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We have two choices, satisfy the flesh or satisfy the Spirit.  The flesh can be satisfied in many ways: eating, drinking, sleeping, fornication, exercising, etc. which in and of themselves are not bad as long as they are done within limits.  The problem is that the more we focus on fulfilling our desires of the flesh, we will make less restrictions and will end up constrained to do whatever we have to in order to meet our craving.  The more you satisfy the flesh, you will continue to expect more and better satisfactions out of habit.  The Spirit can only be satisfied one way and that is to be still with God.  When you begin to satisfy the Spirit, you will find contentment and joy with all that you have in the flesh and will want deeper satisfactions for the Spirit.  What will you plan to satisfy when you wake up?  What will you feed while you are awake?  How will you feel before going to sleep? 

Romans 5:20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 6: “12 Do not let sin control the way you live;do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”

Romans 8: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.  But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)…12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Hebrews 2:14 states, “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.”  In The Art of War, Sun Tzu states that:  “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  The truth is that life is filled with battles, the enemy is Satan and his greatest weapons are providing thoughts to human beings to satisfy their own desires.  Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  When we depend on our own strengths and fight alone, we will lose and die.  When we put our entire trust in Jesus Christ, we find mercy and with mercy we receive grace.  For further clarification, mercy means not getting what we do deserve (withheld punishment) and grace is getting what we do not deserve (unmerited favor).  When we depend on His mercy rather than our own goodness, we gain better understanding of our identity in Christ and are able to live out our lives each day having no fear and no worries of what lies ahead. 

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor who has made the following statements:  “What is to give light must first endure burning.”  “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  He reminds us that “true happiness in life depends not on conditions but on decisions.”  We read in Job 33:27-30, “I sinned and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved.  He redeemed my soul from going down to the grave, and I will live to enjoy the light of life.  God does all these things to a man several times to turn back his soul from the grave, that the light of life may shine on him.”  Hebrews 4:16 instructs, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.”  In the meantime, God is calling us out of mercy and into obedience.  Eventually it dawns on all of us that we cannot get away with unrepentant sin.  It’s as if God gradually withdraws his mercy after we have come to a knowledge of the truth.  God’s mercy has served its purpose, now it is time for obedience.  Romans 12:1 declares, “Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.”

Galatians 5:16-26 (Message): “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?  It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.  This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.  But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.  Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.  Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”

John Wesley would frequently ask his congregation, “Have you availed yourself to the means of grace this week?”  I would like to go further and ask: will grace be the first thought that comes to your mind when you wake up?  Will grace be remembered and reflected towards others as you go through your day?  Will you go to sleep with a thankful heart because of the means of grace? 

Colossians 3:1-17 (Message):  “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.  Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.  And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.  Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.  So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.  Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”


Salvation And Man’s Sin

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By Jay Adams

Some background information on the nature of salvation:  Justification is an act that changes a man’s relationship to God.  God declares the sinner to be forgiven and accepts him because of the work of Christ.  The man himself has nothing to do but thank God for His grace.  Justification can be compared to the declaration of a judge that a law-breaker will not have to go to jail because someone has paid his fine.

Sanctification, in contrast, is a process that changes a man’s nature.  It includes both the gradual removal of sin and the gradual development of the new life in Christ.  Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit, but man himself is required to use the means that God has provided for growth in holiness.

In this life, however, no man achieves perfect holiness.  Only in the life to come is sin completely abolished.  When he reaches heaven the sinner will be glorified; then his salvation is complete.

Crime and Sin

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It seems wiser and clearer to talk about influences rather than causes.  Sin is not reducible to mere genetics, but also includes environmental factors such as: family upbringing, childhood experiences, reactions and choices, and the cultural environment.  Biology can be shaped by psychology.  Our thoughts, choices, actions, and reactions—even if subconscious and early in life—can shape the neurological patterns within the brain so that they become deeply embedded.  These patterns help shape the direction of our lives, reinforcing thought patterns, habits, and desires.  Charles Swindoll has stated, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.  We are in charge of our attitudes.”  Sin is a crime against God, and thus can be looked at as a crime in the real world.  There are many theories on why people commit crimes, and I truly believe in the Classical School perspective.  Most classical theories of crime causation make the following basic assumptions:

  • Human beings are fundamentally rational, and most human behavior is the result of free will coupled with rational choice.
  • Pain and pleasure are the two central determinants of human behavior.
  • Punishment, a necessary evil, is sometimes required to deter law violators and to serve as an example to others who would also violate the law.
  • Root principles of right and wrong are inherent in the nature of things and cannot be denied.
  • Society exists to provide benefits to individuals that they would not receive in isolation.
  • When men and women band together for the protection offered by society, they forfeit some of the benefits that accrue from living in isolation.
  • Certain key rights of individuals are inherent in the nature of things, and governments that contravene those rights should be disbanded.
  • Crime disparages the quality of the bond that exists between individuals and society and is therefore an immoral form of behavior.

All human societies, from the simplest to the most advanced, evidence their own widely held notions of right and wrong.  Sociologists call such fundamental concepts of morality and propriety “mores” and “folkways.”  Mores consist of proscriptions covering potentially serious violations of a group’s values.  Murder, rape, and robbery, for example, would probably be repugnant to the mores of any social group.  Folkways, on the other hand, are simply time-honored customs, and although they carry the force of tradition, their violation is less likely to threaten the survival of the social group. 

Criminologists divide crimes into two categories:  mala in se and mala prohibita.  Mala in se are acts that are thought to be wrong in and of themselves.  The Ten Commandments support this belief that some acts are inherently wrong.  Such a perspective assumes that uncompromisable standards for human behavior rest within the very fabric of lived experience.  Mala prohibita offenses are those acts that are said to be wrong for the simple reason that they are prohibited.  So-called victimless or social-order offenses like prostitution, gambling, drug use, and premarital sexual behavior proved examples of mala prohibita offenses.

There are two perspectives regarding the sources of crime and criminality, which are the social problems perspective and the social responsibility perspective.  The social problems perspective is the belief that crime is a manifestation of underlying social problems, such as poverty, discrimination, pervasive family violence, inadequate socialization practices, and the breakdown of traditional social institutions.  The social responsibility perspective is the belief that individuals are fundamentally responsible for their own behavior and that they choose crime over other, more law-abiding courses of action.  Both perspectives each play a part in a person’s thinking and action.

James Q. Wilson has stated:  “If you wish to make a big difference in crime, you must make fundamental changes in society.”  This is why it is important to establish Biblical principles in the American Law system.

It is important to consider barriers that might prevent crime, even in the face of strong criminal motivation and in situations where the causes of crime seem firmly rooted in social, economic, and other conditions.  Barriers to crime are those aspects of a setting that limit criminal opportunity and prevent offending.  Barriers cause would-be criminals to reconsider their intention to violate the law, or simply deny them the opportunity to follow their plans through to completion.  Some barriers can be found in the physical arrangements of the external environment, while others are more abstract and consist of the threat of severe punishment or the internal strictures by which people limit their own freedom of action, even in the face of strong temptation.

“Crime is committed by people who are tempted more and controlled less.”—Marcus Felson
Determinate sentencing is a strategy that mandates a specified and fixed amount of time to be served for every offense category.  Determinate sentencing schemes build upon the twin notions of classical thought that (1) the pleasure of a given crime can be somewhat accurately assessed and (2) a fixed amount of punishment necessary for deterrence can be calculated and specified.  The Bible is clear that the penalty for sin is death.  A goal of the Church is to remind people that God is in charge and everyone will one day take into account all that they have done in their lifetime.  That reminder alone should reduce temptation.  When a person is actively involved in a Church, such as being a part of a weekly Bible study, and volunteer service, it would be clear that God has control in one’s life and temptations will reduce significantly.  As long as we are still living on this earth, there will always be temptation.  Jesus Christ was tempted several times by Satan while He was living as a human on this earth.  Everyone has all fallen into temptation; we have all sinned against God.  Jesus, although tempted, never sinned, took the ultimate punishment for sin, and that makes Him our Savior, our only key to eternal life with God.

*Notes collected from Criminology Today Fifth Edition by Frank Schmalleger