Knowing Jesus: The severity of sin

By | Knowing Jesus | No Comments

Last week, we talked about Jesus’ focus on seeking the lost. He never missed an opportunity to teach or influence, and displayed a single-mindedness that sometimes seemed like obsession to his disciples.

There’s an important implication to that: if it’s so important to seek the lost, then being lost must be a truly horrible thing. And for all the discussion of Jesus’ willingness to eat with sinners—to seek out the marginalized—sometimes what is missed is that Jesus lived a life that rejected sin. He did not sin, and he did not tolerate sin.

After healing the lame man in John 5, Jesus found him in the temple and admonished him, “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Even in the situation of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus did not condemn her because he was not a witness and had no standing under the law of Moses to render a judgment. But, he added, “go and sin no more.”

How seriously did Jesus take the idea of sin?

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. — Matthew 5:29-30

Many will argue that Jesus is being figurative, but I believe he meant exactly what he said. Obviously, no one’s hand or eye is the cause of sin; sins come from our heart. If my heart wants to lust, I will have lustful thoughts whether I can see or not. But Jesus is saying that sin is so deadly that it will separate us from God, and that there is absolutely nothing in our life that we shouldn’t be ready to give up in order to avoid it.

He understood the consequences of sin, and he understood that it is important not only to avoid sin, but to help protect your brothers and sisters, and do everything we can not to be a hindrance. Jesus reserved his strongest condemnation for the one that becomes a stumbling block and causes another Christian to sin: “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

What did Jesus go through because of sin?

The idea that Jesus wasn’t concerned about sin, or that accepted it or tolerated it, flies in the face of everything scripture says about him. It becomes even more unbelievable considering what Jesus would have to go through personally in order to redeem us from the consequences of sin.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. — 2 Corinthians 5:21

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” — Galatians 3:13

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. — 1 Peter 3:18

…But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. — Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus knew first-hand the consequences of sin. He loved us enough to take the payment of sin on himself, but he fully understood the destructive nature of sin. He understood God like no one else because he was one with the Father, and he understood what the Law of Moses was intended to teach us through the ceremonial sacrifices, with the image of a priest, whose beautiful white linen robe became drenched in the blood of a dying animal: sin is ugly. It is death. It corrupts and stains what God has intended to be pure and undefiled.

And Jesus came to deliver us from it. So let’s not allow ourselves to call back into that from which we’ve been freed!

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. — 2 Peter 2:20-21


The lion behind the glass

By | Christianity | One Comment

I love going to zoos – and lions have been my favorite animals since as long as I can remember. So any time I can see a lion up close – particularly if he’s doing something other than sleeping – it’s a good trip.

The lion relaxing peacefully at the zoo always looks safe.

The lion relaxing peacefully at the zoo always looks safe.

But there’s a video I watched once of a trip like that, and maybe you’ve seen it, too. It was taken at one of the exhibits which allows you to walk into the enclosure behind a thick glass wall and see the animals up close. One of the families in attendance let their child wander over to the glass, and she ended up in a staring contest with a big male. It looked for all the world like a precious moment for everybody.

Then the lion started frantically pawing at the glass right where she was standing. Everyone laughed and smiled and got a great memory out of the experience. And whether they wanted to think about it or not, all of them probably knew what would have happened if that glass hadn’t been there.

Thick plate glass has a way of making us complacent about potential dangers. In the same way, the grace of God can make us complacent about very real dangers to our souls. Peter knew this as well as anyone, and he spent much of his epistle warning Christians about the need to remain vigilant.

Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1Pe 5:8

Why would Peter warn us of the dangers of an enemy who is powerless to harm us? After all, Satan has been “declawed”, hasn’t he?

All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. – 1Jo 5:17-19

If the “sting of death” has been removed in Christ (I Cor. 15:48), and sin no longer has dominion over us (Rom. 6:14), then what can a guy in a red devil suit with a pitchfork do to us, all locked away and powerless?

The answer is simply that Satan is not powerless, and even in I John, we read that he still controls this world. For now at least, Satan holds influence over anyone and anything that submits to his will. And all of those things are tools that he uses to try to lure us into his realm – not in some spooky, supernatural way as we might see in movies. I’m convinced Satan is thrilled when we spend all our time coming up with conspiracy theories about how this or that politician is a tool of evil bringing about some apocalyptic world event, when in reality, Satan is that friend who convinces you that there’s more to life than Christian morality. Or even that brother or sister in Christ that tells you that you really need to lighten up a little – “you’re forgiven! Don’t take sin so seriously. God will understand if you give in every now and then.”

Or maybe it’s the charismatic evangelist or spiritual leader who seems so sure of himself, so comfortable with the word of God, and even if what he says doesn’t completely match up with what you read in scripture, he just seems so convincing! And he’s such a nice man. Paul described that in II Corinthians 11:13-15.

Satan has one power left to him: the power to deceive us into thinking he’s not the roaring lion looking to devour you. He just wants you to have a good life, to enjoy yourself and to just leave the whole “Bible” thing to the preachers and the “goodie-goodies”. It reminds me of how Satan led Jesus up to the top of the temple and told him “If you’re the son of God, jump off the temple. God won’t let you hurt yourself.” He even had scripture to justify himself. (Mtt. 4:5-6)

But Satan selectively quotes the scripture, leaving out passages such as Hebrews 10:26-31, or I Corinthians 10:11-12, and numerous others which warn us very clearly that God’s grace is there for us – a wall of glass holding Satan at bay, as long as we don’t willfully decide to dangle our feet over the edge.

When we do that, we miss the advice of the apostles, as Paul wrote, “we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Co 2:11)

We ought not be ignorant, either.



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