My Worst Sin Revealed (And Yours, Too!)

IMG_1818Our sins say a lot more about us than that we’re just weak, awful people. Usually only the weak part is true, but whatever’s behind the weakness is the real issue and the greatest key to our healing and freedom from the sin itself.

While some people’s response to sin is something like  just stop it! the people who’ve struggled with compulsivity know all too well that “just stopping” is the one thing they can’t do. That’s the problem – they can’t stop. Something’s driving them into repetitive behavior that is bigger than they are, stronger than they are, and whatever it is has gotten the upper hand to the point that just stopping is no longer an option. Even if they did stop the outward behaviors, the inner hurts or deficits pushing them are still there, if not dealt with. Ever heard of a dry drunk?

Jesus said, “…how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house (Matthew 12:29).” Sometimes even once strong men in the Lord have allowed themselves to become “entangled again in the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1) and need some serious help getting free. There are many pastor’s names that came to light on the Ashleigh Madison list some time back, and very sadly, a worship leader I know of committed suicide because of it, leaving a beautiful wife and three precious sons, as well as a ministry cut short and lost to us all.

But here’s the Grand Irony.

While we are repulsed by sin, God is drawn to it.

Paul wrote, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound (Romans 5:20).

We’ve been schooled to hate the idea of sin so much that we’ve lost any real love for those caught up in it. We say that awful hate the sin, love the sinner thing, but we don’t really love the sinner to begin with. Our separatist language betrays us as we think and speak of them and us. Our bigotry and disdain of people’s lifestyles and choices would never allow us to get close enough to love them, much less to allow them to hear and feel the love of Jesus coming out of us, if it really is coming out of us. Jesus willingly sacrificed His reputation to hang out with some very unseemly people (Mark 2:16), but do we?

Sin is nothing to God.

He conquered all of it on the victorious cross and it’s no longer a problem to Him.

The problem is ours, and, until we can get over our sin-o-phobia, we will continue to divide the Body of Christ and fail to love the world Jesus still loves with all of His heart, despite how they/we live. Jesus has ended the sin problem once and for all, even though there are plenty of people who don’t know it.

In the end, there are two kinds of sinners in the world – those who know Jesus loves them and those who don’t.

Christians can be some of the most judgmental and even some of the meanest people on the face of the earth, feeling justified by their self-righteousness and “corner on the truth.”

But Americans, even Christian Americans who tithe and vote Republican, spend 30 billion dollars a year on porn, much of that being child pornography. It is estimated that almost 50% of Americans are addicted to porn–men and women, Jews and Gentiles, saints and sinners, including many of the ones shouting the loudest about Biblical orthodoxy and about who is saved and who isn’t. Obviously, legislated morality is a bust, even for professing Christians.

Our thirst for graphic sexuality is pointing to a deep need for authentic intimacy in our relationships and in our communities, as well as the need for something deeper in our churches, and something even deeper than repentance itself – the true worship of God.

You see, a sin problem in us is always a worship problem first.

When sins pop up in our lives, they’re telling us that the deepest need of all is going unmet, that of valuing God more than anything else and understanding our intrinsic worth to Him above everything else. If we understood Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27b), we wouldn’t dishonor Him, others, or ourselves, but operate in His kind of love that brings nothing but life and freedom.

Repentance is useless without love (1 Cor. 13).

Telling God we’re sorry for looking at bad things isn’t repentance, but a childish attempt to feel better about what we’ve done. Even stopping looking at bad things isn’t real repentance, necessarily, especially if the insatiable desire is still present, albeit un-acted upon. Sometimes the way to holiness is though the therapist’s office where we come to understand some of the unchallenged childhood beliefs that are still driving us to act out irrationally, childishly, and even dangerously.

White-knuckling isn’t repentance.

True repentance happens when we finally see that what Jesus offers is much, much better than what we lust after. It’s that revelation that heals us. When we see Him for who He is, for who He really is, grace allows us to replace lust or control or power or whatever it is that’s gotten hold of us with true worship.

The sin loses its hold on us because it is replaced with the presence of God. Then repentance is easy. It’s like we finally want the sparkling clear water rather than the vile, dark, nasty sludge we’ve been drinking. The lost son in Luke 15 discovered this when he came to his senses in the pigpen and corn husks for breakfast were no longer appealing.

The constant, nagging, bottomless desire to act out inappropriately is also telling us that we’ve probably not dealt well with childhood attachment/rejection issues, our own sexual development and maturity, or a problem in our marriage we’ve ignored.

Compulsive sexual sins are like smoke signals from our soul trying to warn us that something in us is needing more attention than we’ve given it. Hurt people hurt people. Stuffed emotions and un-dealt with hurts will always show up somewhere, be it rage, alcoholism, addiction, over spending, religious dogmatism, or overbearing control issues.

So, here’s my worst sin – and yours – we love the thought that we’re better than “the world” more than we love the actual people in it the way Jesus loves them.

Instead of tenderly restoring pastors or others caught in adultery or pornography, we throw the stones of disgust instead of realizing that their sins, and ours, point to a deeper need that isn’t being addressed somehow.

We’ve subtly begun to believe that our Christian lives are a good reason for God to love us and we have, once again, moved out of grace into works, thinking we’ve earned our salvation. It is then that we become holier-than-thou in our attitudes and conversations and cease to be anything like Jesus (see John 8:7).

There are terrible consequences in this life to some of our sins, but not to all.

Those pastors and others outed by the Ashleigh Madison hack will pay dearly, though our prayer should be for the complete restoration of their hearts, families, and good ministries. But many of our own daily sins, those “little sins” we cherish like envy, slander, or malicious gossip, may never be found out til we see Jesus. 1 Timothy 5:24 says, “Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later.”

We all sin.

We all fail to meet the mark. We all blunder and transgress and mess up. Some commit the “big sins” and some don’t, but in the end, sin is sin. No one can live a completely sinless life like Jesus did. That’s why He’s the Savior and we’re not. That’s why only His blood could pay the highest price, the complete ransom of our souls, cheating death and buying us back from ultimate sin and death forever. That’s why He can still “break the power of canceled sin” as Charles Wesley wrote, even the big ones.

So for my friends who are sinless most of the time, well done and watch out. Jesus told Peter that “Satan has desired to have you” (Luke 22:31) and we should all remember that the devil “as a roaring lion walks about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).” To Satan, people being eaten up by religious bigotry and hatefulness is just as effective as being eaten up by porn. Neither brings about the kingdom of God or makes His love grow among us.

For my friends who are struggling with addictions and lust, feeling lost in the abyss of self-hatred and fear, turn and look deep into the eyes of  Jesus, the Man who transcends all human concepts of love and religion. Drink deeply of the love and total acceptance pouring out from Him right now over you. He’s been with you through every hurt, abuse, fear, and sinful act. He knows the hours you’ve lost to the internet and the hurt you’ve caused your loved ones. He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. Let Him hold you as you weep tears of true repentance, feeling deep in yourself, maybe for the first time, that He isn’t condemning you for even one thing you’ve done. He is with you this moment to help you start the journey to total freedom and the truest worship, an undivided heart.

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 615-649-7034.

My Sorry Sacrifice

lamb“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

Funny how I always want to justify myself before God.

Whenever I run past the bounds of His love and will for me, I immediately feel it and want to atone for my actions. My first thought is, “What can I do to make Him happy with me again? Should I beat my back with a scourge or crawl up a thousand concrete steps on my knees? What will make me feel better about myself?”

Turns out, this is nothing but my human pride desiring to justify itself and be able to earn God’s approval. Impossible. Can’t be done. Will never happen. Only Jesus could ever do it, and, thankfully, He did.

Now the truest form of repentance is doing nothing when I sin except confessing it and believing deeply in the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf (1 Jn 1:9). To drag my sorry sacrifices (“Oh, God, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”) does nothing to eradicate the guilt I feel.

Only a fresh surrender to the total grace and forgiveness Jesus has already extended to me brings a sense of release from my guilt and a beautiful sense of belonging to Him. Try it next time you blow it. It’s awesome to feel loved even in the midst of the complete inability to justify yourself or provide a spotless lamb. God already did that for us. Praise Him!

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

 

 

Horse Shoes and Hand Grenades: Why Wanting to Be Close to God is Good Enough

horseshoesThere’s an old saying that goes, “Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.”

Your boss may have said that to you when you missed a quota. Or maybe your spouse said it when you were a day late for a birthday or anniversary. Whatever the reason, when anyone says this, you’ve messed up. But is there ever a time when “close” is good enough? YES.

Close is good enough when you decide to get close to God.

I could never be good enough to get close to God,” you’re probably thinking. Well, that’s the BEST thing you could think right now, because being close to God has nothing to do with precision or with hitting a goal of any kind. That’s where the horse shoes and hand grenades come in. God Himself has freed us from all the pressure of needing to earn His love. He hit all the marks for us!

James says it this way, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you who are half-hearted towards God (Jas. 4:8).” The formula for being close to God is simple: want to. Simply wanting to be close to God is the quantum leap that makes it happen. You just glance at Him with a desiring heart and He’s all over it like cows on a salt lick.

You don’t have to wait until you feel righteous or holy. You probably never will. You don’t have to live a sinless life before being accepted by God. You can’t. You don’t have to achieve some superhuman spirituality, find Nirvana, or commit the ultimate selfless act of giving all you have to the poor before God will love you. All of those things are our own attempts to earn His love. It simply can’t be done. He already loves you.

So put the horse shoes and hand grenades away. Start wanting to be close to God and watch how fast He shows up and brings all sorts of good things into your life. He’s done all the work for you, so rest in it. Close is good enough for now.

ChizBESTJohn Chisum is an internationally appreciated worship leader, songwriter, mentor, and clinician. Click here for information on The Worship Leader’s One-on-One Coaching with John Chisum. For information about booking John for a worship seminar, worship concert, or special event, contact him directly at john@johnchisum.org, or call 251-533-5960.

Catching My Drift

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1

There is an inevitable drift away from the things of God when we fail to give them their proper attention on a daily basis. The tsunami of evil present in the world, the forces of darkness at work on every side, are obvious and avoidable, mostly, but the subtle trajectory of inattention to worship, prayer, study, and serving can be as damaging in the end as a tidal wave of sin.

Busyness is the enemy of intimacy. To know GOD as “Father” requires time and effort, the intentional laying aside of many good things to choose the best (think Mary and Martha here). Have you gotten to the end of a day only to realize that all you spent your time on were petty things? Duty is duty and work must be done, but what about the inner life, the interior of your being that is or can be in constant communion with the One who knows and loves you most of all?

I realize often that I have drifted into a dutiful service to God rather than a loving response to Him. It doesn’t take much to get distracted from the course, an annoyance here or a resentment there, but, by the same token, it doesn’t take much to get back on track, either. James tells us to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8). When we take just one small step towards Him, He bolts toward us a million miles an hour to forgive, heal, and restore.

Catch my drift? You can’t. You can only catch your own as I must catch my own before my closeness to Him is disrupted and precious time lost. It may seem like a small thing, but one step towards Him now opens the door to all the riches that He has stored up for you (and me) in Christ.