Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Christian’s in a Zoo

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

A couple of months ago on one of our trips to the zoo we had the opportunity to pet a learn about an opossum (which we found out is different than a possum). We see opossums all over the Midwest. In particular, the little critters love to dig through our garbage and make a mess of things. An interesting fact I learned about opossums is that they’re not originally from the Midwest. They migrated here from Central America. As immigrants to our region of the world they’re not well adapted to our climate. Opossums in the Midwest are often very thin compared to their relatives to the south and the damaging effects of frostbite can be seen on many of them.

We’re a lot like the opossums in the midwest. We weren’t created to live in a fallen world. We were created to live in a sin-free world in a close relationship with God. We’re, therefore, not well adapted to live in this environment and the damaging effects of sin affect our lives. They can be seen in the anxiety we experience, or in our struggles to maintain healthy relationships. We all carry the scars of sin like midwestern opossums cary the scars of frostbite.

In the zoo, opossums are protected from the dangers of the Midwestern climate by zookeepers who love and care for them. In Christ, we have access to a similar kind of protection. God loves and cares for us. By sending Jesus God created a zoo for people. In the zoo, we are free from the power of sin. We can live in a close relationship with God. Jesus’s death on the cross opens the gates to the zoo and allows us in. To enter the zoo we walk through the gate by trusting that Jesus’s sacrifice paid for our admission. We stay in the zoo by choosing to live our lives the way Jesus lived his.

We all belong in a zoo. Are you in the zoo?

Defining Discipleship

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

What is discipleship?

This is the question that I’ve been wrestling with for the last two months. As chaplain at Southfield Christian school, I’ve had to look at this through new eyes. In general, we all tend to define discipleship as “growing in Christ-likeness” or other similar language. In the church world, this is usually equated with a Christian Education or Small Group program. The presupposition is that these venues will create environments through which the Holy Spirit will work to transform our lives or teach us how to be more open and submissive to what the Holy Spirit is doing in us.

There are two problems with this approach. One, it leaves the definition of discipleship so vague that virtually anything could be defined as success. Two, it focuses on academics and observable behavior rather than an internal transformation of values and attitude.

Sitting in a Christian School looking to disciple students, I’ve seen these problems first-hand. Without a clear definition of what “growing in Christ-likeness” looks like there is no way to effectively evaluate the discipleship efforts of the organization. Furthermore, students that spend their entire school-day in an environment that focuses on academics and observable behavior, in the aggregate, don’t look any different than any other group of church-going students. This leads me to one of two conclusions. Either our general approach in the United States to discipling young people is incredibly effective and getting repeatable sustainable results or it is completely ineffective and getting repeatable sustainable results.

Unfortunately, based on my observation of American teenagers’ attitudes, values, and propensity to dismiss or justify sin issues, I’m inclined to believe the latter. The first step to improving the situation is redefining discipleship. We’re still working on a definition that communicates clearly and provides a way to evaluate the systems and programs we implement, but here is the concept around which that definition will develop at Southfield Christian School. Discipleship is leading another to grow in their love for God and others.

What do you think? Is this definition helpful to you? Do you think that this definition is a good foundation for building effective discipleship ministries?

The American Heresy

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

In the comments on my last post I had a spirited conversation with a friend from high school regarding the existence of hell. To summarize my understanding of his argument, he believes that hell is not a real place because hell is evil and God being all good cannot create evil. The references to hell in Scripture, therefore, are metaphors. This is one of the many variations of this idea the United States today. I’d like to take a moment here to share my thoughts on the matter.

First, I believe hell is a literal place where people who do not receive God’s forgiveness for their sin through Jesus in their earthly lives will spend eternity. Hell is a place where those who have not received salvation in Christ receive eternal punishment for their sin (Matthew 25:30, 41; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:3).

This is not inconsistent with God’s goodness. In fact, quite the opposite is true. If God were not to punish sin then he would not be wholly good because he would allow evil to exist without consequence. In this sense, hell is no more evil than prison.

What about the length of punishment? Is eternal punishment really justified for temporal sin? Ultimately, I don’t think we can answer that, because we are incapable of ascertaining the true extent of sin. We do not know the damage that sin does beyond the obvious things that we see and feel. Yet we know that sin is wrong even when there are no apparent damages to the people around us (for instance sex between to single consenting adults is sin although there are no apparent negative effects). We cannot judge whether eternal punishment is fair or not, only God knows.

While this is not comfortable for me, I trust God. I know that God is good. I know that he will do what is right. So, I trust him to do the holy, righteous, loving, good thing. Even when I don’t understand it. I must hold myself to God’s standard and not attempt to hold him to mine. He’s God. I’m not.

There’s a lot more that could be said here but this is enough for one post. What do you think?

Own Your Own Sin

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

In my last post I asked if God was responsible for sin? I argued that God is, as least secondarily, responsible for the existence of sin because although he had the power to prevent it he chose not to.

I offered the analogy of someone aware that a bank robbery was about to occur and did not call the police. That individual is secondarily responsible for the robbery because they had the power to prevent it, and chose not to. Does this remove culpability from the one committing the robbery? Does this excuse his action? Absolutely not!

Let’s say that you knew that I was going to rob a bank and did nothing to stop me. You would not be directly responsible for the fact that I robbed the bank. I still had the choice not to rob the bank. I am responsible for the choices I make.

Applying this to our conversation, we can see that, although God may be indirectly responsible for sin, each individual is directly responsible for every sin that they commit. God is therefore just in judging sin.
In response to some of the comments from Tuesday’s post this is why we cannot justify our sin be putting it back on God. By God’s design we are free moral agents. Although God allows for the potentiality of sin we are still responsible for the free choices that we make. We must own our own sin.

Is God Responsible for Sin?

Monday, June 14th, 2010

I love having conversations with people who disagree with me. It forces me to think. It forces me to understand why I think or believe the way I do. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with a Pentecostal friend of mine. We were discussing how sin entered the world. My friend believes that sin entered the world through the agency of free moral agents and there was nothing that God could do to stop it. The way I understand what he was saying, sending Jesus was God’s reaction to sin and his way of fixing something that went horribly wrong.

Let’s take a closer look at the argument. First, we both agree that sin is in the world. Second, we both agree that sin is offensive to God. The question then is, how did something offensive to God enter the world. I see two possibilities. (1) God was unable to prevent sin from entering the world because of either a lack of knowledge or a lack of power. (2) God was able to prevent sin from entering the world but chose not to prevent it.

The problem with option 1 is that it denies God’s omniscience, omnipotence, or both. The problem with 2 is that it makes God, at least secondarily, responsible for sin entering the world by allowing sin to enter the world. Now, I know some of you are going to balk at the second problem but pause and think about it for a moment. If my dog bites my neighbor, who is responsible? Me. If I know that my neighbor is going to rob a bank and I don’t call the police, am I responsible. In a secondary sense I am and the law hold me responsible. If God had the knowledge that sin would enter the world and the power to stop it and he chose not to he is, at least secondarily, responsible for sin entering the world.

So either God could not prevent sin or God is partially responsible for sin. For my friend, he is more comfortable with saying that God could not stop sin than saying that God is partially responsible for sin. I can’t accept that. I can’t sleep at night thinking that there is something outside of God’s ability to control. Outside of God’s sovereignty. How can I trust that God will fulfill all his promises if he sin was able to enter the world against God’s will. To me this makes sin in a sense more powerful than God. That not only gives me fits philosophically but it is not biblical. Therefore, I accept that God is secondarily responsible for sin entering the world because he could have stopped it. But, I trust that since God is all good and all loving his choice to allow sin is the good loving choice. I don’t understand it. But God has always been faithful and good to me so I trust him in spite of my lack of understanding.

Now, I know that someone reading this post is going to argue that I am making God responsible for the fact that they sin. Well, that’s not what I believe but this post has already gotten too long so come back Thursday and I’ll explain what I believe about that. Please leave you comments below. Like I said, I like to talk to people who disagree with me. That’s how we all learn and grow. It’s how we love God with all our minds.

Why Do I Still Need Deliverance?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Over the past several months I’ve been reading through the Psalms.  I’m reading through the Psalms because as I was reading through the Gospels last year I noticed how much Jesus quoted the Psalms.  So, I decided to spend some time immersing myself in them.

In truth, this has been more difficult than I anticipated.  I have found it hard to identify with much of what is said in the Psalms.  In particular, I find it hard to identify with the psalms of deliverance where the psalmist prays for deliverance from his enemies.  The main reason for this is that I don’t feel that I have any enemies to deal with.  I’m certainly not in the place of David as he was hiding from a vengeful king out to kill him.  No one is out to take my life.

As that thought came to me when I was reading Psalm 54 a couple of months ago it occurred to me that I do have an enemy.  I have an enemy who uses insurgent tactics against me.  The most effective aspect of his tactical approach is the fact that I forget he’s there.

Satan is always near tempting me to sin.  He is most effective when I forget that he is there.  When I forget that Satan is at work I forget to pray against him.  I start thinking that I can overcome sin on my own.  At those times, I forget that I need God.  I forget that I need the power of the cross.

I might as well be spitting on the cross because though I don’t say it with my words, with my actions I tell Jesus, “Thanks for dying but you didn’t need to, I can handle this.”  Yes, I’m that foolish.  And, I bet you can be sometimes too.

I’m grateful for the psalms of deliverance, because I still need God’s power to deliver me from sin and Satan.  I need the Holy Spirit constantly working in my life protecting me and transforming me.  The psalms of deliverance remind me to pray for God to continue to keep me from sin and lead me to praise him for sending his Son to die for me.

What have you learned recently from your time reading the Bible?

The Distance Between You and God (Part 4)

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

The past several posts have focused on how Christ-followers can overcome the relational distance created between us and God when we sin.  To illustrate, we’ve been looking at Psalm 51.  The first two things that stand out in the Psalm are that we need to admit that we have sinned and then put our trust in what God has done to overcome that relational distance.  There is one more thing we learn about this from Psalm 51.

This is probably the lesson I need most.  It seems to be the thing that most people leave out in the restoration process.

Worship!

Throughout the Psalm David worships God.  In confession he honors God’s justice in judging sin.  In his request for restoration he honor’s God’s mercy in restoring him.  The Psalm reaches its crescendo in the second half of verse 14, “Then my tongue will shout for joy because of your deliverance.”  The Psalm closes in praise of God.

When Christ-followers sin, we create relational distance between ourselves and God.  We must acknowledge our sin in confession.  Then we can experience God’s work in restoring our relationship.  As we experience this restoration, the only appropriate response is to worship God.

How do you worship God when he restores you?

The Distance Between You and God (Part 3)

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

We’ve been talking about what Christ-followers should do when they sin.  In the first post of the series we established that sin does not cause us to lose our relationship with God.  It creates relational distance between Him and us.  We’re looking at Psalm 51, King David’s prayer when he was caught in sin, to discover how to overcome that relational distance.  In the last post we observed that the first step is confession.

At this point we have to understand that we cannot overcome this relational distance on our own.  It literally takes an act of God.  The only way for us to span the distance that we’ve created in our sin is for God to restore us to the place we were.  The cool thing is that God is all about restoration.  The entire Bible is the story of human sin which creates relational distance between humanity and God and God’s work to restore that relationship.

Look at what David says in Psalm 51:7-14a:

7  Sprinkle me with water and I will be pure;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.

8  Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven!
May the bones you crushed rejoice!

9  Hide your face from my sins!
Wipe away all my guilt!

10  Create for me a pure heart, O God!
Renew a resolute spirit within me!

11  Do not reject me!
Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me!

12  Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance!
Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey!

13  Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways,
and sinners will turn to you.

14  Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me! (NET)

When we first became Christ-followers, we trusted Jesus and his sacrifice to free us from sin and death and to restore our relationship with God.  This one time experience guarantees us salvation and eternity with Him.  But just as the disciples needed their feet washed to be clean the night of the last supper (John 13:1-17), we need to rest in God’s grace.  We need to trust that just as Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross saved us, his sacrifice restores our relationship with God.  It is not an act of will or obedience.  It is an act of faith; an act of trust; an act of love.

An then, we experience the closing of the distance that we created.

We experience the restoration of our relationship with God.

When have you experienced this kind of relational restoration?

The Distance Between You and God

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

For the sake of clarity, I’m going to share one of my theological presuppositions.  I believe that the moment a person trusts Christ all their sins are forgiven, even the ones they haven’t committed yet.  I know not everyone agrees with that statement.  If you’d like to discuss it further feel free to comment below, but that is the presupposition that this series of posts will be built upon.

Often I have been asked if that is true, what happens when Christ-followers sin?  There are two things that do not happen.  (1) They are not rejected by God.  (2) They do not lose their place in heaven.  Therefore, when Christ-followers sin they have not lost the relationship with God that they received when they trusted Christ.

They’ve disappointed God and created relational distance between themselves and God.  You’ve experienced this in relationships with people.  Think of a time when you disappointed or hurt someone close to you, your husband or wife, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your parents, your children, or maybe just a close friend.  Think back to how you felt at that time.  Remember the pain and discomfort you experienced.  That is relational distance.  That is what happens to Christ-followers when they sin.

For some of you, that relational distance was never overcome.  For some of you, that relationship ended and the pain is still there.  I want you to know, I am truly sorry about that.  I’m sorry for the loss and the pain that you’ve experienced.  Yet, I also want you to know that will never happen with God.  Jesus has promised to never leave you (Matthew 28:20).  Jesus has promised that no one will ever pull you out of God’s hand (John 10:28-29).

In the next several posts we’re going to talk about what to do to overcome that experience of relational distance with God.  We’re going to look at Psalm 51.  It is a prayer that King David of Israel prayed after he had sinned by sleeping with another man’s wife, getting her pregnant and then killing the man to cover up what he’d done.  If you haven’t read Psalm 51 in a while check it out on YouVersion.  And if you want to read the story about David it’s in 2 Samuel 10 – 11.

Before we get into what Scripture says, however, what are the steps that you use when trying to restore broken relationships?