Tag Archives: sin

(Ruth) It’s Not Just About Love

I usually look at the book of Ruth as a lesson in love, and it truly is that. But today, I see it mostly as a picture of redemption. I think this book could easily have been named, “Boaz.” Because without Boaz’s act of redemption on behalf of Naomi and Ruth, they would have had no hope. The would have continued in their poverty for the rest of their lives.

It wouldn’t have mattered how much they’d loved each other. Their love could not have saved them. Only the work of the redeemer would take them from curse to blessing, from bitterness to joy, from death to life.

Get the picture?

We can talk about love all day, but without the redemptive work of Jesus, we are without hope. Love cannot save until it is nailed to the cross.

Do you love God? Great! Do you know He loves you? He does! But His love without His redemption will not save you.

The book of Ruth isn’t just about love. It’s about redemption.

The Gospel isn’t just about love, either. It’s about redemption.

Ruth laid everything at the feet of her redeemer, Boaz. In that act she became totally dependent on him to save her. That’s the Gospel: Putting everything we have, are, and hope to be at the feet of Jesus, becoming totally dependent on Him, confessing our sin and turning from it is our only hope of salvation. Otherwise there is no saving.

Only the work of Jesus, our Redeemer, can take us from curse to blessing, bitterness to joy, death to life. Only Jesus.

Only our Redeemer.

(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.

(Judges 1-3) Failures

The Jews were failures. Manasseh failed. Ephraim failed. Zebulun failed. Ashar failed. Naphtali failed. The Danites failed. They all failed to obey God by not driving out the enemy from the Promised Land.

Judah didn’t drive out the enemy, using the excuse, “They have strong chariots.” Judah failed.

Benjamin didn’t drive out the Jebusites, but learned to co-exist with them instead. Benjamin failed.

All the tribes of Israel obeyed God to a degree. But Scripture doesn’t celebrate their partial victories. Scripture reports their failures.

I guess I’m understanding that mostly obeying God means I’m disobeying Him. The Israelites will pay dearly for their disobedience as we will see in the books of Judges, the Samuels and the Kings. The Jewish people are going to look and worship just like the enemies they didn’t drive out of the land. And God will judge them.

Our 21st century Church needs a wake-up call. Baptists are failures. Presbyterians are failures. Methodists are failures, Catholics are failures. We haven’t driven out the enemy, but have learned to co-exist with him. And we look and worship just like those who follow the enemy.

I think God would have us take a look at our level of obedience. Because if we aren’t obeying Him 100%, we are disobeying Him. If we aren’t obeying Him according to Scripture, we are failures.

(Joshua 6-10) It’s Time To Pay Attention To The Signs

You can’t read these chapters and not realize how serious God is about unrepentant sin. He punishes – without mercy – the unrepentant heart.

I read the official statement and investigative report from RZIM, the apologetics and evangelistic organization started by Ravi Zacharias. I will say that personally, Ravi’s influence has helped me to think about and define what it is I believe according to Scripture. His radio program, books, lectures and debates have encouraged me to never take what I hear at face value, but to test everything through the lens of God’s Holy Word. The man knew the Bible.

So reading that the accusations against him are true, and even more depraved than what was initially thought has been shocking to say the least. How? Why? I am angry and sad.

The RZIM organization, according to their statement, is accepting responsibility. They ask for forgiveness, not absolution.

The thing that hit me is that, in hindsight, there were signs. The people who worked with Zacharias had questions. But they rationalized Ravi’s behavior, trusted what he said, and went as far as discrediting his accusers because, after all, Ravi was their founder, a seemingly godly man, a man who knew the Bible better than the rest of us.

They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, believe Ravi could commit such awful sins. But the investigation reveals that this renowned Bible expert lived a very sinful private life. I only hope that before he died Ravi, like the thief on the cross, humbled himself and accepted the grace Jesus died to give him. If he didn’t, according to Scripture he knew so well, Ravi’s hell is more agonizing than we can imagine.

Here’s what I believe God would have us see here: He is serious about sin no matter who is sinning. And unrepentant sin is judged without mercy.

We can criticize the RZIM organization for not recognizing the signs. But are we guilty of ignoring the signs in our own lives, in the lives of our family members, in the lives of fellow believers, pastors, and teachers? Are we any less guilty of rationalizing certain behaviors than RZIM has been?

Let this be a wake-up call. If Ravi’s sin had been confronted, dozens of women could have been spared the harassment and abuse. Ravi could have repented years ago. His victims, family, friends, and the cause of Christ might not be living with the aftermath of such a devastating blow.

But I wonder what level of pain we are inflicting as well, when we turn a blind eye to sin? We need to see sin as God sees it. We need to hold each other accountable. We need to address it today, before more time passes, before more people are hurt and more consequences are faced. We need to call sin sin and, if a person refuses to repent, separate ourselves from them. We don’t do anyone any favors by ignoring sin.

If we can learn anything from the Ravi Zacharias scandal, we should see the need for calling for true repentance of believers. We (not the unsaved) need a revival in our hearts and in our churches. We (not non-believers) are too often guilty and need to confess our own sin.

We can’t continue to ignore the signs. We can’t continue to allow sin to co-exist within God’s Holy Church. We need to not only know what the Bible says, but we need to live accordingly, and demand other believers do the same.

It’s time.

(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.

(Deuteronomy 20) Some Things Are Hard To Hear

My Apologetics study Bible included an article by Matt Flanagan entitled, “Does The Bible Condone Genocide?” He tells us the ancient writers used “extravagant exaggerations” as was common in literature at the time. Flanagan sites the fact that the Bible reports some of the nations (like Canaan) continued to have citizens even after it tells us they were wiped out. Therefore, the report of the genocide was exaggerated for literatures’ sake.

Which, to me isn’t so much exaggeration as it is disobedience. The Israelites may have wiped out a village or two, but obviously didn’t do a complete job elsewhere. The hard truth is that in Old Testament scripture, God didn’t only condone genocide, He commanded it.

Now, before you get too angry with me, or angry with God, you need to take a look at the whole picture. Here is what seems to be overlooked by some:

When you approach a city to fight against it, make an offer of peace. If it accepts your offer of peace and opens its gates to you, all the people found in it will become forced laborers for you and serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you but wages war against you, lay siege to it. (20:10-12)

Before the Israelites went to war against a city they were to offer a peaceful solution. God wanted those people to come to Him on His terms, and be saved. Their refusal cost them their lives.

There are two things I take away from this today:

  1. God will not demand nor condone genocide after the cross. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the Law, and made it plain our enemy is no longer flesh and blood. His kingdom is spiritual. We must protect His spiritual kingdom by eradicating sin from among us with the same completeness the Old Testament Jews were told to eradicate people who rejected God. We will not be commanded to kill people. We are commanded to destroy sin in our lives.
  2. The Jewish people had to fight against Canaanites during their entire existence as recorded in the Old Testament. Had they obeyed, and truly dealt with God’s enemies like He told them to, their lives would have looked a lot different. Better. Peaceful. The same goes for us. How much grief do we face when we simply play around with sin, when we hold on to that sinful thought or feeling, when we aren’t exactly honest, or when we tolerate sin even in small doses? The Canaanites didn’t just go away on their own. And neither does sin.

Yes, it’s hard to even think about the genocide God ordered in the Old Testament. But these were not innocent people. They were people who would rather die in their sin than accept the peace God offered if they’d only surrendered.

That sin you are holding onto isn’t innocent, either.

(Numbers 26-30) Priorities

There seems to have been a lot of livestock and wheat among the nomadic Jews there in the wilderness. If you count up the things required for daily sacrifices, not to mention the special occasion sacrifices, there’re a lot of cattle, lambs, goats, as well as bushels and bushels of grain.

So why was it necessary for God to provide manna? Why would the people complain about being hungry? I mean, surely not all of the livestock was unblemished. Couldn’t they have eaten the less-than-perfect animals?

As I was thinking about that this morning, I remembered when Moses told God there wasn’t enough cattle in the world to feed all the people for even a month. At that time God sent quail to satisfy their desire for meat.

This is what I feel God wanted me to see in these chapters today: priorities.

God had given specific instructions concerning the sacrificial system. They weren’t suggestions, they were demands. Their sin required those sacrifices be made… and often.

If the people had exhausted their supply of livestock and grain for food, there would have been no animals to sacrifice, no hope of being forgiven of sin. So what do you do? Do you eat like a king for a month? Or do you protect your relationship with God?

The Jews had their priorities straight. As tempting as it must have been to grill a steak or bake a cake, they ate what God provided in the form of manna. It was more important for them to be able to give to God what He demanded.

And here’s the lesson: when we get our priorities straight, when we put God first, when we deal with sin in our lives first, He will supply our needs. Nothing is more important than having a right relationship with God. That which comes after is icing on a manna-baked cake.

That’s how to get our priorities straight.

(Numbers 11-15) It Will Kill You

God wants us to take a good look at sin from His vantage point. Whether it’s the coveting of what non-believers seem to enjoy as in the case of the Jews wishing they were back in Egypt where they were well fed; not trusting God like the Jews who campaigned against going into the Promised Land; or open defiance of God’s Law like the Jewish man who gathered firewood on the Sabbath, God wants us to know He will not tolerate sin in any shape or form.

You want meat like the Egyptians? You’ll get meat. And it will kill you.

You can’t trust God to give you what He’s promised? Don’t go into Canaan. And it will kill you.

You think an act of disobedience is no big deal because you think collecting wood is more important? Go get your wood. And it will kill you.

How much more clear can God be? You can defy Him, reject Him, rationalize your sin…

and it will kill you.

That is a death, my friend, worse than anything you can imagine. That death, eternal agony, void of any hope, endless pain and suffering is the death God wants you to understand.

Your only hope is to confess and repent of your sin, accept the fact that Jesus paid your death sentence, and allow Him to cleanse you and give you the power to be obedient.

You can live in your sin… but God wants you to know it will kill you.

(Leviticus 15-27) What Does This Have To Do With Me?

Sometimes we might be tempted to gloss over chapters like the ones here in Leviticus because we live after the cross, right? Didn’t Jesus come to fulfill the Law? I’m certainly not going to go out and stone someone for saying something bad about his dad, or for sleeping with his mother’s brother’s wife’s daughter, am I? Of course not.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t important things for me to learn from all of Scripture. Here’s what I believe God is saying these verses have to do with me:

Following God’s Law involves honesty, integrity, compassion, justice, honor, and hard work. The blessings for obediences are many. The consequences for disobedience are severe. What are some of the areas covered in these chapters in Leviticus?

  1. Respect for one another. That includes protecting each other from diseases, physical diseases as spelled out here, but also from the disease of sin. Just like an unclean person needed to wash themselves so as not to expose others to their uncleanness, we must wash ourselves in the blood of Jesus, so sin in us doesn’t touch others and cause them to sin. Sin is a communicable disease. We need to respect each other by taking care of the sin in our lives so that it doesn’t spread.
  2. Fair treatment of each other. This includes employers’ treatment of workers as well as the workers’ treatment of employers. These chapters speak against our current welfare system and socialism in that help did not come from government, but from individuals looking out for individuals facing hard times – and only for a period of time until the needy individual is able to go back to work. Our perpetual governmental support of non-workers in this nation today is not only against God’s Law and extremely unfair – it is fiscally irresponsible. The chapters here in Leviticus point out that we are to be working, respecting those in authority as well as those who work for us, and always do our jobs in obedience to God.
  3. Honoring God. It addresses idolatry, worship of God, and honoring God with our bodies. But one thing my Apologetics Bible pointed out from chapter 24 was that blasphemy brings guilt on those who hear it as well as on the blasphemer. Recently I have been convicted by some of the TV shows I watch, and the books I read. The common use of God’s name as an exclamation mark, the vulgar word used for the sex act, and the two combined in a shockingly blasphemous manner have become as commonplace as the casual use of the words “hell,” “damn,” and “OMG.” Now, I can tell myself I can handle listening to those things without them effecting me, that the show or book is harmless. But I have to understand that what I have heard cannot be unheard. The blasphemy (which God takes very seriously) has entered my mind. I am guilty.
  4. Sin. We cannot ignore sin. We can’t condone it, rename it, or participate in it. And if we commit a sin, either intentionally or at the hands of another, we are guilty, we have to confess it and repent. “Be holy” is God’s command. And you can’t be holy if sin exists in your life.

There, of course, is much more in these chapters. If you read them, and I hope you do, God may point out other truths He wants you to hear. These chapters are included in God’s Word for a reason. Don’t miss what He has to say.

These things definitely have everything to do with you.

(Leviticus 6-14) Speading Disease

If you think this is about COVID, you would be wrong.

God, through Moses, refers often to a place “outside the camp.” It was where the unclean parts of a sacrificed animal were burned, where unclean stones and plaster were thrown, and to where unclean people were banished.

We who live after the cross see thy symbolism as Jesus was crucified outside the city when our sins rendered Him who knew no sin, unclean.

But something else spoke to me today about these chapters. I, as a Christian, am commanded to be holy because God, whom I represent, is holy. That means I need to remove everything from my life that isn’t holy, and throw it away, burn it up, and never revisit it – ever.

My problem is I try to hold on to a bit of sin. Or I confess it, but don’t really repent of it. It might be an impure thought, a feeling of unforgiveness or resentment or hate, a habit, laziness, and sometimes flat-out disobedience. The list goes on. All of which prevents me from holiness and purity. Yet holiness and purity are God’s requirements.

I see, through the picture Moses paints here in Leviticus concerning disease and mold, the result of my disobedience. Even if I put on a hat to disguise my disease, or a coat of paint on a wall to cover up mold, it doesn’t render me clean. If I put a smile on my face and carry my Bible, it doesn’t cover up the fact my heart is diseased, unclean. And my infection can and does spread to others. I can call my sin a mistake, a choice, an accident, or convince myself it’s no big deal, but my unclean life touches the lives of others in my home, my church, my community, and I become responsible for my sin disease spreading to them.

It also reminds me of what is happening in God’s Church. We’ve convinced ourselves that sinners in our midst is a good thing. We should welcome them, embrace them, make them a part of our fellowships. But God, here in Leviticus, tells us to banish the diseased person to outside the camp until – not before -they are clean.

Sounds cruel. Sounds un-Christian. But the fact of the matter is, their disease can and does spread within the church. Their disease of sin can and does spread to holy people, who then themselves become unholy. It has nothing to do with loving or not loving our neighbor. It has everything to do with keeping the Church holy, protecting the holiness and purity God demands of us.

The Church is not pure, we are not holy as long as we tolerate unrepentant sinners in our midst. Should we be inviting our unsaved friends to church? Not if we want to keep God’s Church holy.

Jesus said, “Come to me…” He didn’t say come to the synagogue. He didn’t say come to church. Jesus told us to GO, make disciples. He didn’t say sit back and invite them into His House, hoping our holiness will rub off on them and make them clean. It doesn’t work that way.

We need to get off our couches and get out into our neighborhoods and introduce unsaved, unclean people to their Savior. Then, and not before, we should welcome them into our midst to worship God with clean hearts. God does not accept worship any other way.

Unrepentant hearts cannot worship God. And that bit of disease in our churches can and does spread. Don’t think it doesn’t.