"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 9, 2014
Jon touched on this subject last week, but it's something that has been heavy on my mind the past several days. I will warn you up front that this is lengthy, but there was no good stopping place to divide it into two devotionals.
Amongst some christians, there seems to be the question, "What is sin? And some of the things we see people battling today, is it truly sin, or just a generational gap of intolerance?"
I recently had a conversation with someone who was several years younger than myself. We were discussing homosexuality and this person confided that they were struggling with knowing whether or not this was really a sin. Their reasoning was, "If it's a sin, then why do so many people, who don't particularly want to embrace this lifestyle, battle with it?"
There are people, who have been raised in church for all or most of their lives, that are beginning to question what sin really is. The comment this particular person made was, "I really don't know if this is really a sin, or if it's just a generational difference of outlook between the older and younger."
As a starting point, I began looking up scriptures to see what God really does say and think about homosexuals. It's not enough to say that something is wrong because you've heard that taught or it's a personal belief, but you need to go to the Bible and research and read it for yourself: (All scripture taken from the New Living Translation -- but all Bibles should basically say the same thing).
Leviticus 18:22 - "Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin."
Leviticus 20:13 - "If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense."
Let me say, that the death penalty for homosexuals was under the Old Testament law. We are no longer under the law that was given to Moses, but with the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are now under grace. That has changed the punishment, as set up in Old Testament laws, but has not changed what sin is.
Romans 6:14-15 explains it like this: "Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God's grace. Well then, since God's grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!"
Romans chapter one speaks of how people know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. Ever since the world was created, people have seen everything that God has made, and can clearly see His eternal power and divine nature; so they have no excuse for not knowing God. Verse 21 says that yes, they knew God, but they didn't worship him as God or even give Him thanks. They began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result their minds became dark and confused. Sound familiar to the world today? Here's the result:
"So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their heart desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other's bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex, instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They were backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God's justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too." (Romans 1:24-32)
Sin of every kind is nothing new to this world. Homosexuality was first mentioned in Genesis 19 in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Murder was first mentioned in the Bible when Adam and Eve's son, Cain, killed Abel in Genesis chapter 4. Lies and deceit and adultery and drunkenness and every sin known to mankind has been around almost since the beginning of mankind. In Genesis, God flooded the entire earth because of the wickedness and sin; only sparing Noah and his family due to him finding favor with God.
Genesis 6:5-6 says, "The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and He saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry He had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke His heart. And the Lord said, 'I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, I will destroy every living thing -- all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.' But Noah found favor with the Lord."
So the things that we see in our world today is not something new and unheard of. These same sins we see today have been around for thousands of years. But what the Bible calls sin, is still sin, and has never changed. And justifying it as being acceptable, is a deceptive tool that satan uses to make christians tolerant of those things that God has always said is sin.
It is a true statement that God loves everyone; no argument. God is love and God loves us all. But it is not true that because God is love, that He is tolerant and loves the actions and choices that all mankind makes. This world and the church have somewhat diminished the power and awesomeness of who God is, by making Him into someone who accepts the choices of all people. By doing this, we have also diminished the work of the cross. If Jesus loves everybody and is acceptant of everyone's choices and actions and lifestyles, then why do we even need a Savior? Why do we need forgiveness of sin? If God accepts us all and we have no need of repentance and change, and everyone is going to be welcomed into heaven regardless of whether or not they live sinful lifestyles and make sinful choices, then why even bother with repenting and salvation? Those are the deceit and lies that satan has filled our world and churches with! Jesus suffered and died on the cross for our sins; but we have to make the choice to turn from sin and repent and accept the forgiveness and grace that is offered due to His sacrifice.
Jude 1:7 gives the world a warning that we best take heed to: "And don't forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God's judgement."
It's sometimes easy to point our finger at those who battle sins that we are not tempted with, and see them as being much worse than the sin in our own life; after all, we would never dream of doing those type of things. But Romans 3:23 tells us that "everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard."
When you read the list of sins in various places in scripture, look at what all is grouped together as sin. They are not categorized in groups of the really bad sins, to those that aren't quite so bad, to those that we tend to see as being normal everyday pitfalls. Look at the list of sins listed above from Romans 1:24-32. Here are a few other scriptures that list things that God calls sin. Do you find that you've ever been guilty of any of these that are listed in with those we see as being horribly abase?
"So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don't be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world." Colossians 3:5
1 Corinthians 6:9-11: "Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people -- none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
Galatians 5:19-21: "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear; sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God."
Proverbs 6:16-19: "There are six things the Lord hates -- no, seven things He detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family."
The question asked of me a few days ago was, "If so many people struggle with homosexuality, when they really don't want to be that way, then is it really sin?" So if someone doesn't struggle with wanting to chose that lifestyle and embrace it, then is it not sin to them either? I have found that most all of us struggle with sin in our lives. And most times it's something that we really don't want to do and aren't proud of and wish we could stop.
Many unmarried couples struggle with purity and not having sex before marriage, so does that make it okay? The scripture says to have nothing to do with sexual immorality or impurity. Married individuals struggle with having affairs and adultery.
1 Corinthians 6:18 says to "flee fornication" or "run from sexual sin". The definition of fornication is: "extramarital sex, adultery, infidelity, unfaithfulness, pre-marital sex."
There are untold thousands upon thousands who struggle with pornography, and they want to break free from the stronghold porn has on them, but it's a constant battle with their thoughts and those images and thoughts have a stronghold on their mind that causes them to fantasize about ungodly things that they often fight against because they feel guilt. In fact, once someone has ever looked at porn, whether it be a website or magazine, it will invade their thoughts thereafter. I heard a minister say that when he was a teen he had looked at porn one time, and struggled with what he had seen for years; even after being married and in the ministry. He would pray and repent and ask God to help him over and over again. Finally, he was in a special church service and another minister prayed for him and that bondage was finally broken in his thoughts. People don't realize how dangerous and what a stronghold dirty movies, magazines, or websites can have on their minds and how it traps their thoughts.
People struggle with alcohol; others struggle with lying -- even if it is those little white untruths that seem harmless; others struggle with gossiping and backbiting; some struggle with keeping trouble or rumors stirred up in their family; and the list could go on and on.......
Whatever the sin is, whether it's something we personally struggle with or if it's something someone we know struggles with, if it's in the Bible as sin, then no amount of reasoning or justification will change that fact.
Perhaps we have been so afraid to speak out against sin because we're fearful of being thought of as being intolerant or judgmental or unloving. But by keeping silent and seemingly acceptant of sin, I'm afraid that in the process we have forgotten to teach the generation coming up behind us right from wrong. Now when we try to speak out, they see us as old fogies and set in our ways or unprogressive or unknowledgeable. We have failed to teach new christians what the Bible says about right and wrong and made them feel as if God is tolerant of whatever choices and lifestyle they should choose. And there are even older adults who are being deceived and pulled away from the truth. We have neglected the teaching of biblical principles that the Word of God sets forth. Now we see people, of all ages, in our churches being deceived and pulled away by lies and false doctrines.
I recently told Jon that it scares me to think, if Jesus should not return as soon as we think He will, what the world will be like for our great-nieces and great-nephews when they become adults. If their parents and/or grandparents are becoming desensitized and tolerant to things that the Bible calls sin, then what will their generation be like? What will the church be like 20-30 years from now?
I pray that I will become more committed to God than ever before, and that my light will shine so that others will see Jesus in me. I don't want to be desensitized to and acceptive of sinful things. But there are two things that I have to make sure I do. First of all, I have to read and study the Word of God and hide it in my heart, that I won't sin against God. (Psalm 119:11) Having God's Word in my heart and ever fresh in my mind will prevent me from being deceived by false teachers and taken in by lies and teachings that goes against what God declares as truth.
Secondly, I must remember what James 4:17 says, "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." I must repent when I sin, and then accept the forgiveness and mercy of God. Then I have to stop sinning and not keep falling back into that same sin trap over and over again.
Know what you believe and why you believe it. And as 1 Peter 3:15 says, "If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it." Be willing to stand up for truth and righteousness. Also, know what the Bible says about sin, and don't be taken in by those who would teach things that are contrary to God's Word.
I mentioned last week that we got to see "God's not Dead". It's a great movie that gets a little into the debate about whether God exists. One character argues that belief in God is an antiquated notion, since we are enlightened now, and have science to show us how the universe works. He seems to show what so many people think, that you can believe in God or believe in science, but not both. Wrong!
Einstein had some odd thoughts about Who God is. But certainly believed God and science can co-exist. He once said, "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." He studied science because he "wanted to know how God created this world."
There are a lot of arguments atheists use to argue that science is right and belief in God is wrong that work just as well to argue the opposite. For one, they commonly compare faith in God to brainwashing by parents and peers. But faith in science is brow-beaten into people even more strongly. Personally, I think it takes much more faith to believe that the universe is filled with quarks, dark matter, dark energy, and was created from some mysterious event, than it takes to believe God wanted a universe, so made it how He felt like.
1 head lettuce, torn or chopped in bite-size pieces
1 tomato, chopped
1 pkg frozen peas
1 bunch green onions, chopped (optional)
6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1 lb bacon, friend and crumbled
Layer ingredients in order listed in a large bowl.
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 pkg dry Hidden Valley Ranch mix
Mix all ingredients together for the dressing. Spread over the top of the salad. Do not toss the salad! Cover and refrigerate overnight or for several hours. Can mix when ready to serve -- or leave as is, which is what I do. It all will begin to mix together as people dip out helpings.
Last week Jax was out of school for the day, so I was watching both him and his baby sister. He often plays PlayStation and Xbox games with his dad, and has ever since he was really young. Jax got the remote and turned on the Lego Marvel game, which is one he enjoys playing with his dad, then wanted me to play with him. I told him that I don't play that type of games and had no idea how to work the controller or play the game. I pacified him for a while by saying that I would watch him play. I was impressed at how well he did! He's four years old and was scoring points and figuring out strategies. He finally got bored with playing alone and kept asking why I wouldn't play with him. Finally, Jax told me, "If you play with me, I won't tell you that you're doing it wrong!" Right!! When I play trains with him I never built the tracks right or put the trains in the right places or do it right, and he will tell me that I'm doing it wrong; therefore, I wasn't convinced that he wouldn't tell me that I was playing the game wrong!
Patience is the ability to let your light shine even after your fuse has blown. -- unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon