I’ve got a friend who doesn’t like to go to the doctor. He says, “Every time I go, they find something wrong.” Isn’t that the point? If there’s something wrong, wouldn’t you want to know about it? For some people, if the problem isn’t exposed, it doesn’t exist. So if they don’t go to doctor and have the tests run, they aren’t really sick. That’s the wrong way to think about things. If you have a sickness and there’s a cure, wouldn’t you want that sickness exposed so the disease doesn’t run its course?
To some of you, what I just described sounds crazy. Others of you can identify with it. Whichever side you’re on, the truth is that many of us think the way my friend does when it comes to sin in our lives. We don’t want to shed light on it or expose it, much less have a test run to prove it exists in our body. If there’s something wrong spiritually with you, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Wouldn’t you want to get it cured?
David fell into the group that wanted to go to the doctor often and have tests run to make sure nothing was wrong. In Psalm 26:2 he prayed, “Examine me, GOD, from head to foot, order your battery of tests. Make sure I’m fit inside and out” (MSG). He wasn’t afraid to have God shine His light into every dark corner of his life. He knew that sin likes to lay hidden in our lives unexposed. It tells us to pretend we are perfect and nothing is wrong. The truth is that all of us are infected with sin, and the way we rid ourselves of it is to expose it to the light of God’s Word.
If we truly want to live the lives God has called us to, we can’t be afraid to go to The Doctor and have Him test our lives. God will not condemn us for having Him expose our sins. Instead, He will be faithful to forgive us and to lead us down His paths. We can’t be afraid that He will find something wrong with us or what others will think. There’s a cure for the sin that’s holding us back and it’s free. Jesus already paid the price for our sin and has written out the prescription. Ask God today to examine you so you can be fit inside and out.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Have you ever spilled bleach on your clothes? I have. I even did it on purpose one time. In the 90’s, stonewashed jeans were in style, and we couldn’t afford them. I decided I could stonewash a pair myself. I went to the driveway and poured bleach on my jeans. I then began to rub it in so I could get that faded look. It turned out nothing like i thought. They were the ugliest pants ever. To make sure I never tried that again, my mom made me wear those out in public.
Bleach is a pretty amazing product (if you know what you’re doing). It will take the color out of almost any fabric and make your whites brilliant. I’m not sure when it was invented, but I can tell you that they didn’t have it in Jesus’ day. On our trip to Israel, they showed us how they made wool yarn, and then showed us how they dyed it. Once they put the color into the wool, there was no getting it out.
Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool’” (NLT). The people understood the whiteness of wool and the redness of dyed wool. What they didn’t understand was how God could take something dyed and turn it back to its original color. God was saying He could do the impossible in an impossible way.
For over a thousand years, there was one way to get your sin covered up. It was through sacrificing a perfect lamb. God sent His only Son into the world, not to cover up our sins, but to bleach them. His blood would remove the stain of sin from our lives. An impossible task made possible by a baby born in Bethlehem. Christmas is the season of hope because with the birth of Jesus, there was hope of being reconciled to God. No matter how stained our lives are with sin, one drop of His blood will make it white as snow.
If you’ve never heard of an Iron Man race or been to one, the people who do it are incredible. The race starts off with a 2.4 mile open water swim. Then they ride a bike for over 112 miles. Once they’re done with that, they have to run a marathon. Did I mention that it all has to be done on the same day and within a certain timeframe? These men and women push their body’s to the limit like nothing I’ve ever seen. To me, they are the very picture of endurance.
In high school, i ran the mile. Yes, it was just one, and they called that endurance running! I still had to train and condition my body to be able to run four laps around the track at the fastest speed possible. I had to get my muscles to the level where they could maintain that speed for close to five minutes. I also had to condition my lungs to not get winded so I wouldn’t run out of breath in the race. It’s a far cry from an Iron Man, but I still had to train.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (NLT). We each have our own race to run in life. Some of us will run a short distance, some will run a 5k, others a half marathon or a marathon, while others an Iron Man. Whatever race God has set before you, run with endurance and don’t compare your race to someone else’s.
There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s not the mountains ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” To run with endurance, and to run to win, we need to get rid of sin in our lives, even small ones. They keep us from running our race the way God wants us to. We must discipline our flesh and our spirit through prayer, reading God’s Word, and running alongside other believers to be able to endure the race we’ve been given. We each have a certain time frame within which we must run our race, so we need to run to win.
To demonstrate how difficult it is to accomplish even the easiest tasks while you are bound up, I once tried to preach a sermon with my hands tied behind my back. I wasn’t sure how it would play out, but it proved to be more difficult than I could imagine. My first problem was holding the microphone. Then I needed help turning the pages in my bible. After that, I needed to turn the page in my notes. Finally, I couldn’t use my hands then I spoke, which apparently I do.
So many of us try to do more than speak while we are bound up. We actually try to go through life while we are bound up in depression, addiction, grief, sin, etc. If you’ve been there, you know that even the smallest tasks can prove to be difficult. Go designed you to live a life of freedom. As Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that He set you free.” Jesus also said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
There’s a song called “Chain Breaker” that says, “If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker. If you feel lost, He’s a way maker. If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior. If you’ve got chains, He’s a chain breaker.” The words to this song remind me that I don’t have to live bound up in my chains. There is no chain so strong that God cannot break it in your life. There is no depression so dark that He can’t bring you out of it. I’ve been in the deep, dark prison of depression and He set me free.
I love reading Psalm 107 because it’s a reminder of what God can do for us. In verse 14 it says, “He brought them out of their gloom and darkness and broke their chains in pieces” (GNT). If you’re bound up by chains today or are in a dark place, call out to God. Ask Him to lead you out of that place and to set you free. I know if He did it in my life, He can do it in yours. It’s time we all got back to living the life of freedom that God created us to live.
My six year old son has been asking me a lot of questions about sin lately. He asked me if I sin. When I told him that I do, he wanted to know why. I explained that I don’t want to, but sometimes I do. It’s just part of being human and having sin live inside us. Then he wanted to know if it upsets God when I sin. I told him that it does, but God is faithful to forgive us of our sins when we confess them to Him and are sorry for doing them. Then he wanted to know if he sins and the circle continued.
I love that he’s already concerning himself with wanting to live a life that pleases God. I also want him to understand that sin is an ongoing problem in all of our lives. There is no one who is perfect and can keep from sinning. This problem is outlined perfectly in Romans 7. Verses 17-20 say, “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; i decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway” (MSG). It’s the struggle we all face.
No matter how much anyone of us want to live a sinless life, we eventually fall short and sin. Paul is very clear in this chapter that the problem is not us, but the sin that is inside of us. We are all dependent on God’s grace instead of our ability to live sinless lives. I love how Romans 8:4 puts it. “The law always ended up being a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it.” Trying to live a sinless life doesn’t fix the problem; it only covers it up. Living a perfect life is not our goal. Learning to trust God’s grace is.
God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working in us is the remedy to our sin problem. When we try to put a Band-Aid on our sin and do things on our own, pride comes in. The answer is to quit trying to live a sinless life out of sheer will power because we can’t. God’s Spirit is living in us and working in us. We must learn to live Spirit led lives, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us in the life that He wants us to live. The Spirit wants to lead us into a life of freedom instead of constant condemnation because we fail constantly. Rip off the Band-Aid and let God heal you from the inside out.
One thing I’ve learned is that every sin lives within me, and I’m capable of committing any of them. The sins living within each one of us is just waiting for the right circumstances to show up and it will give us the opportunity to commit them. I learned this one night while I was very angry and bitterness was growing in me. The thought and desire to murder was so strong in me that it frightened me. I never believed I was capable of such a thing until that moment. Like Joseph in Potiphar’s house, I ran and didn’t look back.
Anger is a powerful emotion that can tempt us to do the unthinkable. It is a dangerous emotion that desires to control us. It is like a furnace burning within us that continuously heats up the more we feed it. It begins to consume our mind, our thoughts and eventually our lives. I was at the point that I couldn’t sleep. My anger was burning so strongly that every time I closed my eyes to sleep, all I could imagine was the situation that created my pain and my heart would begin to race. I began to be consumed with how I could get revenge.
Let me be clear, anger in and of itself is not a sin. It is an emotion that God has given each one of us. I believe it becomes sin when it begins to control us. Psalms 4:4 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent” (NLT). Too many times we have a knee jerk reaction of retaliation when we get angry. We scream, we curse, we throw things, we fight or do something else. The Psalmist here suggests that instead of reacting, we should proactively step away, remain silent and think about it.
Many times in my life, my anger hasn’t frightened me away from sinning. Instead it has lead me right into it. As Christians, we need to understand that uncontrolled anger leads to sin. Instead of letting it have its way, we need to step away, think about it overnight and remain silent. In many cases, our anger will dissipate and we will be kept from sinning. It is possible to be angry and sin not as the scripture says. We just need to learn to be proactive with our anger instead of reacting with it.
When I was little, my mom said, “Don’t touch that. It’s hot.” What did I do? I touched it and got burned. When I got a little older, she said, “Don’t eat mushrooms in the back yard.” What did I do? I fed them to my younger brother and I got spanked. A few years later, she said, “Don’t talk that way.” What did I do? I said a few choice words and got my mouth washed out with a Ivory soap. Each time I disobeyed, I suffered the consequences of those actions whether it was through her punishment or the physical result of disobedience.
In the Garden of Eden, God said, “Don’t eat of that tree in the middle.” What did they do? They ate from the tree and were kicked out of the garden. God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments. What have we done since? We’ve broken them and suffered the consequences. In my own life, I’ve known what God has said, and I’ve lived in violation of the way He has said to live and I’ve suffered the consequences.
Several years ago, while suffering with the consequences of my choices, God was using them to try to bring me back into right relationship with Him. The more I pushed back, the more it seemed I suffered. I eventually surrendered, but had to live with the consequences. The pain of that time has been a constant reminder to me to follow God’s will and plan. Do I do it all the time? No. I still disobey at times, but those times are getting fewer and I’m learning to repent faster.
All of us face the consequences of our sins. It’s designed to help us remember to obey much like my punishments when I was younger. Psalm 119:71 says, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (NLT). We don’t like the suffering from our consequences, but it helps us remember in the future to walk in obedience to what God says. God sets life and death before us. Oh that we would obey His Word and choose life. It’s a much less painful route.
To abandon someone is to quit supporting them or to give up on them. If you’ve ever been through some of life’s toughest circumstances, you know what it’s like to be abandoned by some of your family or friends. You find out that there are people in your life that you can count on, and there are people that you can’t. When you’re looking for advice, a place to regroup, or just a shelter from the storm, some people that you seek out will abandon you. Some of the ones who you thought would support you through thick and thin give up on you.
David was a person who knew a thing or two about being abandoned. He was forgotten by his father, disrespected by his brothers, shamed by his wife, chased by the king, and dishonored by his son. The people in his life that he should have been able to count on, turned their backs on him at some point in his life. He knew a thing or two about rock bottom. He looked for those he could count on in times of trouble.
In all of his searching, there was one who never abandoned him. God. David wasn’t a perfect man either. He cheated on his wife, had a man murdered, and did some unthinkable things. Yet when he sought after God, he knew that no matter what he had done, God would not abandon him. He knew that there was nothing he had done that God couldn’t or wouldn’t forgive. When others gave up on him, God never did. In fact, God said he was a man after His own heart.
You may have walked David’s shoes. Maybe you’ve been abandoned by those who love you or you’ve abandoned the things you know are right. Either way, if you will seek God, He won’t abandon you. Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know you, Lord, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you” (GNT). It doesn’t matter what’s been done to you or what you’ve done to others, you can find shelter, hope, and forgiveness in God when you seek Him out.
When I was in high school, one of my teachers had us open the cover of our Bibles. He then told us to write, “This book will keep you from sin. Sin will keep you from this book.” What a powerful message. Every time I opened my Bible, I read those words. They challenged me to read it daily so that I wouldn’t stray from God. To this day, I hear those words, even though I no longer open a physical Bible, and they challenge me.
When Moses was giving the final instructions to Israel, before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, he gave them instructions for their future kings. In Deuteronomy 17:18-19 he said, “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees” (NLT).
God knew then that His instructions would keep us from a life of sin. He not only wanted them read daily, He wanted them to write them down too. Imagine if you had to hand write the Bible and then carry that manuscript with you daily. The time and effort that would take would cause you to value His Word more. Then reading it daily would teach you how to follow God’s path.
David, who would have written it out and carried it with him, wrote something very powerful in the longest chapter of the Bible. In Psalm 119:11 he wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” David didn’t just read God’s Word, he hid it in his heart. He studied it, memorized it, and applied it. Were there times he failed? Yes. It was God’s Word that put him back in right standing with God.
He knew what you and I need to know. The more we know who God is, the more we see Him as a loving father who doesn’t expect perfection from us. He forgives our sins and loves it when we come clean. The enemy wants us to hide our sin like Adam and Eve, but God wants to create a clean heart in us. His Word will not only keep us from sin, but lead us to forgiveness when we do. Don’t let sin keep you from God’s Word. Let God’s Word keep you from sin.
How do you know what is sin? Do you let your pastor decide that for you? Do you let your political party tell you what it is? Do you let society define it? Maybe you just go with what feels right to you. The fact is that none of these have the power to define what is right in God’s sight and what is wrong. There is only one source that defines what is sin and what is not. It’s the Holy Bible. God’s Word was written by about 40 people over the period of about 1,500 years. II Timothy 3:16 tells us that all scripture is inspired by God.
We know that even though it was written by so many people over such a long period of time, that it was all inspired by God. The beauty of God’s Word is that it stands the test of time and will remain relevant forever because human nature doesn’t change. The Bible looks at human nature, defines what sin is, but more importantly, shows us how to get forgiveness from it and how to avoid it. Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved” (NLT).
To avoid falling into sin, we must first know what sin is to God. James 4:17 gives us a simple definition of sin. It says, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” If you know what’s right and then choose not to do it, then you’re sinning. The Bible is also filled with other things that it names as sin like lying, adultery, stealing, etc. at the heart of each of those and every other sin is that basic definition. You know there’s a right and a wrong and you’re willfully choosing the wrong.
So how do we avoid falling prey to our desire to do the things we want to do, but aren’t the right things? Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” If we want to know what sin is and also to have the ability to overcome it, we must put God’s Word in our heart. We must read it, understand it, meditate on it, and memorize it so that we can live the way God wants us to. It’s not up to other people to tell you what it says. It’s up to you to read it and to understand it. When it come to your eternity, don’t rely on second hand information alone.