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A panda walks into a roadside café. He orders a bun, eats it, draws out a pistol and fires into the air and heads for the door.

What just happened?” the confused waitress asks, as the panda is halfway out of the door.

The panda produces a wildlife dictionary. “I’m a PANDA. Look it up!” he shouts.

The waitress looks up ‘panda’ in the wildlife dictionary, and finds this:

“PANDA: Large black and white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats shoots and leaves.

It’s a corny joke with a double meaning, but it makes the point that ‘sometimes we hear one thing and think another thing’. It can be funny as a joke, (sort of), but it isn’t funny when reading important instructions that may affect your health, welfare and life.

For example, some people are prone to making mistakes, even when common sense should dictate otherwise. Maybe that is why, on occasion, we read silly-sounding instructions as found on one hair dryer, “do not use while bathing”.

The problem of hearing one thing and believing another is nowhere more common than when reading the Bible.

Jesus, when speaking to a crowd of Jews, once said, ”I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down out of heaven, so that anyone may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I will give for the life of the world also is My flesh.”

The Jewish crowd was understandably aghast. They responded with, How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

Jesus explained these words, later, “So then many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This statement is very hard; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, aware that His disciples were complaining about this, said to them, “Is this offensive to you? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh provides no benefit; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and are life.”

You see, Jesus was using ‘eating His flesh and drinking His blood’ as a metaphor for hearing and absorbing His teaching and becoming one with Him in agreement and in relationship.

He is speaking of having faith in Him. Jesus presses the symbolism even further: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh. I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Anyone who feeds on me will live because of me.”

Still, the Bible tells us that “From that time many of His disciples went away and walked with Him no more.” A misunderstanding of Jesus’ words can have tragic consequences.

See Where I Am Coming From?

(Should I take it quite literally when someone asks, ‘do you know where am I coming from‘? How on Earth am I supposed to know where they’re coming from?!” I just got here myself!

(Like the Panda in the café, what they actually mean may not be what I am thinking, like, “Do you understand the reasons why I’m saying this?”)

With all of this in mind, I heard a sermon Sunday, from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which I would like to title, “The Notorious Nine”:

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither (#1), the sexually immoral nor (#2), idolaters nor (#3), adulterers nor (#4), men who have sex with men (#5), nor thieves nor the (#6), greedy nor (#7), drunkards nor (#8), slanderers nor (#9), swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Is God threatening us? Or, once again, does this mean something else?

Is God saying, “do these nine things and I will lock you out of heaven and send you to hell”? Or is this God crying out for us to beware of a lurking danger? Much like a mother crying out to her child, “Watch out! Danger ahead”? Could this be a helpful warning that some habits of behavior will create an unseen barrier, perhaps within your soul, mind or spirit, obstructing your way to heaven?

Many of the things in the list of “The Notorious Nine” are things we all find ourselves doing at some time. It seems that, at times, we just cannot help ourselves!

He can’t help himself

Is this phrase saying that a person must be physically handicapped and that they can’t help themselves? I mean – the word “to help” is quite simple and straightforward, so when someone can’t help themselves, they quite literally can’t assist themselves with performing certain tasks, isn’t that right?

That’s not the case, at all! When someone says I can’t help myself, it means the person in question can’t RESIST doing something; they are too weak to say NO to themselves.

Psychology Today tells us that, “It is frequently said that addiction occurs when drugs “hijack” the brain. It’s hard to nail down what that means, but it does rightly suggest that there is an involuntary takeover of the brain that compromises decision-making and diminishes freedom of choice, making quitting difficult even in the face of desire to do so. What happens in addiction is that, through completely natural processes involved in all learning, the brain prunes nerve pathways of attention and motivation to preferentially notice, focus on, desire, and seek the substance. What starts out as a choice becomes, in a sense, a prison.”

But drugs are not the only kinds of addiction. Addiction is a compulsive behavior towards a substance or an activity that induces pleasure and enjoyment. It’s easy to confine addiction to just drugs and alcohol, but people also compulsively engage in activities such as tobacco, gambling, shopping, sex, food, video games, internet and work as the 10 most common forms of addiction.

Oddly enough, the Bible tells of this danger in Romans 8:5-6, “For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are in accord with the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

Here is the “secret”.

The phrase ‘mind set on’ is from the Greek word, “phronema” which comes from a variety of roots words meaning “what one has in the mind, the thoughts and purposes, which emanates from the core of our thinking and tend to ‘fence in, block up, stop up our thinking and our lives and will put to silence any and all other ways of thinking, in essence, creating a prison and holding us in solitary confinement within our own mind.

So, when God, through the Apostle Paul, said, that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God and listed “The Notorious Nine” in 1 Corinthians 6 and again, what I will call “The Felonious Fifteen” in Galatians 5:19: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: (#1), sexual immorality, (#2), impurity, (#3), indecent behavior, (#4), idolatry, (#5), witchcraft, (#6), hostilities, (#7), strife, (#8), jealousy, (#9), outbursts of anger, (#10), selfish ambition, (#11), dissensions, (#12), factions, (#13), envy, (#14), drunkenness, (#15), carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Perhaps this was never a threat from God at all. What if, He is calling out, crying out to you, warning you, a plea to save yourself from certain death and destruction, from an eternity of torment. What if God’s message has been one to help you and to save you, all along? Has He been saying one thing, and you have been hearing another?

He is calling out to you, now.

If you have taken this seriously or have paused to think, “that could be me”, then rest assured there is a way out!

The Bible goes on to tell us, “And that is what some of you were (of “The Notorious Nine” or of ”The Felonious Fifteen”). But you can be washed clean, you can be sanctified, you can be justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Romans 10:9-12 says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Please. Don’t be confused about what the Bible actually says. It is a love letter from God, written specifically to you. He is offering you safety and sanctuary from all that plagues you. You can find safety and peace in Him; and even when trouble comes, He will show you the way of escape!

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

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