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.

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.

Fearless Living, Fearless Leading

fear notWashing dishes at a friend’s house last night after a lovely dinner, I was struck with a thought, a question, really, that I then turned and posed to my wife and friends. I asked them, “If I could lead us all out of fear what couldn’t we do? How would each of us respond to each other and to the world around us if we were completely fearless?” Okay, it was a downer of a question and every sense of frivolity and lightness fled the room. None of us had a great answer. After an awkward moment of silence, my beautiful, amazing, and dry-witted wife quipped, “Well, who died and made YOU Jesus?”

Since that moment I’ve been thinking about what really could happen if we just lost our fears instead of our car keys or our reading glasses. Wouldn’t we respond very differently than we do now to threats of economic hardship, terrorism, and even to our spouses and loved ones? I think we would. I think if we could develop a stronger belief in Jesus’ work for us and dig a lot deeper into what that means for us on a practical level, we would lead very different lives altogether. Perhaps we would lead lives like God fully intends for us to lead. Fearless lives. Child-of-God kind of lives.

For one thing, all competition would cease. We would realize that God has already anticipated every need we could ever have and has already provided for them. We would stop hedging our bets on getting what we need from Him and from the world around us, abandoning every temptation to manipulate anyone in any way for any thing. We would pray with confidence. We would love unconditionally. We would move from the “competitive mind” to the “creative mind.” We would become extreme givers, never takers. We would overwhelm the people around us with the kind of Spirit power rarely seen since The Book of Acts.

Our leadership would change, too. Transparency would be the norm. A compassionate kind of listening would become the hallmark of our husbanding, our parenting, and our ministries. People would flock to follow us because they would feel validated for being who they are, not just feeling used by us for their talents or dollars. If we were truly fearless, we could look someone deeply in their eyes and say, “Darling, I’m here for you” and mean it from the essence of our being. We would, in short, make the fearless kingdom of God in all that it means come to bear in very tangible expressions all around us. Life would come alive again.

No one died and made me Jesus.

But Jesus has entrusted me with leadership abilities with which to lead others toward all that He died to give us. Freedom from fear – all of it – is ours in Jesus. Best I can tell, Jesus said,”Fear not” about 15 times as recorded in the Gospels. Seems to me once would have been sufficient if we could only do it.

What kind of leader can you become if you begin to take steps, even small ones, toward eradicating fear from your life and ministry? How would that affect your leadership, the planning, the praying, the interactions with the people you lead? Are you ready for what fearless living and fearless leading will do?

 

Identity Theft

My problem is that, wherever I go, there I am.

I take all of me with me everywhere I go. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to leave parts of me behind, especially the parts I don’t like and would rather live without. Wouldn’t it be convenient if we could lop off negative experiences and leave them back in, say, 1967 or 1972? What if we could just exercise our will to not think like we’ve ever thought or to not act like we always seem to act?

The forgiveness of sins is one thing. The habitual patterns we seem to carry with us–negativity, fearfulness, anxiety–are another thing. SO, if we must carry who we are with us always (and we must), how will we live with ourselves? I think the secret is Colossians 3:3, “For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Transformation doesn’t seem to happen all at once like BOOM or KAPOW, but a little at a time. Maybe realizing more that whatever I am, sins and all, is hidden in Christ can make the daily stuff a little easier to manage. Maybe realizing a little more that what I consider worth being anxious over today is nothing, literally nothing, to God could help me be a little more okay with myself.

In the end, I must fight to hold onto my identity as a hidden one in Christ.