Wednesday, May 7, 2014

We're Not Under the Law of Moses

The Old City of Jerusalem

Last time, we started by observing the Biblical truth that as Christians we are not under the Law of Moses.  This is stated clearly many times in the Bible (“For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace,” Rom. 6:14; also Gal. 5:18, etc.).  But as we saw, many Christians have misunderstood this saying, and in part due to a history of anti-Semitism in the Church, they think that this means the Law is bad or even evil, and that Jesus came to set us free from this evil Law.

But in fact, as we saw, the Bible, including Paul himself, has a very positive view of the Law:  it is holy, it is good, it is spiritual (“The Law is holy and the commandment is holy and righteous and good,” Rom. 7:12; “For we know that the Law is spiritual…” Rom. 7:14).  The Law has a very important role to play in the world, both in the past and in the present.

That’s why Jesus said it would not pass away until the heavens and the earth pass away (“For ‘Amen’ I say to you, until the heaven and the earth pass away, a single iota or a single stroke will certainly not pass away from the Law until all comes to pass,” Matt. 5:18).  The Law continues to point to Jesus as the Messiah, it continues to reveal sin and reveal our need of a Savior, it continues to identify who Jesus is through his fulfilling the Law.

The problem with the Law is not a problem with the Law itself, but with sin.  Because Law is what reveals sin to us.  “Through the Law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).  Or as it says in Romans 7:7: “What, then, will we say?  Is the Law sin?  May it never be!  Rather I did not come to recognize sin except through law, for I would not know coveting unless the Law said, ‘Do not covet.’”

But sin takes advantage of this to kill us.  “But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead” (Rom. 7:8). There is no disobedience where there is no commandment.  But where there is a commandment, there is disobedience.  “And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me” (Rom. 7:9,10).  The problem was not the Law itself, which is intended to bring life, but the sin in me that was aroused by the Law.

This is where Paul says:  “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.  Therefore did that which is good [the Law] become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” (Rom. 7:12-13).  The Law does not produce spiritual death.  The Law is good.  But sin uses the Law to deceive us into sinning.  And this reveals how truly terrible and awful sin is, because it produces spiritual death in us.  In this way, the Law reveals who our true enemy is.

Now we have to remember when Paul is talking like this about the Law, that he is speaking about his experience as a religious Jew under the Law.  This is, in fact, exactly what he says in Romans 7:1: “for I speak to those who know the Law…”  In other words, in this part of his letter, he was addressing the Jewish believers in the congregation at Rome.

We who are Gentiles are in a different position with regard to the Law than the Jews.  Because as we saw last time, we Gentiles were never under the Law of Moses.  This is why Paul in Romans addresses two different groups:  one under the Law, one not under the Law (“For as many as have sinned without the Law [Gentiles] will also  perish without the Law; and as many as have sinned under the Law [Jews] will be judged by the Law,” Rom. 2:12).  The Law of Moses is a law for the Jewish people.

Of course, as we saw last time, there are a few laws in the Law of Moses that are for Gentiles, but this was for Gentiles living among the Jewish people.  Otherwise, the Law is only for the Jews.  But this doesn’t mean that there is no law of any kind for Gentiles.  God has also revealed himself to Gentiles.  How?  Through the Creation.

Paul describes this in Rom. 1:19,20:  “Because that which is known about God is plainly to be seen in them, for God made it known to them.  For since the Creation of the universe, his invisible attributes, both his eternal power and divinity, have been perceived, being understood through the things he made, so that they are without excuse.”  What is this talking about?  That much about God can be understood through what he has made.

There is evidence all over the Creation for who God is and what he is like:  evidence of his power and divinity, as well as his love of order and purpose.  Today, for example, DNA is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that all creatures have been designed by God, because of the incredible amount of ordered information it contains:  the code of life.  Information, by its very nature, cannot evolve.  It can degrade and change.  But new structured information cannot be produced by chance.  It can only come from a mind, from an intelligence.  This is the result of many years of research in the new area of Information Theory.

But even in ancient times, people saw order and God’s power in the heavens and the seasons, in the amazing intricacies of the biological world.  Another strong piece of evidence today is human consciousness, which modern science cannot even begin to explain.  Why are we aware?  And how can we be aware that we’re aware?  The evidence from experimental physics shows that consciousness is not a byproduct of biology, but a fundamental property of the universe.  This comes from Quantum Physics, in which conscious intention alters experimental results.  These discoveries are just blowing away naturalistic theories of the universe.  Maybe another time, we can talk about these things in more detail.

But the point that Paul is making here in Romans 1 is that when people rejected the revelation of God in the Creation, they fell into sin.  What kinds of sin does Paul mention here?  First, he mentions idolatry (“Claiming to be wise, they became foolish, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man and of birds and of four-footed animals and of crawling creatures,” Rom. 1:22-23).  Today, this is the deception of Evolution, with all its idolatrous statues in the modern temples they call Natural History Museums or Science Museums, where people are awed into silence with the mantra of millions and billions of years.  Instead of God as our creator, they hold up pond scum, monkeys, and the god of Chance as our creators, corruptible things instead of the glory of God, despite all the clear evidence against these impossible fantasies.

Second, Paul mentions sexual immorality (“Because of which God gave them over in the passions of their hearts to uncleanness, to dishonor their bodies among them, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the one who created, who is blessed forever.  Amen,” Rom. 1:24-25).  And then after this he goes on to talk about a depraved mind.

It’s interesting that Paul highlights here two of the three greatest sins from the point of view of the Bible and Judaism (sometimes called the Cardinal Sins of Judaism), the sins for which you should rather die than commit them:  idolatry and sexual immorality.  The third one, murder, he includes in his discussion of a depraved mind (Rom. 1:29).

But then he goes on to say, speaking of the Gentiles:  vs. 32:  “who having known the requirement of God that those doing such things are worthy of death, not only do these things, but also approve of those who do them.”  Wait a minute.  How did Gentiles, who are not under the Law of Moses, know about a requirement to avoid such things?  How did they know that they were worthy of death?  Who told them?  What requirement is God talking about that people knew that forbid idolatry, sexual immorality, and these other things?  Does it remind you of anything from last week?

The Laws of Noah, or what the Church Fathers called the Natural Law.  These are the laws for all mankind, including the Gentiles.  Where did they come from?  The covenant that God made with Noah and with all his descendants.  Are you a descendant of Noah?  Then you’re included.  These are the laws that governed all humanity from the time of Noah until the time of Moses—and right up until today.

You may never have heard of them before, but the U.S. Congress has:  The Seven Laws of Noah were recognized by the United States Congress in the preamble to a 1991 bill:  “Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great Nation was founded; Whereas these ethical values and principles have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws.”

So when the Bible says that Abraham was faithful in all the law of God (“because Abraham obeyed me and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws," Gen. 26:5)—which was hundreds of years before the time of Moses—what’s this talking about?  The Laws of Noah, as well as the things that God revealed directly to Abraham—which as Paul is quick to point out was not just after he was circumcised, but also before he was circumcised.

This is why Abraham is the father both of the circumcision (the Jews) and the uncircumcision (Gentiles).  Abraham himself was originally a Gentile, the first convert to Judaism.  But even then, he didn’t have all the Law of Moses that would come later.  Neither did Isaac, or Jacob, or Joseph.  But Joseph knew that sleeping with Potiphar’s wife was a sin.  How did he know?  The Laws of Noah.

In Genesis 9, which talks about God’s covenant with Noah, only three laws are listed.  What are they?  Anyone remember from last week?  First, be fruitful and multiply (“And God blessed Noah and his sons and he said to them, ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth,’” Gen. 9:1).  Then, that we can eat animals, but not blood (“Every moving thing that is alive will be food for you; as the green plants, I have given them all to you.  But surely flesh with its life, its blood, you will not eat,” Gen. 9:3,4).  Then, no murder, and that the penalty for murder is death (“And surely your blood for your lives I will require; from the hand of every living thing I will require it, and from the hand of man, from the hand of every man’s brother, I will require the life of man. The one spilling the blood of man by man his blood will be spilled, for in the image of God has he made man,” Gen. 9:5,6).

But that’s only three.  So where did the other Laws of Noah come from (no idolatry, no adultery, no theft, and no blasphemy) ?  The rabbis trace them not only to Noah, but also back to Adam and Eve.  In fact, they claim that all seven laws are taught in one verse, Genesis 2:16: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From every tree of the garden you may surely eat.’”  For example, they say that the mention of “the LORD,” using the personal name of God in Hebrew, means no blasphemy (as in Lev. 24:16).  The mention of “God” means that he is your God, so you will have no others, which implies no idolatry (as in Exo. 20:3).  That he “commanded” refers to the establishment of authority, including courts of law.  Mention of “the man” implies no murder, etc.  But you can also find these things much more easily in other places.

For example, the prohibition of adultery is taught in Gen. 2:23,24, when God brought Eve to Adam and he said:  “‘This time it’s bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, because this one was taken out of man.’  That is why a man will leave his father and his mother, and will stick to his wife; and they will be one flesh.”  That he should “stick to his wife” implies that he should stick to her and not to any other, in other words, no adultery.  When God forbid them to take and eat from the tree of knowledge, that was teaching them not to steal.  When God punished Cain when he murdered his brother Abel, that taught that we should not murder.  And so on.

But in more recent history, the Laws of Noah should probably be traced, as we saw last week, to the laws addressed to the Gentiles living among the Jews in the Law of Moses.  These include the laws that the apostles required of Gentile Christians in the Council of Acts 15: “But that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what is strangled and from blood” (Acts 15:20).  Why didn’t the apostles include all seven of the Laws of Noah?  Perhaps because the Romans already prohibited murder and robbery, and had courts of justice.

The Laws of Noah are still taught by the rabbis today.  If you obey them, you are considered a “righteous Gentile.”  In New Testament times, they were called Godfearers, or Fearers of Heaven (Yirai Shamayim) in Hebrew.  The importance of this group can be seen even in some of the Psalms we read at Passover.  For example, Psalm 115 says:   “He will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless those who fear the LORD, the small together with the great” (Psalm 115:12-13).  The house of Israel are the Israelites, the Jewish people.  The house of Aaron are the priests.  So who are those who fear the Lord?  Godfearing Gentiles.

Or as it says in Psalm 118:  “Oh let Israel say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ Oh let the house of Aaron say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ Oh let those who fear the LORD say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting’” (Psa. 118:2-4).  “Israel” is the Israelites, the Jewish people.  The house of Aaron is the priests.  Those who fear the Lord are godfearing Gentiles.

The Laws of Noah are why we obey the Ten Commandments.  As we saw last week, we Gentile believers do not obey the Ten Commandments because they are in Exodus and Deuteronomy.  That’s the Law of Moses; for the Jewish people and not for us.  But we obey most of them because they were first given to all mankind in the Laws of Noah.  The others—do not covet, honor your mother and father, etc.—are repeated in the New Testament, and so we obey them because of that.  What’s the only one not required for Gentiles?  Observing the Sabbath.

But it’s not only Gentile believers in Jesus that are not under the Law of Moses.  It’s also Jewish believers!  Paul, who was a Jewish believer, said that he, too, was not under the Law of Moses:  “And I became to the Jews as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those under the Law as under the Law, not being myself under the Law, in order that I might win those under the Law,” (1 Cor. 9:20).  Why did he obey the Law if he was not under the Law?

As we saw last time, Paul continued to obey the Jewish Law just as Jesus had done and the other disciples.  He continued to observe the Jewish feasts, he took Jewish vows.  When Paul arrived in Jerusalem after his third missionary journey, one of the brothers there told him, “You see, brother [Paul], how many tens of thousands among the Jews have believed and all are zealots for the Law” (Acts 21:20).  Many thousands were coming to faith in Jesus.  But he says that all of them were “zealots for the Law.”  All of them?  That includes Peter and Andrew, and James, John, and Philip.

“But they have been informed about you that you are teaching all the Jews among the nations (among the Gentiles) apostasy from Moses, saying not to circumcise their children or to live according to the customs (of the Jews)” (Acts 21:21).  The accusation had gone out that Paul was telling Jews not to obey the Law of Moses anymore, which is exactly what some people still say about him today.  Was it true?

The brother continued, “Therefore do this that we say to you:  we have four men who have taken a vow” (Acts 21:23).  What kind of vow was this?  The Jewish Nazirite vow, which is part of the Law of Moses in Numbers 6.  Here are more Jewish believers in Jesus obeying the Law of Moses.

“Take them and purify yourself with them and pay their expenses so that they can shave their heads, and all will know that there is nothing to the things they have been told about you, but that you, too, keep in line, observing the Law” (Acts 21:24).  To pay the expenses for the religious actions of others like this was considered a good religious thing to do.  So did Paul do it?  Did Paul follow the brother’s advice to show everyone that he was keeping the Law?

“Then Paul, having taken the men the next day and having been purified with them, was entering into the Temple, giving notice of the completion of their days of purification until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them” (Acts 21:26).  Yes.  Paul followed the brother’s advice.  He was ritually purified with the other men, which refers to taking ritual baths, two over the course of a week (see vs. 27), and then he was going to arrange a sacrifice for them and for himself, all in obedience to the Law of Moses.  Yes, Paul was keeping the Jewish Law.

So why did he say he was no longer “under the Law”?  Why did Jesus and the other disciples obey the Law?  And why do Messianic Jews today keep the Law?  How can they keep the Law, but at the same time say that they are not under it?

To understand this, we have to look a little more at the Jewish side of the Law.  Let’s start with Rom. 6:14:  “For sin will not be your lord, for you are not under Law, but under grace.”  What does this tell us about being under the Law?  First, if you’re under grace, which it says means that you are not under the Law, this means that sin is not your lord anymore.  Why?  Because you are living in victory over sin.  And if you’re in victory over sin, that means you’re not under the Law.  So not being under the Law means living in victory over sin.  Okay?  Now let’s flip that around.  If you are under Law, this means you’re not under grace, and that sin is still master over you.  This is obviously a very important point to Paul, because he spends an awful lot of time talking about it.

For example, in Rom. 6:1:  “What then will we say:  ‘Let us continue in sin that grace may increase’?”  This is what some people actually claimed he was teaching, both in Bible times and even still today.  ‘There’s no need to live a holy life.  Jesus is my Savior, so I can sin as much as I want without any problem.’  Or to put it a more theological way, ‘If justification is by faith alone, aren’t Christians free to sin as much as they want?’  Paul describes this same teaching in Rom. 3:8, “Let us do evil in order that good may come.”  What does he says of such a teaching? “Their condemnation is just” (Rom. 3:8), in other words, that people that believe such dangerous foolishness deserve condemnation.  They don’t understand the truth about sin at all.

So how does he answer the question, ‘Should we continue in sin as believers?’  Rom. 6:2:  “May it never be!  We who have died to sin, how can we still live in it?”  If you are dead to something, you are not still doing it.

As he says in Romans 6:3:  “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Messiah Jesus have been baptized into his death?”  What is baptism?  Going down under the water.  It’s a symbol of death.  But we don’t stay under the water:  “Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that as Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). We are raised up from that “death” to new lives in Messiah.

Romans 6:6: “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin;” Our sinful flesh is crucified on the cross with Jesus in order to get rid of our sinful body.  Why?  So we will no longer be slaves to sin.  That means we will no longer obey sin.  We will no longer obey the commands of sin.  Romans 6:7: “for he who has died is freed from sin.”

Can a dead man sin?  As the saying goes, ‘Dead men tell no tales.’  They can’t talk, they also can’t sin.  In fact, they can’t do anything.  Their flesh isn’t going anywhere.  Can a dead man blaspheme?  He can’t talk.  Can he murder?  He can’t move.  Can he lust?  He can’t see anything.  It’s pretty hard to get in trouble when you’re dead.

Romans 6:11,12: “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts.”  Don’t let sin rule your life anymore.  Don’t do what it says.

Romans 6:13:  “and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”  Don’t give over parts of yourself to sin:  your eyes, your hands, your legs…  What did Jesus say?  ”But if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you;  for it is better for you that one of your members be destroyed than that your whole body be thrown into Gehenna” (Matt. 5:29).  Rip it out and get rid of it!  Of course, hopefully, you can get it under control before it comes to that!  Why does Jesus talk like this?  Because it’s serious business!  What is Gehenna?  The Lake of Fire, eternal punishment after the final judgment.

Or again, he said:  “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of your members be destroyed than that your whole body go into Gehenna” (Matt. 5:30)  When you hear these words, what impression do you get of Jesus’ attitude toward sin?  ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, I died for you, it’s all taken care of.  You don’t have to worry about whether you sin or not anymore.’  That’s what some people teach.  But that’s not what Jesus said at all.

So how did Paul finish this section?  With the same verse we started with: “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).  Sin will not be your Lord.  Jesus is your Lord.  And Jesus said to cut it out—or cut it off.  Whew!

Not being under the Law means being a sinner no more.  We’re not under the Law because sin doesn’t rule over us anymore.  Law is for sinners, as Paul said to Timothy:  “realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,” (1 Tim. 1:9,10).  If you have quit sinning, if you have died to sin, you’re not under the Law anymore, because you’re not a sinner anymore.  You have fulfilled the Law.

That’s what it says in Rom. 8:4:  “In order that the requirement of the Law may be fulfilled in us who do not live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”  What is the requirement of the Law?  To live a holy life.  If you fulfill that, if you live a holy life, you are no longer under the Law.

So how come we still have sin in our lives sometimes?  Are you living in the flesh, or in the Spirit?  Romans 8:5: “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”  It all has to do with your inner life:  what you do with your mind.  Remember Jesus said, you have heard ‘don’t murder’; I say don’t get angry (Matt. 5:20,21).  You have heard ‘don’t commit adultery,’ I say don’t look with lust (Matt. 5:27,28).  The Law of Moses regulated your fleshly actions.  The Law of the Messiah regulates your thinking.

So how do we tell the difference between what is of the flesh and what is of the Spirit?  Gal. 5:19-21:  “But the deeds of the flesh are obvious, which are sexual immorality, impurity, lack of moral restraint, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, contention, jealousy, outbursts of anger, rivalry, dissensions, factions, feelings of envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and things like these, of which I warn you in advance, just as I have warned you before, that those doing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  These are things that will keep you out of the kingdom.  That’s very serious.

And what about the other side, the side of the Spirit?  Gal. 5:22,23:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no Law.”  Why is there no Law about these things?  Because the Law is for those who do bad things, who are in the flesh.  But these things are of the Spirit.  They’re for those who have escaped from sin.

Or as Philippians 4:8 says:  “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”  These are the things we’re supposed to set our minds on.

Romans 8:6-9:  “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Messiah, he does not belong to him.”

What is the Spirit of the Messiah?  The Holy Spirit.  He is holy, and he makes us holy.  This is what Jesus was all about:  living a holy life, a life totally different than the world.  He died that the Holy Spirit might come and dwell in us.  If we don’t understand this, and receive the Spirit of holiness, we don’t belong to Jesus.  If we promote lifestyles or a view of morality that is different than what the Bible teaches, we don’t belong to Jesus, no matter how many times we claim to be Christian.  Churches that promote their own views of morality, I’m sorry to say, are simply not part of the Body of Messiah.  They don’t have the Spirit of holiness, so they don’t belong to him, no matter how many times the word Christian appears in their name or in their literature.  Either you’re with Jesus or you’re against him.

Romans 8:10,11:  “And if Messiah is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Messiah Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who indwells you.

Rom. 8:12-13:  So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”   This is a very different vision than the “let go and let God” that so many people were preaching a few years ago.  This says that you are putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit.  You must be actively involved.  Jesus said to cut it off!  That’s a pretty active point of view.  It’s not just going to happen by itself.  Yes, God will help you.  But he won’t do it all for you.  You’ve got to decide.  You’ve got to act.

Rom. 8:14,15:  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’”  Those who are led by the Spirit, the Spirit of holiness, these are the sons of God.  We’re not slaves under the Law.  Why not?  Because we have been set free from sin, and so are no longer under the Law.  Instead, we have become sons—sons who understand and agree with the plans and purposes of the Father, just as Jesus did.  And so we cry out to God:  “Papa! Father!”

Rom. 8:16,17:  “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Messiah, if indeed we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”  We are heirs.  That means we will inherit everything from God.  But what’s this about suffering with him?  What does it mean to suffer with Messiah?  If you want to win the battle, you’ve got to fight the battle.  The Christian life is a battle between the flesh and the spirit.  We’ve got to fight.  And with God’s help, with his Spirit dwelling within us, we will win.

So what do we do if we sin?  “Brothers, also if a man is overtaken by any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of humility, watching yourself lest you, too, are tempted” (Gal. 6:1).  If we sin, it’s dangerous.  Something is broken and we need to be restored.  If it’s a serious sin, it can even lead to spiritual death. Though fortunately, as John tells us, not all sin leads to death (1 John 5:16,17).

So how can we be restored when we sin?  Through repentance.  Fortunately, Jesus is merciful.  He told Peter to forgive his brother if he sinned against him not just seven times, but seventy times seven.  How much more does our heavenly Father want to forgive us!  He wants to restore our relationship with him.  He wants us to escape from sin.  This means we’ve got to flee from sin.  The way this works best is to be quick to repent:  quick to repent to God, quick to repent to others when you sin.  Don’t run from God when you sin.  Flee from the devil instead and flee from sin, jump into the arms of God, and pour out your heart before the Lord.  He will receive you.  He wants you to have the victory.  He wants to pour out his Holy Spirit on you so you, too, can live a holy life of victory.  And then stay in the Spirit.  Cultivate spiritual thoughts.  Think on the things that are good.  Fill your life with the things of God.

Let’s come before the Lord right now in prayer.  Lord, we thank you so much that you’re a merciful God, and that you receive us when we repent of our sins before you.  We ask you to forgive us of our sins right now:  things we have done that were sin, and things we should have done and didn’t do, which are also sinful.  Lord, we are genuinely sorry for our sinful actions and thoughts.  Please forgive us.  Please cleanse us.  Please restore us to righteousness.  Please restore us to you.  And Lord, please strengthen our determination and give us wisdom to avoid those sins in the future.  We love you Lord.  Help us set our minds on the things of the Spirit, on what is good and honorable.  And increase our joy which is our strength.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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