Psalm 51:4 NKJV
To a lot of us, the idea of sin can become quite old-fashioned and abstract. Sometimes, we avoid thinking about it all. When we do think about it, we can fall into either assuming that everything we do is sin, or that it’s only extreme actions that count. The truth is hidden somewhere among all of that.
What we call sin is simply anything that we could allow to negatively affect our relationships with God, with others, and with ourselves. It’s anything that we could allow to get in the way of what God wants for us. Whether it’s something that we think, something that we do, or something that we neglect to do, we can understand sin as anything that blocks the pipes between us and the Holy Spirit.
As Psalm 51:4 tells us, all of our sin is against God only. It becomes a problem, not because God has a list of rules and is desperate to punish us (that’s not who He is!), but because they get in the way of our connection to Him. He loves us and wants a relationship with us more than anything.
There is good news in that. If everything negative that we do counts only against God, He is the one who can clear the connection by forgiving us. Read Isaiah 6, particularly verse 7. It’s a great illustration of how ready God is to restore our relationship with us, and how completely He’ll do so. The minute that you turn to Him and tell Him that you want to live alongside Him, ‘your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged’ (NKJV).
No matter what ‘sin’ we have in our lives, God is ready to deal with it and, from there, will help us become more like Him every day.
2 Ki 6:1-7; Matt 14:22-33
Psalm 51:4 NKJV
We need a new way of looking at sin; a fresh understanding of it. John Ortberg writes: “All sin involves denial. It carries with it a certain moral myopia – nearsightedness.” And the only way to see it clearly is through the eyes of the One we’ve sinned against. The psalmist prayed, “Against You, You only, have I sinned.”
A Christian college professor put it like this: “I’m nice to my students; respectful to my colleagues; love my family; don’t steal, commit adultery, use drugs or swear; and I floss regularly. But when I look at myself honestly, I see that I harbor bitterness, hoard my time, and resent others intruding on me. I’m vain and consumed with how others perceive me. I wrestle with my sexuality and have strayed with my eyes and my heart. I pretend to listen, but I don’t. I think more about being great than being good. I act more spiritual than I am. I’m a mess – broken in every way – and my only hope is God’s mercy.”
When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on His throne, he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” (Isaiah 6:5 NKJV). Then an angel took a burning coal from the altar and touched his lips, saying, “Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged” (v. 7 NKJV).
The realization of our sinfulness can be as gentle as a nudge, or it can knock us down with hurricane force. What’s important is how we respond. Regardless of how often you’ve fallen or how badly you’ve failed, today God extends to you His grace, and a chance to begin again if you’re willing to accept it.
Soul food: 2 Ki 6:1-7; Matt 14:22-33
Genesis 18:19 NCV
In Genesis 18, we read about God’s conversation with Abraham just before He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. God decided to tell Abraham of His decision to destroy the city: ‘I have heard many complaints against the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. They are very evil. I will go down and see if they are as bad as I have heard. If not, I will know’ (Genesis 18:20-21 NCV).
God has no need to justify His actions to anyone, so why did He explain to Abraham? We can’t fully know why God made the decision, but one of the reasons can be found in the previous verse: ‘I have chosen him so he would command his children and his descendants to live in the way the Lord wants them to, to live right and be fair.’ God had promised that Abraham would be the founder of a ‘great nation’ (take a look at Genesis 12:2), and Abraham was responsible for passing on his knowledge and teaching God’s way of living, so the nation would be equipped to grow into a righteous, godly one.
The destruction was a demonstration of what would happen to people who sinned and refused to repent, and it was a powerful lesson that Abraham could teach to others – as well as witnessing the destruction of the city for himself (see Genesis 19:27-28), he understood why God had done it.
When God reveals something to us, it’s important that we listen and take notice of what He’s saying, even if we don’t understand it at first. He might give words of warning, guidance, teaching or comfort, but whatever He reveals to us, let’s hold on to it and value it. And if we can, let’s use what God’s revealed to us to show others the right way and stay on God’s path.
1 Chr 17:1-20; Heb 11:4-12:3; Ps 18:20-29; Prov 4:18
Proverbs 15:23 NLT
One of the easiest areas to repeatedly trip up on sin is in the way that we speak. So often, our mouth lets something slide out before we’ve fully thought about what we’re saying. But that can cause so much damage. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that ‘the tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences’ (NLT). It really is that serious.
All of our words carry our thoughts directly into someone else’s mind. A careless word from us can dramatically alter the way that other people think, feel, and even live their lives. God calls us to be diligent with our words, because our conversations have so much power.
However, the positive side to this is that if our words have so much influence, then the outcome can be dramatically positive when we invite God into what we say. Proverbs 15:23 also reminds us that ‘everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!’ (NLT).
When we work with God to resist the urge to speak negatively, we really can shine a light to those around us. It will take prayer and real practice, but it is possible with God to make it a habit to check ourselves before speaking. Even while we’re working on curbing negative words, we can send out as many good words as possible.
Let’s make a real effort to use every conversation that we have as an opportunity to share something of the hope and joy that we’ve found in God. Imagine the trail of positivity you’d leave everywhere you go.
Ezra 3-5; John 7:25-44; Ps 108; Prov 24:29
Matthew 7:2 NIV
If you’re the one doing the judging, remember this timeless principle: What goes around comes around. Jesus said, “Do not judge…For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (vv. 1-2 NIV). It’s called the law of reciprocity, and it guarantees you will get back what you give. It’s not a threat; it’s an immutable law, just like the law of gravity.
You say, “I’m honest; I just tell it like it is. Besides, that person’s sin needs to be exposed!” It’s not about your honesty or their sin, it’s about God’s Word that forbids judging. You may be right and they may be wrong, but judging puts you in violation of Scripture. Plus it sets you up to be judged.
Question: What if the other person has already repented, confessed their sin, and received God’s forgiveness? Think about it: The worst kind of judging is judging sins God has already forgiven and forgotten (See Isaiah 43:25). When we judge others, we’re looking in the wrong direction. We’re avoiding what we don’t want to see – our own shortcomings.
Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 NIV). Whatever their “speck” is, it’s God’s business – not yours. Your “plank” is your business! Jesus also said, “They are blessed who show mercy to others, for God will show mercy to them” (Matthew 5:7 NCV). Instead of judging others, start investing in your own “mercy account.” You’ll need it soon enough.
Soul food: Nahum 1-3; John 6:1-24; Ps 85; Prov 24:11-14