Posts Tagged sin
Over the last few days, we’ve looked at the problem of fearing man and how this can change as we set our focus on fearing God instead. Can you imagine what would happen in your life if you could apply the gospel to this key area?
In his booklet, “Gospel Relationships,” Tim Chester describes two powerful things that take place when we start fearing God:
1. The fear of God sets us free to love people.
We are not free to love other people when we fear their rejection or crave their approval. We may speak of loving someone, but in reality we are using them to gain the affirmation that we crave. We may serve them, but in reality we are serving our need for affirmation. If they do not deliver that affirmation, then we respond with bitterness, depression or anger.
Consider a father who craves the respect of his children. When that respect is not forthcoming, he may discipline them out of anger or he may manipulate them through bribery. He is not serving their needs. He is motivated by his need for respect rather than selfless love for his children. As a result, his discipline may well be counter-productive. Imagine now that the fear of God relativises his desire for respect. The respect of his children is no longer determinative in the way he behaves towards them. As a result, he is free to discipline them in love according to their needs.
2. The fear of God sets us free to be ourselves.
When we fear other people, we act in whatever way we think will enable us to gain their approval or avoid their rejection. We are not free to behave as we want…We often fear other people because we fear exposure. I wear a mask to prevent people from discovering the real me. In God we have someone who knows us completely in all our need and sin. Yet still he accepts us and loves us. Confidence in the grace of God means we need not fear exposure and so we do not have to pretend. We can be ourselves.
Yesterday I posted 10 questions to help you discern whether you struggle with the fear of man. These are helpful ways to diagnose what is, for many people, a big spiritual problem. But what’s the antidote to this issue?
In his booklet “Gospel Relationships,” Tim Chester provides this answer:
The answer to the fear of man is the fear of God. We need a big view of God. To fear God is to respect, worship, trust and submit to God. To fear God is to have a proper appreciation of his holiness, majesty, glory, power, love and wrath. Christians can now call God our Father, and fear in the sense of ‘terror’ has been taken away…
…[We need] to meditate on God‘s glory, greatness, holiness, power, splendour, beauty, grace, mercy and love. Encourage them to compare the person(s) they fear with God. [We should] imagine that person next to God. Who is the most majestic? Who is the most loving? Who is the holiest? Who is the most beautiful? Who is the most threatening? Who is the biggest?
How would this perspective change your concerns about people’s approval?
The apostle Paul says something startling in Galatians 1:10 — “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
There it is. We are either seeking to please man or we are seeking to serve Christ.
Many people (myself included) battle with caring too much about people’s approval. In his excellent book, When People Are Big and God is Small, Ed Welch provides these symptoms of the fear of man:
- Are you over-committed? Do you find it hard to say no even when wisdom indicates that you should? You are a ‘people-pleaser,’ a euphemism for the fear of man.
- Do you ‘need’ something from your spouse? Do you ‘need’ your spouse to listen to you? Respect you?
- Is self-esteem a critical concern for you? … If self-esteem is a recurring theme for you, chances are that your life revolves around what others think. You reverence or fear their opinions. You need them to buttress your sense of well-being and identity.
- Do you ever feel as if you might be exposed as an impostor? … It means the opinions of other people — especially their possible opinion that you are failure — are able to control you.
- Are you always second-guessing decisions because of what other people might think? Are you afraid of making mistakes that will make you look bad in other people’s eyes?
- Do you easily get embarrassed? If so, people and their perceived opinions probably define you. Or, to use biblical language, you exalt the opinions of others to the point where you are ruled by them.
- Do you ever lie, especially the little white lies? What about cover-ups where you are not technically lying with your mouth? Lying and other forms of living in the dark are usually ways to make ourselves look better before other people. They also serve to cover our shame before them.
- Do other people often make you angry or depressed? … If so, they are probably the controlling center of your life.
- Do you avoid people? If so, even though you might not say that you need people, you are still controlled by them.
- Have you ever been too timid to share your faith in Christ because others might think you are an irrational fool?
What would you add? How have you seen these in yourself or in others?
I recently told a leader that I work better under pressure. He replied, “You don’t know that. It’s just the only thing you’ve ever done.”
He was right.
Much of my under-the-gun work over the years has come from procrastination. It’s an area that I’m finding increased victory over, though there’s still a long way to go. A helpful perspective on this has been Joe Thorn’s article, “Your Procrastination is Sin.”
Seeing procrastination in this light, rather than just a temperament or work style has helped me see that, in light of the mission God has called me to, life is too short to spend waiting around to do the most important things.
Read the article here.
Why do you procrastinate? What has helped you more effectively use your time for God’s glory?
This past Sunday we took a look at true freedom from sin and saw that one of the aspects of sin is that it is deceitful. Like a skilled fisherman, sin offers something shiny and enjoyable but ends up killing us in the process. This made me recall a biblical illustration from Judges 4:17-22:
But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. And he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. And he said to her, “Stand at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’ ” But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died. And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple.
Sin offers us a warm blanket and a refreshing glass of milk, but in the end drives a tent peg through our skulls.
May we remember Jael’s Nail and watch out for the deceitful promises of sin!
Nightline recently did a debate about the existence of Satan, featuring Mark Driscoll, Annie Lobert, Deepak Chopra, and Bishop Carlton Pearson that will air in part tonight on ABC. You can watch it in full at the Nightline Face-Off website.
Click here to submit your answer to the question, “What do you think are things that kill people’s joy?”
Well, it might seem that death is an obvious joy-killer. After all, we have all experienced the pain that comes in losing a loved one or a close friend. Death, and especially eternal death in hell, are major obstacles to everlating joy.
But it’s not just death itself that robs our joy — it’s also the process. The process of getting old, creaky, wrinkly, saggy, and diseased is a huge joy-killer. All of this is the result of living in a world that is wasting away because of sin. As it is, all creation is subject to “bondage to corruption” (Rom 8:21). This process of dying is an unstoppable force and robs millions of their joy. So, where is the hope to overcome death?
Of course, this hope is in Jesus. The author of Hebrews says that since Jesus took on a human body and entered into death himself, he destroyed the power of death and frees us from the never-ending fear of death (Heb 2:14-15). Those who love Christ will never die (John 11:26). This is the great news of the gospel. Everlasting joy is given to those who love Jesus and approach him in faith.
Today I’m going to present the first of a number of joy-killers worth discussing: SIN.
Sin is simply disobedience and disregard of God. Often times we pursue sin in pursuit of pleasure, which makes its joy-killing nature quite ironic. Though many kinds of sin are enjoyable, the results of sin are devastating. Most of the problems we know of today are the direct result of sin: abuse, hatred, greed, betrayal, murder, genocide, and divorce — just to name a few.
Perhaps a good summary of this is Romans 1:28-32
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Why do we sin? Well, there are at least two main answers. First, we are born with a predisposition to sin (a sin nature or what the Bible calls “flesh”). Second, we sin because we want to. Every time I disobey God it is because at that moment I want something more than I want God. I am never forced to sin, nor do I sin against my will. So, at the heart of sin is selfishness — doing what I want regardless of who it affects. When we live this way it not only robs us of joy, but it obviously robs others of joy. Selfish people are never joyful people.
Next we’ll look at a joy-killer that takes this “sin” thing to an even deeper level. Stay tuned…