When you do sin…

shame

Christians are those holy people who live perfect lives and never do anything wrong.  Right?  Either that or they are a bunch of hypocrites who live just like the world and yet claim to have God “on their side”, or in support of whatever whacked-out thing they choose to do.  We tend to not really make room for a middle ground, recognizing the simple fact that Christians are people who should be interacting with God on a regular basis and dying to sin, yet still bound to their flesh and making mistakes and giving in to temptation from time to time.

Because of this fact – even within the Christian community – we tend to put up walls and be minimally vulnerable with one another.  Christ has given us the most beautiful community in which we should depend on one another for accountability and Spiritual sharpening, but yet we think that those around us are not falling into sin and we are too afraid of damaging our reputation to confess our struggles to one another.

But there is hope!

As long as we are in our earthly bodies, we will wrestle with our own personal sin, temptation and failure.  There are times that we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

– Gal 5.17

Notice here that the flesh and the Spirit are directly opposed to one another, and by giving in to one you are suffocating the things that the other desires.  When we submit to and follow the Spirit, we are not doing the things that we would please in our flesh.  When we submit to the flesh, we are not doing the things that we would please in our Spirit.

We might be tempted to blame the enemy or Satan when we sin, but the simple reality is that our flesh wants things that are sinful, and sometimes we give in.  Yes, there may be times that we are lured by an outside force, but by-in-large we lead ourselves into those situations.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

– James 1.13-15

The simple reality is that sin looks attractive.  It feels good, at least for the moment.  And often times it starts small and snowballs or grows over time as we become immune to the conviction of the Spirit.  And sometimes we have been so inoculated by the world and our culture that we neglect to evaluate an action, word or deed against Scripture to even determine if it is sinful, and we sin unintentionally.

But it is all sin, it must all be confessed and we must repent from it as the Spirit leads and convicts.

So where is the hope?

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

– 1 John 2.1-2

The book of 1 John is a gut wrencher and convictor.  It makes statements that sound extremely black and white, cut and dry, such as:

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.  The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:  the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

– 1 John 2.3-6

John even goes so far as to say that if you hate someone you are not saved (v 2.9).  Have you ever struggled to forgive someone?  Do you have any grudges in your life?  Or are you living perfectly at peace with everyone in your world?  The risk of that is our very salvation.

But yet John gives us this beautiful hope that when we do sin we have an advocate.  There is a heavenly court room in which the enemy approaches God to accuse us of our sin.  When we have confessed our sins and repented of them, however, Jesus stands as the defense lawyer to simply say, “Punishment paid”.  Jesus intercedes for us continually before the Father, taking the penalty of our sin upon Himself and presenting us as washed clean in His blood.

“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?  Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”

– Rom 8.33-34

“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

– Heb 7.25

Jesus has already paid the punishment and appeased the wrath of God for our sins.  When we confess them and lay them at His feet, he covers them in His blood and deems us clean before God.  We will continue to sin, as long as we are in our bodies, and He will continue to wash us clean and empower us to die to that sin throughout the Christian life.

He has also given us community to help and push us on to holiness.  We are commanded to confess our sins to one another, to pray over one another, and to push one another on to holiness:

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

– James 5.16

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

– Heb 10.23-25

Repenting is two fold:  turning away from sin and turning to God.  When you are convicted or when you give in to sin, confess it to God and turn away from it in His strength.  He continues to forgive us and sanctify us.  He forgave David for rape and murder.  Salvation was offered to those who murdered Jesus Himself.  There is nothing too great for Him.  Turn to Him, find your peace and comfort in Him, confess your sins to those who will push you on to righteousness, and rely on His mercy and grace.  You will sin, let’s be prepared for how to respond.

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Wiping Your Feet

shoes

For four years I lived and worked on an island which is famous for its tropical rain forests.  My job was to take groups of tourists and anthropologists out into the jungle to see orangutan, meed tribal people and see the amazing sites.  Being in the rain forest, there was always an abundance of water present – rivers, streams, springs, rain – but when you are hiking and carrying supplies, there is a very distinct aroma one develops after a few days.  Even if you go for a swim (or bath) in the river.  It is indescribably beautiful, but it is also muddy, it is wet, it is hot, and by the end of a few days in the jungle, everyone is filthy.  Arriving in a major city was always greeted by the pleasure of a cleansing shower.  Dirty clothes were sealed in air-tight bags to be washed, shoes were left in the sun to dry out, and every adventurist could not wait to be clean.

Because of the natural habitat and the worldview of the nationals, it is also cultural to take at least two baths a day.  They are exceptionally clean people.  One habit that they have, to maintain their cleanliness is to always remove shoes at the front door.  Americans take great pride in their shoes which help to “make the outfit”, but there shoes are always left outside or right at the front door in a rack so as to keep the house clean.

There was a similar habit in Jesus’ day.  Shoes were left at the door and a servant would actually wash people’s feet as they entered into the household.  The dust which gathered on people’s feet from outside was washed away so that they could still be clean and keep the house clean as well.  Jesus Himself used this as a powerful image to teach us about our personal Spiritual state in relationship to Him.

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.  Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.  So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, ‘Lord, do You wash my feet?’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.’  Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’  Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.’  Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’  For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean’.”

– John 13.3-11

Apart from Jesus, we are filthy.  We are stinky and muddy, and even if we try to clean up in the jungle river, all of our belongings still reek of sweat, rain and filth.  This Spiritual state is described in various ways throughout Scripture:  we are Spiritually dead (Eph 2.1-3), we are of the devil (John 8.44), we are enemies of God (Rom 8.7).  Dead bodies stink.  However, once we come to Jesus, He takes away our guilt of sin by placing it on Himself and washes us clean:

“’Come now, and let us reason together,’
Says the Lord,
‘Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool’.”

– Is 1.18

“The next day [John] saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'”

– John 1.29

However.  Since we are still in the world and since we still have our flesh, we will continue to sin.  We will still get dirty.  When we come to Jesus, He washes us clean and makes us a new creation.  But when we go about life and when we give into temptation and when we choose to sin, we get mud or dust on our feet.  This dust needs to be washed off occasionally, as we enter into the house and presence of God.  This is what we call confession and repentance, and this is what is known as the ongoing process of sanctification.  We are not perfect, and will never be perfect until we shed our flesh and are in the presence of God.

This is why Jesus rebuked Peter, who simply did not understand what Jesus was doing.  “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”  If we have already been washed in the blood, we only need Jesus to deal with the present dirt, we do not need to be saved anew.  However, if we refuse to let Jesus wash away the dirt then we prove ourselves to be filthy and have no part of Him:

‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’

Sin is filthy and wicked and it is that which separates us from God.  If we do not allow Jesus to handle our sin problem, if we do not confess our sins, repent of them and submit to God’s definition of sin in all of our lives and worldview, then we have no part of Him.  We must continually work out our salvation by confessing sin, hating it, and allowing Jesus to wash us clean and change us so that we stop sinning (Phil 2.12, 1 John 1.9).

“And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.  You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.  No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.”

– 1 John 3.3-6

Are you in the habit of letting Jesus wash your feet?  Or did you take a bath after a long trek in the jungle and now assume that you are clean for the rest of your life?  Yes, that hot, revitalizing bath did wash you spotless, but Jesus says that we must allow Him to continually wash the dust from our feet in order to remain clean and prove ourselves to have had that initial washing.  If we do not allow Him to wash our feet, then we were never clean to begin with – just like Judas – whose feet Jesus did wash, but who himself was never cleansed from his sins.  Let us confess our sins, submit to Jesus and be washed anew daily.

The Keys to a True Apology

apology

Most of us have learned – somewhere along life’s path – that a true apology always includes a few things:

  1. An expression of remorse (“I am sorry”)
  2. An acknowledgement of the wrong or offense  (Verbalizing how the offender wronged the offended utilizing empathy to acknowledge and validate the offended’s feelings)
  3. An acknowledgement of responsibility (“It was my fault”, or “I was wrong”)
  4. An expressed plan to change (I will not do this again, and this is how I will be held accountable)
  5. An offer of restitution (“I will make it up to you by…”)
  6. A request for forgiveness

Few of us follow the mental checklist when we are in the heart of a disagreement or are trying to make peace, but after learning how to restore a relationship in this healthy manner we are keenly aware when we receive (or give) a false apology.  It is like the stubborn toddler that the mother forces to “say sorry” when he steals a toy or hits his sister.  As we grow older, however, our false apologies become a bit more suave.  We “say sorry”, but assign the guilt to the offended:  “I’m sorry if I hurt you somehow…” and make excuses, “It was not my intention to offend you”.  While it may be true that it was not our intention to hurt or offend someone, true sorrow recognizes the pain of the other party and seeks to make it better, not justify himself.

It is possible for the offended party to hear true remorse and in spite of being validated in their feelings, offered restitution and asked for forgiveness to choose not to forgive.  And once bitterness has established a deep root it only becomes more difficult.  This is one reason we must be able to recognize broken relationships and make every effort to restore them quickly.  Bitterness and unforgiveness are also offenses, and thus it typically happens that when a confrontation or problem occurs, both parties need to practice the steps of an apology in order for the relationship to be restored.

Mature adults, and well socialized children have learned the interpersonal skill of a true apology.  Surprisingly, however, the skill is not as widely grasped as one would hope.  Many people skirt through life, floating from relationship to relationship and leaving behind any and all who have hurt them.  Some people and families have mastered the art of “moving on” – simply pretending the problem never occurred and “letting it go”.  (Yes, it is also a healthy skill to learn to forgive when an offense was clearly unintentional, or the value of the relationship is greater than the weight of the offense.)  Some people just verbalize “I’m sorry” without validating the other person’s hurt or offering restitution or a plan to change – and thus remain in a cycle of hurting one another.

This confession process, however, is also the pivotal point on which salvation hangs.  It is what Christians call “repentance”.  Scripture teaches us that there are two kinds of sorrow:  one that is a guilt rooted in pride – sorrow for having been caught in sin or sorrow for one’s reputation being tainted, and one that is rooted in humility – sorrow for having sinned against God and for being the cause of Jesus’ suffering.

“For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.  For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

– 2 Cor 7.8-10

Godly sorrow recognizes one’s wicked heart and is broken over it.  Worldly sorrow recognizes only the punishment or the ramifications to one’s reputation and just wants a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Godly sorrow leads to deep, profound change.  Worldly sorrow leads to escapism, self-justification, and tactics by which one can save face.  Godly sorrow leads to repentance, and repentance requires not only the apology, but the confession of guilt, the seeking to make restoration, and the earnest effort to change.  Simply saying “I’m sorry” or asking God to forgive us and accept us does not exemplify the heart that is broken in humility before God.

This is why Scripture teaches us that even though we are free in Christ, we cannot use our freedom as an opportunity to sin:

“Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.”

– 1 Peter 2.16

In short, we cannot make up our minds to sin and expect God to forgive us.  We cannot decide to go rob a bank and think, “I will just repent later”.  We cannot look at pornography, cheat on our spouse or file for divorce and assume God’s forgiveness while we are continuing in that sin process.  True repentance recognizes personal guilt, seeks to make right what is wrong and takes responsibility to change.  God can forgive the bank robber or adulterer, but part of his repentance process will be returning the money or serving the jail time, and making amends to his spouse.

We also cannot come to God and make a blanket confession, “I am a sinner, please forgive me”, and expect that sinner’s prayer to cover our eternity.  From the moment we begin the repentance process, the Holy Spirit will take up residence in our lives and convict us of sin continually and consistently.  And this is a good thing!  Scripture also teaches us that it is the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance.  It would be unkind of Him to allow us to remain in our sins and headed to Hell!

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

– Rom 2.4

Thus we should check ourselves – is the Holy Spirit convicting us?  Have you walked through the steps of confession and repentance with God recently?  Have you walked through the steps of confession and restoration with a friend lately?  It is possible to go long periods of time without hurting or being hurt by a friend, but it is uncommon when we are living life in community the way God has commanded us.  That is just the nature of relationships.  It is not possible, however, with God.  Because none of us will reach full Spiritual maturity and perfection until we are free of our physical bodies.  God knows our every thought and feeling, and while we may not act out on those thoughts or feelings, He knows the sins within.

So let’s get real about our confession and interactions with God.  Even though we preach tolerance in our culture, God does not tolerate our sin.  He hates sin.  And He will not accept us if we just give him a fake “sorry” and continue acting however we want to act.  He must have authority over our actions and decisions, He must be the Lord of our lives and continually guiding us through repentance in order for us to be saved.  So let’s recognize our guilt, confess it, seek to make it right and seek to change.  Let’s also practice these interpersonal skills with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and with the outside world.  People know a true apology when they hear one, and this is just one more brick we can lay in the house of love we are building – by which we seek to be known.  And whenever someone confesses a wrong to us, let us be quick to forgive – for Jesus has always forgiven us of infinitely more than we could ever be asked to forgive.  And not only that, but He promises that God will not forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive others:

“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

– Matt 6.15

So let us be quick to love, quick to apologize, quick to listen and quick to confess.  Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit but follow His prompting when He convicts us, and let us also be quick to apologize if a friend or family member confronts us in a sin or grievance.  God desires that change, that we love well, and that we be known by our love.

Balanced Prayers

prayer (1)

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of our relationship with the Lord is adoration.  Far too often we think of worship as the music before or after preaching on Sunday mornings, but adoration and love are the foundation on which everything else must be built.  There is model by which we can outline our prayers that has been developed directly from the format in which Jesus prayed, and it goes like this:

   A –  Adoration
   C –  Confession
   T –  Thanksgiving
   S –  Supplication (prayer requests)

When Jesus taught the disciples to pray with the Lord’s prayer, these are the four themes He taught them to pray, and in that order.  Prayer, of course, is not a science and we should not sacrifice the vulnerability and rawness of a real conversation with God in order to walk through these four steps ritualistically.  If you are extremely excited, then pray a prayer of excitement and praise!  If you are broken and hurting, then pour out your sorrow to God.  But by-in-large, we must remember to keep a balance of these realities in our prayer life lest we get imbalanced and neglect part of our relationship with God.

An imbalance of adoration neglects the personal side of a relationship.  Have you ever had someone who just worships you, follows you around and is creepy?  To be imbalanced in confession neglects grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit – a life of asceticism, typically.  It is difficult, in my opinion, to be too thankful, but if you neglect confession, adoration and requests, then you are not experiencing the transformation of the Spirit through conviction.  Lastly, many of us live in the imbalance of supplication.  Our prayers are almost completely a list of requests – and many of them we do not even pay attention to see the answer!

We must be balanced and our prayers must be representative of a holistic, healthy relationship.  Praise God today.  Confess your sins to Him today.  Thank Him today, for all He has done and for prayers answered.  And lastly, bring your needs to Him.  Trust Him.  Love Him.  He is your Heavenly, perfect Father.

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.”

– Ps 18.1-3

Vicky Beeching: “I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am.”

Every generation of Christians has their hot topic, their moral dilemma, their moral or ethical line with which they flirt while their parents stand by in horror.  The topic of today seems to be that of homosexuality.  And we are confronted by it yet again by a popular Christian music artist named Vicky Beeching. She has written many songs that are popular to be sung in contemporary worship services all around the country including songs like “The Wonder of the Cross”.  This week she declared to the world that she is gay, and God loves her just the way that she is.

And people are responding.

One extreme is saying, “Boycott Beeching and all of her songs” while the other is saying, “Amen sister!  God does not judge us, in fact he created us uniquely, so live it out!”

What is lacking here, however, is a basic understanding of God’s nature and the essence of salvation. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

 – John 3.16

Forgiveness and salvation are available to everyone.  Yes, Vicky, God does love you.  But He does not condone any unrepented sin, and He will not excuse it.  He will not condone or excuse my unrepented sin.  God’s love is not the question here, forgiveness is.  

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

 – Heb 10.26-27

God is the ultimate being who wrote the book on morality.  Literally.  He defined right and wrong, He established the Law, declared punishments for breaking it and He alone upholds it.  It is His judgment and wrath for breaking His law from which we need salvation both momentarily and eternally.  But we, being in our physical bodies, often believe the lie of the enemy, “You surely will not die!” (Gen 3.3).  This was his first deception, and his best, and he continues to use it today.  God’s law is written on our hearts and our consciences bear witness to it (Rom1).  We know the first time that we lie, steal, cheat on a test, fornicate or lust that it is wrong.  We feel guilty.  But when we see no immediate consequence we harden our hearts to that nagging conviction and indulge in the pleasure of the fruit that is “good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise” (Gen 3.6).  

God loves homosexuals.  He loves alcoholics.  He loves liars and cheaters and evil doers.  If He did not, none of us would be loved.  But He does not forgive everyone.  

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

 – Prov 17.15

If we continue in wickedness, He will not justify us.  To do so is an abomination.  And He reserves the right to define wickedness because He is God.  He has not hidden from us those things that He hates.  They are made clear in the Scripture because “God is not a God of confusion” (1 Cor 14.33), and He desires that we would repent and be saved (1 Peter 3.9).  But His wrath and holiness cannot be separated from His love.  And they are not at war with one another.  His love satiates His wrath, and to be found in His love we must confess that we deserve His wrath and repent.  

Having the disposition of homosexuality in and of itself is not sinful.  Lusting, or acting out on those temptations is.  Having the desire to party, get drunk, mess around with your boyfriend (or girlfriend), cheat on a test, speed down the highway, or steal is not sinful.  To let your mind remain on those things, to lust for them and to commit them is sinful.  And to try to redefine morality so that our lusts are excusable is sinful.  Sure, you might be “made” to desire a sin, but that does not make it permitable.  We all have dispositions and inclinations to particular sins.  As of right now, our culture still considers sex with a child a sin.  God outlined it in the Scripture clearly that sex is a gift reserved for a man and a woman in the consensual and loving bond of marriage.  Anything else is sin.  But there is a movement that is attempting to define a person’s desire to have sex with children as a preference and genetic makeup, just like homosexuality has already been defined.  Most of humanity would look on the topic with horror, but in the world of psychology, the transition is being made and some day it may be acceptable.

My point is simply this:  it makes no difference what your lusts, desires or dispositions are.  We are all born in sin, we all have a sinful nature, and the desires of our flesh are wicked.  To come to salvation, we have to agree with God about his definition of sin, we have to understand that the penalty for those sins is death and damnation, we have to confess our sins and we have to repent or change our ways.  Yes, we will still stumble and fall – we will sin.  But we must hate it, we must put it to death, we must confess it, we must seek to put it away because it is filthy and it dishonors God. 

So, should we boycott Beeching?  Should we quit singing her songs?

By no means!  Is a song necessarily void of its value because the author has fallen morally or ethically?  Paul allowed people to preach the Gospel who preached it from selfish and wicked motives (Phil 1).  Why?  Because it makes no difference the preacher or the author, only that the Truth is proclaimed.  Chances are high that most of our forefathers, who are quoted often and regularly, have different convictions or beliefs than you and I.  Many of my favorites (Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc) believed in infant baptism.  C. S. Lewis had some very quirky thoughts.  Solomon himself, after writing books of the Bible, possibly died apart from faith.  But His words are still inspired and included in the Bible!  Do you love the old hymn, “It is well with my soul”?  Horatio Spafford died as part of a Messianic cult.  Does the truth within the hymn lose it’s truth by nature of Spafford’s apostasy?  No, it certainly does not.  

If, however, when you sing the words coined by Beeching, you stumble, then refrain for the sake of your own conscience.  But Truth is Truth, regardless of the heart or dispositions of the preacher.  

God does love you, whatever your sinful disposition.  But do not make peace with your sin.  Seek God’s heart on it, confess it, and trust Him to give you the strength to live a holy and righteous life.  

How shall I be saved?

Salvation is so simple.  Scripture teaches us that God is perfect and His standard is perfection.  Unless we keep His Law perfectly, we cannot enter into Heaven and eternity with Him.  If we fail in even one small point, we are damned to an eternity of suffering in Hell, because God is perfect and will not tolerate or excuse sin.  God, knowing that no human being is capable of keeping His Law without failure, sent His son Jesus who did live a perfect life on this Earth, keeping the entire Law.  In His perfection He died and took the punishment “for all who would believe” (Rom 3.21-22).  Those who believe are not counted innocent before God, they are counted as redeemed.  Their punishment has been paid in full.  Their wicked deeds do deserve death and Hell, but Jesus paid the penalty and served the time.  There is nothing we can do to earn this substitution of His payment for our’s, and there is nothing we can do to un-earn it once it has been granted (Rom 8.38-39).

Paul says, quite simply,

“…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

– Rom 10.9-10

Simple, right?

But what do these terms “confess” and “believe” really mean?  Is it an academic exercise?  Do we believe that Jesus died and was resurrected the same way that we believe that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492?  Do we confess “Jesus as Lord” the same way that we say the pledge of allegiance before school every. single. day?  (Do schools still do that?)

The terms are explained in part by the results defined for each:  Belief results in  righteousness and confession results in Salvation.  Belief is of the heart, and confession is of the mouth.  We cannot have a salvation that is in our heart about which we never speak or confess, and we likewise cannot earn salvation by verbal affirmation alone.  Our hearts and our mouths must be fully engaged.

But engaged in what?  We must confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead.  Sometimes our Gospel is so caught up in the cross that we forget the victory came with Christ’s resurrection.  If Jesus simply died on the cross as an innocent man, He is just a good guy.  But God raised Him from the dead!  He defeated death from its belly.  He descended into the abyss and conquered death, paid our punishment and returned.  God did not abandon Him in Hell (Acts 2.27)!  Jesus is the firstborn of the resurrection to which we will all be party – either unto salvation or damnation (Col 1.15).  No one else has yet been resurrected unto eternal life.  All who have been revived from death by Jesus, the prophets and even modern day doctors, have or will die again.  But Jesus is alive, forever.

So we believe, with our hearts, that Jesus came to Earth, lived a perfect life, died for my punishment and your’s and rose again to reign.  This results in righteousness (Rom 10.10).  Why does this result in righteousness?  Because the moment that you realize your guilt deserves what Jesus endured and the weight of the reality hits you that you do not have to pay it because He paid it for you; that belief and understanding transforms you.  You realize that your sinful actions put Him on the cross (Heb 6.6), and because you love Him so much for what He did, you do not want to shame Him or add insult to the burden He already bore.  The Spirit who indwells you through this belief says, “Don’t do that” when you entertain sin in your mind.  You cannot tolerate that which cost your Savior His life.

And we confess, with our mouths, that Jesus is Lord.  What in the world does that mean?  Jesus is Lord.  In order to understand sin, its consequence and Jesus’ offer of salvation, we have to believe the Bible to be true; for in it we find God’s heart, history and expectations.  When we affirm the Bible as God’s written word, we realize that is has mandates for our lives.  We, as believers, are commanded to love God (Matt 22.37), love our neighbors (Matt 22.39), die to all forms of sin (Rom 8.13), and live holy, godly lives (1 Peter 1.16).  Jesus is the one who commands these things of us, and when we confess Him as Lord, we are submitting to Him to be in charge of our lives.  He sets the standards, He makes the rules, and He gives direction for how we live.  Confessing Jesus as Lord means surrendering our lives to Him and dying to sin.  This results in salvation.

If the result of our belief and confession is not a transformed life, then the belief and the confession are false.  A transformed life does not earn salvation, it merely is the proof that one understands, believes and has been granted salvation.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

 – 2 Cor 5.17

Salvation is so simple.  But yet it is so profound.  It will transform your lives.  Our old man will die.  We will seek to honor God with every fiber of our beings because we realize our guilt, we realize from what we have been saved, and we realize the value and weight of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We will grieve to do anything that dishonors Him or breaks His heart, and we will allow Him to rule our lives.  We will get off the throne and worship Him.  Mental assent is not enough.  Verbal confession is not enough.  Going to church, teaching Sunday School and being a good person are not enough.  It must be a transformation of the heart resulting in righteousness and a boldness of the tongue resulting in salvation.

repent

Let’s get real about sin.

dont-judge-me

We’re all sinners.  No one is perfect.  So who am I to judge your sin, and who are you to judge mine!

Right?

Why does our society have this mindset right now?  I am convinced it is because we do not believe that we all truly are sinners.  This is our cop out to not have to take responsibility before anyone for anything.  It sounds humble because we would say that we are not perfect, but if one were to be pressed in exactly how he is not perfect, he would have no answer.  He would probably give you the interview answer, “I’m a perfectionist” which he calls a weakness but makes it out to be a strength for the hiring company.  We are extremely good at manipulation and self deception.

Is morality a viable aspect of our society?  Without getting too philosophical early this morning, if God exists and His Word is true then yes, His moral and His holy law outline how we should live.  The belief in a Godless universe means that there is no purpose in life, we are just highly evolved balls of slime who have developed thinking and reasoning skills, but there is no moral absolute by which we can hold ourselves accountable.

Even if one proclaims to believe that there is no God and evolution and meaninglessness in life are true, he still lives and functions with an innate sense of morality.  If someone breaks into his house and steals his stuff or rapes his wife, he will demand justice.  He will not say, “Well there is no moral absolute, so who am I to judge the thief/rapist”.

Therefore:

We must understand where morality is defined.  We must understand what the author considers sin.  And we must get real with ourselves and examine the depth of our own, personal, ugly sin.

Salvation is through faith, by grace, unto repentance.  When we are born again we have a new life.  The old has passed away.  Sort of.  We will still struggle with temptations, trials and sinful desires.  This is what theologians like to call “The Already, Not Yet”.  We have been saved, but we are not yet free of our sinful flesh.

And in order to repent we have to name our sin.  Confess it.  Hate it.  Fight it.  What are those things that entice you most?  Pornography?  Over eating?  Laziness?  Stealing?  Lying?  The Scripture is extremely clear about what is sin and what is not.  And most of us function with a normal conscience and have an understanding of right and wrong.  When we are unsure, where do we go for the answer?  The Word of God.

This week there has been a scandal over World Vision and their positional change about allowing homosexuality as an unrepentant sin for employees.  The long held tradition that adhered to Scripture calling it sin was reversed for a brief 48 hour time frame, and led to a media storm that has polarized Christians.

Some would seek to deny the Scripture and say that homosexuality is not a sin.  Some would say, “We are all sinners, so who am I to judge?”  And some would say, “That person cannot be saved if he has those desires”.  All of these answers are dangerous and hurtful to Christianity.  Why?  Because homosexuality is indeed a sin and those who struggle with the passions and desires need to fight it.  But it does not disqualify him from salvation.  Just like murder, stealing, lying and adultery do not disqualify another.  But excusing it and not helping the weak to fight it leaves the sinner in his sin and without hope.

False humility will be our demise.  Until we realize our guilt and get on our faces in grief and brokenness over our sin, we will not repent.  We cannot be saved.

Here is an easy way to test yourself.  When someone calls you out on a sin, what is your response?  Do you get defensive and fight for your sin as acceptable or excusable?  Or do you get angry and say the accuser has no right to call you out because he is just as bad – but in his own way?  Do you fall into depression because someone would think that you are not perfect?  Do you admit your sin and mope in your guilt?

Or do you admit, “Yes I did that, and it was wrong.  Will you forgive me and help me to honor God by not doing that any more?”

Do you get on your face before God and say, “God I did _____ today.  I dishonored you by _____.  But I love you and want to honor you with my life, help me obey you and represent you well before my friends, coworkers and neighbors.”

You’re not perfect.  I’m not perfect.  Let’s take some time today to evaluate those specific ways in which we are tempted and/or regularly sin.  And let’s allow God to be the judge, let’s get on our faces before Him, and let’s turn to Him to redeem us.  He will forgive you if you confess your sin and repent.  Leave the sin behind.  Cling to God.

“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

– Charles Spurgeon