Lie 4: Sin Can Be Conquered by Effort

(A series on lies sin tells us to tempt us and trick us. Submit by October 30th if you want to be featured in a guest post exposing sin’s lies to God’s Word in this 8 part series)

We’d like to believe sin can be conquered by our efforts. The enemy of our souls takes advantage of our desire to be victors, presenting us with the lie:

You can defeat sin if you try hard enough.

Wrong. Christ already defeated sin.

We are just responsible for resisting the sore loser roaming the battlefield, picking the lesser fights he can still win.

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The sore loser tries to win his little games by tempting us to use just our own weaponry. He challenges us about our own skills, distracting us from reliance on the One who has already beat him.

Case Study: Insecurity

Insecurity can be a sin when it dismisses God’s handiwork. Insecurity also seems like something we ought to tackle on our own. We think if we change our outlook, we’ll stop sinning against God wit hour insecurity.

Changing our outlook by effort alone is futile. How can we overcome insecurity if all the methods we go through use our own insecurities? Self-help books and compliments from other people only do so much.

Our behavior might shift, but our hearts need something more. Eventually, forcing ourselves to “feel” secure wears us out and makes us paranoid. Trying to change by our own strength is exhausting and ineffective.

To defeat the sin of insecurity we need a source of security. We need one with the power to defeat sin as it cripples us.

We need Christ’s strength, the Spirit’s leadership, and God’s armor to fully conquer anything.

Paul explains, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23.) Sin’s effect on human nature ensures our efforts to be good and defeat sin fall short. It ensures our insecurities exist for a reason- we don’t have absolute security in ourselves.

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“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus said of human effort’s sufficiency.

“There is only One who is good,” He explained, pointing out that God alone does not fall short (Matthew 19:17.)

Only God measures up to the glory of God.

Only God’s security is completely secure.

The solution, the bridge from “fallen short” to “all fullness of God,” is always Christ.

He is the only One whose efforts are enough to defeat sin.

God never suggests we enter battle armed with behavior change, healthier outlooks, or improved ideologies. But all throughout Scripture, God does calls us to the One who defeats sin.

Don’t skip ignorantly past the “only One who is good”, don’t bypass God’s “through.”

Through Christ we are transformed. Through Him we can do all things. Through Him we can boast in God. Through Him we are cleansed. Through the Spirit living in us….

Greater is He who is living in us than he who is living in the world.

It’s isn’t by effort we are changed into conquerors, but by surrender to Christ that we are transformed into those who can stand firm through the fight of faith. We stand firm because the war is won.

As G. Campbell Morgan phrased it,

We are not fighting the central battle, we are simply doing the skirmishing of administration. Armageddon was won on Calvary. Think of it, dear heart, and remember it sometimes.”*

The pressure is off. Your sin, even as a believer, will be defeated by resisting the temptation of life by your own effort and surrendering instead to the efforts of the Holy Spirit in you.

Surrender. Rely. Go through.

Thank the Lord…

We don’t have to fall short of the glory of God. By falling on Christ in the battle with sin, we fall on the glory of God Himself.

*The Simple Things of the Christian Life. Pg 45.

Submissions for this series’ conglomerate guest post are due October 30th! Excited!

Click HERE…old posts on sin are welcome too : )

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Overcome Failure Book Review

I’m one of those people who has regularly lived in fear of failure. Are you?

I’ve made too many decisions based on what I know I can do, not what I believe I should do. All too often, I shrink back from the ideas that excite me, even when I know the Lord is offering them. I refuse because I doubt I can succeed in fulfilling them.

My list of “almosts” but “might fail, better nots” is long.

What a blessing it has been in a recent season of growing in boldness to discover Ifeoma Samuel’s new book Overcome Failure.

Unique in style and informal, Overcome Failure has been to me like a series of pep-talks or letters from this lovely woman of God. Nearly every time I dive into the book I’m met with a God-timed phrase or passage from Scripture speaking directly to the fear of failure I’ve needed to face.

For example, on page 35, Ifeoma outlines one of the first reasons fear of failure triumphs over us: we hate to wait without a guarantee of the risk (or of anything!) being worthwhile.

“Only patient people can fully surrender. Are you one?” she says.

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My immediate answer is no. But isn’t she right?

We often surrender something to God only to find ourselves snatching it back when He takes longer than expected. If we don’t take it back, we often head right away from the foot of the cross to another thing we can pick up and cling to instead of simply being patient in waiting for what He desires to fill us with.

Picking up our lesser, safer options, we bypass God’s best for us because waiting to see if we might succeed is scary. But that’s where faith can swoop in and spare us.

As Ifeoma explains on page 7 and throughout the book:

Failure is not a monster to be afraid of. It only becomes a giant when we see it as such; however, when we embrace the hope God offers us, it becomes just another challenge that is brought down.

When God says He can work all things together for good, He even means our failures or potential failures. As He explains in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “His power is made perfect in weakness.”

God doesn’t need us to succeed for Him to succeed in His purposes for us and through us.

I hope that simple, essential lesson from Overcome Failure helps you grow in boldness, trust, and obedience in Christ the way it has me.

Thank you, Ifeoma, for the wise, personal, God-grounded talk on this touchy topic!

To learn more about Overcome Failure, click here.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

He’s Got the Battle If We’ve Got the Praise- The Word Works Series

If there’s anyone I know who is comfortable being uncomfortable, it’s Christine. I mean that in the best way. She’s always bravely sharing about the gritty, not-so-fun parts of life on Precepts and Life Preservers. But she also always bluntly calls us to come with her, nearer to Christ, and to the comfort He provides while stretching and convicting us. Be blessed by her words today.

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Life likes to bring along impossible battles, doesn’t it?

They span a variety of things that threaten our very faith, and our very purpose. Or at least, that’s how it feels.

Infertility. Chronic illness. Job loss. Depression. Divorce. Natural disasters. Oppression around the world.

Maybe you were like me this week, needing to get through something and you felt ill-equipped. Like it loomed over you, solid and imposing and you gathered what little battle gear you have knowing the enemy rolled its eyes at how futile your little pile of armor was.

But sometimes we need to change our definition of armor, of doing battle. After all, we have a Mighty King who thrives on conquering the impossible.

The Father has me camped out in the book of Joshua lately, and the timing is no coincidence. Joshua faces the impossible. Like, major impossibility at every turn.

He’s supposed to fill the shoes of one of the most compelling leaders ever. He’s supposed to get an entire nation of people to a new land inhabited by a people so fierce that they stop the entire bulk of Israelites in their tracks and have them considering going back to captivity. He’s supposed to devise a way to scale massive sets of walls built one atop the other while facing an army of defenders.

Impenetrable.

Impossible.

I love when the Almighty directs us to His Word and places us right where we might witness His provision span thousands of years. The same Jericho-provision given Joshua lays waiting for us right now.

We stare up at our own personal Jericho and wonder the best way to assess it, approach it, scale it, win it, own it.

What gear do I need? What kind of armor is going to make a difference? What’s my big plan, Stan?

We worry, we get ready to pass out, we become frantic, we’ll take advice from anyone, we despair, we become stubborn.

Meanwhile, He waits to complete the provision He’s already said is ours, if we’ll just follow His instruction so that we might witness His glory in all its fullness.

He waits for us to heed His instruction. And He waits for us to let Him do battle while we step into our only role.

To praise Him.

Yep. We get to praise.

Our weapon is lifting our voices and hearts.

Our armor is the victory declaration of His Provision.

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Your Promised Land that looms large? He has said it’s always been ours. We just have to step into it.

“Be strong and of good courage… do not cower. Do not heed your fears. Take the land I have given you to possess.”

Joshua 1:6, 7

And how do we take the land?

We lift victory-praise. We surround, we encircle our Jericho with shouts of His mighty faithfulness and glory. We shout with everything in us that He’s got this. We march and shout and sing and trumpet His goodness until He reaches a mighty hand beneath our battle ground and with one shake reduces it to rubble.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king, and its army. March around the city once, with all the armed men flanking the priests. Do this for six days. Have the seven priests carry trumpets of ram’s horns in front of the Ark of the Covenant. On the seventh day, march seven times around the city, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast, have the all the people give a long shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”
Joshua 6:2-5

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And do not for a moment think your praise will end your battle, beloved. Your praise itself does not bring your Jericho down.

Your praise is the proof that your God is about to bring your Jericho down!

“The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded all the people, ‘Shout!!! For the Lord has given you the city!”

-Joshua 6:16

He will reduce your Jericho, your battle, to rubble… to stepping stones that will take weary feet into the Promised Land.

How do we know we have this same promise?

The same hand that brought down Jericho is the same hand that shook Golgotha and rent the veil with His Son’s last breath. It’s the same hand that wrenched keys of death from our enemy and freed every captive. It’s the same hand that beckoned Christ from the tomb.

This is who faces our battles. That verse in 2 Chronicles 20:15 that says the battle is the Lord’s? It’s our truth for today, more so than ever.

Psalm 22:3 says the Lord inhabits the praises of His people.

Look at Acts 16 and see how praise created an opening for God to break shackles, open jail cells, even saved the jailer.

Psalm 149:5-9 says,

“Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds. May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them— this is the glory of all his faithful people. Praise the LORD.”

So weary friend, unsure about the looming impossible…

He excels at impossible.

And He’s got the battle if we’ve got the praise.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

What You’ll Find In a Stronghold

“The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble,

And He knows those who take refuge in Him.”

Nahum 1:7

A refuge, by itself, is a place that offers sanctuary and safety. It is a figurative expression in Scripture describing God as our security. He offers us a place that we can retreat to for peace, quiet, and renewal.

Further, He is our stronghold.

A form of a refuge, a stronghold is a fortress. When we retreat to our stronghold, we go to this one true God:

He Is Battle-Ready

In David’s war days, He and His enemies had strongholds. These fortresses were the places they would all run to when the battle became thick. There, weapons and rations were stashed. Strongholds are battle-ready. When enemies attack, regardless of how ruthlessly, a stronghold is a safe place to go and continue the battle.

Our stronghold, our God, is just as battle-ready. And He is the victory.

He Has the Provisions for a Seige

Holding out in a fortress during battle does not work out so well if the stronghold is empty. We need provisions as we wait out the siege. Sustenance, nourishment, company…hope.

The Lord provides all that we need- even when we’re preserving through a ruthless attack. Even when we’re waiting out hardship.

He Is Our Defense

More than a place, a stronghold was a strategy: a defense. Strong and made with solid material like rock, fortresses are designed to keep trouble out. The strongholds we read about in the Bible, especially those that guarded David, were no exception.

Our stronghold is big enough and strong enough to be a living shield. Though at times oppressed and attacked, those who take refuge in the stronghold their God will be delivered.

He is our strong-hold: the strong one holding us in times of trouble and battle.

“He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.”

Psalm 144:2

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus and #LifeGivingLinkup.

24. BEHOLD: The Merry

Merry Christmas Eve! Have the festivities begun? Are you making merry? Do you know what “merry” is all about?

The dictionary tells us:

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Scripture also uses the word.

we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead,

and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

Luke 15:32

The Greek word for “merry” is “euphrainó.” Interestingly enough, in its definition, alongside have a cheery outlook and being glad, is the idea that merriment is the kind of gladness that comes because of a sense of victory. Within the definition of merriment is also the word feast.

“All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.”

-Proverbs 15:15

Merriment is like having a feast before you. The cheery outlook of being merry is the perspective of seeing not just the glass full, but the whole table!

Is there not a sense of victory in that alone? Everything before you is full, abundant, enticing. The fullness of the table ahead offers certainty that you, too, will be full.

Anyone who has prepared a feast or attended one knows the delight and warmth of a full table. Especially one full of food and loved ones. That’s the sort of celebration thrown all throughout history when a victory is had.

At Christmas, we gather around our tables, our trees, and our trays of cookies. We gather with loved ones. We gather to revel in and celebrate the full victory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Born a king. Born victorious. Sin and death never stood a chance –not even before the least of these, a newborn baby.

The Lord uses the weak and the little to triumph over the strength of the powers of evil. Through that victory, God uses this time of year to fill our hearts with the fullness of Christ and the assurance that we will filled in Him forever.

Behold, the victory of the Merry Christ.

Behold, the merriment born of the fullness of Christ with us.

Behold, the merry heart that looks on us as ones to share the feast and fullness with.

4. BEHOLD: The Victor

A downside of the Christmas season for many of us is the tensions that arise. Wars fought in families surface and emerge during holiday celebrations. Emotions are heightened as a “perfect Christmas” backdrop stands in stark contrast to what many actually face.

Culture wars are waged over the different types of celebrations (and holidays) that people participate in. The lonely and the bitter often enter into battle with those around them who are caught up in what seems unrealistic or unfair joy. A spirit of competition arise in stores buying presents. There are even wars in our hearts over jealousy and greed.

Ironic, almost, that during the season of peace so many of us are so often at war. Even moreso, that we enter into battle while celebrating the birth of the victor. Christ reigns victorious.

When we think of Him coming as a boy, we picture a peaceful baby and a peaceful manger scene. But in fact the war was won through that baby. His arrival was a declaration of war to the enemy. And He came, in His words,

not bringing peace, but a sword

Matthew 10:34

We read that, and then we read:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace.”

Ephesians 2:13-14

The one who is victorious, even over death, is also peace Himself. The sword and the peace are bound up together. The good news for us is that the sword He brought and the peace He is have won.

Through the battles we fight during Christmas time, we do well to remember that. He came as righteousness, piercing the soul and dividing right from wrong perfectly. He also came as our peace.

He’s won the war that engulfs all others –even our family battles, even our cultural tensions, even the sin in our hearts. That picture of peace reigns victorious.

Behold, peace Himself and the sword He brings.

Behold, our commander in every battle.

Behold, the victor who has won the war and leads into new life forevermore!

The Battlefield of the Heart is the Lord’s

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Oh, that her heart would change. That his heart would turn from bitterness to joy. Even that my own heart would be more patient. I try. We try. But we come to the battle with no weapons save our own will.

Paul knows a thing or two about how effective a weapon our wills are:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15.)

When it comes to matters of our hearts, the battlefield is the Lord’s alone.

There is nothing in our flesh able to defeat the power of sin. Nothing in us can be nurtured to overcome our sinful natures. Indeed, our inclination towards sin makes our efforts to eradicate our sinfulness futile.

Even when we win, we lose. Even when our wills triumph over that one sin, another must take root. To beat out impatience, we use pride. To defeat our sense of discontentment, we turn to worldly comforts like gluttony. Fighting the battles of the heart on our own leaves us lost in thick of it, swapping out old battles for new battles.

To win battles of the heart, the Lord has to be in command. His power must slay our sin. And His Spirit must stand in its place and restrain us from fleeing after the enemy again.

Beyond the battles of our own hearts, this is true for those we love. I can’t speak for you, but I can say myself that I’ve tried to free others’ hearts from tyrannical sins…unsuccessfully.

I’ve tried to reason with loved ones’ crushed by doubt and disappointment. Upon seeing other stumble into sins of indifference or apathy towards the Lord, I’ve charged in, Bible waving. It’s hard to see others at war in their hearts –especially when they are losing.

But, just as I can’t win against my own flesh, I also can’t win against theirs. I can’t change her heart or heal his anymore than I can manufacture true patience from my own filth.

Isn’t Christ’s coming clear? “The battle is not yours, but God’s.” Though we are to fight the good fight of faith, it’s fought in the Spirit, on our knees, as followers of the one who the victory belongs to. That victory is His because the war is His. He’s the only one who could win it. It remains true.

When our hearts can find no peace from the wars waged inside, we must step back from the front lines and let the Lord fight for us. When our loved ones are locked in a stalemate with themselves, we must first call on the Lord to end the war.

We’ll all lose. And that’s how we’ll win.

He shares the victory. He knows what’s best. He made the heart, and He’s made it anew. When we race to put our wills’ to work and our rationale into force against theirs’, we rush into wars that we can’t win.

Clear the battlefield, my friends, our victory is ready. (tweet this!)

There is no heart He cannot reach, and we do better in the trenches of triage, where lies the true fight of faith.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, #DanceWithJesus, and #LifeGivingLinkup.