Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
When we forgive someone we usually do not forget what we forgave. Unless there is an underlying condition, our minds do not automatically or immediately delete irrelevant information, like something we no longer hold against another person. Because of this, it can be hard to understand what God’s forgiveness means for the Christian. We’ll think, “I know He has forgiven me, but there’s no way He’s forgotten about it. Maybe it will ‘cloud’ His decision to forgive me next time I ask.”
This is a very common mindset, and one that I struggle with daily. When we look at scripture, though, it paints a very different picture of what God’s forgiveness really does!
Forgiveness is the word ἀφίημι (afiemi). It has several definitions, according to Bauer:
1. To dismiss or release someone from a place or presence.
2. To release from a moral obligation or consequence, to cancel, remit, or pardon.
3. To move away with implication of causing a separation, to leave or depart from.
Knowing this, we should look at Hebrews 8.12, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will not remember their sins anymore.” We understand that context is geared toward contrasting the old and new covenant, but it at least gives us insight into the process behind forgiveness.
When we get forgiveness from God, that sin is eradicated. It no longer exists, it will not affect our relationship with God anymore. “Remember” in Hebrews eight is, “To call information to memory.” It’s not only that God no longer holds a sin against us, it’s that it ceases to exist in His mind. How awesome is that?
When we ask God for forgiveness, let’s approach His throne with humility, yes, but also with confidence that He has the power and desire to make that sin disappear from our account forever.
Walk with me through the crowd. At times, it will be frightening, heartbreaking, disgusting, even angering. Some are in masks. Some aren’t. You see far-left and far-right extremists, assaulting each other and maybe threatening you. Past the rioters, the protesters, the grief-stricken. You even see political activists posing as Christians spewing divisive rhetoric around–acting and reacting. There are racists of every color. Politicians. The lukewarm and apathetic. Some are jobless. Some homeless. Some wealthy and well-to-do. Many enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. They are from literally every walk of life. In many ways, this crowd is full of folks who are nothing alike or have little in common with others in it. But, in the way that counts most, they are so much alike.
You try to push through the enormous crowd full of the listless, the rudderless, the hopeless, the lonely, and the misunderstood. As you get back behind them, there’s the devil and his angels pouring over their playbook. He is the ruler of this world (John 12:31), unleashing the spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 6:12). There is a connection between this “prince of the power of the air” and “the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). He wants us all distracted from what he’s trying to hide behind him. He’s pushing the crowd further away from it. But look. You see bands of faithful, committed disciples at the foot of a rough hewn cross. You join them there and look up at your Savior. It was worth the effort to swim through the crowd and see through the devil at God’s answer. He is hanging there for that enormous crowd, to help them escape the clutches and curse of darkness. He offers light, love, grace, goodness, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, and life. Contrast this with the carnage you have just sifted through.
Now, go back through that crowd and find someone else who needs Him, someone who realizes that for all the sin, evil, suffering, and problems they will not find the answers in that crowd. They certainly will not find it in the one who’s behind that crowd, inciting and inflaming it. Get them through the crowd to the cross (Mat. 7:13-14). Each one liberated from the crowd will be eternally grateful!
We sometimes have a tendency to give up when we mess up spiritually. We’ll think, “Guess I blew it, there’s no point in trying now.” Guilt or frustration over the difficulty of living for God and falling short is a powerful Achilles Heel of ours. Paul describes our struggle with sin as combat with self (Romans 7).
A Christian who is fighting to follow God is still going to sin at some point. We sometimes allow the loss of that battle to drag us into a pattern of sinning solely because we’ve become discouraged that we even allowed that sin to happen.
I’d like to point out that we aren’t alone in that struggle. Consider Job 38.7: angels – who do not need faith because they live in the presence of God – were up close and personal to the creation of our incredible universe. They watched in awe as God fabricated the stars. They heard those stars sing, which means that they were amazed by the sheer power and majesty of what we can only hear as obscure signals. They were right there!
Some of those same angels were caught up in sin (II Peter 2.4ff; Jude 6-9). Satan currently has followers who were at one time up close and personal to the Power behind our existence (Romans 12.7ff; Matthew 25:41).
If an angel, a being who does not serve God based on a mere belief in His existence, but because they were originally created for the sole purpose of carrying out His will, and who are eyewitnesses to His existence and unlimited power, can be tempted to the extent that they are willing to abandon the presence of God and forfeit ever seeing His face again, who are we to think that our struggle is that defeating?
God does not have a salvation plan for angelic beings (II Peter 2.4). When they breach their boundaries, that’s it. The moment they act outside of God’s will is the moment they forfeit the presence of God for eternity.
We are lower than angels on the creation totem pole (Psalm 8.5), yet we have Jesus as a mediator defending us before God (I John 2.1) and constantly making us sinless in God’s eyes when we’re doing our best to live for Him (I John 1.7). We have a gift that angels do not enjoy: we get extra chances. As long as we are willing to wage war with our sinful desires, as long as we are striving to be like Him, and as long as we are trying to incorporate the word of God into our lives, we have grace.
We’re stepping out of the concrete and into conjecture, but there is at least some evidence that lust (Genesis 6; II Peter 2; Jude 6-9) and perhaps tragedy (Matthew 18.10) are enough to make an angel forfeit their home. Again, this is pure conjecture but it has, at the very least, some scriptural evidence to suggest legitimacy.
When we sin, we need to take a step back and get some perspective. We must not brush off sin as being inconsequential, but we also must avoid allowing a mistake to send us into a dysfunctional pattern just because we think, “I’ve blown it, there’s no point in trying now” or, “This struggle is too great for me.” If angels aren’t immune, why on earth would we think that we are supposed to be?
The beauty of Christianity is found in God’s grace. It is understandable, seeing how some have abused the subject, to want to avoid the topic altogether. How many, though, have found themselves trapped in sin because they did not understand or believe in the power of God’s continual forgiveness?
Understanding what we have when we make a concerted effort to follow God is of the highest importance. We will sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are liar and there is no truth in us (I John 1.8). When we do sin, let’s remember that not only can we have forgiveness if we’re walking in light, we’re not especially awful just because we find ourselves falling short. If even God’s angels can be tempted to the point of leaving His presence forever, so can we who have not seen His face. And let that cause us to seek His face with even more enthusiasm than before!
I Corinthians 10.13
II Peter 3.9
I wonder if we’ll ever live in a world free of racial turmoil, tragedy, inequity, and bigotry. Whenever we make assumptions, blanket statements (or beliefs), or judgments about people based on something so literally superficial as skin color, we miss the deeper possibilities–love, relationship, and unity, just to name a few. One thing we can never legitimately do, when seeking to prop up racial prejudice, is to lean on the Bible to do so.
Scripture highlights the racial tensions that existed on both sides of the Jewish-Gentile divide in both testaments. Yet, instead of endorsing it, the Bible–especially through Christ–seeks to transcend and destroy it. Consider some beautiful truths it teaches about race.
–“He made from one man (literally, “from one”; some versions say “one blood” and others “one ancestor”) every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26). As many have put it, “We’re all related through Adam.” Malachi rhetorically asks, “Do we not all have one father?” (2:10). There is biological unity among the races.
–“Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26). The Godhead declares this at the creation, when making that first man. Every person of every race shares this marvelous, identifying trait. No human should suffer an identity crisis, in the ultimate sense. We’re made in the image of God! There is existential unity among the races.
–With no qualifier, Scripture says “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). There may be different genetic predispositions or conditions that strike each of the races of humanity, but this inevitable ending awaits us all. There is corporeal or physical unity among the races.
–Among so many passages that relates a similar principle, Solomon writes, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken” (Prov. 15:13). Each individual has a particular makeup, whether we speak of extroverts or introverts, moodiness or even-temperedness, expressiveness or reservation, or the like, but all of us have an emotional makeup. There is emotional unity among the races.
–“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Each one of us has unique struggles, weaknesses, and temptations. Ultimately, none of us escapes this reality. There is spiritual unity among the races. This extends to the fact that One man died for all sinners (2 Cor. 5:20). Then, beautifully, because of this, He places every obedient believer in Christ in one body (Eph. 2:16). As Paul declares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is [a]neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
Men will try to stoke and foment division. The carnal will embrace and inflame such baseness as racial prejudice, with its fear, assumption, and blind ignorance. But let all who do so step away from the Bible and away from the cleansing blood of the Savior. For neither cover such sin! Instead, let us answer the call of Scripture to strive toward unity in every area God sets forth.
Have you ever heard the expression, “Evil never sleeps?” I tried finding the origin of this expression with those tools available to me. From my limited search, I believe the expression likely originates from Proverbs 4.16.
“For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.” (NASB)
I have taken note of how this is true even during a pandemic.
The first thing striking me was my state still advertised its lottery. Are lottery tickets an essential item for which people should leave their house to buy? I would think not. This soon became a moot point, though, since the state began advertising its existing lottery app one could use to buy lottery tickets online from the “safety” of their own home. Evil never sleeps.
Second, I had seen the news reports of how pornography was profiting from the shutdown. As soon as people began sheltering in place, one purveyor of internet porn noted an immediate spike in visits to their site. India experienced a 95% rise in porn viewership. 1 Only South Korea, who did not shutdown as much of their country, did not see such a porn patronage spike. 2 When other businesses are shutdown, pornography has likewise become lucrative for women seeking employment during tough economic times. 3 Evil never sleeps.
Third, while being disappointed by the designation of religious assemblies as nonessential by government, I’ve noted that they have propped up vice as essential. For example, in Denver pot dispensaries and liquor stores were exempted from stay at home orders. 4 Meanwhile, churches have not been able to meet in their buildings, even with efforts to practice social distancing. On the weekend of April 12th, you may recall that Louisville, Kentucky, mayor, Greg Fischer, even criminalized “drive-in” church services. Fortunately, a judge overturned Fischer’s “edict.” 5 Evil never sleeps.
Fourth, the abortion industry remains alive and well during shutdown. While certain states successfully closed abortion clinics at the outset of the shutdown by stating such clinics offered only elective procedures, judges have overturned such decisions in favor of granting access to it. 6 So, we are currently living at a time when cancer screening is non-essential, but killing your unborn child is “necessary.” Yes, evil never sleeps.
Since evil never sleeps, what are we, as children of God, to do?
Be on guard (1 Peter 5.8). As we have shown, our enemy never sleeps. He is looking to devour us. Thus, we must keep up our alertness.
Redeem our time (Ephesians 5.16). Given the uncertainty of our life, we must make the most of the opportunity God gives us to do His will. Even though COVID-19 is deadly, we note that the things taking a man’s life are far more numerous than viruses (cf. James 4.14).
Pray (1 Thessalonians 5.17). We must always maintain a prayerful heart. It is an avenue allowing us to “cast our cares” upon our Lord (1 Peter 5.7). It is likewise the only means whereby we can discover peace surpassing our ability to comprehend (Philippians 4.16-17).
Evil never sleeps, but we can avoid its darkness by remaining on the path shining as bright as day (Proverbs 4.14-15, 18), while devoting ourselves to doing our Lord’s will.
1 Kannan, Saikiran. “Pornography Gets a Pandemic Boost, India Reports 95 per Cent Rise in Viewing.” India Today, Living Media India Limited, 11 Apr. 2020, www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/pornography-gets-a-pandemic-boost-india-reports-95-per-cent-rise-in-viewing-1665940-2020-04-11.
3 Dorn, Sara. “Business Booming for Cam Girls amid Coronavirus Outbreak.” New York Post, NYP Holdings Inc., 16 Mar. 2020, nypost.com/2020/03/14/business-booming-for-cam-girls-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/.
4 Del Giudice, Vincent. “Denver Exempts Pot Shops, Liquor Stores from Stay-at-Home Order.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg L.P., 24 Mar. 2020, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-24/denver-exempts-pot-shops-liquor-stores-from-stay-at-home-order.
5 Lord, Shaquille. “District Judge Says City Can’t Stop Louisville Church from Holding Drive-in Easter Service.” WLKY, Hearst Television Inc., 12 Apr. 2020, www.wlky.com/article/district-judge-says-city-cant-stop-louisville-church-from-holding-drive-in-easter-service/32115835.
6 Tamburin, Adam. “Federal Court Tweaks Abortion Order, Still Allows Procedures during COVID-19 Pandemic.” The Tennessean, Tennessean.com, 27 Apr. 2020, www.tennessean.com/story/news/2020/04/27/court-tweaks-tennessee-abortion-order-procedures-still-allowed/3033007001/.
Who doesn’t love a good illustration? Over the next few weeks this column will have three of them— all geared around a singular topic.
In the early days of flying men would attempt to soar into the skies like the birds by building wings made out feathers and jumping of towers, hills, and even cliffs. In 1507 John Damian strapped wings covered in chicken feathers to his back and leapt from the walls of Sterling Castle in Scotland. He ended up breaking his thigh and quickly blamed his failure on the fact that he used chicken feathers instead of eagle feathers (undiscoveredscotland.com).
Many early attempts of flying ended in more serious injuries and even death. If they had a better understanding of the principles of flight they could have avoided their tragic endings.
Millions of people today are plummeting to their spiritual deaths, and we have the knowledge they need. Nobody will achieve spiritual flight through the:
1. lust of the flesh
2. lust of the eyes
3. pride of life
If an apple has a hole in it, some would assume that a worm has eaten its way inside. But in reality there was a worm in the seed of the apple the whole time. And as the worm grew it ate its way out of the core.
At first sin is easily hidden, but as it grows it shows itself through our actions.
Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music would claim that one of her favorite things are snowflakes that stay on her nose and eyelashes. A small beautiful snowflake. Thousands of years ago a single snowflake fell from the skies. Then another, then another. Soon the snow turned to ice and the ice became so heavy that it broke off the glacier and fell into the sea. It began to float and drift until one night it struck a ship called the Titanic, killing 1500 people.
When a sin problem begins to take hold, it may seem as harmless as single flake of snow. Overtime the sin proves to be more than some can handle, and they’re heading for disaster.
“Sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you intended to stay, and charge you more than you wanted to pay.”
There’s a part in Sleeping Beauty where the Prince slays a fire breathing dragon with his sword. This is at the climax of the movie, so this entire time the story has been building up to this one, final moment. It’s pretty epic. In our lives, we have many “Fire Breathing Dragons.” At this moment I would like to talk about three of them and how to “kill” them.
First, notice with me the “dragon” of lying. If you look at Colossians 3:9, it says, “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all it’s wicked deeds.”
Lying in Colossians is labeled under “evil nature.” If we have stripped our old ways, why do we continue to lie? Because much of the lying that we do is for personal gain. For example, someone could come up to me and ask, “How much can you bench?” and I might say “850 pounds.” That’s a classic example of lying for personal gain. From now on that person will believe that lie I told them and possibly tell others. We can slay this dragon by telling the truth. Challenge yourself to tell full truths, and not half-truths.
Second, there is the “dragon” of Hate. Luke 6:27 says, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The hardest part of this verse is the second half. Trying to love those who hate us is extremely difficult because in our minds they started it so we have the right to hate them back. If you look at Jesus, our example, He says to love those who hate us. How do we do this? It requires a change of vision. We should try to look at those who hate us as a lost soul that needs saving. Looking at them this way might help us to love them more.
Third, and finally, is the “dragon” of Gossip. This one can be very dangerous because it might tear apart a friendship, a person, and the church. If you look at Ephesians 4:29, It reads, “Let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Instead of tearing down someone or spreading rumors, let’s try to build up one another! To keep from letting something slip about someone, let’s try to practice what our parents told us from day one: “Think about what we say before we say it.”
Now there is one more thing we can use to slay “dragons.” The ultimate Two-Edged Sword is for slaying any kind of “dragon.” This Two-Edged Sword, the Bible, can slay any dragon that Satan sends our way. Today we only looked at three of the dragons that Satan uses against us. There are many more, and we must study Scripture to see what they are, and how we can slay them.
A knock came on my door one day, I opened and it was Sin
Before that moment we hadn’t met, but still I let him in
He made me laugh, and seemed alright
so I let him stay a night
One evening he sat at my table and dined
In an empty house I sat alone
The tears welled up, I should have known
and now I’m skin and bone
Then again I heard a knock on my door
the previous left me dejected and poor
but only opened it so wide
on the other side