The first seven books of the Bible all contain sin-filled stories that make us wince. Murder. Rape. Slaughter. Incest. Pillaging. Prostitution. Annihilation. Gang Rape. The short book of Ruth is the first Bible book that’s only “PG-13” in content.
Then it’s back to more sex and violence at every turn from 1 Samuel to 2 Chronicles. The next two short books dial it back to “PG-13” content, but Esther — well, you get the idea. Sex and violence and more.
In the middle of all that, the Book of Judges repeatedly shocks, and its appendices drive home the utter terror of these bookends: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25, NLT).
Violence Found in the Old Testament
The Bible’s most disturbing story is found in Judges 19:16-30. After a vicious gang rape, we read: “He put her body on his donkey and took her home. When he got home, he took a knife and cut his concubine’s body into twelve pieces. Then he sent one piece to each tribe throughout all the territory of Israel” (Judges 19:28-29, NLT).
In this case, the ancient moral of the story is obvious. The contemporary moral is no less terrifying: If you do whatever seems right in your own eyes, there is no limit to how depraved you can be.
In a world hell-bent on the opiates of pick-and-choose “reality,” you have to fight hard to stay grounded in God and His Word.
If you let down your guard — if you forget that bad company corrupts good morals — if you give in to the world’s blatant lies — if you shake your fist at God — if you decide to do whatever you want — your own life story will be “R-rated.”
Week-in and week-out, you see the tragic sin-filled stories of other men and women played out in real life. In their wake? Sex and violence and terribly broken lives.
Yet, God! I invite you to join me in this prayer:
Yes, Lord, I don’t enjoy considering this topic of sin-filled stories in the Bible and contemporary life. Maybe not enjoying this topic is the point. I’m afraid I’ve already let down my guard. I repent. I turn from the errors of my ways. I turn back to You, God. Please cleanse me, fill me, and lead me in Your paths, I pray.
After our personal response? It’s time to share the life-changing power of the Good News of Jesus Christ with someone else.
Born with Sinful Natures
A few weeks ago, I almost died from sepsis, a vicious blood infection that kills nearly 270,000 Americans every year. I had no idea I had an infection, let alone something so deadly. That is, until I collapsed, couldn’t move, and was rushed to the hospital. My medical team kept telling me, “You would have died if you hadn’t collapsed and been rushed here.”
The day before I was discharged from the hospital, my nurse, Judy, leaned back against the door of my room. It was obvious she wanted to chat about the joys of being a mother. In particular, she wanted to chat about the joys of being a mom to a wonderful two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
I kept listening. She frowned slightly and admitted that her perfect little daughter had started to be naughty. She asked, “How do I respond?”
I laughed. “Every child in human history has an inborn propensity for sin. I’ve been forgiven a lot, so it’s made it easy to forgive my children.” The point isn’t punishment. Instead, it’s grace-filled and proportionate discipline, with heavy doses of mercy and grace.
Judy and I joked about the little things that kids do like sneaking cookies when they’re seven years old. Then I pointed to the obvious: as we get into our teens, we can do some pretty heavy damage in a hurry.
Proportional discipline doesn’t work anymore. “So, what I did was make it safe for my children to confess anything. I promised to never get angry or judge them. Instead, I promised to instantly forgive them, give them a big bear hug, and tell them again how much I love them.”
Judy was more intent than ever to keep talking. So, I became vulnerable and confessed that I almost committed a terrible crime I was 12 years old.
I paused. “Still, I had no mechanism for dealing with my horrible guilt.” I didn’t need anyone telling me I was a sinner. That was obvious. What I needed was a Savior.
That’s why I’m so glad that Jesus Christ died on the cross for every sin committed by every person for all time (1 John 2:2). And He not only died for our sins but He was buried in a borrowed grave. And not only that, but Jesus rose again from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
As a result, at age 13, I wholeheartedly decided to convert to Christianity. I didn’t convert to a particular denomination. Instead, I converted to God, Jesus Christ, and the Christian faith. I also started reading the Bible. I couldn’t put it down.
I read the whole thing three or four times that first year. In the Bible, I found the pathway to forgiving myself. I found the pathway to peace. I found the pathway for getting rid of my anger. I found the pathway to love. I found the pathway to joy.
I’m so glad everyone has an opportunity to convert to Jesus Christ. That decision to convert changed the trajectory of my life for so much good here and now — and heaven for sure with God when I die.
“You’ve seen that assurance and deep peace in all of my attitudes, my thankfulness, and my active blessing of others these past few days. I’m so glad I can go to church and have great Christian friends to do life together. Hundreds of those friends have been praying for my healing, and God has said yes. You and the rest of the amazing team here have been used by God.”
Judy and I then talked about experiencing miracles. I couldn’t get over the miracle I had just witnessed on her countenance. There’s nothing more thrilling than leading someone to Jesus Christ.
What Does This Mean?
Every time you read or hear a horrific sin-filled story, remember that Jesus is our world’s only and sufficient Savior. His Good News of salvation is relevant now more than ever.
With humor and grace, talk with someone about the reality of sin, briefly mention your own worst story and then retell the Good News of Jesus Christ. Your friend or acquaintance will be so glad you did. So will you!
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message, I told you.
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. [Jesus] Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He [Jesus Christ] was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, NLT).
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/kevron2001
The late David Sanford’s book and Bible projects were published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His latest book was Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s book, Life Map Devotional for Women.
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