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Life

Learning How to Hate the Little Sins

I find it very easy to look over little sins in my life.  Sins like “white lies”, speeding through “long” yellow lights, talking about someone behind their back to share a “prayer request”, and the moments of self-pity if I don’t get my way. Maybe you think that the “little sins” are all those thoughts and feelings you have inside that are never manifested in actions or words.

The sad truth is that the little and internal sins grieve God just like the “marquee” sins of theft, pornography, adultery, murder, bitterness, hatred, rape, child abuse, and on and on. The consequences will certainly differ between the “little” and the “marquee” sins. God, however, wants us to hate all our sins, not just the big ones.

In Psalm 6, David is lamenting a particular sin in his life. We don’t find out which sin it is, but that doesn’t matter. It could be something big — we know that David had a few blockbuster sins in his day. The point is that David is begging for mercy. Listen to what he writes in verses 1-4:

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD — how long?
Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

David asks the Lord to not be angry. He asks that God would not have wrath on him. He asks for grace and healing. He asks for deliverance. And he does this by appealing to God’s steadfast love. “Your love is massively great, God! Please use a spec of it on me right now. Don’t kill me, LORD. Save me.”

Whether David is repenting of what we would label a “big” or “little” sin, I can’t know for sure. What I do know is that David is keenly aware of his sinful state and his need of God, and he is expressing hatred for what he did. He was called a man after God’s own heart, not because he had it all together, but because he hated sin and repented. And it seems clear to me from the Bible that hating and repenting of the so-called worst of sins is not what God wants. We must honor Jesus by hating the little sins, the split-second thought sins, and the heart emotion sins.

C.S. Lewis said, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” There are millions of people in hell right now who never murdered, never looked at porn, never cheated on their spouse, never stole a stick of gum, and never screamed at a neighbor. The actions are not the problem. It’s the heart. And I want my heart to be broken over anything and everything, internally or externally, that does not honor and glorify God.

Will you confess your small, subtle sins with me? Will you confess the sins of your heart that no one may ever see? The cross of Christ is not just for the sins that make the 6 o’clock news. The cross is for every sin and every sinner. Will you have it?

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Life Theology

Jesus: The Greater David

Jesus isn’t just the greater Moses. He is also the greater David. In Psalm 78, the psalmist is reflecting on Israel’s rebellion against God after they were saved from slavery in Egypt. God was so gracious to his people despite their unfaithfulness. “Yet,” the psalmist wrote, “they sinned still more against him” (vv. 17, 40, 56).

Later in the Psalm, the writer tells us that he chose a shepherd from the tribe of Judah to lead his people back to God. This shepherd is David. The psalmist tells us:

He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand (vv. 70-72).

You might be thinking, “David had an upright heart?! What about that whole Bathsheba and Uriah thing? That wasn’t so upright!” And you would be right. Of course David had his moral failures. He was human. And that’s the point: as great as David was as shepherd-king of Israel, he still fell short of the perfection that God’s people needed.

That’s where Jesus comes in. In John 10, he said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11).  In saying this, Jesus claims to be the long awaited heir of David who would lead God’s people perfectly. He would be the ultimate shepherd-king who would never have a moral failure or a bad thought toward his flock.

When we read the Old Testament, we cannot look for examples in men like David and Moses. We need to see them as imperfect men who could never fully be what God’s people needed.  They should not inspire us to be better people. They should leave us longing to be saved by the greater Man who did and said all that God wanted with complete perfection.

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Life

God is a Strong Tower

When I was younger and heard or read, “God is a strong tower,” my mind immediately went to an image like the one above.  What you are looking at is your run-of-the-mill state park viewing tower.  It’s actually not very strong.  It’s not very powerful.  It can’t actually protect you.  And it’s not very threatening, unless you fall on the steps and get cut by those nasty steel holes.

Psalm 61:3 says, “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”  When Scripture says that God is a “strong tower” it means that he is more like a fort during wartime with 6-foot thick cement walls and razor wire on top, a treacherous moat surrounding, snipers ready at lookout points, and mines leading up to the gate.

I’m not trying to be severely violent, but I need to visualize what David mans when he says God is a strong tower against his enemy. We live in the midst of a war — not against Al Qaeda or the Taliban or North Korea.  Those are real enemies in the real world, but ultimately we battle against sin, the world, and the devil.  And when any one or all three seem to be bearing down on our souls, we have a refuge, a Strong Tower, who is actually able to defend, protect, and provide.

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Life

One Reason We Sing

I think a huge reason for my spiritual ups and downs is the fact that I tend to look at my subjective feelings more often than I look at God’s proven faithfulness and goodness.  As I spent time reading the Bible earlier in Psalm 13, my heart rejoiced with David’s words:

I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me (v. 6).

David didn’t say that he wanted to sing because he had a great quiet time that morning.  He didn’t say he would sing because things were going perfectly (actually, they were going quite poorly if you read the whole chapter).  David did not look to his feelings when searching for motivation to sing praise to God.

No, David went right to the core.  His motivation was the rock-solid foundation that God has dealt bountifully with him.  That is, God has been overly gracious to him.  When I am in the dumps — for any number of reasons (mostly stupid ones) — I need to remember that God has dealt, and is dealing, bountifully with me.  He is being more gracious and kind to me than I could have ever hoped to deserve.  And that is more than enough reason to sing in joy to him.

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Theology

Praise God Because He Creates

In 1 Chronicles 16, David sings a song of thanks to the Lord.  In verses 25-26, David sings:

For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be held in awe above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

What separates the LORD from all the other gods in the world?  He creates.  They are created.  That’s the difference between God and an idol, between the finite and the infinite.

And don’t just think of golden statues when you read “gods.”  Think power, money, sex, food, entertainment, sports, friends, success, looks, fashion, and any other good thing in this world.  They are all created things, and so they cannot comfort or provide in our darkest hour. But God is not created.  He creates, and therefore is everlasting and infinite.  So in your time of deepest despair, he is able to provide grace and mercy to help.