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Preach, Preacher!

April 28, 2014

A young Christian man recently told me, “when I go to church I want to feel bad about myself. Is that weird?” I told him, “yes, that is weird,” but I totally understand what he is saying, and it has become a common refrain I hear from godly young men who long for strong preaching from the pulpit. Too many Christians are wilting in sin and defeat, sitting in churches where the Word isn’t preached, but rather some blended self-help, mushy, pop psychology with some Scripture references, complete with a joke, a poem, an internet story or two, and a pithy statement borrowed from a Hallmark Card. I speak now as a preacher to preachers. Men, this has to stop. Let us lay aside the milk and start serving the meat. Jesus told Peter to “feed his sheep.” What are we serving? Let me tell you about the generation I hear from.

They want to hear the Word preached. They want good doctrine. They want to hear Christ crucified, raised, reigning and returning. They want words like ‘propitiation’, ‘atonement’, ‘justification’, and ‘righteousness’ expressed, expounded and explained. They want to hear more about how suffering is coming and how to prepare for it than superficial words about how everything will be alright because God’s got their back! They want to hear a man angry over sin, over those who would pervert Scripture to their own ends, over the godlessness of our generation. They want men preaching to them who are jealous for the glory of God more than anything. They want to be convicted over their own sin and drawn to repentance. They want to feel the burn!

By way of illustration. If you go the gym and don’t feel the burn, you probably didn’t have a good workout. You didn’t push yourself enough. The goal isn’t pain, the goal is fitness. You don’t push yourself to injury, but muscle isn’t built without sweat, exertion, soreness, and discomfort. Athletes understand this and so they embrace the pain so they can build muscle and burn fat. They want to feel the burn.

When Christians go to church, they should want to feel the burn of good preaching. If I remember the Scripture right, God compares his Word to a sword. Friends, swords are for cutting! Cutting away flesh. Cutting away sin. Cutting away unrighteousness. Cutting away idols. Piercing the mind, heart, and will with God’s inescapable truth. And so, Preacher, take up the Word and wield it well! Lead them to sorrow over their sins so that they will repent. Cause them to feel discomfort over their status quo lives. Convict. Put the fear of God in them. Stir their souls with words that both sting and heal.

Every preacher’s aim ought to be to clear the room, whether to clear out the spiritually dead and inauthentic believers who cannot bear the word of truth so clearly spoken that they must plug up their ears and leave, or to stir up the true believers to get up and go do the works of the ministry out in the world.

 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. ~Hebrews 4:12, 13
 

Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!  ~Psalm 119:29

Preach, Preacher!

Rules for Readers

October 24, 2013

There are people who can read and then there are readers.

Let me illustrate. Some people like to read, others prefer to read. Some people spend money on food, clothes and hobbies; others spend money on books. Some people keep a book on the shelf; others keep one in the car. Some people visit libraries, others own libraries. You get the picture.

I’m a reader, and over the years I’ve developed some habits and personal rules that are helpful to the reading life. If you are an up and coming reader this may help you. If you are a seasoned bibliophile, let me know what you think. In no particular order:

1. Always bring a book– Seriously, even if it is just standing in line at the DMV, getting lunch by yourself, or anytime you have to wait for anything. It is a far better alternative to wasting time on your smartphone playing candy crush.

2. Read fiction and non-Fiction– Vary your tastes. I bounce back and forth between Sci-fi, Mysteries, and Fantasy in my fiction. And I enjoy all kinds of non-fiction. The more you vary your reading material, the more topics you have to talk about when you are forced into the company of other people.

3. If you are going to have a book in your face for hours, make sure it smells good- I smell every book. I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s like sampling a fine wine for me. I’ve put books back because they didn’t smell good. I love the smell of ink and paper. That’s why ebooks have no soul: they have no smell.

4. Find a good used book shop- Most used book shops don’t offer much, but if you find a good one, frequent it often. Make it your first stop. It’s cheaper, a way to recycle books, and a great way to find hidden treasures, like out of print books.

5. Never dog-ear a page to serve as a bookmark, use the receipt- For goodness sake don’t bend the pages on purpose! As a ritual I use the receipt as a bookmark. Sometimes I use expired or empty gift cards to mark so I have a ready straightedge with which to underline a passage. Which brings me to my next rule…

6. Use a straightedge to underline- On this point I must insist. I underline a lot so I can reference back to passages. To do so freehand looks just awful. Third-grader handwriting awful! Use a darn straight-edge and use fine black or blue ink. Respect the look of a book, even as you mark it up.

7. Never purchase a book you don’t intend to finish- The obvious exemptions are reference books or possibly anthologies. I do a lot of homework researching books before I buy them so I don’t waste time or money. Don’t buy books to look intelligent or cultured, or to make yourself feel good. Buy a book to read a book. You should probably only buy one at a time too, unless you read exceptionally fast.

8. Research before you buy- Don’t pay too much attention to 1 star or 5 star reviews unless they make up the overwhelming majority. 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s will tell you what you need to know and be a bit more even-handed.

9. Give books away- Make it a practice to loan books without asking for them back. This is one reason why I love buying books rather than going to the library. I like recommending and giving away good books, though there are some books I would never part with. On the flip side, if you are the one borrowing the book, it is courtesy to return it if you are finished or are not going to read it. (I’m looking at you Dan!)

10. If a book is awful, don’t feel like you have to finish it- I struggle with this one, but it is a necessary addendum to rule #7. One of my personal creeds is ‘finish what you start’, but some books are just plain bad and life is short. Freeing yourself to indulge in a better read is usually better then slogging through a terrible book just to pat yourself on the back at the end. As a rule of thumb, give an author a couple chapters. If he doesn’t hook you, part ways with him and move on. If you are halfway through, go ahead and finish.

11. Don’t buy the next book in the series until you have 100 pages or less to finish the current one- I have made this mistake often. I buy the first book in a series, think it is awesome to begin with, and buy the next one early, only to discover that by the end of the first book I am no longer interested.

12. Read together- Reading is a solitary activity for the most part, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. One of the most fun ways to read a book or series is concurrently with someone else so you can talk about it. It is also a great way to introduce people to reading. Try a reading party: there are only two rules: bring a book and don’t talk!

 

Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Man

July 5, 2013

This is a video of a devotional thought I did out of Mark 5. Enjoy

On Giving

May 24, 2013

“Give to everyone who begs from you…” ~Luke 6:30

You may want to read that one again. Go ahead, look up the passage in your Bible so you can find the context and prove that Jesus isn’t really saying here what it sounds like he is saying. I’ll wait. Immediately we want to question this teaching. We say things like:

‘Surely not give to everyone, Jesus.’

‘I only have so much to give. If I gave to everybody who asked, I wouldn’t have enough for myself or my family.’

‘What about swindlers, con men, and liars? Am I supposed to give to them too, Jesus?’

‘If I give to this guy, he is probably only going to spend it on drugs and alcohol.’

These are all valid concerns and deserving of real consideration. But even with all our skepticism and questions, we are still left with this clear and direct command from the one we call Lord: “Give to everyone who begs from you.” So we must deal with it. I know that too often my perceived exceptions to commands like this often end up paralyzing my ability to obey it.

What do you do when someone comes begging?

When someone comes to me with need, when they knock on my door, I come with skepticism and anxiety as a default approach. I respond with a natural inclination to hold on to what is mine and only give it away to beggars if I find they are worthy and true. I look to see if they are lazy, liars, deadbeats, drug-addicts, etc. Are they to blame for their circumstances? Are they deserving of my $5 or $10? (What a great loss to me if I got it wrong!) I’m probably not the only one who feels this way.

Sometimes we call this good stewardship. But stewardship is not stinginess. The biblical standard is give. You have been given much; therefore, give much. What if being a good steward means being wise as to how you can give the most away to do the most good?

Jesus tells us to give to everyone who begs from us. Are there exceptions? Probably. I’m not saying that all the concerns we have are invalid or that our desire to be wise in our giving is wrong. But let’s not use these questions and exceptions as excuses. I propose that we begin to obey this command by changing our default posture from a commitment to withholding to a commitment to give. Rather than clutching our wallets (or possessions, or food, or whatever) with no intention to give unless we are convinced otherwise, begin with the commitment to give to anyone who asks unless red flags come up. Even then, consider giving.

Be good and do good to sinners, not in some ploy to get them saved, but simply to obey Christ and be like him in blessing sinners. It is, after all, the year of the Lord’s favor. Right? (see Luke 4:18-19) So you have the freedom to bless others without anxiety about the needy person’s motives or the outcomes of your giving. In Christ and Christ alone, you have the freedom to do good to others without expecting anything in return, without self-righteous, self-serving motives. It is the way of the Lord to bless the undeserving, to show mercy to the ungrateful.

Consider this: Jesus must have healed people whom he knew would never receive him as Lord, performed miracles for people who would never make it into the kingdom, and blessed people who would later join in the chorus calling for his execution. Surely he shared meals in the homes of sinners who wouldn’t be in attendance at the marriage supper of the Lamb. And what was the loss to him? God was glorified. People were blessed. Jesus was praised. If people did not pursue him further as a response to this blessing, then that was on their heads and Jesus was not wrong to bless them. Instead, he was a Son with whom the Father was well pleased. When we act in kind, we are too.

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”                               ~Luke 6:35-36

Here is my challenge: change your posture. Repent of your givelessness (yes, I made up a word for it) and lay aside your anxiety. Let your default position be one of giving, rarely holding back from the one who asks of you. Let the Spirit lead you when there may be times to withhold, but let him be the one to tell you. Don’t be afraid to be taken advantage of. Don’t be afraid to give sacrificially. Be good to the undeserving: the slobs, the sluggards, and the smelly; the liars and the loonies; those who made bad decisions, those who keep making bad decisions, those who will always make bad decisions; those who can’t find work and those who won’t find work. Realize that people made bad choices, but it isn’t your or my job to shame them or hold them accountable. Many will never respond or show gratitude.

Love. Give. Bless. Just like Jesus.

Reading Scripture Aloud

May 10, 2013

Maybe you’ve been there: one of those circles where everybody takes turns reading Scripture out loud. It’s a great idea, a way to include everyone. Participation increases, but comprehension usually plummets. Having everyone read Scripture aloud is like asking everyone in a circle to take turns singing a verse of a song. The truth is that anybody can read Scripture aloud, but not everyone can do it well. Those who do it poorly end up distracting from the text rather than highlighting it. It seems to me that many adults may have a 10th-12th grade personal reading level but function at a middle school public reading level; probably because that is the time in public education when you stop reading aloud in class.

Public reading of any sort is an art. It takes practice to be good, but natural talent to be great. A distinguished voice helps (James Earl Jones, Charlton Heston, the British in general…). Most of us will never be masterful at it, but we can become better with practice. I’m no expert. I don’t have a distinguished speaking voice (i’m hoping it will age well), but as a teacher who reads from Scripture aloud quite often, I’ve learned a few things. Here are a few:

1.    Read It Silently First.

Don’t go into a public reading unprepared. Don’t count on your charisma, experience or relationship to the audience to help you through. That’s like turning in your first draft of a written work. As a writer, I’m telling you: that’s a bad idea! Read the text! Read it more than once. Read it in more than one translation. Familiarize yourself with the passage so that you have it almost memorized, if not fully memorized. Understand the flow. Let God’s Word speak to you before you speak it to others.

2.     Practice Reading It Aloud.

If you don’t talk to yourself, now is a good time to start. You have permission to shut yourself off in a room and talk to no one. Listen to the sound of your own voice. I have a music stand in my office for this very purpose. I practice preach to my bookshelves and empty seats. People who walk by my office and hear me talking must think I’m crazy. Who cares, I’m not talking to them…not yet anyways. Find a fake audience—the refrigerator, your cat, your favorite plant—and read as if it were a real audience. Try recording yourself and listening back to it. They have an app for that. Listen back to yourself and critique yourself. If your own reading bores you, then they will be bored too.

Practice is essential. Most of what I have to say pertains to work in the practice sessions. It is in these times that you are able to interpret the passage, learn pronunciation, and work out all the little kinks of long or broken-up sentences. This is your opportunity to self-edit (and don’t we all love editing), otherwise you’ll turn in your ‘first draft’ to the audience. Your errors will stand out more than anything else, which distracts from the blessing of hearing God’s word. I have learned that God honors those who prepare. Consider this an act of worship to God and service to your brothers and sisters in Christ: practice and prepare for public reading of Scripture.

3.    Project

Speak so people can hear you. Don’t deafen your audience, but use appropriate volume. Speak to the person farthest away.

4.    Emphasize The Right Words And Phrases.

If you didn’t write it, then you don’t get to choose what you want to emphasize willy-nilly. Use the writer’s cues. Focus on the key themes in the context of the passage and add emphasis to those words: Love, repent, kingdom of God, judgment, faith, etc. Focus on strong verbs, important nouns, adjectives, imagery, poetic language, repeated words or phrases, and sometimes adverbs.

5.    Keep Appropriate And Consistent Pace And Tone

This doesn’t mean be monotone. This doesn’t mean imitate a metronome. Just don’t vacillate between Speedy Gonzales and Eeyore in your reading speed or tone. Pick a pace and stick with it. Watch for bad habits. I used to start ever sentence quick and then slow down. What is your bad habit?

6.    Find Your Voice

God gave you a voice. It’s yours, so use it. Don’t attempt to channel someone else unless you are a great impressionist. If you are going to speak/read the truth, you must do it with your true voice. The audience must believe you too.

7.    Use Characterization (Unless It Sounds Dumb)

Giving voices to the characters can be either entertaining or irritating. If can do well, do it. If not, don’t. What does Jesus sound like when he talks? Do you know? I don’t. Instead of trying to make up a voice for each speaker, try just altering your tone, pitch, volume or reading pace slightly. Only make sure you differentiate between narrative and dialogue.

8.    Punctuation Is Your Friend

Punctuation tells you when you can take a breath, (breathe) which is incredibly important, (breathe) especially in a very long sentence such as this one where it just seems to go on and on forever; (breathe) and if you tried to read it straight through without stopping to take a breath you would distract from the reading. (breathe)

Your readers actually want you to take breaths. They get nervous when you strain at the end of a long passage, hurrying through it to get to the end so you can breathe, and they can too. Commas, semicolons and periods are your friends. Conjunctions too.

9.    Don’t Move Around Or Gesticulate Wildly

Moving around: great for public speaking, awful for public reading. Stand or sit in one place, don’t use you hands too much. It’s distracting. Whenever you direct attention to yourself bodily, you are direction attention from what is being read. Use your voice.

10. Make Comparisons And Contrasts Clear

“Both… and” “Either…or” “The righteous… the wicked” “The fool says… but the wise say”. Comparisons and contrasts are important, especially in Scripture. The biblical authors, particularly the Hebrews, used them often. It’s important. Read so that everyone sees the parallels.

11. Make Eye Contact

This takes some practice. Its ok–no it’s necessary to connect with the audience by looking up from the page every now and again to make eye contact. It engages the reader with the listener and communicates, ‘this is for you’. Just make sure you know what the next few words say. I usually do this at the end of the sentence or paragraph, and I tend to recite it slower. I do this for emphasis. Once again, if you have taken the time to familiarize yourself with the text, you can quote whole passages with no problem.

12. Read Phrases, clauses, and sentences, not words

Don’t say: “The—Lord—is—my—shepherd—I—shall—not—want.” You are not a robot. Instead read, “The Lord is my shepherd—I shall not want.” The comma after “shepherd” alerts you to when one clause ends and another begins. Ideas are communicated in clauses and phrases, not individual words, for the most part. This reiterates the importance of paying attention to punctuation and conjunctions. So how would you read the following passage aloud?

 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

~Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV)

Notice that it is a single sentence. Are you out of breath? You shouldn’t be if paused at the punctuation correctly.

 13.  What’s the main point? Focus on that and build towards it.

This is a method of emphasis, a way to draw out the most important point. It may be a sentence or verse in a long passage, or a phrase or even one word in a small passage or single verse; but there is a main point. Your job is to find it and make sure your readers find it too, by reading in such a way that it is obvious.

For example, what would you say is the main idea of the passage in tip #12? There are four verses making up one sentence with a whole lot of clauses. What is the main clause? What are the subordinate clauses? I think this is the main idea (you may disagree):

But God…made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

The main idea concerns the three things God has done for believers. Everything else in this passage supports this idea. Even the final verse (“ so that in the coming ages…”) supports this main idea because it shows his purpose in doing it. Your job is to find the main idea, be it a sentence, phrase or single word, and draw it out with your voice.

Consider speaking the main idea in one tone/volume/ speed and the supporting ideas in another, or utilizing eye contact to bring the point home. Don’t get crazy with it, but make sure the point gets across.

14. BONUS- If You Don’t Know How To Pronounce A Word, Pronounce Wrong It With Gusto

This is a bailout. If you practice and do your research you will know how to pronounce the name of Isaiah’s son: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (Which is awesome, by the way) without struggling. You may even be able to read a genealogy aloud without having an aneurism. But if all else fails, give it your best shot and risk saying it wrong with style. You may even start a trend; everyone will be reading Habba-kuck (wrong) instead of Ha-bakk-uk (correct).

Conclusion

If you don’t prepare, you reading will be flat or incoherent. You may have some modest success with random vocal variations, but it will only be accidental. Instead, let everything you do be intentional. Why emphasize this and not that? Why slow your pace here and not there? Why make eye contact at that point. Everything you do says something. Preparation allows you to say it with purpose. Go practice.

 

 

Three Who Groan: A Paraphrase of Romans 8:18-39

May 3, 2013

If you have the Son, then you have the Spirit. If you have the Spirit, then you are a son/daughter of God. You have been adopted into his family. As God’s children, along with Jesus, we have a great inheritance coming to us from our Father; but along with Jesus, we too must face sufferings before glory. Yet the sufferings we face are limited to this present age, this short-lived life. I’m convinced that the sufferings we undergo as God’s children are not even worth talking about in view of what’s to come. Glory awaits, and we eagerly anticipate the day when we will have it.

We are not alone in our anticipation. In fact, all of creation longs for the day of redemption as well, because until that day comes, the earth remains under a curse. We must remember that God created everything on earth to flourish and reflect his glory; but because of the rebellion of humanity, God’s chosen representatives and managers over the earth, everything in creation decays and falls apart. Things don’t work like they should. Under the curse, the world is chaotic, untamable, dangerous—a reflection of humanity’s fallen state. Creation didn’t choose to become like this. God subjected it to this state of frustration and decay, tying its fate to that of humanity: redemption in Christ Jesus.

God’s plan for the salvation encompasses all of creation. On the day when God reveals his adopted sons and daughters in glory, all creation will be liberated from the curse. The earth will become as God intended, ruled by his sons and daughters. The curse broken, the wrongs set right. The earth eagerly awaits that day, suffering under the curse until it comes. It is like a pregnant woman who anticipates the joy of her child’s birth. As the day approaches, labor pains overtake her. With great pain the woman gains what she has hoped for: her child. Likewise, the earth groans with labor pains, waiting for the children of God to be born into our new glorious bodies. Creation’s hope is tied to ours. It will be renewed when we are.

We also groan while we long for the redemption of our bodies. We have the blessing of the Spirit, the down payment of our inheritance, but we long for the fullness of salvation; not just the salvation of our souls, but the salvation of our bodies. Imagine it: free from the desire to sin, free from the power of death, free from disease, free to live eternally with God. We will share in his nature and see him as he is. All we can do is imagine, for that day lies yet ahead. So we also groan like a woman in labor—patient, but eager to be finished with suffering and receive what we’ve longed for.

There is a third who groans: the Spirit of God. He does not only groan with us, but also for us. We pray for relief, but we are inept at praying and often pray with wrong motives, for the wrong thing, or in the wrong way. The Spirit, therefore, prays for us. We groan in pain, the Spirit groans in prayer. This groaning is inaudible to us, but God hears it and knows exactly what the Spirit prays; for the Spirit always prays according to God’s will.

So no matter what we encounter, God will use it to achieve his ultimate plan. God’s children—that is, those who have been called according to his purposes and who love him—have assurance that God is in control and capable of using even the darkest shades that color our lives to paint his masterpiece. What else would we expect from our Creator and Designer, the Master Artist? He has always been in control, shaping events toward his goal. He knew who would belong to him before we did. He decided to pattern his adopted children after the image of his beloved Son Jesus; that way Jesus would be the honored firstborn son, the son who inherits the throne and the kingdom, and we would serve him and be like him. This was God’s plan from the beginning. Those for whom he set this great destiny, he called. And those whom he called, he also justified, clearing them of all sin. And those whom he justified, he also glorified. There you have it: God is in control from beginning to end. He knew you would belong to him before you ever existed, so he took all the necessary steps to bring you to be with him forever. The God who has worked all this out— eternity past to eternity future—will certainly work out everything that happens to us in this short life.

What else is there to say? If God is for us, then who has a chance of standing against us? God gave us the most precious gift when he gave up his one and only Son to die for the sins of us all. Can you really believe he would hold back any blessings from us? Who is out there that can prosecute us? Surely we aren’t worthy of all God’s great blessings. We freely admit that! But God has justified us. He has declared us righteous by grace through our faith in Christ, not because of anything we’ve done. The accusations against us from the enemies of God are baseless. They might condemn us, but Christ, who died and was raised from the dead, is our protector. He intercedes for us.

So can anything set us against Christ? Can we be separated from his love? Can trouble or suffering or persecution rip us away from Christ? What about when a tragedy like famine or hunger strikes, or when our basic needs such as clothing aren’t met, or when we are in danger of all kinds, or our very lives are threatened by violent people seeking to kill us? Can any of these build a wall of separation between Christ and us? The Scriptures testify that because we are God’s people living in a world set against him, we are beset with danger. We face death and persecution every day on account of Him.

But to answer the question: no. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. No matter what happens we are victorious always, not because of our own power to overcome, but by the overcoming power of Christ’s love. I am persuaded that nothing—nothing in life or even death itself, not angelic powers or demonic powers, not the present, not the future, nor any enemy of any kind, nothing high or low, great or small, indeed, nothing that has been created by God’s hand—can separate us from God’s great love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. End of story.

Repurposed: Living the New Life in Christ

April 18, 2013

“Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”  ~Romans 6:12-13 (NLT)

Liberated

In Christ you have new life. Your life before Christ is dead, crucified and buried. Whether your old life was evil or benign doesn’t matter. When you were baptized into Christ, you died. You may live in the same house in the same town with the same family. You may go to the same school and have the same friends. You may… well, you get the picture. The outward life remains the same, typically, but the inward life is radically changed. You may not always feel like it, but feelings are unreliable. You are changed, a new creation, born all over again with a new nature, a new master, and a new future. Believe it because God says it is so (2 Cor. 5:17).

According to Romans chapter 6, when you died with Christ, you died to sin. In Paul’s understanding, sin is not a generic word describing evil-habits; rather, sin is an enslaving power present within everyone at birth. It is a built-in addiction to disobedience. From the start, you had a tendency to love self, use others, and reject God. This is the old nature, to which you were enslaved, and from which you have been liberated. Before Christ, you lived to sin, now you live for God.

De-align

Paul encourages believers to consider their life in this light. Look at what the verse above instructs: don’t let sin control your life! Don’t give in to sinful desires! You now have the ability to choose to please and obey God. Likewise, you have the ability to resist sin’s demands. Sin can tell you what to do, but since you don’t belong to sin anymore, you don’t have to listen. You can say no. You don’t have to sin anymore. This is good news, and evidence of the liberation from sin that Christ won for us. You are dead to sin.

Therefore, don’t resell yourself into sin’s service. Your freedom in Christ does not make you immune to sin’s call. Just as you can reject sin’s advances, you may also choose to embrace them. Any time you wish, you may go back and live in the lifestyle you did previously, but why would you want to? That lifestyle led to death. So then, don’t volunteer for sin. Don’t initiate bad behavior. Don’t put yourself in situations where sinning comes easy.

I call this practice of withholding yourself from sin ‘de-aligning’. It might just be a trendy way to restate repentance, but I like it. Part of living the new life in Christ is the process of de-aligning from the old life, the dead ways of before. Walk away, give it up, and don’t look back. Starve the sin nature by refusing to offer yourself to its appetites. Disarm it by leaving sin’s service. The sins that linger are the sins that you feed. De-align yourself from the old master. You have a new one now.

Repurposed

There is a trend in the world of decorating to buy old beat up furniture, slap some new paint on it and put it to new use. It’s called repurposing. People with an artistic bent and a lot of chalk paint can do some pretty amazing things. I’m sure if we had more room in our tiny apartment, my wife would fill with all kinds of repurposed furniture. I like the idea of taking something old and beat up, only good for the garbage, and making it new again. Restoration is beautiful. It is a great picture of what God does for broken, beat up people who are only good for judgment. He repurposes them. Although, the Bible uses a different word: redemption.

Romans 6 focuses on the physical body and how God has redeemed it. Though it remains unchanged in form, it has taken on a new function. God has repurposed it. What was formerly used for evil, he has purchased in order to put to good use. That’s His design. Think about your body. What are some of the ways its use has changed since Christ redeemed you? Formerly, your whole body was used for sin’s design. Lips were for gossip, vulgarity, lying, judging and arrogant boasting. Hands were for violence, theft, greedy gain, and abuse. The eyes lusted. The stomach consumed endlessly. The heart hardened itself against others and harbored self-love or self-loathing. You get the picture. Things are different now.

Realign

God has not simply liberated your spirit, but your entire being. You are repurposed, redeemed. Live like it! Realign yourself with God’s design by volunteering your body for God’s purposes. Use your mouth for praising God, prayer, building up others, and speaking the truth. Use your hands to serve others and create good things. Open them to others rather than closing them around material things. Use your eyes to see the world as God sees it, beholding people with honor, respect, and mercy. Use your feet to bring the good news to a world that needs it. Reclaim your sexual passions to God’s design, not wasting them like the world does.

The new life in Christ is about de-aligning your life from sin and realigning it with God’s design. He has set your destiny. He has saved your soul. He has purchased you with the blood of his Son and repurposed you. Now submit to God with every part of your body. Where will you start?

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