Posts Tagged ‘justification of sin’

1 Samuel 15:24-31
Saul Pleads for Forgiveness

Recently, I found out some dear friends of mine that live in another state have separated and are living apart now. That kind of blew me away. This couple was oh so very important in the process of my wife and I going deeper in our respective relationships with Jesus Christ. If it were not for this couple, we might have fallen away from church again when we moved to back home to South Carolina back in 2010. But, they instilled in us a hunger for a relationship with Jesus and instilled in us a hunger for the fellowship of other Christ followers. It is because of that hunger that they nurtured in us that we were ready for LifeSong Church when LifeSong Church came into our path in August 2010. They were our spiritual parents even though they were both 10-12 years younger than us. Without their one-on-one nurturing discipleship in that small but growing little church in California, we would not have been ready to take off and fly and grow in our walk with Jesus nor been ready for positions of leadership there nor been ready for where we are today – about to embark into full-time ministry when we move to Illinois in two weeks. To say the least, these two people were like the most pivotal people in our lives.

Yes, my senior pastor and my discipleship pastor, Pastor Jeff and Pastor Tim, here at LifeSong have been incredibly impactful in our lives and wow, where would we be without their influence. These two guys are spiritual giants in our lives. But this couple while we lived in California set the stage for what Pastor Jeff and Pastor Tim have done in our lives. They are like the parents that raised us up and then sent us off to school, ya know, and Pastor Jeff and Pastor Tim took what these spiritual parents had done and challenged us to deeper and deeper depths. So, the fact that this couple is separated now just profoundly saddens me. It demonstrates that sin can come into even the most ardent of Christ followers and devour and destroy a marriage. These guys were Christ followers since they were little kids. They fell in love as teenagers and had been together ever since. Then, ministry in Young Life. Then, seminary at the prestigious Trinity Divinity School in Chicago. He is an incredibly brilliant man with an eidetic memory. She is a brilliantly creative artist and about the most creative person you would ever want to meet. Her art and photography is amazing. He was an awesome pastor who could inspire you with his words. He could play the guitar with the best of them. An awesome athlete. They were like this super couple. Young. Good looking. Talented. You loved them and were jealous of how cool they were all at the same time.

The thing that saddens me the most about our spiritual parents is how this deterioration of what was once an awesome pastoral couple happened. Each one sins against their marriage have been made public to one another by the fact that each spouse caught the other in the midst of their sin. For him, it was a pornography addiction and for her it was infidelity. However, where they are at now is that they seem to be remorseful that they got caught in their sin. They are remorseful over the consequences that they sin has wrought. But neither are remorseful over the sins themselves. They say they are in counseling with a Christian couple that goes to the same church that they do (they got out of the ministry themselves several years ago as their marriage began to crumble toward where it is today). The trouble is that each one is blaming the other for the state of their marriage. She blames him for how his addiction and his controlling behavior drove her to her sin. And he blames his addiction and controlling behavior her because of his insecurities related to her flirtatiousness and infidelities. It is a sad sad downward spiral that has been going on now for 5 or so years. I covet your prayers for them. I beg your prayers for them. This is a situation similar to when you as an adult who has been living on your own for about a decade and have a life of your own now find out that your parents back home are split up. It just blows you away even though you are not living at home anymore. Then you talk to your parents and find out the skinny on the situation and you realize that your parents are each maximizing the sins of the other parent while using that to justify their own sins.
These spiritual parent of ours is what I thought of this morning as I read through Saul’s pleadings in this passage. The impression that I got from this passage is that Saul is more concerned with the consequences of his sin and how to minimize that rather than being truly repentant for having sinned at all. That’s the feeling that I get from my spiritual parents is that they are trying to minimize, justify, and deflect the impacts of their sin rather than being truly and humbly repentant for their sin. The only way to save the marriage will be when they reach that low place where they are on their face before the Lord and are truly repentant for their own sins. Let’s read the passage now, 1 Samuel 15:24-31:

24 Then Saul admitted to Samuel, “Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the Lord’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. 25 But now, please forgive my sin and come back with me so that I may worship the Lord.”

26 But Samuel replied, “I will not go back with you! Since you have rejected the Lord’s command, he has rejected you as king of Israel.”

27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul tried to hold him back and tore the hem of his robe. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else—one who is better than you. 29 And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind!”

30 Then Saul pleaded again, “I know I have sinned. But please, at least honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel by coming back with me so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel finally agreed and went back with him, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

In this passage, we see that Saul was more concerned about what others would think of him than he was about the status of his relationship with God (1 Samuel 15:24). He begged Samuel to go with him to worship as public demonstration that Samuel still supported him. Even in this scene where Saul is admitting that he disobeyed the Lord, he demonstrates that he is more concerned about his public persona and preserving his position than he is with any real repentance for having sinned. That’s the difference for us to when we often are simply remorseful that we got caught in some sin than we are remorseful about having committed the sin itself.

Are you in the same situation as my spiritual parents? Are you remorseful that you got busted in your sins or are you truly and humbly seeking the Lord’s forgiveness for the sin itself. We must get to the place where we see the sin for what it is – a wrongful and willful rebellion against God. We must get to the place that we are not justifying our sins because someone else hurt us. We must get to the place that we are not blaming others for the way we act and the things we do. We must stand before the Lord and make no excuses for our sin. We must see our sin as sin. We must not try to minimize it or justify it. We must not try to save face in front of others. We must be prostrate before the Lord and say Lord, I just royally screwed up. I have no excuse before you. All my excuses are just to save face in front of others or to gain pity from others. All my excuses are meaningless before you. Cover me in your grace even though I do not deserve it and I would not blame you if you condemned me to hell right now because I have no excuse. Cover me in your grace and please forgive me. I know I have wronged you and you are Lord. I fall at your mercy Lord.

That’s where we need to be. That’s where my spiritual parents need to be. That’s in a state of humble repentance wrapped in the grace of the Lord.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 13:1-14 (Part 3 of 3)
War with Philistia, Saul’s Disobedience, and Samuel’s Rebuke

Elena and I had been through two divorces by the time we met each other. We were both weary of marriage not so much from the perspective that we blamed the ones we married previously for the mistakes of our marriages but from the perspective that we no longer trusted ourselves at judging the people we were to marry. After two failed marriages each, we did not want to jump into marriage again. We knew that we loved each other. We knew that we connected on a soulful level. We knew those things but getting married. Wow, that was the last thing we wanted to do. Not another failed marriage. That was not for us. So, we were happy with dating. Having our separate spaces as our fallback positions. She was downstairs at Paces River Apartments in Rock Hill and I was upstairs. It was convenient. Her place or mine. Downstairs or upstairs. We ignored God’s commands when it came to sex outside of marriage. Marriage was that final commitment that neither one of us was ready to take. But we wanted the fun. I was very convincing in that regard. We were committed to each other from the time we started seeing each other exclusively in October 2007 and things were great. Separate apartments but spending all of our time together either at her place or mine.

Then the unthinkable happened. I was transferred by my job to California to assist the finance team out there to get the finance department of my company’s buy-resale division out in the San Francisco Bay area cleaned up and operating correctly. It was to be a temporary assignment that began in May 2008. I was to be back in South Carolina by Thanksgiving 2008. But lo and behold, the existing controller, a person that was over their head in the job (how she got the job I still don’t understand), saw the handwriting on the wall that she was on the way out. In October 2008, she resigned to take a job elsewhere. Immediately, the company offered me the job and I accepted. The job was now a permanent one out there in California. Although my and Elena’s relationship had survived the bi-coastal nature of our love affair from May to October, it was seen as a temporary problem to be overcome. When the job became permanent, we continued to try to make it work. Then, in the Spring of 2009, the seeing each other only every three or four weeks and flying back and forth across the country to do it became too great. We broke up for like two days. The worst two days of each other’s lives. We resolved then that we had to do something. Elena decided to put in for a transfer with her company from their Charlotte, NC facility to their facility in Stockton, CA. It all got approved and by early August 2009, we found an apartment in Livermore, CA which was about halfway between her job and mine.

When moved in together in Livermore, CA that August. It was an adjustment at first. New job for her. New community for us both. Long commutes for us both but we were together. No long flights across the country. It all made sense. But the marriage thing. We just weren’t ready for that. While we were living in Livermore, we found a great new church that was meeting in a school building using the gym and some of the empty offices and classrooms there. We got heavily involved in the church. Although I had accepted Christ as my Savior back in 2001, I was still a spiritual baby up until we started going to Livermore Alive Community Church. Elena accepted Christ as her Savior in October 2009 during a small group meeting at our pastor’s house. The pastor and his wife became our best friends. Although they were 10-15 years younger than us, the pastor and his wife were our spiritual mentors. They grew us up from spiritual babies. We were so rooted in culture that growth in the Spirit was foreign to us but we ate it up under their mentorship. We grew a lot. But as spiritual mentors do, they wait til you have grown up a bit before they start challenging you on how and where your life differs from Scripture.

Our living arrangements were the area that our pastor blasted us after we had grown up some in the Lord. Up until that point, we ignored the fact that we were living together but not married. We had all the excuses in the world. Two failed marriages each. What does a piece of paper mean in a relationship? It’s just a piece of paper. We are committed to each other. We have tried the marriage thing. It didn’t work twice for either one of us. You know the excuses. I bet some of you who are reading this may be in a relationship right now where you are having sex outside of marriage and/or are living with the person to whom you are not married. You probably have your justifications. You probably think it’s cool. It’s modern and all that. We thought that too.

But yet at the same time, we wanted to grow in our walk with Jesus Christ. We just ignored the whole marriage thing. We did not see what we were doing as fornication, as lustful pleasures. We certainly did not see it as wrong. It is funny how when we are immature in Christ how we can ignore our favorite sins as being OK for us. Just as homosexuals ignore the Word of God as their type of relationship being wrong and justify it through detailing their special circumstances, so too do we as heterosexuals often ignore God’s Word about fornication and lust because we build up our own special circumstances as to why God’s Word does not apply to us in this area. This is OK for me because….(insert your justification for actively opposing God’s Word here). We were the same way. We thought we had been granted a special exemption for our fornication because we had earned it from our failed marriages. We were engaged and that was enough of a commitment for us. We were playing married without the full commitment. Our pastor called us on it. He confronted me about it as the man of my house. He iistened to my excuses and to each one, he said “what does God’s Word say?” He went on to tell me that I could not be in any leadership position at our church until I dealt with this open rebellion to God’s Word in my life. It was tough love from a man I highly respected and was my best friend at that point in my life.

What’s your excuse for actively participating in sin? Do you rationalize away the Bible? Do rationalize away that the Bible is antiquated and we can pick and choose what we want to believe in it? Ignoring sin so that you can participate in the sin of your choice does not make it any less sin. God’s Word is timeless and eternal just as the One who inspired it. What was truth in eternity is still truth now.

That’s the thing that I got this morning on this third reading of this passage – how we justify our pet sins that we do not want to give up . Let’s read the passage now:


Chapter 13
1 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years. 2 Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home. He took 2,000 of the chosen men with him to Micmash and the hill country of Bethel. The other 1,000 went with Saul’s son Jonathan to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin.

3 Soon after this, Jonathan attacked and defeated the garrison of Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly among the Philistines. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land, saying, “Hebrews, hear this! Rise up in revolt!” 4 All Israel heard the news that Saul had destroyed the Philistine garrison at Geba and that the Philistines now hated the Israelites more than ever. So the entire Israelite army was summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000[c] chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven. 6 The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. 7 Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. 8 Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. 9 So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

10 Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. 12 So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

In this passage, we see that Saul had plenty of excuses for his disobedience. But Samuel zeroed in on the real issue, “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you.” Like Saul, we often gloss over our mistakes and sins, trying to justify our actions because of special circumstances or extended logical reasoning that favors us. But our excuses are nothing more than disobedience. God knows our true motives. He forgives, restores, and blesses only when we are honest about our sins. By trying to hide his sins behind excuses, Saul lost God’s blessing over his kingship, pretty much before he got started reigning as king over Israel.

I am pleased to report that because of the tough love shown us by our pastor while we were living in California and our desire to grow in Christ, we recognized our sin as sin. We saw that living together and having sex outside wedlock was wrong. We knew that we loved each other and we know that we wanted ultimately to do things God’s way. We had tried the world’s way for so long. We decided that we wanted to be more like Christ each and every day and in each area of our lives. We no longer ignored and reveled in our sin of not being married but living together. We no longer justified because of our special circumstances. We just saw it for what it was – sin. We married right after a Sunday church service at our church on Sunday, March 21, 2010. We are now approaching our 8th wedding anniversary. It is amazing how God has blessed our marriage and how we have grown together since that confrontation about sin. Certainly, there are sins we each still commit everyday that God is still working on in us. But that recognition of our obvious and blatantly rebellious sin in our lives opened our eyes to all our sins. It opened our eyes to each stronghold sin has in our lives. We are no longer arrogant enough to think that we are good enough or that there are excuses for sin. That realization also makes us oh so grateful for the grace covering that we have in Jesus Christ and thankful for the scales being removed from our eyes by the Holy Spirit. We are aware of our sins and desire to be subject to the chiseling of the Holy Spirit concerning each one.
What are you justifying as an OK sin? What are you ignoring in God’s Word? I have been there. I get you. Open your eyes to the eternal truth of God’s Word and see that which you justify for what it is.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 2:12-25 (Part 5 of 6)
Eli’s Wicked Sons

Unrepentant Sin is a phrase that we talked about yesterday. Those are situations where we either don’t recognize a sin as sin or even worse, just don’t care. This is a conversation that my bestie guys and I had last night over dinner at Five Guys. Our wives were on one side of the table and we were on our side. Two totally different conversations that only occasionally intersected when you would pick on a word or a phrase here and there. They were happy to have their girl time talking down at their end of the table and we guys were having our much rarer guys only conversation. Those are rare. The girls in our circle of friends talk with each other daily and do a joint Bible devotional together constantly and they text back and forth about that daily. However, with us guys, not sure why, but we just don’t talk that much when we are not around each other. When we are together it’s like we’ve never been apart. Common history, common interests, the conversations just flow and together we can generate conversations that can make your inner soul hurt from laughter that is so deep. At the same time, we can have some pretty profound conversations too. Last night was one of those nights.

We were talking about the very subject that I wrote about last blog. Unrepentant Sin. How do you confront that as a Christ follower. There are people that we know mutually that outwardly say that they are Bible believing Christians but yet have sin in their lives that they are not recognizing as sin. They think the sin is OK for them because, well, they either don’t realize that the sin they are waist deep in is a sin at all or they just think that God will make an exception for because of grace, or they just don’t care that it is a sin because they want the pleasure of the sin. How do you confront people about their unbridled, uncaring, unrepentant sin that they are participating in when each of us are sinners ourselves? How do you do that? I am no perfect man by any means. I fear telling someone about the sin that they are waist deep in and don’t seem to see it as sin because I know that I have my blindside sins too. We came down to the fact that it has to do with relationship. It is only when you have relationship with someone that you can earn the right to speak truth into their lives. Certainly a shepherd such our senior pastor can caste a sermon about unrepentant sin and it may convict some, but most often it is through direct relationship with someone that a person will be confronted about their unrepentant participation in a sin that is clearly wrong according to the Bible. It is through me knowing you and you knowing me that I have a right to speak truth in to your life and vice versa.

I had my experience with this head on back in 2009/10 time frame. Elena and I were living in Livermore, CA and we were attending Livermore Alive Community Church. We had become best friends with the pastor and his wife, Luke and Felisha. As we began to grow as Christ followers and as the church began to grow, Luke decided that it was time to have an elder team in which he would be the first among equals as the full-time preaching pastor. After some prayer time, I felt like as though I could be an elder. I had the passion. I had the desire. I have the love for my Savior. Then over a weeklong period Luke had all the elder candidates over to his house individually (with his wife and kids gone) to discuss their candidacy. When it was my turn, ya know, I figured it was just a formality. Luke and I were best buds outside of church. Elena and Felisha were best buddettes. We hung out a lot. But after a few informal questions, bam, Luke confronted me with the sin that I did not see as sin and even if I did my actions showed that I did not care that it was. Luke told me straight up, plain out that I could not be an elder in the church because I was living with a woman to whom I was not married. I was in effect commit fornication every time I had sex with Elena and that it was a sin to live in the manner in which I was living and was certainly stood in opposition to the qualifications for being an elder in the church as spelled out in Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, and 1 Peter 5:1-4. He pissed me off that night. He shocked me that night. He got up all in my business that night. But he spoke truth that night. I knew that Luke had his own sins but he confronted me with Scripture and he confronted me in love not hatred. He said I simply cannot allow you to be an elder when its blatantly obvious to anyone who reads Scripture that you are not qualified no matter how much I love you and like you. Bam. There it was. I was confronted with my unrepentant sin.

That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read this passage again – how we have to confront unrepentant and unbridled disregard for God’s Word and deal with it. With that in mind, let us read 1 Samuel 2:12-26 for the fifth of six reads of this loaded passage today:

12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord 13 or for their duties as priests. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling, 14 the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way. 15 Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting.

16 The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” 17 So the sin of these young men was very serious in the Lord’s sight, for they treated the Lord’s offerings with contempt.

18 But Samuel, though he was only a boy, served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest.[a] 19 Each year his mother made a small coat for him and brought it to him when she came with her husband for the sacrifice. 20 Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord.[b]” 21 And the Lord blessed Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

22 Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.[c] 23 Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? 24 You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. 25 If someone sins against another person, God[d] can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death.

26 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people.

In this passage, we see that we must deal with the ruggedness of the Old Testament that puts some people off. We must ask the question, “Does a loving God really will or want to put people to death?” In answering that question in context of this passage, we must consider what was going on in the Tabernacle. A person made an offering to the Lord in order that their sins may be forgiven and it was offered typically with a repentant heart wanting to be reconciled to a pure and just God. However, Eli’s sons were stealing the offering and making a sham of a person’s repentant attitude. God, in His love for Israel, could not permit this situation to continue. He allowed Eli’s sons to die as a result of their own boastful presumption. They took the Ark into battle thinking that it would protect them. But God withdrew His protection and the wicked sons of Eli were killed (1 Samuel 4:10-11).

The question is what will you do with it when someone confronts you with your unbridled expressions of unrepentant sin. What did I do when Luke confronted me with my unrepentant sin of living with a woman to whom I was not married. It does not matter that both Elena and I had been married twice before and were gunshy about marriage. We could make all the excuses that we wanted to cover up or to justify our sin but it was plain and simple turning our noses up at God. It was us saying that God will overlook this sin because its our pet sin and we have our reasons for why it is OK. We wanted our cake of living together but not the eating it of being married. We were confronted with our fornication. We were confronted with our repeated sexual encounters outside of wedlock. We were confronted with our advertising it to the world that we lived together and that we were not married. Until someone showed us through relationship that they had the kahunas to confront us about it, we would have continued in our sin in an unrepentant manner – not recognizing our sin, not caring that it was sin, and making an exception for it by ignoring God’s Word, making an exception for by avoiding those parts of the Bible, making an exception for it because it was us and God just understood and winked as us because it was us.

We must love those who we have relationships with enough to compared their lives to Scripture and lovingly tell them to what they need to be told (and be willing to have them do the same for us). Because God is a just God and because of that there are consequences for sins. We must love those we are in relationship with and tell them what they need to hear and do so in love. We don’t want them to have suffer the consequences that sin always has in our lives. Luke loved Elena and me enough to confront us about our sin. We finally saw that in order to grow in Christ and to grow in our witness and to really, really grow in our relationship with each other, we had to trust enough and each other enough to do things God’s way. Luke performed our wedding ceremony on March 21, 2010 right in the middle of church, right at the end of a sermon about doing things God’s way sexually in a world that seems to made sex a recreational sport. Luke was a proud spiritual mentor that day. He took a risk that we would have lost our friendship and also that we would have left the church. But he took the risk to confront us about our unrepentant sin. It was the first time that someone confronted me straight up about a sin I was committing. It was the beginning of growing from a spiritual baby into where I am at now on my journey. Sometimes, we have to be confronted with the cold hard truth of our sin.

There are consequences to sin and God will allow that to play itself out in our lives. It is never good. Eli failed to confront his sons and they paid the price for it eventually. They did not have someone to kick them in the butt and say what you are doing is wrong and they paid the price for it eventually. Help us to love the people that are in sphere of influence enough to tell them the truth that needs telling. Help us to care enough. Love enough. And invest in the relationship enough to the point that our words will be taken with respect and love and will be considered. Let us be loving in our confrontations. Let it be known that we only want our people to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. May we pray for friends that will do the same for us.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 15:1-20 (Part 2 of 2)
Samson’s Vengeance on the Philistines

Isn’t strange how we sometimes we think God owes us happiness? We’ve been through hell and back concerning some event or stretch in our lives and we think that God owes us big time. I know that when I was going through both of my divorces, I felt at times as though God owed me some happiness. After all, He wants us to be happy, right? I thought if I survived loneliness, depression, starting over again, child support, doing without while others had plenty, I deserved some happiness. I was paying my dues. And the attitude was that if you pay your dues long enough, God will pay you back with happiness. The long-hard road was going to end at the end of the rainbow with a pot of gold.

That kind of attitude can lead you to justifying sin as well. God just wants me to be happy. It leads you to think, man, I am going through all this stuff that’s hard to deal with, I deserve this or I deserve that. It is kind of pride that comes from self-pity. I deserve to do this with this girl because God wants me to be happy. I deserve to do things that are clear from Scripture to be reserved for marriage because God just wants me to be happy. I can do all these things that God says are not good for me because God just wants me to be happy. I can do things that I said I’d never do because I am going through the valley and God will make an exception for me because we deserve happiness. Have you ever felt that way? God won’t mind this or that because you are having a rough time and God just wants us to have this stasis of happiness. We think that there is an equilibrium that must be achieved. If there is a big negative in our lives, that makes it OK for us to do things are sinful because it’s all about being happy. God won’t mind if I step out on my wife or my husband, because God just wants me to be happy. God won’t mind if I lie to get what I want, because God just wants me to be happy. It’s OK if I act unethically in a business deal, because, well, God just wants me to be happy. It’s OK to be mean to my brother because he took my toy, and, well, God just wants me to be happy. It’s OK to not say something when we should have and let someone else take the blame, because, well, God just wants me to be happy. It’s OK to steal this one time, because, God just wants me to be happy.

Just think how we all do that at times. There are certain lifestyle choices that we make and we justify them up one side and down the other by saying that God just wants us to be happy. If that means us living a lifestyle that is in opposition to God’s own Word, then, that’s OK because our happiness trumps God’s universal truths. We think our happiness is God’s greatest aim and if that means allowing us to contradict His timeless Word it’s OK. Happiness is superior to truth and moral absolutes. That’s the mentality that many of us have today. We are instant gratification generations now and we believe that we want what we want and we want it now. We justify it all through the mantra, “God just wants me to be happy!”

We see this same attitude from Samson in this passage, Judges 15:1-20 when he says, “Must I now die of thirst?” He had this I thirst, me first attitude. He felt he deserved some pleasure, some happiness, because he had done something God. We treat God the same way at times and it boils down to this thing about God just wanting us to be happy. Let’s read this chapter of Judges one more time this morning with that in mind:
15 Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat as a present to his wife. He said, “I’m going into my wife’s room to sleep with her,” but her father wouldn’t let him in.

2 “I truly thought you must hate her,” her father explained, “so I gave her in marriage to your best man. But look, her younger sister is even more beautiful than she is. Marry her instead.”

3 Samson said, “This time I cannot be blamed for everything I am going to do to you Philistines.” 4 Then he went out and caught 300 foxes. He tied their tails together in pairs, and he fastened a torch to each pair of tails. 5 Then he lit the torches and let the foxes run through the grain fields of the Philistines. He burned all their grain to the ground, including the sheaves and the uncut grain. He also destroyed their vineyards and olive groves.

6 “Who did this?” the Philistines demanded.

“Samson,” was the reply, “because his father-in-law from Timnah gave Samson’s wife to be married to his best man.” So the Philistines went and got the woman and her father and burned them to death.

7 “Because you did this,” Samson vowed, “I won’t rest until I take my revenge on you!” 8 So he attacked the Philistines with great fury and killed many of them. Then he went to live in a cave in the rock of Etam.

9 The Philistines retaliated by setting up camp in Judah and spreading out near the town of Lehi. 10 The men of Judah asked the Philistines, “Why are you attacking us?”

The Philistines replied, “We’ve come to capture Samson. We’ve come to pay him back for what he did to us.”

11 So 3,000 men of Judah went down to get Samson at the cave in the rock of Etam. They said to Samson, “Don’t you realize the Philistines rule over us? What are you doing to us?”

But Samson replied, “I only did to them what they did to me.”

12 But the men of Judah told him, “We have come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”

“All right,” Samson said. “But promise that you won’t kill me yourselves.”

13 “We will only tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines,” they replied. “We won’t kill you.” So they tied him up with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

14 As Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting in triumph. But the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists. 15 Then he found the jawbone of a recently killed donkey. He picked it up and killed 1,000 Philistines with it. 16 Then Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,
I’ve piled them in heaps!
With the jawbone of a donkey,
I’ve killed a thousand men!”

17 When he finished his boasting, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was named Jawbone Hill.[a]

18 Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the Lord, “You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?” 19 So God caused water to gush out of a hollow in the ground at Lehi, and Samson was revived as he drank. Then he named that place “The Spring of the One Who Cried Out,”[b] and it is still in Lehi to this day.

20 Samson judged Israel for twenty years during the period when the Philistines dominated the land.

Here, in this passage, we see that Samson was physically and emotionally exhausted. After a great personal victory, his attitude declined quickly into self-pity. During times of vulnerability, we must avoid the temptation to think that God owes us for our efforts.

God is not in our debt for anything. God is not our servant. And contrary to how many of us think, He is not here to serve us. We have this temptation to sit down and credit to our account the things we have done for God this week, and thereby put him in our debt. We have cash in the bank so speak that we pay for our occasional daliances with sin. As long as we don’t overdraw our account (having committed more sins that we have done good), we can do as we wish and it’s OK. God just wants us to be happy so let’s cash in some of sin chips. I’ve been good enough and I have gone through enough to earn some sin credits, right, Lord?

Paul says, do not adopt the attitudes of the world (because this is the attitude of the world–a kind of debit/credit type of relationship). Paul says, don’t adopt that attitude, but let your minds be molded from within. Let the Holy Spirit correct your attitude. And what should our thinking be? First of all, we must not think in terms of rights and privileges. It is all of grace, from start to finish. We can’t earn enough sin credits to allow us to circumvent God’s universal truths. We can never be good enough to deserve anything. We are sinners through and through and we can’t even come close to justifying our sins in the sight of God. We are not even able to negotiate because we have nothing to offer. Our good works are but filthy rags in comparison to Him. He is Creator and we are the created. He owes us nothing. We don’t deserve anything. We cannot demand happiness from God. We think we are equal with Him but we are not. We are like the losers of a war before the victor making demands when we do not have the right nor the power to do so.

However, God is gracious with us. He loves us rebellious little kids. He is sovereign and we must trust that He is leading us somewhere. Even in our unhappy times. God has a big picture He is painting in our lives and in the lives of all humanity. We must remember that He is a great and that we must trust Him. We must remember we are not equal with Him. We must let God be God and trust that even in the rough times, He has a plan. So, let us not justify sin as a right to happiness, but trust God to carry us through the hard times and just be faithful in our trust in Him.

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 29:1-29 (Part 3 of 4)

Moses Reviews the Covenant

It is often said that the truth needs no alibi. The truth needs no defense. The truth stands on its own. Lies though create the need for other lies to justify themselves. The classic saying concerning lies is “oh, what a tangled web we weave when we first attempt to deceive.” Lies always lead to destruction. Lies begin in the mind. When we allow them to fester and grow in our mind, seeds of sin are planted and as sins grow in the mind, they eventually see the light of day in our actions. There is no sin that does not begin with a justification in the mind that plants a seed that the sin is OK, that just the thought of the sin is OK. Once we reach that point, we water the seed and the seed grows. When the seed becomes a plant it results in our acting out our sin. Sin results in a bitter plant taking root in the garden of our soul and it leads to lies and destruction.


In my life, sin has had its consequences in my life has to do with sex outside marriage. It was what ended my first marriage, created and ended my second marriage. Today, we will focus on the seeds of sin that ended my first marriage and began my second. Anyone who knows my story knows that my first marriage was rocky to say the least. Because of the way my first wife had to grow up (her father killed in a car accident and leaving her mom to raise her and her brother from a wheelchair), she grew up differently than most. So, when her brother was killed in a car accident years later (right before our wedding), she began a slow descent into drug abuse that led to many legal issues that I had to clean up over the years. She even had an affair, during her descent into drug abuse, that I had forgiven for the sake of the one child that we had at the time. After she sobered up, the addictive personality latched onto other things such as spending money we never had as if we did and the overuse of prescriptions would rear its ugly head on occasion. All the while, my anger toward my first wife grew and grew over the years. I was the good guy martyr in everyone’s eyes but inside I was a seething time bomb. The seed that I needed out of the marriage was planted. It was through those seeds that life led me to the woman that would become my second wife. It all started innocently enough. Talking to each other during training classes at our place of employment which led to discussions around office desks and break rooms which led to lunches and eventually a full blown affair. That affair, though it led to marriage, led to the destruction of my relationship with my children and led to the loss of my own sense of self as during the second marriage I made my second wife an idol that I worshipped. That affair led to my first wife on a trail of the rest of her life being vindictive toward me and hating my very existence. The first six years after my affair came to light, and during the separation and divorce, and subsequently until my first wife remarried were horrid, horrid years of dealing with her active hatred and vindictiveness. Even after she remarried, she was still bitter toward me for the rest of her life.


I can sit here and tell you that my affair was justified and I can give your multiple, multiple reasons that I had to get out of that marriage to my first wife. She had her affair that I “forgave” only to bury deep in my heart and grow angrier about day by day. There was drug addiction on her part that cost my mightily both in financial ruin and embarrassment. There was her addictions to spending money. There was her physically violent personality. There were a million justifications of why my affair was justified. She was a breath of fresh air from the madness that was my first marriage. I can still do that today even after that second marriage has come and gone. There were reasons for that first marriage to end and many people would say yeah, man, I see what you are seeing and I would have done the same thing, but probably way sooner than you did. However, the bottom line that I have come to deal and wrestle with is the fact that no matter how I justified my own affair that ended my first marriage and that resulted in my second marriage, it is still sin. It is still sin. And sin has its consequences. And sins start with seeds in the mind. Sin has far ranging effects. Sin has long arms. My affair affected the next 10-12 years of my life in negative ways and ways that I never even thought of. Sins that led to other sins. Consequences that led to other consequences. We do not think of these things when we decide to allow a seed of sin to germinate in our minds and when we water that seed and that seed becomes the act of sin. Certain aspects of that first divorce caused by my adultery (however justified it may have been in my mind) still affect me today as I seek to do the Lord’s work full-time. It that ugly deformity on me that I cannot wash off. It is that detractive thing in my record that cannot be expunged.


Sure, Jesus Christ redeems us and makes us clean from the penalty of our sins. We are made clean through confessing our sin-filled nature and no longer trying to justify our sins as OK and knowing full well that we deserve hell for our sins and laying before the cross and begging mercy through Jesus Christ to God to commute our hell sentence that we know we deserve. It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that we are saved from our sins and then penalty. And thank God for that. God can redeem through Jesus Christ. He can use our past to show them that they too can be redeemed from a life of sin and made new again. God can use my history as part of my testimony at the reclaiming nature of God and what He can do.


God can and does reclaim us such that we will spend eternity with Him. We are set free from the penalty of sin and that is certain. However, God does not set us free from the consequences of our sins. We still have to walk through the consequences of our sins. Consequences of sin often follow us after our salvation. We are redeemed from the penalty of sin through salvation but not sin’s consequences. We have to live with those. The Christ follower realizes this fact and allows the consequences of sin to spur us on to take captive thoughts of sin in the future. Our consequences are warnings to us that we need not go down those roads again. It all starts in the mind. We must remember the consequences of our past sins and let those consequences remind us not to allow the seeds of sin to germinate.


That was the thing that came to mind today when read Deuteronomy 29 another time this morning. Today my focus was on vv. 16-28. So, let’s read the chapter again this morning with a focus on those verses and how sins, when allowed to germinate in our lives, lead to destruction:


29 [a]These are the terms of the covenant the Lord commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb.


2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:


Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. 4 But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. 5 Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. 6 You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.”


7 When you reached this place, Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of Bashan came out to fight against us, but we defeated them. 8 We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.


9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. 10 All of you are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, 11 together with your children and your wives, and the foreigners living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.


16 You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the countries on the way here. 17 You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. 18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.


19 When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The Lord will never be willing to forgive them; his wrath and zeal will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will fall on them, and the Lord will blot out their names from under heaven. 21 The Lord will single them out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.


22 Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it. 23 The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. 24 All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”


25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”


29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.


In this part of the chapter, Moses cautions in very figurative language that the day the Israelites turn from God, a seed would be planted that would produce a bitter plant and poisonous fruit (see also Hebrews 12:15). When we decide to do what we know is wrong, we plant an evil seed that begins to grow out of control, eventually yielding a crop of sorrow and pain. If you are even thinking of committing a sin, confess it to God and a trusted fellow Christ follower immediately. If the seed never finds fertile soil, its bitter fruit will never ripen. We cannot change the fact that we are creatures with a nature that causes us to sin daily. However, the momentary thought of sin captured by the Christ-centered mind will not allow the seed to grow. However, it is when we allow a sin to be thought of over and over again that we start to lose the battle against sin. The longer we think on a sin the easier it is to justify that it is OK. Once we get there, actions are soon to follow. Even our thoughts about a sin as being OK, even if we never act on them, are wrong. When we think sin is OK, we create distance between us and God. Once we see one sin as OK, then we will begin to justify other sins as OK. Then, off on the slippery slope we go.


Paul tells us to take our thoughts captive and to do so, Peter tells us to think on honorable things of God. When we start justifying sin in our mind, we are on our way to sinning. When a sin becomes OK in our mind, we have already sinned, according to Our Savior. Sin sounds so pretty when we are trying to justify it. Satan makes it sound so good. But sin has its consequences. Just look at the nation of Israel. They had it made. They had the Promised Land. They had God’s blessings. But yet they were drawn by the siren’s song of sin and it led to the ultimate destruction of the nation of Israel. Sin has its consequences. Sin in its pretty packaging does not show you the fine print that it will have all these side effects. But guaranteed. Sin has it consequences always. No matter how pretty we try to package it.


Amen and Amen.