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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Sifted | Sermon Note Sundays

I’m back from kids camp, and, boy, am I pooped! But there’s no way I was going to miss Pastor Chuck’s third sermon in his series on demolishing strongholds. I’m plumb tired of lugging mine around.

Here’s a quick review just in case you missed the first two sermons in the series.

A spiritual stronghold is anything we have in our lives that has a hold on us and keeps us from being as close to God and as right with God as we can be. It’s that sin that, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to shake. It distracts us from being about the Father’s business and from sitting at His feet.

No matter how we try, we can’t rid our lives of spiritual strongholds on our own. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). We can’t fight with our fists or our faulty willpower. We must use spiritual weapons. The only way we can pick those bad boys up is if we throw down up our hands and surrender.

Lord, I surrender. I can’t do this myself. I need You! 

The next step to kicking those strongholds to the curb is to train our minds to think biblically. When those strongholds try to pull us in, we must replace those temptation thoughts with truth straight from the Word of God. The more we do it, the easier it will become to resist the pull of sin.

Lord, Your Word holds all the truth I need to combat the lies of Satan. Give me the strength and discipline to fill my mind and heart with Your word and to fight temptation with Your Word hidden in my heart.

To read my recaps of Pastor Chuck’s first two sermons, go here and here.

This week, Pastor Chuck didn’t exactly give another step to demolishing strongholds. He issued a warning.

Satan wants to take us down, and he will use any means necessary to make it happen.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).

He’s not the cute and cunning cartoon character with the pitchfork and shifty eyes. He is a vicious and relentless foe we’d best not underestimate.

Pastor took us to the Gospels where Peter found out first-hand that Satan is more than a pesky fly at a picnic.

In Matthew 26, Jesus is sitting at the Passover table with His disciples trying to explain what is to come. He warns them that bad stuff is about to go down and that He already knows they will tuck tail and run.

Peter, in his macho way, says, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (26:33 NIV). Jesus lets him know that not only will he fall away like the rest of them, he will bold-faced deny Christ three times before it’s all over.

Luke adds an important statement to this Upper Room account. He records Jesus as saying, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31 NIV).

I love this Scripture for so many reasons.

Simon, Simon

Jesus had given Simon the new name, Peter, which means “rock.” I guess you could say Simon was his natural name and Peter was his supernatural name. When Jesus warned Peter of his upcoming failure, He called him Simon. He knew Simon’s fleshly fears would get the best of him. He knew he’d fall back to the natural when the going got tough.

Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.

You see that? Satan had to ask to mess with the disciples during this time of turmoil. This tells me that nothing is out of God’s control.

Now, for some, this might feel disturbing. God allows Satan to torment us? Why? How mean is that? He could keep Satan away from us if He wanted to, so why doesn’t He? I’ve asked those questions myself.

Nowadays, I choose to find comfort in the truth that God’s hand is ever on my life. If He allows me to be sifted, He will bring something good out of it. I also have to believe that there are times Satan wants to sift me and God says, “Nope. Not today.”

So what is this sifting that Satan desired to do to Peter and still desires to do to us?

John Piper, in his sermon, “The Sifting of Simon Peter,” explains.

What does “sifting like wheat” refer to in real life? The best clue comes in the next sentence where Jesus says, “But I prayed for you that your faith fail not.” Satan aims to sift Simon and the others like wheat. Jesus aims to keep Simon’s faith from failing. So probably “sifting like wheat” means doing something to make the disciples’ faith fail.

We can imagine a picture like this: Satan has a big sieve with jagged-edged wires forming a mesh with holes shaped like faithless men and women. What he aims to do is throw people into this sieve and shake them around over these jagged edges until they are so torn and weak and desperate that they let go of their faith and fall through the sieve as faithless people, right into Satan’s company. Faith cannot fall through the mesh. It’s the wrong shape. And so as long as the disciples hold to their faith, trusting the power and goodness of God for their hope, then they will not fall through the mesh into Satan’s hands.

Faith cannot fall through the mesh. The more our faith becomes part of us, the better we can hold up to Satan’s sifting.

But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.

This part does me in, people! Jesus, the very Jesus who bled and died for me, prays for me the same way He prayed for Peter! He bends the Father’s ear and whispers MY name. YOUR name. He whispered His dear Simon’s name.

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34 NIV).

He’s praying that our faith will hold firm. He wants us to climb out of that sifter stronger for the sifting.

And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Jesus didn’t say IF. He said WHEN. He knew Peter would screw everything up and even told him so, but He didn’t intend to leave Peter in his guilt and shame. After Christ was resurrected, he went to Peter, dusted him off, and set him back on the right path.

Our God is a God of restoration. Even when we crash and burn, He doesn’t leave us rubble.

“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me'” (Jeremiah 15:19 NIV).

Our past sins don’t disqualify us from future purpose. God went on to use Simon Peter to preach the truth of the Gospel boldly and to strengthen the fledgling church that still stands today.

The Prince of Darkness wants to stifle our light, friends. Are we going to let him win? If God sees fit to let Satan sift us as wheat, will our faith keep us from falling?

These are questions only you and God can answer. Sifting will come. Are you armed and ready?

Lord, Satan is a lying snake, and I refuse to take him lying down. You are my safe place, my strength, and my song. I choose You and Your ways. I can look back and remember times of sifting where I lost my faith and fell flat. And I remember other times when I barely hung on. I want to be so full of faith that I bounce right off that sifter and land on my feet. And then I can fall at Your feet and give You all the praise and glory. 

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