Dead sunflower after a blizzard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sin is broken

I realized something pretty cool over the weekend. You know how you know things but you sometimes forget what those things mean to your life? I’ve been in church all my life, and–maybe it sounds strange–but sometimes I forget how to apply Scripture to real-life situations. If you haven’t grown up in church, you may not know what I’m talking about. But the Bible is so extraordinary it becomes ordinary, something you take for granted. A Bible verse, though you know it’s full of truth and God’s amazing grace, becomes just a Bible verse and not a method you should use to live your life.

One of the songs we sang this weekend at church is an older one, “Stronger” by Hillsong. And I’ve sung this song so many, many times over the years, and it’s one of my favorites, but a lyric stood out to me in a way it never had before: “Sin is broken.”

What does that mean to you? Sin is broken. The good churchy answer that I’ve honestly applied to that statement is that sin, which is our natural inclination to do what God hates, no longer has any power in our lives because of what Christ did on the cross. And that’s not wrong, by any means. That’s what it means. But that’s not all that it means.

Dead sunflower after a blizzard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dead sunflower after a blizzard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible says it over and over again that the result of sin is death. Not necessarily physical death, although that is possible, but spiritual death, death being defined as separation from God.

When sin has the authority in our lives, when we’re living under the authority of the Law, there’s nothing we can do to escape our death sentence. There’s nothing we can do to make peace with God because we can’t be perfect, and the Law requires perfection from the moment we understand that we are sinners to the day we die. And no one is good enough to accomplish that.

But what Jesus did, sacrificing Himself for us, paid that price and forged a new covenant with us, so that we don’t have to live under the Law anymore. Believing in Him covers us with grace.

Sin has no power over us. Sin is broken.

And I’d never really thought about it that way. Sin has always been that ethereal, not-quite-solid concept of the actions that we sometimes choose to do that make God sad. But when you go deeper, sin is the reason we die.

But thanks to Christ, sin is broken.  Death is defeated.

We don’t have to be afraid of death, and we don’t have to be afraid of life. We don’t have to be afraid of anything. We can choose not to. Just like we don’t have to sin. We know better. We know that God wants something better for us and that He will reward those faithful enough to endure through temptation.

So how is your fear of sin or death controlling you today? What role does it play in your decision making? In how you treat people? In how you see God? In how you see yourself? Don’t be ashamed to admit it. Everyone struggles with this.

Just remember that because of what Christ did for us sin is like a pebble in your shoe. It’s annoying. It’s something we have to deal with. But it’s not something that should direct the course of our entire life. Take your shoe off and dump it out. You don’t have to live with it. It has no power over you, and Christ has given us the strength to overcome both sin and death.

Sin can’t control us. Death can’t defeat us. Keep that in mind this Monday morning and go for the win. The war’s already won.

Nothing’s certain but death and taxes

When I was a child, I never really understood what people meant when they told me that death and taxes were the only certainties in life. Now, as an adult, I get it, although it seems to me lately that the only certainties are death and raising taxes . . . but that’s a topic for another blog post . . . .

I find it very interesting that most people in the college age group don’t think about death. Even high schoolers think about it. And practically no children think about it. It find it fascinating because death was something I thought about a lot, even as a child. I’m pretty sure it started with the death of my great grandmother — we called her Grandma Great because she was so cool.

I remember very clearly the day that she died. She was in Wichita. My family and I still lived in Houston at the time. We got the phone call, and my mom told us that Grandma Great had passed away. And for the first time I remember feeling the odd paradox of sorrow mixed with joy, that strange unexplainable feeling a believer gets when someone who knows Christ has died.

I wasn’t very old, but I was old enough to comprehend the fact that Grandma Great was in heaven and that she wasn’t in pain anymore and that she was probably up there dancing the Charleston again, like she hadn’t been able to do in years.

From that moment on, I think I looked at death differently. For that reason, I think I was able to survive the deaths of friends in high school later on, knowing all of them had been believers, knowing I would see them again.

I’m not sure how many people in my age group now think about death. Probably more than people who are in college. Normal college and high school age kids tend to think that they’ll live forever. But I do know that a lot of people are scared of it.

I suppose, on one hand, it should be scary. I mean, it’s something unknown, and it’s not exactly something you can prepare yourself for. I suppose you can read books about it, but stories of near-death experiences vary a lot. Some people see lights. Other people hear voices. Some folks see angels. Others float through tunnels. I’m not discounting any of those stories, but to me that doesn’t sound like a lot of detail.

I guess I’ve just gotten to the point in life where I recognize that death will come sooner or later (if Christ doesn’t come back in the mean time), and that there’s no point in being afraid of it, even though I don’t understand it. Because, at the end of the day, what is death? I think I mentioned this yesterday. Death is one of those terms that people misunderstand and misuse a lot. On Earth, we get the idea that death is the end of something. Like the death of a dream. Or the death of a tree. Or the death of a salesman. No, wait. =)

But death isn’t the end of anything. Death is simply separation. When we die, the person we really are keeps on going, keeps on living, and simply relocates either to heaven or to hell. There’s no in between. There are no ghosts haunting the earth. There’s no purgatory. We die. We go to heaven or we go to hell. That’s it.

So as long as you know Christ, heaven is where you’re headed. And I guarantee that’s nothing to be afraid of. Do we really believe it, though? That’s the part that’s hard to get sometimes. But we, as Christians, have nothing to fear from death. We shouldn’t be afraid of it. Because death is powerless over us. It can’t control us and it can’t stop us.

The verse this morning is out of 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

55 O death, where is your victory?
      O death, where is your sting?[a]

 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

According to this, death has power over people because of sin. And sin has power because people can’t obey the law.

And that’s true. God gave us the Law, the Ten Commandments, to show us that we can’t be good enough to get to heaven on our own merit. No one has kept the Ten Commandments. People have tried, but everyone has failed. No one on Earth is perfect enough to keep all ten of them every moment of every day for their entire lives. And if you wanted to get into heaven on your own, that’s what you would have to do.

So because we can’t keep the Ten Commandments, our sin keeps us separated from God, and if we die physically our broken souls with our dead (separated) spirits can’t be in the presence of God as He is holy and perfect and we aren’t. Death has power over people because we sin.

But what is the Bible about? What is the story of Jesus about?

People who believe in Jesus aren’t subject to the Ten Commandments. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “I am not under law but under grace.” Christ came to Earth and lived a perfect life. He never broke one of the Ten Commandments. His life was flawless. He was innocent. And because He was innocent, He had the capability to sacrifice Himself for us. Because He had never sinned, He could pay for those of us who had.

So those who believe in Jesus are freed from our subjection to the law, freed from the power that sin has over us. And since we are no longer controlled by sin, believers are no longer controlled by death.

It comes down to how much you love your Earthly life, I guess. If you love your family more than God, I suppose death is a frightening prospect. I struggle with that one. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m afraid to leave my family and friends behind . . . even though most of them know Christ. I feel like my presence in their lives keeps them safe. But that’s silly. What can I do to protect anyone? God is the one who is in control. And when He says it’s my time to go, I will go, and I have no say in it. And we just have to trust that God knows what He’s doing, that He’s got a plan, and that He really can take care of everything after we leave this Earth.

Death can’t control me. It can’t control you. And we shouldn’t be afraid of it because when the time comes for us to die, we will be with God if we believe in Jesus.