Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Confronting Sin: A Passion for Being Changed

 “Tens of thousands, perhaps millions, have come into some kind of religious experience by accepting Christ and they have not been saved.”-A.W. Tozer

A question on many minds is a simple one: Why do Christians look just like the world?  Where is this transformation they talk about?  As Protestant Christians we know a lot about grace through faith alone.  Maybe we know too much about it.  For me, as a part of the Salvation Army we believe in grace through faith.  But we also believe in the ability to live in complete holiness.  

Our culture presents a unique situation. The United States is a difficult place to live in holiness. Never in the history of man kind has humanity been faced with so many temptations from so many sources.  It's a literal bombardment: Television, commercials, internet, ads, movies, pornography, fast food, cell phones, smart phones, billboards, and even conversations.  

Given our unique situation, shouldn't holiness be at the very forefront of all of our efforts?  If there is any greater challenge that could face Christians in an American situation? Sin is engrained in all of us from a young age.  And sin leads to death.  

We really like grace through faith, but we don't want to hear about sin.  Maybe it's because we're in it?  Let us consider ourselves and how we live.  God is very serious about sin.  He slaughtered his own son on the cross because of sin, just to offer a way out for sinners. 

Are we confronting the sins in our lives?  Are we praying on them, desperately pleading with God to remove them?  Could someone tell from a casual conversation that we are saved followers of Jesus Christ?  

When I first became a follower of Jesus Christ three years ago sin had a place in every aspect of my life.  Sin was second nature.  I was selfish, I was interested in entertainment, satisfaction, and it showed.  Then I met Jesus Christ.  I called out to Jesus Christ.  And he delivered me from all my empty pursuits.

What do we do when we meet Christ?  We change. The profound conversion experience found in Jesus Christ is, as a rule, synonymous with repentance.  Repentance is an admission that our way is wrong and God's way is right.  

I don’t think we take it seriously enough.  When we sin we think, “Well, I’m saved by grace.”  We’re saved by grace it’s true, but we’re also called to radical holiness.  Read how the Lord speaks through James.

James 4:4-10 (NLT) says:"You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,
“God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.”
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor."

What is the correct response to sin?  It’s an expression of sorrow and total brokenness.  Woe is me!  I can’t live with this situation!  This can’t be true!  No more sin!  

Following the expression of sorrow is the equally powerful expression of the contrite heart.  Contrite literally means “bruised.”  We’ve been “hit” by the woe of the reality of sin in our lives.  Now our heart is bruised, and we are contrite, we are expressing a heart willing to change.  We repent, change our mind about the sin, request forgiveness, and begin to practice the opposite of the sin.  If it’s sexual impurity we practice purity.  If it’s selfishness we practice service.  If it’s hardness, we practice love.  If it’s judgement we practice mercy.  We practice the opposite of the sin, in so doing we repent. 

Many genuine followers of Christ make war on sin everyday.  The key to victory over sin is humility in submission before God.  God loves us, and he wants to grant us victory over sins in our lives.  The best expression I know of, in expressing submission before God is through prayer, on my knees, making a statement of powerlessness and a request for God to take lordship over that area of my life.  Then I turn it over.

We can have the victory.  Part of that could be taking an honest inventory of ourselves.  Major sins I’ve overcome include drug addiction, alcoholism, cigarette addiction, overpowering depression, and sexual acting out.  Yet I realize many more sins still cling to me.  If I were to take an inventory I might write down overeating, or failing to eat healthy.  I could write down overspending.  I could definitely write down selfishness.  I could write down callousness and apathy too.  

So I’ve taken an inventory.  Now what do I do?  I start to pray about these issues every night.  I talk to God about these issues in frank terms.  I ask the Holy Spirit to grant me power in the areas I need to change in.  I ask for that power throughout my day.  When I feel the strain, I call out to God.  When I feel the strain I talk to a friend or minister.  I begin to make war, in the Spirit, against my shortcomings.

If I’m struggling with depression or post-traumatic stress I begin to see a Christian or secular counselor.  Perhaps I look up some books to study on the struggle I’m having.  If I’m struggling with addiction or alcoholism I start attending Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous.  If I’m struggling with gambling I begin to attend Gamblers Anonymous.  There are many supports available.

This is a natural process for the Holy Spirit to lead a believer in.  I saw it begin to happen naturally in my life, and also in the lives of other new Christians. They would quit smoking.  They would stop getting drunk on weekends.  They stopped going to R rated movies full of sex and drug use.  They stopped sleeping with random people.  They decided to take God’s sex ethic seriously. They started making amends to those they had wronged in the past.

And they shared their faith.  Which is something only about 2% of Christians actually do.  The tragedy of that statement, that statistic, is beyond belief.  It’s a tragedy that deserves a memorial.  And it’s my generation, millennials that don’t know Jesus.  They need Jesus.  We have to share our faith. Charles Spurgeon the famed prince of preachers said, "“Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you're not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

 In conclusion, holiness means victory over sin.  Being a true follower of Jesus Christ means sharing our faith.  Dare we ignore our own sins?  Will we truly be found faultless on the last day?  Will our robes be unblemished?  Rest assured every single man, woman, and child on Earth will one day stand before Jesus Christ.  We are all living for that one moment when we go eye to eye with God himself.  Could we live with ourselves knowing we never fought our sins?  Could we live with ourselves knowing we left so many to slip into the depths of hell?  Worse yet, what might he say in response to our lives?  Might Christ say, ”Depart from me you workers of inequity?”  Sin is inequity.  Let us labor instead to hear, ”Well done good and faithful servant.”

“'Not called!' did you say? 'Not heard the call,' I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face -- whose mercy you have professed to obey -- and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.” --William Booth