Wednesday, November 27, 2013

No Condemnation part 1

This week, we began a new series called “No Condemnation,” through which we are trying to get a deeper understanding of the grace of God.   In Romans 6:10 Paul states that Christ, and we with Him, died to sin – once and for all. There are two ways in which one could die to sin. One is to die to the condemnation and punishment for sin and the other would be to die to sinful actions. There is only one of those to which Jesus could have died, and that is the first. Jesus had NO sinful actions.  I know we’ve probably heard or thought that Jesus took our sins to the cross. I don’t believe that is entirely accurate. I believe that what He took to the cross was the punishment of all of man’s sin. Isaiah 53:5 says (prophetically) that the chastisement or punishment for our sin was upon Him.

Christ’s work was complete. If He had taken upon Him and died to our sinful actions, then it would be possible for one to live free of sinful actions. We know that is not the case. It is impossible for man to live free of any sinful action. The complete work that Jesus did was to die to the punishment and condemnation of sin. While it DOES take a lot of renewing of the mind to do it, it IS possible to live free from the condemnation of sin.

We already do live free of the condemnation from God – as will be witnessed by all on the day of judgment for those who have received the gift of His righteousness. We must learn to be free of self-condemnation and wrong beliefs that God is condemning us. By that Spirit, that is possible. Living free from sinful actions is not possible, however, while we live in mortal bodies.

Then Romans 6:11 goes on to tell us to “in the same way” be dead to sin and alive in Christ. Verse 12 tells us not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies. You see, Paul got it. Sin is going to BE in your mortal body. To demand it not to be would be an impossible task. What he tells us is to not let it reign. Do not let sinful actions and desires rule your life, your decisions and your destiny. Sin is always going to be there, but do not let it be the ruler of your life!

Condemnation comes when we try to live under law instead of living under grace. Law always leads to condemnation and ultimately death. Grace, however, leads to forgiveness and life. The law demands righteousness from sinful man, but grace provides righteousness to sinful man.  God has not gotten soft on sin. He still hates sin and wants us to hate sin. He wants our heart to desire to break sinful habits and addictions. His concern is more for what sin does to us than the offense of the action itself. He also knows, and wants us to know, that the ONLY way to overcome sin comes when grace teaches us to say no to it (Titus 2).  If we choose grace, we accept forgiveness, and it leads to life.   Law demands righteousness from sinful men, but grace provides righteousness to sinful men.  Exodus 32 illustrates this in contrast with pentacost….Exodus brought the law and 3000 died, Peter received the Holy Spirit through grace, and 3000 people were saved!

There has been no shortage of thou shalt in the history of the church, yet sin continues to grow and worsen. Taking hold of the grace of God is the only way to reverse the tide. Let’s get on board. Let’s receive the covenant of grace in our lives and in our homes. The law is still good in that it shows us the best ways to live, but it cannot save us. We need to stop trying to be justified by it and stop allowing ourselves to be condemned when we don’t.




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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What is Love Part 5

This week, we wrapped up the “What is Love?” series. In this part we discussed 1 Corinthians 13:6. We are not to rejoice in evil or iniquity but rejoice with the truth (the meaning in the original means rejoicing when “truth wins out.”  The Greek study of the words for rejoicing not in evil is pretty straight forward. It simply means not to find joy, elation or jubilance in injustice or something wrong.

We get a clearer understanding of this when we examine the truth we should rejoice in. Like love, the truth must be looked at from God’s perspective. We may think we do not find joy in evil. But there may be little ways that we do. For example, have you ever had that guy blow past you on the freeway only to find him pulled over a few minutes later? Now, be honest--You rejoiced a little bit.  But that’s just justice, right? I mean he WAS speeding, and he got caught. That is true. Actions have consequences, but we should not rejoice when we see it happen. Again, we’ll understand more about why as we understand truth better. Think of it this way: When we suffer consequence appropriate for our actions, does God rejoice, or does He desire that we not have to suffer that way at all? The answer lies in the fact that “while we were yet sinners, Christ was crucified.” He has made a way for us to escape the ultimate penalty for our sin – death and damnation, so we should wish for others to receive that grace as well when their sin leads them toward destruction, rather than being somewhat happy that they got what they deserved.

In the book of Jonah, we find an example of someone who was used by God (albeit reluctantly), yet struggled in this area. After Jonah’s life experiences brought him to his senses and he obeyed God and spoke His message to Nineveh, he chose to sit and wait for God’s wrath to pour out – even though the people did obey and change their ways.  In chapter four, we find that he was actually angry that God was gracious, merciful and compassionate. While Jonah was stuck in his pity party, God sends a vine to shade him. Then he also sends the worm to destroy the vine. Jonah actually finds himself in misery as he sits and waits and hopes for God to pour out some wrath on Nineveh.

Poor, Jonah. No one told him to stay there. He chose to stay. He was so eager to see God’s wrath poured out on the people of Nineveh. This is NOT rejoicing in truth. Some may think that when Paul mentions rejoicing in truth that he means we get excited when someone’s sin is exposed. This story of Jonah shows this is NOT the case.

Another example was Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. We know the story, but we want to focus on the character of the older son. We studied a few weeks back about how, when you read the parable carefully, you find that the older son was given his inheritance as well at the same time as his brother. Personally, he had nothing to be offended about. When the father rejoices in the younger son’s return, the older son becomes angry. He wanted his brother to get what he “deserved.” He wanted his father to reject the son.  Then Jesus pulls all of this into perspective in John 8. We are pretty familiar with what is says in verse 32 – that they will “know the truth and the truth will set them free.” To understand the meaning, we need to look at context. If we look at chapter 8 as a whole we get a better idea of what the truth is.

At the beginning of the chapter, we find the story of the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees bring her before Jesus to try and trap him. They state that the Law demands she be stoned, but they also know Jesus tendency toward compassion. When Jesus demands that the one without sin cast the first stone, one by one they walk away. 

Much has been discussed regarding what Jesus was writing in the sand when He was engaged in this encounter. I am sure that if it was important, the Bible would tell us. There are, however, a number of interesting theories. One of my favorites is that Jesus may have been writing the names of those in the crowd who had been “acquainted” with this woman in the past. That would certainly explain why they suddenly lost interest in punishing her.  I have, counter to this, always believed it had something to do with avoiding temptation. Jesus was a man, tempted in every way that we are (yet without sin). He may have needed something to occupy his eyes and mind to avoid sin. If the woman had been “caught in the act” of adultery, she may not have been modestly clad.

After all of them walk away, Jesus tells her that he does not condemn her and to now, go and sin no more. The order of those statements is very important. He did not tell her to go and sin no more so that she would not be condemned. The truth is that grace comes first, and then sin falls away.

 Later in the chapter, Jesus has a discussion with the Pharisees about who His father is and who their father is. They are infuriated that He implies God is His father and they claim first that Abraham is their father and later that only God is their father. Jesus’ response to their claim of being Abraham’s descendants is telling in regard to the definition of truth. He tells them in verse 39 that if they were children of Abraham they do what he did. What does He mean by that?

 Abraham lived long before the Law. He lived by faith and grace. Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness. He had no list of rules to be justified by. Then in verse 56 Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” That sounds a lot like “rejoicing in the truth” from 1 Corinthians 13:6.  When God took Abraham outside his tent and showed him all the stars in the sky as a picture of the number of his descendants, it was not just physical descendants God was speaking of. He was showing him all of us; we who now live by faith and grace before God!



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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What is Love part 4

This week, we continued our series, “What is Love?” This week we discussed 1 Corinthians 13:5. In this verse we are given more things that love is NOT.  The first one we talked about this week is not being self-seeking. The Greek word here is zeteo. It paints a picture of one who is so bent on getting his way that he’ll twist the facts, look for loopholes, put words in others’ mouths, try to hold others accountable for promises they never made, leap on insignificant mistakes as opportunities to twist someone’s arm. Sounds like the kind of person who might have a career in politics J

It also can describe one who gets so upset about not getting what he wants that he will drag others to court to get what he wants. This is not talking about legitimate legal disputes. Paul was addressing a growing trend in Corinth where people were dragging one another into court for frivolous reasons. If someone has robbed you or truly defrauded you, the legal system is there.   As a modern example, I would use a situation where you slip and fall in a neighbor’s house. You were not really hurt, but then you see one of those accident lawyer commercials on TV and decide to see how much you are “entitled to.” That is not what LOVE does! 


The next thing love is NOT is easily angered. Strangely enough, the word “easily” is not in the original Greek text. Some believe that the King James translators may have added it to appease King James who was known to have a pretty short fuse. That is speculation, but certainly within the realm of possibility.  The Greek word is paroxsuno and is a compound word made up of para – which means to come alongside (like para-legal or para-medic) and oxsus – which means to pole, prick or stick with a sharp object with the intent to provoke. That is the verb form. So Paul is saying not to be one who CAN be easily provoked. I picture this provoking to be like the classic, back-seat sibling battle. “He’s touching me!... He touched me first!...”  If people at work know you are a Christian, and you let someone else provoke you to anger, when you snap, you provide a bad example of love.

 Finally, we talked about keeping no record of wrongs. The Greek word for keeping the record is logidzomai. It is actually an accounting term. It gives a picture of keeping painstaking detail of every mistake, disappointment, failure, or perceived wrongdoing in order to use it for future opportunities. Guys, you might think this is what your wife does, but remember, you’d do the same thing if you were capable of remembering like her ;)

You see, God chooses not to keep record of our wrongs. As soon as we seek forgiveness, He forgives and casts our sin as far as the east is to the west (Ps 103). He does not bring them up again. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that he “reconciles” the earth through Christ Jesus and is not counting man’s sins against him. He reconciles the “books” that contain all our sin and it is balanced by the blood of Jesus – leaving an empty ledger.  Unfortunately, the enemy likes to keep his own set of books and try to show you and others that there is still a debt – one that needs to be exposed. Proverbs 10:12 says that hatred stirs up dissention, but love covers over all wrongs. 1 Peter 4:8 says that love covers a multitude of sins.  Love does not seek to expose the sin of other, but cover it. This does not mean condoning it, but simply not exposing it. Allow grace to do its work. Grace will teach us to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12).

 Nowhere is this example more clear than in Genesis 9:18-29. Shortly after Noah and his family exit the ark and begin rebuilding the earth, Noah gets drunk and naked in his tent. He has three sons. One of them, Ham, sees his father’s condition and exposes it to others. The two other sons choose not to look at their father’s condition but instead cover him up (a picture of grace).   The one who exposed, Ham, had a son named Canaan. Yes, the same as the land of Canaan. He was cursed by his father for his action and ended up being defeated by God’s people – the line of Shem.  And then we, the Gentiles, are connected through the line of Japheth (that’s all another sermon for another day).

Instead of looking for the faults in others – both in the world and in the church family – let’s look for the good. When we find the junk, let’s help people through their junk instead of exposing it. Instead of condemning sinners for their sinful actions, love them and extend grace. I’, not saying accept sin. I’m saying love sinners. Let grace do its work!




 To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit