Is Your Sorrow over Sin Leading to Death or Life?

woman sitting on edge of bed with head in hands looking down out open window

At any given moment, there is someone who has done something wrong throughout the world. Whether the offense was a minor or major one, if that person was caught, or the error was exposed, he or she experienced some kind of sorrow. For most people, feelings of anguish only arise when the byproducts of their dishonest actions lay heavily on their mind and soul. Grief may come to them as a gnawing feeling occurring deep within them while they pace around a room. Or maybe the grief happened while traveling, or while sitting in a prison cell. Then there are some whose only real regret was that they were caught and are now unable to do even more evil deeds. All these kinds of sorrow the Apostle Paul called “the sorrow of the world.”

Look at that phrase in context: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The “sorrow of the world” is what comes naturally in almost all of us. It is the sense of feeling sorry at the moment of our wrongdoing, but not sorry to the level that we will never do it again. We knew we were wrong, and if there is a means to apologize or otherwise resolve the situation, we will pursue it—but that is as far as we will go. Even if we follow through by some form of restitution, or submit to a required discipline or punishment, we are very likely to turn back to our sinful ways later on. This sense of regret we felt came as the result of the sin of the first man, Adam. All sin or wrongdoing eventually leads to death if we do not stop doing it.

On the other hand, what the Lord expects of us is a godly kind of sorrow. This is the kind where we stop our wrongdoing at the first occurrence, earnestly ask God for forgiveness, and then repent and completely go in the opposite direction of our sin. But the more we linger in our disobedience to His Word, the faster we will travel on the path of death for eternity. On the other hand, He said, “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).

God loves us more than we can fathom. That is why He, through the death of His Son on the cross, made it possible for us to be free from eternal death—the ultimate penalty for sin.

And “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). It hurts Him greatly to see us willfully harboring transgressions against Him. And it is even worse when He is forced to send us to everlasting punishment because we have refused to let go of our transgressions and return to Him.

Why are you sorry? Were you caught in a sinful act which you have no intention of ending? Or is it from committing something wrong that you know has hurt the Lord?

God has provided a means for forgiveness and repentance; it is up to you to make use of it. As long as you continue to hold on to your sin, you will live in sorrow, leading ultimately to death. But if you are willing to give your sin over to Him to handle, to seek His forgiveness and go totally the other way, then your future will be an abundant, eternal life. Where is your sorrow over sin leading you? The choice is yours.

 

[Image credit:Dương Nhân/Pexels]

Don’t Blame God For Your Problems

a graphic showing Adam and Eve behind bushes with a tree, snake, dark clouds and sun in background

After having moved furniture for their boss in a large old truck since five in the morning, the two young men were now exhausted. The one driving turns to the other and says, “Let’s finish this last delivery and quit for today. I’m beat!” His partner agrees without any hesitation. The driver starts up the truck and eases it into gear. The engine roars loudly with a lot of creaking and groaning; everything shudders, but nothing happens. He backs off of the accelerator, shakes his head, puts the old truck into reverse, and tries again. Still, the truck doesn’t move.

Tired and frustrated, the driver puts the transmission back into neutral and shuts the truck off. He slides out of the cab and manages to get up onto the front bumper.

“Man, I’m fed up with the junk our boss keeps giving us to haul with. Every time I try to go somewhere, this old thing acts up. If I had a mind to do something, I’d…”

He then interrupts himself with a series of loud clunks and opens the hood of the vehicle. After looking around the engine and then grumbling some more, he jumps back down to the ground.

Once again he gets into the cab and starts the engine. He tries several times to rock the vehicle by pushing the transmission into gear, accelerating, then quickly shifting into reverse and stepping on the accelerator again. Now thoroughly exasperated, the driver crawls up on the front of the truck, slams the hood down and starts jumping up and down on it. Yet nothing has changed and the truck is still in the same place as before.

Practically admitting defeat after an hour of trying, the man crawls back into the driver’s seat and slumps over the steering wheel. His partner glances over at him from the other side of the cab and mumbles, “Did you pull the chocks out from under the wheels?”

The driver, still resting over the steering wheel, opens his eyes without turning his head and replies, “What?”

Now with more of a weary drawl, his partner responds a little louder, “I said, Did you pull the chocks out from under the back wheels?” The driver bursts out of the vehicle and disappears around to the backside. After a somewhat muted scream, a large pair of wheel chocks goes flying over the front of the truck, followed by immense laughter from his helper still in the front seat.

While humorous in itself, this anecdote provides a good example of how we are often quick to blame someone else for a problem or oversight of our own creation.

In Genesis 3, we find the first instance of blame, and this time it involved God also. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons…And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:6, 7, 11-13).

In the same sense as the moving truck driver, Adam and Eve created a situation that they could not overcome as it stood. In their case, they disobeyed God by allowing themselves to be persuaded by the devil, via a serpent, and they ate from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then, following their own futile wisdom and efforts, Adam and Eve tried to correct or hide their sin (a spiritual concern) with fig leaves (a natural or non-spiritual solution).

When God confronted them, Adam resorted to blaming Him and Eve, while she blamed the serpent—yet neither one mentioned that that they were at fault.

We, as children of God, often fall into disobedience by doing the same thing.  Not only do we criticize Him, we are also determined to resolve the situation in our own strength, without even a thought of asking Him for assistance. Oftentimes we will practically knock ourselves out trying to correct the problem, when the source is, figuratively speaking, right under our nose. Of course, God is not going to rush in and take care of everything for us. He will patiently wait until we reach that place where we finally give up and call out to Him for forgiveness and help. Sadly, it usually takes most of our life before we finally reach that particular point and surrender to Him, if we ever do at all.

As our loving Heavenly Father, God will never put a problem before us that we cannot overcome. We are the ones who, knowingly or unknowingly, create an insurmountable situation for ourselves. When the issues that arise in our circumstances get us down, let’s not fall into the ‘blaming God’ trap that the devil often sets before us. Instead of getting upset with God over the difficult situation at hand that we have created ourselves, why not seek Him in prayer first, and then allow Him to lead us to the solution.

 

[Image credit:OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay]

How to Fail God

man with head down, eyes closed and hand over face

If we want to know how to succeed in life, we should turn to the Bible. But how many realize that the Bible also gives many instances on how to fail? It’s true! Take a look at a few examples:

Man’s first failure came right at the beginning of the human race. God specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This commandment was simple: Don’t eat the tree’s fruit and your relationship with God will remain good. But, sadly, it did not work out well. Eve was deceived by the serpent into taking a bite of the forbidden produce. But this was only part of the actual act of failure. Then she gave the fruit to Adam to eat. At this point, he could have refused and rebuked her for yielding to the deception. But he willfully decided to go ahead and eat the fruit.

His point of failure came when he deliberately chose to disobey God. Now their relationship with God was broken and sin entered the picture.

And from that point forward, all of humanity-to-come became destined to inherit a sin nature. This means that we are born inclined toward sinning rather than against it—all due to the failure of Adam and Eve.

Now see what happened with the Israelite’s King Saul. God told him to “go and [strike] Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and [donkey]” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites hindered and tried to destroy the Israelites when they left Egypt and journeyed through the wilderness.

So Saul mustered thousands of soldiers and headed over to Amalek, dutifully following God’s command. He even warned the Kenites, who dwelt among the Amalekites, to leave the region or they would also be killed. (The Kenites had been kind to the people of Israel in their past journey, unlike the Amalekites).

Upon reaching Amalek, Saul and his forces“…took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword” (1 Samuel 15:8). So far, so good. But the problem was that Saul did not fully obey what God had ordered. “…Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly” (1 Samuel 15:9). He let their king live and kept the best of the livestock.

Saul acted upon his own best interests, not what God required of him.

And not only did Saul disobey God, he also lied to Samuel, the priest. “…Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites” (1 Samuel 15:20). In the next verse he plays the victim, shifting the blame to his people. “…the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.”

Samuel saw though all of this. He proclaimed to Saul that obedience to God is more important than sacrifice. Then the Lord led him to declare, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23).

Saul failed by doing what suited him rather than God. He was therefore rejected as king because He would not fully obey God.

A New Testament example of failure can be found in one of Jesus’ own disciples. “…Peter…said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31).

Peter was not bashful, to say the least! He spoke his mind, as portrayed later when he insisted that he would stand by Jesus even unto death—only to be informed by Him, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The [rooster] shall not crow, till thou hast denied me [three times]” (John 13:38).

Peter did believe that he could walk on the water, all the way out to where Jesus was standing. His downfall came when he took his focus off of Jesus and put it onto the conditions around him, where the winds were still rough. And then, “…when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.”

Peter failed when doubt found room to work in his heart. No longer did he trust in Jesus’ faithfulness.

Instead, he slipped back into believing in himself, and then grew fearful and began sinking. But “there is no fear in [godly] love; but perfect love [drives] out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Peter dearly loved Jesus, but his faith failed because it was not yet strong enough to let go completely and totally trust Him.

Throughout the Bible failure comes after God’s Word is disobeyed. When we listen to or follow anything other than what God has commanded, we will fail. Adam and Eve obeyed a serpent. King Saul looked to himself. Peter let the wind distract him. Over and over, the Word of God reveals that failure is a product of disobedience.

But God does not desire for us to fail Him. We find so many occasions of failure recorded in His Word because He wants us to see that we will ultimately fail when we turn away from Him and do what we consider to be right. He wants us to not just read His Word, but to follow it. Let’s read the Bible therefore, and learn from the downfalls of others—and not become another example of failure ourselves.

 

[Image credit: Darwin Laganzon/pixabay]

Forty Days or Forty Years?

A painting by Krzysztof Lubieniecki of Moses striking water from a stone

Josh, an avid explorer and amateur archeologist, decided to act on his old desire to travel to the Middle East. He wanted to view some of the past along with some of the more recent archeological excavations in the region, and even hoped to do some digs himself along the way.

He asked his archeology classmates to join him, and six of them committed to the project. Less than eight months later, Josh and his team found themselves in the Middle East, on their way to a well-developed archeological work near the southwestern portion.

After spending many days both observing and working with professional archeologists, Josh decided that he and the team should move on to their own project some distance away. They all packed up their gear, said their farewells and headed out from the camp, excited yet reluctant. They had met many who were familiar with the area that considered Josh’s intentions and departure with skepticism. But he remained confident that he and the team could fulfill their mission in around four days.

Two days into the trip, Kathy, one of the less experienced members, began to grumble about how the ‘place’ Josh kept speaking of seemed to be farther and farther away.

Then Julio, a seasoned archeological student, came to his defense when he remarked that all the surrounding terrain looked very similar, and they should not give up so soon.

Their fears were allayed when Josh came across the first stop on their journey through the wilderness. The dig he found was small, but they were able to unearth several artifacts that might have come from King David’s era. The team cheered over their find, but the following morning, a few of their provisions ran out, and so did their enthusiasm.

That afternoon, they come across a small pool of water with a few trees nearby. One team member was elated, and he hurried over, quickly removed his boots, and walked into the water. But he had no sooner entered before wild shrieks burst forth. Josh rushed over as the man raced out of the water, only to find snakes—dozens in all sizes—moving rapidly toward him. After fleeing quickly away, Josh and the team packed as fast as they could and fled the area before anyone was bitten.

Day four arrived with no fanfare at all. In fact, most of the team was dismayed and disappointed. Kathy went into another tirade of murmuring and complaining. As she walked all around their camp, she made known her disgust and unbelief. When she became unable to restrain herself any longer, she confronted Josh face-to-face about their current predicament.

“Okay, Mr. Intrepid Explorer, where is this wonderful place you keep leading us on about? It has been four days, actually eight if you include the main archeological base, since we left the airport. What have we found? Rock and sand, tons of both, and a few artifacts! I thought the archeologists and locals way back there were wrong in their skepticism about us coming out this way. But now I’m in full agreement with them!”

Another team member came up right beside her, yelling, “Yeah, it was pleasant at that camp, and at least somebody was finding artifacts, not wandering around aimlessly in temperatures that would not only fry an egg, but dehydrate and package it for shipping, too! Where are all these water holes and the huge oases you told us about on the plane?”

Josh responded hesitantly with a vague answer. Then he wandered away and climbed up a small mountain passageway and looked toward heaven, wondering what to do next. An hour later, he concluded that continuing forward would be best, hoping the site would soon appear. After much effort, he eventually convinced the team to go on rather than going back, especially considering all the snakes in the pond earlier. So off they went with only a little more than half of their supplies remaining, and no end to their journey in sight.

photo of Sinai desert

Their high expectations continued to turn to disappointment and despair as day after day dragged by. They soon gave up and cried out to God for help. But no sooner did He provide, then they would take Him for granted again and begin complaining and wandering around. Before long Kathy arrived at an awful conclusion, saying: “Hey! We passed that rock formation a week ago. Way over on the right is the pool with the snakes! This means that, for over a month, we’ve been going around in a circle! Josh, how could you and your God let this happen to us?”

A scenario like this really did happen in the Middle East several thousand years ago, when the Israelites were led out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and into the wilderness.

God intended for them to pass through the land in less than forty days, but they trudged on for forty years instead. Like the exploring team in this story, they had been going around and around in a circle.

They would not trust God. They wanted to go back to the land God had just delivered them from. They’d cry out to God for help. As soon as He provided, when the next test of their trust in Him came, they would murmur and complain all over again. They repeatedly took God for granted, and ended up going around in yet another circle. They finally reached a point where God could not let them into the land promised to them, because they no longer believed that He could help them. They would rather go back into the bondage of Egypt than trust God.

It wasn’t until sometime later that God said to the next generation of Israelites: “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward” (Deuteronomy 2:3). Going “northward” meant to finally travel into the land that God had promised them forty years earlier.

This account of the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness spiritually parallels our walk with God as believers in Him. God will deliberately lead us into what we consider to be a wasteland, in order to break us of our reliance on self, and bring us into dependence on Him. The problem comes when we don’t allow God to work in our lives. We want to have everything on our terms and conditions. As a result, we frustrate and hinder His efforts and, in the end, we take Him for granted.

Multitudes around the world are compassing a mountain right now, and will continue to do so until they yield to God.

He doesn’t want us to remain this way any more than we do. But, as long as we complain and murmur against Him and what He has done for us, our time spent wandering aimlessly will grow longer and longer.

Let’s not reach the point of the first generation of Israelites and be denied entrance into the Promised Land due to continual unbelief. Let’s obey as God commanded and “turn you northward” out of the wilderness and into His Kingdom. Our trust has to be in Him, not in ourself. Don’t let a forty day journey turn into forty years!

 

[Image credit:Krzysztof Lubieniecki [Public domain]; Sabine Kulau/pixabay]

Can Trials and Tribulations Be A Good Thing?

Black and white photo of an old car stuck in the mud

When you first accepted Christ into your heart, you most likely felt like you had conquered the world and that the problems you had up to that point no longer seemed so difficult. What a pleasant time it was, with little to fear. But it was not long before the euphoria faded and new concerns and struggles started to appear. Then you began questioning why you made this choice in the first place. It can seem that, as soon as one difficult situation is taken care of, another arises—sometimes even more than one! Now those problems you thought you had overcome when you became a child of God are coming at you with a vengeance. Does it have to be this way? Will you have to forever fight against these difficulties? Will you ever find peace and rest?

Your answer is twofold. First, if you are not following God’s plan for your life, by insisting on going your own way (or continuing your old habits), then these problems will always plague you. They are the product of disobedience. You may not be intentionally rebelling against God, but you are still not obeying His commands and following in His paths. Many times you blame someone else, or even the devil, for what is actually the consequence of your own wrongful actions. You also may blame God, thereby only adding to the violations you have already committed against Him!

Man bent over laying bricks

Secondly, God will send various circumstances and trials your way to strengthen and shape you into the person that He has already pictured you becoming. God is building you in a manner resembling a bricklayer forming a wall. A wall is never begun from the top or the middle. The bricklayer first lays one row of bricks on the bottom foundation, then another on top of that, and another, until eventually the top of the wall is reached. Just as it is with these bricks, each test God permits to come upon you provides support or preparation for the next one. Some believe that God is just preparing us with these problems and situations for the future when we will rule and reign with His Son after He returns to Earth. But actually, all of this is for the time we are now living in. God wants us to be able to manage each future difficult situation patiently and in full confidence—not in ourselves—but in Christ Himself. The Apostle Paul said, “…we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3,4).

Many were brought up with the mindset that we must try to avoid all problems that could occur in our life. Therefore, when God sends trying circumstances our way, we do our best to evade them. We often succeed in bypassing the trial, but that does not mean that we have passed God’s test. God will send the circumstance back to us in another form instead, and will continue to do so until we stop avoiding it and learn to turn to Him for help in overcoming it.

Many believers around the world struggle with the same afflictions year after year. Some continue to follow a manmade method to circumvent these ordeals, without having the slightest realization that God wants them to go through the trials, not around them. Others give up on God entirely and fall back into the old sinful worldly system they were once delivered from. They conclude that living for God is too much trouble, not realizing that all they needed to do was to learn to turn the problem over to God and leave it there.

God wants you to make good use of the trials and tribulations you encounter as a means of correction and growth. He never intended for them to drag you down and, ultimately, away from Him. When a situation arises that is greater than you can handle, do what the psalmist did: “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” (Psalm 73:16,17). He came to the point where he could not understand or resolve the problem he faced on his own. He found that the best thing to do was to go before God for the answer.

Woman looking downward with book in hand near face with bluish fog and trees in background

When problems come your way, seek the Lord first and inquire whether the latest problem arose as a result of your own actions. He wants us to know that it is a good thing when trials and tribulations come after He sees areas in us in need of strengthening. God does not want our problems to leave us fearful, upset, or discouraged. Instead He tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [various trials or testings]; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect [blameless] and entire, wanting [lacking] nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Are you in a perplexing situation right now, or sense that one is on its way? Don’t hang your head low in defeat. Look up, and rejoice that God wants to improve your life! He alone is the source of your victory over whatever problem or obstacle you may encounter. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication [petition] with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7).

[Image credits:flickr/Mennonite Church USA, maxpixel [1] & [2]]

New Year, Same Sin

At the beginning of each new year, it is the same old thing: a large majority of us want to improve some area of our life. Almost everywhere we look, from gyms to retail stores and restaurants, even to financial institutions, like banks, investment firms, and tax preparers, there are promotions of some kind regarding a new outlook on life. Churches and ministries are now getting in on the trend with various programs to revitalize and enhance us physically and spiritually. Most follow the tagline of ‘New Year, New You’ or some other variant. Yet, with all of these means in place to assist us, why do we still need them all over again next year and each successive year thereafter?

The key lies with something that each and every one of us has to deal with all of the time. It is called sin. No matter what effort we take to hide or overcome it, sin will always be there. In essence, sin is disobedience to God’s Word. It is also something that keeps us from entering into God’s Kingdom. God cannot tolerate any sin, even the tiniest amount.

Sin brings us into a period of pleasure while we are committing it, and then leaves us in a state of emptiness, despair, and disappointment afterward.

Therefore, we are never satisfied with just one act of sin. We continually seek more and greater ways to sin in order to reach a point of gratification.

Sin escalates while, at the same time, it degrades. Sin is never isolated to just the one who is sinning. Many feel that as long as it is hidden, then everything will be fine. Yet, whether the results are seen or not, our sin impacts some thing or someone else. From the rocks to the animals to the oceans to the sky, and everybody in between, the whole earth is ultimately affected by our sins. Since the time of Adam and Eve to the present time, the world has been steadily in decline. Every attempt throughout history to save this world from destruction has been nullified by our continual sin.

Nothing in our own efforts will solve the sin problem in our life or anyone else’s. While not all of our ills are directly caused by our sin, we are still impacted by it. Sin is like quicksand—the more you try to escape, the deeper you sink into it. It may not have hurt when you slipped in, and may not be painful while you are in it, but you still are descending slowly to your death.

The only solution to the sin problem is to turn to someone who is greater than sin itself.

We can’t get out of the quicksand through some self-help program or a fitness or dietary regime. No amount of financial planning or seminars will help. We might be able to stay afloat for an extended period of time, but it is not until we grab hold of a lifeline, like someone’s hand or the equivalent, that our rescue is possible.

That ultimate help is Jesus Christ. He is the only one qualified to deliver us from the hold and finality of sin. He willingly left His place in Heaven and came to this sinful earth to rescue us. He took all of the sins of the world – past, present and future – upon Himself and was crucified on a cross so to pay for them so that we could be free. He paid a penalty that was impossible for us to pay on our own. He gave us the means to come before God through Him. When we acknowledge and accept the sacrifice He made for us as our own, ask for forgiveness of our sins, and allow Him to live in our heart and life, then He will pull us out of the grip of sin. His blood shed for us will cover our sins, never more to be seen by God.

Not only are our sins removed, but we are given a whole new nature—one that is no longer bent toward sinning and desiring the sinful ways of this world.

Instead of trying to make ourselves better each year by our own strength and efforts, we just need to yield to Jesus and turn our concerns over to Him, “casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Only He can bring about real success and change in our life—when we let Him. Won’t you do it today?

For more direction on how to let God remove the sin in your life click here.

Where Were the Carpenters After They Built the Ark?

Drawing of workers constructing oNoah's ark by A. KircherImage Credit: Wellcome Collection

“God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me…Make thee an ark…” (Genesis 6:13-14).

For almost 6,000 years, God has allowed man to follow his own path to progress by permitting him to bring his principles and methods of accomplishing his goals to full development. By the time of Noah, what was the final outcome of the first sixteen centuries of “progress”? All Earth’s inhabitants had broken entirely free from any moral restraint and become wholly corrupted. Lack of belief in God and disobedience to Him had ruined the moral nature God had given them so much that no hope remained.

All flesh had reached the point where it couldn’t get any worse. So God had nothing left to work with. All He could do was to totally destroy them, saving only the few who were righteous and still obedient to Him. Only one man and his family qualified when the climax of evil had been reached. All the rest of mankind had become devastated. Now God alone could provide the remedy for the future of the human race.

Today man is exposed to a similar situation of danger. The Lord has declared that He’s soon going to call the whole world to judgment for its sins against Him—yet we do not prepare for it in any way.

In fact, many laugh and sneer at the very idea. Nevertheless, God’s wrath is going to fall. Why did God tell Noah “make thee an ark”? Because His sentence of death has been “passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12) already.

But along with the sentence of death, God made a promise of deliverance. Whenever God makes His darkest threats, He always reveals a way of escape. He sent the flood, but also provided an ark. Lot had to flee from Sodom before God destroyed it, but He provided the little city of Zoar for him to escape to. And God warns us today of the penalty for sinning against Him, at the same time providing the message of Christ—that He is full of mercy, unwilling for any to perish.

Noah had a firm belief in what God said He was going to do, in spite of the unbelief everywhere around him. He was in awe of God and had made up his mind to take advantage of any means God might provide to escape the coming wrath. Nevertheless, God did not make an ark and hand it to Noah. Man had to construct it himself from materials of this Earth.

A photograph of a life-sized replica of Noah's arkImage Credit: Greg Reese

At the same time that other men were chasing after wealth and freely indulging in pleasure and sin, Noah was using his wealth and substance to build the ark. It was a gigantic ship, the largest to that time, about a third of the size of the largest modern aircraft carrier. His holdings must have been sizable to be able to provide enough funds to construct such a monumental project.

Certainly his three sons would have helped build it, but even so, much more manpower would have been needed to complete such an undertaking.

There were men living then who had prospered in just about everything material. Some would have gladly received a contract to work in Noah’s shipyard, all the while having contempt for his reasons for building the ark. But, in spite of their attitude, every time they hit a nail or sawed a board, God provided another chance for them to repent of their man-centered evil ways and come to Him.

God offered all the people a way of safety, of salvation, to see if they would believe Him and accept the only way out. But they were not willing to consider living in an ark for months, because they were not willing to believe that a life-destroying flood was coming. Who would trust the ark to be their salvation if they truly thought they could manage an easier way? The first and hardest step toward helping people to get saved is convincing the careless and the prospering that their way of salvation will not save them. Yet they are not capable of saving themselves.

Noah believed God when He told him a massive flood of destruction was coming for all mankind. He knew he had only two choices: destruction or deliverance. So he took the necessary steps to conduct himself in a way that he would be allowed to escape the coming disaster. We have to obey God’s instructions to us as much as Noah had to obey God’s instructions to him. He had to have an ark built to be saved. But all we have to do today is to get into the Ark God already prepared for us.

Noah’s eyes could not see a flood forming, but his eyes of faith did see, and he believed in the reality of it, more than the reality of all he could touch and see right around him.

This made it possible for him to ignore the endless taunts thrown at him day by day and year by year. The direction his life was going to take was either pure foolishness, or it was more real than anything else at that time. A hundred and twenty years might have passed from God’s warning to Noah until the Flood actually came. Yet Noah held to what he believed God had told him. He did not let his faith waver the whole time. Then he was taken away, just as the very apex of human evil arrived, before God’s judgment had to be poured out.

And what about our faith today? Are we even aware of the coming destruction that looms just ahead? Do we believe God as He forewarns us to come into the Ark of safety? He has provided a similar means of escape for us like He did for Noah. He has provided His only begotten Son as the Ark for all who will believe. They will be able to board the Ark, but it will not remain open for the multitude that refuses to believe. Those people think their own good works will be sufficient to save them, but their works are about as useful as a raft in a flood! Who would be foolish enough to provide himself with just a raft if he knew a monsoon was coming?

A graphical image of Noah's ark floating in water during heavy rains with dark grey sky all around.Image Credit: Jeff Jacobs

It’s possible that many workmen who signed up to work on the shipbuilding project may not have made fun of Noah. But where were they when Noah went up the ramp into the ark? The neighbors of Noah most likely helped him obey what God had told him to do also. They may have helped make the way of salvation possible, yet they never obeyed God themselves. They also stood watching as Noah and his family went into the ark. What happened to them? Every last one of them drowned in the Flood.

Faithfully building the ark in response to God’s command was one way Noah preached righteousness to those around him. Yet none of them took advantage of his invitation to come aboard and escape the inevitable destruction of themselves and all around them. Even the woodcutters, carpenters, and other builders were ultimately destroyed—because they would not come into the very ark they had built! They failed to consider the future while they worked on the present project. So they ended up outside the ark of safety, and when it was too late, they realized that it had been built for them!

Have you climbed aboard the Ark yourself? You may be one of those who helped build it, yet not be on it when judgment comes! Where were the carpenters after they built the ark?

A Lie in Disguise or Truth Unclothed?

old brick stone mansion

We live our life as a façade. We have pretty curtains on the windows with a nice welcome mat on the front step, and at the same time, we surround everything with a massive wrought iron fence. Our doors are padlocked and dead-bolted, but the painted stucco covering the walls is magnificent. The front yard is immaculately trimmed, yet the grass is artificial, and the flowers are plastic. In reality, our life often amounts to little more than a heavily dressed-up lie.

We tell our friends and neighbors how wonderful they are, then gossip about them when they are not present. We boast to our coworkers about what a wonderful job we did, never mentioning that someone else we haven’t mentioned did most of the work.

Under the guise of diplomacy, nations cover up their lies to appease other nations. Many leaders and politicians are quick to divert the not-so-pleasant truth about themselves, yet are quite eager to expose it about others—or even demand that others reveal it about themselves.

“These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord” (Zechariah 8:16,17).

All the way back in the beginning, the first man and woman chose to clothe their disobedience in deception. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:7-8). Adam and Eve knew they were wrong, but chose to hide and not disclose the truth to God, their Creator. But God cannot, and will not, be mocked or fooled in any manner. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).

 

When we dress up our misdeeds we just make them into an appealing lie. And by living a life of covering up falsehood, we fill ourselves with pride, which further worsens our situation. We are telling God that we can handle the situation in the way we think is best. We don’t want the results that the actual truth will bring, so we keep the lie beautifully clothed and hope that no one will peek inside. Yet all we are really doing is putting ourselves into more and more bondage. By continuing our fashion show with our lie, we begin to live more and more in fear.

The reality here is that we sin, meaning we fail to obey the commandments of God, and then sin gains control over us. But we really don’t want anyone to know it. The only one who has a remedy for our desire to constantly disguise who we really are is Jesus. When we yield ourself to Him, and strip our disobedience bare by admitting that we were wrong and that we have sinned against Him, we allow Him to free us of this burden. From the time when Jesus came into this world, to the time when He sacrificed His life on the cross and rose from the grave, He fulfilled all of God’s requirements for us to be free from sin’s control over us.

The truth about who we really are is best when it is unclothed, raw, and out in the open before God. By hiding it, we set ourselves up for a life of falsehood, fear, and shame.

Even a half-truth, or a lie poorly clothed, is still falsehood. We may successfully disguise this from others, but never from God. Concealing it will never benefit anyone, especially in the long term. By living this way, we are in rebellion against God and setting ourself up for an eternity in hell. God loves us so much and has absolutely no intention of sending us there. We make this happen by continuing to reject Him. Yet all of this will change in a moment if we turn our heart and life over to Him. (Click here to learn more about how to yield to God.) Don’t dress up your disobedience—bring it out in the open, and lay it in the hands of Jesus.

Two Trees — One Choice

The first man saw that the trees in the Garden of Eden were pleasant to look at and good for food. God told him, “…Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat…” Let’s take a look here at two particular trees in that garden: “…the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9, emphasis mine). God had warned the first man in advance that “…the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2: 16-17). This referred to spiritual death at once (cutting man’s direct connection with God), and physical death in due time.

Adam knew that God had given him that one restriction—to not eat the fruit of one particular tree in the midst of the garden. But the first woman was deceived and she ate one piece of fruit from that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then she gave some to Adam. He ate it too—knowing it was wrong to do so. They both yielded to their own desires instead of obeying and pleasing God. The first man and woman instantly became transgressors, guilty of disobedience to their Creator. God had made it clear that they then would experience the process of death, which began the very day Adam and Eve ate that fruit. How quickly wickedness began to grow after man sowed those first seeds of disobedience. Then he began to reap the sad result. The sin of man brought shame into the world. And the end result of sin is death. God was therefore forced to place restrictions on all human beings who were yet to come in the world.

Why did God plant that tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the first place, knowing it would be the source of disobedience in man?

As a sovereign or supreme entity God is not under the authority of anything or anyone therefore He has the freedom to say or do as He chooses. And He created man in His own image—so man, like God, also has a free will. This means God gave man the power of choice. Man can choose to obey God or disobey Him, to love God or hate Him. He can choose to serve God or his own physical nature. God is all-seeing and all-knowing. So He already knew what man’s reaction was going to be before Adam and Eve ever ate the forbidden fruit. Yet man had to be tested, to prove whether or not he would be obedient to God.

Man was created capable of reason (unlike the animals). God also gave all of us the capability of deciding for ourselves. And He made us capable of being immortal—by eating the fruit of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. This special tree was an indication that Adam and Eve would never have died if they had not disobeyed God.

This means that there would have been no physical death in the garden, because the fruit of this special tree would have been available to them for healing if needed. Therefore, man did not originally need to die, but could have lived forever with God instead.

And that same original life God gave man furnished him with a nature fully capable of knowing, loving, and serving God. However, having this kind of relationship with God does not guarantee man’s salvation—meaning deliverance from the power and effects of sin. Only those who have been quickened into new life through spiritual rebirth (being ‘born again’ by His Holy Spirit) are really His children.

Jesus Christ created the whole universe. He declared Himself to be not only the Creator, but also the object of creation. “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3) by Jesus’ divine, eternal, living Word. And all the true children of God have been born again by means of the word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden symbolized Jesus coming down from Heaven into this world as a man, in order to be the eternal living ‘Tree of Life’ for man. His ‘fruit’ from this tree for the nourishment of life is within man’s reach.

All need to eat of this fruit, not the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus, as that ‘eternal Tree of life,’ has been made available to us so that we can live—with God—forevermore!

For more information on how to obtain this ‘fruit’ for yourself please click here.

 

I Love Bread

baguette

I love bread—whether it is toasted or untoasted, broiled or grilled, or freshly baked (my favorite)—I’ll eat it! It could be white bread (but not the cheap, factory-baked kind), rye, pumpernickel, sourdough, focaccia, naan, boule, rice, or even potato bread. But I have never had a fondness for almost all kinds of whole wheat bread. Now, if you were to slather a big slab of butter on a slice, I just might be inclined to eat it! There are many flavored breads that I also enjoy, such as tomato and basil, three-cheese, and cinnamon and raisin (especially with a big smear of butter!).

I found myself thinking about the yeast used in bread recently. It is a key ingredient in many popular types of bread because it is essential to make them rise. Without yeast in bread of this kind, you would have a thick and rather tough lump of baked dough. Or, depending on the recipe used, and if the dough was spread out flat over a baking pan, you would end up with just a very large cracker!

sliced bread

I would help out around the house while my parents were working when I was young. One thing I helped with was baking bread. We would buy loaves of frozen bread dough from the store and bake our own bread at home. When baking bread that has yeast as its leavening source, you need to puncture the rising dough slightly to release the gas that has built up inside the dough, since the baking process hardens the exterior and the dough is unable to free the excess gas on its own. One time, I neglected to do any kind of puncturing of the rising loaf. As a result, I baked one of the largest loaves of bread we had ever seen! I was quite amazed myself, and rather proud of my achievement. But disappointment quickly surfaced when my Dad started to slice this mammoth loaf of bread and it suddenly collapsed—due to the fact that the upper part of the loaf contained only one huge hole. In other words, I had succeeded in baking a very large bread balloon!

When kept under control, yeast can be beneficial. But it can also be quite detrimental when left totally unattended. It is actually a living organism that likes to eat, and when it eats, it grows. The more it grows, the more it eats, until eventually the host that it is eating is destroyed. Yeast will feed on starchy foods, but the top item yeast prefers to feed on is sugar and other sweeteners. Give it something nice and sweet, and it will flourish abundantly. This is why most yeast breads require some type of sweetener for the yeast to eat and release carbon dioxide, which, in turn, will cause the loaf of bread to rise, as well as giving it a lighter texture. After baking, the yeast dies off and you end up with a nice loaf of fresh baked yeast bread.

There are also some types of yeast organisms in your body. When kept in the right balance, they are basically harmless. But when they get out of control, they leave you in a very crippled state and could eventually kill you. Just like the yeast in bread, these organisms love simple sugars, but when they are starved, they will resort to eating most anything with even a hint of sweetener. They will even eat the lining in your digestive system, which then allows them to enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc throughout your body, ultimately bringing on death if the yeast is not destroyed.

yeast form

Sin (disobedience to God’s Word) is a lot like this kind of yeast. The difference is that sin can never be simply controlled; it must be defeated and destroyed. Sin usually starts off as a simple, innocent act, and then continues, until it permeates the whole body—both the soul, where our conscience lives, and the physical body. The yeast organisms in bread are never satisfied with just a little bit of sugar, and sin is not content with just a little bit of you. It never is satisfied with just a one-time act; it wants the whole production.

When you willfully disobey God’s Word (the Bible), you are feeding sin and giving ground for it to grow in. Sin is never just accidental. It is always preconceived in some way. You don’t just go walking along and then suddenly begin sinning. It is something you plan for in advance, whether for a moment, or for months before the actual act occurs. When you stop allowing God to operate in your life, or have never allowed Him to work there in the first place, you are giving sin the means to grow in your heart. Essentially, when you run your life without God, or refuse to accept the sacrifice of His Son at the cross for your sins as applying to you, you are creating fertile ground for sin to grow in. As a result, sin becomes easier and more commonplace, since there is little to stop it.

candida yeast

When those yeast organisms begin to really multiply, they don’t just sit on the surface of your intestines. They begin to take root into the intestinal walls and won’t easily leave. It is the same way with sin. It doesn’t just sit there inside of you; it roots into your spirit or heart, and becomes increasingly difficult to manage. Like yeast organisms, it wants more and more of you, until it eventually destroys you.

Actually, sin is worse than yeast organisms, because it not only impacts your life, it also affects other lives around you, and you are not able to stop it or kill it on your own. It takes someone greater than you to defeat it. And that someone is Jesus Christ. He willfully came to the earth as a human being, just like us (only without any sin), to fulfill the requirements to defeat sin and death. This resulted in Him willfully sacrificing His own life on the cross for us. He paid all of the requirements for every man, woman and child, even though He did not owe anything Himself. There is no other way to overcome sin. Have faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for all of your sins as if it was your own sacrifice for your sins. You can’t overcome sin by going to a multi-step program. You can’t tie yourself up and cover your eyes and ears to keep from sinning or from allowing sin to enter. Only Jesus can successfully overcome sin for you.

Sin is a spiritual and moral problem that eventually manifests as a physical problem.

When harmful yeast organisms become fully active in your body, they can cause all kinds of external reactions (such as flu-like sicknesses, rashes, fungal outbreaks, etc.), many of which can’t easily be directly attributed to the organisms themselves. By comparison, when we allow something as simple as a few lies, or a lustful glance at a man or woman, to go unchecked within us, over a period time these simple acts of sin subtly grow and grow. Eventually we become desensitized to what is really the truth or a lie. We may have adulterous affairs and become unable to establish a normal relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Ultimately, we become so far removed from the originating sins, that we go on to commit totally unrelated sins. Because of sin, every living being on the whole planet (even those still in the womb) is in a degraded state.

The only solution to the sin problem is Jesus. You must accept Him into your heart and surrender full control of your life to Him. You need to ask Him to forgive you of your sins against Him and to repent of these sins. You need to develop a relationship with Him, no longer with the individuals or things that are causing or leading you to sin. This relationship with Him becomes possible when you go before God in sincere prayer, as well as when you read and meditate (think deeply and contemplate) on His Word, the Bible.

Don’t continue to try to control sin on your own. As with yeast, whether it is in a loaf of bread or given free rein in your body, if you continue to feed it and keep it concealed or masked, it will overtake you and eventually lead to death eternally in Hell. Your goal should be to give it all over to God while you still can. Sin may be pleasurable for the moment, but it will never give you real satisfaction; you will always thirst for more. Jesus gives you real satisfaction continually.

“…whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

To learn more on how to quench this continual desire for sin click here.

–James Pangburn