3-D Vision

English: It took this photo personally with a ...

 

How we perceive people and situations can be distorted by our own preconceptions and, especially, by the condition of our hearts. What our “starting point” is makes all of the difference in how we see things.  Are you seeing clearly?

How Is Your Vision?

Spiritual Near-Sightedness — It’s all about me.  I’m not focused on others.  What matters to me and to my ministry is what is most important. Others should see it that way too.

Spiritual Far-Sightedness — I can see everyone else’s faults, but never my own. It’s easy to see what others are doing wrong. If they could just see it too, then things would be so much better for all of us, especially for me.

Spiritual Astigmatism –  I see people with a distorted perspective. Instead of seeing people for who they are and where they are, I see them as challengers or as weak or as not useful. I fail to recognize people as wonderful creations of God, instead seeing looks, money, power, etc.  My main thought is often: what can they do for me?

Spiritual Protective Goggles — I’m always afraid to be involved, open, honest and vulnerable.  I play it safe in relationships and in ministry.

3-D Vision — Jesus saw things perfectly.  No one could see things as perfectly as Jesus did and does.  He saw people and situations from a holy perspective. He had that kind of vision because he saw the world through a lens of love.

Faith Expressed Through Love

Love Is a Decision — Jesus chose, intentionally, to love.  In fact, love is the highest goal and the best decision. “Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does!” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Make conscious choices to love people.

Love Is a Demonstration — Don’t just pretend to love people, actually love them!  Love is an action and must be demonstrated.  Isaiah 58 reminds us that the kind of fasting that God desires is not one that is “fake” and all for show.  Instead he says that our sacrifices to Him are to be about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, speaking up against injustice, housing the homeless.  Note that all of those things are the basic NEEDS that we all have (food, clothing, shelter). Isaiah wasn’t just saying those are the only things we should do; he was saying that ALL needs for people should be addressed in a way that is sacrificial and pleasing to God, i..e, in a loving way.

Love Is the Difference — If I am not motivated by love, everything else is just noise, like a clanging symbol or a creaking, rusty door.  (See 1 Corinthians 13).

Credit:  A lot of this post was gleaned from a devotion given by Pastor Mike Breaux at the 2012 NACC Continuation Committee Leadership planning session.  Thanks, Mike!

Are Some Sins “Worse Than” Other Sins?

3D Scales of Justice

This is another question from the congregation during Adventure’s “Q & A” series recently.  For some, this seems to be a very important sticking point in their faith.  Frankly, I’m not sure why.  I think it might have to do with our comparative nature of not wanting to be “as bad” as someone else.  Maybe it has to do with our own sense of justice as we try to  figure out the world we live in.  Perhaps we seek the answer to this question to help us understand God’s grace more fully.

In any event, I do believe that there is an answer to this that we can understand, and, when understood, that should motivate us to seek to live more holy lives.

The Actual Question as Written“Are some sins a ‘bigger deal’ than other sins (i.e., abortion, homosexuality, adultery vs. lying, gossiping)?”

The Answer:

The short response to this question is “No and Yes.”  That may sound like a cop-out, but it really is the truth.  The answer of whether one particular sin is “worse than” another is dependent on how we are looking at (i.e., “evaluating”) a particular sinful action or inaction.  Let me explain.

The “All Sins are Equal” Perspective

All sin causes separation from God.  (Romans 3:23) That means that EVERY sin, whether we would see it as “little” or “big” is completely and fully devastating to our relationship with God, who is perfect and holy in every respect.  Any pollution to the relationship at all, no matter how small, causes imperfection and separation.

An illustration I like to use to explain this goes like this.  Imagine that you are a lamp with a cord that needs to be plugged into the wall in order to have “power that turns on your light.”  Imagine that God is the electrical socket in the wall.  When we are “plugged in” to God, our relationship is “perfect” and our light is on.

Now, imagine that sin is any distance between the cord’s plug and the wall socket.  What we might see as a “small” sin (for example, calling into work and saying I’m sick when I’m really not because I wanted to play golf) might only move the plug away from the socket a short distance – let’s say a foot.  What we might see as a “big” sin (for example, cheating on my wife or committing cold-blooded murder of multiple people) would move the plug away from the socket a big distance – let’s say a mile.  In BOTH EVENTS, the lamp is not plugged in and there is no “relationship” between the power-source and the lamp.  Both “sins” essentially caused “equally devastating” damage to the relationship because the relationship is either “on” or “off”.

So, from the perspective of our relationship with God, there is really no “ranking of sins” because ALL sin separates us from God.

(Note:  While not directly related to the question of the ranking of sins, I do want to finish my illustration. — Jesus is the extension cord of infinite length (i.e, infinite grace) who is always sufficient to connect our lamp to the power source. See, Romans 5:26).

The “All Sins are Not Equal” Perspective

On the other hand, and something that we often forget, is that our sins do not just affect our relationship with God, they also affect our relationships with people.  And, because of that truth, it is also true that a particular sin that I commit can cause much more damage to my personal relationships with people, as well as their relationships with people and with God, and, therefore, is “worse” than another sin I might commit.

Staying with the sins used in my example above — lying about being sick in order to play golf will definitely cause some damage to a relationship or two.  Even if I don’t get “caught”, by lying I have introduced an element of distrust into the relationship I have with my boss and co-workers.  If you don’t believe that, just imagine what I might think the next time a co-worker called in sick and left me with a bunch of extra work that day.  Don’t you think it would cross my mind that he might be out playing golf?  Of course, damage to the relationship, any relationship, is not good.  But, the damage caused in this example will be fairly “contained” and hopefully “subside” somewhat over time, particularly if I don’t compound the damage by continuing to lie.

However, if I cheat on my wife or commit a multiple murder, the damage and pain caused by such sins would be devastating to many, many people for a long, long time.  There would be extreme grief reaching multiple families.  My kids would be devastated and their future marriages would be impacted as they would have to overcome an element of mistrust.  And, you can only imagine the devastation and ripple effects of committing multiple murders – to families, to the community, to the legal system, to the church, etc.

So, from the perspective of my relationship with people, some sins are much “worse” than others because of the widespread damage they cause to relationships – between me and others, between others and others, and between others and God.

The Bottom Line Goal

Our goal in seeking an answer to this question should not be so that we can compare our sins to the sins of others.  Instead, our goal should be to understand that what we do, and what we fail to do, when we are not living up to what God wants for us and from us, causes damage to both our relationship with God and with others.  That’s why sin is harmful and that is why it is wrong.  Sin isn’t harmful because God says so.  Sin is harmful SO God says so.

Previous Questions:  How Can I Know God’s Will?

The Parable of the Soils – notes

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These are Pastor Buddy’s sermon notes from his April 28, 2013 on the Parable of the Sower (aka the Parable of the Soils) from the series on the Gospel of Mark.  (remember, these are notes, it is not written like a regular blog post).  You can listen to the podcast here.

In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus relates what is often called the Parable of the Sower or the Parable of the Soils.  In a somewhat unique turn, Jesus also provides some insight into the meaning of the parable.

Parables Are Wondrous Things — Learning from a parable is unlike other types of learning.  We are not just “receiving information that we are to memorize.  Instead, when we seek to learn the truths contained in a parable (or “story”), we must “think it through.”  We should place ourselves in the parable as characters, ask questions about what is happening and what else could have happened, etc.  By doing that, we will learn deeper truths about God and also about ourselves.

Here are some things that I learned while studying this scripture:

God Gives His Grace Indiscriminately

God doesn’t just offer His grace to those people who are a “good bet.”  Instead, He offers it to all – without prejudice or discrimination.  No matter where we are in life, His grace is there for our receiving.

God Gives His Grace Lavishly

God isn’t stingy with His grace.  He offers us more than enough “seed” for His truth to take root in our lives.  We might fail to recognize the lavishness of His grace, but it’s there nonetheless.

The Impact of God’s Grace Depends on Our Heart’s Condition

Notice what is different among the four soils in the parable — the condition of the soil.  The sower is the same.  The seed is the same.  The sower’s activity is the same.  What is different is the condition of the soil itself, nothing else.

“The Path Soil”

Mark 4:15 – Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.  As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

note:  there is a spiritual battle going on for our souls.  note: we ignore God’s Word as if we were listening to an airline stewardess give pre-flight emergency instructions.  It’s a life and death matter, but we just let it go by as if it has no importance.

“The Rocky Soil”

Mark 4:16-17 – Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

note:  we aren’t likely to have special police in our church parking lots any time soon.  But for us, the “trouble because of the word” often comes when we are called to obey the word in personal relationships when we don’t want to — for e.g., forgiving others, working on our marriages, being humble, serving first, etc.

“The Thorny Soil”

Mark 4:18-19 – Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Many of us allow God’s Word to be active in our lives, but it is prevented from bearing fruit because we fail to follow God as our first and primary priority.  Instead, we let the worries and distractions of life get in the way — e.g.s, our jobs, money, busyness, kids, how we look, etc.

“The Good Soil”

Mark 4:20 – Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.

Notice that the good soil: receives the word immediately so that it cannot be snatched away, receives the word deeply so that it can not be uprooted easily, and receives the word exclusively so that it’s fruit is not choked by other things of this word.

Do a soil check — which type are you?  What is the condition of your heart today?  Do you need to prepare your “soil” to hear the Word of God and to fully receive His lavish Grace?