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

Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

The Three Great Perils.

The three great perils for all people are idolatry, immorality and injustice (the three i’s). All are a great offence to God. Each of them destroy our lives for time and eternity. And yet all tantalisingly offer, but ultimately fail to deliver the promise of self advancement and self-fulfilment. At the root of each of these sins is that of God rejection. I choose to honour “me” rather than God. And when I do this I inevitably choose to honour myself instead of others. Hence the two great commandments come against us and prove that we have not honoured God with all our mind, heart and soul and we have not honoured others as ourselves (see Matt. 22:34-40).

We perhaps hasten on to quickly though and we need to stop and ask ourselves what do the three terms mean:-

  • Idolatry is the replacing of God as the object of devotion with any other phenomenon whether that be person or activity or interest or any entity. Traditionally that would have involved the use of images and statues. However, the less tangible, but just as real, gods of entertainment, fashion, sport and a miscellany of other interests make idols which are just as potent as an image or bust.
  • Immorality is the engagement in any activity or practice that breaks the moral code as established by God in His law. It often focusses on sexual practices, but is not confined to that realm.
  • Injustice is the failure to deal with others in a way that is in accordance with the requirements of God. It involves taking advantage of others so as to maximize the supposed advantage of myself or my group.

Generally, when a person, society or grouping, start to turn from God all three facets are  manifest in the ensuing decay.  Let us look at one example that of Israel as analysed by Amos in Amos 2: 6-8:

Thus says the Lord:

“For three transgressions of Israel,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
because they sell the righteous for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals—
those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth
and turn aside the way of the afflicted;
a man and his father go in to the same girl,
so that my holy name is profaned;
they lay themselves down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge,
and in the house of their God they drink
the wine of those who have been fined.

 

In vv6b-7a we have injustice in the exploitation of others. In v7b we have immorality through sexual indiscretion In v8 we have idolatry as the gods of self comfort and pleasure are worshipped whilst being indifferent to the true object of worship; God Himself (after all it is His altar and house).

As a general principle it is when idolatry starts to gain a foothold in a person or society that the decay starts. Immorality and injustice soon develop therefrom. This should not surprise us because the first and great commandment is to have God central to our lives. As a further detection devise when the Word of God is turned from by a person, church or group or any entity the three i’s of idolatry, injustice and immorality will soon be present.

This all reminds us that the way to rectify the malaise of three i’s in any people, in any place and at any time is to bring the good news of Jesus Christ; Saviour of the World. This is because it is only He who changes lives so as to make God central. And when that is the case idolatry, immorality and injustice are purged.

Finally, if you read your Bible carefully you will discern that turning from God ubiquitously leads to degeneration into the three i’s.

Coronavirus (2)

On Monday I posted here about how sin being in the world, leads to a world under the judgement of God. This in turn leads on to an expectation that calamities will be known in this sin stricken world. Today I want to consider as to whether we can make a direct connection between the fact that certain sins are promoted today and the giving by God of the coronavirus.

One passage which bears upon our consideration is Luke 13:1-5. The passage read:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Here the Lord is warning against the tendency that we have to categorise sins and sinners. Behind this tendency is the desire to “get ourselves off the hook” because we are not such bad sinners as others. It is very dangerous to engage in such thinking and we put our souls in peril if we do,. Rather as the Lord exhorts in v3 and v5 we should realise we all sin and are sinners and we need to repent.

However, this does not take away from the fact that in the Word of God we see the Lord portrayed as the One who does bring specific judgements as a result of specific sins. The fact that He does this shows that He is not some frenzied tyrant who deals out “the bad stuff” willy-nilly. Rather He is the One who brings just retribution for those involved in the pursuit of ways which are against his will.

Consider the taking away of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC by the Assyrians. The Lord makes it patently clear that He did this because of their specific sins. So we read in 2 kings 17:7-17 how the nation rejected the commandments of the Lord, set up false worship and engaged in child sacrifice. That leads to the conclusion in v18a Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. There is a direct connection between their sin and His judgement.

Further if we go back to the first big judgement after the fall, that of the flood, we see that it was because: the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5).

As a final representation of this principle that specific sin leads to specific judgement consider how the church at Ephesus was threatened with the termination of their existence because they had abandoned their first love (see Rev. 2:4-5).

We seem today to be possessed of a great hesitancy of attributing certain disasters to certain sins. Our forebears were more bold. J.C Ryle writing about the cattle plague of 1865-7 in the UK wrote in respect of the cause thereof:

It has come upon us because of our national sins. God has a controversy with England, because of many things among us which are displeasing in His sight. He would gladly awaken us to a sense of our iniquities. This cattle plague is a message from Heaven.

He then goes on to list the specific national sins. You can read the document here.

Matthew McMahon on The Puritan Board discussion forum here says this: A number of Puritans (including Vincent and Mead), were directly involved in the plagues and fires of London. Mead saw the plague as a direct example of God’s wrath against the city for its sin and wickedness. Vincent saw the great fire in the same way. The reference here is to the Great Plague and Great Fire which occurred in London in 1665 and 1666 respectively.

So what are we to say of the present happenings. I make two observations:

China

The Chinese authorities have set themselves over the last two years to seek to establish total submission from all entities in the country to the Communist party. They want control; they want to take the place of God. The Christian Church is one of the entities which has borne the brunt of the increased repression with church buildings being burnt to the ground for example.

It is interesting that China was the source of the coronavirus infection and has borne the brunt of its effects thus far. The Communist Party which sought to control everything has found itself with a phenomenon that it could not control. Surely we can see the God who truly is, showing that to defy Him has consequences.

LGBT+

The pernicious LGBT+ agenda has rampaged through western societies over the past twenty five years. It has all the capacities if a virus. In fact it is an ideological virus. It has been an attack on two fundamental God given teachings which lead to orderly society and the healthy development of wholesome human interactions. These are that we are born male and female and that marriage is between one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others. The desire and intention to indoctrinate all into the new dogmas is being undertaken with a vengeance. Most international organisations have fallen to the might of those propagating these ideas. The promise is that a new freedom will pertain which will release mankind into a new age of security, peace and advance. And woe betide anyone who will not conform!

The fact that the coronavirus has spread throughout the world makes me to ponder upon how God is signifying His disapproval of the LGBT+ virus which is increasingly infecting the whole world. In sending the coronavirus God is saying that the new zeitgeist will not bring in a utopian state. Security, peace and advance only come when He is acknowledged as Lord and His ways are held to as those which are healthy and wholesome.

I suggest that through the coroanvirus God is providentially working out His judgement purposes. To resist God in terms of His role of ultimate authority (exemplified in China), and Him in being the establisher of the way which is most healthy and best for humanity (exemplified by the LGBT+ agenda) is not consequence free.

You may feel I have overstated my case in this post. That may be so. But I do want us to be aware that God is not indifferent to the rejection of Himself and His ways on His planet. He sovereignly governs for His own glory.

If I am guilty of drawing too many connections that does not take away from the poignancy of the connections made. If you and I only take heed to the principles that to submit to God as Lord and to embrace His way as the way of life, stability, peace and advance that will be good.

And finally to be aware that sin leads to catastrophe will always be edifying for us. In fact it is a mercy of God to know that He is stepping in to show us the consequences of our errors. This all forewarns us of an eternal reality. For in hell the message resounds loud and clear, and that eternally, that ultimate outcome of sin is catastrophe upon catastrophe. As we have a sniff of these realities in the present judgement of the coronavirus let us urgently flee from the wrath to come.

 

 

 

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.

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