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His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
(Proverbs 5:22, 23, NKJ)


The Cross was Hell

Chapter 11

Sin

Breaking the Law   Falling Short of God's Glory Iniquity   Unbelief   Doubt   Appetite   Presumption   Greed and idols   The Way Up Is Down   Road Rage and the Cross   Freedom to Sin vs. Freedom from Sin   The Wicked Fall Into Their Own Pit  

By Beholding We Become Changed

September 11, 2001. The whole world knows what happened on that day. That day changed our lives forever. Nineteen terrorists damaged the pentagon, destroyed the twin towers, killed thousands of innocent people, violated our trust, our privacy, and, to an ever-increasing degree, caused us to loose our freedom.

Why did they do it? Some contend that they were jealous of our wealth and ease. Some maintain that they did it because of our hard-nosed favoritism of the Israelis over the Palestinians. Some suggest they were angered by our corrupting influence on world morality. Others say because of American arrogance and disregard of other nation's rights. Yet others say mostly just because of the hatred that filled the terrorists hearts. Each of these rationales probably has some truth to it. Yet none of these rationales speaks to the fundamental reason, though the last one heads in the right direction.

These terrorists came from an extremist Islamic sect that paints Allah as vengeful and violent, who will shower his wrath on infidels. By beholding we become changed. Our view of God determines what our character becomes. By beholding a wrathful image of God, these men became changed into the image of God that their leaders had painted.

Certainly, one cannot doubt their sincerity, seeing that they were willing to sacrifice their lives to carry out what they considered to be God's will. They felt that it was their duty to attack the United States, which in their minds was evil, or the great Satan.

Each person's view of God has a powerful impact on their personal philosophy and their character. An evil picture of God leads to evil feelings, then evil words, followed by evil actions. A beautiful picture of God, on the other hand leads to loving feelings, then to loving words, followed by loving actions. Much of the sin in our world comes from a warped view of God.

 Matthew 10:24, 25 A disciple is not greater than his master, or a servant than his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he may be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have given the name Beelzebub to the master of the house, how much more to those of his house! (BBE)

Every Christian battles sin in his life. We all desire to overcome sin. It is helpful to identify the characteristics of the enemy that we fight. 

The Bible writers use various words for sin. Essentially, there are four basic concepts.

1. Breaking the Law

This basic Bible concept of sin is found in 1John 3:4: "Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." (NKJ). The law that John refers to is the Ten Commandments, God's law of love. Our words and actions flow from our heart. The prophet Jeremiah proclaims that the human heart "is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV). Only as we allow God to write his law of love in our hearts can we keep the Ten Commandments.

Jesus is the only one that, with perfect confidence, could ask the question "Which of you convicts Me of sin?" John 8:46, (KJV). Jesus kept the Ten Commandments, revealed the self-sacrificing love (glory) of God, lived an unselfish life, and under the worst possible circumstances trusted (had faith in) God. The life and death of Christ as told in the Bible present to us the standard of behavior. Anything less is sin. Jesus never sinned.

Hebrews 4:14, 15 "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (NKJ) 

He kept the law, The Ten Commandments. He is our example. We must walk in his footsteps.

John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. (MKJV)

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (KJV)

 Jesus always pleased God by living according to the law of God's love. John 8:29 "And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him" (TEV).

2. Falling Short of God's Glory

The apostle Paul gives us this Bible definition of sin in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (KJV). Paul asserts that to fall short of the glory of God is sin. That's a high standard. The glory of God is his law of love, his character as revealed by the life and death of Jesus Christ. (See also Exodus 33:18-20 and 1Corinthians 13.)  Jesus glorified his Father by suffering for our sin and guilt. Jesus showed us the glory, or character, of his Father. In John 17:3-5, Jesus declares:

"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." (NKJ)

 Jesus never fell short of the glory of God. He always died to self and lived for others. Everything he did, from his birth to his last breath, displayed the holy beauty of God's love. To glorify God, then, is to be willing to suffer and die for those that hate and misunderstand you. It also means that we should willingly live to serve others, making our desires subservient to those around us. Living for others takes more effort than to physically die for others. Jesus did all this and more.

3. Iniquity

The Hebrew word iniquity means bent, or warped. In the beginning, God created man to be a channel for his love. Love would flow outward from the heart of man to all those around him. When Adam and Eve fell, God's perfect, unselfish love did a U-turn. Now, each human naturally loves only himself unconditionally. We all instinctively look out for number one. In other words, iniquity is selfishness. Our hearts are naturally selfish.  

Jesus had absolutely no iniquity (selfishness) in Him. Consider the contrast between Jesus and Lucifer (Satan). Earlier we saw that iniquity (selfishness) started in the heart of Lucifer, the covering cherub. The covering cherub stood in the presence of God among the stones of fire, the highest position any angel can have.

Because of his vanity, Lucifer started to desire the very throne of God. He desired the worship of the other angels. Lucifer wanted to exalt himself. He imagined climbing higher and higher, surpassing God. He would stop at nothing to grasp the position and honor he wanted. Lucifer would destroy anything and anyone to get what he wanted.

Even if Lucifer had attained the throne of God, he would not have been satisfied. Warped, selfish ambition can never be satisfied. Iniquity causes an emptiness of soul that cannot be filled by any material object or social status. Owning the entire universe (heaven) wouldn't have been enough. Having all power and authority over the entire universe would not make Satan happy.

Jesus, on the other hand, willingly gave up his status as King in Heaven to become a servant here on earth. Jesus had no selfishness, that is to say, no iniquity, in Him. John 14:30 "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me" (NKJ).

Jesus did not have to go to the cross. His love for each of us was and is stronger than death. Listen to Jesus as the Roman soldiers nailed Him to the cross.

 Luke 23:32-34 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (KJV)

The Holy Spirit inspired my favorite poet, David, to share some insights on sin with us. After David had Uriah the Hittite killed to take his wife Bathsheba, he repented of his sin and wrote these powerful words.

Psalms 51:1-3, 9, 10, 16, 17 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (KJV)

4. Unbelief

A fourth Biblical concept of sin is to not believe in Jesus.

John 16:7-9 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me;" (KJV)

  Here Jesus defines sin as not believing in Him. "Believe" and "faith" come from the same Greek root word. Sin is lack of faith in Jesus. In Hebrews 11:6 we read that without faith it is impossible to please Him. Faith means knowing God well enough to trust Him with your life. Faith is not blind, but rather based on experience and knowledge. Faith is a matter of the heart and mind.

In Hebrews, Paul applies the principle that unbelief equals sin in regard to Israel as they wandered forty years in the wilderness.

Hebrews 3:10-12 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. (KJV)

Hebrews 3:17-19 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (KJV)

Unbelief kept one generation of Israelites out of the Promised Land. Unbelief is what keeps the wicked out of Heaven. Jesus' temptation in the wilderness provides another perspective on sin. After Jesus had fasted for 40 days, Satan tried four basic temptations against Him. We face these same four basic temptations today.

1. Doubt

Satan attacked Jesus first by using the phrase, "If You are the Son of God."

Matthew 4:1-4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit up into the wilderness, to be tempted by the Devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterwards hungry. And when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'" (MKJV)

Satan tempted Jesus to doubt that he was the Son of God. Notice that Satan had insinuated doubt about the goodness and truthfulness of God to tempt Eve.

Genesis 3:1-5 Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made. "Really?" he asked the woman. "Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?"

 "Of course we may eat it," the woman told him. "It's only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die."

 "You won't die!" the serpent hissed. "God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil." (NLT)

Doubt, or unbelief, then, is one of the four basic temptations we face as well. When we hang on to sin we support Satan's claims against God. We also strengthen our doubts. Love for sin crowds out love for God. Faith rests on our love for God. Every time we sin we make it easier to doubt.

We have never had to face as strong a temptation to doubt God's goodness as Jesus did. Moreover, Jesus faced that temptation while carrying the whole worlds sins. Today, doubt seems to be a badge of honor, or a symbol of free thought. It seems to me that false tolerance has led to the acceptance of the concept that all ideas are equal. Relativity of morals has overshadowed God's law in our society. The results are not good.

2. Appetite

Satan combined the temptation to doubt with that of appetite. Appetite, combined with doubts about the goodness of God, took Adam and Eve down. Sticking with a previous pattern of success, Satan hit Jesus at his weakest moment, after he had fasted forty days. I rarely fast more than one day at a time. I can't imagine forty days. After forty days of fasting, food would be attractive. Certainly even plain bread would have tasted good to Jesus after forty days of fasting.

Even so, Jesus did not give in to appetite, but answered Satan by quoting Scripture. Jesus didn't go by his feelings. He made his decisions based on principles. Biblical principles. Jesus was more sensitive and had stronger feelings than any other man. Yet he made his feelings subservient to reason and principle.

Today appetite seems to rule the world. Science News reports:

"Since the mid-1960s, the rate of obesity in the United States has nearly tripled to one in three adults. Over the same period, U.S. citizens have deducted, on average, about 2 hours from their nightly slumber. Is there a connection? Endocrinologist Eve Van Cauter strongly suspects that there is. She points to seven studies that have linked body weight to how long people sleep." 

God has designed us with the need for love. We try to fill that empty spot in our hearts with food, television, sports, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, as well as the outward forms of religion. Of course it doesn't work. That empty spot can only be filled by Jesus' love, through the word of God.

I think that it is useful to know that we need the proper amount of sleep in order to resist the temptation to eat more than we need. I wonder if there might be a relationship between lack of sleep and a reduced ability to resist other temptations as well. Satan knows about the relation of rest to spiritual strength. God spoke to Pharaoh through Moses and Aaron, requesting that he allow the Israelites to go out into the wilderness to worship Him. Listen to how Pharaoh, Satan's spokesman, reacts:

Exodus 5:6-9  "Who do you think you are," Pharaoh shouted, "distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! Look, there are many people here in Egypt, and you are stopping them from doing their work." That same day Pharaoh sent this order to the slave drivers and foremen he had set over the people of Israel: "Do not supply the people with any more straw for making bricks. Let them get it themselves! But don't reduce their production quotas by a single brick. They obviously don't have enough to do. If they did, they wouldn't be talking about going into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to their God. Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! (NLT)

Satan knows that if he can keep us busy that we won't have time for God. We need our daily physical rest in order to battle temptation. We also need our daily spiritual rest in order to keep our friendship with our heavenly Father. Jesus took time for communion with his Father. Mark 1:35 "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (KJV). We also need a weekly time of spiritual rest to keep our relationship with Jesus alive.

Another aspect of appetite is the desire to accumulate material goods. Sexual appetite is yet another area that Satan tempts fallen humanity with great success. Jesus passed the test on every aspect of appetite.

3. Presumption

Satan had more temptations up his sleeve, though. He encouraged Jesus to doubt and presume on God's protection.

Matthew 4:5-7 Then the Devil took Him up into the holy city and set Him upon a pinnacle of the Temple. And he said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down. For it is written, 'He shall give His angels charge concerning You, and in their hands they shall bear You up, lest at any time You dash Your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" (MKJV)

Again, Satan tried to cause Jesus to doubt that he was the Son of God. Again Satan combined two temptations, presumption and doubt. Faith and presumption outwardly resemble one another. Presumption carries within it a mixture of doubt and disregard for the principles of love. Satan tempted Jesus to use God's promises to force his Father to prove his love for Jesus. Faith and love need not resort to force.

In this modern age we can easily slide into presumption. We can be tempted to feel that we will be saved no matter what we do. However, faith and love show regard for other's feelings and desires. God wants us to show our love for Him by allowing his principles into our hearts. Faith allows God to create a new heart in us. A new heart speaks good, kind words. Kind words lead to kind actions. Jesus spells it out for us.

Matthew 12:34-37 Your words show what is in your hearts. Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts. I promise you that on the day of judgment, everyone will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. On that day they will be told that they are either innocent or guilty because of the things they have said. (CEV)

Presumption contends "God will save me in my sins. I don't need a new heart." Faith says, "Please change it or I will die."

4. Greed and Idols

Closely related to presumption are greed, vanity, pride of possession, the desire for power, and idol worship.

 Matthew 4:8-11 Again, the Devil took Him up into a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me. Then Jesus said to him, Go, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve." Then the Devil left him. And behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (MKJV)

Satan tempted Jesus to enter into a business deal. "You worship me and I will give up my claim to the earth and its inhabitants." Of course Satan was lying. Satan tempted Jesus to follow the easy path. Reading beneath the surface words, Satan insinuated to Jesus that he didn't have to go to the cross in order to gain control of the world. Satan offered Jesus control of the world, but at a cost. Satan tempted Jesus to enter into the principles of force. However, if God had wanted to use force to gain control of the world, he wouldn't have needed Satan's help to do it.

We too, face the temptation to use power, or force. Look at the political races. People will do or say most anything to gain political power. Some people will even break the law to obtain the political or corporate position they want. Other people try to gain power through amassing money, persuasive speaking, fraud, or other means of climbing the corporate ladder. That is why we see so many accounting scandals and other types of fraud in the large corporations. People are trying to move up the ladder, at any cost to others or even themselves.

Even those who have large amounts of money and power seek more. Greed is never satisfied. Power, prestige, and pride of possession hypnotize many, causing them to sell their soul for fleeting pleasures. This same principle occurs on a smaller scale as well. I have found myself in that mode of thought. In the past, I have convinced myself that a new car would make me happy. Then it was a new computer. After that it was getting a new, more powerful stereo system that I thought would make me happy. Ecclesiastes 5:10, 12 "If you love money, you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want. It is useless. The rich, however, have so much that they stay awake worrying" (TEV).

Church board meetings can bring out the satanic principle of force. People want control, power over others, and over the material structures of the church. If you have ever sat on a church board, or know someone who has, you likely have heard of the battles that occur over such weighty matters as the color of the carpet, curtains, or the paint on the walls. One church board I know of even voted not to have an evangelistic series because they had just installed new carpet! They didn't want to get it dirty, or wear it out too quickly. Often, Patience slips out of the boardroom just after Christian Kindness and the Spirit of Listening have left.

The Way Up Is Down

Lucifer thought he would be happy if he could have the throne of God. He thought he could have the status and worship without the character of self-sacrificing love. He was wrong. The end of the path of self-exaltation is dishonor, death, and destruction. Matthew 23:12 "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (KJV). This is not an arbitrary law that God enforces, but rather a natural principle that God himself has chosen to live by.

We need to stay focused on Jesus and his love for us. We have never faced the level of temptation that Jesus did. He overcame, even while carrying the weight of the world's sin and guilt!

Jesus is the Antidote to sin. How did Jesus overcome temptation? And how can we?

Jesus was the King of Kings. Though he was the Creator God, Jesus left the honor, security, and pleasures of Heaven that were rightfully his. Jesus laid aside his royal robes and his divine prerogatives to combine his divinity with our humanity. God became a human baby! He grew up in a city renowned for its sinfulness. He lived to serve others. He worked as a carpenter until he was thirty years old. And Jesus had to deal with temptation on a daily basis.

During his ministry, Jesus often prayed. Prayer strengthened Jesus. Jesus felt the need for prayer, even though he was perfect. Or, perhaps it was because Jesus was perfect that he felt the need to pray. The closer we come to God, the more we will feel our need to pray. Mark 1:35 "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (KJV). Luke 6:12 "And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God" (KJV).

We too, must pray for strength to overcome sin in our lives. Jesus instructed his followers, "Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation" (Matthew 26:41 TEV). Paul advised Christians to, "Pray without ceasing" (1Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is vital to overcoming temptation and sin.

Jesus healed others. Jesus fed others. By serving others, we enter into the Spirit of Jesus and become more resistant to sin.

Jesus forgave others' sins. Jesus didn't judge others. When we forgive others of their sins against us, God strengthens us. When we refrain from judging others, we partake of the Spirit of God's mercy and thereby avoid one of the most grievous of sins.

Would you like to know one of the most powerful weapons against sin? Jesus used it. Moses used it. Paul used it. Now you can use it. 1Peter 4:8 "Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins" (NLT). Imagine that, love covers a multitude of sins. Love cuts a wide swath through the sin problem. Love is the answer to sin. God's love through Jesus destroyed the power of sin. The cross shows that.

OK. How do you get love for God and others? By meditating on Jesus, you will become more like Him. Spend time in the word every day. First thing in the morning is best. Prayer and meditation on God's great love will change your heart. Also, putting his love into practice will speed the whole process. Find ways to serve others. Jesus served us.

Jesus took the path that went down, down, down. Jesus would stop at nothing to rescue others. He sacrificed everything. He would rather take destruction upon himself than to allow it to fall on us. The end of the path of humility, self-sacrifice, and service is honor, happiness, and life. Jesus revealed that his Father is the greatest Servant. Jesus wants us to be like Him.

Often, like Lucifer, we are more concerned with ourselves than with others. However, God loves others more than he loves himself! That is the source of his power. That kind of love can change hearts. That kind of power can overcome sin. Sin shows itself in the little things of life.

Road Rage and the Cross

How do we feel when someone tries to cut us off on the freeway? Do we automatically and graciously slow down to make room for the aggressive or careless driver? Or are we instead tempted to speed up, and try to stay ahead of the other guy and thereby save two or three seconds? Remember, love covers a multitude of sins.

The contrast between our selfishness and the glory of God's love becomes very clear in the light of the cross of Jesus. In the cross we see that God was willing to die to save everyone, even those that hated Him, and whipped, punched, and spit on Him, and finally nailed Him to the cross.

Would we be willing to die for a man that had just spit on us? No, I don't think so. Our natural reaction would be at least to respond with some harsh words, or depending on his size, slap him, or perhaps spit back. How few of even professed Christians would react with a humble kindness and forgiveness and a desire to love him as Christ did. Humility versus pride. Pride is one of the most dangerous sins. It suggests that we don't need God's power in our lives. Pride of opinion can keep us from growing in knowledge and experience in Jesus.

How do we feel when someone disagrees with us in Bible study? How do we react when someone criticizes us? Do we thank them for the new information and their concern for our happiness? Or do we perceive them as critical, judgmental, and legalistic? Did Jesus become defensive? Would you give your life for someone that you perceive as being critical and legalistic? Jesus did. Meditate on Jesus.

 Love is the opposite of sin. The standard of love that Jesus reveals on the cross goes way beyond reluctantly letting someone cut in front of you on the freeway. It goes beyond stopping a bullet for a friend or enemy. Paul, in Hebrews 2:9 tells us that Jesus tasted death for every man. Sin is destructive. It brings guilt.

Every time we do something wrong we feel guilt. If we lie to someone, steal some money from a friend, or gossip about a best friend, we feel guilt, especially if we get caught. The shame, the guilt that we feel is very uncomfortable. Remember that Jesus carried the shame and guilt of the whole world. Sin, and the sense of separation from his Father broke the heart of Jesus.

What is the problem with sin? If sin is such fun, why does the Bible use such negative terms in describing sin? Why does God hate sin so much? God wants us to enjoy life. God's law is the law of liberty. We know that sin is transgression of God's law of life and love. God's law is wisdom. Wisdom calls out to us, "But those who miss me have injured themselves. All who hate me love death" (Proverbs 8:36 NLT).

Sin leads to death. That doesn't sound like much fun. Selfishness may appear fun, but it causes loneliness, stress, and death. God wants us to enjoy life. Talking with friends, rejoicing in the beauty of nature, helping others, these are activities that God has designed for us to enjoy. These bring true, lasting joy. Satan's counterfeits look exciting, glitzy, fun, and sweet, but they are hollow, trite, and leave a bitter aftertaste.

God's law is not arbitrary. God's law brings true freedom. James calls the Ten Commandments "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25 KJV). God hates sin because it brings slavery. Take appetite, for example. If you let children eat just what they want, many would find themselves enslaved to a perverted appetite. They would eat chocolate cake and ice cream all day. But that would lead to illness and death. Slavery to sin causes misery and at last, leads to death. Tobacco. I don't need to spell it out, do I. The advertisers make smoking look fun, but...

Have you, or someone you know struggled with a really bad temper? Have you ever told anyone "You made me angry"? That is an admission that someone else is in control of your temper! A bad temper controls many. That's slavery. God can give you freedom. Anger only lasts three seconds, unless you feed it. I've tried it, it's true. Hang on for three seconds without adding fuel to the fire, without justifying your anger, and it goes away. That feels good! Why should we let anger enslave us? Anger destroys.

Freedom to Sin vs. Freedom from Sin

Give control of your thoughts to Jesus. Make a habit of guarding your thoughts. When negative thoughts and feelings come, pray and give the thought or feeling to Jesus. And let it go. Each time you do this it will get easier. Don't let sinful, negative thoughts dwell in your mind. Pray without ceasing. Jesus can free us from slavery to our negative emotions and passions. Jesus will fill us with positive emotions, such as joy, satisfaction, peace, and many others. Freedom brings these emotions. Why let either Satan or your own desires make you into a slave?

James 1:12-15 God will bless you, if you don't give up when your faith is being tested. He will reward you with a glorious life, just as he rewards everyone who loves him. Don't blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn't use evil to tempt others. We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead. (CEV)

Jesus died to rescue us from sin, not to enable us to live in our sins. When, through the cross of Jesus, we see the high cost of sin and God's great love for us, sin will become disgusting to us. The goodness of God leads us to repentance. Our hearts will be filled with unselfish love rather than selfishness and negative desires. We will choose faith, love, and life over sin, doubt, and death. By taking the sins of the entire world on himself, Jesus showed us the natural consequences of sin. Truly, the wages of sin is death. Remember that God does not keep track of our sins. God is love.

1Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal. (TEV)

God is not the source of death, but life. God is the Creator, not the Destroyer. There is one who accuses, keeps track of sins, and loves to destroy; it is Satan. Judging, keeping track of wrongs in order to punish or take revenge is sin. God doesn't keep track of others sins. Neither should we.

Another powerful tool in the fight against sin is nature. God has placed healing power within his creation. We were designed to live in a garden, the Garden of Eden. Cities contain many temptations that we could avoid by living in the country. Spending time in nature can help us to overcome sin. In God's handiwork as we observe the beautiful, living things we see more of God's love. The songs of the birds, the fluffy white clouds against the blue sky, the colorful flowers, and many other lovely, vibrant things testify to God's love.

We can walk with God and receive deep impressions of his love for us by spending time in nature, his beautiful creation. By beholding God in nature we will be changed into his image. To be sure, sin has tainted God's perfect creation, as we can see in the thorns and decay, as well as in poisonous and destructive things. Rather than dwelling on the negative, we can look for God's love. The principle that we find what we look for holds true. We also know that our Father will shortly recreate our world. We too, need to be recreated.

Mankind was the pinnacle of God's creation, so it is here in our fallen, selfish humanity, in our body, mind, and character that we can see most clearly the principles and results of sin and unbelief. It stains our nature. Romans 7:5 "When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced sinful deeds, resulting in death" (CEV).

The Wicked Fall Into Their Own Pit

Sin leads to a chain reaction of negative events culminating in death. Don't add to your sin by blaming God for either temptation or the death of the wicked. Psalm 9:16 "The LORD is known by the judgment He executes; The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands" (NKJ). This verse shows us that God's idea of judgment is to allow the wicked to be caught in his own trap. Psalm 34:21 "Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned" (NKJ). Notice what slays the wicked -"Evil."

King David experienced some of sin's destructive power in his own life. David's sin with Bathsheba caused disharmony, disrespect, rebellion, (Remember Absalom) and death. In Psalm 51 we read that David fully repented of his sin. God forgave David. But God did not remove all the effects of David's sin. David lost four of his sons just as he had passed judgment on the rich man of Nathan's parable to repay four lambs for the lamb he had stolen.

God knows that we have been deceived. He doesn't hold our sins against us. Yet in his mercy God allows us a small taste of the consequences of sin, hoping that we will turn from sin. All the while he draws us to himself with cords of love.

Because of his great mercy, God shields us from the full consequences of sin, which is the second death. God longs for each of us to clearly see the pain, sorrow, death, and destruction of sin, in full contrast with the peace, joy, and eternal life of his holy law of love.

Our loving and merciful heavenly Father does not want any of us to die for lack of instruction. He has abundantly provided instruction for escaping from the trap of iniquity, and the cords of sin. This instruction is found in the life and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit shared these principles with all mankind. Proverbs 5:22,23 "His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, And he is caught in the cords of his sin. He shall die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray" (NKJ). As we noted before, John makes it clear that condemnation doesn't come from God. Paul reaffirms it too.

John 3:16,17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (KJV)

Romans 5:18-21 God's law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God's wonderful kindness became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God's wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (CEV)

Romans 7: 7-13 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Let it not be! But I did not know sin except through law; for also I did not know lust except the law said, "You shall not lust."  But sin taking occasion through the commandment worked every lust in me; for apart from law, sin is dead. And I was alive apart from law once, but the commandment came, and sin came alive, and I died. And the commandment which was to life, this was found to be death to me; for sin taking occasion through the commandment deceived me, and through it killed me. So indeed the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Then that which is good, has it become death to me? Let it not be! But sin, that it might appear to be sin, having worked out death to me through the good, in order that sin might become excessively sinful through the commandment. (GLT)

Here Paul explains that the law (Ten Commandments) arouses, or makes us aware of, our evil, sinful, selfish desires. These evil desires (not the law) produce sinful deeds that result in death. Notice that it is sin itself that brings death. Our God loves sinners enough to lay down his life in order to win our hearts and save us from sin. Our God is not a harsh dictator. And sin is far more dangerous and destructive than any of us realize, or even like to admit.

Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, however, understood and experienced the destructive power of sin. In agony, Jesus pleaded with his Father to see if there was any other way to save humanity then carrying the destructive guilt and shame of sin. By his death on the cross of Calvary, Christ demonstrated the incredibly destructive power of sin and guilt. Looking unto Jesus, let us turn from sin.

Romans 6:12-23 Then do not let sin rule in your mortal body, to obey it in its lusts. Neither present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as one living from the dead, and your members instruments of righteousness to God. For your sin shall not lord it over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Let it not be! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or obedience to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness. I speak as a man on account of the weakness of your flesh. For as you presented your members as slaves to uncleanness and to lawless act unto lawless act, so now yield your members as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free as to righteousness. Therefore what fruit did you have then in the things over which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being set free from sin, and being enslaved to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (GLT)

Wages are something that a person earns. Wages are the result of work. Sin is hard work. Satan paints sin as exciting, glamorous, and pleasant, but in reality it is bitter and destructive. Sin is the hard, lonely, stressful work of being selfish. The result (wages) of selfishness (sin) is death. "For the wages of sin is death," means that the natural consequence of selfishness is death.

As we have seen before, the sacrifice of Jesus clearly revealed the wages of sin in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary. Jesus had unbroken fellowship with his heavenly Father from his birth right up to Gethsemane. In the garden Jesus prayed three times that the "cup" might be taken from him. He knew that if he drank from this cup (the sins of the world) he would feel separated from his heavenly Father. Jesus would feel the shame and guilt of the whole world's sins, even though he himself was perfect. This struggle caused Him to sweat blood, (Luke 22:44). The wages of sin horrified the Son of God. Our heavenly Father did not kill Jesus. The physical violence of the cross did not kill Jesus. Sin killed Jesus. My sins and yours killed Jesus. Jesus took the consequences of the sins of the whole world. The burning, crushing weight of the guilt and shame of sin caused Jesus to feel an infinitely deep sense of separation from the Father. That combination caused Jesus to experience the second death. It is a fatal combination. And if sin and a sense of separation from God killed Christ, the only begotten Son of God, how much more so for sinners at the end of time! Our heavenly Father does not kill sinners at the end of time. Sin, resulting in guilt, and separation from God will destroy sinners at the end of time.

We mustn't hang onto sin, which is unbelief. Unbelief comes from a dark picture of God and our own selfish desires. A dark picture of God prevents us from having saving faith in God. We must see God's goodness so that Jesus can change our hearts, or we will remain slaves to sin. If we remain slaves to sin, we will be lost. Sin carries within it the seeds of death. Through Jesus, God plants within us the seeds of life. The seed of life springs from an understanding of Jesus' love for sinners. If we fertilize and water the seed of life God will with rejoicing give us eternal life. However, if we fertilize and water the seed of sin and death, the harvest will be death and God will weep. "Dear reader, which will you choose?" "Heavenly Father, I pray that each person who reads this book will not choose the insane path of selfishness, empty pleasures, loneliness, guilt, stress, and eternal death. I pray each precious soul will choose the beautiful path of unselfish love, fellowship, service, fulfillment, joy, innocence, peace, rest from sin, and eternal life. Amen."

 


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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
God always forgives!
   

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