Take your sin seriously. Kill it before it kills you. Point it out. Leave no room for silly games or foolish antics. Suffocate your sin. Feel it’s brunt—but remember Jesus.
He that has learned to feel his sins…has learned the two hardest and greatest lessons in Christianity. (J.I. Packer)
We don’t like to talk about our sins. Even as those in Christ—where we know and believe all our sin has been forgiven—we still feel a sense of shame, of regret, of awkwardness when talking about our sin. But talking about sin is the only way forward to sanctification.
Christians needs to recover the art, so to speak, of being honest about sin. Not just sin in general, of course, but personal sin. The more we are honest, open and—in Packer’s words—“feel our sins,” the further we progress in holiness.
Three are three different ways we can do better at this.
Don’t Hide It
Trying to hide your sins—specifically from God—is like attempting to run away from your shadow. It’s not going to happen. Not only is it impossible to hide your sins from God, but it’s also foolish. And it only exacerbates the issue at hand—your sin.
As painful as it may be, confessing your sin is the best thing to do. This is part of “feeling our sins.” In order to truly understand the depth of our sins, we must not hide them, but confess them. Putting them out in the open, in full transparency, helps you become more like Jesus.
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By George Grant — 8 months ago
Grief gripped the entire Nashville community. In shock, as pundits and politicians attempted to make sense of the senseless, across our presbytery men and women gathered in their homes, schools, and churches to pray. We did not need to ask, “Why did this have to happen? Why did this have to happen to us?” We know why. It was for precisely this sort of calamity that Jesus came in the first place. He came to deliver us from our sin and the corruption of this valley of tears.
“Time after time mankind is driven against the rocks of the horrid reality of a fallen creation. And time after time mankind must learn the hard lessons of history—the lessons that for some dangerous and awful reason we can’t seem to keep in our collective memory.” Hilaire Belloc
Day dawned on March 27th in Middle Tennessee with the redbuds blooming, the songbirds trilling, and the gentle breeze blowing under crystalline springtime skies. There was little portent of what the unfolding of the day might bring. Several committees had gathered and were diligently working on preparations for the upcoming stated meeting of the Nashville Presbytery. The senior pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Chad Scruggs, was in one room, and several of his elders were in the next room over.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, our deliberations were interrupted by a flurry of calls and texts: there was an active shooter at Covenant’s school facility. We emptied into the hallway, stricken, eyes clouded with unbelief, horror, and grief. Spontaneous cries of supplication and intercession went up. The Covenant men hurried on their way back to the church. The rest of us began frenzied monitoring of the news while contacting our own flocks and families to mobilize prayer.
Our worst fears were realized. A disturbed young woman armed with assault weapons and seething hate shot her way into the well-secured building and proceeded to take the lives of three 9-year-old students and three adults before the Nashville Metro Police were forced to stop the assailant with lethal force. One of the victims was the daughter of Pastor Scruggs.
Grief gripped the entire Nashville community. In shock, as pundits and politicians attempted to make sense of the senseless, across our presbytery men and women gathered in their homes, schools, and churches to pray. We did not need to ask, “Why did this have to happen? Why did this have to happen to us?” We know why. It was for precisely this sort of calamity that Jesus came in the first place. He came to deliver us from our sin and the corruption of this valley of tears. Moreover, He comforts us in our pain and sorrow.
By Scott Aniol — 2 years ago
God’s purpose for calling out a people for himself and unifying them together into one body under Christ is that his great wisdom might be marveled at by supernatural beings, ultimately bringing him supreme glory. Now what does it take for supernatural beings to marvel? It takes something supernatural, and God’s eternal plan of regenerating sinful people and uniting them together in one body is clearly that kind of supernatural act that would cause supernatural beings to marvel at the manifold wisdom of God.
What makes the events of Paul’s mission work in Philippi (Acts 16) so interesting for us is that this one of the first times that we are introduced to specific individuals who are converted and joined to the body of Christ. Luke takes note of a few individuals earlier in the book such as Paul himself or Sergius Paulus on Crete, but most of the time he just tells about groups of people who accepted the gospel. In Acts 16, Luke records the conversion of three specific individuals—Lydia, a slave girl, and a jailer.
The record of the salvation of these individuals serves a greater purpose than simply to provide interesting conversion stories. The fact that Luke, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose to record the conversions of these three specific individuals was to teach us some important truths regarding the power of the gospel and Christ’s plan in building his church. Comparing and contrasting these three individuals help us to draw some conclusions regarding the nature of the gospel and the purpose of the church.
The Universal Appeal of the Gospel
Christ could hardly have chosen three more different people to save than Lydia, the slave girl, and the jailer. Notice how different they were.
First, their nationalities were different. Philippi was quite a cosmopolitan city. It was fairly large and influential, it was a common retirement spot for Roman military men, and it attracted much commerce. Lydia had evidently come to Philippi for the reason of commerce. Verse 13 says that she was from Thyatira, which was a city in modern Turkey. Thyatira was known for its fabric dyes, and evidently Lydia had come to Philippi to deal in dyed cloth.
The slave girl was likely a native of Philippi, and so she was probably Greek. As we’ll see in a moment as well, she was a worshiper of the Greek god Apollo, so that further indicates that she was probably Greek.
The jailer was a Roman soldier, maybe even a retired Roman official who had retired in Philippi.
So here we have three individuals who come to Christ, each of different nationality—West Asian, Greek, and Roman.
It probably goes without saying, but these individuals differed in gender as well. This may seem like a mundane point to us, but in that day women were looked down upon, and here Lydia becomes an influential member of the church, one of the few believers to be named in Paul’s letter to the church here. In fact, many scholars believe that Lydia was wealthy, and that her home was the meeting place for the church here.
Which leads to the next difference. These three individuals were of completely different social status. Lydia was a business woman. She was likely wealthy. Not just anyone would have had space in their home to entertain guests like she did in verse 15.
The girl, as verse 16 tells us, was a slave. You couldn’t get much more opposite to a wealthy business woman than a slave. The girl was a member of the lowest class of their society.
The jailer fell somewhere in the middle. Being a soldier in the Roman army, he would have been your average middle-class worker.
The religious beliefs of these individuals differed as well. Lydia, according to verse 14, was a worshiper of God. She was a Gentile proselyte to Judaism. You might remember that on Paul’s first missionary journey it was his practice when he first entered a new city to visit the Jewish synagogue there. Now that his second journey had found him further away from Israel, the city of Philippi evidently had no synagogue. In order to have a synagogue, a city had to have at least 10 Jewish male heads of households in the city. So even in a fairly large city like Philippi, there were not even 10 male Jews. So Paul found the next best thing. As verse 13 tells us, on the Sabbath they went down to the river, and found several women who had gathered there to worship, and Lydia was among them. She had probably converted to Judaism in Thyatira where there was more Jewish witness, and when she came to Philippi had joined with other God-fearing woman in their Sabbath worship.
Once again, you could not get more opposite to Lydia in terms of religion than the slave girl. Verse 16 says that she had a spirit of divination. It literally says that “she had a spirit of Python.” According to the Greek myths, Zeus, the king of the gods, brought into existence at the town of Delphi an oracle, a place where the gods could be consulted. The oracle was guarded by Python, a female serpent, and answers from the gods were obtained through a priestess. According to mythology, Apollo, the son of Zeus, killed the serpent and took control of the shrine. He made the priestess, known as the Pythia or Pythoness, his servant. As a consequence, Apollo became known as the god of prophecy. Sometimes the name “Python” was associated directly with Apollo.
Based on the myth, at this time, there was an actual shrine and a succession of priestesses at Delphi, which wasn’t too far from Philippi. There are ancient pictures of the Pythoness sitting on a three‑legged stool over a cleft in the earth from which the oracle was supposed to proceed. When about to prophesy, she would go into a kind of ecstatic trance and utter a stream of unconnected phrases and obscure words. People would come from all over Greece to the shrine to enquire of the oracle, especially concerning the future. A priest would put their questions to the Pythoness, and her utterances, which were supposedly inspired by Apollo, would be interpreted by the priest and presented to the questioner, often in an ambiguous form.
The prophetic powers of Apollo, supposedly manifested in the priestess at Delphi, were also thought to be present in other women. Like the priestess, their utterances would be accompanied by convulsions or other abnormal behavior, which were assumed to be evidence of the presence of a spirit from Apollo, or a “spirit of Python.” In some cases, such behaviors may have been self‑induced; in other cases, they may have arisen from mental disturbance, or physical defects in the brain. Usually such a woman would be a slave, often owned by a group of men, who charged clients for her services.
So in Acts 16:16, the “slave girl who had a spirit of Python” was one of these women supposed to have similar powers to those of the Pythoness at Delphi, and to whom people came seeking the future. And evidently in this case she actually was demon possessed, which made her do things that people thought proved she was a Pythoness.
By Ryan Hawkins — 2 years ago
While sin still is “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your side,” and so may we seek to avoid it, above all, let’s be thankful to the Barb-Taker, the Thorn-Wearer. Because he’s the one who, in love, not only illustrated, but who embodied, the indescribable harm of our sin. As Paul says, “For he who knew no sin became sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. – Numbers 33:55
The Oxford dictionary defines a barb as “a sharp projection near the end of an arrow, fishhook, or similar item.” While a thorn—well, you know what a thorn is.
Imagine a barb in your eye. A thorn in your side. Talk about painful. Debilitating. Something that hurts.
That’s the picture God uses to warn the pre-land Israelites what it’ll be like if they don’t drive out the nations. The nations will be “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your side.” Translation: They’ll really hurt you. As he says, “They shall trouble you.”
Yet the bigger question is, Why? Why will these nations hurt the Israelites?
Why They Will Be Barbs and Thorns
To answer, first, let’s think about what we would assume to be the reason. With the language of “barbs” and “thorns,” our initial answers would probably assume that the nations would physically harm the Israelites. For example, that the nations would attack the Israelites back—that’d make the most sense of barb- and thorn-like language, wouldn’t it?
Or, if we were to take a non-physical answer, perhaps we’d assume that the nations will make the Israelites less prosperous. That sure would be “troubling.”
Or finally, perhaps we’d put a more modern emphasis on it and make it something like the nations would make the Israelite’s feel less secure and important and loved.
All those would be harmful. But the Lord gives us the true reason. And it isn’t any of the above. Instead, it’s simple: The nations will be barbs and thorns because they’ll lead the Israelites to turn away from God and to sin. It’s that simple.
A Much Bigger Barb
Now, let’s be honest. We may hear that and think it sounds just religious. “Really? The intensely painful barb is just idolatry and sin?”
Yet the reason God calls uses such an extreme descriptions as “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” is precisely because God wanted them (and wants us) to know how incredibly hurtful idolatry and sin actually are.
They may think that leaving the nations and engaging in their worship wouldn’t be that big of a deal—for “We’re still God’s people!” as they often thought, or “God is gracious after all!” as we often think. But the reality is, the picture of idolatry and sin’s effects is eyes being pierced with barbs and sides being struck with thorns.