Sin cannot dominate believers who throw themselves upon the Lord’s mercy—the Father is faithful to restore fellowship with His beloved children. He does this by breaking down walls that were built up through disobedience.
However, it is our job to confess the specific bondage that holds us, since denial blocks the healing and freedom God offers. Whatever the nature of our sin, the root of the problem is ultimately spiritual, not simply a weakness or social ill. Treatment meant to ease our emotional, mental, or physical discomfort will not be fully effective until we acknowledge the spiritual aspect of our difficulty.
Though sin is uniquely spiritual in nature, the reasons behind wrong behavior are often emotional. Emotions trapped deep within the believer—like insecurity, inadequacy, or lack of self-worth—drive the individual to search out ways to satisfy or escape the feelings. What results is often some form of unhealthy behavior. For instance, at one time in my own ministry experience, I allowed myself to be overextended. Out of a sense of inadequacy, I was driving myself to succeed in “God’s work,” which turned out to be the responsibilities He gave me plus anything else I thought needed doing for Him. I discovered that freedom from bondage is a choice.
As Paul explains, Jesus’ followers must lay aside their sin. For me, that meant putting away my misguided drive to succeed and taking a long rest. Through the Holy Spirit, we voluntarily surrender our chains in order to gain freedom in Christ.
Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 46-48
Read: John 1:1–18
Bible in a Year: Proverbs 10–12; 2 Corinthians 4
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.—John 1:14
John Babler is the chaplain for the police and fire departments in his Texas community. During a twenty-two-week sabbatical from his job, he attended police academy training so that he could better understand the situations law enforcement officers face. Through spending time with the other cadets and learning about the intense challenges of the profession, Babler gained a new sense of humility and empathy. In the future, he hopes to be more effective as he counsels police officers who struggle with emotional stress, fatigue, and loss.
We know that God understands the situations we face because He made us and sees everything that happens to us. We also know He understands because He has been to earth and experienced life as a human being. He “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” as the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14).
Jesus’s earthly life included a wide range of difficulty. He felt the searing heat of the sun, the pain of an empty stomach, and the uncertainty of homelessness. Emotionally, He endured the tension of disagreements, the burn of betrayal, and the ongoing threat of violence.
Jesus experienced the joys of friendship and family love, as well as the worst problems that we face here on earth. He provides hope. He is the Wonderful Counselor who patiently listens to our concerns with insight and care (Isa. 9:6). He is the One who can say, “I’ve been through that. I understand.” —Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Dear Lord, thank You for caring enough to humble Yourself and come to earth as a human being.
God understands the struggles we face.
How do you know that God exists? How do you know that God loves you? How do you know God is present versus absent? These questions, upon the hearts of so many, have answers as real as the formative moments in your life.
As I have aged I seem to grow more and more prone to nostalgia. Many of us do this instinctively, clinging to memories past, perhaps looking backwards with the hope of seeing a purpose for our lives. When I travel to India, I make it a point to revisit time and again those significant marking points of my own life. As I recall these moments past but not forgotten, I hear the gentle voice of the God very much in the present. And God says: I was there. When on you were on your bike contemplating suicide, I was there. When you were but nine years old and your grandmother died, I arranged for her gravestone to hold in time the very verse that would lead you to conversion. I was there.
It is often in these harrowing moments—your parents’ divorce, your child’s birth, the death of a loved one—where God leaves a defining mark. There is reason you remember such moments so vividly. We have a choice to hear or to ignore, but regardless his voice cries out in our memories, I was there. God has been in our past. God is here today. God will be there in our future. We have this promise in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
All of you must keep awake (give strict attention, be cautious and active) and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. — Matthew 26:41
The night before Jesus was crucified, He gathered the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane and made just one request: All of you must keep awake (give strict attention, be cautious and active) and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).
All the disciples had to do was stay awake and pray, but they kept falling asleep. Jesus, on the other hand, did pray, and an angel strengthened Him in spirit, enabling Him to endure the cross. The disciples didn’t pray—they slept—and proved that the flesh truly is weak.
To me, this story proves the critical importance of prayer. As Christians, we must realize that without daily prayer and interaction with God, we have nothing.
We all struggle with living according to our “weak flesh,” but when we make prayer a priority, God strengthens us in the spirit, allowing us to overcome the limitations of the flesh.
What are you relying on for strength today? Your flesh? Or are you experiencing the power that God so graciously gives us when we come to Him?
“Talk with each other much about the Lord, quoting psalms and hymns and singing sacred songs, making music in your hearts to the Lord. Always giving thanks for everything to our God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ by submitting to each other” (Ephesians 5:19,20).
Mary was one of those ardent, faithful church members – a Sunday school teacher, choir member and active participant in a home Bible study – who just assume they are filled with the Holy Spirit because they do everything their pastor or Christian leader asks of them.
“Why has no one, up to now, ever told me that I needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit?” she asked me just after I had publicly suggested that very thing.
To help Mary better understand her own spiritual condition, I read to her the above passage from Ephesians. Then I asked her several questions relating to that portion of Scripture.
“Are you talking about Christ to others? Is your heart filled with melody to the Lord? Do you spend time in God’s Word daily? Do you have a thankful spirit? Do you submit to others in the Lord?”
Mary hesitated only a moment. “If these are evidence of a Spirit-filled life, I must not be controlled by the Holy Spirit. But I would like to be. What should I do?”
With great delight and joy I shared appropriate Scriptures with her, and together we bowed in prayer as she claimed by faith the fullness and control of the Holy Spirit in her life. Surrendering to the lordship of Christ, turning from all known sin, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, she now knew with certainty that she was filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is not a once-and-for-all-decision, but a way of life in which we claim the fullness of the Spirit moment by moment, day by day, by faith.
Bible Reading: Colossians 3:12-17
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will honestly compare myself with the evidences of the supernatural, Spirit-filled life listed in the fifth chapter of Ephesians. If these are not true in my life, I will claim by faith the fullness and control of God’s Holy Spirit, and ask Him to make these qualities a reality in my daily relationships with the Lord, with my loved ones and with others.
The next time you fear the future, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty. Rejoice in what he has accomplished. Rejoice that he is able to do what you cannot do. Fill your mind with thoughts of God.
“He is the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:25).
“He is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
“His years will never end” (Psalm 102:27 NIV).
He is king, supreme ruler, absolute monarch, and overlord of all history. An arch of his eyebrow and a million angels will pivot and salute! Every throne is a footstool to his. Every crown is papier-mache next to his. He consults no advisers. He needs no congress. He reports to no one. He is in charge.
Sovereignty gives the saint the inside track to peace. Others see the problems of the world and wring their hands. We see the problems of the world and bend our knees!
Hurricane Irma is personal for me in a way no other storm has been. The reason: it targeted my family.
My brother and his wife live in the Tampa area. My wife’s older sister and her husband live in Orlando. Last night, they were directly impacted by the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic. All four survived, but we do not yet know the damage to their homes.
Irma has already devastated Cuba, becoming the first Category 5 hurricane to hit the island since 1924. Havana has experienced unprecedented flooding; homes and towns across the north of Cuba are destroyed.
Then the hurricane turned its wrath on Florida. As of this morning, 6.5 million people have been evacuated. Four million Floridians are without power, more than 40 percent of all customers in the state. Five have died, in addition to twenty-seven deaths in the Caribbean.
I prayed for the Lord to push this storm away from land and out into the sea. Instead, it attacked Cuban Christians, brothers and sisters I dearly love and have visited many times over the years. Then it turned and targeted my family.
I pray each day for God’s protection for my family and nation. I’m sure you do the same. When our prayers seem unanswered, how can we continue trusting the One to whom we pray?