What ever Happened to Sin?

With all the debate about highly paid kneeling athletes one might be led to believe that racism is something new and shocking. In a way it is good and healthy to be able to talk about right versus wrong but that conversation apparently begins and ends with only one or two subjects. Any conversation about sin in the church seems to run into a dead-end. We don’t want to judge or worse be thought of as hypocritical because of our personal failures. Yet while here on earth, Jesus minced few words when it came to pointing out sin. He regularly pointed out that the Pharisees were adulterers, covetous and in danger of hell for their hard-hearts and attitudes.

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The preaching of God’s grace was never meant to end up as an accommodation of sin. Yes we are all weak and we are all in need of a great Savior to forgive us. But sin remains sin. Adultery has grown to be so much the norm that we forget that it still destroys families. Gambling which is simply the marriage of stealing and covetousness continues to march through our nation with new and bigger casinos in every state. The idea of honoring the Sabbath has been so completely abandoned that even a brief Sunday morning feel-good meeting is too inconvenient to sacrifice the chance for overtime pay. Jesus’ sermon on the Mount has lost its message as a revolutionary overthrow of sin and is  today looked at as some kind of nice collection of sweet ideas.

 

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 1 Timothy 1:15

Maybe those kneeling athletes who have at least started a debate about racism have stumbled onto a starting concept that we as Christians ought to consider following. What would happen if we began to take a stand no matter the price for the things that Jesus taught us to do? What if like the Amish and Old Order Mennonites, people actually knew that we would do without conveniences in order to live for Jesus Christ? What if this year instead of a trip to a theme park we spent a week volunteering in a homeless shelter. What if we turned off the Super Bowl and went to church to pray? Just standing for the national anthem will not move us one inch closer to God while our children grow up without a father or mother in the home because of the failure of yet another marriage. We need to do more than smile and just talk about grace. It is time for the mighty power of that grace to be allowed to radically change our lives and we will discover that there is nothing more joyful, more peaceful and more liberating than being cleansed from real sins by a real God who really sent His Son into the world to save sinners: of whom I am chief!

There He Goes

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us Psalms 103:12

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Have you ever struggled to forgive someone? I did! First I complained about the offense till God reminded me of my own sins. Ashamed of myself I I did truly forgive. But then came those pesky times when I would see him and then I would turn my head or force a smile. But then one day it struck me that God’s forgiveness worked in quite a different way. He saw my sin, freely forgave and then was delighted every time we met. He has not yet looked away nor forced a smile. Instead He has not only forgotten my offense He has loved me ever since as His dearest friend!

A Seat at the Table Part Two

Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”  Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:44-50

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The woman went to Simon’s house because she wanted to see Jesus

She didn’t care what Simon and his friends might think. She didn’t want to miss her chance to be with Jesus. Simon had missed the opportunity of a lifetime. He had so much but he gave so little

She knew that she might never have the chance again so even though she had so little yet she gave so much!

 

She wasn’t embarrassed or in a hurry. There was nothing more important on her schedule that day. While Simon probably couldn’t wait for her worship to end, she lavished the final drops of perfume on Jesus’ feet. Inwardly Simon criticized both her and Jesus because he never saw his own need. But this very special lady knew that forgiveness and grace weren’t just ideas to understand but gifts she desperately needed to receive!

 

Yet worship is more than despair at our condition, it is the expression of faith that no matter how big our sin: God’s mercy is bigger! May her story be ours – Sinned much- Repented much-Forgiven much- Loved much!

Waiting at the Red Sea

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14

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One of my professors at Bible college once told me that the Christian life wasn’t hard to live, it was impossible. In each of our lives the Red Sea represents the place of impossibility. It is impossible for us to become Christians, impossible to grow in our faith and impossible to accomplish anything which God has called us to do – without the miraculous grace of God. But God in His miraculous grace has a process through which He operates. The story of Moses and the children of Israel leave us an encouraging example.

Maybe you are in an impossible situation or if one is looming on your horizon like a dark cloud. Just begin where all good journeys begin: at the beginning! The beginning is facing the Red Sea with the sound of your enemies at your back. It is quite natural to feel a sense of panic, but in that in that dark and lonely moment remind yourself that God Himself has led you to that shore.

The greatest fear we face is the fear of the unknown. We don’t know what will happen. We can’t imagine how our life will be if x, y or z happens. But God specializes in doing his best work when we don’t understand. Let your faith work in the same way that you welcome anesthesia before surgery. Your confidence doesn’t lie in your ability to direct the surgeon’s hands but in the knowledge that He is doing it all for your good.

You will never have a greater opportunity to grow in your trust towards God. Nothing is by chance in this battle you are in. You haven’t taken a wrong turn and this is not a dead end. In fact you are in exactly the right place in your walk. God has brought you to your own Red Sea. Stand strong with expectancy and you will discover what only God could imagine to do next!

Grace at the Hem of His Garment

 

And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment Matthew 9:20

There was only one hem on the garment of Christ. In fact when the soldiers went to divide his clothing they gambled for His outer garment because it was all on piece. The only hem available for the woman to touch was at the very lowest point of the robe of Jesus Christ.

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Like this woman in the crowd our own needs may have dominated our focus for years. Friends, family, holidays, and even her ability to enter a place or worship all were consumed by the power of her need – until that day. On that day as Jesus was passing by in the crowd a new found hope welled up in her heart. We are not told if she had listened to Jesus’ words herself or if she had simply believed what others had told her about him. What we do know is that the message she had heard about Jesus Christ was sufficient for her to throw off her reserve and by faith determine that she would do anything to get to Him. The power of her need was for that one single moment had no ability to prevent her from pressing through the busy crowd in order to fall to her knees and reach up and touch the hem of His robe.

The good news for us is that our invisible God gives us a visible point of contact but it may lie only in the lowest of places. Grace can always be found at the lowest place. When we are willing, when we are looking, when hearts are are humbled He will pass by and give us a small but visible connection to His invisible power and grace!

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble James 4:6

 

Yet God

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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” 2 Corinthians 12:9a

I like nothing of weakness infirmity or disability. I despise the inability my weak state brings me to. There is so much that needs to be done which requires, strength, endurance and intelligence – Yet God-delights in those moments when I am utterly incapacitated and cannot meet my daily demands.

I hate sitting and only listening when I feel I should speak or spending sleepless nights tossing and turning over struggles which are beyond my ability to face -Yet God- has promised that when I trust Him when I can no longer trust myself that He will give me grace.

His grace is enough in every need. His grace is enough when I cannot understand. His grace is enough when my plans end like tangled threads which His fingers alone can unknot and weave into a carpet of grace. His grace is enough when I can not sing a note to give me song in the night. Oh yes – I do not love my weakness -Yet God- has promised that in my weakness His power and strength are made perfect.

2 Corinthians 12:9b Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.