To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Our society is full of them; excuses. Excuses for bad behaviour abound. It was my upbringing; it is my circumstances; it is my spouse who drives me to do this; it is my health situation. And of course, the one used perhaps most prolifically; I was provoked. All of these and many others are brought forward to excuse actions which harm others and are reprehensible in the sight of God. In making these excuses we expect a free pass from any examination of our actions.

Moses in Numbers 20:1-13 had a ready made set of excuses. In this passage he loses his temper and disobeys the Lord’s command striking the rock twice rather than speaking to the rock (see Num. 20:8-11). As a result the Lord’s judgement falls. We read  And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Num. 20:12).

Moses had plenty of excuses that could have been brought forward to excuse his action:

  1. His sister had just died
  2. The people had no water again.
  3. The people he was called to lead were complaining again
  4. The people were blaming him and Aaron, his brother, for their problems.

Each one could have been a valid excuse we might deem. However, not so with the Lord. Sin is sin and Moses as a leader of God’s people should have known better. To his credit Moses never marshalled any of these excuses in his defence. He simply accepted what was a great disappointment to him; he was not going to be able to lead the people into the land.

Alas, in the church of our Lord Jesus, we can be quick to get our excuses in rather than repent of our sin. Such an approach is ungodly. Let us be quick repenters rather than quick excuse finders. Of course, it is better to go one better and that is not to sin. And in that case we remember that when we are feeling under strain amidst the circumstances of life: Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).

The Lord’s Supper Frames The Church

One of the key inputs that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper has in the life of a church is that it frames the church around our Lord Jesus Christ and the rich grace of God that is in and through Him.

When we come together to partake of the bread and cup we are making certain declarations about what we believe and are committed to. The two which are key to our understanding of God’s ways for us as churches are the centrality of Christ and the necessity of grace. Let us read this paragraph which gives Paul’s understanding of the meanings and implications of the Lord’s Supper

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:23-26)

From this we discern that the Lord Jesus is centre stage in the Lord’s Supper. He is the One who we remember, and most particularly we focus on remembering His death.  And we do all this whilst awaiting His return. When the table is set and the bread and cup partaken of, Jesus Christ our Lord is portrayed before our spiritual eyes as the all glorious One who is returning for His church. History is defined by Christ and the church is similarly to be defined by Him. Moreover, the church is to formed into the likeness of Christ who died and rose and is coming again.

Furthermore, we are declaring that we owe all to Him. Christianity is not a joint-undertaking where we do our part and Jesus comes and does His part. Rather it is deal whereby our God in Christ by the Holy Spirit does everything. We can as much save ourselves as jump to the moon; it is impossible. We need God to come to rescue us from ourselves and from our sin. This is grace; God’s grace.

But we must go a stage further. When we come to the Lord’s Supper we have the  instruction by Paul: Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Cor. 11:27-28). In the examination we discern two main things; we owe all to Christ and we are sinful. We are not just neutral people that God reaches out to, we are, rather, sinful people who are rejectors of God. With such thoughts in our minds the sweet fragrance of grace is intensified in the church. 

To be a church celebrating the Lord’s Supper and be failing to be gracious is a complete contradiction. And similarly we will not be able to focus on ourselves and our desires, but on Christ our Lord and His desires when we fully grasp the communion feast.

In His Presence

The nation of Israel were called to live in the presence of the Lord. Also, their commitment in the covenant of law was to obey His law. Enjoying the Lord’s presence was conditioned upon obedience to the law. Alas in the very act of receiving the tabernacle, which would be the means of them enjoying and participating in His presence they rebelled and defied the first two of the ten commandments which are the summary of that law (see Ex. 32:1-16). They made a golden calf to be their God and in doing so made a graven image of God. The first two commandments prohibited these actions.

The book of Exodus accordingly finishes with Moses outside the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:35). And the book of Leviticus commences with the Lord speaking from the tabernacle to Moses. The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting (Lev. 1:1); Moses could not go in where the Lord was.

The book of Leviticus then gives in full the description of the way in which a sinful people could approach a holy God. This was on the basis of the sacrificial and priestly system. It all centred upon the Day of Atonement which is portrayed in Leviticus 16. Leviticus is a book full of grace. It is a book showing how God establishes the means for a people to be with Him and in His presence.

The success of the book of Leviticus is seen in the first verse of Numbers which says. The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt (Num. 1:1).

The sacrifices have worked! The priests are successful in doing their job! Moses can now be in the tabernacle to speak with the Lord.

Oh what beautiful revealings this has to our souls of the great sacrifice and priest of God’s supply: our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the great One to bring us to God. We no longer need be outside of the presence of the Lord, but we are brought in, in and through our Lord Jesus.

The promptings for this post come from the Bible Project here.

Conviction of Sin

Whatever, happened to “conviction of sin”?

How is the gospel presented so very often today? It is presented as a means of improving your life. People are told that their lives are not what they should be and if they “come to Jesus” they will be improved. Therefore in embracing Jesus their average “run-of-the-mill” lives are pepped up so that they are now fulfilled. But is this right?

The Bible speaks of the work of salvation in far more radical terms. The Bible speaks of us getting a new life and not an improved life. That is the implication of the “born again” term. Technically this is referred to as the doctrine of regeneration. Upon believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour we are granted new life. Those who are dead in sins are made anew.

Critical in the experience of salvation is the conviction of sin. Our Lord Jesus said that when the Spirit of God comes he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged. Sin is the barrier that keeps us from salvation and we need to be convicted of our sin.

To be made aware of our sin is not a human construct. Rather, it is constructed by being in the presence of God. It comes about through becoming aware of who God is and how He and His standards are revealed in His Word. The Holy Spirit uses such means to convict us of our sin and bankrupt state before God. It is only those who have been ransacked by the Word who cry out for the rescuing mercies of God which are found in our Lord Jesus.

The challenge is for us as Christians whether we be preachers or not to be faithfully declaring the need for people to be broken before God because of their sin.

 

Church Newsletter

Here is our Church newsletter. It includes an article referring to being convicted about our sin.

Sin Exposing Preaching

Jeremiah in Lamentations 2:14 informs the people of Jerusalem about how:

The visions of your prophets
    were false and worthless;
they did not expose your sin
    to ward off your captivity.
The prophecies they gave you
    were false and misleading.

This strikes me forcibly as regards to the character of my preaching. Do I have a sin exposing preaching ministry? If not, it is very likely that my preaching is a means of harm to the people who hear me. To fail to address what is wrong in peoples’ lives is to fail to give them a way of rectifying their lives for good.

Jeremiah says concerning the prophets who had belonged to the people of Jerusalem that they had not exposed sin. This was not a matter of indifference because it had very serious consequences. The judgment of Babylonian captivity fell as a result. No exposure of sin leads to no repentance for sin and that in turn leads to judgment against sin.

In place of sin exposing preaching there seems to have been lifestyle affirming preaching. False and misleading is how Jeremiah describes their prophecies. We will always be on the slippery slope to falsehood and deception when we do not have the Word of the Lord at the centre of our preaching.

So let us be concerned, fellow preachers, about our preaching. Let us consider that we may be facilitating a descent into hell among our hearers because we have not preached the truth about sin, their sin, to our hearers. Love and passion must be involved in this. But preach judgement against sin we must.

If there is no preaching of sin there can be no meaningful preaching of the balm for sin in the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We No Longer Have The “Old Man”

Christians often use statements referring to how they are battling with the “old man”. But is this really accurate? Do we still have the “old man”?

Paul writes this in Romans 6:6-7 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin –  because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. At the moment we become Christians we are finished with the old self; the old man is crucified with Christ. Sin used to dominate in that life which I had before I was saved, but when I became a Christian the old man, given over to sinful pursuits, was slain. On the ,contrary we are now new men. We are new because of Christ. The teaching of Romans 6 is that through the gospel we have been re-wired. So rather than being dominated by sin, we are now dominated by righteousness. The inclination of the new man is predisposed towards righteousness.

So the life story of every Christian is like this. Before they we saved, they had the old man. After they were converted, they are remade as new people. As Paul says to the Corinthians: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Cor. 5:17).

We must state here, though, that although we do not have the old man; we do most definitely still have the old nature; we have the flesh. We do still have within us a nature which is set on doing wrong. Paul writes in Romans 7:18 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. The Christian cannot be dominated by sin, but he can be plagued by sin. The bent of every Christian is towards righteousness; this is the reason why sin is so detestable to the Christian.

Paul further teaches in Ephesians 4: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The main idea in this passage is that the Christian is to be who they are. More correctly the text should say that they have put off the old self which is corrupted in evil desires and have put on the new man which is created to be like God in righteousness and holiness. Given that this has happened, they should now live as new people who are finished with the past.

The teaching in Colossians 3:5-10 is similar. Here Paul addresses the Colossians and says: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

So most wonderfully, fellow Christians, we no longer have the old man. Given that God has worked this so wonderfully for us, let us make sure we live as new people risen in Christ.

(Originally published at Venabling on January 30 2014)

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