Tag Archives: sin

August 24; Getting Away With It

Jeremiah 43-44; Psalms 71 and 116

The people heard Jeremiah’s message from God – and they rejected it! They called the prophet a liar, and promised to go on living just the way they were living. In fact, they said that when they worshiped idols in the past, they’d had “plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.” They went so far as to say that trouble started only when they’d stopped worshiping their pretend gods.

What they chose to forget were the many times God had sent prophets to warn them, sent plagues or famine to get their attention. Their memory was selective, “We had it good without God.”

We all know there are people who have rejected God as blatantly as these ancient Jews rejected Him. And we are witness to the fact that God doesn’t zap them dead the minute they utter the words, “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 44:17)

Many non-believers, enemies of God, prosper in this world. But don’t think for a moment God or some higher power or the universe is blessing them for their sin. Jeremiah tells us in verses 21-22 that God is not unaware of what they are doing. He tells us God endures their sin for a time.

Why? Why would God sit back and let people be wicked? Well the answer is, He doesn’t. God doesn’t sit back – ever. If wicked people prosper it is because God is patiently throwing out roadblocks, conviction, signs, messages, hardship, unrest, whatever… in order to help those people choose Him. You can’t know how God is working in anyone’s heart.

I’m glad the organizers of the NIV One Year Chronological Bible include the two psalms in today’s scripture. This is the testimony God wants every man, woman, and child to have for themselves: God is gracious, God is good, God is righteous, He protects, He gives hope, and He is worthy of praise. And I believe the Bible tells us God will keep working in the hearts of even the most vile offenders, until they die.

But Jeremiah also tells us there is a time when judgment comes. Just because wicked people seem to prosper, doesn’t mean they are getting away with anything. One day they will have to account for their choices. In Jeremiah’s day that involved disasters, sword and famine. But the ultimate judgment is so much worse. It’s eternal.

So, dear Christian, don’t get caught up wondering why wicked people aren’t suffering. God is working. Trust Him. They aren’t getting away with anything. That fact should cause us to grieve for them, to pray for them, and to allow God to use us to save them.

 

 

August 21; The Reality

Psalms 102, 120, 137; Lamentation 1-2

Jeremiah looked at the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple in ruins, his neighbors and friends either dragged away into captivity, or starving in the streets. And he was sad.

Yes, he’d warned them that God was going to punish them if they didn’t repent. And when they refused to stop sinning, I’m sure it came at no surprise to the prophet that God did exactly what He’d said He’d do. But I don’t think even Jeremiah knew how bad God’s judgment would be.

I don’t think we do, either.

Most of us know there is a heaven and a hell. John, in his vision, tries to describe a reality more wonderful than we can imagine, an unspeakably amazing eternity with God. But Scripture also tells us there is another reality for those who reject God.

As unspeakably wonderful as heaven is, hell is unspeakably horrible. That reality without God is worse than anything we can imagine.  I just don’t believe any of us know how bad God’s judgment will be for those who die in their sin.

Read these chapters in Lamentations. Feel the despair, the loneliness, the utter hopelessness. See the filth and the horror. And know hell is an eternity much worse.

I think if we really allowed ourselves to get a glimpse of the reality of hell, we wouldn’t go to bed tonight until we shared Jesus with our loved ones, with passion and urgency. Jeremiah’s heart was broken by the suffering he saw in the people who had refused to obey God.

Dear God, break my heart over the same reality.

August 20; Sin’s Debt

Jeremiah 52; Psalms 74, 79, 85

Today’s Scriptures continue with the Babylonian captivity, and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. God’s disobedient children were being punished. The psalmists asked God for mercy because the hand of God was heavy on them.

God will always punish disobedience. There has never been a time, nor will there be a time, when God gives His creation a free pass. Every disobedient thought or action, every sin committed comes with a death sentence. Every sin.

I think sometimes people think that when a person becomes a Christian, God cancels our sin debt, somehow erases the ledger so we stand before Him guilt-less, just as if we’d never sinned. But I don’t think that’s the case.

When I look at the cross I know my sin debt wasn’t just canceled. It was paid for by the Savior who painfully shed His blood, and died to pay the price my sins deserve.

I love Psalm 85. God forgave us and covered our sins, but He did it with Jesus’ blood. He set aside His anger toward us and directed it to His Son instead. His unfailing love granted salvation – but it cost Him a great deal.

His peace is ours, but not because we are sinless. It’s ours because we are forgiven. The sin I committed yesterday doesn’t just disappear when I ask God to forgive it. It’s a sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.

If I can tell myself God simply erases my sins when I ask for forgiveness, I don’t feel quite as bad about sinning. I mean, I use erasers all the time. No big deal.

But if I remember that sin cost Jesus great physical suffering and death, that lie or that jealousy or that dirty thought takes on a different meaning. It becomes a very big deal. It makes me ashamed to have contributed to Jesus’ suffering, and I don’t want to be a part of it any more.

Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. (Ps 85:10-11)

Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. (verse 7)

But may we never forget what that salvation cost Jesus, may we never take for granted that our sin debt was paid for us on the cruel cross of Calvary by Someone who wasn’t guilty.

I pray you know Him and have accepted what Jesus died to give you. He took the punishment you deserve for every sin you’ve ever committed. You sin debt is paid in full. Please accept it.

 

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 11; Are We Them?

Ezekiel 5-9

You know what struck me as I read Ezekiel’s vision and heard God talk about the detestable things that were happening, and the way He was going to punish them? God is talking about His people! He’s not pointing out the sins of unbelievers. He’s pointing out the sins of His chosen Israel. And they are doing these detestable things right there in the temple.

It makes me sad when I read a bunch of them in the inner court of the house of the Lord, turned their backs on the temple, and bowed down to the sun in the east. They’d turned their backs on God right in the middle of God’s House.

Dear Church, please take the warning. God sees what goes on behind closed doors. He hears the conversations we’re having about compromising, tolerating, accepting all manner of sin in order to get people inside the walls of His house. He is very aware of the sin in my life – and in yours.

I’m afraid we’ve begun to turn our backs on God right in the middle of His house in 2019. Every time we back off a little on our message, every time we embrace a casual worship, or a feel-good theology, or ignore sin in our own lives, we make a shift toward worshiping the sun in the east.

I hope you’ll read Ezekiel’s vision. I think you’ll hear God’s anger, His rage. “Is it a trivial matter for the house of Judah (or the Church) to do the detestable things they are doing here?… Therefore, I will deal with them in anger, I will not look on them with pity or spare them…” (8:17-18)

I can’t help but believe these chapters are not just about an ancient people. What was true for them is true for us today. God may be talking to and about them, but, dear one, we are them.

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 31; Time To Check Your Heart

Jeremiah 8:4-9:15, 22-10:26, 26:1-24

I often hear people lament the condition of the world based on what is happening in the US. “God must be coming back soon because Americans have legalized gay marriages,” when the truth is, we aren’t the first country to do that. We aren’t the first country to be “post-Christian.” For some reason, we believe God doesn’t think other countries quite as important as the good old USA.

I hate to break it to us, but it isn’t all about America. Jeremiah reminded me of that this morning. In fact, the prophet reminded me it isn’t about nations at all. It’s not about Congress, or school boards, or Parliament, or police states. It’s about uncircumcised hearts.

It’s about me. It’s about you. It’s about individuals who reject God’s law, who worship pretend gods, who are their own gods.

There are great things happening in Jesus’ name in countries all over this world. Why? Because one man and one woman at a time are giving their hearts to the Lord. Do you think that matters in God’s economy, or does He cancel out that particular work of the Holy Spirit because Americans are rejecting Him?

As I was reading in Jeremiah today, reading about Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Israel, God seemed to remind me nations are not entities unto themselves. Jesus didn’t die to save Mexico, or Israel, or Ethiopia, or the United States of America. Jesus died to save individuals. Nations are made up of people whose hearts are either given to God or to Satan.

Jeremiah 9:25 says, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh.”

So, dear one, it’s time to check your heart. It’s time for me to check mine. That’s the heart I am responsible for, that’s the heart that will usher me into heaven or hell.

So the next time we are praying for our country and the world, let me suggest we check our heart’s condition before our Holy God. God can’t heal a nation until He heals each of us.