Showing posts with label Sin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sin. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Before the Rationalizations

I recently had a long, serious conversation with a lovely woman who is spending far too much time contemplating a possible course of action she knows unequivocally is destructive and displeasing to the God she claims to love and serve.

My reaction: This will not end well. It never does.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Broken Window Sins

All sins create distance between man and God.

Still, even before the sun rises tomorrow, the proud man can stick a pin in his swollen ego; the narcissist can begin to learn empathy; the drunkard can put the bottle down before his liver finally packs it in; the liar can start telling the truth; and the thief can commit himself to making his victims whole. John the Baptist taught wholesale, on-the-spot lifestyle modification to all he baptized. When you just stop doing certain things and start doing the opposite, all kinds of wonderful stuff can happen.

Then there are the “broken window” sins.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Things NOT Done in the Body

One night in my late teens I found myself facing a temptation that is probably better not described in excruciating detail. Let’s just say it was a temptation common to young men. The other party was ready and willing and very much to my taste, there were no adults around to complicate matters, the situation was intimate and comfortable, and there was every natural reason to carry right on with what was already well underway.

For reasons I was unable to adequately spell out at the time, I didn’t. I’m not sure there’s a heavenly reward for that exactly, but I can tell you without even a shred of doubt that I did save myself a great deal of earthly emotional distress, guilt, ongoing complications and probably several courses of antibiotics.

If you must know, I blame my parents for that one. There’s probably a reward coming for them, if not for me.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Living Under the Blade

Damocles, R. Westall, 1812

The ancient writer Cicero has an anecdote about a man named Damocles, a boot-licking courtier to the ancient despot Dionysius II. Damocles foolishly thought he’d like to see what it was really like to be a king, and so the king granted his wish.

Damocles quickly settled himself into Dionysius’ luxurious couch and began to enjoy the pleasures of rule — being fanned, having serving maids feed him, issuing commands, and so on. But in order to make the experience truly authentic, Dionysius gave one further order: that above Damocles’ head a shining sword would be suspended by a single horse-hair, so that he might be ever conscious that at any moment it might fall and carve the presumptuous pseudo-king in half.

Of course, Damocles soon begged the king to be allowed to return to his former position.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

That Flash of Anger

You’re talking to a friend about a third party. It really doesn’t matter who — I’ve had these conversations about Madonna, about family members, and even about the CEO of Canadian Tire. But, though the conduct of the subject of your discussion has precisely zero impact on either your friend or you, it seems blatantly obvious to you that this individual has done something morally and biblically indefensible, something that any right-thinking person would usually condemn.

Then your friend sets out to defend what that person did. Oh boy.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Crashing and Burning

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

We’ve all seen it, and seen it many times: a Christian in the public eye crashes and burns. He (or she, recently) confesses to the commission of one sin or another, usually an affair of some sort, and follows the confession by taking a time-out from the affected area of service (or leaving it altogether), announcing that the family needs “healing time”, and so on and so forth.

Tom: I bring this up because it’s happened again, IC. I’m not going to mention the name; the details are unimportant and likely unprofitable to pore over. But you and I have discussed the situation a little, and I wondered about your thoughts on how such things should be handled biblically. There aren’t many apostolic scandals recorded for us in the New Testament, are there …

Immanuel Can: No, there aren’t.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Anonymous Asks (225)

“If perfection is impossible in this life, why did Jesus tell people to go and sin no more?”

Jesus actually did this twice, and both accounts were preserved for us by John, one in chapter 5 of his gospel, and the other in chapter 8. In my Bible, the latter narrative comes with a disclaimer to the effect that the earliest manuscripts of John’s gospel do not include it, which, frankly, doesn’t bother me a whole lot. I have always loved the story of the woman “taken” in adultery. It portrays the Lord in a way that seems to me wholly consistent with his revealed character. I believe John wrote it and that it is God-breathed just like the rest of his gospel.

Still, opinions vary about that passage. If you discount it, then you only have to answer this question once.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Abiding in Sin: A Study in Romans 6

The word “abide” [Greek: menō] invariably carries the idea of staying put or remaining in a relationship or condition. Romans 6 teaches it is contrary to a saint’s calling and nature to remain in sin. Our “old man” (the person we once were) was crucified with Christ. We may sin, but sin has no longer has any legal right or claim to keep us enslaved.

The opening question — Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? — is what one might expect to hear from a lawyer at a trial. Paul has presented his case; believers are justified and have peace with God; a glorious future is ahead.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: The “No Harm” Argument

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

You’re all familiar with this one. It’s a defense for something traditionally considered immoral that usually begins with a variant of “if two consenting adults want to …”

We could call it a “no harm” argument. It’s the idea that if nobody’s demonstrably hurt, nothing wrong happened. But even the New York Times recently poked holes in it.

Tom: Immanuel Can, is it possible to have a sin without a resulting injury?

Immanuel Can: The short answer? No, I don’t think it is.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Anonymous Asks (210)

“Are all sins equal to God?”

The word “equal” is meaningless without a context of some sort. For equality to signify anything, we have to ask the question “Equal in what sense?”

Let’s start with “equally deadly”.

A Holy God

God is perfectly holy. All sins of every kind are offensive to him. He is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong”, as Habakkuk puts it. So telling lies is “equal” to murder, if only in the sense that either will cut us off from fellowship with a holy God and condemn us to an eternity apart from him. In this sense, all sins may be considered equally deadly. One is more than enough to seal our fate. It does not matter whether it is secret greed or public blasphemy against God himself.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Total Depravity: Can’t We Come Up With A New Term?

I was talking with an ardent Calvinist about this article. He is firmly committed to “total depravity” as meaning that human beings are black, wicked and “dead” so far as God is concerned, devoid of any kind of goodness, light or value: utterly deplorable and despicable. I understand the misguided humility that drives him, but I don’t buy his argument, and I don’t like the term “total depravity”. I think it’s misleading. This is what I wrote to him:

The Meaning of “Death”

One of the things you said you believed, Sam, is that because the Bible calls us “dead in trespasses and sins”, that must mean that we are totally valueless, like a corpse, before God saves us; and that like a corpse, we are incapable of response before God regenerates us. As you said to me, “Dead means dead.”

Monday, June 27, 2022

Anonymous Asks (203)

“Why does the Bible use so many different words to describe sin?”

John Walvoord writes that there are thirty-three different Greek words translated as some version of “sin” in the New Testament. I won’t try to rehash his study, but it should be fairly obvious from the sheer number of ways the writers of scripture describe it that sin is a big subject.

Properly understanding sin demands we look at it from multiple angles.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (24)

The apostle Paul taught the Corinthian Christians to examine themselves before eating and drinking in remembrance of the Lord Jesus. Repentance and confession would naturally follow; after all, self-examination that doesn’t result in a change of heart and conduct is a worthless exercise.

Short version: sin must be dealt with before worship or fellowship can truly take place.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Anonymous Asks (193)

“What would you say to someone who thinks he is too sinful to be saved?”

I’d quote him the words of the apostle Paul: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

After all, prior to being saved, Paul beat and imprisoned believers and tried to make them blaspheme. As a member of Jewish leadership, he cast his vote against Christians when they were put to death by the Jews.

Can your friend top that?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Scales and Panes

I was chatting with a young man yesterday.

He considers himself a Christian. And maybe he is. I hope he is. But he’s certainly confused about something very basic to salvation; and maybe it will surprise you what it is.

He doesn’t really understand sin.

Now, understanding what it is we are saved from is pretty necessary to salvation, so I’m concerned. I want him to have a correct grasp of how sin relates to the holiness of God. And I’m troubled that his teachers have not taught him this.

So I’m going to try to do a short explanation for you. And I’m going to start with this question:

How bad is sin?

Monday, May 03, 2021

Anonymous Asks (143)

“If Christians are forgiven, and they know they will be forgiven no matter what they do, why should they refrain from doing evil?”

Jesus warned his disciples from the very beginning of his ministry on earth to expect that there would be counterfeits among their number. The apostle John writes about what happened when Jesus began to perform miracles in Jerusalem at the Passover. He says, “Many believed in his name.” Then he adds this: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” Some of these “believers” were not genuine in their desire to associate themselves with him, and would later fall away.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Above My Pay Grade

“That’s above my pay grade,” said the former senator.

It was 2008. The subject was abortion. Presidential candidate Barack Obama had been asked, “At what point does a baby get human rights?”

At bare minimum, his response indicated an aversion to being pinned down on the subject and a desire to avoid conflict over the issue as he campaigned to be president of the United States of America. There were “larger issues” at stake, he undoubtedly thought. He was prepared to let evil slide for the sake of what he perceived to be the “greater good”, which presumably included his assumption of the presidency.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Living Under the Blade

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Total Depravity: Can’t We Come Up With A New Term?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Scales and Panes

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: The “No Harm” Argument

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Was Christ Made Sin?

Patience ... all will become apparent ...
Sometimes a verse that isn’t terribly controversial can help us understand others that are. For example, Paul was writing of Christ when he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.”

I’ve never had even a remotely heated discussion about this verse with anyone else. It may provoke arguments in some quarters, but not many. Still, it’s worth considering for a moment what Paul is actually saying here as it may help us elsewhere.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Achan and Eve

Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to sinning: Eve’s and Achan’s.

At Jericho, Achan saw treasure forbidden by the word of God, lusted after it, took it and hid it away, buried in the earth inside his tent. But I can assure you it would not have stayed there. Achan had never stopped to work out any sort of strategy by which he might benefit from his sin. That was just plain stupid.

At least the Eve Method — wicked, shortsighted and ultimately destructive as it was — had the advantage of being intellectually coherent.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Semi-Random Musings (7)

Growing up in a Christian home, I was occasionally chastened for misbehavior with the words “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Or I heard other Christian parents using it. Or my irate Sunday School teacher. Or somebody. The memory’s a bit fuzzy, to be honest.

In any case, the line was very familiar, though for some reason I wrongly associated it with Saul and Samuel rather than Moses, who actually said it to the emissaries from the tribes of Reuben and Gad who had proposed to settle their people in the land beyond the Jordan. They solemnly promised to first fight alongside the other men of Israel in order to bring God’s people into their inheritance.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

How Occasional is Occasional?

I have a Christian acquaintance of many years who is morbidly obese at the very high end of the spectrum. No quasi-medical justification (hormones, glands, depression, etc.) can fully account for her inability to lose weight. While there are certainly other factors involved, one is surely the consumption of large quantities of superfluous calories.

It is well established in scripture that gluttony is a sin, like any other out-of-control behavior. While obesity and gluttony are not synonymous (one can be thin and voraciously gluttonous), it is hard to argue that the inability to say no is normal, healthy Christian behavior.

My simple question: is she saved?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Crashing and Burning

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Broken Window Sins

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

One Thing Worse

Sin serves a purpose. In fact, having observed a little of the way God works, I’m guessing it probably serves more than one.

But this at least sin does: it proves God right.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned … so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”

Oh, we can rationalize our desires with the verbal dexterity of a sophist, excuse them with petulance of a six-year old, or romanticize them with the eloquence of a poet, but the places they lead us are inevitably, inexorably and invariably bad.

Just as God has warned.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bubbling Under the Surface

Sometimes God gets angry. Sometimes his righteous and thoroughly justifiable anger is even directed at his servants:

“The Lord was angry with me because of you.”

“The Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him.”

“The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord.”

“He has cut down in fierce anger all the might of Israel; he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming all around.”

But the consequences of God’s anger (not to mention its duration) are not always precisely the same.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Basic Math

Most people can do basic math.

Maybe not everybody can do linear algebra, probability or calculus, but even relatively low-IQ palace servants living 1000 years before the birth of Christ could hardly fail to notice that David’s latest wife, Bathsheba, had just delivered a baby well short of the average human gestation period of forty weeks.

Sure, David married Bathsheba the moment he could reasonably get away with it. But nobody was fooled. Their affair had to be the worst-kept secret in Jerusalem.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Fragile Basket

Jamin Goggin says when today’s celebrity pastors get caught sinning, churches collapse, whole conferences evaporate and large numbers of Christians are deeply wounded.

And Goggin maintains the real problem is us:

“The church has embraced a form of power that is antithetical to the way of Jesus, and her pastors stand on the front line of this destructive reality.”

Now, he’s not wrong here. Perhaps he doesn’t go far enough, but I think he’s on to something.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Transgression Bag

The eye of faith is an amazing thing.

In all his bitter distress and confusion, Job never completely loses sight of the character and purposes of God. Like most sufferers, he talks at length about how things appear to him: “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.”

Yep, can confirm.

But nowhere in all of his inquiries does it occur to Job for a moment that God may not be there at all. That’s one big difference between the righteous and the wicked. “There is no fear of God before their eyes,” as Paul puts it. They do not consider God in the slightest. “They did not see fit to acknowledge God.” God and eternity have simply been dismissed from their calculations.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

‘Christian’ in 2017

What does it mean to be “Christian” in a day of access to a near-infinite plethora of diverse perspectives and opinions?

We might choose to ask Mihee Kim-Kort, who calls herself a “Presbyterian minister, agitator, speaker, writer, and slinger of hopeful stories about faith and church.” For Mihee, being Christian means being Feminist, Democrat, pro-abortion, pro-immigration, a community activist and an advocate for and supporter of all women of color — not necessarily in that order.

This is all in the course of a single blog post, by the way, one that makes no reference whatsoever to the word of God.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Things NOT Done in the Body

The most recent version of this post is available here

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Giant Problem, or That Stupid Sword Again

There are giants in the land.

Not Goliath, whom David slew, but that bad habit you can’t give up, and most of the time don’t really want to.

Somebody I know is fighting a giant. In his thinking, maybe 5% of the time he’s in a place where he makes an offhand remark about how he needs to go back to church, or how he needs to start reading his Bible again, or how he really needs God in his life. The rest of the time he’s just doing his thing like he’s always done it, and I suspect the will and character of God are the last things he’s thinking about. Life provides bucketloads of convenient distractions.

But can God work with 5%? I’d estimate he can. See, I’ve been there too.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Things You Don’t Know You Know

The question came right out of the blue.

It was entirely ingenuous, I think. There was nothing calculating about the teenage girl who asked it. I don’t think she was looking for a pass on any particular sin; she was just curious how God works.

It was Sunday School, and I was discussing Matthew 5:28 — the part where the Lord says, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I wasn’t trying to be especially relevant or anything, but you know teenagers.

So she says, “But if you’re already guilty before God just from looking, why wouldn’t you just go ahead and act on it then?”

Good question.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Horse Plunging Headlong

I’ve been listening to unhappy people this week: people that have sinned, have hurt others and have hurt themselves.

It’s refreshing when someone gets it; when they realize that their own choices and desires took them places they do not want to be, and that these patterns need to be changed. It’s a good thing to see correctly the relationship between cause and effect, between actions and consequences.

But it’s even better when it dawns that our most significant sins are the inevitable consequence of refusing to take the Lord at his word.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Living Under the Blade

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Transgression and Blessing

Perfect? No. But completely restored.
Can my sin be a source of blessing?

That’s not a trick question. There’s no “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” coming, don’t worry.

But it’s a legitimate consideration. A while ago, I exchanged emails with a brother in Christ who was deeply afflicted with guilt over things he had done after coming to know the Lord, and concerned that, given the magnitude of his transgressions, even deeply-felt regret, confession and a changed manner of life might not be acceptable to God.

Obviously good may come from repentance, but you wonder if any good can possibly come from the sin that (eventually) produced it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Work Your Way Upstream

Douglas Wilson is, in his own words, “evangelical, postmill, Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian, pretty much in that order”.

One out of five ain’t bad, I suppose.

But hey, I’m an equal opportunity reader. Despite my lack of common ground with many of Mr. Wilson’s expressed convictions, I find much of what he writes profitable.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

The Stakes

A good writer makes you care about his characters.

When you’re reading a novel, you are probably not consciously asking yourself at every moment, “Does this person I’m reading about really matter to me?” Being occupied with such questions takes you out of the story and defeats the purpose of the narrative. You simply find the characters likable or despicable, interesting or uninteresting, and on that basis you decide whether to continue reading.

Their motives matter, and what’s at stake for them matters, in ensuring that you remain engaged in the unfolding drama.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Inbox: Applied Grace and the Smoking Ruins of My Life

Bernie holds forth about four causes of suffering:

“I suggest the source of suffering is four-fold in a mature Christian view:
  1. Sin in me (bad choices I make to my own detriment) — God’s purpose is discipline and correction.
  2. Sin around me (sins of others / fallen environment) — God’s purpose is to produce a stronger faith and, in our dissatisfaction here, a longing for our true home.
  3. Satan against me (the opposition made to those who are seeking to be productive for God) — “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus ...” You know the rest. If you’re going to be productive for God, you’re going to get hit often and painfully.
  4. God for me (a loving Father conforming me — through suffering — to produce Christlikeness: “The fellowship of his suffering”).

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Too Convenient

I was out last night with an unsaved friend.

I’ve written about him before. Like many others, he knows just enough about Christianity to think he understands it; just enough to think the decision that faith in Jesus Christ is not for him is a choice he has made intelligently on the basis of years of shrewd observation of Christians and our various failings. And believing his understanding adequate, he has little interest in hearing any more. He’s reluctant to get into the subject with me because he has a fairly good idea where I’ll be going.

He believes in God, he tells me, and I have no reason to doubt it. But his version of God is vastly different from the God of the Bible.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

With Best Intentions

Sinners crave validation.

When our consciences trouble us, a common first instinct is to seek out sympathetic ears.

For all but the most morally callused that is usually ineffective: most of us can detect when we are being indulged or patronized; when the person listening isn’t buying our sob story but is too intimidated (or uninterested) to fight about it; when their own judgment is suspect or their own character compromised. The sort of comfort such a person gives is wholly inadequate. The alarm bell of conscience just keeps on ringing.

So it becomes necessary to seek validation from those we know to be opposed to our behaviour. If we can convince them, the logic goes, surely we can quiet the voices in our heads.

If only it were that easy.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Greater Sin

Let’s take it as read that all sins are bad by definition. Offensive to God. Destructive to human will, life, character, testimony and interaction. They contaminate the present, give the lie to the past and, even when repented of, may negatively impact the future.

(When considered against the backdrop of the cross of Jesus Christ they’re actually worse than that, but this is intended to be more practical than theological.)

The thing is, not all sins are equally bad.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Total Depravity: Can’t We Come Up With A New Term?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Let’s Not Make a Habit of It

What does “sin” mean to you? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I use the word?

Is it something that you’ve done recently? Maybe it’s something that has been done to you. Or is it some remote, vile and peculiar thing that you’ve never engaged in personally but would like to see eradicated from society?

It seems to me that the Lord never dealt with sin as an abstraction. He never addressed the subject in a merely theoretical way. At the well in Sychar he told a Samaritan woman, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband”. 

That’s pretty specific.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Living Under the Blade

The most current version of this post is available here.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sinning Against Whom?

King David, consumed by lust for Bathsheba, commits adultery with her while her husband Uriah is out fighting the Ammonites on David’s behalf. When Bathsheba informs David she is pregnant, the king contrives to hide the evidence of his sin by recalling Uriah from the battlefield in hope that he will sleep with his wife and believe the child his. But Uriah is a loyal servant of the crown and a patriot. He declines to go home to his wife and enjoy the benefits of peace and family while his nation is at war and his fellow soldiers still in danger.

Knowing discovery is certain, David then compounds his wickedness by ordering Joab, the commander of his armies, to put Uriah in the most dangerous possible position and allow him to be killed in battle. The plot succeeds, and after allowing her an appropriate period of mourning, David marries Bathsheba.

Done and dusted, as they say.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Running is No Solution

You remember the line, I’m sure.

You’re a teenager and you’ve just gotten deeply invested in a relationship that you are convinced is the real deal. Everything is going swimmingly, and then he or she says those dreaded words:

“I think we need to take some time …”

The desire for time and space apart may be framed in all manner of imaginative ways: “I was on the rebound”, “It’s too soon”, “My parents don’t approve” or “I have to concentrate on school right now”. The inexperienced take it at face value, or at least try to. But those of us who have heard it before know exactly what it means.

It means you’re done.