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written by Elder Mike Hosey.
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What is the Sin that Leads to Death?

Among the most difficult passages in the bible is 1 John 5:16-17. The reason that it is difficult is that John doesn’t give us much clarity about what he actually means. In the passage John argues that there is a sin that does not lead to death, and if we see a fellow Christian committing that sin, then we are to pray for that person, and God will restore him or her. Then he argues that there is a sin that does lead to death. He does not command us to pray for that person. It seems kind of scary. Of course this passage has produced a lot of debate among Christians about what these sins are. The debate is rooted in many ideas, but the chief idea is that the bible seems to teach unequivocally that all sin leads to death (Genesis 2:17Romans 6:23James 1:15Romans 5:12 . . . ). So what are these sins and how can we interpret these verses? Well, here are some possibilities. None are perfect, but perhaps they can give us something to study and pray about.


1) Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (
Mark 3:28-30). Disrespecting the Holy Spirit is a sin that cannot be forgiven, which certainly leads to a spiritualdeath in hell. However, in his difficult passage, John refers to the potential sinner as a brother or fellow believer. It seems very unlikely that a person who truly knows Jesus and has been truly saved would commit this particular sin.

2) Chronic or unrepentant sin. This seems to be a better candidate. No doubt, continuing to sin will lead to physical death. For instance, an alcoholic who remains in his sin of drunkeness will likely eventually succumb to liver disease, or death by bad decisions. But John tells us in chapter 3 that true believers don’t keep on sinning (1 John 3:9). And yet we know that even the best believers can struggle with sin in some way. Note the apostle Paul’s personal use of the present tense (Romans 7:19-20).

3) There is a difference between physical death and spiritual death (Matthew 10:28). It is possible that a person’s body can die, but his spirit be given a new body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). In fact, this is true of every saved person (Philippians 3:21). We all will die, because our sins all lead to the death of our physical bodies. But some will also die a spiritual death in hell because they haven’t submitted their lives to Christ. The alcoholic who has submitted his life to Christ, but continues to struggle with his addiction is sinning unto physical death, but his spirit may be redeemed with a new body in Heaven because of his commitment to Christ. Then, of course, there are those sins for which God may proclaim immediate destruction of the individual body so that his church body can be kept healthy (Acts 5:1-111 Corinthians 5:1-5). Notice how in that Corinthians verse that the person is turned over to Satan so that his sinning body can be destroyed in order that his spirit be saved. It may be for this reason that John doesn’t ask us to pray for the restoration of that person. Perhaps such a person is so damaged by sin that God must deal with him drastically so that he can be protected eternally, and the community to which he belongs can be protected in the present.

In any event, we can all agree that John is making the case that all sin is serious, and must be dealt with.

Here’s Why You Have to Know the REAL Jesus

I know a guy in Mississippi, a family friend, who learned a costly lesson a few years ago. He’s an experienced man, old enough to have acquired plenty of wisdom. He is a man whose knowledge of farm and rural life had endowed him with powers of discernment. One day, he pulled into a gas station and bought some items from the convenience store, then filled up his new truck. For whatever reason, he had not taken the time to practice the discernment he already knew how to use. As he pulled away from the gas station, he was confident that all was well and that his day would end comfortably as it always did. But it didn’t. A few miles down the road his new truck met its fate. He had put gasoline in his diesel engine.

It’s not an uncommon mistake. Diesel and gasoline are pumped from machines that are very similar in appearance. Diesel looks like gasoline. In their unburned states, they smell somewhat similar. The nozzles that dispense the fuels, on first glance, appear identical. But all of this is only appearance and not reality. A diesel nozzle is larger than a gasoline nozzle so that you can’t fit it into a gasoline vehicle. On the other hand, because it is smaller, a gasoline nozzle fits far too easily into a diesel tank. Diesel is also a lubricant in addition to being a fuel, so it will often have a black oily residue on it’s pump and nozzle. A diesel pump is almost always painted green, and labeled with big letters that say DIESEL.

But none of those differences matter if you don’t take time to discriminate.

The world of bible teaching is similar to the diesel problem, with one big difference. Diesel is a good fuel that is meant for running certain kinds of cars. False bible teaching, is destructive fuel meant to damage any person interested in learning about Jesus or true spirituality. Unfortunately, the bad bible teaching often comes from a “pump” that looks, smells, and feels o.k. at first glance. But the apostle John knew better, and warned his students to test every spirit to see if it comes from God (1 John 4:1). He gave them a test to help make that discernment (1 John 4:2-3). John argued that a teacher who didn’t pass that test wasn’t from God, but was instead a kind of antichrist. So look carefully at the pumps where you get your spiritual fuel. If you don’t practice discernment, you’ll break your spiritual engine.

4 Ways to Honor Your Mother Everyday

One of the most important commands in the bible is to honor our mothers. It is one of the first direct commands the bible gives us, and it is repeated directly at least 8 times throughout scripture (Exodus 20:12Deuteronomy 5:16Matthew 15:4Matthew 19:19Mark 7:10Mark 10:19Luke 18:20Ephesians 6:2). It’s also repeated indirectly numerous times (Proverbs 1:8Proverbs 30:17). Jesus himself modeled the concept (Luke 2:43-51). The Hebrew word for those Old Testament verses means to make something weighty. The Greek word for those New Testament verses means to place value or esteem in something. So to honor your mother means to place weight or value in her positional relationship to you.

So how can you honor your mother? Well first, don’t limit your efforts to Mother’s Day!

1) Adopt a Proper Attitude: Monitor your thoughts about your mother. Are they resentful? Are they resistant? If so, is this resentfulness or resistance justifiable? Or is it because you just didn’t get your way? Enough thoughts will coalesce into an attitude, and your attitude will then shape your behavior, and your behavior will reflect your level of honor. If your having a problem with your attitude, take it to God in prayer. He specializes in helping you through such problems.

2) Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude: Be thankful for the things your mother has done for you. Remember that she is human, and raising another human is easily one of the world’s most difficult tasks. She birthed you. She took care of you when you could not take care of yourself. And she probably raised you in a world that did not have the tools and luxuries that you have. Gratitude will also shape your behaviors.

3) Honor Her With Your Words: Tell her that you love her. Tell her that she looks nice in her new clothes. Tell her that you enjoyed the meal. Tell her that you are thankful for her. Everyone likes to hear such things, even if they won’t admit it. Remind her of the good things that have shaped the good parts of you. She gets discouraged, and often thinks of the mistakes she made while raising you.

4) Honor Her With Your Actions: Be committed to her well being. Love her dearly with your behaviors. Carry the groceries in for her. Wash her car. Fix the pipe under the sink. Give her a day off regularly. Hug her. Kiss her on the cheek. Help her when she needs help. Do all of it without asking.

Doing these things comes with a promise from God (Ephesians 6:1-3).

What it Means to Keep on Sinning

Sometimes the bible presents us with disturbing truths. These truths serve as dire warnings of terrible things to come, and they should not be ignored. However, some teachers have relied too heavily on these dark truths as a means of scaring people into serving God, rather than inspiring them to serve God by illustrating his enormous love and overflowing grace. When this is the sole tactic used, people serve God because they don’t want to be punished, and not because they actually love him. This makes for fake service. Imagine a wife who supplies her husband with intimacy because she fears that if she doesn’t she’ll be beaten. Such intimacy is either cold, or fraudulent.

Because these ominous truths are so potentially terrible, they sometimes color how we read other parts of the bible. If we are not careful, we will misinterpret those other passages too darkly. One such place where that often happens is in 1 John 3. In that passage, the apostle whom Jesus loved tells us that “no one who lives in him keeps on sinning, and that no one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him (1 John 3:6).” A truly saved person gets a gut check after reading that. Most people freak a bit because they realize that even though they’ve honestly submitted their lives to Jesus, they continue to have moments of sin. In fact, they may even continue to battle sinful desires. Their fear comes because they have focused on the second part of the verse, and forgotten the first. It also serves as evidence of their salvation. Whenever we are living in Jesus — that is whenever we are placing him as the highest priority in our lives, and following in his footsteps, and adopting his attitudes — we won’t keep sinning. We won’t make a practice of sinning. Because we can’t. Our lives will have a different pattern and a different proclivity. If we are living in Jesus, we will feel remorse for sin, and try to correct it. It’s actually a very positive message. A person who lives in Jesus does not keep sinning as a practice and lifestyle, because his new nature supernaturally compels him or her to separate from sin. This may play out in long, painful and difficult battles against the former patterns in our lives, but it will play out. On the other hand, a person who has never really known, or never really seen Jesus, will continue in a lifestyle of sin, will have no remorse for transgression, and will fight no painful battles against his or her former patterns of behavior. In fact, his or her sin will compel him or her to avoid holiness. If sin doesn’t bother you, then you might not have actually submitted yourself to Jesus. And if you didn’t, you are missing out on a life that’s way better than any fleeting (and corrosive) pleasures your sins currently bring you.

How Healthy Are Your Food Sources

You’ve heard the old saying, “you are what you eat.” Obviously, this statement is not to be taken absolutely literally. Instead, its a figure of speech designed to help you remember to watch your eating habits. For instance, the statement doesn’t mean that if you eat carrots, you’ll turn into a root vegetable. And it doesn’t mean that if you eat twinkies that you’ll turn into a spongy, cream filled pastry. What the saying means is that if you put healthy food into you, then you’ll be healthy, but if you fill yourself with junk food then your body will pay the price of becoming unhealthy.

So much of the truth of that statement is to remind us to consider the source of what we intake. An interesting process occurs based on how we source our food. The more good food you eat, the more your body will crave good food. And the more junk food you eat, the more your body will crave junk food. If you drink sodas all of the time, then when you become thirsty, your body will crave soda. If you drink water all of the time, then when you are thirsty, your body will crave water. When you discipline your body’s sourcing, it takes on the attributes of that sourcing. A person who is healthy doesn’t regularly partake in unhealthy activities, because to do so would change him or her into something unhealthy.

John talks about this in 1 John 2:15-17. He reminds us that if we pursue the things of the world — things that are associated with lust, or pride, or freshly desires — then we don’t have the love of God in us. But if we pursue the things of God, then our love for God is evident. The more we pursue worldly things, the more worldly we become. The more we pursue spiritual things, the more we become spiritual.

Finally, he reminds us that spiritual things are superior because they last forever. Worldly things, are temporary. In other words, you can have the fleeting pleasures of junk food, or you can the everlasting well being of healthy food. So take some time this week with God to check your intake sources.

Living in a Faith Community

Every Christian must live his or her life under authority. We are to live under the authority of the Bible, and under the authority of Jesus, and his Holy Spirit, and under the authority of God the father.  We are instructed to live our church lives under the authority of our church elders and the wisdom that God flows through them. We are even to live our lives under the authority of secular governments as long as they don’t conflict with God’s authority (Romans 13:1-71 Peter 2:13-17).

This can be a difficult task because we don’t always like what God wants us to do. Further, our human authorities are human enough to be quite wrong every now and then.

John metes out some of that authority in 1 John 2:7-8 when tells his readers that he is giving them both an old commandment and new commandment. In other words, he tells them that there is a commandauthority they are to respect. Typical of John in this particular letter, he doesn’t immediately identify that commandment. Instead, he moves quickly into a discussion of how hating one’s brother is a form of walking in sinful darkness. But his reference to a new commandment echoes the words of Jesus in the gospel of John 13:34-35.  In that passage, Jesus gives his disciples the “new” commandment to love one another as he has loved them, and that this will show the world that they belong to him.  Interestingly, most of the chapter before that specific command has Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. He is loving them in a service capacity. He then tells them to love each other as he has loved them.

This sheds a great deal of light on John’s unnamed old/new commandment and his statements about hating one’s brothers and walking in darkness.  John is reminding his readers that they should be loving each other with works of service, and that if they are not doing so, but are instead actively neglecting them, then they are walking in darkness, and potentially showing the world that they may not belong to Jesus.

The larger point is that we are commanded to live in community with one another. This is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament. The act of feet washing that Jesus taught was symbolic of loving by serving one’s faith community.  So how do you follow that command to love others in your faith community? Do you serve in children’s ministry, or clean your church building, or invite others to worship, or freely give your tithe, or take meals to someone who is sick, or serve on workday, or greet new comers, or help at a small group?  There are plenty of great opportunities!

Looking At My Sins With Jesus

One of the most liberating things I do in my life is to admit my flaws. Acknowledging that I am imperfect isn’t always easy, but it takes a lot of weight off of my shoulders because it frees me to recognize that I’m not in control of everything. More importantly, though, it prompts me to honestly look at where I need improvement. Not conceding a flaw means that I don’t have to look at it, and of course, ignoring it means that I can’t work toward fixing it. Considerably more liberating – and considerably harder – is admitting that I am an active sinner, with an actively sinful heart. Confession of sin, if done rightly, is uncomfortable, and even painful. This is because you’re not just passively recognizing a flaw, you are owning up to poor choices that you knew were wrong, or should have known were wrong. You are taking responsibility for damaging your relationship with God, and perhaps even other people. You are granting that there is a predisposition in you toward evil that requires regular attention.

But if we don’t experience this pain by admitting our part in sinful decisions, then it is evidence that we don’t know Jesus, which in turn means that we don’t have him to plead our case before a just and faithful God – a God who is faithful to punish our sins, or to forgive them (1 John 2:1Matthew 7:21-23).  Just like when we don’t admit to a flaw, we are doomed to keep the sin and not make improvements.  On the other hand, admitting our sins allows Jesus to shine his light into our lives and expose those things to us we’d rather not touch. Doing this allows him to cleanse us, and helps us to know that we belong to him (1 John 1:5-10).

Recognizing, confessing, and turning from sin in our lives is vital to Christian growth and maturity. I realized this some years ago when I took a careful inventory of my life. I realized that I had ignored God’s desires for my life, and that I had a terrible penchant for pride, lust, laziness, and even selfishness. I rarely looked at the places in my heart that harbored these evils. And I rarely considered how these evils hurt the people around me that I said I loved. Don’t get me wrong, I still battle with all of these (and others) – often on a daily basis.  But I am more inclined to win those battles now than I’ve ever been.  This is because in my Christian journey, I have learned to take a personal inventory not every few years, or months or weeks, but multiple times a day. This allows me to catch the sin as quickly as it has happened — sometimes even before it happens. This humbling exercise liberates me from the grip of those sins that separate me from my God, and hurt the people around me.

Darkness Defeated by Light

A couple of thousand years ago, spiritual darkness covered all the places where men lived. There were a few glimmers here and there that kept men from walking off of sin-high cliffs or into sin-hard walls. These glimmers were the law that God planted in the hearts of everyone, along with the scriptures and the prophets (Romans 2:15Psalm 119:130Amos 3:7Hebrews 1:1-2). These three worked in concert to speak the words of God. But men mostly ignored them because their hearts were evil (Jeremiah 17:9).  Then one day, a great light entered the world of men (John 1:1-5John 1:14). The light was a man, and he lit by his example the places where they lived. His name was Jesus. His light shined brightly, and people fled their darkness and flocked to him.  Their minds were changed. Then their lives were changed. The whole world began to glow with his light as the people who followed him began to both reflect him, as well as become like him.

Then, as suddenly as he entered the world, he left it. He was murdered by men on a criminal’s cross because they hated what he had to offer. They loved their darkness more than they loved light (John 3:19). The world seemed cold and dark again. People who knew him mourned. They had seen the good of his light and feared they would not see it again.  But they were mistaken. His murder had been the fulfillment of a prophecy.  He had been crushed for our sins (Isaiah 53:5). He had been killed for our love of darkness. God had placed on him all the wrongs of the world of men, and allowed them to be destroyed when his body was killed (1 Peter 2:24).  But those who loved darkness more than light could not understand the brilliance of his final moment. He had modeled love (John 15:13). He had given his life so that others could live. He had engineered a light that could never be extinguished because people would always remember his love.

Three days after Jesus had been murdered, he rose from the dead! A miracle of all miracles! It was perhaps the most beautiful moment in all of human time. People would no longer remember just his love, but they would understand it, and now remember his victory as well. Failure would no longer reign supreme (Romans 6:6).  In that beautiful moment he modeled for us victory over sin. The sins of the world did not keep him dead. And if you accept his power, your sins will not keep you dead, either. Allow your sinful self to die and follow Jesus.  He will raise a new you. The sin that both failed you, and caused you to fail, will be gone. The darkness that surrounded you will be pushed away with brilliance. Your life will be marked by victory and light. You will begin to be more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Fickleness and Faithfulness

An unfortunate quality of humanity is that we too often tend to be fickle. Fickle means to change frequently in regards to one’s loyalties, interests or affections. You can see this sort of thing with the public’s interest in pop musicians, movie stars, and clothing fashions. One year the public may be listening to the beats of one particular rapper spitting out his rhymes, or fawning over the beauty of one particular blonde starlet, or wearing skinny jeans to church. The next year, that same public is listening to banjos, worshiping the brunette curls of the next diva, and wearing retro-parachute pants and flip flops to church.

When it comes to life’s entertainment trivialities, fickleness isn’t that big of a deal. But when it comes to those things deserving of loyalty, fickleness becomes dangerously problematic. Imagine if husbands quit marriage when the next fine thing walks by. Imagine if mothers gave up parental affections when the newness wore off of their children. The world would be a greater hell than it already is. In fact, those places where the world is hell, are very often marked by people who have either misplaced their loyalty, or have allowed a fickleness to reign supreme in the ordering of their lives.

Believe it or not, this evil can be reframed in a positive light. Fickleness allows us to observe the quality of our loyalties. Consider the triumphal entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11). As Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, crowds of people throw their cloaks and palm branches on the ground before him as he rides in, all the while shouting words of adoration and praise, and affirming his royalty by associating him with David, and recognizing him as a prophet. But just a few days later, when Jesus stands trial before Pontius Pilate, the crowds (likely populated by some of the same people from just days before), call for Jesus to be crucified, and for a notorious prisoner, Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus.

Any people who had changed their minds in that few days were never really devoted to Jesus to begin with, and their honoring of his lordship was false. True loyalty is, by definition, devoid of fickleness. True loyalty is tried and proven and even defined by hardship. It does not go with the flow. It may bend, but it doesn’t break. The truer it is, the more unchanging it is.

The true followers of Jesus were not fickle – even as they were martyred, they remained steadfast and faithful.

Who Do You Obey?

All people are obedient. Burglars, rapists, murderers, thieves, drug dealers, drug addicts, cops, preachers, cookie baking grandmas and Sunday school teachers are all obedient.  All of them.  We like to think of ourselves as rebels – either with a cause or without one. But that self-image isn’t entirely accurate.  You will inevitably obey something. And if you are obeying something, then you are submitted to that thing, and therefore not a rebel in regards to the thing that you obey.

In fact, Paul teaches this very idea.  In Romans 6:16-18, he persuasively argues that you are either a slave to sin, or you are a slave to righteousness.  And a slave obeys.

 

If you’ve ever been addicted to anything, you know this truth firsthand. The cigarette calls your name at work, and you obey its call. The bottle calls you into the club or bar, and you obey its call. The caffeine calls your name, and you dutifully amble over to the coffee pot. The sugary pastry calls your name, and you obey that call over and over again.  This is the case with all sin to which one has submitted oneself. And it also is the case with your larger sin nature – the nature that tells you to resist God’s calls or commands. To obey your sin nature puts you in rebellion against God.  To obey God, puts you in rebellion against your sin nature.

 

God has set up the universe in such a way that both of these rebellions have consequence. Consider, for instance, Isaiah 1:18-20, where the prophet tells Israel that if they are willing and obedient they will prosper, but if they resist and rebel then they will be consumed by violence. His statement is made within the context of describing their sin. God is telling his people that even though they have sins that are scarlet, he can wash them away if only they will obey his way. Not to obey, however, is to resign themselves to a world that will devour them. That Old Testament prophecy holds true for today’s Christians even more so than it did for those ancient Heberews. The spiritual connection is much more pronounced. To rebel against God is to step into a world where Satan is looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Such a consequence is hellishly undesirable. It will touch every life domain. However, to obey the gospel, and therefore rebel against your sin nature and a world that hates God is to set yourself free from the chains of sin and death. Every life domain will be freed (Psalm 107:10-14).  For if the son has set you free, then you are free indeed (John 8:34-36).

 

What chains are holding you in slavery?

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