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Mar21SunMarch 21, 2021Our Lenten journey has taken us to visit the miracles of Jesus but this trip is not just about recounting the stories as the church has done for so long but to believe these accounts are also for today. Most people who call themselves Christians believe the bible stories about Jesus and they will tell you they were amazing but then ask them if they believe that we the church are to do as Jesus did and that is a whole different story. John 5:36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”This Lenten journey is also about repentance. This forty-six day journey will take us to Easter. Jesus didn’t just die for us so we could celebrate Easter year after year and reminisce about the old, old story. Jesus came so we would have life in abundance and He came to destroy the work of the devil. He came as light in darkness. He came to set the captives free. Isaiah describes what the coming of Jesus would look like, therefore what the church should also look like and continue to be like. Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. 8 “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” 10 I delight greatly in the Lord my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” As Jesus started His ministry, He quoted from this passage and then said, Luke 4:21 “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Mark tells us in Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” When the kingdom comes near we will see all this happen again.Paul then also describes this good news. 1 Corinthians 15:1 “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Matthew 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”In Paul’s description of what Jesus did for us, he warns us to hold firmly to the gospel he preached. In Matthew Jesus tells us what happens when we do not hold firmly. Paul said what he learned from Jesus; he has passed on to you. We were supposed to continue passing that same teaching on to others and so on and so on. Paul said to the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” This next description is crucial to understand. Paul said1 Thessalonians 2:13 “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. “God is at work in those who believe. The one question the church fails to ask is what happens when you don’t hold on and believe. The answer is just as Paul said; you worship in vain but what if you ignore that out of ignorance, out of stubbornness, lack of knowledge, deception or delusion. What if you have been blinded to the truth and you live in rebellion yet you think because you go to church you are safe and secure? Jesus said Mark 7:6 “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Jesus made it clear when someone asked Him, Luke 13:23 “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” He also said Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” right after He had said, 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”The church really needs to understand how narrow the way to the kingdom actually is, no not legalistically but actually believing what scripture says to believe. For too long now the narrow way has been exchanged for a wide gate and people have been shown this empty way and were told come on in but Jesus says Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Are you looking for narrow or are you satisfied with wide. Today almost anything goes but as long as you are going to church most feel relatively secure. Even people who do not attend an organized church who say they worship in their own way, feel secure in their beliefs. But what if what you think to be right is wrong and you have been deceived? Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Many have ignored the voice of wisdom and have followed the voice of folly. Proverbs 9:16 “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says, 17 “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” 18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.” The church has become comfortably numb in their sin. Jeremiah 6:13 “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 14 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. 15 Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them, says the Lord.” Since there is no fear of God in the land, people are quite comfortable with their sin. False teaching has also led to this comfortable numbness.satan is very happy to stand and hold the wide gate open as people pour through it. This stubborn refusal to believe scripture shows just how obstinate the church is. Jeremiah 8:5 “Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return. 6 I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle. 7 Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord. 8 “‘How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? 9 The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what kind of wisdom do they have? From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 11 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.“Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” Jesus told us to repent so the kingdom would come near. When the kingdom comes near so does healing. He didn’t tell us to build our own kingdoms and have people repent to join those kingdoms. There are many leaders in the church leading people to repent and join them on their way through the wide gate and the masses are following. 2 Peter 2:7 “These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” Romans 2:5 “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” Isaiah 30:1 “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin.”To show just how serious this actually is, we see that by not accepting God’s word we are crucifying Christ all over again. Hebrews 6:4 “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” Hebrews 10:26 “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” When you hear these words crucify Him, crucify Him, those words should bring you great remorse because He died for you and I, but those words should also bring you sorrow because it was God’s own, the ones He came to save that killed Jesus. You do not want to have any part of subjecting Jesus to disgrace or trampling the Son of God.By not adhering to God’s words and by that I mean following other gospels as most churches are doing, we are shouting crucify Him, crucify him all over again. What the church is saying is that we do not believe the words of Jesus are worthy of life so He must die again. We were told not to add and take away from God’s word but man did not listen and has subjected himself to curse. Revelation 22:18 “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. Because we are missing the Spirit of truth, each one charges in their own direction and teaching as they see fit. John 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” Instead they pass down from generation to generation what they have been taught but do not stop to test the spirits. By not following the words of Jesus, we are rejecting Christ just as the Jews rejected Him. Pilate said John 18:38 “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’? 40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.” The church is also shouting no not Him by their actions and in rebellion they choose leaders to continue leading them to rebel so of course they would choose Barabbas.Even in the time of Moses they chose leaders to take them in the wrong direction. Numbers 14:2 “All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” They did not believe God at His word that they would take the land and feared defeat and the loss of their families. What an insult to God. Today the leaders that are being chosen are those who are distorting the words of the Lord but they are not leading the church back to truth but backwards in the wrong direction. Rejecting the words of Jesus to follow man’s word is rejecting Jesus and the church has done exactly what the Jews have done. John 19:14 “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.” Matthew said it this way Matthew 27:22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” 25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” Think about those words crucify Him, crucify Him the next time someone tells you God’s word doesn’t mean what it says.The people hated Jesus so much they were willing to curse themselves and their children and didn’t care. As a reminder read Deuteronomy 28, Leviticus 26 to see a description of the curses. Jesus said to the Pharisees, Luke 11:47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all. You do not want to be part of that generation. Peter said in Acts 2:40 “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Isaiah 65:1 “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ 2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations— 3 a people who continually provoke me to my very face.” By rejecting the true words of Jesus you are provoking God to anger. When you read this next passage insert church. By following other gospels, the church has done the same. Jeremiah 32:30 “The people of Israel and Judah (church) have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; indeed, the people of Israel (church) have done nothing but arouse my anger with what their hands have made, declares the Lord. 31 From the day it was built until now, this city (church) has so aroused my anger and wrath that I must remove it from my sight. 32 The people of Israel and Judah (church) have provoked me by all the evil they have done—they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem. 33 They (church) turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. 34 They (church) set up their vile images in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. 35 They (church) built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.” In the end even the remnant went into captivity. Most do not realize they are sacrificing their children to other gospels.We still live in a corrupt generation of people who say they follow the word of God yet they do not adhere to it. They do not adhere to it because they do not believe it. Each differing denomination or independent group will all say they have the truth but in all cases their distinct beliefs differ greatly from each other and from scripture. Deuteronomy 32:5 “They are corrupt and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation. 6 Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” Are you willing to look deeply into what you are being taught? Hosea 14:9 “Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” Many have stumbled because they have not believed the truth. Look at what Jesus said when he responded to John. First He described what was happening; the kingdom of God in action. Matthew 11:4 “Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Then He said, 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Many in the church have stumbled in this area of miracles, which really has to do with belief. Some have been deceived while others have flat out rejected what God’s word actually states and have inserted their own words like cessationism. Because of this Romans 1:18 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness” 2 Kings 22:13 “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” God is angry and not just with those who have gone before us and there is only one option. Zechariah 1:2 “The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. 3 Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. 4 Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. 5 Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6 But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors? “Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’” Many will not repent and will continue to go their own ways. Jeremiah 18:11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ 12 But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.” Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”For those who will repent of their sinful rebellion, I'll get to that in a moment but for those who refuse to repent and continue to be salves to sin, here is what Paul tells us in Romans 6:1 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” Church after church is teaching their people to be a slave to sin and not righteousness. Romans 6:15 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”Paul is one of the main writers God inspired but he is also one of the most distorted. It is not that his views are distorted but those who read distort what he says. Acts 20:30 “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” First of all 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Peter 1:19 “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” So we know that Paul was not writing his own words but he wrote, as was lead by the Spirit of God. Peter also said 2 Peter 3:14 “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” Let’s just say there are many ignorant and unstable people in the church. Paul also gave this warning Acts 20:31 “So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”False teaching, especially in regards to sin, even though we were warned, carried the church away. It is interesting to hear many in the church talk about themselves after being saved as sinners. One person said, “To be a Christian is to be a sinner. If we pretend we are not sinners we cannot be saved because Christ gives his grace to sinners.” The writings from Paul have been severely distorted when it comes to talking about being slaves to sin. As I was looking it seems that Luther had more of an impact on the life of sin than did the writings of Paul. I have yet to find the book of Luther in my bible! Here is the danger of following man’s words over God’s word. In a letter dated 1521, Luther speaking to Melanchthon said, “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.” As you can see from this he believes only in heaven can sin stop. He also seems to believe that no sin will keep him from heaven. One writer wrote, “To be a Christian is to be a sinner.” Another writer wrote, “I still struggle over my sinful nature every single day. I just can’t break free from the tendency of my heart.” He then of course quotes Paul in Romans 7. He then says, “it reminds me of the struggle the Apostle Paul had after conversion, where he wrote, “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” (Rom 7:18b-19). Doesn’t that describe you?” The truth is it does describe most people but not because that is how it is supposed to be. This right here is the fatal flaw of most who think this way. First of all they say Paul was a sinner and continued to sin because of Romans 7 but they refuse to read all that he said. Romans 7:21 “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Many in the church think they are still wretched after they are saved even though God said they were delivered. I am sure you can hear the lunacy of that statement. But you can’t stop there, you have to keep reading. Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 2 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” These are men talking about life without the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes without the power of the Holy Spirit we are slaves to sin but not with the Holy Spirit. John tells us John 14:23 “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” God doesn’t live where sin reigns.This teaching that Jesus came to set us free from our sins but doesn’t have the power to keep us from sinning is dangerous. They often reference Paul saying he was the chief of sinners as some versions say. 1 Timothy 1:12 “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Paul was not describing himself as a perpetual sinner but a man who tried to destroy the church. Acts 22:4 “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” Acts 26:9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.” Acts 7:57 “At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul (Paul).” That is a pretty good-sized thorn. 2 Corinthians 12:7 “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” People feared Paul. Acts 9:13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name. 19 Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. 26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.” This is not a man filled with sin and who can’t stop doing what he doesn’t want to do. This is a man that understood his sins against God. The writings of Paul have been severely distorted. Luther was fighting the teaching of the Catholic church but like so many do, failed to stand firm and God’s word and be led by the Holy Spirit. Instead the Reformation caused something just as bad or worse than the Catholic church.Scripture tells us 1 John 3:4 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” You can’t serve God and satan at the same time. After Jesus healed the man at pool, John 5:14 “Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.” Peter also said, 2 Peter 2:13 “They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.” He said this while talking about false teachers. Most of the teachers who believe that we are salves to sin think that only when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom in the millennium or in heaven will we no longer be slaves to sin.The kingdom is near if we would just repent. Whenever I hear Christians talking about being sinners, I cringe because that is not what the bible tells us. When Jesus saved the woman accused of adultery from her accusers, Jesus said to her “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” The missing piece to all this is the missing power of the Holy Spirit. We only cease being slaves to sin with God’s power, which is why we repent and then when we continue to follow God wholeheartedly, nothing can stand against us. To be clear the bible as we read in Hebrews doesn’t tell us it is impossible to sin. Some called it eradication of sin. I John 2:1 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Many have misconstrued verses like 1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” This means that everyone no matter how good they think they are is a sinner, which is why we need Jesus so that we will no longer be a slave to sin. Just above this passage John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.” Paul went on to say in Romans 6:19 “Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”So instead of spending your life struggling with doing what you don’t want to do, seek God and live. Amos 5:6 “Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it. 14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.” Jesus said in Luke 13:5 “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” We have hope because Jesus said, Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Joel 2:12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?”Like Daniel we are in captivity as a church. Our only hope to be set free from our slavery to sin is to repent and believe all that Jesus told us. I have included Daniel’s prayer because he took the word of the Lord and believed what was said. Daniel 9:1 “In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. 7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. 15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”God has made clear what the church is to look like and His plan for it but we must turn from our wicked ways and return to God’s ways. When we do as Jeremiah said, the words Daniel stood firm on we will see God turn His face back to us, Jeremiah 29:10 “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Don’t give up but stand firm on God’s word. 1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Psalm 33:11 “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”