DAY 1: Desires of the Flesh & Fruits of the SpiritGalatians 5:13–26 Day 1 of each new devotional introduces you to one of the major lists of vices and/or virtues. Galatians 5:13–26 is one of the more famous lists. After a few introductory thoughts on the preeminence of love, Paul describes a life that is controlled by sin and, after that, the kind of character that is produced by the work of the Holy Spirit. Like all lists in the Bible, it is not an exhaustive list, but a representative one. There are many other vices and virtues, but this is a starting point list. The messages of weeks 3 and 4 are like the heads and tails of a coin. They need each other. You don’t have one without the other. This week focuses on Breaking Bad. Next week focuses on Becoming Good. This week looks at the problem of pride and next week at the power of humility. Still, pay attention to both vices and virtues in the passage. Breaking Bad is the name of a TV series where the character “broke bad.” That is a southern colloquialism that describes the corruption of character toward a life of crime. There is a “breaking bad” force in every one of us. The Bible calls this force the power of SIN. In Galatians 5:19–21 Paul describes that power in specific detail by listing 15 manifestations of the SIN power. We can also use the phrase in another way. Jesus wants to “break what is bad.” The old hymn, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing says it this way: “He breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoners free…” Do a Google search to read all six verses of the hymn. It is the will of Jesus to BREAK the power of sin, evil, and death in your life. He died to forgive you for your sin. The penalty of sin is canceled by the cross. Now, his mighty resurrection power is for the purpose of breaking its lingering power. All week, reflect on these things: • The power of sin is still real in your life. • The power of Christ to “break sin” is even greater. • The power of God’s Spirit is at work to “break sin.” • Desire to have the power of sin broken in you. • Desire to have the fullness of the Holy Spirit changing you.
DAY 2: Signature SinsHebrews 12:1–13 One of the great spiritual disciplines (or habits or pathways) is prayerful reading and meditation on God’s Word (see Psalm 119:11, 15–16, 27–32, 44–45, 92–93, 97–100, etc.) The Word of God is powerful and transformative. As you read God’s Word, the Spirit of God communicates to you. God’s Spirit illumines the meaning of the Bible, encourages you about its truth, and comforts you with its promises. The long, steady habit of study and reflection will be used to form your inner character. As you read today’s passage, listen for what the Spirit of God will teach you about overcoming sin and about how God will break badness in us. After that, there is a special focus for today. Verse 1 has two intriguing phrases: 1) “Everything that hinders” and 2) “the sin that so easily entangles” or “the besetting sin.” One author uses the phrase “signature sins.” A signature is unique, or perhaps better, particular to you. You have your own signature when you write your name. Your signature is different from mine. First, because our names are different, and second, because we write our names differently. We have signature sins. We each have certain tendencies toward particular sins and not toward others. We also have various ways our besetting sins manifest in us. Each person is more vulnerable to particular temptations and not others. We all struggle at different points. Certain things easily affect us while other issues don’t bother us much at all. What you need to discern is what are the three or four SINS that entangle you? Or, what are the three or four biggest areas of temptation and struggle you have? Prayerfully discern those areas. But be encouraged, for Jesus wants to break that entangling badness, and he will. Hebrews 12:1–13 tells how that will happen. What do you learn about how God breaks the power of sin in your life?
DAY 3: The Original Sin: Pride, Vanity, HubrisProverbs 16:18 The words pride, proud, arrogant, and arrogance appear over 170 times in the Bible. While there is a useful and good type of pride, most times pride is viewed as dangerous and deadly. The original sin of the devil was pride. The original sin of Adam and Eve was pride (Genesis 3:4–5). King Nebuchadnezzar is the supreme leadership example of pride and folly (Daniel 4:28–37). As you read his story, you wonder if he actually got it right in the end! Look up each of the following verses and jot down, in your own words, the key insight about pride. • Psalm 10:4 • Proverbs 8:13; 11:2; 14:3; 16:18; 29:23 • Isaiah 2:11, 17 • 1 Corinthians 13:4 • 2 Timothy 3:2 • James 4:6 • 1 Peter 5:5 Pride will keep you from seeing the ways in which you are “breaking bad.” Pride will cause you to minimize your signature sin. Pride leads to spin doctoring what is wrong in our lives. It produces denial, blame-shifting, and rationalization. And for most of us, it suppresses the work of God to enlighten our hearts. No wonder it brings about the opposition of God. How much do you struggle with pride? The biblical remedy is always: repent from pride, ask for the grace of humility.
DAY 4: Jesus “Contra” the PhariseesMatthew 23 The Pharisees were a religious sub-group within Judaism. They prided themselves on their righteousness. Jesus had a quite different interpretation of their religiosity. As you read through Matthew 23 you will see Jesus speaking in strong, stern, challenging, rebuking language. Bad morality matters and Jesus speaks clearly about it. When religion goes bad, it really goes bad. Entire religious groups can “break bad,” and when they do, they hurt people. Study this entire chapter and jot down the things that were bad and wrong about the Pharisees. Pay special attention to verse 23 and revisit Micah 6:8. After you complete your list of what went wrong with the Pharisees, notice how many of these things have to do with bad character. Reflect on how clueless the Pharisees were about what was wrong, how convinced they were of their righteousness, and how much harm they did to others. Pride and foolishness are at the root of all that was wrong. When religion goes wrong, it gets ugly. Pray for yourself, pray for our church, pray for our missional witness so that we always reflect the love, grace, holiness, and goodness of Jesus.
DAY 5: The Seven Deadly SinsRomans 3:9–18 The Christian tradition has always understood sin as the fundamental problem of human existence. Sin is rooted in the human heart/character. Sin is rebellion against God. Sin is the corruption of original goodness. Sin is self-centeredness at the expense of others. Sin expresses itself in endless ways. The early spiritual directors (pastors and monks) developed a model called The Seven Deadly Sins to help Christians understand how sin works and how to fight against it. The Seven Deadly Sins list is not found in the Bible, but the sins in that list are. They are: • Lust - inordinate desire that becomes obsessive; strongly associated with sex, but anything can become the object of lust • Gluttony - overindulgence to the point of waste and harm; with anything, not just food • Greed • Sloth - indifference and laziness concerning what is worthwhile • Wrath - uncontrolled anger • Envy - resentment and jealousy toward others for having what you do not have • Pride These are interior habits of the heart, character defects, and moral wrongness that find expression in speech, actions, relationships, and lifestyle. What was once the seven deadly sins have become the seven preferred pastimes for our modern culture. No wonder our lives are so afflicted with pain and our culture is in such serious moral trouble. Self-assess: Which of the seven deadly sins is most troubling in your life? Ask for self-awareness, forgiveness, and transforming grace in any of the sins that beset your life. The Wikipedia article on The Seven Deadly Sins is a short introduction. For a serious and substantial study, see Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies by Rebecca DeYoung.
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