A dangerous question

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“Mike, what would you say is my most precious, cherished sin?”

It took him a moment.  Not to think of the sin, but to be sure I was serious about asking for that level of honesty.

The answer didn’t surprise me, but it still produced an ‘Ouch!’ because it rolled so easily off his tongue:

  • Your obsessive routines of eating, exercise, sleep and reading!

Let me set the scene, so you can see WHY this is such a squirm-producing topic.

My friend Regina gifted me with a weighty tome by puritan William Gurnall  – Here’s the link on Amazon

William Gurnall's book

 

 

 

 

Gurnall wastes no time in getting down to business.  He reminds his readers of Abraham’s ‘Let’s get real about whom and what you love most’ test administered by God as recorded in Genesis 22:2 –

  • Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Gurnall modified it to fit us!

  • Then God said, “Take your favorite sin, your most cherished sin, which you love  – X – and sacrifice it on the altar”

I’m aware of how often I sin, but to identify my FAVORITE sin, my go-to sin was hard.  So I asked the person who knows me best.

So there I was, face to face with THE QUESTION:

  •  Do I WANT to give up my routines that bring me such comfort?

Immediately the voice offered some reasonable words…

  • “Eating healthy, sleeping enough, exercising daily, READING….those are all good things!  Don’t be extreme”

The problem was, that wasn’t God’s voice.

Isaac bound on the altar

I read on in Gurnall.  In the very next paragraph he warned me that unlike Isaac who did NOT resist his dad’s securing him to the altar, OUR sacrifices will tend to crawl off the altar.

Satan facilitates the escape of the victim with a one-two soft punch:

  • What you do is not THAT bad…!

and the 2nd blow is….

  • Don’t rush or be too hasty.  Wait awhile.  Maybe you heard wrong.  Maybe your husband is just jealous of your self-discipline!

I talked this subject of idols over with one of my sons and his wife who is a true Christian sister to me. What we came away with was that prioritization is key.

  • Yes, it so happens that my habits of choice are healthy ones
  • But they can also become cherished control mechanisms for my ‘happy’ life now
  • It’s not an either/or situation that requires me to jettison them, but something easier to see but challenging to implement.

Jesus boiled down the Law to the 2-dimensional Law of Love

Love God, Love People

When my food, exercise, sleep and reading habits DON’T take away from concretely loving God and loving others, I can pursue them.  But loving God comes first and loving people is a way of loving God.

 

Practically it looks like this (I think!):

Priorities:

#1 – first part of my day I spend in Bible reading, prayer and medication on God’s truth – to get myself happy in God, which is my duty

  • Ps 32:11 – Be glad in the Lord and rejoice….
  • 1 Thess 5:16 – Rejoice always…
  • Phil 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!

#2 – whenever a person comes into my presence or NEEDS to be in my presence, spend time with her or him as appropriate (yes, we all have work to do, but work can become an idol as well!)  For me…..

  • that means remembering that my husband is my covenant partner AND BEST FRIEND
  • that means phone calls to family and close friends are more important than reading
  • that means that neighbors, students, colleagues and people along my daily path at the grocery store, in line at the PO at coffee hour at church are more important than reading something on my iPhone

The leftover time is what I get to invest in God-honoring ways.  If I choose to spend that time cooking or reading or walking or browsing Twitter and Instagram, I am free to do so.

 

Question:  Whom would you ask to help you see your most cherished sin?  And how painful would it be to keep sacrificing it in order to make room for more of God?  If this Gurnall book blasts away within the first 5 pages, I wonder what else is in store for me!

I’ll keep you posted.

 

Forgiveness and freedom from guilt

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The other day I saw a distinction that was new to me.  The word ‘to forgive’ and the French word ‘pardonner’ both have the root or meaning to GIVE (French – donner, like donate).  God gives us a way back to a restored, right relationship with Him after we have violated one of His laws.  It’s 100 % from Him. We do nothing on our own.  Contrariwise, the sacrificial system of the Hebrews was built on the action of the sinner.  You broke God’s law, YOU gave up a valuable, unblemished part of your wealth & sustenance (livestock) and your relationship with God was restored.

Therefore, when God says in the letter to the Hebrews in Chapter 10, “….’their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more’.  And when these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus (17-19)….having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience (22b)…”

What does this have to do with how you and I live and what we do with our sin?  If you and I are in Christ, that is, if we are part of those called and offered “….the promised eternal inheritance – now that he(Christ) has died as a ransom to set (us)  free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (Hebr 9:15), then there is nothing left for us to DO.

If we were still under the rules of the Mosaic Covenant, we would have to give up goods and perform sacrifices to cover our sins.  But now, as members of the new covenant, we exercise the privilege of heirs. We still sin, but we claim the covering effect of the paid ransom.  More meaningful to me is the freedom from guilt.

If we accept as FACT what God’s word says, then per verse 22b in Hebrews 10, we have been cleansed from a guilty conscience.  When did that happen?  When the Son was killed as a ransom to set us free from the penalty of all our sins (past, present and future) guilt was also removed.

So how does this work out?  My struggle with guilt comes more often from not living up to my standards for myself.  Over the years, I have come more and more to bring those standards in line with God’s law.  When I overeat, when I break a confidence, when I say something negative about another family member or brother and sister in Christ, when I choose to be selfish instead of following the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I feel guilty.  And I can wallow in guilt which turns me in on myself, away from God, away from others.  But face to face with the truth that my guilt has been removed, it is getting easier to talk to myself and say,

“Maria, you don’t have to stew in guilty feelings.  They are not necessary.  Guilt has been removed. So stop it!  Remember, there is NOW NO condemnation from God because I am an heir of the eternal inheritance along with my older brother Jesus. In fact He suffered so I don’t have to feel guilty.  Are you saying, by wallowing in your self-indulgent guilt, that it wasn’t ENOUGH for your older brother Jesus, son of the Living God, to willingly be punished for you, for THIS sin?”

I do listen to myself.  And the other day, it only took about 2 hours of stewing and self-talk for me to release myself from the prison of artificial guilt.

How about you?  Are you ignoring such a great benefit?  “Oh bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits, He forgives all your sins!” (Psalm 103: 1a, 2-3a)

 

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