Forgiven The Most

Who responded to Jesus best when He walked on this earth? It wasn’t the religious leaders or the pious folk or the wealthy and powerful. It was the ordinary people, the sinners and the outcasts of society. But why is that? The Christian message carries good news for all people. What made some receive it joyfully and others want to kill Jesus?

How Big Is Your Debt?

There’s a story in Luke 7 that might shed some light on this. One of the Pharisees, a man named Simon, invited Jesus over for dinner. A woman known in her city as “a sinner” followed them and started crying on Jesus’ feet. She washed His feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with oil.

The Pharisee’s mind instantly went to a place of judgement. If Jesus were a prophet, he thought, then He would know what sort of woman this was and stop her from touching Him. Jesus wasn’t too impressed with that line of thought, so He told this story:

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?” Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.” And he said unto him, “Thou hast rightly judged.” (Luke 7:41-43, KJV)

Jesus went on to list the ways this woman demonstrated her love for him (which, incidentally, highlighted Simon’s deficiencies in hospitality). He finished His conversation with Simon by saying, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Luke 7:47, KJV).

One reason the sinners responded so well to Jesus is that they knew they needed what He offered. The people who viewed themselves as righteous thought they were good enough already and found His call to repentance offensive. Continue reading

How Do I Repent and Change?

Repentance from dead works is the first of the foundational truths listed in Hebrews 6. But how well do we really understand it and how many of us truly practice repentance?

When I was baptized, the minister asked if I’d repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I meant it when I said yes, but I’m not sure I really understood how much more repentance is than just an, “I’m sorry I messed up.” It involves a change in our innermost being that manifests in a commitment to turn away from things displeasing to God.

As we prepare for Passover, we ask God for feedback on how we’re doing in our walk with Him. We examine ourselves to see if there are hidden sins in our lives and ponder how we can become better examples of our Lord Jesus. But we can’t stop there. We have to act on what we learn.

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Photo credit: “Remember this day” by Tim Sackton, CC BY-SA via Flickr

David’s Example

Psalm 51 is perhaps the best example we have in the entire Bible of repentance. David wrote it after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah killed. There were consequences for those sins, but David was forgiven. He didn’t just “get away with it” because he was king and God wanted to keep working with him. David was forgiven because he confessed and repented from a humbled heart (unlike the previous king, Saul, who made excuses when confronted with his sin). Continue reading

Are There Sins Separating Me From God?

There’s a fairly prevalent idea out there in Christianity that our sins separate us from God because God can’t be in the presence of sin. But is it true that God pulls back from us because we’re too dirty for Him, or is there something else going on?

The idea that God can’t be around sin is largely based on a verse in Habakkuk that reads, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13, KJV). When we look at the context, though, we see God just told Habakkuk He planned to work with the vicious Chaldeans, and this verse is part of Habakkuk asking God why He would ever associate with such wickedness.

If we accept the premise that Jesus was and is fully God (as I believe we should), then we know God doesn’t shrink back from sin as if scared to get His hands dirty. Rather, He dives right in among sinners so that He can wipe sin away and replace it with holiness. God gets close to sinful people so He can set things right.

But there are also verse that talk about iniquity separating us from God and revealing that God will not fellowship with evil. While we don’t have to worry that we’re so filthy God wouldn’t touch us, if we want a close relationship with Him we need to figure out what’s going on here. Continue reading

“You’re Okay” Doesn’t Help A Sick Man

Imagine you’ve noticed something wrong and you go to the doctor. They run their tests and scans, take their samples, and sit you down with the results. You were right — you’re sick and quite probably dying without prompt attention. But instead of offering a cure, the doctor says he can alter the test results. You’ll still be dying, but you can pretend you’re not and tell all your friends the doctor says you’re fine.

Sounds ridiculous, right? I’m not sure any of us would take that deal. But that’s what churches are doing on a spiritual level if they hold out the idea of salvation without repentance.

Our Western society is uncomfortable with objective morality. It’s unpopular to think certain actions are inherently wrong. We don’t want to acknowledge a higher power with the right to determine what is and is not sin. Yet that’s exactly what you must do when you become a Christian. My decision to follow Jesus means I’m not the ultimate authority in my life. He and Our Father are.

Repenting From What?

When Jesus began preaching, He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). It has become popular in some Christian churches to say God’s commands aren’t relevant today. If you accept Jesus as your personal savior that’s it — you’re saved. There’s a measure of truth to this last statement, for God sent Jesus “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). But Jesus also commanded repentance and that begs the question, “What are we repenting of?” Continue reading

Battling Our Thorns In the Flesh

We’ve all “sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, KJV). We know this, and repenting of those sins in our pasts and accepting Jesus as our savior to wash them away was a first step in becoming Christian. Even after conversion, though, we’re not perfect. God keeps forgiving us when we repent, but we still fall short of perfect obedience. I think it’s also fair to say all or most of us have struggled with some sins more than others.

I’m sure we can all think of someone else like this. Someone who you’d think has been in the church long enough to “get over” their bitterness, or lust, or covetousness, or whatever the particular problem is. But if we think about it, many of us are in the same boat. We’re often more understanding toward our own struggles, but we still have them. Or perhaps we’re even harder on ourselves than we are on others.click to read article, "Battling Our Thorns In the Flesh" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

So what do we do? How do we deal with our own sin struggles and react to those around us when they come short of God’s commands?

The Simple Answer

There are several ways people with a tendency toward a certain sin might react. They could ignore and hide it, ashamed to have thoughts and desires they know are wrong. They might flaunt it, choosing to live in sin because “that’s just how I am.”

The problem with the first is we have to face our struggles and talk about them with God, at the very least. You can’t overcome something you’re ignoring. With the second, the problem is that people who are openly and willfully sinning can’t be allowed to stay in the church (1 Corinthians 5). If you’re going to follow Christ, you have to stop practicing immorality. Continue reading

Anger Is Not A Sin (at least not all the time)

A couple weeks ago, I read a blog post that stated emotions can’t be sins. They just are, and how we act on them determines whether or not we’re sinning. The example they used was anger. For proof, they cited all the times God is described as angry. Because God is incapable of sin, this demonstrates that anger can’t be inherently sinful.

I knew the verses they were talking about, but just out of curiosity I ran a word search to see how often God is described as angry. 208 verses. That’s out of 268 verses in the KJV containing the word anger in any context. Anger is only used 60 times that it’s not in reference to God, and this isn’t even counting words like fury and wrath.

click to read article, "Anger Is Not A Sin (at least not all the time)" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

photo credit: “Angry” by Rodrigo Suriani, CC BY via Flickr

Wow. That’s far more than I’d expected. The sheer number of verses wasn’t the only interesting thing, though. There’s also a marked difference in how the Bible talks about God’s anger and human anger. God’s anger is always righteous, ours not so much. Continue reading