by J. Christian Andrews
January 28, 2012
knowledge puffs up, but love builds up
In the too long list of transgressions in my life, the ones that haunt me the most are those that might affect how someone else will approach eternity. I was about to say the sins of my youth, but that would deny the sins of my adulthood even though it does seem those of my youth are the more haunting. I know the grace of God for myself, that I have been forgiven because I have confessed my sins and believe that because God is faithful and just He has cleansed me from all unrighteousness. I trust also in God's grace for everyone else who has confessed his or her sin.
Sin, however, by its nature, is selfish. When I sin, I act selfishly. I have no regard for those I hurt. I grieve the heart of God, but I also bring pain to the human object of my unkind deeds and words. People are hurt.
It is bad enough to cause pain in this life. But what if the pain I cause extends past this life? What if my selfishness, the unkind words, the hurtful deeds, cause someone to reject the God I at the same time confess?
Pastor Paul's advise to the Corinthian Christians has a slightly different topic when he addressed the issues surrounding the consumption of meat butchered in sacrifice to Roman idols. The stakes, however, are the same as it is the conscience of another that is affected. Whether it is my sin or whether it is the exercise of my Christian liberty, I have to be aware that the effects of my choices are not limited to me only. For today, then, I must trust that my confessed sins are forgiven. Like Pastor Paul as he wrote to the Philippians, "I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" ( 3:13,14 ESV). And for tomorrow, I will strive, and by God's grace, I will live knowing that whether by my selfish sin or by my 'knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against [my] brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, [I] sin against Christ.'
January 20, 2012
to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord
If there is something I really don't like to think about it's my youthful indiscretions. No. "Indiscretions" is a euphemism, and I don't like euphemisms. And that's exactly where I'm going.
Oh, I have plenty of stories; but I don't like thinking about them, and I'm not about to tell. But what they really are not is indiscretions. It's the nature of euphemisms to be used to avoid the truth, and to call sin an indiscretion is to avoid sin or to sugar coat sin. Why would we do that? Why do we want to avoid or sugar coat sin?
I'm sure there are plenty of reasons to avoid or sugar coat sin. I'm wondering if one of the first isn't a refusal to accept that we really don't want to follow God's rules. I wonder, what options do we have? If we don't like God's rules we can willingly disobey them. If we don't like God's rules we can pretend He didn't make rules. If we donŐt like God's rules, we can reinvent God, we can invent our own god after our own likeness and desires and say that He is all love and acceptance, a god without rules. We can pretend and live as if there are no consequences for not following GodŐs rules. We can create euphemisms and pretend what we do is not sin.
Or, we can submit to God's rules. That's not as comfortable. It makes remembering the sins of my youth painful (though I know they are forgiven and that they have been removed from me as far as the east is from the west or have been buried in the deepest part of the sea). I think this is what Pastor Paul is calling us to when he suggests we reexamine our priorities. He says it is when he concludes, 'I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.'
January 14, 2012
you are not your own
Dad grabbed me by the waist and set me up on his shop bench. It was about the most serious I can remember him being. He wanted some information from me, and I wasn't being too cooperative with the answer.
The issue started a few weeks earlier when a third grade classmate gave me my first street information about sex. I should have known better, maybe, than to pass the information on to younger ones in my family. (They didn't need to know; and--this is bad--they would not keep it to themselves.) How the word got to Dad doesn't matter. He just wanted to know if the information had come from me, and he wanted to know what the information was.
I guess his manner scared me. I was pretty sure I was in for a good paddling on the bottom. Dad saw through me, and in his wisdom assured me I would not get the spanking I feared if I would only tell the truth. So I told him, and we had that father-son conversation he probably hoped could have waited a few more years.
That was my introduction, I suppose, to what Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker call "every man's battle" (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2000). It does no one any good to deny that we men are engaged in a battle against the passions of our flesh. The enemy knows it and takes no breaks in the myriad of temptations he hurls at us, flaming darts and arrows intended to pull us from our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
God knows it, too. So He offers us reminders in His Word of why it is that we must look away, that we must flee the devil who prowls like a lion waiting to destroy. In one of Pastor Paul's letters to the Corinthian Christians, God reminds us whose we are with this question and these directions: 'Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.'
Janaury 6, 2012
we were buried therefore with Him
They called it "El cajon" (kaa-hone). It was the swimming hole (box) in a river on the north side of town. We didn't go there very often, so I didn't learn to swim. And, it's very possible that my fear of "deep" water originates in one of the river's pools.
With Dad's encouragement, I decided to do some rock jumping: I, a skinny second-grader who didn't know how to swim, jumping off an overhanging rock into water where I couldn't touch the bottom. Needless to say, I was surprised. Nothing in my previous experiences prepared me for the plunge. The weight of my little body sunk me much deeper than I had anticipated. The amount of time it took me to resurface felt like an eternity, also much longer than I had anticipated. The white of churned water and the blue-green of the sky seen from below the surface form one of the most vivid mind pictures of my childhood. When I finally emerged, it was with a panicked thrashing. My life, I was sure, hung in the balance.
So, water has never been my friend. I'm fine with a life-vest. I'm fine as long as I can touch bottom. Recently, I discovered I'm also fine if it's ocean salt water and I'm snorkeling. I failed beginner swimming when I was in 10th grade because I could not float on my back without kicking my feet. I can swim the length of a pool if I force myself to do it, but I gulp air instead of breathe because I panic as soon as the bottom drops out from under me.
But (I love the but's of Scripture) there is one water I love. It is the water of baptism. It is in those waters that God met me, that God allowed me to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because of my sin, I must die. God made provision for my death through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and it is in drowning in the waters of baptism that He allows me to find life. 'Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.'