Twitter and Humility

In today’s social media world, anyone can become a celebrity in a matter of seconds! Post a video or tweet or reel that grabs the attention of many in a short span of time, and you can have “rock start” status!

A word of caution, if I may . . . there is only one celebrity, one individual that is worthy of undivided attention, one person that is to be lauded, followed and worshipped. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).

There is only one celebrity!

If we are truly born again (John 3:1-18), a follower of Jesus Christ (Luke 14:26), then He lives in us to live His life out of us (John 14:20; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). This is the preeminent status for us in this life! This is who we really are.

Therefore, let’s be careful when and if our numbers begin to climb that our pride is not stroked by how many followers or commenters we have. Any influence in this world we have only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit as He exalts the Lord Jesus Christ for the glory and honor of God the Father!!

Remember the words of John the Baptist . . . He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).

Faithfulness and loyalty to God is much more important than being a celebrity.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Let’s Just Settle Down

My dad had many sayings. When my friends and I got rowdy as a kid, he would sometimes utter, “You boys need to settle down.”

Now in my 60’s and having been exposed to so much in the Christian and religious world for these years, could we as pastors/Christian leaders just settle down?

My background is one of . . . growing up in a pastor’s home (My dad was Church of the Nazarene until his Army days in Korea, and then came to understand the security of believer in Christ, thanks to a godly chaplain who taught him the Word!); The Wilds Christian Camp (Doc Hay, Rock Royer, Major Brooks, etc.); Bob Jones University (college and seminary plus a host of its graduates including all of its presidents to date, Bible Conference speakers, faculty, etc.); Tennessee Temple University graduates; the Sword of the Lord crowd; my Southern Baptist grandfather who pastored in Kentucky and southwest Virginia; the GARBC; the many men who fellowshipped in what was for years known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (Now Foundations Baptist Fellowship); Dallas Theological Seminary grads; being mentored personally by the likes of J.B. Williams, J. Robert Martin, Randy Patten, Reynold Lemp and many others; plus being influenced from a distance by the likes of Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Adrian Rogers, Henry Blackaby, David Jeremiah, and more.

In more recent years, my background continues to be of the many mentioned above plus Men’s Prayer Advance, 9Marks, T4G, CoRE Conferences, plus many, many books authored by Tripp, Ortlund, Wells, Bridges, Payne & Marshall, Thomas, Huegal, Ryrie, Walvord, Pickering, etc.

“What’s the point?’, you may ask.

Well, I want to say that for all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out; none of us knows all the facts about everyone or every situation; none of us know more than our God; none of us have the absolute right methodology; none of us are the standard; and none of us have arrived!

For all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out . . . none of us have arrived!

We all come from various backgrounds and are all influenced by a diverse group of people, churches, institutions and movements, but we are saved by grace through faith alone in the cross work and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are one in Christ. We are made complete in Christ. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are children of the living God!

Therefore, understanding that there are clear, biblical points of separation and the application thereof, such as preeminently, the Gospel (Galatians 1:1-10), may I say that we need to . . .

  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt.
  • Be gracious and kind.
  • Stop making fun of our brothers on social media whether you agree with him or not. (No wonder the lost world doesn’t want our Jesus, seeing the way we lampoon one another.)
  • Throw away our Pharisaical microscope.
  • Give one another space to grow in sanctification.
  • Cheer our brother on when he’s down. When revival breaks out where he pastors but not where you serve, rejoice and praise God with him!
  • Personally call up the brother we have issue with instead of talking about him behind his back or on social media.
  • Exchange the time of criticizing and posting for time on our knees in prayer.
  • Let God handle error by His righteous standard rather than us being “the enforcer.”
  • Meet with your brother for coffee; get to know him and disciple each other.
  • Confess and repent of our arrogance and pride.
  • Exercise grace.
  • Remember, we will live forever together in Glory!

Throw away your Pharisaical microscope.

In times past, I have jokingly said, for instance to a group of four men, “There are only four people in the world that’s perfect. That’s me and you three, and . . . I am doubtful about you three!”

Proverbs 22:4 recently challenged my heart again . . . By humility and the fear of the LORD (not man) are riches and honor and life.

May I suggest that we soak our soul often in the truths of Colossians 1:15-18 and go deep in meditation and prayer in Philippians 1:1-2:18?

Let’s join Paul in prayer . . . And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Let’s just settle down.

Heart Transplant

Since the heart is perverse and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), can it be changed?

Can our deceitful heart be transformed into a truthful heart?

Can our our hypocritical heart be converted into a holy heart?

Can our idolatrous heart be changed into a worshipping heart for God?

Yes! The heart of change is having the heart of Christ.

The heart in scripture represents all that we are. As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man (Proverbs 27:19). It’s our inner person (Proverbs 4:23; Ephesians 3:16-17). The functions of the biblical heart involve your will, emotions, spirit or soul and mind.

To have the heart of Christ is to first of all be born again (Read John 3:1-18; Regeneration).

Second, to have the heart of Christ is learn of His heart as you study His earthly life from (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the Christ-life (Romans 6-8; Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) as the Holy Spirit reveals Him to you (John 16:12-15).

While sitting on my back porch meeting with the Lord as I read His Word, the Holy Spirit revealed Christ’s heart to me again. As I began to read Luke 15, a passage of three parables about lost things Jesus used to answer the accusations of the Pharisees, a statement from the Pharisees about Christ spoke to my heart. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives/welcomes sinners and eats with them” (15:2).

Why does Jesus welcome sinners; those who are lost? Luke 19:10 says, For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

At that moment the thought came to me, “The heart of Christ is to receive, to welcome sinners who are broken in their sin, hell-bound and without hope.”

Then I was reminded of Bill Pickel, a man who lived out the heart of Christ, and it could have been said of him, “He received sinners and ate with them.”

During my junior and senior years of college, I served as youth and music leader at a church in upstate South Carolina. Every weekend I would stay at the Pickel’s home. Often he was not home, sometimes arriving back home around 2-3:00 in the morning.

Why? He was out spending time at some local beer joint . . . loving, listening, caring, and sharing with sinners the Good News of Jesus Christ. Sometimes he brought these broken men into his home for a meal or a bed. Many of them he saw humble themselves before the Lord, repent of their sins, and receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

Yes, Bill was criticized by the “religious Pharisees” because he had the audacity to found in a beer joint. Nevertheless, Bill chose to live out the Christ-life and “eat with sinners.”

What have you learned about the heart of Christ today as you gazed into His Word? But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What has the Holy Spirit revealed to you today of Christ? How has the Holy Spirit worked in your heart to bear the fruit of Christ through your life (Galatians 5:22-23)? He can do the same in your life as He did in Bill Pickel’s life.

The lyrics of a favorite song in our home when our girls were young said, “Change my heart, O God. Make it ever new. Change my heart, O God, make it more like you.”

“I Don’t Care Anymore!”

“It’s time for me to quit!”

“I’m so weary and tired.”

“I need a break from the ministry!”

“The past two years have been my worst ever in all these years of ministry.”

“What’s the use?”

“The financial struggle has gotten the best of me.”

“I didn’t know so-called Christians could be so mean!”

“My family has gone through hell!”

“Loneliness in ministry is severe.”

These and a hundred more statements have been heard and made by pastors over the years, some recently and others frequently.

Pastor, I am right there with you.

Many years ago in a ministry in another state, the deacon chairman lived directly across the street from the parsonage. He and wife watched us “like a hawk.” They rose up against my wife and me, even leading others to join them. At seemingly my wit’s end one morning, my wife standing in the bedroom with me, I grabbed a pillow from the bed, hurled it across the room, and yelled, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!

Now, some thirty years later, many more blessings than battles, I can say, “I made it, and we are continuing to make it, take it, move forward, . . . all by the sufficient grace and unfathomable love of God, plus the multiplied “ravens” (e.g. Elijah, 1 Kings 17) He has sent our way.

Pastor, may I help you today?

Perhaps one of the things that is “killing you” today, breaking down your body, and harming your marriage and family as well as the ministry is your own set of expectations.

Psalm 62:5, My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation (my hope) is from Him.

Can you honestly say that?

Who or what sets your expectations?

  • That “To Do” list that never is completed?
  • Some church members/board or your perceived/assumed viewpoint of the church members’ thoughts about you?
  • Your false identity that you think you have to live up to as being the “man of God”?
  • Your own deceptive heart?
  • That “super conference” you just attended and heard of many success stories?
  • Your Twitter feed?
  • Your recent track of success that must be continued or you will look like a failure?
  • That text notification you just received?
  • Your idea of being “superman” pastor who never takes a day off?
  • A sense of guilt when you do take a day off?
  • Wanting to perform every Sunday, being on your “A” game?
  • Fear?
  • Pride?
  • Lust?
  • Criticism?

Pastor friend, may I suggest two things?

  1. Please take some time to rest; learn to rest. Most pastors do not know how to “take their foot off the accelerator.” Ministry is 24/7, even on vacation. Nevertheless, you need to set in your calendar a morning or day to rest during the week as well as at least four times a year go away to a cottage or some other get-away to, yes, get away! You are worn out! Even when you do take a vacation, it takes three days to unwind, then you haven’t taken the upcoming Sunday off, so you are back in “get ready to preach, get prepared for Sunday mode,” and you have not properly rested your body and soul. If you don’t learn to rest, you are headed for potential failure, a downfall in ministry. I will write more about this in the days ahead.
  2. Wherever you go to rest, take a list of any of the expectations mentioned above, adding those from your own personal collection and lay them before the Lord in honest, crying out, transparent, conversational (you talk and then listen to God) prayer. Find a place by the lake, along the hiking trail, at the dock, on your back deck, someplace you can be alone. undistracted. Wherever you are, honestly talk out loud to the Lord about each one of these. Christ is your Shepherd and the Head of the Church. He’s your intercessor. Let Him redirect your focus, your motives, your goals, your passions, your dreams, your heart!! Be sure to write in a journal what He reveals to you and add the scriptures He brings to your mind for each one. Don’t be in a hurry! Leave your cell phone alone, please. Don’t use it to search the scriptures. Bring a printed Bible with you.

Pastor, go to the cross, then the empty tomb, and settle in at the Throne. Don’t be in a hurry at either place. Rest there awhile and soak your soul in Matthew 11:28-30, Romans 8 and Hebrews 12:1-3.

You see, when your expectations come from God, He gives grace to accomplish His will (Philippians 2:13), and He’s responsible for the outcome.

What Is This World Coming To?

Several years ago, I heard that question posed and answered this way, “What is this world coming to? This world is coming to Jesus!”

Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Indeed, the day in coming when the saints and angels in heaven, everyone on earth, and the devil, his hosts and those in hell below, will bow before Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord, as Savior, as King, as Sovereign over the universe and mankind.

The above stated question is also asked by many believers day-after-day. The answer is the same.

No matter the craziness, chaos, perplexities, or “jaw-dropping-moments” of life, the preeminent response is always “come to Jesus” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Open your Bible. Look into the face of Christ. He gives you saving and sanctifying rest as you learn from Him through meditation and memorization. This exchanges the human viewpoint of life with divine viewpoint that “sets you free” (John 8:31-32) and appropriates the peace of God which will rule in your heart (Colossians 3:15).

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Don’t Follow Your Heart!

A man is not a murderer because he kills; he kills because he is a murderer.

For out of the heart come murders (Matthew 15:19).

A man is not an adulterer because he cheats on his wife; he cheats on his wife because he is an adulterer.

For out of the heart comes adultery (Matthew 15:19).

A man is not sexually immoral because he preys on children; he preys on children because he is sexually immoral.

For out of the heart comes sexual immorality (Matthew 15:19).

A man is not a thief because he steals; he steals because he is a thief.

For out of the heart comes theft (Matthew 15:19).

A man is not a slanderer because he gossips; he gossips because he is a slanderer.

For out of the heart comes slander (Matthew 15:19).

The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.

The “heart” as described in scripture is who you really are. So, in this Matthew passage, we see where Jesus puts his finger on the culprit of every sinful behavior . . . our corrupt, deceitful, desperately wicked heart (Jeremiah 17:9).

Jesus said to the Pharisees, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (Matt. 26:25-26)

The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.

“Jesus teaches us that there is something far more fundamental to our sinfulness than the actual sins we commit,” Tom Ascol goes on to say. “Our sins do not make us sinful. Rather, we commit sins because, at the very center of our lives, we are sinful. Sin has invaded the inner recesses of our personalities.”

We can spend hours discussing the recent events of our world and try to come up with man-made answers and “band-aid” solutions to the murders in 2022, the war in Ukraine, the angry outbursts and ungodly actions from political leaders, the trafficking of humans, the abortion of babies, and the continual sinful behavior displayed daily on our phones and ipads, but the answer and solution is only found in the Word of God.

Sinful man must have a changed, transformed heart through the power of the gospel (John 3; Romans 3:9-23; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Once he repents and believes in Christ alone for salvation (Romans 10:9-13), the Holy Spirit comes to indwell that man whereby he is now able to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of his heart/flesh (Galatians 5:18-24; Romans 6-8).

Much, much more to be said, but I’ll end with a word of great hope:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:2-4)

According To Your Word

My soul melts from heaviness (Psalm 119:28a). This describes my heart since Sunday afternoon.

The heaviness that has come over me because of the effects of sin.

The grief that has gripped me due to the deep deceitfulness of our wicked hearts.

Wednesday around 2:00 a.m. I was abruptly awakened out of my sleep, praying out loud for the many drowning in sorrow in Uvalde, Texas as well as those picking up the pieces from the SBC/Guidepost report released Sunday afternoon. As I thought of those precious elementary children, I thought also of my dear grandsons.

Oh Lord, strengthen me according to Your Word!!!

As I rolled out of bed, I grabbed my phone on the night stand and went to Wednesday’s scripture reading from Psalm 119:41-48. I needed strength! I needed to hear from the Lord! I needed my heart to be calmed!

Let Your mercies (lovingkindness, steadfast love) come also to me, O Lord— Your salvation according to Your word. (Psalm 119:41)

These were the first words I read. How marvelous to know that God has extended mercy and grace to me as a poor, lost, hell-bound sinner and has rescued me according to the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Timothy 1:12-17) . . . according to Your word.

You see, for true salvation and assurance of eternal life in heaven, for our wicked hearts to be changed, for sin to be correctly and adequately dealt with, for quietness in our soul in the midst of such wickedness and sorrow, for an understanding of perilous times, to have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” . . . it can only and always be . . . according to Your Word.

Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life (Psalm 119:49-50).

According to Your word!

P.S. Take some time to read Revelation 21

It’s Friday . . . and Sunday’s Coming!

Preacher, are you ready?

May I share three things to encourage you toward Sunday?

1. Prepare your heart

In this atomic age when forces are being released that stagger the thought and imagi­nation of man it is well to remember that prayer transcends all other forces. (F. J. Huegel)

Men, Jesus said, Without me, you can do nothing (John 15:5)! Preparing your heart through prayer is more important than delivering your sermon. Passionate, dependent, scripture-filled prayer says, “Lord, You are able, I am not!”

2. Prepare your message

Men, we have been challenged to Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2) since the day we sensed God’s call to the ministry. Those folks who gather to hear you Sunday need hope and to see Christ. Therefore, preach the Word under the control of the Holy Spirit from a heart set on fire by God!

Give the sheep good grain, a message from God’s Word, not just a sermon.

3. Prepare your family

Saturday evening, gather your family together and share what the Lord has taught you and what you will deliver in the message on Sunday. Have them pray for you and with you.

Make your family a vital part of the ministry team!

Preacher, will you be ready?

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:27-29)

A Dark Room: My Heart & Abortion

Having held my lifeless stillborn daughter in my arms almost 35 years ago can bring a rising level of emotions to my heart when I consider the current scenario being played out in the SCOTUS Roe v. Wade “leak” and upcoming ruling.

My heart. Yes, . . . that’s the key word in the previous sentence. Years ago, I heard someone say, “The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.” What gives that principle gravity is the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when He said, For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person (Mark 7:21-23). What Jesus describes here is the fallen condition of our heart.

Described in Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

The heart, as referred to in the Word of God, is not the vital human organ that pumps blood throughout our bodies; that keeps us going, moving, breathing. The heart is summed up in all that we are . . . our emotions, our will, our mind. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us that the heart determines the course of your life (NLT).

The whole of the abortion issue is one of the heart. Man by his very fallen nature has a heart that is selfish, short-sighted, manipulative, greedy, lazy, hedonistic, irrational, unreasonable, murderous, wicked, covetous, sensual, proud, corrupt, deceitful, faithless, ruthless, confused and much more.

Romans 1 describes the heart that refuses to acknowledge God as “foolish” and “darkened” (1:21).

The world’s response to abortion, those who perform abortions and those who have an abortion are simply . . . following their heart. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

Now, I have just described my own heart. All of the above characteristics dwell within me, too. The only difference . . . at the age of five, based upon the truths of God’s Word and by His grace alone, Christ came to live in my heart, took up residency within me, and now I do not live the Christian life, Christ lives His life through me (Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-13; John 14:17-23; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21; Colossians 1:27).

As a disciple of the Lord Christ Jesus, the worst decision I can make each day and throughout the day is to follow my heart, to go my own way. Man left to himself destroys himself and those around him.

The only way to overcome the battle that rages within me, my heart wanting to have its own way, is to surrender to Christ within me. He is life and has the words of life (John 6:68-69; 14:6; Matthew 11:28-30).

The answer to the abortion issue and the downward spiral of my heart is the gospel, the person of Jesus Christ.

As I think back to those days after the stillbirth of Ashley Marie, I am oft reminded of the dear lady who Denise visited in the hospital three months later who had experienced the same. When my wife walked into that room filled with sorrow and pain, she entered into the darkness of that dear mom’s heart when she said, “I just went through the same thing three months ago.” Then and there, Denise was able to share Christ with her.

Because of the condition of my heart, I can empathize with all in this world who are for abortion at any level. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Each of these need Christ. Each of these need someone to share the message of the gospel with them.

Especially needed is the dear mom who now lives with a broken heart, the painful scars of her decision to have an abortion. For you dear lady, there is forgiveness at the cross of Jesus Christ. To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He [God] made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:6-7).

Today, may we have an opportunity to enter into that dark room of a heart filled with sin, sorrow, pain, and brokenness and share the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

Today, will you turn to the light in Christ alone and be set free from the dark room of your heart?

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #11

Two marriage failures. One sexual abuse. One suicide.

I heard about these four tragedies in a two day period. These were all ministry leaders.

Only the Lord knows all the facts about each of these scenarios, but the following is for certain:

  1. These sins could have been prevented.
  2. The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.
  3. Men in ministry are not above temptation.
  4. The root cause is unbelief in God which leads to discontentment which leads to discouragement which leads to despondency/depression which leads to despair.

This is why I have written these several recent blog posts about overcoming discouragement in ministry. As I heard of the aforementioned moral failures, my heart ached. I wept. I realized again how susceptible I am in my own heart to fail. Everyone of us is one decision away from bringing reproach on the name of Christ, destroying our testimony, marriage, family and ministry.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

Ministry is made up of two worlds, public and private. Public ministry life has its share of hurts and struggles which brings the temptation to deal with it in a sinful way in the private world, where there is no accountability.

Will you read the following from Paul Tripp and soak your soul in the grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ Who has brought deliverance and rescue to us all?

“Why do I struggle with the same sin over and over again, and how can I break the cycle?”

Someone submitted this question not too long ago. I could feel their discouragement through the email. Have you ever felt stuck in a cycle of sin, seemingly unable to break a pattern that dishonors the Lord and reaps a harmful harvest?

I know I have, and when I do, my mind immediately jumps to Romans 7. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (vv. 18-19)

So what do we do when we hit that wall? I think Romans 7 provides us with some practical steps and encouragement to break the cycle of sin.

The first is this: Don’t sign a premature armistice agreement with our sinful nature.

As believers, the Bible declares that our heart of stone has been removed and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Yes, we are new creatures, and yes, the controlling power of sin over us has been broken … but the presence of sin remains.

I think many of us have seriously underestimated the drama, the power, and the depth of remaining sin—how deep it is inside of us and how it infiltrates every aspect of our being. There is a tremendous moral and spiritual war still raging on within us.

I am surprised by how many Christians, myself included, live with a peacetime mentality. While we might be active fighting our culture or protesting outside evil, some of us seem to expect the luxuries and leisure of peace in our heart—where the war rages most fiercely.

And then suddenly, we get surprised or discouraged when sin starts winning!

Don’t misunderstand: because of the wonderful atoning work of the Prince of Peace, the war between God and us has ended. And when Christ returns, our struggle with sin and the Enemy will be complete. But until then, a battle of hostility inside us still rages. Perhaps the problem is that we think that the adversary within—remaining sin— has been conquered long before it actually has.

In the middle of this spiritual war, there’s a second thing you must do: Don’t argue for your own righteousness.

Perhaps the biggest and most tempting lie that all of us tend to embrace is that our most significant problems exist somewhere outside. This is partially true because, in a fallen world, people sin against us and we experience bodily pain and suffering. The Apostle Paul experienced both of these and doesn’t minimize them by writing about them elsewhere in Scripture, but in this particular passage, he’s only concerned about his own sin and heart. He doesn’t argue for his righteousness.

On the contrary, in Romans 7, Paul locates his struggle inside himself. He knows that when you argue for your righteousness, you convince yourself that you don’t need the grace of God—the only thing that can protect you from sin.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Are you feeling discouraged in your battle with sin? At first glance, Romans 7 can be a pretty discouraging passage! Paul exclaims, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

But the passage doesn’t end there: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Eternal rescue has been supplied, but rescuing grace is still necessary every day. What we have received in Christ, we still desperately need. Romans 7 calls us to be aware and serious; the war for our hearts is not over. Our need for a conquering Savior has not ended.

Reflection Questions

  1. What sin have you conquered or left behind by God’s grace since becoming a believer? How have you become a new creation by being in Christ?
  2. What sins or weaknesses do you find yourself still struggling with? When was the last time you wrestled with the flesh because of it? What was the outcome? Do others know of this consistent battle?
  3. Are you more committed to fighting the sins of the culture than you are fighting remaining sin in your heart? Why is the latter more of a danger to you?
  4. Consider a recent time when you deceived yourself by arguing for your own righteousness. Who, or what, did you blame? How did you justify your selfishness or sin?
  5. What does the daily rescuing grace of Christ look like in your life? How can you pursue it today? Be specific.

Ministry friend, if I can be a listening ear for you with a heart of compassion and truth, please contact me at bcbcpastor@comcast.net. Let me help you before you become a statistic.

From a pastor’s heart!

dale