Suspended Sin

In September, Mr. Ron Gallagher (an insightful writing friend), published a post entitled No Breath–No Life (https://gallagherspen.com/2019/09/21/no-breath-no-life/). His thoughts about a stagnant pool of water in his neighborhood led me to think about two things. First, I thought about how my pools (man-made ponds) can become so muddy my cattle won’t drink from them.

Rainwater fills my pools. As a non-aerated, non-flowing body of water we must maintain the oxygen and pH levels of the water to ensure the water remains tasty, nutritious, and life-giving. The fish and small animals that live in and near the pool depend on both oxygen and sunlight to fuel the ecosystem. One of the biggest challenges to this at our ranch is clay turbidity. Turbidity occurs when cattle, crayfish, and bottom-feeding fish stir up the clay soil at the bottom of the pool.

When this happens, clay particles can separate and become suspended in the water as they are lighter than the water itself. This creates muddy or murky water as shown above. As the water becomes more opaque, less sunlight reaches the underwater plants. When proper photosynthesis does not occur, the pool generates less life-sustaining dissolved oxygen.

The result is a change in the water’s pH balance and it becomes less palatable. As you look at the photo above, which water would you rather drink? Cattle also prefer, and deserve, clean water. The fix for the clay turbidity in my pools is hundreds of pounds of gypsum; a natural mineral that helps to bind the suspended clay particles together. When the clay particles rejoin, they become heavy enough to once again settle back on the pool’s bottom. As you might imagine, with water runoff from my pastures and my cows spending their summer afternoons in the hot tub, I battle turbidity throughout the summer.

I also thought about how sin causes our testimonies to become obscured. Turbid testimonies, both an individual’s and a church’s, limit our impact for God’s kingdom. As a proclaiming Christian, which I define as someone unafraid to tell the world about God and all He’s done in my life, I must always guard against sin. I’m far from perfect, but have become adept at avoiding “major” sins these days. Just like those clay particles, so-called “little” sins find their way into my life each day.

I think it’s a part of living in this world; we’re bound to get some muck on us now and again. Perhaps that’s what Christ wanted us to learn from His feet-washing example. He washed me clean at my salvation, but as I travel in this world, I will get some of it on me. Regular soul-cleaning, through confession and repentance, helps avoid faith turbidity. Note how I use the term “in this world,” and not “of this world.” This small two-letter change reminds me that my true home awaits me.

Are you “in” this world or “of” this world? Click To Tweet

If I allow enough faith turbidity to build up in my life, my testimony becomes unclear and ineffective. Sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happening. It happens every time we stand around the water cooler when someone shares an off-color joke. Other times, it’s when we engage in idle gossip, lose our temper, or grow impatient easily. When others see me, obscured by my suspended sins, do they think “If that’s a Christian, why do I need to change?”

I wonder how much more effective our churches would be if we recognized the faith turbidity in ourselves and our churches; and resolved ourselves to do something about it. Too many of our churches willingly allow worldly sin to live in their congregation, and guide their decisions, because they believe that’s the only way to keep their member happy and doors open. How many times do we see churches who are more interested in their balance sheet, how large their worship band is, or how popular they are? Instead, churches should focus on preparing its attendees to survive this world and prepare them to live in eternity.

How much faith turbidity can a church withstand before it becomes ineffective? Click To Tweet

When did membership size become more important than true discipleship? How is having the most spectacular Christmas or Easter extravaganza in town become more budget-worthy than serving the community throughout the year? When our churches allow these things, and others (e.g. cliques with exclusionary practices, acceptance of blatant, purposeful sin in the pulpit or church leadership roles, etc.), our communities see this. In doing so, our testimony and impact for God’s kingdom is weakened.

As guilty of being turbid as anyone, the question becomes “How does someone combat faith turbidity?” I believe we find the answers in God’s word itself. The entire Bible teaches and guides us. If I had to recommend just one of its sixty-six books for every Christian to read it would be Paul’s letter to Titus. In Chapter one, Paul shows us how the church can avoid and deal with false teaching. In Chapter three, he encourages us to live godly lives; taught to us throughout God’s enduring word.

The best method I’ve learned to deal with faith turbidity in my walk is always seeking to learn, understand, grow, and exhibit Christ’s ways in my life. As we near the end of this one and prepare for the coming year, I pray you also embrace the need to increase the effectiveness of your testimony.

God’s blessings,

48 thoughts on “Suspended Sin

  1. Another great analogy! It’s substantive and clear and gives me much to think about. It’s true that churches become stagnant when they pursue worldly glory. Let us battle the murky message this sends!

  2. You’ve done it again, J.D. You not only taught me another farm lesson (and reminded me about science class), but you also offer such fresh insight about our faith. Yes, we do get the world’s muck on us from time to time. But thankful how Jesus pulled me out of the muck and mire to set my feet on a rock…himself! And I can choose to let Him continue to wash me clean. But I must be intentional to desire a clean heart and an effective testimony. One of my favorite lines about church: “When did membership size become more important than true discipleship?”

    1. Yes ma’am. I ask myself that very same question; more often than I wish I did. As for His grace and mercy to forgive us. How very blessed we are ma’am. I can’t help but think “If God can redeem me, no one is unreachable.” Now, my job is to demonstrate that. God’s blessings ma’am.

  3. J.D., you hit the nail on the head speaking in relation to our personal walk and the church at large. I’m very grieved over the state of the western church. “sin causes our testimonies to become obscured. Turbid testimonies, both an individual’s and a church’s, limit our impact for God’s kingdom.” May the Lord help each of us stay in step with Him. I believe that will reflect in our churches.

    1. Jim, you have that special insight that allows you to attack any subject from different angles and present ideas that most people would never entertain. Then you bundle them together for the glory of our God. Well done my friend

      1. Wow! Thanks Mr. Ray. What a nice thing to say sir. I can’t argue that I’m unique my friend. Yet, God can use me no matter how strange or different I am. What amazes me is how He can give many different people the same lessons in ways that fit our unique learning styles and perspectives. As a farmer/rancher, I think I see things from a more “natural” perspective than those who have lived their lives in the cities and suburbs. Still, God can use all of us.

    2. I’m right there with you Ms. Debbie. Something that has been weighing heavily on me of late is how much “worldliness” I am seeing in some churches these days. Of course the church, large or small, reflects its people. Now that’s a troubling bit of causal analysis my friend.

    1. Is sure does apply to each of us Ms. Ann. As Paul so eloquently reminds us; we’re still human and our new spiritual nature must constantly do battle (in the spiritual realm) with the sin nature we were born with. The key is realizing it and addressing the turbidity when it happens isn’t it my friend.

  4. Another excellent post with much to chew on- or wade through. “Faith turbidity” is a phrase to keep handy to keep handy as a self checklist. Your post reminded me of a book I read several years ago, “Respectable Sins.” I believe some of what you referenced would fall into that category. Thanks again.

  5. Turbidity – now there’s a new word for me. And a powerful one when juxtaposed with the word faith, as you so eloquently pointed out. I l enjoyed the post, but especially loved the whole paragraph that started with this thought: “I think it’s a part of living in this world; we’re bound to get some muck on us now and again.” Thanks for again sharing lessons from the ranch!

    1. You are so welcome Ms. Julie. Am glad you and other find value from my thoughts. Like most, my goal is also to help someone see God in a little different perspective. He is, after all, our Lord and God, which means He is mankind’s God and able to help all His creations in each one’s unique ways.

  6. Thanks for the straight “clear” talk on persistent sins in our lives, and the need for the “washing of the Word” each and every day. Confession & repentance follows. A wonderful formula.

  7. Turbidity – I love knowing this term now! And how applicable that example is in our daily lives as we live out our faith. I pray every day that I would be a clear and true representative of Christ in all my dealings and that I don’t wreck my witness because I get careless and let the muck obscure the light. Some days – that is challenged more than others.

    1. Amen Ms. Denise. I join you in this prayer each day; “Lord, let me be a source of your grace, love, and mercy in this world. Help me to allow someone to see you through me.” I think we all get “messy” now and again; I just pray the Holy Spirit takes hold of me to correct it before it spills back out onto/into the world. Thank you so much for your comments Ms. Denise. Perfect ma’am!

  8. Thanks for the thought provoking blog. It can be easy to allow faith turbidity to ruin our witness if we don’t regularly examine ourselves and confess our sins to the Lord. I love these lines: “Regular soul-cleaning, through confession and repentance, helps avoid faith turbidity. Note how I use the term “in this world,” and not “of this world.” This small two-letter change reminds me that my true home awaits me.”

    1. Amen Ms. Joanna. We all get “messy” from time to time, but the question really becomes “Do we choose to remain that way?” My prayer each day is “I know I’ll get messy today Lord, I’m in this world, it’s going to happen. I pray You’ll help me to not hold onto my worldly mess so long that others see it. Let me be Your light to others, and help me to see when I start to lose Your brightness.”

  9. You have asked some really hard questions–ones that every church should seriously consider. I expect (hope) this post will cause some debate. We (both churches and individuals) need to seriously consider how our actions are fulfilling the mission of Christ (or how our actions impede our ability to bring others to Christ). Sometimes I feel really muddy, my friend. So thankful for the cleansing power or our Lord.

    1. That’s my hope too Ms. Katherine. I think we (both Christians and the churches we occupy and represent) need to seriously consider the message we’re sending out to the world. I also pray that I didn’t come off as sanctimonious or self-righteous here, because I never want someone to think I believe myself to be immune or “better”; for that certainly isn’t the case. I’m as messed up as anyone, but God can still use me if I allow Him to — even in my messiness. As for God’s cleansing power? Every day I praise Him for it my friend. “I need thee… every day I need thee…” God’s blessings ma’am.

  10. You give object lessons for adults that show slices of things common in your life that are out of my every day experience. This was so interesting, especially about adding gypsum. Stressors that stir us up and cause us to let our guards down cause faith turbidity too. We need those sure measures that act like gypsum to calm and restore us to a place of peace and faithfulness. You listed good ones. Otherwise, the settling takes much longer than necessary. Thanks for provoking some good thoughts.

    1. Ms. Dottie. You say the sweetest things ma’am. Am feeling “ten feet tall and bulletproof” this morning after reading your comments here. Am so very pleased you enjoyed and took something from this post ma’am. I think that’s the most wonderful thing about the body of Christ. We are all unique and different, with different worldviews, experiences, and understanding. Yet, we all come together; you with your special messages, articles, and posts; and me with my perspective. It’s when we come together to proclaim God’s word in our lives that we can “Reach the world.” Some folks need your smooth, educated, thoughtful, ethereal approach. Others need simple lessons from a simple mind like mine. It’s how God’s plan comes together. We each bring our unique talents, gifts, and offerings to Him; and He chooses how and where to apply them. God’s blessings sweet friend; you made my week!

    1. I hope you enjoyed Ms. Beckie. Lots to learn around here, much like I would have in your neck of the woods ma’am. God’s blessings; and thank you so much for taking the time to read and post a comment. It means the world to me. 🙂

  11. I’m told that about 80% of the people in Jesus’s day were agrarian. Maybe that accounts for His tendency to talk about things like sheep, fruit trees, soil, seeds, grapevines, and harvests. Painting familiar pictures with words always opens doors for understanding, and you have carried on that tradition, J.D. I appreciate your work, my friend, and your faithful stand for His truth. And thanks, too, of course, for the gracious mention in the beginning.

    1. OMGoodness! Thank you for your kind words Mr. Ron. Am humbled sir. “Pictures with words.” I’ll treasure this thought my friend. Your kindness is such a blessing. As for the mention? You planted the seed in September sir; I just benefited from the harvest. I love it when God plants seeds in our hearts and then they grown and blossom far beyond what our expectations would be. Your stagnant puddle, became my turbid pool. Where will God take His idea next. 🙂 God’s blessings sir; and thanks for all your wonderful insights at http://www.gallagherspen.com

  12. I don’t blame your cows for not wanting to drink from a mucky pond. They’re smarter than many of us, who often choose to drink the dirty water of the world rather than from the springs of living water God provides for us. Perhaps this is why Jesus invited the woman at the well to drink living water so she’d never thirst again. May we all be similarly thirsty, J.D. thanks for another insightful post.

    1. So very true Ms. Lori. It really does become a question of “What are you willing to accept in your life.” My heart cries out for those who have never yet tasted “The Living Water” my friend.

    1. Great question Ms. Carolyn. I can’t tell you I’ve thought about that, but as I am now, I want to say that the gypsum is like the acts of confession and repentance. First John 1:9 tells us that God is faithful to forgive us, but His forgiveness requires we take the first step, by confessing our sin. Once we’ve “agreed” with God about our sin, then He can apply His salve of grace to help us live out our sincere repentance. Many times in my life, I’ve felt convicted of my sin. I’ve asked forgiveness of my sin, but turned around later and committed the same sin (Romans 7:15). Satan would then try and tell me my faith was worthless. It wasn’t worthless, it just wasn’t mature enough yet to commit myself to the next step in true forgiveness of sin; repentance. So is the gypsum in my story the act of seeking forgiveness on my part of the application of God’s “salve of grace” in helping us achieve true repentance? I think perhaps it depends upon which end of the equation one chooses to look at. Thank you so much for posing this question. I want to invite others to please comment also; so we might learn together. I strongly believe that’s what the body of Christ is intended to do. God’s blessings ma’am.

  13. Great response. I really didn’t have any particular expectation. I was just thinking through that myself. The forgiveness found at the cross through grace. Yes. Yes. Yes.

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