You can have a zeal for God, and yet not be saved.

zeal

There is one verse in the Bible that terrifies most Christians, and that is this:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

– Matt 7.21-23

Jesus declared that there are many, many – not just some, who will think that they are saved, who will have preformed miracles in the name of Jesus and cast out demons in His name, but who never were saved and will not be allowed to enter into eternity with Him.  If you have any concept of Hell, or a desire to spend eternity with Jesus, then this is a terrifying reality.  Paul, likewise, has a unique prayer in his musings over the Jewish people:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.  For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.

– Rom 10.1-2

Zeal is a good thing.  We should all seek to be passionate about God.  John tells us that anyone who is lukewarm will be “spit out” as it were,

“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

– Rev 3.16

and Paul goes on to say in Romans,

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

– Rom 12.10-13

Most importantly, Jesus taught us (directly from the Old Testament) that we should,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

– Matt 22.37

But how can it be that the Jews were zealous for God and yet were not saved?  How can it be that some people will preform miracles and cast out demons in the name of Jesus and not be saved?  Paul gives us the answer in his very sentiment,

“For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”

– Rom 10.2

They were zealous for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.  Now, we all know the warnings about knowledge, that it puffs up (1 Cor 8.1) and that knowledge alone cannot save.  It must be utilized by wisdom in order to be effective in the heart of believers and in the world, but we must beware that we do not throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater in trying to stay humble and meek.  Knowledge is not only good, it is essential to knowing God.

Consider this:  God gave us a book which tells us about His direct activity in the world throughout history, it tell us about His heart, His thoughts, His intentions and His plan for salvation.  He sovereignly oversaw the writing of it, the preservation of it, and the translation of it so that we can all have access to His spoken words, His actions, and His offer of forgiveness.  Do you not think that He intends for us to read it and know it?  If you wrote a letter to your spouse or best friend pouring out your heart, would you be hurt if they just left it partially read?  God intends for us to know that which He has revealed about Himself.  And He has revealed Himself in the Scripture.  You cannot know the heart of God unless you know the Scripture.

There is a praise song that is growing in popularity these days called “Good, Good Father”, and the first verse goes like this:

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like.
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night.
And You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone.
Notice the lack of logic in this sentiment.  “I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like” – everyone has their own opinion of who God is and how He acts.  But instead of opening up the Scripture to find how God describes Himself, the author says, “But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night”.  He relies on his own experience and his own zeal.

It is not good enough to sit back on our haunches and say, “you’re wrong and I’m right”, or “the God serve is like this…”.  We must turn to the Scripture and know, “This is who God says He is, and this is what God says He thinks and does”.  Yes, God is a good father.  He is the best father.  He is the only Heavenly and eternal father.  But to know Him we must know His word, we must have knowledge of Him.  Otherwise we can facilitate a zeal that is of one who is unsaved.  It is a zeal for a name of a person that we do not know.

Therefore we can understand that this knowledge is not an academic knowledge only, it is a relational knowledge.  It is abiding in Christ, remaining in Him.  It is getting to know God by learning what He has to say about himself and reveling in it, rejoicing in it, letting the Spirit mold and change who we are by soaking in it.  It’s like the old adage,

Garbage in, garbage out.

If we soak in Christ, if we renew our minds in the Scripture and meditate on it, if we remain in Christ, then Christ and Scripture will come out.  If we remain in Christ, He will produce the fruit through us.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

– John 15.4-5

John Owen taught us that to remain in Christ means friendship:

“Christ is our best friend, and ere long will be our only friend. I pray God with all my heart that I may be weary of everything else but converse and communion with Him.”

and

“Mutual communion is the soul of all true friendship and a familiar converse with a friend hath the greatest sweetness in it…[so] besides the common tribute of daily worship you owe to [God], take occasion to come into his presence on purpose to have communion with Him.  This is truly friendly, for friendship is most maintained and kept up by visits; and these, the more free and less occasioned by urgent business…they are, the more friendly they are…We use to check our friends with this upbraiding, you still [always] come when you have some business, but when will you come to see me?…When thou comest into his presence, be telling him still how well thou lovest him; labour to abound in expressions of that kind, than which…there is nothing more taking with the heart of any friend…”

God intends for us to know Him, and He gave us an entire book to be able to do so.  We cannot have a true and real passion or zeal for God unless we know Him and remain in Him.  Thus we must seek to know His word, and by learning what He has to say about Himself, we naturally develop zeal for Him, for His reputation, for making Him known, and He will flow out of our hearts and minds as we live our daily lives.  We maintain this friendship by coming to Him in prayer and “visits” as Owen says.  Not just in crises or on business.  But to commune.  To talk.  To worship.  To adore.  To praise.

Let us be zealous.  But let it be rooted in knowledge.  So that we will not find ourselves amongst the many who never knew Him.  Visit Him today, spend time with Him today, invest in your friendship outside of business and an urgent need.  Read His word, learn who He reveals Himself to be, and pray back to Him how amazed, thankful, scared, thankful you are – or whatever response you have to His word.  Get to know Him a little more today.

Are you hungry?

bread

As the phenomenon of “praise and worship” has erupted and been integrated into our worship services over the last thirty years, a myriad of choruses have been written.  Some of these choruses are heartfelt cries and beautiful melodies to the Lord, and some are just downright terrible – as in any genre of music.  But throughout the years there has been a periodic theme of spiritual hunger and thirst.  The sentiment in music, in poems, in Spiritual understanding, tends to go something like this:

Hungry I come to you for I know you satisfy,
I am empty but I know your love does not run dry.
So I wait for you…

Jesus taught us in the beatitudes,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

 – Matt 5.6

However, and more importantly, Jesus taught us that a Spiritual hunger is one that is and can be satisfied,

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”  Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.

– John 6.32-35

Jesus proclaimed that He, Himself, was the bread of life and that anyone who comes to Him and “eats His flesh” will never be hungry again (John 6.56).  The Jews were remembering the history of the Hebrew people.  When Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt, they were punished for making an idol in the form of a calf and worshiping it.  The punishment was 40 years of wandering in the desert and none of the living adults during the time of the idolatry were allowed to enter into the promised land.  God did, however, take care of them while they were in the wilderness and He fed them bread from Heaven every day.  Manna.  For forty years God sent them bread, every. single. day.

So the Jews were testing Jesus.  Jesus had fed five thousand of them bread and fish, and they wanted Jesus to provide physical food for them just like God had through Moses, but Jesus proclaimed Himself to be a better bread:  all satisfying, and Spiritual bread.

When we come to Jesus for salvation, we are made into a new creation.  We are given a new heart.  We are satisfied Spiritually.  You will get to know Jesus better, but you will never have more or less of Him.  You might wander, and sin, and the Holy Spirit will convict you and draw you to repentance, but Jesus promises that when you come to Him, you will never thirst Spiritually again.  If you are hungry Spiritually, it is because you have not eaten of the bread of life.

Now, in the beatitudes, He does say that those who hunger for righteousness are blessed.  But this is a different type of hungering.  This is not a hunger for nourishment, this is a hunger for maturity and pleasing God.  We could paraphrase: blessed are those who come and are made new in Jesus and then strive, with everything in them to please Him, to honor Him, to be more like Him, to die to sin.  Do you long to be righteous?  Do you hunger to please God?

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”

– John 4.34

Does it fulfill you and satisfy you to do the will of God?  Jesus set the example of obedience and commitment to God’s will as His food.  He hungered and thirsted for righteousness, even though He is righteousness.  He was satisfied and sustained by following the plan and will of God the Father.  But Jesus was not Spiritually hungry.  Do you see the difference?

When we are in Jesus, we will not be Spiritually hungry.  We ought not be able to sing songs that say, “hungry I come to you for I know you satisfy”.  We should abide in Christ.  We do not come to Jesus to get filled up and go out and about life on our own, depleting our nourishment.  We remain in Him, and He satisfied us always.  If you are not Spiritually satisfied, then you are not in Jesus.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”

– John 15.4-6

Branches continually derive nourishment from the vine. Branches do not tap in to get a drink and then break off from the vine.  We are not cars that need to be gassed up every 400 miles, we are dependent and must remained attached to the source of life.

If you live your life on a “come in and get recharged” basis, reconsider your faith.  Ask Jesus to abide in you and to allow you to abide in Him.  Come to Him and be made new, be grafted in to the vine, and you will never hunger or thirst again, for nourishment.  But do hunger for righteousness!  Once you have been grafted in, strive to produce the fruit, strive to follow His example, hunger to please Him.

The Devil Memorizes Scripture

devil

It is always a difficult tension to know how much attention to give to the Devil.  Jesus is our Lord and we know that He has already defeated the Devil and Death and we want to spend our energies and time getting to know Jesus, letting His Word transform us and make us more holy, and not spend all of our time studying a defeated enemy.  At the same time, Satan is still the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4.4), the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2.2), and he is in his death throes, taking down as many people as he can with him.  On our own, Satan is infinitely more powerful than we are.  But we know that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4) and if we are in Christ we have overcome Him.

However.  We must not be ignorant to Him, His schemes and His abilities.  When we are young, we imagine the devil dressed up in a red suit with horns, a spiky tail and a trident.  He is mean, scheming, and his plans are obvious.  As we mature, fortunately, we begin to learn and realize that his ways are not always clear.  We learn that sin is fun and enjoyable for a season – otherwise no one would partake in it!  And we learn that Satan is clever to disguise himself in attractive ways.

Perhaps his most cunning deception, however, is a false assurance of salvation.  If he can convince people that morality leads to Heaven, if he can trick people into saying a “sinners prayer” but never repenting, then he has achieved the greatest trickery.  Few people would follow him in his ugliness to Hell, but many people are deceived by his lies and promises that ultimately lead to Hell.  And the way he can craft such a scheme is to know the Scriptures, to know the truth, and to twist them just enough to still sound promising but to be lies.

We see him try this very tactic with Jesus when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4.

“and [Satan] to [Jesus], “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command His angels concerning you’;
and
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone..’”

– Matt 4.6

Notice that Satan knew exactly who Jesus was.  He knew the Scriptural promises made to and about Him.  And He attempted to draw Jesus into sin by asking Him to prove Himself and to test God’s provision.  But Jesus, being God and knowing Scripture with belief, answered Satan with Scripture that led Him to obedience and to honor God.

Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”

– Matt 4.7

So what is the difference?  How do we know if people or Satan is using Scripture incorrectly?  How do we know if we are being obedient, if we are on the path to salvation, or if we are being deceived?  We have to have the Spirit living in us.  We have to be in the process of being transformed into His likeness.  His Word must abide in us.  Satan can memorize Scripture, but the Scripture does not abide in Him.

“I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”

– 1 John 2.14

If the Word of God is abiding in us, we have overcome the evil one.  We can discern the Spirits.  We understand when we are being tempted to use Scripture and God for our own sordid gain, and we understand when we are living lives that honor and glorify God.

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

– John 15.7

If we abide in Jesus and the Scripture abides in us, whatever we ask of Jesus will be done for us.  But He qualifies it in the previous chapter (14.13) that whatever is asked in His name will be done in order to glorify the Father.  If His word abides in us, we will ask and desire things that glorify the Father and when we ask them they will be fulfilled.  But memorizing the Scripture alone is not abiding.  The Pharisees had Scripture memorized and Jesus said that His words found no place in them (John 8.37).

“You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.

– John 5.38

We must believe.  We must be transformed by the Word.  The Word gives life.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

– John 6.63

So let us be alert and aware.  Satan’s tactics are slimy and deceptive.  He knows the Scripture better than you or I ever will – because He has been around throughout the entirety of history and the writing of it!  He knew all of the major players.  He saw each book as it was written.  He knows it inside and out.  And He will try to use it to lead us astray.

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

– Matt 7.15

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

– 1 John 4.1

Let us be diligent students of the Word, let us test every teaching against the rest of Scripture, let us pray, let us petition God for wisdom and seek Him.  He is faithful to make clear to us His heart and ways if we only ask and abide in Him.

What does it mean to abide?

The beauty of Christianity is that in order to become a Christian, one must admit and realize that he is desperate and damned to an eternity of Hell (suffering, punishment, fire and brimstone) because of our sin, but Jesus offers us salvation through His perfect life, death and resurrection.  Jesus lived a life without sin and died and suffered our punishment in Hell so that we can be forgiven.  Jesus paid our debt so that we no loner owe anything.  He does not simply wipe away our sins or just let them slide by, He paid the penalty for us.  This exchange is what happens at the moment when we are “justified” – this term literally means, “Paid off”.  There is nothing we can do to pay off our debt, Jesus already did it, so we simply have to receive it.  But when we receive it God makes us into new creatures who are being transformed progressively more into the image of Christ.  We obey Him, in short.  But what impact does obedience have in the long run?

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

– John 15.4-6

Abide.  What in the world does that mean?  Every once in a while we hear someone call his house “my humble abode”.  The noun form of abide.  That is helpful:  a house.  A place where you live, where you reside, where you stay.  The Greek word here can reference time: in the sense of endurance.  It can also refer to place:  to stay put, to not wander off.  And it can lastly refer to a state of being:  to remain of constant character, to not change.   It is translated as “abide (61x), remain (16x), dwell (15x), continue (11x), tarry (9x), and endure (3x)”.  But I think the most helpful insight to the meaning of the word is the picture that Jesus paints explaining it:  He is the vine and we are the branches stemming from the vine.  We derive our nutrients from the vine to survive, we receive our support that holds us up from the vine.  We would wither and die without the vine.  So to abide in the vine would be to remain connected to it.  This would deal with time, place and state of being.

Remain in Jesus with your time.  Have your quiet times every morning, but pray continually.  Wash your mind with Scripture so that it is your first response to situations.  Have the testimony of Jesus and the testimony of what He has done in your life so fresh that situations remind you of Bible stories or your own encounters with Him.  Then the bridges are natural!  Soak in Him, in His word, in praise, worship and prayer with Him.

Remain in Jesus temporally.  No, I do not mean go to church and never leave.  I mean establish yourself in such a way that your home, your office and those physical places you go you are able to focus on Him and rest in Him.  Do not go places that by their very nature disrespect God, or that lead you to wander from Him in your heart or mind.

But the foundation of it all is to remain in Jesus in your state of being:  your character.  We will be sanctified (made more like Jesus) throughout our lifetimes, if we keep studying His word, praying and getting to know Him.  Our character should be transformed into the character of Jesus.  What does that look like?  This is where obedience comes in:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.  Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.  This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do what I command you.”

– John 15.7-14

Notice that Jesus says that bearing fruit is the proof of our discipleship.  We do not earn our role as disciples by obeying, but we prove our discipleship through obedience.  And it is our fruit bearing that glorifies God!  Jesus did not earn God’s love by keeping His commandments, He proved that He loved (and ultimately that He is God) by keeping His commandments.  And the branches that are not connected to the vine are kindling for the fire and thrown into the fire.

What, then, is the fruit?  Growing up in a evangelism oriented Church, “just get them in the door” was our motto, I misunderstood “fruit” to be new believers.  But Scripture is clear on the definition of the fruit that God demands and offers:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

– Gal 5.22-23

If we remain in Jesus, if we soak Him up in our minds, in our hearts and with our time and energy, the result will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  It is by exemplifying these characteristics and keeping the commands of Jesus that we prove to be His disciples.  And if we abide in Jesus we will exemplify these traits.  Do you want to test yourself and examine your faith?  Just ask yourself if your friends would describe you with those words.  Do you keep Jesus commands?

You will not earn your salvation by obeying the biggies.  You will also not earn your salvation by exemplifying love, joy, peace, etc.  But you can be assured of your salvation when Jesus enables you and transforms you into that person.  It is not believers who are cast into the fire to be burned up, it is those who do not abide in Him.  Those branches that are not connected to the vine, receiving nutrients, support and strength.  Remain in Him today.

vine-and-branches

The Daughter of a Biker

I have mentioned before that I ride a motorcycle.  It is my favorite means of transportation, and weather permitting, I ride it to work every day!

A few weeks ago, I had some volunteers come to work with me at the office.  I had ridden my bike, and we all left at the same time.  The next day one of the volunteers came in and wanted to chat about the bike.  I told him that I had grown up riding behind my dad and he replied, “I could tell you were the daughter of a biker by the way you drove off”.

That is a huge compliment because I love my father and consider it an honor to be compared to him or affirmed in likeliness to him.  And he rides his Harley well, so I am honored to be considered accomplished if I were to ever ride like him.

This, of course, got me thinking.  Do I live my life in such a way that makes people think, “That girl is a daughter of God”?

Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

– John 15.4-8

I reflect regularly on the admonitions to do everything to the honor and glory of God:  eating, sleeping, talking, working, playing, etc. (1 Cor 10.31, Col 3.17).  And if Jesus’ words here are true, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” that honors or glorifies God, then we must live completely in and through him.  And because “whatever is not from faith is sin”, we must act in faith always (Rom 14.23).

So does our acting in faith make us visibly like God, such that one recognizes we are Christians?  Do people know that you are a Christian by your love (John 13.35)?

Remember who you are.  Remember whose you are.  And act like it.

Let it be known that you are a child of God.

New routes are good for the mind

I have mentioned before that I like to run.  Most runners would tell you that there comes a point when your body is physically fit that running is mostly mental.

I couldn’t agree more.

I am training to run a half marathon.  For months I was in the habit of running seven miles three to four times a week.  Then I got sick.  I had this terrible bug in my chest, to the point that I was coughing up blood.  Once I got better, I fell into the habit of only running three to five miles, and one time I set out to run my seven mile loop and just quit part of the way through.  I had run that route a gazillion times, but for some reason I mentally believed that I could not do it anymore.

The training requires one long run per week, and each week you add one mile.  Three weeks ago I went on a retreat with my church.  It was the week that required a seven mile run, so one morning I set out on uncharted roads.  I felt like a million bucks!  This week it was the nine mile run.  I haven’t run nine miles in three months, but I was out with friends and so after breakfast with them, I took off in a new part of town.  I did not know where I was going, just knew that I needed to run for an hour and twenty minutes or so.  I was looking at the scenery, guessing where I was and experiencing new terrain: a lot more hills than I am used to!  But I only glanced at my watch a few times!  Nine miles rolled by.

However, that seven mile loop still haunts me.  Just thinking about it makes me tired.  It will take a serious act of willpower to run it again, and I don’t know that I care to run it again.  I despise that route.

What does all of this have to do with anything?

It has to do with our personal weaknesses.  Sin.  Those things into which we have fallen and towards which we build up an immunity and callousness.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

– Heb 12.1-2

Yes, this is the normal “runner’s verse” which paints the analogy of our Spiritual life with the necessity of endurance.  And while it conveniently links to my thoughts that were birthed through my run, it also speaks specifically to the mindful nature required to lay aside sin that so easily entangles us.  Each of us has a besetting sin, or a litany of besetting sins.  One person’s might be stealing, another’s might be lying.  Some people drink to drunkenness and some are serial adulterers.

Scripture says that God has written His law on the heart of every human being and thus our conscience knows if we are breaking His statutes (Rom 2.15).  The first time we sin, their is a conscious awareness of it, but sin tastes good.  It feels good.  We do not usually go in kicking and screaming saying “NO!  I do not want to do this!”  It is alluring and enjoyable.  But once we give in once, the hardness begins to set in to our hearts and we long for more.  After having passed a test without learning the material but cheated, one’s disciple to study is minimized and the “easy A” is quite appealing.  Once a person is sexually active, reverting to abstinence is extremely more difficult than for a person who has never had intercourse outside of marriage.  If one is accustomed to extra income from embezzling his company, the pay cut to honesty is quite near impossible!

Once you quit on that route, pushing through to the finish line is mentally exhausting.

So what is the answer?  How does one “lay aside the sin that so easily entangles us and run with endurance the race that is set before us”?  Accountability is the key.  Confessing our sins to God and to one another.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

– James 5.17

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

– 1 John 1.9

We need to admit our besetting sins and ask for help.  If we confess our sins, He will forgive us.  And when we pray for one another, lifting one another before the Lord and asking for help to change, He promises to change us!  The James verse is often only quoted in part.  People exalt the power of prayer but leave out the context that it is dealing specifically with sin and righteousness.

As we pray and “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb 10.24), holding each other accountable, we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit because:

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

– John 15.5

My mentor likes to say that we need to align our hearts and minds with God’s statutes.  Agree with Him about what He calls sin.  Confess those sins into which we fall, and work with all of our hearts, strength and minds to fight against those sins, asking Him for the strength to honor Him with our lives.  Then, there is a responsibility that God has to complete the work that He has begun within us:

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

– Phil 1.6

Once you have done everything that you can do, everything that you know to do, leave it in His care.  Expect Him to work, to change us.

So in those moments where we are at our weakest, let us run new routes.  Completely avoid the temptation.  He will give us strength and we might find that other sins are not as alluring!  There may come a day when we can run the path on which you have fallen or quit, in the strength of the Lord, to defeat the sin and run through to the finish line.  But until that day comes, let us run in the endurance that He has given us to run new routes.  Routes of holiness.  Laying aside besetting sin and glorifying God with our lives.