Posts Tagged With: sin

The Avalanche of Poor Behaviour

The vitriol against our bankers is reaching fever pitch. Even at the local gym my wife encountered patrons seething at the behaviour of the banks. This comes on top of the recent inquiry into child abuse. The churches, in particular, came out of that with their reputations badly damaged. There is another current inquiry into the behaviour of the managers of Aged Care Homes. The police are under scrutiny because of poor behaviour and our politicians have reached lows that has even left voters aghast that new lows are even possible.

The level of self righteous anger is seen on tv news shows, radio talk back, newspapers and blogs. Society is venting! The populace is restless and angry.

There is one segment of society left out – the rest of us – the ordinary punter. But are we really in a position to cast the first stone? Let me ask: Are our tax records spotless and our driving record immaculate? Have we always been honest and honourable with the boss, or spouse or colleagues? Have we used the cash economy to avoid tax? If there was a tv screen on our foreheads that broadcast our inner thoughts for everyone to see, would we have any friends? If we came across an easy way to make extra, illegal, money but wouldn’t be caught, how would we behave?

The problem is that each one of us, banker, politician, you and me – everyone – has a sinful nature. It is an unpopular concept in today’s society in which truth is considered relative. Today we are told that there are no longer clear wrongs and rights in the moral sphere and yet we are surprised when people “do wrong”. We ourselves do wrong but we justify it to ourselves – just, as I am sure, the bankers did, or the paedophile, or the manager of the home or …

Yes, we do need laws to protect children, bank depositors, old people and so on, but let us not pretend that we are innocent.

In the apostle Paul’s words, “We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sinfulness is a problem we all need to deal with. The ultimate answer is not the laws that we have piled on year after year to try to control all sorts of behaviour but rather the real answer is an encounter with Jesus Christ and the the forgiveness and renewal that is freely available through him.

Yes the laws are important to order a civil society but even more important is a radical renewal of each person – politician, policeman, you and me.

Yet first, each of us has to acknowledge that we have a problem and we ourselves do not have the resources to deal with it but Jesus has. In Luke 19:10 Jesus says to the tax collector ( or banker, or business manager or you and me) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Step one is to acknowledge that we are “lost.”

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Certainty in Uncertainty

After having written about my growing uncertainty about previously held facts and truths, my wife, as is her habit, challenged me to reflect further.  From a Christian perspective what is the value of this uncertainty?  Does it aid the Christian walk?  Does it help us grow?

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We can feel as though we are  tossed about but that need not be the reality

This made me think and ponder even further.  As I stated previously, uncertainty hasn’t weakened or unsettled my faith.  The reality is that it drives me more into “the arms” of God.  It makes me more reliant on Him and increasingly highlights my own inability to know or understand all things.  There is a subtle (or maybe not that subtle) message in our rationalistic age that says we can know and discover all things.  But the old adage is true, “The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.”  Personally I have discovered this to be true and I am at peace with this because I know my Creator.

One more point: I remember years ago a friend was given a chart by his brother of sins and virtues and my friend’s brother was ticking off those virtues he had achieved and those sins he had conquered.  I have found reality to be far different.  The older I have become the more I have discovered that things need to be added to the “sin list”. My heart’s deceptiveness has shown itself more devious than I imagined as a 25 year old.  And my virtues maybe not as virtuous as I thought.  I remember when (a long time ago) for a moment I was quite proud of my humility until the irony of that hit me like a Mack truck.

This again drives me into the arms of a the God who loves me despite my foolish mind games and my uncertainty.

There is certainty but it lies far, far away from me.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Faith | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

My Unwanted Constant Companion

I reflected the other day that all through my life I have had a constant companion. My parents were there for a long time but they have both died. There have been friends and relatives but they too, came or left at particular times. My wife and I have been together for nearly 4o years but even that doesn’t cover my whole life. Some of you may be thinking, ok he is thinking about God and the Holy Spirit. It is true that God has been constantly with me from before my birth, but on this occasion I am thinking of another presence: Satan.

Satan, the Devil the ‘evil one’, however you refer to him has also never been far away.

St Michael defeating the devil on the front of Coventry Cathedral

St Michael defeating the devil on the front of Coventry Cathedral

We can all recall the cartoons where the angel and devil sit on each shoulder of the character, pulling and enticing backwards and forwards. This caricature is in fact a good image of the reality that each of us face. We do live in this tension between living a good life and being tempted; doing right and wrong. For a long time I thought that as I became older it would easier; I would be in greater control.

However, I have found that not to be the case. In fact, the temptations and influence of my constant companion become more subtle and tenacious. I find that those conversations that I have in my mind can easily become ‘justifications’ for an attitude or a decision. The prophet Jeremiah declares to Judah on God’s behalf, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

To put it simply, the older I have become the more I have come to realise how deeply ingrained sinfulness is. It is beyond mere actions, or thoughts and permeates our very character. It’s roots drive down into the core of our being. No human effort will eradicate this.

So what is the solution? An awareness of the both the depth of sin and our our own inability is a start. That points us to our two part remedy. First, in the words of Paul, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Christian has been objectively justified in Christ. Through faith we are delivered from eternal death. But that still leaves us with a daily reality.

The second part of the remedy is the daily tough medicine. In the words of Paul again, in the power of the Holy Spirit,  “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

20130118-175507.jpgDaily, we need to be vulnerable  and open to God so that we don’t become victims of the other. There is a discipline and intentionality required to grow in Christlikeness much like the way we train for a sport. When reading Philippians I am struck by how much Paul’s discipline to live the Christian life stems from “knowing Christ Jesus Lord.” Christ is both his means and motivation as well as his goal.

So, as far as my unwanted companion is concerned, he will be there daily, but the more I look to Christ the less his influence will be.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Snails: They Creep Up On You!

Snails: They Creep Up On You!

Snails! This morning I was planting some flowers. I had a tray of them sitting on the ground and while I was taking one plant out of its pot and putting it into the soil I noticed a snail slowly slithering up the side of the tray. I made a mental note to deal with it when I had an opportunity. However, I forgot about my house toting friend. A long while later I came back to the tray and noticed that he had made his way up the side of the tray to one of the flower pots and was having brunch -being about 10:30 am. I won’t mention what I did next in case I am reported to the RSPCS.

I continued planting (like the snail I am doing it slowly as my back is complaining) and I started reflecting. My lack of initial action is often the way we deal with problems and other issues in our lives. We think to ourselves the issue isn’t big and as I have other things to deal with I will leave it on the back burner until later, only to find that before we know it, it has become a large issue and impacts our lives in a considerable way. Depending on where our weaknesses are, it could be anything from white lies, to pornography or petty theft at work to gambling, procrastination(oops) to gossip. At this point you can insert what trips you up …

Experience tells us that dealing with our foibles early is the wisest path. It saves us from greater pain, embarrassment or struggles further on. Seeking forgiveness, actively putting behaviours or actions behind us, is the healthiest action. If we are not careful, initial foolishness can become an addiction or a pattern of behaviour that is hard to shift. What “snails” are creeping up in your life? Excuse me now I’m off to get some more snail bait.

Categories: Devotional, Faith, Life, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

A Journey Continued

Quite a while ago I wrote about the spiritual journey my wife and I are taking through the

Sheep Grazing over the Catacombs in Rome near an Olive Tree

book “A Journey with Jesus” by Larry Warner. He uses the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius as the foundation of the book.

Over the last few weeks the devotions have concentrated on sin, not in a self deprecating manner, but sin as the component of our lives that separates us from God and His grace. Sin is not a popular word today. Society, including many Christians, has sanctified many behaviours that have previously been regarded as sin. This just doesn’t extend to homosexuality and abortion but also to greed and materialism. The reasons I mention this is that we are good at judging people on the basis of the sins we don’t commit and close our eyes to the ones we do.

What I have found refreshing in Warner’s exercises is that I have been given an opportunity to lay open all aspects of my life. What this has done is that it has reminded me of how comprehensive the salvation that Christ offers had to be. It needed to cover every aspect of my life – not just the ones I select. It also halts complacency and reminds me that there is still so far to go in my sanctification.

With that reminder comes the wonderful assurance that in Christ all my needs have been met and I can say with the psalmist, “Keep my safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” Psalm 16:1

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Consequences – the Sapling on the Grave

In my devotions at present I am being reminded of sin; the original sin, my sin, even your sin and the consequences.

The photo (left) reminded me of consequences. I imagine that many, many years ago an enterprising person went around this cemetery planting cypress pines with the aim of beautifying the place. Little did he or she realise that in 120 years, the cute little sapling would dominate the grave.

Little did Adam and Eve realise … little do we realise the lie, the cheat, the disobedience, the selfishness, the arrogance, in fact, any of the sins we tend to call “little” or “white”, have an impact on ourselves, others and our relationship with God. We just let them shoot, grow and develop. Sometimes the consequences are not there for us to see immediately. Sometimes, like the cypress tree, it will only be evident in the distant future. That is when the full impact is revealed.

For the Christian, forgiveness is always at hand. We are usually not slow at appropriating it. I must add, I’m all for it. However, we often forget about confession, reconciliation and restoration. There are consequences to deal with. The hurt, the anger  and the disappointment, often weighing on people who are close to us, still needs healing. Bridges need to be built. We still need to ask, “Will you please forgive me.” Sometimes the answer might be,”No. I’m not ready yet.” That is a consequence we need to live with.

Yes, God forgives, and He looks at His children through Christ coloured glasses. He sees us as guiltless and innocent through his son but that mustn’t stop us from taking steps to stop the cypress trees from growing in places where they can do great damage.

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“Forgive Us Our Trespasses No.2” a poem

My one little sin
Piled upon the others …
Your little sin
Piled upon yours …
Their little sin
Upon theirs:
Each, seemingly,
So insignificant,
So minuscule,
But daily,
They grow and grow.
The heap rises to the depths.
It blots out the light of God.
Darkness descends,
Until the cross …
Until the Grace …
Until the Sacrifice
… breaks through.
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