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Title: Overcoming, not just forgiven
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Overcoming, not just forgiven
All right, well, last week we spent more time than I even was aware of talking about life and peace being the result of a mind that is set on the things of the spirit. My goal was, of course, to aim us in the direction of sensitizing our heart to the Holy Spirit, learning to have ears to hear, eyes to see, very sensitive to Him, and some practical things we can do to make that a reality in our life.
But upon reviewing, going back over the message from last week, we really circled back around over and over to possessing a mindset focused upon the Lord. A mindset on the things of the Spirit which results in life and peace.
As you remember a few weeks, Paul in addressing the Roman believers talked about those who live according to flesh have set their minds on things of the flesh. Also that those who live according to Spirit, have set their minds on the things of the Spirit. That to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
That those who are carnally minded cannot please God, and so therefore we have renewed devotion to be spiritually minded, because we want to please the Lord.
This also is directly connected to our ability to walk in trust with the Lord. We know that because trust is one of the many things that truly pleases Him!
So it follows that if we do not have a spiritual mind and are not walking in accord with the Holy Spirit then life and peace will not follow and we will be incapable of truly bringing our Father pleasure! God desires knowing Him in trust above nearly everything. It is what makes our walk with and in Him an honest relationship – rather than an obligatory religion.
At any rate, it seems as if the Lord kept redirecting my mind towards life and peace, which he made clear was the result of a mind set on spiritual things. So towards the end of our time together last week I mentioned the need for Disciplined Mind.
So rather than try to recreate that moment, I’m just going to quote from what I said last week as a segue into our lesson this week.
The Disciplined Mind is huge in our Christian walk, which is why the enemy does everything he can to get your mind as cluttered as possible. One of the ways he clutters it is with stuff and activity, by suggesting things that you will run with and think on and meditate on. It’s like you’re literally running around the inside of your mind just throwing papers everywhere, just scattering garbage everywhere, making a mess, and that’s what’s happening. There’s no order in that mind.
And why is that important? Because when God needs you to be focused, which is really all the time, you find focus completely elusive. And by the way, God requires focus throughout our lives.
How many times does God tell us to have a sober mind and to keep our thoughts focused on heavenly things? A cluttered and an unfocused mind ought never to be able to be said about one of God’s children. We should have the most focused minds on this planet. And one of the things that helps for a focused mind is peace. Life and peace, which is the result of having your mind set on things above.
Now, when the Bible talks about setting our minds, it means to direct your affections, to be mindful of and devoted to something. But when it’s talking about setting your mind, it includes our whole soul – our mind, will, and your emotions. In this place the particular emphasis is on our affections.
Paul spends a lot of time talking about the necessity of having a clear conscience before God. And the one way that you do that is by number one, not sinning.
One of the things that will cripple your conscience before people in the sharing of the Gospel as well as before God is having an evil conscience.
Something that reminds you of the fact that you’re not devoted to Him.
Have you not experienced that in your life? Times when confidence just fell right through your feet and you knew the reason was because there were real accusations against you. We’re not talking about unsubstantiated statements of conviction against you. They were real. And while you can go to the Lord and receive forgiveness, it doesn’t undo the past. It doesn’t erase history. It erases the consequences in regard to you and your God and Father, but it doesn’t erase history!
The person who is recently forgiven, also has recently still been in sin.
Are you understanding? And I think that’s another misunderstanding, a modern misrepresentation of the gospel.
The forgiveness that God offers us does not erase history.
Seed was still sown.
There’s still a harvest to be reaped.
Now does God, in his mercy, as the scripture uses the example several times, “stick in the sickle early” so you don’t reap a full harvest? Yes. Oh, all the time, really!
I can’t think of an example in the Old Testament or in the New where judgment is brought up against God people where if they said anything, they didn’t say something along this line.
“You have not rewarded us according to our iniquities.”
That’s always been God’s way. He is merciful. In fact, it could probably be accurately argued that the only generation or the only people who will ever receive absolutely no mercy AS A GROUP are those at the very, very end who have rejected Jesus.
In addition to this there are individuals who receive little to no mercy because they themselves have shown NO mercy.
James tells us that the judgment of the one who has shown no mercy, will come with NO MERCY.
So when we meet people who are in need of mercy, we are to show it. I know that personally I tend to be very merciful because I can’t escape my cogent awareness that I’m in need of it. And that’s an appropriate way to approach things.
So we’re told to ponder and to think and to meditate and, and involve our will and our affection and our conscience in this effort of being spiritually oriented. And one of the ways that you protect your conscience is by being merciful to other people as well.
Maintaining a good conscience before the Lord. Curbing that sinning habit of yours. Commit yourself and devoting yourself to the things of God. Honoring God, His ways and His people. Do these things from the heart – out of your union, devotion and worship of God and you’ll find that your conscience begins to get cleared up.
Furthermore, when there’s some distance between you and the last time that you did whatever sin you have always been predisposed to, your conscience will be at rest.
So you understand what I mean by that and why that is important?
I’m not saying that the distance in itself has any genuine power to it. However, it DOES REPRESENTS something that has real power.
If I have to turn around and put on some binoculars to see the last time I sinned in a given area, that distance between me and the last sin is shown true repentance.
I’m not the guy who used to do that!
God has made a difference in this area of my life and Jesus has been formed in me by a work of the Holy Spirit. Not by any virtue of our own, but we stand in the reality of His righteousness FORMED in me. NOT JUST APPLIED to me, but FORMED in me! And for that reason I am able to stand before God and man with a good conscience.
See what I’m saying?
Now what I am NOT talking about is my acceptability for God. We are made acceptable seconds after we sinned and confessed the treason of it before God. But when a pattern of overcoming in an area where I used to be overcome, gets established in me – there comes the confidence of a clear conscience.
Now, I don’t want to overplay my hand on that because the blood of Jesus Christ has the power to cleanse our conscience from dead works. The blood of Jesus Christ doesn’t just eradicate sin by forgiving it, but enabling you to begin walking in righteousness!
That is what keeps you from having a conscience that condemns you!
Let me tell you… if you sin and your conscience condemns you, it’s doing its job!
You don’t turn around at your conscience and rebuke it for condemning you. It’s right! Your conscience is there for a reason.
If you hit your finger with a hammer and nerve endings, send impulses up to your brain saying, that really hurt…Don’t do it again! Those nerves don’t need to be rebuked – they’re doing their job!
So it is with your conscience. When it tells you that what you just did is a defilement of God and it is ungodly and it is unrighteous and that it’s a condemnable thing, then it’s doing its job!
Now, if you allow that to go a step further and condemn you and the doing of it, now you got a problem. Now you[ve gone too far with it and that is NOT what your conscience was saying to you anyway. It’s what you read into the message your conscience was sending you! But when it condemns what you have done, it’s doing its job!
But when there’s distance between you and the last time that happened, it shows a work of God in your life and confidence not in yourself, but in the work of Jesus Christ in your life.
That’s what Paul strove to maintain. It’s what empowered him to be able to stand before entire cities of believers and preach the gospel without internal condemnation telling him “You know what, I’m not even living right!”
Does that make sense to you?
It is a terribly important thing to maintain a good and clear conscience before God and man.
You are not going to be as free to share the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in power, if you yourself have not been changed by its message!
Remember, the Bible does commission us to preach the gospel. But the primary way this is accomplished is by the testimony of a changed life!
Jesus told His disciples, “You will be My witnesses.”
See, a gospel that is just talk really has got very little power to it.
But if you are able to say and demonstrate a living testimony before an onlooking world – This is what God did in my life! I used to be this way and I’m not this way anymore! A change has taken place in my life. THEN I’m preaching the gospel by BEING a witness of its effectiveness!
See what I’m saying? That right there has power that cannot be denied!
A life lived IS the good news of the gospel.
You are the message.
It’s why Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus – it is the POWER of God unto salvation. Not the “I’m going to heaven” salvation alone, but I’m saved FROM the power and authority of sin and I am saved TO Jesus being formed in me!
When you live that, you BECOME the message! And that is never going to happen if we live with an undisciplined, lazy, cluttered mind!
We’re told to bring our undisciplined and ungodly thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus!
In 2 Corinthians, it tells us,
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds.”
The gospel is a gospel which commands and empowers me to pull down strongholds, not to just be forgiven for them!
I’m telling you that statement is more powerful than you might even realize!
The gospel of Jesus Christ has got the power to pull down strongholds, not just forgive them!
Because otherwise I’m just going from stronghold to stronghold to stronghold. I’m going from incident of being overcome to incident of being overcome to incident of being overcome with never actually overcoming. And that’s NOT the gospel of Jesus Christ!
The gospel Jesus Christ is not content with just forgiving you. It’s content by changing you. THAT IS THE TRUTH!
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty. They really are powerful.
Well, what are the weapons that we have? One of them is the word of God.
The thing we are told to set our minds on, to renew our minds by, to meditate on, to give our minds over to is the word of God.
He says for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty.
If it’s carnal, it’s weak. Carnality is weak!
It is our encounter with God that makes the difference between just reading the Word and being changed by the Word.
So Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They’re not weak.
I was listening to a man the other day and he was very self righteous. I do not think he’s born again.
And he talked about how, when a man loses his temper it is not a sign of strength. Being angry, being overly forceful is not a sign of strength.
He did that for years when he was drinking and now that he’s come out of that he doesn’t do that anymore. He said, a real man, is able to control his emotions and he’s able to speak with kindness.
Now all the while this guy speaking was very, very militant. Jesus was never brought up. This was his disciplining himself and taking pride in his own determination. And then, of course he had no problem being judgmental of everybody who doesn’t do what he has accomplished. The core however, of what that man was saying was true.
Strength is in fact a very important aspect of true masculinity, but this grit and speaking gruffly and not being sensitive is not truly manliness at all. That’s really just a fig leaf people hide behind to appear more manly than they really feel.
That is what carnality is – it has a superficial appearance of strength, but in the end it is in fact weakness!
This scripture is saying that the weapons we have aren’t carnal, which is to say they’re not weak, but instead they’re mighty through God.
They really are powerful!
Now the lie the enemy tries to sell you is that your weakness defines you. Your sin, what you give into most easily, that’s what defines you.
But God has something to say about that!
The toy on the shelf doesn’t define itself. The creator does… the one that made the toy is the only one who has that right.
In the same way you don’t have a right to define yourself and neither does the devil.
The person who set the pace for the value of a painting is the person who created it. This is what is true about you. The enemy tries to pick the lowest denominator, the lowest thing in you, the most base value of yourself and say, that’s your value. And it’s not the truth. You’re not seeing yourself clearly. You’re not evaluating things from a clear mind.
The Bible says that weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty through God through the pulling down of strongholds. And strongholds are anything that causes defeat in your life. Anything that produces an image contrary to Christ Jesus in your actions and character!
One of the things that causes defeat in your life is you’re holding on to and defining yourself by your weaknesses, by your carnality. But your weapons aren’t carnal. Your weapons are mighty through God.
You can’t fight the enemy using your carnality as your weapon. You’re going to lose.
He’s coming in with a sword and you’re coming in with a wet noodle. You’re not going to win. But if you go in there with the power of God, literally the might of God, it not only has the ability to address that stronghold, it can REMOVE IT!
This is Christianity!
This isn’t some other form of gospel. It’s what the Bible teaches.
The Bible does not teach a life of continually running to the throne, asking for forgiveness again and again and again for the same thing.
That literally is abnormal.
If you were to go to the birthing floor in a hospital and look at all the little babies on display, which I don’t think they do that anymore, but they used to do.
But if you looked at all the babies and you see a baby there that’s missing an arm and a leg. You realize there’s something abnormal about that baby.
It doesn’t mean that they’re less valuable or that they’re less precious or that the mother or father or even you, might not love it just as much, but it simply is not normal.
Normality means what a thing was intended to be. So normal Christianity is a life of continually overcoming, not being overcome.
What we have allowed to pass for normal is actually abnormal. And it’s a terrible, terrible substitution.
Just because something has become common doesn’t make it normal!
The popular “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” gospel is NOT the full gospel. While it may be a true statement that you’re not perfect and that you are forgiven, you are also in a perfecting process.
To believe and practice otherwise means you’re not really practicing Christianity because Christianity is Christ being formed in us!
It isn’t making excuses for behavior.
I don’t know how many times I’ve statements in my life like…
“Well, you know, they’re older, they’re set in their ways. They’re from another generation. It’s just the way they are.”
Statements which placate behaviors that are patently ungodly as if it is just a character trait that was unlearned and either genetic or part of their personality profile. As if that makes it not wrong! As though that serves to make it acceptable.
Just live with it.
Just embrace it.
No, no, I’m sorry. That’s not true!
Just because that may be the way they are, doesn’t mean the way they are is godly. And if it’s not godly, it needs to change! It needs to be brought to the obedience of Christ!
The more we accept things like this and placate it and accommodate it, the more people don’t see any need to change.
What are we doing at that point? We are accommodating a lie!
We’re patting them on the head and saying, it’s okay for you to be ungodly. In your case, you’re an exception. For everybody else, that would be wrong, but for you, you’re special! It’s okay for you because it’s just one of your character traits.
Well, it might be a character trait, but it’s an ungodly one and it needs to be surrendered to the cross!
So the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for the pulling down of stronghold, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.
What should be supreme in the child of God’s mind? The knowledge of God.
The thing we’ve been talking about pursuing this whole year!
Knowing Him, Who He really is, not just the way we’ve recreated God in our image, but God as He really is!
Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and then bringing every thought into captivity to obedience to Christ. And being ready to punish all disobedience once your obedience has been secured.
Hebrews 12 talks about discipline.
It says our parents indeed disciplined us for a few days as it seemed best to them.
But that God does it for our benefit.
I think many of God’s children don’t understand that sometimes God disciplines us for a few days.
It is common to believe that when we confess to it, it’s over with.
Well, yeah, the forgiveness is complete but the sin has really has not been dealt with yet.
The reason why you sinned is because there’s a weakness and a tendency to give into that from your flesh. Sure, you’ve been forgiven, but the sin hasn’t really been addressed!
God disciplines us sometimes for a few days.
Now we may not show up to class, but God does. He expects us to be trained by the discipline He gives us.
He calls it a training in Hebrews 12.
It says God disciplining us yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.
I’ve got news for you. Confessing your sin before God and walking away forgiven is not the training. That’s when training starts!
Acknowledging your sin is when forgiveness was procured and that’s very important or you can’t get to the training.
If there’s separation and there’s lack of agreement between you and the Instructor, you’re going to have a hard time being trained.
Once agreement has been established and forgiveness has been secured, now you’re in a position to begin your training. And that discipline will do that if we will allow it.
If all you do is just go ask for forgiveness and walk away and that’s the last time you think about it – that’s why you’re going to be back asking for forgiveness probably before the end of the day! You never entered into your training.
That training involves the renewing of your mind, using these weapons of our warfare that are not carnival, but mighty in God for the pulling down of that stronghold.
Enabling you to cast down these arguments when they come to you and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.
Bringing captive every one of those thoughts to obedience. That is maturity! That is the result of training!
You’re probably going to fail the first several times. Maybe the first few dozen times.
times. But as you keep on working that out and training that, eventually your mind is going to become spiritually focused enough, renewed enough, that when that temptation comes again, it’s going to have a new mind to contend with! It’s not that the flesh isn’t going to have its appeal still, it’s just that the voice that is stronger is going to overcome.
That’s the normal Christian life.
Not doing this is abnormal.
Well, I don’t want to be abnormal. I want to be a normal child of God, don’t you?
I want to be what I was designed to be.
The mind must be given an option.
You’ve meditated on the areas of your weakness so much that it really doesn’t have to be stimulated much from the outside to give into it. Just the mere mention or thought of whatever is your weak area stirs up volumes of information in the mind to focus upon.
When we do not fill our minds with the thoughts of God from His Word and from the Spirit, then the playing field in your mind really isn’t even even. The world has got an unfair and unprecedented advantage over you.
The mind will gravitate towards what it finds familiar. So we must make it familiar with God’s Word.
If what you meditate on is your problems, if what you meditate on is your weakness your going to be overcome!
God never tells you to rely upon your own strength, ever. Not ever, not once!
We are supposed to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit. And the person who’s done that never gets into pride! The person who does that never gets into places where they give speeches to people about, “well, you just need to become stronger. You just need to overcome that”.
The people who are convinced of the truth of this talk more about surrender than they talk about overcoming because they know overcoming is found in surrender!
But you can’t expect to go into the playing field and overcome the tendencies of the flesh when the only thing your mind has been centered on are things of the flesh.
It’s not an even playing field. You’re going out there without your weapons.
Now let’s look at a few passages which reinforce these truths before we end today.
“(1)How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers!
(2) Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the LORD’s commands; he meditates on His commands day and night.
(3) He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he attempts.
(4) Not so with the wicked! Instead they are like wind-driven chaff.
(5) For this reason the wicked cannot withstand judgment, nor can sinners join the assembly of the godly. (6) Certainly the LORD guards the way of the godly, but the way of the wicked ends in destruction.”
Renewing the mind
“(1) So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls. (22) But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves.
(23) For if someone merely listens to the message and does not live it out, he is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. (24) For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was. (25) But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out – he will be blessed in what he does.
(26) If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile.
(27) Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their adversity and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
The Armor of God
“(10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
(11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
(12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
(13) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) Above all taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (18) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints- (19) and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, (20) for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”