Category Archives: Sin

Sin – long-hidden eventually revealed

A disastrous fire broke out in the Las Vegas MGM Grand Hotel in November, 1980, claiming 85 lives.  It was the second worst hotel blaze in American history.

Fire investigators later determined that the fire had begun in an electrical wall conduit long before the flames appeared.  It had actually started six years before.  It had grown slowly…inexorably…smoldering to the flash-point, building up tremendous heat until it burst into a blinding sheet of flame travelling 485 feet in 19 seconds.

The sins that brought Israel’s fall in 722 BC and Judah’s in 586 BC had long been festering in the nation.  Before Babylonians incinerated the Temple, sin had burned out Israel’s vitals.  The capture of the city was just the visible expression of the disaster expanding within her over the years.

We often find that troubles seem to instantly appear.  When carefully investigated, however, it’s found that all the ingredients for a recipe of turmoil had existed long before.  They had combined in secret, slow growth that eventually burst into view as division:  in a church, divorce in a marriage, trouble with the kids, being fired from a job, or the fall of a nation.

2015 America began in 1950’s America.  1950’s America began in the war years of 1941-1945.  Not before in our history (a subject covered in the writer’s coming E-book Factors That Have Secularized American Life), had war been such a divisive factor.  Those of us who were young adults in the 1960’s, in graduate schools and preaching, sensed the ominous changes in the country’s values, music, and morals.  With better hindsight of the 1950’s, we could have anticipated the 1960’s.  At least now, with the hindsight of the 40 last years of the 20th century, we can understand the depraved nature in the 21st century.  It’s an ugly sight, but we can see why America is now a past-ripe fruit over-ready to be picked, awaiting only God’s timing to drop it into tribulation.

Of all people, Christians shouldn’t be surprised at the judgment coming to America.  But count on it; many of them will be among the most vocal critics of God’s wrath when he expresses it.

Sin – forgiveness precedes all other upgrades

Genesis 3:7 reveals that Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with fig leaves, the garment seamstress Eve conceived to hide their shame.  Still…they fled from God because they feared appearing before him.  Genesis 3:21 reveals that God clothed them in skins, a significant upgrade in threads, cleansed, tanned, soft, supple, but more importantly, God’s answer to their guilt.  For the reference assumes God’s sacrifice of a young bull to forgive their sins.

A priority we must reinforce today:  God removed their sin before he re-clothed them in the skin of the animal they undoubtedly watched him slay, with appropriate explanations.  Forgiveness came first, then their shame vanished under new clothing.

Let us learn from Adam and Eve.  The forgiveness of sin precedes the acquisition of the upgrades in life we all seek:  financial security, daily provisions, mental health, emotional stability, career advancement, happy marriages, satisfying friendships, et al.  Seeking those upgrades without a spiritual cleansing from God is like Adam and Eve clothing themselves with leaves.

Leaves offered Adam and Eve’s response to shame:  cover it.  Skins offered God’s response to the guilt causing the shame:  forgive and remove it.  Why settle for an improved life now, then die in our sins, when God provides all our needs now and guarantees an eternity of ecstasy for those Jesus Christ forgives?

Sin – confession of necessary to be forgiven – I John 1:9

Well, officials of Sweetwater Union High School District, in National City, California, have finally come to judgment.  A chief participant in the corruption between school board officials and contractors looking to personally profit by getting a share in millions of dollars of school bond contracts, actually got 90 days of home confinement and a fine of $7,994.  90 Days!  Prosecutors had requested jail for six months.

During the trial the defendant admitted that she accepted responsibility for her mistakes.  Yet, she claimed that no malice or ulterior motives promoted them.  Further, she knew she “was wrong” but didn’t do it intentionally.  After the judge delivered the feather-sentence, the defendant expressed disappointment – San Union Tribune, 4/29/14.

Question:  did she desire a lighter sentence?  Dismissal of all charges?  Or, in a moment of honesty, the jail time prosecutors wanted?  GUESS!

Question:  how could she KNOW she was wrong, but claim lack of intention?  How could she at once KNOW she’s guilty, yet claim innocence?  That’s an ultimate oxymoron.

But no more inconsistent than we when we confess our sins to God—with conditions, explanations, and justifications.  In the context of I John 1:8-10, verse nine glows as the sinner’s best hope:  if we CONFESS our sins, God will forgive.  But please note:  the verses before and after that promise warn us against any effort to qualify our guilt, to reduce our shame, to explain whey we felt compelled to violate God’s holiness.  If we claim to be sinless, we deceive ourselves.  If we claim to be sinners, but with justification, we equally deceive ourselves.  And, unlike that cotton-ball San Diego judge, God will not wipe out our sins if we insist we had reasons to commit them.

Sin, unforgiven will be punished

As a 19 year old army soldier, he and two others attacked and killed one man, wounding another.  The 19 year old went to prison for 23 years as a convicted killer.  In 1977 he escaped, disappeared and assumed a new identity.  Then, March, 2014, Federal marshals arrested him outside his work place.  He didn’t respond when called by his real name—perhaps  for not speaking it so long.

The story illustrates the bulldog-tenacity of law, especially where murder is committed.  Those enforcing the law never stop looking for the guilty.  The murder may be found in a high pile of cold cases, but hot interest always pursues them.  San Diego Union Tribune, 3/15/14

The spiritual application of law is even-more alarming.

God’s law, revealed through Moses, like all law in all nations, had the purpose of controlling behavior by limiting misbehavior.  And, when violations occurred, constituted authority imposed restitution or penalties.

Law always looks to adherence, even to those rules we may not know:  ignorance of the law is no excuse.  It seeks penalties on breakage since its purpose is to force compliance.  The pivot in law is always, “why haven’t you obeyed?”  And, if we’re guilty of breaking even one of 10 laws, no limit to the amount of misbehavior exists.

Unforgiven sin is like the crime the man committed.   God’s justice never forgets; that sin is always inscribed in the Books God keeps on each of us Revelation 20:12.  We may forget we sinned but in vain if we don’t have it forgiven, for it will, like that man’s past, rise up in the most unexpected time and denounce us.

Now…thank God for Grace…a word of hope.  While law searches God’s justice looking for a rule to condemn, Grace ransacks God’s love seeking an exception that forgives.  The pivot in grace is always “how can this sinner be exonerated?”

Law was preventative, given to protect others from ourselves.  “If you don’t do good, at least don’t do bad to others.”  Grace was given to be pro-active, freeing behavior to benefit others.  “I must help you any way you need it because God has helped me.”

At Judgment, only Grace, not Justice, will look at every page in our book and find FORGIVEN scrawled in blood-red letters.  Then we’ll know what “saved by grace alone through faith” really means.  And if no Grace looks in, endless lists of sins glare at the sinner.  And you know what that means!

Sin – we try every method to cover it

In 18th century England people who contracted smallpox could easily die of pneumonia, fever or hemorrhage of the lungs et al.  If, as often happened, the disease so entirely covered the face that little skin appeared, the victim would be terribly scarred for life.  If more skin than pox showed during the disease, and after the fever broke and the pustules healed and dried, a more normal face could appear.  (George Washington had a light case of smallpox when a young man, with good results afterwards.)

Interestingly, however, those fortunate enough to have a significant recovery began wearing patches over the scars and pimples that remained.  It became the fashion in London, women the main practitioners, pasting their faces with the patches—like one of us decorating our face with band-aids  To be stylish, even those not suffering the disease began wearing the patches.  1700, p. 102.

A parable of humanity.  We have all sinned, some more egregiously, and publicly, but all of us so obviously that our scars remain.  But even though clearly sinful, we try to cover with bandages the disfigurement with excuses, rationalizations, explanations.  Which make us all the more hideous for refusing to accept our condition.

If we deny we sin, we lie.  If we try to explain why we sin, God has no interest in listening.  If we confess our sin as without excuse, Jesus Christ cleanses us I John 1:8-10.  When he forgives, scars may remain, since sin can have lasting consequences, though forgiven.  Even then, however, as Paul discovered when God wouldn’t remove his thorn, he could glory in this weakness because it made God’s strength complete in him II Corinthians 12:9-10.