Thursday, March 31, 2011

"I'm Born Again. So Why Do I Still Sin?"

There are men eager to find fault with the guys who go to the prison chapel. Jim wants an answer for when they say “Aha!” every time a brother stumbles. "Why do we still sin, even after we’ve been born again?"

Short and sweet: re-born people sin if we have 1) forgotten who we are, or 2) if we don’t yet know who we are in Christ, or 3) if we take a time out in our increasing. We are to be ever increasing. The Apostle Peter tells us how not to stumble and fall:

“ . . , make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

2 Peter 1: 5 – 13

Paul too, after listing several specific manifestations of sin; let’s believers know that whatever they once were, in Christ they are no longer so:

“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
1 Corinthians 6:11

We sin when we forget who we are. When a believer sins and repents, God of course “is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) But what if we started each day, remembering who we are now? What if we lived out who we really are? Who you believe you are greatly influences how you live your life.

Confession Time: When I was young, growing up in multi-ethnic America; friends would ask each other, “What is your nationality?” (Meaning, ‘where were your ancestors from?’) I knew that my mom’s side of the family had several nationalities in the mix. But my dad’s side of the family was quite straightforward. He was from Quebec. And since he had jet black hair, dark skin, and high cheek bones, none of us questioned when told, that he was half Iroquois Indian. And for a skinny little blond kid, let me tell you, it was very exciting to think I had such noble blood flowing through me. You can bet that whenever we played “Cowboys and Indians,*” that I was always an Indian.

*Note: For younger readers, “Cowboys and Indians” is the politically offensive game we kids used to play many moons ago, by the shores of Gitche Gumee and its surrounding suburbs. You probably played: “Beef Industry Personnel and Native Americans.” But instead of lobbying and litigation, we fought with toy six shooters and tomahawks.

Anyway! I always chose being an Indian, because, well, I was one after all. And it wasn’t until many years later, when my cousin researched our family tree, (and I have since forgiven her), that we discovered that there actually was no Native American in us at all. Dad was all French! And while he took this news in amazing stride, I was mortified.

Do you know how much time I spent being Iroquois?!? All those Native American book reports I had done at school!?! Never mind my life after school!

Ever try wearing cheap moccasins all Massachusetts winter long? I did! As an Iroquois brave after all, I needed to perfect my ability to walk as silently as a deer. My feet about froze! And my family was no help at all! “It doesn’t count, Tommy, if you have to wear 8 layers of gym socks in them!”

Whenever we kids played “Hide-and-Go-Seek” in the woods, I wouldn’t just “seek” my playmates, when I was “it.” I would track them! My poor little friends would freeze in hiding while I painstakingly checked for broken twigs, felt fresh tracks for relative warmth, and sniffed the snow. Did you know that if you sniff enough cold snow, you can kind of get one of those ice cream headaches?

And speaking of which, do you know how many popsicle-sticks it takes to make an Iroquois long house and village? A lot! Kids today have it easy! Now you can just buy popsicle sticks in the crafts section at Walmart. I walked around with a purple tongue and an ice cream headache for two solid weeks that spring, rushing to get that diorama done!

It gets worse! I still wake up sometimes in a sweat, remembering the day I told all the kids at the bus stop that they could run off and play, and that I'd be "on lookout" for the bus. And so they ran around playing while I knelt down in the street and put my ‘ear to the ground,’ listening for that bus! If it wasn’t for Lenny Kleibenhoffer I’d have got run over!

(If there had been a drought that year, this might have started to get embarrassing.)

Oh yes! Who we believe ourselves to be, will largely determine how we live our lives. That’s the point! People take notice when you don’t act like who you claim to be. A little blond boy dulling his father’s hatchet, by throwing it at a tree all summer, and yelling “woo-woo-woo-woo-woo!” as he runs to retrieve it, is much easier to pardon, than an ungrateful grown-up who, sporting a fish pin and quoting scripture, is blatantly living a selfish life. God’s family has a culture, and His children are expected to embrace it.

Note: I’m told that dad’s hatchet would not have dulled so quickly, had I sometimes hit the tree.

That day in my uncle’s kitchen, when my cousin told me I was not Iroquois, but that dad was completely French, it was either laugh or cry. I flunked French in 9th grade. “I’m French?” “Just French!” What does one do with French? Kiss funny and cook with butter?!?! This was not good news!*

*Note: For you nature over nurture people; my art teacher, Miss Boha, did say that my paintings tended to look better the farther back one stood.

But my point is that in Christ, I do not belong to this world. I’m not Iroquois or French (or Scottish, or Swedish or whatever else my mom added to my misinformed mix). In Christ, I died and was given new life. I’m a “new creation.” God’s word tells me that my citizenship is in a place called Zion, and that my heritage is such that I belong in the family of Abraham. Seriously, that is what God says of me. He also expects me to believe it, and to live accordingly.

Scripture says of my heritage:

“ So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Galatians 3:26-29

Ultimately believer, God defines us. I can call myself a Frenchman all I want. God is going to work this world out of me, as He transforms me into the person I am eternally. God gave me my heritage and birth announcement when He chose me. Scripture says of father Abraham:

“As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”
(Romans 4:17)

My current birth certificate and passport read “Massachusetts.” One day, I will go to Zion, the New Jerusalem, and it will be declared of me that I was actually born in that glorious place. And I will declare on that day, that every blessing ("fountain") I’ve ever known, is found in Zion.

Psalm 87 reads:

“He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
The LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.

Glorious things are said of you,
city of God:
“I will record Rahab and Babylon
among those who acknowledge me—
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush
and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”

Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her,
and the Most High himself will establish her.”
The LORD will write in the register of the peoples:
“This one was born in Zion.”
As they make music they will sing,
“All my fountains are in you.”

Children of God mess up when they think they are just earthlings. God's people have a culture. If you are experiencing culture shock, find out who you are, and live accordingly. Sinning is totally inappropriate for those whose citizenship is in Zion! You were created for good works, and for living a righteous life. Our heavenly culture has us spending our time and energies so. Today you may not look or feel like a son of Abraham. That’s unimportant. If you are now in Christ, then learn and remember who you really are.

I enjoy some days more than others. Sometimes when asked how I’m doing, I choose to recall the verse that says:

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,”

Ephesians 2:6

…and then I can honestly say, “I’m doing much better than I think I am.”

Posted below is something I have on my wall, for when I need a reminder of who I really am. Maybe you will find it helpful too. Try reading through it aloud and see. And have a great day; because now you can.

From “The Bondage Breaker” by Neil T. Anderson (pp. 239-244) and is also has been taken from his book, Victory Over Darkness, and adapted.

I am the salt of the earth: (Matthew 5:13)
I am the light of the world: (Matthew 5:14)
I am a child of God. (John 1:12)
I am part of the true vine; a channel of Christ’s life. (John 15:1,5)
I am Christ’s friend. (John 15:15)
I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit. (John 15:16)
I am a slave of righteousness. (Romans 6:18)
I am enslaved of God. (Romans 6:22)
I am a son of God; God is spiritually my Father. (Romans 8:14,15 / Galatians. 3:26; 4:6)
I am a joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him. (Romans 8:17)
I am a temple—a dwelling place—of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in me. (1 Corinthians. 3: 16; 6:19)
I am united to the Lord and am one spirit with Him. (1 Corinthians. 6:17)
I am a member of Christ’s body (1Cor. 12:17 / Ephesians. 5:30)
I am a new creation. (2 Corinthians. 5:17)
I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians. 5:18,19)
I am a son of God and one in Christ. (Galatians. 3:26,28)
I am an heir of God since I am a son of God. (Galatians. 4: 6,7)
I am a saint. (Ephesians 1:1/1 Cor. 1:2; / Philippians 1:1;/ Colossians 1:2).
I am God’s workmanship-His handiwork-born anew in Christ to do His work. (Ephesians 2:10)
I am a fellow citizen with the rest of God’s family. (Ephesians 2:19)
I am a prisoner of Christ. (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1)
I am righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:2)
I am a citizen of heaven, seated in heaven right now. (Philippians 2:6)
I am hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
I am an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life. (Colossians 3:4)
I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12 / 1 Thessalonians 1:4)
I am a son of light and not of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)
I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling. (Hebrews 3:1)
I am a partaker of Christ; I share in His life. (Hebrews 3:14)
I am one of God’s living stones, being built up in Christ as a spiritual house. (1 Peter 2:5)
I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. (1 Peter 2:9,10)
I am an alien and stranger to this world in which I temporarily live. (1 Peter 2:11)
I am an enemy of the devil. (1 Peter 5:8)
I am a child of God and I will resemble Christ when He returns. (1 John 3:1,2)
I am born of God, and the evil one—the devil—cannot touch me. (1 John 5:18)
I have been justified—completely forgiven and made righteous. (Romans 5:1)
I died with Christ and died to the power of sin’s rule over my life. (Romans 6:1-6)
I am free forever from condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
I have been placed into Christ by God’s doing. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things freely given to me by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)
I have been given the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)
I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God in Christ, and I have been given the Holy Spirit as a pledge guaranteeing my inheritance to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:13,14)
Since I have died, I no longer live for myself, but for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:14,15)
I have been made righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I am now living is Christ’s life. (Galatians 2:20)
I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. (Ephesians 1:3)
I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy, and I am without blame before Him. (Ephesians 1:4)
I was predestined—determined by God—to be adopted as God’s son. (Ephesians 1:5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven, and I am a recipient of His lavish grace. (Ephesians 1:6-8)
I have been made alive, together with Christ. (Ephesians 2:5)
I have been raised up and seated with Christ in heaven. (Ephesians 2:6)
I have direct access to God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)
I may approach God with boldness, freedom, and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
I have been rescued from the domain of Satan’s rule and transferred to the kingdom of Christ. (Colossians 1:13)
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. The debt against me has been canceled. (Colossians 1:14)
Christ Himself is in me. (Colossians 1:27)
I am firmly rooted in Christ and am now being built up in Him. (Colossians 2:7)
I have been made complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:12,13)
I have been buried, raised and made alive with Christ. (2 Timothy 1:7)
I died with Christ and I have been raised up with Christ. (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5)
My life is now hidden with Christ in God. Christ is now my life. (2 Timothy 2:11)
I have been given a Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 4:16)
I have been saved and set apart according to God’s doing. (2 Timothy 1:4)
Because I am sanctified and am one with the Sanctifier, He is not ashamed to call me His brother. (Hebrews 2:11)
I have the right to come boldly before the throne of God to receive mercy and find grace to help in my time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
I have been given precious and magnificent promises by God, by which I am a partaker of God’s divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)


Niles said...

Thanks for this, Tom. Hilarious and encouraging.

Scott said...

I feel sad for you to realize you are not part Iroquois. Heartbreaking.

But, I am inspired with your new identity in Christ.

Thank you, brother!!