The Truth Shall Set You Free

Guilty and Shamed No More

October 30 – Guilty and Shamed No More

It is a horrible existence to live under guilt and shame. After taking hundreds and hundreds of people through the Steps to Freedom In Christ, I have seen their countenance change when that load of guilt and shame is lifted. Half way through the Steps I often ask, Who do you think your worst enemy is? Almost every person will say, Me! I’m my own worst enemy. In some cases that may be true, but more often than not; they are just repeating the message of irresponsible parents or the enemy of their souls, who accuses them day and night. Such was the case of the lady who sent me the following testimony through Facebook:

I was incurably mentally ill 23 years ago. I was suicidal, and manic depressive (mostly depressive). I was taking a handful of medications that didn’t work. I tried to kill myself many times, and even tried shock treatments. Then I started saying all the time: “I have power, love, and a sound mind in Jesus name.” I continued doing this for three days with the enemy yelling at me that I would always be this way. I just yelled back at him.

After three days the Holy Spirit took me through a process and I was completely healed, and I have maintained that healing ever since. I gave my testimony to an older Christian lady and she loaned me your book, The Bondage Breaker, and also a video of you taking a lady through the Steps. It was the same process the Lord took me through via the Holy Spirit. I tell everyone with “mental illness” who is a Christian to do the Steps in that book. I thank God He gave you the wisdom to write it out.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Overcoming Shame

October 29 – Overcoming Shame

Christians are forgiven, but not perfect. The Lord will not condemn us and He will remember our sins no more. We, however, have to live with the temporal consequences of our own attitudes and actions. If God eradicated all the temporal consequences, there would be no motivation to stop sinning. We would party on weekends, confess our sins on Sunday, and falsely believe that our actions have no negative consequences.

To illustrate, suppose you consumed alcohol for years and became chemically addicted. At first you were able to cover up your indiscretions, but eventually your sinful lifestyle is exposed. Your job performance becomes sub-standard, you embarrass yourself publicly, your spouse leaves, and your health deteriorates. Finally you throw yourself upon the mercy of God. He forgives you and makes you a new creation in Christ. However, alcohol has taken its toll on your body, the job is over, and the wife is gone, and you find out that society is less forgiving than God.

Micah spoke to the sinful conditions of Israel and Judah, and looked forward to God’s redemption (Micah 7:7). However, their enemy was gloating over these “chosen people” who had sinned, and incurred the judgment of God. They were saying, “Where is the Lord your God” (vs. 10). Micah responds, “Though I have fallen, I will arise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light” (vs. 8). The shame they felt, because of their sin, caused them to hide and cover up, but the Lord always leads His people into the light. When they faced the truth and turned to God, their enemy was covered with shame, and their downfall was certain (vs. 10).

Many cultures of this world are shame-based. They punish sinners by shaming them publicly. They make the point that something is wrong with them. Other cultures are guilt-based. They punish sinners because they have done something wrong. The kingdom of God is grace-based. There was something wrong with us, but now we are new creations in Christ. We have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but Christ has died for our sins. Now we can live a righteous life as children of God. If we choose to sin, our loving Heavenly Father will discipline us, but that just proves that we are His children (Heb. 12:8).

As children of God, we are not motivated by guilt and shame. We are motivated by the love of God. We don’t condemn others when they sin; we discipline them for their good. We don’t shame one another; we build up one another.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Overcoming Guilt

October 28 – Overcoming Guilt

When theologians talk about guilt, they are talking about an objective deviation from an ethical standard. To feel guilty and to be guilty are not the same thing. Apart from Christ, we all stand guilty before the law whether we feel like it or not. The law is God’s ethical standard, but the law could not be kept by any of us, because we were “weakened by the sinful nature” (Rom. 8:3). Therefore, we all stood condemned by the law. According to the gospel, Jesus came in “the likeness of sinful flesh” and became a sin offering so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us (vs. 4).

As children of God, we have been justified by faith (Rom. 5:1). We are no longer guilty before God. God will not condemn us, because Christ has met His righteous demands. Because of our position in Christ, we are to consider ourselves to be, “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). We are now rightly related to God and we are no longer in Adam, nor are we in the kingdom of darkness. We are alive in Christ, and the law of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death (vs. 2).

The law of sin and death is still operative, because you cannot do away with a law. Sin is still appealing and powerful and physical death is still imminent for all of us. If Jesus didn’t do away with the law of sin and death, then how can we be free from it? Jesus overcame that law with a greater law, which is “the law of the Spirit of life.” For the sake of illustration, can you fly? Can you by your own self-effort overcome the law of gravity? We can momentarily overcome the pull of gravity by jumping, but even the greatest high jumpers fail to overcome the law of gravity. However, we can fly “in” an airplane, because the airplane has enough power to overcome the law of gravity. If you stepped out of the plane or should the plane lose power while in the air, you would crash and burn.

Even for believers, physical death is imminent, but we shall continue to live spiritually even if we die physically (Jn. 11:25,26). As believers we will be tempted to sin. But when sin makes an appeal, we can say, I don’t have to sin. I am alive in Christ and dead to sin. I have a power within me greater than the power of sin. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:1,2). We also have an adversary who accuses the brethren day and night before God (Rev. 12:10). Should you ever feel guilty as a believer, you can say with confidence, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1)

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Goal of Instruction

October 25 – The Goal of Instruction

The apostle Paul warns his “true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), and the church about getting off track in their walk with God. There will be teachers of false doctrines (vss. 3,4), some will fall back under the law, which was made for the unrighteous (vss. 8-11), others will fall away from the faith paying attention to deceiving spirits (4:1), and the deceitfulness of riches (6:6-18). Timothy was exhorted to maintain sound doctrine, stay under authority, and develop Godly character. “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (vs. 5).

The goal of our instruction is not knowledge that makes one arrogant but love that edifies others (1 Cor. 8:1). Paul says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3). We have a tendency to extol the virtues of the theologian and the apologist, but Scripture teaches that, “he who wins souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30), and “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:35).

Jesus was asked by the religious leaders, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ Jesus, replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matt. 22:36-40). Good instruction and sound doctrine should result in the children of God falling in love with God and one another.

It is easier to understand “agape” (love) when you realize that it can occur in Scripture as a noun and as a verb. When used as a noun, agape refers to the character of God. “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:16). “Love is patient, love is kind, etc.” (1 Cor. 13: 4f). The goal of Biblical instruction is to enable ourselves and others to progressively take on the character of God, which is love. There is one critical difference between agape (godly love) and phileo (brotherly love). The love of God is not dependent upon it’s object. God loves us not because we are lovable, but because God is love. It is his nature to love us. That is why the love of God is unconditional. Every child of God has been called to participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and to become like Him. Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that” (Lu. 6:32,33).

When agape is used as a verb, it calls us out of the goodness of our new nature to give to others what they need. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 Jn. 3:16).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Reconciliation

October 24 – Reconciliation

David had committed adultery with Bathsheba while her husband was on the battle field. After discovering she was pregnant, he brought her husband home from the field to lie with her in order to cover up his sin, but he refused to. So David put him on the front lines where he would likely be killed, and he was. The Lord gave David plenty of time to repent, but when he didn’t, the Lord sent Nathan who was a prophet to confront him. The guilt tore him up and he became physically sick (Ps. 32:3,4). He finally confessed his transgressions to the Lord, and he was forgiven (vs. 5).

Many people like David are physically sick for psychosomatic illnesses caused by guilt and shame. Confession and repentance brings reconciliation with God and a tremendous sense of relief. “Blessed is he who transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (vs. 1,2).

Paul reveals the process of our reconciliation with God in Rom. 5:8-11: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

God proves His love by initiating this reconciliation toward us while we are still sinners. But it is not enough to know that God loves us if we are still unforgiven. He loves us enough to sacrifice His only Son for our sins in order that we would be saved from His wrath. But it is not enough to know that we have been saved from hell if we are still spiritually dead. Salvation in Christ brings us much more than the forgiveness of sins. It brings us spiritual life in Christ. But it is not enough to know that we are forgiven and spiritually alive. We have been reconciled to God. We are no longer alienated from Him. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12).

We may never be in the presence of today’s leaders or celebrities, or have an audience with them, but as children of God we have access to our Heavenly Father twenty-four hours of every day. Our Holy Father wants to have a relationship with us. “All of this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Repentance

October 23 – Repentance

Many people conceal their sins, live in denial, and never confess them. Confession is the first step to repentance, but that alone may not bring any lasting change. Repentance literally means a change of mind resulting in a change of living. We all hold certain attitudes and beliefs toward God and ourselves, and consequently we live a certain way. Then one day we are enlightened by the truth or come under the conviction of sin and we decide to change. If we have truly repented, we have had a change of mind and attitude and therefore no longer live the way we did before. One has not really repented unless they have changed the way they live.

Repentance is turning away from sin toward God, which was the primary message of John the Baptist, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2). Those who responded to his message were baptized. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with your repentance’” (Matt. 3:7). If repentance is genuine, the result should be a changed life.

It was also the message of the Apostle Paul who wrote, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts. 26:18). Repentance means you are renouncing sin and false beliefs and turning toward God. The early church would literally face the west and say, “I renounce you Satan and all your works and all your ways.” Then they would face the east and make a public profession of faith.

Genuine repentance is not just a matter of human decision with the idea that we can change or save ourselves from the judgment of God. Paul responded, “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:3,4)? God is actually the One who grants “them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:25,26).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Confession

October 22 – Confession

Confess (homolegeo) literally means to speak the same thing (homos, same, and lego, to speak) or to agree with. It is the opposite of denial whether spoken or unspoken. It can mean a public confession of faith as in Matt. 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges [confesses] me before men, I will acknowledge [confess] him before my Father in heaven.” In Rom. 15:9, it is used as a praise to God, “Therefore I will praise [confess] you among the nations.” Finally, it can mean the acknowledgment of sin as in 1 Jn. 1:9.

The apostle John’s concern is that we have fellowship with God and one another (1 Jn. 1: 2-4), but we cannot have fellowship with God and live in denial or cover up our sin. Since, “God is light; and in him there is no darkness at all” (vs. 5), believers must also walk in the light. Walking in the light does not mean moral perfection, because, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves” (vs. 8). Walking in the light is very similar in concept to confession. It means to live in moral agreement with God. Walking in the light is to confess sin and walking in the darkness is to deny sin.

Jesus said, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (Jn. 3:19,20). Sin separates us from God and others and that is why acknowledging or confessing the truth is the first step in any recovery program. We can walk in the light because our sins are forgiven. We will have fellowship with one another if we walk in the light (vs. 7). God has made provision to cleanse us from whatever sin would otherwise mar our fellowship with Him and each other if we walk in the light and speak the truth in love (see also Eph. 4:15,25).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (vs. 1:9). As believers, our sins are not forgiven because we confess them, our sins are forgiven because, “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (vs. 7). The cross is the only moral ground by which God can forgive us. Conversely, as believers we are not unforgiven if we fail to confess all known sin. He is faithful to forgive us because He has promised to do so, and He is just because His Son died for our sins.

“If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in us” (vs. 10). John wants all believers to walk in the light and live a confessional life whereby God not only removes the guilt of sin (forgives) but also the stain of sin (cleanses). James urges us to confess our sins one to another (Jms. 5:16) in order to be healed. Confession brings healing to the soul and provides a break-through to community so that we can have fellowship with God and one another.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Becoming Like Jesus

October 21 – Becoming Like Jesus

Becoming like Jesus is God’s will for our lives (1 Thess. 4:3). Growing in Christ would not even be possible if God had not, “Qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1: 12-14).

The growth process is like a spiral that is ever reaching toward heaven. The apostle Paul explains this cycle of growth in Col. 1:9-11. First, it begins with a knowledge of God’s will, which we find in His word. Second, His truth must enter our hearts for us to understand how it applies to life in all wisdom and understanding. Third, we choose to live according to what we have chosen to believe. We exercise our will when we choose to walk by faith and submit to God through humble obedience. When we step out in faith we grow in the knowledge of God. Fourth, we will receive greater knowledge when we act upon what we already know to be true, and the cycle comes full circle. The spin-offs of this growth cycle are increasing spiritual strength, endurance, patience, joy, and thankfulness, which become increasingly evident in our character.

The process of growth can be blocked by ourselves at any one of four points. We can stop the growth process at the first stage by reading the Bible as an academic exercise and never seek to apply it to our lives. We have intellectual knowledge, but no spiritual wisdom nor any personal understanding of how God’s Word applies to our lives when we harden our hearts. At stage two, we have allowed God’s Word to penetrate our hearts and consequently convict us of sin and giving us discernment and direction for life. But the growth process would again be stymied if we never actually repented, acted upon our discernment, or stepped out in faith.

At the third stage, we grow and bear fruit because we are living by faith according to what God says is true in the power of the Holy Spirit. Maturity gained through living causes us to understand the Word of God in a way that we didn’t before. If we fail to live by faith, however, we will not bear fruit.

Finally, we can stop the process of growth at stage four by failing to come back to His Word for greater knowledge. One of the dangers of successfully bearing fruit or experiencing victory is to rest on our laurels thinking that we have arrived. That is why Paul’s words in Phil. 3:12-14 are so helpful: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Progressive Sanctification

October 18 – Progressive Sanctification

God performed a gracious work when he called us out of darkness into His marvelous light and granted us the status of holiness by virtue of our union with Christ. He did this so that we can be holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15). The process of growing from carnality to Christ likeness is commonly called progressive sanctification. Paul says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Rom. 6:22). Although the Bible speaks of past-tense or positional sanctification more frequently than present-tense or progressive sanctification, the concept of progressively being made holy is a dominant theme in the New Testament. Terms like “growth,” “renewing,” “edification,” “building up,” “transformation,” “purification,” and “renewing” are all related: they refer to the process of becoming like Christ.

The apostle Paul explains the growth process toward Christ likeness in Col. 2:6,7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” The primary agent of our sanctification is God Himself, “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:2). We have to first be rooted “in Christ,” which refers to our positional sanctification, before we can be built up “in Him,” which is progressive sanctification. Terms like “in Christ, “in Him, or “in the beloved” are among the most repeated prepositional phrases in the New Testament. These terms convey that children of God are spiritually alive and their souls are in union with Christ, who is their life. If there is no spiritual life then nothing can grow spiritually.

We are also agents of our own sanctification. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (1 Pet. 1:13,14). However, as believers we must not fall into the Galatian heresy (Gal. 3:1-5). We did not receive the Holy Spirit by the works of the law. Our salvation came by way of faith and so does our sanctification. Paul asks, “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort” (Gal. 3:3)? We are saved by faith and we are sanctified by faith in God through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).

Scripture presents progressive sanctification as a challenge to the believer. The world, the flesh, and the devil oppose the will of God and therefore are enemies of our sanctification. Therefore, “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (1 Cor. 7:1), and let us, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog