God has made each of us different, but there is one thing that every human has in common, we were all born in sin into a sinful world. We have all succumbed to those fleshly desires that kept us from enjoying the freedom that Jesus died to purchase for us. When we have those thoughts that we might be better than others we need to be reminded that there was a time when we lived in ignorance of the goodness and the graciousness of God. Paul warns us in Romans not to think of ourselves as better than others.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. — Romans 12:3 NIV
In Philippians, Paul takes it a step further and advises us to put others and their interests above ourselves and our interests.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. –Phil. 2:3-4 NIV
If we practice doing this instead of being judgmental, we will be following the example that Jesus set for us. If we have this mindset and focus on the fact that the only difference in us and them is the grace that God has so generously given unto us, it will cause us to show those around us the same kind of grace and forgiveness that God has shown to us. That is a step toward being holy even as God is holy.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” — 1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV
We are saved by grace though faith and that is the only way anyone can be saved. Good works and good intentions cannot save us, only the grace of God. That is our belief, that is our hope. That hope is eternal based on the mercy and grace of God. We will not know the fullness of His grace and mercy until Jesus Christ returns in all of His glory to receive us into heaven. The eternal hope that we have through the grace of God should fill us with so much love for Jesus that we choose to remain obedient to His teachings and example. Our flesh desires to stay conformed to lusts and other evil desires. But now that we know those are displeasing to our Savior, we should attempt to “abstain from the very appearance of evil”. Is this a call for perfection? Yes. Will we attain perfection while we remain in this tent of flesh? No. But that does not excuse willful, deliberate sin nor is it an out for us to do whatever we desire and ask for forgiveness. Every moment of every day, we are making decisions. Those decisions will either lead us closer to Jesus or take us farther away from Jesus. Perfect? No. Forgiven? Yes. But we must determine at every moment whether or not we will press on toward our goal.13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. — Phil. 3:14,14 NIV
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
Paul is telling us not to live like ignorant and unconverted people do. They have not been regenerated and their minds are full of darkness. They do not walk in the light of the truth of the Gospel. Why? Because they have refused to heed the call of God’s Spirit and have refused to be obedient, so their hearts and minds are closed to any move by the Spirit. Therefore, they live only to satisfy the lusts of the flesh and they participate in all kinds of sinful activity. But we know better. Why? Because we have heard and accepted the Truth. So, we walk according to God’s Spirit. That means that we stop our sinful ways that were corrupted by lust and deception. We are now a new creature and we are guided by the Spirit of God. The real “us” that is carried around in these tents of flesh is being made into God’s image. We look forward to the day when we shall see Jesus. At that time, we will be totally converted into His image. “What a wonderful change in my heart has been wrought’ I’ve been washed by the blood of the Lamb.” Hallelujah and Amen!
Before we accepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we lived in spiritual bondage and darkness. Blinded by a veil of unbelief, we lived a lifestyle controlled by our fleshly desires. We thought we had the freedom to make the decisions for our lives when, in fact, we were being controlled by lusts, greed, emotions and every evil thing. We did not see those things as evil because we were spiritually blind. They were veiled by our own ignorance and the subtleties of the devil. Our daily lives were consumed by the great “I” , it was all about us. We spent our time and resources chasing after temporary pleasures and desperately seeking the next “high”. Those “highs’ could be the next drink, pill, sexual act or something as seemingly innocent as a shopping trip or a sports event. Whatever it took to give us that temporary pleasure, we did and thought we were happy. It was not until the Holy Spirit called us and opened our eyes to see the fallacy of short-term pleasures that we realized we needed and wanted something different. The Holy Spirit gave us the freedom to choose a different way of life and freed us from the bondage of “self”. He doesn’t ask us to change ourselves, He ask us for permission to allow Him to change us. It is then and only then, that we realize how badly we were blinded and bound. With the Spirit comes freedom. Freedom to become everything God has planned for us. Lead on, Holy Spirit, Lead on.
17 “Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance.18 But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things.19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. — Acts 3:17-20 NLT Acts 3:1-20
Except for Jesus, all humans were born with a sinful nature. We, including Jesus, were brought into a sinful world. Before the death and resurrection of Jesus, most of the people could use the excuse of ignorarnce of that fact as a reason not to accept His story. Even in today’s world of high tech and instant communications, there are still some who can legitmately say that they have never heard the name of Jesus. Although the Gospel has been preached in every country, it is believed that there are more than 6550 people groups that have never heard the gospel. There are even more groups who have heard the Gospel but don’t have established Christian organizations to witness to each and every one of the people. Even in our own country and in a lot of our own neighborhoods, there are those who may have heard the name of Jesus but have little or no idea of His story of eternal life. In 2014, the Pew Research Center survey determined that at least 37% of Americans are not “absolutely sure” that God exists. If you are not absolutely sure that God exists, it would be hard to say that you are a Christian. Could one of these 37% be our neighbor? There is a 1 in 3 chance that we have a neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus.
The fields are white with harvest! Pray that the Lord will send laborers into the fields.
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.—1 Cor. 4:14-17 NIV
Paul has not been trying to shame the Christians at Corinth, but rather his intention is to teach them as a Father would teach his children. He wants them to have a closer relationship with Christ and to do this, they are going to have to have a change of attitude. He tells them that although they may have legions of angels watching over them, they have only one Spiritual Father and that is himself. Spiritual parents are the people who prayed for us and brought us to repentance through the preaching and/or teaching of the Gospel. They have, as it were, birthed us into the Gospel. Then as our spiritual parents, they feel a great responsibility to teach us how to live a Holy lifestyle. So, Paul wants the Corinthians to imitate his lifestyle of humility and obedience. Paul has sent to them Timothy, who is his Spiritual son, to help them to stay on course. Paul is reminding them that he not only talks the talk but he walks the walk. Again, it is a message, not only to the Corinthians but to us today. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”-– 1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.–1 Timothy 1:12-14 (NLT)
We were all born as sinners into a sinful world. We all have sinned. Paul was a murderer of Christians, but God doesn’t have “little” sins and “big “sins”. He just sees sin. In the book of the Revelation, chapter 21, verse 8, we are told:
“But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Liars and those who participate in immoral acts are treated just as if they were murderers or idol worshipers. We all need to come to the same understanding that Paul did. We are saved by faith in God’s mercy and grace. He no longer remembers our sins of the past. He sees us as the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are “in” Christ Jesus. That is the mystery of the love and mercy of God. We are accepted by God because of the perfection of Jesus Christ and His obedience, even unto death on a cross. We should always be thankful, have joy in our hearts and a song of praise on our lips.