Sin-It Isn’t What You Do, It is Who You Are

These are some excerpts from my message in Germany

“We are going to read in 1st john tonight, the entire first chapter. John wrote this letter to a group of Christians who were struggling with some pretty tough questions. And you know what’s something really awesome about god? He can handle all of your toughest questions. Questions like: Does God care if you are a good person or not? Is sin even a big deal to God? Once you become a Christian, should you not sin ever again? What do we have to do to be cleansed from sin? Was Jesus really god? Does God ever sin? were addressed.

Let’s read 1 john chapter one together. This is the most perfect thing I can ever say, it is precious, beautiful and true. ) Let’s all stand to show respect and reverence to God’s word:

1 John 1

Two quick things: Every time you read the bible ask yourself, what does this tell me about God? And secondly, if you don’t know what to be reading in your Bible, Johns writings are a great place to start. 🙂 Anyway, the first few verses give an eyewitness account. Jesus really walked and talked and bled and died and rose again. Those CLOSEST TO HIM SAW HIM EVERYDAY FOR YEARS SAY, YEP…Jesus Christ really is God.

Then, you can see how the text goes on to talk about how you know for sure that people are really believers in Jesus Christ? The answer is not if you’re a good person, but 2 parts, 1 if you have realized/confessed that you are a sinner and 2, God has opened your eyes to trusting in the payment that Jesus Christ has made for your sins! Atonement! And once you TRULY BELIEVE ONE AND TWO, then you r truly a believer in Christ and you will less and less want to sin and more and more want to honor and serve God with your life.

As for me, even at a really young age, i KNEW I was a sinner. Though I didn’t do drugs or kill anyone, I KNEW that I WAS a thief a liar and a manipulator, and that God was as good as everyone around me seemed to think he was, I bet he didn’t really like it when I did bad things. So I confessed to God that I knew I did wrong things, sins, and told him that I believed In Jesus and wanted god in my life to help me not to do wrong things anymore. And probably that is what many of you have done and thought. I did the first part, of confessing, but I didn’t do the seconds trusting. I didn’t trust in the payment that Jesus Christ made for my sins. Because I was afraid that god didn’t love me after I would do bad things, or that he would punish me, like hit me with a lightning bolt or something! If you struggle with those thoughts, you are not realizing the beauty of the truth if what Jesus’s PURPOSE was when he died on the cross FOR YOUR SINS.

So let’s go back to the first part: confessing you are a sinner.

So confess or admit  that you are a sinner? What does that mean? What is a sinner? Is it JUST the bad things that you do??? I think helpful way to answer that question is to watch the beginning of a cartoon that I remember watching as a child about a frog and a man who wants be rich, let’s watch that now!

Love that song! It’ll be stuck in my head for daaaays now! 🙂 anyway, here is my question…when the little green creature was sitting a croaking, what animal was he? Everyone say A frog! That’s right! Good job! Now, when that animal was dancing and singing, what animal was he? Right! Even if he acted differently, that didn’t change what he was. Still a frog.

In that same way, Sin Isn’t just what we do so much as it is who we are. We are sinners. We have a sin nature. So we are each born this way.

It is like we are that frog in the video! There are things we would naturally do as a frog, live eat flies, jump and hop along and croak like this ribbitt. And if we stop and start singing and dancing it does to make us a human, just a dancing frog.

NATURALLY WE ARE SINNERS. NO ONE TAUGHT US HOW TO LIE, OR CHEAT,  OR HIT OUR BROTHERS OR SISTERS WHEN WE WANT THEIR STUFF- we just do! And if you just try to stop sinning, without having the faith that Jesus Christ died for your sins, you are not a Christian, just a well behaved sinner, who still is separated from a perfect, holy, loving, and just God.  Just a dancing frog!

God is amazing and wonderful and perfect. He is the ruler, judge, and flawless king over all things. Sin is everything opposite of that…rebellion against God, and  in compete opposition to God. Sin says, “I am the ruler, only I matter, I should be worshiped.” God says he should be worshiped and the ruler!  So clearly these two things cannot coexisted. You must choose which one will be the ultimate ruler and authority in your life!

So let’s recap, shall we?

Sin is not JUST the bad things you do. But who YOU ARE NATURALLY. And God is so incredibly and so perfect and so wonderful, he is not just a little annoyed by your sin, he is not okay with your sin, he does not simply see it as an inconvenience, but God HATES IT WITH A HOLY PASSION! It is against him, it hates him, and therefore he wants nooooo part of us. The bible tells us in that we are Gods ENEMIES! It shows us that he is beautiful and good and perfect! And we, though initially created to be those things too, chose to rebel against god and are now all sinner, naturally you are opposed to God.

Do you feel uncomfortable? Kind of like you suck? Me too! Sin is not good news!

But here is he crazy awesome, beautiful, wonderful thing. There is really, really, REALLY GOOD NEWS.

Another way to look at it is like this, God is a king, and his kingdom is a beautiful and perfect and it’s walls are high and it’s gates are impenetrable! Sinners are His enemies, from a nearby city. All They do is attack him and everything he stands for! They want to rule his people! God, the king is not worried, nothing can get past fortress, but instead of just getting rid of us, or waging war against us like he should since we’ve rebelled against him, he has made a way for us to no longer be his enemy, no longer be “frogs”…he can give us a NEW nature be on his side, in fact be his heir! Isn’t that awesome? Because without God giving us a new nature, we could never be part of his kingdom because we would just attack it!  So he is loving and just and thought of the perfect way to do that. He allowed Christ to take on all of our punishment for all of our sin natures .

The Bible tells us that because of his great love for us, that while we were still sinners, even though we are his enemy, Christ died for us!!!! It says in 1 Tim, 1:15 Jesus was sent into the world to save sinners. He took alllllll of gods wrath and anger and judgment that SHOULD RIGHTFULLY BE ON YOU, on himself on the cross, so that you can be united with God and no longer his enemy but now, his child.

If you do not believe that Christ is the only way to salvation. If you do not want to read Gods word to know God better. If you do not want to obey the commands he makes in scripture, even if it is really hard. If you do not want to submit to the authority of the local church…then you want to stay a frog…you want to submit to your ruler, sin.

But…if you see that it is a privilege and a joy to be ruled by the wise, kind, just, perfect, gracious creator of the universe, and you believe that Jesus is who he said that he was, and he did what the bible said that he did, and you want to live a life dedicated to pleasing him as your lord and ruler…then you have rid yourself of your sin nature and now have Christs nature.

Get this, I sin every day and I hate it! Just like Paul does in Romans! But God does not see me as a sinner, but as RIGHTEOUS, LIKE HIS SON, because HE BECAME MY SIN SO THAT I COULD BECOME HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS. And knowing that motivates me to WORK HARD TO TRY TO NEVER SIN!! Knowing that I deserve to be banished from his kingdom, because of my sin nature and that instead of banishing me, he has made his son take my punishment and I get his righteousness motivates me, causes me to PRAISE HIM AND LOVE HIM AND DEDICATE MY LIFE TO KNOWING HIM AND HELPING OTHER PEOPLE KNOW THIS INCREDIBLY GRACIOUS AND LOVING GOD OF THE UNIVERSE.

We are justified, seen as righteous in Gods eyes by our faith in Jesus Christ. And not just that he existed, but that he took on himself, all of my sins.

Listen carefully, you are NEVER, NEVER good enough to not need God. And you are never, never, never “bad enough” for his death on the cross not to cover alllllll your sins, and for you to be a NEW CREATION in him.

So I close with this, 1 if you haven’t yet, realized you are a sinner, and enemy to perfect, loving, and just God, realize that today! but please, don’t stay there go to part two and believe that God made a way through Jesus Christ for you to be his child and seen as righteous in his eyes and to be part of his kingdom here one earth and in the afterlife. Then let’s embrace being no longer sinners, but now children of God.

 

What Old Bay Teaches Us About God

Since I was raised in Maryland, I am firm believer in the transforming power that Old Bay seasoning has on food.  So much so, that every wedding I go to, I include a box of it in my gift with three wonderfully cheesy reminders:

  1. ALWAYS REMEMBER-OLD BAY SEASONING IS AN AMAZING GIFT FROM GOD-JUST LIKE YOUR SPOUSE!
  2. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO SPICE UP YOUR MARRIAGE! 😉
  3. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO OL’BAY (obey) YOUR HUSBAND!

Recently I came across this clever post about Old Bay by Dan Oshinsky: http://www.buzzfeed.com/danoshinsky/old-bay-seasoning-is-a-gift-from-the-gods . This guy’s opinion of Old Bay is spot on, but his theology is waaaaay off. He says:

“If there is a God, Old Bay is proof that God obviously spent his/her formative years somewhere near the Chesapeake Bay.”

And to that, I would say:

Well sir, there is a God. He is awesome. He had no formative years because (I know this is mind blowing) He is eternal. He transcends time. He always has been. He always will be. There was no beginning and there’ll be no end. He’s God, and He’s remarkable like that.  Oh, and about Him being near the Chesapeake-you got that sort of correct! Because He’s also omnipresent! This is another really cool thing about Him-He is absolutely everywhere all the time. I know it’s hard/weird for our human minds to get how that is possible. But He is God and sooo not like us in so many ways-and that’s a good thing.

But you are right that Old Bay does show us some things about God! It shows us that he is INCREDIBLY GRACIOUS, and AWE-INSPIRINGLY CREATIVE.  Gracious in the sense that when He created us, He didn’t have to give us taste buds. We would have been completely fine without them; food could have been solely for nourishment and without delight and we wouldn’t have known any better. BUT instead, He is so kind, and loving, and gracious that he gave us the ability to taste and enjoy! Just because!

And I say it shows His amazing creativity because when making taste buds, He could have made it so that we taste one or two sort of taste. Good or bad. Sweet or salty. Spicy or tangy. That’s it. But no. He gave us the ability to taste it all. We can taste over a hundred flavors of ice cream, dozens of types of hot sauce, countless varying  spices like cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne pepper, amazing herbs like basil, rosemary, and my personal favorite-cilantro! Every country in the world brings out different flavors to foods that we get to enjoy! In America we enjoy root beer floats, apple pies, barbecue ribs, grits, green bean casserole, and of course, Old Bay Crabs. And our pallets are sure to break out in a song and dance number when we get to eat different things like Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, Greek, Irish, and English dishes!

Isn’t our Creator awesome?

And if that God is so gracious and kindly creative, don’t you want to get to know Him? Don’t you wonder what else He is like? Because you don’t have to wonder! He has given so many answers in a book all about Him, called the Bible. I know you’ve heard about it! Well next time you are so pumped and excited and overwhelmed because of the awesomeness of something in His creation as small and insignificant as a seasoning-I hope it leads you to deeper seeking to know the happy, holy, just, perfect, kind, brilliant, sovereign being behind life’s little gifts like Old Bay. 🙂

 

Why Did God Save Noah?

NOah

I praise the Lord that like many of you readers, I grew up in a Bible teaching, gospel loving church. And I am sure that if you would have asked me about the story of Noah I could have echoed it back to you-flannel graph and all. If you would have pressed me, “Why did God preserve Noah’s life?” my answer would have sounded something like this:

“Well, all the rest of mankind was evil and wicked in every way, but Noah was righteous. Noah didn’t sin or lust or disrespect Yahweh, but instead tried to obey, love, and honor Him. God saw this good behavior and when deciding to punish all the evil men, he rewarded Noah’s obedience and preserved his life via the ark!”

Right?

Would you have said that too?

Would you have taught the lessons with a concluding statement of, “So even if everyone around you is sinning, YOU need to be good so that you too can sail away from God’s wrath and be safe from his righteous judgment”? If so, what that is teaching us is that God saved Noah because of what Noah was doing and not doing. Genesis 6:8 tells us

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

So my question is, is that concluding statement the point of the story? Did he “find favor” after he was being well behaved and doing all the “right things?” Is that when God’s eyes lit up at the sight of Noah? Or maybe because he was the smartest or the bravest or the most committed? Is that when God “finds favor” with us?

No.

Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord not when he was obedient, but LONG before. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord before time dawned when the Trinity predestined him to be able to obey and have righteousness and please God and desire to do God’s will above his own. The order of events was not:

Noah’s righteousness –>            God’s favor —>              Noah’s Salvation

But instead…

God’s favor –>                              Noah’s Salvation –>                     Noah’s Righteousness

See the only reason Noah was seen as virtuous and blameless was because of GOD’S GRACE in his life empowering him to be that. His works of righteousness is a response to being found favorable in God’s eyes, not the other way around. And this is reason to rejoice! This truth makes God so much better! It is not that He is watching his people, searching feverishly for someone righteous to reward-he would NEVER find anyone-we are all naturally so self-glorifyingly wicked! Instead, he has graciously chosen to make people righteous in his eyes for His perfect plan and because of His lavish love!

Why did God save Noah? It’s the same reason why God saved you.

Friends, we should be the most grateful of all people. God does not love you because of your good works. He did not save you because of any potential He saw in you or any desirable attributes you have. It is all grace.  And therefore, He does not forsake you because of your shortcomings. He is not surprised by your failings or regretful of his decision to make you His child and heir. The love in God’s eyes when he looks at us is not based on our performance, but based off of his beautiful, gracious favor and kindness.

Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,”

Studying the Holy Spirit-Part Two

For the introduction this week, Pastor Joel had us brainstorm answers to the questions “What does it feel like to love someone?” and “what does it feel like to be loved?”. After a myriad of both thought provoking and strange answers, he posed the question that he was leading to which was:

“What is it like to have a relationship with someone you can’t see or touch? And how do we feel when we are in a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Before diving into discourse, Pastor Joel did a quick recap of last week reminding us of the beauty of the trinity and the role of the Holy Spirit (see post on week one!). He suggested that a question like, “How are spiritual gifts active in my church?” can be boomeranged back with the question “How Christ centered is your church?” and gave some clarifying imagery on the Holy Spirit’s role in the Testaments. He quoted 2 Corinthians 3:6-11 to support the notion that the Holy Spirit’s role never changed, simply grew. He was a candle in complete darkness in the Old Testament shining its light on the glory of God, and in the New Testament He is still shinning his light on the glory of God (manifested in the person of Jesus Christ) but now instead of a candle He is more like some sort of giant, mega concert light!

Okay, now moving on! First we looked at five New Testament passages that contain a list of Spiritual Gifts:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:8-11
  • 1 Corinthians 12:28
  • Romans 12:6-8
  • Ephesians 4:11
  • 1 Peter 4:11

If you look these up your notice that each of the lists are VERY different. No two are the same, though of course there are similarities in each of them. Some were miraculous, some were non-miraculous, some were people, and some were broad categories.

PJ points out these differences, and the fact that spiritual gifts are NOT mentioned in every book (Philippians and Galatians for example) to support the idea that spiritual gifts are not of utmost importance.

Then we went through FIVE FACTS ABOUT SPIRITUAL GIFTS-this is what the relationship is based on…

  1. Spiritual gifts are divine enablement for service
    1. 1 Cor. 12:11- Holy Spirit
    2. 1 Cor. 12:18-God the Father
    3. Eph. 4- Jesus Christ
  2. Everyone has a spiritual gift, no one has them all
    1. 1 Cor. 12:29-31-  This is a rebuttal to any Pentecostals who say that everyone must speak in tongues to be a Christian. Clearly no.
    2. We have many unanswered questions about the spiritual gifts
      1. If you read a passage in Scripture and have 25 unaddressed and unanswered questions, you are probably missing the point of the passage.
      2. Lack of information reflects a lack of centrality
    3. Focus on welcoming and appreciating people with different gifts
    4. Spiritual gifts are for the joy of others!
      1. Not for SELF-FULFILLMENT! Not about your “uniqueness” or about how we fulfill ourselves by serving…it’s about LOVE!
      2. There is no command that says, “Thou shalt find thy spiritual gift and once thou knowest thy gift thou can serve!” Love > Knowing your spiritual gift. (though of course it is helpful to know and recognize; we took a spiritual gifts test that night!)

We closed the night by watching “Let it Go” from Disney’s current big hit, Frozen. (I haven’t seen it yet…don’t judge!) Pastor Joel pointed out how Elsa had a gift. When she hid it and didn’t use it at all, it was a waste, and when she used it too much, with no regard for anyone else, it also was a painful waste. She was isolated at both ends (Wonderful puns were made about the word “ice-olation”). BUT when she was able to infuse her gift with selfless love, THAT is when the true beauty, purpose, and delight in her gifts were able to shine. In that same manner, if we hide our spiritual gifts, or if we pridefully “let our gifts go” without regard to anyone else, we are not using them the way God intended them to be used. Exercise your gifts with encouragement, gratitude, and selfless love!

When I Sat Down During Worship

Earlier this year I went to a youth conference for Junior and Senior High Schoolers. I sat in on a few of the sessions and was super impressed with the story telling and communicating of biblical narratives told by the speakers. Also I had forgotten how crazy/energized teens are! I mean, college students are pretty wild too, but junior/senior highschoolers at youth conferences are a whole ‘nother breed of human.

Gotta love ‘em.

Anyway, there was a really cool indie Christian band playing worship for the senior high students. Skilled musicians. Super hipster. Great combo. We stood and began worshiping through singing and I was immediately sort of rubbed the wrong way when the lyrics were so artists and cryptic that I wasn’t quite sure what we were talking about. And though I think that style of music might not be best for corporate worship, I understood the gist of what we trying to say and so onward we went. The next song/songs where very basic with few words and even less depth. I didn’t want to be frustrated or a “worship snob” so I quickly reminded myself how I love simple hymns like “God is so good” which isn’t wordy or theological, but simple and true. This is the same sort of thing. But as we sang another song with simplistic, one-sided, me-centered choruses, I thought to myself,

“This is so vague and gospel-less. I could easily be a Buddist singing to Budda asking for blessing, or an Islam singing to Allah of his greatness, or a Mormon singing to my nontrinitarian god about my desire to feel him. And I would barely need to change a word.”

And so I sat down.

As that thought entered my mind, I was so angry at the idea that hundreds of young people who could be worshipping God, but learning nothing and singing nothing exclusively about Him. I started feverously journaling about my frustration with the lyrics and the deep need to be teaching songs rich with many truths about God. In high school these students are studying psychology, and physics, and philosophy, and trigonometry-we stretch their minds in all sorts of ways scholastically, but when it comes to theology all we can have them sing is an indie version of Jesus Loves Me? They can comprehend so much more than that! We need to give it to them.

I let my thoughts roam a little bit. I sat there with my legs and arms crossed and after writing a while checked my phone, probably facebook, and looked around. I saw students with their hands raised high, and their voices raised higher, I saw some disengaged, but most had their eyes fixed on the words on the screen.

I realized I should probably pray.

So I learned forward, elbows to knees, to pray. I’m not sure what I was going to say, probably something about God working in hearts in the midst of milk-like theology, but I didn’t even get a chance to get the words out because I was immediately convicted.

This thought came to my mind:

“You know who God is, you have the ability and opportunity to worship Him in song, and you are deliberately choosing not to.”

I instantaneously stood to my feet.

After standing there for a second I began thinking about/processing what I had just thought. How dare I stop worshipping God. All truth is God’s truth and worship is such a matter of the heart. My focus on what I would change, instead of the God who has changed me is (another!) clear reflection of my foolishness and immaturity.

Though, it was NOT wrong to think those things of wanting the songs for corporate worship to have more depth, its timing was misplaced.

I thought about my amazing earthly father. What if someone where to stand on stage, boasting of how sweet and kind and gentle he is. Would I get annoyed, or outraged and say, “That is not even the tip of the iceberg! How dare you only talk about those things! He was also fair in the way he punished us and showed us what righteous anger looked like. He has loved my mother so well, and is selfless to her-not just to you!” Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? Isn’t that not the place or the point?

My desire for worship lyrics to most wholistically and reverently represent the triune God of the Bible is not wrong, but my desire to stop worshipping Jesus Christ and complain about it was wrong. I know I could have still worshipped, and after my stubborn heart was revealed to me I did!

I praise the Lord that at both the college I work at and the church I attend, our leaders do a great job of mixing songs of “childlike faith” with songs lyrically rich to help us grow in our understanding of the gospel of Christ. But next time there is a worship song that is played that is not heretical, but simply shallow, I’m not going to have a seat. I’m going to engage my heart and mind, even add words of praise of my own, to worship the only God who is worthy of all adoration, praise, thanksgiving, honor and glory.

What do you think? Right response? Wrong response? Additional thoughts?