Saturday, March 28, 2015

It's Never An Advantage

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that gave may abound?” – Romans 6:1

Sin is never an advantage. From the time it entered the world, death has come in its wake (Rom. 5:12). God hates it, and so should we. Grace can outdo and surpass it every time (Rom. 5:20); but in the meantime, it will hide the face of God (Isa. 59:2). Those who are tempted to see a redeeming quality in redeemable sins did not die out in the New Testament church, I fear. In any case….

1) Sin is never an advantage to God. These people in Paul’s day reasoned that the more they sinned, the more God’s grace was exhibited, which had to be a good thing. After all, it made Him look even more powerful, right? Wrong! Or as Paul says it, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2)  Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil,” not just clean up after him (1 John 3:8). One of the great truths of the book of Romans is that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ not only made a way of forgiveness for sin but also a means of overcoming it in our lives. We will never be sinless as long as we are in these bodies, but we can sin less. And obedience trumps forgiveness every time.

2) Sin is never an advantage to us. We should never have the mistaken idea that God lets us sin to knock us off our high horses and show us who we really are. Sin may (or may not) do that, but God wasn’t the initiator of our sin. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).  When David sinned with Bathsheba, he didn’t accuse God of putting her within his view. He knew the problem was his heart, not his location. (Read Psalm 51).  If you live within the pages of Holy Writ and allow the Spirit of God to shine His searchlight on your heart regularly, you won’t have to look for sin to show you just who and what you are. Sin has not, nor ever will, do anything good for you.

3) Sin is never an advantage to others. You may disagree with me — and that would be all right — but I feel that in depth sharing of past sins is not only a disadvantage to the speaker but also to those who hear. This is especially true when the person giving testimony is someone to be admired now. There is a great temptation for the hearer to consciously or unconsciously move the sin from the minus to the plus column. It may be argued that it can be used to give hope to someone involved in that particular sin, and I agree with this, especially on a one-to-one basis or on special occasions. I thank God for those willing to give Him the glory for forgiveness and restoration in their lives and to share that with others. I think perhaps my greatest hesitance would be with those who might think God let them fall into sin to be a blessing to others. I’m sure we all would agree that our sin hurts far more than helps people.

         No, sin is never an advantage to anyone. If that were not true, then living for God for a lifetime is not something to be expected or even anticipated. I don’t believe that. I believe that when I sin, I didn’t have to; and I believe it brings shame on both God and me. I pray to God I will never see it as an advantage.

“First we practice sin, then defend it, then boast of it.” – Thomas Manton

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Taught By the Precept of Men

“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:” (Isa. 29:13)

These people could talk the talk, but they couldn’t walk the walk, because their hearts just weren’t in it. To hear them talk, one would have thought God was the most important Person in their lives. On closer examination, however, we find out that on the contrary, they had chosen to move away from Him, placing their true affections elsewhere. I don’t want to get into speculations about the actual relationship of this kind of person with God; I’m merely pointing out the principle this verse lays out: Some people’s devotion to Him is simply “from the teeth, out,” as I’ve heard the Irish say.

The rest of the verse gives us an idea of what can cause such shallowness. “[T]heir fear toward [God] is taught by men.” When people are placed under condemnation (not the same as conviction) according to man-made regulations, instead of God-made laws, their Christian lives are reduced to petty nit picking. And this kind of activity leaves precious little time for true Spirit-initiated heart searching—the kind that weeds out malicious roots and heals bitter wounds. Such daily, personal dealings with God are what keep our relationship with Him “up close and personal.”

Unless God has our whole hearts, and unless our standard for life is His Word alone, our Christian lives will always lack the depth of commitment required of a true disciple, no matter how well we speak the lingo. And make no mistake; following the precepts of men will earn you the praise of man, but only obedience to the precepts of God will win you the smile of Deity.

Oswald Chambers said, “The real crisis of abandonment is reached internally, not externally. The giving up of external things may be an indication of being in total bondage.” To abandon oneself in total submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the precepts of God is where true liberty is found. So says the Psalmist:

“And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.”  -Psalm 119:45

Saturday, March 7, 2015

My Makeweight

“…Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.” – Daniel 5:27

         In my reading of great Christian authors of the past, I often come across words seldom used today that nonetheless, speak volumes to me. One of them is the word used in my title: “makeweight.” The dictionary defines it as “something put in a scale to complete a required weight; anything added to supply a lack.” My thoughts immediately ran to our Savior, of course. May I share with you where those thoughts took me?

         “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). When our sins tipped the scale of our debt to God, Jesus Christ, through the sacrifice of His blood, supplied all the grace of God needed to counterbalance all our sins. In fact, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). When we were “weighed in the balances and found wanting, the Savior stepped in “to complete the required weight” to make us fit for God and heaven.

         Job was right when he said, “Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (5:7). It’s true whether you’re saved or lost, man or woman. The environment, society, and our own bodies are all sources of trouble at one time or another, all through our lives. But just when it seemed the cares of this life would weigh us down beyond hope, Jesus stepped out of eternity into our world and announced, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He offers not only eternal life, but abundant life that makes up for all that is lacking in this life of troubles and trials.

         But what about death? “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). What if this life of faith, abundant though it may be, leads only to nothingness or worse? Ah, our Lord has that covered as well! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). In fact, here, Christ (I speak reverently) has topped Himself. The abundant life He gives us here is itself outweighed by the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” that awaits us over there. Where? Why, with Him, of course! God will answer His prayer in John seventeen, and we will be with Him where He is (v. 24); where “we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). And I can tell you, as the old song says, “That will be glory for me!”

You see now why I say, Jesus is my “Makeweight.” His grace outweighs all my sin; the abundant life He supplies makes up for all that is lacking in this troubled world I live in; and the “weight of glory” awaiting me will make a lifetime seem but a moment. I guess what I’m saying is I am “complete in him” (Col. 2:10).

With Jesus Christ, I will never be “found wanting.”