Our Respectable Sins

-The One Who Humbles Himself

In Luke 18 Jesus told the story of two men who went to the temple to pray: one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. When the Pharisee prayed, he said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people— and, here come the “Biggie Sins” —greedy, unrighteous, adulterers & even like this tax collector; I fast twice a week & I tithe when the offering plate is passed.” But, when the tax collector prayed he wouldn’t even raise his eyes to heaven. Instead, he kept beating his chest and saying, “God, turn your wrath from me…a SINNER!” No pointing fingers! No minimizing his sin! He owned it! And, Jesus concluded the story like this:  “I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

-Pride and Selfishness

When we act toward each other as this Pharisee did to the tax collector we poison those human relationships with the subtle, almost “respectable” sins of pride & selfishness!  We sabotage, even the ones we claim to love,  by our judgmentalism & our sins of the tongue.  We destroy our friendships by our lack of self-control, our envy & our jealousy! More families have been destroyed; more churches have turned inside out against itself; and, more countries have gone to war over the subtle so-called “respectable sins” of pride, jealousy & selfishness than all the gross, appalling sins combined! Never forget the bottom line— ALL SIN IS DEADLY! It wasn’t a “biggie sin” that resulted in the fall of mankind in the garden.  Adam & Eve just plucked a piece of fruit from a tree and ate it! No “biggie”? It was devastating!

-Small Sins Can Be Just As Deadly

The murder of every Jew by Hitler was “in” that piece of fruit! All the sex-slavery, human trafficking, robberies & marriage infidelity was “in” that forbidden fruit! Don’t ever minimize your sin! The small “respectable” sins can be just as deadly! Let us be relentless, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to be killing all sin in our life; or, it will be killing us! There’s an old English word that we rarely use in the church anymore. It’s the word ‘mortify’ and it means to ‘put to death.’ Colossians 3:5, for example, says, ‘Mortify—or, put to death—what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.’ Romans 8:13 says we accomplish that by the Spirit ONLY; not by the flesh:  “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.” To “put to death” is an update from the old KJV word “mortification.”

-Overcoming Sin & Temptation

Let me conclude this post by encouraging you to purchase a great book titled, Overcoming Sin & Temptation by John Owen. It’s a Crossway book that’s a compilation of 3 classic works by Owen, the 16th century Puritan minister.  Here’s what he says about “putting to death” or “mortifying” the deeds of the flesh: “Sin does not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still laboring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion… be killing sin or it will be killing you…” The Apostle Paul challenged the Church of Colosse to “…put off the old man…” (Col. 3:9-10); and to be “…made alive…” by the Holy Spirit! This is the constant responsibility of every believer!

Joy In Our Trials

-Consider It A Great Joy!

In James’ introduction to his epistle, by the same name, the Spirit of God prompts him to write:  “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials” (1:2). Say what? Did he just say that we ought to consider it “joy” whenever we’re facing trials?  Yup, sure did! So, what are some of our natural responses to difficulties and problems? Not very joyful are they? Because of our sinful flesh, our natural response is never going to please God, is it? Our flesh always wants to please our flesh. A spiritual response of “joy” is counter-intuitive for us! It’s NOT natural! It’s God’s work in us!

-An Unavoidable Situation

That phrase, “…whenever you experience various trials…” is interesting.  It literally means that it’s an “unavoidable” situation! It’s not “IF” you will experience trials; but, “WHEN.” In other words, you cannot prevent it! You cannot control the various trials of life. I fear that some of you have gone through life feeling a great sense of guilt. You’ve convinced yourself that the reason you’ve had that crisis in your life is that you’ve done something wrong, and God is getting back at you for it! That He’s out to get you! That’s not the case! That’s not the loving, gracious, merciful God who eagerly forgives our sin when we confess it; and cleanses us for our unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-10). When James uses the word “consider” in that verse, he means for us to make a conscious commitment. We have to make a conscious commitment that whenever trials or tests or troubles come that we’re going to count it “joy” because it means that God is working in us! He’s using us for His purposes!

-God Puts You On Display!

If this becomes a struggle for you, let me offer you some Scripture to put to memory! When you memorize Scripture, you give God’s Holy Spirit the tools He uses to strengthen your faith and correct your walk with God! The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the Church of Corinth:  “But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:14-15).  God uses the tests & trials in your life to put you on display! “Here’s Jesus in the flesh,” He tells the unbelieving world. He’s announcing to everyone around you! He wants to show the world, by your response to the testing, that Jesus is more valuable to you than a perfect life without struggles; that you still pursue Him despite your trials! 

-Spiritual Maturity!

James is teaching his readers to let God use the testing to produce spiritual maturity in their life. It’s “…the testing of your faith…” he says in v.3 that produces “endurance.” One of our former members, who’s moved away, runs marathons. A marathon is 26.2 miles. He didn’t just start running marathons one day. In fact, if you ask him how far he could run when he started, he’d tell you he wasn’t able to get past the 1-mile mark. But, he kept running, stretching it out to 5 miles; then 10, 15, and 20. Until he could endure 26.2 miles. That’s what the testing of our faith produces is endurance, James says. When you’re a new believer you get tripped up easily over every little test in life. But, God uses it to build spiritual endurance in us! That’s why we consider it joy! We don’t consider it joy because we enjoy the trials. Rather, we face the trials with a joyful heart because we know that God is using those things to produce spiritual endurance in us. It’s God’s work in us! So, what James is calling for here will require that we crucify our flesh!

Overcoming Habitual Sin!

-Taking Some Vacation Time: Next Post July 6th-

-Some Used To Live In Habitual Sin!

In Paul’s first letter to the Church of Corinth, he informed them that all habitual sin can be overcome by God’s Spirit. Look at this! He wrote of them: “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (ch.6:11). He says that some, in the church, used to live their life a certain way. But, they’ve been washed, sanctified & justified by Jesus Christ and God’s Spirit. So, what kind of lifestyle was he referring to? Look at the previous verses: “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom” (v.9-10).

-Some Used To Practice A Sinful Lifestyle!

In context, Paul is reminding some of them that they used to “practice” a habitual lifestyle of sin! Some used to practice a “homosexual” lifestyle! Some used to be “adulterers.” Some used to be “idolaters”, “drunkards”, “thieves”, “verbal abusers” and “swindlers.” But, that’s no longer their way of life.  Jesus has set them free from their habitual sin. Later, Paul also wrote this same church: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). There is the hope of freedom from all these debilitating sins. There is hope for anyone in the homosexual community. Don’t ever give up on any friend or loved one practicing a homosexual lifestyle, or on anyone caught up in a habitually sinful lifestyle. Never quit praying for them! Love them well! Love them like Jesus loves them!

-Don’t Demonize Those Caught In Certain Sins!

It’s alarming that many in the church have demonized individuals caught up in homosexuality as being more deviant, in nature, than the sins of others. It’s just not true! This text absolutely levels the playing field on sin. God’s word informs us that believers must humbly see themselves as equally depraved. Here’s a quick word to anyone who struggles with a special antagonism & judgment toward those in the LGBTQ+ community. Look at all the deadly sins that God condemns on an equal par with homosexuality in this Scripture. “Sexual immorality”— that includes all heterosexual sin! “Idolaters”— who has never been guilty of loving something more than God at one time or another? “Adulterers”—for those who’ve never actually slept with someone you weren’t married to, have you ever lusted after someone? Busted! Your sin is on this list! “Thieves”— ever stolen anything? Even a cookie from mom’s cookie jar? “Greedy”— you lie if you say you’ve never been greedy!

-The List Of Deadly Sins Continues!

Have you ever been “drunk”; or “verbally abusive” or “swindled” anyone? If you’ve ever lied to the boss about the hours you worked; or withheld information about a car or something else you were trying to sell, you’re a swindler. That’s swindling. We’re all on this list! Every one of us! You’re acting like the Pharisees if you judge anyone, on this list, as more deserving of hell & God’s judgment than are you! Let me challenge you with a new response on this subject if you need it. I once held animosity toward anyone living a homosexual lifestyle as though I were above them! What’s helped me overcome those feelings is to rehearse often— with God in prayer— how equally repulsive God found all my particular sins.  Even though homosexual sin was not one of my sins, I am equally as depraved and broken! I can take no delight that my sins were somehow less offensive to God! I am totally depraved  & in need of Jesus!

Speaking Truth With Grace!

Today Is Last Post Until June 15th

-Uncomfortable Subjects!

Over 40 years of ministry, I’ve learned that if I’m going to be committed to preaching the whole counsel of God’s word, I’m going to have to deal with some passages that will make my audience uncomfortable to hear it; and me, uncomfortable to preach it. 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, is one of those passages; and as much as I would love to avoid it, the Spirit of God compels me to preach it and to teach it. It addresses a topic that I cannot sidestep & neither can you. You & I need this message because we need to hear from God on this subject; and if you ever hope to disciple individuals caught up in certain sins, as the Apostle Paul outlines here, they’ll also need to hear what God has to say.

-No Inheritance In God’s Kingdom!

Here’s what Paul writes to the local church of Corinth: “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). If Paul was writing this letter in our day, it most certainly would have been addressed to the Churches of America. Of the 12 NT epistles, with Paul’s name on it, the sins he calls out the Church of Corinth for most closely resemble our own culture. As I open up this volatile “can of worms” my greatest fear is NOT any negative backlash I might face for taking up a Biblical position on the subject matter! My greatest fear, in presenting this message, is being misunderstood & being portrayed as hateful, mean-spirited & unloving toward the LGBTQ+ community.

-We Neither Celebrate Nor Hate!

The dominant culture today tells us we have only 2 choices; that there are only 2 possible camps! You either “celebrate” LGBTQ+ sexuality, or you’re “haters.” If you don’t support them, you hate them. On Biblical grounds, I reject both of those camps! God gives us a better way! If we grasp the truth of the Good News of the Gospel, then we have something better to bring to this discussion. As followers of Jesus, we cannot base our belief system or our worldview on public opinion! That’s shifting sand! Public opinion is a moving target; but we’re called to live by the immutable, unchanging Word of God. And, as God of the universe, He is the final authority on every matter, including our sexuality. He created us “male” and “female” according to the creation account in the book of Genesis. In other words, He created us gender-specific. In the same creation account, God instructed the “man” to leave his father and mother & cleave to his “wife.” It was God who created marriage; and, we dare not change it!

-So How Do We Respond?

As followers of Christ, then, how do we respond to a prevailing culture that has rejected the absolute truth of Scripture? As followers of Christ, how do we respond to a culture that insists on normalizing sexual behavior that is labeled as sin in God’s Word? The key part of that question is “…as FOLLOWERS of Jesus Christ…” How do we respond as followers of Jesus Christ? I’ve often been amazed at how Jesus never compromised the truth of God’s law; and yet He was loved by sinners! No one ever lived a more righteous life. No one exalted God’s standards more than Jesus. So, how could He also be called the “friend of sinners”? It was because He was full of truth AND GRACE! And, in a sex-crazed & sexually-confused world that’s exactly how we’ll respond if we’re following Jesus. When encountering anyone caught up in sexual sin, we act most like Jesus by showing them truth AND GRACE! Every sinner needs truth mingled with love AND GRACE!