Thursday, 26 November 2015

Growing in sin?

I've been reminded of a picture I saw in a book once about the Christian life. It illustrates how walking with Jesus in our lives makes us aware of our sin. That might lead to an increased holiness, but we don't always notice the positive changes, because our progress is marked by an even greater increase in awareness of sin.

The green line shows our level of holiness, gradually increasing as we get to know Jesus better. The red line shows our awareness of our own sin, also growing as we get to know Jesus better, but at a steeper rate. After all, awareness of sin has to come before the changes that increase our holiness. 

The awareness is usually the thing that pushes us to the cross when we first become a Christian, when we realise that only Christ's death and offer of forgiveness can deal with the gap between what we are and what we know we should be. But the problem comes as the gap grows. Often the picture looks like this.

Our sense of sin has grown, but our view of the cross has not. We've started well by trusting in Jesus, but the cross alone doesn't seem enough. So we try to close the gap in our own strength and by our own works. That will never work. What we need to do instead is increase our understanding of the cross.

Just as we start the Christian life at the cross, so we continue, day by day, coming to the cross as we regularly face the bleak reality of our continuing sin and failure.

We all need to come back to the fundamentals again and again to remember that Jesus is our everything, his cross is sufficient. There is nothing bad enough that I have done that the cross cannot handle.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Some thoughts on the character of Saul in Acts

Why did Paul stand back and and give approval when Stephen was stoned to death in Acts 8:1? He approved of Stephen's death, but didn't join in with the stoning, he just guarded their coats (7:58).

Is it because he lacked the courage to throw stones himself? Was Saul essentially a coward who let others do the dirty work? Or is it that, as a Pharisee, he was determined to always do what is right by the letter of the law, and he recognised that the stoning of Stephen breached legal procedure.

Saul's active opposition is described in Acts 9:1-2. His hatred for the followers of Christ was murderous, but he got the paperwork right, and his intention was to "take them as prisoners to Jerusalem." (9:2)

Saul persecuted the church, but always did it by the book. He was a Pharisee, building his life on a legalistic righteousness. His mistake at the stoning of Stephen was that he failed to see his approval of murder as sin. He did nothing to stop the stoning, and didn't think that his inaction made him as guilty as those who acted to kill Stephen.

The things we don't do but should are no less serious that the sins we actively commit. Its Pharisaical to ignore the right we should be doing and call it obedience.