sin

The art of self-deception

The scariest verses of the Bible are not the ones where plagues are pronounced and massive destruction happens. The verses that should scare you are the ones where someone entered the presence of Christ thinking they were Spiritually sound, only to find out they were still lost the whole time.

Consider the words of Christ in Matthew 7:22-23:

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Here, you have a situation where people were in the Lord’s presence on judgment day, finding out that they were never saved, and thus stood condemned. They protested, saying they had done a lot of wonderful things for the Lord, yet He proclaimed, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

These people had probably spent a lifetime doing works that looked good on the surface, but beneath the surface were impure motives and sinful desires. Yet, they convinced themselves that, because what they were doing was good, the ends justified the means.

They justified themselves, and placed their faith in their works, rather than the Lord, who would have cleansed them from all unrighteousness, justified them, and received them into Heaven.

But because they justified themselves, they deceived themselves into thinking that they were doing God’s work. Consider the words of 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Without a real relationship with Jesus Christ, without repentance from sin, pride and dead works, while turning toward and placing your faith in Christ, you are still lost. Any “righteous” works that you do will still leave you short of Heaven.

If you assess your life and conclude that you are without sin, you are also performing the art of deceiving yourself.

The lesson learned from Sardis, posted in the video above, is that you can believe yourself to be in good shape, and have a reputation of being a solid, Spiritual person, and still be Spiritually dead.

Heed the words of Isaiah 1:18, bring your sins to the Lord, and allow Him to cleanse you.

God’s patience runs out

The church at Thyatira, like the other churches in Revelation, had a lot of things going for it… but one issue God took was the sin and immorality that was infiltrating the church. God allowed time for those involved to repent, but they didn’t, so the day of reckoning was coming. From this, we learn that now is always the time to repent.

Watch for pitfalls

Jesus had high praise for the church at Pergamos, but unlike their counterparts in Smyrna, there was an issue. Pergamos had those that held to the doctrine of Balaam. What does that mean?

To understand that, we need to go back and read the story of Balaam from Numbers. Balaam was willing to work with Balak to sabotage or pronounce a curse on Israel, that is, until God told him to only speak the words the Spirit gave Him. Upon heeding those instructions, Balaam proclaimed a blessing on Israel.

What happened next, however, is kind of subtle. With Balaam’s direction, the people of Israel began to worship idols and commit sexual immorality. The result was God’s punishment upon the people.

It is easy to get distracted from our relationship and faith in God by enticing sins and temptations which present themselves. Such was the case at Pergamos. They were faithful to the Lord and endured affliction, but at the same time, they had fallen into temptation.

You can be a faithful Christian, and have issues. You can believe in the Lord and be saved, and yet, struggle with sin. The Lord takes issue with that, therefore when we identify that sin, we should repent of that sin and get it out of our lives.

Or as Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

God Doesn’t Ride Shotgun

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Does God seem distant? There may be a valid reason for that, and we might be the cause.

Manasseh, king of Judah, probably committed one of the biggest acts of blasphemy in the history of mankind. He commissioned a carved statue of the heathen idol Asherah, and placed it in the Temple of the Lord (2 Kings 21:7). It was this statue that the Lord referred to as the image of jealousy in Ezekiel 8.

Asherah was a goddess whom the people worshipped through sexual immorality. To make room for the placement of this statue, the altar of the Temple had to be moved aside.

In Manasseh’s mind, there was probably a valid reason for doing this. Many historical scholars believed that Manasseh helped spark an economic boom in Israel by obtaining a “most favored nation” status from the Assyrians. In order to attract Assyria’s favor, he led Israel to worship multiple false gods, including Asherah, who was regarded as the wife of Baal. However, economic gain is never an excuse to rebel against God, and God always deals with this behavior severely.

Manasseh was later arrested by the Assyrians, was treated severely by them, and was only reinstated after he repented and called out to God.

Yet, the damage of his behavior was done. The image of jealousy remained in the Lord’s Temple, and the altar had been moved aside.

Think about how this act violated the Lord’s presence, and the purpose for His Temple. The Temple was a place for people to go to pray, to seek God’s deliverance and guidance, and to be reconciled to Him.

It was a place of repentance, and a place where worshippers sought atonement for sin. The altar was the place where the lambs were sacrificed for sin. Every act of that sacrifice symbolized what God would do for His people through Jesus Christ.

The lamb was tied to one of the four horns of the altar. Those horns represented God’s judgment. So, that lamb was tied to God’s judgment upon us. He took our place there. That lamb was then slain, and its blood was the price paid for our sin. That blood would be collected and sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant on the day of atonement to show God’s redemption of us from sin. That blood was also placed upon the horn of the alter, showing that the Blood of the Lamb covered God’s judgment for our sin.

Likewise, the blood of Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world once and for all. Furthermore, the blood of Christ also covered God’s judgment for our sin. It was with this in mind that John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” as he introduced Christ in John 1.

Once the lamb had been slain, the body of the lamb was placed on the altar, where it was cooked, and then eaten by the worshipper, and the priest. The fat was left on the altar to be burnt up, symbolizing God eating His portion. That step in the sacrifice showed restored fellowship between man and God, a friendship and a family relationship that bonded man with God.

The Temple, and more specifically, the altar, was where man went to repent and be reconciled to God. It was where man went for assurance that His sin had been paid for.

Yet, Manasseh had moved that altar to make room for the statue of Asherah, a goddess worshipped through sin and immorality. It was such a betrayal to God, that He later told Ezekiel in Ezekiel 8 that He had been driven from the sanctuary of the Temple. God’s presence was no longer there.

Had the altar been moved for any reason, it would have been a sacrilege. God’s redemption of man would have been de-emphasized for the flavor of the month. However, to move the altar for the image of Asherah, was to move redemption out of the way in favor of licentious sin. This is an all out rebellion against God, and was the closest man could have come to spitting in His face.

Therefore, God’s presence was no longer in His Temple, leading the elders to say in Ezekiel 8 that the Lord had forsaken the earth. (That’s Old Testament for, “God seems distant.”)

So, if God seems distant, maybe it’s because we moved Him out of the way of our desires. Maybe we moved His altar from the temple of our heart to the back recesses of our heart in order to make room for something more pleasing to us… whether it is merely something of the world, or whether it is all-out sin.

However, God does not move to the back. He does not ride shotgun. He is either front and center, in the driver’s seat, or He is gone altogether.

So, if God seems distant to you, examine your heart, and see where your priorities are, and what your spiritual condition is. Then, repent, pray to God for restoration, and welcome Him back to your life.

The man who destroyed Egypt

In ancient times, Egypt was the world’s lone super power. The Egyptians were architectural geniuses, having built the pyramids, the sphinx, and massive cities. Their architecture still captures our imaginations today, as many adventure movies and novels center around the pyramids and their ancient wonders.

Egypt was also good at agriculture, perfecting the cultivation and harvesting of grain while being fed by the Nile river.

The Egyptians also boasted the world’s most powerful military at the time.

This superpower enjoyed peace and prosperity for centuries, but that all came to an end under the rule of one evil, foolish Pharaoh.

In Exodus 1, we’re told that a new king arose which new not Joseph, the Israelite who warned a previous Pharaoh about a terrible famine, and thus not only saved Egypt, but solidified its place as the world’s lone superpower.

When this Pharaoh saw the Israelites in Egypt, he didn’t see a people who had played a part in his nation’s rise to power, he saw a national security threat. The Bible tells us in Exodus 5:2 that this same Pharaoh didn’t know God, and didn’t care to know God.

As a result, Pharaoh began persecuting the Israelites, God’s chosen people, and that drew God’s attention. The fallout from this would involve God pouring out plagues on Egypt, and destroying that nation as the Israelites left in mass exodus.

From this, we learn that sin, evil, and destructive tendencies are born out of a rejection against God.

How God sees you

IMG_0774The Bible tells the story of a rich man who traveled into a foreign country and released his wife into the harem of a pagan king on two separate occasions. This same man fathered children with multiple wives, as well as one of his wife’s handmaids. What do you think God did with this man?

In two short sentences, I described to you Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, and the prime Biblical example of faith. In all fairness to Abraham, the two sentences I used to introduce him captured the worst moments of his life. In the opening paragraph of this post, I unfairly defined him by his sin, and his failures.

While I may seem like a dirty dog for doing that, the truth is we do this to ourselves and each other on a daily basis. We tend to define ourselves by our worst moments, which leads to discouragement, which leads to depression, which leads to anger and estrangement.

You may see yourself as a failure. You may see others around you as failures. However, that does not mean that’s how God sees you, nor does it mean that’s how God sees others.

How can God honor a man who sinned as grievously as Abraham? Simple. Romans 4:3 says “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

Abraham believed God. He trusted God. He took God at His word. Therefore, God regarded Abraham as righteous and saved his soul.

Furthermore, God looked at Abraham, not as the adulterous man who violated His plan for marriage, but rather as a work in progress that God refined until he was ready to receive His blessings.

You see this concept at work with Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3. Joshua the high priest stood before God wearing filthy garments, a sign of his sin, and a sign of the sin of his people. Satan stood beside Joshua, “resisting,” or accusing him, but God responded, “The LORD rebuke thee, Satan, even the LORD who hath chosen Israel rebuke thee, is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”

Joshua stood before God as a mess, but God saw Joshua for the man whom he was transforming him to be.

Your life may be a mess right now. You may be fearful to enter God’s presence. Perhaps that is why you haven’t been to church in a while. You want to at least be able to put your best foot forward, and right now, you don’t have a shoe to fit.

If you trust God, He regards that as righteousness, and He will save your soul. Furthermore, His view of you has less to do with what you are, and more to do with what He will transform you to be. He sees the best in you, and He will bring it out.

And just as scripture gives glowing praise of Abraham, if you trust God to do this work in you, you, too, will hear God’s praise on the day of judgment, when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

If you don’t know the Jesus Christ as your savior, trust Him to save you today. If you know the Lord, trust Him to transform you. Then, return to His presence.

I’ll see you Sunday morning.

If You Can See It, You Can Do It

Many motivational speakers encourage their listeners to envision success. The popular motto is, “If you can envision it, you can do it!” At this point, conference attendees will then begin daydreaming about unparalleled success, fame and fortune. While most people set unreasonable goals and expectations, this approach has led to some setting realistic goals, then achieving success.

The tragic part of this is that the vision-to-action progression is not limited to good things like pursuing your dreams. It can also apply to sin and evil. Over the past few months, America has seen horrific acts of crime and immorality carried out in public view. In each of these crimes, there is documented proof that the offender had a preconceived notion of what he wanted to do. Whether you look at the Charleston shooter, Josh Duggar, or Vester Lee Flanagan, the former TV news reporter who shot and killed two former colleagues after being fired from the station, each offender had envisioned his sin, planned it, then carried it out.

It began with evil thoughts, grew into evil intentions, which then led to evil actions. The Charleston shooter, Dylan Roof, cultivated a hatred of African Americans, before planning and carrying out an attack on a Charleston church. Josh Duggar nurtured sexual fantasies through the use of pornography before using Ashley Madison to set up extra-marital affairs. Vester Lee Flanagan cultivated a hatred of Caucasian Americans before planning and carrying out the murder of two of his former colleagues on live TV. Like a seed that germinates, evil thoughts grow into evil intentions, which then bloom into evil acts.

And the thing that should scare you is that we all have these seeds planted within us. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful, above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Notice, the heart is deceitful. Deceit is the fine art of misleading and lying to people. One of the heart’s greatest deceits is the lie that it perpetuates upon the individual to whom it belongs. The heart deceives us into thinking that we’re good, okay, average, and salt of the earth Americans. Meanwhile, it harbors desperate wickedness.

Jesus addressed this issue in Matthew 15:18-19, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:”

These sins begin as small thoughts, or small feelings of anger, desire, or rebellion. As they grow, they develop into the actions described in Matthew 15:18-19, and the actions we have seen on the national news recently. The scary part is, each one of us is capable of these things if we let this go unchecked.

The remedy is not to try to stuff these things deep within your own subconscious. You can’t hide them away, or wish them away. The way to handle these temptations, which are brought on by the sin nature, is to give them up to the Lord. As King David prayed in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Pray to the Lord to cleanse your heart from these sins and sinful desires, and then refuse to cultivate their growth. The way you avoid growing these sins in your heart is by turning away from sin, and not being entertained by it. Or, as Psalms 101:3 says, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” Do not entertain yourself with movies and TV shows that glorify immorality and violence. Do not entertain sexual fantasies. Do not envision or plot revenge. Don’t indulge in get rich quick schemes.

Understandably, this post will not be the most popular thing posted on “The Point.” In fact, it may very well become the most controversial, due to the fact that it involves recent news stories and the idea that each of us has sin in our hearts. Still, I felt the need to post it, because each of us needs to be aware of his potential for sin, failure, and even evil. Each of us needs to turn to God for forgiveness and cleansing, and each of us needs to live a life on guard, that we do not give in to our sinful desires. May God bless you as you travel your path.

False Promises of Freedom

Do you realize that, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived under one restriction, and one restriction only?

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17

Adam and Eve were told they could freely eat of every fruit of every tree in the garden, except the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were forbidden from eating of that tree, because doing so would cause death. Other than that, everything went.

In the history of man, I cannot think of another time when man was more free, let alone as free as Adam and Eve in the Garden.

Yet, in Genesis 3, Satan (in the form of the serpent) somehow convinced Adam and Eve that they were not free. He reasoned that they could never be free as long as they were under God’s authority, and God was intent on continuing His “oppression.”

That’s the message within Satan’s statement to Eve, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:5.

Adam and Eve were led to believe that by eating the forbidden fruit, they would be freed from God’s authority, free to do whatever they felt. They thought they were about to realize a level of freedom never before seen. They were wrong.

Their eating of the fruit brought sin into the world, and the knowledge of sin. So, instead of being freed from God, Adam and Eve were made slaves to sin, its consequences, and its relentless presence in every aspect of life. Consequently, the entire human race has been subjected to such.

In modern times, the Satanic Temple (which denies the existence of Satan, all the while advancing his message), proclaims that its doctrine would liberate people from the bonds of religion and unjust laws. In reality, they are making the same false promise as Satan made to Adam and Eve. Satan promised a freedom from God, a freedom to do with their bodies as they wished. The Satanic Temple lists that concept as one of its tenets. Yet we know that one cannot live in total freedom without impacting the freedom of others.

Recently, the Satanic Temple protested in favor of abortion, saying that pro-life legislation enslaves women to the oppression of motherhood. While motherhood is definitely a rigorous lifestyle (one of which many women have told me is completely worth it), the fact is that a pregnant woman cannot live free of motherhood without denying another person the most basic right to life. And while the Satanic Temple claims to support scientific reason, the fact is genetically, that “fetus” is a human being.

If a woman decides to defy God’s design for marriage, and live a sexually immoral life, then she can do so without the effect of pregnancy, and thus, motherhood, simply by employing birth control. Even if she is successful at this, she still faces the consequences of STD’s, the emotional damage brought on by promiscuity, and the degradation that often follows. (For what it’s worth, men who live sexually immoral lives face the same consequence).

What is promised as freedom from God’s law, the restraints of religion, or the morays of morality, actually presents a bondage all its own. My point? The promise of total freedom is a false promise that Satan has made since the creation of man. It never materializes, and never will.

Whether it was the prohibition of eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Genesis, the 10 Commandments in Exodus, or the commandment to love each other in John 15, God’s commandments are given to protect us from destruction, and to help us enjoy the most of what life has to offer.

The prohibition against eating of the tree in the garden was to allow Adam and Eve maximum freedom without the fear or confusion over sin. The 10 Commandments guarded us against the self-destructive lifestyles of covetousness, deceit, theft, adultery, stupidity, and idolatry. The commandment to love each other moves God’s law from a list of do’s and don’ts to a check of your motivation. It all frees us. The question is, will you enjoy the freedom God makes freely available in Christ? Or will you choose the slavery that comes with sin?

Choose wisely, for your choice will last you for eternity.