Read: Nehemiah 13: 1 – 31
‘So I confronted the nobles of Judah. “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?” I asked. “Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon Israel.”’ Nehemiah 13: 17 – 18
When I read so many parts of the Old Testament, for example today’s reading, I want to throw my hands up and yell, “why are you doing it again – didn’t you learn anything from what your people just went through?!?!”
It’s easier to look at these people who lived many years ago and say “why don’t they get it?” than it is to look in the mirror at ourselves and ask “why don’t I get it?” When I start to judge them, I have to stop and think of the lie I told this week at work because I didn’t want to deal with someone. Or the gossip I engaged in to make myself look better than I am. We can rationalize our sin much the same way the Jews in the Old Testament rationalized theirs. I didn’t really lie; I just made up an excuse because I wasn’t feeling well – besides that was better than hurting the other person’s feelings. I didn’t really gossip; I just stood there while others talked. It wasn’t really my place to stop it – besides, everything they said about that person was true. Sound familiar?
Modern day idolatry and rebellion are no better than how the Jews rebelled against God in the Old Testament. Pride, greed (worshipping wealth or power), jealousy – sin is sin. How do we see these sins expressed: “little” lies, gossip, “harmless” flirting (when you’re married or flirting with someone else who is married), pornography… all of these are putting your immediate desires ahead of God’s will for you, which is sin. With each of these, we can easily rationalize our behavior. We can say “looking at those pictures or movies online isn’t hurting anyone”; when in reality, it’s estimated that there are over 1 million women (many teens and younger) enslaved in sex trafficking who make up the majority of the “harmless” porn. “Harmless flirting is fine; it doesn’t mean anything, and my husband/wife will never know” – if you’re married, there’s no such thing as “harmless flirting” unless you’re doing it with your spouse. It’s a very slippery slope, and once that trust has been violated, it’s a difficult (sometimes impossible) hill to climb to re-establish trust and preserve the family. Flirting can quickly lead to an emotional affair and maybe further; what seemed harmless can end up stealing the trust from your marriage and leaving your children with lifelong wounds.
Let’s look a little more closely at what sin is. From www.allaboutgod.com:
The truth is that sin, as defined in the original translations of the Bible, means “to miss the mark.” The mark, in this case, is the standard of perfection established by God and evidenced by Jesus. Viewed in that light, it is clear that we are all sinners. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In light of this, it does no good to compare ourselves to others. We cannot escape our failure to be righteous in our own strength. This is by God’s design, because only when we understand our weakness will we consider relying on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
Or as John put it in 1 John 1: 8 – 10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives”.
Everything has a cost (every action has a consequence), so what does our individual sin cost each of us us? In Romans 6:23, the Bible tells us “For the wages of sin is death.” Just like the Israelites deserved for their idolatry, that’s what I deserve for the lie I told or the gossip I engaged in. That’s a mighty big downer, but read on…
Critical aspects of God’s character are mercy and grace. I’ve heard these defined as follows:
Mercy is God not punishing us as we deserve (death for sin).
Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve (eternal life).
The second part of what Paul writes in Romans 6:23 is the Good News: “but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because God is merciful and graceful, He provides us with another way. The Bible teaches that God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to live a sinless life on earth and die for our sins on the cross. Then God raised Jesus from the dead to return to His throne and eternal life in heaven. If we acknowledge the truth that we are sinners, ask God for forgiveness, and place our faith in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God’s mercy and grace cancel out the sin debt we’ve incurred.
Father, thank You for Your grace and mercy. I trust in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I acknowledge that there is nothing I can do, no amount of good works can cancel out my sin debt, and I’m eternally thankful that I don’t need to. I pray that you search my heart and my life and reveal any areas of sin that are there and give me the strength I need to release those over to You. In Jesus’ name… Amen.