I Blew It — Now What?

Oh no!How do you feel when you sin? Frustrated? Guilty? Ashamed? And what do you do about it?

I found a nice little protocol for this situation—turns out, God outlined a plan for the Israelites after they asked for a king (1 Samuel 12:20-25). Now, just to be clear, this wasn’t what you might call a “little” sin. This was a HUGE sin wherein they refused God’s ideal government, a theocracy, and the protection that came with it. As Samuel put it, “Today you have rejected your God” (1 Samuel 10:19, HCSB). Wow!

Still, God gave them hope. Through Samuel, He outlined a response to sin that we can use as well:

DON’T …

  1. Give up – “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the Lord with all your heart” (1 Samuel 12:20). Satan loves to overwhelm us with the gravity or frequency of our offenses—not only because he enjoys torturing us, but because he sometimes succeeds in using our embarrassment to separate us from our Redeemer. Yet as long as we’re willing to turn to Him, our God is willing to forgive (I John 1:9). No limits. No exceptions. As Samuel said, “The Lord will not abandon His people” (1 Samuel 12:22).
  2. Look for excuses, support, or remedy elsewhere — “Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or deliver you” (verse 21). Another of Satan’s tricks is to get us to minimize our faults, but all sin is bad—bad enough to put Jesus on the cross! And its only remedy is found in Christ. God may use various mentors, disciplines, or programs to aid in our reclamation, but only He can forgive sin and change us into His image. We should fill His place in our hearts with no other person or object.
  3. Keep sinning – “If you continue to do what is evil, both you and your king will be swept away” (verse 25). Don’t confuse God’s forgiveness with permission to keep sinning. Sin brings trouble and pain, and our Creator wants something better for us. This is why He urges, “Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you” (John 5:14).

DO …

  1. Seek God – “Above all, fear the Lord and worship Him faithfully with all your heart” (1 Samuel 12:24). When you mess up, turn back to God just as fast and as fully as you possibly can. Period. Never mind the rationalizations or promises to yourself. Just get down on your knobby little knees and pray.
  2. Remember past victories and blessings — “Consider the great things He has done for you” (verse 24). Nothing lifts us up more than praising God for the ways He’s already worked in our lives. The Israelites used to raise monuments of stones and put blue tassels on their clothes to help them remember His blessings. We should do the same. (Well, maybe not quite the same — our neighbors may not appreciate it if we pile a bunch of stones in the street.) We keep photo albums of weddings, births, vacations, etc.; why not keep a photo album of key victories, miracles, blessings, or lessons? Or maybe you’d prefer keeping a journal of such remembrances. Or maybe a wooden box for storing tokens that remind you of those special occasions. Whatever method you use, it’s still a worthwhile practice to remember.
  3. Find a mentor – Samuel promised the discouraged Israelites, “As for me, I vow that I will not sin by ceasing to pray for you. I will teach you the right way” (verse 23). Particularly if you’re struggling with a long-term problem, you may find it helpful to have someone, especially someone who’s overcome the same problem, to whom you can go for advice, support, and prayer.

Let’s Hear It for Leviticus!

scrollDon’t you just love Leviticus!

No?

Okay, the truth is, I have trouble with Leviticus too. It seems to alternate between boring and incomprehensible. For example, Leviticus 5:17 says: “If someone sins and without knowing it violates any of the Lord’s commands … he bears the consequences of his guilt” (HCSB, emphasis mine).

How do we understand such a hard-nosed stance? Why should a person be punished for something he didn’t even know was wrong? To our minds, this seems unfair.

Perhaps the problem is in our perspective. We tend to view sin as a legal issue. We consider it appropriate if a punishment is reduced, or waived altogether, when someone violates the law in ignorance. We especially consider it appropriate when we’re the one stopped by the police officer. In that case, we might even complain if our plea of “But I didn’t see the sign!” meets with anything more than a “Well, I’ll let you off with a warning this time.”

But what if sin is more like a medical condition?

Let’s say I go to a party where someone, unbeknownst to me, has a cold. A couple of days later, I wake up feverish, achy, congested, and feeling generally icky. Can I file an appeal with my doctor with the expectation that, because I didn’t know I’d been exposed to the virus, my cold should be cancelled? Well, I can try. If the doctor has a good sense of humor, he might even write a letter to that effect. But it won’t influence the course of my cold at all—nor would any reasonable person expect it to.

Similarly, when we accept sin into our lives—whether knowingly or in genuine ignorance—that sin affects us, creating new little pathways in our brains that subtly alter the pattern of our thinking and behavior. It acts precisely like a pathogen, regardless of whether we recognize it as one. This is why James urges us to keep ourselves “unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

There’s only one cure for the sin virus. We can see this even amid the drudgery of the ceremonial laws in Leviticus: “Anything that touches the offerings will become holy” (Lev. 6:18). The offerings, of course, represent the great Sin Bearer. And, just like the Israelites of old—in fact, like all of humanity throughout the ages—we can be cured of sin and its effects only by coming into daily, abiding contact with our Physician, Christ Himself.

“A Bright Star in the Night Sky”

Sometimes you run across a passage that’s so perfect that any attempt to elaborate on it would just ruin it. I was praying for Bob and Bonnie (they know who they are) as I ran across one such passage, but I’m sure there are others for whom it will be meaningful. In a planet scarred by spiritual warfare, it’s the kind of reminder we all need from time to time.

You are never alone, for I am at your right hand. Never despair, for I am watching over and caring for you. Be not anxious. What seems to you to be at present a difficult situation is all part of My planning, and I am working out the details of circumstances so that I may bless you and reveal Myself to you in a new way …

You shall come to know Me even as Moses did, yes, in a face-to-face relationship. For I will remove the veil that separates Me from you, and you will know Me as your dearest Friend and as your truest Comforter.night sky

No darkness will hide the shining of My face, for I shall be to you as a bright star in the night sky. Never let your faith waver. Reach out your hand, and you shall touch the hem of My garment. (Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts, p. 14)

Settling

marathon starting lineHave you ever started off strong on a project—or maybe it was a relationship or a friendship—only to have things go really sour? It seemed so promising at the beginning, but in the end you were left with nothing but a big mess and the marathon - clean-upquestion, “How on earth did this happen?”

That’s exactly what happened to ancient Israel. God had such big plans for them. He intended to give them all of Canaan along with the blessings that went with it. Joshua got them off to a strong start. Under his leadership, God handed Israel a big chunk of the promised land. But then the project fizzled.

What happened? Perhaps the essence of the problem is found in three little words: “But they settled” (Judges 3:5, HCSB). More

Friend or Foe?

lionHow do you define the word “enemy”? Until recently, I would have said that an enemy is someone who wants to harm another person. I was surprised to find a rather different definition in my Bible.

Exodus 15:9 expresses the enemy’s underlying attitude this way: “The enemy said … My desire will be gratified at their expense” (HCSB).

Contrast this with Christ’s attitude: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28, HCSB). Or, as the author of Hebrews urges, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works (Heb. 10:24, NKJV). Paul even goes so far as to say, “Consider others as more important than yourselves” lamb(Philippians 2:3, HCSB). 

In other words, the enemy considers another person to ask, “What can I get from this person?” Christ considers another to ask, “What can I do for this person?”

Which attitude will others see in me today—that of the Enemy, or that of Christ?

Are you a Jacob or a Joseph?

glass half full - brownIsn’t it amazing how differently people can respond to the same (or similar) circumstances? We see this in Bible characters, too. One example that particularly sticks out to me is the worlds-apart summaries that Jacob and Joseph provide of their respective lives.

Joseph had it rough—we can probably all agree on that. His own brothers sell him into slavery. After years of proving his worth as a slave, he’s accused unjustly and tossed into prison. He does his best to make other prisoners comfortable, and they refuse his simple request that they remember him. Few of us have lives that rival Joseph’s for trials.

Yet Joseph tells his brothers,  “Do not be distressed More

Of Ferrets and Faith

Have you ever played with a ferret? My daughter (a vet student) gets to interact with all sorts of interesting animals, and occasionally I get to share in the fun. I’ve been introduced to several new creatures this way, but my favorite is the ferret, an animal I’d never even seen before since they’re illegal here in California.

Ferret CFerrets are like miniature, land-loving sea otters. They’re extremely playful, seeming to view everything as a potential game, and exude this incredible, bubbly enthusiasm for whatever they happen to be doing. They get so excited that they literally fall over themselves, jumping sideways, tripping over their own feet, bumping into things, and rolling around with joy. Though called a “war dance,” this is the ferret’s way of saying, “Come on, let’s play!”

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy …” (Galatians 5:22, NKJV).

Do I embrace the joyful spirit that God offers me? Or am I too busy with have-tos to enjoy the everyday pleasures He provides?   More

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