How do you approach God?

laziness

How do you approach the throne of God?  We have lost much general respect and honor in our casual society.  The workplace is business casual at best, we make and break plans on a whim, and we are so preoccupied with our own thoughts, rights and opinions that we never stop talking to listen to the wisdom of those who have gone before or those around us.  I work out of a warehouse and wear exercise clothes to work most days, and I am not saying all is lost in the world because we no longer wear coats and ties to the office, but I am saying that our general societal worldview of entitlement and casual approach has created a void.  We berate our teachers and professors for bad grades instead of respecting their education and wisdom.  We get angry at and disrespect the police and military instead of obeying the law and honoring their right to keep us accountable.  We sue one another for minor infractions or inconveniences just to get rich.  We seek our own best interest, often to the detriment of others.

This is reflected in our Spirituality as well.  We no longer recognize God as the all powerful creator of the universe who will judge us for all our actions, but as our cosmic daddy who should give us whatever we ask of Him – and we get mad and pout when He fails to come through.  We proclaim that “God loves you just as you are” and tell people to run to Him without any consideration of His holiness and expectations.  Yes, it is true that God gives life to Spiritually dead people and we cannot clean ourselves up enough to become presentable to Him before salvation.  When we come to God the first time, for salvation, we have to come with open hands – just as we are – and without pretense because God alone can enable us to begin the transformation of righteous living.  However, once we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, His love is very much conditional.  If we continue in sin, He will condemn us (Heb 6.26).  If we have a problem or irreconciled issue with our brother, God will not hear our worship (Matt 5.22-24).  If you mistreat your spouse, God will not even listen to your prayer (1 Peter 3.7).  God does not save us to leave us in our sins, He saves us to transform us and begin a new work in us (Phil 1.6).

We have tricked ourselves into believing that making God so casual and approachable will encourage people to come to Him more quickly and consistently.  Unfortunately, this is not reality.  Like anything else we get used to and devalue, the newness and shine wears off quickly and we place Him on a bookshelf while we look for the next great adventure, pleasure or distraction.  We have at our fingertips access to the sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent creator God and we can hardly remember to pray before meals or bedtime – let alone submit ourselves to His will and direction.

“Christ went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.”

– Thomas Watson

Christ did in fact go more willingly to the cross than we do to God’s throne.  Even though, we have been promised that there is no condemnation remaining for those who are in Christ (Rom 8.1), and granted access to the throne of grace without fear (Heb 4.16), we neglect this privilege because we have made our faith about us and what we can get out of it.  However, when we truly encounter Jesus, when He transforms us and saves us from our sins, and when we recognize the holiness of God, we cannot remain indifferent.  We cannot be left unchanged.  We cannot have a laisez faire attitude about His work in us and the world.

It would be like Lazarus – a good friend of Jesus who died and was buried for four days and then resurrected from the dead – considering Jesus just another guy he knows.  It would be like Paul – a man dedicated to the murder and destruction of the church, blinded by God and then healed and sent away to the desert to learn the truths of the Gospel for three years – continuing about his daily life, looking for a nice house, success in business and general comfort in life.  This, of course, sounds absurd because it is absurd.

We no longer long for or expect Lazarus or Paul-like encounters.  We are more like the rich man who asks Jesus what we must do to be saved and when Jesus tells us to sell what we own, give it to the poor and follow Him, we walk way sad.  We are more like the crowd who received the food from the miracle of the five loaves and two fish – wanting to get our bellies filled without having to work, but not wanting to be held responsible to do anything.

Has Jesus rocked your world?  Or are you part of the crowd?  He is in the business of raising the dead to life, not feeding our fat bellies.  When we have been raised to life, Spiritually, we cannot overlook Him.  We cannot put Him on a bookshelf.  We cannot continue about life in a normal fashion because Jesus has raised us from the dead.  He has given us sight.  He has completely altered the trajectory of our lives and put us on the that narrow path that leads to eternal life with Him.  Let’s get to know that Jesus.  Let’s live that life.  Let’s boldly, continually and without doubting approach the throne of grace and follow Jesus.

“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

– John 12.26

Our favorite sin

gossip

Let’s be honest.  Each of us has a scale of sins and wickedness by which we gauge and evaluate our personal morality and self-worth.  There are things that we would never consider in our day-to-day lives, like murder.  We think through the ten commandments and think, “I would never rob someone, I would never kill someone, I would never…” and walk away feeling pretty good about ourselves.

Then there are those sins of temptation with which we wrestle.  Sins of disposition, if you will.  We are all born with or inclined socially to certain sins:  white lies, fudging on our taxes, exaggeration, gossip, pride, slander, etc.  Some of us might be inclined to the large-scale sins like murder and grand larceny, but for the average Joe, it is typically these sins of the heart and more personal sins that tempt us on a regular basis.

But lastly there are those sins that we actually enjoy and with which we have made peace.  These are those most dangerous of sins.  Any sin with which we have made peace can potentially separate us from God.  Forever.  Again, it can be any of the listed sins from the major or tempting sins, but they are typically sins of the heart.  And what is most terrifying about these sins is that we not only accept them and allow them to continue in our own lives, but we also are keenly aware of other Christians preforming them and we give them approval in doing so.

This is a terrifying reality, of which the Bible speaks extremely harshly:

“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

– Rom 1.28-32

Read through that list again slowly.  It is a depraved mind that is full of greed or envy.  It is wickedness to gossip or slander.  Pride, insolence, any strife or boasting.  Disobedient to parents!  Anyone who is unloving, untrustworthy, or without understanding.  This mention of understanding is not knowledge based, it is someone who carelessly passes by someone in need – perhaps with a disability – and just continues about their own lives without concern for the person in need.  Do you avoid that mentally handicapped person who shows up at your church every week?

Pride, slander and gossip are so detrimental and yet so much a part of our lives.  In the church world, we might have felt convicted about any of those three, but in order to continue to placate our flesh, we dress them up as prayer requests.  “Please pray for Suzie Q, you won’t believe what happened…”  Or, “We really need to remember John Doe, he is struggling with…”  Or even still, “Pray for me, I really need/deserve/am angry at…”

We, if we allow this kind of attitude and conversation within the church are just as guilty as those who do it:  We “give hearty approval” by listening to their prayer requests, throwing out a verbal hail mary, and entertaining the sin (Rom 1.32).

But the danger of this sin is eternal:

“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

John teaches us that there is grace when we sin, provided we confess it, repent from it and never make peace with it (1 John 2.1).  Where we enter into dangerous territory is when we consider these palatable sins excusable.  When they are no longer bitter in our mouths or hearts, and we choose to enjoy them or receive the momentary pleasure that comes from them.

Hear me clearly, all sin is desirable.  It is a very rare occasion that any of us would give in to a sin that we despise and hate.  Sexual sin feels good in the moment.  Stealing provides a rush and the pleasure of ownership, if even momentary.  Lying pads one’s ego and creates some sense of image or appearance that is not true.  Even murder might provide some level of pleasure for some people.  Drunkenness pleases the senses and removes the worries of the world.

But when we are given Spiritual life by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He enters into our worlds and rocks them.  It is His purpose and job to convict us of sin and push us on to holiness – helping us and empowering us to stop sinning unto the glory of God:

“And [the Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…”

– John 16.8

Thomas Watson teaches us well,

“Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

When we choose to sin in light of His prodding and conviction in our hearts, we grieve The Holy Spirit who is working to convict us and make us hate sin.  How do we keep from grieving him?  Paul tells us clearly:

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.  Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

– Eph 4.25-32

Slander and gossip are extremely dangerous.  Jesus said that we will each give an account for every careless word that comes out of our mouths (Matt 12.36).  God promises to destroy anyone who slanders his neighbor (Ps 101.5).  So let us not take it lightly.  Let us examine our own hearts and those with whom we interact in the Church.  Let us claim with Augustine:

“Let those who like to slander the lives of the absent know their own are not worthy of this table.”

– Augustine

All sins with which we make peace are damnable and can separate us from God.  Let us press on to fight these sins in our own lives and in the lives of those whom we love.  Let us put it away, remove it from our lives, our churches and our hearts.  Let us learn to hate the taste of sin – that it would bitter – so that Christ alone tastes sweet and we can grow in maturity.

Does a person have to understand sin to be saved?

sin

I was asked at one point in my life, “Does a person have to understand his sin to be saved?”  My generation has been taught, unashamedly, that it’s all about Jesus.  It’s about knowing Jesus, and His love.  Gone are the days of revivals teaching Hell, fire and brimstone.  Now are the days of acceptance, tolerance and love.  We may acknowledge sin in a general sense, but there is no specific naming of it.  Except, of course, when we get on our political high horse.

So the question is honest and characteristic of a tolerant, loving millennial who wants to find hope for eternity.

In short the answer is yes.  A resounding yes.  It is sin alone that separates us from God.  It is our wickedness and sinful nature that God will judge and for which God will condemn to Hell.  Adam and Eve lived in communion with God and it was only for the sin of eating the forbidden fruit that they were condemned, kicked out of the garden, separated from God, cursed and damnation to Hell became the standard for unrepentant humanity.  We are all born with a sinful nature, we are all born condemned; “conceived in sin” David says (Ps 51.5).

God is sovereign and He is the judge.  Yes, He is love and the fact that He has left us on this Earth to have an opportunity to hear of Him and repent is the most loving and gracious act possible.  He did not wipe us off the face of the earth when we ate that cookie our mother said not to eat, the first time we lied, the first time we hit our sister.  No, He is patient towards us (2 Peter 3.9).  But His patience will run out, and when we stand before the judgment seat, He will condemn the sinner to Hell; the sinner who is not covered in the blood of Jesus.

But acknowledging sin is not enough.  We must develop (be given) God’s heart and perspective on it.  We have all met the “Christian” who is fascinated with salvation stories, but who dwells on the wickedness that was before the conversion.  That person who says He believes the Gospel, but still thinks if he is good enough, if he goes to church and does all the right things, if he plays the game, he will be saved.

“A sign of sanctification is an antipathy against sin.  A hypocrite may leave sin, yet love it.  As a serpent sheds its coat, but keeps its sting.  But a sanctified person can say he not only leaves sin, he loathes it.”

– Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity

Thomas Watson, one of the puritans, wrote so clearly on the subject.  We must loathe our sin.  Detest it, hate it, abandon it and think of it as God thinks of it:  worthy of damnation.  If we truly believed our sin worthy of damnation, we would not cheat on our income taxes.  We would not break the speed limit.  We would not tell white lies or steal to feed the poor.  And we would refrain from these sins because we hate them.  Watson points out that the hypocrite leaves his sin, but remembers it fondly.  It is only the unrepentant who continues in it.

So what are you?  Are you being sanctified?  Is God saving you?  Or are you a hypocrite?  Or are you the unrepentant?  We are all sinners, we will all continue to sin until the day that we die.  But God is concerned about your heart towards it and the resulting resolution to die to it.

“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.  If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.'”

– 2 Chr 7.12-14

God Himself said that if we humble ourselves, pray, seek Him and turn away from our sin, we will be saved.  Yes, we must understand our sin.  That it breaks the heart of God.  That every sinful action puts Jesus back on the cross.  That He hates it and will justly judge it by eternal damnation.  But that He also took the punishment we deserve for our sin and offers us Christ’s righteousness.  Jesus took our place.  So let us consider your actions today.  Ask God to reveal to you His heart about your decisions.  Rely on His strength to honor Him, and loathe your sin.