Category Archives: Sin

Fighting Temptation with 3″ x 5″ Cards

download (1)Do you ever experience those moments of intense temptation to sin (whether it’s worry, anger, lust, etc.) and find that, although you know you need to set your mind on Christ, you cannot think of the biblical truths necessary to do battle in your heart?  In those moments you need God’s concrete promises, the specifics of the gospel, but for one reason or another everything that enters your mind is like a cloud coming of the coast that dissipates in the summer sun.

I have found that the best way to handle those moments is not to waste valuable fighting-time wandering around in your mind until you find something solid and pertinent to your struggle, but rather to create a stack of  3″ x 5″ cards that help you make war with your sin.  I know this is old school (I’m sure you can do this with an app of some kind if you’d like), but I find that I need to act fast when I’m being tempted and these pre-written truths help me cut through the ambiguity.  In order to do this it would, first, be helpful to know what sins you struggle with most, so you can better tailor the cards to your precise needs.

Here are the categories of cards that I am using currently:

  • Bible verses – Remember, these verses do not have to use the name of the sin you struggle with in order to help you.  So, don’t just look in the concordance in the back of your Bible and copy down the verses under “fear” or “bitterness”.  Use texts that remind you who God is and what Jesus has done for you.
  • Wise words – These are pithy statements of wisdom in reference to my sin struggles that I have collected from Christian books or blogs.
  • Instructions – These are simple, direct instructions to myself (based on Scripture), telling me to do something specific in service to Christ.  Often times, battling temptation keeps us so focused on the fight that we are hindered from practicing active obedience to God, when that may be just what we need to draw near to him in faithfulness.  Tip: make sure that if your heart is not in the “doing” that you ask God’s forgiveness and prayer that he would bring it in line with your actions.
  • Prayers for others – Since sin is ultimately proud and selfish, praying for others can helps direct our focus away from ourselves.

Another Benefit to Devoting Yourself to Fellowship

images (55)In Acts 2:42 we are told that the believers in Jerusalem were devoting themselves to fellowship among other things (i.e. – the apostles’ teaching, the breaking of bread, and prayer).  When we devote ourselves to fellowship – enjoying Jesus together, sharing with one another, serving the Lord together – we encounter God’s grace in and through each other to the point where coming into contact with a member of the body is to be reminded (almost instantaneously) of the Lord.

In my life this has played itself out in merely seeing another member of my local church.  In specific, there have been occasions in my life when my heart has been insensitive to the Spirit and plagued with sinful desire, and simply seeing another brother walk into the room begins to help me think of things that are “true…honorable…just…pure…lovely…commendable…worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).  Thoughts of who these people are (representatives of Christ and siblings with me in God’s family) and how they’ve ministered to me personally (with loving care and faithfulness) seep into my mind and begin to wash away the hardness of heart at these times.

My conclusion: devote yourself to the family of God and let them devote themselves to you to such a degree that to merely catch a glimpse of them will cause you to remember the grace of God and praise him for it!

Because of Jesus, God Loves Me More than I Love Myself

images (23)I have often written  about our need to “preach the gospel to ourselves” on a regular basis.  This need springs from the reality that we struggle with a variety of temptations everyday ranging from despair and depression where we need hope to pride and  arrogance where we need humility.

One of the ways I find myself preaching the gospel to myself is by way of reminding myself how much greater the love of God is than whatever sinful desire my heart is manifesting.  It helps me during these times of temptation to qualify God’s love by telling myself that God loves me more than anyone in the world – more than my dad and mom, more than my closest friends, and even more than my wife.  If God loved me and sent his Son to be the propitiation for my sins (that is, Christ experienced the full anger of God for our sins) (1 John 4:10), then there is no one whose love for me exceeds his.

And here’s the kicker, that includes the love I have for myself!  The sad, horrible truth is that I love me more than anyone else on this planet.  As a sinner, I spend an over-abundance of time and energy living for me, and yet, because God has given Jesus as my substitute on the cross, I am united with him before God and God now loves me as he loves Jesus.  Which means he loves me perfectly and fully… in a way that is stronger and deeper than I could ever love myself.

The strongest love in existence is not a mother’s love for her child, it is not a husband’s love for his wife, and it is not a sinner’s love for self – it’s the love of a holy God for rebels who have trusted in his Son for salvation.  When it comes to reminding yourself of the gospel in the fight against sin…that’ll preach!

A Guide to Help Believers Confess Their Sins to God

After preaching Psalm 32 a couple weeks ago, I’ve been thinking more about how to help people confess their sins to Lord on a regular basis.  It’s true, telling someone they need to confess their sins is overly simplistic.  That statement needs explanation and guidance.  With that end in mind, here are five steps (along with Scripture texts) that I think will help us make this discipline a practice for the glory of God and the joy of our soul:images (16)

1) Read Psalm 32:1-5 to remind yourself of the deep agony of harboring sin and the soaring joy of confessing sin:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

2) Ask God to reveal your sins to you.  Praying through Psalm 139:23-24 will help give form to this prayer:

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

3) Then, as you begin to recognize your sins, ask yourself, “When I did that, said that, thought that (or didn’t do that, didn’t say that, didn’t think that), what did I want more than God, and what lie did I believe  instead of believing God’s truth?”  This brings you to the root of your sin, so that your confession isn’t merely superficial.  The more you realize the deep rebellion of your sin, the more you’ll realize the transcendent joys of the gospel.

4) Confess your sins to God without making excuses or making them sound better than they really are.  Remember, if you are a follower of Christ, then God does not hold your sins against you.  Read Psalm 51 to give form to your confession (this is David’s prayer of repentance after committing adultery and murder).

5) To remind yourself of the riches of God’s love for you through his Son, read Romans 8 and praise him for what you encounter there.

Everyone is a Sinner, and that Should Not Comfort Us

images (50)Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the reality that I can’t see Christ as the great savior that he is until I see my sin as the deep-seated rebellion that it is.  So, at a specific moment in the car as I was driving to the office last week, I asked myself the question, “Why don’t you see your sin as heinous and awful right now?”  After thinking for a few moments, I realized the answer: because everyone in this world is a sinner, and so is everyone who has ever lived in this world.

The fact that sin is in every single heart (save Christ’s) somehow causes me to feel as if my sin is not that bad.  There’s comfort in numbers, right?  Apparently, this thinking is not uncommon either, because I have heard it used to justify sin in believers and unbelievers alike.  Can you empathize?

If you can, imagine with me for a moment that a deadly airborne virus begins to move through some of the major U.S. cities.  The infection spreads  at a ferocious pace and yet the virus kills slowly and painfully.  Before a week is over the virus has spread to most of the U.S. and Canada and by the end of the month it has traveled to every continent.  Eventually, everyone on earth has been infected. As you imagine this, what are your thoughts in relation to this virus?  In its spread to every person on earth, has the virus become less savage, less cruel, less violent in your thinking?  Or does the spread of this virus to every person show you just how abominable it truly is and how desperate the earth is for a cure? In thinking of sin this way, suddenly, the fact that “none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10) stops being a way for me to justify my rebellion against God and it propels me, instead, to the  Great Physician who has the cure (actually, who is the cure) (Mark 2:17).  Praise God… he has given the cure!

Christian, There is a Good Kind of Hate

My wife and I been enjoying reading from Joe Thorn’s little book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself.  The chapters are less than two pages long because they are literally notes you are meant to preach to yourself.  One of the chapters we read last night is titled, “Hate Well”.  It certainly grabs your attention because, if you’re childhood was anything like mine, “hate” was considered a four-letter word.  With a sternly furrowed brow I’d hear, “We do not hate!”  So, do tell, Mr. Thorn, how are we to “hate well”?

His point is spot on.  He says in the first paragraph, “Authentic love and zeal for God will produce abhorrence for all that stands opposed to him and his purposes.”  Do we hate sin, both in others and in ourselves?  This is important because we are told in Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil.”

You may say, “Of course, I hate evil”, but here’s where Thorn got me: “Do you really hate [your own sin] for what it is, or do you simply dislike its unpleasant consequences?”  Yikes!  I had to admit that often it is the feeling of guilt that I hate and not the sin itself.  Thorn goes on to explain that to hate sin simply because of its negative consequences is to hate it out of self-love instead of love for God.

If we are going to hate sin for what it is, then we need to think more deeply about the holiness and supremacy of our great God, because the reason sin is so wretched is because God is so awesome.  Sin is a direct offense to the God who made us and saved us by the blood of his Son, so if we are not hating sin, how can we be loving God?

Church, let us look to the cross of Christ so that we may “hate well”.  It is there that we will see the horrific nature of our sin in the face of the bleeding Savior, and hear the brutality of our crimes as he cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

On Faking Obedience

Today’s post is by Richie Haratine – a college professor, an actor, and a dear friend. Enjoy!

As an actor, I’m paid to pretend.  I tell great stories and play convincing characters in front of large numbers of people.   My job is to create a being as real and convincing as any person you’d meet.  If I break character while I am on stage, even for a moment, I haven’t done my job.  But when I step off the stage and you and I happen to bump into each other, then you see the real and honest me….sometimes.
Truthfully, I’m a fraud most of the time.  I want very badly for people to like me, particularly Christians (because you’re my brothers and sisters).  I want you to be assured and encouraged and believe that, “yes, I am growing. . .Christ is enough!. . .that God is sovereign!” and that those truths shape me.  And they do shape me. . .sometimes.  But other times, I’m lying straight through my smiling face.  And it hurts holding that smile for so long. 

So, obedience.  Now, I can show a long list of obedient behavior (and I’m sure you could, too), which, strangely enough, feels like yet another performance.  But if only you could see the tug of war that was happening on the inside.  Obeying so I can prove to myself what a determined and spiritual hulk I am.   Obeying so others will think well of me, so others will see and tell their friends what a good obedient Christian I am, and worst of all, attempting to obey to make sure God is happy with me.   Of course, He’s already happy with me in Christ.  Duh.  So why do I fake it? 

Obedience is a very big and important word for Christians.  I’ve been down the road of “just do it”, don’t let your “feelings” rule you or dictate your behavior, and let God’s law guide you.  Obedience to God’s law is critical, no debate there.  But let’s consider some of the ramifications of being really obedient. . .how ‘bout those Pharisees?  Proud, arrogant and self assured.   They were so wonderfully obedient, and, boy, did they know it.  The only reason I mention this is because it appears to me that obedience doesn’t eliminate sin.  Obedience can say, “hey, look at me!”  It can impress others or fool others.  But look, God didn’t give us a list of rules to see who could follow them the best.  A trained monkey can obey a list. 

Here’s the rub. . .the moment after you have done this act of obedience. . .check and see, where does your heart go?  Me, I’m either a little stoic about it like “oh no, it’s just my duty, God calls me to live like this…so onward! Let’s march!” Or I get a little proud and start to look around and notice that others could really take my advice on how to be more obedient and holy.  It’s one or the other for me. 

But there’s a third response.   Gratitude.  Just gratitude.   When I came to Christ, I did nothing, it was all Him.  I brought my sin, and only my sin.  And today, when I obey God, rightly, with a heart of joy, not just biting my lip and gritting it out, that, too, is God.  When I am able to love people, think of others first, be patient, avoid an old habit, refrain from sin, I am amazed. . .because that most certainly is not me.  The real me is lazy, tired, riddled with idols, anxious, impatient, loud…and I love my habits, and frankly, I love to sin.  And you do too.  It’s our fallen nature.  The only thing that’s changed is now God is living in us.  So when we find ourselves spontaneously and joyfully obeying God’s law, let’s not pat ourselves on the back or act like it’s just our duty. . .but let’s praise God, because he did it, not us.

Quick caveat:  I’m not suggesting you disregard obedience to God’s law.  That’s crazy.  Instead I’m praying that the desires and motivations to obey would be valued more highly.  May we all say, without faking it, “not my will, but yours be done.”    Luke 22:42

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