3 benefits of repentance


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.

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)

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.

guilt [and false guilt]

The gavel slams and the judge declares, “Guilty as charge!” Someone you did not expect over hears your gossip and confronts you. You are caught with your hand in the cookie jar just moments after mom told you no more cookies. Guilt. What is it? What if you got it?

God is offended by sin. Sin is personal opposition to God and makes us legally guilty before God. Guilt is culpable for sin. It is not the greatness of the law that makes sin worthy of punishment, but the greatness of the Lawgiver.  “No sins are small when committed against a great and generous God.”[1] Paul affirms, “the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation (Roman 5:16, cf. James 2:10-11).”

God desires us to change from our sin, the guilt of our sin, and back in his glorious grace. There is a great sadness that comes from not being saddened by knowing our sin. As observed in the first narrative in the Bible (Gen.3:1-13), Adam and Eve desire the fruit of the forbidden tree and disobey God to have it. Their disobedience leads to guilt and a cover-up. Rather than disobedience and covering up sin the Bible is clear on how one should deal with the guilt of sin.

Guilt is a close companion for a Christian because it points us to our need for Christ. Guilt is a real reminder that I must not sin anymore, and that I need to follow Christ (Gal.3:24; Rom.5:8). Like stated above: guilt is good.

How does one deal with guilt biblically? First, acknowledge your specific sin (Prov.28:13; Ps.51:4; 1 John 1:7-9). Second, confess to God that you have sinned. Confession is simply agreeing with God. Calling your sin, sin.  Third, if the person is unsaved they must confess Christ as their Savior and forgiver of their sins (Rom.10:3-10). Finally, if the person is saved they must confess to God their sinfulness and continual need for God’s grace. Now there is so-called false guilt, which is disobeying what one thought was God’s Word and continuing on in their same sinful patterns. This is a misuse of what God’s Word says about guilt, and this one needs to confess their sin.

What about false guilt? Guilt is guilt. True guilt or false guilt it is culpable for sin. False guilt has nothing to do with what’s true and accurate, nor is it related to true repentance, but is still must be dealt with as a sinful response to what is false. For example, a girl could have been molested as a child and respond in guilt over a situation in which she committed no identifiable sin. Even though she committed no sin, her guilt is a sinful response to the situation. The Scriptures say that “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). This girl may have been blamed or punished for things that she didn’t do, or been told she was worthless. A person with extreme guilt over something that was not a sinful act needs to work on viewing their behavior with the truth as revealed in Scripture so that they can live in peace and experience freedom in Christ.

Guilt caused by sin requires an understanding of confession and forgiveness. The Holy Spirit working in the conscience triggers this kind of guilt. The individual should desire to do something about the sinful behavior. By resting in the grace of God and seeking His forgiveness and restoration I can experience freedom from guilt. Guilt must be dealt with, otherwise it begins to distort other problems in our lives (Gen.4:11; Prov.28:1; Eph.4:26-27). I do not deal with guilt by dealing with the feelings of guilt, though I do not discard the feelings guilt may bring (Ps.32:1-5; Prov.14:30; Ps.38:1-8). The feelings are rooted in the problem that made one guilty; therefore the problem is what needs to be dealt with. When we deal with guilt biblically God promises us restoration (Lk.15:11-32; Mt.5:23-38). We also are seeking to be God’s kind of people by changing our thinking and behavior (Rom.6:11; 1 Cor.6:9-11; Eph.4:22-24).

[1] J.I. Packer, Christianity Today (January 2005), p. 65.

doctrine of original sin and the church

The doctrine of original sin teaches that every single human being who ever was, is, or shall be inherited from Adam a sinful nature that makes us predisposed to wickedness and rebellion against God. Because of the fall, we are hardwired towards evil. We sinned in Adam and died through his trespass, inheriting his guilt and a corrupt nature (see Romans 5:12-21). We are born into the world with a bent towards evil and in need of a Savior.

If the doctrine of original sin can give us a more accurate view of our own history, it can also give us a more realistic appraisal of the world’s future.

The doctrine of original sin can also help the church from drifting away from what matters most. The danger of incessant polling and trend watching is that the church’s target will always be changing. We will be forever doomed to chase relevance, manage people’s perceptions of the church, and catch up with the cutting edge. The nice thing about the doctrine of original sin is that it focuses our attention on issues that are a little more timeless. People will always be sinners. So our main problem is not lack of integration or balance, or lack of success or education, or even poverty and injustice, as serious as these problems can be. Our main problem will always be sin. And hence, we are always in need of a Savior.

The doctrine of original sin forces us to take a more honest look at ourselves and our remaining indwelling sin. This goes for all of us church goers and church leavers. Church goers need to admit that they don’t always look much like Christ. Many of them need to own some responsibility for the negative impression people have of the church. Others need to see that they live in a wacky Christian subculture that, for all its blessings, looks strange to outsiders. Churches need to realize they have often been more adept at welcoming clean-cut, suburban families than pierced, indie-rocker, artist types. The church needs to follow up with those who leave and be patient and humble enough to hear their complaints, whether they prove to be justified or not. And disgruntled “church stinks” crowd needs to be careful that their disillusionment does not become an idol, that they do not find their identity in being jaded. And ask yourself, “What am I not disgruntled about?”

The church will be full of sin so long as she is full of sinners. But as sinful and mess as the church makes itself to be it is still the beautiful Bride of Jesus Christ.

The church is not an accidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an antirelgion, antidoctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and reintegration. To be sure, He showed people how to live. But He also called them to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). If we truly love the church we will bear with her in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ, and hope for her final glorification. I still believe the church is the hope of the world–not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head.

Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me.

This is adapted from the book, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion [Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Moody Publishers Chicago, IL. 2009] pgs.208-226.

believing a lie from the wrong voice

The Garden of Eden was a place of beauty; a place untainted by sin and its crippling, polluting, heartbreaking effects; a place where they could hear and communicate with the voice of God; a place of intimacy with man and of intimacy with almighty God. Everything God created He says is “good.” Adam and Eve’s world was a paradise.

One rule. All Adam and Eve had in the Garden was one rule, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.” [Genesis 2:17] Like a kid left alone with a cookie jar, our first parents started the first rebel-ution against their Heavenly Father.

If Genesis 1–2 was paradise, then Genesis 3 is paradise lost. Through one foolish and rebellious rule breaking act—eating the fruit God had forbidden—Adam and Eve lost their innocence, dignity, home, and relationship with God, “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” [Romans 5:12] How did the Fall of Mankind happen?

The voice of God is the only voice Adam and Eve have know, however, a strange voice enters the Garden. The voice comes from a serpent. The serpent is defined later in Scripture as the “one of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” [Revelation 12:9]. He is a voice filled with lies. Jesus calls him the “the father of lies” [John 8:44]. Satan is sneaky and his first recorded words are deceitful and crafty [3:1]. Satan is no less crafty and deceitful today. How does he deceive with craftiness?

Satan seeks to confuse. His question for Eve was, “Did God actually say?” [3:1]. In other words, “Are you sure that’s what God said?” Eve heard God’s command loud and clear, but the serpent planted doubts in her head. He tries to confuse you too, “Maybe that verse doesn’t really mean what it looks it means. Maybe God doesn’t mean for you to take that literally. Maybe…Maybe…Maybe…” Satan’s strategy is to make you doubt the clear teachings of the Bible.

Satan twists God’s words. Satan puts words in God’s mouth, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” Nope. God did not say that! God told Adam and Eve they could eat from any tree of the garden—except the one [2:16–17]. Satan makes God look like a bully. Satan will says things like, “God won’t care if you take just one look. It won’t hurt anyone.” Or, “If it’s fun, why would it be bad?” Remember, God is good and Satan twists.

Satan comforts your conscience despite the consequences. He tries to ease the idea of actual consequences, “You will not surely die!” [3:4]. It is as if Satan is saying, “God’s not going to kill you over a small bite. Eating that apple is not a big deal. Go ahead. You know he will forgive and forget.” He is essentially saying God is a liar, but Jesus says that Satan is the liar [John 8:44]. This is where man needs to make a choice—believe God or not? God speaks the truth, “the wages of sin is death” [Rom. 6:23].

Satan speaks enough truth to make sin sound tasty. There is enough truth in Satan’s statement, “God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [3:5]. Satan is making sin sound so freeing. Satan promised Adam and Eve freedom, instead they received guilt [3:7]. Sin’s promises are like a mirage that never appears. They were fooled into thinking they would be like God, instead they found themselves hiding from God [3:8–10]. Satan fell to pride and he knows mankind is just as foolish. Today, we view pride as a virtue and submission to authority as a weakness. The world says, “Do want you want. Do what makes you feel good. Go for it. Live you best life now. Be proud of yourself. Have more self-esteem.” All the while Satan has you heart bait-and-switched on yourself.

It is important to note that God created the smart-mouthed serpent, Satan. What you do not hear in Genesis, but is explained later in the Scripture is that Satan and 1/3 of all the angels of heaven who sided their allegiance with Satan’s ego-trip rebellion against God were cast out of heaven. Satan is not co-equal with God, over God, or in some cosmic battle of good and evil with God. God has no match; He has no equal, nor is there anyone like Him. God has Satan on a tight leash and Satan knows it. Satan, like mankind is a created being and is dependent upon God like all for God’s creation, however he has been around a while and knows the sinful ways of man, which makes him very smart and more experienced in the ways of sin than you. Be careful what voice you listen to. Make sure the voice matches the character of God.

man rebels against God

I have been known to drive fast. I am no race car driver, but there are certainly times when I have pretended to be. You would think I’d learn my lesson after a speeding ticket or two. While speeding I usually do not think about violating a well-posted law. I tell myself, “I am in a hurry. I need to get there quickly. I have a lead foot. My car drives better faster. I am not being dangerous.” Pretty soon I am thinking stop signs and slow people are a nuisance.

Last year, I rolled through a stop sign in my neighborhood [only a block away from our church] and got pulled over by a police officer in the church parking lot before a Sunday service. At first, I was annoyed that he had to be in the area, “Now, I am going to be really late! How embarrassing. Everyone is looking at Pastor Justin in the church parking lot.” So I give the police officer a list of excuses to hopefully get off easily and quickly. I pay the fine and don’t feel all that bad about it, just angry with the cop for his insensitivity to my standard of what I think the laws and limits should be.

This is a true story and I share it to illustrate an important point: not honoring the limits or standards given to us is—sin. Like the cop, we do this to God, “God, why do you asked me to obey these impossible standards? You’ve got to be kidding me? I don’t think it’s that bad to stretch the rule just this once.” Then when we get caught we get angry with God like I was towards the police officer, “God you are unfair and unreasonable.” In reality, I have disobeyed a law that was meant to protect me and help me live in a way that pleases God, and He was being good and just.

What is Sin?

Sin by definition is when God says “No,” and I say, “Yes, I will,” or when He says, “Yes,” and I say, “No, I won’t.” Sin is living in unrighteous and deliberate disobedience towards God. When I sin I am rebelling against the authority of God, living like there is no law.

Sin starts in Genesis. Satan, who thought he was better than God got kicked out of heaven, but put on a leash. He roams the earth making it his aim to tempt created man into disobeying God too. He is crafty, sly and very successful. Satan knows how to tempt you through lies that make you think you are smarter than God [cf. Genesis 2-3]. It did not take long for man listen to the other voices and disobey God’s Voice. It was not Satan’s fault man fell into sin, since Adam and Eve were ultimately responsible; they listened and ate the forbidden fruit.

If we back up in Genesis we see that God created man to be His image bearer living under His righteous rule [Genesis 1:26-28]. He created man perfect and “very good.” [Genesis 1:31] In the beginning there was no sin, which means there was no need for police officers, security guards, door locks, burglary alarms, mace, sex offender registries, or judges. It is when man walked out from under the protection of God that the chaos caused by sin entered the world.

We often have a weenie view of sin. We think of sin as a no-no, oopsy-daisy, or boo-boo. The Bible gives us a cringing catalog of synonyms for sin: unrighteousness, godlessness, lawlessness, selfishness, blindness, deafness, rebellion, fallen, treason, transgression, perversion, missing the mark, vomit licking dog, idolatry, spiritual adultery [whore/prostitute], stiff necked, darkened, wicked, unreasonable, hard hearted, prideful, dead, and more.[1] We discover in the Bible that man is totally depraved, in other words, sin has corrupted every part of man. Could this really be me?

Are you a sinful rebel?

Clearly, yes, all have sinned [Romans 3:10-23]. Through Adam’s sin all are born with a bent towards sin [Romans 5:12-21]. Adam and Eve are not to blame for all sin problems because you and I are just as cowardly. Without God you do nothing but sin. You do not take responsibility for your sin, “All we like sheep, have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way.” [Isaiah 53:6] You openly offend God and enjoy rebellion. You are a deplorable rebel to the core and live despicably.

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions then you have the heart of a sinful rebel [cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-5]: Do you only obey in part not in whole? Do you a blame shifter or excuse maker? Are you a man-pleasers more than a God pleaser? Do you think you are good compared to others? Do you enjoy playing god? Are other rebels attracted to you? Are you jealous of others? Do you crave control? Do you major on minors? Do you kill people with words? Do you ignore the need for permission and do it anyway? Are you not willing to confess you are wrong? Are you suicidal?

Compared to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, or local criminals you might not appear as evil, but when you compare yourselves with God you see that you are quite sinful. Don’t compare yourself with others; compare yourself with God. When you follow the footstep of Jesus in the gospels you see you are a sinner. He is the standard by which you will be judged. You will not be able to stand before heavens gates and say, “Ernie, was worse than me. Come on, let me in.”

Do you have a sinful view of sin?

Comparing yourself with others is a sinful view of sin. There are many sinful views of sin. Sin is by its nature is deceitful [1 John 1:8]. Here are the top 10 sinful views of sin: [adapted from: Sinful Responses to Sin, Mark Driscoll]

  1. “I’m Sorry! I promise to do better next time. God will understand.” A broken relationship can’t be mended by a simple apology. “I’m Sorry” is cheap; forgiveness is a willingness to change.
  2. “It doesn’t matter how I live because I am forgiven.” Do you presume upon God’s grace? “Do I sin that grace may abound?” Certainly not!” [Romans 6:1-2] Did Jesus die that you should keep sinning? Sin means you hate Jesus. When a person keeps on sinning habitually we can ask, “Are they truly forgiven?”
  3. “Nobody’s perfect!” Minimizing sin doesn’t make it go away. Sometimes we cover up our responsibility in dealing with sin by pulling out the divine trump card, “I am just a human. Everybody sins.” This is lame.
  4. “If I don’t confess every one of my sins I am not forgiven.” We know from the Bible that Jesus died for all of your sins past, present, future [1 Peter 3:18; Colossians 2:13; 1 John 1:9]. We don’t have to sit around and wonder, “Is there any sin I forgot to mention to God?”
  5. “God knows my heart.” Yes, He does. He says, “The heart is deceitful” [Jeremiah 17:9] and “out the heart comes evil.” [Matthew 15:18-20]
  6. “Can’t I have a little fun?” Sin is not fun—for long. It is not fun because when I sin if I have the Spirit I am convicted and feel guilty. [“By Faith Moses refused…fleeting pleasure of sin” Hebrews 11:25] Sin gives a promise that is not true nor will completely satisfy. Sin is hallow—you try more, newer, harder, riskier things to fill the hollowness, but it never fills.
  7. “It is not a sin unless someone gets hurt.” It always hurts. It hurts you and others around you. Pornography and lust hurts your mind and intimate relationships. Gossip and bullying hurt your reputation and other around you. Sin hurts you and everyone involved.
  8. “It is not sin unless you get caught.” God knows [cf. Psalm 139].
  9. “If our culture says it’s okay then it’s not a sin.” Culture or history does not determine what is right or wrong. Only God determines what is sinful. Do not measure your goodness by the way of society, but by the Word of God. God did not give the Israelites an excuse to sin amidst the wicked nations that surrounded them [1 Pt. 2:9].
  10. “Christians say everything is a sin.” Never go to movies, listen to bad music, drink or chew or go with girls that do. The Bible calls this spiritual maturity. The Bible does say that what we put into our mind does affect our heart. If I play with pigs I will get dirty. “Not everything is sin, but not everything is permissible” [1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23]. We need to discover if it is a matter of conviction, personality, preference, or affecting a younger believer to compromise his faithfulness.

How does God respond to sin?

First, God judges sin. When we sin God does not slap us on the hand and say, “Please, stop that.” Sin has serious consequences—life and death consequences. If He did not He would not be good or just. In God, are combined the perfect legislator, the perfect prosecutor, and the perfect crime victim, which means that God’s wrath and indignation will always be utterly just, because they will be in perfect proportion to the heinousness of sin.[2]

I remember the words of the police officer that pulled me over in the church parking lot. “Rolling through the stop sign might have been harmless today, but let it be a reminder to you that the next time it could be more harmful. It is better to pay a fine now than having to deal with the guilt of killing someone from lack of responsibility.” If the police officer did not pull me over that day he would not be a good or just cop.

Second, God gives grace [James 4:4-10; Ephesians 2:8-10]. He like a loving father in that when He disciples us He shows us his loving grace. Third, in His grace God sends Jesus. God’s grace is seen in Him sending Jesus to save and change sinners. When He came He lived sinlessly even when tempted [Hebrews 4:15]. Therefore, Jesus became the righteous sacrifice to appease the wrath of God upon sin. And finally, in His grace Christ is coming back [John 14:3, 28]. God is sovereign over evil. Jesus is coming back to deal with sin once and for all and restore righteousness in His kingdom.

How must I respond to sin?

I must respond by repenting of my sin and begin living righteously for God’s glory. Let us be like David, “I have sinned against the Lord,” [2 Samuel 12:13] or Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips.” [Isaiah 6:5] By repenting, I own up to my sin and inability to do what is right without God’s help. Repentance is a gift and love of God through Christ, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” [Mark 1:14-15]

Sin is serious. It is living in unrighteous and deliberate disobedience towards God. Sinful rebellion has serious consequences. God is not messing around when it comes to sin. God is good and just as a judge, therefore, trust and obey. Let us bow our knees to the King and decide to follow Him wholly and completely today. For as Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones said,

“There is in us, in man, this terrible, mighty power called ‘sin’ which alienates us from God and leads us to hate Him, and at the same time debases us and leads us to conduct which can only be described as disgusting. How idle it is to think of these matters and to discuss them theoretically. How criminal to look at life through rose-coloured spectacles. It is only as we face the facts, and realize the true nature of the problem, that we shall come to see that the one power alone is sufficient and adequate to deal with it—the power of God.”[3]

[1]Here is a sampling of the many verses on sin: 1 John 3:4; 5:17; James 4:17; Romans 1:18; 6:23; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:18-19; Colossians 3:5-9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Isaiah 6; 2 Peter 2:2; 1 Samuel 15:23; Psalm 106:39; Acts 17:51

[2] David Clotfelter, Sinners in the Hands of a Good God. Moody Publishers, Chicago. 2004.45-46.

[3] Martin Lloyd-Jones, The Plight of Man and the Power of God. Christians Focus Publishing, Great Britain. 2010. 71-72.

breaking news

Have you ever received any breaking news? The kind of news that startles you for a moment and your life is never the same. Maybe you received news that your lover has just broken off the relationship, your father passed away suddenly, you failed the test, you are pregnant, you lost your job, or you watch a tragedy unfold on the breaking news today.

This is not the kind of news we want to hear, but inevitably we will all here some bad breaking news. How do you normal respond to bad news? Brace yourself; I have some more bad news for you. Ready? You are going to die. 100% of people who are born into this world will one day die. Do you know where will you go when you die? The answer to this question might be even worse news to you. The thought of death and the perplexity of an afterlife cause many to be fearful or anxious.

Not all breaking news is bad news. I have some wonderful breaking news for you: the gospel. What is the gospel, you ask? The gospel is good news. It is earth shattering, life-altering breaking news. When I am confronted with the gospel I see myself for who I really am and the way I respond to the gospel can have eternal ramifications.

The Gospel is the center of Christianity. Without a right understanding and application of the gospel you do not have a true picture of Christianity. The gospel is what makes Christianity distinct and exclusive from other faith-based systems. The gospel to Christianity is like a wrench to a mechanic or a flower to a florist. The mechanic does not sit around and ponder, “What is this wrench used for?” Nor does a florist wonder, “What is a bouquet of roses?” Without the gospel one does not understand the core of Christianity.

How good a grip do you have on the gospel? What is the good news that Christians blaa-blaa-blaa about? What is so good about good news anyway? We do know what the gospel is not, or at least what the gospel is not alone.

  • The gospel is not Jesus alone.
  • The gospel is not Jesus death, burial and resurrection alone.
  • The gospel is not a belief in Jesus alone.
  • The gospel is not being forgiven of my sins alone.
  • The gospel is not God loves you alone.
  • The gospel is not God has a special plan for you alone.
  • The gospel is not changing my life to be a better [loving] person alone.

The gospel is a belief that the Bible is absolutely true: God is a loving creator, and man has sinfully disobeyed God, therefore Jesus graciously and sacrificially died for man that they might respond to Christ’s forgiven and have a means to become right before God. The gospel is not only something I believe in for a moment that will change my life eternally, but its also the means for me to live righteously all throughout my life.

How do I know this is the gospel? How do I know this gospel is true? How do I know this gospel is for me? Could it be as simple as Bible tells me so? YES. It comes down to whether I believe God wrote a book and that this book is Truth.

How can I know that the Bible is absolute truth and authoritative? Is the Bible reliable? Other than the Bible we have three sources of so-called reliable truth. The first source of truth we have is tradition. Tradition tells us what has be true passed down from generation to generation. Some say tradition is not reliable because traditions change or generations might distort the truth to another generation. A second source of truth is reason. Reason uses mans thinking to proven or make understandable what is true. Does everybody agree on what is true? Reason often leads to skepticism and more questions rather than understanding truth. A third source of truth is experience. Some measure truth by what I can seems or feels right. What we know from experience is the experience is not a good measurement for truth. Tradition, reason, and experiences fail us more often then not. What is your standard of authority? Is it reliable? Are you sure?

So where can we find truth? I believe that God authored His Word and spoke these words to called men who recorded them in what we know as the Bible. I also believe since God is perfect and holy, the Bible is infallible and authoritative [2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 18:30]. Therefore, the overall plan of salvation for sinful men that God lays out through His Word is absolutely true.

In the letter to the Romans the apostle Paul writes about the Gospel. He gives a concise and clear explanation of God’s purposes in Christ. He writes this letter to people who would consider themselves Christians, but Paul wants to make sure they really do understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” [Romans 1:16]

If Paul were alive today he would share the gospel with his mailman, garbage man, X-Box buddies, bowling league, and bullies at work or school. We know this because he was unashamed of the gospel in his time when Christians were killed for their faith. He was beaten, bullied and put into jail, but this did not stop him from sharing the gospel with the prison guards. The gospel was life to Paul.

What is the Gospel according to the Bible?

First, I am responsible to God. I am responsible to God because He is my Creator and Sustainer. Without God I would not be breathing. Since He is Creator He has say so over His creation. He did not just create you and leave you alone. He created you for fellowship with Him. You cannot have fellowship with a God who is far off playing Parcheesi in another planetary system. The God of the Bible says He is with us and He has made His presence know quite plainly.

ROMANS 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

God is visible through His creation. When I look at Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and the myriads of stars in the summer sky I am left to ponder: Could not have been created by mere chance? Could there be a greater power behind this? God says we are without excuse. It is as if He has written in the clouds, “Look around you, I am with you.” Since God is your Creator, He owns you. On that basis alone you are obligated to obey Him. Yet that is not always what happens, which brings us to the next point.

Second, I have rebelled against God. Rather than obeying our Creator and thanking Him we spit in His face and in a sense tell Him by our words and actions we do not think He is doing a good job running this world. Therefore we sin against God.

ROMANS 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Have you ever blamed you messes on someone else? That is exactly what we do to God. We say to God, “If you really loved me and if you were really good, my life would not be like this!” Thus we pretend to be God and create our own truth system that makes us feel good. When we replace God we think we are wise, but God says this is foolish. You cannot play pretend god for long because God is jealous and wants to be our King and True Vine. Those who do not praise God will be rejected from His kingdom and cut off as dead branches.

Since, God is Creator, He has the right to judge His creation [cf. Romans 2:1-5]. My sin condemns me to death and eternal separation from my God. This is bad news. Do you see how bad your sin really is? Sin is life altering. Yet in the shadow of this bad news there is breaking news that shines as a beacon of light to our rescue.

Third, I can be redeemed by the blood of God’s Son who died and resurrected for the sins of humanity. What is God’s solution to our sin problem? God took action. Since God is a good and loving Creator He made a way for His creation to be forgiven—by faith in the work of Jesus Christ.

ROMANS 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

God sends Christ to earth as visible a message: “My creation, you are not okay. You are not as good as you think you are. In fact, you are wicked. You need Me. You need My help. I have come to the rescue. Repent of your sin and follow Christ.” Now this is good news!

Fourth, I must respond to the gospel. My response is to turn from my sin and believe Christ. It’s an all-in-Jesus-is-my-King choice. There is no turning back. When we give our life over to God we are saying to God I no longer want to be enslaved to sin, but now I want to be a slave of righteousness [cf .Romans 6-8]. God draws me to the message of the gospel in His grace and I must respond in faith. Salvation is not based on how good I am, can be, or wish to be, but solely on the work of Christ. “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness [Romans 4:4-5].

You now have come face to face with the breaking news of the gospel. The gospel is indeed life-altering and earth shaking. Your response to the gospel is a matter of life and death eternally. In review the gospel is: God is a loving creator, and man has sinfully disobeyed God, therefore Jesus graciously and sacrificially died for man that they might respond to Christ’s forgiven and have a means to become right before God.

a lesson on sin from LOTR

the ring of sin

Lately, Sarah and I have been on a Lord of the Rings kick. We watched all tree DVD’s in the extended edition. We did not watch them back-to-back-to-back. That would be crazy! However, now that I think of it not a bad idea!?

Each time I watch LOTR I am convicted and think about sin. I like to watch the movie and imagine the ring being a symbol of sin. I am sure somebody has already thought of that before, written some book on it and made tons of money already on that notion. Here are just some notes on sin I noticed from LOTR’s:

Sin is a struggle to the end.

No getting around it. Sin will be a struggle until we part from this planet. The reward is in the reliance upon a God who is ready to rescue us. in Him we are dead to sin and live to Christ.

kill sinSin must be killed.

Sin is like a beast waiting and wanting to destroy all who put it on. Frodo has a mission: to destroy the ring, at all costs. On his journey he struggles with the rings powers which weaken him to breaking points. The only way to be free of the rings power is to destroy it.

faithful friendsRecruit others to kill sin with you.

It is hard enough to journey in our sin alone. We all need Sam’s to help us kill sin. I immediately think of my good friend Ben who has been a helping me slay the dragons of sin in my life. Be a part of a Fellowship [i.e. church] that encourages you to destroy sinfulness.


hide and seek

What was your favorite game as a kid? When I was a kid I really loved to play hide and seek. You remember begin a little kid and finding that secret spot where no one could find you? As an adult we get better at hiding and our secrets more difficult to be found. No one might know you have been struggling with an eating disorder because of a poor self-image, cutting to stop the other pains in your life, bathing your eyes with pornography or abusing substances to drown out the noises and pressures you feel.

Have you ever noticed how little-little kids play hide and seek? They want you to find them. In fact, when you sneak around the room saying, “Where are you?” They say, “Over here!” They do not get the fact yet that you are suppose to stay quiet and not be found. They have childlike innocence. We need to be more like those little-little kids with God. Uncovering our sin, before He covers it. Wanting to be founds and saying, “I am here!”

We see an example of this in the book of Mark [5:25-26]. Except it is not a kid, but an older woman. Can you picture the scene? There is a loud noise from the crowd. Everybody wants to talk, touch and tweet with Jesus. In the midst of the crowd Jesus has an interesting encounter with a woman hiding in the crowd who desired to change.

This woman had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. Women, think of it as a 12 year straight period. In the Jewish culture she would be considered unclean. Therefore, she would have been rejected religiously, socially and more. Maybe you can relate to this woman. I know I have at times. You feel like you are hemorrhaging with sinful habits, bad decisions, secret junk and no one can help. You are just a face in the crowd.

What can we do when we are in a situation like that? We can learn a lot from the example of the woman in this text:

1. Quit Trying to Change on Your Own [5:27-28]. This woman came to the ropes end. She is rejected, spent and tried it all, and failed. We often make attempts to make drastic changes in our lives only to fall flat on our face. Discouragement creeps in and we no longer make any attempts to change.

There are numerous ways people try to change their secret sin struggles: money, self-help, work, medicate, recruit others to sympathize with you or ignore it all together. None of these permanently deal with the problem, rather they just deal with the symptoms, not the problem, bring others into sin with you, and create bigger and harder issues to deal with later. Without realizing it you have become a puppet and these so called easy fixes are like the puppeteer controlling your life. The truth is: if you do not kill the sin, sin will kill you.

This woman had no promise that Jesus would heal. Maybe He would reject too. Many think that God cannot change them. So they keep themselves covered by concealing their sins. We are professional concealers. Think of all the household items you own that conceal [ie. White Out, table cloth, make-up, bandaid, etc.]. Are you a professional concealer?  Don’t conceal, deal with sin by allowing God to heal it.

2. Fight through the Crowd to Find Christ [5:29-32]. The woman is desperate to change. She fights through the crowd. She swims against the current of those who reject her. Decisions of faith are often a fight. Faith goes against the norm. Faith is often the opposite message you hear from friends, culture or school. I remember when put my faith in Christ it was an all-in-and-no-looking-back leap.

It is not that Jesus didn’t know who touch Him; rather he wanted to recognize the woman. Sometimes we think that if we uncover our sin to God that He will humiliate us, when He really wants to honor us in front of the crowd.

3. Confess your Sin and Be Free [5:33-34]. Pride is what usually prevents us from falling before the feet of Jesus. Humble yourself and uncover your sin and let Christ free you from the guilt and shame of secret sin. Face your fear by falling at the feet of the one who wants to heal you permanently.

Quit playing your childish games and be like the little-little kid that wants to be found, “I am here!”

Hide no more in your sin. Seek the protection of your God. “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:7-8

change that covers it all

crazy costumes for kiddos

Halloween. Tis the season for costumes. Sometimes it is fun to change into a costume to represent or pretend to be something that you are not. We cover up who we really are to be something we are not. Do you remember some of your favorite costume as a kid?

Everyone has something they want to change. Some want to change their appearance, others, situation in their life, and others bad habits. When it comes down to it changing is difficult. Change might excite you or scare you to death.

Since this week is the holiday to horrify, I have something shocking to tell you: YOU CANNOT CHANGE!! Think about it. It is true. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you cannot change. Alone. As hard as you try you cannot change on your own. It takes supernatural help to make lasting and permanent change. It takes the hand of God.

God is a God of change. Though interesting enough the Bible says, “I do not change.” [Mal.3:6] How is this possible? How can God be a God of change if He does not change Himself? God is the only One who can help us change things in our lives. When we open the lids of our souls and allow Him in He will change us from the inside out. Sure I can change things in my life, but only God can bring about lasting and permanent change. Without Christ and His salvation we are just trying, trekking and tweaking superficial change. What we need is supernatural change. Only Christ can give us the capacity to change. He changes us by gives us the power and desire to change.

You see we are masters at keeping areas of our lives covered and unchanged. Like the vendors in big cities who sell Foakleys, Fo-purses, Fo-jewery, and Fo-movies, we can become Fo-Christians who model Christ-likeness on the outside, but on the inside we are dirty rotten sinners. We have all lived lives like that before. We show one thing, but reality we are another. Yet we cannot cover up for long.

What we cover, God uncovers.

You might have heard it said that “Sooner or later your sins will find you out.” [Num.32:23] Like a celebrity tabloid your dirt will be revealed. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sin does not prosper…” Nothing good comes from covering up our sin. If we try to cover it up we will never discover the life God wants us to live.

When we cover ourselves in sin, we cover ourselves in darkness [1 Jn.1:5-10]. We cannot walk in the light. We stumble and fall over our sin. It is time to step in the light. What we cover, God uncovers. But that is the first half of the verse. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t leave us hanging there? Proverbs 28:13 goes on to say, “…but whoever confesses and renounces [sins] finds mercy” That is good news.

What we uncover, God covers.

The word “confess” means, to agree with God about your condition. It is saying, “I see that I am a sinner.” It is telling the truth to God. God is not surprise, “You did what!?” Of course God already knows that you are a sinner, but He enjoys it when His children admit it.

It does not stop at confession. We must “renounce” our sin. In other words we are to leave it behind, turn from it, walk the other way, chose the Light, repent. This is the moment God does His supernatural changing work inside of you. When we uncover our junk the blood of Jesus covers our sin [1 John 1:8-10]. He covers us with His mercy and forgiveness.

Are you inconsistent with church or personal Bible study because you are afraid of changing in Christ? Do you hang around sinful sympathizers to cover up your sin and keep your junk and funk from God? The key to change is: uncovering your sin and allowing God to cover it in His mercy. Confess and renounce your sin today.

Note: this message is adapted from ineed2change.com

pride: a beast in hiding


Pride. It is a real beast that hides in the darkness of our mind waiting to devour us from within. Many do not know the telltale signs they are suffering from the sly and stealthy beast of pride. Consider the following list of hidden forms of pride:

1. Insecurity. Insecurity is the root of many unhealthy and ungodly behaviors. It provokes us to want the lavish praise and attention of others. Pride is often motivated by one’s unmet need for self-worth. Focusing on the worth of Christ and security in Christ is a must to avoid pride.

2. Got to play the trump card. Do you know someone who has a hard time being wrong? This is a symptom of pride (Galatians 6:3). A person who needs to be right has an exalted view in themselves and think they are too-sexy-for-their-shirt. In religious circles, the need to be right is frequently said through statements like ‘God told me’ or ‘God showed me’, which are simply prideful trump cards.

3. In a state of arguing. Those who argue their point of view, especially to those in authority over them, are allowing pride to be their pet beast. At the root of their argument is a belief that they are right and the other is wrong, period, argument done [like a turkey at Thanksgiving]. It is sometimes appropriate to advocate for a point of view or position, but there is a thing called tact.

4. More invested in being heard than in hearing. When one develops a pattern of needing others to listen to them rather than first hearing others, pride is a motivating factor. I’m going to bust out in one of my most favorite raps, “Alright, stop, calibrate and listen… ” [Vanilla Ice] Listen, hear, it is not a brand new invention, rather a humble way to communicate with other human beings.

5. Blowing up and clamming up. Ungodly anger is pride. In anger that blows or clams one will often justify their position and blame another for the wrongdoing. Justification of self leads to denial of our own complicity or wrongdoing. Deal with your anger and quit blaming others for it.

6. Irritability and impatience. The root of impatience in my life is pride. When we are unable to be patient with another and are irritated, it demonstrates a haughty view of self. “My time and talents are not worth your investment.” We feel that our views, time or needs are more important than the other persons.

7. Lack of submissive attitude. Submission is the voluntary placement of oneself under the influence, control or authority of another. Pride says, “I can do it better than they can. If I were in charge things would be different.” Maybe so. Yet when one pledges their submission to you or another, yet is critical or bucking that authority, then pride is in coming out of hiding [like words about our President].

8. Who do you think you are–attitude. Have you ever worked or lived with someone who won’t receive any negative or corrective feedback? This is pride. Were Adam and Eve were confronted by God in the garden they passed the blame-buck. Own up to confrontation and learn from it.

9. Receiving correction but do not changing. Some receive correction and say thank you for the feedback, but never change. This too is pride. The individual is placating and people-pleasing, nodding their head and telling you what you wanted to hear but not really taking the feedback to heart. Ones ride with prevent them from truly changing.

10. Boast about your badges. A good friend of mine requires everyone to call him ‘Mr.’, saying that he has deservedly earned the title. Demanding that others call you ‘doctor’ or ‘pastor’ or ‘sir’ is usually a way of making you ‘one up’ and them ‘one down’. This shade of pride hungers for approval and starves for recognition, “Hey, look at me dad? Look at me son? Look at my long list of credentials, crowns, coronations…” Pride fuels the requirement to respect the badge.

11. Stubbornness. Pride exerts one’s own will and is not easily persuaded, difficult to handle or resistant. The root issue of stubbornness is willfulness, which is ‘I want what I want when I want it’. You think you have rights, well are you willing to give up your rights for another?

12. Comparisons and competition. 2 Corinthians 10:12 makes it clear that comparing oneself with others is foolish. “I wish is was more like…I wish you were more like…” How about, “I wish I/you were more like Christ!” Comparison is a form of competition. The motive of a comparing heart is pride.

Pride is a powerful beast that wants to control you. Be careful to let him in your cave. Once he is in he will be at home to stay, and it is difficult to sweep him away.

two wolves

fight of the wolves

In the Memory of Dale F. Rothe (A Cherokee Parable): Happy Birthday Gramps

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a spiritual battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between ‘two wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, guilt, greed, arrogance, self-pity, lies, pride, selfishness…The other is Good. It is joy, peace, patience, love, hope, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’

– Author Unknown

have you ever dropped the ball?

big-red-ballSometimes it really hurts to drop the ball, especially when you have been holding on it so well for so long.

Dropping the ball can be devastating and even handicapping to one’s life. Some never recover from dropping the ball. Some drop the ball so much that they just make a habit out of ball dropping. Others may think that they are superior to dropping a single ball. Whatever the case we drop balls. All that matters is how we respond after it has been dropped.

As you have probably noticed this is a parable. The ball can represent anything: a career, a relationship, a goal, or a sinful decision in your walk with God. Dropping the ball mean you have failed to live up to certain expectations that are associated with that ball.

There are many responses to dropping the ball. Some of the most common responses are:

The Blame Game Response. This person responds by saying, “Dumb ball! Who made this cheap ball? It’s too slippery!” It is the ball’s fault. It is always somebody or something that made them drop the ball. The devil gets an awful lot of blame. It seems like nobody is ever at fault for his or her own actions.

The Lone Ranger Response. This person will commonly respond, “Where were they? I cannot believe they were not here when I drop the ball! What kind of person are they? If they really loved me…” This person feels as if no one cares and they are left alone when there is no immediate comfort for their actions. I like to call this the Eeyore Response. Remember the donkey from Winnie the Pooh who is dismally gloomy for almost eternity and expects little from his friends.

The Analytical Response. This person seeks to logically understand why they dropped the ball. There might be many reasons for dropping the ball psychologically, physiologically, socially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, hypothetically and so on. All the while they are bypassing the point of why they dropped the ball.

The Genetic Response. This person will say, “I drop the ball because my dad dropped the ball. All I know is what I was taught. I cannot help it, It is just the way I am. I drop balls, it is in my genes.” Since, there is a pattern of ball dropping in a family or down through history it is assumed that it is in our genetic make up.

The Cop-Out Response (or the Woe-is-Me Response). This person will label himself or herself by saying, “I am such a loser! I always drop the ball. Other people don’t drop the ball like I do. What’s wrong with me?” This person might realize that dropping the ball is their fault, but they don’t do anything about it.

The Fatalistic Response. This person pessimistically says, “Who Cares. I dropped the ball. So what? I will drop it again. I am only human” This person believes they are never going to carry the ball so they give up trying.

The Right Response. “It’s my fault. I dropped the ball. I’m going to pick it up and keep going.” Take ownership of your dropped balls. Pick it up and hold it tight. Share the load with others if you are in a relationship of dropped balls. Don’t look like the weenie kid on the play ground who cries to mommy because they dropped their ball and are too lazy or stubborn to get it back themselves.

God says in His Word that we must turn from your sins and embrace Christ. Acts 3:19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,” And then in Acts 5:29, Peter and the other apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging Him on a tree. 31 God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins.” There are great promises of restoration and forgiveness to those pick up their dropped balls.

stop it

I remember sitting in my Grandma’s wood-paneled living room as a youngster watching the Bob Newhart Show. She use to laugh so hard that it would make her cry. Every now and then I will watch Newhart reruns on TV. It brings back fond memories of those evenings with grandma and a bowl of popcorn.

Now grandma was a tough woman and would not let me get away with my little idiotic kid-spells. She would say in her tactful tone, “stop it!” Good times! Good times.

I often feel the same way when counseling people for change. I suppose it is those Joan Rothe genes in me mixed with a biblcial perspective on life. Simple lesson: we must see sin the same way God sees it and STOP IT!

Thanks to the seminary guys I see each week I found this funny clip…