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Friday evening, April 18, 2008, I took my wife to see Caedmon’s Call live in concert at Grace UMC in Kokomo, In (my hometown). I have been a fan since they released their self-titled album “Caedmon’s Call” in 1997 and have every studio release since.

Spring Tour

The Band

I came to hear the band Before There Was Time to understand their lyrics; truly the music grabs your attentions, but There You Go, it is the lyrics that give you Hope to Carry On.

Musically, the band’s sound is folksy-pop with smooth harmonies and a kick of rock. (Think Simon & Garfunkel’s “Concert in the Park” performing with a miltia of musicians by the likes of Carole King, Jimmi Hendrix, John Bonham and Neil Peart (at the same time, no less)! This may sound like Trouble, but let me tell you…”This World has nothing…” on these talented musicians.

Become infatuated with the music, but fall deeply in love with their lyrics. Their work is poetic, reformed theology the magnifies the great, Creator, Sustainer and Lover far above the daily grind of everyday. Be Thankful for the true, relevant juxtaposition of our earthen frame with that of the magnificent God; There’s Only One (Holy One) and we are sovereignly formed in the Hands of the Potter to bear the image of Christ. Listen to the words and you will know not only hear Who You Are, but also that There is a Reason for why and how you are.

The Concert

I have been anticipating this event since hearing (three months ago) they would be playing near me. I had never previously seen them in concert; this was my chance. I don’t get to many concerts; my last one was Audio Adrenaline/Mercy Me over one year ago.

Arriving at the church, I noticed quite the variety of concert-goers: I saw elderly women, a bus-load of junior-high youths as well as the expected twenty- and thirty-somethings. I thought maybe we had the incorrect venue or night based on the attendance.

The $12 general admission tickets were an unexpected blessing. The concert went for about three hours and the band played over 25 songs in this small venue (I would guess less than 500 seats max); it felt as if they were playing in my living room. This has to be the best ticket – not just in town – but ANYWHERE; the value (quality and quantity) far excelled the cost or expectations. I would have traded my 40 Acres for these tickets!

Derek Webb, a modern prophet, afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted with his tongue-in-cheek satirical in-your-face style. Nothing was off limits (as expected): fundamentalism, politics, social justice, idolatry, politics, love and hope. It was a fabulous set of songs to Prepare Ye the Way of our hearts to the LORD and our ears to Caedmon’s Call.

Cliff Young, a bare-footed and cap-less Warrior of righteousness, lead the Church (that is, capital “C”) present in worship of the God of Wonders.

Did I mention there were two drummers? There is nothing like double percussion to get you juices flowing and worship the God of The Danse.

The absolute highlight for me had to be the performance of “Hands of the Potter” and “Thankful.” I am so thankful that my redemption and righteousness are not in my hands, that “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the Cross I cling.” I praise the LORD that there is a reason for why/when/how/what things happen, and that I am in the loving and careful hands of the potter who will do with me what he will to conform me more the the image of His Son.

What began in my mind as a “concert” has become not just a worship experience that evening, but continues to roll through my mind these days following.

Jesus Christ is worthy of our worship.

Sola Scriptura | Sola Fide | Sola Gratia | Sola Christus | Soli Deo Gloria

What is ‘accountability?’

Why do we need accountability?

Is accountability even biblical? If so, what does biblical accountability even look like?

Practically, how do we do accountability?

Accountability…for what?

My story:

I have been in an accountability (“Brothers’ Keeper“) group through my church for over two years now. We originally started with three guys and last year added #4 and a few months ago #5. In the two years we have been meeting, we have treated each other with ‘kid gloves’: most of our meeting times would be more appropriately described as guys reviewing their week including work, family, leisure, personal and ministry punctuated with bits of prayer and in-depth transparency concerning failures regarding sin.

If you can tell a lot about a Christian by looking at his checkbook, the same (or more telling) can be said about his time. Typically, we would meet Thursdays from 9:00 pm — 11:00 pm-ish and this is how those two to 2-1/2 hours would shake out: 1-1/2 hours of review/catching up, 1/2 hour (maybe) of transparent, personal self-exposure and closing [re: 5 minutes] of prayer.

PITIFUL.

Last week, the ice finally broke. With the recent trials in our church where hidden sin has been exposed and the process of repentance and restitution is a showing to be a long, hard [and public] road, hearts are changing. As one elder has quoted Lewis, “Aslan is on the move:” God is not only not surprised by this, but he has foreordained it.

Other stories are similar [post][comments].

God is not only moving in the heart of my once-pastor, but within the broader congregation, as well. (That includes “us guys.”)

Why? Well, according to Merriam-Webster, accountability is “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to [explaining one’s conduct for] one’s actions.” When it comes down to it, we are accountable to God for our sin; we are also weak in our own nature and therefore need help from other like-minded believers to stay clean from the filth of sin.

Sin’s Nature

Sin will not remain secret. The greatest lie if the Evil One is really legion: personal sin doesn’t really harm anyone else; secret sin will never be found out; secret sin doesn’t affect all/any areas of my life; this single act or pattern of sin doesn’t matter; that ‘thing’ is really not a big deal — heck, it can hardly be called ‘sin’; etc.

Here is a [partial] biblical response (not partial-biblical, but a partial-response):

What is done in private, will be revealed in public (re: great reversal)

  • According to Numbers 32:23, “…you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. Your sin will find you; it will expose you.
  • For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17)
  • Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “”When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’”” Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

Sin prefers darkness, secrecy and silence (re: cockroaches)

  • And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

Sin = Death (re: dead)

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
  • “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14,15)

People who look sinless in public are really just proud hypocrites (re: Pharisees)

  • …Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness...” (Matthew 23:1-36)

We will be held accountable before God for our sin (re: judgement)

  •  Non-believers will be judged for their sin. “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)
  • Believers will be judged for their sin. “…each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-14)

Next post I will find out if accountability is even biblical and if so, what it looks like.

changthis.com offers, like, a biz-illion short (usually one page) manifestos about change in our culture, business, politics…well, everything.

Faith is noticeably absent though.

An excerpt from their FAQ:

Do you have a political slant?

Yes. We are against demagoguery, dishonesty, shortsightedness, superstition, fundamentalism, unequal rights and violent argument.

We are optimists and we believe that an informed, motivated electorate is likely to do the right thing, given the facts and given a chance.

We reject the status quo of both parties if it is just the status quo.

And we’re realists. We don’t believe it’s a good idea to cut off your nose to spite your face. We don’t believe in anonymity. We don’t think someone should do something just because they can.

All of the above sounds good…but it seems the above worldview is based on the foundation of the ‘inherant goodness of man’ which I, along with the reformed tradition, soundly denounce, both out of experience and because it is true.
I denounce it because of the experience of my own sin; I am not inherantly good.

The reformers denounce it because the Bible states otherwise:

…just to name a few.

This is the second in a series of posts to honor the most memorable teachings of my once-pastor.

I had never heard of Robert Murray M’Cheyne [bio here] before. That is, until my pastor recited two poems by him. The first, titled Jehovah Tsidkenu (meaning The LORD our Righteousness) in one evening service, perhaps the first evening service we attended (which was the same night of the first morning service we ever attended…and we have never looked back). His recitation of this poem was not only amazing to me (because of its length), but because he recited it like he wrote it; like it was his experience. Through tears, he shared:

Jehovah Tsidkenu

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But e’en when they picture the blood-sprinkled tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu ‘twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me. I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see—
Jehovah Tsideknu, my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free—
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! My treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;
In thee I shall conquer by flood and by field—
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath;
For while from life’s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

I normally would not reprint the entire piece but provide a link, but you must read it for yourself. In the first stanza, he could care not about God or the Work of Christ. By the second stanza, he could appreciate the prose and peotry for their literary merit, but it changed not his heart. In the third stanza, he has an emotional experience, but the death of God on his behalf meant nothing to him. From the fourth stanza to the end, he not only understands his sin in light of a holy God, but revels in Jesus–his righteousness, his Jehovah Tsidkenu before God the Father. The most beautiful line in my opinion is the last one: “Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be;” he puts his entire life in the hands of Jesus Christ.

The second poem my pastor recited from memory by M’Cheyne is as amazing, called:

I Am Debtor

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I hear the wicked call
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink, –
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see thee as thou art,
Love thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When the praise of heav’n I hear,
Loud as thunder to the ear,
Loud as many water’s noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

Even on earth, as through a glass
Darkly, let Thy glory pass,
Make forgiveness feel so sweet,
Make Thy Spirit’s help so meet,
Even on earth, Lord, make me know
Something of how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.

Oft I walk beneath the cloud,
Dark, as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But, when fear is at the height,
Jesus comes, and all is light;
Blessed Jesus! bid me show
Doubting saints how much I owe.

When in flowery paths I tread,
Oft by sin I’m captive led;
Oft I fall – but still arise –
The Spirit comes – the tempter flies;
Blessed Spirit! bid me show
Weary sinners all I owe.

Oft the nights of sorrow reign –
Weeping, sickness, sighing, pain;
But a night Thine anger burns –
Morning comes and joy returns;
God of comforts! bid me show
To Thy poor, how much I owe.

From the recitation of these, my pastor taught me much:

  1. The importance of memorization. Not only can someone memorize long passages of scripture or poems such as these, but one should. The psalmist says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” I can’t have my Bible everywhere with me; but whatever I store in my heart goes with me.
  2. My pastor was transparent. He shared his weaknesses, his faults, his sins and failings; this showed more the grace of God: the LORD can use him, who is imperfect, to proclaim his Gospel, why can’t he use me as well?
  3. The importance of the work of those who have gone before. The church’s heritage is rich with experience and insight; no matter what I am going through, I am not the only one, ever! There is comfort in knowing others have gone before and finished well.

In light of the recent events, I need to reiterate one thing that the elders mentioned: the fall of a pastor does not necessarily negate or destroy the ministry he had once had. Whether it be Ted Haggard, whom I do not know, or our pastor whom I do, sin does have current and future consequences, but it does not wipe out our past. Let me say this: Our pastor preached the Word both in season and out of season.

Because of this, I want to share some of the most memorable teaching from the past ten years. I will be posting a series of some of these teachings in the coming days.

I write this with a heavy heart. We learned yesterday, in our worship service, that our pastor has resigned and the elders of the church unanimously accepted it. The elders led the worship service yesterday; it was a time of prayer and mourning.

Few details were shared, so I can’t go into any; I can say that this was unexpected and shocking.

In a wierd way, it feels both surreal (did this really happen?) and at the same time I feel like I have been punched in the stomach.

Please pray for my church, College Park, through this trial.

Pray.

Thank you.

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