What Is Sin?

“What is sin? It is not an accident, nor in impudence, nor a misfortune, nor a disease, nor a weakness. It may be all these, perhaps; but it is something beyond all these; something of a more fatal and terrible character. It is something with which law has to do, which righteousness abhors, which the judge condemns, which calls for the infliction of punishment from God. In other words, it is guilt—it is crime. Man’s tendency is either to deny it or extenuate it. He either pleads not guilty, or he smooths over the evil; giving it specious names. Or if he does not succeed in these, he casts the blame off himself; he shifts the responsibility to his nature, his birth, his circumstances, his education; nay, to God Himself. But human sin is not thus to be diluted or transformed into a shadow. It is infinitely real, true, deep—terrible in the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. It is the transgression of law; and as such must be dealt with by God, and felt by ourselves. Let us not trifle with sin, either in the conscience or the intellect. Let us learn its true nature from the terribleness of the wrath and condemnation threatened by God against every sin, great or small. … 

“But there is such a thing as forgetfulness with God. ‘Their sins will I remember no more.’ This is the true oblivion; divine oblivion of sin; perfect and eternal oblivion. And how is this? The prophet in the Old Testament, and the apostle in the New Testament, tell us that this is one of the provisions and results of the New Covenant; that covenant which has been sealed with the blood of the Son of God. It is the blood that enables God to forget sin; that blots out all sin of ours from His eternal memory; so that it becomes as if it had never been. But this oblivion is no accident; no mere result of time and intervening circumstances. It is righteous oblivion! … Sin is buried beyond the possibility of resurrection.

“But when does God cease to remember sin in my individual case? When I have accepted the covenant; when I have fixed my eyes upon the blood; when I have received the divine testimony to that great propitiation which has made it a righteous thing in God to remember my sins no more!” —Horatius Bonar, Light & Truth: The Old Testament

Life Is Hard! Now What?

Jesus told Peter, and now Peter tells us—Christians are going to be insulted and persecuted for believing in Jesus. So the fact that life is hard shouldn’t come as a surprise. Peter then goes on to elaborate on how Christians should live in spite of the mistreatment. 

“The more Christians are unlike the world, the more it hates us; the more we are like our Lord, the more the world will persecute us.” —Horatius Bonar

How should Christians respond to insults and persecution? Peter outlines the Christian’s response in 1 Peter 4:12-19

dear friends, do not be surprised (v. 12). I like this verse in the Amplified Bible: Do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you. After all, Jesus told us this was coming (see John 15:18-20). 

but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ (v. 13a). Notice that this should be the sufferings OF Christ, not of our own making. 

—let suffering lead to Spirit-led reflection (notice the if’s in vv. 14-18, and the if’s in what Jesus said in John 15:18-20). We need to make sure our suffering is because we’re standing for Jesus, not because we’re being jerks! David asked God to check if his actions were the cause of his persecution (Psalm 7:3-4) and we should too. If we discover that we’re the one to blame, quickly apologize, ask for forgiveness, and make things right.  

keep your focus on when His glory is revealed (v. 13b). Time is short, and the rewards are sure so don’t remain focused on the immediate pain, but look up to the longterm gain.  

do not be ashamed to suffer for Jesus (v. 16). Jesus told us not to be ashamed of Him because He is not ashamed of us (Luke 9:26; Hebrews 2:11). 

stay committed to your faithful Creator (v. 19a). Staying committed means getting even closer to God in the hard times.

continue to do good (v. 19b). What does continue to do good look like? Peter lists things like being self-controlled, helping others that are being persecuted, showing proper respect, having a good work ethic, not trading insult for insult, and many other commands. Bottom line: doing good means living like Jesus lived while He was on Earth (see Acts 10:38). 

So, Christian, I’ve got two questions for you—

How are you handling insults and persecution? Are you continuing to do good despite the mistreatment? 

Remember Jesus is coming soon, and His rewards are with Him for how we have lived. “Behold, I am coming soon, and I shall bring My wages and rewards with Me, to repay and render to each one just what his own actions and his own work merit.” —Jesus (Revelation 22:12) 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn how Christians are to live as aliens and strangers while we visit Earth. You can join us either in person or via Facebook Live. 

The Power Of God’s Name

“God’s name marks Him out; by it will we address Him; it embodies His character. … This name that is written all over the Bible, but specially exhibited in Christ Jesus, Who came to declare to us the Father’s name, is a name—

  1. Of greatness. Jehovah, God, Creator, El-Shaddai; all expressive of majesty and power and glory. The Lord God omnipotent.
  2. Of grace. It is the declaration of free love. Merciful and gracious. He to whom it belongs must be the fountain-head of love. God is love. In Him is infinity of compassion and longsuffering.
  3. Of forgiveness. He pardons iniquity, transgression, and sin; all sin, great and small; there is forgiveness with Him, that He may be feared; forgiveness to the uttermost.
  4. Of righteousness and holiness. It is holy love that is to be found in Him; righteous grace to the unrighteous; righteous pardon to the guilty.” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth—The Old Testament

5 Quotes From “Light And Truth—The Old Testament”

I like to think of Horatius Bonar as a tour guide as I read through the Bible, pointing out themes and insights I might have otherwise missed. Check out my full review of Light and Truth—Old Testament by clicking here. 

The elders [1 Chronicles 21:16]. They acknowledge the stroke and the sin: ‘It is the Lord.’ They clothe themselves in sackcloth, they fall upon their faces. So far as we know, they had not shared David’s sin, yet they at once place themselves by his side in confession and humiliation. David had sinned (v. 8), Israel had sinned (2 Samuel 24:1). They identify themselves with both. It is thus that we should take up a ruler’s sin, or a brother’s sin, or a nation’s sin; not blazoning it abroad in private gossip, or in the newspapers, but taking it on ourselves, and carrying it to God.” 

“We do great injustice to the Old Testament saints and to their privileges, and no less so to the God who made them what they were, when we conceive of them as possessing an imperfect justification, or an imperfect and uncertain knowledge of their justification. Paul’s declaration was explicit on this point: ‘I know Whom I have believed’; and yet it was not a jot more explicit than that of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives.’ When Paul said, ‘It is God that justifies, who is he that condemns?’ he was only speaking what Job had spoken in ages before: ‘I know that I shall be justified. Who is he that will plead with me?’” [Job 13:18-19]

“Everything in God’s character, has by the Cross of Christ been turned into a reason for trusting Him. The more man knows of Him the more he trusts. Trust is the natural and inseparable response of the soul to the divine revelation of the character of God. It is not what man sees in himself, of his good deeds or good feelings, of his graces, or his repentance, or his regeneration, or his faith; but what he sees in God, that calls out confidence.” 

“It is with no distant, unheeding God that we have to do; but with that God who fixes the bounds of our habitation, who counts our hairs, who feeds the ravens, notes a sparrow’s death, clothes the lilies of the field. He is nearer to us than the nearest earthly object or being; more closely in contact with us than we are with one another.” 

“We disjoined God from creation, and so see nothing in it of divine life and power. … The separation of God from His works is one of the awful features of human unbelief. How much more of Him should we know, were we to interpret His works aright. … These skies of His are not bent over us in beauty without a meaning. These seas of His do not roll for nothing. These flowers of His are not fragrant and fair for nothing. They do not say to us, ‘God is your enemy, He hates you’; but ‘God is your friend, He pities you, yearns over you, wishes to make you happy.’ How full a gospel does creation to preach to us, according to its kind and measure!”

Light And Truth—The Old Testament (book review)

Horatius Bonar is a brilliant commentator on Scripture! His insights are on full display in Light And Truth—The Old Testament. 

But I do have one complaint about this book: it’s too short! Bonar has four volumes of commentary on the New Testament (the Gospels, Acts and the Larger Epistles, the Lesser Epistles, and Revelation), but sadly only one volume for all of the Old Testament. 

Bonar’s style is not an exhaustive verse-by-verse—or even chapter-by-chapter—commentary on Scripture, but more of a theme-by-theme. Having read the four New Testament volumes first, I knew what to expect when I picked up this book on the Old Testament. Although at times he may remain silent on large swaths of Scripture, when he does spot something that moves his pen to action, it is brilliant insight. 

It bears repeating something I noted in a previous review of Bonar’s commentaries: “The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, so He is the best source of illumination when reading Scripture. But Horatius Bonar is clearly a man immersed in the overall message of the Bible, and guided by the Holy Spirit in his writings.” Bonar is an excellent tour guide to help you see items of significance as you journey through the Old Testament. 

If you would like to check out my earlier reviews of Bonar’s Light & Truth series: 

The Church Doesn’t Need The World

“Israel did not need the world’s help. The nations were stronger than she, but she did not require their strength to lean upon. Their strength was their weakness; her weakness was her strength. They would have helped her, but she would not be helped; and when at last she did accept their aid, it was her ruin. Her help was in Jehovah. Her security was in His favor.

Neither does the Church need the help of the world. The less of the world there is in her schemes, her enterprises, her hopes, the better. Never has she prospered when she betook herself to an arm of flesh, or to the strength of human greatness, or to the influence of the world’s smile. For the world cannot really help one who is not of this world, who has nothing in common with her joys, or cares, or ambitions. And never has the world helped the Church without exacting a favor in return; insisting on or tacitly giving it to be understood that she expects some compromise, some relaxation of her testimony, less of strictness and spirituality—more of genial fellowship and participation in her pleasures, if not her lusts and sins.” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth—Revelation (emphasis mine)

Saturday In The Psalms—God’s Compelling Kindness

An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes (Psalm 36:1).

David believes that fear and reverence of Almighty God would deter the sinner from his sin. This is not a dread of punishment, but a fear of missing out on the wondrous, eternal depths of God’s love.

We are not asking sinners to give up something they enjoy for a better thing. We’re calling them to step into a Relationship that is more real, substantial, fulfilling, enlivening, and satisfying than anything they’ve ever experienced or even dreamed of!

How precious is God loving kindness. How trustworthy His provision. How abundantly satisfying is His fullness. How indescribable His pleasures. How endless is His love!

It is the kindness of God that leads men and women to His presence.

Heavenly Father, may I live in Your kindness and reflect it to all around me, inviting them to share in Your bounty for themselves. Amen.

What can equal in costliness the love of God! Its preciousness is measured by the gift it gave, and by the innumerable gifts contained in that One—life, pardon, salvation, peace, the glory to be revealed. In this love there are unsearchable riches—exceeding riches of grace. There are no riches to be compared to this great love of God. Having it we are rich indeed. Without it we are poor, life is blank, eternity is dark. …

“God’s character is then the basis of human confidence. …

“This love which so suits the sinner and calls forth his confidence is that which is exhibited in the Cross of Christ. That Cross is the revelation of God’s love as a righteous thing; and thus appeals both to man’s heart and his conscience. The love furnishes the ground for trust, and the Cross removes every reason for distrust. …

“These wings [of love] are broad, and large, and strong, fitted to shelter all the sons of Adam. And thus stretched out they themselves invite us. They contain their own invitation. They say, ‘Come and be safe, come and be blessed, come and be sheltered from present wrath and from the wrath to come. Come, for all things are ready; the love is ready, the deliverance is ready, the protection is ready.’” —Horatius Bonar (emphasis mine)

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