It’s Sin’s Fault

“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”
Romans 7:14-20 NLT

Paul is perplexed. In fact, he is so perplexed that he repeats his dilemma twice in these 7 verses. He says, “I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it”. But is this really the case? Is it a valid excuse to say before a judge, “I haven’t done anything wrong – it’s the sin living within me that is at fault”? Of course it isn’t but, superficially at least, that seems to be what Paul is saying. 

The picture emerges in Paul’s mind that within him there are effectively two people. One person who loves God’s ways, who wants to spend all his time with Him, and who really, really, wants to do what is right. And to help that “man” inside of him is God’s Law, which “is spiritual and good”. The other person inside him is the “old man”, his sinful nemesis, a part of him determined to continue in the ways of evil. Perhaps an internal battle that never seems to subside. The Godly part of him mourns and grieves over the thoughts and actions of the sinful man, leading to frustration and conflict. At least Paul doesn’t blame the devil, as some have done, for his sinful man. Personable responsibility is never avoided, in Paul’s life.

Does all this sound familiar to us pilgrims? Are we too caught up in this internal battle that never seems to end? Of course we are. And in the days ahead, we will, with Paul, journey into a place where God has provided a remedy. What a wonderful Saviour!

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your salvation, a gift so freely given. Help us to grasp it and grow in the nurturing soils of Your grace. In Jesus’ name.Amen.

Becoming Holy

“Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.”
Romans 6:19 NLT

Paul now introduces the Roman Christians to something called holiness. He tells them that the consequence of living in a righteous way is that they will “become holy”. We know, of course, that God is holy. At the end of Psalm 99 we read, “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain in Jerusalem, for the Lord our God is holy!” In revelation 4:8 we read about four Heavenly beings continually proclaiming God’s holiness, “Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty— the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”” And there are many other verses proclaiming God’s holiness. Nothing sinful can survive, or even get close, to our holy God. He is perfectly righteous, giving us the connection to being “slaves to righteous living”. But the Roman Christians of Jewish origin would have known about their need to be holy, because they would have had access to Scriptures such as Leviticus 19:2, “Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Did they perhaps think that the new freedom in Christ relieved them of such an obligation? If they did, Paul soon set them right.

What about us pilgrims? Are we living a holy life? A life set apart from the sinful world around us, a world full of people who apparently lack a moral compass and fail to do what is right? That happened before in Israelite history. It is nothing new. We read in Judges 21:25, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” It sounds remarkably similar to what is happening in our Western societies. Politicians who do not know the King are suggesting and approving legislation without any reference to the higher Power, and instead are listening to, and obeying, their devil-inspired, sinful selves. Of course, we cannot shut ourselves away in a protected, holy space somewhere, like a modern day monk or nun, much as we would like to sometimes. In Jesus’ longest prayer, He prayed for His disciples, and we read in John 17:15-16, “I’m not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” We pilgrims live in this world, whether we want to or not, but we don’t have to be a part of it. And we echo Jesus’ prayer by asking our loving Heavenly Father to keep us safe from the “evil one”. 

We pilgrims are now living as slaves to a righteous life, sanctified by the blood of Jesus, holy in God’s sight. And we don’t look back on what we once were, but we look forward in our journey to the Promised Land, Heaven itself. A place of righteousness and holiness for eternity.

Father God. We worship You, the Holy One, grateful for Your grace, and patience with us. Amen.

God’s Grace

“Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realise that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.”
Romans 6:15-16 NLT

Once again, Paul writes about “God’s grace” and the freeing impact it has on our lives. He associates grace with freedom from the Jewish Law, something that the early Jewish Christians in Rome were so steeped in, that they seemed to be having problems in seeing beyond it, let alone leaving it behind in their new-found faith in Christ. But what is “grace”? I have written before about God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Paul used the Greek word, “charis” which in these verses is translated as grace. Another definition is kindness. And we know, of course, that God’s rescue plan for mankind, freeing them from sin, involved His Son Jesus and His substitutionary death for our sins at Calvary. Grace taken to extremes.

But God’s grace doesn’t just set us free from the “law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2), it provides for us benefit after benefit, all coming from our new-found righteous relationship with our Heavenly Father. Let’s start with the benefit of our coming salvation. When we embraced and accepted Jesus’ gracious sacrifice, we started the salvation process. 
Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God –”. 
1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Romans 10:9-10, “if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” 
So these teachings from Paul indicate that we have been saved, are being saved and will be saved. A comprehensive study and manifestation of God’s grace. Yes, our salvation won’t finally be fully realised until the day we cross the Great Divide into eternal life with Jesus, but our salvation process started at the Cross of Jesus Christ.

But when did God first exhibit His grace? It happened long before Jesus died at Calvary. Time and time again in the Old Testament we read about God’s grace. Take Adam for example. We read in Genesis 3:10,21 “He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” God could have zapped the first couple, and started again, but instead He graciously not only allowed them to live, but He also provided for their need of clothing. That’s grace.

There is something we refer to as “common grace”. God provides for mankind continually, with Planet Earth’s physical stability, with a constant source of heat and light from the sun, with the ability of the soil to provide crops. And that provision is independent of mankind’s status before God. Even those who have rejected Him enjoy His grace.

So we pilgrims are a blessed and favoured people. God’s grace has provided freedom from the sinful lives that were holding us back in a lost and hopeless state. We are slaves no longer. But around us so many people are enslaved, but don’t realise it. Isn’t it strange that, spiritually, they walk around carrying chains and other items of bondage, just like Jacob Marley’s ghost? Heavy loads that weigh them down. And they don’t need to – Jesus has set them free as well.

Dear Lord. You are the ultimate bringer of freedom. How can we ever thank You enough? Amen.

God’s Abundant Grace

“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 5:20-21 NLT

Paul finishes chapter five of Romans with an intriguing thought. The more we sin, the more God’s grace will flow to cover it. Perhaps some of Paul’s readers might have drawn such a conclusion, but something within me rebels at the very thought. How could I have the audacity, the arrogance, to think such a thing! But Paul moves on to this topic in the next chapter in Romans.

Paul reminds his readers that the Law is the plumb line. The standard against which we can measure how well we are doing. But the result is depressing. All we find out is how sinful we are. But thanks to Jesus, God’s very own Son, His plan for redeeming people from this sinful world in which we find ourselves involves His unlimited and unmerited grace. Grace so abundant that it more than covers all sins ever committed, past, present and future. And we have this wonderful dichotomy, sin leading to death against grace leading to life. The death eternal punishment. The grace eternal life.

The old Apostle, John, spoke gently and kindly in his first letter. He wrote, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:8-9). God’s grace may be abundantly available, but we must never abuse its provision. Once we become a believer, now that we have put our faith in Jesus, we start a journey. It starts at the Cross, where we find ourselves exposed in a dark place, but illuminated by the light of God’s Son, and it continues throughout our lives as we use God’s light to show us what we need to do to transition from who we were to who God wants us to be. We read in Ephesians 5:8-9, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true”. 

The Law showed God’s people “how sinful they were”. Darkness exposed. Sin brought under God’s spotlight. He allows a particular sin to be brought to our attention, and shows us the way to deal with it. And how patient God is! Are we not relieved and very grateful that He doesn’t expose all our sins at once! But through His gentle whispers, and Holy Spirit inspired nudges through His Word and our fellow Christian friends, He graciously helps us in our journey to become more like Jesus.

Sometimes there is a blockage on the path. A boulder of insurmountable proportions that we are unable to deal with. A problem so great that we cannot see it, or don’t want to deal with it. At times like this He loves us too much to leave us there. We read in Proverbs 3:11-12, “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights”. God’s discipline is sometimes necessary to give us a shove, rather than a nudge. A good kick up the backside even, It can be painful, but through it we emerge the stronger in our faith and our assurance about God’s caring love. And we can say with the Psalmist in Psalm 40:2, “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along”. What more do we need? 

Dear Lord. Praises and thanks are due to You without limit You, the wonderful gracious God. Amen.

God’s Gracious Gift

“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:15-17 NLT

We could feel that an awful lot of blame has been dumped on Adam. After all, he committed one sin and then, because of that, he was immediately removed from the Garden and spent the rest of his life fighting thorns and thistles as he scratched a living in circumstances never intended. Genesis 3:17-18. “And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.” If that wasn’t punishment enough, the blame game for man’s sin focused on Adam. Paul wrote that Adam’s sin “brought death to many”, “led to condemnation” and “caused death to rule over many”. 

Perhaps it is fairer to empathise with Adam, and put ourselves in his shoes (if he had any at this point). Would we have behaved any differently? Whether it was Adam’s fault or not, we all sin. Of course, we could look at the spiritual connotations of the Genesis account, and see Adam as a spiritual representative of mankind. Fronting up God’s human creation, using Adam as a name for all mankind. We are effectively all Adamites. But whatever our opinion, it would be wrong to use the excuse “It was Adam’s fault”. As Paul said in Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. 

But, thankfully, things didn’t end with the human race being doomed through Adam’s sin. God had a rescue plan in the form of a gift. “God’s gracious gift”. Just three words but behind them was a manifestation of God’s love so breathtaking that it has completely turned the world into a sphere of hope. Imagine it. We stand before a Judge, knowing that we are guilty, and just before the verdict is passed a Man steps forward and says to the Judge that He will take the punishment. That would be amazing enough in the natural, but when we find that it is the Judge’s own Son who steps forward we can only stand in amazement and gratitude. Emotions beyond all that we can even experience. That’s “God’s gracious gift”. But what is even more amazing is that most people in our societies will stand before that Judge one day without realising that if they had only accepted “God’s gracious gift” earlier then they would not have had to do the time themselves. And it will be a long time. Eternity.

God’s loving grace is available for all. No exceptions. And we pilgrims, having found a wonderful treasure, can only invite others to take a share. God has a personal gift available for everyone. It has a gift tag attached which reads, “To [put in your own name]. Here is a “gift of righteousness”, a passport to eternal life with Me”. And we reach out and take it, trembling and overwhelmed, knowing that it is totally undeserved. What a Saviour!

Dear Father. What else can we say than thank You. Amen.

All Have Sinned

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”
Romans 3:23-26 NLT

A bigger than usual number of verses today. But what Paul wrote is a concise yet profound exposition of God’s love and grace, and this Biblical paragraph cannot really be subdivided. These verses start with the reality that no human being is capable of achieving God’s righteous standard. Why is that? God requires all those in His presence to be sinless, but through Adam, sin polluted everyone ever born. Once a sinful act has been committed, then exclusion from God’s presence is mandated. Paul said “we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. I always think of it as an examiner setting a pass mark for an exam, for example 70%. Those sitting the exam may find that they have all failed, with a range of marks varying between 20% and 50%. But it is no good for the one with 50% saying he is better than the one with 20% – they have both failed the test by failing to achieve the pass mark. “God’s glorious standard” is unachievable by sinful human beings.

Thankfully God has supplied a remedy so that we can achieve His standard. And it is all through His grace. Jesus was and is the only sinless human being. He is divine because He is the Son of God, part of the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But He was born to a human being, a young peasant girl called Mary, as part of God’s gracious rescue plan for mankind. Jesus became human so that He could sit the exam instead of us, and, being sinless, He achieved “God’s glorious standard” with 100%. 

For us pilgrims, we managed to stumble across this amazing truth. It may have been that someone had shared with us what Jesus did, and something within us responded to God’s grace. We may have picked up a Bible one day and discovered the truth for ourselves. We may have, in a moment of crisis, happened to walk past a church and entered there, finding the grace we needed at just the right time. But however it happened, there was a day when we believed in Jesus. 

Around us are many people who have not yet made that step of faith. They are still quite ignorantly making their way through life, blissfully unaware of what is coming towards them. They fail to realise that, by default, they have chosen a life separated from God because of their sin. So we pilgrims must take every opportunity to share the truth about Jesus with our friends and families. It may not make us very popular. In some countries it can lead to imprisonment and death. But share Jesus we must. We can’t keep this amazing truth to ourselves. It’s very simple – everyone, without exception, has sinned, and through His love for mankind, God has provided a remedy. That’s it!

Dear Father God. Thank You for Your grace and mercy. Every time You look at us You see Jesus and His righteousness. We don’t deserve Your mercy, but we’re grateful. Amen.

Sinful Logic

““But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.) Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? “But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.”
Romans 3:5-8 NLT

From Paul’s account, it looks as though there are some in Rome who are mocking God’s grace. They are saying that in order for God’s grace to be covering mankind, we must sin more and more. And the argument continues by pointing out that God will get more glory if His righteousness shines so much brighter than the dark nature of man’s unrighteousness. Warped logic? Perhaps an example of someone taking a truth in isolation, or out of context, and developing it into something far removed from what the original intent was. There have been many such religious examples over the years.

The logic seems to say that if we do something sinful or wicked, then God will make something positive out of it, thus demonstrating His righteousness. I wonder if Judas will try and justify himself before God by claiming that because he betrayed Jesus, salvation of mankind ultimately resulted. But Judas’s problem is that he still did something wicked. What God made of it was nothing to do with Judas but was part of His plan for mankind. If Judas hadn’t stepped into the role of betrayer, then God would have allowed someone else to act as a catalyst for His plan of salvation. Judas will still be held to account for his sin one day.

Although sinfulness may expose God’s righteousness, that is no help to the sinner. Sin will create a barrier between God and us. When we sin we cut ourselves off from the experience of God’s love, not because He loves us any less, but because we reject His love through our sin. And our sin, if not dealt with, will set us off on the slippery path that ends with God’s judgement. But we are so grateful that through God’s grace, we have a means to deal with our sin. The Gospel is clear and unambiguous. Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost included the following verse, “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Such love. Such grace.

How can we go on sinning, and by so doing wave our fists in God’s face, rejecting His love and kindness? How can we deliberately sin when we know how much pain it causes our loving Heavenly Father? But His grace will transform us, through faith, to become righteous before Him. So, we don’t become spiritually disorientated, making up stupid arguments, and becoming distracted by a false logic. We respond to the love of our Heavenly Father with grateful hearts. Always.

Dear Heavenly Father. We thank You for Your grace and love. What else can we do, kneeling before You in worship? Amen

A Changed Heart

“For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”
Romans 2:28-29 NLT

The writer of the Roman letter, Saul of Tarsus, later to be called Paul, had a change of heart one day. It was a dramatic, cataclysmic event that totally changed his life. But it wasn’t just his heart that was changed. The narrative starts in Acts 8, with a mention of a man called Saul witnessing the murder of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. And Saul was so incensed by what he perceived as a dangerous threat, posed by the early Christians who were referred to as “the Way”, to the sanctity of the Jewish religion, that he started to persecute them. We read in Acts 8:3, “But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison”. Dramatic stuff. The story continues in the next chapter. We read in Acts 9:1, “Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest”. Equipped with letters of authority, Saul headed off to Damascus to create mayhem there. But on the Damascus Road, something even more dramatic happened. We read in Acts 9:3-5, “As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!” Blinded by the light in his vision, and after a few days, Saul was baptised, publicly declaring his conversion to become a follower of Jesus. That encounter with the risen Jesus totally upended Saul’s life. But then something equally as dramatic occurred. We read in Acts 9:19b-20, “… Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”” A “change of heart“? I would say so!

For us pilgrims, we too had a “change of heart“. It may not have been so dramatic as Saul’s, on that Damascus Road. But it would have been real nevertheless. That point in our lives when we turned around, from a life of evil and wickedness, and instead turned towards Jesus, bringing our sins to the foot of His cross at Calvary. And there we received the forgiveness that our spirits yearned for. Through God’s on-going grace and mercy, the offer remains.

But following his “change of heart”, Saul became Paul and one of the most effective evangelists this world has ever seen. We too have a mission. The manifestation of God’s grace through Jesus in our lives cannot be suppressed within us. We have to shout it out. Especially in these last days as the persecution of Christians increases day by day, drip by drip. We may feel that there is no persecution of Christians in our Western societies, but just this week the Scottish Government approved legislation allowing 16-year olds to self-certify which gender they wanted to adopt, in the process cutting right across the God-given order of gender and sexuality. That’s persecution. And in another instance, a woman was arrested in England this week for silently praying outside a closed abortion clinic. It appear that she was not allowed to think her prayers. That’s persecution. 

The early Christians didn’t care about persecution and neither must we. In these dark days we can only keep praying for those in our families and communities, that they too may experience a “change of heart” assuring and ensuring their salvation. And we pray too for our countries. Please join me in praying for Scotland, and particularly for those who have been badly let down by deluded Scottish politicians who, rather than help young people face their challenges with compassion, instead enable them, even encourage them, to embark on a ruinous journey of personal confusion that will not end well before God’s throne.

Father God. We ask for forgiveness for all those who are intent on disrupting Your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Guiding Light

“You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth. Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonour God by breaking it. No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.””
Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭17‬-‭24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paul continues in his rant about the Jewish Christians in Rome. He points out that they have the benefit of knowing what righteous living is all about because they have been schooled in the Law from an early age. The problem is that this seems to have introduced feelings of arrogance. Paul points out to them that they know all about the Law, they rely on it, he says, and therefore they claim to “know what is right”, claims added to because they know their special heritage. They are now all puffed up with their knowledge and assumed standing before God, and are convinced that they can act as examples to the Gentiles around them, teaching them all about God. Live like us and do what we do, they say, and you won’t go far wrong.

But Paul points out to them that they need to get their own lives in order before they can take the moral high ground and teach others. And he finishes these verses with the damning indictment that because of their hypocrisy, the very people they are trying to be an example to are taking the view that if this behaviour has God’s blessing then they want nothing to do with it. The classic trap the Jewish Christians had fallen into was the one described in the familiar line, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say”. Has anyone ever heard a parent say that? Or someone else in authority? 

Jesus had a run-in with the Pharisees over this very problem. They started off by asking Him for the reason why His disciples didn’t follow the Jewish traditions of things like hand washing. Jesus’s response was, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:7-8). And as usual, the finger of the Master landed right on the issue. 

Hypocrisy is an easy trap to fall into. As an example, someone I knew once stuck a fish symbol on the boot of his car, advertising the fact that he was a Christian. But one day he drove in a hurry through a small village, significantly exceeding the speed limit, and causing dismay to the locals. He stopped a few miles further on for petrol, and one of the cars he had overtaken in the village pulled up behind him. The driver got out and proceeded to point out to my friend that if he was going to advertise his Christian faith, he needed to do it in more ways than just putting a sticker on his car (or words to that effect). But of course such a problem would never arise with us pilgrims, would it? Our driving manners are exemplary, aren’t they?

We read what Jesus thought about hypocrisy in His Sermon on the Mount. We read in Matthew 7:3-5, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye“. And this is the theme Paul took up in His letter to the Roman Jewish Christians.

A common objection from people who turn down an invitation to a church service is that the building is full of hypocrites. That may or may not be true, but the world’s perception of Christians has been tarnished by the behaviour of some, hopefully just a few. The people in our secular societies look on, expecting more from Christians than perhaps they should. They observe one Christian behaving badly and straight away decide all Christians are the same. We know that we are “work in progress” but that’s no excuse if our behaviour causes those around us to stumble. 

Most people’s view of Jesus can only be obtained by observing His followers. We pilgrims need to bear that in mind the next time our right foot on the gas pedal feels a bit heavy.

Dear Father God. We are “work in progress” we know, but that is not an excuse for sinful behaviour. We are so grateful for your patience and grace – where would we be without it! Amen.


“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things.”
Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭NLT

The word “punishment” is not a popular word or sentiment to bring up in a conversation down the pub. It conjures up thoughts of a child being sent to their room for some misdemeanour, or a criminal being imprisoned as a punishment for their crime. But we live in a moral universe. By that I mean that every misdeed, every sin, every crime, all will one day have to be remedied by a suitable consequential punishment. Every bad deed will be judged, either in this life or the next.

God, through Moses, set down detailed laws that had to be followed by the rag-tag bunch of ex-slaves, as He led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Many of these laws still apply today, because they underpin the very cohesion of our society. But here’s one that illustrates the principle of justice involving punishment. God taught that the punishment must match the crime, so justice is achieved. We read in Exodus 21:23-25, “But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise”. I’m not, of course, suggesting that we should implement physical punishments as in Moses’ day – such a response is considered barbaric in 21st Century society, but many today will suggest that this principle of the punishment fitting the crime no longer applies in society, with apparent punishments being too lenient and favouring the offender rather than the victim. But, never fear, the scales of justice will be balanced on the Day of Judgement, if not before, when all mankind will stand before God.

But what about us pilgrims? When we see behaviour in others that we disagree with how do we respond? Criminal behaviour is of course the responsibility of the civil authorities, and we are told to pray for them. But unfair and offensive behaviour, “legal but harmful” in modern social media parlance, may initiate feelings of anger within us. Jesus taught about this in Matthew 5:22, “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell”. So we learn not to react when something happens to provoke us. Instead, we ask God to intervene and we then move on in the knowledge that our blood pressure and inner peace are unaffected. And the Master Judge will do what is right.

People in general, even many Christians, do not understand how detestable sin is to God. In fact, it is so abhorrent to Him, that one day all those whose sin and wickedness is recorded in their Judgement Day Book (not the Book of Life), will end up in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15). Some will try and claim that our loving God would never do such a thing, but they fail to understand that God is not just a God of love, He is also a God of Righteousness, Holiness and Purity. For a season in these End Times days we have access to His grace. He has given us a remedy to sin and we can today stand righteous and holy before Him, through the sanctifying power of Jesus’ blood. But the door He has opened will not remain open forever. 

Once again, I issue a rallying call to my fellow pilgrims. We have the knowledge of the redeeming Words of God. We must share them to everyone we can while there is still time.

Father God. We thank You for Your inexhaustible supply of grace. We embrace it today, with love and thanks, and pray for more opportunities to share You with those in our families and communities. In Jesus’ name. Amen.