Our Deepest, Primary Problem

Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave
Edward T. Welch

It is one thing to acknowledge that we occasionally do wrong; it is something else to acknowledge that what we did was sin – it was against God…

Even among Christians, sin is not always seen as our deepest or primary problem.  For example, if I were to reflect on the problems of my day, they might include my finances, children, wife, health, weight, reputation, lack of lasting contributions, car, leaky faucet, or environment-endangering lawn mower.  Even when I am an obvious wrongdoer, I still can think that sin is not my primary problem.  It is one of those problems that come up occasionally; it is not, I feel, a core feature of my very being.

Yet the fact that I do not feel like sin is my primary problem does not prove anything.  Sin by its very nature is more often quiet and secretive than loud and public.  For every overt episode of rage, there are dozens of jealousies, manipulations, white lies, and malicious thoughts, none of which immediately register on the conscience.  And, according to Scripture, the greatest sin of all is even more covert: I do not love the Lord my God with my whole mind and heart.  If our failure to consistently worship the true God is the key feature of sin, we are sinners all.

Notice what happens when we lose sight of these biblical teachings.  If sin is not our core problem, the gospel itself – the thing of first importance – is marginalized.  The good news that Jesus proclaimed and offered is that there is forgiveness of sins, not through our own attempts to please God, but by placing our confidence in Jesus himself, in his death and resurrection.  If sin is not our primary problem, then the gospel of Jesus is no longer the most important event in all of human history.

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Asking for Strength to Rebel

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

…if we see iniquity in our lives and harbor it in our hearts when we pray, we are asking God for the strength we need to curse Him. We are petitioning God for more strength to disobey Him further. Just as [someone is] not about to lend his gun to those who would kill him, God is not about to honor our requests made out of sinful hearts.

A Kind of Death Which Leads to Life

John Stott

Romans 8:13

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

…there is a kind of life which leads to death, and there is a kind of death which leads to life…What the world calls life (a desirable self-indulgence) leads to alienation from God which in reality is death, whereas the putting to death of all perceived evil within us, which the world sees as an undesirable self-abnegation, is in reality the way to authentic life.

Dominion Lost

Genesis 1:28

[28] And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Originally, man was meant to have dominion over the earth.  We are uncomfortable with words like subdue and dominion because it sounds like humans are meant to be oppressive dictators over the rest of creation.

However, Adam was not to be a dictator, but a steward.  He had no authority that had not been given to him.  He could not do whatever he pleased with God’s creation.  With God’s intention in mind, we realize that in the beginning Adam was not called to be a gardener but a protector.  His original call was to defend the creation, his wife, and the honor of God by defeating the serpent.  Instead, he did nothing as the serpent deceived his wife.  Adam did not destroy the serpent but agreed with him and joined forces with him against God, opening the door to sin and death.

After the fall, mankind would still like to believe that we are in charge.  My children are convinced that they are in charge of our house.  No one had to teach them this and it is with great difficulty that we teach them that they are not.  We are born this way.

And that is especially sad because we are not in charge.  We are not in charge of when we are born or when we will die.  We are not in charge of what will happen to us or how exactly our children will turn out.  In fact, we are not even in charge of ourselves.

Romans 7:18b-19

…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

Man was to have dominion over all creatures and even the earth itself.  Now, we have dominion over nothing.  We are not masters but slaves to our passions and circumstances.  This is bad news, but when we can admit that this is true, the Gospel becomes very good news.

John 8:36

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

A Lack of Information

Neil Postman

Did Iraq invade Kuwait because of a lack of information?  If a hideous war should ensue between Iraq and the U.S., will it happen because of a lack of information?  If children die of starvation in Ethiopia, does it occur because of a lack of information?  Does racism in South Africa exist because of a lack of information?  If criminals roam the streets of New York City, do they do so because of a lack of information?

Or, let us come down to a more personal level: If you and your spouse are unhappy together, and end your marriage in divorce, will it happen because of a lack of information?  If your children misbehave and bring shame to your family, does it happen because of a lack of information?  If someone in your family has a mental breakdown, will it happen because of a lack of information?  I believe you will have to concede that what ails us, what causes us the most misery and pain – at both cultural and personal levels – has nothing to do with the sort of information made accessible by computers.

God is Awake

Sarah Albrecht

When we respond to our fears by trying to take on the attributes of God – like, for example, omniscience and omnipresence – we will be plagued by restlessness. We think we are taking control by thinking about all the possible precautions against robbers (and there is no harm in being responsible in locking our house – so long as our trust and hope is in the Lord and not in a deadbolt) breaking in or by staying awake and looking in every place. Yet, in reality, instead of controlling the situation, we become controlled and enslaved by fear.

Omnipresence and omniscience aren’t the only attributes of God that we are tempted to take on.

We try to control situations by demanding perfect justice when we are wronged. We refuse to believe that the Holy Spirit can and is working in the hearts of men. We sacrifice relationships because people do not meet our expectations.

We try to be self-sufficient – planning for ever possible circumstance or by refusing help when we really need it. We judge people who can’t get it together. We miss out on being blessed by God through others.

We try to be perfect and good and never sin on our own accord. Instead, we become self-righteous. We are controlled by what others think of us and keeping up the image of perfection rather than trusting in Christ for our salvation. We know deep down that we are fakes. We worry that God knows this and is out to get us.

When we try to be God, we will always fail. We will quickly grow weary, and our souls will not be at peace. We feel the burden of the ultimate sin of pride when we think that we can do God’s job better than He can.

The Bible says, in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Pure and Undefiled Religion

How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?
Russell Moore

Is Ahab’s acquisition of Naboth’s land (1 Kings 21:1-19) a matter of personal sin or social injustice? Well, it was both. Was the sin of Sodom a conglomeration of personal sins or societal unrighteousness? It was both (Gen. 18:26; Ezek. 16:49).

The prophets never divided up issues of righteousness as neatly as we do in the “personal” and the “social.” Isaiah speaks of God’s judgment both on personal pride and idolatry (Isa. 2:11) and the “grinding” of the faces of the poor (Isa. 3:14-15). Onward to Joel and Micah and Malachi right through John the Baptist the witness is the same.

The new covenant church continues this witness. Even after the public ministry of Jesus, his apostolic church continues a message of both personal justification and interpersonal justice. James directs the churches of the dispersion both in terms of their personal speech (Jas. 3:1-12) and the unjust treatment of wage-earners (Jas. 5:1-6).

James defines “pure and undefiled religion” as that which cares for the widows and orphans (Jas. 1:27). Of course he does. His brother already has (Matt. 25:40).

For those who might seek to pit James against Paul, the New Testament allows no such skirmish, either on personal redemption or on ministry to the vulnerable. When they received Paul, the apostles, Paul says, were concerned, of course, that he proclaims the correct gospel but also that he remember the poor. This was, Paul testifies, “the very thing I was eager to do” (Gal. 2:10).

Link: Complete Blog Post

Revelations of Aussie Sex Tourists in Thailand

Jas Rawlison

As we come to the end of our chat, I ask the rescue worker what he would say to these men if he could say anything; if he didn’t have to hide who he was.

“If I could say everything and anything, I guess it would be: ‘are you happy with who you’ve become, are you happy with this life?’

“You can use all your skills and abilities to help people, not to take from them,” he says.  “It’s not too late to turn things around and become the man you’re proud of.”

Link: Complete Article

Test the Spirits

[1] Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

– 1 John 4:1

False prophets very rarely say, “Hey everyone, I have a message from the devil!” No, they say they have a revelation from the Spirit.

John is warning us that while a spiritual experience is important, it alone is not enough to guarantee that it is from God. Spirits must be tested. If a random guy told a girl, “God said you’re supposed to marry me,” the girl would not immediately believe him. She would be discerning.

Who we marry is important, but who we worship is more important. When people say things about God, we should be discerning. We should test the spirits.

This includes testing ourselves. Our hearts, our emotions, our logic can so easily go astray. Haven’t we done enough foolish things to know that we can’t be trusted implicitly? We are biased and selfish and the first “spirit” that must be tested is within us.