Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mirror, Mirror

I've been thinking about how unnecessary, and often even harmful, mirrors can be. They encourage us to focus on the outward appearance rather than the inner condition. They enable us to make comparisons with others, feeling prideful if we think our appearance is more desirable than others. (Why? Did any of us choose our looks or do something to deserve them?) Or we feel disappointed if we think we fall short of the world's standard (which, as we know, is often entirely fake).

The advertising industry capitalizes on this by offering products promising to remedy the situation. People are lured by the deception (often unspoken, but presented visually to the subconscious mind) that if they purchase certain products or services, they will look better and be happier, more popular, more successful, etc. So we first buy into the world's definition of "beauty" and "need," and then we seek the world's remedy for our "problem" (which for the most part only exists in the eye of the beholder). These things they convince us to buy rarely live up to our expectations - for the most part we simply find ourselves with less money, still unsatisfied. All of this detracts from what is truly valuable and pleasing to God. (1John 2:15-17)

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. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:1-21

God didn't design us in such a way that we can see what we look like to someone else without a man-made mirror (at least not conveniently--unless we want to continually stand near a calm lake, for example). He certainly could have done so if He had wanted to, but instead, the mirror He wants us to use is His Word. The appearance He is concerned with is the inner one, which for believers, was meant to be conformed to the image of Jesus. This means loving God and loving our neighbors and brothers in the Lord. (John 15:9-10, John 8:31-34, Rom. 13:8-10, 1John 4:19-21) He also wants us to tell others the Good News about Jesus our Savior, with both words and our lives, not only one or the other, or worse yet, neither. (Matt. 28:19-20, John 4:10-15, Rev. 22:17)

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

Mirrors are good if they reflect light to brighten up a space. We can see by the moon that it "becomes a light" when the sun shines on it. Believers do that very thing by reflecting the goodness of God on the world by displaying the fruits of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them. We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. If we blend in with the world by appearing exactly to them as they are in order to fit in (hide our light under a basket), or if we dumb down the truth of God's word (remove the salt) in order to make it more palatable to people who want to be assured of eternal life while they keep doing their favorite sins until Jesus returns, then we have not done what we're supposed to do. (Jer. 23:16-32, Ezek. 33:7-9, Mark 8:38, Isa. 5:20-21, Matt. 18:7-9, Rom. 1:28-32)

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:10-20 

Note: The scribes and Pharisees liked to enforce the letter of the law and enjoyed their power to place additional burdens on the people beyond Scripture (such as how many steps you could take on the Sabbath). They didn't obey the entire law themselves (as no one could, but more than anyone they should have been trying to be obedient as members of the priesthood), yet they judged everyone else for failing to keep it perfectly. They neglected the spirit of the law and nitpicked little sins of others while doing worse things themselves. They obeyed tiny details to be seen by others while ignoring more important things. (See Matt. 23, Matt. 6:1-7.) The point of the last verse in the passage above is not that believers should disregard God's values and instructions, but rather it warns us not to be hypocrites. (Matt. 7:1-5, Rom. 2:1-10) Our motive is love of God and our neighbor, not to impress others, work for salvation or worship by rote and ritual. (John 4:23, Rom. 13:8-14)

Also note that in this age, the church (made up of believing Jews and Gentiles alike, grafted into the blessings of Israel - Eph. 2:11-22, Eph. 3:6, Col. 1:15-23, Rom. 11) is a royal priesthood, and so like the priesthood during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, we of all people should be concerned with pleasing Him by obeying His commands. He is the head of the church, our Lord and Redeemer, after all. (Eph. 1:22-23, Eph. 5:23, Rom. 10:9-10) People looking at us should get an accurate picture of what a child of God "looks like." (John 1:12-13, Rom. 8:16-17, 1John 3:1-10, 2Pet. 1:8-9)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:9-12

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 1 Timothy 2:8-10

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:7-12

So the point of this little devotional is that our beauty is within. Not because we're "good" people or have "inner strength," but because the Spirit of God dwells in us if we're believers. HE is good and strong, and HE produces fruit, which are traits in us that reflect God's nature--traits that we cultivate and act upon, resulting in good deeds done for the love of God. (John 14-15, Rom. 3:23, Philip. 4:13) When we "walk in the Spirit," we listen to His prompting and are useful to Him in accomplishing the works He prepared in advance for us to do. (Rom. 8:11, 2Cor. 1:22, 1John 4:4-13, 1John 2:1-6, Rom. 8:5-23, Eph. 2:10, 2Tim. 2:19-26, Philip. 2:12-16)

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2:11-15  (also see Mal. 3:13-4:3)

Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:4-16

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:13-26

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 4:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 3:17-5:10

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:3-21

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:1-18

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Good News and "Bad" News

Good news and bad news: The good is that Jesus loves even you, even me, despite ourselves--even though He knows every single thing about us, even our very thoughts. Wow! The "bad" news is that He doesn't love our sin. He came to FREE us FROM it, not only the consequences for it, but also the HOLD it ONCE had over us. If we love Him BACK, we will allow Him to cleanse us and to help us STAY clean. He knows how weak we are and so He gives His Spirit within us to help us resist sin. He also promises to forgive us each time we come to Him needing to be cleansed AGAIN, of ANY sin, EVERY time. That's not the same as wallowing in the mud in delight along with the unsaved world, though. It's not the same as receiving a pristine white garment of His righteousness and then casting it OFF and running from it, tempting God as to whether He will come chasing after us or not. (Ask the prodigal son if his father came running after him or Jonah if he enjoyed being in the belly of the fish. Also ask Esau how it feels to have his right of the firstborn given to his brother--we believers have the firstfruits of the Spirit. This is NOT a small thing, but a miraculous blessing of God!)

If we belong to Jesus, then we care how we represent Him to the world by our words, attitudes and actions. We're to shine our lights and bear fruit (of the Spirit). Jesus said that whoever doesn't obey Him does NOT LOVE HIM. So let's be honest with ourselves and with Him. ❦ If we REALLY love Him, then we'll care more about the treasure in heaven that will be ours in His glorious kingdom than the worthless garbage called "treasure" in this lost world. Where our treasure is, our heart is, and that treasure is Jesus Himself for those who truly love Him and understand what their freedom cost Him, who truly understand that He is the beautiful, beloved, powerful Son of God, who truly understand what a PRIVILEGE it is to belong to Him, redeemed and purchase by His very own precious blood.

Let's cry our tears of shame and regret over the crumbs of "our" lives we've offered to Him (but we're NOT our own) and repent of it now, while there's still time to devote whatever is left of our short lives to pleasing and honoring Him. Let's read the Bible for ourselves and ask Him what He desires of us. Let's be WISE. When He returns for us, we'll be SO glad we did!

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2:11-15

Friday, September 8, 2017

What Kind of Faith? (or "Let No One Deceive You")

Question: Does your faith reassure you that even though you slip many times and “get dirty” the "pristine white robe" that was provided to you by Jesus when you believed on Him for salvation, He will forgive you and wash you clean again every time you ask Him (1John 1:7-10, Rev. 22:14); or does it reassure you that even though God is holy and hates sin, that He "understands" why you as His dear child have no interest in remaining “clean” and why you love the world more than Him, having no concern whatsoever for the unimaginable suffering of Jesus on your behalf to free you FROM sin (not only the PUNISHMENT for yours, but the CONTROL over you that it [presumably ONCE] had)?

Since we each need to examine our OWN faith (2Cor. 13:5-6) and make very important conclusions (and changes if need be), I thought I would try to help in that regard by sharing my personal studies. There seems to be a lot of confusion over justification and sanctification. The first is a one-time, instantaneous event when you received your "garment of salvation" and were declared "righteous" by God because you believed Jesus, His Son, died for your sins and rose again from the dead. This is what is meant by being saved by grace through faith alone. It is the free gift of God. (Rom. 5) The second (sanctification) is NOT the same as salvation, but is also necessary in order to enter the kingdom. It is our walk with God AFTER we have been saved. (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29, 1Thess. 4:1-8, esp. v.3, 1Thess. 5:22, Rom. 2:6-8, 1Pet. 2:11-12, 2Pet. 2:15-16) This also is a work of GOD that we do not earn, deserve or repay; however, justification (salvation / the righteousness of Jesus “imputed” [counted / attributed] to us/to “our account”) and sanctification (being set apart in holiness for God, abiding / remaining IN Jesus and, therefore, covered/clothed with HIS holiness) both require our cooperation in that we need to STOP striving against God, surrender to HIS ways instead of insisting upon our own way and efforts to be saved, as well as cease pursuing our old ways that were in rebellion against Him. (Rom. 8:7)

God grants repentance from unbelief, which is the cause of both rejecting His Son and our BEHAVING as though there were no God or that someone or something else was our "god." He also bestows the gift of saving faith, and He enables us to desire to do and to know His will. (2Tim. 2:24-26, Philip. 2:12-13, Rom. 1:18-32, Gal. 4:8, Eph. 2:8-10) He has given us another gift–free will, with which we choose for ourselves whether we will use it to honor Him or to strive against His Holy Spirit (who is IN us if we truly believe). (Eph. 4:30, 1Thess. 5:19) Obeying God because we are His born again children, washed clean by the precious blood of His Son and regenerated by His Holy Spirit, is NOT working FOR salvation–it is a RESULT of saving faith. (James 2:14-26)

"Let no one deceive you." We see those words several times in the Bible, mostly to warn against people who tell others that God doesn't expect obedience, and sometimes to warn against people who think they can earn or contribute toward their own justification (salvation). (1Cor. 3:16-23, Eph. 5:5-12, 1John 3:4-10, 1Cor. 6:9-20, 1Cor. 15:33-34, Gal. 6:7-9, James 1:12-16, 2Tim. 3:12-13) We need to be on guard against BOTH errors. The truth is that Jesus FINISHED the work of salvation, and those who ARE saved WILL obey, or at least WANT to and be grieved when they fall short. (2Cor. 7:8-11) Do you think the Holy Spirit within us strives against God? Of course not! He is our only hope of overcoming this world! (John 14:20, 16:33) There is a difference between the “legal standing” of righteousness (justification) given to us because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross on our behalf when we believe on Him, and the kind of righteous acts we do as a result of His indwelling Spirit. (1John 2:1-6, Rev. 9:6-8)

I have written so many devotionals that go into great detail on this topic. (http://layoutfortoday.blogspot.com/p/free-pdf-downloads.html) I write, not because I "have arrived" at perfection and can now tell others how to get there, but because I CARE about the rampant deception leading people away from the truth in these dangerous times. NO ONE "arrives" until they see Jesus face to face. Even Paul said below that He was seeking “to attain" the goal (of a crown of righteousness awarded to Him for a life lived in obedience and faithfulness to Christ). Paul didn’t express his certainty of having attained it until he reached his final days on this earth. (2Tim. 4:6-8) We are all works in progress, with progress being a key word. (2Pet. 1:5-11) What we practice says a LOT about us and how much we love and esteem our Savior. (1John 2:28-29)

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:8-21

I'm only going to highlight a few passages from the Bible that illuminate the problems with the false teaching that if we have "faith," then we will take it for granted that God doesn't see or care about sins we commit (many of them deliberately) after we were saved. (Mal. 3:13-4:3, Ps. 94, Rom. 6:15-23, Rom. 3:23-28, Acts 17:30-31) I would encourage anyone who is confused to look up the surrounding context of these passages. We don't just get to "pick" the parts of the Bible that we like–it all has to go together. God is not the author of confusion, and He doesn't contradict Himself or change.

When Paul warns the Galatians not to accept circumcision or submit to the "yoke" of the law again now that they are free in Christ, He does NOT mean they should instead CELEBRATE their sin. That goes against ALL of the rest of the teachings of the ENTIRE Bible! (The idea of any Christian participating in ANY kind of "pride" parade is utterly unscriptural, as God HATES pride of ALL kinds [except we may boast in what He has done for us and that by His grace, we know Him], let alone pride in SIN.) Reveling in sin or being completely unconcerned by it is just as much "another gospel" as it is to return to the ritual law of animal sacrifices, circumcision, ceremonial washings, observing feast days, etc. Paul and the writer of Hebrews (there is disagreement as to whether Paul or someone else wrote Hebrews, since the book doesn't say who wrote it) explains that those things were the shadow of what was to come, and they were fulfilled in Christ. (Col. 2:16-17, Heb. 8:5) That does NOT mean that God delights in the sins of His children now!

We will be answering to Jesus as to whether we were faithful to Him or not. Why else do you think He told all of those parables about faithfully keeping watch for His return? (Matt. 13:18-23, Matt. 25, Luke 19:11-27) Why do you think the Bible says "wake up" if God really wants us to blissfully slumber in the comforts of this lost and forsaken world? (Rom. 13:11-14, 1Cor. 15:34, Eph. 5:11-20, Rev. 3:2-3, Gal. 6:1, Eph. 6:10-18, Matt. 13:35, 24:42, Luke 21:36, 1Thess. 5:5-8) A dear friend told me that she has "no strong convictions" about social matters concerning morality, but that she likes to "cast the net wider" to make more people feel welcome. This lines up very nicely with the [extremely profitable] philosophy preached in mega-churches and taught in best-selling books written by many. The problem with it is that Jesus Himself said that the door is NARROW (so that net full of people who do NOT obey Him will not fit through it). (Matt. 7:13-29) He ALSO said that the BAD fish will be thrown out! (Matt. 13:47-50) Talk about a wake-up call! And He said that His angels will remove what causes sin, along with the disobedient, from His kingdom at the end of the age. (Matt. 13:41-43, John 3:36) And, everyone who accepts the invitation must wear the "wedding garment" which His Father provides, which is the righteousness of Jesus (and so they must BELIEVE in their hearts, and once having received that garment, they must WEAR it, not cast it off like the man in the Garden of Gethsemane who fled naked the moment persecution came, just like the seed sown on rocky ground represents those who fall away due to persecution). (Mark 14:52, Matt. 13:20-21, Matt. 22:8-14, Rev. 16:15) “Living in grace” is NOT the same as deliberately “living in sin.”

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 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. Galatians 1:3-10

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8

When Jude wrote about those who "deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ," he was not referring exclusively to those who say there are other ways to heaven, but in the context we can see he was especially concerned with those who DENY Jesus by refusing to OBEY Him as their LORD. What else do we mean by "Lord," if it's not that we do as He says? (Luke 6:43-49) Do we accuse our Savior of preaching "salvation by works" because He said, "Take up your cross and FOLLOW Me"? That would be "another Jesus" and "another gospel" to say that Jesus died so that we BELIEVERS can continue in our sin. A believer is already SAVED. If they were not, then Jesus would NOT be their Lord, would He? "His commands are not burdensome" to those of us who belong to Him, because we LOVE Him! There is a DIFFERENCE between trying to EARN salvation and desiring to please the One who SAVED us.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Jude 1:3-23

I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (Also see James 4:4-5)

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. 2 Corinthians 12:20-21

In this next passage, we are given the same kind of warning that Jesus gave in the parables–the unfaithful servant will not receive the same reward as the faithful one. (This is over and above the free gift of salvation that all believers receive.) If we LOVE Jesus, we will CARE about this! Is there anything more important than His honor and glory? Will it make Him happy to take some of our rewards away and give them to another? No! He loves us, but He always does what is right and best, even when it causes Him pain. You decide for yourself, but I feel it will cause us anguish and tears when we realize we have robbed Him of part of the joy it would have given Him to reward us for our faithfulness, not to mention the honor and glory that we failed to bring Him as we should have done. (John 15:8, Matt. 5:16) It's not like we weren't warned ahead of time, if we would just care enough to read it for ourselves instead of ignoring all of His warnings. (See Rev. 2-3, for example.) Will it make us sad to lose rewards? Most assuredly, it WILL, but we will be so glad if we are even able to "enter as through the fire" after our "works were burned up" because they were not done in love for Jesus, but for ourselves and the world, according to our own will instead of His. (1Cor. 3:11-18) The Holy Spirit dwells inside of everyone who is born again–no one will be able to fool God. (Rom. 8:5-18) And if we're His, it will show on the outside by our behavior–that's why we're told to "work out" our salvation. (Philip. 2:12-13) We can’t SEE the Holy Spirit, but we can recognize His influence by the fruits of the Spirit, or sadly, the absence of His control over a person by the lack of fruits. (Gal. 5:16-25, John 3:8)

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:14-17, 28-29

If our sanctification were forever complete at the moment we believed and we cannot do anything to affect it, good or bad–if we're utterly unable to "soil our garments"–then why are we told things such as "pursue holiness" in the passage above, and why did Jesus say the following to the CHURCH of Sardis?

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’" Revelation 3:1-6

If there is nothing more that we SHOULD do IF we LOVE Jesus, who SAVED us from our sins (John 14:15-24, John 15:10, 14), then why were so many exhortations written to BELIEVERS? (Heb. 6, 1Peter 4)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Hebrews 10:23-39

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you. 1 Timothy 6:12, 20-21

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 2 Peter 1:3-15

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 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.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 1 Peter 1:13-19

To anyone who says, "You don't know me, so don't 'judge' me," I would say: Far be it from me! God knows you and that's all that matters. He didn't lie when He said He will provide a way out of any temptation that He allows in your life to TEST your faithfulness to Him. (1Cor. 10:12-13, 1Pet. 1:6-9) People like to say, "God knows what's in my heart" in support of remaining in their sins while claiming to love Jesus, but that goes against the Bible. What's in our natural, unregenerated heart is evil, and it comes out through our actions, attitudes and words. (Matt. 15:18-19, 1John 3:12, John 3:19-21, Rev. 2:21-23) If the Spirit controls us, then the fruit will be good. (Titus 3:3-8, Gal. 5:16-25, Heb. 6:7-9, Matt. 7:15-20, Eph. 5:8-10, Philip. 1:9-11)

Don't buy a pack of lies from people who just want to get rich and famous telling people what they like to hear. God loves sinners (which we ALL are), but He still HATES sin. He says, "Come as you are, and I will TRANSFORM you into the image of My Son." (Rom. 8:29) Needless to say, He doesn't add "no matter how unwilling you are or even if you fight me tooth and nail." We’re to take up our cross and FOLLOW, willingly. He doesn't DRAG us–it's OUR choice. One of the most prevalent (and accepted) sins today is sexual immorality. The devil knows how much God hates the impurity and unfaithfulness of it, and the devil hates God! What does that say about people who go along with the devil’s plan of rebellion against God? (I prefer to think they’re deceived, not that they hate God, too.) Both Jesus and Peter warned us about this danger. (John 8:44, 1Pet. 5:8-10, 1John 3:8-10) This is why Paul said not to “present our members” as “slaves to unrighteousness.” (Rom. 6:12-13, 1Cor. 6:17-20)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

Do we LOVE Him or not? The glorious kingdom promises were made to those who LOVE Him. “Let no one deceive you.” Please–if you are a true believer, then wake up, get ready and keep watch. You'll be SO glad you did. If not, you'll wish you had. I'm just being honest here. What the world needs now is the truth, in love, while there's still time to repent and seek Him with ALL of our hearts. (James 4:4-10) If you ARE awake and devoting your life to Christ, then hopefully those around you can see your light shining for Him. By necessity, that "light" includes the "salt" of the truth, not just “fluff” people enjoy hearing. (1Tim. 4:7-16, 2Tim. 4:3-4) It is easier to be liked by going with the flow than to talk about unpleasant things like sin and its consequences, but eternal souls are more important than our comfort in this short life. (John 15:18-21, James 5:19-20) People can’t realize their need for a Savior unless and until they understand there is such a thing as sin. They can’t understand why Jesus would die for theirs if they think that children of God continue to enjoy and even delight in sinning. It doesn’t make sense.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:10-16

You can download as many free pdf devotional articles as you wish from my blog http://layoutfortoday.blogspot.com/ (The most recent articles are at the bottom of the page after you click on the “free pdf downloads” tab at the top of the page.)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Who's Your Daddy? (Or "Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals")

A word of encouragement to be ready when Jesus returns: Please don't buy it if the devil tries to sell you the lie that children of God can enjoy their sins just as much as the rest of the world. Our old nature loves to hear it, because its just plain easier to go along as we were before. Most people like us a lot better that way, too--"fun." The truth is that if we don't hear Jesus calling us to repent, then either we just aren't listening to Him or we aren't His at all. The "children of the devil" listen to the devil and the children of God listen to God. The children of the devil revel in sin and love company while they do so, and the children of God are saddened by sin and are set apart for God.

If we are true believers, then the Holy Spirit lives in us and He is grieved when we love the world more than God. God is holy and His children are to respect Him enough to care about that. Since He is IN us, we defile His temple when we deliberately practice sin and refuse to repent. So the next time that your "friends" encourage you to do things that you know Jesus, who is perfect in every way, would NOT want to participate in with you, stop and think about it. Is it worth it? Really? After the way Jesus suffered to TAKE AWAY our sins, we want the "freedom" to keep doing them? That's sad. Your real friends are the ones who help you stand up for Jesus, not the ones who draw you away from Him. And you're a real friend if you help them resist temptation, too.

Just for fun, I'm only going to quote little pieces of the Bible verses that go with this message and whoever is interested can look them up. (I find Google works best (and it helps if you put "Bible verse" before the search phrase), because most online Bibles make you choose a version and if you don't have wording perfect for that particular version, then it won't find the verse.) Feel free to add your own as well!

Do not love the world...
Whoever loves the world makes himself an enemy...
...is a new creation...
By this we can tell who is belongs to God or the devil...
Don't grieve the Holy Spirit...
His Spirit He gives us...
Don't quench the Holy Spirit...
Pursue holiness without which...
You are my friends if...
Enter through the narrow door...
Examine yourselves...
Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord...
...they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin...
...great was the fall of that house...
...you will recognize them by their fruits...
...then you can see to take the splinter out...
...rebuke your brother...
...teach, encourage and rebuke...
...say no to ungodliness...
...the one who loves me will obey my commands...
...promised to those who love him.
...prepared for those who love him.
...useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness...
...everyone who names the name...
Do you not know that the Spirit of God...
...whoever does not have His Spirit is not His...
If we go on deliberately sinning after...
...the one who does the will of God...
...walk as enemies of the cross...
...walk in a manner worthy...
...walk in the light as He is in the light...
...men loved darkness rather than the light...
Let us consider how to...
Stay awake...
Keep watch...
...no longer for human passions, but for the will of God.
Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on...
...He is faithful to forgive and cleanse...
...no longer walk as the Gentiles do...
...the time that is past suffices...
...does not bear fruit is thrown away and burned...
...since all these things are to be dissolved...
...no temptation has overtaken you...
...be careful lest you be tempted...
...do not be deceived, because of these things the wrath of God...
...the works of the flesh are...
...the fruit of the spirit is...
...how can one who died to sin live in it?...
...should we sin that grace may abound?...
Whoever loves his life more than me...
...what is inside of your heart defiles you...
But put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh...
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified...
...the world would love you as its own...
...the fruit of the light is...
The eye is the lamp of the body...
...the Lord is an avenger...
...have not repented of the impurity...
...shall I come with a rod or with love in a spirit of gentleness?...
...to whom we must give an account.
... but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
...some who have not soiled their garments...
...He who overcomes...
...will not inherit the kingdom of God...
He who overcomes will inherit these things...
...imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
...desire to live a godly life will be persecuted.
...those who were ready went in...
My sheep hear my voice and follow me...
Whoever is not with me is against me...
..come to your senses and stop sinning!
No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back...
...teaching them to observe...
...but woe to the one through whom...
...it would be better if a millstone were hung around their neck...
...teaches others to do the same will be called the least...
...where your treasure, there your heart will be...
...press on toward the goal...
...you have need of endurance...
...brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death...
...blind lead the blind...

I could go on and on, but I don't think anyone will actually look all of these up. If anyone does, there is "extra credit" for looking up the context as well. 😉 See the "free pdf downloads" tab at the top of my other blog: layoutfortoday.blogspot.com for more encouragement.

For the children of the devil, all of this is irrelevant. They may think they are "too smart" to fall for such "foolishness," or that everyone around them thinks "good people" go to heaven and they "can't all be wrong." (1Cor. 3:18, Matt. 7:13-14) But for the children of God, please give some thought to Jesus' parables about BEING FAITHFUL and READY for His return. Who do you think He was talking to? Certainly not anyone who is not His own servant. He's talking to US believers, who were meant to FOLLOW Him. This does not mean simply going to church services, praying now and then, and pretty much going along with the world the rest of the time. "Worshiping in spirit and truth" is a way of life. (John 4:23, Rom. 12)

Don't trust people who don't even know Him to explain things to you. (1Tim. 6:10, 1John 3:6) If you are born again, you have His Spirit within you to help you understand when you read the Bible for YOURSELF. There are MANY false teachers making a profit from telling lies these days. The Bible warned us about them. Compare what they say to what the Bible says. Use your own God-given discernment. Fill "your lamp with oil" (the Holy Spirit) and KEEP it that way by reading the Bible--Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path (Ps. 119:105), faith comes by hearing the Word. (Rom. 10:17) (Just don't choose a paraphrase version, which is a good way to be misled into someone else's preferred interpretation. I usually start with ESV and then compare a few others such as NIV, NKJV, NASB, AMP for clarification on some passages. It's fun to look up the Greek and Hebrew online, especially when the various translations disagree, as well.)

When Jesus said to "keep watch" and "be ready," He didn't mean sit on your rooftop and look up, but he didn't mean say a "salvation prayer" and then go on as you were, either. He meant that we should diligently seek to be found FAITHFULLY serving Him in all we do when He returns, no matter if it seems like that will be in our lifetime or not. He doesn't want lip service. (Matt. 15:8-9) He is the way, the truth and the life--he despises hypocrisy. (Matt. 24:42-51) If we understand how great and glorious a thing it is to be His, then we won't play games with Him, will we? You decide for yourself. I know my own answer.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Not Under the Law (or "The Emperor's New Clothes")

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:13-26

The passage above tells us that those who are led by the Spirit (and therefore are born again members of the Body of Christ - Titus 3:3-8, Rom. 12:4-5, Col. 1:18) are not under the law. Those who “devour each other,” in my humble opinion, most likely include the those holding two opposite, extreme views: 1) cheap grace–come as you are and STAY as you are (and no, it wasn’t “free”–it cost Jesus His LIFE even though it is a gift to us), and 2) we are still under the Mosaic Law (as received from God by Moses) and should observe pretty much all of it. They are both WRONG, and the Bible warns us against both erroneous views. There is NO PLACE for hate of ANY kind, but with gentleness, we are meant to speak the truth, in love, with the goal of saving souls. (Eph. 4:15-32, 2Tim. 2:22-26) Redefining “transgression” or just overlooking it because it’s just too hard to deal with sin is not the answer. If someone is naked, the loving thing to do is help them get clothed, not pretend they’re dressed. (As for the other extreme view, perhaps 1John 4:18 might help.)

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

Saying that “all sins are the same,” and therefore, the one who ate too much (and thus was “greedy” or “gluttonous”) is as “bad” as the one who was sexually immoral isn’t quite accurate. Both have sinned (broken a part, and therefore all, of the law), need forgiveness, and should repent. However, Paul specifically said that sexual immorality defiles God’s temple, and the apostles named it in the “restrictions” for Gentile believers. As we know, many people who practice sexual immorality have NO intention of repenting (which is to TURN AWAY from their sin), but have largely succeeded in getting it legalized in many churches, in this nation and much of the world.

We have the freedom in Christ to live with very easy “rules,” and yet some people aren’t willing to accept them. They either want to go back to the old rules of observing special days and avoiding certain foods, etc., or to get rid of some of those rules that remain.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Acts 21:25 (also Acts 15:20, 15:28-29)

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. Galatians 4:8-11

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. Romans 14:5-8

Imagine how shocking it would be in the passage above if Paul had said “one person keeps themselves pure for the Lord and another commits sexual immorality for the Lord.” Seriously? The same Paul who said, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price, so glorify God in your body”? (1Cor. 6:19-20) We were warned to AVOID people who present arguments like that. The ones who teach such things are doing so because it is profitable to them. People like hearing lies that give them permission to do whatever they want rather than hearing the truth.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:3-12

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:8-11

So we are not under the Mosaic law, but we are under the "royal law" which is to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are not to perform the Old Covenant rituals, but we worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23, Matt. 15:7-9)

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. James 2:8-26

Notice how we are reminded NOT to use our freedom to serve our old sinful flesh. Below, we see that the freedom we are under is a law unto itself–the "perfect law of liberty," by which we will be judged. (Heb. 4:13, Rom. 14:2-12)

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. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 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. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:12-27

If our BROTHER feels that the only way we can be loving to them is to approve of their sin, then we are not to remain in fellowship with them unless and until they repent. This is for the health of the body of Christ. Just like doctors cut out cancer so that it doesn’t spread–Paul compared it to leaven (yeast, representing sin) spreading through a lump of dough (which is meant to be HOLY - Rom. 11:16). The goal is restoration and salvation of the eternal soul once the sinner realizes that God does not approve of His children defiling His temple and causing His holy name to be blasphemed–not permanent exclusion.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 2 Corinthians 2:6-8

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 5:3-12

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. 21 You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:1-11, 21-24

We are to be clothed with Christ, in His righteousness. He alone justifies us before God the moment we truly believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that He is our Lord and Savior (Rom. 10:8-10) and washes us clean and sets us APART for Himself (sanctifies us). However, we must keep our pristine white garment ON and when we soil it, not throw it off and go running back into that pig pen He rescued us from. We must come to Him to confess our sin, ask forgiveness and be cleansed. He is FAITHFUL to do so every time for every sin, but we mustn’t try to fool Him by pretending to repent of sins we have every intention of continuing to PRACTICE. That is not the same as slipping or stumbling. When the Church tells people that they ARE clothed with Christ, but it is obvious there are no fruits of the Spirit, no evidence of righteousness or even a desire for it, then it’s just like telling the emperor that his new clothes are marvelous when everyone knows he’s naked.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:8-14

Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. Revelation 3:4

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:1-6

(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) Revelation 16:15

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:6-9

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. Revelation 22:14-15

God is very serious about holiness and so should we be. People who are covetous and greedy are considered idolaters, presumably because they are not content to be in submission to God, but always want more than He gives them–often trying to take it for themselves against His perfect will for them. They want money, things, pleasure and pretty much everything the world has. (1John 2:15-17, James 4:1-10)

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 1 Corinthians 10:6-15

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:5-10

If you don’t like what “mean” Paul said (or you only like the part where he said not to yoke yourself to the law), but prefer to stick with the “loving” words of Jesus, then here you go. (Your “brother” is your fellow believer of and follower of Christ.)

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:10-11

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” John 5:14

The Mosaic law brought knowledge of sin and with that comes the DESIRE to sin. Our sinful natures immediately want to do whatever we're told not to do.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. Romans 7:7-13

Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. Romans 3:31

Now if we're free of the law, then we are also free of the enslavement that it had over us to make us want to do its will instead of God's.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 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. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:1-23

So true freedom is NOT doing whatever you feel like doing even if it's against God's will. No, TRUE freedom is no longer fearing the punishment for our sin that has been paid for by Jesus, AND not even WANTING to sin anymore, because His Spirit dwells in us and we care more about honoring Him in all we do than about pleasing ourselves. (Col. 3:23-25) (We still slip from time to time, but we get back up again and back on the narrow path.) Those who ABIDE in Jesus and obey His commands, thereby remaining in His love, are His true disciples. How did He set us free? By fulfilling the law on our behalf AND taking the punishment for OUR sins upon Himself. We have been purchased (redeemed) with His blood and belong to Him now. ALL of our loyalty and allegiance should be His. (Acts 20:28, Rev. 5:9) Since we could NEVER deserve, earn or repay Him, is it too much to ask that we love Him in the way He defined love, through our obedience to Him in all things? As He said, if He had not been obedient to His Father, then we would not be saved. Wow. What a Savior! Read my devotional “Beautiful” for more on that.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:31-36

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” John 14:15-24

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 1 Corinthians 10:21-23

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:17-25

When Jesus said the following, He did NOT mean "you look the other way when I sin, and I will do the same for you." He told us to TAKE THE LOG OUT of our eye BEFORE dealing with the splinter in our brother's eye–not to leave both of them in place!

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12

"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." Matthew 7:3-5

What do the pastors of these "come as you are, stay as you are" churches these days make of the following passages? Do they just skip over it? What kind of impurity do they think Paul is talking about if they think it's "loving" tell people that God is unconcerned with every sort of sexual immorality? (Again, that’s any intimate activity outside of the marriage of a man and woman.) The reason I am focusing so much on this particular side of the two extreme views is that the mega-churches with multitudes of attendees generally embrace it.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:17-32

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

If they skip Paul's exhortation, then I guess they also skip Peter's:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 1 Peter 4:1-5

And John's (those who hate are “murderers,” but in these days, it has been turned around that anyone who tells the TRUTH is a "hater" and the one who "loves" their brother will encourage them in their sin and celebrate it!):

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:1-15

In addition to MANY other passages, we also have to ignore Jesus' own words if we want to reassure people that Jesus died to enable us to go to heaven AND continue practicing our favorite sins:

And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. Revelation 22:10-21

Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law for us and we are now enslaved to righteousness. We're no longer under the law, but we have a higher law, which we obey not just as an outward show, but from our hearts–not according to the letter by our own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-19

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:4-6

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:15-16

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

So for those who say that their behavior after coming to salvation is irrelevant, they need to read the Bible for themselves and stop trusting false teachers who want to tickle their ears for a profit by telling them what they like to hear. You must be born again to enter the kingdom of God and whoever IS born again has been regenerated and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit so that they ARE able by His power to resist sin and desire to please God instead of their old sinful flesh. (Philip. 2:12-13) Do not claim the promise "there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus" unless you truly are IN Christ. Read John 14, 15 to see what that entails. Jesus explained that those who LOVE Him will OBEY Him and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He also said we must REMAIN in His love–not merely make a verbal confession and then walk as an "enemy of the cross." (Philip. 3:17-19) God will NOT be mocked. (Gal. 6:7-8, 2Tim. 2:19-26) The branches that do not abide in the Vine will be burned, as will the chaff that has been separated from the grain and the weeds planted by the enemy. (John 15:6, Matt. 3:12, Matt. 13:30)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:1-9

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:3-8

If anything written in this article scares you, that is a good sign. It means that you hadn't properly understood these things and so if you were misusing your freedom as a license to sin, it was out of ignorance. It also means that you have a healthy respect for God and have not seared your conscience such that you can no longer be convicted of sin. (1John 1:5-10) And if you are reading this, then you are still here on earth and so it's not too late for you to repent and [re]dedicate your life to God. If you are scared even though you have already devoted yourself to God and you love Jesus (and ALL of His Word, not just "fluffy" parts) in your heart as well as with your words and actions, then you should NOT be afraid! God keeps His promises–both the good ones to the faithful and the unpleasant ones to the unfaithful. I'm not writing to make anyone feel bad, but for the good of anyone who is not deliberately deceiving anyone but has BEEN DECEIVED by wolves in sheep's clothing telling them lies. NO ONE is perfect (most certainly not me), nor will they be made so until Jesus finishes His perfect work in them when their appointment with Him comes, but those who belong to Him, who have His Spirit in them, WILL care about holiness and will love Him and their brothers and neighbors in word and deed–that includes helping them up when they stumble, not rolling in the mud with them. (Jude 1:23, 2Pet. 2:22)

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:1-16
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 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. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:13-29

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 3:12-4:8

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Jude 1:3-23

So let's encourage one another to renew our devotion to Christ and not to be conformed to this world. Let's not be satisfied with little portions of the Bible taken out of context and/or twisted to fit an agenda that doesn't match the rest of the Bible, but consider the whole counsel of God. Let’s tell the emperor the truth when he stands naked and asks if we like his new clothes, while he can still get dressed and be ready for Jesus to return! I think it’s logical to assume that everyone in hell will be naked and ashamed. Let’s not be too timid to tell anyone the truth now, for their own good, while there’s time.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Hebrews 10:24-39

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. Acts 20:26-31

For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 7:8-12

You can download as many free pdf devotional articles as you wish from my blog http://layoutfortoday.blogspot.com/ (The most recent articles are at the bottom of the page after you click on the “free pdf downloads” tab at the top of the page.)