This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Believing And Obeying God

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration

Believing And Obeying God

Lesson 38 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

Today we’ve reached the conclusion of the book of Romans, the final words of Paul’s letter that punctuate his goal for writing it.  These words also underscore the purpose for which God wants to renew your mind:  so that you might believe and obey Him.  Here’s what Paul said:

 

“Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey Him–to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25-27).

 

Paul often concluded his letters by giving praise to God, just as he did in his letter to the Romans.  Sandwiched in between his words of praise, he also mentions the purpose for which the mystery of Jesus Christ has been revealed:  so that all nations might believe and obey Him.  This is God’s desire for all people in all nations, including you and me-that we would believe and obey Him.

 

As I’ve mentioned in earlier devotionals, there’s a difference between believing inGod, and believing God.  You can believe in God, yet still not believe Him–still not be convinced about who He is and what He can do in and through your life.  God wants you to believe in Him, for sure.  But He also wants you to believe Himwhen He tells you something regarding your life, and He wants you to take action based on that belief.

 

This is a major part of renewing your mind as well.  God wants you to renew your mind so that you can bring your thinking in line with His.  When you do this, you’ll be better able to believe and obey Him, regardless of whatever life may throw your way.

 

I’ve been praying quite a bit this week for my wife Lana, who as many of you know, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer a few months ago.  Apart from a miracle, the doctors say that this type of cancer is incurable and will shorten her life considerably.  As you can imagine, our faith has been put to the test on a daily basis regarding what we believe about God and what He is doing through all of this.  Yet with all that’s going on, we continue to find God’s peace in the midst of it.

 

How?  Because God has spent considerable time and effort over the years filling our minds with His thoughts about us, that He is for us, not against us, and that He will work all things for good, even in this.

At the risk of being extra-vulnerable, I’d like to share one of my journal entries with you from earlier this week.  I often write down my questions for God in my journal, and then listen for what He might be saying in response.  While I’m not always sure if the thoughts I attribute to God are really mine or His, they do give me a starting point for helping me think through what He might be trying to say to me.  With that disclaimer, here’s what I felt God was saying to me earlier this week regarding His will for Lana and her healing, most of which are based firmly in what He’s already written in His Word:

 

“Eric, you know my will is that she be healed, that she have no more pain, and that she never be separated from you.  You also know that in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.  Peace I give you, peace I leave with you, not as the world gives, but My peace I give you.  I know you believe I could heal her in an instant.  But I also know that you believe I can work all things for good, ALL THINGS, no matter what happens.  Eric, I have prayed for you that your faith may not waver.  Yes, I do give, and yes, I do take away, but I know and I trust that you will still praise Me.  Your faith is, of course, more precious to Me than gold.  Yes, pray for her healing, but also pray for her heart to be at peace.  Pray that she will continue to know that I am walking through this with her every step of the way.”

 

At that point, I asked God for a verse that might help me express this dichotomy I feel inside me, that while I trust in God fully for Lana’s healing, I also trust Him whatever the outcome may be. The verse that came to mind was from Job 1:20-22.

 

While I sometimes think it’s cliche to think of Job when things are going bad in life, I also realize there’s a reason people turn to Job when things go awry:  because no matter what happened to Job, he still gave praise to God!

 

The Bible says that Job was the greatest man among all the people of the East.  He was blessed with seven sons and three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a large number of servants.

 

He was upright and blameless in all he did, even praying for his sons and daughters on a regular basis, offering sacrifices on their behalf in the early morning, just in case they might have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.

 

Yet for all his faith, and all the good that he had done, tragedy struck.  In a single day, he lost almost everything with which God had previously blessed him:  from his sons and daughters to all of his livestock and servants.  Overwhelmed with grief, Job tore his robe and shaved his head.

 

But what encourages me about this passage is that through it all, Job still trusted God.  The Bible says:

 

“Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

 

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.’

 

“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:20-22).

 

Job still gave glory to God, even when life turned against him.  I can see why people might lose their faith when tragedy strikes.  But I can also see, from this story of Job, that it doesn’t have to be that way.  Job had no guarantees of what the future held, but he knew who held his future, and he trusted Him implicitly.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, he didn’t know what his future held either.  As we learn from the book of Acts, it had a fair share of tragedy as well.  But through it all, Paul trusted God implicitly.   He knew that God was able to strengthen him through Jesus Christ for whatever he might face, and that God would be glorified through it, no matter what happened.  As Paul said in his closing to the Romans:

 

“Now to Him who is able to establish you [to strengthen you] by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen”

 

I don’t know what you’re going through today, but whatever it is, don’t let fear and doubt overtake you.  Take it all to Christ instead.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

 

“…take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b).

 

No matter what comes your way, take it to Christ.  No matter what people say, take it to Christ.  No matter what life throws at you, take it to Christ. Let Christ speak to you in all situations, overriding anything that anyone might say that is contrary to His Word.

 

The truth is that God loves you.  He is for you.  And He will work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Whenever a thought comes your way that goes against what God says in His Word, ask Him to establish you, to strengthen you, through Jesus Christ.  Ask God to renew your mind, to fill your thoughts with His thoughts, to give you faith to believe His Words, and to walk in obedience to whatever He calls you to do.

 

Through it all, trust that it will bring glory to God, and help you to enjoy Him more fully.  This is, according to the historic Westminster Confession of Faith, the chief end of man:

 

“To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

 

As Paul said to the Romans, let me say to you:

 

“Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… so that all nations might believe and obey Him-to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for being able to establish us in our faith and help us to be obedient to You.  Renew our minds again this week, and help us to take every thought captive that sets itself up against You.  Fill us with faith, help us to walk in obedience, and may your name be praised through it all.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Elder Family Picture, Mother's Day 2012P.S.  Next week, I’ll be sharing some final thoughts on the book of Romans as we bring this series to a close on Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind. Then, in the months ahead, I’m looking forward to starting a new study with you focusing on how to make your prayer life more effective called Psalms: Lessons In Prayer.  In the mean time, I’d like to ask you for prayers again for me and my family in the days ahead, that God would be glorified in all that we do.  I’ve included a picture of our whole crew from Mother’s Day last weekend that you can click and print to use as a reminder to pray for us.  And if you’re ever needing prayer, please know that you can always post your requests on a special prayer page on our website.  Although we’re not able to respond to every prayer request personally, please know that a team of volunteers is praying for every prayer request that is posted, by name and by need.  To post a request, or to view and pray for the requests of others, just use the link below.

Prayer Requests 

Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 16:25-27.  What is God’s goal for the nations, according to this passage of Scripture?
2. Why is it so important to God that we believe and obey Him?  What difference can it make to Him, to us, and to others?
3. In what areas of your life could you use some strengthening in your faith today?
4. Is there a particular act of obedience that God might be calling you to do this week?  Ask Him to give you the strength and faith to do it.

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind,please visit:

The Romans Study

 

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Lenten Journey Day 23; All His Children

15-Mar-12:  Ephesians 1:3-6

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

 

http://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/7454/

http://cloakedmonk.com/2012/02/20/join-me-in-a-lenten-journey/

Lenten Journey Day 9; Atoned

*image source: google.com/images

1-Mar-12:  Romans 3:21-31

1 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

 

http://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/7454/

http://cloakedmonk.com/2012/02/20/join-me-in-a-lenten-journey/

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Hearing The Message

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.”)


The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration


Hearing The Message

Lesson 24 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org

 

We’re getting ready for Christmas here in Illinois!  We’ve put the tree up this afternoon, and last night went to see our teenage daughter dance in a special Christmas show.

And as we get closer to Christmas, I’d like to encourage you to take this time to get closer to God.  Christmas is the time of year when we celebrate that God came so close that we could reach out and touch Him–in the form of Jesus.  And it’s a great time to remember that God is still very close to us–even closer than you might think.  As Paul said to the men of Athens:

“God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27).  

God has been trying to get His message out to people in as many ways as possible, even using the heavens and the skies.  When Paul talked about this in his letter to the Romans, he referred back to Psalm 19 which says:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  
Day after day they pour forth speech; 
night after night they display knowledge.  
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 
Their voice goes out into all the earth, 
their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4a).

Yet even with the heavens and the skies proclaiming the glories of God, there are still people who don’t listen.  In Romans chapter 10, Paul laments the fact that so many of his Jewish brothers and sisters had missed what God was trying to say to them.  At the end of chapter 10, Paul quotes what God said through the prophet Isaiah:

“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (Romans 10:21).

What a sad picture to imagine God the Father holding out His hands to His children continually, yet they unwilling to take hold of it.

At the same time, I realize that it’s not always easy to reach out to God, especially when you feel like you’ve been hurt by Him.

In the Christmas show we saw last night, the main character was a man who had tried hard to push God out of his life.  He hadn’t always pushed God out, though.  At one time in his life, he had a wonderful relationship with God.  He had married the woman of his dreams, had a young boy with her, but then tragedy hit: his wife was killed in a car accident.

From that point on, this man kept God at arm’s length.  Even though God continued to try to talk to him, the man kept pushing God away.  He could no longer believe in a God who either would not or could not save his wife from death.  It was simply more than he could bear.

Sometimes we’re like the man in this play.  When life doesn’t go the way we think it should, we wonder if God really is who He says He is.  We wonder if He really loves us as we thought He did.  We wonder if He’s really as powerful as He says He is in the Bible.  The truth gets muddied in the midst of life.

But what can you do when you start to lose your faith?  What can you do to try to get–or recapture–that love relationship with God that He says in His word that He wants with you?

Thankfully, Paul gives us the answer to that as well, in Romans chapter 10.  Paul says:

“Consequently faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Or as it says in the New King James Version:

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV).

If you want to increase your faith, one of the best ways you can do it is to immerse yourself in the word of God.  When you do, you’ll hear the message that God wants you to hear–the message of Christ, the Savior who came into the world at Christmas to demonstrate God’s love for you in person.

While God speaks through the heavens and the skies, He has also spoken to and through many people, as recorded in the Bible.  As you read the God’s words in the Bible, you can hear what God said to people like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, or to Moses out in the desert, or to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob throughout their life long journeys.  

You can hear what God said to Sarah and Hannah and Mary and Elizabeth.  You can hear what God said to Peter and John and the woman at the well.  As you hear God’s words as spoken to others in the Bible, it’s hard not to hear Him speaking to you as well.

I know as I hear the stories in the Bible, my faith comes alive.  I start to ask God how He might work in my life in the same ways.  Faith really does come from hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

I also want to encourage you to not just read these stories once and then be done.  The word “hearing” in this passage has the meaning of “hearing continually,” or in other words, “hearing and hearing and hearing.”  So then, faith comes by hearing and hearing and hearing, not just by having heard.  Read the Bible, and keep reading, and you’ll see your faith start to grow.  As D.L. Moody said:

“I prayed for faith and thought it would strike me like lightening. But faith did not come. One day I read, ‘Now faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.’ I had closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now began to study my Bible and faith has been growing ever since.”

If you’ve got a Bible nearby, I hope you’ll read it.  And if you need a Bible nearby, I hope you’ll get one.  There are so many great Bibles these days–and in so many languages of the world, that it would be sad if those who had access to God’s word didn’t read it on a regular basis.  If you don’t have one in print, you can also read it online in multiple languages and translations at places like www.biblegateway.com, or www.blueletterbible.org.  

And if you’d like to hear how God is working in people’s lives today, I’ve put dozens of stories that you can read in the story section of The Ranch website at www.theranch.org. God is still speaking to people today, and I’d love for you to hear the stories of how God is using His word to build people up in their faith.

In the show we watched last night, the man who had pushed God away finally reached the breaking point where he could no longer take it.  He realized he had to either give up on life, or give in to God.  He chose to surrender to God’s plan for his life, and in so doing, he found that he was also able to finally hear God speaking to him–and the words were like music to his ears.

As we get closer to Christmas this year, I hope you’ll use this time to get closer to God.  Take Paul’s words to the Romans as God’s words to you for building up your faith:

“So then faith comes by hearing (and hearing and hearing and hearing), and hearing by the word of God.”

Will you pray with me?  

Father, thank You for speaking to us in so many ways and so much of the time.  Help us to hear Your message to us today, so we can respond to it in the way You want us to respond.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

InspiringBooks.com

P.S. I’ve written many of the stories of how God has spoken to me through the Bible in many of my devotional books over the years. If you’d like to get a copy of any of these books, I’d be glad to send a paperback copy of whichever one you’d like this month for a donation of any size to our ministry. Your donations help us to offset the cost of printing and shipping, as well as get God’s Word out to more people via this website, so we truly appreciate your help! And if you’d like multiple copies of any of these books as gifts for family and friends, you can order them from InspiringBooks.com any time. Just use the links below to either make a donation and choose a book, or order multiple copies from InspiringBooks.com.
Make a Donation and Get a Book
Or Order multiple books from InspiringBooks.com

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 10:16-21. Have you ever sensed God speaking to you through nature, as Paul implies when he quotes from Psalm 19?
2. Why do you think some people still don’t listen to God, even when He might seem to be speaking to them clearly?
3. Why do you think Paul is so sad for his fellow Israelites, based on the words he quotes from Isaiah in verse 21?
4. Based on verse 17, what are some steps you can take in your own life to increase your faith? Why not commit to taking them today?

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
The Romans Study

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:
The Ranch Giftshop

To make a donation of any size and get a CD as our way of saying thanks, please visit:
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Invite your friends!  We’d love to have them study along with us—and you!  Just forward this email and encourage them to sign up for themselves at the link below.


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This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Setting Your Mind On What The Spirit Desires

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.”
SPECIAL NOTE FROM ERIC:  I recently taught an online class to show others, step-by-step, how they can self-publish their own paperback books on websites like Amazon.com, as well as make their books available in eBook format for Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Apple’s iPads, iPods and iPhones.  I recorded the full 2 hour and 10 minute class, and I’d be glad to share it with you for a donation of any size to our ministry this month.  For more details about the class and how to watch it, see the P.S. at the end of today’s message.  )


The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration


Setting Your Mind On What The Spirit Desires

Lesson 16 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
The Ranch

What is it about rules that makes us want to break them?  I was in a church one day when the pastor was talking about the benefits of a new diet he had started.  He was telling us how he ate a bowl of oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and how much of a change that was from the way he used to eat.  He said he previously used to sit down some nights and eat an entire 2-pound bag of peanut M&M’s in one sitting!   

As surprised as I was to hear that, as soon as he said it, something sprang to life within me.  I began to imagine what it would be like to sit down and eat a whole bag of peanut M&M’s, all by myself, in one sitting.  It sounded crazy.  I’d never even thought about the idea before.  That’s a lot of M&M’s!  But it sounded really good, too.  (And in case you don’t know what peanut M&M’s are, they’re peanuts dipped in chocolate and covered by a hard candy shell).

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.  Although it seemed wrong, I still wanted to do it.  Somehow, his sermon on the benefits of this new diet just made me want to eat more.  The very thing he was telling me not to do was the very thing I wanted to do—and it was his sermon that sparked the idea in me to do it!  

When one of my daughters asked me what I wanted for Christmas that year, only one thing came to the forefront of my mind:  a 2-pound bag of peanut M&M’s.  

What was happening to me?  Why was I now desiring something that I had never thought of desiring until I was told that I shouldn’t desire it?  Wouldn’t it have been better if I had never heard that sermon at all?  And what could I do about it now that I had?

The Apostle Paul describes this dilemma in Romans chapter 7 (except for mentioning the peanut M&M’s ), which also includes one of the most tongue-twisting passages in all of Scripture:

“What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.  For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

“Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:7-24).

I like the way Paul puts this.  He says that the law is good, but that sin is always present, too, ready to spring into life at any moment.  And when sin sees an opportunity, it seizes it, producing within us our covetous desires. The law is not the problem, sin is.  And sin seems already nearby and ready to seize upon such opportunities.  

It seems like a dilemma that could cripple us for life.  But Paul doesn’t leave us there, and neither does God.  Paul asks: “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  And then he continues with the answer to that question, as well how to win the battle over the sins and temptations that you face in life, too.  Paul says:

“Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 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.  You, 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” (Romans 7:25-8:11).

Paul says it clearly:  the one who can rescue you from the battles you’re facing is Jesus Christ our Lord. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living within you, if you’ve put your faith in Him.  And that same Spirit can bring the same power and the same victory to you, if you’ll set your mind on what the Spirit desires.

Jesus has already fought the hardest battle on your behalf, dying for your sins so you don’t have to.  Now your job now is to set your mind on what the Spirit desires, letting go of anything that is pulling you back into your sinful desires.

If you can win the battle in your mind, you’re well on your way to winning the battle in your flesh, too.

My sweet daughter bought me a 2-pound bag of peanut M&M’s for Christmas that year.  But when I got the bag and came face to face with the choice I was about to make, I did something I hadn’t expected.  I changed my mind.  

Whereas before I had only imagined what it would be like to indulge my desires, I now thought through what that decision would mean down the road.  What if I really did eat the whole bag in one sitting?  How sick would I get?  How many pounds would I instantly be adding to my already growing body fat?  In a matter of minutes, I had changed my mind.  I decided to just eat just a few.  I shared a few more.  Then I put the rest away in a cupboard, to be eaten only occasionally as a special treat, or to be served to friends who stopped by.  

Instead of being controlled by my fleshly desires, I set my mind on what the Spirit desires instead.  And in so doing, I won the victory.

Believe me, I know there are bigger battles in life than facing a 2-pound bag of peanut M&M’s.  But I also know that God is bigger than any of those battles, too.  The choices you make in your mind will affect the choices you make with your body.  I want to encourage you today to make good choices—to set your mind on what the Spirit desires, and not on fleshly things.  

When tempted to look at someone who’s attractive for longer than you should, just look away.  Leave them there.  And don’t look back.  When tempted to click on an inappropriate website, just let it go.  Don’t click that link.  Ask yourself, “What does the Spirit desire?”  

When tempted to start a bad habit, remember that the best way to stop a bad habit is never to start in the first place.  Just don’t do it.  Don’t even get started.  When fighting a bad habit that you’ve already started, just drop it.  Let it go.  Find a way to redirect your time and energy into something more godly and healthy.

Then call upon the Spirit of Christ who lives within you to help you do what He wants you to do.  Remember:

“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.”

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for doing the hardest work of all in our battle against sin.  Help us to do the hard work we have to do of setting our minds on what Your Spirit desires.  Help us in the battles we face today so we can drop whatever might threaten to harm us, and to take hold of that which will lead us to life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Self-Publishing ClassP.S.  On another topic, I’ve self-published a dozen books over the years, and some people have asked me how they can self-publish their books, too.  So I’ve put together an online class that shows you step-by-step how to upload your books to Amazon.com and make them available for others to buy in paperback form, or to print out copies for yourself at a very low cost.  The class also includes how to publish your books in eBook format for use on Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iBookstore for the iPhone, iPod and iPad.  I taught this class live online, and I recorded the full 2 hours and 10 minutes so you can learn from it, too.  If you’d like to see it, I’d be glad to send you the link where you can watch it online for yourself for a donation of any size to our ministry.  Your donations really do help us significantly, plus they encourage me to continue putting together more classes like these in the future!  If you’d like to make a donation online and get the link to watch the class, just click the link below:
Watch The Class

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 7:7-8:11.  Have you ever experienced what Paul described in verse 9 where “sin sprang to life” after hearing about something you shouldn’t do?
2.  What does Paul say is the cause such experiences?  Is the law at fault, or something else?
3.  What encouragement do you take from the solution Paul puts forth, that if the Spirit of Christ lives in you—the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead—that He can give life to your mortal bodies as well?
4.  Is there an area in your life where you could use the help of the Spirit of Christ right now to overcome a battle that you’re facing?  How could simply setting your mind on what the Spirit desires help you in this area?

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
The Romans Study

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:
The Ranch Giftshop

To make a donation of any size and get a CD as our way of saying thanks, please visit:
Get a CD

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
The Ranch on FaceBook

To invite Eric to speak to your group of any size, whether by Skype or in person, please visit:
Booking Information

Invite your friends! We’d love to have them study along with us—and you! Just forward this email and encourage them to sign up for themselves at the link below.


Subscribe to This Day’s Thought

This Day’s Thought for Tuesday and Wednesday

This Day's Thought

Prayer Requests

If you feel insecure, then it must be that you are looking inward at yourself rather than upward at Jesus Christ.

Howard Kelly


This Day's Verse

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

Hebrews 12:6-7
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

A good marriage is the union of two forgivers.

Ruth Bell Graham


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This Day's Thought

Prayer Requests

God often places someone at a camp, a club, or a church as a certain intersection to build you up:  Someone to say something that you’ll never forget or to encourage you at a moment of need.

Gregg Matte


This Day's Verse

Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children.

Proverbs 17:6
The New Living Translation 

Yesterday’s Sermon From The Ranch – Being Freed From Sin

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.”)


The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration


Being Freed From Sin

Lesson 14 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org

One of the best depictions I’ve ever read of the tragedy that took place when sin entered the world was in a fictional book by Ted Dekker called Black.  Ted spent the majority of his book describing a world where no one had ever sinned.  They knew there was a forbidden fruit across a particular bridge, but no one went there to eat it.  

Instead, they lived out their days doing incredible things with each other and with their God who created them.  They had children and built homes and gathered daily to enjoy time with each other and their Creator.  But one day, one of the men gave in to his temptations.  He crossed the bridge and ate the fruit.

The moment he did, evil was unleashed from the forrest beyond.  Huge black bats swarmed out of the forrest and covered the land in a dark cloud, devouring people and trees and everything in their path.  Only those who found shelter of some kind or another escaped the death and destruction that came upon their land.

Through one man’s sin, evil was unleashed upon everyone.  

Reading about this horde of evil that covered their world was one of the saddest moments I’ve ever felt while reading a book.  I couldn’t believe it happened.  I couldn’t believe this guy ate the fruit.  I couldn’t believe how utterly tragic it was for everyone and everything on the planet.

The story didn’t end there, though.  You’ll have to read the series of books for yourself to find out what happened next.

Ted’s story was a powerful retelling of another old, old story, one that the Apostle Paul talked about in his letter to the Romans.  In chapter 5 of Romans, Paul described what happened to the world when the first man, Adam, sinned.  He described how death entered into and reigned over the world as a result.  But that story didn’t end there either.  Here’s what Paul said:

“… sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned… But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:12,15).

I’m sharing this story with you today because I want to give you God’s perspective on the world around you.  While there was once a time when death reigned over the earth, you’re now living in a time when life reigns over the earth—life that has come through God’s abundant grace through Jesus Christ.  As Paul went on to say:

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

You now live in a colorful, life-filled, and joyous world—if you have the eyes to see it.  I know that it sometimes takes eyes of faith, but it’s the Truth.  Life reigns because Christ has come.  If you’ve put your faith in Christ, death no longer has mastery over you.  You’re no longer a slave to sin, because God has sent you a new Master you can serve, Someone who loves you, cares for you, and has given His life for you—Jesus Christ.

I had a friend who died a few years ago, and when he did, a strange thought crossed my mind.  As sad as I was for his death, and the loss of his friendship here on earth, I was thankful for one thing.  I thought:  “You lucky guy.  You’re finally free from sin.”  

You see, he had a tremendous ministry that touched the lives of many people.  But he also had a private battle with sin—one that he fought valiantly and victoriously, but still a battle nonetheless.  When he died, I knew his battle with sin was finally over.  It seemed like a strange thought to me, until I remembered that the Apostle Paul talked about this very thing.

In Romans chapter 6, Paul said:

“… because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:7).

Paul wasn’t advocating that people should die in order to be freed from sin!  On the contrary, he was saying that people who had put their faith in Christ and were baptized had already died with Him, in order to be raised to live a new life with Him, both here on earth and on into heaven one day.

You don’t have to die to be freed from sin.  You just have to put your faith in Christ, being baptized into His death, and rising again to live a new life—a new colorful, joy-filled life.

When I thought about my friend’s death in these terms, I realized that He wasn’t freed from sin on the day he died physically.  He was freed from sin from the moment he put his faith in Christ and was baptized, which was many, many years earlier.  From that point on, he had a new view of life, and God had a new view of him.  

Sure, he still had battles to face, but he faced them with confidence, knowing that Christ had already freed him from those sins.  Temptations would come, as always, but now he knew he could resist them because now he had the power of Christ.  He went on to make the most of the rest of his time here on earth, living victoriously and sharing Christ with many others, being a truly positive force in the world for good.

In your battle against sin, you may think a dark cloud surrounds you, a cloud of death and destruction that is constantly hanging over your head, like the swarm of bats from a Ted Dekker novel.  

But that’s a lie.  The truth is, that cloud of darkness was pushed back when Christ died for you on the cross.  On that day, color was restored to the world.  Joy became available again.   Freedom from sin became a reality for everyone who would put their faith in Him.

God doesn’t want you to sin.  Sin separates you from Him and from those you love.  But if you’ve been baptized into Christ, you’ve been freed from sin.  Sure, you may still have to fight off temptations, but now you can do it from a position of strength, not from a position of defeat.  

If you’ve never been baptized into Christ, I’d encourage you to do so as soon as possible.  Being baptized into His death will allow you to be raised with Him to a new life with Him.  Baptism can renew not only your mind, but your heart and soul as well.  It will change your outlook on life.  And it will help you to be freed from sin.  You may still have a battle to fight, but you’ll be fighting it with Christ, which makes all the difference in the world!

As further encouragement that you can be freed from sin, here and now, let me close with the words of the Apostle Paul on the subject.  Then count yourselves as “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

“If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God.

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:1-10).

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for setting us free from sin by dying for us.  Help us to see that death no longer reigns over us, but because of Christ, we can reign in life.  Help us to put our faith in You anew today, trusting that the world is gloriously new because of You.  Help us to see it the way You see it, so we can enjoy it as You intended us to enjoy it, living valiantly and victoriously while we’re here.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Awakening 2P.S.  If you like peaceful, relaxing music, I’ve uploaded another song to The Ranch website that you can listen to for free anytime from Craig Prest’s instrumental CD, “Awakening 2.”  Craig and I both hope you enjoy it!  If you’d like to get the whole CD, whether on a physical disc or as downloadable MP3’s, I’d be glad to send it to you for a donation of any size to our ministry this month.  Here’s the link to listen to another one of Craig’s songs, and a link below that where you can make a donation and request the whole CD.  Thanks in advance for your gifts… they really do help to keep us going!
http://streams.theranch.org/craigprest5.mp3 
http://theranch.org/Get-the-CD.359.0.html

Questions for Reflection

1.  Read Romans 5:12-6:10.  Why does Paul say “the gift is not like the trespass” in comparing the effects of Adam’s sin with the effects of Christ’s death and resurrection?
2.  What can we do to “reign in life,” as Paul says in verse 17?
3.  Have you ever thought of baptism as a way of dying to your old self, and being raised to new life?  What about this idea might be attractive to you?
4.  Have you ever been baptized?  If so, what difference does being baptized make in how you view your battle with sin today?  If you haven’t been baptized, what difference might baptism make in your own battle with sin?  If you need further encouragement to be baptized, here are a few more verses you might read:  Acts 2:38, Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, John 3:5, and Acts 8:35-38.

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
The Romans Study

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:
The Ranch Giftshop

To make a donation of any size and get a CD as our way of saying thanks, please visit:
Get a CD

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
The Ranch on FaceBook

To invite Eric to speak to your group of any size, whether by Skype or in person, please visit:
Booking Information

Invite your friends!  We’d love to have them study along with us—and you!  Just forward this email and encourage them to sign up for themselves at the link below.


Subscribe to This Day’s Thought

My Dear Sweet Jesus

My dear sweet Jesus
born again am I

 All because for me
You chose to die

How I do love You
my closest of friends

I know I’ll see You
when my journey ends

You have made me
clean and brand new

Removed my sins and
took them upon You

How could I ask
of You any more?

My dear sweet Jesus
it’s You that I adore!

Teresa Marie  8/17/11

 

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Being Redeemed By Jesus

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to feature Eric Elder’s latest series called “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind”) 
 

The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration

Being Redeemed By Jesus

Lesson 8 from
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org
 

 
The great evangelist D.L. Moody was once confronted by a woman who said she didn’t like his method of evangelism.  D. L. Moody said, “I don’t particularly like my method either.  What’s yours?”  
 
The woman said, “I don’t have one.”  
 
To which D.L. Moody replied, “Then I like mine better!”
 
There are many methods for sharing your faith, such as “The Four Spiritual Laws” from Campus Crusade, “Steps to Peace with God” from Billy Graham, “The Two Questions” from Evangelism Explosion, or “The Ten Commandments” from the Way of the Master.  As someone has said, sharing your faith is like prayer:  there’s probably only one wrong way to do it, and that’s to not do it at all!
 
Still, I’d like to give you a method of sharing your faith today that I hope will make it easier for you to do it.  It’s called “The Roman Road,” and it begins with a Scripture that’s found in the passage we’re looking at today in the book of Romans, chapter 3.  
 
But before I start, I’d like to remind you that sharing your faith is not about a method, but about a person, Jesus Christ.  Remember that it is not a method that saves people, but Jesus—and He would love to work through you to touch the lives of those around you.  When you remember this, it takes the pressure off of you and your method.  It’s Jesus who will save people!
 
I’d also like to remind you to pray for opportunities to share with others.  Sometimes we don’t share with others because we don’t spend time praying for opportunities to share.  But if you’ll pray for God to open doors for you to share your faith, He’ll open your eyes to those who need to hear His good news today.  Pray for opportunities to share, and trust that God will help you share as He opens up those opportunities up to you!
 
And third, a practical way to get into a spiritual conversation with someone is to ask if you can pray for them, perhaps for their health or a situation in their life where they might need God’s intervention.  As they share with you their need, you can pray for that need specifically, and afterwards share how God may have helped you or someone you know with a similar need.  You can let them know that we can trust God for all of our needs because of what He has already done for us through Jesus.  This can lead naturally into a conversation about the needs we all have in life, and the way that Jesus can meet those needs.
 
Having said that, let’s take a look at “The Roman Road,” a way of walking people through a few passages in the book of Romans, like walking them down a road and pointing out highlights along the way.  
 
While there are many Scriptures that are included in the various versions of “The Roman Road,” I’d like to give you just four to make it as easy as possible for you to remember.  Since we’re in this series on renewing your mind, I think it’s helpful to commit these verses to memory so you can have them at the forefront of your mind, for your own sake, as well as for the sake of those people that God brings your way.
 
The Roman Road starts with Romans, chapter 3, verse 23:
 
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23).
 
We’ve all sinned.  None of us has a perfect moral scorecard.  Unfortunately, sin has consequences.  The consequences of sin are stated clearly in Romans chapter 6, verse 23:
 
“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).
 
The wages, or what we’ve earned for our sin, is death.  This is a natural outcome of what happens when we go against God’s will for our lives.  God wants us to have an abundant life, but when we go against His plan for us, we head in the opposite direction of life, and head down a path that leads to death instead.  
 
The good news is that Jesus came to put us back on track, and to save us from the penalty of death, as described in Romans chapter 5, verse 8:
 
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
 
God loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to die, so He made a way for us to be free from sin and free from facing an eternity of death and separation from Him.  When Christ died on the cross, He took our sins upon Him to pay the penalty for us with His own life.
 
Although God makes this offer available freely to anyone, He doesn’t force it on anyone.  He wants us to come to Him of our own free will, confessing with our mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believing in our heart that God raised Him from the dead.  When we do that, God will save us, as described in Romans 10:9:
 
“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
 
When you put your faith in Christ, you’ll be saved and given a new life, both here on earth and on into heaven forever.
 
While there are many other passages from the book of Romans that you could use to share God’s good news with people, these four verses make up the core of of the gospel:  addressing the fact that we’ve all sinned, that the penalty for sin is death, and that God loved us so much that He made a way for us to be freed from our sins, by putting our faith in Jesus who gave up His own life on our behalf.
 
While it may sound simple, don’t underestimate what God can do through a few verses from the book of Romans.  
 
It was while reading the book of Romans that a man named Augustine put his faith in Christ, back in 386 A.D.  He was sitting in the garden of a friend, weeping as he thought about the wickedness of his life.  Some children nearby were singing “Tolle, lege.  Tolle, lege.” which means “Take up and read.  Take up and read.”  A scroll of the book of Romans was laying open next to Augustine, so he took it up and read it.  The first verses he saw described the condition of his life—and what to do about it:
 
“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in or…es and drunkenness, not in se…al immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:13-14, with letters omitted from some words to get past spam filters!).
 
Augustine put his faith in Christ that day, and became one of the greatest theologians and leaders in the history of the church.
 
It was while reading the book of Romans that a man named Martin Luther put his faith in Christ, about 1,000 years after Saint Augustine.  Luther was an Augustinian monk who was burdened by the weight of trying to do enough good works to get into heaven.  But that burden was finally lifted as he read a verse from the book of Romans.  The verse he read showed him that he wouldn’t be declared righteous by his good works, but by his faith in Christ:
 
“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17).
 
Martin Luther put his faith in Christ that day, and went on to lead a reformation that impacted lives all over the world.
 
It was while listening to someone reading Luther’s notes on the book of Romans that John Wesley put his faith in Christ, several hundred years later.  As Wesley listened to those introductory comments about the book of Romans, his heart was “strangely warmed” and he committed his life to Christ entirely.  John Wesley, and his brother Charles, went on to found the Methodist movement, contributing many of the great hymns of the faith that we still sing today.
 
And it was while reading the book of Romans that I put my faith in Christ, too, (not that I’m making any claims to be listed among the greats of the faith like the others I’ve mentioned, but just to say that Paul’s words to the Romans still affect people today, almost 2,000 years after they were written)!  When I heard Romans 3:23 and 6:23, then read Romans 1:18-32 for myself, I realized that I was a sinner and needed a Savior.  Here I am, twenty-four years later, encouraging you to share what I’ve learned about Christ through the book of Romans with others!
 
And these are just a few of the lives that have been touched by a few verses from the book of Romans!  If you’ve been redeemed by Jesus, tell others about it!  And if you haven’t been redeemed by Jesus, then find out for yourself how life-changing it can be by putting your faith in Him today!
 
I’d encourage you to commit to memory these four simple verses from Romans.  They’re great for renewing your mind, and as you keep them at the forefront of your mind, they’ll help you to remember that you’ve been redeemed by Jesus.  They’ll also help you as you talk with others about how they can be redeemed by Jesus, too. 
 
Perhaps you’re reading this today and you’re like Augustine, or Luther, or Wesley, or me, and these verses that I’ve shared from Romans have somehow sparked your thinking and moved your heart in a way that you to want to commit your life to Christ, too.  If so, put your faith in Him today for everything in your life.  Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and invite Him to be your Lord and Savior.  Do what Paul encouraged the Romans to do, and you’ll be saved, too:
 
“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
 
Will you pray with me?
 
Father, thank You for sending Jesus to redeem us from our sins.  Help us to share that life-changing message with those around us.  Open our eyes today to those who need to hear this message, and open their hearts to be receptive as we share it, so they can put their faith in You as well.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
P.S. I’ve also posted a 25-minute audio version of today’s message online, containing a short worship song led by my son in Australia, and a special explanation of “The Roman Road” by his housemate there on how he has used this method of evangelism with some of the people he’s met around the world.  You can listen to the message at the link below:
 
Loving Thoughts

P.S. We’ve had another 500 people download our new, short eBook this week called “Loving Thoughts.”  It includes quotes from Christians throughout the ages written to help those who are passing from this life to the next and those who love them.  The eBook is free and I’d love for you to get a copy for yourself, whether you need it now or in the future.  Although it’s a short book, don’t let that fool you about the life-changing perspective it can bring to those who are facing death.  It also includes a short gospel message for those who haven’t yet put their faith in Christ, so I encourage you to get a copy for your friends, whether they’re saved or unsaved.  You can also order a copy of this little book in a beautiful paperback edition that we’d be glad to ship to you anywhere in the world for a donation of any size to our ministry.  Your gifts help us to keep creating resources like these, as well as to offset the cost of printing and shipping, so thanks in advance for your gifts!  They really do bear fruit all over the world!  Here are the links to download the free eBook or to request a paperback:
To download the free eBook version, please visit:
To make a donation and get the paperback, please visit:
 
Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 3:21-31.  What do you think about Paul’s claim that “all have sinned” in verse 23?  What evidence do you see in your life and the lives of those around you that argue either for or against this claim?
2.  How does Paul say we can be justified in God’s eyes and redeemed from this situation, as stated in verses 24-26?  
3.  What place does boasting have in the life of a Christian, according to verses 27-28?
4.  Why not take some time today to write down the four verses mentioned in this message and commit them to memory as a way to keep them at the forefront of your mind?  The verses are:  Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, and Romans 10:9.  After you’ve memorized them, share these verses with a friend who has already put their faith in Christ as a way to practice what you’ve learned, then pray for God to give you opportunities with someone else who still needs to hear this good news!
 
To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
 
To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:
 
To find us on Facebook, please visit:
 
To invite Eric to speak to your group of any size, whether by Skype or in person, please visit:

Talents

God gives us a talent
not for us to shine
but that it be spent
for His glory Divine

So to them we bring
the Light of heaven above
where forever the angels sing
before the throne of love

All for His glory
do we breathe and live
and tell the greatest story
of the One God did give

Your talents are a gift
that God has given you
that you may then lift
what praises are His due!

Teresa Marie  7/28/11