Posts Tagged ‘sins’

1 Samuel 19:1-10 (Part 5 of 6)
Saul Tries to Kill David

In this series of blogs, we are talking about the false teachings of the Christian faith that are prevalent today. Today, we will look at a doctrine that we have virtually gotten rid of in Christianity in the post-modern era (the world as we know it since the end of World War II).

I will introduce this foreign concept to us with a bold statement. Let’s bring hell back! Such a statement seems a shocking one to the 21st century ear, even those who considered themselves Christians.

The existence of and doctrine surrounding hell is no longer a universally accepted concept among Christians and Jews much less those of other religions or of those who hold no religious beliefs at all. It is not surprising that in an increasingly secular American landscape that only 27% of people who consider themselves non-religious believe in the existence of a place of eternal punishment in the afterlife, according the 2015 Religious Landscape Study performed by Pew Research Center. Overall, only 58% of all survey respondents (including religious and non-religious alike) believe in the existence of hell.

Even among Christians, the statistic vary. Belief in hell is not universally accepted by Christians in the 21st century. Although belief in hell is highest among historically black Protestant churches (82%) and evangelical Protestant churches (likewise 82%), the belief level drops to 63% among Catholics, 60% among mainline Protestants, and 59% of Orthodox Christians. It was also noted in the survey that only 22% of the Jewish respondents believe in hell. Among other religions, 76% of Muslims surveyed believe in hell while not surprisingly Buddhists and Hindus surveyed affirmed the existence of hell at a rate of 32% and 28% respectively. It is worthy of noting that more non-religious respondents believe in hell (27%) than the Jews surveyed (22%). The alarming point here is that, depending on your denomination of Christianity, a pastor can look out over his congregation on Sunday and find that anywhere from one-fifth to half of his parishioners do not believe in the existence of hell. As noted earlier, outside the doors of the church, it can be extrapolated that three-fourths of the people one meets on the street do not believe in hell. One can discount the non-believer being dismissive of hell as it would be opposed his firm belief in the lack of existence of God, would dismiss his belief in moral relativism, would dismiss his belief that man controls his own destiny, and would dismiss an everyman’s ticket, where we are judged on the weight of good deeds plus good intentions to outweigh our negative nature. When deeds and intentions are weighed against our bad deeds, then, most if not all of us will ascend to some sort of nirvanic afterlife (which we will talk about tomorrow). This sentiment, we can dismiss as the product of human pride that blinds us to our own ignorance in the face of God.

That idea of the elimination of hell from our theological lexicon is what came to mind this morning when read through this passage about the choice that Jonathan had to make – to be obedient to his father or to honor his friendship with David, to follow his father’s command which was not biblical or to follow that which was right and true according to God. Jonathan was being asked by his father to ignore a biblical truth because it was inconvenient to his father, Saul. Expediency was most important to Saul not what was biblically and universally true according to God’s Word. That kind of thinking is what has become of the concept of hell in Christian theology today. With that idea in mind let us read about the choice that Jonathan had to make:

Chapter 19
1 Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, 2 told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. 3 I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.”

4 The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. 5 Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!”

6 So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.”

7 Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before.

8 War broke out again after that, and David led his troops against the Philistines. He attacked them with such fury that they all ran away.

9 But one day when Saul was sitting at home, with spear in hand, the tormenting spirit[a] from the Lord suddenly came upon him again. As David played his harp, 10 Saul hurled his spear at David. But David dodged out of the way, and leaving the spear stuck in the wall, he fled and escaped into the night.

In this passage, we are challenged by the fact that Saul commands his son, Jonathan, to commit an act that is clearly unbiblical and is clearly against the nature of God. Jonathan had a choice to make. He had to decide whether what his father commanded him to do was consistent with Scripture and with the nature of God. Jonathan was wise enough to understand the difference between obeying a parent’s command and violating God’s law. Our parents should be teaching us and commanding us to do only that which is consistent with Scripture. In general, not just as children of our parents, we must be discerning about what we hear from others as biblical truth compared to the actual Word of God. If someone omits a portion of the full counsel of God’s Word just to make a biblical truth more palatable or more expedient, we must be discerning about those things too.

Saul thought like many of us today that there was no real punishment for evil deeds as long as we do more than we do bad. He seemed to think that doing evil could be offset by good deeds. All we have to do is do more good. Then, we become the judge of our goodness or badness, and, of course, we are always going to come down on the side of us being good enough or having done good enough or having done less bad than good. We are the judge of our own judgment – the fox in charge of the hen house, so to speak. Saul had situational ethics here in this passage. He thinks like many of us think. He, by his actions, appears to believe that there is no real judgment for his evil deeds and all he has to do is make up for it with a prayer here, a good deed there, a promise to God there, a ceremonial sacrifice here. He, in a sense, made himself the judge of his own fate. Jonathan had to decide whether he was going to follow his father’s belief system or follow the moral absolutes and the eternal truths of God.

In the absence of hell, we are certainly the arbiters of our own eternal fate. In the absence of hell, there is no one who judges us. In the absence of hell, God is only love but not justice. Most of us in the 21st century world have a problem with final judgment and hell. The loss of the doctrine of hell and judgment and the holiness of God does irreparable damage to our deepest comforts—our understanding of God’s grace and love and of our human dignity and value to him. The gutting of the harsh doctrine of hell always minimizes the wonderful good news of the gospel. To preach the good news, we must preach why it is good news. We must understand why the gospel is the essential good news and that nothing else but Jesus will do.

The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ because of the true nature of man and what that true nature garners us in eternity. In a post-modern non-traditional world, we see ourselves as basically good people. However, the truth of the matter is that none of us are good at all. Have you ever really took notice of all the evil thoughts, the little lies, the outright lies, the meanness that comes out in us each and every day in one form or another. We believe that it requires goodness to get to heaven and that if we just do more good than bad that we will get into heaven. We don’t realize that like an ink drop into a glass of water permanently changes and stains the water irreversibly, so is committing any sin. Sin is imperfection when compared to the holiness of God. One drop of ink in a glass of pure water does it all. The same with sin. We commit one sin and we are done. It is the ultimate one and done scenario.

However, we are not just one-time sinners. We are habitual sin criminals that have been through the sin court system far too often. We sin every day like a common thief who steals something every day. We have a rap sheet a mile long of a lifetime of sins. We deserve the punishment of a career criminal in the court system having committed heinous crime after heinous crime. Our record belies anything that we can say in our defense before the righteous Judge that is God. We deserve hell. We really do. Once we commit one sin we are done, finished, not to mention a lifetime of habitual sinning. We kid ourselves that we are more good than bad because we don’t want to think of the fact that we tell lies, we hurt people, we lie to ourselves, we offend God each and every day with our prideful sinning. We are career sin criminals standing before a righteous Judge who looks at our record and has every right to throw the eternal judgment of hell at us. We deserve it. We have no excuse. No quippy comebacks. No way to talk ourselves out of what we deserve. We deserve the fiery pits of hell where Jesus said there was pain, sorrow, weeping, and the gnashing of teeth. It is the place of eternal suffering.

The very realness of hell is what make Jesus Christ so incredibly important to us. He is more than just some great philosopher that is one of the many ways of self-actualization and self-improvement. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way to the Father. Without the doctrine of hell, Jesus is just a way to self-improvement along with Muhammed, Buddha, Confucius, and others. With the doctrine of hell, Jesus is our Savior. Jesus as part of the Holy Trinity of God came down from heaven to live a perfect life and become the sinless sacrifice for our sins. He went to the cross to take on God’s eternal punishment for man’s sins, past, present and future. And to prove that He was of one and the same essence as God, He arose from the dead. By dying on the cross and by arising from the dead (all of which are historical facts that have yet to be realistically disputed), Jesus demonstrated that He was the Son of God and that He did indeed die for our sins.

Jesus doing these things would be unnecessary, truly, in the absence of what he did it for – to save us from our eternal judgment. In the absence of hell, Jesus did not need to come down from heaven and suffer as he did for us. All we need do is do is more good than bad. Jesus’ sacrifice would be the grandest excess of all in the absence of eternal judgment, in the absence of hell.

That is what makes or should make Christians the most joyous people in the universe. We have been saved from what we know as hell. The fiery pits of eternal punishment we know that we deserve. We have had our blinders taken off and see ourselves as the dirty rotten sinners that we are. The grace of Jesus Christ then becomes amazingly wonderful and just the greatest gift that could ever be given – the pardon from the fiery eternal death that we deserve. How can you have this joy when there is no judgment, there is no hell. We have been saved from what we know we deserve!

That makes Jesus even more awesome that just some great philosopher. It makes Him the Savior to whom we owe everything and to whom we owe all thanksgiving and daily praise and great joy.

That is the eternal truth of the gospel. That is the Jonathan choice. That is to walk away from the situational truths of Saul and embrace the eternal truths of God.

Amen and Amen.

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Luke 3:21-22 — Why did Jesus allow Himself to be baptized by John The Baptist? He was sinless wasn’t He after all? There are several reasons. First, it is symbolic of Jesus’ earthly life.

First, it was symbolic of Jesus’ earthly life. Jesus lived an earthly life (symbolic of Him prior to immersion in the water). He lived here among us as a human being. He know the life that we live. We have that in common with Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. As we have discussed here before, Jesus understands the human existence. He lived it. The only difference between Him and us was that He was able to go through this life without sinning. We see in Matthew 4:1-11 that Jesus was tempted by Satan Himself during Jesus’ human existence but never failed, never sinned. However, His lack of sin does not mean that He does not understand our existence. He lived among us. The next step in the baptism process is the immersion in water. This is symbolic of Jesus’ death on earth. Being in the water symbolic of the time from Good Friday at sundown to sunrise on Easter Sunday morning when Jesus was in the tomb. Again, it is a reminder that Jesus experienced death just as we do. Jesus’ death was an excruciating ordeal on the cross. Jesus knew that physical pain that sometimes occurs as we die. He knows of slow agonizing death. He knows of welcoming His last breath. He knows that hour when the body gives up and shuts down and stops working. He knows of that moment when the life force stops. But that is not the end of the story with Jesus nor is it the end of story for us as His followers. The next step in the baptism process is the rising out of the water. It is symbolic of Jesus’ resurrection into new life, and a new body. He arose from the dead just as he arose from the death of the water. There is such beauty in this symbolism.

In another gospel, John The Baptist ask this same question. Jesus said that we must carry out what God requires (Matthew 3:15). The baptism thus was not about a symbolic rejection of sin, because there was no sin in Him. It was about carrying out God’s mission. Jesus was baptized because it is symbolic of Him taking on the sins of his nation and of all people. He was following Nehemiah, Ezra, Moses and Daniel. In His baptism, He again identifies with you and me and any who would believe in Him. He who was without sin was baptised. Again, He shows that He is willingly taking our place though He had no personal need to do so. He shouldered the sins of the world on the cross. He is doing it here as well. The sinless substituting Himself for the sinner. He is identifying Himself with those who are repentant. You will notice He is in the water with the penitent ones not up on the shore with the watching Pharisees. There are some today who stand on the shore and believe that they are righteous in their own right. Jesus does not stand with them. He stands in the mess of the murky water with us, the sinners. Jesus, the perfect man, did not need baptism as the symbolic gesture of rejecting our past life of sin, but He accepted baptism because He, as the Son on earth, was being obedient to the Father. His Father in Heaven was well pleased in the obedience of His Son and what it means to us.

The baptism is also an annoucement. It is announcing to the world that Jesus’ ministry has begun. It is public now. All the preparation is over. There is no turning back from the pre-ordained trajectory of Jesus’ life by the Father. Jesus’ baptism is saying to the Father, I am ready. Let’s do this. Prior to arriving at the Jordan, Jesus had been preparing for His ministry for 30 years. He was learning the human experience. He lived it from birth til now. No one could ever say that Jesus could not possibly understand what it’s like to be human. He did it for 30 years! He did not magically appear. People knew him as one of them. He was a tradesman’s son. He lived the life. He experienced joy, laughter, happiness, pain (physical and emotional). He was a child and knew what that experience was like. He was a teenager and knew what that experience was like. He was a young man learning to make a living in the world. He knew what that was like. He was now ready to end that portion of His existence with all that it allowed Him to experience and move on to the specific purpose for which He was sent. As Rafiki says to Simba, “It is time.” It is now time for the stakes to be raised. The game is on. It is also interesting to note that Jesus’ announcement of the beginning of His ministry begins in humility, on the fringes, in the dirty water, not in the main court of the Temple. He went to the river and identified Himself with those who were actually interested in repenting of their sins. This annoucement is humble. He submits Himself to John just as He submitted to the Father in everything He did. Jesus was so humble and obedient to His Father. He was obedient to the point of death on the cross because that was what God required of Him. It all starts right here.

Right here in this moment of baptism, we see our humble Savior saying to us, “I am with you.” I identify with you. I know what is like to be human. I know and understand it from birth to death. He knows how hard it is for us to not sin and how hard our very existence is. In this moment of baptism, He is telling us that He is taking on our sins – a theme that took him through the remaining three years of His life to the cross. The baptism and the cross are book ends to His willingness to take on the sins of His nation and the sins of the world. He loves us that much. His entire earthly existence was preparation. It was understanding of the human experience. It was all pointing toward taking on our sins. He came to give us an out from the condemnation that we deserve. The baptism was the beginning of the ministry. The crucifixion was the literal sacrifice. The baptism the symbolic one. Through His literal sacrifice on the cross, He did what God required to solve man’s sin problem permanently. But like the end sequence of His baptism ritual, that’s not the end of the story. Jesus came out of the water at His baptism. Jesus came out of the grave after his sacrificial death. He demonstrates to us that through Him we have conquered sin and death. We have promise of eternal life with Him through His resurrection. It all starts right here in the Jordan River. The ministry that changed the world begins here in the murky, muddy waters of the Jordan.

Romans 13:8-10 — There was once a song by The Beatles called, “All You Need Is Love.” Love is all you need. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law, Paul tells us. The bottom line is love. Everything else that we are as Christians stands on this foundation.

Today is music day in my mind I guess. The song that comes to mind now is “The Proof of Your Love” by the Christian contemporary group, For God & Country. The song begins with the lyrics that say if I sing but don’t have love, I waste my breath with every word I sing. Everything that we do as Christ followers is meaningless without love. Paul repeats this idea in his first letter to the church at Corinth. He says, If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1 Cor 13:1-2). Love is the basis of who we are as Christ followers. Love is our motive. If we do not have love as our motive for the things we do to reach the world around us, we are just another help agency. If you participate in church-wide community events just to be seen doing it or to check off what you think will get you into heaven, you’ve got it all wrong. Love is our motive. We are to show the world genuine love. We are to show them love without expectation of payback. We should love the world around us without an attitude of what’s in it for me.

Why do we love others without payback? We do this because we are in debt to Christ for the lavish love has poured out on us. The only way we can begin to repay Him is by fulfilling our command to love others in turn. We should be overflowing with love. We have been saved from our eternal damnation in hell by the love of a God who sent His Son to be the perfect sin sacrifice. Jesus paid the penalty for sin that we deserved. Because of His love for us, He substituted Himself for us. How can you not love the world and want to serve it so that you can tell the world about what Jesus Christ has done. The basis of what Christ did on the cross was love for us. Love that we must share with others. We show our love for others so that they can come to see Jesus in us. We love ourselves enough to make sure that we have food, shelter, clothing. We should do no less for our neighbors. Loving others means actively working to make sure that their needs are met. Our love for others, coming from the love that we have received in Christ, should lead us to fight against social injustice. Love should motivate us to do more than the law requires. Love should motivate us to do more than have a payroll deduction to United Way. Love should motivate us to do more than put our extra money in the plate on Sunday. Love should motivate us to be in the real world with our neighbors who are suffering. Love should motivate us to fight the fights that need fighting not just sit behind the fence of our homes and complain that the world is going to crap. Love should motivate us to be more than armchair Christians.

There is a saying that goes like this, “Love can cover up many sins.” It is usually in reference to couples whose relationship is young and new and that they are so in love that they cannot see the faults of their lover. But in today’s context, let’s look at it from the perspective that love can cover many sins, the sins that we want to commit. We are fulfilling God’s law by loving others, Paul says. Think about it. The absence of love for our neighbor can lead us to commit many of the prohibited actions of God’s law. Not loving our neighbor can be in our own households. Not loving your spouse can often lead them to find it elsewhere in the sin of adultery. Unresolved anger (not loving) can lead to murder. Not loving can lead us not to respect that which belongs to another and we steal. Not loving can lead us to jealousy and covetousness. All of the God’s law is prohibitions against making our ownselves God and having the “it’s all about me attitude”. Love, real love, is about caring more about the needs of others than you care about your own. Love is a new set of glasses that allows us to see the world from other people’s perspective. Love allows me to go beyond myself and truly care for other people. I mean really care. When we were in the process of winning our spouse’s love, we lavished them with praise, attention, gifts, and just generally showing them that they are the most important thing in the world to us. We showed them the best of us. Should not we love our neighbors in this way all the time? Love can prevent us from seeking retribution. Love seeks reconciliation. Love involves building others up and not tearing them down. Love. Love. Love. All ya need is love. love. Love is all ya need. Love is all ya need. Nothing else matters.

There is a song from the best music decade EVER, the 80’s, called “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” I use it here as a question rather than a discussion of the song’s lyrics. What’s love got to do with it? The answer is everything. Without love, everything is meaningless. Without love, there is no hope. Without love, we would not have had Jesus. John 3:16 tells us that our God loves us so much that He sent His Son to save us from our own self-inflicted damnation. Without His love for us, He would not have provided us a way to be reconciled to Him. If God did not love us so immensely, He would not have sent Jesus. We live in a world that has no love and is hellbent on self-destruction. What’s love got to do with it? Everything.

Romans 12:1-2 — Living sacrifices and renewed minds. This two verses are some of the most remembered verses in the Bible. We find here a very short but clear description of the essence of the believer’s response to God’s grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a reminder to us that being a Christ follower is about choices. It is about our mind as much as it our emotion. Many think that we are supposed to be on a spiritual “warm fuzzy” or spiritual high at all times when we give our lives to Christ. Sure, we have our spiritually high moments but most of being a Christ follower is about choices on a daily basis.

Living sacrifices. In the Old Testament (OT) animals were sacrificed or killed as symbolic penance for sin. These sacrifices had to be perfect and spotless. They were the animals that were set apart from the rest of the herd. As living sacrifices, we should be set apart from that which is profane and worldly. The OT sacrificial animals were set apart and were dedicated to the purpose for which they were to be used. In the OT sacrificial system, the animals taken from life to death to square us away with God. As living sacrifices, we are taken from the death that sin has caused in us into new life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Similarly, we as living sacrifices should dedicate ourselves to God and seeking to do that which is holy and honorable. In the OT sacrificial system, the animals were completely ignorant of the fact that they were about to be slaughtered. As living sacrifices we are different. We are not sheep led to slaughter. We become living sacrifices, we seek to be set apart and holy and in service to God, not unwittingly like an animal, but willingly and intelligently. We choose to live according to God’s Word and not according the current fads that are acceptable and pleasing in society. We choose. We think. Being a Christ follower is a thinking thing.

We are transformed by the way we think. Many Christians think that they are supposed to be on some spiritual high all the time. That amazing feeling of closeness to God that you get from your favorite worship songs and a powerful sermon on Sunday is what people think we are supposed to feel like all the time. Then we get disappointed and often fall away when we don’t “have that feeling” all the time. The problem with that thinking is that Sunday worship is indeed a celebration. It is not what we are to be like daily. It is just impossible. It is the culmination of Christian fellowship. It is restorative. It is refueling. It is worship. It is praise time. It is celebration. Sunday morning worship is the tip of the iceberg though. It is the whole, all-to-end-all, of being a Christian. It is intended to lift us up, and recharge us so that we can be sent back out to live life in the trenches. We need Sunday worship. It is integral to the development of our faith. Praise and learning are its purpose.

Real life change though happens through transforming of the mind. Our thoughts are the genesis of our actions. A new orientation in our thinking leads to a new orientation in behavior. We must daily lay aside our selfish, and self-centered desires to follow Christ. We must allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in us to renew, re-educate, and redirect our minds. Our thoughts control our behaviors. Every sin has it beginning in the mind. Every adulterous affair began as lustful thoughts. Every act of greed began as constantly thinking about ways to get ahead financially. Everything that is stolen begins as a desire to have something. Every murder begins with thoughts of anger and frustration with another person in our mind. All of our thoughts when you really analyze them are pretty selfish. Our natural thought patterns are about ourselves and what we want and how to satisfy ourselves. Me. Me. Me.

Being a Christ follower flips all that on its head. We are to love others more than we love ourselves. We are to seek after God’s will and not our own. We are to serve others instead of ourselves. We are to give glory to God in all of these things and not ourselves. Being a Christ follower is a radical departure from our normal nature. Being on a spiritual high does not change us though it may temporarily. We must transform our thinking. We must make choices. We must go against our normal grain. With the help of the Holy Spirit this becomes easier and easier over time as He takes control of who we are. However, even after we are saved, we have to make conscious choices to replace worldly selfish thoughts with the ways of God. We must pray. We must read His Word. We must meditate on it. And most of all we must apply it to our lives. We have to think. Being a Christ follower involves your mind as much as your heart. Evil, selfish thoughts enter our mind daily, hourly, and sometimes every minute. We must battle our original nature every second of every day. To think that your natural nature just magically disappears at salvation is just not true. It takes the Holy Spirit a lifetime to transform us into the perfect beings that we become when we are united with Christ in heaven. We must do our part and replace the worldly with the Christ-like. Instead of feeding our selfish desires, we pray for God to replace those thoughts with holy ones. We replace worldly inputs into our lives with holy ones. As we make these intelligent and though-out choices in our lives, we become more and more capable of rejecting evil. The colloquial definition of insanity is “doing the same old things but expecting different results.” As Christ followers, we cannot expect to become more holy if we do not renew our minds. The only way we mature as Christ-followers is to recognize that it is not all emotion. It is about the mind. It is about choices. Christ following is not a zombie like activity where we do nothing but drift along. We participate in our faith. We make choices. We choose to be more Christ like. We seek it. We pursue it. We think!

Father, help me to understand that I must allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in me. Help me not to get in His way with my old ways of think. Help me to participate in the work that He is doing in me. Help me to take my old thoughts captive and replace them with your thoughts. Help me to replace my ways with your ways. Help me to flip the rankings in my life from me first to You first. Amen.