Category Archives: Sin

The Charges Against You (Matthew 27, Mark 14)

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and couldn’t get back to sleep. After tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, I finally gave up, turned on the light, and finished a Christian fiction novel I had begun reading a couple days ago.

The main character, who had given her life to the Lord about three-quarters into the story, had been drugged and sabotaged by her conniving assistant. When the truth came out, the assistant, flanked by two police officers, stood before the main character. The guilty assistant was facing prison time for her crimes.

“Do you want to press charges?” one of the officers asked.

Then, because she realized how much God had forgiven her, the main character looked at her assistant and felt sorry for her. “No,’ she replied. “I won’t be pressing charges.”

Sounds very Christian.

Until you read the Scriptures I read this morning.

Sometimes we are led to believe that when we ask Jesus to forgive us, He simply erases the ledger. He doesn’t press charges. But that is not true. Those sins you confess don’t just go away. Each one comes with a death sentence, and saying, “My bad,” doesn’t make them disappear, no matter how sincere you are.

There is a price your sins and mine demand. It’s an awful, painful, serious price to pay. And a Holy, Just God demands payment.

Jesus paid.

He heard every lie, every insult. He felt every fist, every thorn, every lash, every nail. His blood poured out of His body like yours or mine would have flowed. He died a very painful death. His death was our death sentence.

Jesus didn’t go through all of that to simply let you off the hook. He endured that pain to pay for your sins and mine. Every sin. The debt ledger wasn’t erased. It was paid in full.

If you confess your sin you will be forgiven. But the charges against you have been made, and you have been found guilty. Accepting Jesus as your Savior means accepting the fact that He paid your death sentence. He took on Himself the punishment you deserve.

I pray you have received what Jesus died to give you, the forgiveness of your sin. But never think what He did was merely dropping the charges. It cost Him much more than that.

Complete Unity (John 14-17)

When Jesus prayed for those of us who believe on Him through the Apostles’ message, He asked the Father this:

May they be brought to complete unity, to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (17:23b)

I believe we need to hear His prayer today, to pray those words ourselves, and do what Jesus wants us to do. Our world, our nation is so divided. What about His Church?

Jesus wasn’t asking the Father to make Democrats get along with Republicans or Chinese get along with Americans. Jesus was praying for the Church, believers, we who call ourselves Christians.

What do Christians have in common? Jesus.

On what do Christians need to have complete unity? That Jesus is God, that He died for all and rose again to life so those who believe can live, that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one goes to the Father except through Him.

We Christians need to have complete unity over the fact that sin as described in Scripture is sin, punishable by death. We need to agree over God’s grace to repentant hearts through the blood of His Son.

The Church needs to demonstrate complete unity in our love for one another, not just people who vote like we do. Methodist believers loving Baptist believers loving Presbyterian believers loving Quaker believers loving Catholic believers, united by our love for Jesus, and our obedience to His Word.

The world is watching. Are they seeing complete unity among we who name the name of Jesus? If not, why not?

The Full Extent Of His Love (John 13)

I love what John said about Jesus in verse one of this chapter:

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

The full extent of His love.

Have you experienced that love for yourself? We read what that looked like in the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ last days on earth in a human body.

He shared that last supper with His disciples where He asked them (and us) to remember Him every time we eat the bread and drink the cup which together represent His suffering. He washed his disciples’ feet and told them (and us) to serve each other in the same way. He said words of comfort, knowing they (and we) would face hardships because of Him. He prayed for them (and us), and promised He would come back for them (and us).

Then we watch as He is arrested, beaten, lied about, ridiculed, tortured, and then nailed to a cross. He was betrayed and abandoned by people closest to Him. He died a painful death, when the truth is He went through all of it willingly. He could have stopped it. But His love wouldn’t let Him.

What is the extent of His love? Read John 13-21 and experience it for yourself. Jesus’ love of you caused Him to feel real pain, both physical and emotional. His love of you allowed those soldiers to beat Him mercilessly. His love of you let them drive those nails into His hands and feet. And finally, His love of you kept Him on the cross until your sin debt, the death penalty that is yours, was paid in full.

I would say the extent of God’s love for each of us is limitless. If you are a believer you understand what that means, and I imagine you are rejoicing in the privilege of experiencing that love for yourself. If you don’t know Him, I pray you will take the time to read these chapters today, knowing that everything in there was said and done for your benefit. Jesus did all of that for you.

Oh what wondrous love is this!

How Long Has It Been? (Matthew 26, Mark 14)

I believe Peter loved Jesus, that he was convinced Jesus was the Messiah. I believe Peter meant it from the depths of his soul when he said he’d rather die than ever deny Jesus. But as much as Peter loved Jesus and was determined to follow Him to the bitter end, Peter failed. He denied he even knew Jesus not once, but three times.

Then, when faced with his sin, Peter broke down and wept. Something tells me he didn’t just shed a few tears here. I think the word “wept” means the damn broke.

How long has it been since you were that broken over sin in your own life? You’re a believer. You committed your life to God, promised to love and obey Him – and you meant it.

But a temptation presents itself and you end up sinning anyway, in thought or deed. Oh, you probably whisper an apology, “Please forgive me, Jesus,” and you know He will. That’s the beauty of our Savior. He is gracious and merciful, and faithful to forgive.

But are we truly aware that our sin is a denial of Jesus every bit as much as what Peter did? Can we look Jesus in the eye and still believe our sin is no big deal just because we convince ourselves our sin is not as bad as some? We can read this portion of Scripture and point a finger at Peter. Can God be pointing a finger at us?

Your sin – and mine – is personal to Jesus who endured the agony of the cross to forgive it. Yes, that sin you are thinking about right now ought to drive you to your knees in uncontrolled grief. That sin that drove a nail into the precious hands of Jesus. That sin that denies your relationship with Jesus.

Just because we are assured that God forgives our sins shouldn’t blind us from the seriousness of them, or what it cost Jesus to even offer forgiveness. And every sin should grieve us for what we do to our Savior. It’s a slap in His face, a denial, a choice to place that sin above Him.

How long has it been since you wept over sin in your life? I’m asking myself the same thing, and I’m not thrilled with my answer.

Chosen Or Not? (Matthew 22)

Does God choose to save some people, and choose to not save others? Matthew 22:14 says that is clearly the case. Like it or not, God in His Sovereignty clearly accepts some people and not others.

BUT… do not take this verse and expect it to stand on its own. Read the first 13 verses of this chapter, too.

The invitation to the king’s banquet went out to everyone. Some people rejected it on their own. Others dropped what they were doing and accepted the invitation. But one who accepted the invitation was rejected by the king.

Why was this man rejected? Had he received the invitation by mistake? Was the invitation never meant to be extended to him because the king didn’t have him on the guest list? No! The man was rejected because he had come to the banquet on his own terms, not wearing the clothing provided by the king.

The man wasn’t rejected because the king didn’t want him there. The man was rejected because he himself had rejected the king’s provision.

Here’s God’s plan of salvation: Jesus died to pay the death penalty for every sinner who has ever lived. Forgiveness and eternity is extended to ANYONE who accepts it. Jesus died once AND FOR ALL. And God chooses to save anyone who comes to Him on His terms.

Also in God’s sovereign plan is the invitation. Scripture tells us God is drawing all men to Himself. He came to seek and to save that which was lost – and we are all lost because all have sinned. He continually reveals Himself to the world through nature and the Gospel so that no one has an excuse when on that day, every person will give an account for their response to God’s grace.

God doesn’t write anyone off until they stand before Him wearing their filthy rags instead of His own righteousness through the blood of Jesus. Many are called. But only the few who accept His invitation according to His demands are chosen.

That means you! If you have never gone to God on His terms, through His Son Jesus, by repenting of sin and accepting forgiveness through His blood, God has chosen to reject you. No one goes to the Father except through the Son. That’s God’s sovereign plan. He’s very clear about that.

But rest assured… if you come to Him today and accept what Jesus died to give you, you will stand before the King of kings wearing the proper attire, the righteousness of Jesus!

I’m praying for you.

A Moment of Weakness? Or Something Else. (John 12)

The next time you are tempted to think, or when you hear someone say Jesus, in His human form, exhibited human weakness when, in the garden He prayed to the Father to take “this cup” from Him, I want you to remember verses 27-28:

Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour?” No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!

There is no other Scripture that backs up the idea that Jesus experienced a moment of weakness there in the garden. There are verses, however, that tell us that Jesus was determined to go to the cross.

Isaiah 50:7 Because the Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. (this entire chapter speaks to the suffering Messiah. I’m not taking this verse out of context. The Messiah was determined to pay for your sins and mine, even knowing what He would have to endure to accomplish that.)

John 10:17-18 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. (Jesus never had to ask His Father to give Him permission to avoid the cross. Jesus had that authority given to Him from the start)

Luke tells us that Jesus, the night He would be arrested, was in anguish, sweating like drops of blood. Couldn’t it be that Satan was giving it his last best shot? Could it be that evil wanted Jesus dead before He could reach the cross? Could it be that “this cup” referred to that moment?

I believe that is so, because God answered His prayer at that moment. God sent an angel to strengthen Jesus there in the garden. Jesus asked for help to get to the cross, not for an excuse not to go. And God answered His prayer by sending an angel.

When Jesus prayed for Himself as recorded in John 17, He said:

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

He’s speaking as though the cross was a done deal. Not sure avoiding the cross at the last minute would have glorified the Father.

If you can show me other verses that speak to Jesus being anything but determined to go to the cross, please share them. But if you can’t, understand that you insult my Savior when you tell me He had even a moment of weakness, that He, minutes before completing His own plan to save you and me, got cold feet.

I can tell you without hesitation that Jesus, from the very beginning, planned and was determined to go to the cross to save you. There in the garden He was 100% human and 100% God. His godship was not diminished or overpowered by His humanity. (again, if I am wrong according to Scripture, please point me to those verses).

Let me ask you, why do you want to hold on to believing Jesus was pleading with His Father to get out of going to the cross? Why do you want to believe that He reluctantly said, “But I’ll do what You want, even if it’s not my will?” Why not rather believe that prayer was, “If you want me to die here in the garden, Dad, I’ll understand. I’d rather complete the mission and go to the cross. It’s up to you. Not my will, but your’s be done.”

When I think that God, Holy, Holy, Holy, all-powerful, the King of kings and Lord of lords wanted to die for someone like me, I can only fall to my face. When Scripture tells me He could have backed out at any time, that He could have just beamed Himself back to heaven, but chose to go through that anguish for me, how can I not love Him?

Believe Jesus was praying for a way out of going to cross if you want. I just happen to believe you are missing a precious truth if you do.

What Do I Still Lack? (Mathew 19, Mark 10)

The rich man had followed all the laws since his youth. He knew how to do church, and he did it. But he went to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to have eternal life anyway.

What do I still lack? (Matthew 19:20)

He must have had a sense that merely following rules, going to church, offering sacrifices, going through the motions wasn’t enough. So in response to the young man’s question, Jesus pointed him to the problem:

His heart.

His heart had been given to wealth. Money was his god. And, sadly, the young man couldn’t let go if it at that moment. He actually walked away from Jesus.

What has your heart? It could be money like the young man we read about today. It could be a relationship, or anger, or hurt, or pride, or even yourself.

I pray that you will let God put a finger on exactly what it is you need to deal with today. Are you ready to let go of it and follow Jesus from your heart? I’m asking the same of me.

Choosing God (Luke 15)

Our God-given ability to choose is a funny thing. For most of us, it’s hard to marry human choice with the Sovereignty of God. And today, I’m not even going to try.

But there is something about our ability to make decisions for ourselves that has me looking at our Sovereign God with adoration as I read the three parables in chapter 15. Hear me out.

We make choices every day that effect our relationship with God; a thought we choose to entertain rather than putting aside, a little white lie we tell to cover ourselves, listening to gossip or being the gossip even when we disguise it as concern or by asking for prayer, an unforgiving heart, whether to speak up for the truth or stay silent. Many seemingly meaningless decisions we make every day impact our relationship with a Holy God.

It’s not just the “big” choice of choosing God or rejecting Him outright, although that is certainly a huge part of it. We make choices all the time and none of them are insignificant.

The three parables we read today has me thinking. One lamb among hundreds, or one coin among 10 doesn’t seem that big of a deal. But look at how the keepers of those things reacted when something so small was lost. They dropped everything and actively pursued that which was lost.

Look at the father in the parable of the prodigal son. That dad had been searching the horizon for his son. Scripture doesn’t say but, considering what we see in the other two parables, I have to believe that lost boy’s father searched the horizon every day the boy was gone, ready and eager to welcome him home.

Have you ever watched a baby take his first wobbly steps? Very often one parent will stand behind the child, bent over, both hands on either side of that precious one, ready and eager to catch him when he falls. The baby moves to the left, the parent moves with him. He moves to the right and teeters, the parent adjusts her hands to provide that extra safety.

I’ve seen a parent scoop up his child in his arms, with pride and excitement, when his wobbly baby falls to the ground after taking a few steps. I’ve watched the joy and love given and received between parent and child when that happens. That’s the picture that came to me today as I considered our Heavenly Father and the independence He has given us.

God wants us to grow to maturity, to step out, to make decisions for our good and His glory. And, because He has allowed us to do so (or not) He stands at the ready to catch us, to find us when we get lost. He is there to scoop us up into His arms, to rejoice with the angels when we come back to Him.

I think I love Him more today than I did yesterday as I get another glimpse of how much He loves me. My Heavenly Daddy has my back, has His arms stretched out to catch me when I fall. And I do fall.

I don’t always make choices that honor Him. The prodigal son certainly didn’t make choices that honored His dad, either. But the boy made a choice. The dad let him go. But that dad never gave up and was there to welcome the lost boy once again into His embrace, when the boy chose to come home.

I praise God for His unending love that is expressed to me in many ways I don’t even consider half the time. I am that lost lamb, that silver coin, that parodical son. The choices I make to step away from Him are never met with indifference. God remains right here, working behind the scene, steadying me, looking out for me, and rejoicing when I choose to fall into His arms in surrender and faith.

I have the ability to choose God with all that entails: forgiveness, eternity, blessings, and obedience, surrender, humility. I have the ability to choose to reject or ignore Him with all that entails: pride, unforgiveness, missing out on the blessings, judgment.

But in either case, while we have breath, God is going to pursue us, to look for us to come to Him, to do everything possible including die for us, to give us every opportunity to be found by Him, and rejoice when we choose Him.

I choose God. I pray you choose Him, too.

Does Hell Exist? (Luke 12-13)

I don’t believe Jesus ever wasted a word. I think everything he said was carefully chosen because He knew His time on earth was short, and He had a lot to say. So, when Jesus spoke about hell, I am pretty sure he was serious.

But I will show you whom you should fear; Fear him who, after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5)

What does “throw you into hell” mean except “throw you into hell.” Yes, I know Jesus often spoke in parables. This was not one of them.

People who want to believe no such place exists would be wrong to believe that. No, it’s not some underground cave with a hot furnace burning, people chained to a wall and suffering from scorched skin. Hell is much worse than that.

Jesus in verse 13:28 tells us:

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

Hell is not only the absence of God, it is the presence of agony, regret, hopelessness, aloneness, a burning desire that will never be met, despair, darkness more complete than you have ever known.

Think of the worst day of your life. What were you feeling? How badly did your heart hurt? How consuming was your grief? How heavy was your burden? How long did you weep uncontrollably before you were able to dry your eyes?

If you had to live that day over again every day for eternity, that would be bad enough. Add the absence of God to that. Add the realization that things will never get better, you will never get through this, that there is no light at the end of any tunnel, that you will never be able to stop weeping from the depths of your soul. Add to that the realization that God had revealed Himself to you over and over in this lifetime, that He died for you, that He created you to be with Him instead of in hell, but you rejected Him. You rejected Him, not the other way around. Add to your agony the fact that you did this to yourself, you chose this, and now it’s too late. There is no way out. Ever.

Hell is real. You might not like that idea. But Jesus said there is a place where people who reject God are thrown. If I were you I’d take His advice: fear the One who has the power to condemn you to an eternity in that very real, very awful place Jesus called hell. Fear Him, and accept this grace and mercy while you have the ability to choose. As real as hell is, Jesus went to the cross so no one has to go there. But you must choose the narrow door (13:22-28).

For those of you who understand this truth and have accepted God’s forgiveness, you are assured that your eternity will be the feast Jesus talks about in this passage. As awful as hell is, heaven will be the total opposite. But don’t be satisfied with the fact that you are home free because you are a Christian. Look around. There are people headed straight to hell. What are you doing about that?

Because hell is real.

Forgive? But… (Matthew 18)

When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6), He told them to ask for the ability to forgive as they had been forgiven. What does that even mean?

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. The master called the servant “wicked” and threw him into debtors prison even though he’d already forgiven the servant’s debt. Why?

Because, after having been forgiven an enormous debt, the servant turned around and refused to forgive a fellow servant who owed him a few bucks. The wicked servant had had a debt of millions of dollars forgiven! Then he refused to forgive someone who owed him a few dollars.

We who are believers in Jesus have had our enormous debt forgiven. Our sins demanded a price we could not pay without dying for them. We had no resources from which to draw, no hope of ever being able to pay our sin debt in this lifetime. Yet because we accepted God’s grace through Jesus, our outstanding balance reads ZERO!

Now we are told to offer the same mercy to others. Not as easy as it sounds sometimes.

Forgiving like we are forgiven doesn’t happen if we still hold a grudge. The old. “I can forgive, but I’ll never forget,” is just another way of saying, “I will never forgive you,” if we are really honest. If we are to forgive like we’ve been forgiven we must throw those memories, those things we claim to forgive into the ocean, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and remember them no more.

That’s what God did for us. That’s what we are to do for each other. Jesus, in verse 35, says we are to forgive each other “from your heart.”

Has someone wronged you? Is what they did so awful, so unthinkable you believe you will never get over it? Do they deserve to be forgiven? You hear people tell you you need to forgive them, but you automatically think, “But…”

I am very glad God didn’t forgive only some of my sins, like lying to my fifth grade teacher, or not returning extra change at the grocery, or being jealous of someone, but couldn’t bring Himself to forgive the awful, unthinkable sins I’ve committed against Him. When I asked Him to forgive me, HE DID. 100%. And He isn’t holding a grudge, either.

And that’s what He is telling me I need to be doing toward anyone who has wronged me, no matter how small or how big the transgression. Forgive from my heart. And there’s more:

In verse 35 Jesus warns that if we don’t forgive like we’ve been forgiven, there will be severe consequences. The master in the parable threw the unforgiving servant into prison until he could pay the once-forgiven, multi-million dollar debt himself.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

So the next time you know you need to forgive someone and think, “But…” think again. Giving forgiveness from your heart doesn’t just benefit you, it is obedience.

No ifs, ands, or buts about it.