I recently sent out an email that was a little tough for some. I was quoting some things Paul had written to Timothy and I guess Paul is ruffling some feathers once again. I also wrote that “If a person wants to accept the claims of Jesus, but insist on continuing the sin in their life, that person is not ready to receive salvation.” And I provided a story about a co-worker who asked me to pray with him to receive Jesus, but because he would not renounce his homosexuality, I would not pray with him.
It had nothing to do with his homosexuality, it had to do with his attitude regarding sin. After showing him evidence in the Scripture that he was living with sin, he said he didn’t care and would continue to live the lifestyle he wanted. See, his sin could have been being a drunkard or prideful or an adulterer, and if his attitude was the same, my response would have been the same. What amazed me is that I received more emails from that one message than any other message I have given. Amazing.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. When Jesus taught some harsh things, people got upset. In John 6:66 it says that “because of what he said, many of his disciples withdrew and no longer followed him.” (I always thought it was interesting that this is John 666. Coincidence?).
Some of the email responses were supportive: “Preach it Bro;” “Thank you for bodily speaking the truth“;”Preach it Brother! I agree completely.” But then one brother wrote: “Do you not understand the LOVE of God Almighty… You are in error…and you sir…have just caused a great sin… Jesus Christ ministered to all without exception… did you not read the scriptures fully…” Ouch! (Hey brother, please don’t be offended that I shared your comment. I was just pointing out how variant the responses were). But to his credit he did not ask me to remove him from the list receiving these messages. When Jesus said some tough stuff, they left him.
Yes, I did receive some other responses that were not “favorable,” but I find it rather indicative of the problem in our Churches. As long as our messages are as sweet as candy, people will swarm to listen to you teach (think of Joel Osteen), but once your messages get more pointed and more challenging, they want to stone you or throw you off a cliff (see Luke 4:29).
I recently had another dispute regarding this. The person I was speaking to was arguing that the Lord’s love is obviously not as deep and wide as Christians declare it is. How could he be so loving if he was going to refuse entry into His Kingdom for people who “commit sexual sins, who worship false gods, who commit adultery, homosexuals, thieves, those who are greedy, are incessantly drunk, or who use abusive language” (I Corinthians 6:8-10). I guess some just can’t understand how a “Loving and Merciful” God, could still punish sin
Well, after that discussion, I was “inspired,” if you will, to once again read in John’s first letter:
We have known and believed that God loves us. God is love. Those who live in God’s love live in God, and God lives in them (I John 4:16)
The Amplified Bible gives us a clearer declaration:
We know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him.
I want to point out that this passage is only for believers. I say that because only believers can possibly “understand, recognize, be conscious of by observation and by experience, and adhere to and put faith in and rely on, His love. I’m serious. Only Christians know about God’s love for them, but unfortunately for some, it is only a theory. They have probably read the Scriptures on love and have heard them preached — but their understanding of that love is limited to a line from a children’s chorus: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so . . .”
Look, all of us believe that God loves everyone — us, the world, the lost — that’s His job! He has to love us . . . but sadly, for some it is nothing more than an abstract belief! Religious babble; flotsam and jetsam floating on the sea . . .
How many of you can actually say with authority, “Yes! I know Jesus loves me—because I have an understanding of what his love is. It is the foundation of my daily walk.”
Oh, I saw all of you who raised their hands, so I am wondering why, in many of our lives, do we still live under a cloud of guilt, fear and condemnation? Why are we continually afraid that He will abandon us? Did he save you just so you could live in condemnation? Didn’t Jesus say, “I tell you for certain that everyone who hears my message and has faith in the one who sent me has eternal life and will never be condemned. They have already gone from death to life” (John 5:24). Their judgment has already been erased!
Paul wrote: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, [but notice this] who live and walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Ooh wait! Is that it?
Paul said that there would be no condemnation if we do not walk after the dictates of the flesh but instead, walk after the dictates of the Spirit! Maybe that is the problem! If you are not living by the dictates, the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, you are walking after the flesh . . . and if you are still a believer, you will experience guilt and condemnation! Ouch!
Here’s the thing . . . if you are not experiencing guilt and condemnation when you are following the dictates of your flesh . . . then obviously you do not have the Holy Spirit — and you don’t care about it, either. That’s one way you can tell if you are a member of the family! You see, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to make you feel uncomfortable with your sin.
One meaning of the word condemnation is wrath. Paul was saying if you are following after the dictates of the Holy Spirit, you won’t come under the Lord’s judgment — that on the Day of Judgment you will be free from His wrath. So that should cover most of you. I mean, I hope it does.
However, condemnation also means “the feeling of never measuring up to standards.” What this is saying is that a believer should never feel like they are not measuring up to Yahweh’s standards! He is their Father and He has given them all the power of Heaven to live under His guidance and leadership. Every believer has the ability to live and walk with the Spirit of God. In fact, I once read that, “Peace is not living without torment, but living in the presence of Christ!” I love that. That is where you will find peace! You must understand that the secret to having peace is Christ in you, not you in a different set of circumstances.
Just remember, Paul told the church in Ephesus, “I’m asking God to give you a gift from the wealth of his glory. I pray that he would give you inner strength and power through His Spirit. Then Christ will live in you through faith. I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation. This way, with all of God’s people you will be able to understand how wide, long, high, and deep His love is. You will know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge. I am praying this so that you may be completely filled with God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). That is what I continually pray for each of us!
We are praying that the Lord would build a deep and stable foundation of knowing and understanding the love He has for us. What I mean is that the knowledge of God’s love for you is the foundational truth on which all other truths must be built!
That’s right, once you grasp that God loves you, you will be able to live victoriously!
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.