Leading By Example

A truly changed heart hungers for righteousness and finds sin upsetting just like God does

We know God loves, and forgives us when we stumble and truly repent, but how do we accelerate the process for letting go of sin, even when it seems attractive to us still? The answer is simple: allow God to change our heart

Introduction – Please Read

Before reading this article, which is the first in a two part series about the topic of “grace”, I want to call out that this will most likely disagree with the way you view grace, as it is widely misunderstood within contemporary Christianity as being “perpetual forgiveness for our sins no matter how we live”

This is simply not true according to the original Greek texts our Bibles are translated from, as the meaning of grace is currently interpreted based on how our contemporary vocabulary defines the word, along with misguided wishful thinking, but it has little to do with the original intent of the NT authors

Even though the article is no doubt going to be volatile, it is based on numerous, cross-referenced scriptures, along with a ton of research, and while I welcome discussion on this topic, I ask that it be kept courteous, rooted in the Bible and not personal opinion, and that any responses address the scriptures within the article directly instead of simply saying “you are wrong!” and quoting scriptures that do not refute the ones the article is based on

Also, and most importantly, before reading this, I ask that you pray God opens the eyes of your heart, so his message can impress itself on your spirit in the same way God impressed it on the hearts of the Apostles thousands of years ago

With those things said, let us dig in

We Hunger For What We Want, But It Does Not Mean Those Things Are Actually Good For Us

A huge mystery I know, but we typically hunger for things we want, regardless of whether they are good for us or not

Take food for example, there are a million things that taste good but are incredibly bad for us, some are bad in excess, but some are unhealthy even in small quantities, ie: sugar rots our teeth, too much red meat clogs our arteries, processed foods have incredible amounts of chemicals and preservatives, etc…

We often find these things appealing because when we put them in our mouth, they taste good–not exactly a complicated equation!

But, in the case of sin, just like when we were still dead in it and hungered for it, we find sin appealing when we have not grown spiritually mature in a particular area, and are still susceptible or enslaved by it


Ephesians 2:1-3
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath

Romans 6:12-13
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God

Even back then, Paul, one of Christianity’s first “Super Pastors”, warned Christians against letting sin get the better of them by openly acknowledging it is powerful enough to inspire a desire for it if we have not overcome it yet

Paul did not preach that we were above temptation, he warned that overcoming sin and achieving eternal life was a fight even he himself was not above

2 Corinthians 6:1
As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain

1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me

1 Corinthians 9:27
No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose

And remember that all of these verses are things he spoke to churches he worked with–he was talking to believers!

All around us we see examples of how sin’s cravings and desires manifest in the lives of Christians, mainly when we hold on to the old ways of life, and thinking, we had before we accepted Jesus

Again, even Paul said he fought this same battle against sin all the time–he was not above the same struggle we face today!

Romans 7:5
For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death

Romans 7:19-23
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members

To look at some specific examples, and it pains me to list these since they are so common, we can see manifestations of “old life” sinful desires and cravings when Christians have pre-marital sex, date non-Christians, watch porn, listen to suggestive music, drink and do drugs all the time, seek worldly possessions and wealth to the point where it becomes their identity, act in ways that are unforgiving, condemning, jealous, etc…

These things are the total opposite of how God wants us to live

Romans 14:17
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit

Essentially, the types of behavior above show how Christians, even though they may, or may not, be battling sin, continue to live according to their own will instead of God’s, as God’s will is to have us be holy and love others, not hold onto sin and live for the world in any way

1 Peter 1:14-16
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”

(This is one of my all time favorite scriptures by the way!)

So how do we understand God’s will, and personality in a way that changes our hearts so we can overcome both sin and temptation?

Growing Spiritually Mature Not Only Means Knowing God’s Will, But Loving And Obeying It

This sounds like an easy thing to do, but it definitely is not, otherwise everyone would be perfect Christians

Wait, let me back up, God’s “will” needs to be defined or the next points won’t make sense

1 Corinthians 2:14
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned

For the sake of a simple definition to be used in the article, based on the Bible, I will define God’s “will” as: Since God is love, righteousness, wisdom, and truth itself, his will is that we model ourselves after his own character

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose

In fact, that is what the word “grace” actually means in the Greek, it has nothing to do with perpetual or unconditional forgiveness of sins, it means:

“Through favor, receiving of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues. The spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace

Another, more condensed, definition of grace I received from John Bevere is:

“God’s divine influence on the heart, and its reflection in the life”

Again, grace has nothing to do with unconditional, perpetual forgiveness of sins, it is about understanding God’s righteousness, and being “governed by the power of grace”, which involves God personally impressing his character on our hearts for the sole purpose of guiding us to act righteously just as he would, but we have to act on that guidance for it to be useful in any way

2 Corinthians 6:1
As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s [influence on your heart] in vain

This means simply knowing God’s will is not enough, it requires work to understand it as we shed our old ways, and also choose to obey it–something Paul said above even he struggled with!

Also, this guidance is the very “righteousness from God, apart from law” the authors of the NT talked about being made available to us, but we are not made “righteous” automatically and without condition like a lot of people teach, and even more like to hear

Romans 3:21-22
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe

People misunderstand verses like this because the word “righteousness” does not mean we are automatically made righteous in God’s eyes, it means we have the ability to achieve God’s very righteousness directly from the guidance his spirit provides under the new covenant, as the old covenant was just a list of rules, but the “new” righteousness is God’s direct influence on our hearts revealing his will in our lives, ie: the real meaning of “grace”

For example, “righteousness” above means:

“The doctrine concerning the way in which man *may* attain a state approved of God, integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting”

(Note this is not a default condition)

No Christian suddenly became “righteous” overnight by attaining “correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting”, that is definitely a journey we are led on by “God’s divine influence on the heart”

Isn’t that mind blowing?

(Before you start typing a response out of shock or outrage, please read the rest of the article!)

Beyond simply knowing God’s will, which is a journey in itself, learning to love God means obeying what he commands

1 John 5:3-4
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world

John 14:21
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him

The truth is, simply understanding what God’s standards of righteousness are does not mean we automatically obey them, let alone find them appealing, regardless of how long ago we became Christians

In fact, when we first become Christians our old ways rarely fall away completely, some things fall away immediately, but nobody is transformed into perfection the moment they first believe, the journey to know, obey, and love God’s will is a process that requires effort

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will

Think of the verse above like this: how many times have we been tempted to do something but chose not to?

More than a few times right?

In these situations we are simply obeying, but not “approv[ing]” of God’s influence on our hearts or finding it “pleasing”

Bleh, this is hardly how we are called, and enabled to love God, as what if your spouse interacted with you that way, just doing what they “knew” was right but did not mean it

Learning to resist temptation is important, as if we continually ignore God’s will in favor of giving in to temptation, and not change our heart to reject sin, we not only hurt God’s feelings, but separate ourselves from the very righteousness he died in order to guide us towards!

Hebrews 10:29
How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Note that “grace” above means “God’s divine influence on the heart, and its reflection in the life”, so what this verse is really saying is:

Hebrews 10:29
How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted [God’s influence on their heart]?

…uh, yikes

The Best Mental Tool I Have Found For Rejecting Temptation Since Becoming A Christian

After you are done picking yourself up off the floor, I wanted to give this simple advice that I started following in the last few months

Every time I think even a glimmer of something sinful, I think of the verse below and say one simple thing in my head, immediately rejecting any evil thoughts:

“Hate what is evil”

Romans 12:9
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good

If I claim to love God, I not only want to obey what he commanded, but I want to find his will pleasing to me as well

This is quite a concept on its own, that as we mature we learn to find God’s righteousness, and will pleasing in all cases–that sometimes feels like a difficult challenge when we are in the middle of struggling with temptation, but God’s righteousness is always waiting for us to mold ourselves after it, we just have to want to, which is part of changing our heart to match God’s

Do not be discouraged as this takes everyone effort, and time to achieve, just do not give up!

Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart

Hebrews 12:14-17
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses [God’s influence on their heart] and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears

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