Sin

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January 19

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

The past few days I have been reading a book called The Roar Within by Brent Henderson. It is sort of a cross between Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins. 🙂 Brent’s ministry is really devoted to men and he loves to big game hunt, so references to that passion are many. Granted, it is a book for men-about men recognizing what trips them up and stepping up to be a man…God’s man.

He says that there are 5 dangerous sins which trip men up and he uses dangerous animals in an African safari to illustrate his point. Those animals are the rhinoceros, lion, cape buffalo, elephant, and leopard.  They are called man killers because of the difficulty in hunting them. But Brent compares the sins that take a man down to those five animals. It is not my purpose here to get into those sins or animals.

Instead, I have a question to pose to you: if someone asked you what animal would describe you-from all the animal kingdom-what one would you choose?

A lion? An eagle? A workhorse? A thoroughbred? A mole? A rabbit? A dolphin or a whale?

How about a sheep? No way you say. Sheep are dumb. They are easily scared. They are like the blind leading the blind (one goes off a cliff chances are good the rest will follow).  They are easily disoriented. They are defenseless. (What are they going to do? B-a-a-a-a at a threat?) You get the point.

And yet, what did Jesus compare us to? You guessed it…sheep.

“My sheep hear my voice and follow.”

“My sheep know my voice.”

“All we like sheep have gone astray.” (Is. 53:6)

We are like sheep.  They may not be the brightest light bulb or sharpest tool in the shed, but they know their Master’s voice. They stay close to the Shepherd and find Him to be all they need.

It’s not a putdown to be called a sheep. In fact, that just might be the best animal to be.

November 30

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Isaiah 59:19 says, “So they will fear the name of the Lord from the west and His glory from the rising of the sun, for He will come like a rushing stream which the wind of the Lord drives.” (NASB2020)

I rather like the simplicity of the NLT in this verse: “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

As followers of Jesus, we are-or should be-keenly aware of our enemy’s tactics. His desire is to control us, or at least to compromise us so much that the effectiveness of our testimony is gone.

I was reading just this morning from I Cor. 10. After writing about the Israelites and their sin, Paul says some very poignant words to his readers (us). Please take a moment and read verses 11-13 right now.

We can choose to be a pawn in Satan’s grip or to be a vessel under control of the Master Commander. We can choose to give in to the temptation or we can choose to trust and rely on the One who changes lives.

In Mark 5 we read the story of a man who was under the control of the master deceiver. Uncontrollable. Unchained by people but chained to a cruel slave master. Then he met Jesus who righted the wrong and broke the chains that enslaved that man’s heart and life. I like what it says about him when the townspeople came out to see what happened: “He was sitting down, clothed and in his right mind.” (5:15)

I heard someone once say, “It is true God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. It is also true that Satan hates you and has a horrible plan for your life.”

Jesus can transform any life. I know. I’m one.

November 14

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Christianity is a religion of the past, present, and future. Truthfully, I don’t like that word “religion” at all. It sounds so cold and formal. I guess I could say that Christianity is a “faith” but I’m not sure that effectively captures what I want to say either.

But that is a moot point.

My point is that life in Christ has a past, a present, and a future. Let’s break that down for a moment.

Life in Christ has a present. It is a life knowing we are living in the presence and the power of Christ.  It is a John 15:5 life: “I am the vine…”

It is also a life in the future. The Christ-follower has the promise of eternal life. We have the promise that no one can pluck us out of the Father’s hand. We have the assurance of a home in heaven.

I left off the past on purpose. Many Christ-followers live too much in their past. Or maybe it would be more correct to say they live chained too much to their past. They can’t forgive themselves or forget past indiscretions so they have an issue believing God can do what we can’t. All I need to do at this point is to draw your attention to I Cor. 6:9-11. {Please take a moment to read it}. Notice the words at the beginning of verse 11: “And such were some of you.” Key thought. Then it is followed by a key word: “but.”

That verse makes it very clear something has taken place. You see, the proof of Christianity is in its power to change lives. Such is the strength of those words: “Such were some of you.” Every time you look at a Christ-follower, you are seeing evidence of the fact God changes lives. Mine. Yours. Others. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But made new. Shame? Gone. Sin? Gone. Regret? Gone. In God’s mind.  Now to mine.

Christianity is a “religion” of the past, present, and future. Saved from the past; living in the present; looking forward the hope of an eternal future in heaven.  Remember: “such were some of you.”

October 4

Tuesday, October 4th, 2022

As I have grown in my faith, and matured as an adult, I’ve come to believe that one of the toughest stumbling blocks Christ-followers have to deal with is their past. Of course, there are the few who have done nothing really horrendous of which they should feel shame or guilt. Yes, we are all sinners and should feel guilt over that, but this is different.

I’m talking bigger than normal, everyday sin. The whopper. The life choice that rattles the bones. The choice that makes the insides turn over. The choice which hangs on and keeps coming back again and again. The choice of which nightmares are made of.

Simply put: shame-inducing, joy-robbing, strength-sapping shame.

Like Peter’s. Pledge your love and devotion but then deny at the first opportunity of the temperature rising. You know the story. “I’ll follow You. I’ll never turn my back.” “Before the cock crows,” He said. It happened as He said.

What now? What will Peter do? Wallow in his shame? Get sidelined? Cast out? None of the above. He will be invited to a breakfast by the sea where Jesus will call him Simon-which means “listen”-and find restoration and release from shame.

I’ll be honest: if not for God’s grace, forgiveness and restoration, I’d be on the sidelines. My failures, unbelief and meager attempts at righteousness would have me wrapped in a cloak of shame or pacing the sidelines or sitting on the bench with my head between my legs, if not for God’s patience and “Bill. Get up. Get back in the game.”

It’s called second chances and I serve a God of second chances. Shame? Sure it’s there. But I also know that it has been defeated by the grace of a God who specializes in taking broken people and making them new.

I can attest to that.

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.”