William Plumer – Sin: An Infinite Evil

Tell me what you think of sin, and I will tell you what you think of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, of the divine Law, of the blessed gospel, and of all necessary truth. He who looks upon sin merely as a fiction, as a misfortune, or as a trifle sees no necessity either for deep repentance or a great atonement. He who sees no sin in himself will feel no need of a Savior. He who is conscious of no evil at work in his heart will desire no change of nature. He who regards sin as a slight affair will think a few tears or an outward reformation ample satisfaction. The truth is, no man ever thought himself a greater sinner before God than he really was. Nor was any man ever more distressed at his sins than he had just cause to be. He who never felt it to be an evil and a bitter thing to depart from God (Jer 2:19) is to this hour an enemy of his Maker, a rebel against his rightful and righteous Sovereign.

When God speaks of the evil of sin, it is in such language as this: “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer 2:12-13). God is a God of truth and would never speak thus about anything that was not atrocious and enormous in its very nature. Yet it should be observed that He mentions only such sins as are chargeable to all men, even the most moral and decent.

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A. W. Pink – What is Sin?

What is sin? Ah, what man is capable of supplying an adequate answer: “Who can understand his errors?” (Ps 19:12). A volume might be written thereon and still much be left unsaid. Only the One against Whom it is committed can fully understand its nature or measure its enormity. And yet, from the light that God has furnished us, a partial answer at least can be gathered. For example, we read in 1 John 3:4, “Sin is the transgression of the law”; and that such transgression is not confined to the outward act is clear from “the thought of foolishness is sin” (Pro 24:9). But what is meant by “sin is the transgression of the law”? It means that sin is a trampling upon God’s holy commandment. It is an act of defiance against the Lawgiver. [Because] the Law [is] “holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12), it follows that any breach of it is an evil and enormity1 that God alone is capable of estimating.

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Tom Ascol – Give Them Law and Gospel

If parents are going to bring their children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), then they should understand the role of both the law and the gospel in that task. The former reveals to us God’s all-encompassing will and the latter reveals to us His all-sufficient provision for sinners who violate that will.

The Law Reveals God’s Will

The first verse that Donna and I taught each of our six children is Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” By doing this we were teaching them God’s law—their and our Creator’s revealed will for their lives. He calls them to live in obedience to their parents. He calls us not to “provoke” them “to anger” but to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). We are both, together with all people, accountable to obey God.

That accountability stems from the most fundamental truth in the world—that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). As the Creator of all things He has the right to rule over and require whatever He deems right of His creatures. He has summarized His requirements of us in the Ten Commandments. Jesus further summarized them in the greatest commandment and the second that is like it. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37,39).

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Ryan Reeves – Why Do We Lie?

We can usually always admit that we were dumb as kids. In my case, I had a habit of doing something wrong and then completely denying my actions. In one case, my mother began to keep lemon candy in her purse, which she would distribute in small numbers during church. They weren’t very good but, hey, #sugar.

The trouble for me was I knew she kept them in her purse–and I knew where she kept her purse. So, over the course of one weekend, I managed to steal the entire package, bit by bit.

Then Sunday came. No candy. Apocalypse Now.

The funniest part of the story is I steadfastly swore that I had not taken any candy. Even if everyone knew I liked them, and knew I was capable of taking them without asking, and could see guilt written on my face–nope not me. Someone else must have taken them.

I can’t remember the punishment but my mother no longer carried candy so frivolously out in the open.

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Thomas Brooks – Are We Mad Now to Pursue after Holiness?

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14

Objection: Some may object, and say, We see that no persons on earth are exposed to such troubles, dangers, afflictions, and persecutions, as those are exposed to who mind holiness, who follow after holiness. These are days wherein men labor to frown holiness out of the world, and to scorn and kick holiness out of the world; and do you think that we are mad now to pursue after holiness? Now to this great and sore objection, I shall give these following answers:

1. First, It must be granted that afflictions and persecutions has been the common lot and portion of the people of God in this world. Abel was persecuted by Cain, (1 John 3:12), and Isaac by Ishmael, (Gal 4:29). That seems to be a standing law, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution,” (2 Tim 3:12). A man may have many faint wishes and cold desires after godliness, and yet escape persecution; yea, he may make some essays and attempts as if he would be godly, and yet escape persecution; but when a man is thoroughly resolved to be godly, and sets himself in good earnest upon pursuing after holiness and living a life of godliness, then he must expect to meet with afflictions and persecutions. It is neither a Christian’s gifts nor his graces, it is neither his duties nor his services that can secure him. Whoever escapes, the godly man shall not escape persecution in one kind or another, in one degree or another. He that will live up to holy rules, and live out holy principles, must prepare for sufferings. All the roses of holiness are surrounded with pricking briers. The history of the ten persecutions, and that little book of martyrs, the 11th of the Hebrews, and Mr. Foxe his Acts and Monuments,20 with many other treatises that are extant, do abundantly evidence that from age to age, and from one generation to another, they that have been born after the flesh have persecuted them that have been born after the Spirit, (Gal 4:29), and that the seed of the serpent have been still a-multiplying of troubles upon the seed of the woman. Would any man take the church’s picture, saith Luther, then let him paint a poor silly maid sitting in a wilderness, compassed about with hungry lions, wolves, boars, and bears, and with all manner of other cruel, hurtful beasts, and in the midst of a great many furious men assaulting her every moment and minute, for this is her condition in the world. As certain as the night follows the day, so certain will that black angel, persecution, follow holiness wherever it goes. In the last of the ten persecutions, seventeen thousand holy martyrs were slain in the space of one month. And in Queen Mary’s days, or, if you will, in the Marian days, not of blessed, but of most abhorred memory, the Popish prelates21 in less than four years sacrificed the lives of eight hundred innocents to their idols! And oh that that precious innocent blood did not still cry to heaven for vengeance against this nation!

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Tony Reinke – Prisoners of Self: Incessant Autobiography in the Smartphone Age

The man doting over a smartphone screen, scrolling through media with his fingertips, is like a gorilla meticulously picking out little bugs from his own hair.

That was the subversive quip of anthropologist Thomas de Zengotita. For both the screen addict and the gorilla, neck-down focus is the attentive posture of self-image grooming.

The association here is funny (and not funny), and if C.S. Lewis were alive in the digital age, I think he’d be letting out a hearty laugh at the correlation. He would certainly offer up many warnings to us, and probably one of them would be the dangers of getting preoccupied with self-image care, or, what he called, “incessant autobiography.”

In his absence, I’ll do my best to explain his connections.

Satan as Globetrotter

Lewis’s warning against “incessant autobiography” originates from his reflections on John Milton’s Paradise Lost in a little book Lewis published as A Preface to Paradise Lost.

There Lewis is struck by Milton’s Satan, and his repressive self-focus.

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K. Scott Oliphint – The Divine Design of Salvation

Once we acknowledge that sin is universal, that it continues in every person from the point of conception on (Ps. 51:5)­—and that it is individual, that it plagues and enslaves me—we begin to see what Christians mean by “salvation.”

Since sin is rebellion against a holy God, it is impossible that such a good and holy God could overlook that rebellion. Since he is holy, he must punish all violations of his character.

This concept of God goes against more “popular” notions of him. Typically, people think that God’s love trumps everything else. He is not bothered by our rebellion. Others think God’s primary job is to forgive us, no matter our attitude toward him.

We have to recognize who God is, not what we might want him to be. We must know him according to what he says he is and does. God says that “the one who sins is the one who will die” (Ezek. 18:20). He says that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and the death that sin produces is not just physical death but eternal punishment (see Rev. 20:14, for example). The Lord is too holy to allow sin in his eternal presence. He cannot look upon, or tolerate, sin (Hab. 1:13).

An analogy might help. Suppose you have a sworn enemy who had dedicated himself to opposing and fighting against all that you are and stand for. Anything that you hold dear he vehemently opposes. His disposition toward you includes a resolve to fight against everything you love. Now suppose this enemy claims that your responsibility is to accept him as he is, to bring him into your home, and to include him in all your affairs.

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Charles Spurgeon – What if I Find Hypocrisy in Me?

Well, dear friends, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we peace towards God; but if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things (1 John 3:20). Let us confess to Him all past failures. And though we may not be conscious of hypocrisy, yet, let us say, “Lord, search and try me, and know my ways; see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:24). I have great confidence in the sincerity of any Christian man who says habitually and truthfully, “Lord, let me know the very worst of my case, whatever it is; even if all my fair prospects and bright ideals should be but dreams, the fabric of a vision…so be it; only let me know the truth. Lead me in a plain path; let me be sincere before thee, O thou heart-searching, rein-trying God!” Let us with such frank candor, such ingenuous simplicity come before the Lord. Let as many of us as fear the Lord and distrust ourselves take refuge in His omniscience against the jealousies and suspicions which haunt our own breasts. And let us do better still: let us hasten anew to the cross of Jesus and thus end our difficulties by accepting afresh the sinners’ Savior. When I have a knot to untie as to my evidence of being a child of God, and I cannot untie it, I usually follow Alexander [the Great’s] example with the Gordian knot and cut it. How cut it? Why, in this way: “Thou sayest, O conscience, this is wrong, and thus is wrong.

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Tony Reinke – Turn My Eyes from Worthless Things

Aldous Huxley called it “man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction” (Revisited, 35).

And sixty years later, our endless desire for “the totally irrelevant” has finally been matched by the endless offerings of irrelevance in our smartphones. We love to be fed worthless things.

This onslaught of produced media is a major problem for us all because we can focus our minds only on a limited number of stimuli that come at us. So, how do we discern and navigate the digital age with wise discretion?

Attentional Becoming

In the first volume of his landmark work, The Principles of Psychology, William James (1842–1910) takes a stab at explaining what it means to be an “attentive” being (1:402–458). James defines human attention, at its root, as implying “withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called distraction” (404).

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