Christians Say They are Free, but Most Are Not

Christians Say They are Free, but Most Are Not
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

What is true freedom and does someone who calls themselves a Christian achieve this so-called wonderful life? Find out today how Christians should overcome habitual sin. Will you do the hard work, or just remain a Christian in word only?

Charles Spurgeon said, “If God does not save a man by truth he certainly will not save them by lies, and if the old gospel is not competent to work a revival, then we will do without the revival; In our churches, there are three kinds of people. There are spectators, anticipators and participators. The spectator is just there to observe; the anticipator is expecting real blessings but not doing anything about it; and the participator is busy singing, praying, ushering, planning and doing the work. The participators are the minority, the sacred few who are doing more than others.” Many times when a message is about breaking free of bad habits people think of someone else that needs that message. Today this message isn’t for anyone else but you. Some people are a slave to work, some people are slave to jealousy, some people are slaves to gossip, and some are slaves to anger, pornography, various drugs, and many other vices that hold us in bondage. So today I want us to take an inventory of the Controlling NEGITIVE HABITS we allow in our lives, that needs to be broken.

Many notable Biblical scholars now agree that Paul traveled in southern Galatia during his first missionary journey during which he visited Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (Acts 13:1-14:28).  It is believed that Paul went through northern Galatia on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22) after passing through southern Galatia.  On his third missionary journey Paul visited the disciples in northern Galatia that had been converted on his second journey (Acts 18:23).  It is noteworthy that in the book of Acts Luke uses the word disciples rather than the word churches in connection with this visit.  The implication is that the Galatian churches were in southern Galatia and that there were only scattered disciples in northern Galatia.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
-Galatians 5:1-2 (KJV)

While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
– 2 Peter 2:19 (KJV)

If we are going to overcome habitual sin then we must identify a controlling habit, find out why it is so powerful, and follow the principals of breaking free. There are Three areas that we are going to hit quickly and move along.

 

Identifying a Controlling Habit

A controlling habit is something you find yourself doing even though it is destructive ether physical, mentally, emotionally, relationally or spiritually. Or you consistently do something you wish you wouldn’t do, but you find yourself doing it any way. The apostle Paul fully understood his dilemma even though he had good intentions. He called himself a wretched man. You must understand many good people are bound by bad controlling habits. Denial is not the way to deal with the problem. Be honest, look at your life and like Paul, evaluate the things you find yourself doing that you hate. Realize the importance of the identification process and then submit your own inabilities to make the necessary changes to God. I ask you to take a moment sometime today or tonight and write down the habits in your life that you want to see absolute victory over.

 

Understand Why These Habits are so Controlling

They slowly bind you like a chain around your neck that slowly and painfully chokes the life out of you. Life controlling habits are formed at a pace almost unnoticeable. Usually the person doesn’t even know they have formed a habit in their life. And if someone asks they say, “I can quit at any time. This isn’t a problem.” Yeah, right and I can go to the moon anytime, it isn’t a problem!

Habits are like a cable. Each day we do something in a pattern, we intertwine one thread with another. As the threads are woven together a cable is formed. On any day, the threads we added were too small to be noticed. But, after many threads have been woven together, we find that together they have become an unbreakable cable. This describes a habit, daily practices over time become habits that are unbreakable.

The person who smokes isn’t addicted on the first pack of cigarettes. It takes time after time, smoke after smoke before the body becomes dependent upon nicotine. Habits are formed through willful behavior. The person has given in so many times to this thing that they are now addicted. This is the reason a habits is so powerful, because it begins so subtle.

Habits will break your strength, your will. Once you have allowed a habit to control you the Bible says, “That habit is your master.” That habit breaks you down to the point where you don’t even try to resist because you feel like you can’t break free. Your attitude becomes on of not trying to break free again. A sinful habit will break your will to fight.

Have you ever been to a circus and seen a giant elephant with a small rope around its ankle? Physically speaking, there is no way that small little rope can hold back that giant elephant! Here’s how it works. When trainers begin taming a baby elephant, they place a heavy chain around its ankle and stake the chain into the ground. Day after day, hour after hour, the baby elephant struggles to escape. But his efforts are in vain. He simply cannot break free from the grips of that powerful chain. Eventually he surrenders. He resolves in his mind that there is no possible way he can escape that chain. So he relinquishes forever the struggle to be free. Then when he has given up trying, his masters replace that giant chain with the small little rope. If the elephant ever opened his eyes to the truth, he could break free at any moment. All it would take is one try, but since the elephant doesn’t know that, he doesn’t take a step in the right direction of freedom. And so it happens that ten, twenty, thirty years later, the giant elephant remains held in bondage by something that really has no power to control him, except the power he chooses to give it.

Is this true with you as well? The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1 ”It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” Some of you are sitting here right now feeling like you don’t even have the will to fight, because the habit has broken your will. Once a habit has broken your will to fight you wallow in hopelessness. At this point the habit itself owns you because you have allowed it to own you. Maybe some of you feel like you have lost the will to fight because your will has been broken. That is the power of a sinful habit.

Why else are habits so powerful, they destroy your life? Sinful controlling habits will destroy you and others along with you. They destroy you in many different ways: Physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and relationally.

 

How to Start Breaking Free

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
-1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)

To break free from the grip of a sinful habit from the least to the greatest, God lets us know that in every situation with every temptation he provides victory.

Steps to Freedom

Admit you have a problem.

Everything starts with confession and accepting the responsibility that you have a problem. They say in the Twelve Steps program, that you cannot win until you know you have a problem.

1Jn.1:9 “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” True healing starts with confession. Many people give in to a state of denial, they never admit they have a problem therefore they never break free. Alcoholics who never admit they are alcoholics won’t find freedom. People filled with anger, gossip, or any other sinful habit who won’t admit they have a problem won’t get freedom. The first step is recognizing you are bound and you have a problem.

Depend on God’s Power

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all thing through Christ which strengths me.” When it comes to being set free from habits that bind, Jesus can do more in a moment than doctors can do in a lifetime. God must become your primary source of strength. Start your day off with God, and He will help you through the day to overcome and show you a way out. The more you allow God to be part of your life the more you will see Him working in you. You have to stop trying to do this by yourself. In James 4:7 God didn’t say do the best you can, “but draw near to me.”

 

Sinful Habits Must be Replaced with New ones

God told Moses that before the Israelites settled in the promise land, they should drive out the wicked inhabitants and destroy their idols. In Colossians 3 Paul encourages us to live as Christians in the same way: throwing away our old way of living and moving ahead into our new life of obedience to God and faith in Jesus Christ. We can destroy the wickedness in our life, or we can settle down and wallow in it. To have new life we must drive out the sinful thoughts and practices that are in our lives in order to replace them with good and Godly thoughts. The battle is either won in the mind or lost in the mind.

Remember you can’t do it alone. In the Garden of Eden God said that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. Nor is it good for you when you are struggling with something, not matter what that may be. You need to find an accountability partner; someone who will ask you the tough questions to keep you accountable to God and yourself; to that end in James 5:16 we are told to confess our sins to one another for the sake of healing.

Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Victory very often doesn’t come all-of-a-sudden but through hard work while trusting Christ to work in you. We are co-laborers with Christ. In Matthew 6:11 it says to give us this day our daily bread. Take it one day at a time.

How about you? Want freedom, then today can be your day to head in that direction. The choice is yours.

Advertisements

I AM A CHRISTIAN, I Am Not Supposed to Feel Negative Emotions?

I AM A CHRISTIAN, I Am Not Supposed to Feel Negative Emotions?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

Too many Christians just act as though you should ignore things that happen to you, but that isn’t a proper response to life’s situations and circumstance. Nor is it a proper response to dealing with the grief that ensues. Psychology in our Christian Churches sometimes gets a bad name. I would like to say that psychology that affirms scripture is very helpful. Today we will be looking at the well-known model of the 7 Stages of Grief influenced by a Biblical Response.

Please remember that all of creation has been marred by sin, which is why grief has entered into creation. When I make this statement a lot of people like to ask if I believe that grief would not have existed if mankind hadn’t fallen into sin. I believe that it wouldn’t have, at least not as we know it today.

Now, let’s move on. The 7 stages of grief are generally accepted today in the world, but should they be adopted in Christianity? May I submit, yes (I speak as one who has done Christian counseling). Remember that good science just observes things and asks if it is repeatable (I know not a very technical definition).  So I believe that the seven stages generally hold true for people suffering some kind of loss. Some people will skip certain steps or become “hung up” on a step and a minister’s job is to help them through them. Now let us briefly go through what the steps are from a Biblical Perspective.

  1. Denial/Shock Have you ever heard the term, “he/she is just numb to that fact?” This basically describes this stage. People tend to isolate the news from their own minds so they won’t get overwhelmed. King David did this when his son Absalom (who tried to usurp David) died. He was, at first, completely numb. We find this in his commander’s statements after he saw the king and gave him the news of Absalom’s death.
  2. Pain and (or) Guilt – As shock begins to wear off we find that the experience has caused pain and guilt, unbelievable guilt. This happened with David at his son’s death; he wished it had been him instead of his son A lot of the time guilt becomes associated with this when we ask, “If I only did ______.” We need to remember that what has happened has happened nothing can change it.Another problem begins when people try to medicate the pain, get rid of it instead of feeling it and allowing it to happen. As Christians we should not be crying out to God asking why this has happened, but rather asking God to walk through it with us. Asking God what to do next, go to Him on our knees. Don’t become one who avoids pain, but one who walks with God through the pain.
  3. Anger– Ephesians 4:26 states that you CAN be angry, but it also says to not sin. Too many relationships are destroyed over people lashing out in anger. Yes a situation that is hard to deal with will come to anger! But do not act out of that anger and do not fall into the temptation to scream, “why me?” A lot of people turn away from God in anger and eventually come back (some never come back). Please don’t be the person who walks away and forgets about God. I have seen too many people do this in their lives because of a situation (i.e. death, anger at someone who hurt them, broken marriage, loss of a job, loss of a title/position etc.). In this stage it is important to draw strength from God and from His Word. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in this state because anger can become bitterness quite easily, and bitterness is like a cancer to our souls.
  4. Depression – During this time your situation “sinks in.” You have come to realize the true magnitude of the situation. You isolate yourself for a time and begin reflection on what has happened and what should/shouldn’t have been done before, during, and after the situation. A lot of people will try talking you out of this step. DON’T LET THEM!  They mean well and think you should be getting on with your life and looking to the horizon, but it isn’t time for that yet. You must go through this step. To short circuit this step could very well short circuit what God wanted you to learn about the situation and your responses.
  5. Moving UP – During this time is where you become organized and begin to feel more at peace, relying on God and allowing your relationship to deepen with Him and you begin to adjust to circumstances and begin to “feel” better. The problem is that a lot of people think they have “made it” when they get here, but they really haven’t, they are on their way.Another possibility here is to think grandiosely about the future with no realist expectations. Don’t allow yourself to go there. Just relax and begin to allow your mind to stand in God’s peace.
  6. Rebuilding– During this stage you become more functional. You become able to look at things objectively, not through colored glasses of emotions. Just sit back and allow God to work with you and through you to make your life better.Stay on your knees in prayer, because this is the time when the devil will tempt you with things that look good, but aren’t God’s perfect will for your life. Remember this is a time of drawing close to God and a time to bask in His presence. Not a time to be doing grandiose things, but living in the reality of what “is” and the hopeful expectation of the future.
  7. Acceptance – A lot of people will tell you that acceptance returns you to the way you were before the situation. This is not the case. The situation, especially for a Christian, has changed you and molded you to who you are today. In this stage you have dealt with the situation, the emotional issues and moved forward in reality. You have become who God has molded you to be through the trial. Now your expectations for the future are realistic and you are better for going through the trial, perhaps a little more humble/down to earth.

You know as Christians we tend to get stuck in one of these stages and don’t make it to stage 7. It is important that we make it through to stage 7; if we don’t then we have learned nothing through our trial. We have short circuited God’s work in our lives. Will you short circuit God or will you be changed through the stages of grief?

A lot of people ask what kind of circumstances I am talking about. Well, it could be the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, anything that you hold dear; maybe a loss of a relationship amongst Christian brothers and sisters that you never saw coming. It truly could be anything you hold dear to you. There is one scripture that has always stuck with me throughout all of my trials. It is the following:

(6) For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
(7) He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
(8) for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
-Proverbs 2:6-11 (NIV)

I Quit! Why Should I Go On?

I Quit! Why Should I Go On?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer

You know I hear this sentiment a lot from people who under pressure. Yesterday we looked at where we should draw comfort while under pressures from life. Today we will be looking at what God commands us to do when we feel like quitting on Him and life in general.

 

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
– 1 Peter 1:13-21

 

When we come to verse thirteen, Peter starts this out by using the word “therefore.” Therefore what? This means that we are to look at the words that were penned in the previous scripture up to this point (Which we looked at yesterday). Because of what he wrote up to this point, he can say put your mind into action. This means Peter is about to show us what we must do.

The King James Version of the Bible uses some interesting wording here, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.” I like this because in the Old Testament when someone was about to do action they would take there robes and tuck between their legs and into their belts, making their robes kind of like pants so that they may do some strenuous activity. Peter is telling us to get prepared because he needs us to get ready for some kind of action!

The rest of this verse and into verse fourteen tells us how to be prepared for what lies ahead of us. He tells us to be sober (awake and alert). We must calm down and put our hope fully in Jesus, knowing He will work all things out in their time, knowing we can trust Him to do what is right. In this He requires us to be obedient to Him, to not be ruled by our sinful nature and passions, knowing that the end of sin is death and He doesn’t want the purpose of each of our lives to not be fulfilled because we are ruled by sin. He says that we were walking in sin out of ignorance, but no more should we walk in this way, because we have seen and tasted the good fruit of God. He says to be Holy for God is Holy.

Which brings us to our concept of holiness, our concept of holiness is not the concept that is presented in the Bible. When we think of Holy we think of someone who is a monk and has no impure thoughts, chanting all day. This is wrong! The word “Holy” (or one of its derivatives) is found over six hundred times in the Bible, therefore it is important we understand the Bible’s concept of Holiness.  The subject of holiness is one that has had whole books written about it, which we don’t have time for here, so let us get to the basic concept. The term used here for “holy” simply means to separate ourselves from things (sins of omission and commission) that can pull us out of a close relationship with God. It is because of the cross of Christ that we can have a close relationship to begin with and we shouldn’t allow anything to turn our focus off of God and onto other things, not even trials in this life. So long as we keep our gaze on Jesus we won’t drown in the sea of trials. We will stand with our minds empowered by God, to go through things that at the present moment seem very difficult.

Peter again reminds his readers in verses seventeen through twenty-one that this life is but temporary and that we must do all that we do in reverence before a loving God, remembering what He has done for us. Verse seventeen, depending upon translation, can be confusing.  Peter is trying to remind us that we will be judged before God for our actions (This is not about salvation because that was settled at the cross. This is about our rewards in heaven which are based upon our motives and actions here on earth). We will be judged on how well we reflect Jesus in our lives, so we must remember to fear God. The word “fear” here simply means to hold God with reverence (i.e. with esteem as higher than you are, Holy and Powerful).  Verses eighteen through twenty-one remind us where our hope and faith is placed, namely in the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Cavalry. Our victory is in Christ and His completed work on the cross. No we have not obtained it yet but we have received the down-payment of that promise, the Holy Spirit. Any time we are under pressure or trials we must remember this awesome truth from God’s Word.