For those of you who don’t know, I’m a part of the organization Changing Lives Ministry (CLM). On the 23st, I’ll be giving a talk about the verse 1 Corinthians 1:20. As a part of preparing for that talk, I decided to write a post on it here and just get all my thoughts out. That way I’ll be able to pick and choose things from here to put in my message, and hopefully output a more well-rounded and detailed analysis and discussion on what it means to deal with worldly influences. So here we go. Enjoy. 🙂
So, as a part of today being Sunday, and since I joined this ministry a while ago, I decided to post a message I gave at the beginning of the year for Changing Lives Ministry, a teen-led online Christian ministry which reaches to people all over the world. Enjoy. 🙂
Hopefully if you listened that was helpful and edifying, and maybe you’ll consider checking Changing Lives Ministry out. 🙂
A rather melodramatic and far-flung essay I wrote on love and hate… =P Enjoy. 🙂
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16. In that verse two seemingly opposite yet inseparable elements intertwine: love and hate. When first asked about the concepts of love and hate, many people will declare them complete opposites; however, the two have more in common than what the naked eye may perceive.
Passion fuels both those emotions, thus we have passionate love and passionate rage. One can very easily cause the other, and situations in which love for one has caused separation with others backs this. Yet, despite these similarities, and the dependent clinginess these two emotions have for each other, they have their differences. Love cannot exist without hate, nor can hate exist without love, yet both eradicate each other. On top of that love/hate relationship the world rests, relying on the eternal, cyclical battle between these two forces to survive.
If one considered a list of all the emotions ranked in order of intensity, love and hate would vie for top spot. When a woman gives birth to a child and has her offspring pressed to her chest, the strength of the bond that develops between them can only compare to the fury that would swell in the very same woman if someone took her child away. In the Bible, the envy and anger Cain felt towards Able developed into such a powerful hatred that he murdered his own brother.
Yet, also in the Bible, despite knowing how his own creations would treat his precious son, the powerful love God felt for humanity caused him to go so far as to condemn his own son to death to save humans. Both these emotions have such potency as to tie directly into life itself, yet many would still agree that the world would improve if hate ceased to exist.
However, in order for love to exist, so too must hate, thus creating a paradox of simultaneous similarity and difference. Like light and darkness, one cannot have one without first having the other. God calls Christians to love each other and hate sin. In loving someone, one hates anything meaning to do him or her harm. Interestingly enough, one first needs to hate one’s own sin before taking the first step onto the path of loving redemption. Because of these innate ties, one cannot simply treat these two emotions separately but must consider them as one similar entity. Contrary to that, love and hate lie worlds apart, with one emotion consisting of good and the other of evil. In a way the coexisting agreement and disagreement of love and hate parallels the particle-wave theory of light.
Beyond ultimately representing the clash between good and evil, love and hate also symbolize the beginning and end. In love a couple consummates a marriage and through that they have a baby. Unfortunately, hate can quickly end the life so tentatively brought into the world through an act of killing.
Returning to the Bible for examples, the Egyptian genocide of all Israelite babies shows this simple concept. Differing on a conceptual and emotional level, love and hate also contrast each other sharply physically. Love sparks intimate and loving exchanges and causes a spike in constructive and “happy” hormones. Opposing this, hate triggers violent and irrational action and pushes one’s body down a self-destructive path.
Love and hate essentially keep Earth in balance. Without one or the other, societal structure would fall entirely apart. Yet despite how much the world requires this yin and yang balance of the two primary emotions, the people who insist on the elimination of hate have a good point. In a perfect environment where sin no longer exists, hate no longer will have a place either. Sadly sin infiltrated Earth and the beginning of time and with it introduced a need for hate. But the Bible brings hope. One day, when the very embodiment of love comes, He will end the battle once and for all, establishing the superiority of love forever.
So, I was reading through Colossians recently, and I came across the passage Colossians 2:20-23. It really inspired me to go ahead and write this (which I’ll actually share with my discipleship group this Wednesday). I hope you guys get something out of this. Maybe it will even help you. 🙂
In Genesis 4:1-10 we have the story of Cain and Able.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground,
and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering,
but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”
And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
We see in this passage the deadly trap of sin. After Cain committed one sin, he added another and another to his list. It happens to everybody. Yet, as Christians and servants of God, we are called to be obedient to him and subject ourselves to his will. This means not sinning as Cain did. But sometimes this task feels impossible, and verses from the Bible would seem to agree with this statement.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Follow that up with Genesis 8:21, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” and we start to get a pretty ugly picture. And not only is this in the Bible, but we see it in the world around us. I follow the news, and it runs rampant with people arrested for murder, theft, sexual offense, and other sins, and the age group ranges from children as young as elementary school students to older people in their sixties and up. In fact, according to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, an average of 293,066 people are sexually assaulted every year, and every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted. This frightening statistic points to the following truth:
Being obedient to God and subjecting ourselves to his will is impossible.
And yet people try to combat sin left and right. From nation-level laws to household rules, people design restrictions to battle this human nature that drives us to sin. But 1 Corinthians 3:19 says otherwise. It tells us, “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.” If we cannot combat sin, then how are we supposed to succeed against the world’s evil?
Now, before I continue, I’d like to mention as a quick aside that, as Christians, it’s very easy to dismiss this and say, oh no, sure, I get tempted, but in general I fight sin off and I’m a “good” Christian. Of course, if you look in the Bible, God calls us to be perfect, so the occasional sin is nothing short of disobedience. Returning to the path to success against sin, we must look to Colossians 2:20-23.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations–
“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”
(referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teaching?
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
“…they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” How true this is! To paraphrase an example my Dad once gave, if you tell a toddler in a room of toys that it can have anything but the toy on the table, what’s the toy it’s going to want now? The toy on the table. So, obviously rules do not work when trying to combat sin. Sure, they make good boundaries for where we should stay, but they do nothing to help us stay there. The solution lies in Galatians 5:13 which says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
This verse shows us that we’re free. We’re free from the rules. What then constrains us? Love. And in love is the key to overcome all sin, for it was through love that we were saved. It is through this love that we are able to obey the commandment in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 which tells us to control our own bodies in holiness and honor. With the Holy Spirit in us, we are able to be holy as God is holy.
Now we move on to understanding sin.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6.
This verse demonstrates a few things. Firstly, note that Eve saw the fruit. A lot of sin starts with the eyes and our corrupt heart. After listening to the half-lie told by the father of lies, satan, she started to rationalize her sin. “It was a delight to the eyes” and “the tree was to be desired to make one wise” show the thought process she went through. Finally this rationale (human rationale, which God repeatedly dismisses) caused her to decide on the sinful course, and she took of the fruit and ate. But was that where the sin started, or had she started sinning long before?
The truth is that when Eve listened to the serpent, she already had rebellion in her heart. It was that rebellion that was truly the first, small sin. After her rebellion, she then listened to the counsel of the wicked, contrary to Psalm 1. Not stopping there, she sinned even more when she started to consider what the Serpent had said, and the lust of desire came into her eye. The only thing ever wrong with looking at something is what lies in the heart. For Eve, she was succumbing to temptation. Finally, Eve finished her considering and rationalizing, decided to sin, and committed an act that forever cursed the human race. But the sin does not stop there.
We see in a very well-placed clue that her husband, Adam, was with her at the time of this. He too committed sin. First he did not defend her from the vices of the serpent as the Bible commands a husband to defend his wife. Following that, he too listened to what the serpent had to say, but he went a step further and decided to let his wife be his guinea pig. When he saw her considering the fruit and rationalizing with herself, he did not bother to stop her, as any Christian believer should do when he or she sees a fellow brother or sister in Christ falling. And then to top it off, he partook of her grievous sin.
For the person who has not yet repented and been filled with the Holy Spirit thus vanquishing the desire to sin, it all starts with temptation. If the temptation is not combated and resisted in prayer and supplication, it leads to small sin. At this point the person can repent, but if he or she chooses not to, the sin moves on to bigger sin. This is sin that others could potentially see. In the example of Adam and Eve, Adam should have stepped in when he saw Eve succumbing to the serpent, but he didn’t. Once again, there is a chance to repent, but if that chance is not taken, the person moves on to critical sin.
As a child the consequences of sin weigh much lighter than the consequences as one gets older. Either way, the consequences of critical sin are very high, and almost always lead to punishment in some form. It is at this point that the person is either convicted by a God-given desire to repent, or his or her heart hardens further and leads to more rebellion, starting the cycle over again. The sin loop is provided with multiple “break points,” given the person stuck takes advantage of them. It takes God’s strength though, because we are too imbibed in our human nature.
Once we have broken the loop, the next step is to repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 says, “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” The death of Judas best demonstrates this principle. He “repented” after seeing Jesus taken away, returned the money he had been given, and then promptly went and hung himself. This was not true repentance, this was guilt weighing on his conscience. Only God can grant true repentance, and when he does, it is up to us to take it.
But, how exactly does one fight sin? Romans 6:2 gives us a clue saying, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Colossians 3:3 says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” We have died and been born again, as the gospel message describes. Because of this death, sin no longer has power over us. The wages of sin is death, but once we have conquered death through our belief in Christ Jesus who beat death, sin has lost its hold. We see that in Romans 6:3-4 which tells us, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
The verse tells us of how through our baptism, we represented symbolically the change that had occurred in our hearts when we accepted Jesus. Through that baptism we were symbolically buried with him in death, so that just as he was raised, we too were raised. Because of this, sin has no power over us, thanks to God’s mercy, and it is this knowledge that is key to defeating sin.
Not only this, but one must be constantly wary. It’s no good to have the knowledge and just sit back and let your defenses get penetrated. Genesis 4:7 says that “sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Sin literally waits for the tiniest slip-up, then dives in to take advantage, and unless we beat it back, it will gain a foothold. If we do maintain our defenses though, and actively combat sin (with God’s help) we will beat it, as we are meant to.
The defenses I’m talking about are defenses built through the strength God gives us to resolve as Daniel did in Daniel 1:8 not to sin. It is this resolution that removes rebellion from our hearts, the first stage of the sin cycle, and shows true submission to his will and authority. At this point we can then understand why physical laws, rules, and restrictions seem to do so little.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
– Ephesians 6:12
Even secular movies and culture understands the concept that supernatural forces cannot be dealt with by earthly means. But with Jesus on our side, our Lord and Savior, who freed us from the chains of death, we now have a fighting chance. And Colossians 3:5, 8, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth,” no longer seems so impossible.
I can testify to all of this through my own life. As a guy, a big natural weakness is lust. But I’ve always struggled with it with especial difficulty. Maybe it’s my equivalent of Paul’s thorn. Anyway, I wrestled for three years, wanting to do what was right, but wanting it wasn’t enough. I had to change my heart and fully repent and understand that what I was doing was completely wrong. Because, despite “wanting” to do what was right, a small part of me still wanted the guilty pleasure of lust.
I was essentially looping around through that sin cycle over and over and over again. Until one day God convicted me through the arrival of a girl who is now my girlfriend of over eleven months. At that point I realized what I was doing was truly evil, and suddenly I recoiled form it with pure disgust, and no longer wanted any part of it. That was the first step.
It took me a while, but finally I opened up to her, and God used her to help keep me accountable and fighting. Through God’s grace, I started to build up the resolution-ry defenses I talked about. It was not easy, and several times I slipped to the “Bigger sin” stage where I then confessed to my girlfriend, and we came before God together to ask for help. Now it never gets further than the small sin stage, where an inappropriate thought I might have for a split second gets kicked out, and now even the inappropriate thoughts are disappearing, and the physical reactions are easier to battle.
However, the truth is that like Paul I am glad for my weakness, because through it Christ’s glory shines, and the effect of his blessing of allowing me to overcome sin shows through. Colossians 3:17 commands, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” And it’s true, even in my recovery from sin, all the glory goes to God.
I have had no part in my recovery apart from choosing to put God (and consequently my girlfriend) in front of my own selfish flesh. Through the love between the my girlfriend and I, which Song of Solomon 8:6 reveals to be “the very flame of the Lord,” I overcame my sin. God infused us with his love for us, and through that we then loved each other, and now we have a physical manifestation of his heavenly perfectness.
To sum it up, I would like to mention a few more things. Why do people try not to sin? Not because of earthly law. Galatians 2:16 tells us that a person is justified “through faith in Jesus Christ,” not by “works of the law.” It is my faith in Jesus who pulled me through my time of trial that causes me to have a desire not to sin. It is my love for the Heavenly Father who looked down on my broken self and decided to rescue me that makes me strive to battle my human condition.
Finally, do I regret having sinned? Yes. Do I wish I was perfect? No. Through my imperfections, God’s glory shines. If it had not been for my weakness and my sinful nature, God would not have manifested himself in this way through me, and I would have been lacking a very vital lesson, and more than likely not up here sharing. But I tend to agree with Paul when he says, in 2 Corinthians 11:30, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
Now, considering that I am a Christian, at first glance this post might seem completely cliché and pointless, but seeing that it has been quite the epiphany for me, I hope you will give this a chance and read it.
I have an experience to tell you guys about. It is very recent. In fact, it happened today, literally ten or so minutes ago. What could have happened that would drive me to do something like this? Well, I discovered what the most beautiful story is. Now, of course, as a Christian, I am expected to say the most beautiful story is the Gospel found in the Bible, but I am sure that many who are not blinded by stigma, dogma, and any other “ma”s out there will agree with me when I say that the Bible can get very dry, kind of boring, and pretty dull in terms of story content.
Before all the condemnations of sacrilege come in, I would like to say that yes, the most beautiful story in the world and of all time is, was, and always be the story of salvation, i.e. the Gospel. But I have a reason for saying this, and in fact, even a non-Christian will be able to appreciate this. To illustrate my point, I would like to tell all of you a little story, and then I would like to encourage all of you to pick up your Bibles (or someone else’s if you don’t have one, just don’t steal it) and read them. There is a lot more than what I will cover, but for me, it was enough to cause the epiphany I referred to in my introductory blurb.
A long, long time ago, not so long that the number of years goes beyond five digits, but long enough that we have very little record of it, there was man. He was quite an ordinary man, but he was a good man, and he believed in God. One day, his Lord (God) commanded him to leave his country and his family to a place which God would show him. This man obeyed God and left his homeland, relying solely on faith and his Heavenly Father’s promise. God blessed this man, and made him very wealthy, but there was one problem: this man had no child.
But God made this man a promise. One night when he was despairing and crying out to the Lord in Heaven, he was led outside his tent and told to look at the sky. God said to him, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them…So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:5 ESV). Not only this, but the Lord promised this man that his wife would become nations, and that kings of peoples would come from her. God did indeed give this man the son he had promised, but the story does not end there.
Years later there was another man, a descendant of this first man whom God had made so many promises to. He was engaged to be married to a woman, but there was one problem. The woman became pregnant before they had had a chance to marry, let alone have sex. There was only one option for the man, who would have separated himself from this woman by divorce, but God interceded and told him to marry the woman anyway. Thus this man united the line of his ancestors with this new child who was born soon after.
The child that came of this union did not live long. In his lifetime though, he held a great ministry in which he told many people about God and caused many to believe. But in this process he made enemies, and it was not long after that they killed him by crucifying him to a cross. He died there, and was sent to the tomb. But then, a miracle happened, and he resurrected from the dead, coming back to life before ascending into heaven where he would be with his heavenly father, God.
The three men I speak of in this story are Abraham, Joseph, and Jesus. Now is this not an epic story? But wait, there is so much more. Not only did this story go in one full circle, from God leading Abraham along a path of righteousness which then went along a path which resulted in Jesus, son of God, uniting the chain between God and man, but this story is one of love and redemption. Man had sinned, and it was through this beautiful plan and God’s love that he sent his only son to die. In fact, Jesus loved us so much, and he loved his Father so much, that he was willing to sacrifice himself, freeing us from our sins. But once again it does not end there. To demonstrate my point I would like to close with five verses.
For one who has died has been set free from sin.
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
The reason Paul (the writer of Romans) can say what he does in Romans 6:7 is because death is sin’s final punishment. Sin can do no more to a person once he/she is dead. Hell or Heaven, whatever comes beyond death, is up to God’s judgement. Thus it is so liberating to have died in Christ and then been born again, because now as people, we no longer are under sin’s dominion. Continuing the point in verse seven, verse ten talks further about the subject. After having died to sin, thus breaking sin’s dominion over one, we are then born again living under God. We are no longer in sin’s dominion but within God’s regime. Jesus came to earth to allow us to leave sin’s claws and run to God’s embrace.
It does not end there. In verse fourteen, we have this beautiful verse that sums seven and ten up. We are no longer under the law because it was made to deal with sin, and we are free from sin. Instead we now live under grace, God’s grace, grace that has freed us from our old ways and forgiven us of our sins. This is grace and love that has not only forgiven us but will continue to forgive us. That could be it there, but I promised five verses.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Baptism into Christ in Christ’s name is a declaration that the person receiving the baptism is part of Christ’s body now, and thus a descendent of Abraham. It is fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would number like the stars in heaven. God was not talking about the nation Abraham fathered. Sure, there were a lot of people in that nation, but not like the stars, no. However, those who have united themselves under Christ, those who have proclaimed it through baptism, they are a part of that family. We as Christians are all descendants of Abraham because we were baptized into Christ. You know that story I told you? It was just a very short version of the epic story of the Bible which has come in one full circle, starting with Abraham, father of many, and Sarah, his wife, mother of nations. No, not in the sense you may think. Abraham is the father of people from a multitude of nations. And just as God promised to Abraham, so he has promised to Abraham’s descendants. It is the most beautiful story in the world.
Sorry this is late. I need to break my habit of writing posts at midnight, but it seems often that that is the only time I have to write. Anyway, this is supposed to be yesterday’s Sunday’s Scripture post, but it is now Monday, so yeah. Sorry about that. =/ I need to keep to my schedule more. Anyway, here we go. Hopefully this helps you guys.
Alright, so I’ve talked a lot about conformity on my blog, and I’m sure most if not all of you know that conformity is something that I get very antsy about. I don’t like it when people conform, and I don’t like it when I see conformity in myself. To conform is to bend yourself to someone else’s standards, and it has roots in so many different things. One of these things may is very subtle (aren’t they all?), and I’m afraid more people succumb to it than they think. This kind of conformity? Conforming to the “wisdom of the world.”
1 Corinthians 3:19-20 says, “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ [ESV]” Alright, so what is this “wisdom of the world”? Well, it is what it says on the package. It is what the world thinks is wise. This can come from anybody. Friends, family, loved ones, acquaintances, pastors, teachers, me, all of these are sources for the wisdom of the world.
Woah woah woah woah. You might say. Hang on a second. A lot of those people have legitimate advice, y’know, stuff that makes sense, logical things. Well, yeah, that’s true, but guess what, it always has their spin on it. Even if they are basing what they say off the Bible, it has their logic to it. Now, I will not deny that there are times when people say God-inspired things, but there are also a lot of times when they don’t, yet, because of their ethos, or maybe because they sound so logical, you take what they say for the truth, and accept it.
This is a problem. In fact, this is a very big problem, because if you look at that verse up there, it says the wisdom of this world is folly with God. If something is folly, or foolishness with the Creator of all, then you probably should avoid it. You can see all throughout the Bible examples of people taking things into their own hands and messing up badly. Adam and Eve, right from the get go. Eve took the apple, and Adam let her eat it. They both disobeyed God for the “wisdom of the world.” Hang on a second, you say. That was Satan. It was.
Satan, after he fell from Heaven, became of this world. He is the “wisdom of the world.” Satan is the person who takes something and makes it sound logical and good, despite it being bad and destructive. How then are we to discern what is the wisdom of the world and what is God-inspired? Good question. All this can sound very scary, because it is so deceptive and can slip so easily through the cracks. There are lies everywhere, pervading everyday life, and these can cause harm to anyone.
The key lies in falling back to what we know is true: the Bible. Praying, about things you hear, reading and meditating on God’s Word, will go a long way to giving you understanding as to what the world says and what is really true. Sometimes you might find that the world is not that far off. If that is the case, all well and good. Problem solved. However, if you find that you have been believing a lie, please, make all haste to remedy that. Also, always watch out for your own sinful nature. That likes to step in and pervert your thinking too. Pray before you read, while you read, and after you read. Pray while you meditate too. The Creator knows exactly what he was talking about when he wrote it.