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From Depraved to Saved

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Now, this passage can seem a little foreboding at first. After all, if Paul was the foremost among sinners, what can we call ourselves? Now, it is true that Paul persecuted that Church (and so has some reason to try to call himself chief of sinners) it’s also true that none of us wrote a healthy portion of the New Testament. Nor, for that matter, have any of us in all likelihood been stoned, beaten, or imprisoned for the Gospel.

Yet, something we need to realize, is that Paul’s doing all those things (or having them done to him) didn’t have any impact on his actual salvation. It probably had a very significant impact on his faith, but did nothing towards saving him. – Paul was someone who recognized that no good deed he could do could ever compensate for even a single sin in God’s eyes. It’s only by Jesus’ death and Resurrection that both his and our sins could ever be wiped away. In fact, he essentially reminds us of his this fact here in 1 Timothy:

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

Paul has a sense of his own depravity. He realized that Jesus’ saving him was really a miracle in patience. We all should, at least to some extent, think on how bad we really were. We should realize our own depravity, as Paul did. But we should also never stop there. Rather, we should do what Paul does in the very next verse:

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1: 17)

Yes we were wicked, but God is good, and he forgave us our wickedness! We need to constantly remember this; to constantly remember that though we were lost in our sin, Jesus chose to come and die so that we can live forever. It’s only by Him and Him alone that we can live a life to God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Prodigal Son

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:11-16)

The thing about inheritances, or as the son in the story called it, “The share of the property which is coming to me.” is that they are only given when the father is dead. So, for this son to ask for his inheritance early, was the equivalent of telling his father that he considered him to be dead. More than that though, when he was actually given his inheritance, he squandered it, followed by a term of feeding pigs. This poor person has scorned his father, and now is, in essence, living in a pig sty, starving to death. When we forget about the Father, bad things can happen. When we starve our Spiritual self through treating the Father as though He was non-existent, and instead long for junk that the World is feeding for them-self, there is really only one possible solution that can exist for us.-The very same solution which the man in the parable finds:

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:17-24)

Running back, admitting that we’ve sinned, and begging for forgiveness. God will always forgive us! His son died for us; He will now never look on us, when we’re asking for forgiveness, and not forgive. He will always feed us with His word, and hold a celebration, when the lost son returns from the dead. And when we ask for forgiveness, that is exactly what happens to us.-We die with Christ on the cross, and come alive with Him in His Resurrection [Romans 6:2-5].

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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Loving Sinners

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ (Luke 15:1-6)

There are people who believe in extreme separation from the World. They get this belief in passages such as John 17 (specifically verses 11 and 16), and while it’s a very valid belief, some people take it simply too far. Jesus took it “too far”, in the opinions of the Pharisee’s, in the exact opposite direction. Jesus loves the cheating tax collectors and sinners, He doesn’t participate with what they did, but He loved them. He always told them the way to be right with God (which was through Himself), but never once did He scorn them.

In fact, Jesus actually died for these people.-For you, and for me. He went above and beyond, times a thousand. We aren’t to separate ourselves from, but instead we are to love, and show the right way, those who aren’t yet followers of Christ. Jesus died for these very people, how can we now pull away from them? If it hadn’t been for Jesus love for us, while we were still sinners, no one would be a Christian. Is it should be our challenge then to show to others, the love which He showed to us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Cleansed by Blood

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? (Luke 11:37-40)

Jesus has died to take our greed and wicked nature from us, and so what was said to this Pharisee can never be said of a child of God. However, it is possible, even somewhat common, for Christians to somewhat neglect their Spirit, in favor of attempting to earn “brownie points” with God by doing good works. Obviously “good works” in of them-self are perfectly fine, but it’s when we attempt to earn favor with God, and neglect to keep our Spirit pure (I’ll explain what I mean by that in a minute), that there’s a problem.

When we sin, it’s defiling to our Spirit. We could do a thousand good works, a hundred thousand, even a billion “good works”, and it still wouldn’t account for one sin.–Imagine trying to clean a stain with a dirty rag, and you’ll get a good idea of the effect that good works has on the stain that sin always leaves in our Spirit. Which is precisely why we cannot sin, and expect to be able to clean it up some how by doing good of any kind. There is only one thing which can overcome the stain of sin, and that is the blood of Jesus! Our efforts, our good works, are nothing. We can’t possibly hope to ever erase the stain of even one sin, much less the thousands that we’ve accumulated over the years. No, our only hope is in Christ.

The point being this: let’s not grow to be like the Pharisees were.-Seemingly clean and spotless on the outside, but inwardly rotting away. Instead, let’s turn to Jesus, ask Him to take away our desire to sin, and cleanse us in His blood.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Alive in Christ

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. (Luke 11:18-22)

This is something we should always remember. Because, though the Devil was strong, and we had no chance of escaping from Him, Jesus was and is stronger. Sometimes we have sin struggles in our lives that seem to dominate us; to overwhelm us so completely that think we may never get free. It’s when we have times like this, when we think that we will always be in bondage to sin, that we should remind ourself of these verses: Jesus is stronger. He has already overcome the Devil on the cross. Though the Devil can attack us, He can never capture us again; He can never in-bondage us to sin for long.

That being said, when we are attacked by the Devil, we shouldn’t simply surrender to him. Jesus is superior in every way to him; for us to simply surrender to the Devil would be like a massive army (the “massive army” is my way of referring to Jesus’ power. We, by ourself, are but half a man in our own power.) surrendering to a lone man. God will always provide a way out for His children when they are tempted [1 Corinthians 10:13]; He will always provide strength. But we must use the strength that He gives us. We must cut off every access point that we might have to sin in the way that we are being tempted in, and actually resist when attacked.–We must resist, in Jesus’ power. We need to pray and ask Him to give us strength, and we need to look in His word for strength, and we need to go to other believer’s to give us strength. Jesus is the one who has overcome the Devil by His death (and we through Him), and whenever we are tempted, it will be Jesus that overcomes through us.

But there is one last question left to answer: why?  If we can never be enslaved to sin, why should we bother resisting it? This is a very good question, to which the Bible gives a very good answer:

20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

We will never be in lasting bondage to sin again, because when we are tempted, we are given grace to overcome. Does this mean we should go searching out sin and temptation? Of course not! We are no longer those who are enslaved to sin, but those who are enslaved to Christ Jesus. How then can we do anything but resist when we are tempted? Yes, sometimes we will still fall. But our new bondage to Jesus will never allow us to stay there. Where before, we would sometimes do random acts of good work, our bondage to sin would pull us back, now the opposite is true of us.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Ignorance Isn’t Always Bliss

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:18-20)

Now the interesting thing about this, is that it wasn’t the man’s own faith (at least, it wasn’t his faith by itself) that Jesus saw, it was, “their faith”. When you think about it, that means, in essence, that we can help in bringing about (contrary to what those who believe in a radical version of election say), the forgiveness of another’s sin.

We can never save anyone. That is unquestionable. Indeed, to say that we could save someone (including ourself) would be outright blasphemy. However, we can play a part in bringing others to Christ, who can, and will, save. So, let’s not ignore those crippled by sin and guilt. Instead, let’s bring them to Jesus.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Forgiveness

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Now, perhaps Peter considered seven times to be quite a lot. When you think about it, we today consider someone sinning against us seven times to be quite a lot. To use an example: if someone steps on your foot seven times, and says, “sorry” every time, you might be tempted to not be all that forgiving the eighth time. But Jesus says we’re to forgive just as we’ve been forgiven: completely. (Though its true Jesus does put a number on the number of times we’re to forgive; seventy times seven, its such a large number that we can safely say its the same as an unlimited number of times. Also, unless we don’t want to be forgiven by God unlimitedly, we will forgive others unlimitedly. See: Matthew 6:12).

This, however, does not mean we should simply stand around and take abuse.- We’re to forgive the person, and then step away from them so that they can’t step on our foot anymore. Yes, Christ tells us that when someone slaps us, we’re to turn to them our other cheek. But in that, we should also be careful to look to Jesus for our example in this. The only time where we see Jesus allowing harm to come to Himself is directly before He was put on the cross; when soldiers hit Him, and when He was whipped, and when He was put on the cross. Both of those times were for our sakes. Jesus knew He had to be beaten and whipped before they’d crucify Him, and the crucifixion was where He’d died for all our sins. Thus, both cases; getting to the cross, and on the cross, where for us. Likewise, when we’re defending someone else, we’re to turn the other cheek. But unnecessary violence ought to be avoided.

The point simply being this: Jesus died to forgive our sins, the very least we can do is forgive other’s sins against us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Unforgivable Sin

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:31)

A quick warning: you may find that I’ve over-clarified to the point of confusion. It may help to just skip to the last paragraph to see what I’m actually saying.

The only thing that won’t be forgiven, is… Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? I would’ve thought that the one and only sin that won’t be forgiven would be something more (physically) dramatic, like blowing up someone’s house, or mass-murder. What makes “blasphemy against the Spirit” so bad that it won’t be forgiven? (Its important to know what it is, in order to not do it). To answer that, let’s review what blasphemy actually is:

“the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God” (According to: this dictionary)

What could you do to be irreverent to the Holy Spirit? Would hitting Him be insulting? Possibly, but as its completely impossible to hit the Holy Spirit, that doesn’t bear thinking about. What about taking His name in vain? That’s the typical thing we think about when we talk about blasphemy after all. And, to be sure, that would likely offend Him. But, is it truly unforgivable?

The thing is, we’re not looking at what the Holy Spirit actually comes to do, and therefore can’t see what truly sinning against Him would be. He comes to show us, and convict us of our own sin and depravity, and to point us to Jesus as our cure. If we ignore that, we’re sinning against the Holy Spirit. We’re “blaspheming” the Holy Spirit, because when we reject Christ as our savior, we are putting ourself in the place of God; saying that we have the power to save ourself, which we most certainly do not.

To put it simply: rejecting Christ is the only sin which will never be forgiven.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
8 Comments

Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Cure

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Matthew 8:2-4)

Leprosy is a very good analogy for sin, as it does physically, what sin does Spiritually: leprosy causes the deadening of nerves, and if left untreated, it can sometimes (though rarely) cause death. Repeated sin causes the deadening of the conscience, and if not treated by belief in Christ, will cause death. So, with that in mind, we can see the leper we’re presented with here as an example of what we’re to do with sin. Let’s examine what happens:

The first thing we’re told, is that the leper kneels. He acknowledges that Jesus is over him. Then he demonstrates his faith by saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Now, Jesus’ response to the leper’s plea is shocking. He stretches out His hand and touches the leper, and then cleanses Him. Jesus Christ, the only pure and sinless man on Earth, has apparently just committed a sin. We can see that here:

Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty. (Leviticus 5:3, KJV)

Another thing to know about leprosy, is that it’s typically transferred from person to person by physical contact. Not casual contact, but from something rather like deliberately putting your hand on someone with the disease. To be sure, leprosy is something which will make someone “defiled”, thus when Jesus put His hand on the man with leprosy, He knew He would be defiled in order to make the man clean… Or would He? We know that Jesus later went on to become a completely sinless sacrifice for all.

The thing is, Jesus was never actually defiled. Rather, He passed His righteousness onto the man. Only on the cross was Jesus ever defiled by our sin, and that only needed to happen once. It didn’t happen twice: once for this leper, and then again for everyone else.

But, to get back on topic: the final thing we see happening, is Jesus telling the man to go and offer the, “gift that Moses commanded”. The order of events could be put like this:

First the leper comes and kneels before Christ, then He asks to be healed. Jesus answers by putting His hand on the man, and healing Him. Then, He tells Him to go and offer a gift. Or, to put modern terms on it, we’ve got repentance, salvation, and finally sanctification. We see the last of these in the “gift” the man was told to give. One of the evidences of Christianity is in giving, not per se money, but of time, energy, and the like.

The point being this: we are all Spiritually lepers. It’s only by Jesus saving us that we can now live as we do; a life all but cured from the disease of slavery to sin. So we should do what the leper in the story was told to do. i.e., go to our priest, Jesus, and offer a gift of praise.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
4 Comments

Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Examination of Fruit

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:15-17)

Now looking out for false prophets, teachers, and the like is necessary; we should be making sure that everyone we hear preach, or teach in some manner, has good fruit. i.e. That their family isn’t in disarray, that they aren’t in disarray (in sin), etc.. But have we ever looked at our own fruit before?

What are our own lives like? What are the sin struggles in our lives? More importantly though, are we asking God for His strength to overcome, or are we trying to overcome by our own strength? Anyone can play “pick apart the pastor”, but the struggle is in realizing, and being able to admit to ourselves, that something is a sin, and that we must rely on God to help us overcome it. This verse says it better than I do:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

We are to examine ourselves, to make sure that we aren’t lip-worshipers only, but are actually living as a Christian should – uprightly. Paul, in the above verse, also tells us why we are to examine ourselves: he poses the question, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you”. We are to live upright, and holy lives, because Jesus lives in us. Romans (chapter) six tells us that our old nature has been crucified, and Jesus has come to fill the void. Thus, we should no longer want to sin, but rather, we should want to serve and bring glory to God. (Our flesh, however, still wants to sin).

The whole point of even putting ourselves to this test of fruit, is to see if we’re living the life of one saved by the death and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, or the life of one still living in sin. All Christians, at some point, will give into the flesh. So, even if we do for a time fall to sin, all true Christians will eventually “bounce back”. That being said though, we aren’t to put ourselves in the path of train! We shouldn’t put ourselves in positions where an opportunity to sin might present itself. In fact, putting ourselves into situations where we could sin is in of itself “bad fruit”. Instead of doing that, we are to put ourselves in situations where we might have a chance to do whatever God wants us to do.

The point being this: we are to examine our fruit. Are we in slavery to sin, or are we free in Christ? Are we trying to give glory to God, or trying to do the bidding of Satan? Bondage to sin is nothing to mess around with it, it is very serious. In order to have a will to break free, much less the means to do so, we need Christ’s help; in fact, we need Jesus to do it through us, because in of ourselves have no power to resist or fight back. Which is why we must make sure we aren’t simply those who profess to be in Christ, but aren’t. Otherwise we will never break free from sin – it will continually have a death grip on us. And if we do find ourselves to be lip-worshipers only, we should ask God to forgive us, and to free us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
4 Comments

Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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