Know your Sin

 

Psalm 51:3 “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”

For many of us in our personal lives, and sadly within many churches, we have become far to unconcerned with sin.  It’s rarely if ever preached on, never disciplined, and we personally have accepted it and gloss over it as part of who we are.  This isn’t something that’s occurred overnight, but has more been a slow progression and culture has aided in our callousness toward the recognition of sin in our lives.  We were born sinful and predisposed to overlook it in our lives.  In our culture, television, music, commercials, consumerist mentality, everything that we come in contact with has worked collectively with our nature to numb us toward sin.  Don’t believe me?  Just watch T.V. for a few minutes and you’ll either hear or see things that would not have been mainstream a few years ago but more likely been Rated-R.  It’s become so prevalent that it has actually worked to change the mindset of the everyday Christian.  Stop and think about what’s going on; our sensitivity toward sin has become so minimized that we now create faux arguments, which we claim to be Biblical, to support our sinful behaviors, such as our entertainment choices or so called “freedoms”.  The Bible calls for us to “be holy” (I Peter 1:15) yet that prosecuting statement gets often overlooked in our defense against sin.

Charles Spurgeon offers the following thoughts on the weightiness of sin in our lives:

Beware of the light thoughts of sin.  At the time of conversion, the conscience is so tender, that we are afraid of the slightest sin.  Young converts have a holy timidity, a godly fear lest they should offend against God.  But alas! Very soon the fine bloom upon these first ripe fruits is removed by the rough handling of the surrounding world; the sensitive plant of young piety turns into a willow in after life, too pliant, too easily yielding.  It is sadly true, that even a Christian may grow by degrees so callous, that the sin which once startled him does not alarm him in the least.  By degrees men get familiar with sin.  The ear in which the cannon has been booming will not notice slight sounds.  At first a little sin startles us; but soon we say, Is it not a little one?  Then there comes another, larger, and then another, until by degrees we begin to regard sin as but a little ill; and then follows an unholy presumption: We have not fallen into open sin.  True, we tripped a little, but we stood upright in the main.  We may have uttered one unholy word, but as for the most of our conversation, it has been consistent.  So we palliate sin; we throw a cloak over it; we call it by dainty names.  Christian, beware how thou thinkest lightly of sin.  Take heed lest thou fall by little and little.  Sin, a little thing? Is it not a poison?  Who knows its deadliness?  Sin, a little thing?  Do not the little foxes spoil the grapes?  Doth not the tiny coral insect build a rock which wrecks a navy?  Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks?  Will not continual droppings wear away stones?  Sin, a little thing?  It girded the Redeemer’s head with thorns, and pierced His heart!  It made Him suffer anguish, bitterness, and woe.  Could you weigh the least sin in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent, and abhor the least appearance of evil.  Look upon all sin as that which crucified the Savior, and you will see it to be exceeding sinful.

How true this is.  When we begin to sweep what we call “little” sins away until like a layer of skin to a callous our hearts become more and more hardened.  Our conscience becomes more willing to overlook sin until our lives take the appearance of being no different than that of nonbelievers.  We begin to watch the same shows, laugh at the same jokes, drink the same drinks, but yet we claim Christ as Savior and declare that He gives us freedom to do those things.  Meanwhile those of the world look at us a hypocrites and rightly so as we mock the name of the Lord with our actions.  Oh the dangers of not knowing our sin.

King David did not downplay his sin.  When confronted by Nathan about his murderous adulterous affair, he was sincerely broken over his sins.  How easy it would’ve been for him to sweep his transgressions away by claiming he had every right as king to do what he pleased.  We’ve talked here before about King Herod and his murderous schemes, his adulterous, incestuous affairs yet he felt entitled to act this way because he was king, but not so with David.  I often wonder if as Christians we don’t have a little bit of King Herod’s entitlement mindset and think that because we have been saved by grace through faith that we are permitted certain “freedoms” or pleasures.

David felt the weight of his sin in his life and was broken by it.  He knew his sins and came face to face with them.  And he cried out to God for forgiveness.  1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  Selah  5acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” Psalm 32:1-5 ESV

It’s time for us as believers in the body of Christ to likewise begin to feel the weight of sin in our lives.  We need to come face to face with the fact that we are not good, that even our good deeds are nothing, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6 When we come to this realization and know our sin, we begin to see how unworthy we are to stand before the Holy God.  We can begin to understand that we’re not entitled to anything, but instead reliant on God for everything.  The weight of our sin should break us, it should make us feel like King David and swim in sorrow at night in our sheets.  Only then can a loving God put us back together and mold us in the image of His Son.  Only then can we truly realize our need for a Savior and that life apart from a total reliance upon Him is impossible.  Know your sin.  Repent of them. And run to Jesus Christ for forgiveness.

 

Preparing your church for Suffering

In a world where suffering of any kind seems so prevalent, natural disasters are becoming more frequent, disease strikes those closest to us, and death is eminent for us all, it’s important to look to the Bible to understand how and why God uses suffering in our lives.  The Apostle Paul was a man whom God set apart to suffer for His sake and we can look at how he handled it in his life for encouragement during times of our own suffering.  Upon his conversion on the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul was temporarily strickened blind.  The Lord appeared to a disciple in Damascus named Ananias and told him to find Paul and lay hands on him for healing of his sight.  The Lord declared to Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:10-16 ESV  And suffer he did.  Paul summarizes in II Corinthians 11:21-30 ESV

“But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I.  Are they servants of Christ?  I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.  Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak?  Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

Despite the many sufferings, Paul kept his focus on the Lord Jesus Christ,  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  Romans 8:18 ESV The Apostle Paul maintained an eternal focus, even in the midst of a life dedicated to suffering for the cause of advancing the Gospel.

But why does it happen?  Why are we allowed to suffer?  The first answer is that we live in a fallen, sinful world and the result of this sin is death (Romans 6:23).  Those of us who are in Christ are not exempt from suffering, but we do have the assurance that Jesus Christ will carry us through if we rely upon Him as the Rock in our life.  Secondly, when we look to Him, we can rejoice in the refining or purifying that suffering brings.   As Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5 ESV “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  We have a choice in the face of suffering, we can allow it to harden our hearts toward God, life, and the people around us or we can look unto the Lord and allow Him to work in our lives, sanctifying us in preparation for future glory. 

Paul’s attitude and focus on Jesus is the same type of approach we should take in our own lives and corporately in our churches.   This is the same type of focus you’ll see in the video below.  Matt Chandler, pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, TX details his diagnosis, surgery, and on-going battle with cancer at the recent Together For the Gospel Conference.  Since the video is in it’s original format from the conference it may be slow to download, but it is worth the watch.  C.J. Mahaney summarizes suffering after Chandler’s testimony. 

Sometimes it’s difficult for us to accept that God allows suffering and sometimes we question to the point of allowing ourselves to become hardened toward the Lord, by asking how He could allow such things to happen.  In a fallen, sinful world we need to understand that at some point suffering will occur, either directly or indirectly, and we must be prepared for this by having Christ as the foundation of our life, focusing on the eternal glory to be seen in heaven, and realizing that God allowed His Holy, sinless Son to endure the suffering of the cross for our sake and we can rest our hope in that.

 

T4G 2010 — Session 8 — Matt Chandler from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

The Sovereignty of God in Government

A few weeks ago I posted 2 blogs that spoke primarily about the Sovereignty of God.  I retracted those blogs because I felt maybe I had not explained clearly the Word of God or that maybe I had interjected my own personal views into the Scripture meaning.  Since that time the Lord has continually revealed this theme to me throughout His Word and I began to feel like I had been unfaithful to the message that God wanted delivered because I had retracted the posts and at the root of my retraction was a fear that perhaps these truths of the Bible might be deemed offensive to readers who have not been taught the Sovereignty of God.  So it is with that that I’ve rewritten the post discussing one of the more common areas where we find suppression of God’s sovereignty, namely governmental officials and rulers.  One thing that must be made perfectly clear in studying the Word of God, specifically God’s attributes and character, is that we as humans are sinful and fallible and we cannot view God in the same light that we view each other, meaning , His “thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways His [my] ways, declares the LORD,” Isaiah 55:8  We cannot see clearly to understand God’s purpose and plan in everything other than for the accomplishment of  His own glory, but we can rest assured He is fully and sovereignly in control of everything, including positions of political power.

 

The Sovereignty of God within positions and people of ruling power is not confined to one particular country or body of people, but must be looked at on a global and even historical scale.  As a people, we love to complain, grumble, murmur, even protest about our leaders, but we must ask, are these complaints to be directed toward a particular person in leadership or does God’s sovereignty extend even into our leadership and does He therefore raise up leaders for His own glory?  In our first example we find Daniel interpreting a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar’s and the following is a summary of that vision, “The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will and sets over it the lowliest of men.” (Daniel 4:17 ESV)  In this dream it is to be made known to all men, specifically Nebuchadnezzar, that it is God who rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He wills.   

 

Later in this same chapter Daniel continues his interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams which revealed that the king would be like a beast of the field until he recognized, “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Daniel 4:26) Just as Daniel had prophesied, the king was on his rooftop and declared, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30) and immediately he was driven from his kingdom and made like a beast of the field because he refused to recognize that it was God who ruled his kingdom and it was God that had placed him in power and allowed him success.  Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was restored the moment he “lifted his [my] eyes to heaven, and his [my] reason returned to him [me], and he [I] blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

   for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
   and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
   and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
   and among the inhabitants of the earth;
   and none can stay his hand
   or say to him, ‘What have you done?'” Daniel 4:34-35 ESV

Nebuchadnezzar paid a hard and humiliating price for not realizing God’s sovereignty in placing him in his kingdom and allowing him to remain there.  He learned that it is God who gives and God who takes away, not the plans or doing of man, as we learned in the post on the Providence in the Life of Joseph, and that no one has a right to question God’s purposes in His decisions.

 

These truths in understanding how God sovereignly commands who He wills into the positions He establishes presents some difficulties and questions in our human reasoning.  Again, we must caution ourselves not to interject our human emotions into any determination of the will of God, but instead let us reverently recognize that it is He that is in control.  One difficulty we find, in the United States especially, is that too often we refuse to accept that God has instituted whom He wills at the position He commands.  We look around our country or the world through humanistic lenses and think “How could God let this person lead” or “God had nothing to do with this person getting elected, so let’s refuse to recognize them.”  This is particularly evident these days with the multiple “tea-parties” and focus on political action and involvement rather than on the biblical command of the Great Commission to spread the Gospel.  Yet we must again look to the Bible to see how God works through the lives of even evil men to accomplish His plans and make His glory known. 

 

It can be argued that King Herod was one of the vilest, evil, wicked, and morally corrupt leaders that this world has ever known.  This man ordered the execution of every male child under the age of two because he felt his kingdom threatened.  Not only did he issue this decree, but he murdered his own family because they were a threat to him.  Yet without question this man, King Herod, was placed in his position by the authority of the sovereign God.  Matthew 2:15-16 provides account of Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt with their newborn Son to escape the murderous plot of Herod, “When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”  This persecution by Herod on the little children had been prophesied hundreds of years before Christ’s birth, yet it was allowed to happen that God’s purpose and plan in establishing the heritage of Jesus and fulfilling prophecy might take place.  While difficult to understand, we must stop short of questioning God’s motives and look only to God’s purpose in establishing the earthly ministry of His Son.      

 

To again see how God is able to work His purposes through the lives of evil men, let’s remain in the lineage of the first King Herod and follow the life of his son.  The sovereignty of God may not be more evident in Scripture than in the life of Herod who ruled during the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Herod’s son was just as wicked as his father, having beheaded John the Baptist, yet never did Jesus intervene into his political affairs, never did He stage protests, and never did His focus even entertain the political realm.  In fact, despite the prophetic announcement that, “the government shall be upon His shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6), Jesus yielded to governmental authorities throughout His life on earth but also declared, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  (John 18:36 ESV)  In our familiarity with the life of Jesus, we know that there was a wicked ruler in Herod’s son, a cowardly, greedy, easily persuaded Roman official in Pontius Pilate, and an equally narcissistic, evil ruler in Caesar all placed in authoritative governmental positions by God.  In Acts 4:27-28 ESV we read, “27for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”  All of the men involved in the crucifixion of Jesus were part of God’s predestined plan to crush His Son for our sins, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; He has put him to grief.” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV)  These men, whom God placed in power, were humanly responsible for the murder of the Holy of Holies, the King of Kings, the Only Begotten of the Father, yet it was in fulfillment of God’s holy plan of salvation.  When we feel the weight and power behind this, it should make us feel so comparatively tiny for questioning how God could place a leader in power who wants to raise taxes or pass some legislation that we think goes against our rights.  The Sovereign God of the universe placed a leader in power who murdered His Son!  Yet it was His plan of salvation for us, it accomplished His redemptive purpose for man.  This is the love that God has, that He sent His only Son to be sin for us and to die for those sins on the cross, that through faith in Him we might have eternal life.  That’s the sovereignty of God on display.

 

Our final lesson comes from the apostle Paul in chapter 13 of his Roman epistle, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Romans 13:1-2 ESV  Paul informs us that the governing authorities that exist have been instituted by God and for that reason we are to be subject to these authorities. But, I’m aware of how our human nature likes to apply that passage to something other than it’s intended governmental authority, so let’s likewise look at how the Apostle Peter addresses this same issue, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” (I Peter 2:13-14 ESV) So we can biblically conclude that God’s sovereignty extends to political rulers and that it is our responsibility as children of God and co-heirs with Jesus to realize that we are foreigners here, that like Jesus our residence is not here, but in heaven with Him and in realizing this we must submit to the authorities that God has put in place.  Are you a servant of the King?  Stop fighting the rulers of this world and recognize the sovereignty of God and that it is He who places those in power.  Trust that God is in control and shift your focus from the rulers of this world to the Kingdom of Heaven.  “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV) 

“Who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:23 ESV)

“Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow.” (Isaiah 41:2 ESV)

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"