Today’s reading is Matthew 18.
We will keep our focus specifically on Matthew 18:7-9. In these powerful verses, Jesus tells us that is better if we remove certain body parts that cause us to sin than to keep them and continue to sin. This is a powerful and direct message that tells us how terrible sin is in God’s eyes and how important He feels refraining from it is. He begins in Matthew 18:17 by saying….“woe to the one whom the temptation to comes.” Although He did not sin, we have a Savior that understands because like us, He too was tempted. Jesus realizes how hard it is to not sin. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
We must first examine ourselves closely to acknowledge our sin. I read a quote today that said, “Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it.” I know I’m guilty of justifying sins by telling myself it’s not that bad and everyone is doing it. However, our standard for determining what is a sin should be comparing to no one except Jesus and what the Bible says about that sin. The question isn’t what does the world think about it, but what does God think about it?
The Bible tells us that our sin is erased when believe in Jesus’ forgiveness through the cross and ask Him to do so. However, it also tells us to repent of sin. Merriam-Webster defines repent as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.” God knows that we will trip up and not only make mistakes but will make the same mistakes over. But, we can not continue to commit the same sin knowingly and willingly because of His forgiveness. Our intention in our heart when we have a relationship with Jesus should be to not sin and to do all we can to refrain from it. Christian musical artist Toby Mac posted a quote on his social media this week which said, “an apology without change is manipulation.” We may be able to manipulate others, but we can’t manipulate God. He knows our hearts and actions.
Whether removing body parts is a metaphor or literal (I’m hoping it’s a metaphor!), Jesus is underscoring that it so difficult to not sin that we must take some extreme measures to protect ourselves. In my nearly 15 years in a sales-based career, I’ve learned from my personal coaches and those that I coach, as well as reading about successful business people and athletes, that even when we have a goal that’s really important to us and our family, we can’t just say we are going to do something and expect to do it. Even the highest performers set up their environment and calendars in a way to help them do that which they know they should and truly want to do. One quick, simple example is that if you want to get up earlier to work out to get in shape or because you know doing so effects how you feel and your performance that day, but you can’t keep from rolling over and hitting the snooze button, you can set your alarm across the room or even buy an alarm clock that moves to a different part of the room in the night so you have to get up and search for it. It’s no surprise that Jesus, the greatest teacher and coach of all time, is telling us here to set up or environment to not sin. In Matthew 26:41 when He asks His disciples to keep watch in the garden but yet finds them sleeping He states, “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” My father shared with me once that the late, infamous Rev. Billy Graham once said that he would never put himself in a position to have an extra-marital affair because he would never be alone in any personal or professional situattion with any woman other than his wife. The word sin in the Bible comes from the translation of Greek word hamartia which means to miss the mark. You would be hard pressed to find too many people who lived a more Christ-like life who could likely withstand more temptation than Rev. Billy Graham. Yet, he knew he must set up his environment to not be tempted because even he could subject making a mistake and missing the mark.
Another observation is that the top performers in the business world and in athletics typically pay someone to be a personal coach for them and are also typically are a part of another group of peers who help them with ideas and hold them accountable to staying on track for what they want to accomplish. Even the best need support and accountability partners. Are we doing this as it relates to living a Christ-following life and refraining from sin? I recently read in another devotional where a leader of a high school boys small group was asking them about pornography. Nearly every single one of them admitted to their problem with it. The leader made them aware of a monitoring subscription they could put on their phone and computers that would alert an accountability partner, which he offered to be for them, when they went to certain types of websites. Nearly all agreed and within the first few days he got an alert for one of the boys, and he was able to talk with him and help him. Kudos to this group of young men for acknowledging their sin and seeking help and accountability!
Let us ask ourselves the following…
- What sin do I need to acknowledge?
- Am I truly sorry and turning away from that sin or instead justifying it?
- What can I do to set up my environment to not be tempted and refrain from my sin?
- Who can I ask to be a trusted accountability partner?
Ask for God’s wisdom in answering these questions and then not only for forgiveness, but to help you truly repent and turn away from those sins.
Consider the following prayer…
Dear Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that I am a sinner. I’m sorry that I justify my sin by the world’s standards and not yours. Please forgive me and not only change my heart but give me the wisdom to figure out how to truly repent and turn away from my sin. Thank you for loving me when I’m unlovable and for forgiveness through giving your life on the cross for me which you did not have to do. I love you. Amen