Tag Archives: sin

Hebrews 9-13; Make It Stop

Have you ever felt the sting of God’s discipline over a sin you were holding onto? Dishonesty costs you your job. Infidelity costs you your family. Alcohol or tobacco costs you your health. Sin costs you peace of mind, you cannot feel joy. Conviction bring anxiety, depression, anger, or confusion.

Then you cry out to God, “Make it stop!” “Why is this happening to me?” “I can’t take this any longer.”

When I read Hebrews 12 I hear God say, “I love you as sons and daughters. Therefore, I will discipline you when you are wrong. Don’t expect it to be pleasant.”

I think sometimes when we are experiencing those painful consequences for sin, we pray the wrong prayer. Instead of praying, “Make it stop,” we should be praying, “Help me to stop,” Instead of praying for God to make us comfortable, we need to pray that He will make us clean.

“…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (12:10b)

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the very real privilege of going to God Himself through our mediator, Jesus Christ. We can boldly approach the throne of grace and know that we will receive that grace to help us in our time of need.

God doesn’t discipline His children because He likes to see us suffer. He disciplines us to drive us to our knees, so that we can share in His holiness, so that one day we will be able to spend eternity with Him. He disciplines us because of His great love for us.

 

 

 

I Corinthians 1-5; A Little Yeast

It occurred to me as I read this portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we Christians are concerned about the state of the world; we lament over the blatant sin, the disregard for Christianity, the increasing ungodliness accepted as normal. And we are right to do so

But Paul is talking about caring for the temple. I wonder if we’re as concerned about that as we are about the world. It’s easy to point fingers, to talk about “they.” It’s not as easy to point those fingers at ourselves.

Paul tells us we ourselves are God’s temple. (3:16) He asks us to consider our foundation, and our building materials. Are we building our faith on the standards of the age, the wisdom of the world? Or is our foundation Jesus Christ, our faith built on Scripture, God’s wisdom? Is our temple built by we who are servants, obedient, faithful?

Paul warns us not to go “beyond what is written.” Do we even know what is written? Building and protecting this temple called Connie involves reading and studying God’s Word apart from anything else. It means obeying God by keeping myself pure, by listening to His voice and sharing Him with others. Caring for this temple, where God lives on earth, involves effort, intentionality, humility.

Now, I believe if we Christians took better care of our temples, our own lives and relationships with God, then our world wouldn’t be in the state it’s in.

But God pointed out something else to me this morning. We Christians aren’t taking very good care of God’s Church, either. I guess that’s a direct result of not protecting ourselves from sin. But Paul addresses the problem of ignoring sin in the church. He even said the church in Corinth was proud of the fact that they embraced a man guilty of a sexual sin. “Shouldn’t you rather be grieved over this sin,” he asks?

I can’t help but think of whole denominations that embrace homosexuals in their congregations and their pulpits. Shouldn’t God’s people be grieved instead? But Paul doesn’t stop with the sexual sin this particular church-goer was guilty of. Paul includes, “greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler” in his list of people who should not be comfortable in our pews.

Paul goes so far as to say they shouldn’t be welcome in the church. I know that goes against what many of us believe these days. But I think we need to consider the truth of what God inspired Paul to write.

I remember years ago, after the contemporary movement was introduced as a result of surveys given to unchurched people about what they would like to see in churches that would encourage them to attend, Ravi Zacharias said something to this effect:

Church should be the last place a sinner feels comfortable.

And I believe that. A church that prides itself on tolerance, on open doors, on a come-as-you-are-and-stay-that-way approach, isn’t a church at all, no matter how involved they are in their communities. It’s a social club. I think I’ve shared about the “church” that advertises by saying, “Come worship with us. We won’t tell you what to believe.” Is that where we’re heading?

It is if we don’t start protecting our temple, caring for our churches. It has to start with each of us individually. But it also has to spill over into our churches. Do we allow sin into our midst, hoping that somehow it will turn into purity? Paul says beware, a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast.” (5:7) I think that is true both for my heart, and in my church.

If I accept a little sin here and there in my life, it doesn’t stay little. It grows, and it invites its friends in. If we accept, or ignore, a sin in our church it won’t stay little there, either. One sin becomes two, then four, and we end up with an unusable batch of dough. Paul challenges us to become “bread without yeast,” a fellowship without sin.

I hope you’ll read these chapters in I Corinthians. There is so much here. Some of it is hard to hear, some of it will thrill your soul. Let God speak to your heart today, and may it change us. May it change the Church.

Romans 10-16; I’ve Got My Rights

Our country is in trouble these days because many, many people are fighting for their “rights” at the expense of the “rights” of others. Personally, I think we’ve pushed it to the point of insanity.

Paul has something to say about “rights.” And I think it’s a timely word for us in 2018.

Paul says we all have rights. We have the right to eat meat or not eat meat. We have the right to treat one day holy, and we have the right to treat every day the same. We have the right to drink wine, and the right to abstain. I’d go so far as to say we have a right to wear dress clothes to church, and a right to worship in torn jeans and dirty sneakers. We have a right to prefer hymns, and a right to enjoy a rocking praise song.

Paul says this about our rights. “Let’s stop passing judgment on one another.” (14:13) But here’s the kicker: he goes on to say, “instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” He’ll go on to talk about why setting aside our right to do certain things is the right thing to do.

“But,” you might argue. “I have my rights. If someone has a problem with that, it’s their problem not mine.” I’d like you to show me a verse that supports that argument. I honestly don’t think you’ll find one. From what I read here in Romans, I think God is saying it’s very much our problem.

If you’re worried about your rights, you are focused inwardly. Remember, this life as a child of God is no longer about you. It’s about that unsaved person sitting in the cubicle next to you at work, or living next door. Before you exercise your rights, think about how that action will look to someone who doesn’t know your Savior. Think about that weak Christian who is struggling with sin in regard to what you  perceive as your “right.” Paul goes so far as to say that if someone is distressed because of your exercising your right to do something, “you are no longer acting in love.” (14:15) And doesn’t Jesus tell us love is what identifies us as His?

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men…. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. (14:17-21)

I believe our churches, and our nation, would be healthier if we laid our rights at the feet of Jesus, and truly lived as servants of God, setting aside our “rights” for love of Him who gave Himself for us, and for our neighbor who needs Him.

Romans 6-9; The Struggle Is Real

Do you relate to Paul? I sure do. I’ve been a Christian long enough to know there are some things I should do, and some I shouldn’t. There are thoughts and actions that honor God, and some thoughts and actions that go against everything He stands for. I know this. So why do I find myself committing the same sin He’s already forgiven dozens of times before?

Paul says it’s a battle. I relate. As I’ve been thinking about this passage for a couple days I found myself wondering why it is Christians sin. I’m tempted to use the every popular excuse, “Because we’re human.” But it has occurred to me that with the Spirit of God living in me, I’m not just human.

I have a daily devotional book, “What Every Christian Ought To Know Day by Day” by Adrian Rogers (BH Publishing Group, Nashville, TN, 2008). I read today’s thought, (November 23, page342) before reading Romans and was once again blown away at how God reveals Himself. Because Adrian and Paul were singing the same song.

Dr. Rogers says our struggle with sin is a result of our understanding that God forgives. We pray that part of the Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our sins.” But we don’t understand the “lead us not into temptation” part. Rogers says:

“The reason we have to come back to God so many times asking forgiveness is that we have not put on His protection that would keep us from falling so repeatedly.”

If we continue to read in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he will tell us often that the Spirit in us is more powerful than the temptation to sin. So why aren’t we putting on that protection?

Yes, God is faithful to forgive 70×7. So going to Him with a repentant heart will result in forgiveness every time. But be warned. Paul makes it pretty clear that our actions are a result of what is in our hearts. And if we continue in sin, we need to consider whether or not we’re really children of God.

I would encourage you to read all of the chapters today. But at least look at 8:5, 11, 13-17, and ask God to speak to you about what is there.

If you find yourself under conviction for committing a sin you’ve already asked Him to forgive, ask for forgiveness one more time. Then ask God to put that protection around you that will keep you from that temptation. Ask God to remove the temptation, or cause that temptation to have no effect. Ask God to give you strength and desire to resist that temptation. He’ll be happy to answer that prayer!

Yes, Paul admitted it was a struggle. But he never tells us to give in to the struggle. He never tells us to go ahead and sin because God will forgive it anyway. In fact, God through Paul tells us it’s very important that we not only ask for forgiveness, but that we turn from that sin, that we die to that sin, that we flee from the devil.

Don’t forget, if you know Jesus as your Savior you have the Holy Spirit. Take advantage of that. Don’t ever think you are helpless because you are “only human.” You are a human with the Spirit of God living in you!

Hosea 1-5; The Allure

We know God disciplines His children. You probably know that all sin comes with consequences. But Hosea reminded me something today about God I’d like to pass on to you.

You remember, Hosea, don’t you? He’s the prophet God told to marry a prostitute as an example of God’s relationship with His people. I kind of feel bad for Hosea, because I think he might have loved the unfaithful woman. Then I remember – I am that unfaithful woman, and God is the One who loves me still.

Make no mistake about it: God hates sin. He never condones sin or ignores it. Every sin comes with a death penalty. God is a just, and harsh judge. But there is a side to God we might sometimes either overlook or misinterpret. That is His mercy.

God, through Hosea,  calls out His children, exposes our nakedness, our depravity, and God tells it like it is – we have turned our backs on Him. We deserve it if He turns His back on us.

But I want you to notice 2:14. After exposing Israel’s sin, God says this:

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. (emphasis mine)

I love that so much. I would expect God to say, after expressing how He looks at our sin… “Therefore I’m done with you!” Instead, God in His mercy says, “You’ve done awful things, You have sinned, turned Your back on me, defied Me. So I’m going to court you, and woo you back to me.”

“Here I  am,” He says. “Love Me. I love you.”

That allure can occur as you read His Word, or in answered prayer, in the changed life of a believer, in a hint of joy in sorrow, in unexpected blessings, or any number of reminders of God’s love in your life. Those sweet whispers from God are personal and intimate. Don’t miss God’s repeated attempts to woo you, to entice you to come to Him.

Because God doesn’t want you to live – or die – without Him. Just don’t mistake God’s tenderness for acceptance. His mercy has conditions.

Please know, if you accept Him on His terms, His mercy and grace are yours! Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and for mine. And God only wants you to accept it.

I want to share what Matthew Henry had to say about this:

“Those who will not deliver themselves into the hand of God’s mercy cannot be delivered out of the hand of his justice.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing, 1961; page 1107)

Pay attention to God’s attempts to allure you, whether it’s to find Him for the first time, or to draw you closer to Him as His child. There is no one He loves more than you.

Ezekiel 45-48; Sweet and Salty

My favorite dessert.

But I’m not going to talk about the gigantic piece of chocolate cake with thick fudge frosting, drizzled with hot fudge, a scoop of ice-cream, and peanuts that my friends and I shared last night at dinner. Give me a second…

Ok. I’m back. 🙂

I live on an island in the Atlantic, surrounded by beautiful, mysterious marshland. There are several rivers near me that flow through the marshes and into the ocean. You can take your boat from the salty waters of the Atlantic, right into fresh flowing water that comes from the mainland. And vise versa.

Sometimes those rivers overflow their banks and pour their sweet water into the marshes before rushing into the ocean. That is quite a sight to see. Really, the marshland scenery changes all the time. I love it.

The water from these rivers never stops flowing. Every minute of every day, thousands and thousands of gallons of fresh water pour into the ocean Yet with all that fresh water, the ocean is still salty. That’s a fact.

So when I read chapter 47 I was a bit confused. Water from a river making salty water fresh? That’s not the way it works.

So as I sat here considering how this passage could be true, God reminded me that this is a vision, Connie. Not a science lesson.

Oh right. A vision!

So – what does the fresh water represent?

Jesus! The Gospel!

What is described in Ezekiel’s vision is so true in the life a believer. This water we know as Jesus Himself, changes our saltiness, uselessness, our guilt, into something refreshing, and fruit-bearing. Sin cannot do what Jesus can do. The Gospel is life-giving! It’s a miracle.

Then I thought back to chapter 46 where God tells Ezekiel that people must come into the temple by one gate, walk straight through, and exit through the opposite gate. No turning back. It speaks about we who come to know the Lord, and leave our past behind to follow Him. That’s what God demands:

“Don’t look back, Lot’s wife. Don’t look back. Keep going.” (Oh, she turned to salt when she disobeyed, didn’t she? She didn’t accept the fresh water of salvation that was hers for the taking. And she died in her sin.)

Keep moving, Christian. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep sharing the Gospel and allow God to do the impossible – changing salt water into fresh, changing sinners into saints through the blood of Jesus as people confess their sins and repent.

Now that’s sweet.

Ezekiel 31-36; It’s Not Funny

One of Satan’s tactics against God’s people is seen most clearly in the media, and the entertainment business. When was the last time you saw a Christian favorably portrayed in a show? Not too long ago, a popular talk show host said our Vice President was mentally ill because he’d said he listened to God’s voice. People who hear voices in their heads are insane, she proclaimed. She got a big laugh out of that statement.

Maybe you’ve been the butt of someone’s joke because of your stand for the Truth of Scripture. Satan delights in making us look like fools.

Satan also uses his own hatred of us against us. People have heard so often that Christians are bigoted, intolerant, hate-mongers that they believe it. Satan’s hate produces hate.

It’s a serious thing to speak against, or lie about God’s people. Read in chapter 35 what God said to Israel’s cousins, the Edomites. They had encouraged Israel’s enemies, wanted the Jews to suffer, and were very vocal against God’s people. Hear what God said about that:

You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it. (35:13)

I HEARD IT.

We Christians are God’s people. He is our Father, our Shepherd, our Champion. He’s the mama bear protecting her cubs, a dad protecting his family against invaders. You don’t want to mess with Him.

But people still mess with God’s children. Listen to how God said He was going to deal with the Edomites who were messing with the Jews:

“While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate. Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of the house of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you. You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, you and all Edom. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (35:14b-15)

Here’s what God impressed on me this morning: Before I get too smug thinking people who are mean to me will get what they deserve, I need to ask myself if I’m giving them reason to hate me, or criticize me.

If they say I’m a bigot, do I talk like one? If they call me a hypocrite, am I hypocritical? If they want to see me suffer, is it because I’m not expressing the love of God toward them?

The Bible tells us very clearly how we should live, how we should treat people, what our attitudes should be. It tells us we can stand firmly on the Truth and still love our neighbor, do good to those who abuse us.

Understanding how seriously God views attacks against His children, and how devastating the consequences, I don’t want to provoke an attack by my poor choices. If they make fun of me or attack me because of sin in my life, I need to look at my sin and repent. But if those jokes or attacks are directed at me because I am living my life like Jesus lived His, then their behavior is on them.

People hated Jesus without cause. If people hate me, may they also have no cause. And may I warn them how fiercely God protects His children.

It’s not funny to our Father.