adultery

The Trap of Little Sins

I have a little print-paper icon of St. Moses of Ethiopia that I use as a bookmark.  It is currently in use as I read My Life in Christ by St. John of Kronstadt as part of my bedroom prayer rule.  On the icon are these words from the African monastic,

Even in little sins, let us force ourselves and not become lazy for truly we have forgiveness of sins

From the Russian priest, I found these words on page 58,

Most men not only bear Satan’s burden willingly in their hearts, but they become so accustomed to it that they often do not feel it, and even imperceptibly increase it

moses and kronstadt

It is not hard for us to wake up and repent of our “big” sins.  We are quick to be offended, saddened, or feel some other emotion when an obvious act of immorality has been committed.  If our vision along our spiritual journey goes no further than what can readily be seen, then Satan has blinded us.  As long as we aren’t observant that we don’t fall for the “minor” temptations and make excuses for us committing them, the evil one is allowing us to rot from the inside.  He is often waiting for the rot to set in so deeply that when faced with a major temptation, we will fall quite easily and not realize how we could do such a thing.

Oh, it is a little thing for a man to “check out” a shapely woman every now and then and consider it harmless.  Yet, our Lord taught us better;

But, I say to you, if a man looks upon a woman to lust for her, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  (Matthew 5:28)

In many cases of child molestation and rape it is not unusual for law enforcement to find the perpetrator had a pornography habit.  Affairs and fornication begin with the eyes and the mind long before the sexual organs are involved.  And rather than confront a son’s (or daughter’s, I suppose) lengthy times in the restroom or alone online, even Christian parents resign themselves to the phrase, “boys will be boys.”  The perpetual laziness in not being watchful against and embracing lust is the cause of men and women failing at relationships as we don’t know how to relate to one another as beings who pursue purity of heart.  Even as we pursue our “soul mates,” lust stains our souls so that we wouldn’t know the “right one” unless an archangel actually pointed him (or her) out.  And even if we do find a good spouse, those little sins left unchecked and well fed are able to rot the best of marriages.

Murder can begin with unchecked anger, theft with envy, hate with pride; every “big” sin begins with a “little” sin, or a series of “little” sins.  Care must be taken that we search them out within ourselves in times of contemplation and prayer.  We who seek God cannot afford to accept the worldly excuses for them.  They must not be tolerated in ourselves.  But, we must repent of them no matter how minor they may seem.

 

 

 

Circus of Titles

When I was a boy, all we had was reverends.  The AME had one or two bishops.  But, every other preacher was a reverend.  Now everyone wants to be a bishop, apostle, prophet of the fourth quadrant of the western hemisphere.  Climbing the ladder, can’t be reverend no more.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Douthat Falls (© John Gresham)

The African-American Baptist church is caught up in a circus of standards.  Too many of our clergy have picked one or two verses of scripture to give themselves new identities among their congregants and colleages.  Our denomination has long rejected the idea of a clergy hierarchy as found among liturgical bodies.  Thus, the only ordained offices among us  are that of Pastor (frequently called reverend) and Deacon.  Our kinsmen in the African Methodist Episcopal denominations and the Church of God in Christ organized it’s heirarchy of bishops and other such leaders with doctrinal requirements of education, years of service, and other standards long established by their national (now worldwide) bodies.  Baptist ministers that wanted to rise in a heirarchy converted to one of the other churches, put their time and effort into God’s service, and (if needed and passed the required examinations) were elevated to such offices.

Thanks to our lack of authority above the local congregation (our state, and national bodies cannot dictate anything to the local church), there is a disturbing trend among Baptist and “non-denominational” churches.  Clergy men and women are bestowing the title “bishop” on themselves and among one another in cliques within the church.  As we don’t have any governance as to who may receive such a title, there are a wide range of bishops from those with legitimate seminary degrees and years of influential service to “jack legs” that have little more than a GED and ministry training from imitating what is shown on TBN or Word Network.  And with the popularity of the “five fold ministry” model (And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist, and some pastors and teachers for the equiping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ  Ephesians 4:11, 12), there are too many people running around the church calling themselves anything they wish.

It would be easy to say that we need to call our prominent pastors and theologians together and set up standards for ministers who wish to work to such offices.  But, that is impossible with our traditional lack of oversight of local churches.  Maybe our state and national leadership can denounce the usage of such titles.  But, many churches would leave the denomination all together.  Therefore, any slick sounding “bishop” with little or no theological training can teach a false doctrine and have a good number of people believe him over someone with an M. Div because the title is sounds so authoritive.  If a “prophet” has connections to a tele-evangelist, or can host some sort of “holy convocation” in a hotel ballroom, she will hold more influence than the dean of the chapel at the nearby seminary.  Indeed, a popular “Archbishop” can start his own school of religion to teach popular doctrines in defiance of a denominational institution that is dedicated to teaching the truth.

I thank God that there are still some black Baptist pastors who refuse to join the circus of titles.  May we stand firm in the midst of the monkey doo-doo that people are accepting as “the will of God.”

Avoiding Adultery

Adulterers and adultresses!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4

Perhaps one of the biggest misunderstandings we have in the Christian faith is that we look at our relationship with God too much in a legalistic way.  We tend to be, in the words of Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Old Testament Christians who are stuck on obeying commandments.  Yet, Jesus and the apostles taught that the relationship between God and the church was spousal  with Christ as the bridegroom and the church (and individual believers) as the bride.  Our responsibility then is not morality for the sake of legalism.  We are called to seek intimacy with the faithful and loving Christ who sacrificed himself so that we may draw closer to him.  Here in the text, James is not so much concerned about husbands and wives cheating on each other.  The issue is our cheating on God by linking our souls with worldly concerns instead of seeking the fullness of our marriage to him.

Forty-Five Years of Marriage (© John Gresham

 

AVOIDING ADULTERY

James 4:1-9

Introduction

  • The wrong friends can poison a marriage
  • James addresses the poison in the church’s marriage to God

Propositional Statement

  • When we accept worldly ways of pursuing earthly power and pleasure, we become adulterers and adultresses as much as, if not worse than people who cheat on husbands and wives

Relevant Question

  • How do we avoid this form of adultery?

Points

  • 1.  Resist pride (v.6, 7)
  • 2.  Draw near to God (v.8)
  • 3.  Pursue Purity (v.8)

Conclusion

  • God the Father is Spirit and has given us his Holy Spirit.  Therefore we are enabled to have the fulfilling spousal relationship with him through the gift of Jesus Christ.  We must choose between adultery with the world or spiritual intimacy with him.