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.
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:
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.
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)
We love to take biblical words and weaken their meanings by adopting them for our own usage. One such word is “gospel.” We use it in a light-hearted way when we refer to something as “the gospel truth.” Like when we say, “Donald Trump’s hair is amazing – that’s the gospel truth!” Not only are we stating something subjective in objective terms, we’re also saying something… weird.
We like to rank sins. The problem is, we really stink as sin-value-estimators. We think about sins as how “bad” they seem to us. So the sin of adultery or murder? Those are really bad while the sin of gossip – not so much. I don’t personally believe in the myth that “all sins are the same.” They’re not. But we tend to judge the sin without its motives. We inspect the fruit and not the root.
It isn’t a sin to be tempted. It’s simply human. Temptation to sin may be the result of living in a sinful world, but experiencing temptation to sin isn’t, in itself, the same as committing sin. That doesn’t mean temptation isn’t dangerous though. James, the half-brother of Jesus, described the natural progression we experience when we sin in this way… “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15 NLT)
We all have a past. It’s filled with proud moments, and not-so-proud moments. It contains joy and pain, and we are continually tempted to live in it. But God wired us to face the future, to think forward, to live for today and tomorrow and leave yesterday behind. Paul put it this way,