Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's Not Sin

It's Not Sin
June 25, 2012
Romans 3:20  "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."

The Bible states very clearly that when we have rules we will know when we break them.  If your parents ever set a bed time for you as a child, the clock was a good indicator if you were breaking the rules or not.  It made you aware of your short-comings if you were not in bed on time and you might suffer the consequences.  If you ever had a teacher who set in place assignments but you did not complete the assignments, you were aware of the grade you should expect.  If you ever had a boss that wrote down your job expectations, you knew you could lose your employment if you did not reach those expectations.  Somehow, though, with the Lord, we are not afraid of the consequences of our sin because of the ever extending forgiveness that flows from His love and a seemingly weak definition for our sin.

We are not afraid of the consequences of our sin, sometimes, because we aren't even really willing to define it as sin.  We try not to label things; we aren't willing to call things as they really are, in an effort to not offend anyone.  And if we don't know what to call it, then it certainly isn't a sin and we won't be afraid of the consequences.  In the Old Testament, it was pretty cut and dry as to your success in following the laws.  You either did what it said or you didn't, there was no in-between.  Since we don't want to be legalistic anymore, we stop putting rules in place.  This way, we don't have to worry about following them and certainly don't have to worry about falling short of them.  We enter our own reasoning and think that if it is not hurting anyone else then it is not a sin.  The Lord calls this a lie and therefore it is a sin.

No one would doubt that murdering someone is a sin.  The law (both man's and God's) says not to murder because it is a sin.  But very few of us are guilty of this.  We are however, guilty of so much more yet there isn't anything to declare it a sin since we have removed all labels, laws, rules, and restrictions.  But in the Lord's eyes, sin is still sin, regardless of what you want to believe and regardless of the stance that a church is willing to take on a certain topic.  In light of the ever relaxing state of the church, I will take a stance.  You may disagree if you'd like, but you'd be wrong (according to the Bible).

Having sex outside of a marriage relationship is a sin.  Homosexuality is a sin.  Getting drunk is a sin.  Divorce is a sin.  Lying is a sin, however small or even if labeled as a "white-lie."  Taking something that is not yours is a sin, even if it has no value to anyone else.  This would include sitting at work and accepting a paycheck when you are on facebook or socializing and not actually getting work done.  Talking about someone behind their back in a negative manner is a sin.  Taking the Lord's name in vain is a sin, especially when used as an expletive.  Acting out in your anger is a sin (this would include calling someone names or yelling at them).  Physically harming someone is a sin, which would include spanking your children too hard.  Being critical of someone else and judging them because they are different than you is a sin.  Being jealous of what someone else has is a sin.  Never being content with what the Lord has given you is a sin.

This list could go on and we are ALL guilty of a few of these items.  It is time to call sin a sin and get if out of your life.  In the Old Testament, the law was clear on what was right and wrong.  But for some reason we have let grace and forgiveness re-define what we are willing to call a sin.  I wish today's church leaders would take a stronger stance on calling things as they are, but it is up to us to implement it in our lives.  The more you tip-toe around calling things a sin, the more likely you are to fall into its trap.  No, I don't want you to live a guilt-ridden life because you are always falling short, but I don't want you to be deceived about your actions, either.  Sin is a sin and we all have more of it in our lives than we are willing to admit.  You can rationalize it all you want, but it is still sin.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Lev 18:22, Lev 20:13, Matthew 5:32, Rom 1:24, Rom 13:13, Eph 4:26, 1 Cor 5:1-11, 1 Cor 6:18, Col 3:8, 1 Tim 1:9-11, Heb 13:4, James 1:20, 1 John 3:15

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Even If

Even If
June 18, 2012
Daniel 3:18 "But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
There is a famous story with three exiled Israelites: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It is so famous that little needs re-told of the story. A polytheistic king wanted these three men to bow down and worship almost anything and everything but the One True God. The three men refused. The king threatened them with being burned alive. Still they refused. Their words were amazing. The men declared that their God was able to save them from any fiery furnace. Listen to their words after that amazing confidence in the Lord: "But even if he does not [save us from the fiery furnace], we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
What an amazing testament of their dedication to the Lord. They were willing to risk being burned alive for their convictions in serving Him. We all know the ending of the story when Jesus walked in the furnace with them bringing them out alive, but would the meaning of that story change for you if you did not know the final outcome? Would it still be an amazing testament of their convictions if the Lord didn't rescue them? I would submit that it would be an even greater testimony if they had been burned alive. Thankfully, they were saved, but what if they weren't? They willingly walked into the furnace, knowing that it could have been the end. Would you or I go through with it or would we cower and cave? 
Most of us are not as bold and courageous as these three Jews. Sure, if we were confident in a favorable outcome we might be so bold, but we don't like to risk things. We rationalize and reason our own compromise in situations that might cost us something. Where is the line for you in your dedication to serving the Lord? Are you willing to risk death? How about your job? Are you willing to serve the Lord and His ways even if it means losing your job for standing up in your beliefs? When your employer asks you to compromise your Christian standards at work, do you risk being fired from your employment and refuse the compromise? Or do you rationalize the compromise? Are you willing to serve the Lord even if He does not save you from the situation, even if you lose your job over it?
We don't always want to risk our strong moral standards, but when it comes to our comfort we often look the other way instead of risking the consequences if we don't. I know I've compromised a standard or two over my life-time, chances are you've done the same. But the Lord wants us to serve Him through the difficult decisions even if He does not rescue us. We need to trust Him even if He does not seem to save us from our troubles. We need to relax in Him even if He does not remove the situations that are causing us anxiety. We need to serve Him even if it costs us something uncomfortable, maybe even losing our job, family, or friends.
And notice the three Israelites' polite words. They stood up to the king and spoke to him with respect. They still called him, "Your Majesty," out of reverence for their testimony. They did not fight him, they simply stood their moral ground with conviction, letting the Lord defend their honor. They did not call him names or insult him, they simply stated their case. You and I could learn some things from their example. Not only did they stand up for what they believed in, even if the consequences were grave, but they did so in a manner worthy of being called a child of the Lord Most High. It's time to serve the Lord, "even if."

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Job 13:15, Dan 3

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Damned to Hell

Damned to Hell
June 11, 2012
Psalm 81:12  "So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices." 

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy and forgiveness.  There is no doubt of that.  The Lord can and will forgive any amount of sin in your life and wants to redeem your life from the grave.  However, the Lord has a seemingly impatient side of Him regarding the sin in your life.  And there comes a point with that sin when the Lord thinks that enough is enough.  In the Old Testament, the Lord turned many people over to their own ways because they simply would not stay out of sin.  That statement was akin to the Lord damning them to Hell before their physical death.  They were so far gone in their sin that the Lord essentially gave up on them.  He realized and knew that they would not turn their hearts back to Him; they were so indulgent in their own sin that they were damned to Hell.

While you might think this is only the God of the Old Testament and it is not representative of the New Testament Savior, you would be mistaken.  Jesus gave instructions to His disciples regarding the same type of behavior.  He said, "If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them."  This testimony against them was their unwillingness to confess their sin and change their ways.   The people wanted to keep their sin and the Lord was willing to walk away from it.  The testimony against them was a statement akin to their pending damnation in Hell.  If they refused to accept free forgiveness and salvation from their sins, then they would soon be bearing the consequences of that decision.

Do not think that because you attend church or because you know all the right Christian words, that you will be escaping Hell despite any amount of sin in your life.  Entertainment of sin is a slippery slope and once enticed into your life there is an opportunity that it will damn you to Hell.  If you only sin a little, then surely it won't be that big of a deal, so we think.  But a little sin, once indulged in, can become big enough to overshadow the Lord's presence in your life.  Soon, your heart becomes stubborn and there is no room from Him.  That is the point in which the Lord declares that He will allow you to follow the consequences of that sin.  Scripture says He will turn you over to the stubbornness of your own heart.

No matter how mature of a Christian you are, sin will always be a temptation and could enter your life through the smallest of cracks.  Once that sin enters, if not removed, it will grow like a cancer and replace the Lord of your life.  If it replaces the Lord as your Savior, then damnation to Hell is the next logical step.  If you are reading this and thinking you are above falling into that trap, then you have already taken the first step toward destruction.  The Lord's salvation is real and able to pull you back at any moment, however if you follow the stubbornness of your own heart, then damnation to Hell will be real.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 81:11-13, Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5, Luke 10:11, Acts 7:42, Rom 1:24-28

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Solo Christian

Solo Christian
June 4, 2012
1 Cor 12:27  "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."

No man is an island.  Though we can seclude ourselves for a while, we are all part of a community, a group made up of individuals.  The Lord never intended for us to be lone rangers, doing things on our own or without the help of others.  Since the beginning of creation, the Lord said it wasn't good for a man to be alone; that's why He created Eve (the first community).  You may think you can live without others, but only societies that live, work, and play together survive.  The Lord intended it this way; He never wanted you to go it alone.

The Apostle Paul writes several times that we are all part of the Body of Christ, meaning a group of individual Christians that make up the church.  But it is more than just a collection of individual Christians.  The Lord intended for us to play complimentary roles and to work together.  We all have different gifts and we are to function in those gifts, talents, and abilities for the betterment of others in the group.  We were never intended to function with our gifts by ourselves, or do it all alone.

If you consider ants, when one ant cannot carry the load fully by himself, the others join in and help.  This is how the Lord wants it for you and me.  I've often wondered why the Lord does not raise up one extremely wealthy Christian to create an endowment that pays for certain ministries or outreaches.  But that is not the way the Lord wants it.  He wants many individuals pooling their resources together, instead of just a one man show.  He wants a body of believers doing the work, not an individual who could possibly take the credit for any given success.

And just as you aren't supposed to function in your gifts away from the body, neither are you to grow in your Christianity by yourself.  In the Bible, there aren't any instances where individuals grew in their Christianity by being alone; it takes a full body of believers for encouragement and refinement.  If ever there was an individual in a secluded place, it was because the Lord took him away for a very short while, to be filled with His knowledge.  Then, with the newly filled knowledge from the Lord, he was sent back to the group, for the betterment of those in the body of believers.

The more you can engross yourself into a community of believers, the better off you will be physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  But if you seclude yourself, taking yourself away from the group, you will soon start to wither in all facets of your being.  Likewise, help those in the community of believers with your talents, as you never know when you'll need their complimentary skill-sets.  We must all work and play with those in the Body of Christ, living together so we can share in each others burdens and build each other up.  It takes a church to grow a Christian and it takes you doing your part in the body of Christ.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Rom 12:3-4, Eph 3:6, Eph 4:11-13, 1 Cor 12:26-28, Col 3:15