Category Archives: Equipping the Man of God!

Slaves to Righteousness (Bible Study)

The following is a brief Bible study BFiC has composed from the NIV Bible utilizing Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the subject of righteousness.

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Romans 6:15-23

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.19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. 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.

 

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!

(v. 15): What is more black and ill-natured than responding to a friend’s extraordinary expressions of kindness and good-will by insulting him? To spit in the face of such love, is that which, between man and man, all the world would cry out shame on. Matthew Henry (MH)

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?

(v. 16): All the children of men are either servants of God, or servants of sin; these are the two families. So we must ask, which of these masters we will obey. Obeying the laws of sin will be evidence that we belong to that family on which results in death. As, on the contrary, obeying the laws of Christ will be evidence of our being in Christ’s family. (MH)

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.

(v. 17): This is not who we are, but what we had been and done formerly. (MH)

18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

(v. 18): We need to be often reminded of our former state. Paul frequently remembers it concerning himself, and those to whom he writes. You who are now the servants of God would do well to remember the time when you were the servants of sin, to keep them humble, penitent, and watchful, and to quicken them in the service of God. (MH)

19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. 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.

(v. 19): It is the misery of a sinful state that the body is made a slave to sin, like the prodigal that was sent into the fields to feed swine. Sinners are voluntary in the service of sin. The devil could not force them into the service, if they did not yield themselves to it. This will justify God in the ruin of sinners, that they sold themselves to work wickedness: it was their own act and deed. Every sinful act strengthens and confirms the sinful habit. Sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind; growing worse and worse, more and more hardened. This he speaks after the manner of men, that is, he fetches a similitude from that which is common among men, even the change of services and subjections. [3.] You were free from righteousness. (MH)

20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.

(v. 20): You were not free by any liberty given, but by a liberty taken, which is immorality: “You were altogether void of that which is good, void of all subjection to the law and will of God, of all conformity to his image; and this you were highly pleased with, as a freedom and a liberty; but a freedom from righteousness is the worst kind of slavery.’’ But now you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you. (MH)

21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!

(v. 21) “Did you ever get anything by it? Sit down, and cast up the account, reckon your gains, what fruit had you then?’’ Besides the future losses, which are infinitely great, the very present gains of sin are not worth mentioning. What fruit? The present pleasure and profit of sin do not deserve to be called fruit; they are but chaff, ploughing iniquity, sowing vanity, and reaping the same. We are now ashamed —ashamed of the folly, and the filth. Who would willfully do that which sooner or later he is sure to be ashamed of? To persuade us from sin to holiness here are blessing and cursing, good and evil, life and death, set before us; and we have to choose. The end of sin is death. Though the way may seem pleasant and inviting, yet the end is dismal: at the last it bites; it will be bitterness in the latter end. (MH)

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.

(v. 22): Conversion is freedom from the service of sin; it is the shaking off of that yoke, resolving to have no more to do with it. Secondly, it is a resignation of ourselves to the service of God and righteousness, to God as our master, to righteousness as our work. (MH)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(v. 23): Death is due to the one who sinned as much as wages are to a servant when he has done his work. This is true of every sin. Death is the wages of the least sin. Sin is the work for which the wages are given, or the master by whom the wages are given. If the fruit is holiness and we are growing in grace, the end will be everlasting life! Though the way be up-hill, narrow, thorny, and overwhelming, our everlasting life at the end of it is sure. Christ purchased it, prepared it, prepares us for it, preserves us to it; he is the Alpha and Omega, All in all in our salvation. (MH)

We are not alone!

~ An original BeFreeinChrist writing ~

Webster’s Dictionary definition:

temptation –

noun temp·ta·tion \tem(p)-ˈtā-shən\

1:  the act of tempting or the state of being tempted especially to evil:  enticement

2:  something tempting:  a cause or occasion of enticement

When we are tempted, we should understand that no matter what the item of temptation is, if we are drawn to sin, Satan is source of the temptation.

Matthew 4:3 – the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

1 Thessalonians 3:5 – I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.

He targets us, just as he did in the beginning when he tempted Eve. 1 John 3:8a – the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.

But God has given all those who call upon His Son as Savior the ability to claim victory over Satan. 1 John 3:8b – The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.  And because Jesus defeated the devil, we are left with the duty to resist him to appropriate that victory. James 4:7 – Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. What an awesome promise, that our resistance will cause the devil to flee from us, just like all faithful saints of the past, present and future. 1 Peter 5:9 – But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

However, resistance is easier said than done to most of us who have struggled with sin for so long. But praise be to God that He has given us a “helper” in the person of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? And it is when we allow Him to lead us that we triumph. Galatians 5:16 – I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Along with the Spirit, we have the example that Jesus gave us. When He was tempted, He leaned on the Holy Scriptures. Matthew 4:3-4 – the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

God also tells us to rely on His Word through the author (perhaps King David) of Psalm 119. Psalm 119:11 – Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. And God reinforces this teaching through Solomon. Proverbs 2:1-7 – My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.

So if we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptations that come and glean wisdom from the Word of God to avoid the areas that entice us, we will have the weapons necessary to claim victory over sin. But we must embrace our responsibility to utilize the weapons that God has provided.

Battling temptation is an everyday struggle, but God is with us at all times. We are not alone!

only His power can change me

The following is the testimony of a BeFreeinChrist brother. It is a great perspective on the power of Jesus in our lives. He can do anything if we allow Him to work within us.

I don’t know if this will help, but I will share my experience.

The death of Jesus didn’t connect for me on a real level for quite a number of years after I became a Christian. The thing that turned it around for me was the day that I finally understood sin.

I had thought of my sexual addiction as a little wart on my soul. I figured that if I could just get it removed, I would be able to move on with life. As the years went by and I didn’t change, however, I began to be shaken to the core of my being.

Then one day God opened my eyes to see how much He hated sin. As I realized my filthiness before Him, I knew that I had more than a little wart to remove. My sin was like a cancerous tumor woven and knotted through the fabric of my heart. It couldn’t be removed with a simple little operation. In terms of my human ability, it was who I was, and I was incapable of changing myself. If I had to stop sinning before being acceptable to God, I was going to go to hell.

That’s when the death of Jesus made sense to me. I realized that all of us are so messed up and rebellious against God that we need something drastic to save us. We need the death of God’s Son.

Up until that day, I had thought it was nice that Jesus died for us, but not necessary. I figured that God could forgive us because He was a nice guy.

I greatly underestimated the seriousness of sin. Once I saw God’s hatred for it and our bondage to it, I knew that we needed something incredibly powerful to separate us from it.

The death of Jesus brought that power. First, it provides a way for us to be acceptable to Him in spite of our ongoing weakness. That’s what His shed blood is about. At the same time, it opens the door for the Holy Spirit to come in and to transform us into something we could never be on our own.

The day I understood that I NEEDED Jesus to die for me was a turning point in my life. Since that day, I have had very little problem with condemnation. I know that I could never be good enough to be acceptable to God. Only Christ’s blood could make me clean, and only His power can change me.

God Bless,

Bill

Lust

BeFreeinChrist is pleased to share the following message on lust by noted Christian therapist Dr. Dan Allender. Dr. Allender is the founder of the The Allender Center at the Seattle School.

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Lust is a battle for us all. Christians – both men and women – have struggled with it for generations.

by Dr. Dan Allender

The church pianist arched her back and stretched her arms in preparation for the opening hymn. The man in front of me didn’t miss one movement. His wife, painfully aware of the object of his gaze, jabbed him in the side; he shot back angrily, “I wasn’t looking at anything.” His remark seemed well rehearsed, perhaps from countless other occasions of being caught stealing looks at attractive women. The couple’s hurt and anger betrayed the endless cycle of accusation, defense, guilt, effort, helplessness, and failure so often associated with struggles of lust.

Lust is a battle for us all. Christians – both men and women – have struggled with it for generations. Many have measured their or others’ spirituality on the basis of their freedom from lust. Yet for all the interest focused on lust it would seem that we ought to be far more clear about the problem and its solution. What exactly is lust, why is it so hard to change, and how can we deal with its power to shape our lives?

The Color of Lust

Most people have come to equate lust with sexual desire. In many cases in Scripture, lust does refer to illicit sexual desire (1 Pet. 4:3). Consequently, if we are not struggling with illicit sexual thoughts or behavior, we assume we are free from lust. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The word in the New Testament that is translated “lust” means strong desire. The word can be used to describe a legitimate, godly desire. Jesus said to His disciples: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15 ). Elsewhere Paul said he strongly desired to depart this life to be with the Lord (Phil. 1:23 ), and yet he also strongly desired to be with his friends ( 1 Thess. 2:17 ). Strong, passionate, eager desire or lust is not inconsistent with God’s purpose for our lives.

On the other hand we know from the Bible and from experience that a strong desire, or lust, can be immoral and destructive. I spoke to a thirty-five-year-old man, “Craig”, who had fought an obsession with pornography since he was eight years old. He was alternately victorious and then overwhelmed by his lustful desires. His occasional lapses endangered his ministry and threatened his relationship with his family.

But this man’s battle with lust was not confined solely to sexual pictures and mental images. In fact, his lust manifested itself in workaholism, extreme absorption in hobbies and reading, and an obsessive desire to please others. To focus too narrowly on his sexual lust would have caused us to lose the bigger picture of his battle with addictive desires.

“Diana” was struggling with the desire to have a fifth child. Every time she saw a newborn baby, she ruminated and obsessed about how to convince her husband. She lusted after being pregnant. Her battle was not sexual, but I would suggest she had just as great a problem with lust as the man who struggled with pornography.

When Desire Goes Awry

When does lust become destructive? Destructive lust is any consuming desire that is either out of bounds or out of balance.

An out-of-bounds lust is a desire for any person or object or idea that is inconsistent with God’s expressed desire for our life. To feel sexual desire for our spouse is appropriate; to covet our neighbor’s wife is an illegitimate desire. An out-of-balance lust is any legitimate desire that blocks our ability to serve God and others. For example, a student who is so consumed by getting good grades (a legitimate desire) that he is unable to spend time pursuing God is consumed by an out-of-balance lust. Likewise, a neighbor who can’t say no to her friend’s desire to go to a movie is equally imbalanced in her lust for acceptance.

Defined in this way, no one is free from the battle with lust. Why do we battle so often with its forces? And why do those battles yield so little fruit and victory? In other words, why is lust so hard to change?

The Power of Lust

The answer to those questions requires a more thoughtful analysis of the design and function of lust. God made us with desire – desire for intimate relationship with Him and for meaningful service in His world. The Fall perverted those desires. The quest for intimacy was replaced by a desire for its quickest counterfeit: illicit sexual pleasure. Our God-given desire for meaningful service was twisted to a lust for power over others. The longing for impact became a lust for control.

These counterfeits appeal to us because they seek to replace God and His high standards with something that is familiar and undemanding. Paul says fallen man did not worship God but replaced Him with the creature (Romans 1:18 -23). The creature does not require repentance or gratitude. The creature does not demand brokenness or service. Creature worship only requires denying the true emptiness inside and hiding the shame that arises in turning our back on God and others.

Why is that form of lust so difficult to overcome? Because it is the best alternative to satisfying our empty hearts without dependently bowing our knee before God. Changing it not only requires giving up something that has worked, to some degree, to fill our empty hearts, but it also necessitates embracing a God who invites us to experience what we deeply despise – brokenness, poverty, weakness, and dependency. In the face of a walk through the valley of the shadow of death, an addiction to pornography, a fifth child, or saying no to a friend seems like a lark in the park.

Even if the lust is destructive and life threatening it may be preferable to a God who calls us to love those who harm us and serve those who in fact are below us. True worship is too costly; creature worship is at first, at least less demanding.

Two Faulty Strategies

What is required to deal with our battle with lust? Let me first take a look at two contemporary Christian routes for dealing with lust that at times make the problem worse. These two routes – self-denial and self-enhancement—offer some help, but often lead to even greater struggles with lust and addiction. Craig eventually followed both of these paths.

As a new Christian, Craig viewed the struggle with lust as an overwhelming desire for sexual pleasure or relief. He saw the real enemy as sexual thoughts and feelings and the cure as merely choosing the right procedure for conquering his lust. The victory came when he felt sufficiently guilty over the thoughts, avoided the opportunities for lust, and chose to discipline his wandering mind.

Sadly, the fruit of this view is often self-hatred, shame, and contempt which lead to increased sexual struggles. After decades of failure many with this view either conclude they are oppressed by demons or doubt their salvation.

Another approach to lust is found in an adaptation of the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step recovery process. This approach sees lust as a symptom of deeper hurt. The cure is to admit that everyone is addicted. Once denial is removed then the shame of feeling deficient can be eliminated and the real roots of the problem – loneliness, insecurity, and past trauma – can be healed and the addiction controlled.

While the first approach to dealing with lust often encourages self-hatred and denial, the second approach may increase self-absorption. When Craig adopted this approach he gained more control of his sexual lusts. But he then struggled with new, equally strong addictions. He became a groupaholic, attending several recovery-type groups per week.

He was also a selfaholic. He became absorbed with making sure no one violated his personal desires. He began sharing his feelings whenever he wanted to, no matter how inappropriate it was. He lost a great deal of sensitivity and care for others.

Craig acknowledged that he had turned from a man who lacked a self to one who put self above others and ultimately above the God who called him to serve. Unfortunately, he never looked at the deeper structure of sin involved in his lust. In part his efforts to control his lust were God-honoring; on the other hand he never faced the fact that his lust was far more than merely a struggle with sexual thoughts.

Why Discipline Isn’t Enough

Lust is a failure to exercise the will toward righteousness. People who battle any form of lust must work at strengthening their wills. But it is never enough merely to address one’s lack of discipline. It is crucial to view lust as a product of hatred: hatred of our loneliness and our circumstances and hatred of the God who requires us to love in spite of our pain. Lustful addictions are the vehicle to flee from the ache and use our helplessness as an excuse not to love others and God.

What is required for destructive lust to be transformed into passionate, lively, and loving desire for God and others? I don’t believe there are pat answers or even easily- articulated steps that relieve our battle with the flesh. The ultimate cure is Heaven; until then, all change and certainly all steps are mere approximations of what is involved in knowing God and being transformed by His presence. Yet I can offer a few tentative thoughts to help begin the process of change.

1. Face the problem. Addictive lust feeds on the darkness of denial. “I’m not an alcoholic. I just drink to sooth my nerves – or to feel more relaxed.” “I may masturbate a lot, but doesn’t everyone at one time or another?” “I know I work too late, but it’s only until I get more settled in my job.” Deception is the ally of lust in that it allows us to serve both mammon and God and make it look as if all is well.

For example, Diana viewed her desire for a fifth child as natural and reasonable. Beneath the surface, however, her motives were less than pure. Another baby would keep her from facing the eventual loss of her youthfulness and worth are the mother of young children. And as a busy mother, she would not need to face the growing distance in her relationship with her husband. Her rage at his unwillingness to have another child masked the loneliness she felt in their marriage. Every lustful obsession serves the desire to be satisfied apart from God. If change is to occur, denial must be lifted and the ugly parts of our soul exposed.

2. Wrestle with your heart as well as your behavior. Without question, lust will not be changed without a willingness to discipline the will. I must be willing to fight, scratch, and claw toward holiness (1 Pet. 4:1-3). If I can’t say no to the temptation to eat, then I ought to avoid situations where my lust will be given room to flourish. I must make the right choices.

But choice is not enough. More is required than merely the effort to avoid lust and focus on godly desire. We must repent of the deeper issues that are feeding our lust. But one cannot deeply repent of what is unknown. We need to pray that God will reveal the secret things of our hearts (Psalm 139:23). Some of the subtle categories of the heart to be considered when dealing with a tenacious lust problem are these:

What is the context for my struggles with lust? Many find that lust is more severe after a stressful event, such as a failure or success. It is very important to keep a journal that records the experience of lust, the context, and the battle to deal with both the heart and obedience.

What significant current or past wounds am I ignoring in my struggles with lust? Many times a lust problem is easier to bear than a deep wound that seems impossible to erase. For example, Craig found that he often gave in to sexual fantasies after phone conversations with his critical and demanding father. His sexual addiction masked the lonely wounds and anger related to his parent. What do I feel unable to do or be because of my struggle with lust? Sadly, a struggle with lust may subtly serve as an excuse for choices that may seem more frightening. Craig refused to honor his father by talking about their relationship. He quietly endured his father’s reproach rather than praying and agonizing over what God might have him do to deepen his love for his father.

Repentance in the ongoing process of sanctification is not a once-for-all event. As we face our denial and repent of our rebellion against God, then we will find greater insight and increased sorrow over sin.

3. Learn to love. Honesty and repentance are crucial to change. The ultimate antidote to lust, however, is love. It is very, very difficult to destructively lust after someone you love. It is very hard to lust after something that does damage to someone you love. Lust is a consuming and absorbing possession of someone in order to dull our own pain rather than a delighting in and enhancing of another.

An engaged couple may look at one another with enormous passion and keen anticipation of their merger as one flesh, but if love prevails, then they would refuse to do anything that would mar their individual or corporate beauty. In the same way, a man and woman who work together may enjoy one another’s physical or personal beauty, but if love prevails, then each will long to increase one another’s beauty rather than stain it by the violation of destructive lust.

It is tragic that many men attempt to deal with lust by avoiding rich, intimate, and honorable relationships with women. They believe that distance insures safety; in fact, reserve only seems to increase private fantasies. The only real safety net is love.

In Phil. 4:8 Paul tells us to meditate on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, and lovely. Somehow being caught up in that which is lovely is incompatible with the ugliness of destructive lust. Ultimately, the fairest and most lovely of all meditations is Jesus Christ.

Paul says that deception and enslavement to all kinds of passions begin to melt in the light of the kindness and love of God (Titus 3:3-4). The brutal power of lust will not succumb to any force of the human will unless the heart is captured by the glory and tenderness of the gospel. As the good news of freedom from God’s wrath increases our wonder, laughter, and passion to live, then the dark desire to possess, to consume, and to destroy will have less power in our lives. The joy of being forgiven, not only of behavior but also of the sin deep in our hearts, will increase our desire to love (Luke 7:47 ). And an increase in a desire to love will deepen our desire to see beauty enhanced in everyone whom we have the pleasure and privilege to encounter.

Lusting for Godliness

Unfortunately, we will battle with lust for the remainder of our lives. But with hearts redeemed by the gospel, we will be freer to turn toward the path of beauty rather than pursue the track of hatred.

The passion of the gospel will eventually overrule and defeat the destructive lust of consumption. The pursuit of holiness will become far more than a desire to do right but a desire, or a “lust”, for the character and beauty of God. In that sense, the gospel frees us to lust after what our hearts are made for, godliness, rather than after that which leads to decay, death, and despair. Godly lust leads to life. In that sense, go and lust well.

Copyright © Dan B. Allender. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

 

BeFreeinChrist would like to thank Dr. Allender, the Allender Center and the Seattle School for allowing us to provide this powerful message.

Follow Jesus to Freedom

www.followJesustofreedom.com

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BeFreeinChrist is pleased to recommend the ‘Purity Through Christ’ course. A free, 60-day interactive course, that allows for each student’s lesson to be read by an “Encourager-Guide”, who will encourage the student, pray with him, and give him good advice on how to change his life to one that more closely follows Christ.  The reason the course was written is to help get a man ready for the marvelous heart surgery that the Holy Spirit can do in him.” Interactive, Bible-based, Christ-Centered Course, engaging the enemy in this spiritual war for freedom from habitual, sexual immorality.

The course is administered by a small group of Christian men, grateful to the Lord Jesus for setting them free from habitual sin. It is because of that gratitude that they serve, hoping to help other men on their own journey to freedom through Christ.