Sin

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April 7

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

I read a verse of Scripture that got me to thinking. First, the verse: “Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can a man walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?” (Pr. 6:27-28)

I realize those verses are in the context of marriage and adultery. But let’s take it one step further. Those verses remind me of an old saying:

When you play with fire you either get burnt or you smell like smoke.

The greater implication of that saying goes beyond marriage. It takes in everything we do on a daily basis. There are some people who think they can flirt with sin. They will see how close they can get to the line without crossing it. It’s like the scene in Field of Dreams where the child is choking and they need a doctor. Doc Graham runs to the line and they show his shoes hesitate right at the line because he knows one more step and he is over the line and his dream of playing baseball is finished. He chooses to cross the line and becomes a doctor. But he never regrets or resents it.

We, too, come to a line. We must make a choice. For some the choice is easy. “No, I won’t cross it.” But for others who have been playing with fire, it is a much harder choice. Sadly, it is one very easily lost because of playing with fire. They have allowed sin to be a companion and so the choice is almost made for them. Resistance is down; yielding is easier.

Be careful of playing with fire. As the saying goes: “You either get burnt or smell like smoke.”

“Father, as Your child help me to say no to sin. Help me to say no to even allowing it to hang around.”

March 30

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Coming to Christ means to change. Romans 12:1 tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed. The root of that word is metamorphosis. Changed like a caterpillar to a butterfly.

I was reminded of this as I read my Bible this morning during my Encounter Time. In Romans 13:8 Paul tells us to owe no man anything except to love. In verse 10 he says, “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”

Then he moves on to the imminence of Jesus’ return.  “Time was running out,” he says.  Man, I gotta think what would Paul have to say if he knew it would be over 2000 years and still counting?

But now to the Scripture which captured my attention this morning. After telling them/us to wake up (v.11) he says, “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shiny armor of right living.” What follows is a litany of “night” actions typical of dark deeds. They also belie our new state. But then comes the coup de grace. In verse 14 Paul writers, “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Do you see it? “So remove your dark deeds” and “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is change. Take off and put on. And it always goes in that order. We don’t put clean clothes over sweaty, dirty ones. Neither should we expect to manifest kingdom living and a Christ-like spirit when the old man has never been removed.

Now, that’s not saying we have to be perfect. But it is saying we need to have a “removal service” and get clean clothes to wear. If not, no matter how clean the clothes, the stench of the old will overpower and become dominant.

“Father, take off the old; put on the new. May that be the action I take to live for you today.”

February 26

Friday, February 26th, 2021

As a young boy growing up, then as a young man, I was taught-not so much by words but by actions-that real men didn’t cry. I only remember seeing my dad cry once.  It was after I was married and we had our first child. My dad had a heart attack-a bad one-and Jo, Tami and I drove over 4 hours from where we lived in Ohio to see him in the hospital. The attack was a bad one. He was to be in the ICU for 2 weeks; a step down for 2 weeks; then a regular bed for 2 weeks. Keep in mind this was 1975. Things are much different today than they were back in the Dark Ages. My dad was 47. He was miraculously healed because we visited him in a normal room and he was discharged within 2 weeks, not the 6 they said.  We visited him one afternoon, spent the night at their house, then visited again the next morning before heading back to Ohio. When we left to go home, I saw my dad cry for the first time. Some might say it was the chemical change brought on by the heart attack.  Maybe so. But I saw my dad cry for the very first time!

A sign of weakness or so I’d been taught. As I was to learn, crying was not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. A sign of confidence. A sign of humility. A sign of sorrow.

Of all people who wept, none were more manly, yet more confident and in control than Jesus. Several instances stand out:

  • In Matthew 23 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.” (NLT) He wept as He entered Jerusalem.
  • At the tomb of Lazarus we find the most familiar verse to those who hate memorizing anything, particularly Scripture: “Jesus wept.”
  • In Ezekiel 6:9 we find God grieving over His children.  “They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts.” The NIV says, “How I am grieved.” That is one strong emotional verse about God’s feelings!!

I have wept more than once. Many times. When I have experienced a loss. When I have said goodbye to a friend because of a move. When I’ve hurt my wife or girls. And most assuredly when I’ve been made aware of my sin and been driven to my knees in repentance and forgiveness.

“Father, tears are a language You understand. May genuine tears of love, repentance, remorse, and forgiveness flow freely from my eyes and heart as I yield to You.”

February 22

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

You have probably heard the saying, “You learn something new every day.” And that’s a good thing. Well…I can say that this morning. It’s probably not that I haven’t heard or read this before, but this morning something struck home. The lesson comes from Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp.

But first…you must stop and read Psalm 51 in its entirety. Not just one or two or five verses but all 19 of them. Go ahead. It won’t take you that long.

The story behind the psalm is familiar. David has a tryst with Bathsheba and gets her pregnant. When he found out he has her husband, Uriah, murdered. Adulterer. Murderer. Psalm 51 is his prayer of repentance. All that information I/we know. But what I learned anew this morning is David used 3 words to describe his sin. And this is worth its weight in gold.

  1. Transgression. A transgression is a willful stepping over of God’s boundaries. It is seeing the NO TRESPASSING sign and climbing the fence anyway because there is something you want to get to on the other side.
  2. Iniquity. This word means moral uncleanness. There is something more in me than even the spirit of rebellion (see #1). This is like water which is no longer pure.
  3. Sin. Falling short of God’s wise and righteous standard. It’s like the pole vaulters or high jumpers who-try as they will-cannot clear the bar. And just as the vaulter or jumper seeks answers/help, embedded in sin is a cry for help.

David’s prayer is sincere because he recognized his rebellion against God’s boundary (fence); that deep within him was the uncleanness/impurity; and no matter how hard he tried he would fall short. Psalm 51 is a cry for help and forgiveness.

That’s my story. Is it yours? I talked with someone the other day who relayed a story that he has a relative who doesn’t know of any sin that he struggles with.  He needs a heart check because I can think of one just by his statement: pride. 

But that’s not me.  I’m guilty.

“Father, David’s prayer is mine. Guilty on all three counts. But I pray with David that you will renew a right spirit within me and give me a new heart.”

February 12

Friday, February 12th, 2021

It’s never too early. They say that, for example, when teaching a child. In fact, the experts tell mom to sing to their baby in the womb. Like I said, it’s never too early. It’s never too early to potty train!! 🙂 What parent, tired of changing wet or smelly, poopy diapers hasn’t wished their child was already potty-trained?  Can you say 6 months?  I joke, of course, but you get the point.

It’s never too early to talk about the cross. I’ve been reading a book called Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp. It is designed as a 40-day Lenten devotional.  I know. I know. Lent doesn’t actually start until February 17th but I started reading early to help me in my preparation for a 4 week sermon series on the cross and resurrection. I’m going to include-in its entirety-a paragraph from the book. It is THAT good!

“The cross is a powerful interruption to our ‘easy way out’ thinking. It catches us up short. It confronts our vain wishes. The horrible suffering and death of the perfect Messiah, Jesus, on a criminal’s cross, outside the city on a hill of death, tells us in no uncertain terms that when it comes to humanity’s deepest and inescapable problem, there is no easy way out. None. The cross calls us to quit hoping in , to stop searching for, and to give up on our belief in our ability to manufacture or stumble upon a cure. Sin brought death into the world. Sin separated us from our Creator. Sin turned us all into rebels and fools. Sin’s pathway is destruction, and its endpoint is death. There are no escape routes. We can’t buy our way out. We can’t earn a better destiny. There is nothing we can do. We are being propelled blindly down a roadway of death. We may smile and celebrate and accumulate, but left to ourselves we have no hope. Apart from some miraculous intervention, we are doomed. There is and never has been any easy way out of this terminal disease, the one that infects us all: sin. The cross screams to us, ‘Stop looking elsewhere. This is the only way!’ ” (Journey to the Cross-Day 10-p.62)

It’s never too early to be reminded of the power of the cross over our utter inability to save ourselves. Agree? Allow these words by Tripp to soak in.

“Father, thank You for the power of the cross over my lost state and my inability to solve that sin problem.”

January 13

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

I actually had two thoughts bouncing around in my head this morning and thought I would use them both. But I was unsure how to tie them in together. As you will see, that was not necessary. Maybe I’ll do the other one tomorrow.

My first thought was after reading Matthew 23. I’d encourage you to stop right now and read that chapter. If this is an “on-the-go” devo reading, I’ll summarize it for you. It is what is called the “7 Woe” passage, where Jesus pronounces 7 woes against the Pharisees. He’s blunt. He minces no words. I have a sneaking suspicion He wasn’t smiling trying to soften the blow of His words. I also have this feeling He didn’t look at the sky and drop His eyes and look at His feet. No, I can picture Jesus with eyes boring right through the chests and into the depths of every Pharisee’s heart and soul as He spoke.

He had enough of their hypocrisy. Let’s clarify that: self-righteous hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is one thing; self-righteous hypocrisy is a whole ‘nother level. I think we are all hypocrites to some extent. I know I am. Why do I say that? Because not always does my walk back my talk! Yep, that’s me. Saying one thing but doing another. I recognize that and can honestly say I don’t do it maliciously or purposely. That is the sinful nature, the old man in me, who wants to still make an appearance.

Self-righteous hypocrisy is different. It is doing something then trying to cover it up with self-righteous talk. Religious talk. It is looking down on someone but not acknowledging my own sin. That is Matthew 23 in a nutshell. The Pharisees could not see their own sin because of the self-righteous log in their own eye. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. They were tombs and monuments that looked good on the outside but were fill with dead man’s bones. There is more, but you get the point. Time to stop being a self-righteous hypocrite and put the cards on the table.

“Father, help me to be real-to You, to myself, to others. You see me as I am. Help me to stop pretending.”

December 23

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

When I was a youngster, and if I was a betting man/boy, I would have bet my last dollar (which I had none of back then) that my mother had eyes in the back of her head. She was like “See all/know all” to me. I had 3 brothers-all younger- and we all had the “Not me’s.” I’m sure you have probably seen that Family Circle comic strip where the mom asks “who did it?” and they all say, “Not me.” Well, I think the cartoonist had it right and must have used my family as the model for that particular day. I can remember there being a time that something would happen or something was missing and mom would line us all up and say, “Okay, who did it?” Not even the “It is better to tell the truth than get caught lying” line would stop the “Not me” from flowing out of our mouths. But strangely mom would say, “Okay, Robin or Garry or Curt (never Bill), why did you do it?” and the cover would be thrown off the perpetrator.

You know, I may have escaped my mother’s piercing eyes (and disappointment) but with God it is different. As Paul David Tripp writes:

God’s grace will expose what you want to hide, not to shame you, but to forgive and deliver you.” (40 Days of Grace- Day 4-P.14)

Little did I, or my brothers, know that revealing to mom our (there I admitted it) infraction actually set us free. We didn’t have to skulk around like Golem wondering if we were going to get caught. And we no longer have to hide our sin (we can’t anyway). God’s grace brings that sin out into the light and pierces it, obliterates it. Exposes it. All for the better.

“Father, you have shined your light of grace on my sin. You have exposed it so it cannot control me. Thank you.”

November 13

Friday, November 13th, 2020

I’ve always had trouble with two words. I’ve heard them used interchangeably, which in my mind is a little much. I know they can be kissing cousins. I know if allowed the one can morph into the other one (and that becomes ugly). I also know they are both listed as sins of the flesh in Galatians 5. What two words?

ENVY and JEALOUSY

Like I said, I know they can both be wrong. In my mind, envy is “slightly” bad.  But it can morph into jealousy which is really bad.

For example, growing up I excelled in athletics. My brother excelled in music. His voice was and is phenomenal. (I actually have two brothers who can sing. The youngest sings more of a high church/”trained-voice” style. The other one more contemporary. It is the latter one [Rob] I’m writing about). As I got older and my body would not cooperate with me like it used to, I began to realize my brother’s singing was going to last him longer and take him farther than my sports were. I can’t sing so I “envy” his ability. I’m proud of my brother. I relish bragging on him. Do I wish I could sing? Of course.  But is it giving me heartburn I can’t and making me resent him? Absolutely not.  I even wonder what if I could sing. Would I give credit to God for that ability?

Bare bones: envy is a sign of discontent. “I wish I could sing.” That makes it a sin because I am not accepting who God made me to be or the lot I find myself in. Acceptance of who I am and who I’ve been made to be is essential. And so, while envy is not as “bad” as jealousy, it is still a work of the flesh and damaging to my heart. And a sin.

“Father, help me to check my heart and its desires. Help me to be content with whom you made me to be.”

October 15

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

It’s a conundrum. Always has been and probably always will be. Well, at least it is for me. I think its that way for two reasons. One, because of my own questions. Two, because of my and others’ actions. I see a lot of damage done both ways.

What is the conundrum? 2 Cor. 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteous with lawlessness…”

The conundrum? What exactly does it mean to be unequally yoked; and two, what does it mean to everyday life? The picture in the Scripture is of two unlike animals (say an oxen and a horse) being yoked to plow a field. Not a good picture. Not a good working arrangement. Okay, I get that. But how does that translate to everyday life? I’ve heard it used to refer to marriage. Some validity. I’ve heard it applied to a business arrangement (a believer hooking up with a non-believer). Some validity. I’ve heard it used concerning leadership in a church (a good, but not godly leader in the business world being put into church leadership).  Some validity. Maybe you can think of more.

As I’ve expressed, I think all of those have some validity. What I see as the more important idea is that anytime an arrangement is made that would draw us away from Jesus or compromise our stand with and for Him needs to be seriously evaluated before we enter in. The conundrum is how far do we go? To go all in is bad-that’s called compromise. But to withdraw completely and do nothing with unbelievers is to turn a blind eye to engagement. How are we going to reach them if we withdraw from them?

I don’t have the answer, quite frankly. I do know that my influence for Christ must not be compromised by my social arrangements. From there on I’m a work in progress.

“Father, help me to be wise in my dealings, especially with non-believers. And whatever transpires may I never compromise my relationship with You.”

October 8

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

I read the following statement recently:

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, it will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay.  (Good Morning Lord…Can We Talk?- Chuck Swindoll-p.280)

That struck me. I have often said from the pulpit that sin is not ugly or distasteful or unappealing. To clarify: it is not made to look that way. Why would the enemy try to entice us with something that was a turn off? He doesn’t say, “Here try this drug. Oh…by the way…let me show you how it will end up if you do.”  Nor does he entice us sexually with a woman (in a male’s case) who is 200 pounds overweight and bald. No he entices with someone who looks inviting. He doesn’t entice a young athlete to use steroids by showing ‘roid rage or weight gain or unneeded hair growth to a young woman. No, he will not show the ugly side of sin.

What he does offer is paradise. A taste of heaven. A false reality. He’s like the circus shyster offering more than he can deliver.

Paul wrote about that. In Galatians 6:7 he wrote, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” In spite of what we think, there will come a day when each one of us will give an account. We will then find out that sin was not cheap, nor was it honest.

“Father, may I not be deceived by the ‘beauty’ or allure of sin. It is empty. It is ugly at the core. Its consequences are long-lasting. Help me break free from its pull.”