We Need to be Careful How we Seek to Define Sin

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The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!  He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!  -Psalm 99:1, ESV

Have you ever wondered what was going through Adam’s mind as he watched Eve take the first bite of that forbidden fruit?  It’s difficult for me not to think of him as an incredible jerk!  After all, he had been the one to hear directly from God concerning his warning that to do so would result in death.  I guess as a man who is prone to passivity myself, I can relate to his sitting back while the serpent assaulted his wife with deception.  But to stand there and allow her to take that first bite!?  The Scriptures clearly tell us that after eating of the fruit, “she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6, emphasis mine).  I wonder if while he watched he began to wonder if God had indeed lied, as the snake alleged.  Perhaps he stood there in amazement to find that the woman continued to draw breath as she swallowed the sweet bite.  I don’t believe that thought to be too much of a stretch, primarily because only after watching her and considering the immediate results of her actions did he take of the fruit and eat for himself.

As I read through Psalm 99 this morning in anticipation of our student gathering this coming weekend, I realized that our culture has much in common with Adam’s actions.  At least I can glean this from so much of what I hear from a culture seeking to justify sin.  I think the following thought to be quite plausible.

When Adam should have kept his gaze upon the holiness of God and the faithfulness of God’s Word, he instead considered only the immediate perceived outcome of another’s sin.

Despite their temporary retreat from what they knew to be true about God, they quickly sobered to the reality of the devastation of their sin in light of God’s holiness.  They began to experience shame and the brokenness of relationships that had flourished up until that point.  Although they did not instantaneously drop dead upon biting into the forbidden fruit, from that moment forward they would experience death.  Comprehensive death leading to eternal death.

Too often our culture, and sadly many who claim to be Christian, base their opinions on sin upon the perceived immediate outcome of its participants.  Instead of staying tied to God’s Word and character, some see the perceived flourishing of those participating in a specific sin and conclude that perhaps that action must be OK.  The truth is, though, the serious consequences of sin will not always manifest themselves in the instant an act is committed.  To deduce then that God must not truly be against such an action, and therefore, that action must not be sin at all, is to adopt a very poor and ignorant assumption.  So, why does God not administer immediate justice in those situations?  Consider Paul’s words from his letter to the Romans:

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  -Romans 2:4-5

One of the glorious truths of the gospel is that God is long-suffering in his love and mercy for his creation.  That patience is meant to lead sinners to repentance and reconciliation with God, himself.  That patience definitely does not communicate that God overlooks sin or has allowed us to define what is sin and what is not.

I heard an actress on TV this morning say, “The Bible says that God is love.  There is no comma after love.  He loves us, no matter who we are or choose to be.”  She cannot be speaking of the God of the Bible in her description.  Instead, this is the God our culture at-large has created.  Her ideal god is one solely defined by love as defined by our “tolerant” and shame-less culture.  He is a god defined by that attribute and nothing else.  He is easily manipulated and molded to ease the conscience and to justify every desire.

The God of the Bible, however, is holy above all else.  He is love, but even that love is seen through his holiness.  His love is not displayed in his allowance for his creation to do whatever it pleases, but rather, in the fact that while we were lost, blind, and estranged from him in our sin, even as we continued to sin, he came on a rescue mission to redeem us.  The end of love should be seen as protection, warning, and flourishing, not personal happiness and (every) desire fulfilled.  Ask any parent.

This was true for Adam and Eve.  Because he is holy, God banished them from his blessed presence.  Because he is love, he displayed mercy by covering them with the skins of innocent animal, thus showing them and us a pattern he initiated for atonement.  “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22b).  God promised to send the seed of a woman to one day defeat sin and reverse its curse.  This is also true for us.  We know now that Jesus was that seed, and in him any who would repent of sin and trust exclusively in Jesus can find eternal and complete rescue (Hebrews 10:12-14; 2 Corinthians 5:22; John 3:16-18).

God is holy and his Word is eternal and unchanging.  The Lord reigns over every heart.  He reigns out of his holiness.  Our response should be one of trembling and awe, not moral manipulation and self-justified rebellion.  One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.  This will happen at his second coming.  At that time, no more mercy will be extended as Jesus takes his place as Sovereign Judge of every heart.  His wrath will be revealed against sin and the workers of sin.  Punishment for those outside of Christ will be eternal.  Even that action will be congruent with God’s great love.  In the meantime, God relents out of mercy in order to extend grace to those who would turn from sin to follow Jesus as Lord and King.

Do not be deceived.  Stay tied to God and his Word.  Fix your gaze on his holiness and look to the day when sin will one day be completely eradicated.  In the meantime, “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).

Love for the World and The Love of the Father

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Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.  (1 John 2:15-17, emphasis mine)

The greatest desire of the flesh for most of us, if we are honest, is love for self.  At least this is true for me.

I want to be comfortable.

I want to be gratified.

I want to be lazy.

I want to be happy.

This love for self falls into the category of love John describes in this passage.  It is a prime example of worldly love, worldly desire.  Today I have been confronted with the truth that I often lack love for others because of my own worldly love for self.  I do not often love with the God’s love because of my own misdirected desire.  Without the love of the Father in me, I cannot truly love anyone.

When I treasure myself above Jesus, I am completely incapable of loving others with the love of Jesus. Continue reading

The Truth about the Dress

The internet sure proved to be a strange place yesterday, didn’t it!?  Llamas and a dress temporarily took all of our minds off of some of the heavy news headlines of our day, and it seemed as though everyone gladly embraced the light-hearted reprieve.

I first saw this dress last evening in a post on twitter along with a question of the dress’s color.  White and gold.  Simple enough.  And I moved on.  Then I began to see the dress in more tweets.  I turned to Facebook where I saw the picture posted by friends in posts that already contained dozens of responses.  I began to wonder what the big deal was until I actually clicked on one such post and began reading through the comments.  At first I thought this must be a trick.  What are these other people seeing who say that the dress is blue and black??  So I finally took my iPad to my wife.  “Tell me what color this dress is,” I said, sarcastically.  “Blue and dark brown, why?” she responded.

WHAT!?!?

We laughed for the rest of the night as we traced social media conversations and discussed the possible reasons for our radically different perspectives.

The truth is, I knew that the dress was white and gold.  The truth is, my wife knew the dress was blue and dark brown.  I opened a link from twitter this morning that contained the answer to the mystery that had been posted by the owner of the dress last night.  The truth is, the dress is blue and black.

Had I been called upon last night to answer that question with my life depending on it, I would have ultimately answered white and gold.  I was sure in my mind that the dress was white and gold.  I would have argued with someone that the dress was white and gold.  This morning I was confronted with the truth.  The truth is, I am wrong. It struck me this morning that this whole dress comedy actually serves as a wonderful reminder about truth, itself. Continue reading

Simple Litmus Test for the Validity of ‘Biblical’ Promises

Would you like a simple litmus test to use to help you determine the Scriptural truthfulness/validity of doctrinal or theological statements or promises?  Look at the picture to the left.

Here is the test: Would you be willing to make that same statement to those 21 men at the time that picture was taken?  Is that statement equally true for those brothers in Christ as it is for you?  If a ‘promise’ from Scripture is faithful to the Scriptures, it will be equally true for all believers everywhere, not just for believers ‘blessed’ enough to live in America. Continue reading

That New Coke SuperBowl Ad & the Gospel

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If you didn’t get a chance to see the Coca-Cola ad from last night’s SuperBowl, you can watch it below.  That ad resonates with so many, largely because we live in such a broken world.  People are grasping for answers to the tragic problems of hate and bullying, so Coke spends millions of dollars in advertising to promote its answer…happiness…and coke (of course).  Happiness has always been a central advertising strategy of the Coke brand, which is refreshing in our culture’s media.


Despite that, even Coke’s promotion of happiness offers a sadly erroneous answer to the pervasive problem it attempts to address.  In the end, a call to happiness offers nothing but false hope.  Nothing changes.  We cannot and will not solve the problem of hate through even the most well written and produced media campaign.  As for this coke ad, it ultimately misses the mark both in its diagnosis and its answer. Continue reading

Our Lives as Celebration

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Our family had the awesome opportunity to see Rend Collective in concert this past Friday night.  I have wanted to see them live for some time, so this was a real treat for me!  If you are not familiar with Rend, they are a worship band from Ireland; although, on Friday night they actually referred to themselves as a Celebration Band.  You wouldn’t have to see them live for very long to agree with that assessment.  Their songs are generally upbeat and alive with a joy that’s rooted in gospel truth.  As I participated in this concert of celebration with my family,  I actually found myself feeling somewhat convicted.  Rend collective gave me more than just a good show; they reminded me that because of the gospel, the backdrop of my life should exude celebration. Continue reading

Jesus is Our Ark

Week 1, Day 4: Genesis 6-7

In light of the coming flood of judgment thousands of years ago, God provided a means of salvation.  He commanded his servant Noah to build an ark.  The Scriptures tell us that in the construction of that ship only 1 door was placed.  That door alone provided the only means of salvation from the coming flood.  As he built Noah preached and invited even the most sinful to seek refuge by trusting in God’s promise.  In the end only his family entered the door.  The passage goes on to tell us that just before God began to pour his wrath out upon the earth, God, himself, shut the door.

Judgment is once again eminent in our day.  Jesus will return and no one can say for sure when.  When he does he will return as King and as Judge.  He came on a rescue mission in his first coming, accomplishing all that was necessary to offer even the most sinful of people a way of salvation.  And just as there existed only one door into the ark, because he is the only one who actually dealt with sin and earned the righteousness that holy God demands, he exists now as the only way of salvation for sinful people (John 14:6).  That’s all of us (Romans 3:23).  When he returns God will once again close the door and there will be no more chance for those who have chosen to remain in unbelief and stay on the outside of that exclusive refuge.

The invitation is open once again.  The gospel proclaims a rescue that is available through Christ alone.  Anyone can enter by repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus.  Will you trust in him today?