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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How to Uncover Satan's Lie about Your Identity When You've Been Offended


One of the most damaging results of being offended by someone is the message Satan slips into our minds about our identity through what the other person did or said. Satan is our sworn enemy, taking advantage of any opportunity he can to fulfill his mission as recorded in John 10:10, to"kill, steal and destroy."  At the end of the verse Jesus tells us the good news that He came to defeat Satan's plan with His own mission. He said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly"(NASB).

Satan is relentless.  He will not stop coming at you until you are dead.  Until that day, it's on!  Yet, we don't need to be afraid. Rather, we need to be equipped to stop him and to foil his plans towards us. That is why Scripture tells us this about thebattle.  Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1Peter 5:8 NLT).  

We are also told that we can become aware of the strategies and schemes Satan throws at us and everyone else, so that Satan will not outsmart us, for we are familiar with his evil schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11 NLT) Though he is a deceiver, his strategies and schemes are the same ones he uses over and over.  In other words, he is predictable, and God can help us understand what to look for.

This is certainly true in the area of being offended.  When we are offended we may feel hurt, angry, bitter, resentful and more. Satan's strategy is to get us stuck in these emotions and sins. God's remedy to defeat Satan, as we've been discussing the past few weeks, is to Biblically forgive the offender for their offense,and to confess any sin of bitterness we may have towards them.

Let me say a few more things about forgiveness before I go any further about the attack on our identity.  Forgiveness is not saying that what the person did was OK.  It's saying it was not OK, but you are not going to allow that person to keep hurting you by not forgiving them.  With that in mind, you may have wondered, "What do I do if someone keeps doing the same hurtful sin towards me?  Do I just take it and keep forgiving them?"  Jesus says, "No," and gives a three step process to deal with it in Matthew 18:15-17.  You can also pray for God to break the stronghold that is causing the person to hurt you.

Now back to our main topic.  Another scheme of Satan is to put a lie in our minds about our identity when we are offended. Don't be surprised if this lie is the same lie you have heard many other times in your life.

Here is an example of this.  A little boy grew up with his dad never telling him that he loved him but rather criticizing him for everything he did. When he became an adult, he found himself extremely sensitive to any kind of correction from his boss to the point that he would become depressed for days.  When he finally forgave his dad, he asked his Heavenly Dad what the lie was. He said, "The lie is this:  You are inadequate and therefore unlovable.  I gave my Son, Jesus, for you personally, showing how valuable you are to me. You are complete in me and are deeply loved."

Agreeing with God about you defeats the lies the enemy continues to serve up to you!  We are told in James 4:7 (first)"Submit yourselves to God, (then) Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."


Believe it! It's the Gospel.

Live Free In Christ,

Mark Maulding, President and Founder

www.GraceLifeInternational.com All Content Copyright © 2016 Mark Maulding but feel free to pass it on!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How Confessing Bitterness as Sin Provides Deeper Freedom



A few years ago, a very good friend of mine came to me with a deep struggle.  He lived a godly life as he daily tapped into the life-giving grace we all possess in Christ.  His problem was that he had legitimately forgiven some people who had beaten him down with with a flurry of hurtful blows from gossip and lies. Yet, his soul was still weighed down with a heaviness he just couldn't put his finger on. My heart definitely went out to him, but I knew he needed more than compassion.  He needed God's truth if he was going to be free from this struggle.

The Holy Spirit had actually been giving me a deeper understanding about bitterness and resentment in my own life just a few weeks before.  That is often what He does, isn't it?  He shows us the way to freedom so we can help others with a similar struggle, just like 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

I told him I thought I knew what his problem was and that God was about to remove this weight from his soul.  First, I double checked to make certain he had told his Father two things: all of the things these people had said about him; how each sin against him had made him feel. Next, I asked him if he had released each person from the debt they owed him.  Then, I went for what I thought was his real issue. I asked him if he had confessed his sin of bitterness to the Lord.  He acted a little surprised at my inquiry but then sheepishly had to admit he had not.

Before I go any further, I think I need to communicate some important truths about confession of sin.  (Confession means to tell God any sin He shows us and then to repent of it, meaning we turn to Jesus and ask Him to live through us as our only hope of not repeating that sin.)  There are two errors we can fall into in this part of our relationship with God.  
 

1. We can confess our sins believing we get more forgiveness from God.  In proclaiming that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ in Ephesians 1:3, God includes our complete forgiveness for all past, present and future sins in the following list of those blessings in Ephesians 1:7. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

2. The other error we can fall into is believing that because of our complete forgiveness, we have no need to confess our sins to God ever. Sometimes, one of the great challenges we have in our counseling is getting people to take responsibility for particular sins which are a part of their fleshly strategies for living.

Now, back to my counseling session with my friend.  He was willing to live from his identity in Christ as a child of God, who is being corrected by His loving heavenly Father, and confess his bitterness as sin.  He wanted to pray out loud with me as a friend, and he did just that.  At the end, he thanked God that Jesus had already forgiven him on the cross for his bitterness then said, "Amen."

The moment he opened his eyes, he blurted out, "That is amazing!  It's gone!  The weight of the struggle inside me is gone.  I feel free and at peace."

Where are you today?  Maybe you read my blog last week and spent some serious time forgiving people who have wounded you.  But did you deal with your own bitterness? It could be bitterness towards some people, yourself or even God.  Did you take that to the Lord as well?  If not, let me encourage you to take just a moment and pray right now whether you are at home, at work or anywhere else. Tell your Father you have held bitterness inside and that you are ready to get rid of it. Tell Him that you now realize that your bitterness is sin.  Tell Him you are confident Jesus died for your sin of bitterness and affirm His forgiveness for it. Finally, turn to Christ in you and ask Him to live through you since He is our only hope for not trafficking in the dark world of bitterness again.  My prayer is that this lifts a weight off of your soul that you may have carried for along time.

Believe it! It's the Gospel.

Live Free In Christ,

Mark Maulding, President and Founder

www.GraceLifeInternational.com All Content Copyright © 2016 Mark Maulding but feel free to pass it on!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Why Do We Need to Forgive Those Who Hurt Us the Most?


Many of you may not know that one of my four children has Down syndrome.  Her name is Bekah, and today she is 25. Bekah went to public school in elementary and middle school and was in normal classes and had lots of friends. Later, she attended college.

Many years ago, Bekah wanted to try out for
cheer leading.  My wife and I were amazed at how she learned the routines - jumping in the air, doing splits, and yelling out the cheers. Unfortunately, she did not make the team which was very disappointing for her and us.  She had a really hard time understanding that she could no longer cheer with the other girls.

Soon afterwards, we received a letter from the coach explaining Bekah was not cut from the team because of her disability but because...she kicked, hit, yelled and cussed while in line with the other girls.  We were stunned, no shocked, because Bekah had never exhibited any of those behaviors ever in any situation.  

At a sleepover a few weeks later, which Bekah hosted in our home,  several of the girls who had made the team asked my wife why Bekah had not made the team.  My wife gently told them about the letter.  They all immediately cried out, "Ms. Ellen, that's not true at all.  Bekah didn't do any of those things. In fact, she did great in the tryouts." Ellen called for me and asked me to come hear what the girls were saying. They repeated it all again.

This person had not only lied but had impugned Bekah's character and we were angry!  What had been done to our daughter was dastardly.  The question afterwards was, "What are we going to do about this?"  We knew we could not pull these girls into a dispute with this coach.  So, we had no recourse.  This coach had hurt a person who could not speak up for herself due to her disability and there was nothing we could do about it...except forgive. 

Did this person deserve to be forgiven? Absolutely not.  But we were not going to allow a root of bitterness to grow within us that Hebrews 12:15 warns about.  We were not about to give this person power over our lives.  We were not about to give Satan power over us.  Was it easy?  No! Everything in us cried out for justice but there was none to be had.

So, we trusted Christ in us, the greatest "forgiver" of all time, to live through us so we could forgive. We wanted to live like who we are in Christ, "forgivers", in obedience from the love in our hearts for our Father.  We wanted to "forgive one another just as God had forgiven us in Christ" (Ephesians 4:32) So, we sat before the Lord and poured out to Him our anger, our hurt, and our desire for justice. Then, because God had forgiven us for all our sins we did not deserve to be forgiven for, we forgave this person; meaning, we released the person from the debt we believe they owed us.  In this case, the debt would have been an admission to us and especially to Bekah of the wrong they had done.  

A few weeks later, would you believe that we saw this person at a church we were visiting?  We were both so glad we had been honest with God about the hurts we received from the offense and then chose to forgive. We live free today from bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness.  Praise God!

How about you?  Do you have someone in you life who doesn't deserve to be forgiven?  Don't give them or Satan power over your life?  Don't live in the prison of unforgiveness.  Live like who you are in Christ and forgive. I believe you will agree that Jesus has forgiven us for a lot more sins in our lives than any of us can comprehend. Besides, unforgiveness goes against our new nature.

Don't allow Satan to use your feelings against you and wait until you feel like forgiving.  If so, you will never forgive.  Do it by faith,not feelings. Go before God and tell Him everything that person did. Tell Him everything you feel about that person and event(s). Then tell Him that just as you did not deserve to be forgiven by Him for your sins, this person doesn't deserve your forgiveness. Tell Him that you choose to release them from what they owe you.  Then ask the Lord to heal you.  It may take some time for your emotions to catch up with your choice to forgive but they eventually will. Let us know if you get stuck and need help from one of our wonderful discipleship counselors. Remember, forgiveness is a gift FOR US from Father to live more freely in Christ!
                                            



Believe it! It's the Gospel.

Live Free In Christ,

Mark Maulding, President and Founder

www.GraceLifeInternational.com All Content Copyright © 2016 Mark Maulding but feel free to pass it on!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

6 Primary Stages in Our Spiritual Journey



How do you know where you are in your spiritual journey? The following is what I see in Scripture, as well as what the staff of Grace Life International and I have observed in our counseling with hundreds and hundreds of people for over 20 years.  I would love to hear from you what you think of this.  Email me and let me know if you think this is helpful.  

STAGES 1-3

You know that Jesus is IMPORTANT to you.  You know Him as your Savior and Lord.

1.  Recognition of God - You are starting to believe IN God, believing there really is something bigger than you, but you are not a Christian, yet.

2.  Life of Discipleship - You have come to faith in Christ and are beginning to learn more ABOUT God and the Bible.

3.  The Productive Life - You are serving and doing things FOR God, the church and people.

THE WALL - This is a place in your spiritual journey where things stop working in your life for one reason or another. This occurs typically during stage 3 but might start happening in stages 2 or 3. Often, a person is confused, disillusioned, defeated and/or discouraged during this time. Because you have not yet realized that you have been living much of your life for God walking after the flesh, and these patterns must be broken.    

STAGES 4-6

You discover that Jesus is also ENOUGH for you. You realize that He is your Life.  

4.  The Journey Inward - You begin to understand that there is a new way to live life and to be in a relationship with God, yourself and others.  You typically experience God's love in a very substantial way.  This stage often involves a time of personal healing and freedom.  The Holy Spirit has given you a revelation of Christ in you and your identity in Christ. (See Ephesians 3:14-21)

5.  The Journey Outward - Your spiritual journey is continuing as you learn to live, serve and love by faith. You are learning to depend on Christ in you to live through you in everyday life.  (See Philippians 1:21)  

6.  Life of Love - God's love is filling you and pouring out of you in such a way that it is amazing.  

Important Truths About These Stages:

You cannot jump around initially.  There are no shortcuts or workarounds. You don't go from 1 to 4 or 2 to 5.  It's a 1-2-3-4-5-6 process; but once you have gone through them you may skip around and revisit certain stages during different times of life.

You can get stuck at any of these stages on your journey.  At the same time, there are things that you can believe/do to keep moving.  

None of these stages are good, bad, right, wrong or better than another.  They just are.  It's important to remember that we couldn't have gotten to where we are now without the prior stages.  Sometimes, we forget that without our stage of learning Scripture, involvement in our church, and working hard to use what God gave us to bless others, we wouldn't be where we are today in our relationship with Jesus.  

The majority of Christians never grow beyond stages 1-3. These first three stages produce workers in the church, people who sit in the pews and learn, givers, and volunteers who pull the ministry off.  Those in stages 4-6 are involved in ministry in the church also, unless they have burned out in stages 1-3.  If so, it may take them some time to recover and re-engage in their ministry in their church.  Those in stages 4-6 have a much more fruitful ministry than when they were in stages 1-3.  


These are also based on the book, "The Critical Journey: Stages In The Life Of Faith" by Janet Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich along with several other articles and books.    


Believe it! It's the Gospel.

Live Free In Christ,

Mark Maulding, President and Founder

www.GraceLifeInternational.com All Content Copyright © 2016 Mark Maulding but feel free to pass it on!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why You Don't Have a Sinful Nature





God uses birth, not behavior or performance, to determine who you are. As a Christ follower, If you have been considering your behavior or performance to come to a conclusion of who you are and you see yourself only through the lens of what you do or don't do,  then I have good news for you! Remember! God uses birth, not behavior or performance to determine who you are!

When you hear, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace," you have often heard it so many times that you probably nod your head in agreement without giving it much thought. However, you cannot find any New Covenant scriptures which proclaim that you are a sinner as a Christ follower. You may say, "What about where Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15, 'This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief?"  If you start reading in verse 9 and then to 17, you will see the larger story he is using to make this statement. He is saying that because he persecuted the church before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road, he is the worst sinner ever, and if God can save a sinner like him, He can save anyone.

When I played basketball in high school, I set a record for the most rebounds ever in the history of the school.  A rebound is when you grab the basketball after it hits the backboard or rim and doesn't go in the basket.  To my knowledge, I still hold that record a few decades later. Though I have graduated from high school and no longer attend there, would it be a fair statement to say that I am the "chief rebounder" at my high school?  Yes, it would be, though I am no longer a part of that school. It is simply a part of my past, just as Paul being the chief of sinners was a part of his past, though he says it in present tense.

Another issue is that you may have been told most of your life that you have two natures as a Christian -- the old nature and the new nature. However, Romans 6:6 is very clear that your old nature, identified as "sinner," died once and for all on the cross with Jesus.  It was put to death and you were given a new nature - Christ's nature. (2 Cor. 5:17) Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

One more challenge you may find is that you grew up reading the New International Version Bible.  I like it too, except where they translated the word flesh as sinful nature. That is very confusing because the old nature is dead and removed. However, God did not remove the flesh from the Christ follower. In addition, the old nature and the flesh are not the same  So when you see in places like Romans 8 that we are dealing with a sinful nature, it's easy to make the assumption that you have one.  To the NIV's credit, the newest version changed 95% of those back to the flesh, which is more accurate.

Rejoice today!  Though you and I can certainly act in a sinful way, we do not have a sinful nature.   
Scripture states that the battlefield is in the mind. The conflict is between the flesh and the Spirit, not between two natures. (Galatians 5:17) For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (The definition for the  flesh is behavior influenced by old patterns of thoughts, feelings and choices, apart from total dependence on Jesus Christ.)

"Why is this so important?" you may be asking. Because it goes to the very heart of the Gospel about what really happened when Jesus died on the cross for us and when we died with Him. Then, God raised us up with Him to walk in newness of life, for the very first time!    It goes to the core of who you really are deep within.  Can your identity be both a sinner and a saint, based on  rebirth?  Or, are you a saint who sometimes sins? According to Romans 6, you are a saint who sometimes sins. When we teach this truth on your new identity in Christ to people here at GLI and they have embraced it, we've watched God change their perspective.  Why?  People tend to act in a manner in how they see themselves. Will you believe the truth today so you can live freer in your own life?

We welcome you to join us at GLI-Charlotte for the Free Orientation that speaks on this Life-Changing Class called Advanced Discipleship Training.  In ADT, over 8 months, we learn more about entering God's rest that Hebrews 4:10 describes.  Orientation begins Monday, July 11, from 6-9pm. Contact Sandy Witherspoon at 704.522.9026 or EMAIL US! for more information.  
                                            
Believe it! It's the Gospel.

Live Free In Christ,

Mark Maulding, President and Founder

www.GraceLifeInternational.com All Content Copyright © 2016 Mark Maulding but feel free to pass it on!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

You Cannot Generate Sinful Thoughts as a Christian


Have you ever wondered why when you are praying, terrible, sinful thoughts come out of nowhere into your mind?  Have you ever experienced a flurry of thoughts about what a failure you are as a Christian or, for some, what a great Christian you are compared to others?  When we have these sinful thoughts, many of us beat ourselves up.  But should we really be beating ourselves up for these very common experiences? Absolutely not!

Here's why. These sinful thoughts are not coming from you.  In fact, you do not even have the ability to generate sinful thoughts. You may be thinking in your mind, "You must not know me very well, Mark, because if you did, you would realize that I can come up with all kinds of sinful thoughts!" Actually, you don't, and as I said earlier, you can't. Why? It's because as a new creation in Christ, the real you, the true identity can only think and produce loving, righteous thoughts.  

1 John 3:6 tells us this: No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (NASB) The new you cannot sin because you are 100% righteous in your identity in Christ, that is, in your spirit. As a righteous person, you do not have the desire nor the ability to produce sinful or tempting thoughts.  

Since that is true, where do they originate from? Sinful thoughts originate from one of two places. 1. Indwelling sin or 2. Satan.

In Romans 7:15-17, the Apostle Paul shares his own struggle with temptation, how he failed to overcome them and where the temptations were originating. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  What does this teach us?

Our deepest desire is to live righteously not sinfully!

There is zero power in the law or in will-power to defeat temptation in our lives!  

Sinful thoughts originate from sin, which lives in our bodies, not from the real us!

A Christian does not have two natures warring against each other - a sinful one and a righteous one.  The sinful one was crucified on the cross with Jesus according to Romans 6:6.  Yet we do have an unholy force or power in our bodies that is the source of our temptation called indwelling sin. It's just that this source is not who we are.

It's like having a splinter in your finger.  It hurts like crazyIt's something in you, but it's not you. Indwelling sin is in us, but it's not the real us.  Just read the remainder of Romans 7 and you will see this clearly.

Yet, here is where it's tricky.  This "splinter" in us called indwelling sin puts sinful thoughts in our mind which sound just like us talking.  They have our same gender, cadence and accent. So, it certainly sounds like us, but because they are sinful thoughts instead of righteous ones, they are not from us. Let me put it this way.

Every temptation we have is coming from indwelling sin or Satan not us!

If you will begin to believe this, you can not only stop beating yourself up, but you can ask the Holy Spirit to help you recognize these sinful thoughts.

I remember after having a powerful session in counseling one time, I ran a quick errand to the local Walmart.  As I was walking in, I began to be bombarded by these dark sinful thoughts. Knowing the truth, I simply said, "These thoughts aren't coming from me.  I died to you sin. I am a righteous child of God." They stopped immediately.

We all need to know this truth and to be reminded of it often.  I certainly do in my own life, for sure. Ask God to remind you of this liberating truth, and watch what He does in your life.  You will be amazed and encouraged!


Believe it! It's the Gospel.

Live Free In Christ,

Mark Maulding, President and Founder

www.GraceLifeInternational.com All Content Copyright © 2016 Mark Maulding but feel free to pass it on!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Do We Need to Balance Grace with Law?


What would your life be like if you decided you were going to live totally by grace instead of the 10 Commandments and religious rules?  Would you feel free, or would you feel afraid?  Today, some fear that teaching people to live exclusively by grace will lead Christians to increased sinning. There are phrases which have been created to describe their beliefs about this kind of teaching. Here are a few: license to sin, greasy grace, and hyper grace.  These fears almost always lead to one conclusion: Christians need some law to balance grace.

Here is how it is sometimes couched.  "God's grace gives us the power to obey the 10 Commandments."  I once believed this and taught it.  I dedicated myself for over 10 years to calling upon God's grace to give me the strength and power to obey the Big 10.  I began this with high hopes and excitement.  Five years later I was filled with pride and self-righteousness. It ended in a fog of depression and finally giving up on it all.  I told my wife one night at the end of this part of my journey, "If this is all there is to being a Christian, it doesn't work, and I can't do this any longer."

God gave the Law for some very specific purposes: 1. To show people their sins. "Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20 b). 2. To make people sin more. "The Law came in so that transgression might increase" (Romans 5:20 a).3. To minister death and condemnation.  "But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?  For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory" (2 Corinthians 3:7-9).4. To prepare every person who hears the Law to embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior.  "Let me put it another way. The Law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith." (Galatians 3:24).

The moment a person places their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, any allegiance to the Law abruptly stops because we have "Somebody" better. "And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the Law as our guardian" (Galatians 5:25). Why? We have Jesus in us.  He is not rule based at all but completely relationship based. Once our focus is on Him, we stop performing the rules for God and depend on Jesus to live a life of love through us. And what is amazing is that when we focus on Jesus, we fulfill the Law without even thinking about it! "Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God's Law" (Romans 13:10).

We also have the Law written on our hearts and minds according to Hebrews 10:16."This is the new covenant I will make with My people on that day, says the Lord: I will put My Laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." This is a reference to our identity in Christ as holy and righteous sons and daughters of God.  The deepest part of who we are wants to live a life consistent with who we are.

We don't need the Law to balance the life-giving power of living by grace.  We have Jesus, Mr. Grace Himself, in us so we can enjoy His love, love Him back and rely on Him to live through our new creation identity.

That night as I laid in that dark room full of despair, my DAD spoke to me, letting me know that He not only loved me but accepted me even if the church I was starting failed.   Yet, when God first revealed the love and life of Christ to me, I still did not understand that grace had freed me from the Law.  Little by little, my mind was renewed to where I saw that it can't be both.

How about you?  Are you ready to give up on Law-based living plus grace-based living?  That combination still equals trying harder.  If so, you can begin to simply trust that living by pure grace alone is enough.  It's a choice I urge you to make today.  It may be scary at first, but as you experience more and more freedom to live like you've always wanted deep down inside as a Christ-follower, you will be glad you did!

Believe it! It's the Gospel.


Live Free In Christ,

Mark Maulding, President and Founder

www.GraceLifeInternational.com All Content Copyright © 2016 Mark Maulding but feel free to pass it on!