Friday, February 28, 2020

Bird's-eye view of the Bible - "breaking the sin-cycle" - thoughts from the Book of Judges

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         So far in this series of posts, we've done a birds-eye view the Bible through the first six books of the Bible. We've noted six themes: creation, catastrophe, patriarchs, redemption and spiritual victory. Today's post will journey through the Book of Judges as we consider our six theme in this continuing blog-series: "breaking the sin-cycle". 

        The next time you see an ambulance, make sure you take a close look at how the word, "ambulance", is written on the front of it -  (the letters are written backwards). Why do ambulances have this weird feature of their very name written in reverse letters? Because whenever you see the name, "ambulance" in the rear view mirror of a car, the word appears with the letters facing the right direction.  Mirrors reverse whatever image is reflecting off of them. Whenever we place the Biblical books of Joshua and Judges side-by-side, they're almost mirror opposites. We saw in the last theme of our "birds-eye" study of the Bible that Joshua communicated to us what it means to have spiritual victory. In this next theme, we will look at Judges, which will teach us of the cycle of sin. Thankfully, we will learn from it how we can break the cycle of sin in our lives.

1. Slipping from spiritual victory     
    into spiritual defeat. 
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      We read at the end of Joshua 24:31 the following: 

"Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lord which He had done for Israel."

       The people as a whole were experiencing spiritual victory as they were finally living in the place promised to them by God. To put it another way, God's people were "in the will of God" or "they were doing what they were supposed to do for God". 

       Roughly 300 years of time passes before our eyes in the Book of Judges. A generation or two comes and goes between Joshua and Judges. Sadly, once Joshua and his generation goes off the scene, the nation of Israel begins to drift away from God. The spiritual condition of the people of God changes from spiritual victory to utter spiritual defeat. Four times (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25) we find the following summary of how bad things would get in Israel: "there was no king at that time, and everyone did what was pleasing in his own eyes". As I mentioned earlier, Judges became the spiritual mirror opposite of Joshua.

          So what would lead a group of spiritually strong people to become so off track with God? The answer is found in what the Bible describes as the Christian's three main enemies. The first enemy is the Devil. Now we must not think that the Devil can make us do anything - since anytime we sin we do so of our own choice. Yet, the Devil and his kingdom of darkness is behind the temptations that work against us (see Ephesians 6:11-12). Whenever you read the opening chapters of Judges, you find the people compromising with idol worship. False religion is sourced in the evil workings of the Devil and the forces of evil that blind people to the truth of the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:1-4). Even believers have to watch out for the clever deceptions of the Evil One, since He wants to destroy and discourage believers in their faith (see 1 Peter 5:8).

             The second enemy of believers is the "world". When I refer to the world, I'm not talking about our planet. Instead, I mean the system that is opposed to Jesus and manipulated by Satan, wrong ideas and man's sinfulness. 

      1 John 2:15-17 warns us:  "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (17) The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." The Israelites in the time of Judges had to deal with temptations like immorality and "fitting-in" with the crowd. Such surroundings tricked God's people into a more "worldly" direction.

      The third enemy of the believer is what the Bible calls: "the flesh". The term "flesh" speaks of any internal desire that opposes God. We can see examples of various Judges getting in trouble with preferring their internal desires to that of God's wisdom. An example of this is Samson.  He kept on relying on his own opinions and what others told him. 

       So the three enemies of the world, the flesh and the Devil were working against the Jewish people, just as all three oppose every Christian today. Whenever we choose to follow anyone of those three enemies, we will find ourselves getting stuck in a cycle of sin. James 1:13-15 reminds us: 

"Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. (14) But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (15) Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."

2. Getting stuck in the rut of sin
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      Have you ever seen a car get stuck in the mud or snow? One reason a car can remain stuck is due to ruts. Whenever we find ourselves in a repeated cycle of sin, we call that a "rut". What cycle or "rut" do we find in Judges? Judges chapter two lays out a six-step cycle of sin that is repeated by the Israelites in Judges:

-They sin  (Judges 2:11-13).
-They're overwhelmed by enemies (2:14-15).
-They beg God for help (2:16-18).
-Israel would repent, then slip back (2:19).
-The people would sin worse (2:20).
- Cycle repeats.

3. How can you and I get out of the cycle of sin or "the rut".
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     In all the times we find Israel in their cycles of sin, the only time we find the cycle coming to a temporary stop is whenever they did two things: "confess their mess" and "repent and return to God". The first step, "confession", means to tell God what we did, and that what we did we recognize as wrong. God already knows about our sin. We need to recognize that our sin is sin. In confession, I'm admitting that I'm wrong, and that I need Jesus to forgive me (1 John 1:9). When we confess our sin to Jesus, our closeness or fellowship with God is renewed.  There is a second step: repentance. Repentance means: "to change one's mind about sin and and get back to God". Repentance doesn't merely mean: "I'm sorry".   It's more than that. Repentance wants to get right with God and thus, hates the sin that interrupted closeness with God (see 2 Corinthians 7:5).

       In thinking back to God's covenant of grace (remember God's covenant with Adam and Eve, as well as the repetition of it to Noah and Abraham), that covenant was shown most fully in Jesus' cross and resurrection. The Holy Spirit, at saving faith, unites the believer to Jesus and the achievement of His work on the cross and from the empty tomb. This union with Christ is the resource by which Christians are able to break free from repeated sin-cycles (Galatians 2:20; 1 John 1:9). The Christian keeps on confessing their need for Him and turning away from sin to Him. When Christians confess and repent, they're not getting "resaved". Rather, the Christian is growing spiritually and breaking the cycle of a particular sin, thus making a deeper commitment to love Jesus and hate sin. We can learn what not to do, and how to regain spiritual victory by reading through the book of Judges. 

Return back for our next theme.

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