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Overcoming Strongholds

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Overcoming Strongholds

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Overcoming Strongholds

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Sin is progressive, and if left unchecked, can lead to strongholds in our life. Yet, God has given us weapons with divine power that can pull down even those strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). Learn three tools to overcome strongholds and go on to perfection.

Transcript

[Frank McCrady] Well,  we are here on the seventh day of Unleavened Bread. Seventh day, interesting number. You know some miraculous events historically occurred on the seventh day of Unleavened Bread?

According to Jewish tradition, the Israelites actually crossed the Red Sea dryshod on the seventh day of Unleavened Bread. We know that God was leading them out of Egypt. Symbolically, we know Egypt represents sin. And of course, we look at the spiritual more than what we do the physical, and understand that God is wanting to lead us out of our sin.

You know, the second event that occurred on the seventh day of Unleavened Bread occurred when Israel was entering into the Promised Land. Many of you remember this story. Our children definitely know this story, and they walked seven times around this particular city called Jericho.

They blew these horns, and down came the walls. That occurred on the seventh day of Unleavened Bread. We know that the stronghold of Jericho came falling down. And of course, I think we all recognize and understand that God desires for us to completely come out of our sinful way of life, and to have those things that beset us come tumbling down as well, so that they no longer impact our lives.

Seven is the number of completeness. Seven is the number of completeness. And God desires that we come completely out of any kind of sinful life we may be involved with, and no longer serve sin. No longer be a slave to sin, to completely come out of sin. We’re here on the seventh day, right?

All week we’ve been symbolically putting out sin. But doing even more than that, we’ve been partaking of what? Unleavened bread, and thereby symbolically showing us that we are partaking now of God’s way of life. So we’re coming out of sin and now beginning to walk a different path.

We show that every year. And I believe most all of us who’ve been around the body of Christ for – in some cases, decades – have been fulfilling the second part of that command of God, to walk in His paths, in His way of life, as those in Cincinnati North and Dayton know I always emphasize, for our well-being and our benefit. Anything God asked us to do, He asked us to do for our benefit.

But the stronghold of Jericho came falling, falling down big time. And God desires that any stronghold of sin that may yet be affecting us should also come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho.

There’s something about sin that you need to understand. Sin is progressive. What do I mean by that? What do I mean that sin is progressive? Well, let’s briefly take a look at the progression of sin. It’s this understanding that can help us maybe deal with it more effectively. What is the progression of sin?

Well, you see, if left unchecked, sin gains an increasing degree of influence in our lives. If it’s not dealt with, we begin to find an increasing degree of influence on our lives, and it can become more increasingly vile. God wants us to eradicate the vileness out of our lives, for our own well-being and our own benefit.

Now take a look at 2 Timothy 3:13 2 Timothy 3:13But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
American King James Version×
. I’m not going to turn there, I’m just going to reference it, and you can look at it, 2 Timothy 3:13 2 Timothy 3:13But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
American King James Version×
, “But as evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse,” from bad to worse, “deceiving and being deceived.” In other words, if not dealt with, sin can become a habit. It can be habit-forming. The more you commit a particular sin, the harder it may be to stop. We heard a little bit about habits in the first message today.

The same is true with bad habits, not just good habits. And the more you’re involved, the more the habit begins to be ingrained in us. In time, we become a slave to, or as the world will say, addicted to a particular sin.

Now Peter tells us, again I’m not going to turn there just referencing these, Peter tells us that a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. That’s what you’re a slave to. I do want to read Romans 6, though. If you’ll turn there with me, Romans 6, and we’ll take a look at verse 6, and then take a look at verse 16. So Romans 6:6 Romans 6:6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
American King James Version×
to begin with, it says, “Knowing this that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with.”

That could better be rendered in the Greek, that it would become inoperative. Now sin should inoperative in our lives, okay? And we just had the Passover a few short days ago, really, showing what Christ did on our behalf to enable us to be forgiven our sins, and then to walk in righteousness.

So he says, “Again, He was crucified that we should no longer be slaves to sin,” the end of verse 6. And then notice verse 16, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, your are that one’s slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death.” And that is what sin does, unless repented of and forgiven, and the blood of Jesus Christ covers it. “Whether a sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness.” So God tells us that He doesn’t want us involved with a sinful way of life because it hurts us.

Now, when we commit a particular sin, and we immediately repent of the sin, and we immediately forsake it, we are cleansed, and the sin loses control over us. That’s why Paul emphasizes that when you get caught up with a sin, you immediately eradicate it.

When a wrong thought comes into your mind, it may not be considered sin at the moment. If you cast it out and if you get rid of it, it doesn’t have a chance to linger in your very being. But if you hold on to it, it becomes a habit. It can become an issue that can cause us a great pain. So if we do immediately repent of the sin, forsake it, we are cleansed and the sin loses control over us.

However, if we refuse to repent, and we continue to blatantly participate in that particular sin or that particular behavior, its influence escalates and it becomes what the Bible calls “besetting sin”. Remember, we’re talking about progression of sin. Sin then becomes a besetting sin.

Now, for those of you who like Greek and Hebrew words, I’m going to give you three Greek words. You can write them down, you can not write them down, you can cast them out, you can do whatever you want to with them, but I know there are some people who do.

The Bible calls it besetting sin, and this is Anglicized. I won’t even dream to try to pronounce the Greek, it’s euperistatos . It’s E-U-P-E-R-I-S-T-A-T-O-S, E-U-P-E-R-I-S-T-A-T-O-S. And this word means well-positioned in every situation. So a besetting sin becomes well-positioned. You see, we’ve given enough time to it that it has what? Become well-positioned in our lives.

It means a sin that has an advantage in favor of its prevailing. Thayer says, “Sinfully surrounding.” Sinfully surrounding. In other words a sin that becomes a habit, a particular area of weakness.

Now in Hebrews 12, it says, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily besets us.” That’s the King James version. That so easily besets us. If we don’t get rid of sin immediately, it easily then besets us. The New King James says, “That easily ensnares us.” And the NAS says, “Easily entangles us.” They all mean the same thing.

But there’s more to this progression. Over a period of time, if we continue to sin without remorse, without confession, or change, a besetting sin then becomes what the Bible calls a foothold. So it’s a sin, it becomes a besetting sin. Now all of a sudden it’s got a foothold.

Many of you men, many of you ladies as well, may have been involved with tug-of-war in the past, right? You always put the big guy in the end, and what does he do? Yeah, he digs out, doesn’t he? Or digs in. He digs that boot, if he’s got a boot on, he digs it in, and he gets a foothold, so that he can have more leverage. Well, that’s what sin does if we don’t get rid of it, it becomes a besetting sin, and all of a sudden it gets a foothold in our lives. It becomes a little more difficult to eradicate.

The word for foothold is topos , T-O-P-O-S, topos . It means a place, an opportunity, or a portion of space. It’s kind of interesting, you know, it’s floating around with you, then all of a sudden it begins to have a special place, a special place in your life, a special place, a portion of space marked off from the surrounding territory. So now it’s just really having a special location. It’s something you go to, you enjoy for a season of, as we’ll see in a moment. A special place marked off from the surrounding territories.

It also means an opportunity, or it means power, or occasion for acting out a sinful behavior. This foothold begins to cause maybe more acting out in this behavior, than what you initially did when? At the beginning.

It’s progressive. Over a period of time, if we still continue this sin, again without remorse, without confession, without change, a besetting sin not only becomes a foothold, but now it becomes a stronghold. It becomes a stronghold. Now the Greek word for stronghold is ochuroma , O-C-H-U-R-O-M-A.

So you’ve got sin, you’ve got a besetting sin, it progresses to a foothold. And that foothold is more than just that guy putting a hole in the ground to really anchor. It now is a stronghold, O-C-H-U-R-O-M-A. Ochuroma means a castle or stronghold. It means a fortified encampment, a fortified encampment. It’s an area in which sin has gained a prominent position now in our lives. It’s now gained a prominent position.

Now there’s still hope. I don’t mean to be discouraging about going through this progression of sin. Hopefully none of you are at the place where you have the stronghold in your life of sin, okay? But turn and read with me a scripture in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
American King James Version×
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2 Corinthians 10:4-5 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
American King James Version×
, breaking into the thought, it says, “The weapons we fight with are not weapons of this world. On the contrary, the weapons we have have divine power.” Now we’ll see more about that a little bit later, okay? It has divine power to demolish strongholds. In other words, that which God gives us and enables us to accomplish, not only deals with sin, besetting sin, footholds, it can actually deal with the strongest pressure and difficulty you may have in life called a stronghold, “even to the pulling down of strongholds.”

You see a stronghold is an area in our life in which sinful thoughts, and activities are defended, they’re nurtured, they’re made manifest. And according to Paul, a stronghold is a type of false thinking, an erroneous mentality that exalts itself against God. And that’s where we end up being, when you end up having these strongholds in our lives. We don’t want strongholds. We don’t want any sin.

2 Corinthians 10:5 2 Corinthians 10:5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
American King James Version×
, I’m just going to reference this for you, where it says that “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. We bring our thoughts into captivity.” I go all the way back to sin, the thoughts that enter our mind.

Remember, where did sin come from? Does it not come from our lust as, James tells us? When you begin to see that in your life, wisdom says I need to do what? I need to eradicate it. I need to bring that thought into captivity and throw it out. Otherwise it will become a besetting sin, eventually a foothold, and if we’re not careful, a stronghold.

And God says, “I don’t want that for you.” As you heard in the offertory message, God wants to bless us, and He knows that sin causes great pain, but His way of life causes great peace and great happiness. So philosophies, thoughts, ideas, opinions that are contrary to God’s Word become territories in which the devil can secure a place or an influence.

Now the progression of sin usually occurs over a long period of time, and almost in imperceptible degrees. You play with it initially, and over time it gains a foothold, leading eventually to a stronghold. You see, we don’t just wake up one morning with a stronghold. We don’t just wake up and boom, we’ve got a stronghold, something that progresses to that place. The fact that you didn’t deal with it when you needed to, enabled it to get there.

We don’t just wake up one morning with a stronghold or addiction gripping our lives. It begins with the single, perhaps ignorant, act of sin that becomes progressively worse. You need to understand that. You need to understand that deeply, so that you will know, eradicate it to begin with. That’s part of the deceitfulness of sin, part of the deceitfulness of sin.

A sinful act emanating from a stronghold is usually inordinate. It is often excessive and often irrational. I want to give you a very carnal example. What do I mean by carnal? A very human example that could occur with anybody in the world, and occasionally may even occur with us. Okay? This is a carnal example to get the point across.

Suppose you just bought a car. Not just any car, you bought a luxury car, okay? You went out and you bought a Lexus, or maybe you went out and bought a BMW, or maybe you went out and bought a Mercedes. And on your way home, a drunken driver with no insurance speeds through a stoplight and plows right into your car.

How are you feeling at that moment, especially when you find out he’s inebriated and he has no insurance? You get angry, lose your temper, even punch the drunk right in the face. Now you notice that I said this was a carnal example, right? This is a human example, but it does get the point across. You just punch him.

Now that reaction would be sinful, a punch of this person right in his face, and we would need to confess it, we would need to confess that sin. But the cause of this outburst of anger could be easily identified as somewhat understandable, humanly speaking, somewhat understandable.

Now you’re at the dinner table and your two or three year old spills his milk, and you go into an angry rage, yelling and screaming and just picking him up and shaking him. That anger would be inordinate. It’s over the top. That would be inordinate, to say the least. After all, if you think about it, it’s kind of normal for a two year old or three year old to spill his milk occasionally. You realize that don’t you? Those of you who have had kids – we have three sons – realize that. I don’t know how many times we had the drink fall over at the table, well, not excessively but a number of times.

You see, a two or three year old is still doing what? Yeah, his muscle memory is still developing. The coordination isn’t exactly there. He’s potentially going to fumble that glass. So to go into a rage and have that type of reaction is really inordinate. After all, this is a child for whom you are responsible, and for whom you have much love. This is a child that you know is very special in your eyes.

The stronghold of anger, which that would be, will manifest itself in untimely, unjust and unwarranted ways. They cause us to do irrational things and we’ll do them excessively with great intensity.

For instance, I ask you to think about yourself with some of these examples. After all, did we not just go through what? An examination process, before we took the Passover. For instance, we will be bitter over petty issues. Do any of you get bitter over just petty issues, or upset and angry over petty issues?

Worried over things that probably won’t even happen. Worry dominates our life, and it becomes inordinate to the point that our lives can no longer be lived with joy and happiness because we’re always anxious. No show of hands, any anxious people in here by nature?

Maybe we’ve become greedy over paltry amounts of money. Greed becomes something that just dominates our life. Or we become jealous over those who are the most loyal to us, untruthful even over trivial matters, despairing about inconsequential concerns, and fearful of non-threatening matters.

These are questions we all have to ask. And these are things that probably many of you, or some of you anyway, have experienced in your lives. I can give you a number of examples, which I will not, about people who allowed fear to dominate their lives. Fear is debilitating. Fear will destroy you from having a full and abundant life. As a matter of fact, fear is a destroyer of faith, and God wants us to be filled with faith, just filled with faith.

Let me read a few strongholds that some of us may have dealt with, or maybe even still dealing with. And you’re going to notice that these have nothing to do with the Sabbath, the Holy Days, the dietary laws, those things that are in our fundamental beliefs that we have deep feelings about and believe in. These are things that maybe impact us on a more daily basis. Like fear. Fear can become a stronghold that could just rob you of joy and happiness. Worry, greed, despair, unbelief or disbelief.

That’s what caused ancient Israel to drift away and not obey God. You see, obedience is very important to us. We believe in obedience, but at the base of our own obedience is belief. A deep, profound belief in what we’re doing is correct and right, and when you have that deep, profound belief, it enables you to accomplish many things in your life spiritually.

If you don’t have a deep belief about what you’re doing or how you’re living, you can be like ancient Israel, as you read in Hebrews 3 and 4, how they became disobedient because of their unbelief. So the more belief and faith you have in what you’re doing in and in God, the easier it is to obey. The less your faith and belief, the more difficult it could be to follow God. It’s very important to understand that concept.

How about pride, apathy or lethargy? I found in my ministry over the years that apathy and lethargy are two of the biggest issues that our members deal with. They don’t pray because they become lethargic and apathetic. Maybe even as, and the next one I have down, lazy, instead of realizing the benefit. They become what Paul says, “Don’t become weary in well-doing.” How about impatient? Any of you men in here impatient? It can become a stronghold.

Pessimism, nothing’s ever going to work out right, everything’s always bad. I joke with the brethren in Dayton and Cincinnati North about a guy who you go up to and say, “Hey, have a great day!” “Don’t tell me what to do.” He’s just pessimistic. Everything’s always negative and going bad. Gluttony or alcohol, greed, lying, addiction. You’ll often find that fear underlines most of these. Fear, difficulty dealing with some issues that may impact our lives. So we have these footholds that can end up in our lives if we allow it.

So what’s the progression of sin again? Hopefully you all have it memorized by now. There’s just sin. What’s the next one? Leads to a besetting sin. How about the third one? What? Yeah, a foothold. You know, you see this guy out there, “Nobody is going to defeat me. Nobody is going to overcome this end. I’ve got a foothold.”

What’s the last one? Stronghold. Now like the foothold, you’ve set it aside, you protect it. Now you put up walls around it. You put the army around it, it’s set. You’ve got a compound that’s in your life that doesn’t want to be eradicated. Now remember, I gave you a scripture that says our warfare, the weapons are spiritual, they’re divine. Even to the pulling down, not just of the sin, not just of the other two, but even strongholds. And God gives us the ability to deal with even strongholds.

Now if you read Hebrews 6:1 Hebrews 6:1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
American King James Version×
, I just want to preface it, Paul tells us that we should go on to perfection. Hebrew 6:1, “Let us go on to perfection,” not laying again the foundations of repentance, etc. We shouldn’t have to go back and reprove all those things that we have as a foundation in our life. We use those as a springboard now to go on to perfection.

What does he mean about perfection? It means that we now take the knowledge God gives it to us, and we begin to perfect our lives. We begin to bring about changes in our lives, like those footholds I mentioned. They shouldn’t be footholds, they should be strengths. That whole list. We were impatient, now we’re patient. We were fearful, now we’re faithful. You can go back through the list if you so choose.

We go on to perfection, we are now maturing in the knowledge and we become full of age in the truth, and sin no longer has a hold over us. We’re no longer slaves to sin because God has called us out of that.

As a matter of fact, Hebrews 5:12 Hebrews 5:12For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
American King James Version×
says that we as a people should exercise our senses when it comes to God’s way of life. We are to exercise, to use. By use and exercising those senses, and they improve our lives. I really appreciate the sermonette on habits because, you see, what he was talking about is just exactly how it went from a sin, besetting sin, foothold, to stronghold. The same is true spiritually. The more you are involved with living and exercising your senses in the truth, the more that becomes strong in your life.

My wife has a little magnet on her refrigerator. Well, she just doesn’t have a little magnet, she’s got a bunch of little magnets. Most of them have pictures of our kids and our grandchildren under them.

But she’s got one I really like, and it goes like this, “We are what we repeatedly do.” We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, “excellence then is not an act but a habit.” Do we want to be excellent in fear, do we want to be excellent at being impatient, or any of those other elements that I mentioned? No, we want to be excellent in serving God.

And so in our serving of God and following His instructions, if we want to be excellent at it, it’s not an act but a habit, or what the Bible calls a what? A way of life, a way of life. And that’s what these Days of Unleavened Bread picture. Getting rid of an old way of life, putting the sins out, the leavened bread out, and taking in the unleavened bread of purity, of sincerity and truth. A new way of life that we now live and it becomes habit-forming, and that’s what God wants for us.

We’ve looked at the progression of sin. Let’s take the remainder of the sermon today, and look at three techniques, tools, how-tos to overcome strongholds. I just don’t want to leave you with the negative of what sin is. We want to also give some how-tos and some good instruction as to how to deal with these. God doesn’t leave us without knowledge, He doesn’t leave us without the tools to overcome our enemy. He loves us too much to do that.

As a matter of fact, the Bible is filled with intellectual understanding, and sometimes we may spend too much in that arena as ministers. We should be there, by the way. But not only is it filled with intellectual understanding, it’s also filled with practical application. Practical application, what’s relevant, that’s important. What’s relevant is important.

I know that those who are at ABC understand that the concept of the truth, so sets you free, which the Bible states. You do an in-depth study on that and you’ll find it’s the application of the truth that really sets you free. I know people who have had intellectual understanding of the truth, of God’s way of life, I’ve pastored them. And I’ve known a few people who even though they had that intellectual understanding were still living their lives in bondage. Bondage to fear, bondage to whatever else you want to label because the application of that intellectual understanding wasn’t being applied. So it is the application of the truth that really ultimately sets you free when it comes to what we do.

Now we know the truth of Christ, His sacrifice and forgiveness of sin sets us free. That knowledge is very, very, very important. So let’s take a look at three tools that can help us deal with sin no matter where we might be in the progression. The first tool we need to be understanding, brethren, is we must have a desire to be set free from strongholds.

If you recognize what that sin is, wherever it might be in the progression, you recognize it and you know it’s there. If you really want to deal with it, the very first thing that must be done is there must be a desire to be set free from strongholds. That desire absolutely must be there. It might be too obvious even to mention that one. But since I needed three points, I put that one in. No. [audience laughs]

Many people through the years, when pressed to make a decision, were not willing to repent of a particular sin. They knew the sin was wrong, they even knew it was detrimental, yet there was something about the sin that brought pleasure, so they were unwilling to repent. Bible talks about sin, what? The pleasures of sin for a season.

You know, some of the things we do that are inappropriate and harmful can be pleasurable to us. I’m going to give you an example that hopefully doesn’t apply to many, or if any, here. It did apply to a situation when I was pastoring in a church about 25, 28 years ago. And a gentleman got involved with an illicit relationship. He was a member, married to a beautiful wife, very sweet lady. And make sure your sins will find you out, it became known. His wife was devastated. I got a telephone call, as you could really even understand.

So I went out and visited with the man by himself to begin with, and then the couple. But in visiting with the man, he was, you know, really sorry and “repentant,” and all of this, and I discussed with him the logic of what he’s doing, or the illogic of what he was doing.

And he was admitting, “Yeah, I’ve done this and I’ve caused a lot of pain to my wife, and oh, I hope my children never find out about it blah, blah, blah, blah.” He says, “I know I need to deal with it, and I’m going to.” I said, “It’s best thing you can do for you, for your wife, your kids, and to this other lady who has an angry husband, it might keep you out of the grave.”

So I then talked with the wife and the husband together, and seemingly we’re going to deal with it. And she was willing, as painful as it was, to try to work with reestablishing, restoring the relationship.

But the guy was then unable to meet the commitments that he made a second time to his wife, and a month or so later he was again involved with this lady. Hoping nobody would find out. Inevitably somebody did. So he called me this time when he was caught. We sat down and talked and once again he said, “I don’t know what happened to me.” He says, “I just really messed up.” And he said, “I don’t know if my wife’s going to be willing to stay with me.” And she was. Until the third time. Until the third time.

There was something in that relationship that he found pleasurable, and he was not really wanting to deal with it. He said he did, but the desire to really deal with it and overcome it was missing.

And like any sin, maybe pleasurable for the moment, it had dire consequences, because the third time his wife said, “No way. I’m done.” Children found out about it and he basically was separated from his children. They were totally upset, and angry, and mad, as you can understand.

And guess what happened when he finally moved in with this lady for a while, guess what happened? She got tired of him, she left. So now where is he, where is he? He’s by himself. No wife who did love him, children who were just flat out upset and angry with him, and he’s by himself. What were the consequences? Well, they’re devastating. Sin has a devastating effect upon…

I could give you a lot of other examples that might be more relevant. But I figured that one might get your attention because it’s way out there. It’s way out there for most people anyway. I could ask, how about worry or fear again, just to bring it down to something that maybe we don’t think of as being as dramatic, but it can have just as devastating effect upon our lives.

You see, no one has ever said sin doesn’t bring temporary pleasure. The flesh has an appetite, that’s why men and women do what they do, and what I’ve just discussed. It has an appetite. And there can be a certain measure of satisfaction which comes from the flesh getting what it wants.

But the pleasure is temporary, and the wages of sin are inevitable. In this case, the wages – loss of wife, loss of children, loss of self-respect, loss of his paramour. Devastating effect. So the first thing we must realize, there has to be a desire to overcome. Otherwise, we really won’t even begin to deal with that element in our lives.

I guess the best way to discuss desire, desire to want to change and be different, to serve God, would be to look at it from the positive perspective. What should our desires be? What should our desires be?

Now Psalm 119. Turn over there. Psalm 119 gives many verses that help answer that question, what should our desires be? One chapter in the Bible, and we could go to many different chapters, many different books. But if you look at Psalm 119, beginning in verse 1, it says, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, and who seek Him with the whole heart.”

There’s a great desire on this person’s part, on our part, to seek God with a whole heart. “They also do no iniquity. They walk in His ways.” When you have this desire and you want to serve God, it helps you. And you have this deep belief and faith, it helps you not be involved with iniquity like this gentleman 25, 28 years ago that I had to counsel with.

Drop down to Psalms 119:10 Psalms 119:10With my whole heart have I sought you: O let me not wander from your commandments.
American King James Version×
, it says, “With my whole heart, I have sought You. Oh, let me not wonder from Your commandments,” with my whole heart again. How about verse 20, “My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times.” How about verse 40, “Behold, I long for Your precepts. Revive me in Your righteousness.”

You see, this gentleman if, after we had visited the first time and recognized his sin, which he did, had now wanted to continue because he found certain kind of pleasure, but realize “I was wrong.” He could have prayed, “Revive in me Your righteousness. Revive in me Your way of life, Your precepts.” Again, unleavened bread, coming out of sin, the old way of life, into righteousness or the new way of life.

Verse 77 same chapter, “Let Your tender mercies come to me that I may live because Your law is my delight.” You need to fully comprehend what he’s saying there. “Let Your tender mercies come to me, let Your laws be my delight that I may live.”

You really want to live a full, abundant life? Do it as God outlines. Not as the world or Satan, and the flesh, and society outline, that this gentleman got caught up with. He had a momentary “pleasure,” but he really did not have real life. As a matter of fact, he lost his real life, really did.

How about 88, “Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.”

So we have to come, we must come to understand the enormity of sin and the destruction that it brings, and the joy and the happiness of what following God’s way of life brings and develops, because that’s what God wants us to have. Christ is a good example of being willing to change. He is a good example of the desire to change.

Well, I’m not talking about sin at all. Matter of fact, if you were to read Philippians 2:1-13 Philippians 2:1-13 1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfill you my joy, that you be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. 9 Why God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
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, which I’m going to paraphrase and not go through with, he talks about letting this mind be in you, and he talks about how Christ, if you get down to around to verse 7, 8, and 9, was found in the appearance of man, and He humbled, emptied himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

How was Christ able to empty Himself of His divinity? How was He able to empty Himself as the Word there with the Father, and come to this earth as a human being and die for us? Where do you think that first started? It started with His desire. That’s where it started. His desire to enable you and me to be a part of the very family, the Kingdom of God. That desire initiated His actions.

And therefore if we want to overcome sin, we have to have the desire to begin with to do it. How is your desire, brethren? Hopefully that desire you have is for a wonderful service to God.

2 Corinthians chapter 7, we’ll move on to the second point after this, 2 Corinthians 7, this is the apostle Paul writing to the church at Corinth after he has received word back about his first letter, and he was a little bit sorry that he wrote the first letter because he said he was sorry he made them sorry, but he was not really sorry when he thought about the outcome. “As I sent the letter, should I really have given that to be taken to Corinth?” But it was for their well-being.

It’s called what? Have you ever used tough love with your kids? You love your kids deeply. Sometimes there’s tough love involved, when necessary. So he sent it on its way and he was anxious, as you read. Again, I’m just paraphrasing, anxious about how the response would be, etc. etc. etc.

And we’ll break into the thought of 2 Corinthians 7:6 2 Corinthians 7:6Nevertheless God, that comforts those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
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, “And nevertheless God who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” Titus was coming back with word about how my letter impacted you, and he said, “Not only by his coming, we were very happy to see him, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you. When he told us of your” what? Your earnest desire. When it was pointed out, they began to make the necessary changes. They began to realize what they were doing was wrong, and they began to have an earnest desire and he says, “Your mourning, your zeal for me so that I rejoiced even the more. Even though I made you sorry with the letter, I don’t regret it because it brought about…” What? “A godly repentance, not a worldly sorrow.”

So here, you found an entire congregation, church that began to recognize what they were doing and said, “We’re wrong,” and they ended up having an earnest desire to make changes. You want to overcome a sin, if you’re involved with one? In some respects, I’d like to say this is a preventative sermon. I’m taking for granted, as I stand up here, because I don’t know your lives, that you’re doing just fine. Well, maybe you have this to tweak and that to tweak, but you’re not involved with major strongholds. Hopefully this sermon will help you realize you don’t want to get involved with a stronghold, unless it’s a righteous one. But here, it impacted the congregation greatly, which was a wonderful thing on their behalf.

How about the second tool that God gives us? He puts a lot into our own hands along with what we’ll see with the third point. He puts a lot into our own hands. The second point in how-to, brethren, is we must take responsibility for our sin. We must take responsibility for our own personal actions and our sin.

Who here knows who Stephen Covey was? He died not too long ago from a bicycle accident. My wife and I were blessed to become certified in the Covey Program when we were back in Dallas. And he has a book called “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.” And in the book, he talks about three theories of determination, or determinism which most people claim to.

And I want to read these to you because it goes hand in hand with taking personal responsibility for your own actions. It talks about three determinisms. First one he calls genetic determinism. “Genetic determinism basically says your grandparents did it to you.” It’s your grandparents’ fault that you are the way you are.

“That’s why you have such a bad temper.” My grandparents had bad tempers. My grandparents had short tempers. It’s in the DNA. “It just goes through the generations, and you inherited it,” as he writes. “In addition, you’re Irish. That’s the nature of Irish people.” I can use that because I am Irish. You know McCrady I’m Scots-Irish, okay? That’s just the nature of Irish people.

It then talks about psychic determinism. “Psychic determinism basically says your parents did it to you. Your upbringing, your childhood experiences essentially laid out your personality tendencies, and your character structure. That’s why you’re afraid to be in front of a group. It’s the way your parents brought you up.”

Again, I’ve been blessed to be in the ministry for 47 years, and I’ve had the blessing of being around absolutely wonderful, wonderful people. I count it an absolute blessing to be the pastor of Dayton and Cincinnati North. They’re absolutely phenomenal people, wonderful congregations.

And yet there have been individuals. The example I’m to give you is not from Dayton or Cincinnati North. Matter of fact, this example comes from the same congregation I was pastoring when counseling with this gentleman who had an immoral issue. And I just arrived in this particular congregation. I was there about maybe a week or two, or three, or four, I forget. The gentleman comes up and he just begins to apologize about his life.

I didn’t know who he was and, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” He says, “Yeah, this has happened, that happened.” He was probably about 42, 45 at the time. And he says, “I just have a rotten, stinking life. I’m here for the first time in church.” I think, “Okay.” And then he goes on to tell me why, “And you know the reason? That my parents didn’t rear me correctly. They did this to me, they did that to me,” they did dat-to-dat-to-dat. “And that’s why I am today.” And I said, “I’m really sorry.” He explained some of the other things, and some of the things that occurred weren’t the best, “I’m really sorry to hear that.”

And we finished the conversation at church, and I’m thinking, as matter of fact, I was telling my wife. I said, “This man is going to continue to have a rotten life, if he doesn’t get a grip on the real problem.” It was very easy to see what the real problem was.

And so every time I would see him in a casual association at church, maybe at a picnic, the conversation came up regularly, and I told my wife and I said, “He and I eventually going to have to have a conversation for his own well-being. He probably isn’t going to like what I have to tell him, but for his own well-being, I need to tell him, let him know.”

So he called me off for a visit. He wanted to discuss a particular situation, specifically an investment. And I informed him I am not an investment counselor. Happy to help with budgets, etc. But I was able to lead into because he eventually brought up the issue again. It’s always there. And I said, “You know what Mr. So and so?” I said, “You’re what? 42, 45?” And he told me his age. I said, “I am really sorry for the life that you had to live. And I’m sorry that things didn’t go better for you, and that things didn’t work out for you when you were growing up.”

I said, “But I’m going to tell you something and I hope you really take seriously, and are willing to really listen to.” And I did it with a smile on my face, trying to be as kind as possible. I said, “Unless you stop blaming your parents for where you are today, your life is going to continue to suck. [audience laughs] It’s going to continue to be bad and lousy.”

And he jumped back, and I knew he wouldn’t be receptive to it. Then I wanted to explain to him how the old saying today is the beginning of the rest of your life. I said, “We could talk with any number of people who have had horrible lives, but if all you do is focus on the horrible life and why you’re there, you’re going to stay there.”

You see, the pain of the past and the fear of the future rob you of the joy of the present. The pain of the past, fear, terror of the future will rob you of the joy of the present. And where do you live? You always live in the present. That’s where you always live. And I tried to get that concept across to him that, just because things have happened to you in the past, it doesn’t mean that it has to define who you are today.

You have another Father who set you an absolutely phenomenal example. And who was that? He lives in heaven and He’s the one we want to emulate. He’s the one we want to follow and live, and follow His instructions, and to be forgiven of our past sins and things we’ve done, and move forward. I won’t go into the rest of the counseling but I tried to help him grasp that concept.

And when I left, he wasn’t really happy with me. But you know, to his credit, he thought about it, he eventually began to recognize it. About six months later, he came up and told me, “Thank you. Thank you.” And he began to try to stop talking about the bad, and focusing on what? The good. Those things that would bring pleasure to life.

Let’s take a look at Deuteronomy.

You know what? Hold your place there because I didn’t read the third one, did I? Let me read the third one to you from Covey. That one was the way your parents impacted you. The third one is environmental determinism, environmental determinism.

Covey brings out that this “basically says your boss did it to you.” Or better yet, your spouse. “Your spouse. Or that bratty teenager, or your economic situation, or national policies.” It’s all of our national policies are causing me these problems. National policies. “Someone or something in your environment is responsible for your situation.”

Now what’s the best one for Christians? We just looked at the three determinisms. What’s the best one for us that we can use as an excuse? We probably see all three of those and maybe how they impact us. Do you know what the best one for Christians, or the best one for a Christian is? The devil made me do it. How many of you remember Flip Wilson? Wonderful skit, wonderful skit. The devil made me do it.

Now we don’t deny that Satan has his part, right. That’s why we have the Day of Atonement. And his sins, his part in our sins will be place right back on his head, but our sins are covered by the blood of Christ. But it’s still our decision to follow that influence. Ananias and Sapphira. Peter said, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie?” But who was it who lied? Who was it who paid the consequences? They both were carried out what? Feet up, toes up. So we have to be careful who we blame for what.

Notice now, Deuteronomy chapter 30. You see, in all three theories, control or responsibility have been shifted from the individual, placed upon someone or something else. All of us need to be proactive, and as human beings, accept our responsibility, our responsibility, not blaming it on someone else.

Proactive people “do not blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning” that they’ve gone through their life “for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own choice.” May be tempted, may be influenced by others, but it’s our choice.

In one marital counseling, a man said, “I can get so upset and angry with my wife. She just drives me crazy. If she would just calm down a bit, I wouldn’t get angry and say stupid things.” I said, “Well, you know, that’s your wife’s issue what you’re describing. What’s your issue? What is it you have to deal with? Let’s focus on the person we’re talking with right now. It’s your anger. Now your wife, you can blame her for it, but whose responsibility is it to keep himself under control? Yours, it’s yours.”

Deuteronomy 30:15 Deuteronomy 30:15See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil;
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, He says, “See, I’ve set before you today life and good, death and evil. In that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His commandments, His statutes, His judgments, that you may live.”

Again, if you want to live, you’ve got to follow God. His way works. We tell that to the campers all the time. God’s way works. I’ve heard that since I was back in SEP in North Minnesota. I think maybe we need to emphasize that more in our congregations to transfer some of our teaching to the kids, to our congregations.

“That you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today,” I’m telling you that this is what’s going to happen, “that you shall surely perish.”

“You shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and posses. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and cursings. Therefore, choose life,” – choose, big word – “choose life that both you and your descendants may live.”

You see, I read this and for my own benefit, I paraphrase it from the standpoint my father, my dad is saying, “Son, there’s this way of life and that way of life. These type of things are going to cause you pain and misery, and some headache. Oh, they might seemingly be pleasurable in the moment.” Drinking too much? Oh, you get gay and happy. Next day, you wake up sicker than a dog. This way of life leads to abundant life which leads to the ultimate happiness which you don’t need to be sorry about. Now as your father, I’m suggesting,” and God says I command you “to choose,” what? This way of life. But what does He tell you? Choose. You see, there’s this other element that comes into place, that God says all of us are free moral agents. Free moral agents, which means we can choose what we want to do. We can choose to be miserable, we can choose to be happy with the instruction God gives to us, He says, “Choose the other.”

Let’s continue reading. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and cursings, therefore choose life that both you and your descendants may live, that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice and that you may cling to Him.”

That’s like in a marital relationship, a husband clinging unto his wife. “Because He is your life and He is the length of your days that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give them.”

This is a major lesson. One of the fundamental principles we should always know, and if I can encourage you teenagers and pre-teens to understand this concept, that you have in your life choices, and you need to learn how to make good choices and what good choices are.

And that’s why you have dad and mom to help you along the way. That’s why you have summer camp to help dad and mom, to teach you how to make good choices. It’s fundamental.

You see, Romans 14:12 Romans 14:12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
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, and then we’ll move on to the third point. Romans 14:12 Romans 14:12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
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tells us that someday we will all have to give an account of ourselves to God. You know, when we go up before our Father or Jesus Christ, we say, “But you know, Father, it’s Sonia’s fault that I’m this way.” He’ll say, “Did Sonia tie you up and throw you down to the ground, and make you do these things?” “Well, no. Matter of fact, it’s not Sonia’s fault, Father. You gave me Sonia, it’s really Your fault.” [audience laughs]

Oh, we can take blaming to the extent that we would. That’s what Adam and Eve did, by the way. “It’s the woman,” said Adam. Woman says, “No, it’s the snake.” And the old proverbial joke, the snake didn’t have a leg to stand on, right? When you think about it Adam told God, “it’s the woman You gave me.” Who was he ultimately blaming? God. But God says, “You need to be really responsible for your own actions.” Because we will give account to God for what we do.

Let’s move on to the third point, which in some respects will lead us to Pentecost. And that third tool God emphasizes extensively is called “be willing to use My Holy Spirit. Be willing to use the gifts and the powers that I give to you.” He says you must have faith in the fact that Jesus Christ died. That must be a deep, profound belief that we have. That we believe deeply that He forgives our sins. Repent, and He wants to forgive us our sins. But not only that, that also He died so that we could also have the power and the comfort of the Holy Spirit in us.

John 14:14-18 John 14:14-18 14 If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15 If you love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
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talks about that. I’m not going to turn there. I just want to reference it. God says He would give us the promise of a comforter, or the helper. And it means just that, a helper, someone who comes alongside and helps you along the way. God says, “I’m not going to leave you. I’m going to be there to help you.”

Matter of fact he says, “The Father of Christ will make Their abode in us.” There’s a scripture that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians, it’s says when he’s talking about our ability to evaluate worldly and spiritual things. You all know that chapter right? And you get down to the last verse, in chapter 2 and it says, “We understand all things” – what happens in the world as well as the spiritual element – “because we have the very mind of Jesus Christ in us.”

Have you ever really focused on that? What does that mean that you have the very mind of Jesus Christ in you? If you have the very mind of Christ in you, what kind of mind is that? Is it puny, weak? No, it’s powerful. But it says we have to be willing to do what? Use that mind. Put it into practice, to ask God to fill us.

Timothy needed a little encouragement. Paul said what? What did Paul tell Timothy to do? “Stir up the Spirit that is in you by the laying on of my hands.” We need to stir it up. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God.” This isn’t just having God’s Spirit in us which is important. As many as who are led by the Spirit of God.

One of my favorite passages is 1 John 4:4 1 John 4:4You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
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which says, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them because He who is in you is greater than that which is in the world.”

That’s why, whether you be at sin, at a besetting sin or at a… what’s the third one? Foothold, or at a stronghold, God says, “I don’t care where you are in your life. If you turn unto Me, follow the principles we’re talking about here, rely upon My strength, My help, strongholds don’t stand a chance,” because God has given us divine weapons far greater than anything that is in the world.

1 John 5 says, “Ask according to God’s will and He’ll do it.” Ask Him to stir up that spirit in you. Matter of fact, we’re told that we can give bad things to our kids, uses a really ridiculous example to get a point across, but God says He’ll give His Holy Spirit to whoever asks Him. “Knock and I will enter.” All kinds of scriptures that we can turn to there.

One of my favorite as well is Philippians 4, Philippians chapter 1, excuse me. I do want to read that, if you’ll turn there, Philippians chapter 1, breaking into the thought after he offers his salutations, Philippians 1:3 Philippians 1:3I thank my God on every remembrance of you,
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, Paul says, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” Every time I think of you, I thank God for our friendship.

I thank God for pastoring Dayton and Cincinnati North. God knew I was getting older and I needed two easy congregations. I jokingly told Vic Kubik that one day. I should not have. [audience laughs] I said, “Pastoring Dayton and Cincinnati North is like being on vacation.” He says, “Good. Here’s another job.” No, they’re wonderful, wonderful people.

He says in verse 4, “Always in every prayer of mine, making requests for you all with joy, for your fellowship and the Gospel from the first day, until now. Being confident of this very thing.” What thing? “That He who has begun a good work in you, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

God says, “I’m able to do My part. All you have to choose to do is choose to come along. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will never drop you out of My hands.” Now how can we end up out of God’s hands? Anyone? We jump out. He’s not going to drop us, but we can jump out. We’re free moral agents.

2 Timothy 4:16 2 Timothy 4:16At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
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, “At my first defense no one stood with me. All forsook me. May it not be charged against them.” Verse 17, 2 Timothy 4:17 2 Timothy 4:17Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
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, “But the Lord stood with me. Everyone else forsook me, but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the gentiles might hear, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”

Psalm 37, Old Testament scripture, verse 28, breaking into the thought, it talks about the steps of a good man, and how we receive mercy and our descendants are blessed. In Psalms 37:28 Psalms 37:28For the LORD loves judgment, and forsakes not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.
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says, “Because the Lord loves justice,” – God loves justice – “and does not forsake His saints. They are preserved forever, however the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.”

That’s why it’s wise to follow God and not wickedness. That’s why it’s wise to overcome these three elements of sin, progression of sin, because if we are not careful, and I don’t think any of you will ever do this, at least I pray you don’t, once we have the knowledge of the truth, and we totally give it up. I mean totally give it up, God says it’s like the dog turning to what? His vomit. Or pig to the mire. I won’t tell you what the rest of it says; you all know.

So it’s wise for us to be willing to overcome sin, and the progression, and to serve God using the tools that He gives us. He says “there’s no temptation not common to man,” yeah, we face common things, “but I make a way of escape,” give the ability to deal with it.

I want to read something as we begin to conclude, and have I basically one other scripture to cover with you. How many here remember who Lieutenant General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright was? Any of you old-timers? Yeah, I figured some of you old-timers would. He’s a powerful man. I want to read this one statement that I got from a book about him, and I think we can apply this with this point.

“During World War II, Lieutenant General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright was commander of the Allied forces in the Philippines. Following a heroic resistance of enemy forces, he was forced to surrender Corregidor and the survivors of the Philippine campaign to Japan on May 6, 1942.

For three years, he suffered as a prisoner of war in a Manchurian camp. During his internment, he endured the incessant cruelties of malnutrition, physical and verbal abuse, psychological mind games. Through it all, he maintained his dignity as a human being, and as a soldier.

But after the Japanese surrendered the war, his captors kept Wainwright and the other prisoners incarcerated. The war was over, but the bondage continued. One day an Allied plane landed in a field near the prison, and through the fence that surrounded the compound, an airman informed General Wainwright of the Japanese surrender and the American victory.” Yet he and his fellow soldiers were still being kept captive.

“Wainwright immediately pulled his emaciated body to attention, turned and marched toward the command house. He burst through the door, marched up to the camp’s commanding officer and said, ‘My commander-in-chief has conquered your commander-in-chief. I am now in charge of this camp’” [Spiritual Strongholds, Don McMinn].

They made a movie about this, by the way. Some of you may remember that. It was back in the dark ages when it came out. But I saw the takeoff on this movie, and there was quite a stirring sight to see this actor march in and say what he did.

Well, brethren, God says that our commander-in-chief, Jesus Christ, and our Father has conquered the world and its commander-in-chief who is Satan, the devil. What we have is greater than what the world has. And our commander-in-chief has conquered their commander-in-chief, and therefore as General Wainwright said, you need to be in charge of your camp.

What is your camp? It’s right here. You’ve got to be in charge of your camp using the teachings that Jesus Christ gives to us. A desire to change where necessary, taking responsibility for your own actions, and realize that it all is based upon us looking powerfully to our Father in heaven and our savior Jesus Christ. And when we do that, we have the power to deal with this camp that we have.

Turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 10, beginning in verse 3, 2 Corinthians 10:3 2 Corinthians 10:3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
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, “For though we walk in the flesh,” – we’re all human – “we do not war according to the flesh, because the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds.”

With God, all things are possible, brethren, and hopefully you’ve enjoyed your Days of Unleavened Bread. And hopefully this seventh day will have greater meaning for you, when it comes to the fact that God by this teaching says we should completely come out of sin. That should be our goal.

John tells us in 1 John 2, “I write these things that you don’t sin.” And that’s our M.O., we don’t want to sin, because we know sinning hurts and obeying God is good, benefits us. So it says, “I write this that you don’t sin. But if you do, you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is the propitiation for your sins, not only yours but for the entire world.”

So we have God with us. If we do make a mistake, we fall into that category of sin or along the progression, acknowledge the fact that, “Yep, here I am. I don’t need to be here. But with God’s help and using the techniques and tools, the how-tos He gives me, I can be where I need to be because God doesn’t want me to sin. But I know I always have Jesus Christ to give me the strength and the aid to move forward.”