The Eyes Have It

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Genesis 9:22-25 (NET Bible)

22 “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers who were outside. 23 Shem and Japheth took the garment and placed it on their shoulders. Then they walked in backwards and covered up their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his drunken stupor he learned what his youngest son had done to him. 25 So he said, “Cursed be Canaan!  The lowest of slaves he will be to his brothers.”” 

Job 31:1 (NIV)

“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.”

Matthew 5:28

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Genesis 19:26

“But Lot’s wife looked back longingly and was turned into a pillar of salt.”

Psalm 119:37

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”

We live in a visually heightened society.  Eye candy is everywhere and it can become overwhelming.  The perception is that the images flaunted on the covers of magazines are perfection and should be our aim.  I confess – I am one of those who flips all of the magazines around when standing in line.  I want to protect my eyes as well as my children’s. Of course sometimes the back of the magazine is just as bad, if not worse, then the front.  Sigh.  I also have taught my children from an early age to look the other way when walking in the mall and passing an ungodly store.  It has become instinct now to do so.  Why take such precautions? Conviction.  Fear of God.  Obedience.  Awareness of the need to make no provision for the flesh even if it is not currently a temptation.  In humility, I know it could be apart from God’s grace.  Vigilance offers sweet reward and protects us from calamity.

Even with protective measures in place, we can all stumble across something we wish we hadn’t.  It is what we do in those moments that can set the course for moral victory or failure.  Ham must have felt that the discipline was a bit extreme for his child and future generations to be cursed from one peek.  There are many commentaries on this, but a parent knows his child’s heart.  The foolish, wicked response Ham demonstrated revealed what was in his heart.  Perhaps this was already evident in his son, Canaan, as well.  The curse did indeed extend through Ham’s son Canaan, whose descendants eventually populated Sodom.

Even if we are not involved in an impure lifestyle, do we condone it?  Lot’s wife also looked longingly with her eyes at what she was leaving when God was burning up Sodom and Gomorrah.  Scripture does not say that she was participating with the moral filth all around her, but her eyes were also the source of her demise.  I would have wanted out of there in a big way.  The flames from the sky would not have been the only reason, but the flame of lust all around.  The company we keep can also greatly impact whether or not we walk in purity.  I think the moral decay was probably already apparent before Lot’s neighbors were banging his door down to sexually violate his house guest – and he offered his pure daughters instead.

The sins of the father do not have to be duplicated in future generations.  Noah’s discipline could have been a turnaround and produced repentance and righteousness.  Revelation of the action being sinful is actually grace.  It is ignorance and a culture of impurity unnoticed that breeds moral depravity extending down the family line.  If only we could see what the momentary indulgence of the eyes does.  The effect is profound – a wife unloved while her husband gazes on images which have no life, just to satiate his lust.  What a waste.  Families falling apart because parents do not teach their children to guard the eye gate, which our very life’s direction can be altered by.

There is nothing new underneath the sun.  The same sins which threaten to undo our society were the same vices thousands of years ago – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life.  Compromise can slip in almost unnoticed.  It might be an item of clothing – fashion that maybe is a little revealing, but we can rationalize it away and accept it as appropriate.  It might be allowing certain media or programming in your home, which fosters ungodliness and worldliness.  God help us to not just abstain from impurity, but to cultivate purity.  No matter what our past, today can be a new benchmark of holiness and chasing after God’s heart instead of the world’s cheap substitute.  Past mistakes do not have to be a harbinger of the future.  They can instead serve as a guide of what to avoid and an impetus to walk faithfully with God.

Lord, help us to keep our eyes open to Your ways and to recognize sin in our lives.  Help us to devote our eyes only to worthy things which bring You glory.  Amen.

The Options Before Us

Isaiah 1:18

“Come, let’s consider your options,” says the LORD. “Though your sins have stained you like the color red, you can become white like snow; though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet, you can become white like wool.” (NET)

Isaiah 6:5-8

“I said, ‘Too bad for me! I am destroyed, for my lips are contaminated by sin, and I live among people whose lips are contaminated by sin. My eyes have seen the king, the LORD who commands armies.’ 6 But then one of the seraphs flew toward me. In his hand was a hot coal he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Look, this coal has touched your lips. Your evil is removed; your sin is forgiven.’ 8 I heard the voice of the sovereign master say, “Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?” I answered, ‘Here I am, send me!'”  (NET)

I love the wording of the NET Bible version in Isaiah 1:18 – “Come, let’s consider your options” – not much of a decision there, really.  Either be covered in sin and condemned to hell, or be covered with Christ’s blood, forgiven and go to Heaven. For such an obvious choice, so many miss it.  Why?  Deception.  Ignorance.  Rebellion. Election.

The master deceiver does his job well.  Many tools lie in his arsenal – condemnation, oppression, distraction, busyness, anything to keep us from seeing our need for salvation.  But we can contribute to our own deception by remaining in ignorance.  Laziness helps our ignorance along if we expect God’s truth to be spoon fed to us rather than seeking Him.

Our rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, but we often sanitize our sins to make them acceptable.  Excuses can abound to make one avoid accountability.  This is not surprising, because our flesh’s natural disposition is to avoid doing anything that requires facing something potentially ugly in ourselves.  Why?  Our pride and self esteem might be injured.  (You probably picked up on the sarcasm there).  Or we want to be our own master, assert our independence.  Every person I have known who rebelled and craved independence regrets that decision later.  But still something in us craves “freedom” from anyone’s control, which can cramp our style and choices, even if those choices harm us and separate us from fellowship with our loving God.  Rebellion is actually insanity – What or who are we rebelling from?  The One Who offers us true unconditional acceptance – why run away from that?

Ultimately, in God’s sovereignty, He already knows who belongs to Him before we even have our eyes opened to understand that we need saving.  Where is our responsibility, then?  We are unique in all of God’s creation, in that we have reasoning and free will.  When God’s plan of salvation is shared, people have a choice – to accept this great salvation or to reject it.  Yet even in that choice it is solely the grace of God that enables us to make that choice.

Isaiah was humbled and desperate for his sins to be removed when confronted with God’s Holiness in comparison to his wretched sinful condition.  His response could only be to throw himself upon the mercy of God.  His sins atoned for, Isaiah exuberantly pronounced, “Here I am! Send me!”.  I want to have this same wonder and amazement over God’s salvation every day of every year.  May He help us to have the same zeal to help others recognize and receive the gift of eternal life.

Lord, help us to see how very vile we are apart from Your loving grace and salvation.  Thank you, dear sweet LORD, for opening my eyes to see and know You and to choose the best option of my life.  I did not deserve it, I never will – but please help me to never forget how great a salvation You have given and to live worthy of this amazing gift.  Amen.

Christmas Count”Up” Day 23 – Baby Jesus, our Covering

Romans 6:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 1:7

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

Romans 4:7-8

7Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will never count sin.”

Romans 5:18-19

18 “Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous.”

Hebrews 2:17

17 “Therefore he was obligated in all things to be made like his brothers, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.”

I am quite sure if we committed a crime and were required to pay the penalty for that crime that we would not lay the burden of our sin debt on a baby.  It would seem so cruel.  The sacrifice of animals was sickening enough, but an innocent human life?  It still causes my stomach to churn when I think of an innocent lamb being slaughtered for someone else’s sin. It does not make sense to us because we are not fully acquainted with God’s standard of holiness.  How much more, then, would the death of a baby for someone else’s sin be considered tragic and heartless?

But our sin payment cannot be completely covered for all eternity by an animal or sinful man.  The death required should awaken us to see how very repulsive and wicked our sins are to God.  Sin destroys lives and separates us from God.  He required our sins to be eradicated, and the only means is by a perfect One, of which only God can meet that criteria.

Today we can stand in the presence of God because Christ covers us completely.  The loving compassion of our God, choosing to clothe us in His righteousness is beyond comprehension.  To Adam and Eve, guilty of sin in the Garden of Eden, God provided animal skins, symbolic of the need for a covering.  To the Israelites He specified a a system of animal sacrifices by which they would not be condemned for their sins.  He could not, in His righteousness, excuse sin, but He could Himself provide for a covering for His children.

Moms have big plans for their children.  I cannot fathom the anguish Mary felt when her son was killed ruthlessly.  But Our Savior, our Covering, Christ Jesus, was born to bear our sins – willingly.  That was not Mary’s plan, but it was God’s.  As I reflect on a baby born to bear my own iniquity, it serves as an impetus to help me refrain from costly sin, which cost my Savior His life.

Lord, thank You for giving Your own life for ours.  May we live a life worthy of Your sacrifice, all for Your glory.

Keep On Keepin’ On

Colossians 3:1-5, 8-10, 12, 15

1 “Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is,seated at the right hand of God. 2 Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, 3 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. 5 So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passionevil desire, and greed which is idolatry. 8 But nowput off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 10 and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 15 Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful.”

Putting off the old man is not so easy as it seems.  Most of us do not partake of the “big” sins once we have accepted the free gift of salvation, but what about the “little” ones?  They are included in the lists of wickedness, too, whether it be slander, anger or greed – and are just as significant as the sins most consider as worthy of condemnation.  Is God expecting perfection?  He knows we are flesh, but His payment for our sins was not so we could continue in sin.  We are told to be holy as He is holy, which can only be done through our obedience, which is only through His grace.

It is not just the removal of the old, though – it is imperative that we also don our new garb in Christ.  If we inherited our righteousness because of Christ, how do we put on this righteousness, if it has already been done for us?  The Scripture above gives us some clues.  We are never to think we have gotten to a place where we can be stagnant, for the automatic default is to be ungodly and our walk with God requires constant maintenance.  Sounds tiring, I know, but the flesh is insatiable and must always be in check.  Our natural impulse is to stray.  Once redeemed, we can now see this war of the flesh.  But seeing is not enough – action must follow.

The words “keep seeking” and “keep thinking” stood out to me as I read this morning.  Our flesh gets tired and weary – we want to rest, yet we dare not.  The greek word “zeteite” is translated “keep seeking”.  This seeking is not a casual approach, but one that diligently seeks through thinking, meditating, reasoning, seeking after and striving after.  It is a craving, a demand to know more of God.  It is difficult to have this kind of fervency as we are cloaked in flesh living in a fallen world, for sure.  But Scripture does not suggest this type of allegiance – it commands it.  Forgive me this silly analogy, but it is one I can relate to: Our Christian walks can be likened to a situation in which a chocolate lover is placed in a chocolate factory and told to abstain.  (My temptation, lol).  The aroma tantalizes, the desire betrays the soul, but still, indulging is not permitted.  Though surrounded in a sea of chocolate, we must choose to think on higher things and put to death the desires which war against our soul.  While this analogy seems silly, the reality is that we are all surrounded with things in this world which tempt us away from a pure devotion to Christ.  Maybe you are tempted severely right now and think you cannot choose.  God would not put the words “keep seeking”, and “keep thinking” in His word if it was not possible.  Do not believe satan’s lie that you are too weak to choose.  We have the power of the Almighty God on your side.  We get to choose!  We have to recognize this truth and choose to walk in our new nature.  God knows we need to constantly be saturating our minds and hearts with His Word and His promises to be able to be faithful and impact this world for His glory.  So, how do we think on things above when surrounded?  And what are the things above?

Sometimes we forget that we died.  This reality seems strange when we are obviously still breathing, yet this truth is more than symbolism, it is a spiritual reality.  Just as Christ went before us, died and rose again, we, too, must recognize that our flesh was crucified and we no longer live for self.  It is this reckoning that helps us to recognize the reality of our lives in Christ.  We are not alive to sin any longer.  We live to please God now.  Choosing to indulge in sinful lifestyle should be foreign to us now.  That is the battle.  The things of this world lose their appeal when we see them for what they really are – there is no comparison a cheap world substitute can have with the things of God.

But sometimes it is hard for us to understand what it means to think on things above.  Is it clouds and harps that will give us the conviction to stay faithful?  Hardly.  Heaven has often been pictured as a bunch of clouds and cherubic beings (eating chocolate – my version).  Is that what we are to think on to give us strength?  No, something far greater – knowing and seeing God.  No more pain, no more tears,  no more sin!  The absence of temptation.  Let that sink in.  No more battles.  No more fears.  Just finally in the presence of the One Who made us, knows us completely and loves us more than anyone ever could.  That is our hope realized.  Whatever Heaven promises, the greatest is finally being with the One Who made our souls to worship Him – where we belong.  Until then, think on His truths, set our minds on His kingdom, on His Word.  We might be plunged into difficult surroundings, but we still have a choice to think on what our soul really longs for – God.

Lord, help us to think on You.  Be our life, be our joy, be our all in all.  Help us to keep on – pressing on to know You more until we finally are in Your presence.  May we be faithful and accomplish Your purposes here on earth.