Tag Archives: sin

Remember the Gospel

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“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:1-2

My husband says every good Lutheran sermon must contain both law and gospel:  law so we recognize that we are sinners and the gospel message that through Christ’s atonement we are saved.

In our daily world, it’s easy to forget both of those things.  Sin has become a bad word.  We’re told it’s not healthy to feel guilt.  We simply “made a mistake” or “used poor judgement.”  It’s easy to make excuses for our behavior that lessen our responsibility.  It’s easy to deny our faults and blame somebody else.  That goes as far back as Adam, remember?  He told God, “the woman you gave me, caused me to sin.”

But we’re made for God and without Him we feel incomplete, so no matter how hard we try, guilt creeps in.  We doubt and despair.  We try to feel good about ourselves, but the devil continually whispers to us that we’ll never be acceptable.

There’s only one cure:  go to church, confess your sins really are sins and really are yours and then hear the gospel.  My husband says that’s simple, too:  Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for me.

Did you confess your sins today?  Did you hear the gospel?  If so, you may be a Lutheran.

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Changing Direction

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,LL Where are you headed?  As humans, our default position is sin, and if we keep heading the way we’re inclined, we’ll end up in eternal separation from God–that’s what Hell really is.  We don’t like to talk about this, or even think about it, but it’s true and denying it won’t change anything.

There is a remedy for this sorry state of affairs, and it involves repentance.  In a previous post, I told you that in Greek the word repent actually means to turn your insides around; if you choose to think of it in military terms, it would be doing an about face; turning away to head in the opposite direction.

The apostle, Peter describes how God works through repentance this way:

“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”  Acts 3:19-21

Sounds pretty good to me.  Forgiveness, basking in God’s presence, receiving a Savior, the eventual restoration of all things vs. guilt, alienation, trying to save myself and remaining in the miserable mess I’ve created.

Why not turn around before it’s too late?

 

Change My Heart

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“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

We tend to think of the heart as the seat of the emotions, but in Bible times, it meant something a little different.  The heart was considered a person’s very essence.  The heart revealed who the person really was; the core of their being.  And guess what?  Every one of us is cursed with a sin-sick heart.  Often we try to deceive ourselves, insisting that we are basically good, but the apostle John tells us,

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”1 John 1:8

Lee Strobel was a stubborn man.  In the movie, The Case For Christ, we see just how far he was willing to go to convince himself and others that God did not exist.  He prided himself on his intelligence and objectivity.  He researched diligently; he consulted the best experts in the field.  He hardened his heart.  He wanted to rebel.

Every day, Lee’s wife, a new Christian, prayed this scripture for him:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

She begged God to change Lee’s heart and her prayers were answered.  Only God can soften hearts.  Only God can make bad men and women good.   He loves us, forgives us and saves us.  Has He changed your heart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run Away

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In addition to telling us what to pursue, the Bible gives us quite a list of things to flee, or run away from.  Chapter 6 of 1 Timothy lists some things to avoid:

  • Craving for controversy
  • Quarrels about words
  • Envy
  • Dissention
  • Slander
  • Evil suspicions
  • Love of money

Ending with the admonition:

“But as for you, O man of God flee from these things.” 1 Timothy 6:11

In the first letter to the Corinthians Paul says we are to:

“Flee from sexual immorality …”(6:18)

“…flee from idolatry.” (10:14)

Most of these things, sadly, come up in everyday life.  If you think they don’t, remember looking lustfully at another person can lead to adultery and anything we love more than God is an idol.  That makes them pretty common, not to mention the “lesser” evils mentioned by Timothy–envy, quarrels, etc..  So how exactly do we “flee” from these things?

Well, we all know our own weaknesses.  If yours is gossip, don’t hang around with the folks who like to do that.  Take a walk instead of indulging in idle words with coworkers at lunch.  Is it greed?  Make a resolution to tithe or better yet, support a worthwhile ministry in addition to your tithe. Is it lust?  Throw away the magazines and avoid the internet sites that encourage it. Read something worthwhile instead. Tactics like this are well known to mothers of toddlers and teenagers:  we call it “distract and replace.”

Dwell on God’s Word instead of your sinful inclinations.  When you notice yourself falling into quarrelsome or suspicious thinking, have a Bible verse ready for meditation.  If things get really bad, call a godly friend you know will calm you and guide you in the right path.

Will fleeing always work?  Of course not.  I fall into bad habits of negative thinking and speaking all the time.  However, when we consciously lean away from sinful behavior, in time an improvement is visible.

“..beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”  2 Corinthians 7:1

Run from sin.  Run hard.

12 Steps for Sinners

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I’m not a friend of Bill’s and I’ve never been to an AA meeting.  However I have read a number of books written by members of AA and also books about AA.  I think people who practice the 12 steps are some of the most spiritual folks around and I often wonder if all us shouldn’t use them as a guide to Christian living.  After all, don’t we all suffer from addiction to sin?

Imagine what would happen if we got up in front of a group of people on some regular basis and said, “My name is (fill in the blank) and I’m a sinner.”  I know, we confess every week as part of the worship service, but that can easily become rote and meaningless.  Many of us say the words (at least some of the time) without really thinking about them.

Imagine how it would feel to regularly do a “fearless moral inventory.”  You know, actually admitting and taking responsibility for the sins we have committed, instead of sweeping them under the rug and hoping we could just “move on” by ignoring them and hoping they never come out into the light.

Imagine what the world would be like if we actually tried to make amends to people when we wronged them.  Saying “I’m sorry and I’ll try not to do that again” can mean a lot if it’s sincere.  Doing what we can to correct the situation we created means even more.

What if we tried, actually tried to be open to God’s leading and grow closer to Him?  What would happen if prayer became a priority in every Christian’s life?  Not something reserved for Sundays, but an integral part of each day.

Suppose, having worked through the steps ourselves, we committed to carrying the gospel message to others?  Not because it’s our duty as a good church member, but because we knew what relief and peace it would bring to many suffering souls?

These are some of the things AA promotes and that addicts who are “working the program” do.  It doesn’t work for everyone, because as one author says,

“Many less desperate alcoholics tried AA, but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.”

In other words, they have to hit bottom.  The same is true of Christians.  We know we have a problem with sin, but we have the mistaken illusion that we’ve got it under control.  We can live with it.  It causes some problems but nothing we can’t handle.  Well, read the sermon on the mount (our sermon topic last Sunday) and think again.  If you’re angry with someone, you’re on the path to murder;  if you insult your brother by calling him a fool you’ve born false witness, when you look at someone lustfully, you’re in danger of adultery;  if you divorce (no matter if it’s legal or amicable) you’ve broken a covenant relationship.  We all have done these kinds of things and more.  We can’t manage our sin on our own. We need a Savior.

Think of the church as “Sinners Anonymous.”  Take the first step and admit the hopelessness and helplessness of your life without Christ.  Then live like someone who knows things have to change.  I’m going to try to.

 

 

 

 

Live at Peace

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“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Romans 12:18

Michele’s last post highlighted how difficult it is to maintain peace, especially during these turbulent times.  People are angry and unwilling to see any virtue in those with whom they disagree.

My devotional reading a few days ago was taken from Psalm 34:

“Turn away from evil and do good;  seek peace and pursue it.”

Easier said than done, right?  People make us mad.  The folks we deal with every day in our workplace, family, even church can be irritating, insensitive, rude and more. They have political views we don’t understand.  They don’t do things the way we want them done.  They don’t seem to care how their actions and words affect us.  How do we deal with this?

Well, the only person I can really control is me.  If I want to get along with others, I have to make decisions that allow me to do this. I have to pursue peace.  My devotional, and some other readings from Romans and James have a few good suggestions I’d like to share.

  • Try to understand, through prayer, the motivation of others.  I have often found, after praying for someone there are things in their life that cause them to behave the way they do.  It may not make their behavior right, but it does help me accept it without anger.
  • Outdo one another in showing honor.(Romans 12:10)  Sometimes one person’s calm, respectful manner will create a change in the environment.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (Romans 12:17)  Seeking revenge causes a bad situation to escalate.
  • Love one another with a brotherly affection (Romans 12:10).  When we love someone we are willing to make allowances for them.
  • Think before you speak (James 1:26)
  • (Most important) Always give others the benefit of the doubt.  How many relationships would be saved if we followed this simple rule?

I wish I could say I always follow my own advice.  Unfortunately like Michele and everyone else, sin is my default position.  I have my own particular buttons that when pushed result in a stubborn, angry, unforgiving response.  However, God doesn’t give me what I deserve.  He gives me grace;  that’s what I should extend to others.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15

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Weak and Waiting

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“Is there no balm in Gilead?  Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?”  Jeremiah 8:22

My husband was sick recently with what turned out to be a pretty serious infection (diverticulitis).  Like many of us do, he waited until the pain was quite bad before he went to the doctor.  He kept hoping it would just go away if he ignored it long enough.  He didn’t want to spend the money or take time out of his busy schedule. At the doctor’s office  he was given a course of antibiotics which he began taking right away.  Then he anxiously waited for the pain to subside.  Thankfully within a few days it did.  I’m sure he wishes he had visited the physician sooner.  Now if he follows a different diet, he hopes to stay well.  But if the pain comes back, he’ll know what to do — get to the doctor quickly.

Where is all this going?  Well, this reminds me of the sin-sickness from which we all suffer.  We try to ignore it.  Pretend it’s not there at all, or that it’s something we can live with.  We don’t want to interrupt our lives by going to God.  We don’t want to admit He deserves our time, talent and money.  We’re selfish and want to keep going in the familiar (sinful) way we’ve become accustomed to.

For some of us the pain finally gets so bad we give in.  We turn our problems over to God.  We confess our sins and trust that Jesus will cleanse and restore us.  Wow, what a relief!  The love and peace we receive is so amazing, we can’t understand what was keeping us away before.  With a proper diet (regular worship, the sacraments, study of God’s word) we won’t have to find ourselves in that miserable situation again.  We know what to do.

There is a balm in Gilead.  Something that will make us strong and healthy again.  Why wait?

 

 

Sin Has Consequences

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“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?….For the wages of sin is death…”Romans 6:21-23

As you can see, I’m still pondering January’s theme. Beth Ann’s post about abortion made me think of this verse.  Not just because abortion kills babies, but also because as Beth Ann said, a piece of her died also.  When we disobey God, we harm others, and we also harm ourselves.  Sin may look pretty, or easy, or feel good for the moment, but it has consequences that are not good for anyone. We’ve all experienced this.

Guess what else I notice in this verse.  We earn the consequences of our sin.  It is the wage we receive for the things we do. It’s not foisted upon us; it doesn’t just happen–we work at it!  In case you have any thought like, “I haven’t done anything too awful, so this doesn’t apply to me” listen to this:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Not some of us, or most of us, but ALL of us are sinners.

Fortunately, I haven’t given you the full story.  Here’s how Romans 6:23 ends:

“…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And Romans 3:23:

“…and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

God gave us a way out of our sin.  We don’t earn this;  it is a free gift.  We don’t choose our salvation, but we can choose how we live in view of it.

“…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”  Deuteronomy 30:19

Choose obedience.  Choose life.

 

 

 

What is Sin?

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What is sin?  In today’s culture, we often trivialize it.  We don’t even like to talk about it.  Rather than admitting to sin, we say we “made a mistake”, “used poor judgement,”  or “messed up.”  We blame it on factors we can’t control–our difficult upbringing, our desperate situation, our friends or our DNA!  Adam and Eve tried that, too.  Eve told God,

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3″13

and Adam goes even further, seeming to blame God Himself:

“The woman whom you gave to me, she gave me the fruit of the tree and I ate.”  Genesis 3:12

The apostle doesn’t mince words when he describes sin:

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness;  sin is lawlessness.” 1 John:3:4

A lawbreaker is a criminal;  a person who deserves punishment.  Someone who is lawless is a rebel — unwilling to obey authority.  I don’t like to think of myself this way, and you probably don’t either.  However, admitting what I really am (a lawless rebel) is the first step toward true reconciliation with God.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”  1 John 1:8-10

Calling sin what it is isn’t easy;  but it is necessary.

Tools of the Trade

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Image result for images of the armor of godWhen it comes to obedience, Satan is our enemy.  His wiles were behind the very first instance of disobedience in the garden, and he continues to lead us astray today.  However God has given us tools to resist the devil.  In Chapter 6 of Ephesians, the apostle Paul describes these tools and calls them “the armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17)

When and how do we receive this armor?  I believe it comes with our baptism.  This is the day God claims us as His own, the day that we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14)  Only in Him do we become righteous and capable of true obedience.

Here’s what the Lutheran Catechism says about baptism:

“It (baptism) signifies that the old Adam in us, together will all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death;  and that the new man should daily come forth and rise, to live before God in righteousness and holiness forever.”

This is based upon Romans 6: 4

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised form the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

So here’s the question Paul poses:

“How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2)

You and I are new creations.  God gave us righteousness through Christ.  We have the armor of God.  Remembering this can help us to be obedient.