What is the New Creation?

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NKJV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

In our last number of posts, I have been talking about the most radical thing that can happen to an individual in the human experience. There is no other religion that claims what Christianity claims in the New Birth. Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus that he could not see the Kingdom of Heaven unless he was born again. If a person is not born again, he is not a Christian in the biblical sense.

There are billions of people who are part of Christian denominations and religious groups. They follow the teachings of their denomination’s doctrine and ritual. They may or may not follow the bible. Culturally and religiously, they are called Christians but biblically they are not. Jesus’ words are clear. He did not say it would be good for a person to be born again. He did not say being born again is one of many ways to see, and therefore enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He said you cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven unless you are born again.

What Jesus calls being born again, Paul calls being a New Creation. This experience is commonly referred to as “The New Birth.” What is the new birth? The new birth is the reversal of what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The part of them that was connected to God and God’s world died when they sinned. For them to fulfill their purpose in creation God had to restore that connection. What died had to be made alive again.

He could not simply resurrect in the spirit what was dead. The death that happens in the spirit is not like the death that happens in the natural. Spiritual death is not the cessation of spiritual life. It is the corruption of spiritual life by sin. Look at today’s verse in the Amplified Bible.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (AMP) 17 Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!

In this translation it says that if anyone is in Christ they are a “new creature altogether.” The Greek work implies something that never existed before. When a person is in Christ, he becomes a person that never existed before. The old things, or person, pass away and all things become new. This does not happen in the flesh. The body does not change. The mind changes very little initially. However, in the deepest part of the human being the person that was corrupted by sin dies. He is “born again” of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)

The new birth is not a change of philosophy. It is not a gradual change of a person’s thinking or behavior. It is an instantaneous miracle that changes the person in his nature. Ephesians 2:1-3 says that all that are not in Christ are by nature children of “wrath.” Verses four through eight of the same chapter tell the other side of the story.

Ephesians 2:4-6 (NKJV) 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Paul is speaking to a group of people who are no longer children of wrath by nature. Something has happened to them. They were dead in their trespasses but now they have been “made alive.” Their nature was wrath, so what is their nature now? They have been made alive with Christ so their nature is now be the nature of Christ.

This is the claim made by biblical Christianity. If you are born again, a miraculous change has occurred. You are not changing through your own work and discipline as many other religious and philosophical disciplines teach. The person who is born again and in Christ is a new creature. Everything inside him changes immediately.

He becomes a new baby, a new person, in his nature. He was inherently evil because of the fall. He is now inherently good. He used to have a dark side to his nature. Now he does not. He used to have to control the innermost part of himself. Now he must learn to release it. That part of him no longer contains death and darkness. He is now filled with the light and life of God. He is a new creation. He is born again.

We see this graphically described in Genesis chapter 3 only in the other direction. Man was created a child of God in God’s image and likeness. He had God’s own nature in his spirit. He was by nature love, faithfulness and righteousness. When he sinned, something changed.

Read this amazing chapter. You will see that the man God created for fellowship suddenly hides from God. He has become aware of his nakedness. This is not just physical nakedness. He has lost something that covered him. He has lost the glory of God in his life. He was aware of evil in his innermost being. Righteousness became unrighteousness.

He loved the woman so much that he chose to follow her into rebellion. After the rebellion, he blames her for their predicament. Love has turned to selfishness. He was given dominion over the earth. All authority includes accountability. However, when he is asked what happened he says the woman deceived him. He also reminds God that He gave the woman to him. He does not accept responsibility for his actions. He was the “keeper” of the Garden of Eden. Now he must be cast out of the Garden because of his irresponsibility.

As we read this chapter along with chapter 2 of Genesis, we see the nature of Adam change before our eyes. This was an instantaneous and supernatural thing. The New Birth is just as instantaneous and just as supernatural.

The New Testament teaches us that there is a process called “renewing the mind” that we must follow in order to see this inward change manifested in our outward living. The bible also teaches that we must learn to walk in the spirit and not in the flesh. Our spirit was full of death and we had to control it. We learned to walk by our intellect. We were controlled by the flesh. Now that must all change. However, the inward change happens the instant we are born again.

The next question we must answer is, “How can I be born again?”

Born of the Spirit

John 3:5-7 (NKJV) 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

In our introduction to the New Birth, we have focused on the creation and fall of man. Nicodemus came to Jesus in John 3 because he could tell there was something different about him. His own words tell us that the things Jesus did proved to him that Jesus was like no other man. He comes to Jesus to find out why. Jesus’ answer is baffling to Nicodemus. He tells this “Dr. of the law” that he must be born again.

This makes no sense to Nicodemus who cannot see beyond his natural experience and current level of scriptural understanding. Jesus explains his statement to Nicodemus as best he can at the time, but I do not believe Nicodemus really understood what Jesus was saying. Although he does not mention the creation of man or his fall, he alludes to them in what he tells Nicodemus.

We have learned that God created man in his own image and likeness. Jesus told the woman at the well that God is a spirit. I believe man is primarily a spirit as well. God put him in a physical body in a physical world. However, God created him a spirit first. This gave man a connection to God and to the realm where God exists. Man had access to the life and therefore the power of that realm. The spirit was the true source of his life.

When man fell, something happened to him in that part of his being that was joined to God. His spirit died. This does not mean it ceased to exist. It means that it was no longer joined to God. His vital connection to the world of the spirit and the power of that world was severed. He became subject to the one who tempted Eve and, through that temptation, caused Adam to choose sin over life.

Paul says in Ephesians 2 that man became “by nature a child of wrath.” Wrath is a person and a condition. Wrath is the devil and wrath is a force that entered the earth because of Adam’s rebellion. This evil force began to reprogram the world according to its own nature. That nature is spiritual death. Physical death is just a byproduct. Corruption, sin and decay all flow from spiritual death. It is the source of all that is evil and destructive in the human condition.

The natural solution to this problem was for man to try to contain and control the death within him. He made laws and created cultures that would try to minimize the effect of this dark force. Still it persisted. We read about it in literature and history. It rears its ugly nature in emperors and citizens alike. It touches the best of men and destroys those who give themselves to it.

Man concluded that ignorance was the source of the problem so he began to focus on education. Surely if we educate all people, they will learn that they do not have to yield to darkness. The light of knowledge will drive out the ignorance that is the source of barbarism. Yet the darkness persisted. Some of the most educated and intelligent people in history have given in to the darkness and destroyed millions of innocent people.

What needs to change to stop this cycle? What changed to begin the cycle? Man was created by God to be a channel for supernatural love and light to the natural world. When he sinned, that part of him died. It became a channel for darkness and evil. The only way to change man is to reveres what happened to him in the fall. He must be born again.

If a person is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, education will not save him. It might have helped before the disease took hold. It might have helped in the early stages of the disease. Once it has gotten to the final stages, education, legal regulations and moral laws will not change it. That person will die. Nothing can change that.

The spiritual death that came into man’s spirit at the fall is a cancer that came forth fully developed. It devoured his spiritual life as surely as physical cancer devours physical life. There is no cure for this spiritual condition. It is always terminal. Every human being dies from it eventually. Some die because of the aging process that it introduced into man’s genetic makeup. Some die because of the sickness that is caused by the perversion of organisms that God intended for good. Some die because of the violence that is part of the corrupted nature that resulted from the fall. The one constant is that all die.

We quoted Romans 5 in an earlier post. This chapter tells us that this corruption passed upon all people even those who did not sin like Adam sinned. Why would that be so? To our human minds that seems unfair. However, God put a law into motion that still functions today.

Genesis 1:24 (NKJV) 24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so.

God’s Word is eternal. Every creature produces after its own kind. That included man. He would have produced people with God’s nature in their spirit. Instead, he produces people with the same death in their innermost being as he had after the fall.

There is only one solution. If you want to change the world, you must change man. If you want to rid the world of this death that came at the fall, you cannot educate out. You cannot govern it out. You cannot eliminate it with laws. You cannot punish it out and you cannot reward it out. There is only one thing that can change man and ultimately the world. You must change his nature. You must return him to the condition he was in before the fall. You must remove the death from his spirit and restore his connection to God and God’s world.

His spirit must be born again. He does not need to be born again in the flesh. It is really too late for that. What must be born again is the spirit of man. Somehow, the life that died must be made alive again. The sin must be addressed and justice met.

Adam made a choice to die. Those who came after Adam had no choice. They were born with the seed of sin and for each person there comes a time when that seed produces its fruit.

Romans 7:9 (NKJV) 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

Just as a child with the gene for diabetis or some other genetic disease will eventually see that disease in his physical body, each person born with spiritual death as part of their genetic makeup will eventually see the fruit of that seed in one form or another. The only solution is for people to be given the choice that Adam took from them. Each person must choose to be made alive again. Each person must be born again.

Children of Wrath

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV) 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

In our last post, we looked at the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus in John chapter 3. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a good man. He had questions. He begins his questions by telling Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” This proves that he knew Jesus was special.

Jesus responds by telling Nicodemus that no one can even see the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again. Many people are aware of this phrase today. TV and other media have used the term to indicate Christian fundamentalism. Although born again people are fundamental to a point, they are not fundamentalists as the media understands the term. In any case, many people have at least heard the term. To my knowledge, Nicodemus was the first to hear it.

As you can imagine he could not fathom such a thing. Jesus then gives him an answer that sums up the condition of man and the solution God offers. Man was created to be a spirit being living in the natural world God created for him. He committed a sin that caused the connection with the world of the spirit and God himself to be severed. The Hebrew says that in the day Adam would eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “in dying he would surly die.”

This implies a twofold death: The first death being his separation from God in his spirit. The second death was the aging and eventual death of his physical body. The first death is the most important. The second was a product of the first. Man was born again, if you will, in reverse.

The life within him became darkness. Sin caused his spiritual nature to change and man could no longer fellowship with God in spirit. More important was the fact that man could not enter into the kingdom of heaven as a sin stained spirit being. He would have to spend eternity with the one he had chosen to serve when he chose sin over obedience. He would have to spend eternity in hell.

God did not leave man in this condition. Revaluation 13:8 tells us “the Lamb was slain from the foundations of the world.” God had a plan to redeem man in place before man was even created. The fulfillment of that plan was the ability to give man the right to choose again. He had lost that right when he chose sin in the garden. God is going to restore that right and give him another choice. The choice to be “born again.”

Today’s scripture is another one that is pertinent to understanding what it means to be born again. Paul makes a very profound and controversial statement here. There are a number of things we need to see clearly.

1. Paul tells those to whom he is writing that God has made them alive. Obviously, they were not physically dead before so this cannot mean they were made alive physically.

2. There was a time when those who are now alive walked according to the “course of this world” and were subject to the prince of the power of the air. This can only mean Satan’s lordship gained from Adam.

3. There are two groups now in the earth. Those to whom Paul is writing and a group called the “sons of disobedience.

4. All people were once part of the second group.

5. The second group is “by nature children of wrath.”

This is very clear about these things. All people are born in one condition, by nature children of wrath. It is possible to become something else, but it requires a choice on our part to walk a different path. What does it mean to be by nature a child of wrath?

Your nature is what you are naturally. It is a part of how you were born. For instance, a lion is born with a predator nature. He cannot help being a predator. He does not have to learn how to be a predator. He may have to learn how to hunt, but being a predator is his nature.

You may take a lion and put him in the circus. You may train him to perform in a cage with a “Lion tamer.” You may keep that nature contained but you will not change it. When the lion looks at the lion tamer he does not see his master. He sees his dinner. If the lion tamer lets down his guard he will be just that! If that happens there is no point in blaming the lion, he is by nature a child of a predator and therefore, a predator himself.

The fall of man changed him in a fundamental way. He became by nature a child of wrath, or the devil. Anger darkness and sin became his natural state. Because of his great intellect, he was not totally subject to that nature. He could educate himself. He could create culture and laws. All of these things contained this dark nature so that man could survive without becoming so violent that he would cause his own extinction.

History tells us that whenever man throws off these restraints or allows his dark nature to gain control of his culture, anarchy and death result. From the barbarians who sacked Rome and the Spanish inquisition to the Nazis death camps and the communist gulags, the question is often asked, “How can human beings treat one another with such barbarism?” The answer is not pretty. That is who and what man really is.

Modern thinking on this is just the opposite. There is a term that used to describe man’s true nature. It is said that man is inherently good, so when he acts badly there must be some reason for it. Something must have happened to him to make him behave like a barbarian. Most modern and left leaning governmentl and educational institutions believe this to be true. Their teaching and their programs proceed from this premise.

Paul tells us just the opposite in the bible. We were all by nature children of wrath. Man is not inherently good. He is inherently evil because of the fall. He uses his intellect to control the evil, but it is always there. Throughout literature and philosophy, we see this truth. There is always a “Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll. There is always a dark side to humanity buried deep within that must be contained.

This is the reality of man’s condition. Failing to understand that led to things like the slaughter of World War II. Neville Chamberlain thought Adolf Hitler was at heart a reasonable man. In truth, Adolf Hitler had given himself over to the “Mr. Hyde” within him. He is different in that he yielded to the wrath nature. All humanity is born with it because of the fall.

Romans 5:12-14 (NKJV) 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned– 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

That is man’s condition since the fall in the Garden of Eden. That is not how God created him. That is not what God wanted him to be. He was made with the same nature as his Father, God. He had a nature of love, peace and joy. God undertook a plan that culminated with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This plan would give man a way to reverse the curse of the fall. He provided a means for man to have this “wrath nature” changed. He could be “born again.”

You Must be Born Again

John 3:1-3 (NKJV) 1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

This section of scripture is one of the most well known and most misunderstood in the bible. What is this really talking about? Our theme for this year is “being a supernatural people living in the natural world.” We know from Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that we are not of this world just as Jesus was not of this world. We also know that Jesus did not ask the father to take us out of the world but asked that he protect us from the devil while we live here. Jesus was a supernatural man. We are to be a supernatural people. Jesus lived a supernatural life in the world. We are to live supernatural lives in the world.

Supernatural does not necessarily mean spectacular. Parting the Red Sea was a spectacular and supernatural act. However, Israel’s cloths did not wear out for 40 years. Although that was spectacular in retrospect, it was not spectacular as it happened. They simply wore the same clothes over and over. Putting on cloths is a natural thing to do. However, they put on the same clothes for 40 years. This was a natural act with a supernatural touch.

The conception of both Isaac and Jesus were spectacular events in that one happened to people to old for children and one happened without the aid of a human male. From that point on, the pregnancy and birth were exactly like every other pregnancy and birth throughout history. They were natural acts with a supernatural touch.

Sometimes we will see spectacular things such as healings and miracles. I believe what we need to understand is that everything we do can have that supernatural touch. From working in our job to raising our children, we should expect a touch of the supernatural. From our relationships in the home to our interaction with people in the world, we need the touch of the supernatural to be successful.

What makes us truly supernatural people? Today’s scripture points us to the real source of our supernatural life. We read the bible with foreknowledge of what it says. Most Christians know the story of Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night. He was a Pharisee. He was educated in the Jewish scriptures. He had also seen and heard Jesus. He could not escape that there was something different about this man. He went to him with honest questions about his teaching.

We can see from his initial statement that he respects Jesus. The first words Jesus speaks to him are beyond his understanding. They do not seem to speak to anything Nicodemus has said up to this point. We hear them in the context of our understanding of the bible. Most people hear them just as Nicodemus did.

John 3:4 (NKJV) 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

What can it possible mean to be born again? We know that it is a physical impossibility to enter the womb of your mother a second time. It almost seems like a ridiculous statement. Jesus’ answer seems to confuse poor Nicodemus even more. However, in these few words Jesus lays out exactly what this term means.

John 3:5-8 (NKJV) 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus wants Nicodemus to understand that the first birth was the physical birth. It happened because of the union between a physical man and a physical woman. The person that was produced carried all of the attributes of their parents. Man was not supposed to be a physical creation only. John 4:24 tells us that God is spirit. Man was created in the “image and likeness of God.” Therefore, man is also spirit.

In creation, God clothed man’s spirit in flesh so that he could live in the physical world. I do not want to go into a detailed discussion of creation but we must understand what happened to man to understand what Jesus is telling us here in John 3. Man was created as the family of God. He was like God in that he was created a spirit being. He was not like God in that he was limited. He lived in a natural world.

God gave Adam dominion over the natural world. He was to exercise that dominion by tapping into the supernatural world of the spirit. His source of life was that world, not the natural world. He was a supernatural person living in a natural world.

In Genesis 3 something happened that changed man in a fundamental way. The bible tells us that Eve partook of the fruit that had been forbidden to man. Adam, not wanting to lose her, followed her into this sin. The result was catastrophic.

Genesis 3:17-19 (NKJV) 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

Something changed in man as a result of eating that forbidden fruit. What we read in these verses is not a statement of God’s displeasure. What happens to man is not punishment for committing a wrong action. It is a result brought about by a cause. God told man that if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. The Hebrew comes out more clearly. It says that if Adam ever ate of that tree “in dying he would surely die.” Adam’s physical death was the second death mentioned. The first death was something else entirely.

Something supernatural happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden. They were created by God to be supernatural people in the natural world. They were to have dominion over the world. How were they to do that? Adam was not a superman capable of flying or super strength. He could not kill a lion or a bear any easier than we could. He did not have to. He dominated the world he lived in because he was a spirit. His spirit was joined to God in spirit. He was alive by that union. The fall severed that tie.

What happened to man the moment he ate of the fruit of that tree was that his spirit died. This did not mean it ceased to exist. A spirit cannot cease to exist. This means that the life connection between man and God was severed and man became a natural being living in the natural world. Physical death was just an inevitable manifestation of the spiritual death they suffered the moment they ate of the tree.

The life that man was created to live was taken from him. The curse spoken in verses 17-19 was a result of losing that vital connection. The limitations of natural life led to every negative thing in the human experience. Thank God that he did not choose to leave his family in this condition. What was his solution? It was what Jesus said to Nicodemus. “You must be born again!”

The Final Act of Samson’s Life

Judges 16:4-5 (NKJV) 4 Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”

(I apologize for taking so long to finish the story of Samson’s life. I have been teaching at Blue Ridge Chapel School of the Prophets in Rocky Mount Virginia. Pastor’s Phil and Gina Crandall head a great work there that includes a bible school where many young, and some not so young, people have been greatly blessed of God. If you or someone you know would like a bible school education in an uncompromising atmosphere with a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit, this might be the place for you. You can check them out at http://blueridgebiblecollege.org. I had a few minutes so I thought I would at least finish my thoughts on Samson.)

We have been studying the life of Samson as a contrast to the life of Samuel. Samuel was one of the finest characters in the Word of God. He served Israel his whole life as both judge and prophet. There is nothing we can find in Samuel that is not of the finest quality. Samson, on the other hand, is different. He is very gifted. He is like a superhero in the Old Testament. When the Lord anoints him, he has supernatural physical strength. Yet with all his gifting, he really did very little for his people.

We have examined his behavior and character and found a number of things that were problems in his life. You can go back and look at the list for yourself, but it includes things like selfishness and a tendency to give in to the flesh. When he used his great strength, his attitude was not to bless or free his people, but to satisfy his own needs.

One of the worst character flaws in his life had to do with women. At the beginning of chapter 16, we see that this weakness had grown to a major problem.

Judges 16:1 (NKJV) 1 Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.

There is no scenario or circumstance where this kind of behavior can be acceptable for a man of God. I do not believe it can ever be acceptable for any believer. The bible clearly says that Samson paid a prostitute for sex. The language is much more refined than that but it means the same thing. His weakness for women had caused him to sin.

We must realize that weaknesses must not be ignored. When we find something in our lives that is a compromise of the Word of God, we must address it. As soon as we realize we have sinned, we must repent. We must go to God and ask him for forgiveness. He promises he will give it and that he will cleanse us of unrighteousness. If we do not recognize compromise and repent of it, sin will eventually destroy us. Samson is about to learn that hard lesson.

The Philistine people of Gaza hear that Samson has come to their city and they surround the place where Samson is. The anointing comes upon him again and he defeats his enemies once more. However, he is one-step closer to disaster. He could have recognized that his compromised lifestyle had put him at risk. He should have gone to God in repentance and asked for help with his sin. He did not. Instead, he repeated it.

Many times, we think that sin is not really harming us. We think that compromise is OK. We need to understand that the wages of sin is always death. Every time we allow the flesh to win, we become weaker. Samson was under the false impression that he could do whatever he wanted and the anointing would be there. He was greatly mistaken.

He falls in love with yet another woman of the Philistines. Although it does not say he was in a sexual relationship with Delilah, I believe his behavior indicates that this was likely. The “lords of the Philistines” see their opportunity and demand that Delilah find out why Samson is so strong.

This story harkens back to the story of his first Philistine wife and the riddle. She kept nagging him about the answer to the riddle until she finally said, “If you loved me you would tell me.” He gave in to her and told his secret which led to great bloodshed. This time he falls for the same tact but it ends much worse for him.

Delilah asks what the source of his great strength is. He tells her a number of lies. Each time she shouts, “The Philistines are upon you!” Each time he defeats the thing he said would bind him. She continues to nag him just as his wife had done. Eventually she uses the same tactic. “If you really loved me you would tell me your secret.”

Samson relents and tells her that the secret of his strength is his sacred vow never to cut his hair. While he sleeps, she cuts his hair. When the Philistines come for him, he expects the anointing to come upon him as before but he has gone too far. He is captured, his eyes are poked out and he ends up in slavery, treading grain like an animal.

Do not let the devil deceive you into thinking that you can transgress the principles of God and never reap the consequences. God is long-suffering with his people. The bible tells us his mercy is new every morning. However, when we continue to allow sin and compromise in our lives, there will come a time where the fruit of death will be produced. I am not saying that you will not go to heaven or that you will be beyond repentance. I also not saying those things are impossible. I am saying that when we open the door to death of our own accord, death has a right to bring problems into our lives.

The story of Samson does not quite end here. In his time of slavery, his hair grows back. He regains his great strength. He cannot regain his eyes. When we allow sin and compromise, we may come to the point of repentance and God will forgive us. However, what we lose during our time of rebellion or foolishness may not be so easily recovered. I have witnessed people do things I knew were wrong. Thy repented and God received them back, but their children were gone. Their marriage was destroyed. Some other precious thing that could not be restored was lost.

Samson is brought out as a spectacle during a Philistine celebration. He asks someone to help him place him between the pillars of the temple. He prays one more time to God. I think it is worth hearing his prayer.

Judges 16:28 (NKJV) 28 Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!”

God did indeed strengthen him and use him to destroy many of the enemies of Israel. However, I cannot help but be saddened by the nature of his prayer. He did not pray, forgive me for my sin and strengthen me once more that I might help my people. Instead, he prays for strength that he might get vengeance for his eyes. To the end, the sin and compromise in Samson’s life dominated the gift God had given him.

I know that Samson is in the hall of fame of faith in Hebrews 11. I have to admit that he must have done something right. He did begin to deliver his people. I cannot help but wonder how much more he could have done if his character and integrity matched his gift. I know one thing. As for me and mine, give me greater holiness, righteousness and character and lesser gifts. I believe I will do more and lose less along the way.

Samson’s Tendency Toward Weakness and its Consequences

Judges 14:2-3 (NKJV) 2 So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” 3 Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”

This week we are looking at one of the most interesting characters in the Bible. He is listed in Hebrews 11 as one of the heroes of faith. He is one of the judges of Israel in the book of judges. He is a favorite of little boys in Sunday school because he is like a super hero. He possesses supernatural strength when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him.

He is probably the person with the most obvious personal gift in the bible. His mind-boggling strength is something that everyone can see. Nevertheless, although the bible portrays him as a hero in many ways, there are significant flaws in his character. I believe these flaws keep him from being more in the Lord and doing more for his people than he actually did. God spoke to his parents and said he would begin to deliver Israel. I cannot help but wonder if his character had matched his gifts if he would have done more.

As we study this powerful man, what we will see is that his personal gift enabled him to do astounding things. We will also find that his personal character corrupted the gift and finally destroyed him. Many people in the book of judges had less to work with than Samson had and did much more for their people and for the Kingdom of God. We need to realize that what is good in Samson’s life is something he has little control over. God gave him astounding strength and as long as he did not cut his hair, that gift was available. However, his lack of relationship to God and Godly character eventually robbed him of his gift. We must not let the same thing happen to us.

We looked at today’s scripture in yesterdays post and found the first of many troubling tendencies. Samson continually went places he should not go. He was a friend of the world. Because he went to the Philistine city of Timnah, he sees a woman that pleases him. She is not an Israelite. God has warned Israel repeatedly about marrying outside of their covenant with him. Samson does not care. He likes her. He wants her and he asks his parents to get her. He is a friend of the world and he does not regard the Word or the will of God.

We see another character flaw in Samson’s life in his exchange with his parents. We see no respect for the authority of his parents over him. Samson seems to think he is above such respect. They plead with him to find a wife amongst his own people. He tells them to mind their own business and get him what he wants. This disregard for authority will also follow Samson through his life.

I have seen many good people who allowed the strength of their gift to cause them to think they were above counsel. No matter how gifted we may be, we still need to be accountable. We still need to realize that there are people wiser than we are. When any one of us comes to the place that we think we do not need to listen we are in danger. There is no evidence in Samson’s life of a willingness to be taught or of humility. We must not allow that in our lives.

The next event in Samson’s life is one of the more interesting stories in the bible. Samson is on his way to see this woman with his parents. A lion comes upon him on the way and Samson kills the lion with his bare hands. No one sees him. Later, as he is returning to Timnah he sees that bees have nested in the carcass. He takes some honey from the bees, eats himself and shares with his parents. No one knows where the honey came from or what Samson had done to the lion.

During his wedding feast, Samson proposes a riddle to his Philistine guests.

Judges 14:14 (NKJV) 14 So he said to them: “Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet.” Now for three days they could not explain the riddle.

He bets them they cannot figure out what the riddle means. If they do, he will give them 30 changes of cloths. If they cannot explain it within the 7-day feast, they must provide him with 30 changes of cloths. What is behind Samson’s proposal?

As with many things in the life of Samson, God uses this to bring judgment on the Philistines. Nevertheless, when we look at Samson’s motivation we see some problems. There is no concern for God or for God’s people in Samson. He knows that there is no way that any of them could know the answer. In essence, he is cheating them. Once again, we see Samson’s tendency toward selfishness. I am not sure I have 30 changes of clothing. I imagine that this was a huge bet in Samson’s day. He sees “easy money” and he has no problem taking advantage of his wife’s people to get it.

The young men go to Samson’s bride and tell her that if she does not get the answer out of Samson they will burn her family home. She uses her tears and manipulation to pressure Samson. “You don’t really love me. You are keeping secrets from me.” Samson refuses for 6 of the 7 days, but in the end he gives in to his wife and tells her about the lion and the honey.

When they come together with the rest of the people, the young men have the answer to Samson’s riddle. He knows that the only way they could have gotten it was from his wife because she is the only other soul who knew. He accuses them of cheating and kills 30 innocent men to get the clothes to settle his bet. He leaves his new wife and goes back to his own land.

Obviously, Samson is selfish. He does not care about his new wife or her family. He wants what he wants and will do anything to get it. At this point in his life, God is using this weakness. I suppose we could take encouragement from the fact that God can use us in weakness, but I would rather learn why he was weak. We cannot serve the purposes of God in selfishness. Christianity cannot be lived correctly from selfish motivation. We cannot be all The Lord wants us to be if we let selfishness us.

We see one other weakness here. Samson likes women. They easily manipulate him. There is nothing graphic in the description of his weakness for women, but there was certainly a sexual component. This weakness also stays with him. In the end, it leads to his downfall.

We must realize that all of us have things that we are subject to. Our flesh likes what it likes. Your weakness may not be sexual. It may be in some other area but if it is not dealt with it will become an open door for the devil that will hinder you from accomplishing the will of God. You may get away with yielding to the flesh for many years as Samson did. Eventually the devil will use this weakness against you.

The bible tells us to cleanse ourselves from the filthiness of the flesh and the spirit. (2 Corinthians 7:1) We cannot allow the things that our flesh wants to become a problem in our spirit. If we do not recognize, acknowledge and confess our weaknesses they will eventually produce bad things in our lives. Samson’s selfishness and pride would not let him do that. He was strong. God anointed him. He did not need to listen to anyone else and since he was so gifted, he must be all right. In the end, these things destroyed him. Do not let them destroy you.

A Tale of Two “Sams”

1 Samuel 1:20 (NKJV) 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.”

Judges 13:24-25 (NKJV) 24 So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

During the conference at our church last month, Dr. Eldon Wilson shared a message contrasting two men in the bible with somewhat similar names. In our day, they both might be nicknamed Sam. Their real names were Samuel and Samson. There are some definite similarities in their lives. Their mothers were both women who were barren. Both women were touched by God and became pregnant with sons. Both of their sons had the call of god on their lives. Both were dedicated to the Lord’s service from the time of their birth. At that point, the similarities cease.

Few characters in history or literature are as pure as Samuel. He was called as a prophet of God from his childhood. His mother brought him to the priest Eli to be raised in the presence of the Lord. The first thing God asked Samuel to do was speak a word to the man who raised him. It was not a word of comfort or blessing. Samuel had to tell Eli that he had displeased God and would suffer the consequences of his behavior.

From that point on, Samuel did the will of God. He judges Israel as a prophet all of his life. (1 Samuel 7:5) There is not one thing we can find in Samuel’s life that would be considered a “fatal flaw.” He did what God asked him to do when it was hard and when it went against his own desires. One of his last acts was to anoint David as King of Israel even though he still loved Saul. From his first act to one of his last, he did the will of God.

The same cannot be said of the other Sam, Samson. Both of these men were considered judges of Israel. They lived in the time before Israel rejected God’s governmental system in favor of having a king. Most of the judges were not as upright as Samuel. However, as exceptionally good as Samuel was that is how bad Samson turned out to be.

As was often the case in Israel’s history, the philistines were oppressing the Jew’s during Samson’s day. When God raised up a Judge it was to deliver his people from oppression. Samson is given superhuman strength to use in this purpose. However, he does not use his strength to deliver Israel. As far as I can tell, Samson leaves the Israelites in the same condition he found them.

Hebrews 11 puts Samson in the hall of fame of faith. When I get to heaven, I am going to ask the Lord about that. He must see something in Samson that I have yet to see because Samson is not a hero to me. As a leader, he is an example of what not to do. Samson shows all the signs of someone with a great destiny that he never fulfilled.

Whereas Samuel chose the will of God and the good of the people over his own will, Samson seems to be totally unconcerned with God’s will or the good of his people. Samson is concerned about Samson. What Samson wants he expects to get and nothing else matters. I want to take some time this week and find out why.

In Judges 13 we see what God says to Samson’s mother about his calling.

Judges 13:4-5 (NKJV) 4 Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. 5 For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

We see that God has separated Samson from his birth for a purpose. In Samson’s defense, it does not say that he will deliver Israel from the Philistines. It says that he will begin to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines. It could be said that he did that much. It just seems to me that with what God had given him he had the potential to do so much more.

What was in Samson’s life that kept him from being more for the Kingdom of God? We are going to see a number of times that something happens in Samson’s life that the bible says is the will of God. Nonetheless, the character flaws that we see in Samson are things we cannot allow. God used Samson in spite of who he was. I want God to be able to use be because of whom I am.

Of all the characters in the Old Testament, Samson had the most obvious gift. He was supernaturally strong. He could do things no one else could do. One of the greatest challenges to integrity is gifting that is obvious. It is said bad character always corrupts good gifts and that is what I see in Samson.

The very first we see of Samson is that he goes to a town of the Philistines and sees a woman who pleases him. Though God intended to use this incident to move against the Philistines, let us look at the attitude Samson exhibits. He says to his parents, “I saw this woman and she pleases me. I want you to get her for me.”

Even though God was going to use the attraction to this woman to move against the Philistines, we cannot ignore the fact that it was against the command of God to marry outside the covenant. This is a command God gave Israel many times. Whenever they broke that command, bad things always happened. That is why Samson’s parents objected.

They ask him to find a girl amongst his own people to marry. This is the first character flaw we see exhibited in Samson’s life. He allows himself to be enticed by the world: Especially in the area of women. He does not consider the commandment of God. He does not say to his parents, “I know it doesn’t look right, but God is leading me that way. I believe he has a purpose in this.” He simply says, “I like her. She pleases me. Go get her for me.”

Whenever we allow the world to control us, we are not going to fulfill the will of God. God may use our sin to work good things, but it will always be bad for us. This tendency to desire the world follows Samson through his whole life and causes him great pain in the end.

I want to encourage you today to look at your own life. God has a great destiny for you. It may not be like Samson’s or Samuel’s. It is what God has designed you for and it will be the most fulfilling, and effective thing you could ever do. Do not let friendship with the world hinder your destiny. We need every member of the Body of Christ to fulfill all that God has for him or her to do.

James 4:4 tells us that to be a friend of the world is be an enemy to god. We cannot be all that God wants us to be that way. The more we seek to be in the center of God’s will, the more we are a friend of God and the more we will leave the world behind. That is what I want for myself and my church.

There are many things in Samson’s life that we can learn from. We will look at more tomorrow.