The Problem Is Sin

Seattle_AtheistsIn the Theist/Atheist Facebook group I’ve mentioned from time to time, a question came up about faith (is it a virtue). One thing led to another and one person involved in the discussion said he had four problems with faith in the “christian god.” The first area he mentioned was sin. He said, in essence, that he rejects the idea of sin.

I was shocked at first. This discussion took place just a week after the Florida shooting that killed 49 people at the Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando. I think, how can anyone watch the news and then turn around and say he doesn’t believe in sin?

My only answer is that Satan, who Jesus described as the father of lies, has blinded the eyes of unbelieving people. The problem is so obviously sin.

Society talks about love and tolerance, to the point that those topics have become almost trite. And yet, as if bringing an answer to the problem of violence or hatred or prejudice or terrorism—whatever was behind the actions of the Orland killer—several Broadway stars resurrected an old folk song from 1965 by Burt Bacharach: “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”

Before this cry for love, God gave us the Law that serves as our tutor—showing us how impossible it is for us to act in a morally upright way day in and day out, every hour of every day.

Jesus explained that God’s standard goes beyond the Law to include our attitudes as well as our actions. So lust makes us equivalent to adulterers, hate makes us as guilty as murderers. And yes, Jesus said, the law requiring an eye for an eye needs to be replace with love for our enemies.

So when the world tells us we need love, they’re right.

The problem is, they think love we somehow generate from within or already have but need to tap into, will be victorious over sin. If we love, we won’t be selfish any more. Or prideful. Or angry. Or greedy. Or lustful. Or power-hungry. Or jealous. Or vengeful.

If we had this love or could learn to love other people, if that was all we needed, then why do bad things still happen? Even if we just figured out the benefit of love fifty years ago when the song first came out, shouldn’t we see some progress, if that’s all we need?

In truth, the fact that we are still dealing with prejudice and hatred and corruption and all the other problems in our culture—abuse, pedophilia, sex trafficking, rape, identity theft, and more—is proof that sin is real. We should see some movement toward a better society, but what evidence is there for a positive change? We haven’t curbed alcoholism or drug addiction. We haven’t stemmed the growth and power of gangs. We haven’t replaced love for violence at any level. Kids still bully kids. Men still abuse women. Women still cheat on husbands. Takers continue to take.

Why is that, if not sin? There is no explanation.

Atheists have no explanation. I’ve asked before. Those who believe in evolution have no theory how society, which developed, they say, from the animal world, has taken on these evil tendencies.

Because that’s the prevailing view: humankind is good but society corrupts. The question remains: when there were just a handful of evolved humans, were did their evil tendencies come from? The atheist formula—good people create a bad society—simply does not compute.

The sad thing is, Christians have backed off from declaring the problem of sin. At some point the narrative accepted on most fronts was that “fire and brimstone” preaching was bad, that people shouldn’t be scared out of hell, that what would “win people to Christ” was to hear about His love and forgiveness.

There’s a lot of truth it that approach. Paul wrote to Titus, explaining the saving work of God:

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

So, yes, the catalyst for change is God’s kindness and love.

But the atheist I mentioned from the Facebook group went on to say that the third thing he had against faith in God was salvation. He apparently doesn’t want it because he believes he doesn’t need it.

That’s the place people end up if they believe they are good and don’t have a sin problem. Maybe we shouldn’t bring back fire and brimstone preachers, but we certainly should tell the truth about human nature.

It’s hard for me to believe that anyone in the world would ever stand up and say, I’ve never had a wrong thought or done a wrong deed in my entire life. I’ve loved others as much as I love myself. Any such person would most likely be guilty of lying and of pride, so there goes the idea of good. Because in God’s way of accounting, “good” means “without any bad.”

In our society we put good on a sliding scale. If we can say something is “mostly good,” then it’s good. Five stars. But even the best five-star people we know, still fall short of perfect. They know it. We know it.

So why aren’t we coming to the obvious conclusion: the problem our world has is sin.

Until we get a proper diagnosis, we’ll slap band-aids over incurable wounds.

One more thing. Telling someone he is a sinner is not hateful. That’s like saying a doctor is hateful for telling someone he has cancer. Uh, no. Not. Hateful. Try, honest.

We have spent too long in the faery land of Good Humanity, so we no longer recognize what stares us in the face every night on the local and national news: humans sin. We all sin. Everyone of us.

It’s not hateful to admit that sinners sin. It’s not hateful to tell people there’s a Savior—One declaring Himself to be Love—who wants to rescue us from the mess of our own making.

Published in: on June 22, 2016 at 6:16 pm  Comments (17)  
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Where Are We Going?

I_love_my_trans_child_I have serious concerns for America, for the human race, and even for the Church. Where are we headed?

In the western world we’ve discovered eastern thought, and in the East, Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds. That gives me hope, it really does. But what I see in my own country, not so much.

There’s the political mess we’re in this election cycle. Please God, by His mercy, we might still have a candidate who will not make the mess worse, but if things continue to go as they are, the likelihood is that we’ll have either a fascist, a socialist or a possible felon for President. Happy days.

Of course, what’s dominating our thought—other than music and TV and movies and movie stars and sports, is bathrooms! Behind the issue is the acceptance of the transgender community which is a niche in the whole LGBT coalition.

The really troubling aspect, to me, is not that men will be in women’s bathrooms or women in men’s (though I tend to think not so many women-changed-to men will actually be a problem in the men’s bathrooms since they aren’t going to be shoulder to shoulder with guys at the urinal). Rather it’s the randomness of our rational for these “I feel like a woman, therefore I am a woman” identity issues.

Some of the same people who cry loudly that a person’s gender identity is how they feel inside will also cry loudly that evolution is real science and that supporting creation is “junk science.” They’ll also cry loudly that global warming is a Real Thing, with Scientific Proof! And that God does not exist (because we can’t see him).

The randomness comes from the selective use of physical evidence. Is not a person’s genitalia scientific evidence of gender? Why do some people trust in science when it comes to an unprovable theory like evolution but completely ignore it when it comes to gender identity?

The gender identity issue is not a small thing. It attacks the fundamentals of humanity. Scripture tells us that God created humans, male and female. But we, in our superior, I’m-better-than-god mindset think we can improve on what he made, if we don’t like it. Instead of teaching young people that God “don’t make no junk,” we have been sending out the word that girls have to be skinnier, men more muscular, white people tanner, nobody with gray hair (unless you’re eighty, and then only if you want to stop the hassle and expense of coloring your hair) or bald, and on and on. In other words, accepting who we are as we came out of the womb is pretty much unheard of.

That same kind of thinking has simply expanded. First, we did plastic surgery to fix the features we didn’t like, and now it’s hormone therapy and sex-transformation surgery.

This is not solving a problem. It’s creating a bigger one. Kids don’t know who they are, to the point that they no longer know what bathroom to use. And we give them the answer that we’ll simply let them choose or we’ll make a neutral bathroom for those who don’t feel like they fit in the silly binary bathrooms we have now.

My heart breaks for kids today who don’t know who they are. Their gender identity search is simply a symptom of their larger confusion. They don’t know where they belong or if they belong.

Kids—people—have always needed to belong, needed to feel secure and loved, needed to have purpose. Parents ought to be the first place where children have those needs met, but because parents aren’t perfect, they won’t be met perfectly. Friends meet those needs to a lesser degree, and spouses perhaps more so. But none can do so perfectly, and many a marriage goes through rocky times simply because one spouse or the other had expectations that their needs would be perfectly met, only to wake up to reality.

As a result of all the confusion, kids today seem to be growing up like weeds. Well, honey, what do you want to wear today to preschool? Well, honey, what gender do you want to be when you go to middle school?

Really, parents?

Where are you?

Parents don’t parent any more because they’ve been brainwashed into believing that there are no absolutes. So if Johnny doesn’t want to share his toys, well, they are his and we can’t violate what he wants to do (because apparently one of the few absolutes is that we are to allow everyone to do what they want, unless they’re bent on harming others physically; emotionally has yet to be determined).

So instead of Johnny learning to think of others and not just himself, he has parents who validate his selfishness. He never learns impulse control or empathy for others. He simply buys into the philosophy of bullies everywhere: if I want it, I take it.

We are a confused people because we have lost our moral compass. God said, do this one thing I’m telling you to do, and we can’t even manage that. Why? Because we want to be the boss. We don’t want to be second, even to God. We want what we want when we want it, and God isn’t going to stop us. We’ll simply believe him out of existence.

If things were left up to us, it would be hopeless. But praise God, He has come to rescue us from the dominion of darkness.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7, emphasis mine)

So where are we going? God has made the way for us through Jesus Christ our Savior to have eternal life. But to claim the gift of salvation we have to be clear about our identity: we are sinners coming to God, not on the basis of anything we’ve done but completely dependent upon what Christ has done for us. When we get that part of our identity cleared up, the rest will start to fall into place.

Love And The Unloved

Jacob012Today I read the story of Jacob and family again. After tricking his dad into giving him the blessing that rightfully belonged to his older brother, Jacob took off under the pretense of finding a wife among his parents’ relatives.

And find a wife he did. Well, actually four of them. The thing is, he fell in love with the first girl he laid eyes on. Genuinely fell in love, it would appear, because he worked for seven years in the expectation that he’d get to marry her.

But the deceiver was deceived. His beloved’s dad did a switch on the honeymoon, which was apparently also the wedding. Instead of bedding the woman he loved, Jacob awoke the next morning beside her sister.

He was just a little upset. He’d worked for Rachel, loved Rachel, and now he was married to Leah.

I’ve always sided with Jacob in this situation, maybe because I knew he was a “patriarch” and for the longest time I didn’t see them as normal human beings. I mean, God chose them, made them promises, so they were special. I looked at everything they did and wondered, why are some of the things they did wrong for us but right for them? Well, duh. Those things—like Jacob lying to his dad—were just as wrong for them as for us.

At any rate, I grew up having a soft spot in my heart for poor Jacob, saddled to squint-eyed Leah who he’d never wanted to marry. But to my shock and incredulity, God doesn’t seem to be the romantic I am. He saw how Leah was unloved and enabled her to conceive a child:

Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”

True to my bent, I’ve always felt sorry for Rachel. I mean, she had to stand by while the man who wanted to marry her, married her sister. Then that same sister gave birth to son after son after son after son.

The rivalry, the jealousy is palpable in this story and the machinations of each woman and the lengths they were willing to go to in order to best the other one are twisted. Just when it seems like Leah has come out on top, God enables Rachel to conceive a child and give birth to a son.

How interesting that He seems to come to the rescue of the underdog, the least favored, then the one most in need.

So un-American. We like people who are self-made, who pull themselves up by their bootstraps, who go after all the good things they deserve.

Yes, we also like the Special Olympics and stories of overcomers, but that’s because they are striving and reaching and battling against all odds. We cheer for them. But squint-eyed Leah was just not as attractive as Rachel, and not loved, a third wheel at the party. So why pull for her?

Then, when Leah became supermom, and Rachel was alone and childless, God reached down to her and surprised her with joy.

When there is no reason to lift someone out of their misery, God reaches to take their hand. He is so much more loving than we can ever imagine. So much kinder, more thoughtful and caring, so gracious and giving.

Worthy is our God to receive praise and honor, glory and blessing, now and forevermore.

Published in: on August 5, 2015 at 6:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Kindness Of God

Lion-origional, smallGod doesn’t need defending nor does His word. God Himself is omnipotent as well as omniscient and as such, quite capable of defending Himself. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a 19th century preacher in London, first made this point clear with an oft-repeated analogy:

The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries. (from “The Lover of God’s Law Filled with Peace,” sermon by Spurgeon as quoted at All Is Grist)

Defense isn’t necessary, then, but what about praise? Praise is like a fragrant sacrifice offered to God, so rather than defending Him, I want to praise Him.

These days, He’s falsely accused of many things, often by those who claim they don’t believe in His existence. It strikes me that He’s mocked today much the way Jesus was when the Romans had Him in custody. Scripture says, “While being reviled He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23)

So one of God’s kindnesses is that He doesn’t pass judgment immediately on everyone of us who rejects Him, spits on Him, maligns Him, or acts in a hypocritical way that could cause others to think less of Him. He is slow to angry and abundant in lovingkindness:

But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth. (Ps. 86:15)

Along that vein, He allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. At times, of course, He withheld rain, usually from the chosen people, Israel, who were not walking in His ways. He used prophets to warn them, then judgments to rebuke them. Sometimes these judgments took the form of other nations coming against them and defeating them in battle. Other times it took the form of drought and famine. But always the goal was so that they would know that God is the Lord.

God never loses sight of the big picture. He understands that this life is but a vapor. From time to time, in Scripture He compares this life to that of a flower that fades or falls off or to smoke that vanishes away or to fog that appears for a little while and then disappears. For God knows that what matters is what comes next. So He’s always looking for ways to break through the veil of darkness and unbelief.

That’s why He appeared to Abraham and to Jacob; why He spoke with Moses and to the people of Israel; why He sent prophets to His people; why He walked in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo; why He brought Israel out of exile; why Jesus came; why His Holy Spirit breathed His word into the writing of Scripture; why He makes His abode in the heart of every Christian; why He built His church. All His work is to reveal Himself to humankind.

God’s kindness extends to His Church. He has brought us together as branches of Himself. He calls us His children and has equipped us with special gifts we are to employ in serving one another. He calls us to love the brotherhood, to pray for one another, to forgive each other.

He also commissions us to share with the world the good news about redemption and forgiveness of sins. In other words, God’s kindness extends to the very ones who hate Him most, who mock Him and reject Him and are determined to be His enemies.

Unfortunately, because God delays His judgment, some think He is indifferent to sin or impotent to punish it or oblivious because He’s non-existent. How sad they do not recognize that He’s extending His mercy in order that all might come to repentance and be saved:

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).

But here’s the thing about God’s kindness: it is the means by which He rescues us from the dominion of darkness. Paul, when he stood before King Agrippa, told how Christ Jesus appeared to him and commissioned him

‘to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ (Acts 26:18)

That’s God’s kindness to those who are in the camp of the enemy. Jesus said that it’s not the will of the Father that any of these should perish (Matt. 18:14). God said He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ez. 33:11). He said He desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).

How great is our God! Great in lovingkindness and mercy. Praise to His name.

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