The Things We Keep Buried

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Colossians 3: 5-10…”Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

The Apostle Paul wrote this as part of his letters to the church in Colosse around 62 A.D. while he was a prisoner in Rome. It is written as a warning to keep pure the work of Jesus at the cross and the resurrection thereafter, as the church had morphed into a sort of hybrid religion that no longer resembled true Christianity. It is a detailed account of what we are before receiving Christ, and what we transform into after the death of our earthly self and being reborn in the spirit of Christ. He’s very blunt and explicit in his instruction and they are hard words to hear and read. Very few passages in scripture are as important as what Paul wrote here, but these are the exact same qualities that many of faith choose to ignore as command. However, we must keep in mind who wrote this – Paul, the human being that the resurrected Christ specifically and directly chose to bring the gospel to all the world…to you and to me. This is to be taken as if spoken directly to your face by your Creator.

We are warned here by Paul that there is a coming wrath of God and it will be leveled against the things that are born from sin. But since we have been saved by the blood shed at the cross and reborn, we are now transforming (being renewed) in knowledge and in the image of our Savior. In that, we must die in our earthly self and that life we walked in that will face judgment, and walk in the new self that we now have in oneness with Jesus. Complicated? Sure, if you’ve not been rescued by Christ and the Holy Spirit has not yet come to you. But to those to which this has occurred, it all makes perfect sense. It’s the application that gets lost in translation. Transformation is a process…not a one and done, at least for most. Paul was a one and done, but most likely you are not. I am not. We are transforming from our previous life which is now dead. It’s like a snake shedding its skin. What is left behind is all that Paul listed…all the things that separated us from God and eternal light.

There has been much I’ve lost in my old self as that doomed existence dies and my true life emerges. Much of the sexual immorality, the evil desires, the greed, lust, anger, rage and the rest has washed away, and the Spirit is always pouring life back into me to replace those things. Yet, on occasion, I’m reminded my transformation is yet to be complete. Especially when I take off a piece of the armor that shields me from the enemy and leave myself vulnerable to attack. I’m nearly certain that I’ve never met a fully transformed being and that I probably never will. I believe they are out there and I absolutely believe we can get there before leaving this earth, but we do have an enemy and we are constantly at battle with it.

Buried deep in my gut somewhere is this little ball I’ve discovered. It’s not supposed to still be there. I don’t want it there. Yet there it still is. Its content is a toxic brew of terrible pain, anger, rage, sins of all sorts, and all that was me before my rescue. It’s almost as if this ball is a “greatest hits” of all the traits my previous doomed soul consisted of. The death of my mother and the massive pain that came with that takes center stage in that melody. It’s a platinum hit. Recently, because I took my armor off, that little ball of pain was exploited and it surfaced on me again. My actual brother witnessed this. I’m not sure what happened and why, and after much personal analysis I actually believe it was part of the ongoing transformation process. God was releasing it from me and in confession there must be a witness to it. The deep bitterness I was holding towards the end result of my mother’s life poured out of me in a fit of rage.

God has used that ball in my life for a long time. It’s the motivation that has propelled me to do many good things in life out of the ashes of the wrong. It’s the source of what led me to him and his rescue. But it’s of no use anymore as those things have died. I cried the next morning after that ball came pouring from me to God to please take it from me. I didn’t even know it was still there like that. I didn’t belong there and I pleaded for him to take it. There exists plenty of mystery still regarding God, our salvation, our personal transformations, and the way we are used in God’s glory and purposes. For me, this is one of those mysteries. But I take it back to what Paul says here…”Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” I pray that I do.

What are the things you are keeping buried deep in your gut? What type of control do they have on your actions? Consider Paul’s warning. Put them to death.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

The Super Bowl Crown

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1 Corinthians 9: 24-25…“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Charlotte, NC is one of those types of places that everyone that was born there is very proud of where they come from. At least they are from my generation born in the 60’s and 70’s and before. Mid-size cities are often this way, such as, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and other similar sized places. We want people to know our city exists too and that it’s a great place to be. I’m not sure of the psychology behind that, but I’m willing to guess that it’s akin to Napoleonic complex because of being rivals with nearby larger cities. Charlotte has grown such now that it’s losing that quality, but for those of us who are natives, we’re extremely proud when good things happen to it. Which leads me to the Carolina Panthers NFL football team.

We (Charlotte) were awarded an NFL team that began play in Charlotte in 1996. The first year was spent playing in Clemson, SC until our brand new stadium in Uptown Charlotte was completed. Uptown instead of downtown is another story all together, but it goes right back to that striving to be unique and special. The very first event held in what is now called, Bank of America Stadium, was a Billy Graham Crusade. Billy of course being one of those proud Charlotte natives, and he is also a fan of our football team like the rest of us. If you listen to past messages of his you’ll hear his love of NC and Charlotte come forth quite often. 20 years later that stadium and the city of Charlotte will be hosting our very first NFC Championship game between the Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals. It’s kind of a big deal.

I love the game of football both college and pro. I loved playing the game with my friends as a kid. I didn’t so much love playing organized football, and the giant kids that played against us that must have lived by a nuclear power plant. That’s when I discovered there was a limit to my love of football. Ha. That said, I’ve been rabidly obsessed this year with the Panthers best season in our history. Going into the championship game we have 16 wins against 1 loss. It’s been a beautiful sight to behold. When I attended the playoff game last weekend with my family, I began to wonder if me directing all of this passion at the Panthers was a correct posture from a Godly standpoint. It’s a dangerous and slippery slope bordering on idol worship. Often times, the most seemingly harmless activities are the things drawing us away from relationship with our Father. Is that what is happening to me? It’s a very serious question.

So I began to put this against what the Apostle Paul wrote comparing the spirit of earthly competition with the spiritual responsibility that comes with eternal salvation. Competition and games existed in the time of Christ and the Apostles the same as it does now. He mentions racing in the quoted verse, and later he mentions boxing if you go on reading the chapter. Paul does not condemn these things, but instead he uses them as an example for us to adhere for a much higher purpose. “They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

This led me to honestly assess my life from the stance of am I as “sold out” (I really dislike that Christianese term but it fits here) for Jesus as I am the Carolina Panthers? Not that many years ago that would have been a for sure no. But I’m a much different man in my transformation than I was 5, 3, even 1 year ago. My life revolves around Jesus now in all phases. Even football, because I’ve never even considered this to be an issue before, but now the spirit has brought it to my attention. This is what happens when the spirit of the living Christ dwells within us. It was brought to me to consider for a reason. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy all of this creation and the other humans God has created and the great things mankind does, but we must at all times remain with both feet on his narrow path. Eyes forward. If the Panthers lose this weekend I’m going to naturally be disappointed as to what might have been, but my life will instantly go on. I’m in my own race. I’m seeking the crown that is eternal. The Super Bowl crown will fade to dust when mine still shines with his glory as I lay it at the feet of my Savior.

Billy Graham, if he is able in his condition, I’m sure will be watching the game this Sunday. I’ll be there with my family once again, making the 1200 mile roundtrip trek to be in that moment with them. The picture above is one that I took just a few weeks ago while at his library in Charlotte. It’s a signed helmet from Panthers owner, Jerry Richardson, to Mr. Graham, “his friend.” It’s a great moment for the team and for the city of Charlotte and all that love it. But I’ll also have these words from Billy in my mind as I temper my enthusiasm with spiritual reality…“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

I’ve grown much closer in likeness to the Lord over these many years, but I still have much more growing to do. How about you? Are the things you give your deepest passions to surpassing the passion you give to serving and growing in Christ? Serious question indeed.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

The Power to Say No

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1 John 3, Verses 8-10…“The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”

So what is the “devil’s work?” What are these things that Jesus came to destroy? For me, it’s been a long list of items, both mental and physical, that controlled, shaped, and mislead me down a path taking me away from who I was made to be. Are we aware the devil has this sometimes very subtle continuous power over our lives? Not when we are living apart from God. When we are in that state, the devil is very quiet. He tiptoes around us so as not to wake up our hypnotized slumber. When our conscious stirs, he’ll whisper very quietly those simple humanist justifications that lull us back into deep sleep. “You need that last drink because nobody else has stress like you.” “You deserve to cheat on your wife because she doesn’t fall at your feet every single moment.” “Stealing from that man was the right thing to do because he has more than you undeservedly.” His whispers hit our sin-filled hearts and manifest our complete destruction.

The only thing that can wake us up from the devil’s work is the voice of the Holy Spirit when he comes to rescue us. The spirit does not tiptoe. “WAKE UP! Your destruction is soon. WAKE UP!” I’ve heard the voice of the spirit. It’s warned me just that way. This is Jesus Christ coming to be our salvation. We have no power of when that voice is going to come and when we will be saved, but when it happens, we had better not ignore the moment. It may only happen that one time. Satan has stolen throngs of souls with sweet and gentle whispers. The Spirit comes with a loud thumping on the door of our conscious. We know he is there. For you, reader, this may very well be that moment right now. This article may be the thumping. Is his voice speaking to your conscious about the sin you’ve been feeding? Answer. That is your creator. That is true life calling to you. That is salvation in the person of, Jesus Christ.

Therefore he (Jesus) is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

Through the power of Jesus living within us, we have full power and authority to say – No. We can defeat what had been undefeated, and we can destroy sin that was so robust that it defined life itself in our minds. All of those things that cause all the heartbreak, pain, agony, misery and tears of this world. We can say from the authority of Christ, “No, I will not do that and I won’t do your bidding, Satan.” That’s when the devil goes from a whisper to a shout. That’s when the line of good/evil becomes crystal clear in our hearts and minds. Evil no longer hides itself so as to easily deceive. We then have clear choices, and though they still remain for us to be made each day, because we have the unbreakable promise of God to forever hold us, we are able to just simply say…No.

At this point God begins to work miracles within us. We are alive now and of use to him. His peace sits in our hearts even in the middle of the worst storms…storms we will still feel and experience…but differently. The best way to put it is in the middle of those storms, we are no longer the one needing the safety rope thrown to them, but instead, we are the ones throwing the rope. That’s what I’m doing right now…tossing a rope into the raging sea for the hands reaching up to God. I’m not the Holy Spirit and I have no power to save you…I’m a messenger of the hope and promise of God. Grab the rope. Repent, because you are given the power to do so, and join me on this side. Join up with the living. The benefits are out of this world 🙂

Gary Abernathy

Keeping Christ’s Perspective

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Luke 12: 49-51 – (Jesus Speaking) “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”

One of the great misleading narratives of Christian faith in the modern world is that of a neutered, hippie-like, Jesus. I’m ok – you’re ok – let’s all go get high (on materialism, immorality – the breaking of all God’s law). This has created a superhighway of mislead believers going down a path away from the cross instead of towards it.

Jesus is the harvester sifting out (dividing) his that he calls wheat, from Satan’s, that he calls chaff. The chaff will burn in the resulting fire. That’s what he is saying in this passage of Luke’s Gospel, and he’s yearning to do it even before he’s gone to the cross and resurrected from the tomb. That is Christ’s perspective. To be fearful (mindful) of that daily is of highest importance.

When we are low, when we hurt, when we are in danger, our first instinct is to call for His help. It sure is for me. That’s a good thing and it’s exactly what we should do in those moments. Just as the psalmist David did, we do the same. But what about when we are doing well and feeling strong? Is our Christ perspective still intact? Are we praising him, mindful of his blessing, and giving credit (glory) where it belongs? This is something I’ve struggled with my entire walk with Christ. Ego and ownership of life.

In that same gospel of Luke, Jesus spells out the responsibility of those given much. (Jesus Speaking) “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”  While I am certainly not rolling like a Bill Gates, I have no room to complain about what I’ve been given in life. I’ve lived comfortable, and at the moment, God has me living very comfortable, and he has also entrusted me with some pretty large platforms. I fall smack dab in the middle of that warning from the mouth of Christ. I have failed it many times. I lose my Christ Perspective by the deception of my comfortable circumstances. Because he loves us, God will always rebuke his own when this happens, the same as we do to our children as parents. Some of those rebukes of me have been pretty harsh, but nothing compared to what he could have done. The spirit comes to me in warning, and where I once would ignore that warning and the rebuke would eventually follow, I now listen…very intently. Sometimes it takes the threat of losing everything that truly matters to us to get a person’s full attention. He has mine. My perspective is squarely on Jesus and his pitchfork. Am I to be wheat or chaff? I never was very fond of intense heat.

Where do you stand in keeping your Christ Perspective? Are you calling for his mercy and help when you are low, and are you praising when you are high, and doing his work of the sharing of your many blessings?

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, all is lost.” Billy Graham

Pray for and work on building your character every single day. He is coming. Sooner than you think.

Gary Abernathy