Striving For A Crown, Struggling With Sin

Struggling with sin is not a topic many people will crave to learn about. Maybe because it will cause them to look more intently at their own flaws and outright failures and all the more so if you label yourself as a “Christian.” Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden sin has entered the dna of all humans. Pastor Ben Haden used to say, “we sin from our nature, habit and choice.” Yesterday and today’s Love Language Devotional reading mention the origin of sin in the garden of Eden and it’s effect on a marriage. The following are text from those 2 readings,

Love Language Devotional – September 19, Biblical Intimacy
[Eve] took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. Genesis 3:6-7
What is the biblical picture of intimacy in marriage? It’s found in Genesis 2:25: “The man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” This is a vivid image of marital intimacy: two distinct persons, equal in value, totally transparent, and without fear of being known. It is that kind of openness, acceptance, trust, and excitement to which we refer when we use the word intimacy.

But this was before sin entered the picture. It’s interesting that Adam and Eve’s immediate response to eating the forbidden fruit was to feel shame at their nakedness and cover themselves. In other words, after sin there were clothes. Something came between Adam and Eve, and they were no longer transparent. They were no longer willing to be freely known; now they had to work at intimacy.

Love Language Devotional – September 20, Overcoming the Separation that Comes from Sin
Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22
Is there anything in contemporary experience that parallels the excitement of Adam and Eve before the Fall? I believe there is. It is the experience we commonly call “falling in love.” It is an emotional experience fully as spontaneous as that moment when Adam first saw Eve. The experience of falling in love has the same elements as that initial meeting:

feeling amazement
feeling that we belong to each other
knowing that we were meant for each other
feeling something within each of us that cries out for something deep within the other
sensing that God arranged our meeting
experiencing a willingness to be open with each other, to share our deepest secrets, and to know in our hearts that we will love each other no matter what
being willing to give ourselves totally to each other
What happens to all of those emotions after marriage? The same thing that happened to Adam and Eve. We sin, and sin separates us. We come to distrust each other, and as a result, we keep our distance to protect ourselves. What’s the answer? Confession, repentance, and forgiveness.

In studying the word “ark” today it lead me back to the principle of sin, repentance and forgiveness. The last time in the old testament that “ark” is used is in Jeremiah 3:16

“Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the LORD, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore.

Ellicott says in his commentary of Jeremiah 3:16,
They shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord.—Noteworthy both for its exceeding boldness and as containing the germ, or more than the germ, of the great thought of the New Covenant developed in Jeremiah 31:31. The ark, the very centre of the worship of Israel, the symbol and, it might seem, more than the symbol, of the Divine presence, that, too, should pass away, as the brasen serpent had become Nehushtan (2Kings 18:4), and take its place as belonging only to the past. Foremost among the prophets was Jeremiah to perceive and proclaim that
“God fulfils Himself in many ways.”

The idea that Ellicott presents of “God fulfilling Himself in many ways” is that the Ark, the brazen serpent, the fresh manna each day in the wilderness, were all God making Himself “present” in the daily lives of His people. Then and now there is nothing more comforting to a child of God than sensing through some tangible way that Father God is near and aware of our life.

What the Love Language Devotional adds to this principle is not just that when sin enters the picture we will hide from God as Adam and Eve did, there will be a physical, tangible separation from God in the form of “clothes.”

In studying Jeremiah 3:16, the context of that verse had to be seen through the preceding verses. Jeremiah writes the words Father God speaks. God begins this discourse by comparing Judah and Israel to an adulterous wife.

Jeremiah 3:1 NKJV
“They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife,
And she goes from him
And becomes another man’s,
May he return to her again?’
Would not that land be greatly polluted?
But you have played the harlot with many lovers;
Yet return to Me,” says the Lord.

In Deuteronomy God told the Israelites that if a wife left her husband for another man and later changed her mind wanting to return to her original husband it would “pollute the land” if the husband would take her back.

The phrase “Yet return to Me,” is worded this way in the
ISV – Since you have committed fornication with many lovers, would you now return to me?” declares the LORD.
GWT – “You have acted like a prostitute who has many lovers. And now you want to come back to me!” declares the LORD.

As you read further into Jeremiah chapter 3 God’s anger over Israel and Judah’s sin gives way to His mercy, forgiveness through repentance is offered.

Jeremiah 3:6-11 The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. 7 And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. 9 So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. 10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord. 11 Then the Lord said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous (has justified herself) than treacherous Judah.

The grievance Father God had against Judah was it’s pride. Judah, in all it’s sins took an attitude of pride that they had not defiled themselves the way Israel’s 10 tribes had done worshipping the “Golden Calves” in idolatry. Instead of seeing the plank in their own eye they could only see the speck in there brothers eye. Judah was pictured as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, self righteous in their own eyes.

Ellicott writes this in his commentary of Jeremiah 3:11, Hath justified herself.—Literally, hath justified her soul, has put in a better plea in her defence. The renegade was better than the traitress. Even open rebellion was better than hypocrisy, as the publicans and sinners in the Gospel story were better than the Pharisees (Matthew 21:31).

Matthew 21:31-32 Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

Jesus gave us many warnings to not compare our life and relation to Father God by how others, even other Christians live their life as a benchmark. Everyone falls short of the Glory of God without exception.

Luke 18 -9-14 – The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

So what is it in our life we hold near and dear to our heart that makes us feel as though we have “arrived” and dwell in the presence of God continually? Is it our prayer life, our Bible study time, the alms we give or the services we provide? Do we look on those things and think, “God MUST be well pleased when He looks down on my life.”

Pride comes in many forms and by His Grace He doesn’t let His children rest in that attitude of heart for too very long knowing the harm it will do them. In a past post I spoke of “God’s Refining or Consuming Fire” There are times in our journey of sanctification when we feel like we have “attained” it. The way pastor B.H. Clendennen use to say it was, “you are climbing up this mountain and it seems like you are almost to it’s summit. Then the clouds move out of the way and you realize it’s still way up there.”

We may come to think at times that we are like the silver in the refiners fire and have become a “perfect reflection” of the Image of Christ we long to immulate. But in reality the refiner (God) continues to apply great heat and prodding of the metal to cause the impurities to release and rise to the surface so they can be purged. Applied to a human, you get the idea that it’s a very demeaning process. Filth you were unaware of is now “in your face.”

A few days ago verses from a psalm I love was the verse of the day on YouVersion Bible app. The picture the verse was written on caught my attention and I thought, the power of ocean waves are mighty, relentless and cleansing.

That thought caused me to take another look at those verses in my KJV Study app.

Wash H3526 – to trample; hence to wash (properly by stamping with the feet) whether literally (including the fulling process) or figuratively:- fuller, wash

Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Definition – to wash (by treading), be washed, perform the work of a fuller

I really didn’t know what a fuller did to wash but I had an idea it was to do with washing clothes. Fulling is the process when wool material is made soft and usable. This video shows women “waulking the tweed” and as you can see the material is being beaten, pulled and stretched to the beat of a song to accomplish this. Put yourself in this piece of materials place, ouch!!!

If God is in your heart and life according to His New Covenant don’t expect each and every day to be smooth sailing. Expect a storm now and then with a few break downs along the way. I think they are God’s way of smoothing out our rough texture and revealing the hidden imperfections hiding in our heart and sin nature. The “old man” isn’t dead. We have to fight him off the throne each and every day.

Writing about this has brought a Bible verse to mind.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

“Rejoice” is translated from a Hebrew word that Strongs defines as: A primitive root; properly to spin around (under the influence of any violent emotion), that is, usually rejoice… : – be glad, joy, be joyful, rejoice.

The Hebrew word means to “spin around under violent emotion,” or basically to dance. So Zep 3:17 is more accurately translated as, “Yahuwah your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His Love,
He will dance over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

In my minds eye I see Father God doing as the women in the video are doing. He is “trampling with His feet” over us to do the fuller’s work while singing as they do.

Has God let some sin you thought you had conquered raise its ugly head and let you realize you haven’t reached the summit yet? Has a sin knocked you down a peg or two from on the pedestal you thought you were on? Has the realization that you are only an image of Christ “seen through a glass darkly” caused you to be more forgiving, compassionate and merciful to those around you instead of sizing them up according to your attained perfection? Just maybe God is doing a good work in you and is transforming you “from glory to glory.”

Never accept sin of any degree in you life and think, “Paul had his thorn in the flesh sin, so can I.” Father God chastens those He loves so be prepared at times to get a glimpse of where you are lacking. Have a healthy fear of sin and the separation it can bring between you and your Heavenly Father. Having a healthy fear of yourself isn’t bad either.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Striving for a Crown
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

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