Sin: the lethal weapon

Many learn the hard way that without God’s grace to repent, we will hold onto unbelief until it kills us. Sin is truly a lethal weapon.

Today’s Reading

Jonah 1-4; Revelation 9

Selected Verses

And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”   Jonah 4:8-9

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21


Jonah was sent to Nineveh, a city so evil that God decided to bring judgment on it. But first, He decreed that they should have one last chance to repent. So he chose Jonah to go. We all know the story. Jonah went in another direction, was intercepted by the big fish, and learned that God could stop him anywhere. Then Jonah, like Nineveh, got a second chance to obey God. This time he obeyed, sort of. Jonah proclaimed God’s message to the city. Lo and behold, they repented, God relented and spared them.

Jonah was so angry he wanted to die. He appreciated what God had done for him, sparing him from a watery grave inside a fish. But now, he hated God’s mercy toward Nineveh that wicked city. He wanted to die, but God mercifully discussed the matter with him. Jonah got yet a third chance to get it right. We are left to wonder if he did.

In Revelation 9, conditions following God’s judgment were such that people were seeking death but for a different reason than Jonah. They sought death because they could not see any escape from the wrath of God. They had no hope. But they could not die, at least, not all of them. Did the survivors repent and call out for mercy, like the Ninevites before them? No! They persisted in their unbelief, their idolatry and demon worship.

Think about it

Why do some, under severe judgment, repent while others grow more hardened in rebellion against God? The answer is that God grants repentance to some and not to others. It is not a function of the severity of the trial or the eloquence of the preacher (Jonah was a reluctant preacher, at best). The difference is the sovereign work of God in the hearts of the hearers or sufferers. Here the Ninevites were wiser and more receptive than the fifth trumpet generation. Observe and learn from these examples: negative and positive. Without grace to repent, sin is lethal.

When Shame is Good

To experience shame for sin is a hopeful sign that repentance and faith in God are still possible. Do not fear feeling shame but rather not feeling it.

Today’s Reading

Ezekiel 43-44; Second Peter 2

Selected Verses

As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan.  And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. Ezekiel 43:10-11

Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  Second Peter 2:9-10


God gives Ezekiel a detailed description of the temple. Then He tells the prophet to pass these details on to the people of Israel so that they may be ashamed of their iniquities. The temple reflected God’s glory so this description was intended to shame the Jews for their sin. Yet the temple also held a message of hope of salvation. Here, in this place of God’s throne, provision was made for a sacrifice for sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ was portrayed in the temple, if we rightly understand it.

In Peter’s time, there were false prophets and teachers who were completely insensitive to sin. He indicts them for their deceptions and schemes to lead believers astray. Peter shows how God in the past has brought judgment on those who rebelled against Him: evil angels, the wicked society of Noah’s day, and Lot’s neighbors in Sodom and Gomorrah. So God has shown that He is able to rescue the godly, like Noah and Lot, and keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. In view here in particular are those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and who despise authority.

Think about it

If there is anything which describes our society, it is indulgence in the lust of defiling passion and the despising of authority. Our contemporaries see shame not as a good emotion leading to healthy repentance. Rather it is considered the result of poor self-esteem due often to a severe religious upbringing.

If this world is trying you, trust Him who knows how to rescue the godly from trials in amazing ways. Pray that God may grant our unbelieving loved ones shame for sin that leads to repentance and faith.

God’s Wrath

God’s wrath is coming in judgment. Whom do you think will be found in trouble? The objects of His wrath and judgment might surprise you.

Today’s Reading

Ezekiel 29-31; James 5

Selected Verses

Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will bring a sword upon you, and will cut off from you man and beast,  and the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste. Then they will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 29:8-9

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.  Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. James 5:1-3


Who will be the target of God’s judgment?

In Ezekiel’s day, the Lord pronounced judgment on Egypt.  What had they done?  It was not so much what they had done or not done, but their arrogant attitude.  They prided themselves in the things that God had done.  They did not glorify Him, but made idiotic statements like “The Nile is mine, and I made it.”  Those who refuse to give God the glory He is due are in special trouble with Him.  He would bring His judgment on them and they would know that He is the Lord.

Another target of judgment will be the fraudulent and heartless rich.  James singled these people out for a stern warning.  In the day of judgment, they would be in misery.  The riches they trusted in would not serve them at all, but be rotted, moth-eaten, and corroded.  There may have been a time when they could buy their way out of trouble but no longer.  And take note, it is not the fact that they are rich but that they cheated their workers to expand their wealth.  Furthermore, they trusted in their wealth and not in the Lord.

Think about it

Pride and autonomy robs God of His glory and brings His judgment.  Beware of any tendency toward these quiet ways of rebelling.  On that coming day of God’s wrath, do not be found among those who have attempted to exalt themselves.  As Isaiah wrote:

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
 let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7

Heart Check Time

We need to be watchful never to forget that the horror of our sin and the holiness of God put Christ on the cross for us who believe. It’s heart check time.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 4-6; Galatians 3

Selected Verses

Man is humbled, and each one is brought low,
and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.
 But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.  Isaiah 5:15-16

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—  so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.    Galatians 3:13-14


Failure to see the holiness of God and the horror of sin is a problem which repeatedly crops up in human hearts.  It happened in ancient Judah in Isaiah’s day and it happened in Galatia in Paul’s day.  It continues to happen today.

Isaiah warned Judah of her sin and reminded them of the reality of death, the gaping mouth of Sheol consuming all humanity one by one.  The people were living in denial.  They presumed upon the grace and mercy of God as they relied on their own wisdom and ignored the perfect holiness of God.  It would take a reawakening to the imminence of death and their utter failure to attain to God’s purity to humble them.  They needed to see Him “high and lifted up” (6:1).  At the same time, they needed to see themselves as people of “unclean lips” (6:5).  They needed to see how darkened were their minds as they reversed the definitions of good and evil (5:20).  We do too.

The Galatians situation is even more perplexing.  Here were people who had heard and believed the gospel, repented of their sin, and had received the Holy Spirit by faith, but now through the influence of some false teachers were turning away from trusting Christ and returning to law keeping as the basis for their hope.  Paul is astonished.  Yet experience tells us that this is always a potential problem.  It appeals to our pride to achieve our own acceptance before God.  This attitude comes from either not seeing the holiness of God or not seeing the heinousness of our rebellion against Him. In our minds, we either dilute God’s holiness or our sin.  Usually both.

Think about it

God means for us to humble ourselves before Him, to see the awfulness of sin as reflected in the agony of Christ’s death.  He had to become a curse for us to free us from the curse upon us through the law.  Do a heart check today.  Beware of any creeping self-righteousness that diminishes your complete reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ for your standing before God.

More than Forgiven

The Psalmist prayed for mercy and forgiveness, but God in Christ has given all that and much more. We are more than forgiven.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 79-81; Romans 8:1-18

Selected Verses

 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!  Psalm 79:8-9

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:3-4


The Psalmist cries out for forgiveness for the sins of the nation that led to the fall of Jerusalem and the temple. He laments their suffering but, even more, the disgrace brought on the name of God. The writer does not look for excuses, nor does he make promises to do better. He pleads for God Himself to atone for their sins. Truly, he grasps the seriousness of sin. No one is able to justify himself by turning over a new leaf. No one is qualified to repay the debt of offending our holy Creator and Lord.

Paul explains to the Romans just how God has answered this prayer of the Psalmist from so many centuries earlier. The law could only show us our sin, never save us. The law was weakened by the flesh, because our flesh is inclined to use the law as a springboard to rebellion. We do what the law says not to do (Romans 7:13-25).  He has freed us from the law of sin and death, that is, the law that says “you sin, you die.”

Think about it

As usual, God’s answer goes far above what the Psalmist (or we) could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). He has given His Spirit to those who are in Christ. Through Him we have life, peace, and guidance. Through Him we are adopted as God’s children and, so, we call Him, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-17). Sure, we suffer with Christ in this world, but we know that the glory to come far exceeds these present afflictions.

Does your sin and guilt weigh you down? Trust in Christ for the complete forgiveness of your sins. Rejoice that the law of sin and death is overcome, but more than that, in Him you have His Spirit and are adopted as His own child.

God’s Providence vs. Man’s Autonomy

No life is the result of personal autonomy or of random acts and choices. Rather it is God’s sovereign providence at work according to His eternal decrees.

Today’s Reading

Job 33-34; Acts 13:24-52

Selected Verses

 Behold, God does all these things,
twice, three times, with a man,
 to bring back his soul from the pit,
that he may be lighted with the light of life.  Job 33:29-30

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. Acts 13:48-50


Elihu sets about correcting the faulty statements of Job and his three counselors. Elihu correctly emphasizes the justice of God in all His dealings and the way of God to use trials and difficulties to correct His children. This point has been mostly ignored by the three counselors with the exception of a brief comment by Eliphaz (Job 5:17).

In his account of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, Luke reports that “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”  Apostles proclaimed the gospel. Some believed.  Why?  God had appointed them to eternal life. Others rejected because they were not appointed for eternal life.   The difference is not in the words of the preacher. It is in the response of the hearer. That is the result of the sovereign work of grace in the heart of the hearer.

Think about it

Personal autonomy is an idol of our times, maybe the greatest idol. The doctrines of the sovereignty and providence of God thunder against that false god. Do you believe in the Lord Almighty Who rules over all things, even the hearts of people? If so, that would be a likely indicator that He has appointed you for salvation. If not, you are still called to repent and believe the gospel, but you cannot and will not in yourself, without His powerful working in you to bring a new birth (Mark 1:15; John 3:3).

Does all this stir in you sense of desperation?  Call on God to “be merciful” to you, a sinner (Luke 18:13). God has promised that He is “near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” and “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”’ (Psalm 145:18; Romans 10:13).

Setting our Hearts to Seek the Lord

Evil men take God’s resources and attempt to use them to oppose Him. Rehoboam and Judas exemplify this principle. But in the end, they die.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 10-12; John 13:18-38

Selected Verses

And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord. 2 Chronicles 12:14

I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, “He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.”  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

John 13:18-19


The arrogance of mortal man is often astounding. Rehoboam grew up as a grandson of David and prince under his father, Solomon, during the glory days of the old united kingdom of Israel. For him it was easy to assume that nothing would change unless it was for the better. When he took the throne, Rehoboam rejected the wise counsel of his elders and followed the foolish advice of his peers. As a result, he lost control of the ten tribes of Israel and was left with only Judah and Benjamin. He failed to be a good king or a good spiritual leader to the nation. The Chronicler says, “He did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.”

Judas accompanied Jesus and the disciples. Outwardly, he appeared to be one of them. When Jesus sent him out, no one thought it was unusual. No one suspected him. But what was in his heart was about to come out. He gave place to Satan and Satan entered into him. He, like Rehoboam, did not set his heart to seek the Lord. Like Rehoboam, God called his number. Judas died by suicide (Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:18-19).

Think about it

Whatever we do during our lifetimes, we do with God’s resources. We breath His air, we walk on His earth, and we depend on His sustenance and providence to keep us going. Then, like everyone else from kings to paupers, we die. What did we do and what did we stand for? Eventually the truth comes out.

Is it time for a heart check? Let us set our hearts to seek the Lord and pray for grace to keep that focus all the days of our lives. The heart that is set to seek the Lord will not be easily moved or inhabited by Satan. Are you in?

Stop Limping and Follow Christ

God calls us to follow Him but biblical history shows how some followed while others limped between the true God and impostors. Will you follow or limp?

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 16-18; John 1:29-51

Selected Verses

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.  I Kings 18:21

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  John 1:35-37


Israel under King Ahab continued in the rebellious ways of Jeroboam.  God sent a prophet, Elijah, to proclaim a drought as a means of getting their attention.  This went on for three years, but the nation did not cry out to God.  They continued to put hope in the false god Baal.  Elijah called for a showdown, a battle of the gods on Mount Carmel.  As this definitive demonstration of the truth began, Elijah described the people as limping between two different opinions.  They tried to use the Lord and Baal to solve their problems, but the Lord would not allow this kind of syncretism.

We know from our reading how this turned out.  The Lord God of heaven and earth was shown to be the only one who could act.  Baal and his prophets were exposed as frauds.  Any reasonable person would give up following Baal and fully follow the Lord.

In Jesus’ early ministry, John the Baptist introduced Him to his disciples as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (vs. 29).  The next day, as Jesus walked by, two of John’s disciples heard him say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  Maybe these two had thought about John’s comment overnight.  Maybe they had tossed and turned pondering what they should do.  Their teacher, John, was saying that this Jesus was greater than he was, One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  They must have thought, “It’s time to follow Jesus” because follow Him they did.

Think about it

God will not allow us to go limping between two opinions.  Are you following Him or the god of our culture?  Are you following the One who came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world?  Only He is more powerful than Baal.  Only He takes away sin.  Stop limping and follow Jesus Christ wherever He leads.

Born of God

Without a new birth, brought about by God, even the most informed people do not receive His Word but persist in all kinds of pagan abominations.

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 14-15; John 1:1-28

Selected Verses

They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.  1 Kings 14:24

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:11-13


Solomon’s apostasy led to the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  Neither of them was humble or repentant, but they continued in the path taken by Solomon.  The divided kingdom stayed at war during the lifetimes of these two kings.  They continued to worship other gods.  Their practices mirrored those of the peoples that God had evicted from the land when Israel entered.

When Jesus came, fulfilling the promise of a Messiah, He was not universally received.  The gospel records show that as His ministry unfolded official opposition increased culminating in His crucifixion.  Jesus came revealing the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth.  Those who were sent to arrest Him said, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46).

But despite Jesus’ powerful words, the nation officially rejected Him.  Why?  They were not born of God.  Those who are born of God are children of God who manifest this reality by receiving Christ and believing in His name.  Everyone is God’s creature, made by Him, but not all who owe Him their existence are His children (John 1:3,10).

Neither severe hardship such as decades of war, nor mighty works like the incarnation of God the Son automatically results in faith and repentance in people.  It takes a new birth, a birth brought about by God, to turn the hearts of sinners to Himself and to make them His children.

Think about it

If you have been born of God, then you are His child.  Your home is with Him, not here. But you and I will be there soon.  Rejoice and be faithful as you await that day.

The Danger of Presumption

Presumption is behavior perceived as arrogant and disrespectful. Presumption may not be a common word, but today’s reading shows it is a common failure.

Today’s Reading

I Samuel 27-29; Luke 17:1-19

Selected Verses

 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.”  I Samuel 28:15

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” Luke 17:10


Presumption may not be a word you hear or use every day, so let’s start with a definition.  The Google dictionary says that presumption is “behavior perceived as arrogant, disrespectful, and transgressing the limits of what is permitted or appropriate.”  A person with presumption is presumptuous.  Here we meet some presumptuous people and learn an important lesson.

Saul was facing a military crisis.  He had failed in all his attempts to find and kill his perceived rival, David.  Now the Philistine army was amassing on his border, ready to strike.  Saul had a long history of presumption.  He took matters in his own hands ignoring God’s law and Samuel’s instructions.  God had left him, but Saul presumptuously continued to seek God’s help and direction.  When he could not get an answer from God, he turned to a medium and sought the departed Samuel for guidance.  Samuel merely reiterated the judgment that he had already pronounced on the king, that he would lose his kingdom.  Samuel now added a timeline onto this verdict.  Saul would die, with his sons, the next day.  Saul was foolish to the end.  His foolishness showed itself in presumption.

Jesus told a story about a hypothetical servant whose master waited on him rather than observing the normal division of labor.  If that were to occur, we would charge the servant with being presumptuous, arrogantly accepting service from his master instead of respectfully offering service to him.

In another incident, Jesus healed ten lepers, an unheard of miracle.  Yet only one of the ten thought to return and thank the Lord for His mercy to him.  The nine were presumptuous.

Think about it

Presumption shows itself in our expectations, as if God owed us something.  It shows itself when we fail to be grateful for all our undeserved blessings.  It shows itself in failure to confess our sin and repent before God, asking for forgiveness of our presumption.  Let presumption not be common in your life.