Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

Is Islam a religion of war or peace? I get asked this question a lot. I know that people are asking this question again after all of the attacks on US embassies throughout the Middle East. I’ll give you my answer to this question and then I’ll tell you why I am posting about it.

I don’t know. There you have it, that’s my answer. I don’t claim to be an expert in Islam. Even if I was I am not sure how well I could answer this question. Honestly, I see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of war. There are Muslim scholars who confirm this (though they might not state it this way). There are some really hard verses in the Qur’an. There are plenty of violent acts throughout the history of Islam. And of course, we see the violence perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

However, I can also see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of peace. There are Muslims scholars who confirm this. There are good pointers in the Qur’an towards peace. Within the history of Islam there have been times of peace and prosperity. And of course, we see acts of kindness and love perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

So which is it? Again, I honestly don’t know. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really care. That probably doesn’t sound good. Honestly, I am not that concerned about what true Islam is. I am more concerned about what my Muslim friend believes. This is not because I don’t care about the truth or don’t think that objective truth is real. I do. I care very much. It is because I have personally settled the issue of truth. Jesus the Messiah says in the Injil, “I am the truth” (see the Gospel according to John 14:6). He is enough for me. I am not saying Christianity is the truth. I am saying that Jesus is the truth. The truth of God has been embodied in a person.

When I am with my Muslim friend I don’t need to know what true Islam is. I need to know my friend. I want to know what he believes. Does he believe that such acts of violence in the name of Islam are justified? Or does he repudiate them? That’s what matters to me.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I care deeply for Muslims as a group and for my Muslim friends in particular. I am really grateful to God for the relationships he has given me and the friends I have been blessed by. You also know that I have not been afraid to call anti-Islamic statements evil. I am more than willing to call out the evil from Christians regarding Muslims. I believe this film is offensive and the opposite of love.

However, one thing I really haven’t done is also call out the evil that Muslims have done. I feel angry about the response to this movie. I understand why it is offensive. But I cannot and will not understand the need to destroy property and ultimately kill others because of it, especially those who had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the film. I do not hold the American government responsible for the evil of individual citizens anymore than I hold other governments responsible for the evil of their individual citizens.

I am angry because the destructive and deadly responses are evil. I am angry because these responses make non-Muslims living in the Middle East fearful. I have American friends who live all over the Middle East who are fearful that they may need to flee. I am angry because the radical murderous Muslims are giving all of my Muslim friends a bad name. I am angry because the work that I do in trying to promote understanding and peace between Muslims and Christians can so easily be derailed by the site of angry mobs. I am angry because all people are made in God’s image and we are not treating each other with the respect that this simple truth demands. God made us. And therefore he loves us. How is it that this truth doesn’t change everything about how we live with people different than us?!

I feel for Muslims who are appalled at what is taking place. Surely they bear a greater burden of responsibility over their community than I do, but what can they do? I don’t know. And even if my responsibility is not as great, I still am responsible for my reaction and for the circle of influence I have.

So I will pray. I will pray to the God of peace. I will pray for those who have sinned in making the movie and those who have sinned in their response to the movie. I will continue to show the way of love that Jesus Christ teaches us. His way is the way of the cross. He didn’t kill his enemies. He died for them. He didn’t end their lives. He laid down his own.

The way of the cross is the only way forward because it teaches us to humble ourselves and extend the forgiveness we have received to others. It teaches us to love our enemies and to seek their good. It teaches us to love mercy and not merely insist on justice.

I will pray and I will seek to daily die to myself and my selfish desires so that I can love others, even others who don’t love me.

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It’s about the Heart

I was reading my Bible yesterday and was taken aback when I read these verses from the prophet Isaiah:

“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations; 4 I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight.” – Isaiah 66:3-4

God is describing various acts of worship and how he views these acts of worship. Slaughtering an ox is an act of worship in the Tawrat (the law), but to God when these people slaughtered oxen it was like they were killing men. Pigs are just as unclean in Judaism as they are in Islam. Imagine someone coming to the temple to worship God and then offering pig’s blood as a sacrificial gift. Blasphemous! And yet their grain offerings were equivalent to this.

What was the problem here? The problem was not that they were failing to offer acts of worship. The problem was their hearts. Even though they “obeyed” God by “worshiping” him, they had actually chosen their own sinful ways and delighted in their sinful abominations. Theirs hearts were far from God. As the Messiah said in the Injil (he was quoting Isaiah!), “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me'” (Gospel according to Mark 7:6).

I think this is true today more often than we realize. Look at these pictures:

How many of the people here are only performing acts of worship while their hearts are elsewhere? How many are simply going through the motions?

Perhaps we should come closer to home and examine our own hearts. How often is your worship mingled with unholy thoughts? How often are you going through the motions while your heart is full of anger? or full of lust? or full of greed? or full of discontent? or . . .?

When we come before the Holy Creator of the universe, we ought not be so presumptuous to think that he won’t mind when our actions say he is great, but our hearts and minds reveal the opposite.

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We Come Dirty

Jason Kanz has a guest post at Take Your Vitamin Z related to what I’ve been writing regarding cleansing and defilement. Here is the last paragraph:

We are all dirty right down to the core of our being. But we cannot be cleansed unless we know that we are dirty. Jesus came to clean the dirty. “For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.” (Leviticus 16:30)

Read the whole thing.

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Yesterday I posted the following as a guest post on Life Together. I’ve been so helped myself as I’ve thought about these things that I wanted to post it on my blog as well. For my Muslim friends, this is a good example of how the gospel (Jesus Christ being sent by God to die on the cross for sin and rise again in triumph over sin) produces change in our lives.

Sin – Confrontation – Heart – Idol – Gospel

The heart is the key to behavior and if we want to help one another or be helped we must get to the heart. When we confront we move beyond the behavior and help our brother or sister see how sin is at work. For example, you see a friend speak in anger to his wife. You can ignore it, but that isn’t loving to your friend, to his wife, to his children, or to the others who see Christ dishonored through this man’s sinful speech. You can simply confront him with a bold proclamation against his sin, but that isn’t loving either. We need to gently point out sin and then seek to help him.

You can very gently say something like, “I noticed when we were together earlier that you said ______ to your wife. It seemed as though there was anger in your voice. What was going on?” If your friend is wise he will receive these questions with gladness. If he is like me he might be defensive. Either way, we trust that the same Holy Spirit prompting me to confront is also at work in his heart to conform him to the image of Jesus. He will likely pass the blame for his anger by telling you what his wife did to make him angry. Of course, she may very well have first sinned against her husband, but we know that no one makes us respond in sin. We do that ourselves. So our goal is to help him own his own sin.

He doesn’t need, primarily, better communication tips. He doesn’t merely need a list of do’s and don’t’s in communicating his frustrations to his wife. He needs to see his heart in the midst of his anger. In some way he was living for his own kingdom and his wife had gotten in the way of his goals. Perhaps he had elevated peace of mind as an idol in his heart. His wife then did something that caused stress and he responded in anger because she became a barrier to the peace of mind he wanted. Perhaps he had elevated some activity as an idol in his heart. His wife then did or said something that put the enjoyment of that activity in question so he responded with anger because she became a barrier to that enjoyment. Perhaps having a submissive wife has been elevated to an idol in his heart. He wants the community to know that his wife submits to him so when she did something that calls this into question he got angry at her because she had become a barrier to the status he wanted.

The point is this: Behind his anger is some kind of idol. He had ceased living for the kingdom of God and was living for his own kingdom. His wife did not play by the rules of his kingdom and so he responded with anger. This is the problem of marriage. You bring together two people with two different kingdoms and expect them to live in harmony. You soon learn that the other is not playing by your rules and conflict comes. This is why it isn’t enough to merely give better communication tips. If someone is still living for his own kingdom he will simply use those communication skills to continue living for his kingdom. There needs to be a change of heart. And this is what we want to do when we are confronting friends.

If we are going to help a friend experience heart change we must never forget that there is one means by which a heart is truly changed—the gospel. We cannot love our neighbor without the gospel. The gospel hits at every point of need. This husband needs to change. He needs to love his wife like Christ loved the church. It isn’t enough to merely quote from Ephesians 5 about what a husband is to do. We must help our friend place his story—his life—into the larger context of God’s story. We read the command, “Husbands, love your wife like Christ loved the church.” But we can’t actually understand what that means without understanding the whole story. We need to understand how sin has separated us from God so that God sent his beloved Son as a man in order to die for the sins of his people. And by this death and his subsequent resurrection God has created a new people to whom he promises to use his omnipotent power to work all things for their good.

The gospel makes a claim on our lives. It calls us to change. It calls us to holiness and obedience. So we need to preach the gospel to one another and call each other to greater holiness and obedience. But we will never be able to heed the call of the gospel if we don’t also have the comfort of the gospel. We need to understand that in Christ our sins are forgiven. I can’t live the life God wants me to live if by living it I think God will love me more. I first need to know that God loves me and he couldn’t possibly love me more because his love is already endless. It is the knowledge and experience of that love that enables me to strive for greater holiness. We obey not in order for God to love us, but because he already does.


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Would You Drink It?

Most people I know (me included) underestimate the seriousness of sin. “Sin isn’t that bad, and besides, I don’t sin that much.” We fail to recognize that God is holy and therefore any sin is an offense against him. Since he is infinitely holy any sin (no matter how little) is infinitely offensive.

The Thirsty Man

A man had been out in the hot sun working all day. He repaired roads and the asphalt made it even hotter. He still had an hour left to work, but had run out of water hours ago. Fortunately there was a shop near the road he was repairing. He decided to go in and ask for a drink.

“Hello!” said the shopkeeper. “What a hot day. How can I help you?”

“Could I get some water?” asked the man who was covered with sweat.

“Certainly,” responded the shopkeeper. He took a small coffee cup (it was all he had on the counter) and poured in some cool water. Strangely, however, after filling the cup with water, the man noticed that the shopkeeper also put in a drop of poison. The man knew that this poison was so deadly that even in the smallest most diluted amounts it would kill an human.

“Here you go,” the shopkeeper said as he handed the man the cup. But the man refused to drink it.

“No problem,” said the shopkeeper who then ran in back and brought out a larger glass. He poured the water from the cup into the glass and then filled the rest of the glass with more cool refreshing water. Again, he said, “Here you go,” and held out the glass. And again the man refused to drink it.

“No problem,” said the shopkeeper. This time he took a large bucket that had been hanging on the wall and poured the water from the glass into the bucket. He then filled the rest of the bucket with more cool refreshing water. “Here you go.”

A third time the man refused to drink it. Finally he walked out of the shop even thirstier than when he walked in.

Would You Drink It?

The man refused to drink the water because he knew there was poison. It didn’t matter that there was more water than poison or that the shopkeeper kept adding more and more water to it. The poison was still there. Would you drink it?

Often we think that by doing more good works we can get rid of our sin. The problem is that even if we have a bucket full of good works, we still have the drop of sin. And for those of us who are honest with ourselves and the dark thoughts and desires of our hearts, the more accurate picture would be a bucket full of poison with a drop of water.

The water won’t be good to drink unless the poison is actually removed. Therein lies the great question of life: How do we get rid of the poison?

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Unlikely Friends

Craig Gross, pastor of XXXchurch, has debated Ron Jeremy, a prominent porn star, over 60 times. Craig believes porn is destructive. Ron believes it is good. Craig submits to God through Jesus Christ. Ron is not a Christian. Sounds like two people who wouldn’t like each other. Yet, in a piece on CNN’s religion blog Craig writes that they are good friends and hang out whenever they are in town together.

Up to this point they have only debated at secular venues. No churches or Christian colleges have invited them to come because they don’t want someone like Ron Jeremy up front sharing what he believes and why. But now they have two debates scheduled for two different churches. One church only agreed if Ron would come to church on Sunday and share from the front about faith, God and his life. Gross writes:

Ron does not claim to be a Christian.  Why share a church stage with someone that does not claim to be a Christian yet? What can we possibly learn from that?

A whole lot I believe. I believe if Christians and others would listen to more people who are not just like us, and give them opportunities in our environments, we both might experience change.

This sounds like good peacemaking to me. Read the whole thing.

One last thing. Pornography is not consumed by only the irreligious. We would all be fools to think that believing, practicing Christians and Muslims don’t struggle with pornography. XXXchurch has free software designed to help keep people accountable in their web surfing. I would encourage anyone reading to have some safety measures in place while they are online.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”
(from our Lord Jesus Christ in the Injil [Matthew 5:8]).

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From Vitamin Z:

I’ll break it down really simple.  Ask yourself this question:  How often do the words, “I’m sorry.  Will you please forgive me?” come out of your mouth towards your spouse?

Not very often?

If not, either your spouse is enabling your sin, you have a low view of your sin, or you are too insecure in your identity in Christ to confess.

I could easily say that the consistent theme that I have seen in marriages that fall apart (or are completely dysfunctional) is the inability to name sin and repent.  But believing the Gospel should compel us to see our sin (that is what Jesus died for right?) and if we believe that Jesus had to die for my sin then why would it be a big shocker that I would have to name that same sinful state to my spouse as part of the means by which I kill it.

Embrace the need to repent and do so verbally to your mate.  The blessing upon your marriage will be huge.

Related Posts:
Sin Destroys Peace
More on Repentance
“I’m sorry, I was wrong, will you please forgive me?”

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