Saturday, July 6, 2013

even more on the matter of sin.

when you read the lists in Galatian 5 pertaining to the sins of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, you cannot help but be caught up in the contrast. The sins of th4e flesh are so “us.” The real us…We may not have committed every one of them but I’ll bet we each can claim a few. One of the ones that jump out at me for this generation (s) is idolatry. We always think of idolatry as what the word seems…idol…and that’s true but, the true Biblical definition of idolatry is ANYTHING that holds first place in our hearts! I suspect not may of us can honestly say God has always held first place. And, from time to time, looses out to something else. We can look around us at many people we know, and we see those that have all their time invested in their children. Others it is a husband…and he is very important but not first if you are a believer. How about work? Many, male and female work so many hours a day there is no time for anything let alone for God. Then there are hobbies…some put an inordinate amount of time in a hobby, even a hobby that may be time spent in front of the TV watching sports to the exclusion of family. We could go on and on couldn’t we? But no need, you get the picture. For me, my worst fleshy idol was worry. It took God YEARS to break me of fretting and worrying…and I still have times when I fall into that old trap. I found myself recently fretting about a few things, things having to do with moving. I realized what I was doing after a little while and had to go to the Lord for forgiveness and go back to my “resource,” memorizing or really, going back over the verses I had memorized and had not reviewed in awhile. Being ill for a prolonged time got me off of my usual timetable and all that I had incorporated into the morning hours. Memorization and review was one of those things, and the reality was I gave the enemy an edge. Of course he grabbed it and I fell for it. I do not offer that as an excuse but a reason, and I am old enough in the Lord to know better. These are the times we realize how gracious God is, and how vast His mercy. Sorcery is another one that we do not realize is present today. We think of the Salem witch trials, seances and such. Not so, the root is “pharmakia.” Our word pharmacy comes from that root. Have you ever abused a prescription? Idol. How about out bursts of wrath? Do you run on a short fuse? Idol. Contentions and dissensions? Enjoying an argument for the sake of the argument? Idol. Envy…personally, I think there is a little bit of envy in all of us, but we need to recognize it and stop. It’s an idol. Now contrast that list with the fruit of the Spirit, or the character of Christ. There is an old saying I really like, “love covers a multitude of sins.” That is a glorious quality to think about. Love can enable you to keep your mouth shut when you want to jump all over someone for various things. We all have times like that, when we have to REALLY lean into the Lord for the grace to exercise restraint and stay silent…especially if you are right! Love can keep us from saying with that haughty attitude, “I TOLD you so!” Something the Lord stopped me from doing was speak with sarcasm dripping from my tongue. There were many times years ago when my husband and I would engage in sarcasm during a “discussion,” and it became very easy for me to sink into that mindset. But someplace along the line, God literally said “stop that!” And I just as immediately realized what I was doing and what a poor testimony it was. I cannot say I stopped immediately, but from that time on I worked on it and finally, it was no longer a part of my speech. And, when I hear it now, I have to smile to myself, what was sin to me is not necessarily sin to someone else. I think it is the enjoyment of getting the best of someone that makes us enjoy speech like that…and that is ungodly. Gentleness is another good quality to think about…speaking or acting in a gentle way especially to someone who is hurting or obviously in some kind of pain. Speaking to them in a kind and gentle way can go a along way for their healing. And I’ll end with self control. I was a very young Christian, had a problem with something my husband said to me. I reached for the phone to call my pastor to talk with him about it, and clear as day I heard, “and I immediately conferred not with flesh and blood.” I did not even remember reading that verse but I must have, because it was clear to me the Lord wanted me to talk to HIM not anyone else. And, I did and He showed me something important about ME! He is a great  teacher when we give Him the chance. A very important lesson(s) for me had to do with my speech…not what I said so much as the way I said it. He knew long before I did that the inmates I would be working with would be sensitive to my speech and my way of carrying myself. He did not want me to stand in the way of the message but being a poor messenger. I may think of some more to add to this matter of our sin, will do more in a day or so. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Some thoughts on a teaching about sin…

Bill has been teaching in Sunday School about sin. The church here in Valley Forge is a small one, however just about everyone involved are very well versed in the Word, so some good discussions come about during this hour. One of the things I love about adult Sunday School classes! I have spent a good bit of time pondering the lessons, and pondering the matter of sin and it’s outworkings. Possibly, this is due to my years of teaching in a prison setting, where the “fruit” of sins (with an s) is only too evident. In that setting, the question always becomes what do we do about it! We cannot just say “don’t do it”…it doesn’t work that way. So, where does that leave us?

Interesting question and once again, worth pondering and/or thinking about. We all should…we have to first give thought to it’s origins which is with Satan and his revolt against God in defiance of God’s authority over him and all the other angels, all created beings and responsible to God for everything. We know Lucifer didn’t like that and wanted to be independent of God’s authority over him, so he rebelled and we are told many, many of the angelic host rebelled with him and they were expelled from the presence of God as a regular thing. Following that rebellion, Lucifer watched God create, and when he saw Adam and Eve, he saw his opportunity to ruin what God was doing. He took an opportunity to talk with Eve, nice words we can read in Genesis…and she listened to his idea of being “like God” and followed Satan’s counsel with the fruit of the tree, she ate a piece of it. Sin had now come into God’s new creation.

The outworking of this seemingly  “small” infraction  were of course monumental…the first created human and her partner now had a whole new set of things to think about…and because of the curse God had to put on the rebellious pair, what we call “ORIGINAL SIN” was now a fact. God would not create any more humans, instead Adam and Eve would procreate, but in doing so would pass sin on to the next generation in their genes. And worse yet, as generations passed, the genes were more and more twisted and sin grew even worse. Original sin…do we really understand what that means? In general, I think not…I have been teaching in a prison setting for 30+  years now, and have watched “the church” for 40, and I truly do not think most people get it! What do I mean? Just this: what does original sin mess up? Well, how about everything…if original sin is present from conception on, we are rebellious from the same point. Rebellious against whom? Ultimately God Himself but early on it is rebellion against everyone we come in contact with starting with our parents. And here is where the trouble begins. If and when God’s Word is not used as the standard for human behavior, it is impossible to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. “  Why? Because if God’s instruction is not followed, we use our own judgment and that is faulty unless we have been brought up under God’s law and rule by godly parents…and on and on it goes from generation after generation.

We think of sin as the biggies…drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, murder, etc. Not so, those are sins, with an s. They are the outworkings of the original sin in us when it is uncorrected and let to grow and fester. Understand here that I am talking “in general.” There are certainly exceptions. However, I have carefully looked at some of these exceptions and they really are not…back up far enough in the family life and you will find the flaw…the sin…that was uncorrected, and what appears to be an exception is not. In the Old Testament there is a rule, called the rule of the unrepentant/unruly son…a child who has come of age, and is out of control from his parents perspective goes before the elders, case presented and ruled on. If the elders agree with the parents, the son is stoned to death, and God says “and so shall you keep sin from Israel.” I will put the reference for that portion at the end. What that does is exactly what it says, children know that law is valid, and I dare say it is a determining factor in better behavior. And, there are fewer adults that rebel. Truth is, it is rebellion that is the problem all along. Rebellion against family, later friends and employers, but ultimately against God Himself and that is what He is fighting…and why He immediately in Genesis provides a solution, in chapter 3, He would send a savior to deal with the sin issue once and for all. Next time we will breakdown just what the sins coming out of original sin are…


reference to unruly son: Deut 21:18

More on the matter of sin…

We were talking about  original sin…that which we inherit from our first parents, Adam and Eve. The everyday sins we commit are because of original sin, it is our very nature. That is until we come to Christ, and He gives us a new nature…HIs. However, we still continue to commit sins. Why you ask???  Good question and the answer is not simple. Think first of all just how many generations there possibly are from Adam and Eve to our generation. Too many to even think about, but there are plenty. And down through those generations, the “sin gene” has multiplied and multiplied and warped and warped…you get the picture, right?  For most of us the question becomes what do these warped genes do? In reality, they “are us.” All of the character qualities, good and bad, proceed from those genes and are made better or worse by our family life, all of the influences around us, particularly mom and dad, sometimes grands if they were an integral part of our upbringing, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, scout leaders, etc., etc. All of these people, their places and things influence who we become. And…most of this “becoming” happens during the first four years of our lives. Now if that influence is negative you can just imagine how warped our character and the outworkings of our lives can become on into adulthood. The biggest and best influence in our young lives of course is Christ, and godly parents and grands. God ordained marriage and instituted the home, primarily to be the place of nurturing, the place of comfort and peace, the place where God is the head of the household and Dad and Mom administer His rule for your best good. Most, unfortunately not all, children that grow up in this kind of environment grow into well-rounded, God trusting individuals. When parents “train up a child in the way it should go” as the Scripture says, there is far less chance of them going of into sin. But…some do and I have seen more than my share in my years as a chaplain, interacting with inmates. One of the most interesting statements I heard way too many times was this one: “my father was a preacher (or deacon, ss teacher, elder, etc) and on Sunday he preached one thing but at home, the rest of the week, he was someone else, and I hated him! Why does this happen??? Well one reason is that we tend to hide those qualities we know are not right…hide them at times from ourselves but mostly from those around us. Or at least we think we hide them. Not always true. When this hideous distortion happens, generation after generation, the young “loose” themselves and their very attitude becomes a distortion, they “act as if…” one of the key statements of those in prison I talk with. Acting as if is pretending to be someone you are not…and unfortunately the actor sometimes gets lost in the pretend person. Yes, it is complicated but when thought through, it is very realistic. Let me give you one you will recognize and you will get a better understanding of what I mean: the person who comes to Sunday School and Church, Bible under their arm, ready to give a testimony, act as usher, take up the offering…that person is acting as he/she thinks a Christian should act…but then goes home with the family, and acts and talks like anything BUT a Christian, mistreats their partner, is unkind to the children, and on and on. If you take a good look at Galatians chapter five, you will find two lists…one is the fruit of the flesh…the list of ungodly character qualities that mark a person not controlled by the Spirit of God but allowing his/her flesh to do the controlling. The other list is the fruit of the Spirit…the result of yielding to the Holy Spirit of God, as we are suppose to do, and letting Him lead us into a godly lifestyle. This list is sometimes referred to as the very character of Christ and of course, we are told over and over in the Scripture that we are to be “like Christ.” And so we are…next time we will talk about the fruit of the Spirit, and I will give you some personal experiences to show how God the Spirit dealt with me in my younger Christian life to “grow me up.”