Greatest and Worst

Mark 12: 28

One of the scribes came up and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

It is interesting that Jesus did not answer according to the question. The inquirer wanted to know which one commandment is the greatest. Jesus answered with two, love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself. He said the combination of these two are the greatest commandment. It was a bit of a cheap question as if to say, if I decide only to keep one commandment, which should it be. Intellectually, though, it is an interesting question, attempting to discern where God’s thoughts and priorities lie. Alternatively, I have wondered why no one ever asked him, “Which is the worst sin?”

How would you answer that question? How would God? We have a sense, don’t we, that there are little sins, and big ones. Some sins are worse than others. Murder, rape, idolatry, and adultery are biggies. The Apostle Paul gave us a list of “those things that are not proper, people having been filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, and evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unfeeling, and unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them,” (Romans 1: 28 – 32). He lumps lying, arrogance and gossiping with murder and haters of God, the latter of which obviously flies in the face of the one Great Commandment.

What do we say then? What are the categories of sin? Where do we draw the lines? Perhaps this is a question best answered each person for himself.

The “One” Sin

Romans 5: 20      TPT

So then, the law was introduced into God’s plan to bring the reality of human sinfulness out of hiding. And yet, wherever sin increased, there was more than enough of God’s grace to triumph all the more!

I hear comments, and I know you do too, about how the world, and even our own cities, are falling into greater and greater sin. Some speculate that God is not as active because sin has become greater, or more prevalent. One day when I heard someone speaking in these terms it made me wonder what sin we are engaged in these days that is causing the breakdown of societies. There really is nothing new under the sun. You can read the Bible and see that. The Israelites created idols while God was leading them to the Promised Land. How much more blatant a sin can there be? What is it that is going on today that is any different than in previous times? What is the sin which is destroying us?

As I pondered this question, I sought the one with all the answers, and do you know what, He answered me. He showed me two points: first, the one great sin which is our problem and second, that conventional sin isn’t really the issue. Where sin has increased, God’s grace has increased more. No matter how great a sin problem we have, if we understand today’s scripture then we know that God’s grace expands to even greater volumes. So, there is a sin problem, but then again there isn’t because God’s grace is greater than any sin committed by man.

So, what is the problem? The way the Lord said this to me was, “There really is only one sin, one great sin and though this is not what people refer to when they speak of the increase in sin, it actually is the root problem from which all other sin is derived.” Does this surprise you? Are you anxious to know what the “One” sin is? I was. The problem we have, the one which is destroying the fabric of society is the sin of attrition. Spiritual Attrition is the slow wearing down of our Christian faith, but it is more than that. The core issue is that fewer and fewer of us seek God. The Lord showed me that the real problem is separation from Him. He has grace for the sin, but He does not have a remedy for people who choose not to partner with Him.

The great sin of the world is separation from God! And you can quote me. If you think about it, that is the same problem God constantly addressed in the Old Testament. The people kept turning away from Him. Once they took their eyes off Him, then they fell into all sorts of sins, even to serving foreign Gods. When Israel sought God, they flourished. When they fell away from Him, they suffered lack and hardship. Their sin grew too but sin isn’t the problem. When a people serve God, when they spend time in His presence, they have no desire for the “sins” that we often sculpt into lists. Unbelief and abstinence from prayer and seeking are the problems that undermine society. God can deal with sin when people believe in Him but when the nation turns its face from God, there is no one to pray, no one to intercede. Who heals the land of a nation that does not believe in nor seek God?

Even as Christians, we are forced into some important questions, questions that I had to face in this conversation with God. In what ways or in what areas am I separated from God? Is there a part of my life which I keep separate from Him? Do I go to work everyday without Him or even thoughts of Him? Where is He on Monday? Tuesday? Am I seeking Him in all aspects of my life or have I divorced Him from part of my life? We probably all have little spaces in our lives where we have yet to intertwine with the Lord Jesus. If we have little separations, little areas where a vacuum exists, then who shall lead the uninitiated.

We don’t have a sin problem.  Jesus and Father took care of the sin problem.  Here, world, is the real problem. We have separated ourselves from God and not only is this the one truly big sin, but it is also hell. To the degree we do not involve Yahweh in our lives, we are living in sin and experiencing hell. God would give you encouragement though, because now that we know what the actual problem is, we can individually and collectively take measures to correct it. Ya wanna talk about hell? Or pontificate about sin? They both exist right outside our front door. The good news is that we also have the power to free the world from both. Seek the Lord, your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul – then teach others to do the same. This is how we save the earth!

Keep Your Rock

John 8: 3 – 11

And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no on condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.”

The moral of this story may be “Take care at whom you throw rocks.” This woman (and presumably her partner) was caught in sin. They violated one of the Ten Commandments. Borrowing a bit from David Letterman, I like to call the Commandments God’s Top Ten List. So, there was no gray area here. They had broken the letter and the spirit of the law. But Jesus’ coming ushered in a new way of thinking about sin and grace.

Take care when you begin to throw rocks at others. Be careful about judging them for you may find all too quickly that Jesus is taking you to task over your judgment. He gave us one commandment and that is to love. I doubt you can stand in judgment and love at the same time. Besides which, none of us has been called to sit on the throne of judgment. That is God’s job alone. So even if someone is in such an obvious sin as adultery, mind your attitude. Pray for them (not about them). Ask God to save them and rescue them. Ask for his grace and mercy to cover them at the same time. Before you cast the first stone remember the times that God’s mercy has covered you because you weren’t perfect either. Pray people into grace rather than condemning them to hell or you may find yourself in the same shoes as these Pharisees; standing in opposition to Jesus.

And finally, if you are the one in sin, there is great grace and mercy for you but take note. Jesus’ last comment to the woman was to “sin no more.” He didn’t just turn a blind eye towards her behavior. Don’t use God’s grace and mercy as an excuse to keep on in sin. Don’t kid yourself. Get yourself right and thank God for his everlasting mercy.

Priestly Compassion

Hebrews 4: 15

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize without weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Two ideas strike me about this verse: Jesus’ compassion and his sinlessness. The two work together for our good. Jesus was in all manner tempted just as we are and yet did not sin. He knows the temptation of sin and is compassionate towards us. He knows exactly what we go through. Yet he was able to face those temptations and turn away. His success should bring you hope rather than condemnation because if he did it (and he did) then he is able to help you withstand the pressures of temptation.

When you talk to Jesus about some habit or challenge you are facing, he is able to understand completely. But do not stop there. Go on to ask his help in overcoming the problem. He overcame so you also can overcome. Tap into his strength and wisdom. Don’t stop at his compassion. Move on to his power. Even though we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our struggles, that does not mean we are supposed to fall to them. Our high priest is an overcomer and intends to lead you into overcoming as well. Let Jesus show you the path to your victory over temptation and every other challenge of life.

Behind My Back

Isaiah 38: 17      AMP

You have loved back my life from the pit of nothingness (destruction), for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.

Do you ever wonder what God is thinking about your sin? Well, here is your answer. He has forgotten it. He cast it behind Him. It is where He cannot see it or be reminded of it. Maybe you should cast it behind your back as well.

The God’s Word version adds this, “Now my bitter experience turns into peace.” Why? Because God has forgotten our sin. Our sadness and disappointment from our many mistakes and sins is changed to peace because God has looked upon us with compassion and never-ending mercy. Romans 8: 28 reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Did you ever consider this includes our sins? It does say “all things” does it not? So all of your errors, whether intentional sin or errors in judgement are cast behind God’s back because He cares for you. He is turning your bitter experience into peace; peace for you, peace between you and He.

God doesn’t want to be angry with you. He does not want you condemned or feeling guilty. He sent Jesus so that you could experience true freedom in your life and in your inner self. He has redeemed you from the pit of destruction by His own choice. Why would He hang on to your sin. Why would He continue to dangle it in front of you in that He gave His most precious asset in order to redeem you? That would make no sense.

Is there something that has troubled you for years? Let it go. God has put it behind Him so it is time for you to put it behind you too.

Mercy Seat

Romans 3: 25                    God’s Word

God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God’s approval is given through faith in Christ’s blood. In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past.

This is another Bible translation I wish to introduce to you. Actually, I have been using it for sometime now. You may have noticed (GW) beside some verses in the last couple of years. I still use my New American Standard as my everyday foundation but reading verses in other versions can give you the slightest nuance that makes the whole scripture go off in you.

Are you familiar with the Mercy Seat from the Old Testament? Okay, so God had the Ark of the Covenant made. It’s cover, or top, is called the Mercy Seat (See WOTD “Plan for Mercy” at this link: https://iveyministries.org/2014/03/gods-plan-for-mercy/). So God created a seat of mercy. Amen and glory to God. The angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament capped off His presence with mercy. Are you getting this? God was never who we have painted Him to be. He was always love (1 John 4: 8). Alright, let’s see where that leads us.

People twist themselves in knots trying to figure out when they are saved from their sins. If I sin right now, am I forgiven? Am I clean? Or do I need to ask God to forgive me? The answer is “God is love.” You were forgiven before you were born. God knew what He was getting when you answered His call. He knew the mistakes, and yes sins, you were going to make before your parents were born. At the dawn of time, when the earth was just being formed God knew you were going to blow it from time to time and so He made a plan for your deliverance.

Did you see this sentence, “In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past”? What does this mean? Sin has been happening since humankind set foot on the earth. The Father developed the plan to send Jesus into the earth to be the propitiation for all sin. Actually, it is bigger than that. He didn’t just atone for sin, he blew it from the face of the earth and from the Father’s memory. So, Father God, knowing He had this plan in place, waived the punishment for sin until the time He could get the perfect lamb here to take on that sin. Then He, God, put the entire sin of the world on that precious lamb. That is to say, He put all of the sin from the past, before Jesus came, all the sin of the present and all of the sin of the future on Jesus. So Abraham and Sarah were cleansed in that moment, the same as Peter and John, and you and I. God withheld His judgement until He could give us all a judgment of “Forgiven”! Amen? Will somebody shout?

Yes, you have been judged already. Hallelujah! You have been judged clean and holy because Jesus’ blood has you covered. God employed great patience for thousands of years until He could get the Messiah into the earth at the opportune time. Then He released His revulsion of sin on that sacrificial lamb. Now judgment has been satisfied. Now we can walk with our heads up into the throne room of God, because we wear Jesus as an outer garment and are filled up with him. There is still not much to recommend us to the throne room of God in ourselves but Jesus has made you perfect in God’s eyes. Glory to God! Thanks for the patience! Jesus has become our Mercy Seat and we praise God for this miracle of faith.

Pardoned

Micah 7: 18

Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.

I pray this revelation will fill the earth, and the church. God isn’t angry. He does not retain His anger but rather lets it go in favor of unchanging love. Yahoo! And just consider that this is a passage out of the Old Testament. Frankly, there are lots of New Testament believers who think God is angry now. Some folks are willing to concede that God is now a God of love but they think He was an angry God before. The truth is that God doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). If we take a position that God was angry, revengeful, and wrathful our hearts convict us. We cannot truly believe in a God who is love and live in that love if we believe this same “person” is the one who tortures us and is angry with us. We have to choose – is God an angry deity or is He love?

So do you want another little bite of truth? God sent Jesus to the earth in the Old Covenant, not the New. Even the New Testament begins with Jesus’ birth, yes? So, that means that when God sent him, it was still the Old Testament. Are you following along with me? That would mean that this vengeful, evil, mean, wrathful GOD sent His beloved son to die for us. That makes absolutely no sense at all. Look at today’s Old Testament verse. God chose way back in the day to pardon iniquity and to pass over our rebellious acts. What is that about? Then He chose not to be angry because His very nature is love. He chose to love us rather than to hold onto His anger. He has chosen to put His love for us above our sin.

Here is the bottom line. God chose love over sin. He chose to focus on His love for us rather than on our stinking iniquity. His love has overcome our sin. He put sin under the mercy seat and under the blood. He isn’t writing your name in a book and inscribing beside it every sin you have ever committed. No, your name only has one word written beside it, “Forgiven” and it is written in crimson. You’ve just got to get happy about that. You are forgiven.
Just one side point. I like that God takes His own advice. He has told us not to hold onto our anger. In fact, He said to let not the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4: 26). It’s good to see that He has let go of His anger too.