Spiritual Slaves

…Teach older women to be holy in their behavior, not…enslaved to too much wine… (Titus 2:3, NCV)

The Christian life is filled with competing desires. We have 2 natures within us, fighting for control: the Spirit-filled nature and the sinful nature. The fight is evident in how we pursue pleasure and minimize pain.

When we find something that brings us pleasure or decreases our pain, we want more of it. What starts as an indulgence — something rare and special — can easily become an over-indulgence. We are hard-wired to create habits — and the habits we form often bring us pleasure or relieve pain. But how do we know when we have crossed the line from healthy to enslavement?

When we cannot be happy, satisfied, or functional without something or someone (besides God), we are wise to ask ourselves if we have become enslaved. Another warning sign is if our thinking changes from “I like this” or “I want this” to “I NEED this”. Christians are not exempt from enslavement, but far more life helps us recognize and overcome it.

We are tempted to think that faith in Christ is all we need to drive away sinful habits and compulsions. So when we struggle with or give in to sin, we may be tempted to think it is because we lack faith. And plenty of people with bad doctrine will confirm that false belief. So we do more of all the things we think will increase our faith: we go to church more; we study the Bible more, maybe even memorize parts of it; we pray more; we try harder to be good people. But working hard to grow your faith usually does not overcome an over-indulgence that has enslaved you. Why? Because lack of faith is not the problem. Even the Apostle Paul, a man of great faith, wrestled with this:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (Romans 7:21, NIV)

It would be great if a switch was flipped when we accepted Christ. That switch would turn off the pleasure we receive from sin, impure thoughts, anger, anxiety, fear, and pain.  It would turn on peace, patience, and a desire for only pure hobbies, entertainment, and fun. But that is not what God chose for us.

…It is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose. (Philippians 2:12, PHILLIPS)

Accepting Christ delivers us from the penalty of sin; we will never be punished for our wrongdoing (Romans 8:1). And it delivers us from the power of sin; we now have a clearer understanding of right and wrong and His Spirit living within us gives us power to choose what is right (2 Peter 1:3). But it also increases our awareness of sin; we realize things we thought were okay are actually displeasing to God, and some are actually enslaving us (John 9:39-41). We will spend the rest of our lives becoming aware of actions, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs we have embraced that are contrary to righteousness. There is no need to feel shameful about this; it is God’s plan for us. Far more life is being alert, honest, and humble about these areas.

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin…having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18, ESV)

We live as spiritual slaves, either to sin or righteousness. The Greek word translated slave, doúlos, means “someone who belongs to another”. So plugging that definition into the above verse reads, “…You who once belonged to sin…now belong to righteousness.” We want to be independent, self-determined, our own masters. But spiritually speaking that is simply not possible:

…Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV)

God, our Creator, owns us. Although we originally rejected Him and chose sin, He paid a high price for a restored relationship with us: the blood of His Son. God is our rightful master. And once we become His through Christ, nothing can separate us from Him; we belong to Him for all eternity (Romans 8:38-39). We have security as a slave to the righteousness of our perfect, loving Heavenly Father. This is hard to grasp, but there are benefits of being a slave to righteousness:

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22, NIV)

As slaves of God, we become a new creation. Our new nature desires to please God. We want to do what He says is right, to be holy like He is holy. We want to live in awe and reverence to Him. As new Christians, we see some changes right away and eagerly pursue more! We experience unconditional love and want to share it with others. We find purpose and meaning that satisfies us. We gain true pain relief through embracing His truth. We get a taste of far more life!

Sisters,
Think about what brings you pleasure; are you walking in the Spirit-filled nature or the sinful nature when you pursue it?
What do you do to avoid (emotional) pain? Which nature does that reinforce?
What do you NEED to be happy, satisfied, or functional? Is this healthy or could it indicate enslavement?
How do you feel about being a slave to righteousness? Does that feel different from “belonging to” God? If so, why?
Thank God for the benefits of being a slave to righteousness. Far more life is one of them!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Deeper Righteousness

Do you ever struggle with feelings that you are not “good enough” to make God happy?  Or that He is disappointed with you, your life, and the bad habits and sins you cannot seem to break? These thoughts and feelings rob you of far more life and keep you bound to depression, anxiety, fear, and self-deprecation.

The truth is that we – on our own — can never be good enough for God to accept us. But the good news is that we do not have to be. The Bible says:

There is no one righteous, not even one. (Romans 3:10, NIV)

Jesus was given to die for our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God. Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. (Romans 4:25-5:1, NCV)

We cannot earn God’s approval because that would require us to be perfect like Him. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin so that, when we accept his payment, God sees us through His perfection and righteousness. Once we have God’s approval, we cannot lose it.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13, NIV)

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe… (Romans 3:22, NIV)

The righteousness we receive from God is deeper than any “righteousness” we can achieve on our own. His deeper righteousness changes us to be like Him. It changes our desires to match His. It changes our motives; we begin acting out of love for God and others. It changes our thoughts; we think of people as eternal souls and earth as our temporary home. And those lead to different behaviors. We are no longer trying to earn God’s approval. Deeper righteousness frees us to love and live for Him. 

But we still sin sometimes. We fall into old habits and patterns. We give in to fear or worry instead of trusting God. Is God disappointed in us at those times? His Word says:

Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. (Romans 8:1, AMP)

We will not go to hell when we die. We will not be judged for our sins when Christ returns. God will not allow bad things to happen — or withhold good from us — as a punishment for our sins and wrong choices. He will not scold, criticize, or shame His children. 

When we sin—or even make mistakes — we can be overcome with disappointment in ourselves. We may become angry, harsh, critical, judgmental, and demanding. We might return to old patterns, fearful that we are not good enough. We often assume God is also disappointed with us and has negative feelings toward us. But there is no verse in the Bible stating that God experiences this kind of disappointment toward His children. Instead, here is God’s instruction to us:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:1-2, NIV)

These are not critical, condemning, disappointed words. These words encourage us to look to Jesus, confess our sin, be thankful for His sacrifice on our behalf, and get back to pursuing deeper righteousness! 

The Bible does say God can grieve over our sin (Ephesians 4:30).  But our disappointment and God’s grief are vastly differently. God’s grief is rooted in compassion. He sees how sin hurts His children, and He feels compassion for them. He sees the pain, confusion, or deception in our hearts and feels compassion that we cannot see them, too. He is grieved when miss out on the safety, wisdom, and happiness offered by His perfect ways. God’s grief is motivated by love and a desire for us to be and experience all He intended. He wants us to find far more life in Him.

I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10, PHILLIPS)

In Christ, we are free to let go of our disappointment and pursue deeper righteousness. Rather than feeling obligated to obey God, deeper righteousness loves Him wholeheartedly. Rather than following rules that shape our behavior, deeper righteousness conforms our motives and thoughts to His. Rather than living in fear of His judgement, deeper righteousness lives in anticipation of His blessing and approval. And as we pursue deeper righteousness, we reap inner peace and contentment – far more life!

Sisters,
Are you trying to be good enough to win God’s approval?  If so, how will you attain His perfect standard?

If you have accepted Christ, what can separate you from God’s love? (Refer to Romans 8:38-39)
Do you believe that God ever condemns or punishes His children? If so, read through Romans 8 and talk with a pastor or spiritual mentor about your concerns.
What differences are there between God’s grief and human disappointment?
Pursue deeper righteousness today through the freedom of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Jenjoe Marsh

Far More Power

Evil forces are attacking. Are you powerful enough to stop them? Yes, God’s daughter, you are!

Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world. (I John 4:4, CEV)

When we accept Christ, we enlist as soldiers in a war we will fight every day of our lives on earth. But we fight to a certain victory; God’s Word reveals that He wins this war and grants His soldiers everlasting peace in Heaven. In the meantime, He gives us the power to overcome any attack. Tapping into His power enables us to experience far more life, even in the midst of the battle.

For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3, AMP)

The most powerful evil forces we face are those that attack our mind, tempting us to disbelieve, distrust, and disobey God. We are tempted to sin through unforgiveness, selfishness, hatred, worry, shame, fear, and more. These temptations are attractive, even irresistible, in areas where we hold erroneous core beliefs about ourselves and God. Those core beliefs were usually developed when we were young and our immature minds could not recognize them as lies. Over time Satan tempts us to interpret circumstances in ways that reinforce those erroneous beliefs; when he succeeds, the lie gains credibility and we experience pain rather than far more life. Here are some of the most common lies Satan tells us about ourselves:

  • I am alone.
  • I am unloved.
  • I am unlovable.
  • I am worthless.
  • I am not good enough.
  • I am helpless.
  • I am hopeless.

How do we fight these attacks? With God’s truth!

The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, AMP)

There are many Bible verses we can use as weapons against Satan’s lies. Here are a few:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (I Corinthians 3:16, NKJV)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NIV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. (Acts 1:8a, NIV)

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19, NIV)

You are not alone. You are loved. You are lovable. You are valuable. You are good. You have help. You have hope. The verses above are just a sample of the weapons available for fighting Satan’s attacks. Memorize the verses that most powerfully communicate these truths to you so they are always available when you need them. That will allow you to more consistently experience far more life.

Sometimes we get ambushed and do not even realize we are engaged in battle until we have lost. We recognize we are not experiencing far more life but do not know how we got so far from it. This happens when Satan’s lies resonate with messages in our subconscious and we react without stopping to think about the underlying beliefs. How can we be more aware those ambushes? By monitoring our negative emotions. Whenever we feel angry, hurt, alone, ashamed, disheartened, worried, or other strong negative emotions it may mean our enemy is attacking us. Stop and ask, “Why am I feeling this way?” Digging into what you feel and why will reveal the underlying belief and enable you to compare it to God’s truth, win the battle, and continue walking in far more life.

Some battles are harder than others. You may have to fight through layers of negative feelings and painful beliefs to reveal the erroneous core belief. You may have to wrestle with doubts about God before embracing the truth from His Word. You may need help from fellow soldiers to penetrate the enemy’s lair and destroy his weapons. But take hope in this truth:

The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. (Psalm 118:7, NIV)

God has secured the ultimate victory over Satan! In this lifetime, you will battle, but each battle takes you one step closer to final victory. Fight in His power — using His truth — today and celebrate far more life!

Sisters,
In your daily experience, is God’s Spirit in you more powerful than the forces attacking you?
How do you find far more life in the midst of battle?
What erroneous core belief is most tempting to you? What truth helps you overcome that false belief?
Pray that God will help you recognize today’s attacks and counter with the power and truth of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Letting Go

In the last post we talked about forgiving others. But there are two more people everyone needs to forgive. These people have probably disappointed and hurt you more often than anyone else. And we hold on to their hurts tightest and longest. Who are they? Ourselves and God.

We are our own worst critics. Despite our outward bravado, we hope others won’t see our sins and failures. We are ashamed. We kick ourselves for not doing better, for not being better. Everyone feels this way. Some people hide the extent of their negative self-talk. Others are clearly drowning in a sea of self-loathing and worthlessness. But this doesn’t have to be! God wants awareness of our sin to lead to spiritual change. For those who don’t have a personal relationship with Him, He offers hope:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)

You are not alone! ALL have sinned. EVERYONE has felt the shame that you feel. But God, in His love, doesn’t want you to be stuck there. He offers forgiveness through the sacrifice of His Son’s life to make restitution for your sin. It’s the largest, most important gift you could ever receive! If you’ve never accepted it but want to, take a moment right now and tell Him.

Once we accept God’s gift and enter a relationship with Him, we have a clean slate before Him. Nothing — not even our own sin — can separate us from God. Since He can see our whole lives and knows every thought, word, and action — past, present and future — nothing will ever surprise Him or change His view of us.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:34, 38-39, NIV)

If God never condemns His children for their sins or draws back from them, why do we condemn ourselves and draw back from Him? Why do we forfeit the far more life He offers?  Because we see ourselves from a different perspective than God does. We still see ourselves as we were before Christ changed us while He sees who we are after Christ’s work in us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

Forgiving ourselves requires letting go and letting God.  It means we entrust the situation — and any negative consequences — to Him. We trust Him to restore what was lost or taken away that is needed. We trust Him to heal the damaged emotions of everyone who got hurt in the situation. While it is good for us to confess our sin to God and thank Him for His forgiveness, we don’t need to punish ourselves; Jesus has already taken that punishment for us. Forgiving ourselves separates us from our sin and brings far more life.

Are you hesitant to let go and let God? If so, maybe you need to forgive Him. God doesn’t ever sin; He is perfect. So he doesn’t technically need to be forgiven. But there are times we feel hurt, abandoned, disappointed, or misunderstood by Him because we are unable to see His actions and intentions correctly. Our negative emotions cause us to pull away from Him. To question His character, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and His intentions toward us. We are hesitant to believe His promises and obey His commands because Satan’s lies about God resonate louder inside us. We are afraid to get hurt again.

It is important to work through these hurts. Don’t be afraid to reveal your ugliest thoughts and feelings to God — He already knows them!

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  (Psalm 139:2-4, NIV)

It is hard work to uncover Satan’s lies and embrace the truth about God. But He is big enough to handle our questions and doubts. He compassionately meets us where we are. He patiently walks us through each step of faith. This wonderful promise He made the Israelites when they were far from Him is still true for us:

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29, NIV)

The same promise is true for us!  God isn’t offended when we confess our hurt, anger, and distrust to Him. He doesn’t get angry when we admit He isn’t who we want Him to be and doesn’t do what we want Him to do. When we forgive Him, we let go of the false expectations that caused us pain. That releases us to see and experience Him — and life — the way He intended it. As a result, we see His true character and our desire to mold ourselves to His likeness grows. We discover that letting go brings far more life, life we had not even imagined was possible.

Sisters, 
For what to you need to forgive yourself?
For what do you need to forgive God?
Are you willing to let go of these hurts?

Thank God for character His qualities and promises that are most meaningful to you.
Commit to seeking Him this week; as you find Him enjoy far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

This Life That I Now Live

If we give up our old life to pursue far more life, what will this new life look like?  The road will be different for each of us, but we will have this in common: “This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me” (Galatians 2:20b, GNT).

 The Amplified Bible explains that “faith” means “adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting” the Son of God. Hebrews 11:1 defines it this way: “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see” (CEV).

So if we put these definitions together, we arrive at this description of faith:
Living in a way that proves I completely trust Jesus Christ — the one who loved me enough to die for me — adhering to Him no matter what comes my way and relying on Him to keep His promises for now and the future. That is far more life!

Completely trusting Jesus means believing wholeheartedly that He deserves our devotion and allegience. It frees us to share everything with Him, knowing that He will never condemn us. We feel safe enough to show Him the ugliness in our heart and listen to Him rather than our fear or selfishness. Complete trust enables us to accept His promises because we believe He is faithful and always speaks truth. It gives us confidence to be vulnerable and take risks, knowing that we have a wise counselor and advisor backing us. Proverbs 14:10 describes completely trusting Jesus: The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (NIV).

Adhering to Jesus means that we are permanently attached to Him. For the long haul. Regardless of our circumstances. We recognize there will be hills and valleys on our journey together but believe that traveling with Him is where we will always find far more life. Our desire is to become so entwined with Him that it’s hard to tell where He stops and we begin. He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). And we have made the same commitment to Him. An adhering mindset echos that of Simon Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69, NIV).

Relying on Jesus is believing that His example and instruction are perfect and will never steer us wrong. It prompts us to study His interactions with people so we can act the same way. We don’t have to forge our own path or learn the hard way because we know He has modeled it for us. Reliance allows us to live out this instruction: Trust the Lord completely, and don’t depend on your own knowledge. With every step you take, think about what he wants, and he will help you go the right way(Proverbs 3:5-6, ERV).

Completely trusting Jesus. Adhering to Jesus. Relying on Jesus. This is the life that we now live. This is far more life.

But there are challenges to living this out. In good times we can forget to rely on Him. We are lulled into believing we are doing fine in our own strength. In bad times we can be tempted to stop trusting Him completely. It may feel like He is far away and not protecting us. And in the everydayness of life we can lose sight of our need to adhere to Him. There are so many shiny distractions that catch our eye and pull us in a different direction. How do we stay the course of faithful living and far more life?

In relationship. Our faith cannot be an obligation if we want far more life. Rather it must be the outgrowth of an intentional relationship with God. Jesus told his disciples, “I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me (John 15:5 GW). As soon as we agree to a relationship with God, his Spirit comes to live inside of us. Nothing will ever change that (Romans 8:38-39). But we choose day by day, moment by moment, whether to nurture that relationship or ignore it. Will we talk to Him about the big and little moments of our day? Our thoughts? Hopes? Dreams? Will we share our excitement and fears, worries and wonder, burdens and blessings with Him? Will we vent our anger to Him? Will we sit quietly with Him, drinking in the wonders of His creation? Will we study His written Word, the Bible, to learn who He is and what He does? Will we seek out His opinion and wisdom? Will we follow His advice? Will we watch expectantly for His answers to our prayers? In essence, will we let Him become our best friend and travel guide? Or will we simply tolerate Him as a passenger on the route we choose?

Jesus promised that those who intentionally connect with Him and live by faith in Him will have far more life. He doesn’t give us the roadmap, so we never know exactly where He will take us. Our adventure with Him will take us up the highest mountains, down narrow winding paths, and through the lowest valleys. But no matter where we are on the road, when we adhere to our trustworthy and reliable guide, we can rest assured it will be a good life, even far more life than we can ask or imagine!

Sisters,
Is Jesus your travel guide or a tolerated passenger?
Is your life and faith characterized by complete trust in Jesus?
Do you adhere to Him?
Rely on Him?
Choose one way you can intentionally improve your relationship with God this week.
Watch expectantly to see far more life emerge!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso