Our 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.