Christianity 201

May 20, 2015

The Weight of Sin

 Hebrews 12:1b

…Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up. (CEB)

…We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall.  (ERV)

…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us… (KJV)

let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely… (NRSV)

…let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace… (The Voice)

The 3rd Choice (The3rdChoice.org) is an apologetics website. Many of the articles are much longer than what we’ve shown below. This is a great site for someone who is investigating Christianity or has just recently begun their journey with Jesus. To read today’s article on their site, click the title below, and then look around.

Sin: Not Real Popular in the Culture, but A Big Deal in the Bible

Sin is a very big idea in the Bible, and most people seem to misunderstand it, so it’s something we need to know about truthfully. Sin is defined in a few different ways, but you’ll catch a common theme quickly.

Deone Drake defines sin as thinking, doing, or being anything that demonstrates a dissatisfaction with God.

Gary Anderson says, “There are many metaphors in circulation about sin, but the one that gets 80-90% of the textual space [in the Bible] pictures sin as a weight or burden that has to be carried. And so, in many texts in the Old Testament, forgiveness is conceived of as taking away a burden.”

The word “sin” in the New Testament means “to miss the mark; err; swerve from truth and right; go wrong.”

I think you’re getting the idea. People seem to think it’s doing something bad (which isn’t too far off the mark), and they think if they’re generally good people, sin really doesn’t matter that much. After all, most of aren’t criminals, right? That’s where they’re missing the boat.

The Bible explains that sin is our nature as much as it is our behavior (Romans 7.25* and others). In other words, we don’t just do sin, we are sin, as much as a cat is a cat and a dog is a dog. A dog acts like a dog, but even he meows, he’s still a dog, y’know. We may learn to be good people, for our own sake, to please others, or for the good of society. Whatever. Sin is our nature—it’s what we are. So even though you may be a good person, you still have sin in you because if you’re human, you’re sin.

Now add to that that even if you’re not doing wrong, but you don’t do the good that you ought to do—that’s sin too (James 4.17**). Remember the time when your brother was lying to your parents, and you knew he was lying, but you didn’t say anything? Yeah, maybe you thought you were helping your brother, but what you did was wrong. In a way, you were being an accomplice and were guilty of lying too, because you let the lie stand.

We also find out from the Bible that sin separates us from God. God is life and holiness. Sin is death and depravity. So God doesn’t have any sin in him; but since we do, it separates us from him, just as the same poles of two magnets can’t be put together.

Well, you still may think you’re a pretty good person, and maybe you are, but even the smallest amount of sin matters. Let me put it this way: if you have a glass of sewage (ew!), would you drink it? No. Yikes. It’s SEWAGE. OK, but what if have a glass of water, and only a quarter of it is sewage. Pretty good water, right? Would you drink it? Ew, no—it’s SEWAGE.

What are some sins? The biggest one in the Bible is pride. Self-centeredness. Selfishness. There’s also greed, anger, lying, cheating, stealing, envy, jealousy, disobedience to parents, and a long list of other things. Whatever is not like God. Unfaithfulness, disloyalty, dishonesty. That’s what sin is.


* So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (NIV)

** If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (NIV)


Go Deeper: Jesus Gives Life (JesusGivesLife.blogspot.com) is another website designed for people who want to learn the basics. Check out the approach they take to today’s opening verses in this post.

January 21, 2015

The Sin that is Resident Inside Us

We return to an author who appeared here a year ago. Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. To read this at source on the church blog, click the title below:

Why Is Sin Still Alive In Me, In You?

When my oldest daughter was very young, we almost lost her in a drowning accident. While my wife and I were engaged in a casual conversation by the pool, my daughter walked down the steps and into the water. She was just a few feet away, yet we did not see her. Seconds later, my wife looked over and immediately pulled her up and out. We thank God for His grace that afternoon.

In the same way, sin works in stealth mode; it must be taken seriously – it separates us from God and directly opposes Him. Sin corrupts our character and our testimony; it prevents holiness and quenches and grieves the Spirit within. Why, then, do so many continue to fall into sin? A story was told of a young boy who kept falling out of his bed. Frustrated, he asked his mother why? She wisely answered, “It’s because you don’t stay far enough in.” In the same way, many of us fall back into sin because we don’t get far enough into God’s framework of safety and protection.

Why-is-Sin-Still-Alive-in-Me-and-You-400x225Overcoming sin, especially sexual sin, can be a difficult battle for Christians, but victory is not optional; it’s essential. In Romans 6 and 7, Paul has an open dialogue about our old sinful nature being crucified with Christ so that sin loses its power in our lives. The good we want to do we often do not do, and the evil we seek to avoid we sometimes practice. The result is misery, so Paul asks, “Who will free me from this body and life that are dominated by sin?” (cf. Romans 7:24).

It leaves one to wonder, “If I’m dead to sin why is it still alive in me?” How can Paul declare that he is dead to sin in one verse, yet a few verses later ask, “Who will free me from the domination of sin in my life?” Romans 6:16 is the clarifying verse, “Whatever you choose to obey becomes your master?” You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God. It’s a choice. And once you make a choice, it then makes you. “Grace changes the nature of man, but nothing changes the nature of sin” (Puritan, John Owen).

There is power in the word of God to save us from ourselves, overcome temptation, and reposition us again in the will of God. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). We must submit to the work of the Holy Spirit as well.

As a believer, God equips us with discernment so that we are able to grasp what is really going on. This is why the role of the pulpit in these dire times is so important. Those who fail to preach the word of God in all its fullness fail to pierce the heart; sinners are not challenged to turn to the Savior. Paul encourages pastors to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Convince means to cause others to believe firmly. Rebuke means to warn, confront, or challenge with the hope of changing course. And exhort is to urge, appeal, or to encourage. But many today focus only on exhortation to win favor and acceptance.

We’d do well to revisit Jeremiah 23 regularly. Although this passage was written primarily to the false leaders in Jeremiah’s day, the principle still applies to us—stand firm in God’s counsel; don’t simply exhort, rebuke and convict as well: “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!’ Says the LORD…they also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness…and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you’….I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied…but if they had stood in My counsel, and caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way…therefore, they shall not profit this people at all, says the LORD’” (Jeremiah 23:1-32).

These leaders, like many today, had “perverted the words of the living God” (vs. 36) by not warning, instructing, challenging, and contending for the faith. Pastor’s, as the church falls deeper into self-reliance and further from reliance on God, our need for bold leadership has never been greater. Change will only occur when there is a strong conviction of sin, genuine faith, humility, and sincere repentance—may God grant us the wisdom and strength to proclaim these truths. We must stop confusing God’s patience with His approval and preach with conviction from the pulpits again. We are not called to coddle, but to convict.

Be encouraged, God sends His word to heal and deliver us from our destructive lifestyles (cf. Psalm 107:20). But we must not simply hear, we must apply God’s truth to our lives. Hearing alone does nothing without the active step of obedience. Obeying God’s voice can keep us from sin, or sin can keep us from hearing God’s voice.

Turn, or return, to Him today and experience His grace, love, and forgiveness. Its not too late. Recall Romans 6:16, “Whatever you choose to obey becomes your master?” We can choose sin, which leads to death, or we can choose to obey God. It’s a choice. And, as stated earlier, once you make a choice, it then makes you. ​

May 14, 2014

Does God Hate Some People?

Psalm 5:5 The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
    you destroy those who tell lies…

Psalm 11:5 The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.

While it is true that doctrinally, sin has separated us from God, there is a lot of confusion in the broader society leaving people with the impression that God hates them specifically.   Jerry Bridges addresses this in Holiness Day by Day:

It’s difficult for us to conceive of God’s holy hatred toward people. But this is simply his just and holy revulsion against sin and his holy antagonism toward those who rebel against him.

It is so important that in our contacts with people we uphold the principle that it’s sin that God hates.

Proverbs 6:16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Michael Houdmann writes:

The question that begs to be answered at this point is why does God hate these things? God hates them because they are contrary to His nature—God’s nature being holy, pure and righteous. In fact, David writes, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4 emphasis added). God is holy and hates sin. If He did not hate sin, He would not be holy.

In the Second Testament, John frequently raises the issue of the light/darkness, love/hate contrast. If God hates sin, then sinners often (or always) hate the light.

John 3:20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

Not only is this intensity of emotion a seemingly reciprocal relationship, it is also sometimes assumed.

Deuteronomy 1:26 But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 You grumbled in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. …”

Some will want to point out here that sometimes the use of the word hate is hyperbole, such as:

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
    but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Does such a parent truly hate his kids. No, but the passage illustrates the degree a father or mother is depriving the child of the best by not teaching them discipline.  A similar use of hyperbole is found in the New Testament:

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is demonstrating the degree of sacrifice necessary to be a follower, but we do know from other teaching that Jesus held care and concern for family in high regard. He is simply saying that by comparison they should hate; not literallyKyle Butt writes:

How, then, can one reconcile the verses that seem to suggest that God hates sinners, but loves them at the same time? One of the most plausible solutions is that the Bible writers are using a figure of speech called metonymy when they write that God hates sinners. Metonymy is defined as: “A figure by which one name or noun is used instead of another, to which it stands in a certain relation”

Our best response to those who think that God hates them is probably this verse:

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

In other words, even while we were in our sinful state, Christ offers a way out.

Kyle Butt writes:

Any person who has read the Bible understands that one of its greatest themes is love. The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8). It also explains that God showed His love to us while we were still sinners:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

An interesting aspect of this passage is that it stresses that lost sinners were not “righteous” or “good” when Christ demonstrated His love for them.

In the narrative of the rich young ruler, Jesus explained that the young man lacked something necessary to be pleasing to God. Yet even though the young man was lacking and lost, the Bible says that Jesus “loved him” (Mark 10:21). When Jesus mourned over lost Jerusalem, He cried:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37).

Jesus said His affection for the lost inhabitants of Jerusalem was like a mother hen’s affection for her chicks. Such a statement obviously denotes love for the sinners in Jerusalem.

 

July 5, 2013

What is Sin?

This appeared a year ago at Thinking Out Loud, and has not been seen here before…

Let’s begin with an elementary definition. David Peach at the blog Genuine Leather Bible (love that name!) writes:

“Sin is disobedience to God, or not following God’s plan. It is breaking God’s law in some way. Often we define sin as doing something wrong or bad. The only problem with that simplistic definition of sin is that it does not explain who is the one who makes the rules. Many people in the world believe that right and wrong are defined by individual opinions and that there are no absolute rules. However, when we talk about sin, we are talking about God’s definition of right and wrong. A person should understand that their sin is a matter of breaking God’s law, not some man’s opinion.”

Susanna Wesley, the mother of John Wesley once wrote:

“Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself”

Duke Taber writes:

“In our society, and especially in Christian circles, there is probably not one word more emotionally charged with negativity than the word sin. But what does sin really mean? What is the biblical definition of sin? It literally means missing the mark. It is a term in the Greek that comes from an archery term meaning to miss the bulls-eye. In Romans 3:23 the Bible says that ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’ So please allow me to reword it just a bit. ‘All have missed the mark and didn’t get their arrow to hit the perfection of God.’”

West Breedlove writes: “The meat of this prayer came from a John Piper sermon entitled The Greatest Thing in the World . After singing How Great Is Our God, I said:

Indeed God is exceedingly great. And the only reason someone has a low view of God is because they have a low view of sin.

Sin is:

The glory of God not honored.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savored.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The promises of God not relied upon.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved.

That is sin!

The infinite, all-glorious Creator of the universe, by whom and for whom all things exist (Rom. 11:36) –– disregarded, disbelieved, disobeyed, and dishonored by everybody in the world. That is the ultimate outrage of the universe.*

And that is why we sing “How Great Thou Art!”

That is why the sweet sound of saving grace is surpassingly sweet –- The exceedingly great God has taken our exceedingly sinful sin and placed it on his Son…

This great God has taken the sins of liars, adulterers and the rest of his enemies, and has placed them on his Son; and there poured out his wrath – Jesus becoming sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God!

Lord, help us to marvel at the miracle of your glorious grace poured out on us at Calvary.”

Finally, to challenge us, here is a thought that is better to read in its full context, but I’ll highlight a section here. This is from the blog Diaknos by Frank and Steph Rue.

“Yeah, I had heard the line, ‘Have you ever lied before?’ I raised my hand at those events where someone asked that question. Of course. Everyone’s sinned—even in my emaciated definition. So when I read passages like Romans 3:23: ‘…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…’

Are you getting the point? Do you happen to relate, perhaps?

The problem with this definition of sin is that it’s wrong—completely wrong. Its inadequacy is terrible: calling sin an occasional problem for man is like calling water an occasional ingredient in the ocean.

Jesus Christ said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38 ESV).

I’ve heard this verse before. But what does it mean? If we take it for its clearest reading, we must recognize that we fail to honor a command (the greatest command) of the Lord, for no one has ever loved God with all of his heart, soul and mind for every moment of every day. At some second, every one of us has violated (and will continue to do so!) this command!

Now it doesn’t matter if we don’t lie, don’t steal, or don’t kill—for truly: all have failed to do this one, seemingly simply command—every one of us, all the time.”

Get into this topic in great detail with this post at Christianity 201 a year ago.


(For all you ’80s rockers out there, here’s a link to the song Sin Kills by Andy McCarroll and Moral Support.)

June 14, 2012

Devotional Potpourri

From Jeff Mikels in January:

He Came

  1. Jesus came as Prophet to bring the Word of God to us.
  2. Jesus came as Priest to represent us to the Father.
  3. Jesus came as SON to bring us into God’s family
  4. Jesus came as Savior to take away our sin.
  5. Jesus came as King to receive our submission.
  • to have 1-4 without 5 is pointless mercy
  • to have 5 without 1-4 is Islamic legalism
  • to have them all together is the beautiful harmony of grace

Dan Delzell looks at the question Can Deliberate Sin Negate Your Conversion Experience?

Every Christian hits rough spots at times where a particular sin just seems to get the upper hand for awhile. It might be a grudge….or impure thoughts….or jealousy….or whatever. By God’s grace, believers somehow manage to bounce back and get beyond these spiritual setbacks. It’s so much better to be living “in the zone” of God’s abundant love, power, and boundaries.

But what about the professing believer who never bounces back? He just continues charging into sin while pursuing those desires which are contrary to God’s will. What are we to make of such a person?

Well….the Arminian might say that such a person has lost his salvation….while the Calvinist might say that such a person was never saved in the first place….or that he will eventually repent and return to God. What does God’s Word say? Can deliberate sin negate your conversion experience? It’s a question worth addressing because it’s a question that comes up quite often.

[continue reading here]

Finally, Canadian counselor George Hartwell at Listening Prayer on Head versus Heart Prayer.

Creativity cannot be forced. Memory cannot be forced. Instead we find that creativity follows when we give ourselves a break or after we are asleep. Writers who know that they cannot force inspiration learn to live with the flow of creativity.

Our heart, what psychology calls the unconscious mind, is like a stubborn child. It is quite difficult for our head to control our heart. See Romans 7. Forcing the heart does not work.  Learn to cooperate with your heart.

I don’t know if over-dependence on the rational mind is the death of us, but I do remember that the serpent seduced Adam and Eve with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This Bible account at least suggests that life based on head knowledge  shut down the life-giving flow of God’s presence to Adam and Eve.

Is pride in head knowledge our downfall?  Does life based on head knowledge mean life independent from God.  When we try to figure everything out are we trying to be ‘like God.’  Does head control generate a false sense of power, control and independence?  

Timothy Galway, The Inner Game of Tennis, points out that too much instruction hinders a player from playing their best game. When the head is out of the way we may find ourselves playing better than normal – ‘beyond ourselves’.

With humility do I recover the realization that real freedom comes in being who God created me to be. Real power comes from the presence of God, as we encounter God, while listening and obeying God. Real faith is a gift of God comes in the presence of God, as we encounter God, as we listen to God. Real healing occurs in the presence of God, as we encounter God and listen to God.

 Real prayer is not based on head knowledge. Real prayer is based on coming into the presence of God, an encounter with God, listening to God.