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Christianity

What Is Sin?

The Doctrine of Sin is a vast subject and not something I could possibly cover in one blog.  However, I hope to be able to point out important Bible Verses to help you make a start at understanding this important aspect of faith.  

Ultimately, sin is anything that contradicts the nature and will of God.  In the beginning there was no sin, the Garden of Eden was perfect and sinless, however, upon Adam and Eve eating of the fruit sin entered the world and will be a part of our world until the day of judgement when the devil is defeated and every knee shall bow to Jesus.  Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  After this time, the Law will no longer be required as sin will be defeated.  Jesus has paid the price for our sin upon the cross and sin is no longer held against us by God, we can now be in a relationship with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but sin is still a part of us.  

Most people will be aware of the 10 Commandments or at the very least be able to identify some of them.  God found it necessary to issue these commandments because of the sins of man.  When God rescued His people from slavery in Egypt and created the nation of Israel,  to try to keep them from sin He wrote the Decalogue, the laws of which are detailed in the picture below. You will also find these detailed in Exodus 20:2-17.

These commandments were to be kept close to one’s heart in order that one remembered them and adhered to them, in turn creating a peaceable land in which Israel could dwell.  Deuteronomy 11.18-21 “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

The 10 commandments were not the only law that God instructed to the Israelites, further instructions and laws were given to the priests with regard to cleanliness and uncleanliness, sacrifice of animals, sin offerings, ritual procedures etc. etc.  These were extensive and would require many, many years of study to get to grips with. 

Sometimes we can think to ourselves, thank goodness we do not have all the laws that Jews require to adhere to.  How hard that would be!  Well … the truth is Jesus did not come to make things easy for us, He came to save us from our sin.  Of the law Jesus says, “ Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven”, Matthew 5:17-19. 

When Jesus came to earth as both man and God, He upheld the importance of the Law, further still, He embellished it!  No longer is the sin of adultery the act itself but even the very thought or suggestion of it.  Matthew 5.27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

Jesus came to deal with the sin and evil that lies in our hearts.  Whilst often we can obey the commandments quite easily, for example, it is generally quite easy not to kill someone, what is far more difficult is not to feel anger in your heart, Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” 

Jesus understands what it is like to be human, He faced the temptations we face, He saw first-hand, man to man, our struggles with sin, He understands the human heart and  He knows what we need to do in order that we are holy as He is holy, 1 Peter 1:14-15 “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.”

Though Israel was given the Law, still the nation continued in sin.  Jesus tells us exactly where this sin is born, in our heart!  If we want to deal with our sin, we must look to our hearts and deal with the problem there.  Jesus tells us how to achieve this by pointing out the two most important commandments, that of loving our God with all that we have and loving our neighbour as we love ourselves.  Jesus tells us that if we follow these rules, we will in turn keep the rest of the commandments.  Matthew 22.37-39  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.”  We all take care of ourselves, we all desperately defend ourselves when necessary, but do we have the same concern for others?  When Jesus told of the two most important commandments, someone asked Him but who is my neighbour?  Luke 10:30-37 gives us the answer.  “In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, he came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus tells us it is easy for us to love those who love us in return, much more difficult to love those who persecute us, but this is what we must strive to achieve.  Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

God loves us though we do not love Him.  We must understand that if we are to accept forgiveness from God, we must forgive others for our sin towards God is far greater than any sin of man towards us.  There is a parable that explains this so well.  Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone.  Jesus replies “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!  “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.He could not pay, so his master ordered that he be sold along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned to pay the debt.  “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.  “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.  He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.  “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.  “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.  Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.  “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart”, Matthew 18:22-35. 

Day after day we sin against God, day after day God forgives us, yet we withhold our forgiveness from another.  It can seem quite simple not to sin until we look at the full implication of each commandment alongside Jesus’ teaching.  Let us look at the most important, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength and have no other gods before Him.   When this commandment was given there were many false idols to which Israel was worshipping, perhaps now, it is not so much other gods as in idols or statues but another type of “idol” that takes us away from God, perhaps you swap out your daily Bible reading in order to watch a movie!  Perhaps instead of morning prayers it is morning catch up on social media!

Looking at the commandment not to bear false witness, perhaps you told a lie convincing yourself it is ok because it’s just a “wee white lie”.  God does not have degrees of sin; never will God accept an excuse for a “little sin”.  Any sin is against the nature of God.  God is so holy and so far from the sin of the world that all of our sin is just an abomination to Him.  In our mind we can see degrees of sin, i.e. a little lie is much more minor that attempted murder; however, this is not the case with God.  Jesus tells us that to bear anger towards another is as sinful as committing murder.  This is hard for us to accept given we have created our own human scale of sin!  Jesus sees that murder does not begin with a knife thrust in the heart but in a thought!  To get above sin we must change our hearts!     

Let us look at some more common sins that enter into our lives.  Perhaps you see your neighbour take delivery of a beautiful new sports car and your heart pangs for one of your own!  Perhaps your friends return from a beautiful holiday and jealousy sparks in your heart.  Each and every one of us will suffer from sin, each suffering from a different type, whilst one person suffers from an addition to pornography, another addiction to drugs and still another, jealousy, always seeking what belongs to another, still others, an issue with anger.  Be comforted that we all experience these difficulties in our lives and that God forgives us and God is there to help us to overcome our sin, day by day, month by month, year by year, He is there to hold our hands as we progress along the road to sanctification. 

Oswald Chambers tells us that we can “Measure your growth in grace by your sensitiveness to sin.”  The more we find sin abhorrent to us the closer we are to become holy.  This is a great piece of advice to enable us to see our progression along the road to holiness.    

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
Christianity

Today I Will Be …. Content

Recently I have been going back over my Prayer Journal.  Each day I am to fill in a section entitled “Today I Will Be ….”  Often, my answer is found within the Scripture I have just read or from the writings of Oswald Chambers whose Devotional Bible I read daily.  Recently I felt urged to write blogs about some of the words that I chose “to be”.  The first is Content.

Today I will be content.  This word came to me as I pondered over John 8:11 “She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”  In this passage Jesus is speaking to a woman about to be stoned for her sin.  A previous verse contains the very well known, “… Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”, John 8:7.  This got me thinking about how our sin eats away at us unnecessarily because we are forgiven.  Whether Christian or otherwise, at some stage we feel guilt, and for many, guilt is a constant unshakable burden.  Scripture tells us this is unnecessary because Jesus is willing to take it from us. He wants so much to bear our sin for us that He went to the cross, voluntarily, in order to make this possible.  I am quite sure He did not suffer so, in order that we should continue grasping at our sin, desperately trying to hang on to it!  1 Peter 2:24 “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.”

What does it mean to be content?

Being content is being happy with the little things.  Luke 12:22-23 “He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Riches and material objects will come and go.  If we strive for the material, we will only desire more and more as the Dalai Lama points out “When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more.  Your desire can never be satisfied.  But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself “Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.””  There are many sad tales of extremely rich people, who have more than most could ever dream of and yet are discontented, never having enough to make themselves content.  This is a very real danger in our society of social media, where riches are constantly flaunted in our faces and more worryingly in that of our children’s.  It is important to consider the happiness that the little things bring and soon you will discover that the little things are actually the big things and the big things the little!!  When you wake in the morning to bird song, and look out of your window to the flowers, this is precious beauty that money cannot buy.  Or when you look out to the ocean or across the hillside, this is beauty, and this is a big thing!!

Paul is a fantastic example of someone who was content, 2 Cor 12:10 “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”   We need not be reminded that Paul suffered horrific beatings, banishment, loneliness, shipwreck, persecution, imprisonment, rejection and yet through all of this he was content.  He understood the purpose of his suffering and he understood that laying in the midst of all this horror was the light of Jesus and he knew that by these very experiences he was serving Christ and in this way he found ultimate contentment!    

Mother Angelica perfectly sums this up “The Christian experiences and lives a paradox.  He possesses joy in sorrow, fulfilment in exile, light in darkness, peace in turmoil, consolation in dryness, contentment in pain and hope in desolation.”  To be firmly rooted in Christ is not for us merely to endure all the hardships of life but to endure them with perfect contentment as though both blessing and persecution are one and the same.  

How do we go about obtaining contentment?

This seems such a daunting task and it is unlikely that many of us will reach the contentment that Paul experienced or the contentment that Mother Angelica describes, however, this is our goal and there are ways to achieve this.

First, we are not to worry and fret, Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” 

Secondly, we must not concern ourselves with the past or the future more than is absolutely necessary.  Of course, there are times in our lives where we must rehash the past, when we are discussing events with friends or family, perhaps you are dealing with an issue you have had with someone.  There are also times when we must consider the future, for example we must ask ourselves, “Should we move to a new house?”  “Should we have a family?”  “Will this vocation suit me?”.  However, where possible we must leave our past and our future in God’s hands, Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Luke reiterates this in chapter 9, verse 62 “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Thirdly, we must hand our worries over to Jesus.  We must remove our yoke which is heavily laden with our regret, sin, worry, fear, etc. and we must put on the yoke of Jesus which is light.  Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  1 Peter 5:6-7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Next, we must understand that this is a learning process.  This is not something bestowed on us upon our salvation but something that we must work on throughout our lives, Paul, himself says in Philippians 4:11-13  “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.”

We must trust in God and seek Christ, Isaiah 26:3 “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace — in peace because they trust in you.”  Proverbs, 19:23 “The fear of the Lord is life; indeed, filled with it one rests secure and suffers no harm. Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We must understand that life is transient, what we are frantic about one day will be forgotten about the next, understand that things will pass, 2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Ecclesiastes  3:1-8

One way of finding contentment is to consider others before ourselves, this is true humility. when we give to others, we find contentment, what we gain for ourselves, can be destructive because we can find we are never satisfied but to give to others is a blessing,

We must let go of our earthly desires.  When Jesus sends the disciples on a mission he tells them to travel light, Mark 6:8-9 “These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.”  Our treasure is not to be found here on earth, our treasure is in Christ, it awaits us in heaven.  Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  If we look to our earthly treasures then we overlook Christ, but when we look to our heavenly treasure then we look to Christ.  Jesus told a parable that teaches us of the dangers of earthly treasure in Luke 12:16-21 “And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.  “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

One way of grounding yourself is by keeping the Sabbath.  By resting on the Sabbath we are free to devote this time to God, we can read Scripture, attend church services, listen to worship songs, watch a nice movie, spend time with friends and family, walk in the countryside exploring God’s beautiful land, spend time in the garden, do craft work, the list is endless.  This is a good way to connect your heart and mind with Jesus.  If you are unable to sabbath on a Sunday, you can make it another day or perhaps do evening to evening rather than morning to morning.

Lastly, look to the Heroes of the faith for inspiration.  When I feel a little flat, I love to read books about missionaries, Christian leaders, Bible characters etc as it provides such impetus for me to try harder.  Examples are Paul, Peter, Stephen, Mary Slessor, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Junior, Corrie Ten Boom.

I would recommend reading “Journey to Contentment” by Sally Welch which has many helpful exercises to help with finding contentment. 

I will leave you with two Scriptures which I hope will inspire and comfort you.  

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Love and Blessings

Louise xx