Bound In The Land Of Blessing: Our Problem With Sin

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In part 2 of this series, Bound in the Land of Blessing, I want to focus on our problem with sin. This series was came about after I read this passage from Nehemiah, “Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.” (Neh. 9:36 ESV) As I read this passage in Nehemiah I began asking myself, is it possible for believers to be bound in the land of blessings we have received through being in Christ. Today we focus on our problem with sin.

I bought a watermelon this weekend. I picked it out and was looking forward to eating it because I thought this is going to be a very good watermelon. My wife cut it open last night and it was bright red in its core, I could hear that it was crisp as the knife slid through the green core. Have you ever eaten those watermelons that when you cut it, the aroma of the watermelon lets you know it is going to taste good? This was last night.

As I got up to get me a piece I put it on the cutting, little did I know that this cutting board was used to cut up some very strong onions and every piece of watermelon that sat on the cutting board had a light onion flavor. What a way to ruin my heavenly watermelon experience?

The Permeating Nature of Sin

The nature of sin is corruption, it corrupts all it touches, just like the strong onion that was used on the cutting board infecting my watermelon with its flavor, sin has the same powerful effect on our lives.

Here in lies the problem, before the watermelon touched the cutting board it was good, ready to be eaten, with no issues. In our case we our rotten to the core, Jesus said,

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Matt. 15:18-20 ESV)

Jesus pointed out that our problem with sin is not just an outward problem, it is in inward problem, a problem of the heart, it is who we are. The reason we sin is because we are sinners, ever since the Adam and Eve ate that fruit (Gen. 3) sin has permeated this world we live in, and it has permeated our hearts.

The problem is we like to view ourselves like the watermelon, good to the core, but in actuality we are rotten to the core, we are the onion infecting the flavor of sin in every thing we do and touch. This is why Jesus came, to destroy the power of sin in our lives.

Destroying The Power Of Sin

The apostle John express some very powerful truths here,

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8–9)

The first truth John shares with us is those who practice sinning are under the realm of Satan, Paul describes sinners as being part of the kingdom of darkness (Col. 1:13). We have all been here before, before Christ rescued us, we were willing participants in the realm of Satan whether we knew it or not.

Which leads us to the reason Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, who John tells us has been sinning from the beginning. I find it interesting that John says from the beginning, because I believe he may be trying to get us think of the fall in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve decided they did not need God and ate the fruit. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and the power of sin which permeated our world in the beginning.

Finally, John says those who have been born of God, those whom God has called, rescued, sanctified, those who trust in Jesus and repent of sin, those “born of God” do not make a practice of sinning. John explains why those born of God do not practice sinning, “for God’s seed abides in them”. God’s seed could be the Spirit of God who indwells the Christian (Eph. 1), it could be the Word of God (1 Pet. 1) it could be the divine nature (2 Pet. 1) or it could be all three working in tandem. What we do know is the person who has been born of God does not make a practice of sinning.

So is John saying we should be sinless?

No, he would not say believers should be sinless, when earlier he says this,

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

What I believe John is saying is the believer does not make a practice of sinning because the Spirit, the Word and the new nature, which has been given to the those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ, will continually put the spotlight on the sin through conviction until repentance comes. When their is no conviction and godly sorrow for sin, we who claim to be followers of Christ have a cause to be concerned because that is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit, God’s word and the new nature have in our lives, to continually point the spot light on sin in our lives and bring us to repentance, to conform us into the image of Christ.

Bound in the Land of Blessing

This leads us to our question, can there be a time when the Christian is bound in the land of blessings of our salvation, where his struggles with sin prevent him from enjoying the new life in Christ?

Yes, whenever we have unrepentant sin in our lives we grieve the Spirit of God and thus hinder the work of God in our lives. Our sin diminishes the relational aspect we have with God. This is true even in our human relationships, think of the last conflict you had with your spouse or a very good friend, if there was wrongdoing involved one person is hurt, there is a something causing friction, lack of communication or a rift in the friendship or the marriage. The full joy of the relationship will not return or grow without repentance and a turning away of the wrongdoing.

Before we were followers of Christ we had no option but to sin. But now that Christ has given us his Spirit, and the Word has come alive in our hearts and he has blessed us with a new nature, we have the ability to put sin to death. Paul says,

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16 ESV)

Paul is saying when we willing sin, we are enslaving ourselves to sin. We are willing disrupting the blessings of the freedom we have in Christ for the temporal and permeating nature of sin, which leaves its stench on our lives.

So if we find ourselves in this condition what do we do?

We must continually turn to Christ. Too often I think we as believers see turning to Christ as a one time event, but turning and fixing our eyes on Christ is a habit we must develop and continually do. Take a look at John’s words,

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2 ESV)

John tells us when you sin, turn to Christ, he is your advocate, he will fight your battle trust in him, he will plead your case. He also tells us why, the cross. His death on the cross gives you the victory over sin. This victory over sin is not just in position but also a practice. Those born of God are infused with Spirit of God who gives us the power over sin (Rom 8)

We must continually repent and confess our sins through prayer. John tells us us,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

We must turn away from our sin and agree with God that what we are doing is sin. We must do this to restore the relationship with God. Our sin caused a rift in the relationship, therefore we must repent and confess to restore the full joy of the relationship and continued growth.

We must walk in the Spirit. Many people may try to make this a mystical experience but walking in the Spirit is living life according to the Word of God by the power of the Spirit of God. So what does this require? We must read the Bible to know how we should live. As we read the Scriptures, the Spirit of God convicts us, encourages us, grows us into the image of Christ. The Spirit uses the word to change our desires from sin toward God.

We must be involved in an accountable church community. Did you notice that all of the Scriptures I have quoted today are to believers, involved in a community of believers, who are holding each other accountable? Being involved in a safe accountable community where you can share your struggles, be encouraged, be challenged is crucial to growing in Christ and remaining free from sin.

There are many more things which can said, but this is a start, a springboard for continued growth.

Until Next Time

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

Reason to Celebrate

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What do you celebrate?

When was the last time you celebrated? I mean really celebrated. As a western culture we celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, significant accomplishments and the list can go on.

As I write I can’t help but here the tune in my head by Kool and the Gang “Celebrate good times, Come on!”

When was the last time you celebrated as an act of worship to God?

I have been contemplating this very question because of a verse I read in Nehemiah,

The whole community that had returned from exile made booths and lived in them. They had not celebrated like this from the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day. And there was tremendous joy. (Neh. 8:17)

The people of Israel have finished rebuilding the wall, Ezra has just finished the public reading of the law and now they are celebrating the Festival of booths also known as the  Feast of Tabernacles.

What I find interesting is, Nehemiah says, they have not celebrated like this since the days of Joshua. What is Nehemiah referring to?

We know from Scripture this feast was observed between the time of Joshua and Nehemiah (1 Kings 8:6; 1 Kings 8:65; Ezra 3:4). So what could Nehemiah mean here, could he possibly be referring to the joy expressed, that is a possibility, but I think there is something more here. Derek Kidner points out,

Not that the festival itself had fallen out of use ‘from the days of Jeshua’ (17)—see e.g. Ezra 3:4—but rather, that its camping-out element had meanwhile lapsed or been reduced to a mere token. The feast had two sides to it: it was a vintage festival, the ‘ingathering at the year’s end’ (Exod. 34:22), but also a memorial of the wilderness, when God had ‘made the people of Israel dwell in booths’ (Lev. 23:43). It seems to have been this aspect that had fallen into neglect. Custom, as happens so often in religious history, had overlaid and modified ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’, so that the freshly studied Scripture, like a cleaned painting, now revealed some long-forgotten colours.

What we see is overtime certain aspects of the festival were being neglected by the nation of Israel, which ended up modifying the festival over time. Another aspect we see is the attitude of the heart in which the festival is observed, it became just another thing we do.

How does this speak to us today? Let me point out two ways?

When Celebration Becomes A Cultural Custom

In the early church we see the gradual change of worship from Saturday to Sunday, why? The Resurrection of Jesus. The reason we gather for worship on Sunday’s is to celebrate Jesus rising from the dead and sealing our salvation forever.

Too often as I reflect on my Sunday morning experience it can sometimes feel ritualistic, routine and a task to check off.

As believers we must push back the tendency that Sunday morning church attendance is just another cultural check mark. We must engage in the worship, the sermon and the fellowship. We must examine our hearts to see if I am treating the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection as just another cultural custom like the Israelite’s treated the Feast of Booths because over time, as we see in the case of Israel, their worship of Yahweh gradually changed to idolatry.

Celebration As A Reflection of the Heart

What do you celebrate?

What we celebrate is a reflection of our heart, of what we value and esteem as important.

When we begin to treat the celebration of our Lord as a cultural check mark, we have unfocused and divided hearts. Compromise is creeping at the door.

Sunday morning or whatever day you worship on is a celebration of the risen Lord and we must point our hearts heavenward in celebration of this life altering truth. When you walk into a gathering to celebrate Christ, we should be walking in like the Psalmist,

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever;
his faithfulness, through all generations (Psa. 100:4-5)

What do you celebrate?

Until Next Time

Soli Deo Gloria

Kidner, D. (1979). Ezra and Nehemiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 12, p. 118). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Focus Friday: Parenting is Gospel Ministry

Parenting isn’t for cowards. But as Paul Tripp points out “parenting is impossible.” I don’t have the qualities needed for gospel centered parenting, because I am a selfish sinner. 

Parenting resources are great, but they need a foundation. The foundation is the Gospel. I heard this talk yesterday and wished I heard it 22 years ago. 

THIS PARENTING TALK IS A MUST FOR ALL PARENTS. 

Please take the time and watch or listen with your spouse, for your benefit and the benefit of your family. 

Audio

Meditation Monday: Building Character 


Our pastor has been preaching through Genesis, currently, we are studying the life of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob from Rachel who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers when he was 17. 

For thirteen years Joseph experienced heartache after heartache. Sold into slavery, falsely accused of a crime, falsely imprisoned, neglected and forgotten. Yet we never read of Joseph throwing a pity party or bemoaning his situation. As a matter of fact we see the opposite, in every situation of injustice which came into his life, his response seemed to be how can I make the best of this situation. As a young slave he worked hard and was promoted, in prison he worked hard and was promoted, when released because of the Lord’s favor on him to interpret dreams, he was promoted to second in command of Egypt.

From the ages of 17-30 he experienced heartache and trouble, yet he responded favorably in every situation. If we are not careful, when we read the story of Joseph we will miss this fact, every situation he went through was a test of character and a character building opportunity.

In our lives we experience tests of character and character building opportunities, it is how we respond to those test and opportunities which determine our growth. The apostle Peter writes, 

though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:6-7
The various trials we face is the test of the the genuineness of our faith. Every time we are tested our character is under the microscope, how will we respond, and yet how we respond also provides a character building opportunity. Here is what the Bible tells us in the book of James, 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

Peter tells us trials test our faith. James tells us trials test our faith and produces steadfastness, which means endurance or patience. But notice when steadfastness has its full effect we become perfect and complete,  lacking nothing. The Lord test our character for the purpose of building character in us.

How many times do we seem to struggle through similar trials? 

Could it be the Lord is trying to build something in us he could use in the future for his glory? 

Could it be we are failing the Lord’s test of character, so we continue to struggle through similar trials? 

Examine your life today.

Until Next Time 

Soli Deo Gloria

Fickle Faith


I am reading through Exodus for my devotional reading. This morning I read about the Passover and the final plague on Egypt, the death of the firstborn. I read about the Lord freeing his people from slavery and blessing them tremendously through the Egyptians, most likely because of their fear of the Lord after the pounding they recieved at the hand of the Lord through the plagues. We see the Lord deliver them from stubborn Egyptians by parting the Red Sea and crashing the sea upon the Egyptians which were after them. Then on the shore the people of God have a tremendous worship service. They sing praises and dance before the Lord. But then three days later they are complaining and grumbling to Moses. It only took three days for them to forget what the Lord had done for them. 

How long does it take you to foget what the Lord has done and begin complaining about whatever situation your in?

The Bible says the Lord was testing them, testing their faith, which was displayed in celebration three days earlier but when a difficult situation arose they immediately began to complain. The Bible says in 1 Peter the purpose of various trials or testings is for the purpose of testing the genuineness of your faith (1 Pet. 1:6-7). The results of the testing of the Israelites was fickle faith.

Fickle Faith

Fickle faith is a faith that ebbs and flows with the circumstances of life. A fickle faith will experience celebratory worship in the victories and experience crushing doubt in the moments of trials, testings or suffering. We see this with the Israelites, throwing a party after the Red Sea and then 3 days later grumbling and complaining about bitter water, later they will say it was better if they remained in slavery in Egypt. 

As disciples of Christ, we all experience moments of fickle faith. Moments when we are down in the dumps of trials, testing or suffering and we complain or doubt the Lord’s work in our lives. But it is in these moments of testing which the Lord can use to bring growth and conformity into the image of Christ.

How?

There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.” – Exodus 15:25-26

When we are going through the fire, experiencing a time of testing, trial or suffering, the Lord asks us to trust and obey and put aside fickle faith. The Lord says if you will diligently listen, in the the time of the Exodus, when they had no Bible, what the Israelites should have done was seek the Lord, present their needs to Him and wait. Instead they grumbled and complained to Moses. 

Today we have a Bible and the Lord wants us to hear His voice through the Scriptures. He wants us to bank on the character of God displayed through the pages of your Bible and come to him with our worries, needs, trials, testings and sufferings. Where we lack faith he wants to pray, Lord I believe help my unbelief. 

Secondly, the Lord wants us to display a posture of obedience in our suffering. We all know it is easy to obey when everything is smooth sailing. When Egyptians are being destroyed in the sea it is a party. But what happens when you have to walk through the desert? What does your obedience look like then? The Lord desires to develop in his disciples a life of trust and obedience, a posture of listening and doing in the good times and the bad.

Pray for a strong, steady faith and where you struggle or lack pray for the Lord to help your unbelief. 

Until Next Time 

Soli Deo Gloria

Two Ways We Damage Our Conscience

I have been reading a very helpful book concerning our conscience, Conscience: What it is, How to train it and Loving those who differ  by Naselli and Crowley. img_0539

Naselli and Crowley point out that the conscience is a God given human capacity and define it by saying, your conscience is your consciousness of what you believe is right and wrong.  So generally when you hear that little voice in your head prompting you to do or not to do something, it is generally a good idea to obey it.

Yet sometimes your conscience can be wrong, Continue reading “Two Ways We Damage Our Conscience”

3 Goals For A New School Year

Back-to-School

Where I live school is back in session, the buses are running, lunches are being packed and school traffic is back on the road. Some are glad, but if I were to take a guess most are not, but it is a part of life. The Bible encourages us to glorify God in whatever we do (1 Cor. 10:31), which means, when it comes to school we are to glorify God. But how? Continue reading “3 Goals For A New School Year”