Monday, August 24, 2015

Our View of Sin

Sin is everywhere, and we cannot avoid it. Whether it is our own sin that we are seeing, or the sins of others
shoved in our faces. Whether it's movies, television shows, commercials, billboards, or even just going out into public, you will see sin all around you. It can be easy to become hardened about these things, and not even notice them anymore. They can be so deep into your mind that you don't even give a passing glance to them anymore. This is definitely easy to do.

But how do we solve this problem? How do we solve the problem of apathy towards sin? This can be solved with a simple verse that I'm sure you have seen and used many times. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)

How can we avoid sin, without avoiding it? It is becoming increasingly popular to be good, but increasingly unpopular to do what is necessary to achieve that goodness. How can we protect ourselves against the effects that sin has on us, without avoiding sin itself? Whether it's that song, that show, or that friend, even, we need to remove those things from our lives that cause us to stumble.

I went on a hike recently, and it was amazing. The trees were in every shade of green, the air was nice and cool, and the bears decided not to maul us. We were hiking towards a waterfall, and all of a sudden I walk into a wall of rain. Cold, hard, rain. Why is was raining there and not on the rest of the trail, I have no idea. But it happened.

So we were walking and I was freezing, my parents were freezing, and we finally get to the waterfall. We stood under a tree for a little bit, hoping the rain would let up a bit, but when we realized that it wasn't going to for a while, we started back. And after a while, I must say, I didn't even realize that it was raining anymore. I knew that I was kind of cold, but I was so soaked, that I really couldn't even feel the raindrops falling on me anymore.

Had I prepared and brought an umbrella for my trip, I would have been dry the entire time. And I may have gotten slightly damp, but I would still be dry, so I would be able to feel if there was a place where my umbrella wasn't covering. 

As long as we stay under the umbrella of what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, etc, then we will be able to feel whenever the sin comes in. We will be able to see where we are failing, and where we need to correct ourselves. Yes, whenever we do see sin, it will be uncomfortable. But how can we keep sin out of our lives, if we are so accustomed to it, that we can't even tell the difference anymore?

Are you growing apathetic towards sin? Cut out those things that the umbrella that we see in Philippians 4:8 don't cover. Next time you go out to the movies, or you're talking to a friend, think, is the subject honorable? Is it pure? Is it worthy of praise? Whenever we fill our minds with things worthy of praise, we will become worthy of praise. But whenever we fill our minds with things of the world, we will become one with the world.

Monday, August 10, 2015

What We Want

"You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." -James 4:3 (ESV)

Have you ever wanted something really bad? So you asked and asked and asked for it, but never received it? Did you wonder why? Why wouldn't God give it to you? I have seen so many things that say, "God only has three answers: 'Yes', 'Not now', and 'I have something better in mind.'" And I do believe that these are three answers that are given. But not the only ones. Sometimes God says no. But why? Why would God say no to us? 

The beginning of James 4 speaks quite a bit on getting what we want. Here, Paul is talking about how we go to extremes to get what we want, but we never think to ask. But then we can't just end there. We can't just end with "you do not have because you do not ask." as a lot of people do. Saying a prayer does not entitle anyone to what they want, no matter how righteous they are. Not even Jesus got everything He prayed for, as we see in Matthew 26:39-46. Whenever we ask for something, God does not have to give it to us. I once was in a class, and this topic came up, and the question was asked if anyone had ever gotten angry at God because they didn't get what they wanted. And one person spoke up, saying that they asked God for a playstation, and they got angry at God for not giving it to them. This sounds shallow, right? That's selfish, and not really worth praying about. But what is the difference between asking God for a playstation, and that new car, or that boyfriend, or that raise, if it's all for the same selfish 

When asking for something, we need to be sure that it's not for our own selfish use. We are not our own. Romans 14:8 says, "For if we live, we live in the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's."Why should we worry about ourselves, when we are not our own? If we are not of God, then we are of the World, and we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with luxury, or doing something that benefits us sometimes. It's important that we take some time to rest, and reset our minds so we don't get burned out, or discouraged. 

I don't know how many things I have seen, or read, or heard, of people saying, "Just do what makes you happy." And I cannot emphasize enough how horrible that philosophy is. Because if we only do the things that we want to do, then we will end up only making things worse for ourselves. Take Jezebel, for example. Living for herself, this wicked woman did not want to back down if it meant she wouldn't get her way. The best example of this can be found in 1 Kings 21:1-16, when she had Naboth, her neighbor, killed all for a plot of land. But how did that end for her? In 2 Kings 9:30-37, we read of her death, in which she fell out of a window, was trampled by horses, and eaten by dogs. And I can guarantee that that is nothing compared to what she is going to receive on judgement day. We need to make sure our focus is on Christ, because if it is on ourselves, then we are not going to get what we want. But if we're seeking God first, then the answer will never be no, as He is the focus of our pleads.

Sometimes our only problem is that we have the wrong priorities. But when we treat God as our prime goal in life, and we strive to serve Him rather than ourselves, then we won't have to worry about not getting what we desire. Yes, Jesus's wish to not have to be crucified was rejected, but his prayer was not. Because He was not praying that He wouldn't have to die, but that God's will would be done. Whose will are you focusing on? I'd like to encourage you to focus on Christ, and to study these things for yourselves, so that you can live the life that God created us to live.