“Religion is man’s attempt to reach God. Christianity is God’s plan to reach man through the person of Jesus Christ.”
Everyone is interested in something. Personal interests seem to be the primary force that causes us to move in the directions we travel in this life. Curiosity causes us to ask children: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The real question being asked is, “What interests you at this time of your life?” The person might say, “I want to be a doctor or lawyer or fireman.” Yet they have no understanding of academic investment, monetary investment, and the amount of time invested and required to achieve that goal. They do have an interest in something related to a particular event or occupation. Maybe the idea of helping people, healing people, or the monetary achievement is attractive. The choice of the child simply reflects an interest that is attractive.
Typically, life passes without offering us the options we have an interest in doing, being, or becoming. You may get up everyday and have very little interest in your occupation. Occupations most of the time, are a means to provide and enable you to do the things you have an interest in doing. Like going out to dinner, or having a beautiful home, or the car you always wanted, or having the funds to play and be with friends. Everyone has interests and we are willing to sacrifice a portion of our life to fulfill those interests. Often times the greater portion of our life is doing the things we do not want to do, but have to do, to do the things we want do. This is called “interest value.”
Everything we do in this life we place a value upon. That value is determined by the amount of interest we have in a particular thing, event, or person(s). Interest equates value by investment. Investment is the level of time, energy and passion you invest in a particular interest. You have placed an interest value, say upon a person. So, the amount of investment you make in that person, determines the value you have placed upon that relationship.
Example: You are a man and you have met a woman and you have an interest in pursuing a relationship with her. You are placing a value on her by your actions towards her, how you treat her, and what you say to her. You want to spend time with her because you have placed a high value upon the relationship with her. You want to know her, so you communicate with her, and ask questions, knowing her intellectually is of great value. You treat her with respect, and by your actions she feels valued. You are a gentleman, opening her car door and doors to buildings, you go out of your way to show her how much you value her and the relationship. You want to win her affections over, because you have valued her affections, they may make you feel good. You may think this is love and you want to be loved. You believe this person has the capacity to love you and therefore you will pursue her with interest value. She may have something you value, and you are willing to do things you would not normally do to get what you value.
Self-interest value regulates performance of an individual. Self-interest value is not what you think of yourself or your self esteem, it is what you value for yourself. When the individual finds a need within them and desires for that need to be fulfilled, they will often evaluate the situation and determine what they must do to meet the need or desire. Once the need has been met the individual will evaluate if their performance is required to continue at a particular level to meet the need. If the person has performed out of their normal performance level to obtain the need, then they can stop the performance altogether or modify it to the degree they are comfortable with or the degree it will take to continue to reach the self-interest value. This is what often happens in a relationship, where the person has met the self-interest need and ceases to perform at a given level. They accomplished what they thought they needed and now the value has diminished along with the need to perform at a level out of their comfort zone. This reveals the true identity of performance for self-interest value.
Everyone has desires. The Webster Dictionary defines desire: a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.
Is there a progression to desire? Desire starts with the knowledge or acknowledgement of a feeling or thing. If there is no knowledge or awareness, there are no desires. So, it would be safe to say, the thought of the thing or event must first be experienced prior to the actual desire having been met or pursued. Once the knowledge of the feeling or event has come to fruition then the desire can be pursued as a self interest value.
Romans 7:7-8 (NASB) 7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ” YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.
Desires are birthed within the individual, then they are evaluated morally, based upon a societal foundation and or heritage, even though they can be ever changing. As the desire increases and the individual experiences a temporal satisfaction, the individual must justify the actions taken to achieve the given desire. Take for instance coveting. There is a natural desire of wanting something, but that desire can progress to a strong desire that is called coveting. Coveting is wanting something with such a strong desire that we will set our mind on the thing and scheme how we might obtain it, because we think we have to have it or so we have programmed our mind to believe. Therein lies the progression of desire.
When the intensity of desire has progressed from mere “want” to “lust”, the object of desire must be had no matter the cost. Rules and morals are meaningless in the shadow to this intense desire, that propels a person to do things that they would have considered detestable in another setting. After they have achieved what the mind has conceived in lust, it becomes easier to repeat the activity in order to reach the desired results again. This is the conception of sin.
When lust has been conceived in the mind and the individual has pursued it to actualization, the results may bring the individual a temporal (earthly) sense of satisfaction. This satisfaction is temporary, for lust is never satisfied. In reality it produces a death.
James 1:14-15 (NASB) 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
The progression of sin has a starting place and a place where fulfillment is realized. However, sin does not need to be fulfilled in order for it to be sin. The mind is fully capable of producing sin in and of itself. Thoughts are the building blocks of actions. There is a foundation upon which such thoughts are built within each of us, and that foundation is our “default position”or “automatic base” from which we operate. Mankind’s sinful “default position” arises from his heritage. We are all from the lineage of Adam, and it is from him that we each inherit our sin foundation.
How does sin produce death? Does sin produce a physical death? Yes, in some cases it can be physical death. When the sin act involves high risk behaviors – such as robbing a bank, drug consumption, or driving while intoxicated – physical death is a possible outcome. There is a greater death for the person who desires to fulfill a lust, and yet remains alive.
For instance: a married man whose companion seems no longer exciting, a dissatisfied man who yearns for easy wealth, a politician willing to tread a dishonorable path to greater power – each is placed at risk to move from a position of integrity to one of sin and corruption. One thought at a time. One small step at a time. Character dies. Integrity dies. Intimacy dies. Relationships die.
When character death occurs because of sin, a hardening of the heart begins. In order to overcome an uncomfortable sense of guilt, man attempts to justify his actions. Because guilt cannot be relieved by the rationalization of man, in order to regain a position of comfort he must cease to care that he has behaved wrongly. This downward spiral is the way a man of integrity degenerates into a person of gross immorality. It simply takes one thought at a time in a progression of reasoning that desensitizes (or hardens) a heart, leading inevitably to the death of integrity and character. It has a beginning and a fulfillment.
Adam was created with a righteous default position, spiritually alive. God is spirit, and through Adam’s spiritual life he enjoyed an intimate spiritual relationship with God. In that harmony, a perfect fellowship thrived. But when Adam willfully chose to disobey, the intimate relationship he had enjoyed changed. Physical death did not occur immediately but the process that would eventually lead to his physical death began. The living spirit with him died, and the intimacy he once had vanished into a different kind of relationship.
Thus it is in Adam where spiritual death occurred. Adam had possessed the ability to pass on to his descendants a living spirit. But death cannot beget life. Since Adam’s dead spirit could not pass a living spirit on to his offspring, all descendants of Adam are born spiritually dead. Everyone is born with the propensity to sin, for all have inherited a sin foundation. Sin is our default position. It does not take an act of sin to become a sinner – it is how we are wired.
Genesis 2:16-17 (NASB) 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” Genesis 3:4-5 (NASB) 4 And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
A deception took place and Eve fell for the trap. Satan’s goal was to separate Adam and Eve from the intimate relationship they had with God. To distance this couple from God, a single act of distrust and rebellion was all that was required.
Genesis 3:6-7 (NASB) 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
Rebellion ushered in a new perspective. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their default position changed. The choice between good and evil was a comparative factor that they had not known to this point. Previously they saw one another through a spiritual lens, but now they see through the fleshly lens. Innocence and purity died, and they saw each other through the eyes of sin for the first time. In shame, they tried to hide by covering themselves. A total change of perspective of each other had occurred, as did their relationship with God.
Genesis 3:8 (NASB) 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
They used to walk with God. Now they hid from God. That is the condition of mankind today. The very nature we are born with hides us from God, and blocks us from spiritual intimacy with Him. We operate and function from a broken nature, as our dead spirit separates us from any spiritual relationship with God. But the spiritual life can return, there is hope.
I am a Good Person
Mankind was created with free will – that is the ability to choose. We recognize the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, and can willfully choose the path to follow. At times we all act out both principles as we follow our nature, operating from our default position. Sin falls into one or more of three primary categories. As shown in Genesis, Eve’s sin touched all three areas.
Genesis 3:6 (NASB) “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise.”
Eve saw the fruit was good for food, that observation appealed to her appetites, or the lust of the flesh. When she saw that the fruit brought pleasure to her eyes and and increased here desire to have it, that observation appealed to the lust of the eyes. When she saw that the fruit of the tree would make a person wise (like God, knowing good and evil) that observation appealed to the pride of life.
1 John 2:16 (NASB) 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
The Apostle John lays out these three principles of sin that are in the world. In Scripture, the “world” represents darkness. While mortal man operates from a default position of sin, he still has the ability to choose good or evil, right or wrong, moral or immoral. Because the natural man is in a position of darkness and spiritually dead, he can perform within the darkness to its full potential. In fact the word of God does not say mankind merely dwells in darkness. The word of God says that we are darkness.
Ephesians 5:8a (NASB) 8 for you were formerly darkness,
The problem is, we are not able to get ourselves out of the darkness. We do not have the capability to change our default position. Still we try. We try to live a good life, to be a good person and to do good deeds. We even invent religions based upon the false premise that if we work hard enough to be good, or do a sufficient number of good deeds, or behave in such a way that our goodness is displayed, God will be pleased. In so doing, man seeks a relationship with a Holy God based upon his flawed, sin based performance.
We employ the “comparative factor” forgetting that we are only as good as what we compare ourselves to. For example, if I compare myself to Hitler, maybe I look pretty good. If I compare myself to Mother Theresa, maybe not quite as good. But what if the standard for comparison is God Himself? What if in order to be good enough to gain a relationship with God based on comparative performance, one must exactly mirror the faultless image of Jesus Christ? Good is a comparative factor.
We are born body, soul and spirit. The body is the physical vehicle in which our soul – the intellect, emotion, and the will – lives. But we are born spiritually dead, according to the Bible. That part of us that has the potential to interact with a spiritual God does not function in a relationship with God. There is no way for us to make ourselves spiritually alive no matter how religious we are, how much we chant, pray, focus, meditate, or perform rituals seeking God. All of our lonely efforts are pursued merely in body and soul. But God is spirit. Worship to be acceptable must be done in the spirit and in truth.
John 4:24 (NASB) 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 14:6 (NASB) 6 Jesus •said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
If it is our desire to worship God, it must be done in spirit and truth. This is man’s dilemma. We are spiritually dead, and unable to do anything spiritual. But we try. We try through religion to reach God. Religions are deceptive because they give the person the sense of a relationship, when in reality they are worshipping a god of their imagination, who bears little resemblance to the living God of the Bible. They worship a god that has attributes that they imagine a god should have. But denying the living God of the Bible eliminates any possibility of worshiping in truth.
People do all kinds of things to reach God. But if we are going to have a relationship with God in truth and spirit, we must come to Him on His terms. We must seek Him through His way. Jesus created that path to reconciliation between a Holy God and sinful man. God in His unapproachable glory, can have nothing to do with sin. It is sin that broke the relationship. We are sin, sinners, darkness, in our natural state and God has nothing to do with sin and darkness. He is Light.
But the God of the universe in His Holiness and Light, desires to have a loving relationship with mankind. Since man cannot approach Him in his sinful condition, it is God Himself that must take the initiative to invite mankind back into an intimate relationship. He does not approach us through religion, religious acts or through our efforts at good performance. He issued this invitation in person. He came to earth as a mortal man, and paid our death penalty for our sins Himself. There is no one else that could have provided a way back to God but God Himself.
Ephesians 2:1-7 (NASB) 1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
The first part of Ephesians 2 shows us our spiritual condition and our fallen state, as sinners. “But God” in an incredible act of mercy on His part and with a love so great for His creation, that surpasses all human understanding and reaches into the very depth of our life. Even in our condition of being spiritually dead, He resurrects us, makes us spiritually alive and restoring to us the relationship which was once lost.
God has reached out to His creation “humanity” with a plan for reconciliation and a new spiritual birth. That is the very essence of grace – you cannot earn it, and we do not deserve it. Jesus Christ – God come in the flesh – provided the only point of contact between a sinful man and a Holy God. We can’t obtain it in our own power. How do we obtain it? Our responsibility is to respond to God’s invitation. By doing nothing a man rejects the offer of life, and remains spiritually dead in his sinful condition. Mortal life continues in darkness. But God continues to tirelessly to call out to us. He crosses our path with people who share the gospel of Jesus with us. He opens the eyes of our understanding to recognize the truth that lies before us.
Circumstances in your life are bringing you to a place where you are wondering if God hears your prayers or even cares about you. That is the kindness of God in your life, that is the drawing of God in your life, and that is the calling of God on your life. He has chosen you, and He wants you to chose Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is the kindness of God that draws a person to discover the greatest need in the human life: forgiveness.
Romans 2:4 (NASB) 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
You can only come to Him on His terms – not yours or someone else. There is no magic formula, special words or a prayer to repeat, not by raising your hand at a church or walking an isle, nor joining a church organization, not even being baptized. Nothing you can do will make you a Christian! Only God can make you His child. You cannot adopt yourself into His family. He must adopt you. Salvation is His free gift to you. He asks you to believe in Him, to repent – turn from your sin – and yield to His Lordship over your life.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
John 3:16 (NASB77) 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Romans 6:23 (NASB77) 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is true that there is no man-made formula that will make you into a Christian. But there is a process and progression that is beautifully illustrated in the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. It is found in Matthew chapter 5, a sermon commonly called The Beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 5:3-12 (NASB) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus says: blessed or happy are the poor in spirit. This is the condition in which we come before a Holy God whom we have offended. We come to Him in humility and brokenness of a degree which is far greater then just “poor” according to human standards. We come to Him bankrupt poor, with nothing to offer because we have nothing to bring that will please Him or make us acceptable. It is in this condition that we will enter the Kingdom of God.
Jesus says happy or blessed are those that mourn. Mourn over what you may ask? Mourn over our sinfulness. We realize we have offended a Holy God and we need His forgiveness. We come to Him in repentance. Crying out for forgiveness and acceptance. In our broken, bankrupt and sorrowful condition we will find comfort. We will find that the greatest need in our life, to be forgiven, will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the Cross of Calvary.
Jesus says: blessed are the gentle or meek. Meekness has no relationship to weakness. In fact it is power under control. Recognition of God’s unmerited forgiveness of our sins and our profound powerlessness to relieve our sinful state, ushers in a humility of thankfulness for what God has done. The transformation of the new life begins.
Jesus says, blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. As we are given a living spirit, a new hunger arises within us to know the spiritual things of God. Our desire is to know Him more clearly, how to please Him more fully, and how to live our lives in the bounty of His fullness. We want to grow in our new birth, and achieve maturity in Christ.
Jesus says, blessed are the merciful. A new joy is available to us as we now can extend mercy to those who have offended or hurt us. Now we can truly forgive others as we have been forgiven, for we no longer carry a heavy burden of guilt and shame. With clearer understanding, we can see our fellow man as he truly is, laboring under the same burden of darkness that we have been removed from by God’s grace. The unmerited forgiveness extended to us by a loving God is a model of forgiveness to be extended to our fellow man.
Jesus says, blessed are the pure in heart. The purity of forgiveness fills the heart. Now we desire purity for the glory of God. We are His children! Now we can show the pure face of our Savior here on earth in our interactions. We are light – the pure light of God – and no longer darkness.
Jesus says, blessed are the peacemakers. He has adopted us into His kingdom. We are His children and represent the image of our Father, showing peace to those still dwelling in darkness. We can bring peace to those around us, which is only found in an intimate relationship with Jesus. This is not a peace that the world can give, but which passes all circumstances or generated by external forces, but an unspeakable internal peace. We are now complete, lacking nothing for we are Body, Soul, and Spirit.
This is the point where most of us would like to stop. But the following three verses permit us to calculate the cost of a new life in Christ Jesus – a life that is now totally at odds with a world in darkness. Jesus says, blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness. Blessed are you when men insult you or speak out against you, or lie about you on account of your belief in Christ Jesus. Your reward is great, and lasts for eternity.
Conceivably, a commitment to Jesus Christ could cost everything – friends, family, job, reputation, everything of value in this world, and even your life. Giving yourself to God in Christ Jesus changes you fundamentally, in that your interest and values no longer line up with those still held by those around you. By amazing grace the new life you now possess, and an open intimate relationship with God is the most valued treasure imaginable. The old foundation of guilt and darkness has been transformed into a new foundation of forgiveness and light. As you build the days of your new life, it will be on the foundation laid by God in Jesus Christ the solid Rock of salvation.
Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB) 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”
We at Hope Fellowship Church would like to invite you to join us in your spiritual journey. We all have a starting place at the foot of the Cross, and our journey is a family affair. We at Hope want you to know what it means to be the Church, and live our lives in such a way as to reflect the new life found in Christ Jesus. We do this together. Living our lives for one another and sharing the blessings of God in our lives.
If you would like to know more about who we are, where we meet, we invite you to see our web site at go2hopefellowship.com, or call the church at 417-230-3212 All are welcome to come and see who we are, just the way you are. You will find a loving group of people willing to share their life’s journey with you. We are all at different places in our spiritual growth and we all started at the same place. We are a conservative Bible teaching Church, seeking the mind of Christ and displaying the heart of Christ. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Dr. Bruce Edwards