We often hear people argue that they don’t need Jesus since they are fine just the way that they are. “I like the way my life is right now. I don’t see why I ought to change,” they say. Ah, the “benefits” of sin. Of course they don’t want to change, why trade all that sin has to offer for anything else? It is this great lie that so many people choose to believe, that everything is fine without Jesus and that they will be missing so much if they accept Him.
Somehow there is a delusion that things are permissible and easy without Jesus and strict and rigged with Him. That may be the common thought but in reality it is quite the opposite that ends up being true. Without Christ people are in bondage to sin yet see themselves as being totally free. They think that with Christ they will be bound by religious lists of do’s and don’t’s but the truth is that only in Christ that we are ever truly free.
It comes down to the benefits of a life with Christ or life without Him and which is most appealing. Paul asks a rhetorical question in Romans 6:21 that is worth trying to answer, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (Romans 6:21 NIV) He already put the final exclamation point on the answer for us. Paul declares that whatever else the benefits of a life of sin might be, the ultimate result is death and this is eternal death and complete separation from God the Father. But there are other things that sin gives us before death puts the final exclamation point on life.
1) Guilt – the feeling of remorse that comes when you have done something wrong. Here is a great benefit to sin. Everyone loves that deep ache in the pit of your stomach that comes when you know that you have done something wrong. The uneasy feeling of a conscience that is torn and consumed with thoughts of regret and sadness for behaviours we want nothing more than to wish away.
2) Shame – the feeling that there is something wrong with you. The benefit of shame takes our guilt and internalizes it, making us feel like not only were our actions wrong but that we are broken ourselves. Shame succeeds in lower our view of ourselves to the point that we no longer believe that we are worthy of anyone else’s attention or affection. Who wouldn’t want to experience this benefit of sin more?
3) Fear – the feeling that there will be unpleasant consequences for your actions. Another wonderful benefit of sin is that as guilt and shame settle in they then allow fear to take a hold of us. This deep sense of dread and the inability to rest or relax because we know that bad things are coming our way, can be ours if we choose the benefits of sin.
Of course I’m being facetious but I think that point is clear enough. When Paul asked what benefit we received from the things we did in sin, he meant for us to see that there is no benefit to sin at all that is worth wanting. In contrast, a life in Christ Jesus knows the benefits of having our guilt and shame removed. With Jesus we get to experience perfect love and we know that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). Ultimately the greatest benefit we could ever ask for is only found in Jesus and that of course is eternal life.
Which benefit package do you want to experience?
Read Acts 5:1-20
Key Verse: Acts 5:20 “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life.” (NLT)
The early church had it’s share of problems. Everything was not perfect for them. They were being persecuted by the Jews and the Romans, and even within the church there were problems. Annanias and Sapphira are good examples of how important it is to do things for the Lord with a pure heart.
They gave some of the money that they made by selling their field to the to the disciples. The problem was that they lied about it and tried to make themselves look good. They wanted to appear to be as generous as the man named Joseph from Acts 4:36-37 who gave all he made from selling his property.
Despite all the troubles that the believers faced they experienced much of the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 15 tells us that the Holy Spirit’s power was so real in them that whenever their shadows fell upon someone who was sick that person would be healed.
Sometimes we are afraid to stand-up and Act Out for God because we think people will not be able to see past our problems and mistakes. We need to learn to trust the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives. Everyone struggles. The important thing is to continue to trust God and to determine in your heart that you will not be silent. We can only know the true power of God’s presence in us when we Act Out for God and let Him show us what He can do.
Prayer: “Lord, thank-you for your power in my life even when I make mistakes. Help me to move beyond my mistakes and live in your power.”
Sitting in the church service, surrounded by all kinds of different people, I discovered something that had a dramatic impact on my life. These people, the mourners at this funeral, expressed their sadness and loss in many different ways; tears of pain, silent contemplation, sobbing, and wailing. In the midst of it all, nothing was as sad to witness as the tears of regret. Realizing that so many things would now go unresolved and that so many words would never be shared has a way of making the loss of a loved one even more difficult to deal with.
Sadly we often wait until someone is gone or leaving before we tell them how we really feel about them. We can certainly still express our thoughts to our loved ones while sitting at the funeral service or at some later time while placing flowers at a grave side, but nothing compares to seeing someone’s face when we tell them what they really mean to us. It’s strange to think that we are often more inclined to say the negative, even mean things, that come to our minds when someone is alive and with us, while the kind, loving thoughts, that we truly feel, often go unspoken until it is too late.
We ought to make a firm decision to speak the positive things while we have a chance. Perhaps if we spend more time saying the positive things, that we want to say, some of the negative things, that we wish we never said out loud, would go unspoken. Be sure to say every good thing you need to say before it is too late.
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” – Proverbs 16:24 NIV
Read Acts 4:21-37
Key Verse: Acts 4:29 “And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching.” (NLT)
When the believers knew that Peter and John were free they praised God and prayed together. It seemed to them that everyone was against Jesus. The government was against Him. The Gentiles were against Him. Even the people of Israel were against Him. The believers were certainly starting to feel real pressure to stop spreading the name of Jesus by this time. They were threatened (v. 21) and told to stop using the name of Jesus or else they would be punished.
It is scary when you are threatened, when you don’t know what people may do to you if you don’t obey. The disciples could have stopped talking about Jesus or they could have went into hiding. But instead, according to verse 29, they responded to the threats by asking God for more boldness so they could spread His word despite the threats.
When we have opportunities to tell others about Jesus do we fear what may happen to us or do we pray for even greater boldness so we can speak out no matter what? Threat or no threat we must tell others about the love of Jesus.
Prayer: “Lord, thank-you that I can have the opportunity to tell others about your resurrection. Give me the strength and courage to teach others about you threat or no threat.”
Read Acts 4:1-20
Key Verse: Acts 4:20 “We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard.” (NLT)
Jesus became a real obstacle for many people. They didn’t understand Him and they refused to believe in Him. This caused people to get upset when the disciples preached about Jesus and even did miracles in His name. Peter and John got arrested because a religious group known as the Sadducees did not like the fact that they believed in the resurrection of the dead.
Once again Peter speaks out and testifies about Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s presence in Peter’s life not only allowed to speak at the right opportunities but verse 13 tells us that the boldness in Peter amazed the people who heard him. What’s more, that same verse tells us that the people recognized the disciples as ones who had been with Jesus. What an amazing testimony! Imagine how great you would feel if others could tell just by being around you that you are different. It ought to be our desire to live our lives in such away that people will recognize us as ones who have been with Jesus Christ.
Prayer: “Lord, I love spending time with you and I know you have done great things for me. I want to be so passionate about you that I can not be quiet about the wonderful things you have done. Please keep working on my life so that others will be able to see that I’m different, that I have been with Jesus.”
Read Acts 3:1-26
Key Verse: Acts 3:6 “But Peter said, ‘I don’t have any money for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!’” (NLT)
The crippled beggar asked for money so he could buy food for himself but instead of giving him food Peter and John gave him something worth more than all the gold and silver in the world. The crippled beggar was given the ability to walk, to work, and to live a normal life in a culture that didn’t accept him because of his disability.
Peter and John could have walked on by and said, “Sorry, we don’t have any money. We wish we could help, maybe next time.” They could have responded this way and it would have been perfectly fine, but they never. Instead, through the Holy Spirit they saw an opportunity and they took it. God honored their faith and the man was healed. That was not the end of the story. Following the healing Peter was given another great opportunity to witness to a large crowd of people.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit you to can see ways to met needs in the lives of other. If you let God lead you, you to will be able to give someone a gift worth more“than all the gold in the world. In return your reward may be a priceless opportunity to share your faith in Jesus.
Prayer: “Lord help me through your Holy Spirit to be able to offer something much more than gold to those in need around me. Give me the courage to offer your gifts to those around me.”
There is a hole.
A deep, dark hole at the bottom of which everyone of us is born. This hole is sin and it means to keep us away from God. The sides of the hole are loose and unstable. There is no way for any person to climb out of their own personal hole of sin. Living a respectable life and striving to do good deeds may make your hole seem a little brighter but you can’t climb out on your own. In the hole we remain in utter darkness. Darkness so black that makes it impossible for us to even know which way is up. It is so dark in fact that almost no one realizes that they are even in a hole of sin until they get out.
Yes, there is a way out. There is only one way to escape the hole and to stand in the light. One way to be free from sin’s trap and know true freedom. No matter how many good deeds or thoughts we construct, it would never be enough to allow us climb out of our sin. Since we could never climb out on our own we needed help from the outside. God the Father knew we would never escape sin’s hole without His intervention so He graciously and mercifully sent His own Son to climb down into the hole of sin and make a way out for us. Jesus was Himself without sin and had never been in a hole of His own, therefore He alone was uniquely qualified for God’s great rescue plan. God’s Son came and gave His life to bring us eternal life. He paid the full debt of our sins by dying on the cross for us. Jesus came and humbled Himself. He entered the hole of sin and made a way out for us. By dying to pay for our escape from sin, He has become the only one who is both allowed to and able to pull us out. Now He offers His own body as our way of escape. He bids us all to accept His deliverance from sin’s hole and He longs to lift us up into glorious light.
The only way out of sin is to be lifted out. We can’t get out on our own but we can accept God’s plan to save us. The hole is deep and dark and collapsing all around us. If we choose to stay in our sin, eventual the hole will completely bury us and we will be lost in sin forever. There is an incredible sense of urgency here, you can hear Jesus calling out and if you look you can see that He alone is the only source of light available to us. By dying for you He became the only way of escape for you. Now He knells at the edge of every person’s hole of sin and hopes that we might accept His help. He reaches down a nail scarred hand and pleads for us to take a hold of Him so that by His love He can pull us to safety.
There is a hole, a deep, dark hole. There is also a light of hope that beams down into that hole and there is a Savior who loves you and will save you if only you would accept His help.