Posts tagged Sin

Apologetic Wednesday: Choose to Sin, Choose to Suffer

1

Choose to Sin_Choose to SufferWhen it comes to apologetics, one form that is often not employed is experiential apologetics. No doubt, those of us that know Christ have experienced God’s hand at work in our lives. He communicates to us through His word. He speaks into our conscience and at times impresses upon us a desire to act on His wishes. We also feel the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Yet, at times, to those outside the faith or those skeptical of the claims of Theism, our experiences might appear subjective. Though our own experiences with God may seem highly vibrant and illuminated in our own personal lives, trying to use that as persuasive evidence to those that have serious doubts about God’s existence might not seem very satisfying. Yet, this is not to say that sharing our personal story of salvation, and how God has worked in our lives should not be employed. On the contrary, I think we should often share how God brought us to salvation. The point is, that by doing so we need not expect the vast majority of those outside the faith to suddenly drop all of their barriers to faith and give their life to Christ.

Recently, however, it occurred to me that there is a more objective form of experiential apologetics that applies to everyone, though not all will concede to it. When it comes to living life outside of God’s principles problems arise, consequences ensue, and suffering inevitably results. A universal experiential apologetic is simply this, choose to sin and choose to suffer. As a professor of mine was once fond of saying, “It is the furniture of the universe.” One can’t help but bump into this principle over and over; much like one does when stumbling to get to the restroom in the middle of the night. When people live their lives in a manner that goes contrary to the God’s design problems will inevitably arise.

Years ago, I use to enjoy building computers from scratch. Being the creator of my own machine, I knew the ins and outs of that machine. I knew what it was capable of. I knew what would cause problems for it. I knew all of the components inside, and I knew exactly what software was installed. If God created mankind, would it also not make sense that He knows us even more intimately than I knew the computers I built? He knows what we are capable of and what will result in problems. He knows what we can handle and what we can’t. He is certain that if we live in a certain way it will lead to sorrow.

In my professional life as a counselor, I see it daily. Majority of the people that come sit across from me in my office and poor out their sorrows do so because they have not been living by God’s design. Now don’t get me wrong, I have done the same myself and dealt with my own sorrow. Yet, I am continually broken by the problems we face because we choose to live our lives based on our own wisdom.

When God tells us to forgive it is because bitterness destroys our own happiness. When God says to handle sexuality in a certain way it is because He knows that a failure to do so leaves gaping wounds and destroys relationships. When He says to serve and give, He knows that happiness is not found in focusing exclusively on ourselves. When He says not to lie it is because it leads to relational instability. When He says that marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and woman it is because He knows that divorce damages kids and fragments the lives of adults. When He tells us not to get drunk it is because He is aware of the problems that often arise when we aren’t in our right minds. We could go on and on.

I think the fact that when we live God’s way we fulfill our function and find long-term happiness devoid of many avoidable problems is evidence of God’s existence. If He created people, then it follows that He knows what is best for them and what will harm them.  We see this played out in the lives of people daily. Choose to sin, choose to suffer. It is unavoidable.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Your Lying Heart

5

your lying heartIt’s that time of the year. Pink and Red welcome you when you walk into any retail outlet. Roses are readily available. Chocolate delicacies are waiting to be bought and given to that special person (and a few smuggled out of the package for testing, you have to make sure it tastes alright before you give it to your sweetheart). A great deal of attention is placed on the heart every February 14th. In light of the holiday, we should remember what scripture has to say about the hearts of mankind.

Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” I doubt any of us will find a sentiment such as this on any Valentine’s card, and rightfully so, because the holiday is about showing that special person how much you care. Yet, at the same time, it seemed like an opportune time to be reminded of the fact that our hearts are bent toward evil. Some translations of this passage state that “the heart is desperately wicked”, which is implied by saying it us “beyond cure”.

Many will dispute this fact. I have had those that stand In opposition to Christianity tell me that Christians take a low view of human nature and they find that repugnant. I agree, Christianity does hold to the fact that the heart of man is evil and the actions that flow from the heart are, in fact, repugnant. Not long ago, I was having a civil discussion with someone that had views diametrically opposed to my own (if you don’t have these types of discussions you should try it sometimes because you learn a lot) and she said, “I don’t believe we are bent toward evil. I believe with education we can become an increasingly moral society.” That sounds nice, but it simply does not reflect reality. As D.L. Moody once said, “If a man is stealing nuts and bolts from a railway track, and, in order to change him, you send him to college, at the end of his education, he will steal the whole railway track.”

Centuries come and go, and man continues to act on the evil that resides within him. This is not to say that people are incapable of good. People do good things often. People that do not believe in God often lead moral lifestyles. The fact that man has been given the capacity to override his evil proclivities in no way implies that he does not have a heart that is evil to begin with.

To say that the morality of mankind is on the upswing one must ignore the facts. Sure, some gains have been made. Much has been done in the way of civil rights, but this does not dispute the fact that man is bent to do wrong.

The very fact that the term “child pornography” is actually in existence is evidence of this. I am not attempting to appeal to emotion here; I am attempting to bring to the surface man’s utter depravity. Every two minutes, someone is raped in the United States.  There were over 16,000 homicides in 2010 out of 1.8 million assaults. Around 40% of marriages involve some form of infidelity. Does that sound like a society that is not bent toward evil? And these are the “big no-no’s”. What about all the junk that goes in inside the heart that no one else is privy to? What about the lies, lust, hate, greed, envy, bitterness, malice, and hypocrisy? What about the actions people would do if they knew that they would never be caught? The heart is desperately wicked. It has always been so.

Not only is it wicked, but it is deceitful, meaning, we lie to ourselves. We talk ourselves into things that we know are wrong. We attempt to rationalize and psychologize our evil desires so we don’t have to experience the guilt of acting on our immoral impulses. What does that look like? I don’t think we have to think too incredibly hard because we have all been guilty of this. It is the man who says, “Well, pornography isn’t cheating, so it’s alright if I look, just as long as I don’t touch.” It’s the woman that says, “Well, if my husband gave me more attention, I wouldn’t have to go outside our marriage to find it.” “If she wouldn’t dress that way, then I wouldn’t look.” “If it doesn’t hurt anyone, then how can it be wrong?” “What does it matter if I take some of what they have, they will never even miss it?”

The heart is good and lying to us. It also tells us we don’t have a problem and certainly don’t need a cure. It helps us suppress things that do not coincide with our moral sensibilities. It reminds us that others have no right to condemn how we live. Yet, regardless of what we tell ourselves or how accustomed we have become to believing our own lies, our hearts are wicked and they are deceitful.

We can’t fix our hearts. We cannot do enough good to counter the bad. We need new hearts. This is the beauty of Christianity. Christ came to give dead men new life. He came to replace our lifeless hearts with his own life. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

We must not trust our heart at any time; even when it speaks most fair, we must call it liar; and when it pretends to the most good, still we must remember its nature, for it is evil, and that continually. -C.H. Spurgeon

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Does God Make You Sick?

1

Does God Make People SickHas God ever made you sick? Literally, I mean. Have you ever disobeyed God until the point where He suddenly struck you down with an illness? Does God do that? Is illness, sickness or disease a punishment for misbehavior? There has been many times where I have overheard people say, “I wonder what they did to deserve that?” “They must have really made God mad.” Is a health problem always the result of sin or disobedience in a person’s life?

I think the starting point in addressing this question is to remember that God never intended for people to suffer with disease.  In the beginning, everything was perfect. Originally, Adam and Eve never caught colds. They never worried about cancer, heart disease, or dementia.  Eve didn’t have the hassle of getting mammograms. Yearly physicals and blood work (my dread) weren’t a part of life. It must have been nice! They were in perfect health, sustained by God. But death followed sin into the world. The moment Adam and Eve chose to disobey the one rule God had given them, they immediately started the dying process.

Sickness and disease are inextricably linked to their decision to break their relationship with God. Today, we suffer the effects of mankind’s separation from a perfect relationship with God.  Paul captures this idea vividly in Romans 8 when he says that creation is in “bondage to decay.” Due to sin, we will all die one day. Sickness will be the vehicle that leads to our death.  So, in a global sense, sickness is the result of sin, but does that mean just because someone is sick or dealing with a debilitating disease they must have sinned in their life? The answer is a resounding no.

We can look to the life of Job. Scripture says that “this man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Yet, Job was stripped of everything he held dear, save for his life. His immediate circumstances in no way reflected his relationship with God.

Jesus sheds a tremendous amount of light on this question in John 9. He and his disciples encounter a man that was born blind, and his disciples asked what people often do, “who sinned,this manor his parents?” Why was he born blind? Jesus responded by saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Just because a person is suffering, dealing with pain, or is sick does not mean they are paying off some form of debt for past sins.

Illness is not necessarily God’s means of delving out discipline. God often has other purposes for allowing pain in our lives. In the previous situation it was in order for God to receive the glory. Other times it is God’s means to get our attention and speak to us when we might not be listening. As Lewis so eloquently put it, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Sometimes illness or pain is simply God’s way of shouting into our lives. Sometimes God even uses our pain to prepare us for a specific purpose or to use us in a certain context. We might not always know the reason why. Sometimes we are left with unconnected dots in this life that will not be strung together until the next. Yet, God has his ultimate reasons for allowing certain things to come into our lives.

Last, I think we need to make the distinction between punishment and discipline. Punishment is an act of inflicting a penalty for an offense committed.  It is retribution for wayward acts in the past. The sin of disbelief will one day be punished eternally in a place set aside for those who choose to reject Christ. Discipline is another thing entirely. The purpose of discipline is corrective. The end goal is to grow maturity into the person. It is future oriented. When I discipline my son it is because I don’t want to see him hurt in the future. Discipline is an act of love. God reminds us in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” God disciplines those that know Him. Discipline does not always seem like an act of love, but it is; because if we continue on in our sin unabated we are choosing to embrace more, often greater, suffering.

God uses a multitude of ways to discipline us. It might be loss of relationships, our finances, or even our health.  God did not spare His own son’s life in order to have a relationship with us, why would he hesitate to do whatever it takes to maintain the health of that relationship?

More often than not, the discipline that God delves out is simply allowing us to experience the full weight of our decisions by enduring the consequences that follow. Much of the time, our discipline is a direct result of the choices we have made.

So why is sickness here? Because death entered the world through disobedience and none of us can escape it. Yet, just because a person suffers from disease or pain in no way indicates that it has been due to previous sin in their own life. God allows and uses pain in our lives for a multitude of purposes.  Though, we should take into account that, at times, he will use our health to discipline us and draw us near to Himself.

Regardless of our situation in life, we must be reminded that, “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  When life is good we must choose to continually walk close to God. When hard times come, we must lean further into God.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

A Scary Place: Friday the 13th Edition

8

Okay, full disclosure right up front. I am a complete scaredy-cat. I refuse to watch horror movies. I just don’t like them. They keep me up at night. When I am alone in the wee hours of the morning, scenes from scary movies decide to set up camp in my brain. Now don’t get me wrong, I love thrillers and suspenseful movies, but I just cannot handle movies with evil content or where people get hacked and slashed. If the movie involves spinning heads and green peas flying out of people’s mouths, I will have to respectfully abstain.

When I was about twelve, I spent the night at some friend’s house. They had built up a tolerance for scary movies, to which I was unaware. They suggested we watch a scary movie, so I decided to man up (or boy up) and agreed to view the film. This was a colossal mistake in my young life. After the movie, I was extremely frightened and hyper-vigilant.

Shortly after the movie, my friends decided to go to sleep at about 11:00 P.M. What kind of sleepover was this anyway? Who goes to bed at eleven on a Friday night? I knew I had a long night ahead of me. There would be no way I could turn my mind off, erase the images I had seen in the last couple of hours, and calm my nervous system down enough to even remotely think about sleeping.

So around eleven we all went and got in our beds and mine was conveniently located in front of a giant window with no blinds or curtains. Perfect. Who knows what kind of deranged psychopath or otherworldly creature was staring in at my scrawny twelve-year-old self, just waiting for the opportune moment to pounce? It was one of the longer nights I can remember. I lay there, awake, staring at the ceiling, without anything to occupy my time other than my thoughts. As dawn broke, I finally mustered up enough courage to get some rest.

Needless to say, I loathe Friday the 13th (and Halloween) because it is nothing but a smorgasbord of scary movies. So, I happily avoid the festivities on television associated with the day. I have no desire to expose my mind to scary imagery and lose any amount of precious sleep (I feel like I don’t get enough as it is. Can I get a witness?).

It is nice to know you can just avoid Friday the 13th if you want. Yet, I will say, there is a scary place that we can’t avoid. It is always there, full of some of the darkest, vilest, and most sinister stuff. Often, it lurks just below the surface, laying in wait. I am speaking of the human heart, your heart and mine.

Our hearts are full of grossness. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 15, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies,blasphemies.” All of the junk that comes out in our lives comes from our hearts. Nasty and scary things lurk down in the dark. We may not even be aware of what is in there at times, and often we keep it out of sight from prying eyes.

We do a wonderful job of hiding the hideousness that exists in our hearts. We learn to act in appropriate ways and keep a lid on the grossness. We learn from an early age what to say and what not to say. We learn to filter our actions and measure our words. So while we may have some monstrous things going on inside, we do great at keeping others from being aware.

The problem is, from time to time, our guard goes down and some of this grossness comes out. We act surprised and say things like, “Well, where did that come from. That isn’t like me. Usually I don’t act that way. Generally I don’t say those things.” But the truth is, all that stuff is there inside our hearts, we just do a great job at hiding it.

Life has its way of getting junk lodged in our hearts. Sometimes it is from being hurt. It can be a result of selfish desires or lust. Perhaps it is a result of bitterness. Maybe we have unhealthy appetites. It could be due to greed or envy. There is a long list of nasty stuff that gets buried in our hearts. If other people could see our hearts or read our minds, we would probably be embarrassed a great deal of the time.

This is why it is so important that we examine what is going on in our hearts on a regular basis. We are reminded in Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart above all else,for it is the source of life.” When we let scary, gross, or embarrassing stuff build up in our hearts we can expect them to make their way into our lives. If we want to avoid difficulties in life, then we have to be serious about guarding our hearts and keeping them cleaned out.

You know, as well as I, that our hearts can be far scarier than any movie we could think to watch. So why don’t we watch over them? Are you guarding your heart? When was the last time you had a heart check? Has it been a while? Let’s take a quick inventory to see if everything is alright inside.

  • What are we feeding our minds?
  • Any problems roosting in your heart?
  • Anything you are bitter about?
  • Celebrate the failure of anyone lately?
  • Find yourself watching or looking at things that you know you shouldn’t?
  • Anything that you keep blaming others for?
  • Got any secrets you hope no one finds out about?
  • Told yourself lately, “Well, that isn’t a problem. I can stop whenever I like!”?
  • Do things come out of your mouth on a regular basis that you have to apologize for?
  • Lied to anyone recently?
  • Had to delete your browser history lately?
  • Making excuses for anything?
  • Waiting for someone to come make things right with you?
  • Find yourself pointing out other people’s flaws?

How is your heart? Everything alright in there?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Can Sin Be Good?

6

Is sin good? Can it ever be good under any circumstance? That depends. Are suffering and death good? If you cannot answer that in the affirmative then in no way can sin be good.

Recently, I came across a couple of different statement about how sin functions, and I wanted to interact with these ideas. One individual stated, “We should be thankful for sin because it is only in the futility of sin that our hearts become open to the call of God and become willing to call upon God.” Is it through sin that our hearts become open or through obedience? Sin gets us further away from God and His desires. It is counterproductive to God’s every wish.

Mankind was closest to God before sin entered the world. Before sin, man was able to walk with God on a daily basis. When sin entered the world through disobedience, a great chasm was placed between man and God. Sin does nothing to soften hearts, it does the exact converse. The more one sins, the harder one’s heart becomes in opposition to God’s will.

Another statement I recently heard came from a friend of mine who is a freshman in college. He shared that many people he comes in contact with promote the idea that “if people didn’t sin then there would be no reason for Jesus to die, so why stop sinning?”

One stops sinning because sin always leads to death. “The wages of sin is death”. Choosing to sin is choosing to suffer. Sin and pain are inextricably linked together. Why stop sinning? Because when we live our lives according to God’s principles our lives are so much better. We have fewer negative consequences to deal with.

This same idea was around in Apostle Paul’s day too. The argument was a little different though. People asked, “Well, if Jesus death covers my sins, then why stop sinning? If there is grace, let’s sin all we want, so that grace might abound! We find Paul gives them an answer in Romans 2. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

So why do people that have a relationship with good have such a negative view of sin and desire to eradicate it’s presence from their lives as much as possible? They do so simply because their relationship with God is personal. When we are in a relationship with someone we seek to please the other party. When it comes to my marriage, I seek to please, not harm, my wife. I try to make her happy because I love her. I could do many things to cause her pain and harm our marriage, but I do not desire to do these things because I care for her so much. It is the same for those of us in a relationship with God. We have no desire to harm our relationship with him and bring distance between us. There will be times we mess up, even choose to mess up, but we don’t desire to do wrong because we know it is harmful and pulls us away from where we want to be.

Sin can never have a positive function in anyone’s life. Sure, God can use sinful decisions for the good (Romans 8:28), but sin never leads to closeness or blessing. Choose to sin, choose to suffer.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Satan’s Wiki Leaks

3

Late last night, I was having difficulty trying to get some sleep. I was rolling my goals for 2012 around in my mind, and I thought of a couple more things I would like to add to the list. I rolled out of bed carefully, so as not to wake my wife. I swiped the mouse to wake up the slumbering computer, which I was slightly envious of, and typed in my additional goals for the New Year. After, I did a quick search on Google to see what goals others had set for the year. Out of nowhere the blue LED on my monitor began to blink red. I thought my monitor might be giving up the ghost and then the screen flashed red and a website popped up. Upon inspection, the web address was www.satanwikileaks.imp. At this point I was taken back.  This was not your average pop-up. As I looked at the site, I came across Satan’s agenda for 2012. Apparently, even dark lord’s set goals every year as well.

Why was this even online? The best I can guess, some rogue demon underling had a beef with the head guy and started the leaks website. It has since been taken down, and I am sure the little imp has been dealt with. I doubt they had much trouble figuring out a form of punishment for the little incubus.

I jotted down as many of Satan’s goals for the year as I could before the website was shut down, and I thought you might find it beneficial if I shared them with you.

  1. Keep the message alive and well that there are multiple paths to God. Ingrain in people’s minds that all religions are equal and that to claim absolute truth is being intolerant.
  2. Promote the idea that people have no control over their sexuality. They cannot help what they feel or what they want. Sex is a natural animalistic instinct that should always be expressed.
  3. Cause petty problems in churches that cause people to blame the pastor and stop coming. This is the easiest way to cripple a church.
  4. Give people an insatiable desire for stuff. They must believe that having material items is more important than relationships. They must not have family time, keep them working and enjoying their individual hobbies.
  5. Keep Christians concerned with how they look. Make sure they focus on their image more than their hearts. They must be preoccupied with doing things to make them look good.
  6. Make sure that those filthy creatures known as humans blame God when bad things happen. Even though he didn’t cause the bad to happen, they must believe that he did.
  7. Make this summer especially hot so the women will wear less clothes. This gives us an edge when we play the lust card in the lives of men.
  8. When people vote in the presidential election this year, keep them focused on the economy and nothing else. They must not give credence to the candidate’s moral platform.
  9. Create competition within churches. They must not feel that they are working on a team heading toward a common goal. Instead, keep them jealous of each other’s ministries. Let’s up the dissention in churches.
  10. Let’s see how many Christian leaders we can get involved in sexual scandals. These are just fun, plus they make Christians look hypocritical. It does much to turn people away from Christianity.
  11. Don’t let people spend much time thinking that they have a limited time to live. Instead, let them think they have plenty of time to make things right with the enemy.
  12. Let’s keep fueling this porn industry. 28,000 people accessing porn every second is not enough. This number needs to be much higher because we know that porn use cripples relationships.
  13. Promote the idea that what a person does only affects them. This keeps people self centered and lets them rationalize their problems.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Question: If you were going to play the Devil’s advocate, what goals would you add to the list?

Disclaimer: This is a fictional account meant to provoke thought.

Drag It Into The Light

2

“Sin thrives in the dungeon, but slap it on the table for all to see, and it withers rather quickly.” – Ted DekKer

I think we must remember that change does not occur in isolation. As long as our sins remain in secret, we will have limited (if any) success overcoming them. Our secrets keep us sick. When I hear someone lean in and say, “I have never told anyone this before……but……_______(fill in the blank)” I get extremely excited. I know this person is moving along in the change process. If we continue to keep our sins secret, we will remain stuck in our current rut.We must confess. Drag our sins in the light. Watch it wither.

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.
Josh

Lying, Lewdness, and Lynching.

1

Lying, lewdness, and lynching. What do these three words have in common? They are all sins. Let’s just call them Satan’s trifecta. Ever told a lie? I can honestly say, I have never told a lie. OK, that was a lie. I have let them go before, big ones and small ones. Although, I have never understood why people try to add size or even color to lying. “It was just a small lie or it was just a white lie.” Color and/or size do not retract from the fact that you just lied.

What about being lewd? Have you ever been a lewd dude? Lewdness can mean lusting or just being downright vulgar. I wish I could say that I was exempt here also, but again, I am guilty.

That brings us to lynching. Hopefully, we can all stop here. If you have in fact killed someone before, recently or in years past, don’t worry about reading my blog. I am scared I might possibly offend and that my writing career will be short lived.

You are probably wondering why I am talking about this dirty triad of ungodliness. The way I see it, we tend to minimize certain sins due to the fact that we place such a high degree of sinfulness on others. The fact is, sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. Evil is evil. We need not downplay our sin because we feel they don’t stack up to the sin’s of others. It is so easy to kind of gloss over our sins by comparing them to things like adultery, murder, or molestation.

This thought came crashing down on me recently. When I was working on my undergraduate degree there was a professor that I held in high esteem. I took several of his classes and found him enjoyable to be around. He had a beautiful family, a wonderful job and was very active in his church. Fast forward about eight years. This same professor was recently imprisoned due to charges of child pornography. I won’t lie, I was both shocked and devastated. I thought he was “above doing something like that.” “That is disgusting” I thought. “I am so glad I am not like that. Sure, I might lie, gossip, or be greedy, but I would never do something like that.”

The problem is, sin is sin. One lie will keep us apart from Christ just as quick as child pornography will. Now, I am not saying sins all have the same consequences. Clearly our wrong doings set us up to pay a varied degree of consequences. Spending years in prison versus confessing a lie to someone is radically different. The bottom line is, one shortcoming will keep us away from God as quick as any other.

Lets keep this in mind. We can’t get caught playing comparisons. We must not minimize our sins or edify ourselves because we feel as though we aren’t as bad as the next guy. In reality, we need a savior just as bad as he does. Whether we are ten miles off shore without a life vest or just 200 feet, we are still drowning. We cannot allow ourselves to ever think we are above a certain sin. We are just as susceptible as anyone else. Let’s pay attention to what is going on in our heart. The small things tend to nest in in our hearts and grow larger until they are out of control.

Tell us about it: What sins do you think we tend to ignore or write off because they don’t seem as bad as some of the other ones?

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.
Josh

Go to Top