Romans 12:1-2 (MsgB)
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 6:1-23 (MsgB)
So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?  I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there?  Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace--a new life in a new land!
That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means.  When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.  Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country.  Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life--no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this:   If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection.  We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word.  When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us.  From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That's what Jesus did.
 That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day.  Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time--remember, you've been raised from the dead!--into God's way of doing things.  Sin can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God.
 So, since we're out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we're free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind?  Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it's your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you've let sin tell you what to do.  But thank God you've started listening to a new master,  one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!
 I'm using this freedom language because it's easy to picture. You can readily recall, can't you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing--not caring about others, not caring about God--the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God's freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?
 As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn't have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter.  But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you're proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.
 But now that you've found you don't have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way!  Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God's gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.
John 14:14-17 (MsgB)
Whatever you request in this way, I'll do.
 "If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you.  I will talk to the Father, and he'll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you.  This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can't take him in because it doesn't have eyes to see him, doesn't know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!
John 14:25-26 (MsgB)
"I'm telling you these things while I'm still living with you.  The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you.
John 15:5-13 (MsgB)
"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing.  Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.  But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.  This is how my Father shows who he is--when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
 "I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love.  If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done--kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love.
 "I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.  This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.  This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.
John 16:13 (MsgB)
But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won't draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said.
John 17:16-17 (MsgB)
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
 Make them holy--consecrated--with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
Acts 20:32 (MsgB)
"Now I'm turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.
1 Cor. 1:30 (MsgB)
Everything that we have--right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start--comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.
1 Cor. 2:9-16 (MsgB)
That's why we have this Scripture text:
No one's ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it--
What God has arranged for those who love him.
 But you've seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.
The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along.  Who ever knows what you're thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God--except that he not only knows what he's thinking,  but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us.  We don't have to rely on the world's guesses and opinions. We didn't learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we're passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.
 The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can't receive the gifts of God's Spirit. There's no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit--God's Spirit and our spirits in open communion.  Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God's Spirit is doing, and can't be judged by unspiritual critics.  Isaiah's question, "Is there anyone around who knows God's Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?" has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ's Spirit.
1 Cor. 1:2 (MsgB)
I send this letter to you in God's church at Corinth, Christians cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He's their Master as well as ours!
1 Cor. 10:13 (MsgB)
No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.
2 Cor. 7:1 (MsgB)
With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let's make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let's make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.
Galatians 5:1 (MsgB)
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
Galatians 5:16-26 (MsgB)
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness.  For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.  Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness;  trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits;  the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.
 But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard--things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments,  not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.  Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good--crucified.
 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.  That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
Ephes. 1:4 (MsgB)
Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.
Ephes. 4:21-24 (MsgB)
My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus.  Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything--and I do mean everything--connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life--a God-fashioned life,  a life renewed from the inside  and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
Ephes. 5:17-21 (MsgB)
Don't live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
 Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him.  Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ.  Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.
 Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.
Ephes. 6:11 (MsgB)
So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (MsgB)
We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all--all but the sin.  So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
James 4:7-10 (MsgB)
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.  Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field.  Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious.  Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.
1 John 4:1-6 (MsgB)
My dear friends, don't believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.
 Here's how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ--the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person--comes from God and belongs to God.  And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God. This is the spirit of antichrist that you heard was coming. Well, here it is, sooner than we thought!
 My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world.  These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world's language and the world eats it up.  But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.
1 John 5:4-5 (MsgB)
Every God-begotten person conquers the world's ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith.  The person who wins out over the world's ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.
Jude 1:24-25 (MsgB)
And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating--  to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.
Matthew 4:1-11 (MsgB)
Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it.  Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger,  which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: "Since you are God's Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread."
 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth."
 For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said,  "Since you are God's Son, jump." The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: "He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone."
 Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: "Don't you dare test the Lord your God."
 For the third test, the Devil took him on the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth's kingdoms, how glorious they all were.  Then he said, "They're yours--lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they're yours."
 Jesus' refusal was curt: "Beat it, Satan!" He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."
 The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus' needs.
Matthew 7:13 (MsgB)
"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.
Copyright © 2003, Joseph A. Williams