The severity of sin and its remedy – Matthew 18:7-9

Jesus was never light on sin.  While infinitely gracious, compassionate and kind toward flawed and fallen people like ourselves, he understood the depth of our affliction.  He absolutely refused to minimize it.  As he saw it, both the tempter and the tempted put themselves at the most serious risk of judgment.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire (ESV).

No solution for sin and its effects is too radical for Jesus.  Cut off the guilty body part and throw it away.  But here the depth of the problem is revealed.  We might imagine ourselves amputating till there was almost nothing left and still struggling against sin.  The source of our guilt cannot be found in the hand or the eye, or anything else that is removable.  Sin thrives in the lowest recesses of the heart.

David grasped this when he prayed in Psalm 51:10,

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.

And this is what God promises in Ezekiel 36:26-27,

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This is what we need – a heart that desires to please God.  We don’t need one less limb or useful organ.  We need to become new people.  Receiving new life in Christ accomplishes this.  If we don’t have it, then that is what we need.  If we do have it, we need to learn to walk in it.  This is clearly summed up in the words of Paul.

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  

Sin is severe – and probably more awful than we can understand, since our very perception of it is distorted by, well, sin!   Jesus took it so seriously he paid for it on the cross.  A new heart, a whole new self, is now available to us in Christ.

A Shared Expectation: The Nations in Prophecy – Isaiah-Malachi

Unity, Diversity and Our Identity in Christdiversity
Part 7 of 14

The prophets of Israel and Judah spoke mainly to and about Israel and Judah, but not only.  They also spoke of the nations – even to us.

A Shared Expectation Isa – Mal.pdf 

A Shared Expectation Isa – Mal.mp3

 

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wildrose115/27623264486

Central Streaming: Shepherds (Kenny Washington)

The_Vision_of_The_Valley_of_The_Dry_Bones-810x557Looking at Ezekiel 34, Kenny reminds us that with Christ as our Shepherd, we area never alone.  He also shows us some principles of leadership.

     Ezekiel 34.mp3  (Kenny Washington)

Central Streaming: A New Heart

The_Vision_of_The_Valley_of_The_Dry_Bones-810x557Today we connect an Old Testament prophecy with its New Testament theology, binding them together with the event that makes it all possible..

Ezekiel 11.17-20.pdf     Ezekiel 11.17-20.mp3

Honest Q & A: Bible (1) – Sins of the Fathers

Some of the questions turned in for Honest Q & A relate to the Bible – as in, “What does this mean?” or “How should we properly understand that?” Today we will look at one such example.

In Exodus 20:5, God gives us a certain description of himself,

“I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.”

That alone might be hard enough to handle as is, but it is made a tad more difficult by something else God says in Ezekiel 18:20,

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

What are we to do with this seeming contradiction? Is there a way to reconcile them? Or the even explain the apparent harshness of the first statement? I think there is.

For the first item, think in terms of the consequences of the fathers’, or even parents’ sins. (Moms don’t get a free ride here, I’m afraid.) These indeed are passed down from generation to generation, whether we like it or not. Consider the too-frequent example of the absent, irresponsible father. There is no denying that the children bear the consequences. And they don’t always overcome these obstacles, but as a result may be more prone to falling into various types of sin themselves, perhaps drunkenness. In that case, the consequences go farther and farther down the line. Sin can have lasting effects. Problems do pass down from generation to generation. Of course positive things can do the same, so the trick is to break any negative cycles and give our own kids a better chance. This is a general characteristic of how God has made the world. We are wise to take note of it and act accordingly.

On the other hand, in Ezekiel it seems necessary to make a distinction between consequences and actual guilt. The prophet is talking about the guilt of specific sins being handed down from parents to children. Therefore children will not suffer punishment from God based upon what the father has done. Referring to the earlier example, we might point out that the children do not bear the guilt of their absent father’s irresponsibility. They do bear the consequences, but not the guilt. He is guilty; they are not.  Consequences last. The guilt of a given act is confined to the specific individual who does the deed.

Thanks for asking. I hope that helps!