Sin in the Camp

After miraculously crossing the Jordan and conquering the city of Jericho, defeating the people of Ai should have been easy for Israel. Unlike Jericho, Ai was a small city of about 12,000 people (Joshua 7:3). It was an insignificant city and not as heavily fortified. If the nation was able to conquer the strong city of Jericho, surely they would be able to conquer Ai.

They might have thought that. But unfortunately, it did not work out that way. After sending 3,000 men to conquer the city, Joshua was devastated to learn they had been defeated and forced to flee (Joshua 7:4). Their defeat resulted in Israel’s feeling weak and demoralized (Joshua 7:5).

How could this happen? How could Israel easily conquer the strong city of Jericho, but fail to do so with the small insignificant town of Ai? The answer: sin! Sin was in the camp of Israel. Sin had crept in and was present somewhere in the army of God and had caused God’s blessing and presence to depart from them. Until the sin was removed and properly dealt with, God would not allow His people to conquer Ai (Joshua 7:10-15).

But where? Where was sin in the camp? After talking to God about the matter, Joshua discovered that the sin had to with a man named Achan (Joshua 7:20). After Israel conquered Jericho, Achan took some of the spoils (things that actually belonged to the treasury of the Lord) for himself. Joshua confronted Achan and exhorted him to confess his sin (Joshua 7:19). Achan confessed his covetousness (Joshua 7:20-21). In obedience to God, Joshua then had Achan and his family stoned and burned with fire (Joshua 7:25). The place where Achan was put to death became known as the Valley of Achor (“trouble”).

What does God want us to take away from this tragic story?

  • Sin is serious business. While many in our culture try to minimize and trivialize sin, God does not! God did not lightly brush aside Achan’s sin. Instead he exposed it and held him accountable. The killing of Achan and his family shows just how much a big deal sin is to God. We find something similar taking place in the New Testament with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).
  • Our sins impact others. Achan’s sin not only impacted him, but also all of Israel. Because of his actions, Israel was not able to defeat the people of Ai. Because of his actions, God’s hand of blessing left His people. This is the point Paul is making when he says, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6)?
  • We can’t be victorious without God. In this case, Israel thought they would be able to defeat their enemies by their own might and strength. Achan’s sin revealed the truth. Without God’s blessing, Israel would not even be able to conquer a small city. If Israel was going to be able to finally take the Promised Land, they would need God to fight for them. But He wouldn’t unless they remained pure and apart from sin!

While Achan’s story is tragic and sad, it does teach us something important about always striving to be right with God. When God was with Israel, there was a totally different result than when He was not! Let us learn from their example and always strive to keep sin out of our camp.

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Freedom

We live in troubled times. It appears that our country is more divided than it has been in a long time. After our current president was sworn in last Friday, millions of Americans spent the weekend protesting their displeasure. In major cities across the country there were people marching and loudly voicing their displeasure for the direction of the country.

It is certainly discouraging to see how divided we are. In fact, if we just spent an hour watching the news over the past few days, we might think that we live in one of the worst countries in the world. But the truth is, despite all the protest (despite all the anger and pessimism of many) we still live in the greatest country in the world! Our country is great because we have something of great importance and yet it is often taken for granted. We have freedom.

  • Freedom to choose our own path. We live in a country where we can not only dream big, but we can move towards achieving those dreams. We can be doctors and lawyers. We can own businesses. We can be teachers and engineers. We can work hard and accumulate wealth. Our children can get educated and aspire to be whatever they want.
  • Freedom to go anywhere at any time. You need to go to Walmart today? You need to visit someone in their home? You want to go to the mall in Cool Springs, or even to visit New York or California? If you have the resources and the time, go! In this country you have the freedom to go anywhere you want at any time. It is totally up to you.
  • Freedom to vote. I know millions are not happy with the outcome of the recent election (the truth is every election has a group of unhappy folks), but what a blessing it is to have a say in our political process. What a blessing it is to be able to vote and choose our leaders. I have been many places where the people did not have the privilege of voting. In some cases they may have been allowed to vote, but if they didn’t vote a certain way they could be arrested or even killed!
  • Freedom of religion. There are Christians across the globe who would do anything to have this privilege. Our brethren in the first century would have loved to have had this privilege. Instead many of them were arrested, beaten, and killed for their faith (Acts 4:18-20, 23-31; Revelation 2:13). We have the privilege of being able to get up on Sunday morning to go and worship God without fear of any kind of interference from our government. In fact, we have the protected right to worship in our country! We have the protected right to teach the Bible and spread the gospel to others! Unfortunately, so often many struggle with taking advantage of this privilege.

Regardless of whether the person you voted for won or not, don’t lose sight of the blessings of freedom. Don’t take for granted how wonderful it is to live in a free country! Millions of people in the world would do anything to have all the freedoms that come with being an American.

The question is: do you have the freedom that Jesus died to give you? Jesus didn’t die so you can have the freedom that comes with being an American citizen. Jesus died so you can be set free from sin (Romans 5:8-10; 6:17-18). There are many Americans who have all the freedoms mentioned above, but they are still slaves of the terrible master of sin (John 8:34). As a result, they will die lost in their sins (John 8:24). Don’t let that be you! Surrender to Jesus. Obey the truth because only it can set you free (John 8:32).

– Shawn Jeffries

Great Underdog Stories

Do you know what it means to be an underdog? Dictionary.com defines an underdog as someone “who is expected to lose a contest or struggle; one that is at a disadvantage.” We live in a culture that loves to root for underdogs. We especially love to do this in sports.

One of the greatest underdog sports stories in history took place during the Cold War in the 1980 Winter Olympics. The United States national team (made up of amateur and collegiate players) defeated the Soviet Union national team (which had won the gold metal in six of the seven previous Olympic games) in a medal round game. Team USA would go on to win the gold medal that year, while the Soviet Union took the silver medal. In 1999 Sports Illustrated ranked “The Miracle on Ice” as the biggest upset in sports history! It is a great story of an underdog defying the odds and experiencing victory.

Did you know that there are great “underdog” accounts also found in the Bible?

  • For example, there is the account of a little shepherd boy named David who had the courage to go out to battle against the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). All of Israel (including King Saul) was afraid to fight Goliath, but David had faith that God would give him the victory. He said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). For many that day it appeared that the young boy David did not have a shot of defeating the over 9 foot tall experienced warrior. But, with the blessing of God, David used a smooth stone and sling shot and knocked Goliath out. He then took the giant’s sword and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw their great solider defeated they fled in great fear.
  • There is also the account of Gideon leading the army of God to victory against the Midianites (Judges 6-7). Before sending Gideon’s army out to battle, God first dwindled down the number of Israelite soldiers from 32,000 to just 300. God used these 300 men to defeat several thousands. Through this experience God wanted to teach Israel to depend on His power and not their own (Judges 7:2).
  • In the time of the Roman Empire it certainly appeared that Satan was getting the best of the people of God. Christians were constantly being martyred because they were unwilling to worship the emperor as “god.” This fierce persecution caused some of the martyred to wonder when God was going to avenge and deliver their brethren from their oppressors (Revelation 6:9-11). Satan was certainly trying to do his best to use this world empire to destroy Christianity, but ultimately he would fail. The army of Jesus would prevail (Revelation 17:14). Today the Roman Empire is no more, but the kingdom of Jesus still stands (Daniel 2:44)!
  • And then consider the victory of God’s own Son on the cross for the sins of the world. After Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples, He went through a series of shameful trials, was mocked, scourged, crucified on a cross, and buried in the tomb of a rich man, it appeared that Satan had won the war. But three days later, on Sunday morning, some disciples went into the tomb and found it empty. Jesus had been raised from the dead (Luke 24:1-12)! His resurrection demonstrated that God the Father was pleased with His sacrifice for our sins and He was in fact the very Son of God (Ephesians 5:2; Romans 1:4). Through the resurrection we are given a living hope that if we follow Jesus’ teaching we can actually be saved and go to heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5). Through the resurrection Jesus defeated Satan and conquered two enemies that we could never defeat on our own – sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Revelation 1:17-18).

 

Every day we face a fierce battle with the devil. He is our greatest enemy and his mission is to seek and destroy us spiritually (1 Peter 5:8).  He is a strong enemy and against him on our own we are truly “underdogs.” But as David demonstrated against Goliath, when we put our faith and trust in God, no enemy can stand against us. Not even an enemy as strong as Satan.

Use the next few days to deeply meditate and express thanksgiving to God for the victory you have if you are in Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). Thank God that if you are in Christ, through the death and resurrection of His Son, you have everything you need to defeat your greatest enemy.

– Shawn Jeffries

Adultery, Sin, and The Ashley Madison Affair

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Millions of philandering (and would-be-philanderer) spouses were “outed” last month when the Ashley Madison website was hacked. The personal information of 39 million users from 53 countries was leaked. Aftershocks from these revelations were felt from the Pentagon to the pulpit.

A bevy of investigations was launched among government employees over the security breach. Some of the exposed website users committed suicide. Others resigned from their work or lost their job – including Ashley Madison’s CEO. It was even reported that some 400 clergy resigned publicly from their ministries on Sunday August 30, 2015.

The Ashley Madison website offered a simple product: Adultery. Their trademarked slogan was, “Life is short. Have an affair.” For one subscription price, the website would moderate customer information to help facilitate a potential affair for users. But for a premium rate the website practically guaranteed an extra-marital affair.

Yet the adulterers and adulteresses face terrible consequences for their sin. Publicly there is scandal, disgrace, and potentially unemployment. Privately there is broken trust, broken hearts, and possibly divorce. Some adulterers even go to rehab.

So how did the Ashley Madison website persuade people to pay for the privilege of losing everything?

Ashley Madison offered an approach to the sin of adultery that promised, “Sin is safe.” They marketed a particular temptation. For the disenchanted spouse, or simply the curious, this company presented the illusion that adultery is easy, fun, popular, fulfilling…and no one will ever know.

This is always Sin’s pitch. One can replace adultery with any number of unrighteous deeds that the Bible condemns and see people running headlong into them because they are deceived.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NKJV.

Sin does not work the way Ashley Madison promised. The Bible tells us how sin really works. There is a “passing pleasure” with it (Hebrews 11:25). But then sin “brings forth death” (James 1:15). And “your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

Do not be deceived. There is no safe sin. An Ashley Madison approach to sin says three things, all of which are false!

  1. Sin is safe as long as it is inconsequential. “Life is short. Have an affair.” This echoes another lie that the Bible exposes, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Life is short but it does not follow that we should indulge every appetite. There are consequences – temporally and spiritually. There is a resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-49). There is a final judgment (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). There is eternal life to be gained and perdition to be avoided (Matthew 25:46). Life is short. Eternity is long. Don’t have an affair! Don’t think your sins do not impact yourself, your family, or your neighbors. Don’t think that you won’t answer for it to God. Sin has consequences. It’s been said that sin takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you can ever pay.
  2. Sin is safe as long as it is consensual. “We’re all consenting adults here.” Who consented? Fallout from this Ashley Madison affair shows that while millions of people subscribed, clearly millions more were neither consulted nor consented. God’s Word is the moral authority, not personal inclinations. Righteousness is declared by the Word of God. Sin is identified and condemned by the Word of God. God never consents to sin and since life is short, His judgment matters the most (John 12:48).
  3. Sin is safe as long as it is concealed. Ashley Madison’s brand is a beautiful woman shushing the world with her fingertip. The Ashley Madison website promised discretion, absolute secrecy, and identity protection. But hackers showed they could not deliver. Such secrets rarely stay hidden in this life but nothing is hidden from God (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Hebrews 4:13). No sin is safe.

My heart breaks for the millions of homes shattered – to different degrees – over the Ashley Madison affair. The media cycle has moved on but the families are still picking up the pieces.

Yet it would be a tragedy compounded not to learn from this situation.

Know that everything the Bible says about Sin and Temptation is true. You will feel inclined and deceived into involving yourself with it, but in the end it will ruin your life and damn your soul. Neither Ashley Madison nor Satan himself can deliver on all that Sin promises.

Know that if you invested the time and money romancing your spouse rather than cheating on them, you might be pleasantly surprised by how fulfilling marriage can be. This is an application of the Bible truth: you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7).

Know that there is power to conquer sin. While this post has explored some of the deception and pain involved with sin, God loved us too much to allow Sin and Death to be the final words in our story. The gospel really is good news because by Christ’s cross there is forgiveness and reconciliation with God that can lead to forgiveness, peace, and healing between all of sinful mankind – even wounded spouses.

By Andrew Roberts