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Tag Archives: sin

You Are Capable (of great sin)

There but for the grace of God go I. (John Bradford)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

I am more than capable. So is everyone. If you deny it you need to repent for lying to yourself and everyone else. (Barnabas Piper)

This is good:

Shelve Your Shock.

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Posted by on April 11, 2014 in God's Word, Grace, Sin, The Church

 

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Who Am I to Judge?

How many times have you heard someone misquote scriptures, admonishing us not to judge? Usually these folks also misquote scriptures about loving one another. In their theology we are neither to hold each other accountable nor point out any shortcoming or behaviors that would hinder either the person or the church. We’re just to “love” — whatever that kind of “love” means.

I think one of the reasons the American Church is weak and ineffective is because we have bought into the secular worldview of “tolerance” to the point that commands to encourage one another in the faith are about as watered down as the trite, “I’ll lift you up in prayer” and the wimpy, “Hang in there.” So when a sister in the faith is caught up in sin, or a brother’s actions clearly do not honor or bring glory to God, we look the other way. And those new to the faith or just considering Christ see this and think, “Why should I ‘get saved’? I’m as good or better than they are!” If you can’t tell the difference between the people in the pews and the brothers in the bars, what’s the point of church?

The title “Christian” means “little Christs.” We are to strive to be like Jesus. We are “the called out ones.” We are “set apart.” We are strongly admonished not to love the world or the things in the world. We are God’s family. We are the “bride of Christ.” Now if I dress like a hooker, drink like a fish, swear like a longshoreman, or stab my friends in the backs, you have every right (as my Christian brother or sister) to take me aside and lovingly point out to me my shortcomings (and if I was behaving like that you might also question whether I was following Christ!). I have told my friends that I expect them to show me my blind spots. I think if they don’t, they must not love me very much. Hebrews 3 tells us, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

In order to point out someone else’s mistake you must make a judgment about it. How else can you know? You see the behavior, you compare it to what God’s word says, you make a judgement as to whether it lines up or not, and act or speak accordingly. If you use my bathroom and find porn under the sink, it’s not a stretch to discern a problem. Discernment is sound judgement. Then you need to speak the truth in love. (This is extends to discerning bad from good, from better, from best doctrine as well, but that’s another post for another time…)

In 1 Corinthians 2:14 we read that the spiritual person is to judge all things. We have the mind of Christ. This does NOT mean we make a value judgement on our brother or sister. We do not make a judgment on the “severity” of the sin. We do not judge the heart or the motives. Leave that to the only One who can. Who is to say one sin is worse than another? And why do we presume to classify certain temptations as worse than others? Why do we shun the gay guy but come along side the man struggling with a porn addiction?

In 1 Corinthians 5 we see that church strongly chastised for not grieving over sin practiced by someone in the their midst and were called to remove that person from their fellowship. And of course we all know Matthew 18 where Jesus tell us to show our brother his fault privately. If he doesn’t repent, take a couple of others, and so on. We also know Jesus told us we need to take the ‘log’ out of our own eye before we can help a brother with the ‘speck’ in his. How often do we do this? And how often do we avert our eyes, embarrassed and sad and grieved but unresponsive?

I think another reason for missing the boat in this area is our lack of authentic Christian community. I Corinthians 12 tells us that “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” We are called to bear one another’s burdens and often than burden is unrelenting temptation as in the case of those recovering from addictions or struggling with homosexuality. Doing life together is often messy. We don’t want to get messy with others. So we leave them to struggle alone, we look the other way, we don’t follow Christ’s commands.

We are one body. We are to suffer together, we are to rejoice together. We are to encourage one another and hold one another accountable. We can do none of this if we don’t know each other. Strong and deep community breeds honest relationships; brothers and sisters with log-less eyes helping each other with specks. Outside a few vibrant small groups, I think this is largely missing in the church today. Let’s prayerfully consider how we might cultivate an authentic, vibrant, discerning, sin-confessing, healing community of believers. I’d like that very much.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in God's Word, Obedience, Relationships, Sin, The Church

 

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Love and Wrath

I’ve been praying for many months for a deeper sense of God’s love. My motivation has been partly to get a glimpse at how He loves others so I can love others better, and partly to “feel better” about myself as I gain a greater understanding of His perfect redeeming love. (How’s that for selfish?)

This morning I was continuing to read in the book of James and in chapter four he writes:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

The last part of this passage really popped out at me and I began to ponder whether the harsh realization of how much God hates our sin, and the accompanying sorrow that signals true repentance, is the beginning of knowing God’s love. The text just before that urges us to draw close to God so God will draw close to us. There is initial and humble action on our part and perhaps that action of coming toward God includes the realization of and sorrow for our shortcomings.

Then I received a link to a new post on one of my favorite blogs which also discussed this subject. (Hmm… coincidence or “a God thing”?) In it, Tim Challies declares, “Were you to ask where in the Bible we see the clearest picture of God’s wrath, I would have to point to Jesus’ final hours, from the Garden of Gethsemane to his death on the cross. After all, what but the need for satisfaction of God’s wrath, could compel the Father to send his Son to such a horrible, painful, death?”  He goes on to point out that there is no sin or excuse for sin that God overlooks. He hates sin, even the littlest one, and every sin demands an accounting.

Have I misunderstood God’s love? In general, does the American Christian treat sin lightly or misinterpret God’s perfect love through our imperfect, changing, emotional, sentimental, untrustworthy love? Challies goes on to paraphrases Leon Morris: “When the Bible speaks of God’s love, it does not refer to a warm, fuzzy sentimentality, but a love that is so jealous for the good of the one who is loved that it blazes out in wrath against all evil. The writers of the New Testament had no concept of a love that did not react in the strongest fashion against all sin…. God is able to be both perfectly loving and wrathful. Unlike us, he is not given to outbursts of emotion or to irrationality. His wrath is as perfectly and completely manifested as his love.”

Only when I understand the desperation of my condition can I understand the love and wrath of God. Until I know my sin and God’s wrath against it, I cannot know love. Until I know love, I cannot know the Savior.

God loves me so much that my sin killed His Son. I am changing the way I pray.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Grace, Love, Prayer, Sin

 

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My Wicked Heart

This is one of my favorite “refresh” passages:

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
      and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
      with roots that reach deep into the water.
 Such trees are not bothered by the heat
      or worried by long months of drought.
 Their leaves stay green,
      and they never stop producing fruit.”

Did you know that is immediately followed by this?

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
      and desperately wicked.
      Who really knows how bad it is?
 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
      and examine secret motives.
   I give all people their due rewards,
      according to what their actions deserve.”

I posted the following comments a few years ago on Collect Yourself. I think it’s still true:

The more I study Christ, grow in my understanding of what it means to follow Him, look closely at those whose lives I would like to emulate, the more I become aware of my wicked heart.

Not that my heart is growing more wicked, I think it’s always been just about this degree of wicked. I think it is just that I am seeing into its depths more clearly, or perhaps more deeply. I am not really liking what I see. At all.

I know growing a relationship with Jesus is a process. And processes take time. And there are layers. Like onions. And sometimes smelly like onions, too. So just when I think I’ve gotten victory over one thing, here comes another. Or sometimes a deeper evaluation of the same thing. Groan.

I used to think this was God’s fault. And of course it is, but I mean I used to think He was doing this to show me how wicked I am, how unworthy, how depraved a heart I have. And of course “a good Christian girl” feels guilt. All the time. Right? So there I was going from glory-to-glory but feeling actually like going from guilt-to-deeper-guilt. Purification didn’t seem so pure. It seemed ugly. And I was a constant failure.

But now I think that it is simply God gently peeling away the rotten outer layers. Maybe carving off a bruised spot on the apple, chipping away the rust on the pot. So maybe it’s not painless, and maybe it’s not always fun, but I am starting to believe that it is what it is and I don’t need to feel any way about it at all, other than to know this is part of the process and, while on this earth, I can simply submit to the process, and let it be. I can extend grace to myself and not a guilt trip. I can trust in God’s love for me – that He does this to make me a better human being, more fit for His kingdom, more suited to carry out whatever it is He has for me to do here. I can turn off the voice, which is not His, that says I am a total screw-up.

I read this the other day, and I believe it’s true: “I will love God because He first loved me. I will obey God because I love God. But if I cannot accept God’s love, I cannot love Him in return, and I cannot obey Him. Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God’s love will. The ability to accept God’s unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return. Accepting God’s kindness and free love is something the devil does not want us to do. If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bridge that the groom does not love her. This is not the voice of God. God woos us with kindness, He changes our character with His love.” 1

Accepting God’s love and loving Him in return is the cure for the curse of the ever-present wicked heart.

And who wouldn’t a life lived like one of those lovely trees mentioned above?

1 From Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
 
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Posted by on February 22, 2011 in The Heart

 

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