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TRAN FORMNG S I YO R LIFE U

The Process of Convers ion

2000 United Church of God, an International ociation ss A


All rights re rve Printed in U. Scritures in this booklet are quoted from the se d. S.A. p New King James Ve ( 1988 Thomas Nelson, ,publishers) unless otherwise noted. rsion nc.I

Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

I ntroduction

Inroduction t
Th e word conversion is heard often inlire circles. People comgious
monly speak of theirc nve ion, or how they came to beonve ed. o rs c rt What do these wo mean? rds Conversion, in a reigious contex, generally refers to a ch nge l t a from one belief to another, or the addition of a newgious belief. li re But is that all there is to conveon? rsi Some use the wo conversion to mean almost any draatic rd m change for the better that people choose to make by their ownrts, effo sometimes erroeously giving the impression that all such selfn induced ch nges are from God. Th, howeve is simply not tru a is r, e. People can and do ch ge without Gods interveionbut not in the an nt same way that conve rsion is described in the Bibl e. Even without any ligious back und, peoplesimply because of re gro the dictionary de nition of the wo understand that conversionfers rd re to a ch n rt d, it is c a g d in some way. rsion cert i ly invoves ch n r a p e, the Scri t res re ate that Paul and Barn a , as they trave e t rd Je s l m a ec bn o v r i n of the Gentiles; and they caused gre b t re (Acts 15:3, emphasis added thro o t . g rt d h n e wh a ged fro , at is he ch n In the Bible conve resented as a miraculous, lifec s a process that is impossible without the i c,a t i i ation of God. In fa t ates the conve

calling, or inviting , to conve rsion so they can begin to undersnd ta the Scrip tures with a c arity and depth they could never attain on l their own. This wo derful, miraculous process usually begins when the n in dividuals God is calling hear, orare the truth of God accurat d, ely explained from His true servants. Our Cre begins to open their ator minds at that time to comprehend the true gospel of Jesus st. Chri Gods Wo now begins to make sense to them. Just as a picture rd emerges when the pieces of a puzzle are tted toger, so can those the whom God is inviting to be conve begin to understand the Holy rted Scriptures. This is the macle of Gods calling. ir What follows depends on the choices they make when they hear or read Gods truth. Th can respond to God and ask for His help ey to implement wh they learn. Or they can turn their back on the at understanding of the truth they have ceived. re Although He clarly encourages human beings to e choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19), God does not rce anyone to make the ght fo ri cho ice. But, as we shall soon see, the consequences of our choices are enorm us. o In this booklet we will examine the Bibl teaching on conveion. es rs Contrary to wh many think, it is not just a one-time event. Instead at the Scri tures reveal that it is arocess. p p The process begins with Gods calling, lfo l owed by the key step s of repentance, baptism and the reeiving of the Holy Spiri n ally c t climaxing with the re rn of Jesus Chrit tu s rrected to immortality and given eternal life. Th e ra s rm i n a ged from a mortal to an immortal being! L t c ly from Gods Wo u d rstanding of this marvelous tra rm s rs o .

Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

Who Are Gods Called, Chosen and FaithfulPe? e opl

Who A Gods re Called, Chosen and Fathful People? i


Jesus Christ ex claimed, Not eve ryone who says to Me,Lord, Lord,shall enter the kingdom of heavebut he who does the will n, of My Father in heave (Matthew 7:21). n His wa rning should cause all of us to carely consider our re ful ligious beliefs and assumptions. Why? Because many who claim to be at w His followers, who claim to have done gre deeds in His name, ill be rejected by Him. He will tell them, I never knew yourse 23). ve ( How, h en, can we distinguish the authentic disciples of Christ t who really are doing the will of the Father from those who call s suJe Lord but refuse to do Gods will? Today we are faced with hundreds ofligious gro ps, each claimre u ing to be Christian and rega rding itself as possessing that special something that gives it Gods stamp ofpap roval. Most groups that profess to be Christian rep resent themselves as having a alling, as c being the osen of the Lord. Even many non-Christianigious ch l re groups rega themselves as div ely chosen. rd in No matter how we look at it, thelre igious scene is confusing. No wonder millions are suspicious of alllire gion. Is it possible to sort the truth from this puzzling re ligious hodgep dge? o Indeed, it isif we are willing to take an honest look at thesfa ct

and accept the truth as revealed in the Scrires. ptu Jesus Christ is real. He was s urrected. He is alive. And His impact re on the wo has exceeded that of any other man who has everd. rld live Most people are familiar with the name Jesus Christ. But h ow many know wh He taught? Wh was His mission? Wh makes at at at His true folowers diffe l rent? Who tru represents Him? ly Jesus said, I will build My ch . The Greek wo translated urch rd chu rch in the Bible is kklesia, meaning an assembly or, ore pree m cisely, a calling out or called-out ones. es Complete Expository n Vi Dictiona ry of Old and New Testament Wo notes that ekklesia i rds s from ek, out of, andlesis, a calling(k leo, to call), andwas k a used among the Greeks of a body of citizens ered to discuss the gath affairs of stat e,Acts 19:39 ( 985, A sembly). 1 s The book of Heb rews describes this body of believeas the rs gen eral assembly and chrch of the rstborn (Hebrews 12:23). Pal u u des cribes it as the chrch of the living God, the pillar and ground of u the truth (1 Ti othy 3:15). m Jesus wa rned that arrow is the gate and id c ult is the way whch n f i leads to life, and there are w who nd it (Matthew 7:14). ef

Dangers of deception
Should we be surp rised? Most people simply ignoresJe words us when they dont agree with them. Neveeless, Jesus tells those wh rth o wish to be His true disciples that they must enter by the narrow; gat e for wide is the gate and road is the way that leads to destruction,da b n th ere are many who go in by it (rse 13). ve Even if one becomes a disciple of Chrihe is still in danger of st, being swept back into the utches of Sat n, the arch dversary of all cl a a who would be goly. The apostle Paul ex d pressed his concern for those who had been conve to Christianity under his ministry rted : But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the en ts cunserp ning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and ches a pre a Jesus other than the Jesus we pre ed, or if you re eive a diffe nt ach c re spirit from the one you re ived, or a diffe gospel from the one ce rent you acceped, you put up with it easily enough (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, t New Intern ational Ve ion). rs

Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

Who Are Gods Called, Chosen and FaithfulPe? e opl

Paul was amazed that people could so easily turn from his teachings to believe a fraudulent goel, to embrace a decep spirit and sp tive even accept a counterfeit conve and Messiah. Satan is the master rsion deceiver. Far too many people are easy prey, even after they have embraced Gods truth. Th are enticed by pers sive teach rs ey ua e hawking a counterfeit ghteous ness. ri Paul continus : For such men are false ap tles, deceitful wo e os rkmen , masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wo r, for Sat n nde a himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surpg, then, if risin his servants masquerade as servants of hteousness (2 Cori thians g ri n 11:13-15 , NIV). No wonder so many va rieties of beliefs faely labeled hristian ls C are taught under the name of Jesus Christ. His name serves as a mask for religious philosophies and doctrines that didntginate with Him ori or His ap stles. o Jesus wa us: any will say to Me in that day, ord, Lord, rns M L have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many woders in Your name?And then I will decl to n are them, I never knew you; dep from Me, you who practice lawsart les ness! (Matthew 7:22-23). The practice of lawlessness can negate all good deeds.

the time of the end: The coming of the lawless one is according to a r, n the working of Sat n, with all powe signs, and lying wo ders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who sh, because they peri did not re eive the love of the tru, that they might be save And c th d. for this reason God will send them a strong delusion, tthey should hat believe the lie (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11). Under the in uence of Satan, the god of this age, mankind has been thoroughly blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4). The dev unseen ils power so dominates humanity that the whole wo lies under the rld sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). Many people have accep ted a counterfeit gospel and a corrupted idea of whconve at rsion is all about. Now, b ck to our ori a ginal question: Wh sets ap rt Jesusau the nat a tic disciples from those who may think they are His trueowers but ll fo in reality have fallen victim to Sat decepions ? ans t

Called and chosen


The idea that one must bec lled and osen originated with a ch Jesus Himself, who told His disciples that any are called, but few m are chos en (Matthew 22:14). The concepts of being lced and being al ch osen are both biblcally legitimate, but they are ra ly undersood i re t and routinely misused. Lets be sure to get them strat. igh Many are called, but few are chen. Th s what Jesus said. But os at what does it mean? Gods desire is to give salvatneternal lifeto all mankind. io For God did not send His Son into the rld to condemn the wod, wo rl but that the wo through Him might be save (John 3:17). The rld d key, h r, is that not all are being saved at this time, in this age (Romans 11:7-8, 25-26; Ephesians 1:7-10). h oe c ive eternal life only when he learn and accepts the truh t ze distinguish truth from erro ? ruth, Je u p a n d, is wh rd, the Bible (John 17:17). To become accep to God, all must re able ogn ze and accept Gods Wo at r d s res all men to be saved and to come to the know of the e ge ru h mt

Disobedience is natural
Lawlessness, the key ingredient in the counterfeit righteousness of these fraudulent go els, is a nat ral expression of wh we call sp u at human nature . Paul wrote that the sinful mind isostil h re c n o u l i cl n As a re u t l e at evised to accommodate the nat human unwillingness to live ral e c ey have accepted and believed a fraudulent message that has e. This delusion is incre i

Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

Who Are Gods Called, Chosen and FaithfulPe? e opl

All must reent p


After learning the fundamentals of Godsth, one must rep nt. tru e The Lord is not slow in ke eping his pro ise, as some unders nd m ta slowness. He is patient with yo not wanting anyone to peri, but u, sh everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).ere are no Th exceptions. God wants veryon e to rep nt. e e An accurate understanding of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah helps us comprehend Gods plan for us andyw must rep nt. h we e That understanding of the future God has in store for us helps us see why we need to surrender to God and nsform our lives with tra His help. But how can one gain this understanding?uPa answe: How ls r then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? A nd how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? A nd how shall they hear without a pre acher? And how shall they pre ach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15). Paul says we must be taught by those who arely sent by God, tru His faithful servants who do not teach law ness, who are fath ful less i to Gods Wo who teach obedience to God and that repentance is rd, to cease from sin and quit tragressing Gods laws (1 John 3:4). ns Lets consider the diffe rence between alled and chosen. ut c B we are bound to give thanks to God always for , brethren uyo beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sancti cation by the Spirit and belief in thehtru t , to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Chri (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). st Here we see that people areacled (invited) by the preching of l a the gospel (the good news of the Kingdom of God). Th ceive ey re the knowedge that they need to repent of their sins. l Those who respond positive to that calling,hat invitation, are ly t ch osen for salvation. How? By believing the ttru by being h and s ancti ed (set apart) by receiving the Holy Spirit.

adds, Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My her (verse 65). It is a Fat remarkable testimony to the mighty power of God that He can still reach us in spite of Satns in uence, our awed human natre and a u the pulls of this present evil wo rld. God issues the invitation. He d aws our hearts towa Him. r rd He grants us the desire to learn His wayto submit our wills to s, Him. But our nat ral inclnation is to resist submitting to His law u i s (Romans 8:7). Yielding our will to God is ly a mira e, for it is tru cl God who wo in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure rks (Philippians 2:13). Jesus uses the parable of the sower and the seed to illustrate peoples varied responses to the gospel. In the parable all hear the truth of God s Wo pre ched. But only those whom God calls grasp theth rd a tru and understand it. People respond diffetly to the message. You can ren read the parable of the sower and the seed in Mat 13, wh re thew e Jesus not only tells the story but explains at it means. wh First Jesus explains the response of those who are not yet being called. Th do not grasp wh they hear. ey at When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicke d one comes and snat ches away wh was sown in his heart. This is at he who re eived seed by the wayide (verse 19). Such people neve c s r co mprehend the message and its signi ance. c Next He explains three diffe responses from those who do rent understand. God has opened their minds; they grasp the meaning. But th ey respond diffe ntly and for diffe reasons. re rent

Short-lived acceptance
But he who re eived the seed on stony places, this is he o c wh hears the wo and immediatly receives it with joy; yet he has no rd e root in himself, but endures only for a iwh For when tri lation le. bu or persecution arises because of the wo immediately he stumbl s rd, e (verses 20-21). This pers ns rst response is joyful accepnce, but he quick o ta ly retreats. Why? He backs off because of prere from other people ssu who do not unders nd. He cares more about wh people think than ta at what God thinks. He is afraid to ck the boat. Confo ro rming to those

Diffe rent responses to gospel


The process of Gods calling and choosing us is a sorting that begins with a mira from God. Jesus say No one can come to cle s, Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him . .John 6:44). He . (

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around him is more important. The bulation, or persecution , he tri experiences from trying to live Gods way of life makes him stumbl e. He rejects the calling from God. Now he who re eived seed among the thorns is he who hears c the word, and the c res of this world and the deceitfulness of riches a choke the wo and he becomes unfru ul (verse 22). rd, itf This person is not as concerned about the opinions of his peers . But he has another pro em: sel shness. Maintaining his status and bl acquiring possessions consume his intere time and energy. He has st, no time for God. He is too busy serving himself. Mat things are erial more important than spiritual mat He, t o, rejects Gods calling. ters. o But he who reeived seed on the good ground is he who hears the c word and understands it, who indeed bears it and pro uces: so me fru d a hundre fold, some sixty, some thirt (verse 23). d y This person understands Gods Woand takes it seriusly. He rd o puts it into pratice. He ch nges his life! This person was chosenrfo c a sal vation. He put God rst in his life. a ce rk M ny are called. Many re ive the opportunity for God to wo in them to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). But only a few repond. Those few tru repent and surrender their will s ly to God, making a commitment to obey Gods commandments.se o Th who respond to Gods calling re chosen by God because they choose a to serve and obey God and put Him t. rs

end uring trials and ove rcoming obstacles to our faith as evidence of our continued commitment to serving God. His tru rted people ly conve are designated in the Scriures as the body of Chri (1 Cori thians pt st n 12:27) and the chrch of the living God (1 mothy 3:15). u Ti God has made it clear who His real disciples are. Th rst ey are called to repentance by having their minds opened to accurat ely understand the teachings of the Scri res. ptu If they respond by choosing to surrender their will to God so His Spirit can guide both their hearts and their conduct, t are c o sen hey h for salvationto have a part in His eternal kingdom. Then all wh o remain loyaly obedient to Him are the true alled, chosen and l c faithful people of God!

They must remain faithful


When God offe them an opportunity to serve Him, thehc ice rs o is theirs. Th choice is not mere a one-time decision. Th at ly ey must commit thems elves to that choice and prsevere to the end e (Matthew 24:13). At the end of this age the rurs who resist Christ will make wa le r with the Lamb, and the Lamb will ove rcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful Revelation 17:12-14). ( Notice that those who are with Christ are not just called and ch osen; they are alsoaithful. Being called and chosen is not the end of f the story. We must remain faithful to our calling to bed. save At times we may be called upon to prove our faithfulness by

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Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

What Must I Do?

1 3

What shall we do?


Some of Peers listeners reognized the signi cance of his wo s. t c rd Though they may not have been dire invoved in causing Chris ctly l st death, they gra ped, from Peters powerful preching, that the real s a reason the promised Messiah was cru was to pay the penalty ci ed

Wh Must I Do? at
The New Testament Churchthe spiritual body called and chosen to become Godsaithful peo pleb egan with God giving the Holy f Spirit to Chri ts disciples on one of His annual feast day Fe st s s, the a of Pentecost. Acts 2 re rds how Gods Spirit came on those wh co o had believed Jeus , accepted His teaching and fa fully followed s ith Him. But the mira did not stop there. Thousands of others o cles wh were gathered together that day we amazed by the mira they re cles also saw and heard. As the apostle Peter spoke on that day, he announced that the promised Messiah had come. But, rather than being accepHe had ted, been rejected and suffe a brutal death. Peter explained thatery red ve human being bears responsibility for Chri deathnot just the sts Roman soldiers or the small group of Jews who arrested and ght u bro Jesus to tri l. a In the audience we visitors from nations all around the Mediterre ranean wo and as far away as Pa and Mesopotamia to the east rld rthia (Acts 2:7-11). Many of them pro we not even in Je salem bably re ru when Jesus had been put to death earlier in the r. a ye To this dive audience Peter decl d: Men of Isra l, hear these rse are e words: Jesus of Nazare , a Man attested by God to you by miras, th cle won ders, and signs whch God did through Him in your midst, a i s you yourselves also know Him, being delive by the determ ed red in purpose and fo knowledge of God, you have taken by lawless re hands, have crui ed, and put to death; whom God raised up, h ng c avi loosed the pains of deat, because it was not possible that He should h be held by it verses 22-24). (

Peter continu d: Therefore let all the house of Israel know e assu redly that God has made this Je s, whom you crui e d, both su c Lord and Chrit. N when they heard this, ey were cut to the s ow ht heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the stles, Men and o ap brethren, what shall we do?verses 36-37). ( Yes, they were cut to the heart Their sense of guilt ove elmed . rwh them. Hearing Pe rs rebu they did not reect on their good deeds te ke, over the ye rs, but on the sins that had stained their lives. Indeed, a what should they do? Peter responded immediat : Repent, and let eve one of you ely ry be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall re eive the gift of the Holy Spiri(verse 38). Th s ex ctly c t at a what they did. Th day alone 3,000gladly received his wo [and] at rd were bap ized (verse 41). t

for the sins they and all other human beings have committed! To them Peters message was personal and pointed.

God still commandspre tance en


Since that time members of Gods faithful Church have continu ed to preach the same message that Jes, our Messiah and Sav r, su io brought: the good news of salvatn, the Kingdom of God and that io all must repent (Mark 1:14-15). The response to the message va Some pay no attention. Others ries. s how only a passing interest. But a fewcognize it as the most exitre c ing and important news they have ever hearda pearl of gre ce! at pri Perhaps you are one of those. As we have alredy read, this present evil wo is spiriually a rld t blinded by Satan (Reve lation 12:9; 1 John 5:19). But God is calling a few out of their blindness. If you are one of those whom God is callrd ing to understand His Wo and live by it, then you may be asking yourself the same question those who heard Peter on the Day of Pentecost aske: What must I do now? d

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What Must I Do?

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God s Wo tells us that all ave sinned (Romans 3:23). Th rd h at includes us. But it is so mu easier for us to see mistakes and wro ch ngdoing in others than it is to see our own faults and shortngs. comi Yet we all are guilty of thoughts and actions that are ry to contra Gods law of love. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ours elves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just g unri to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all hteou sn ess (1 John 1:8-9). Like us, our ori ginal human parents we given freedom of ch ce. re oi Although God urged Adam and Eve to obey Him, He did notefo rc His way on them. Because of Sats in uence in the Garden of an Eden, they chose to disobey His instruon , to rebel against Him cti and follow the devl. i Since then Satan has wielded mendousbut not ab olute tre s power over humanity (2 Corinthians 4:4). His role in shaping our worlds entert inment, education, politics, advertising and moral stana dards has been enormous. Regre ttably, we are all products of this world; our minds, thoughts and motivesect ye ars of Satns re a in uence over our lives (Ephesians 2:2-3). Yet, along with this knowd ge, we must always ke in mind that le ep God the Father is, as Jesus reminded us, ord of heaven and eart L h (Matthew 11:25). He is always on His throne and is constantlyrove seeing the progress of His gre plan and purpose on this globe. at Wat ching over those whom He has called to rcome sin in their ove lives is an integral part of His plan. Satan can do only wh Creat our ator allows. This we learn from the events described in rst ch apter of the book of Jo b. James also exlains, Resist the devil and he will ee from u p yo (James 4:7). Indiv ually, with Gods help, we can resist and rcome id ove Satan s in uence over our live s.

self-control, brutal, despisers of go d, traitors, headstrong, haughty, o lovers of pleasure rather than love God, h rs of aving a fo of go liness rm d but denying its powe(2 Ti othy 3:1-5). r m How, h en, do we sep rate ours lves from such attitudes? Tru t a e e repentance includes our re nizing, with Gods help, ow much cog h these attitudes have affected eveone of us. As Paul exain ed : A l ry pl l of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of u l s, our sinful nat re and folowing its desires and thoughts. Like the tre we were by nat re objects of wrat (Ephesians 2:3, N ). u h IV To rep nt, we must take a long, honest look at ours Otherwise e elves. we will respond mu like the Pharisees who criized Christ for trych tic ing to help sinners and tax collectors by partaking of food and dri nk

Praying for a Right Spirit and New Attitude


Responding to God involves not just repenting of individual sinful acts. It also involves a recognition that our hearts and minds have been corrupted by the world and the devil, the prince of (Ephesians 2:2). We must see the need for a new hea rt, a diff rent way of thinking, e a right spirit and attitudeart nsa formed mind. We must see that the hea rt is naturally deceitful and desperare. We must cry out to God for help in cleaning us from the inside out. Consider Davids unfeigned penre a ccording to your great compassion the power of blot out my transgressions. Wah s

tance: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;

the

air

Take a long look inside


Yet we have to live in society that is growingaincre evl, sel s h sing ly i and arrogant as the time for Chri ret rn draws near. But know this, sts h rs of h m e ve , l rs of money, b t rs ro d, bl s h m rs i o e i n a n s n h n f l n o n ov n n rgiv n l n e rs i h u

gressions, and my sin is always be fore me (Psalm 51:1-3, NIV). David continues: Surely you desire ately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). We shouldin the inner parts; you teach me t ruth wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse desire to replace our mind with the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Like David, we should cry out to wash me, and I will be whiter than God to create in me a pure heart now. Let me hear joy and gladness; s (Psalm 51:10). Our heartthat is, the bones you have crushed reice . let jo our mindis the main source of Hide your face from my sins and blot our out all my iniquity.reate in me a pure C p h a , O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (verses 6-10, NIV).

away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my trans-

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What Must I Do?

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with them. Jesus responded to those unperc Phari ees: Those eptive s who are well have no need of a phy an, but those who are sick. sici I have not come to call thegriteous, but sinners to repentance h , (Luke 5:31-32). The Pharisees we too spiriually blinded to see themselves as re t

Why We Must Change Our Way of Thinking


ing. Not every human constantly yields to every trait of human nature. But we What comes out of a man, that all sin. We all have weaknesses. One de les a man. For from within, out person may succumb more often to of the heart of men, proceed e il v reed, another to self-righteousness or g t hought s . . . (Mark 7:20-21). He pride. Yet another may have dif c y ult being truthful and honest. But in some explains what de les us comes fro m w it hin . He gives examples of the most way we all exhibit self-centered and basic evil attitudes and passions thatserving thinking and behavior. selfRepentance means we must dominate our thinking and behavior: examine ourselves and recognize . . . adulteries, fornications, murds, er thefts, covetousness, wickedness,our own particular weaknessesthe deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blas-reas where we sin in thought or a v ph emy, pride, foolishness. Allathese action. We must ask God to re ea l evil things come from withinnd what we need to change.
Jesus makes it plain that re npe tance includes changing our thoughts. de le a man (verses 21-23). This, too, is a lifelong process. The Isaiah states plainly that re npe m o re we submit to God and ask for tance is changing the way we think. His help in seeing what we need to a Let the wicked forsake his wy, and change, the more He opens our the unrighteous man his t ou ghts ; h minds to recognize our faults and let him re urn to the LO RD, and He will weaknesses. This process goes on for t have mercy on him; and to our God, years as committed and convert d e for He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah Christians grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior 55:7). Here Isaiah pinpoints two c Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). things we must forsake to re eive Go ds pardon: our sinful ways and A change in the way we think is our sinful thoughts. the most important aspect of rel a To repent we must recognize that repentance. After we receive the Holy at least some of the pulls of human Spirit, we are better able to sustain nat ure are at work in our minds, in u- right behavior as the fruit of our new encing or even controlling our think- way of thinking.

th ey really were. Th we so comfo able with their spiritual stat ey re rt e that they closed their eyes to their sins. ey neither reogn ized nor Th c even understood Chris wa st rning that they needed to rep t. en The Scri tures tell us all have sinned. Th fore we have all earnd p ere e for ours lves the penalty of eternal death (Romans 6:23).thout e Wi God s intervention to help us chge, we would all peri , never to an sh live agan! i But it is Gods will to traform us, to enable us to repent and be ns co nve ed. The Lord is not slack concerning His pro e, as some rt mis count slack ess, but is longsuffe towa us, not willing that any n ring rd should perish but that all should come topentance (2 Peter 3:9). re God provides a way to re ove the sentence of death that hangs m over uswithout excusing or condoning our unrighteousness. He rl sent His Son to pay the penalty for us.For God so loved the wod th at He gave His only begotten Son, at whoever believes in Him ht should not perish but have eve rlasting life (John 3:16). If we will in gly turn from a wrong way of life, God is more than willing to substitute the shed blood of our Savior for the sentence of death e we brought on ourslves through our sins.

What is reentance? p
C hrist solemnly wa a crow : . . . Unless you repent you will rned d all likewise perih (Lu ke 13:3, 5; compare Acts 5:31-32). s We ra ly hear the wo repent anymore. Few understand wh it re rd at really means. In both Greek and Heb repent refers to a ch nge of rew a heart, a signi cant shift in our thinking, a traformation of purp se ns o with emphasis on modifying ones conduct. Peter tells us to repent there re and be conveed, that your sins fo rt may be blotted out (Acts 3:19). The wotranslated be conve ed rd rt means to turn. Tu from wh Paul explained that the rewa of sin rn at? rd is death (Romans 6:23). So when we repent we must turn away fro m the sins we are guilty of committing, and we mustcunditionally no surrender our will to God. Though Christ came to take away our sins, we still have our part to do. He didnt come to save us i sins or while we ontinue in sin. n our c If a judge pardons someone of a cri he expects that person to me, cease his criminal acts. He doesnt pardon him so he can continue his

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What Is Sin?

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life of law reak ing. Likewise we are to turn away f sinful acts, b rom deeds and thoughts. The apostle John tells us that everyone who has this hope in Him pri es himself, just as He is pure(1 John 3:3). u

Repenting encompasses both believing and doing


Acts 16 re ords Pa ls and Silass imprisonment in Philippi en c u wh an earthquake loosed their chains and opened the doors to their cells. The jailer, reognizing a mira from God, sked Paul and Silas wh c cle a at he must do to be save Th told him, elieve on the Lord Je s d. ey B su Chris t, and you will be save you and your household (Acts 16:31). d, But wh does such belief re ire? Having faith in Jesus is not simat qu ply believing that He is our Savior; it is believing His message, H is promises, His instructions. Earlier Christ aske d, But why do you call Me Lord, Lord,and not do the things wh I say (Luke 6:46). ich ? When we repent we stop doing what is wro and s art living ng t Repentance should include a sense of sorrow and shame, but ge nuine, heartfelt repentance is much more than simply an emotion. O ur lives must change. When God calls us He re oves our spiritual blindness and enabl m es us to understand His Scriures as never befo (John 6:65; Mat ew pt re th 13:11). He enables us to see how contraour ways are to His. We ry come to a major fo in the road of our lives. We face signint rk ac decisions. The time of repentance is a major turning point in life. True repentance is a gift from God (Acts 11:18). God leads us to that point if we respond positiveto His wo ly rking with us to open our minds, and He give us understanding of His rd and ours lves Wo e (John 6:44; 2 Ti othy 2:25). m Nowso we can understand that we mustach lets care ully nge f examine the biblical ex an ation of sin so we can better unders d pl tan what we need to chnge. a

Wh Is Sin? at
ave learned that our rst step to becoming one of Gods called, chosen and faithful servants is toognize that we are sinners (Romans c re 3:23; 1 John 1:8). But how does the Bible dsin? Wh is it? e ne at The Bible cl arly de nes sin in seve scri tures, each enhancing e ral p our undersan ding. But, b fore we look at these passagewe should t e s, rst learn what the wo sin means in the Bible language rd s.

We h

in harmony with Gods ways and lawsHis will! We stop sinning i deliberately and knowngly!

Two broad concepts


The Hebrew and Greek wo translated sin throughout the rds Bible revo ve around two major concepts. The rst is that of a nsl rt gression. To tra sgress means to step acro or to go beyond n ss

aries, he has committed a transgression; he has gone out of bounds. Limits are set that de ne the playing are and the playe a, rs are to keep inside the limits. Most of the other wo tran slated sin in the Bible invo a secrds lve ond concep, to miss the mark. A in, to use a sports analogy, if t ga a player aims for the goal and misses, h many points does he ge ow t? No ne. He missed the gol, missed the mark at wh he was aiming. a ich This view of sin includes the concept of our intending to go in one direction but straying off course to the side and not continuing in the direction we planned, with the result that we dont make it to the go al we intended. We miss. This concept also encompasses the idea of failing to measure up to

a set boundary or limit. This concept can be compared with an athletic playing eld with lines delineating the boundaries within d. which the game is to be playe When a player crosses over bound-

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a standard. For exmple, most academic courses and tests are gra a ded according to a minimum standard. If we dont ach that standard, ieve we fail the test or cours A minimum level of perfo e. rmance is exp ected, and anything less is ilure. By not meeting the standard, fa we miss the mark; we dont pass. We can miss the mark by either missing our aimed-for goal or by falling short of the goal. In either situ ation we fail to rech the target set for us. a Both of these concep, transgressing and missing the mark ply ts , im a basic re uiremen t. If we tra sgress, which means to cross over to q n the wrong side of a set boundary or limit, then there must be ndou a b ary or lmit to cross ove If we miss the markhere must be a arget i r. ,t t or standard to aim fo Sin, hen, is to transgress the boundariesod r. t G has set for usor to miss that targ et. This is wh re the biblical de nitions of sin become especially e important. The Scri tures de ne the righteous boundaries and stanp dards God sets for us. Th de ne the playing eld on which we are ey to live. Th de ne the goalthe righteous chracterwe are to aim ey a for, along with the standard God expects us to meet. In other wo s, the biblical de nitions of sin show us the standard rd s God has given us that de ne wh is acceptable to Him and wh isn t at at acceptable. They show us wh measures up and wh falls short of at at those standards. Th reveal and de ne the fundamental ncip les ey pri God has given us to live by. The de nitions of sin in the Bible are not simply arbitra o ts. Instead, tey show us the way God lives. Th i s expects us to live by.

regarding this ve e. Heres how the New King James Ve rs rsion translates it: oever commits sin also commits lawsness, and Wh les sin is l wlessness. a The word translated awlessnes s is the Greek wo anomia, l rd meaning without lawor against law. The concept conveyed here is that sin is active iv lation of Gods laws and basic moral nciples. o pri This re rs to actions that are not just outside the bounds of Gods fe law, but actions that are in deliberate rebellion against His .law s God gave humanity His laws to show us His way of love. His law s de n e how we demonstrate love to God and ourlow human beings l fe (Deuteronomy 30:15-16; Mat ew 22:35-40; 1 John 5:3). Sin is violath by His law. When we sin, we violatwe tra sgress, that boundary e, n by breaking His law.

tion of Gods law of love. God showed us a way to live in peace and harmony with Him and with mankind, and He de ned this way of life
Broader de nition of sin

a s ressing the law of God


Wh , t e , a t at de ne sin? The most basic de nition of sin is in 1 John 3:4: oo n gresseth also the law r ng rsion). Here God de nes o n a n gressing His holy, s i rossing that ivine boundary, t limit God set for usis sin. at Other tra s ations help us gain another important perst e

We nd a broader de nition of sin in 1 John 5:17: All unrighteousness is sin . .. Other Bible ve rsions help us more fully understand the meaning: Every wrong action is sinTwentieth Century ( New Testament). Every act of wrong-doing is sin (Phillips Modern English). Any kind of wrod oing is sin Weymouth New Teang ( st ment in Modern Speech). All iniquity is sino( M ffatt Tra slation). n The word translated nrighteo usn ess , wrong action, ro g u d i g i i u t in these ve e E p s t ry Dictionary of Bible Wos d nes it as action that causes v s ble harm to other persons in violation of the divine standard L rence Richrd , 1 8 , i . rd and its verb fo ev l o rs i h n s , n u t w cke n s , to be unfa to harm r, to mistre , to hurt o ] i i ) c tiu e oi e at goes ey invove our thoughts. a es this in Mat h You have heard that it wa You shall not mu e o rd rs will o

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23

with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. th And whoever says to his bro er, Raca! shall be in danger of the council. But wh ever say , You fo l! shall be in danger of hell re. o s o Here Jesus draws attention to the lawunderlying priciple: If s n we pass judgment on other people,ewing them as wo iv rthless and

undeserving of life or extence, this kind of angry, spitefultitude is at puts us in danger of te rnal death, not just physical stoning. Chri st s howed that sin includes not only our physical actions, but our thoughts and attitudes. We should relize that sin starts in the mind. When we allowlev a i

Whats Wrong With Our Human Nature ?


The Bible reresents Satan as the p master manipulator of human nature . Fst, our s l sh, eshly desires oten ir e f get us into trouble: Now the works Our weakness combined with theof the esh are obvious: fornation, ic impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, e ry, sorc devils in uence has led the whole world into sin (Revelation 12:9). Paul enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarre ls, dru explains that the god of this age has dissensions, factions, envy, nkenblinded the minds of unbelievers, so ness, carousing, and things like these. that they cannot see the light of the I am warning you, as I warned you gospel . . . (2 Corinthians 4:4). before: those who do such things will Paul reminds Christs faithful disci- not inherit the kingdom of God ples that you once walked accord g in (Galatians 5:19-21, NRSV). to the course of this world, accordg in Paul graphically describes the ect eff eshly desires have on human behavto the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons ior. Thereore God gave them over in f the sinful d sires of their hearts to sexe of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in impurity for the degrading of their ual the lusts of our esh, ful lling the bodies with one another . . . Even their women exchanged desires of the esh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, natural relations for unnatural ones. just as the others (Ephesians 2:2-3). In the same way the men also abanBecause of Satans deceptions doned natural relations with women

ought not to be done. They have ing that wrong way (Romans 6:23). become lled with every kind of Third, we have a natural tendency wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. to re se nt having our eshly desire s They are full of envy, murd er, limited by rues , even Gods rues. l l

strife, deceit and malice. They are gosPaul explains: For those who live sips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, according to the esh set their minds rrogant and boastful; they invent on the things of the esh, but those a ways of doing evil; they disobey their
hea rtless, ruthless. Although they know Gods righteous decree that e those who do such things deserv death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:24-32, NIV). Se cond , our natural deviousness, including elf-deception, is a major s weakness of the eshly mind. The hea rt is devious above all else; it is pe rversewho can understand it? I
the LO RD test the mind and search the

pa rents; they are senseless, faithless, their minds on the things of the

who live according to the Spirit set

and the sinful tendencies of human not er. Men amed with lust for nat ure, all have sinned and fall short andhwere incommitted indecent one of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). acts with other men, and received a
We must understand, however, that the devil cannot force us to sin. He simply in uences us through our in themselves the due penalty for e their perv rsion. Furthermore, since they did not eshly weaknesses. But several major it worthwhile to retain the think areas of our eshly nature are easily knowledge of God, he gave them manipulated by Satan. over to a depraved mind, to do what

takes advantage of our weak and ly greedy nature by persuading us to re hea rt, to give to all according to their even more on our emotions, needs ways, according to the fruit of their and wants than we normally would. doings (Jeremiah 17:9-10, NRSV). But we play our part. Without the We naturally look for ways to jusre simply not naturally inclined to live tify our lusts, our sinful desires, andpositive in uence of Gods Spirit, we ct the behaviors that arise from them. a ccording to Gods instruions.
We deceive ourselves into believing There fo re, Paul warns: . . . If you that, since our desires are natural, live according to the esh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death they are not so bad after all. a way rd reminds us that there is But Gods deeds of the body, you will live. the Wo seems right to a man, but its end that
is the way of death Proverbs 14:12; ( 16:25). Death is the end result of liv-

Spirit. To set the mind on the esh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this as on re the mind that is set on the esh is hostile to God; it does not submit to Gods lawindeed it annot , and c those who are in [that is, dominated by] the esh cannot (Romans 8:5-8, NRSV). These and other eshly weaknesses a re what we call human nature Satan .

please

God

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, 4). :1 3-1 these are sons of God (Romans 8

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thoughts to enter our mind and stay there, eve lly they can sprig ntua n into action, leading us to sin. We are at we think (Proverbs 23:7). wh

Sin can even be what we dont do


The Scri tures tell us that we can sin by the things we do. But we p can also sin by the things that we nt do. od James 4:17 ex lains: Therefore, to him who knows to do good p and does not do it, to him it is sin. This rse tells us that some ve transgressions invove sins of omission. l James tells us that if we know to do od, and we re ognize that go c

We should not violate our conscience


Gods goal is to build spiri ally mature, godly character in us tu in this life, making us ever more like Him (Mat 5:48). We have th ew our part in building etern, godly character by remaining faithful to al what is right in spite of pulls to the contra We have to resist the ry. temptation to do things we know we shouldnt. We must live by faith that God will give us the strength to endure atever trials wh we face in this life. But when we compromise we tear down theach racter God is helping us bu d. We give in. Eve time we give in we nd it that il ry much harder to resist giving in the next time we face temptat ion. Being faithful is a necessary part of ourach racter deveopment. l C ompromise is especially dange because of the insidious way rous

should be doing. The four Gospels are lled with examples of this kind of sin.uJe s s often clashed with people who wediligent about strict literal obedire ence to Gods laws but neveralized God expects mre of us than to re o simply meet minimum standards of behav ior. In Christs day the Pharisees had compiled detailed lists of wh at ath. ey it spreads. If we get away with something once, we nd it easier to trythey considered to be lawful behavior on the Sabb Th were diligent about tithing down to the last seed or grain of spice. Th ey spent it again next time. Compromise grows like a cancer. It comes on hours studying the law, fasting and pray Yet Christ called them ing. re el slowly, then spreads. Befo we know it, we can nd oursves in blind guides, hyp ocrites and a rood of vipers Why b . ? grave spiritual dange in a ght for our spiritual lives. This why r, at These people simply didnt comprehend the intent of Gods law. God tells us that whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). They put gre effort into no t committing sins. But they concenat n h If our actions aret done in faith or according toitfa, we are sinning. trated so much on this stru ggle that they failed miserably at ap plyWe must be careful not to violate our conscience (1 Peter 3:15-16). ing many of the large even more importnt, principles of the law r, a We need to be sure that wh we do is done in faith and con at (Hebrews 5:12). dence, that it is right and accep table to Godor we should not do Consider the con icts they had with Jesus. Their biggest disagre eit. Our motives need to be right and our conscience clear inryeve ments we over the Sabb Th we infuri re ath. ey re ated that Christ healed thing we do. Th refore it is vital that we proerly educate our cone p on the Sabb A cording to their teach g, one could provide medath. c in science so it is in accordance with Gods Wo the Bibl Our natrd, e. ical help or tre atment on the Sabb only if the situation we lifeath re ural minds are not adept at discerning right from wrongremiah (Je threatenin g. Thus when Jesus perfo mira on the Sabb h rmed cles at 10:23). Th refore we must rst learn Gods ways that de ne ght e ri healing people who had been crippled or sick for rsinstead of a ye and wrong (Heb rews 5:14). rejoicing for those who we healed, h ey were enraged at Jeus. re t s God wants us to live within the boundaries and standards He has set for us, to ch n ge our vaues, attitudes, thoughts and actions a l The Pharisees we blind to the good Jesus was doingshow re ing so they are in line with Hs standards. The process of conveion i rs the love, compassion and mercy that is thery foun dation of Gods ve may be simply de ned as allowing God to wo in us to replace rk laws. He eased the misery of people who had suffe for ye rs. That red a our standards , values and thoughts with G s sandards, values od t Jesus perfo rmed these acts of mercy on the Sabb is proof that ath and thoughts. carrying out such acts is ot a breaking of the Sabbh. n at

we ought to be doing certain things but neglect to do them, that failwh ure is a sin. We miss the mark. We fall short of at we know we

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It was because of the Phariees willful spiritual blindness to the s real purpose of the lawand their hostility, also violating thenpri ciple of the law that Christ called them hyocrites and snake. p s

What we are must change


Sometimes we can make the same mistake the Pharisees made. We may concentrate so mu on a speci c aspect of Gods law that we ch lose sight of its prposecon cern for, and showing love to,thers. u o

It is easy to think that mere avoiding breaking the letter of Gods ly law is all that is reuired of us. But wh did Jesus say? So likew q at ise you, when you have done all those things ich you are commanded, wh s ay, are unpro able servants. We have done whwas our duty We t at to do ( uke 17:10). L We please God only if wexe eed the bareminimum letter of c His law. Only a few days befo His exe ution, Jesus elab rated on re c o this principle: When the Son of Man comes in His glory . . . all the
lesson in the fruits of living Gods way contrasted with the outcome of living sinfully. Yet often sin is enticing because frequently it offers temporarywards re and pleasures. We, there re, are confo stantly faced with choices. Most of all we need to consider the onse quences c of those choices. For example, Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaohs daughter,hoosc ing rather to suff r af i ctio n with the e people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the trea sures in Egypt; for he looked to the rewa rd [that God would give him] (Hebrews 11:24-26). It s often dif cult to see the end result of sin. Because the devil is the god of our age (2 Corinthians 4:4) and will favor those who will choose to sin (Matthew 4:8-10), evil can appear to be a fast and sure road to pleasure and enjoyable things. But such ill-gotten gain comes with a hidden price, as is clearly expre d sse in this Psalm: For I was envious of the arro nt ; ga I saw the prosperity of the wicked . . . They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against heaven, and h their tongues range over the eart. The refore the people turn and praise them, and nd no fault in them . . . Such are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and am punished every morning . . . But when I thought how to

Whats So Bad About Sin?


One of the Bibles fundamental principles helps us understand why God wants us to quit sinning and turn to Him. That basic principle is this: We reap what we sow! Paul puts it this way: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his esh will of the esh reap corruption

kill someone; lets attack some innocent people just for fun. Lets swallow them alive, as death does; lets swallow them whole, as the grave does. We will take all kinds of valuable things and ll our houses with stolen ha re with you stolen goods. goods. child, dojoin go along with will Come not us, and we My s . . . (Galatians 6:7-8). Speaking of them; do not do what they do. They humanity as a whole, he explains: re eager to do evil and are quick to a kill. It is useless to spread out a net are in their Dest ruction and miseryof peace they ways. And the way right where the birds can see it. But have not known (Romans 3:16-17; sinners will fall into their own traps; comp are Isaiah 59:7-8). they will only catch themselves! All Sindisobeying Godpro ces du reedy people end up this way; gre ed s uffering and pain. God hates sinful kills sel sh people (Proverbs 1:10-19, g
attitudes and deeds (Proverbs 8:13) because of their horrible eff ts. Sin ec leads to broken relationships, violence and misery. It cuts us off from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). The utter sel shness that lies behind sins that are inconsiderate of others and even inhumane is vividly v described in Proerbs : My child, if sinners try to lead you into sin, do not follow them. They will New Century Veio n). rs Sin is like a trap; lawlessness is a s nare. It may look harmless until the consequences begin to appear. Then the sinner is trapped, ensnared by his s own foolishness. Sin not only harm others, it destroys the sinners character and often endangers his life. The re is no such thing as a harmless sin. In the end, sin makes everyone a loser. Read Psalm 1 for a clear

s y, Come with us. Lets ambush and a

understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the e sanct uary of God; then I percive d their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to iru. n How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; on awaking you despise their phantoms. . . . Indeed, those who are far from you will perish; you put an end
to those who are false to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GO D my refuge, to tell

of all your works (Psalms 73:3-28, New Revised Standard Veon ). rsi No amount of temporary gain is worth the present and future consequences of sin!

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nations will be gat ered before Him . . . Then the King will say to h those on His right hand,Come, you blessed of My Fater, inherit h the kingdom prepred for you from the fond ation of the wo d: for a u rl

Word tells us in James 1:27 that pureligion is to look after re orphans and widows in their distress and to ke ep oneself from being polluted by the wo d (NIV). rl I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me God wants us to become more compassionat love people,ot e, to n yo re ect His way of life. He wants us to become more like Jesus of drink; I was a stra ger and you took Me in; I was naked and u clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and yo u Nazareth, who gave His life as a sacri for all mankind. Many ce came to Me. opportunities exist for us to encourage, s trengthen and otherwise Then the righteous will answer Him, sing, Lord, when did we ay show love for those in need. When we do those things, we are doing see You hungry and feed Yoor thirsty and give You drink? Wh u, en good workssacr i c in g our time and energy for the well-being and did we see You a strager and take You in, or naked and clotheu? n Yo ben e t of others. Or when did we see You sick in prison, and come to Yo? A d , or u n Understanding why we sin the King will answer and say to them, s suredly, I say to yo , inasA u Now that we have seen how the Bible de nes sinby wh we at much as you did it to one of the least of these My bre n, you did thre do and dont dolets examine another important question: y hW it to Me. do we sin? Then He will also say to those on the left hand,epart from D The apostle Paul eloquently exresses the frutration we all p s Me, you curs d, into the eve e rlasting re prepared for the devil and his have with sin: what I am doing, I do not unders nd. For For ta angels : for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and what I will to do, hat I do not practice; but wh I hate, that I do t at you gave Me no drink; I was a stra and you did not take Me in, n ger (Romans 7:15). naked and you did not clothe Me,ck and in prison and you did not is Because Paul was human, just like us, heclaimed: If, then, ex visit Me.. . . And these [those who did none of these things] will I do what I will not to do . . . it is no longer I who do it, but sin that rlasting punishment, but the righteous [those who did go away to eve dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in myh) nothing go d s e o these things] into eternal life(Matthew 25:31-43, 4). 6 dwells; for to will is present with me, but how erform what is to p Jesus illustrated this point with other examples. His parable of good I do not nd (verses 16-18). Lazarus and the ri man (Luke 16:19-31) provides a primeaexple ch m As Paul noted, we have only limited nat ability to confo ural rm of a sin of omission. The ch man took no notice of a poor begga ri r, properly to the standards and values God de nes in His law. a man who had abolu tely no signi cance in the welthy mans buy s a s Jesus explained that we may beillinghave a desireto do w life but who was gre ly valued by God. at what is right, yet we fail because our esh is weak and suscep to tible Another we lthy man lled his barns with impreive provsions a ss i temptation. ch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spiri Wat t while neglecting to extend a helping hand to the needy (Luke 12:16indeed is willing, but the esh is we (Matthew 26:41). It is the ak as h 21). This man stored up treures for himself, lling his storeo uses weakness of the esh hat leads us to sin. t to over owing with far more than he could possibly use while Lets understand this e hly weakness. Lets let the Scri res s ptu sh owing no rega for othersanother sin of omission. rd explain why we often abandon oursreve not to sin and give in ol Opportunities abound for us to do the good we know we ought to to temptato ns. i do. We can start in our immediate families byrking to make them wo James plainly states that sin is gerated through our ehly ne s strong, warm, affectionate and encouraging sources of support for all desires, because ach one is tempted when he is drawn away by his e family members . own desires and enticed. Thn, when desire has conceived, it gives e We also have plenty of opportunities beyond our families. Gods

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birth to sin . . (James 1:14-15). Our esh is not inherely ev l, but . nt i it is inhere tly weak. As a reult, the pulls and appetites of our se n s h tempt us to sin. Paul ex ressed the magnitude of the pro when he wro: p blem te O wreched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of t death? (Romans 7:24). Pas answe: I thank God;ht ul r rough Jesus Christ our LordSo then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, ! but with the eh the law of sin ( rse 25). Paul makes it abu ntly s ve nda clear that sin orinates with uncontrolled sires of the e h. gi ed s

major points of the gospel. Paul admonishes us to make no ision vpro for the esh, to ful ll its lusts (Romans 13:14). Ratr, we must he con trol our desires so they do not become sinful lusts. Sin tends to have a domino effect. It accelerates. Once a desire becomes an out-of-control lust, a series of other reactions begi n s. Attitudes towa God and other human beings are partularly rd ic affected. A wrong spirit develops. Th is why Paul urges us to at cleanse ours lves from all lthiness of the esh and spiri, e t

When is desire evil?


Is desire always bad? When Paul said, I know that in me (that For is, in my esh) nothing good dwells . .(Romans 7:18), did he mean . that our eve desire is evl? ry i Certain ly not! He could have said, just as accurat: I know that ely in my esh dwells nothing that is inherely evil. nt The e sh, in and of itself, is neutral in regato sin and ri hteousrd g ness. In fa t, when God nished His cre ion , including Adam and c at Eve, whose bodies He made just like ours observed verything , He e that He had made, and indeed it wasry goo d (Genesis 1:31). ve Nothing that God makes is inhere evil. ntly Our own observations should con rm that the appetites and other needs that are natral to our bodies have good and healthy purps. u ose If we had no desire for fo we would die of starvation. But that od, same desire, if not proerly controled, leads to ove ndulgence and p l ri gluttony. It is not the natral desires or appetites of the esh that are u sinful. It is the way we manage them that is good orl. i ev Without desires our lives would be drab and purposeless. Desire s serve as motivating fo in our lives. Th is why God cre the rces at ated e shly mechanisms that stimu desires within our bodies. late

Our need for self-contro l


Our ch llenge, then, is to pro erly manage our desires. Godpects a p ex us to seek and use His help to direct them into imate channels. t legi While defending himself befo Felix, the Roman gove o r, the re rn apostle Paul reasoned about rihteo usness, self-co ntrol, and the judgg ment to come (Acts 24:25). Maintaining self-control is one of the

Jesus explicitly shows that our obe- I came to destroy the Law or the dience must include obeying the n Te y Prophets. I did not come to destro Co mm andm ents. but to ful l l [rom the Greek pe roo, f l Now behold, one came and said meaning to ll to the full]. For to Him, Good Tech er, what good a assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and thing shall I do that I may have eter- e arth pass away, one jot or one tittle nal life? So He said to him, Why will by no means pass from the law till f e e do you call Me good? No one is all is ul l led [ rom a diff rent Gre k f wo rd, ginomai, used in the sense of good but One, that is, God. But if come to pass]. you want to enter into life, keep Whoever there ore breaks one f the commandments. He said to Him, Which ones? of the least of these commandments, Jesus said, You shall not murd Yo and teaches men so, shall be called e r, u shall not commit adultery, You least in the kingdom of heaven; but shall whoever does and teaches them, he not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and shall be called great in the kingdom your oth er, and, You shall love your of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19). m neighbor as yourself (Matthew Sin is disrearding, reusing to g f imp lement , what God tells us to do. 19:16 -1 9). Obedience to God begins with Jesus tells us He had no intention of accepting the Ten Commandments annulling or abolishing Gods comas the permanent standard for our val- mands and that anyone who preues and behavior. But our obedience sumes to teach that is in grave spiritual must extend beyond just keeping the dan ger. (For further understanding please request our free booklethT e Ten Commandments. Jesus also said: Do not think that Ten Commandments.)

Must We Obey ods Commandments? G

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Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

What Is Sin?

3 3

perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

The carnal mind


A blinded mind, confused by its sel sh lusts of thesh and e the wiles of the dev, is re rred to in the Scritures as a carnal il fe p mind. Paul wri s: For those who live according to the esh set their te mind s on the things of the eh, but those who live according to the s Sp irit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is h, but deat to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be (Romans 8:5-7). Notice that Paul de nes a carnal mind as a mind set . . . on the things of the e h. The wo carnal is simply a synonym fo s rd r e shly. (Be sure to readWhats Wrong With Our Human Nat ?, ure page 22.) Paul uses the analogy of slave to illustrate the degree of human ry s ubju gation to the pulls of the eh, as they are in uenced and s manipulated by Satan. Do you not know that to whom you sent pre you rselves slaves to obey, you are that ones slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to deat or of obedience leading to ghteou sh, ri ness? But God be thanked that though you weslaves of sin, ye re t you obeyed from the heart that rm of doctrine to whch you we fo i re delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:16-18).

The power to rule over our e hly desires and impulses mst s u come from God through His Spirit. I say then: Walk in the Spiri t, and you shall not ful ll the lust of the esh. For the esh lusts t against the Spiri, and the Spirit against the esh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Galatians 5:16-17). Next we will see how our sins are rgiven so we can re ive the fo ce Ho ly Spirit and have the power to resist and rcome sin. ove

Counteracting a weakness of law


God s law is perfect (Psalm 19:7). It is spiril, holy, just and tua good (Romans 7:12-14). But the apostle Paul explains, that ough alth God s law d n es what is sin (ve 7), it cannot p vent sin. It give e rse re s us knowedge of the weakness of the s h, but it p l e rovides no power to subdue the esh. What the law could not do, because human weaknessbbed ro it of all potency, God has done: by sending his own Son in the likeu ness of our sinful nat re and to deal with sin, he has passed judgement against sin within that ve nature, so that the commandment ry of the law may nd ful llment in us, whose conduct is no longe r controlled by the old nat re, but by the Spiri (Romans 8:3-4, u t Revised English Bibl). e

34

Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

Why Be Baptized?

35

graverising out of the baptismal watsymbolizes our new Spiri er t-

Why Be Bap tized?


nuine repentance leads us to unconditionally surrender our will to God. Once we come to that point, Peter says the next step is to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Water baptism is one of Chriianitys most ancient practices. st Far from being useless and archc, it holds deep symbolic meaning. ai To understand the signi cance of bapsm, lets rst consider ti its historical back un d. The Holman Bible Dictionary exain s: gro pl At some point close to the time of Jes, Judaism began a heav su y emphasis on ritual washings to cleanse from impuri This go s ty. e back to pri stly baths prior to offe sacri ces (Leviticus 16:4, e ring 24). Probably short prior to the time of Jesus or contempora ly ry with Him, Jews began baptizing gentile conve, though circumrts cision still remained the pri ary entrance rite into Juaism m d (1991, Baptism). Because of this preedent, no one considered it stra for Je us c nge s or the apostles to emphasize the need for baptism. But, in addition ties to the symbolism of cleansing from impuri, did baptism have greater signi cance for Christ and the aptles? os

Ge

a profound, life-changing eve t. n Baptism is not the cnclusio n of the conve o rsion process. It marks a beginning for us. In Romans 6 Paulfers to baptism as a summons re to walk in newness of life. In rse 11 he states thatrather than ve , facing deat , we become live to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. h a B aptism is an otward sign of an nward change of heart and u i mind. Paul uses this powerful picture of a new life committed to obedience and faith in Christ and the Father in Colossians 3:9-10: Do knowledge in the image of its Creor (NIV). at Hebrews 9:14 tells us that Je ssacri c e, which we fo ally su rm accept at bapism, cleanse[s] your conscience from dead rks to t wo serve the living God. This means thatrough repentance and bap, th tism, we receive fo rgiveness and no longer should feel guilty for our past sins. How gre is Gods fo at rgiveness? David tells us: as the heavFor ens are high ab the eart , so gre is [Gods] mercy towa those ove h at rd who fear Him; as far as the east is from the swe far has He t, so removed our tra sgressions from us (Psalm 103:11-12). n Through Isaiah God tells us, Though your sins are like scarl et, th ey shall be as white as snow; though they are red like cri , they mson shall be [white] as wol (Isaiah 1:18). Th o rough Chri ts sacric e, the s waters of baptism wash away the sin in our lives (Acts 22:16). We can go fo ward with a clear conscience. r

led life. Our understanding of the true meaning of repentance and ch conversion lifts baptism to mu more than just a symbol; it becomes

not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its ch n practices and have put on the new self, iwh is being reewed in

Why we need Christs sacri c e


The Scriptures tell us that the wages of sin is deat but the git h, f of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord(Romans 6:23). Th at gift of life is made ava able to us through Chrits sacric e. For il s God so loved the wo that He gave His only begotten Son, at rld ht whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eve rlasting life (John 3:16). Our sins have seprated us from God (Isaiah 59:2). But thro a ugh

Only a beginning
B aptism is a reminder of seve deep spiritual truths. It rep ral resents deat , burial and re urrectionboth of Jesus and ours s. h s elve Baptism shows that we accept the shed blood of Christ for our sins and pictures the death of our fo life in the baptismal grave. rmer As Jesus was reurrected a spirit being, our coming out of the s

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Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

Why Be Baptized?

3 7

Christs death God opens the door so we can be reconciled to Him. As Paul ex lains: . . . Christ died for us while we we yet sinp re ners, and that is Gods proof of his love towa us. And so, since we rds have now been justi ed by Chris sacricial death, we shall all the st more certainly be saved through him from nal tribution. For if, re when we we Gods enemies, we we reconciled to him through the re re death of his Son, h mu more, n that we have been re nciled, ow ch ow co shall we be saved by his life (Romans 5:8-10, RB). ! E For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in [Chri s t], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things n oo on earth or things in heave, by making peace through his bl d, shed on the cross. Once you we alienated from God and we enere re mies in your minds because of your evil behav r. But now he has iou reconciled you by Chrits physical body through death to prent s se you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusat io n (Colossians 1:19-22, NV). I Hundreds of ye rs before Jesus brth , the Scritures ex lain ed a i p p that He would be killed as a sacri for our sins. Describing the ce future sacricial death of the Messiah, Isaiah wro: He was te despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrow familiar s, and with suffe ng. Like one from whom men hide their faces he s ri wa des pised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our in rmities and carried our sorrowyet we s, considered him stri cken by God, smitten by him, and afcied. But t he was pierced for our trasgression s, he was crushed for our iniquin ties; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by i l , e his wounds we are healed. We all,ke sheep h ave gone astray, ach
of us has turned to his own way; and the LO

should no longer be slaves to sinverse 6, N V). ( I

Bought with a price


Until our baptism the Bible describes us as enslaved to our selfserving human natre. But, once we are bap and our sins are fo u tized rgiven, God rega us as servants of righteousness. We areeremed, rds de bought back from a life of slave to sin to become servants of God ry and of true righteousness (Romans 6:16-19).

How Baptisms Meaning and Method Are Related


What is the correct method of bap- no biblical example of any other form tism: sprinkling, pouring, immersion orof water baptism. some other technique? As most Bible We nd an important reason that o dictionaries show, the word translated immersion is the n ly proper form of ek baptism. In Romans 6 Paul describes into English as baptize is the Gre word baptizo , meaning to dip into baptism as a symbolic urial (verses b 1-6). No other form of baptism except or immerse. The Greek language e uses diff rent words to express sprin- full immersion in water can depict a kling or pouring, none of which ever true burial. Baptism presents the re burial of the old self. refers to baptism. All biblical examples reveal that The Scriptures show us that bapbaptism was always perfrmed in a o tism should be perf rmed in water o body of water large enough and deep deep enough to immerse, to comenough for immersion. John 3:23, for pletely submerge, the new believer. example, tells us that John the Baptist Baptism done in this manner is rofound in its meaning. was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water p Romans 6 shows that it reresents p c not only the burial of our old self, but there. Matthew reords that when Jesus was baptized He came up our faith in the death, burial andsre urrection of Jesus as our Lord and Masimmediately from the water (Matthew 3:16). ter. It also pictures our rising from a All other examples of baptisms symbolic death to a new, convert ed by Christs disciples mentioned in the our coming out of the watery lifeby . p Scrip tures follow this patternWe read grave of baptism. It reresents our in Acts 8:38 that both Philip and the faith that, just as Jesus was surrected re from the grave, so will God surrect re eunuch went down into the water, and he [Philip] baptized him. There is us to immortality at Christs urn. t re

iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:3-6, IV). N Paul explains the connection between Chri death and our sts baptism: . . . Dont you know that all of us who re bap ized into we t Christ Jesus we bap ized into his death? We we there re buried re t re fo with him through baptism into death in order ,that as Christ wa just s raised from the dead through the glory of the her, we too may live Fat a new life (Romans 6:3-4, IV). N He continues : For we know that our old self was cru ed with ci him so that the body of sin might be done away with, at we ht

RD

has laid on him the

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Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

Why Be Baptized?

3 9

What happens at baptism is a literal ns fer of ow ership. Our tra n lives now belong to God. From this timeward we make a commitr fo ment to tell God, as Jesus did, . Not My will, but Yo , be done .. urs (Luke 22:42). Paul explains that this nsfer of owership came at a pri: . .. Yo tra n ce u were bought at a price; there glorify God in your body and in ryo fore u spirit, which are Gods (1 Corinthians 6:20). Peter speci es the pri e: For you know that it was not with perc ishable things such as silver or gold that you re redeemed from we the empty way of life handed down to you from your fathers, but re fo

with the precious blood of Chri a lamb without blemish or defe st, ct (1 Peter 1:18-19, N ). IV

Jesus commanded baptism


Jesus rega rded the cere ony of bapismwhich in most biblal m t ic accounts is foowed by the laying on of handsto be so important that ll He commissioned His Church to go all over the wo rld baptizing disciples who believe the gospel message. Go thereand make disciples fore of all the nat ns, He said, baptizing them in the name of the her io Fat and of the Son and of the Holy Spiriaching them to observe all t, te things that I have commanded you . . . (hew 28:19-20). Matt
defeats. Are we willing to reain m the sufferings of this present time are committed to that struggle to the not worthy to be compared with the end, re ga rdless of the personal glo ry which shall be revealed in us sacri ce it might take? (Romans 8:18). Our commitment, said Jesus the We must carefully consider the Messiah, must be total. . . . Whoever cost before we are baptized. Once of you does not forsake all that he we repent, accept Jesus sacri ce, has cannot be My disciple (verse 33). are baptized and receive Gods Spirit, p the re is no turning back. Jesus tells Baptism re resents our conscious, deliberate commitment to put God us we must not waver in our comg above everything else reardless of mitment. When one man wavered the cost. over whether to follow Him, Christ asks conditions of The commitment He expects told Him, No one, having put from us is indeed great. But the his hand to the plow, and looking re wa rd is even gre t er. And we have back, a is t for the kingdom the promise of Gods help: I will (Luke 9:62). a future so glorious never leave youGod offers usnor forsake that the challenges and trials we face (Heb rews 13:5). Paul reminds us that He who has in pursuit of it are miniscule in combegun a good work in you will com- parison (Romans 8:18). For that are son, as Hebrews 2:1-3 tells us, we plete it until the day of Jesus (Philippians 1:6). In spite of the hard- must pay more careful attention, ships he faced, Paul remained focused therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if on the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, the message spoken by angels was will award to me on that dayand binding, and every violation and disnot only to me, but also to all who obedience received its just punishhave longed for his appearing ment,such a shall salvation? (NIV). gn ore how great we escape if we (2 Timothy 4:8, NIV). He knew that

We Must Count the Cost


tant commitment we can make. It sig- what king, going to make war Or ni es our willingness to surrender our against another king, does not sit lives fully and completely to our down rst and consider whether he Creato r, putting to death our old self and is able with ten thousand to meet him
rising from a watery grave to live a new and transformed life. Since this decision is such a major commitment, the Scriptures tell us not to take it lightly. Many people were attracted to Jesus and His teaching, and great multitudes sometimes followed Him fro m place to place. Yet He pointedly challenged them to consider their level of commitment. . . . Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and (Luke 14:27-32). He used two examples to illustrate Baptism re resents the most imporp to build and was not able to n h. is

peace of God

consequencesof our commitment to follow Him. First He used the example of someone starting an expensive je and time-consuming building proct. He noted that no one should begin My disciple, He said to one such an endeavor without rst detersuch crowd. For which of you, intending mining that he can follow through to build a tower, does not sit down on that commitment to the end. In the second example He likened rst and count the cost, whether he has enough to nish itlest, after he our commitment to a decision to go to warto initiate a long, drawnhas laid the foundation, and is not out struggle in which we will face able to nish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, This man began repeated hardship, setbacks and

His point that we must count the cost recognize and acknowledge the

you

Christ

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Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

Why Be Baptized?

4 1

Peter emphasized the need for bapm, after rep ntance, so we can tis e receive Gods gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Baptism rep resents a serius, life-altering commitment. It is onlyrfo o those mat re enough to understand the importance of their decision. u Except on ra occasions for some in their later teenage ars, re ye child ren are simply not able to pro rly comprehend and make such pe a serious and lifelong commitment. In evespeci c example of ry baptism mentioned in the Bibl we see that those being bap d e, tize were old enough and matre enough to understand rep tance, u en baptism and the gravity of their decision (see Must Count the We Cost, page 38). Nowh re can we nd a single example of an infa e nt or child being bapized. t Water baptism symbolically cleanses us from our past sins (Acts

baptized person has now been set ap for God. art Since the days of the apostles the laying on of hands aftertibap sm has signi ed the actual moment of the ceiving of the Holy Spiri re t and the setting aprt of a conve as a child of God. It is only throh a rt ug the gift of Gods Spirit that we can develop the ly attitude of obed go dience and faith. The practice of laying on of hands for theiving ce re of Gods Spirit is mentioned in Acts 8:17, 19:6 and mothy 1:6. 2 Ti When we reeive Gods Spirit we begin a new life of spiri c tual growth, of replacing our sel sh human nat with Gods dive u re in natu re. Baptism points to our being setart as children of God. Th ap e result is spiritual guidance and direction through Gods Spiriting ll dwe in us, leading us to the Kingdom of God. Do you believe God is leading you to a fuller understanding of 22:16). But Jesus Christ does not leave us alone to face the future. HeHim and His Wo If the answer is ye then you should seriusly rd? s, o consider acting on the steps God is telling you to take. offers us the precious gift of the Holy Spirit to empower us for a life of overcoming and serving in obedience and tfa i h. One should be bapzed by a true minister of Jesus Chri one wh ti st, o fears God and obeys His laws. Paul wro How then shall they call te: How God imparts His Spirit on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe When we repent and are bap d, we receive two gifts. One is fo tize rgiveness of our sins. All our mistakes of the past are blotted out. We in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear witha ach out a pre cher? And how shall they pre unless they are sent? rgiven. Second, we re ive the promised gift of ce are completely fo (Romans 10:14-15). Gods Spiri. t Today the United Church of God has ministers in most parts of the This is because baptism is fo llowed by the cere ony of the l ying m a world who are trained to counsel with and tbapthose who turn to ize on of hands by one or more of Gods faithful elders for the purpose God in true rep tance. If you percive that God is calling you anduyo en e of receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). would like to counsel with one of Gods ministers please contact , then The laying on of hands is described in the Scrires as part of the p tu us and we will put you in touch with our ministerial sentative re rep fou ndation of a believe beliefs and actionsHebrews 6:1-2). Th rs ( is nearest yo . u ceremony, lke bap ism, represents an important step in the conve i t rAfter bapism, God begins to trasform our lives through the t n sion process. Why? Because most examples in the Newtament s Te power of His Spirit. Lets now examine the role Gods Spirit plays sh ow that it is through the laying on of hands of Chriministry sts in a Chri tian s life after bapism. s t that God mparts His Spirit to new conve . i rts Like baptism, the practice of laying on of hands has its histori cal roots in the Old Testament. In ancient times this ctice, often pra accompanied by anointing with oil, was used to set men rt to a ap s erve God in the of ces of king or priest. It was also sometimes invoked in setting aprt sacri ces or other things for holy use. a Similarly, laying on of hands after baptism signi es that the new ly

42

Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

The Holy Spirit: Gods Transforming Power

4 3

B uried with Jesus in the wat grave of bap sm, Paul now lived ery ti a life that was no longer his own. He described his sformed life as n tra

The Holy Spir ods t: G i Tra sforming Power n


None of us can ove rcome our sins and shortcomings without God s help. Even if we could by our own will alter our actions, o nly God can ch n ge our heart. a s This is why Paul appealed to members of the rch in Rome not u ch to be con formed to this wod, but [to] be transformed by thenre rl ewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2) through the power of Gods .Spiri t Earlier in this ep tle, in ch is apter 8, he helps us understand how the Holy Spirit wo in the life of a Christian. In rse 14 he writes that rks ve as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. H ere we see that to be considered Gods ch ren, we must be ed by the , ild l Sp irit of God. He continues this same thought in rse 9. Here Paul dog atically ve m states that if you do not have Gods Spirit dwelling in ,yo are u you not His. This is why it is vital that we repent and be tizedso bap we can surrender our lives to God andceive the gift of His Spirit. re Paul elsewh re writes that you haveChrist in yo if you are e u a Christian (Colossians 1:27). It is through the power and in uence of Gods Spirit that we allow Christ to live in us. After he had reeived Gods Spiri Paul described his new outlook c t, on life: I have been crui ed with Christ; it is no longer I who live, c but Christ lives in me; and the life wh I now live in the esh I live ich

me, just as I also imitate Chri (1 Corinthians 11:1). He tells us to st let the same mind be in you that was in Christus (Philippian s s Je 2:5, NRSV). Howeve we cannot succeed at living a conve life stritly r, rted c th rough our own effo We succeed through the use of G power rts. ods and help rather than through our own effo Th refore, the glory and rts. e credit go to God. To imitate Christ we must ask God for help, t h rough His Spiri so t, we can bring our thoughts, attitudes and actions in line with His. We rce must allow His Spirit to become the guiding fo in our lives to produce the qualities of true Chrianity. We must ask oursves wh ther sti el e we are tru being led by Gods Spirit or resisting i ly t.

one of allowing Christ to live again within him. This is how we please o rs to G dby emulating His Son. Paul urged other believe imitate

Understanding the Holy Spirit

To grasp how Gods Spirit wo within us, we must unders d rks tan what Gods Spirit is. Many are confused on this point. First, understand that the Holy Spirit is not a sep person, arate along with God the Father and Jesus Chri, forming a Holy Trinst ity. Th re simply is not biblical evidence to support the common e belief that the Holy Spirit is a sep arate pers n, alongside and with o the Father and the Son. In Scriture the Holy Spirit instead is p described most often as the power of God at wo in our lives. Ths rk i power emanates from the Fater, allowing us to be led by the Spiri h t of God (Romans 8:14). What does Gods Holy Spirit do for us as Christians? This question affects the core of our lre igious beliefs, because without the power of Gods Spirit we can have no deep reationship with , close l the Father, nor can we become His ch ren. It is because the Spiri ild t dwells in us that we are called the ichren of God (Romans 8:14-17). ld We must understand wh it means to be led by the Spiri Gods at t. Spirit doesnt drive, rag or push us around; it ads us. It will not d el by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for meus from sinning, nor will itrce us to do wh is right. It prevent fo at leads us, but we must be willing tolfo low. (Galatians 2:20).

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Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

The Holy Spirit: Gods Transforming Power

4 5

Divine help through Gods Spirit


How does Gods Spirit lead us? Lets consider a few s. way The Holy Spirit keeps us in contact with Gods mind. s Spiri od G t works with our mind. The apostle John describes it this :way Now he who ke His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. A eps nd by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit ich] He has [wh given us (1 John 3:24). Th rough Gods Spiri which He gives us, we t, can be in uenced by Him for the go This is in stark contrast to the od. world around us and our own nat which in uence us towa evil. ure, rd His Spirit also helps us come to a deeper comprehension of His truth. When Jesus promised the apostles He would send the Spirit to them, He said it would guide [them] into allth (John 16:13). tru God s Spirit inspires a deeper understanding of His Wo rd, purpose and will. As 1 Corinthians 2:9-11 tells us: But as it isten, Eye t wri has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the

things whch God has prepred for those who love Him.But God i a has revealed them to us t hrough His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all th ings, yes, the deep things of God. For wh man knows the things at of a man ex ept the spirit of the man wh is in him? Even so no c ich one knows the things of God ex the Spirit of God. cept Without Gods Spirit a person cannot understand Godsnely i div exp ressed Wo and will, they are foolishness to him; nor can rd for he know them, because they are spiri lly discern d (verse 14). tua e The Holy Spirit makes overcoming possible. Nothing is too dift c ul for us with the power of God wo in our lives. Romans 8:26 tells rking us that Gods Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. l, who wrote the u Pa letter to the Romans, speaks for all of us when he said, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). Jesus promises Chri ians, With God all things are possibl st e (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27). The Christian life is to be one of
the Spirit was af rmed . . . (ibid.). thoughtfully deal with this subject that We see, then, that the doctrine of the Scripture revelation here leads us the Trinity wasnt formalized until longinto the presence of a deep mystery ;

Why Cant Theologians Explain the Trinity Doctrine?


Many people assume that the Holy rst used by Te rtullian at the close Spirit, along with God the Father and of the 2nd century, but received Jesus Christ the Son, form what is wide currency and formal elucidation in i cation] only in the 4th and commonly known as the Trity. The [clarcenturies (1996, Tr ity, doctrine of the Trinity expresses a 5th in belief in one God who exists in thre e emphasis added). distinct but equal persons. Is the Holy The dictionary goes on to explain Spirit truly a third divine person, along that the formal doctrine of the Trni ity was the result of several inadewith the Father and Jesus? In spite of these assumptions, the quate attempts to explain who and wo rd Trnity d oe snt appear anywhere what the Christian God really is . . . i in the Bible. In fact, it did not come h rch Fathers met in 325 at the into common use as a religious term Toudeal with these problems the Council of Nicaea to set out an C until several centu rie s after the last books of the Bible were completed. orthodox biblical de nition concerning the divine identity. However, it Notice this admission in the Nw e Bible Dictionary: The term Trinity wa snt until 381, at the Council of is not itself found in the Bible. It was Constantinople, [that] the divinity of

after the Bible was completed and that all human attempts at and ec the apostles long dead in their graves. expression are of necessity imperft (1966, It took later theologians several cen- p. 1118). Why do even those who believe turies to sort Holywhat they believedthe concept of the Holy Spirit as o nce rning the out Spirit. in c And by no means are theologians a third person of a supposedly triune explanations of the Trinity doctrine Godhead, along with God the Father ze h u and Jesus the Son, nd it so dif c lt clear. A.W. To r, in his book Te
Knowledge of the Holy, writes that the Trinity is an incomprensible he m yst ery and that attempts to under-

to explain? Because the Bible does not teach it! One cannot prove something fro m stand it must the Bible that is not biblical. The Bible remain forever is He admits that churches, without our only reliable source of divine retending to understand, have in pevertheless continued to teach this revelation and truth, and the Tr it y n concept simply is not part of Gods doctrine (1961, pp. 17-18). revelation to humankind. Un ge rs Bible Dictionary, in its art iThe Holy Spirit, rather than a discle on the Tr ity, concedes that the in tinct person, is described in the Bible Trinitarian concept is humanly incom- Gods divine power (see Is as being prehensible: It is admitted by all who the Holy Spirit a Person?, page 46).

futile.

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The Holy Spirit: Gods Transforming Power


a divine person equal with God the Father and Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul states clearly that there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things . . . and one Lord Jesus Christ . . . (1 Corinthians 8:6). He makes no mention of the Holy Spirit as a divine person. The nal book of the Bible (and the last to be written) describes a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1) wherein the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them (verse 3). Jesus Christ, the Lamb, is also there (verse 22). The Holy Spirit, however, is conspicuously absentanother inconceivable oversight if this Spirit in is the third person of a Tr ity. God is Spirit (John 4:24) and His Spirit is described by an angel as the pow er of the Highest (Luke 1:35). It is the same power we can re e ive c directly from God. Many other scriptures show this connection between the Holy Spirit and Gods power. For example, Paul reminded Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of o w er p and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Other scriptures fer re

4 7

Is the Holy Spirit a Person?


The Scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit in many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, the Holy Spirit is ferred re to as a gift (Acts 10:45; 1 Ti o thy m 4:14). We are told that it can be qu e nched (1 Thessalonians 5:19), that it can be p oured out (Acts 2:17; 10:45), and that we are b ap tize d with it (Matthew 3:11). It must be s tirred up within us (2 Timothy 1:6), and it also renew s us (Titus 3:5). These are certainly not attributes of a person. This Spirit is also called the holy Spirit of promise . . . the guarantee of our inheritance . . . the spirit of wisdom and revelation . . . (Ephesians 1:13-14, 17). In contrast to God the Father and the Holy Spirit as His Father. Nor did Jesus speak of the Holy Spirit as a third divine person; l instead He only spoke of the reationship between Him and God the Father (Matthew 26:39; Mark 13:32; 15:34; John 5:18, 22; 8:16, 18; 10:30; 13:3; 17:11). If the godhead were a Trnity, i s urely the apostle Paul would have

whom he wrote, is, Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no mention of the Holy Spirit. This same greeting, with only Jesus Christ, who are consistently minor variations, appears in every epistle that bears Pauls name: com pa red to human beings in their form and shape, the Holy Spirit is Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; just as consistently re resented in p 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Epha completely diff rent manner. It is e esians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians described as appearing as a dove 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalo(Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke m nians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Ti othy 1:2; Titus 1:4; and Philemon 3. The 3:22; John 1:32) and as tongues w of re (Acts 2:3). Jesus compared it Holy Spirit is la ays left out of these greetingsan unbelievable oversight with living water (John 7:37-39). The Gospels re ord further evic if the Holy Spirit were indeed a perdence that the Holy Spirit is not a son coequal with God and Jesus. person. In Matthew 1:20, we re d a This is even more surprising when we consider that the churches to that Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit (Moffatt translation). Yet Christ which Paul wrote had many gentile s continually prayed to and addres ed members from polytheistic backthe Father, not the Holy Spirit, as rounds who had formerly worg shiped numerous gods. Pauls epistles His father (Matthew 10:32, 33; record no attempt on his part to 11:25-27; 12:50; 15:13; 16:17, 27; p explain the Trinity or Holy Spirit as 18:10, 35). Never did He re res ent

understood and emphasized this in his teaching. Yet we nd no such conceptgreetingwritings. Pauls in his in his letters to tandard shurches, as well as individuals to c

and with p w er, [and Jesus] went o about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him (Acts 10:38). The Holy Spirit is here associated with the power by which God was with Himthe power through which o Jesus Christ perf rmed mighty miracles during His eart ly, physical minh is try. The Holy Spirit is the very pre sence of Gods power actively working in His servants (Psalm 51:11; 139:7). Paul expresses his desire that chu rch members would abound in hope by the pow er of the Holy Spirit, in the same way that Jesus had worked through him in mighty signs and wonders, by the p we r of the o Spirit of God (Romans 15:13, 19). This Spirit empowers Christians to live a life of growing and overcmo ing, of transforming their lives to become like Jesus Christ. When the Holy Spirit is rerred fe to by personal pronouns such as s he or himself in the Scripture , this does not prove the Holy Spirit is a person. The translators of the King James Version, in uenced by their belief in the Holy Spirit as a third i person in the Trnit y, generally transto the Holy Spirit as the power oflated pronouns referring to the Holy Spirit as personal and masculine God (Zechariah 4:6; Micah 3:8). Luke 4:14 records that Jesus rather than neuter. Christ began His ministry in the Translators of later English versions pow e r of the Spirit. Speaking of the of the Bible, also operating from the Holy Spirit, which would be given to premise of the Tr ity, have gone a in step further and most often transHis followers after His death, Jesus o f lated a ll re erences to the Holy Spirit told them, You shall receive p w er when the Holy Spirit has come upon as masculine. Thus Gods spirit is you . . . (Acts 1:8). almost always incorrectly re rred to fe Peter relates that God anointed with such personal pronouns Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit or him in English Bible translations.

as

he

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overcomin g. We must relize God doesnt want us to remain just as a we were when He called us. Instead, as we read earl we must ot ier, n be conformed to this wo d, but b transformed by the renewing of rl e your mind (Romans 12:2). Christianity is a lifetime vercomin g of o and growingof trasforming our thoughts and mind to become like n Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5). The Spirit of God convicts our conscience and helps us see sin as it really is. Speaking of the Holy Spiri ich would be given to His t, wh

A High Priest Eager to Help Us


The key to solving the problem of sin is the help we receive throgh u does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; Jesus Christ. Jesus was born not only is the atoning sacri ce for our and he sins, to make possible forgiveness of the and not for ours only but also past, but to help us conquer the for the sins of the whole world trongholds of sin, the entre che d n (1 John 2:1-2, NRSV). s habits that are so dif cult to dislodge gives us every reason for This if encouragement in our daily stru g le g from our lives. He is our mercul High Priest in heaven (Hebrews 2:17- against sin. After all, Christ has expe18; 8:1-2; 9:11-14; 10:19-23), inter- rienced the same temptations and ceding with the Father on our behalf fully understands our plight. For (Romans 8:34). As John explained: If we confess we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse weaknesses, but we have one who us from all unrighteousness (1 John in every respect has been tested as ore approach the throne of grace 1:9, NRSV). we are, yet withoutwe may us thereJesus is ever ready to help us ain g with boldness, so that sin. Let the victory over sin: And this is f the receive mercy and nd grace to ictory that has overcome the world help in time of need (Hebrews v our faith. Who is he who over4:15-16, NRSV). comes the world, but he who believes How do we get that help? Jesus answers: Ask, and it will be given that Jesus is the Son of God? to you; seek, and you will nd; (1 John 5:4-5). The apostle John, while acknowl- knock, and it will be opened to edging our human weaknesses, you. For everyone who asks re ive s, ce and he who seeks nds, and to encourages us not to give in to sin. him who knocks I am writing these things to you so (Matthew 7:7-8). that you may not sin. But if anyone

followers after His deat, Jesus said it wouldconvict the wo of h rld sin . . . John 16:8). Gods Spirit within us, rking with our con( wo science, helps us to reognize and avoid sin. The guilt we feel isare c l when prompted by reognition of sins. c The Holy Spirit produces godly fruit in us. Just as an apple tre e produces ap les, Gods Spirit produces a particular type of fruit in the p life of a Christian. Paul lists the fruit that should be evident in those who are led by Gods Spirit asove, j peace, patience, kindness, l oy, goodness, faithfulnes s, gentleness and self-contro (Galatians 5:22l 23, NIV). Each aspect of this fruit is wo of a detailed study in rthy itself, coupled with a self-analysis to see to at extent these tras wh it are evident in our live s. The apostle Peter sums up the process of growing to spiri tual maturity: [Gods] divine power has given us eve rything we need for life and godliness through our knowd ge of him who called us le by his own glory and goodness. Th rough these he has given us his very great and precious pro is es, so that through them you may m participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desire s. For this ve re son, make every effo to add to your faith go ry a rt odness; and to go dn ess, knowledge; and to know dge, s lf-control; o le e and to self-contro perseverance; and to pers rance, godliness; and l, eve to godlines s, brotherly kindness; and to broerly kindness, ove. Fo th l r if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, twill ke hey ep you from being ineffeive and unpro uctive in your know dge of ct d le our Lord Jesus Chri. st But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted andd, in bl and has fo rgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. reeTh fore, my brohers, be all the more eager to make your calling and t election sure For if you do these things, you will neverl,fa you . l and will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Chrit (2 Peter 1:3-11, N ). s IV The Spirit of God also comforts, encourages and otherwise helps us. Jesus Christ promised to send Hisllfo rs a Helper (John owe 14:16) or omfortwill (King James bersion). True comfo and C er Ve rt it opened reassurance come from Gods Spirit dwelling in us. We need not be unduly worried about wh may happen to us. Gods Spirit gives us at

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5 1

the assurance that wh ever happens will be for the good to those at who love God, to those who are the called according to His ose purp (Romans 8:28). This assurance provides an outlook on life that is ra our wo d. re in rl Yes, a Christian can get discouragebut it is through the Holy Spiri d, t that we can begin to look at life diffe tly. As noted earl r, peace is ren ie another fruit of Gods Spirit in the life of a Chrin. stia

Growing to Spiritual Mat urity


rrectly understanding the scriural truth that the Holy Spirit pt is Gods power that can traform our lives helps us better undersd ns tan His purpose and will for us. Paul wrote that we must g up in eve way into him who is the row ry head, into Chrit (Ephesians 4:15, NRSV). He also said,rethren, s B do not be chldren in understanding; howeve malice be bab , bu i r, in es t in understanding be mature(1 Corinthians 14:20). This growth process invo ove owering the pulls of the eh, lves rp s replacing them with the ch aracter of Christ. Wh do we begi ? ere n John tells us: Those who are Godsichren do not continue sinld ning, because the new life from God remains in them. Th not ey are able to go on sinning, because they have becomeldren of God i ch (1 John 3:9, N Century Ve ew rsion) The conve Christian does rted not hab tually practice sin. He has, after all, tdrmined to turn away i ee from sin. The sense here is not that as a Christian, we will never sin , (1 John 1:8), because we remain human and imperfect and can still n be in uenced by our nature and the dege erate world around us. Ins tead, the sense is that a Christian will not make it his actice rp to sin. He or she will strive mightily to avoid sin, to the point of eeing circums tances where one might be tempted into wrogdo ing n (1 Corinthians 6:18). In Ephesians 4 Paul presents an easy-to-understand fo fo rmula r

Co

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overcoming sin. He illustrates the method with seve ral examples so we may re dily comprehend wh is invoved. When we exmine a at l a these ve we notice three steps we need to take to shift from a sinful rses life to one that proerly rep p resents Gods wo rking with us and in us. Pauls instruction rega rding ove rcoming our incl ation to sin is to in put off your old self, wh is being corrupted by its deceitful desire ich s; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and . . . put on the new self, reated to be like God in true righteousness and holiness c (Ephesians 4:22-24, IV). N

Out with the old


The rst step, s ays Paul, is to put off your old self. To do this we must re lize that the old person is our carn, sel sh a al

nature, which is hostile to God (Romans 8:7). The old self to whom Paul ferred is both our unconve mind re rted and the individual acts of sin that spring from it. As discussedeearl i r, our former self must be put to a symbolic death through the ers of wat baptism (Romans 6:1-4). Over time God can wo mira rk cles in ch n ging the wo of us a rst through the tra sforming power of His Spirit. He can free us from n the many sins that imprison ussins that we may think we can r neve overcome. We can be released from the bonds that have ensnared us and held us capive. t With Gods help we are progre ly liberated from a wrong way ssive of life that Paul described as slave(Romans 6:16). To break free of ry

Why Bible Study Is Necessary wt for Spiritual Groh


Paul scolded the Corinthian Chris- word of tru h (2 Timothy 2:15, New t tians for their unspiritual attitudes American Standard Bible). He explained to Ti o thy, But you m and conduct (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). b must continue in the things which He explained that their pro le ms we re caused partly by some of them you have e arned and been assure l d

We learn Gods ways by carey full reading and reecting on the meaning of His instructions. Consider the attird tude toward Gods Wo and His law e xpressed in Psalm 119:97-104: Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my ene-

having too little knowledge of Godsknowing from whom you have of, ways. He wrote: Awake to righ-le arned them, and that from childhood you the teousness, and do not sin; for someriptures,have knownable Holy Sc which are to make do d. I speak this toknowledge of you wise for salvation hrough faith o not have the your shame t (1 Corinthians 15:34). which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tioth y m G
We cannot properly honor and s erve God or His Son, Jesus Christ, 3:1 4-15). What makes the Scriptures so necunless we have knowledge of Hise ssary to our salvation? Paul continues: will (Romans 12:2; Colossians 4:12; All Scripture is given by inspiraebrews 10:36). We acquire that tion of God, and is pro table for H knowledge through re ular, diligent g doctrine, for re roof, for corret ion, p c Bible study. Paul says, Be diligent instruction in righteousness, at for to ht present yourself approved to God as the man of God may be complete, a workman who does not need to be tho roughly equipped for every good work (verses 16-17). ashamed, handling accurately the

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary t ruths of Gods word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the ut teaching about righteousness. B mies, for they are ever with me. Isolid food is for the mature, who by have more insight than all my teachers, for constant use have trained themselves I meditate on your statutes. I have distinguish good from evil to more understanding than the elders, (He brews 5:12-14, NIV). for I obey your pre pts. ce Paul sums up the importance I have kept my feet from every evil he placed on our growing spiritually path so that I might obey your word through regular and meaningful . I have not departed from your laws, personal Bible study: And this is for you yourself have taught me. How my prayer: that your love may sweet are your words to my taste, abound more and more in knowlsweeter than honey to my mouth!

edge I gain understanding from your pre- and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is n cept s; the refore I hate every wrog path (NIV). best and may be pure and blameless Notice this criticism of some who until had not taken the time to accurately the day of Christ, lled with lo fruit of righteousness that discern Gods will from diligent study thery and praise of God (Philippians of His Wo : rd 1:9, NIV). comes through Jesus Christto the g

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5 5

enslavement Paul tells us to put to death . . . atever belongs to wh your earthly nature: sexual immoraity, impu rity, lust, evil desires and l greed, whch is idolat (Colossians 3:5, N ). i ry IV As we study Gods Wo even after we are bap and conrd, tized verted, we continue to see details of our human ure revealed to us. nat The Scri tu res help us identify ch ges we still need to make. Th p an e Word of God, if we let it, owe fu lly cuts and penetrates to the core p r

God s Wo helps us identify our wrong practices and thoughts rd (see Why Bible Study Is Necessary for Spiritual Grow page 52). th, We can then turn away from them and thinkdgo thoughts and do ly godly works. But we cannot do them alone! We need to stir up the gift of Gods Spirit within us (2 othy m Ti 1:6). Th Spirit can re ew us eve day and will empower our new at n ry natu re for the successful ght against sin (2 Corinthians 4:16).th Wi the help of His Spirit we can put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13). Some founder in their ght against sin when they attempt to rove come it by their own strength rather than putting to use the powe r God makes ava able through His Spirit. Paul ack ledges this il now human de ciency. He knew full well the impact of human ure nat on our conduct. . . . Evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good, he wrote (Romans 7:21). This scrire describes the stru le ptu gg of Pauland eve Christianbetween his human natre and his ry u new godly nature. It is through Jesus dwelling in us (Galatians 2:20) that we can live a new, go ly life. We can be redeemedrom eve lawless deed nd d f ry a puri ed as His own special people, zealous for good rks (Titus wo 2:14). With Gods help we can ove me. rco

of our being and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

our attention and effoon the goly behavior we desire to ctice. rt d pra We must concentrate on the positive to eliminate theive. Ths negat i is where the examples Paul uses are so instru and helpful: Th ctive erefore, putting away lyg, Let each one of you speak truth with his in neighbor . .. (verse 25). When is a liar not a liar? He doesnt cease being a liar just because he keeps his mouth shut. He is still a liar between lies, so to speak. The only way a liar can demonstrate a ange in his ch racter is to ch a speak truth with his neighbor. He must put off the old by putting on the new. When rmer liar a fo co nsistently begins telling the tru, his old ways of dishonesty and th evasion begin to shrivel up and die. This is at happens whn, with wh e the help of Gods Spiri we strive to ove t, rcome our old ways of livg in and replace them with Gods way s. Paul lists another ex p le, that of stealing. When is a thief not a am

Stealing is simply the act of unlawly taking. The opposite ful app roach to a sel sh, thieving attitude is ig ing. With Gods help a v thief should learn to w k that he may have something toive him or g who has need verse 28). (

thief? Someone who is not at this moment stealing something may be a thief between jobs. The only demonstrable proof that a thief has a ch nged his ways is if he begins consistently to do the opposite.

Destructive or constructive word s?


Paul cites yet another example of the way we commu e. Our nicat tongue is often an accurate indicator of our dominant re, whether unat good or bad. Jesus noted that out of the abundance of the heart the dle mouth speaks Matth ew 12:34). James tells us that the unbrid ( tongue is a wo of iniquity James 3:6). rld ( Keeping silent so that no corrupt commuation slips out may be nic a step in the right direction. But eping our mouth shut is not pro ke of in itself that our natre has ch nged. After all, even a fool is counted u a wise when he holds his peace roverbs 17:28). Our nat has funP( ure damentally changed when we begin using our tongue in a positive way. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, bu t only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, th at it may bene t those who listen (Ephesians 4:29,V). IN

In with the new


If we strive only to put off the old self, the process rcoming is of ove incomplete. Now comes the most allenging part. We mu, with Gods ch st help, build into our ch aracter the positive traits that are the opposite of the aws we have identi d. As Paul exained, we must put on the e pl new self (Ephesians 4:24) with all itsly attributes. We must cus d go fo

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Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Colossians 4:2-4). One of the main keys to keeping

5 7

How to Stir Up Gods Spirit


The apostle Paul admonished mem- quench all the aming arrows of the bers in one of the churches he start , ed evil one. Take the helmet of [the hope Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thessa- of] salvation, and the sword of the lonians 5:19). He also urged the young Spirit, which evangelist Timothy: . . . Stir upkin- (verses 14-17, NRSV). [re dle] the gift of God which is in you Paul tells us we need to stand fast through the laying on of my hands. in the truth we have learned, concenFor God has not given us a spirit trating on living righteouslygrerdless of a of circumstances. We also must be fea r, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:6-7). active in doing our part in furt ring he Paul likened Gods Spirit to an the spread of the true gospel, never ember in a dying re. He encouraged sight of eternal life as our goal losing rd and using Timothy to stir up that live coal, to fan Gods Wo as the sword that cuts through all deception. it into ames. He knew that we must u ard against neglecting the gift of But equally important is what g ods Spirit and letting it grow cold. Paul mentions next: And pray in the G How can we maintain the courSpirit on all occasions with all kinds age, strength and love God gives of prayers and requests. With this in us through His Spirit? We nd the mind, be alert and always keep on s. answers in several scripture praying for all the saints. Pray also for Paul tells us: . . . Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be me, that whenever I open my mouth, ords may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery able to in w withstand (Ephesians 6:13). Satan will do all in of the gospel, for which I am an his power to discourage us, to induce ambassador in chains. Pray that I declare us to become disillusioned and afraid may to abandon our con dence in God. (verses 18-20, NIV). Our ability to remain spiritually What, then, did Paul mean by putting s trong and active depends on how on the whole armor of God as our much we rely on God. And our line s defense? What may we use to reist such self-defeating attitudes as fear, of communication for that help is apathy and discouragement? through prayer. Paul continues: Stand there re, fo Paul encouraged Christians to make it their practice to pray not only and fasten the belt of truth aro nd u your waist, and put on the bre stplate for themselves but also for him and a of righteousness. As shoes for your for others. Continue earnestly in feet put on whatever will make you rayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. p that God would open to us a door for With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to the word, to speak the mystery of

combine fasting with our prayers so as to stir up our zeal and renew our dedication and commitment to Him. King David wrote that he humbled the working of Gods Spirit active and with fasting (Psalm 35:13). [him]self stirred up in our lives is keeping our Fasting is abstaining from food and picture of what drink as a means of getting ourof God is minds on the bigthe word is doing. If we dwell excessively minds back on the reality that we on are ourselves and our own problems us realize just how fragile we helps we not self-suf cient. Fasting are become far more vulnerable to Satans much we depend on things and how o nv rts to see themselves as urged beyond e negative in uences. Paul part of all new ourselves. a great work that God is doing. As the Bible re rds that great men The co c point man for the work of God inof faith such as Moses, Elijah, Daniel, their Paul region of the world, he encouraged and Jesus Himself fasted that they might draw closer to God (Exodus them to enthusiastically support his 1 Kings 19:8; Daniel 9:3; 10:2fforts through their prayers. 34:28; e He explains why their prayers were 3; 2 Corinthians 11:27; Matthew 4:2). so important: We do not want you Jesus was approached with the question, Why do the disciples of to be uninformed, brothers, about e the hardships we suff red . . . But this John and of the Pharisees fast, but happened that we might not rely on Your disciples do not fast? He ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such responded: Can the friends m the ride groom fast while the bridegroof o is b with them? As long as they have a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. the On him we have set our hope that he day bridegroom with them they canevil . . the will continue to deliver us, as you help not fast. But the days will come when us by your prayers (2 Corinthians the bridegroom will be taken away rom them, and then they will fast it 1:8-11, NIV). fearlessly, as I Paul mentions his deep love for in f those days (Mark 2:18-20). those converted under his ministry. I Jesus knew that His true disciples, once He was no longer there in the thank my God every time I m ember re you. In all my prayers for all of you, with them, at times would need esh to fast I always pray with joy because of yourto regain and renew their zeal the st r partnership in the gospel from of this, to serve Him. They would need to day until now, being con dent stir up the gift of the Holy Spirit that he who began a good work in within them. you will carry it on to completion until James tells us, Draw near to God the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). Through constant prayer and 1:3-6, NIV). It is important that we also keep occasional fasting we can do this. We our con dence in God alive and can make it our practice to stir up and rekindle the Spirit of God within us. active. Sometimes we need to

God

. should

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To ove rcome the wrong use of speech need to ask God, , we through the power of His Spirito help us concentrate onne ouragt, c

kind to one another,et derhearted, fo n rgiving one another, just as God in Christ fo rgave yo . When we indulge the nat of the old man u ure ing and building up others instead of berating them or tearing them with all its corrupt praices, we give the devil a fothold (verse 27, ct o rds ( NIV). When we are kind and rgiving we re the Spirit of God. fo ect down. Our wo should spring from a well of lifeProverbs 10:11). Our talk should be as choice silve (Proverbs 10:20). We r Perhaps now we can understand why we quench Gods Spirit should pray to God that our speech belways with grae, seasoned a c (1 Thessalonians 5:19) if we refuse the leading of Gods Spirit and with salt (Colossians 4:6). in dulge in stealing or corrupt commu ation such as ly g. Satan nic in We can ove rcome our base traits by concentrating on upri ght thrives in such an env nment. iro behavior. Ap ly this fo p rmula and, with the help of Gods Spiri t, B ut, when we put on the spirit of the new man, the oppositesre sult change becomes a lasting part of our aracter. ch prevail. Satan hates go behavior and cannot prevail in such a setting. dly Which spirit will be with you? God s Spiri, howeve o urishes in a person who lives adly life. t r, go All this beautifully illustrates some simple yet found truhs: pro t God s Spirit is contrasted with the spirit ofiterness and wrat b t h in Ephesians 4:31-32: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and When we submit to God andresist the devl, he will ee from us i (James 4:7). As Paul exained: Walk in the spiri and you shall not pl t, clamor and slander be put away from u, with all malice. And be yo

The Prayer God Will Hear


God is aware of everything we say and do. Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without His knowing fo it (Matthew 10:29). There re when anyone prays to God He is well aware of the words that are spoken. But u does He really consider all theqrees ts that are directed to Him? Not always! Let the Bible explain. First, let the Scriptures explain:
Ds hand is not shortBehold, the LO R

you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matthew 6:5, NIV).
What then must we do for God to hear our prayers? Jesus continues: But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray t to your Father who is in the secre

sreet corners to be seen by men. I tell t

to do His will and a willingness to allow His Wo to guide and correct rd us. For the eyes of the LO RD a re on
the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LO D is against those who do evil R

we sincerely approach Him in this hear us. He responds acording to to c c mann er, with an attitude of seeking His judgment, a co rding to what He

God has promised to hear us if

and pray accord g ly, He is delighted in

knows is best for us. Regretta bly, not everyone prays from pure motives: You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss,

place; and your Father who sees in w secret will re ard you openly. And ened, that it cannot save; nor His when you pray, do not use vain re ear pu etitions [saying the same words over hea vy, that it cannot hear. Butoy r
iniquities have separated you fro m and over] as the heathen do. For they your God; and your sins have hidden think that they will be heard for their His face from you, so that He will not many words (verses 6-7). The Scriptures show that public hear (Isaiah 59:1-2). Jesus similarly explains: And prayers are appropriate in proper situwhen you pray, do not be like the ations. But most of our prayers should hypocrites, for they love to pray stand- be sincere, private conversations ing in the synagogues and on the between just us and God.

(1 Peter 3:12). God looks on our attitude, our hea rt (1 Samuel 16:7), rather than on own desires but have no interest in our past sins. He can see the direion ct pleasing Him. we want to go, and that is what is God looks at our attitude. He knows why we ask, and He knows important to Him. He expects us to have ait h that f s what is in our heart. He hears us and to t st His judgment. ru Prayer is s sent ial in our re tione la But let him ask in faith, with no ship with God. There re, we are told, fo doubting, for he who doubts is like a Rejoice always, ray without ceasing p wave of the sea driven and tossed by [habitually], in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ the wind (James 1:6). God is especially aware of our Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16motives when we pray. If we sincere 18). When we pray in this attitude, ly w ant to do what is pleasing to Him God will hear us.

that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:3). God does not even consider the requests of those who are interested only in satisfying their

60

Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

G rowing to Spiritual Maturity

6 1

ful ll the lust of the e sh (Galatians 5:16). The simplest way to re ove the air from a glass is by lling it m with wat r. Likewise God can ove e rcome our human natre by l ling u our minds with His natre and its many wonderful tatbutes. u ri This does not mean we will never sin agabecause as long as in, we are physical we remain subject to human weakness. Howeve r, we need not become discouraged in the face of our sins. Indeed, we should rejoice that we are mindful of them, because reness is the awa rst step toward their era ication. d Paul shares with us that he never attained perfection in hisrts effo to eliminate sin from his life. But he gives us this persive: pect Brethren, I do not count myself to have prehended; but one thing ap I do, forgetting those things wh are behind and reching foward ich a r to those things wh are ahead, I press toward the goal for theze ich pri of the upwa call of God in Christ Je s (Philippians 3:13-14). rd su From the book of Heb rews come these encouraging wo: rds Therefore, since we have a gre high priest who has gone throh at ug the heave s, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold rm to the faith we n ly profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympat hise with our we knesses, but we have one who has been tempted in ry a eve way, just as we are yet was without sin. Let us then proach the ap throne of grace with con ence, so that we may reeive mercy and d c nd grace to help us in our time of need (ebrews 4:14-16, N ). H IV Therefore . . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with pers everance the ra e c marked out for us. Let us x our eyes on Je s, the author and persu fecter of our fath, who for the joy set befo him endured the cro, i re ss s co rning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, s o that you will not grow we and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3, NV). ary I

and faithful disciples of Christ at that time: at I mean, my Wh friends, is this: esh and blood can never possess the kingdom of God, the peri hable cannot possess the imperiable. Listen! I will s sh unfold a my tery: we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed s in a a sh, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last mpet-call. tru For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise imperishable, and we shall be changed. This peri able body must be clothed with sh the imperishable, and wh is mortal with immort ity. And wh n at al e this peri hable body has been clothed with the imperi s sh able and our mortality has been clothed with immortty, then the saying of ali s criptu re will come tru: Death is swalowed up; victory is wo! e l n (1 Corinthians 15:50-54, EB). R Daniel also speaks of this marvelous occurre: And many of nce those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awasome to eve astke, rl ing life, some to shame and eve rlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the rmament [heave and ns], those who turn many to righteousness like the stars fo and eve rever r (Daniel 12:2-3). Finally, Paul describes the wonderful conclusion to all that God is doing for us: . . Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eageawait . rly a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Chriwho, by the power that st, enables him to bring eve rything under his controwill transform our l, lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious bodyil(ppians Ph i 3:20-21, NIV). Therefore, says Pa l, by denying ungodliness and wo ly lusts, u rld we should live soberly, ghteou sly, and go ly in the present age, ri d looking for the blessed hope and gloriouspapring of our gre ea at God and Savior Jesus Chri who gave Himself for us, at He might s t, ht redeem us from eve lawless deed and purify for Himself Hisn ry ow special people, zealous for good wo (Titus 2:12-14). rks

Our ultimate transformn atio


The entire conve rsion process concerns the wonderful n sformara t tio n that Godthrough Christ and the power of the Holy Spiri t makes in us. The nal and most dra atic aspect of our tras formation m n will occur at the reurrection of the dead when Jesustre s. s urn The apostle Paul reveals wh will happen to the called, chosen at

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