On The Journey, Judy Bowman

The near occasion of sin

You can hear him barking way before you can see him. Loud, persistent and ferocious, he’s making his presence known. He’s kept on a long heavy chain by his owner and around his neck is a thick sturdy collar. As you get closer to the big dog you hope the chain and the collar are both strong enough to hold him back. When you get within sight of him, his barking gets so loud it hurts your ears. The hackles on his back stand up as he stares you down. Your heart pounds. He leaps up as you keep walking toward him and you wonder: just how long is that chain?

Wait a minute. Who would be stupid enough to keep walking towards a big barking dog like that? Anybody with sense is gonna get as far away from those snapping jaws as possible. Nothing good can happen from getting closer to that sort of danger. One step too close and you could end up seriously wounded, or even dead. Just like a chained dog is dangerous if you get to close to him, so is the killing power of sin in our lives. Getting too close to sin is what Catholics call “the near occasion of sin.” It means putting yourself in a situation or around certain people or things that can tempt us to sin. There’s a beautiful Catholic prayer that we pray after we’ve confessed our sins called the “Act of Contrition.” In it, we tell God how sorry we are for offending Him with our sins and we ask Him to forgive us and to give us the grace “to sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin.” Getting too close to situations that tempt us is just as dangerous as getting too close to that big chained dog. That’s why it’s so important to examine your life closely to identify your sins and what or who draws you close to sin.

To begin with, sin is willful. That is, you can’t sin by accident or without meaning to. You have to know that the action is sinful and you have to consciously choose to do it anyway. So if sin is a choice, you can also choose NOT to sin. We know that we need the help of God’s grace to avoid sin. Without grace, we’re weak and easily tempted. We keep committing the same sins and can’t seem to break the pattern. Grace is our only hope. Christ is our only hope. We received the gift of His grace at our baptism when we were drawn into the very life of God. Baptismal grace brings us out of darkness and into Light. Baptism makes us a child of God and opens the door of heaven for us. God’s grace fills us again in every Eucharist. In the sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit once more infuses us with God’s grace and love. He gives us so many opportunities for the strength we need to avoid sin.

What’s your near occasion of sin? Are you as fearful of sin as you are of that dangerous dog? You should be. You should be even more afraid of sinning against God than of that big barking dog. The dog can wound your body but sin wounds your immortal soul. Sin can kill your soul if you allow yourself. St. Pio of Pietrelcina, known better as Padre Pio (1887-1968) was a 20th century saint who described how dangerous this can be: “The devil is like a rabid dog tied to a chain; beyond the length of the chain he cannot seize anyone. And you — keep at a distance. If you approach too near, you let yourself be caught.” So the question is: just how long is that chain? Do you keep yourself far enough from the things and people and situations in your life that tempt you to sin? Are you aware of whom and what you must avoid so that grace can help you to avoid sin? Pray that God will reveal your sins to you. This is one of His great gifts to us. When we know sin for what it is, we can begin to overcome it with His help. You will see your sins for the horrible and deadly things that they are. As Christians, we seek to do the will of Christ and we pray that His grace will help us to closely follow Him. Stay close to Christ in prayer. Open your heart to Him. Stay close to Christ in His Church and in the sacraments Jesus made for us. Begin each day by offering it to the Lord and every evening, examine the day and ask God to forgive you for the sins you’ve committed that day. Soon God will help you to recognize those near occasions of sin in your life. You’ll hear the barking dog from a long distance away and God’s grace will keep you far from his dangerous bite.

“Sin isn’t the worst thing in the world. The worst thing is the denial of sin.” — Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Glenda Smiley, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church

Hope to see you this Sunday to worship with us. You are always welcome and we look forward to your visit.

Pastor Flood brought a tremendous message from God’s Word, Ephesians 1, reminding us of what it means to be “in Christ” and how precious He should be to all believers. God saw each of us before the foundation of the world. He knew all there was to know about each of us. God knew all the evil within us because of our sin nature. God gives all men free choice to be saved. God has not chosen those to be saved but chosen all who are saved “in Christ.” Hebrews 10:14 tells us the saved “in Christ” are chosen forever, sanctified, and made perfect already “in Christ.” God sees us in His Son, complete. We are accepted because we are “in Christ,” the Beloved. We are not accepted because of ours works, accomplishments, or anything of self worth. Verse 5 of Ephesians 1 speaks of us being adopted when we are “in Christ”. Our inheritance is “in Christ.” Man’s law does not allow for an adopted child to be written out of an inheritance. So much greater our inheritance “in Christ” as an adopted child (family member). Have you chosen to be saved “in Christ”? You can choose now by faith “in Christ” death on cross for your sin debt, His burial, and His resurrection from the dead. You too can be accepted “in Christ”, adopted, and have an eternal inheritance with Christ in heaven. Confess your sin, believe “in Christ” finished work on the cross for you, His resurrection, and receive Christ into your life by faith in Him.

Continue to pray for members Mike Cross, Denise Pitts, Betty Pitts, Pastor and his family, and all who need our prayers. Pray for our shut-ins, Carolyn Denton and Lula Petty, in hospital. Pray for those who have lost loved ones. Pray for our churches, missionaries, and evangelist. Pray for all of our government representatives, state or federal, desperately in need of prayer. Our wonderful country founded on God and freedom is facing perilous days. PRAY! Souls needing to be saved with time growing short.

Pleasant Valley Baptist continues to practice social distancing with mask-wearing being optional. Visit or view our services for encouragement from God’s Word.

Join us Sunday’s at 11 am and 6 pm for in-person services, Facebook or YouTube. Wednesday night Bible Study, 7 pm Facebook or YouTube, Brother Cody Cranmore.

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