Christian Devotions

Posts tagged ‘Sin’

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.

 

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Faith and Works

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.   

Ephesians  2:8-10 ~~ (KJV)

Most people work to earn a living. In our capitalistic society, you gain money by providing either goods or services to someone who is willing to pay for them. It works fairly well in a free market.

Many religions – even some Christian sects – focus on works as a means of earning heaven. Were that so, one would be putting God under an obligation to pay for some service. Wait a minute!

What does God need – NEED – from us?

Absolutely nothing. There is no service we can do for God which He cannot accomplish without us. There is no physical thing we can provide which He does not already own. So how do we earn our place in heaven?

We don’t!

Our place in heaven is a gift from Jesus. He gave it because He loves us. He satisfied our debt and freed us to live without blood-guilt.

The only thing that can keep us from this blessed gift is us. We need to accept by faith that He has paid the price. That there is nothing we can do to earn a place in heaven.

By the same token, we need to serve God – not because He needs our service, but because we need to serve. Only by serving His purposes can we express our gratitude for what He has done for us.

What we do is the evidence of our faith, more evidence than what we say.

The point is that love and faith lead to behavior. If we love God, we behave in loving ways. If we love the world, we behave in selfish, thoughtless ways. Actions are evidence not origins, effects not causes.

Eternal Life is a gift, not a payment.

Father, God,

Give us the grace to accept Your gift of life by faith in You. Grant that we may be truly grateful for the sacrifice of Your Son and evidence the same by our daily walk. Help us to reflect the light of Your love in this world.

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

New – and Improved?

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  ~~ 2 Corinthians 5:17  (KJV)

During Advent, the world keeps screaming at us. Buy the new thing. This is the toy of the year – or gadget of the year. Laundry detergents are “new and improved”. So are diets and cars and cell phones.

How about us? Whether we have been Christians for years or are just new born, we also can be new and improved.

Because we are human and fallible, we make mistakes, we sin (yes, I know that’s not a popular word any more) and we fall short – sometimes very short – of our aims.

The joy comes when we recognize that God is the ultimate forgiver. When we fall short all we need do is to repent. Repent is another old-fashioned word that we don’t hear much any more either. It means more than being sorry for something we’ve done or neglected. It also means making amends and changing our behavior.

When we have done something that God disapproves, we simply agree with Him that it was a wrong action; determine to change that attitude and behavior; and He forgives us, helping us to become better, more like what He intended.

Today is the beginning of a new year – 2016. If I make one resolution for the year, it will be to become more nearly what our Heavenly Father intended when he called me forth. I’m counting on my readers to hold me accountable for that resolve.

Do you have a resolution for the new year?  Tell us in the comments and let us help you be accountable for keeping it.

May God bless your endeavors this day and throughout the New Year.

Father, God,

Help us to be accountable one to another for our resolutions. Grant that we may be both new and improved – daily.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

Obedience Is Better

10 Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying,

11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night.

12 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.

13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.

14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.

16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.

17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?

18 And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.

19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?

20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.

21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.

22 And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

1 Samuel 15:10-23

We get a fearful lesson in this reading. Saul was chosen by the Lord to be king of Israel. But Saul got carried away by his successes and decided that he knew better than God what he should do.

Saul’s disobedience grieved the Lord, and the consequence for that disobedience was the Lord’s rejection of Saul as king. When we reject the Lord, He withdraws His favor and leaves us to our own devices.

Every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. No good parent stands between a child and the consequences of his own actions. Our God is a good and loving Father. He allows us to learn from our mistakes. But experience is an expensive teacher.

Saul could have avoided the negative consequences had he simply been obedient to the Lord.

“To obey is better than sacrifice.” Mark it well in 1 Samuel 15:22.

When we know what to do and refuse to do it, we sin. Sin separates us from God. Not a good place to be.

Father, God,

Give us ears tuned to hear You. Make our hearts ready to obey. Keep us from the sins of arrogance and disobedience.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 30 March 2009.

Thank you for your indulgence.

Sophistication or Simplicity

Focus Verse:  2 Corinthians 11:3    But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

The arrogance of the intellect is the root of sin that the enemy uses most effectively.  I understand it well.  For many years I believed that I could learn and master anything anyone else could learn.  After all, I was just as astute as anyone else.  But look – that first sin was a temptation to the arrogance of the intellect.

 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.  Genesis 3:1-6

And sin came into the world. Before the big lie, man enjoyed a complete fellowship with God. He had everything one could want. He lived in a garden, was given dominion over everything he saw, had meaningful work to occupy him, and walked intimately with God in the cool of the evening. But the serpent beguiled the woman by appealing to the arrogance of the intellect — that she could be as wise as God — without God.  And she fell for that lie to her sorrow and ours.

True wisdom lies only with God who sees the beginning and the end of all things – who knows all the braided threads and how they intertwine.  Real wisdom lies in obedience to God, trusting that he will tell us what we need to know when we need to know it.  It is simple – not always easy – but simple.

Father, God,
Help us to understand that your knowledge is above anything to which we can aspire. Grant that we may not be seduced by the arrogance of the intellect into disobedience. Give us the grace to depend solely on you at all times. In Jesus’ most precious name. Amen.