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Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Bullies 8.16Sinner.

Bully.

Amazing human.

These words jumped out at me as I captured this graphic from an atheist Internet community.

“You are an amazing human” YES! Everyone who is, was and will be is absolutely amazing. Absolutely unique. And as a Christian, I can confidently add this: absolutely cherished by the creator and master of time, space and the universe.

To make the point as strong as possible, what I just wrote applies to me, to you, to Donald Trump, to Jean Vanier (the extraordinary founder of the international L’Arche homes for several disabled people), to the most sickening ISIS terrorist and the most committed community volunteer.

There are NO exceptions. How can I know this? As a Christian, I refer to a section of the Bible simply called ‘Romans’: “there is no difference between Jews and [non-Jews]; God is the same Lord of all and richly blesses all who call to him”.

“You are not a sinner”. OK, then besides being an amazing human being, what are you? Or to really make you think, what is an ISIS terrorist? I imagine you (like me) have no trouble calling an ISIS member a sinner. What about Jean Vanier…has he ever done anything wrong (or failed to do something right)? I’ve heard Jean on detailed TV interviews; he would have no trouble calling himself a sinner.

So if someone as “saintly” as Jean Vanier knows he’s a sinner, what does that make me? Or you? Or ANYONE of ANY age? I’m referring to the little girl in the graphic; can anyone honestly show me a six or seven year-old who hasn’t uncaringly whacked their sibling or ripped a toy out of their hands? Really?

“Bully” is an inflammatory word in North American culture, with school boards, teachers and parents on the lookout to stop this nauseating, soul-destroying behaviour. But does the word apply to people who are telling you and I the TRUTH about our condition?

Sure, they might be telling you in a judgmental, patronizing way (in other words, a sinful way), but that doesn’t change the truth of our condition. Acknowledging and acting on this condition is important because God knows us better than we know ourselves and so that’s inevitably how He sees us.

In fact,  that ‘Romans’ section of the Bible puts it like this: “All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.”

So if you’re still with me, are you willing to admit you are (1) an amazing human being and (2) a sinner who doesn’t need anyone (least of all an obnoxious bully) to convince you of these two things?

If you’ve said yes, then consider that your creator doesn’t want you to live and die in your sinful condition. He wants to come into your life and make you more like the person He knows you can be. And he wants to do that through His Son, Jesus Christ.

When you accept Jesus into your life — and understand that He died to make up for all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do — then you welcome God into your life. And when this life ends, you’ll spend all of eternity in the glorious presence of Jesus.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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DawkinsForegivness 2.16I’ll bet there are folks out there who see this graphic (helpfully supplied by an Internet atheist community) and think “ya, why not just our forgive sins?” Maybe you’re one of those people.

First of all, I can confidently write that God is NOT trying to impress anyone. When you’re the creator of time, space and the universe, trying to impress anyone (even Himself) is just silly.

Second, this quote (by one of the world’s best-known atheists) displays a blatant ignorance — or outright rejection — of who God is.

Is God merciful? Yes. Does God want to forgive us for all the wrong things we’ve done and right things we’ve failed to do? Absolutely.

But God is also something else: perfect. And that’s His baseline standard for everything, whether we like it or not.

So why doesn’t He just forgive us? Well, why do we have courts? Why can’t we just ignore the dude who killed that guy in a bar fight? Why don’t we just overlook how she faked having cancer in order to bilk people out of thousands of dollars?

If these examples offend your sense of justice, then imagine how our creator feels about  our greed, our self-centredness, our violence, our willful ignorance and our cultural belief that we “deserve” the good life.

Is God judge and jury? You bet He is. Execution victim? Yes, that too.

If that last point seems strange, then understand that this is how it goes with Christianity: Knowing that we could never do enough or be enough to earn our way into Heaven, God paved the way for us. That way is through believing in and following Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine Son (and also God in the flesh, but that’s a blog for another day).

A section of the Bible, called ‘1 Peter’, describes Jesus this way: “He never sinned, and he never told a lie”. This is important and you’ll soon read why.

Jesus spent three years traveling around the Middle East with a band of followers, telling people the Kingdom of God (represented by Him) was near. He proved it by healing diseases, raising people from the dead and preaching revolutionary ideas like loving your enemies, refusing to retaliate when a wrong has been done to you and praying for those who hate you.

Then Jesus allowed conniving religious authorities to arrest him on trumped-up charges and convince political leaders to hand Him the ultimate punishment: death on a cross.

What they didn’t realize is that this death would pave the way to Heaven for anyone who believes in and follows Jesus. He paid the price that we should be paying.

Now, when God sees any Jesus follower, He doesn’t see the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. He only sees perfection. It’s like Jesus transferred His perfection onto anyone who believes in Him and follows Him.

There. I’ve done my best to explain why God doesn’t just forgive our sins. As you can see, He goes even further than that — sacrificing His son for everyone who believes in Jesus.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Terribleness Of The CrossMy first reaction when I read this graphic on an Internet atheism community?

Yes, it is TERRIBLE that Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is God’s divine son) had to die on the cross for me and everyone else who believes in Him.

In fact, I’ll go further: absolutely HORRIBLE. Totally AWFUL. Overwhelmingly WRETCHED.

And for us humans, any parent that would send their child to be killed IS a terrible person.

But if you have any belief in a Creator, I think you’ll also agree that there’s a *universe* of difference between us insecure, greedy, self-centred, violent, lying human beings and the Maker of time, space and the cosmos.

Consider this:

Christianity teaches that this Creator hates “sin” (an out-of-fashion word, but it best suits what I’m writing about). Yes, *hates* it. Christianity also teaches that when this life ends, every one of us will be called on to account for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do.

I guarantee you, without a shadow of a doubt, that you will NOT be able to explain everything away. You will not have reasonable, viable excuses. It simply isn’t possible.

The thing is, God knows this. And because the God of the Bible is a just and loving God,  He sought a solution that wouldn’t force Him to deny every person passage into Heaven (i.e., spending eternity in His presence).

The solution is hard, but Jesus Christ accepted it. He paid the penalty for the wrong things I’ve done and the right things I’ve failed to do. And He paid the penalty for every other person who believes in Him and follows Him.

Now, when my life is finished and I appear before God, He won’t see my sins. All He will see is the perfection of His Son.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that we can all do whatever we want, declare we accept Jesus’s sacrifice and now follow Him, and simply get off penalty-free. Our Creator has no trouble seeing through this kind of cynical, arrogant thinking.

In fact, a section of the Bible called ‘Romans’ addresses this point: “So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there?”

If you’ve truly, honestly and seriously accepted the gift of Jesus, then your life will begin to change. You’ll want to be worthy of that gift; you’ll want to live your life so that you become an ambassador for Jesus.

You can be that ambassador because you don’t have to do it alone. In a mysterious way, Jesus comes to live in your heart and soul. Furthermore, you’ll want to surround yourself with other Jesus followers who will pray for you, encourage you and keep you accountable.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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SinIt’s easy to make this call about a word that’s so loaded, isn’t it? In our culture “sin” has come to be associated of judgementalism, arrogance, hard-heartedness and “religious” people.

Some of those people, who lack full awareness of their own failures, think they’re doing others a favour when they call them out for the wrong things those people might have done.

But does that mean the word “sin” should be tossed in garbage? The person who created the graphic that inspired this essay might shout YES.

I suppose it’s easier to think everything is relative and there is no real “good” or “bad” that would necessitate a word like “sin”. Do you really think that’s so? Isn’t murder a sin? What about setting someone’s house on fire — can you think of a reason that would condone arson? Is there an excuse to justify printing and distributing counterfeit money?

Just like you, I haven’t done any of these things. But I examine my own life and see plenty of behaviours that qualify as sin:

  • I’m tired of putting up with the slow truck ahead of me, so I dangerously cut off another car in the passing lane to get around it.
  • I find pathetic excuses to stay on the computer when I should be turning it off and helping my wife clean the house.
  • I allow ancient, petty squabbles with my relatives to bubble up and stop me from reaching out to them.

Maybe these aren’t “sins” to you. Our culture might come up with softer descriptions like “shortcomings” or “mistakes”. To me, a shortcoming is not being able to resist sugary snacks (I’m absolutely guilty). A mistake is failing to notice a typo in a Frank’s Cottage essay (often guilty). A sin is different and I hope the bullet-point examples above make that clear.

So what can I do about these sins and many others? Lord knows, I’ve tried and tried to change my ways. I’ll bet you’ve tried to fix your sins, too. And I’ll bet you’ve had as much success as me. Kinda sad, eh?

But there IS something real and substantial and meaningful that we can do. I’ve done it and it IS making a difference. Not as quickly as I (or my wife) would like, but the change is happening.

Prepare yourself for what this is, because it’s radical and controversial: believing there is a creator. A creator who knows YOU. A creator who cares about YOU. A creator who is involved in this world and wants to be involved in YOUR life.

Furthermore, this creator has a son, whom He offers to this world (including YOU) as an extraordinary, life-changing gift. He is Jesus Christ and God wants YOU to accept the gift of Him. When you do that, you come to know that He died on a cross to make up for ALL the sins of EVERYONE who believes in Him and follows Him.

When this life is done and you come before God, He no longer sees your sins. He sees the sacrifice and the perfection of His son. Sound interesting? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Solution that isn't 6.14Our culture loves to toss the word “karma” around. I see it referenced in newspaper columns, online blogs and conversations at coffee shops.

But is it really the solution to anything, as this Internet graphic suggests?

Yes, there is a certain logic to karma, which Wikipedia defines as “the universal principle of cause and effect. Our actions, good and bad, come back to us in the future, helping us to learn from life’s lessons and become better people.”

From a Christian perspective (that’s my faith), there’s even some Biblical evidence to support it. A section called “Galations” says: What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

But is that karma? No. The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website explains the difference: “The law of karma, which makes morality like a law of nature, does not allow for the possibility of forgiveness.  Its consequences are inevitable and inescapable. Because God is personal, and because persons can forgive, God can forgive us of our sins.  Moreover, He has done so through Jesus Christ.”

So, will karma solve anything? Not for me. I don’t want to be locked in a prison of cause and effect. And I don’t want karma to take the place of revenge.

Serious Christians (and I count myself among them) know and try their best to follow this Bible directive, found in a section called ‘Leviticus’: Forget about the wrong things people do to you. Don’t try to get even. Love your neighbour as yourself.

Do we fall short of that directive? Without a doubt. But now you know the ideal we strive for. And you know more about God — the only being truly worthy of judging us for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

If you’re like me, you’ll admit that the ledger of wrong things done and right things not done is pretty long.

But there’s a way out — a way that karma will never offer you. That way is a guy named Jesus. Serious Christians (and many others) believe He is God’s son and God’s gift of love to anyone who is willing to accept that gift.

When you accept that gift and declare yourself a follower of Jesus, then you also believe that when he was put to death on a Roman cross, He took on the sins of everyone who calls him saviour.

As a result of that, when God looks at a follower of Jesus, all He sees is the perfection Jesus bought for us. We are as pure as Jesus.

That’s not a free pass to do whatever you like and cynically rely on Jesus to clean up the resulting mess. If you take that gift of love seriously, you’ll want to be with other Jesus followers, building each other up, holding each other accountable and allowing God to do amazing things in your life.

Does this sound interesting? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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is sin imaginary?At first I was reluctant to interact with this atheist person, who was commenting on a Frank’s Cottage essay (and the graphic to the left), and you’ll realize it in my initial responses. All too often, I’ve been disappointed to find that people who believe there is no God simply want to score points and win debates over people they look down on.

But Jill was different and when I realized it, we ended up having a good conversation. Read on and see if you agree with me:

Jill: I think the topic of sin is interesting. From my perspective, the graphic is meant to show that in order to sell the “cure”, you have to make people believe they are sick, right?

Pharmaceutical companies have figured out the same thing. They want to sell more drugs. What better way to sell more drugs than to convince people through commercials that they might have a whole list of diseases which they pitch all over media. And by reinforcing the sin/sick concept over and over it keeps people flocking back to church or to their doctors for the cure.

I believe there is a big difference between the word ‘sin’ and words like ‘mistake’, ‘error’, etc. They are not interchangeable.

Frank: Thanks, Jill. Guess it’s a matter of perspective.

Jill: Isn’t sin the hook which churches use to keep people returning each week? Christianity is based upon original sin.

Frank: Perhaps that’s the perspective of some non-Christians….

Jill: I really resent watching people being told they are broken. I sometimes wonder if there is any data to link religiosity to depression. There is no perfect standard by which we should be judged.

Frank: Yes, your resentment would be expected in the non-believing world. And for me as a follower of Jesus Christ, there absolutely is a perfect standard by which we should be judged.

Jill: Do you ever feel depressed to be compared to a perfect standard for which you will never meet?

Frank: Nope, I never feel depressed about that. Because Christ is my lord and savior, God sees me as He sees Jesus: perfect, without a single blemish. 🙂

Jill: I’m glad to read that, Frank. It makes me feel a little better. But why sin then? If God sees you as he sees Jesus, why is sin such an important part of Christianity?

Frank: Great questions! Why sin? Because of the gift of freewill. Serious Christians believe God knew this would be the result of giving us freewill, but He did it anyway because He wanted (and wants) a REAL relationship with real people, rather than goose-stepping robots.

Serious Christians believe sin is important because in the end, it’s a rejection of God. It’s telling Him we know better than Him how to live our lives. And thousands of years of history have shown how horribly wrong this is.

In addition, serious Christians believe God is perfect and cannot stand the sin that all human beings commit. But rather than condemn us all, we believe God sent His son as a gift to everyone who wishes to accept the gift. And that gift (a) clears away the sin and (b) strengthens us to see our sin clearly and avoid it more in the future.

Jill: But he’s God, for goodness sake. He could have created perfect beings, couldn’t he? He could have created goose-stepping robots if he wanted to, correct?

Instead, he created humans with flaws, which he already knows about because he’s omniscient. Then he grows frustrated with them and causes great harm to many. Whose fault is that?

Frank: Yes, He could have created perfect beings who were in perfect relationship with Him. And it would be a real as a TV “reality” show.

Serious Christians believe the Biblical viewpoint that humans are made in God’s image. That means the emotions we experience are the emotions He experiences. Pain, frustration, anger, joy, etc. Goose-stepping robots would be as useless to Him as they would be to us.

Jill: How do you know those are the emotions God experiences? How do you tell the difference between real emotions as God experiences them and human emotions which humans project upon God? Couldn’t “in His image” be just a physical descriptor? Or a metaphor for something else?

Frank: I know these are the emotions God experiences because the Bible – which serious Christians trust as absolutely reliable – depicts God with those emotions.

In addition, I guess “in His image” could be a physical descriptor because we all resemble Jesus – human beings with two arms and two legs and a face that expresses every emotion known to humans.

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So, what do you think? Is the idea of ‘sin’ — and the way to escape the prison it creates for every person on this earth — more real to you now? And what about that ‘escape’? Do you want to know more about it? Type your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

 

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Sin+is+an+imaginary+disease+invented+to+sell+you+an+imaginary+cureI’d never heard anybody call “sin” an imaginary disease, so when I saw this graphic posted on the Internet, it instantly grabbed my attention.

“Sin” has become a strange and cliched term in our culture. Either something is “sinful” (a favourite positive term in TV commercials for rich foods like chocolate) or it’s something most of us associate with annoying, badly dressed TV evangelists.

So I looked up the term. The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website defines it this way:

Sin is the breaking of God’s law.  If God says “Do not lie” and you lie, then you have broken His law and sinned.  The reason God says to not lie, not cheat, etc., is because these laws reflect the moral purity of His nature.  Therefore, the law is a reflection of the character of God.

Dictionary.com is a little briefer:
Any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle. Any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense: It’s a sin to waste time.

Maybe that’s not a “sin” to you. So let’s use less loaded words: Misdeed. Mistake. Error. Wrongdoing. Imperfection.

Whatever your preferred term, I can’t for a minute believe it’s an “imaginary disease”. Is there even a single person on this planet who hasn’t done or said something they regret? Or NOT done or said something and regretted that?

It seems crystal clear to me that this is a universal human condition. We “invented” it and, sadly, we live it out every day.

So what about the “imaginary” cure? The person who created this graphic is probably an atheist and so believes if the “disease” isn’t real, then there’s no need for a cure.

But if you’re comfortable in disagreeing with the former, then the latter is no longer imaginary.

For people like me, the cure is wonderfully simple: Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians (and many others) believe is the son of God. Jesus is God’s gift to humanity, given to all who believe that He died to make up for our sins. All we have to do is accept the gift.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean we will avoid the consequences of our actions (or inactions). But it does mean that, if we truly believe Jesus offers the way to eternal forgiveness and if we sincerely ask for that forgiveness, we will receive it from the creator and master of time, space and the universe. No matter what.

(Looking for an incredible example? Then read about the ‘Son of Sam’: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-6K)

So, does the cure for your “disease” interest you? Yes or no, post your answer below and let’s have a conversation.

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