Tag Archives: sin

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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When Faced With A Decision, Ask This Insightful Question…

Asking-Front[1]Bobb Biehl is the master of questions. He is the President of Masterplanning Group International, and years ago wrote a beautiful little pamphlet which I have personally referred to off and on through the years. A year or so ago I bought one for all our full-time staff. It’s titled, Asking Questions, and it’s not fancy – it’s really just got a bunch of questions in it. There is a chapter on questions to ask to avoid small talk, another on focusing or refocusing your life, one on planning, and quite a few more. Biehl writes,

“Great questions help us think through a wide variety of options…between the time we see an opportunity or problem, and the time we make a final decision/take a final action. There is a gigantic difference between the person who has no questions to help her/him process situations and the person who has profound questions available.” Asking Questions, Bobb Biehl

I bring up Bobb’s writings because recently I read a great question from John Piper which I thought was paradigm-changing. It’s based on Hebrews 12:1…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (ESV)

In the context, Piper first heard this question from another pastor, and he is speaking about that. Read closely – it just might change your life: 

And the preacher said — and I am the preacher now saying it — this text says, “Look to Jesus and lay aside sins for sure and lots of other stuff, too.” Now that is a different way to live. Well preacher, as a 13-year-old or 14-year-old, what question should I ask if it is not, “Is it a sin?” And the answer is, “Does it help me run?” That is the answer. “Does it get in my way when I am trying to become more patient, more kind, more gentle, more loving, more holy, more pure, more self-controlled? Does it get in my way or does it help me run?” That is the question to ask.

Ask the maximal righteousness question, not the minimal righteousness question.

You know why that question isn’t very often asked? Because we are not passionate runners. We don’t want to run. We don’t get up in the morning saying, “What is the course today? What is the course of purity? What is the course of holiness? What is the course of humility? What is the course of justice? What is the course of righteousness? What is the course of love? What is the course of self-control? What is the course of courage? O God, I want to maximize my running today.”

If you have that mentality about your life, then you will ask not, “How many sins can I avoid?” but “How many weights can I lay down so that I am fleet-footed in the race of righteousness?”

Love it. I need to start doing this – not asking, “Is it a sin?” but, “Does it help me run?”

That’s worth remembering.

For tomorrow, Friday, October 2nd: Hebrews 13


Posted by on October 1, 2015 in sin, Uncategorized


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Cute Little Sinners?

We tend to think little thoughts about sin.  In other words, we tend to think that sin is not such a big deal, as if we were two-year-olds being disarmingly disobedient before our Heavenly Daddy. You know: “Oh, isn’t he cute the way he smiles that impish smile and walks the other way when I tell him to come here?”

But Scripture teaches us something entirely different. Consider R.C. Sproul’s word from his classic work, The Holiness of God:

“Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.”

No, sin isn’t cute, and if anything should lead us to understand sin as “cosmic treason”, Jesus’s teaching in Mark chapter 9 should get us there. In some of his starkest teaching in all the gospels, Jesus says…

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. Mark 9:42 (ESV)

Apparently, you would be better to die a horrible death by drowning than to entice a little child to sin. But wait, what exactly would be worse than drowning, or death in general, for that matter?  The answer is clear from the next verse: Hell. The millstone warning in verse 42 makes no sense unless you interpret it with the verses that follow.

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, Mark 9:43-47 (ESV)

Hear this: Jesus is saying that Hell is a real possibility for people, that real people go there, and that real people are in torment there even as you read this now. And, gracious Savior that He is, Jesus tells us exactly what causes people to go to Hell…sin.

These verses have been misunderstood for 2,000 years, but surely their message is more than clear.  It’s certainly not that Jesus wants us to dismember ourselves. It is rather that He wants us to…TAKE SIN SERIOUSLY. He wants us to be careful not to trifle with it…not to think of it as “2-year-old cute.”  In fact, for instance, if you have a 2 year old, don’t even think of their sin and disobedience as cute. Obviously, wisdom is needed to discern whether they know right from wrong, but once you are sure they do, their disobedience is no longer cute, any more than yours is.  It is cosmic treason, all of it.  And all of us need to consider our own sin and the sin of others as dangerous, for sin sends people to everlasting Hell every moment of every day.

We must take sin seriously, but even when we do, our hands and feet will still lead us into sin more times than we would like to admit, so what hope do we have short of dismembering ourselves? Well, of course, the Christian message is that we hope in the One Who did not cut off His hands and feet, but allowed them to be pierced through for us. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus literally took sin, and took it very seriously, so that those of us who trust in Him might never fear its horrible ramifications again.

“Man of Sorrows, what a name, for the Son of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim…Hallelujah, What a Savior!!!”


Tomorrow, Friday, April 24: Mark 10


Posted by on April 23, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Strange Command to Pay Your Taxes

United States Tax formsAs the dreaded April 15th approaches, it’s interesting to note that there are many Christians today who say they “like to get paid in cash” because, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, “I don’t have to pay taxes on it.” This kind of thinking at once surprises me and doesn’t surprise me. First, it surprises me because I know the clear teaching of Romans 13 on the subject:

For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Romans 13:1-7 (ESV)

But then again, the failure to pay taxes should be no surprise because I know the logic of the “cash under the table” crowd – first of all, sending money to the government “is a waste”. The bureaucrats in Washington squander money left and right. And even more than that, so much of the money goes to ungodly uses, i.e. abortion, restrictions on religious freedoms, etc.

But then again, as many have said before me, if we think our government is wasteful and wicked, then consider the Roman government in Paul’s day. It was far worse. And yet…Paul still paid the full tax.

Now there is a powerful lesson in all this: I once knew a man who had very flourishing ministry – still does today.  And yet, when I got to know him some years ago, I would have had to say that he had, well..issues. Back in the day, his anger was sometimes off the charts, going all the way from cussing out a subordinate…to giving a server in a restaurant a piece of his mind that he couldn’t afford to lose.   And yet, as I’ve indicated, God used him…and quite powerfully.  Many came to Christ through his ministry.

Then I stop and think about me. Obviously, I have issues too, albeit different than this man; but then, if I may, you’ve got your issues too. And yet, how about that – God uses all of us too.

The lesson?  Well, first, we need governments, and they will always be flawed. So God calls us to support them by paying what we legally owe.  But more than that, we need each other.  And we ourselves will always be flawed.  But God also works through very flawed people.  The cynical among us might say, “Well, after all, what choice does He really have?” And there’s truth to that point, but I think we are rightly led to think about this in a different way:

His choice to use flawed individuals and institutions is a prime example…of His glorious grace.


Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 8: Romans 14

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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Digging Up the Roots of Sin

If there is a particular sin in your life that you are really fighting, then you have a lot in common with one of the great villains of history – Pontius Pilate.

Did you know that Pilate didn’t want to crucify Jesus? No…really. It’s clear that the Roman Governor did just about as much as he could do in order to get out of going down in history as the man who crucified the Son of God.

rootsAnd there is an important lesson in this for us…the tree of sin has deep roots, and many times, even when you know the right thing to do, and when, on top of that, you really want to do the right thing, you still fail. But if we can get to the root of our sin, and pull it up out of the soil of our hearts, then we can destroy sin’s power over us. And maybe Pilate can help us get to the root of why sin holds such sway over us.

Consider that the Governor had a lot of impetus to do the right thing. In Matthew chapter 27, we learn that he knew the whole trial of Jesus was a farce – he knew that he was dealing with an innocent man, that the Jewish hierarchy was simply envious. (vs. 18) And to boot, his wife had told him about waking up in a cold sweat from a dream about the prophet from Nazareth, and she warned her husband: “Have nothing to do with that righteous man…” (vs. 19) So Pilate knew the right thing to do was to set Jesus free.

And therefore he made a plan, a very thoughtful and intelligent plan that he reasoned was sure to succeed: he found a “notorious” murderer, a terrorist if you like, a man that everyone hated, the infamous Osama Barabbas, and he gave the crowd an option (“This will be easy,” Pilate thought. “Innocent Jesus will go free, my wife will sleep soundly, and I won’t have to bunk on the couch.”) But the clever and manipulative Jewish leaders managed to turn the crowd in favor of the terrorist. “Let Barabbas go!” the multitudes cried. And he did…

Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. Matthew 27:26 (ESV) 

And over the next 2,000 years, millions upon millions of people would confess these words…

…born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead and was buried…

– The Apostles’ Creed 

Now, what caused Pilate to do this terrible thing that would make his name reverberate through history as the greatest of villains, mind you, as we know, the greatest of villains who really did not want to do his villainy? Moreover, what is at the root when you and I do the foolish and sinful things that we do, even when we know that what we are doing is wrong, and even when we really, really do not want to do them?

The last few days I was in Minneapolis at the Bethlehem Baptist Pastor’s conference, a conference that I have attended almost every year for the last 13 or 14 years. And on Monday night, John Piper, the former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in the Twin Cities, gave a message on the root of sinning. You see, the root of Pilate’s sin…and yours and mine for that matter…can be seen in Romans 1:

…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions…Romans 1:25-26 (ESV)

From this, Piper said: “…the bottom of sin, the root of all sinning, is such a heart — a heart that prefers anything above God, a heart that does not treasure God over all other persons and all other things.”

And whenever that happens, whenever anything becomes more important to us than God, we are given over…to sin, and even when we really do not want to pursue the particular sin, the bent of our hearts holds sway.

So what is it that you are fighting today? Ask yourself, “What is it that I am preferring over God?” Go deep…and pull up sin by the roots.


And if you’ve got time, this will be well worth it…


For Monday, February 9: Matthew 28


Posted by on February 6, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Comfort for those who believe they have committed an unpardonable sin

disastroIn January of 1991, I filled up my 1984 Chevy Celebrity with all my worldly goods and headed east to help start a church with my friend John Cox.  John was a fairly recent Fuller seminary grad, and I was out of college working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.  We had met at Willow Creek in Chicago where he was an intern, and he told me of his desire to start a church either in the Washington D.C. area, or L.A. When he decided on Washington D.C., I was delighted, long having been a political junkie; I determined to come along.

These were exciting days – ah, for the adventure of youth!  We wanted to reach lost people, and figured there would be plenty of those out in the land of politics and passion.  It was just the two of us, plus a young gal named Mindy Ebert who would be our children’s ministry director.   John moved out a few months before me and secured lodgings with a guy who owned a townhouse in Centerville, VA.  When I arrived, I moved in with the two of them.

Just about every day, before I headed off to Enterprise and he headed off to do whatever church planters do, the two of us would pray together, asking God to begin the work which would eventually be called Cedar Run Community Church.

And then, when our landlord/roommate set a wedding date, we took the hint and set about to find a new place. Happily, John had a contact named Brian who had a couple of spare rooms in his house, and one evening, we went out to eat with Brian and his other roommates, I suppose to make sure there would be the all-important roommate chemistry.

We were all believers, and had a great time of fellowship. Except. At one point in the evening, Brian, a charismatic Christian, played a cassette tape of a worship service he had been a part of, as I remember, to get our opinion.  And it was a cacophony of sounds, probably screaming, chairs turning over, that sort of thing.  And after listening to it, I made an off-hand comment: “It sounded demonic.”

Probably not a wise comment, but it was what I was thinking, and Brian seemed to be looking for our opinion.

Now, it didn’t occur to me right away, and nobody else said anything, but perhaps a few minutes later, I realized that the people associated with this worship service characterized this particular moment of the service as “the Holy Spirit coming by.”

And in a flash of emotional pain, I thought, “Uh-oh…what if I was wrong?”  If so, I had just called the Holy Spirit a demon.  And I knew my Bible well enough to know that if I had just called the Holy Spirit a demon, I had also just committed the unpardonable sin.

Or had I?

It is a passage of Scripture that has caused great trouble to surely thousands and probably millions of Christians through the centuries: Jesus said…

“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Matthew 12:31-32 (ESV)

Would you believe me if I told you that off and on for years, I would wrestle with whether or not I had committed the unpardonable sin that Jesus speaks of here?  The reasons for my long struggle included a misunderstanding of Scripture resulting from a too-light hold on the gospel, and a powerful enemy who wished for me to live as a discouraged Christian. As Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “…Satan who, though he cannot rob us of our salvation, can definitely rob us of our joy.”

Now there have been books written on this subject, but let me enumerate just a few reasons that a person who worries about having committed the unpardonable sin…shouldn’t…

Continued tomorrow, Saturday, January 17…

(In the meantime, consider reading this most wonderful article by the great hero of the faith, mentioned above, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones.)

Coming on Monday, January 19: Matthew 13



Posted by on January 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Living the Perfect Life

Imagine living a life where you never messed up, where everything you did was right and true. Imagine living a life where you never sinned.

Such a life would be full of peace and joy. And we know why, right?  Because sin causes such pain, doesn’t it? Just think back to the Holidays that weren’t so long ago: That Thanksgiving meal which became so uncomfortable because of the shouting match between the two sisters…would have never happened, and the turkey would have tasted so much better. Or consider the dreaded credit card bill which is now on its way to so many homes because, among many other things, Mom and Dad felt such need to get little Suzy the latest and greatest dolly with all the clothes and houses. And the idolatry that led Suzy’s momentary joy has stolen away the lasting joy of her parents.

Without sin there would be none of this…just tasty turkey and stuffing…and blessed contentment.

And such was the life of our Lord Jesus, alluded to verse 15 of Matthew 3…

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. (ESV)

The context is with the crowds on the banks at the Jordan River, when John balked at baptizing the Lord. And why did Jesus insist that John baptize Him? Because it was the right thing to do. Glorious. This was the every-moment life of our Lord, at every turn making the right move, saying the right thing.

Oh, there was pain in Jesus’s life, mind you, the pain of seeing others hurting, the overall pain of existence in a fallen world. But never any of the existential angst you and I deal with every day from our own folly and sin. What a life of peace and joy, always doing the Father’s will, always walking down the clear path and staying out of the ditch.

Never any emotional or physical pain from sin…that is, until Calvary. And then…it was complete and total, absolutely overwhelming pain. There on the cross He felt the pain of the broken relationships of a million turkey dinners, all at once. There on the cross, He experienced the shame and regret of a million bad financial decisions. And more, of course. There was physical pain too, but the worst of it was not the agony of the torturous cross. The worst of it was the agony of the Father’s face turning away from One now so completely…sin.

And all so that if we would place our faith in Him, we might receive His record of “fulfilling all righteousness”…and the glorious peace and joy that accompany it.

Tuesday, January 6: Matthew 4


Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Uncategorized


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