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I received some troubling news last week after receiving the results of an MRI last week.
I have had three back surgeries since 2009 at the L5/S1 level. For those of you that don’t know the levels of the spine, this is in the lower back. “L” stands for lumbar, and “S” stands for sacral. This is a troublesome area of the spine for many people out there, and I was unlucky enough to be one of them. It all started with a herniated disc in 2009. My first two surgeries failed, and I ended up with two broken screws in my back – scary, I know! The third surgery was a “success” in that the bones fused successfully, but the pain never went away.
I deal with chronic pain. I am in some degree of pain every day. However, I try not to let it stop me. I have been told from the beginning that walking is the best thing I can do for my back, and I have tried to do this; however, I have become a little slack over the past few months. I have also been in physical therapy which seems to help, too.
About two months ago, a couple of toes in my right foot went numb. Around that same time, I began to have constant foot cramps which were quite painful and an increased level of pain in my lower back. My physical therapist worked with me twice a week, but the symptoms never improved. I even tried Gatorade and bananas as we thought there might be a possibility that I was dehydrated. However, that didn’t work either.
The MRI results showed that I now have degenerative disc disease in the two levels above my surgery sight. This wasn’t a complete surprise since I was repeatedly told by the doctors that the surgery puts more strain on the levels above it which could lead to future problems. Even so, I was quite depressed when I found this out, and for a day, I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed.
When I woke up the next morning, I was still quite depressed. I thought about things for a few minutes, and then I decided to pick up my Bible. I desperately needed something…anything…to lift my spirits. I have been reading 2 Corinthians, so I continued to read where I left off. Amazingly enough, , I read about Paul’s “thorn in his side”:
To keep me from becoming conceited…there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9 (NIV)
I realized that God will not allow anything to happen to me that I won’t be able to handle without His grace! How wonderful! He was reminding me that all things happen for a reason, and I have to trust in Him. My soul felt lighter and happier knowing that God is right here with me as I walk through this storm. I also learned that whenever I feel down or discouraged, all I have to do is pick up the Holy Bible, and God will surely comfort me.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 (NIV)
A few weeks ago, I was attending a church service at a nearby church. The minister gave a wonderful sermon on how God works in our life. During his sermon, he said that when something really rare happens, people are known to make the comment “million to one shot”, but this is really God working in our lives. This brought to my mind the time when a “million to one shot” happened in my life.
I was living in Texas at the time, and I woke up one morning with pain in my right eye each time I opened and closed it. It felt like some kind of debris, so I pried my eyelid up to try and dislodge it. That didn’t work, so I looked in the mirror and moved my eyelid around to see if I could see anything. I saw nothing. I tried eye drops to wash it out, and still no luck. I even watched a sad movie and cried, hoping that would work. No luck.
The next morning, I woke up hoping that the situation had resolved itself, but it hadn’t. My eye was bright red and hurt terribly each time I blinked. I ended up going to an ophthamologist that day to take care of the problem. When he came into the room, he could clearly see that my right eye was very irritated. After telling him the story, he looked into my eye with the equipment in his office and said, “Hhmm….well, that’s interesting. Million to one shot!” I asked him what he saw, and apparently one of my eyelashes had lodged itself into the tear duct! The chances of that happening were almost negligible. He was able to remove the eyelash with a small pair of tweezers, and the problem was solved.
When I heard the sermon and thought about this incident, I realized that maybe God had sent me a message. When the eyelash lodged in the tear duct, my life seemed to be going quite well. Little did I know that several years later, my life fell apart, and what I knew to be true in Texas was not true at all. I have grown so much, and now that I look back to that event in Texas, I was actually “blind” in so many ways.
The most amazing ending to this was at the end of the service. They sang Amazing Grace, and this confirmed my thoughts about the “million to one shot”. God works in our lives in the most mysterious and amazing ways – we just have to listen and be aware of the signs!
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see. John Newton
To sin because mercy abounds is the devil’s logic. He that sins because of God’s mercy shall have judgement without mercy. Mercy abused turns to fury. Mercy is not for them that sin and fear not, but for them that fear and sin not.
Over a good portion of my life, I have watched “Christian” people who sin knowing completely well that it is the wrong thing to do. They don’t seem to have any remorse for what they have done, and they keep committing the same sin over and over again. These same people always come back with the same reasoning that God will forgive them because they believe in Jesus. Yes, God will forgive those who sin against Him, but does that give these “Christian” people the right to sin?
Recently I was made aware of a situation involving some people who I knew in the past. The beliefs of this group were generally along these same lines. They proclaimed to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but the way they lived was anything but Christian. Recently, one of them had an adulterous relationship and married the paramour. A comment was made in their guest book by another family member that said “God made the two of you for each other”. Clearly, God does not condone adultery in any way, shape or form. This statement by the family member is blasphemous.
Enter antinomianism. As I was preparing to write this blog, I happened to come across this term, and I was shocked that all this time, this way of thinking actually had a name. Antinomianism is an unbiblical belief that man can freely sin as he wishes because only the mercy of God is sufficient for salvation.
There are many verses in the Bible that speak to this exact topic and misunderstanding of the scripture.
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkeness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21
“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?” Romans 6:1-2
If someone is a true Christian, they cannot live in sin without the Holy Spirit convicting them of that sin. Therefore, those who have truly accepted Jesus Christ as their savior will try their hardest to avoid sin and will be unable to live in a state of constant sin.
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Galatians 5:16-18
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24
So how can we tell who are the true Christians? By their actions. Remember Judas? He was one of the twelve disciples yet he betrayed Jesus. Actions speak louder than words.
“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 8:18-20
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Matthew 7:21-23
You cannot live in sin if you truly believe in Jesus Christ. Yes, we are all human and we all sin, and that is why Jesus died for us on the cross. But the deadly mistake comes when we abuse God’s mercy and think we can sin all the time. We cannot do this, and this is not what the Bible teaches. We are not called to sin at will but rather to try to live without sin.
“We know that we have come to know Him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:3-4
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” 1 John 5-6
I have heard many people say that deeds have nothing to do with salvation. But I say that deeds show what is truly in your heart. This is even addressed in the book of James:
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him?” James 2:14
“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” James 2:18-19
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 7: 43-45
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?….But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6:46, 49
I believe that those who believe that they are free to sin as they like because of God’s mercy are falling into this trap of the devil because it is easier to accept than the truth. Getting salvation while not having to follow any commandments or teachings of God is a tempting road to take, but it is an evil one. If you want to take the true road to salvation, you have to take the road less traveled and follow His commands. God will reward you beyond measure in heaven.
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” Revelations 2:2-3