Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hi, My Name Is Paul And I Am A Sinner Saved By Grace

It seems we have entered an age when even the Church no longer takes sin seriously. We are big time into the message of love and this must always be central to everything we do. Everything God has ever done has been from the motivation of love. However, sin is a powerful destructive force that destroys everything it infects. We cannot afford the attitude of "Oh well, Jesus will forgive me", and continue on without avoiding sin. It almost seems that we fail to recognize the destructive nature of sin.

Habitual sin dulls our senses and separates us from Jesus. We can fool ourselves into believing that everything is okay and we go through all the motions but inside there is nothing but death. Sin also has a ripple effect. It does not stop at the person who has been cut off by sin but reaches out into the lives of the people around that person. Marriages are affected; children are damaged; friendships are lost. Sin destroys all the beautiful things of God because it is a cancer that eats away at the foundation of our relationships. Jesus warned:

“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!" (Matthew 18:7)

This sense of "woe" is like a curse. Cursed is the world because of its part in causing people to sin. Sin is a fact because of the fallen state of the world but cursed is the man through whom sin comes. Jesus is severe here because sin is a blight in the reconciliation of man to God. Do we not believe that something like cancer is a cursed disease? We hate it with a passion and it provokes fear in us when we hear it pronounced in the context of our health. It has a ripple effect in every life connected to the one who must try to beat it. But cancer can only attack the body, which is only a temporary thing. Sin is the cancer of our soul and should provoke greater fear than the thought of a disease of the body because its effects last for eternity. Consider to what extreme Jesus spoke of avoiding it altogether:

If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (Matthew 18:8-9)

Read that through a few times and let it sink in. This is a serious matter. There are things in this world that will cause us to fall because we are weak. If you drive down a street and fall into a hole, the next day you are going to avoid that street. But we aren't like that with sin. We know what is going to cause us to fall and we do it anyway. If a person is a recovering alcoholic they aren't going to hang out at a bar. If a person is recovering from an addiction to pornography, he isn't going to hang out at a strip club.

Some people may say that I am denying the power of Jesus Christ to restore people and break these addictions. I am not. I am sharing with you what Jesus said on this matter. I have seen and experienced the wonderful transforming power of Jesus Christ, but I have also seen the strength of the flesh to suck people back down when they have been at their weakest point. We are not meant to do any of this alone and it is one of the reasons the Church was birthed. When something keeps tripping us up we need to confess it to someone or a group of people so that they can watch our back. We need accountability. We need someone to understand our struggles. We need someone who can pray with us when we are vulnerable. We need someone to remind us just how destructive sin is in our lives and in the Body of Christ and of how powerful Jesus is to preserve us in the temptation.

It is so much easier to do preventative care than to try to help someone put back the pieces after the results of sin exploding all over everyone. Jesus told us to get rid of the things that are causing us to sin. It is better to live a life without those things and enter into glory than it is to have it in our life and miss out on eternity. Live without the alcohol. Maybe you have to get rid of your computer. Perhaps you need to give up some of your independence and become accountable for where you go at night. I have no idea what your weakness is but I do know we need to stop lying and pretending. The Church is not made up of perfect people in perfect clothes living perfect lives. We are fallen and ugly creatures who have been covered by God's grace. We are recovering sinners who are being transformed into something beautiful. In all the world we should be the ones promoting grace, understanding, forgiveness and love because we have received so much of it.

Sin is terrible stuff and we should never try to minister in this ugly world alone. Because of the destructive nature of sin we need accountability and partnership. We need to walk beside someone who will remind us constantly of our purpose and our relationship with Jesus Christ. We need someone who will remind us to stay far from our weakness, who will help us keep those things from this world out of our life, who will encourage us and who we in turn can encourage. It is not a failure to confess your weaknesses; it is actually done from a position of strength. Take the destructive nature of sin seriously before you die from it.

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