Thursday, June 25, 2009

To Hate Sin, Consider Your Mortality

Part 9 in a series

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

Look always on sin as one that is ready to die, and consider how all men judge of it at the last. What do men in heaven say of it? And what do men in hell say of it? And what do men at death say of it? And what do converted souls, or awakened consciences, say of it? Is it then followed with delight and fearlessness as it is now? Is it then applauded? Will any of them speak well of it? Nay, all the world speaks evil of sin in the general now, even when they love and commit the several acts.

Will you sin when you are dying?

Gravestones by TexasTiger

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) didn’t pull any punches then, and I’m sure he would speak even more eloquently to us today if the curtains of Heaven were drawn back to allow him to speak to us.

Will you sin when you are dying?

We all know we’re born dying.  Life is a terminal condition.  And yet we prefer not to acknowledge that fact…or at least we assure ourselves that our end must not happen for many years.

Have you ever come face-to-face with your own mortality?  It’s a powerful experience, and one that we should regularly seek. 

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting that we should become daredevils, seeking some spiritual high through reckless, life-threatening acts.  My thoughts go along with the Psalmist’s:

Psalms 90:12 (NKJV)

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Will you sin when you are dying?  Are you even willing to know that you are dying?

A few hundred years after Baxter, Spurgeon picked up this theme in his own eloquent way.  (Remember that, up until around the time of this sermon, the usual custom had been to bury the dead in the churchyards.  Cemeteries that were separate were fairly new.)

IT IS QUITE CERTAIN that there are immense benefits attending our present mode of burial in extra mural cemeteries. It was high time that the dead should be removed from the midst of the living—that we should not worship in the midst of corpses, and sit in the Lord’s house on the Sabbath, breathing the noxious effluvia of decaying bodies. But when we have said this, we must remember that there are some advantages which we have lost by the removal of the dead. Now, I believe the sight of a funeral is a very healthful thing for the soul. The soul can there find much food for contemplation, and much excitement for thought.

We remember how when the funeral came now and then, the tolling of the bell preached to all the villagers a better sermon than they had heard in the church for many a day, and we recollect, how as children, we used to cluster around the grave; and we remember the solemn thoughts which used to arise even in our young hearts when we heard the words uttered, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” The solemn falling of the few grains of ashes upon the coffin-lid was the sowing of good seed in our hearts. And afterwards, when we have in our childish play climbed over those nettle-bound graves, and seated ourselves upon those mossgrown tombstones, we have had many a lesson preached to us by the dull cold tongue of death, more eloquent than aught we have heard from the lip of living man and more likely to abide with us in after years.”

(Excerpted from Sermon #200, June 13, 1858.)

I’ve already written about how God brought me face-to-face with my own mortality, and how He powerfully used that experience to bring me closer to Himself.  But it shouldn’t take a traumatic experience like that to remind us that we’re only on the very shortest leg of our journey, and that most of our living (or dying) happens beyond the grave.

Another event (my recent time of waiting for biopsy results) once again reminded me how fragile life is.  But as soon as the favorable results came through, did I forget all over again?

I know it’s almost a trite-sounding question, but don’t let its importance escape you, and I pray it won’t escape me again either:

How would our lives be different if we knew we were going to die in one month?  Or maybe tomorrow?

Think how quickly the years of your life have already flown by, and remember this:

Psalms 39:5 (NKJV)

Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.

And remember what Jacob said when Pharaoh asked him his age:

“My pilgrimage has lasted 130 years. My years have been few...” (Genesis 47:9 HCSB)

No matter how long your pilgrimage or mine might be, it will seem so short once it’s gone.

Will we sin when we are dying…and when eternity is so close at hand?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

To Hate Sin, Consider Hell

Part 8 in a series

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

Fire Flames by patita_rds

We’ve been looking at the writings of Richard Baxter (1615-1691), particularly his “Directions for Hating Sin.”  If you haven’t been with us all along, please look at the earlier entries.  If you only have time to look at one of them, I would suggest Part 1, because it explains why we should hate sin.  In today’s sin-worshiping world, that may not be as obvious as it should be.

We’ve reached “Direction 8,” and I’ve got to warn you…it is not politically correct.  Hell is not a welcome topic in most circles these days.  Yet I have to talk about it…because where Hell is not a welcome topic, God Himself is not welcome.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that Hell should be something we talk about with great joy, or with callousness for the damned.  What I am saying is that the truth of Hell can only be rejected at the cost of rejecting God Himself. 

Hell is not based on evil.  It was not born in the mind of Satan.  Hell is an offshoot of holiness, born in the mind of a God who cannot wink at evil and must dispense justice.  So if we reject the doctrine of Hell, we reject the very holiness of God.

Does that offend you?  It wouldn’t, if you could glimpse for a moment the holiness of God and the vileness of sin.  But our own depraved natures don’t allow us to see these things.  And so we must remember that God has told us the truth about what sin deserves, and His judgments are perfect.  Since He has declared that Hell is the just penalty for sin, we must grapple with that fact if we wish to understand, at least a little bit, how detestable sin is.

But we have to be careful here.  There is no benefit in using Hell as a simple scare tactic to make people avoid sin.  The goal is to hate sin, not just avoid it while still longing for it.  And that’s what I appreciate so much about Baxter’s words on this subject.  He doesn’t bludgeon you with the doctrine of Hell, but rather points out what Hell teaches us about sin itself. 

Think about it this way.  In a recent case in Oklahoma, a man who raped a 4-year-old girl was given only a one-year sentence because of a plea deal.  The public is outraged, and rightly so.  The punishment should reflect the seriousness of the crime.  And any society which lightly punishes child rape sends a message that child rape really isn’t such a terrible thing. 

Yes, the punishment should fit the crime, not only because justice should be done to the perpetrator, but because justice vindicates the worth of the law that was broken, and expresses the value that we place on the victim.  The innocence of a 4-year-old girl is priceless!  We know that!  And so every decent person is outraged at such a light sentence.

In the same way, Hell is not arbitrary.  It is God’s declaration of how horrible sin is and what it deserves.  And it is His declaration of how Holy He is and what His Holiness is worth.  His holiness and glory are priceless!  The problem is, we don’t know that.  Even the most godly among us don’t know it as well as they should.  And so our sinful hearts need to look at Hell and what it teaches us, if we are to have a proper view of sin and of God Himself.  And so Baxter says:

Look but to the state and torment of the damned, and think well of the difference betwixt angels and devils, and you may know what sin is.  Angels are pure; devils are polluted: holiness and sin do make the difference. Sin dwells in hell, and holiness in heaven. Remember that every temptation is from the devil, to make you like himself; as every holy motion is from Christ, to make you like himself. Remember when you sin, that you are learning and imitating of the devil, and are so far like him, (John 8:44). And the end of all is, that you may feel his pains. If hell-fire be not good, then sin is not good.

Yes, the threat of punishment is there, as it must be.  But if that is all you see, then you’re not yet hating sin.  You only hate its punishment.  Read this quote again, or better yet, read your Bible with a prayerful heart, asking God to open your eyes to the preciousness of His holiness and the vileness of your sin.  As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you will not know true joy in salvation until you comprehend a little of what you’re saved from…not just being saved from Hell, but being saved from the kind of sin-soaked heart that deserves Hell!  Because the Good News is NOT just salvation from Hell, but salvation from sin!  It is the gift of a new heart that grows in purity (2 Co 3:17-18), in love for God and for others (Deut 30:6, Matt 22:37-40), and in hatred of the sin that still clings to it (Eph. 5:1-12).

What greater gift could He give?

For those of you who want to think more deeply about this subject, I recommend a short blog entry by Tim Challies, which you can find here.  In that entry I read a quote which struck me powerfully.  I’ll share it here in the hopes that it will touch others in the same way.  It’s a quote of someone named Ligon Duncan.

So often we speak of hell as a place where God is not. Let me, however, say something provocative.  Hell is eternity in the presence of God without a mediator.

Heaven is eternity in the presence of God with a mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Chew on that one for a while, and bless the precious Mediator who enables us to stand faultless before His holy presence with great joy!  (Jude 1:24-25)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Major Update!

Hello everybody! 

I am deviating from my series on Hating Sin so that I can update you on two things: my biopsy results and the new ministry that I hinted at in a recent entry

So, drumroll biopsy results are FINE!  Thanks to all of you for your prayers, and to the Lord for His mercy!  God is good all the time, which means He would have been just as good if He had allowed me to have cancer.  Since I'm no better than any other person (and I'm worse than some), I can't possibly say I don't deserve cancer.  Plenty of people better than myself have not only had it, but succumbed to it.  So when I say "mercy," I mean "mercy."  Thank You, Lord.

Now, on to my exciting new ministry opportunity! 

American Sign Language alphabet, laid out by D...

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My church, Discovery Fellowship, is allowing me to use their facility to teach a free Sign Language class!  Is that cool, or what?  So, if you live near me, feel free to come out on Tuesday nights, beginning June 30th, from 7-8pm.  I’ve been working like crazy to prepare a curriculum (still have a long way to go), and searching for ways to provide my students with quality sketches of Signs that they can take home with them.  I can’t use copyrighted artwork, of course, and I’m not teaching straight out of any single text, so I’m having to scrounge up what I can.  I’m also hoping to have some Sign sketches drawn for me since so few are available for free redistribution.  (I can’t draw worth pbbbbbt!)

I think this is going to be a whole lot of fun, and I hope lots of you can come!  There will be a sign-up sheet at church, but if you can’t sign up there, please contact me and let me know you plan on coming.

For those who are curious, I intend to teach ASL (as opposed to any English-based Sign systems), and plan to teach such things as facial grammar, classifiers, etc.  It will all be pretty basic, but hopefully very interesting and enjoyable.

I’m so excited!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To Hate Sin, Consider Heaven

Part 7 in a series

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Part 4 Part 5 Part 6


SunBeams by Wouter9522

We’ve been considering Richard Baxter’s “Directions for Hating Sin,” and we’re up to number 7 now.  I’m not going to add much to what he says, probably in large measure because I have to get up and go get my biopsy done tomorrow morning, and I want to get to bed early.  But also, what he says pretty well speaks for itself.

I do think that “Direction 7” suffers a little more than earlier entries from the archaic language it uses.  So I will take the liberty of updating it just a touch where I think it might be confusing otherwise.  I hope you will consider it prayerfully, and be blessed by it.

Consider what kind of life it is which you must live for ever, if you live in heaven; and what a life the holy ones there now live; and then think whether sin, which is so contrary to it, be not a vile and hateful thing.  Either you want to live in heaven, or not. If not, you are not one of those I speak to. If you do want to, you know that there is no sinning; no worldly mind, no pride, no evil passion, no fleshly lust or sinful pleasures there. Oh, but if you could only see and hear for one hour, how those blessed spirits are enraptured with loving and magnifying the glorious God in purity and holiness, and how far they are from sin, it would make you loathe sin ever after, and look on sinners as on men in Bedlam (an insane asylum)wallowing naked in their dung. Especially, then, think about the fact that you hope yourselves to live for ever like those holy spirits; and therefore sin is unbecoming to you.

Does Heaven sound boring to you?  If so, then you really worship sin, considering it the fountain of all that is good and joyful and happy.  It’s a sad delusion you labor under, and I hope you will be freed from it before it’s too late.  You might want to consider reading some earlier posts that discuss our heart’s hunger, such as this one and this one.  Don’t mind the fact that I wrote those for my kids.  They’re a good place to start.

But if you do hope to go to Heaven someday, may I ask why?  Is it just to avoid Hell?  Is it because you hope for endless baths of calorie-free chocolate, lasagna that grows on trees (one of my favorite childhood fantasies of Heaven), or maybe the sort of carnal indulgence that Islam promises its followers?

Or is it because the Lord you love will be fully known to you there?  Is unbroken, untainted spiritual intimacy with Him the joy that you seek?  If so, then you, True Believer, are the one I’m speaking to now.  I call you “True Believer” because you believe that Jesus is what He claimed to be…our abundant life.  Not the gateway to finer pleasures, but Himself our finest pleasure.  You believe He is our joy, our all-in-all.  Isn’t that what faith in Christ truly is?

You know, of course, that sin is the only real difference between Heaven and Earth.  Our sin and the sins of others, and the sin-curse that taints the whole Earth…those are the things that separate us from our greatest Joy. 

If we long for the day when we will be free from sin’s curse, doesn’t it make sense to hate sin now? 

Why wait for Heaven?

Monday, June 8, 2009

To Hate Sin, Consider God’s Delights

Part 6 in a series

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Chocolate Cupcakes

Image by Sifu Renka via Flickr

Richard Baxter's work from three centuries ago, "Directions for Hating Sin," has provided the inspiration for our current series.  His sixth direction speaks to us of delight.



Think well what pure and sweet delights a holy soul may enjoy from God, in his holy service; and then you will see what sin is, which robs him of these delights, and prefers fleshly lusts before them. 

O how happily might we perform every duty, and how fruitfully might we serve our Lord, and what delight should we find in his love and acceptation, and the foresight of everlasting blessedness, if it were not for sin; which brings down the soul from the doors of heaven, to wallow with swine in a beloved dunghill!

Many ladies will be able to relate to the idea of strange food cravings during pregnancy.  Mine were harmless enough…I remember for a couple of weeks eating a mixture of stewed tomatoes, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  (And I mean a mixture.  It was all stirred together.)  But some women’s cravings are far more bizarre, and some are downright dangerous.  My mother found herself with a mouth-watering craving for laundry detergent when she was pregnant.  Doing the laundry was torture, because she wanted to eat the detergent so badly.

If she had given in to that craving, she would have poisoned herself and her baby.  So as you can imagine, that was the sort of craving that any woman would hate to have!

Sin creates poisonous cravings, too.  And our sinful nature, blind to the things of God, does not even see the danger.  We are born craving sin, and we die craving it, and we crave it every day in between.

Sin makes swill look desirable.  So desirable, in fact, that most people mock at the idea that sin, the spiritual equivalent of pig slop, could be anything less than their greatest joy.  It eclipses the pleasures of God in our eyes, so that we can’t even see how much more glorious He is.

If the thought of “delighting in God” sounds foreign to you, ask yourself what it is in your soul (and in every other human soul) that could make you desire so much less than His perfection.  What could make you desire anything more than you desire the beauties of the One who created all the wonders of space, the majesties of mountain ranges, the mysteries of snowflakes? 

What could make you (or any of us) desire anything more than you desire a close relationship with God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, who loved you and gave His life to rescue you from sin?

What could make you, like all of us, turn your back on life and cling to death?

It is sin that deprives us of all the wonders and joys and pleasures that God desires to pour out on His people!  Sin is the reason that you and I can only vaguely imagine the glories of the Savior, instead of basking in the bliss of Him.

May we join with the Psalmist, and with countless others believers through the ages, and make it our aim to “delight ourselves in the Lord!”



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Friday, June 5, 2009

A Break, an Update, and a Movie

I know, I haven’t been blogging much lately.

Partly it’s one of my usual “dry spells.”  If you’ve been around this blog for long, you’ve seen it happen before.

Partly it’s busy-ness.  The boys are out of school for the summer, of course.  My youngest son has started Little League, and I just finished a week of VBS (working a craft table).  I also went through a recent period of more diligent houseworking, though I’m afraid that’s kind-of fallen by the wayside.  (If you have been reading the blog for any length of time, you won’t be surprised to hear that!)  I’ve promised myself and my husband that I’ll start again on Monday.

That may be a bit problematic, though.  You see, I’ll be having a rather uncomfortable procedure on Thursday the 11th.  A needle biopsy, and one that’s in a difficult-to-reach area that’s going to require a lot of time and discomfort to get to.  And I’ve been told to expect the recovery to be rather painful, too.

Don’t worry too much about the word “biopsy.”  Yes, they’re doing it to rule out anything sinister in those calcifications they found, but the radiologist told me that she’s “over 90% certain” they’re nothing to worry about.  I’m far more concerned about the discomfort than the potential results.  So, if you happen to think of me on the 11th, or even on the night of the 10th, send up a prayer to our Lord for me!  I’m not letting myself dwell on the procedure, but of course it’s on the back of my mind.

On a more positive note, I have an exciting new ministry opportunity opening up for me.  I don’t want to go into much detail yet while it’s still not a definite thing, but it could be a chance to do something I really love, and be a blessing to others at the same time!  But of course it would be a big stretch for me, taking on this kind of responsibility and having others count on me, so I do feel a tad nervous thinking about it.  But the excitement far outweighs the nervousness!

I’ll give you more details when I think I can do so.

Ok, as I hinted in the title, I’m also going to mention a movie.  Now, it would be tempting to tell you how much I enjoyed “Flywheel,” “Facing the Giants,” and “Fireproof,” but I imagine most of my readers already know how wonderful those movies are.  Instead, I’m going to recommend a movie that I had never even heard of until recently.  It’s something my mom bought for my kids a little while ago, and it’s called, “Far from Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog.”

I know, I know, it sounds like a hokey kid-flick.  Well, it IS a kid-flick, but it’s not hokey.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  It portrays a very loving relationship, one in which a son admires and respects and obeys and learns from his father…and his father is well-deserving of this respect.  (What a refreshing change of pace from Hollywood’s norm!) 

The main character, teenager Angus McCormick, finds himself drawing on his father’s wisdom in order to survive the challenge of his life.  In fact, though the title implies that the movie is about the dog, and the dog is important to the plot, the real hero is the son who grew wise from respectfully working beside his father.  

It is mostly believable, uniformly well acted, teaches and models great character qualities, and has no profanity or questionable content.  I recommend this movie to anyone with pre-teens and even younger teens.

And there you have it…proof that I haven’t fallen off the planet!  I hope to be back to writing more soon, and I appreciate all of your prayers!


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