Posts Tagged ‘sinner’

freedomInteresting. In today’s world, how often does a person use as their defense, “I didn’t know” or “Nobody told me.” And as a result, they believe this lack of knowledge absolves them of the crime. You’d think we’d get over it. After all, the “I didn’t see the stop sign” defense does not work in court, nor does “I didn’t know the speed limit” prevent an officer from giving us a ticket. And yet, we still say it and claim it and believe it.

 If anyone commits a sin by violating the directives I have given you—even if he was unaware of it—once he realizes it, he bears the guilt and must still accept the consequences. [Leviticus 5:17, The Voice]

The law works differently than grace. The law is immutable and enduring. The law has not gone away because of grace, it still exists; it is only our relationship to the breaking of law that has changed through Christ. For this reason, “. . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23] Sin still exists. Intentional or unintentional, blatant or secret, repeated or isolated, sin happens. Mistakes happen.

mercy on meInitially, I wasn’t fond of the centuries old Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” because I didn’t see myself as a sinner. I saw myself as foolish perhaps or selfish, but honestly, it wasn’t like I had killed anyone. (Why killing seems to be norm for being a sinner, I don’t know, but most people who say this phrase, use that act as the litmus test.)

During Jesus’s ministry, he called his disciples to the highest plateau of faith by telling us to walk the paradox line: love enemies, go the second mile, enter through the narrow gate, turn the other cheek, and so forth. And then, he tops these off with the ultimate impossibility: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect!” [Matthew 5:48] What? Absurd. That’s inaccessible. No one can do that. No one can be even close to the perfection of God. And I can just imagine Jesus smiling: “Yep. That’s the point.” And apparently, anything less than perfect is sin.

Sin is part of life. But how do we respond to it? Do we yield to sin and its backlash (as they say, “Karma is a bitch”) or do we call on the power of the Cross of Christ to stand between? It is the point.

sacrificePeter writes, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” [I Peter 4:8] But Christ’s love covers ALL sins. We are encouraged to model our behaviors after Christ and practice love so that we can learn to be more generous of heart to one another. But there is only One who covers them all, from small to large.

Own up to the sin. But even better, own up to the sacrifice of blood that protects us all from the kismet of life’s choices.

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I had fun today thinking about the kingdom of God like the Internet cloud and Jesus as the best access point ever, no downtime. Access is always there but I’m not always connected.

Romans 8:34
Who is there to condemn [us]? Will Christ Jesus (the Messiah), Who died, or rather Who was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us?

All the other access points are letting through too much spam. Some of that spam is putting me in a bad light, taking my mistakes and embellishing them, blowing them out of proportion. Some of those access points are jamming the frequency and filling up bandwidth: less and less room for the good stuff.

But the Jesus pipe is always clear. Not only that, the Jesus connection has the best filter ever designed. It takes my complaints, digs out the root causes and carries those message into the kingdom as supplications.

Of course, when I turn off my inner WI-FI, the one suffers the most is me. I still have an inner computer, but it’s working with existing memory and software that hasn’t been updated. The longer I work with this inner computer, the less efficient it becomes.

I hope I can keep this little metaphor going today. After all, I sit in front of a computer all day at my day job. I want to remember how important it is to stay connected today.

The password is easy: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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Pretty simple stuff: you can’t know you’re breaking the law if you don’t know the law. Ha! Who are we kidding? We know most of the laws … even when they’re not posted or written down.

Romans 3:20
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

So many times, we think we can avoid “punishment” by saying, “we didn’t know.” But this is a flimsy excuse and doesn’t hold water even in traffic court. If you drive a car, you’re supposed to know or find out about the law… like the speed limit or right of way etc. It’s no different for a believer.

A believer either knows in her heart what is “right” or if she is unsure, she’d better get out there (or in there, i.e. the Word) and find out.

I work in a library and I think it’s pretty sad that we had to actually post a little sign next to each work station that says, “Please be considerate of others. Loud talking, rowdiness, and inappropriate language disrupts those around you.” Well, duh! And the reason we had to post it? So that we could point to the sign and say, “See! It’s library law that you must be considerate. And if you break that law, we can ask you to leave.”

But isn’t this is really a sham? Everyone knows that inappropriate behavior is unacceptable in public. But people simply choose to break this law because … well, why do people break the law?

You know: we break the law because we want to.

I break the law because I want to do what I want to do. I want to drive faster than the speed limit. I want to turn left or right, no matter what the sign says. I want to tweak the truth on taxes, etc.

And in the end, I’m a spiritual lawbreaker as well. I confess each day. I must.

In the Book of Common Prayer, the Litany of Penitence is read on Ash Wednesday. But truly, I need it every day. Without confession, I would be lost.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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Thirty years ago, I finished reading the New Testament all the way through for the first time. I had a decision to make. Was it the truth or a lie? I kneeled beside my bed and confessed to this Jesus that the words felt… they resonated like truth. That decision changed my life forever.

Hebrews 5:14
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

In some ways, I feel as though I am still on “spiritual milk” and have not matured as I should. After all, it’s been a long time. I have professed followership of Jesus for many, many years. And yet, I still struggle with many of the basics: love, trust, faith, hope…

Perhaps that is the maturity… I recognize I am still struggling. When I was younger in the Lord I can remember attending spiritual retreats where confession was a signature event where we pounded our written sins onto a cross. For many, it was extremely cathartic. But for me, in those early years, I’d struggle with the writing. What should I put on that little piece of paper? What great sin had I committed that still needed to be confessed. Hadn’t I confessed them all by now?

That makes me laugh. These days, I confess my sins daily. They accumulate quickly. I place even the smallest sin at the foot of the cross before that sin can grow, like yeast, to a besetting mountain of emotional pain or denial; before it can darken or harden my heart any more than it already has. And, unfortunately, I confess, some days, it’s the same sin… judging, pride, resentment, self-pity, anger… to name a few familiars.

I understand now, more than ever before, what it means to pray the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

My sins are legion, which reminds me of the demoniac [Luke 18:30] who was possessed of many demons. In the same way that many demons can be “swept away,” they can also come back to look for purchase in a newly cleaned “soul.” Sins also reappear [Matthew 12:43-45] to plague the spirit.

This is my message to any believer, young or old: confess often, accept grace and forgiveness daily, and give to others what Christ gives to you.

This is not just the beginning of the church year, it is also the beginning of my own new year in Christ. Continue to teach me, guide me, and renew me. Amen.

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Acts 2:37b-38
“Brothers, what shall we do?” [the crowd] Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…”

Repent. It’s become such an inaccessible word over the years. It’s like a joke. How many times have we seen caricatures of “preachers” holding up a bible and shaking it over the crowd: “Repent you sinners!” Who can even hear the real message anymore?

And yet, it’s exactly “repent” that is the core to change. Repent is not just a religious term, it’s a personal experience. It’s a choice. Change… for good or evil… cannot happen without choice.

Personally, I find myself bemoaning over the same sins every day: gossip and judging others (to name two of the most popular). Both are extraordinarily nasty sins and I am ashamed to confess them. But the point here is that shedding these sins is not just about confession and the receiving of forgiveness… there is a point where I must “stop” and do something else instead.

Once, in counseling session some years ago, I was crying over these and other “besetting” sins (as though they have a mind and life of their own) and how I struggled with them. In the end, the revelation was simple: “I didn’t want it badly enough” … I didn’t want to change enough. I didn’t want to stop enough. The benefits of continuing were still outweighing the unknown of stopping. Who would I be if I stop this behavior? Who would I be if I change?

So often, people (including me) are more comfortable with our current state because it’s a “known.” But to change or “repent” means we are moving into an unknown territory. We are pioneering into a future we cannot predict. Fear, doubt, insecurities, anxiety also jump into the fray.

I am a bit of a hypocrite. I say I like change, but really, I mean change around me… I can adapt to that kind of change. But, I’m different when it comes to my own behaviors. Those changes are much easier to avoid.

So, today, one challenge: stop and turn away from gossip. If what I say cannot be said with the person standing there beside me, it shouldn’t be said. End of story.

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Psalm 37:7
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Things are whirling about me… tensions, concerns, fears. The woes of our economy have reached into my personal life as our organization faces lay-offs, furloughs, and a branch closing. Lives will be changed; dreams will be shattered; hope will be challenged.

I am a little ashamed that I have found myself talking and talking and talking about what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen in the days ahead. Talking, talking, talking. Mostly. Not really praying.

I have not been listening… at least, I haven’t been listening in the quiet place, the secret place. I have been just a “sounding gong and clanging cymbal” [I Corinthians 13:1]. I have given my opinion, my interpretations, my gut feel, my take, my understanding, my inside information, and so on…

Today, I heard only one thing in my prayer time: Be Quiet!

When we speak in the silence unnecessarily, we cannot hear. And if we cannot hear, we cannot act in God’s will, only our own.

In Ecclesiastes, there is a long list about the timing of everything including speaking: (vs. 7b) “…a time to be silent and a time to speak, …”

Oh, may the remaining part of this day be transformed. Keep me mindful of these words: “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” [Proverbs 21:23]

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Psalm 1:1
Blessed is the man [or woman]
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

Lately, it has become popular to use the phrase, “way of Jesus,” but here is the “other” way… the way of a sinner. Contemporary Christians don’t like using this term much. It somehow feels too old-fashioned. After all, what is a sinner anyway?

Most people envision a criminal who has broken the law, someone worthy of punishment like jail or public humiliation. A sinner is that other guy or gal who is an evildoer, a villain, a reprobate. In fact, if you look up sinner in a thesaurus, most of the synonyms are similar in nature… baddest of the bad, worst of the worse and so on. And so our natural tendency is to say to ourselves, “I’m not THAT bad.”

But on the way to becoming the baddest of the bad are the little things we overlook.

This morning I have been quite convicted. Here’s a list of my sins between 6 and 9 am: anger, impatience, pride, indulgence, lying, exaggeration, cataloging of my children’s wrongs, disillusionment, unkindness, and procrastination [see I Corinthians 13]. Pretty amazing for only 3 hours into a day.

The point is that all of us have a tendency to take the way of a sinner. It’s the wide road, not the narrow road [see Matthew 7:13-14]. It’s the path of least resistance. To go the way of Jesus is to step out of that other way. (If we don’t literally step out, we’ll be pulled along by all the others… you see, it’s crowded on the wider path.)

I believe if I can just take one or two steps off this wider way… even if I can’t find the narrow path at first, the Lord will help me. If I can just stop and wait before I speak… for it’s my mouth that gets me in trouble first [Proverbs 11:12]. If I can just trust God enough and tolerate the “unknown zone,” a way will be illumined.

OK, here goes. I’m stepping out. Who wants to come with me? [Matthew 18:20]

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