Archives For sin

I have a friend who currently struggles with going to church. He wants to worship and hang out with fellow Christians,  but he’s afraid. He fears that Christians will shun him if they really knew the sexual sin he’s been involved in. There are days he”s not even sure God wants him among His people.

I asked my friend what he thought Jesus would say to him about his sexual sin. He said that Jesus would tell him to stop. Which is true, but I suggested that Jesus would tell him to stop only after he communicated a couple of other thoughts.

I believe Jesus would respond to my friend like He did to the adulterous woman the Pharisees tried to publicly disgrace and condemn (John 8:2-11). After pointing the woman’s accusers back to their own sinfulness—”If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”—Jesus turned and addressed her.

First, he addressed her as “Woman,” which may seem a bit terse and disrespectful. That’s not how a gentleman is supposed to address a lady. But back in Jesus’ day this was a polite and respectful term. It acknowledged her as a legitimate person, rather than as an object to be used and kicked around.

Jesus then pointed out to her (a woman who must have felt utterly humiliated and condemned) that no one, including Himself, condemned her. Only then, did he tell her to leave behind her life of sin.

Are you feeling condemned because of a sinful addiction in your life? Know this…the same Jesus who calls you to leave a life of sin does not condemn you either.

 

Just finishing up editing some great discussions on forgiveness for the HFML website with author Dan Allender and Pastor Rod Van Solkema that I think you’ll find challenging. I know I did. One of the noteworthy remarks that I just can’t shake from our discussion was Dan’s comment that:

“Forgiveness is an act of defiance against evil.”

Does that strike you as an odd statement? It did to me. In fact, it takes me back to the surprise I experienced when hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana this past summer.

To my amazement, I witnessed beauty above the tree line in a hostile environment that totally took me off guard. Wow! The  delicate wildflowers that sprouted out of solid rock were breathtaking. My photos just don’t do them justice. They were exquisite! How could such delicate beauty not only grow out of solid rock but flourish in a hostile environment that seemed so utterly antagonistic to their survival?

That’s forgiveness. It’s a reflection of beauty and mercy that defies hostility and adversity. It’s overcoming evil with good.

Too often, I’m afraid, we as Christians have mistakenly fallen under the spell of a maudlin view of forgiveness. We’ve misinterpreted the oft-quoted “turning the other cheek” phrase of Jesus in Matthew 5:39 into a doormat kind of theology. We’ve settled for passive pleasantness and called it forgiveness. It’s not.

Forgiveness isn’t a command to “just play nice.” That requires a flight into a la-la land that has no reality in the real redemption story. Sweeping dirt under a carpet is no way to clean a house. Neither is it healthy to deal with those who are bullies, gossips, liars, deceitful, and a host of other forms of overt and covert relational violence that riddle our churches, schools, homes, communities, neighborhoods, and all relationships. It just gives them more power and permission to reek havoc on those who are more vulnerable.

And let’s face it: everyone struggles to love well. Or maybe it’s better said, we’re just poor at it. Violations of love (otherwise known as “sin”) infect even the best of relationships, making the need for forgiveness–either giving it or receiving it–an ongoing necessity in order for relationships to deepen and grow. No healthy relationships exist apart from a genuine heart of forgiveness that longs for restoration (which, in reality, is the Gospel story replayed day in and day out within the context of our relationships).

While forgiveness is often thought of as weakness, in reality, it’s a demonstration of incredible strength.  Forgiveness doesn’t flee from the face of evil. Nor does it stoop to the level of evil and fight fire with fire (Rom. 12:17).  Paul reminds us of the marching orders for the Christian in Romans 12, that our call is to an authentic Christlike love that joins with Him in the battle for good and against evil:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good . . . do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It’s mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12: 9, 17-19, 21)

Forgiveness is the unlikely weapon that God has given to us to defy evil. To look someone in the eye and be free to say without malice, “Your sin doesn’t control me. And you’re powerless to stop me from not only desiring to do you good, but choosing to do good to you as an act of kindness because of the benevolent kindness that God has shown to me.”

Now that ‘s a process of overcoming evil with good that requires humility and gratitude for the God who has addressed the evil within us with His mercy and grace that “forgives us our sins and purifies us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

So, how bout it? Today, in your one of your “difficult” relationships, are you up to being a little flower in a less than hospitable environment? Are you willing to be that splash of beauty that’s undeterred by adversity? Forgive someone the way that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32) and that’s what you’ll be . . . the beauty of forgiveness that defies evil.

Snow . . .

Tim Jackson —  December 11, 2009 — 6 Comments

I love a fresh snow. As I’m writing this post,Snow backyard pines I’m looking out my slider door at a fresh coating of powdery white that blankets my backyard.  Ever since I was a kid growing up in central Pennsylvania, snow has been a magical, mystical experience. Whether I’m inside next to the warm glow of the fireplace while the wind howls outside, or I’m outside bundled up and feeling it bite at my face, snow has always been fun for me. I feel like a wide-eyed little kid again.

Okay, I can hear some of you saying you hate it because it reeks havoc on your travel plans . . . like getting back and forth to work or school safely.  And yes, I’ve had my fair share of accidents in the snow . . . like the time I was broadsided in an intersection just 2 months after getting a new car all because of 6″ of wet slushy mush that made starting or stopping treacherous. Okay, that was a bummer. I get that.

But it’s so BEAUTIFUL!snow on apple trees

I don’t think there’s anything whiter than fresh snow. And that always takes me back to the words of Isaiah, the prophet, who wrote: “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isa. 1:18).

It’s amazing to consider that the worst of my sins–no matter how dark, grotesque or ugly they may be–can be washed and cleansed to be whiter than snow. Amazing!

Snow on pine coneThink about the worst thing you’ve ever done. Lie? Cheat? Steal? Unfaithful? Betrayal? Immoral? Murderous? You name it. God’s grace can extend whiter than snow cleansing power to deal with our sin.

King David knew that firsthand. He lied, cheated, stole, was unfaithful, betrayed the trust of those closest to him, was immoral, and in the end he murdered in his attempt to cover up everything else. After a year of anguish over his “hidden” sin (that really wasn’t all that hidden because he was such a public figure in Israel), his confession to God after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his sin is recorded in Psalm 51.  David writes:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (Ps. 51:1-3)

David openly admitted the ugliness of his wrongs, calling it his sin, his transgressions, his iniquity. In other words, there was no where for David to hide from the ugliness not only of what he’d done but of the man he had become. But it didn’t end there.

There was still whiter than snow hope. Because of God’s unfailing love, David had hope that he wasn’t forever stained by the ugliness of his sin. His request from God was simple:

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow (PS. 51:7). Whiter than snow means one thing: pure again. And that’s what God offers to us–a renewed sense of purity that is the result of the forgiveness of our sins that are washed whiter than snow because of the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, on our behalf.

So the next time you see that fresh layer of snow on pine needlesnew fallen snow that magically transforms all the clutter,  imperfections, and even ugliness of the surrounding landscape with a glittering robe of white, remember that it’s God’s way of reminding you of what His Son has offered to you–though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

Snow . . . it really is beautiful. Isn’t it?

Feel free to share your comments and reflections on snow. We’d love to hear from you.

Rolled Away

Allison Stevens —  August 27, 2009 — 6 Comments

Do you have things in your life that sometimes creep back into your mind and haunt you? Things you did when you knew better? Times when you were “hell-bent” on doing whatever it was that made you feel good at the moment? Actions that if others knew you did it, they’d disown you?

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Pulling Weeds

Tim Jackson —  July 7, 2009 — 1 Comment

boys-weeding-flickr1Weeds. I hate them. I remember as a kid that I always dreaded taking my turn weeding the family garden. Hot, sweaty, bugs, and those contemptible and irresistible weeds. The clay soil in our garden was so hard that pulling a weed was next to impossible. I sometimes secretly wondered if my dad just decided that he wanted to have a garden to torture me and my brothers with the chore of weeding.

So why do I find myself spending time off after work in the evenings and on weekends on my hands and knees or with a hoe weeding my own garden? I mean, I remember vowing to never have a garden when I grew up. But here I am, weeding again, and not because I have to but because I want to. I must be in need of some serious therapy. Right? Okay, maybe not, but how is it that what I loathed as a young boy is something I choose as a man?

It’s because the weeds aren’t the only things I remember from my boyhood home in Central Pennsylvania. I also remember the succulent bi-color sweet corn, the zucchini,  the scallions, and those luscious Big Boy tomatoes that came later. And I must confess that I devoured my fair share of BLT’s, fried zucchini, and butter-drenched corn that always ended up dripping from my chin. The joy of the harvest from your own soil tastes sweeter, richer, and is far more satisfying than anything bought from a  store.

The weeds are also theological to me. Weeding always reminds me of  Genesis 3:17-19, the gender specific curse on the man. “Thorns and thistles” are a product of the Fall and the Curse in the Garden of Eden. “Painful toil” and “the sweat of your brow” are the guarantee of a hard life that has its fair share of struggle and turmoil for each of us, regardless of whether we plant a garden in our backyards or not.  And the weeding–it never ends.

Weeding is a constant necessity if you want to enjoy fruitfulness in this life. Neglect the weeds, and you’ll be overrun, overwhelmed, and be tempted to just give up. And if you give up, the joy of harvest will be stolen.

So, what’s it going to be? Is there a plot of your “life’s garden” that needs some attention? Is your fruitfulness being stolen because you’ve been neglecting your weeding? Are you ready to get on your knees and start pulling those nasty weeds? I hope so.juciy-red-tomato-flickr

And remember: there is a delicious harvest if we do our weeding well.