Tag 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.

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.

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.

Finger Pointing (Luke 11)

Jesus was invited to dine in the home one of the Pharisees. It appears the man had also invited some of his colleagues because Jesus began addressing them. Jesus told the Pharisees they were hypocrites, that they were all show, like unmarked graves people trample over without even knowing they were there. I don’t think Jesus would get the World’s Best Dinner Guest Award. However, He wasn’t there to win friends. He was there to win souls.

Now here’s the part that makes me laugh: Another guest identified only as a teacher of the law addresses Jesus. I would imagine Jesus’ remarks to the Pharisees had to make for a very uncomfortable situation for everyone present at that dinner. I picture the teacher of the law sitting near enough to Jesus to be able to lean over and whisper in Jesus’ ear. Maybe the teacher patted Jesus on the back and winked at Him like a friend sharing a private joke.

The teacher said, “You know, Jesus, and I’m sure you don’t mean to, but when you are talking like that to the Pharisees – not that they don’t deserve it (wink, wink) – you’re kind of hurting our feelings, too.”

Now this is what makes me laugh out loud: Jesus, after hearing this gentle hint, turns to the teachers of the law and instead of saying, “Oh, I’m sorry guys. I didn’t mean to offend,” He says “Woe to you!” Jesus then proceeds to reveal their sins, too.

I find it funny. And serious. That’s why I try not to read about “them” in Scripture. It’s tempting to read about the Jews, or the Pharisees, or the teachers of the law and overlook the fact God has something to say to me, too. When I read about the Pharisees being like cups that are clean on the outside and filthy on the inside, I want to check my own heart’s condition, my own witness. When Jesus accuses the teachers of the law of hindering people from knowing the truth, I have to ask myself if I am guilty, too.

I will read Scripture for what it is: profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in right living so that I will be fully equipped to be the woman God wants me to be to share Him with a world that needs Him.

You’ve heard it said that when you point to someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. I think we need to pay attention to the fingers pointing to us every time we spend time in God’s Word.

Despite Their Fear (Ezra 1-3)

Have you ever considered the possibility that we in the US have become a nation of whiney, angry victims? We’ve become reactionaries, emotional cripples, entitled, tantrum-throwing thugs. And a world that once envied and admired us, now looks at us as people to be pitied, or at least as the biggest joke ever.

It’s hard to take a stand for the Truth when that stand could offend someone who lashes out verbally, or even physically. People have been killed for wearing a hat someone didn’t like. To disagree is to invite violence.

So what are we to do? The Truth we as Christians possess is an offensive message. If we are to share the Gospel, we are to show people their need of a Savior, point out sin in their lives, help them realize they are without hope unless they conform to the demands of God.

Them’s fighting words.

Some people, in light of the present climate, seem to think silence is the answer. Keep your faith to yourself, let others believe what they want to believe, stay under the radar. Other people appear to be going along with the crowd rather than ruffle feathers; be tolerant, be loving, be accepting of all beliefs, don’t offend by calling things like abortion or homosexuality sin.

But what does God want us to do? Jesus Himself warned that we would be hated for following Him, and reminded us that they hated Him first. Jesus didn’t tell us to change the message, or to keep the message to ourselves.

GO!

Make disciples.

The Jews had been commissioned to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The only ones glad about that, however, were the Jews. The opposition tried to discourage, threaten, and intimidate the Jews out of completing their mission. But look at what God tells us in Ezra 3:3,

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

The Jews didn’t fight back. They didn’t get into Tweet wars. They simply carried on with what they knew they were to do – and they did it openly and honestly. I think God would have us do the same.

Christian, let’s continue to build God’s Church by revealing God to those around us, by sharing the Gospel no matter how afraid we are that it will offend. Let’s continue to worship God in spirit and truth, and to love our neighbors enough to talk about the hard things.

Despite our fears.

Choose Me (Ezekiel 42-43)

He was so willing. God would have forgiven Israel for every evil thing they ever did or even thought. “Here I am,” He said. “Here is my throne and a place for the soles of my feet. I’m not going anywhere.” They just needed to turn from their sin, put away their idols, and He would live among them forever.

Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple… its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. (43:10b-11)

He was so willing. But they couldn’t do it. And neither can we.

Sometimes connecting with God’s heart breaks mine. This morning as I read these chapters I could hear His longing, and could almost feel His pain. “Choose me!” He pleads.

He’s done all the work. That altar and its regulations were fulfilled perfectly when God sacrificed Himself on the cross. “Just choose me,” He cries.

I pray that you have, at some point in your life, chosen God, that you have repented from sin, turned from your idols, and turned to the Savior. But I hope that isn’t the only time you’ve dealt with sin in your life.

Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin. He tells us He made a conscious decision to “die” every day, to put aside self and sin, and choose God. Every. Day. “To live is Christ,” he said.

Choosing God isn’t easy, and it’s not always fun. Choosing God comes with sacrifice, hardship, selflessness. Choosing God means getting out of our comfort zones, going to battle, loving people who don’t agree with us, and praying for them. Choosing God goes against everything we’ve come to believe is true; that we should be wealthy and healthy, that we deserve to be happy, that as “children of the king” we should live the high life.

Scripture tells us that Jesus knew the world would hate us for choosing Him, because they hated Him first.

But choosing God is the most amazingly wonderful choice you will ever make. Choosing God is choosing something better than anything this world offers. Better than money, or fame, or a home on Easy Street. Choosing God is choosing love and forgiveness, help and encouragement, purpose and fellowship, and eternity more wonderful than any of us can imagine.

“Choose me,” God is saying to you. “Choose me today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Choose me this hour, this minute. Choose me and I promise I will never leave you, I’ll plant the soles of my feet in your heart and bless you with Myself.”

I choose God today. I’m praying you’ll do the same.

God Is Revealed (Ezekiel 38-39)

God’s punishment for sin will always be evident in this world, because there will always be sin in the world until He comes again. Natural disasters will happen. Evil men will do evil things. There will be disease, and war, and heartache and suffering. There will continue to be times when God removes His protection, and even His children will suffer because of their sin.

But!

There will always, ALWAYS, be times of grace, of mercy, of victory when people humble themselves and repent of sin. God will always, ALWAYS bless those who obey Him.

Why? So that the world and everyone in it will recognize that God is Holy. God is Sovereign, God is who He says He IS and there is no other. This world is about God.

As I read His Word I understand that Truth. And here is the best part of that. God wants a relationship with me! God wants to protect and bless me as though I was His only child. Like a loving Father, He will discipline my rebellion, correct my self-centeredness, punish my disobedience. And like a loving Father, He will always, ALWAYS forgive me when I come to Him, humble myself, and repent.

May God be seen in me through every circumstance of life. May people recognize the Holy, Just, Fierce, and Forgiving God He is by watching Him work in my life. May I be a living example of His grace because:

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Everything that happens, the good and the bad, happen to point people to Jesus, to reveal God in all His holiness and goodness so that they will come to Him for forgiveness, and enjoy a relationship with the Sovereign, Holy God He is. I love to think that I may have a part in His plan, to reveal this wonderful God to a world that needs Him!

God’s Judgment (Ezekiel 20-21)

When you consider God’s final judgment, what comes to mind? Some people picture a big old drunken party around a campfire. Some see people wandering aimlessly through space, dragging the chains they formed in this lifetime. Many people don’t want to believe there will even be a final judgment, just nothingness, that we will cease to exist when we die.

God told Ezekiel to spell out exactly what His judgment on the disobedient Jews would entail, and Ezekiel complained, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?'” (20:49) Those Old Testament Jews didn’t want to believe in judgment any more than people in 2020.

So let me ask again: what do you believe about God’s judgment?

I notice as I read Ezekiel this morning how often God tells us His judgment protects His Name, that His judgment reveals who He is to the nations of the world. His Name which is Holy, Holy, Holy. If there was no judgment, He could not be Holy.

Scripture also tells us God’s judgment is without mercy. Can you wrap your mind around that truth? Some will argue that because God is love He wouldn’t condemn anyone to a terrible eternity in hell. That because God is merciful, He wouldn’t judge without mercy.

What do you say to that?

Was God speaking in parables, in fairytales, or using scare tactics to get us to obey Him? Or is there an actual place, void of God, void of light, void of fellowship, where the groans and wailings of the condemned are the only sounds, where there is no hope, no reprieve, no comfort? Is there a place where pain and suffering beyond anything anyone has ever experienced in this lifetime, no matter how awful, is the only reality forever?

What do you say to that?

Ezekiel kept telling Israel about the judgment that was coming even if they didn’t believe him. We need to do the same. Because God will seriously judge without mercy, and hell is real.

But, we also need to tell people the one and only way they can avoid God’s final judgment. They need to know that Jesus paid that awful penalty for them. He met His own requirements so no one has to spend eternity without Him.

Just as God judges the guilty without mercy, He shows mercy to those who come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. To all of us who repent of sin, who find forgiveness in the cross, we need have no fear of God’s final judgment.

What do you say to that?

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.

Turn Around (Ezekiel 8)

I think every time I read Ezekiel’s vision I gasp when the people turn their backs on the Temple and bow toward their pretend gods in the east. That picture of blatant rejection of God shocks me every time.

Yet, even with this defiant act of disobedience, these were still citizens of God’s chosen people, Jews, Israelites. They considered themselves God’s favored nation even when they worshiped other gods. It blows my mind.

Today, however, God is asking me to do a gut check. Here are some questions I feel Him ask of me today:

Do I call myself a Christian, but refuse to repent of a sin?

Do I attend church on Sunday, yet live a lifestyle no different than my neighbor who has no use for church?

Do I read my Bible out of duty instead of letting it change me?

Do I read my Bible at all?

Do I live my life focused on myself, my feelings, my needs, my rights, my dreams, yet tell people I follow Jesus?

Do I know what is right according to Scripture, yet compromise the Truth?

Do I go to church expecting an experience, or do I go humbly, trembling at the seriousness of approaching a Holy God as He demands?

Oh, there are a lot of ways I can turn my back on the temple, so to speak. And I should be as appalled with myself as I am with those twenty-five people in Ezekiel 8 when I do. Today I am asking God to reveal any shift, no matter how small, from my worshiping Him in total Truth. I don’t want any part of me turning away from Him.

In fact, if God reveals the slightest movement, I want Him to convict me. I want to be sensitive to Him, and obedient. If I am facing the wrong way, I want to turn around and bow down to the one and only God according to Scripture.

Where are you facing right now? Is it time you turned around?