Killing Subtle Sin

Purging that which Pollutes; Pursuing that which Purifies.

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Are your Spotify playlists glorifying to God? What about your YouTube history? Has Netflix done more damage to your spiritual life than good?

 Odd questions, I know. But, if we identify with Christ, these are questions that we need to be asking (and re-asking) ourselves often.

As I read through Deuteronomy recently, I was awestruck by God’s commitment to the good of His people, and especially by His absolute intolerance for sin.

In Deuteronomy 13, the Israelites were about to possess the land of Canaan; a foreign place to them, filled with foreign gods and foreign, poisonous pleasures. In that particular covenant, God knew that their hearts were easily susceptible to forsaking Him and His ways. They would be quick to plunge down to death if left to their own devices. Through Moses, God commanded His people to “purge the evil from your midst.” (Deut. 13:5b) He commanded that the people were to stone to death anyone who attempted to entice them towards the betrayal of the One, True God. “Anyone” truly meant anyone, even if it was their spouse or their child. Whoever even whispered ideas of turning toward foreign idols was as good as dead. Spiritual treason against a Holy, Just, Merciful-Yet-Wrathful God demanded a fearsome punishment.

For the sake of clarity, I want to point out that God does not relate to us now the same way that He did to the Israelites because we are part of a new and better covenant: the covenant of grace. This means that, instead of working toward righteousness by keeping the Law, we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ by grace through faith! So we do not continue in sin, but press on toward obedience out of a heart of love and devotion for our Savior (Romans 6).

However, this demonstration of God’s hatred toward sin impacted me deeply as I read it. It caused me to wonder, “How have I committed treason against God in my own life?”  As believers in Christ, we are no longer in danger of being stoned for our crimes against God. But in light of what we know regarding God’s heart toward sin, should we not strive toward purity in heart as well as in action? Should we not “purge the evil from our midst” today in our own context?

In regard to this issue, theologian John Owen puts it this way:

“Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Just as the Israelites were to remove people who would entice them away from their Lord, we ought to be diligent to remove the influences in our lives that would have the same effect. Thinking in practical terms, let’s go over a two-step game plan: Ask Questions and Memorize Scripture. Here are some questions to ask yourself regularly:

  1. Does the content of this song (movie, show, video, etc.) make me want to worship Christ, or hide my face from Him? Does it glorify Christ, or does it glorify sin?
  2. Are the people I choose to hang out with encouraging my walk with Christ, or leading me astray?
  3. What habits encourage my devotion to the Lord (prayer journaling, great Christian biographies, good theology resources,  etc.) and how can I intentionally put them to use daily?

Finally, here are some passages to consider memorizing:

Matthew 5:29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”

Psalm 101:3 “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.”

1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” (The following verses of this chapter are equally helpful.)

Brothers and sisters, Jesus deserves nothing less than our utmost devotion. His smile is worth infinitely more than any of the stumbling blocks in our lives, whether it’s social media, Netflix, or Katy Perry. Examine yourself. If it is an anchor on the feet of your walk with Christ, cut it off completely. If its content is an abomination to Him, get it out of your life. No exceptions.

It’s time to get serious about sin. Let us always be aiming for nothing less than best.

Love, Grace

“Take heed of secret sins. They will undo thee if loved and maintained.” – Jeremiah Burroughs

Who Are You Willing to Love?

Mission-Mindedness at Home

“It is impossible to love deeply without sacrifice.” -Elizabeth Elliot

I am convinced that Christ does not call us to be comfortable. I know that I’m not the first person to point this out, but this kind of living doesn’t seem to be taking root in the American church. It seems to me that the Evangelical Christian culture here in America talks a big game about discipleship and sacrifice and “radical living” in obedience to Christ. But it appears to me that we’re waiting for the perfect hypothetical opportunity to carry out our claims.

“If God calls me to sacrifice someday, I will.” 

“I will follow Christ anywhere He leads.” 

“I will lay down my life and take up my cross.”

I am just as guilty of making vague, nebulous statements about discipleship as the next 20-something Jesus-follower in comfy-cozy California (or any other wealthy place.) But what does Biblical sacrifice actually look like? Do you have to cross oceans in order to live a missional life? The answer is obvious.

Look around you. There are people everywhere. And the people that God calls us to love are difficult to love. 

In America, there is glory in showing all of your friends pictures of the African (or Mexican, Brazilian, Peruvian, etc.) child that you got to hold on your short-term trip. But there is no glory in caring for the addict, or mentally ill person from your hometown when they set foot in your church. Or in stopping to engage with that person standing outside the grocery store holding a sign. These things require a different kind of sacrifice that not many of us “disciples” are willing to make.

In His sermon on the mount Jesus condemns this type of hypocrisy:

“…if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Matt. 5:47

This implies that we are to lovingly pursue those whom we would not otherwise pursue. Jesus associated with the lowly, the difficult, the unlovable wherever He went. If “a servant is not above His Master”, why should we think that He expects any less of His followers?

If we are only willing to love those who live across the world, then we are not actually loving at all. Instead, we are hypocrites. 

Every time I see this kind of backwards-type living in action, I am sickened to the core. Because I have seen so much of the same hypocrisy in my own life. But I am choosing to repent. I want to love my neighbor both at home and abroad. I want to follow Christ’s pattern of reaching those that no one wants to touch or talk to.

My challenge to you (and to myself) is to actually think practically about how you can reach the ones around you. Instead of saying, “I am going to show Christ to my community”, say “Next time I see a poor woman on the street, I am going to give her a gospel tract and a water bottle,” or anything else that you can think of!  Everything changes when we think in specific terms.

We simply cannot wait for the perfect conditions or the perfect opportunity. Genuine “Calvary Love” requires more time and emotional investment than we typically are desirous to give away. Instead of being easy, it might actually cost us something. But Jesus is worth it. The gospel is worth suffering for. Genuine obedience is the only type of obedience that matters.

Let us put away hypocrisy, and let us press on to love the lost with the heart of Jesus.

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

 

 

Getting Honest With Fear

How Slavery to Christ Sets Us Free…

Isn’t it funny how seemingly small things can jar us into a real tailspin of fear? Sometimes HUGE daunting things are pretty easy to keep on the backburner simply because they are too mammoth to wrap your brain around. As if we think “yes, that will probably be scary. Good thing it’s a long way off.” But as that thing gets nearer and nearer to you, a single word like “immunization” or “Visas” will light your fear up like a match to gasoline. The phenomenon of a distant reality becoming tangible and practical can be terrifying for me.

As many of our family members and friends know, Sam and I are leaving in September to live as short-term missionaries in Chad (North-Central Africa) for a year. Yesterday we got our “country specific information” in our inboxes. We read through pages and pages of “to-do’s” for before we leave for our new (temporary) home. Many of these to-do’s had to do with preventing disease before we arrive and cultural taboos after we arrive. As I read page after page of what needs to be accomplished, a deep dark sense of terror landed on me.

“I can’t handle this.”

“What are the side effects of THIS shot?”

“What do they mean I can’t hold Sam’s hand in public? I can’t even eat with him?? For a whole YEAR?!”

To be totally honest, as deeply scary as these different tasks and cultural regulations are to me, they would not be the most difficult things to handle. But that is not all there is to mission. Without a doubt, my biggest fear about leaving to go so far away for so long is am I even going to be of any use? I can’t emphasize greatly enough how terrified I am of going to the mission field unprepared and unfit for the task. What if I waste this time? What if I waste (heaven forbid) other people’s money?

Sam and I love Paul Washer. A missionary\pastor and a godly man. While watching one of his sermons on YouTube last night, he uttered some words that totally rocked me:

“People do not need your life…and they do not need your zeal…and they do not need all your well-meaning endeavor. Don’t go to the mission field, unless when you go there you can open your mouth and instruct them in the things of God.” 

This is my biggest doubt–that I will actually be able to lead the lost to a God that they do not know. That I will be able to instruct them in the way by which they may know HimI do not even know Him as well as I might, or as well as I ought. What right do I have to place myself in the position of leadership for others?

This is my fear; my deadly iceberg lurking beneath the calm, confident surface.You, no doubt, are dealing with your own. Loved one, as children of our loving Father, how do we live with this? How do we press on in the face of debilitating fear?

There is another quote from Paul Washer that has left a lasting impression on me. This is a rough paraphrase, but it carries the same impact:

“Slaves don’t have much to worry about.”

If you identify yourself as a SLAVE TO CHRIST, you have nothing to concern yourself with. He is a perfect Master. A kind Master. A loving Master. A Master Who knows “when you sit down and when you rise up” and “understands your thoughts from afar” Ps 139. Not to mention, He owns all of creation. There is nothing that exists that doesn’t lie under His reign and His dominion. All things belong to Him. He holds the keys to death and hell. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. If you have submitted yourself to Him as a slave, then it is His responsibility and His ALONE, to care for you and provide for your needs.

THIS sheds light in my darkness. THIS brings me hope.

I don’t have to know the details.

I don’t have to know how this will turn out.

If God has called me to this task, I’m going to trust that He is GOOD, that He is FOR me, and that He will surely fulfill what He has ordained, and provide what is needed to complete it.

All you and I have to do is trust and obey.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He Who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32

Love, Grace

 

 

 

Don’t Fear the Flame

Refining Fire in Young Marriage…

I cannot be the only one in a brand spanking new marriage to be experiencing some of the flames of the Refiner’s Fire. When Sam and I were engaged, I assumed that there would be a lot of things that I was not expecting once we got married. Because, as a not-yet-married-person, you almost constantly hear older and wiser people telling you…

“Marriage is the hardest thing you will ever do.”

“Just wait ’til the fighting starts.”

“You realize he’s not going to be prince charming, right?”

I took those statements to heart. If you’re anything like me, you go into a new situation expecting the very worst. (Because, if that’s your attitude, you can’t be disappointed, right?)  I dove into the ocean of marriage expecting things to be extremely difficult, and assuming that I was totally naive. I don’t necessarily think that was an unwise way to go about it, but it definitely did not reflect a deep trust in God’s goodness. I can definitely say that it failed to prevent me from being burned.

Living life with Sam has been SO TRULY, TRULY GOOD in hundreds of ways. Honestly, so much easier at the outset than I had even hoped. We joke together about the above statements regarding marriage that we were force-fed. “Psssh, marriage is EASY.What were these people talking about?”

I was expecting fights on fights on fights. Today we have been married for exactly six months and have never had a “fight”. I guess what I was not expecting was that I would be confronted with so much of my own sin. I find that we are typically very blind to our own faults and secret inner-workings. As a wife, these things that were once hidden have been highlighted in ways that I never expected. The same is true for Sam. We have come face to face with sins against one another that were shrouded in the dark. Bitter tears have been shed over our own inner ugliness and how it has hurt the other person.

Seeing your loved one weep over how you have hurt them is indescribably painful. I really, REALLY hope that you never have to go through that. I wish I hadn’t. But when it happened, it felt like things got REAL. Like we were being tried by fire. And God has used it for good. For progress.

What I want you to know (married or not) is that you shouldn’t try to steel yourself against the inevitable flames. If you love the Lord, and long to seek His face, He will bring to light your sin and your spouse’s sin. But how GOOD He is! He does not leave us to deal with it ourselves. His intention is to refine and purify so that you can both be better conformed to the image of His Son. To teach forgiveness. To purge out what is evil and replace it with His character. I would not trade that for anything.

If this is what you’re going through, TAKE HEART. Trust His goodness. Kill sin. And enjoy the eternal benefits of a purified heart. “…everyone who thus hopes in HIM purifies himself as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3 [emphasis mine]

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow\ For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress\ When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply\ The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.” (How Firm a Foundation)

 

Love, Grace