My grandson Jackson got a little sick last week. His mom took him to the doctor who told us he had a touch of bronchitis. He prescribed some medicine and they came home. Jackson was telling someone about going to the doctor and he told them he had “wrong-chitis,” but he had taken some medicine and now he has “right-chitis!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just take a pill and everything wrong in our lives would become right? Now that would be a magic pill.

The reality we know is that to turn something wrong into something right takes more than a little medicine, we need a lot of hard work and the power of the Holy Spirit to make it right. And even then opposition may be so strong that the right struggles to come out on top.

Spiritual work is hard work. Satan is more than happy to let us go about being good neighbors and nice people as long as we don’t introduce Jesus. Once we decide to go about doing real spiritual work Satan will work overtime to stop it. So we need to pray and we need to trust the Lord. Endure hard times, persevere through the difficulties. The kingdom is worth it. The gospel is worth it. Remember this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “God will not have His work made manifest by cowards.”

These next 2 episodes were recorded while I was preaching in Finland at my friend Shaun’s church, so please forgive the audio. The focus is on the life of believer. We must live as believers, not as unbelievers. That is not who you are anymore. Your identity is in Christ.

Mission Central Podcast

Here are some key points from this episode:

  • Don’t live as if you are still without Christ.
  • You are not that person so embrace your new identity in Christ.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
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Today’s episode is Matthew 5:6: “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled..” Here it is: #005

Here are the key points from this episode:
– If you have no desire for spiritual things then you need to examine whether you are related to God at all.
– Religious people settle for ritual instead of seeking out the higher things – righteousness.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
You can subscribe to receive each new addition in your inbox.

Today’s episode is Matthew 5:5: “The gentle are blessed,for they will inherit the earth.” Here it is: #004

Here are the key points from this episode:
– This is one of the hardest words to define. It means: gentle, humble, considerate, courteous, under control.
– A good illustration of meekness is David while he is being pursued by Saul.
– The world values the aggressive man who leads an organization with ambition.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
You can subscribe to receive each new addition in your inbox.

Today’s episode is Matthew 5:4: “Those who mourn are blessed,for they will be comforted.” Here it is: #003

There are several key points in today’s episode:
– He isn’t talking about mourning a loved one, but mourning your own sin.
– We should mourn over the loss of innocence, personal integrity, self-respect.
– True joy will not precede the conviction of sin.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
You can subscribe to receive each new addition in your inbox.

Today’s episode is Matthew 5:3: “The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” Here it is: #002

There are several key points in today’s episode:
– We must realize our own need for Christ, this pushes us to repentance and faith.
– We must realize that everyone else also has this need, this pushes us to evangelism.
– The world says you have everything you need to accomplish great thing, You need nothing.
– Salvation is only for those who recognize their own spiritual poverty and trust in Christ.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.

Podcastcover

Thinking this morning about part of the message I preached this past Sunday, Christmas Eve 2017.

While working through the Christmas story found in Luke 2 it occurred to me that things didn’t work out the way Mary and Joseph probably thought they would. They probably thought their baby would be born at home, in the safety and security of their bedroom, with a familiar midwife helping with the delivery. It would be what we might consider the best of circumstances, but for them it was normal. There would be water nearby. It would be clean. Family would come to help. Their support system would kick in and life would be pretty normal, with the exception of having to raise the Son of God.

But a census command by Caesar Augustus changed everything. Now they had to travel when they didn’t want to travel. It was late in the pregnancy and travel would not be recommended, especially by donkey. They had to stay where they didn’t want to stay. Even after traveling, perhaps things wouldn’t be so bad if they could find a nice place to stay. But with so many others also going to Bethlehem there was no place for them to stay. I have no doubt Joseph worked hard to find some place, any place, indoors at least.

There would be no indoor birthing room. A dark, damp stable became their hospital room. A pile of hay the birthing bed. A feeding trough became a baby bed. It was outdoor, unsanitary, unhealthy, and they were feeling unwelcome.

Life often does not live up to our expectations.

Each of us can point to things in our lives that haven’t gone as we expected. There are hopes that have been dashed and dreams that have been set aside or cancelled. Maybe even your family Christmas gathering that you hoped would bring family unity turned out to be awkward and difficult. Our kids don’t do what we hoped. Our parents don’t do as we wished. Our friends fall away. We let ourselves down. Circumstances sometimes seem to be conspiring against us with concerted anger. Nothing seems as easy as it ought to be. Life isn’t turning out the way we thought it would.

What do you do? How do you respond? Quit? Take out your frustration on others? Get angry? Get even?

Consider this young couple in Bethlehem with no family around at the birth of their first born, sitting alone in a cave (stable) with their young child laying in the feeding trough. How had they envisioned the birth of the one they knew to be the Son of God? What did they think would happen?

Even when we may not understand how or why, we must remember this: Just because it didn’t work out the way you thought doesn’t mean that God is not at work.

It may not be the way you would’ve done it, but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t working. His ways are not our ways. Trust Him. Know that He works in all things (Romans 8:28) to accomplish His purposes in His way.

When life seems to not be meeting your expectations, take a moment to look around and try to figure out what God might be up to. Don’t quit and don’t get angry. Realize that God has a plan for your life and that He is working to accomplish His will in you and through you. Trust Him and trust His plan.

Yesterday I preached at Spring Baptist Church (video will be on later this week) from Acts 16:6-10, where Paul and Silas are seeking God’s will as they embark on Paul’s second missionary journey. They try to go to Asia, then to Bithynia and end up in Troas where Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man asking them to bring the gospel to Macedonia.

It occurred to me in between services that there was one question I hadn’t talked about in the first service. I addressed it briefly in the second one and I thought I’d throw out some thoughts on it here: Why didn’t God just give Paul the vision to begin with instead of letting them walk around the desert for a couple of weeks?

This is a question most of us ask when we are searching for God’s will. We just want God to give us the directions now, show us the road map and we’ll get on our way. But most often the process of finding His will is a journey, not a moment.

I can’t say I know the answer to the question, but I can think of some possibilities:
1. The search forced Paul to seek God and not rely merely on his past experience.
2. Paul’s call was going to be so dramatically different that the Lord had to get Paul in the right spot to be ready to listen.
3. Paul’s experience was as much for Silas, and maybe us, as it was for Paul. We needed to see the lesson found in the journey of Paul. So maybe it wasn’t about Paul at all, but about us.

I’m sure there are other reasons but these are a few I thought of this morning.

broken-chains

Jesus brings truth serum to challenge the self-deception and to deliver you from your bondage. The reality, Jesus says, is that everyone who commits sin (which means all of us since we are all sinners) is a slave or in bondage to sin. It doesn’t matter who your parents are or how far back you may trace your spiritual lineage, you are responsible for your own life and your own sin. You have no righteous insulation from sin because your parents were good people or because Abraham is your ancestor.

The act of committing sin reveals that the one doing the act is under the power and authority of sin. The word “commits” is a present tense verb. In Greek, the written language of the New Testament, a present tense verb describes current and continual action. It could be translated, “keeps on committing.” Jesus is describing a person who continues to commit sin without regret or repentance. The Pharisees thought themselves to be free, but they were in spiritual bondage to sin.

When you are in bondage to sin you are living under the influence of your rebellious human nature. Your worldview is affected by human intuition apart from the truth of God. Your way of responding to the world is determined by selfish motives, not by the fruit of the Spirit. Your reaction to crisis situations and conflict is defensive and focused on self-preservation instead of with godly wisdom and humility. A person who is in bondage to sin doesn’t realize they are held prisoner. You act as everyone around you acts. You respond based on the advice of your peers. Their actions are accepted and endorsed by others because all are in slavery to sin, so everyone around you is living the same way.

But this is not the condition of the believer. Jesus delivers you from sin and by His truth He sets you free from the slavery of sin. In verse 35 Jesus presents the opportunity to become a child of God as opposed to living as a slave to sin.

Jesus sets you free by changing your identity. This change of identity is monumental. You do not have to remain as a slave to sin; you can become a child of God!

As a son of God, you are no longer under the sole influence of your rebellious human nature. You are free to resist sin and to cling to truth, integrity and joy. Your worldview is transformed as you begin seeing the world through His eyes. The fruit of the Spirit works outward in your life and you respond to the world differently. You react to conflict with grace and patience, exhibiting wisdom and humility, knowing that God is in control of your life. You don’t worry about being rejected by your peers if you don’t act like them because you know you have been fully accepted by God through Christ. You don’t have to protect your reputation or save face by conforming to the world, because you are secure in your place with Christ.

Your history doesn’t have to be altered or hidden. It is what it is and it is forgiven. You are free from your history. Rahab was a prostitute, but now is forgiven. Thomas doubted, but now is with Jesus. The thief deserved death, but now has life eternal. The woman was caught in adultery, but now is free from all the stain of sin.

“Therefore if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” John 8:36

This freedom is not circumstantial, based on what you have done. It is not based on your actions or your inherent value or worth to God. This freedom is based completely on the grace of God on your behalf in sending His Son to the cross.

Once again you see the moment and the process in this verse. Jesus Christ sets you free – this is the moment you receive by faith His forgiveness offered through grace. Then you really will be free – through this process you come to understand and live in freedom. This is justification and sanctification. You need to be set free, that is to be made a child of God; so that you can become free, experience knowing Jesus in all His glory.

Freedom from sin, darkness, ignorance, superstition, good and bad expectations, past mistakes, wrong thinking can only be known after Jesus sets you free. This freedom can only be experienced by spending time with God’s word, worshipping Him, praying with Him and following Jesus day after day, year after year.

As you commit yourself to the process of being set free, you come to understand that your identity doesn’t have to come from where you were born, what family you come from, who your friends are, your past failures or others expectations. Your identity can come from the work of God on your behalf. You can be His child and be free.

There is a new way to live, a new way to see yourself and a new path to walk. You are free. This is who you are. So live free.

 

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The greatest barrier to real freedom is that most don’t think it is needed. In John 8 the non-believing Jews respond to Jesus with what many think as they come to Christ. Three phrases in their statement in John 8:33 reveal great barriers to the experience of true freedom.

“We are descendants of Abraham” – The Jews who spoke to Jesus claimed a heritage that did not require outside intervention. They saw themselves through the lens of their ancestors, not just their parents, but they traced their heritage back to Abraham! For these Jews, this heritage was their identity and there was neither way nor reason to deny it. Proud of their ancestry, they were unwilling to accept the freedom offered by Jesus.

Sometimes you can be so caught up in your family identity, who your parents are and how important they are or how important that makes you, that you deny the opportunity to follow Jesus wherever He leads. More than one person has wrecked their own spiritual opportunities because they were intent on protecting their family name or station in life. More than one church has been wrecked by a family or individual who is trying to hold on to an inherited position in the church and community. I am not saying that you should disavow your family, but certainly you should not choose anything over the clear call of Christ. Several times Jesus challenged his followers to do that very thing (Matthew 4:21-22; 8:21-22; 19:28-29; Mark 1:19-20; 10:28-30; Luke 9:59-60; 14:26). Jesus’ promise of freedom is powerful because he opens the door for you to break free from the hold of generations.

“We have never been enslaved to anyone.” – The Jews make a claim that on its face is preposterous. The most important festival of the Jewish calendar is Passover, a celebration of God’s deliverance of the nation from Egyptian slavery. The northern kingdom of Israel disappeared during Assyrian slavery. The southern kingdom was taken into slavery for 70 years by the Babylonians. As they spoke the nation of Israel was under the thumb of the Romans, subject to their laws and the whims of their governors.

There is a deceitfulness of denial that leaves you with a false view of your own circumstance. Most teenagers claim a deep need to not be stereotyped, to be treated as individuals, yet they dress like their peers, talk like them and think like them. They may reject their parents, but they will conform to a group in school and defying that group is deemed social suicide. Adults bend under the same pressures adapting to a work culture or a social setting to “fit in.” This is one reason that advertising works so well. There is a deep hunger to be an individual, but to not stand out too much. The worst kind of bondage is when a prisoner thinks himself to be free, yet he is a slave.

“How can you say ‘You will become free’?” – The Jews utter the frustration so many voice: “I can’t change.” The sense of helplessness you feel, trapped in your life with no way out. Often I’ve heard people say things like this: “This is just how I am.” “I can’t help it.” “I don’t know why I do it.” “I’ve always been like this.” The trap of believing that your past must be your future keeps many from walking through the process of being set free, even though they may have made a decision to follow Christ.

One of the great tragedies of this generation is that so many have fallen for the lie that a genetic predisposition means there are no options in life. That is to say, too many think because “you are born this way” you must live “this way.” It’s easy to understand why you might believe that a lifestyle, life choices and values, that have been ingrained for so many years could never be abandoned or transformed. This is part of what makes the claim of Jesus so amazing. How could He promise freedom from something so deeply ingrained in your identity?

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