That Looks Beautiful

After a recent snowfall I was standing in my dining room with my wife looking at the newly fallen snow. We were talking about how our normal view out of this window had changed. The view was new. The white snow had transformed the woods into something even prettier and certainly much different.

As I thought more about this, I remembered places that weren’t pretty to see without the covering of snow. Some were run down, broken, and falling apart. Yet, when covered by the snow these areas became new. These places became beautiful. Old buildings and run down neighborhoods were transformed by the covering of the white snow.

The color white has some interesting history. In Roman times people on trial for crimes were given a white stone if they were acquitted and found innocent. The color white symbolized that innocence.

If you study the psychology of colors you will find that white is the color of new beginnings and of wiping the slate clean. Some psychologists say that white symbolizes a blank canvas just waiting to be written upon.

It is no wonder that we read this in Isaiah 1:18 when Christ says:

Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.

You see, just like run down, dilapidated buildings there are those with run down and dilapidated lives. Lives that are broken. Lives that aren’t pretty to see. Lives filled with sin like scarlet that need to be made beautiful again and white as snow.

By letting Christ become the leader of your life, your sins are forgiven and that white color we have been talking about symbolizes a new beginning for you. Your old life filled with sin has been wiped clean and you are ready for a new beginning. Your life has now become a blank canvas just waiting for the artistry of God to make you a new person.

Are you ready for a new beginning? Today is the day. This is the moment. Though your sins are like scarlet, Christ will make them white as snow. Don’t wait. Ask God to wipe your old slate clean today and experience a new beginning in Christ.

My Friends Are Killing Me

This week I heard someone say this:

Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.

That one statement stopped me in my tracks. Although we hear people talk about the value of friends all the time, this statement just made me stop and think about my friends and the power of friendship. Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. What a powerful statement! We all know people who became involved with the wrong crowd. We understand the power that the wrong friends can have on someone.

The influence of friends is a biblical concept. Take a look at Psalm 1:1. The entire book of Psalms starts with a discussion on the impact of the people you choose to be around. Here’s what this verse says:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.

There are three words here that serve as cautions to us about who we choose to spend time with. What are the words? Here they are…walk, stand, and sit. That’s what this verse is talking about…the progression of destruction that slowly sneaks up on you by the friends you choose.

You see this verse says if you simply start walking with the ungodly…the skeptics…you will be enticed and find yourself standing with them. When you start associating with folks you should stay away from it doesn’t take long before you are caught up with them…you move from enticement to engagement. You are caught up in their behavior. Before you know it you are now sitting right in the middle of this group of friends. Another word for sitting? That word is embracing. You are now embracing the poor behavior of your friends.

As my friend Pastor Chris Goins used to say the words walk, stand, and sit from Psalm 1:1 really mean entice, engage, embrace. That is what happens when we choose the wrong friends. We are enticed into sin, we engage in sin, and finally we embrace behavior we know doesn’t follow the teaching of scripture. That is the caution Psalm 1:1 is giving us.

A little further in Proverbs…chapter 27 and verse 17 we see another verse about friends. Here is what it says:

As iron sharpens iron,
So a friend sharpens a friend.

This is an entirely different mindset from Psalm 1:1. Here scripture is telling us that we need strong as iron friends. I like to call these friends just that…iron friends. We need to pick close friends that are so Biblically grounded they make us better just by being around them. These friends sharpen us.

So, pick your friends carefully. Which would you rather be? Enticed, engaged, and embraced by sin while surrounded by a group of skeptics and troublemakers or sharpened and molded into the person God wants you to be by friends with a heart for Christ? I’ll take the group of iron friends any day.

What A Sunburn Taught Me About Sin

Recently I spent the afternoon swimming with my family. My wife asked if I wanted some sunscreen but being a tough guy I declined. As the day progressed, I felt my skin starting to tingle a tiny bit and thought about getting the sunscreen but figured we wouldn’t be at the pool much longer.

That night I turned on the shower and stepped in. As soon as I did, it felt like tiny needles penetrating my skin. I quickly looked and discovered my skin was all red. Yes…the tough guy who declined the sunscreen was burned all over.

But sunburns don’t happen all at once. They happen slowly. They sneak up on you. You’re doing fine all day at the pool but when you get home the pain starts. If you could really feel the effects of the sun right away, you would get out of the sun, go sit in the shade or even put on that sunscreen. Instead, because sunburns happen so gradually, we are often caught unaware until the damage has been done.

As I was thinking about this, I began to think about sin. If we immediately knew the damage sin does to our lives we wouldn’t let sin anywhere near us. If instantly we could see sin’s damage to our family, sin’s destruction of our character and reputation, the divorces caused by sin, the alcohol or drug dependencies, or the time in jail that sin can bring we would run from sin as fast as we could. The problem is that sin is like sunburn. It takes awhile before you can really see the damage.

I’m reminded of this verse from Psalm, chapter 1. Here is what it says:

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.

Walk, stand, sit…there is a progression here. When it comes to sin, we’re told in this verse not to walk in step with the wicked because what happens next? We find ourselves now standing in sin. Then we find ourselves sitting in sin. Just like the sunburn, sin sneaks up on us. We were walking, we get pulled in to sin and we are now standing, and now finally trapped, we are sitting in sin.

So, stay out of a spiritual sunburn situation. When you see sin just keep walking. In fact, just run.

Death Grip

Last week Toccoa Falls College had the musical artists NewSong on campus.  During their performance they sang a remarkable song titled, Arise My Love.  As you listen to the lyrics of that song there is a very powerful sentence that says this, the grave no longer has a hold on you.  Think about that sentence for a moment…the grave no longer has a hold on you.  This one sentence carries tremendous power and truth for the followers of Christ. We no longer have the shackles of sin or the sting of death hanging over us.

Often we carry our past around with us like shackles, chained to old memories and actions that haunt us and shake our self worth.   May I tell you something?  As a follower of Christ, the grave no longer has a hold on you.  Your past sins have been forgiven, removed and sent as far as the east is from the west.  Live in confidence and enjoy a life filled with the power of Christ.

Perhaps you’re not a follower of Christ and sin still does have a hold on you today.  The Bible tells us that we have all sinned.  If you have never confessed your sins to God and asked for forgiveness, the Bible also makes it very clear that the end result of sin is death.

Here’s the good news.  Christ has already paid the price for our sins on the cross.  He died on the cross for all our sins.  Christ did that so the grave would no longer have a hold on anyone.  All we need to do is admit that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead.  The Bible tells us that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

C.S. Lewis says this about death, Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

Lewis is right.  There is no longer any sting of death if you are a follower of Christ.  Death is simply the entry point for an eternity with God.

Don’t wait any longer…ask Jesus to be the leader of your life and experience a new life filled with the joy and freedom that come from living for Christ.  Then you can truly say that the grave no longer has a hold on you.

Come On…Is That Really A Sin???

We are living in a time when so many secular worldviews are trying to grab our attention.  Most of these worldviews ask Christians to simply be tolerant of these differing views.  It’s the same postmodern thinking that has existed for years.  If my action doesn’t harm you then just leave me alone.  However, as soon as Christians begin to talk about their beliefs, they are labeled as bigots, fundamentalists, etc.  In other words, the very people who ask for tolerance won’t tolerate a Christian discussing their worldview.

One of the worldviews that has been pressing hard in our culture and asking for tolerance is that of homosexuality.  I am talking about this topic today not to condemn those involved in this sin but to talk with you a bit about why homosexuality is a sin.  I know several folks, whom I care about very deeply, who are practicing homosexuals but also claim to be followers of Christ.  According to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin just like a variety of other sins. And just like any other sin, homosexuality must be rejected to be a true follower of Christ.  The Bible is clear that to follow Christ we must repent, that is turn our back, on sin. Can practicing homosexuals be true followers of Christ?  Nobody involved in any unrepentant sin can be a true follower of Christ.

There is a law in hermeneutics (which is the study of the interpretation of scripture) that is known as The Law of First Mention.  This law says that if you want to really find out what a particular scripture is talking about go to where it is first discussed in the Bible and examine the scripture as it was first discussed.

As we think about this law and the definition of marriage let’s look at Genesis 2:18. Then the Lord God said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him. Then in verse 22 we read, Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.  Right there is the Biblical definition of marriage…one man and one woman…The Law of First Mention.

The Old Testament clearly warns against the practice of homosexuality.  In

Leviticus 18:22 we read, Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin. But the Bible doesn’t stop there.  Even in the New Testament we are again warned in Timothy and in 1 Corinthians Chapter 6 that reads, Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

So is homosexuality a sin?  Yes.  Is same sex marriage a redefinition of God’s plan for marriage?  Yes.  However, let me repeat the end of that passage from 1 Corinthians.  Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  Thank God for His forgiveness, restitution, and the chance to be made right and cleansed and presented with a new life through the power of an amazing God.

Dancing On The Edge

I am amazed at the number of folks who profess Christianity but chose to flirt with sin.  They don’t actually cross the line but they dance on the edge.  In other words, they see how close they can get to sin without getting burned. This is a very dangerous behavior because the bible tells us this will eventually draw us right into the middle of sin.

Psalm 1 says this, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord.

There is a very subtle progression in these verses that warn us about playing on the edges of sin.  First, these verses caution us not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly.  In other words, don’t be enticed by sin in the first place.  Stay clear and walk away.  If you don’t walk away while you can, the next portion of this passage says we will find ourselves standing in the path of sinners.  You see, we were enticed by sin as we walked in the counsel of the ungodly and now we find ourselves stopped, standing and engaged in sin. Finally, this passage tells us if we don’t choose to get away, we will find ourselves sitting in the seat of the scornful.  We have now embraced sin.

By flirting with sin, by playing along the edges, we are beginning our walk down a path that will eventually lead us to sitting right in the middle of sin.  We will follow the path described in Psalms.  We will walk into sin. We will find ourselves standing in sin and eventually just sit down right in the middle of it.  We have been enticed by sin, we have become engaged in the sin, and finally we find ourselves embracing the sin.

So what is the answer here?  It’s simple.  Don’t play around the edges of sin.  Get away while you can and simply don’t be enticed in the first place.  Next time you are tempted by something that is not of Christ, remember to stop, turn around and go the other way.  Do not be enticed.  Do not become engaged in the sin. Don’t embrace sin.

God has great plans for your life.  Don’t allow yourself to sit and get comfortable in the middle of sin and miss what God has planned for you.