New Years 2017 – A Resolution worth Keeping

So 2017 is here (technically this is New Year’s Eve but since I plan to be sleeping when the new year begins I figured I’d post this now) and time to roll out the New Year’s Resolutions stuff.

Resolutions – you know, those things we resolve to accomplish to  do in the new year but never seem to do? Yeah, it is THAT time again. I’ve never been one to make a resolution at the new year. I may have done it a time or two but I never really meant it. But this year is different for me. I am going to make one resolution that I hope to keep throughout the year. I intend and will do my best to keep this resolution  in the coming years.

My resolution is not about weight loss, though I certainly be a pound or ten lighter. My resolution has nothing to do with saving money. In some ways my resolution may cause me to save less money. It doesn’t concern being kinder, gentler, or easing back on my conservative views. It isn’t about finally getting my book published or being a Pastor again. It has to do with something much more important than those temporal things. My resolution has eternal implications and eternal consequences.

So what is my resolution? Before I get to it, a particular passage of Scripture comes to mind:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 NASB

 

I resolve, beginning this year and continuing through the rest of my life to continually place myself on the altar for God to use as he sees fit. I will place all of me at His disposal.

 

But what does this mean?

Simply put, being a living sacrifice means that I sacrifice all in service to my King and God. But what is all? Well, it is everything. This includes my desires, the money I earn, the life I lead, the aspirations I have. It means every nook and cranny of my life is places on the altar as a living sacrifice.

The practical implications of this are numerous.

One thing that must occur as I do this is that I must dismiss my plans. That does not mean that I simply wander through life without  a plan. It doesn’t mean that I wait for God to miracle a direction for my life. It does mean that the ideas I have for my life come under the headship of Christ. I resolve no longer to ask God to bless my plans, I resolve to ask God to bless me with His plan for my life. So though I have one seemingly simply resolution of for this new year and for years to come, there are actually other resolutions that are contained within the simply one above.

As a part of my main resolution,

I resolve to place my desires and aspirations on the altar as a living sacrifice. This does not mean I do not have desires and aspirations. I certainly have them. For instance, I finally have the desire to pastor a church again. I desire to preach much more than the once a year I currently preach. I want to teach more. I want to disciple more. But those desires must be on the altar if I am to do things God’s way. I resolve to continue to prepare to be a pastor – with all that entails – as I wait on God to open a door somewhere to be that Pastor again. I may never be a pastor again. With that desire on the altar means that I’m OK with that outcome. And I am OK;

I resolve to reorder my life to study God’s word deeper and in a more meaningful way. I resolve to share the knowledge God has blessed me with. Anyone who desires to learn what I know is welcome to that knowledge;

I resolve to place my family, my church life, and my work life on the altar as a living sacrifice. Finding balance between many competing interests is difficult if not impossible. This is especially true for those of us with a large family. The demands of being the sole wage earner in a home to 10 folks is daunting even on a good day. Things are expensive these days. With 8 kids, a wife, two guinea pigs, two parakeets, two cats, a dog and many hens and many ducks puts a strain on the family budget;

I resolve to be spent by the time my body dies. I will not hold back but I will not simply do something for the sake of doing it. My activity shall be God-directed, not me directed. To be spent means I shall do all that God calls me to do. I shan’t do things in my own power. I shall do things under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit.

__________________

My life is not my own. I’ve known that for quite a while. Now I will continue to live like that. Everything I am, I hope to be, or hope to do is part of being a living sacrifice to God. It is part of renewing my mind. It is about living life in a God-honoring way. It is living a Christ-centered life rather than a self-centered life.

This is my resolution not just for this year, but for all years to follow.

So, help me God. I’m going to need Your help.

The Amigo of Grace – again!

Grace delivers us from bondage to laws

and frees us to enjoy God in an enriching

and satisfying relationship

 

In order to grasp the reality of God’s grace we must first understand the reality of our own sinfulness. If we are convinced that in spite of the little vices which we all have, we are basically good people deserving of God’s favor, then we shall see no need for His grace. If we believe that God is obligated to let us enter Heaven because we have tried to keep His laws and done the best we can, then grace is totally unnecessary. The whole concept will appear absurd. But if we accept God’s assessment of our lives—that we are unrighteous, deceitful, desperately wicked, guilty, condemned sinners, incapable of measuring up to God’s standard and unworthy of His acceptance—then a deep appreciation for His grace will begin to dawn on our sin-dulled minds. We will get to know the God of all grace.

We learn a valuable lesson about grace from observing God’s gracious actions toward us in salvation. Just as the root meaning of the New Testament word involves joy and pleasantness, so we notice that God’s grace has an uncanny way of transforming the unpleasant into the pleasant. He takes an unbeliever, chained to his wretchedness and sin and bound for the bitterness of an eternal hell, freely gives him the lovely garments of Christ’s righteousness, then assures him of Heaven’s glory and beauty. What a transformation! That is God’s grace for salvation.

Then He continues to act toward us in grace. Not only does He bring delight to our drab existence by giving us the gift of eternal life, but He keeps on giving us good things to meet our needs and brighten our lives. For example, He gives us the resources to build us up and set us apart more fully to Himself, progressively replacing the ugliness of our daily sin with the attractiveness of holy living. That was Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders:

 

And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which

is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those

who are sanctified – Acts 20:32 NASB

 

That is grace for sanctification.

Sanctification is not slavishly submitting in the energy of the flesh to somebody’s man-made list of do’s and don’ts in order to enhance our own reputation or earn points with God. It is laying hold of God’s gracious plan to become more like Christ for His glory and praise. Grace delivers us from bondage to laws and frees us to enjoy God in an enriching and satisfying relationship. We will be motivated to please Him from within rather than pressured from without. We delight in pleasing someone who never stops giving good things to us.

God also provides grace for Christian service. We have a tendency to get carried away with our own abilities, and we begin to think that God is rather fortunate to have us on His team to do His work. We may feel that He is obligated to prosper us when we do serve Him. Those attitudes often lead to failure. The Apostle Paul admitted without shame that he was unworthy to serve Christ: “I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power” (Ephesians 3:7; cf. also 2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

We do not deserve to have the pleasure of serving the eternal God, but He has bestowed that privilege on us by His grace. We serve Him not to obtain His favor, but because we already have it. Any success we may enjoy will be the gift of His grace. He freely gives us the abilities and strength we need to serve Him. He transforms our feeble, bungling, embarrassing, unpleasant efforts into an effective, satisfying, and rewarding ministry that brings glory to Him. It is all part of His gracious actions toward us.

Grace – The First Amigo

An Undefinable Word

Grace is a subject that is broad and deep. I could take years examining the word of God and not adequately plumb the depths of grace. If I had an unlimited vocabulary and perfect writing skills, I would not be able to adequately communicate the beauty of His grace. There just are no words for it. So I will do the best I can to share what I have learned. But to describe it accurately is to try to accurately describe a beautiful sunset painted on the canvass of the sky. To adequately communicate its affect on the human souls is more difficult than to describe in detail the joy of watching one’s child be born…or their first intentional smile!

A Theological Description

God’s grace is that perfection or attribute of God that enables Him to have mercy on us. It is that part that strives with a rebellious person like me…and you. Like every other perfection (or attribute) grace just isn’t an adjective, it isn’t even just part of God. Grace IS who God is. Just like He is love, righteous, holy, just, etc. God is grace and He sheds His grace on us. Now how He sheds grace on humanity can be different but make no mistake that all of humanity experiences God’s grace one way or another.

 

Important Distinctions

Common Grace

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.                   – Matthew 5:44-45 NASB

Common grace is shed on all mankind, not just the elect. We see it in not only the rain cited in Matthew 5, but also in the healing of diseases, feeding the hungry, withholding judgement of those who scoff at God, murder others, and commit all sorts of unrighteousness. We even saw it at the beginning of man’s rebellion when God was gracious to Adam and Eve by making them clothes and graciously allowing them to live rather than execute judgement on them immediately. God’s common grace is that grace that everyone enjoys whether they recognize it as being from God or not.

 

Saving Grace

But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.  – Acts 15:11 NASB

 

The saving grace of God is on full display during the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. In Acts 15 the Council has been convened to discuss the issue of gentiles getting saved. A question arose that centered around the issue of whether the gentiles needed to become Jewish and hold to the Law before they could be saved. It was an honest argument that later turned into a legalistic requirement by some. Anyway, the result of that discussion is the verse quoted above: ALL mankind are saved by the grace of God.

 

In Ephesians 2 Paul states

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.                                            – Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB

 

Some Questions for Thought

God’s grace is what saves us. So what does this have to do with justification and sanctification? And what about security? Can we once saved ever be not saved? Does God’s grace keep us as well?

All these questions are good ones that need straightforward answer. They all will be addressed in the next few weeks as we continue to consider the three amigos of grace, justification and sanctification. It may get a little tangled, but there are very important things to understand about these three amigos and how they apply to life. We’ll also be able to understand how each is distinct from the other but how each works with and enhances the other. I hope you stick around for the ending. It is really awesome.

And I do mean AWE-some

 

 

The Three Amigos

I’m at about 35,000 feet in the air as I write this article. I’m flying to a conference in St. Paul, Minnesota that will take a week of my life. This type of thing isn’t necessarily the most fun I have on my job, but it is part of my job. Sometimes understanding why I have to leave my family for a bit of time is difficult. Like this time. I just don’t always understand the need for me to go somewhere. But my job demands it, so I go. I plug away and work hard to get through it, not just slog through it –  but get through it well. Why? Because everything I do, even the things I don’t fully understand – I do for Christ my King.

This article is the first in a series that examine the relationship between grace, justification, and sanctification. The reason I am examining these three amigos is a dear brother in the Lord asked me a question. I didn’t have an answer for him and I struggled a bit forming one. But I kept going. Not just to get an answer, but for the glory of Christ my Savior and King. Do I fully understand everything? Nope. Does my lack of understanding in any way detract from the truth of God’s word? Nope.

My plan is to examine each of these three important doctrines. I will then put it all together in (hopefully) one article that will try to put these three amigos together. I hope I communicate the truths I have discovered well because, quite frankly, they are nothing short of awesome. So let’s jump in and discover God’s wonderful three amigos – Grace, Justification, and Sanctification.

These three doctrines are important to understand on their own. It is also important to understand how each of them interacts with the others. And not for just these three essential doctrines but for all essential doctrines. Getting that done is not always easy – well, truth be told, it is never easy. But it is important because none of these doctrines works its way out in our lives in a vacuum.

There is a logical progression of sorts in the order these doctrines become effective in the life of a believer. This is only a logical order since there is very little (if any) time between these doctrines becoming active in the life of a believer. The logical progression of these three amigos can be illustrated simply

 

Grace——————->Justification——————->Sanctification

As I said before, this is simply the logical – not chronological – progression. In real time, the three amigos essentially happen at the same time but do have an affect on each other throughout the Christian’s life.

I hope you  enjoy this short series concerning these three very important doctrines. As usual, we will proceed as fast as the subjects allow. I’m in no hurry to get these done. I am, though, wanting to communicate precisely and clearly the subjects. I trust you will profit from this.

 

 

This for That

Life is hard, isn’t it? There are struggles, disappointments, seemingly no end to trials and tribulations. Life is difficult. Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of bad news that we hear each and every day. Becoming numb to that news is easy too.

Now is not the time to cower in a corner, hoping to be left alone. Now is the time to run with purposed abandon into the battle.

Ethnic cleansing, wars, rumors of more wars abound. Natural disasters, human-made disasters, anger, strife are all around us. The Church appears on the decline while secularism appears on the rise. God is neglected – not only in our society but also in some churches. The Bible is dusted off once a week to be carried to hear someone drone on about something that no one appears to care about anymore.

Even for the so-called committed Christians it isn’t much better. Google and the internet have made everyone an expert, everyone a scholar. It doesn’t matter if one has actually spent time being taught the deep things of God. Just enter a search term, copy and paste a response that seems right. Pop theology and armchair theologians are a dime a dozen. And it doesn’t seem that many care. Everyone’s opinion is equally valid.

So too is everyone’s relationships. No longer do we as a country value the millennia-old definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Now a man may marry a man, a woman may marry a woman. What’s next? Men with multiple women? Women with multiple men? Women? Is there any limit to the depravity our nation will condone? Well, the answer is “No.” It is a free-for-all now. There are nearly no limits on so-called human freedom. “Do as you please, your dignity is all that matters” we are told.

As Bible-believing Christians – commonly referred to as Bible thumpers, knuckle dragging morons, and other terms – we recoil at this turn of events. Our society has unraveled before our very eyes. It has been unraveling for some time, we just started to notice. In some countries it is illegal to call homosexuality a sin – even from the pulpit. Pastors have been jailed for that.

Our sonship in Christ will cause us to suffer at the hands of the unrighteous.

In some countries Christians are routinely targeted and murdered because they are Christians. ISIS, or ISIL (or whatever four letters we use to describe them these days), is hell-bent on cleansing Christians from the face of the earth. Of course women are slated for special treatment.

Persecution of this kind is coming. In some ways it is already here. We can rant “Make America Great Again!” We can build a wall, kick out all illegal aliens, outlaw practices we don’t agree with. It won’t matter. The only thing left to happen is the total collapse of our society, economy, and the last vestiges of morality. Don’t kid yourself, this is happening right now.

Church, the time is past where we need to be politically engaged. We need to be Savior engaged now. Not to save America or the world – they both are in God’s hand. But to bear witness, to tell THE story of our Savior.

Jesus told us things would get rough. He said that the world – the non-Christians and the system they love – would hate us because they first hated Jesus (John 15:18). So don’t be surprised by all this stuff. Don’t be discouraged. Why?

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18 NASB

Paul knew about suffering. He had been imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked and would eventually be martyred because of his faith in Christ. All the apostles would die a martyrs death except John the beloved. John would be exiled to a rock as a punishment by Rome.

The word Paul uses in Romans 8 translated sufferings is the Greek word pathemata It carries the meaning of suffering for any reason and in any form because we are His sonsSo great suffering and small suffering is in view here. And that is important to know. Our sonship in Christ will cause us to suffer at the hands of the unrighteous. And that is OK. I will gladly exchange some present sufferings for the future glory that has been promised. In fact, when I weigh the suffering that I have endured or could possibly endure, they come up short – way short – of the glory that awaits. The glory that is the final step in my sanctification. The glory that is reveled both to me and in me.The word translated to (eis) can mean either to or in. Here it probably means both.

That fine day when I will no longer be hampered by this body of death, when I see my Savior face-to-face, my sanctification shall be completed. Oh man, I can hardly wait.

Church, the time is past where we need to be politically engaged. We need to be Savior engaged now. Not to save America or the world – they both are in God’s hand. But to bear witness, to tell THE story of our Savior. Now is not the time to cower in a corner, hoping to be left alone. Now is the time to run with purposed abandon into the battle. Yeah, that’ll mean we get hurt. It means we’ll get ridiculed. That is part and parcel of being related to Christ.

So if I have to endure another year of trouble, so be it. If I have to listen to meaningless drivel about how to be tolerant, so be it. If I lose everything because I am a Christian, so be it. If I am imprisoned because I am a Christian, so be it. If I am killed because I am a Christian, so be it.I will gladly endure all this for that promise of finally being with my Savior.

I will enthusiastically trade this life with all it’s troubles for that promise of perfection with God. This for that…not matter the cost, I (and you) come out ahead.

Comfort for the Afflicted

‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure;

Lately I have been reading quite a few messages, emails, and stories about the trials and tribulations of life. Some are quite sad. Some make me want to run out and fix something or someone. Mix in with this the silly season of politics and we have plenty of reasons to fret. We hear accusations and counter accusations from the candidates. We see bullying that I thought was left on the playground in 5th grade. And the language. Oh, the language. All this can lead to despair. Life these days can be trying.

The issues in life today can seem out of control. We feel helpless. We feel afflicted. We despair.

Are you afflicted with physical pain?

There are times – almost all the time – that my back hurts.  My knees ache, I have bone chips in my left ankle. I hurt continually somewhere. But hey, I’m 52 years old and did stupid stuff when I was younger. I should feel some pain now. But sometimes the pain gets the best of me. The pain make me want to have a pity party and say to myself (and others) “woe is me! I’m in such pain.” But you know what? I shouldn’t do that. I have good reason not to focus on my physical pain.

I have good reason not to despair. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with chronic illness?

I have diabetes. I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I have high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, an arrhythmic heartbeat, and an immune dysfunction that cause my immune system to attack my own body from time-to-time. I’m a wreck! If I was a car, I’d be recalled for being a lemon.  I have these chronic illnesses. I won’t get rid in this life of them unless God intervenes and performs a miracle. I take nine pills each day. Nine pills just so I have a chance at a slightly less abnormal life. In looking at these many chronic problems I have, I could despair. I could give up knowing that I have no realistic hope that I’ll ever be rid of them, the pills or the pain they cause me on a daily basis.

But I have good reason not to despair, not to focus on my chronic illnesses. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with depression?

Do you have clinical depression? I do. Having it is a beast. Feelings of worthlessness, overwhelming powerlessness come up over and over. I have even contemplated suicide. My past won’t leave me alone and at times my future – at least the one I thought I was going to have – eludes me. I get bummed. I start to focus on the issues that surround me and not where I should focus. Then I think I’ll never climb out of this pit. I’ll never have a day where I genuinely feel good.

But I have good reason not to despair, not to focus on my depression. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with unfulfilled dreams?

I love to preach. I love sharing God’s word and encouraging those listening to do something with what they learn. The greatest compliment i ever received was when someone told me they acted on an issue because of what I said from the pulpit. But, sadly for me, I feel my preaching days are over. I’ve taken some hits – some stinging criticisms.  The person(s) who feel this way haven’t talked to me about their perception of me, but they have talked to others.  I have become a stumbling block to that person (or persons) learning when I preach. So I would rather not preach than to cause someone to stumble. And that fact – that I am a stumbling block – saddens me. My love for preaching goes unfulfilled now.  Perhaps you have yet to find your place in the Body of Christ. Maybe you’re looking for a job – any job – and can’ seem to find one. Maybe you’ve been laid off or fired and your heart aches. Maybe, like me, you focus on your loss and you begin to despair.

But I have reason not to despair. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with financial struggle?

I have a wonderful wife and seven – soon to be eight – children living under one roof. My house can be loud, messy, and dirty. It can also be a madhouse. But it is my house – the house God has given to me.

My wife is the most wonderful woman in the world. She manages everything so well, home schools our children and gets more beautiful by the day. She is wonderful. More than wonderful. I don’t have a word for her she is so wonderful. She is my heartbeat, she is my life.   My children are great as well. They are growing so fast. My oldest is nearly 13(!) and my youngest is about to be born in May or June. They are generally loud, running, jumping, active kids. And I love each one of them more and more each day.

But we struggle financially. We are a single income family. That is a choice my wife and I made before we got married. You may have made a different choice and that is OK. Maybe you struggle too. There are some months we don’t have two nickles to rub together. Other months we are better. But whether we have plenty or not, we have each other. Sometimes though I wonder. I wonder about the future, our paltry savings. I see the economy in the US faltering and wonder when I’ll be out of a job. I worry. I start to despair. You probably do too.

But I have good reason not to despair, not to worry about our finances or future. And so do you.

The Reason?

My Good Reason is simple: God is sovereign. Period.

 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.       Psalm 115:3 NASB

God does what God pleases to do. Since God is holy and makes no mistakes, I should take comfort in that fact. And so should you.

In Isaiah 46:10 God says

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;

You see God will accomplish all He plans to accomplish. I take comfort in that. And so should you.

I mess up every day. I sin. I fight against God. I struggle through His grace. Then I get frustrated that I’m not as holy as I’d like to be and should be. I wonder sometimes if I have crossed some line in the sand that causes God to have had enough of me. Then I read John 10, Jesus says

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-20 NASB

Jesus claims to be God here. He claims sovereignty over my life. If you are a Christian he claims sovereignty over your life too. You can’t be lost once you are found. And neither can I. I take comfort in that. And so should you.

Finally, in Romans, Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 NASB

There is plenty in these few verses but I want you to focus in the first one. Everything in life is worked together for good by God for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. That means you Christian. Whether you are afflicted by physical pain, emotional strain or financial stress,

God is working it out for good in your life.   And we – WE – should take comfort in that.   No, we MUST take comfort in that.

Since God is sovereign in my life and in your life, we need not fret about those things that so easily distract us and stress us. Whether those things are temporary or chronic; whether they are physical or emotional; whether they are tangible or intangible; we should – we MUST – reject the control they desire over us and rely on on God.

 

We must find comfort in the absolute sovereignty of God for it cannot be found anywhere else.

Deflated Footballs, Inflated Egos, and Repentence

Changing our mind toward our sin is key if we ever hope to be more Christ-like.

The current “scandal” involving a American football team – the New England Patriots – has enthralled Americans and taken over the endless news cycle. There has been many discussion with some becoming quite heated concerning whether the Patriots did indeed cheat in a football game. The evidence (at least that which has been released) seems to indicate that the Patriots cheated by using under-inflated footballs for when their team was trying to score points. An under-inflated football is easier to grip when the weather is nasty – and the weather was nasty for this game. The “they cheated” crowd is yelling about the principle of sportsmanship and fair play while the “they didn’t cheat” crowd makes a point that every team cheats in one way or another so, hey, what’s the big deal?

After I reflected on a discussion I participated in where the “everybody cheats” excuse was brought up I discovered why I find this whole event so disconcerting. And you know what? It has nothing to do with the apparent cheating. It also has nothing to do with the fact that cheating is prevalent in society. No, my reason for being so upset had to do with something much deeper and, in my opinion, more important that the cheating itself.

FIrst some facts…

We all sin and cheat

I am not using this as an excuse for anyone else cheating and thus saying their cheating does not matter. No I am observing a simple fact. All of us – you, me, everyone alive on this planet right now – have cheated and sinned.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God  – Romans 3:23 NASB

We are all in the same boat. We all do things that are wrong. We all try to game the system. In the parlance of this scandal, we all use under-inflate footballs to gain a competitive advantage. Yes even those reading this that think yourselves as good, moral people. So get over yourself – and myself – already. We are imperfect cheaters who want to win at just about any cost.

We are all helpless to change on our own

I don’t care how much you try to change, you will remain stained with sin as long as you try to change. “Turn over a new leaf” those around you may say. “Take some behavior modification classes” others may offer. Regardless of what you try to do, you will never be able to stop sinning on your own accord. Why? Because we are all as a dead person when it comes to sinning. What can a dead person do to change his condition? Yeah, thats right, nothing.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  – Ephesians 2:1-2 NASB

So what’s the rub here?

So if we are all sinners and cheaters and we can do nothing to change that fact, why then should we get so upset about the Patriots apparently cheating their way to the Super Bowl? If everyone does, what’s the big deal? It’s just humans being human, right?

It is about their attitude

The Patriots have come out and said they didn’t cheat. They have given implausible (my opinion) explanations about how a football will lose pressure. Their denials actually create more troubling questions for me. Their attitude seems to be of indifference to what they have done. They seem to be trying to dismiss this from everyone’s memory. I don’t think that will work.

So what is the Secret Sauce here?

What would help them get over this scandal and move forward? Simply put, they need to ‘fess up and repent of this mess and then they can move forward. Without that, this will follow them throughout the rest of their history as a team and franchise. And that is a good thing. But what does it mean to “repent”?

Repentance

The Greek verb for repent is metanoeo (meta-no-e-o). It means simply “to have a new mind”. The idea of this word is to have a new mind regarding Christ (for issues of eternal salvation) or a new mind regarding the issues of one’s sin (temporal salvation). Though both aspects are important, I’m mainly concerned with the latter point.

How often do we feel bad or sorry about what we have done that is wrong? Whether what we have done is run a red light, take more than allowed, taken something not ours, or some other act, do we feel a sorrow for having done that thing?

 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 2 Corinthians 7:9 NASB

The passage above is referring to Paul’s scathing letter to the Church in Corinth that roundly condemned their hedonistic practices and perversion of the Lord’s Supper. If you want a good dressing down about sin, read through 1 Corinthians sometime. read it all at once. I dare you to stay the same after that. But in the selected passage here, Paul refers to the the sorrow that produced repentance. The Corinthians evidently repented of their wrongs when confronted about it. And here in 2 Corinthians Paul is commending them for it and even rejoicing that they did repent.

So what does all this have to do with me or you?

Well, simply put it has EVERYTHING to do with me and you. We have issues confront us every day where we must make a decision to sin or not sin. Every. Single. Day. What we do with that decision indicates where we are in our process of sanctification. If (when) we make the wrong decision and choose to sin or cheat, we suffer loss. Hopefully our conscience confronts us. When our conscience confronts us (as well as anyone else who confronts us) we have choice to either deny it and try to prove that everyone does it or we can choose to change our mind about our sin, agree we were wrong, ‘fess up and move on.

This is much more important than a football game where cheating happened. This has to do with your walk with Christ. Far too often we try to cover up our sin or even deny we did anything wrong. This is a huge mistake. Changing our mind toward our sin is key if we ever hope to be more Christ-like.  HIding behind excuses does nothing but enrage those around us and create further hindrances to our own spiritual growth.

So the next time you cheat, sin, or deflate footballs in order to win a game in bad weather and then get caught at it, don’t deny, obfuscate, or offer other excuses. Change your mind about your sin. Admit what you did, ask forgiveness, and then move on after being a changed person.