Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do Believers Have Two Natures?

It would make perfect sense to me if I had two natures. This would explain why I still sin. But if I have only one nature, how do I explain all the times that I act selfishly and not in love?
Christians are supposed to be people who walk in love, right? As I understand it, if we have the Spirit of God and if Jesus lives in us, then it should be evident to everyone around us, to everyone who knows us. People should be able to identify us as Christians by our love (John 13:35; 15:13).
The apostle Paul said, “We walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Peter said, we “have received a faith” (2 Pet. 1:1).
Saints (believers) are children of God. We are children and heirs (Rom. 8:15-17). I believe faith is the key to our our journey. We are still children and this is why we sin. We are growing in faith. We are becoming more mature in the faith. We are awaiting our future glory ( Rom. 8:18). However, we have received divine power or the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:3), the seal of sonship, his Spirit in our hearts (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5) guaranteeing what is to come. By grace we have received the precious promises, we participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
Those in the flesh (this isn’t speaking of a mortal body -  it’s referring to the sinful nature) cannot please God. But you aren’t in the flesh (Paul is obviously not talking about being a human being) but in the Spirit, if God’s Spirit dwells in you. Without the Spirit of Christ, we are not God’s children (Rom. 8:8-9).
Jesus lives in Christians by his Spirit, and Christians live by faith in Jesus (Gal. 2:20). It’s true that Christ has perfect faith, but we obviously don’t walk in his perfect faith perfectly. However, this does not mean that we are in the flesh or that we still have the sinful nature as Paul stated in Romans 8.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

911 Celebration Of Freedom

Worldwide Grace Fellowship, Clarksville, TN

“You can take our land, but you can never take our freedom.” Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart, portrayed WilliamWallace, a Scottish knight that helped lead the Scots to an upset victory over the English forces at the Battle of Stirling Bridge September 11, 1297.

Man has always equated blood for freedom and there have been many battles since the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Many have given there lives in quest of freedom.

In Genesis chapters 10-11, we read about a man named Nimrod, Noah’s great grandson. He saw God as someone who stood in the way of his freedom.  Just like Nimrod, human beings have tried to obtain freedom by their own best efforts.

Everyone wants freedom, but where does it come from and how can we attain true freedom?

Jonathan Ielpi worked for the New York City Fire Department in Squad 288, a unit that handled various kinds disasters. He was called to duty after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower on September 11, 2001.

After getting a call from his son Jonathan, Lee Ielpi a retired firefighter, drove down to the Twin Towers with his younger son Brendan to see if they could help out. When they arrived, the North and South Towers had already collapsed and looked as though they had been crushed in a giant trash compactor. The two 110 story towers were now just five stories of broken rubble.

Lee and Brendan began to comb through the debris in search of survivors, Lee, hoping that he would find his son alive. The day ended, but Lee Ielpi had not yet found his son.

Somewhere in the pile is a woman named Genelle Guzman. She and some coworkers were heading down Stairway B when she stopped on the thirteenth floor to take off her high heel shoes. That’s when the North Tower collapsed and a rolling wave of concrete, steel and everything else that was in the tower, buried her. Only her head and left arm were free.

For twenty seven hours she waited to be rescued. While waiting, she believes she encountered an angel named Paul, who came and held her hand  until rescue workers could cut her free. Genelle Guzman was the last survivor to be pulled from the fallen towers.

Lee Ielpi was still searching for his son Jonathan. He had given up hope of finding him alive. However, he wanted to be able to bury his son. On December 11, 2001, Lee and Brendan Ielpi, helped carry Jonathan’s body from ground zero.

On this the tenth anniversary of the 911 attacks, families of the victims are gathered at the September 11 Memorial to remember those who were killed. They will notice two huge holes in the ground where the twin towers once stood. For me, these holes represent the 2983 people who were killed in the 1993 bombing and the 911 attacks. Their names sketched in the bronze plates that surround the footprints of the two towers. But they also symbolize our poverty and nakedness without Jesus Christ.

The Freedom Tower is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013. It will be 1776 feet high, commemorating the year of our nation’s independence. However, independence doesn’t equal freedom!

Jesus said that everyone who sins is a slave of sin John 8:31-36. His words offended the Jews who thought they were free men. They were Abrahams descendants and to them, that meant they were free.

But Jesus explained that Abraham’s blood couldn’t set them free from sin. Slaves have no purchasing power, they have no inheritance, they can’t afford to purchase righteous garments to clothe themselves, nor could they purchase immortality. It was only Jesus who could do this for them, because it required his precious blood not Abrahams.

In the old covenant, slaves were set free once every seven years (Ex. 21:2; Deut. 15:12) and only once every fifty years (called the Jubilee), on the day of At-One-Ment could they return to their inheritance - their land and their families (Lev. 25:8-16).

But the good news - the gospel of Jesus Christ is we don’t have to wait fifty years to return to our inheritance - our inheritance is Jesus Christ. We are set free when we trust in Him. Jesus redeemed us. He bought the righteous garments to cover our naked bodies and he will clothed us with immortality. He is rich in the love nature. A nature that is foreign to human beings. It’s the nature that loved even His betrayer Judas, in that Jesus washed Judas’s feet before he was crucified, knowing that Judas had already betrayed him.

How many men did William Wallace slaughter for freedom? His sword and his garments stained with the blood of men. Since the Battle of Stirling Bridge, there have been many battles. I witnessed the battle at the World Trade Center ten years ago this day from a high-rise office building on 15th Street and 8th Avenue.

Throughout history, man has been willing to shed his blood in exchange for what he has perceived to be freedom. In reality the exchange has kept him in bondage to a sinful hurtful nature.

Today Jonathan Ielpi’s fireman’s jacket is part of the remaining artifacts which is held in the September 11 Memorial and Museum. That garment couldn’t save Jonathan’s life.

Jesus died, but He isn’t in the tomb. He is in you and in me and in all those who have surrendered their lives to Him. Christ in you the hope of Glory (Col. 1:27).

I can hear him saying, “Don’t worry. I am your Tower Of Freedom. I have come to set you free from the hurtful, sinful nature. I will clothe you in white garments of righteousness (Rev. 7:14). I will clothe you in immortality (John 3:16). All that the Father has is mine (John 16:15). I am rich in the love of God, because I am God. I am a Warrior of Love! I have violent love for you.

It’s not the shedding of your own blood... it’s not the shedding of another man’s blood... No,  my robe has been dipped not in the blood of men, but in my own precious blood (Heb. 9:12; Rev. 19:13), which was shed for you, and you, and all of you. So that all men can live in freedom-  life forever more.

Let the celebration begin! 

Bibliography: You Tube, Genelle Guzman McMillan, Guideposts TV; Kelly, Mike, “Last Survivor pulled from WTC rebuilds life, recalls horror.” The Record (Bergen County, NJ) Sept. 10, 2003; O’Shaughnessy, Patrice, “God Willing, I Will Find & Bury My Son.” Daily News, October 14, 2001; Hastings, Deborah;/Lennihan, Mark, “911 Father: I Don’t Understand All of This Hate.” AP, Sept. 9, 2010