When we see our sin for what it really is

After a few weeks of special church events, my pastor returned to his sermon series, “Demolishing Strongholds.” I’m so glad he did. The more I live my life and observe the state of this world (and the church), I’m convinced that this topic is something all churches should address.

We’re in trouble. We live in a world where sin is disguised as personal preference. God’s Word grows more politically incorrect by the day, and living according to the Word marks a person as intolerant.

It’s more important than ever for Believers to live out our faith in word and deed. We can’t point out the sins of the world while still wallowing in our own sin. The world sins because they don’t know Him. We are without excuse.

We have this beautiful Book of Truth at our fingertips, and we have the Spirit of the Living God living inside us. It’s time to get serious about our sin, friends. It’s time to demolish those strongholds that trip us up and hold us back on our journey of faith.

Last week, Pastor Chuck brought up the stronghold “big three:” sexual sin, greed, and pride. I’ll be posting Scripture prayers on those three nasties in the coming weeks.

Today, Pastor Chuck brought up a powerful point about confronting our sin.

We’re a self-centered people. We’re more concerned with our victory over our sins than we are how our sins offend God.

The hard truth of that statement pierced me deep. Let it sink in for a minute, and I bet it’ll do the same to you.

Let me illustrate with a sin I have been battling for most of my life: gluttony.

My sin made me overweight, and, today, I have many weight-related issues (physical and emotional) that hold me back from being the person I want to be.

My sin affected my children. They watched me stuff my feelings with food and eat way more than I should. Today, two of my sons battle weight-related issues of their own. Yes, they make their own choices, but I, their momma, led them astray, and I am grieved to even think of it.

I’m sorry for my sin because of what it has done to me and for what it has done to my boys, but I don’t think I’ve ever really acknowledged what my sin does to God.

Sin is an offense to God.

God, the One who sent His only Son to die for my sins.

God, the One who loves me with an everlasting love.

God, the One who made me and dreamed up big plans for me.

My sin offends my God.

That should bother me most of all. That’s what I should avoid at all costs.

The Book of Psalms is full of prayers, many of which were written by King David, a flawed man, but a man after God’s own heart all the same.

Psalm 51 was penned shortly after David was confronted by the prophet Nathan about a series of sins David committed; adultery and murder, just to name a couple. You can go read the story in 2 Samuel 11-12.

Psalm 51 was David’s prayer of confession. I’m using the New Living Translation today.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise you.

16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Take a look at verse 4: “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned.”

Wait a minute. Didn’t David sin against Bathsheba, the woman he led into adultery? Didn’t David sin against her husband, Uriah, who he had assassinated? He surely offended those two people, but God is the one who labeled adultery and murder as sin. Our sins are against God and God alone even though they may hurt people.

Up until this point, I have wanted to change my gluttonous ways to improve my life and to be a better example to my boys. While noble, those reasons are not enough to bring about lasting change. I need a change of heart. I need to understand how my sin grieves my God!

It should break my heart to disappoint my Savior, but it doesn’t. I can fake it and convince you that my heart is broken over my sin, but God can’t be fooled. He knows I care more about how my sins affect me than I do how they affect Him.

The question is: what do I do about it?

Well, let’s see what David did.

  1. He confessed his sin to God. He also confessed to Nathan when he was confronted. Accountability with godly people is important but should not trump our confession to God Himself. Confession is seeing our sin the way God sees it. It’s agreeing with God that a wrong has been committed and a change is needed.
  2. He repented, or turned, from his sin. Repent is a military term that means to turn in the opposite direction and move away from that spot. David couldn’t undo his affair or the cover-up murder, but there’s nothing recorded in God’s Word that he ever repeated those sins.
  3. He accepted God’s forgiveness. Psalm 32 gives a joyful account of a heart set free from the guilt of sin. “I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone” (Psalm 32:5 NLT).

Our God is a God of grace. When we come to Him and admit our rebellion, He is quick to forgive and embrace us. I think of the prodigal son who squandered his life away and came slinking back to his father expecting, at best, the role of a servant in his father’s household. But his father was watching for him. When he saw his broken son trudging down that dirt road, he ran to extend mercy, grace, and love. Our God is waiting for us to come to Him. He longs to shower us with grace (See Luke 15:11-32).

And He wants to help us say no to the temptations that will surely come. “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT).

He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can stand. Did you see that? He promises to give us way of escape if we want it.

Here’s the thing. I don’t always want it. It’s so easy to call my sin a “slip up” or a “mess up,” and just vow to try harder tomorrow. My sin isn’t a little “faux pas.” It’s an offense to my God. It’s not something to shrug off. It’s something to grieve over. It’s something fight against.

I need God’s help to truly get that. I need God’s help to change my mindset on sin. How about you?

Lord,

Break my heart over my sin. Take me beyond the worldly consequences of my bad choices. Help me see what my sin does to Your heart. “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:16-17 NLT).

Break my spirit, Lord, so You can make it well and whole. 

In Jesus’s Name, the One who died for my sins I take so lightly, I pray, AMEN

Do you need God to break your spirit, too? Let’s pray for each other that we might see our sins through God’s eyes. 

 

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This is what I’ve learned about letting go

Over the weekend, my sister and I took a turn-around trip to Mississippi to pick up some furniture from our favorite auntie’s house. Aunt Venia is faced with the daunting task of downsizing from a 3000 square foot house nestled amongst acres of soybean fields to a 1200 square foot apartment in Shreveport suburbia. It’s going to be GREAT once it’s done, but the packing and the moving and the purging just plain stinks!

Ever the family historian, Aunt Venia has a nostalgic heart. Every item in her home has some kind of memory or meaning attached. But the fact is, she does not have room to bring it all with her. Some of it, she will have to let go.

My heart aches for her because I know how hard it is to part with the things that represent a happier time in life.

Memories, and the items attached to them, are so personal. You and I could attend the same event and leave with a completely different heart response. The mementos we gather along the way are as unique as we are. While one person snags a t-shirt from every port, another might pick up a piece of wall art or household decor. Others keep it simple with photos.

But we all have our stories. The ones that bring us to tears of laughter or tears of lament. Our memories are so much deeper than the items we attach them to.

We’ve been trying to convince Aunt Venia it’s time to let go. That her memories will remain even if the things don’t. That she has a lot more memories to make. We can say all those things ’til we’re blue in the face, but, ultimately, it’s her choice, and I believe God will help her release things slowly. Letting go of her homeplace is a pretty big release in its own right!

My auntie’s struggle has me thinking about the whole concept of letting go. We are a “graspy” people, aren’t we?

We hold on to things. We hold on to people. We hold on to habits. We hold on to grudges. We hold on to control.

When our hands and hearts are full of all those things, we can’t grasp hold of all God has for us.

God has been teaching me a lot lately about the whole concept of letting go.

Letting go of things.

Since most of my things are still boxed up in the barn after living here for close to two years, I realize how unimportant they are. If I don’t need those things bad enough to go out there and dig them out of boxes, I don’t need them at all. I sense a purging in my near future (when the weather cools down). I’ll hang on to some pictures of my sweet boys and the hand-painted metal platter my parents received as a wedding gift. Those items make me smile without cluttering my life. I’ll keep a few household items I actually use and sell or donate the rest.

Letting go of tangible things frees our hands for the intangible.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20 NIV).

Letting go of people.

For the longest time, I held on to broken relationships. I blamed myself completely for the break-down. I begged them for another chance. I spiritualized the situation by pointing out God’s command to forgive. I tried to prove myself to them. I pleaded with God and with others to put in a good word for me. Truth is, I can’t force anyone to love me or even like me for that matter, and when my mind is consumed with scheming how to restore a broken relationship, it can’t be focused on nurturing the relationships I still have.

Letting go of people who don’t want to be held frees our arms to embrace the ones right there in front of us, especially our relationship with Christ.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19a NIV).
Letting go of habits.
Have you ever found yourself excusing your bad behavior by saying things like:
  • It’s just the way I am.
  • I’ve always been _______.
  • Bad tempers run in my family.
  • The devil made me do it.
  • If only I had _____________, I could ________.

Yeah, me too. We all have unpleasant tendencies, but that doesn’t mean we’re powerless to change. When we hold on to our bad habits, we’re exposing our lack of faith that God is strong enough to help us change.

Letting go of bad habits frees us to demonstrate God’s power.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV).

Letting go of grudges.

I have a lot of struggles, but holding grudges isn’t one of them. Thank you, Lord! But I have seen, firsthand, how unforgiveness affects people. Holding a grudge against one person keeps us from having healthy relationships with anyone. The burden of unforgiveness makes us old before our time because it’s a heavy burden God never intended for us to bear.

Jesus, of all people, had the right to hold a grudge, yet some of his final words on the Cross were “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV). He forgave before the offense was even finished, yet so many of us dig our claws into our grudges for years, decades, even into the grave. What a waste of life!

I love how Dave Willis puts is. “Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.”

Letting go of grudges frees our hands to receive God’s grace for ourselves and to extend it to others.

“If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15 NIV).

Letting go of control.

This is the big one. The domino that knocks down all the rest. Think about it, when we cling to things or people or habits or grudges, we’re trying to exercise control. I think it’s natural to long for some measure of security and sure-thing-ness. We want some things we can count on. We can’t count on things or people or our own willpower. Things break or burn up. People walk away or pass away. Our willpower can only withstand so much opposition.

But Jesus!

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV).

Jesus is our sure thing, but He refuses to compete with our stuff, our relationships, our habits, and our grudges. He’s an all-or-nothing God. It’s impossible to live free without letting go.

Letting go of control frees God to bring His own brand of beauty to our lives.

“But I trust in you, LordI say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:14-15 NIV).

Lord,

Forgive me for holding on to lesser things. I can’t hold Your hand and hold on to the things of this world. I surrender everything to You, Lord. My stuff. My sticky relationships. My sinful habits. My skinned-up heart. Take control of every area of my life, Lord, and help me live in the freedom Christ died for me to enjoy.

In the name of Jesus, my sure thing, I pray,

AMEN

Are you having trouble letting go? I’d love to pray with you! 

 

 

 

 

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