Hebrews: The Sinful Heart

In our last Hebrews devotional, we looked at the difference between unintentional sin and intentional sin, or as Hebrews 10:26 said deliberate sin. The word “deliberate,” means to sin voluntarily or wilfully as opposed to sins committed without forethought, and from ignorance or weakness. Isn’t every sin a choice we make? Yes. And no.

As long as we live in this evil world you and I are going to sin. It’s in our human nature as descendants of Adam and Eve. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. And all sin is an affront to God. Sin doesn’t carry differing weights as “less” or “ more” sinful. So why does God seem to differentiate between unintentional and intentional sin? Because intentional sin reflects a heart that is not committed to God – the kind of heart, the Psalmist said, that cherishes sin (Ps 66:18) rather than God.

Paul talked about his struggle with sin in Romans 7 – you might identify with that chapter. He said that there was a war going on in his mind between his love for God and the ever-present pull of sin. It made him miserable. But for the man (or woman) who persists in deliberate sin, there is no war. There is no misery. There is no struggle against cherished sin because there is no love for God in his heart. Yes, this is hard to understand, and our cultural sensibilities chaff at such sharp tones.

But there is good news – John said that the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7b). All sin. Intentional sin and unintentional sin. Sin we stumble over and sin we walk into with eyes wide open. John added that we must confess our sins to receive His forgiveness and purification (v. 9).

Most people who are trapped in deliberate sin don’t seek God’s forgiveness. They don’t confess their sin because they don’t want to give it up. I know someone who is deep in sin and likes it that way. He doesn’t want to repent and be set free because he cherishes his sin. Yet he has convinced himself that he is a Christian. I pray for him daily.

Is there a sin you just can’t let go of? Something you run after over and over? No sin is too much for the blood of Jesus – no matter how deep it runs. Beloved, why don’t you put that sin in the forgiving, cleansing hands of the Savior and be set free?

The King is Coming!

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In the first-century world, before a king came to visit one of his cities, the call would go out to prepare the roads on his path – to make the way level and straight and free from any possible danger. When God prepares a people for a great move on His part, He always calls them to make themselves ready by repentance – confessing and turning away from sin, and consecration – setting oneself apart exclusively for Him. “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Lev 11:44).  Before Jesus began His earthly ministry John the Baptist was sent to “Prepare the way for the Lord, [to] make straight paths for him” (Mark 1:3).   John was calling for the people to prepare their hearts for the Lord by repentance and consecration. He declared a clear warning of the coming wrath of God – but you might be surprised to know his comments were aimed directly at the “religious leaders.” 

Christians have pleaded with God for a great move of His Spirit in the world.  We want Him to “do amazing things among us.”  But are we hearing the call to prepare the way for Him?  Are we heeding the call for repentance?  Am I carefully examining my life for habits, desires, laziness, distractions, and selfishness that serve as a quiet rebellion against God?  Are our lives straight paths for the King? Are we consecrating ourselves unto the Lord?  Are you willing to let go of everything that draws your heart away?  Are you getting rid of the things that compromise your testimony and drag you into the world?  What T.V. shows, movies, music, magazines, and websites need to go to make your heart ready for the Lord?  What attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, rights, and worldly influences do I need to turn from in order to be used for the Kingdom of God?

I believe God is getting ready to do a great work in the world.  But it will require His people to will set everything aside and prepare the way.   That means wholehearted devotion to Christ and an unwillingness to compromise with the world.  I also believe a great battle is coming in this nation; the lines have already been drawn in our culture and our courts.  Only people with pure, consecrated hearts will be able to stand firm in the face of it.   Beloved, how will you get ready?

Are You Hiding From God?

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“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?'” (Genesis 3:9)

Did God really not know where Adam and Eve were? Is it possible that the omniscient, omnipresent God was clueless to His beloved creation’s whereabouts and actions? Not a chance. I believe God was asking Adam, “Do YOU know where you are?” “Do you realize what you have done?” They had walked with God every day in the goodness of His creation, but now they feared His presence and thought they needed to avoid their Creator. Sound familiar?

When you and I fall to the temptation of the enemy, when we surrender to sin, our first inclination is to hide, to cover ourselves so God can’t see our shame, and to avoid Him at all costs. But do we really believe that He is unaware of our actions? Do you think God doesn’t see us cowering in the bushes? We can’t hide from Him. We can’t cover up our sin. But the love of God can (1 Peter 4:8). The blood of Jesus covers over our sins and makes us acceptable in God’s sight.

When David sinned, he tried to dismiss it, but it was futile. Eventually, he had to confess “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3). You and I know that too. We can try to dodge it and hide it and pretend it didn’t happen. We can even rename it and make it sound like less than a sin, but it’s always there. When David finally came clean with God, confessed his sin with brokenness and sorrow, he found sweet forgiveness. His spirit was renewed, The Joy of God’s salvation was restored and he now had a testimony of redemption. (See Psalm 51)

Where are you? What are you trying to cover up? God knows all about it. It’s time to bring your sin out of hiding. God will forgive you. He will hide your sin under the blood of Jesus. He will restore your Joy and turn your failure into a beautiful testimony. Come out of the bushes Beloved, your God stands ready with arms open wide.

Self-made Misery

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Have you ever really repented of your sins? Or are you just sorry about the mess you’re in because of them? Right now you’re probably thinking, “And good morning to you too, Susie Sunshine!” I know – you much prefer the nice, gentle devotionals, but I speak as He speaks to me through His Word, and sometimes it’s not always pretty. This came into my heart this morning as I read in Hosea. You may recall, Hosea was a prophet of the Lord with a beautiful story of redeeming love. But the love story is just two chapters out of fourteen where the prophet is declaring God’s anger toward and coming judgment over the nation of Israel. He is calling them to repentance so that He might restore them. But they refuse. Even though they are in misery from God’s punishment, they will not turn away from their sin and turn back to the Lord. Listen to Hosea 7:14 – “They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.” They were crying about their miserable situation, but they would not cry out to God in repentance. Jump back just a bit to 5:15 where the Lord said, “I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery, they will earnestly seek me.”

Here’s a hard truth Friend, sometimes we create our own miserable situations. We sin, we wander away from God and like sheep grazing with our heads in the grass, we are unaware of the danger we’re in. All the while God is calling us to turn back to Him. When we find ourselves tangled in the briars of sin or weighted down from falling into the creek, we wail and whine, but we don’t confess and repent.

John said, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just as will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Beloved, in the kindest, most loving way I know to say it – maybe it’s time to stop whining and start repenting.

 

Of Black-Eyed-Peas and Forgiveness

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I got up early this morning and put the black-eyed peas on to soak. I remember when Mama gave me the important task of sorting and washing the peas for their overnight soak. “You have to pick out the bad peas (the ones with rusted spots or bug holes) and rinse off the good ones, then I’ll put them on to soak.” An hour later she found me still at the sink with only half the package done. I was taking out each individual pea, inspecting it all over and washing it off – one by one. “You don’t have to do them one-at-time,” she said. “But Mama,” I replied, “what if I miss one?” I thought letting even one bad pea through would be awful.

As a child I was taught 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So when I wanted to ask Jesus to be my Savior, I started thinking and confessing. And confessing. And confessing. Six weeks later the pastor asked if I was ready to be baptized. I said I was still confessing my sins. Knowing that a child couldn’t have much to confess, he asked what was taking me so long. I said I was trying to remember everything I ever did. “What if I miss one?” I asked. I thought I had to remember and confess every single sin or it would not be forgiven and Jesus would not be my Savior.

Paul said that when we receive Jesus as Lord, God “forgives us all our sins” (Colossians 2:13). Hebrews says that Jesus, our great high priest “offered for all time one sacrifice for sins” (2:12). That means all our sins – the ones we remember to confess and the ones we don’t. That means all the sins of our past, present, and future are under the blood of Jesus. Confession is indeed “good for the soul,” and vital to our relationship with God, but Jesus doesn’t have a tally sheet of your sins to mark off only the ones you confess. He has written “FORGIVEN” in big red letters across your entire life. Confess as the Spirit brings things to mind, and trust in God’s faithfulness.His mercy is a wide, wide ocean Beloved, and all your sins are buried there.

Hiding from God

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?'” (Genesis 3:9)
Did God really not know where Adam and Eve were?  Is it possible that the omniscient, omnipresent God who called the universe into existence was clueless to His beloved creation’s whereabouts and actions?  Not a chance.  I believe God was asking Adam, “Do YOU know where you are?”  “Do you realize what you have done?”  They had walked with God every day in the goodness of His creation, but now thought they needed to avoid their Creator.  They hid their bodies from one another and tried to hide themselves from God.  Sound familiar?
When you and I fall to the temptation of the enemy, when we surrender to sin, our first inclination is to hide, to cover ourselves so God can’t see our shame and to avoid Him at all costs.  Do I really think that He is unaware of my actions?  Do you think God doesn’t see you cowering in the bushes?   We can’t hide from Him.  We can’t cover it up.  But that is a gift, not a source of fear.  When David sinned, he tried to dismiss it, but it was futile.   “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3).  You know that too.  We can try to dodge it and hide it and pretend it didn’t happen, but it’s always there. When he finally came clean with God, confessed his sin with brokenness and sorrow, he found sweet forgiveness.  His spirit was renewed, joy was restored and he now had a testimony of redemption. (See Psalm 51)
Where are you?  What are you trying to hide?  God knows. It’s time to bring your sin out of hiding. God will forgive you.  God will restore your joy and turn your failure into a beautiful testimony.  Come out of the bushes Beloved, your God stands ready with arms open wide.

Lord, I’m Sorry

repentance“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” Psalm 51:17.

“I’m sorry, but . . .” he began and I realized he wasn’t sorry at all.  Once more he had betrayed my trust and crushed my heart and once more he offered a hollow “apology” that absolved him of the responsibilities of his actions.  There always seemed to be some reason outside of his control that made him do the things he did (or not do the things he said he would do).  But the truth is I’ve made the same kind of apology and I’ll bet you have too.  It’s human nature to want to wriggle out of blame.  It’s as old as the first sin.  Adam blamed Eve – and even blamed God – and Eve blamed the serpent.  Shifting blame is a national pastime.  It doesn’t really change what we’ve done or the harm we’ve caused, it just presses the guilt down a little under a false sense of relief.

Our key verse sits in David’s Psalm of lament after he was confronted with his adulterous sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah.  David does not try to dodge his wickedness nor sweep away his guilt.  He says, “I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me” (v. 3).   He confesses his sin to God and says that the Lord’s judgement against him is right and justified.  He pleads for mercy and cleansing and God graciously gives it.

Our sin breaks the heart of God and if we love God it will break our hearts as well. But forgiveness is possible when we confess our sin and repent.  And true repentance never has a “but,” it is raw and honest before the One who knows it all anyway.  It’s the only way to find real forgiveness and peace.  Paul reminded the Corinthians that “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). 

A dear friend once told me, “God doesn’t forgive excuses, He forgives sins.”  Beloved, we must stop trying to excuse our sin away and come to God in true repentance.  No “buts” about it.