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Friday, March 23, 2012

Sin in the Church

I am a Christian, and my husband can tell you with confidence that I still sin regularly!  By this I mean that I live, believe, and act outside of my identity in Christ and outside of the way I learned in Him.  Sometimes I do this unknowingly and in accordance with my natural instincts, and other times I do this consciously—quite aware that my thoughts and behaviors conflict with Christ’s character.  Our life (our thoughts, actions, inaction, etc.) flows out from our heart.  Yes, because I have sought refuge—acknowledged my sin and helplessness apart from Jesus, believed in Jesus and the penalty He paid on the cross for my sin, and I have given my life to Him—I am free from the eternal consequences of my sin (i.e. I am no longer separated from God, but rather I joyfully get to live as a daughter of the Almighty, Holy, Good, Loving God forever).  But still, as I walk on this earth, there are places in my heart that are still plagued with all sorts of things that have nothing to do with Jesus’ way--doubt, fear, bitterness, selfish ambition, pride, etc.   And yet, every day that I walk with Jesus, He is transforming my heart—setting it free day by day.  I still regularly go to God in prayer, confessing my sin, and confessing my struggles and the areas of my life that I find it so difficult to change.  I ask for forgiveness, I ask for God’s power—for His love to change me.  I look at the life of Jesus in the Word.  I seek prayer and counsel from my brothers and sisters in Christ who love Jesus and His Word.   I listen (not always well admittedly) to trusted friends who see destructive patterns in my life that I do not always see, and I seek help.  And God patiently and lovingly is changing me.  I love this verse:  “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
I write all of this publicly because I have been set free from shame.  It does not matter if others find me foolish and weak.   I stand and fall before God not men.  And I am able to stand before God because Jesus is good and perfect and He paid for my sin. I do not want to pretend to be better than I am for many reasons—it is exhausting, I will fail, it is not truthful or real, it produces despair in the lives of others around me who are aware of their own struggles, and I will be exposed for my hypocrisy when I do fail.  Most importantly, I want the gospel to shine through me.  The gospel is the good news about God—that He is good and that He rescues!  The gospel assumes sin—we need rescuing!  As others see my sin and failure, may they also see the God on whom I rely!  May they also see the God who forgives greatly!  May they also see the changes that He is graciously making in me!  May they also see love that is not of this world—the love I have seen and experienced in Him, the love that has changed every fiber of my life!!!!  This is not “be nice to those who are nice to you” kind of love.  This is the kind of love that does not returning evil for evil.  This is the kind of love that forgives big and small things.  This is the kind of love that fights for the lost and for the oppressed.  This is the kind of love that sacrifices greatly in the interest of another.  This is the kind of love that gives even when there is no ability to return.  This is the kind of love that pursues.  This is the kind of love that makes a way for reconciliation.  This is the kind of love that humbles itself.  This is the kind of love that would drive the God of the Universe to pursue His wayward creation in love, to make a way to live in relationship with His Beloved but wayward creation that would not compromise His perfect justice and goodness!  This is the kind of love that would drive the God of the universe to pay the price of sin and rebellion Himself, by stooping down to come to this earth in the frailty of human flesh and to endure the penalty of sin—death and separation from God!

We need only open the newspaper to see that Christians and churches still sin in pretty horrific ways.  We are not called to hide our sin from the world, to lie about it, or cover it up (the effects of that can be ghastly and tragic—look at the sexual abuse in the churches that has been perpetuated by sinful cover ups!).  We are called to live out the gospel!!!  We are called to live in the light and in truth and in love, not to cower or throw stones from afar!  We are called to humbly confess our sin and to go to God and to each other for help!!  We are called to help our brothers and sisters who are in sin.  We are called to faithfully pray, to lovingly pursue, and to sacrificially act.  We are called to protect anyone who is being harmed or abused by another person’s sin.  We are called to live in the light so that the darkness, hiding, secrets, and cover-ups do not beget more sin!!  In this process, the gospel does its work!  In this process, the world can see the love that won us to our Savior. 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

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