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Posts Tagged ‘Sin’

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 6.49.14 AMI was recently confronted with reminders of sins of the past. Sins that had hurt, sins that had ripple-like effects to far more than ever imagined at the time. That reminder took me back to a very dark time … a time when hope was shadowed by the blackness of sin.

There is a saying that has permeated my days since that reminder of sin:

A single lie discovered
is enough to create doubt in every truth expressed.

And so, in a moment I was thrust backward, from the present to the past, from freedom to slavery, from a life of truth back to deception. And heaviness  was on my spirit.

And then I was reminded of stones.

Stones are a prop for numerous stories in the Bible. There is one such story when Jesus himself used stones as a mirror, a reflector.

The story is told in John (8:3-11):

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

-Jesus had people gathered around him in the temple courts … it was he who the people wanted to hear (not the teachers of the law of the Pharisees). He was leading the people in a way that was through truth, relationship … they were leading from a place of position, education and wealth.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

-I so wish that the Bible gave account of what he had written! Some say it was the names of the accusers who had also taken prostitutes, or perhaps something from the Law. Whatever it was, combined with his direction that if they were sinless, be the first to throw a stone at her, they fled.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

 “No one, sir,” she said.

But Jesus didn’t stop at responding to the question about the Law, he also looked at the woman, left behind by her accusers, and asked a most redundant question … “where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

And so he gives her freedom (I don’t condemn you), and advice that is always pertinent after a sin has been discovered … leave your life of sin. Because “sorry is not enough, sometimes you actually have to change” (unknown).

We can all be like the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, reminding people of their sin, shaming others who have done wrong. I certainly have sat in the seat of the judgement of others … and I have great callouses on my back end for sitting in such a seat of arrogance. I have callouses on my hands for holding the stones so tightly.

But, Paul reminds us in Romans (3:23)

“all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

His words are like a thorn in our side … or they should be! He reminds us that we judge, not as Christ judges, for we judge the sins of others while bathing in our own.

Paul previously reminds us, earlier in that passage (Romans 3:10) that,

“there is no one righteous, not even one”

Sin is the burden of our human condition. It is indiscriminate of who it will afflict, for it afflicts us all.

There is no one who can erase their own sin, there is no person who can eliminate the sin of another … except Christ.

The Matthew Henry Commentary says of this passage, and of God’s view of sin:

“It is plain that he hates sin, when nothing less than the blood of Christ would satisfy for it. And it would not agree with his justice to demand the debt, when the Surety has paid it, and he has accepted that payment in full satisfaction.”

And, in the words of the hymn, Jesus Paid it All, all to HIM I owe.

 

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From the first time I heard This is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickham, I loved it! I couldn’t wait to go home and put it on repeat on YouTube (hubby and the kids  l  o  v  e  it when I put songs on repeat (NOT!), and to check out the lyrics (rather than my typical singing along with words I ‘think’ fit).

That first day that I heard it, driving in my minivan, I was feeling rather melancholic. But as the dance music hit my ears, and the easy lyrics penetrated by heart, it was no time until I was tapping my fingers and looking like a bobble head in my driver seat.

For me, the lyrics of this song, echoing in my downcast head was a God Wink, a gift of encouragement, a halt to my naval gazing.

And that is what grace received with open hands does … it takes our eyes, our focus, off of ourselves.

According to http://www.freedictionary.com, grace is “mercy; clemency; pardon” … funny how those definitions bring prison and guilt to mind, because without grace we are doomed to life in prison … a certain hell. God gives the sentence of eternal life through grace. This is a pardon from guilt and sins, through the stepping in of a guiltless one to make our payment in full. One, without sin, taking the place of all who are sin-filled.

“This IS amazing grace
This IS unfailing love
That you would take my place
That you would bear my cross
You laid down your life
That I would be set free”

9310a6bfc19ed8d96ba8b1d22b071920

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If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I am mesmerized by the book and the person of Job.

I am in awe at how he suffered, and yet was still willing to offer up praise to his Creator:

“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21

Job was a good and righteous man. He had many earthly treasures, and all were taken from him. After losing all of the people, and things, and health that was good, he is tormented by his neighbors. They are certain that Job must have sinned terribly for God to have cursed himself in every part of his life, and they (like tabloid editors) want to know all of the details of his sin.

jb11_01p05-06

Job sits and listens to their speeches.

But, Job was real too. Although he never ceased to praise his Maker, he also had his pity party:

jb02_08

“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.
You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me.
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm.
I know you will bring me down to death, to the place appointed for all the living.”
Job 30:20-23

In the end, God responds both to Job’s ‘friends’, as well as to Job’s groaning:

jb39_35

Then Job, in humility, and understanding of who is really in charge, replied to the Lord:

jb40_03-05

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.
Job 40:2-3

“The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”
Job 42:12

“All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender all of these, into Your hands
For it’s only in Your will that I am free”

* if you want to see more of the stories of the Bible told with similar images, check out The Brick Testament

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If there was ever a time when the reality that we live in a sin filled world has been so obvious, it is the tragic deaths in that elementary school in Connecticut last Friday.images-1

It would be impossible for anyone to have heard the news of the horrific events inflicted on the most innocent and pure in our society (children) and not felt the weight of tragedy and loss.

This violent act has some asking the question “where was God?”

…sigh …

I heard a commentary on the weekend expressing a response to that question. The response dealt with how we have kicked prayer and God from our schools, how we have devalued human life and the institution of marriage by redefinition, how we have ignored the teachings of the Bible and thrown out God’s laws from our society.

I disagree! Not with what we have done to eliminate Judeo-Christian values from society, but with the insinuation that the sinful human actions at Sandy Hook Elementary school were allowed as some vindictive act of Creator God.

My God is not vindictive!

Genesis makes it clear that God created our world, from the birds of the air to the fish of the deep to our own humanity. He did so in such a way that the Earth and all within it would be self sustaining. It was perfect!

But, He is not a God who forces himself on us, like a delusional attacker. No, He gave His most high level creatures (aka. humans), choice in obedience … and they (and we) failed we fell for Satan’s schemes:images

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:19-20

From that moment on God’s ‘pièce de résistance’ (the human race) has been failing, and failing miserably. We live with the very real consequences of being creatures who are born with a sinful nature, since Adam and Eve made the choice to sin in the Garden of Eden. Each and every part of the entirety of creation was affected, and continues to be affected by sin. Our perfect, spotless, free and easy existence has been blood, sweat and tears ever since.

We still live as the image bearers of our Creator, but we are tarnished, bruised and fragile because of it.

Because of sin:

  • we experience death.
  • we experience health problems.
  • we feel hurt and pain and loss.
  • crops are lost.
  • people starve.
  • wars are fought.
  • people obsess about the world’s demise.

Because of sin … our sin.

There is no band-aid for the hurts that our sinful world inflict on us, or those around us. Our world is not Eden, humanity has not been there since the time of first man and first woman … that is reserved for heaven. God is not a superhero, with a cape, and a script. But, just as thousands of years ago people wished for and anticipated the coming of the Savior, whose birth we reenact in this season with young children … like the ones who died so tragically last week, we need to remember that we are not home yet. That home is the home of eternal joy, eternal peace, and eternal safety.

So close your eyes with me And hear the Father saying, ” Welcome home”
Let us find the strength in all His promises to carry on
He said, “I’ll go prepare a place for you”
So let us not forget
We are not home yet,
Keep on looking ahead, let your heart not forget
We are not home yet,
I know there’ll be a moment,
I know there’ll be a place
Where we will see our Savior and fall in His embrace
So let us not grow weary or too content to stay
‘Cause we are not home yet

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Monday morning in staff devotions, a teacher shared a story called Serpent, by Joan McCarthy (from a publication called Pro Rege, December, 1997), and I loved it! Then, two days later that same teacher read it again, this time in devotion time to his class, and I loved it more!

Today, I want to share the story with you, enjoy …

Serpent sinuously slips unseen and smiling through the grass with eyes narrowed to cruel slits. It has heard the cry of pain and rejoices.

“That cry echoes across the universe. it trumpets my victory. “Scream Eve, scream,” it hisses. “Today something new will be added to creation. Adam, the namer, will have to provide a name for the cessation of life.”

On its belly it slithers silently to a low tree and peers at the woman who lies curled beneath the branches. Fear and pain are on her dirt streaked face, and sweat gives a sheen to her skin in the light of early dawn. She moans. Serpent tingles with delighted anticipation and moves up the trunk of the tree and on to a branch to watch with eager, glittering eyes.

“You chose to know good and evil, ” it lisps. “My gift to you, Eve. Know evil. Know pain in your once perfect body. Feel the coming of the end. God has cursed us, but your screams are my laughter in God’s face.”

Eve’s body jerks at the sound. She recoils in recognition and struggles to push herself away, but the tree trunk blocks her. “Not you. Not now, ” she whispers through clenched teeth. Her whole body begins to tremble before Serpent’s icy stare.

“Yes, woman, it is I, the one you accused.” Serpent brings its head within inches of her face. “But why are you fearful? I sought only to make you wise. This suffering is the Maker’s doing. It was the Maker who denied you eternal life and drove you from Eden.” Serpent draws back, lays its head on the branch and coolly regards Eve. Remember the Maker’s words, ‘you shall surely die.’ What do you think is happening to you now woman, you mere afterthought of a jealous God?”

Eve’s eyes widen with terror and she screams for Adam. Serpent sneers. “Ah, yes, Adam, the crown of creation, over there crouching behind that tree. He is not in pain. His body is not swollen and deformed, but yours ….” Serpent averts its eyes in revulsion. “Adam blamed you, you know,” it says turning back to her. “Now see what has befallen you while he goes free. Perhaps, the Maker is destroying you and will create a fresh, new Eve for Adam, one that will once again delight his eyes. You will be returned to dust and the breath that quickened you will blow, lost forever.”

Serpent draws its face close to hers. “Call on me. I have the power to deliver you from your pain.”

Eve stares, her eyes wide with bewilderment that changes to horror. She tries to move toward Adam. In a louder voice Serpent addresses her once again. “So you not know what awaits you? See the fear in the eyes of Adam. He shall not help you. His manhood melts before your cries. He hears his own mortality in them and knows terror for the first time. He will run as far as he can from you and your groaning. You shall face your end alone.”

Serpent draws back to watch with a satisfied smirk as Eve’s body convulses once again. Her hands tear at the swollen belly. But, this time, no sound escapes her lips.

As the pain ebbs, her eyes seek the man. Seeing him, indeed, gathering himself to flee, she calls out with all her strength, “Adam, stay. Be man for this woman.”

Adam hesitates and turns his head to look back at her. She extends a trembling hand to him. “Do not fear my pain, Adam. It is mine alone. you too will have pain that will be your own. Comfort me now as you shall desire to be comforted.”

Serpent drops his coils from the branch and slips to Adam’s side. “Flee, Firstmade. Save yourself. She has no comfort left to give you. If you stay, you will see her end and taste your own. Turn while you can. You never needed her to do great things. She was only a gift, a helper for your great deeds, a pleasurable amusement. She has ceased to be helpful or amusing.”

Eve rises on one arm. “So not listen to the words of the cunning one. Serpent twists truth. I have always been with you. The Maker did not start over with me. He drew me from you-as you have said, ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ All we have left of the Maker’s image is each other-together we bear that image in its completeness. I do not believe the Maker will destroy part of it. We must not let this evil one tempt us to shatter it and doom us to wander incomplete and alone. That will be worse than pain.”

Adam stops. Slowly the terror leaves his eyes. Serpent rises up before him. “Take care. She deceives you once again. you are the important one.”

But Adam pays him no heed. With his eyes fixed on Eve’s, he goes to her. He cradles he in his arms. With gentleness he wipes her brow and holds her through her pain.

Hissing in disgust Serpent tries to insinuate himself between them. “Fool, fool, save yourself.”

Suddenly Eve gives a great cry and Serpent sees her drew something from her own body. Its eyes widen in horror. Eve has not died. She has brought forth a new creature, small and wet and shining in the growing light.

Then the new one opens his mouth and begins to cry. The gleam returns to Serpent’s eyes. “This is not a new creation. It too feels pain. It is just one of them. I will coil around the door of his heart and have my way with this one too. I can wait.”

But the crying hushes. Adam, his face full of wonder as he tries to name what he has seen, has broken a large leaf from a nearby tree and brought it to Eve. She covers the man child with it and cradles him to her body.

All that can be seen is the kicking of tiny heels. A smile of triumph flickers across Serpent’s face and then suddenly dies. A shiver runs along its body, and it quickly lowers it head and slides silently away through the dust.

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My advice:
If you just clicked on this and have no time to read, just scroll down to the bottom, and watch the video … it is just that good!

It had been so long, so very long, since it had happened, since I had even thought those thoughts, and yet, out of the blue there it was again, as if no time had passed.

I had thought that I had turned my back on the past and that it would stay there … but here it was, and I was feeling all that I had felt before.

As I sat in the driver seat of my vehicle, I felt like anything but the driver. I put my head back closed my eyes and moaned, “why does this keep haunting me? when will it go away?”

The ‘it’ was sin. A sin of the past, one that I had acknowledged, repented of, and was forgiven. Yet, here it was again stalking me like some deranged killer, eager to snuff the life from me.

I wondered if this struggle was like the “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) that Paul had experienced. He referred to it as “a messenger of Satan to torment me” that helped to keep him humble. Well, I am not sure if my sin of the past is keeping me humble, but it certainly drives me to my knees!

For a week or more the guilt of this sin was haunting me. It was there when I went to bed, and when I work up. It was everywhere, and all the time. I was easily able to relate to Romans 7:21-24 “although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man/woman I am!” I just wanted it to go away!

And then, while driving in my van a couple of weeks later, as so often is the case, the voice of Truth spoke to me, loud and clear. It was through a song I had not heard (or had not needed to hear) before, but the message I received from it, I believe, answered my cry, “who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

It answers the cry of all of our hearts!

Redeemed
“to restore the honor, worth, or reputation of”
American Heritage Dictionary

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Why do I believe in an invisible God? Why do I believe that I am a sinner in need of a Savior? Why do I have faith in a man who was executed, who rose from the dead, and then was carried back up into the heavens?

Why do I call myself Christian?

I often wonder if those are the unvoiced questions of people around me who do not share the same beliefs. I often wonder if I have answered them myself, fully and completely. I wonder how many times I have left the scars on the hearts of others for how I have injured the name of the One I follow.

As I traverse this road of life, I do believe that to make such claims means I need to be confident of my beliefs, of my worldview.

From my earliest memories, I have been certain of the presence of an invisible God in my life, and the world. Call it predestination, or Karma or the gift of a awareness of the spiritual around me, as you wish. I think it is something similar, but different, I would call it discernment. Simply put, I believe that one of the peculiarities (or gifts) that my God created me with is a strong intuition of the unseen … I have not had the inner battles that many have had in coming to believe in Creator God, such as author, C. S. Lewis who said, “in the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

It is easy to know that I am a sinner and, as a mom, it is easy to know that we are born with the capacity to sin regularly, and fully. One only needs to spend one day with a toddler to know that we are programmed to not obey the word ‘no’. As an adult, I still struggle to obey the word ‘no’. I struggle to not treat others poorly, I struggle to tell the truth, I struggle to be genuine, to be reliable to be real. I sin and I need a Savior to redeem my sinful nature.

Why do I have faith in a man who was executed, who rose from the dead, and then was carried back up into the heavens? That is harder to answer, for how does one who holds faith so dearly, explain it to those who might not? It truly is a profound mystery. In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

So, why do I call myself a Christian?

I know that I am a flawed, unpredictable, unreliable, selfish, individual, and I cannot imagine following any other than One who is all that I am not, and who loves me to death, despite my state of undeserving. It is the grace that is available to me that is the rudder of this life, and there is no better navigator that I can find.

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