Sin and Forgiveness

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE

As blogger Trent Hunter points out “we are supposed to run from things that can kill us – active volcanoes, oncoming traffic, and snakes come to mind.”

Yet, we can allow behaviors and thoughts into our life that are death to us in a far more serious way then being incinerated by a rushing lava flow.

Read this article by Trent in which he reminds us of serious dangers AND gives advice on how to have an exit strategy, or as he describes it – how to F.L.E.E.

 

FREE TO BE A SLAVE

A Slave-Pen at New Orleans Before the Auction

In reading “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke, I came across this compelling story:

A wealthy Englishman went to California in the 1850s to enrich himself during the gold rush.  After much success, he left to go back to England.  He stopped at New Orleans on the way home, and, as all tourists did at that time, visited the infamous slave trading block. 

As he approached the place where people were sold for cash, he saw a beautiful, young, African woman standing on the block.  He overheard two men who were trying to outbid each other for the woman, talking about what they would do to her if they could buy her.  To their surprise, the Englishman joined in the bidding by offering twice the price.

The auctioneer was astonished. “No one has ever offered this much for a slave,” he said.

After purchasing her, the Englishman stepped forward to get her.  When he helped her down to his level, she spat I his face.  He wiped away the spit and led her to a building in another part of town.  There she watched uncomprehendingly as he filled out forms.  To her astonishment, he handed her some manumission papers and said, “There, now you are a free woman.”  She spat in his face again.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, as he wiped her spit away again.  “You are free!  You are free!” 

She stared at him in disbelief a long while.  Then she fell at his feet and wept – and wept some more.  Finally, she looked up and asked, “Sir, is it really true that you paid more than anyone has ever paid to purchase me as a slave, only to set me free?”

“Yes,” he said, calmly.

She wept some more.  Finally, she spoke: “Sir, I have only one request.  Can I be your slave forever?”

This encounter is meant to illustrate what Christ has done for us, and –don’t miss it– what our response should be to his generous grace!

Christian, you know your own story of unexpected liberation from slavery and condemnation. Are you as willing to make yourself a slave of Christ?

There are believers who occasionally say they are thankful, and there are believers who daily demonstrate they are thankful. Which best defines you?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.03.17

Is our thinking shaped by Christ?

 

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

 

Paul corrects their misuse of freedoms

1. Paul is probably quoting their words of defense in vs 12-13 

They were using their freedom from OT dietary law as cover for temple feasts involving prostitutes

v13 implies they were also pointing out that since the body dies, how it is used is unimportant

2. Paul corrects the starting place of their defense

Yes, we have freedoms in Christ, but our rights are never our starting place

God, and how we honor him is always our starting place (v12 what is “helpful”)

When we begin with our freedoms, they will “dominate” us (this includes activities we use for escape)

Whatever doesn’t place God in his rightful place, is trying to take that place

 3. Paul then corrects their view of our physical body

It’s true this body is corrupt and will pass away; but that is only half the story

v14 God raised Jesus’ body and He will raise ours!  God values this body He created

Great Commandment living calls for God to be first in all that we are – all the time

 

Paul brings in the implications of our union with Christ (vs15-20)

He gives 3 you-should-know statements flowing out of our union with Christ

God is always our starting place in life, and Jesus is our starting place with God

 1. You should know that you have been joined to Christ (v15)

This is why the gospel is so powerful and our confidence in it is so great

If you’re a member (part) of Christ, think how obscene it is to take part of Christ into sin

When God is not our starting place, we minimize the great truths we have in the gospel

2. You should know that sex has a covenant purpose (vs16-17)

The world doesn’t start with God, so sex and its implications are only viewed physically. God gave sex to build a unique oneness in marriage. Its effects are more than physical

Just as we become one flesh in marriage, we are now one spirit with the Lord. This makes sexual immorality especially corrupting to us. It abuses what has a spiritual purpose

3. You should know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (vs19-20)

When you engage in sin, you take the Holy Spirit with you

When God is not our starting place, we think that our sin is a personal issue. God says no! 

v19 “you are not your own” – you are responsible for you, but you are not in charge of you

v20 you were bought with a price” – God became flesh, died, and took the wrath we deserved, our debt is great

 

What can we learn from the attitudes in this passage that seem culturally foreign to us?

1. Cultures change, but their foundational motivations don’t

Every culture exalts itself, rather than God; only the church is cross-centered

Keep in mind chapters 1-2, the world’s view of wisdom is upside down

All thinking, attitudes and opinions, no matter how culturally common, must be sifted by Scripture

2. Any defense of sin requires foolish self-deception

We can easily look with distain on the Corinthian’s behavior and defenses

Yet, every sin in your life is just as indefensible (this includes sins of omission)

Every argument you use to minimize your sin is contorted and foolish

3. Paul gives us two unchanging actions of godliness

#1  v19“Flee sexual immorality” (and any other form of sin)

Recognize that sin is dangerous . . we must go in the opposite direction . . with urgency!

#2  v20 “Glorify God in your body”

We don’t “flee” aimlessly!   We have a direction and it’s toward the person of Christ!

To glorify not a vague idea, it’s specific actions of making God far above all

This includes glorifying him “in our body”. So let’s “do” what shows God that he is far above all!

HATE WITH A CAPITAL H

I was working diligently in my Starbucks office, when I overheard parts of a conversation between two women. Apparently one of the women is an interior designer and they were choosing finishes for the other woman’s home.

My interest in what they had to say was rather low, but this snippet of the conversation did stick in my mind:

“Don’t you hate those knobs?

“Oh, I hate ’em, I hate ’em”!

I didn’t see the offending knob in question, so it may have been absolutely hideous. Although I am not sure what capacity for hideousness any knob has.

Their use of the word “hate” was both casual and intense. Neither women wanted that knob anywhere in their line of sight. But how deeply can anyone actually hate a knob?

Many of us use the word “hate” more than we realize. It pops out of our mouth when we have a tiny bit of intensity in our dislikes. Personally, I like the sound of the word “loathe”; as in I loathe coffee served in Styrofoam cups and any show on Bravo with the exception of Top Chef.

Although we over use and misuse the word hate, it does have its place in our vocabulary.

We should all loath and hate sin!

Sin hates God

Sin corrupts what God made good

Sin brings death

For these reasons and more, God hates sin and so should we.

The Bible gives us these admonitions about sin:

Hate evil, and love good.  (Amos 5:15)

O you who love the Lord, hate evil!  (Psalm 97:10)

Do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”  (Zechariah 8:17)

It is easy to hate some sins, for they are clearly destructive and perverse. Other sins appear moderate to us and we don’t readily hate them. At least not as much as we hate ugly knobs.

In Romans 1:29-31, Paul describes people of “debased” behavior and he lumps together sins we easily hate, along with sins we barely notice:

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Now if we already have a dislike for someone, it doesn’t take much convincing to hate their sins in every form and at every occurrence. In fact we become so exuberant in our hatred, that we hate the person along with the sin.

While we are to hate all sin, as we have probably already heard, we are to have hated of sin while still finding love for the sinner.

There is one more important component to acquiring a proper hatred of sin. Make sure we hate our own sin most of all. Learn to despise with all the animosity we can muster, the sin that tries to find a resting place in our lives!

 

GETTING THE JOB DONE

Jason is an 8-year-old boy coming home sweaty and filthy after a day playing outside. His mom asks him to clean up for dinner.

Jason obediently goes to the sink to wash up in order to be presentable for the dinner table. His mom calls from the kitchen, “Jason, are you cleaning up?” To which he cheerfully answers “Yeah”, and proceeds to take his seat at the table confident that he has fulfilled what his mother asked.

But what do you think are the odds that Jason arrived at the table truly clean?

It’s not that Jason was trying to be disobedient. In his 8-year-old perspective he had done a fine enough job. But his idea of clean is different than his mom’s, and his attention to detail is incomplete.

When it comes to cleansing ourselves from sin, we are like Jason and every other 8-year-old boy!

We ignore parts, miss parts, and then scrub some spots sore, but in the end we are still grungy.

How wonderful that God has stepped in to take over the job of making us clean! He carefully cleanses our soul with a thoroughness that leaves us eternally spotless!

 “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)

God knows we are incapable of making ourselves clean to his standards, so he sent his Son to step into our place to take the punishment our sin deserves and at the same time wash us of the filth that had stubbornly clung to us.

If you are trying to make yourself presentable to God, it is not only an impossible task, it is also a task already accomplished by Christ when we repent and submit our lives to him.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

As Christians, it’s essential that we keep ourselves from any sin that pursues us; and that we quickly brush off every sin that splatters us. But take joy in the wondrous reality that Christ has made our soul clean and that is how our God sees us.

If we only look at the job we do in cleansing ourselves, discouragement will quickly overshadow our hearts.

Instead keep your eyes on the job that Christ has done to cleanse you. And in faith rejoice, for the day is coming when we will sit at our Heavenly Father’s banquet table flawlessly, spotlessly, and forever clean!

 

IS THERE CLARITY FOR THE FREE WILL DEBATE?

The issue of whether people have a ‘free will’ has been hotly debated for centuries. It is a debate that will likely continue until Jesus comes.

In my view, much of the distance between believers on this issue is that we have somewhat different definitions in mind about the terms we throw at one another. Once terms are better clarified, there still may be disagreement, but the difference is not as dramatic as we once imagined.

We may even grow to have new appreciation for each others perspective. This is true on virtually all debatable issues within historic Christianity.

I don’t think it is particularly clear or accurate to throw out absolute statements such as, “Yes, we all have a free will” or, “No one has a free will”.

I think Scripture gives us a clear, but more nuanced understanding.

We can certainly say; people choose to act as they do and are fully responsible for their actions. Romans 1:18-32 describes the responsibility people have in “suppressing the truth” and “exchanging” the glory of God for their own wisdom.

Yet, in this same epistle, Paul says the mind set on the flesh “cannot” submit to God (8:7). In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul says that the natural mind is “not able to understand” spiritual truth. Ephesians 2 describes all unbelievers as spiritually “dead”. This language is meant to convey our inability to choose to live godly.

So, do unbelievers have freedom of will?

The answer is yes, but only within their nature. A spiritually dead nature will not and cannot choose godliness until the Holy Spirit awakens their soul to want God.

My favorite illustration is that of the lion and the antelope.

Although the lion and the antelope share the same habitat, the lion eats meat and the antelope eats grass. Neither will ever change their eating habits, because it is not in their nature.

In fact, the lion will starve to death before it eats grass, even though the antelope happily munches on the vegetation surrounding them both.

Lions are free to eat what they want, but their choices are limited by their nature. So it is with the unregenerate person. They are free to act as they want, but they will only choose within their nature.

In the end, all Christians agree that we need the intervention of the Holy Spirit if we are to become a Christ-follower.

This is evident in the way all Christians pray regardless of their position on freedom of will. We ask God to convict and work in the hearts of those who need to receive Christ.

God doesn’t force anyone to believe, but when the Holy Spirit enlivens the soul to truly see and know the glorious Christ, we cannot get to him fast enough!

If you are interested in thinking through this issue a little further, John Piper has this helpful article on the desiringGod website.

 

WHAT HAPPENS TO OLD SINS?

What do we do with old sins?

Learn from them?

Try to minimize them?

Beat ourselves with them?

Worry over them?

Ignore them?

Live in regret from them?

The Bible tells us our response to sin, which is to repent and then move forward from them, leaving our sins behind.

But there is an even bigger question.

What does God do with our old sins?!

Tim Challies gives us this wonderfully biblical and encouraging view of what God does with the sins of his people!

What we will not find on this list is that God,

Reminds us of them

Holds them over our head

Pulls away from us because of them

 We should have God’s view of sin, when it appears in our life.

And, we should have God’s view of sin, when it has been washed away!

WHEN A FELLOW CHRISTIAN IS WRONG

Do you have negative thoughts about another believer?

Perhaps they have treated you poorly, or maybe you disagree with something they believe, or with the way they live.

Let’s assume you have a correct perspective about their faults; they should make changes and they should act differently.

You are just in your assessment of what they are lacking.

However there is something more to this picture that should enter into our heart.

Does your perspective toward that believer include consideration of God’s heart toward them?

No one knows the reality of that person better than God. He sees what you see, plus every other word, action and motivation of their heart. In other words, God sees the absolute worst that is in them, because He sees it all and His standards are perfectly pure.

And yet, God not only saved that person, He chose them – He not only accomplished their salvation, He initiated their salvation.

They are never outside of God’s gracious thoughts.

The blood of Jesus that covered your sin, also covers their sin

The burdensome cry of Jesus on the cross included the weight of their guilt, as well as yours

God holds them along with you in His hand and has given them the same promise, to never leave or forsake them

He loves you both with the same love that He has for His Son

The same Holy Spirit lives in both of you forever

Neither of you will ever be apart from God’s eternal grace

God’s commitment to finish His work of sanctification rests on both of your lives

You will both flourish forever in the glorious kingdom of Christ

The fellow believer that is a burr in your heart, is a precious child in God’s heart.

What do you think of that?

From this point on, how will this knowledge affect your attitude toward them and your words about them?

R

WHERE DO YOU STAND?

Morality

Have you ever found yourself disturbed over the casual way in which sexual behavior outside of marriage has been presented in our culture?

No one enjoys being disturbed, but it’s worse if we are undisturbed by a degraded culture.

Not too long ago the world at least understood the Church’s concern about sex outside of marriage. Now the world will not even agree on the definition of what is a marriage!

Those who love God have good reason for voicing their concern. A constant stream of immorality deadens the senses to God’s standards. What the Bible calls immorality is so common that even the biblically literate can fall into a mindset that thinks “biblical standards should not be that inflexible”.

But the situation has become even worse than desensitized understanding toward sexuality and godly purity. Today, there are many in the church who RESENT reminders of Biblical standards.

We need to ask ourselves some pointed questions:

Are we willingly to believe that God’s Word is no longer smart enough for our generation – and that the culture we see around us is wiser than God?

Are we willing to say that we no longer need the grace of God’s Word being spoken into our lives by fellow believers – especially when we have veered off of the Bible’s good and protective path?

Barton Gingrich has written an article for the Gospel Coalition that addresses the problem of minimizing biblical standards by many of this generation’s self-proclaimed biblical Christians. He writes,

“Young evangelicals must choose their master. Right now, too many follow their appetites and desires.”

Who have you chosen to be Master of your life? Whose word do you trust? And almost as important, of whose word will you be skeptical?

Reading Barton’s full article may be a help to you in considering these questions about today’s perspective of sexual morality.

R

9 STEPS TO ELIMINATE FROM YOUR LIFE

Blogger Tim Challies wrote this article last month:

“How to Backslide in 9 Easy Steps”

You are probably thinking, “It doesn’t take me 9 steps to backslide.”

That is true, but not the point of Tim was making.

Challies is not saying it takes 9 steps to drift away from godliness, and he certainly isn’t giving us any pointers to do what we know well.

The purpose and benefit in reading these 9 Steps is to remind ourselves of the early steps which end up leading us away from God whom we truly do love.

The inspiration for these 9 steps comes out of the classic book by John Bunyan, “Pilgrim’s Progress”.

If reading Challies’ article eliminates even one of these steps from your life – that is a benefit worth grabbing! Learning from these 9 warnings will protect our heart, give joy to our Lord and spare us needless regret.