God Knows the Truth…

September 16, 2021 is when I began commenting on Chapter Five of John Stott’s book Basic Christianity.  The Chapter concerns itself with the “Fact and Nature of Sin” and several pages are devoted to the Ten Commandments.  As I have navigated through the first five commandments [described by some as laws about how we are supposed to approach God], we are now in the part of the commandments where we were given laws about how to live with other human beings.

Commandment number six seems very straightforward: “You shall not kill.”

What could be simpler than that?  If you kill, you break God’s law.  If you do not, you are ok with that law.

I would caution anyone to assume that any commandment is really that simple.  Killing is a very complex act.  Google “thou shall not kill” and you can see the complexity very quickly:  Is thou shall not kill the same as thou shall not murder?  God kills so much in the Bible; does that mean that He is breaking His own commandment?  Why does God refer to capital punishment in Genesis 9: 6; is it ok to kill in this circumstance?  What about soldiers who go into war?  The government asks them to kill.  Is that ok?  Is it wrong to kill spiders?  What about bugs and snakes?  And then the most complex, divisive issue in the world today:  Is abortion killing?  If it is, that breaks the sixth commandment doesn’t it?  I have just exposed the “tip of the iceberg;” the topic of killing is discussed ad nauseam in this world today.

Then I turn to Stott’s comments on killing.  He brings up the subject of looking at people as if you want to kill them.  Murder can be committed with “cutting words” alone.  Jesus says that to be angry with someone without cause is just as serious as killing.  The Disciple John states “Any one who hates his brother is a murderer”.  Temper, uncontrolled passion, sullen rage, bitter resentment and desire for revenge can be considered murder.  You can kill with “malicious gossip.”  You can kill by neglect and cruelty.  Spite and jealousy can kill.

Wow, I always thought the sixth commandment merely meant the unjustified taking of human life. 

It is obviously so much more.  To begin, I have used both words “kill” and “murder” in the writing above.  That is complicated in itself, for some Bible translations refer to the commandment as “thou shalt not kill” and other refer to it as “thou shalt not murder.”  For many, killing is a physical act but murder is a physical act reflective of one’s heart toward another.

Why do we murder one another?  In the beginning, God created us to live in harmony with one another; after all, we were created in God’s image.  After going beyond the first two chapter of Genesis, we see that sin enters the picture and then people found themselves capable of acting violently against one another.  Of course Cain killed his brother Abel.    Cain, the firstborn, was a farmer, and his brother Abel was a shepherd. Both brothers made sacrifices to God, but God favored Abel’s sacrifice instead of Cain’s. Cain then murdered Abel out of jealousy, whereupon God punished Cain by condemning him to a life of wandering.  From the start of murder in Genesis 4: 8, taking the life of another has been commonplace.  

How does this fit in with a Christian worldview that advocates that every human life is valuable?  It does not fit.  That’s why God introduced the sixth commandment, to seek to curb man’s appetite to murder others.  Without something, man’s sinful nature could run rampant and murder could become too prevalent.  First John 3: 4 states “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.”  I harken back to my post on October 20th where I discuss “guardrails” which protect us from danger as we drive down the road.  God’s commandments can be seen as guardrails.  Commandment number six keeps us from eradicating humanity [although there have been numerous examples of efforts at mass killing e.g. Nazi Germany, Mao Zedong’s Regime in China and Stalin’s Communist Regime in Russia]. 

If mankind is conflicted on the topic of killing, the Bible seems to be also.  Paul talks about the right of the government to take the lives of evil people in some versions of Romans 13: 1-7.  Matthew 5: 21 says “You have heard what was said to people who lived long ago. They were told, ‘Do not commit murder’.  Anyone who murders will be judged for it.”  Scripture is full of instances when God endorses the taking of other’s lives [see 1 Samuel 11 and Judges 6-7].  The unintentional killing of another is also addressed in Scripture as manslaughter.  Unintentional killers can flee to refuge cities where they can escape punishment [see Exodus 21: 13].  

Premeditation seems to be the key regarding the taking of another’s life.  Premeditation does not line up with God’s will.  Murder stems from a hatred for another, a deep hatred.  When we harbor hatred in our hearts, that is a grievous sin.  As Christians we know that unjustified killing of another human is not right and will result in extremely negative consequences on Judgement Day.

One can turn to news of the day and see obvious examples of people who commit murder.  Today is November 25, 2021 and Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted for taking the life of two people on November 19.  The Ahmaud Arbery trial verdict occurred yesterday, the young man was killed by men who claimed self-defense.  The jury convicted the perpetrator and two others riding in his vehicle.  Those are just the instances that make it into the news.  Many examples of killing don’t get national coverage, yet people die anyway and when it occurs, it is never simple: If you kill, you break God’s law.  If you do not, you are ok with that law.

Extenuating circumstances always come into play, but as I have watched countless crime documentaries with my wife and I hear the conflicting versions of the act of killing, I often ask myself what is true?  I consider the power of God and His all-knowing nature. 

In closing, think about these words from First Samuel 16:7:  “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God knows the truth…

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A Special Message…

From David and Susan Carter to anyone who happens on to St. John Studies…

Have a Happy Thanksgiving…

It is a holiday but it is also a day when I post. I will be commenting on commandment six of the Ten Commandments.


Enjoy the day…

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Honor Them and Enjoy Long Life!!!!

John Stott* states that the Fifth Commandment is categorized as one of the commandments that concerns our duty to God [the first five].  Some people may wonder about that since “Honor Your Father and Mother” seems to be about our parents and not really about God.  However he writes that “while we are children [our parents] stand toward us in loco Dei,meaning in the place of God.  In essence, they represent God’s authority; therefore honoring parents is akin to honoring God.

He further comments that young people may find it “easy to be ungrateful and neglectful, and fail to show their parents due respect and affection.  In their own homes, people (young people especially) are at their most selfish and inconsiderate” [Stott, 67].

My teenage years were stormy, for my parents and I clashed over my efforts to have a serious relationship with my girlfriend, my clothing and very long hair and my attitude toward the Vietnam War.  My son’s teenage years were also stormy as we clashed over his need to have freedom to party, his inability to keep his room fit for human habitation and his obsession with his cool car and his fashionable clothes.  Despite all the battles we had, my wife and I tried to remain firm in asking him to respect us as parents.  We realized that his behavior was partly due to changes in his physical makeup [i.e. hormones] and also to his desire for independence before he really had any idea about what “independent” truly meant. 

Strain in the home between parents and children is a common story, yet we have that Fifth Commandment requiring children to “honor” their parents.  This idea occurs many other places in the Bible: in Ephesians it says “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” [6: 1].   Proverbs 1:8, 13:1 and 30:17 are all verses which urge children to respect their parents.  Colossians 3: 20 says “Children obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

So what does it mean to “honor” your parents?  How do we “honor” them?  What if our parents are “ungodly;” do we still honor them?  Is there ever a time when we outgrow honoring our parents?

First of all what does honor mean?  To honor means to be respectful in word and action to the position of parenthood.  The “position” deserves honor even though children may disagree with their parents.  The Greek word for honor means “to revere, prize and value.”  Honor has more to do woth attitude than anything else.  A child may not like a parent’s decision but they still should obey out of respect for the parental role.  Jesus submitted Himself to His earthly parents: “Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But His mother treasured all these things in her heart” [Luke 2: 51].  He also submitted Himself to His heavenly Father in the Garden at Gethsemane: “Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will’” [Matthew 26: 39]. 

How are we supposed to honor our parents?  We do this with our actions and our attitudes.  Lip service is not enough.  Grudging obedience is not enough.  If a parent expresses their wishes and those wishes are within the bounds of reasonable parental requests, children should obey. For the young child, obeying parents goes along with honoring them since young children are hardly ready to make life decisions on their own.  Honoring in this context means listening to parents, heeding their advice and submitting to their authority.  In Matthew 15: 3-9 Jesus reminded the Pharisees that God says to obey fathers and mothers.  The Fifth Commandment is part of “the Law” but the Pharisees were adding in their own traditions which essentially overruled the Fifth Commandment.  “He  answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’ For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’  But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, He need not honor his Father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.  You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”  Certainly Jesus knew that honoring meant honor with word and attitude.  The child who does not honor their parents with his or her heart does not honor them in a sincere manner.

Are there any circumstances when a child should not obey their parents?  The answer is yes.  Ezekiel 20: 18-19 states “I said to their children in the wilderness, Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols.  I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”  Parents are human and they may make bad decisions and children can be led astray.  Parents have a responsibility to instruct their children in the ways of God.  Ephesians 6: 4 states “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Even poor decisions can be forgiven as every parent in every situation cannot be right one hundred percent of the time.  Younger children should obey their parents even if the request is faulty.  But if a parental request goes against God’s law and a child [or especially a young person] knows that, following God law overrides following parents [see Acts 5: 29]. 

When does honoring parents change?  Do we ever outgrow honoring our parents?  As children grow up and move out of the house, they can show honor and respect by keeping in touch with their parents when at all possible. As parents age, their needs may increase. Adult children should stay aware of those needs and try to help meet those needs as a way of showing honor.  Parents who may not be the best deserve respect because they brought the child into the world and Christians feel that God can use anyone to accomplish His good plan [that includes parents of course].  Godly people are also supposed to show respect for all people and that includes parents.   As adults we are not bound to obey our parents every request but we can still respect them.

Truly honoring our parents is not an “easy” commandment.  I know it is not always fun and at times, it requires God’s strength to submit to parents [especially if a child is strong-willed].  However, the commandment is practical in that people who obey it can be more prepared to be good citizens.  As they mature, they have less trouble obeying governmental authorities, law enforcement authorities and employers.  Not only are they pleasing God, but they may have an easier time functioning in the world. 

I end with the idea that the Fifth Commandment is the only commandment that has promises associated with it.  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.   ‘Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’” [Ephesians 6: 1-3].

Certainly at times home life can be stormy but there is benefit to honoring one’s father and mother: we can gain wisdom, we can learn to respect authority, we can live a life much more at ease which can lead to longevity but most of all, as we can obey our parents we please our Lord.**

*From his book Basic Christianity

**Supplemental material for this post came from research from Gotquestions.org material related to the Fifth Commandment.

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“I’m Glad I Went…”

“Sunday is a ‘holy’ day, set apart for God.  It is the Lord’s day, not our day.  It is therefore to be spent in His way, not in ours, for His worship and service and not just for our selfish pleasure.”  John R. W. Stott, from his book Basic Christianity

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Commandment Number Four…

Before I began this post, I did not know Stott would have the words “not just for our selfish pleasure” in his comments about the Sabbath and the fourth commandment, and that those words elicit a response from me.  You see, for many years I looked at Sunday Christian Sabbath as a day entirely for my selfish pleasure.  

I disregarded the fourth commandment almost completely.

I grew up in a Christian home which meant that one day a week was set aside for church attendance.  The day that was set aside at my church was Sunday.  Many Christians on Sunday to praise God through song, pastoral preaching and scripture study.

Stott writes “To set one day in seven apart is not just a human arrangement or a social convenience.  It is God’s plan” [66].  This fourth commandment is in the first half of The Ten Commandments which concerns our duty toward God.

In the Old Testament God made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that are in them and He rested on the seventh day.  He blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.  It was His day.  He forbade people to work on the Sabbath and the penalty for desecrating the Sabbath was death [Exodus 31: 14].  It is notable that this commandment begins with the word “remember.”  This is the only commandment that begins with that word, possibly because the Sabbath was mentioned earlier in the Bible before Moses gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments.  The sanctity of the Sabbath was spelled out by Moses in Exodus 16:  “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord’” followed by specific instructions to not do any work on the Sabbath.  The commandment follows with the other nine in two later places, Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21. 

The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word “day of rest.”  The Israelites felt this day of rest began on the seventh day, sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday.  The pattern for this day of rest is based on God’s cessation from the work of creation in Genesis 2: 2. 

Another aspect of the command that is unique are the words “to keep it holy.”  Those words mean to consecrate, to set the day apart, or to sanctify.  For the Israelites the seventh day was distinctive from the other days of the week.  Keeping it holy was a sign of the covenant between Israel and the Lord.  Exodus 31:13 says “You must observe my Sabbaths.  This will be a sign between Me and you for the generations to come.”

Most of my comments on the Sabbath to this point have been about the day and its importance for Israel, but I was raised in a Christian home and I went to a church that was under the New Covenant.

Are there any hard and fast rules regarding the Sabbath for Christians?  Traditionally Christians have held most worship services on Sunday, the first day of the week in celebration of Christ’s resurrection [which occurred on Sunday, see Matthew, 28: 1; Mark 16: 2; Luke 24: 1 and John 20: 1].  However it is important to understand that unlike the Jewish people, Christians are not commanded in the New Testament to worship either on a Saturday or Sunday.   The Christian church is not under Mosaic Law.

Nevertheless the Sabbath was on Jesus’ mind when He clashed with the Pharisees over the special day.  The Pharisees were so keen on enforcing the Jewish Sabbath that they were constantly watching for Jesus to break the hard and fast Sabbath rules.  In the book of Luke, the disciples were accused of breaking the Sabbath by picking grain as they walked through the fields.  Jesus was condemned for healing people on the Sabbath.  Jesus stated when the ox is in the ditch it should be pulled out because it is an emergency [despite this symbolic incident occurring on the Sabbath].   At one time Jesus said to the Pharisees “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” [Mark 2:24-28].  On the whole, Jesus seemed to have the attitude that God gave man the Sabbath to encourage man to love Him and to love others.  Jesus never felt that the Sabbath was a day where someone could not help someone else.  The Pharisees acted as if God had created people so that He would have someone to keep the Sabbath, but Jesus felt the Sabbath was given as a gift to the people He had created.    Stott writes “Man’s body and mind need rest, and man’s spirit needs the opportunity to worship.  The Sabbath is therefore a day of rest and a day of worship” [66].

Something has happened to me regarding the Sabbath.  I did get taken to church on a regular basis almost every Sunday as a child [I don’t remember Dad and Mom missing hardly any worship service].  Like many young people, my Sabbath observances were spotty at best in college, but I did attend every so often.  Some Christians only make it to church at Christmas and Easter but I was better than that.  When I got married I attended church from time to time but when my job got more demanding and I began to pursue an advanced degree, I quit going to church altogether.  For many years I did not “darken the door” of a church. 

As I reflect back on those times not going hurt me quite a lot.  I needed to be around other Christians, I needed to worship God and I needed the foundation that the church affords all of us who will attend. 

Now my week revolves around church.  I teach an adult Sunday school class and I sing in the chancel choir on Sunday.  When asked. I read from the Old Testament and pray a congregational invocation as part of Sunday worship.  On Tuesday morning, I work with a team of intercessors to pray for the church, our pastor and staff and many others.  On Thursdays,  I like to think that this blog is my way of spreading a little of God’s word out to the world.  I have grown to like the regularity of the things I do for the church but of all the things I do, Sunday worship is the most important.

Do I get up on Sunday morning and sometimes moan and complain that I don’t feel like going to church?  Of course I do and I won’t go if I am really ill, but if it is just tiredness or a bad mood or even overwork from Saturday, I will go on to church.  No one “commands” me to go but it is surprising the number of times I feel positive feelings after I have gone.

It is surprising the number of times when I turn to my wife and simply say…

“I am glad I went to church”…

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The Third Commandment

Yahweh is a precious word to the Hebrews.

Yahweh is the Hebrew word that means God and is often spelled YHWH [without the vowels].  This is meant to discourage man from saying God’s name which was an act of respect, a sign of highest regard, a use of language to mean an appreciation of God beyond anything we can understand.

Yet why do I often hear God’s name used today when a character on a television show or a movie gets angry?  Recently, I heard a politician use God’s name when he was addressing people at his rallies.  Why is it becoming so common to hear people exclaim “Oh My ___!” when they are surprised at something that happens in life?  I hear these and other instances and wonder what the Hebrew people would think about the misuse of their special word?

The Third Commandment is “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”

What does “taking God’s name in vain” mean?  With our loose use of God’s name in the world today, is this commandment even relevant anymore?

John Stott* seems to think so.  He writes that the name of God represents the nature of God and God’s nature should be respected.  “There is much in the Bible which commands us to reverence His name, and in the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to pray that His name be hallowed” [66].  Psalm 8: 1 provides evidence that Stott is correct:  “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory in the heavens.”  Psalm 111:9 says “He provided redemption for His people; He ordained His covenant forever—holy and awesome is His name.”   Exodus 20: 7 warns “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.”

Why today do we not heed the words of James in Chapter 3, verses 9-10: “With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.   From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”  The book of Proverbs alone contains sixty warnings against sins of the tongue.  According to James the tongue can be like a small fire that sets the whole forest ablaze and stains the whole body.  We read of all these cautions and yet today there are frequent examples of people using the Lord’s name in the act of cursing.

Before we go too far with this topic, language use is often rooted in habit.  I have known individuals who use profane language on a daily basis.  I have also seen some of those people give their life to Christ and the profane language does not stop automatically.  Strong habits are hard to break.  What should happen over time is the realization that to represent Christ, language habits should change.  Poor language use can undermine any witness that a person can have with others who don’t know Jesus. 

Sometimes use of God’s name in vain is not just a “bad habit.”   It is a symptom of a deeper “heart issue.”  When someone uses God’s name in vain, it shows a heart that does know to have a proper fear of God [“fear” meaning respect].   Christians should know that they are to be held to a higher standard.  They should know better than to curse others using the name of the Lord.  They should know to take the Third Commandment seriously.

This emphasis on language can lead to “legalism” which means that some Christians can get “self-righteous” over their personal language use.  My wife and I had a conversation about the use of the word “geez.”  She said that words like gosh, or the use of abbreviations like OMG may help some people  steer clear of using more profane language even though they may be substitute words for saying God’s name in vain.  Some Christians may indulge in “nitpicking” others’ language, condemning all efforts to improve expression.  Condemnation or exoneration really depends on a person’s intent.  Some folks do not have a disrespectful intent in their language use whereas others may indeed knowingly disrespect God by their use of substitute words.  “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” [1 Corinthians 2:11].  Whatever your means of expression, if we use our language as a way to give thanks to God the Father, this stands as the basis for evaluating borderline terms like geez, gosh and OMG.  Over time we may become more aware of terms that can bring dishonor to God and when that awareness happens, we should work hard to remove those words from our conversation and writings in order to honor God in word and deed.

Stott writes that the use of God’s name in vain is not just the use of words.  It is indicative of a person’s thoughts and deeds.  We need to have consistent behavior in order to have a positive impact on the world.  “Whenever our behavior is inconsistent with our belief or our practice contradicts our preaching, we take God’s name in vain” [66].   As Christians we are declaring God as our Lord so our language should reflect that declaration.  If you pray in His name, take His name as part of your identity but disobey the third commandment, you run the risk of Christ saying “I never knew you.  Away from Me” on judgement day [Matthew, 7: 21-23]. 

“To take God’s name in vain is to talk one way and act another. This is hypocrisy” [Stott, 66].

I agree and I suspect those Hebrews would too…

*from his book Basic Christianity

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Commandment One and Two…The Difference

“I am the Lord your God, you shall not make for yourself a graven image.”

“I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me.”

The first statement is commandment number two; the second statement is commandment number one.

What is the difference between the two?  Aren’t they both about worshipping gods other than the Lord?  They seem so similar.

In my post “Guardrail Number One” written on St. John Studies on October 20, 2021, I tried to explain that the first commandment is all about putting “things” as worship items before the worship of God.  Some people put the accumulation of money as their number one concern.  For others it may be dedicating their life to their career.  Maybe it is a possession like a nice car, a nice home or a beautiful ring on your finger.  The point is that people sometimes forget to put God as number one in their life.  My simple definition of breaking this commandment was “Anytime a Christian strays into thinking about someone or something so much that they are forgetting God.”  They don’t worship God; they worship things as their god.

Ok, that explains number one but what makes number two different?

For insight, let’s turn to Matthew 22: 26-28 when Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment:  “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?”  Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment”.

This Scripture is so familiar to many Christians and when we break it down, it shows what God is really asking of us.  John Stott* feels that the Second Commandment is about the way we worship God, whereas the First Commandment is about the objects of our worship.

My relationship with God seems to be changing right now.  I have spent countless hours lately trying to understand what it means to dedicate more of myself to God.  For the most part, I have to acknowledge that I have mostly learned that I have little true dedication of heart, soul and mind to Him.  There is a lot of work still to be done. 

Why is this really a concern?  Besides In Matthew, Second Corinthians 10: 5  says that “we [should] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  People who study the mind report that the average person has between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day: that’s a lot of thought to control. Most of those thoughts are the result of countless bits of information we all have to deal with every day [most of it inconsequential]. 

Let me be personal [I think some of you may be able to relate].  I begin my day with a dark roast cup of coffee in a chair in the front bedroom of my home.  My wife does not awaken as early as I do, so I know I have a guaranteed amount of early morning time to be with God [without interruption].  I have a bit of a ritual, with prayer, Bible reading and lately meditation [yes I said meditation].  Lately I have been meditating on Psalm 139 which is about the ever-present support of God.  I am not sure I do this well but I turn to this Psalm and read it aloud three times, eventually finding a single verse that stands out to me.  I think about that verse, turning the meaning over and over in my mind.  What does it mean?  What does it say about God?  Then I pray through that verse.  I ask God to show me what He wants me to see in that verse.  Finally, I end my meditation time with silence.**

Let me be honest, the practice of meditation for me is based on mindfulness.  Too many of my thoughts throughout the day are mindless [which is of course the opposite of mindful].  I try to focus my attention on the Holy Father and other things intrude [I forgot to feed the cat, I have to mow the yard, the doctor’s appointment is in two hours, the car is not starting properly etc. etc.].  Those other things literally take my mind away as I wander into the future and revisit the past.  Some would say that this is merely being human and it is but when I intend to worship, I don’t want to be mentally “all over the place” [if I can help it].  

The Bible says in Romans 8: 5 “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”  As a practicing Christian, I want to hear from The Holy Spirit because I need guidance, comfort, power, love and self-discipline.  The concerns of the world work against the Spirit and those concerns affect the manner in which I connect with God.  Sometimes competing thoughts keep me from connecting with God entirely.

Not only in private study, prayer and meditation, how many times do we find ourselves participating in public worship and we are doing so mindlessly?  We know the pastor’s message only partly because we find ourselves drifting in and out of a serious attention pattern.   Sometimes the message is on our minds, we are relating it to our experience, successfully decoding it and making an effort to reconstruct a personal representation in our minds.  Then comes a distracting thought and the pastor’s message becomes partially meaningful as we attend to other ideas.  The competing thoughts might get so strong that the pastor’s message can become background sound as we begin to think of our personal concerns instead of the message.   Add to this, certain aspects of the service may mean very little as we know the Lord’s Prayer and we recite it mindlessly.  In my church, we say The Apostle’s Creed every Sunday.  Do we really take the time to wonder what each word means or is it done mindlessly also?

When one considers the First Commandment, Stott writes that we may not have manufactured some “gruesome metal image” with our hands but what “hideous mental image do we hold in our minds?” [the concern of the Second commandment].   The Second Commandment is not focused on external forms of worship but raises the question that if God is not in our heart, mind and soul, then worship can become useless.  Stott writes “We may have attended church; have we really worshipped God?  We have said prayers; have we really prayed?  We may have read the Bible; have we ever let God speak to us through it and done what He said?”

Mindful worship is an admirable goal but it is so hard today because there are so many distractions.

Let’s go back to my early morning routine.  I don’t stay in my chair all day.  I usually get up and begin my ritual around 6:30.  Eventually I run out of coffee, I develop hunger and I leave my “sanctuary” to eat breakfast around 9:00.  If I am able to use the time well and I don’t get distracted, I feel good about the start of the day.  Distractions are always imminent; Stott encourages us to fight them with the words “it is no good to approach God with our lips if our hearts are far from Him” [66].

I try to conclude around nine o’clock for another reason.  The two cell phones in our home begin to ring around nine o’clock as telemarketers begin their workday.  Thank goodness I can see the words “scam likely” and I slide the bar to the right and stop the ringing and then I tap the button to terminate the call.  Distractions, distractions, distractions…

Taking each thought captive becomes more difficult…

Concerns of the world are calling…***

*from his book Basic Christianity

**my meditation is based on Lectio Divina, a traditional monastic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word.

***This post is dedicated to Mr. Bob Dooley, who first spoke to me about the power of Lectio Divina.  Bob is a friend, a prayer warrior, an inspiration to me.

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Guardrail Number One

One of the “elder statesmen” in my adult Sunday school class has touted the idea recently that human beings need guardrails.  He has borrowed this idea from Pastor Andy Stanley [founder and senior pastor of North Point Ministries in Georgia and son of well-known television evangelist Charles Stanley]. 

Stanley has a sermon series called “Guardrails.”* He explains that drivers need a system designed to keep vehicles from straying off into dangerous or off-limit areas. They are designed to offer direction and protection.  In this world today, do we need guardrails?  Of course anyone driving down a stretch of highway will see these safety features and most of us admit that they are probably necessary.  They keep us from danger by directing us down the road in the safe zone. 

But what does the idea of guardrails mean beyond automobile safety?  My elder statesman is implying that we need guardrails to help keep us living a righteous life.

This post begins a series on what some would consider God’s guardrails: the Ten Commandments.  In his book Basic Christianity, John Stott discusses the Ten Commandments as standards by which we measure our behavior.  His contention is that humans need standards [does that sound a bit like guardrails?].  

The First Commandment is You shall have no other gods before me.  Since this is the first commandment, some see the other nine commandments as being built on this first command.  This commandment [being in the first five] is in the section that lists the duties that man owes to God.  When one turns to Deuteronomy 5: 6-7 and reads some of the bigger context of this commandment, you see that God not only commands but God also gives His reasons for prohibiting idolatry: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.”  It does sound like He is telling the Israelite nation you owe me this because of what I did for you.  I alone had the power to rescue you from your Egyptian captors.  I chose you as My people, I protected you and delivered you so you need to worship Me alone.

Sounds clear doesn’t it?  We think of the Hebrew people who strayed while Moses went on to Mount Sinai.  They forgot about God and decided to worship a golden calf in His place.  Read the Old Testament and see the number of times that Asherah poles** became the center of Hebrew worship.  Israelite kings built them and tore them down over and over again.  These people were also influenced by cultures that worshipped Baal***  Baal seemed important because he “controlled” the fertility of crops and fertility in child-bearing. 

The main point is that these are all false gods and idols taking the place of the true God.

Now, let’s stop…

What does this have to do with today’s person who really has no strange god to worship or no idol constructed to represent that god?

Here is the connection.  Anytime a Christian strays into thinking about someone or something so much that they are forgetting God, they are going away from the safe zone and heading into the danger zone.  There was a time in my life when I went to church and if anyone asked me to identify my religion, I would say “I am a Christian.”  However, I did not have a very close relationship with Jesus Christ.  These were years when I thought too much about the love I had for a sport, golf.  I watched every golf tournament on television I could, I became a student of the game [trying to improve my game and buy the best equipment], I played as many rounds of golf as I could afford.  When I was not on a golf course, I was thinking about being on a golf course.

I went overboard; I worshipped golf.  God was way down on the list of concerns that I had in my life.  I lost my perspective, my sense of priorities.

Idol worship occurs in many forms today.  Some people worship fame; they want to be well-known in the world.  Everyone should know who they are; the white hot light of the daily news media should be on them every day.  If that is not possible, others want to worship those who are in that light, so they come to worship celebrities.  Other people worship money.  They really work hard to be rich, putting in enormous effort to make as much money as they can [hint: the rich never seem to have enough money].  Others are wowed by material possessions, expensive cars, homes, clothing etc.  For many, the more ostentatious the possession the louder the message “I AM SPECIAL; I AM RICH; I AM SUCCESSFUL!”

We could go on and on with idolatry examples in our world today but before I go too far, it is not wrong to be famous, rich or possess things.  It becomes wrong when our “idols” become so important in our lives that we put fame, fortune and things before God. 

We turn to the Old Testament for many examples of false gods and idols but we can also turn to the New Testament for admonitions about idol worship.  Jesus says in Matthew 6: 24 “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”  Matthew 19 tells the story of the rich young ruler who turned away from Christ because he could not part from his wealth.

At the base of a lot of idol worship is the idea of pride:  even though Second Chronicles 26: 5 [in the OT] says “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” we see this echoed in 1 Peter 5:5 “Young men, in the same way, be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Anyone who worships other gods needs to heed the words from Acts 17: 24-25, 29:  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And He is not served by human hands as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. …Therefore, since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skills.”

One of my favorite scriptures occurs in Matthew 22: 37 when Jesus is questioned about the greatest commandment and He replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  The focus of life is on God—nothing else.  Is this bar too high?  It is.  Only one man was able to do this and that was Jesus Christ.  John Stott writes that this Scripture and the First Commandment is all about deciding to make God our guide, “putt[ing] Him first in our thought, word and deed; in business and leisure; in friendships and career; in the use of our money, time and talents; at work and at home.”

This is the meaning of the First Commandment: guardrail number one

*accessed on YouTube “Guardrails”, October 20, 2021.

**An Asherah pole is a sacred tree or pole that stood near Canaanite religious locations to honor the Ugaritic mother goddess Asherah.

*** Baal appears about 90 times in the Hebrew Bible, most prominently in the First Book of Kings.

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“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.  Blessed are those who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart—they do no wrong but follow His ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.  Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all Your commands. I will praise You with an upright heart as I learn Your righteous laws. I will obey Your decrees; do not utterly forsake me”  [Psalm 119: 1-8].

“Today truth has been kicked to the curb”  Tony Evans*

This past Sunday, I used a video of Pastor Tony Evans to kick off my adult Sunday school class.  His message made a big impact on me.  The past few years, I have had a few struggles trying to be a Christian living in this world.  I know The Bible tells me to not “be of this world”; to keep my eyes on His kingdom.  I should not be so concerned with what happens in human culture but it has been hard.  You see we live in a world today that is being overrun with very important and powerful people who provide alternative facts, opinions and perspectives. What was once considered truth is now being questioned.  We all have relative perspectives; one person’s perception of reality does not have to totally agree with another’s and that is ok.  I must accept that each of us is unique but if we truly cannot see anything the same way, truth is in trouble.  We have to have some standards.  I have just written four posts on sin and if we take a point of view that sin just depends on how we look at it, it seems to me that anything that man can do can be justified.   

John Stott died in 2011 and he was very aware of the shift into relativity that has gripped faith in God.  This even has a name: Post-modern Christianity.  Before I plunge into an effort at a simple definition, let me warn you.  Post-modern thinking and Post Modern Christianity are not bad conceptualizations except when they is taken to extremes and today we are living in times when people do not temper their comments.   We live in a time of “EXTREME!!!!”  Maybe it is a perverse desire for attention but many people love using what I call “over-the-top” language.

Experience is important but Post-modernism posits that it is more important than reason.  Subjectivity is more important that objectivity.  A spiritual approach to faith is more important than an intellectual approach to faith.  Images are more important than words.  Outward manifestation of faith is more important than inward manifestation.

The value of the experiences we have in life cannot be ignored but if we place so much value on our individual experiences then truth becomes relative.  Reason no longer matters.  Understanding others becomes very hard because everyone is so far apart in their separate realities. 

We have to have some standard by which reality is measured.  We need some source of reliability.  Tony Evans says “we need an original source.”  John Stott writes that we have to have some way by which we measure our performance.    Stott writes that to “some good-minded people this comes as a genuine surprise.  They have their ideals and think they attain them, more or less.  They do not indulge in much introspection.  They are not unduly self-critical.  They know they have had occasional lapses.  They are aware of certain character deficiencies.  But they are not alarmed by them, and they consider themselves no worse than other men.  All this is understandable enough until you remember two things.  First, our sense of failure depends on how high our standards are.  It is quite easy to consider ourselves good at high-jumping if the bar is never raised more than waist-high.  Second, God concerns Himself with the thought behind the deed and with motive behind action” [Stott, 64].

In his book Basic Christianity, Stott turns to the Ten Commandments. Here are our standards.  This is our truth. 

How do we stack up against the the psalmist quoted above when he makes it very clear that we should keep God’s statutes, we should follow His ways, obey His precepts and steadfastly obey His decrees.  Are we making an effort to follow God’s commands or are we ignoring them, making up the rules as we go along.  Are we looking to His commands for guidance or are we ignoring them, creating a reality that does not exist in an objective world.  Are we tapping into the power of His commands or are we watering them down, making life an easy-going existence that seeks comfort more than challenge.

We can always accept the “low bar” and maintain the figment that we are doing well [Thank you very much!].  But what if God really wants us to jump over a high bar?  Pastor Evans loves to preach with powerful images and one such image is the high jumper versus the pole vaulter.  If you look at high jumping, the athlete accomplishes his goal by using his own body to cross the bar.  If you look at pole vaulting, the athlete uses a pole to go much higher so they can cross a much higher bar.  Maybe we can take that image and say that God’s commands can get us over the high bar; we can use His Word to give us the power we need to live the best life we can live. 

This post introduces a series of posts that searches for truth in God’s commands, some standards by which we can live.  Maybe Post-modernism has gripped Christianity; maybe truth is in trouble, maybe it even “has been kicked to the curb.” 

Over the next few posts, I will examine each commandment in what Stott calls “a healthy exercise…[to] see how very far short of [the Commandments] every man falls.”

Of course Commandment number 1 is next: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

*From Tony Evan’s video teaching “The Books of 1, 2 and 3 John.”

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Here are My questions about Sin…*

Some of the readers of this blog may have seen a few references in some of my posts to my being “born-again.”  Most Christians know what that means.  When a person comes to believe in Jesus Christ and knows enough about Jesus to say He came to this earth to save me, and I want to be one of His children that is when a person is “born-again.”  The Holy Spirit gives that person new life, a new desire to serve God and a new desire to do God’s will.  I came to Jesus in October of 1998.  It may be hard to pinpoint an exact moment when surrender to God occurs but for me it was during a men’s retreat that was dedicated to educating prospective Christians.  The retreat began on October 8 and continued until October 11 and I knew God had me there for a reason.  During this retreat I went to the altar and declared that I believed in Jesus and I sought forgiveness from God for my many sins.  I felt a special lightness as I confessed my shortcomings, a feeling that my “slate had been wiped clean.”

I was elated.  Words could not express the new love I had for Jesus Christ.  The whole weekend was dedicated to explaining the basics of Christianity to people who needed the information.  I needed to find a new way to live.  My old way was not working for me at all.  I have been in love two times in my life.  One time I fell madly in love with my girlfriend [my spouse today].  The other time was that weekend when I fell in love with Jesus.

What happens when a moment like this occurs? 

The elation can continue for some time, but eventually “the concerns of the world” will invade a baby Christian’s life and that is what happened to me.  It happens to every new Christian.  You may have changed but the people in the world around you have not changed.  Temptations are still there that existed before you were born-again.  Your old way of living may not seem appropriate anymore but old habits are almost impossible to break instantly.  It is impossible to emerge from a born-again experience with no complications arising from your past.

I had a lot of questions about my new life.  How could I navigate in the world with my new perspective?  I want to share some of my concerns with readers because I have written three posts on sin: September 16th on Christian awareness of sin, September 23rd on human sin nature and September 30th on the nature of sin.  What worried me about sinning after I gave my life to Christ?**

First of all, can a born-again Christian still fall into sin?  God would rather we not sin, but God knows that human beings cannot live lives of sinless perfection.  He tells us not to sin but He knows we will.  First John 1: 10 says “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”  The Apostle Paul speaks of “dying to self” which means that he wanted to be less concerned about his own selfish needs and more concerned with serving Jesus Christ.  Born-again Christians fall into sin, for they are human.

Are there different degrees of sin?  The most common answer I hear from Christians is no; they are all bad.  Technically the answer should be yes.  Jesus said that the ones who delivered Him to Pilate had greater sin than Pilate even though the Roman Prefect allowed Jesus to be crucified.  Also the Old Testament recognizes the difference between murder and manslaughter.  Murder is premeditated and intentional.  Beyond that, the answer is not clear, but it is not a solid “no.”  In the last judgement, the unsaved will stand before God and He will open the Lamb’s Book of Life.  If a person’s name is in the book, they will go to heaven.  If their name is not in that book, the book of works will be opened and God will determine an individual’s punishment in hell depending on the record of a person’s works.  It is not at all clear how that determination is made. 

Is some sin so bad that a born-again Christian can lose their salvation?  The Bible is full of people who commit grievous sins.  David committed adultery and murder.  Samson was a serial adulterer.  Peter denied Jesus three times.  Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  If a person is truly born-again, they will repent of their sins and return to their belief in God and God will forgive them.   The answer to this question revolves around a person’s “persistent and continual sin.”  If the practice of sin becomes so pervasive that a believer dies a spiritual death, they may indeed lose their salvation.  They have no desire to ever do the will of God.  They see no need for asking forgiveness.  They only want to satisfy their sinful desires.

Do some Christians feel that their born-again declaration can “cover” all that they do on this earth?  In essence, do they have eternal security which can give a person a license to sin?  This question seems to overlap with the previous one but it is a little different regarding man’s understanding of God’s grace.  I have always felt that some people practice “grace abuse.”  When one declares their dedication of their life to Jesus that is enough for them; from that point on, all their sins are ok.  One can quit worrying about salvation.  In fact, a born-again person will not be perfectly sinless but they will have a desire to do the will of God which means they will have less and less desire to sin.    Elmer Towns writes that “a Christian should not plan on sinning, nor use any doctrine as an excuse to sin, but should plan to keep the words of Jesus: “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” [Matthew 5: 48].

Lastly, is it normal to have doubts about your salvation?  The short answer is yes.  I have always felt that the devil uses our doubts against us to steal our motivation to do better in our Christian lives.  But the Lord says if you receive Him, He will receive you.  If you accept Jesus Christ into your life, He will make you one of His children and He will be true to you.  For many they are waiting for some sort of miracle regarding their salvation.  Life gives us up and downs, joy and guilt but God is always there for us in the good times and the bad times.  Towns says that God is interested in our “sincerity.”  Giving your life to Christ is not an act that you can perform to manipulate God into giving you eternal life because God knows our hearts.  Once you have made a sincere commitment, Christians can feel assurance, a freedom from doubt.  The inner witness of the Holy Spirit will confirm that we have been made right with God.

It is normal to have questions about our faith; maybe that is just our nature.  We would like to have definitive answers but we won’t have those until the time when “Each one’s work will become clear” [First Corinthians 3: 13-15].   We’re talking about final judgement when we quote this scripture. 

I don’t have all the answers as one can tell from my questions above, but I have faith that I am moving in the right direction.  That weekend in October 1998 was a turning point for me, a weekend that resulted in me finding a new way to live, a better way to live.  It all started with a trip to the altar and declaration that I believed in Jesus and an effort to seek forgiveness from God for my many sins.

I am far from perfect but to quote the evangelist Joyce Meyer “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.”

Yes… we must thank God.

*Content in this post was centered on my own questions, answers from John Stott’s  Basic Christianity,  Elmer Town’s Bible Answers for Almost All Your Questions and various other sources.

**This is post number four of a series of posts concerning sin in the life of the Christian.  This post was inspired by part two of John Stott’s book, Chapter 5, “The Fact and Nature of Sin.”

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Picking Me Up and Dusting Me Off…

Recently, on September 16, the topic on this blog was sin and how Christians seem to be obsessed with it.*  All Christians know sin is real and we know we need to admit that it is real in our lives but there is overwhelming evidence that we struggle to acknowledge it.  On September 23, the topic was the sin nature that humans have and where that sin nature comes from.  I stated repeatedly that the only way we can deal with this “nature” is to utilize the power of Jesus Christ in our lives.

But I have to ask, why is sin so confusing? 

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.   As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.   For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.   For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.   Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.   So I find this law at work: 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 I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”  [from the Apostle Paul, writing in Romans 7].

Of course these words are written by one of the most important figures of Christianity; some say the second most important person after Jesus Christ. 

And Paul is struggling to understand why he sins. 

On September 23rd, we discussed the sin nature that all humans have; now let’s discuss the nature of sin.

What is sin?

It can be an act, it can be an attitude or it can be a response against the Person of God or the law of God.**  As I have already stated, all of us have choices in life and one of the most important choices we have to make is to live within God’s laws and honor Him or to break those laws and dishonor Him.  It is the choice that we inherit from Adam and Eve.  It is the choice to choose ourselves over God.

Sin is based on the temptation to declare that we are independent.  We are saying that we are so powerful that we can rebel against God.  James 1: 14 says it best:  “But each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is lured away and enticed.”  We really don’t need our Lord and Savior when we allow ourselves to be lured away.

When James writes “Each one” of course he means all of us.

This desire to sin is the beginning of the act of sinning, yet the desire to sin is not sinning.  James admits when desire happens it can give birth to sin but it does not have to.  We can stop the process if we listen to the Holy Spirit which is within us, the Holy Spirit which strengthens us against our weaknesses [some simply like to refer to this as “the conscience”]. 

But what if you can’t stop the process?  Obviously the Apostle Paul wants to stop his desire to sin but he cannot.  He has the desire to do what is good but he cannot carry it out.  Elmer Towns describes this as a six step process: first desire, then intention [the intention to sin].  The third step is to execute a plan to get the object or commit the act.  The fourth step is to willingly put the plan into action.  The fifth step is to physically move to get the object of sin or to do the wrong action.  The final step is to gratify oneself with the sinful object or sinful action.

John Stott sheds more light on sin by grouping sin into two categories, “according to whether wrongdoing is regarded negatively or positively.  Negatively, it is a shortcoming.  One word represents it as a lapse, a slip, a shooting at a target.  Yet another shows it to be an inward badness, a disposition which falls short of what is good.  Positively, sin is transgression.  One word makes sin the trespass of a boundary.  Another reveals it as lawlessness, and another as an act which violates justice” [Stott, 64].

Sin can be premeditated, a rebellious act against God that willfully disobeys God’s clear command.  There is also such a thing as a sin of ignorance which is breaking God’s law without being consciously aware that one is sinning.  A sin of commission is doing something contrary to God’s laws.  A sin of omission is failing to do something that God has commanded that we do.

Let’s return to Paul.  Why is he in a struggle with sin?  This is a man who had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.  This is a man who did more to spread the Christian faith than almost any other. 

He knew Jesus Christ, yet he was still human.

Like Paul, we can know Jesus Christ but we are still human.  This raises the question can a person be a “born again believer” and fall into sin? 

You bet…

Expect it will happen.  When I was born-again, one of the first things I learned was that Satan will continue to attack me through my sin nature.  It won’t go away just because I become a believer.  I remember a mature Christian telling me that your previous sin is like an “old man” that you carry around in a bag that is slung across your back.  We try to keep the old man in the bag but despite our best efforts the old man comes out from time to time.  When he does we should try to stuff him back into the bag.

First John 2: 1 says “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin” but he has already said “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” [1 John 1: 8].  God tells us not to sin, but He knows that we will.  He is faithful to forgive us of our sins and He promises to cleanse us from our unrighteousness.

In short, God does not expect sinless perfection.  He knows we are not capable.  But Towns comments that when “a person is saved he no longer lives in a continual habitual state of sin…there is a breaking of the perpetual hold of sin in the life of the believer” [76]. 

What can happen over time to the believer who tries to live a more righteous life?  God will begin to live inside you and you will hear Him speak to you in thoughts that are not your own.  Isaiah 30: 21 says “This is the way; walk in it.”  If we listen to God’s guidance, we will do more and more that pleases Him and less and less that pleases only ourselves.  He will show great love for the believer and the believer will desire more and more time with Him in worship, prayer and study.  Will temptation rear its ugly head?  Yes.  That is why the Apostle Paul writes in First Corinthians 15:31: “I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”  Every day temptations occur but Paul is relying on his faith in God and His Son Jesus to overcome the temptations.  Will he achieve sinless perfection?  He knows he will not. 

Just as we began this post with Paul’s confusion about his efforts to conquer sin, we close this post with Paul’s admission of continual weakness regarding his sinning.  In Second Corinthians 12: 7-8 he says “So to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.”  But the Lord would not.  Maybe you have been so disheartened by your sinning that you wish God would take your weaknesses away…but He won’t. 

One of the most stunning revelations I have ever had in my life to this point was what God told Paul about His weaknesses.  God said “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”  I took that to mean that when I fall I am weak and that is when God is His strongest.  In my weakness is His strength.

God never desired for man to be sinless.  There was only one man who was sinless and that was His Son Jesus Christ, the one who came to show us how to live righteous lives, the one who came to forgive us of our sins, the one who showed us that accepting God as our Savior is the true pathway to eternal life.

When I sin, I feel a palpable sense of despair.  That is not surprising, but I know that I will never lead a sinless life.  When I sin I also feel God’s greatest strength as He picks me up, dusts me off and says to me “stand tall and continue forward in life, a life dedicated to Me.”

Truly His grace is sufficient…

*This is post number three of a series of posts from John Stott’s Basic Christianity.  This is from part two of his book, Chapter 5, “The Fact and Nature of Sin.”

**helpful information came from Bible Answers for All Your Questions by Elmer Towns.

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