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Archive for Sin

The Conundrum

If I heard him say it once, I heard him say it one hundred times. “He made the unwilling, willing! Halleluiah.” And he said it just like that! These words came from the mouth of an old mentor, S. Lewis Johnson, a former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and for many years pastor of Believer’s Chapel in Dallas, Texas. He is with His Lord now, but He has left a lifelong mark upon this writer’s life for which I am forever grateful.

 

Dr. Donald Barnhouse used the book of Galatians to help me – as a babe in Christ – learn to stand on my own spiritual feet, really learn to fly freely. It was years later that Dr. Johnson – along with others – picked up that mantle for me. And it was also quite a few years later while driving on a freeway outside of Atlanta that I learned that Dr. Barnhouse had in fact, years earlier, explained the gospel of God’s grace to Lewis Johnson. I almost had a wreck trying to remove the tears from my eyes.  I could not help but say audibly to myself, “God, you are The Great Genius of history.” I have used this line many times since then, and it is safe to say that I will use it again.

 

In math, to find the answer to a particular equation, the right formula must be applied. Let’s think back to God’s formula for sin. Why? Because it is so easy to get lost wandering in the weeds of words. The more words there are for some, the easier it is to lose their way. Remember, God’s underlying formula for sin is that we all sinned and died in Adam (Rom. 5:12).  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” goes much deeper and wider than we at first realize. We do not become sinners when or if we sin; we sin because we are already sinners, born in sin, born dead in sin. Thus, we are all, every nation, tribe, tongue, every citizen of planet earth, a sinner before God before we ever personally choose to sin against Him. This is true because we were all there in the garden in Adam at the moment he sinned.  Some call this “original sin.”  We are sinners because we are inextricably (means it cannot be broken) connected to the corrupt seed of our first parents, the first Adam and his wife Eve. 

 

Our initial act of personal sin, far from taking a bite from a piece of forbidden fruit, may have been throwing our bottle across the room in a temper tantrum, or jumping up and down in our crib, or shaking and writhing on the floor holding our breath and screaming our heads off – simply because we did not get our way. We will all do something similar to this because we are born in Adam (like me stealing the candy bar). We are all bathed in Adam’s sinful shadow (Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:1).

 

I recognize that all do not believe in original sin. But what are some of the ramifications if the sin formula spoken above is true to God’s word? Then we are all born into the slave market of sin. The only way out is death – physical and spiritual. Our final destiny – if the Holy Spirit does not invade this world of darkness and bring to us the gospel – will be to go physically back to the dust of the grave, meet with millions of other sinners at God’s Great White Throne Judgment, face our Maker, and then be cast bodily, soul, and spirit into hell forever and ever (Rev. 20:11-15). And all are, in fact, being spiritually blinded to all of this (2 Cor. 4:3-4). This does not sound encouraging in the least bit.

 

There is absolutely nothing we can do to free ourselves from this prison, and many add that we can’t even pray for the slaves. Wait! What? Why? Because it is thought by some that if sinners are not first willing to be saved, then not even God can save them. If we are not willing to repent, then God cannot give this repentance! God must not intervene! The choice must be freely and firstly ours to make and ours alone. Not even the odor of anything unfair can be laid at God’s feet. And He cannot intervene for some if not for all. This would mean that God is not righteous and not just.  This places the choice to trust Christ or reject him solely at the feet of the slave – the spiritually dead slave.

 

There are questions hanging silently in the background that will not go away. How can we move to the point of being willing to be saved if we are truly dead in sin? How can we decide to repent – change our minds about our sin and God’s goodness, and turn to Him – if we are dead in sin? I guess the question must be asked “just how dead is dead?”

 

How can the dead do anything? Remember Jesus’ words to a young wanna-be disciple who asked Jesus to first let him go and bury his father and then he would follow Jesus (he was no doubt the heir of his father’s estate). This young man did not get the response from the Savior that he expected. Jesus told him “Let the dead bury their own dead. As for you, you follow Me” (Matt. 8:18-22). Ouch!

 

Yet we are told to pray for the lost; pray for their salvation; ask God to save them; ask God to release them from the bondage of their slavery. How can He if sinners are dead and cannot become willing. Can God change their willingness and His throne remain solidly absolutely righteous and just?  Is this a forever contradiction? No! Is there an answer? Yes! Please hang with me!

 

 

 

Sin and Death

A most difficult part of putting the initial pieces of the puzzle of God’s Word together, in my way of thinking, is a correct understanding of sin. Being born physically alive but spiritually dead is very difficult to comprehend. The fact is we do not become sinners if, when, or because we sin, but we will all choose to sin because we are sinners. We are born into this world as sinners. We are born as slaves into a slave market of sinners. This slave market began with the first man, Adam. 

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come” (Rom. 5:12-14).

Through a simple act of disobedience, sin and death entered this world. God gave Adam and Eve all that their hearts could ever desire. He gave the man just one simple “don’t,” just one simple “but this tree is forbidden.” It was not an ugly tree with slimy fruit hanging from it. It was really no different than any other tree. It was probably very beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious. But this was true of all the other trees.  The only difference was the fact that God said “No.” God said, “You eat, you die” (Gen. 2:17). It appears that Eve was mystifyingly drawn to that tree. She may have found herself often standing by it – pondering! Adam may have walked up and stood beside her as she gazed at it – observing her and then the tree. 

Satan did not just appear from nowhere. This was happening in his back yard. He had already failed God and had been cast into the fallen, cursed earth (Gen. 1:2). God had said to him, “You were perfect in your ways [you were innocent] until iniquity was found to be in you” (Ezek. 28:15). This sin was in the form of simple, silent, private thoughts. “I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will sit upon the mountain of God. I will ascend above the height of the clouds. I will be like the Most High God” (Isa. 14:12-14).  Hard to miss the repeated phrase “I will.” That is the beginning of sin: pride. Pride became mixed with power: ascend into heaven; exalt my throne; sit upon God’s mountain; ascend above the clouds; be like god. Pride mixed with power is a lethal combination – the measure of sin.

Satan knew that God had created Adam and Eve for a righteous purpose. He realized that if they succeeded, it would further seal his doom. Adam must fail and, like Satan himself, fail of his own free will – no deceit, no enticement, and no excuse before God. He probably observed the couple staring at the tree and conceived his evil plan. Satan’s plan was simple: deceive the woman and let her do the rest. It was masterfully wise!

Satan slithered up to the woman as she looked longingly at the forbidden tree and said: “Has God told you that you cannot eat or every tree in the garden?” Eve responded, “Every tree but this one. God said that if we eat from this tree, or even touch it, we will die.” God did not use the word “touch.” She added to God’s word; she lied! Satan seized the moment. “You will not die!” It is impossible to know what the creature was thinking or the woman. But he realized that she lied. He seized on this and called God a liar. In fact, he said that God knows the moment you eat from this tree you will receive true understanding. You will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil.

Satan used the phrase “you will” three times. This was very similar to Satan’s sin. The woman then saw; she really saw for the first time. Her sight was then mixed with the lust of the flesh; she desired the fruit. It was pleasing to look at and appeared delicious.  Here is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life running amuck. She finally gave in. She ate from the fruit and handed it to her husband, and he ate. The difference is clear. She was deceived; he was not! The woman was legitimately deceived, allowing her womb to remain sterile. No corrupt seed invaded it. This left God a toe in the door to come into a fallen world at a later date.

But Adam’s sin became a conduit to bring Satan’s sin/death mixture into this present world. At the moment of Adam’s sin, death passed from Satan to the man, and then to the woman, and into the world. The result is that they instantly knew that they were naked. They had been naked all along, but there was no negative thought about it. Suddenly, nakedness became bad – something wrong. Sin entered the world and along with sin came death. Sin and death always go together. Shame slammed into their heart, and they stitched themselves clothing from fig leaves to hide this strange sensation from their eyes. 

The couple instantly died twice! Twice? This truth was couched in the command from God when He told them, “If you eat of this fruit, dying, you will surely most positively die” (Gen. 2:17). Two deaths were in view. The couple would first die spiritually. They would become separated from God. They would also begin to die physically. In time, their bodies would be separated from their soul and spirit and would go back to dust. How do we absolutely know this is the case?

Blessings!

 

 

 

The Wolf Spider’s Brood

How did God react to the wolf spider building a kingdom of cities and the tower? “Come, let Us go down and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Gen. 11:7). He forced the nations to spread out by changing their languages so they could not understand each other. This was an instantaneous act of grace. Why was this the case? The only thing the people had in common besides their language was their depravity. What was this wickedness like? “There were none righteous, no, not one; There were none who understood; There were none who sought God. They had all turned away from Him. They had all together become involved in perverse behavior. There was none who did good, no, not one. Their throats are like an open tomb filled with the stench of death. With their tongues they practice deceit. The poison of snakes is under their lips. Their mouths were full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet were swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery were in their ways; And the way of peace they did not know. There was no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:10-18).

We recognize these words as coming from the New Testament, but we may not realize that the origin of this list was taken from the Old Testament. This culture unified the people along with their language. Sin manifested itself through pride – the praise of self, and the lust for the praise of others and for power – the lust for possessions and unrestrained sexual fulfillment (1 Jn. 2:16). This is why God said that nothing that they proposed to do would be withheld from them. What did they desire to do? They desired to raise the level of sin to the highest degree possible. This would have led quickly to a dreadful annihilation of the human race. The people would have destroyed each other.

As an act of mercy, God changed the languages. He forced the people to spread out into clans of families, and ultimately to build borders, and then small armies to contain and control the power of sin, thus preserving the human race. The Tower of Babel became the source of the old spider’s great masterpiece of deception – religion. Religion is Satan’s do-good system, blinding millions to God’s grace (2 Cor. 4:3-4). “There is a way that appears to be right before men, but the ends thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). Grace and religion are polar opposites. Religion says that there is a spark of good in everyone and given the right encouragement, education, and the right environment, it will blossom – bringing peace and safety to all. This was obviously not going to happen. Sin is a heart problem. “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – who can know the depths of it. I the Lord search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:9-10). The tower gave the appearance of being a heavenly gate to God, but in fact it was a horrible door to hell. The old spider had struck a serious blow.

Where did the wolf spider get the name? The mother spider appears to have hair all over her body – like a wolf. She carries her egg sack on her abdomen. When the little spiders hatch out, they congregate on the mother’s body, covering her like a blanket. Their tiny legs give her the appearance of a hairy wolf, hence the name. It is obviously the mother spider’s plan that these baby spiders leave her in an orderly manner and start their own brood. However, if she is ever threatened, the little ones (scores of them) scatter from her body, running in every direction to find cover. This is exactly what happened to the wolf spider’s brood. God, by changing the languages, forced the nations to scatter.

The rumor of the false resurrection of Tammuz absolutely shot this paganistic system around the world at warp speed. Small ziggurats—miniature pagan worship centers—were erected all over the ancient world. They were called “high places” and are mentioned at least 73 times in the Old Testament, from Leviticus 26:30 to Habakkuk 3:19. The Babylonian religious system grew into the worship of Marduk and Ishtar, the god and goddess of fertility. The wolf spiders crawled into Syria as the worship of Baal and Astarte, into Egypt as the worship of Ocirus and Isis, into Greece as Aris and Aphrodite, and into Rome as the worship of Cupid and Venus. This is only a short list of the number of these gods and goddesses. They literally covered the earth. This was the origin of Satan’s sway over the earth (1 Jn. 5:19).

Wolf spiders are wolflike in their ability to hunt and destroy. The Bible classifies Satan’s people who prey on God’s people as wolves. Ezekiel described rebellious leaders in Israel as wolves tearing the people apart (Eze. 22:27). Zephaniah said the same about the same rebellious religious leaders of Israel (Zep. 3:3). Jesus said to his disciples, as He sent them out with the message of the kingdom, that He was sending them out as sheep among wolves (Matt. 10:16; Lk. 10:3). Paul used the symbol of the wolf, saying that after he left the church, savage wolves, (meaning false teachers), would come in, not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29). A most graphic text concerning the wolf is found in the Gospel of John. There the Good Shepherd speaks of hired hands watching the sheep rather than true shepherds. When the wolf comes to destroy and devour, the hired hands run for their lives rather than protecting the sheep. The substitute shepherd does not truly love the sheep and abandons them to save his own skin (Jn. 10:12).

Last are the words of our Lord following His explanation of the broad and narrow ways (Matt. 7:15). He said broad is the way that leads to destruction and many choose that path. In contrast, narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be who find it. The broad way would be the old spider’s smorgasbord of religions to choose from; the narrow way would be the simple gospel of God’s grace (Acts 4:12). He described false prophets who come into the flock wearing sheep’s clothing. Outwardly, they look the part, but inwardly they are hungry wolves poised to consume the flock of God And wolf spiders are well….. spiders! Spiders can sneak into any structure undetected. This is true no matter how sound the building may be. One cannot build a structure strong enough or tight enough to keep a spider out. The writer of Proverbs said that the spider can find its way into a king’s palace (Prov. 30:28). Our Lord is clearly teaching the wolf spider is not recognized as such, until it is too late. Satan’s religious frauds come in by stealth and systematically demolish God’s sheep. They are energized by pride and the lust for power. It is an interesting phenomenon that our technology today is giving to the world the ability to once again speak the same language. Language barriers in our world today are steadily being removed. The entire world is quickly gaining the ability to come together. We are teaching this world to sing in perfect harmony. The world will once again unify, and once again be led to worship the earth. We are going back to the days of Noah. Blessings!

 

Bear One Another’s Burdens

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34). The Christian is firmly under the law of Christ. The church of Jesus Christ is one body having individual members (1 Cor. 12:27). God has set up the individual believers as it pleases Him (1 Cor. 12:18). There are no second-class citizens in the body. Every part of the body is needed. If one part suffers, we all suffer – if one is blessed, we are all honored. Some parts are weak, some are strong. The strong are to help the weak (1 Cor. 12:19-26).

 

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load”(Gal. 6:1-5).

 

Paul used the word “burden” twice in one paragraph. We are told to bear each other’s burdens, and we are also told to bear our own burdens. At first glance, this may seem like a contradiction. Though the words for “burden” in English look exactly the same, in the original text they are entirely different. The first word for “burden” means a heavy crushing load. Every believer at some time in life will go through burdens which cannot be carried alone. This is when fellow believers are to step in and help ease the heavy crushing load. By doing so, we fulfill the law of Christ. The law of Christ is His law of love, which is the law that is to govern the Christian life (John 13:34).

 

Paul used another word for “burden” when he said, “For each shall bear his own burden.” This use of the word carries the idea of a person wearing a personal backpack. Paul meant that each child of God must be responsible for his or her own personal fellowship with Jesus Christ, for our own spiritual growth. Church members cannot live the Christian life for other church members. Husbands cannot grow spiritually for wives, nor wives for husbands. Parents cannot grow spiritually for children, nor children for parents. We must all bear our own individual responsibilities before the Lord.

 

It is one thing to teach grace, but it is another to accept it every day and extend it to others. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to allow God to be gracious through us. Every Christian will sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Believers will lose fellowship with the Lord, but they can never be removed from His family (2 Tim. 2:10-13). God in grace allows us to fail and not become a failure.

 

What is to happen to believers who are overtaken by personal sin? Paul said, “Those of you who are walking with Jesus Christ should help restore this believer to fellowship.” This word “restore” means to set a broken bone. A Christian out of fellowship is considered to be a broken bone in the body. We are told to set the broken bone by encouraging this believer to get back into fellowship with Christ. The restoration to fellowship is a private matter between the believer and God. Every believer is told to confess personal sins or to judge ourselves before God. Why? “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). “If we judge ourselves, we will not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:31). This encouragement is to be done with the spirit of meekness (strength under control) and always considering our own weakness. After encouraging the believer, leave the issue between them and the Holy Spirit. We should always be conscious of the fact that we may be the very one that needs help the next time.

 

Paul used this principle of restoration as an illustration of what it means to walk in the Spirit. Why? Nothing exposes the weakness of a ministry filled with legalism any clearer than how the ministry deals with fellow Christians who have stepped out of bounds. Legalistic believers are often critical and judgmental. Rather than extending grace to siblings in Christ, they gossip about, malign, and criticize those who have fallen aside. Instead, we are to extend the same kind of grace to them as God extended to us in Christ. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32).

 

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:6-10). From the very beginning of the church, sharing all things marked the lives of believers (Acts 2:41-47). The Greek word for “sharing” is “in common,” and it means that believers in fellowship with Christ will have all things in common. Believers are to have a common fellowship in the body of Christ (Gal. 2:9), a common faith (Jude 3), a common sharing of the sufferings of Christ (Phil. 3:10), and they are to share materially with each other (2 Cor. 8:4). Blessings!

 

The Law Brings Conviction of Sin

Conviction – consciousness of sin against God – is the first major step toward repentance and faith in Christ. The spirit of God’s law is the major source of this conviction. The law is good at exposing bad. And the law does not discriminate. It treats everyone exactly the same: wealthy, poor, educated, uneducated, every nation, kindred, and tongue. No one escapes its spiritual work – no one. In fact, it is so connected to sin that people might come to the conclusion that the law is sin.
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except by the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. For I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived [became alive] and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it [the commandment] killed me” (Rom. 7:7-11).
Man’s problem is not the law but sin within us. Paul said that he would not have known that he was a sinner except for the law. He was alive apart from the law at one time in his life. There was a time that he did not understand God’s righteous requirements upon him. But when God’s Spirit revealed to him God’s claim on his life, sin came alive and, as a result, he became aware of his spiritual death. The commandment that Paul had envisioned giving him life had actually deceived him and rendered him dead.
Paul’s thoughts might have flowed something like this as he pondered God’s Ten Commands: “You shall have no other gods before Me!” “I’m okay here.”
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” “I’m still doing okay.”
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” “I’m doing just fine.”
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” “I do that, Lord.”
“Honor your father and mother.” “I have always done that, Lord.”
“You shall not murder.” “Oh, perish the thought of me killing anyone!”
“You shall not commit adultery.” “Never, not me.”
“You shall not steal.” “I’ve never taken anything that did not belong to me.”
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” “I’ve not done that either.”
“You shall not covet.” Hold it!
Like lightning from heaven, Paul realized that deep within his heart were the hidden impulses of covetousness, secret longings for what belonged to others. His knowledge of the law struck the chord of sinful passions, and they began to vibrate. His sin within was stirred. His thoughts began to race with one thought leading to another. “Oh God, I am a covetous person, which means that I am a sinner and if a sinner, then I am dead.”
Does the reader not see how very gracious God has been in giving us this spiritual “spoon” to stir our sin nature, allowing us to feel the power of our sin, our rebellion against God, and to understand our need? The law was never given to provide life but in order that the Holy Spirit might remove the scales of spiritual blindness from our eyes so that we might understand our need. And our need is not partial, it is total.
Paul pled with the Christians at Galatia to understand that in order for the law to provide righteousness, it had to be all or nothing at all. The law, unless it is kept perfectly, can only curse. The law tells me clearly that I have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Far from giving life, the law is said to be a killer. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6-9). The law is called a minster of death.
“But if the ministry of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? The law is also called a minster of condemnation. For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory” (2 Cor. 3:6-9).
What a revelation! The law a killer, a minister of death and condemnation. How is this possible? It is possible because God’s law is spiritually tied to our sin (Rom. 3:19-20; 5:12-14; 5:20; 7:7-14; Gal. 3:19). The spirit of God’s law will find and expose our sin, no matter how well it is concealed or rationalized away. Once our sin is uncovered, the knowledge that we are spiritually separated from God immediately invades our thinking. God’s law will always demand from us the very righteousness of God and condemn us for not being right. It will stir up the Adamic nature within us and give us the knowledge that we are sinners and under God’s condemnation.