Tag Archives: sin

DECEIVED BY SIN

DECEIVED BY SIN

“What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life, actually brought death.” Romans 7:7-10.

How can we ever say that God’s law is sinful?

The law expresses both God’s character and His requirements for a holy life. God’s law is not the problem, but the rebel nature in us that rises up as soon as God says, “Don’t!” We were not created with a natural bent towards disobedience. We inherited it from Adam when he changed allegiance and decided to step out from under the covering of righteousness and go it alone. When he chose to make his own rules, it was necessary for God to establish His boundaries so that man would know wherein his safety lay.

Unfortunately, God’s law has the opposite effect on man’s fallen human nature. Instead of providing protection for him, the law provokes his rebellious nature to go the opposite way. Wherever God says “Don’t!” man says “I will!” and deliberately steps outside his safety zone and into the death zone. The law has exactly the opposite effect to what God intended. Instead of protecting us, it provokes us.

Why did Paul choose the last of the Ten Commandments as an example? Why not murder or adultery or theft? I think he chose coveting because coveting is where it all starts. Sin begins in the mind and coveting is the motive for outward acts like murder and adultery that come from coveting. Covetousness is inward sin. Only God knows what goes on in our hearts. Even though we may not steal or murder, the driving force behind these sins is already in our hearts.

Our natural bent is towards selfishness and greed. To change that, God had to intervene and take active steps to change our hearts in order to change our nature and our attitudes. We are not naturally contented. We are dissatisfied with what we have – we want more or we want what others have. Have you ever watched two toddlers playing together? Even though they might have a room full of toys, they will fight over the one toy that they both want! It’s in the heart. It’s in the disposition and the bent from the day that we were conceived.

It frustrates us to see the selfishness displayed in children and the disharmony that it produces in the little ones, but we don’t recognise coveting in ourselves. We call it ambition, or progress or getting ahead or some other cover-up word but, bottom line, it’s just plain coveting. And where did it come from? From our response to God’s law, written on our hearts, “You shall not covet.”

“For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment, put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment holy, righteous and good.” Romans 7:11, 12.

What was Paul’s conclusion? God’s law is holy. It was given to His people to show them the path to Himself. If they walked His way, they would surely arrive at the destination He intended for them. Unfortunately, the law has the opposite effect, because of built-in rebellion. Everyone, since Adam, thinks that he knows better than God. Sin is so deceptive that it will persist in making its own rules in spite of the fact that the outcome is always chaos and destruction.

An alcoholic knows that his drinking is destroying him and his family but he is driven by it and can’t stop. He refuses to acknowledge that he has a problem. He knows he cannot help himself but he keeps telling himself that he is okay and that he can stop drinking at any time if he so chooses. Why is he so foolish and stubborn? Sin has deceived him.

So it is with every form of sinful practice. We are foolish enough to believe that we can keep doing the same things and expect a different outcome! The problem lies with us, not with the standard by which God measures us. Paul is going somewhere with this explanation. He is building up a case for our utter helplessness without the intervention of God’s mercy and grace.

Stick with me. We’re getting to the exciting part.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THEY OVERCAME BY THE BLOOD

Our theme for this week is an opportunity to clarify some misunderstandings that might have crept into our belief system by unthinkingly copying what other people say or teach.

It is a good idea rather to follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who were more open-minded than the Thessalonians and who searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.

Sadly, there are many true believers who erroneously think that the blood of Jesus is a sort of “magic” protection against all kinds of ills and reverses in life. I have even listened to prayers that make my blood “curdle” like “soaking our families in the blood of Jesus” or “covering our houses or cars with the blood of Jesus”!

No, my brothers and sisters, Jesus did not shed His blood to save our home, cars, property or even our families from the calamities that are a part of life in a fallen world. God promised that He would be with us and that He is able, in all things to work for our good. Trials of all kinds are God’s gracious way of teaching us to trust Him.

Jesus shed His blood as an atoning sacrifice for our sins so that we no longer owe God an unpayable debt. His blood forgives, cleanses and reconciles us to the Father.

What do you make of our verse for this month, then: They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…?(Rev.12:11)

Paul adequately clarifies this Scripture for us in Col. 2:14-15 (NLT), He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross.

Jesus’ death exposed the devil as a fraudster, liar and deceiver and His resurrection proved that He, not Satan, is Lord.

When Satan accuses you of sin and holds up your past to disqualify you from God’s love, the blood of Jesus is your undeniable proof that Satan is lying. You have been forgiven; you have been reconciled to the Father – Jesus’ blood is the evidence; you have received mercy – Jesus’ blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel; you have been brought near by the blood of Jesus.

That’s how you overcome Satan – by the truth of what the death of Jesus achieved…and God’s peace in your heart is the testimony that you are no longer a slave but a son.

Keep The Record Clean

KEEP THE RECORD CLEAN

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2: 1-2)

John – from “Boanerges”, a son of thunder to “the beloved disciple” – a changed man if ever there was one! What transformed him so completely? Was it the discovery of a love so great that he could never be the same again? It was a love that paid his debt and set him free to live and love in the power of the Holy Spirit.

John’s first chapter, artificially subdivided, but nevertheless significant, is all about fellowship. What must we do to protect our fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ? “Don’t fool yourself if you have sinned,” said John. “Own up and come clean with God. You can’t fool Him, and you will be estranged from Him until you admit your guilt and receive His pardon and His cleansing.”

Sin is no longer an issue to God but it is still an issue to us because it affects our fellowship with the Him. “So,” John said, “you don’t have to sin any more.” God has taken care of our sin, once for all, through the death of His Son. He has not only removed it from us, but He has also broken its power over us. He has unmasked the devil who deceived us into believing that we owed allegiance to him, masquerading as Lord, and holding us captive by our bias towards sin.

However, we are still left with the responsibility of making choices, and that makes us vulnerable to the remnants of our sin nature. We can still be tripped up in unguarded moments, and we can still give in to the temptations of the flesh in weak moments. But that does not mean that we have to start all over again. God’s provision is complete. We have a legal expert, Jesus, the Righteous One, who continues to plead our case with the Father.

He has a watertight case for mercy – His own blood that He gave as an atoning sacrifice. What does that mean? Our sin did not only corrupt and pollute us so that we could no longer have access to our Father, but it also offended God. God is perfectly holy; just and righteous in all His ways. Our sin was a stench in His nostrils. It made Him very angry because it was an affront to everything He did for us.

Imagine a human father building a beautiful home for his family in a quiet and peaceful neighbourhood, tastefully furnishing it with comfortable furniture, and stocking it with every delectable food item for their pleasure and enjoyment. It has a games-room with comfortable couches, a huge flat screen TV, every imaginable kind of book to read and game to play, a bar with fruit juices of every flavour in a refrigerator and tasty snacks of every, and every facility you can think of in the house.

When it is complete, he invites his family to view the house and to move in. All they have to do is to bring in their clothing and live under his authority and guidance, and in harmony with one another in their beautiful home, sharing the blessing of everything he has provided.

What do his children do? They thumb their noses at him, refuse to move into the home which he had built for them at great cost, and choose to live in the garden shed which is full of clutter, rats and cockroaches because they do not want to live under his authority or keep his rules. But, even worse than that, they got into the house and trashed it from one end to the other, smashing the furniture and throwing the food and drink onto the floor.

Would that father not be justifiably angry with his children? He has done everything for them out of the love of his heart, but they reject his love because they did not want to be restricted by his authority. He turned his back on them and let them go their own way, and face the consequences of their choices, but he grieved for them because he still loved them and wanted them to return to him.

God was justifiably angry with the human race because we did that to Him. We sniffed at His love; we refused to live under His roof and we trashed the beautiful earth He created for us.  Worst of all, by making our own rules, we destroyed the bodies He created to be His home. He did not only want to live with us; He wanted to live in us, but we fouled up our hearts with so much sin that we became a stench in His nostrils.

So what did He do? He sent His own Son, made exactly like we were before we chose to rebel against our Father. He lived a pure life in a fouled up world with stinking people messed up by sin. They took Him and threw Him out, killing Him by nailing Him to cross because His life showed them up for who they were, and they hated Him for it.

But this was God’s plan because His perfect Son was to take our place. He poured out His wrath against our sin on His Son until His anger was fully satisfied. Now He was free to woo His estranged children back to Himself and clean them up when they responded to His love.

God’s remedy for sin was for all sin, for all people, for all time. Did you get that? Don’t let anyone ever tell you that Jesus only died for the elect. John stated very clearly that He atoned for the sins of the whole world. Everyone has been forgiven but it is only effective for those who have received His forgiveness by faith and come back to the Father to live in His house, under His authority and in obedience to Him.

So everyone is invited to return. And we don’t have to sin any more. Let’s keep the record clean so that we can enjoy fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

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Free, Yet Slaves

FREE, YET SLAVES

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect for everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor. (1 Peter 2: 16-17)

How could Peter’s readers be both slaves and free?

Slavery in his day was universal and, for the most part, harsh and cruel. Slave-owners were the wealthy elite, and slaves their possessions to do with as they pleased according to their whims and moods. Many slaves bore the scars of severe whippings, often for no legitimate reason. Every slave longed to be free, especially those who were badly treated. Even the thought of slavery was abhorrent to them.

Yet Peter urged his readers to live as slaves of God. Even slaves who believed in Jesus experienced a new freedom in their hearts in spite of their circumstances which they treasured. Why would they want to surrender that freedom to anyone, even to God?  They knew what it felt like to be free from guilt, shame and fear. Their hearts had been freed from these inner slave-drivers through the forgiveness bought by Jesus. Slaves though they were, they would have shuddered at the thought of going back into any kind of inward bondage.

Slave-owners, on the other hand, revelled in their right to treat other human beings just as they chose with no fear of reprisals. They could be kind or cruel as they liked.  Slaves were worth nothing more than any of their other possessions. They had paid good money for them and could squeeze as much work out of them as they could before their strength finally gave out.

But this was not to be the attitude of the believer, both master and slave. That way of doing things belonged to the old life. In fact, living like that was worse slavery than the slavery of the slaves who served them. It was all a matter of the heart. To be a slave to sin was to be dead already even though they still lived. To be free meant to be released from the power of the selfish and self-destructive lives they once lived.

Real freedom does not mean living without boundaries. To the Hebrew, that would be hell. True freedom means living within God’s boundaries. Boundaries are intended to protect, not to restrict. You would not leave your garden gate open and allow your toddler to wander into a busy street. Within minutes, that child’s life would be destroyed.

We humans have the inborn capacity to destroy ourselves because we came into the world with a natural bent towards sin. Self rules from the day of our birth. Selfishness destroys because it enslaves us and drives us to take care of ourselves at the expense of others. Sin always leads to death. Selfishness is at the heart of all sin. Every time we choose ourselves above others, we sin and we drive another nail into our coffins.

What is the solution? ‘Simple,’ said Peter, ‘be God’s slave.’ You have been given the freedom to make different choices now that you have been released from the power of your old nature and given the nature of God. Your old boundaries shut God out and restricted you to self-destructive living. You could not choose to live under God’s truth because you were His enemy. You hated Him and everything He stands for. His very commandments were like a red rag to a bull.

For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. (Romans 7: 7b-8)

Through God’s mercy and the working of His Holy Spirit, you have been set free from your old nature. You have a new Master, Jesus Christ. His life in you has set you free from sin and death. But you have to put it into practice to make it effective. What does that mean? It means that you have to choose to become who you are, a slave of Jesus.

Slavery to Jesus is voluntary. You are free to choose to live your old way, but if you do, you will be enslaved by sin all over again.

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6: 16)

Slavery to God is our escape route from slavery to sin and death. The amazing thing is that slavery to God is the only true freedom!

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Beware Of The Trap!

BEWARE OF THE TRAP!

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can have pride in himself alone without comparing himself to someone else, for each one should carry his own load.” Galatians 6:1-5

Now here’s a delicate situation. A fellow believer falls into temptation and you know about it. What to do you do? You have two options; leave it alone and don’t interfere or go to the person and point out that his or her behaviour is wrong. Paul said that you have an obligation to do the latter if you are being led by the Spirit.

But there’s a danger in doing that; the temptation to have a superior attitude because you have not done what he has done is very real. Instead of helping your brother to come clean and turn away from sin, you have now added your sin to his. The problem is that your sin is hidden in your heart and is far more subtle than his, whatever he has done.

Helping a brother or sister get back on the path is an act of love, not interference. That’s how Jesus wants us to treat one another because He knows that sin is destructive and alienates the person who sins from Him and from His body. But a superior attitude is equally sinful and destructive. We have to be constantly on guard against pride – the attitude that we are better than the person we are trying to help, or the false notion that we will never do what they have done.

Paul counselled: “Watch your heart. You can easily deceive yourself. You have the same sinful nature as his. You may not do what he did but you have the same potential to give in to temptation as he has.” Test your motive. Paul said, “Restore him gently.” When we remember that we stand on level ground before the cross, we have no reason to think we are better than anyone else. Don’t talk down to him. Get under the load with him and lift him up.

That leads to another thought. Paul seemed to be contradicting himself when he said, “Carry each other’s burdens,” and then, “Each one should carry his own burden.” What did he mean? When we come alongside another who has fallen, lift him up, dust him off and help him to continue on his way, we have shouldered the “burden” of his weakness with him. We have helped him acknowledge his sin, and turn away from it, and we continue to walk with him until he is strong enough to continue.

However, we carry a “burden” of responsibility which is ours alone; the responsibility of supporting a weaker brother but, even more than that, the responsibility of being honest with ourselves and honest about ourselves. If we live in self-deception, we will be as weak and vulnerable to sin as the brother we have tried to help. No one can carry that burden for us. It is ours alone.

Jesus was aware of the human tendency to independence. Before He went to the cross, He spent His last precious hours with His disciples coaching them to receive and rely on the Holy Spirit who would take His place as their Helper and Counsellor. He would reside in them and continue what Jesus began – teaching them and leading them into the truth.

They were to learn, through the Holy Spirit, to “remain in Him,” an imperative lesson because, He said, “…apart from me, you can do nothing.” Keeping our connection with the vine requires honesty. We have an obligation to help a fellow believer who is living in denial and self-deception, but we also have an obligation to keep ourselves free of the very same self-deception that tripped our brother up. We can only do this by keeping short accounts with God.

Our walk together with others in the body of Christ can be messy at times; we clash; we expose; we weep; we bleed, but in the end there is one purpose in it all – to clear away the dirt that clings to us and the obstacles that hinder us from what Jesus prayed for – that we may be one as He and the Father are one.

Our motive, then, for helping a fallen brother is not to lord it over him but to restore him so that the Body of Christ remain intact and not fractured by sin that destroys unity and leaves us vulnerable to the devil’s wiles.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.