Tag Archives: sin

Would Someone Please Turn on the Lights??

What we think and believe matters greatly, generally driving what we do, which also matters for good or bad, better or worse. Ideally, we would have a standard to determine whether our intents or actions are, or will be, good and wholesome—right with God. Otherwise, we could justify thinking, believing, or doing anything that seems reasonable to us like we often do today. Well, that standard has existed for thousands of years, and it illuminates a good path and drags the bad out of the dark.

God established His Law thousands of years ago to guide the Israelites in their relationships with Him and each other. We know the basic form as the “10 Commandments:” Five pertain to our relationship with God (e.g., don’t abuse God’s name (authority or character)) and the other five to our inter-personal relationships (don’t steal, for instance). The commandments and the rest of God’s Law contained in Deuteronomy and Leviticus became a light turned on to illuminate God’s standard, His ways. Jesus’ first visit to earth did the same.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. —John 1:4-5.

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. —John 3:19-21.

What deeds does the light of Christ reveal? Sexual immoralities and ungodly treatment of God and people (e.g., Leviticus 20:10-21; Romans 1.26-27; 1Corinthians 6:9-10 & 15-20; Galatians 5:19-21). Because Christians, by nature, move by God’s Spirit and carry His light, we must live by His standard and display His ways to others. This is how we evangelize the Kingdom of God, which has come to people who will devote fully to Him.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. —Matthew 5:14-16.

Like studying end-times stuff? Well, next week, we’ll poke the bear a bit in my article The Wrath of Con!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

The Holy Spirit Part I: a Life-saving Gift!

Last week, I mentioned that the Ruler of heaven gives His Spirit to anyone who is wholly devoted to Him and His Kingdom. We often allow humanmade doctrine and a lack of knowledge to complicate the simple, pollute the pure. The subject of the Holy Spirit is no exception. So, I thought I’d devote the next three weeks to providing clarity.

This week, we’ll learn about the Holy Spirit and why He is necessary for our transformation now and salvation to come. Next week, we’ll explore if and how the Spirit gifts and equips us for God’s good pleasure and our spiritual growth in this life. Finally, in the third week, we’ll uncover the fruit (manifestations) of the Spirit at work in Christ-followers as well as the consequence of being unfruitful.

First, the Holy Spirit is a gift from God to Christ-followers. By the way: I’ll write about the Bride of Christ soon to help you understand that gifting is part of a holy betrothal process!

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”Acts 2:38.

Second, the Spirit of God regenerates the one who receives the living water of heaven, Christ. No regeneration, no heaven or dwelling with God in the new age to come.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. —John 3:5.

Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God1 Peter 1:23.

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy SpiritTitus 3:5.

Third, rejection of the Spirit of God = spiritual death.

Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sinMark 3:28-29.

Why is the rejection of God’s Spirit the only rebellion against Him that is unforgivable? Because God’s forgiveness requires repentance (change in behavior because of a changed heart), no repentance is possible while someone rejects God.

So far, we’ve learned that the Spirit of God is our connection to the Kingdom of Heaven. Regeneration by the Spirit after devoting to the Father in response to Christ the living water is the only way to enter. So, learn, decide, and devote. But what then? Next week, we’ll see how the Holy Spirit of God equips for spiritual growth, faithfulness, and service.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

God – the Christ

No one’s perfect and everyone will sin – miss the ‘mark’. Because of this and God’s desire to dwell with us, Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. All we have to do is believe that, act appropriately out of our faith, and repent of sinful behavior for God to save you from His future wrath.

You’ll find several references in the Bible to Jesus: Messiah, the Christ, His Christ, our Christ, and Jesus. Why so many names and titles? It’s important first to understand that His name isn’t Jesus Christ.  It isn’t as though someone named Jesus was born to Mr. and Mrs. Christ.

The name of Jesus is just a loose translation of the Greek word Iēsous for Jehoshua, Jesus’ proper Hebrew name. The word Christ is a title, not a proper name, which comes from the Greek word Christos – anointed one, or Messiah.  So, Jesus Christ is a loose translation of Yehoshua the Messiah. Interestingly, the Bible also refers to Jesus as God’s Christ (His Christ):

And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” —Luke 23:35.

I think the reference to Jehoshua as God’s Christ is appropriately used to label the Son of God sent as the Christos – Messiah – to save mankind through His sacrifice and resurrection. God asked Him to do this; Jesus was obedient to live and die among men so God could raise Him on the third day to fulfill a promise and serve as a sign for all who would believe and follow.

So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”; just as He says also in another passage, “YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation —Hebrews 5:5-9.

Yehoshua’s reward for His obedience? A seat at the right hand of God the Father of Spirits, a right earned by redeeming and reconciling mankind to the one true God, which is certainly His one overarching will.

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. —Acts 5:30-31.

Son of God. Redeemer. Savior. These are all good ways to refer to the one who has offered everlasting life. Believe and follow!

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and rescue from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Purity & Holiness

God desires righteousness and blamelessness from us. Therefore, purity would describe the level of attainment of that state whatever the thing we want to be pure in. Think of it this way: in nature, something nearly pure (like fine gold or diamonds for instance) has little if anything else mixed with it. The purer, the more desirable the object is.

We, in covenant with our God through the Christ, must be set apart from worldly behavior (be holy, by definition). It’s not a mere suggestion, but a mandate. Those who practice immorality and sinful behavior will perish; the righteous who pursue purity and holiness through discipleship and application will live and enjoy their reward.

Be an example through purity, which may come at least in part through understanding of the Word of God.

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. —1Timothy 4:12-13.

As followers of Jesus, we should be ‘dead’ to immorality and impurity.

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. —Colossians 5:3-8 (see also Ephesians 5:19-5).

Be pure, and therefore set apart from wicked behavior.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. —2Corinthians 7:1.

So, just how do we learn and apply God’s ways in the pursuit of holiness?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. —Philippians 4:8.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. —2Peter 1:5-7.

Speaking of self-control in application of what we learn: Just as our belief in Jesus must result in obedience to be effective, our desire for purity must be put into action through self-control of the body and its desires. When we didn’t know better, it was easy to become slaves to lusts of our body. Paul had a lot to say about this in Romans Chapter 6 (definitely worth a read!). Other excellent Scriptures that highlight the importance of self-control in the pursuit of holiness include the following.

  • Exercise self-control to avoid being disqualified from the race and prize Paul equates to righteousness and eternal life. 1Corinthians 9:25-27.
  • Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • We should always ask whether what we’ll use our body for will be pleasing to God. 1Corinthians 6:18-20.
  • We must no longer be enslaved by our body and its lusts but the other way around. Romans 6:6 & 12-13.

Purity and holiness are possible when we learn God’s ways and apply them consistently. Like the body builder in pursuit of an exceptional physique, application can be difficult and painful at first; however, the rewards far outweigh the pain of achieving them.

What’s your pursuit?

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Freedom Fighters

We celebrated this Independence Day by rejoicing in our freedom and remembering the sacrifice of so many! As Jesus said, there’s no greater love than giving our lives if necessary for one another (John 15:12-13). This is exactly what Jesus did to free us from the bonds of sin – rebellion against God and the resulting judgment – through choice (Romans 5:6-9).

What does freedom mean in the context of our Christ and His death for us? The Hebrew text (Isaiah 61:1) quoted by Jesus (Luke 16:4-21) gives a glimpse: “To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners . . .”

The Hebrew word for freedom in this case means ‘opening’ and ‘jail delivery’ (figuratively salvation from sin according to Strong’s Concordance). We are set free from slavery (Galatians 5:1) to sin (John 8:32-36 and 1Peter 2:16).

You’ll encounter the word ‘law’ in related study. What law . . . or laws? Here are at the two you’ll be faced with:

  1. The ‘Law of Moses’ necessary to teach the people of Israel how to honor God and treat their fellow man. We learn that one of two of Jesus’ commandments sums up this ‘law’: Galatians 5:13-14. That ‘law’ also served to show that it’s impossible to meet every single piece and work your way into salvation (Romans 3:19-25 and 5:19-21). This idea of the Law and its conviction of sin and inability to save from God’s wrath are confirmed by Paul (Romans 8:1-4).
  1. So, if the Law of Moses can’t set us free by obedience to it, what will? Obedience to the perfect law written on our hearts by the Spirit of God, given to all who believe and follow Jesus. (James 1:21-25).

True freedom summed up: it’s the freedom to choose the alternative to sin and its death sentence. That alternative is eternal life and righteousness that comes from doing what we ought, not what we want, through guidance of the Spirit. It’s this freedom that enables us to deal effectively with temptation as a result.

Remember those who gave their lives for your freedom: your fellow human and your Christ. Honor; believe; follow.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

The Lamb & the Lion

Our Jesus – the Christ – is certainly the lamb of God’ that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Unfortunately, we often miss the real point in our experiential Christian culture, feeling good while we imagine our Jesus as a cute and cuddly lamb . . . I think you’ll find that a better visual would be that of a ‘mamma bear’ who is kind, just, and protective with her own but ruthless against opposition.

The truth is that the dress rehearsal of Passover and its sacrificial lamb, and prophetic utterance by the likes of Isaiah, were fulfilled by our Christ’s obedience to God to become the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. Jesus ‘bought’ us with His sacrifice; we must now choose whether to believe and obey – follow – or to ignore this new covenant with God through the Christ.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. —Isaiah 53:7 & Acts 8:32.

Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. —1Corinthians 5:7-8.

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb . . . “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” —Revelation 5:8-9.

Also true is that those who wish to follow the lamb must consider the cost as Jesus said, for they may very well go to their own destruction or be afflicted in their bodies (just look at all the apostles, except John, who were martyred for their faith!).

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. —Revelation 12:11.

What about the ‘Lion’? Well, Jesus our redeemer is also referred to as the ‘Lion from the tribe of Judah’ in God’s revelation given to John by Jesus.

Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” —Revelation 5:4-5.

So far, we understand that the picturesquely mild and meek ‘lamb’ is that way in symbol only. The example was used to show how Jesus was voluntarily slaughtered as a lamb to assist God the Father in the accomplishment of His desire to reconcile with His creation.

Our creator is a just God who will keep His promise to reward the faithful and destroy the wicked. Jesus, because of His obedience, earned the right to save and judge as a faithful arm of God’s wrath.

and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb —Revelation 6:16.

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. . . .  From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” —Revelation 19:11-16.

So, the lamb and the lion are one and the same: savior and judge. Rescuer and executioner. Which will you experience?

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2016 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

The “A-B-C’s” of Judging Others and Discipleship (Originally “Judge Dread”)

The idea of judging really trips people up. Many know their own faults or past sins and feel they have no right to judge others about anything as a result. On the other hand, some people behave as though it’s their duty to inform everyone around them of every act they feel is contrary to God’s ways. The truth regarding judging others resides somewhere in the middle.

Are we to judge at all? Definitely! How else will we disciple others or ‘sharpen’ (which is more of a complete reshaping, by the way!). But, let’s take a look at what the word judge means before we go any further.

It comes from the Greek word kree’-no, which means to ‘call into question’. Of course, we can’t call anything into question if we don’t know what should be questionable or why. Who should judge whom? According to Jesus, God will judge the world – those who aren’t Jesus’ followers – and Jesus will judge followers at His return and the end of this current age. Meanwhile, we’re to hold one another accountable for growth and moral positioning.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst . . . Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. . . . Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. 1Corinthians 5:1-13.

So, how are we to judge other followers of Jesus? We are to be careful and gentle, basing the ‘questioning’ on adherence to the Christ’s commandments and not on emotion. The goal must always be to help those followers who are ‘sinning’ to turn back to the truth and be reconciled with the church (e.g. James 15:19-20).  The text below not only confirms that but also reminds us that we’re not to tolerate the unrepentant practice of sinful behavior within the Church.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” —Matthew 18:15-17.

Want to ‘love’ your brother or sister in the Christ? Then judge them according to God and our Christ’s commandments with a sense of urgency before it’s too late for those who are practicing sinful behavior that will earn them a one-way ticket to God’s judgment!

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

The “A-B-C’s” of Repentance and Forgiveness

True repentance, which is a ‘change in behavior brought about by a change of heart’, is absolutely necessary for forgiveness. And, forgiveness is indeed necessary for salvation from God’s judgment to come. Therefore, as the Bible points out so well, repentance is necessary for salvation.

Is repentance a saying, “I’m sorry”? No (see 2Corinthians 7:9-10)! This is why we tend to repeat sinful behavior. Yes, we must be sorrowful as a natural component of the ‘change of heart’ necessary for repentance. But, we don’t truly repent unless we’ve taken action to remove whatever is causing us to stumble (Jesus discussed this in Matthew 5:29-30).

To reiterate, doing something that’s sinful can be remediated (and forgiven) through repentance – acknowledging that what we’ve done (or intend to do) is opposite of God’s ways and then taking action to ensure the act (or intended act) won’t be repeated. Do this and God will be more than willing to forgive the offense or intention to commit it.

“Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.” —Ezekiel 18:31-32.

“and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” —Luke 24:46-47.

 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” —Acts 3:17-19.

“You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.” —Acts 8:21-22.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1John 1:9.

On a related note, repeating sinful actions constitutes sinful behavior – something God has no tolerance for. In fact, we’re taught that He will leave us to our own rebellious behavior and execute wrath at His judgment if we continue to practice sin.

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” —Acts 17:30-31.

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS —Romans 2:5-6.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. —Galatians 5:19-21. (See also Ephesians 5:5-6)

So, ‘feel’ sorry, but turn that sorrow into action in the same way that ‘belief’ must result in action – obedience – to our God and Christ. Repent, obey, and live!

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

The “A-B-C’s” of Sin and Righteousness

What is righteousness? What is sin? What do the two have to do with each other?

~ Sin Defined ~

Make no mistake – there’ll be a reckoning at the end of this current age, or era. (Please refer to my book Finding the End of the World for details regarding the end of our world as we know it!) It’ll come as judgment and consequence both to those who were and are obedient to God’s instructions and those who’ve been disobedient. This disobedience, rebellion, or sin must be dealt with one way or another – either through a true change of heart that leads to a change of behavior (repentance) and resulting forgiveness, or by judgment and sentencing.

Many things are often loosely defined as sin because they contradict manmade doctrine even if there’s no apparent rebellion against God’s ways. Some core behaviors should be called sin but aren’t. Understanding what sin really is and how it often manifests itself will be crucial to avoiding it and keeping our eyes on the prize of eternal life with God and His Christ. Here are the primary forms of sin as identified by the Strong’s Concordance for the Old and New Testaments (‘H’ = Hebrew Old Testament; ‘G’ = Greek New Testament):

Hebrew or Greek Word for Sin Primary Meaning Strong’s #
khat-aw-aw’ offense Η2401
khaw-taw’ to miss Η2398
hamartia offense G266
hamartanō missing the mark G264

For the most part, sin is defined as an offense or ‘missing the mark’. But missing what mark? Offending whom? In this author’s opinion, sin is missing the standard (mark) set by God and is therefore offensive to Him. Wherever there’s sinful behavior, there’ll be something contrary to God’s ways or commandments. Let’s look at these standards and commandments in more detail in order to gain a better understanding of what we’re to strive for.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments.” (cf. John 14:15 & 23). This implies that not keeping His commandments will reflect a lack of love, or rebellious behavior – sin. What were these commandments? That we love God appropriately and man charitably (cf. Matthew 22:35-40). He tells us that the Law [of Moses] and teachings of the prophets are summed up in those two statements. This makes sense since nearly everything we can think of to do is related to our treatment of God and man. Here’s an interesting and related tidbit: the first five of the Ten Commandments relate to our treatment of, and obedience to, God; the last five dictate some basic guidelines for how we should treat our fellow man. Everything we do – or want to do – should be measured against those two categories. Want to know whether a particular action (whether intended or carried out) is a sin? Just consider how it will affect God or fellow human beings. Is it really that cut and dry?

Scripture clearly teaches that there’s a distinction between an isolated rebellion against God (sinful action that we need to repent of and be forgiven for) and practicing sinful behavior. While the former can be resolved along the journey toward righteousness, the latter will bring clear separation from God and invoke judgment! Practicing sinful behavior, which certainly implies a lack of repentance, will, as I’ve said several times, result in God’s wrath at the end-of-the-age judgment to come (see 1Corininthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21, for instance).

We know that sin is rebellion against God and His ways. Sin without repentance and the practice of sin will lead to separation from God and ultimate judgment. But how do we gain an understanding of God’s ways – the standards by which we should compare all we think and do? We can only come to know the mind of God and His instructions through two ways: (1) Communication with Him through the Spirit that resides in us once we’ve truly believed in the Christ and His incredible gift of salvation; (2) knowledge of God’s instructions and ways through exposure to the messages and testimonies found in the Bible.

 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” —John 14:26.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. —Romans 10:17.

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:14-17.

~ Righteousness Defined ~

“ . . . for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:14-17.

By Strong’s definition, righteousness is ‘equity of character or action; by implication innocent and holy – just and right; right – justice and its execution’ (see the Strong’s definitions and related verses below).

Essentially, we’re righteous if we’re living right and are just in our actions. This is the opposite of sinful behavior. Sin and righteousness are incompatible – we can’t be both at the same time!

Want to be righteous? Learn God’s ways (again, see 2Timothy 3:14-17 and others that tell us to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures of the Torah – Old Testament – and letters and Gospel accounts of the New Testament to accomplish this).

The righteous will be rewarded; the sinful will be punished. Sheep or goat – which will you be in the last days?

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part XII “Nothing can separate us From Jesus!”

Misquote: Nothing can separate us From Jesus!” This misunderstanding hinges on taking Romans 8:35-39 out of context and paves the way for dangerous doctrines. Here’s the abused reference:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? . . . neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:35-39.

Actually, WE can separate ourselves from the love of God (which is action – not emotion!) through disobedience and our own lack of faith-born action.

To understand and apply Paul’s intended message, we must answer these questions:

  1. “Who was Paul speaking to and in what context?”
  2. “What is the ‘love of God’?
  3. “Who are ‘we’ who can’t be separated from God’s love?”

Let’s tackle the question regarding Paul’s audience and the context of his letter to the Church in Rome first. Paul was speaking to both Jew and non-Jew (Gentile) believers, and the overarching theme of his letter was the gift of salvation and eternal life to those who choose to follow, being led by the Spirit. This theme included a reminder that nothing can keep the righteous from God’s mercy and protection. Here’s a breakdown of the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter.

Chapter One: The righteous live by faith; all others will experience God’s judgment (v.17-18).

Chapter Two: More about the judgment of the righteous, who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” will attain eternal life (v.7) and the unrighteous who practice evil and will suffer God’s wrath.

Chapter Three: All – both Jews and Gentiles – have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Righteousness isn’t attained through works of the Law (note: this is a reference to the Law of Moses and NOT ammunition to claim that belief needs not result in action!).

Chapter Four: More about righteousness through faith (not works under the Law).

Chapter Five: The gift of redemption through our Christ. Also included is a reminder about what the faithful may need to endure and the growth that comes as a result: “. . . tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; . . . through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (v.3-5).

Chapter Six: God’s grace offers no leeway to continue in sinful behavior. We are to be obedient and not sinful (see “live by faith” in Chapter One; “doing good” in Chapter Two; perseverance in Chapter Five, etc.). “. . .  But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed . . .” (v.16-17).

Chapter Seven: Comparing and contrasting the law of God and the law of sin.

Chapter Eight: No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. By the way: the way ‘in’ is used implies that there’s no distinction between us and our Christ with regard to our behavior . . . “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (v.9)  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (v.14)

Next, we need to define the ‘love of God’ the righteous can’t be separated from. This is the action-based agape love made manifest by God’s grace through Jesus’ sacrifice. It has nothing to do with emotion and is the same kind of ‘love’ we’re told by Jesus to have for him and our God through obedience (John 13:34-35 and 14:15-31, James 2:14-26, and many others). This is the ‘fruit’ resulting from the Spirit at work in the lives of the righteous. No obedience to God and Christ’s commandments, no Spirit. No Spirit, no fruit . . .

Finally, although it should be clear now, let’s look at ‘who’ can’t be kept from God’s saving grace. As we saw in several chapters climaxing with Chapter Eight, they are the righteous – those who are led by the Spirit, live by faith, do good, persevere, and are obedient to our God and Christ. They don’t practice sin and aren’t those who only believe and yet don’t act.

In summary, these early chapters of the letter to the Romans establish a baseline of righteousness and unrighteousness and introduce the choice that can bring life. Those who choose to accept God’s gift of redemption through an ongoing covenant by being will be rescued from God’s judgment to come, and nothing can change that. Conversely, the unrighteous disobedient (including those ‘believe’ but are inactive) will experience God’s wrath. Be righteous and live!

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!