Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Judge Not Lest You Be Judged

As a Christian, I hear a lot about being judgmental. And frankly, it's been wearing on me. So I decided to write about being judgmental to bring some clarity and peace to my mind.

But before I dive into the post, I want to first clarify what being judgmental really means. Scripture defines judgmental-ness as being hypocritical, or two-faced. It's the pot calling the kettle black. I've also heard it said that we judge others by their actions but we judge ourselves by our intentions. In other words, we set higher expectations for others than we do for ourselves and we unfairly hold them to our too-high expectations.

Being judgmental means you are prideful, arrogant, and conceited. Scripture says, "Judge not lest you be judged: (Matt. 7:1). We all struggle with being judgmental, albeit to various degrees, so I want to share three steps that will hopefully help you out.

1. In order to overcome judgmental-ness, we need to acquire a realistic view of the human condition. We are sinners. Romans 3:10-12 says, "There is no one righteous; no even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Some people believe they are good people. They believe that mankind is naturally good. The Bible says otherwise. Isaiah 59:2-3 says, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things." Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Don't expect people to be perfect; they can't be. And you aren't perfect either.

2. In order to overcome judgmental-ness, you'll also need to humble yourself and understand your own imperfection. You are not perfect. You are a sinner. We've just read Scripture that explained this. And you won't be overcoming your judgmental attitude without adopting humility as your new mindset. It won't be easy, but with the Spirit of Christ living in you, anything is possible (Phil. 4:13). "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in this world (1 John 4:4), so you already have the tools necessary to adopt humility. I need to be fair, though. It's said that once you think you're humble, you're not. Does that make sense? As soon as you think you have it, you just lost it. It's a lifelong process. But you'll need to chase after humility in order to recognize your own sinfulness. And once you recognize your own sin, you'll be motivated to stop judging others.

Oh, and not only will you need humility in your fight to overcome being judgmental...

3. You will also need to clothe yourself in love and grace. The best way to stop judging others is to start loving them. What is the opposite of judgment? Love and grace. And that's what the Bible was telling us in Romans 12:20, which says, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink." In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus said, "'You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven... If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." The whole point is to love instead of hate. "The Golden Rule is: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39). If you want to stop hating, start loving.

Ever heard of the Trash In: Trash Out concept? I explain in detail in my post Captivating Yet Corruptive Trash, but in short, it's a belief that what you put in your heart and mind comes back out. For example, if you let trash in by constantly watching movies with filthy language and your friends constantly cuss, you probably use bad language yourself. And if you watch porn and watch movies that are R-rated for sexual content and hang out with immodest and promiscuous girls, you probably have had sexual experiences, or you really want to but you're waiting on the "right opportunity." Trash goes in, trash comes right back out. Well it's the same with the same with good stuff. If you let Christ in, Christ comes out. If you let love in, love comes out. And the funny thing is you can't ever be "empty." If you want your trash removed, you can't just empty the trash, you have to replace it with love. You can't sit at "empty", between the two. If you try, I guarantee that you'll just teeter back to sin. You have to live in love, or you'll live in sin.

In conclusion, in order to overcome judgmental-ness, you'll have to acquire a realistic view of the human condition, understand your own imperfection, and replace judgment with love. I want to leave you with encouragement, so I challenge you to love. The apostle Paul wrote, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." It doesn't matter what you do: without love, you'll be and gain nothing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dating, And All Things Similar

I've decided to not date till college. Because of a few messed up relationships in my first two years of high school, I've come to believe that dating in high school does no good. Of all my friends, I can't think of a single couple where both persons are strong Christians, rooted deep in faith, and involved in church, and who have been together longer than three months. I've seen dating destroy many of my friends' friendships, whether through lust, bitterness, or just poor decisions. I've experienced enough heartache to know it's pretty foolhardy to wait till after high school, or better yet, the teenage years, to enter into a romantic relationship.

But that doesn't mean I don't yearn for that relationship. I'm not saying I don't lust. I'm not even saying I don't crush on girls anymore. In fact, I've done some research on myself and found that at any given time, I have a light crush on a girl. That crush rarely lasts longer than two weeks, and at that time, I have another light crush on another girl. Those crushes are so small and insignificant that it really only comes down to the fact I really enjoy being around that girl or I text that girl a lot.

The crushes that last longer than two weeks are always become lustful crushes. With those crushes, which I've had probably a dozen or so, I spend too much time and attention on a girl, and eventually, my attraction and attention become sinful. Apparently, I can't focus on a girl for that long without eventually thinking lustfully of her. That's one of the key reasons I don't date. I'm waiting a few years and using my time to build my defences to lust and temptation. When I do fall in love with my future wife, I want to be mature enough to not lust over her. Is that totally realistic? No. Unfortunately, as a teenager, with hormones running high, lust is something I can't stop 100%, so I get in the trenches with it to defeat it. I don't always win; unfortunately, I don't always lean on God when I'm bombarded with temptation. In those times, I fall. But when I do lean on God, I prevail. It's an on-going war between my flesh and spirit. So how do I counter temptation? I remind myself of Scripture. I pray for strength; I pray for my wife; I pray, pray, pray. And when necessary, I leave the room, change the subject, or go to something else. Now why, you might ask, do I put myself through such a grueling experience? It's because I want to love my wife purely. I want to love her for her heart, her personality, and her spirit, not her body. I respect her too much to want to disrespect her with my thoughts.

So why do I not date? Dating distracts me from God. As previously mentioned, if I crush too long on a girl, my thoughts on her turn impure. I desire pure and Godly thoughts. Dating doesn't spur me on to think such thoughts, so I have to cut dating out of the picture. Jesus talked about cutting your arm off or gouging your eye out to keep yourself from sinning. I apply to same principle to dating. Logic and common sense also encourage me to not date. How? Well, if a drunkard is trying to quit drinking, he's going to have to stay out of bars. Bars tempt him too much, so he has to avoid them at all costs. The same with dating. Dating tempts me too much, so I avoid it at all costs. And I could mention the drama, heartache, gossip, less money, less time with friends, and other things that are a downside to dating. But I won't :)

How do I know when the right time to date is? This is something I really struggled with earlier in the year. I went through a emotionally tumulus time battling with insecurities and a lack of trust in God's timing. Out of that dark time, I came out with a new mindset. It's now my conviction to not date until I'm ready for marriage. I'll know when that is when the time comes. My guess is that it'll be a few years, maybe more. I start college at age 17 and graduate at 21, and I'm not sure I want to add a girlfriend/fiance/wife to the already monumental stressful, time-demanding, money-draining years of college. My parents were married at age eighteen (Mom) and nineteen (Dad) and lived in an apartment together through the rest of college. But that was almost thirty years ago, and times have really changed. I turn eighteen in 13 months, and I know for sure that I can't get married then. I'm pretty sure I won't be mature and ready enough, let alone that I'll be broke thanks to college. And because of the uncertain times ahead, I doubt marriage will be the best option for me. Craig Groeschel, lead pastor of Lifechurch.tv, said, "You'll know you're ready for marriage when you ask yourself, 'Can I serve the Lord better, or worse, with her or him as my spouse?', and your answer is 'better'" (paraphrased). When I'm at the point when I meet a girl and our friendship has blossomed to the point that she as my wife would only benefit my relationship to the Lord will I even seriously consider a romantic relationship.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I believe in courtship, not dating. No, courtship is not "Christian dating." It is so much more than that! If you don't know what courtship is, pick up Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship by Joshua Harris. I simply don't have the time or energy to explain that complex topic.

Random Announcement

I must say, I've really enjoyed writing my last few posts. Believe it or not, all my writing about hell has set off red flags with the desktop's parental blocks device-thingy, so I can't see my blog on the desktop till Dad clears it up. If you haven't noticed, the word "H E L L" is bleeped on out on my blog. While I can't figure out why it's doing that, I've noticed it on Facebook too, so I'm sure it's the computer monitering thing, Net Nanny, we tried for a month on a free trial. But that's only on the desktop; the laptop functions just fine on Norton security, so my blogging must be done on the laptop for now. On another note, my most faithful reader, a good friend of mine, pointed out that my hell posts were more sermon-y than journal-y, which went against my new theme. But that's okay. God has called me to preach so sometimes my posts will sound that way. For the most part, though, I hope mostly run with the journal theme. And that's what my next post will be. So thanks for reading this short announcement. Stay tuned for my next post, which will be about dating, soon!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Heaven: According to Scripture

Christians have many different beliefs about what heaven will be like. Some people think it's going to be a never-ending worship service. Some people think earthly things (like Chick-fil-A, football, ice cream, animals,  and amusement parks) will be there. Some people think it'll be just like life is now, but without sin.

There are also different ideas about what we'll do in heaven. Some people misguidedly think they'll inherit seventy-two virgins to have sex with. Some people plan on talking to Old Testament heroes and Jesus' disciples. Many, if not all of us, are looking forward to reunions with loved ones who have passed away. Some people think we'll live in mansions; others think we won't need buildings to reside in. Some people think they'll be able to eat all they want and not get fat. Others look forward to using their new bodies to fly, walk through walls, and run at super-fast speeds. Some people even look forward to looking younger in heaven.

And there are many different ideas about who will be in heaven. Some people think everyone will be there. Some people think only a very few (as in only a few hundred) will be there. Others think that most people will not be there.

But before we populate a heavenly place with our earthly thoughts, let's see what God's authoritative Scripture says. Isaiah 60, 65:17-66, and Revelation 21 are great Scriptures on heaven. There are many others, but these are the three I want to focus on.

The very first Scripture I want to point out is Isaiah 65:17. It says, "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind." I think we can erase all thoughts about earthly pleasures being in heaven. Jesus didn't die so we could ride roller coasters, play football all day, and eat buckets of ice cream. It's hard to accept this, especially for me (a Chick-fil-A employee), because Chick-fil-A is such a Christian company that it's just so easy to say that we'll be eating Original Chicken Sandwiches, Potato Waffle Fries, and Icedream in heaven. But I don't see that happening in Scripture.

It's also hard for many people to accept that their pets may not be in heaven. In all frankness, Scripture doesn't say whether animals will be in heaven. Isaiah 65:25 does say, "'The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,' says the LORD." Many people look to this verse to say that animals will in fact be in heaven. And I think it does make sense (based on this verse) to say that animals will be in heaven. But does this mean that all animals will be in heaven, or just the ones who survived till the end? Will every single animal that ever lived be in heaven, including the evil, possessed ones? And if not, where do they go? I can't say. Scripture doesn't say. And when Scripture is silent on a topic, I prefer to just avoid it altogether. It's better to not have an opinion than to get lost in human assumptions and hopes.

Although we've already established that earthly things won't be in heaven, I would like to point out Revelation 21:24b, 26: "... the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into [heaven]... The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into [heaven]." I'm not exactly sure what this is saying, to be honest. In the age of democracies and presidents, I don't know what the glory, honor, and splendor of a king looks like. It could mean the kings will bring their country's biggest export to heaven, like a special wood, jewel, or crop. But that's unlikely. I simply don't really know what this means.

We can be sure that there will be no crying, mourning, death, or pain (Rev. 21:4; Isaiah 65:19). Hardship, persecution, and suffering will be a thing of the past. Joy, purity, righteousness, and praise will be the banner of the people. Our faith, endurance, and hope will be rewarded in heaven with white robes and the right to eat from the Tree of Life.

Who will be there? You can read the second half of my previous post, The Truth About Heaven And Hell about that.

But what will heaven look like? Revelation 21:9-22:5 describe the new Jerusalem, the Holy City. A brief review shows that the city shines with the glory of God, and it's brilliance will be like that of a very precious jewel (Rev. 21:11). The walls of the city will be a square, as long as it is wide (Rev. 21:16). Each side will be about 1,400 miles in length (Rev. 21:16). Catch that? 1,400 miles. New York City to Los Angeles is 3,000 miles, so imagine half that distance squared and you get the square mileage of the Holy City. This "city" will be HUGE! It'll be "big cities" like New York, LA, Hong

This place truly sounds heavenly. And I don't know about you, but in a city where I can see God's face, drink from the Living Water, and eat of the Tree of Life, I doubt I'll miss Chick-fil-A, want to play football on God's front lawn, or even chat with Elijah, John the Baptist, and King David. All I'll want to do is worship the King in humble, fearful, grateful reverence.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Truth About Heaven and Hell

Something that's been on my mind a lot lately is @#!*% . I recently finished Love Wins by Rob Bell and Erasing  Hell  by Francis Chan, two books that hold completely different views on eternity. Bell is a dogmatic universalist; he thinks people will get unlimited second chances in the afterlife to choose to follow Jesus. He essentially believes that eventually everyone will be in heaven. Chan believes that people have no second chance after death; if we follow Jesus on earth, we spend eternity with Him, but if we don't follow Him, we spend eternity in @#!*% .

A sensitive issue nowadays, @#!*% is sometimes downplayed in church. On the other hand, some preachers try too hard to "scare the @#!*% out of people", as I like to say. I have found it uncomfortable to tell lost people they will go to @#!*% if they don't follow Christ. It sounds so one-sided, so mean. I can't help but think of it from the lost person's perspective. Accepting that your fate is in @#!*%  isn't the easiest pill to swallow. But then I remember that Jesus Himself preached often about @#!*% .

Look with me at some passages. Matthew 25 is our first destination. Verses 31-46 recount the story of the Sheep and the Goats. The first three verses say, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." Note that the sheep (God's children; His flock) are separated from the goats (the lost). Separated is the key word. In the following verses, Jesus tells the sheep, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world...", and He tells the goats, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Now skip to the last three verses. After hearing their sentence to the eternal lake, the goats were incredulous, obviously expecting heaven, not @#!*% . But "He [Jesus] will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." From this passage, Jesus clearly believes that His children will spend eternity with Him, and He expects the lost to spend eternity separated from Him.

The second thing we'll look at a few parables. Matthew 24:45-51 is a parable about a wicked and lazy servant. Once the master of the servant discovered his laziness, he cut him to pieces and assigned him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The servant represents the lost, and the master represents Jesus.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins, Matthew 25:1-13, is our next stop. Ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom late one night. All ten had lamps, but only five were wise and brought extra oil to keep their lamps burning all night. The five who were ill-prepared ran out of fuel and had to go purchase more oil. "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’" We see these five who were unprepared shunned and locked outside of the wedding party. I certainly don't want to end up like an unprepared virgin, missing out on the everlasting wedding party between Christ and the church!

The last parable is the Parable of the Talents. Found in Matthew 25:14-30, this well known parable is about a man going on a journey, but before he leaves he entrusts his servants with his property. I'm going to skip straight to the point I want to make here: the third servant was lazy and wicked and did not serve his master well. As a result, the master said, "And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." We once again see a picture of someone who refuses to serve his Master and the result is separation from Him and an eternity in hell.

In Love Wins, Bell shared his belief and hope that hell wouldn't last forever. Instead of adopting the traditional belief that a man will spend eternity in either hell or heaven, he instead believes all people will go to heaven, but until they make the decision to spend eternity with God, they spend time in a place called hell, or hades. However, I find no proof of this anywhere in Scripture. For this to be true, Jesus would have to have said so. Nowhere in Scripture do I find anyone saying that hell is only temporary, so I won't spend time finding Scripture to counter the false belief. Nor do I find any Scripture that says everyone will be in heaven with Jesus. I find the absolute contrary, actually, and I will discuss this topic.

In addition to the Sheep and the Goats parable, which clearly shows separation between the Christians and the lost, many Scriptures, especially the New Testament letters, support the idea that only Christians will make it into heaven. First and foremost are the middle chapters of Romans. One of my favorite verses, Romans 8:9, says, "...if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Relate this verse back to the Sheep and the Goats and my point is already proven: only those inhabited by the Spirit of Christ (a.k.a., Christians) will enter into heaven. But I want to share a few other verses that support this truth even more. Romans 8:6 says, "The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." Again, we see a picture of "Spirit = life" and "flesh = death." Galatians 5:19-21 says, "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Ephesians 1:13b-14a says, "When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance..." Once more we see that the Spirit seems to be the reason we will one day inherit the kingdom. Ephesians 5:5 says, "For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." This verse says that God has to be your Number One- or else you will be in hell forever, burning in a lake of fire. 1 Peter 1:3-4 talks about Christians' inheritance in heaven, an inheritance that "can never perish, spoil, or fade..."

And let's not forget what Jesus said in John 8:36, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." The only way to be set free is by Jesus. No other way leads to heaven. In John 14:6, Jesus told His disciples, "...I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." No one comes to the father except through Christ. And how do you know if Christ has set you free? By the Spirit of Christ, by whom Christians are marked with a seal. The Holy Spirit is our deposit guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven (Eph. 1:13b-14a). And "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

Surely by now you see that:

1. Heaven and hell are both permanent after-life destinations.
2. Hell is the final destination, a place of endless torture and punishment for those who didn't choose Christ.
3. Only Christians will inherit heaven, the kingdom of God.
4. The only way to be a Christian is to have Christ's Spirit living in you.
5. Everyone who isn't a Christian will spend eternity in hell.

I hope this has been a sobering yet encouraging post for you. I hope you are encouraged to be bold in your faith. Don't be ashamed or afraid and most certainly do not feel guilty about telling people about Christ. If Jesus Himself fearlessly preached about hell, we should imitate Him. Hell is a core part of the Gospel. If hell didn't exist, and we all would end up in heaven eventually, then Jesus died for nothing. So please don't be afraid to tell your lost friend that if he doesn't choose Jesus, he will go to hell. Of course, there are different ways to deliver this message to different types of people. Not everyone takes "hey, you're going to hell!" very easily. As I said earlier, it isn't the easiest pill to swallow. So tell them with grace, wisdom, and love. Don't preach hate. That's the last thing anyone needs. Hell is real, and it's the final destination for any unsaved person. Take it upon yourself to enter heaven with as many converts as possible. If I truly am a Christian, then nothing should matter more to me than evangelism. How could we, as Christians, sit back, withholding the Good News, and let people go to hell? What kind of Christ-like love is that! Don't sit on the pews any longer. Get out and tell the world that He lives!

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Do Not Worry About Your Life"

Confession time: I'm a compulsive worrier. It's true. I wish I wasn't a worrier, but that's how my mind works. I probably can't count the hours I've lost in the past month worrying about the next few years of my life. Do I go to college next year or do I travel for a few years on a Life Action Revival Team? (The Travel Teams are a ministry run by Life Action Ministries, the same ministry that runs the camp I go to each summer. They travel around the country holding revival summits at churches, staying for four days to two weeks.) I've also wasted a lot of time worrying about finding my future wife. But seriously, I'm sixteen; finding her shouldn't really even be on my radar for a few years. My mind is prone to anxiety and worry and those things are deadly diseases that damage my faith and trust in God. So what do I do? I pray, and I read Scripture.

I want to share some verses that have helped me. Philippians 4:6-8 has changed the way I think. It says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Let me repeat that: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Could there be a more helpful verse to a worrier! The Bible says to not worry about anything. To a guy who worries, that's stops me in my tracks. It also tells me that the peace of God is better than knowledge anyway. In other words, it's better to put my trust in God and rely on Him then to know everything for myself and thus not need to rely on God. And what's more, the antidote to anxiety is the peace of God. Why? Because His peace guards my heart and mind against anxiety. It stands guard and defends me.

My good friend Charity at Life Action, after hearing me share my struggle with worrying, handed me a piece of notebook paper, on which she had written, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. ~ Remember: Godly thoughts = hope." At first, I wasn't really sure why she thought this verse would help. I mean, it doesn't talk about worrying or stressing out or putting your trust in God... right? Or does it? It took me a while to understand what she meant. She was talking all about hope. It's why she wrote it in bold and underlined it. Hope. But what's the big deal about hope? It doesn't disappoint us. How is that possible? Because God poured out his love to us, but not only did He pour out His love into us, He poured it into our hearts, but not only did He pour His love into our hearts, He does it through the Holy Spirit. How intense, how major, how powerful, how revolutionary is that!

Okay okay. Maybe I'm moving too fast. Do you feel like you missed something? It all comes down to one verse. This is the verse that has engraved itself in my heart and in my mind. This is the verse that should be the motto of every single Christian around the world. It's the verse that should be our mindset, our vision, our reason for living. It's what gives me the strength to fight every day. It's what gives me fire to keep going. It's what gives me motivation to obey Him. It's what allows me to love others. It's my sunshine on a rainy day. It's the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the verse that encourages me when I'm discouraged. When I feel like a failure, I remember this verse. This verse is my lifesaver. It's what I cling to with desperation. And you should to. Because it's 1 John 4:4 and it says "the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." Greater is He that is in you than he that is in this world. What lives in us? What did God, in love, pour into our hearts? The Holy Spirit. It's all about the Holy Spirit. Life and death, eternity and hell, love and hate, right or wrong, Godliness or Godlessness, they all depend on the Spirit. I hope you don't doubt the Spirit's importance, because according to Romans 8:9, "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." That verse itself is a huge statement. If this verse is true (and it's Scripture, so we know that it is irrefutable), then salvation comes solely through the Spirit. A person is only saved if the Spirit lives inside him or her.

But it gets so much better. According to Romans 8:6, "the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace..." Life and peace. Which means the mind controlled by the flesh is death and sin, to which Romans 8:8-9 agree because they say "the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." So the Spirit is the key because it is our salvation, it us brings life and peace, and without it, we are God's enemies.

Romans 8:9-11 has even more to offer: "You [that is, Christians], however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." So now we now that we Christians aren't controlled by flesh but by His Spirit. Thank God! Amen! The "catch" is that if the Spirit does live in us (which we all know we have to have the Spirit; the alternative is simply not something I ever want but thankfully my name is written in the Book of Life... but that's another topic), our bodies are dead. Why? Because of sin (verse 9). Yet because of righteousness, our spirits are alive. Of course, these terms aren't literal... yet. Often, when a writer in the New Testament refers to "life" or "death", they are not referring to the earthly state of existence but the eternal one. That's why a mind controlled by sin is death, because it doesn't have the Spirit and it cannot please God, so thus it will spend eternity separate from God and instead be tormented endlessly for eternity, which is referred to in the New Testament as the second death. So when Paul refers our bodies being dead, he only means that by the time Satan is in his place and all Christians are living in heaven, our current bodies will be long gone and we will have new ones. I believe Paul also wrote about that matter, but for sake of time, that'll have to wait for another post. Back to Romans 8:9-11.

Romans 8:11 says "the Spirit... raised Jesus from the dead..." Wow. I don't know about you, but whatever power raised someone from the dead, after they had been buried three days, and after they were sealed in a tomb, that has to be some power. Here's where we, you and I, come in. That same Spirit "is living in you!" That's why John wrote, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in this world." Because the Spirit lives in us, and the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead! (Now that's only one thing on the Spirit's endless and infinite resume, but my point is made.) And Romans 8:11 is also the tie-in to our bodies being dead and our spirits being alive: "He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you." This is really powerful stuff, isn't it? See, I told you Romans is amazing! "He who raised Christ from the dead" is the Spirit, and the Spirit will give our mortal bodies life! You have to have the Spirit to be considered saved; why? Because without it, we wouldn't be able to live in heaven because of our mortal bodies! Our mortal bodies are weak and ravaged by sin. They won't last for eternity. That's why we need immortal ones. But we have to let our current bodies die so we can step into our immortal bodies. Does this make sense?

It all comes back to the Spirit. Everything comes back to Him. The Spirit. The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ. It's why Jesus told us, "Do not worry about your life... Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

It's all about the Spirit. And to a guy who worries a lot, having the living, almighty God, a God who loves you, who is faithful, who is trustworthy, who promises to never leave or forsake you... living with a God like that inside you is a great stress-reducer :)