Tag Archives: sin

Sin and the Blood of Jesus

Jesus blood.jpgIf we walk in the light in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  1 John 1:7,9; 2:1-2

If you asked 100 people what they think our biggest problem is, you might get quite a broad range of answers.  Some might say something about politics, others about countries who want to attack, others may talk about the environment.  God tells us in the Bible that our biggest problem is sin.  When Adam fell in the Garden of Eden, we fell, separating us from God and alienating us from Him, ourselves, others and nature.

God sent Jesus as a perfect sin offering to save us from the His wrath and the penalty of sin.  This is the heart of the Gospel, the good news of salvation because of Jesus.  When we repent of our sins, asking God to forgive us and to give us a new heart, we receive the righteousness of Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees Jesus.

But after this glorious transformation, we still sin.  We still need the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of the guilty stain that sin leaves so that we can stand clean before God.  The good news of our verses for today is that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness–if we confess our sins.  It doesn’t just happen automatically.  We can’t just do things that are offensive to God and everything to be okay because “it’s all under the blood.”  It is all under Jesus’ blood once you confess that sin and turn from it.

The other error that we might be prone to is to fall apart because of our sin.  It’s like falling down and not getting up again.  The good news is that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us,” as Psalm 103:12 declares.  He wants us to come and repair our broken relationship with Him, the sooner the better.  There is no sin too dark or too big that God can’t or won’t forgive.

When we sin, we have a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one.  Picture a courtroom scene.  When the judge asks “How do you plead?”  We say, “Guilty.”  The Judge delivers his sentence and then offers for his Son to pay it for us.  Though that would be preposterous in real life, that is exactly what happens when we confess our sin.  Jesus, our advocate, stands in our place.

This is made possible by the blood of Jesus.  Throughout the Bible, from the very beginning, blood had to be shed.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig  leaves after they sinned.  God stepped in and covered them with animal skins.  In doing so, blood had to be shed.  All of the way through the Old Testament, the people brought animal sacrifices and their blood spilled out on the altar to show that their sin was covered by blood.  It was a down payment until Jesus came and shed His blood once and for all on the cross.  

There is power in the blood of Jesus.  In Revelation 12:10-11 it says that the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…  Satan accuses us day and night, trying to get us to wallow in guilt and shame.   But if we stand in the blood of the Lamb, bringing those sins that Satan is accusing us of to God and confessing them, then Satan has no dirt to dig up on us.

If Satan is badgering you about certain events and sins of the past, confess them to God out loud, announcing to yourself, to God and to Satan that the debt is paid.  If there is something you need to do to make something right, do it.  Then you can stand free before God and before everyone else.  

Finally, Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He will use any open door to torment and to taunt us.  If you have been abused or wounded in spirit, that puts a hole in your heart that Satan can use to mess with you.  Perhaps you have held bitterness against the offender, against yourself or against God.  Bring that incident, or string of incidents, to God in prayer, asking Him to cover those holes by the blood of Jesus.  He will set you free from that bondage and from the torments of Satan.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our tresspasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.  Ephesians 1:7-8

*Image from speakthewordonly63.wordpress.com


Rescued from Hopelessness

 

abundant life.jpgKnowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways (the empty way of life)  inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  1 Peter 1:18-19

In 1978 Kansas released the song “Dust in the Wind.”  It’s kind of a fun sing along song, but yet it reflects the emptiness of life, “Just a drop of water in an endless sea…”  King Solomon kind of said the same thing in the book of Ecclesiastes.  He was the wisest man, had tons of money and wives and stuff, but yet he concluded it was all “a chasing after the wind,” in Ecc. 2:17.  

I was struck by this futility when hearing of an old friend who would go to her dad’s grave every year to pour a can a beer on his grave in remembrance of him.  On her way out from the cemetery, she got into a serious car accident.  It made me think of the futile and empty ways of trying to make life have meaning.   

But with Jesus, life takes on a new meaning, or He gives meaning and value for the first time.  Things go from black and white to color.  In John 10:10 Jesus declared, “I have come that you might have life, life to the full.”  And in John 14:6 He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Jesus came to give us life, meaning to life, abundant life, and a value of life that we can’t know apart from Him.  

Everyone tries to figure out life’s meaning and value, with the questions of ‘where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going?’  When you begin to embrace the Bible and its world view, you can see that you have been created by God, the events of your life have meaning and value, and coming into a relationship with Jesus gives you eternal life.  

This was made possible by the precious blood of Christ.  Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that we could be redeemed, or ransomed from the futile ways of life that we inherited.  To be ransomed is to have a price paid to get you back from a kidnapper.  Our soul napper is Satan, who took us captive in our sin to do his bidding.  Jesus paid the bounty with His blood to buy us back from Satan and to set us free to enjoy this life that is abundant and joy filled.  Jesus rose again to demonstrate that He is the Son of God,  with power to conquer sin and death.  We must claim this personally, asking God to forgive our sin, crying out in belief that Jesus came from God, died for us and rose again and living a life given over to Him.

Last night I was reminded of the truths of 1 Peter 1:18-19 as I sat with women from our County jail in a Bible study.  Two women cried in despair as they described the troubles of their lives, of the struggles of addiction and of how they didn’t think that life has any purpose to it.  They listened as we talked about the hope that God proclaims that comes from finding life in Him.  

Oh God, may they find their hope in You, and may they be rescued from their empty way of life that has brought such pain.  Thank you that you have saved me from a hopeless life and that You have given me meaning to life, with the glorious hope of eternity with You.  Thank you Jesus, for redeeming me with Your precious blood.

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14


Don’t Miss Grace

grab grace.jpg

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.  Hebrews 12:15

Hebrews 12 begins by talking about setting aside sin and fixing our eyes on Jesus.  In 12:4 it says, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  It continues by explaining that if we are disciplined by the Lord, it means we are His children.  Verse 11 declares that if we submit to God’s discipline we will “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness, for those who have been trained by it.”

If we don’t  set aside our sins and weights, resisting to the point of great pain, and if we don’t submit to God’s warning lights, a few things could result.  One is that we continue to run, but we are so weighed down that the Christian life is a burden and a chore.  Another is that we experience God’s spankings over and over until we learn our lesson.  God will discipline His children until they are trained by it.  A third option is that we fail to obtain the grace of God, which sounds awful.

“Failing to obtain the grace of God” could mean that those who never submit to the commands and path to holiness that God gives us really are not believers.  They could be called “professing Christians,” who think they are secure because they go to church or because of some past spiritual experience or good work.  Hebrews is written to those people, urging them to not be presumptuous about their standing with God.

“The root of bitterness” really isn’t about not taking care of resentment and festering bitterness in your heart, though that’s a good thing to do.  It is a reference to Deuteronomy 29:18 that states: “Beware lest there be among you a man…whose heart turns away from this day from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.”

How can this root of bitterness and unbelief spring up in a body of believers and defile many?  Deut. 29:10 answers this by describing “one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’”

You could be pressing into God, yearning to be set free from the ugly consequences of sin that has wreaked havoc in your life, coming to church with an attitude of worship and desperacy.  And then you sit by a person who is rarely moved to sing or worship, that never really has read the Bible, doesn’t bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and who kind of communicates to you to ‘knock it off.’

Don’t let their stubborn and unbelieving heart deter or defile you.  Grab a hold of the grace of God by setting aside your sins and weights, resisting sin to the point of great personal pain and loss, and submitting to God’s hand of discipline.  Pursue holiness so that you may enjoy God’s grace, yielding a peaceful fruit of righteousness.

*Image from Mick Holt


Losing spiritual weight

freedom

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

Years ago I was an adult leader at a youth rally.  The speaker sent teens and adults off for a half an hour, arming us with a spiritual inventory to take.  It was like a checklist of questions related to obtaining a clean heart.  It was a chance to see if we were carrying around sins and weights that were bogging us down, and then getting them right before God.

What happened next was awesome.  We regrouped and teenagers began to get up, confessing their sins that they knew God was speaking to them about leaving behind.  Kid after kid got up in tears, voluntarily and  moved by the Spirit, and renounced things.  I’ve not been in such a revival like setting before or after, where people were so visibly moved to be free.  Psalm 66:18-19 is sobering: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.”

There is freedom in finding a clean heart, but it is not easy.  The reason it’s not easy is that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our own pride, unforgiveness, and stubborn sin habits.  A couple of years ago I lost over forty pounds.  What freedom to get rid of that weight!  Involved in that process was totally changing my eating habits and sticking to consistent exercise.

To put Hebrews 12:1 into practice may mean a radical change in spiritual and emotional habits.  Sometimes the things that weigh us down aren’t sins, they are just unhealthy spiritual and physical habits or things that zap our love for God and our devotion to Him.  It is like what Luke 8:14 describes from the parable of the sower: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares (of this world) and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”  Life’s worries, the deceitfulness or seductiveness of riches, and the pursuit of fun are weights that certainly can get in the way of running after Jesus.

Some checklist questions could include:

  • Are there any cares of life that rob your peace and joy?
  • Is your joy found in things other than Jesus and His Word?
  • What would you have a hard time fasting from or giving up for the sake of having a closer walk with Jesus?
  • Is there anything that occupies more of your free time and money than it should?
  • Do you listen to any music, watch any TV shows/movies, or read any books that you seek satisfaction from that either might be ungodly, or competes with your finding satisfaction from God?
  • Are there any unconfessed sins that you secretly harbor?
  • Are there any unresolved conflicts or relationships where you have wronged someone, and it needs to be made right?
  • Are there resentments against certain people or situations that have led to bitterness, rage and malice?  (Malice is the intention or desire to hurt someone else; ill will.)
  • Are you overly concerned about yourself, having most of your conversations and thoughts centering around “I”?  Or are your feelings easily hurt?
  • Do you gossip or talk unkindly about others?
  • Do you cheat, steal, cut corners, exaggerate, or stretch the truth as a habit?
  • Are you undisciplined, lazy, or neglectful of family duties or spiritual habits?
  • Do you have a stubborn heart, or an unteachable attitude?

Clear out some time alone with God and pray the prayer of Psalm 139: 23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”


Overwhelming with the opposite good

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

Changing your mind from a dwelling place for any fleshly, negative and sinful  thought to an honorable one is a mind game.  Cognitive behavioral therapy centers on changing the way you think to change your actions.  The Bible certainly  advocates this, like Philippians 4:8 and others like Romans 8:5-6, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

I read this classic sermon given by Scottish preacher Thomas Chalmers, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” (GLS Publishing)  His point is basically this: The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil.   Chalmers continues, “ A new affection is more successful in replacing an old affection than simply trying to end it without supplanting it with something better.”  In other words, if you want to break a bad habit, find a good habit to replace it with, don’t just quit the bad habit.  

 

chalmers quoteThe phrase that sticks in my mind about getting away from  a bad habit or thought pattern is to overwhelm it with the opposite good.  So, if you want to think of things that are true, honorable, just, pure, etc. then immerse yourself in worship songs.  Or better yet, memorize Scripture.  Be radical about it.  One more quote from Chalmers: “What can not be thus destroyed, may be dispossessed–and one taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection of the mind.”  Expel the old love of your life that is fleshly and not pleasing to God with a new affection that is pleasing to God.   Overwhelm your mind with the new good thing that is set on the things of the Spirit.

A dear friend that was absorbed in many addictions became a Christian and joined a church that is radical about serving Jesus.  She expelled the old love of alcohol, some drugs,  and carousing by overwhelming her affections with a new love of fellowship with believers, studying the Bible and helping others.  This takes planning and perseverance, along with discipline and desperacy.

What negative thought or habit pattern do you need to overwhelm with the positive good today?


Things are Different Now

things are different nowNow this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  Ephesians 4:17

You can replace the word “Gentile” with non Christian.  In other words, once we become Christians we are commanded not to live like we used to.  We are also commanded not to live like the non Christians around us.  It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command.  There is an old Gospel song, called “Things are different now,” by Stanton Gavit, that goes like this:

Things are different now, something happened to me. Since I gave my heart to Jesus Things are different now, I was changed it must be, when I gave my heart to Him…

Paul describes what the mindset of someone who doesn’t know who Jesus is: darkened in their understanding, separated from God, hard hearted, calloused, given over to sensuality, and greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  Non Christians do the things they do because they don’t know Jesus.

But we have been changed by the Spirit and taught to live differently.  If you haven’t been taught before, you are being taught now.  Your life must change.  You can’t keep cheating, lying, sleeping with someone you are not married to, being selfish and treating others badly.  That’s not who we are.  Those are choices you need to make.  You need to be renewed in the spirit of your mind to live out that new life.  The Holy Spirit renews us as we call on Him, plus as we spend time in the Bible our minds are changed from thinking like a non Christian to thinking like a Jesus follower.

Part of the reason Christians don’t act any differently than those who don’t know Jesus is simply because they aren’t spending disciplined time each day in the Bible.  Plus, they may not have surrendered to the right that God has to interfere with your life.  If you call Jesus ‘Lord,’ then that means you are giving Him the license to mess with all of your values and priorities.  He will rearrange them, but only with your permission.

As Ephesians 4 continues, Paul tells what a new life looks like–don’t lie, but speak truth; be angry, but don’t sin; don’t steal, but work; don’t say worthless things, but build others up; don’t grieve the Holy Spirit; finally, don’t be filled with bitterness, but be tenderhearted and forgiving.

Are things different now that you know Jesus?  Are you being renewed in the spirit of your mind because you have given God the right to be your interior redecorator?  Are you spending quality time with Him in the Bible?  If not, what needs to change today?

Even as someone who has been a Christian for a long time, I still need the renewing work of the Holy Spirit and the Bible in my life.  Left to myself I am snarky, selfish and prone to take short cuts.  I know when I have gotten away from the God I love and need to get back to His feet.  Others can probably see it quicker than I can.  Don’t leave home without Him!

*Photo from “The Loyalist Advantage”


Orange is the New Black

That’s the name of a Netflix drama series about two women in prison, based on a book by Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.  After my own 14 years of leading women’s Bible studies at the local orange jumpsuitjail, I guess I could write something like “We all wear orange–some wear it on the outside, some on the inside.”  Not as catchy though…

While reading through the book of Luke this morning, I was caught by the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus.  So I landed on it for awhile.  I realized that only the Gospel of John records Peter’s restoration.  They say Mark got his info from Peter, so why didn’t he tell the rest of the story?  It was a private act, so maybe Peter just wanted to forget about it and move on.

A lady at jail was telling that she was in for a few months.  Another inmate at the Bible study asked what she did and the first responded, “I’m not proud of what I did and I’m ashamed to  talk about it.”  Doesn’t that describe all of us?

Maybe that’s why we don’t talk much about sin.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid.  That’s what we do.  Or we redefine sin or play the victim card or just try to pretend it didn’t happen or wasn’t a big deal.  You’d think we’d talk more about sin at church though.  It’s kind of a big deal.  We all wear orange and it silently eats us up, unless we run to Jesus.

So, looking at Luke 22, I’m going to mention a few things about sin to chew on:

  1. Satan wants us to mess up.  “Simon, Simon Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.”  Luke 22:31  Satan hates us and is out to destroy us.  Don’t underestimate him or take his schemes lightly.  He is a roaring lion and wants to eat us for lunch.
  2. But Jesus prays for us that our faith may not fail, according to Luke 22:32.  That’s the good news.  Jude 24 declares “Onto Him who is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless.”  Whew.  Jesus intercedes for us and uphold us with His mighty hand.  He guards us and sticks up for us against the bully Satan.
  3. We all sin and fall short.  1 Corinthians 10:12 reminds us, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”  I’m not any better than the women in orange.  So I can’t point fingers, be smug, and say “I would never do that.”  I could.  Maybe that’s why God didn’t leave out the flaws of the people in the Bible stories.  He told us that Abraham lied (twice) about Sarah being his wife, or that Noah got drunk and sat in his tent naked, or Samson spilled the secret of his strength and went south fast, or David looked at Bathsheba and got really tangled up with sin.  Maybe it’s not about whether or not we sin, it’s about how we deal with it.  Plus, it’s what makes grace so amazing.  If we never really messed up that bad, the song would be “mediocre grace, how okay the sound, that saved an average person like me.”
  4. On my own, I am capable of great sin.  That’s maybe part of 3.  In 2 Chronicles 32:31 we find a story about a king Hezekiah.  He did a lot of good things, but at the end of his life he was proud.  So God lifted His hand from Hezekiah for a short while to show Hez what was really in his heart.  Pride.  He showed the envoy from Babylon the Temple treasures, only to have them return and take the treasures not much later.  So when Jesus told the disciples in Luke 22:40 to “pray that you may not enter into temptation” and then again in vs. 46 after they fell asleep to “wake up and pray,” He meant it.  Be alert, wake up and pray.
  5. Our sins, failures and restorations are a part of our grace story.  It’s God’s grace story.  When we are actually honest and vulnerable and tell what we’re ashamed of, we find freedom and so do others.  Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:32 “when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  When we tell of God’s great grace at work in our lives not leaving out our flaws, others are strengthened.

Perhaps our gatherings would be more real, honest and authentic if we talked more about sin and our restorations.  We all wear orange.