Paul: The Chief of Sinners? (Pt 5)

Daily Devotional| Day 349

“Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:13-15, NKJV).

In yesterday’s presentation we covered the final part of Romans 7:13-25. Twice in the passage Paul talked about sin dwelling in him: “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (v. 17; 20). Because of its relevance in the scheme of redemption and grace, we need to address this issue. But we will do so briefly. At an appropriate time, we hope to cover it in-depth. What Paul said raises the question, “How does sin come to dwell in a person?” Our opening Scripture from the Letter of James gives us the answer. Let us look at the text.

James breaks down for us the process by which sin is born in a person. The process starts with temptation and desire. Temptation is aroused by an individual’s own desire. Desire itself is not a sin. It is part of who we are as persons created in the image of God. We are not desire-less creatures. Whether desire becomes harmful or beneficial depends on what (or whom) we desire, how we desire and what we do with our desire. For example, if we desire to spend more time with our spouse to strengthen our love, that is beneficial (good) desire. However, if we desire to have someone else’s spouse, that is sinful (harmful) desire (Matthew 5:27-28).

 According to James, “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” This means our desires can determine the direction of our lives, depending on where we channel the desires. That is how the process of sin begins. At this stage (of desire and temptation), sin is not dwelling in us because it is not born in us yet. It is still possible at this point to fight the temptation off and change course.

 But if we entertain the desire and allow it to persist, then the process continues to the next logical steps: conceptionbirth and consequence of sin. James tells us how it happens, “Then, when desire has conceivedit gives birth to sinand sinwhen it is full-grown, brings forth death.” This process played out in the case of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6).

A similar thing happened with Cain (Genesis 4:1-8). In his case, listen to what God told him, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). Sin was not dwelling in Cain at the time; it was at the door, knocking hard and waiting for an opportunity to enter and be born in Cain. God knew what was happening, so He warned Cain to resist the temptation (and desire) before the desire conceived and gave birth to sin. He offered him a way out of the temptation, but Cain refused.

Based on what James says, we know that desire is a powerful passion. It is so powerful it can conceive and give birth to sin. This is how sin comes to dwell in people. Committing sin is how we invite sin to dwell in us. Sin will not dwell in us without our permission and cooperation. We give the permission when we channel our desires into harmful things and place ourselves in temptation’s path.

Each time we repeat the sin, it is strengthened; and it gains greater control over us. Soon it becomes a stronghold and we feel powerless to overcome it. From this point on, a master-slave relationship is established between sin and the person who commits it. This is what Paul was referring to when he said, “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:17). Sin dwells only in people who commit it. But it does not dwell in those who do not commit it.

Now that we have addressed the question of how sin comes to dwell in people, we are ready for the next presentation. That will be tomorrow, God willing. Until then, I bid you peace. May the grace of God enable you to resist temptation and live free. May the same grace further enable you to conceive and give birth to things that are noble and edifying. Amen.

For further studyJohn 8:31-36 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

The Eye-Body Connection: Part II

Daily Devotional: Day 120

Today’s message is a continuation of yesterday’s. We saw that the problem of a bad eye can be traced to the garden of Eden, where the serpent tempted Eve to look lustfully at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That look was so strong that it caused Eve to sin, followed by Adam. Soon after they sinned, the Bible says their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, and fear gripped them upon hearing the voice of God (cf. Genesis 3:7-10). The first human sin occurred through lust of the eye. That should tell us something. Think about it: Jesus says the lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, if the enemy wants to destroy you, one effective way is to put out your lamp.

If you want to walk with God, it is necessary that you learn to discipline your eye and restrain it from lustful affections. You can’t allow your eye to lust after everything ‘nice’ that flashes across you, because not all nice-looking things glorify God. You should be aware of the difference and steer your eye away from whatever can lead you into sin: sin of envy, greed, idolatry, jealousy, fornication, adultery, pride, hate, rivalry, etc. If the eye is left to lust after the wrong things, darkness will take over the body. From that point on, your body becomes vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. Why? Because satan is attracted to darkness. In fact, he thrives in an environment of darkness.

In general, as Christians, we have underestimated the supernatural importance of our eyes and have given too much room for our eyes to flirt with the sinful pleasures of the world. The Bible calls this “the lust of the eye” (cf. 1 John 2:16), and says it is not from the Father, but from the world.

Listen to something else Jesus said about the eye, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:28-29, bold emphasis added). If a simple lustful look aimed at someone who isn’t your wife (or husband) means you have united yourself to the person and committed adultery with her/him, it tells you how powerful the eye is, and why we need to keep it in check. Jesus isn’t asking you to physically pull out your eyes. The point He is making is that you should discipline your eye and bring it under total submission to the law of God, for it is better, if necessary, to lose an eye and be saved than for you to lose your whole body to hell.

There is one man in the Bible who understood the wisdom of this teaching and went so far as to make a covenant with his eyes. His name is Job. In his own words, “I have made a covenant with my eyesWhy then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1, emphasis added). Job was not a ‘Christian.’ Nor did he experience the measure of New Covenant blessings we have today. Yet, he had the wisdom to make a covenant with his eyes. This tells us that we, too, can make a covenant with our eyes: to dwell only on things that glorify the Lord and to look away from things that can lead us to sin. This isn’t just about our relationship with people of the opposite sex. Lust of the eye covers everything within our field of vision; everything that attracts our eyes: the flashy vehicles, the big houses, the latest fashion in town, the latest gadgets, the latest phones, the glamor of entertainment and sports, the obsession with shopping, etc. Whatever you lust after, you become its slave.

From today, use your eyes to glorify God. Keep your eyes pure and you will enjoy the blessings of a light-filled body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Pray to the heavenly Father about today’s message.

For further study: Proverbs 4:1-27

Understanding the Eye-Body Connection

Daily Devotional: Day 119

“The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:34-35, NKJV).

Look carefully at today’s Bible text, because Jesus is revealing to us a profound truth about our eye that we don’t often hear about. Buckle up, and let’s listen to what the Divine Eye Doctor has to say. Let’s unpack Jesus’ words sentence by sentence.

The first important statement Jesus makes is, “The lamp of the body is the eye” (If I were you, I would memorize this Scripture!). A lamp’s purpose is to bring light to a place. The point Jesus is making is that your body is like a place or a room. The source of light which brings light to this room is your eyes. This is powerful revelation. It means the level of light or darkness in your body depends on the right functioning of your eyes. Therefore, the health of your body depends on the health of your eyes. This is the point Jesus makes next. He says, “when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.” A good eye brings light into your body-room. But a bad eye leaves your body in total darkness. Then, Jesus adds the following admonition: “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.” His point is, take care that your eye does not become a bad eye. At this point, you might be asking, “So, how do I know my eye is good or bad?” Relax, the Bible has the answers.

Since we don’t have the whole day to dissect everything in this passage, let me point out a simple bible truth. A bad eye is an eye that permits itself to desire whatever opposes the law of God. And a good eye is the eye that turns away from evil passions, lusts, envy, etc. and keeps its focus instead on things that please God. The human eye, if not brought under control, almost always lusts after things. Don’t look far. It all started in the garden of Eden. Listen to this: “So when the woman [Eve] saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6, bold emphasis added). This was the first time the human eye was let loose to desire what opposed the law of God. You know the rest of the story.

Anytime you allow your eye to lust after things that are detrimental to your Christian calling, you are turning your eye into a bad eye; and this will bring darkness into your body. Think for a minute about how the Devil tempted Eve. The Bible says that Eve saw that the tree was pleasant to the eyes and desirable. Next time you land on something or someone that seems pleasant to your eyes, pause and ask yourself if God would be pleased where your eyes want to take you.

Due to time and space limitation, I shall pause today’s Devotional here. There are some important angles to this topic that I believe should be covered. So, God willing, I shall present Part II of this message tomorrow. Until then, take good care of your eyes.

 I leave you with the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Pray to the Father about today’s message.

For further study: 1 John 2:15-16

Stay Motivated. Expect Jesus.

Daily Devotional: Day 39

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he [Jesus] shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3, KJV).

Expectation triggers motivation. And motivation leads to preparation. If you’re not expecting anything or anyone, you prepare differently or you don’t prepare at all. Whatever you’re hoping for (expecting) in life motivates you to prepare accordingly. This can be applied to many aspects of life including marriage, career, vocation, academia, etc. We must not underestimate the power of expectation. When you’re looking forward to something of value, it keeps you motivated. This creates the incentive to put in all the work necessary for welcoming that reality. If, however, you’re not looking forward to anything worthwhile, you feel like there’s nothing to live for; this can trigger lethargy and unhappiness. In short, you stay motivated when you have a worthy goal in view. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus. This brings us to today’s Bible passage, in which John urges the children of God to stay motivated through constant expectation of Jesus.

Expectation of Jesus’ coming is a great motivation for living a holy life, i.e. keeping yourself pure from the contamination of sin and the lusts of the flesh. Today, not many professed Christians value a life of holiness. No wonder, because few professed Christians today can be said to be actively looking forward to the coming of Jesus. The point is, the degree to which you’re expecting Jesus greatly influences the degree of your preparation to meet Jesus. John says anyone who is expecting to meet Jesus keeps himself pure as he [Jesus] is pure. The context here is about moral purity. The Bible’s logic is simple: Jesus is pure. When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. If we truly have this hope, naturally, we’ll feel motivated to keep ourselves pure. Let’s stay motivated. Let’s prepare to welcome Jesus. 

Pray:

Daddy, thank you the privilege to be called your child. I know that I’m yours now. And when Jesus is revealed, I shall be like him for I shall see him as he is. By your Spirit in me, enable me to prepare for Christ’s coming by keeping myself pure. With you, all things are possible. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Romans 8:16-39