Tag Archives: consequences for sin

(Judges 14-16) Struggles With Sin

Samson led a violent, self-centered life. Even though he had been a Nazarite from birth, his actions were far from godly. Yet God blessed this man with superhuman strength. God used Samson to punish the Philistines for their rejection of Him. Samson ended up dying with the enemy.

So, where is he today? Heaven or hell? I wonder the same thing about Ravi. Can a person who does great things in the name of God, yet live an overtly sinful life, hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when they face a Holy God? Or do they hear God say, “I never knew you?”

I ask myself the same question about all of us who profess Jesus as our Savior, yet struggle with sin. Does one unconfessed sin get a free pass when we face our Judge? What about two sins not confessed? Ten? What is the limit if we die before confessing every evil thought, every vulgar word, every act of disobedience?

I think of Paul, who admittedly struggled with sin (Romans 7), yet was mightily used by God and continues to be used by God 2,000 years later. Paul called himself the worst of sinners, a wretched man, and confessed that he had to “die daily” to self. Paul was not one and done in his walk with the Lord. He committed himself to the Lord every day.

We can’t NOT be human. Humans have a sin nature. So there will always be a struggle between the spirit and the flesh. Scripture goes so far as to tell us if we think we don’t sin, we make God out to be a liar. (I John 1:10).

The struggle is real. But so is the victory over sin. Paul talks a lot about our focus, our goal. If we fix our eyes on Jesus, if we draw near to God, if we flee temptation, “God has delivered us and will continue to deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:10) The closer I am to God, the faster I am convicted about sin, and the quicker I am to repent of it. It is a daily struggle, sometimes a minute to minute struggle. But, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:25).

I guess I’m understanding that if a person can live in sin, can hold on to a sin and refuse to repent of it, I have to question their relationship with God. A Holy God cannot have communion with unholiness. A person comfortable with sin cannot have a real relationship with God, neither in this life nor the next.

So, the answer to my question about how many sins get a free pass, the answer is zero. But because I in myself am incapable of living a sin-free life, I need to look to Jesus. I need to check my relationship with Him every day, confess any sin immediately, and put on His righteousness since I have none of my own. I cannot be comfortable entertaining sin in my life and expect to have a right relationship with my Holy God. It can’t happen.

I don’t know what Samson, or Ravi, or anyone else said to God before they died. I believe if they confessed their sin, God was faithful and just to forgive them, to cleanse them, and to ultimately welcome them into His Presence forever. If they died holding onto their sin, I believe they will have taken those sins with them into hell.

I pray that as you and I struggle with sin today, we will look to Jesus for the victory, that we will confess quickly and sincerely repent so that sin is not repeated. I pray that none of us will become comfortable in any sin, whether in thought or word or deed. And I pray that those around us will recognize the righteousness of Jesus we wear, humbly, thankfully, boldly.

(Deuteronomy 29-30) Exempt?

We’ve got a problem. Too many of us live like we believe that if we identify as Christians, if we prayed the prayer and confessed our sins, if we read our Bibles and are good people, we are somehow exempt from the consequences of sin. We believe our sins are “under the blood,” so that sin we commit has already been dealt with. But I wonder.

Too many of us are comfortable with sin in our lives, and in our churches. Listen to what God says through Moses about this in 29:19a:

When someone hears the words of this oath, he may consider himself exempt, thinking, “I will have peace even though I follow my own stubborn heart.”

Is reading God’s Word or hearing a sermon that golden ticket to exemption? Read on:

This will lead to the destruction of the well-watered land as well as the dry land. The Lord will not be willing to forgive him. Instead his anger and jealousy will burn against that person, and every curse written in this scroll will descend on him. The Lord will blot out his name under heaven, and single him out for harm… (19b-21a)

If you are a Christian the bar set for obedience isn’t lowered. In fact, God requires more of us. Didn’t Jesus tell us we commit murder if we hate, we commit adultery if we lust?

Dear one, we are not exempt. I hope you’ll read 30:11-20. God hasn’t hidden what he demands. We are blessed when we obey and cursed when we disobey.

…love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to him. For He is your life… (30:20a)

We must remain faithful. That means confessing every sin, praying God will create clean hearts in us and renew steadfast spirits in us. It means dying daily, fleeing temptation, and surrendering our stubborn hearts at the earliest sign of rebellion.

God, through Moses, tells us He has put it all out there. He has told us and shown us life and death, blessing and curse. Then He tells us to choose life.

That’s my prayer for all of us today.

A Sign (Ezekiel 12)

The heading my NIV has given chapter 12 is “The Exile Symbolized.” God told Ezekiel to pack a travel bag during the daytime, and in front of the people, as though he was packing for exile. In the evening, again in front of the people, he was to dig a hole in the city wall with his bare hands, then take his travel bag and crawl through the hole to the other side.

Next, he was to strap his travel bag over his shoulder at dusk, and put a blindfold on so he couldn’t see. When asked by the people what he was doing, he was to answer, “I am a sign to you.”

The object lesson was not done. God told Ezekiel to “tremble” as he ate, to “shudder in fear” as he drank water, and warn the people they were going to live in fear and anxiety. “Then,” he said speaking God’s words, “you will know that I am the Lord.” (vs20b)

Makes me wonder what kind of “sign” I am to the people around me. The people watched Ezekiel, and people are watching me. Ezekiel’s actions revealed a God who judges sin, a God who demands obedience and harshly punishes disobedience. Is that the message people get from my life?

Or do they see a God who laughs at sin, a God who is more interested in my bank account and my physical comfort than my spiritual health and eternal soul? Does my life seem to draw a picture of a God who is comfortable on a shelf, or worse, irrelevant, outdated, and invisible? I pray that they recognize a God who is active in my life, directing my life, blessing me and growing me.

God was demonstrating through Ezekiel that there is a limit to His patience, that judgment follows disobedience, and the consequences for rejecting God are serious. I think He wants to demonstrate the same through me. Because if people don’t come to Him through His Son, their consequences are going to be worse than exile in Babylon for a few years.

I not only want people to recognize that God is serious about sin when they observe my life, I want them to see that God is merciful, forgiving, gracious, and good. I want them to see that following God is so much better than navigating this life without Him. I want them to look at me and want what I have in my relationship with Him.

God gave a sign to the Israelites through Ezekiel that warned them about their upcoming exile due to their rejection of God. I pray God will use me as a sign to people to warn them about what lies ahead as a result of their choices, too. But I pray He will give me the privilege of being an object lesson about what “saved by grace” looks like in real time.

May Jesus be seen in me, and may people be drawn to the Savior as a result.

Don’t Walk. Run! (Proverbs 7-9)

What is the temptation that, for you, is the hardest to resist? Greed? Lying? Gluttony? Pride? or something else? Solomon is using the picture of adultery to describe the seriousness of giving into the temptation Satan would use to entice you away from holiness.

The woman in 7:10 is loud and defiant and has no shame. She promises the young man that she has fancied up her bed with beautiful blankets and perfume. (She’s obviously not going to tempt him with the truth that her bedding has seen plenty of action and the perfume is an attempt to cover up the stench of sins committed there)

The truth is, you can dress sin up, douse it in sweet smelling rationalization or denial, but it’s still ugly, messy, dangerous SIN  that would reduce you to the level of an ox going to slaughter, a deer in a noose, a bird in a snare.

Gotcha!

Solomon tells us the woman’s house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chamber of death (7:27). Whatever pleasure she promises comes with horrible consequences she has no intention of discussing.

So, what is the temptation that’s hardest for you to resist? See it for what it is. It is not innocent, not insignificant, it’s not harmless even if you convince yourself at least it’s not on the level of murder. Behind the temptation is a lion seeking to devour you. Do you understand that? Satan is not playing.

Walk away. No! Run away! Your life depends on it.

 

Slow To Learn (I Chronicles 3-5)

In one place we see God’s people defeat their enemy “because they cried out to Him during the battle. He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him.” (5:20)

Yet a few verses later, we see those same people unfaithful to God, worshiping idols, and living in harmony with the very people God had defeated earlier. Why would God bother to answer their prayer during the battle when He knew it wouldn’t be long before they turned from Him, and joined the enemy?

Because that is who He is! God is faithful to answer the prayers of a repentant heart every time.

We read that the Jews will pay a price for choosing sin. But what speaks to me is God’s faithfulness to His children. To me.

The truth is, God always blesses me, always defeats my enemy, always draws near to me when I trust Him and am obedient to His Word. It’s at those times when I choose sin, even in the privacy of my heart, that God removes His blessings, and I must face the consequences.

I can shake my head at the rollercoaster ride the Jews lived in the Old Testament, and wonder how they could trust God one minute, and blatantly sin the next. But God is reminding me today that they aren’t the only ones slow to learn.

October 10; Pigs and Demons

Mark 4:30-5:20; Matthew 13:24-52, 8:23-34; Luke 13:18-21, 8:22-39

A friend of mine visited my church on the Sunday my pastor spoke on this passage in Mark. She was not raised in a church that encouraged the reading of Scripture, so this was the first time she’d ever heard about the demon-possessed Gadarene and the herd of pigs. The whole thing really shook her.

Myself, I have heard and read this account of Jesus’ ministry many times and had become de-sensitized to the horror of it. My friend had me looking at this passage through new eyes. I’m grateful for that.

I’ve only seen the movie “Poltergeist” once. But after that experience, I remember jumping into my bed from the middle of the room – for much longer than I care to admit. I was an adult. It was a movie. I knew it wasn’t real. But it scared the living daylights out of me.

What we read in the Gospels about this demon-possessed man isn’t make believe. I can only imagine the people who witnessed it must have been scared out of their minds.

Think of it. Legions of demons pouring out of a man. What did that look like? I can’t imagine it was gentle, or calm. Think of seeing those demons racing toward a herd of pigs, and the pigs going mad. Mad enough to run off the cliff into the sea. Hollywood has nothing on God! No wonder the people wanted Jesus to leave them. That had to be one frightening experience.

That got me thinking. I’ve always felt a little sorry for the pig owners. They lost their livelihood when they lost that herd in such a violent fashion. I’ve wondered why God would do that to people who were just trying to make a living.

I looked on a map, and read what Matthew Henry had to say about it, and was shocked to realize the area of the Gadarenes was right in the middle of the Promised Land. The sea in this account is the Sea of Galilee. Those were most likely Jewish pig owners.

Now all of a sudden I don’t feel quite as bad for them. God had declared all-things-pig to be unclean for His people. There should never have been a herd of swine anywhere near there. That herd was a symbol of a great sin that was being lived in the area of the Gadarenes. When those pigs went mad, God was disciplining sin.

I’ve always read this account and been in awe of Jesus’ command over evil, and of His healing power. Today I am face to face with His fierce judgment.

As a child of God, I need to understand that God will not tolerate sin in my life. And if I don’t deal with it, He will. Sometimes those consequences are very devastating and very public. I can understand why the people wanted Jesus out of there. He’d revealed their sin in a very devastating and public way.

I’m very sure this wasn’t the first time God had spoken to them about their sin. I am very sure there wasn’t a Jewish pig-owner that didn’t know they were breaking God’s Law. But even after this demonstration of God’s seriousness concerning sin, they didn’t repent. I think down deep they knew they deserved it. Even the people who didn’t necessarily own pigs, but allowed the pig-owners their “right” to own them, didn’t repent. Scripture tells us they told Jesus to get out of town.

My prayer today is that whenever God puts a finger on a sin in my life, I’ll repent immediately. I don’t want to wait until He takes matters in His own hands. I want to be like the healed Gadarene who wanted only to be where Jesus was, cleansed, free, and changed.

 

 

August 15; A Broken Heart

Ezekiel 20:30-22:31

Do you know how, when you are close to someone who is grieving, you can feel their heart break? You ache because they are hurting so badly, and you know you just can’t fix it for them. Watching a loved one go through the darkest time of her life was probably the hardest thing I have ever done.

The thing about reading the Bible as God’s love letter to me, expecting Him to speak to me, and getting to know His heart through His own words, there are times I feel like I’m watching Him grieve, and my heart breaks for Him.

Today I read His words, His pronouncement of judgment on His disobedient children. I heard His anger, realized the fierce punishment that was coming their way. God is really mad.

But through the years of reading the Bible, I’ve come to understand – in part – God’s heart. Of course I don’t claim to totally get Him, but I know Him enough to know that when He is angry, when He is bringing judgment on His people, He’s doing it from a broken heart.

He says things here in Ezekiel like, “I will pour out my wrath on you…,” “I will make you an object of scorn…,” “I will surely strike my hands together at the unjust gain you have made…,” “I will gather you in my anger and my wrath…”

I read His words, but I also see His tears. The God I know takes no pleasure in punishing His children. The God I know longs to walk with us, fellowship with us, bless us. That’s His will for each of us. It’s we who prevent that by our choices to sin. It’s we who break His heart.

When you were a kid and your dad stood in front of you with that belt in his hands, both of you knowing you deserved what was coming, did you ever hear him say, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you”? I hear my Heavenly Father saying that today, and I believe it’s true.

My Heavenly Father, I don’t want to cause You pain. I don’t want to break Your heart. I don’t want to be a rebellious child you need to discipline, because today I see how much that hurts You. God, I want to bring you joy. Forgive my sins. Create in me a clean heart. And may all I do and say today put a smile on Your face. I love You. 

 

August 8; Not A Chance

Jeremiah 51:1-64, 11:18-12:6

I read these passages a couple times today because I just couldn’t wrap my brain around what I was reading. Jeremiah is saying God is going to destroy the Babylonians because of their sin. He is going to devastate the land. God is going to avenge His people. I see a picture about how God views sin, and that the consequences for sin are serious.

I guess it should make me glad to think God is going to destroy the enemies of the Church, that atheists and terrorists and false teachers and… will get what is coming to them, and that we will come out on top. But I have trouble wrapping my brain around that because I keep thinking: these are people for whom Christ died, people He wants to spend eternity with. Doesn’t John 3:16 say that God loves and died for the world? Is it true that He doesn’t want anyone dying without Him. Or not?

I can rejoice with the ancient Jews whose enemies were going to be punished. They lived before the cross. We live after the cross. I’m just finding it hard to rejoice thinking anyone goes to hell since Jesus died to save them. But isn’t the message of Jeremiah that the enemies of God’s people will be defeated in a very violent, very decisive way?

Yes!

But God reminded me my battle isn’t with flesh and blood. My enemies are not atheists, terrorists, false teachers… My enemy is Satan! The enemy is sin, evil.

So I read these passages a third time and instead of picturing bloody corpses, I pictured powers and principalities, wickedness, and hate. I pictured Satan and his thugs, sin and the hold it can have over me.

Gone! Annihilated! Crushed!

I believe Babylon is a picture of my real enemy, Satan. And Satan doesn’t stand a chance against my Savior!

Not a chance!

 

 

July 1; Reaping and Sowing

Hosea 5:8-9:17; 2 Kings 16:10-18, 15:30-31, 7:1-2; 2 Chronicles 28:22-25

God doesn’t mess around with disobedience. And He doesn’t stay where He is not honored. Hosea 5:15 says:

Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.

That pretty much sums up the history of man. And the history of me.

The Jews entertained worship of pretend gods. Idolatry was often tolerated, and sometimes became the nation’s religion. They knew better. They knew God (or should have). Their ancestors had walked with God. They knew God blesses obedience, and punishes disobedience. Certainly they had heard the stories.

Sometimes the Jews chose disobedience anyway. That disobedience was always met with disaster of one kind or another. But I think the most devastating consequence for disobedience was when God removed Himself from their presence, when He left them to their own devices.

Famines were bad. Plagues were awful. War was brutal. But life without God has to be the worse.

What we see in almost every book of the Bible is people sinning, people going their own way, and God disciplining their disobedience. Sometimes that discipline involved God turning His back on them; but He always did that with one purpose: for them to seek Him in their misery, in order to bring them back to Himself.

The Bible also reveals a loving, faithful God who forgives His children every time they (we) repent.

Galatians 5:7-8 comes to mind:

Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

I’ve found all of that true in my own life. I know what it’s like to be totally void of His Presence when I’ve held on to sin, when I reap the fruit of sin. I could put on a Christian front, but my fellowship with God was severed. That, my friend, is the definition of lonely.

I also know what it’s like to fall on my knees and beg God for forgiveness, to feel His Presence one again when I am washed by the blood of Jesus. I know what it’s like to reap the fruit of the Spirit.

So, how does your garden grow? What are you reaping? You will reap what you sow.

June 26; Sin is Sin

Amos 2-6

It might be tempting to believe that when I give my heart to the Lord, confess and repent of sin, and accept God’s grace, my sins (past, present, and future) are forgiven. Israel seemed to think that because God “chose” them, they could live like they wanted to live. God tells His people that is not the case.

All sin – even their’s- comes with a death penalty. “For three sins of Israel, even for four I will not turn back my wrath.” (2:6)

I hope everyone reading this post today is a Christian. I trust all of you will read these chapters in Amos today and allow God to speak to you. And I hope you take sin as seriously as God does.

God’s forgiveness of your sin and mine, our position as children in His family through the blood of Jesus, is not a license to sin. He hates the lie you told as much as he hates the rape of a child or the defiance of an atheist. He hates it.

And God is very honest to say there are consequences for sin in this lifetime – and in eternity.

May each of us recognize the sins in our lives and be quick to throw them under the Blood, to ask God to forgive, to turn from that sin never to repeat it. And let’s be as quick to thank God for His promise to forgive us when we ask Him to.

Sin is sin. Even yours.