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November 4, 2003

What defines you?

But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison. Luke 3:19-20

What extra sin will we commit that defines our entire life?

For Herod, it was locking John the Baptist in prison. For Judas Iscariot, it was betraying Jesus. For many in our day, it is some indiscretion that landed on the front page of the local newspaper. Why is it that we continually push the limits? When will we listen and understand? Sin leads to death - the death of a dream - the death of a ministry - the death of a soul without Christ.

So why are we as Christians still intrigued by sin's wiles and ways - knowing what we do?

Lord, today I acknowledge my unworthiness. Without the cross of Christ, we are destined to eternal separation and death. With the cross, we live eternally in Your presence. Help me to remember that my eternal life began the moment I accepted the gift of Your Son. Death is not a foregone conclusion; it isn't even an option.

Wash me in Your grace, Lord, so I am defined by You and Your unfailing mercy.

November 19, 2003

Simple Physics

"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." Luke 17:3b-4

Sin is not an easy topic. We all sin. We all cause another to sin at times. Others cause us to sin at times. It's the nature of relationships. There will be times that we miss the mark - times that we choose wrongly - times that we fail. But it doesn't have to end there. Sin doesn't have to be the end of a relationship. If every relationship was ended because sin entered the picture, we would be very lonely indeed. So, what are we to do? If we are sinned against? Or if we have caused it?

It's simple physics. To every action there is a reaction.

The response to sin is rebuke. If we do not rebuke a sinner, have we not determined the sin to be acceptable? With rebuke should come repentance. Only a fool receives rebuke and doesn't change his way. Sin leads to death. Praise God, we have friends who are willing to rebuke us! Without them, death is certain. The response to repentance is forgiveness. If we withhold forgiveness from a repentant brother, are we not sinning in return? Forgiveness is not only given for the sake of the one who committed the wrong, but for the one who was wronged.

Sin, rebuke, repentance, and forgiveness - following this process can save a relationship. Following this process can save us.

Lord, there are times in life that I must rebuke - there are times in life that I must repent - there are times in life that I must forgive. Help me to be a builder of relationships. Give me the courage to rebuke sin, the determination to repent of it, and the compassion to forgive. Make me more like You!

December 1, 2003

I Was Afraid

He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." Genesis 3:10

Adam messed up, and he knew it. When he heard God in the garden, he hid. When God called to him, he continued to hide behind his words. He didn't answer God saying, "I was afraid because I disobeyed You." Adam's response was, "I was naked." It was as if he was saying, "You didn't make me any clothes!"

How many times do we hide? How many times do we say, "Lord, You didn't keep me away from this temptation. You didn't make me strong enough. It's really Your fault that I failed." God has seen us naked. He already knows the truth. He is not to blame.

Lord, I'm tired of hiding. Okay, I am naked. So what!? The truth is: I fail to obey as I should. No amount of physical sobriety can keep me from mental failure. Only Your Spirit can help me with my mind's battle over lust, pride, and greed. I still want to taste the fruit. Change my heart, so I can stand before You unashamed and unafraid. Jesus, thank You for saving me.

December 2, 2003

My Master is the Lord!

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." Genesis 4:6-7

Cain felt cheated. And why not? He worked the ground. Wouldn't it make sense that some of the fruits of the soil would be his offering? Why did God reject Cain's offering and accept Abel's? I believe the reasoning for God's rejection is reflected in Cain's reaction. It wasn't necessarily the offering that was wrong, it was the heart of the one who gave it that was the problem.

Cain's heart wasn't right. Cain's reaction to God's rejection was anger and depression. I think he was probably angry with himself because he knew the truth behind God's decision.

Unfortunately, Cain refused to listen. God told him that sin was lying in wait. But rather than heeding the warning, Cain allowed the anger to grow out of control. Eventually, Abel received the brunt of Cain's frustration, and sin exercised its full dominion over Cain.

Lord, sin desires to have me. I can literally hear its breath outside the door - waiting for an invitation to enter in - to control me completely. I am angry and depressed. The blessing I expected from You hasn't come as easily as I had hoped. It feels like the system is once again saying, "Sorry. You don't measure up." But I know it isn't true. Those for whom I work assure me that my expectations will be met. My salary will finally be commensurate with my responsibility. Yet, I am frustrated with the barriers. I am frustrated with the timing. Will I ever get paid what I am worth?

In the not so recent past, my ultimate reaction would be to escape into the compulsions of desire. Medicating the pain is more pleasing than bearing it. But who is in control? Will sin master me once again? Or will I grab hold of the truth: I have been given dominion over the desires of my flesh through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Spirit, intervene in my heart. Help me to heed the warning signs. Forgive my rotten attitude. Help me to trust that Your purpose and plan will be accomplished in my life. Sin, you cannot enter here. I will not be controlled by you.

My Master is the Lord!

December 22, 2003

A Clear Conscience

“Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.” Genesis 20:5

Sin brings consequence – regardless of intent. Abimelech learned this lesson. He took Sarah to be his wife, and God came to him in a dream to warn him of his impending destruction. Upon hearing of Sarah’s identity, Abimelech quickly returned her to Abraham, but even though he hadn’t touched her, Abimelech’s household had been suffering. Every womb had been closed.

Lord, I know that You look upon the heart. You consider the intent of a man more than his actions. But actions are important, too. Sin is sin, even if it is committed with a clear conscience. Help me to be fully aware. Help me to listen before choosing wrongly. I have always disregarded my responsibility for sin I unknowingly committed, but… Is there such a thing? Can I truly say I was innocent? That I didn’t know any better? Your Spirit speaks the truth with every breath I take.

Forgive me, Lord, for not heeding the warnings of Your Spirit. Help me to walk in righteousness today.

March 25, 2004

A Second Chance

Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant - the Ten Commandments. Exodus 34:28

Moses blew it. He allowed his temper to get the better of him, and he destroyed the tablets containing the words of the covenant. Yet God gave him a second chance. For another forty days and forty nights, Moses stayed on Mount Sinai in the presence of God. He neither ate nor drank. I wonder if he even slept. Just being with God was enough.

The logic may seem a little odd, but it seems to me that is wasn't a bad thing for Moses to break the original tablets containing the Ten Commandments. He was given a second opportunity to spend forty days alone with God. My human mind seems to conclude that messing up might be acceptable because God is a God of second chances.

Lord, this way of thinking is dangerous. For much of my life, I have seemed to live for that second chance. At times You seemed closer because I was in constant need of forgiveness for obvious sin. The remorse I felt for failing You almost daily seemed acceptable because Your arms are always open.

Sin, however, will never do more than hold me down. For six months, I have made conscious choices to deny the addictive behaviors that once plagued me so strongly. Oh, these sins have been replaced with others - selfishness continues to taunt me. But am I better off? Do I sense Your presence as strongly as when I was in the pit?

I think what I am finally beginning to understand is: You are enough. I don't need to embrace sin in order to find You. You are always here. Thank You, Father, for standing with open arms. Help me to chase after You - the first time, so I will no longer need the second chance.

April 21, 2004

Living on the Outside

"As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp." Leviticus 13:46

The priests were given great authority. To protect the people from contagious disease, God instituted the rules surrounding those with skin diseases and how they would be pronounced as clean or unclean. To hear the word "unclean" was a frightening thing. This one word had the power to isolate - to make them live outside the camp. For some, it was like a death sentence.

Lord, I am unclean. I have an infectious disease. It is something that is easily passed from one man to another and has the power to destroy entire civilizations.

The name of my disease is sin. Left by itself, it can fester - literally destroying me - isolating me from all that is good.

But You have power over sin. Your Son took my disease upon Himself, so I could live among the people - so I can be clean. Proclaim it for me. "Clean!" I want to hear it - I want to feel it. Wash me; make me one with You today.

May 16, 2004

Found Out

"If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water than brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people." Numbers 5:27

In the end, our sins will be found out.

There are hidden things in all our lives about which we are ashamed. Eventually, even these will be revealed.

Lord, I know I cannot hide forever. The undetected sins in my life sometimes gnaw at me like termites inside a tree. Confession and repentance are my only hope. You are my only hope.

Give me the courage to some day face the hidden places. Shine Your light in my heart.

August 14, 2004

Afraid of the Light

"Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." John 3:20

When I was a child, there were times I was afraid of the dark. Now, as an adult, there are times I am afraid of the light.

Oh, there are so many things that I have done that are contrary to God's will. I know my sin is no worse than any other man's. But I still fear being exposed.

We all do.

Lord, give me the courage to do what is right, so I can live in the light. The darkness has been my companion for too long. I need to let him go. Inspire me, Lord, so I might find joy again.

September 17, 2004

Where do you sit?

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:21

We can't have it both ways. There is no way to live a righteous life and a life of sin at the same time. We are either striving for holiness, or we are striving for evil. We are either for Christ, or we are against Him.

It is black and white.

Does this mean that we who live under the blood of Christ - under the power of God's grace - can never sin? Sin is against God's plan. We are either for Him or against Him. How is it that committing a sin doesn't negate the blood? If we who know Him turn to the world, how can we still belong to Him? How can the blood of Christ cover my future sins - things done against Christ with full knowledge of His sacrifice?

Well, it wouldn't be grace if it covered one sin and not another. For those who have received the salvation of Christ or those who haven't, His grace can cover every sin - past, present, and future.

So why do we in the Body sometimes forget that the blood is for all - even those in our midst? We sometimes struggle to forgive a Christian brother when he falls. We seem to treat him differently than an unsaved man. We seem to think, "He should know better!"

Do we know more than Christ? Are we wiser than He? How can we more easily receive a new Christian who seeks God's grace than a great Christian leader who has been shamed by moral failure? Does not our spiritual pride in turn make us sinners in need of God's grace?

Father, make me a man of compassion. Help me to see a Christian brother who falls into sin as You do - one who needs Your grace. Forgive me for harboring resentment again my Christian brothers who may have harmed me. Help me to forgive as You do - willingly - completely.

...Okay Lord. You went in a direction I didn't expect this morning. My thoughts of the spiritual pride within the church have turned to thoughts of my own... There is a Christian man who harmed me about a decade ago. I haven't seen him in years, yet last week he attended my Sunday School class. My heart was filled with unforgiveness and resentment. I thought, "Why doesn't he just go somewhere else?" Not long ago, a friend of mine from out of town stayed in this man's home. With the mention of my name, this man told my friend it would be best if they didn't speak about me. Apparently, he too carries the burden of what happened so long ago.

Father, forgive me. Forgive my pride. Forgive the resentment I have carried for so long. I don't want to seek him out, but if I see this man again, give me the courage to reach out - to say, "I'm glad you are here." If I cannot receive him, how can I expect a Christian brother to receive me when I harm him? Bring reconciliation into my life in the way You choose. Help me to drink only from Your cup - to eat only at Your table. Fill me with Your Spirit today.

September 28, 2004

Fellowship with Darkness

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

Paul told the Corinthians to not be yoked together with unbelievers. He spoke of righteousness and wickedness - light and darkness, the characteristics of believers and unbelievers, respectively.

Yet, I find that wickedness and darkness are not exclusive to those outside the church. Many within our walls court the enemy. So much is done to discredit the Body of Christ by those who claim to follow Him.

What have we done to Your Body, Lord? Why do we entertain fellowship with darkness? Shine Your light of righteousness into the Church. Shine it into my life. Make me a righteous and radiant man.

September 29, 2004

Contaminated

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to remove anything from their midst if it had been contaminated by mildew. He knew that, if left alone, mildew can destroy everything upon which it grows. In the New Testament, God calls us to a new level of decontamination. He commands that we purify our hearts.

Unfortunately, we are all contaminated. Sin has found its way into our lives, and if it is left to grow - left to fester - all could be lost.

Lord, what things are contaminating me? Fear, anger, lust, greed, bitterness? What do I need to remove, so it cannot be allowed to destroy me? Give me eyes to see. Give me the courage to clean my life of anything that contaminates. Perfect Your holiness in me.

October 9, 2004

Never Counted

"Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." Romans 4:8

Quoting Psalm 32, Paul reminded the Romans that God covers the sins of those who believe. Our sins are never counted against us. This means so much more after Christ's death and resurrection.

In David's time, when these words were first written, the covering of sins required action by the priests. Atonement came through ritual reminders of God's love.

After Jesus walked the earth, we can now know beyond all doubt that we are forgiven, for it no longer requires man's action. God has done it all!

Lord, if You will never count my sins against me, when will I learn to forgive my failures. No matter how much I learn about Your grace, I struggle to live in it. Help me, Father, to start loving myself with unconditional love. In the light of forgiveness, I will find freedom from the enemy's chains. I am no longer a slave to sin. I am forgiven!

October 12, 2004

Two Masters

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Romans 7:25b

How can we have two masters, God's law and the law of sin? We either serve one, or we serve the other. Yet Paul describes himself in this way - a slave to both.

I guess a simpler question would be: How is Jesus both man and God?

We don't know; it just IS!

Lord, my struggle is so... ordinary. Despite the way I see it sometimes, as something unique that no one else could ever understand, it is nothing new. There has been a battle between the spiritual and the unspiritual since Adam and Eve stood under that tree.

Help me to see the truth: I am not the most hideous man to walk the face of the earth. The enemy wants me to believe this because it shifts my focus away from the right Master. Help me to turn my eyes to You. Help me to hear Your voice. Help me to serve You alone today.

November 9, 2004

Willful Sin

Keep your servant from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:13

King David is so real. His words always seem to reveal a man who made mistakes just as I do. His songs beautifully display the joy and the sadness that are merely facts of life. One can plainly see he lived a life that was far from perfect. More than once, David found himself in the middle of predicaments that he caused, and he seemed to fight a lifelong battle to avoid willful sin.

Yet despite his shortcomings, he was God's anointed king. During his reign, Israel experienced peace and prosperity. He chased after the Lord, and the Lord blessed the entire nation. He was a blessed man, but the greatest blessing of all: it from was his bloodline that the Messiah would come.

Lord, like David, I long to be a man after Your heart. How can I ever reach it? How will I ever become the kind of man You would chase after? My heart has so often been filled with pride. Too many times I have chosen rebellion over obedience. Other times I have knowingly walked into dark places.

Yet, even there... I have not been able to escape Your love.

Father, my only hope is You. It is only by Your Spirit that I do not willfully choose rebellion everyday. My heart can be easily deceived. Help me to seek you every morning. Help me to find you every evening.

Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression - by the precious blood of the Lamb.

January 19, 2005

Overwhelmed!

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. Psalm 65:3

It’s tough to understand that when we are at our worst, God loves us the most.

David wrote in this psalm, “When we were overwhelmed by sins…” Now, I can understand what it is to be overwhelmed. Most of my work life for the past year has been overwhelming. Too many things to do – not enough time, knowledge, energy, or ability to get it all done – it seems “overwhelmed” could either describe by desk or my to-do list. The challenges seem too great sometimes. The mountains seem too high to climb. The rivers seem too fierce to forge.

Will I ever get it all done?

I can also understand what it is to be overwhelmed by sin. Most of my adult life has been overwhelming in this regard. A long time ago, the enemy somehow convinced me that I was his. Despite the appearance, which wasn’t always a ruse, sin had its claws deeply embedded in my heart. I was certain that I couldn’t live without it, nor could I live with it. More than once I found myself at the bottom of an ocean – and all my air was gone.

Yet through it all, with all my failures and forays into the darkness, God forgives. The blood of Jesus has covered my sins. The things that overwhelm me have in turn been overwhelmed.

And I am still here.

Father, I feel lost. Your forgiveness is wonderful, yet I feel unsure of how to walk in it. Walking in sin, I understand, but what am I supposed to do now? Guide me by Your Holy Spirit. Show me the plans You have for me. Fill me with passion to achieve them. Help me to be a part of overwhelming the enemy. Help me to reach to the bottom of the ocean – to help save those who are overwhelmed by sin.

May You be glorified in all I do.

February 12, 2005

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. Psalm 78:38-39

If we only knew the number of times God restrains His anger! It frightens me to think of the wrath I have deserved in my life. Like the Israelites, I have tried to flatter the Lord with words of repentance, while my actions of rebellion are speaking louder than my words. He has every right to slay me.

But His mercy is great.

God knows the weakness of man. There is nothing He hasn't seen. Think about it... How many times in our guilt do we seem to feel that no other man in history has sinned in this way? There may be a few who seem to have cornered the market; not many can compare to the likes of Hitler, of King Herod, of Judas Iscariot. But even they are not alone.

All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.

Lord, the enemy is crafty. He understands the power of isolation. If a man can be isolated in his sin, oftentimes he will stay there. There are so many who share his guilt - so many who live in slavery to sin.

Forgive me, Father, for the times I have hidden in shame. I am like every other man; I am flesh - a passing breeze - in need of Your mercy. Praise Your Name, You are quick to give mercy! Come, Lord Jesus. I long to be in Your presence.

April 4, 2005

A World Traveler

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12

It's a long way from West Texas to China.

This is how far my sin is when I received salvation through the blood of Christ. So why do I so easily make the trip to find it again?

As far the east is from the west, all our sin - all our rebellion - has been removed from us; this is God's promise.

Lord, so many times I have made the journey to either pick up my rebellion or to find the guilt of my sin. I have become a world traveler and didn't even know it. Help me to walk in Your forgiveness. Help me to live in the freedom of righteousness. Help me to receive Your great love today.

May 13, 2005

Walk in Freedom

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119:45

It amazes me how the enemy can fool us into believing we are not free. He somehow convinces us that there are invisible chains linking us to the sins that have held us for so long.

But we have a choice.

We may think we are held against our will - that we cannot be free from the enemy's snares - that we have no other choice, but the truth is: there are no chains around our wrists. Jesus broke them for all eternity on a hill called Calvary. We can choose to walk away.

Father, I am so tired of being dooped by the enemy. One day, I walk about in freedom. The next, I am imprisoned in guilt and shame of my own choosing. Forgive me for thinking less of You. Forgive me for thinking less of myself. Today, I choose freedom!

May 25, 2005

What rules over me?

Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Psalm 119:133

What rules over me? Is it passion for life? Is it a love for Jesus? For other people? Or is it my sin - keeping me trapped in places of darkness, fear, and shame?

Lord, I know what it is to be ruled by sin - to have every thought consumed with overwhelming, addictive desire - to be plagued with an insatiable thirst for escape and pleasure. How can I break free when the enemy grabs hold? You are mo only salvation. Only You can free me from the rule of the enemy. Come to save me when You hear my cries. Be my Ruler today.

June 11, 2005

Can the darkness satisfy?

They have oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me. Psalm 129:2

The older I get, the more I realize certain struggles are simply going to be life-long. Does this mean there is no hope? If I am going to fail in a particular area until the day I die, wouldn't it be easier to simply accept it? Should I merely give in and proclaim, "This is who I am. Deal with it!"?

Someone will never be better off by letting the enemy win. A life of poverty lived in the light is far better than a life of plenty lived in darkness. In the light, one can find joy - a contentment with being alive regardless of circumstance. However, one who stays in darkness will discover more gloom with every new day.

Can the darkness be satisfying?

You bet!

The enemy knows we wouldn't want it if it didn't. But can a man find contentment in the darkness? Can he reach that place where he is no longer controlled by his cravings? A place where there is enough?

Nothing in the darkness can fully satisfy like the Father.

Lord, I would like to say I will pick the light over the darkness every time, but I don't think it is possible. As long as we breathe air into these bodies, we will be confined by them. Our flesh will win out on occasion; that is life! But losing one battle doesn't mean the war is lost. Every day is new. No darkness from yesterday can survive in the light of today. No matter how long I am oppressed, I will not concede. You are Victory. I surrender to You!

July 8, 2005

A Condemning Heart

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:18-20

Whenever our hearts condemn us...

These are John's words. He doesn't say, "if" our hearts condemn us, for condemnation is a foregone conclusion. But we don't have to stay there! We can choose to continue sinning, or we can choose to obey.

Too often, I choose to sin, so what does that make me? Am I not one of God's children? Is salvation something outside my grasp? These are the lies which the enemy wants me to believe. Always, he whispers, "You can't be saved if you would sin like that! Why don't you give up? Follow me instead..." When I hear these words, my heart condemns me. He knows my doubt: "Maybe he's right. May I should just quit."

In truth, the mere fact that my heart condemns me is a good sign. If I were not God's child, I wouldn't care about what I have done.

Lord, help me to see the truth. I put too much stock in feelings, and I almost always feel condemned. Help me to see the condemnation as a gauge. Without it, I would know I am lost. You know everything... EVERYTHING, and You choose to love me. Help me to choose love. Help me to choose righteousness. Help me to choose You!

July 26, 2005

Undeserved Shame

Achan replied, "It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel." Joshua 7:20a

Achan made a stupid choice. He allowed his greed to take control, and the entire community was defiled. The Lord withdrew Himself, and the tiny town of Ai routed the Israelites. Thirty-six men lost their lives due to the actions of one.

Have you ever felt like the weight of the entire world is on your shoulders? I can barely imagine how awful it must have been to have your sin revealed by God Himself. The terror Achan must have felt as the lots were cast selecting first his clan - his family - then himself. He knew what he had done. He could no longer hide.

Have you ever felt like Achan? Have you ever felt so ashamed that you truly believed every horrible thing in the world is your fault?

I have.

It isn't deserved. The entire world hasn't been defiled by my choices. My sin does not stand alone. Every man has fallen short of God's glory, so why do I try to carry the weight? The truth is - carrying the weight of the world was left to one man, and my attempts to carry the burden for the sins of others only reveals my arrogance.

Jesus died for Achan. Jesus died for me. He paid the price, so I could live. He established a covenant of life eternal.

Isn't it time I start living it?

Lord, forgive my pride. Forgive me for trying to carry crosses that are not my own. Only Jesus can carry them. Help me to receive the wonderful gift of Your grace. Help me to put down the weight of my sin. Help me to discover that amazing joy that come from You alone.

August 14, 2005

Do Not Pass Go

Any of the Israelites or any alien living among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly. Joshua 20:9

I've always known that a city of refuge in Israel was a place someone could avoid death for the unintentional death of another. But somehow I had a sense that being in a city of refuge kept one from judgment.

This is not the case.

A city of refuge was not some "get out of jail free" way of avoiding a trial. The death, whether it was intentional or not, would still be judged. And if guilt was determined, there was no place to avoid the sentence.

A refuge is a place of protection - not necessarily a place of escape. Judgment must still be passed. Consequences must still be faced. Eventually, deeds will be counted, and sin will be punished.

Lord, someday we will all stand before the judgment seat. Nothing can keep us from the trial that will determine our eternal fate. What an awful day that will be for those who have not received Your grace. When we die, heaven doesn't wait for all. Death is not some "get out of jail free" way of avoiding judgment. Sadly, there will be many who have no one to take their place. Your Son was sentenced on our behalf, and many have pushed Him away. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yet on that day, there will be rejoicing, for the Lamb of God has already borne the punishment for those who believe. Help me, Father, to reach out to the lost. There is hope! There is an eternal refuge that awaits! Give the world ears to hear You.

September 9, 2005

In the Heat of the Moment

Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. Judges 11:29a

What man has not made an unreasonable promise in the heat of the moment? Jephthah made one of these promises: if the Lord would give the Ammonites into his hands, he would sacrifice the first thing that came through the door of his house to greet him. These words, spoken in the heat of the moment, cost him dearly when his daughter hurried out to see him.

The toughest thing for me to grasp is that these words were spoken after the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. How could a man who is filled with the Spirit do something so stupid? How is it that the Spirit could guide Jephthah on the battlefield, but He wouldn't control his tongue? Why would the Spirit of God allow him to make such a rash vow? Why didn't he stop Jephthah and say, "Choose your words carefully."?

The greater struggle for me is why, as a Christian filled with the same Spirit that led Jephthah into battle, I act rashly as well.

I have been a Christian since the age of seven. I have known the wages of sin is death. My greatest sins have all been committed in full knowledge of the consequence. Why didn't the Spirit stop me?

The truth is: our free will doesn't cease to exist simply because the Spirit is present. We must choose our words and actions carefully, or like Jephthah, we will live in regret.

Father, I live with regret over my sins. If I had committed them before knowing You, they might be easier to forgive. Help me to forgive myself for rash action that caused me to sin. Help me to be mindful of You in the heat of the moment.

January 9, 2006

Intangible Sin

But the thing David had done displeased the Lord. 2 Samuel 11:27b

Have you ever read a story and realized your heart was racing - that your adrenaline was literally pumping?

The account of David's failure with Bathsheba and the subsequent deceit and murder of Uriah is one of those stories. One poor choice led to another, then another, then another. How easily David seemed to get caught up in the moment!

What surprises me in this story is how torrid it is: adultery, deception, murder. Yet it seems God's reaction is so tame.

He was "displeased."

Not "enraged"? Not "devastated"?

He was simply displeased. In some ways, I think this reaction makes the story even sadder.

How does a parent generally respond to a child who has really blown it? One's love often tempers the reaction. God's quiet response in this passage seems to indicate the depth of His love. And this makes David's sin that much tougher to accept. How could he have done such a thing - how could he have done such a series of things - knowing full well how much God loved him?

As David learned, sometimes sinning is easier than we would like to admit.

Adultery is what I would call an easy sin. Getting caught up in the moment seems to be a standard for it. It is almost intangible. The gravity of the act isn't completely felt until the sin is revealed.

Unfortunately for David, Uriah's murder was just as intangible. David was at the palace while his men were fighting. The shear distance he was from the battle made it unreal.

However, regardless how intangible our sins may seem at times, they are always completely real to God. He is timeless. He sees their effects. He knows the pain that will result from them. And oftentimes, instead of hell fire and brimstone, our sins only seem to result in His disappointment and displeasure.

Lord, there have been plenty of intangible sins in my life with which I know You have been displeased. Forgive me for discounting the depth of Your love. Thank You for controlling Your wrath. Like David, You must have a plan for me. Help me to honor Your trust with obedience. I want to please You. I want to live a tangible and righteous life.

Walk with me today.

January 15, 2006

The End Result

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. 2 Samuel 13:15a

No matter what we might think, sin is never satisfying for the long term. Oh, it can bring plenty of momentary pleasure, but when the dust has settled, the end result isn't what we had expected.

Adam and Eve learned this. The fruit was pleasing, but the consequence wasn't worth its taste.

In the story of Amnon and Tamar, Amnon learned this same lesson. He was all-consumed with what he thought was love for his half-sister Tamar. In truth, it was lust. In a plot concocted by Amnon's cousin, the stage was set for Amnon to express his love. What he did was to feed his lust. When Tamar refused his advances, Amnon raped her. Even then, he was not satisfied. Laying with her had not endeared him to her as he had probably convinced himself. Taking what he wanted was far from satisfying.

Eventually, it cost him his very life.

Tamar's full-brother, Absalom, waited two years for an opportune moment to avenge the defilement of his sister. As the story goes, Absalom's men murdered Amnon in cold blood - in the presence of all the king's sons.

Interestingly, there is someone else in this story who probably learned this same hard lesson - the lesson that sin will not bring long term satisfaction.

In an earlier time, David concocted a scheme to satisfy his own lust. The end result of his sin was disastrous. Bathsheba became pregnant. Uriah died. Soon thereafter, the very child conceived through David's lust was taken away from them. Even more devastating was God's promise that the sword would not depart from David's household. Now, this promise was realized. Amnon and Absalom had both learned lethal lessons from their father. Sex and murder didn't solve anything.

Father, there have been so many times that I believed the enemy's lies - that sin can be more satisfying than righteousness. Help me to seek after You. There is nothing on this earth that pleases like You, and the end result is always the same: LIFE - eternal life.

March 26, 2006

My Greatest Regret

And they praised God because of me. Galatians 1:24

The Apostle Paul's story isn't a nice one. He persecuted the church. When Stephen, the first martyr for the church, was murdered, Paul was there. He traveled from town to town searching for the early Christians simply to turn them over to the authorities. Paul was a zealot for his faith but an enemy of the One True God. Yet he became a man who embraced the gospel of Christ - even to the point of death. When others heard his story, they praised God because of him.

I wonder how Paul felt. Did he experience regret over the man he was before? Did he feel proud of the man he had now become?

In truth, we all have stories that bring praise to God. The question is: how will we respond? Will we live our days weighed down with regret over our past? Or will we grab hold of the new man in Christ - living for today and tomorrow?

Lord, I know there are many who would praise You because of me. The stories of the man I was before, like Paul's, are not very nice. Did I persecute the church? No. But my actions made me Your enemy.

I think my greatest regret isn't so much the story, but the timing. Others have amazing testimonies of redemption from worldly lives - of how You reached into their pit of sin and saved them from a life of spiritual ignorance. Having been raised in the church and accepting the gospel as a child, my greatest sins have been with full knowledge of Your grace. How many times have I played the hypocrite - standing up in church on Sunday morning after a week of sinful failure? I fear that if some were to hear my story, their reaction would be disgust and anger rather than praise.

The fact is - my story is all too common.

Every Christian struggles with sin. Every Christian needs to understand the depth of Your grace - especially for willful sin committed with full knowledge of the gospel. Give me the chance, Father, to bring praise to You. Help me to be the new man You have created me to be, so others can find hope for themselves.

August 18, 2006

Even for Just a Moment

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3:6

Without an understanding of God's grace, certain verses can sure cause a lot of doubt. John's words seem to suggest that if we sin, we are not in Him - that maybe we aren't really saved. Even as Christians, sin will continue to be a struggle. What are we to do?

In truth, when we sin, we are not in Him. We have chosen to step outside of Him - outside of His protection - even for just a moment.

Yet there is hope.

By His grace, He is ALWAYS in us. That's the key! That is how we know we are saved. He will never leave us or forsake us - even for just a moment.

Lord, thank You for choosing me. There are times that I don't choose You, but my choice can never change You. I am made clean and holy by Your action alone - not mine. Help me to see You in all things, for when I see You, sin isn't even a choice.

August 22, 2006

What if it's the ONE?!

There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying he should pray about that. 1 John 5:16b

There are some verses in the Bible that, if taken out of context, can really shake things up a bit! Out of the blue, John refers to a sin that leads to death. Essentially, he reveals there is one unforgiveable sin.

A Christian could easily get stuck right here. He may wonder, "Wait! What if my sin is the ONE sin that cannot be forgiven?"

Without the whole of the Bible, we wouldn't know that this sin is to reject the Spirit of God. If we reject Him fully, there is no turning back.

Lord, I must admit that there are times I wonder. Could I have misunderstood? Is my sin the ONE?! Help me to understand the depth and breadth of Your grace. In Your grace, we find freedom from sin. In Your grace we find hope.

There is nowhere else I would rather be than with You.

About Sin

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in the Sin category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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