T or F?: You can be Anything you want to be

Popular culture often tells kids, “You can be ANYthing you want to be.”  But that is cruel to say to a 5’4 18 year old boy who yearns to be an NFL linebacker.  As Timothy Keller puts it, “If you had been born in a yurt in Outer Mongolia, instead of where you were, it wouldn’t have mattered how hard you worked or used your talents–you would have ended up poor and powerless.”

Just think of the power your family background has on where you are today.  I said I would never be like my parents.  Guess what?  I’m not JUST like them, but in many ways I am.  And now that I think about it, in my case, that’s not so bad.  Your family has shaped you more than you realize.  Regardless, it’s just not fair to promise kids that they can be ANYTHING they set their mind to.  I wouldn’t tell them they CAN’T do certain things but let’s not build false confidence and create more broken dreams.

Am I a cynic for posting this?

Are All Sins Equal to God?

Are all sins equal to God?

Is all sin “the same” to God?  Yes or no.

 

Check out Matthew 5:21-28

Are lust and adultery equal? 

How about hate and murder?

 

Let’s be clear: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23)  It appears that all sin leads to the same result spiritually.  It leads to death, to hell.  So yes, all sin is equal.  “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  (James 2:10)

 

But surely God can’t look at the murderer the same way he looks at the kid who cheats on his test?

 

Yes and no.  First of all, God loves us, even when we transgress.  We don’t “behave” in order to earn God’s love.  So God still loves the murderer and the cheat.  But God is also grieved by sin.  And sin deserves punishment.  The penalty for sin is death.  And we are locked into that consequence.

 

The good news is that Jesus took that punishment for us so that we might be reconciled to God AND live forever…and the new life starts NOW!.  2 Cor. 5:21, Jesus took that sin on him so that we might be the righteousness of God.  1 John 2:2, Jesus died to pay the penalty of all of our sins.  Of course, we have to accept that free gift of grace through faith.

 

So for those who don’t…all have sinned…doesn’t matter what their sins are…they have the same spiritual result.

 

BUT THAT DOESN’T SEEM FAIR?

            Hold on, I’m not done yet.  Obviously, the earthly “everyday” consequences of sin is not equal.  Lusting in my heart has a different consequence than being sexually promiscuous.  Can’t get an STD from lusting.  It’s still wrong and can lead to the next but in itself not every sin has the same consequence in this life. 

            Also, God really looks at particular sin and finds it “more reprehensible.”  Jesus clearly finds hypocritical religious people to be disgusting (read Matthew 23!).  And those who lead others into sin receive a special rebuke (Matthew 18:6). 

 

So in short, all sin is rebellion against God and needs punishment.  Jesus took that punishment for us, if we accept it in faith.  Even so, the consequences of sin is clearly different.  And of course, different kinds of sin may put into question whether we should be a pastor or in leadership of a church…but that topic will have to wait for another time.

 

The Distinction between Gifts of the Spirit and Fruit of the Spirit

If Samson had God’s Spirit, why didn’t he grow in holiness? How can he be so empowered by the Spirit and yet show no patience, humility, or self-control?

The Bible makes the distinction between “gifts of the Spirit” and “fruit of the Spirit.” It is possible to have the gifts but lack the fruit. In 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, Paul tells us that gifts of the Spirit are skills for DOING–abilities for serving and helping people. But in Galatians 5:22-23, Paul tells us that the “fruit” of the Spirit are character traits of BEING. Then in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul tells us that it is possible to have gifts of teaching and speaking and leadership–and yet lack the fruit of love, without which gifts are worth nothing.

So we will come across men and women who have great gifts but seem very shallow in holiness and character. And 1 Corinthians 13 means we should beware this in us too. The gifts of the Holy Spirit can operate in us, even mightily, and we can be helping people, yet our inner lives can be a complete wreck.

What can we do about it? First, recognize the biblical distinction between gifts and fruit. The fruit is the “proof” of spiritual growth.

Second, our prayer life, not our religious activities, is the best indicator of spiritual health. Is prayer warm, enjoyable, and consistent? Are you listening and learning as much as talking?

Third, we must avoid “Lone Ranger” Christianity. Authentic fellowship is the best way to ensure the integrity of our inner and outer lives.

If Jesus was coming to visit your house what would you need to get ready?

If you knew Jesus was coming to stay with you, what would you need to get ready?  Surely you need to clean house–but He wouldn’t care.  The right food would be a must–but He wouldn’t care.  Having a place for Him to study and pray would be a priority–but He wouldn’t care.  Maybe you could replace all the windows with stained-glass windows so that your house would resemble a church building–but He wouldn’t care.

So what would Jesus care about?

How to Control the “Stress” that leads to Outbursts

If you want your children to model self-control in their lives, then you must show them self-control in yours.

This is an area I feel like I have not done so well.  I need to place all my “control” into the hands of God.

How to control the “stress” that leads to my outbursts of frustration and anger?

  • Avoid negative people (Proverbs 22:24).
  • Avoid knee-jerk responses when aggravated by others (James 3:2).
  • Show control in the midst of chaos or emergency (James 1:26).
  • Beg God to give you peace and understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Liberal and Conservative Church Idols

Those churches we can call “liberal” or “progressive” appeal to a section of modern culture which has at least three idols:

  1. Personal choice and freedom;
  2. Absolute tolerance and the rejection of exclusive truth and personal responsibility;
  3. Professional expertise and status.

They accept modern sex ethics, they do not do church discipline, they do not preach Christ crucified and resurrected (really and historically) and the only way to salvation. Their ministry is supportive and therapeutic, and no one is ever warned of the dangers of God’s judgment. In general, the popular opinions of modern culture are adopted and promoted. If churches preached judgment (of God), accountability, and moral virtue (as Jesus did) there would be conflict!

Churches that might be labelled “conservative” appeal to those who utilize:

  1. An idealized past;
  2. The nuclear family;
  3. One’s own race and traditional culture;
  4. Authority.

While liberals tend to be relativistic, conservatives are “moralistic” and make an idol out of “goodness” and respectability. They often value unquestioning deference to leaders, tend to idealize the “good old days,” tend to feel superior in its view of its own culture and tend to put so much emphasis on family life that singles and single parents feel like second class citizens. If these churches preached against racism, the need for justice for the poor, and challenged people to embrace the socially and morally unrespectable (as Jesus did) their would be conflict!

The Definition and Deception of Sin

They “did evil in the sight of the Lord” is a repeated refrain in Judges 2:11; 3:7; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6.

And then at the end of Judges it is phrased different (17:6; 21:25): “In those days…everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

The point is that the Israelites were not doing evil “in their own eyes.” In other words, their perception was that their behavior was morally acceptable. They did not think: I know this is evil but will do it anyway.

This teaches us 2 things about sin:

1. The definition of sin. Sin does not ultimately consist of violating our conscience or personal standards but rather consists of violating God’s will for us.

This flies in the face of modern thinking. It is most often asserted that “only you can define what’s right and wrong for you.” In other words, “my own eyes” determine right and wrong.

If evil is only determined by our own eyes, how could we tell the Nazis that it was wrong to exterminate the Jews? Sin is defined as violating our relationship with God.

2. These phrases show us the deception of sin. They remind us how easily self-deceived we are and to what extent we will rationalize sin. The Israelites were in “group denial.” In their own perception, there was nothing wrong with what they were doing.

This should lead us to be very careful and to evaluate ourselves constantly through biblical reflection and accountability.

 

The Judgment for Idolatry is Idolatry

Romans 1:22-25 teaches,

 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

The phrase “sinful desires” traditionally has been translated “lusts” and in Greek is the word epithumia, a word that means “an overwhelming desire.” To “give up” means that God allows the things in which we hope instead of God to become ruling powers in our lives. Once God gave them over for worshiping idols, they “worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” The judgment for idolatry is idolatry.

Idolatry and slavery go hand in hand. Idolatry leads to slavery and slavery to idolatry. So God says to the person who worships money, “If you want to live for money instead of for me, than money will rule your life. It will control your heart and emotions. If you want to live for popularity instead of for me, then popular acclaim will rule and control you. If you want another God besides me, go ahead. Let’s see how merciful it is to you, how effective it is in saving and guiding and enlightening you.”