Excuses, Excuse

* How we excuse sin

Apparently the church had been quoting and misapplying the words “I am allowed to do anything.”  Some Christians in Corinth were excusing their sins by saying that (1) Christ had taken away all sin, and so they had complete freedom to live as they pleased, or (2) what they were doing was not strictly forbidden by Scripture.  Paul answered both these excuses: (1) While Christ has taken away our sin, this does not give us freedom to go on doing what we know is wrong.  The New Testament specifically forbids many sins that were originally prohibited in the Old Testament.  (2) Some actions are not sinful in themselves, but they are not appropriate because they can control our life and lead us away from God.  (3) Some actions may hurt others.  Anything we do that hurts rather than helps others is not right.  (NLT)

1 Corinthians 6:12 – You may say, “I am allowed to do anything.”  But I reply, “Not everything is good for you.”  And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.

* When God asked Adam about his sin, Adam blamed Eve.  Then Eve blamed the serpent.  How easy it is to excuse our sins by blaming someone else or circumstances.  But God knows the truth, and he holds each of us responsible for what we do.  Admit your wrong attitudes and actions and apologize to God.  Don’t try to get away with sin by blaming someone else. (NLT)

Genesis 3:11-13 – “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked.  “Have you eaten the fruit I commanded you not to eat?”  “Yes,” Adam admitted, “but it was the woman you gave me who brought me the fruit, and I ate it.”  Then the Lord God asked the woman, “How could you do such a thing?”  “The serpent tricked me,” she replied.  “That’s why I ate it.”

* Often people excuse selfishness, pride, or evil by claiming their rights.  They think, “I can cheat on this test; after all, I deserve to pass this class,” or “I can spend all this money on myself—I worked hard for it,” or “I can get an abortion; I have a right to control my own body.”  But as believers, we should have a different attitude, one that enables us to lay aside our rights in order to serve others.  If we say we follow Christ, we must also say we want to live as he lived.  We should develop his attitude of humility as we serve, even when we are not likely to get recognition for our efforts.  Are you selfishly clinging to your rights, or are you willing to serve? (NLT)

Philippians 2:5-11 – Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.  Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God.  He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.  And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.  Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

*It is easy to blame others and make excuses for evil thoughts and wrong actions.  We use excuses such as: (1) It’s the other person’s fault; (2) I couldn’t help it; (3) everybody’s doing it; (4) it was just a mistake; (5) nobody’s perfect; (6) the Devil made me do it; (7) I was pressured into it; (8) I didn’t know it was wrong; or (9) God is tempting me.  A person who makes excuses is trying to shift the blame from himself or herself to something or someone else.  A Christian, on the other hand, accepts responsibility for his or her wrongs, confesses them, and asks God for forgiveness.  (NLT)

James 1:13-15 – And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, “God is tempting me.”  God is never tempted to
do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either.  Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires.  These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death.

* The Nicolaitans were believers who compromised their faith in order to enjoy some of the sinful practices of Ephesian society.  The name Nicolaitans is held by some to be roughly the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for “Balaamites.”  Balaam was a prophet who induced the Israelites to carry out their lustful desires.  When we want to take part in an activity that we know is wrong, we may make excuses to justify our behavior, saying that it isn’t as bad as it seems or that it won’t hurt our faith.  Christ has strong words for those who look for excuses to sin. (NLT)

Revelations 2:6 – [Jesus said] “But there is this about you that is good: You hate the deeds of the immoral Nicolaitans, just as I do.”

* Making excuses to avoid serving God

Moses made excuses because he felt inadequate for the job God asked him to do.  It was natural for him to feel that way.  He was inadequate all by himself.  But God wasn’t asking Moses to work alone.  He offered other resources to help (God himself, Aaron, and the ability to do miracles).  God often calls us to do tasks that seem too difficult, but he doesn’t ask us to do them alone.  God offers us his resources, just as he did to Moses.  We should not hide behind our inadequacies, as Moses did, but look beyond ourselves to the great resources available.  Then we can allow God to use our unique contributions. (NLT)

Exodus 3:10 – “Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh.  You will lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

* Your limitations won’t excuse you from serving God

“I will be with you,” God told Gideon, and God promised to give him the strength he needed to overcome the opposition.  In spite of this clear promise for strength, Gideon made excuses.  Seeing only his limitations and weaknesses, he failed to see how God could work through him.

Like Gideon, we are called to serve God in specific ways.  Although God promises us the tools and strength we need, we often make excuses.  But reminding God of our limitations only implies that he does not know all about us or that he has made a mistake in evaluating our character.  Don’t spend time making excuses.  Instead, spend it doing what God wants. (NLT)

Judges 6:14-16 – Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites.  I am sending you!”

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel?  My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

The Lord said to him, “I will be with you.  And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

* Don’t make excuses for your disobedience

Saul had plenty of excuses for his disobedience.  But Samuel zeroed in on the real issue: “You have disobeyed the command of the Lord your God.”  Like Saul, we often gloss over our mistakes and sins, trying to justify and spiritualize our actions because of our “special” circumstances.  Our excuses, however, are nothing more than disobedience.  God knows our true motives.  He forgives, restores, and blesses only when we are honest about our sins.  By trying to hide his sins behind excuses, Saul lost his kingship. (NLT)

1 Samuel 13:12-13 – “So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’  So I felt obliged to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed.  “You have disobeyed the command of the Lord your God.  Had you obeyed, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.

* The sins we excuse cause the most trouble

Solomon didn’t turn away from God all at once or in a brief moment.  His spiritual coldness started with a minor departure from God’s laws.  Over the years, that little sin grew until it resulted in Solomon’s downfall.  A little sin can be the first step in turning away from God.  It is not the sins we don’t know about but the sins we excuse that cause us the greatest trouble.  We must never let any sin go unchallenged.  In your life, is an unchallenged sin spreading like a deadly cancer?  Don’t excuse it.  Confess this sin to God and ask him for strength to resist temptation. (NLT)

1 Kings 11:9-10 – The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.  He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command.

* Don’t look for excuses to leave your marriage

Jesus said that divorce is not permissible except for unfaithfulness.  This does not mean that divorce should automatically occur when a spouse commits adultery.  The word translated “unfaithful” implies a sexually immoral life-style, not a confessed and repented act of adultery.  Those who discover that their partner has been unfaithful should first make every effort to forgive, reconcile, and restore their relationship.  We are always to look for reasons to restore the marriage relationship rather than for excuses to leave it. (NLT)

Matthew 5:32 – [Jesus said] “But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery.  And anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

* Excuses for not believing

Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom were ancient cities with a long-standing reputation for wickedness.  Each was destroyed by God for its evil.  The people of Bethsaida, Korazin, and Capernaum saw Jesus firsthand, and yet they stubbornly refused to repent of their sins and believe in him.  Jesus said that if some of the wickedest cities in the world had seen him, they would have repented.  Because Bethsaida, Korazin, and Capernaum saw Jesus and didn’t believe, they would suffer even greater punishment than would the wicked cities that didn’t see Jesus.  Similarly, nations and cities with churches on every corner and Bibles in every home will have no excuse on judgment day if they do not repent and believe. (NLT)

Matthew 11:21-24 – [Jesus said] “What horrors await you, Korazin and Bethsaida!  For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have sat in deep repentance long ago, clothes in sackcloth and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse.  I assure you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on the judgment day than you!  And you people of Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?  No, you will be brought down to the place of the dead.  For if the miracles I did for you had been done in Sodom, it would still be here today.  I assure you, Sodom will be better off on the judgment day than you.”

* The man sitting at the table with Jesus saw the glory of God’s Kingdom, but he did not yet understand how to get in.  In Jesus’ story, many people turned down the invitation to the feast because the timing was inconvenient.  We, too, may resist or delay responding to God’s invitation, and our excuses may sound reasonable—work duties, family responsibilities, financial needs, or whatever they may be.  Nevertheless, God’s invitation is the most important event in our life, no matter how inconveniently it may be timed.  Are you making excuses to avoid responding to God’s call?  Jesus reminds us that the time will come when God will pull his invitation and offer it to others—then it will be too late to get into the feast. (NLT)

Luke 14:15-24 – Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a privilege it would be to have a share in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied with this illustration: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations.  When all was ready, he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come.  But they all began making excuses.  One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused.  Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out.  Another had just been married, so he said he couldn’t come.

“The servant returned and told his master what they had said.  His master was angry and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’  After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’  So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.  For none of those I invited first will get even the smallest taste of what I had prepared for them.’”

* In these verses, Paul answers a common objection: How could a loving God send anyone to hell, especially someone who has never heard about Christ?  In fact, says Paul, God has revealed himself plainly in the creation to all people.  And yet people reject even this basic knowledge of God.  Also, all people have an inner sense of what God requires, but they choose not to live up to it.  Put another way, people’s moral standards are always better than their behavior.  If people suppress God’s truth in order to live their own way, they have no excuse.  They know the truth, and they will have to endure the consequences of ignoring it. (NLT)

Romans 1:18-20 – But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves.  For the truth about God is known to them instinctively.  God has put his knowledge in their hearts.  From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made.  They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature.  So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.

* Excuses for avoiding what God wants you to do

This last man was thinking only of himself.  He hoped to play it safe and protect himself from his hard master, but he was judged for his self-centeredness.  We must not make excuses to avoid doing what God calls us to do.  If God truly is our Master, we must obey willingly.  Our time, abilities, and money aren’t ours in the first place—we are caretakers, not owners.  When we ignore, squander, or abuse what we are given, we are rebellious and deserve to be punished. (NLT)

Matthew 25:24-30 – [Jesus said] “Then the servant with the bag of gold came and said, ‘Sir, I know you are a hard man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate.  I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth and here it is.’

“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant!  You think I’m a hard man, do you, harvesting crops I didn’t plant and gathering crops I didn’t cultivate?  Well, you should at least have put my money into the bank so I could have some interest.  Take the money from this servant and give it to the one with the ten bags of gold.  To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance.  But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.  Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

* Pilate’s excuses for condemning Jesus didn’t remove his guilt

At first Pilate hesitated to give the religious leaders permission to crucify Jesus.  He thought they were simply jealous of a teacher who was more popular with the people than they were.  But when the Jews threatened to report Pilate to Caesar, Pilate became afraid.  Historical records indicate that the Jews had already threatened to lodge a formal complaint against Pilate for his stubborn flouting of their traditions—and such a complaint would most likely have led to his recall by Rome.  His job was in jeopardy.  The Roman government could not afford to put large numbers of troops in all the regions under their control, so one of Pilate’s main duties was to do whatever was necessary to maintain peace. (NLT)

Matthew 27:24 – Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing.  So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this man.  The responsibility is yours!”

* Excuses for avoiding the needs of others

The Pharisees used God as an excuse to avoid helping their families.  They thought it was more important to put money in the Temple treasury than to help their needy parents, although God’s law specifically says to honor fathers and mothers and to care for those in need.  We should give money and time to God, but we must never use God as an excuse to neglect our responsibilities.  Helping those in need is one of the most important ways to honor God. (NLT)

Mark 7:10-11 – [Jesus said] “For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.’  But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you.  For I have vowed to give to God what I could have given to you.’”

* Excuses for not witnessing

Sometimes Christians excuse themselves from witnessing by saying that their family or friends aren’t ready to believe.  Jesus, however, makes it clear that around us a continual harvest waits to be reaped.  Don’t let Jesus find you making excuses.  Look around.  You will find people ready to hear God’s Word. (NLT)

John 4:35 – [Jesus said] “Do you think the work of harvesting will not begin until the summer ends four months from now?  Look around you!  Vast fields are ripening all around us and are ready now for the harvest.”

* How we excuse indifference to others

Christians must obey the law of love, which supersedes both religious and civil laws.  How easy it is to excuse our indifference to others merely because we have no legal obligation to help them and even too justify harming them if our actions are technically legal!  But Jesus does not leave loopholes in the law of love.  Whenever love demands it, we are to go beyond human legal requirements and imitate the God of love. (NLT)

Romans 13:10 – Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God’s requirements.

* No excuses for bad behavior

Paul is not forbidding all contact with unbelievers.  Jesus taught his followers to befriend sinners and lead them to him.  Instead, Paul is speaking against condoning the life-style of people who make excuses for bad behavior and recommend its practice to others—whether they are in the church or outside of it.  Such people can quickly pollute the church and endanger its unity and purpose.  We must befriend unbelievers if we are to lead them to Christ, but we must be wary of those who are viciously evil, immoral, or opposed to all that Christianity stands for.  Such people are more likely to influence us for evil than we are likely to influence them for good. (NLT)

Ephesians 5:5-7 – You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God.  For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world.  Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him.  Don’t participate in the things these people do.

* No excuse for being disrespectful

In Paul’s culture there was a great social and legal gulf separating masters and slaves.  But as Christians, masters and slaves became spiritual equals, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  Paul did not speak against the institution of slavery, but he gave guidelines for Christian slaves and Christian masters.  His counsel for the master/slave relationship can be applied to the employer/employee relationship today.  Employees should work hard, showing respect for their employers.  In turn, employers should be fair.  Our work should reflect our faithfulness to and love for Christ. (NLT)

1 Timothy 6:1-2 – Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed.  If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful.  You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts.

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