One morning when I was in Jerusalem, I chose to have my devotions on the Mount of Olives at sunrise. Making my way through the Old City’s dark and narrow streets, I passed beside the Temple Mount and exited the city on its east side.
(Photo: Overlooking Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: צולם ע, via Wikimedia Commons)
After climbing the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives, I sat near its summit as the sun began to warm my back. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, I read about Jesus leaving the Temple, predicting its destruction, and sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1–5).
Looking across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount—now crowned with a Muslim shrine—I thought about how Jesus’ prediction proved true. Because Israel rejected Him, they ultimately lost the very objects they hoped to secure through His death—their Temple and their nation (John 11:48).
Suddenly I heard a sound that jerked my mind in another direction.
I stood waist-deep in the Jordan River, waiting for the man I was about to baptize. He made his way slowly into the current, stopped in front of me, and looked me in the eye. “Are you sure I can be baptized?”
“What do you mean, Don?” I asked him. He had tears in his eyes.
With a trembling voice, this man in his sixties confessed to me a terrible sin he committed many years ago. He waited for my answer.
I’ll never forget that moment.
Let me ask you. If you could pick one event in your life you could go back and do it over, which would it be? If you’re like me, it would be tough to choose just one. We’ve all done things that have left us in deep regret. We mourn them like a death.
And while we can’t change the past, we also can’t ignore it.
Nor do we need to.
Finger pointing is hard-wired into our hearts. In fact, it started early in human history. Like, really early.
(Painting by Domenichino. Public domain)
In the Garden of Eden, God confronted Adam and Eve after they sinned, and their reaction set the course for an entire race of blame-shifters.
We’re still shifting the blame (and getting blamed).
The solution is the same today as it was then.
We can only approach God’s presence God’s way. But are there multiple ways? The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23). But what about in the Old Testament?
After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).
Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.
In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.
This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?
In a previous post, I wrote about a Christian’s struggle with sin and 4 lies we believe about our sin. Let’s take it a step further.
In addition to taking a defensive mindset against the lies we often believe, we need to take an active approach to sin and temptation.
Here are 4 basic strategies to help you battle the tug of temptation and sin on your heart.
Everybody sins. But when we Christians do it, reactions vary. The world points to us as hypocrites—and often uses our sins as justification for their own. Other Christians tend to view our sins as reasons to suggest we aren’t even saved.
(Photo by Bigroger27509. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
But the people who offer the most brutal judgment against our sins?
Very often, it’s ourselves.
That’s because Christians struggling with sin tend to believe four lies.
A man in an Arizona circus used to train animals for the movies. Somebody asked him: “Hey, how do you tie down that 6-ton elephant with the same sized stake you use for a baby elephant?”
“That’s easy,” the trainer answered.
“When they’re babies, we stake them down. They pull and tug thousands of times until they figure out they can’t jerk loose. At that point, the elephant’s great memory kicks in, and they remember for the rest of their lives they can’t pull away. So they quit trying.”
I’ve discovered that you and I think a lot like elephants.
Especially when it comes to sin.
I went to a movie with a friend, and he gorged on popcorn, cokes, and candy. As the movie was about to end, he leaned over and whispered: “I don’t feel good. I’ll wait for you in the back.” As I walked out, I saw him holding his stomach and twisting his face.
(Photo: Design Pics, via Vivozoom)
“You want me to drive?” I offered.
“No, no, I’ll be okay,” he said.
On the way home, he slammed on the brakes, opened his door, and hurled in the street.
“You sure you don’t want me to drive?” I asked again.
“No, no,” he said, breathing heavy. “I—I feel better now.”
We drove another hundred yards, and he slammed the brakes on again! (The seat belt began to hurt my shoulder.)
Later he told me after he got home he spent some time in the bathroom. I can imagine that point in his ordeal—as he leaned over the commode and begin to experience the candy and popcorn for the second time—that he asked himself: Why in the world did I ever eat this?! Talk about regret!
I can think of no better illustration of sin and temptation in our lives than this true story.
In fact, that’s what happened to a man named Lot.
Freedom from anything begins by knowing you are free. Juneteenth—a short version of “June 19th”—remains a state holiday in Texas. It remembers the day good news arrived.
(Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Vivozoom)
But before this date in 1865, freedom had been a secret for two and a half years.
For many Christians, spiritual freedom is still a secret.
One of King David’s most poignant prayers came after one of his greatest mistakes.
“Do not cast me away from Your presence,” he prayed, “and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).
Pieces of Hebrew and Christian scripture come together in an ancient building on Jerusalem’s Western Hill. In this one small structure, events of history and tradition combine to offer the ultimate answer to David’s prayer.
In fact, the place offers hope for all of us.