A Good Reason To Humble Yourself

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (‭James‬ ‭4‬:‭10‬ ESV)

Being humble is much like being smart. If you have to tell people you are, you probably aren’t. It’s a quality much more often, and more easily, claimed than actually possessed.

The only one who could have sought glory or honor that would have been rightfully deserved came in humility. Jesus was God, manifest in the flesh, yet He came as a baby, born to young, poor parents, in a rural village, using a manger for a cradle.

Phillipians 2:5-11 says we should have the same mind as Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation and, humbled Himself to die on the cross. But because He humbled Himself, “God exalted Him”.

So often, in trying to lift our status or reputation in the eyes of others, we end up trapped by the sin of pride, which only serves to lower our reputation because of arrogance. Let God exalt you.

The Bible says God “resists the proud” but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). I’m confident I don’t want God resisting me. I want His grace. Therefore, knowing that God responds to humility, it is entirely necessary that I humble myself to receive His grace.

Don’t Judge Me

Jesus teaching 2One of the most often quoted, and frequently abused, passages in scripture is Matthew 7:1. You’ve probably had it declared to you on more than one occasion. It may be you’ve even employed it when you felt attacked by a particularly judgmental individual. In Matthew 7:1 Jesus says this, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

I’m afraid many folks read that and take solace in the fact that Jesus is apparently saying, despite your actions or their implications, no one has the right to criticize or object to your decisions or lifestyle. You can’t judge me. Jesus said so.

The problem is, that’s not what Jesus meant.

When some people say, “Don’t judge me” often what they really mean is, “Don’t point out, or encourage me to correct, my selfish and reckless behavior.” That is not however, what Jesus was endorsing.

It’s ironic to me that when a person declares, “you can’t judge me” they’re making a judgment call with that statement. They’re judging you as being judgmental.

Often, before trying to discern what a passage is saying it is helpful to determine what it is not saying.

In this passage Jesus is clearly not saying that if we simply remain silent, and never make a judgment call on anyone’s behavior or beliefs, then we can escape final judgment ourselves. John 12:48, 1Corinthians 4:1-21 & Romans 20:12 say that Jesus will judge the life of every man one day at His throne. So clearly He is not saying that we will escape judgment altogether.

Furthermore, if Matthew 7:1 is a total prohibition against making judgment calls then that would include both positive and negative critiques. Judging is not always negative but rather a term we use to describe defining or deciding. It simply means we are assigning meaning and motive to a given action. When we judge something we decide on its merits and benefits. It can be positive or negative.

Judges disqualify contestants from events and they also award trophies. To judge simply means to decide or discern. So if we cannot judge we cannot make negative or positive declarations. This of course cannot be what the text means because we are told in other passages to discern between good and evil, to set a difference between the holy and the profane and to judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24, 1Cor.6:2, Ezek. 22:23-28, Heb. 5:14, James 5:19-20). 2 Timothy 4:2 instructs Elders in the church to reprove, rebuke, and correct sin and error in the interest of provoking repentance and Godliness in the life of fellow believers.

So what did Jesus mean when He said, “Judge not”?

When Matthew 7:1-6 is read in its entirety, the meaning of the passage becomes clear:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Jesus was encouraging us to examine our own motives and to avoid hypocrisy before we attempt to deal with sin and errors in the lives of others. He was telling us to use mercy and to be understanding when faced with sin in someone’s life. What Jesus was condemning here was a self-righteous, hypocritical, judgmental attitude that many people take with others. We’re never holier than when we’re confronted with someone who sins differently than we do. Jesus is rebuking that attitude.

I also find it instructive that in the next few verses Jesus encourages the removal of sin from a friends life only after we have been cleansed ourselves and approach the situation with grace and humility.

He also says not to cast your pearls, or those things you value, before dogs or swine, or people who, with animal brutality, cannot understand the value of anything. How else could we determine who was a dog or a swine if we were not to make a judgment call?

David Smitherman sums up Matthew 7:1-6 well here:

Jesus is condeming the attitude that is manifested in trying to straighten out faults in another’s life without first seeking to remove those in mine; such is hypocrisy, vs. 5. Can we “judge” (make a determination) that someone has a “mote” (fault) and then seek to remove it? Certainly; the latter part of verse 5 says so. But to do so thinking “I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican,” Lk. 18:11; or that I am something when I am nothing, Gal. 6:3; or not “in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, let thou also be tempted,” Gal. 6:1, I am in violation of what Jesus is teaching. Let us not judge by appearance (Joshua 22:9-29) or on the basis of our subjective opinions (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8) or inconsistently (Rom. 2:1,21) but let us judge righteous judgement, Jo. 7:24.

In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gives instruction on how to deal with sin in the life of a fellow believer. He does not say avoid it or ignore it. He gives us a way to address it without being harsh or judgmental.

In the words of Pastor Dan McKillop, We must be careful not to confuse judging with being judgmental. It is the obligation of the Christian to do one without being the other.

That being said, I am not arguing for folks to become proactive and seek out opportunities to judge others. I am simply offering what I believe to be an accurate exegesis of Matthew 7:1-6.

While I may have the Biblical authority to determine whether something is righteous or unrighteous, and declare it as such, I never have the right or power to pronounce final judgment on anyone’s heart or eternal soul. Jesus will be the final judge of every man and woman that has ever lived. He will judge “the small and the great” (Rev. 20:12) and His judgment will be a just and righteous judgment.

I pray we all step in to the forgiveness and grace that He has made available to us now so that we don’t have to be ashamed on that final judgment day.

The Definition of Marriage

girl & boyThis week the Supreme Court is hearing arguments over the definition of marriage in the United States. This is a political and social cauldron that has been brewing for decades and now heads to the Supreme Court for a decision.

Some would ask what all the trouble is about. If you love someone shouldn’t you be allowed to marry them? While on its face that seems a simple and justifiable position it posits some irrational assumptions. The same logic can be used to defend polygamous marriages, sibling marriage and virtually any other “marriage” one could conceive. Essentially marriage will lose its definition if same-sex marriage is deemed a culturally acceptable marriage.

Furthermore, as a Christian, same-sex marriage is also unthinkable because I believe the Bible is the definitive objective moral standard that all people should adhere to and the Bible defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. The state does not confer the right to marriage. Marriage is a religious institution, defined and designed by God into the essence of nature, that the state recognizes for its social, cultural and economic benefits.

Marriages are entered into every day by the hundreds yet it is greater than a cultural event. Though marriage is administered by law it is more than a legal contract. Though it is respected by society it is more than a civil union. Marriage is, above all else, a sacred covenant, instituted by God, upheld by His law, blessed by His hand and is to be honored by all men.

Blogger Mike McManus offers some interesting statistics here regarding same sex marriage:

Gays are not interested in marriage. Massachusetts was the first state to adopt gay marriage in 2004. However, there’ve been only 12,000 same-sex unions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 4% of men are gay and 1% of women are lesbian. Thus, of the state’s 3.3 million males, there are [potentially] 132,000 gay men, plus 33,000 lesbians. Only 14% of the 165,000 have “married” and 86% chose not to do so…[indicating] most are not interested in marriage.

Why should the definition of marriage be changed when less than a tenth of 2% of the population wants to force that change? In all 30 states that have added constitutional amendments limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman, traditional marriage has always been upheld by referenda, even in California.

Children need a mother and father. The healthiest children are those reared by a married mother and father. “Marriage is the union of a husband and wife for a reason: these are the only unions that can make new life and connect children in love to their mom and dad,” says Maggie Gallagher, President of National Organization for Marriage.

Homosexual men are 4% of the population but account for half of all new HIV infections and 85% of syphilis cases. According to the CDC, men having sex with men (MSM) account for 48% of the one million people living with HIV, (532,000), 53% of new HIV infections (28,700). MSM are the only risk group in the U.S. in which new HIV infections have been increasing since the early 1990s.

Gay men live 20 years shorter lives than heterosexuals, according to the only epidemiological study to date. A tenth of sexually active teens are experimenting with same-sex unions, reports a New York City study, published in the journal Pediatrics. Why encourage more teens to experiment with this destructive life style?

In summary, unlike heterosexual marriage in which fidelity is the norm for four out of five couples, promiscuity is the norm for homosexuals, even those in committed relationships. Only a tenth of gays marry if given the legal opportunity to do so. Most are not interested in marrying.

If they aren’t interested, why force a change in the definition of marriage to benefit a tenth of 2% of the population? It will only encourage more sexual experimentation among young people with tragic consequences. They will live 20 years shorter lives.

For children to thrive, they need to grow up in homes with a married mother and father. In his 1828 American Dictionary, Noah Webster defined marriage as the “act of uniting a man and a woman for life,” because marriage “was instituted …for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.”

Pastor and Author Kevin DeYoung offers this insight from his blog post, A Few Things to Consider Before Supporting Gay Marriage at The Gospel Coalition.

A pundit on the radio opined that opposing gay marriage is “Neanderthal” because he believes, “people should be able to marry whoever they want.” This was a well known talking head giving voice to a sentiment shared all across this fruited plain. On college campuses, around dining room tables, and in not a few of our churches, gay marriage marches on by the simple logic that says: what business do we have telling people who they can or can’t marry?

As impressive as the argument sounds–barreling down at us with the strong force of moral superiority and the implicit charge of intolerance–the logic is less than meets the eye.

Let’s think about what is not at stake in our culture’s debate over gay marriage.

  • The state is not threatening to criminalize homosexual behavior. Though many Americans believe the behavior is wrong (and until fairly recently homosexual acts were against the law in some states), the debate at present is not about whether homosexuality is legal or not. No one questions that it is.
  • The state is not going to prohibit homosexuals from committing themselves to each other in public ceremonies or religious celebrations.
  • The state is not going to legislate whether two adults can live together or profess love for one another.

The issue is not about controlling “what people do in their bedrooms” or “who they can love.” The issue is about what sort of union the state will recognize as “marriage” and confer all the benefits thereof. The state doesn’t tell us who we can be friends with or who we can live with. You can have one friend or three friends or a hundred. You can live with your sister, your mother, your dog, or your buddy from work. You can celebrate your relationship with your grandma or your college roommate however you want. But none of these relationships–no matter how special–are marriages. The state’s refusal to recognize these relationships as “marriage” does not keep us from pursuing them, enjoying them, or counting them as significant.

The debate is often cast as freedom (those who support anyone marrying anyone) versus oppression (those who want to tell you who you can marry). Conservatives are losing the debate because that’s the narrative being told in a thousand television episodes, in a thousand songs, and by an increasing number of politicians and educators. But in the long run, the triumph of gay marriage (should it triumph as a cultural and legal reality) will mean the restriction of freedoms for millions of Americans.

This will happen in obvious ways at first–by ostracizing those who disagree, by bullying with political correctness, and by trampling on religious liberty. Surely, Christians must realize that no matter how many caveats we issue, not matter how much we nuance our stance, no matter how much we encourage or show compassion for homosexuals, it will not be enough to ward off the charges of hatred and homophobia. We will have many opportunities in the years ahead to walk in the steps of Jesus who when reviled, did not revile in return, and when he suffered, did not threaten but continued to entrust himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).

But gay marriage will challenge our freedoms in others way too. It’s not just Evangelicals, traditional Catholics, and Mormons who will be threatened. Once the government gains new powers, it rarely relinquishes them. There will be a soft tyranny that grows as the power of the state increases, a growth that is intrinsic to the  notion of gay marriage itself.

Marriage a Pre-Political Institution

In the traditional view, marriage is what it is. It’s the union of one man and one woman. That’s what marriage is, before the state calls it as such or confers any benefits on it. Marriage, in the traditional view, is a pre-political institution. The state doesn’t determine what defines marriage; it only recognizes marriage and privileges it in certain ways. So “gay marriage” is actually “so-called marriage” because the state does not have the authority to redefine a pre-political reality.

In the revisionist view, by contrast, there is no is to marriage. To be fair, some advocates of gay marriage would say monogamy is still essential to marriage. That is, the one person-one person relationship, for some revisionists, still constitutes the essence of marriage. But many supporters would not make this claim. In fact, many are open that their end goal to abolish all bourgeois marriage. Even the ones that do promote monogamy find it hard to maintain logical consistency. If monogamy is what marriage is, then can a brother and sister be married? What about an acquaintance you meet on the internet with no intention of ever meeting in person? Can these two be married? Surely, the revisionist won’t want to say sexual intimacy is what makes marriage marriage. For then they too would be in the business of telling adults who they can and can’t marry. If your love isn’t sexual it doesn’t count.

And by what logic should marriage be restricted to two persons? Already in California a three-parent law is in the works. Multiple-person marriages will not be far behind. Why can’t three people be married? Or four or fifteen? And why should exclusivity have anything to do with it? Surely, we don’t want to stop adults from being married to whomever they want, even if they want to be married to six people at the same time.

This may sound like extreme reductio ad absurdum, but the premise behind these examples is already well on its way to being established. Once you argue that we have no right to refuse marriage to those who want their relationships to be defined as marriage, you’ve sold the definitional farm. You’ve effectively denied that marriage has any essence of its own. Marriage is whatever the state wants it to be.

What an irony: the many young people (and a growing number of young Christians) who support gay marriage on libertarian grounds are actually ceding to the state a vast amount of heretofore unknown power. No longer is marriage recognized as a pre-political entity which exists independent of the state. Now the state defines marriage and authorizes its existence.

Divine Design and the Common Good

One of the reasons gay marriage enjoys increasing support is because it doesn’t appear to harm anyone. The only threat, is seems, comes from those who defend traditional marriage and wish to force their morality on others. Our culture is fickle. It says “live and let live” when it comes to the most powerful human bonds and the most enduring institutions, but it insists on protecting the “other” with fundamentalist zeal when it comes to trans fat, cigarettes, and carbon emissions.

The unspoken secret, however, is that homosexual behavior is not harmless. Homosexuals are at a far greater risk for diseases like syphilis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, gonorrhea, HPV, and gay bowel syndrome. The high rate of these diseases is due both to widespread promiscuity in the gay community and the nature of anal and oral intercourse itself. Homosexual relationships are usually portrayed as a slight variation on the traditional “norm” of husband-wife monogamy. But monogamy is much less common among homosexual relationships, and even for those who value monogamy the definition of fidelity is much looser.

Gay marriage will also be harmful for our society. We must consider why the state has, for all these years, bothered to recognize marriage in the first place. What’s the big deal? Why not let people have whatever relationships they choose and call it whatever they want? Why go to the trouble of sanctioning a specific relationship and giving it a unique legal standing? The reason is because the state has an interest in promoting the familial arrangement which has a mother and a father raising the children that came from their union. The state has been in the marriage business for the common good and for the well-being of the society it is supposed to protect. Kids do better with a mom and a dad. Communities do better when husbands and wives stay together. Hundreds of studies confirm both of these statements (though we all can think of individual exceptions I’m sure). Gay marriage assumes that marriage is re-definable and the moving parts replaceable.

By recognizing gay unions as marriage, just like the husband-wife relationship we’ve always called marriage, the state is engaging in (or at least codifying) a massive re-engineering of our social life. It assumes the indistinguishability of gender in parenting, the relative unimportance of procreation in marriage, and the near infinite flexibility as to what sorts of structures and habits lead to human flourishing.

It may seem Neanderthal to think the state should not confer the rights and privileges of “marriage” upon whomever it chooses by whatever definition it pleases, but give it time. Experiments in sexual freedom have a tendency to blow up in the laboratory of real life. Would anyone say the family is stronger today because of the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce laws? Human nature and divine design are not set aside as easily as our laws and traditions.

Pray for our nation and pray for our culture. Sin has an infectious ability to corrupt everything it touches. For the spiritual health of our cities, our nation and our families we must defend the Biblical definition of marriage and continue to be salt and light by exampling in our lives what God’s ideal plan for the family looks like and by living in the blessing of Biblical marriage.

Born This Way

churchcemeteryIt seems as if the only thing the mainstream media and non-Christians know about Christianity is that we believe homosexuality is sin. It seems to be the first question always asked by an interviewer who has a moment with an Evangelical Pastor.

Pastor Rick Warren was interviewed on CNN recently by Piers Morgan and then again by a reporter from the Huffington Post concerning his new book and specifically his views on homosexuality. You can see the video here or scroll below.

 

 

The interviewer brings up a commonly asked question in regards to this issue. Why would God make someone with a desire that He would then call sin? The question posits a couple interesting theories. First, that God is the source of all of our desires and passions and second that possessing a desire alone is indicative of its legitimacy. The problem is, both conclusions are wrong.

An understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ instructs us in this regard. We are born into a fallen world with an active sin nature. It is natural to the hearts of all men and women to sin, that is, to violate the will, law and nature of God. Secondly, simply having a desire or passion speaks nothing to its legitimacy.

All sex outside of marriage is sin, whether its hetero or homo, and marriage can only be Biblically defined as between one man and one woman. The canard that, “Why would God create me with a passion He doesn’t want me to fulfill” is ludicrous. The fact that one has a desire they’re driven to gratify is immaterial to its acceptability.

Some men are born with inclinations to steal, lie, commit adultery, and all other sorts of evil. Why would God create them, driven to rape or cheat on our spouse let’s say, if He didn’t intend for them to fulfill it?

The Gospel tells us!

They’re right. We were all born this way. Born to sin, to lie, to steal, to pervert nature, to be unfaithful and to hate. We were born with a nature that would oppress and abuse if given the chance. Our natural inclinations and desires are inherently sinful and challenge God’s laws. We all, heterosexual & homosexual, need to be born again to get a new set of passions and desires, be filled with the Spirit and to align our natural passions with the Word of God.

Lady Gaga can sing, “I was born this way” all day long but it does not legitimate or excuse the presence of sin. We need to repent. We need to be born again. We need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Egypt, Guns and Sin

church doorsThis past week has been a depressing week to read the news. It’s been full of tragedy and heart break and has given us many reasons to mourn the condition, not only of society, but of the hearts of men.

First there is the clash of ideology, religion and violence in Egypt. One of the more troubling aspects coming out of Tahrir Square is the unmitigated assault on women. A select few news outlets have been reporting on the rape and abuse of women that is going unchecked in the wake of the violence surrounding the Egyptian protests and demonstrations in Tahrir Square. According to an NBC news article sex mobs have been targeting Egypts women and they have no fear of being caught or punished.

And then there is the Kansas City Chiefs tragedy. A linebacker for the Chiefs, Jovan Belcher, shot his girlfriend, and mother of their daughter, then drove to the Chiefs facility, spoke with his head coach, and then shot and killed himself. One news article stated that he kissed his daughter goodbye before he left their home to commit suicide.

Horrible, horrible displays of evil, selfishness and sin. They make us want to revolt against these actions and demand things like this never happen again. It’s what caused Bob Costas and Piers Morgan to make statements calling for severe gun control laws. We want to do something to ensure things like this never happen again. Bob Costas stated here, “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

Bob Costas showed a lack of insight as to the real source of the tragedy. The cause was not guns but sin in the heart of a man. The gun was simply the tool he used to express the sin that was there. Many have believed through the years that if we can control tools we can control sin. It is simply not true. No amount of restrictions and laws can change the heart of man. If he wants to do something, he will find a way to do it. If not a gun then a knife, or a rope, or a car, or his own hands.

In Colossians 2:20-23 Paul asserts that strict laws and severe restrictions to “taste not, touch not, handle not” have no power to actually prevent sin because “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (vs. 23). In short, if it’s in a person’s heart to sin no amount of law and restrictions will prevent it. To get power over the compelling nature of sin you must change the heart.

Jovan Belcher, and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, didn’t need Bob Costas, Piers Morgan or Barack Obama to take the gun out of his hand to be alive today. He needed Jesus to take sin out of his heart.

Law itself has never been sufficient as a crime deterrent or a sin deterrent. Law abiding people don’t need laws. They possess a moral compass that inclines them to follow laws. Laws are for criminals who break laws anyway! I am not advocating for the abandonment of all laws. That would be anarchy. What I am saying is that laws have never stopped a crime or a sin from occurring. Despite the popularity of the TV program we do not have a system of law and order but one of crime and punishment.

As Author Dan Delzell said,

The Law leads a person to Christ by showing him that he is a lawbreaker. It’s similar to when a doctor shows a patient test results which point to a terminal illness. The Law brings us face to face with our sin….and the awful sickness in our soul….and we see just how far we fall short of God’s requirements. Without that insight from the Law, man is left feeling pretty good about where he stands with God. Man generally feels fairly satisfied about himself and his level of morality. Why shouldn’t he? It is in man’s nature to assume that he is righteous enough to gain God’s approval.
The truth is that we are all guilty, and exceedingly so. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The Law proves it. Before the Law leads a man to Christ, he tends to be deceived about his true spiritual condition. The Law cannot save his soul….it can only reveal his soul’s condition without Christ. So what is the solution to man’s problem? Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).

If you really want to change society, and rid our cities of crime and sin, you need to change the inclinations in the hearts of men and women. The only way to do that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Backsliding

It’s been called many things across pulpits; growing cold, lukewarm, being carnal, walking away from God, and worldliness among others. The common name is backsliding and you don’t hear much about it anymore. Though the concept might seem old fashioned it should still be a very real concern to honest Christians. We should be prayerfully examining our hearts daily to ensure we are humble, walking in submission to the Word of God and repentant.

Life sneaks up on you and before we know it we’ve developed habits and ideas that are altogether in opposition to Biblical Christianity. Scripture reminds us that it’s the “little foxes that spoil the vine” (Song of Solomon 2:15).

It’s easy to keep the big things out. Unfortunately, often it’s the build up of little things that eventually limits us spiritually and corrupts any potential harvest. We’ve got to work daily on getting the little things right.

Joe Thorn recently posted a blog entry concerning 25 marks of backsliding that I found interesting. Take a look at his list and prayerfully consider these items. You might take issue with some items on the list but it’s worth the read.

1. When prayer ceases to be a vital part of a professing Christian’s life, backsliding is present.

2. When the quest for biblical truth ceases and one grows content with the knowledge of eternal things already acquired, there can be no mistaking the presence of backsliding.

3. When the biblical knowledge possessed or acquired is treated as external fact and not applied inwardly, backsliding is present.

4. When earnest thoughts about eternal things cease to be regular and gripping, it should be like a warning light to the backslider.

5. When the services of the church lose their delights, a backslidden condition probably exists.

6. When pointed spiritual discussions are an embarrassment, that is certain evidence of backsliding.

7. When sports, recreation and entertainment are a large and necessary part of your lifestyle, you may assume backsliding is in force.

8. When sins of the body and of the mind can be indulged in without an uproar in your conscience your backslidden condition is certain.

9. When aspirations for Christlike holiness cease to be dominant in your life and thinking, backsliding is there.

10. When the acquisition of money and goods becomes a dominant part of your thinking, you have clear confirmation of backsliding.

11. When you can mouth religious songs and words without heart, be sure backsliding is present.

12. When you can hear the Lord’s name taken in vain, spiritual concerns mocked and eternal issues flippantly treated, and not be moved to indignation and action, you are backslidden.

13. When you can watch degrading movies and television and read morally debilitating literature, you can be sure you are backslidden.

14. When breaches of peace in the brotherhood are of no concern to you, that is proof of backsliding.

15. When the slightest excuse seems sufficient to keep you from spiritual duty and opportunity, you are backslidden.

16. When you become content with your lack of spiritual power and no longer seek repeated enduements of power from on high, you are backslidden.

17. When you pardon your own sin and sloth by saying the Lord understands and remembers that we are dust, you have revealed your backslidden condition.

18. When there is no music in your soul and no song in your heart, the silence testifies to your backsliding.

19. When you adjust happily to the worlds’ lifestyle, your own mirror will tell the truth of your backsliding.

20. When injustice and human misery exist around you and you do little or nothing to relieve the suffering, be sure you are backslidden.

21. When your church has fallen into spiritual declension and the Word of God is no longer preached there with power and you are still content, you are in a backslidden condition.

22. When the spiritual condition of the world declines around you and you cannot perceive it , that is testimony of your backslidden stance.

23. When you are willing to cheat your employer, backsliding is apparent.

24. When you find yourself rich in grace and mercy and marvel at your own godliness, then you have fallen far in your backsliding.

25. When your tears are dried up and the hard, cold spiritual facts of your existence cannot unleash them, see this as an awful testimony both of the hardness of your heart and the depth of your backsliding.

I would also caution, if you think backsliding as a subject is antiquated and unnecessary you might need to prayerfully examine your spirit. We’re all human and prone to error and sin. Acknowledging our inherent weaknesses and guarding ourselves against sin we know we’re capable of is not Puritanical but wise and should be driven, not by fear or guilt, but by a desire to please Jesus Christ.

Would you add or remove any items from this list? Comment below.

Sin (Part 3 of 3)

“for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, KJV)

The Jews have a word they greet one another with, Shalom. We’ve all heard that Shalom means “peace” but it means even more than that. According to Strong’s Concordance Shalom means “peace, completeness, wholeness, health, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” Sin challenges shalom.

I find it comforting to know that the prophet Isaiah called Jesus, “Sar Shalom”. The prince of peace. Jesus is the only one that can clean out the toxin of sin and set us free from it’s control.

The Bible describes two types of people. The carnal man and the spiritual man. Another way to understand it is the man who has not yet been filled with the Spirit of God and the man who has been filled with His Spirit. The carnal man is dead and the spiritual man is alive. The carnal man serves sin and the spiritual man serves Christ.

Paul explains that the carnal man is only finally freed from sin when he dies. So the carnal man continues to sin, he needs to sin, so that sin can work its horror in his life, ruining everything, destroying the beauty and corrupting the sacred, until it finally brings death, freeing him from sin.

The spiritual man however, the Spirit filled believer, is dead in Christ. So he has been freed from sin while he yet lives. He can live free from the bondage of sin in this life! The Apostle Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.

When Jesus died on the cross God accepted it as payment for the sins of every man. So now anyone who puts their faith in Jesus can be freed from sin. The Bible teaches that if we will repent of our sins and be baptized in Jesus name that He will fill us with His Spirit and we can be free from the power of sin in our lives.

The truth is we don’t have to be controlled by sin. If we will begin to believe in Jesus and live the life He teaches we can be free from sin. It doesn’t have to ruin anymore. We can be free form the law of sin and death and live in the liberty of a spiritual life.

Many people have offered solutions to sin throughout the ages. Some have said sin is not a real thing and if we just ignore it soon it will fade from societies consciousness. That hasn’t worked. Some have said that if you’re a good person that you can live a relatively happy life. That’s no comfort. I want to be free from sin. Some have said you can believe in God, or any other faith for that matter, they all lead to heaven, and you’ll be ok. That doesn’t make sense. Not all faiths agree. Some of them radically disagree. So how could they all be right?

The truth of the matter is that Jesus is the only way to be free from sin. There is no alternative to faith in Jesus Christ. His death on the cross provided the way for all our sins to be forgiven in the eyes of God and for His Spirit to live inside us, which gives us power over sin. Sin ruins everything, but the believer has, in the blood of Jesus Christ, an agent that can clean it out once and for all. Jesus is the solution for sin.

In chemistry there is a simple principle that like dissolves like. It refers to polar and non-polar compounds or solutions. If the structures are similar than one will dissolve the other. For instance, water is polar and oil is non-polar. So water does not dissolve oil. However, salt is polar so water dissolves salt. Like dissolves like. If you want to clean a mirror that’s crusted with hairspray, spray more hairspray on it. Like dissolves like.

Jesus had to become like us so that His blood could cleanse us. His sinless human blood dissolves the sin in our blood. He is the only way. His blood is the only solution for sin.

He has been vaccinated against the disease of sin. When you’re given a vaccine you receive a non-threatening dose of the disease itself which allows your bodies natural defenses to prepare to fight the real disease. When Jesus died on the cross He took on all the sin of the world and it did not defeat Him. So now His blood is the only blood with the power to fight sin.

The scriptures are clear that if we will confess our sins, not to a priest but to Jesus, and ask His forgiveness that “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV) Confession and forgiveness of sins goes together with repentance, which is a change of heart. We must decide to abandon sin and change the direction of our life. If we are baptized we can have an assurance that not only have our sins been forgiven, and we’ve repented of them, but we’ve had our sins “washed away” in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:12-16).

Sin is real and it separates us from God. When we’re distanced from God sin denies us the blessings and goodness that flow naturally from following God’s heart. Sin ruins everything, but Jesus death made a way to defeat the effect of sin. Jesus, and only Jesus, is the solution to sin.

Sin (Part 2 of 3)

Sin ruins everything. Everything. Everything sin touches it either ruins, cheapens, destroys, injures or corrupts. It is toxic. It’s a poison. It ruins everything. Unfortunately, we love it.

There’s something about sinful behavior that comes easy to us. It has been the inclination of man since Adam and Eve to challenge God’s law and God’s order. It’s our nature to sin. The Bible teaches that we inherited that sin nature from Adam and Eve. It’s as natural for a man to sin as it is to breathe. We sin with ease and with regularity. We sin without even thinking about it. We sin every day. We are slaves to sin.

The Apostle Paul helps us understand this nature to sin when he explains, in his letter to the believers in Rome, that we are slaves to sin. We work for sin and it’s wages is death. If sin is in our lives, even a little, we are not in control, sin is. When it is finished, it will not only ruin everything but it will bring death.

If you really want to develop some serious mental issues think about this. One of the most important elements for sustaining life on this planet is oxygen. Everything needs it. Trees need oxygen, animals need oxygen, the atmosphere contains oxygen, and of course, humans need oxygen. Water is a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. Oxygen is vital for all life to continue. Yet the process by which everything on this planet decays is oxidation; exposure to oxygen.

The rust that destroys metal is oxidation. The brown spots that form on leaves as they die are the result of oxidation. When you bite that apple, breaking its protective skin, and let the oxygen in the air begin to react with it, it turns brown, mushy and decays as a result of oxidation. And then there’s us. We breathe it every day and our skin cells decay and fall off and replenish themselves in constant cycle because of the process of oxidation. Yet we cannot get enough of this precious oxygen. We need it, and it’s killing us and everything it touches!

How can we escape? That’s the same question Paul asks in Romans 7:24. I serve sin, yet I know it’s killing me and it’s ruining everything. We’re not sinners because we sin. We sin because we’re sinners.

The big problem with sin is that it’s hard to clean out once it begins to grow. The Bible often compares sin to yeast. Once a little bit gets in it becomes nearly impossible to ever clean it all out. Furthermore, it spreads and influences every aspect of your life. Sin ruins everything.

Not only is it hard to clean out, it’s hard to cover up. It has a way of leaking out of whatever you try to contain it in and exposing its presence to the world. It’s an acid. You can’t clean sins container and think it’s gone. The Pharisee’s tried. They washed the outside clean and white but inside they were still full of sin. Jesus said they were like a tomb that had been painted white. It looks nice on the outside but inside is dead men’s bones.

The problem is that sin doesn’t come from what’s on the outside but from what’s on the inside. The sin problem we have comes from within. Sin starts within our hearts.

Jesus told a story about a son that left home in search of his own life. He took his inheritance from his father and went into “a far country”. While in this far country the son spent his money on what Jesus called “riotous living”. Soon the day came when the money ran out and his friends were gone. He had nothing left and no one to give him anything. He was ruined.

The son, now broke, friendless and desperate, joined himself to a citizen in that far country. That man sent him into the fields to feed the swine. It was an insult for an observant Jew to be standing in the mud and filth of pigs. As he stood there, amongst the filth and the swine, Jesus said he almost ate the slop that the pigs were eating. He didn’t eat it, but he came so close.

That’s what sin does. It brings us to places we never thought we would go. It joins us to people we never wanted to walk with. It causes us to touch things we never thought we would handle. Sin will bring you closer to losing everything than you ever thought you would be. Sin ruins everything.

Sin is the cause of death, sorrow, pain and fear. We don’t have a drug problem in our cities, we have a sin problem. We don’t have an epidemic of divorce and broken families. We have an epidemic of sin.

Sin is the cause of violence, death and brokenness. Sin is what entices people to do stupid things in dangerous places with people they shouldn’t trust. Sin is the reason we’re easily addicted to chemicals that destroy our minds and our bodies. Sin is the reason people’s futures and ambitions are destroyed. Sin is what corrupts talent and potential. Sin cheapens love and ruins relationships.

Our problem is sin and sin ruins everything.

Sin (Part 1 of 3)

I know some big words. Words like existentialism and idiosyncratic. I can both define the word “empirical” and use it in a sentence. I can even spell mayonnaise without using spellcheck (most of the time). I might be somewhat of a sesquipedalian. So I was surprised as I was scrolling through an edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary and came across some words I had never heard before.

Words like monomachy, mensal, lambrequin, fuligin, and cataphract. Words, so ancient and arcane, that no one even knows what they mean anymore. Many of these words are so obscure that they have been phased out of modern editions of dictionaries.

There is another word that is quickly becoming lost in modern languages. It is a word with ancient roots and rich in meaning. Unfortunately, it is rarely used by the modern speakers and writers and it is in danger of becoming undefinable by many. This word in danger of being lost is, sin.

Ask someone on the street today, “What is sin?” and you are likely to get a variety of answers. Some would say sin is anything that hurts someone else. Sin might be doing something that is illegal. Some suggest that there is no such thing as sin. Sin is simply an ideological relic of our religious past.

The truth is that sin is a real word with real meaning. We will never fully understand what it means to say, “Jesus died for your sin” unless we understand what sin really is.

Sin is called many things in the Bible. We’re given an array of words throughout scripture that give us an understanding of the nature of sin. It’s called rebellion, folly, madness, idolatry, foolishness, blindness, deafness, and death. Sin is a law at work in the hearts of men and women that challenges the law of God. The Bible is clear that sin is “the transgression of the law” (1John 3:4). Sin is, to put it simply, the act of violating God’s laws and God’s order.

Some sins are things we do, sins of commission, sins we commit. Other sins are things we don’t do and those are called sins of omission. If we lie to someone, that is a sin because it violates God’s law of truth. It is a sin of commission. If we fail to protect, or come to the rescue of someone who needs us, that is sin. That is a sin of omission, something we neglected to do.

Either way, if it’s something we did or something we failed to do, sin is that which violates God. Sin doesn’t just violate God’s law and His order. God’s order and His laws issue from His nature, from what He is. Sin violates the nature of God Himself. It is a rebellion against all that God is.

Sin is the word we use to describe anything that opposes the nature and order of God. That’s why God and sin cannot be in the same place. James reveals the truth that salt water and fresh water don’t come from the same source. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:11-12). Sin is at odds with the nature of God and the two will never blend. God brings righteousness, peace and joy. Sin corrupts, decays and destroys.

Sin ruins everything.

The ultimate problem that sin presents is that it separates us from God. It is our separation from God, caused by sin, that brings the trouble into our lives. Sin is what denies the blessings and promises that a righteous life brings to those who honor God and His order. Sin separated God from Adam and Eve in the garden and God has been seeking to rid us of sin ever since. He wants to restore that relationship we had with Him before sin started ruining everything.

The Waterline

It weighed 1,961 tons, was 269 feet long, and could travel at a top speed of 19 knots. It was the SS Eastland, one of the finest cruise ships in the City of Chicago, and on July 24th, 1915 it sank in the Chicago River still moored to the wharf.

The Eastland and two other cruise ships, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Petoskey, were hired to take employees from Chicago’s Western Electric Company to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. Passengers began boarding around 6:30 AM. By 7:10, the ship had reached its capacity of 2,500 passengers. It had also developed a list to the port, which the crew attempted to stabilize by admitting water to the ballast tanks.

By 7:28, the Eastland began to roll over. In just 5 minutes, with several hundred people watching from the dock, the great cruise ship came to rest on its side. It was laying in 20 feet of water only 18 feet from the wharf, on the south bank of the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle Streets. 841 passengers and 3 crew members were killed.

After the river was cleared of the bodies and the great boat investigators came to a consensus as to the fate of the Eastland. The already top heavy cruise ship was put further out of balance by the addition of life boats, presumably as a safety precaution, following the disaster of the Titanic. The added life boats placed more weight above the water line than was below and the Eastland rolled.

What was viewed as a measure of safety became the catalyst for the great ships demise.

One of the most important maritime principles is that there must be more weight below the waterline than above. The Eastland violated this principle and 844 souls were lost in 20 feet of water, 18 feet from the shore.

It is vital that we apply this principle to our souls.

It matters not what is seen on the surface. What really matters, and will insure our safety, is what weight we have beneath the waterline. Is our house in order? Or, to put it more succinctly, is our soul right? Are we walking in integrity?

Many mistakenly believe that their external appearance, all that people see of them in the natural world, is all that really matters. The reality is that it is the unseen condition of the soul that will decide if we “sink or swim”. The waterline obstructs the casual observer from seeing what lies beneath. The temptation is to think that what lies beneath doesn’t matter and to focus on making what can be seen, above the waterline, the most impressive. In boating and in regards to the soul, that is a recipe for disaster.

While the other boats on that fateful day, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Petosky, may not have been as admired or applauded as the Eastland, in their humble appearance they remained afloat because they mastered a simple maritime principle.

The principle of the waterline. There must be more weight beneath the waterline than above.