On My Mind and Heart: Second Chances

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This week I’ve been thinking about second chances, how blessed we are that God gives us second and third and fourth and many more chances, and, how we should give others a second chance (or third or fourth) a lot more often than we do.

God gives us a second chance.

Christmas is the celebration of the ultimate second chance.  In the beginning, God created a perfect world in which mankind could live, thrive and commune with God.  But, man blew it.  And because of that, man suffered by being separated from God.  But, through the birth of Jesus Christ (which we celebrate on Christmas Day every year), God gave mankind another chance – a new opportunity to commune with Him.  What a great gift!  We didn’t do anything to earn this second chance.  We didn’t deserve it.  But God gave it to us anyway.

We should give others a second chance too.

The Bible exhorts us to forgive others because in Christ Jesus God forgave us.  Because God gives us a second chance even when we don’t deserve it or earn it, we should be a lot more forgiving of the people in our lives who need a second chance for relationship with us.  I know you’ve been hurt.  I realize that someone has disappointed you, betrayed you, and fallen short of your expectations and needs.  But, guess what?  You’re no peach either.  And either am I.  That’s why we all need to be a little less bitter and lot more forgiving.  When you do that, you’ll be surprised at how much better a restored relationship feels than the broken one you are living with right now.  Try it.

Final thought.

Who do you need to give a second chance to today (just like God gave you a second chance)? 

Open Your Eyes!

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Do you wish you could see the way that Jesus sees?  In a recent post, 3-D Vision, I discussed how Jesus saw things perfectly.  Jesus saw people, circumstances, situations, conversations — everything with perfect vision because his vision always came from the inside perspective of love.  On the other hand, we often have flawed vision.  Our vision can be distorted, seeing only from our own needs and our own perspective.  In this post, “Open Your Eyes”, I want to expand on that idea of vision and discuss how our vision becomes “distorted” and what we can do to correct it.

Distorted Vision Comes from Self-Pity

In Luke 24, we read the story of two pilgrims traveling to a village called Emmaus.  It was just after Jesus had been crucified.  These men had been followers of Jesus.  Now, with Jesus killed, they were walking back home, disillusioned.  “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them” (Luke 24:15) but they did not recognize him.  Even as Jesus spoke to them, they did not recognize him as Jesus.  Instead, the Bible says “they stood still, their faces downcast” because they had “hoped that [Jesus] was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21.

These men had Jesus right next to them.  He was personally walking with them.  But they didn’t even realize who He was.  Why?  Because they were absorbed in their own self-pity.  What these two men had hoped for from Jesus hadn’t come true.  Their own desires had not been met.  And, because of that self-pity, they couldn’t even recognize their Savior when He was right next to them.

Aren’t we like that at times?  Don’t we also let our vision of Jesus and what He is doing in and around us become distorted and even blocked because we didn’t get what we wanted from God?  It can happen easier than we want to admit.  A boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with us.  We don’t get the job we wanted.  It rains on parade day.  Whatever it might be for you or for me, the truth is that sometimes when we don’t get what we want, and we wallow in self-pity, distorting our ability to see Jesus right next to us.

Distorted Vision Comes from Self-Focus

Unfortunately, self-pity multiples into self-focus.  What happens next in the story in Luke is that the two men relate how some of their companions “confused” them. (verse 22).  The two travelers were confused by the stories of some of their friends.  Some said that they had gone to Jesus’ tomb and it was empty and that they had seen an angel who said that Jesus was alive.  Some others double-checked the tomb and also found it to be just as the first friends had said although they “did not see” Jesus. (verses 23-24).

The “companions” whom the travelers were talking about were Jesus’ closest disciples.  They had been on the front lines with Jesus.  They were the leaders that these men were starting to look up to.  But, now, these two travelers refused to join in this wonderful, fantastic miracle experience that the “companions” had.  Instead, the travelers remained self-focused and self-reliant.

Our vision to see Jesus and to see the world the way that He sees it becomes impaired when we refuse to participate in the God-experiences of others.  We see and hear stories of lives being transformed by Jesus, marriages being healed, addictions being overcome, relationships being restored, forgiveness being offered, baggage being left behind.  But, if they aren’t MY STORIES then I am not going to allow them to change my sight.  “I’m only going to see God through my experiences,” we say.

“How foolish you are!” Jesus said to those two travelers (verse 25).  He says the same to us when we refuse to participate in the experiences of others.

The Word Comforts

When our vision becomes blurred, distorted and impaired, there is still hope.  In the story were are reading in Luke, the Bible says that Jesus heard the disillusionment of the travelers so He “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”  (verse 27)   Then, when they had reached their destination, we are told that Jesus acted as if He was going farther but the pilgrims urged Jesus to stay with them.  (verse 28).  The travelers had heard the Word and they wanted more of it!

When we become disillusioned and distracted with self-pity, when we become self-absorbed in our own lives without seeing what God is doing in others, the one thing that can begin to clear our vision, the one thing that can give us hope, is the Word.  As we read the Bible, as we study what God has said and is saying to us in Scripture, we gain new perspective, new vision.  And, just like the pilgrims on the road to Emmaus, we want more!

Jesus: The Eye-Doctor

What happens next in the story is remarkable.  It can be life-changing when you “grasp it.”  Jesus sits down to eat with the pilgrims.  While “at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him!” (Luke 24:30-31).  Jesus “gave” them something that caused these men to see Jesus for who He was; he “gave” them something that opened their eyes.

And He does the same for us.  When we spend time with Jesus, He will do something that will open our eyes and repair our vision.  Jesus is the perfect eye-doctor.  He may “give” us a verse that especially speaks to us on a particular day.  He may give us a conversation that we so desperately need.  He may give us insight and wisdom into a situation.  He may give us peace that is beyond our understanding.  And, on and on.  That’s who God is — He is a graceful, merciful, loving God who desires for us to know Him, relate to Him and commune with Him so that we might see Him and the world around us better.

 

Opposition – Why and What to do with it.

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A crisis hits us.  Someone treats us unfairly.  Sickness abounds.  We face troubles with our finances, our jobs, our relationships.  Opposition is no stranger to anyone, including Christians.  In my 9/15/2013 message, we look at Acts 4 and learn about the 3 major types of opposition that we face and how, with God’s help, we can persevere through the trials.

Note:  these are my sermon notes.  You can listen to the message on the Adventure website.

“Come as you are and become who God wants you to be.” — That’s our vision for Adventure Church.  It’s who God has called us to be.  When we read it / say it, it seems like it should be so easy — just come and let God help you become who He wants you to be.  But the reality is that it isn’t very easy at all at times.  Opposition abounds in becoming who God wants you to be.

It shouldn’t surprise us.  In 1 Peter 4:2, the apostle Peter reminded the church of such by writing: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”  Trials happen.  They happen to everyone.  So when they do, we shouldn’t be surprised.  Being a Christian isn’t a ticket to Easy Street.  It was never meant to be that.

But remember:  “Opposition is really a growth opportunity!”  God uses tough times in our lives to grow us spiritually.  It’s like running a marathon; at some point you will hit a wall.  It’s then that you have 2 choices:  you can give up and go home OR you can persevere and get through the tough time.  When we choose the latter, we learn from it.  Our faith grows.  Our belief grows.  Our experience grows.  That’s the way to spiritual maturity:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Peter & John Face Opposition

At the beginning of Acts 4, we see Peter and John, fresh off of the healing of a crippled beggar, speaking to the crowd.  Hundreds of people, if not more, had rushed to see what was happening.  We see that the religious leaders and the temple guards also came and were disturbed by what Peter and John were teaching – in particular, that they were teaching about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  This was the beginning of the opposition they would face in 3 ways.

Opposition from Circumstances

Acts 4:3 – “They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.”  This had to be a little unnerving to say the least.  Just a couple of months ago, Peter and John had witnessed Jesus arrested in the evening.  The next day he was crucified.  Now Peter and John were in a tough circumstance.  It could easily have challenged their faith and particularly their “becoming who God wanted them to be” which was to “be [His] witnesses in Jerusalem, ….”

At times, your circumstances can be an opposition to becoming who God wants you to be.  Maybe it’s a problem with your job.  Maybe it’s an illness.  Maybe there’s been a death.  Maybe you have a relationship problem, even a divorce pending.  There are all sorts of circumstances that can make us feel alone, forgotten by God, ignored by Him, or, worse, even that He is punishing us or that He hates us.  None of that is true.  Those are lies.  But circumstances can work in such a way as to make us believe lies.

Opposition from Others

Acts 4:7 – “They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’”

People will question your faith at times.  They will doubt whether you’ve really changed.  They may even diminish or ridicule what you believe.  Relationships may change.  Some won’t want to be around you any longer.  It’s not easy to become who God wants you to be when you feel like so many are against you.  It can cause you to doubt or cause you to want to give up.

Opposition from You

Maybe the greatest opposition we face in becoming who God wants us to be is ourselves.  We have issues with pride and anger.  We harbor grudges and refuse to forgive.  We have secret sins that we hold on to.  We fail to accept the forgiveness and grace God offers for our past and continue to be weighed down by guilt and shame.  We are lazy.  We make unwise choices.  All of those things interfere with our spiritual growth.

What should you do when opposition comes?

Rely on God’s Power

Acts 4:8 – “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people!”

Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit.  He knew that to be true.  If you are a Christian, you also are filled with the Holy Spirit.  God can help us overcome opposition.  He is stronger and bigger than any trial we are facing.  The first step to persevering is asking Him for help.  Rely on His power.

Remember What Is True

In the next part of Acts, we see Peter stand up for what he knew to be true — “Salvation is found in no one else” but Jesus, Peter says.  When we wish to overcome opposition, we need to remember what is true about God and His promises to us.  The devil wants us to believe lies like God has abandoned us and is mad at us.  The truth in the Word tells us that God loves us with an everlasting love, that He is always present, that He desires us to have life to the full, that He gives us a peace that is beyond understanding (and not like the world gives), that He desires for us to have understanding, that He chooses to forget our sins, and so much more.  We need to hold on to those truths in times of trial and suffering.

Resist the Temptation to Compromise

Next the religious leaders admonish Peter and John and tell them to “speak no longer to anyone in” the name of Jesus.  Note that they were going to allow them to continue to teach, not just in the name of Jesus.  They could heal, but not in the name of Jesus.  They didn’t kick them out of town, they just didn’t want them to mention Jesus any longer.

But Peter refused to compromise.  In Acts 4:19-20, he responds with: “‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”

It’s much easier to compromise than to stand firm in what we know to be true.  It’s easier to just do good, but not mention the name of Jesus.  It’s easier to just attribute the change in our hearts and our lives to “living right” and “making good choices.”  That’s what our society wants us to say.  That’s what Oprah and Dr. Phil want us to believe as well — that we somehow can engineer these great personal changes in our lives.  But that’s compromising.  If you really want to persevere through opposition that will stall your spiritual growth, you can’t compromise the truth.

Refuel

Finally, to get through trials.  To overcome opposition.  You have to refuel.  That’s what Peter and John did.  After they were released, “Peter and John went back to their own people …” (Acts 4:23).  How awesome is that!  They went back to their people.  Together they praised God for protecting them and prayed.  The Bible says they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.  (Acts 4:24).

Opposition is tough.  Trials, even small ones over time, take a toll on you.  You have to get back to your people — and that means your Christian fellowship!  That’s a big part of what church is for — we are each other’s people.  We are support for each other.  We can pray for each other.  We can refuel!

Conclusion

Opposition is really a growth opportunity!  At the time it’s happening it’s not much fun.  But overcoming the trials and the suffering lead us to spiritual maturity.

3-D Vision

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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!

The Fate of Hypocrisy

"The Smallest Church in the World"

 

Sermon Notes from July 7, 2013.  You can catch the audio sermon on the Adventure Church website.  This message was based on scripture from Mark 11.

“Hypocrisy” – means to act or to pretend.  In short, it means to act like something that you are not.  The world is full of hypocrites, including the church.  But for Christians, it is especially important that we seek to be “real” and “authentic” all of the time.  Our witness is mostly who we are, not what we say.  As many as 72% of unchurched people say that the church is full of hypocrites.

“What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” – Emerson

The Hypocrisy of False Appearances

Mark 11:13-14, 20-21 — Jesus sees a fig tree in the distance full of leaves.  It appears to be healthy, but he finds it to be fruitless and curses the tree.  The next day, the disciples find the tree completely withered.

We can too easily live in such as way as to appear that everything is “good” or “fine” when in fact, our real life is far from such things.  We are broken inside.  We hurt.  We sin.  (note: illustration – ‘Dust if you Must’ – when we clean our homes for company, we shove all of our clutter and dirt in the closet or under the bed.  Do we do the same with our spiritual and emotional clutter?)  When we live like this, it is destructive to ourselves and the people around us, especially our kids, who are watching us.

Such hypocrisy is detestable to God, is known by Him, and will be destroyed.  Just like the fig tree, God knows if our lives our bearing fruit.  He knows our real selves.  And, when we try to live a double life, it destroys us.

Also, see Luke 6:45 – “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man things out of the evil stored up in his heart ….” — What is on the outside comes from what is in our inside, our heart.  Fruitlessness shows that we have a heart problem.

The Hypocrisy of Wrong Focus

Mark 11:15-16 – Jesus enters the temple area and turns over the tables of the money changers and prevents them from transacting business.  He teaches the crowd by saying “Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

The temple was the centerpiece of the Jewish faith.  By his actions, Jesus showed that they had come to worship the acts of holiness, the rituals, instead of worshipping God, the only one who is worthy of our worship.

As individuals and churches, we can slip into the hypocrisy of wrong focus.  Instead of spending our lives worshipping God himself, and living for His purposes, we get caught up in our buildings, our attendance numbers, our great music.  We can even allow ourselves to fall into a place of “pious fellowship” whereby we spend time with one another and are “happy” to be with each other, as long as there is no sin mentioned or demonstrated.  We don’t want broken people or personal filth to interrupt our “holy fellowship” times in our small groups or pot-luck dinners.

This type of hypocrisy is opposed to God’s purposes and will be exposed by Him.  God will not allow us to continue to worship things that are not aligned with His purposes or that conflict with our worship of Him.  He exposes our inauthenticity – to us, to others, to the world.  And, just as Jesus upset the money changers’ tables, when our focus is wrong, and it is exposed, it upsets our lives in uncomfortable ways.  But, that’s how God gets our attention.

The Hypocrisy of Willful Ignorance

Mark 11:27-28 – Jesus engages in yet another verbal exchange with the religious leaders.  The leaders try to trap Jesus once again with a question, but Jesus poses a question back to them.  The leaders choose not to answer and in refusing to do so, expose their hypocrisy.  The refuse to listen to God’s Word, instead choosing to be worried about what other men will think of them.

This may be the most devastating of all of the hypocrisies.  Willful ignorance simply means that even though the Word is right in front of us, even though we can read the Bible, hear the Word preached, etc., we choose not to take it to heart.  We know what we should do, or what we should not, but we choose against those things in favor of what is most expedient or most comfortable for us.

This hypocrisy shows up in our lives as we fail to live as God directs in our marriages, our relationships, in how we forgive others, in what we do at work or at school or on the golf course.  The bottom line is that we purposely sin because we willfully ignore God’s Word.  What can be more hypocritical than that?

Such hypocrisy is repugnant to God and will be defeated.

The Bottom Line

1 Peter 2:-2 – “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation ….”

Note: illustration about deer getting addicted to junk food to the point of not being able to consume anything healthy.  It lead to their destruction.

We must crave pure spiritual milk from God.  We must get rid of our hypocrisy, for the sake of ourselves and the kingdom, by feasting on what is good, allowing God to transform our hearts so that we can bear good fruit.

Tough Teaching: Be a Slave?

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My sermon notes from the June 30, 2013 sermon “Be a Slave?” from the series “Tough Teachings of Jesus”.  You can hear the podcast on the Adventure website.

Be a Slave?

Intro:  Pastors, church staff and church leaders revealed in a recent survey that some of the most difficult challenges they face each week are church member’s apathy, inward focus and the inability to motivate and keep volunteers in ministries.  If “we” (meaning Christians) just understood and took to heart this one “Tough Teaching” from Jesus, it would go a long way toward eliminating those challenges.

Mark 10: 43-45 — “Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus tells his disciples, and us, that to be “great”, we must first become a slave — a slave to Jesus Christ and His purposes!

The Christian Paradox

This scripture, and teaching, reveals another aspect of the “Christian Paradox”.  A paradox is what seems backwards, inside-out, upside-down.  A paradox is not the natural way we think of things.  The Bible is full of them.  Examples:  to live you must die, to be rich you must be generous, to lead you must follow, and, to be first you must be a slave.

What Are the Characteristics of the Christian Paradox:  Be a Slave?

It’s Voluntary

No one is going to make you do it.  The word “slave” means “bondslave”, which is a voluntary position of servitude.

It’s a Choice

You can say “yes” or “no”, but not both, and not neither. — note:  saying “no” is obviously a rejection of doing what the master wants.  But, we need to also realize that failure to say “yes” (i.e., sitting on the fence, or trying to remain neutral) is also saying “no.”

Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other….” — note: while Jesus was teaching on the love of money in this scripture, the principle remains the same: we cannot not be both devoted to the things of God and the things of “something else”.

It Means Submitting to the Master’s Will

Submission to God’s will and not your own will is the characteristic of a slave.  God is our master.  Submission to His will is going to require us to sacrifice.  We will have to sacrifice our comfort, our desire, our time, our energy, our money, and our priorities to what He wants.  We will be asked to do things that we may not want to do.  We will be asked to do things that we would rather not do sometimes.  But “slavery” to the will of God is doing what He wants, not what we want.  — This will become real in our lives as we serve in ministries in the church, as we allow our lives to molded in His holiness, and as we live a life as directed by the Bible.

Luke 22:42 – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” — As Jesus prayed this on the night before He was crucified, Jesus gave a perfect example of what it means to submit to the will of God first, and to be willing to sacrifice everything.

It Requires Action Toward Others

Saying yes.  Declaring your intention to do something.  Wanting to submit to God’s will. — All of those things are great.  But they are all meaningless without action.  There is a big difference between saying you are going to do something and actually doing it.  We only reveal ourselves as “slaves of Jesus” when we actually act on what we say and what is in our heart.

Colossians 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, …. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Remember that when you serve that you are not just serving another person, you are actually serving Jesus Christ, your master.  You are connecting to Him by way of the Holy Spirit as you submit yourself to Him and you are connecting another to Him as you represent the hands and feet of Christ to that person.

Conclusion

If all of our church would allow our hearts to be transformed by this one truth, we would make an impact for the Kingdom that would be beyond our imagination!

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.

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