Posts Tagged ‘destructiveness of sin’

Judges 6:1-32 (Part 1 of 5)
Gideon Becomes Israel’s Judge

Back when we were living in California in 2009 and 2010, we were active members of a great start-up church called Livermore Alive Community Church (LACC) in Livermore, CA. It was there while we were at LACC that Elena accepted Christ as her Savior and Lord. And, it was there that I finally began to grow up as a Christ follower (after accepting Christ as my Savior and Lord in December 2001). Up to that point, I had been a spiritual baby unwilling to mature or simply failing to see the need to mature. I thought I was good just having accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord. That way, I could keep dabbling in my what I considered my justifiable sins. The ones that were OK for me to commit because of the rationalizations that I had developed for them.

In the years in between the end of my second marriage and the beginning of a committed relationship with Elena. I went through a series of relationships that all became sexual at some point in those relationships whether they were a one-time date or a relationship that lasted a few months. I thought that sex outside the confines of marriage was OK for me. I had been through two tough marriages and I deserved this freedom and the rewards that it brought. Besides as you have read here many times, even after salvation there was a lot of sanctification to be done (not that the Holy Spirit’s job is finished now by a long shot!) and it took a long time for the Lord to rid me of the god that sexual validation was for me. Because that was my pet sin, validation of my value as a person through something other than God (in this case, validation through sex), it stunted my spiritual growth. It was my pet sin and our pet sins push us away from reading God’s Word. We steer clear of God’s convicting Word when we have active sin in our lives. We may read about the Bible but hardly ever read the Bible. We pick and choose the things that we read about the Bible too. Only those things that keep us clear of God’s Word convicting us of our sin.

God was able to tame me down in this lost world of seeking that perfect relationship when he gave me Elena. She didn’t want a relationship with me. But there was something about her, the challenge of her that kept me around her. Strangely enough for me, we became friends first. Our porch conversations in those days in Rock Hill before we became a real couple are legendary memories in our relationship. It was a first for me for me to be real friends with a woman without sex being a part of the equation. It was only after we became friends that we became lovers. Yes, we became committed to each other and we became exclusive to one another. Even when I had to move to California, we remained committed. Finally, when my temporary assignment out there became a permanent one, she decided to move out to California to be with me. We lived together but we were not married. We were engaged and that was good enough for us. We both had been married twice and justified not getting married again on those grounds. We were committed to each other but we were living together and we were good with that. We weren’t much on reading the Bible back then so we avoided the whole issue of our sexual relationship being outside the boundaries for it set by God. We were committed to each other, right! So, it was OK, right! Allowing that sin to stand was OK, right?

It was not until several months in at LACC that we got confronted with our sin of sex outside of the marriage covenant. Our pastor who was the planting pastor of our church was developing an elder team to come alongside him in the governance of the church. I felt that because we had become so involved in the church and its activities and because we had become such close friends with the pastor and his wife and because we, Elena and I, had grown so much spiritually since we came there, it would be slam dunk for me to be part of the elder team.

One night when I had my interview with the pastor (to me it was just two buddies getting together as he and I were close), he confronted me with my sin. He said that he would love for me to be on the elder team but our interview could not even start. He said how can you be an elder in the church if you are living with a woman to whom you are not married. How can you be an elder if you are having sex with a woman that is not your wife. Bombshell dropped. Sin confronted. Plain and simple. You have unrepentant sin in your life that you don’t even recognize as sin. You cannot be a leader in our church EVER until you see your publicly flaunted, unrepentant sin for what it is. You need to seek forgiveness from the Lord and stop the sin. You must stamp it out from your life. You must destroy it. Drive it out. Turn around from it and run. Within two weeks, Elena and I were married because our pastor loved us enough to confront us about our sin. Our sins will destroy us if we do not stamp them out of our lives. First, we must identify it as sin and then stamp it out.

The irony of that confrontation was that my pastor had his own unconfessed and unrepentant sin that he kept hidden and ultimately destroyed his ministry in that church about a year and half later and it imploded the entire church. It almost destroyed his marriage. His marriage is still reeling from the effects of his pornography addiction. His unconfessed and unrepented sin came out and it changed everything. It came back to haunt him. Sexual sin is one of the sins that in our modern culture we as Christians are often like the culture. It is OK now to have sex any way you want it. It is OK for people sitting in church to be living together outside of wedlock. It is OK for us as Christians to be having sex with everyone we date. It is OK for us as Christian men to be looking at soft porn or even hard core porn because we say there are no victims. It is OK because the culture says it is OK.

We avoid reading through the Bible in its entirety. We avoid reading through complete books of the Bible so that we don’t have to run across convicting passages. We look up themes that we like in the Bible and just read those passages so we don’t have to address the real issue of sexual sin. I was that way about sexual sin. God just wants me to be happy, right? It’s OK for me. God makes an exception for me. It’s all sin, bro! No justifications. No exceptions. We wonder why our families in today’s culture are a complete mess. Sexual sin is at the root of it. My life, until I married Elena, is a testimony to that fact. Our sins always, always, always come back to haunt us.

Today as we begin our five-part look at Judges 6:1-32, let us focus on the first seven (7) verses for this devotional. Here, we need to think about who the Midianites are and how that relates to my opening illustration. Sometimes, it seems harsh to us that the God often called Israel to completely wipe out a group of people. It seemed almost generous of the Israelites not to carry out the total judgment called for by God. Sometimes, we are the same way about sin. This sin is OK to allow to continue. Look God, I have repented of this sin, but you gotta let me keep that one.
6 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.

7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”

19 Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah[a] of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.

20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old.[b] Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole[c] beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of[d] altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second[e] bull as a burnt offering.”

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

28 In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

29 They asked each other, “Who did this?”

When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”

30 The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32 So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal[f] that day, saying, “Let Baal contend with him.”

In this passage, we must remember some things. First, we must remember that the Bible is a continuous story of the history of God’s people. It has a progression. It is not just a collection of disjointed books that are really standalone. No. The books of the Bible are all interconnected and relate to the ongoing history of God’s people and God’s interaction with them. This passage is a reminder of that progression. Second, because of that progression from past to present to future, that history, we should remember that the Midianites were desert people descended from Abraham’s second wife, Keturah, as noted in Genesis 25:1-2. Midian was one of the six children that Keturah bore for Abraham. From this relationship, the descendants of Midian, the Midianites, became a nation that was always a source of conflict for Israel. Years earlier, while Israel was still wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites battled the Midianites and almost destroyed them (see Numbers 31:1-20). Notice I said, almost. Because of their failure to completely destroy them, the Midianites repopulated into to an even larger nation of people. And, here we are again where the Midianites are in conflict with Israel. Here, though, they have through their constant raiding and marauding oppressed the Israelite nation. In a sense, they are ruling over them. So, from this passage, we see something that we can use in our daily lives today. I think the point being that we must eradicate sin completely from our lives when God commands us to do so. We cannot allow it to be something we do halfheartedly as unrepentant sin will come back with a vengeance to destroy us.

What is your unconfessed sin? What is your pet sin that you do not want to let go of? What consequences of this sin are you blaming on randomness or blaming on others that are a result of not seeing your sin as sin? What consequences are haunting you because you do not see your pet sin as sin? Sin always has consequences and the lie that Satan tells us that these consequences are either OK or that they are somebody else’s fault! What sins am I still harboring today that I consider not to be sins? What is my favorite sin now that I do not see as a sin?

Let us examine ourselves, brothers and sisters! Let us ask God to confront us with our sins. Let us repent from them and no longer justify them. Let us walk away from them and return to a God that is just but yet willing to forgive a penitent heart. Let us walk in the grace of Jesus Christ. There is grace for our sin but we must turn away from it and leave it at the cross. We must run from our sin. We must first see our sin as sin and WANT to run from it.

Just as the Midianites should have been wiped away completely by the Israelites but were not and became a constant source of tyranny for the Israelites, we too must stamp out our sins when the Holy Spirit shows us our sins. Destroy them or they will destroy you.

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 33:1-56 (Part 2 of 3)

Remembering Israel’s Journey

There is an old saying from the days when computers were not as easy to use as they are today that said, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” It was known at the GIGO principle. It meant that if you wrote a computer program that was in a sense, garbage, you would get results that were meaningless, garbage also. In those days, you had to use specific commands written in a certain specific way to get a computer to follow your directions and generate the results wanted. Because computers are essentially decision tree machines, if you did not write the entire series of commands in the right way, the program would fail, send itself into a logic loop, or just generate garbage results that were meaningless. Therefore, it was important to write the programs with the appropriate commands. It was also important to sequence the commands in the proper order so that the program would not fail. If you remember the card reader days of computers and the days where computers filled up the entire basements of buildings, you will remember the frustration of computer science classes in college. I dropped out of a computer programming class in college (1979-1983) because of the tedious perfection that was required in these kinds of classes back in those days.

 

Certainly, computer programming lives on today because computers are still essentially decision tree machines (yes/no answers to commands). However, the language used to write computer programs I am sure has become more simplified and easier to use. I am sure that it is easier now to develop computer programs because, man, look at the things that computers assist us in doing these days that they could not do back in the early 80s. It is phenomenal to think of the things that are controlled by computers today that were not so back thirty years ago. The programming is still there. It is still essentially driven by yes/no answers to commands. There is just a class of people that has developed over the past 30 years that do that stuff and we have ceded a great deal of hidden power to them. Just think of how our society now can be crippled by someone (with computer programming skills beyond what we dopes of consumers can imagine) introducing a virus into our computer systems that control our lives. Banking systems have been crashed. Power grid computer systems have been crashed. You name it. We have seen it happen. Each of us has probably experienced it on a smaller scale when we have accidently downloaded a virus into our computers and the virus has fried our computers. It all happens because of the lack of security in computer systems or accidently or purposely allowing malicious programs (that is what viruses are, computer programs) into our computers. These garbage programs produce garbage results that fry our computers. Hackers also can use these programs to steal identities and steal money and leverage victim companies and individuals to get what they want.

 

How do we typically prevent these garbage programs from invading our computers or computer systems. It is another computer program called security software. These programs are written to detect the introduction of programs to our computers systems that are inconsistent with the software and operating systems resident on our computers. Also, we have programmers at companies and governments whose job it is to test the defenses of our security software systems. It is all very dizzying to the common man in this computer connected world in which we live. It is important for us as computer users to be very vigilant about websites we visit and about what emails we open and read. We have to develop discernment about what we allow into our computers. You hear of some people who constantly have problems with viruses on their computers and then you hear of people that have little if any problems. It’s all about having your computer protected and not visiting suspicious websites and not opening suspicious emails. You can survive the world of computer viruses if you simply are vigilant and have discernment about what you allow into your computer.

 

Why are we talking about computers and computer programs and the Israelites about to enter the Promised Land in the same breath. They sound so totally unrelated. They could not even conceptualize what a computer was back in those days. But, they are related. I will tell you how after we re-read Numbers 33:1-56 this morning:

 

33 Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages:

 

3 The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, 4 who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods.

 

5 The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth.

 

6 They left Sukkoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert.

 

7 They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol.

 

8 They left Pi Hahiroth[a] and passed through the sea into the desert, and when they had traveled for three days in the Desert of Etham, they camped at Marah.

 

9 They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there.

 

10 They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea.[b]

 

11 They left the Red Sea and camped in the Desert of Sin.

 

12 They left the Desert of Sin and camped at Dophkah.

 

13 They left Dophkah and camped at Alush.

 

14 They left Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.

 

15 They left Rephidim and camped in the Desert of Sinai.

 

16 They left the Desert of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah.

 

17 They left Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth.

 

18 They left Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah.

 

19 They left Rithmah and camped at Rimmon Perez.

 

20 They left Rimmon Perez and camped at Libnah.

 

21 They left Libnah and camped at Rissah.

 

22 They left Rissah and camped at Kehelathah.

 

23 They left Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher.

 

24 They left Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah.

 

25 They left Haradah and camped at Makheloth.

 

26 They left Makheloth and camped at Tahath.

 

27 They left Tahath and camped at Terah.

 

28 They left Terah and camped at Mithkah.

 

29 They left Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah.

 

30 They left Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth.

 

31 They left Moseroth and camped at Bene Jaakan.

 

32 They left Bene Jaakan and camped at Hor Haggidgad.

 

33 They left Hor Haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah.

 

34 They left Jotbathah and camped at Abronah.

 

35 They left Abronah and camped at Ezion Geber.

 

36 They left Ezion Geber and camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.

 

37 They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom. 38 At the Lord’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. 39 Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.

 

40 The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev of Canaan, heard that the Israelites were coming.

 

41 They left Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.

 

42 They left Zalmonah and camped at Punon.

 

43 They left Punon and camped at Oboth.

 

44 They left Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim, on the border of Moab.

 

45 They left Iye Abarim and camped at Dibon Gad.

 

46 They left Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim.

 

47 They left Almon Diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, near Nebo.

 

48 They left the mountains of Abarim and camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. 49 There on the plains of Moab they camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim.

 

50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

 

55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

 

In the final few verses, vv. 50-56, God told Moses that before the Israelites settled the Promised Land, they should drive out the wicked inhabitants of the land and destroy their idols. In Colossians 3, Paul encourages us to live as Christians in the same manner. We must throw away our old way of living and move ahead into the new life of obedience to God and faith in Jesus Christ. Like the Israelites moving into the Promised Land, we can destroy the wickedness in our lives or we can tolerate it and let it have a place in our lives. To move into our new life in Christ, we must drive out our sinful thoughts and practices to make room for the new.

 

When we allow unrepentant sin to continue in our lives, it becomes an impediment to our right relationship with God. For example, a person hiding a pornography addiction spends so much time either participating in the sinful activity or covering it up that we start forgetting about God. Maintaining our sins and covering it up become more important than God. Like yesterday when I was talking about my own addiction to approval through sex, it became my god. It got in the way of godly pursuits. It got in the way of sound judgment. It got in the way of family relationships. It got in the way. Anything that we entertain that is sinful in our lives will eventually destroy us and make us ineffective for the Lord. Just think of Perry Noble who did not think his overuse of alcohol would get in the way of leading the third largest church in America. Just think of Mark Driscoll who did not think allowing pride, arrogance, and a sense of celebrity would destroy and implode not only his leadership of Mars Hill Church but also cause the entire church to implode. Just think of any public scandal not only with religious leaders but in general of people who fed their sin and did not recognize sin as harmful and it led to their downfall.

 

We must be vigilant about sin in our lives. We must have God’s security software (His Word and accountability partners) that will help us detect our blind spots of sin. We must recognize sin, isolate it, and toss it out with the garbage. We must be humble enough to recognize sin in our lives and deal with rather than tolerating it and even glorifying it as OK.

 

We must also be discerning about what we allow to exist in our lives. When we listen to music that glorifies sinful sexual behaviors, we begin to tolerate it. When we allow it in our minds it softens our defenses. When we watch television shows that glorifies sinful behaviors, we are allowing it into our computer system of our mind. When we surround ourselves with sinful experiences, it enters our mind and softens our defenses. As we know the Israelites did not completely wipe out the Canaanites from the land and they tolerated their existence and eventually their sinful ways infiltrated the Jewish culture and there were constant cycles of idolatry and sinful behaviors of generations of Israelites. They became ineffective for the Lord. We cannot allow sin to fester in our lives. It is like a computer virus, a malicious computer program, that will crash our computer. It is the old garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) principle. How can we expect to have godly thoughts, act in godly ways, live godly lives if we surround ourselves with sinful inputs to our computer systems. We cannot put our hands in the fire and not expect to get burnt by it. We cannot dabble in sin, say it’s ok, without getting burnt by it. We are to be in the world but not of it. We are to witness to the world but not participate in activities that we know to be against the will of God as expressed in His Word. His word is our security software for our minds. We must know His Word and submit to it and not try to operate outside the boundaries of its protection.

 

Amen and Amen.