Covered

Grace and more grace!

As the prophet Micah wrote regarding God’s intention to restore His unfaithful people Israel, “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).

Today Christ offers the same grace. As Peter told those who had clamored for Jesus’ death, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

And for Christians who sin after conversion: “. . . if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin . . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9).

What forgiveness means

It means we don’t have to keep carrying around an unbearable load of guilt.

It means we can experience God’s grace instead of His wrath.

It means we don’t have to go to hell.

It means we have a future—something to live for and so much to look forward to.

What a relief!

From his own personal experience with God, David wrote, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).

Somewhere on the ocean floor of God’s fathomless grace, David’s sins lie buried.

Ours can lie there right beside his.

And no sonar will find them—ever.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Oh, to Believe It!

One of the hardest lessons each of us must learn is that it really is to our advantage to do God’s will instead of our own. Many never learn this lesson.

Using the free will God gave us, we can choose our own way in life. How easy it is to do what we want instead of what God wants!

To believe that it is truly to our advantage to do God’s will, we must believe that:

  1. God knows best. We do not. He is far wiser than we. Like a small child intent on disobedience, we fail to understand our Father’s purposes for both our immediate and ultimate welfare.
  2. God not only knows best, He asks of us only what is best for us. Doing His will may hurt (cause us pain), but doing His will can never hurt (harm) us.
  3. His way brings far greater benefits than any supposed gain we might receive from doing our own thing. “. . . whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
  4. Sin means doing my will when it runs counter to His will. Obedience means voluntarily yielding my will to His.
  5. It is so easy to focus on the cost of obedience and overlook the rewards of obedience. And yet the rewards far outweigh anything we may give up in order to obey (Mark 10:28-30; Romans 8:18). God is the Great Compensator.
  6. Satan will make sin look so attractive, so glamorous, and so alluring, that I must keep reminding myself that it is all a sham, a pretense, a lie. Satan does not deliver the goods.
  7. Sin (doing my will instead of God’s) may bring me momentary pleasure (Hebrews 11:25), but sin will destroy me if I don’t repent (Romans 6:23).
  8. To repent may sound tremendously hard and unappealing, but in view of the blessings God pours out on the truly penitent, repentance must be one of the most sensible, positive things I can do for myself (Acts 3:19).

His way may not be easy, but His way is truly best.

Now if I can just keep believing that—and act accordingly.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Why Some Reject the Truth

Root causes

Isaac McNally and I were discussing why some people refuse the evidence for faith and choose not to believe. He made the point that no matter how effectively we present the reasons for belief, nothing we might say will persuade those who have closed their ears to the truth. Why not?

While only God sees the deepest motives of the heart, and we cannot know in every case why someone refuses to believe, Scripture does reveal some root causes.

Jesus said, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father the devil” (John 8:43-44).

There are those who “loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19-20).

Paul warned of those “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18), “who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12), and who “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

What it all comes down to

Some reject faith because they do not want to be accountable to anyone. They wish to do as they please, thinking that submitting to God means losing their freedom.

Yes, we must renounce our own sins if we wish to be saved—that’s repentance. But in reality, going God’s way is greatly to our advantage, while stubbornly remaining in unbelief leads to a destination where we do not wish to go (Matthew 7:13-14).

So it all comes down to this: Which do we love: our sins or the truth that can save our souls?

refusal-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Another Addiction

Getting hooked

It’s amazing how many different ways Satan has to enslave us: drugs, alcohol, tobacco, overeating, gambling, etc. Our adversary knows how to get us hooked and keep us hooked.

Satan has been entrapping even more with another highly addictive practice, using Internet pornography.

How many ever thought when they started where this would lead them? How many ever dreamed what a grip this would get on their minds? How many would have ever guessed what it would do to their marriages? Or to their relationship with God?

Admitting what it does to us

“It won’t hurt me.” “I can handle it.” “I can stop it anytime I want.”

But Paul cautions, “. . . let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

The writer of Hebrews warns us that we can be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

Sin deceives us when we think we can indulge without consequence. But sin, when repeated, has a definite hardening effect on us. Our conscience can become so calloused by repeated indulgence that it becomes less and less sensitive, and we drift farther and farther away from our God who calls us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16; 2:9-11).

Taking decisive action

Jesus said, “. . . everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And then He said, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:28-29).

While Jesus does not mean for us literally to pluck out our eye, does He not mean we must take drastic action to save our souls?

Whatever it takes.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Guilty/Forgiven/Transformed

Many ways to sin

Several New Testament passages cite a number of sins (Matthew 15:19-20; Romans 1:28-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:25-31; Colossians 3:5-9; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 21:8; etc.). None of these lists is intended to be complete. Notice how many sins are indicted in this passage:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

How we respond

There are at least three ways we can read this passage: 1) we can think about people we know who are guilty of these sins (Luke 18:9-14), 2) we can be convicted of those sins we are guilty of and truly repent (Acts 2:36-41; 2 Corinthians 7:6-16), or 3) we can read it without giving it much thought one way or another (Ezekiel 33:30-32). Of these three options, which would the Lord want us to take?

Regarding the specific sins listed above, we may not have ever gotten drunk, but have we ever envied? We may have never become involved in the occult (sorcery), but have we ever let anger get the best of us?

What we most need

Yes, we need to be personally convicted of our sins so we can repent and be forgiven. But we need something more. We need encouragement that victory over our sin is possible through Jesus Christ. In another passage Paul lists ten specific sins, but then he says, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

What an encouraging passage! These former pagans had been convicted, cleansed, and consecrated to God. What they experienced we can experience.

There is hope!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The ABCs of Sin

A—The ATTRACTION of Sin: Pleasure.

There is pleasure in gossip, pornography, fornication, alcohol, drugs, etc. Isn’t that why sin is so tempting? Satan really knows how to bait a hook! He doesn’t want us to know that sin is deceptive (Hebrews 3:13), its pleasures are passing (Hebrews 11:25), and its momentary pleasures are far outweighed by the joy of being within the will of God.

B—The BASIS of sin: Self.

Sin is the rejection of God—both of His goodness toward us and His authority over us. Two qualities can help preserve us from sin. One is gratitude. How can we take God’s good blessings and then rebel against Him? Another is humility. It takes humility to do His will instead of our own.

C—The CONSEQUENCE of sin: Death.

Sin results in alienation from God and eternal death (Romans 6:23a; James 1:13-15; Revelation 21:8). Shouldn’t knowing what a high price tag sin carries make us all the more wary of it?

There is another set of sin’s ABCs:

A—The ANSWER to sin: Christ.

He took the punishment we deserve so we don’t have to pay the eternal penalty in hell. What He offers in its place is life that is life indeed (John 10:10)!

B—The BANISHMENT of sin: Forgiveness.

God promises to remove all our sins, every single one of them, when we respond in faith, repentance, and baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). What a wonderful God!

C—The CONQUERING of sin: Sanctification.

We need not only to be forgiven, but also to root out the practice of sin of our lives, replacing it with a holy new lifestyle (Colossians 3:5-17). Sanctification means: 1) being separated from sin and the world, and 2) being set apart, devoted to God’s good purposes.

Sin. May we see it for what it is: deceptive, defiling, destructive. It just isn’t worth it. It never is.

Christ. May we see Him for who He is: the best Friend we could possibly ever have. We are powerless by ourselves to remedy our sin problem. Only He can erase it.

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A Comment Worth Remembering

Something Jeff Hogan said years ago has stuck with me. The sermon that day was on some specific sin. Jeff commented that if we don’t preach on things like that, the members will think it’s OK to do them. He was right!

Reminded

From time to time we need to be reminded of what we already know (Philippians 3:1; 2 Peter 1:12). Perhaps since the last time we heard a sermon on the sin of greed, for example, we have become enmeshed in material pursuits (Matthew 13:22; 1 John 2:15-17). A pointed sermon can serve as a needed wake-up call.

Informed

Or perhaps we might not have even realized that a certain activity is sinful. If so, what we need is not a reminder—since we never knew it was wrong in the first place. Instead we need to be informed.

Convicted

Even more, we need to be deeply convicted so we can repent and do better. For example, if we have never been taught it is wrong to use pornography or have sex before marriage or have an abortion or use illicit drugs or cheat on tests or use profanity, etc., then a timely lesson on the subject can educate us in a hurry! That is, if we want the truth.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Just two verses later Paul says, “. . . preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction . . .” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Jeff’s comment was right on target. If we are to learn how God’s wants us to live, and if we are to receive the periodic reminders we need, then true-to-the-Bible preaching must always be a vital part of our lives.

That’s how God designed it.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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