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Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

Habitual Sins & Failures — The Ones That Won’t Go Away

SOURCE:  /Ligonier Ministries

How Should Christians Handle Besetting Sins?

One of the great Christian classics is a devotional booklet written by Saint Thomas à Kempis called  The Imitation of Christ.

In that book he talks about the struggle that so many Christians have with habits that are sinful.

He says that the struggle for sanctification is often so difficult and the victories that we achieve seem to be so few and far between, that even in the lives of the greatest saints, there were few who were able to overcome habitual patterns. We’re talking about people who overeat and have these kinds of temptations, not those who are enslaved to gross and heinous sin. Now Thomas à Kempis’s words are not sacred Scripture, but he gives us wisdom from the life of a great saint.

The author of Hebrews says that we are called to resist the sin that so easily besets us and that we are admonished and exhorted simply to try harder to overcome these sins. You say, How do we escape these pockets of sin that we have such great struggles with, that we have an honest and heartfelt desire not to commit? If the desire not to do it is really honest and penetrates the heart, we’re 90 percent home. In fact, we shouldn’t be locked into something.

The reason we continue with these pockets of repeated sins is because we have a heartfelt desire to continue them, not because we have a heartfelt desire to stop them. I wonder how honest our commitment is to quit. There’s a tendency for us to kid ourselves about this anytime we embrace a pet sin. We need to face the fact that we commit the sin because we want to do that sin more than we want to obey Christ at that moment. That doesn’t mean that we have no desire to escape from it, but the level of our desire vacillates. It’s easy to go on a diet after a banquet; it’s hard to stay on a diet if you haven’t eaten all day. That’s what happens particularly with habitual sins that involve physical or sensual appetites. The ebb and flow of the desire is augmented and diminished. It increases and fades. Our resolve to repent is great when our appetites have been satiated, but when they’re not, we have a growing attraction to practice whatever the particular sins may be.

I think what we have to do is first of all be honest about the fact that we really have a conflict of interest between what we want to do and what God wants us to do. I think we have to feed our souls with the Word of God so that we can get what God wants us to do clear in our mind and then build a strong desire to obey.

Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins

SOURCE: Jonathan Parnell/Desiring God

Homosexuality is not the only sin mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

It’s not the only sin mentioned, but it is different from all the rest, at least right now. At this moment in history, contrary to the other sins listed here, homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement. It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.

To be sure, the masses increasingly make no bones about sin in general. Innumerable people are idolaters, not to mention those who are sexually immoral, or who commit adultery, or who steal and are greedy and get wasted and revile neighbors and swindle others. It happens all the time. And each of these unrepentant sins are the same in the sense of God’s judgment. They all deserve his wrath. And we’re constantly reminded that “such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11). You in the church.

Concerning Popular Opinion

But as far as I know, none of those sins is applauded so aggressively by whole groups of people who advocate for their normalcy. Sexual immorality is no longer the tip of the spear for the progressive push. Adultery is still frowned upon by many. Accusations of greed will still smear a candidate’s political campaign. Thievery is still not openly embraced, and there are no official initiatives saying it’s okay to go take things that don’t belong to you. There’s no such thing as a drunk agenda yet. Most aren’t proud to choose a beverage over stability, and there aren’t any petitions that the government should abolish the driving restrictions of inebriated individuals. Reviling others still isn’t seen as the best way to win friends and influence people. Swindling, especially on a corporate level, usually gets someone thrown into jail. In fact, the infrastructure of the American economy depends upon, in some measure, our shared disdain for conniving scammers.

Perhaps excepting fornication, these sins are still seen in a pretty negative light. But not homosexual practice, not by those who are now speaking loudest and holding positions of prominence. According to the emerging consensus, homosexuality is different.

What to Be Against

As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of homosexual practice, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God. And if our society celebrates it, we can’t both be caring and not say anything. Too much is at stake. This means it is an oversimplification to say that Christians — or conservative evangelicals — are simply against homosexuality. We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God, and homosexual practice just gets all the press because, at this cultural moment, it’s the main sin that is so freshly endorsed in our context by the powers that be. Let’s hope that if there’s some new cultural agenda promoting thievery — one that says it’s now our right to take whatever we want from others by whatever means — that Christians will speak out against it. The issue is sin. That’s what we’re against. And that’s what should make our voice so unique when we speak into this debate.

Some would like to see this whole issue of homosexuality divided into two camps: those who celebrate it and those who hate it. Both of these groups exist in our society. There are the growing numbers, under great societal pressure, who praise homosexuality. We might call them the left. And there are people who hate homosexuality, with the most bigoted rationale and apart from any Christian concern. We might call them the right.

Those Glorious Words

The current debate is plagued by this binary lens. Those on the left try to lump everyone who disagrees with them into that right side. If you don’t support, you hate. Meanwhile, those on the right see compromise and spinelessness in anyone who doesn’t get red-faced and militant. If you don’t hate, you support.

But true followers of Christ will walk neither path. We have something to say that no one else is saying, or can say.

Distancing ourselves from both the left and the right, we don’t celebrate homosexual practice, we acknowledge God’s clear revealed word that it is sin; and we don’t hate those who embrace homosexuality, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure. We speak the truth in love into this confusion, saying, simultaneously, “That’s wrong” and “I love you.” We’re not the left; we say, this is wrong. And we’re not the right; we say, you’re loved. We speak good news, with those sweetest, deepest, most glorious words of the cross — the same words that God spoke us — “You’re wrong, and you’re loved.”

God tells us we’re wrong, that the wages of sin is death, that unrepentant rebellion means judgment, that our rescue required the cursed death of his Son (Romans 3:23; John 3:36; Galatians 3:13). And God tells us we’re loved, that even while we were sinners, Jesus died for us, that while we were unrighteous, Jesus suffered in our place, that though we were destined for wrath, Jesus welcomes us into glory (Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:1–7).

Where the Gospel Shines

You’re wrong and you’re loved — that’s the unique voice of the Christian. That’s what we say, speaking from our own experience, as Tim Keller so well puts it, “we’re far worse than we ever imagined, and far more loved than we could ever dream.”

That’s our message in this debate, when society’s elites despise us, when pop songs vilify us, when no one else has the resources to say anything outside of two extremes, we have this incomparable opportunity to let the gospel shine, to reach out in grace: you’re wrong and you’re loved. We get to say this.

That’s why homosexuality is not like other sins.

Who Is Responsible For Evil?

SOURCE:  Billy Graham

Are we responsible, or is the devil?

The answer is—both!

In other words, we can’t evade our responsibility for everything we do wrong by simply blaming the devil—but on the other hand, we also know he is behind the world’s evils.

Never doubt the devil’s existence, or his determination to do evil.

Yes, his ways are often unseen, and much of the time we may not even realize what he is doing. But since the beginning Satan has had only one purpose: to oppose God in every way he possibly can. Sometimes his methods involve deception—although often his actions are open and obvious. But his goal is unchanged: to block God’s will. The Bible says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).

But do not doubt either our own ability to do great evil.

We have rebelled against God—and our rebellion continues to this day. Even when we know what is good, we often turn away and choose to do what is wrong. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

This is why we need Jesus Christ.

We need Him to protect us from Satan’s schemes, and we also need Him to turn our hearts from evil to good. Is this happening in your life? Don’t be deceived, but put your life into Christ’s hands, and find your hope and security in Him—both now and forever. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

What’s Wrong With Me? I keep On Sinning !!

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul

If the Holy Spirit lives in us, why can’t we live perfect lives?

Let me suggest to you that we can live perfect lives.

Now that may sound like the most outrageous thing you have ever heard, because one of the few things you’ll get both Christian and non-Christian to agree on is that nobody is perfect!

What the New Testament teaches, as I understand it, is that once the Holy Spirit comes into my life, once I’m indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I have living within me the power to obey God. The Holy Spirit gives me the power to obey the commandments of God, and the New Testament says there is no temptation that has ever befallen me that isn’t common to every person, and with the temptation God always provides a way of escape.

I don’t think anybody does, in fact, live a perfect life. But I think that God’s grace makes perfection a possibility.

I would say that I have opportunities to sin literally thousands of times a day. Every time I’m confronted with an opportunity to sin, there is a battle within my soul.

The indwelling Holy Spirit is inclining me toward righteousness and obedience. But remember that the Holy Spirit is living in me, in R. C. Sproul; he’s indwelling an imperfect creature, one who has not been totally cleansed of evil inclinations. So given the manifold opportunities to sin that I have and knowing that there’s warfare with every one of those opportunities between what the Bible calls my flesh and the Spirit, statistically it’s virtually inevitable that I’m going to sin and be far less than perfect.

If we look at them one at a time, we realize that in each single circumstance the power has actually been provided by God to resist that temptation. That’s why I can never stand before God and say, “God, you will have to excuse me; the devil made me do it” or, “The Holy Spirit was not powerful enough within me to have resisted that sin.”

So even though I believe that not even the apostle Paul ever achieved perfection in his life, it’s not because of any lack of power or ability or inclination of the indwelling Spirit.

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Tough Questions with RC Sproul is excerpted from Now, That’s a Good Question!

Is It True That Jesus Never Addressed Same-Sex Marriage?

SOURCE:  Family Life/Daniel Akin

According to the Scriptures, Jesus spoke clearly about sex and marriage, and about issues of the heart.

Today it is popular among those promoting same-sex marriage to say that Jesus never addressed the issue, that He was silent on the subject.

Those who affirm the historical and traditional understanding of marriage between a man and woman often are admonished to go and read the Bible more carefully. If we do so, we are told, we will see that Jesus never addressed the issue. So, the question that I want to raise is, “Is this assertion correct?” Is it indeed a fact that Jesus never addresses the issue of same-sex marriage?

When one goes to the Gospels to see exactly what Jesus did say, one will discover that He addressed very clearly both the issues of sex and marriage. He addresses both their use and misuse. And, as He speaks to both subjects, He makes it plain that issues of the heart are of critical importance.

What did Jesus say about sex?

Jesus believed that sex is a good gift from a great God. He also believed that sex was a good gift to be enjoyed within a monogamous, heterosexual covenant of marriage. On this He is crystal clear. In Mark 7 Jesus addresses the fact that all sin is ultimately an issue of the heart. Jesus was never after behavioral modification. Jesus was always after heart transformation. Change the heart and you truly change the person.

Thus, when He lists a catalog of sins in Mark 7:21-22, He makes it clear that all of these sins are ultimately matters of the heart. It is the idols of the heart that Jesus is out to eradicate. Among those sins of the heart that often give way to sinful actions He would include both sexual immorality and adultery (Mark 7:21). The phrase “sexual immorality,” in a biblical context, would speak of any sexual behavior outside the covenant of marriage between a man and woman.

Therefore, Jesus viewed premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual behavior as sinful. And He knew that the cure for each is a transformation of the heart made possible by the good news of the gospel. The gospel changes us so that now we are enabled to do not what we want, but what God wants. Here we find real freedom and joy.

What about the issue of marriage?

Is it truly the case that Jesus never spoke to the issue in terms of gender? The answer is a simple no. He gives His perspective on this when He addresses the issue in Matthew 19:4-6. There, speaking to the institution of marriage, Jesus is clear when He says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

That Jesus was committed to heterosexual marriage could not be more evident. A man is to leave his parents and be joined to a woman who becomes his wife. This is heterosexual marriage. That He also was committed to the permanence and fidelity of marriage is clear as well.

So how might we sum up the issue?

First, Jesus came to deliver all people from all sin. Such sin, He was convinced, originated in and was ultimately a matter of the heart.

Second, Jesus made it clear that sex is a good gift from a great God, and this good gift is to be enjoyed within heterosexual covenantal marriage. It is simply undeniable that Jesus assumed heterosexual marriage as God’s design and plan.

Third, Jesus sees all sexual activity outside this covenant as sinful.

Fourth, it is a very dangerous and illegitimate interpretive strategy to bracket the words of Jesus and read into them the meaning you would like to find. We must not isolate Jesus from His affirmation of the Old Testament as the Word of God nor divorce Him from His first century Jewish context.

The hope found in Jesus

Fifth, and this is really good news, Jesus loves both the heterosexual sinner and the homosexual sinner and promises free forgiveness and complete deliverance to each and everyone who comes to Him.

John 8 tells the story of a woman caught in adultery. The religious legalists want to stone her, but Jesus intervenes and prevents her murder. He then looks upon the woman and, with grace and tenderness, tells her that He does not condemn her.

Then He says to her, “go and sin no more.” In Matthew 11:28 Jesus speaks to every one of us weighed down under the terrible weight and burden of sin. Listen to these tender words of the Savior, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

This is the hope that is found in Jesus. This is the hope found in the gospel. Whether one is guilty of heterosexual or homosexual sin, one will find grace, forgiveness, and freedom at the foot of the cross where the ground is always level.

When I came to fully trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 20, I determined that I wanted to think like Jesus and live like Jesus for the rest of my life. When it comes to sex I want to think like Jesus. When it comes to marriage I want to think like Jesus.

That means I will affirm covenantal heterosexual marriage. It also means loving each and every person regardless of his or her lifestyle choices. It means, as His representative, proclaiming His gospel and extending the transforming grace of the gospel to others that takes us where we are, but wonderfully and amazingly, does not leave us there. That is a hope and a promise that followers of Jesus gladly extend to everyone, because we have been recipients of that same amazing grace.

Does the Bible Say Much About Homosexuality?

SOURCE:  Kevin DeYoung/Family Life

Some suggest that Christians talk too much about something the Bible hardly addresses.  But the Scriptures are clear and consistent on this issue.

The first step in delegitimizing what the Bible says about homosexuality is to suggest that the Bible hardly says anything about homosexuality. In one sense this is true. The Bible is a big book, and the rightness or wrongness of homosexual practice is not at the center of it. If you read through the 1,189 chapters in the Bible and the more than 30,000 verses, you’ll find only a dozen or so passages that deal explicitly with homosexuality.

So does this mean the traditional view of marriage is based on nothing more than a few fragments? Is it fair to say that just six or seven passages have for centuries prevented those engaged in homosexual activity from finding acceptance in the church? Are denominations and families and friendships and organizations and institutions being torn apart because of a small handful of disputed texts concerning a minor issue about which Jesus never even said anything?

Or to ask the question another way: If the Bible says so little about homosexuality, why do Christians insist on talking about it so much?

Let me make six points by way of response.

1. We need to remember that this controversy was not dreamed up by evangelical Christians.

The reason there is so much discussion about issues like abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage is because many have sought to legalize and legitimize actions that were, until 50 years ago, considered immoral and illegal. When it comes to the cultural flash points of our day, it hardly seems wise to avoid talking about what everyone else is talking about.

2. The reason the Bible says comparatively little about homosexuality is because it was a comparatively uncontroversial sin among ancient Jews and Christians.

There is no evidence that ancient Judaism or early Christianity tolerated any expression of homosexual activity. The Bible says a lot about idolatry, religious hypocrisy, economic injustice, and pagan worship because these were common sins for God’s people in both testaments. The Bible talks about bestiality even less than it talks about homosexuality, but that doesn’t make bestiality an insignificant issue—or incest or child abuse or 50 other sins the Bible barely addresses. Counting up the number of verses on any particular topic is not the best way to determine the seriousness of the sin involved.

3. Having said all that, it’s not like the Bible is silent on the issue of homosexual behavior.

It’s explicitly condemned in the Mosaic law (Leviticus) and used as a vivid example of human rebellion in Paul’s most important letter (Romans). It’s listed among a host of other serious vices in two different epistles (1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy). It’s one of the reasons God destroyed the most infamous cities in the Bible (Sodom and Gomorrah). And that’s not even mentioning all the texts about marriage in Genesis, in Proverbs, in Song of Solomon, in Malachi, in Matthew, and in Ephesians.

4. Furthermore, there is nothing ambiguous about the biblical witness concerning homosexual behavior.

Even many revisionist scholars acknowledge that the Bible is uniformly negative toward same-sex activity. The gay Dutch scholar Pim Pronk, after admitting that many Christians are eager to see homosexuality supported by the Bible, states plainly, “In this case that support is lacking.” Although he doesn’t think moral positions must be dependent on the Bible (which is why he can support homosexual behavior), as a scholar he recognizes that “wherever homosexual intercourse is mentioned in Scripture, it is condemned.”

5. It cannot be overstated how seriously the Bible treats the sin of sexual immorality.

Sexual immorality is precisely the sort of sin that characterizes those who will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  There are at least eight vice lists in the New Testament (Mark  7:21-22; Romans 1:24-31; 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; Revelation 21:8), and sexual immorality is included in every one of these. In fact, in seven of the eight lists there are multiple references to sexual immorality (e.g., impurity, sensuality, orgies, men who practice homosexuality), and in most of the passages some kind of sexual immorality heads the lists. You would be hard-pressed to find a sin more frequently, more uniformly, and more seriously condemned in the New Testament than sexual sin.

6. To insist that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality is not really accurate.

Not only did He explicitly reaffirm the creation account of marriage as the one-flesh union of a man and a  woman (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9); He condemned the sin of porneia (Mark 7:21), a broad word encompassing every kind of sexual sin. The leading New Testament lexicon defines porneia as “unlawful sexual intercourse, prostitution, unchastity, fornication.” Likewise, New Testament scholar James Edwards states that porneia “can be found in Greek literature with reference to a variety of illicit sexual practices, including adultery, fornication, prostitution, and homosexuality. In the Old Testament it occurs for any sexual practice outside marriage between a man and a woman that is prohibited by the Torah.”

Jesus didn’t have to give a special sermon on homosexuality because all of His listeners understood that same-sex behavior was prohibited in the Pentateuch and reckoned as one of the many expressions of sexual sin (porneia) off limits for the Jews. Besides all this, there’s no reason to treat Jesus’ words (all of which were recorded by someone other than Jesus) as more authoritative than the rest of the Bible. He affirmed the abiding authority of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17-18) and understood that His disciples would fill out the true meaning of His person and work (John 14:25-26; 16:12-15; cf. Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:1-2).

We cannot count same-sex behavior as an indifferent matter. Of course, homosexuality isn’t the only sin in the world, nor is it the most critical one to address in many church contexts. But if 1 Corinthians 6 is right, it’s not an overstatement to say that solemnizing same-sex sexual behavior—like supporting any form of sexual immorality—runs the risk of leading people to hell.

Scripture often warns us—and in the severest terms—against finding our sexual identity apart from Christ and against pursuing sexual practice inconsistent with being in Christ (whether that’s homosexual sin, or, much more frequently, heterosexual sin). When we tolerate the doctrine which affirms homosexual behavior, we are tolerating a doctrine which leads people further from God. This is not the mission Jesus gave His disciples when He told them to teach the nations everything He commanded.

The biblical teaching is consistent and unambiguous: Homosexual activity is not God’s will for His people. Silence in the face of such clarity is not prudence, and hesitation in light of such frequency is not patience. The Bible says more than enough about homosexual practice for us to say something, too.

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Adapted excerpt from What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? Copyright © 2015 Kevin DeYoung. Published by Crossway.

 

Sexual Sin: Be Cautious & Active

SOURCE:  David Longacre/Living Free

“All of you must keep awake (give strict attention, be cautious and active) and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 AMP

Are you immune to the temptation of sexual sin?

The truth is, we all have boundaries that, if crossed, can result in the loss of self-control.

The sin of proximity happens when we allow ourselves to be enticed to sin by not avoiding events, people, places, objects or anything else that we know will likely stir up lustful thoughts in our minds. Some would describe the sin of proximity as allowing ourselves to come into contact with the occasion for sin.

When we commit a sin of proximity, what we are doing is setting the stage for overt sin to occur. We are prone to lie to ourselves that what we are doing will not have consequences. We think we can play around the edges of sin without actually acting it out. This thinking is self-deceptive because sin has great power and, if entertained, can overwhelm us.

Avoiding the people or events or things that may tempt us to sexual sin is vital to overcoming sexual addiction or to avoid entering into any kind of sexual sin. We must remember, however, that there is no “formula for success” in this path—otherwise we would trust the formula and not God.

The rules are only tools to enable us to better love Jesus. The real key is to stay in fellowship with Him—to “give strict attention, be cautious and active … and watch and pray.”

Father, I know that only as I stay in close fellowship with you—through prayer and through your Word—will I be able to resist the temptations that come my way. I thank you for your love. Please give me the wisdom and strength to avoid situations and relationships that may entice me to sin. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Crossroads: Choosing the Road to Sexual Purity by David E. Longacre. Crossroads deals with choosing the road to sexual purity.

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