It’s a Two Way Street!

Four times in Matthew’s telling of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us we can expect to be treated in direct relationship to the way we treat others.

The first shows up here, in the beatitudes.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. ~ Matthew 5:7

The next is in the Lord’s prayer:

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. ~ Matthew 6:12-15

In the next chapter Jesus tells us:

Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. ~ Matthew 7:1-2

Finally Jesus tells us to live our lives by one simple rule:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. ~ Matthew 7:12 NIV

There is another similar statement in Luke’s gospel. It seems that this same principle is true with your time, talent and treasure.

Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. ~ Luke 6:38

Let’s take a tally. We have mercy, forgiveness, judgment, generosity, and in fact, in all ways, we are to offer others the treatment we desire to receive.

What would happen if you actually treated your wife, sister, brother, husband, boss, neighbor, pastor, enemy… the way you want to be treated?

What if, when someone hurts you, you gave them the same amount of mercy you give yourself when you mess up? Did you get that question?

If you are like me, when you screw up you cut yourself a lot of slack. You rationalize a thousand mitigations and totally excuse yourself. But when others hurt you, will you even listen to their apology?

Many times we find ourselves with no mercy, no forgiveness, and full of judgment especially toward those closest to us. Those who have paid the highest price of relational time with us get the least consideration and mercy.

God’s kingdom is upside-down, isn’t it?

The lengths to which God expects us to go to protect relationships amazes me. But on the other hand, God crucified His only son to restore His relationship with us! If I am ever to look like Jesus, I am going to have to put a much higher value on relationships.

What could you do today to improve a relationship that is not where you want it to be? Ask the Lord for some ideas, if you don’t already know where to start. Even if it is only a baby step toward reconciliation, it will be worth it. Take a deep breath and go for it.

It’s great you stopped by today.

cropped-BenHeadshotIf you like these studies, share them with a friend.

Bye for now

Ben

Greatness–Jesus style…

A few days back, I put up a post called “Satisfy Your Deepest Longings” about how our longings are not sin but God designed and given to us to manage. It stirred up some conversations here and on social media, but one reader posed a question I wanted to answer here.

Debbie Zeigler (Ziggy317) asked:

What are a couple of examples of how the longing for greatness is practically worked out with humility? There’s freedom tucked in there somewhere. 

I love this question.

As I considered her question, a thought poked its head into my mind. Muth. That’s what we called my mother in our family. Muth was amazing. I grew up a few years back (okay–a few decades back) when Muth worked full time as a mom. At least while I demanded care. When I hit my teens, Muth went to work, but while I was little-tiking she was momming full time.

The job tended to be thankless, the hours grueling, and the pay, intangible. It’s exactly what the women’s movement of the sixties and seventies militated against. Women fought for liberation and won. Women have some freedom to choose work over home if they want.

And I’m not thinking about ranting about that. I’m pretty egalitarian for a white male in his sixties.

But I’ll tell you something about Muth. She was the greatest! I don’t think my brothers would argue the point, and I know Fath wouldn’t. It turns out greatness exists in the most unlikely places.

You find it in the servant’s heart.

When the boys (Jesus’ disciples) were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom they saw coming down the pike, Jesus tweaked their passions.

He didn’t rebuke them for wanting to be great.

He didn’t chide their foolish ambition.

He didn’t tell them they should take a vow of loserness.

He simply gave them the secret to true greatness.

“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; – Mark 10:43

It’s not wrong to desire greatness, the path is just not what we think. The path to the top of the corporate later runs through the servants quarters.

True greatness takes off His robe, puts on a towel and washes the feet of the one who would that night betray Him, and the others who would scatter and deny before sunup.

Thanks for the question, Debbie.

cropped-BenHeadshotBlessings,

Come back soon.

Ben

Satisfy Your Deepest Longings!

for they shall be completely satisfied. ~ Matthew 5:6 AMP

I love that the Amplified Bible has it this way “completely satisfied.” Not just, satisfied, not just, they will get what they are hungering after and thirsting for, but they will be completely satisfied. The world preaches that satisfaction comes from evil hungers and desires, but Jesus says, if you hunger for righteousness, you will be satisfied in every area of your life.

It is funny how hard we try to hold onto some of our old stuff, habits, sins, etc. Many a man has stayed away from God for a time, because he did not want to give up some secret sin, and knew that God would never allow it. But the truth is that God invented pleasure, and really knows how to make it work.

David said:

Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever. ~ Psalm 16:11

Heaven is a place of complete pleasure like you have never experienced or even imagined. God completely gets you and knows exactly how to satisfy your desires.

During a study of the Song of Solomon, I read the book ‘Seven Longings of the Human Heart’ by Mike Bickle and Deborah Hiebert. These longings are not sin and are not to be repented of. They are not even part of our sin nature. These are all God designed longings and appetites that each of us must manage. We must discover God’s intended means of fulfillment. Bickle details these seven longings, which he says every human has.

» A longing to be fascinated
» A longing to possess and feel beautiful
» A longing to be great and successful
» A longing to know intimacy without shame
» A longing for assurance of being enjoyed
» A longing to be wholehearted and passionate
» A longing to make deep and lasting impact

These longings are often satisfied in unholy ways causing guilt and separation from God and from one another. These unholy actions need to be dealt with specifically in repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 holds the process of repentance in detail. For a review of the process of repentance, take a look back at “Repentance – the path to Comfort.”

However, because there are so many ways to fulfill these longings that are not glorifying to God, it is easy for us to despise the very longings themselves because we are stuck in a pattern of sin trying to satisfy these God-given needs. Rather than managing them, and directing them with godly wisdom and the Word of God, we try to get free from them or to suppress them. A ‘longing to be great’ can look a lot like pride, and we could try to suppress that drive for greatness that God has put in our soul. Instead, we should look to the Lord for instruction. When the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest, Jesus did not rebuke them but rather pointed them in the right direction, humility, the classic upside-down strategy for Kingdom greatness.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for coming by today.

More to follow,

Ben

Seven Longings of the Human Heart, by Mike Bickle and Deborah Hiebert.

Completely Satisfied!

for they shall be completely satisfied. ~ Matthew 5:6 AMP

Wait! This can’t be right. Do you believe this? Is it true? Or is Jesus telling us a little white lie to try to motivate us to be good? Does true satisfaction really come from the pursuit of righteousness?

All our lives we are told that the best way to enjoy life is to live on the edge, to walk the fine line between good and bad. This is nothing new either. Generation after generation, it takes different forms, but we live surrounded by the message that a little compromise and a touch of naughty will bring happiness into our lives.

The American culture teaches us that when someone is stressed or grumpy, they just need a little sex and they will relax a bit. When someone has a hard day they need a drink to take the edge off. If you have to meet a budget, a little lying or cheating will go a long way to solving your problems. Satisfaction is just a compromise away.

It’s a lie!

I said, “it’s a lie!

And this lie has worked for thousands of years. In fact, the serpent used this same lie to trick Eve in the garden. God is keeping His best away from you. He wants you to go through life missing out on all the fun, and always just a little frustrated.

This same serpent is the thief that Jesus tells us has come to “steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) His lies have separated us from satisfaction. In fact this very lie leaves us unsatisfied and distracted from the source of true happiness and real joy. How could we be so foolish, believing this liar! Jesus promised us “abundant life,” not an average, boring, prudish and disappointing life.

Here is the thing. As I sit here writing this, God is bringing to my mind stuff that needs to be done with more integrity in my life. He is asking me if I believe Him, or if I am going to keep on living a compromised, unsatisfied life.

Now you decide, is Jesus telling us the truth? Is it true that complete satisfaction comes from pursuing righteousness? Or is this religious speak intended to manipulate the masses into obedience? Is there actually blessing, happiness and joy in living your life for God? If what Jesus says is true, aren’t we effectively robbing God of that which He purchased when we live in compromise?

Can you quiet yourself and listen for the voice of God as you read this. If you don’t have time right now, plan some time to mull, to consider. If you are like me, right now you are saying, oh, sister so-and-so could use this, or brother what’s-his-name could sure use some integrity. Yep, I thought about brother what’s-his-name, I admit it. But YOU need God’s voice in your life today, and so do I. Get quiet and ask Him this: Am I stealing myself back from You by my lack of integrity? (ouch)

Lord, have mercy–forgive–and empower us to walk in pursuit of righteousness today.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping in.

Love you,

Ben

Hungry?

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. – Matthew 5:6

Jesus’ lays before us the next earmark of a citizen of His kingdom, and it’s all about our appetite.

Let’s start with a definition of hunger.

I walked into the house after a long day at the office, and I was starving. I had not had a bite to eat since – oh – it had to be like two hours!!!!! Can you imagine my hunger? Two whole hours without food! I was starving. And when I found that dinner was not on the table, well you can just imagine the ruckus that ensued.

OK, that was a bit of fiction. But I bet you have been there.

This is not that hunger.

When a person feels real hunger, all other priorities and passions pale. Hunger doesn’t start in the brain, it emanates from one’s innermost parts. It’s not about thoughts and wishes, it’s a primal need. Their whole body demands food.

And what of thirst? It’s worse!

Where does this primal need for righteousness come from? I never had such a longing as a natural man. As a natural man, no desire for goodness stirred my soul.

Paul talks about this some in Romans 6

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. – Romans 6:20-22

This hunger and thirst after righteousness is a direct result of regeneration. Before you knew God, you had no desire to walk right before Him. The only righteousness you may have desired had to do with people treating you right. I wanted those in my circle to treat me well, to tell me the truth, to treat me with respect, but that was the extent of my hunger for the right.

But now, walking this path of blessing…

I see my inner poverty and my need for God.
I see my sin and it breaks my heart, so I cry out for His mercy.
I submit my will to His, setting His priorities above my own.
A hunger and thirst rise up within me for His righteousness to manifest in my life.

The next step in God’s 8 step program is to pursue righteousness with the same intensity as a hungry man pursues food, or as one who is parched goes after water. Hear this. It does not promise this blessed life to someone who tries to be good, who pulls themselves up by their bootstraps, who just grits their teeth and does what is right.

What if we actually pursued righteousness, sought after it like hidden treasure. What if we searched for opportunities to increase righteousness as though it was good for us–as if it was to our advantage–oh, and just for the record it is to our advantage. What if we pursued it as if it was the only thing that mattered, like a man starving to death goes after nourishment.

I am not talking about some strange self-righteousness that makes us feel superior. No way! But how about taking your honesty to a new level, or how about the way you do your job, or your homework, or your chores, or duties–all of it. The mark of a Christian in the workplace should be unimpeachable integrity. I promise if you will quiet your spirit for a while and mull this over the Lord will show you places to find more opportunities to do right.

What may not be entirely obvious is that as we take our righteousness to the next level, we take our joy to the next level as well.

This passion for righteousness nets us a life of joy. The Word tells us this about the life of Jesus:

“YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” – Hebrews 1:9

Jesus understood:

for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 14:17

No man ever walked in the Spirit to a greater measure than Jesus. Righteousness works itself out in peace and joy. The worst turmoil in life comes when you walk away from righteousness. Covering up sin, or walking the edge between good and bad deals death to all joy and peace. When you are seeking after righteousness, shame, guilt and fear leave and peace and joy remain.

Jesus is our righteousness. (1 Corinthians 1:30) Simply put, to hunger after righteousness is to hunger for more Jesus in your life. As we embrace Jesus, His ways, His priorities in our lives, we will walk in this peace and joy. We must put on Christ, and search for His presence in our lives as though our lives depended on it. You will never regret it!

Let’s ask the Father this question: Where have you hidden opportunities for integrity in my life?

cropped-BenHeadshotDon’t miss the promise for this one!

See you next week.

Ben

Kingdom?

Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ~ Matthew 5:3 & 10

I know I am getting out of order here. I was just lying in bed – it is about 10 minutes to 12 on Friday night, and I was mulling.

Now let me be clear. I have studied through and taught through the Beatitudes probably more than any other passage in the Bible. It is my favorite by far. I have notes dating back decades from preparations for this little piece of scripture.

But tonight – closing in on the middle of the night – I am trying to get to sleep, and the phrase “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” is rolling around in my head. This phrase that is calling me to my laptop to put down my thoughts doesn’t even belong in my mind right now. I mean we are right smack in the middle of the beatitudes, and this phrase bookends the passage. I suppose I could stick it at the end of the chapter, but there is an urgency I sense in its placement right here.

Here goes:

What if “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” rather than meaning they gain entrance into the kingdom, as in, the poor in spirit get saved, what if what it means is the poor in spirit and the peacemakers for that matter, get the kingdom of God? What if those who are broken before God are not just given a ticket for St. Peter to punch, but they actually possess the entire kingdom. What if we are not just someday going on a long trip to visit a great place, but we actually have ownership. And not some sad 52nd part like a timeshare, but we are on the deed, of the kingdom of heaven.

Isn’t that what Paul was talking about when he said we are joint-heirs with Christ? (Rom 8:17) Doesn’t that line up with us being seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus? (Eph 2:6) Doesn’t the very fact that the Holy Spirit is in our lives as the “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” illustrate this? (Eph 1:14) Or how about this outrageous bit from Daniel:

‘But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’ – Daniel 7:18 

So I have a question for you, Lord. How should this look in my life? What does it mean for me to be in possession of a kingdom? And not just any kingdom, but a heavenly kingdom, Your kingdom!

I dare you to ask God that question.

cropped-BenHeadshotLet me know what He shows you.

See ya…

Ben

Inherit The Earth?

…for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Some Christians are of the opinion that the earth really doesn’t matter. They reason, God’s going to destroy it and start over somewhere down the line. Who wants to inherit something God’s getting ready to “rolled up like a scroll,” and toss in the bin? What kind of promise is this?

Bad Form! That whole attitude is bad form, start to finish. As if somehow God gave us a disposable earth that we should just use up? Not a great attitude. Let’s consider a couple things from the word.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Psalm 24:1 and 1 Corinthians 10:26

Seem’s Paul thought it worth repeating for his New Testament hearers. Here’s another:

…the whole earth is full of His glory. Isaiah 6:3

It would appear that the Father places a high priority on the earth, and if our Father thinks it is valuable, that needs to factor into our thinking. In fact, we should let God’s values inform all our values, don’t you think?

What does it mean to inherit the earth? Let’s think back to our two meek men, Moses and Jesus. These two guys exhibited a special relationship to creation. Moses (in response to instructions from God) holds out a rod and splits the Red Sea in two and the entire nation of Israel walks through on dry ground! Interesting. In fact each of the ten plagues that torment Egypt come from the throne of God, but through the hands of one meek man.

Jesus, our other example of a meek man, submitted to the will of the Father, also lives without the normal earthly limitations. He walks on water, calms raging storms, and feeds multitudes with a boy’s lunch! Again, I understand that these things were done by our Father, and according to Jesus, He did not do these things of His own power or authority, but by the “finger of God.”

I am wondering about my life now. If I submit to the will and voice of our Father in my life, what can I expect? I’ll tell you one thing; it shouldn’t be church as usual! I’m thinking that as I bow my knee to the Lordship of Jesus in my life, and listen intently for His voice for my direction, I will begin to see the works that He (Jesus) did (see John 14:12) in my life, and even greater works. That may explain what Paul was talking about when he said;

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. ~ Romans 8:19

I implore you to seek the face of the Lord and listen for His voice in your life. Begin to meditate on His Word day and night, and align your life to His word. This is what it means to be meek, and this promise is off the charts!

BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by,

Come back soon,

Ben

Meek Defined

Blessed are the meek… – Matthew 5:5

By now, you see a pattern emerging. Is Jesus totally confused about what makes people happy? If we are going to believe Him, the worse off we are, the happier we should be. If I realize that I am worthless and that I have offended God at every turn in my miserable life – this is a sure source of happiness for me! God’s kingdom seems truly upside-down, and we need to get this if we are ever going to live right side up.

Meek will need some explanation. Who are the meek? When (or should I say IF) you hear the word “meek” today it is likely either an insult or a low estimation. When I think of a winner, a go-getter, a ‘get ‘er done’ kind of person, I don’t think meek. Meek is more likely to conjure up the doormat. You want to come in heresure thing–just wipe your feet on me, and in you go. Not exactly the stuff legends are made of.

Most of the more recent translations use words like humble or gentle here, and that’s not a bad thing, but I think there is a little more to it than might be conveyed with either of these terms. So rather than living with terms that either confuse us or point us in the wrong direction, I thought I would point us to a couple of guys the Bible describes as meek (or gentle or humble.)

There are two men in the scriptures who are specifically described using this word, one in the Old Testament (actually using the Hebrew word Jesus is quoting) and one in the New.

Meek Man #1 – Moses

I love this because of all the guys you could pick as a meek man, Moses does not jump to mind. This is the guy who goes before Pharaoh and demands freedom for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of slaves. This is the man who killed an Egyptian for abusing one of his countrymen. This is the man who somehow convinced the same hundreds of thousands of men to submit to circumcision as adults. This is the man who led those multitudes right up to the shores of the Jordan River.

He argued with God. He smashed tablets of stone written in God’s own hand. He made the Israelites drink the water with ground up gold from their make-shift God.

And yet…

Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth. ~ Numbers 12:3 (KJV)

I need a new definition for meek.

Meek Man #2 – Jesus

Jesus tells us of himself in Matthew 11:29, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” (KJV) So here is another man among men. Jesus wrecked the status quo at every turn. The religious men hated Him and He would go head to head with them in every encounter. He protected the broken and lifted those who were crushed. When I look at the man Jesus, I do not think meek–definitely no doormat status here.

I really need a new definition for meek!

I believe the key to this character trait is directional. Both Moses and Jesus clearly live with humility toward the Father. They stand in fear of no man, but they walk in submission to the voice of God. Moses leaves the known universe of his life on the back of the desert to take on a role that would seem crazy to anyone else.

Jesus said it of Himself over and over.

My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. – John 4:34

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.John 6:38

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. – John 5:19

For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.John 12:49

Jesus only did the will of the Father and taught us to pray this same thing.

Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10

There it is. This meekness we are called to is no doormat status, but rather complete and radical submission to the will and voice of our Father. This is the way to a truly blessed life, a life filled with satisfaction in God’s favor regardless of the outward situation. [tweet this]

Are you getting anything out of this study of the Beatitudes? I know I am. We’ll be back next Thursday with more.

BenHeadshotSo glad you came by.

Walk in the light!

Ben

Not just a Comfy Chair

for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

Comfort is a misunderstood commodity.

Often when we think of comfort we think of someone patting us on the knee and saying, “there, there, it will all work out all right.” So when we think of the Holy Spirit, our “comforter” we fall into this trap. We think that the job of the Spirit of the living God is to whisper platitudes to us when we are feeling sorry for ourselves. That could not be further from the truth.

Yes, Comforter is one of the Holy Spirit’s names and descriptors. The Latin behind our word comfort combines com–with and fort–strength. To comfort is to come to the aide of one in need with the strength required to bring success. Big difference, isn’t it?

The Holy Spirit is not the one who takes the role of nursemaid, He comes beside to give strength and help in time of need. It looks nothing like that “poor baby” picture we can easily conjure up. The Greek word here (parakaleō – same root as Comforter or Helper–paraklētos–in John 14) carries the idea of a tug boat coming alongside a huge ship to guide it through tricky waters. The Tug though small is very powerful, and has complete expertise in navigating the tricky waters ahead.

In like manner, the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, comes alongside us as we enter the tricky waters of repentance and ensures that we reach safety, free from the shipwreck of worldly sorrow.

Those who mourn over their sins will find that the Holy Spirit comes alongside, and gives them the strength and direction they need to walk out true and complete repentance. There is a comfort and confidence that comes from this victory over sin.

Are you feeling blessed yet?

cropped-BenHeadshotOh, we’re just getting started.

Keep the light on!

Ben

Repentance – the path to Comfort

Before we dig in today, I want to state that this is one of my core teachings. I share this message when I have the opportunity because I truly believe it’s a missing note in the current chord of Christianity. If we get this idea planted in our hearts and stop resisting this wonderful gift the Spirit offers, we can experience true victory over sin in our lives and the real comfort that comes with it. So, here goes… enjoy!


Blessed are those who mourn… – Matthew 5:4

How could mourning ever lead to blessing? Mourning about what? Is Jesus talking about people who have lost loved ones? Blessed are the grieving? Is He talking about sad people here?

Once again, the answer is an emphatic NO.

We are talking about people who realize their need for God, the poor in spirit. As they perceive the great distance between their current state and the holy God a godly sorrow–mourning–overtakes them. This sorrow leads them down a straight path directly to repentance.

So then, what is repentance? Does it happen at the front of a church? Is it tears at the altar? Is it just saying I’m sorry? Does it simply mean to change your mind, as it is commonly taught today? Again, no. Repentance is one of the most basic yet most important parts of the Christian life. Without repentance, you can never achieve true freedom from sin. Repentance is Christianity 101.

Repentance – a biblical definition from 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things, ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. – 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 KJV

Sorrow of the world produces death: There are a couple types of sorrow that will kill you. One is self-pity. Feeling sorry for yourself will put you into a downward spiral from which there is no return. Another deadly type of sorrow is that which is born of condemnation. The Greek word translated devil in our New Testament means accuser. Condemnation comes from the accuser of the brethren, and it shows up as a general feeling of unworthiness. Condemnation is vague and depressing.

Godly sorrow which works repentance: In contrast, the Holy Spirit convicts.

Conviction is specific and actionable. Conviction always comes with the gift of repentance. That’s right, gift! Repentance is a gift from God. God offers to turn your sin and weakness into strength and victory.

And now Paul walks step by step through the process of repentance.

what carefulness it wrought in you: You are careful not to get yourself into situations when you can even be tempted by this sin. Job speaks of a covenant made with his eyes. Back in the 80s before Disney bought downtown Manhattan, I had a job where I had to walk right through the sleaziest part of town. I made a covenant with my eyes and glued them to the sidewalk. I did not want to puff out my spiritual chest and believe that I could resist. I took the extra effort to protect the gates of my soul.

Solomon offers a six-part plan to avoid temptation:

Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on. ~ Proverbs 4:14-15

In the specific area of your repentance, this is the way to go – find a way to get around it. Remember also that Paul tells us:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13

what clearing of yourselves: You get rid of everything that pertains to this sin you are fleeing. You don’t keep a stash of porn, or a bottle of booze around for when you lose your resolve. You clear the decks.

what indignation: You take offense at anything or anyone that would draw you, or others, into this temptation. You actually see this sin as the enemy of your soul. You realize that this sin will kill you if you give it any quarter. You have a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude toward that which once held your reigns.

what fear: You have a healthy realization that sin in general, and this sin specifically, ends in death. Hear the words of James:

Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. ~ James 1:15

Understand, there is a fear that is right – not a terror, but a respect and understanding. The fear of the Lord is probably best defined as an unwillingness to offend God. It’s not a fear of punishment, but a fear of separation. Remember when Jesus was in the garden, and prayed for deliverance from the cup He was facing. The thing He wanted to avoid was not the physical pain, but the separation He knew He would face as He became sin for us.

what vehement desire: Vehement would be a good adjective for a raging forest fire, like those that hit the West Coast of the US in dry seasons. Repentance brings a ferocious desire for purity.

what zeal: Zealots usually look crazy. We all know someone who is zealous about something. Some people are zealous with their exercise routines, and some with their finances. The ones that make the news are those who are zealous for their religion and blow something up. I met a man who would chain himself to abortion tables, or clinic doors because he was zealous for the unborn. In the case of repentance – you are ready to be outspoken about the evil of this thing, and you will do whatever you can to dissuade others from taking up this sin.

what revenge!: Finally revenge. Your passion leads others from going this way, and so you break the power of this sin in your life and in the lives of those you influence.

All that being said, true repentance is actually a gift of God according to God’s Word in Acts 5:31 and 2 Timothy 2:25. God only gives gifts He intends for you to use, and God’s gifts are powerful. When you repent in this way, God’s intention and promise is that you can be free from the sin He brought to your attention.

So, how do I know if I have been given repentance? You will know if you sense conviction. Conviction is a specific realization that something you have done has offended God. Not some vague condemnation that you are not good enough, but you know that you know that what you did is wrong. If you have been given repentance, that means God will give you the freedom from that sin once you repent. True repentance can set you free from sin, as God leads you through these steps.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by today.

Walk in the light.

Ben