No Other Foundation
Book 1
Toward Repentance of Sin and Faith in God

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Chapter One
No Other Reason

The mother of all sin is distrust of God. The father of all sin is self-centeredness. When we think God is either unwilling or unable to meet our needs or protect us from harm, we look to the next most capable person to take charge of that task. In each of our minds, the next most capable person, after God, is ourselves. Therefore, when we think God is either unwilling or unable to meet our needs or protect us from harm we take the path of self-care, self-provision, and self-protection.

Distrust of God and self-centeredness cling to each other like a young couple deeply in love. It is almost impossible to separate the two. When distrust of God looks to self for care, provision, or protection, the natural outcome is sin. Whatever we may think to the contrary, there is no other possible outcome.

Sin is any thought, attitude, choice, word, or deed which results in unnecessary harm being done to anyone who is in any way affected by what we think, say, or do. According to James 4:17, we sin when we know the right thing to do yet do not do it. For example, if I know it is wrong to steal yet steal what belongs to you, I am unnecessarily causing you harm. If as your employer I pay you in cash so the IRS will not be able to tax this portion of your income, I am unnecessarily harming my fellow citizens who are depending on the government to provide them with goods and services paid for by taxes. Or if as your spouse I try to control you in an effort to get what I want, I am unnecessarily harming you by seeking my happiness at your expense.

These two examples demonstrate behavior that unnecessarily harms others. But why would any of us unnecessarily harm another person – especially someone as near and dear as our spouse or children? And why would we do to another what we do not want done to us? The simple, most basic answer is distrust of God coupled with self-centeredness. Therefore, when distrust of God mingles with self-centeredness, the outcome is sin – unnecessary harm done to all who are affected by the behavior.

Some think sin is always obvious and aggressive. This is not true. We aren’t always punching people in the nose or verbally abusing them or talking about them behind their backs. Sometimes we sin by getting so busy or so distracted by unimportant things that we fail to do what we said we would do or what we would want others to do for us.

God holds us accountable for having sinned when we know the right thing to do and choose not to do it. This means we are guilty of having sinned when we make choices that involve us in doing what we know is wrong or that result in neglecting, forgetting, or getting too busy to do what we know is right.

Missionary stateswoman Helen Roseveare told this story on herself at a late 1980's Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Urbana Missions Conference.

Helen had been on the mission field four years when God began opening her eyes to the truths concerning the crucified life. He was teaching her about being crucified with Christ so that she would die to self and allow Christ to live in and through her.

Those first four years had not gone very well. She was desperately overworked. Being the only doctor for a half million people meant there was no colleague to turn to in times of crisis or overload. She had all the responsibility, and she let the weight of it weigh her down. She became quick tempered and impatient with African nationals and missionaries alike.

Fortunately, her African pastor was watching. He saw what was happening and recognized her deep spiritual need. After making the necessary arrangements, he came to her village one Friday evening and told her to pack her bags. She was to come with him to his village. She got some things together, hopped on her bicycle and followed him home. His wife, knowing Helen was coming, had a room all prepared for her in their home.

“When we got there,” Helen said, “he said to me, firmly but courteously, ‘You just get yourself in that room and get yourself straight with God.’”

She spent that night, all day Saturday, Saturday night, and all day Sunday trying to get straight with God. But she got nowhere. The heavens seemed like brass. The Bible was dead. She couldn’t get through to God in any way that made any difference. By Sunday night she was so depressed, so discouraged, had such a sense of failure, and was feeling so hopeless that she went to the door of the house. Out in the courtyard her pastor was sitting with his wife. Helen went out and sat beside them. After a long, painful silence she finally said, “Please help me!”

Her pastor looked at her and gently said, “Helen, do you know what is wrong with you? We see so much Helen we cannot see Jesus.” He was silent for a while, then he drew a large capital “I” in the dirt with his heel and spoke again. “I think you know that person, don’t you? ‘I’ dominates your life. Me, my, mine … everything has to revolve around you. Your program, your vision, what you want to do, how you want to do it — self is everywhere.” As he continued to tell her what he saw, his words burned into her heart like a branding iron burns into flesh. But she knew what he said was true. She was self-centered, self-seeking, self-serving. Then he seemed to change the subject.

“I notice you drink a lot of coffee,” he said. “Every time they bring you a fresh cup, you stand with it in your hands waiting for it to cool. May I suggest something? Each time they bring you a cup of coffee and you stand waiting for it to cool, pray a short prayer.” And as he tapped the “I” he’d drawn on the ground with his foot, he said, “May I suggest that you pray, ‘Please God, cross out the I.’”

What a story. It has the power to speak to each of us. To help it speak to you consider the next observation and the following questions.

As it was hard for Helen to see her sin, so it is for us – not because we can't see it but because we've grown insensitive to the sin that's there. If we nurtured just half the sensitivity to our sin that we have to the sin of others we would see our sin as clearly as others see it. If we were as sensitive to our conscience and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as we are to the painful impact other's sin has on us, we would see our sin as God would have us see it.

Why did Helen insist on me, my, mine? Why did she want people to rally around her program and her vision? Why did it have to be what she wanted and how she wanted it done? Why didn’t she promote other people’s ideas and agendas like she promoted her own? Why was it so hard for her to see her own sin? Why wasn’t she sensitive to the unnecessary suffering she was inflicting on others? Why?

In spite of all the right things Helen believed about God, she did not believe that God and His ways were sufficient to adequately meet her needs in those kinds of situations. Her distrust of God and conviction that she had to look out for her own well-being led to taking matters into her own hands. Acting on her own behalf, she tried to control her circumstances and the people around her for her sake. In doing so, she sinned. And so her pastor told her to pray, “Please God, cross out the I.”

Roger worked for an automobile company. At the time he told this story he was the project leader of a group of engineers working on the drive train of a particular vehicle. As project leader, he had to attend numerous meetings to discuss issues related to the engineering and manufacturing of the vehicle on which he was working.

A parts supplier sent a representative to one particular meeting in hopes of securing assurance the auto company would continue buying his parts. He needed this assurance because he had received notice from the E.P.A. that he had to either upgrade his plant or close it down. The cost to upgrade was millions of dollars — money which the supplier would have to borrow. So before borrowing such a large amount, the supplier wanted assurance the auto company would continue to buy his parts. If he could not get the assurance he sought, he would not borrow the money to make the changes.

Unknown to the supplier, the engineers on this project were unhappy with the quality of his parts. They wanted to change suppliers. However, the manager in charge of purchasing had not yet found a supplier who could produce the quality required at the price desired. So to ensure sufficient parts for production of the vehicle until a new supplier could be found, Roger’s supervisor told the supplier to proceed with the plant upgrade. He promised that the auto company would continue purchasing parts from the supplier.

As Roger sat and listened to his supervisor give this assurance to the supplier, he was sure his supervisor was lying. He knew his supervisor was vigorously seeking another supplier to provide the parts. Yet he remained silent while the supervisor gave the supplier the assurance needed to borrow the money and upgrade the plant.

On leaving the meeting, Roger confirmed what he believed to be true by asking another engineer if the supervisor was looking for a new supplier. The answer was yes. Knowing the severe consequences for the supplier because of the supervisor’s actions, Roger wondered what he should do. After considering his options, he asked an engineer who worked directly for the supervisor to talk to their supervisor about what he had done.

Why didn’t Roger speak up in the meeting? Why didn’t he go directly to the supervisor himself and ask the supervisor to deal honestly with the supplier? Why didn’t he go over his supervisor’s head and ask the supervisor’s boss to take corrective action on behalf of the supplier? Why didn’t he call the supplier and warn him of the impending change? Why? In talking with Roger, it seems the answer is self-centeredness driven by distrust that God and His ways could not adequately ensure his financial security or position in the company should he take such action.

In spite of all the right things Roger believed about God, he also believed that God and His ways were not able to ensure his financial security — right then or in the future. He did, however, believe his employer could give him the financial security he wanted. In trusting his employer over God and God’s ways, Roger thought it best to protect his own job security at the expense of the supplier and the supplier’s employees. Please God, cross out the “I”.

Bob was raised in a home which modern psychology calls dysfunctional. His father divorced his mother and was off raising another family. His mother had to depend on ADC for the money needed to raise her family. But worse then that, Bob had been forced to move in with his older sister – a girl in her late teens with three children and a live-in boyfriend – because his mother did not want him at home. Having all her children at home was too costly and too much bother. She wanted more spending money and free time, so she drove some of her children out. Of course, she made sure the ADC funds for each child keep coming to her home so she could have the money she wanted.

A family from a local church met Bob through a neighborhood ministry to young people. Within weeks of their involvement with Bob, they wondered what they could do to help him have a better home-life. They decided the best way to help would be to take Bob into their home. Out of respect for Bob's mother they approached her with the idea. She responded in anger, cursing this couple for implying that she, Bob’s mother, was in any way failing her son. She was doing the very best anyone could do given the circumstances. Who were they to criticize?

Undaunted, the couple apologized for implying she was doing anything wrong and then continued to press for permission to take Bob into their home. After some tense discussion, she relented and gave her permission on the condition that she continue receiving the ADC checks issued to cover Bob’s expenses.

This gave a twist to taking Bob into their home which the couple had not anticipated. To agree with the mother’s stipulation meant giving their consent to lying to Social Services. They didn’t want to be a party to lying. But they didn’t want to leave Bob in this dysfunctional setting. So they asked more questions. They discovered Bob’s mother had been lying for several years concerning several other children who, like Bob, had been living outside of her home. At this, the couple left.

Anguished discussion over what was right in this situation filled this couple’s time for the next several days. Finally, they decided to give in to the mother’s demand in order to help Bob find a better life and secure a better future.

How could a mother love money and free time more than her children? Why wouldn’t she want to nurture and care for her own children? Why would she risk breaking the law for a few dollars? Why? Self-centeredness driven by distrust that God and His ways could not give her the pleasures, possessions, and financial freedom she wanted.

Bob’s mother was not a Christian, but she knew right from wrong. She proved how much she knew by openly criticizing those who's wrongdoing adversely affected her. Yet in spite of her knowledge, she was unwilling to live by the standard she applied to others if, when applied to herself, it would keep her from getting what she wanted. She did not trust right-doing (God and His ways) to bring her the happiness she wanted from life. So she lied and stole, taking what did not belong to her and placing her interests above the good of her children. She knowingly, willingly, and deliberately did to others what she did not want others to do to her. Please God, cross out the “I”.

As amazing as this may seem, one does not have to be an unbeliever, an avowed sinner, an atheist, or an agnostic to distrust God and pursue self-centeredness. Many professing Christians distrust God in some area and choose to act self-centeredly in an effort to make up for what they perceive to be God’s inadequacies. In one or more areas they openly pursue their good, their happiness, and their sense of security at the expense of others. Feeling no shame for their actions, they vigorously defend themselves when caught giving their own interests priority over the good of God and the well-being of others. And it isn’t as if they start each day with the conscious determination to act like avowed sinners. Most believe many right things about God. Most wish to be devout and godly. Yet at the same time they distrust God, consciously choosing to be at least a little self-centered to make up for God’s shortcomings. In other words, they don’t want to cross out the “I”, at least not completely and not yet.

As a result of our unwillingness to cross out the “I”, our society is in a mess. But worse than that, the current state of Christianity is a mess. This may be hard to see because most of those who call themselves Christians do many good things in the name of God. They regularly attend Sunday church and participate in the midweek prayer service. They serve as volunteers – staffing church programs of every kind. They involve themselves in personal Bible study and prayer. They listen to Christian radio and watch Christian television programs. They read Christian literature. They openly talk about their church and its many helpful programs with their neighbors and co-workers. And they give a portion of their income to the support of Christian ministry – in their home church and around the world. Yet when it comes to crossing out the “I” so as to no longer live for self but for God; when it comes to loving others as they themselves want to be loved; when it comes to the day-to-day treatment of those living in their own home; when it comes to placing the honor of God and the just treatment of others above financial security; when it comes to taking a public stand against wrongdoing, no matter who is doing it; when it comes to doing what they know is right, that is, doing everything they know is right just like they’d expect their children or employees to do everything they have been told to do; when it comes to such things as these, they have known areas in their lives where they are willful, intentional, deliberate, self-justifying sinners.

Therefore, it seems to me that too many of those who call themselves Christians are highly religious and willfully ungodly at the same time. Like the Israelites in Isaiah’s day, many Christians take pride in their religiousness while ignoring or justifying areas of sin in their lives. And like Israel of old, they use their religiousness to hide their ungodliness, even from themselves. (Note: Isaiah 58:1-11)

It doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed, it ought not to be this way. Christians are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The life we live as Christians ought to shine in such a way that those who see our lives will think highly of God because of what they see in us. The love we Christians have for each other is to be of such a quality as to convince the people around us that we are followers of Jesus Christ. The way we act in our homes, the way we treat our parents or our spouse or our children, the way we do our work, the way we speak to or about our employer, the way we treat our fellow employees – all these things are to be done in a way that brings honor to God, gives credence to His Word, and keeps critics of Christianity from having anything bad to say about us. (Note: Matthew 5:13-16; John 13:34-35; Titus 2:2-10)

So what are we to do? How are we to get from where we are to where we ought to be? The first step is to realize that in too many areas we are heading in the wrong direction. Just like sheep, our tendency is to go astray – to turn away from God to go our own way. Therefore, we must begin by repenting – by changing our mind about God, sin, self, and living up to what we know. Then, we must place our trust in the goodness of God and in the reliability of His written Word. Only when we trust God to be our savior, provider and protector will we throw self-centeredness overboard and replace it with God’s way of love – that love which seeks to promote and protect the good of everyone affected in any way by our choices and behavior. Next, we must live up to what we know is right and so no to what we know is wrong. We must deal with failure in a way that shows true humility, contrition, and a commitment to obvious improvement for the sake of those affected by our foolish and sinful ways. Finally, though no more or no less important, we must value relationships as God values them – seeking to establish and nurture relationships of mutual love and trust with everyone who is willing to join us in such efforts.

And here you might ask, where did this matter of relationships come from? Isn’t saving sinners from the penalty of sin the greatest of all God’s interests and intentions? To this we say that saving sinners from the penalty of their sin is vital. Yet God never intended for saved or unsaved sinners to live alone. God created us and now offers to save us for community living – for living in meaningful and mutually life-enhancing relationships with one another. In fact, mutual relationships of intimate communion and companionship – especially in the home – are the foundation of all that is good and worthwhile in this life. Therefore, meaningful relationships built on mutual love and trust are to be our priority too – first between us and God and then between us and our fellowman. (Note: Mark 12:28-31)

Think about this. When we feel cared for and safe with someone, we feel loved by that person. When we feel loved, we are open to building a meaningful relationship with the one who makes us feel loved. When we don’t feel loved by someone it is because he is harming us, hurting us, alienating us, or in some way giving us the message that he cannot be trusted to look out for our happiness and well-being. Therefore, all God’s commandments are like boundaries set in place to show us how to love so we can and will live in loving relationship with one another. God confirms this great truth when He says, “Love does no wrong to its neighbor, love therefore completely fulfills the law.” (Note: Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8)

Beyond God’s laws, Jesus said the purpose of salvation is to personally and intimately know God, and God’s son. God validated these words spoken by Jesus in giving the life of Jesus as payment for our sin so we could be reconciled to God – a reconciliation intended to bring us into a relationship of shared communion and companionship with Him. (Note: John 17:3; II Corinthians 5:18-20)

According to the Bible, the Christian husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, and church members are to model relationships of shared communion and companionship. Indeed, such relationship is to be the foundation for everything else that is good between them. (Note: I Timothy 1:5; Ephesians 4:1-4; 5:21-6:9)

Jesus said we are to place the restoration of damaged and broken relationships above going to Church and worshiping God. He also said that if we withhold forgiveness, thus leaving a repairable relationship damaged or broken, God will withhold His forgiveness from us. (Note: Matthew 5:21-26; 6:14-15; 18:21-35)

From these several passages of scripture we see that God has clear the importance He places on loving relationships – be they in the home, local church, neighborhood, workplace, or other such communities.

Finally, we are able to see how self-loving individualism works against God’s intentions for loving relationships between people and between Himself and us. Self-loving individualism is a state whereby we each promote and protect our own interests and sense of well-being first. It seems to me that self-loving individualism is rampant in our society. It is also my opinion that there is far too much self-loving individualism in the Church. To me, the current condition of the Church of Jesus Christ is deplorable in spite of all the good that is there. Something must be done.

I may not be able to do much, but I want to try to do what I can. I acknowledge that I do not know all the questions, nor do I have all the answers. Beyond these weakness and deficiencies, I must acknowledge that I contribute to the problem in spite of my best efforts to grow in faith and godliness. What I have is hope.

My request of you is to carefully read and think through what is written in this book. I urge you to search the Scriptures as you read to see if what this book says is true. Many passages of Scripture have been included for the purpose of directing you to God’s Word. He is our source of truth. His Spirit is the one who enlightens our minds to the truth. So I implore you, look to Him and His Word as you read.

The farther you get into this book, the more you may think I am calling for perfection. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A loving parent does not require perfection in his children. Instead, he looks for sincere effort, an eagerness to learn, a measured and consistent growth, a right attitude toward success, a realistic way of dealing with failure, and the desire to do one’s best. These are the qualities that validate sincerity and a loving, submissive heart towards God. Therefore, it is my opinion that doing your best and dealing properly with failure will make you as godly in this life as is humanly possible.

Let the wise read and add to their learning. Let the discerning read and gain guidance. The Lord God is our life, and His truth, when put into practice, is our joy.

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