Tag: sin

Under Attack

The truth is that what we have seen in recent days should not shock us.

I’m not suggesting images of tanks rolling into towns, bombs causing devastation, people fleeing their homeland, and of men going off to war with the possibility of never returning home should sit well with us. They should not. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be shocked by what we see.

War has been a fact of life on Planet Earth for thousands of years. Every country on every continent has at some time witnessed war and its accompanying carnage. Our parents or grandparents lived through the horrors of World War II. Their parents witnessed World War I. Add Korea and Vietnam and the Gulf War, and the many wars not as visible to the Western world, and we realize conflict is a fact of life. A regrettable, bitter fact of life, but a fact of life nonetheless. This generation should not expect to avoid senseless sorrow on a massive scale. What generation has?

Although we understandably feel we should. This is 2022! Invasions, needless killing, and unprovoked aggression? Exactly. None of it makes sense, at least from where we view the world. But why should we be shocked when a larger nation invades its smaller neighbor? This is what nations do. It’s what they have always done.

Sanctions and weapons and fierce resistance and humanitarian aid are entirely appropriate at a time like this. But they won’t stop future invasions from happening, nor will they dissuade despots and dictators from doing what despots and dictators do. The war in Ukraine will one day be over, and before long another will begin. And when it does, we’ll ask ourselves the same questions again: “Haven’t we learned from the lessons of the past? How can one country do this to another? What about all the innocent people and the tragic loss of life?” 

Ignoring the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, rejecting reason, compassion, and mercy, it is human to dominate, to subjugate, and to take at the expense of others. What we see in Ukraine is the inevitable outworking of fallen human nature, sin showing its true colors like an outgoing tide reveals a rocky coastline. It was there all the time, the right circumstances enabling us to see what had been obscured from human vision.

We’re shocked by oppression, ambition, and greed? How easily we forget. This world has been shaped by such forces. Like a glacier slowly but steadily carving huge chunks out of a mountainside as it slides downhill, hostility between nations has shaped the geopolitical landscape of today. Animosity and violence are hardwired into the human psyche, and given time, will be expressed. With tragic results.

Less than halfway through the fourth of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, a man kills his brother. Just two chapters later, wickedness fills the earth in such a measure that God is moved to say, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth,” (Genesis 6:7). One chapter later, the planet is destroyed with a flood. Only eight people survive the deluge and its attendant destruction.

When the landowner in the parable stated “an enemy has done this” (Matthew 13:28), he was stating an eternal truth. The reason for destruction and devastation, incursions and invasions, suffering and adversity, is the corrupt human heart, bent away from the heart of God due to the cancerous influence of sin.

So how do we react in light of such a stark revelation of human brokenness? The world will endeavor to help the people of Ukraine with humanitarian aid. Weapons will be sent. Diplomacy will be undertaken. We genuinely hope such initiatives will relieve suffering and foster peace. But in addition to helping the people of Ukraine, the Christian believer must see in this conflict—in all such conflicts—a call by God to help the world. Followers of Jesus Christ possess the solution for all human misery and suffering: only the gospel can so radically alter a heart that thoughts of domination and conquest are banished. 

Political and humanitarian responses to a global crisis are necessary. But if we want to see lasting change in the world, we will strive to shine the light of the gospel into the hearts of others. The world desperately needs a revelation of the power of the love of God. And it is essential to remember “the world” starts in our own homes, neighborhoods, and communities.

A friend once told me he stopped for gas on his way to commit suicide. It seemed to him life had become so completely hopeless he had no better option than to end it all. While he was walking back to his vehicle after paying for his gas, he heard a voice calling his name. A man he vaguely knew approached him. “What are you doing Tuesday?” the man asked him. “Would you be interested in attending a Bible study in my home?” My friend paused, considered the invitation, and accepted. He drove home, resumed his life, and looked forward to Tuesday night. Months later he was baptized. Today he is a lay leader in his local church, having been used by God for many years in Christian ministry, and very much alive. The reason? Someone intervened, someone reached out, someone followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to invest in the life of another.

There’s a war raging in hearts everywhere. The great controversy between Christ and Satan is playing out before our eyes. As we see an armed conflict taking place in the world, we mustn’t forget the even greater war that is raging in hearts and minds, in the lives of defeated people who desperately need intervention.

How is God asking you to intervene? The victimized, the displaced, and the fearful need you. Right now. They’re all around you. Surely it’s time to do all we can to save God’s children.

Movies and Mayhem: Our Sick Society

Surely this enables us to see the madness of it all.

Hollywood has announced that in the wake of two recent mass shootings, a certain new movie will not be released as planned. Why? Because “now is not the right time to release this film,” according to a statement from the studio that created the film.

But the fact is, there was never a right time to release this film. Nor will there ever be.

The movie is referred to as a “satirical social thriller.” What it actually is is the story of a group of people on one side of the political divide who capture and hunt to kill a group of people on the other side of said divide. But the plot is irrelevant. It’s a movie filled with graphic violence and brutal killing (luxuriously shot and featuring an Academy Award-winning cast).

The politics of it, while disturbing, are not the greatest concern. What is of tremendous concern is that we live in a society where portrayals of brutality and violence are considered, in the words of Universal Studios, “bold and visionary.” Of course this is nothing new. But the hypocrisy of pulling a movie because its putrid content comes a little close to home in the wake of a mass killing demonstrates just how far we’ve wandered as a race. If the movie isn’t good now, it was never any good.

Can’t we just acknowledge that depicting this type of violence, selling tickets to see it, and then making heroes of its creators doesn’t speak well of an enlightened society?¹ We surely are way beyond the time for studies and research papers and debate about whether or not brutality in a movie impacts the way people live their lives. One of the two recent mass murderers was into some truly horrific stuff. One of his friends claimed to see their deranged pursuit as “a joke” and was shocked that the killer acted out the very stuff their group fantasized about. Why would anyone be surprised that a man acted out his fantasies? Of course, not everyone in his clique descended to such depths. But the fact that most people who consume mental poison don’t become mass shooters doesn’t make the poison any less poisonous.

Do laws need to be looked at to address the runaway crime plaguing society? Laws should always be looked at. Is the sickness troubling the country the fault of politicians? To say “yes” would be to choose the lazy answer, but politicians have to do their job. There’s no simple solution. But if a little common sense was employed, things would be radically different. The Bible says that we become changed into what we focus on (see 2 Corinthians 3:18.) I learned to love durian² because I persisted with it. Feed a people group a constant diet of violence and hate and you get, well, 2019.

How can we be surprised when society starts to mirror the utter madness being depicted in pop culture? It might be said that pop culture merely mirrors society. But the movie recently shelved by Universal Pictures mirrors nothing other than the twisted imagination of its creators.

It isn’t free speech or creativity or bold vision that results in movies like this being produced. It’s madness. And while we can’t “stop” violent crime from happening, there are some things we can stop. We can stop leaving common sense out of the equation and start saying, “This just isn’t good. This isn’t appropriate. This isn’t necessary. This shouldn’t be produced.” This would be a good place to start. Society wants to have its cake and eat it too. Violence is bad! Killing people is bad! But violence and killing for entertainment? That’s considered good. Even very good.

The challenge is, of course, hearts don’t change themselves. Only God can change a heart, and He doesn’t change the hearts of those who don’t want to experience change. We’re late in the history of the earth now, evidenced by an advanced society thinking it acceptable to produce truly horrible content and make it available for mass consumption.

The real problem isn’t guns or shooters or laws or politicians. The problem now is society. Sin. We’re sick. Very sick. Our systemic problem runs deeper than we might even realize. In Isaiah 1:5 God spoke of a people and said, “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints.” Sin has led us to the place where we decry violence, wring our hands and shed tears and demand that the violence must stop, while at precisely the same time we celebrate those who produce the sickest stuff and spoon-feed it to a sin-hungry world. On one hand we demand society changes, while on the other we race to movie theaters to buy tickets to the latest splatter movie. And that makes sense… how?

If a movie shouldn’t be released because of mass shootings, it should never be released. Or even produced. As long as we’re so blind to our own illness, society can never be well. And as long as people choose violence and brutality as acceptable forms of entertainment, we’ll continue to get what we pay for.


¹ Actually, we know the answer to that question: “No.”

² So good… 

The Cure: Healing More Than Cancer

It was an unsettling article to read. Recently, Atlanta magazine published a story¹ about an unusual cluster of cancer cases in a small town in the state of Georgia. Many people–including young people–have lost their lives over the years to rare cancers such as rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.

Waycross, Georgia–the closest of any city to the Okefenokee Swamp–has a population of less than 15,000. Over the years, Waycross has been the site of what appears to be the very careless disposal of highly toxic chemicals. Many people contend today that chemical dumps and the enormous quantities of dangerous materials they contained have caused many otherwise unexplainable illnesses.

Cancer is a tricky business. We understand the link between smoking and lung cancer, between obesity and alcohol consumption and cancer, but direct links between a substance and cancer are not always easy to prove. But in Waycross, Georgia there is no shortage of people who are convinced.

As life was being lived a day at a time, it seems that without realizing it, people were being affected in the worst way by something they weren’t aware was harmful to them.

The parallels with salvation and sin appear too obvious to miss.

It’s easy for people to fail to recognize the danger of sin. After all, sin has been glamorized. Over the years, what we once would have referred to as sin has, in many cases, been mainstreamed. But what happens is that over time a little selfishness is indulged, a little lust is indulged, a little dishonesty is indulged, and the cancer of sin starts eating away at a person’s soul. The result is eternal death, because as Paul wrote, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

It’s easy to look at symptoms without considering the cause. That’s not only true in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual sense. Someone with heart disease needs to know more than that he or she is unwell. It’s imperative that the cause of the disease can be found so that an effective treatment can implemented and good health can be restored. A person who is living a sinful life needs to know that sin is deadly. Living with, living in, living affected by sin leads to eternal spiritual ruin. A person’s problem is not really anger, or alcohol, or profanity. The problem in each case is actually a lack of the presence of God in their life, a disconnect between the person and the Savior.

While the cure for many cancers is sadly unknown, the cure for the cancer of sin has long been made known to the human family. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Paul wrote that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). The cure is available, and unlike many medical treatments, it has no negative side effects.

But Jesus said a curious thing in John 5:40. Speaking to a group of people who were succumbing to the effects of sin, He said, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

All around us, even in our very midst, are people who are ailing, spiritually sick and dying. The wonderful truth of the gospel is that Jesus invites every sin-sick soul to receive the fail-safe cure of forgiveness: salvation through Christ, pardon owing to what Jesus did for us all on Calvary.

While we can be thankful that great progress has been made in the fight against disease, there’s still no cure for many of the diseases that continue to claim so many lives. But the cure of cures has been found, and it’s freely available to anyone who wants it.

“Come to me,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28. And when a person comes to faith in Jesus, he or she is cured of every spiritual ill and is made completely well.


¹https://www.atlantamagazine.com/great-reads/why-are-rare-cancers-killing-so-many-people-in-a-small-georgia-town/

What Does God Want for Christmas?

It’s Christmas time… And while you were busy buying gifts for others, did you stop to think about what God wanted for Christmas? The answer is found in Proverbs 23:26, where God says, “My son, give me your heart.” How much of your heart? Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 – quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.”

What keeps us from doing so? You could perhaps answer this in several ways depending on either your perspective or your theological bias, but it could be answered with one three-letter word. Sin. Sin keeps us from loving God as we should, and even perhaps as we want (see Romans 7:15,17).

The general attitude towards sin is fascinating. I was reminded of this during a recent tangle with ill-health. It occurred to me that when we fight illness or disease, there’s nothing we won’t do to beat the disease. People submit themselves to chemotherapy – which in some cases can be brutal – and to radiation, which in certain cases can also be very harsh. People will choose amputation in order to beat disease. In 2013, actress Angelina Jolie elected to undergo a preventive double mastectomy. She did not have breast cancer, but had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer due to possessing a certain defective gene. The decision may have saved her life. And it may not. But because there was a chance – statistically, a good chance – that the surgery could save her from a life-threatening disease, she opted to have her breasts removed. A major, absolutely momentous decision.

Some people battling disease will follow stringent diets, will choose strange natural remedies (not that all natural remedies are strange), they’ll fast, travel to the furthest corners of the Earth, spend vast sums of money… all in an attempt to beat disease.

Now think with me of this clear parallel. While people – rightly – put everything they have into the fight against all manner of terrible illnesses, how much energy is put into the fight against sin? Sin is the deadliest disease known to humanity. It won’t only cost you your life in this world, but it will cost you eternal life. Not even a stroke or tuberculosis or diabetes will do that. But where’s the energy, the fervor, in the fight against sin?

Where are the think tanks assembled, the great minds studying how sin is best beaten? Where are the institutes, the research centers? What resources are committed to this? (One could argue that the church is a resource committed to this fight, which would represent a big investment. Others argue it isn’t doing an especially effective job.) Where are the people traveling the world, investing their resources, searching the internet, doing everything they possibly can so that they defeat sin rather than being defeated by it?

Yes, such people exist. But for the most part, sin is taken extraordinarily lightly, even though there is no question it will overtake the vast majority of people in the world, and possibly even in the church. Is there an urgency about this deadly disease? You might remember when AIDS became big news. People were terrified by it. Basketballers refused to take the court with Magic Johnson for fear of contracting this (misunderstood at the time) disease. And the world swept into high gear in a fight against AIDS, which while not having found a cure has resulted in vastly improved treatments.

What would the world and the church be like – what would my heart be like – if we fought sin like we fight disease? Before Jesus returns He’ll have a people waiting for Him who have learned to hate sin, to shun sin, and to embrace Him fully and completely. Be that person this Christmas time, the person whose heart is totally yielded to Christ.

Sin cannot dwell where Christ dwells. If you will surrender to Him now, and allow Him to work “in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13), you’ll see the grace of God consume you and transform you by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2).

Thank God, we already have the answer for the battle with sin, or self, or however you’d like to describe the battle. Jesus is that answer. Give Him your heart – or allow Him to take it – and you’ll soon see that He is able to keep you from falling, and give you power and victory in the place of failure and defeat.

Give God your heart, and He will give you Jesus, grace, salvation, forgiveness.
Everlasting life.

“Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).