Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

Sin

The Patterns of Sin and Faith

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Patterns of Sin and Faith

By Tristan Ganchero

Like most people, I follow set patterns of behavior almost every day. I wake up around the same time, eat the same thing for breakfast, and drive the same route to work. There might be some days where everything in between waking up and sitting down at my desk at work is a blur of activity. On those days I might stop and ask myself, “How did I get here?” After some thought I’d be able to explain how I arrived at work or school because it’s the same thing I do every day.

What about when I find myself in sin? My first response to the question, “How did I get here,” might be, “I don’t know.” But sure enough, if I gave it some more thought, there would be a pattern of behavior that resulted in this sinful situation.

One such pattern is: Seeing, Desiring, Taking, and Hiding.

Consider three examples from the Old Testament: Eve (Gen. 3:6-8), Achan (Josh. 7:20-21), and David (2 Sam. 11:1-5).

Genesis 3:6-8  God told Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Eve saw that the tree was good for food. She desired to be wise, took the tree’s fruit, ate, and gave some to her husband to eat as well. Then, they both hid from the presence of the LORD.

Joshua 7:20-21  God had told Israel that everything in Jericho was devoted to destruction, but when Achan saw the spoil, he desired (coveted) the spoil for its value. He took the spoil for himself, even though it belonged to the LORD, and then he hid the spoil inside his tent.

2 Samuel 11:1-5  During the time of year when kings went out to battle, David stayed home and saw Bathsheba bathing. He desired her beauty (this is implied in his actions), had his servants take her to him, and then spent the rest of the chapter trying to hide his adultery.

The consequences of their sins were serious: suffering, death, and more importantly, a broken relationship with their Creator. We will face the same consequences when we keep our eyes fixed on what we shouldn’t be seeing, desiring what we shouldn’t be desiring, taking what we shouldn’t be taking, and hiding from the LORD.

What’s the solution? If we realize that we are hiding from the LORD because of this pattern sin, then we need to step out of the darkness and into the light by repenting and confessing our sins (1 Jn. 1:6-9). Then, rather than engaging in the pattern of sin, we need to busy ourselves with the “pattern of faith”: We need to fix our eyes on Jesus and see Him as our King (Heb. 12:1-2). We need to desire Jesus for His wisdom, value, and beauty (Col. 2:3; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Is. 33:17). Finally, we need to take hold of the hope that we have in Him and hide (take refuge) in the shelter He provides (Heb. 6:17-18), never straying from the message of our great salvation, eagerly waiting until that Day when Jesus returns and reveals the glorious hope that the faithful have been longing for - eternal life with Him.

 

Why Suffering?

Monday, September 05, 2016

Why Suffering?

By Paul Earnhart

Job, out of his wretchedness and deep anguish, once declared, ”Man that is born of women is of few days and full of trouble" (14:1).  It may not be the whole story, but it is a significant part of it.  Early and late, all of us will face some heartbreaking adversities.  The presence of so much pain in life has caused some to question even the existence of God.  The trap in that is that we are arguing against God by a standard which cannot exist without Him.

The adversity in human life is real, not imagined.  The Bible deals forthrightly with it.  Solomon speaks plainly in Ecclesiastes not only of the presence of pain but the absence of justice in life "under the sun."  Most all of us have felt that knowing the why of all this suffering and who or what is behind it might help.  It is altogether human to probe into such things, but we need to recognize the limitations of our own knowledge (Deuteronomy 29:29).

In the fall of the year before He died, Jesus and His disciples came upon a beggar in Jerusalem which moved the disciples to ask, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" (John 9:1).  They presumed that physical tragedy was always a result of divine judgment on sin.  Jesus' answer, "Neither . . .  but that the works of God should be revealed in him" opened up a much broader perspective on suffering.  This man's suffering had a purpose.  The disciples had seen it only as a consequence.

Where does suffering come from?  From several sources.  It can come from God, in the general suffering and death unleashed in the world after man sinned (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:20), or in specific cases to humble or strengthen (Job, Miriam, Numbers 12:1-10, Manasseh, 2 Chronicles 33:10-20, and even Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7).

It can come from Satan, through God's allowance, as illustrated in the case of the horrific suffering of the righteous Job.  Even Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was "a messenger of Satan" which God used for very different purposes than the Tempter intended.

It can come as the inevitable fruit of our own sins.  "The way of the transgressor is hard" (Proverbs 13:15).  Sin has its temporal consequences--physical, emotional and social.

Yet, at last, unless there is some direct link to our sin, it is very difficult to know the exact origins of our adversity.  And that is just as well, for far more important than knowing why we are suffering is our response to it.  Adversity, regardless of its source, is one of God's most effective tools to deepen our faith in Him and transform our lives.  So said the Psalmist: "Before I was afflicted I went astray.  But now I keep Your word . . . It is good that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:67,72).  As C. S. Lewis once observed, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, and shouts at us in our pain".  And as Scripture observes, "Whom the Lord loves He chastens" (Hebrews 12:6).

The anguish of Christ on the cross reflects the influence of God (Isaiah 53:6), and Satan (Luke 22:3,4) and our own sins (1 Peter 2:24). Yet it was our Savior's trusting response to this awful suffering that enabled God to work by it something transcendently wonderful.  So it will be with us, if we choose our response to suffering wisely--especially when we don't understand why.  "For our light affliction, which is for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).  At last, like that ancient blind man, what we suffer here is in order that "the works of God may be revealed in us."

Everything I Needed to Know About God I Learned... Throughout My Life?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Everything I Needed to Know About God I Learned... Throughout My Life?

By Mike Cox

"What hinders me from being baptized?" This is the question that the Ethiopian Eunuch asked Philip in Acts 8:36 as they had been studying the Bible together. One of the big hindrances to obeying the Gospel that I have heard throughout my time as a Christian, is that people feel like they don't know enough to be baptized. This even applied to me before I became a Christian. What exactly is it that one needs to know to be baptized? How much does one need to know to be baptized? Not as much as we may think.

There are things that we need to know and come to terms with before we make the decision to become a Christian. We must first hear God's word (John 5:24), and we must believe (Mk. 16:15-16) in God. In doing so, this means that we have to acknowledge that we have sinned. Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". We then must repent (turn away) from our sins (Mk. 1:14-15). Philip tells the Eunuch in Acts 8:37 that "if you believe with all your heart you may" be baptized. This is followed up by the Eunuch's confession of his belief in Jesus Christ and subsequently his baptism in verse 38 of Acts 8; Acts 2:21 and Mk. 16:16 are also commands for baptism. When we do this there is a level of commitment involved which can also be hindrance to some when they are considering becoming a Christian. We must then remain faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). This can seem like a daunting task when we feel we don't know enough about the Bible or we are overwhelmed with the expectation that we must live perfectly and without sin. As previously mentioned, we all have sinned and will sin. We all sin, but the difference between believers and non-believers when we sin is seen in how it affects us and how we try to not repeat that sin. We strive to live righteously.

We have a lifetime to learn of and about God and what is required of us. We all must start at the beginning. First Peter 2:2 references a time period where Christians are "newborn babes", that "desire the pure milk of the word", that we may grow. Does a star athlete start out at the top of his sport? No, they obtain a higher level as they learn and apply what they have learned. This is the same principle for Christians. We must apply what we've learned about God's word and expectations throughout our lives. We must mature as Christians and have a greater level of understanding and purpose. If our expectation is one of perfection from the start, it will be a daunting task to follow God and get to Heaven. Keep in mind that all have sinned and those that make it to Heaven will do so because they made the choice to make a commitment to follow God - and they kept it. The second part of this is God's grace that is bestowed upon us; God's unmerited favor given to us even though we sinned. Hebrews 11 highlights some of the faithful followers of the Bible. Even they had their struggles with sin. It is important to note that while God's plan may have occurred through these people, they weren't perfect either.

As previously mentioned we know very little at the beginning. If we keep this in perspective and strive to grow as Christians and grow closer to God, we CAN get to Heaven with God's grace. As Paul said in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". This goes for us as well.  No master craftsman ever started out that way, it occurred over time as they learned their craft. Being a faithful Christian is a life long journey to draw nearer to God and ultimately dwell with him in Heaven.

Choosing to Adopt

Saturday, June 04, 2016
 
Choosing to Adopt
By Jerid Gunter
 
Since becoming a father seven short months ago, I’ve started to learn about the love of a father firsthand. I’m certainly in the beginning stages. Still yet, I love having the title “daddy”, and I wouldn’t trade my baby girl for anything in the world. I find myself mesmerized by my daughter every day. Simply stated, I love being a dad. Really, in many ways, I think it’s pretty natural for me to feel the way I do about my daughter, as she’s my “flesh and blood.”
 
What about for those who adopt children? At least from the outside looking in, the kind of love from an adoptive parent to an adoptive child seems to have a different layer (or maybe multiple layers). I’m certainly not suggesting the love I have for my daughter or any parent for their own biological child is any less, but with all of the additional elements of an adoption, there are hurdles that must be crossed, which isn’t quite the case for biological parents. Let’s just consider a few of the obvious ones:
 
1. The child may not resemble you.
This has to be one of the most fundamental challenges that potential adoptive parents have to come to terms with. Perhaps the child has different colored hair or eyes than you. Not really that big of a deal. However, maybe the child is a different race than you. That’s a bit more obvious isn’t it? For some parents, it’s not an issue at all. However, others are very self-conscious about this, and even put in special requests for not just the same race, but the same hair color and eye color as the parent(s) too. They want the child to resemble them as much as possible.
 
2. The cost to adopt is expensive.
Another fundamental obstacle with adoption is that the cost to adopt a child can be extremely expensive. According to americanadoptions.com, the average cost of an adoption from 2012-2013 through an agency was nearly $40,000, while an independent adoption was only about $6,000 less. That’s quite a price to pay to provide an innocent child, who didn’t choose to be in this situation, a home.
 
3. You don’t have to do it.
While adoption is most definitely an incredibly selfless and compassionate act, the bottom line is: you don’t have to do it. As noted in the previous point, adoption is very expensive. Let alone, the psychological hoops you may have to jump through before deciding to go through with it. The truth is, you’d be taking on a responsibility that you don’t have to take on if you don’t want to. There’s no firing squad waiting outside your door if you choose not to adopt.
 
OK, now take all of those points and apply them from the vantage point of God and His willingness to adopt you, me, and anyone else who wants to be part of His family. When you really think about it, it’s incredible to consider:
 
1. We didn’t/don’t resemble Him.
I’m sure most of us know Romans 3:23 by heart, and in some ways we may take comfort in that passage, knowing that all of us have sinned. Certainly, we all resemble each other in a spiritual sense, but we don’t resemble God. Even in the flesh, Christ was sinless (1 Peter 2:22). God cannot and will not associate with sin. He hates it (Proverbs 6:16-19). He is holy (Isaiah 6:3).
 
We couldn’t look any more different from God in our sin. How comfortable do we feel about Romans 3:23 now?
 
2. The cost to adopt us was incredibly steep.
While the adoption of a child is most certainly a costly endeavor, there’s no dollar amount that can convey the price God paid in order to adopt us. To consider the fact that God hates sin, yet still loves the people who have committed the sins (directly transgressing His will) is just incredible itself. We all know John 3:16, that He loved/loves the world (mankind – His creation) so much, that He gave His only Son to die for us. As Paul stated in Romans 6:23, the payment for sin is death, yet God freely offers eternal life through Christ. If anything, we should be making payments to God for this adoption to take place, but He’s already paid for it.
 
As any adoptive parent would expect to receive their child’s love, appreciation, and obedience, God certainly expects the same of His adopted children, because the bottom line is…
 
3. He didn’t have to do it.
As much as we may say it from the Lord’s Supper table or from the pulpit or in our songs, I’m afraid I might (perhaps you do too) have an issue with entitlement. We live in a “hand-out” society and really the only thing we need to have our hand out for is to be smacked…hard. Shame on any of us if we live our lives believing we’re entitled to anything, and most especially salvation. As Christians, how quickly we may forget that we didn’t resemble God at all when we came to Him with our sin. He didn’t have to make His Son available and Jesus always had a way out (Matthew 26:53), but God’s love exceeded it all (Romans 5:8).
 
Christian, take joy in your adoption! Find humility, knowing that it’s obvious we didn’t resemble God in any way. But at the same time, have resolve, knowing that through the blood of Christ, we can work towards resembling Him in the way we live our lives for our Father each day. What a loving Father we have, who by adopting us, not only calls us His children, but heirs unto salvation (Romans 8:12-17)! “Praise the Lord, I am His child!”

Be Careful of the Small Slips

Friday, May 27, 2016
Be Careful of the Small Slips
By Megan Berthold

I took a fall recently. Well, a stumble really.  I’m not certain of all the technicalities between falls and stumbles, but it was a small slip of the feet.  The irony was that our family had just hiked almost three miles up the side of a mountain, around “cliffy” edges, and then back down around rocks and slippery stones - all safe and sound.  Thankfully, it wasn’t until I was near the safety of the trailhead that I had my slip.

My slip on the safe ground got me thinking.  It seems in life that it can be easy to pass the “big tests”, but it’s often times the little ones that can entangle us.  It’s amazing that when you’re hiking, even near dangerous edges, there oftern aren’t guardrails.  There aren’t park rangers at the rough turns rationing out warnings.  Lots of times there aren’t even signs!  And it’s not necessary because it’s overwhelmingly apparent - there is danger around you. Carefulness, awareness and safety are demanded.

In our spiritual lives, it’s no different.  We don’t need the “ warning signs” around the big issues.  We can often handle the "biggie" issues of fornication, drinking, regular attendance at Worship, using the Lord’s name in vain, etc.  But just as I’m feeling confident in hiking through the weighty matters of life, the phone rings and gossip is flowing from my lips, or my child disobeys me and my anger flares, or I’m praised for a job completed well and my heart starts harboring pride, or my spouse and I have words and all of the sudden submission to my husband is out the door.  Look at all the slipping!  And it wasn’t falling over the cliff on adultery, or stealing, or lying; it was slipping on the "little" things, the things not many people see.

This isn’t new by the way.  Look at Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26).  Somehow she had lived in Sodom and actually made it out alive; she truly made it to the safe ground.  But then she turned.  One little look cost it all.  Then of course there’s Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:3-8).  I feel for Uzzah.  He didn’t make the cart, he was just guiding it; but he touched it.  God couldn’t have made that rule any plainer, don’t touch the ark.  There’s no ambiguity on that point; no way to wonder how God really felt about that one.  "No touchy", as we say in our house.   And then there is Moses, who was quite the man really.  He stood up to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and to the Israelites too actually, on their many occasions of back peddling.  He parted the Red Sea, he saw a burning bush, he received the Ten Commandments, the list just goes on and on.  And in Numbers 20:7 the Lord tells him to speak to the rock to bring forth water.  So he and Aaron jaunt on down to the assembly of the people before the rock, and he hits the rock.  Hits it!  Not just once mind you, he strikes that rock twice.  When I look at Moses I can really feel better about myself (oops, there is the pride again), but really, here is a man who struck his staff over the Red Sea, which is no creek by the way, and it parts.  But he can’t listen and obey when God told him to speak to the rock to bring forth water.

Ok, so what is the take home?  We need to make sure we’re getting it right on the “little” things, just like we do on the big ones.  What does it really matter if I’m in my pew Sunday at 9am, 5pm, and Wednesday at 7:30, if I’m not truly living as a vessel of Christ in my words, in my example, and in my heart?

We need to ensure that what we perceive as “safe ground” really is secure.  
 
 

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