Long, Long Shadows and A Light


Sin never stops where you think it will. 

Your repeated anger leads to latent bitterness which leads to relationship-destroying gossip.  

Your pornography-viewing leads to unmarital sex which leads to one parent raising a child in isolation which leads to crippling resentment.  

Unchecked sin always spreads, and kills where it does.  Like cancer.  

But one of the beautiful mercies of God is that He has given us a community where sin and its scars can be dealt with.  

The church.  


Churches are little cities of imperfect people, people who have been miraculously remade and who, by the grace of a very real and very compassionate God, continually confess and continually turn from the sins they still commit.  They know who they were (spiritually dead evil people), they know who they are (spiritually alive people being slowly made more and more like Jesus), and they know who God is (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who love to save sinners).  And because of these 3 things, these little collections of Gospel people are able to bring wicked and broken and scared and angry humans into their midst and minister to them.  Serve them.  Help to stop the bleeding in their lives.  

The world is home to all stripes of sinners who are in different stages of the pain or disarray or death that sin brings along as its trail.  And there is no one else who can get to the root of the chaos or who can apply supernatural salve to the wounds of all this sin like the church can.  She has been given the Good News that can heal and can save people from their evils, and from the evils that were committed against them.  She can rescue them from the worst of the violence and the trouble and the affliction of this world.  

Which is great, because this is not Mayberry.  This is a world of adultery and ulterior motives and hearts who will cast those they love aside for pleasure or power.  This is a world where sin has left some long, long shadows.  Sons deserted by their fathers, marriages in flames because of selfishness, grown men and women who don’t know how to be men or women.  And there in the heart of this world stands the church, giving the hope and the truth and the life that only she can give.  

This world needs her.  The single mothers and the heroin addicts and the workaholics and the shallowest of womanizers need her.  She is a city on a hill.  

She is where they can come for possibility.  For hope.  For adoption into a forever family.  She is where they can sojourn for all of the things that only Jesus can hand over.  

For everyone trapped in what sin has spoiled, churches are households of transforming mercy.  They are families of forgiveness.  They are little peoples of honest confession and honest love and honest Gospel.  

This is a world of long shadows.  Because sin never stops where it whispers it will.   Sin never keeps that promise.  

But the God of the Cross has given a light that can beat those shadows back.  His church holds that light in her hands, for any and all to come see.  

15 Seconds On Sin Killing Things

  
Death entered the world when Satan made sin look promising.  And death enters a life, a marriage, a home, a mind when we believe him again.  

Don’t be enticed by pornography.  Don’t be enticed by the idea of divorce.  Don’t be seduced by or attracted to the prospects of gossip, deceit, or greed.  Sin promises life but always delivers death.  Those clothed in it face God’s eternal wrath, and those who know God but tolerate it face its murderous powers in their lives.  Envy kills friendships, lust kills marriages, greed kills companies, bitterness kills families, and unrepentant sin of all kinds kills souls.  

Sin brings death.  Always has, always will, until God casts it away from His presence forever and ever, that is.  But boy, does it look good while it’s hanging on the tree and the father of lies starts whispering.  

You’d almost never know he was peddling poison.  

What Was That In Romans 1…?

2015/02/img_4995.jpg

Just thought this was interesting, and a little bit poignant. Actor/comedian/writer Russell Brand recently voicing his problems with pornography:

I know that pornography is wrong, I shouldn’t be looking at it… There’s a general feeling in your core, isn’t there, if you look at pornography that this isn’t the best thing for me to be doing… I feel like if I had total dominion over myself I would never look at pornography again… The direction we should be going in is, ‘How can we understand our sexuality, how can we express it lovingly in harmony with the principles that it’s there to demonstrate: Procreation and sensual love between consenting adults.”

Powerful, honest common sense, even if unintended, from an unbeliever. Those of us who have believed in Christ and want to submit to His ways and Word must never forget that truth is on our side, and even those who might virulently disagree with us know that deep down. Warn against sin with great love, but warn boldly knowing that when you speak from the Word you speak what is undeniably true.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Letters from Jesus: Pergamum

20140901-190042.jpg

Everyone holds fast to something.

Every single soul runs to, finds peace in, seeks meaning and satisfaction from something.

The 7 churches in the Roman province of Asia that Jesus gave messages to through the Apostle John (Revelation 2-3) were getting persecuted. They were in cities and places and times where claiming Christ could get you (a) slandered and (b) imprisoned/killed. So in those dark and lonely places, Jesus reminded each of the churches to persevere in devotion to Him. To cling to Him.

To hold fast to Him.

The third letter was to the little church of believers in the eclectic, artsy, spiritualistic city of Pergamum. It had one of the world’s biggest libraries, a famous theater (see below), temples to all sorts of gods… Think Greenwich Village.

20140901-190145.jpg

Jesus spoke this to them, through John:

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’”

Some of these Christians were being seduced by the same sort of trickery Balaam pulled on God’s people in the Old Testament. Balaam had gotten God’s Israelites to fall into spiritual disrepair by getting unbelieving, non-God-loving women to seduce the Israelite men. And the Moabite idolatry and wickedness and sexual immorality spread like an infection among God’s elect.

So, rather than a light to and for the world they became darkened by the world.

Now some in Pergamum, like the faithful Christians in Smyrna, had held to Jesus. Had persevered through trouble and had sifted through the teachings and preaching of those claiming to be Christian, and had jettisoned what was false and clung to what was true.

But some hadn’t. A few had been (probably willingly) fooled into believing that sexual immorality was okay for a Christian. That loving or worshiping something other than God was okay for a Christian.

Jesus’ Word to them was “Repent. Turn from those sins. Stop facing the sinful desires of your still-fleshly hearts and face and follow and love Me.”

And He also told them that if they didn’t, He would war against them with the sword of His mouth.

John had seen that sword in the vision of Jesus that kicked off this letter/book (Revelation) of his. It was a two-edged sword, like the New Testament says the Word of God is. It was coming out of Jesus’ mouth, just like the Word of God does.

In other words, Jesus was ready to war against the unrepentant Christians (or “Christians”) with the true, freeing, wonderful, binding, concrete Word of God.

He was warning them, lovingly: Repent yourself, or deal with Me.

The Lamb who is a Lion. The Savior, as John saw, who has feet of bronze and eyes of fire and a voice like many waters.

He is ferociously loving, ferociously gracious, and ferociously jealous for His people’s hearts.

Loving money or acceptance more than Him (idolatry), or loving pornography or fornication at all (sexual immorality) will only end tragically for us.

His warning is loving.

He said it this way during His earthly ministry:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Don’t hold to false teaching that leads to false Christianity.

Don’t hold to any idol, any thing, as though it could satisfy you more than the Most High and His free peace and hope in Jesus.

Hold to the only One who can get you through the worst, and the only One who can take you to the best.

Hold to the true and life-giving Gospel, the firm and wonderful Word of Jesus Christ.

And hold to that Word as you hold to Him.