Category Archives: Sin

RESCUING PEOPLE FROM THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR SINS:

Rescuing, also called enabling, happens when a person feels the responsibility to minimize the consequences of someone else’s bad choices. Rescuers have a psychological need to feel needed and tend to attract people who need rescuing. While it is right and good to rescue people who are in dangerous situations and cannot save themselves (Proverbs 24:11), the emotional need to rescue everyone is not healthy.

Rescuing people has the effect of emboldening them in their sin, empowering their ability to sin, or making it easier for them to sin. When we remove or lessen the natural consequences of bad behavior, we encourage and facilitate repeated offenses. Rescuing is often mistakenly called mercy, but how merciful is it, really, to continually bail someone out of jail (for example) and never allow him to learn from his mistakes?

Rescuers often grew up in homes where they gained acceptance and identity by being the family “fixer.” Even as children, some people had to take on responsibility to cover for their parents’ poor choices. Rescuers were often the eldest or most responsible child and learned early that it was their job to keep everybody happy. They gained a sense of belonging and value by rescuing family members, and so they continue doing so as adults. Problems arise when they enter into dysfunctional relationships with irresponsible people who like having someone else bear the brunt of their consequences.

We see examples of rescuing everywhere. Rescuing parents bail their defiant teen out of jail, hoping that at last the delinquent will appreciate them. A rescuing woman marries an irresponsible man who can’t keep a job, hoping that his need for her help will somehow turn into real love. Rescuing friends lend money they don’t have to deadbeats, hoping that it will buy friendship. These are tragic situations, and the misery they engender is prolonged by the rescuers. They may tell themselves that they are being selfless and generous, but, in fact, they may be rescuing in order to gain love and loyalty.

Rescuing others is a way some people try to buy love, but it rarely does so. When we rescue people from just consequences, we remove from them God’s teaching tool. God uses consequences to teach us life lessons (Jeremiah 35:12–15). When a rescuer minimizes those consequences, he or she negates a valuable lesson that the irresponsible person needs to learn. The rescuer becomes frustrated after many rescues because the intended beneficiary has not yet learned anything. The frustration is ironic because one reason the person won’t learn is that the bad choice didn’t cost him anything. There’s always someone there to bail him out. He’s living a consequence-free life.

We can overcome our need to rescue by first recognizing the motive behind it. Rescuing is not truly in the best interests of the other person. Rescuing doesn’t usually happen for the benefit of others but to make the rescuer feel better. “I can’t stand to think of them living in a house without heat,” one rescuer says. “I know they gambled away their paychecks, but it’s cold outside. I paid their electric bill last month, so I guess I can do it again, even though my debts are piling up.” Those sentiments sound noble, but such reasoning is, in fact, enabling the gamblers to continue their sin unchecked. A few nights in the cold may be what they need to learn the importance of responsible spending.

We can also stop our habit of rescuing by setting healthy boundaries for ourselves. As long as we believe it is our job to rescue everyone who comes to us, we will be at the mercy of fools. We should make every decision based on two criteria: obedience to the Lord and the long-term best interests of others. Short-term interests do not always lead to the lifestyle changes people need. For example, Shari’s grades are dropping, and her mother takes her cell phone as a consequence. But Grandma feels sorry for Shari and buys her another phone. Instead of allowing Shari to learn from her consequences, Grandma made herself feel better. By rescuing Shari from her short-term consequences, Grandma minimized Shari’s long-term benefit.

The Bible is a book of boundaries and consequences. From the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1—3) to Revelation, we see many situations of God saying, “Thou shalt not.” But He did not put a fence around the forbidden fruit in the Garden, and He allowed Adam and Eve to make the choices they wished to make; however, there are consequences that came with those choices. All through the Old Testament, we find examples of God clearly instructing His people Israel to walk in His commands. Through His prophets, He warned them what would happen if they disobeyed (Zechariah 1:6; Joshua 23). They disobeyed anyway, so God brought consequences: they wandered in the wilderness for forty years (Numbers 14:28–35), and they spent seventy years of captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:3–11). Although it displeased Him to have to punish His people, the Lord did not rescue them from their justly earned consequences.

We should be eager to rescue widows and orphans who are in distress (James 1:27). We should do our best to rescue unborn children from abortion and innocent people from human trafficking. Helping is always appropriate, but a helper is one who gives a temporary lift so that someone else can make it on their own. Rescuing allows others to manipulate us while they remain on the same foolish course. They do not learn anything and are no better for it. Many times, rescuers find themselves targets of a host of manipulators because they are seen as an easy mark. When we allow others to violate our boundaries and take from us what we cannot afford to give, we have switched from righteous rescuing to unrighteous enabling. Leaping in the way of someone else’s well-earned consequences is not helping; it is participating in their demise.

Prophet Nathan Emol

ISN’T IT UNLOVING TO TELL SOMEONE THEY ARE SINNING?

Talk of sin is commonly frowned upon today. Even many pastors avoid making statements that could be seen as remotely condemning or reproachful. The conventional wisdom is that it is unkind or unloving—and therefore ungodly—to take a stand against certain activities. However, what is socially acceptable is not always biblically acceptable, and the issue of loving someone doesn’t really have anything to do with whether or not that person’s behavior is acceptable to God.

Yes, God loves everyone, and, since everyone is a sinner, God loves sinners. God loves the whole world (John 3:16), but it doesn’t follow that He approves of sin. A good parent loves his children, but that doesn’t mean he lets them do everything they want. When a son lies to his mother, she can still love him; but she doesn’t have to approve of lying, and she can, in love, correct him.

It is entirely possible to love someone and, at the same time, point out his or her error. In fact, love sometimes requires us to point out an error. If a relative is dabbling in illicit drugs, isn’t the most loving thing to confront the drug use and offer to help? If a married friend is flirting with someone not his spouse, what’s more loving—turning a blind eye and hoping for the best, or warning the friend of imminent consequences? Sin destroys (James 1:15), and love attempts to prevent destruction. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

It is important to define love correctly. If by “love” one means “applaud a sinful lifestyle,” “ignore sin,” or “profess that actions don’t matter,” then that’s a faulty view of love. Biblically, love is doing what is best for someone, regardless of the cost. Love is therefore truthful. Deception cannot bring about the “best” for anyone.

Jesus exhibited the perfect balance between truth and grace (John 1:14). He embodied both. Jesus always spoke what was precisely and unequivocally true, and He countered those who opposed the truth with harsh reproofs (see Matthew 23:33). But Jesus had nothing but words of comfort and grace for those who came to Him in repentance, no matter what their sin (see Luke 7:48). We can’t ignore the truth and call it “grace” any more than we can ignore grace and call it “truth.” The truth is, God will judge sin; the grace is, God saves us from sin.

We can and should love unrepentant sinners and those who refuse to acknowledge their sin. We should want what is best for them, and we should do good to them. And we should tell them the truth about their sin, along with the message of God’s grace in Christ—sin can be forgiven, and hearts can be renewed.

In all of this, it is important to allow the Bible (and the Bible alone) to define sin and righteousness. If the Bible says something is sin, then no amount of societal pressure, worldly wisdom, or personal experience should make us say anything different. Truth is truth, no matter what anyone says or how anyone feels.

It is just as important to communicate the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and to strive for a Christlike balance of truth and grace. Also, it’s important to approach every situation with a spirit of humility and forgiveness. “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). We don’t need to point out every sin or pick apart every deed.

Paul, who frequently found himself in social and religious maelstroms, said it well: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24–25). As we instruct others of the truth, let us do so gently and with kindness to everyone.

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW CAN I avoid ENABLing SOMEONE’S ELSE SIN?

To “enable” sin is to embolden someone to continue in sin, to empower his ability to sin, or to make it easier for him to sin. In our stand for righteousness, we want to avoid enabling the sins of others. Human relationships can be complex, and there are many situations that can lead to involuntary participation in the sin of another. In a marriage, one spouse can be drawn into sin in an effort to appease the other. Friends and family are the avenues that Satan often uses to entice us to participate in a sin we would otherwise avoid (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 22:24). However, no one has the power to make another person sin. Sin is a condition of the heart (Matthew 15:18–19). And we are each responsible for the choices we make and the condition of our own hearts (Romans 14:12; Matthew 12:36).

Enabling someone’s sin is the same as indirectly taking part in that sin, and 1 Timothy 5:22 says, “Do not participate in the sins of others.” If the Bible has a command, we have the power to obey it. We often do not realize that we have the right and the responsibility to set personal boundaries that honor God. Learning to set healthy boundaries for ourselves is crucial to living the victorious life Jesus wants for us (John 10:10; Romans 8:37). Boundaries define where our responsibilities start and end. The Bible is a book of boundaries, with consequences for violating them (Genesis 2:16–17; Deuteronomy 28:15; Jeremiah 22:5; 1 Samuel 12:15). When we know the boundaries, we are responsible for enforcing them. For example, if a friend insists that you drive the getaway car in a robbery, you don’t have to decide. The decision was made when you first chose to follow Christ. Jesus says stealing is wrong, so you will not enable theft. Participation in sin is not an option for a Christian (Romans 6:1–2; 1 John 3:9).

Avoiding sin requires that we seek wisdom from God. Fortunately, we have the promise of James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” When we receive God’s wisdom about a situation, our responsibility is to move forward on the basis of that wisdom. One way to gain courage in making right decisions is to ask ourselves what we would do if Jesus were standing right beside us. If we would not move forward with Jesus, then it is not the right decision, regardless of who is urging us to participate.

One way we enable the sin of others is by rescuing them from their rightful consequences. God uses consequences to teach us lessons we would not otherwise learn. When a parent bails a rebellious son out of jail, that parent is enabling the rebellion to continue. When a Christian allows his friends to talk him into going to a place he knows will lead to sinful behavior, he is participating in the sin of others. We give others freedom to make their own choices, but we must also allow them to reap the consequences of those choices (Galatians 6:7). We often enable the sin of others because of a false sense of compassion or because we want to be needed. But in shielding someone from the natural consequences of sin, we rob that person of the wisdom God wanted to impart to him or her. It’s never easy to see a loved one experience difficulty, but sometimes the difficulty is just what God wants to use to teach an important life lesson.

Just as others have freedom to make their own choices, we also have freedom to choose, and we can refuse to participate in the sin of others. Many times we allow ourselves to be pulled into someone else’s sin because we fear losing the relationship. In doing so, we have allowed that person to take the place of God in our hearts. When the desire of someone else supersedes the desire of God, we have slipped into idolatry (Exodus 20:3; 34:14). We can avoid enabling someone else’s sin by making a final decision about who directs our lives. If we have given our lives to Christ, then He is the final authority on any decision (2 Corinthians 10:5; Acts 5:29). If Jesus would not make it easier for a person to sin, then we shouldn’t, either.

Prophet Nathan Emol

ENVY:

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A simple definition of envy is “to want what belongs to someone else.” A more thorough description of envy is “a resentful, dissatisfied longing for another’s possessions, position, fortune, achievements, or success.” The Bible says envy is an act of the flesh, the result of human sin: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21; see also Romans 1:29; 1 Peter 2:1–2).

Envy and jealousy are closely related and sometimes used interchangeably in modern Bible translations, but they are not quite synonymous. Envy is a reaction to lacking something that another person possesses. Jealousy is a reaction to the fear or threat of losing something, or often someone, we possess. Envy is the distress or resentment we feel when others have what we have not. Jealousy is the sense of dread or suspicion we feel when what we have might be taken away. There is such a thing as godly jealousy (see 2 Corinthians 11:2), but the Bible never speaks of envy in a good light.

Another word in the Bible closely associated with envy is covetousness. To covet is to have an excessive desire to possess what belongs to another. Usually related to tangible items like property, covetousness is an intense craving or selfish desire that threatens the fundamental rights of others (Exodus 20:17; Joshua 7:21).

The first bout of envy in the Bible surfaces in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain, the older brother, killed Abel out of envy because God looked with favor on the younger brother’s sacrifice but did not accept Cain’s offering (Genesis 4:3–5). Later, Esau envied his brother, Jacob, because of the blessing his father Isaac had given him (Genesis 27:41). Rachel envied her sister because Leah gave birth to Jacob’s sons while Rachel remained childless (Genesis 30:1). Saul envied David for his success in battle and his popularity among the people (1 Samuel 15:6–16). The Jewish leaders had Jesus arrested because they were seized with envy (Mark 15:10).

The Bible paints a vivid picture of envy’s devastating effects. If left to grow in one’s heart, the Bible says envy will lead to spiritual, emotional, and physical death: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). Here the New Living Translation likens envy to “cancer in the bones.” And in James 3:14–16, we find this stern warning about the sin of envy: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

Envy is an issue of the heart. Jesus taught that purity and godliness come from inside a person and not from external actions (Mark 7:14–15). Envy is one of many inward vices or heart attitudes that defile a person: “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, . . . deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you” (Mark 7:20–23, NLT).

First Corinthians 13:4 states, “Love does not envy.” If we are envious of our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we do not love them. The love of Christ is void of selfish ambition and desire (Philippians 2:3–8). Christians are called to dispense with envy: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1). How do we accomplish this? Believers in Jesus Christ have died to sin and have been made alive by the Spirit of God (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3; Romans 6:7–11). In a real sense, the struggle between the sin nature and the Spirit continues, but Christians have power through the indwelling Holy Spirit to strengthen them in the fight.

Paul taught in Galatians 5:16–26 that, if we walk by the Spirit, live by the Spirit, and stay in step with the Spirit, our lives will bear the fruit of the Spirit: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (verses 25–26).

The root of envy is a dissatisfied heart. We experience envy when we cannot have what our heart desires. We have not yet learned the secret of contentment (Philippians 4:10–13), of delighting ourselves in the Lord. The most effective way to avoid envy is to trust in the Lord and delight in Him: “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:3–6).

Prophet Nathan Emol

SELF PLEASURE:

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Self-gratification is the act of pleasing oneself or satisfying one’s desires. Every living creature seeks self-gratification as a matter of survival. We feel hungry, so we find food. We are thirsty, so we search for water. God has placed pleasure sensors in our brains so that we feel satisfaction at the meeting of those needs. Even the act of procreation was designed to be pleasurable. God created our sense of pleasure, so seeking its fulfillment is not wrong until the means to do so crosses a line. Knowing exactly where that line is can be tricky, but the Bible gives clear guidelines that help us identify it.

Animals live primarily for self-gratification, driven by instinct and the inner workings of the food chain. One of nature’s primary laws is “eat or be eaten.” Animals mate because of an instinct woven into their DNA by the Lord to keep the circle of life moving (Genesis 1:24). But human beings were created differently from the plants or animals. God “breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Because humanity is made in the image of God and possesses the breath of God, we are not part of the animal kingdom. We have a spirit that can reason, love, intuit, and choose to be unselfish. With our spirits, we can commune with God, who is also Spirit (Romans 8:16; Revelation 3:20). Unlike animals, we have a moral compass, and we can know right and wrong (Genesis 1:27).

The term self-gratification or self-pleasure is often used as a synonym for masturbation, but, more generally speaking, self-gratification is “living according to the flesh” (Romans 8:12–13). Our “flesh” is the selfish part of us that wants what it wants regardless of moral taboos. Self-preservation propels us to eat when we’re hungry; self-gratification suggests that we eat more than we need because it tastes good. Self-preservation drives us to build houses that keep us warm and dry; self-gratification drives us to build nicer, bigger houses than anyone else has. Self-preservation draws us to sexual union with our spouses to create intimacy and bring children into that intimacy. Self-gratification seeks the sexual act for itself, stripped from its design and purpose.

Self-gratification is sinful. Pleasing ourselves should never be the driving force of our lives. We were created to please God, not ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:31). Ultimate pleasure comes as a result of crucifying our flesh and abandoning ourselves to the higher purposes of God (Luke 9:23). Living in step with God’s Spirit makes us quicker to recognize when our desire for self-gratification comes into conflict with what the Lord desires (Galatians 5:16–25). Followers of Jesus have already made the decision about whose desires should reign (Ephesians 5:10–11). When we bow at the cross and surrender our lives to Jesus’ lordship, we lay down our rights to please ourselves. We choose instead to entrust our needs and desires to the One who loves us most (Philippians 4:19).

Those who live for self-pleasure don’t realize the source of true joy. They believe that they must meet their own needs in their own ways in order to be happy. This focus often creates an attitude of selfishness as they consider their own desires more important than the needs of others (Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3–4). While self-pleasure may include behaving in benevolent ways, that benevolence will rarely involve personal sacrifice or putting someone else’s needs ahead of one’s own. Soon, unpleasant consequences begin to stockpile in the life of someone enslaved to his or her own desires (John 8:34; Romans 6:16). When self-gratification is god, every life choice bows in worship.

God’s remedy for a life dedicated to self-gratification is the death of our old nature (1 Peter 2:24; Romans 6:1–6). The flesh cannot be refined or reformed; it must be slain in order for us to live by the Spirit. Jesus said that, in order to know Him, we must be willing to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). And He explained why: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24). Self-denial is the opposite of self-gratification, but it results in a deeper kind of joy (Acts 5:41).

The prodigal son in Jesus’ parable was bent on self-gratification (Luke 15:11–24). He got what he wanted: money, freedom from rules, friends, and the party life. But he also got what he didn’t want: consequences. When the money ran out, so did his friends and his freedom. Reduced to working in a pig sty and craving the pigs’ food, he finally “came to his senses” (verse 17). Self-gratification was not all it was cracked up to be, and the young man went back home.

Self-denial does not mean a life without pleasure; it simply means that our gaze has shifted. Self-gratification makes decisions based on the question what do I want? Self-denial makes decisions based on what would please the Lord? Decisions without moral overtones, such as what to eat for breakfast, are left to our own preferences. Even then, everything we do should be seen as an act of worship, as our whole lives are consecrated to the glory of God.

Pleasure is a gift from God (James 1:17). When we trust God to supply all we need, we can enjoy His good gifts without guilt or reservation. The closer we get to God, the more clearly we see self-gratification as a cheap substitute that comes weighted with joy-stealing consequences. Godly gratification provides a lasting joy that includes wisdom, maturity, and a clear conscience.

Prophet Nathan Emol