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Posts Tagged ‘What is sin?’

The newspaper headline shouted, in capital letters, ‘I FORGIVE YOU’. The Calgary Sun article then detailed how a man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a 10-year-old homicide that could only be described as horrifying.

Sadly, during the trial the victim’s mother had to see photos of the badly injured, lifeless body and hear how her son was beaten to death.

Then it was her turn to speak and that’s when we understand the eye-popping headline. The mother, Linda Levesque, told the court she was still grieving over the brutal crime and all that her son suffered before dying.

Then Linda dropped this bomb: “Because of this powerful gift, I have come to forgive those who took our Daniel. I pray that this forgiveness will free your heart to know our Heavenly Father’s mercy, love and healing.”

What was the gift Linda spoke about? The Sun article only said it was her “faith”. I’m having no trouble reading between the lines and understanding it was her faith in Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God.

A Sun columnist, who covered the trial, pretty much confirmed it by referring to Linda’s “faith in God”. He went on to write “the fact she has been able to come to terms with such a devastating event and … forgive those responsible is truly remarkable.”

Yes, it’s remarkable. It’s also a sign of someone who understands what it means to follow Jesus. Linda knows that while she’s never taken a life, she (like you, me and the rest of humanity) is far from perfect.

According to the Bible, all the wrong things that people like you and me have done, and all the right things we’ve failed to do, will be exposed when this life ends and we stand before the perfect Creator of time, space and the universe.

We’ll have to somehow explain away all these sins; I can tell you right now that I would not do well in that situation. Would you?

Orthodox Christianity says that God sought to maintain His perfect standards while still enabling people to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. The way He did that was to have His Son pay for all those wrong things by dying on a Roman Empire cross.

Three days later, God brought Jesus back to life to tell anyone who follows Jesus that their sins are gone, they’re as perfect as Jesus and we’ll see Him face-to-face when this life ends.

Linda Levesque must have understood this and recognized that since she’s been forgiven much, she needs to show the same level of forgiveness. And she did.

There are other instances of Christians forgiving acts of sickening violence (Google “Amish-Pennsylvania shooting-forgiveness”; it’s an incredible story). Each example shows how following Jesus Christ can free us from soul-destroying pain and bitterness, no matter how big or small the wrong that’s been done. Does this sound like something you want to get in on? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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challenging-beliefs-2-17One of my favourite activities is lining up in solidarity with atheists. It was an atheist who put this graphic on the Internet and I found myself so strongly in agreement that I downloaded it to use on Frank’s Cottage.

As far as I’m concerned, every honest and thinking person MUST challenge their beliefs. Like a jeweller checking a diamond’s purity, they MUST hold them up to the hard light of critical examination.

That’s what I did for a long time. I investigated the claims of Christianity and weighed them against what I knew about others faiths (including atheism).

I read books, thought hard about the reality of this world, and debated concepts with brave, knowledgeable Christians. Finally, at age 42, I decided to follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God).

Through this process, I escaped the prison of blindly accepting the dogma of our culture, which insists that we:

  • Buy the newest iPhone
  • Save for cruise ship vacations
  • Obsess over which celebrities are feuding on Twitter
  • Never, EVER consider the big questions of existence

So, to quote the graphic that started this blog, are you your own most effective prison warden? Or are you brave enough to wonder if a promotion, a new car and a bigger flat-screen TV will really boost your happiness?

If you’re at that place in life — and if you’ve read this far, I’m gonna assume you are — then consider these claims:

  1. There IS a creator, a perfect creator, and this creator knows everything about you.
  2. This creator wants to connect with you on the deepest level possible, but the wrong things you’ve done and right things you’ve failed to do have erected a Berlin Wall between you and Him.
  3. That wall is so tall and thick that nothing YOU ever do will ever break it down.
  4. So God, your creator, did the hard work for you — sending His perfect Son to this earth to show us how to live right and, finally, to die as a sacrifice. That sacrifice will destroy that wall for everyone who believes in the Son and follows Him. And I mean EVERYONE.

Why, you might ask, is this horrible sacrifice needed to break down the wall? Because what Christians call “sin” is serious business for a perfect creator. Far, far more serious than our culture will ever admit.

How do I know this? A section of Bible called ‘Romans’ says “When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death. But God gives his people a gift—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

If you come to the place of understanding this, then you will also understand just how glorious the gift of Jesus is. Are you willing to accept that gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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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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Sin Eater 11.15While on a plane flight, I watched an episode of the American TV crime drama “The Blacklist”, staring the brilliant James Spader.

Besides enjoying the taut suspense, I was intrigued by an apparent power that Spader’s character had: he could suppress the terrible memories of people he wanted to protect.

“I’m a sin eater,” he tells co-star Megan Boone, who portrays a deeply troubled FBI profiler, in a 2015 episode. “I absorb the misdeeds of others, darkening my soul to keep theirs pure. That is what I’m capable of.”

How’s that for an amazing ability? Imagine if a real person could do such a thing? It certainly didn’t make Spader’s character, FBI fugitive Raymond Reddington, a happy person. So would a real life person use such a power?

Well, prepare yourself for a little controversy because a real person DOES have that power and uses it all the time.

His name? Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the son of God.

Stick with me while I explain.

More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus was physically on this earth, walking around Israel with a band of rag-tag followers and telling anyone who would listen that God was not a far-off, angry entity.

He was (and is) in the hearts and minds of anyone who would welcome Him, passionately loving that person and offering them an eternal place in Heaven.

The problem? This perfect God could not, and cannot, stand the “sin” that you and I commit. That means the wrong things we do every day and the right things we fail to do every day. That means turning our backs on God and living like He doesn’t exist.

God sent Jesus to fix that through an extraordinary process: Jesus, who was (and is) as perfect as His Father, became our sin eater, absorbing our misdeeds and taking the punishment for them by dying on a Roman cross.

Anyone who believes in Jesus and follows Him has their sins absorbed and their soul made pure through his sacrificial death and resurrection three days later.

This means when this life is finished and His followers appear before God, the wrong things they’ve done and the right things they’ve failed to do are wiped out. Jesus followers are as pure in God’s eyes as Jesus Himself.

This strikes me as a pretty good deal. That’s why, after much consideration, after reading many books and after debating with some brave Christians, I decided to accept that deal.

So Jesus lives in my heart and mind. The more I listen to His leading, the better my life is.

This same deal is available to you, no matter what you’ve done (or not done), no matter how dark (or light) your soul may be.

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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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.

=============

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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