God loves you, and when he saves you, he saves you completely and forever, fills you with his powerful presence, and leads you into growth and maturity. But you still sin. So what happens when we fail? In this message, we learn that God invites us into a posture of repentance and he faithfully forgives and heals.
We’re all caught. We’ve all sinned. And Jesus said, “whoever sins is the slave of sin.” But because of the amazing grace of God, shown through his Son, we can be freed from sin’s penalty, power, and someday, its presence. The Apostle Paul wrote about how to be set free in his letter to the Romans.
Yesterday, I had a phone call with a young leader convinced he was no longer qualified to lead because he’d messed up in a way that pretty much every man on the planet has messed up repeatedly. This morning, I received an email from a Pastor wanting to know if he was qualified to lead when he still struggles with sins of the heart and mind.
First, a disclaimer… Paul made it clear in the pastoral epistles that those who desire to be overseers must live lives that are above reproach. Certainly, no one can actively serve as a Pastor who is secretly harboring or openly flaunting unrepentant sin, and often confession of certain sins sidelines our ability to lead with credibility.
But what about those weaknesses that are common to man? Not the scandal that brings reproach upon the cause of Jesus, but the sins which arise out of our struggle with the flesh and with humanness? I love this summary from Robert Coleman in his classic work, The Master Plan of Evanglism:
Our weaknesses need not impair discipleship when shining through them is a transparent sincerity to follow Christ.
I love the story of The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, and one of the most impactful lines comes in an exchange between the Lorax and the Once-ler:
The Lorax: Which way does a tree fall?
The Once-ler: Uh, down?
The Lorax: A tree falls the way it leans. Be careful which way you lean.
I don’t know if Dr. Seuss read the book of Galatians before writing that line, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
We sometimes wind up in a lifestyle we never intended to be in, habitually committing the same sin and scrambling to figure out how we wound up in the destructive cycle. For some of us, it’s anger. For others, it’s lust, pornography, or an illicit relationship. It could be gossip, overeating, occult involvement, or many other things. And Paul, in Galatians, helps us to answer the question, how’d I get to this point?
In today’s world, meekness = weakness. God does not view it that way, however. The Bible says of Moses,”Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) And in a world where power is everything, Jesus entered the scene in a wooden manger surrounded by barnyard animals. He grew up in an humble village, the son of a carpenter, of modest means. He lived His life serving others, yet Jesus was certainly the most influential leader in all of history.
If you study the lives of Moses and Jesus you’ll find something interesting – they were both great leaders. Both were willing to boldly confront sin and error. Both would rebuke those who believed and lived lies. Both were willing to venture out into the future with faith. Yet they were the meekest men in history. How can this be? You see, we’ve misdefined meekness. Biblical meekness is not weakness, it is really just the opposite.
The Bible’s word for meekness is used in reference to a broken horse, which has all the power to destroy its rider but refrains out of respect for authority. The word is also used to refer to a soldier who has all the might to take on the enemy, yet submits himself completely to the authority of his commanding officer. Meekness is the key to having leverage in leadership. It’s the refusal to demand respect in exchange for commanding it with a life of integrity. It is “controlled power.” Meekness is the willingness to supress those urges to lash out at the wrong time, opting instead to wait for further orders from our commanding officer, Jesus.
Is meekness displayed in your life? How can you submit yourself to Jesus more today? How can you lead others with boldness and courage?
When you least feel like running to God, that’s when you really need to run to God. And when you feel the least lovable, the least acceptable, that’s when His mercy shows itself strongest. King David once cried out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble… Oh, how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for those who fear you.” (Psalm 31:9, 19 NKJV)
David’s language in this psalm is a lament over His own errors. He has strong words for those who ensnared him in some kind of trap, but he also expresses the pain and suffering caused by his own choices. He declares, “For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.” (Psalm 31:10 NKJV) I believe David is likely referring to the mental and physiological toll that our minds and bodies take because of sin, its guilt, and its effect of distancing us from the God who provides the center of our identity.
Our tendency is to shrink in shame when we’ve messed up, which only perpetuates the cycle of our sin. What if, instead, we trusted that God still loves us as much as He did before, that He is still as good as He has always been, and that His grace that saved us in the past is still as strong and available to keep saving us forever.
When you sin, confess it immediately. When you feel distance with God, close the gap without delay. When you feel that He should probably be angry at you over your faults, run to Him in His mercy and trust that He is true to His nature and His promises and that He offers the refreshing renewal of grace and forgiveness.
When you don’t feel like running to God, it’s the optimum time to do so.
photo credit: tpsdave
I know that if we were to make up our own “god,” he wouldn’t resemble the God of the Bible much. I know that because that’s what humanity has done repeatedly and still does today. It’s easier to serve an idol that looks like our idea of god than it is to serve the Living God. That’s why I cringe when people say things like, “Well I just think God probably doesn’t mind…” Whatever comes next is the result of idolatry – our shaping of a god in our image according to our likeness.
The gospel, we’ve said, is defined as the good news about the story of our redemption in Jesus Christ. But to understand the gospel, we first need to understand God (at least, what God has revealed about Himself), because the good news of our redemption flows out of the story of whom God is. Let me explain…
God is our all-sufficient Creator. We often talk about how unfair it is for anyone to go to hell, but we forget that God is an all-sufficient Creator who doesn’t need us at all – He simply wants us! “Our” gospel often says that God owes us salvation, but God’s good news comes from the fact that God is sufficient by Himself. He owes no one anything! But He saves by grace – that’s good news!
God is the righteous and holy One – He hates sin. John 3:16 could easily and truthfully be reworded to say: “For God so hated sin that He gave His only begotten Son…” It is because of His holy nature that He abhors sin. He is separate from it. For God to excuse or associate with sin in any way would be a violation of His holy nature. But He LOVES sinners so much that He came to earth and put on skin and associated with people who had sin in their lives – that’s good news!
God is love – He loves people. You can’t understand the gospel until you understand that God is love. Not just that He loves… but that He IS love! There’s a difference. He doesn’t just do loving things, He does loving things because He defines love.
The gospel, the good news, is that our all-sufficient Creator wants us and loves us enough to save us and redeem for Himself a family through the price of His own dear Son, Jesus.