SINS OF THE FLESH
AND SINS OF THE ATTITUDE
- Read Luke 15:11–32.
- We are inclined to give weight to the former and play down the latter.
- The elder son Jesus was lecturing.
- The Jews felt they deserved salvation.
- Jesus spoke to this point a number of times (Luke 18:9–17; Matthew 23:2).
- These sins are seen in the lives of the first two kings of Israel
- His attitude at first.
- He was handsome. None in Israel above him.
- Very humble (I Samuel 9:21).
- Did not seek notoriety (I Samuel 10:21–22).
- Heart had been touched by God (I Samuel 10:20).
- His later attitude.
- Presumed to offer sacrifices.
- Samuel: “What have you done” (I Samuel 13:12–13)?
- Saul's disobedience (Samuel 15). Excused himself. Not read to admit his sin. Always justifies himself. He claimed the people forced him.
- Brigand. Lawless fellow who lived by plunder.
- Man after God's own heart.
- Loved Saul greatly (I Samuel 16:21).
- Regarded him as God's anointed (I Samuel 24:6, 10).
- The sins are seen in the two sons (Luke 15:11–32).
- The prodigal was certainly guilty before the Lord.
- His attitude: “I have sinned.”
- “I will arise and go to my father.”
- He did not blame others.
- The elder brother could see nothing wrong in his own life.
- He was self–righteous.
- He was critical of his father.
- He was unforgiving toward his brother.
- He was selfish—unwilling to share.
- He had an angry and ugly spirit.
- Woman in Simon;s house and Simon (Luke 7:36–50).
- She was a sinner; an immoral woman.
- Stood at His feet behind him.
- Wept over her condition, washed His feet with her tears, and dried them with the hair of her head.
- Kissed His feet.
- Anointed His feet with perfume.
- Simon and those he represented.
- He owed five hundred denarii; she owed fifty.
- He gave him no water for His feet.
- He gave him no kiss.
- He did not anoint His feet with oil.
- The woman loved much and much was forgiven. Simon loved little and little was forgiven.
- The Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9–14):
- Publican: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
- Smote upon his breast.
- Not so much as lifted his eyes toward heaven.
- An attitude of humility, of acknowledged guilt.
- Prayed with himself.
- Thought he was better than other men.
- Boasted of his own goodness.
- Took great pride in his ceremonial keeping of the law—traditions.
- The woman taken in adultery and her accusers (John 8:3–11):
- The woman: She was guilty of sin—taken in the act of adultery, so they said.
- Scribes and Pharisees.
- Their purpose was wrong. They came to tempt and entrap Him so they could accuse him.
- Had they possessed any honesty, they would have taken the man as well. Not concerned about sin.
- The law required that the person who detected the sin be the first to cast a stone.
- All must have been guilty of sin.
- Those who are interested in keeping the letter of the law but not the spirit:
- Concerned about the legalistic side.
- Intolerant toward the sins of others.
- What is our attitude toward God and His word?
SINS OF THE FLESH
AND SINS OF THE ATTITUDE
Jesus said: “A certain man had two sons, and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
“Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’
“And he arose and come to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.
“And they began to be merry. Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
“So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of
yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found’ ” (Luke 15:11–31).
How We Look at Things
We are inclined to attach great importance to the conduct and waywardness of the son who left home. That is, this is a weighty and significant matter and should occupy priority in our thinking and concern. It is so noteworthy that we should immediately and urgently condemn it and publicly disavow any toleration of it, even momentarily. This has been our stance.
No doubt it is imperative that we speak out in clear tones against the deportment of the younger son. Our accent in this story has always been on the prodigal and we have either neglected to mention or played down the character and conduct of the older brother. By a careful examination of this narrative, it seems to me that the elder son was the one whom Jesus was lecturing. Or, maybe I should say that He was lecturing the Jews, who were unable to see their shortcomings reflected in the older brother. They believed they deserved salvation. God owed it to them. They were the children of Abraham. It was rather common for them to use the expression: “We have Abraham as our father” (Matthew 3:9). They got carried away with that idea and made some blatantly false statements: “We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’ ” (John 8:33)?
This was a glaring lie, and it is difficult to conceive how the Jews could have been that ignorant of their history. Their ancestors had been slaves in Egypt for 215 years and the whole world was acquainted with that fact. Their entire checkered career had been one of slavery and freedom, slavery and freedom, alternately for 1500 years. No wonder that the older brother, representative of the Pharisees of Jesus' day, could see nothing wrong in his own life. The prodigal was certainly guilty before the Lord. He had committed many sins through the weakness of the flesh, the magnetic attraction of worldly
pleasures, the incredible strength of temptation, the power of evil association, and the satisfaction of fulfilled lust for a season. But what exonerated him in the eyes of the father was his attitude. “I have sinned.”
He did not try to excuse himself. He made no attempt to blame someone else. He did not accuse his father, his brother, his companions, or his environment. He did not say that it was inherited, acquired from evil associations, or that he was the product of determinism. He said, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say [confess] to him, ‘Father, I have sinned. ...’ ”
In vivid contrast with this, the older brother could see nothing wrong in his own life. He was self–righteous, egotistical, full of self–admiration, and self–love. He was critical of his father, unforgiving toward his brother, selfish in his demeanor, and possessed an angry, ugly spirit. Indeed, it is a matter of attitude. This determines the direction one will take and the forgiveness that is or is not granted.
The Pharisee and the Publican
A briefer version of this story is found in Luke 18:9–14. “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed this with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.”
“ ‘And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ ”
One of these men, representing the Jewish religious leaders of the day was haughty, self–sufficient, demanding, and self–absorbed. The other, representing what one ought to be to enter the kingdom of God, was humble, unpretentious, unassuming, and self–effacing. One (1) prayed with himself, (2) thought he
was better than other men, (3) boasted of his moral goodness, and (4) took great pride in his ceremonial keeping of the law. The difference was attitude. Attitude, very largely, determines the formation of character, decides direction in one's course in life, induces the disposition of the heart, moves one toward his goal, and influences his destiny.
The Sin Exemplified in the Lives of the
First Two Kings of Israel
Saul: Saul's attitude at the first was remarkable, his outlook was commendable, his disposition was admirable, and his whole frame of mind seemed praiseworthy. He was a handsome young man and none in Israel were above him (I Samuel 9:2). In that early day, his attitude toward God's representative was laudable and his demeanor was unselfish (I Samuel 9:7). Look at his humility in what he said and how he acted: “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel” (I Samuel 9:21)? When the time came for Saul's selection and appointment before Israel, he had hid himself among the equipment (I Samuel 10:21–22).
One of the beautiful passages that tell the character of Saul at the beginning of his career is found in (I Samuel 10:26): “And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and valiant men went with him, whose hearts God had touched.” What a pity that he did not maintain that wonderful attitude throughout his life.
After Saul became king, with almost absolute power, his viewpoint was radically changed. His way of thinking did an about face, his personal temperament did a 180–degree alteration, and his spiritual posture took a nose dive. He presumed to offer sacrifices, which prerogative belonged to the priests only. The prophet Samuel asked him: “What have you done” (I Samuel 13:11)?
Saul began making excuses and extenuating himself: (1) I saw that the people were scattered from me. (2) You did not come within the days appointed. (3) The Philistines gathered themselves at Michmash. (4) I had not made supplication to the Lord. (5) I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. All of this must have sounded plausible to him, but Samuel replied: “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God” (I Samuel 13:11–13).
Because of his change of attitude which modified his course of action Samuel apprised Saul of the fact that the kingdom of Israel would be taken from him and given to a man after God's own heart (I Samuel 13:14). A little latter in his career we note another act of disobedience produced by an attitude of determining to do what he wanted to do, of making his own decisions, of walking in his own way, of resolving to place his will above God's and of being his own judge of what was best, even in the face of the plain directives God had issued to him.
Through his prophet, Samuel, he was told that God remembered what Amalek had done to Israel as they came out of Egypt. He issued the command for Saul and his army to utterly destroy the Amalekites and leave nothing, but they spared Agag the King and the best of the sheep and oxen and all that was good. When Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, the king again was filled with excuses and lies: (1) “... I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (I Samuel 15:13). (2) “The people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen” (I Samuel 15:15), (3) “to sacrifice to the lord” (I Samuel 15:15, (4) “but I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission which the Lord sent me&rdquo (I Samuel 15:20). (5) “The people took of the plunder, sheep, and oxen, the best of the things” (I Samuel 15:21). Samuel then asked Saul: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king” (I Samuel 15:22–23).
Saul's response sounds good on the surface, but you must examine the answer and analyze it carefully: “Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words’ ” (I Samuel 15:24), but he did not stop there.
Listen closely: “... because I feared the people and obeyed their voice” (I Samuel 15:24). When you reflect on Saul's attitude, you observe that he always excused himself, blamed other people for his sins and mistakes, was never ready to admit his own sin, claimed he was forced to take the action he did, and always tried to justify himself. It is this kind of sin of attitude that separates one from God, blunts the will, destroys character and ultimately damns the soul.
David: When one examines the life of David, he wonders why God held him in higher esteem than Saul and how he could have been designated “a man after His own heart.” There was a period in his life when he was a brigand, an outlaw, and a lawless fellow who lived by plunder. In modern days, he would be branded as a bandit. Some of the blackest sins found in the catalog of crime marked his life.
He took a multiplicity of wives and concubines. Though permitted, it was never God's will. Jesus said it was not so from the beginning (Matthew 19:3–9). He reached out in his lust and took the wife, Bathsheba, of another man, Uriah, a faithful soldier in his army. He was guilty of lying, deceit, subterfuge, and hypocrisy. Sin will eat as a cancer and increase into more ungodliness. This is what happened in the case of David.
There was first lust, then adultery, and afterwards, lying and murder. Certainly, in all these sins, he was not a man after God's own heart. In his effort to lead Israel to do the will of God and get them to respect God's word, he was truly a man after God's own heart. He set some wonderful examples of attitude toward God's arrangement for His people. There were occasions when he could have killed Saul who constantly sought his life, but out of respect for God's anointed, he would not lay a hand upon him.
Also, his attitude of genuine repentance, of admitting his sins, of sorrow for all of his mistakes, and his resolution to turn his life around and face God and not repeat those heinous crimes ever again, pleased God. His attitude of humility instead of pride, repentance instead of stubbornness, and of prayer instead of arrogance are the things which eventually led him into the right path and into harmony with the will of God. There is nothing more important than the right attitude.
Simon and the Woman in His House
“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping: and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and
wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, ‘This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he said, ‘Teacher, say it.’ ‘There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him more.’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one who he forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’
“Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little’ ” (Luke 7:36–47).
For a moment, let us view this woman's thinking, her feelings, her impressions—the whole compass of her attitude. She was penitent, knowing her condition brought on by her former sinful life. Here weeping, washing the feet of Jesus with her tears and wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing his feet was evidence of her self–reproach and change of heart. She was ashamed and conscience–stricken, and her regret over her past life is certainly shown in her reaction and conduct on this occasion. Further, she was generous in what she bestowed on Jesus and her love was deep and genuine.
In contrast to her attitude, give attention to the posture of this Pharisee. His was one of suspicion and doubt of Jesus. He felt that he had detected Jesus in a serious aberration and irregularity of conduct incompatible with his own traditional standard.
But the Pharisee had not shown Him the common courtesies that were due to a visitor in his home. It was tantamount to an insult, and he did it on purpose. He set himself up as a higher
authority in judgment of these matters than Jesus, and he thought of himself as incomparably higher, socially and morally, than this woman of the street. He was oblivious to any fault in his own deportment. He was critical and fault finding. He owed five hundred denarii and the woman owed fifty. He provided no water to wash his guest's feet. To kiss His feet was probably the furthest thing from his mind because it would have been repulsive to his dignity and offensive to his pride. It would have been an objectionable waste to anoint the head of Jesus with the expensive ointment or perfume. It would surely be abhorrent to pour it on His feet! Without doubt, it is all a matter of attitude!
Woman Taken in Adultery
“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.
“But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’
“And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convinced by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
“When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has not one condemned you? She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’ ” (John 8:3–11).
The story goes that this woman was taken in the very act of adultery. What has been perplexing and unaccountable to me in the reading of this account is the fact that those who brought the woman to Jesus did not bring the man who was equally guilty along with her! That creates an insolvable problem. But
what was more serious to Jesus and constituted the most effective cudgel to thrust against their defenses was to question their own morality. The woman was guilty of adultery, no doubt. But the purpose of the scribes and Pharisees was wrong. They came to tempt Him, to entrap Him, and to discover Him in some infraction of the law—or, at least, to make it appear so.
They searched for anything whereof they might accuse Him. Had they been honest they would have also taken the man. They were not really concerned about the sin, or the fact the Law had been transgressed.
Their whole attitude was wrong. Their bearing was in the opposite direction of right. The Law required that the person having detected the sin cast the first stone. One would conclude that all in that company, young and old, were guilty.
Like these separatists and sticklers who were so cautious and judicious about keeping the traditions of their fathers, we may be found to be interested in the keeping of the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it. These people were concerned about the legalistic side of the law, and intolerant toward those who may be guilty of overstepping their interpretation of it.
No more vital question confronts us than: “What is our attitude toward God and His word?”