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Archive for the tag “sin”

My lament

I’m at times angry, at times sad. More than anything, I’m frustrated and tired. I’m tired of certainty without verification. I’m frustrated by lack of sympathy/empathy for others’ points of view. I’m exhausted by some people’s felt need to immediately respond with skepticism to every current event, especially if the event goes against their own desires. I’m sick of denial. I’m worn thin by large swaths of the population being painted with the same brush.

I started to write something a few days ago, but I couldn’t find the words I wanted so I’m trying again.

I’m not sure my words matter, surely in the grand scheme of things they don’t, but it helps me to get my thoughts down sometimes when they just keep rolling around in my head. When those thoughts keep coming as soon as I’m not distracted by other things, it seems best to start writing with the hope that they’ll help someone else in one way or another.

I’ve been trying to pay closer attention to current events than I typically do recently. It started with COVID-19 & has continued through Ahmaud Arbery & George Floyd.

I still can’t handle watching or reading a lot of news. Gone are the days in which you could consider two or three news sources & be able to gain some reasonable idea of what the truth might be.

And that frustrates me.

I watch a little bit of news. I read a few articles. I read individual’s social media posts. I see how entrenched people are with what they choose to believe.

And that tires me.

I see those that think inconvenience equals a loss of liberty. I see that many think that freedom means following whatever path your heart desires. I see people who think their political candidate can do no wrong. I see people who think their opposing political candidate can do no right. I see a black kid gunned down by civilians. I see a black man murdered because a man, whose charge is to serve and protect, knelt on his neck until the man died, despite being told he couldn’t breathe, despite being told by bystanders that the man was in distress, despite three others that could help keep him under control IF he was resistant being present. I see bystanders unwilling to stop an obvious wrong (I assume) because of fear that if they did, their own lives might be forfeit (& I’m not at all saying I would do differently).

And that grieves me.

I want to weep with those who weep, but I worry that friends won’t understand & will think that I’m just falling for the mainstream media’s lies. I want to point out reasonable questions, but I’m afraid other friends will think I’m just deflecting from what’s really going on. I want to consider the background that other people are coming from, but I’m afraid that I’ll be met with the same old talking points. I want others to understand the background that I come from, but I’m afraid my own perspective will be considered irrelevant.

And that breaks my heart.

I see the hurt & the evil in this world. I see the obvious fallenness of this world. I see the depravity visible in each one of us.

And I feel powerless against it.

And I am.

I see the beauty of Creation even in the midst of destruction. I know the Hope that each person could have even in the midst of despair. I understand the Peace that is available even in the midst of strife.

And I feel like I can’t articulate properly.

At least not audibly, orally, face-to-face.

I pray for an end to this virus & a return to normal daily interactions. I pray that truth comes out & justice is served. I pray that there is some sense of healing in this country. I pray that Christians would represent their Name well. I pray that the victims, the murderers, the sick, the healthy, the cops, the protestors, the good actors, the bad actors, & everyone else would recognize these things:

  • God is real & created this world (there is no other reasonable explanation for this existence), and as such he has a right to dictate what is required of His creation.
  • Mankind has rejected God’s rule over him & pretends he is autonomous (sin). This is an offense to God & deserves punishment. (Since it is an offense against an eternal God, it is worthy of eternal punishment)
  • Jesus Christ, as both fully God & fully man, fulfilled God’s law (His requirements for man) & took on the punishment we all deserve making the way for our reconciliation to our Creator.
  • We have only to respond to His offer of forgiveness by confessing to Him that we have sinned against Him & believe in Jesus (that He is who He says he is & that He did what the Bible says He did & that He is able to save us from our condemnation) in order to have our sins forgiven, be reconciled to God, & have the hope of a new Heaven & a new Earth in the very presence of our Creator in which all things will be made new & we will have no more of the sadness, strife, & evil present in this life we now live.

We should stand against wrongs. We should desire justice. We should seek mercy. We should want equitable laws & regulations that protect the most vulnerable. We should ask that the powerful not get special treatment–especially when they do wrong. We should call out hypocrisy (especially & firstly in our own lives). We should demonstrate love toward one another & seek good for one another.

But we should also recognize that humanity is born in sin & there will be no lasting peace until Christ returns. If we love Christ, we should yearn for that Day. If we are opposed to Him, we should dread that Day.

Oh God! Be merciful to us. Open the eyes of blind. Let them see your love. Use this time of upheaval to draw your people out of the darkness of their sin & into the light of Truth. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your grace. May those that already know you, love well & live lives consistent with the love, mercy, & grace that You have shown them.

Amen.

We Are Sinners But God Is Compassionate

If you’re not familiar with the Old Testament nation of Israel & its history of being shown over & over again miraculous signs & wonders from God yet repeatedly rejecting Him, Psalm 78 is a good overview of that history. However, while I was reading it this evening 2 verses stuck out in the midst of the psalm:

In spite of all this, they still sinned;
despite his wonders, they did not believe.
[…]
Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
(Psalm 78:32, 38 ESV)

These verses are not only true in relation to the Old Testament nation of Israel; they are also true for us today in relation to Jesus the Christ. We see the wonders of God daily: the sunrises; the changing of the seasons; the growth of plants; the awesome variability of the flora & fauna; the growth of a human from the joining of sperm & egg into a little baby, small child, teenager, adult; and on and on and on. We also have the testimony of the Bible from the wonder of creation through the mighty works of God in the Old Testament to the miracles of the New Testament, & the ultimate of all wonders in God’s Word–the resurrection of Jesus from death!

In spite of all this, we still sin; despite all these wonders, we still do not believe!

And yet, God is compassionate! Even though we do not obey His Word. Even though we sin against Him. Even though we reject the Creator of all things. Even though we reject the Savior. Even though we do all these things to directly offend Him who is infinite & is perfect in all aspects of His character (which means He is infinite & perfect in both Love AND Justice among many other attributes). He desires to see His people saved!

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

God’s most basic laws show us that we are sinners & should make us realize, merely by comparing our individual lives to His standard, that we are incapable of obeying His laws of our own accord:
1. We love other gods (This means we love other things above God Himself, not necessarily that we love specific gods such as those of other religions, though it definitely means that as well)
2. We serve images & idolize things above God.
3. We use God’s name flippantly.
4. We do not set aside a day for God. We do not rest from our worldly pursuits & focus purely on Him.
5. We do not honor our parents (while under their roof or once on our own)
6. We murder (if not literally, than by our anger with others–see Matthew 5:21-22)
7. We commit adultery (if not literally, than by our lust of others–see Matthew 5:27-28)
8. We steal (there is no qualification here of the worth of the object stolen)
9. We lie about others.
10. We desire things that others have.
[from Exodus 20:3-17]

And if that was not enough, look at what Jesus says in Mark 12

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV)

Do we manage to uphold even these 2 things?!

And yet, God is compassionate on us wretched sinners who deserve His Just Wrath for our transgressions against His infinite character! Jesus came to fulfill God’s law & accept the punishment we deserve in our place as only one who was fully God and fully man could possibly do. He willingly laid down His life, & if He had done only that, it would be of no eternal consequence; it would essentially be meaningless. He also rose from the dead. He defeated Death! Because of that, we have hope!

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:12-22 ESV)

Jesus is the good news to the bad news that we have sinned against God and are deserving of eternal punishment. How does this good news, this Gospel, become your hope? Repent, turn away, from your sinful ways; believe in Jesus the Christ and what He accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 ESV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9, 10 ESV)

Is God a Monster?

I posted a link on Facebook the other day to a blog post entitled “Why Does God Create People He Knows Will Go To Hell?” In the post, the writer makes the analogy that to argue that God is not merciful because He does not save everyone is the same as arguing that Schindler was a monster because he only saved hundreds of Jews rather than finding a way to save thousands.

In the discussion following my Facebook post, a friend commented,

Except Schindler wasn’t an omnipotent being. If Schindler could have easily saved more Jews without effort but chose not to because they were defying him and needed to be taught a lesson, then yes, he would be a monster.

It seems obvious my friend is saying that if an omnipotent God (such as the God of the Bible) exists, then He is a monster because He does not save all people even though He could:

  • If God is all-powerful, He can save everyone.
  • God is all-powerful.
  • He does not save everyone.
  • Therefore, He is a monster

This, however, is not the God that the Bible presents. The Bible presents God as being infinitely perfect. This means, in part, that God is not merely all-powerful or all-loving or all-knowing; it means He is the essence of power, love, knowledge, righteousness, justice, wisdom, etc. All of these things have their origin in Him.

Now, back to my friend’s comment.

Let’s consider for a moment, “Why does God allow some to go to Hell (since that is really what we are talking about when we ask, “Why doesn’t God save everybody?”)?

If I commit an offense against another person, I should be punished with a punishment that is commensurate to the offense committed & to the dignity of the one offended. [The following examples are assuming the crimes are committed in Ohio] So if I toss litter out my car window, it’s a $100 fine. If I am cruel to my animal, I could spend up to 90 days in jail & could have to pay a fine of up to $750. And if I commit aggravated assault against another person, I could be convicted of a felony, spend 18 months to 6 years in prison, & pay up to $5000 in fines.

I point all this out to show that the greater the inherent dignity of the one offended, the greater the punishment. The punishment for assault is not greater than that for animal cruelty because it is more serious but, rather, because humans have greater inherent dignity than mere animals.

This understanding helps to explain why it is just for God to condemn us to Hell. Even the apparently smallest offense is an offense against an infinite being; because God is infinite, his dignity is infinite. If we are guilty of a crime against one of infinite dignity, our punishment should also be infinite.

[Click here and here (page 21 at the top) for some things that were helpful to me in understanding this]

So, this helps explain why it is just for God to condemn sinners to Hell, but it still doesn’t answer our question of “why doesn’t God save everybody?” However, this actually approaches things from the wrong angle. What we should be asking is “Why does God save anybody?”

There are at least a few things to consider here.
1. All have sinned (Romans 3:23). This is, I believe, self-evident. One doesn’t need the Bible to tell us that we are sinners. Look in the mirror. Reflect on your life. Even if you do not believe in the authority of the Bible, you should at least recognize that at some point(s) in your life, you have wronged another person–i.e.-you have done wrong (if you say you haven’t, you’re a liar). If there is a God and you have done wrong, then you have sinned against Him & are deserving of infinite punishment (see above). What reason does He have to save you from that?

2. Your good is not good enough to make up for any bad you have done. Whatever good you might try to do to make up for your wrongs is not good enough because you are incapable of perfection or infinite good. Once you are marred, once you are imperfect, there is nothing you can do in and of yourself that can make you perfect again (assuming you were ever perfect which, of course, you weren’t). If God is perfect (which, I think, He has to be in order to be God. If He wasn’t perfect, He couldn’t truly be God; he would have to be some kind of lesser being), He cannot allow imperfection into His presence, else He would cease to be perfect.

3. But you might say, “If God is all-powerful, he could just make everyone perfect or just erase their sins at the wave of His hand.” Well, let’s think this argument through for a moment. For God to be God, He must be all-powerful (as above, if He is not, then he must be some lesser being). And if that were all there was to it, then the argument put forth at the beginning of this post would stand, & God would be a monster–no argument; hands down, he would be a vindictive, hateful, spiteful, evil God. However, this is not all there is to it. God is not merely all-powerful. He is also merciful, loving, omniscient, & just (among other attributes). But here’s the thing about God’s attributes…they are perfect. He cannot violate one attribute to serve another attribute. So, although He has the power to erase everyone’s sins, He cannot do so without violating His perfect justice. The sins of each person must be paid for, either by that person (which, as I pointed out above, can’t be done) or by someone else. There is no other human being who can pay the price for your sins against an infinite God because every other human in the entirety of history has sinned…except one.

4. That One is the answer to “Why does God save anybody?” That One fulfilled God’s righteous law (that everyone else has broken). That One paid the price that no one else could pay because only He was sinless. That One took on the punishment for each & every person over the entire course of history who looked to God in faith and repentance & believed in Jesus (either as we now know Him or in the promises made by God that the Savior would come).

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV)

[…]if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11 ESV)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21 ESV)

My Case For God

[Originally posted on Facebook on May 3, 2009–This post was a result of my thinking through how I might be able to prove to someone  that there is a god & that you can’t do enough good to outweigh any bad you have done after my boss claimed he was agnostic and then stated, “If there is a god, I figure the good things I’ve done will balance out any bad things I’ve done.” I readily admit this is not the best argument out there, & I realize that I make a bit of a leap for a logical “proof” around #s 7-8. I also realize that in #21 it is probably better understood that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:20), but I decided to leave the note as I originally wrote it]

1.) There is a God–Nothing else makes sense. If there is not an Almighty Creator, how did everything come into existence? The “big bang”?! This just isn’t a logical explanation. Where did the elements come from that allowed an event like that to occur? And what kind of leap of faith does it take to believe that a cosmic event occurred in which things lined up so perfectly that this “perfect” habitat we call Earth came into existence with the diversity of life that it has (even if you believe that it occurred over billions of years)?! And if you do choose to believe in a “big bang” or something similar, what was there before that event? I find in[sic] very sobering and somewhat mind-boggling to consider what “eternity past” really means; it’s a term that’s easy to throw out there but becomes very difficult (if not impossible) to fully understand when you really dwell on it for a while. When you consider eternity past, there must be something that triggered the universe in which we live; if it was a “big bang”, what triggered it? There has to be a starting point. Nothing could exist for eternity past except an all-powerful being. I could probably ramble on more, but I think I’ve made my point.

2.) Since there is a God who has always existed, he must have created everything.

3.) Since God created everything, He must be all-powerful.

4.) Since God is all-powerful, He must set the rules.

5.) Since He set the rules, all right & wrong are determined by Him.

6.) Since He determines what is right/wrong, He can never be wrong.

7.) Breaking God’s rules (doing wrong) is called sin.

8.) The Bible (Old & New Testaments) constitutes the word of God written by many different men over hundreds of years through the divine inspiration of God without error or contradiction.

9.) If we believe that the God of the Bible is the one, true God, we must believe the entirety of the Bible because He says “all scripture is breathed out by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16a), & since we have already established that God cannot be wrong, this MUST be true.

10.) Since the entire Bible must be true, EVERYONE has sinned (ALL people from all time). “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”–Romans 3:23.

11.) God must be Holy (set apart), Loving, Righteous, Perfect

***God must have certain attributes. He must be all-powerful ergo he must be all-knowing and be capable of being everywhere. He must be perfect & only He can be perfect. He must be righteous. He must love His creation because He made it.

12.) Because God is perfect, He cannot allow imperfection (sin) into His presence.

13.) Since we have all sinned, we cannot be allowed into His presence; we are doomed to be separated from Him for all eternity.

14.) Since God is righteous, sin MUST be punished (we broke His rules, after all).

15.) Since God loves His creation, He wants it to be able to enjoy Him.

16.) There is nothing WE can do to make up for our sin. Even if we do good things, we are still imperfect because we have sinned; we cannot change that no matter how much good we do.

17.) The only way we can be allowed into God’s presence is if our sins have been paid for (someone has been punished for them).

18.) God requires a sacrifice to take the place of our sins. Only someone who is perfect can be a worthy sacrifice for others’ sins.

19.) Jesus lived a perfect life, and since He was perfect, He must be God even though He was a man.

20.) Jesus willingly gave up His life and took on God’s punishment for our sins even though He was perfect and did not deserve any punishment.

21.) If Jesus had only died as a sacrifice for our sins, it would not have been enough because there would have been a power stronger than Him–Death. Jesus rose from the dead through His own power which shows that nothing has power over Him.

22.) Since we have accepted that the Bible is true and is the Word of God, we must believe that the debt we owe for our sins has been paid by Jesus’ death and the only thing we must do to claim that payment is BELIEVE that Jesus died for our sins and ask for His forgiveness.

I pray that this note will glorify God and that He will use it to draw others to Him. There are probably better arguments from people more eloquent than I, but I believe that this is a fairly logical approach to the existence of God and Jesus. I fear that I have left things out so if anyone notices any mistakes, PLEASE correct them, and PLEASE feel free to add your own thoughts, comments, reflections, etc.

Lots & Lots & Lots O’ Links

So I haven’t had much time to post anything on here for a few weeks, but I’ve still been collecting links to things I find interesting, important, &/or edifying. So here’s a whole slew of things I’ve come across…

A little on the gay marriage debate to start with:

A thought on the homosexual marriage debate – Reformation21 Blog.–It is important to keep in mind Romans 1:18-32 when thinking about or discussing homosexual marriage. Let those verses influence your perspective on the subject.

Carl Trueman also has a little blurb on this subject–Around and About – Reformation21 Blog.

Along those same lines Alan Shlemon at Stand to Reason Blog asks  Is Homosexuality the Worst Sin of All?. He makes several good points, not the least of which is

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 places homosexuals among other sinners like thieves, drunks, swindlers, and fornicators. And 1 Timothy 1:8-11 lists them among liars, rebels, slave traders, and other sinners. There’s no special designation for any of these sins

Going Down? Dawkins, Doubters & Debauchery–The problem with holding staunchly to an atheist world-view is that eventually that world-view breaks down & you cannot defend your position.

The Name–We cannot make God’s name greater; it is already great.

Read more…

What Our Culture of Death Has Wrought

After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?. As absolutely horrible as the ideas put forth in this article are to even contemplate (& as horrendous as it is that a peer-reviewed journal published it), having this article out could actually be a positive thing for those of us who value the sanctity of life. As John Knight of Desiring God points out, “[The authors] have, in fact, done a great service to the cause of the unborn by openly and clearly connecting the argument for infanticide with abortion.” And that’s just it, I think the average person would be appalled at the thought of infanticide, especially of otherwise “normal” babies. Most people, I suspect, would consider that to be murder (and rightfully so, I might add!). But, if someone considers abortion to be a  perfectly okay choice for whatever reason the mother wants (and many do think this way), then it is only logical that infanticide is also okay for whatever reason the parent(s) decide. The fact that this has been published in a well-respected peer-reviewed journal should, it seems, be an indication of the increasing acceptability of such ideas, at least at the academic level (which means it is only a matter of time before it is acceptable at the lay level).

Read more…

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