"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
May 31, 2017
Recently I was praying about something in particular and asked, "Jesus, if You were on earth today what would Your response be to this situation? How would You handle it and what would You say?"
I believe that there are many circumstances that happen each day that Jesus' response would be much different than ours often is. Lately it seems as if I've become more aware of how critical some christians often seem... how quick some are to judge... how often they categorize sin from smallest to greatest; often seeing things that they or their family may struggle with as being more insignificant than that of others... and how easy it is to point a finger at one thing in particular as being the seemingly "unpardonable" sin and condemning those who struggle with that particular sin... or how quickly some repost supposedly news stories about people that they know nothing about.
Often I have seen repost on social media that may or may not come from a reliable news source (if there is such a thing), and the picture of that person and the crime that they supposedly committed is spread as being factual. Often the person is not even from the same state or area that the one who reposted it is from; therefore, there is no personal connection or reason why they should have reposted it. Often those type of stories are used as scare tactics. Honestly, when I see these pop up on my newsfeed, regardless of who reposted it, I delete them. I've often wondered if the stories are even true. What if someones girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse got angry, so made up a bogus story or brought up a bogus charge, in hopes of retaliation or trying to damage their reputation or ruin their life, and there is actually no truth involved whatsoever? What if the story is true; what about that person's family and the potential embarrassment or hurt that it could cause them? What if it's true and that person actually did what they were accused of? The bottom line is, they need God! Their life may have reached rock bottom and they feel as if there is absolutely no hope. What if that were someone in your family? Wouldn't you rather that people pray for them, instead of plaster their picture and story all over social media? They need someone who will love them and counsel them and lead them to Jesus; letting them know that there is forgiveness and mercy. Then if they do repent, they need others to do what they can to encourage and support them, not keep bringing up their past as if that defines their future.
One of the biggest arguments in the church today is about homosexuality. There are churches who teach that this lifestyle is normal and acceptable; then others who teach against it, but in a manner as if this is the greatest of all sins. I do believe that biblically, homosexuality is a sin; but I also believe that speaking out against it as if it is the worst possible sin is not biblical. I also believe that often well-meaning christians speak out against it in a manner that only stirs up anger and hatred, causing those who may be struggling with those tendencies or living that lifestyle to feel as if they would be ostracized from certain churches if they went there to try and find answers or help.
Sin is nothing new; it's been on earth since the beginning of time. Cain killed his brother, Abel. (Genesis 4:8) David committed adultery, then had Bathsheba's husband murdered. (2 Samuel 11) God spared Lot and his daughters from the carnage at Sodom and Gomorrah, then the two girls got their drunk and had sex with him, thinking that this was the only way they'd ever get pregnant and preserve their family line. (Genesis 19:30-38) Judah's daughter-in-law covered herself with a veil to disguise herself and sat beside the road where she knew Judah would be traveling. He thought she was a prostitute, so stopped and propositioned her, not realizing who she was. He had sex with her and she became pregnant. (Genesis 38:6-30) Moses murdered an Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. (Exodus 2:11-15)
There are many scriptures in the New Testament that list what God views as sin; and I am sure if we were honest, we would find that we've committed at least one or two of those sins from time to time, but tend to justify it as being insignificant or only "little" sins. Let's see what scripture has to say.
Galatians 5:17 tells us that "the sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions."
Verses 19-21: "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear; sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God."
Beginning in verse 18 of Romans chapter one, it speaks of God's anger at sin. People know the truth about God because He made it obvious to them. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities -- His eternal power and divine nature; so they have no excuse for not knowing God. People knew God, but they wouldn't worship Him as God or give Him thanks. They began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like and refused to worship Him. (from verses 19-23)
Romans 1:26-28: "That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done."
Yes, homosexuality is a sin and hard for many of us to comprehend how or why people would choose that lifestyle. But it is never listed as being the greatest of all sins, nor is it said to be the unpardonable sin.
Ephesians 5:3-6: "Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God's people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and course talk -- these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshipping the things of this world. Don't be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey Him." Verse 12 says, "It is shameful to even talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret."
When we look at all the sins that are listed and written about in the Bible there is never a place where they are prioritized -- never! The one and only sin that the Bible says is unpardonable is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 12:31) If someone has an issue with gossiping or greed or pride, then they are convicted and repent, they are forgiven to the same degree as someone who has murdered, committed sexual transgressions, lived a homosexual lifestyle, or an idolater. God's mercy and forgiveness is the same for all, regardless of the sin. Sin is sin and God's forgiveness is God's forgiveness.
In fact, Jesus is speaking in Matthew 12:31 and says, "So I tell you, EVERY sin and blasphemy can be forgiven -- except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven."
Jesus spoke these words following a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn't speak, being brought to Him. He healed the man so that he could see and speak. When the Pharisees heard about the miracles, they said, "No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons." I believe that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is attributing the miracles of God to demonic spirits instead of the Holy Spirit.
So my question is, if Jesus speaks and says that ALL sins can be forgiven, with the exception of this one of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, why is it that we rejoice in knowing that our sins are forgiven when we sin, yet we want others whom we feel have committed greater transgressions than us to have to pay for their sins for the rest of their lives? People's pasts are brought up, even though what happened may have been many years ago and they've proven time and time again that they are new creations in Christ and that "old" man no longer exist. People look for mistakes and failures, as if they are just waiting to quickly point their finger and say, "I knew they'd mess up again," or "I was suspicious about their past, because I remember that time when they...," or "I figured it was only a matter of time before they'd do this again!"
What if people were to do the same to us? "I figured it was only a matter of time before they started gossiping about everyone they know!" "Yes, they're the type of person who talks negatively about people and judges!" "They're just a trouble maker who is always in the middle of everything!" "You can't believe a word they say.... they are always exaggerating!" "They have always had a real issue with jealousy!" No matter how hard we tried to change or do better or how many times we proved that we're not that type of person anymore, what if people still wouldn't trust us and judged us. We'd get our feelings hurt and become offended, then likely, we'd start justifying our actions. "What I'm doing isn't really all that bad! It's not nearly as bad as what others do!! Everybody gossips and talks about people. I'm not doing anything hurtful!" But the Bible lists gossiping or causing dissension or back-biting or jealousy right in the middle of sexual immorality, malicious behavior, and murder!
Matthew 6:14-15 tells us, "If you forgive those who sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." If we want to be forgiven of our sins, then we have to be willing to forgive others. But we also have to be willing to allow others to go forward, freed from their past, whenever they repent and God forgives them; regardless if we know them or not.
Anytime that Jesus responded to a sinner, He never said, "I'll forgive you, but you'll need to pay the consequences for the rest of your life and should be punished to the greatest degree! I love you, but I'll never fully trust you. You need to live under the shadow of your past forever, because what you did was horrible and everyone will need to be on their guard around you for the rest of your life. I'll keep bringing up your transgression over and over again so that you never forget how bad you were!" That was never His response!!
Jesus' responses were: "Go and sin no more!" We are told that our sins will be washed white as snow and forgotten by God, never to be remembered again... never! Once a person repents, God gives them a future and a hope. We need to accept that for ourselves, but also encourage others and see what wonderful things God can do in their life. Put the past behind us and go forward, always looking ahead!
One of my favorite scriptures is Lamentations 3:22-23: "The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning."
It is a comfort to me to know that God never gives up on me. He never runs out of mercies and love. Each morning when I awake there is a new supply of His mercies. When I sin, I can repent and experience the immediate mercy and love of God. It's the same for each of us, regardless of our past, regardless of our transgression, regardless of how badly we've messed up, regardless of how hopeless we feel. God's faithful love never ends, and His mercies never cease. That's amazing!!
Ephesians 4:30-31 says, "Do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."
The next time you (or me) start to repost or say something about someone, even if it seems factual or someone that we know or don't know, think about it and how it could potentially affect them or their family. Put yourself in their shoes or their family's shoes and think about how you would feel if you should ever find yourself in their situation. Is it really beneficial or is it slander or trying to get people stirred up and fearful? We need to constantly remember how God, through Christ, has forgiven us, then do the same to others -- regardless of how horrible their sin may be. God desires that no one should perish, no matter how horrible the sin may seem. God desires to make all people a new creation in Christ, old things past away and all things made new, just as He did for you and me. Let's practice kindness, being tenderhearted, and forgiveness!!
I expect that almost every time someone does something they know is wrong, they are doing it out of desperation and hopelessness.
I'm sure it isn't hard to imagine someone growing up in a terrible home feeling hopeless. They might use drugs to help them feel a little better. Eventually, they end up using drugs just to stop feeling quite so terrible. They might imagine a better life, but think there is no hope they can live that better life. Eventually, they are so desperate for the drugs to stop feeling so depressed that they start stealing to pay for more. They know it's wrong, but they are too desperate to stop. They may eventually resort to armed robbery.
Or you could imagine someone with a much better life. Someone responsible for his whole family. But when he realizes they are getting deeper and deeper, and more hopelessly deep in debt, he feels desperate to keep his family happy. He starts embezzling to cover his debt. Eventually, that could become worse.
King David must have felt desperation when he found out he had gotten another man's wife pregnant. At first, he hoped to cover his crime up by tricking the man into thinking the coming child was his. But when that hope was lost, David resorted to murder.
Even assaults out of anger could come from a lost hope. Most people who have been offended by someone wouldn't think of hitting them, unless they had no hope of at least getting an apology or other peaceful retribution.
Many kinds of sinful acts come from hopelessness or desperation in one way or another.
I've veered a little off my point. The point is that if you know someone has already felt so much hopelessness or desperation that they have committed a sin, then the most sure way to push them into committing the same sin again would be to keep any sense of hope from them.
It may feel like showing intense hatred for someone is what they deserve. But following them, trying to stir up more hatred against them is more likely to convince them to return to old sins than to convince them to not have committed the first sin. Hope for redemption, and eternity with God are more likely to help someone turn away from sins.
In summary, is what you have to share an attitude of hatred or anger, or is it in an attitude of love? Will it encourage others to feel hatred, or love?
Chicken and Rice
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts;
cut into bite-sized pieces
1 box (fast cook) Long Grain and Wild Rice
Celery, diced (to your taste)
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 Tablespoons butter
Cook your chicken. Prepare rice according to package directions. Spread in bottom of glass baking dish. Layer with cooked chicken; top with warmed soup (thinned with milk, if desired) to cover contents of pan. Cover with foil and bake at 325 for 25 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. Can sprinkle grated cheese over the top when the foil is removed, if desired.
I saw a cartoon recently that was a picture of two women -- a doctor and her patient.
Doctor: "Do you exercise?"
Patient: "Yes. I have walked with the Lord for the last 20 years."
Actually, my oldest nephew posted it on Mother's Day on a private family page we have on Facebook and said that it reminded him of his mom and aunts! It made us laugh!!
Replace what you don't know about the future with what you do know about God. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon