Friday, July 23, 2010

Visible Sin

Numbers 12:9-12
9The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.
10 When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam—leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; 11 and he said to Moses, "Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother's womb with its flesh half eaten away."

This Biblical account isn't warm and fuzzy in any way, shape or form. We have the story of Aaron and Miriam grumbling against Moses because he married a Cushite. Pride then enters their thoughts as they surmise that God had spoken through them as He had Moses, though the Bible clearly tells us that Moses had a special connection and privelege before God. Furthermore, Numbers 12:3 also interjects that Moses, "was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth." This is a striking contrast to the attitudes of Aaron and Miriam.
God punishes Miriam and Aaron's sinful pride and discontent by causing Miriam to break out in severe leprous sores. Aaron compares her appearance to a baby that is born dead and has been rotting away inside the mother's womb. This is an ugly, horrific picture. However, through this consequence, God gets their attention immediately. He moves the ugliness of their sinful hearts from the invisible interior to the very apparent and obvious exterior of Miriam. The result is they are deeply humbled and repentant.
Ladies, how many of us have invisible sin that we are allowing to fester in our hearts? We hold a grudge or harbor jealousy against a sister in Christ. Perhaps we have pride in the material gains God has given us or in how well our children do in school or at sports. We consider our sins "secret", "unknown" and "hidden", so there is no pressing motivation to change.
However, the end of verse two should cause our hearts to quicken and fill with sorrow. After Miriam and Aaron privately grumble and have prideful thoughts, it says, "And the LORD heard it." Are we not aware that our ugly sin is visible to our omniscient, holy God? Have we taken the time to meditate upon this truth and the obvious ramifications?
Imagine that every "hidden" sin resulted in an awful, horrible canker sore or large pimple on our face. Seriously, stop and imagine this. Would we be motivated to more quickly deal with sins of the heart and attitude? Of course we would! We care very much about what people can see and how we are perceived.
Why then are we not as concerned about what God sees and knows about our motives and hearts?
If we are daughters of the King, we need to take as much care to deal with our sinful hearts and infected thoughts as we do to cover up and heal any visible defects in our appearance. We need to use the Holy Spirit, prayer and God's Word to lead us to repentance when we are sinning in our heart. Then we can be sanctified and molded into the image of Christ, who is spotless, pure and beautiful.
Though God graciously does not always inflict us with exterior disease and marks to punish our sinful hearts, this ugly disease of "hidden" sin is visible and horrific to our holy God.  Use the example of Miriam to motivate yourself to flee from sin and to quickly repent when you do fall short.  Our sin is never invisible to God, and our appearance before Him is all that truly matters.

Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bridled or Burning: A Discussion on the Tongue

James 3:1-5 "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!"

James 3:1-5 gives us excellent instruction on using our tongue. Ladies, these verses affect us greatly, as we certainly love to use our words, don't we? James shows us that we can use our words under 3 influences. The illustrations begin positively and self controlled, while they end both undirected and completely sinful.
First, verse 2 uses the word "bridle." In Greek, this word means to be self-controlled. When we put on the Spirit led fruit of self control, we are putting our whole body under His direction, including our tongue. Notice the words that accompany the example of the horse in verse 3. The horse "obeys" and is "guided." Here, the example is of a productive, work-enabling horse. The bit, or tongue, is completely controlled by the driver, the Holy Spirit. The horse not only allows the driver to direct the bit, but his whole body as well. In this example, God's purpose is obeyed and the words spoken help to do God's will.
In verse 4, our tongue is compared to the rudder on a ship. It is a small, powerful tool that directs the whole vessel. Once again, it is driven by the pilot (Holy Spirit) to go in the direction the Spirit wills and intends, but, in this example, there are forces introduced that are working against the Spirit. The strong, powerful winds also move the ship. The winds do not have an organized, productive course, but they are haphazard and unpredictable. These are much like our emotions and fleshly, sinful impulses. Here, we are allowing sin to interrupt our course and not obey God's will for us in speech and deed.
Finally, verse 5 illustrates our tongue as an aimless, destructive, uncontrolled fire that destroys whole forests at a time. Here, there is no director, no course, no productive employ. Instead, only destructive forces reign. This is the tongue of one who does not have the influence or is blocking the influence of the Holy Spirit. God's will is not done, and He is scorned by sinful words and actions.
Clearly, our tongues are small, but powerful forces. Consider the three illustrations. Are you the Spirit led "horse" that obediently and patiently labors for the good of God in your words and deed? Are you the lukewarm ship that sometimes successfully stays on course with the "Captain of the ship" but, at other times, tosses to and fro with the wind and waves of emotion? Rather, are you most like the painful, destructive force of fire, continually eating away at others and destroying them with your careless, boasting and selfish words?
Christian wives, I think most of us sadly identify with the ship. We desire to let God lead our life, direct our course and influence our words and tongue. At many times, we do! However, our sinful flesh sometimes overtakes us like a sudden storm on a rough sea. We find ourselves lashing out at our kids in frustration, grumbling to our friends about a situation in which we are discontent, boasting to someone in a moment of selfish ambition, or slandering someone who has slighted us.
This is unacceptable for daughters of God. We should pursue holiness in our speech. Like the horse, we need to bridle our sinful emotions and impulses with the fruit of self control. We need to utilize the direction of the Holy Spirit and be saturated with the Word of God to influence our attitudes and words. As we die to self, the sinful winds will abate and the Captain of the ship will faithfully steer us through life as we traverse His path for us.
Sisters, our words will look like the command of Ephesians 4:29 as we seek to have our words like the bit of the horse--completely controlled by the Holy Spirit.

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

Encouragement, loving admonishment and Biblical wisdom will cover every word and conversation. There will be no mistaking we are His daughters by the very words we speak! Together, let us bridle our words and give the reigns to our loving and faithful God. Let us confess when we sin in speech and thank Him for the direction and help He has given us in the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the instruction of His word.