We asked Jake* if he had ever lied, stolen, or taken God's name in vain. He began to accuse us of condemning him. He didn't understand that it was God's law that condemned him, not us.
We were there to help him. We wanted him to know that Christ was condemned on our behalf on the cross.
"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1
*Not his real name.
With the culture swirling down the gutter, people sometimes ask, "What can we do to change it?"
Here's my answer: Get married, have lot s of kids, and train them in the fear of the Lord. In one generation we will take the majority. In a second generation we have effectual dominance of the culture.
I will be teaching a creative writing class this Fall as a part of the new Christian High School that is coming together here in Ashland.
The class will be held for one hour each Friday morning for 12-15 weeks. It is a high school level course, but younger students could possibly be permitted if parents think they have the skill level.
The tentative plan is that the class will start after Labor Day and run from 11:00-noon. We will meet at Southview Brethren Church.
Contact me if you'd like to be a part, and be sure to check out the full course description too.
In Judges 5 Deborah sings her victory song. At the center of the song she rejoices in the miraculous salvation of God and how the Lord delivered them from a fierce enemy. When we consider what she says, we learn just how futile man's might is.
Deborah says that the kings came on their horses (i.e. chariots), but the torrents of rain caused the Kishon River to overflow. Then she talks about the horses galloping, galloping, galloping and the loud pounding of their hooves.
Chariots were the tanks of their day; and Sisera had 900 of them. It was an overpowering military force. But the one thing that chariots require is a good, hard surface to run on. Chariots won't move in mud. By flooding the area, the Lord disabled the chariot threat.
What must they do if their chariots get bogged down in the muck? They must dismount and take the battle on foot. But imagine what would happen: Once the chariot lighten's its cargo, it becomes more mobile again. The horses begin to gallop; 900 of them (perhaps double that number if they had two horses per chariot) spook.
When Deborah sings about the "Loud beating of the hoofs" and the "galloping, galloping" of the horses' hoofs, she's likely singing about how the whole army of Sisera got tromped down into the mud by their own mighty steeds.
The great might of man became his undoing. This is the way God operates. He makes man's power his greatest weakness and the cause of his own downfall.
We see this even today. Michael Jackson was propelled to greatness by the power of the media. He became the "King of Pop" because media trumped him up and put the spotlight on him. Jackson became a world phenom through the radio, his music videos, public appearances, and shows. Yet, years later, the media became his greatest enemy. The same outlets that rocketed him to star-dom, eventually made him a laughingstock. Jackson became a world wide freak show and disgrace to the pop culture. And it was mainly the media's doing.
The English puritans experienced the Lord's deliverance in a way similar to Deborah and Barak's. The Spanish Armada was the dragon of the sea. This fleet of ships struck fear in the hearts of naval commanders world wide. And when the were commanded to sail to England, many thought the Reformation in England was all but finished.
But the people turned to the Lord and prayed. They put their hope in their one source of victory, and God answered. A storm swept in and the Armada found themselves reeling. The threat was subdued and the reformation of God's church was protected in the British lands.
Even the greatest deliverance of all time may attributed to this phenomena. Our salvation was ratified by the might of Rome and the sinister powers of the Jewish elite. We attribute His death and resurrection solely to the force of Pilate and the persuasive elocution of His Pharisaical enemies.
God always shows Himself supreme, and He does so by confusing and confounding the might of man. The more powerful man may seem, the more dangerous his situation really becomes.
Let us always remember that every rage of Satan is like a gavel landing upon his own head. Let us take comfort in the fact that God rules and overrules the threats posed by our enemies.
Over the last couple of weeks I have had some people come to me and point out sins in my life. I am deeply grateful for this. I am grateful to the elders who sat down with me and the few others in the congregation that have been kind enough to speak the truth in love to me.
I consider it a blessing that I have friends in the Lord who love me enough to rebuke and admonish me when I need it.
But I wanted to share these with you. I wanted to publicly confess these sins because, for one, I’d like your prayers for my sanctification. But I also recognize that, these sins are, to a great degree, public in nature. They are sins that might be perpetrated against you. Or, at the very least, they are sins that are done before you. And I want to make sure that you do not my mistakes or think that these transgressions are permissible in God’s eyes.
One of the sins that was pointed out was my lack of empathy. This is not something that was new to me. I have always known that this was a flaw in my character. For instance, when I was young I once asked my mother what she thought of me. I wanted her honest opinion of who I was. She said that I was aloof. And she explained to me that I have a tendency to be a little distant and that I don’t connect with people on an emotional level very well.
Later on, when I was in high school, I took one of those personality tests that were popular. It also revealed that one of my weaknesses was in the area of compassion. My mentor went over it with me and he said that when I got into ministry I needed to be sure to surround myself with people who demonstrate these gifts to help compensate for my lack.
Thankfully the Lord has provided good compensation. I think Mark and Jim do provide good compliments in that regard. Moreover the Lord has given me a wife who is oozing with empathy (and perhaps that’s why she can put up with me).
That still does not justify my lack of sympathy though. And I want to confess that this before you and acknowledge it for the sin that it is.
The other sin that was addressed was my levity. Those of you who know me know that I like to have a good time and be a little zany. I was told that this can be taken too far at times. I was told that there can be some undue levity that can detract from the gravity of God’s word. It sometimes make me out to be someone who people can’t take seriously. Or perhaps even cross the line into profaneness and blasphemy.
I will admit that this kind of took me by surprise. But I want you to know that I’ve taken these admonitions to heart. I do not want any undue levity becoming a barrier to my ministry or, worse yet, becoming a means to your own stumbling.
Prayer of Repentance
We bow before you in order to confess our besetting sins. A of us have sins that are personal and particular to our given personality. We all have weaknesses in our character wherein we fall short. And we also have strengths which can be abused and not put to the proper use.
Just as you created each one of us as a unique individual, we each have our own besetting sins which are unique to us. And we look to you now for pardon and ask that you would overlook the multitude of them for the sake of our dear Savior, Jesus Christ.
Father, I especially acknowledge to you my own flaws and confess my iniquity before you. Forgive me for not being like unto the Lord Jesus whose is filled with compassion and continually sympathizes with his people. Pardon me for the times I have not connected with those who were hurting or have been deemed to be emotionally detached.
Lord I pray that you would fill me with love and make me to love more genuinely. I pray that you would help me to be gentle with my own children, tender towards my wife, and attuned to the needs of this congregation.
I also beseech you for your grace in regards to any undue levity I have displayed. Please forgive me for allowing any profaneness to intrude upon your worship or mar your honor.
Moreover, I pray that this congregation might be purged of any and all evil that might be the result of my doing. Let not my stains be their undoing and let not my iniquity penetrate into their lives.
We thank you God for your abundant mercies and for the promise of full salvation in the cross of your precious Son. And we pray that through the gospel we might have reason to rejoice and pursue new life with greater zeal.
For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
Assurance of Pardon: 1 Timothy 1:15
This is a trustworthy saying and deserving of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Addictions are banquets in the grave. They are a love affair with death and destruction. But deliverance is possible. You may gain life and salvation if you truly turn to Christ.
The Religion of Substance Abuse
First, understand that you do not have a drug problem, per se. What you really have is a religious problem.
The god of your religion
Your addiction is a form of idolatry. The Bible says that we are either slaves to God or to other things. A slave of God will serve the Lord and have Him as the supreme object of his delight. An idolater will serve some other object (such as drugs, drink, sex, etc.) and will find his primary delight in it.
This is the nature of addiction. The drink or drug has become your master—your god. You feel cannot live without it. You crave it and throw your money at it. You likely give it an absurd amount of attention too.
But above all, you can’t bring yourself to stop. You’ve tried to stop, but you can’t. You are completely powerless to its dominion.
In sum, you worship it and it rules you like a god. The substance so controls you and you are in bondage to it.
The lifestyle of your religion
Continue thinking about the religious nature of substance abuse. What are traits common to all religions?
For one, they have fellowship times with other “believers.” Christians commune with other Christians. Muslims do the same with other adherents to Islam. Drug addicts follow suit. You probably have other users with whom you hang out. Whether you like them or not, you gravitate to them and spend time “worshipping” (i.e. drinking, shooting up, smoking) together.
Religious people also practice their religion on their own. That is to say, they do it while they are by themselves. A Christian will not only go to church and worship with his friends, he will also worship at home by reading his Bible and enjoying time with his God through personal prayer.
Addicts replicate this religious practice. Sure, you might party with a group of buddies during the week, but you also get your high while you are on your own. You spend personal time with your bottle, needle, or pipe. You might even have become what you not long ago despised: a lonely drinker.
Finally, religious people are repentant. That is to say, after renouncing their god they always come back to their god to worship and adore it.
Doesn’t this describe you? You’ve tried stopping. But what always happens? You always come back. You might renounce your drug for a while, but eventually you came crawling back. It’s a form of repentance.
Hopefully you are starting to understand. You don’t just have a drug problem. You have a religious problem. Your addiction is a problem of faith.
Recognizing this is important. For deliverance from your addiction comes only through faith in Christ. That is to say, you must have a full-fledged religious conversion.
Deliverance Comes through Religious Conversion
Jesus Christ promises life and salvation to anyone who looks to him in true faith. He promises to deliver you from the bondage of your sins if you turn to Him. But deliverance means everything must change.
Your Heart must Change
The first thing that must change is your heart. This is the reason why you’re attempts to stop have been in vain. You cannot peal yourself away because your heart clings to it. Deep down, you love your little god.
The only way to break free is if your heart changes. The good news is that God can do this. He can renew your soul and produce within you new affections and new desires.
Before going on, ask the Lord to change your heart. Ask Him to break your enslavement by giving you a new heart; one that desires Him and loves Him more than anything else.
Your God must Change
Up until now, you have been worshipping and serving a false god. This can no longer be. You must now follow Jesus Christ, and Him alone. If you want to be delivered from your sin, then you must be devoted to the Savior.
The best place to begin is by confessing that you have not loved the Lord or served Him as you should. Tell Him you are sorry for having rebelled against Him. Ask Him to help you serve Him alone from now on.
Your Lifestyle must Change
You will not be able to be delivered from your bondage if your lifestyle doesn’t change. You must break with the sinful patterns that support your addiction (e.g. friends, parties, etc). You need the support of godly friends and new influences that will help to keep you clean.
Moreover, you need to begin to worship the Lord. The more contact you have with the Lord, the more you will be drawn to Him (and away from your sins).
So find a good church and begin to attend its worship services. Associate with those people as much as you can. Get a Bible and study it. These are the primary ways God breaks the power of sin in your life.
Above all remember: the only way to break with your addiction is to be addicted to Christ.
Feel free to download and distribute this tract.
Just be sure to change the church information to your own church!
At the prayer stand today a woman came and asked how to help her neighbor who is a drunk. She's got bills with "fees on top of fees" because she puts all her money into drink. She said her friend has "given it to God" over and over again and wondered what else could be done.
I said, "Have you discussed repentance with her? God could care less if you've "given it to Him." What He really wants is for us to hate our sins and turn from them. It is not repentance until we become deeply grieved that we have offended the Lord."
I also told her that this woman doesn't have a drinking problem. She has a religious problem; it is idolatry. You are either a slave of God or a slave of some other thing. Her master is her drink. And the only way to escape that bondage is to acknowledge that she has been worshiping a false god and participating in a false religion [with all its attending associations, i.e. fellowship of friends, temples (i.e. bars), etc.]
I then affirmed that Christ can release her from that bondage. He died and rose again to break the power of sin and give us life. But if she wants deliverance, she must truly embrace Christ and the whole of the Christian system.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.