Filters

1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

There are certain things that God’s Word clearly encourages, and other things that are clearly condemned. Earlier in the chapter, Paul gave a list of actions that if a person is practicing, they “will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Among the forbidden acts are fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, and extortion. Clearly, Paul is not saying that unlawful things are lawful for him. Instead, he is saying, he is free to practice all things that are not forbidden, but is careful to add that he will not be controlled by them. Paul is giving us a principle that he lived his life by, a principle that we would all do well to follow. Hebrews 12:1 warns us to,

“Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…”

“Easily ensnaring sins” are sins we are more prone to fall into. For some it is lust, others covetousness, jealousy or envy, while others may struggle with pride or discouragement. We all know what our “easily besetting sins” are. While we all have the same freedoms in Christ, we know if we practice these freedoms, we will fall into sin again.

In order to guard against personal failure, Paul set up a system for success. That system included looking at the grey areas, the things Scripture is silent about, and putting them through a filter. He would ask, “although this is lawful, is it helpful?” When I was a young Christian, I began a practice of asking myself a simple question, “Will doing this help me get to heaven?” I understand we do not earn our way to heaven, but I also understand, there are many things that can trip us up along the way. So, I would examine what I was doing in light of where I was going. Before indulging in the activities, so common to our culture, ask yourself if it will help your walk with God, or hinder it.

Some things are so dirty, they must be filtered more than once; so Paul added a second question, “Will practicing this put me under its control?” Jesus died to set us free from the power of sin. One of the great experiences, when a person receives Christ, is the realization that their sin is forgiven, and they no longer have to live under its dominion. That being said, there are many things which will lead us right back under sin’s control.

I once knew a man who had a drug problem, prior to coming to Christ. After months of freedom, he fell again into sin. I asked him what happened, to which he explained, he chose to take a shortcut home that led him by an area where he used to purchase drugs. Before he knew it, he was using again. As a Christian, he was free to drive down whatever road he wanted, but because of his ensnaring sins, if he wanted to succeed, he had to forever avoid that part of town. We all have things which will draw us back into sin. We all must honestly evaluate our lives, if we want to ensure we are not brought back under sin’s power.

What things do you need to remove from your life in order to ensure victory in Christ? Is it time to set aside certain music, TV shows, computer time, or even relationships? Keep in mind, although they may be lawful, they might not be helpful.

Pastor Jim

20140801-082052-30052789.jpg

Mind The Gap

“Mind the Gap”
Esther 7:3
“Then Queen Esther answered and said, ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.'”

When the chance arose for Esther to make her request known to the king, she pleaded on the behalf of others. This is called intercession, and is a critical part of the prayer life of every believer.

When Jesus responded to the disciples’s request to teach them to pray, He gave a model prayer that included praise, petition, confession and intercession. When we pray we should allow time for praying on behalf of others. Intercession includes both praying with others and in the place of others. We should pray for the physical and spiritual needs of our Christian friends, and we should pray for those who have not yet come to Christ.

Esther’s prayer for the life of her countrymen is a good illustration of what is at stake when we are praying for our unsaved friends. We should keep in mind, we are standing between them and separation from God. Like the watchman who stood guard over an ancient city, we should stand in the gap for those who don’t yet know Christ; praying for their salvation.

Intercession should include praying for their hearts to soften, their eyes to open, and an opportunity for them to hear the Gospel. We should also pray for boldness to share the love of Christ with them, and power to live out our Christianity in a way that is attractive to them.

A great complement to intercession, is taking an opportunity to show the love of Jesus. Perhaps an invitation to coffee, or even to church, might open a door to share the Gospel with someone you have been praying for.

Pastor Jim

20140801-081057-29457707.jpg

Leaven

1 Corinthians 5:1
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!”

God designed sexual intimacy as part of the marriage relationship. It is the most intimate of all acts and plays an important role in the love relationship between man and wife. In the book of Hebrews we are told “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled.” (Hebrews 13:4)

However, like so much of what God designed, men have distorted sex into sin. Today, a person that waits until marriage to be sexually active is ridiculed, women are treated as something to be conquered, and men revel in their vast number of sexual partners. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and with the advances in technology, is available at the touch of a button.

While we should expect the world to distort the ways of God, Paul is shocked to hear that the same sexual sins are happening within the church. We find the same problem today, the sexual misconduct that is rampant in the world is also running rampant within the church. Dating couples are involved sexually, married men are developing relationships with other women, rather than investing in their wives, a high percentage of people registered in singles dating sites are actually married, and pornographic sites are one of the most common searches on smart phones and other hand-held devices. Again, we should expect this behavior out of those who don’t know Christ, but tragically, it is almost as common among professing Christians as it is among the unbeliever. What has happened to us? Paul explains, a little leaven has leavened the whole lump. Leaven is a form of yeast used to cause bread to rise. A small piece of old dough was set aside and used on the next loaf, this rotting dough, when mixed with the new, would corrupt the whole lump causing it to rise. Sin is like that. When we let a little into our lives, it will not remain dormant, it will grow, until it affects every area of our lives. While this is true of all sin, it is particularly true of sexual sin. Once the line is crossed, sin seems to almost have a power of its own, which drives us. If you have started investing in a relationship with someone who is not your spouse, or begun looking at things that you shouldn’t, or become physical with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancé; it is time to STOP! Paul gave a radical remedy to the sin problem that the Corinthians were having, he told them to remove this man from fellowship until he repents. Radical sin must lead to radical repentance. It is time to confess what you are doing, both to God, and to someone who will hold you accountable. It is also time to put walls around your life, making it difficult to fail. Your life, marriage, and Christian witness are at stake.

One of the most encouraging things to me is that Paul writes again to the Corinthians regarding this man, who was involved in such grievous sin. After confronting him and removing him from the fellowship, he realized the folly of his ways and turned his life back to the Lord. No matter how strong a grip sin may have on your life, if you will confess, and take steps towards repentance, God will give you victory. Don’t run this race alone, and don’t wait another minute to alter the path that has led you to failure.

Pastor Jim

20140729-073623-27383401.jpg

Request

Esther 5:2-3
“So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!”

Esther was given access to the king. She was allowed to make a single request that seemed to be limitless. With all the wealth of the Persian kingdom at her disposal, her request was for the salvation of her people. Imagine if you had access to a wealthy and powerful king, who allowed you to ask for anything up to half of all he possessed. What would your request be? Now stop imagining. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, the Bible promises you have access to the King of Kings. You can make constant requests before God. You have continual access to God and are exhorted to come regularly to His throne.

Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Whatever our needs are, we are invited to come to the throne of grace and receive. The Apostle James declared, one reason we find ourselves in want, is because we simply fail to come to the throne and ask. Jesus explained, we should ask consistently and persistently, until our requests are answered. If your need is physical, spiritual, emotional, if it has to do with provision, strength, guidance, comfort or anything else, the answer will be found at the throne of grace.

When Esther approached the throne, her request was for something bigger than any personal problem she was facing. Her request was for the salvation of her people. While it is necessary to spend time at the throne of grace praying for our personal needs, it is also important that we spend time praying on behalf of those who have not yet received Christ. Make a list of people that you know personally; people from your family, work, neighborhood, and places of recreation. Pray daily for their salvation. Pray for their hearts to soften to Christ, and pray for opportunities to share Christ with them, and invite them to church.

Pastor Jim

20140729-072025-26425432.jpg

Puffed Up

1 Corinthians 4:6-7 “. . . that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

Paul warns of the danger of pride. He refers to it as being puffed up; a term that has withstood the test of time, and is still used today. When we see someone who is filled with pride, we might say they are filled with self, puffed up or even that they have a big head. Paul reminds us of the folly of elevating ourselves above one another, by exhorting us that what we have, we received from the Lord.

This passage reminds me of the story of Absalom, the son of King David, whose life was marked with pride and whose death was fitting. We are told, in the heat of battle, while fleeing from Joab, he rode under a low hanging tree branch and his head was stuck. Moments later, Joab arrived and slew Absalom. He literally died because his head was too big. Absalom was a man born into privilege.  He was the son of the king, raised in the palace, given the best education and upbringing, available at the time. His palace life would afford him connections with the most prominent people of the day, and provide him with a life of influence. In addition, the Bible describes him as an extremely good-looking man. He was praised throughout the nation for his looks. No doubt women were wooed by him, and men envious of him. But rather than looking at these as gifts from the Lord, and opportunities to be useful for the kingdom of heaven, Absalom was filled with pride. We are told, he was so in love with himself, that at the end of every year he would get a haircut, weigh his hair and publish the results. Of all the things we take pride in, that has to be one of the most ridiculous.

What have you done to determine the amount of hair that you have? The answer is nothing, it is hereditary. If you are bald or if you have a flowing mane, it is not because of something you accomplished, it is like being proud that you are tall. Paul reminds us, “what do you have that you did not receive? Now, if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Everything we have is an evidence of the grace of God. Rather than thinking of ourselves as better than another, we should use the gifts, privileges and opportunities we have been given, to serve one another, and to further the kingdom of heaven.

Pastor Jim

20140729-071621-26181675.jpg

Platforms

Esther 4:14
“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

It is not easy to figure out why one person is given certain gifts and opportunities, that are not afforded to another. We see two people with relatively the same skill level, yet, one is chosen for a task and the other is not. Instead of allowing this to discourage us, we should keep in mind, whatever station we find ourselves, it will give us a platform to tell others about the hope of eternal life found in Christ.

Esther found herself exalted to the highest position a woman of her day could attain. She was the Queen of Persia. Her uncle Mordecai encouraged her to remember she would have an opportunity to be used by the Lord that few others would ever have. Years later, the Apostle Paul found himself on the opposite end of the spectrum; he was incarcerated in a Roman prison. Rather than complaining about how unfair things were, he used his situation as a platform to share Christ, and found he was given an opportunity to share with family members of the king.

Whether it is a promotion or a demotion, a seeming success or failure, whatever we find ourselves facing, we should realize, we are in the midst of it for such a time as this. Esther’s actions resulted in saving the lives of many. It would do us good to realize our actions and the ideas we share, can also result in saving lives.
Look for an opportunity to use the platform you have been given to share the love of Christ and the way to heaven with someone today.

Pastor Jim

20140729-070805-25685029.jpg

Growth

1 Corinthians 3:1
“I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.”

Paul mentions four types of people in the opening verses of this chapter. He refers to mere men (some versions read natural man), babes in Christ, carnal men and finally spiritual men. These terms represent a natural development in the spiritual life of an individual. Natural man refers to a person before they place their faith in Christ. The natural man is living, breathing, walking, talking, perhaps even loving, giving, sharing and caring, but the natural man is separated from God, and living in sin. It is when the natural man hears the message of the cross, recognizes his need for a savior, and places his faith in Christ, that his sin is forgiven and he is born again into the family of God. At that point, he becomes a babe in Christ. Like all babies, the new Christian must be cared for. He needs constant companionship, encouragement, example, and a diet of the simple teachings of the Word of God.

Hebrews 6 gives a list of the foundational truths every young Christian must understand: “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, the doctrine of baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

When the young Christian ingests a healthy diet of the Word of God, he will begin to grow. Thoughts, words, and actions change, and many of the practices from the old life, are replaced with practices that are pleasing to God. Soon, the young believer is growing in Christ, and impacting others for the kingdom of God. They are no longer controlled by emotions, or by the influences of the world around them, but are now controlled by the Spirit of God. They begin to live a life that sets an example on earth, and stores up treasures in heaven. Paul refers to that individual as spiritual. Sadly however, this is not the route for every Christian. Some, after placing faith in Christ for salvation, never seem to grow out of infancy. Even years after coming to Christ, they are still struggling with the same doubts, fears and sins. Their Christian life is more like a swinging pendulum, than a walk with God. They “feel” close to Him at moments, and far away other times, they let the influences of the world influence them, and are constantly falling into sin. Sometimes, because of the guilt of constant failure, they seclude themselves from other Christians, and may even accuse the church of wrong doing. It is not uncommon to hear them use phrases like, “Christians are judgmental” to help justify the sins they have not outgrown.

Paul minces no words, he refers to that person as carnal, a word meaning worldly. While it is expected, and even cute, to see a baby act like a baby, it is sad to see someone still acting childish as a an adult. Now would be a good time to evaluate your walk with God. Are you growing? If you have been a Christian for only weeks, you should be seeking to surround yourself with godly influences and get to know the Word of God. If you have been a Christian for many years, you should see a dramatic and constant change in your life, because of the daily investment of the Word of God. The Christian life is a life of growth; like a tree, we only stop growing when we are dead.

Pastor Jim

20140729-070149-25309046.jpg