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Monday, March 23, 2009

Punished "by" our Sin #4

We’ve been talking about sin as a monkey—you bring it home, it grows, it takes control, it busts stuff up, it hurts your family and flings poo. No one likes the effects of the full grown monkey. He must be snuffed out and stuff needs to be fixed.

God doesn’t punish us because we bring home the monkey. The punishment is the monkey. It will kill you. You brought that thing home. Now watch what happens.

God doesn’t wish the monkey on us or inflict us. He doesn’t taunt the monkey and get it to play mean tricks on us.

God says, I can protect you from the monkey. Follow me. Shadow me.

But, we disregard him. We refuse to shadow.

He doesn’t punish us so much FOR our sins as much as we step outside of His wisdom, counsel, guidance, love, and gracious protection.

Yes, there are passages in scripture that clearly represent God as pouring out his wrath. But take a close look at how it works. Again, God is not arbitrarily smashing people’s toys to somehow get back at them.

One of the key passages concerning God’s wrath can be found in Romans Chapter 1. Here it is from The Message:

18-23But God's angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn't treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

24-25So God said, in effect, "If that's what you want, that's what you get." It wasn't long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!

26-27Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn't know how to be human either—women didn't know how to be women, men didn't know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

28-32Since they didn't bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it's not as if they don't know better. They know perfectly well they're spitting in God's face. And they don't care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

We enslave ourselves and dig ourselves deeper in spiritual debt or emptiness when we refuse to shadow God. It’s a deep cancer.

Joel Green and Mark Baker have some great things to say on this in their book, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross.

“It doesn’t mean that our behavior is irrelevant, simply that the way to fix our relationship with God doesn’t involve behavior modification as much as it involves complete submission and surrender.”

It’s easy to imagine someone who does none of the really bad things on a list in scripture (say, one of the Pauline lists) and still has no relationship with him.

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