Tag Archives: sin

November 23; Be Sanctified

I Thessalonians 2:17-5:28; II Thessalonians 1

What does it mean to live a holy life? Paul tells us it is God’s will that we be sanctified in order to please God. Then Paul tells us what that looks like:

that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. (I Thessalonians 4:3b-6a)

So is holy living, or sanctification, restricted to sexual behavior? Remember, Jesus told us that we commit adultery when we lust. It doesn’t have to involve bodily contact. Sin comes in all shapes and sizes.

Trying in our own strength to do what Paul is telling us to do only leads to failure. We can’t muster up courage, or find strength inside us to defeat the power of sin. It’s impossible. A sinner can’t sanctify a sinner, so I can’t sanctify me.

But the Holy Spirit can! When we humble ourselves and accept the gift of God’s grace, the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus, when we place our faith in God, the Holy Spirit is given to us. Then we can avoid sexual immorality because the Holy Spirit gives us His strength and His desires. We can control ourselves in holy and honorable ways because the Spirit in us is holy and honorable.

Paul tells us it is the work of the Holy Spirit to grow believers, or to sanctify believers. But he also says it is possible to “put out the Spirit’s fire.” Then he tells us to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (5:19-20)

Then Paul prays: May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (5:23-24)

Does that thrill your heart? Yes we have responsibility in our walk with the Lord. But the good news is that the Spirit within us gives us wisdom, and the ability to hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil. The Spirit within us gives us exactly what we need to be sanctified.

He is faithful. And He will do it!

 

November 8; Zero Balance

Mark 15:22-41; Matthew 27:33-56; Luke 23:33-49; John 19:17-37

The cross. The place where criminals died a slow and painful death. The place of humiliation and disgrace. The place where Satan and the Jewish leaders thought they could get rid of Jesus.

But it was on the cross where Jesus, though sinless, became sin for me. It’s where Jesus paid my death sentence. It is finished. Paid in full. Zero balance.

I remember when I first started teaching in the early 70’s, making a whopping $3,500 a year, there were months when I was unable to pay all my bills. I dreaded getting mail because there was always an envelope with a notice inside threatening to turn off my power or turn my account over to a collection agency.

I hated answering the phone. Remember, it was way before caller ID so you never knew who you were going to be forced to speak with when you answered. And sometimes there were very unfriendly voices on the line telling me I needed to pay my bills or else.

They weren’t wrong. I owed them money. They had every right to demand payment. I just didn’t have the means to pay them.

I was reminded of that today as I considered what Jesus did for me on the cross. He paid what I could not pay. He satisfied my debt so that I need never fear God or dread His presence.

My sin debt, and believe me it was sizable, was something I had no means of paying. But Jesus took my debt, became my sin, and paid it all. I am debt-free because of the cross.

When God looks at the ledger of my life, He only sees a zero balance! I am so thankful for the cross!

November 6: The Man Standing Before Rulers

Matthew 27:1-10; Luke 23:1-12; Mark 15:1-5; John 18:28-38

You do know Jesus could have stopped this, don’t you? He could have defended Himself against the lies being told about Him. He could have easily convinced both Pilate and Herod He wasn’t guilty of anything. But He just stood there, like a sheep before the slaughter.

Don’t kid yourself. Jesus was NOT a sheep before the slaughter. He knew exactly what He was doing and where His silence would take Him. And He wanted to go there.

I know there are many who are convinced that Jesus, while in the garden, asked His Dad for an alternate plan at the last minute, that He went to the cross out of stoic obedience. But I look at the Man standing before rulers, hearing the lies and slander, feeling the force of blows to His body, and I know He didn’t want to be anywhere else.

It’s what He’d come for.

As I look at the Man standing before rulers, knowing He had the power to pulverize His accusers, understanding He stood there absolutely guiltless, I realize how loved I am. With every blow, Jesus expressed love and grace. With every lash, every lie, every insult, He was saying loudly and clearly: “I love you!”

As I look at the Man standing before rulers, I can almost see the pain in His eyes. He felt the blows. He felt the rejection. I imagine His body, His heart and soul ached, cried out in pain. But my salvation was more important to Him than the pain. He walked through that abuse so He could get to the cross because my sin debt needed to be paid there.

As I look at the Man standing before rulers, my heart is filled with love. No one has loved me like that. No one could except Jesus.

I love the Man standing before rulers.

November 5; Betrayed

Mark 14:43-72; Matthew 26:47-75; Luke 22:47-71; John 18:1-27

Judas walked right up to Jesus and gave Him a kiss. He didn’t stand at a distance and just point a finger. He got about as close as two people could get and then he betrayed the Lord. What was he thinking?

Scripture tells us Satan had entered Judas, so we know he could not have been thinking anything good. Did Satan fill Judas with hate? Is that what motivated the betrayal? Or was it something else? Jealousy? Greed? Did he think he could force Jesus’ hand to start the rebellion against Rome?

We don’t know what Judas was thinking when he walked up to the Lord, looked Him straight in the eye, and betrayed Him with a kiss. Scripture doesn’t let us in on the thought process. So evidently the “why” behind what Judas did doesn’t matter. But it makes me wonder.

I have never said the words, “I don’t believe in Jesus.” But I will admit there were times in the past when I took His name in vain. I have never denied the cross, but there have been occasion when I have knowingly and willingly sinned. There have been times when, in effect, I have looked Jesus straight in the eye, and betrayed him.

Do I betray my Lord when people around me use vulgar language, catch themselves and apologize, and I say, “It’s ok?” Do I betray Him when I blend in with the world so that people don’t recognize me as His child? Do I betray Jesus when I go through the motions of worship with a heart that is unrepentant?

It’s easy to condemn Judas for what seems to be the ultimate betrayal of the Savior. But is my betrayal of Him any less sinful? Does my betrayal hurt Him less than Judas’?

The “why” behind my sinful actions aren’t important any more than it was behind what Judas did. The fact that I can betray my Savior grieves me.

Precious Jesus, forgive me. I can point a finger at Judas and condemn what he did, and rightfully so. What he did to You was inexcusable. But I thank You that today, You have shown me that being horrified at Judas’ sin, and not horrified at mine is wrong. I’m sorry for the times I have denied You, sinned against You, betrayed You. I want only to honor You today with every thought, word, and deed. May people know without a doubt that this woman is totally, intentionally, happily standing with You.

 

 

November 4; Tears

John 15:18-17:16; Mark 14:32-42; Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46

It’s hard for me to read about the last few hours of Jesus’ life on earth. I find myself wanting to sit with Him, to hold His hands, to put a cool cloth on His fevered brow. I want to pray with Him, and wipe His tears.

But I know had I lived at that time, I would have been just like Peter, James, and John. I wouldn’t get it anymore than they did.

You know how I know that? Because even as I sit here with tears running down my face for love of that hurting Man who loved me enough to die for me, I have slept while He is grieved over sin in my life, in the lives of my loved ones, and over sin in the world.

Jesus didn’t die, then return to heaven to sit on a throne and say, “Glad that’s over. Now it’s up to them.” He is still working, still praying, still grieving over sin in our lives.

I know the Bible says one day He will wipe the tears from our eyes. But who is wiping His tears?

Oh, may I see sin like He sees it, how He faced it there in the Garden. May I live to please and not grieve Him. May I have the privilege of wiping His tears, and bringing Him only joy.

October 28; Perfectly Centered

Mark 11:27-12:17; Matthew 21:23-22:22; Luke 20:1-26

Jesus is the Cornerstone, the One on whom the Church is built. There is so much in just that one statement!

My sister was at a Bible study recently where the pastor, filling in for the regular teacher, shared that he and his teenage son had recently built a retaining wall together. Dad showed son step by step what needed to be done.

They put the first stone down and the dad showed the boy how to read the level. When the bubble in the level was perfectly centered, they were ready to move on to the next stone. After wiggling and tapping the second stone until the level was perfectly centered when resting on both the first and second stones, they were ready for stone #3. The bubble needed to be perfectly centered when on it and the already level second stone before they could lay a fourth stone, and so on and so on and so on.

Eventually the dad put the boy in charge of the level, and the wall went up. With each stone, the dad would ask, “Is it level?” When the boy could assure Dad it was, they went on to the next stone. They worked together for quite some time. But around the third layer, the dad realized something was wrong. He measured and found the wall was already several inches off.

How could that happen? The boy assured his dad the bubble was always in the center for every stone. “Show me,” Dad said.

Have you ever used a level? That bubble changes position when the difference on the surface in imperceptible. Is it in the center if it touches the left line, but doesn’t go over it? Is it in the center if it favors the right line a fraction of an inch? The boy found out that mostly centered is not centered.

Being perfectly centered is an exact spot, not an area. The father and son had to remove all the stones, until they got back to the cornerstone, in order to build their wall.

Are you with me? How many infinitesimal deviations has the Church made away from the Cornerstone over the last 2,000 years? What will it take to get back to the Cornerstone? Is there damage we need to correct?

I can think of so many examples. But one has come to the forefront. And that is what I believe to be more than an infinitesimal shift from our Cornerstone. The Church seems to have decided to make the Gospel a bit more palatable, a bit easier to swallow. You never hear a “hellfire and brimstone” sermon any more. Why? Because that kind of preaching puts people off.

There are churches that refuse to use the word “sin” because it offends. We want people to see Jesus as love, to make worship of Him emotional and entertaining. But is that what you see when you go back to the Cornerstone?

Listen to what Jesus said about the Cornerstone: He who falls on the stone will be broken, but the one on whom it falls will be crushed. (Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18)

A person, face to face with the awfulness of his sin, should be broken! Repentance isn’t comfortable or pleasant. It’s like throwing yourself onto a boulder. It hurts. It breaks our old self into pieces.

But Jesus warns, waiting until that Stone falls results in a final crushing from which there is no recovery.

Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church, but He is also the Cornerstone of my life. When I put the level of His Holy Word on my life – is it perfectly centered? Or am I off just a tiny little bit?

I want to be perfectly centered. I want to use God’s Word as my level, and line myself up with the Cornerstone according to Scripture. I’m not looking for a comfortable relationship with Jesus. I want to be broken when I deviate from His Holiness. I want conviction to tap me into position. Because if I allow that level just a bit of leeway, it’s not going to correct itself down the road.

Because almost centered is not perfectly centered.

 

 

October 11; Stop Sinning… or Else.

Mark 5:21-43, 6:1-6; Matthew 9:18-34, 13:53-58; Luke 8:40-56; John 5:1-15

The Jewish leaders saw a man walking around, carrying a mat on the Sabbath. They knew him as a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Now he was walking around as if nothing was wrong.

But he was carrying a mat.

I shake my head at the Jews who were witnessing a miracle right in front of their eyes, yet pounced on the guy for breaking the Law by carrying his mat on the Sabbath. Legalist much?

The healed man answered them, “The guy who healed me told me to pick up my mat.” And when the Jews asked the man to name his healer, he had no idea. Jesus had slipped into the crowd without leaving his business card.

But here’s something I noticed today: when the man ran into Jesus later, Jesus told him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man immediately went running to the Jewish leaders who’d questioned him earlier, and identified Jesus as the one who had healed him and told him to carry his mat on the Sabbath.

Typical.

At least of me, and maybe you. Oh, we are thankful to God for His many blessings. We praise Him for good medical reports, for paying our bills, for keeping our kids safe. But don’t tell me I’m a sinner.

Don’t mess with my screen time, or my anger and jealousy. Don’t point out the times I use language that dishonors you, or when I gossip, or lie, or blend in with the world. Bless me Lord, then leave me alone.

Now maybe I’m reading too much into this passage. Maybe the healed man went excitedly to the Jewish leaders, thinking he’d share the good news of Jesus Christ with people who would be excited about Him, too. I don’t know what he was thinking.

I just don’t read that he repented of the sins Jesus addressed.

I want to always praise God for every blessing in my life. He is unbelievably good to me. I want to share Him with others, people for whom He died, people He loves as much as He loves me.

But I also want to hear Him say, “Stop sinning… or else,” and be quick to do what He says.