“If we have died to sin, then why do we keep sinning?”

That is a good question.

That is the most recent post over at Tim Challies blog, ‘Informing the Reforming’ 

http://www.challies.com/reading-classics-together/if-we-have-died-to-sin-why-do-we-still-sin

I think the book of Romans answers the question quite well. Start with chapter 6.

 

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

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Shedding your sins

Blindfolded group "sheep" herding! by MarkAndMarina

 

How are you doing in that department? 

I’m not doing so well. I never have done so well at it. In fact, the longer I am in Christ, the more I realize just what an impossibility it is for me to shed my sins. But the longer I’m in Christ the more I realize that someone took all my sins upon Himself, that they might no longer condemn me.

And that, my friends, is what they call, ‘the good news’.

This evening’s sermon was along those lines. 

                    click here > Working on your sins

 

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Thanks to flickr and MarkAndMarina for the photo

Do we as Lutherans think too much about sin?

  The short answer is “no”… unless we focus on it to the exclusion of sin’s remedy, the Gospel. Our battle with sin in this life is daily. The Al. Ringling Theatre - "Last Look" Mirror by Shevaun Kastl

As Christians, we have been delivered from the guilt of sin but we are not free from its presence and power until the day we die and are glorified.

 Some would argue that we should move on and can move on in our Christian walk and instead simply focus upon and glory in our new identity. They would say that our focus should be upon who we are in Christ and not on our ongoing battle with sin. There is some truth to that. It is good to affirm our new identity and be thankful everyday for our new standing with God because of the finished work of Christ. The good news of the Gospel trumps our battle with sin and we need to hear that daily! When the law has done its work of revealing our sin and driving us to despair we need to hear again and again the overwhelming good news of God’s amazing grace, forgiveness and mercy. We live there. Our focus upon the deadly nature of our sin and it’s power is NEVER to the exclusion of the Gospel.

Lutherans seeming preoccupation with continual confession of and repentence from sin, however, I believe comes from a biblical and practical understanding of the pathological nature of sin. If we reduce our understanding of sin to be merely overt acts of wrong and blatant omissions of good, we do a disservice to ourselves and others by ignoring the deadly power of sin, the sinful nature and Satan. The sins we battle in our daily lives and the effects of our sin nature are more subtle, diabolical, and sinister than what we popularly identify as sin. The person who appears to be outwardly pious and victorious in his or her Christian life may have a raging sin problem that is undetectable to others and maybe even to himself. A life of daily confession and repentance by the power of the Word and Holy Spirit, leads us to discover the deep, dark and cavernous mine of sin that lies beneath the surface. Shining the light of truth upon our thoughts and motives and secret desires, reveals to us more and more the hideous ways we trust in ourselves or something other than our creator. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves”. Coming to understand more and more the depth and extent of our sin problem, only makes the Good News sweeter still.

                                          – Rev. Patrick Thurmer

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Patrick Thurmer is pastor of Living Faith Church in Cape Coral, Florida.  http://www.livingfaithcapecoral.com/

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Thanks to Flickr and Shevaun Kastl for the photo.

 

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In Bondage to Self-Definition (aka, ‘sin’)

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By Pastor Mark Anderson

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Who am I?  This most basic of questions demands a response and Full of Hot Air by Josh Sommersevery human being makes one. Humans answer this question largely by determining their own identity: I am who I choose to be. Yet our insistence on taking life into our own hands is easily distorted and becomes defining of what the Scriptures call ‘sin’ – that willful insistence on resolving every issue down to what I want.

The culture says that we are bundles of largely unrealized wonderfulness only inhibited by the myriad injustices foisted on us by others (who are, apparently, not so wonderful).

The Bible reveals God’s assessment of the human to us. The defining word regarding what it means to be human does not rightly derive from us but the One who created us…from God. And God says we are willful sinners, deserving of His wrath, in need of repentance and forgiveness. Small wonder humans flee from this God of wrath for all they are worth, preferring to “re-imagine” God in kinder, gentler forms.

If, however, there is no need to talk about the wrath of God, then there is not much need to talk about the sin that incurs the wrath. But this avoidance is no answer to the real problem of sin and all it’s consequences.

Christianity is incoherent without the idea of sin. There can be no good news of the Gospel without first understanding the bad news of sin. The mission of Jesus makes no sense if we remove such concepts from out thinking.

Jesus made it clear that the reason he came to earth was to save sinners. For example, as he said in all three Synoptic Gospels: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”. Take away the doctrine of sin and we take away the doctrine of the Incarnation. Indeed, we take away the entire message of the New Testament.

Because we are born in the darkness of sin, we assume our blindness to be life in the light. But Christ has come to give us the new birth that we might walk in the “true light”, Christ Himself. When we persist in our self-defining intransigence, we remain in our sins. When Christ opens our eyes by His amazing grace, we see ourselves as God sees us…as sinners in need of His mericful love and forgiveness.

 

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It seems to me that there is a great problem with many Christians, and in so many churches that have long ago passed the problem of sin ( when they accepted Jesus), and have moved on to other, more important things.

I think that our sinfulness needs to be front and center, all the time, otherwise forgiveness (the gospel) just…goes away, and the religious life of ‘doing’ takes over.

What do you think?

 

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. Thanks to Josh Sommers and Flickr for the artwork

 

 

 

 

Can’t Sleep

It’s a quarter after three in the morning.22/ 365   IYHKYWU by Tilly Floss

I can’t sleep. I was just laying (lying…I’ll never get that right) in bed and reflecting on my life and how much damage I’ve done to myself and others in my life.

I was a pretty good guy, outwardly anyway. A nice guy. Friendly. Good attitude. Hardworking. Caring. Generous. But I liked to chase skirts… and I did a lot of damage. I used people. I hurt people. I really didn’t notice it much back then, but I sure notice it now.

Looking  back , I can see (and not all of it, I’m sure) the damage that I caused. I have helped to mess up a lot of people’s lives, some of whom are still close to me. Many are barely a memory. But the wreckage is real, and I did it.

I know that I’m forgiven for it all, but it still hurts and it’s still hurting others. It’s “the gift that just keeps giving” (sin is), so says my pastor.

So my advice to those of you out there who are engaged in things that are contrary to the will of God, is this; knock it off!. You may not be able to undo the damage you’ve already done, but you can surely help to keep yourself and others from more of the pain and suffering that is the hallmark of our selfishness.

And when you just can’t keep your nose out of it, know that you are just the type of person that Christ Jesus came for. You are a real sinner who’s never going to be able to fully keep his/her nose out of where it doesn’t belong. But by God’s grace, repent and believe yet once again. Believe that He really does love you and He really wants the best for you. He really does forgive you.

And if you just can’t seem to believe that fact 100% of the time, then return to your baptism each day and trust that what God has done there, is still doing there, is for you. Taste the bread and wine and know that He is with you, in you, working on you, continuing to forgive you. Continuing to keep you in His faith. Continuing to love real sinners. The kind that I was. The kind that I am. The kind that you are.

If you think you can lick this problem on your own, you are delusional. It ain’t gonna happen. If you think that you can gradually move towards sinlessness on some progressing sliding scale, you are delusional. That’s not going to happen, and it may make things a lot worse. (that exercise might turn you into a modern day Pharisee)

Sin is a part of you, and it will always be a part of you, even though by God’s grace, and or your hard work, you conquer some of it. Thanks be to God when you do!

But in Him you are spotless. In your baptism, “you have put on Christ”. Is that not good enough for you? It should be.  Take comfort in Him. Take comfort in our Savior who died for us “while we were yet sinners”.

Get off the God project! As my pastor says, it’s no fun anyway.

Live in Him. Repent and believe. Do the best that you can and try to do no harm. When you fail, ask forgiveness and trust that He will make you new, yet once again. 

 

Ok… back to bed.

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There’s something wrong with you

That is a fact.

There IS something wrong with you.

Whether it is homosexuality, greed, arrogance, secret sexual fantasies, outright adulterous thought, indifference to the plight of the homeless and poor, idolatry of family or anything else, being lazy, being a poor steward of what God has given you, hating your brother, not loving your enemy, telling lies and half truths, hoarding money and material goods for yourself, etc., etc., etc..

There’s something wrong with me, too.

We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. I repeat… we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.

Can we overcome a particular sin here and there?  Sure, it happens all the time. God does change people’s lives. But the truth of the matter is that we like sinning.

If you really didn’t want to sin, then you would refrain from it.

 

So then, what is God after?

How about a little honesty? How about owning up to what you know you really are? How about a little humility? How about a little more of the publican and a little less of the Pharisee?

After all, God knows all about you anyway. He knows who and what you really are. And He loves you anyway. He loves you so much that He was willing to be staked to two pieces of rough timber for you and prayed for forgiveness for you for your part in putting Him up there.

God, in Christ Jesus, loves sinners. He loves full blown sinners. He doesn’t love the fact that you are a sinner, but He does love you. He does forgive you.

If we won’t own up to who and what we really are, then the cross just goes away and the upward and onward project that characterizes the Pharisee begins. And then it’s all about us. The gospel moves over to the sidelines while we perform at midfield, making ourselves into little gods who are at the center of it all.

The Law and the Gospel place God and His forgiveness of sins, His life, and His salvation for us, at the center.

So be thankful, and proclaim this great gift of love for sinners to all who will listen.

Every now and then someone does hear it..and the angels in Heaven rejoice!

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Are you making good progress in your battle against sins?

 

 

“I don’t believe in sin”

I heard that from a woman yesterday.

“I don’t believe in air.”   I might have said.  

“And that whole thing about babies sinning, how ridiculous is that.”

If one would ever see two babies fighting over a rattle (or anything else), one might just get a clue.

She’s not alone. There are many who hold such similar notions that the antiquated views of the Bible are just that.

“I don’t need a Savior!”  “Savior from what?”

Well, if you don’t need a Savior, then you shall not have one. 

The Savior (Oh, Him again) said that He came only for the “sick”. The healthy have no need to get well.

That poor woman was completely healthy. Didn’t need a thing. Doesn’t need a Savior.  A ‘life coach’ would be alright. That wouldn’t wouldn’t hurt. Everyone can use a little tune-up, right?

 

Can you be tuned-up?     Or should God start over again with you?

What if you can’t?

The New Year is a time for resolutions.

Resolutions of all kinds. Things to do. Things to stop doingNew Year's Resolutions  .

But what if you can’t stop doing something that has been harmful to you, and or others?

What if there is a sinful habit, a bad habit, an unhealthy habit or quirk (sin) that you’ve tried to stop doing over and over, and over again…but have failed? What then?

Or maybe you’ve tried to put down a specific sin and were successful only to find that another bad habit had replaced it.

Does this mean that you are somehow less of a Christian? Does this mean that you are still a Christian, but just a little bit lower on the obedience chart?

For the Christian, what are the implications of not being able to conquer sin? And what about not being able (or not wanting) to do all those things that God wants you to do?

Sin…the gift that keeps on giving.

Ok, so you commited a great big one. You’ve outdone yourself this time and hauled off and done something really bad. You have sinned in such a way as to affect not only yourself, but all those around you. And you can’t take it back. You can’t fix this one. This one has had a domino effect that is still going…years later.

What do you do? Well you can say you’re sorry. You can try and make up for it in all the ways you can think of. You of course, have told the Lord your God all about it and He was glad that you did (as if He wasn’t aware of it already). You  begged His forgiveness and He has told you that He does forgive you. You knew He would, He has promised He would, on the cross, in His Word, in your baptism, and in His supper. And that is truly a wonderful thing.

But you just can’t get over it. You see the damage that you have caused and it you wonder if it will ever end. You replay the incident over and over in your mind. “If I had only done this, or not done that”. “If only I hadn’t …”. But all the ‘If’ I had only’s’ only seem to make matters worse. Those that were hurt say they forgive you. And whether or not they really do or not, they will never forget. The trajectories of their lives are forever altered. They now are passing on the hurt to others. The wreckage adds up and multiplies in ways we cannot know, but we know it is happening whether we see it or not.

This is sin. This is what happens when we least expect it. These are the depths we have fallen to. This is why we deserve nothing more than temporal and eternal death as creatures of a Holy and Righteous God. 

While the pain oftentimes does not subside, and while those we have hurt may never ever fully recover, we can be sure of one thing. Because of the cross of Christ and His answered prayer to the Father, we surely are forgiven. He chooses not to remember this injustice against Himself, ourselves, our families and our neighbors. He chooses to honor the prayer of His Son…”Father forgive them…”

“All things work together for good for all those who have faith.” I have a hard time believing that. I often have very little faith. I have to hope that He will keep me in His faith and give me the faith that I need, and carry me through times when I just don’t believe Him.

“Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief.”

2nd class Sin-i-tizens

If you are going to be one… be a real one. If you are going to be one…be a strong one.

Don’t let anyone rob you of what you have rightly earned on your own.  Be a 1st C lass Sin-i-tizen!

When preachers preach to you a set of watered down laws or principles for living, they are robbing from you what is rightly yours…a death resulting in the realization that you are a full blown sinner with no hope of ever cleaning up your act towards righteousness.

When a preacher holds out for you some examples of people who have cleaned up their act, who are not engaging in particular sins, and who are now doing all the things that God expects of them (though imperfectlty), he is setting you up for not falling.

“What are you talkin’ about Martin!?” “Preachers are supposed to help you straighten out your life and get back on track!”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong…wrong!

Preachers aren’t responsible for you making a success out of your life. That’s your job (if you want it). A preacher might be able to give you some helpful tips or good advice in a particular area or point you in the right direction (not in a sermon), but that is not job #1 of the preacher.  Job #1 of the preacher is to preach the full council of God that God’s Word might slay you and raise you again.

When the preacher doesn’t take sin all that seriously and believes that it is something that we can get a handle on if we try hard enough, or pray hard enough, or read our Bible hard enough…then he (or she) will be trying to reduce you to a 2nd Class Sin-i-tizen.

This will keep that old Adam or old Eve alive and kicking and will lower your status from a 1st Class Sinner to that of someone who really isn’t doing all that bad….at least compared to Joe and Mary Schlumpmeister… whose lives are REAL trainwrecks!

This is what Luther’s infamous letter (Sin Boldly) to Melancthon was all about. Luther said, in essence, quit worrying about guarding yourself from sin, Philipp, and live! Be a real sinner…because you have a real Savior! 

Luther wasn’t advocating that anyone go out and commit sins, he was saying that you already do, and that by staring at your navel and focusing on your performance, you don’t make yourself better…but worse, for you are no longer free to serve your neighbor in love but instead are consumed with the self.

So do the best you can in life, work hard at your vocation, listen to God’s Word and partake of His sacraments, and know that there is no hope in what you do or don’t do for righteousness sake… because you are a 1st Class Sin-i-tizen. 

But also know, that you are exactly the kind of person that He came for. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”