Resisting sin

Jesus taught his disciple many lessons. He knew that he was going to leave them with a great mission; to go into the entire world spreading the gospel, changing lives, seeking the lost and making more disciples. (Mark 16:15-16) One important lesson was the Our Father. This was intended to be a model for them to follow. One of the lines is “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:5-14) He knew the disciples and all of us were destined for failure and in need of constant forgiveness. Jesus knew he was about to leave them and that soon after they would be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:4) The Holy Spirit would give them great power and yet Jesus knew that they and all of us as well would find it difficult to remain perfect at all times. (Acts 1:8)

Paul also explained this problem. He said that sin was in us. (Romans 7:13-20) No matter how strong we are, no matter how much we try, we are still in this world and must contend with our flesh. Therefore we are still capable of falling into sin. This is a constant danger. The devil like a lion is looking for who he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8) That would be us, he is looking for.

What can we do? Our desire is to live a life that is pleasing to God. Should we wait around waiting to fail? Should we live however we please and just repeat the “Our Father” every night?

Since we are sincere Christians it is imperative that we be on the offensive. We must live our life aware of the devil’s attacks. How can we do this? First and foremost we must diligently work every day to increase our understanding of what pleases God. This happens as we study scripture. When we study scripture our faith increases as well. (Romans 10:17) We therefore become stronger Christians.

Jesus also gave us another solution. He once spoke of the power to rebuke demons and he told the disciples “This one only comes out through prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21) If prayer and fasting can give a servant more power to contend with the devil then certainly it will help us in all matters. It too will draw us closer to Christ. How do relationships grow stronger? They grow stronger with communication. This is what prayer means to us. Prayer is our vehicle to communicate with God, strengthening our relationship with Him.

We also know that idle time is a dangerous time. It is when we allow the devil to tempt us and fill us with thoughts that are not pleasing to God. Idle time allows us ample opportunity to focus on what we don’t have. Consider David who casually walked about his temple with nothing to do only to be tempted by seeing the naked Bathsheba bathing. (2 Samuel 11:1-5) We should look to close the door on the devil by occupying ourselves in productive tasks, primarily serving God and the needy.

Remaining sinless is impossible. We have all fallen and will fail again. But sin certainly does not have to consume our lives. We can greatly reduce its hold on us and the likelihood of failing God, through much prayer, study of scripture and occupying ourselves in worthy endeavors.


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Johnny throws a stink bomb

“Johnny just do it!” Marcus said. Johnny contemplated the stink bomb in his hand and wondered. He desperately wanted to get out of it. Johnny was popular in his own way. There were certainly enough classmates that thought he was cool and really looked up to him, although he was not as popular as the starting quarterback of the varsity team.  Now He had the unenviable assignment of throwing a stink bomb into Mr. Bender’s classroom, while he was teaching. The smell although not destructive would certainly disrupt the class. Although it was risky, what Johnny hated most was that it was Mr. Bender.  He was a demanding teaching that often would assign the longest Homework and give by far the hardest exams. But he taught American History and Johnny loved the course. He had aced it and his work had been routinely praised as “well thought out”, “an in depth analysis”  “highly developed” and “especially creative”. Johnny had enjoyed his moment in the light with Mr. Bender and all those good memories were floating in his head.  He could hear his favorite teacher discussing the causes of the American Revolution.  Johnny thought to himself “I can’t do this to Mr. Bender.” Then a sweet voice carried across the hall, “Hey Johnny what you got there?” It was Marie, the prettiest girl in his official class. She was Johnny’s dream girl. No way could he appear to be soft in front of her. Now his best friend Marcus repeated the order “Johnny just do it” and added “What are you chicken now, scared of old Bender?”  Johnny looked at his friend and then at Marie and released it. Like the cowards they were they all took off running.

Soon Johnny found himself in the school yard and thought it best to just head home. That evening Marcus called “Man that was a thing of beauty. Why did you take off? Dude nobody knows who did it. Just Marie and she has a thing for you.” The guilt was so great Johnny didn’t even realize what Marcus had said about Marie. Johnny didn’t want to talk about it. Johnny told Marcus “I’m not feeling well Marco, talk to you later” and he hung up.

Two weeks later the guilt was still driving Johnny crazy.  Now he stood before his favorite teacher, frozen and speechless. Old Mr. Bender, grey haired and bearded and wearing a brown cardigan sweater looked up and smiled. “Nice seeing you Johnny, few students had such a deep and extensive grasp of American History. I sincerely enjoyed our discussions. I really thought you enjoyed the course as well.” It’s as if he knew and just wanted to make this more difficult for Johnny. Now came the icing on the cake “Hey Johnny didn’t I write a letter of recommendation for that summer job you wanted. How did that go?”  Johnny could not bear to look at him and while he hung his head low, he finally just came out with it. “I did it Mr. Bender.” Mr. bender decided he wasn’t done with it and added “What are you talking about Johnny.” “ I threw the bomb the other day.” “I knew you had done it Johnny.” “Why didn’t you report it?” Johnny asked.  “In a couple of months you’re going to start applying for colleges. Would you like something like that on you record?”

Johnny now realized he had given in to peer pressure and made a victim, of not only his favorite teacher, but a teacher who was merciful and considerate of his future.  He was undeserving of such kindness and even after the apology still felt there was more he should do. Fortunately, wise old Mr. Bender had an idea. “You know Johnny I was thinking my car is going to need a good cleaning this weekend.” Johnny smiled. “It’s going to be shiny as new by Sunday Morning Mr. Benson.” Mr. Benson responded “Excellent, just in time for my niece and I to go to Sunday school.” Johnny was satisfied and headed for the door when Mr. Benson stopped him “Oh Johnny you know my niece right.” Johnny answered “No sir.” Mr. Benson with a smile said “Oh you do, her name is Marie.”

Solomon said it perfectly “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.”(Proverbs 1:10) God does not want us to fold to the pressures of others or this world. We must remain strong and listen to the Holy Spirit that guides our actions. (John 16:13, Romans 8:14 ) It is God himself who speaks to our conscience so that we can do what is right. When we fail it is that same spirit that convicts us. Let us ask God to make us strong that we may resist temptation and live a life that we need not be ashamed of.  Peter wisely adds   “We must obey God rather than men.”  (Acts 5:29)

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Stay the Course

For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. 1 kings 11:4

Staying the course, especially if it’s a long one, can be a difficult challenge. Preparing for a competition, seeking a new career, sticking to a weight loss program, starting a business or just getting a degree; there is an endless list of long term goals that can start with a fury of commitment but end with a quiet fizzle, like the air coming out of a balloon.

Solomon, one of Israel’s greatest kings, the same Solomon famous for his wisdom, was given a lifelong course. He was to remain faithful to God, so that God would bless his descendants. Solomon started out great. He asked God for wisdom and used it to make his kingdom great. He enlarged the kingdom, built a larger army and navy. Increased his wealth and gained famed throughout the world. But he also married quite a bit. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. That’s 1000 women to keep happy and listen to. In the end it was too much for even the wisest and richest man Israel ever saw. The bible relates that Solomon in his old age worshiped the gods of his foreign wives. God was angry and punished Solomon. Most of his kingdom was torn from his son, coming under the rule of another family, tarnishing the greatness of Solomon.

Our Christian life is a lifelong course as well with many challenges. There are many forces seeking to take us in different directions. Temptations that would cause us to sin and commit acts that do not please God, tops the list for sure. However quiet innocently we can relegate our walk with Christ to low priority without even knowing it. We can fill our lives with many wonderful and productive activities. Too many activities, like Solomon’s wives, can act to squeeze God out. We must be attentive to where God is fitting in our schedule. If there isn’t much time for Him we risk an even greater danger of failing God, as Solomon did.

Consider the time we spent on God, once upon a time, when we were on fire for Christ. There was time for Sunday school, prayer services and even a chorus rehearsal. Bible reading and prayer was a daily routine. Whenever a special program or service was announced we were glad to be there. No sacrifice was too great for our God.

Perhaps some of us are still on fire. We must stay the course and be aware of the forces working against our commitment. However if we are within the group that has grown a little cold don’t wait another second to seek God earnestly. Make a re-commitment to serve God fully.

Think you’re strong? The enemy is not impressed.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12

Samson was what so many of us would like to be, the strongest and boldest man on the planet and a real live action hero and his feats and reputation where unmatched in all of history. The only individuals that would compare would all be considered mythological, such as Hercules or Achilles. He was not only strong he was also the greatest warrior, a true killing machine.

There is one remarkable incident were the Israelites, scared of the Philistines agreed to turn Samson over to them. Samson not wanting to harm his fellow Israelites allowed himself to be taken into custody. They tied him up and left him for the Philistines. When the Philistine army arrived, Samson broke the ropes and with the jawbone of a donkey as his only weapon killed 1000 soldiers. (Judges 15:13-15) That is not just brute strength. No ninja or knight in history could compare to Samson.

Samson is probably one of the few bible heroes who never showed doubt in his ability. He understood from the beginning the great gift God had given him and used it quite effectively against Israel’s enemies. However, Samson became overconfident and blinded by passion.

Samson fell for a harlot, Delilah. She begged him to tell her the secret of his strength. After several lies Samson finally gave in and told her the secret. As a sign of separation and dedication to God he was never to cut his hair. This was a direct command from God that was never to be violated. It proved his obedience and loyalty to God. Samson failed. Delilah lulled Samson to sleep and cut his hair. God departed from Samson and he was like any other man. The philistines captured him and took out his eyes. (Judges 20:1-16)

When we become a mighty instrument of the Lord and He uses us with great results it is difficult to remain cautious. We grow in confidence and often see ourselves stronger and bigger than what we are. We might even think we are invincible, like ninja Christian warriors or action heroes for the kingdom of heaven. However we are still flesh and blood. We can still be tempted and hurt. Even if we forget our weaknesses the devil knows them all too well. When we do feel strong it means it is time to seek God even more, in prayer and in the study of scripture. Samson should have done likewise.

When Samson reached out to God, he found mercy. God gave Samson another opportunity and in his final act as the greatest warrior, Samson killed about 3000 Philistines, including all of their powerful lords. (Judges 20:25-30)

If in our moment of strength, we do grow over confident and fail, God is still merciful and able to reestablish us. However it is best to remain cautious even when we are at our best, for the enemy is ready to exploit every opportunity.

It’s just a little lie

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? Acts 5:3

The church was young and the Holy Spirit was acting with great power upon the masses as thousands were being added. With great love and unity they shared what they had with each other. It was innovative and totally unheard of. People selling off what they had, to care for the needs of their brethren. Some would argue this was a good case for socialism. However it was the choice of the individual. Christians were not required to sell any of their property.

Ananias and Sapphira knew they could sell their land and give whatever they wanted. But that was not enough for them. Perhaps they sought recognition or approval. They decided to sell their land and keep some of the money for themselves, while telling the apostles that they were giving everything to the church.

Lying has often been used to gain approval and recognition. That is a sin. They were also lying to God. How serious does God take lying?

 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Revelation 21:27

You can’t get more serious than that; however just to be clear Jesus adds that it is the Devil who is the father of lies. (John 8:44)

Ananias and Sapphira are slain by God in the midst of the congregation not for the money, but for lying. God expects his people to be honest.

It can be challenging to always say the truth. Sometimes a little lie is all it takes to fix a problem or put us in good standing. Perhaps that lie can also put dinner on the table or protect the feelings of someone we care for. God however does not make exceptions and our salvation is just not worth the risk. Honesty is still the best policy.

Try these verses Verses on lying

He was a people pleaser

Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” John 19:4

Nothing wrong with being a people pleaser, life is so much simpler when everyone is happy.  I am sure Pilate felt exactly the same way.  Pilate was prefect or governor of the Roman provinces of Judea, Samaria and Idumaea. This meant he was the supreme power and might of Rome in these provinces.  His decision was final. He held this position for 10 years.

Jesus was brought to Pilate for one reason and that was to be crucified.  The high priest did not have the power to execute a criminal and needed Pilate to pass sentence. Therefore Pilate had a man he did not arrest in his possession.  Pilate questioned Jesus over and over again and could not find anything wrong with him. Did he do the right thing? Did he let Jesus go? Pilate was too concerned with pleasing the crowd and the high priest.  He decided to check with them first.  The crowd screamed for his crucifixion.  Pilate still tried to please everyone and brought out Barabbas, a known criminal, and informed the crowd that he would release one.  The crowd shouted for the freedom of Barabbas instead of Jesus.  Pilate had two choices. Please the crowd and the High Priest or do the right thing and free Jesus.

Pilate had Jesus, an innocent man, beaten 40 times with a whip designed to rip his skin off, with bits of sharp bones and metal balls, and then crucified him.  Pilate went down as one of the most famous people pleasing politicians in history.  He was literally moved by the crowd in his actions and did not consider the possibility of doing what was right.

In our lives we too must often make decisions based on whether we should please someone or stick to our convictions and do what we know to be right.  Pleasing others sure can make life pleasant in the short run, but living with the guilt of having done something wrong, just to satisfy others, can become a burden too heavy to carry.

Perhaps it is more important to please the one who always has our best interest at heart, and desires for us to do what is right, regardless of the consequences.  This would be God.  Instead of a people pleaser, we can be a God pleaser.

A lion in your living room

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1Peter 5:8

Imagine a lion in your living room.  No escaping that beast if he’s hungry. Guess what’s for dinner? The Bible says the devil is like a roaring lion looking for whom he can devour. He is looking for lives he can destroy.  He will use any form of temptation, whether it is drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, crime, violence or some other immorality. His goal is to take you as far from God as he can, heap as much guilt and corruption as he can on your life and when you no longer think you are good for anything he has you right where he wants you.

Judas Iscariot the most famous traitor in history was one of the devils most famous victims. He was a disciple with a great responsibility.  He was the treasurer. He was a witness to Jesus’ great power. He had seen him raise the dead, give sight to the blind, calm the storms and feed thousands with a small lunch. More importantly he had seen the Master’s compassion. He had seen Jesus cry, have mercy for the sinners and show extreme care for the needy. But he sold Jesus to the high priest. The temptation was just enough.

30 pieces of silver was the price of our savior or the price of a slave according to (Exodus 21:32). What would it take for us to betray Jesus? Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments.”  (John 14:15) If we truly wish for Jesus to be the Lord of our lives we must obey his commandments. We must obey what he teaches in His word. This can be difficult but the reward is great. What could compare to eternal life?

The devil’s plan is to steal your reward.  He desires to tempt you with what little he can offer you. And everything this world has to offer is little in comparison to the kingdom of heaven. Judas’ betrayal was secured for 30 pieces of silver. He would end his life by hanging from a tree. He lost everything. He was devoured by the devil. None of us has to end this way.  Don’t let the lion feed on you.

The bible offers us a sure fire way to build our strength so that we can defeat the Devil. It is found in prayer and the study of scripture. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

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