Month: October, 2016

Bible Study: The Sin of Pride

 

Martin Luther called pride the mother sin of man. What did he mean?

In what ways did sinful pride lead to the Reformation?

Did sinful pride in any way lead to the break off into denominations?

So what are we typically proud of?

Can pride be good? Explain 2 Corinthians 5:12…When does it become sin?

What are some signs of sinful pride?

What are some of the consequences of this sin?

How can sinful pride lead even the strongest away from God?

What happened to Satan when he was filled with pride? Isaiah 14: 13-14; Ezekiel 28:12-17

How would you describe spiritual pride? Luke 18:10-14; John 9:28-34; Romans 16:17-18; Philippians 1:15-17

What does Scripture have to say about pride? Psalm 10:3-4; Proverbs 8:13, 11:2, 15:25, 16:5,18, 29:23; Mark 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 John 2:16-17

How did pride lead to trouble for the people of the following verses? 2 Kings 20:12–19;                 Psalm 123:3-4; Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 13:1-11; Ezekiel 16:49-50

The word for pride is found 49 times in the King James Bible, with only 3 of these occurrences in the New Testament. Does this mean pride suddenly became a lesser sin? How do you explain this?

What are some examples of sinful pride we see in our society today?

What are some examples of sinful pride we have seen in the church (universal)?

What can we learn from Christ’s example about how to handle pride?

If the opposite of pride is humility, how can we learn to be humble? Exodus 15:1; Ephesians 6:5-7; 1 Peter 5:5-6

What does judgement have to do with sinful pride? Matthew 7:1

How can setting human standards lead to sinful pride? Mark 7:6-9

In what ways is the sin of pride connected to all of the other deadly sins (Envy, Gluttony, Greed Lust, Sloth and wrath)?

In what ways are you prideful in your own life?

The Seven Deadly Sins: Pride and Reformation

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Martin Luther considered pride the mother sin of man. In his explaination of the first article of the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven,” he added, “Now you perceive that this prayer contends against abominable pride, which indeed is the head, life, and very nature of all sin. Just as no virtue lives or is genuine when it is joined to pride, so no sin lives and inflicts harm if pride is dead. As a serpent has all its life in its head and, if that is dead, harms no one, just so, if pride were dead, all sins would be harmless.”

It’s appropriate that on this 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation that we also speak of pride, because, in all reality, it was pride in the Roman Catholic church that Luther fought against. In many ways they had moved themselves above the law and away from God’s will for them. They, in their pride, became the soul source of Biblical knowledge, not letting anyone but clergy interpret it. They, in their pride, thought that their selling of indulgences would do miracles God never ordained. They, in their pride, persecuted those who had differing opinions then they did. The Roman Catholic church had become drunk with power and pride and Martin Luther brought about the Reformation to change that.

Today we celebrate the day Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the Chapel of Wittenburg door. Upon the sound of his hammer, a revolution was to take place that would eventually change the world. A revolution that would bring back what the church had forsaken, the knowledge of God’s mercy in its full beauty. A revolution that would bring Christ to the forefront as our only judge and Redeemer. A revolution that would work to do away with pride and replace it with grace.

The Reformation of 1517 was simply about returning to the freedom given to us through the Gospel, and that what it’s still about today. A return to freedom by losing oneself completely to Christ. Thesis #62 explains this more clearly saying, “The true treasure of the church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.” This is a message the church had forgotten in so many ways because of their prideful nature, drunk with power and deaf to God’s calling.

Today we think we have a pretty good understanding of God’s grace. We know how it works. We have God’s Holy Word to guide us to the truth. Yet, even with all this, our pride inflicts the same damage to us today as it did then. Pride is still ruining God’s church because, in so many ways, it’s still closing its ears to God’s truth. It still thinks that God’s grace is not enough. If Martin Luther were alive today, I wonder what He would think of what the reformation has become.

Let’s go back and look through the eyes of Luther for a moment. His life seemed to be set. He would soon enter the university to become a lawyer. His father had worked long and hard to get him into this position, a position only granted to people of a certain class, a position his father never had the chance to attain. Then, much to his father’s great disappointment, young Martin decides to become a monk.

In school Martin approached His studies with fervor and soon rose up the ladder. And this is where his troubles began. Because, you see, the more he studied, the more he saw the Catholic church for what it was. He eventually discovered that something was lacking. The law had placed itself firmly on his back. His sinful nature had overcome him and had become too great a burden to bear. God seemed aloof and vacant. His sins seemed overwhelming and endless. Surely something had to be missing. How could such a God of love, expect the unattainable?

It was the first two verses in today’s New testament lesson that He kept hearing: “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

The law was all too real for Him. It condemns and expects the seemingly impossible. The problem was that no one, as yet, was proclaiming the rest of the story of the rest and peace won for us through Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. In its pride, the Catholic church was focused on law to maintain its power. It drove monks to whip themselves in their despair over sin. It drove the common man to be weighed down in its iniquity.

So, the more Luther learned about the law, the harder he tried to fix the problem of his own sin. By his own efforts, he tried to overcome his depravity. He couldn’t be content with a simple confession. He would sit in the confession booth for hours going over and over his unworthiness, trying to recall even the smallest sin. This impossible task he would undertake day after day, always leaving his confessions behind him feeling unsatisfied and incomplete.

He would beat and whip his body until it was bloody as punishment for the sins he could not escape. He would try to discipline himself by lying in the cold snow without so much as a blanket. But the more he tried to please God with his daily chastisements, the deeper he would fall into misery. Eventually he would sink into a deep depression, filled with hopelessness and pain bringing about anger against himself and even more so against God. How could a God full of both mercy and love seem so unwilling to show them?

But, thanks be to God, he continued to study. He drank in the Psalms, trying to get to more completely know this God of grace David spoke of. Soon he would come to Psalm 51 which started to show Him a side of God he had only heard about but had not, as yet, experienced in its fullness. In His reading, he started to understand that God does have certain expectations of us, He does have certain standards of holiness and purity which one could not attain on their own. But to Luther it would be the knowledge of God’s mighty power and grace that he got from this Psalm that would begin his transformation.

The first couple verses were especially powerful to him, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” As the lightbulb went off in his head he began to realize that his forgiveness was not about what he must do, but about what God had already done. His transformation from forsaken to forgiven had begun. Luther then focused again on Scripture but this time he did so with a different mindset than before. He discovered a God of love and forgiveness that he had somehow missed before, a God that gives us poor miserable sinners His own righteousness as our hope and security. A God of mercy and grace who had worked all things toward our good. A God who understands our weaknesses and who is willing to prop us up by His strength.

Luther tried to get right by good through his penance, he tried to make his relationship right by his suffering, but now he was learning of a God who forgives just in the asking, who was willing to suffer so we no longer had to. The church in its pride and want for power had forgotten this side of God in large part because the world had won them over to its own form of salvation. Human pride had forced them to abandon this message of hope.

Of course, there were still many examples of Luther’s need for a Savior. His sins were still there as they always would be. There were still times His old Adam would cause him to doubt. There was still much to do. But the Gospel had changed all this. His salvation depended on God’s grace just as our does. It was a salvation given, not as a prize for deeds well done, but as a gift from a loving father to the children he so dearly loves. A gift given by grace full of God’s righteousness to cover our unworthiness. A gift of ready forgiveness that would remove the shackles of sin. A gift of hope and eternal life waiting for those of faith. Imagine how this must have felt to him. Imagine the feelings that were racing in his mind. Imagine him feeling true freedom for the first time. It would be a feeling that would transform Christianity.

This is the change we celebrate today. A change to free us of our sinful pride by making us servants of Christ in all humility and hope.

In many ways, we celebrate this because of the breakthrough Martin Luther had, simply by reading the Words of God. Now we know that we have truth on our side, not just the law and our own shortcomings wrapped in sin. God Himself is the answer that Martin Luther was seeking, the answer to our sinfulness and hopelessness.

In a new light Martin saw the great gift given in God’s own Son. A light that showed Him for who and what He was, the one to bring us victory over sin and death by becoming our substitutionary sacrifice. He learned that God loved us enough to destroy the barriers between Him and man by sending His Son to break them down. A God who replaces our sins and His wrath with His own Son’s purity, holiness and unwavering love.

This is where the rest of our New Testament lesson began to fit in so nicely, becoming one of Martin Luther’s favorite parts of Scripture. Now he truly heard the rest of the story: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.

This was to show His righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our (Pride)? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

This was the central message of the Reformation and is also the central focus of the Word of God. This is the Gospel. The saving Word of God’s infinite love and grace as shown in His own Son. That, though we have sinned and all fall short of His glory, God continues to shower us with gifts we don’t deserve and never will.

Although the law makes it clear how far we have to go and how far we have fallen, God has given us His gift of grace to get us to those places He has prepared for us. Although the law shows us the ugliest part of our relationship with Jesus Christ, the beautiful message of the Gospel shows His willingness to cover those sins with His own righteousness, taking our sins upon Himself in the process, because they are too heavy a load for us to bear. That, Luther found, is where true freedom is.

But the work of reformation continues as we see pride show its ugly head.

Because this message of freedom is so different from the freedom the world promotes, it had the power to change the world unlike anything the world could ever do. The world has no reason to boast because it has failed in its pride to provide what it continues to promise.

Jesus said to the Jews who were listening to Him, “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I believe it is time for a new Reformation, a new message of freedom. It is time to take this message to the masses once again. When Martin Luther did, it changed Christianity forever. If we are up to the challenge, we can be a part of doing the same in a world that once again finds itself lost in its own attempts to worship other God’s of their own making.

The Reformation message is simple. It’s not about us. It’s all about Jesus. You only have one thing to do, but this one task is of infinite importance. If you do it, you will live. If you don’t, you will die forever. It’s simply to put your entire trust in Jesus. It’s not an easy thing to do in a world that proclaims self-trust. It’s hard to admit you can’t save yourself. It’s hard to let go of the pride that is drowning you, in fact, it’s so hard that you can’t do it alone.

Fall into the arms of Jesus. Stop trying to save yourself. Luther tried and it only brought him pain. Stop relying on your own abilities.

Rely on Christ to save you. He has promised you a place in heaven and He’s always good to His promises.

What we celebrate today, we should celebrate every day of our lives. That is the knowledge of just how much God loves us and how much He was willing to do to show us that love. It was a long search for the truth for Luther. It doesn’t have to be such a great task for you. Don’t let your pride prevent you from surrendering to the only one who can reform your life. Today can be truly reformation day. Amen.

 

The Seven Deadly Sins: The Sin of Wrath

Text:  Matthew 26:47-54

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

I have to admit, I have been a little eager to get to our next category as we cover the seven deadly sins, the sin of wrath, or anger. I’m eager because this one is so complex. Wrath can take many forms, from godly wrath to uncontrolled human hate and resentment. I believe it’s a major factor in the disintegration of our country because it’s wrath that seems to be shaping things.

This is another of those sins we have all felt at one time or another. We don’t like to admit it but sometimes that anger just builds up in us, often for no reason. The other day I was trying to screw a cap on something and it wouldn’t work. I could feel this anger build inside me that was much greater than it should have been and I reflected on it. Where did that come from? All that anger over a cap on a bottle?

Psychologists tell us that anger builds over five stages:

The first stage is irritation. It’s not too bad. We may get a little upset but it usually passes quickly when we leave the situation that’s irritating or stop the “stinking thinking.”

The second stage is indignation. Now we’re more than a little irritated. This one is harder to let go of. Here we speak under our breath and harbor unkind thoughts without yet expressing them fully. If we tell others how we feel it’s in hushed tones.

The third stage is what we speak of today. Now we’re at the boiling point and the things that we have held inside start to percolate out. Here we start our thinking on revenge and we begin to take action. “How dare you speak that way to me!!”

The fourth stage is Fury. Now we’re willing to get physical. Our anger has started to take over any rational thinking and all we can think of is ways to hurt those people or situations that we feel have caused us harm.

Our final stage is rage. It is here that we lose all control. We lash out without considering the ill affects it might cause us. We want to destroy and inflict the greatest amount of damage.

Today, we look at our world and we see every phase. Some find our Presidential candidates irritating while others have traveled all the way to rage and have become a real threat. Some find terrorism to be irritating and others leave to kill the terrorists. And in the middle of all this is wrath, the turning point from controlled anger to uncontrolled.

I liken this to the Hulk. Do you remember? If he wasn’t angry he was a mild-mannered scientist, but when you got him past wrath, he grew into a green, angry, mountain of a man looking for the nearest car to throw at whatever or whoever angered him. When he reaches rage, watch out!

 

Now, usually with the hulk, those who angered him were evil and his rage actually worked toward good. But that’s not what we see in real life all the time. Television glorifies wrath as something good, but God counts it as deadly to our very souls.

So why is God so against a little wrath from time to time? Well, the wrath sin we are speaking of is that wrath that is out of control, that works opposite to God’s will for us. That wrath that leads to hate. That anger that is born of arrogance.

Can there be good wrath? Yes, there can. We hear often of God’s wrath and we know it was warranted. His wrath was never out of his control and God, unlike us at times, can use that wrath for the greater good.

We witness Jesus bearing the whip in the temple and we see his wrath has turned physical. But we know, again, that it was justified. It was a wrath that served a holy purpose to remind those opposed to God’s will of the importance of keeping His temple sacred.

In our modern thinking, wrath distinguishes itself from anger in its intensity. Anger at a perceived wrong can be understandable but wrath connotes a disproportional or even uncontrolled response and a loss of rationality and temperance. The animated form of anger.

But God’s wrath is consistent and the reasons for it never change. God hates sin and His wrath revolves around it’s undertaking.

 

So, Pastor Dan, is wrath a sin? Well, yes and no. If we take account to our godly examples, we see that wrath becomes a sin when it runs contrary to the will of God. Should we be angry with sin? Yes. Should we show wrath against our advisory Satan? Yes. But even in these we must maintain control and rationality before they become irrational acts that end up doing more harm than good.

Godly wrath is shown against those things that lead people away from Christ. In Exodus 32: 8-10 we read:

They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

 

Again, His wrath was justified but He was in control of it. We see this in Moses’ success in convincing God to reconsider. In the end, God’s wrath was not turned into physical discipline, but it was something He would never forget.

In Zechariah 7:8-12 we hear of God’s justifiable anger once again:

 

 

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts.” God will not stand for injustice so, by His wrath, He justifies.

 

Biblically, wrath is the divine judgement upon sin and sinners. It does not merely mean that it is a casual response by God against ungodliness, but it carries the revulsion and indignation God has against sin. God is by nature, love, however, in His justice He must punish sin and this punishment is called the wrath of God. We see it throughout Scripture, we see it in our world today as God hardens the hearts of the ungodly, and we will see it when Christ comes again upon those who have chosen not to follow the narrow path.

 

The wrath that God warns us of then is the opposite to this. This is the wrath that separates us from God. The wrath that puts oneself first above all things. It is the anger born out of conceit and irrationality.

 

Now, our wrath at something, at first, may be somewhat justified. It might begin because of the anger we feel over something that is clearly ungodly. Someone might be being abused somehow, sin is promoted somewhere and seen as good to others, the rights of someone hurting or hungry might have been ignored, we see an abuse of power. All these things might cause outrage and it is proper to be more than a little miffed sometimes, especially if it calls us to positive actions.

 

But it becomes contrary to the will of God when we take matters into our own hands by acting in a negative or harmful tone. We see someone being abused so we inflict the greatest amount of physical harm we can upon the abuser, we see obvious sin being accepted as good in society so we burn down a bar that caters to homosexuals, we see that someone isn’t answering the call of the hungry and hurting so we do all we can to destroy them in the eyes of others, we see an abuse of power in one person and condemn every other person who happens to have the same occupation.

When we see Jesus, we see His wrath was directed at real wrongs and that His emotion was justified. He didn’t go so far as to harm others and His emotional burst fueled action. His wrath looked more like zeal than it did anger.

 

 

 

But our anger can easily spill over until it gets out of control. Speaking up for someone can soon become shouting and threats. Standing up for others can quickly become grudges that promote anger from others until it becomes a harmful and unproductive movement of anarchy and wanton destruction. A peaceful protest can become a deadly riot in mere minutes. Anger that once had righteous roots can become unrighteous and sinful.

We see this in the story of Jonah. Jonah did all he could to avoid witnessing to the people of Nineveh. They had a reputation of sinfulness and he didn’t think they deserved to be saved. He tried to run but God wouldn’t have any of that, even using a great fish to spit him onto their shore. Having no other option, he goes into Nineveh and they actually listen, escaping God’s wrath, but now Jonah is filled with wrath because they didn’t get the destruction he felt they deserved. God asks Jonah in chapter four, “Do you have any right to be angry?” His anger was unjustified because it worked contrary to the will of God. Jonah, like us at times, assumed he had the ultimate perspective. He, in his vanity, thought he was the center of the story and that his wrath should be justified. And he was wrong. The great lie that goes with our anger is that we think we always know the whole story. Anger that looks justified by us, may actually be very unjustified in the eyes of God because He sees it from a very different perspective.

We have seen so far that these sins are most completely overcome by doing their opposites. So what is the opposite of wrath? Well, it would have to be love. To control our anger, we must practice disciplined love.

In Ephesians 4 Paul warns us “not to let the sun go down on our anger.” In other words, don’t hold a grudge overnight. I mention this every time I do pre-marriage counseling. This verse should be framed and put up in every bedroom. God is warning us through Paul not to let wrath turn into fury and then into rage. He urges you to deal with it in its proper time, even if it means getting to bed late. Love must take precedence in every relationship, even with those whom you have a disagreement.

 

Secondly, Paul warns us not to give the devil an opportunity. We make it so easy sometimes. We allow our wrath to simmer, and all the while we open our ears to the devils sinful suggestions. He nurtures that anger within us and uses it toward his own advantage. He cares nothing for you past seeing you fail in your anger.

You see, when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, He works to mold us into that person God has created us to be, so He smooths the rough edges and makes us to be more like Christ. But when we give the devil opportunity, he works to do the opposite by molding us to be more and more like himself. When we go to bed, still filled with wrath, we indirectly invite satan to have his way with us.

 

 

So overcome hate with love. Thomas Jefferson said, “If your angry, count to ten. If you’re really angry, count to 100.”

Thirdly, don’t let the minors become the majors. In other words, don’t let your irritations turn into wrath which more easily turns to rage. Think things through before allowing someone else to get the better of you. Focus on love that will turn you into the bigger person. Allow God to be the one who administers justice and trust in His guidance. So many people are just looking for some reason to be angry. Be better than that because if you look for it, you will find it.

But if we live our lives relying on the peace that only Christ can provide, then our trials and tribulations can be more easily overcome. With Christ in your hearts. Your more apt to be looking for the blessings in life and not the burdens.

Next, be careful who you associate with. Anger tends to breed anger in others. Negativity spreads like a virus if we let it. Anger begins to feel good because it’s being supported. Proverbs 22:24-25 warns us:

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself snared.”

And, finally, watch what you say and do, as you try to make every action worthy of God’s respect. James 3 tells us of the dangerous tongue saying in chapter 3:

 

 

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

Every tongue gets sharper with use. Don’t let it create destruction that can’t be overcome. Don’t let your wrath be seen in your words and actions. Think before you speak.

We all need to surrender our lives to Christ so much so that it controls our natural urge towards wrath. His Holy Spirit wishes you to be filled with all good things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Submit to Him now so that you might receive these gifts to their fullest potential. These gifts are so treasured by God that He would send His only Son so you might receive them. God will grant us all these good things if we will submit to Him.

 

 

You may have come angry today. I hope something you have heard will have helped you towards your recovery. I pray that God will take all our wrath and change it into something that will bring Him glory.

Make sure your wrath is justified. Avoid those angry moments that separate you from God and allow the devil opportunity. Give your heart to Christ, who wishes to wash away our sin and cleans us from all unrighteousness. Amen.

Bible Study: The Sin of Wrath

 

Should we as believers fear the wrath of God? If so, why? Jeremiah 32:17-18; Matthew 25:45-46; Romans 3:23; 1 Peter 1:17-19

Is the wrath of God consistent throughout both testaments or, like many think, is He more wrathful in the Old Testament? Jeremiah 30:23-24; Nahum 1:2; Romans 1:18-20; Hebrews 10: 26-31; Revelation 19:15…Romans 5:9

How is God’s wrath consistent with His love for us? Psalms 103:8; Isaiah 48:9; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3

What separates the wrath of God from the wrath He warns us not to succumb to? Genesis 4:1-8, 49:5-7; Job 5:2; Proverbs 19:19; Luke 4:24-28; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Galatians 5:19-20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8

What drives anger?

Why does this kind of wrath come so easy to us?

When does anger become sin?

What can wrath do to a marriage? How can couples avoid it?

Instead of wrath, what are we called to? Psalm 4:4; Matthew 5:21-26; Romans 12:17-19; Ephesians 4:26, 6:4; Colossians 3:19; Hebrews 10:26-29

What are some examples in Scripture of justifiable wrath?

Give some examples of wrath found in our time which you feel is unjustified.

Give some examples of wrath found in our time which you feel is justified.

How can wrath effect a church negatively and positively?

What are some productive ways to keep ourselves from wrath? To keep the church from wrath?

Is Wrath a vice like Gluttony – too much of a good thing, or wanting a good thing in the wrong way? Or is it more like Envy – intrinsically disordered, and purely destructive?

How has wrath progressed through social media? Why has it become so prominent?

Why isn’t hate one of the seven deadly sins and what does hate have to do with anger?

How can you help your brother or sister in Christ who might be consumed with wrath?

The Seven Deadly Sins: The Sin of Sloth

Text:  Matthew 25:14-30

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father..

Please pray with me…

In our continuing study of the seven deadly sins we come to the sin of sloth. It’s not a word we use much unless we’re talking about the very slow hairy animal found in South America. But, whereas there is a purpose for the slowness of the animal, here we use the Greek word  Acedia which is translated, “without care.” Not caring enough to do the right thing with the time you have been given. Being indifferent to your duties and obligations to God. Being affectless, uncaring, lacking feelings for your neighbor which gives rise to boredom, apathy and sluggishness.

Today we’ll discuss the lazy Christian. The one who wishes to get by, by doing the very least they have to and still be able to call themselves a Christian. They are in every church, at every level and their mediocrity continues to infect the whole church of God. They are the lukewarm Christians Christ warned us about saying He would either have us hot or cold.

A French priest, of whose name I cannot pronounce, gave the warning, “Avoid sloth, the mother of all vices!” And when we think about it, that statement really makes sense. Too often, our vices start to control us because we don’t care enough about them to stop.

We don’t have the drive because we lack the passion to do the right thing according to God’s will so we say the occasional prayer to God hoping that, that will be enough without really tackling the problem as God has given all people the strength to do. Eventually we just stop praying altogether because we lack the motivation.

Thomas Aquinas said of sloth, “It is a sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good…it is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds.” Sloth is mother to the other deadly vices and it negatively affects the seven virtues given by the Holy Spirit, wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord, better known as respect. Such disregard for the right, can’t help but to effect the spiritual progress of someone. It is the evil causing good people to fail in their acts to do good.

Unlike the sins of commission which are sins of immorality, sloth is the sin of omission, not doing those things according to God’s will which you have been called to do. It is brought out in all the other vices when we fail to live up to the expectations of God.

Slothful Christians give little respect to the Word. They might open their Bible on occasion, but they don’t make a habit of it. They lack the motivation to learn from it or use it as any kind of a guide. They prefer to go to it only as a last resort or as a cure for the guilt of having left it for so long.

Slothful Christians only come to worship if it’s convenient or if something important in their eyes is happening. If they have time they’ll go but only if their Sunday is free. They make excuses to avoid church or even find fault in something so they can have an excuse not to go at all.

Slothful Christians rarely talk about their faith. They leave that to others to do. They don’t want to hassle with the arguments or other negative reactions they might get. They prefer to stand to the side, only bringing up their faith if they know others share their view.

Slothful Christians play the devout Christian when they’re among other Christians but their attitude changes when they’re around non-Christians. They tell off-color jokes and use colorful language when they feel they’re safe to do so. They might even make fun of the church from time to time if it suits their purpose.

Slothful Christians avoid things like Bible study and other church events thinking that their occasional appearance on Sunday is enough to get them to heaven. They have other things to do, after all. They lie to themselves saying they’ll do their devotion time at home, but they rarely do.

The slothful Christian doesn’t do right by his neighbor. If his neighbor is in need they wait for others to answer the call. After all, if you do it once, they think, they might ask you to do it again and who needs that hassle.

If we’re honest, we all felt a little twinge of guilt in those descriptions. Slothfulness is something we all know, some more than others.

Sloth is the desire for ease, even at the expense of doing the known will of God. We care more for the easy so we avoid the difficult. Everything we do is to be a means of salvation but we just as well sit in our chair and watch the world go by, hoping that’s good enough to get us in the “good place.”

In our New Testament lesson, we read that the church in Thessalonica had a problem. Several of their members had stopped working because they believed the return of Jesus to be immanent. If Jesus was coming soon, they were content to wait and saw no reason to put their effort towards any kind of task. There was no need to save up for a rainy day, they had no further need to prepare for the future because the future had arrived. Because of this they prepared for the spiritual and let their worldly responsibilities go.

But this caused a problem. Now with all this time on their hands, they had time to mess in other people’s lives. Because they weren’t providing for themselves, they were draining the resource of others. They had become lazy in their worldly duties and this affected their attitude toward their spiritual duties as well. Basically, they were using the word of God’s return as an excuse for sloth, thus the laziness of a few hindered the production of all.

In our own country, we find much the same problem, even in our churches. With all our added conveniences, we have much more time to get into trouble with our sloth. We have become bored, sloppy and indifferent. We have too much time to think and have become listless towards using our freedom in more useful ways. Our entitlement has been born out of boredom, our anger has come from a lack of respect because we’re too lazy to sit down and talk about the problems. We deal with tragedy and trial by not dealing with it. We blame others so we don’t have to take responsibility ourselves. Convenience has become a god to us.

To combat this tendency toward sloth, there are steps we have to be willing to take. First, we must remember that every day that God gives us is sacred. Every day is a day that you can make a kingdom difference. Whether it be taking the time to help your neighbor, worship your God, provide for your family, or spread the Good News of the Gospel, there are many, many ways to make your time work towards fulfilling your call. When God made a day for us to rest from our labor, it was under the assumption we had deserved that rest by making our time both personally and spiritually productive. But this all takes discipline.

To make each day a glory to God, you must be willing to put Him first in your lives. In this we have to fight our sloth because, to truly follow your call, there must be certain things one must be willing to do.

No longer can you put yourself and your needs before your neighbors. No longer can you keep the Bible on the shelf to collect dust. No longer can you avoid worship and the things, like Bible study and tithing, that go with it. No longer can the expression of your faith be hidden when you’re out in the world. No longer can you be a Christian in name only. Are you willing to do what it takes, or will sloth win the day yet again?

To avoid the sin of sloth, we must also take stock in our schedule. Time is one of our most valuable commodities, and we should spend it in a way that reflects our values and priorities. As we schedule, we should take care to do so in such a way that our day can be a ministry. We do this by allowing time for others, especially our family. We do this by allowing ourselves productive rest (productive in that we actually rest). We do this by scheduling ourselves enough time to complete our tasks in the proper way, glorifying God in all we do. Faith, family, work and other pursuits are like ingredients that need to be added at the right time and in the right measure. If we fail to follow the recipe, the ingredients will just leave a bad taste in our mouth.

That’s why it’s so important for individuals, couples, families and communities to take the time to identify their priorities and commitments and schedule their days and weeks accordingly. For those of us who tend to be a bit slothful at times, a schedule will keep us on task to make sure we meet our obligations.

For those who tend to “Over-work” it allows time to step back and assess the situation. I read someplace that this can be called the tyranny of urgency. A schedule will allow you to make time for things like Bible study and prayer or other spiritual priorities that might get shoved aside if you’re not vigilant.

Next we must make sure in promote quality. Make every moment a quality filled moment. What would Jesus do in your situation? How can I glorify God in what I say and do? Overcoming vice and promoting quality time go hand in hand. In every lawn there are a few weeds, we must take care to pull a few weeds if we ever hope to have a life of excellence.

And finally, it is important to develop good habits that will keep us from sloth. Read your Scriptures every night before you go to sleep. Every morning, do a devotion. Make it your goal to do something good for someone else every day. Take time to pray at certain times of the day and in certain situations every day. Develop good habits to overcome those times where sloth can overwhelm your spiritual life.

If, as with other vices, we overcome by promoting and doing their opposites, then we overcome sloth with service, which moves us out of our small, self-serving world so that we might live for others. Jesus Christ lived and died and rose again from the dead, not so that we could become lazy and not worry about things, but so that we could serve each other.

When sloth overtakes us, it’s like a sports team that has lost its momentum. We become set-back on our spiritual heals and feel ill-prepared to do what is necessary to turn the tide.

In this way we can see that the end result of sloth is often despair, as eventually the negative overcomes us and we lose the will to compete.

Yet God assures us that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us.” (Philippians 4:13) God is prepared to give us the confidence we need to truly live productive and spirit-filled lives. From the outside it can look like an enormous task, but from within, one can see His guidance in every facet of their lives.

God wishes us to have life and to live it abundantly. Each day is a special gift that was meant to bring us good things. But it’s up to us how we use those gifts. Take time to discover the other gifts God has given you. Find where your passions lie. See where your talents will take you.

Discern what kind of ministry God is leading you towards. Open your mind and sight to the hints He gives you and follow the path of righteousness towards the victories he has already claimed for you. Learn to say “no” when it’s appropriate and avoid the word when you know God is calling to you. Bring purpose to your life by living it out unashamed of who you are in Christ.

Find out where and how you can find true rest from your labors but don’t let those times become excuses to avoid doing what is right.

And finally, celebrate that you are God’s chosen. God has moved into your life by His Holy Spirit to guide you to those places where you can glorify Him in the greatest way. Be content with who God has made you to be, and show your gratitude by serving Him in the best, most productive way you can, free from sloth. Claim your position as His ambassador and priest.

Only you can determine how slothful you really are and only you can muster up the courage and commitment to change. God will be your Guide but He refuses to be your puppet-master. Give your time to God as a gift by using it to be a blessing to others. Sloth has no rights in your life. Take time to live your life with boldness. Amen

Bible Study: The Sin of Sloth

Bible Study Questions – The Sin of Sloth

How do you define sloth?

When people think of heaven, they often think of a place of luxury and ease. Why do you suppose this is and what does it have to do with sloth? How does this part from the Biblical narrative? Genesis 2:15

How does Proverbs 20:4 define sloth? How does that part with how most people see sloth?

How do these other Proverbs help us form and better definition of sloth? Proverbs 10:26, 24:30-34, 10:4-5, 22:13, 12:27, 19:24, 28:19, 13:4 , 21:25-26, 19:15, 26:13-16, 15:19, 26:16, 6:6-11

According to the previous verses, what can sloth lead to?

How is sloth different than laziness?

How is sloth different than rest?

How is moral sloth different from mental sloth?

How do people try to disguise their spiritual sloth? Can busy people be slothful?

Why does spiritual sloth come so easy to us?

Why can’t the Christian afford to be idle? Hebrews 6:10-12

What kind of damage has sloth done to God’s Church?

How does the parable of the talents define how God sees the sin of sloth? Matthew 25:14-30

If we are slothful, how does that affect the unbelievers who come to know us? Why?

What glory can you bring to the name of Christ as you work with commitment and diligence under the scrutiny of unbelievers?

What is the root cause of slothfulness? Explain. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Philippians 4:11-12

What is the opposite of sloth from the Christian perspective?

What ultimately cures this sin? Ezekiel 36:26-27

What does sloth have to do with lustfulness, gluttony and greed?

We’re all complacent in some ways concerning our Christian duty. So what are we sluggards to do? Romans 12:11; 2 Corinthians 10:5

“The opposite of sloth is zeal and joy in service to God and in the performance of religious and moral duties.  It is not only doing the right thing, but doing it out of love…Sloth is the most explicitly religious of the seven deadly sins…A major obstacle…is our natural inclination to gratify our physical and psychological desires which often conflict with religious and moral responsibilities.”  (Solomon Schimmel, The Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian, and Classical Reflections on Human Psychology, Oxford, 1997, pp. 194, 197, 198.)

The Seven Deadly Sins: The Sin of Greed

 

Text:  Luke 12:13-21

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Mahatma Gandhi once quoted, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” Of course we would replace God for the word earth for it is God who provides all things.

Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas said of greed, “It is a sin directly against one’s neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them…it is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, inasmuch as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.” (pause)

“Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” A quote from Erich Fromm

Our great country has been accused of being a land of greed and there are many reasons for this. We are the richest country, the most powerful country, and seen, by even those who accuse her, as the land of opportunity. This is an amazing accomplishment especially when you consider that it was mostly poor peasants fleeing religious persecution who founded her. Eventually, those peasants would come together to form “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Sounds great… so what happened.

Things have changed. Now we have multiple God’s representing America, the God’s of money, power, fame, etc. etc. We are anything but indivisible as shouts of hate ring through the streets, angry about everything from racism to government corruption. Our liberty is being challenged as government grows and freedom shrinks and don’t even get me started on justice for all. Justice as long as you do it our way.

Yet it’s not really the citizenship we have in the United States we should be most concerned with, but rather, our citizenship in heaven. As the foundations this great nation were founded on of God and unity slowly erode into a cesspool of corruption and entitlement, our concern for the souls of the people grow critical or at least, they should.

And much of it has everything to do with greed. Greed for riches, greed for fame, greed for rights, greed for power. We certainly have become a land of greed.

Greed has become not just accepted, but counted on. We have shows on television giving you a chance to become a millionaire. We have lotteries that pray on the poor who want to become rich. Our heroes have become the rich and famous and many count as equal their words to the words of the wisest among us. We even have a presidential candidate saying greed is good, to get votes. Greed is molding this country into something God never intended her to be.

And what makes things even worse, is that you rarely hear the sin of greed approached anymore from the pulpit. Even the church has become greedy. Even here in a generous church like Redeemer, I have  seen signs of greediness. It’s infecting the church as it has infected all of society and we don’t even know it’s there. We long for ways to make easy money and blind ourselves at how this greed is ruining our society.

Back in the 1800’s there was once a 350# wrestler in Europe named “Yusuf, the terrible Turk.” Three hundred and fifty pounds is a fairly huge man, and there wasn’t an ounce of flab on the guy. He was formidable. And in his four years in Europe, he was impossible to beat, holding the undisputed title as champion there. Then in 1898, he sailed to America and challenged the undefeated US champion to a match – a man named “Strangler” Lewis.
Now, “Strangler” was apparently about my size, weighing in at just a little over 200 pounds. But despite his rather small size, he was the heavyweight wrestling champion in America, having defeated many men much larger than himself. Strangler’s secret was a very simple hold. He would get around behind his opponent, put his massive arm around their neck and cut off their oxygen. Thus the name “strangler”. When his opponents passed out he’d “pin” them and win the match.

But when Strangler met Yusuf, he faced a problem – Yusuf didn’t have a neck. One commentator noted that Yusuf’s body went from his head to his massive shoulders, with very little in between. Thus, Strangler Lewis couldn’t get his hold and it wasn’t long that Yusuf flipped Lewis to the mat and pinned him.
After winning the championship, the Terrible Turk demanded all $5000 (a fairly significant amount of money back in 1898) be paid to him in gold. He wrapped the championship belt around his waist, stuffed his gold into the belt to keep it safe and boarded the next ship back to Europe. But halfway across the Atlantic, a storm struck and the ship began to sink. When Yusuf attempted to get into a lifeboat, he fell into the water and disappeared beneath the waves never to be seen again.
What do you think happened? That’s right. All his great wealth was too much even for this mighty man. He sank like an anvil, and his great riches destroyed him.

The Bible gives fair warning about the evils of greed. Solomon with all his wealth would one day forget God. The rich farmer who protected his wealth would soon die without enjoying it. The greedy farmhands would lose their lives because of it. In Acts, Ananias and Sapphira were struck down dead because they couldn’t part from their greed.

In our Gospel lesson, we here of a man who’s tried to get Jesus to justify his greed by making Him the judge over his brother’s part of the inheritance. He wanted his fair share after all. His greed for possessions had put a wall between he and his brother. So he wanted Jesus to fix everything by giving him a share in the wealth.

But Jesus was not impressed saying, “Man, who made me judge or arbitrator over you? Then He took the opportunity to teach the man a lesson on greed. He said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Jesus was telling him as He is telling us today, “watch out that greed curse you to rely on other things than God to find your salvation.” “Watch out that your possessions become your guide.”

Jesus also said that greed is one of the things that makes a person unclean In Mark 7 He reminds us:

“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Romans 1:29 declares that (godless and wicked men) are “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, greed, malice.”

And Ephesians 5:3 warns us, “Sexual immorality and all impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”

In fact, Paul even goes onto say that money is the root of all evil.

Sounds like something God wants us to rid ourselves of. So what are some simple ways that we might want to change our greedy selves?

  • Instead of wish lists for yourself, start wishing for the benefit of others
  • Instead of focusing on ways to make more money, focus on ways you might use that money to grow God’s kingdom.
  • Instead of feeling resentment that someone got something better than you did, rejoice with them in their good fortune.
  • Instead of involving yourself in “get rich quick” schemes, focus more on increasing the richness of your heart.
  • Instead of finding relief by going shopping, find it in more productive ways like a walk in the park or curling up with a good book.
  • Instead of going for the job only because it pays well, look for something that will bring you joy.

There are many ways to avoid the selfish trap of greediness and most of them involve the love for your neighbor.

The real problem here is more the desire for power than actual greed. Like lust and gluttony, greed is a grab for control based on a feeling that, somehow, a loss of control is a loss of freedom.

To destroy our desire for this kind of selfish want, we must be generous in granting power to others. When it’s appropriate, be submissive. Avoid jobs that tempt you to want more and to do more all in the name of profit. Share the credit for things that you accomplish, never forgetting God’s role in it and claim your fair share of the failures.

Someone once said, “Vices are cured by their contrary.” Well, if that’s true, then greediness is cured with generosity. The modal was set for us in Acts 2:42-47:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Isn’t that the modal we should seek? It is! Yet we find it very hard to part with our money because greed has so entrenched itself in our hearts. Am I saying that if you don’t give all your money to others you’re a greedy person? Of course not. But I am saying that you should be looking for ways to serve others with the gifts you have been given.

If the vice of greed can only be cured through generosity, then we should give with a willing heart, praising God for the opportunity to serve Him. Sponsor a child in need, make a sincere effort towards tithing. Once a week find an opportunity to benefit someone else to the degree that it qualifies as a generous and self-sacrificial act.

God counts on it and he was never one to expect sacrifice without giving it. Though he doesn’t have to, He continues to provide for those He loves. Though we have become a poor example of His grace, he continues to care and provide for the hungry, the lame and the weak. Though He continually has to bring us back into His forgiveness, he never tires from forgiving. Though we deserved only His wrath, he sacrificed His only Son so that we might find freedom from sin and death.

To cure the disease of greed we have only to remember God’s generosity. Jesus said, “Consider how the lilies grow, they do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown in the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith.” Luke 12:27-28

Then He went on, “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Verses 31-32

That kingdom is now ours because of the infinite generosity of a loving God towards His children. Not once does he think of holding back. There will never be a time when His generosity and grace cannot be found. Through Christ everything has become possible for us and our salvation has been secured. Not through efforts of our own but solely out of a love we could never comprehend because it’s impossible for us to match.

Look at your life in honesty and ask yourself if you could be doing more with the gifts you have been given. Be honest about the ways you could have helped but didn’t because you didn’t want to part with that much money. Look for ways to change this outlook you have, one that the devil continues to use against you. Find opportunity to test God in His promise to be generous toward the giver.

Our riches should not be coveted in this world, because they will never compare to the riches we will one day have in heaven. Only God can provide for you what you truly need. Only He is the source of true joy. Commit, not just your money, but your whole life into making a kingdom difference here on earth and then reap the benefits when you find yourself at the feet of Christ. May God grant you His strength. Amen.

Bible Study – The Sin of Greed

Text:  Luke 12:13-21

Nowhere does Jesus condemn possessions. But he has much to say about how to use them. From Luke 12:15, 22-23 and 31, how could you summarize Jesus’ teaching about life and material goods?

What does it mean to be greedy?

Name some ways we can be greedy.

What are some of the conditions that exist when greed is an issue? Deuteronomy 16:19; Ecclesiastes 5:10

How would God wish us to be instead? Proverbs 3:9; Matthew 6:1-4,33; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1,2; Ephesians 4:28, 5:3; Colossians 3:5

What will be the result if we seek what is right? Luke 6:38

Where does greed in us come from? Why do we gravitate to it? James 4:1-2

How can wealth give us the wrong idea about material things? How about poverty? Luke 12:15

How can the love of money lead to evil in the world? In the church? Matthew 23:25; 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Is there any good kind of greed? Luke 12:15

How can greed be self-destructive? Proverbs 1:18-19

Why are spiritual leaders who are focused on money and greedy for gain probably not who you should choose to follow? 1 Timothy 3:2-3,8 Name some examples of this.

How must one combat greed? Proverbs 15:27; 1 Timothy 6:6-7

What happens to those who put riches on earth before riches in heaven? Matthew 6:24; James 5:1-6; 1 John 2:15-17

What happens when we try to pursue God and money? Why is this?

How do false teachers use greed to entice people? 2 Peter 2:13-14

How do children learn greed from their parents?

What hope does Jesus offer to the wise?

In order to understand the nature of greed we need to consider who is the owner of all things and, therefore, who we are offending when we try to get what we do not deserve. Psalm 24:1, 50:9-12; Haggai 62:6-8

What is the best thing to do to change your life of greed?