Marks of a Christian in the War Against Sin

hugo-jehanne-543575-unsplashEven though Christians are forgiven of their sin they still struggle daily with the indwelling sin that remains in them and will remain in them until the Lord returns. This is why Colossians 3:5 calls us to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” Christians are called to not tolerate or put up with sin but instead make war against it every single day through the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13).

One of the places we see this ongoing battle with exemplified is in Romans 7:7-25 when Paul shares his own struggle in this area. Some interpreters have taught that this text refers to Paul’s life before coming to faith in Christ but a careful reading of the text seems to reveal this is referring to Paul’s present life as a follower of Jesus. There are a few things he mentions in his fight against sin that are true of every Christian and those are what I want to highlight in this post. Christians will struggle with sin but there are some characteristics that will always be present in their war against sin.

A desire to practice righteousness. Every Christian will have a deep desire through the work of the Spirit to obey God. Part of the regenerating and saving work of Jesus is to put in us a heart that longs to practice righteousness in our lives. So no matter how strong the battle against sin is in the Christian’s life there will always be a abiding desire to obey their Lord. Through this passage you can sense Paul’s desire to do what’s right even though he says he often fails to do it. He highlights that desire in verse 18 when he says, “For I have the desire to do what is right…” That’s a mark of a true Christian in the ongoing fight against sin. It was true in Paul’s life and will be true in ours as we follow our Lord while making war with the sin that remains within us.

Delight in God. This is closely tied to the point above but Christians will delight in God. That means delighting in His presence, delighting in His commands, and delighting in our growing relationship with Him. When Christians find themselves consumed with sin and delighting in things of the world they will be unsettled. They will sense the conviction of the Spirit and will be uncomfortable. A true Christian will be miserable the longer they walk in disobedience to their Lord. They have been given a heart that delights in God and delighting in anything else doesn’t cut it. Paul mentions this in verse 22 when he says, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being.” He goes on to say that even still he sees the sin that remains in him that is constantly pulling him away from delighting in God. However, when Christians find themselves delighting in anything other than their Lord there will be a sense of conviction. There will at times also be correction from the Lord as we see mentioned in Hebrews 12:5-11.

Inner battle between the flesh and the Spirit. This is where all the stuff explained above comes together. The Christian has two natures abiding within them and those two natures are at constant war. There is the new man and the old man and they are going at it daily to gain ground in our hearts and lives. The presence of this conflict is not a sign that someone isn’t a Christian. In fact, it’s completely opposite because this conflict actually indicates someone is a Christian. If someone wasn’t a Christian this conflict wouldn’t be present. It’s precisely because they have a new nature that there is an inner war happening every single day. If you read through this passage you see this battle between the flesh and the Spirit happening in Paul’s life. Christians throughout history have had and will continue to have this conflict going on within them.

The good news for Christians is this battle with sin is only temporary. There is coming a day when our sin will be completely done away with. Until then we keep fighting and along with Paul we proclaim “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 24-25).

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Teaching Students About The End Times

Photo Oct 10, 12 00 48 PMOne of the topics I haven’t spent much time teaching on in our student ministry is eschatology (or commonly called the end times). One of the reasons may be because of my own shifting in views of how I understand what the Bible teaches about the end times or the fact it’s an area of theology that contains so many various views it’s hard to know what exactly to focus on when you teach on this topic to students. It can be a tough topic to address in any setting and especially in student ministry.

Recently we did a series called “This I Believe.” In this series we walked through the major points of Christianity and covered topics like the Bible, Godhead, Angels & Demons, Mankind, Salvation, and the Church. To wrap up the series we talked about what we as Christians believe about the end times.

As I said earlier, this is a topic that contains many different views that all fall within orthodox Christianity. There are multiple views on the rapture and the millennial kingdom as well as different views on how to interpret the book of Revelation. There are also different views on the relation of the church and Israel and how that plays out in thee end times.

So with all those competing views what did I decide to land on when it came to teaching my students about the end times. I decided to focus on the major things we do know and that the Bible is clear on while not addressing (maybe I will in a different setting one day) some of the areas of debate like timing of rapture or nature of the millennial kingdom. My focus was on three main events: return of Jesus, final judgment, and eternal state (heaven and hell).

You can watch the entire talk below and see how I handled these topics.

Books I’ve Read Recently

510broL5n+L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Fundamentalist by Joey Svendsen. This was by far the most raw and honest book I have ever read. However, it was much needed in my life right now. In this book Svendsen shares about his legalistic upbringing in the church as well as his ongoing struggles with mental illness. One of the main themes throughout this book is Svendsen’s journey of understanding his own salvation. He shares about how he use to view the “sinner’s prayer” as a checklist of things he must say and how he felt guilt about certain behaviors or activities all the while wrestling with his faith. He continues to share his stories of faith, doubt, and mental illness all the way up into adulthood. The subtitle of the book gives you a peak into the beauty of this story – “Stories of a mentally ill, obsessive compulsive, legalistic youth group kid turned pastor.” It’s a book that shows how our upbringing can impact us in huge ways and how our own brokenness keeps us from seeing and enjoying the beauty of the Gospel. This was a great read but I say that with caution. If you’re offended by Christians who cuss and are comfortable with talking about sex and related issues openly this is not the book for you. If you are familiar with Svendsen and his work with the BadChristian community this will come as no surprise. I’d still recommend the book but be warned there will be things in this book that don’t comfortably fit into the “Christian book” category. But that’s ok; it’s a great book!

919yabQY9KLLife Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is one of Bonhoeffer’s most popular books and it stands as a classic on the topic of Christian community. In this little book Bonhoeffer lays out what Christian community is (chapter 1) and then follows that with what daily life looks like with other believers (chapter 2) as well as with yourself (chapter 3). The final two chapters deal with ministering to others as well as confession within the Christian community. The entire book is deeply rooted in Scripture but also extremely practical for Christians among all generations. This book helped me see exactly what God calls me to when it comes to community as well as how that should practically look in my life. There are encouragements in this book that may not come naturally or easy for us in our world today but I believe Christians reading this book, including myself, would do well to follow what Bonhoeffer is suggesting. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is desiring to get a good framework on what Christian community is and how it looks practically within the church.

41aMVzv0zzL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken. This is another book on the topic of Christian community. Like the title suggest, the theme of this book is being “uncomfortable.” McCracken argues that both our faith and community as Christians is and should be a bit uncomfortable. In the first section on “uncomfortable faith” he lays out how our faith calls us towards the uncomfortable. Everything from the cross, holiness, love, mission, and more doesn’t come naturally to us. Faith propels us to believe and live out some uncomfortable truths. Then he gets into section two on “uncomfortable community.” In this section he dives into various parts of Christian community and how they are important and needed no matter how uncomfortable they make us. For example, he deals with topics like racial diversity, worship styles, and church authority. Two things really stood out to me about this book. First, McCracken rightly admits there is no “perfect church” and that searching for a church that is the perfect fit for you is the wrong approach. In our culture of consumerism this is a much needed reminder. I needed it and I think others do as well. Second, he lives out what he writes. He shares about how his own church context is not the most comfortable to him and how his church isn’t the “perfect fit” for him. He shares stories and illustrations from this part of his life and it’s extremely helpful.

Two other books I’ve recently read that I chose not to review are Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley and More Than a Carpenter by Josh & Sean McDowell.

Book Review: How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman

_225_350_Book.2558.coverI’m not drawn to conversations about politics and governmental affairs. I’d also consider myself a passivest when it comes to these matters as well. However, over the past year or so this has somewhat changed with the current political climate in our country. Jonathan Leeman’s book, How the Nations Rage, helped me think through how I should and should not engage in these political matters. This book provided me with many things to think through as I set out to hopefully be a humble follower of Christ that can wisely dialogue in the public square.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. There isn’t anything negative I can really say about it. With that being the case, let me share a few things found within this book I really liked.

First, there is a great chapter on the Bible and politics (chapter 4). It seems that some people view the Bible as a political handbook in how to run a country while others claim the Bible contains nothing about politics. However, Leeman argues there is a balanced approach we can take instead of picking sides. He rightly claims that the Bible contains absolute truths that we cannot let go off no matter the political climate we find ourselves in. These absolutes are things like covenants, commissions, and commands. However, when it comes to things ideologies, constitutions, parties, candidates, and policies we should hold those loosely and seek out wisdom in making decisions in those areas. Leeman says, “When it comes to thinking about politics, the Bible is less like a book of case law and more like a constitution. A constitution does not provide a country with the rules of daily life. It provides the rules for making the rules” (page 79).

Second, there is a great section on the purpose of government. Why does government exist? Does the Bible support it? About midway through the book Leeman gives a short summary of the purpose of government from a Biblical perspective. I found this section to be one of the most helpful in the entire book. I know the Bible talks about government and that there is good use for it but I never really formed a great defense of the purpose behind it all.

Third, the local church is elevated throughout this book. What I absolutely loved about this book was how the local church was constantly elevated and kept at the center. Almost everything Leeman says in this book ties itself back to the local church. The church is where good, God honoring politics should take place. Leeman says, “Our political instincts should develop by living inside the loving and difficult relationships that comprise the church. You might even say our political thinking should be pastoral” (page 133). In addition to making points like the one above, Leeman makes a habit of using his own local church experience to share examples of what it looks like to practice good politics within the local church. These examples help the reader understand how they too can live out good politics within their own local body of believers.

I’d encourage anyone who desires to get a better grip on being a political engaged Christian to read this book. It’s balanced, thought-provoking, and will help you understand how to better being a follower of Christ who lovingly engages the world of politics.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

Talking with God Teaching Series

Talking With God Title SlideCommunication is vital in any relationship including a Christian’s own relationship with God. Helping people understand how God communicates to us and we to Him is so important. That’s why we took two weeks in our middle school ministry to talk about just that – how to talk to God. The idea behind this short series is very simple. We wanted to our students to understand that God speaks to us through the Bible and we have the privilege of speaking to Him through prayer. The first week we talked about Bible reading. We looked at what the Bible is and a very practical tools we can use to read it better. The second week we talked about prayer. Much like the talk on the Bible, we looked at what prayer is and how we can pray better following the example Jesus gave in Matthew 6.

I wrote the talk for the first week and our two-year intern Allen Williams wrote the talk for the second week. We wanted to make this short series available to others to use in their own ministry context. As stated above, these talks were originally written for a middle school audience but can be tweaked to fit in almost any context. Click the link below to get both teaching manuscripts as well as the graphics for this series. There is also a “Bible Study Plans and Methods” handout that you can share to go along with the first talk in this series.

Talking with God Teaching Series