Sin

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June 29

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

Before I write or say anything else I’d like to ask that you do something for me and for a friend.  One of my dearest friends is Ryan Spires and his wife, Amanda. They are at Mayo Clinic where Amanda is having surgery this morning.  It is not my place to say for what, but please whenever you read this stop and say a prayer for them both. Amanda’s surgery is this morning.

Now to less important things.

Yesterday’s devotion  was Part 1 of two on Matthew 23. It focused on the first 12 verses, with particular emphasis on verses 10-12. As stated in the devotion, I originally had planned to focus on the “do as I say not as I do” aspect of those verses, but changed when I read verses 10-12. Today’s thoughts will naturally (if you read the Scripture) focus on the outside vs. the inside.

The Pharisees were good at several things. Self-righteousness. Hypocrisy. Double-standards. Pointing fingers at others. Jesus confronted them (and others) about this in Matthew 5-7 (Sermon on the Mount) and it wouldn’t be His last time.

But here! WOW! It is like Jesus has both barrels wide open. Seven times He says “Woe to you.” And he minced no words after the “woe.” Blind guides. Hypocrites. OUCH! He ripped the mask right off and exposed them for who they were.

Three of my favorites are found back-to-back-to-back in verses 23-28. “You tithe but…” “You are like a cup…” “You are like a white-washed tomb…”  The first deals with the whole idea of legalism, of religious actions taking the place of caring. The second with the outside of a cup which was clean but full of filth inside. The third like a tomb which was clean on the outside but full of dead man’s bones on the inside.

Can’t get more vivid than that.

And the picture/lesson is obvious. We can look good on the outside. We can look holy and righteous. We can even act like it. But our true nature is what’s inside. The possibilities are two: righteousness or unrighteousness.

It goes deeper, obviously, than a tithe/cup/dish/coffin; it refers to the heart. While I may look holy, righteous, and “all together” spiritually by observation, the proof is in my heart.

I wish I could say I have it all together now, that I never find myself with the position of wearing a mask. I can’t.

But it’s never too late to clean up and start being holy and allowing the Holy Spirit to make me into His clean vessel.

June 22

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022

Down through time, there has always been hot button issues. Slavery. Child labor. Corporate greed. Fundamentalism. Segregation. Abortion. Sex outside marriage. Drugs. Rock ‘n Roll. Same sex relationships. I’m sure you can name a number of others, even more important to you than the above. But all the hot button issues usually come down to one word:

SIN

Invariably, when a hot button takes front and center, the others take a back seat or are simply glossed over for a time. “Let’s focus on this one” we say, and as we do another steps aside or is simply put on the back burner. Take today, for example. Because of appalling breech in the privacy of the Supreme Court by the leak of a draft about Roe v. Wade, people protest, fire-bomb, hang in effigy, and even try to assassinate one of a justices. Meanwhile, the real moral issue-not social issue-moral issue of abortion is laid aside. “Who cares what the Bible says about life and dignity.” Come to think of it the whole same sex discussion is the same.

When we do those things we forget sin is sin, and it is all an affront to God. Abortion. Same sex relationships. Anger. Lust. Gluttony. Blasphemy.

All sin. And all sin we are to abhor, or “detest” as the NASB2020 translates Romans 12:9. “Abhor/detest what is evil. None of us can look in the mirror on any given day and say, “You did not sin today.” If you can, please tell me your secret!

Read again Romans 12:9: “Love must be free from hypocrisy (Love must be genuine in some translations). Detest (abhor) what is evil; cling to what is good.”  (NASB)

Let’s just start hating sin. Period. In all its sizes, shapes, and colors.

April 7

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Continuing with some thoughts from Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur.  (See my March 31 and April 4 devotion for reference).

The essence of the Christian walk is to live contrary to human nature. (p.249)

Anyone who has  tried to live the Christian life knows that not only is this true, but way too familiar. When God says, “Zig” the world says, “Zag.”  God says, “Go right” the world says, “Go left.”

That’s how it has always been.

That’s how it is today.

That’s how it will always be.

It would be nice to think that coming to Jesus would end the struggle. But no, if anything it makes it worse.

The apostle Paul wrote about this struggle on more than one occasion, but his most extensive (I think anyway) and most pointed is found in Ephesians 6: 10-20. Everyone knows it to be the teaching of warfare which is not of this world, but also the armor of God every Christ-follower must wear.

Paul David Tripp wrote the following:

Paul is reminding you that at street level, practical, daily Christianity is at war. There really is a moral right and wrong. There really is an enemy. There really is a seductive and deceptive temptation. You really are spiritually vulnerable.  (New Morning Mercies- April 6)

Day in and day out our culture is calling our name. Our enemy is putting out the “red carpet” that leads to fame and fortune initially, but in the end leads to death and destruction.

Old man vs new man. Fake vs reality.

“Father, help me to choose Your way and not the world’s. And most definitely not mine. That spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.”

March 29

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

There is no question we live in an age where “anything goes.” In his book God and the Transgender Debate (which I am currently reading), Andrew Walker writes that we went from Relativism (meaning and truth are relative, so that what is right for one person may be wrong for another), to post-christian (no moral framework), to radical individualism (the single greatest sin-the only sin- is judging someone else), to the sexual revolution (sex is no longer reserved for marriage), to Gnosticism (each person’s self-awareness is different and more important than their physical body).  (Pages 21-26)

Long story short: our choices and progression has led to a bedroom lifestyle. That lifestyle is one-dimensional, characterized by pleasure, ease, unaccountability (better known as freedom), and selfishness. Can there be any doubt we are there? I don’t think I need to give specifics on what I mean, but simply take a look at the moral fiber, i.e. breakdown that is so common.

As followers of Christ we are not called to a bedroom lifestyle; we are called to a battlefield lifestyle. John Cooper, the lead singer for Skillet, recently played some clips on his podcast about the criticism and attacks the “woke” mob is  making because his songs focus on warfare, on going to battle, on fighting and surviving the game (a new song of theirs). I say more power to him! We are in a battle for our souls and Ephesians 6 tells us that. Ephesians 6: 10-12 specifically. Then Paul goes on to tell us about the armor of God (verses 13-19).

We have a choice to make; battlefield or bedroom. Fight or give in. Stand strong in faith or have weak knees.  We each have a choice. Fight the pull of the culture or give in and surrender to it.

“Father, the pull is strong. Help me resist. Help me fight.”

March 15

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

“My dad can beat up your dad.”  “My dad is smarter than your dad.” “My mom is prettier than your mom.”

Remember those days? (I have a hard time because they were so long ago. 🙂 ) That game is still played by kids…and adults. The comparison game.

It never stops. Sports. Academics. Opposite sex attraction. Jobs. Friends. Physical stature (“I’m taller/stronger/faster than you are now.”) Church size (“We had x number of people this past Sunday.”) Sin.

Sin? Back the truck up!! Yes sin. When was the last time you heard someone say, “My sin is so much greater than yours so I deserve a much greater punishment”? On rare occasions…maybe…you might hear someone who is truly humble and will admit their sin. Most often it is more common to hear someone say their sin is not as bad as that person over there. “I don’t do this or that.” “I haven’t committed adultery.” “I haven’t left my spouse.” On and on the “I haven’t” goes.

Only when we see our sin in light of God’s unrelenting grace and the sinless Son of God will we see a more truthful picture of who we really are. When I think I am more righteous than I am I become a Pharisee like the one in Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18: 9-17.

God sees me for who I am. He is infinitely smarter than me. It would be much better for me to approach Him as a tax collector than a Pharisee. Comparisons pushed aside.

“Father, may I see myself as You see me…as I really am.”

March 7

Monday, March 7th, 2022

Try as I may there is one thing I simply cannot stop doing: sinning. I can wake up with all the resolve in the world, but it isn’t very long before I can rack up      sin #1. Than sin #2. Then sin #3. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum. Romans 3: 23 haunts me more than i want to think about. I fall short of God’s holy standard.

When I used to talk to young people about coming to Christ, I used to describe sin like a person pole-vaulting. His goal is to get over the bar. The pole vaulter gets set, runs down the track, plants the pole and doesn’t go over it. He might come up way short. He might knock the bar down. But unless he clears it, he is disqualified.

Sin is like that. Disqualifying us. Now, there are three approaches we can take:

  1. We can deny the evidence. You know…never admit sin. I believe that is called blindness and arrogance.
  2. We can wallow in our guilt and shame. Been there, done that. The reality of sin  overwhelms us. This is especially true of repetitive sin.
  3. In our grief and brokenness, we can come to the only One who can forgive us. The choice: flee or come. Run to God or run away. Why would anyone want to run away from the only One who could bring peace and relief?

“Father, I know I sin every day. Instead of denying or hiding, help me to always run to You.”

 

March 3

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

“May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.” So the Apostle Paul says in Gal. 6:14. What does that mean?

The title of this blog is “Living in the Shadow.”  Shadow of what? We all know what a shadow is. “A dark area of shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface.”  It’s also used in reference to proximity.  Think “me and my shadow.” My idea for the title was “what is it like to live in the shadow of the cross?”

Well, for one, we learn who we are. At the foot of the cross there is no rich or poor, black or white, male or female, slave or free (to borrow Paul’s words). Someone has said, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” The cross reminds us who we are-sinners in need of God’s grace. There is no need-no, there is no warrant for us to think we don’t need to be there or that we are not as bad off as someone else. At the foot of the cross there is no way we can or should think more highly of ourselves.

As we learn who we are, we also learn who God is. As we become more and more aware of our sinful state, we should also become more and more aware of God’s unrelenting grace. No need for me to clean up first; God does that for me.

“May I never boast except in the cross of Christ” is good advice for all of us.  Come to think of it; I have no reason to boast except in the cross. I certainly can’t boast about anything I have done. That is a losing game.

February 24

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

I’m a little late getting here this morning. An icy night slowed down some things. But here I am! 🙂 🙂

“Not me.” “Not me.” “Not me.”

If she heard it once she heard it a thousand times. My mom raised 4 boys. There was 10 years difference between me and the youngest brother so he was too young to get in on the “not me” party.

Something happened. Mom found out. She would line us up and ask which one of us did it. “Not me” three times. Then she would look at one of my brothers and say, “Why did you do it?”  The weeping and gnashing of teeth would appear and the different reasons out of their mouths, but she had found her culprit. My brothers were guilty and she exposed their lie.

As it was, so it still is. Not with them. I’m not that aware of all that is going on in their worlds to be the “action police.” No, I’m talking on a daily basis. The “not me” was an attempt to shift the blame elsewhere and not take responsibility.

We all tend to think we are more righteous than we are. We don’t like to think we are messed up as we are, as in need of God’s grace as we are, as sinful as we are. I’m good (maybe you too?) at throwing out the excuses and looking for someone else to throw under the bus.  Making excuses seems to be easier than admitting fault.

I was in a meeting yesterday with some area folks where accountability was brought up as something missing in a certain organization. And that is what all this is about. Accountability before a God who knows all, but wants us to admit our sin, confess it and seek His grace.

It is time for an honest reckoning of our need for God’s unlimited and forgiving grace…as we are honest and accountable to Him.

“Father, the ‘not me’ doesn’t work with You. You want and need me to be honest with You and with myself.”

P.S. As you probably noted, I highlighted their guilt in the “not me” scenario.” It stands to reason I was guilty…once or twice or….

January 31

Monday, January 31st, 2022

For my communion thought yesterday I shared the following:

Paul David Tripp in his book, New Morning Mercies, wrote this: “Face it, your most brilliant act of righteousness wouldn’t measure up to God’s standards; that’s why you’ve been give the grace of Jesus.” (January 30)

He goes on to write;

The more you understand the magnitude of God’s grace, the more accurate will be your view of the depth of your unrighteousness; and the more you understand the depth of your unrighteousness, the more you will appreciate the magnitude of God’s grace.

To understand God’s grace we need to understand sin. Sin in a condition of the heart which affects us all. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” It might be easy for us to deflect attention from our sin by placing more blame on someone else’s sin, but that doesn’t work with God.

God didn’t leave us in this sorry, helpless, and hopeless state. He sent His Son to do what we could not do. We can stand before a holy God-perfect in every way- broken, imperfect, weak and frail and be unafraid because Jesus stands in our place and says, “He’s mine.” (Or she’s mine). When God looks at us He sees Jesus and sees perfection, Christ’s perfection.  What is really cool is that Romans 6 says, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.” God’s grace is always greater than my sin. That is not a license to sin, but it does give thought to the greatness of His grace.

Can there be any better news than that?

“Father, thank You for the sacrifice of Jesus. Thank you for His willingness to stand in my place. And than You for the magnitude of Your grace.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

December 21

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

“Do not be afraid (Fear not); for behold, I bring you good news of great joy…” Luke 2:10 (NASB2020)

Those words are meaningful and bring comfort to many. Tragically, there also many whose lives are overrun by fear. It’s almost like they live in a perpetual horror movie. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of what lurks behind the door. Afraid of every person. Afraid of taking a step into the unknown. Paul David Tripp wrote: “There’s nothing that could ever be known, exposed, or revealed about you that isn’t covered by the present grace that is yours because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.” (O Come Let us Adore Him-p.141)

The December 20th devotion from Our Daily Bread had the story of Linus from the Peanuts comic strip. Linus had a blue security blanket. He knew he should depend on it less but had trouble parting with it.

In the movie “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when a frustrated Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus steps forward, with security blanket in hand, and quotes Luke 2: 8-14. When he hits “Fear not” he drops his blanket-the thing he clung to when afraid.

That begs the question: what do you cling to? What is your security blanket? Remember the Scripture says, “Fear not.” At this time of the year, don’t you think it is good time to lay aside that heavy weight and trust Him for your security?

“Father, help me to lay aside that which I am afraid of and lean on You more.”