One of the most explosive periods in my personal faith journey happened before some of my most dreadful life choices. In fact, I can tell you the exact moment, the exact place I was in my car debating, literally, which way to turn, and how that single decision set off a chain of events in my life which took years to walk through.
I was buzzing with new found revelations and truths that were literally transforming my life. I was full of the Holy Spirit. And then in the blink of an eye, at a stop sign, I got scared. Scared my future wouldn't be full of the things I hoped for, scared the voice I was learning to be the Holy Spirit wasn't telling me the truth. And I put one foot on the Word of God and slung the other one over the fence back into the world and unconsciously decided to see which one would provide the antidote to my fears first. (Spoiler Alert: The world won the battle but not the war.)
Now, more than a decade-and-a-half later, the memory of that time, and the domino affect it had on me (and others) mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, is one I guard my heart and mind against. The condemnation I dealt with in the years following wasn't just because of the hasty choices I made, but because I KNEW BETTER than to make them, or at least that was the pounding accusation I felt. Either way, I let a desperation to have something sooner rather than later rule my actions and it triggered a trap that sent a ripple through my life which lead to acute regret and embarrassment. In my shame I lowered my own standards, I expected less from myself and others, I treated myself poorly, and I let others treat me poorly because, HEY, I'M AN IDIOT.
And then, enough. Just enough. Through it all, I never cut myself off from God. I never turned completely away. I only turned enough to see if I would fly under His radar. Thank the Lord I couldn't. I could no longer stomach the oppression of blame and accusation. I could no longer tolerate the constant feeling of unworthiness. I could no longer stand treating myself like I deserved less than God's best, much less letting others do the same. I was tired of the manipulation; both the manipulation I unleashed and the manipulation I endured. Most of all, I was terrified of not being who God created me to be, of wasting a drop of Jesus' blood. So something had to give, and the Lord was more than happy to show me what it was.
Here is a core life lesson to grasp about sin: The enemy won't lead you into a place of sin just for the sake of sinning. He will lead you there so he can condemn you for arriving in the first place. He wants to disqualify us through shame. You see, in the thick of our sin few of us think we are unworthy; quite the opposite. We usually step into sin out of a contorted belief we deserve something we don't have and are going to get it. And most of the time the things we want are legitimate desires birthed into us by our creator. This is where sin begins to ensnare us: by convincing us to meet a legitimate need through illegitimate means.
It's when we realize our sin, and its consequences, that we fall over into shame and condemnation. It's in this place the enemy really tightens his grip. If we don't know what to do once we are there, we will take ourselves out of play in the Kingdom of God. Satan's ultimate goal for each of us is to convince us we must give up our futures in order to pay for our pasts.
Devil 1, Us 0.
Unless. Unless we learn to respond to our sin out of the grace and mercy of Christ. What does that look like?
1. Repent of your sin. The devil wants you to believe that repentance means you have to pay for your sin. Not true. If you could pay for your own sin, Jesus wouldn't have died on the cross on your behalf. The word repent actually means to change your mind, so when we repent it goes something like this: "God. I repent from (fill in the blank); I repent for ever believing that was the answer to my need. I change my mind about the role of (fill in the blank) in my life. Only you are the answer and source to my every need. Please forgive me for believing differently and therefore acting in disobedience towards you."
2. Receive your forgiveness. Don't let your emotions dictate for you whether or not you will walk in the Lord's forgiveness. Receive your forgiveness by faith. Say, as often as necessary, "Lord, thank you for your forgiveness. I receive your forgiveness."
3. Renew your mind. Romans 12:2 says, "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." We will never "outgrow" the basic job of renewing our minds. When you have realized your sin, and realized the wrong belief behind your sin, then it is necessary to renew your mind in that area with the Word of God. Replace the lie with the truth found in the Word of God. Say it, pray it, meditate on it, speak it over yourself and your life. In other words, mix your faith and the Word.
of the really tricky things about Satan is that he will speak to you in
"I" statements so you believe the thoughts are your own. "I am a
failure; I am worthless; I will never get myself out of this mess." And
the more we leave those lying thoughts unchecked, the more they root
into our heart and eventually come out our mouth. Negative, faithless
words will never produce the blessings of God.
4. Walk a new path. Romans 8:2 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Jesus didn't come to condemn the world, he came to save it. And if you find yourself on a route riddled with accusation, it's time to find a new path. What you think, want, and feel are not always in line with what God thinks, wants and feels. Be willing to submit your ways to His.
Our journey through life isn't about doing everything right. We will all fail in different ways and to varying degrees. Where the rubber meets the road for us in our times of failure is found in what we will choose to believe in those critical, often painful, moments when we become aware of our sin. Will we believe the accusing lies of the enemy which taunt and tempt us to walk away from who God calls us to be, or will we grasp onto who God says we are in Jesus, and hold on for dear life?
Jesus came so that we would have life, especially in the moments when death to our dreams, relationships, vitality, resources, and hopes seem imminent. So go ahead: choose life. No matter the mistake, the sin, the let down, the failure, Jesus says you are worth it. And if I've learned anything this far, it is to take Him at his word.