Well, my initial intent was to continue on with my study of Genesis. I had hoped to get more into Hagar and Ishmael in particular. My baby girl had other ideas–she decided to stay awake until approximately two minutes ago, and now I am tired and ready for bed. I could not sleep without reflecting on a very good class today, though.
As I may or may not have mentioned, I participate in Moody Bible Institute, where I have so far earned a Bible Studies certificate and am aiming for a Christian Worker certificate, and whatever else God calls me to do. God knows I have a natural thirst to learn everything I can possibly learn–he’s the architect who designed me that way–and wisely provided me with the opportunity to learn more about him in a supportive environment. I would not trade the world for any of the classes I have taken, and if given the chance to take all of them again, I would. They were that excellent.
From these classes, I have collected an impressive cache of books–each course has a required text to supplement the Bible. I love books, I love to read, and it is amazing to me what some of these Bible scholars have managed to put together. But, my favorite part of the classes is always the interaction between myself, my classmates, and our teacher.
The one thing I love about my classmates is their openness. All of them freely admit that they did not fall right out of heaven. I have brothers and sisters in the class who admit to drug addiction, drug selling, shooting at people, getting shot, going to rehab, going to prison, sexual sin, etc. They are always happy to talk about it, boldly, not ashamed, because the story always ends with the tale of their deliverance from the sin that bound them. As I have said before, this is how Christians should witness, by using their own personal testimony, not simply condemning the person we are witnessing to. My brothers and sisters shared powerful testimonies, and even I marveled at their experiences and the depths of sin that God pulled them out of. They were into some pretty bad stuff.
And so was I! If I have learned nothing from my Bible studies, it is that the Bible should be used as a guidebook for each Christian on how to live THEIR life. As Reverend Teacher often points out, when you point your finger at someone (as to admonish them), four fingers are pointing back at you. Therefore, the Bible should be used in application to one’s life, not used to condemn someone else. Bring that person to Christ, and allow the Bible and the Holy Spirit to convict them. That is not our job.
We started talking about our brothers and sisters who try to pretend to be holier than thou, and how they hinder more than they help. Some people are under the erroneous school of thought that once we become saved, we no longer sin. Yeah, right! Number one, the only sinless man to ever walk the earth was of course our Beloved, Most High Savior Jesus Christ, who did not have the blood of Adam through which our sin is inherited. Second, perhaps these people misunderstand exactly what sin is–I have heard Christians boast of their “clean lifestyle”, which included no alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, and clean language. Yet, sin encompasses many more natural human behaviors than just that.
Sin is anything that is displeasing to God’s holy nature, something God cannot be a part of. Sin is a transgression of God’s will. The wages of sin is death, and there are several forms of death inferred from that Scripture (Rom. 6:23). Physical death is, of course, the death that happens when there is no longer breath in our body, when we are removed from our physical person. Sinful acts can accelerate our physical death–for example, we all know the danger of long-term cigarette smoking or overindulgence of alcohol. I think it is no small coincidence that the behaviors we are not to engage in, including sexual sin, is often detrimental to our health.
Spiritual death occurs when we sin and are temporarily removed from fellowship with God. As I said, God has no parts in sin. For example, when someone cuts me off on the road and I, weak as I often am, slip into that old beast I used to be, God is not trying to hear that. He will turn a blind eye and deaf ear to me until I acknowledge my wrongdoing and ask his forgiveness. (I also ask for him to remove that tendency from me).
Eternal death is the worst, because of its finality. Eternal death is reserved for those unfortunate individuals who never accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and never accepted His gift of salvation. While those of us who accepted Him will get to the Bema Seat of Christ, where we give an account of our lives to Christ (kind of intimidating thought, isn’t it?, but not as intimidating as the other chair), the ones who rejected Christ will encounter the Great White Throne judgment. At that time, they will be forced to acknowledge Our Jesus. Even more unfortunately, they will be told to “depart” from Jesus, because He “knows them not” (Matt. 7:23, Rev. 20:11-15). As if that is not sad enough, the idea of ANYONE being cast into the Lake of Fire for eternal torture should be enough to make any Christian weep.
Here’s the thing–although I understand that not everyone will accept Jesus, as is their right, which I respect, that does not mean it does not bother me to think that the atheist co-worker still may not have accepted Jesus and thus may be condemned. Why should we care for others who think nothing of their salvation? Because it should bother us to think of our heavenly Father being upset. Again, here is where I ascribe the characteristics of a human father to our Heavenly Father. Don’t you think it hurts him to know that some of his children have abandoned him?
I can think of nothing worse than the possibility of losing one of my children. Unfortunately, our heavenly Father is going to lose plenty. Because we love him and want him to be pleased, we should think of that when we encounter someone who is unsaved. God wants all of his children in his realm.
So again, we’re not going to make a difference in the lives of those who are unsaved if we waste time pointing out their sins. Some of us, saved and unsaved alike, think that there are degrees to sin, when there aren’t. If it’s wrong in God’s eyes, it’s wrong, plain and simple. For those Christians who say they do not sin, either they are the ones who believe certain sins are worse than others, or they are committing the sin of lying. They are not helping themselves and may be hurting the cause with their righteous indignation. Jealousy, pride, sinful thoughts–those all are against the will of God, and I’d love to find the person who has never had, in the very least, a sinful thought of some kind. Come on church ladies, you know there has been a time when Sister So-and-So came into church wearing an outfit you thought did not appropriately cover her ample cleavage, or something similar, right? So what did you do? Did you take her aside and tell her that maybe someone would get the wrong idea of her with her boobs out in church and she should cover them up? Or did you go to Sister Such-and-Such and start gossiping? I’d love to see a church where no one gossips. I’m sure you know that gossiping is not of God.
As we grow in God, we will desire a more sinless life. The best way to achieve that is to first realize that our lives here on earth will never be spotless, but we should continue to strive toward Christ-likeness. I think it is imperative for Christians to take a survey of their life every now and then, lest we get discouraged that we are not progressing as fast as we would like. Take me for instance. I was a mean old witch, particularly to guys. As I’ve mentioned, I wanted them to know ASAP that they would not be walking over me. I would cuss them out in a New York minute. I got so good that I would make up expletives. And I could cut deep. I had the talent of being able to spot someone’s weakness from a mile away, and used my gift of cuss gab to exploit it to my convenience. I’ve probably hurt some feelings in the past–no, not probably, I have hurt some feelings in the past. Let’s not forget the damage I have done to my body–it bothers me everyday that I have been intimate with someone other than my husband, because only when I got with him did I truly realize the mistakes I had made sexually–and the drinking.
I am not where I want to be in terms of my spiritual growth, but I know I am not the same person anymore, and it makes me feel good to look back every now and then and remember how useless I was, how selfish I was, and how miserable. Only by the grace of God can I even write this blog, admit how terrible I was, because through Jesus I have become a new woman!!!!!!!!!!! HALLELUJAH!!!!!
The shame is gone. Whenever I had sex before, there was always a guilt and emptiness afterward that I could not understand. Sure, that drinking felt good for awhile, and boy did it make me the life of the party. But once the buzz wore off, I was right back where I was before, and feeling bad. I never feel bad when I am trying to do the right thing for God. Never.
We also have to stay prayed up and, particularly if we are babes in Christ, avoid the places and people that may provide sources of temptation or decrease the effectiveness of our testimony. My favorite example of this came up in class several years ago when we were debating whether or not Christians should be in the casino. One woman argued that she liked going to the casino because the food was delicious, but she never gambled. However, unbelievers who saw her there may not have known that, and it would have dampened her effectiveness if she tried to witness to them. We have to appear blameless to unsaved people.
We have to stay in the Word of God. As I said before, that is our guidebook. If we get into those tempting situations (and one of my favorite phrases is that God tests us to strengthen us, while Satan tempts us to weaken us and pull us out from under God) we can follow the example set by Jesus and quote Scriptures, causing Satan to flee. How can we quote Scriptures, in context, if we do not read? How can we know what God desires for us, if we do not read? I know certain religions do not allow for lowly parishioners to read their holy text. I would be very wary of that. Just as a side note, the fact that we all have access to the Bible makes me happy for the plethora of different translations. I doubt I would have ever been able to read the entire King James Bible in a year–all of that old-fashioned language makes for one hard read. I used several different translations–New International Version being my favorite–that read more like a story, and found myself reading books at a time. (I would recommend that all Bible readers find a suitable version, and read with a dictionary and some sort of supplement, such as Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, or the like).
We need to be honest with ourselves and others. Our personal testimony is the most effective weapon we have. No one can take that away from us! The best way to turn people off to us is to pretend that we are better than someone else. Unfortunately, I know plenty of Christians who act that way, and their feigned piety is nauseating.
Okay, it’s getting late, and I think I’ve done ranting for the evening. While all of us are subject to physical and spiritual death, only the unsaved are subject to eternal death. This should distress all of us as Christians–enough to where we jump into action. Me included!!!