Tag Archives: Sin

Christ the Just

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Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

 

Rabbi Tovia Singer has become very popular on YouTube as a debunker of the faults of Christianity. One such attack was on the very essence of the faith. In verse 18 of First Peter, we read: Remember that Christ the just suffered for us the unjust, to bring us to GodPhillips

Singer responds that Jesus did not sacrifice anything. If he knew that he only had a few hours of suffering to go through and that with his death he would put an end to sin, that is not a sacrifice, that is like winning the power ball. A real sacrifice is giving up your life to save another person with no expectation of any reward.

You can listen to his much longer explanation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51PcjmeG0hA

On the surface, R. Singer seems to have made a solid case. Most of us would be willing to do what Jesus did if we knew we would end up saving all humanity.

The problem is that the Rabbi has left out important information. He did so because he does not accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of Man, or the Son of God. He rejects any notion that Jesus was without sin. He even rejects the importance of animal sacrifice in the First Century Temple.

By the Rabbi’s account, Jesus willingly went to the cross in the mistaken impression that his death would eliminate sin. By Peter’s account, Jesus was the Once and Only Pure Lamb, put to death for the sins of the world. He chose to enter Hell to preach to the people there. God took him from the grave and raised him up to sit at His right hand in Heaven.

As we know, Jesus had many disagreements with the Pharisees. One of them was their insistence that they could stand in God’s presence as perfect humans because they observed the Law and all its supplements, amendments, codicils, and refinements. Jesus wanted them to worry more about the people they met every day instead of avoiding them for fear of contamination.

The Gospel message is that we do not have to worry about our sins. What the Pharisees did not understand was that they were sinning every day, throughout the day, without knowing it. We all do. To stop every time I sin and ask for forgiveness would eliminate most of the time I have to help other people.

After Peter describes the salvation of the Ark, he adds this: And I cannot help pointing out what a perfect illustration this is of the way you have been admitted to the safety of the Christian “ark” by baptism, which means, of course, far more than the mere washing of a dirty body: it means the ability to face God with a clear conscience. For there is in every true baptism the virtue of Christ’s rising from the deadPhillips

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Help your Brother

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Psalm 149

Exodus 12:1-14

Romans 13:8-14

Matthew 18:15-20

 

Exodus 12 contains the heart and soul of Judaism and therefore of Christianity:  Passover.  God had to decide what to do with humans who choose to sin.  His Grand Solutions was the Passover; not the Exodus version, but the Jesus version.

God decided to personally intercede with sin and destroy it Himself.  As the Gospel of John has it, Jesus was dying on a cross outside the city at the very time thousands of Passover lambs died inside the Temple.

In Exodus God instructed the people to mark themselves with the blood of the lamb.  We who follow Jesus are marked with the Blood of the Lamb by the Holy Spirit so that the Wrath of God will pass over us with his Sword of Justice; not because we have not sinned but because God has called us to be his and has promised not to kill us.

But I still sin.  Living in a world of sin is like living in Seattle, I will get wet.  Sin happens.  We deal with it the way Paul instructed, that is, to love.  It is the same message Jesus gave:  love others as yourself and love God.  Easy, and so hard.

Jesus gives us another way to deal with the sins of his followers, to help each other.  The reading for today must be taken in context with all of chapter 18.  He who has wandered away needs to be rescued; the lost sheep.  We do not deal with him like the unmerciful servant, we seek to encourage, to help, to build up.

The words of Jesus in Matthew are not intended as a format for churches to follow, but as an example for you and me to follow.  The whole church need not be bothered with most of our sins.  For example:  If I hear someone say, “That boy in the White House…,” I should first try to understand what the person meant by using the diminutive, boy.  Perhaps he calls everyone boy, like a waitress calling everyone Hon.  In that case I could suggest, “You might want to choose a better term for this President.”

Life is full of these little sins.  Guard against them.  Think about what you say and what you mean.  Is it hurtful?  Does it demean someone else?  At the same time we cannot go on the warpath over these kinds of sins.  I learned early on that we have to pick our battles.  Anyone who has ever been an official in any sport knows that rules are broken in nearly every play, even among the professionals.  My father bragged that in high school basketball, he was never caught holding the shorts of the guy in front of him trying to rebound the ball.

We need to call the ones that cause the most harm and pray for the wisdom to know the difference.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Romans 2-6

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Monday, April 14 Romans 2

Proverbs 14:34 sets the tone for this first section.  Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.  Paul wants the Jews in Rome to realize they cannot judge because they do the same things, in the sense of Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

This whole passage is built around Leviticus 19:18.  Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD.  Or if you prefer, Matthew 22:36-40.  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jewish teaching has always been that hearing the Word of God does noting.  Doing the Word of God justifies us before God.  Paul warns his fellow Jews not to assume God’s Grace is only for them.  Exodus 34:6-7a, And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

Paul uses the idea in Isaiah 42:14a, For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back.  And Isaiah 64:12, After all this, O LORD, will you hold yourself back?  God promises to punish the wicked, but he tempers that with Mercy.  Because of his kindness to us, we are expected to repent and return to Him.

We should strive to live our lives to benefit others, not ourselves.

In verses 9 and 10, the phrase, for the Jew first, refers to their greater knowledge of God, not to any special treatment.  Paul is actually saying they will receive punishment first because they should know better.  Christians join them, we should know better.

Never having heard the Word of God does not excuse anyone from sin.  Ignorance of the law is not a defense in God’ court either.

Paul uses Jeremiah 31:33, This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the LORD. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  And Ezekiel 37:26, I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.  I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.  God gives his commands to all of us, Christian, Jew, heathen.

Starting at verse 17 we should read Christian for Jew.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Paul wrote to the Philippians 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  Much the same message as Rabbi Nehorai, Fit thyself to study Torah for it is not a thing that comes unto thee as an inheritance.  We cannot be baptized and be done with it.  Being a follower of Jesus is a life long growing process.

Verse 19 uses the common Biblical theme of light verses darkness.  God is light and created light.  Light shines on the darkness of sin and shows it for what is truly is.  If I am to guide anyone, I must first walk in the light.  But it is also true that the blind can lead each other into the light.  We cannot shirk leadership of those deeper in darkness than we are.

Rather than literally robbing temples (where wealth was stored) Paul probably is speaking of our tendency to use money and possessions for ourselves when they should have been given to God.

For Paul, to mistreat a non-Christian is to violate the Torah and dishonor God.

Rabbi Ze’era said there are four uncircumcisions of humans, the heart, the lips, the ear, and the flesh.  The first three are given in Jeremiah 6:10, Exodus 6:12, and Deuteronomy 10:16.  The physical circumcision is only an outward sigh of the inner circumcision, the cutting away of anything preventing us from hearing and doing God’s Word.

Tuesday, April 15 chapter 3

Paul opens with a strong defense of Jews and the special covenant with God. That covenantal  relationship has not been nullified by God.  Jews are still His Chosen People.

His appeal to Psalm 51:4 raises another issue, that of sinning so God can show his Mercy.  He has already rejected that argument in Chapter 2.  Paul stresses that we will be punished for our evil deeds.  Paul is punished for his sins, we are not any better.

Verse 8 makes it clear that Paul has been accused of preaching that we should sin to encourage God’s Mercy.  He rejects that idea again.

Starting in verse 10 Paul quotes Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 4:9, Psalm 140:3, Psalm 10:7, Isaiah 57:7-8, and Psalm 36:1 all to prove that everyone sins, Jew, Gentile and Christian.

The Law tells us what is sinful.  The Pharisees believed they could obey every law.  Jesus told them they failed.  Do not commit murder by thinking bad thoughts about…anyone.

The only way is to repent as John preached and to repent as Jesus preached and to accept the free gift of the removal of the sins by Jesus’s death, the death we deserve.  We still have to be judged by God.  When that day arrives, Jesus will be our attorney and he will testify to God about our faithfullness to his Way of Life.

Paul makes use of Jeremiah 23:6-8 in describing the Messiah.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness. So then, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer say, As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt, but they will say, As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them. Then they will live in their own land.

In verse 23 we fall short because we do not follow the Messiah described in Jeremiah 23:5. The days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up to David righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  We have trouble doing what is just and right.

The word redemption was used for the purchase price of a slave to become free.  Paul urges us to give up our slavery to sin and be redeemed for a life of slavery to the Messiah.

Paul’s closing is saying that all are redeemed by Mercy, not by doing good deeds.  We are called to do good deeds because we love God and Jesus and want to do what is right and just.

Wednesday, April 16 chapter 4

Jeremiah 9:23-24.  This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

Abraham responded to God, that is his and our only boast.

In verses 4-12 Paul develops the idea that Abraham received the righteousness of God without being circumcised.  Therefore, anyone can do the same by believing in God and in the Son of God.  If we depend on good works to  receive the blessing of God, we will fail.  We do good work because God has blessed us; we do them out of our love for God.

For you who are born as Jews, you have no special status with God until you follow Abraham and believe.  Righteousness is the reward for being faithful.  Punishment is the reward for trying to earn a place in heaven; we cannot do enough good for that.  Jesus was not raised from the dead because he healed, fed, and comforted, but only because he did God’s will every day in every way; he believed.

Abraham is our example because he looked at his 100 year old body and Sarah’s 90 year old body and still believed God’s promise to give them a son.  God does the impossible.

The last verse says it all.

Thursday, April 17 chapter 5

Peace comes only with justification, only when our faith is in God alone.  Offerings were made every day at the Temple until its destruction in 70 AD.  Peace offerings were among them.  The purpose of every offering was to atone for sin and to reestablish a correct relationship with God.  But the offerings had to be given daily because people sinned daily.  Jesus ended that process by  becoming the sacrificial lamb once and for all.  Since sin results in death and Jesus defeated death, we who believe in that miracle will follow him into Heaven.

The veil in the Temple that separates us from God can be bypassed if we hold fast to Jesus.

Christians who expect life to be easy are often disappointed.  We suffer in this world just like everyone else.  But God is with us in that suffering; if we persevere we will end up with hope.  Jeremiah 17:10.  I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.

Remaining faithful in affliction is what it is about.  Being faithful in good times is easy.

Paul uses the words: helpless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies interchangeably.

Paul  in verse 6 builds on Isaiah 61:1-3.  The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

When you read verse 7 think of the most disgusting person you know.  Would you die for that person?  Jesus did.

There is a lengthy story about the Red Heifer that underlies all that Paul is saying in this long section about dying to sin and living to God.  The entire Red Heifer was burned on the Mount of Olives with both cedar and hyssop wood.  Cedar resist decay and hyssop was used to paint the blood on the doorposts at Passover.  The combined ash was then mixed with water and used to purify anyone who came in contact with the dead.  That week long cleansing turned a “dead” person back into the living.  The connections between Jesus and the Red Heifer are so numerous it is a wonder we Christians do not use it more often.

Verses 9-11 Paul uses to list several related ideas on hope, love atoning blood, and reconciliation.

In 12 Paul begins to discuss death entering the world through Adam’s sin, but does digress before he completes the thoughts.  Do notice that God did not create death; there was only a tree of life in the Garden.  Humans were expelled from the Garden before we could eat from that tree and be forced to live for eternity in a state of sin.  Also note that the word “sin” is not used until Genesis 4:9 after Cain kills his brother.

The following is from Romans by Joseph A. Fitzmyer.  Perhaps it will help clear up Paul’s muddled section of 12-14.

But the comparison is not smoothly worked out, for Paul also wants to clarify the dissimilarity and the superabundance of Christ’s grace that now reigns instead of sin and death, which had been in control since Adam.

Just as sin came into the world through Adam (and with it death, which affects all human beings), so through Christ came uprightness (and with it life eternal).

So the Comparison should run, but Paul felt the need to explain his novel teaching about Adam and broke into the parallelism to assert emphatically that it was Adam’s sin that has affected all human beings (5:12c-d, 13-14), making them not just mortal, but even sinners.  Because of this insertion, anacoluthon [inconsistent syntax] appears at the end of 5:14, and Paul’s real conclusion of the comparison is expressed only indirectly (when he asserts that Adam was the type of the one who was to come).

Verse 15 sums up nicely.  The sin of Adam affects us all, but the Grace of God in the free gift of his own Son overwhelms that sin.  Jesus justifies the condemned.

Paul Tillich, in a sermon titled, You Are Accepted, wrote I should like to suggest another word to you, not as a substitute for the word “sin”, but as a useful clue in the interpretation of the word “sin”:  “separation”.  Separation is an aspect of the experience of everyone.  Perhaps the word “sin” has the same root as the word “asunder”.  In any case, sin is separation.  And separation is threefold:  there is separation among individual lives, separation of a man from himself, and separation of all men from the Ground of Being….  We know that the fate of separation is not merely a natural event like a flash of sudden lightning, but that it is an experience in which we actively participate, in which our whole personality is involved, and that, as fate, it is also guilt….

Grace is just as difficult to describe as sin.  For some people, grace is the willingness of a divine king and father to forgive over and again the foolishness and weakness of his subjects and children.  We must reject such a concept of grace; for it is a merely childish destruction of a human dignity….  But grace is more than gifts.  In grace something is overcome; grace occurs “in spite of” something; grace occurs in spite of separation and estrangement.  Grace is the reunion of life with life, the reconciliation of the self with itself.  Grace is the acceptance of that which is rejected.

Friday, April 18 chapter 6

We must not sin because we have given up sin to follow the Son of God.

To be baptized is to be so fully immersed that we take on the color of the dye in the water.  The word comes from the process of dyeing cloth.  Once we have taken on the color of Jesus we will not want to sin.

Paul in verse 4 states a stronger argument: only be entering the grave of death can we have life.  This is one of the great paradoxes of the Bible and of Jesus; only by giving up this life can we truly have life.  It is like a scene from the Matrix where we have to give up reject that which seems real so that we can have what is truly real.

Isaiah 53:5, But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 

 

While we are on this earth we have to take up our cross every day and die to sin.  Sin is a constant state in this life so we have to keep after it, like pulling weeds from the garden, there is always one more.

Paul writing to the church at Corinth gave us these powerful words.  Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul closes this chapter with a nice summary and the classic verse 23.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Temptation

 

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Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11
Psalm 32

Sin is now the human condition.  It is fruitless to speculate about what life in the Garden would have been like had Adam and Eve not sinned.  We live in sin.

Because of the destructiveness of sin, it is imperative that we learn to control it.  History shows us the folly of our attempts.

A close look at Adam and Eve can help us.  When the sin occurred, they were away from God, not looking at Him, not paying attention to Him.  Rather, they saw what looked scrumptious and reached for it, they fell to temptation.

Solutions?  We can study the problem and learn ways to avoid many sins.  Often, that involves the approach of alcoholics, avoid that which tempts.   Pharisee men used to walk on the other side of the street if a woman was coming toward them.  Stay away from the Christmas fudge eating contest.

In the end, all we can ever hope is to reduce sin in our lives, never to eliminate it.  We must take the approach of King David and ask God to cover our sins.  My sins are too numerous for me to keep track, mostly because I sin without knowing it.  I meet a female friend and say, “You look nice today.”  She thinks I am flirting.  I meet a female friend and say nothing.  She thinks I am stuck up.  Sin on my part?  Perhaps, but not intended.

How does God cover over our sins?  We Christians are fond of saying, “Jesus.”  But God has a whole tool shed filled with ways to cover our sins, mercy being high on the list.  It is not for us to know all of the whats and ways, He just does it.

Jesus is the main tool in the shed.  He met the Evil One head on, but kept himself focused on his Father.  The account of his temptations is helpful for us in our own puny efforts to defend against the temptations of the Evil One, but we can also study how Jesus reacted throughout his ministry.

When he healed, he told them not to advertise.  When the crowds became too large, he went in hiding.  When temptation came on strongly, he went into prayer.  Jesus did everything he could do to avoid becoming impressed with himself.

When Jesus went back home, the people who had known him as a child could not believe all the talk about miracles and his being an extraordinary teacher.  He was too ordinary.  He looked just like his brothers.  Remember, he was such a sickly kid.  His brother James is the one to watch, he’s a go-getter.  Jesus is just a flash in the pan.

Jesus needed to hear all that.  It reminded him he was one of us.  He was capable of sin.  Do not give him too much Godly power in your thinking.  He was a human.  He was Adam.  Unlike Adam, Jesus made smart decisions.  He never did anything without consulting God.

That is the solution, but we are not up doing it.  So?  Ask God to cover your sin.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Temptation

 

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11
Psalm 32

Sin is now the human condition.  It is fruitless to speculate about what life in the Garden would have been like had Adam and Eve not sinned.  We live in sin.

Because of the destructiveness of sin, it is imperative that we learn to control it.  History shows us the folly of our attempts.

A close look at Adam and Eve can help us.  When the sin occurred, they were away from God, not looking at Him, not paying attention to Him.  Rather, they saw what looked scrumptious and reached for it, they fell to temptation.

Solutions?  We can study the problem and learn ways to avoid many sins.  Often, that involves the approach of alcoholics, avoid that which tempts.   Pharisee men used to walk on the other side of the street if a woman was coming toward them.  Stay away from the Christmas fudge eating contest.

In the end, all we can ever hope is to reduce sin in our lives, never to eliminate it.  We must take the approach of King David and ask God to cover our sins.  My sins are too numerous for me to keep track, mostly because I sin without knowing it.  I meet a female friend and say, “You look nice today.”  She thinks I am flirting.  I meet a female friend and say nothing.  She thinks I am stuck up.  Sin on my part?  Perhaps, but not intended.

How does God cover over our sins?  We Christians are fond of saying, “Jesus.”  But God has a whole tool shed filled with ways to cover our sins, mercy being high on the list.  It is not for us to know all of the whats and ways, He just does it.

Jesus is the main tool in the shed.  He met the Evil One head on, but kept himself focused on his Father.  The account of his temptations is helpful for us in our own puny efforts to defend against the temptations of the Evil One, but we can also study how Jesus reacted throughout his ministry.

When he healed, he told them not to advertise.  When the crowds became too large, he went in hiding.  When temptation came on strongly, he went into prayer.  Jesus did everything he could do to avoid becoming impressed with himself.

When Jesus went back home, the people who had known him as a child could not believe all the talk about miracles and his being an extraordinary teacher.  He was too ordinary.  He looked just like his brothers.  Remember, he was such a sickly kid.  His brother James is the one to watch, he’s a go-getter.  Jesus is just a flash in the pan.

Jesus needed to hear all that.  It reminded him he was one of us.  He was capable of sin.  Do not give him too much Godly power in your thinking.  He was a human.  He was Adam.  Unlike Adam, Jesus made smart decisions.  He never did anything without consulting God.

That is the solution, but we are not up doing it.  So?  Ask God to cover your sin.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence