Dealing with Sin

Joshua 7-8

Yesterday we got to see the thrill of victory, even if it didn’t come as expected or immediately, an incredible victory was given to those who did it God’s way. And the walls came a-tumblin’ down at the battle of Jericho.

Today’s lesson is in the agony of defeat – and what happens when we don’t do it God’s way.

The story of Achan and Ai rarely makes it into anyone’s Top 10 stories of the Old Testament. I don’t believe it has a VeggieTales episode or children’s Sunday School song devoted to it. We much prefer talking about victory and Jericho than sin and Achan. But when we don’t talk about it, it’s so much easier to fall into the pit ourselves.

With their confidence bolstered from the impressive win at Jericho, the Israelites send a small delegation to bring down the little town of Ai. But, instead they are met with strong resistance and lose 36 men in their forced retreat.

Even strong and courageous Joshua crumbles at the news. Defeated, already. Why God? Where were you? Why were we even trying to follow you? What will people say of us now?

Doubting and blaming God comes so naturally. It’s often the first response to tragedy and difficulty. But, God was not impressed with Joshua’s line of thinking. I love God’s answer (perhaps I love it a little less when it is directed toward me, though).

Joshua 7:10-12 (NIV)

The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?  Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.  That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

We were having such a good pity party while pointing the finger at God. But, He will have none of it. Israel has sinned. They have violated God’s covenant. They have brought this upon themselves. And they won’t see victory again unless they destroy what has led them into sinning against God.

It is powerful to remember how the sins of one affects so many. My sins have the power to destroy not just me. My sin has tentacles that reach out to negatively impact and harm and destroy those closest to me – my family, as well as my church and my community and even sometimes my nation.

So it was with Achan when his greed led him to steal a few of the treasures of Jericho, just for himself. But as he hid them in his family’s tent, he was utterly destroying their chance for blessing as well. Even the 36 Israelites who died fleeing from Ai would not have perished if God had been blessing their mission. The devastating effects of this sin could have continued to snowball if the sin and the sinner were not revealed and dealt with quickly.

Of course, every tragedy suffered in your country is not a direct result of your own personal sin. But when we turn to blaming God we would be wise to check ourselves first. Perhaps He would tell us, too – “Stand up! _________ has sinned.” Perhaps blessings and victory are being withheld because there is sin in your life, your family, your church, your community, your nation that must be dealt with. Can we trace the defeats of our nation to the sins of our nation? It is easy to think like Achan, that we can hide sin and it will only affect us. But, we are wrong. Sin is serious and it has serious long-reaching effects on many. What are we trying to hide that has led us into sin? It is time to dig it up and destroy it. When we deal with sin, we can have another chance at victory.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 7-8 and Psalm 59-61

Remember

Deuteronomy 9-10

The year was 1990-something and it was a Friday night. High school football playoffs were intense that year. We were headed into an away game against one of our biggest in-district rivals for a spot in the next round of playoffs. 

While I wasn’t a member of the football team, I was a member of the marching band. Our high school administration had gotten wind that we might be greeted with some hostility by the hosting team’s fans. Any MHS student who was riding a bus to the game got the same warning and encouragement:

It doesn’t matter who our opponent is tonight.

Remember who you are…

Remember what is expected of you

Make good choices so we can be proud of you!

As I read through Deuteronomy chapters 9 and 10, I can see similar reminders to the Israelites. 

They are about to enter into the Promised Land and they would be facing the biggest, most intimidating opponents on that side of the Jordan.  

Remember who you are…

You are God’s chosen people, not chosen because of your righteousness, but because of God’s great love for you.

Remember where you came from…

You were held in captivity for 400 years and by God’s great hand, you were released to enter a land that has been hand-picked just for you.

Remember what has been done for you…

Even though you are a rebellious people, deserving of God’s wrath because of your disobedience, you have been saved. 

Remember what is asked of you…

Love God with all of your heart. Show the same generosity towards others that has been shown to you.

Remember the promise that has been given to you…

Even though there is a mighty opponent currently occupying the land – it is yours; I am giving it to you.

Believe what will be done for you…

I (God) took you from seventy people and grew you into a nation as numerous as the stars. Believe what I am telling you.

Since the time of Abraham, God had laid out a vision for the Israelites and now the time had come for this particular generation to take action.

I hope that you have realized that God has also given you a vision for the life that He longs to give to you. Does it scare you just a little bit, because you aren’t really sure how it’s all going to come together? 

Richard Bach, the author of “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”, once said, “You are never given a dream without the power to make it come true.” 

It doesn’t matter what kind of opposition you are facing.

It doesn’t matter what kind of past you have lived.

It doesn’t matter that your resources are inadequate.

As a child of God, you possess the power to make it come true.

So remember who you are…

Remember who loves you…

Remember what has already been done on your behalf…

Remember the promises set out for you…

Believe and go do great things! 

-Bethany Ligon

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 9-10 and Luke 13

Confessing & Confronting

Leviticus 3-4

Yesterday, we looked at the seriousness of sin and the reason why the Israelites were expected to offer sacrifices for those sins. Before we continue on, I want to offer some helpful advice for reading the first few chapters of this book, so that you don’t become overwhelmed. There are only five sacrifices listed here: the burnt offering (ch. 1), the grain/cereal offering (ch. 2), the peace/fellowship offering (ch. 3), the sin offering (ch. 4-5), and the guilt offering (ch. 5-6). Each of these sacrifices are included for different purposes, not always for sin, and all of them have their own process of being offered. Usually a good study Bible will point this out, but just in case you don’t have one, I wanted to offer this to help you along the way.

Have you ever considered how your sins have affected someone else, whether in your family or in your church? When you act out in a sinful way, you are not only affecting yourself, but are infecting the entire community that you are involved in. Leviticus is very strong in chapter 4 on this point, and calls out the leaders and the congregation in the same breath. For those leading churches, homes, or any other area of life, you are responsible for those whom God has put under your care, and when you sin, you are affecting everyone. In Leviticus 4:3, it states that when the anointed priest (i.e. the leader) sins, he brings guilt on the entire congregation. What a responsibility! Maybe that is why the New Testament is so strong on the moral qualifications of those who want to be leaders in the church (see 1 Timothy 3).

It is not just the leader who affects the whole congregation, but the people that are being led also. Leviticus 4:13-21 discusses how the whole congregation is responsible for the sin that takes place within their midst. This truth still carries on today; whatever you do in sin affects those within your community. From “minor” sins like lying and gossipping, to “major” sins like being sexually immoral; these all have results and those results are deadly. The whole congregation of people has an obligation to confront the sin in their midst (in a loving way) and remove that practice from their group (see 1 Corinthians 5).

Church, we need to do better about both confessing sin and confronting it within our midst. When we allow sin to continue unchecked in our churches and homes, we are allowing a deadly cancer to affect everyone within. Leaders, you are responsible for making sure that the people you are leading are taken care of and being as holy as possible for God’s presence. Those of you who are being led, you have a responsibility for keeping your leaders accountable and for doing everything you can to personally confess and deal with your sin. We can all improve in this area, as difficult and awkward as it can be to admit to our faults. However, there is much peace and healing that comes from confessing and confronting the sins in our lives (James 5:16).

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 3-4 and Psalm 7-9

Sin is Serious – And So is Mercy

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 35 & 36 and Matthew 18

I have watched just enough mobster movies to know the awful fate of those who anger the mafia boss and receive the “cement shoes” treatment. That is the vision that always comes to mind when I read of the seriousness of leading a child to sin. “And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5,6 NASB) Jesus was giving a pretty heavy answer to the disciples who had asked who would be greatest in the kingdom. He answered that instead of trying to be great, they should focus on being childlike instead – not immature (we see enough of that), but humble, knowing that they don’t know everything and they need a Father and a Savior. And while the child is standing in their midst – Jesus commends those who welcome a child and blasts those who recklessly (or accidentally?) lead a child to sin. As a parent and a Christian this is a strong warning that I will be judged based on how I am spiritually leading and guiding God’s children. I do not know where the line will be drawn. We might be able to safely point out some cases that would definitely receive Jesus’ condemnation (those who exploit children and youth for sex trafficking, pornography, cults or gangs). But what of the parent who signs their child up for the youth sports, campouts and Sunday morning jobs knowing it will take them away from opportunities for God’s little children to grow closer to Him? I don’t know. But it seems wise to do my best to err on the side of caution. What else can I be doing to spiritually guide His children away from sin? Life is easier when you don’t feel the weight of a millstone around your neck or cement hardening in your shoes.

And, if that isn’t scary enough – Jesus broadens the picture next – to all people and sinners and the extreme measures that need to be taken to keep oneself from falling into sin. “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7 NIV). And then comes the gruesome cutting off of body parts that causes you to sin. This gives a strong mental picture of doing whatever it takes to hold oneself accountable and keep oneself from sin. If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out, to save yourself from judgment and hell. This is definitely true in a metaphorical sense. We need to do all we can, even what would be considered extreme measures, to keep ourselves from sin. And, sometimes that will mean cutting off the influence some people hold over us – cutting off a friend or family member or social media/entertainment who entices us to sin. It’s a hard thing to do, just like cutting off your hand – but it could save your eternal life. And, we must watch ourselves to make sure we are not the ones enticing others to sin!

While I love the parable of the lost sheep and it hurts to skip over it…I am going to skip ahead to the next two passages in Matthew 18 which both deal with the brother who sins against you. Having just established the seriousness of sin, the consequences for those who lead others to sin and the extreme measures we are to employ to keep us from sin – it is easy to assume that the best course of action is to shun all sin and sinners. But, wait, what kind of cut off, silent, lonely, bitter world would that be? While we are all sinners – God gave us a way to be forgiven and to restore relationships. Jesus begins to explain it here.

First, if a brother sins against you – go and talk to him. Matthew 18: 15-17 goes through an important series of steps to work towards either resolution or healthy distance and cutting off -and it starts with talking to the “offender”. Too often when we feel someone has sinned against us we talk to others about it. I know I am guilty of this and need to do a better job of lovingly confronting the person I have an issue with – first. So the steps Jesus laid out are: talk privately to the person, if he doesn’t listen take 1-2 witnesses and try again, if he doesn’t listen tell the church, if he still doesn’t listen cut him off. The goal is always to win him back to ‘God’s saving side’, not to humiliate, point fingers or feel better about ourselves or peace at any cost. But, sometimes repentance doesn’t happen, and then we must be willing to cut the ties that would bring others down to sin as well.

So, let’s assume we correctly followed the steps Jesus left. Peter asked how many times he needed to forgive a brother who sinned against him. He thought 7 sounded like a lot. But Jesus said no – 77 or 70 x 7 or whatever number you want to use to remind yourself to keep forgiving – the same way you want others to forgive you. And the same way God has forgiven you. I think we can safely assume this is not the brother who was unrepentant and cast out of the church, but a brother who was repentant and seeking to live a godly life – but still tripped up – like you and me. And so Jesus lays out the powerful Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (make sure you read it again). Now the harsh words and judgment are not for the sinner who tripped up, or even the one who caused him to sin, but for the one who didn’t forgive. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” (Matthew 18:32-34).

It isn’t that sin is nothing – and easily forgiven. Sin (of all kinds) is something huge and serious and able to block us from eternal life. If we could see how much our sin hurts others, handicaps ourself and damages our relationship with God we might more readily run from it. But we don’t always, and God in His mercy still lays out a way for us to restore a relationship with Him, ultimately it would cost Him the death of His Son Jesus. To accept the forgiveness offered to you, but not extend it to others puts you again in grave danger. Sin is a big deal – and so is mercy.

-Marcia Railton

Jacob in Padan Aram

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 29 & 30 and Matthew 15

In Genesis 29, Jacob arrived in Padan Aram and found his first cousin, Rachel, at a well.  I’m immediately reminded of Genesis 24, where Abraham’s servant came to this same place, probably to this same well, and found Rebekah, the then-future wife of Isaac.  We’re not told if Jacob had prayed for God’s direction like Abraham’s servant did in Genesis 24.  But we do know Jacob went there not only to run away from his brother, whom he had cheated, but also to find a wife.  And bonus, Rachel was a virgin and was gorgeous.

After spending a month working for Laban, Jacob’s uncle, and working hard the whole time, Laban asked what wages Jacob would like as he continued to work for Laban.  In Genesis 29:18, we read, “Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”  He must have really been in love, because we’re told, “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.”  Wow, that sounds like a romance novel (although I haven’t actually ever read one).

At the end of seven years, there was a big wedding ceremony.  When Jacob woke up the next morning, he woke up with Rachel’s older sister, Leah.  Laban had tricked Jacob, and had him marry the wrong girl!  Personally, I can’t imagine how this happened.  Did Jacob celebrate a little too much to notice who he was marrying?  Leah had to be complicit in this subterfuge.  Did Leah keep her veil on until it was dark?  Did she not talk, because presumably the two sisters’ voices sounded different.  Where was Rachel while all this was happening?

Regardless of the answer to any of these questions, Jacob had been tricked into marrying the wrong sister.  After complaining to Laban, he agreed to work another 7 years for the wife he really wanted, and married her a week later.  

Polygamy may sound wrong to us, but there are several examples in the Old Testament of men marrying multiple women.  Having said that, there are no examples of this working out well anywhere in the Bible.  According to Jesus in Matthew 19:4-9, God intended from the beginning that one man would be married to one woman for life.

Anyway, Jacob had tricked his father, and had cheated his brother.  Now, Jacob was tricked by his father-in-law, and (spoiler alert) he would be cheated by his father-in-law repeatedly for 20 years.

This is an example of a principle that we see demonstrated throughout scripture, and in our lives today.  We read in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.”  You may have heard the old axiom, “What goes around comes around.”  Basically, these both mean the same thing – everyone eventually has to deal with the consequences of their actions.

But wait, God had promised rich blessings to Jacob.  Shouldn’t God have prevented Jacob’s problems?  Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.  Followers of God are promised, in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  This takes away God’s punishment for our sins, but it doesn’t take away the natural consequences of our actions.

Despite this, we can still rely on another promise, found in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

In his early life, Jacob was opportunistic and deceitful – looking out for number one.  After working for Laban for 20 years of hardships, Jacob grew to understand that God was looking out for him (See Genesis 31: 38-42).

I think this isn’t just the story of a historical character and his family.  I think these truths still hold true for us today, and we can learn from them.  God will forgive us if we confess and repent.  But we will receive natural consequences for our actions.  Despite this, if we are living in a right relationship with God, everything, even those natural consequences will turn out for our good.

There is an easier way.  We can save ourselves a lot of pain and trouble by just following God from the start.  But we each have to make that choice for ourselves.  What’s your choice?

–Steve Mattison

As in the Days of Sodom and Gomorroh

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 19 & 20 and Matthew 10

I think we can assume it is universally known that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire from heaven for their wickedness.  In Genesis 19:1, we read that Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city.  Historically, important people, like city elders, would sit in the gateway of a city to judge between parties in a dispute, or businessmen would congregate there to transact business.  

2 Peter 2:7 tells us that Lot was a righteous man.  And yet, there he was sitting at the gate of a very wicked city.  This suggests to me that he was assimilating into the wicked city.  I think Lot’s decline started in Genesis 13, when Lot and Abraham had to separate because the land couldn’t support all their flocks and herds.  Lot greedily chose to live in the lush fertile valley near Sodom, and left the barren, rocky heights for Abraham to graze his flocks.  In Genesis 13:12, Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom.  In Genesis 14:12, he lived in Sodom, here, in Genesis 19:1, he was sitting in the gateway of the city, easing his way into assimilating into the sinful city.

Even though Lot was a righteous man, he apparently didn’t exert much Godly influence over the locals.  In Genesis 18:32, God said He would spare the city if only 10 righteous were found there.  As it was, only Lot was considered righteous.  Not only did he not convert others in the city, he couldn’t even convince his own future sons-in-law to leave the city with him.  (And arguably, he didn’t have much positive influence over his own daughters.  Read Genesis 19:30-38 as proof.)

Despite Lot’s poor judgment in choosing where to live, God was very merciful to Lot by sending two angels to lead Lot and his family out of the city before sending judgement.  Once they were clear of the city, God rained down fire and burning sulfur on the cities of the plain, and everything and everyone was destroyed.  Everything Lot had owned, everything he had worked for literally went up in smoke.  Unfortunately, Lot’s wife looked back, presumably longing for what she had left behind.  She died as a result of this.

We’re told in 2 Peter 2:6, “… he (GOD) condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…”  This story in Genesis 19 is an example of what will happen when Jesus returns, when He will save the righteous, and destroy the wicked by fire.

In Luke 17, Jesus is talking about conditions before the second coming of Christ.  Luke 17: 28-32 says, “It was the same in the days of Lot.  People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.  But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, no one who is on the roof of his house with his goods inside should go down to get them.  Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything.  Remember Lot’s wife.”

I think there are several applications for us.  

First, if you don’t have a relationship with the Lord, it’s imperative you fix that right now.  Isaiah 55:6-7 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

Second, If you do have a relationship with the Lord, continuously work on strengthening that relationship with the Lord.  Especially since we don’t know when Jesus will return and we don’t know when we will die.  We should live in such a way that we would always be ready to give an account for our lives.  2 Corinthians 5:10 reminds us:  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Next, we should all carefully choose the situations in which we find ourselves, and seriously consider whether we are being conformed to the patterns of the sinful people around us, or if we’re influencing others for the Lord.

Finally, we should not become too attached to the world or anything in it.

1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”

I’ll close by challenging you to follow Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

–Steve Mattison

Follow the 2021 SeekGrowLove.com Bible reading plan to read the Bible in a year – with an Old Testament and a New Testament/Psalms/Proverbs reading each day. Together let’s Seek God, Grow spiritually and Love Him and others more and more!

It’s Time to Get the Heck out of Dodge

Revelation 14-18

Dodge City, Kansas made the perfect background for many of the early westerns that hit the silver screen. Any title character was the game-changing lawman who took on the town that was historically and notoriously known for its gunslingers, reckless living, violence, and pretty much the hub for all things unabiding and uncouth.  Dodge became the epitome of frontier lawlessness, and those who resided there were in a collective agreement: every man or woman for himself.  What initially seemed like a good time, a get rich quick plan, or a temporary set of circumstances became a way of life for most those who stayed, and ironically for many, that is exactly what it cost them to stay in Dodge: their life.  Those few that escaped the cruel fates of this city, these ethical outsiders who found themselves living inside its “walls”, could see the turn of the tide, and knew it was time to get the heck out of Dodge.

Dodge City is not alone for its notoriety as an evil city.  Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family hailed from Sodom and Gommah, cities God destroyed with sulfur and fire because of their wickedness.  God also gave instructions to Joshua to destroy the seven nations that were descended from Canaan (who did equally despicable things including child sacrifice).  Additionally, a once-blessed Babylon is handed over to Darius which would lead to an idiom in its own right, because God spoke through the “handwriting on the wall.” In each of these instances, God provides opportunities for the inhabitants of the places to get the heck out. (Angel’s warning and Lot’s escape (Genesis 19); Jericho’s march and Rahab’s salvation (Joshua 6); Jeremiah; Israelites spared (Daniel 5)

As we see in the prophecy delivered in Revelation, there is a new nation that is forming/formed that is not the Babylon of old, but a new one represented by an adulterous woman (Rev 12) There are definite similarities in the wickedness that is taking place in the future and that of Babylon’s past.  This new Babylon is a place of great excess which results in every opportunity to do evil (including the destruction of God’s prophets), and possibly a physical location to the events that are taking place near New Jerusalem (although some think it may be a western civilization like the United States) soon to be established by Jesus.  So what is the word given for those who reside in this place?  That same warning delivered by Jeremiah 600 years prior:  Flee from Babylon!  Run for your lives! (Jeremiah 51:6)  

We do not need to be able to pinpoint on a map where this new Babylon is in order to make plans to run in the direction of God.  He will deliver those who follow his perfect and pleasing will, making a way for those who choose Him.  While the United States or the Western World may or may not be the Babylon spoken of here in this text, with some quick conjecture, there are striking similarities in the way our culture is rapidly shifting in the last half-century or so.  The quest to be the source of  knowledge is valued more than faith in God Almighty. Our wealth and standard of living continue to increase, but so do our distractions and devices. Lawful and unlawful wickedness occurs even to the point that lives of children are being destroyed.  So, does this mean that we should flee to a new country?  Probably not. And it isn’t our physical location that is the primary issue.  It is the heart. We need to make distinctions about our citizenship – it is kingdom bound first.  We are simply in this world, not living for it.

So where have you made your encampment?  Just outside of Sodom?  It won’t be long before you are inside the city walls (Genesis 13:12).  Is your indulgence a constant? Then it is not a vacation home — it’s where you live. Run away from Sodom!  Flee from Babylon!  Get the heck out of Dodge!  This is a cry to myself and to you.  Keep yourself from getting tangled in the web of fulfilling your every whim, pursuing knowledge that gives you some sort of power or position, and desiring things that have nothing to do with God’s kingdom. Your diplomas, your clothing, your dwelling, and your status are the commodities of moths.  Bridle your body so your hands and feet are available to do the work of God or physically move if you must (FLEE! 2 Timothy 2:22) Only then can we be saved from the fate of Babylon and live in the fullness of the new city worth taking up residence.

-Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Revelation 14-18

Tomorrow we finish the book and the year with Revelation 19-22.

Stay tuned for the big unveil – SeekGrowLove’s Bible Reading Plan for 2021!

Jesus is Greater : Priesthood, Covenant, Warnings

Hebrews 7-10


What is the theme of Hebrews? 


JESUS IS GREATER!

Today, we learn about two things that Jesus introduces that are greater than what came before.  In Hebrews 7, we are told that a greater priesthood is needed. It is impossible for people to be perfected through the Levitical Priesthood, the priesthood of the Old Testament. Something greater, a new priesthood, had to come to make all people perfect. Because Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice, his blood covers all those who come to God through him. Because Jesus lives forever, we need no other priest. Because Jesus has been raised and magnified, he is able to help us in our weakness. The priesthood of Jesus allows us to be made sinless.

 We can overcome sin through the power of Jesus. 
Because of this new priesthood, we can have a better covenant. This covenant is the way God interacts with his people. First, he gave commands to Noah, then to Abraham, then to Moses. He would say “I will bless you, watch over you, and save you, and you will do this for me” and give them rules for the best possible life. The covenant God gives to people in Jesus is the new and final covenant, the best way of any way to follow him, worship him, serve him, find salvation in him, and love others in him. We do not keep the Mosaic Law because the author of Hebrews tells us it has been superseded by the sacrifice of Jesus, a greater sacrifice. Jesus is the mediator of this new covenant. The sanctuary, the temple, the sacrifices are all perfected in Jesus, as he fulfills them through his death and resurrection to life. 


Because of all this, because Jesus is greater than Angels, Moses, and Joshua, because he institutes a better priesthood and covenant, in Hebrews 10:19-25, the author says “Let us, let us, let us”. The author is encouraging the readers to live out faith in response to the great message of Christ. 


This gets us into the last point I want to make today. Right after this encouragement, we read a warning in Hebrews 10:26-31 about willful sin. This isn’t the first warning. In Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7-19, and 5:11-6:12(20), 10:19-39 and 12:14-29 are all warnings. (You can go read them.) As you go back and focus on these, they may stand out as strange. But again, the main theme of Hebrews is JESUS IS GREATER. The warnings in Hebrews say “Don’t turn away from the one who is greater, from the one who perfects, from the plan of God for the ages. There will be a day when the world will be made right, and you know the one who will hold you close and allow you to be made perfect! DON’T TURN AWAY FROM JESUS!” 


My brothers and sisters, along with the author of Hebrews, don’t turn away from Jesus. Remain faithful to the one who is greater!

-Jacob Ballard

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Hebrews 7-10.

Tomorrow we finish the book of Hebrews (chapters 11-13).

My Sinful Nature

Romans 4-7

I’m skipping right to the end of chapter seven, to a dilemma that many Christians wrestle with.

Starting in verse 15, Paul says, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Paul really nails what I and so many other Christians struggle with – the question of why do I continue to sin if I have turned my life over to Christ?  Certainly all Christians still sin.  I know my sins, and you know yours.  But why do we continue to repeat certain sins over and over, if we know they are wrong, and we want to change our behavior?  It’s frustrating.  Many new Christians especially think they have left sin behind once they have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, only to be discouraged to discover that their sin nature is alive and well within them, as Paul points out.

I cannot begin to attempt to explain or examine every facet of sin, and why Christians still find themselves caught up in various sins, but I can offer at least one strategy that has worked for me, dealing with a specific sin.  We should all have strategies for overcoming our biggest sin obstacles. 

The following is an excerpt from the marriage book From This Day Forward by Craig and Amy Groeschel.

-“I have a special software installed that, although it allows me to get on the internet when I need to, filters what sites I can get to.  And it sends reports of everything I see to my accountability partners.  Maybe this sounds extreme to you (which doesn’t bother me at all).  Maybe it sounds like a lot of trouble.  It is.   An obvious question might be, “So are you really that weak and vulnerable Craig?  That if nobody was watching, you’d look at things that were immoral or impure?”  I can honestly say the answer is, “No, not really.”  Right now as I’m writing this, and as I’m thinking about these things, I’m in a really good place.  My resolve is strong.  I’m confident in my relationship with Christ, and everything is going really well.  So why bother?  Because if you are honest, you know that not every single moment of your life looks like that.  Sometimes I get tired.  Sometimes my feelings get hurt, or I get angry, or I feel like I’m not getting everything I deserve.  And then, in those fleeting moments of weakness, every door to temptation that I might otherwise try to turn to is completely, thoroughly, securely locked.  Strong Craig of this moment is looking out for weak Craig of those other moments.”

This is great advice.  (By the way, the software he is speaking of is likely called Covenant Eyes, which we use in our house).  When we are strong, we often don’t think about our weaknesses.  But that is the best time to acknowledge them and plan what to do in case they return.  If we can cut off access to committing some of the sins we have struggled with, then do it, if at all possible.

But when we do sin, whether large or small, habitual sin or not, we need not be discouraged to the point of giving up.  Remember that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  And Paul humbly acknowledged that even he struggled with continuing to commit sins after accepting Christ.   Our sin nature will not be completely shed until, Christ returns, and he delivers us from it.  Until that day, we should be working to sin less and less.  There are certainly strategies we can employ to try to accomplish that, as mentioned already.  But thanks be to God that Christ’s blood covers us, despite our sins. 

-Greg Landry


Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Romans 4-7.

Tomorrow we continue with Romans 8-10.