Carelessness (Part 3)

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:13-16 ESV). Remember where we started a few days ago? My table saw won the brief battle with my hand when I was careless and lost focus for a moment. After the injury all three of my sons asked me if I was using the push-gripper they had given me for my birthday. As you can see from the picture, had I been doing so, there would not have been any injury. I sheepishly answered all of them, “No.” David simply responded, “Course not.” Well, he was right. I had all the tools and provisions at my fingertips. I knew better. I simple presumed that I was better than needing the gripper. Believe me, that didn’t work out well for me. All the way to the ER, in between asking Mary to please hurry, I was whispering to myself how stupid and careless I had been! Well, the same happens often in our spiritual journey. We often become content with whispering our sin to God, confessing how careless we had become. That is good. James offers us something more in our reading today. He says: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (v. 16). There is a release and healing that flows from confessing not only to God in the secret place of your heart, but also to a trusted friend, or to the person you have offended. The tender words, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” are one of the surest paths to overcome our carelessness. So, my call to you is that, even while we go on wrestling with baffling corruption, pray. Therefore the focus here is on praying for power: “Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.” I believe we can experience complete triumph over presumptuous sin, and that presumptuous sinning must cease to be the characteristic of our lives. God calls us to this. He gives us the power for it through the Holy Spirit. Find that trusted friend who will help you with your challenging habit. With God’s grace, we can make it our aim to live blameless and innocent of great transgressions. You can avoid those injuries resulting from simple...

read more

Carelessness (Part 2)

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:13-15 ESV). So is a born again Christian susceptible to presumptuous sins that knowingly contradict God’s will? The simple answer is yes. You must not miss the apostle’s emphasis in our reading. No one can argue the belief and faith of Paul, yet he declares he was not only susceptible to willful sins, he was susceptible to bondage to them. We are no different. Christians are especially prone here, writes Charles Simeon, because these are “any sins whatever that are committed against light and knowledge, or on a presumption that God will not punish them in the eternal world.” Carelessness that leads us to presumptuous sin is a misuse of revelation and the gospel and they assume a religious commitment of some level. No less than John Calvin agrees. The believer, who at one moment groans under the burden of remaining sin and who is aware of the seriousness of sin, is still capable of falling into willful sin, a sin that contradicts what he knows to be true. Calvin senses in the psalmist’s prayer in our reading yesterday (cf. Psalm 19) that “unless God restrain us, our hearts will violently boil with a proud and insolent contempt of God.” God help us. We must also recognize that there is nothing safe about living in a sin you know to be wrong. Presumptuous sins are self-destructive and should be avoided at all costs. John Piper says that David sees a difference between, on the one hand, sins that we commit because they baffle us and sneak up on us (“hidden faults” of verse 12), and on the other hand, sins that we commit because we presume to know better than God or presume that sin is no big deal (“presumptuous sins” of verse 13). The point is not that there is a special category of extra-bad sins, like murder, rape, or treason. The point is that there is a special category of sinning; namely, sinning in arrogant defiance of a known law. It’s not so much what you do that puts sinning in this category as whether you do it with forethought and defiance and rebellion. This is what David calls presumptuous sins. They are fully intentional, with our eyes open, and with a heart that says, ‘I know God says this is wrong and harmful, but I just don’t care what God thinks; I’m going to do it anyway.’ It is being careless. It always leads to destructive behavior. Commit yourself to a constant vigilance against what you...

read more

Carelessness (Part 1)

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14 ESV). This picture is similar to my saw. It looks pretty innocent, doesn’t it? Well, last week I was working on a project in the shop that involved a long run of repetitive cuts on my table saw. I remember thinking as I was making the cuts that I needed to be very focused and not “fall asleep” from the repetition. The table saw is one of the most dangerous power tools in my shop. In fact, the statistics say that of all the accidental lacerations seen in the ER involving construction, 55% happen with the use of a stationary saw (actually it rises to 73% when you get more specific and use “table saw” as the reference point). Further, most of the accidents are with people who are 65 or older and have had extensive experience with the tool. Well, I could go on; however, let’s just say I checked off every box. I simply lost my focus for a micro second on the last cut at the end of the rip. The injury was severe. I was very careless. Our reading today deals with carelessness and sin. Sin is a mystery, and it’s a mystery David wrestles with. First he looks up to the heavens to delight in the Creator’s handiwork (vv. 1–6). Then he looks down to delight in God’s words (vv. 7–11). And the next moment he is on his face pleading with God for power for victory over sin (vv. 12–13). The psalmist shows us sin in at least two different forms: “hidden faults” and “presumptuous sins.” One is like a trapdoor that swings out from underfoot, and the other is like a double-door seen from a distance and approached. These are the careless sins. I’ll be looking at those sins in the next few days. A number of commentators believe the “great transgression” at the end of the passage refers to physical adultery or spiritual adultery. No doubt these serious sins are included, but willful sins come in various shapes and sizes. We must go deeper than merely cataloging “bad” sins. More generally, it appears that presumptuous sins arise from carelessness with God and his word, and carelessness with the needs of others. We can also be lured into these sins by the willful disobedience of others. Whatever the origin, we can see that our carelessness leads to callousness and calloused hearts lead to arrogance or insolence towards God and others. This is where we find ourselves in the “ER” hoping not to lose a finger, or worse. We must remain vigilant and humble in our understanding that we are not immune to these mistakes. Make that your commitment today. We’ll see more...

read more

Self Love (Part 4)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV). Today we conclude our little series in the Scriptural development of self-love, or self-image. The Bible teaches that we have the opportunity to recast love of self through Christ. In our reading today, we read that “in the last days people will be lovers of self . . . rather than lovers of God.” So, there is a way in which love of self can usurp the rightful place of God in our hearts. Even though we may recoil at this point, it is an accurate description of our sinful nature. Perhaps you’ve struggled with crushing guilt you just can’t seem to shake. Actively striving for self-love and self-acceptance may seem like the only possible way to shed the feelings of guilt or inadequacy you feel. It is at that time we must remember that the temporary relief we might feel by self-love cannot compare to the overwhelming relief of true love and acceptance by God. The “self-acceptance” of the children of God is not an active striving to love ourselves more. Rather, it is coming more and more to see ourselves as God sees us: sinful, guilty, inadequate humans who have been washed clean and declared righteous by faith in Christ (cf. Romans 3:24). True self-love is acceptance of ourselves as redeemed people. Yes, we are loved and accepted, but it is precisely not because we are worthy in ourselves, but because Christ is worthy. Only when we accept the reality of redemption can we find freedom to look outwards. When our gaze is bent inward on ourselves, we fail to love God and cannot hope to love others. Then we may love ourselves enough to stop denying that our sins, our faults, our inadequacies are as real as our virtues. Then we may love ourselves enough to stop scraping together self-worth from broken, sinful pieces of self, and instead to embrace the free gift of the Father’s love for Christ’s sake. If the world really cared about helping us love ourselves, it would simply preach the gospel. Only the good news of Christ offers true hope. The message of the gospel is a message of freedom from efforts to love our broken selves by providing a worth that comes from outside of our brokenness, a worth that comes from Christ. Accept that love today. That will transform you. You are wonderfully made! Turn to your...

read more

Self Love (Part 3)

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV). The Apostle Paul is always direct in his letters when speaking about the gospel and the human condition. There really is no way to soft-sell our sin. We are not OK without the redemptive work of Christ. This brings us to the second of our principles in the appropriate development of self-love. In order to have positive self-love, we cannot accept your sins. In 1967, in the midst of tremendous national upheaval and change, Thomas Harris wrote and published an immediate best seller, I’m OK, You’re OK. It is a practical guide to transactional analysis as a method for solving problems in life. In transactional analysis, the individual is trained to alter the ego state as a way to solve emotional problems. The thought was that you could simply think your way to a better life. If you’re sad, merely think happy thoughts and you would become happy. Loving yourself and high self-esteem became the solution to all of our individual problems. Unfortunately this view is not found in Scripture. Further, this unbiblical view of self-love not only leaves you unsatisfied; it can leave you unsanctified. If we dismiss the convictions of conscience as simply lack of self-acceptance, we risk misidentifying gracious warnings from God as attacks from Satan. When we do this, we forget the crucial difference between Christ’s invitation to come as you are and the unbiblical invitation to stay as you are. When Christ calls us, he genuinely loves and embraces us having fulfilled all conditions himself for our full acceptance. But in the same act, he calls us to hate our old nature and lay it aside, to strive for renewal (cf. Romans 12:2), and to deny ourselves (cf. Matthew 16:24). God does not want us to simply achieve a heightened acceptance of self; he desires our sanctification (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Though we may not realize it, the call to “just love yourself more,” when it is offered in answer to feelings of guilt, can undermine this key truth. Neglect of biblical truth leaves the truly regenerate heart even more dissatisfied and confused. You can be OK; however, that state can only be found in Christ. Trust HIM! Only He is...

read more

Self Love (Part 2)

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:9-18 ESV). The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that we are all sinners. In fact, in our text today he goes to great length in describing what that means in describing our real self. There is nothing lovely about an unredeemed sinner. That’s the first problem with striving for self love without an understanding of the gospel. When sinners look inward with clear eyes, we shouldn’t like what we see. We can see sin in all aspects of our lives. We see that we are deeply flawed. Self-love philosophy promises that if you look inward and can find a way to love what you see, you will find peace. But due to our massive shortcomings, we cannot find satisfaction in ourselves. The current philosophy of self-love is based on the idea that humans are fundamentally good and lovable. When self-love doesn’t work and we are dissatisfied, we might attribute this to our own blindness. “We just can’t see how beautiful we really are!” But Scripture and personal experience both show that without looking beyond ourselves to Christ, there is very little to love. We do not live the life of the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.” We really are true beasts without the redemptive work of Christ. Therefore, active striving for the love of self leaves us dissatisfied and usually fails. In my experience, there is even a correlation between depression and reliance on self-love. Self-love is one of our highest forms of self-deception: we gorge ourselves on the biblical truth of our human worth of being created in God’s image (cf. Genesis 1:26), but refuse to accept the balancing truth that our own sin has robbed us of loveliness. Self-love is fundamentally unsatisfactory and lacking, because we are somehow expected to ignore half of who we are as sinful humans. That is not necessary, however. We can have both an understanding of who we are fundamentally and who we are destined to be in the grace of God. Our eternal destiny is not the ugly end of death; our eternal destiny is the glorious final perfection of life in Christ. The promise we have is that of complete transformation. That’s who we are becoming. And, miraculously we can see glimpses of that in our earthly lives! That brings true...

read more