Struggling with Speaking of Sin

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Through the past few weeks I’ve started to notice something about myself. There are certain Sundays where I come away from speaking and don’t feel that I’ve done my best. I feel like I’ve missed the mark and messed up. And then I started to notice a pattern. The Sundays where I felt like I struggled, and where I lost confidence were all sermons related to conviction and challenge. The sermons where I lost confidence and left feeling a bit shaken were all related to sin, sacrifice, and conviction. Through some reflection I realized that I find it easy to preach a sermon on grace and gift, and difficult to preach a sermon on sin and challenge.

The struggle I face is maybe one you face in your own relationships. I know it is important to talk about sin. I know it is important to challenge people and let the Spirit do his work of convicting. I know this is important because I need it personally. I need to be challenged to give up greed, hate, unforgiveness, lust, and all sorts of sinful things. The struggle I have is in how to do it. How to share in a way that is convicting but not condemning, that is challenging but not judging.

What is even more disturbing to me is a growing realization that I may not feel confident in this type of sharing because of a lack of practice. What I mean by that is perhaps I struggle because I am unaccustomed to sharing about sin. This is concerning to me because Jesus talks about sin, the Bible talks about sin, and sin, we are told, leads to death. Therefore, sin isn’t something I should avoid or struggle speaking about. I should share honestly with the dangers of consumerism, violence, greed, and lust. I should share openly with the temptations and struggles I face. And I shouldn’t ever shy away reminding people that sin leads to death while following Jesus leads to life. And this is something we know deep down. We know that hate kills relationships. We know that lust destroys marriages. We know that unforgiveness wrecks families. So we need to learn to speak about sin in such a way that it leads to life not death.

So I’ve made a personal decision. I will grow and learn in how to share about sin in such as way that conviction without condemnation happens. To share about it in such a way that challenges someone, but doesn’t lead to damnation. To share in such a way that, like Jesus, people who are broken and struggling feel freed; and people who are haughty, prideful, and oppressive to others sees their need.

In essence, I’m going to work on struggling to speak of sin a little less…

Shhhh….I’m Hiding

A couple of months ago we were leaving my Mom’s house and I told Hudson it was time to go. His reaction was to hide because he didn’t want to go. Here’s how he did it…

So he hasn’t really gotten how to hide yet. But it is super cute. But in the midst of his small cuteness I realized something about myself.

Isn’t this exactly what I do with God? Hide in ineffective ways?

When I sin, when I fail, when I screw up, I often try to hide from God. I try to cover up my shame, my guilt, and my failure, hoping that God won’t see. This is something that I think is part of human nature. What do Adam and Eve do when they mess up? They hide. What do children do when they screw up? They hide. Rather than dealing with the mess, we hide, hoping no one will notice us hiding in the bushes.

The point for me is simple: in so many ways I’m still a child. What I mean by this is that my desire to hide, my desire to cover up my shame shows that in some way, I’m fearful of God. That at some level I haven’t truly grasped the truth that God is grace, that God is love, that God is a gift. That in some ways I haven’t grown up and matured to realize that God cares about me more than any mess I create. And instead of going confidently into his presence, as Hebrews tells us, I hide. Rather than dealing with God, I try to cover my face in some branches.

So while this picture makes me smile, it also makes me think about what I truly believe about God deep down. Do I fundamentally think that God is someone who I need to hide from? Do I believe really that Jesus is someone I wouldn’t want to meet in the middle of my mess? Because the picture of Jesus and God in the gospels is someone full of grace. It’s a picture of someone who drew to him all the broken, messy, and sinful people. It’s a picture of someone you never want to hide from.

So the next time I’m tempted to hide, I’m going to trust in the God revealed in Jesus Christ. I’m going to trust in grace, I’m going to trust in his gift, I’m going to trust in God. And I’m going to walk up to him and say, “I screwed up, here is my mess, help me.”

But what about you? The next time you feel full of guilt, shame, and sin, rather than hiding, why not start talking? Why not open up with him about anything that you’ve been shoving down and away? Why not bring him in, so that healing and grace can be part of that area of your life?

Because I’ve also learned something from Hudson: putting your face behind branches doesn’t really work anyway…

Community Intervention ~ Betrayal Prevention

Last Sunday we explored how a community can prevent betrayal. You can download the sermon here.

What we discovered is that if we walk with people we can stop people from “walking out into the darkness” alone. That’s what happens to Judas. He is with his friends, brothers, and community and he walks out into the darkness under suspicious circumstances with no one inquiring about him. No one cared enough to stop Judas, to ask how he was doing, or to ask where he was going. The community let him walk out into the darkness alone.

But we can learn from the disciples’ mistakes.We can care. We can connect. We can stop people from walking into darkness, sin, and betrayal. But how? By always walking with them. If someone is walking out into the dark, you can walk with them bringing the light and love of Jesus with you. If a community walks together then no one will walk alone. That reality can change the course and direction of someone’s life.

On Sunday we landed on three ways you can walk deeply with others. You can give people your time, your full attention, and space. You can give people time to check in, to catch up, and to actually have a conversation. Deep conversations can’t happen over Facebook, or on route to get coffee after church. Give some time for someone to open up.

Then also give them your full attention. So often when we are in conversations with people we are just waiting for our turn to talk. Turn that around. Wait for your turn to listen. Give the other person your full attention, not figuring out your next question, when you can jump in, or what you can say. Make them the focus.

And lastly, give them some space to talk and to go deeper. So ask some difficult but important questions. Ask how they are truly doing. Give them space and an opportunity to talk to you. They might not choose to, but at least they will know you cared enough to ask.

So this week ~ walk deeply with those around you. Make a decision to never let a friend walk out into the darkness alone; and give people your time, attention, and space. Take your responsibility to your community and friends seriously. Never let anyone walk into the darkness alone, by making a commitment to walk with them wherever they may go…

Flirting with the Line

There is an expression “flirting with the line” where you get close to doing something you know you shouldn’t. This has new meaning for me after last night.

Open Confession: my wife always leaves the car on empty and it drives me nuts. It’s one of those things that’s my pet peeve. More often than not whenever I get into the car it is on empty. She loves to go as long as possible without getting gas, and it never bothers her. Mostly because she has an uncanny ability to pass the car off to me right when it needs gas. Needless to say this bugs me, but she never found it a problem until last night.

Last night I got a sheepish phone call from my wife. She had 42 km left before dead empty on our car, and went into work without filling up in our town. She then went to visit friends, again not filling up. She was “flirting with the line”, an empty gas gauge. She got right close to empty and found 2 things: a gas station, and the realization she had left her wallet 30 km away at home. So here she was with no money, and no gas. Hence a sheepish phone call to me.

Eventually when you flirt with something long enough, you fall into it. This is what happened to Krista – eventually hitting empty, and being stuck in an awkward setting. But this type of behavior doesn’t just happen with gas gauges, Paul says it happens with sinful behavior all the time. We might allow ourselves to flirt with the line of rage, jealousy, greed, hate, or lust. We sometimes like to get close without crossing over. We don’t want to fall into it, but allow the feelings to be there for just a bit. But eventually when you flirt with the line getting close again and again sooner or later you cross the line. You might find yourself filled with rage, letting jealously control you, unable to get out of greed, or have lust ruin relationships.

So my challenge for today is if there is something where you are tempted to “flirt with the line”, pull back. Why bother getting close? Why even let yourself go there? You are made for more than that. Why bother focusing on the line or what you can’t do? Why not focus on how you can be someone filled with peace, grace, generosity, love, and life. And maybe today it starts with just deciding not to get anywhere close to that line.

And for my wife, if your reading this, maybe that means filling up the car… 😉