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“What’s One Little Sin?”

Never underestimate the consequence of sin . . . or your need for God’s grace.

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point,
he has become guilty of all.” – James 2:10.

Now, what do we do with this verse? Is it saying that if we commit one sin, then we have committed all sins? Is it saying that all sins are equal before God?  Well, the answer is yes and no. Let’s look at both.

  • No – because not all sin results in the same earthly consequence. If I murder my brother, or if I just hate him to the point of saying hateful things, both are sin. Jesus calls hatred murder. But if I only hurt my brother with words, He’s not dead. Not all sin has the same earthly consequence.
  • Yes – because ultimately our sins are not only against our fellow man. All sins are ultimately against God, who gave us the whole law. “Against You, You only, I have sinned . . .” (Ps 51:4).

The common denominator for all sins is that they are all basically actions done independently from God. It is impossible for a man to predict the ultimate harmful consequence(s) of an action that is done independently from God, no matter how big or small the action.

In 1999, Lockheed Martin, the huge aerospace firm, wrote a contract and missed a small detail. They misplaced a comma in an inflation-adjusted formula that was written into the contract. That mistake cost Lockheed Martin $70 million dollars.  One little, misplaced comma cost $70 million dollars!

Like that comma, even the “smallest” sin can have far-reaching repercussions.  And if our sins are ultimately against God Himself, then we can know that even the “smallest” sin against an infinite God has infinite consequence. Or as John Piper puts it, “ . . . in that sense every sin is infinitely heinous.”

Now, what are we to do with this sobering reality? If you are inclined to works and keeping score, you could beat yourself up . . . all the time.  But I believe God intends a different response. As we come to recognize the gravity of the sin that is in us, the frequency of our independent actions and the inestimable consequence thereof, I believe God would have us develop a profound sense of gratitude for His amazing grace and a constant recognition of our need for that grace!

“. . . but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Rom 5:20-21

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” – 2 Cor. 12:9


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The Greatest Miracle of All

Forgiveness of sin – the miracle of all miracles.
Lesson 49 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your pallet and walk?’ But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins–He said to the paralytic–“I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.”

– Mark 2:5–11

But of all the things that Jesus did, the thing that seemed to anger them the most was when He told people their sins were forgiven. For only God has the authority to forgive sin.

By claiming to do what only God could do, Jesus was in fact claiming to be God, an act that, according to Hebrew law, was punishable by death.

– The HOPE, Chapter 9

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

When it comes to the subject of miracles, the documentation of the miracles of Jesus is in a class by itself. There are, however, others in history who have (or have been said to have) performed miracles. This not only includes other characters in the Bible, but also the founders of other religions.

But there is one miracle that no other person in the Bible and no other founder of a major world religion can claim: the forgiveness of sin. Jesus actually told people their sins were forgiven (Matthew 9:2,Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20, Luke 7:47). The basis for the forgiveness that He offered is what Jesus would ultimately accomplish by His death and miraculous resurrection.

Most of the Hebrew religious leaders were infuriated that Jesus would say “Your sins are forgiven” for only God can forgive sin. By claiming that He had the authority to forgive sin, Jesus was in fact claiming to be God. He knew it – and so did they. And because these religious leaders didn’t believe that Jesus was God, they considered His words as blasphemy: speaking evil of or against God, or making the claim to be God.1Blasphemy was an offense punishable by death in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:16).  Continue reading


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How Could Jesus Be Born Without Sin?

How sin is transmitted
Lesson 42 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…

— Romans 5:12

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.

— Genesis 3:15

God’s plan was unfolding. But who could have ever imagined it would happen like this? From the ancient promises of God, one might have considered that to overcome sin, the Deliverer would be without sin, just as God is without sin. But who would have expected that the Deliverer, promised by God throughout the ages, would be God Himself in human form?

— The HOPE, Chapter 8

And through Adam, sin would be passed down from generation to generation, infecting all humankind to this very day.

— The HOPE, Chapter 3

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we said that we would revisit the issue of a holy God putting on flesh. How could a sinless God enter this sin infected world as a human and yet remain sinless? First, let’s deal with why this is important, and then we’ll deal with how it is possible.

As we see from the Chapter 8 HOPE excerpt above, in order for the Deliverer to free mankind from sin, He would need to be sinless Himself. This line from The HOPE summarizes the truth of a key theological doctrine. The Deliverer had to fulfill the Law in order to be the mediator and reconciler between God and man. In order to fulfill the Law, He had to be without sin.

Many verses in the Bible state that the Deliverer was without sin (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5). But how is this possible? Repeatedly in our study of The HOPE we have read about the sin that has infected all mankind (see Chapter 3, Lesson 18). And from Romans 5:12 above we read that “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” How then could the Deliverer be born of a human and not be infected with sin? Let’s consider two possibilities.

First, we must acknowledge that if God can do whatever He pleases, then He could certainly have miraculously protected Jesus from being polluted by sin while He was inside Mary’s womb.1

Second, we must consider carefully Romans 5:12. Notice that the verse says that “through one man sin entered the world” and so death spread to “all men.” The verse does not say through “one man and one woman” sin entered the world. Sin entered the world through Adam, not through Eve. It was Adam, not Eve, who passed sin on to their descendants.2 Perhaps this is why in Genesis 3:15, God promises that the One who will bruise (literally “crush”) Satan on the head will be One who comes from the seed of woman, not from the seed of man. Continue reading


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The Law – God’s Mirror

A mirror can reveal a dirty face, but can’t clean the face.
Lesson 38 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

– Romans 3:20

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the last two lessons we considered the Law that God gave to the Hebrew people. God promised that if the Hebrew people obeyed the Law they would be blessed, but if they disobeyed the Law they would be punished. We also saw that God, knowing the Hebrew people would not be able to fully and consistently keep the Law, provided a way to cover their sin through the offering of sacrifices.

But there is yet another important aspect of the Law we must consider. Many people have the idea that the Law was given as a means for man to be right with God. But the Bible is clear (Romans 3:20) that no person can gain right standing (be justified) with God by keeping the Law. Think about it. If we could keep the Law perfectly (although we can’t), we would still be infected with the sin which was passed down to every person through Adam (see Lesson 18). Sin separates man from God. Even if you had never sinned, the sin in you would still separate you from God.

As we study the Bible, we learn that the Law is like a mirror – for both God and man. In the Law we see a true reflection of God’s character. That reflection reveals that God is holy and righteous. But in the Law, we also see a true image of ourselves. Our inability to keep the Law reveals our inadequacy, for the Law clearly reveals that we do not measure up to God’s standard of holiness and righteousness. Something in us prevents us from measuring up, and according to Romans 3:20, that something is sin.

A mirror can be helpful to show you if your face needs washing. But it cannot be used to wash your face. No one in their right mind would take a mirror and rub it on their face to remove dirt. That requires a cleansing agent such as soap. So it is with the Law. The Law reveals sin, but it is not a cleansing agent. It cannot cleanse us from sin, but it can show us our need to be cleansed. It can create a sense of need for the promised Deliverer, the only One who can take away sin! Continue reading


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Some Thoughts on Propitiation

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

ROM 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. {This was} to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

HEB 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1JO 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for {those of} the whole world.

1JO 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son {to be} the propitiation for our sins.

1. Propitiation – What it means.

The following 3 statements are from John Piper.
That big word “propitiation” simply means Christ takes away God’s anger at us for our sins.

“Propitiation” means that the death of Christ takes away the anger of God – propitiates God’s wrath – from those who trust Jesus.

That great phrase, “make propitiation” means “make a sacrifice for our sins that brings God’s anger at us to an end” and makes us friends.

In other words, God’s wrath toward sinful man was completely poured out and satisfied in Christ’s work on the cross.

2. Propitiation – The extent of it.

One of the foundational truths of the Christian faith respecting the believer in relation to his sins is the fact that when he was saved all his trespasses (the past, present and future)—so far as condemnation may be concerned—were forgiven. If one buys into this truth (that God has forgiven our future sins), then it is no stretch to embrace the truth that neither is God angry about future sins. This is all the more true since propitiation is at the core of God’s forgiveness.

We might also think about it in terms of God’s omniscience and foreknowledge. If God knows about our future sins (which He does), and if He still gets angry when we sin, then would not our relationship with Him be marked with a perpetual displeasure (on His part). If God, not being bound by time and space, sees everything “from the helicopter view” as it were, then when exactly would He get angry? The doctrine of propitiation teaches us that God got angry for our future sins two thousand years ago.

Have I ever felt anger toward other? To some degree, I suppose I have, and perhaps will in the future. However, if I could see the future as clearly as God, then I would not be surprised at what is yet to come. And if I completely grasped the reality of God’s sanctifying work in the lives of other people, then I would be much more inclined to see how it was all working together for their good and His glory.

3. Propitiation – The significance of it.

An understanding of propitiation is vital to our assurance and peace with God.

In his book, “Knowing God,” J.I. Packer commits more than a chapter to propitiation. He claims that propitiation is “the heart of the Gospel”, and that it is key to understanding the Bible in general, and five specific truths in particular . . .

A further point must now be made. Not only does the truth of propitiation lead us to the heart of the New Testament gospel; it also leads us to a vantage-point from which we can see to the heart of many other things, too. When you stand of top of Snowdon (the highest mountain in Wales), you see the whole of Snowdonia spread out round you, and you have a wider view than you can get from any other point in the area. Similarly, when you are top of the truth of propitiation, you can see the entire Bible in perspective, and you are in a position to take the measure of vital matters which cannot be properly grasped on any other terms. In what follows, five of these will be touched on: the driving force in the life of Jesus; the destiny of those who reject God; God’s gift of peace; the dimensions of God’s love; and the meaning of God’s glory. That these matters are vital to Christianity will not be disputed. That they can only be understood in the light of the truth of propitiation cannot, we think, be denied.

In terms of practical application, think of this. As Christians do we not aspire to reflect God in our behavior? If we believe that God’s disposition toward us is predicated upon our behavior, rather than upon the cross, then would we not also tend to predicate our disposition toward others based upon their performance rather than grace. The cross of Christ should radically affect our disposition toward others.