Category Archives: Dan’s Blog

Paul’s Radical Message of Freedom

Freedom in Christ! What a blessing! But what we do with this treasure is huge, because our choices ultimately determine our fruitfulness—that is, to what degree we end up glorifying God with our lives. Paul’s radical message of liberty in Christ prompted his critics to charge him with promoting freedom to sin rather than the freedom from sin he was actually teaching. His response: “Nonsense!”
        Still, it’s only natural to be a bit puzzled over it. Given our ingrained beliefs about personal responsibility to resist sin, this whole freedom thing doesn’t seem to add up. I think we can all agree that any thought of maintaining a lifestyle of sin is absurd. Why bother being freed if we merely set ourselves up to be enslaved all over again? The point is this: freedom lays the foundation for unfettered pursuit of Him—yes, even in spite of the weakness of our flesh.

Righteousness Cannot Be Earned

Righteousness can never be earned by working for it. It’s easy for us to think of salvation as a free gift of God’s grace. But righteousness? Now that’s a different story. Being righteous is rooted in the fact that Christ is now in me, and I in Him. It’s not about getting God to accept me; He’s already done that. Redemption means that we have actually become the righteousness of God Himself, allowing us an almost unbelievable status with God.
        The question is how the reality of God’s righteousness, having now become our own, plays out in the believer over the course of his life. What about our old nemesis: sin? How is it that God could allow our struggle with sin to exist right alongside this awesome righteousness we now possess? The incredible gift of God’s grace has everything to do with it! In Christ, God has actually caused us to die to sin itself.

From Free from the Power of Sin: the Keys to Growing in God in Spite of Yourself

Run to God when You Sin

Hidden sin, by its very nature, opens wide the floodgates of guilt and shame. So a negative reaction is no surprise: “I’ll just bury this thing a little deeper so no one will ever discover who I really am.” Satan has used shame in countless lives persuading God’s people to back-slide, where alienation from Him becomes a way of life. Just think how being more open about our weakness would serve to cripple this strategy the devil so routinely exploits.
         Instead of allowing sin to drive us from God, we need to run to God when we sin. This can be difficult, though, because we’ve been taught to behave ourselves. And when we don’t, our conscience tells us we must clean up our act before we can ever go to God. After all, how else can we feel worthy enough to deserve His help? False thinking, I know, but very real all the same.

Exploiting our Shame

Isn’t our sin embarrassing? Not just the obvious ones, but ungodly attitudes as well! We instinctively cover sin up, trying to appear more respectable than we really are. No doubt pride has a lot to do with this.
        When we sin we tend to run from God. We do this not just because we sense God’s displeasure, but because we think no one else has these problems. “How could I do something so displeasing to God? What inner flaw would provoke me to even think of such a thing?”
        Trying to keep sin hidden always leads to an oppressive sense of shame. Shame has a crippling effect on a person’s life. Psychologists say that it’s often at the heart of emotional dysfunction. So it’s not hard to see how Satan—who is called “the accuser of our brethren”—can use shame as a wedge to drive us from God.

From Free from the Power of Sin: the Keys to Growing in God in Spite of Yourself

Aiming at Two Critical Targets

In Christ we enjoy the marvelous advantage of absolute security. But don’t let it stop there. The Lord has called us to even greater purpose—wholehearted submission to His will. Such intentional commitment to Him demands that our life be squarely aimed at two very important targets: first, to serve Him, and, second, to embrace spiritual growth through personal transformation. These goals provide the catalyst for bearing “much fruit.”
        Jesus wants radical change in us: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Paul says. Rarely does this happen instantaneously. Rather it’s a transformation of our character, which is always a more arduous and painful solution to the problem. Yet as annoying as this approach might seem, ultimately it is far more productive when the entire scope of God’s purpose is taken into account.

The Importance of Being Fruitful

Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” Bearing fruit—abundant fruit, in particular—truly glorifies God and ultimately proves that we are Christ’s disciples. And nowhere does Jesus say it better than when He talks about being the “true vine.” Here Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, a relationship that can’t help but be fruitful—provided, that is, that each of the parties is faithful to do his part.
        A variety of virtues are embodied in godly fruit, but its highest and all-encompassing expression is love—love of God, love for His family and, more generally, love toward others. We all know, however, that such fruit doesn’t simply materialize overnight. It only can grow and develop over time as we steadily draw on God’s life.

Spiritual Circumcision. What a Concept!

Through His death on the cross, Christ cancelled out our debt—the punishment due for our sin. We’ve undergone a spiritual circumcision (Colossians 2:11). In God’s eyes our body of flesh has been removed and therefore is no longer a factor in our union with God. It’s literally become a non-issue, all because He has taken us out from under the jurisdiction of law.
        Freedom from the power of sin is a phenomenal gift of God. But we need to be careful. Our death to sin, brought about by freedom from law, has only one purpose: the opportunity to pursue uninhibited relationship with God—in spite of the weakness of our sinful nature. Never is this freedom to be thought of as a license to sin.
       This amazing privilege endows us with the capacity to make good choices, whereas formerly we did not. We have freely and gloriously been handed everything we need for intimate pursuit of Jesus.

Blanketed by God’s Righteousness

Paul says, “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This truth has profound meaning for our life right here and now—not merely in the life hereafter. We all lack the ability to live this brand-new life by God’s standards. So Jesus joins us to Himself, blanketing us with His righteousness as He lives His life in us. He lives; you died; you share His life.
         In Christ Jesus we have died to sin and are now entirely free from its power. Sharing in Christ’s life is the cornerstone of our relationship with God. Yes, we share in His death, but it doesn’t end there. Being joined to Christ in His death allows us the unique privilege of sharing in His resurrection life. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so we too are raised up from our old self into glorious new life in God.

From Free from the Power of Sin: the Keys to Growing in God in Spite of Yourself

Human Nature: Fertile Ground for Satan

Why would God place humanity into a world controlled by Satan? Without God people don’t have a chance! Demons have no trouble taking advantage of someone’s dead spirit, since people naturally lay themselves open to attack when devoid of the life of God within. Many passages in Scripture make it clear that demons are able to exert powerful influence over the heart, oppressing and sometimes even possessing people.
        But what about us? Even with God’s Spirit residing within, our ongoing struggle with the flesh is greatly impacted by Satan’s agenda. We shouldn’t be surprised, though. he never misses an opportunity to present sin as pleasurable—all the while concealing the bondage and misery it always brings. The devil has found fertile ground in mankind through the frailties of human nature. It has allowed him to develop powerful tools for manipulation in his pursuit of destroying us. Let’s face it, he’s had plenty of time to figure us out.

Amazing Grace can Breed Complacency

Standing in our rock-solid hope of God’s amazing grace carries with it the danger of breeding complacency: “Now that I’ve got my ticket to heaven, what more do I need?” Sadly, this is how many Christians view God and His purpose for their life. It’s a self-centered mind-set, since it boils down to little more than making a better life for ourselves here on earth, with the added bonus of a fabulous heavenly life later.
       Well, saved is wonderful, but our reconciliation with God encompasses a whole lot more than merely our initial regeneration. Rather, the primary reason for God doing all He has through Christ Jesus is to pave the way for godliness to become the standard of our life in Him. Salvation is merely the starting point. Through redemption, we are provided the framework of choice. And choice by faith is the very heart of our life—and growth in that life—as Christians.