Spiritual LessonsSuch Amazing Grace
You know you’re really not as bad as you think you are. You’re worse. Maybe that will sound somewhat shocking to someone. But I’m serious. It’s true. God said it Himself. In Isaiah, He compared our “righteousness” as filthy rags. That’s our righteousness! Not our sin. Not our sinful natures. Not our deceitful hearts. I can only imagine what He’d compare that to. Let’s just say, it wouldn’t be pretty.
I grew up a conservative girl in a Christian home. I could probably count on both hands how many times I wasn’t in church on Sunday morning. I’m sure people would probably have considered me a somewhat ‘good person’. I remember cheating on a school math test when I was in 6th grade and then lying about it to my parents. However, your sin will find you out- and I got in trouble for it. But honestly, I never really felt like one of those vile and wicked sinners you always hear about in churches. I grew up with an acute knowledge that I was a sinner, certainly, and that I needed God’s forgiveness. And praise God- He did choose to forgive me of my sin when I accepted Him as my Savior at 13 years old. But I’ve never had an amazing testimony. At least, not one of those ones you hear about. Like, where God delivered someone miraculously from a life of addiction to drugs and alcohol, or adultery, or even a lifestyle of homosexuality.
It hasn’t been until recently in my life that I realized what a great deliverance God truly gave me from sin when He saved me. And I think honestly, it isn’t until we get close to Christ, and see His purity and holiness, that we understand more who we truly are. Wretched sinners. Kind of like the contrast of black and white, or light with darkness. One reveals very well, its opposite.
I grew up a very judgmental person. And I very easily made fun of people who weren’t like me. Especially people who weren’t Christians. And maybe not necessarily out loud, but certainly in my heart. Why? Simply because I couldn’t relate to or understand them. And what lay at the bottom of it was nothing more than my own disgusting pride. It’s sad, and I hate to admit it, but there it is. And in some ways, honestly, I think I was probably much more like the ‘average conservative Christian’ than we’d care to think.
Growing up, I’ve noticed a common pattern within Christian circles. A pattern that screams ‘I’m better than you’. Namely to the lost, but also to other Christians. As if by nature we are any different than any other human being in the world. Somehow, we’ve accepted the pride of considering ourselves to be less sinful and less capable of sin than others. Then we turn around and condemn them for it. This is not only wrong, it’s completely absurd. Pride is at its root. And it is the most unmerciful, ungracious, and unloving of attitudes. I can assure you, it is NOT the mind of Christ. And as His children and as His ambassadors, we have no business holding this attitude either.
So what makes “Christians” any less the sinner than the lost man you might meet on the street? What makes YOUR sin less wicked than his? Nothing. And I want to add a note to clarify here- because some of you might start to think I’m teaching heresy. I’m not. There is no excuse for sin after salvation. I know we HAVE the blood of Jesus Christ. I know we have HIS spirit. I know that HE lives inside of us as born again Christians. I know that He gives us the POWER over SIN. We no longer have to sin. And we are forgiven. But that is exactly my point. The difference is completely JESUS- not you.
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-11)
We are all very capable of any and all of the sins specifically mentioned there and much more. ‘And such were some of you: but ye are washed.’ Truly, we cannot put any trust in our own flesh. Our hearts are still just as deceitfully wicked after we are saved as before. But I believe the mark of a true Christian isn’t that he is not capable of sin, no matter what the sin, but that God has given him the power not to be in that sin. There are some sins we would all like to believe that we are just not capable of committing. Like, fornication or adultery. Or, maybe homosexuality? But lusting in our hearts is still lust against a Holy God, period. What about chronic or suicidal depression? You might say, “I’d never get to point in my life where I’d ever think about jumping out of a moving car.” I did once. During one of the hardest and darkest times of my life. And let me assure you, I was just as much a Christian then, as I am today. What about cutting or self-abuse? Emotional pain that hurts so deeply that only physical pain is a relief. “I’d never drink.” Or “I’d never steal something.” Or “I’d never let myself be addicted to cigarettes.” You think to yourself, as you walk past a grungy looking guy who just puffed out a big stream of smoke. And yet, you’re just as addicted to your coffee. Or your sugar. And I know that there is a difference between the appearance of a cigarette with a Christian than a cup of coffee. But still? “I’d never murder anyone.” What about abortion? The root of abortion is probably one of the severest forms of selfishness there is. Yet, selfishness is something we are all certainly capable of; we just see it daily on a much lesser scale. I’ll never forget the summer that God showed me very clearly what I was truly capable of. And it scared me. The truth is, I’m a murder at heart, just as much as the woman who murders her unborn baby. And it shocked me. And without going into much detail, I’ll just say, that in my own sinful flesh I’m just as capable of what I distain most in others. But is there a difference being a Christian? Yes. Absolutely. And that difference is solely Jesus. He made a way to have power and victory over sin, over ourselves, and over what we would naturally be.
I recently just read through I Corinthians 10 and found it such an encouragement. I was amazed. The chapter is talking to Christians about other Christians. It is a warning.
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (v.1-4)
“But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”(v.5-11)
These are Christians in the Old Testament that committed these sins against God. Men and Woman of the Bible that were said to have ‘drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ’. Verse 12 goes on to say, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
Pride was Satan’s downfall. Pride keeps lost men from seeing their need for God. Just as I believe, pride can destroy a Christian. I’ve often heard is said, that your sin is not God biggest problem. I think this is really true. He already took care of our sin on the cross. And obviously sin can still be devastating. We should hate sin, just as God does. We should flee from it. We should remember how much it cost Him. How much it hurt and still hurts our Savior. How much it can hurt others. But, God loves sinners. And it is the man that thinks he can stand strong of himself, that is in the most danger of falling away.
I love verse 13.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Acknowledging the fact that we are capable of wickedness, and maybe even more prone to certain sins, does not mean that we have to commit them. There is NO temptation, firstly, that isn’t common to men. You aren’t the only one. I think Satan loves to isolate us and make us feel both alone and defeated. Secondly, that God hasn’t and won’t give the grace to bear. God promises that we are ‘more than conquerors’. Although, I love how He chooses to use the word ‘escape’ here. It isn’t just a battle. It is turning from and running towards. Running where? To God. Because He is faithful. And while God does all the bearing…we are still held responsible to flee from it.
“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” (v.14)
I hope, somehow, this could encourage your heart. I think, as Christians, we need to be reminded of who we are apart from Christ’s blood. That we are no better than any other sinner, but also, that we have the power through our Lord to live holy and righteously unto Him. That we would learn what it is to extend real grace and compassion to others. Not a tolerance for sin. Not an attitude that says ‘judge not lest you be judged’ simply because we are either ashamed of God’s high standard or found guilty and unrepentant ourselves. But instead, to have His amazing grace. His sincere compassion. His unfailing love.
“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;” (II Corinthians 3:5)