Sometimes the best way to illustrate a point is through the telling of a life situation that the listeners are able to understand. Jesus demonstrated this teaching method by the use of parables. When we speak of forgiveness of sins, an excellent biblical example is the narrative we call The Prodigal Son. In Luke 15, the Lord relates the case of a father and his two sons. The younger son comes to his father demanding his share of the inheritance. The father grants this son’s wish and the son departs “into a distant country” where he “squandered his estate in loose living.” When his wealth is spent, the son finds himself reduced to one of the most repulsive jobs a Jew could have, feeding pigs. Not only is he tending swine, he is so hungry he contemplates eating with the pigs. Luke 15:17 tells us, “When he came to his senses” he decides to return home, repent of his foolish sinfulness, and beg to be employed as a servant. While he is on the road home, the text relates one of the most heartwarming and encouraging scriptures in the Bible. ”And he (the son) got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20. The repentant one is generously welcomed home and treated as a son.

 

Many lessons can be drawn from these passages, but we will address two here. Under Jewish law, the oldest son was to receive a double portion of the father’s inheritance at the father’s death. When this second son comes and asks for his portion, in essence he is wishing the father to be dead so he can get what is coming to him. How this must have grieved the father, but he grants the son’s wish and the son leaves his home. I am sure that for a time, this son enjoyed the pleasures of sin, his new found “friends,” and playing the role of an important man. However, this situation did not last forever. With the loss of his money went the loss of his fair-weather companions and he found himself in the depths of despair, the likes of which he had never known. However, hope for his redemption was not dead, because while he was at his lowest, the Bible tells us he finally “came to his senses.” When the child of God chooses to go away from the safety and security of a loving and faithful God, we are not using good sense. How unwise we are to leave our loving Father to sink into the pits of worldliness, but we do it all the time, because sin can be so alluring! The answer to this problem is to return home, repent, and renew our lives of faithfulness. There is NO other solution to sin. In John 6:68, when the Lord asked Peter if he would “go away” from him, Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Don’t bother looking to other solutions to sin, there are none. A second beautiful truth found in these verses is the father’s response to his son’s homecoming. While the son was on the road home, the father sees and recognizes his wayward child while “he was a long way off…” The father had kept a vigilant watch and a hope in his heart that his son might possibly return home. He runs to meet this previously ungrateful son, embraces him, kisses him, clothes him, and calls for a celebration. This father’s response mirrors the character of our heavenly Father. He is saddened by our disobedience, but overjoyed at our repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” What a wonderful God we serve!

 

If and when we find ourselves lured into sin, we must stop and “come to our senses” and repent. God will gladly and graciously welcome us back. It is the only solution for success in this life and the life to come. The wise king Solomon put it so well in Ecclesiastes 12:13 when he said, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man.” Are you doing your duty?

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   In the physical world if we neglect to take care of our yards, fill our gas tanks, or take care of our bodies, we will soon reap the negative consequences of such carelessness. These thoughtless acts, while sometimes serious, do not have eternal costs. Spiritual negligence, however, is much more serious and can yield dire everlasting results.

   In Matthew 23:23, Jesus warns his listeners of neglecting the commandments. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” While tithing was required of God’s people in order to be obedient, the things of the heart, justice, mercy, and faithfulness, speak to the character of a person and are here called the “weightier” provisions of the law. In other words, none of God’s laws should be neglected, but especially those that imitate the character of God (justice, mercy, faithfulness).

   In Acts 6, we read of the early church neglecting the needs of the Hellenistic widows in the daily distribution of food. When this situation was brought to the attention of the apostles, spiritual men were immediately chosen to remedy this situation. The neglect was addressed. In Luke 16, Jesus relates the account of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man had all the physical signs of wealth, but he failed to take notice or care for this poor man who was covered in sores and laid at his gate each day hoping for the scraps of the wealthy man’s table. He neglected the poor and his outcome was disastrous.

   It is so easy in our busy lives to begin to neglect the things God wants us to do, however, now is the time to take notice of this sin in our lives, repent, and be about the business of the Lord. The following are some of the ways we may be neglectful in our Christian walk: 1. Singing. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with all thankfulness in your hearts to God.” It is sad to say, but in our own assembly I have noticed Christians who seem to be half heartedly singing or not attempting to sing at all. This should not be. The Bible teaches that singing not only praises God, but it uplifts the singer and encourages others. Let’s all make it our goal to pay attention to the words of our songs and sing them with praise in our hearts to the Lord. 2. Restoring weak members. Galatians 6:1 states, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentlenesss…” The account of the Good Shepherd demonstrates the truth of the importance of each soul when the Shepherd leaves the 99 safe sheep to go out and find the one lost lamb. 3. Praying. Colossians 4:2. “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. 4. Bible study. Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge…” To obey the commandments, we must know them. 5. To control our tongue. James 3: 5-12.

   We have been given the greatest gift, Salvation. We need to cherish it, be thankful for it, and remain faithful to it. In Hebrews 2:2-3, states it so well. “For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”

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God is a most magnificent father who has bestowed on us, his children, all that we need to know to be pleasing to Him in this life and live with Him eternally in the life to come.  1 Peter 2:3 tells us, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him.”  So, how is that knowledge attained?  2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Also, John 8:32 assures us that we can “know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  What does “the truth” make us free from?  The obvious answer is sin.  Sin is a lawlessness according to 1 John 3:4.

So, does each sin I commit through weakness and human failure mean I will be eternally lost?  Of course, all sin should be repented of. Thankfully, 1 John 1:7 tells us, “If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  A continual life of doing our best to follow God’s Word is the only way to be pleasing to Him.  However, we are weak and Scripture promises that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9. 

But, what about sins we enter into that we know are displeasing to our Father?  James 4:17, states, “To one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to Him it is sin.”  In Matthew 19:9, the Lord tells us, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another woman commits adultery.”  This teaching is quite clear, yet how many divorce for any reason and enter into an unscriptural marriage with their eyes wide open?  The answer is, too many.  Hebrews 10:25 warns us, “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”  Some brethren seem to choose to stay away from worship services when they could be here, which can weaken their faith and discourages others.  In the parable about the unrighteous steward, who was squandering his master’s possessions, Jesus states in Luke 16:2, “Give account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.”  Christians must be wise managers of their money and pay their debts when they are due.  The list of sins we knowingly commit could go on and on.

Ephesians 4:30 admonishes us not “to grieve the Holy Spirit” by being unchristian in our lives.  I think we could also include God the Father, Christ, and elders of the church are also grieved by those who knowingly commit sin.  It is a bad example to other Christians and our young people growing up in the church. Plus, it endangers the eternal destiny of the one who acts against the commands.  Let’s all examine ourselves and commit ourselves to knowingly doing righteousness.

 

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Remember the game from our childhood, Hide-and-Seek?  With sweaty palms and a racing heart, it was a thrill to have “It” walk right by you as you froze and held your breath for fear of being discovered.  Now, the fun of the game is replaced with frustration when I unintentionally “hide” the remote control, my keys, and reading glasses.  These are physical examples of hiding, but what about trying to hide our sins from God.

 

The very first book of the Bible (Genesis 3) tells of Adam and Eve attempting to hide themselves in their garden paradise after they listened to the old serpent and disobeyed God by partaking of the forbidden fruit.  When the Lord called the man, Adam’s reply was, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” Since that time, we have numerous biblical examples of people foolishly thinking they can conceal their transgressions.  In Joshua 6, we have the account of Achan not heeding the Lord’s command and stealing spoils from the battle of Jericho.  He mistakenly thought he could hide his loot in his tent and no one would be the wiser.  However, not only does Achan eventually lose his life over this transgression, but many others’ lives are lost as well.  King David tried to cover his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah, but it was not to be.  Not only did Uriah die, but the innocent baby that was conceived from this adulterous relationship also perished.  God tells David through Nathan the prophet, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight?” 2 Samuel 12:9.   David’s further punishment was that the sword (evil and heartbreak), “shall never depart from your house because you have despised me…”  Other examples of people thinking to hide sins are the brothers of Joseph trying to hide their misdeed of selling their brother from their father, Moses trying the hide the Egyptian he killed in the sand, Ananias and Sapphira’s lies to the Holy Spirit about the money they received from the selling of a field, etc. 

 

Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking that God is like man and if we do things in secret or in the dark, He will not see us.  Psalm 139 is a powerful telling of the omnipresent nature and power of our heavenly Father.  The seventh verse of the above mentioned chapter asks the question, “Where can I go from Thy Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Thy presence?”  The psalmist eloquently answers, Nowhere. 

 

Sometimes we rename sins to make them sound less offensive.  Lies are fibs, fornication and adultery are affairs, and using the Lord’s name in vain and swearing is slang.  No matter what we might choose to call these acts, the Bible calls them sin.  Sin is like a spiritual cancer.  It can grow within us and eventually lead to our spiritual separation from God if we do not remove it from our lives. 

 

So, what are we to do?  1 John 1:10 states that we all have sinned, but our loving God has not left us without a remedy.  1 John 2:2 states that Jesus is the answer to our sin problem, and if we confess those sins, “He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

 

Hebrews 4:13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”  Our Creator knew we would fall under the lure of sin, but He so graciously paid the high cost and made a way for us to come back to Him – the precious blood of Christ.  When we sin, as we will, we must humbly confess those errors and turn away from them and be restored to the favor of our heavenly Father.  Thank you, Lord for your mercy and grace.  What a loving God we serve!

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     We must all be disciplined in so many aspects of our lives. We like to think we don’t need it but we all really do. If I don’t have discipline in eating, I would have to buy more clothes every week, and I’m working on doing better in that. We all have different areas in our lives where we could use more activities or perhaps less, television, for example. We must know ourselves and where we need to be careful so that we can watch ourselves in those areas. Everyone has weaknesses in certain ways that may become a problem for them if not for proper discipline.

     My sister had recently seen a billboard that said, “Just Jesus, No Rules.” Isn’t that the way most want to live their lives today? Throw away the rule book and do as you please. This just creates all kinds of problems in a society that is structured on rules of law to keep peace. There is evil out there and it doesn’t like rules and laws to live by. We must follow the rules and the laws of many clubs, like shooting clubs or other sports leagues. There are rules to go into restaurants or stores; how you dress and what you can do. We must have rules in order to have things run smoothly in any society. Many people don’t like rules because they want things their way or the way they are comfortable with. People don’t like to feel uncomfortable in any situation, it is human nature. So, we have entered into a - have it your way society.

     When it comes to our eternity we have a rule book to follow. You may choose your own destination by what you want to follow in the rule book. It was written for all mankind, to give them an opportunity to live with God forever or without God forever, in misery. The Bible is our rule book and guide to heaven. If you don’t play life by the rules, there will be discipline. If we choose to not live as we should, there may be church discipline as instructed by God’s word. The rules are written for us to follow and live by. We didn’t write the rules, but must follow the rules. Don’t think you can have it your own way and dishonor God and His words, and not be separated from Him. 

     Ephesians 2:10 (For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.) Hold fast to your belief in God and see that you don’t fall away to the ways of men. Hebrews 2:1 (For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.) Hebrews 4:12-13 (For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirt, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight,) Hebrews 4:15-16 ( For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.)

     Trust in God not this world.                                                  

                                                                                                                 In Him, Chuck

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