Confess

Leviticus 5-7

Leviticus 5 5 NIV

Confession – yesterday we talked about Christ’s sacrifice replacing the Old Testament offerings. I also mentioned how we often take for granted the fact we no longer have to make the sacrifices. In those sacrifices, it was just that, a sacrifice – the people had to give something that they could have enjoyed because of their sin.

Even though there was a loss, the people had no clear way to alleviate the weight of guilt and find forgiveness in their lives. God has provided another way to help with that – Confession.

Confession is something that is hard to do. Many lie, deny and push blame on others just to avoid confessing. It is something that God asks of us not for his benefit but for ours. I remember being told often as a kid the only way to fix a problem  is to realize there is one. And that is what confession is.

Further, confession gives a proper view on sin, God and ourselves.

The punishment for sin is death – we need a proper view of sin. I have often heard of people talk about their sin as “Not that big of a deal.” Sin is just that, SIN. If it is wrong, we shouldn’t do it. Sin that is not confessed and not repented of leads to missing out on the Kingdom.

God cannot be in the presence of sin – we need a proper view of God. Our God is a holy God. He expects purity not just in our actions but also our hearts. (Matt. 5:8 says the pure heart will see God.)

We cannot do it on our own – we need a proper view of ourselves. We often try to fix our problems on our own. Sin is not something we can fix on our own or earn enough to repay the debt. We need a savior and Christ is willing to step in on our behalf.

A couple tips on confession:

Confess immediately – when you know you have done something wrong do not push it off. It is easy to push it off.

Confess specifically – I hear a lot of prayer that vaguely ask for all sins to be forgiven. Make it personal and specific.

Confess honestly – Take it serious and do not make promises you know you will not keep.

Confess to someone else – this is something I push in the church. For some reason people are afraid of letting others know about their sin. Most will acknowledge they are a sinner but would never discuss their struggles for fear of other’s judgement. Find someone you trust and create an open discussion and ask for accountability.

John Wincapaw

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+5-7&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Leviticus 8-10 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Heart of a Traitor

Matthew 26

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I have often heard that there can be no forgiveness for Judas. After all, Judas committed the worst crime imaginable; he delivered Jesus into the hands of the executioner. Not only did he betray his closest friend, he sold Jesus for the price of 30 silver coins. People estimate this to be worth anywhere from $90-$3000. If you ever watch crime shows, you know that $3000 is a miserly sum to ask for a task such as that. This just shows how greedy Judas was. In fact, in John 12:3-6, we see that Judas frequently steals from the money box. Judas is the one who was upset with the woman who poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. He claimed that he wanted to give the money to the poor, but he actually wanted to take some of the money for himself. According to some, these sins aren’t even the worst that he committed. The worst sin was denying forgiveness.

I want to challenge this idea. I believe it is entirely possible that Judas could have been forgiven and we will see him in the kingdom of God. In 1 John 1:9, it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Did Judas confess his sins? We can read in Matthew 27 that Judas “was filled with remorse.” He even declares openly to the priests, saying, “I have sinned.” Judas confessed. Is God not faithful and just? We know that he is, so there must be forgiveness available even for Judas.

Mark 3:28 says that “all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” Now we must ask, did Judas blaspheme the Holy Spirit? First, we must determine what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. In Catholic teaching, six acts constitute blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and three of them could apply to Judas, those being despair, obstinacy in sin and final impenitence.

To despair is to believe that your sins are beyond forgiveness. It’s hard for me to say that this applies to Judas after he returned to the priests and tried to return the money. He was seeking forgiveness and the priests turned him away saying, “What do we care? That’s your problem.” If anything, this is a sin by the priests for refusing Judas the support that he needed. The argument that Judas did despair is that he proceeded to hang himself. Why would he do this if he believed that he was forgiven? This is a fair point, but once again, this seems to hang on the priests who refused to tell him that there was forgiveness for his sins. Perhaps Judas despaired, and perhaps not, but I can’t see his heart. Only God can.

Obstinacy in sin is the persistence in sin even after sufficient admonishment. It appears as though Judas was persistent in his greed and thievery, seeing as John wrote about it. Here, there are a few questions to ask. How much is too much to be forgiven? How long had Judas been doing this? I can’t answer either of those questions. I personally believe in change of heart. Even if Judas had been continuing in this sin for a long time, he could have had a change of heart once Jesus was sentenced to die and he realized the error of his sin. Thus, he sought forgiveness. This question leads to another, more philosophical question: Can a man who has lived his whole life in sin receive forgiveness in the last moments of his life? Once again, I don’t have a firm answer, but I tend to believe that obstinacy in sin isn’t even a blasphemy against the spirit. If one sin can be forgiven, then two sins can be forgiven. Jesus said to forgive others 77 times. He also said if you forgive others, our heavenly Father will forgive us. Hence, we can receive forgiveness for the same sins over and over. It’s never too late to receive forgiveness.

The final blasphemy is final impenitence. This is the only one that I could see applying to Judas. Impenitence means failure to repent. Did Judas fail to repent before his death? I think not because of the way he sought out the priests, but once again, I don’t know Judas’ heart. Only God does.

Either way, if Judas is guilty or forgiven, I think it is dangerous to talk in terms of absolute forgiveness because in the end, we are not the judges. God is.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Warning: Lethal Wound

Psalm 38

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I am afraid we have an ugly topic to talk about today.  It’s no fun, but it has to be done.  It is more fun to talk about sunshine, knitting and fruit salad (see the last two days’ posts).  But when we don’t talk about this topic and acknowledge it and be on the defensive against it, it has a way of festering, oozing out of control and taking over by force – consuming ourself and others in its path of destruction.

I am talking about sin.  One verse toward the end of yesterday’s psalm about trials points to the seriousness of sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) .  Ouch.  The All-Powerful God who loves and cares for me will not hear my prayers, my petitions, or even my praise if my sin is creating a sound-proof barrier between me and Him.  His holiness will not allow it.  Sin is serious and must be dealt with in order for me to be heard by God.

King David was a man who knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of sin.  In Psalm 38 he describes many consequences of sin: God’s anger and discipline, ill health, overwhelming guilt, searing pain, severe depression, social isolation, increased enemies, and confusion.  What other consequences can you find in this psalm?  He states, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” (Psalm 38:5).

The thing is…”sinful folly” sounds just a wee bit fun, doesn’t it??  Maybe it’s a glance at pornography, experimenting with friends doing drugs or alcohol, speeding recklessly down the interstate with some great tunes cranking out, making out with your significant other, or getting a good laugh out of the lunch crew when you share a great put-down.  It’s a little exhilarating – for a time.  And that’s the trouble with sin.  It can start by seeming like no big deal.  I highly doubt that King David woke up one morning and said, “This is the day.  I am going to go watch a woman bathe, and then commit adultery and that will lead to deception, murder, the death of my child, a plaque of violence on my family, and ….   No one plans to be sucked into a downward spiral of sin, deceit and pain.  Rather, it begins with small acts of selfishness – thinking of my own pleasure over and above what is right, pleasing to God and helpful to others.  And then the demon of pride enters and says we can handle this burning coal and we won’t get burned.  So, we say yes to that little urge of ‘sinful folly’.

Before we know it, we are facing festering wounds and a forest fire.  And the good-feeling exhilaration is long gone.  In it’s place is only pain, isolation, depression, guilt and confusion.

Sadly, this is not true for only adulterous murderers.  It is the same for me.  It is the same for you.  It is the same for the most saintly person you know.  In the New Testament James gives the same warning David does: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15).  Sin is a big deal, and not just for the sinner, but for so many others who will be affected.

I was looking for a great picture of gangrene to open this devotion.  They were much worse than I had anticipated (as is the case with sin) so I will not include an actual visual.  But, imagine, blackened decaying flesh surrounded by raw, oozing, pain.  Death has set in – even while the rest of the body lives.  Sin, left unchecked and allowed to grow, is like this extreme infection.  It leads to death most certainly – if not treated.  Sin, too, must be treated, and the earlier the better.  Psalm 38:18 shares the first important step to restoration: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”  Tear down the sound-proof barrier your sins have built up between you and God.  Cry out to him in confession.  Thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who died so we might be forgiven when we come to the Father with a repentant heart, ready to be obedient in turning from our sins and seeking to live a holy life.

Even gangrene can be healed.  It requires hard dirty work (sometimes even using amputation or maggots) – a process of cutting out and destroying the old which causes death.  Maybe a friend who is a bad influence needs to be cut out, or maybe it’s a TV channel or social media.  And, then a lot of antibiotics and sometimes lifestyle changes are needed to return to health. God’s Word, prayer, a church body and healthy habits are great antibiotics for a repentant sinner.

Remember our memory verse for this week from Psalm 139:24 – “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Sin is serious – even when it starts small.  Don’t let sins fester.  Pray for conviction where conviction is due, and healing and restoration where that is needed.  And seek out the everlasting way.

-Marcia Railton

 

 

 

 

 

Confession Time

PROVERBS 28

Proverbs 28-18

Verses 13-28 examine the fates of the wicked compared to the righteous.  Verse 13 reads, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”  In which camp would you routinely place yourself?  Are there certain parts of our lives that we are quick to share if we sin or fall short, but others that we conceal for the sake of reputation or fear of conflict or avoidance of the consequences?  This verse doesn’t specify between transgressions; whoever conceals his sins will not prosper.  Confessing before the Lord and all other necessary parties brings mercy and an opportunity for growth.  Are there specific wrongs in your life that need to come into the light?  We all have room for growth, and we should ask the Lord to reveal to us our shortcomings.  John 15:2 reads, “Every branch that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  Even our fruitful endeavors need pruning.

 

I would encourage you to pray about your transgressions.  Admit to yourself and the Lord that you have sins, not that you just make mistakes or have oversights.  Ask for help in renouncing and repenting of these shortcomings, and actually try to follow through in walking away from whatever you have been keeping in the dark.  Don’t just make a quick promise, but deliberately seek righteousness.

 

-Megan Bryant

VOMIT!

Proverbs 26-28

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Sunday, January 29

My husband Jason and I have been in youth ministry for many years and one boy who was in the youth group about 20 years ago comes to mind every time I hear his very favorite Bible verse, “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)  What middle school boy doesn’t love a great vomit verse!  But middle school boys are not the only ones to love this proverb.  Jesus’ disciple, Peter, the Rock Jesus would build his church on showed his wisdom (and knowledge and reliance on God’s Word) when he quoted this very proverb in 2 Peter 2:22.  Peter was referring to the foolishness, and danger, of false prophets who had once been worldly, then accepted Jesus, but then, “turned their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (2 Peter 2:21).  Just like a dog who returns to his vomit.  How disgustingly gross.  All of us have some gross vomit and worldly foolishness in our past.  What vomit in your life would you be wise to not return to?  How will you avoid turning back to your gross folly?

Another proverb that got my full attention was 28:9 – “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable”.  Look at that – God’s detest list shows up again.  And this time PRAYERS are on the list??  I thought God loved to hear us come to him in prayer with our long list of wants and occasionally a praise or thank you thrown in – who wouldn’t love that?  When in the world would prayers be detestable to God?  I don’t think I learned this in Sunday School, or Facebook for that matter.  Thankfully, Solomon (or the writer of this proverb, who was inspired to write this by God) doesn’t leave us clueless.  He says prayers are detestable IF the “prayee” doesn’t listen to the law – doesn’t abide by God’s Word.  Perhaps you have seen someone quite content totally neglecting God’s law, hands over ears, living life their own way, returning to their vomit frequently, when all of a sudden – BAM – a crisis sends them to God in prayer.  They are ready for their miracle.  And some days, I am also guilty of not being fully tuned into listening to God’s law.  And then I could become quick to blame God for not hearing my prayers and giving me the answer requested, on my time schedule of course.

The good news is, there are many prayers God does NOT find detestable.  “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”  (James 5:16).  Next time you are frustrated with a “silent” God who doesn’t seem to hear you at all, one possibility is to do a check-up on how well YOU have been listening to HIS law.  Perhaps, God is not the one with the hearing problem.

The lovely thing about the book of Proverbs is there are SO many topics and brief nuggets of truth.  Each time you read them you can see something different and new and exceedingly wise for you at whatever point you are in life (even a middle school boy) and at whatever stage you are in following God (even those not currently listening to Him.)   Dig in regularly to gain another morsel of truth and Godly wisdom.  So many pearls of wisdom in today’s chapters, with not enough time to touch on them all, but just a few more quick thoughts. . .

ON HUMILITY –      “Do you see someone wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him” (26:12)     “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (27:2)    –  Don’t be the proud bragger.  No one likes the proud bragger.

ON CONFESSION –    “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)     –   God’s not looking for perfect people, just ones willing to ask for forgiveness and turn from their sins.

ON GREED & GIVING –   “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.”  (28:25)     “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.” (28:27)     –   Greed does not bring about the prosperous life intended – but giving does.

God Bless You as you Listen to His Law,                                                                                              Marcia Railton

(Photo credit: cartoon by Elgin Bolling.  Maybe a little posted reminder would help you steer clear of revisiting your vomit/folly.  You can go to the ministry-to-children website to color your own black and white version of the dog cartoon above created by Elgin Bolling.  Just go to http://ministry-to-children.com/fool-and-his-folly-proverbs-26-cartoon/)

Maggots! And Great Grace!

Job 22-26

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Monday, December 19

Job is repeatedly told by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that it is Job’s actions that have brought this wicked fate upon him.  In today’s reading, Bildad poses a question to Job, but really, calls into question the righteousness of every man.

 

How then can a mortal be righteous before God?  How can one born of woman be pure? – Job 25:4

 

The truth is that Job, his friends, you, and I have all suffered from the same condition.  We have sinned: an act of contempt against our Creator.  It doesn’t matter if we strayed for a moment or a lifetime, it separates us from a Holy God, and it makes us like maggots clinging to garbage; our righteousness is like filthy rags. (Job 25:6; Isaiah 64:6)

 

There is nothing that man can do to gain the grace of God.  It is a gift that no amount of church attendance, prayer, Bible study, charity, or good work earns.  Redemption comes only through our faithful Father’s plan of salvation.  (Ephesian 2:8)

 

The inverse of this is an equally powerful message.  No man with the breath of God in his lungs can lose His grace.  You cannot be selfish enough, you cannot hate enough, you cannot deny his existence enough, and you cannot curse his grace away; it is there faithfully following and patiently awaiting confession and surrender.  (Isaiah 59:1; Romans 8:38-39)

 

A small glimpse into tomorrow’s reading reveals our new attitude because of this:

Until then,

Aaron Winner

 

A Quick Fix? (I Samuel 18-20)

Friday, October 14th

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By: Terrence Raper

I guess this should make me feel bad, but in a lot of ways I identify with Saul throughout most of these last chapters of 1 Samuel. We don’t lead very parallel lives. That is to say, there isn’t a whole lot of killing and foreskin collecting  in my life(actually none, in case you were worried). However I feel like Saul’s story in these chapters is a desperate one. He is a man who was ordained king, and for a brief time was on top of the world. Saul even had favor with God for a short time. However he disobeyed God, and continued down that path.

In Saul’s disobedience, he kept looking for a quick fix. So as he has lost favor with God, and Samuel has ordained someone else as king, Saul thinks he can fix this, just by killing the future king. He continues to make poor decisions, and soon his family is involved. Saul is making a huge mess of everything. I can relate to this. I have had times in my life when I went against what God wanted for me. Because of my disobedience I began to suffer in some way, and instead of repenting and changing my behavior-I looked for a quick fix. A way out of the discomfort without confession.

We can make a huge mess if we decide to go our own route after we have sinned. God has so much better planned for us in our lives, than running from him, and feeling awful. We may have to go through the pain of confessing, or coming clean with God and others. However the reconciliation will free us from the feelings of desperation. And it will eventually repair our sin and relationships.