Crushing the Myth – “I am a victim…”

“I was just fine until he said that, and I unloaded on him!”

“She made me so angry I couldn’t sleep!”

“What do you mean by that look? You are making me mad!”

“I don’t love you any more, you make me unhappy.”

“That stupid clerk made me curse…”

“When you leave your things on the floor it makes me furious!”

“They made me hate them. It was not my fault. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Have you ever heard any of these statements? Ever said them? These and tens of thousands more are as common as the morning sun. And, there is no marked difference between people who are not people of faith and those who are regarding this type of excuse. If you question that statement, talk to a minister who counsels couples with marriage difficulties, or a Christian psychologist, you will find that they hear this sort of victim mentality routinely.

One of the earliest tactics children learn is to blame someone or something for their mistakes or wrongful acts. Every person who reads this knows without having to be convinced that this is true. Even the sweetest child will often blame a sibling for spilling cereal on the floor, or writing on the wall with an ink pen. My grandsons often exclaim when I correct one for hitting the other, “He made me do it!” or “It’s not my fault…bla bla bla…”

The preferred methodology of psychologists is to delve into the past of people who behave terribly to try to learn what external stimuli shaped them into such rotten characters. Surely culture, family atmosphere, religious training (or the lack of it), and many other things contribute to making us the people we become as adults. That fact is not in question. However, those things are not the end of the story.

So, almost all counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists dig into the client’s past with a view of providing information and new stimuli with a view of correcting destructive, disruptive, and sometimes criminal behavior. This is the solution humanism offers even if couched in “Christian” terms or offered by a “Christian” professional.

It might shock you to learn that Jesus had a different view of human failings. This is what He said.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)

Jesus was certainly not alone in his appraisal of the human condition. Consider these passages. They speak the same truth.

And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.
(Genesis 8:21)

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;

who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

SIN is original equipment.

Today I saw a young woman on TV who had taken a plea deal offered by the D.A.’s office to two counts of 2nd degree murder to avoid the possibility of the death penalty. This calm, innocent appearing young woman killed her two small children intentionally and on purpose. I am positive that when she was a toddler her parents never thought that their baby girl had the potential to be a murderer of their grand babies and be sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. According to Jesus “murder” is one of those sins that resides deep in the innermost depths (heart) of a human being.

In another place, a mother whose daughter committed the same crime could only use as an excuse for her daughters crime “she was distraught”.

The Proverbs passage quoted above says in part “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth”. Most of my friends do not believe this and they will tell you quickly they don’t. But, it is true without regard for who believes it. Ugly but true!

That our problems are SIN is really good news!

Much of our Christian ministry is humanism wrapped up in “church terms”. What we desperately seek is to permanently modify the behavior of husbands who have fits of anger and slap their wives around, meth heads who will do almost anything to fuel their addiction, and bitter house wives who are miserable with their marriages and life in general. Most of what we do is no more effective than treating cancer with a band aid. Even if the symptoms are negated, the problem still lurks in the darkness and is very likely to rear it’s ugly head in the future. SIN is not cured by humanistic methodology.

SIN is our problem and Jesus came to cure sin. What is needed is to drastically change the condition of the human heart, that part of a man that stores up ungodliness and contempt for the things of God.

The Bible is so wonderfully simplistic on difficult problems that we often overlook life saving truths. Christians need not tolerate SIN.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

This is a tremendous promise for the believer. If we will only agree with God about our SINS, see them as He sees them, He will forgive and cleanse. Many will protest, “That is just too simple!” It is not too simple.

Let’s think through this. Jesus died for “all” of our sins. The fact is that when He died the death you and I deserved “all” of our sins were future. “All” of our sins were put on Him, He became sin “for us” so that we could be “made righteous” through Him. So, we who are faith followers of Jesus have been saved from the penalty of sin. It is a done deal!

Now it is God’s intention to sanctify us, that is to set us apart for him by a process of shaping us into people who more closely resemble Jesus in thoughts, intentions, attitudes, and daily living. A way we participate in this theological process called “sanctification” is “walking in the Spirit”. The one who is “walking in the Spirit” quickly repents when he becomes aware of SIN in his life and claims God’s forgiveness. He moves on listening carefully to that still small voice that continually points him towards God’s best for him.

Modify or Mortify?

Husband “A” has a violent temper. Without warning, his wife and children are the objects of his anger. A word, a radio that is too loud, a wife a few minutes late, etc. are triggers for unbridled rage. His dad was very much the same and so was his grandfather.

Humanism says lets learn some ways to “modify” the behavior. After all, isn’t how he acts the problem? If the professional, or the minister, or the caring friend can help Mr. “A” change his actions everything will be OK. Or will it? This method is often labeled, “Anger Management”.

The Bible says lets call SIN SIN and deal with it the Scriptural way. Husband “A” recognizes his simmering anger as SIN. He agrees with God that it is SIN and accepts God’s forgiveness. (Of course he seeks the forgiveness of those he has hurt as well). Not only does God forgive, but also cleanses him from “all unrighteousness”. (1 John 1:9) Now, he might find himself guilty of this sin again and when he does he repeats the process and as he is empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives in him, eventually he will experience mastery over the sin that is in him. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are to rule over sin, not the reverse.

I know some who read this will protest saying “This will not work!” Have you tried it God’s way? Unless the Bible is not true it will absolutely work.

You see SIN is the root of your problems. Your neighbor didn’t “make you angry”. Your ugly neighbor only exposed what was already in you. It is what comes out of you that defiles you. You had SIN in you before the neighbor ever came into view.

Once more, just so we don’t forget.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)

And, Paul wrote,

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
(Galatians 5:19-21a)

“…but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members (flesh)” (Romans 7:23)

Paul, like Jesus, understood the nature and deceitfulness of sin. The pressing question then is this. Will we be satisfied with temporarily modifying unproductive behavior, which at best is a remedy, or do we want God’s cure? Only in the person and work of Jesus for you is there a cure.



Choose your weapon!

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

In an age when most churches are focused on sin management Paul’s ancient declaration seems like an idea we can’t begin to comprehend. Some how I have trouble trying to imagine Paul facilitating an anger management group. Is it just me or have we (churches) adopted the same methods of dealing with moral failure as the world?

A few decades ago secular humanists with PHD’s decided that they had discovered an answer for some of the moral failings of mankind, it was “disease”. With that designation for certain moral flaws, personal responsibility and accountability went out the window.

Now, many years later, even more sins have been declared “normal” or are considered a “sickness” or “disease” and the treatment is to “manage” the moral failing (sin). The idea is that with enough  purposeful care, and with the help of others, sin can be managed so that it isn’t as much of a problem.

Churches have bought in 100%. But is it biblical?

The Bible says to the one who is stealing, stop stealing and go to work. (Ephesians 4:29)

To the liar, the Bible says, don’t lie. (Colossians 3:9) Put away falsehood and tell the truth. (Ephesians 4:25)

To the sexually immoral the Bible says don’t do it (1 Thessalonians 4:3), flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18), and don’t associate with those who are involved in it. (1 Corinthians 5:9). Reserve sexual expression for your husband or wife only. (1 Corinthians 7:1-3)

To the drunkard the Bible says don’t get drunk. (Ephesians 5:18)

Of course the Bible addresses many other sins with the same kind of common sense solutions. Just say No! It isn’t that easy is it?

We have tried ridding our people of moral short falls by employing the same methodologies as people who don’t know God, and with little success. Isn’t it about time to try it God’s way?

There is a real war raging, a war between good and evil, between God and his people and the god of this world and his own. We must use the tools afforded by the grace of God. We must stop treating symptoms and cure the cause. We are giving all our attention to the branches when the problem is the root is rotten.

Choose different weapons

In the atonement of Jesus given by God’s amazing grace we have all we need to live lives that please God. (Titus 2:11-13)

The “weapons” we must use to fight the downward pull of sin are not discovered in the class room but are standard equipment for the child of God by the Spirit’s power.

Christ has (past tense) reconciled us to God with His body as a sacrifice. That same power that saved us from the curse of the law and from sure death, is the same power that will present us in the end a pure, holy people.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Only the atonement of Jesus, only by the blood of his cross, will sin finally be defeated in a real, concrete way in your life and mine. We must be gospel focused, purposefully saying yes to God and no to everything that opposes His will for our lives.

God’s strength, now ours

The good news is that we don’t have to attempt this in the power of our own strength but in His strength. Paul said it this way.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

It is Christ alone who can give us mastery over sin. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is the power that grace affords to root out every sin and every moral flaw in the lives of his people.

Gospel centered, grace driven, and Spirit empowered living is the way of freedom and knowing the peace of God and the fellowship of the Spirit. If I trust myself and my own resourcefulness I am doomed to repeat and repeat again and again those same sins and live a life of virtual defeat. If I lean heavily upon the everlasting arms and refuse to consider anything but His mighty power demonstrated by his shed blood and victorious resurrection I can live a life a victory.

We must admit our sin is really that, sin. We must be quick to repent, and boldly stand on God’s promise of victory using the weapons of grace alone.



The Gospel, Short and Sweet.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18)

Three verses before this one is a verse that is quoted often. I have seen it in print and heard it quoted or read several times just in the last two or three weeks.

“always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”
(1 Peter 3:15)

I submit that the challenge of verse 15 is clearly answered in verse 18. What do you give as a defense for the hope that is in you? Here it is! The good news about what Jesus has done for sinners!

What a power packed few words is packed into this verse of Scripture!

The anointed one, the Messiah the Jews hoped for, the one prophesied that would come to save his people from their sins, the one announced by angels and called “God with us”, the one of whom John the Baptist preached saying “The kingdom of God is near!”, This One has come to bring sinners to God.

Jesus suffered “once” for “sins“. Never again would a daily offering be needed. When Christ cried from the cross the word meaning “It is finished” it was indeed finished. He had paid the awful price for my sins and yours. The indictment of sin blankets all of humanity, me and you and every man and woman. But that he died “for sins” means then that he died for everyone, because “ALL have sinned” and miss the mark of God’s righteousness. Now that is good news!

He was “the righteous for the unrighteous” in his suffering and dying. This is called in the seminary class room “penal substitution”. Jesus died “for” me and you, he died in our place. It should have been me and it should have been you. The “wages of sin is death” but Jesus died the death, the “righteous for the unrighteous”, “for sins”. Jesus paid your tab to an offended and angry God who hates sin! That is good news!

He suffered the beatings, mocking, being spit upon, having beard pulled out, and being nailed to a cross as a common criminal in shame outside the city “to bring us to God!” In our sinful condition we were apart from God with no way to get to Him. Separated from the Creator with no means to bridge the gap and our certain end was the wrath of God! But Jesus died for us, in our place, “to bring us to God”. That was his only purpose. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself”. This was his eternal plan, the just for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous, and by that one sacrifice we are reconciled to God, brought back to God. That is good news!

Jesus suffered and was put to death, but he didn’t stay dead. He was “made alive in the Spirit“. Just as promised, after three days he came out of the tomb in a glorified body perfectly fit for heaven or earth. We are promised immortality and a body like his. The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will give me a body like his because he died in my place, for my sins, and brought me to God!. That is good news!

When someone asks “What about this church thing? Why are you a Christian?” Here it is. It is the “Gospel”, it is the “good news” that Jesus has solved every mans two greatest problems, sin and death. Jesus has taken sin away forever and defeated death so we can be with God, sinless, forever!

Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel (good news about Jesus), for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16,17)

Here is the gracious offer, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. You can’t be good enough, we have already established that, (He was righteous, we were unrighteous). Your salvation is finished, the debt has been paid, do you believe God’s record about His Son? Then receive the gift!

Do a U Turn, change your mind about the course of your life and turn toward Christ, He is waiting for you. If you depend on Him to do what the gospel promises He will enable you to live a changed life, go public for Him by telling others and by reenacting His death, burial, and resurrection in the waters of baptism. It is the formal and symbolic way of going public for Christ. You are saying I am dying to my old way of life and I am being raised a new man who lives a life of love and service to Christ.

Perhaps you have long been a church member, maybe a preacher or teacher, but something has been missing. Have you ever put your whole trust in Jesus Christ? If not, I hope you will now. He will not always wait.



Which came first, Sin or the Sinner?

I have had the pleasure of meeting all kinds of people from almost every walk of life and from many countries of the world. And, I have meet and had discussions with thousands of who call themselves Christians as well as several adherents to eastern religions and a sprinkling of people who proudly claimed to be either atheist or agnostic. Of all those tens of thousands of people in my experience I have never met one with this problem, “I am to good!”

Have you ever met anyone who complained that he or she was to loving, to forgiving, to patient, to kind, to loyal, to truthful, just to good? Why is that? If, as many believe, that we are sinners only because we chose to sin, why wouldn’t at least a few of the teeming millions who live or have lived on planet earth have chosen not to sin?

It is our nature to sin.

Having observed children all of my life, and especially those who are my grand children, I have learned a truth that cannot be denied. Every child is born with a nature that causes them to want to do wrong. Now you might deny the doctrine of original sin but tell me, which mom and dad do you know who have to lecture and threaten with time out or even a spanking because their kids are just to dog- gone good? You will never hear “I just can’t get this child to be selfish, or to lie, and she insists on sharing everything she has with others. What am I going to do?”

No, the reverse is true. Parents must begin at once to start teaching little ones to do right, doing wrong is original equipment. Kids must be taught to be truthful, to be unselfish, to obey parents, to share, and to be kind to others. Little ones do not know what is right and what is wrong and must be taught, but if left to their own devices they will do wrong.

Everyone who knows right from wrong will choose to do wrong.

It happens at different ages, some children mature faster than others and become aware of what is right and what is wrong. It might be 5 years old for some and preteen ages for others. One thing you can count on, as soon as they know right and wrong they will do what is wrong on purpose. There is no exception to this law. This is why the Bible gives blanket condemnation, “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”.

Not every person who sins is held accountable to God.

I recently heard a story about a couple who had a son who never matured mentally but lived until he was 45 years of age. I have personally known unfortunate adults who had the mental capacity of infants. They were unable to know the difference between right and wrong. And, I am convinced that small children, too immature to know lying is wrong and not under the condemnation of the wrath of God until such time as they know they are doing wrong.

When is telling a lie sin? When is stealing a sin? Is it at age 5, age 8, or age 13? The correct answer is that sin (lying and stealing, etc.) are sins all the time. When Christ died he bore the sins of the whole of humankind and paid if full the debt the offenders owed. That atonement covers those who come to faith in Christ and those who because of immaturity or infirmity do not have the ability to come in faith.

Our responsibility is to teach our children early and often about Christ and his love for them.

The reason we must teach our children the gospel in age appropriate ways is that they are little sinners. It is not that they might become sinners. It is true that little ones are not guilty before God but we know they will be soon enough. I know of no higher duty of a parent than to make sure their children understand that they are loved by the Saviour and that they need him. Each of them must encounter Christ on his or her own. Don’t make the mistake of  trusting a Sunday school teacher or someone else to share the gospel story with your child!