we have a higher citizenship in heaven that calls us to show love and share Christ.

Question: I see more and more Christians drinking and posting on FB. Some only have a glass of wine and some drink a lot more. These are people who grew up in the church so I don’t understand it.

See Romans 12:2. Just culturally speaking, what does consuming alcoholic beverages communicate? In other words, for those of you who drink alcoholic beverages, what is your motivation? What message are you knowingly, or unknowingly, communicating? How is your consumption viewed by those who are watching (family, children, Christian friends, non-Christian friends)?

Under the banner of freedom in Christ, shouldn’t drinking alcoholic beverages be an expression of that freedom? Doesn’t Paul address that? See 1 Corinthians 10:23-24; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33. The question we should ask ourselves is not “Can a Christian drink?” but “Should a Christian drink?” Is it a sin? vs. Is it wise?

Since appeals to approve moderate drinking are often based on wine use in the Bible, it is critically important to understand the differences between the production and use of wine in biblical times, and the more deceptive and dangerous use of alcoholic beverages today. 

The Bible is very clear, however, on drunkenness. It is never painted in positive light. See Ephesians 5:18; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3-4; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:20-21; Proverbs 23:31-35.

There are specific dangers inherent in alcohol, against which the Bible gives clear warning. Alcohol tends to alter one’s judgment (Proverbs 31:4–5), frequently brings woe, sorrow, and strife (Proverbs 23:29), and can cause physical harm (Proverbs 23:29,35). It can lower one’s inhibitions, leading to shameful behavior, loose speech, promiscuity, and violence (Proverbs 20:1; Isaiah 5:11; Romans 13:13). Alcohol is a mocker, a deceiver that leads people astray. So deceptive is it that one tends at first not to realize the harm it is doing (Proverbs 23:35). 


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Questions About the Bible

To address questions about the Bible, we first need to affirm the authority of Scripture. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Question: When God spoke at the beginning why did everything appear?

What we can discern from Genesis 1 is that God created all things out of nothing by His creative, powerful spoken word. The words “God said” mark off the stages of creation, showing that God created by the word. God’s words were not empty, for the Spirit, who was present over the waters, empowered God’s words, bringing into being what God had spoken. See Psalm 33:6, 9; John 1:3; Romans 4:17. If things existed before God created them, what was the cause of their creation? In God’s creative power, He creates something from nothing. Hard for us to understand because all of our creation involves created things. That is why Hebrews 11:3 calls us to respond to this by faith.

Question: Did Adam have a 1st wife named Lilith before Eve?

Simple answer according to scripture is “No.” The legends vary significantly, but they all essentially agree that Lilith left Adam because she did not want to submit to him. According to the legends, Lilith was an evil, wicked woman who committed adultery with Satan and produced a race of evil creatures. None of this is true. There is no biblical basis whatsoever for these concepts. There is no one in the Bible named Lilith.

Question: Where in the Bible does it say to give your brother a help up not a help out?

There isn’t a verse in Scripture that is stated in this manner. There are Scriptural principles of helping others. See Philippians 2:3-4; 1 John 3:17-18; Proverbs 3:27. It would seem the essence of this question deals with truly helping a brother for his own good, not just allowing him to stay in his own trouble. In other words, we should be helping people in ways that truly help them — not in ways that condone laziness or an unwillingness to change. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 speaks to this concept.

Question: Can you address Mark 4:10-12; 4:33 where Jesus agrees to disclose the meaning of his parables to his disciples but hide them from everyone else? It seems inconsistent with John 3:17 and other passages of salvation. 

A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. A parable, then, is a teaching method which serves specific goals of Jesus, the Master Teacher. First, it is a familiar story which finds people where they live and gets their attention. Second, a parable has enough mystery to attract earnest seekers after Truth.

Here in Mark the mystery is the disclosure that the kingdom of God has drawn near in the person of Jesus Christ. The secret has been given to the disciples because they have responded in faith. “Those on the outside” alludes to Mark 3 and the rejection of Jesus by the teachers of the law and by his own family. For those with hard hearts, all things come “in parables.” To really get to the meaning of what Jesus is saying, let’s take a look at the context of the Isaiah passage that is quoted (see Isaiah 6:9-10). 

The main point is not salvation. But rather to examine what sort of heart a person brings to the teaching of Jesus. Jesus therefore teaches in parables both to reveal the truth to those who are receptive and to conceal it from those whose hearts are hardened. Read John 3:17-21.

The key to understanding this Luke parable passage is that Christ has a specific mission he was trying to accomplish. He needed to instruct his authentic disciples so that they could continue to build upon the basis of the gospel after His ascension into heaven. However, those whose hearts were hardened against Christ’s message also served His earthly mission for they were the very ones who would demand his crucifixion which became the means of our salvation.

The truth is that we need a Holy Spirit birthed revelation when we hear or read the good news of the gospel. The work of the Holy Spirit accompanies the message of the Gospel. Read Luke 10:21-22; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. To be certain, God doesn’t want any to perish but all to come to repentance. However, their heart has to be open to the truth to actually receive it.

Question: In the song “God gives and takes away” my question is if he gives you something why would he take it away?

See Job 1:20–22. All of these events were allowed by the Lord to prove Job’s integrity, character and devotion to the Lord. It takes real faith to say in the midst of sorrow and suffering, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In this passage we see a couple of great principles: First, he renounces any claim on all that had been his (Naked I came … naked I will depart). Second, Job affirms the freedom of God to give and take as he chooses (The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away). So in this context, the Lord gives and takes away to prove the love and gratitude of one who trusts in him. See 1 Thessalonians 5:18. 

At other times, it is possible that the Lord may take away when we begin to form an unhealthy attachment to something and allow it to become more important to us than Him. It will also certainly remind us that all things come and go in our lives through the hands of God our provider. 

Question: Revelation 3:15-16

In the Christian life, there are three “spiritual temperatures”: a burning heart, on fire for God (Luke 24:32), a cold heart (Matt. 24:12), and a lukewarm heart (Rev. 3:16). The lukewarm Christian is comfortable, complacent, and does not realize his need. The point is to never allow compromise to settle in. We must be people who continually grow in our love, commitment, and obedience to Christ as we follow Him. This requires attention and intention — just like maintaining hot water or cool water. The normal process is toward lukewarmness.


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Sexual Sin & Gender Issues, Continued

Question: Because adultery, divorce are condemned in Bible, why is homosexuality so much more out there to Christians? There are some wonderful homosexuals out there. I am having trouble with this as a Christian.

According to the Bible, homosexuality is not so much more out there. Sexual sin is sin. We need to stop categorizing or measuring sin and see it as God does. 

I agree that there are wonderful gay/lesbian people — just as there are wonderful adulterers, porn addicts, liars, and so on.

So how should Christians treat those of the LGBTQ lifestyle? In the same manner in which Jesus treated those he met who were living with sexual sin and brokenness.

Examples: Woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11); Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-30); Woman anoints Jesus feet (Luke 7:36-50).

  1. He didn’t lead with condemnation but built common ground.
  2. He engaged them in conversation about their lifestyle.
  3. He didn’t compromise the truth but treated them with grace and dignity.
  4. He saw past their current condition and spoke toward a better way of life — redemption and salvation.
  5. He saw them all as worthy and able to enter a saving relationship with Him.

 

Unlike the Pharisee, who can only dwell on the sinner’s past record, Jesus prefers to see the potential that love and forgiveness possess for changing a person’s heart.

Question: How do you deal with a child who is living a transgender lifestyle when you are a Christian?

Addressed in previous question. Plus add a lot of prayer for yourself and your child.

Questions: Does the church, at least the Church in America, address the LGBTQ tsunami that has developed since the US Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in 2015? A spiritual pandoras box has been opened, it seems.

Unfortunately various denominations have had divided views on this issue. I believe I communicated my view today. 

Question: What if Oregon passes a law similar to the one in Canada that can fine someone for using gender pronouns that are contrary to the persons chosen gender, not birth gender? Would we comply?

http://www.canadalandshow.com/no-wont-jailed-using-wrong-pronoun/

I believe we need to begin this question by addressing: What is the motivation? This is a complex thing. Do I enter that person’s reality to build common ground? Or does that affirm their deception?

Question: What if Oregon passes a law similar to California’s AB2943 making it unlawful for a person or entity to counsel a homosexual that they can go back to being heterosexual, “conversion therapy” and possibly will lead to a ban on the sale of books that promote this teaching, including the Bible? 
 

We honor government, as Scripture declare, except then honoring government would require us to dishonor God. In that case, we obey the higher authority.

It’s time for the church to focus more on evangelizing and less on politicizing.

I know that we tend to politicize everything and that will create division everytime. That’s why the church isn’t called to politicize but rather evangelize. We have good news for all who are living subject to sin. This good news has the power to cross all political, social, and sexual boundaries. 


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Sexual Sin and Gender Issues

Question: “Gay people say they are Christians and think they are saved but the Bible says differently. If all sin is sin, what makes being gay different than being a sinner?”

Let’s first address a basic question related to this topic. “Is it a sin to be a practicing gay?” To properly address this question, we first need to revisit what God established as the appropriate context in which two individuals experience sexual activity. See Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:18; Genesis 2:20-24.

God created marriage to be a covenant relationship between one person created male and one person created female. Sex is only to be experienced within the context of this Biblical covenant relationship of marriage between one male and one female. 

This definition of marriage and sexuality is affirmed by Jesus during his earthly ministry. See Matthew 19:4-6. Paul also affirms God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman in his letter to the Ephesians. In the immediate context, he is addressing the marriage relationship. See Ephesians 5:31-33. 

In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he addresses the proper context for sexual relations. See 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. The writer of Hebrews also addresses the context of sexual expression. See Hebrews 13:4.

So when you run any example of sexual expression through this Biblical filter, you can discern if this is within God’s design and will. So with that filter in place, how should we view sex between two members of the same sex? According to this filter it is regarded as sin.

God specifically addresses the sinfulness of homosexuality. Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:24-28; 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Notice in this passage that homosexuality isn’t an isolated sin? It is listed among a variety of other sins — ranging from lying to murder and all points in between. Alongside homosexuality is the sexually immoral. This would be other sexual activity that is not within the context of God’s design (one man, one woman in marriage).

So the follow up question to this is: “Can a gay person be a Christian?”

How does any sinner become a Christian? Through believing in Christ as God’s Son and solution for our sin problem. Which means we need to own our sin and see that it is indeed sinful and confess it to the Lord asking for forgiveness. Which leads to repentance. A willful cooperation with the Holy Spirit that we will stop living according to our sinful desires and instead live in obedience to Christ and His revealed will for us as outlined in scripture and confirmed by the Holy Spirit. So using this process, Yes, I believe that a gay/lesbian person can be a Christian. See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

It’s time for the church to focus on more on evangelizing and less on politicizing.


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End of Life Questions

Question: Do we go to heaven right away when we die? If not, where does our spirit go?

A person who has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior goes immediately to “heaven” to be in the presence of the Lord. Though their body is in the grave and decomposes or has been cremated their soul and spirit (the immaterial part, the real person) goes immediately into the presence of Christ. See Luke 23:43; Philippians 1:21-23; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; 1 Thess. 4:13-18.

Question: Are there different rewards for people in heaven for their life on earth?

First, we need to establish that heaven is a place prepared for those who have placed their trust in Christ Jesus as Savior. See John 3:16; John 14:6; Titus 3:4-7. As Christians, we believe we are saved solely by the grace of God. God saves us based not on anything we could do (or have done), but based instead on the free gift of salvation offered by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Our works play no role in our salvation. We cannot earn our way into Heaven, this is a gift of God. See Ephesians 2:8-9.

As authentic Christ followers, we will not be judged according to our sin — because our sin has been forgiven. We are justified in Christ — there is no condemnation. See Romans 8:1-2.

While we, as Christians, don’t believe our works have anything to do with our entry to heaven, we do understand our works have everything to do with our reward once we get there. The Bible supports the view that rewards are distributed to believers in accordance with the nature of their lives on earth. See Matthew 16:27; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.

Question: What does the Bible say about being cremated instead of being buried? Will I still go to heaven if I’m cremated?

The Bible doesn’t directly address the issue of cremation. The origin of this question probably arises from the idea that burning in fire is a sign of God’s judgement. See Leviticus 20:14; Numbers 11:1-3. But what about believers who die in a fire, or were burned at the stake for their Christian faith? Would they not be allowed in heaven?

Some get hung up on the idea of cremation because of their view of a bodily resurrection (1 Cor. 15). So let’s understand something about our physical bodies after death. See Genesis 3:19. The human body decomposes at varying rates — depending on many factors. But those only delay the inevitable, a returning to dust. Cremation simply speeds that process up.

Some of the concern about cremation has to do with God reconstituting our bodies. Nothing of our previous bodies are used to create the new resurrected body. The imperishable is sown into the ground and is raised imperishable.

Question: If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and love God with all your heart but live a worldly life, would you still go to heaven?

The challenge with this question is that it assumes you can love God with all your heart AND love the world, living according to its standards. See 1 John 2:3-6, 15-17. This is a question of eternal security and there is no easy, short answer to the issue of eternal security. But I think a better question is: “why would I want to intentionally live a life that is contrary to God’s will?” Jesus calls us to an “all-in” sort of spiritual life. See Matthew 16:23-26.

My interpretation of Scripture is that following Christ is an exercise of the freewill God has given us. He desires that we use that freewill to follow Him with all our heart but we also have the option to use that freewill to live in absolute rebellion to his will and ways and suffer the temporal and eternal consequences of that lifestyle. See Matthew 7:16-23.

Question: For those who are in a second marriage, what will God say to us regarding this situation? Who will we be one with in the kingdom?

For a basic understanding of how God views divorce, see Malachi 2:16 and Matt. 5:31-32. Jesus addresses the topic of marriage in heaven. See Mark 12:18-25.

Question: I had a friend that had taken her own life. Does God forgive suicide? How could she ask for forgiveness before she did the deed?

One of the 10 commandments states “do not murder.” Self-murder, suicide, is never God’s plan for human life. The Bible doesn’t clearly communicate what becomes of those who choose to commit suicide. But we can glean some principles from the truth of Scripture.

Is suicide the unpardonable sin?I believe suicide is a sin but I don’t believe it is the unpardonable sin. The Bible only records one sin as the unpardonable sin — blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:30-32). Make no doubt, suicide is sin. If a person who has never accepted Christ as Lord commits suicide, they will spend eternity separated from the Lord they have denied in a very literal hell.

Will a Christian, who commits suicide in a moment of hopelessness, go to hell? Let me ask you a question before we go further into this question. How does God view the variety of sins we commit? Are some sins more sinful than others? Or is a sin as sin?

Will my last act on earth define the quality of my whole existence as a Christian? Will my last sin committed before I die nullify my salvation? Salvation for any person rests in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, not in abstaining from sinful acts. I believe that committing suicide in and of itself does not condemn us to eternal punishment any more than does any other sin for which we have not asked forgiveness at the time of death. Please hear me. This isn’t permission. Suicide isn’t your the only option. BUT…here’s a bigger point. Why would I want to gamble with my eternity? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.


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Holy Spirit Power

Jesus stresses the believer’s need of the power of the Spirit when He tells His disciples to not leave Jerusalem without it. Why didn’t he want them to leave without the power of the Holy Spirit? Because to live as Christ intends us to live, we need the be equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit. See Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 1:8.
 
To experience the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit. See Ephesians 5:18. Paul’s point is that the Holy Spirit is the controlling influence motivating and directing the lives of believers.
 
Paul emphasizes that Christians are to be continually filled with God’s Spirit. We have choice in the matter, for the Spirit’s transforming work in us is not done apart from human involvement. See Galatians 5:16.
 
The Holy Spirit is not given to those who have it all together spiritually; He is given to enable them to get it together spiritually!
Christians often ignore any thought of walking by the Spirit, because they think they are not good enough. Their life is too filled with fleshly struggles. But the Spirit is given to enable us to break sin’s power; we don’t have to do that on our own before we receive the Spirit’s power.
 
The coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives is not just a window dressing. He indwells us so that we might allow Him to control us and have power for life. See Ephesians 3:16-17; 2 Timothy 1:7.
 
To live undefeated lives we need to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
Read: Romans 7:14–8:14
 
This passage shows us that we are dominated by one of two powers — the power of sin or the power of the life-giving Spirit. Our lifestyle and daily choices demonstrates which power we are dominated by. The lifestyle of the flesh flows from a mind oriented to the flesh, whereas the lifestyle of the Spirit comes from a mind oriented to the Spirit.
 
Cultivating a Spirit-led, Spirit-filled mentality of heart and mind is necessary if we are to live in a way that pleases God. If we are serious about progressing in the Christian life, we must seek every day to feed our minds with spiritual food.
 
Paul puts the responsibility squarely on our shoulders: You need to put sin to death. But at the same time, he makes it clear that we can only do it through the power of the Spirit. The power is there but the power is only released when you’re under the Holy Spirit’s control. The power for victory resides in the believer and can be released to its full capacity.
 
Paul makes it clear to us that we have no obligation to do what the sinful nature urges us to do. However, as believers in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, we do have a new obligation — to put to death the deeds of your sinful nature. The Spirit lives within us and is the power for that spiritual victory.
 
Being full of the Holy Spirit is equal to being full of power. The Spirit is the source of spiritual power which enables us to live in victory over sin. What do you need to do to cultivate and exercise this power in your life?

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Armor Up

Throughout Scripture, we see that Christians are engaged in a spiritual battle. We are often warned against underestimating our enemy, Satan. See 1 Peter 5:8-9. Christians do not give much thought to the reality of our spiritual enemy and the resources God has for us to help us stand in the midst of an attack. There is a real spiritual war being waged against God, and every believer finds themselves in this spiritual battle.

Sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground, and that he faces an enemy who is much stronger than he is — apart from the Lord. But here’s the truth: The victory has already been won by God in Christ. See Colossians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15:57.

As believers, we do not fight for victory, we fight from victory! Even though the battle rages on, the victory is secure. While the victory is secure, Paul warns us that we must know where our strength comes from and how to stand upon and within that strength. See Ephesians 6:10-18.

The command to “be strong in the Lord” presumes that God is eager and willing to provide strength and that any lack of strength results from our neglecting Him. It assumes also that empowering is not automatic, but comes as we seek a closer relation with Christ.

The task of the believer is not to win but to stand (vs. 11-13). To stand means to trust in the victory already achieved. It is to act upon what has already been established.

Each of the seven pieces mentioned by Paul is simply a way to apply the gospel to your whole life. The gospel should cover every part of your body, your life, because where the gospel has strengthened you, Satan cannot subdue you.

The Belt of Truth (vs. 14). Your belt goes around your core. It holds all your weapons and the rest of your armor in place. What does Paul mean by “belt of truth?” Two things: Make your identity in Christ the center of your life and let the truth of God’s Word shape your thinking.

The Breastplate of Righteousness (vs. 14). For Paul, being covered with righteousness first means embracing our identity in Christ. Not only are we covered in Christ’s righteousness, we bring our lives into conformity with it. Whatever part of your life is not brought into obedience to God’s word will be Satan’s focal point of attack in your life. What do you think that would be for you?

Feet Fitted with Gospel of Peace Readiness (vs. 15). Paul says we overcome Satan by going on the offense with the gospel. This overcomes Satan’s work in both other people’s lives as well as our own.

The Shield of Faith (vs. 16). Satan’s main weapons are the lies he throws — like fiery darts — into our hearts. You are supposed to hide from them behind your shield, which means coming against them in your mind with what God has told you is true in the gospel.

The Helmet of Salvation (vs. 17)  Paul is telling us to let the truth about our salvation and God’s grace in our lives permeate our minds.

The Sword of the Spirit (vs. 17). The Word of God is our offensive weapon and it slices the deception and schemes of the devil. 

The way to fight Satan is not to focus on Satan, but to cover your life with the gospel! Living undefeated means covering your life with the armor of God.
 

Application Questions

 
  1. What is (or has been) your view or understanding about the devil? See 1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 6:11-12.
  2. Why is it important to be alert to and realize the scheme’s of the devil?
  3. See Colossians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15:57. Kelly said, “As believers, we do not fight for victory, we fight from victory.” What is the difference and why is this important for us to grasp?
  4. Read Ephesians 6:10-13. What is the repeated command in this passage? What do you think it means to “stand”?
  5. Read Ephesians 6:14-18. Of all the list of armor, why do you suppose Paul would talk about putting on “truth” first? How does this help us to stand against the devil’s schemes?
  6. Paul then instructs us to have the breastplate of righteousness in place. How does righteousness protect us? What role does Christ play in this? What role do we play?
  7. Review the remaining items (shoes, shield, helmet, sword). How does each part serve to protect us? How can we apply this to our daily life?
  8. We have to put on “the full armor of God.” Which one do you need to intentionally focus on developing more in your life with God’s help?

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Mind Your Mind

What do you find yourself thinking about on a regular basis? If someone were to inventory your thought life, what would be the most common theme? In case you didn’t know, someone is taking an inventory on your thought life. See Jeremiah 17:10; Psalm 7:9; Psalm 139:2. Your thoughts become you. Your attitudes define you. Your mental habits shape you. What’s going on in your head governs what you do, how you live. As you think, so you are.

See Colossians 1:21. Paul says this alienation has a context. It is being conducted within a certain landscape: your mind. Rebellion against God is first and foremost a “mind game.”

See 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. The challenge for all of us is that we have years and years of thought patterns and pathways, habits and strongholds that we have developed overtime. We have a default approach to everything in life. The flesh has such a strong pull, so the Spirit is always inviting us over to Jesus’ way of thinking. I want to give you four things you can do to help you mind your mind.

Repent — Change your mind. Stop thinking in ways that you know are unproductive and out of line with the kingdom of God. You know from Scripture the things that God wants for you, and you know the things you are thinking and doing that are not producing fruit in you, but you keep doing them. Repent. See Ephesians 4:22-24. Put on the new self is an intentional decision each and every day because it is harder to unlearn bad thought patterns and learn new, positive ones.

Take your thoughts captive. See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Paul uses this image to speak of the established, entrenched ways of thinking, acting, and reacting that are in opposition to the ways of God.

Replace your unwanted thoughts with pure thoughts. See Luke 11:24-26. Why did this man fail in his quest for freedom? He didn’t understand the principle of replacement. None of us can overcome evil or stop unwanted thoughts by simply renouncing it. Instead, we can only do so by substituting good in its place. Freedom comes by filling your mind with God’s thoughts (Rom. 12:1–2; Phil. 4:8).

Begin each day with a renewed mind set. See Colossians 3:1-3. Your mind set reveals where you heart is set. Your heart set determines where your mind is set. These work in tandem. Paul speaks to this further in Romans 8:5–9. As born again believers we live in a different realm — the realm of the Spirit. Not the earthly realm. This means we need to begin each day centering ourself on the realm of the Spirit. Mind sets are also determined by what we feed our minds (GIGO).

The key verse to help you mind your mind is Philippians 4:8. Living undefeated requires winning in the battlefield of your mind. It’s time to mind our minds.
 

Life Application Questions

  1. So far in this series, we’ve explored that we are more than conquerors, why God allows temptation, how to overcome temptation, and minding your mind. What has been the most helpful from this series for you at this time in your faith journey? Why?
  2. Read Jeremiah 17:10; Psalm 7:9; Psalm 139:3. Why do you suppose God is so concerned with your thoughts and your mind? Why is God’s “mind reading” abilities important for you to realize?
  3. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV) tells us states that as a man “thinks in his heart, so is he.” How does this practically work? How can this principle help you as we consider your thoughts?
  4. Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. What does Paul mean when he says, “We have the mind of Christ”?
  5. Read Ephesians 4:22-24. One of the keys to minding your mind is to repent — change your mind. How does this passage reveal the process of repentance as it concerns your mind?
  6. Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. According to this verse, what is another key way to mind your minds? What might this key concept look like in everyday life?
  7. Read Luke 11:24-26. Kelly talked about the principle of replacement. How does this apply to your thought life?
  8. Another key to minding the mind is to begin each day with a renewed mind set. Read Colossians 3:1-3; Romans 8:5-9. What do these passages reveal about your mind set? What are some ways that you can begin each day with a renewed mind set?
  9. What is one of these keys to minding your mind that you need to focus on this week?

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