Tag Archives: consequences for sin

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.

June 8; Is It God’s Fault?

Ecclesiastes 3-6

Solomon, in his sin-induced depression, says that God is evil. God gives a man wealth, possessions, and honor, but He doesn’t allow the man to enjoy them. “Not fair,” Solomon cries.

But, friend, if God created this world, if He blesses His children with Himself, why is it His fault if we don’t have fun, or if we don’t live on Easy Street? God gives. And gives. We make choices that come with consequences. Then we cry “foul” when we reap what we sow.

King Solomon was in a very dark place when he wrote this portion of Scripture. But I’m glad God included it in the final cut so we can read it today. I can’t  agree with his assessment of life. Because I know that life with God is glorious, worthwhile, joyful, and eternal.  In 5:20 Solomon does say that when a man enjoys this life it is a gift of God.

He seldom reflects on the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

If you are dissatisfied with life, let God occupy your heart with gladness and thankfulness. It really isn’t God’s fault if you don’t.

 

Hebrews 9-13; Make It Stop

Have you ever felt the sting of God’s discipline over a sin you were holding onto? Dishonesty costs you your job. Infidelity costs you your family. Alcohol or tobacco costs you your health. Sin costs you peace of mind, you cannot feel joy. Conviction bring anxiety, depression, anger, or confusion.

Then you cry out to God, “Make it stop!” “Why is this happening to me?” “I can’t take this any longer.”

When I read Hebrews 12 I hear God say, “I love you as sons and daughters. Therefore, I will discipline you when you are wrong. Don’t expect it to be pleasant.”

I think sometimes when we are experiencing those painful consequences for sin, we pray the wrong prayer. Instead of praying, “Make it stop,” we should be praying, “Help me to stop,” Instead of praying for God to make us comfortable, we need to pray that He will make us clean.

“…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (12:10b)

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the very real privilege of going to God Himself through our mediator, Jesus Christ. We can boldly approach the throne of grace and know that we will receive that grace to help us in our time of need.

God doesn’t discipline His children because He likes to see us suffer. He disciplines us to drive us to our knees, so that we can share in His holiness, so that one day we will be able to spend eternity with Him. He disciplines us because of His great love for us.