Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - www.LoveLivesAtPGUMC.org Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ask Pastor Chris 1 - Questions About Sin

Introduction
            Today, I begin a new series of blogs based on questions people have asked about religion, the Bible, etc.  Several people asked questions related to sin. So today I will address the topic of sin.
            In Genesis we read how a man named Joseph became the most powerful man in ancient Egypt besides Pharaoh.  But then that Pharaoh died, Joseph died, and 400 years passed.  There was a drastic change of attitudes of Egyptians toward the Israelites (the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). The Egyptians loathed the Israelites who had grown numerous in the land. The Egyptians tried to wipe them out with slavery, hard labor, and genocide. 
            God raised up a prophet named Moses to deliver the people. Through a series of plagues, God forced the mighty Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. And by many miracles—such as parting the Red Sea so the Israelites could walk across on dry ground—God delivered the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.  Furthermore, God gave Moses divine laws to order the life of His people and keep them pure and holy.  Yet the sin of Adam and Eve still corrupted the hearts of these people; and as God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments up on a holy mountain, sin led the Israelites into trouble again.

Exodus 32:1-8
1When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.”

2 So Aaron said, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.”

3 All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

5 Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!”

6 The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.

7 The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’”

Brief Exposition of Scripture
            It is almost unbelievable that the Israelites would turn their backs on God so quickly after he delivered them from slavery in Egypt.  It was God who brought ten plagues against Pharaoh, forcing him to let the Israelites go.  It was God who parted the Red Sea—a miracle so awesome no one could forget it.  It was God who provided for these former slaves as they journeyed through the dessert. 
            Sin is a terrible disease that darkens human hearts and minds. It caused the Israelites to turn their back on God, while He was still working to save them.  We still struggle with sin today.

What is Sin?
            Sin was originally an archery term. It meant missing the mark. But what is the the target for which we shoot?  God made us in His image. God intends us to be a reflection of His Holy Love. That Holy Love was lived out in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve enjoyed a perfect relationship with God and each other.
            Jesus also explained the nature of Holy Love in the New Testament when he named the Greatest Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...  And love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
            When we think of sin, we usually think of all the bad things people do—lying, cheating, stealing, murder, etc. These are all sins, but they are sins (with a lower case "s") because they are only symptoms.
            Here's an illustration: When you are coughing, sneezing, and have a runny nose, you might say you have a cold. But the coughing and sneezing, and runny nose are just the symptoms. The common cold is actually cause by a virus—the rhinovirus. The virus is the core problem. The symptoms—the coughing, sneezing, and runny nose—are just the results.
            The core problem in the human heart is Sin (that’s Sin with a capital "S"). We don’t keep God at the center of our life. We don’t put Him first. We try to find in other things what only God can give.  That is the real Sin (with a capital "S").
            It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. Remember, they chose to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. Instead of trusting God who said not to eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve listened to the serpent who lied and told them the fruit would make them like God.
            The core Sin is we don’t love God above all else, we don’t trust God above all else, we don’t obey God above all else.  When this core Sin inhabits our hearts, it expresses itself through a multitude of little "s" sins—lying, cheating, stealing, murder, idolatry, lust… We forget about God who made us and saved us and we mistreat everyone. Ultimately, we destroy ourselves. As Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…” 

Are All Sins Equal?
            One of the question submitted was "Are all sins equal?"  As I have said, the core Sin (with a capital "S") is not keeping God above all else. So there is only one Sin. But what people mean, I think, when they ask this question is “Are all the little "s" sins equal?” And the answer depends from whose perspective you are looking.  Are you viewing the problem from people's perspective or God's perspective.
            If you look at the problem from people's perspective, it is plain to see societies loathe some sins more than others.  Murder is almost universally detested—regardless in which part of the world you live (though some cultures even view murder in varying degrees).  Other sins are detestable in one region while hardly even noticed in another society.  I recently read about a missionary who discovered this as he was serving as a professor overseas.  He gave his foreign students a multiple choice test.  Each question had 4 choices, one of them being correct.  Multiple choice tests are usually considered easier in America because even if you don't know the answer, you can guess and have at least a 25% chance of getting the right answer.  So the missionary professor was surprised to see students turning in test without even taking a guess on many of the questions.  He asked one of the foreign students about it. 
            "Did you realize you didn't answer all of the questions?  You still have time left.  Why don't you try to answer them?"
            "No, because I don't know the answers to those questions," replied the student.
            "But why don't you at least take a guess at them?"  Inquired the professor.
            "Oh no!" exclaimed the student.  "I couldn't do that.  If I accidentally chose the correct answer, I would be lying because I do not know the answer."
            The professor realized, the students of that foreign land valued honesty more than students in America, even more than the professor.  They saw sin in a different way.  Who is to say they are not right?
            How society feels about a particular sin can change quite a bit over time.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, considered playing cards a terrible sin because it was a distraction that wasted time that could be used for spiritual growth and to serve God and one’s fellow man.  Now-a-days, playing cards is often done in the church and we wouldn't think a thing about it. Our views have changed.
            Currently, the big debate in America centers on issues of sexual sin—especially homosexuality. To some, it would seem engaging in homosexual acts is the worst possible sin anyone can commit. Yet, society has become so much more accepting of homosexuality and sexual sin in general.  So it is easy to see that people, societies, and cultures do not see all sins as equal and perceptions of sin can change a lot over time. But what about God?

           From God's perspective, all sins are equal. As the first part of Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death…”  Dead is dead; there's no such thing as a little bit dead. It doesn’t matter if the sin was a little white lie, a little gossip, homosexuality, or murder. All sins results in death and are equally evil in God’s sight.
            One of my childhood youth pastors explained it to me this way.  Suppose you have a crystal clear pane of glass.  It is perfectly clear except for one small smudge in the middle.  Even though 99% of the glass is clear, if you take a hammer and strike the small smudge, the whole pane of glass will break (not just the smudge).  The same is true of your life.  Even if you are 99% perfect, that 1% of you that is sin will shatter the other 99%.
            Romans 3:23 & 6:23a tells us the bad news.  Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of God's glorious standard."  And the first part of Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death..."  We all sin and are subject to death.  The Good News is that God does not give us what we deserve. Because of Jesus, we can be forgiven our sins, no matter how big or small they are.  As the second part of Romans 6:23 says, "the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
            When we repent and trust in Jesus, every sin we've ever committed is forgiven.  Every sin we will ever commit in the future is also forgiven by God.  Isn't that wonderful news?  It is very wonderful news indeed! 

Should We Keep Sinning?
            If God is just going to forgive us, why not just keep on sinning?  No! Because you have to repent in order to receive God’s forgiveness.  Repentance is choosing to turn away from your sin and turn to God—turning away from all those little sins like lying, cheating, stealing, etc.  Ultimately, repentance means you choose to put God above everything else.  It means loving God above all else, obeying God above all else, serving God above all else, and seeking God above all else.  If you decide to just keep on sinning, you are not really repenting.
            Now, we are still imperfect human beings. We may still make mistakes. We have a lot of healing to do before we actually reclaim the perfect image of God. And God is gracious. He understands and is patient. He forgives again and again and again. But don’t abuse His gracious gift by willfully and knowingly sinning just because you know He will forgive you. God knows your heart.

Dwelling on the Past
            One interesting question that came in was:  "If God forgave me, shouldn’t people forgive me too and not dwell on the past?"  The question came to me on Facebook last week, but I have heard the question in various forms from different people through 17 years on church ministry.
            When we sin, we often feel terrible.  We struggle with shame and guilt and often the awful consequences of our sin.  It can be very difficult for us personally as we struggle to repent, accept God’s forgiveness, and even forgive ourselves.  It is a painful journey; one we would like to just put behind us.  However, the consequences of our sins  often linger; often, those consequences effect other people.  For example:  If you commit adultery and it leads to divorce, the consequences will last a lifetime.  Even though God forgives you, you may always have to deal with the scars of a broken marriage.  Your spouse may never forgive you.  If there were children involved, it may take years of hard work to repair the relationships; and they may always remember what you did.  Sin has a terrible and lasting effect.
            In the Bible, when King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, God forgave him.  However, David suffered the consequences of his sin though out his life.  In the short term, just after the sin, David’s infant son got sick and died.  In the long term, David’s family was full of conflict.  One of his own sons eventually lead a rebellion to steal the Kingdom from David.  David retained his Kingdom, but only after his son was defeated and put to death.  As an old man, David still struggled with guilt from the brokenness he caused by his sin.
           When we sin, we are glad that God forgives us and we may feel as though everyone ought to forgive us and move on too.  However, don’t presume to think people owe you forgiveness.  Maybe they should forgive you, because it would be better for them if they did.  However, don’t resent someone because they haven’t forgiven you yet.  You don’t have that right.  Remember, you caused this problem; now you are dealing with the consequences.
            Instead of telling people to forgive you and move on, be patient with them.  Be gracious and show real love instead of resentment.  Give them time to heal and give God time to work on their heart.  Pray for them; pray that God would heal them—for their sake and not just so you can be free of the shame and guilt.  In the mean time, bear the cross you have to bear until God takes it away. 

What is God Saying to You Today?
            As we conclude, I invite to consider what God might be saying to you today.  Perhaps He is calling you to repent of your sin and turn to Him.  Perhaps He wants you to make a new commitment to put Him above everything else.  Maybe you need to ask God to help you see sin more like He does and less like the fickle people around you. All sins are equally evil. Ask God to help you hate the sin within you.  Maybe you need to pray for those who need to forgive; perhaps there is even someone who needs to forgive you. Ask God for patience while you wait.

Do you have a question you want me to address? Post it in the comments below or send me an email at ReverendChrisMullis@Hotmail.com