Judge and Jury? by Marjorie Cole, Life Recovery, Inc.Do you ever feel like you are your own judge and jury? Like your whole life is a result of either being judged by others or,  worse yet, yourself? Do you live constantly going over your mistakes, debating with yourself, re thinking your options, feeling guilty and judged by failed outcomes, trying to figure out how you might have done things differently and feeling responsible for other people’s responses?

Add to the confusion the fact that many of us continue to live our adult Christian lives using the insights and conclusions we gathered during our childhood. We determine our worth, our value and the current status of our “love-ability” based on these subconscious conclusions made as children.

As a result, many of us take a moral inventory of our spiritual lives only to come up agreeing with condemnation, that we didn’t do it right, don’t love God enough and maybe aren’t even saved! We spend our lives moderating the debate that goes on in our minds and emotions to determine if we are trusting God enough, sincerely convinced in our hearts and really born again.

We grew up in performance-based conditioning that caused us to believe that whatever was happening in our world was “all up to me” and if anything went wrong, “it was my fault”. “I’ve got to do it right”, “be good”, and “figure it out” in order to be “okay”. (For more teaching check out “It’s My Fault” cd.)

"It's My Fault" by Marjorie Cole, Life Recovery, Inc.

And though this blog is not a clever justification for sin and reckless abandon of moral absolutes, the “it’s up to me” gospel has created a deep and serious challenge to the Gospel of grace. Failure to embrace the Gospel of grace has widened the separation between us and our merciful heavenly Father, and is creating  a growing number of neurotic Christians.

Confusion and condemnation are spreading like a contagious disease among unsuspecting believers who rewrite the Gospel of God from “Done” back to “Do”. Confusion around the Bible’s declaration that “it is finished!” has exchanged the absolutes of the final and  finished Gospel of Jesus Christ for one of powerless uncertainty. This unfinished Gospel allows the Enemy’s to constantly accuse us that we are never quite good enough or certain that God’s acceptance of us is unconditional.

Things  like “I have to , I should, I need to, or I feel like I have to keep myself in line, or “I feel like I have to choose the right thing”, bind us in the constant fear of NOT choosing the right thing. And if our salvation all comes back to and rests upon us and our choosing the right thing, the entire work of the Cross rests, not upon the Word of God or the Blood of Jesus, or upon the Faithfulness of God to pay the penalty for sin and buy us back, but upon our ability to choose rightly!

Was this not the very foundation upon which the Law was built? Putting the work of redemption back on us puts the work of Christ in jeopardy of being undermine and cancelled out by the choices I make. How devious! How arrogant! How clever of the Enemy who knows he cannot erase or undo or remove the Word of God or the Work of Christ, to make them both subject to my performance, my feelings, and my choices.

Does not Paul in Romans 6,7,and 8 make it abundantly clear that we were slaves of sin, programmed to sin, controlled by the sinful lusts and cravings of sin that war in our members? As he writes is it not clear that  he was experiencing these same powers controlling the members of his own flesh? And that they were controlling him in spite of his love of God’s Law and his will (intention) to follow it?

Simply repeating the “try harder” cliches of taking personal responsibility to be more diligent and self-disciplined did not resolve the dilemma. The insidious entrapment opened Paul’s eyes to the need for deliverance which causes him to cry out, “O wretched man that I am, Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). ”

The good thing he wanted to do he did not do; the bad things he did NOT want to do, he found himself doing. (Rom. 19). Observing and basing his conclusion upon his will and intention to love and want God instead of the bad and unruly behavior that he saw going on in his members caused him to conclude that “it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells IN me.” (Rom. 7:20).

Paul immediately stopped trying to be good or control his behavior or condemn himself for not being able to be good or control his behavior or stop the war going on inside of him. In stead, he stopped it by crying out to God for deliverance from the grip of the body of death – the operating software from Hell – that was running in his soul. He realized he could not deliver himself by good works or by trying harder to stop sinning. It was not up to him to deserve or prove or complete the work of the Cross. All he could do was cry out for “deliverance”.

Even evidence of sin and the presence of the battle that continued raging within him were not able to persuade him that the Cross and the Salvation it secured were lost. There is NOW therefore, no condemnation to “those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1).

Walking in the Spirit make us immune to the ongoing blasts of Satan that debate our position in Christ based upon our performance or our feelings. Condemnation is a feeling. As a feeling it is often used by Hell to frighten the sheep into believing they are not safe, okay, or saved. It creates a low grade anxiety in the souls of those who would follow Christ.  In searching for relief from the uncertainty, they turn aside from following the commands of the Good Shepherd, into the pastures of religious performance, legalism, and self-doubt.

These little sheep become caught up in trying to be their own shepherd. They base their love for God on how well they think or feel they are doing (performance). When we try to please God by keeping the Law to be holy and judge our progress by how we feel we are bound to fall into condemnation!

When we base our salvation or run our relationship with God through our minds (thinking) or through our hearts (emotions) we  give the Enemy all kinds of opportunities to hurt and confuse and condemn and strip us of our authority as believers.

If Satan can get me to doubt, or second guess, or believe that the work of Jesus Christ is dependent upon me, or how I feel, or how I am doing , or on what kind of choices I am making, then he had slipped a noose around my neck to drag me back into the pit of despair. If all I do is spend the rest of my saved life being drug around by Satan what good am I to myself or what profit will it be to Christ?

If the devil can get me to agree with him, he then has the power to control me. If I let him get by with speaking words through my mind and out of my mouth that I do not “take captive” ( II Cor.10:3-5), if I do not “resist him” (jam. 4:7) he will not flee. The Enemy is a wiley foe and a master deceiver. He is the author of confusion and his strategy is to divide and conquer.

He desires to control you. If he can “set you up in opposition to yourself”, (II Tim. 2 25  KJV)  by getting you to monitor your feelings and your behaviors, he can divide you and set you up against your own self.

He deceives you into sinning. He then uses the evidence of the sin you just committed as proof that you disobeyed God. He then has you read some scripture that he can reinterpret as condemnation to get you to question or worry about your love for God. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  (Jn.14:15) gets re-framed and the Enemy begins to condemn you for not loving God enough because you sinned.

Our sinning gives the Enemy an opportunity to discuss ways we could improve which opens up the way to bring striving on board to more closely monitor our life in God. This sets the stage for condemnation to come in and creates a vicious circle of try harder-never good enough that leaves us  always wondering if God really loves us. God’s love becomes conditional and grace must be earned!

The only way this vicious cycle can be broken is by Abiding in Christ! This revelation changes everything, including our vigorous and sketchy attempts to be good, make right choices and follow God. And if we add to this folly, the notion that we can assess our current state of holiness and acceptability with God based on how we feel, we  have handed the appropriation of the Work of the Cross and its power to save, over to Satan!

“Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). If we “Walk in the Spirit” we will not give Satan the opportunity to use our souls to debate the work of Christ being done in us through His Holy Spirit. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. (Eph. 2:10). Know that you know that and you will live an abundant and meaningful life in Christ.

Amen!

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Standing at the top of the new year, what better time then to consider the most timeless question of all. How will you die?  This blog will be posted in eight installments. This is the first.

If you are a saint, and the rapture of the saints does not occur in your life time, you will die, no doubt about it. Death is not a topic up for discussion. It is not assigned according to merit nor can it be reassigned or delegated to someone else on your behalf.

Though none of us starts out thinking about dying, or knowing when or how it’s going to happen, very few of us take much time to prepare for it. We are too busy living to think about our final days or years here on earth. Besides, it is such a morbid subject.

And yet, for as much as is NOT said about dying, it is always hanging out in the back of our mind. Why else would we be so intensely interested in ways to stay young?

You will have a funeral with flowers and a eulogy. You will be put in a box or in an urn and set on a mantel or sprinkled over some cold bit of earth or forgotten piece of ground, if you are one of the more cared for among us.

Or you could be left to die without help, found by the vultures who have encamped against your lifeless form, fallen on some street or wilderness place or battlefield or snuffed out by some holocaust, struck down, silent and left, without a tear or a song.

The only good news is that these are only possible endings to your BODY. The life you lived in it for that first tiny portion of your existence here will go on to be judged and relocated. The greater question is, then, where will we spend the rest of eternity that has no end.

The account of those things we did in our body, during our life spent here will determine that answer. Then everything will change. Those who have been rich and well off may find themselves poor and without comfort. Those who were downtrodden and lived in shame and reproach as second and third class world citizens may end up presiding over kingdoms and live in mansions.

Jesus Christ said “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; …I go and prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-2).

Finally, we will have a place! A place to be safe and loved and wanted. “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” God is going to share His Kingdom with the poor and cast offs of this earth. “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled”. He is giving food and substance and satisfaction to those who didn’t have a chance, who were not born well positioned for the race of life.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh”. How many here have been so overtaken by the injustices and abuses committed against them that they couldn’t even hope, let alone laugh? And, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you and cast out your name as evil, …Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven.”

Justice is coming! Truth rules! Righteousness prevails! But only those who live their lives loving the Justice and truth and righteousness, and in favor of Mercy will be given mercy.

Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Do you have your reservations in the Kingdom of Heaven, or have you neglected to look into your eternal life options. The stakes are high. To be wrong, at this stage of your life would be and incalculable tragedy.

In the words of Jesus, “it would be better for (that man) if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in he depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6). It would have been better if we would never have been born than to have been born and to be cast into everlasting hell fire.

So, seriously, what is the point of being stubborn and self directed when, in all reality, we can not even create one blade of grass on our own. The loss would be unbearable and absolutely a needless, pointless waste!

Peace on earth, Good will toward men! The angels announced God’s heart and intentions to the down-trodden citizens of earth. He had not forgotten His promise. At last, in the fullness of time, the desired deliverer had arrived.

He wants that same Peace for us, two thousand years later. In the midst of a world full of turmoil and war and financial uncertainty and injustice and lack, in the midst of our pain and regret, where anxiety follows us and fear watches our every move, Christ brings us His peace and protection.

With His peace comes rest  – freedom from fear and it’s “yoke of bondage”. Our peace comes from knowing we are loved. Few understand the suffering and sacrifices of real love. For most, love is most often marketed in movies and media displays as lust and infatuation and first kisses.

Real love is compassion. It is kind and longs for reconciliation. It works for the restoration of “peace and good will” between two people. Real love forgives, mends, and does not keep a record of wrongs. It is not easily offended, does not try to get even and is humble. Real love dies so another can live. Real love is not jealous, hateful or insecure.

Real love does not need to boast of its greatness. Real love is not pretentious. It does not put on airs to impress or demand things of others. It is not conditional. It does not use guilt to prove a point or provoke to control another.

Real love does not seek its own, but rejoices in the good things that happen to others. It weeps with those who are sad and hurting. It laughs with those who are merry. It waits for the fulfillment of what it desires. It does not provoke another, or wish them evil. It does not meditate on evil.

Real love comes from God. It cannot fail. It will never loose heart or falter before the desired end for which it has endured all things. God’s love is real love.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that your love will not fail; that you will love your children whether they come home for Christmas or not. That you will have strength to forgive the one you are or were married to that has walked out on you and left you alone. And if life has left you alone, and you have no one, that you will reach out and find someone to love with God’s love this year.

Do not waste these brief and precious moments on the grief of what is not or what has been lost or what could have been. Look up for our redemption and reward draws near. Find someone to love, to pray for, to walk along side of, to help, to comfort, to be with. Invite someone into your world and be their friend.

I recently received this email and realized that many of you may have a similar question. Feel free to read the letter and consider the following passages from the bible given to us for our instruction and comfort. My prayer for all of you is that you will know the depth of the riches of the goodness of God and embrace the finished work of Jesus Christ. That work includes abiding in a place of rest knowing we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, (Eph. 2:8-10).  Resting in that finished work brings truth and freedom from condemnation and offers us the only way to know the will of God. As we follow Him the fruits of righteousness, peace and joy become the best evidences of our faith.

For simplicity sake I will break down each statement in my response.

Dear Marjorie,
I believe as a born again believer in Christ we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, but if a born again person willfully sins continually can they ultimately grieve the Holy Spirit & God at some point could remove the Holy Spirit from them because their heart gets hardened from sin and they can no longer repent? I have thought that we must walk in the Spirit & not walk in the flesh for if we walk in the flesh we will die – so it seems even born again Christians, if they go back & remain in a state of sin, can lose their salvation, but if they repent & walk in the spirit they shall live. My thought being that we are eternally secure as we walk in the spirit. It’s hard to explain, hope you understand what I am asking. Thanks!
(more…)

Jessie Penn Lewis was an author that wrote a book over 200 years ago called “War on the Saints”. She observed that “those most likely to be deceived in the last days would be those who were the most hungry for God”.  How better to deceive and destroy the saints of God than to bait them with the things they want the most.

Love, justice, happiness, being good, getting rid of my sin and the presence of God are all near the top of the list of things desired by believers. (Even unsaved people want these things. Go figure? Maybe we were not created as depraved as we were taught to believe, after all!) These are the same things that top the Devil’s list of most useful and effective tricks in deceiving the people of God into believing the lie. He baits the hook with a counterfeit and gets us to bit into the lie, using the hook of destruction to bring us into bondage. (more…)

I realize you may be as skeptical as you are sick to death of the gimmicks, the  self helps and quick-fix promises made by churches and individuals claiming to represent Jesus Christ. You are as “turned-off” by the pony-ride, inflatable gospel as He is!! So, what are we going to DO about it?

The first order of business is to REPENT. We must admit we have used, abused and misused the testimony of Jesus Christ and His Gospel to sell everything from investment opportunities to cemetery plots. We have turned the body of Christ into a business corporation. We have submitted the cause of Christ to voting bodies and church boards and subjugated the Kingdom of God and the will of God to the well-intentioned promotion of too many of our own good ideas. (more…)

I will not rehearse the stories of misery and gore that so many of us have become hardened to by watching too much of the 5 and 6 and 9 and 10 o’clock news; and the 7 – 8 o’clock prime-time filth, that now we can eat right through massacres and bombings and parents killing their children and children killing each other without getting the slightest indigestion or shedding the tiniest tear.

Our utter desensitization to the pain and bloodshed ought to be the most SHOCKING thing of all! Our hearts have become hardened. Our minds have chosen to ignore the critical needs all around us, as evidenced by our indifference to do anything about it. But before I blame you, I would invite you to blame me, because we, like many “called to the Kingdom for such a time as this”, have not provided you with the leadership and direction you have needed to get involved. (more…)