Guilt Free

Psalm 38:4
“For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.”

In this Psalm, we find David enduring the consequences of sin. Like all of us, he was drawn into something forbidden and chose to trespass, because sin always makes promises it cannot keep. He was, no doubt, hoping to find some level of pleasure by disobeying the law of God. Whatever enjoyment he derived from his sin, was soon eclipsed by the pain and sorrow sin always brings. Here we find David in travail of soul and under severe attack from his enemies. He describes himself as being pierced by arrows of conviction, being under the heavy weight of guilt, and even undergoing attack from others who think that he deserves the sufferings he is facing.

Sadly, David is not alone. This is a common experience for the child of God. We see something forbidden and desire it anyway, soon we find ourselves neck deep in sin and under its heavy hand. The pleasures of sin are quickly replaced with conviction and guilt, and those who we know best, may even keep their distance not knowing how to react toward us.

In those times, we must learn that there is only one place to turn. If we look inward or outward we will be defeated, but if we look upward, we will find that Christ has provided pardon, and we can be forgiven. The Lord will forgive our sins when we confess them, and as time goes on, will even remove the heavy hand of guilt that rests upon us. So often, we become paralyzed when we realize how badly we have messed things up through our failure, instead of allowing the cleansing work of Christ to wash us, and to begin the process of restoring all that we have destroyed.

If you are burdened by sin, be sure to take it to the Lord, who alone can remove its heavy weight and restore what has been lost.

Pastor Jim

 

Stained Garment 

Exodus 29:20-21
“Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.”

The Lord went to great detail to explain the garments that the High Priest would wear. He referred to them as holy garments, designed for glory and for beauty. In other words, they were designed to both look beautiful and to reveal some aspect of the Lord’s glory. These garments included a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. The most highly skilled artisans in all Israel were commissioned to create them. Once the day of consecration arrived, Aaron and his sons were dressed in the most beautiful and highly technical attire the world had ever seen, but as they approached the altar, something quite striking took place. An innocent ram was killed, it’s flesh offered upon the altar, it’s blood mixed with anointing oil, and this mixture placed upon the Priest. Imagine how shocking to see the High Priest all dressed up, then have blood splattered upon his garments. No longer would our attention be drawn to his beautiful turban, breastplate or sash, now all we would notice was the stain.

God wanted the people, then and now, to understand that access to God is never based on what we try to do to earn it. All the skilled artisans on the planet could not create attire clean enough to grant access to God. Access to God is only granted when sin is covered by the blood of the innocent. This was symbolized by the blood stained garments of the Priests, and pointed to the time when Christ would make a way for all to have access to God.

Hebrews 9:12 “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

The blood was also placed upon the ear, toe and thumb of the Priest. This was symbolic of a cleansing of all that he had done, and preparation for where he would go. How often have we laid our head on our pillows at night only to be consumed with guilt, for the things we have heard, seen or touched. We live in a fallen world, and sin is always around us. It is so comforting to know there is cleansing available to free us from sin and guilt.

Pastor Jim

In The Pig Pen 

2 Peter 2:22
“But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’”

A few years ago, I was in northern Ghana with a group of people from our church. Our purpose was to bring the Gospel to remote villages that had yet to be reached for Christ. Just as Paul developed a custom of going first to the synagogue, then to the market squares, we too, had developed our own custom. Because of the practices of their culture, it is customary, when a traveler arrives at their home, to gather the family, offer the traveler a drink and ask “What brings you here and do you have a message for us?” As you can imagine, this provides a wide open door to share Christ.

On one particular day, as we were walking through a village, going from hut to hut with the gospel, I turned a corner and startled a large pig. He immediately arose from his mud hole and walked off. When he stirred up the mud, the stink was so strong it almost knocked me over. I continued down the path, then turned back, thinking of this verse in 2 Peter 2, wondering what would happen next. Sure enough, as soon as he thought it was safe, the pig walked back to the mire and plopped down.

Peter explains, while it is expected for a pig to return to its mire, you are not a pig. Once you have come to Christ, it is unnatural for you to turn back to the sins from which He saved you. He writes that returning to our past lives, results in being in a worse condition than we were prior to being saved. That worse condition is caused by the hardening of our hearts.

Each time we take a step away from the Lord, the Holy Spirit convicts us, reminding us of the promises of the Word, and the danger of that course of action. When we ignore His warnings and continue to move toward sin and away from God, our hearts become just a little harder. Soon we are able to sin without feelings of guilt or remorse. That is in no way a sign of freedom, but of extreme bondage. When sin no longer shames us, we are shackled by its deadly grip.

A good application from this text would be to take inventory. Are you allowing things back into your life that might lead you away from the Lord and back into your old life style? Turn those things back over to the Lord, before you find yourself neck-deep in the mire.

Pastor Jim

 

Everlasting Love 

Jeremiah 31:3
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.'”

One of the great pitfalls for every believer is failing to realize how God actually feels about us. Because so much of our experience in this life is based upon performance, we project that onto our relationship with God. We think, if we are doing the right things He loves us, but if we do something wrong, He is angry, disappointed, and may even shun us. How precious to hear the voice of God say to Jeremiah, “I love you with an everlasting love and I have drawn you to myself.” The basis of this love is not in the behavior of Jeremiah, but in the character of God.

Years ago, I heard a pastor say, “The only thing God expects from you is failure.” His point was simply that God understands who we are.  We are weak, and prone to stumble and fail, in our attempts to walk with Christ. This is not an excuse to sin, but a reality that we are going to get tripped up from time to time. The secret to continuing on in the Lord, is to realize that even at our worst, God loves us with an everlasting love.

Earlier this week, I was in the midst of a discussion with another believer about accountability. We spoke of the need to to be accountable to God first, and how the fear of the Lord is the greatest deterrent to personal sin. As the conversation continued, we began to reflect upon the mercy of God, and how even with our best attempts, we still fail to be adequately holy in all our behaviors. It is during these times,  we need to be particularly mindful of the everlasting love of God. Instead of allowing a momentary weakness to lead us into a permanent state of backsliding, we must realize the love of God is greater than all our sin, and once again draw near to Him.

God chose a number of ways to illustrate who He is, and how He feels about us. Not the least of which, is referring to Himself as our Heavenly Father. We can understand the father-son relationship, although none of us had the perfect father, and none of us is the perfect father. We can still relate to the fact that a father does not cast away his son because he fails. Instead, a father will bring his son close, and seek to help him succeed and overcome his failure.

How sweet it is to realize that the love of God is everlasting.

Pastor Jim

 

That’s Heavy Man

Genesis 44:16
“Then Judah said, ‘What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found.’”

2015/01/img_1363.jpgGuilt is a powerful emotion, and very effective motivator. We can all think of times when we have been “guilted” into doing something we did not want to do. But perhaps the greatest impact guilt has on us, is not what it gets us to do, but what it keeps us from doing. I can only imagine how the guilt must have haunted Joseph’s brothers all those years. I imagine every time something went wrong they must have, at the very least, considered it to be the hand of God coming against them for their sin. Sadly, these guys are not alone. Many Christians live under the heavy weight of their past failures. Whenever they begin to make any forward progress in the Lord, they are held back by the thoughts of a past decision, failure or deed.

While there is no question our actions can have great impact on others, and grave consequences in our lives, it is also true, the the Cross of Christ is big enough to remove not only our sin, but also it’s guilt. Instead of focussing on how we have failed, a better approach is to focus upon how Christ has brought freedom, through the cross.

If you have a heavy anchor of guilt weighing you down, it is high time you took it to the cross and let Jesus wash it away. You can never go back and undo your failure, but you can allow Him to wash it in His precious blood.

PastorJim

 

The Cunning Beast

Genesis 3:1
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”‘”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2015/01/img_1286.jpgThe scene in the garden quickly shifts, and we find Eve face to face with great temptation. This text not only explains how sin and death entered the world, but also serves as an illustration of the temptations a believer will face. The first thing to note is how the devil is described, he is called “cunning.” It is important to remember, whenever facing temptation, that every word out of the mouth of the devil is designed to deceive. Jesus called him the father of lies (John 8:44), so we should expect that he will twist the words of God, in order to lead us astray. As their discussion continues, we see three key truths about temptation.

First, we find the devil questioning the goodness of God. He implies that God is keeping something good from Eve. He suggests all the good stuff in the garden has been forbidden, and it is only the leftovers they are allowed to enjoy. In thousands of years, Satan has yet to change his game plan. He is still causing the Christian to doubt the goodness of God. Whenever we are facing temptation to sin, we think sin will bring us life. We forget it is the father of lies who is suggesting that sin will make us happy, while the God of love and grace, warns us that sin leads to death.

Second, notice that Satan calls into question the Word of God. God had promised death as a result of disobedience, while Satan promises life. He is still doing that. Whenever we come face to face with a warning, or even a promise from Scripture, it is not long before our mind is filled with doubt. We wonder if that promise is real, or if it applies to us, or if God is real, or if the Bible really means what it says. Paul explained the reason for our doubt: Satan is shooting fiery darts into the mind of the Christian (Ephesians 6:16). We might call these “darts of doubt,” whereby the devil is seeking to get us to question the promises of God. Once we doubt the validity of the Word, we are one step closer to disobedience. Keep in mind, billions and billions of graves scattered across the planet prove that God tells the truth, and Satan is a liar.

Finally, Satan is cunning and knows just what chord to strike. After questioning the goodness of God, and the Word of God, he goes after Eve’s desires. He promises she will become like God. We read further, that she saw that the tree was good for food, pleasant to the eyes and desirable. The Bible speaks of easily besetting sins. Those are the sins into which you are more prone to fall. James reminds us, when we are tempted, we are drawn away by our own desires (James 1:14). Because there are certain sins we are more prone to fall into than others, we need to be on guard. Eve fell because she was not on guard. We find her near the tree she was told to avoid, having a discussion about fruit that was forbidden, as well as facing it all alone. If we play around with temptation, we will always end up giving in. The key to victory is to build walls that will keep us from falling. Two such walls are confidence in the promises of God, and companionship with the people of God.

Let’s take to heart the failure of Eve, that we might have success as we seek to live for Christ in this New Year.

Pastor Jim