Sin is Seeking to Destroy You

On any evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, sin takes notice and seeks to distort and destroy. This should cause us to live with greater awareness, not more fear. And this is why we must live in continual repentance and confess our sins often – to God but to each other as well, as we are commanded to do in scripture.

“Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good…”

Romans 7:13

Sin seeks to use what is good in order to deceive and to destroy all that it can in the process. We see this tactic first employed in the biblical account of the fall of mankind. In Genesis 3:1 the serpent asks Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” One of Satan’s main tactics is to parse the commands of God and present us with potential loopholes. We often accept his offer, forsaking the simplicity of God’s commands for convenient complications.

Where Compromise Leads

Through their compromise, Adam and Eve really did become more like God, but not in a desirable way. Consider this: up to that point they knew only good; now they would know evil as well. God already knew what evil was but mankind did not yet have knowledge of it. This knowledge of evil was obtained by participating in evil, which had both immediate and massive downstream consequences. Death was now a possibility and mankind was on track to experience that as well.

Participation in sin does expand our knowledge and awareness, but it makes us aware of realities we consequently wish we’d never known. Once we know these things, we cannot un-know them. And yet in the foolishness of our human pride, we still fall for the same gambit over and over.  We compromise repeatedly as our flesh seizes the opportunity and our minds rationalize the sins we commit. Presented with a convenient mistruth, we are willingly led down a path of compromise.

Sin is Aggressive

In the next chapter of Genesis (4:7) it says that “sin is crouching at the door…” I find this insight into the nature of sin to be helpful. Sin is not only what we seek to do that is contrary to God’s commands, it is also what waits to surprise and tempt and attack us. Sin is an aggressor in addition to being a passive availability.

Sin sees that we are humble and tempts us to be proud of our humility. 

Sin sees that we are compassionate and seeks to lead us to approve of the sins of others. 

Sin sees that we are patient and encourages us to tolerate evil. 

Sin sees that we are obedient and seeks to lead us into bondage to those who would do us harm.

On any evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, sin takes notice and seeks to distort and destroy. 

This should cause us to live with greater awareness, not more fear. And this is why we must live in continual repentance and confess our sins often – to God but to each other as well, as we are commanded to do in scripture. The heart indeed is desperately wicked, and we will need far more than pep talks and self-help books to live lives that are pleasing to God.

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The Deep Lack of Wisdom That COVID Has Revealed

The COVID period has revealed a deep lack of biblical wisdom among those who call themselves Christians. We have not been desperate for God’s wisdom, even while we eagerly consume the many doses of folly that invade our minds via social media. Do not be surprised if you are frustrated and do not know what to think if you have feasted on foolishness while starving yourself of real wisdom. 

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders,

making the best use of the time.”

Colossians 4:5

To walk in wisdom toward outsiders requires us to first seek wisdom from the right source, but too often our words are many while our prayers are few. We crave constant activity and the notoriety that comes along with our publicly visible efforts. We want to be seen and known, and not always with the most virtuous motives.

So we must not apply this command, as I sometimes have, in a way that justifies our burnout-inducing over-busyness. The causes of burnout are many and not all are sinful, but “burning out for Jesus” is not a game plan to be proud of; it is a sin to be repented of. Often the “best use of the time” is to sit and do nothing physically or audibly, to do nothing more than take in God’s word, to ask God questions, and to sit quietly as we wait for answers. He promises to supply wisdom if we ask. 

Ask For Wisdom

In the men’s Bible study I lead on Thursday nights, we always start by having someone read James 1:5-8, which promises the following:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

After this reading, we pray, asking God with all the desperation we can muster to supply us with wisdom and to make us willing to receive it, learn from it, and then to go and live accordingly. Life is filled with constant challenges and we often feel unprepared. God’s promise to supply wisdom is not a promise made in vain. If we are humble enough to admit that we need wisdom and we ask for it, he will give it to us – generously!

Making the Best Use of the Time

The command to “make the best use of the time” frequently interrupts my days and my thoughts. It is easy to misunderstand this statement as a command to constant busyness, but if we understand it this way we will fail to live as Jesus did. We will not take times of solitude to spend with the Father. We will not rest as often as needed. 

We will flit about, feasting on one bit of information that is presented to us, and then another morsel that is diametrically opposed. Instead of gaining wisdom, we reap confusion. And then we distribute our confusion to others, perpetuating a downward spiral of frustration.

The COVID period has revealed a deep lack of biblical wisdom among those who call themselves Christians. We have not been desperate for God’s wisdom, even while we eagerly consume the many doses of folly that invade our minds via social media. Do not be surprised if you are frustrated and do not know what to think if you have feasted on foolishness while starving yourself of real wisdom. 

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What is the Place of Effort in the Life of a Christian?

People like to make resolutions at this time of the year and these resolutions are often forsaken before the year is half over. But we should resolve daily to do as Paul instructs in this passage: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” And we should be ruthless in our discernment, sparing no area of our lives. 

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Colossians 3:1-2

What is the place of effort in the life of a Christian?

We did not and cannot earn salvation by anything that we do or have done. No effort, no striving, no amount of self-improvement will ever make God look down and say “Ah – there is one who has made himself good enough for me to save! If only there were a few more like him!” We did not and cannot earn salvation by anything that we do or have done.

After we believe, after we have been saved and redeemed by God, we are to rest in Christ. In Heb 4:11 it says that we are to “strive to enter that rest.” The work is done and we can’t add to it; salvation is a complete work that we receive.

We rest in this salvation, but in other areas of the Christian life, after we are born again, there is effort involved. In 1 Tim. 4:7 we are told to discipline ourselves. In Phil. 3:14 we’re instructed to strive as an athlete striving to win the prize. In 2 Tim. 2:6: “Make an effort as a farmer who works hard in order to receive some of the reward from the vineyard.” In Eph. 6: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and the powers of this evil age.” And in 1 Cor. 9:27 Paul says “I put my body in subjection so that after preaching to others I myself might not be a cast away.” 

These all make sense when we remember Paul’s words in Phil 2:12-13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God working in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

Effort Applied

The Christian life is not a life without effort; the Christian life is one of applying effort to all that we are called by God to do. And God will empower us, by his Spirit, to accomplish whatever he commands us to. So, in the end, it is not a striving by human effort that makes the difference, but the complete surrender of obedience that aligns us with God’s will and supplies us with God’s power.

As we live out this new reality, we are instructed to, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” 

If you are hungry, you may find a grocery store, but finding the grocery store won’t solve your hunger. You need to enter, find the food, purchase the food, and eat the food. In the same way, it is not enough to merely know heavenly things; you must set your mind on them, devour them, ingest them. You must be preoccupied with them. True spirituality is not seeking spiritual experiences. It is not the pursuit of an emotional high. Emotions are a response to renewal, not the source of renewal.

True Spirituality

True spirituality is the practice of setting your mind on heavenly things. And setting your mind on heavenly things is the starting point and the accelerator of practical holiness. It is true that “we become what we behold.” We will take on the likeness of that to which we give our attention and affection. If to heavenly things, then holiness will result. If to earthly things, then wickedness and unholiness.

People like to make resolutions at this time of the year and these resolutions are often forsaken before the year is half over. But we should resolve daily to do as Paul instructs in this passage: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” And we should be ruthless in our discernment, sparing no area of our lives. 

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