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Friday, February 19, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Sin - Up Close, Personal, and Uncomfortable

Journey to the Cross
Sin – Up Close, Personal, and Uncomfortable

Morning Meditation

Read Psalms 32:2-5
Ps 32:2-5 NIV
Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD" — and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Blessed is the man in whose spirit is no deceit. Quietly check your spirit.
• Are your bones wasting away and your groaning long? Allow God to search your heart.
• Do you feel as if your strength is sapped? Prepare your heart to acknowledge your sin.
• Anticipate the joy of confession.

Morning Prayer

Ask God to give you the courage to honestly face yourself and your sin.
• Ask God to be gentle as He reveals the sin in your life.
• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.
• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.
• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

Lent is a time to examine the sin in our lives. The word for sin in the Hebrew is awen. It means "iniquity; vanity; or sorrow." Because of the roots of the word, there is an implication that awen means the absence of all that has true worth; hence, it would denote "moral worthlessness," as in the actions of wrongdoing, evil devising, or false speaking. The word sin in Greek is hamartia. It means “missing the mark.” It is the most comprehensive term for moral obliquity. (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

The word sin is in the Bible 471 times. Admit it. We may not like it but at least God warns us – sin surrounds us and permeates our lives. If that news is not bad enough, sin is getting worse. Read 2 Timothy 3:1 and “don’t be naïve.”
2 Tim 3:1 The Message
Don't be naive. There are difficult times ahead.

There are indeed difficult times ahead as we grow closer and closer to the end times.

For examples of sin, read 2 Timothy 3:2-5.
2 Tim 3:2-5 The Message
As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They'll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they're animals. Stay clear of these people.

Sin is even in the church and that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, people are going to make a show of religion but behind the scenes be animals. Again, we may not like the truth but at least God warns us.

Do you know any “bloated windbags?” Are you one?
• What about the words cynical, ruthless, self-absorbed, crude, or contemptuous of parents? Recognize any of these?
• Are you someone people should “stay clear of?”

Difficulties and trying times make us particularly susceptible to sin but there is hope. Read Job 1:22.
Job 1:22 NIV
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

While it might be rare, it is possible not to sin when having difficulties. Look at all Job went through. Even though he was blameless, his friends blamed his problems on sin. One would think he had earned a long bout with doubt or self-pity but somehow, he managed to avoid it. Amazing but true!

If you are wondering how not to sin, read Matthew 5:29-30.
Matt 5:29-30 NIV
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

It is so simple. We figure out what is likely to make us sin. We gouge it out and throw it away. Recovering alcoholics, drug addicts, and compulsive overeaters know this to be true. To recover, they must spend the rest of their lives gouging out and throwing away their “drugs of choice.” It may be simple, but is certainly isn’t easy.

Sin is serious. Read Matthew 18:6.
Matt 18:6 NIV
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

It would be better to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea than to cause someone else to sin. Think about that the next time you:
Lash out at someone or hurt their feelings, causing them to want to retaliate.
• Complain about your pastor and make others doubt his leadership.
• Involve others in gossip by listening or passing it on.

The message not to sin is a personal one to us. The focus of examining sin is to be on us and not others. Only when we are sinless, can we judge. Read John 8:7.
John 8:7 NIV
If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

At the risk of committing the sin of judgment, one has to wonder about the “honesty” of anyone who thinks they are without sin.

So, what is sin? Practically speaking, it is anything that breaks one of the many laws of God. There are plenty of sins to choose. The words “Thy shalt not” are written in the Bible 240 times, beginning with the Garden of Eden. “Thy shalt not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil!” (Gen. 2:17) You probably know the end of that story. Adam and Eve ate from the tree. That knowledge of good and evil was as useless to them as it is to us. They continued to commit evil anyway, much like us today.

If you want to see an extensive list of ways to “miss the mark” before God, read Exodus 23:3-17, 2 Corinthians 12:20, and Mark 7:20-23. These are but the tip of the iceberg.

Ex 20:3-17 The Message
No other gods, only me. No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I'm a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I'm unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won't put up with the irreverent use of his name. Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD, your God. Don't do any work — not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days GOD made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore GOD blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day. Honor your father and mother so that you'll live a long time in the land that GOD, your God, is giving you. No murder. No adultery. No stealing. No lies about your neighbor. No lusting after your neighbor's house — or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbor's.

2 Corinthians 12:20 The Message
I do admit that I have fears that when I come you'll disappoint me and I'll disappoint you, and in frustration with each other everything will fall to pieces — quarrels, jealousy, flaring tempers, taking sides, angry words, vicious rumors, swelled heads, and general bedlam.

Mark 7:20-23 The Message
He went on: "It's what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness — all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.

If there are so many sins, how do we get it right? The answer lies in the cross. When we sin, like the scripture in the opening meditation, our strength is sapped. We accept our inability to live by the law and turn to grace. Read James 5:15-16.
James 5:15-16 NIV
If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Believers of Jesus Christ are to confess sins to God and to each other and accept the fulfillment of the law, Jesus Christ. Only then, are our prayers powerful and effective.

Unfortunately, most of us journey back and forth from sin to the cross many times throughout our lives. While our eternal salvation may be secure, we are perfectly capable of condemning ourselves to a “hell on earth” if we avoid regular trips to the cross. Use this “Season of Lent” to return to the cross. Examine your life. Use the above scriptures to identify the sins in your life. Become willing to “Gouge them out.”


Ben was an alcoholic. To fund his disease, he broke into houses in the middle of the night and robbed them. In desperation, he cried out to God. God heard and sent him to Alcoholics Anonymous. Ben confessed his sins and asked forgiveness. Ben learned that in order to recover, he would have to give up alcohol for the rest of his life. God required even more of him. He felt the voice of God gently urging him to go to each house he had robbed, apologize, and offer to make restitution.

One by one, he checked the houses off his list. His victims were amazingly forgiving. Realizing Ben was financially destitute and rebuilding his life, most forgave him instantly without requiring anything further.

Finally, he arrived at the last name on his list. He had done damage to this house and was dreading the confrontation. He procrastinated longer than he should and became tortured emotionally. Not wanting to return to drinking, Ben knocked on the door of this family and quietly told his story. The man and his wife were stunned. The women burst into tears. “Thank you so much for telling u,” she said. “Up until now, we had thought our son had done this to us. We had completely cut him out of our lives.” Ben’s “journey to the cross” restored a family’s love. Like Ben, our journey to the cross can have the same miraculous outcome.

Look at yesterday’s list of your darkness. Reread at the above lists in Exodus 23:3-17, 2 Corinthians 12:20, and Mark 7:20-23 and notice what sins contribute to your darkness. Make a bulleted written list of your sins.
Have you been a gossip?
• Are you mean spirited?
• Have you committed slander, lust, or fornication?
• Where have you been dishonest, fearful, selfish, or prideful?

Be fearlessly honest. God already knows where you have sinned and is patiently waiting to restore your strength. Take a deep breath, pray, and proceed. Keep this list for use in our future devotions together.

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