Don’t Pet Your Shark – Kill It!

sharkWhile driving my baby daughter to her grandmother’s house, I drove across a friend of mine named John who loves fishing. Seeing him reminded me of a story someone told me about an excursion he had with this fisherman. A few years ago, they went out for deep-sea fishing. To his surprise he ended up catching a shark, which landed in the boat. The shark was thrashing all about, mouth agape hoping to fastened its multiple sharp razors for teeth around some flesh; probably to explain to the man who caught him that he doesn’t take too kindly to being caught!

John shouted to him, “Kill it! Kill it!” The man, feeling sorry for the shark, was hesitant. He pitied the shark.

“If you don’t kill it, it will bite you and may take your arm off!”

With the idea of being an amputee without the use of anesthetics, he used a small club to hit the shark on the head with a few sharp blows. Thus ended the life of a potential arm chewer! However, I hope its death was not in vain by providing sustenance in the form of Bermuda-style shark hash (and if anyone reading this has the opportunity to provide this author with such heavenly manna, please let me know in the “leave a comment” section below).

This unusual story got me thinking. Isn’t it remarkable that we treat the “sharks” in our own lives with the same hesitance as the man in my story? Except we call our “sharks” by a different name – sin. We look upon our sins, knowing that they need to go but stop short of killing them. We pity them; we give them some reprieve; we even say that they indeed need to die, but not right now. Then we are amazed that the sin doesn’t give us the same courtesy. We reach down to pet it and it snaps its jaws on our arm. Or we choose to stand next to it, thinking that if we ignore it then no harm will come. But we look down only to notice that our severed leg is in it’s mouth!

Sin is not a friend! It deceives us in thinking that it has its best interests at heart. We deceive ourselves in believing that somehow, practicing that sin “one more time” will finally provide the satisfaction we are looking for, forgetting that it was that very sin that failed to do so a thousand times before. We are truly a silly people.

Puritan Ralph Venning (1621-74) wrote this when describing sin:
In short, sin is the dare of God’s justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, the contempt of his love, as one writer prettily expresses this ugly thing. We may go on and say, it is the upbraiding of his providence (Psalm 50), the scoff of his promise (2 Peter 3:3-4), the reproach of his wisdom (Isaiah 29:16)…It works contrary to God, and its contrary to God’s works, and is called the work of the devil (1 John 3:8)…Sin is an anti-will of God’s will; it sets itself to oppose preaching, prayer, and all the institutions of God. And it does this, not only out of envy to man, that he should not be the better fro them, but out of enmity of God, that he should not be worshipped in the world.[1]
Ah Mr. Venning, how we need of thee in this present hour!

We need to club our sins to death; without mercy and compassion. God tells us how to accomplish this act:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:1-5 ESV).

According to the above text, here are the three things you must do to kill your “shark”:
1. If you have been saved through Christ, seek the things of God and think of those things, nor earthly things. Your thinking and decision-making should always be with a heavenly perspective. Everything on the earth, whether it is wealth, pleasure, comfort or acceptance, will come to an end. That’s why Paul said, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim 6:9-11).

2. The reason you should do this is because “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” You belong to Him and in Him you are dead to sin and united to Jesus in life. The Christian is not only joined to Christ in His death and burial, but also to His resurrection. This union with Christ is what gives the believer the power and grace to live a holy life unto God. See Romans 6:6-14 for confirmation of this truth.

3. After standing in faith the reality of the first two points, put to death your sin by killing what you would normally do and replace it with what Christ wants to do through the Holy Spirit in you. For example, Paul commands the Ephesians in Ephesians 5:25 not to lie (that’s the putting off the old man, thus slaying the sin) but then tells them to replace it by telling the truth. In verse 28, he tells the Ephesian disciples not to steal, but to replace stealing by working hard to take care of themselves and others.

Remember, sin may look pretty – but it has a set of vicious teeth that bring death and destruction. Sin was serious enough that Jesus had to leave heaven and take the form of finite man and die the death on the cross that we should have had suffered, so that we could be set free from it’s vice grip. So do what the fisherman did to the shark at the beginning of this story. Beat it to death with the finished work of the Cross.

[1] Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 32-33.

How To Have A Fulfilling Life

bean sproutDid the title grab your attention? Is that what you are after? Have your tried and failed? You thought you found it and had success for a while but then something – or someone – ruined your bliss? I understand – I have been there too. Yet I am right now having a fulfilling life.

No, I do not have the most perfect of health (my expanding waistline attests to that fact). I still have bad eyesight. My hairline is still in retreat – from what I don’t know! I also notice a very odd thing about my body as it is now pressing the mid-40s threshold: it’s starting to make some very odd noises! Bones creak; tendons snap; my back sometimes seizes up as if informing me by a secretive type of Morse code, “Don’t do that!”

No, I am not wealthy…well, at least by western standards. I am currently unemployed while studying for my theology degree. With the reduction in income, my family has had to down size to a much smaller apartment than the larger one we had before. I still have the same car, with all the dents and scratches. When I purchased it several years ago, I was single and it was large enough. Now with spouse and cute munchkin in tow, it can be a bit tight. Especially when trying to lug around tables, chairs and food (oh my) to have a fantastic picnic to a park with half of the Filipino population on the island (I jest of course…I think).

No, I have not induced myself with a fictitious joy by ingesting, licking, smoking or snorting some illicit narcotic. After all, what would be the sense in that? You will eventually have to wake up to reality. Your problems will still be there staring at your face like some precocious three year old you have tried to ignore but then looks into your eyes and sings, “I’m still here!” You may also awaken to some new problems too – like having your brain shriveled, body wasted or incarceration.

So what’s the secret? The secret is not a “what” but a “who”: Jesus Christ. Jesus made some amazing claims about Himself. For example, He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus is essentially saying that He is “the life”; not how to find life, but life personified. The apostle John wrote about Jesus, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us…These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:1-2, 4). In the second verse, John says that life was made manifest, and that eternal life was with the Father. In other words, Jesus is eternal life. Not what you can get from Him; not even if He makes your life easier; just Him.

The apostle John goes a step further in his gospel:In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (John 1:1-3).The Greek word for “Word” in this text is “logos”. Greek philosophers at the time of John kept questioning, “What is our ‘logos’ i.e. what is our reason for life? What is our reason for existence? What are we made for?” Funny thing is, centuries later, men and women are still debating this very question. John’s answer to the philosophers, doubters, and existentialists for all time is this: Jesus is the “logos” of all these things! John was saying that the “logos’” was not an abstract thought, but a Person! Jesus is the reason for life! Jesus is the reason for your very existence! Thus, joy and life are found by the very Creator of these things!

John was also saying something in those three power-packed verses that his first century Jewish readers would have picked up immediately. The wording that he was using was pointing the reader back to Genesis 1. Essentially, John was saying that when you read Genesis, realize that it was Jesus bringing everything into existence. In other words, Jesus is life.

So how does a Christian have this fulfilling life? Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” In other words, stop trying to live your own life; give up! Die to yourself and live for Jesus. Then, and only then, will life be so fulfilling and rewarding that nothing can destroy it! This is something I am still learning as each day goes by.

Want to find meaning and fulfillment in life? Then give up YOUR life to have THE Life, Jesus Christ. He will have it no other way. Everything else is just cheap garbage.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).