Friday, July 29, 2011

From the Heart

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:17-25

Leaving You An Example

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2:21

Q & A Pt. 3

Is temptation sin? What is the difference between temptation and sin?
Temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted in every way as we are and did not sin (Heb. 4:15). Temptation is something that happens around us, or inside our heads, that seeks to get us to take our eyes off Jesus. Positionally, we are sitting in the lap of God (1 Jn. 1:9). Temptation tries to get us to leave God’s presence and indulge in our desires. We sin when we hop down and give in to the temptation (Jas. 1:14, 15). One of the goals of the Christian life is to learn to live in a world full of temptations and, like Jesus, not sin.

It is similar to a martial arts student who strives to learn to defend himself in any and every situation. Early on in his training, he may get beat up by the bully, but over time, he learns to rebuff and overcome even the most sophisticated maneuvers. And when he is mature, he will be able to defeat the foe without even thinking about it. The Christian, when he is young, may be overwhelmed by every temptation that comes along. Over time, by proper training and instruction, he will learn to react to temptation in a godly way. He may never completely come to the place where he ceases from sin, but the Bible is full of teaching about how he can live a godly life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1, 2; 1 Cor. 1:4-8).

How can I institute this idea of confession of sin if I’ve never done it and I’ve been sinning for the past twenty years? I can’t remember all the sins I’ve committed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Proclaim His Excellencies

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9

Hatred of Evil

The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
Proverbs 8:13

Q & A Pt. 2

You don’t understand how terrible my husband is. He is the most unlovely man on the planet. He is a slob, never showers, plops down in the den and watches TV for hours and hours, and he never leads in worship. The husband God gave me is not worthy of being revered or treated with anything but contempt.

Dear sister, you are correct. I don’t understand what you are going through. What I do understand is that God is God and you are not. I know that God is the giver of good things (Mt. 7:11). I know that God has given you what you need to become more Christlike (Rom. 8:29). I also know that the Bible is sufficient to help you live in any kind of circumstance, to be godly, and to not sin (2 Pet. 1:3ff). What you are doing is passing the buck. You are blaming your sin on your husband and on God (Gen. 3:12). You haven’t got what you think you deserve and are living in a way that expresses your dislike of your situation. Sister, this too is sin. Confess the sin of thinking you deserve more than God has given you. Confess the sin of thinking you are of greater value than you are. Confess the sin of having a heart that is above doing what God has provided for you to do in your circumstances. Repent, turn to God in humility, ask him to change you heart, and do what is right.

When should I confess my sin? Can I do it once a month? Once a week? Once a day?
You should confess your sin when you recognize it as sin. Remember that the point of all of this is fellowship with God and with those God has placed in your life. If you sin, the fellowship is broken. You should want to restore fellowship at all costs and as quickly as you can. This means that if you sinned against your sister this morning and what you did or said eats at you for the rest of the day, you should seek her out and make things right as soon as you can. In a perfect world, you should realize in the middle of the sin that it is sin and should confess it before the sentence is even completed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

To Draw Near To Listen Is Better

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words.
Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

Questions and Answers Pt. 1

What if, in the circumstances, the thing I did was really the right thing to do?

Was what you did sin? Often, people want to justify their sin. They say, you don’t understand. You didn’t see the look they gave me. You didn’t hear what that man said. You would have responded the same way I did, had it been you she had cheated. To this I respond in two ways. First, you don’t want to compare your life with the way I might live my life. I might have acted the same way you acted. I might not have. I’m not the issue. Second, you do want to compare your life with Jesus’ life. Jesus would not have done what you did. Jesus took abuse, shame, scourging, beating, a crown of thorns, nails in his hands and feet, even death, and he never said anything close to what you said to that woman (1 Pet. 2:21-24). Jesus said that when we are persecuted, we are to bless and curse not (Lk. 6:28, cf. Rom. 12:14). If what you did was sinful, you need to confess it and make things right with that person. Sin can never be justified by claiming that it was the right thing to do in the context.

Okay, so it was wrong, but she knows how to push my buttons, and she pushes them all the time. She needed to get what was coming to her.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Worth More Than Sparrows

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:26-31

Called To Be Holy

“…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…”
1 Peter 1:15


Confession of sin means, then, to say the same thing about your thoughts, motives, and behavior that God thinks of them. This includes admitting that your sin as yours alone and not related to anything anyone else did, said, or thought. You may not blame your sin on the perceived motives of what anyone else did. You were not being controlled by anyone or anything else. You chose to act the way you did, and you must own it. When confessing sin to others, you must be very careful not to mention their sin. This is a time when you are confessing your sin, not accusing someone else of their sin. You also must be very careful not to accuse the other person of putting a stumbling block in front of you. This comes across like a ploy to redirect whose fault your sin is. When confessing sin, only mention your sin and your choices.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Where Your Heart Is

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

Restitution and Repairing the Ruins

When you are working on confessing your sin remember that part of confessing sin means to do whatever you can to restore the relationship. We have already discussed the fact that this means that you need to begin with admitting your sin in the whole shebang. Now you need to turn your attention to repairing the ruins. If, in your anger, you threw something at the wall and broke it, you will need to repair whatever was broken. If your sin was that you stole money from someone, you will need to make restitution (Ex. 22:15; Lev. 5:16; 6:2ff; Num. 5:5ff, etc.). If the sin was breaking your wife’s heart, you’ll need to do whatever you can to repair her heart. Admitting the sin is the first step, but now you’ll need to go way above and beyond anything you have done before to make things right.

This change from sinning to doing what is right is called repentance. Repentance means literally to “change your mind.” In the context of the Bible, it means to change your mind from what you thought before about yourself, your life, your deserts, your rights, your desires, and your place in creation and replace them with thoughts about what God thinks about you in all those areas. Your immediate behavior is an indicator of what you think of yourself. If you are sinning, you have replaced Christ as the center of your life with yourself. If you are standing up for your rights, you are not standing up for Christ’s rights. If you have been offended and you are reacting to that affront, you have abandoned Jesus as Lord and have sought to take his place. Repentance means confessing your sin, changing your mind about who you are, and replacing those wrong thoughts with a renewed allegiance to follow Christ wherever he leads.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You Did it To Me

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Matthew 25:37-40

Feeling and Doing

The discussion of the counseling problem in terms of the two ways of life, with their two orientations and two life motivations (desire or obedience), raises the question of the relationship of feeling to doing. I have discussed this to some extent in Competent to Counsel and will not repeat what I have said there. However, some additional comments may prove of interest. Perhaps the following excerpts from Ichabod Spencer will set the problem in perspective.

The following "sketch" (Spencer's word for case study) deals with the matter of feeling and behavior from the point of view of a conservative Christian. It is also a sample of one sort of pastoral counseling that was done by a Presbyterian preacher prior to the near capitulation of the Christian ministry to psychiatry. In his Sketches (which appeared in a First and Second Series), Spencer discussed a large variety of problems and how he handled them. There are many good insights in Spencer, although his work is outdated. In this sketch, among other things, Spencer rightly observed:

We Gotta Talk About Greek

The Greek word for confess used in 1 John 1:9 means to “say the same thing.” When you confess your sin to God and to those you have sinned against, you are to say the same thing about it that God says about it. Was your anger, fear, hurt feelings, envy, lust, strife, or retaliation something that God looked on with pride and good cheer? What does God think about your thoughts, motives, and behavior? Well, find out, and then say the same thing about it that God says. He hates it. He abhors it. He is embarrassed by it. Because of your behavior, he has turned his face away from you and has withdrawn his joy (Ps. 32:4, 5; 38:1-8; Isa. 59:2; Heb. 12:5ff). Brothers and sisters, you are in deep trouble unless you do something about it and in a hurry.

Putting these things together, so far, you must acknowledge that your sin is yours alone. You must admit and embrace the fact that the anger, the yelling, and the throwing things were sin, and that the sin comes from your evil heart. The heart, incidentally, is the core of your being. The heart is who you are deep inside. If you were to strip away all your inhibitions and the controls on your tongue and behavior, the things you would say and do would be a direct reflection of your heart—who you really are. When we sin, we are exhibiting who we really are in that instance. We are throwing off all restraint and doing what our heart desires. Confession of sin admits this and begs God to create in us a new heart (Ps. 51:10).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trust God

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Heb 10:39

Faith in God

When my daughter was very little, her mother and I used to go with walks with her. Often, when we came to a curb alongside the road, I would lift Rachel up and set her on the curb so she could balance on it and walk along it with us. At first, she was afraid because it was high and something new. I would hold her close and tell her that I loved her and wouldn't let her fall. She would smile at me, take my hand, and off we would go.

After awhile, I thought she should be stepping onto the curb all by herself. So when we got near to the curb, I began to encourage her to step up on the curb. She was afraid, and again, I bent down, took her in my arms and told her that I loved her and wouldn’t let her fall. She gave me that same grin, and off we would go.

Owning Your Sin

Your sin is your sin. It was not caused by anyone else. You chose to behave in the way that you did and nothing anyone did or might have done forced you to do it. Suppose your wife burned the toast and as a result you flew into a rage, screaming, yelling and throwing things. Of course you can accuse your wife of causing you to sin by burning your toast, but think about it for a minute. How did her burning the toast force you to react the way you did? Did she burn the toast and then run over and grab your brain and squeeze it really hard until anger and rage popped out? I don’t think so. Your sin is your sin. You did it yourself. Your wife is not your leader. You need to own your sin.

According to James your desires were enticed when your wife did not act in a way that suited your perceived role as head of the home and king of your castle (Jas. 1:14). She did something that you did not want and that you did not think you deserved. The burnt toast enticed you to grasp for your right to be in charge. Your wife was not giving you what you thought was your due. Then, when your desires were tweaked and you gave in to them, you flew into a rage and sin was present (Jas. 1:19). But your wife did not cause you to sin. She simply presented the temptation to sin. You saw the temptation, the burnt toast, assumed that she did it to “get to” you, and you chose to respond in anger. Your behavior was your sin. It had nothing to do with her or her burnt toast.

Incidentally, your sin consisted not only of the anger expressed by yelling and throwing things, but also your heart. The Bible says evil things come from an evil heart (Lk. 6:45). The root sin, then, was a heart that thought it deserved more than it was getting. The yelling and throwing things was only the indicator that more is going on deeper inside you. Your real sin is that you believe the world revolves around you. And this belief is exhibited when circumstances don’t go your way or when events differ from what you think you deserve.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Confession of Sin

I thought I would throw down a few thoughts regarding confession of sin for any of you who are wondering about it.

Repairing Broken Relationships
The main goal of confession of sin is to repair a broken relationship. Of course, confession of sin is actually only half the equation; forgiveness is the other. If you confess your sins, but the person to whom you confess does not forgive you, the relationship is still broken. However, whether the person against whom you have sinned forgives you or not has nothing to do with whether you should confess your sin or how you confess your sin.