Sin is Sinful
Journeying through the Lenten Season teaches me so many powerful lessons, but none greater than how fierce, immutable, impossible, unbearable, intolerable, unmanageable, insufferable, unendurable, unspeakable, appalling, horrifying, (I could go on), sin is. Sin is one tough problem plaguing mankind. We cannot imagine how extreme its affect on the human soul can be.
If I don’t feel up to the weight of stopping my own personal sin, I’llreally get blown away trying to stop others from sinning. Sin is simply sinful.
What can set me free from this body of sin and world of sin I live in? Paul knew.He wrote in Romans 7:24-25, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescueme from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinfulnature a slave to the law of sin.” Yes, sin is so sinful that there isno hope apart from Jesus Christ. I too thank God for finding a solution to ourproblem with sin.
I like to think I’ve made some progress in overcoming sin. But my progressis slow. I seem more in touch with the wretched woman I am the closer I get tothe beauty of Christ. That’s okay. It’s freedom. It helps me seeshow sinful sin really is. Sin is too sinful for me. I can’t overcome sin.What little progress that has been made has been made in, through, and with Christ.
Although I feel a slave to sin, I also feel hope for my sinfulness. I don’tjust sin because I am helpless over it. I know better than that. But I do acceptthat I am powerless over my sin and even more powerless over the sins of others.When I see sin in my own life I need to go to Jesus. When I see sin in others’ livesI need to go to Jesus. He is the only one Who can make true progress over theproblem of sin. Yes, sin is a fierce enemy to our souls, but Jesus is greaterthan sin.
Jesus, this Lenten season of repentance reveals my utter inability to make progress over my sin. Like Paul, in my mind I long to be a slave to God’s Law. I know He gave it in love. I know that it is real freedom. Yet, my sinful nature pulls me down into the darkness and trap of sin with enticements that my flesh swears will make me experience happiness and peace. Bring me to my wits’ end in my sin management endeavors. Drive out the foolish belief that I can be a sinless sinner in my own power. Much of my good deeds are even smeared by sin. Help me accept and even celebrate my inabilities and look only to You for victory over the wretched woman I am.
Sin is only fatal without faith in Jesus Christ.
Bonus Tea Time for Your Soul Lenten Section:
Jesus Was Willing; Are You?
Tuesday, February 12
God is the Creator of this vast universe of which humans have never reached the end. I have to chuckle each time we discover some new planet out there how we are not much different from the folks who thought the earth was flat. God reveals His glory in creation. Every time we think we have it all figured out, He shows us that there is more to discover. He is definitely the God who has it all. There is only one thing He wants in this creation. It is the one thing He doesn't have and that He can't create for Himself. It is your willing heart. Only you can give Him what He wants.
He never wanted robots to rule for Him. That is why He had to put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. Without it, Adam and Eve were not really willing to obey and love Him. Jesus knows the Father intimately. He knows what the Father wanted of Him more than anything else. He knew that willingness would bless the God He loved.
Jesus was willing to leave the comforts of heaven and take the form of a human. This was a humbling experience, but as Paul tells us, He did not think of His nature as God something to be grasped (Philippians 2:6). He was willing to make Himself nothing. Sometimes we overlook the relevance of Jesus’ willingness to come to us as a human infant. We don't understand just what He had to give up in order to make that connection with us. It would be like you or me wanting to save cockroaches, so we took on their form.
The events of the cross show Jesus’ willingness. Back in the Upper Room He told the disciples; I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God (Luke 22:15-16). There is no hesitation noted in Jesus as He institutes the new sacrament by which the disciples and all Christians after this night would remember His death on the cross. He shows us His trust in His Father's willingness to prevent pain and heartache in His life if at all possible when He prayed that the Father would take this cup from Him. Even though fully acquainted with the cost of His willingness, He told God He was willing to go to the Cross for God and for us. He was willing to be mocked and mistreated at the trials rather than call down the legions of angels who would have rescued Him from the mayhem. His ultimate willingness to suffer was demonstrated when from the cross He called out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46). Jesus lived His life in willingness before God.
What about you? Are you willing to follow God's plan even if it costs you your personal ambition? Are you willing to be humble and carry your cross (your mission from God)? There was nothing that pleased God more than the willing trust of Jesus. Does your life please Him? Does your willing submission to His plan for your life bring joy in heaven?
Wednesday, February 13
Who Set the Ransom for Our Souls?
In this Lenten season, I love to purposefully reflect on the cross of Christ. Recently, I heard a speaker pose the question: Who set the ransom for our souls? She considered the fact that in human kidnappings, it is the kidnapper who sets the ransom.
This set my mind to thinking. Did Satan set the ransom? Who decided that the only way to redeem the souls of men was for Jesus Christ to come of the seed of woman, be betrayed, condemned, handed over to the Gentiles, mocked and spit on, flogged and killed, then three days later be raised to life (Mark 10:33-34).
I have always believed that it was God who set the price for the souls of men. I believed it was His Holy nature that set the price. I love The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. There is a lesson on this subject after Aslan (the Christ figure) rose from the dead. The children were very sad when Aslan was dead, and when he rose from the dead they were filled with joy. Yet, they had an intriguing question for Aslan. They wondered, Why didn't you tell us that you would rise from the dead? Aslan answered that there had been an ancient rule since the beginning of time that one who is righteous could die for the sins of all, but that the rule had never been tested. This was C.S. Lewis’ way of explaining his belief that it was God Himself who set the ransom before the creation of the world.
I've got to agree with C.S. Lewis. I know that God would never create us with free will to turn against Him without a plan for us to return to Him with that same free will. In the garden, God told Satan what the ransom would be. In Genesis 3:15 He explained that from the seed of woman there would come an offspring who would crush his head. Satan didn't offer God a chance to redeem the likes of men. Satan didn't have that power over us. God didn't create a universe where those He loved could be held for a ransom. He didn't give Satan a ransom for us. He redeemed us for Himself. Satan gains nothing from the redemption. In fact, Satan is utterly defeated because of the price God paid through the blood of Jesus Christ.
The speaker’s opinion did help me dig deeper into my appreciation of God’s sovereignty. I know that God has chosen to leave us with many mysteries in this life. I can only believe that this is because of His love and care for us. He knows that in our finite beings we cannot comprehend the mysterious truths of love and perfect holiness. He reveals what we can comprehend and invites us to trust Him with the unknowable.
The cold hard fact is that He knows. He knew that Adam and Eve would eventually make that choice. He knew that the choice would send His only Son to a Cross. He knew, and it was worth creating us anyway. Before the foundation of the world, God Himself set the ransom for your soul!
Thursday, February 14
Who Is the Object of Your Love?
It’s Valentine’s Day—a day to think about love and romance. Your Valentine is typically the human that you feel the deepest romantic attachment to. Have you ever wondered Who is the object of God’s love?
John Piper was inspired to write the entire book, The Pleasures of God after reading this statement by Henry Scougal: The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love. The quote inspired Piper to consider the object(s) of God’s love.
The object of God’s love is Jesus Christ and the object of Jesus’ love is God the Father. There is nothing Jesus wants more for us than to become a part of this kind of satisfying love.
Jesus’ desperate desire for us to know our true Valentine was a part of His great interceding prayer for all believers in John 17:26: I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them.
Jesus prays that He will be our Valentine. He prays that we will have the same kind of love that the Father has for Him. If this were anyone else praying this prayer, we would be appalled at the audacity of the thought. We would think, this guy is praying that I will love him the way his Father loves him. How self-centered can that be?
Yet, it is not self-centered at all. We were created to love God. One of the most important ways we can display our love for God is to love His Son. When we love Jesus, we love God. It was hard for God to contain His love for Jesus; three times the gospels record His shout from heaven: This is my Son in Whom I am well pleased! When was the last time you wanted to shout about how much you love Jesus? Does your love for Jesus move you more than your love for other Valentines?
I confess; I do love Jesus. But I don't love Him like God does. I haven't given Him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9). I give Him my consideration in my daily quiet time, I'm surprised by Him when I'm not looking. I'm comforted by Him, I rely on Him for my salvation and for my righteousness; but, I don't come anywhere close to loving Him the way God loves Him. What would happen in my life if I loved Him the way God loves Him?
As I consider the object of my love, I have to say that Jesus often takes second place to my love for myself, my husband, or my children. What would happen in my life if I truly focused on the love God has for Jesus and craved that same love to be in me? Or, if I pondered the love Jesus has for God and prayed to Him the way Jesus did? As you go through this day, consider the object of your love and strive to see Jesus’ prayer answered in your life - that you could love Jesus with the love that God has for Him.
Friday, February 15
Have you ever wondered where this expression of deepest joy in our amazing God has come from? One of my favorite traditions of Easter Sunday is the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus. The choir is singing, shouting and praising. It’s as if they can find no words except this Hebrew transliteration from the book of Psalms—Hallelujah—to express the awe they feel in the mighty work of God.
Revelation 19 is the only place in the New Testament where you find this word that appears frequently in the Psalms. It is a Hebrew word meaning, Praise the Lord! In Revelation the multitudes are shouting it, the twenty-four elders and four living creatures are falling down and worshipping and saying it. I imagine the Hallelujah Chorus on earth is a small taste of what we will feel in heaven when we join with the heavenly hosts to proclaim the glory of our God!
Read this scene in heaven from Revelation 19:1-6:
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.
And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: Amen, Hallelujah!
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!”
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Hallelujah! I'm so thankful for this word that expresses to God more than I can understand about the wonder of His character, His works, His justice, His sovereignty, and His communion with His people. When was the last time your soul shouted “Hallelujah” to your God? Maybe it has been too long since your last catharsis of praise. When we sing Hallelujah from the deepest parts of our souls, we are energized with a spiritual strength that permeates our lives. Oh that we would be drawn to worship and praise God like the multitudes in heaven. Could we ever come to honor Him and adore Him as fully as the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures of Revelation? Why not practice singing Hallelujah throughout your week—see what it does to your soul.
Saturday, February 16
Jesus' Daunting Question
Jesus asked many questions throughout His ministry. Sometimes a question from Jesus would set the stage for Him to do a miracle. Sometimes, it was the beginning of great teaching. When Jesus asked questions, it was always for our own good.
It amazes me that Jesus wasn't merely focused on putting one foot in front of the other on His journey to be crucified. He walked those 650 yards from the Praetorium to Golgotha in supernatural strength. Having just been flogged, he was half dead for that journey. This strong thirty-three-year-old man could not even drag the cross beam for that short distance. But one thing He did find the strength to do—He spoke words of comfort and instruction. He wasn't finished teaching.
Jesus’ intimidating question was posed to the women who were weeping for Him. He told them not to weep for Him, but to weep for themselves because there would come a day when they would regret that they were mothers because Jerusalem would be in such disarray. At the end of this longest discourse on the way to the cross, Jesus asked, For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry (Luke 23:31)? That’s a good question.
If mankind could treat Jesus in this way after He came here to be with us, what was going to happen in this world after He was gone? How would the world respond to the message of God’s love then? Jesus was sent to this world to share the love of God for mankind and we spit on Him, mocked Him, beat Him, flogged Him and ultimately crucified Him on a cross. That’s how men respond to God’s love.
The tree was green when Jesus was here in the flesh. He walked on earth’s soil and ate of earth’s food. He healed us, He taught us, He demonstrated God’s love. The tree was green with the full evidence of God’s amazing love. Yet look at how many stood in the very presence of Jesus and spit on the face of God.
It’s hard to imagine man treating God in such a way. Look around and you will continue to see this response to the Son of God. You see unbelief everywhere. We reject Him by mocking His Word by the way we live. Unbelief prevails in our world today. It shouldn't surprise us that the world is so far from the place God created it to be.
You can grow dry with the world, or you can hold fast to the green tree that represents faith and belief that Jesus is the Son of God and that by dying on the cross He saved you from your sins.
Sunday, February 17
The Truth About Sin
The purpose of Lent (40 days of fasting and penitence before Easter) is to prepare your heart to fully celebrate the blessed reality of Easter Day—Christ’s triumph over sin. The thought is that you will better appreciate the Easter celebration when you make more of an effort to understand what a great salvation you have in Christ. It is a wonderful tradition that causes you to contemplate the redeeming work of Christ. It is considered a time of penitence. It is similar to the preparation the Jewish people made before Passover. They rid their homes of all yeast as a reminder that they needed to rid their lives of all sin in order to have a relationship with God. Of course, no one was able to rid their lives entirely of sin, and that was the purpose of the Passover Lamb. That lamb was sacrificed to represent the payment for sin.
The funny thing about sin is we just don’t like to look at it. We would much rather ignore it and try to move on towards the joy of the celebration of Easter. Who wants to spend 40 days thinking about what sinners we are? Not me for one. A lot of the time we simply can’t ignore our sin. We like to focus on our good qualities instead. Every once in a while, the evidence of our sin greets us by the pain we cause to others. We see it on their faces. We can see how our sin affects our husbands when we disappoint them, or our daughters when we yell at them, or a boss when he overhears us gossiping about him. We see it on their faces and we feel bad, so we repent. We ask them to forgive us and we feel better.
King David said, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge." Somehow David could see past the people he had sinned against to the One who was ultimately hurt by his sin. The sins to which he was referred in the passage were committing adultery, murder and cover-up, not to mention mismanaging his country. I can understand if he were repentant over the way he had hurt any of these people. Why does he tell God that this sin was against “You and You only”? David knows the truth about sin. He was able to get right down to the matter. The sin was against God because the sin was going to cost God. It was God who would have to pay for David’s sin. None of the other characters he sinned against would have to deal with his sin in quite the same way.
The wonderful reality about coming to see your sin against God is that He is the only One who can fully restore you from your sin. It does some good to admit your sins to those you have harmed, but it doesn’t necessarily restore you. Many times the person you have hurt is not ready to forgive, and they blatantly refuse your offer of regret. God does command us to forgive others their sin; it is proof that we understand what it means to have been forgiven by God. Being forgiven and forgiving others does bring the joy of relationship restored, but what about within you? Are you strengthened deep in your soul? Do you sense a transformation happening when you are forgiven by another person?
Repentance is about being brought back to a relationship with God. Wendy Wright states,
TRUE REPENTANCE begins with the felt knowledge that we are loved by God. We are children of God. If we cannot find ourselves there, then perhaps our preparation might consist of the prayer that we might know ourselves as beloved, that the divine lover might reach down into our self-hatred ... and touch us. ... Repentance consists not so much in flagellating ourselves over our "failures" as in courageously and painstakingly reorienting our priorities, unlearning old patterns, turning our faces, like the sunflower, toward the dawning of the light of God. (From pages 41-42 of The Vigil by Wendy M. Wright. Copyright © 1992 by Wendy M. Wright.)
When we focus on the way our sinning has been against God, we come to the relationship that can completely restore us. God does not want us to recite our sins for His pleasure, but so we can fully taste the forgiveness He offers. He invites us to repentance because of His great love for us. This Lenten season begin to recognize the truth about your sin. Rightly see that your sin has been against God and against God only. Accept His invitation of love and forgiveness. Celebrate Easter’s redemption from deep in your soul.
Second Sunday in Lent
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one and ever. Amen.