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Humility Before an Exalting God

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

When holding this text of scripture into context we see a few very important truths. First, we read James declaration that if we are friends with the world we have made ourselves an enemy of God. (James 4:4). Being a friend of the world is choosing it’s ways and values over God’s. You declare, whether by word or action, that the world’s ways are better than God’s. This is an attitude of arrogance and pride toward God.

Secondly, we see the heart God has for us in James 4:5 where James says, “He (God) jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?” In other words, God wants us all for Himself. When we give our affection to another, we are playing the harlot towards God stirring in Him great jealousy. Just as a loving husband would be furiously jealous in seeing his wife in the arms of another man, God is jealous when we arrogantly turn our backs on Him for another.

The third truth we find in this text is God calling us to submission. James 4:7 says, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” God has grace and He gives grace to the humble. By submitting to Him we are acting in humility towards Him. Even if we have turned against Him and rebelled against Him greatly we know that when we submit to Him we receive grace instead of condemnation. For He loves us and jealously desirers our fellowship, love, and affection. He calls for total allegiance, and He is worthy.  When we submit to Him by giving Him our total allegiance, we are humble before Him. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” When we are full of pride, we should expect a fall.

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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Who is Called to Such a Task?

When Jesus said in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” and said, “you shall be My witnesses,” in Acts 1:8, to whom was He referring? Who shall be His witnesses? Who is called to preach the gospel? Does the bible answer these questions? Yes! The Word of God answers these questions with absolute clarity.

Ephesians 4:11 gives us a list of some of the offices of the church. One of the offices is the evangelist. Although we see many forms of evangelists in church life today the biblical calling of an evangelist is one who evangelizes, or preaches the gospel. In Acts 8 we find Philip, who was one of the original deacons, preaching the gospel in a variety of places. After Acts 8 the bible only briefly mentions Philip again in Acts 21 when Paul and his team stay at Philips house on their way to Jerusalem. At this point Philip is called, Philip the evangelist. (Acts 21:8). Clearly the evangelist is one who is called to such a task as proclaiming the gospel. This is his life’s call and dedication. Is he the only one called to this task?

One of the other offices of the church mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 is the office of pastor. The pastor is clearly distinct and separate from that of the evangelist. The pastor wears many hats in his task of overseeing the church and shepherding the flock of Christ. However, the pastor is not an evangelist. They are clearly different in their calling and gifting. Still, Paul tells Timothy, who is the pastor of the church of Ephesus in II Timothy 4:5, “do the work of an evangelist.” Not all pastors are evangelistically gifted. Yet, every pastor is called to do the work of an evangelist. They are to preach the gospel from behind the pulpit and be out and about in the community on a regular basis sharing the gospel with the lost in their church field. Pastors should lead by example by being an active witness for Jesus in their daily lives. Though they are not evangelists, they are clearly called to do the work of an evangelist.

Within the early church in Jerusalem a problem arose among the Hellenistic Jews. Their widows were being neglected in their daily service of bread. The twelve then told the people to select seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom. (Acts 6:3). These seven men were chosen and appointed as the first deacons. Although there is no specific call for deacons to evangelize in the bible we immediately see two of the seven deacons sharing the gospel with the lost, Philip who was already mentioned and Stephen. Acts 6:8-10 says, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” Not only does the bible record the extraordinary way that God used Stephen, it also allows us to know that Stephen was the first martyr as a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Clearly these deacons accepted the call to be witness and share the gospel with the lost world, even if it meant their martyrdom.

Who then is called to this task of evangelizing the lost? Every believer! I Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Every believer should stand in readiness to evangelize the lost and make a defense of their faith. Every believer should take up this task with urgency and anticipation, and with joy and eagerness that they have the privilege of being used as a tool of the gospel to have an impact upon someone’s eternity. We are called, therefore we should be compelled.

When Jesus said “preach the gospel,” and “you shall be my witnesses,” He was speaking to the whole church. Every church should unify together for the sake of reaching their communities with the gospel. Every church should actively reach out to their surrounding areas, even those who are around them but may be culturally different, and share the gospel. Every church should actively participate and support missions that reach near and far. This is clearly the biblical mandate of Acts 1:8.

Let us be clear though as to what, or who, the church is. It is the assembly of believers. In other words, every individual member makes up the body of the church. Therefore, every individual member of the body is clearly called to actively participate in both evangelism and missions.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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As we go

As already stated the word preach means to proclaim. The literal meaning is to harold, or to proclaim publicly. Also, as already stated, there are two types of preaching commanded in the bible, pastoral preaching, and gospel preaching. Although pastoral preaching can, and should, be done almost anywhere it is directed to the church for the edification of the church. Although gospel preaching is directed toward the lost, it too should hold a prominent place in the preaching ministry at the church.

Preaching the gospel within the church serves two great purposes. First at almost every church throughout the world there are almost certainly going to be lost people who attend the worship service. There is a high possibility that there may be lost church members that are active and involved. I know pastors, deacons, and Sunday School teachers who were saved as pastors, deacons, and Sunday School teachers.

Paul said in I Corinthians 15:1, 2, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” Paul writing to the church of Corinth said that there are some in the church that genuinely received the gospel and are saved and that there is at least a possibility that there are some who believed in vain and are not saved. Although it is not our job to judge, we must be aware that there is a great possibility that there are some in the church who believed in vain and are therefore lost. Therefore, the gospel should regularly be preached to the church.

When one asks the question, where should preaching take place, the majority of people, church and unchurched alike, will say within the church. And, clearly it should. However, the church is not the only place that gospel preaching should take place. We find in the  gospels Jesus preaching to the masses such as the sermon on the mount, we also find Jesus proclaiming the truth of God’s Word in homes such as Simon the Pharisee, and we even see Jesus sharing the gospel to individuals like Nicodemus.

Likewise, in Acts we find Peter preaching the gospel to the masses in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, Paul preaching the gospel to the masses in Synagogues and on Mars Hill, and Philip preaching the gospel to the cities in Samaria. We also see in Acts Peter proclaiming the gospel in Cornelius’s house where his whole household was saved and Philip individually shared the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch who accepted the message and was baptized.

When Jesus gave to us the great commission He said “go therefore.” The wording in the original language is, “as you go.” As you are on your journey of life, wherever you are and wherever you go, as you go, make disciples and teach them all that Jesus commanded them. The 1st century church took this command seriously. They started in Jerusalem and within 75 years of the birth of the church they had taken the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and even the remotest parts of the earth.

Jesus gave to us a great illustration of “go therefore” in the parable of the seed and the sower. (Matthew 13:1-23). We see one who is sowing seed everywhere as he goes. Some fell on the road, some fell on the stony ground, some fell in the thorns, and some fell in the good soil. As a farmer he would have been a very bad steward of the seed. However, Jesus said that the seed was the Word of God. Therefore, this seed sower was a faithful servant and a great steward of the Word of God. We are bad stewards of the Word of God when we choose not to sow it as we go.

God has clearly called every believer to the task of preaching/proclaiming/heralding the gospel as we go. The question we must ask ourselves is, am I going to be a faithful steward of the gospel seed so that some may fall in the good soil, take root, grow, and bear fruit of their own?  Or am I going to be a bad steward and selfishly keep what I have to myself?

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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Follow Me

             Repentance means to turn away from something. It is making a u-turn, going the opposite direction from where you were going. Repenting from sin is turning away from the sin. Biblical repentance not only requires us to turn from sin, it calls us to turn to Jesus. Repeatedly throughout the gospels Jesus says, “Follow Me.”

Biblical faith in Jesus isn’t just believing facts about Jesus it is also following Him. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” Although Satan probably won’t admit it, he believes in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He was there. He saw it. Too many people today have a Christmas and Easter type of faith. They believe the facts of Christ but have never committed their lives to following Him. I am a huge Mustang fan. For this reason I know all kinds of facts about men who influenced Mustangs like, Lee Iacocca, Carroll Shelby, and Steve Saleen. Yet, I have never met any of them. I have never had a personal relationship with them. I do however know Jesus, because I have committed myself to following Him.

Romans 10:9 tells us, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Clearly we need to believe the facts about Jesus. God did raise Him from the dead and that should be our foundation of faith. However, that alone isn’t good enough. Along with our foundation of faith we are to confess Jesus as Lord. This is our statement of faith. If Jesus is Lord over our lives we follow Him every day in every way.

In the tenth chapter of Mark we find one who obviously had great respect for Jesus. He came to Jesus knelt before Him and called Him “good teacher.”  He inquired of Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him that he needed to keep the law. The young man quickly responded to Jesus that he has kept the law since his youth. Jesus then told him to go sell everything you own, give it to the poor, and follow me. Jesus was showing him that he hasn’t really kept the law. Although he had respect for Jesus, he was unwilling to obey Jesus and unwilling to follow Him. Many people in our world today have great respect for Jesus, yet they too are unwilling to obey Him and follow Him.

Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” Notice that He said “you must.” The requirement for following Jesus is denying yourself and taking up your cross. We need to remember that the cross was an instrument of death. It was the form of execution for the day. In other words Jesus is saying if we are going to follow Him we must die to self and follow Him. We need to have more than just respect for Jesus. We must have total surrender; a surrender that leads to denying ourselves and obedient service of Him. Jesus said we must.

While sharing the gospel with the lost we must make it abundantly clear that if they chose to accept Christ as their savior and Lord they are entering into a lifetime commitment. We need to make it clear that this walk should impact and influence every area of their lives. We have way too many Sunday-go-to-meetin Christians in our society who don’t mind going to church on Sunday morning but won’t allow Jesus to impact their daily lives.

We need to clearly communicate the fact that entering into a relationship with Jesus is a onetime decision. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” At the same time we need to clearly communicate the fact that following Jesus is a commitment that is renewed daily. Paul also said in I Corinthians 15:31, “I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”

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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Repentance Required

              After the resurrection of Jesus He spent forty day’s with His disciples opening their eyes to the scriptures teaching them the reason He came so they could proclaim the gospel to all creation. Jesus told them that one of the requirements of accepting the gospel message was repentance from sin. Jesus said in Luke 24:47-47, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

What did Jesus mean when He said “repentance for forgiveness of sin?” When we believe on Jesus we believe on all of who He is, all of what He has done, and all of what He has taught. Jesus preached repentance of sin and holy living. True faith in Christ requires repentance from sin, for we believe what he taught.

After Peter preached the first gospel message just after he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit the crowd was pierced to the heart and asked Peter what shall we do. They wanted to know how they were to respond to the gospel. Peter said they needed to repent. (Acts 2:38).

Sin hinders our relationship with God. It was our sins that Jesus went to the cross to pay for. When we chose not to repent we are telling God that we are not truly interested in a relationship with Him and that we would rather live our lives our own way through our own strength and wisdom. Make no mistake people who refuse to repent refuse relationship and fellowship with God. John said in I John 1:6, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” In other words, if we say we are walking with God yet we are living in open rebellious unrepented sin we are liars. However, I John 1:6 says, “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” We walk in the light when we have repented of our sin and received the cleansing power of the blood of Christ that paid for our sin.

Paul went so far as to tell us not to associate with any “so-called” believer who is unrepented and living in sin. He said not to even eat with such a one. (I Corinthians 5:11). Associating with an unrepented individual only gives them a false since of salvation. If there is no repentance, there is no salvation.

In the next chapter he gives a non-comprehensive list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. In I Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul said, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” Does this mean that anyone who has ever been drunk or stolen anything will not be saved? Of course not. Paul is declaring their identity. This is who they are and how they live. This is the identifying mark of their lives. They are identified as a drunkard or a thief or whatever the life of sin is that they have not repented of. Paul went on to say in the next verse, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Such were some of you, but not anymore, for they had repented and were washed with the blood of Christ. The Christians identity is found in Christ-not sin.

Does this mean that those who slip into sin from time to time are not saved? Galatians 2:11 tells us that Paul opposed Peter to his face because he stood condemned. Peter was being a hypocrite acting one way in front of the gentiles and another way in front of the Jews. Was he condemned to hell for his hypocrisy? Of course not. Peter was very much a saved man that loved Jesus with his whole heart. He was eventually martyred for his faith. He however, slipped into sin and needed someone like Paul to help set him straight. Those who are indentified with sin due to their lack of repentance are not saved. Christians can and will slip into sin from time to time. They however, will be convicted of their sin and repent. An unsaved person however, will live in sin with absolutely no conviction or remorse and be perfectly happy it.

When we share our faith with sinners we must preach repentance. A gospel proclaimed without repentance is no gospel at all. We are setting the hearer up for failure if we do not proclaim the need to repent. Not preaching repentance is as foolish as a patient going to see a doctor for a chronic cough and the doctor not wanting to pry into the patient’s personal life by telling him he needs to stop smoking and simply gives him cough syrup instead. Smoking is clearly the root of his problem, just as sin is the root of our separation from God.

When preaching repentance we must do so with the love and compaction of Christ. While preaching repentance we must have a heart of love desiring the sinner to turn from his sin and trust in Jesus. God will not bless the efforts of the self righteous who simply want to condemn the sinner for his sin. We must get the log out of our eye before we can get the spec out of others. Remember, such were some of us. We once were sinners in need of salvation. Who are we to condemn others for their sins? We repented and received grace. This too should be our heart. It most certainly is Gods.  For this reason out of an act of love and compassion knowing the destructive power of sin, we preach repentance.

true_repentance

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Faith Alone

             The Word of God is extraordinarily clear that we are saved simply by placing our faith in the person and works of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” By faith we believe that the blood Jesus shed cleanses us from all unrighteousness, freeing us from the power of sin and death, and gives us everlasting life. By faith we enter into relationship with God denying ourselves in pursuit of His will and His way as Lord of our lives. We walk by faith and not by site faithfully following Jesus on this earth knowing we are here but a short while awaiting eternal joy and bliss with Him and through Him.

There have been some since the beginning of Christianity that have tried to add works to the grace of God. Paul told both Timothy and Titus to speak out boldly against such false teachers. Paul also told the church of Galatia in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Anyone who adds anything to grace as a requirement for salvation falls under the category of being accrued. God takes tampering with His gospel very seriously.

Even deeds of righteousness are not sufficient to save us. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” If anyone adds any requirement for salvation above and beyond faith in Christ they are a false prophet. Even if it’s righteous deeds such as baptism, using spiritual gifts, church membership, or anything of the like. Yes, these are righteous deeds of God. However, they are intended for those who are saved; not a means to Salvation. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

Salvation by faith alone through grace alone is a fundamental truth for biblical salvation. It is what makes Christianity, Christianity. Every other religion in the world is rooted in works where people have to make their own path to God through their good works. However, the bible says that no one is good, not even one. For this reason Jesus came down to this earth to pay the price for us and lead us to the Father. He and He alone is our salvation. He is our way. Only by faith in Him are we saved.

When sharing our faith we need to make this abundantly clear. If we are not carful we can lead people astray into a works based mindset by telling them that they need to go to church, read their bibles, and pray, but never share the fact that they need to believe in Jesus for salvation. Yes, we tell people of the importance of going to church, of reading their bibles, and of praying. We should even encourage it. However, we let them know that this is not a means to salvation and that only faith in Christ saves us.

I have seen and heard many well meaning Christians lead people astray. They come across people who are hurting and searching for a way out of the mess that their lives have become. The Christian will then says something like, “You need to start going to church,” without ever communicating the gospel. Sure, they need to come to church. However, going to church will not save them. Yes, they can get saved at church. They can also sit in church for years without accepting Christ as their Savior thinking their works of church attendance is sufficient. After all, that’s all they were told they needed to do.  I believe this is the very reason many of our churches are full of unsaved people who are committed to church attendance but are not committed to Jesus.

I have also seen and heard well meaning Christians lead people astray that desire to be delivered from sin. The Christian will give the advice to the sinner that they need to read their bible more or pray harder. I have even heard Christians tell sinners that they need to think positive thought when they are being tempted. The bible is clear, only the blood of Jesus can deliver us from our sin. One needs to simply believe.

We are saved by faith alone. As Christians we do Christian acts, such as going to church, reading our bibles, and praying. We don’t do those things for salvation, but as a result of our salvation. Anything contrary will lead people into a false doctrine that is dangerous and deadly. We are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, period.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Born Again

In the third chapter of the book of John we see a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night seeking answers as to who He was. Nicodemus recognized Jesus was from God but wanted to know more. Jesus then startled Nicodemus with a statement he had difficulty understanding. Jesus said in John 3:3 to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus not understanding Jesus statement asked in the next verse, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus then answered in verses five and six, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

At first Jesus said unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Then Jesus said, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. I believe Jesus was basically making the same statement, but rewording it a little for Nicodemus to better understand.

If we are alive today we were delivered from the water from the flesh as flesh. In other words we were conceived and formed into flesh in our mother’s womb and thus we were born. If we are born again we have been born of the Spirit of God. If we are not born of the Spirit of God we cannot see nor enter the kingdom of God.

The question that is now before us is, “How do I become born again?” The simple answer is, we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior by believing in who He is and the works He has done on the cross to purchase redemption. By grace we are saved by faith and not by works. (Ephesians 2:9-10).

Paul said in Romans 5:20, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” In other words, regardless of how much sin we have had in our lives, God has more grace. Therefore, all our sins, regardless of how much, will be washed away if we place our faith in Jesus.

Paul then asks in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Since God has more grace than we have sin should we just keep on sinning so God’s grace can increase? If we ever see yelling in writing we see it in Romans 6:2 when Paul said, “May it never be!” He then goes on to explain through the remainder of this chapter that those who are in Christ are dead to sin. They have died and have been buried with Christ.

For one to be born again he must first die; not physically but spiritually. One must die to his flesh, his hopes, his dreams, his goals, his ways, his ideas, his thoughts, and basically everything that has made him, him. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Jesus said that the requirement of following Him was denying yourself and taking up your cross. Remember that the cross is an instrument of death.

Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Paul’s hopes, dreams, goals, ways, ideas, thoughts, and everything that made Paul, Paul was no longer about him, for he denied himself, it was about Jesus. He was born again. He died to Paul and came alive to Jesus. How did he do this? He explained how in the second part of Galatians 2:20 where he wrote, “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Far too many people have a fire insurance type of faith. They don’t want to go to hell but they don’t want to live for Jesus either. They are unwilling to turn from their sinful, fleshly, self-centered, and self-serving ways to truly live for Jesus. Remember, Jesus said, unless you are born again you cannot see, nor enter, the kingdom of Heaven.

To be born again we must die to the flesh and come alive to Jesus. Paul saw the love that Jesus had for him and the actions of the cross that demonstrated His love. With this in mind Paul said in Colossians 3:8, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Paul realized that he, Paul, was not worthy to live for, but Christ was more than worthy.

Have you been born again? Jesus died for you to give you life. He gave up all so you could have all; all that matters anyway. Have you died to you and come alive to Jesus, or do you simply have a fire insurance policy? Romans 8:12-13 says, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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