On Sin and Truth and Change

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 6:1-2

I originally wrote this post, exactly eight years ago, on my pretty much abandoned, but still “active” (in the sense that it can still be accessed), mostly adoption and family, but sometimes other things, blog. It was written in response to a controversy within the church which I’d say majority have long since forgotten. When it popped up in my memories, I went back to see what I had written, and decided that I would rework and repost. Because it’s still true. The message has not changed, and maybe it’s even more true as we’ve seen the world and particularly, the church spiral in some very questionable things over the last decade (or honestly, the last half century, given or take) . . . we’ve seen leaders make choices that have devastated their families and their congregations . . . we’ve watched the deconstruction movement try to deconstruct the absolutes of God’s word . . . we’ve seen pastors and evangelists and Christian artists completely walk away from the faith . . . we’ve seen others take the bible and misuse, misalign, misinterpret, and manipulate what it says in order to fit their own opinions, beliefs, and agendas . . . we’ve seen people make predictions and basically, glorified fortune telling under the guise of “prophecy” and use their platforms to further their own agendas . . . to put it simply, we’ve seen sin . . . it hasn’t gone anywhere, and we all still struggle with it.

A million, or eight, years ago . . . same difference at this point . . . a very prominent Christian women’s leader (still prominent in certain circles to this day) made a statement. The statement was something to the effect of the Bible being open to interpretation and how we’re never going to all agree. On the surface it was somewhat true. There are parts of the bible, of God’s word, that are very much open to interpretation and doctrinal differences. But y’all, there are certain things in the bible, in God’s word, that are very much NOT (bold, italics, caps . . . ) open to interpretation. Although, there are a number of things that fall into the “not open to interpretation” category, this particular statement had to do with the biblical definition of marriage (man and a woman) and the biblical confines and prohibitions regarding romantic relationships . . . if you read the bible correctly, in context, it’s one of the non-negotiables. Still, at the time this all came out, I was hesitant to throw my hat in the proverbial ring. What weight did what I have to say really carry? Having that said that, I made the decision to speak up because I felt led (classic Christianese . . . “I felt led”) to. And if you know, or have followed me, for any amount of time, you know that as I’ve gotten older and hopefully, wiser, I am even more likely to speak up and out, if you will. Although, I firmly believe that (1) we speak truth in love . . . always in love AND (2) love does not mean shutting people totally out or cutting them off (although you often will have to set boundaries and stick with them), but it also is not equal to acceptance of sin. You can, and forgive me for this horribly cliché and overused phrase, “love the sinner and hate the sin”. As overused as it is, we can absolutely do it.

More and more I see this attitude of inclusion and acceptance that insists that if you love someone you will wholeheartedly accept their choice of sin (whatever it may be), and you won’t just accept it, but you’ll champion it. Otherwise, do you really love them at all? Yeah, that whole line of thinking is a lie. Jesus completely and unconditionally loves us, and He never championed our sins. He died so we may be free from them. But the church is all too often, giving people permission to stay in bondage rather than be set free from the sin that entangles all of us (Hebrews 12:1). Before you burn me at the stake give me a second or ten to explain. Here’s the deal. I feel like we’re afraid to call sin what it is, “sin”. We’re so jaded from fire and brimstone, legalistic teaching and preaching that we think to point out sin is to negate God’s grace (see the scripture at the top). But y’all we need to stop being afraid of sin. We need to start understanding what sin it truly is. It’s more than a bad behavior, an action, a screw up. It’s more than I yelled at my kid, fought with my husband, cheated on my wife, or stole my neighbor’s car . . . Sin is deeper than just a “bad” behavior. Not those behaviors don’t matter. I promise you that if you steal your neighbor’s car or cheat on your spouse, it matters. But sin is a heart problem. And we need more than just willpower or behavior modification. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to truly change us. Not just make us act good. Sin is the absence of the power of God to both transform and heal us.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:1-7

Jesus wasn’t afraid of sin. He didn’t ignore sin. Nor does the bible ignore sin. But Jesus did say, “Go and sin no more” (John 5 and 8). So we think He was just saying stop doing what you’re doing and do something else. And we usually do need to stop what we’re doing and do something else, but as I said earlier, it’s a lot deeper than that. We need the heart transformation and the healing, both are key, that can only come through letting Jesus rule and reign . . . that are only possible through acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and submission to God’s word and the Holy Spirit. And newsflash, we’re not going to get any of that if we’re not seeking the truth of His word and letting Him lead and guide us.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

If we’re afraid to point out sin, then we’re missing an opportunity to allow God to do an effective work in a person’s life. But, if we try to do it without God, if we try to get people to just change their behaviors, we’re setting them and ourselves up for disaster. We need to start looking at the condition of people’s lives, including our own, and realize that the external behaviors are symptoms of an internal problem. We need to look to Jesus and realize that He can do what no counselor, pastor, teacher, psychiatrist, friend, or foe can do . . . He can change a leopard’s spots. He can take who you are and make you who you never dreamed you could be. That’s what the cross is all about. That’s what grace is for. Not to excuse our sin, but to empower us to turn to the One who can erase our sin and transform our hearts.

And because it’s something I’ve both lived and seen others live, you don’t have to spend every second of every day trying to pound the truth of God’s word into those around you. Given the opportunity, with God’s help and guidance, absolutely speak up . . . yes, with love, tell the truth . . . but then let the Holy Spirit do what the Holy Spirit does. Pray and let Him work. I have to constantly remind myself, I’m not everyone’s conscience . . . I’m certainly not the Holy Spirit . . . I most definitely cannot change someone’s heart . . . so my continual and constant harping only serves to do more damage than good. I have to, over and over again, turn to God, ask Him to guide my words and my actions with others, and trust Him to work even when I don’t see anything happening.

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16b

Just so we’re clear, if you come to me a mess, know that I’m a mess too. I won’t shame you or condemn you. There’s more than enough of that to go around. What I will do is share with you about Jesus and His transforming power. I have no desire to drag anyone through the mud, but I also have no desire to see anyone live out their life in the mud.

Controversies abound, not only in the world, but within the church, and for those that choose to not see the truth of God’s word, I’m sad because quite frankly, I don’t think they get it. I don’t think they grasp how important submission to the Holy Spirit and leading of God’s word are. And they’re choosing bondage and prison over true freedom.

And well, I guess ended up throwing my hat into that proverbial ring after all . . . more than a couple times.

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