Freedom Test

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” – Jesus (John 8:32)

We know that Jesus sets us free from our sin, but are we free from those things we call “liberties” (our freedoms we have in Christ)?  You may ask, “how could I not be free from something that is a freedom?”  I’m glad you asked.

A liberty is anything that is not specifically or strictly forbidden by God, but left up to our conscience as whether we can do it or not.  Things such as drinking alcohol (not to the point of drunkeness which is forbidden), watching movies, etc. are liberties we have.

Paul said “all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful for me but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12).  Again he would say all things are lawful but not all things are helpful or edify. (1 Corinthians 10:23).  Scripture also references laying aside weights (Hebrews 12:1) that weigh us down, being a good soldier and not getting entangled in the affairs of this world (2 Timothy 2:4), and running this “race” of the Christian life in such a way as to receive a prize as runners try to run with as little on as possible (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

All this back to our point on liberties and how not only can they weigh us down, but they can actually enslave us and if they enslave us we cannot call them a liberty.  So how do we know if something is truly a liberty in our lives or not?  It is the Freedom Test and it is only 1 question test:

Can you NOT do something?

Pretty simple.  That TV show you watch – can you not watch it for a week?  Those football games you plan your Sundays around – can you not watch them for a day?  That alcohol that you drink – can you not drink it?  The coffee that you drink – can you not drink it?  The movies that you watch – can you not watch them?

Now a good way to test your answer to the question is to NOT do that particular thing.  If you sweat thinking about that or get mad saying “you’ve gone too far now Pastor Mike”, then that thing is not really a liberty in your life.  It is in fact enslaving you because if you HAVE to do something, you aren’t free from it.  You might say, “it’s not that I HAVE to do it, but I just don’t feel like giving it up.”  Well often that’s an excuse.  The test isn’t to think about giving something up but to do it.  It is actually healthy to try so you can see for yourself.

So instead of watching football this weekend, take your family out for a drive somewhere.  Instead of having that wine or beer, drink water for the week.  Instead of watching your favorite shows, play a board game/cards with your spouse or read a book.

Being enslaved to something is never a good thing, no matter how pleasurable it may be.  Being free, truly free, is where you will find the most joy and then when you are free, those liberties will be truly that – liberties – and you will be free to enjoy them, but not enslaved to them.

This blog post comes from the thoughts of the sermon on John 8:13-59 titled “Let Freedom Ring” which can be found by clicking here or simply visiting http://www.refugesanger.com/teachings

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What is the Gift of “the word of wisdom”?

“for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,…” – 1 Corinthians 12:8

In our study in John 8:1-12, we see the woman caught in adultery brought before Jesus with the Pharisees attempting to trap Jesus by giving Him a question that (in their minds and in human minds) only had two answers, either of which would hurt Him.  If He said “stone her”, he violated Roman law and if He said “let her go”, He would violate the law of Moses.  The answer He gave solved both the problem of their unrighteous behavior as well as dealing with the woman caught in adultery.  Here we saw Jesus operate in the word of wisdom.  You see it other times in His life such as when asked to pay taxes to Caesar or not.  We often glance over these passages just thinking, “well that’s Jesus – He’s God so of course He would know how to answer!”, yet forgetting that He relied on the Spirit working in power in His life (Philippians 2, Luke 3:22).

I mentioned how Solomon also operated in this gift (1 Kings 3:16-28) in dealing with the dispute over who the live baby should belong to and his answer to it was the working of wisdom.  Other places we see this gift operated in Scripture: Exodus 28:3, Exodus 31:3, Deuteromony 34:9, Acts 6:2-4, 8-10, Acts 15:19-22, Acts 23:6-7.

So what exactly is this gift?  Is it the same as the word of knowledge?  It is not the same as the word of knowledge as knowledge and wisdom are two different things.  Knowledge is knowing something while wisdom is applying it.  In simple sense, regular knowledge says, “it is going to be cold today” while wisdom is putting on a cold.

The gift of wisdom is the unique ability to speak forth the wisdom of God, as Jesus did when he said “He who is without sin cast the first stone” and “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s” or when Solomon said to cut the baby in half (knowing the real mother would not stand for such a thing).  It works in such a natural way, people don’t realize it is a supernatural gift that is used at the time it is needed (in other words, it isn’t as if one just has a head of wisdom on their own ability).  This wisdom is pure, peacable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17).  And it is something God desires to give us (James 1:5)

When people say the gifts are no longer for today, somehow they miss that we still need wisdom (just like all the gifts are still needed) and still walk in wisdom.  Don’t expect some crazy emotional response or feeling to surge through your body before you speak forth wisdom, it will be a very natural, supernatural gift.

This blog post comes from the thoughts of the sermon on John 8:1-12 titled “Brought to the Light” which can be found by clicking here or simply visiting http://www.refugesanger.com/teachings

Called … to Wait

Have you ever had to wait for something?

I mean besides waiting at red lights, waiting in a drive through, waiting in line, waiting for your kids, etc.  Have you ever had to wait for something that you feel like God has called you to do, but the doors just have not opened yet?  And you begin to wonder if the calling is even there or if God has changed His mind or if it was just an emotional response?

Throughout the Gospel of John, we see Jesus say “my time has not yet come” or John talk about His time not yet coming.  The time referred to is when Jesus will publicly declare Himself as the Messiah by riding on a donkey into the city as well as dieing on the cross for our sins.  Jesus knew His calling and was submitted to His Father’s will and so although He was called to do these things, He had to wait.

Now don’t lose me on having to wait to die – I think we’d all want to wait longer for that!  But what I am saying is there is a period of waiting after the initial calling. Consider….

  • Abraham – was told he would have a son and his seed would be more numerous than the sand.  He had to wait many years before Isaac was ever born which caused this great man of faith to try to preempt God’s promise through fleshly ways.
  • Joseph – saw that he would one day rule (family bowing down to him) but he had to be sold into slavery for years then thrown into jail for a few years before God would raise him up.
  • The nation of Israel – were told they would inherit the land but they would be in Egypt for 400+ years before they would even come back into the land and conquer it through God’s power.
  • David – anointed (called) to be the next king of Israel after Saul but it would not be fulfilled in his life until many years later after having to run and hide from Saul during that time.
  • Paul – after being saved, he would spend 10 years away from the public scene before Barnabus would go and find him

And there are many more as you study Scripture who had a calling from God but then had years of waiting before the calling was fulfilled.

Perhaps you’re in that place of waiting.  God has called you to do something and yet nothing is happening.  Maybe it’s been years even – keep waiting.  Use that time of waiting (which is ultimately preparation) to serve where He has placed you and wait for Him to raise you up to that next calling (be it in the ministry or in the business world).  He knows what He is doing.

I know the struggle – I received the sure calling from the Lord to be a senior pastor when I was 17.  I thought 4 years of schooling at Liberty University would be my waiting time and then the calling would be sure.  How glad am I that it was 18 years of serving in various other ways before He gave me a church to pastor.  Those years of training have been beyond valuable.  I didn’t always think so during those years of waiting (although I always enjoyed the ministries I got to lead during those times), but I look back on them and I see some of His reasoning for having me wait.  And I never doubted the calling even when others around may have due to how long it took which allows me to persevere now as well.

God’s timing is perfect.  Don’t begrudge the time of “small things” (in your mind).  If He has called you to something, He will complete it – don’t try to complete it for Him.

So you find yourself waiting for something from the Lord?  You’re in excellent company with those who waited before you!

This blog post comes from the thoughts of the sermon on John 7:1-53 titled “Disbelief & Division” which can be found by clicking here or simply visiting http://www.refugesanger.com/teachings

Investing in the Kingdom of God

I have an IRA.

It was first suggested to me by a friend who is a financial guru (he writes financial articles for a living) and had given me stock investments as a birthday present in my early twenties.  I barely think about my IRA except for times I add to it or when the economy tanks.  I’m hoping the Lord returns before I ever need to use it.  Yet, should He tarry, one day I should (hopefully) get to partake of that investment.  Of course, it will only buy me temporary things and support me with extra income, but still, it is a helpful thing to have and should the economy not completely crash, an investment that will reap rewards.

Yet, there is a greater “stock” we can invest in that will reap eternal rewards but sadly some can invest very little into because they can’t see what will be the return on their investment like they can when they peek at the numbers in their physical IRA or savings account.  Or we can think rewards aren’t important to us (though when we stand before the Lord to give account we are going to wish we had cared a little more).

However, I also believe we make “investing” such a difficult task or fail to realize how much Jesus will be looking to reward us for that we did not even think about.  For instance:

  • Have you ever prayed for your pastor or a missionary?  You may not see how your prayers are answered, but I believe there will be rewards because of our sharing in the rewards of that pastor/missionary that we prayed for that kept going because of our prayers.
  • Ever given to your church?  There is an investment that will bring back a huge return in the next life!  All those lives both here and abroad that were touched and changed because of the finances that made it possible to do ministry because of our giving to the local church.
  • Do you teach your kids about the Lord?  Ever stop to consider how they may go on to impact thousands or maybe even your kids will lead the next Billy Graham to Christ who will lead thousands to Christ?  The ripple effect that we will see because we spent time investing into our kids in the things of the Lord.
  • Ever shared the Gospel with someone but they didn’t make a response towards salvation?  Don’t be discouraged – not only were you doing the will of God (preaching Christ) but who knows if that person doesn’t one day accept Jesus and go on to impact many others simply because you shared with them.
  • Seeking to be more like Christ and continuing to be joyous under hard trials?  People are watching you and your testimony can impact those watching.

So there are plenty of ways to make “investments” into the Kingdom that can produce a “return” in the life to come that are more than just financial investments.  But if you do ever wonder why give to a local church or a missions organization, you are ultimately giving to the Lord and like a physical savings account, your money in the Kingdom of God can accrue “interest” in lives that are impacted because of your generous giving.  So don’t think of it as a chore or something you HAVE to do (God doesn’t need your money), but something you GET to do as an act of worship and investment in His Kingdom!

We invest in temporary things all the time – the new iPhone, used car, house, retirement account, etc. – which aren’t bad to do so (unless you are living for those things), but they won’t last.  Our return on those investments will only be limited to this life.  But those things we invest in that have an eternal value, well, we will partake of those for eternity!

This blog post comes from the thoughts of the sermon on John 6:22-71 titled “The Bread of Life” which can be found by clicking here or simply visiting http://www.refugesanger.com/teachings