Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sin is an Empowering Word: Part 2

Sin. It is the cause of the guilt we feel after we drink too much and too often. It is our insecurity. It is the arbiter of gossip, pornography, wasting time, laziness, do-nothingness, maligning others, back-stabbing, lying, over-spending, yelling at our children, sending nasty emails, grouchiness, nosiness, entitlement and having either too low or too high of a regard for ourselves. Sin is our own estimation of everything: what we do, think, say or feel. Sin is there. It is here. In the world. And in us. Whether we know it or not.

And when we finally understand this, the “aha” moment of why, after so many years of trying, we can never get out of ourselves by ourselves becomes clear:

“I can’t fix me when I deny I need fixing. And I can’t fix me when I am the problem. Only Jesus can fix me.”

But to say that we need fixing rubs folks the wrong way, in spite of the fact that they will be the first to sign up for the meditation class or the “Find Your Inner Whatever Seminar,” or binge on parenting books and gobble up New Age tomes like The Secret, The Power of Now and Creative Visualization.

Sometimes folks will fail to acknowledge that they are even remotely any part of the dysfunction and malaise in their life (or the lives of others) and will instead job-hop, city-hop, spouse-hop; place their hope in lottery ticket purchases; read horoscopes; become workaholics; distract themselves with television (including televised sports); take drugs; drink alcohol; play the victim; or spend money to make themselves feel better.

Often the tentacles of our inner dystopia extend to strangle others too: we become enablers, manipulators and schemers. We divert attention off of ourselves by controlling, demanding, “helping,” “saving” and meddling in the lives of others.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can make a choice:

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve:...but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15, in part)

And the people in Joshua decided:

“Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods;...” (Joshua 24:16, in part)

Anything we serve other than God is a false god; an idol. So our self-righteousness is the idolizing of ourselves. Yelling at our kids is the idolizing of ourselves. Blaming everything on the boss or the spouse is the idolizing of ourselves. The sin we adhere to and refuse to agree with God regarding can result in idolatry: of ourselves, a material item or another person.

In 1 John 1, however, we discover how the acknowledgement of sin can empower us:

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess ours sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 1:5-2:6.

If we deny sin—generally or specifically in our own heart, mind, body and soul—then God’s word has no place in our life. Which is why, when we don’t believe in sin, we can’t believe in Christ because we either have no need of a Savior, or because we see our shortcomings in secular-human terms and thus appoint ourselves, a job, an identity or another human to be our savior. And that results in our giving carte blanche to sin (sin gets the upper hand even though we may not believe in it).

In my case, once I believed in sin, a belief in and desire for Christ came almost instantly. And any and all maturity and developing integrity in my life has, and does, derive directly from His Holy Spirit and the absorbing of His Word.

Copyright Barb Harwood

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sin is an Empowering Word: Part 1

All of us know there is something amiss within us. And although society and the self-esteem movement would have us think otherwise, we all, like Miss Clavel in the story Madeline, know that,

“Something is not right. Something is quite wrong.”

Why else would self-improvement seminars, life-coaches and counseling for individuals, marriages and families continue to thrive?

Grit by Angela Duckworth is number five on the New York Times Best Sellers, and has been on the list for nine weeks.

One review of her book states that, thanks to the author, “social and emotional education appears on public school lesson plans throughout the country,” and her book teaches “the cultivation of tenacity.”

In order for this book, and thousands like it, to sell so well, the purchasing public must be admitting that something is, in fact, lacking.

Yet I would surmise that the truth still isn’t going to be revealed in Duckworth’s (or the thousands like it) book, because although “tough love” is apparently promoted, God’s-love isn’t. And although people’s shortcomings will inevitably be pointed out, sin will not.

In the book of Romans we find this truth:

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:21-23

I grew up in a denomination that does not believe in sin.

Around the time I turned 38, the Lord began to open my eyes to the false teachings I had been fed, and He used, among other things, a Godly man on a Christian radio station.

I tuned in every day at 9:00 am to listen to this Biblical pastor’s teaching, and was soon sitting with a notebook, writing down almost everything he said. One day, as this man was explaining sin, I stared out the window, and, in inner exclamation, became suddenly cognizant:

“That’s my problem! Sin! Sin is my problem!”

I mark that moment as one of the most empowering of my life. I soon came to fully grasp that not only is sin my nemesis, but Jesus is the conqueror.

Finally, the years of inner disquiet and self-loathing—and my single-handed attempts to eradicate them via self-help books, Taoist ideology, women’s liberation dogma and self-actualization, were over. The cage door was opened as I took Jesus’ hand to freedom.

copyright Barb Harwood

(Part 2 of this post will appear tomorrow, July 13, 2016)