Leaven 

1 Corinthians 5:1
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!”

God designed sexual intimacy as part of the marriage relationship. It is the most intimate of all acts and plays an important role in the love relationship between man and wife. In the book of Hebrews we are told, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled.” (Hebrews 13:4)

However, like so much of what God designed, men have distorted sex into sin. Today, a person that waits until marriage to be sexually active is ridiculed, women are treated as something to be conquered, and men revel in their vast number of sexual partners. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and with the advances in technology, is available at the touch of a button.

While we should expect the world to distort the ways of God, Paul is shocked to hear that the same sexual sins are happening within the church. We find the same problem today, the sexual misconduct that is rampant in the world is also running rampant within the church. Dating couples are involved sexually, married men are developing relationships with other women, rather than investing in their wives, a high percentage of people registered in singles dating sites are actually married, and pornographic sites are one of the most common searches on smart phones and other hand-held devices. Again, we should expect this behavior out of those who don’t know Christ, but tragically, it is almost as common among professing Christians as it is among the unbeliever. What has happened to us? Paul explains, a little leaven has leavened the whole lump.

Leaven is a form of yeast used to cause bread to rise. A small piece of old dough was set aside and used on the next loaf, this rotting dough, when mixed with the new, would corrupt the whole lump causing it to rise. Sin is like that. When we let a little into our lives, it will not remain dormant, it will grow, until it affects every area of our lives. While this is true of all sin, it is particularly true of sexual sin. Once the line is crossed, sin seems to almost have a power of its own, which drives us. If you have started investing in a relationship with someone who is not your spouse, or begun looking at things that you shouldn’t, or become physical with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancé; it is time to STOP! Paul gave a radical remedy to the sin problem that the Corinthians were having, he told them to remove this man from fellowship until he repents. Radical sin must lead to radical repentance. It is time to confess what you are doing, both to God, and to someone who will hold you accountable. It is also time to put walls around your life, making it difficult to fail. Your life, marriage, and Christian witness are at stake.

One of the most encouraging things to me is that Paul writes again to the Corinthians regarding this man, who was involved in such grievous sin. After confronting him and removing him from the fellowship, he realized the folly of his ways and turned his life back to the Lord. No matter how strong a grip sin may have on your life, if you will confess, and take steps towards repentance, God will give you victory. Don’t run this race alone, and don’t wait another minute to alter the path that has led you to failure.

Pastor Jim

 

No Excuses 

Romans 2:1
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”

excuses.pngBeginning with the eighteenth verse of chapter one, Paul is developing his case against humanity. He states, because of the inner witness of the conscience, and the outer witness of creation, men have no excuse for atheism, agnosticism, or idolatry. He makes it clear, unbelief is primarily driven, not by lack of evidence of the divine, but out of a desire to practice things God forbids. He speaks of those who reject the truth in order to practice unrighteousness.

After giving a long list of sinful activities, Paul declares, it is not only the one involved in such sins, but also the one who looks on with approval, who is guilty before God. One of the fascinating issues of today, is the widespread idea that tolerance means we must accept behaviors and lifestyles that are lived in open defiance to the teaching of the Word of God. Many, practicing these behaviors, even go so far as to say that God is TOLERANT of their behaviors, even though His Word clearly condemns such actions. We live in a time where people are afraid to stand up and call sin what it is, and as a result, we find ourselves approving lifestyles that God condemns. As the second chapter of Romans unfolds, Paul’s attention switches from those who assume any and all behaviors are acceptable to God, to those who think they will be accepted for the things they don’t do.

I am reminded of a story Jesus told of a Pharisee who stood before God, attempting to justify himself. He prayed, “God I thank you that I am not like other men, I am not an extortioner, I am not unjust and I am not a tax collector…” (Luke 18:10-14) This man considered himself to be acceptable to God for the things He did not do. What we ‘don’t do’ is not what makes us right with God; because what we ‘don’t do’ in action, we often do in thought. Jesus explained that adultery, theft, and murder were issues of the heart, as much as they are actions of the body. When I look at a woman with lust, I am guilty of the same sin as the man who is cheating on his wife, or having sexual relations before marriage. Paul put it like this, “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” Romans 2:3

If you assume God will look past your sins because they are not as bad as the sins of others, you have misunderstood the righteousness of God. The list of things we have not done does not justify us before God. Instead ,we are justified when we realize our need for a savior, and put our trust in Christ. This long treatise that Paul develops is to remove all excuses, and bring each of us to a place of accepting Christ; having our sins removed, and receiving eternal life. I realize some of us feel stuck in our sins. We have been practicing them for so long they have become a part of us. Will you allow me to encourage you? When you come to Christ, He will wash your sins from you, as far as the East is from the West. He wants to give you a brand new start in life, by making you a new creation in Christ. Rather than excusing our sins, let’s confess them, and allow Him to transform us into the persons He designed us to be.

Pastor Jim

 

Misguided Affections 

1 Kings 11:40
“Solomon therefore sought to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.”

It is almost eerie to compare the similarities between Solomon and Saul, and Jeroboam and David. As a result of personal sin, Solomon, like Saul, had the kingdom taken from him. While Jeroboam, like David, was chosen by God, to rise to the challenge and lead a new nation. Sadly, both men failed miserably. The root cause of Solomon’s sin is explained earlier.

1 Kings 11:1-2. “But King Solomon loved many foreign women… from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love.”

Solomon was responsible for introducing idolatry into the nation. He built temples, shrines,  and high places for Ashtoreth, Milcom, Chemosh and Molech. These were the gods of the nations surrounding Israel. Along with the worship of these gods, came all kinds of lewd and licentious behaviors. The seeds dividing the nation were planted by Solomon, and quickly picked up by the people of Israel. In one generation, the once powerful nation of Israel, would be devastated by civil war that would lead to invasion, and ultimately collapse.

We read, although Solomon knew his behavior was unbiblical, he “clung to these women in love.” Love has been used throughout history to justify the sinful behaviors of men. A Christian will disobey the will of God, begin to date an unbeliever, and justify it as love. An unmarried couple will cross the line physically, move in together, using their love for one another as an excuse. A married man will leave his family because he is “in love” with his secretary, or a high school sweetheart.

Love is an important part of life, but misguided love will lead us away from the Lord, and into a world of hurt. The same God who instructed us that love is the chief grace, also warned us not to love the world, nor the things that are in the world. It is crucial that we examine our lives and be sure we are not using love as an excuse to sin.

Pastor Jim

 

It Happened One Evening

2 Samuel 11:2
“Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.”

David is one of the most famous men in history. He was a gifted singer, song writer and musician. By today’s standards, he would be considered a superstar. He was also a war hero, who led armies to great victory. No doubt, in that era, David would experience the same treatment as our most famous athletes. His popularity spread throughout the nation, so much so, that songs were being written about him. After reading of a lifetime of successes, we come to a striking passage where we read,

“. . . it happened one evening. . .”

One evening forever changed the life of David. What a different testimony he would have had if only the events of that evening had gone differently. Had he closed the blinds, stayed off the balcony, heeded the warning signs, or even admitted his mistakes, the rest of his life would have been drastically different. It seems to me, David made certain compromises along the way, making it next to impossible for him to resist the temptation of the bathing Bathsheba.

First, although David was a married man, he allowed the culture to define his married life, rather than the Word of God. In our world, when a person succeeds, it is common to get a new car, house, or some bling. In David’s day, when the oriental kings succeeded, they would add wives. The more wives, the greater your success. However, multiplying wives violated the Word of God.

Second, it seems David had learned to compartmentalize his life. As wives and concubines increased, he still worshipped, offered sacrifices, planned for a Temple, and ruled the nation. He truly loved God, but he struggled with his flesh. It was not until he came in contact with Bathsheba, that his subtly sown seeds of disobedience caught up with him, and he fell into adultery. David ultimately faced a temptation so great that he could not resist.

The same is true for each of us. Those careless glances and long stares will build a fire that will one day burn us. The battle for our holiness, purity, and even our marriages, is won long before the temptation is faced. It is daily living that will give the victory. A marathon is won at the alarm clock, the breakfast table, the donut shop, as much as it is won on the track and field. If we hope to win the battle for holiness, we must win the battle at the computer terminal, the magazine rack ,and the TV screen.

Third, once David fell, he spent his time with a cover up. He learned the art of private browsing and how to delete his search history. This cover up had a devastating effect upon his life. The man who was once filled with such mercy that he spared the life of Saul, is the same man who is ready to kill a man for stealing a lamb. Sin had so hardened David, he began to change. He was no longer recognizable as the “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). Guilt is like that. It has the ability to harden, the heart like tempered steel, so we are changed into someone we never wanted to become.

Fortunately, this is not the end of the story. David repented. A marriage that began in a bad way, was redeemed by God. A woman who once seduced the king, found her way in the genealogy of Christ. it is important to remember, no matter how badly we have fallen, His grace is greater than all our sin. It has been said that He is a bigger Savior than I am a sinner.

No matter how you have fallen, Jesus wants to restore you, and redeem what has been destroyed. He can redeem a broken life, a shattered marriage, and a destroyed witness, if you will let Him. It is time to make David’s prayer the cry of your heart.

Psalms 51:10
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Pastor Jim


The Wrong Battle

Judges 20:14
“Instead, the children of Benjamin gathered together from their cities to Gibeah, to go to battle against the children of Israel.”

The book of Judges ends on a tragic note. Personal immorality, social chaos, and civil war mark the close of the book. This was certainly one of the darkest times in the history of the people of God. The rape and murder of a young woman led to a heated battle between the tribes of Israel. Instead of facing their true enemies, Israel was caught up in civil infighting that cost the lives of some of their most gifted men. When all is recorded, we find they were simply fighting all the wrong battles.

Instead of devoting herself to the Lord, the young woman who lost her life, spent her days in adulterous affairs. The Levite who reported the crime, was himself guilty of immorality. He was in a relationship with a woman with whom he was not married . She was his concubine, a practice acquired, not from the Word, but from the world. The night of the crime against his concubine, he was partying within the house. His drunkenness no doubt influenced his decision making. We read he is the one who sent her out to the mob of men, who eventually raped and murdered her. It is interesting to note, when he reports the crime, there is no mention of his own misdeeds, no repentance for his action, no mourning, no sackcloth, and no confession of sin.

As the story continues, the nation of Israel gathers for war, to avenge the crimes against this man and his concubine. The tribe of Benjamin, instead of realizing the immorality that was rampant within their tribe, stood up for the actions of these men, who raped and murdered the woman. Perhaps a spirit of freedom prevailed, and those who committed these deeds were only expressing their natural sexual inclinations. Whatever the case, Benjamin, instead of addressing a prevailing national sin, turned their anger against their brethren, and war broke out.

The lesson is clear. It is possible to spend a great deal of effort fighting the wrong battles. Instead of fighting to justify our own sins, or defending the sinful actions of others, we should be fighting for personal holiness and national righteousness. Because the people wandered from God, the nation lost sight of the holiness of God, and immorality spread like cancer throughout the land.

Pastor Jim


Marriage Problems

Numbers 5:14
“If the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, who has defiled herself; or if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, although she has not defiled herself”

This section addresses the subject of marital problems; specifically that of jealousy. If a husband suspects his wife of cheating on him, but has no evidence, only suspicion; or if she hasn’t cheated, but he becomes jealous of her, this is what they are to do. The man is to bring his wife before the priest, and the priest is to make a concoction for her to drink (holy water, dirt and dried ink). Then, if she cheated on her husband, when she drinks it, her thigh will rot and her belly will swell. What’s this all about?

The Code of Hammurabi law dates back roughly to the time of Abraham. It is believed this code governed the pagan people in the area of Mesopotamia. In this code there is something very similar to what Moses is talking about in these verses. According to Hammurabi, if a woman was suspected of cheating on her husband, she was thrown into the river; if she survived, she was innocent, and if she drowned, she was guilty. Other cultures had similar rites in order to discover the guilt or innocence of a person. They might throw them in a pit of poisonous snakes or alligators, and if guilty, they would die, but if innocent they would survive. Remember when Paul was bitten by the poisonous snake, the pagans believed it was because he was guilty of a crime worthy of death.

At first glance, Numbers 5 sounds similar to those pagan rituals. However, there is a striking difference between what Moses tells the people to do, and what the Code of Hammurabi, and other pagan rituals declare. Here’s the difference. If I filled a glass with water, put in a handful of dirt from the planter, added in a little ink from a pen, stirred it up, then gave it to you to drink, would that cause your stomach to swell and your thigh to rot? It might not taste good, but it’s not going to kill you. There’s nothing deadly about it. It might make you feel sick, but it would not be an effective form of capital punishment. If you have small children, it is a mixture they probably consume on a regular basis. A little dirt, a little ink, unwashed hands and a cheeseburger or handful of grapes. When you see their filthy hands grasping a french fry, you are not concerned their stomach will swell or their thigh will rot. The difference between Numbers 5 and pagan rituals is, in this case, the woman is presumed innocent. She’s not thrown into a pit of poisonous snakes or a raging river, where 99% of the time the person dies. Instead, she’s put into a circumstance where it’s physically impossible for a cup of dirty water to cause your belly to swell and your thigh to rot.

If a woman is out cheating on her husband, there’s something wrong in the home. If the man is so jealous he’s accusing his wife of committing adultery, even when she hasn’t, there’s something wrong in that home. In one case, it’s the sin of the wife, she has committed adultery. In the other case, it’s the sin of the husband, his jealously is unwarranted. In both cases, there are problems going on in the marriage; there are problems going on at home. I think it is important for us to understand that our relationship with the Lord has to be happening in our house. You can be under the banner, in the right camp, marching with the Tabernacle in the center; you can remove the lepers, you can confess the sin, and make the 120% restitution, but if things aren’t right in the home, then the army’s not ready for battle.

What is God’s solution for a marital problem? How were they to go about solving the problem? They were to take their marital problem to the Lord. Notice, it was a problem that only the Lord could decipher. The husband’s saying, “You cheated on me.” And the wife replies, “I didn’t.” And the husband declares, “I know it.” And she’s saying, “Prove it.” And he responds, “I can’t. There’s no evidence, I just know it.” Either he’s wrong or she’s wrong; there seems to be no answer. How are we going to find an answer? God says, “Bring it to Me. Drink some dirty water and I’ll provide the answer.” It’s so ludicrous! Dirty water is not going to make your stomach swell or your thigh rot. Nevertheless, they are putting their marriage into the hands of the Lord. The Lord is going to have to solve this marital conflict.

So often, when things are going wrong in our relationships at home, we want to run to the world for help. But the world‘s answer is, “Get divorced, you were never in love in the first place”, or “Separate for a while, you need some ‘me time’.” And we think that sounds like a good idea. Not recognizing it is as foolish as if we were told, “throw her in a pit with some snakes. If she dies, it was her fault, but if she lives it was your fault.” Christian, the world does not have the answer. We must go to the Lord, and let the Lord be the one to fix the problems. Let the Lord be the One who provides the answers. Then, when she drinks the concoction and she doesn’t gain excessive weight in strange places, and loose it in others, her husband will realize,  “I was wrong. Honey, I’m sorry I was so jealous. I’m sorry I brought you through that.” Or if her stomach does swell, and the wife realizes, “I was wrong. Forgive me, I’m sorry.” The Lord has solved the problem, the relationship is restored, and we are able to continue to impact the world for the kingdom of Heaven. Difficulties in marriage are not reasons to give up on marriage, but rather, are opportunities for the husband and wife to seek the Lord together. To see God accomplish the miraculous in their lives. Whatever problems you may be facing, humble yourself, go to your spouse, and begin with your spouse, to seek the Lord to heal and restore.

Pastor Jim

 

Falling Down

Proverbs 7:24
“Now therefore, listen to me, my children;
Pay attention to the words of my mouth”

This chapter is given entirely as a warning against the danger of falling into sexual sin. It is written as a letter from a father to his son, pleading with him to avoid the things that will lead to sin. While this sin is perhaps more common among the young men, it is a sin that we all must avoid. The principles found in this chapter will apply to guarding against all sin. To grasp the danger being warned against, look at what happened to this young man who turns aside from the Lord for sinful pleasure.

Proverbs 7:22
“Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks . . .“

While it seems as though he was suddenly destroyed by sin, it was actually quite a long road that took him there and one filled with warning signs he chose to ignore. Falling from the Lord is never something that takes place over night. This young man’s failure illustrates the steps that always lead to a fall.

First, we read he was a young man. While he may have thought of himself as all grown up, in reality he was quite immature. We read he was “simple and devoid of understanding.” Hebrews 5 refers to a group of people who should be teaching others, but because they had failed to grow in Christ, they were still behaving like baby Christians. It is appropriate for an infant to act like a baby, but it is sad when an adult is still behaving childishly. Growth in Christ does not happen simply by being a believer for a long period of time. We grow when we invest in our relationship with the Lord. Failure to do so will make us susceptible to a fall.

Second, we read of the young man walking the street that led to her home. His failure was a result of being in the wrong place. Instead of choosing a different route, he walked where he should not have been. We cannot expect to come right to the edge of sin and not fall off that cliff. To avoid a fall we need to steer clear of the things that will incite the flesh and lead to failure.

Third, this young man is walking alone. Many of our failures could be avoided if we got others involved in the fight. Had this young man walked those same streets with a godly friend, they could watch each others back and encourage each other to avoid failure. Finding someone who will be an encouragement to you in your walk, involves being in church regularly, stepping out of your comfort zone to get to know others, and letting down some guards so others can know how to pray for and encourage you. There are certain aspects of our walk with the Lord where we must walk alone, but for the most part, God did not intend for us to travel this road alone.

Finally, our traveler fell because he ignored the obvious warning signs. Whatever he was thinking, the moment she used the word “husband,” he should have known this was not a path to continue on. The correct response at that moment was to flee. The problem was, he had allowed himself to reach a point of no return. Once he began following his desires, rather than the Word of the God, those desires began to control him. Flattering words mixed with her embrace, her kiss and her seduction, brought him to a point where failure was inevitable. We must deal with temptation long before we get to the point where it is too strong to avoid. If we are honest, we will recognize that before we fail, we have passed sign after sign warning us to turn around and travel some other route.

Before we come to the slaughter house of sin, let’s take the time to examine our lives in light of these warnings.

Pastor Jim

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