Category Archives: sanctification

God is angry about sin because…

In the Old Testament we see a God who is angry about sin.  This is offensive to our sensibilities.  How dare God infringe upon our freedom by being angry about something!  How dare He get in our way!  But God is angry about sin not because He is a grumpy killjoy but because He is eternally committed to His own holiness and the good of those He loves.

Think about it.  If God were not angry with sin then He would not be holy.  Would an unholy God be worth worshiping and following?  We should be glad about it!  In addition, God’s anger over sin is a function of His love for us.  He wants us to truly live, and sin keeps us from it!  If anything, God is angry because He cares.  This is not foreign to ordinary life.  I keep my son Henry from running out into the street because I don’t want him to get hit by a car.  I might even deal harshly with him if he persists.  No one in their right mind would say that I was being unloving.  In fact, just the opposite is true.

Yet this is the very thing many people complain about when it comes to God.  We tend to get it all backwards.  We see sin as freedom and God’s law as too restrictive…not life giving but life taking.  God tells us what to do because He is insecure and somehow needs us (see Clash of the Titans).  Of course this is no surprise.  The human spiritual taste bud has been tainted to the extent that we enjoy the wrong things.  In fact, we enjoy them so much that we follow them right to the grave.  We sin because we love ruling over self, and we hate being ruled by God…a God that we attempt to placate by running and hiding under the false pretenses of man-made religion.  These religious charades allow us to maintain control over our own lives while giving the illusion of actual commitment to God.

When we talk about the Gospel in many of our circles, we don’t deal with this reality.  Jesus died to get us out of hell (many say), but not to give us the new taste buds that steer us away from it.  We’ve been taught to hate the otherworldly consequences of sin, but not the soul sucking reality of it in the here and now.  Christianity becomes only about life after death with not much to offer today.  This goes a long way towards explaining the weakness of the church in the West.  We don’t preach or believe in a robust Gospel.  A Gospel that makes us alive spiritually, where we are really “born again.”  A Gospel that de-fanged both Satan and sin at Calvary.  A Gospel that renews our taste buds daily and empowers us with the very presence of God the Holy Spirit.

May we continue preach and believe in a robust Gospel every day of our lives, from start to finish.  It is then and only then that the Holy Spirit will pierce our idolatrous hearts and set them to beating for Him.

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Filed under God, sanctification, Soteriology, The Gospel, Theology

The Wrecking Ball

Jesus is a wrecking ball. Once he starts to work in your life, get ready for walls to come crashing down, and to feel the effects. It takes a lifetime of struggle to get used to your new duds, but they are yours, they are beautiful, and they are kept spotless by His righteousness.

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Worshipers make Martyrs

American Christian:

It is harder to deal with pride, repentance & the darkness of your own heart than to want to be the martyr you’ll probably never be called to be.  Let’s stop making audacious and hardcore claims and get busy with our own worst enemies, us.  Those who die daily are the best kind of martyr.  Be like the King, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing (Philippians 2:6).

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Filed under Repentance, sanctification, Theology, Worship

Set free from Sin?

Don’t we realize that we don’t have to sin anymore?  We have been set free!  How?  See Romans 6:1-11, where we read that we are dead to sin and alive to God by virtue of being buried with Christ in His death, and raised with Him in His resurrection.  What does this mean?  It means that when we are saved, our sin nature, our “old man,” was put to death with Jesus.  That is, the ruling power of sin over us was dethroned, no longer having the same kind of authority it once did.  This leaves us now with a choice where there was none before.  When sin ruled, we had no choice but to obey its desires.  When sin is dethroned, we now have the much more attractive option of presenting our “members to God as instruments of righteousness” (6:13).  We have been set free from the ruling power of sin!  But it doesn’t stop there, for we are not only buried with Christ in His death, but we are raised with Him as well.  Now that the power of sin over us is dethroned, we don’t view our new option of righteousness neutrally, but as those who now share in the power of Christ’s resurrection.  Being a Christian doesn’t just remove the penalty of sin, but imparts the gift of true life!  You have been set free from sin, but you are not wandering about aimlessly.  You have been given a new compass heading that points towards your new home, and the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon you to help get you there!

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Abounding Grace

There is a huge difference between God putting up with you and God loving you. Sounds too good to be true, but God doesn’t hold back. Grace abounds!  I had coffee with a homeless guy the other night who did not believe this and has spent 30 plus years running from God as a result.  There was a time when he had blown it, falling back into old sin after a radical conversion.  He figured he would need to make it up to God somehow, but never could get off the drugs, drifting from addiction to addiction.  I had a chance to share the Gospel with him the other night, that the cross of Christ is sufficient for our failures, and that God’s love for us is not something He gives begrudgingly, but freely, since the cross removes all obstacles.  The tears flowed.  Praise God.  Praying that he will continue to embrace it.  Theology really does affect the way we live.

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Filed under Evangelism, sanctification, Soteriology, The Gospel, Theology

On Money

We’ve been studying 2 Corinthians 8-9 over the past few weeks at church.  These are known as the money chapters, where the stereotypical red faced preacher starts and ends his building campaign.  But we can’t miss what is actually being said here.  These are actually two of the best chapters in the Bible about the Christian life.

It is safe to say that money is the litmus test for the effect that the Gospel has had on someone, and therefore if it is true of money then it is true of everything else.  Money is the number one thing that people replace God with, and therefore a true test of the presence of God’s grace (where God has renewed the heart and is no longer replaced) is how it affects someone’s wallet.  People are to be cheerful givers because the hold of possessions upon them for their own security has been replaced by the hold of God’s powerful provision.  Before Christ came into our lives, money was lord because of the security it provided.  Now, God is Lord because what He provides is much more secure.  Money is where it “hurts” the most, because it gets to the root of our prideful self sufficiency.  If God has your wallet, then He has the rest of you.   The Bible talks about money more than anything else because it is the number one threat to our lives, not because money is evil, but because we are, and in our depravity there is not a more readily available idol for us to latch on to.

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Are Video Games Sinful?

Power Gamer from World of Warcraft Southpark Episode

Power Gamer from World of Warcraft Southpark Episode

This is a pretty interesting article, and something that I can identify with.  This fellow is a Christian who is addicted to online games.  To some this sounds absolutely silly, like something from a Seinfeld episode.  Are you kidding me?  Who would be addicted to a video game?  But these are the same people who can’t imagine being addicted to anything at all.  There are those of us who understand addiction all too well, and this simply makes sense.

Certainly there are various levels of commitment to video games, ranging from those who think they are evil to those who play 80 hours a week or more.  “Exgamer,” as the guy is known, was on the “more” end of the spectrum.  Though I have never played as much as this brother, I have played my fair share, and I understand the impulses that drive him to the online world.

The Attraction

There is something attractive about alternate reality.  It appeals to the human in all of us.  For many, a virtual universe, especially like those of the mmorpg genre, this is even more so.  The persistent universe of the mmorpg allows us to not only plug in for a few hours of distraction, but to build something that will be there when we get back.  The game world continues and changes when you “log off,” and when you get back, it is not only computer programming you are interacting with, but the decisions of other human beings.  Your “character” is just as you left him, and all you have to do is spend more time and effort to make him better and stronger.  The better and stronger your character becomes, the more you can do in the virtual universe, and of course with other people playing there is the social aspect of potentially being the best, or at least finding some kind of niche.

The Distorted Image of God

We as humans like this kind of progress.  We like dominion.  We like advancement.  We were made in God’s image to “cultivate and keep” God’s creation (Gen. 2:15).  It is precisely this aspect of the Imago Dei (Image of God) in us that makes mmorpgs and other video games so attractive.  One look at my 4 year old son building bridges out of cardboard and making forts out of pillows is a case in point.  He was made to create…all of us were…and online games offer that in a very attractive way.  If it stops here, then I would say that these games are great.  Get your game on!  But for many this is not the case.  It is precisely this humanness that has been twisted and perverted by sin, and here we find the seedbed of addiction.  After the fall, Adam and Eve were still created in God’s image, but their desires as God’s image bearers now revolved around themselves as chief authority over and against God.  Adam and Eve ate of the fruit because they became convinced that God was not who He said He was, not worthy of obeying, and had no interest in their true happiness.  They decided to take matters into their own hands and make themselves happy, but what they found was only shame and futility.  Instead of honoring God as cultivators of His perfectly created world and enjoying its secure blessings, our first parents honored themselves as cultivators of their own glory, and paid the price of a disintegrated existence.

A Template for Sin

Ever since that time, we have been finding ways to exalt ourselves over God.  What Adam and Eve did served as a template for us.  Their story is our story, in nature and in choice.  The way we have approached this in the church has been to deal with the fruit of the problem while leaving the root thriving.  As a result we have become known for everything we are against.  If it is involved in our shameful acts, then it must be destroyed, and so we ban heavy metal music and start phenomena like Christian rock, just as an example.  And while it is often necessary to “get rid of temptation” (especially in the case of harmful drugs and pornography), we must understand that this is ultimately useless without a corresponding commitment to gospel renewal and repentance.  The very essence of false spirituality is to blame sin on something physical, because in this scheme it is simply the “getting rid of” that something that redeems us, and that is simply self-righteous.  Our bodies are not the problem where lust is concerned, they are simply the vessels through which our sinful desires are carried out.  I’m reminded of the giant man from the Adam Sandler movie, Happy Gilmore, who wears a shirt that reads, “Guns Don’t Kill People, I Kill People.”  How true that is!  The problem for us is just the same as it was for Adam and Eve.  We are blind to God’s goodness, we don’t believe in His promises, and as a result we want to take the wheel for ourselves when in fact we have no business driving!

Sin is Looking for a Ride

We, as sinners, are dying for an idol that will allow us to live as we please outside of God’s Lordship.  Those who are addicted to online video games may have found this in a universe that, while allowing them to live out their legitimate God-likeness in some very real and exciting ways, at the same time has caught the attention and jealousy of their lustful flesh.  Sin, seeking the opportunity to flower itself in very concentrated and attractive doses through human bodies and real human decisions, finds plenty of kindling in the persistent universe of the online world.  If sin is looking for transportation, online games provide an able set of wheels for some.  It is there that a man can pour all of his energy and time into making “progress” outside of the real world in which God intended him to thrive.  He can be enthralled by his “leveling up” while his real life might actually be going down in flames.  He gets the highs of success while not having to be successful at all.  And this is where the danger lies.  Online video games give the illusion of success, and even require the effort to secure this illusion, but do not pay off in any real way (though some have become rich by selling in game assets).

But is this not the very nature of sin?  How many countless hours have we all spent in self seeking ventures at the expense of reality?  Not a video game addict?  Ok fine.  How about lust?  How many marriages have been destroyed by the “progress” of a relationship between a man and his pornographic idols?  How about pride?   How many lies have been covered up by the self-righteous morality of people who are terrified of being thought less of by their fellow man?  How about bitterness?  How many relationships have been destroyed by the sense of self entitlement that refuses to forgive a wrong done?  The list goes on and on. Sin has a whole slew of vehicles at its disposal as diverse and creative as the human imagination.

The Way Home: The Gospel

In one way or another, we are all addicted to something.  Some addictions are more apparent, more “ugly”, than others, at least on the surface.  But in light of who God made us to be, that is, creatures who reflect His perfect character through a life of dependent obedience to His good and perfect Law, we are all guilty of thoughts, feelings, and actions that come only from the pit of hell.  It is for this reason that I cannot condemn video games as being inherently evil.  We are inherently evil.  They may need to be avoided by some, probably more than are willing to admit, but if we can please God simply by blaming something other than ourselves, then it is we who are in charge of our own salvation, and we are walking blindly on a busy freeway.  If sin is not acknowledged, it cannot be dealt with by the glorious cross of Christ.  If it is not repented of with the renewed heart found only in the Gospel, then one addiction will simply take the place of another.

We must come to understand that God is good, loving, and worthy of worship.

We must come to understand that our problem is not our bodies, our circumstances, or our surroundings, but ourselves, we who are born with an inherent desire to hijack whatever is at our disposal in order to disobey God’s good commands, even to our utter peril.  It should be remembered that it is our sin, and so it is we who are guilty.  This is not blame shifting.

Finally, we must come to understand that God’s love has been most evident in the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He paid it all, and in so doing, dealt with our sin problem, which consisted not only of condemnation but of polluted and destructive minds, affections, and wills.  Jesus not only gets us out of hell, but re-establishes us as true worshipers of the living God by giving us a new set of ruling affections.

Regarding “Exgamer”, I praise God for His work in leading him to repentance.  I am praying for him and his addiction, marriage, and family right now.  I pray that all of us, myself included, will have the courage to live in the light, fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit, and walking in constant renewal and repentance.

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Filed under MMORPG, sanctification, The Gospel, Theology