Beautifully Flawed – The Healing Power of God’s Love

I found myself in an odd position. My heart ached from deeply hurting wounds, yet I had the burning desire to express love to those in need. How could I be in need of healing, and still have this care for those who are in need? I soon discovered that the leaking wounds were the flaws that revealed the power of Agape – which is the love of God.

What I learned during my struggles has only grown my determination to share what I’ve discovered with others.

For the most part, only those close to my family know that my marriage came to an end. Since the question comes up, I’ll say up front that, to my knowledge, there has never been infidelity in my marriage on either side. It was something I never thought would happen to me. The details of the death of my married life are not important, but out of the ashes emerged a deeper understanding of the power of God’s healing love.

I was caught off guard because I underestimated the problems beginning to pop up. At first, I was shell shocked and couldn’t seem to find my feet. For nearly a year, I struggled to have even cursory God-time. It was all I could do to sort out the thoughts running through my head. Yet one thing I have learned over the years is to forgive and that it isn’t my job to carry the burdens of life. I soon found my feet, but it would be a year before I would begin to experience the life I once felt in my soul.

True healing began when I started meditating on this truth in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

And the comfort we have received IS the love God pours into our hearts. I like the way Ephesians 3:18-19 states:

18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–
19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The problem is that you and I can’t fix ourselves, our circumstances, or others. When we look to others or ourselves, we can never find hope, but lack. A needy soul can only sap life from others; however, God is big enough to satisfy that need. You can’t sap the life out of Him. The problem I’ve seen is that people don’t truly believe in God’s love, for we put the same merit system on God that we find in human interactions. It’s too easy to believe that until I do something to become worthy, God can’t accept me, but this is far from true.

God is not concerned about what you’ve done, but where you are going. The real life of the Christian begins when we believe in the love He has for us, and allow the Lord to fill our lives. He first fills the empty heart to meet our need, and continues to fill – even though we leak. Yet the more we learn to trust Him, the more we are able to allow Him to fill us beyond our ability to contain it. That’s when the hurt washes away, and emotional and spiritual health emerge from the overflow of what He floods into us. His love is inexhaustible, thus making our flaws irrelevant. The beauty of life springs from the flaws that once ebbed life away.

In my life, what I found was that though the healing took time, the love of God was greater than my hurt. Instead of anger and bitterness, I began praying for those I felt hurt me. I had to break off many relationships because the burdens of their condemnation were too great to be added to the burdens I was already struggling to survive.

But once life emerged, anger died. Bitterness washed away. Hurt soothed. Once my heart was full, the love of God didn’t stop flowing, so it had to go somewhere. I found myself having no way to resist loving those I once held in offense, and I wanted to touch others who were hurting and struggling with rejection.

For some time I have been planning to have a grace conference this April. I wrestled over the questions of whether to go through with it now, and if it should be scheduled at all. Was I ready to step onto a platform? Is it hypocrisy to stand and speak about the Gospel of Grace when few people even know I’m divorced. Now April 23rd is only a few breaths away, and I never felt peace about cancelling. These last few months have been an amazing, but challenging journey. The Lord has flooded me with comfort, joy, and peace, which prepared me for many difficult circumstances. My time with the Lord over the last week altered my focus on the conference.

He has shown me that my journey is where my focus should be. People hurt in many ways. People struggle with addictions in their behavior, substance, and have suffered the loss of many things of value in a futile attempt to fill the emptiness within. Others have been wronged and struggle with bitterness. While some just found themselves stuck in the undertow of life.

The truth is, everyone is flawed. We may hide it under pride, pretense, religion, sin, or any other human construction. Many are ashamed of their flaws. We hide it from the world, and even from those we love. Some flaws are so painful, we hide it from ourselves. However, the grace of God changes everything. God doesn’t promise to take away our flaws, but to overcome them. His love makes us beautifully flawed. It’s only then that we learn to be honest with ourselves and others. Our flaws make us trophies of grace. His love makes us flawless!

Condemnation turns flaws into destruction, but the love of God first makes flaws irrelevant by becoming the strength for our weaknesses, and then makes flaws conduits of grace to others so that we can now comfort others with the comfort we have received from Him.

Rest in Him. He has made you flawless!

Eddie Snipes 2017

Stupid People?

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6

Have you noticed that the roads are filled with stupid drivers? Everyone thinks every other driver is stupid. But not us. It’s ‘those people’. What makes people stupid drivers in our eyes? They interfered with us on some level. The same holds true for the above statement in the humorous picture, “The hardest part of my job is being nice to stupid people.” Who are the stupid people? Those who interfere with us on some level. They may be new and don’t know their job well, or have skillsets that don’t match the roles they are put in.

This may seem like a petty rant, but consider the words of Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

The word corrupt means: poor quality, worthless, or rotten. When I call my co-worker a stupid person, am I speaking that which edifies, or that which gives an image of poor quality?

Here is why this is important. First of all, people naturally rise to the level of the expectation put on them. If you expect good and communicate a positive image, people will both knowingly and unknowingly rise to that image of good expectation. Second, the quality of our attitude is either building up morale, or tearing it down. I cannot expect good relationships when I am teaching one person to think poorly of another. My words build expectations. I’m building a good or bad expectation on the person I’m speaking of, and I’m building up or tearing down the expectations of others toward that person.

Shortly after my high school years, I worked in a warehouse. When someone was hired, our manager, Steve, would come back and say, “Paul is doing a good job, isn’t he.” Everyone would immediately think about what Paul might be doing right. Either directly or indirectly, Paul would get the message that he was a positive part of our team. How do you think Paul responded? He felt good about himself, and he rose to a higher level of work ethic to match that expectation.

Steve was promoted, and a new manager took over. We’ll call him, Jeff. Jeff was the opposite of Steve. His attitude was demanding and he was critical of everyone. He was worried that employees might be getting paid for doing less. He would come back and say, “Is Paul going to cut it? If he’s not pulling his weight, we need to get someone who can.”

Everyone would look at Paul with a critical eye to see if he was doing anything wrong. It wasn’t only Paul that was negatively affected. The team soon stopped being a team. Jeff’s critical attitude created critical perceptions and negative expectations. Production dropped, people quit, new hires struggled to find acceptance, and instead of rising up to a higher expectation, people started worrying about whether others were doing less, and one guy said, “Why bother doing anything extra? No one in management will notice anyway.”

It’s hard to be positive when you are already under the weight of failure. When someone expects you to be a failure, it’s hard to prove your worth. People don’t thrive under negative reinforcement.

The label of stupidity is often that weight of failure. How many people are really stupid? If someone is trying to learn, does inexperience mean they are stupid? Does calling people stupid create good peers and working relationships? In reality, the person who thinks others are stupid is putting demands of perfection on others that the demander also cannot achieve. It is a creation of negativity and has no real value.

Building up will cause people to grow, and eliminate many mistakes. Tearing down will not.

Another counter-productive label of stupidity is when we focus on someone’s weaknesses with a critical eye. Let me tell you the story of Mike. When I was working as a technician at an airline, we had a coworker, Mike. Mike was very slow at doing the things his job demanded. People called him incompetent and stupid. I got to know Mike, and he was a very intelligent guy. It was frustrating to wait on Mike, and he was a drain on our team. The problem wasn’t that Mike was stupid or incompetent. The problem was that the role Mike was given wasn’t compatible with his strengths. He was being forced to use his weaknesses to do the job.

Some people wanted him to be fired. Feeling the pressure, Mike started applying for other jobs in the company, and to my surprise, he landed a very good position. In one day, Mike went from incompetent to exceptional. His new job was a perfect fit for his skillset. The detail oriented personality he had was a poor fit for the fast paced environment of our team, but was an asset to his new role.

What we think is incompetence is often our expectation that someone think or act like us, or to expect someone’s weakness to be a strength. The truth is, if I had Mike’s new role, I would look incompetent. If you have to do something that is outside of your abilities, you will look stupid. What we often call stupidity is actually demanding a duck to run like a gazelle, and demanding a gazelle to climb like a monkey. No matter how much you demand the gazelle to climb better, he will still look like a fool trying to do something he was not designed to do. Contrary to the Wizard of Oz, there are no flying monkeys. And he will look very stupid running around the field, flapping his arms and trying to fly. A duck may roll his eyes and say, “Stupid monkey, flying is easy,” but reverse the roles, and the duck will be the one who looks stupid.

There are two conclusions I want you to take from this. First, don’t let anyone tell you that you are an idiot or label you as stupid because you are branching off to learn new skills, or because you are out of your element. The expert of today, was called incompetent and stupid yesterday. Yet how much quicker the newby will grow if watered with encouragement instead of scorn.

Second, shift your expectation from a critical eye, to a positive expectation. Failures of others is not stupidity. Failures and mistakes are the steps that everyone must brave in order to grow. The hardest part of your job is not being nice to stupid people. The hardest job is to maintain a positive attitude toward others when our expectations are not met. You’ll be surprised at how much happier you will be when you stop being critical of others. You’ll also eliminate frustration when, instead of wasting your energy on criticism, you make it your goal to impart your understanding to the person who lacks what you have learned through experience.

The greater stupidity is to complain about someone’s lack of ability and do nothing positive to help them grow, which will soon be a help to you.

Eddie Snipes 2017

Escaping the Chains of the Past

There are two things that rob us of our present life by chaining us to the past. Both types Profile Pictureof chains require our willing submission. Guilt ties you to the past, and so does unforgiveness. The truth is that you cannot return to the past. Nothing of God ties you to the past. It is only the accuser. God does not live in your past – Satan does. Consider this passage from Psalm 109:29-31

  29 Let my accusers be clothed with shame, And let them cover themselves with their own disgrace as with a mantle.
30 I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; Yes, I will praise Him among the multitude.
31 For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, To save him from those who condemn him.

The Hebrew word for accuser is the word satan. That is where the New Testament gets the name Satan, for he is the accuser of the brethren. Look at Revelation 12:10

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.

Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightening.” He then affirmed that He gives His church authority over this accuser. When Jesus triumphed over all principalities on the cross, Satan was expelled from heaven. Before this, he came before God to accuse people (See Job chapter 1). He no longer has that right.

When the law was nailed to the cross and sin was destroyed in Christ, there is nothing else Satan can bring before God. He has no law by which he can accuse the brethren. So now he accuses the brethren to each other, and to our own hearts. He can no longer accuse you before God, so his primary tool is to accuse us before each other.

Guilt is when the enemy accuses you to your own heart and denies the trustworthiness of God’s grace to remove all sin. If he can convince you that sin remains, he chains you to his accusation.

It should intrigue you that the word guilt is strangely absent from the New Testament. The English word ‘guilt’ is only mentioned in Romans 3:19, 1 Corinthians 11:27, and James 2:10. Many translations also use the word guilt in Matthew 23:32, but the word is implied and not in the actual biblical text. That’s why the word appears in italics.

1 Corinthians 11:27 and James 2:10 uses the word ‘guilty’, but the word does not mean what we normally think of when we define guilt. The Greek word is ‘enochos’, which means: to be under obligation to, or to be subject to. When James 2:10 says that the person who tries to keep the law is guilty of the whole law if he offends in one point is not saying that we are now under condemnation. The Bible is telling us that we are putting ourselves under subjection to all the law and its consequences. So the person is not truly under condemnation. They are submitting themselves under a condemnation system. Their guilt is self-appointed and not God’s judgment.

The ONLY time guilt is actually mentioned in the Bible (as in guilty and under condemnation) is in Romans 3:19. Those who are under the law are declared guilty before God. The law was designed to make those who trusted in their own righteousness guilty so they could see that justification is through Christ alone.

The only declaration of guilt is to the world who have not trusted in the work of Christ. Yet our accuser knows that if he can convince you that you are under guilt, then he can bind you to the past by convincing you to subject yourself under the condemnation of the law. God does not put you under guilt, but you can put yourself under false guilt. If Satan can convince you that your sin is greater than the work of Christ, which defeated sin, then you will trust in guilt more than in Christ.

In the same sense, unforgiveness is the act of holding on to wrongs done to you. With unforgiveness, instead of obsessing over what you have done under the law, you are placing yourself under the burden of what was done to you. Yet in both cases, we have chained ourselves to the past instead of living in the liberty of life in the Spirit.

Let’s look at how the Bible sets us free from both guilt and unforgiveness.

Overcoming Guilt

Guilt is a powerful weapon of manipulation. Religion uses guilt to keep people in line. People use guilt to manipulate others under their control. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Satan uses this tool against us. Once you are under guilt, you are defeated. However, this defeat is only accomplished when the target is a willing participant.

This is why God spends so much time in the scriptures explaining that we have been set free indeed, can never be put back under condemnation, and His wrath against sin has been satisfied once and for all. In Christ, you have escaped wrath, yet if you don’t believe this, you will be under fear. It is God who said, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” There are plenty of scriptures that explain why this is a concrete promise, but time doesn’t permit me to go into these here. I’ve written about this in several books and some of the studies I have online.

The Bible has relegated sin to the flesh, but has given us life in the Spirit. The real challenge of the Christian life is NOT trying to overcome sin, nor is it trying to rectify wrongs. We are called to learn how to walk in the Spirit, where sin cannot go. Take some time to meditate on 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

In the flesh, no good thing dwells. (See Romans 7:18) We are called not to regard anyone according to the flesh. This includes ourselves. The Greek word for regard is ‘oida’, which means to see or perceive with our eyes. No longer are we called to view other Christians, Jesus, or even ourselves through eyes looking at the flesh. We look at the reality of the life of the Spirit within us.

Old things have passed away (which is the old life of the flesh) and all things are made new. Life is new because we are a new creation, born of the Spirit with the DNA of God. In our spirit, we are in union with God’s Spirit. If you can start learning how to view yourself as God views you, you’ll begin learning to walk according to who you are in the Spirit instead of who you were in the flesh.

The past is dead. You cannot go back and unscramble the egg of your mistakes. God is the God of now. There is therefore NOW no condemnation. God never revisits the past. If you do, you are walking in willful defeat. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-15

 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

Like the rest of us, Paul had to remind himself constantly to reach forward, not back. That maturity of mind was not something he could say he had apprehended, but it was something that he always reminded himself to focus on.

Paul had a horrible past. He was instrumental in the murder of countless Christians. In his testimony, Paul said, “I compelled them to blaspheme against Christ.” He wasn’t content with merely arresting and casting his vote for their execution. He felt compelled to torture them into speaking against Christ. Many people refused to allow Paul into their fellowship after he came to Christ. Yet Paul did not try to go back and fix the past. If he did, he would have been crippled in his calling to reach toward the high calling of Christ. That was his God-ordained ministry. It is also your God-ordained ministry.

There is nothing wrong with telling someone you are sorry, but if you are guilt driven and trying to undo the past so that you are unable to move forward, this is not the call of God. Every moment slips into the past, and while we don’t want to make mistakes, when we do, there comes a time when we must forget what is behind and press toward what is ahead. This is hard to do if you are submitting to guilt.

We must train our minds to stay in the Spirit. If we don’t, our minds will keep returning to wrongs we have done or wrongs done to us, and it gives Satan an advantage over us. Sometimes we feel guilty over something we have done. Though we apologize, we struggle to forgive ourselves, or maybe the apology is not accepted. Other times we feel guilty when we haven’t actually sinned. The Bible guides us in this as well. Look at 1 John 3:20-21

 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.

Where do we put our confidence? In guilt? No – in God. When guilt tries to overtake us, we can still rest knowing that God is greater than our hearts. As we learn to trust in God’s promises and acceptance, we are training our hearts not to condemn us. When guilt dies, confidence in God grows.

Guilt is not of God. According to Jesus’ teaching in John 16:7-11, the Holy Spirit ONLY convicts the believer of righteousness. The world is convicted of sin because they don’t believe in Christ, Satan is convicted because he has been judged through the cross of Christ, but we are convicted of righteousness because Christ goes to the Father for us. Keep in mind that righteousness is a gift, not something we earn. We are righteous because we are in Christ, who is always righteous.

When guilt arises, you must claim the promises of God. Let’s review a few briefly:

  • Romans 6:14 – Sin can never regain dominion over us because we are not under the law, but under grace.
  • Romans 5:13 – Where there is no law, sin is not imputed.
  • Romans 4:6 – You are blessed because the Lord has imputed righteousness to you apart from your deeds.
  • Romans 4:7 – You are blessed because your sins are forgiven and covered.
  • Romans 4:8 – You are blessed because the Lord will not impute sin to you.

This is why Satan accuses you here on earth. There is no longer a law that he can use against you before God, for Jesus is the end of the law to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4) Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2) Since Satan cannot accuse you before God, he accuses you before your own heart. If he can get you to condemn yourself, you are in bondage just as if the law had imprisoned you under its condemnation. He does this through feelings, thoughts, and the accusations of others.

When he does so to your mind, the Bible tells you to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5). It is not your obedience, but your faith in Christ’s obedience. When Satan condemns you through feelings, you have the promise that God is greater than your heart. When he condemns you through others, the Bible commands you not to allow yourself to be judged by the conscience of others. (See 1 Corinthians 10:29, Colossians 2:16, Titus 2:15).

You are free, but you must walk by faith to experience that freedom. Don’t let guilt take up residence in your heart or mind.

Overcoming Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness is one of the most destructive forces in the Christian’s life. It destroys all lives, but the Christian has the power to escape. I have met many bitter people, but I have never met a bitter person who had life. Unforgiveness begins by focusing us on a person who has wronged us, but when it festers into bitterness, it spreads and begins consuming other areas of our lives and other relationships.

What begins with a wrong done to us can become a permanent part of our life – unless we learn to handle it in a healthy way. The person who focuses on wrongs is clinging to the past. The deception of unforgiveness is that Satan lies to us. He tells us that we are losing if we forgive, when in reality we are losing because we cling to a past wrong.

I met a bitter person who felt like life was swallowing them. They kept saying things like, “Jesus rescue me,” but they continued to descend. Why would God not answer such a prayer? The reason is that God takes our hand. He does not drag us along with the bitterness we are clinging to. If someone refuses to forgive and clings to bitterness, they have no hand for the Lord to take. The weighty rock of anger that is pulling us under cannot return to the surface of life in the Spirit. If we cling to the anger, we cannot be rescued. It is the life that is truly broken that learns to let go. We can’t say, “God rescue me, but I set the conditions. I will not let go of what is destroying me.”

Let me give an illustration from parenthood. One of my daughters has a lot of trust in me. As a little girl, she got something in her eye. It was very painful and she couldn’t open her eye. I had her lay on her back, put a towel under her head, and got some eyewash. She turned her head and I said, “If you’ll trust me, I can get this out.” She yielded to me. I poured eyewash in her eye, helped her force the eyelid open, and quickly plucked out the debris from her eye. In 5 minutes she was back in action.

Years later, another daughter had almost the exact same scenario. I did the same preparations, started to put the wash in her eye, and she covered her eyes with her hands and turned away. Again I said, “If you trust me, I can get this out.”

She said, “It will hurt.” I coaxed her, tried to assure her, and did everything I could to get her to relax, but she fought me every time I tried to touch her eye. After 45 minutes, the debris was still in her eye.

This is exactly what we do with God. We think letting go of a wrong will be too painful, so we cling to it and turn from God’s promise. Sometimes it is painful. Kids sometimes get splinters that are very painful. When they let me get it out, it hurts for a moment, but then the pain is gone. If they refuse to let me work, it remains and festers. A splinter can become infected and become a health crisis. People have lost limbs to severe infections that began with a splinter that went untreated.

An emotional wound is painful. Letting God take away the splinter from our soul can also be painful, but the healing begins when we allow God to take the wrong. If we turn from God, He won’t sit on our arms and force us to let Him work. Instead He shows us the promises of His word and says, “If you trust Me, I can remove this.”

The flesh tells us that letting go is too great of a loss. God tells us that letting go will take away the pain, and He’ll replace the pain with peace and joy. Now we have to decide who we trust – our flesh or our God?

One thing unforgiveness reveals is that we don’t understand how much we have been forgiven. Look at Colossians 3:12-13

 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Under the law, obedience was how people attempted to get into God’s favor. Under the New Covenant, we are already in God’s favor, and commandments have a different focus. God gives us commandments to lead us toward the promise, and He gives commandments that teach us how to avoid harm. This commandment reminds us what Christ has done so we can understand that those we are tempted to hold a grudge against are no different than we are. In order to experience the fullness of the life of grace, we have to let go of the things that hinder us and hinder grace.

When you put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, you will already have a heart ready to forgive. Most unforgiveness is founded on pride. Without meekness, we feel we are owed honor from people. Without patience, we get frustrated with people. Yet when we recognize what we have in this life of faith, forgiveness is a natural byproduct. When we are tempted to take up anger, we are reminded that just as Christ forgave, we must also do. The Bible reiterates this in Ephesians 4:31-32

 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.

Notice that bitterness, wrath, evil speaking, and clamor (or making an outcry of protest) has to be willfully and intentionally put away from us. The flesh wants to cling to these things, but you have a renewed mind that has the power to stop this temptation in its tracks. If you have lived in the flesh for a long time, it is hard to train your mind to stop focusing on negative things.

When I struggled with unforgiveness, it came out in my life. It nearly destroyed my life. But God revealed to me that I was no different than the person I was angry toward. The process of learning forgiveness began. I found myself dwelling on wrongs, but when I realized what I was doing, I had to intentionally say, “No, I forgave that. It’s no longer mine to dwell on.” At first, I had to catch myself many times a day. As I cast the memories out repeatedly, they began to invade less and less. In time, the anger died and forgiveness began its good work in my life.

We are called to be on constant guard against bitterness. A bitter spirit invades. If allowed to rule, it takes over our minds and begins to poison relationships – even those that have not wronged us. Then the bitter person becomes the one wronging others, yet they will be blinded to their own behavior. Consider the words of Hebrews 12:15

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

You must carefully watch for bitterness. Those sucked into the conflicts of bitterness will also be defiled, and this causes us to fall short of God’s grace. It’s just like the person sinking and crying out for God’s help but not experiencing it. God’s hand is outstretched, but the bitter person is holding the hands of anger and bitterness. Grace is not absent, but the person in bitterness misses it. They fall short because a bitter spirit cannot lay hold of the grace being offered; therefore, they fall short of it.

Many justify bitterness and anger by claiming that it’s the principle of the matter. That principle is pride and not God’s principles. Others believe they must defend themselves, when God has promised that those who trust in Him will be rescued, delivered, and blessed. The flesh finds ways to justify anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness, but this is a demonic lie. Look at James 3:14-15

 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.
15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.

Anything that we cling to in order to justify unforgiveness is a demonic lie. Satan rules the life that trusts in the wisdom of the flesh, but God gives us victory through the life of faith. Consider 1 John 5:4

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith.

The wisdom of the world (which is earthly) only produces an opportunity for Satan to bring us back under bondage. It robs us of life, steals peace, and causes us to fall short of grace. Yet the person who is born of God has the promise of victory. That victory is already yours, but it can only be obtained through faith. Our faith is that God’s word is true, His promises are sure, and anything I release into His hands is restored with a blessing.

It’s a rejection of faith to push grace aside and handle the matter through human effort. It takes true faith to release the wrongs of others into God’s hands. It takes true faith to entrust God with our failures and guilt.

Will those who wronged us get away with it? Absolutely – if they enter the life of faith. Just as we also escaped the wrongs we have done when we entered the life of faith. God’s will is always grace and mercy. The person who has forgotten he was purged from his old sins clings to guilt. The person who does not recognize how much they have been forgiven will refuse to let go of wrongs and demand justice – a selfish form of justice. We quickly demand justice against others, but expect mercy for ourselves.

Now you have to decide whether you are going to live in the past, or in the present life of grace. You can trust in condemnation and be bound to your past wrongs, or you can believe God’s declaration that you are a new creation and now all things are of God. When you enter faith, you escape the world and any claim it has over you.

You can trust in the flesh’s call of anger and bitterness and cling to the earthly, demonic wisdom that is the entrapment of death, or trust your life – all of your life, to God.

Both unforgiveness and guilt live in the past. There is absolutely no life in the past. The only time you should look at the past is when you are testifying of the power of grace that helped you escape it. Escape unforgiveness. Escape guilt. God is the God of NOW. If you are not looking ahead to the promise and experiencing the life of the Spirit in the present, you are not walking in grace. Yet once you receive faith, the past has no power over you. Healing now begins.

One final thought is that once you begin experiencing victory, you will be tempted to turn back. Don’t get frustrated or give up. The moment you realize the past has returned, kick it out. You have the authority to cast it out. When guilt calls, thank God for your new life and slam the door on the accuser. Once you find yourself brooding over a past wrong – or even a newly past wrong, cast it out. Claim the promise that God will guard your heart and mind through Christ and read Philippians 4:8. Meditate on the things God directs you to.

You are blessed when you live by faith. Walk in it. Don’t let the flesh rob you of the promise.

To learn more on this topic, see the recommended Exchanged Life Books here. Most books are 99 cents, but if you are not able to purchase these, send an email through the Contact Page and an ebook version will be provided for free.

How the Church Should Treat Josh Duggar

Much has been made of Josh Duggar’s scandals in recent months. While he is by no means alone in his moral weakness, he has been made into a spectacle. Any time a Christian icon finds himself or herself in the spotlight of shame, it is amplified. It’s the opportunity for the world to hold up the church’s failure. It’s normal human reaction, for anytime someone doesn’t feel righteous, they will target those who are supposed to be righteous and point out any failure or perceived failure. It’s an attempt at self-justification by bringing someone else down.

 

However, the church should be the first to bear the burdens of one another. After all, the one thing that proves to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples is our love for one another, and as the Bible says, “When one member suffers, all the members suffer with them.” How much more is that suffering amplified when every news outlet shines a spotlight on one of our member’s sins? At least when you and I blow it, news stations aren’t camped out in front of our houses.

 

Josh Duggar’s scandal is a symbol of what is going on in many Christian homes. But instead of the church strengthening the weak, we tend to shoot the wounded. Just look at what happened when Rick Warren’s family had the tragedy of suicide. Many who disagree with his doctrine taunted him in the time of suffering, thus shaming the name of Christ, who said our love will be His evidence to the world.

 

Duggar’s name showing up in the Ashley Madison scandal is not the problem. It’s the symptom of the problem. One study showed that 50% of men and 20% of women in the church admitted they were addicted to pornography. When you consider that most people don’t admit addictions until they are at the point where it is undeniable, this number could be much higher. Going to a ‘hook up’ service, like Ashley Madison is the result of sexual addictions bearing its fruit in our lives. The longer someone is in the addiction, the more it will come out in behavior.

 

The church is great about telling people what they shouldn’t be doing, but they do little to help people deal with the problem. The church employs shame and fear to pressure people to come out of sin because they don’t understand the power of the Spirit of Grace. Condemnation cannot defeat sin. It cannot break the bondage of addiction.

 

If I had the ability to give Josh Duggar advice, it would be what I’m about to write. Though I can’t contact Josh, there are many other Josh’s out there who are secretly fighting this war as well. My advice will work because it worked for me, and many men I have shared with over the years. I became addicted to pornography at the age of 9, and it ruled my life for the next three decades. It wasn’t until I received Christ that I tried to break free, but I found it was greater than my will.

 

Even the Apostle Paul stated that he has the will to do good and live righteously, but how to perform good he doesn’t find within himself. He wills to resist sin, but when he’s using personal effort, he ends up doing the sins he wills not to do. His personal will is not strong enough to defeat sin, nor is it strong enough to live the Christian life of righteousness.

 

This is where I found myself. Many sermons proclaimed, “Look at your sin. God is angry at the wicked every day. God will judge your sins.”

 

The fear of judgment scared me out of sin temporarily. I determined in my will to stop looking at lustful things, but within a few days I found that my will wasn’t strong enough. The cravings of my flesh took over my mind, and though I could resist for a while, the battle was always doomed to failure. Eventually I would be too weary to resist, and I would let go and let my mind binge on lust again. If this is where you are, trusting in your will’s ability to resist is failure waiting to happen. This is true whether your addiction is a tangible substance, or the substance of the mind.

 

Advice #1. The first advice I would give to Duggar and anyone struggling is to turn off the critics. Every person struggles with some type of personal weakness. If we compare ourselves to those who seem to have it together, we’ll be self-condemning, and there is no victory in that. The fact is that anyone trusting in their personal efforts is in hypocrisy, for we can only grade ourselves on a curve – otherwise we can’t pass the moral test either.

 

When I escaped my prison of addiction, the church was not exactly helpful. The addictions that once ruled me and seemed unbreakable, no longer have me in their grip. In fact, I no longer have to resist. I don’t desire those things anymore. Yet when giving my testimony, a man in the church told me that I wasn’t forgiven. He said, “You were a reprobate, and once a Christian falls into a reprobate mind, God gives them up to Satan and they can never again be forgiven.”

 

Apparently, God didn’t get that memo. My life is in constant fellowship with the Lord, and He calls me the righteousness of Christ. These false beliefs of condemnation come from a misunderstanding of scriptures, but that’s for a different article. However, it shows that the well-meaning but misguided Christians can make recovery very challenging. And if someone isn’t yet secure in God’s love for them, misquoted scriptures and condemning words can be discouraging.

 

Advice #2. Rest in God’s acceptance. The day I truly believed in God’s acceptance for me, my life began to change. In the past, when I blew it, I had the perception of God’s wrath. When I understood the Bible’s teaching that I am accepted because I am in the Beloved (which is Christ), it took the conditional acceptance of God away. The conditions are on the completed work of Christ, not on me. When I blew it, I didn’t defeat the work of Christ. If my sins could destroy the work of Christ, I am making the blood of the New Covenant a common and worthless thing. That is a greater sin than the weakness of my flesh.

 

Advice #3. Believe God’s declaration over you, not the enemy’s declaration about you. Unbelief is the only sin grace doesn’t defeat. Hebrews 3:12 warns that an evil heart of unbelief is one that departs from the Lord. If we stop for a moment, we can see this truth in our lives. When we don’t believe in God’s love, we depart from Him instead of drawing near Him. When I believed my sin switched on God’s wrath, I departed. Once I learned that His love was conditional upon His own promises and unchanging character, instead of my abilities, I stopped running from God when I felt defeated.

 

Advice #4. It’s God’s job to overcome your sin. As far back as Ezekiel 36:26-27, God foretold of the New Covenant, where He would take away our sinful nature, give us a new spirit, and would place His Spirit within us, and God would cause us to walk in His ways. Also in the Old Testament passage of Micah 7:19, God foretold of the New Covenant where He would cast our sins into the depths of the sea, and He will subdue our sins.

 

For most of my Christian life, I tried to subdue my sins. I failed. No one ever told me that it was God’s job to subdue my sins. Or that it was God’s job to create in me a heart that would walk in His ways. No one told me that my job was to learn of His goodness so I could learn to walk by faith. The Christian life is a life of faith – completely trusting in the work of God and His promises. His promises begin with the elimination of our guilt through the work of Christ on the cross, and they continue in the promises that He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it.

 

If you study the Bible, you will find that unbelief is the only barrier God has allowed man to stand behind. To some the Bible says, “They could not enter His promise because of unbelief,” but to us, our call is to trust wholly in His love. The purpose of the cross is twofold. Your sin (all sin) was defeated on the cross and taken out of the way. To those who believe this promise, there is no barrier. We learn to walk in the truth that sin is defeated, and as we learn to walk by faith, the reality of Christ’s work for us begins to bear the fruit of holiness in our outward lives.

 

The second purpose is that through the cross, God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. All things that pertain to my life means I have to take no thought for my life, what will I eat, how will I live? What will I do? How will I overcome my problems? All things are given to me. And all things that pertain to godliness means my righteousness, holiness, and godliness is the completed work of Christ given to me. I don’t have to become these things; I have to learn to walk by faith in what God has declared.

 

Because of these truths, I am no longer an addict. In most recovery programs, we are told to call ourselves ‘recovering addicts’. But this is not so with God. Never will I say, “My name is Eddie, and I am an addict.” I now testify that I am not an addict; I am the righteousness of God in Christ. Addiction fell away when there was no room for it to remain. I didn’t overcome my addiction. I looked up one day and said, “What happened to it?” I looked in the past and saw the grave marker – Here lies the sins that once haunted Eddie.

 

Sometimes when I share these things, people judge and try to throw condemnation back upon me. But it doesn’t stick, because there is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ. Sin only gripped my mind because I didn’t know how to walk by faith and become a receiver of God’s power. After all, it is God who said, “The same power that raised Christ Jesus from the grave is in you, and will give life to your mortal (or physical) bodies.” Those who receive this promise cannot remain in bondage to sin or any addiction.

 

To those who are closely tied to an addict, I encourage you to not be hard on the addict. Jesus once asked a religious man, “Who will love God the most, the one forgiven of a small debt, or the one forgiven of an enormous debt?” The Josh Duggars of the world have a blessing others cannot perceive. If they learn to walk in the promise of the Spirit, they will have a strength of character that cannot be shaken and will have a life that stands as a trophy of grace.

 

One thing the family of the addict must understand is that they are not the problem. When a man has a sexual addiction that compels him to step outside of marriage, it is not because the woman is inadequate. People cheat because they are trying to find fulfillment in the flesh, which isn’t possible. This is evident because when someone pursues the flesh, the problem always escalates, and the lewdness must continue to increase. What excites for a moment quickly fades, and the addict must go deeper into darkness to find the same level of excitement the next time. This is why the behavior always escalates. The reason someone seeks an affair is because the pornography is no longer enough.

 

If I could give advice to Josh’s wife, or any spouse in a similar situation, it’s to realize her worth isn’t the problem. When a spouse is not happy with themselves, they will not be satisfied in the relationship. Promiscuity is the misguided attempt to fulfill what is lacking in the heart, but that lack can only be fulfilled in Christ.

 

The flesh cannot satisfy, so even if a spouse does everything possible, the flesh still won’t be satisfied. We were created incomplete for a reason. The heart of mankind can never rest in contentment until we are established in a thriving relationship with our Creator.

 

When we are in the midst of an addiction and in our darkest hours, it’s hard to believe in the love of God and the power of His Spirit. To have someone come along side as an encourager, who points to the hope before us, is someone to be treasured. It’s easy to leave someone in the gutters. Sure they deserve it, but real love creates value. It doesn’t demand value. Keep in mind that most addictions began as a trap, and bad religious advice adds to the burden.

 

Hypocrisy is when someone puts on the pretense of having it all together, but Christians are tempted to put on this façade because the church demands it. Religion demands conformity. It demands self-righteousness, which is replacing the gift of God with human effort. The person overcome by sin can pretend to be righteous because they are mimicking what the church requires. All who are not established in grace are wearing the mask of hypocrisy. But some sins are taboo, while others are shrugged away, but we are all in the same boat. Hypocrisy only shows the image of perfection and says, “Look at me. I am living right.” The true man or woman of God says, “In me, nothing good dwells. Look at the righteousness of God given to me through Christ. Let’s journey together and learn how to trust in God’s righteousness so it comes out in our lives.”

 

God loves the sinner – regardless of the depths they have sunk into. God delights in showing mercy, and transforming sinners into His image as they learn to stop trusting in human effort, and start trusting in God’s work for them.

 

You are the righteousness of God in Christ. May the fruit of the Spirit emerge in your life as you learn to walk by faith in His completed work, given to you as a gift of God’s love.

Does the Lord Allow Trials? (A follow up to Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh)

The article on Paul’s thorn in the flesh has generated some questions. To those who emailed me, I apologize that I can’t reply individually. I’ll try to answer the main points of objection in this post. Some of the emails I’ve received said that God did heal Paul of his thorn in the flesh. As one person put it, “God’s grace was sufficient, and that means Paul was healed.”

The primary point Paul was making is that when he was weak through the infirmity of his flesh, God more than made up for his weakness with God’s limitless strength. This is intended to teach us a principle of life.

It is hard not to be emotionally invested in a belief, but we must be careful not to explain away scriptures that challenge what we’ve been taught to believe. Every Christian group has misconceptions. Many of the things I was taught, such as a legalistic mixture of law and grace, have been dismantled by scripture. When someone challenges our beliefs, the first reaction is to fight against it, but I encourage you to examine the scriptures and see if these things are so. Perhaps you have a perspective I haven’t considered; but equally true is that I may have a perspective you haven’t considered. Don’t disregard the scriptures I am using but prayerfully seek to reconcile your understanding to what the Bible is teaching.

This is why clarity through looking at a scripture in its context is so important. The purpose of the passage from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 was to rely on God’s strength, and that our weaknesses enable God to show Himself strong on our behalf. Paul did not say he was healed. He said, “I will glory in my infirmities that the power of God may rest upon me.” To glory in our infirmities is not a declaration that we have been healed. It is a call to look beyond human strength and our measures of success, and rest fully upon God’s power. When we recognize our inabilities or infirmities, we are then able to rely on God all the more.

This does not mean that God does not heal. It does mean that God has the right to use infirmities when the greater blessing is our discovery of His strength.

This is not a passage about healing. Paul pleaded three times and God made it clear that the answer was not to come through healing. How can we see Paul acknowledge his infirmities, but then deny that God allowed it to remain? Let’s let Job testify again. Look at Job 23:10-11

10 But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.

Job wrote this in the midst of his anguish, and gave this as a testimony to his friends that declared, “God will never do this to a righteous man.” Does God not have the right to refine us? Peter instructed the church not to be shaken when a fiery trial comes upon them as though some strange thing has happened. God not only permits hardships, often times God orchestrates these things for the purpose of removing the things that hinder our life in the Spirit. Let’s let Job again testify, Job 2:10

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

This is when his wife was shaken by the trials Job went through, and told him to curse God and die. Some say that God will never bring adversity, but the Bible says that Job’s statement was not sin. He said that God has the right to send adversity, and clearly credited God with the trials he was going through.

So is it a sin to make a false declaration about God? Yes. The Bible calls this blasphemy. But God said to us, “Job did not sin with his lips,” when Job testified that this adversity was from God’s hand.

The heart of the problem is that people measure good based on comfort and what the flesh determines as good. It’s easy to call the monetary blessings good. When we prosper in this world, we say, “God is good.” But when we suffer in this world, this is a greater blessing than worldly prosperity. To be refined with the promise, “I shall come forth as gold,” is not evil. The truth is, if we get everything we want and God meets our will as we demand His riches, our faith will be tissue thin and our perspective will be flawed. God does not produce spoiled children. He produces people who are strong in the power of His might, a people who are not shaken by this world, and trust in God without wavering.

When the church teaches that God answers our prayers based on what we will to happen, this shakes people’s faith more than adversity could ever do. Paul pleaded with God three times to change his circumstances, but God’s will was for Paul to be refined. God’s answer was ‘no’ to Paul’s will, but yes to God’s perfect will for Paul’s life. And God’s will was to weaken Paul’s human strength for the purpose of revealing to Him God’s perfect strength.

If we are taught that God must answer as we expect, this forces people to pretend they have what they demanded, even when it never comes to fruition. There is no willingness to acknowledge that God’s purpose may be counter to what we are claiming for ourselves. Then people either have to keep saying, “I have it,” when they don’t, or they are criticized with, “You just don’t have enough faith.” But when we teach people to trust in what God is doing, then God’s people walk confidently in every situation, knowing that on the other side of every adversity is greater glory.

Yes, God WILL sacrifice your physical comfort for your eternal good. The point of the Christian life is not to demand our will, but to die to our will and rest fully upon the Lord. We trust God to both heal, and to give us strength when the Lord chooses to use our struggles to refine us. Stop looking at the earthly perspective, and start seeking God to reveal the life of the Spirit to you.

Take care not to cheapened grace and reduce it to only fit within a fleshly perspective. It is commonly taught that grace means, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. That is true, but you have to understand that the greater riches are not the things that are manifested in our natural / carnal life. God indeed richly blesses us in many, many ways, most of which are not bound to the physical world. Grace is also the invitation to enter into the agape fellowship of God (the fellowship that has always existed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The gifts of this world that come from God’s love are extras. They are not the purpose. If we only want physical riches, we are missing the true meaning of the Christian life. We are called into unhindered fellowship with the God who created us, and redeemed us out of our sin.

Grace is the love of God that removed every barrier between God and man so we could experience the same fellowship that Jesus had with the Father. Those who don’t understand grace still exalt sin, and rebuild the barrier by placing themselves back under condemnation each time they fall back into the flesh. Those who don’t understand grace make the Christian life about what we can get from God, and how God can make our life in this world more comfortable. Both of these perspectives rob us of the true fellowship God has invited us to be a part of. This is the only way we can live a life that cannot be shaken, for once we are in agape fellowship and grounded in grace, we’ll experience Romans 8:37-39

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Any view on grace that does not center us on the love of God will not stand when the world falls into chaos. Grace is not about getting what God has, but growing in intimacy with God. Or as God told Abraham, “I am your exceedingly great reward.” God promised Abraham many things, and though these physical promises enriched his life, the center of it all was his walk with God. If he only focused on what he was getting from God, he would not have been willing to give his nephew the best of the land when a dispute arose in the family. He was able to leave possessions behind because of his confidence in God as his reward.

To the one walking in intimacy with God, hardships cause them to trust all the more. To the one focused on what they get from God, when something they want is taken out of the way, it will rattle their faith. One teacher said, “The Lord gives, but the Lord never takes away.” To those bound in this mindset, they will never have confidence when trials arise.

When Job lost everything, his faith was not shaken. He said in Job 1:21-22

21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Once again, the Bible makes it clear that Job’s testimony was right with God. When he said that the Lord has taken away, God declared that his words were not blasphemy. Job proved that his faith was not dependent upon blessing. The worse things became, and the more his friends called him faithless and guilty of sin, the more Job leaned upon the Lord. In the midst of many days of religious people scorning him with many accusations, Job said in Job 19:25-27

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

When his health was stripped away, Job declared his confidence in the Lord. While the religious community ridiculed him, he proclaimed his faith that He will stand in the end, and his eyes will behold God. When everything humankind holds dear was stripped away, Job declared how his heart yearns for the Lord.

We should learn from this example. If your confidence is in anything other than the love of God, when hardship tries to shake you, your faith will not stand. But to the one grounded in the rock of Christ, no storm can move them.

Jesus explained this when He spoke of the two men building their houses. The man who rushed to get into prosperity and ease, his house was built on the sand. The man who built on the rock had to study the word, dig deep into his foundation, and through steady growth his house was raised on Christ. He did not escape the storms of life. Until the storms came, both foundations appeared good. Both had to weather hardship, but the one founded on Christ stood secure, while the other had a great fall.

A Christian should never be dependent upon circumstances. We all want comfort, but in the end, we’ll be grateful that God didn’t settle for leaving us in the comfort-at-all-cost mentality. God wants you to grow in the life of the Spirit, and when the flesh is in the way, God refines us. We have a natural tendency to gravitate toward the flesh, but the Lord wants us to have an eternal mindset so we don’t come short in any gift. Look at James 1:2-3

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

The word ‘patience’ here is ‘hupomone’, which means steadfastness, constancy, and patient endurance. This tells us that trials are intended to break the distraction of the flesh so we can have a steadfast faith. This is why we count it as joy. Joy is when we look beyond our circumstances to the good outcome we know is coming. Just as the Bible says that Jesus despised the cross, but for the joy set before Him, He endured it. The joy before Him was the outcome of the cross – our reconciliation to Himself. You were the joy that gave Jesus endurance. The joy set before us also gives us patience/endurance when trials come.

We should not teach people that trials come because we don’t have faith, or that God would never do these things. Then people are confused because when they are taught that trials are never God’s will, but they do come, instead of being strengthened through the joy before them, they believe God has abandoned them or that they are lacking in faith.

Don’t allow the challenges of life to shake your confidence. View life through the love and acceptance of God, and when hardships come, walk in confidence knowing that God is your strength and He is producing a life in you that is pure like gold. When you are weak, take pleasure in your weakness, for that is when the strength of the Almighty rests upon you. When you walk through life with a steadfast spirit, you will see the end of God’s purpose, and you will be grateful God brought these things in your life. God never settles for merely restoring us. He restores abundantly above what we have lost when we are steadfast in our trust in Him. Let this be your confidence!

Eddie Snipes
2015

What Was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh?

In my book, Stop Trying to Fix Yourself, I speak of the Apostle Paul and how the thorn in his flesh put him into a position where he had to accept a physical struggle that made him weak, but this weakness became his greatest asset. He explains, “I will take pleasure in my infirmities…for when I am weak, then I am strong,” referring to the strength of the Lord that empowers us when the flesh is no longer our focus.

 

Though I don’t believe this should be controversial, it has created a bit of controversy – especially in Christian circles that believe God will never allow a Christian to have a physical problem. Since this comes up frequently, I thought it would be good to answer these objections in a post. Let’s begin by focusing on an important principle for interpreting scripture. As much as we are able, we should approach scripture with an open mind. Problems arise when we are so emotionally invested in a doctrine that we cannot accept what is plainly stated in scripture. When we impose our ideology on scripture, instead of drawing our understanding from the Bible, it becomes hard to get past preconceived ideas.

 

We all struggle to overcome this, but we should also be willing to search the scriptures to see if what we are being taught is true – and to see if what we believe is true. Many misconceptions I once held dear have died slow and painful deaths as the scriptures challenged my ideas. Some ideas I held on to, but the more I studied, the more I had to let go of beliefs that could not be supported by scripture. When I say a doctrine can’t be supported, I am referring to looking at passages in context. Nearly any belief can be proven when scriptures are taken out of context.

 

It is argued by many well known teachers that the Apostle Paul’s thorn in his flesh was not a physical problem, but rather it was the persecution he endured. The reason this is important to many is because there is a belief that God will never allow sickness to enter the life of anyone who has faith. Before digging into this, let’s stop for a moment and analyze this idea.

 

Will God allow persecution? Obviously he will, for the Bible says that any who live godly will suffer persecution. What about physical harm to the believer? Even in the Bible, we see physical pain inflicted upon Jesus’ followers. Many were killed by the damage done to their bodies. So the logic is, God will allow a sword, bullet, or whip to damage our bodies, but he will never allow an infirmity to damage our body. Is there a difference?

 

As one teacher put it, “If Jesus suffered for it on the cross, we won’t, for by His stripes we are healed.” He was beaten, so why weren’t His disciples spared this penalty? Some argue that sickness is an attack of the devil, but so is persecution. Let’s look at the passage that has bothered some people, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Let’s first dispel the idea that persecution was Paul’s thorn. In Acts 14:22, Paul has just been stoned and left for dead, but he recovers and immediately visits the disciples to encourage them. Knowing people may be shaken by this type of persecution, the Bible says he strengthened the disciples by saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

 

In Acts 5, Peter and John are arrested for preaching Christ, even though they performed an undeniable miracle. They were persecuted and then beaten at the stocks as a stern warning not to keep preaching, and Acts 5:41 says they left the council after being beaten and began rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. So are we now to believe that the other apostles rejoiced that they suffered for Christ, but Paul was tormented because he was being persecuted? He first encouraged the church to be strong because persecutions were something we endured on the path to heaven, but when it came to himself, he begged God to keep him out of persecution?

 

Don’t forget that when God called Paul, his ministry began with God telling him, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16) Every apostle was persecuted heavily. Every apostle except John was tortured and killed because they would not stop telling people about the new life of the Spirit through Christ. But even John was beaten, persecuted, and banned to a penal colony, isolated from the church on the isle of Patmos for his faith.

 

It’s undeniable that persecution was part of the early church, and has been a part of the church for thousands of years. In many countries, Christians are being tortured and killed for their faith even as I write. In Hebrews 11:35 we are told that many believers refused to accept deliverance, knowing they would obtain a better resurrection. Does God allow His children to suffer? Why? Not one thing that is lost in this life has value. We are giving up health, life, and possessions for the sake of Christ, knowing that what God returns to us is far better than what we lose.

 

Paul’s thorn of the flesh is NOT persecutions, though he was persecuted. Let’s go back and look at Paul’s conclusion concerning his thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:

 9b Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Persecutions are mentioned. So is needs. So is distress. More importantly, so are infirmities. It was the first thing Paul mentions. Infirmity is mentioned 13 times in the New Testament. 100% of the time it is referring to a physical problem. In fact, the word infirmity (astheneia in the Greek) means physical frailty, feebleness of health, illness, disease, or sickness. It does not mean persecution. By Paul’s own testimony, his infirmity was an attack of Satan, but was actually a gift of God to produce weakness so he learned to receive the strength of the Spirit – which was far better.

 

According to Paul, pride was a struggle, and so he didn’t get lifted up in pride, God gave him a thorn in the flesh. I know this flies in the face of the belief system of many who say God will never inflict a believer, but as we shall see, this is not what the Bible teaches. We’ll look at another example in a moment, but let’s see how Paul discusses his own infirmity.

 

In Galatians 4:13, Paul says that he preached to them through his physical infirmity. Some translations say ‘because of physical infirmity’, but the word is ‘dia’, which means ‘through or with’. Either way, Paul clearly says it was a physical infirmity. In Galatians 4:14 Paul again affirms this by saying, “My trial that was in my flesh, you did not despise or reject.” Let me reiterate this. Paul said, “I preached to you through physical infirmity/illness, and you did not reject the trial that was in my flesh.” There is no way to escape the truth that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a physical problem that people could see, and some rejected him because of it – but not those who believed his preaching in Galatia.

 

Paul then gives a clue as to what that infirmity could be in the very next verse. “For I bear witness that if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.” If you read the full context of Paul’s discussion, he makes it clear that the people he reached with the gospel did not turn away from Paul because of the infirmity of his flesh, but as they grew to love Paul, in their compassion, they wanted to take away his thorn, and if they could have, they loved him enough to give him their own eyes to ease his infirmity. There is no other reason they would have wanted to give Paul their own eyes.

 

Let’s throw another monkey wrench into this doctrine that limits God’s authority to use the flesh as He chooses. Look at Exodus 4:11

So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?

 

Who made the mute, the deaf, and the blind? According to God’s own word, He did. According to Psalm 139, God knit us together in the womb, and we are made exactly as God intended. Why does God allow disabilities at birth? He doesn’t always give the answer, but He does assure is that whatever we miss in this life, becomes a better resurrection in the life to come.

 

Then there is Job. Job went through immense suffering from the hand of Satan, but who began this challenge? Look at Job 1:8

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

 

God challenged Satan to consider Job’s faithfulness, and then God permitted Satan to afflict him, but with specific boundaries. God allowed Satan to rob Job of everything, including his health.

 

Job’s friends accused him of having secret sin or some reason that this evil came upon him. They said, “God would never do this to a righteous man.” They all were very religious, and one even said, “The Lord said to me,” and then gave Job counsel from his own heart while claiming it was the word of God. All three of Job’s friends rebuked Job for claiming he was standing upon faith. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” and expressed his confidence that in the end, God would rescue him. The only thing Job said wrong was, “When I see God, I’m going to ask why.” Then when God appeared, God said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” God then asks Job where he was when the earth was founded. Since Job was wise enough to question God, the Lord asked him questions and says, “Tell Me, if you have understanding. The one who corrects the Almighty, let him answer it.”

 

That was the moment Job understood that God had the right to do as He pleased. He also found out that what God permits Satan to steal, He abundantly restores. Job received ten times what he lost, for God’s goal was always to bless. Through the infirmity of Job’s flesh, he suffered, but that suffering established him in the Lord’s strength, and made it clear that all good comes through God, and Satan has no power to defeat God’s will for Job’s life.

 

To Job’s friends, the ones who said, “God would never do this,” God said in Job 42:7

And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.

 

God made Job’s friends, the ones who claimed to be wise counselors and condemned the suffering Job, to come and submit to Job. God said He would not even hear their prayers, but Job had to petition for them before they would be forgiven.

 

Similar situations happen in the church today. When my grandfather was dying of cancer, the church heaped the burden of guilt upon them by saying things like, “There must be secret sin in his life.” To my grandmother, one person said, “You are the reason he is dying. If you had enough faith, you could raise him off that bed.”

 

Is this what the Bible teaches? That we should condemn the sick? Does the Bible teach us to criticize people for not having enough faith? Or does it teach us to bear one another’s burdens. I have many friends in various healing movements. One thing they all have in common is scolding the ailing. If someone gets a cold, they are the first to tell them they shouldn’t be sick. If I had a prayer need, I wouldn’t tell them because I would hear how I shouldn’t have a need – I just don’t have enough faith.

 

Have they never read the letters the Apostles sent to the churches? Nearly every letter expresses prayer needs. When imprisoned, Paul pleaded for the church to send him a cloak before winter. He praised the Philippian church for meeting his needs.

 

What about 2 Timothy 4:20 where Paul said he had to leave one of his missionary helpers in Miletus because he was sick? Or what about Philippians 2 when Paul talks about his companion, Epaphroditus who became very sick and almost died? Or what about 1 Timothy 5:23, where Paul tells Timothy to drink a little wine because of his stomach problems, and his frequent infirmities?

 

Do you know one thing that is missing in all these accounts of sickness in the Bible? Not one time does a minister of God condemn the sick, nor do they tell them they shouldn’t be sick. Does God heal? Absolutely. I have friends that were miraculously healed. I have a relative that had terminal cancer as a baby. The doctors gave up and called the family in to say their good-byes. They gathered and prayed, and the child was instantly healed. Nearly 50 years later, he is still healthy and cancer-free. I have a friend of the family that had cancer of the mouth. She is not active in church and is not part of any healing ministry. The night before she was to go in for surgery, she poured her heart out to the Lord. When she went in the next morning, cancer could not be found.

 

Yet others pray, claim divine health, and do all the right things according to what people teach, but are not healed. Why? According to the book of James, the prayer of faith will heal the sick. I’ll also add that the elders are responsible for praying for the sick, and no where do we see the church condemning the sick. But also keep in mind that the Bible says that God deals each person a measure of faith and that faith is a gift of the Spirit. Faith is not produced by man. You can’t muster up enough human faith to do the work of the Spirit.

 

God did not explain why Paul could miraculously heal the unchurched people he encountered in Acts 28:8-9, but did not give Paul the power to heal Epaphraditus, Timothy, or Trophimus. Indeed we should pray for the sick with expectation, but ultimately healing is a gift of the Spirit and is according to a purpose we, like Job, cannot see.

 

People put God into a box, and then they have to explain away scriptures that don’t fit in that box. Because of doctrines like these, people are distracted from the truth. Instead of seeking God, they are seeking their will. Paul struggled with this. Three times he begged God to heal him, but God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

 

Sadly, the teachings of some cause people to reject this. Instead of walking by faith, they are demanding their own will. Unless God gives them the miracle they demand, they are paralyzed in their walk, and if God doesn’t give them the answer they want, their life becomes one of confusion, disappointment, and frustration.

 

Expect the miraculous, but don’t forget that the miraculous might be God’s strength in your weakness. Don’t short-change yourself by demanding the strength of the physical when God is calling you into the power of the Spirit.

 

Eddie Snipes 2015

Is Trusting in Grace Equal to Disobedience?

It amazes me how that the church completely rejects the Bible’s teaching that the just shall live by faith. The church has no problem believing you are saved by faith, but once you teach that we must live the same way we enter the Christian life, legalist call this ‘disobedience’.

Legalism attempts to force Christians to choose between believing in the grace of Christ and obedience, as if these two are opposing forces. This is a false teaching. The Apostle Paul said it best when legalist persuaded the Galatian church to submit back under the law when he said, “Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, do you now think you are perfected in the flesh?” He goes on to explain that it is the hearing of faith that transforms their lives, not turning back to the law.

In order to create conflict, legalists are telling the church that believing in God’s grace through Christ is equal to disobedience. We supposedly must choose between grace and obedience. The truth is, obedience IS trusting in grace. When the law-minded religious community came to Jesus and ask what they must do to do the works of God, Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him [Christ] whom He [God] sent.”

God didn’t change His mind after the cross. This is still the work of God, that you believe on Christ. Everything comes through Christ. Nothing comes through human effort. The just shall live by faith – not – the just shall live by the law or by works.

Here is a typical response I received. Similar arguments often come from legalistic believers in the law. As you read this, ask yourself, “Do these scriptures undermine grace?”

This was posted in response to the article, The Myth of Hypergrace:

Let’s let the Scriptures Speak for themselves. 1 john 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Matthew 5:16-19 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 24:46-48 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
——

Does 1 John 5:2-3 teach that God is pleased by works and not by faith in the grace of Christ? If anything, this shows why scripture should not be taken out of context. This builds on what John said in 1 John 3:23

And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

The commandment is not to return to the law, but to believe on Christ, and out of a heart that is receiving by faith, we have the love of God (which is agape) and through the love we are abiding in, we also express agape toward one another. Man is incapable of agape love outside of the Spirit. Man’s love is called ‘philia’ love in the Bible. Agape love is the love of God that is poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

Legalism takes a passage that places our trust in Christ and transforms it into a law that trusts in what we do for Christ – or think we do for Christ.

Now let’s look at the next objection from Matthew 5:16-19. The answer is actually in the objection. Jesus indeed says that the law will not pass away until all is fulfilled, but in verse 16, He clearly says, “I have come to fulfill the law.” If Jesus has fulfilled the law, are we now going to count the blood of His sacrifice as a common thing and do despite to the Spirit of grace, and try to fulfill it ourselves? (See Hebrews 10:29).

This question is also answered in Romans 8:4
The righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Verse 2 tells us that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. The Bible calls the law ‘the ministry of death’ (see 2 Corinthians 3:7). Romans goes on to explain that the mind on the law is in the flesh, but the mind in the Spirit (which is the mind on faith in Christ) creates life. After explaining that the mind stuck in the law is the mind in the flesh, verse 8 says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” People try to make it sound like those who are in the flesh are those who are committing adultery and other sexual sins. Not so. The mind that is not in the Spirit by faith is in the flesh, no matter what the person is doing or not doing.

This is further affirmed by Hebrews 11:6
Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

The law is strangely absent from this promise. Other than the law of faith, which is to trust fully in Christ. Man desires to have a share in his own salvation because it gives him glory. But God said, “No flesh shall glory in my presence.” You cannot make God owe you salvation. You can’t make God owe you a reward. Your obedience cannot put God in debt to you. Obedience without faith is actually disobedience, for we are rejecting the gift of God’s righteousness, and trying to usurp glory for ourselves by substituting our righteousness in God’s place.

To the claim that grace-believers are teaching people to not obey the law, I refer back to Jesus’ words. He came to fulfill the law, and we who walk in the Spirit by faith have fulfilled the law in Him. We are doing the works of God because we believe in Christ, who was sent to fulfill the law AND redeem us out of the debt of the law.

To those who trust in the law, I refer you to Galatians 5, which warns that those who submit to the law are a debtor to keep the whole law – not just a modernized version of the law that fits our lifestyle. I also refer you to James 2:10, which warns that if you keep the whole law, but stumble on one point, you are guilty of all the law.

Why is it so hard for legalists to see that the law is not a merit system, but a condemnation system? If you fail once, you are guilty. There is no blessing. There is no reward. There is no honorable mention. The law was intended to make every person guilty (Romans 3:19-20) so we were driven to Christ. If you trust in the law, you are not trusting in Christ, but yourself. And the Bible says that your flesh IS the weakness of the law. You are the weak link. That is until you enter Christ, who fulfilled the law, which none of us can do.

Finally, let’s look at the misconception of the meaning of Luke 24:46-48. This does not point to your ability to keep the law. It is not a man-dependent religion. It all points to Christ, not our ability to become Old Covenant keepers. Forgiveness is through Christ, not obedience to the law. It can’t be obedience to the law, for we just discussed that one offense nullifies any obedience. That is the nature of law. A good man who breaks the law is a law breaker in the eyes of the law. No one can point to all the good things they have done as a defense for their crime in a courtroom. Their good means nothing. They broke the law, and the law demands condemnation and penalty.

This is through Christ. And the word repentance has nothing to do with keeping the law. To repent means to change the mind. Your mind was once in the flesh, but when faith came, you were invited into the Spirit. The mind in the Spirit is life and peace, but the mind in the flesh is death. Repentance means to change the mind from the flesh to the Spirit – which means turning from anything else (religious or anti-religious) and turning to faith in Christ alone.

According to the Bible, you and I have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness by God’s divine power through Christ.(See 2 Peter 1:3) What is not included in all things? Is there anything other than life and godliness? It is a call of faith. Christ has accomplished all things, and all things are given to those who will believe and receive by faith. Righteousness, godliness, holiness, the fruit of the Spirit and all other things are gifts of God through Christ.

Romans 4:4-5 makes it clear that grace is freely given through faith, but unattainable through works. The moment you try to earn grace, it becomes your debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted as righteousness.

The natural mind scoffs at grace, and to that mind the Bible says, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” It is no surprise that religion hates grace, for the Bible says, “The natural mind cannot understand the things of God and cannot receive them, for they are spiritually discerned.” Those who are trusting in their own works and righteousness scoff at the grace of Christ, for the natural mind cannot understand how grace drives out sin. They don’t understand how a life that has been freed from the law will do by nature the things that are in the law, and do so without fear of condemnation or a legalistic rule demanding submission. Grace frees us to walk according to our new nature, but legalism calls us to take our eyes off Christ, and return to the same type of system that couldn’t succeed through human effort.

When the natural mind encounters grace, it rages. It does so because the fleshly mind is threatened by anything that does not build its glory. Or as the Apostle Paul said about those who were trying to bring the church back under the law. They don’t keep the law, but they desire you to be under the law that they may glory in your flesh. In other words, the flesh feels glorified when it persuades others to submit to the form of religion it is drawing self-glorification from.

The truth is, we are all receivers of God’s works as we trust in Christ. Anything we do for God is a rejection of what God has done for us. But by faith, we are transformed into Christ glory as we behold His glory. By faith, we enter the Spirit where the life of the Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies. Only then will our outward behavior reflect the righteousness of God. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. But we have the promise, walk in the Spirit (which is walking by faith in Christ) and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.(Galatians 5:16) That’s a promise the law cannot fulfill. Compare that to Romans 7:5, which says the law stirs up the passions of the flesh. Faith and grace stirs up our life in the Spirit, and legalism and law stir up the flesh. Which is more likely to produce obedience?

Eddie Snipes
2015