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Archive for Sin

Let me summarize this week’s series on chronic sin patterns with some practical advice that Paul offered in Romans 12. In verses 1-2, he wrote, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NLT).

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? You know, that annoying tune or lyric that just won’t go away, no matter how hard you try? I think that experience is a good example of why we struggle to overcome sin in our lives. When we see it, we don’t like it, and we want to be rid of it. No matter how hard we try to stop, it seems to get stronger and stronger. Just like that song stuck in our heads. The principle Paul offered in Romans 12:1-2 is that we overcome sin by replacement.

Let’s try an experiment. I’m going to give you a mathematical equation that you can solve. Don’t say the answer, simply think it. Ready? 3 + 4 = __________. Got it? Think about the answer. Now stop thinking it. No matter how hard we try to not think “7,” it seems to still be fixed in our minds.

Now let me give you a second equation. 2 + 6 = _________. Think about the sum of that equation. Now that you’re thinking “8,” what happened to “7?” It’s gone. You have replaced the value of 7 with a new value, 8. That’s what Paul is driving at when he writes of renewing our minds.

Sin in our lives becomes a value fixed in our minds. We can try to overcome it by avoidance techniques, but at the end of the day, the only way we can overcome it is to exchange the value with a greater value. When we sin we are placing value on a means that will satisfy some desire in life. But when we discover the surpassing greatness of Jesus and make him our supreme value, it diminishes the value we attach to sin.

In 1922, Helen Lemmel penned the lyrics to a hymn that expresses this more clearly than I could hope:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”

If you have a song stuck in your head, the best way to get rid of it is to sing a new song.

Categories : Belief, iBelieve, Jesus, John, Sin
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Even though we wrestle with living in Romans 7, the promise that God offers is that “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1-2, NLT). In these two verses, Paul calls to mind two important facts about the believer’s relationship to sin.

First, our sin has already been dealt with. We “have been freed from the power of sin.” This directly correlates with the second important fact, which is that everything we need to overcome sin in our lives is already at our disposal. We have been forgiven and equipped to live free from sin. That’s the promise of God to his children!

Tomorrow I’ll finish up the series with Paul’s practical advice on how to get out of living in Romans 7 and into the living life as God intended.

Categories : Belief, iBelieve, Jesus, John, Sin
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The premise of the Christian life is that believers are empowered to live above the domination of sin. Through the grace of Christ, sin does not have control over our lives. We have the ability to have control over it. But there’s a problem. Even though we are free from the power that sin holds over us, we still sin.

Maybe you can identify with Paul’s frustration in the concluding verses of Romans 7. In that familiar passage, Paul stated that the thing he wants to do (live righteously, free from sin) he can’t; and the thing he doesn’t want to do (commit sin) is what he ends up doing. Sound familiar? I’ll admit, there’s a big part of me that is thankful for this passage. Paul described a feeling 2,000 years ago that clearly resonates with my heart.

Paul completes his confession with a simple request: “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, HCSB).

When the reader of this passage comes across this verse, I think the first reaction to it is to admire Paul’s rhetorical genius. “Body of death” sounds poetic, but this image would have meant something tangible to the ancient audience. One of the methods of capital punishment that Rome had developed was to execute a person who committed murder with the corpse of the victim. The offender would be strapped arm to arm, chest to chest, leg to leg, and face to face with the corpse and left. Over time, as the corpse began to decompose, the decomposition process would begin to eat away at the body of the murdered, thus making it possible for the murder victim to avenge his own death. Though that image is quite graphic, it gives us an insight as to how Paul felt then and articulates our own feelings of frustration with our own ongoing sin today.

But notice how Paul phrased the question. He didn’t ask “what” will rescue me. He asked “who will rescue me?” Romans 7:25 is his hopeful answer: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Tomorrow I’ll return with part 4 of this series. Yes, Jesus is the answer to the sin problem! And His promise is found in the very next chapter.

Categories : Belief, iBelieve, Jesus, John, Sin
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So what do we do with those pesky habitual sins? I think one has to look no further than the Book of Romans for some timely words of wisdom.

In Romans 6:1-2, Paul offers the premise of the believer’s attitude toward sin. “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, NLT). Evidently the recipients of Paul’s letter were challenged by a false approach to grace. Some in their community of faith believed that if God’s grace was made available to them when they sinned, then logically the more they sinned, the more grace they could receive. Paul replied, “Not so fast,” which is 21st century speak for “God forbid! (KJV).”

If we’re going to appropriately respond to chronic patterns of sin in our lives, we have to begin with the premise that God’s plan is for his children to not sin. Some faith traditions believe that Christians can attain sinless perfection. I personally have not seen any place in the Bible that says we can become sinless. But I do think Christians should sin less.

I’m troubled any time I hear someone define themselves by their sin. I’m writing about those who wear their challenges as a label that has become their identity. The problem with that is that your identity is not your sin…any sin…no matter how deep or dark. Your identity is that you are a child of God, redeemed by his grace and made new. In Christ we are new creations. The old stuff is dead and everything is made new.

Sin, therefore, for the believer, is an act inconsistent with his or her character, nature, and identity. Understanding who we are in Christ is the first step in dealing with our sin. Tomorrow I’ll offer the second step in Paul’s progression from Romans. In the meantime, spend some time thinking about your nature and character in Christ. Your true identity is that you are a child of God.

Categories : Belief, iBelieve, Jesus, John, Sin
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Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded. The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him
(John 5:1-15, NLT).

The third miracle Jesus performed in the Gospel of John seems pretty straight forward. Jesus had returned to Jerusalem, and on a particular day walked through an area, the Pool of Bethesda, which had a dense population of sick people. Some were crippled, some were blind. Apparently they stayed by the pool due to a superstition that claimed an angel would occasionally come down from heaven to the pool and stir the water. The first one into the pool when the water was stirred would be healed of their infirmity. There is no historical evidence that this belief was anything other than superstition. In fact, better translations footnote this portion of the passage because it is not in the oldest, most reliable Greek manuscripts.

Of all the people at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus singled out one man who has suffered some form of paralysis for 38 years. Jesus asked him plainly, “Do you want to get well?” When I ask simple questions like this to my children, they sometimes reply, “Duh, dad!” The reader would expect that the lame man would answer Jesus directly and affirmatively, but he didn’t. He simply made excuses. He told Jesus how he didn’t have help to get into the pool when the water stirred. He described others who were able to race ahead of him selfishly to get into the water. Never mind the fact he had been waiting his turn for 38 years.

I love the plainspoken manner of Jesus. He had little tolerance for excuses, and commanded him to “stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.” And so he did.

Like I said, this is pretty simple and straightforward. But there’s a twist. The healed man did what Jesus said. He stood up, picked up his mat, and began to walk. As he walked, he was confronted by the religious leaders of the day, who rebuked him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. When they inquired how he was healed, he described a man who was no longer in sight.

Being healed of a disease that had ravaged his strength for nearly four decades is certainly cause of praise and thanksgiving. The scene moves to the Temple, where the healed man must have offered thanks to God for the miraculous healing. In the Temple he meets Jesus, who simply says, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” Didn’t see that one coming! Did Jesus just imply that the reason for his long term disability was his sin? Yes.

I don’t believe that every instance of adversity or suffering is the direct result of some sin we have committed. Without a doubt, we live in a fallen world and our depravity does create complications. But it’s not fair to assume that every illness or problem we experience is the consequence of some sin we have committed. In John 5, however, that is precisely the case. He had been disabled for 38 years as the consequence of a sin or sins he had committed.

Sin is its own consequence. This week I want to offer some practical stuff from Romans regarding how to deal with chronic sin patterns in our lives. I hope that you’ll check back each day, because Jesus wants each of us to be “well” and to live “well.” In the meantime, think about this: What sin(s) in your life is keeping you from living life as God intended?

Categories : Belief, iBelieve, Jesus, John, Sin
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What Happened?

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The story of creation begins with God who spoke, created, named, blessed, finished, and rested. The account is accented with the steady refrain “and it was good…” God created and placed the man and the woman in his creation. Humankind was created with a profound capacity for knowing God intimately. Created in the image of God, they were distinguished from the rest of the creation. There in the garden the man and the woman lived perfectly in the presence of God. But living in the presence of God comes with strings attached. God demanded obedience to his will and his commands. Under those conditions, the man and the woman lived in innocence, perfection, joy, and purpose. What does that have to do with suffering? A lot.

First, we discover that suffering was not created by God. God is good and did not create suffering and evil. He created a good world for the good of his creatures. Humans were good and blessed beyond measure, made in the image of God, with an unhindered relationship with God.

Second, there was a time when suffering did not exist in our world. It is not original and has not always existed. When we look at life and our world today, somehow we are reminded that this is not the way it is supposed to be. What happened?

While not a part of creation, evil and suffering do exist. The world is not the way it was and it is not the way it is supposed to be. Humans were created with wonderful privileges and significant responsibilities. But in Genesis 3 we read that they did not follow God’s will or obey His commands. The account begins with a tempter who calls into question God’s truthfulness, purpose, sovereignty, and goodness. It is interesting to read that from Genesis 2:4-3:24 he is “The LORD God,” the covenant making God who not only creates but enters into relationship with his creation. When the tempter addresses Eve, he simply refers to “God.” Adam and Eve got into trouble when they forgot their covenant relationship with God and focused on themselves. But before we become too hard on Adam and Eve, we need to remember that every day we face the same choice: God or Self?

The results of their fall are devastating:
They experienced shame as they discovered their nakedness;
They became estranged from God and tried to hide from him;
They experienced alienation from one another as they attempted to fix blame;
Pain and sorrow entered the picture: for her, pain in labor and delivery, and for him, toil in working the land;
The pair was banned from the garden;
Ultimately, there was physical and spiritual death.
The creation account of chapters 1-2 is accented with the resounding “it was good, it was good, it was good.” From chapter 4 forward, the story is punctuated with a new refrain “and he died, and he died, and he died.”

We have been born in a fallen world. We have never known Eden. Still somehow we know this is not the way it is supposed to be. The fall disrupted the relationship with God, with one another, and with creation. Sin originated in the garden. But it didn’t stay there. Its effects spread to all people of all time.

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