Monthly Archives: April 2016

Why We Sin…and the Truth That Sets Us Free

We sin for the same reason that Eve sinned – we believe that God’s way is NOT the way of joy and happiness. In short, we are tempted by a lie, the same lie the enemy told Eve: “God does not have your best in mind.” This is what the Serpent insinuated to Eve in the Garden:

“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 (ESV)

Paraphrased, the enemy said: “Eve, the only reason God told you not to eat that fruit is because He is not on your side – He doesn’t want the best for you.”

In other words, He doesn’t love you.

In our day, the lie regarding God’s character forms the heart of Satan’s temptation in our lives. And we soon find ourselves leaning toward pride, impurity, deceit, anger, greed, and a mile long list of other sins.  All because at heart, perhaps subconsciously, we don’t believe God’s heart toward us is kind, and therefore, living according to God’s ways is not in our best interest.

The Truth That Sets Us Free

But what if there were something that could convince us down deep in our hearts of God’s love? What if there was a truth that, applied to our hearts, convinced us once and for all that God did have good plans for us, that His ways are best? Might that truth enable us to say no again and again to the powerful but “passing pleasures of sin”? Well, I have good news (so to speak!). Jesus said that we would know the greatest kind of love – when someone substitutes himself for another so that the other might live…

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (ESV)

And ever after He said this, Jesus’ followers have been drawing our attention to the love of God found when Jesus offered Himself on our behalf…

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 (ESV)

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:5-8 (ESV)

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 2 Corinthians 5:14 (ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20 ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)

The truth stated over and over again in the New Testament is that the cross is THE WAY that God has demonstrated His love for us. The cross is a demonstration of God’s love because it is where Jesus substituted Himself for us. In other words, understanding the substitutionary atonement of Christ leads to understanding His objective love. Therefore, if you want to convince someone that God has their best in mind, point to the cross. And if you want to be convinced yourself of God’s kind intentions toward you, look at the cross…and remember His love. As Pastor Matt Chandler illustrates….

“It was the cross that wooed me out of depression after the oncologist told me I would have two years. (I thought), ‘Is God against me?’…And yet it was the cross that sits on the right hand of our stage that in our sanctuary, wrestling with the Lord, that I was reminded, ‘How can you for a second believe I am not for you?'”

Therefore, Calvary is not only the glorious act of God that takes our sins away; but contemplating it is also one of the great ways we avoid doubt and sin going forward. Now this kind of contemplation is not a quick-fix on Tuesday to stop sinning on Wednesday but a lifetime project to help us in our struggle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Since we so easily forget His love, we need to be reminded again and again throughout our lives. No wonder Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper – He wanted us to remember that we are forgiven…and he wanted us to remember that we are deeply loved.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 (ESV)

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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Uncategorized


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A Great Secret of Prayer…

Here is John Calvin from his Institutes of the Christian Religion expressing a great truth about prayer:

“If we would pray fruitfully, we ought therefore to grasp with both hands this assurance of obtaining what we ask, which the Lord enjoins with his own voice, and all the saints teach by their example. For only that prayer is acceptable to God which is born, if I may so express it, out of such presumption of faith, and is grounded in unshaken assurance of hope. He could have been content with the simple mention of faith, yet he not only added confidence but also fortified it with freedom or boldness, that by this mark he might distinguish from us the unbelievers, who indeed indiscriminately mingle with us in our prayers to God, but by chance. The whole church prays in this way in the psalm: “Let thy mercy be upon us, even as we have hoped in thee” (Psalm. 33:22, Comm.). Elsewhere the prophet lays down the same condition: “In the day when I call, this I know, that God is with me” (Psalm. 56:9 Comm.). Likewise: “In the morning I will make ready for thee, and watch.” (Psalm. 5:3 Comm.). From these words we conclude that prayers are vainly cast upon the air unless hope be added, from which we quietly watch for God as from a watchtower.”

What is He saying? Don’t pray unless you “add hope” that God will answer! Grasp with both hands the truth that God answers prayer, and never let go of that truth. Prayers should always be sent to heaven with an “assurance of obtaining”. Look in particular at the verses Calvin quotes. He is saying that our heavenly Father wants us to be confident in praying; He wants to know that His mercy will be upon us (answers will come) according to how we have hoped in Him.

So pray an “acceptable” prayer today…the kind of prayer which believes a prayer-answering God is hearing you.


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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Uncategorized


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A Sign That Your Money, or Anything Else, is an Idol

We know that idols still exist today, but spotting them in western culture is trickier than it was 3,000 years ago when they sat on altars in the center of a family home.

An idol is anything that we look to for the security and significance that we should only find in God. And if this is the case, well, then, the sky’s the limit on what can actually be an idol. My job can be an idol, my spouse, my car, my children, etc.

And yet it’s the idol of money that Jesus speaks to so clearly in Matthew 6:24…

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (ESV)

Of course money can be an idol, because it is so very easy to find self-worth (significance) and security in a large bank account.

But how do you really tell if your money is an idol to you, or if anything else you have falls into that category? Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods has been a help to me in discernment, but reading in Proverbs the other day, I found another sign: Idols make you “calculate inwardly” and keep you from focusing on what really matters.

In Proverbs 23, our writer has just finished warning us not to “toil to acquire wealth”, to be “discerning enough to desist”, for money disappears easily, or as he says, it “suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

And then he says this…

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
and waste your pleasant words. Proverbs 23:6-8 (ESV)

When something is an idol, you must constantly inwardly calculate whether you will lose it; in other words, you can never rest your mind. This is why, when you are eating dinner with a “stingy” person, someone who serves and worships money as an idol, you can never really have a true conversation with him – he is always “inwardly calculating”, thinking about his money and what he can do to keep it from “sprouting wings.”

As the writer puts it, “his heart is not with you.” In contemporary idiom, “his mind is somewhere else.” Therefore, you “waste your pleasant words.” Idolaters make lousy conversationalists.

And such is what idols do to us again and again. Whether it is money or a girlfriend or a job, if the particular object has become an idol, we lose ourselves in it and are always “inwardly calculating” what we can do to keep it from going away. Idols keep our minds from rest.

In fact, many people, understanding salvation incorrectly, relate to the true God incorrectly as a idol. They believe that they are saved by works and not by grace through faith, and therefore they are always inwardly calculating: “Have I done enough? Does God love me yet? What can I yet do to prove my sincerity? Have I earned my way into God’s acceptance?”

But in a relationship with Jesus Christ, when God becomes my Father and will never “sprout wings” and abandon me, I need never calculate again. As a result I find myself loving Him in return, and the only “calculation” I do is relaxed and joyful, centering around this question: “How can I take everything I have, my money, my relationships, my work, etc., and use it all in passionate service of this good and gracious God who has freed my heart and soul?”

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 (ESV)



Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Uncategorized


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A Test For Success: Do You Have This Trait?

Smarter Faster BetterJust finished Charles Duhigg’s new book, Smarter Faster Better, subtitled The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize winning reporter for the New York Times, and not surprisingly is a great (non-fiction) storyteller.  In his book he takes us from the cockpit of a crashing airliner to a white-knuckle championship poker game with $2 million up for grabs, in order to show us how to get better at doing whatever we do.

It was packed with insights, and a delight to read. And I found myself asking if I personally had one trait that he says (in fact, researchers for years have been saying) is indispensable: an internal locus of control. In brief, do you take responsibility for what happens to you (internal locus of control), or do you tend to blame others for your life and circumstances (external locus of control)?

Duhigg writes…

“Researchers have found that people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves for success or failure, rather than assigning responsibility to things outside their influence. A student with a strong internal locus of control, for instance, will attribute good grades to hard work, rather than natural smarts. A salesman with an internal locus of control will blame a lost sale on his own lack of hustle, rather than bad fortune.”

“‘Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher self motivation and social maturity, lower incidences of stress and depression, and longer lifespan,’ a team of psychologists wrote in the journal Problems and Perspectives in Management in 2012. People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, and report greater professional success and satisfaction.”

“In contrast, having an external locus of control – believing that your life is primarily influenced by events outside your control – “is correlated with higher levels of stress, (often) because an individual perceives the situation as beyond his or her coping abilities,” the team of psychologists wrote.

This insight strikes me as being hopeful, and at its core…Christian. We are, after all, called to be responsible for ourselves:

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV)

And therefore, in the end, taking responsibility for oneself is the first step toward becoming a Christian. For in order to embrace the gospel, I must first admit that I am a sinner – I have made my choices that have landed me where I am in life…and I need a Savior.

But surely all people, Christians and non-believers, would fall at different places on the internal or external locus of control scale, and Duhigg happily prescribes some help in growing our internal locus of control:

“Internal locus of control is a learned skill,” Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist who helped conduct that study, told me. “Most of us learn it early in life. But some people’s sense of self-determination gets suppressed by how they grow up, or experiences they’ve had, and they forget how much influence they can have on their own lives.”

“That’s when training is helpful, because if you put people in situations where they can practice feeling in control, where that internal locus of control is reawakened, then people can start building habits that make them feel like they are in charge of their own lives – and the more they feel that way, the more they really are in control of themselves.”


Posted by on April 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


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