Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Sloth

So far in my exploration of the 7 Deadly Sins I've looked at PrideEnvy and Anger; this post will focus on Sloth.  Sloth has been, by far, the most difficult one for me to understand.  Now, I understand when I am slothful, in fact, I spent a great deal of time sitting on the couch watching TV when I should have been thinking about the subject of Sloth.  I guess practice makes perfect.  The problem I had with Sloth was figuring out what was so deadly about it.  Why is this one of the root sins I need to spray spiritual Roundup on?

In my laziness and inability to think about this subject I did do something that helped me.  I read the book Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins like I have been to prepare for each subject and then I took a bike ride to try and not be so sedentary and hopefully get my mind moving as my legs moved.  It was on this bike ride that Sloth's deadliness finally made sense.

On my bike ride I thought of this definition for Sloth:

Sloth = "failure to expend our energy and talents on the things of importance."

See, Tony Reinke in his chapter in Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins identifies three types of slothful people: the sluggard, the workaholic and the zombie.  The sluggard is simply lazy even to the point of causing his own poverty.  The workaholic has plenty of motivation and spends lots of energy but avoids the things of importance in doing so.  And the zombie is someone who is mentally on autopilot perhaps lulled to mindless inactivity by TV or Facebook.

All three types of sloths fail to expend their energy and talents on the things of importance.

I believe that the points of our life when looked back upon on our deathbed as wasted are Sloth.  To live a life of Sloth is to waste one's life.  What is more akin to death than that?

So, how do we battle Sloth?

We fight Sloth by valuing the right things.  Do you love your family or perishable things?  Do you work toward worthwhile goals or are you aimless?  Do you rest or waste time?  Do you have hobbies or distractions?  Do you spend most of your time missing life or enjoying it?

Once you place value, or rather find value, in the right things you must love them.  We do what we love.  Are you like the sluggard who loves nothing?  Are you like the workaholic that loves busywork over family and leisure and God Himself?  Or are you like God who worked to create and works to sustain what lasts and wastes absolutely nothing?

Here's some good news that we have.  The things done for Christ and His Kingdom will last forever!

A life is a terrible thing to waste.  Expend your energy and talents on the things of importance today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Anger

"Be killing sin or it will be killing you." John Owen

Sin is something to be eliminated and the 7 Deadly Sins is a list of what I think are 7 Root Sins.  Over the past couple weeks and the next few weeks I want to look at these root sins and spray spiritual Roundup on them.  So far I've examined Pride and Envy; this post is aimed at Anger.

The dictionary defines anger as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility.  When we're angry, and all of us have been angry, we're shouting "This isn't right!"  Anger, though a deadly sin, is not in and of itself bad.  What we're angry about and what we do about our anger is where sin can be found.

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgement.  Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin.  But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."  Matthew 5:21

"A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control."  Proverbs 29:11

Anger is a deadly sin and is a root of all kinds of sin.  That being said, Jesus got angry and so did/does God the Father, but they never sin.  Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26 say, "In your anger do not sin."  So, it must be possible to be angry and not be sinning.  In fact, it must then be possible for anger to cause sin and to cause goodness since all that God does is good.

So, what is behind anger that could make it both a source of sin and good?


Tim Keller says that "anger is actually a form of love."  Jonathan Parnell in Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins says that the opposite of anger is not love but indifference.  We don't get angry about things we don't care about.

So, how do we harness anger rather than be ruled by it?  How do we not sin in our anger?  I can think of four ways.

1) Ask, "Why am I angry" or "Why am I so angry?"
God asked Jonah this.  It's a great way to analyze our anger and therefore our loves.  Often I am angry because something insults my pride and other times I'm mad about something worth getting mad about. Some other times I'm angry about something worth getting upset about but my anger is so disproportionate to it. When I think about why I'm so angry there are times that I get rightfully embarrassed about it.

2) Slow Down.
Anger can take away our ability to think clearly.  Breath, slow down and take your time before you do something you'll regret big time.  Visceral reactions will, more often than not, lead to mistakes.

"A patient man has great understanding,
but a quick-tempered man displays folly."  Proverbs 14:29

3) Align your loves with God's.
The best way to be angry and not sin is to align our loves with the loves of God.  If anger is a reaction to something we love being threatened, then loving what God loves helps us to be angry about the right things and not about silly things.  Do you love mercy, justice, righteousness, truth, etc?  Do you love what God loves and hate what God hates?

4) Ask, "What am I going to do about it?
Are you controlled by the anger or are you harnessing the anger to achieve good?  Should you just give it to God because He is in control and vengeance is His or is this a passion that you must seek justice about?  Imagine if you tried to do something about everything that made you upset; you'd be exhausted.  But imagine if Mother Theresa got angry about poverty but then responded by doing nothing about it.  Imagine if William Wilberforce was ticked off about the African slave trade but decided to not peacefully pursue its end.  What makes us angry and what we do about that anger goes a long way in defining us as people.

Anger is a powerful thing.  It can destroy us and inspire us.  It is the root of much sin and of much justice.  I implore you in your anger to not sin, be careful with anger because it can burn you and when in doubt chill out.

"Be killing sin or it will be killing you" today.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Envy

To get rid of a weed you must snuff it out from the root; the same is true of sin.  The 7 Deadly Sins is an old, tested and proved list of some of sins roots, the roots that need to die in our lives.  Last post I wrote about Pride and this post I want to aim our spiritual Roundup at Envy.

Envy as defined by the Google dictionary is, as a noun, "a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities or luck", or as a verb, "a desire to have a quality, possession or other attribute belonging to someone else."

Envy wants what someone else has and wants it so bad that it is willing to beg for, steal from or beat it out of them... or at bear minimum sit around and have a pity party.  As Joe Rigney puts it in Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins "Envy weeps at those who rejoice and rejoices over those who weep."  The green eyed monster named Envy is not satisfied and quite frankly it never will be.  The Rolling Stones described it very aptly in "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" you can try and try and try but if you're trying to get satisfaction from things other than God you will never will and if you envy the satisfaction of others you'll at best be miserable and at worst be destructive.

So, how do we root up Envy?  Well, I can think of three ways.

1) Click Like.

Millions of us are on Facebook.  Social media offers the envious plenty to envy: trips, girlfriends, children, new jobs, houses, cars, days off, etc.  There are innumerable reasons to be envious online and off-line.  The enemy is not social media or any other vehicle of envy; the enemy is Envy itself.  So, instead of Envy, chose to like.  Literally and figuratively click like at the success of others.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice"  Romans 12:15

Do you like the success and happiness of others or do you envy it?  Choose to like it.  Be a cheerleader of the success of others rather than a critic.  Because as C. S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters "He (God) wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things."

2) Count Your Own Blessings.

Examine and enjoy the grace of God in your own life.  Ask, "What might someone else be envying abut me?"  I'm sure that you have loads of blessings for which to be thankful.  Especially remember that if you are a Christian you are a child of God and a joint heir with Christ!  Why envy someone's musical ability or new puppy when you've been given stake in the very riches of the Creator of the universe?

Another Joe Rigney quote hammers this point home.  "I am not defined by the blessings of others; I am defined by the grace of God."

3) Run to the Cross

The final way I know to defeat envy is to trust the Gospel.  The Gospel is, in part, that Jesus promises to defeat ALL sin, including envy.  Trust Him to do so.  Run to the Cross of Christ and ask forgiveness for the envy in your heart and ask God to cure you of it.

So, here are three things I want you to do.  First, confess your envy to the One who promises to forgive you for it and cure you of it.  Second, think about at least a few way in which you are blessed.  Finally, I'm asking you to celebrate the goodness in someone else's life.  This may be by writing them a Facebook message that lets them know of your excitement for them, or by praising God for something great in their life, or by telling them about an attribute in their lives that you admire.

Bottom line: don't be defined by the blessings of others; be defined by the grace of God today.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Pride

I am just at the beginning of a study with the youth at my church about the 7 Deadly Sins; so, for the next seven weeks that will be the subject of my blog posts as well.  I hope you learn as much from reading these post as I do from writing them.  The outline of these posts will often mirror the book I drew from to prepare for the lessons given to the you.  The book is call Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins.

Why study the 7 Deadly Sins?  Are you trying to focus too much on the subject of sin rather than on grace?  Aren't the 7 Deadly Sins just something for Catholics?

First, I believe we should study the 7 Deadly Sins because they are root sins.  They aren't more deadly than any other sin because the wages of all sin is death; perhaps, they should be re-named the 7 Root Sins because they are the root source of most every sin I can think of.  It's important to study how to attack sin at the root because we are to, as John Owen famously said, "be killing sin or it will be killing you."

Secondly, I have been saved by grace not by works.  If you are saved then that is true for you, too.  We don't work to be saved, but God works through us and in us to save us from sin.  We are saved from the penalty, power and presence of sin by God.  I have been justified (declared innocent) by God and am currently being sanctified (being made into the image of Christ) and will one day be glorified (instantly made perfect!).  Fighting sin is part of God's sanctifying work in my life which He does for me, at least in part, in and through my efforts.

Finally, the 7 Deadly Sins are not just for Catholics.  I am a Baptist and I am a youth leader at a Baptist church and we're studying the 7 Deadly Sins.  This list of sins was indeed created by the Catholic church but that is no reason a Protestant can't grow from it.  The Catholic church, in my opinion, has done some amazing things to further the Gospel and grow Christians for thousands of years and this is one of them.  If we reject helpful tools simply because they originate from a different denomination than us then we are already deeply entrenched in some serious pride.

So, after all that has been said here are the 7 Deadly Sins: Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony and Lust.  In today's post the focus is pride and its mirror image, humility.  Each week I will focus on the sin and its mirror image so we can not only recognize the sin but destroy it because it is important to remove and replace when it comes to sin.

This post has had a long build up to what should be the meat of it, so I want to offer a few links to previous posts on the subject of Pride and Humility.  Sin's Root: PridePride and Humility.

Having posted those links I will not be long on how to defeat the root sin of Pride.  Pride at its base is an issue of self-preoccupation.  When we are prideful we keep thinking "Me, me, me" and we must attack that.  The cross does that.  To quote from the book Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins "Those who see the cross rightly see themselves rightly."  I'll close with one final quote from that aforementioned book: "... we must pray and ask the Spirit to open our eyes to more of God's glory, so that we are ever more in awe of Him and ever less in awe of ourselves" today.