June 9, 2019
The Confession of a Sin Addict
If we patterned our church services after a twelve step program like Alcoholics Anonymous, someone might stand up and introduce themselves each Sunday morning like this: Hello. My name is Michael, and I am addicted to sin.
People in a twelve-step program know that they are powerless over their addiction, and without the help of God, they will not overcome it.
As I have studied the life of the Apostle Paul, I believe he would have been at home in a local chapter of any twelve-step group meeting.
Paul was a recovering religious addict. Before his conversion to being a disciple of Jesus, he was addicted to following the religious rules of the Jewish Law. Every waking moment of his life was spent making sure he didn’t break a single one of God’s commandments.
You might ask, “Isn’t that a good thing?
Here’s the problem. The Law wasn’t just the Ten Commandments and the other rules and regulations we find in the first few books of the Bible.
The religious leaders created hundreds of new rules for people which they placed around the Law called a hedge. The theory was if these rules were unbroken, then a person would not break God’s Law.
Take, for example, the commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,” Exodus 20:8 (NIV)
Well, the religious leaders made up all kinds of rules to surround that law.
They made up rules about how far people could walk on the Sabbath and how much you could carry on the Sabbath. If you walked too far or carried too much, it was work, and then you broke the Sabbath.
There were hundreds of these rules and Saul, and he was known then, was addicted to keeping all of them so he would not be guilty of breaking any of the original ones. He wanted to be a good person but these rules consumed his life.
Saul thought he was living the way God wanted him to live. He was so devoted to living this way that he made it his life’s mission to see that others lived this way too.
Saul worked for the Great High Priest by arresting and putting to death Jews that left the faith. Some of those were followers of Jesus, a man that ministered mostly in Galilee. He was opposed by the Jewish leaders for his Messianic claims and the Romans crucified him after the Jews said he had claimed to be a king.
After his death, the followers of Jesus professed Jesus as their living Savior because of his resurrection from the dead, accession into heaven, and after receiving the gift of his Spirit.
These Jews saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises made by prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah.
However, leaving the Jewish faith was forbidden, and Saul’s job was to make sure the people were punished for doing so.
Saul could not see that his vengeance against those who professed their allegiance to Jesus was not in line with the love of God, but he hasn’t been the last person misguided by his religion.
Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected leaders of modern history. Despite being a Hindu, Gandhi admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount.
Gandhi’s rejection of Christianity grew out of an incident that happened when he was a young man practicing Law in South Africa. After studying the Bible and teachings of Jesus, he was attracted to the Christian faith and seriously explored becoming a Christian.
He decided to attend a church service. As he went up to the steps of a large South African Church, an elder barred his way at the door.
“Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?” the elder asked.
That’s like calling an African American the N-word.
Gandhi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.”
The church elder snarled at him, “There’s no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here, or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”
From that moment, Gandhi decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but he never again considered becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church.
Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Gandhi he asked him, “Mr. Ghandi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”
Gandhi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Not only was Saul unlike Jesus, but he was unlike the God he professed to serve, but he could not see it.
One day while he was on his way to Damascus to find and arrest more people that were followers of Jesus, he was confronted by a blinding light, and a voice from heaven questioned him,
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. Acts 22:7 (NIV)
Saul instinctively knew that light and voice from heaven could only be the Lord.
That light from the sky blinded Saul and he was unable to see for three days. He sat in Damascus, no doubt thinking and contemplating his future before a man named Ananias came and prayed for him to receive his sight.
During that time, God did something for him through the Spirit of Jesus that the Law could not. Saul learned the meaning of grace.
Saul began to see the Law in an entirely different way. While the Law of Moses remained a part of his life, as it should ours, he came to see it that the purpose of the Law is to point out our spiritual deficiencies. It is designed to show us our need to be delivered from our sin because we cannot deliver ourselves from it. That’s what Jesus came to do.
Once freed from trying to prove he was worthy of God’s love, Saul accepted God’s grace in his life, and he changed his name from Saul to Paul. He later became the church’s greatest missionary and teacher.
In explaining all of this to the church of Rome, Paul wrote:
I can already hear your next question: “Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good [that is, the Law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?” No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own. (Romans 7:13 The Message Bible),
Paul is just saying that we can take good things and do good things to hide the sin that we are committing in our lives, and that kind of sin can do more damage than those things that everyone sees and knows about.
There is a lot of sick religion within Christianity, and that kind of religion keeps a lot of people away from the church, just like it did Gandhi.
Too many of us are living with sin present in our lives. Not only is that sin eating our lunch, but others notice the inconsistency of what we say we believe and how we are living our lives.
Don’t get me wrong. Just because we come to church doesn’t mean we are supposed to have all our stuff together. In fact, the church is a hospital for sinners. Sinners belong here.
However, this is not a place for us to come and hide our sin and never do anything about it.
When we are addicted to our sin and nothing about it, it does significant damage to us and others around us.
Paul learned something. He learned that the Law or God’s Commandments were designed to show us our sin, but it was not designed to save us from it.
People with cancer sometimes have to have a PET scan. It’s used to determine whether there is any cancer in the body. It is the definitive scan that lights up any cancerous cell that lingers in the body.
The Law acts somewhat like a PET scan. When we pass the Law over our lives, it is designed to light up those sinful areas of our lives, but it is not the medicine that cures us.
When that light blinded Saul on that road to Damascus, it lit up more than the sky. It lit up the sin in his life.
Saul knew that he was a man with sin oozing out of his religious rituals and attempts to serve God.
Up until that time, Satan had been successful in using Saul’s religion to keep him from seeing his sin.
Don’t be duped by Satan. Just because you are religious, doesn’t mean that sin cannot have its way with you.
I pray today that the Holy Spirit will work like a PET Scan for you. For some of you, the Holy Spirit is showing you areas of your life that need your attention, areas I can’t see, areas others people not see, but God sees.
As the Lord of Light runs over your life, what sins are lighting up?
In Romans, chapter seven, Paul admits that he’s a slave to sin. No matter how much he wants to do the right thing, he cannot seem to follow through. He said the very thing he hated, he ended up doing. Paul understood the addictive mind.
When Joni Ericson Toda was only 15 when she was permanently paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a diving accident. She was rushed to the hospital for extensive tests and x-rays to determine the extent of her injury.
In her book, “Joni,” she describes her first distressing realization of the grim reality of her paralysis. As she was lay unclothed on a hospital cart, the sheet covering her slipped to the side leaving her partially exposed.
In her modesty, Joni desperately wanting to cover herself, a small task, easily and quickly accomplished before her accident. But now, as much as she wanted to make her arms and hands move, they would not respond. Joni knew in her mind exactly what she wanted to do, but her body was totally unresponsive. http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=2304
Have you ever known right from wrong and you wanted to make the right decision, but before you realized it you’d gone too far or said too much and done what you said you didn’t want to do?
Have you known in your mind what you wanted to do, but you couldn’t seem to make yourself do the right thing?
If you have, then it’s likely that you have battled with guilt because of your addiction. What you need is the love and the grace of Jesus. You also need the power of Jesus to be set free from your sin.
Let me also say that you in the right place because the church is a hospital for sinners.
Paul said, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Then he answered his question: “Jesus Christ Our Lord is the one who came to set us free from the law of sin.”
Then the first verse, Chapter 8, says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. In other words, if you will come to Jesus, he is not going to hold this against you.
Jesus doesn’t have to condemn us because the sin we have in our lives does that. It kills us. It kills us physically, emotionally, relationally, financially, and spiritually.
Perhaps you are at a place where you are ready to deal with God about that. What do you do?
Today, I invite you to do these things.
1) Admit that you are a sinner. Autry Johnson was a beloved member of our church who died a couple of weeks ago. His daughter-in-law Cecilia asked him once if he’d ever prayed the sinner’s prayer and, he said, “I pray it every day.” That’s the idea. We are addicted. Can you admit that you are addicted to sin?
2) If God has lit up some specific sin in your life today, then confess it to God. Repent of that sin. That means comment to turn away from it. How do you do that?
A) Ask God daily for his power to overcome this sin.
B) If necessary, find someone to be accountable to regarding your sin. That person may be someone to listen to you, like a friend, a pastor, or a trained counselor.
C) If you have addictive issues, these often require skilled people to help us overcome them.
3) Ask God to forgive you for your sin and accept God’s grace. Even though God forgives you and extends grace to you, remember, the effects of your sin don’t automatically disappear. But God will walk with you through the healing process. If you are open to it, God will provide others who will journey with you as you commit to being a follower of Jesus.
photo credit: gbengawemimo.com