Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Perceptions of God: Does He Really Listen?

On Thursday night, my wife and I were watching the latest episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” In it, one of the characters, Dr. Kepner, had previously been a virgin for, say, 27 years or so. Last week in an adrenaline rush she gave up her virginity to her best friend Dr. Avery. This week, in a fit of panic as they both thought they were failing their boards, they slept together again. The thing that makes this all interesting to me is that after the first time Kepner tells Avery that she had kept her virginity because “she loved Jesus.” But she was afraid Jesus didn’t love her anymore.

Let’s stop there for a moment, because it’s an interesting perspective. As a Christian, this greatly confused me, until I thought about it from a secular perspective. Is the perception of God out there that He expects you to live a perfect life, and once you fail He’s done with you? It seems like it might be. Who knows, perhaps even some believers in Christ feel this way.

But I feel like this perception comes from a failure to read your Bible. The Bible is full of passages that attest to not only God’s enduring love but also His faithfulness. Consider this verse in Hebrews 13: “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.'” Or perhaps Isaiah 41:13: “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” It seems like that perception is actually a bit borne out of pride. Why would I say that? Well, if you are aware of these verses, the only explanation for feeling like God stops loving us is that we think we know better how God feels toward us than He does, like we have some special knowledge He doesn’t.

So I don’t think there is any reason, if you study God’s Word, to think that one act like losing your virginity is enough for God to say, “That’s it. No more love for that one.” But in this week’s “Grey’s” episode, Dr. Kepner goes even further after her second escapade. She admits to her test administrators that she thinks God doesn’t even hear her anymore. Now she’s committed the same sin twice, and this is enough to push God over the edge, apparently.

But this, to me, is again a mis-perception of God, and even a mis-perception of Christianity to some extent. And yet many people really feel this way and many more perceive it to actually be this way. If God has ever listened to us or spoken to us, then He is always doing those things. How do we know? Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Or Psalm 102:27: “But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” Or James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

God doesn’t change! So if we think God isn’t listening, what has changed? It’s us! Think about it. We’re the ones that are sinning, so we’re the ones that are changing our tune with how we relate to God. God’s not changing His responsiveness; we’re changing our willingness to listen.

I think it’s important when you feel like this to realize that God is not a God who likes to confuse, trick, scheme or plot revenge. He’s a God that continues to pursue you even when you turn aside or even turn your back. But He’s always willing to listen, and not just to the “saved” or the “elect.” He’ll listen to anybody, and He’ll speak to those that are genuinely willing to listen. We just need to make sure we’ve got the radio dial tuned to the right station, or that we’re not trying to use our cell phone in the wilderness. The reception’s much better when you’re headed where you need to go.

The Concept of Salvation

So I finally read the book “Easy Chairs, Hard Words” and have to say it was definitely an interesting read. Lots of real-world examples that make very compelling arguments. At the end of it, I had to sit back and think about whether or not my theological perspective had changed. I came to the conclusion that mostly it had not. However, as I started thinking about one particular position, it led me to an interesting idea, and one that I’ve tried to defend: that salvation only affects us as we cross from this life into eternity.

Here’s my thinking. If salvation is a gift from God (as is explained in Ephesians 2:8), then it seems like if we have free will we have the choice to open the gift or not. However, God has predestined some to open that gift, and others not to. This allows for the idea of unconditional election while still giving credence to unlimited atonement. I’ve been thinking that if salvation is really being “saved from our sins,” it doesn’t really take affect while we’re still on the earth, because it doesn’t really stop us from sinning. In that sense, salvation is the removal of our sins from us when we die, so we can be made perfect (the concept of glorification) and fit for heaven.

However, WIFE brought up a good point earlier this week. She said that salvation isn’t necessarily just from our sins, but from being enslaved to past sins and tied down to them. Another friend, who we’ll just call Theology Man, said something similar in a brief text discussion. I tend to think this is more in line with the concept of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the point at which we accept Jesus as Lord in our lives and the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives (sanctification). This is how 2 Corinthians 5:17 becomes a part of our lives, as the old is gone and the new has come.

Interestingly, I was surprised that Paul addressed this very issue of salvation vs. sanctification in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which says, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” It seems evident from this verse that salvation and sanctification are tied together with faith. So what is the relationship between salvation and sanctification? The relationship between salvation and glorification?

In short, my theological perspective has changed slightly. I now believe (which I assume is not an uncommon position) that the 3 big Bible words (sanctification, justification, glorification) are encompassed by the overarching concept of salvation. Salvation includes these three things, which is why God is able to use the past, present and future tenses in the Bible when discussing the salvation He has given us. I still believe that salvation is an eternal decision that is extended to all men, but I think at least now I better understand why.

Is WIFE correct? Yep. Is Theology Man correct? Most definitely. Am I correct? I think so now. What once was a belief that salvation is tied to glorification has now turned into glorification as the final step to salvation. Thank you Lord, for providing a Word that gives us a glimpse into Your awesome ability to do such works in us, and what exactly that means in the course of eternity!

Psalm 1: The Degeneration of the Sinful Man

I just found Charles Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David” stuff online, and if everything is as interesting as this first dive into Psalm 1, I’m excited to continue reading these! Within the exposition that Spurgeon does on this chapter is a really interesting portrait of a sinful man and what must be done to keep from going down this path. Let’s look at just the first 2 verses:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in this law he meditates day and night.”

What is interesting is how quickly the man can degenerate according to this passage. Note the verbs used in the first verse. First the man simply walks, then he stands (or perhaps a better way to think about it is that he both STOPS and stands) and finally he sits. This illustrates how sin so easily ensnares us, as someone who is not focused on the Lord and His Word can move so quickly from a passer-through to stopping to see what’s going on to finally joining in to the world of sin.

What is also of note is that at each level the company becomes increasingly worse to involve oneself with. Initially it is only the ungodly, which could mean simply those who are lost and have no knowledge of God. From there, the company becomes sinners, or those who deliberately do things against the will of God, with some awareness of the wrong they are doing. Lastly, the company becomes the scornful, or those who openly mock the truth of the Word of God, and some may even go so far as to attempt to explain away the Lord. The further away one gets from God (which can be directly correlated with how much time is spent seeking God), the easier it gets to act not only in ignorance to God but in direct opposition to His commands.

So how does one escape such company? Verse 2 gives a pretty clear answer. One has to delight in the law of the Lord. Notice that it is not just “the Lord,” but rather “the law of the Lord.” As Spurgeon points out, this man is not under the law, but rather in it. This man is someone who not only loves the Lord, but also keeps His commandments (John 14:15) and does so with delight (Colossians 3:23).

A friend passed along a blog post written recently about frustration concerning those who feel they are saved based on one single experience but show no evidence of God’s fruit in their lives. The “blessed man” of Psalm 1 is a Berean; his fruit is shown as he meditates on the law day and night.

Think of the New Age movement’s practice of meditation. What does it entail? You must block out all distractions and immerse yourself in the process. The idea behind Biblical meditation is similar; you must dive deep into the law, and if you are immersed in such law “both day and night,” odds are you have a better shot of keeping His commandments and avoiding the type of company talked about in verse one.

Lord, give us the desire to delight in Your Word, and help us to put aside all distractions to focus on the glory of the things You’ve spoken to us. Help us to not merely be hearers of Your Word, but also to take action and to put it on our minds both day and night. Amen.

The Gift of Sin?

I am so thankful for God leading me to the Bible study I am in currently. Without this study, I might never have heard of Voddie Baucham. What a passionate believer in the Word of God is this man! He puts on the hat of both apologist and family man, and the stuff that God speaks through this man is so powerful.

Here was an interesting case he made in a sermon on brokenness I just watched on YouTube (you can watch it too; just go to YouTube and search “Voddie Baucham brokenness”). Voddie made the case that God gives us a gift in allowing us to not forget our sins.

What?!?!?!

I know the verses that you might use to combat this. Psalm 103:12 would be a good one: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Jeremiah 31:34 would also seem to give some argument to this: “‘No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’”

Ah, but these two verses speak to how God treats sin. He wipes the slate clean (Psalm 103:12) and He has promised that He would forget our sins (Jeremiah 31:34), but obviously we still remember times when we’ve messed up. This is a gift directly from God. Why? Three reasons:

1) If you could forget your sin, you could never testify to the goodness of God. Our sins allow us to be broken before God so that when we understand the fullness of what His grace means, we can testify to how good He is to do this.

2) If you could forget your sin, you couldn’t be warned against doing them again. Voddie uses the example of what would happen if we forgot what the effect of touching fire was. God allows these memories to scar us in hopes that we would learn from our sin and not be doomed to repeat it constantly.

3) If you could forget your sin, you couldn’t rejoice in your victories. How awesome does it feel to realize that you were about to do something wrong and were able to avoid it by the grace of God? Those are some of the best moments in the Christian life, I think. The memory of sin allows us to remember who we once were, and how God has enabled us to overcome such things to not be that same person.

It’s amazing the hidden beauties of God, that He would choose to make Himself known even in giving us a remembrance of our sins. I pray that He would continue to find ways to break me in my sin, because only under the brokenness of sin can man understand what it means to rightly worship God for His presence and His grace.

Lessons From the Torah

WIFE (stands for Woman I Find Exceptional, and how I will refer to my wife from now on) and I are reading through the entire Bible this year, and our daily plan has caused us to just now finish the book of Deuteronomy. Wow, there’s a lot of information in there, including some verses I wish I hadn’t found. But hey, they’re there for a reason. Here are a few of the things I learned from the first five books of the Bible:

1) The Israelites were some messed up people! Every time God would do an amazing miracle for them, they would complain about something else and usually reference it with “Did God lead us here to die in the desert?” Plus, some of the rules that God laid out for them I couldn’t imagine, but obviously He had to set them straight because these issues came up (if you’re wondering what issues I mean, see Deuteronomy 23; I really don’t want to list them here).

2) Moses was an amazing leader. The last few verses of Deuteronomy (I suspect written by Joshua) claim him as so, but just think about it. Can you imagine leading a group of middle-schoolers on a camping trip for 5 days? Now try doing it with an millions of people for 40 years.

3) The old covenant in no way compares to the new covenant. While both made by God, I for one am thankful that I don’t have to give an animal to the High Priest to be sacrificed every time I sin, because the world probably doesn’t have enough sheep or pigeons. Plus, I like being able to have a personal individual relationship with God, rather than having to go through the priests.

4) What happened to Simeon? In Moses’ blessings of the tribes of Israel at the end of Deuteronomy, he mentions every son of Jacob except Simeon. What did he or his people do to get left out of the blessing, and did they ever get back into God’s good graces?

5) Participate in the census. Apparently they’re important. God basically devoted a whole book of His Word to one.

Hate To Say It, Guys, But It’s the Man’s Fault

I was doing my study yesterday morning when I came across something that both discouraged and encouraged me. For reference sake, I am currently reading through “Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart” by Stu Weber, and I’m really enjoying it without even having gotten to the first pillar. I’m sure I’m being set up for some rewarding and convicting stuff, if the first few introductory chapters are any indication.

In his third chapter, titled “The Four Pillars in Eden,” he outlines that God gave commands to Adam before He even created Eve, and that these commands could be construed as part of each of the pillars in the book. These pillars are: 1) Servant-King, 2) Tender Warrior, 3) Wise Mentor and 4) Faithful Friend. The book further illustrates that though Eve may have committed the first sin, the responsibility for this fell on Adam, for when Adam and Eve were hiding to due to their shame, the Bible says “God said to the man (emphasis mine), ‘Where are you?'” This can easily be thought of as God saying “Where were you?”

Adam was either not around or not strong enough to step between Eve and the serpent, failing as Tender Warrior, he did not give her enough counsel on God’s command regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus failing as Wise Mentor, and was aloof enough to not stop Eve from eating of the tree, thus failing as Faithful Friend. These were the responsibilities of Adam as the man in the relationship, and this failure is why in both the Old and New Testaments, the authors of the Bible refer to sin entering the world as “the sin of Adam,” for he was charged with these commands and failed to live up to the task.

For all male readers, pretty convicting stuff, no? Isn’t it wild to think that the sins of your spouse, girlfriend, etc. can be attributed to you as well, because it is your responsibility to care for her? This is why it says in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, (exactly) as Christ loved the church,” because if we wholly devote ourselves to loving and caring for the women in our lives, we can help to fulfill and uphold God’s commands for us and our families.

Whew! I’m excited to learn more, and as I do, I’ll post it on here for any readers, so hopefully you can glean something from this too.

Introductory Statements

Hello to anyone who might be reading this!

It seems like in the ever-present Internet world, pretty much everyone has some sort of a blog with which they can share feelings, messages or even recipes. I figure it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. Putting your heart on a sleeve can be therapeutic, and yes, even necessary at times for redemption.

So during the life of this blog I may share things about my Christian walk, my stumbling blocks, music, sports, pretty much anything that might be going on in my life. I hope that nothing I talk about comes across as mindless or shallow, but I have been accused of being both at times.

That said, I start off on a rough note. Today I got hit hard in the face by past sins of mine. There was a time in my life that I am not proud of at all, and while I know God can use even our biggest sins for His glory, it’s a period that I would rather not keep re-living over and over again. Yet the skeletons in my closet keep deciding to pop up at the most inopportune (or perhaps most opportune) moments.

The Bible verse of the day (which I get in my work E-mail from votd.org) is Psalm 100:2-3, which reads “Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” This verse hit me square in the gut, because it forced me to look at my own lack of humility recently. When life seems to be going well, it’s easy for me to take all of the credit. I’ve never been short on confidence, even when I don’t have anything to be confident about. But I always straddle that fine line between confident/optimistic and prideful/arrogant.

So I guess my prayer for today is that God would grant me humility however He deems necessary, so that I would realize that He gives me all the wonderful things I have and to not take them for granted. The skeletons in my closet take for granted all of the joys and wonderful things I have in my open world, and I pray that those are the desires of my heart. In seeking God, I think I will find those things as well.