Tag Archives: Sin

Like Peter’s Mom

And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. (Matthew 8:14-15)

I wonder if Peter’s mother instantly felt 100%.  Maybe, after Jesus healed her fever, she still had lingering side effects.  If so, maybe, taking Him at His word, she began to act with full assurance those lingering side effects would go away.  If that was the case, she is a model for us.

Since I trusted Jesus, even though I experience the amazing rush of new life, there are still lingering side effects of my old, dead style of existence.  You too?  Probably.  Jesus intends for us to imitate Peter’s mom, trusting Him for the full fix in due time. Get up and serve Him now.

Turned Loose

A guy I knew in high school was confined to a wheelchair.  Then just about this time one year, he showed up at school walking!  He used canes, but he was really walking.  And the look on his face is still etched on my mind.

Imagine the look on the face of the paralytic guy to whom Jesus said, “”Pick up your mat and go home.”  I’ll bet it broadcast alternate waves of amazement and pure joy.  But rereading the account in Matthew, I noticed that the physical healing was secondary.  Jesus’ first words to this man were:

“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2b)

The religious experts who heard Him were shocked at His supposed blasphemy.  So, Jesus used the healing as proof of His authority to forgive sins.

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?    Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?   But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” –  (Matthew 9:4-6)

It is easy to be astonished with the act of physical healing and lose sight of the fact it was given as proof of Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. My guess?  He would have healed the man out of kindness anyway.  But His first gift to the man was forgiveness. 

Jesus said it was easier for Him to say “Your sins are forgiven,” but in fact, it was not easy for Him to make that possible.  Only Jesus had that authority, and He alone, because He was sinless, was able to purchase forgiveness for others on the Cross. 

I think Jesus chose such moments with care, using those that were living pictures of His deeper truth.  Chances are pretty good that you, like me, have felt, paralyzed by sin from time to time, helplessly locked up and unworthy of release.  Jesus has the full authority to say, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven; take up your mat and go home.” 

Trust Him on that…

Two Boxes

Smartest thing I ever did was take a lesson from an expert in organizing clutter.  His name was…   let’s see, it’s around here somewhere…   Well, anyway, one of his tips was to take two big boxes and label them, “Keep” and “Pitch.”  Then, everything you pick up, toss it into one box or the other.  I discovered this system only works if you actually get rid of the “Pitch” box.

A similar task confronts those who are given new life through faith in Christ, sorting through the elements of their old nature and new, keeping the new and discarding the old.  Paul explained this process as the logical extension of our having “died with Christ” (Colossians 2:20a) and having been “raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1a – See the previous post, “Refocus”).  In a sense, he said, get yourself two boxes, a “Death” box and a “Life” box.  Toss the parts for which Christ died and keep the parts for which He was raised. 

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

(Colossians 3:5)

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. – ( Colossians 3:8)

New things Paul listed to put in the “Life” box and keep included:

“…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – (Colossians 3:12b-14)

Clutter can be debilitating; it feels so free to finally get it sorted and cleaned out. Similarly, the clutter of old habits and attitudes can wear us down and tangle us up with guilt and shame. Instead of fighting that battle, Paul says, drop all that old stuff into the “Death” box and haul it to the dump. Of course it is not entirely as easy as that. You will probably have to repeat the cleanup from time to time (just like you do in the basement closet!). But the boost you experience each time is worth it.


While you are reading this, do not look to your right.  Have you messed up yet? “Thou shalt not…” commands have an unintended effect on us: they make us want to do the very things they have forbidden. This, in a nutshell is what makes legalistic religion fail. Rules don’t restrain us, they tempt us.

How much better, God’s plan to restore us by implanting His Spirit to guide us, not by restrictive rules, but by creating in us the desire to do right. And yet, from the earliest days of the Christian church, men have tried to distort this message and turn the church into another religious bastion of rules.
Which led Paul to lament:

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. – (Colossians 2:20-23)

It is not that Paul believed Christians are not tempted to do sinful things, or that nothing in the world is harmful to taste or touch. But, rather, that attempting to live by “Thou shalt not” rules never accomplishes in us a life in harmony with the ways God intended. But neither does Paul leave us passively waiting for the Spirit to overpower our temptations. Instead, he teaches us to refocus our hearts and minds:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
– (Colossians 3:1-2)

Necessary Power

Do you know why they yell, “Clear!” when they apply paddles to get someone’s heart going?  It is because the tremendous power needed would be dangerous if you were touching the body.  If that’s the kind of power necessary to restart a heart, how much power would be needed to bring a dead body back to life, one that had been dead for days?  We humans have never harnessed that kind of power.  We know how much power it takes to kill a person, but not to resurrect.  That power belongs to God alone.

And yet, that power is offered to everyone who will trust Jesus.  God applies His power that we might be:

“… raised with him [Jesus] through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12b- with my added explanation)

I pulled out that half-sentence from a lengthy and somewhat confusing description of what happens to those who trust Jesus for salvation, to highlight the power of God, necessary to bring dead people back to life.  Without that power applied, we all are dead.  We feel alive because our hearts are beating, but it takes much more to be fully alive.  We say someone whose heart beats but who has no brain activity is “brain dead.”  God considers us dead if our hearts and brains function but we do not have His Spirit living in our souls.  Without His living Spirit, we are missing the essential ingredient for the full life God intended when He designed and created us.  We humans lost that Spirit, that Eternal Life, when we rejected God and embraced sin.

By His power, God offers to restore us to full life.  This can only happen to those whose sin has been completely paid for and forgiven.  Because sin caused our spiritual death, the just penalty for sin is physical death and separation from God, a price we cannot pay.  But Jesus willingly paid the full price on our behalf, with His life.  God, by His great power raised Him back to life.  If you accept this payment for your sins and trust the One Who paid it, then you, too, are raised to life by God’s power.

“When you were dead in your sins … God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,” (Colossians 2:13 excerpt)



Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Thou Shalt Not

Two weeks ago, a toddler shot his mother and her boyfriend.  He found a gun in her purse and was messing around with it.  Ten days before that, a two year-old fatally shot himself with a gun he found in the glove compartment.  I’m not anti-gun; my son-in-law used a gun to protect his family from a rattler.  But anyone in his right mind would insist that his children not touch his guns. (He would also lock them up but this post isn’t about gun safety, it’s about loving rules.)  It isn’t being harsh for a parent to make strict rules about guns and enforce them.  It’s loving.  The kids may think you are spoiling their fun.  They may resent your rules and try everything they can to break them.  But the rules are loving, because you have made them to protect their lives.

The same principle holds true for God, Who is often perceived in a negative, kill-joy sort of way.  People say, “Why should we follow a bunch of rules laid down thousands of years ago by a mean-spirited, ignorant deity?  Let’s make up our own rules about what we can do.”  They resent God and decide to ignore what His rules.

But God says,

 “… ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11b)

God loves you.  He wants you to live.  Remember that the next time you feel like breaking one of His rules.


Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Woot, Woot!

The red and blue twirly lights came on just past Fort Donelson, as we drove down along the Cumberland River in Tennessee.  I eased our 25 year old RV to the curb, rolled down my window and waited.  As the officer approached, I said, “Is this a Colorado marijuana stop?”  “Not yet,” he said with a laugh.  “i clocked you going 40, coming down that hill into town.”  You know what always comes next: you hand over the paperwork and then sit there, drumming your fingers on the steering wheel and wondering what’s coming as this sick feeling begins to grow in your stomach. My guess was 4 points and 150 bucks.  After what seemed like a very long time, he came strolling back from his cruiser, hitching up his pants and adjusting his hat.  Didn’t look good…  “Well sir, I’m going to give you a warning this time.  Please drive more slowly and y’all have a nice day.”  Do you remember what that feels like?  The sudden, unexpected rush of freedom and joy?  Woot, woot!

Be honest: If you owed $150 for every time you drove over the speed limit in your life, how much would you owe?  How about for just last week?  Justice demands that we pay the full amount.  Grace, the kind of grace I received from a cop in Tennessee, treats you as though you had obeyed the law completely.  We all know justice is good.  But grace is better!   What if you had to pay the full and just penalty for everything you ever did that was not good?  Hmmm….

Psalm 32 begins like this:

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2)

The first phrase is grace.  God will let you off (with a warning!) and treat you as though you had obeyed the law completely.  But notice that the second phrase says our “sins are covered.”  By Whom? This ancient psalm foretells the sacrifice of Jesus!  He will “cover” the cost for our sins.  Having done so, He will also cover over our sins, as though we had never sinned.  Amazing!  And “blessed!”  Woot, woot!

But notice, the last phrase, which talks of the one in “whose spirit is no deceit.”   As you read further in Psalm 32, you discover that David is talking about one who openly confesses his sins to God, with no holding back, no deceit.  The process of surrender to Jesus, by which we are given the full pardon of grace, includes heartfelt, honest acknowledgement to God of our shortcomings and moral failures.  We don’t pretend that we deserve the grace He offers.  We come “without one plea.”  But that confession (which becomes a continual part of our relationship) clears the air.  We have no secrets and live, fully aware of just how much we need grace.

Woot, woot!

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Testing, Testing

When Jeff Bezos said Amazon was testing drones for package delivery, I’m sure he meant that they were putting the drones to the test in various kinds of bad circumstances, to make sure they would respond faithfully to the commands sent to them by Amazon.  No doubt, there are bad guys out there who will also try to influence and control those drones but in a different way.  They are going to try to override the delivery instructions, to tempt them off course, so to speak, in order to steal the goods.  Presumably, there will be two kinds of testing going on for the drones – perhaps even simultaneously.  Amazon’s testing will be designed to make them succeed; the other type of testing will be designed to make them fail.

There are two kinds of trials, two kinds of tests that happen to us humans, too.  God allows us to encounter trials, in order to help us learn to operate responsively to His instructions.  But we also encounter temptations (in Greek – both “trial” and “temptation” are the same word) designed to cause us to go astray or be destroyed.  This kind of test, temptations, come from Satan.  Remember the distinction between those two kinds of testing as you read these words from Jesus’ brother, James:

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” (James 1:13-14)

Temptations that drag us down toward evil and destruction never come from God.  His tests are designed to help us “fly right.”  Satan’s temptations usually are experienced as “evil desires.”

“Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:15)

If we respond to the commands from the One Who made us, the end result is life, not death:

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” (James 1:16-18)

Quote: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough

I think I know this guy.  For that matter, so do you.

” Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”” (Matthew 19:16)

We know him because he is our spokesman.  He asked the question we have all asked: “Have I been good enough to go to Heaven?”  “Do I measure up?  If not, tell me what good thing to do so I can take care of it.”

Interesting.  We find out later (verse 22) that this guy is loaded.  Great wealth.  Presumably, if he wants something – anything – he only has to get out his wallet and he can have it.  He’s traded up for a three car garage. He’s sampled wine and brie in Paris.  Got the newest phone.  Or maybe he’s famous, stands in the wings and listens to the sellout crowd chant his name. He’s the guy we secretly wish we were.

But somehow, he realizes that it isn’t quite enough.  He’s not “in” yet.  There’s something missing. He senses that he hasn’t quite done enough good.  Other people look upon him as a good person.  Maybe they even named the hospital wing for him.  But he knows himself too well.  Old regrets steal his sleep.  But no matter: just tell me what good thing to do. I’ll get out my wallet and get it done.

Jesus zeroes in on the word, good.

““Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. ”” (Matthew 19:17a)

The only “One” Who is good, is God.  Anything short of God’s goodness isn’t “good.”  Almost good, pretty good, good enough, as good as it gets – none of that is perfectly “good.”  If you had a strawberry shake, made just the right way at the old fashioned soda shoppe, and then I put a tiny drop of spit into it, it wouldn’t be “good” any more.  You don’t measure good by comparing yourself to other imperfect humans.  You measure good by God’s standard.  Anything less isn’t “good.”

Jesus says,

“If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17b)

If you want to be good enough, do what God has said to do.  Perfectly, like the only One Who is good.  Like the only One Whose goodness qualifies Him for eternal life.  But the guy doesn’t get it.  He doesn’t think that way.  Which becomes obvious, with his next question:

““Which ones?” the man inquired.” (Matthew 19:18a)

How much is good enough?  We will come back to this.  But for now, let’s go stand next to the guy and puzzle over the way Jesus used the word, “good.”

I know this guy, don’t you?

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Drastic Measures

Aron Ralston cut his arm off.  Breaking the bones of his forearm and then cutting through the muscle with a dull knife made sense but only because, if he did not do so, he would die.  His arm was pinned under a rock, he was alone in the wilderness, and rapidly running out of time.  It was worth it.

Jesus was exaggerating when He said:

“If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:8-9)

He was exaggerating about what to do, but not about the consequences.  It took five days for Aron to realize he had to take drastic action.  But if you understand what Jesus said, you don’t need five days; you know it now.

Jesus didn’t really mean to cut your hand off or pluck your eye out.  The fact is, those two organs do not cause sin; the brain does. If you pulled out one eye, your other eye would simply take up the slack.   Jesus wanted to startle us and convince us that it is worth it to do whatever it takes to pull ourselves away from habitual sin.  Drastic measures are appropriate.

It’s important to understand that these warnings were given to us because Jesus loves us.  He is passionate that we not hurt one another or destroy ourselves.  Jesus had been explaining how precious it is whenever anyone places receives Him with childlike faith (See: Hand in Hand).  He takes it personally when someone causes such a person to sin (See: It’s Personal).  And then He looked each of us in the eye, so to speak, and said, “Also, make sure you don’t hurt yourself, because you are precious to Me, too!  Do whatever it takes!  Trust Me on this: the consequences are horrific and final.”  Jesus was talking with the urgency and seriousness that you would use if you saw toddlers playing with hand grenades.

But, if cutting off body parts is not intended, then what kind of drastic measures?  A friend of mine signed up for a service that would notify a trusted friend if he looked at internet pornography.  I canceled the free premium cable channels that showed sleaze at night.  Another friend attends AA every week and meets regularly with his sponsor.  Some set themselves strict, modest limits in casinos.  Others don’t go anywhere near a casino.  Of course, sex, drinking and gambling are not the only areas that cause people to fall. Maybe you struggle with gossip, overeating, or lack of compassion.  No matter what it is that drags you down, do whatever it takes; it’s worth it.

To illustrate God’s personal love and concern, Jesus continued on with a parable about a lost sheep.  Stay tuned…

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.