Friday, November 29, 2013

Colossians 3 - part 5

Col 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)

What does it mean to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus? According to verse 11 it means that we no longer identify ourselves by our social standing, but by our identity in Christ.

Col 3:11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (ESV)

Verses 12-16 reinforce this by calling believers to live out the character of Christ in the peace of Christ according to the word of Christ. Verse 18 through Colossians 4:1 clarify that doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus affects how we live in family and household relationships. Wives are to submit to their husbands. Husbands are to love their wives. Children are to obey their parents. Parents are not to provoke or discourage their children. Servants are to obey their masters as if they were serving the Lord, trusting God to set all things right. Masters are to treat their servants fairly and justly. All of that is done in the context of giving thanks.

In other words, doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus affects how we think about ourselves, how we live and how we relate to other people. It's not so much about doing things well or with excellence as it is about doing things in a manner that reflects the character of Christ. In doing that giving thanks appears to be a key element. Verse 15 says to let the peace if Christ rule in us with thanksgiving. Verse 16 encourages us to let the word if Christ dwell in us with thanksgiving. Verse 17 instructs is to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 reminds us to continue praying with thanksgiving. Perhaps we struggle with these other areas of our lives precisely because we are not thankful.

Father, forgive me for how often I live with my mind fixed on the messes of life. Today, with thanksgiving may I walk with my mind set on things above doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. Father, thank you for reminding me to look up.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Colossians 3 - part 4

Col 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (ESV)

I wrote about this verse earlier this week, but it struck me again this morning. Experiencing God's peace in this verse is clearly connected with living in unity. It then ends with, "be thankful." One of the reasons that the Christian community does not experience unity in peace is because we are not thankful, or because we are thankful for the wrong things.

In Luke 18 Jesus tells of the Pharisee who stood on the street corner praying, "I thank you that I am not like other men." He was thankful, but clearly not for anything that would lead to love, peace and unity. We gossip; we talk about what's wrong with people; we ruminate on others faults and secret sins; we pray that God would fix them, and we somehow believe that if God would just fix them then we could have peace and unity. We fail to recognize that our own failure to give thanks is undermining the very thing we claim to want.

What if we started thanking God for the people that irritate us rather than reviewing their faults? What if we told others what was good about people rather than what is wrong with them or how weird they are? What if we acknowledged to God that we are no better then anyone else instead of quoting the Pharisee's prayer? What if we rehearsed all the good things about a person instead if their faults? Maybe peace and unity is more closely connected to thanksgiving than we realized.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the USA. Let's take a little time today to thank God for those irritating people in our lives, not just the comforts and fun people we know. Today let's truly be thankful.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Colossians 3 - part 3

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (ESV)

Giving thanks is clearly connected, in verse 15, with the peace of Christ. In verse 16 it is directly connected to the word of Christ. What does it mean for the word of Christ to dwell in us richly? For me, I know what it looks like when his word is not dwelling in me richly. I read words but my mind is elsewhere. I study text but I promptly forget it. I quote scripture but the thoughts on the forefront of my thinking are disconnected from the word. To dwell richly means to inhabit copiously.

When the word of Christ fills my thinking affecting every area of thought it results in three things in this passage. First, we begin teaching and gently correcting one another. The Bible talks about the need for older people to be teaching the younger, but one pastor talks about reverse mentoring, i.e. the need for young people to help older people understand their world. Biblically we need both. Teaching is not a one way, top down thing. It is more like cross pollination where wisdom rather than pollen is being carried back and forth between us as we each learn, grow and let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.

Wisdom comes from experience filtered through the word of God. Studying the scriptures without experiencing life leads to a simplistic and often legalistic understanding of God's word. Experience without the filter of God's word can often lead to unbiblical and even sinful habits, attitudes and actions. Experience filtered through God's word leads to wisdom. Wisdom shared between believers helps all of us grow. When the word of Christ fills my thinking affecting every area of thought it results in teaching and gently correcting one another.

Secondly, when the word of Christ fills my thinking affecting every area of thought it results in singing. Not all of us are musicians, but music affects us all. We may not all sing on key, but we all sing on key in our heads. Music, songs, advertising ditties, songs on the radio are going through our minds often. When the word of Christ fills my thinking affecting every area of thought it results in songs running in my head that honor God and set my thoughts on heavenly things.

Finally, when the word of Christ fills my thinking affecting every area of thought it results in giving thanks. Thanksgiving reorients my mind, but it is also true that reorienting my mind through the word of God leads to thanksgiving. Reading and meditating on God's word is not just another discipline we add to a list of spiritual disciplines we need to do in order to make God happy. Rather, it is a lifeline that is foundational to growing in Christ and reflecting him to our world. It results in teaching and gently correcting, singing and worship, and a heart of gratitude.

Father, forgive me for too often doing my duty in reading your word rather than letting it dwell in me richly. Teach me what that means.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Colossians 3 - part 2

Col 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (ESV)

In this verse a heart of gratitude is somehow related to the peace of God ruling in our heart. Does peace lead to bring thankful? Does being thankful lead to peace? I'm not sure. Maybe both are true. They are clearly connected here. The way the passage develops I am inclined to understand this passage to say that experiencing God's peace moves us to gratitude.

That raises the bigger question of how we experience God's peace. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body." Three things seem to be clear from this verse. 1. God's peace is rooted in the truth that leads up to this verse. Verse 2 says to set our minds on things above. Verses 3 & 4 tell us that our life, as believers, is hidden in Christ who is our life. Verses 5-10 tell us that we have put off the old self and that the new self, that is who we are in Christ, is being renewed in knowledge after the image of our creator. Verses 11-14 remind us that in Christ we are holy. The call is then to live out that holiness, letting God's peace rule in our hearts (vs 15). In other words, God's peace is not something we chase after and try to find. Neither is it something we try hard to produce. Rather, it is something we let in as we realize and believe who we are in Christ.

2. This peace of God that rules in our hearts is not just personal peace. It is also corporate peace. That is, when God's peace is ruling in our hearts we not only experience peace within our hearts and minds, it also flows out into our relationships with others. Inner peace produces outer peace. We can more easily forgive, give the benefit of the doubt, look past imperfections and truly love when we are experiencing God's peace internally. Inner peace produces outer peace.

3. When God's peace is ruling in our hearts we turn naturally to giving thanks. When we give thanks our hearts find peace. It's not a vicious circle, it's a blessed circle, a blessed circle of peace and gratitude.

Father, too quickly and too easily my heart is distracted by the problems of this world. Today may my mind be set on things above, trusting you and walking in peace and thanksgiving.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, November 25, 2013

Colossians 3

What is the relationship between family relationships and giving thanks to God? I noticed that Colossians mentions giving thanks three times in 3:15-17. Verse 17 says:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)

That is immediately followed by a discussion of household relationships: wives and husbands, children and parents, servants and masters. The very next verse, after dealing with these relationships, is about giving thanks. The discussion runs from Colossians 3:18-4:1. Colossians 4:2 says:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (ESV)

So, between "whatever you do ... giving thanks" and "continue steadfastly in prayer... with thanksgiving" we find instructions on household relationships. Could it be that without grateful hearts toward God we have a difficult time demonstrating holiness and godly behavior toward those we are closest to?

Here is a principle to try then. Next time you find you attitude toward your spouse, your parents, your children, or those with whom you work, to be out of kilter try thanking God. See if perhaps a heart of gratitude toward God didn't change your attitude toward others as well. After all, God not only connects thanksgiving with family relationships, he also connects it to experiencing the peace of God.

Col 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (ESV)

Let's give it a try. Father, I confess that I am too often grouchy and too seldom thankful. Today may I recognize your gracious gifts and give thanks.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Colossians and giving thanks - part 2

Col 2:4, 6-7 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (ESV)

Two thoughts stood out to me as I reflected on these verses. First is that a thankful heart is one protection against "plausible arguments" that lead to false teaching and spiritual bondage. As you read this chapter you discover that some of the principles for guarding against false teaching and spiritual bondage include unity in love, a full understanding of who we are in Christ, and being firmly established in the faith. But along with those is "abounding in thanksgiving."

I think that a thankful heart is a heart focused on Christ and his grace. It is therefore less likely to be deluded by man-centered teaching. A heart that is not thankful is a dissatisfied heart that is looking for something and therefore open to wrong teaching. So, a thankful heart is one protection against "plausible arguments" that lead to false teaching and spiritual bondage.

Second, I find it interesting that thanksgiving is one of the things listed under the category of "as you received Christ Jesus the Lord..." Christ is received by faith. When we receive Christ we are "rooted and built up in him" and enter into a process of being "established in the faith." But we are also thankful. A true understanding of the gospel results in a grateful heart. Release from the guilt and bondage of sin produces thanksgiving. Perhaps when Jesus sent a message to the Ephesian church through John in Revelation 2 to "do the works you did at first" he was thinking about giving thanks among other things.

Giving thanks is a natural result of receiving blessing that we know we do not deserve. It is also an act of faith, demonstrating trust when we can't see the solution. It is where our faith began and it protects us from the deceptions of the ungrateful.

Father, forgive me for how quickly I complain and how slowly I give thanks. Today may that be reversed.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Colossians and giving thanks

Col 1:11-12 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (ESV)

This letter to the Colossians starts out with a prayer of thanks for the Colossian believers. By the end of the prayer the author is praying that the Colossians become a people of gratitude. Giving thanks permeates this short letter written by the Apostle Paul.

Giving thanks to God for other people moves us to forgiveness, unity and love. It changes or perspective on them and on ourselves. It refocuses our minds on God's grace rather than on our brother's frustrating actions or our sister's irritating habits.

Giving thanks in difficult circumstances refocuses our hearts on God's sovereignty, God's promises, God's truth and God's love. It comforts us by reminding us that everything is in God's hands and he will never leave us. It encourages us by helping us remember that our life is about more then these short years on this earth. It strengthens us by recalling that our strength in found in Christ, not in ourselves. Giving thanks allows the searchlight of God's grace to penetrate the darkness of our soul. Perhaps we would do well to give thanks more often then we pray for rescue.

Father, I confess that I am too quick to complain and far too slow to give thanks. Today may I live with a grateful heart.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ezra 10 - part 3

Eza 10:15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them. (ESV)

Israel's unfaithfulness is being addressed in this chapter. A plan had been proposed, because of the weather and the enormous task involved, to take some time and deal with the problem in a dispersed but orderly manner. Everyone was to go home and select leaders in each town would deal with the issue on a case by case basis. These four men listed above opposed the plan. Were they opposed to requiring men to divorce their pagan wives, or were they opposed to a decentralized application of the solution? We are not sure. What we do know is that not everyone was in agreement.

I have known people who believed that if God was truly leading a congregation then there should be 100% agreement. We clearly don't see that here, and yet the solution seems to be from God and it seemed to work. I know other people who believe that as long as there is a majority vote then the church should move forward. Majority rules. Note that in this case neither of those principles is in play. Not everyone was in agreement yet they moved forward with their plan of action. Neither was this a simple majority vote. I think it is significant that the text says "only" two men opposed the decision and two additional men supported them. Four men opposed to the decision out of probably a few thousand inidicates more than a simple majority.

In this passage there is a proposal by leaders and a strong consensus among the people. We see this same principle practiced in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council. The Church faced its first major theological crisis in this council. After hearing all the testimony James makes a decision, but it is a decision that was supported by a strong consensus of the people. In Acts 15:19 James expressed his judgment after having demonstrated that his decision was based on both the work of the Spirit and the teaching of the scriptures. In response to his judgment verse 22 tells us that it "seemed good to the apostles and the elders" to send letters with certain men expressing this decision throughout the Church. A decision was made with the strong consensus of the others in the council.

Biblical leaders don't make every decision for those they lead, nor does every good idea need to originate with them. The decision made in Ezra 10 did not originate with Ezra. But, biblical leaders do need to make decisions and the wisdom of their decision is often validated by the strong consensus of those they lead. This takes wisdom and humility, sensitivity to the Spirit and the ability to listen well to those they lead. Biblical leaders are not commanders, they are leaders. There is a difference. Ezra was a leader.

Father, forgive me for the times my ego has gotten in the way of good leadership. By your grace may I lead with wisdom and humility. May I listen well to your Spirit and to those you have called me to lead. To your glory.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ezra 10 - part 2

Eza 10:3-4 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it." (ESV)

Even in their revival Israel was caught up in the very sin that caused their captivity in the first place. It seems that each of us have certain sinful tendencies that we naturally gravitate toward. There is wisdom in knowing what those are and guarding ourselves in those areas.

The solution to this sin in their midst apparently came from a man named Shecaniah. It came as a result of a time of corporate fasting, prayer and grieving over their sin. Dealing with this sin involved three things. First, it was connected to fear of God and relationship with him. The solution came out of fasting, grieving and trembling before God. It involved a covenant with God.  There is a fundamental understanding of both the fear of God and the love of God in this. Fear of and relationship with him are key.

Second, the solution is grounded in the scriptures. "Let it be done according to the Law" was Shecaniah's counsel. Too often we neglect to understand that the counsel of the Spirit of God that flows out of relationship never contradicts the counsel of the scriptures which were inspired by that same Holy Spirit. Following the "Spirit" without a proper understanding of his "Word" can lead to hearing incorrectly, leading us into unbiblical behavior. Of course, the other side of that coin is just as dangerous. Exalting the Word of God without a vital, living relationship with him results in dead orthodoxy. Neither is healthy.

In this solution to sin there is fear of and relationship with God. There is also a respect for and proper understanding of God's word. Thirdly, there is a respect for and submission to God's leadership. Shecaniah says, "it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it." In our individualistic and independent society where individual rights and choices reign supreme, and in a society where authority has been routinely abused, we find the idea of respecting, submitting to and following our leaders scary. We might even say it is unwise. But that is why blindly following our leaders is never the biblical mandate. Respect for and submission to leadership is one of the principles here. It is not the only principle.  When we are fearing God and in proper relationship with him, and when we are respecting and properly understanding God's Word then we must also respect, support and follow the leadership God has  placed over us.

Too often, when dealing with sin, we practice one or two of these principles. There is Godly wisdom in using all three. They validate one another and bring balance and clarity to our lives. Father, thank you for your Spirit, your Word and your leaders whom you have placed over me. May I respect each and listen well.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ezra 10

Ezra 10:2b "We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. (ESV)

This is a difficult chapter. Ezra instructs the men of Israel to "put away" their foreign wives and children. When we read this we want to make the passage about marriage and divorce. I thought God said, "I hate divorce." How can he be pleased then with this decision to divorce foreign wives? They may be foreign, but they are still wives. I thought Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." If God loves children then how can he be pleased with sending these children away with their mothers? Those are the questions that make this a difficult chapter, but they also miss the point.

This chapter is not about marriage and divorce. It is about a different marriage relationship altogether. This chapter is the Old Testament equivalent of Jesus words in Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." This chapter is about the fact that Israel is first married to God. By taking foreign wives they have broken their marriage vows to God. They have been morally unfaithful. They have committed spiritual adultery, to use the words of the prophets.

Even as our society recklessly destroys the biblical definition of family they emotionally place high value on family. But family is not the highest priority in life; God is. Israel had forgotten that. By taking foreign wives they had stepped right back into the very sin that had caused them to be taken into captivity in the first place. When our priorities in life get turned around our moral decisions always veer off track. We think we see a clear track ahead but it is a trail to destruction.

When my wife or my children or my personal happiness is the primary force for moral direction in my life I end up losing what I thought I was preserving. Who knows what motivated these Israeli men to take foreign wives? It may have been lust. It may have been a shortage of Israeli women. It may have been loneliness. It may have been intrigue. What ever it was that motivated them, it wasn't God and it resulted in grief.

Father, forgive me for how often and how quickly I replace you as the first love of my life. Today may I take to heart your counsel to the church in Ephesus.

Rev 2:4-5 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (ESV)

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ezra 9 - part 6

Eza 9:8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. (ESV)

No matter how dark life gets there are those "brief moments" when God's grace shines through. Like the sun peeking through storm clouds reminds us that the sin is still there, so these moments of clarity remind us that God hasn't gone anywhere. He is still there and he still loves us.

Why do these moments come? Perhaps because God loves us in spite of our sin and so he extends grace to draw us out of darkness. Or perhaps it is because someone has been praying for us. Daniel didn't get to travel back to Jerusalem, but I believe that those who went back home with Zerubbabel and Ezra were the result of Daniel's prayer of confession in Daniel 9. This is a reminder for us as to why we must never give up praying for those who walk in the darkness of sin. I expect the answer as to why these moments of grace appear in our lives is a combination of both the steadfast love of God and the faithful prayers of God's people.

That leads us to two questions. First, when that sunbeam of grace pierces the darkness of our sin will we pay attention or will we hide from the light like Adam hid from God? As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in 1Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (ESV)

Second, who are you praying for? Have you given up or do you recognize that God's grace is greater than their sin? As Samuel said to the people of Israel in 1Samuel 12:23a "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you..." (ESV)

Father, when faced with the darkness of sin may I recognize your way of escape and find victory in Christ. When my brother or sister is caught in sin, or my neighbor is lost without Christ may I never cease to pray for them. Father, shine the light of your grace through the storm clouds of sin and bring your peace.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ezra 9 - part 5

Eza 9:15 O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this." (ESV)

It has been my experience that when we are caught in sin we go looking for affirmation. We seek normal conversations with good people so that we don't have to think about our sin, or so we can convince ourselves that what we are doing is really not all that bad. As a result, when the conversation gets close to addressing our sin we tend to have one of three responses.

1. We look a little ashamed, admit that we've made some mistakes, and assure those we are talking to that we are trying to change or have changed. In other words we make light of both the severity of our sin and our personal responsibility.

2. We attempt to justify our sin by blaming others, insisting that we couldn't help ourselves, our sin is the fault of how we were made or raised (it is either God's fault or our parents fault), or explain that someone coerced us or deceived us.  In other words we make light of both the severity of our sin and our personal responsibility by shifting the blame.

3. We insist, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, that we haven't done anything wrong. We may try to explain why what we are doing is okay, or we may simply walk away or get angry because we are being "falsely accused" and attacked. In other words we make light of both the severity of our sin and our personal responsibility by living in denial or by attacking our accusers.

None of these responses to sin are helpful or healthy, but we do them all the time.

On the other hand, those throughout the Bible that were used mightily by God and honored never excused sin. David quickly broke down acknowledging and confessing his sin when Nathan confronted him. Samson, on the other hand, always had an excuse. Here in Ezra 9 we find Ezra quickly acknowledging their sin and the justice of God's judgment. He understood that they deserved far more judgment and far less blessing than they had received.

To their credit, we find the people agreeing with Ezra. They are not trying to pretend that what they are doing is acceptable. They are not trying to shift the blame. They are not trying to make light of either the severity of their sin nor their personal responsibility. They joined Ezra in brokenness over sin, acknowledged their guilt and sought a solution. Ezra admitted, "Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this." The people agreed.

Father, because you love us never let us get away with anything less than brokenness over our sin and biblical confession. We do not deserve your grace, but we treasure it.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ezra 9 - part 4

Eza 9:11b 'The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. (ESV)

We have an enemy who is a liar. The Enemy would convince us that good is evil and evil is good. That is what he did in the Garden of Eden. As believers we need to learn to recognize the lie. The scriptures talk about the "pleasures of sin for a season." It is a short season. Sin always leaves its mark. We see the laughing and dancing. We don't see the vomiting, fighting, shame and hangover that follow. We see the tingle of excitement but we don't see the loneliness of a one night stand, the shame that follows the sin, the disease that ravages bodies because of an immoral lifestyle, and the emptiness and insecurity of a physical relationship without commitment. We hear about the freedom that results when a single, pregnant young woman chooses to get rid of the fetus. What we don't see is the guilt under which she lives, the physical damage to her body caused by the abortion, the times that she is haunted by doubt, wondering what might have happened to that little one she so violently had "removed" from her body. We see people who apparently live with no guilt, enjoying these "seasons" of sin. What we don't see is the scarred and callused conscience that dulls the joy along with the guilt. That's why addictions form and actions get increasingly sinful. It takes a little more drug, a little more alcohol, a little more depravity to bring the same tingle of happiness, until there is no enjoyment left and yet the sin persists.

We have an enemy who is a liar. We need to learn to see past the smoke screen to the truth and see the true nature of sin. It is, by its very nature, impurity, abomination and uncleanness.

Father, I confess that I have too often bought the lies about sin. Forgive me. Give me eyes to recognize the lies and see the truth. Give me compassion for those caught in the muck of sin, but the wisdom to know how vulnerable I am. Give me a love for truth and righteousness.

Gal 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (ESV)

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ezra 9 - part 3

Eza 9:10 "And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, (ESV)

Sin is not a popular subject. I would rather talk about our freedom from sin in Christ than to talk about sin. But sin is real. It is dangerous. It is seductive and addictive. Sin is slavery.

Israel was under a covenant of works with God. If they kept his commands then he promised to guard and bless them. If they broke his commands then he promised to judge them. Israel had been judged for her sin and here she was right back committing the very same sin all over again.

We need to ask the question: Why was breaking a few commands such a serious offense? If God's commands were simply arbitrary rules put together by God to keep people in line and make sure they know who is boss, then all of this cursing and judging because of a few broken rules seems a bit overdone. Some might respond, "But, he is the boss. God of the ultimate ruler so any sin is rebellion against the ultimate ruler." There is truth to that statement, but it doesn't explain why these rules are anything more than arbitrary. Someone else might respond, "Well, if you only understood how great and awesome and powerful God he is then you would understand why obedience is important." There is truth there also, but it still doesn't explain why breaking an arbitrary rule is such a big deal unless God just likes to throw his weight around.

A better answer, I think, is that God is a righteous, holy creator. We were designed to enjoy and reflect his glory. Sin destroys that. We were designed to be in close fellowship with a holy God who cannot allow anything that distorts his design or his nature and character to continue in his presence. Sin is ultimately defined as that which is contrary to God's design and inconsistent with his nature and character. Romans 3:23 defines sin as falling short of the glory of God. Sin is not about breaking arbitrary rules then. It is about messing up the glory of God we were designed to emulate and reflect. Sin, then, is a big deal.

Father, today may I reflect your glory to my wife, my friends and my world. May my heart be tender to your Holy Spirit's convicting, prompting and leading.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ezra 9 - Part 2

Eza 9:3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. (ESV)

Too often, I think, we misunderstand what it means to confess sin. As New Testament believers we are quick to quote 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Everyone knows John 3:16, but my guess is that within evangelical circles 1 John 1:9 is the next best known verse. That is not a bad thing in and of itself. It's a great verse, but do we understand it?

Unfortunately I fear that "If we confess" has come to mean "If we say we're sorry." The problem is: that's not what confess means. To confess means to agree. It means to speak the same thing. If we are confessing sin to God then we are demonstrating our agreement with him that what we did was reprehensible sin offensive to a righteous and holy God. I don't believe that God forgives sin if I grovel enough before him, but I do believe that if I am truly in agreement with God about sin then there will be a brokenness in me. Just saying words means nothing if we don't really believe them.

A child may say "I'm sorry," but only be sorry he got caught. A person can ask, "Will you forgive me?" without believing that they actually did anything wrong. A Christian can say to God, "I've sinned. Please forgive me." without having any sense of how offensive their actions were to God. "If we confess our sins" does not equal, "I'm sorry." Ezra understood Israel's sin not as simply an inconvenient rule that had been broken. He understood it in the context of God's righteous holiness, God's special call on Israel, the covenant relationship Israel had with God, and the history of Israel's former failures. When he heard about this sin the blood drained from his face and he "sat appalled."

If a person is broken over their sin then 1 John 1:9 is a wonderful promise. Unfortunately we have too often just turned it into a rote liturgy to get us of the hook. We need to see sin as God sees it or we will never see and appreciate God and his grace as they truly are.

Father, I confess that I have too often taken sin in my life too lightly. Thank you for your unfailing grace. May I learn to truly appreciate it by realizing better the depth of my own sin.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50:4-7 (ESV) The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him w...