Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

The Awesome, Awful Truth

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  ~~  John 8:32  (KJV)

Freedom and truth are highly prized in this day – freedom more than truth, I fear.

But without truth, there is no freedom.

So how do we know the truth? There are some clues.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  ~~  John 14:6 (KJV)

Jesus came as savior and redeemer to give us direct access to a Holy God Who will not look upon sin without righteous anger.

I don’t know about you, but the righteous anger of God scares the pudding out of me.

Yes, God is a God of love. Yes, He loves all His creation. We have ample evidence of that.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  ~~  John 3:16-17  (KJV)

Jesus, Himself, is the evidence of God’s love.  Look at these verses carefully. When it says the world, it means every single person in the world, no exceptions.

The daughter who takes care of frailing parents; the man who lives around the street corner under a bridge; the members of the family in the big house on the hill; the loudmouthed gossip at the coffee shop;  all of them. Each and every one of them. And not just them.

He loves the victims of crime AND the perpetrators of those crimes. The saving grace of Jesus, our Redeemer, is open to them all.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Romans 3:20-26  (KJV)

In the eyes of God, the person who steals a pen from a desk is just as guilty as the one who kills people at random. There is no  degree of sin. Sin is sin, period.

We are not ever going to be “good enough” for God. There is no way for us to earn His favor. Only Jesus Christ can redeem us for eternity with Him.

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.   ~~   Luke 13:3  (KJV

So what does it mean to repent?  Is it just being sorry we got caught in something shady? Is it just feeling bad about something we said or did?  Well, not really.  According to Merriam Webster:

Repent means — to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.

This requires a 180 degree change in thinking and behavior.

The other part is believing, believing that Jesus is Who He says He Is; believing that He is the means of our salvation; believing that obedience to His will is paramount in our lives.

Believing that He came for love of us. He loves us – each and every one of us – as if we were His only child.

The awful and awesome truth is that we make the choice. We determine our own eternity. We choose to believe – or we choose to not believe.

Please choose now. Time is running out.

Father, God,

Help us to see ourselves truthfully. Give us the wisdom to acknowledge our sins and the grace to repent of them. Fill us with a hunger to know You and let us empty ourselves of self so that Your Holy Spirit can take full possession.

In Jesus’ most precious name,

Amen.

 

Tell Me Again When This Was Written

For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?  ~~  Malachi 2:16-17   (KJV)

The second chapter of the book of Malachi is a snapshot of our world today. It talks about three important things: the teaching of the priests, the sanctity of marriage, and fidelity to God’s standards.

Let us start with the priests – or the religious teachers. In Malachi’s prophecy, God chastises them for profaning the altar, from turning from God’s teachings, and causing many to stumble. Unfortunately, we have many religious leaders who do the same today. We have the hate mongers practicing their own brand of hate-filled religion in the name of the Lord. We have teachers who teach God’s love – but not His righteousness, power, or judgment. We have others who use the Lord’s house and attendance there to further their political or business ambitions.

We are profaning the altar of the Lord and leading others astray.

Then there is the state of marriage and the family.

Sometimes tragic situations come from marriages when the two parties do not worship the same God. God is not Allah, nor Buddah, nor any of the other names people give their deities. Intermarriage in this passage is talking about marriage between two people who believe in different gods. And it talks about breaking faith with the wife of your youth. You see, God instituted marriage. When a person breaks faith with the marriage, he is also breaking faith with God.

I think, however, that this last verse in the chapter may be the most pertinent. We weary the Lord when we call evil good, and good evil. But we have done just that. Beginning with the Humanist Manifesto, we have tried to displace God in our world and our lives. Our some of our educators are trained with those values, and many of our schoolrooms are filled with those ideas. We have tried to make man the measure of all things. It is false and wrong. And just like the original sin in the Garden of Eden, it springs from an arrogance of the intellect.

Lord, deliver us from such arrogance!

Father, God,

You chastise us with these words. Help us to look carefully at our lives and motives and judge them by these standards. Give us the wisdom and grace to correct our failings insofar as is within our capabilities, and to rely upon You to make up for our shortcomings.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Committed Prayer

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  ~~ 1 Timothy 2:1-2   (KJV)

Our nation, as a whole, has strayed far from its origins. The first official meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia was opened with the reading of Psalm 35 and a moving prayer by the rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia.  The disagreements that arose about opening with prayer were not about whether to open with prayer, but which clergyman should be prevailed upon to pray.

After a hotly contested, noisy, and vitriolic campaign, we have just elected a man to be our new president come January. The popular vote was virtually evenly divided; the electoral college made the difference.

After all the wrangling and accusations and name-calling, I had hoped that the results would quiet the noise. Instead the din has proceeded unabated, and with little improvement in tenor.

It is no secret that our country has strayed widely from the intent of the founding fathers, that our society is in turmoil, that we have enemies within and without.

This is not a new thing. God has dealt with His errant children in the past and will continue to do so in the future, however long or short that may be.

Perhaps we need to read Daniel 9 and emulate Daniel in praying for our country.

And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;

5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.

8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.

9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;

10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

12 And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.

13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

14 Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.

15 And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

17 Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.

18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.

19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.  ~~ Daniel 9:4-19

To which I can only add:

In the most precious name of Jesus.

Amen.

New Beginnings

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

Genesis 8:21-9:7 ~~ King James Version (KJV)

When we are reading the Bible chronologically, we come to the story of Noah and the flood early in the year. If you were raised in church, you’ve known about Noah since the kindergarten teacher put yellow giraffes on a blue flannel-board.

But if we look closer, we see that the flood was God’s decision in response to man’s vile wickedness. Let’s face it. The natural tendency of mankind is to get worse and worse — not better and better. Left to our own devices, we drift further and further from God’s plans for us.

But God started over. He found a pure remnant, Noah and his sons. He protected them from the cataclysmic flood. And then He commissioned mankind again. He wiped the slate clean and let us start over as in the beginning.

Look at the similarities.

God tells Noah and his sons to be fruitful and fill the earth.

And He reiterates man’s authority upon the earth.

Then he make man an omnivore by giving man everything that lives and moves as food, just as He gave man the green plants earlier.

Our problems begin when we get so puffed up with our rights and what is our due that we forget that all – ALL – we have is a gift from God.

Father, God,

Keep us ever mindful that all we have is a result of Your love for us, not our own efforts or entitlements.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You Yourself know.

I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth
From the great assembly.

Psalm 40:9-10  ~~  (NKJV)

These are David’s words. But can we also claim them?

Our culture is not really very sympathetic with the Christian world view these days. Many Christians are nominal Christians. Oh, we go to church on Sunday and can talk the lingo in private groups. But do we hesitate to speak of our God in public where we are not sure how our testimony will be received?

Can we say we have proclaimed the good news in the public square? Do we tell of the good things God has done in us and for us?

Do we speak His words and His heart – even when public opinion goes a different direction?

I’ve been guilty of remaining silent in order not to provoke an argument or debate.

I love people who are living a lifestyle that God condemns, but I do not challenge them on it. I pray that the Holy Spirit would touch them, convict them, redeem them.

But I don’t lecture them about their sin.  I have too many of my own to answer for.

What I can do is to brag on God and what He has done for me and within my own heart.

Father, God,

Open my heart and my mouth to brag of Your love, Your generosity, Your redemption of my sinful self. Strengthen my resolve to speak of You openly, unashamedly in the public square. Give me the words to help woo others to Your love.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

The Fool

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.

Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread: they have not called upon God.

There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them.

Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. ~~  Psalm 53 (KJV)

“There is no God.” These are the words of the fool.

But we seem to have a whole society of fools. People run after wealth and possessions and power. We live as if God did not exist. We flout His laws and do abominable things.

When the consequences of our sins are upon us, we whine “why me?” We never stop to think that every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment.

Because God is a faithful parent, He never stands between a child and the consequences of his own actions. Children learn safe paths and acceptable behavior by the natural process of actions and consequences.

Of course, if we see a child on the highway in the middle of traffic, we pull him out. But we also admonish him about the dangers of playing in traffic. And he may lose a privilege as a consequence of his disobedience.

God has warned us about the consequences of actions. He has given us specific directions about what is and is not acceptable in His sight. We cannot sow the wind and not reap the whirlwind.

Just like any faithful parent, God grieves over those who go astray. Let us resolve never to grieve God.

Father, God,

You have given us an illuminated path to follow. Keep us faithful to your laws and let us not stray from the path you have given us. Help us not to grieve You.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

First published on Garment of Praise on May 7, 2009.

Housekeeping

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.

Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. ~~  I John 1:8-2:11 (KJV)

News flash!! We are not perfect and sinless. Even those who walk very closely with God still sin. The only perfect person who ever walked the earth was Jesus. The rest of us are poor followers of His example.

But God has fixed that. He has given us a way to take care of sin. If we confess it, He forgives it.

John juxtaposes darkness and light with sin and forgiveness. This is not accidental. We see our sins only in the light of His perfection. We recognize our sin when we see it as disobedience to His will. We repent of our sin when we agree with God that it is wrong.

My house was built in 1911, more than a hundred years ago. It has twelve rooms on two floors and a full basement. When I think about cleaning the whole house, I cringe. It would take a crew of ten working a month or more to get it all done at once. But if I look at one room at a time, it is a different matter. One room is not overwhelming. The whole house is.

God is gracious with us about cleaning up our lives. He doesn’t floodlight all our faults and sins at once. He takes a flashlight to one corner at a time. We confess our sins, one by one, if we are serious about dealing with them. And He forgives each of them, one by one, as we recognize and confess each one.

There’s another thing about a clean house. It generally doesn’t stay that way. People track dirt, mud, leaves and such in on their feet. We forget to put something back where we got it, or we just lay it down anywhere, thinking to put it away later. Dust filters in through the windows and doors. And soon the house is a mess again.

The world, the flesh and the devil are working hard to keep us from holiness. The world leaves its tracks on our lives. Our flesh grows weary and careless. The devil filters in to take advantage of the slightest opening. And we need to confess, yet again.

There is bad news and good news. The bad news is that this dealing with sin will be a constant in our lives til we get to go home. The good news is that He is faithful and just to forgive us when we confess. It is His fidelity, not ours, that saves us.

Father, God,

Grant us the light to see the smallest of sins before it grows into a large one. Help us to be watchful for the infiltrations of the enemy, no matter how rational his arguments may sound. Strengthen us for the daily battle against sin.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published on Garment of Praise December 26, 2009