All posts by Matthew J. Cochran

Matt Cochran's passion is seeing people's lives transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. Having served in the Marine Corps in locations all over the world, Matt easily connects with people. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Studies and a Master's Degree in Discipleship Ministries. Above all else, Matt loves being a dad to Colin, Hank and Amelie.

Romans: Flesh is Death

Romans 8:6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

To be caught up in worldly things is to be ineffective as a follower of Jesus Christ.  We can’t serve two masters, though many have tried.  The simple truth is that our allegiances can’t be split between the flesh and the Spirit.  To live life as a Christian, we have to walk with the Spirit.

If anyone knew about worldly pleasures, it was Paul’s audience in Rome.  A church of relatively new believers (Christianity hadn’t been around long!), they were essentially in the capitol of the world.  Rome had so many things to offer to distract the Christians from their calling as disciples.  They had to choose whether they wanted to live like the Romans (When in Rome…) or life the lives God had in mind for them.

We all have that choice to make.  Just because we have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t mean we live effective lives.  We have to choose each day to listen to God’s voice as He directs us.  We have to choose to read His Word so we know more about His nature and His will.  We have to take the time to pray so that we can hear from Him and speak to Him.  We have to have intentional relationships with others and we have to put aside some of our own desires for the sake of reaching people.  All of these choices require us to deny the other things calling out to us.

Romans: Live According to the Spirit

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Is your mind set on things of the Spirit?  It’s pretty easy in today’s culture so saturated with entertainment and technology to fail to think about the right things.  Without even realizing it, we sometimes ignore God’s voice.

We live in a time when there is literally no excuse to ever be bored.  If you don’t like what you’re watching on TV, you likely have 500 other channels to choose from.  If that isn’t working for you, there are thousands of websites, many that claim to be “social” to keep you  occupied.  Magazines, smart phone apps and games, online gaming, the list is endless.  If we’re not careful we can be consumed by the things of the world.

But as Christians we’re not called to be consumed by this world.  We’re called to be set apart from it.  In the world but not of it, if you will.  The only way to truly be effective for God’s purposes is to set aside the many pleasures this world has to offer for the sake of doing what we’re called to do.  That doesn’t mean we never have fun or never set aside time for pure entertainment.  It just means we have a different worldview from which we operate.  We set our mind on the things of God and when we do that, the other stuff out there pales in comparison.

Romans: Fulfillment of the Law

Romans 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

As Christians, it’s no longer our duty to live up to the Law.  The commands given to those under the old covenant are no longer our marching orders.  What then; do we throw away all of the commands as if they don’t matter?  No, we fulfill the Law by obeying our new command.

Jesus did not tell those under the new covenant to try and keep up the old.  Instead He gave a new command: to love.  (Romans 13:8-10)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

It’s really as simple as that.  You want to obey God? Love.  You want to please Him? Love.  You want to do what’s right? Love.  Freedom from the Law is freedom to walk in love, and in doing so to fulfill the Law.

Romans: Power Over Sin

Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh

 We misunderstand the Law handed down by God if we think it’s our job to keep it fully in order to be on the Lord’s good side.  I’m not talking about earning salvation, most Christians would agree that we are saved by grace through faith alone and that our good works don’t get us there.  But what happens after that?  Something seems to change inside of us that makes us think we can now earn God’s favor by obedience to His Law even after we’ve been saved.

Just as we couldn’t keep the whole Law before we were in Christ, we still can’t keep the whole Law after we’ve been saved.  We’ve been freed from sin and empowered to obey, but we’ll still never make it to the perfection the Law requires.  We’re still human.

So, if we can’t keep the Law, what purpose does it serve Christians?  If it doesn’t earn us salvation and it doesn’t perfect us in sanctification, what is it good for?

The Law does serve a purpose in showing us our sin.  It shows us our need for Jesus.  This is true on both sides of salvation as it shows us our need for a Savior before when we are lost and then shows us our continual need for the power of the Holy Spirit working in us as we walk in our faith.  God knew we would never live up to the Law.  It’s why He sent His Son to fulfill the Law that we might be freed from it’s bondage.  Now it serves as a reminder that we need Him every single day.

 

Romans: Free in Christ

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!  The work of Jesus Christ on the cross accomplished what you and I could never achieved for ourselves.  Under the Law, we could never reach the expectations of a holy God who requires perfection.  The Law is restrictive, Christ is freeing.

Though we had the Law, in being unable to keep it we earned death.  Because of our sinful nature, into which we were born, we never stood a chance at anything other than bondage and suffering.  But in His love, God made a way for us to know freedom and life.  In freeing us from the bondage of the Law, Jesus gave us true life and true freedom.

There is no reason to keep living as though we’re under the restraints of the Law.  This is not license to sin, but rather freedom to obey God.  True freedom is a life submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and in this freedom there is life, peace, joy, and real fellowship with God.  This abundant life is bought and paid for by Christ, our Redeemer, Savior, and friend.

Romans: No condemnation in Christ

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 Every single one of us has sinned.  We’re all guilty before a perfect God and have no chance at perfection.  We’re tainted from birth.  That’s the truth.  If it were the end of the truth, it would be a very sad existence that we lead.  But, thankfully, there’s more to it.

Yes, we’re sinful.  Yes, we’re unable to live up to a holy God’s standards and we’re headed toward death and destruction as a result.  But there’s a hero to this story.  There’s a Redeemer who sets us free from the condemnation that’s owed to us.  We have been forgiven if we’ve put our trust in Christ Jesus.

But why do so many of us still live like we’re under that condemnation?  Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies, piling on tons of guilt that isn’t ours to bear.  Worse yet, some of us do so in the name of God, thinking it’s actually Him that’s given us this sentence to be carried out.  But the Bible is clear, there is no more condemnation for us if we’re in Christ.  We’re free from that bondage.  If we’re living under self-imposed condemnation, it’s time to let it go and exchange it for the joy God wants us to have in Him.

Who is to condemn us?  If it’s not from God and He’s the all-powerful, eternal Creator and Ruler of all things, then who can possibly do this to us and be in the right?  No one.  Trust in the Lord and freedom is yours.  Condemnation is a thing of the past.  Live like it.

How many times should I forgive?

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

The truth about forgiveness is that it can be really hard.  Sometimes it requires that we keep forgiving the same people and the same hurtful acts over and over again.  Anyone with kids want to give an amen?!

Forgiveness requires humbling ourselves.  It’s a sacrifice on our part to keep forgiving, but it’s what God wants to see us do.  He taught this lesson to Peter and the disciples in the parable told in Matthew 18:21-35.  To forgive is to obey God.  Look no further than Mark 11:25-26, Colossians 3:13, and Ephesians 4:32 to see this truth.  Did you see what was said there?  You MUST forgive.

Forgiveness might be hard, but it’s also freeing.  Unforgiveness locks us up in a prison of our own making like the servant in the parable.  Forgiving restores fellowship with others and with God.  When we’ve really experienced being forgiven it’s easier to appreciate it and we’re more driven to forgive others because we know how it feels to be free in that way.  To forgive frees both parties involved.

Sometimes, though, we might forget how much we’ve been forgiven and we need to be reminded.  All that Christ has done for us to redeem us and restore us to a relationship with God is a beautiful reminder of how much He loves us and how much we should love others.  God became a man and lived a perfect, sinless human life and died a painful and humiliating death on a cross to take on our sins and the punishment we deserved.  Not only that, He credited us with His righteousness and then rose from the dead three days after His death to go and mediate on our behalf to the Father.  Yes, we’ve been forgiven beyond what we can even imagine.  The least we can do is forgive others.

 

This devotional is derived from a sermon message by Matthew J. Cochran.  To hear the sermon, follow this link to matthewjcochran.com.

The joy of pain

James 1:2-4  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 Sometimes the best thing that can happen to you is a tragedy.  Sometimes the thing that puts you on the path you need to be on is pain and suffering.  No one wants to face those things, but in reality they point us to God.

When things are going perfectly, we often have a tendency to overlook God’s role in the blessings we’re enjoying.  Maybe every now and then we give thanks, but when it’s smooth sailing there is little time really spent calling out to God.

But when the going gets tough, it’s time to hit our knees.  We cry out to God and beg Him to get us through this painful circumstance.  We talk to Him more, trust in Him more, exercise greater faith, and grow more spiritually than we ever do during the good times.

It’s often said that if there’s no pain there’s no gain, but we seem to think this doesn’t apply to spiritual matters.  The truth is, pain produces growth spiritually, and it perfects us a little bit at a time as we grow closer to God in the midst of our trials.  So next time you’re going through a rough patch, give thanks to God for the opportunity to become more like His Son.  Rely on Him to get you through to the end.

Hope in God

Psalm 42:11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Have you ever reached that point of being at rock bottom?  Have you ever been in the pit of despair, the place where you feel like you’re just never going to get out?  Did you feel hopeless?  The good news is, for those who belong to God there is always hope.

The truth of the matter is, becoming a Christian doesn’t guarantee that all o four problems go away.  It doesn’t guarantee sunny days and smooth sailing.  It certainly doesn’t mean we’ll never have to face depression.  There may be times that life seems bleak.  It doesn’t mean God isn’t with us through it.  He’s right there beside us.

There’s no easy way to explain why God allows us to go through those times without just lifting us out of them.  It may be that He wants to see us grow from the experience or that in some way it brings Him glory.  It may be in your circumstance that you’ll never know God’s purpose.  That’s hard, but there’s always hope.

God loves you.  He doesn’t want anything to harm you unless it’s somehow tied to His plan for your life.  Trust in Him.  Trust that He knows what’s best and has a kind heart towards you.  Cry out to Him and all Him to be your comfort.  Expect Him to rescue you from the pit.  He is good, all the time.

The mystery of God

Ecclesiastes 11:5  As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

We must be careful in this day and age where we have seemingly limitless information available to us that we don’t think we know everything.  It’s really pretty easy to get all up in our own heads, thinking that the knowledge we’ve collected over the years about God somehow makes us experts on Him.  For those who do a lot of Bible study, the danger can be even more likely to occur.

The problem with thinking that we have God all figured out is that we lose our awe of Him.  We lose sight of the fact that it’s God who created even the most intricate details of life, some we have yet to discover.  There are universes upon universes and we only know a tiny fraction about our own.  How can we think we have it all figured out?

The thing is, we finite humans will never be capable of knowing all that makes God who He is.  We’ll never be able to figure out all that He’s made.  There’s so much left for us to discover, and yet, we’ll still only be touching the surface.  God is more than we can understand.  He’s more than we can imagine.  He’s beyond our abilities.  We need to do is acknowledge that some things remain a mystery and revere God all the more because of it.