Surrendered—to Sin

ID 52189255 © Steve Allen | Dreamstime.com

Psalm 81 begins with miracles of God’s deliverance and ends with more He longed to do—except. 

Except He couldn’t.

Verses 11-12 tell us why, “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.”

God surrendered Israel to her sin. Let’s examine their disobedience and the consequences:

1. “My people would not listen to me.” Did Israel suffer from worldy distractions or selective hearing? Both end in disobedience. I see people plugged in today. To what are we listening? Does God’s voice stand a chance? Are we willing to silence the clamor and focus on the One? How’s your listening?

2. “Israel would not submit to me.” I can’t tell you how many times one of our kids asked for counsel, listened, and then did exactly what they wanted to do. It never ended well. Submission requires obedience—not just head acknowledgment, but heart application. How’s your doing?

3. “So I gave them over . . .” My NIV notes read, “Thus for God to abandon his people to their sin is the most fearful of punishments.” While Psalm 81:12 gives us the Reader’s Digest version, Romans 1 elaborates on the process—and it’s not pretty. Nothing is untouched: mind, body, spirit. Ravi Zaccharias said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” How’s your repenting?

Don’t let sin get so far that God surrenders you to it. Listen. Submit. Obey.

Suggested Activity:

  • Lead a blindfolded member of the family through an obstacle course. Have one person give directions while the others try to distract them. Talk about how to focus on God’s voice.
  • Delayed obedience is disobedience. Establish a reward system for quick response times. 
  • Look at the end of Psalm 81:13-16. What did God’s people miss by choosing sin instead?

Master the Beast

ID 85231234 © Mikael Males | Dreamstime.com

A beast lives in your home. Wary eyes watch every move. Fangs drip. Claws grip the ground as the beast gathers himself for an ambush.

And his prey? You.

God minced no words as he spoke to Cain about sin, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7 NIV; emphasis mine).”

The Hunter and the Hunted

“Sin is crouching at your door.” Cain had already sinned by bringing an unacceptable sacrifice to God. He now had a choice: confess and repent or nurse his grudge against the LORD.

Sin hunts relentlessly. Not content with its first feeding, it crouches at the door in search of more. God tells us to flip on the porch light. Call out that sin. Confess it. Bring it into the light. Move from the hunted to the hunter.

The Appetite

“It desires to have you.” Don’t be fooled. Sin craves you like a dieter craves carbs. It won’t be satisfied until you’ve been destroyed. Physically. Emotionally. Relationally.

Sin will feed on every emotion, every fear, and every shred of flesh you have, then it will crack open your bones, and suck your marrow dry. Give no quarter. 

The Boss

“You must rule over it.” You can, you know. Master the beast. When we enter a relationship with Jesus, Christ breaks sin’s hold over us. When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, He empowers us to master the beast, in whatever form it takes. 

Do you have a pet sin? One you’ve coddled? Allowed in the house? Fed even?

For me, being right became that pet. I thought being right gave me value. Worth. Credibility. 

Instead, it devoured me. 

I went to war over it. I lost sight of the value others brought. I lost value—or so I thought—when others dismissed me.

It had to go. 

So, I released it. My right to be right. 

It stays outside now. No more fangs. No more claws. No more entry. 

Are there other sins that crouch at the door? Yep, but I have a Shepherd. Together we master the beasts. 

Workout of the Week: Master the Beast

Memory Verse: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7 NIV).”

Meditation Passage: Romans 6

Do It: Team up with the Holy Spirit. Start by finding an appropriate Scripture, memorize it, and apply it. 

A Hardened Heart Leads to Spiritual Brain Fog

I want to address an observation I’ve made as the culture gap widens in our country. In times past, though two parties differed, sound arguments could be made for both sides. Open debate where ideas could be expressed and examined from many angles helped us think through issues and, even if we disagreed, enabled us to understand and even respect the other side. 

Today, if you differ from the other side, you are labeled. Branded as not simply wrong, but evil. True debate is absent. If you differ in opinion, you must be silenced—at least in the view of one side. As for logic, long-term consequences, common sense, and human dignity? Often, that’s absent too. 

The result? Gender confusion. Variants pushed as norms. Convenience taking precedence over the sanctity of life. 

How did we get here? And are we in the church guilty of the same thing?

Sin carries its own punishment. When an individual turns from God, she suffers for it. And the suffering touches more than the spirit. It touches the mind as well. Paul gave us insight into the process in this passage from Ephesians and developed it more fully in Romans 1:

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV

Note the progression:

Futile Thinking: Merriam-Webster defines futile as “serving no useful purpose, occupied with trifles.”

Darkened Understanding: Darkened understanding is no understanding at all. 

Ignorance: They don’t know what they don’t know.

Hardened Hearts: Paul points to a hard heart as the source of their ignorance. Hardened toward what? God. 

Lost Sensitivity: Sensitivity to what? To God. To right and wrong.

Indulgent Sensuality: Does the fact that the average age of children trafficked in the sex trade is dropping, now between 11 and 13, speak to this issue?

Paul spelled out a warning to the early church that applies to believers today. Are we experiencing spiritual brain fog? If so, we need to check our obedience. Our sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Our response to conviction. 

Keep a clear head. Deal quickly with sin before the heart hardens and spiritual brain fog sets in. 

Workout of the Week: A Hardened Heart and Spiritual Brain Fog

Memory Verse: So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV

Meditation Passage: Romans 1

Do It: Keep your heart soft.

Church and Culture: On the Same Page?

Part 1: Building Bridges

Remarkable things are happening in our country. Suddenly, character matters. New reports appear almost daily:

  • Urban Meyer: He was held accountable for his knowledge of an assistant coach’s domestic abuse.
  • Harvey Weinstein: His sexual misconduct against women propelled the #MeToo movement into existence.
  • #ChurchToo: Scores of sexual abuse cases and their coverups have been brought to light, both adult and child sexual abuse, both in Protestant and Catholic settings.

Continue Reading »

Come To The Altar

Come to the Altar

Altars. For the modern believer, the altar represents a place of surrender, perhaps of petition, intercession, or a step of faith.

For biblical characters, the altar meant sacrifice.

And sacrifice meant death.

Death and bloodshed.

When Abraham and Isaac climbed Mount Moriah, it wasn’t for prayer. It wasn’t to rededicate their lives. It was to worship through sacrifice and something or someone would lose their life.

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’

‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied.

‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’

Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.” (Gen 22:6-8 NIV)

That day, Abraham sacrificed, not Isaac, though it looked like that initially, but his right to himself. Abraham’s right to do what he pleased. Even his right to favor Isaac.

God asks the same from us. Consider the following verses:

  • “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1
  • Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” Matthew 16:24-25
  • “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6:5-7
  • For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

Modern life keeps death at a distance. The food I eat comes neatly packaged. I don’t have to wring the neck of the chicken we ate last night. The occasional funeral is as close to death as I get.

Even the cross becomes a picture. A piece of art. Jewelry I wear around my neck. Rough wood, stained with blood, punctured by nails, and bearing a criminal, is not part of the justice system in 2018.

Real death leaves a hole.

Life stops.

Breath stills.

A beating heart falls silent.

What needs to die in you today?

Take it to the altar and put that thing to death.

Workout of the Week: Come to the Altar

Memory Verse: For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

Meditation Passage: Genesis 22

Just Do It: Take it to the altar and put that thing to death.