Let Go and Trust

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10

The Bible says that because of righteousness, you are forgiven and purified. You actually are! It can be hard to believe this, but it’s true. That’s what grace does.

Can you avoid sinning? No, you cannot. Can you forgive yourself in the place of God? No, you cannot! Why try to avoid sin, if you know you can’t? If you continue trying, you’ll create problems that God never meant you to have. You’ll try to behave a certain way, and you’ll try to control your loved ones so they’ll avoid sinning too. You’ll never know freedom.

In a mindset of sin-avoidance, you set yourself up for disappointment, and your loved ones too. When your expectations don’t pan out, you react from your flesh. Someone doesn’t do what you thought they should do, or someone doesn’t treat you the way you thought they should treat you, and you react, with frustration maybe, or even anger. You sin as a consequence of trying to avoid sin!

You can’t avoid sinning. That’s why God gives you grace. Grace gives you the freedom to trust yourself and others. Grace leads you to let go of control, replacing it with trust. By receiving and walking in grace, you don’t have to strive to control your behavior or control the behavior of others. When you walk with that freedom of trust, you stop trying to avoid sin. You have a new habit now. You simply don’t want to sin.

Will you sin? Yes. We all do. If you could totally avoid sin, then the death of Jesus wouldn’t make sense. If He didn’t save you, then it was pointless for Him to die. His grace doesn’t protect you from sinning. It invites you to forgiveness and restoration when you do.

1 John talks a lot about this, but people misinterpret it. 1 John is read as if it says, “Do not sin, and if you do any of the things on this list, you’re going to hell.” But that’s not what 1 John means. It says that if you live a life of sin, with an attitude of sin and a habit of sin, and if you live with hatred towards people and God, then hell is definitely a destination.

But it is not telling you that must avoid sin. 1 John says, “Listen, you’re going to sin. But you have to realize that when you live in Jesus you are made righteous and holy. Live in that. Confess and God will purify you.”

Will you live in your flesh from time to time? Yes! You can’t be perfect. The flesh cannot be saved. Nowhere in scripture does it say that the flesh can be saved. The flesh is evil and you cannot expect to make it good.

But you are good — in the spirit of God. He has made you righteous. He has freed you from sin. That’s what His grace does, and it’s for you.

Confess and Find Grace

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

There is no condemnation! We can go before the throne of God without fear, and receive grace and mercy. We can trust in God’s love and salvation, which frees us to recognize our sins, accept them, and let them go.

But why do we ask God for forgiveness? We don’t do it for Him. We don’t need to ask for forgiveness to be right with God because we are already righteous and holy. When we go to God to ask for forgiveness, we are recognizing and accepting what we have done. It’s a way of admitting, “Okay, that was not the best way to behave.” And it’s a way to tell God, “You know what? That was stupid. I get that.”

Going to God with confession in our hearts is not a way of telling God, “I need forgiveness.” He already gives us grace. So going to God with confession in our hearts is how we say, “Thank you for forgiving me for that.” For example, we might say, “Hey God, you know what? I lived in the flesh right there when that guy cut me off. I yelled at him and I cussed him out. Thank you for forgiving me! And thank you for giving me the grace to move on. Help me to use more wisdom next time so that I won’t act like that. I acted from my flesh, and I would rather act in your Spirit, because that’s what I’m destined to do.”

The Bible also tells us to confess our sins to one another. Why does God want us to do that? He wants us to confess to one another because it is a liberating thing to do. What if you could sit in grace among fellow believers? Try to imagine it. You would sit with people and say, “I’m going to confess my sin to you. I can do this because you will not shame me. And this will free me.”

The Bible says that this is what believers do. We confess our sins to one another because it’s the confession that lets the sin out. But we have to do this in grace. As followers of Jesus Christ, our responsibility is to look at the person making his confession and say, “I just want to let you know that I love you. I’ve been in your situation. I’ve messed up like that. Or maybe I haven’t messed up like that, but here’s how I messed up the other day. Here’s my confession.”

This is how we know and love each other as human beings. When we confess to one another, we look at each other and accept that we all live in the flesh. At the same time, we understand that we live in the Spirit as well.  We choose to live in the flesh sometimes, but that is not who we are. So embrace each other in grace. You are holy, and you are free.

The Appearance of Evil

Doing anything to excess is bad for you. If you eat too much it’s bad for you, because you’re going to get fat. Obviously gluttony could be a sin. But we don’t say eating is a sin. We don’t say, “Hey, you can’t eat.” So why do churches say you can’t drink?

There’s seems a common rule among some churches that if you’re on the church staff, drinking alcohol is not allowed. I don’t personally agree with that. You’re saying that if I’m a pastor, or a youth pastor, or somehow on staff, then I’m not allowed to sit at the dinner table and have a glass of wine with my wife. Why not? Why do you think anyone should be reprimanded for that? Because of what it represents?

I’m not misrepresenting the church. Are you saying Jesus misrepresented God when He drank wine? No!

People talk a lot about avoiding the appearance of evil. But why is it evil to have a glass of wine at dinner with my wife? There’s no “appearance of evil” in that. The “appearance of evil” is if I’m drinking wine and standing on the table acting like a hoodlum. There it is. There’s your sin.

Simply enjoying a glass of wine with my wife is not the same as drinking to excess and losing control.  It’s not an appearance of evil. That’s just your judgment.  And it’s not appropriate to judge me or my wife, because we’re doing nothing wrong.

This is just my personal opinion, but I think that when the churches make this rule against drinking, they don’t do it out of fear of God. They do it out of fear of man, and that’s not a good place to live.

I feel like the churches are too afraid of their reputations. They’re afraid people are going to think bad things about them. They’re afraid if someone on staff has a glass of wine, people will think that staff person is a bad person. They’re afraid people will judge the whole church! But that doesn’t make sense to me.  Why should anybody think you’re not good just because you had a glass of wine?  You’re not doing anything wrong.

The answer is usually, “Well, the nonbeliever will think that you’re sinning.” Now that really doesn’t make sense to me. Why would a nonbeliever judge me over something they don’t even believe in? Suppose a nonbeliever sees me having a beer and asks, “Aren’t you sinning?” I would ask, “Well, do you think it’s a sin to drink?” And when they answer “No,” I would say, “Then why do you think I’m sinning?”

There’s no reason for a nonbeliever to think that! It’s just a judgment. If you’re doing nothing wrong, if you’re not living in sin at the time of your alcoholic beverage, then you’re not giving any kind of appearance of evil.

The standard is Jesus. Jesus, who I think drank wine, is the highest standard there is. The King of Kings, God in human flesh! His appearance is the appearance we should reflect.

See you Monday.

Because I’m Saved

What do children think when you hide alcohol in the house? Dad must be hiding it because he doesn’t want anybody to know it’s there. Why? Is it wrong? Maybe we should try it. You know that’s the thought process.

In my home, my sons will know where the beer is. I’ll tell them, “The beer is in the refrigerator. You can’t have it. You’re not old enough to drink. But it’s right there. In fact, I’ll tell you what, why don’t you go get me a beer. I’m old enough to drink, so go get me one, please.” I want them to be able to go get it, and hand it to me.

I’m not going to hide the fact that there’s alcohol in the house, because I want my sons to think, “Dad is being honest with us. Dad loves us and trusts us to know that there’s alcohol in the house. He’s not hiding anything.”

Sometimes kids have issues because their parents don’t want to address the reality of drinking. Some parents try to guilt their kids or scare their kids into not drinking. But that’s a problem, because then those kids only respect their parents out of fear or guilt, not love. That’s not how I want to raise my children.

LoveGreaterThanFear

I want my children to respect me. I’m hoping they will respect me enough to know that they’re not allowed to drink. If I do catch them drinking, there will be some disciplinary action. Will I have to take the alcohol out of my house? I hope not. I would, if they’re not making wise decisions. But I’m not going to start my relationship off with my sons by hiding things.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I’m scared of him.” I don’t want them to say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I hate feeling guilty whenever I’m around him. I would rather obey him than feel guilty.”

I want my sons to say, “That’s my Daddy. I love and respect him because he loves and respects me. He’s honest with me. I know I can talk to him any time about anything. He won’t fly off the handle and yell at me. He won’t guilt me into doing what’s right. We’re going to talk things out and I’m going to feel so calm around him that I’ll want to do what’s right, because I respect him.”

It’s the same way with Jesus. Some people say they love and obey Jesus because He’s God, but that might be putting it backwards. It’s because He loved me and died for me that I obey. Put another way, I don’t obey in order to be saved. I obey because I’m saved. That’s the relationship Jesus wants to have with us.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “I respect you because you’re the father figure of our home.” I want them to say, “Dad, because you’re the nurturing father figure of our home, I respect you and I love you. I’m not just obeying you because I’m afraid of you. I’m obeying you because I’m your son. You have done so much for me and you care for me, and I love you.”

That’s the reality that I want for my family.

I’m going to wrap up this short series on drinking with a few words for the churches. See you Monday.

Drinking to Drunkenness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:6

Drinking is not a sin. The sin is drunkenness.

Drunkenness is the sin because through drunkenness, you eliminate self-control. And when you eliminate self-control, a lot of bad things happen.

If you drive drunk, you can kill another person, another human being. That’s murder. That’s not good.

Think about all the date rape scenarios. College kids drink and the girls get raped. The guys’ hormones are high and through drunkenness, they lose self-control. They don’t understand what “No” means and they rape a girl.

Then there are the angry drunks. They beat their wives, they beat their girlfriends, or they beat their kids, all because they can’t contain their anger when they’re drunk. They cause pain.

In these scenarios, you’ve not only sinned, you’ve also committed a crime. That’s going to put you in jail. So nothing good can come from it.

When you’re drunk, you don’t even have control over your own thoughts. You don’t have control over what you say. Think about it: when you’re drunk, you don’t control your own tongue! I’ve been around drunk people that literally say whatever is on their mind. Well, some things aren’t meant to be said. So when you get drunk, you can say something to another human being that can cause a lot of pain.

You can’t do good things without self-control. Name one good thing you can do when you don’t have control over your own body. You’re falling down. You can’t even walk straight! You can’t make clear decisions.

The fear of the Lord is wisdom. It brings wisdom. That’s what it does. So when you represent Christ, you represent wisdom. You represent peace. When you’re drunk, you’re causing chaos. You can’t make peace when you don’t have control.

When you represent Jesus Christ, you make wise decisions. Drunkenness is a sin because when you’re drunk, you can’t live a right life. You can’t live a righteous life. The Bible says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. So when you want to live a life that’s right, you have to be sober.

Make a decision that’s wise. Don’t drink to drunkenness.

The government, the church, and parents all have to help young people understand these scenarios. I’ll pick that up next time. See you Monday.

Drinking Wine Like Jesus

A lot of Christian homes reach the point where they teach that drinking alcohol in any amount is a sin. I understand why this happens. Christian families are afraid for their children. They want to control them, to keep them safe. So they start teaching that it is a sin to drink alcohol.

I think that’s wrong. And I think that’s why you see kids rebel. Here’s my idea. You want to see kids quit drinking? Why don’t you just tell them that it’s okay to drink? It’s just not okay at sixteen. I guarantee they’ll stop then, because they don’t want to rebel against something that’s okay. They’ll say, “Oh, we can’t rebel against that.” Yeah! That’s right, you can’t.

The First MiracleI don’t believe in the whole fear factor. I don’t believe in the notion that we should spiritualize drinking and guilt kids through Christ. And I think the churches that counsel that way are wrong.

It is not a sin to drink. Nowhere can you see that or find that in scripture.

People forget this. They make all these rules saying drinking is a sin, so then they don’t want to listen to the first miracle. We forget. Jesus turned water into wine. And it wasn’t just an okay wine. It was the best wine you can have. I’m guessing the alcohol rate in that was probably not nil.

Then you get into the arguments. “Oh,” people say, “back then there was non-alcoholic wine.” No, I’m pretty sure they didn’t have the ability back then to make non-alcoholic beverages. I don’t think there was a filtering system. They sat in a winery and stomped on berries. That’s what they did! There wasn’t a filter on the alcohol. It was fermented.

“Oh,” people say, “but Jesus didn’t drink.” Yeah, He did. In fact, Jesus was called a drunk and a glutton! When He hung out with people, He drank their wine. And so people started judging Him. They said, “Oh, Jesus is at their house drinking. He must be a drunk, because he hangs out with people a lot, and he always drinks their wine.”

Jesus drank wine. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

Obviously if there’s a pastor out there just slurring like crazy, and rambling, and falling over, you know what? His church will take some flak for that. James says the teachers of the Word of God are going to be held to a higher standard.

But the standard by which God’s pastors will be judged is not, “Did he drink alcohol?” Jesus is the highest standard there is! He’s the King of Kings! He is God in human flesh! And He had wine.

Drinking isn’t a sin, but drunkenness is. Next time I’ll tell you why. See you Thursday.

Believing Without Seeing

When Jesus left, He said to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Those who have not seen are the people of faith.

The disciples died for Jesus Christ.  They died on crosses.  And I know they felt some fear, because everybody fears death to a certain point.

But they cheated!  I’m sorry, they did!   Continue reading