Jesus offers rest to rebels

Western culture has made rebellion an “in” thing. Just listen for a few seconds to the news media talk about the nations leaders or watch how Hollywood portrays the bad guy as the likable hero. Rebellion isn’t just the product of the Roaring 20’s or Rockin’ 50’s and 60’s, but youth and adult alike from every generation are prone to private and public disrespect of authority.

Israel had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. Yet God did not forget them (Ex. 2:23ff). In fact, he showed them immense mercy by raising up Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt through extraordinary miracles. It didn’t take long for the people of Israel to forget all the miraculous things God had done to free them from the hardships in Egypt. You’d think after all they saw God do it would be enough to keep them on the straight and narrow, but within three days they were already complaining. Their hearts became hard. And for 40 years they wandered in the Wilderness until they reached the border of the Promised Land. Many, including Moses, did not enter “[God’s] rest” because of the people collective rebellion (vs.7-11, 16-19)

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” – Hebrews 3:7-19

When the author of Hebrews says, “Take care,” it is meant to be a warning to all generations who follow Jesus (v.12). Like Israel, we are prone to wander. Our hearts gravitate towards hardness and anti-authority. We are bent towards unbelief in God’s character and promises. No one is exempt.

At the heart of every problem is the problem in the heart. The heart grows hard. Yet there is a cure: a tender teachable heart. Intentionally surround yourself with brothers and sisters who will frequently challenge and correct your heart and be open to changing the attitude of your heart (vs.13-14; 10:23-25). If not we will fall into the same mindset as Pharaoh, who heard from God’s servant and saw many supernatural wonders, but rejected God flat out and became hardhearted.

A rebels heart is never at rest. Rest is found when you joyfully trust God, willingly submit yourself to the community of faith, and lovingly exhort one another. Enter his rest.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is the meaning of “rest” (v.11)?
  • Why are people, even Jesus followers, prone to wander, hardheartedness, and bent on unbelief?
  • What leads to a hard heart? What are the dangers of developing a hard heart?
  • Why is the responsibility of all Christians to share the load in encouraging one another to have a tender and teachable heart?  Who do you allow to ask tough questions of your heart?
  • How can we exhort one another every day, stir one another in their faith and confidence, and share the load of helping one another not to be hardened by sin?
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kneel to appeal

How I wonder, where I wonder
Is a place so far away
A place I wish to stay
And sin never causes sway.

Help me show and don’t say No
To life ever happy
Living without tragedy
And alone designed for me.

Does it exist beyond our bliss
Of reality this afternoon?
My nativity’s evil gloom
And worldly sorrowful tune.

Now is the time to find
Light in darkness’s way.
How beautifully shone today
As knees bend and tongues pray.

The fight is won, glory to the Son
To whom all is given fully
The Sacrifice nailed to a tree
and painfully done for me.

 

Revised from a poem I wrote on October 7, 1999
Source: Philippians 2:1-11

 

what God asks of you

A good friend recently asked me, “If someone becomes a Christian can he hide it?”  That is a good question.  How would you answer that?

I paused for a long moment before answering.  At first I responded by answering, “Yeah, he can hide, but not for long if he really is a Christian.”  Then I followed up by sharing some of Christ’s words about shining the Light within a dark dark world,

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Jesus said many interesting and hard things, especially to those who followed him (see Luke 14:25-33; 9:57-62).  He knew if his followers really would follow him it won’t be easy.  In fact, he said if you follow me you will still face temptation and inevitably you will face fierce suffering.  For the light shines into hidden places that most people would rather fight to remain hidden.

The idea of a light shining in darkness is a theme in Scripture.  Israel was chosen to be a light to the nations.  God chose them from among all the nations of the world to show all people his purposes.  He just asked Israel to trust him, to walk with him, and not mingle with the gods of other nations.  It wasn’t easy for Israel.  And their story isn’t secret.  It’s recorded for you and I to read today.

When Isaiah was called to be prophet of Israel, they were already on a downward spiral away from God.  They forgot everything God had done for them.  They already adopted the gods of other nations and prided themselves on what they could do with their own hands and minds.  Their light was dimming.  And Isaiah’s task was to bring Israel back to God.  That was no easy task.

Are you starting to catch a theme here?  What God asks of us is not easy.  In the final verses of Isaiah 6, God gives Isaiah both a command (what he is to say) and a consequence (what will happen if the hearers don’t listen).  If you were in Isaiah’s shoes would you do what was asked of you?

The Command: “Go and Tell”

“And [God] said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive. ’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

Within God’s command he gives three imperatives that will characterize the Israelites: they 1) do not perceive, 2) do not understand, and 3) render hearts insensitive.  In other words, God says, “Tell my people that they will be just like the idols they love: blind, deaf and dumb.”

G.K. Beale in his book, A Biblical Theology of Idolatry says, “What you revere you resemble for your ruin or restoration.”  It’s true, you become like what you worship.  As kids you learn to mimic parents, actors, singers, or whoever we idol.  Children see. Children Do.  From Simon says to being a Copy Cat.   The question is what do you imitate and resemble?

In high school, I really wanted to have a Volkswagen Jetta. It was the hottest car for college students.  So I took one out for a test drive.  The sound system was thumping and the accelerator had some get up and go.  I not only wanted one, but the car dealer convinced me that I needed to have one.   I couldn’t afford one as a poor college student, but my desire to have a Jetta lingered.  That was until a family member offered to sell me their 10-year Jetta.  It was within my budget so I bought it.   As I drove away I though I was hot stuff.  But you know what?  In a matter of months the luster wore off, I had maintenance bills, and newer models of the Jetta rolled off the line.   My desire to drive a Jetta wasn’t sinful, but my identity tied to a Jetta was.  I became the Jetta guy.

Isn’t that how idols work?  They disguise themselves as needs, but when you have it they become yesterdays news, even nuisances.  You love idols, but thy never love you back.

John Calvin was in tune with the problem of idols.  He said,

“Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.  Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God.” Institutes, 1.11.8

The heart longs for what only God can completely fill (e.g. approval, control, success, pleasure, security, knowledge, relationship, comfort, entertainment, etc.).   Idolatry is whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, other than God.  Often idols are really good things, but they take the place of the greatest thing.  They seem tangible, when God is invisible.   Yet they rob us of a heart reserved for God.  In fact, they make us blind to God, deaf to God, and dumb to God.

Think about the command to go and tell.  God tells Isaiah to go to his people–his family, friends, neighbors, tribe–and tell them about their hearts that are like factories pumping out idols.  On top of that God let’s Isaiah know ahead of time that nobody will listen or respond.  Sure, they will recognize Isaiah as prophet from God, but for 40+ years Isaiah would preach without a response.  Talk about difficult and discouraging ministry.  Yet it isn’t that much different than the world you and I live in?  Isn’t the command God gave us to make disciples of all nations just as difficult and at times discouraging when people don’t see a need for God because they think that they are fine on their own?

Isaiah is no Debbie Downer.  Yes, his message is grim; if the Israel won’t turn back to God their judgment will be to become just like the idols they worship.

Many get in a huff when God dishes out judgment, but one must consider God’s character.  All his characteristics are balanced and he never ditches one to feed the other.  In Hebrews 6:1-3, it teaches how God’s grace and justice are in balance.  God is both gracious (slow to anger) and just (character demands consequences for sinfulness).  God never makes snap judgements.  He doesn’t go through middle school mood swings.  Rather he is slow to anger and patient.  However, Isaiah’s generation broke the last straw and His patience finally ran out.

  • Isaiah 1:29-31 “Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired, And you will be embarrassed at the gardens which you have chosen. For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away or as a garden that has no water. The strong man will become tinder, His work also a spark. Thus they shall both burn together And there will be none to quench them.”
  • Isaiah 2:12, 17-18 “For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning Against everyone who is proud and lofty And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased….The pride of man will be humbled And the loftiness of men will be abased; And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, But the idols will completely vanish.”
  • Isaiah 3:8-9 “Jerusalem is about to fall. And so is Judah. They say and do things against the Lord. They dare to disobey Him to His very face. The look on their faces is a witness against them. They show off their sin, just as the people of Sodom did. They don’t even try to hide it. How terrible it will be for them! They have brought trouble on themselves.”
  • Isaiah 5:13  “Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge.”
  • Isaiah 43:8, 10 “Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, And the deaf, even though they have ears… “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.  Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.”
  • Isaiah 42:18-20  “Hear, you deaf! And look, you blind, that you may see. Who is blind but My servant, Or so deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me, Or so blind as the servant of the Lord? You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; Your ears are open, but none hears.
  • Psalm 135:14-18 (cf. 115:3-8) “For the Lord will judge His people And will have compassion on His servants. The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear, Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, Yes, everyone who trusts in them.”

When it comes to the the first and second commandments, God is serious: Don’t worship other gods or make imitations or substitutions of him.  If so, you will become just like them: deaf, dumb, and blind.  This is the message God commands Isaiah to go and tell Israel and if they don’t turn back to God there will be a consequence.

You might be thinking, “Wow, Isaiah doesn’t have an easy task.”   Yeah!  You’re right!  It would be as if you are a manager and you are given the task of turning around a failing company, but the company is bound for bankruptcy anyway.  Or you are a teenager and you given the task to stand against the flow of peer pressures even though you will be outcast.   Or you are a carpenter and you are given the task of fix a fixer upper, but the house is doomed for foreclosure.  Who wants a job like that?  What reward is there in that?  What is in it for Isaiah?  The benefit is that he is doing exactly what God asks of him and he does it willingly because he has seen who God is and he has come to know how sweet his forgiveness tastes.  Faithfulness to the command is what God asks of you, even when it is hard and no one around responds and everyone things you’re nuts.

The Consequence: Become “Stumps”

stumpsIsaiah thinks for a moment about what God is asking him to say to the people and he asks an honest question, “How Long?” (v.11a)  Could he be wondering if this is a short-term job assignment or a career?  How will he know when the job is done?   God’s response is grave, “until there is complete devastation.” (v.11b)  He goes onto say that Israel—His chosen people—will be like stumps.

What comes to your mind when you think of a stump?  Can you think of a so-called follower of God who is now stumps?  Why would God call them stumps?  Isn’t that a little harsh?  A stump is a memory of a tree.  It shows you where a tree once stood, but now it’s gone..  In essence what God is saying it that Israel will be an illustration to all nations of a ruined life because idolatry is wasted worship and God is jealous for his children to worship him.

shutterstock_205490491_stump_sapling_1920x1280_39percentDid you catch the glimmer of hope in the midst of the smoke from the chainsaw.  With God there is always hope.  There is hope of a remnant (v.13).  Although God judges, burns, purges, prunes, chops; the stump will sprout again.  God promises restoration.  In the chaos there is always Cosmos.  God is a Restorer.  He is a Redeemer.  See the glimmers of hope God gives Isaiah,

  • Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel [God with us].”
  • Isaiah 9:6  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
  • Isaiah 11:1-2  “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”
  • Isaiah 53:5  “But the servant was pierced because we had sinned. He was crushed because we had done what was evil. He was punished to make us whole again. His wounds have healed us.”
  • Isaiah 53:8  “He was arrested and sentenced to death. Then He was taken away. He was cut off from this life. He was punished for the sins of my people.”

Remember, as G.K. Beale said, “What you revere you resemble for your ruin or restoration.”  Idols ruin, but God restores.  Idols blind, deafen, and dumb, but God heals.  Idols enslave, God forgives.  Idols stump, but God sprouts growth.

The stump would sprout.  That young sprout would be none other than Jesus Christ.   He displays for the world what it looks like to be loyal to God.  He models what it looks like to love God and have no other God’s but God Himself.  He even came to heal the blind, deaf, and dumb and free you from the idols of our hearts.

Isaiah is a warning to us all: don’t become a stump, run to the sprout.

Today the same truth rings true.  While God may not send a prophet to warn you, you do have a community called the church.  Just as Israel was asked to be a light to the nations, God also asks you to shine the light and encourage one another to shine through the church,

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest. ’” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:7-13)

God is seeking followers to send into a dark world on a difficult task.  He doesn’t promise it will be easy.  But he does promise to go with you.  Will you go?  Will go and tell the nations to turn back to God?

Going back to my friends question, “If someone becomes a Christian can he hide?”  Yes, but not for long if you you follow the Light of the world.”  Stand in the light.  Shine the light.  Go and tell about the Light.  Warn others the darkness.  Encourage one another to be in the Light.  This is what God asks of you.

 

Previously in this series: God is and what is your response to who God is?

 

DOWNLOAD QUESTIONS:

What did God ask Isaiah to say or do?  How did God say the people will respond?  Would you be up for this task if you were Isaiah?  How does Jesus ask Christians to do a similar task?

What is an idol?  How is the heart an idol factory?  How do people become like what they worship?  What examples of this have you seen?

As you read verses 8-13, how does it describe the spiritual climate of the people?   How is this same spiritual climate often seen in your community or church?  What hope is there to overcome this spiritual state?   How can you encourage or help your fellow brothers and sisters?

Cover photo from: http://signafire.com/

 

What is your response to who God is?

Those who have seen God are never the same.  The children of Israel asked to see the Lord of Moses, but when they saw the Lord they were afraid and ask Moses never to allow them to see God like that again [see Daniel 10:7-10, Luke 2:10, Acts 9:3-4].  In Revelation 1:9-18, John saw the awesomeness of Christ and fell as a dead man.  People who see God are left with an awesome, fearful, and unforgettable impression of who God is.

stop-drop-and-rollA response to seeing God is similar to one who is on fire.  What is the normal trained response or actions for someone who is on fire?  Stop, Drop and Roll. Just as that is a memorable way to deal with being on fire it is also a great way to respond to God.

STOP to take a long look at who you are and who God is. 

And I said:“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Isaiah sees that his spirit is on fire.  Hot!  Isaiah is deeply impacted by seeing God.  As he glimpses God’s holiness and glory he says, “Woe is me.”   This is not “whoa!” but “woe!”  In ancient times “Woe” was a pronouncement of judgment on those who dare disobey God’s Word (cf. 5:18-23).  It was a shot to the heart, a punch in the kisser, and a kick to the spiritual stomach.

As Isaiah gets a glimpse of God and he’s devastated.  He got a peak behind the curtain of the holy of holies and is found out. He’s caught. He’s ashamed. He’s afraid.  He speaks a judgment upon himself as if to say, “I’m toast!”  It’s not an understatement—Isaiah’s freaking out. He is no longer shocked by the sins of the king or Israel but by his own sin.  Before he pointed one finger at Israel but now points three back at himself.   He sees no ones sin but his own in the presence of God.  Isaiah thinks he’s toast.  He knows he deserves to be.  That he is still alive is a wonderful thing.

This is a good thing for us to see.  We are good at pointing of the sins in others, but bad dealing with our own.  We play the comparison game with other Christians and pride ourselves on not being as sinful as the other Christian.  Jesus said to the religious leaders who were shocked at the lifestyle of the prostitute, “Whoever is sinless throws the first stone.”

We are a people of “compare-ers.”  We compare our actions to those of others to see whether we are acting right.  And, quite honestly, compared to all the people in the world, Isaiah was probably one of the best people there was.  But when he saw the glory of God there was no comparison.  Although Isaiah was better than most people, he knew that he was filthy compared to God’s pure holiness.  Isaiah admitted that he was a sinner. He had no excuses for his sinfulness.  He had no one to blame.  He had no where to run and hide.

I believe there is a great need to reintroduce the word “woe” to our devotional vocabulary.   When you finally take a moment to look at who you really are and who God really is.  Our “Woe!” can lead to “Whoa!” which leads us to the next response.

DROP to your knees and receive God’s forgiveness.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said:“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

There is something very interesting and weird going on here that is being illustrated.  In Isaiah’s day, their was a pagan practice called the “washing of the mouth.”  wash your mouth outSimilar to washing ones mouth out with soap it was a ritual that took an inanimate idol and made it inhabited by a god.  The image would be purified and cleansed to be ready for a god to dwell in it.  The cleansing ceremony Isaiah experiences is quite similar, but ironically God chooses Isaiah to cleanse and be His spokesmen to the pagan idolaters.

So what could Isaiah do about his sinful condition? Absolutely nothing!  What did God do?  Everything.  God’s messenger flew to Isaiah, took a burning coal from the altar, and touched his lips.  Fire is used in the Bible to purify things (Malachi 3:2-3).  This burning coal from God’s altar was a symbol that God was the One who made Isaiah pure.  Only God can save someone from his sins (Revelation 7:10).  God did not just cover up Isaiah’s sin. God took Isaiah’s sins away!  Isaiah’s sins would not be remembered or talked about ever again because God took them away!

I am so glad the story doesn’t end in verse 5.  Isaiah is not left feeling the heat of his sin.  He feels the forgiveness and restoration of God.  He is not left feeling afraid, guilty or shameful.  He feels true freedom.

When Adam sinned in the garden there were three consequences of sin that happened.  First, guilt.  He broke one of God’s rules.  Second, shame.  He want to hide from God and cover his nakedness.  Third, fear.  Adam was afraid for his life as death was introduced into the world.

You might know firsthand the the affects of shame, guilt and fear.  Maybe shame seeped into your life because of a hidden or naughty habit, a relationship crossed certain boundaries, or a detail about you if uncover you would haunt you forever.  Maybe guilt got the upper hand because you felt like you’d never measure up to the standards of someone or you just can’t quite quit that nagging guilty pleasure.  And guilt manifest itself in depression, self harm, eating disorder, or blame shifting.  Maybe fear trapped you because of various unknowns, via threats breathed down upon you, or someone holding dirt on you that if leaked could tarnish your reputation and future.

We often look at guilt, shame, and fear as bad, which they are if used as tools against someone or yourself.  However, God uses them for good as a tool to motivate you not to go there again and to seek rest in God’s forgiveness.

Notice how God’s pursues forgiveness in Isaiah.  He he does this with you too.  He pursues you through the work of Christ on the cross that shed His blood as your substitute so that you might be forgiven and free.  Have you known the forgiveness of God?

Just as God took away all of Isaiah’s sins, God wants to take away your sin also.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to become the holy sacrifice that takes away your sin. Just look at what the Bible says  God does with your sin.

  • God purifies your sins by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7).
  • God takes your sins from you as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
  • Your sins can never be found (Jeremiah 50:20).
  • God forgives you of your sin and cleans you from all wickedness (I John 1:9).
  • God will trample on your sins under His foot. Just imagine God stomping His foot on your sin! And God throws all your sins into the deepest part of the sea (Micah 7:19).
  • “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:6-9)

If you have not done so, it is time to drop your shame, guilt, and fear at the feet of Jesus who will forgive you today and forever.

ROLL up your sleeves and get going.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go…” (Isaiah 6:8)

Again, the verses do not end after 6-7.  Isaiah is not immobilized or handicapped.  He is not out of commission and sidelined because he has blown it or because he is a sinner.  Interesting, after God took away Isaiah’s sin, he hears God speak!  So often he is silent because our sin is like putting in earplugs.

What does God say?  After God cleanses Isaiah He commissions him: see to it that My people know I am forgiving too.  It is no irony that Isaiah’s commission is similar to Jesus commission to his followers in Matthew 28:19-20.

Commonly, commissioning follows cleansing.  Cleaning is God’s path to making you ready, useful, and humble for the task he has you to do.  One who is forgiven is forgiving and goes and tells of God’s great forgiveness.  That’s the goodness—the gospel—in a nutshell.

God was looking for the person who would be His messenger.  Isaiah didn’t hesitate.  He wanted to be the one used by God.  Isaiah sees who God is.  He is wowed.  He says WOE!  And God wipes away the fear, guilt, and shame of his sin.  Isaiah is pure and clean in God’s eyes.   He is ready to be used by God.

Likewise, Jesus came into this world to rub shoulders with people harboring loads of shame, guilt, and fear.  He came to free you from it.  He died for the sinner so that the sin would no longer have any power.  So that you could know the greater power of forgiveness and be used by God as an example of what God does through Jesus.

“So Jesus also suffered outside the gate (where atonement was made) in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured… Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:12-16)

Today you stand at the altar.  Will you stop and humble yourself before God and see him as he is?  Will you drop to your knees and enjoy his forgiveness?  Will you roll up your sleeves and let others know who God is?  How will you respond?  Let God touch your lips that you might taste his goodness and sweet forgiveness.

 

Coming up next: the result of responding to God in obedience

Previously in this series: God is

 

DOWNLOAD QUESTIONS:

In Isaiah 6:5. Isaiah responds to his vision of God.   What does Isaiah immediately become aware of?   In other words, when you see the holiness of God, what do you see in yourselves?  Have you every experienced that before?

Why is it important to learn about who God is?   Why is it important to see God not as you want to see Him, but as He truly is?

What does it mean to you STOP, DROP and ROLL as Isaiah explains it?  Why is this important to remember as a follower of God?

born to forgive

Sunday at church I heard a great message about forgiveness from a familiar passage (Luke 7:36-50).  However, I fall in the trap of hearing a lot about forgiveness, but practicing it superficially.

Jesus was born to forgive.  His life teaches us three things about about forgiveness: 1)  It takes compassion , 2) It is costly, 3) It involves continuity.

One of the most celebrated encounters Jesus has in the Gospels is when a sinful woman washes His feet with her tears and her hair. Those around Jesus were shocked that He would allow Himself to be so intimate with someone so sinful.

People would expect Jesus to shun the woman who washed his feet at dinner because of her past; the Pharisees were shocked that Jesus would let himself be touched by her, but Jesus accepted what she brought to him with love. Not only did He accept her, he defended her. Jesus forgave her, fully aware of what her sin was, and Jesus honored her sacrifice and the enormity of what she brought to him. She didn’t even need to speak during the entire story – she needed no defense. It was not because of her arguments that Jesus bestowed His forgiveness.

We need to recognize our need for forgiveness before we can accept it. However, it is not because of our effort that we receive it – it is freely given. And when something is that freely given, we cannot keep it to ourselves. We often put ourselves into the position of the Pharisees. Who would the people be today that we would shun? Whose sins would we say cannot be forgiven? How might Jesus be asking us to both extend and receive forgiveness?

3 benefits of repentance

repent

Repentance. I’ll just come out and say it. It’s a word I don’t like to hear. It’s difficult to talk about. It’s often an awkward topic. It isn’t easy or comfortable or catchy or natural. However, I believe it is one of the biggest things that is lacking in my spiritual life and maybe even in yours.

The Bible is not shy when it comes to talking about repentance. We kind of know this already, right? In fact, it is the most common term and sermon topic in Scripture. “Repentance” or “return to the Lord” is mentioned over 1,000 times in Old Testament alone. The message of repentance was in the mouth of every prophet. Their sermon was like this, “(Clear throat) Good morning congregation. (Deep breath) REPENT! (Awkward silence) Okay. Let’s pray.” That was their message. It was all that needed to be said and heard.

In the New Testament, the message isn’t much different. John the Baptist’s message was: repent (Mark 1:4). The apostles first preached that people should: repent (Mark 6:11). Jesus tender, yet tough, said in his first sermon, “Repent and believe.” (Mark 1:15) Jesus shared the story of the prodigal son, the poster boy of repentance, that heaven rejoices over one sinner who: repents. In Revelation 2:5, Jesus says to the church: repent. As the church goes global in Acts, what was the apostle Peter’s message? “Repent.” (2:38; 3:19) God’s heart from the front cover to the back cover of Scripture that we would be tenderhearted, submissive, quick to respond to the Spirit’s conviction and repent of sin.

2 Corinthians 7, our text today, is the most concentrated teaching on the topic of repentance in the Bible. This is Paul’s listen-up-and-get-ahold-of-this sermon on repentance. The goal of this message is that you and I would repent. I will challenge you to do as God has challenged me to do throughout this text. I want to practice what I preach, but also preach what I practice. Will you join me?

Have you ever had to say a hard thing, confront sin, or call someone to repent? No one wants to do it, but there come times when you have to say hard things. As you come to 2 Corinthians 7, you see Paul had to write some hard things. In a previous, unknown letter, Paul, pleaded with the church to restore a sinful brother. The church rightfully disciplined a man for causing division in the church, but when the discipline worked and he repented, the church held it over the man and was not welcomed back into the fellowship. But now, Paul, in this letter, praises them for doing the hard thing, the right thing. What you and I discover from this text are three amazing benefits of repentance.

1. Repentance is good (vs.8-9).

While not easy, repentance is good. Even Paul had mixed feelings about his letter to Corinth (v.8). On one hand he had regrets (for the grief it caused) but on the other hand he did not have regrets (for the repentance it produced). While at times painful, repentance has its purpose. Just as parents do not enjoy disciplining their children, Paul did not enjoy the sorrow he brought to the church. He did not like seeing them in pain. Yet their pain was “only for a while.” And in this, Paul, rejoiced like a parent who sees their child experience small pain by his hand only to see them escape greater pain by their own hand (v.9).

Repentance is good because God uses the short-lived sorrow to protect you from greater sorrow and greater harm in the future (cf. Hebrews 12:7-11). If Corinth did not repent, the church could have been shattered by its sin and shortage of Christlikeness. Repentance is the funnel through which blessing flows. Lack of repentance brings misery, despair, and as we will see, death.

Repentance is good because it takes stubborn, callused, dull-hearted people and makes them tender towards God’s heart. Remember this: Repentance is a gift from God. The most dangerous thing you can say is, “I will repent when I am ready.” It’s dangerous because only God readies a heart for repentance (cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim.2:25). If you wait until you are ready you will only get hardhearted. Sin is the blockage that kills the heart, but repentance is bypass surgery that God does WITHIN you and it “leads to salvation without regrets” (v.10b). Repentance is that good.

2. Repentance is change (v.10a).

What is true repentance? By definition repentance means change of mind; a turning away from evil to God; a 180 from my hearts desires to God’s heart. Repentance without change is not repentance.

There are three common components of repentance as seen in Scripture. First, there is a recognition of sin. I must recognize that I have sinned. I must see that I have offended God. Yet recognition alone is not repentance. Repentance is not simply regret or remorse or feeling bad about something bad I did. I can feel sorry about something and immediately do it again. Thus Paul compares the difference between godly grief and worldly grief (v.10). Worldly grief is when I feel bad because I looked bad to others. Godly grief is sorrow is when I recognize I have offended God. Grief that leads to repentance is as Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief!” Yet I don’t have to sink into grief because I have received the forgiveness of Christ (1 John 1:9). The sin under all other sin is the lack of joy in Christ, but Jesus was the one who suffered and was miserable for my sin. Repentance is my pathway to joy.

Second, there is repentance of sin. I must admit that I am wrong or have been wrong. This is often the hardest thing to do. Repentance is not mere confession or saying what God says about sin as if that will make God happy with me. Repentance is not about keeping God happy. God is not a magic genie who grants wishes when on his good side. This makes repentance selfish. I don’t please God to get or to escape consequences of sin. I cannot manipulate him nor is he is not obligated to me.

Third, there is a returning to the Lord. I must leave my sin behind. I must come to God. I must make a clean break. I must come to him as I am. I can wallow in the sin-confess-sin-confess cycle trying to do it on my own or I can come to my Lord. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

This is illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son. When you repent, you are like the prodigal son. You don’t have it all together. You are living in the pig style. You come to your senses. You change your mind. You don’t want to think for yourself. You come to the end of yourself. You think about your father. You run back home to him still messy and smelling like the stench. You come as you are. You know you are unworthy to be your fathers son, but the father runs to you, gives you his best robe and throws you a party.

Biblical repentance is recognizing your sin, repenting to it and returning to the Lord. When was the last time you did that?

3. Repentance bears fruit (vs.9,11).

“The reach of our repentance should match the reach of our sin. Private sins demand private repentance. Sins that can be seen by many necessitate a repentance that can be seen by many. And while we ought to forgive each other seven times, and seventy times, and even seven times seventy times, looking for the fruit of repentance is not the same as being unforgiving. Ronald Reagan was right: trust, but verify.” – Keven DeYoung

The beauty of repentance is what it produces. It produces things on the inside that are reflected on the outside. Acts 26:11 says there are “deeds of repentance.” In other words, repentance produces fruit (Matthew 3:8). While the list in 2 Corinthians 7 is not sequential or exhaustive, it gives you a sense of the affects of repentance (vs.9-11).

First, repentance produces godly grief over sin (v.9). “Grief” is soul anguish, a heart wrenching and heart changing emotion. Its a grief that says you can never be the same again. Second, repentance produces revulsion towards sin (v.11) The word used is “earnestness.” What used to please (attracts) you now repulses (detracts) you. Sin sickens you. Third, it produces restitution towards others (v.11b) It produces a desire to “clear yourself,” to make it right, right away with those your sin has injured. Fourth, it produces revival toward God (v.11c) You have a “longing” to walk with God. Fifth, it turns your eyes forward, not backward (vs.8-9). Repentance sees “no loss” and is “without regret.” It walks into the future full of freedom.

Repentance happens both as a process and a crisis. It happens over time and it happens at a point in time. Repentance is not a place I visit or a place I go and get over it. It is the place I live. I must never get over it. I never want to leave it. Just like Disney World. Who wants to leave Disney? Give me a room at the castle! God desires a lifestyle of repentance.

Martin Luther launched the Reformation with hammer and nail, nailing “The Ninety-Five Theses” to the front door of Wittenberg Cathedral. Do you know what the first theses stated? It said, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” What Luther saw as he unpacked the Scripture is that repentance is the way we progress in the Christian life. Repentance is the fruit you are growing deep and strong and rapid in the character of Christ.

How do you respond when confronted? How do you respond when the Spirit convicts you? How do you respond when you know you are wrong? How do you respond when you have sinned against another person? When was the last time you had godly grief over sin that produced repentance? Don’t wait. Repent. Be free. It is good.

I want to be sorry like that…

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My daughter Justus is only two and a half years old. She is old enough to know when she wants something she is not suppose to have to weigh the consequences of what will happen if she were to have it. Today, she weighed the consequences right before my eyes. I told her not to drink my coffee. She thought about it for a nanosecond, grab the cup of coffee and took a swig. Not only did she gulp down her first bit of coffee in disgust, she looked at me and began to cry out in sorrow. She didn’t have to say, “I’m sorry daddy.” I knew she was sorry. She knew she disobeyed and she immediately had sorrow over it.

To many people Justus’ disobedience might seems like something small and insignificant or her response was overly sensitive. Yet God taught me a lesson in her response. I want to be sorry like that. I want to have immediate sorrow over my disobedience. Like my daughter, I too commit sin openly and shamefully despite the consequences, but in my pride I am not immediately sorrowful.
Too often, I am on the other end of the disobedience spectrum. I hide my sin and enjoy it in secret without thinking about the consequences of being caught. When caught, I want to respond like David,

Psalm 51:1 “Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

Sin is serious. It offends a holy God. Since it offends God He has to do something about it. Sin has consequences that are immediate and/or delayed. I want a heart that sees sin as God sees it and is soft enough to respond immediately rather than delay my confession.

When we confess our sin, God covers us with His mercy. Proverbs 28:13-14 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. 14 Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” In other words, what I cover up He uncovers, but what I uncover He covers with His mercy. Isn’t that a bold, yet beautiful picture of God.

After Justus downed my dark brew and bust out into tears, I couldn’t help but comfort her. I learned this from God. He shows mercy to the brokenhearted (cf. Psalm 51:17). His mercy restores. I want to be like that too.

* Coffee picture taken by friend Anne Rock.

walking in forgiveness

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When I was 10 years old I shared the school bus with a stoutly loud-mouthed bully. He knew just the buttons to push to make me blow: comments about the size of my nose. The other kids on the bus would snicker, mostly because they didn’t want to be his next verbal target. I thought to myself, “Isn’t anyone going to do anything about this kid?” I did not have any soap or earplugs, but I did have a plan.

I was as skinny-as-a-toothpick, but I was significantly taller than him by a mere foot, which at 10-years old says a lot. I also watch a lot of batman cartoons. I stood up and stare him down. I could beat a blind man in a staring contest. My plan did not work and I didn’t have a plan-B. I had to think quickly because I could see he was about to take a crack at me. I could turn my other cheek by sitting down in defeat or I could wipe the smirk off his cheek. I chose the later. I charged to the back of the bus and gave him a knuckle sandwich. Immediately the bus driver slammed on the breaks. I flew forward. The bus driver marched to the back, grabbed us both by our shirts and ushered us to the front of the bus. We didn’t make it to our homes that day; instead, we both pouted as we waited for our parents at the bus barn. Not only did my fists hurt, but my pride took a hit too. And it wasn’t the last time.

Have you felt the cut of a sharp word, been scalded by a heated exchange, or battered by abusive comments? The hurt from these kinds of situations should not be belittled. Nor should you exaggerate your response to these kinds of offenses. The top two responses are, first, hiding the hurt by stewing it into secret places. If you are this type of person you keep your relationships under serious surveillance cautious to not get burned again.

The second response to an offense is like a volcano spewing the hurt back in hell-fury. If you are this type person you pursue payback by inflicting more punishment fitting for the crime hoping your offender feels your pain. Have you ever played the board game Battleship? No one likes getting hit, but we like to do the hitting. This is the reason why many are glued to reality TV shows. They are built on the premise of backstabbing, one-upping, reckoning, and revenge seeking. Now, I am a fan of some reality TV shows too, however, retribution on your terms more than likely turns sinful. Only God can best play the part of God. Only God should take out vengeance.

There is another way since stewing or spewing is not helpful for the one offending or offended. What is the other way? Forgiveness is the only means to unleash an offense. To not forgive in a sense makes you like a dog on chain and your master is the one who has offended you. Forgiveness does not have leashes attached; rather it is a willingness to treat the offense as if it never happened. A mark of new life in Christ is walking in forgiveness [Ephesians 4:24] and Christ is your example [v.32]. Here are four practical truths on how to walk in forgiveness from Paul to the church at Ephesus who like most churches were having relational struggles:

1. Speak the Truth [4:25].

Unforgiving people love to latch onto lies like a leech, especially if you’ve been offended. People would rather risk covering their tracks with a well-choreographed lie, than humbly speaking the truth. Unforgiveness sucks the truth out of people. That is the way of the father of lies [Genesis 3:1-4; John 8:44].

There are three roots behind each lie: 1) to get something you want, 2) to enhance who you are, 3) or to protect yourself. And people who do not put off falsehoods will exaggerate by saying, “You always ____. You never _____. Every time I ____, you ____ everything.” Speaking in absolutes is a sign of a liar.  Now truth speakers gather the facts. They never assume anything. They always ask for what is true [cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11; Philippians 2:1-3]. They “speak the truth in love” and the Truth sets free [cf. 4:15; John 8:32].

2. Solve Today’s Situations Today [4:26-28].

When you “let the sun go down on your anger” you do not deal the situation. Not dealing with anger is not a way of dealing with it. The tendency is to hold off until a better day when it feels right or the timing is right. However, digging up the past should be left to archeologists. And adding time to anger only multiplies the problem, since sin loves to multiply itself with more sin. Unresolved anger leads to the sins of bitterness, rage, and wrath, which can continue to snowball down the mountain until an angry avalanche has left mass devastation.

Question, is all anger sinful? No. For the verse says, “be angry and do not sin.” [cf. Psalm 4:4] God created anger and has a good use for anger. Righteous anger is having a deep seeded conviction about evil [v.27]. In other words, righteous anger doesn’t add time to the situation, it seeks to solve as soon as possible after the offense before unrighteousness sets into the place anger. Those who walk in new life are timely problem solvers.

3. Slay the Problem not the Person [4:29-30].

Words can pierce people to their core. Words have caused wars and killed million [Proverbs 18:21, cf. Matthew 5:21-26]. And “corrupting talk” is the means by which we use words to disintegrate others [v.29]. Remember Goliath? He is a biblical example of corrupting talk. He had a big mouth and was all talk, but David championed over Goliath by letting God fight for him. David attacks the problem by trusting in the strength of his God, and God comes through with vengeance upon Goliath’s injustice.

Hurtful, harmful and hateful words do not only grieve you [Matthew 15:11], but also God [v.30]. Why? Each person is made in the image of God. When you murder another persons character it tarnishes the God who created them [cf. Isaiah 63]. You will have to stand before the throne of God and give an account of how you treat one another. Those who walk in new life in Christ build up, speak grace, rather than tear down what Christ, the Word, came to redeem.

In the book/movie, How to Train a Dragon, Vikings made a living slaying the dragons and the dragons lived to slay Viking villages. The key character Hiccup, a boy Viking, in the story wounds a dragon, but does not have the heart to slay it. Thereafter a friendship between the boy and the dragon begins. What they both come to learn through their friendship is that the slaying between the Vikings and dragons was a misunderstanding. This is also true in the arena of anger—the issue is not the one attacking you, but your self-controlled response to the attack. A gentle answer does turn away wrath, and an attitude of grace can keep you far away from messy misunderstandings.

4. Seek to be Proactive, not Reactive [4:31-32].

It is easy to justify your primary sin with a secondary sin [i.e. Genesis 3:8-13]. Fire does not put out fire; it just makes a bigger fire. When someone offends you firing back in anger declares the offender as the winner and leash holder. Do not hand over the leash so easily. Replace old reactions with pro-actions. In other words, act—don’t react. Have a Plan-B, C, D, X, Y, and Z.

Fifteen years after the school bus brawl I had another situation occur, but this time it was on a larger scale within my church. Someone raised false accusations against my biblical teaching and in their anger they publicly slandered my character. I was hurt. I was tempted to prove myself right and the other them wrong. No knuckle sandwich this time. Instead, I was convicted to extend forgiveness to the offender as if their offense never happened. It was something I could not do on my own power, but the kindness of the God and the forgiveness that God had given me was used as an instrument in my accusers life. Forgiveness is a mighty weapon of restoration in the hands of our powerful God [Romans 12:21].

Walking in forgiveness follows the example of Christ [v.32] by speaking the truth, solving today’s situations today, slaying the problem not the person, and staying proactive not reactive. Walking in forgiveness shines the light of the gospel to an unforgiving world [Luke 6:45], including your marriage, your children, your parents, your friends, your coworkers, your church, and your neighbors.

What is a Christian’s motivation to forgive one another? In Christ, you have the only pure motive to forgive one another and His death paves the way saying, “Forgiveness is available to all!” When Jesus was ushered to His death sentence as an innocent man He never defended Himself. It is not that He was a weenie or wimp, or that He was too cowardly to stand up to His accusers. He was, in fact, more courageous because He did not retaliate. He let God fight for Him. In the midst of unfair and unforgettable circumstances He remained kind, compassionate and forgiving [i.e. Isaiah 53:4-12]. Even Jesus’ last words were, “Father, forgive them for them know not what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]

God has forgiven your sins as far as the East is from the West. When you don’t extend forgiveness what you are really saying with the hurt or offense done to you is far greater than the offense you have done to God. The comparison is incomparable [Isaiah 55:8-9].

Who do you need to unleash forgiveness to today? Walk in forgiveness.

pouring Miracle-Gro on sin

A friend reminded me the other day,

“Moving to another culture is like pouring Miracle-Gro on sin.”

Our family just moved to Quebec and in 8-months we will move again to North Africa. Transition has been our middle name for the past year. Transitions or changes in life can be like pouring Miracle-Gro on sin; sin grows more intense and gives a way to old weeds–you thought were dead–to come back with rabid enticement.

For the last 8-years I’ve lived in the same place, had a stable job, but this month we moved to a new country filled with cultural differences and language barriers. This has caused Sarah and I to uncover dirt about ourselves–until now–-we had been ignoring successfully. Sins like pride, self-reliance, and fear of failure keep popping up like dandelions on what we thought was well manicured Astro Turf.

Normally my sins are like Post-It notes stuck to my back. everyone else can see them but me. In this present season I am seeing my sin and my limitations more clearly. It is here the gospel message shines most brilliantly. Christ gets on eye level, embraces me as His brother, and reminds me that He has taken my punishment (or Post-It notes) upon His back.

How do you handle change?

Change happens. It can be a promotion at work, lay-off, move to a new house, crisis, trauma, stepping into an abnormal situation, or a host of other scenarios. Your response to said situations can determine your vulnerability to sin. The key to handling change is rooting yourself in the character of God.

Do you prepare your heart for times of transition?

Sarah and I have been through enough of these seasons in the past year to understand that we have to be prepare seriously for the next season. We have found that if unprepared our marriage and parenting can quickly become full of gnarly weeds. Small attitudes quickly become ugly, temptations become more tempting, and the Light increasingly is choked out.

Here are some ways Sarah and I have been able to deal with changes and transitions (especially new moves or new cultures) while in the process of pulling out the weeds:

1.    Review the gospel daily.
2.    Write down promises of God that give you hope.
3.    Resolve to obey Christ through the season of change or transition.
4.    Cultivate godly friendships and allow them to ask you the hard questions unexpectedly.
5.    Prepare for the changes and transitions with a band of prayer partners.
6.    Keep communication channels open and confess sin quickly.
7.    Ground yourself in the Word and resting in its Truth.

The LORD is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!
(Psalm 119:57-64 ESV)

thumb licks [9.3.12]

Is Proverbs 22:6 a guarantee?

How the 50 States got their names.

Ministry: it’s not about you.

Sin wants to be your friend.

If snack labels told the truth.

Somethings we can learn from suffering.

10 happiest jobs. I knew it!

What is a Sikh?

Why is love so stupid?

Warsaw remembering the Holocaust:

running the wrong way

Ouch. How embarrassing? I am certain Andre Parker won’t make that mistake twice. Or he could risk being cut from the team.

In reality, all of us are like Andre Parker. Instead of a football field it is life. We are born from the womb running the wrong way. We don’t think anything of it because running the wrong way is our norm. By definition sin is running the wrong way. In fact, it is running the opposite way of God. It’s not that are coachless or are left to living without a playbook. God sent His Son into the world to be an example of running the right way. It is only when we repent of our way, have faith in Him, and submit to His way that we can begin running the right way. Hear the call of Christ and turn around.

those who are given Grace give no excuses good enough to keep sinning

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 ESV)

Grace gives no excuses to sin. If you give excuses for sinning after you’ve been given grace you do not completely understand grace. You don’t understand the grossness of sin. You don’t understand the glory of Christ.

Sin might look cute in kids. Sin might be expected in teens. Sin might be hidden by crafty adults. But that gives not excuse to sin. That only abuses grace.

Killing Sin: Mortification

“Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” (John Owen)

You cannot tame sin, it will turn on you at the first opportunity. You cannot get the wild out of sin simply by caging it. Sin will never be domesticated. It’s a wolf, not a dog; it’s a piranha, not a goldfish. Evil is untamable. Sin is wired to destroy.

Mortification Misunderstood

1. Mortification does not produce perfection. While sinless perfection and holiness are the goal you realize it is not possible (Gal.5:17). The Bible describe the Christian life like a walk, you are moving in the direction of holiness, increasing in Christlikeness, and pressing on for the prize (Phil.3:12-14).

2. Mortification is not furthered by asceticism. You cannot remove yourself from the world and expect to be unworldly (1 Tim.4:1-5; Col.2:21-23). God created the world good. The problem lies within your heart.

3. Mortification is more than behavior modification. It is possible to change what you do, even reduce the frequency of certain sins, without actually becoming more pure of heart.

Mortification’s Meaning

Mortification is killing sin (crucifying the flesh). It includes putting to death sinful actions and their sinful motivations. The image of mortification does not suggest finality, but the vehemence, enmity, and total-war mentality to be had towards sin. Mortification is not a once and for all action, but a process. (Cf. Romans 8:12-14; Colossians 3:5-10; Galatians 5:24)

10 Ways to Kill Sin (not exhaustive, but helpful)

1. Yield yourself to God. Surrender (Rom.6:12-13; 12:1). “We try to hold at bay the gnats of small sins while swallowing the camel of self.” (David Wells) To win the war on sin you’ve got to first dethrone yourself. Deny self-rule for God’s rule (Mk.8:34).

2. Accept that the battle never ends. “You must always be at it while you live; do not take a day off from this work; always be killing sin or it will be killing you.” (John Owen; Rom.8:12-13) There is no cease-fire in this war.

3. Take God’s side against your sin. Act on holiness; act against sinfulness. It takes a discipline of ongoing repentance.

4. Make no provision for the flesh. Fire starts small, then gets bigger. Put out the matchstick flame before it becomes a forest fire. (Rom.13:14) Light few matches and snuff out the ones already lit. “Rise mightily against the first sign of sin. And do not let it gain the smallest ground” (John Owen) Sin is subtle and it sneaks up on you like soft-soled slippers. Be ruthless and radical with sin (Mk.9:43-48).

5. Use your spiritual sword. “Either this Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.” (Ps. 119:9-11; Cf. Eph.6:17; Rom.8:13; Mt.4:1-11). Sharpen your skills within the Word of God, your spiritual sword.

6. Aim at the heart. Sin is a matter of the heart (Lk.6:45; Mt.23:25-26). Stomping on the fruit of sin, won’t kill the tree. You got to hack the roots out. Hypocrites fail to grow in holiness.

7. Replace sin with grace. The most practical way to kill specific sin is to cultivate the particular virtue that counters it.

8. Stay in community. Battles are best fought with armies, not individuals (Ecc.4:9-10; Heb.3:12-13). Perseverance in the faith is a community project. “Lone rangers are dead rangers.” (Joshua Harris) Cherish the “one another” commands and be willing to confess your sins to one another (Js.5:9).

9. Look to the cross. “There is no death to sin without the seat of Christ.” (John Owen; Rom.8:1-13; Gal. 6:14) Because of the death  resurrection of Christ, we fight from a position of victory.

10. Depend on the Spirit. (Rom.8:13; Gal.5:16) Mortification from self-strength, carried by ways of self-invention, to the end of self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all the false religions of the world.

The battle is not against our joy and happiness, but for our maximum pleasure, pleasure in God.

Adapted from Brian G. Hedges, Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change. Shepherds Press, Wapwallopen, PA. 2010. p.77-96

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

SATAN’S DEVICES TO DRAW THE SOUL TO SIN

  1. By presenting the bait and hiding the hook [4 remedies]
  2. By painting sin with virtue’s colors [4remedies]
  3. By the extenuating and lessening of sin [7 remedies]
  4. By showing to the soul the best men’s sins and by hiding from the soul their virtues, their sorrows, and their repentance [3 remedies]
  5. By presenting God to the soul as One made up all of mercy [5 remedies]
  6. By persuading the soul that repentance is easy and that therefore the soul need not scruple about sinning [6 remedies]
  7. By making the soul bold to venture upon the occasions of sin [2 remedies]
  8. By representing to the soul the outward mercies enjoyed by men walking in sin, and their freedom from outward miseries [8 remedies]
  9. By presenting to the soul the crosses, losses, sorrows and sufferings that daily attend those who walk in the ways of holiness [7 remedies]
  10. By causing saints to compare themselves and their ways with those reputed to be worse than themselves [3 remedies]
  11. By polluting the souls and judgments of men with dangerous errors that lead to looseness and wickedness [7 remedies]
  12. By leading men to choose wicked company [4 remedies]

SATAN’S DEVICES TO KEEP SOULS FROM HOLY DUTIES, TO HINDER SOULS IN HOLY SERVICES, TO KEEP THEM OFF FROM RELIGIOUS PERFORMANCES

  1. By presenting the world in such a garb as to ensnare the soul [7 remedies]
  2. By presenting to the soul the dangers, losses and sufferings that accompany the performance of certain religious duties [5 remedies]
  3. By presenting to the soul the difficulty of performing religious duties [5 remedies]
  4. By causing saints to draw false inferences from the blessed and glorious things that Christ has done [5 remedies]
  5. By presenting to view the fewness and poverty of those who hold to religious practices [6 remedies]
  6. By showing saints that the majority of men make light of God’s ways and walk in the ways of their own hearts [3 remedies]
  7. By casting in vain thoughts while the soul is seeking God or waiting on God [7 remedies]
  8. By tempting Christians to rest in their performances [4 remedies]

SATAN’S DEVICES TO KEEP SAINTS IN A SAD, DOUBTING, QUESTIONING AND UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITION

  1. By causing saints to remember their sins more than their Savior, yes, even to forget and neglect their Savior [6 remedies]
  2. By causing saints to make false definitions of their graces [4 remedies]
  3. By causing saints to make false inferences from the cross actings of Providence [4 remedies]
  4. By suggesting to saints that their graces are not true, but counterfeit [2 remedies]
  5. By suggesting to saints that the conflict that is in them is found also in hypocrites and profane souls [6 remedies]
  6. By suggesting to the saint who has lost joy and comfort that his state is not good [5 remedies]
  7. By reminding the saint of his frequent relapses into sin formerly repented of and prayed against [6 remedies]
  8. By persuading saints that their state is not good nor their graces sound [3 remedies]

SATAN’S DEVICES TO DESTROY AND ENSNARE ALL SORTS AND RANKS OF MEN IN THE WORLD DEVICES AGAINST THE GREAT AND HONORABLE OF THE EARTH


  1. By causing them to seek greatness, position, riches and security [6 remedies]
  2. By causing them to act against the people of the Most High [5 remedies]

DEVICE AGAINST THE LEARNED AND THE WISE

By moving them to pride themselves on their parts and abilities, and to despise men of greater grace but inferior abilities [4 remedies]

DEVICE AGAINST THE SAINTS

By dividing them and causing them to ‘bite and devour one another.’ [12 remedies]

DEVICE AGAINST POOR AND IGNORANT SOULS

By causing them to affect ignorance and to neglect and despise the means of knowledge [4 remedies]

FIVE MORE OF SATAN’S DEVICES

  1. 
By suggesting to men the greatness and vileness of their sins [8 Remedies]
  2. By suggesting to sinners their unworthiness [4 Remedies]
  3. By suggesting to sinners their want of certain preparations and qualifications [3 Remedies]
  4. By suggesting to sinners that Christ Is unwilling to save them [6 Remedies]
  5. By causing sinners to give more attention to the secret decrees and counsels of God than to their own duty [2 Remedies]

Adapted from Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks. [download PDF] It’s time to read a classic book. There is nothing like an old Puritan book from the 1600’s!.

human trafficking: modern slavery

“Trafficking” is modern-day slavery and is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or taking of people by means of threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploiting them.

The average age of entrance into sex trafficking is 13 years old. Members of every country and ethnic group perpetuate these crimes. It is hard to leave the trade when there are few places to put people who come out of trafficking. And few people are aware of this massive issue.

The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people are trafficked annually and 27 million are in the trade right now. The U.S. State Department estimates an even higher number: about 12.3 million adults and children “in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world.” It deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, is a global health risk, and fuels organized crime.

Victims of trafficking are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Labor trafficking ranges from domestic servitude and small-scale labor setups to large-scale operations such as farms, sweatshops, and major multinational corporations. Sex trafficking is one of the most profitable forms of trafficking and involves any form of sexual exploitation, such as prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. As you stop at red lights this week, pray for the red light districts of the world to be shut down.

[HT]

Learn how you can be an advocate against human trafficking:

International Justice Mission

Not For Sale

Be An Informed Consumer

thumb lick [1.14.12]

3 Things You Need to Know about Sin

Community idolatry. Are chasing false gods together? 8-idol shattering questions.

Abandoned by God. What to do when you feel alone or forsaken.

Benefits of sorrow.

My dream vacation: move, learn, eat.

Nearer Heaven: a great 30-day devotional.

Religious views of 20-somethings.

Books on Christians and politics.

It’s amazing what artist can do with books, mailboxes, and more paper.

In our State they do not test parallel parking anymore. Maybe they need to rethink that: