Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Those Who Sin Have Hope

Earlier I wrote a few paragraphs entitled Why Guys Who Watch Porn Will Never Get Married. The title was admittedly inaccurate and was used to grab the attention of the reader. The purpose of the post was to expose what is often hidden behind all the supposed glamour of porn and how porn negatively impacts relationships. But the post was incomplete as it left no hope for the one who struggles and may have conveyed that they are trapped in this sin.

So we ask, why do those who sin have hope(and not just with porn but a host of heart sins which affect relationship - words, lack of forgiveness, envy, greed, etc)? Where do they find encouragement? We want to look at just two places from Scripture.

First, in 1 Corinthians 6.9-11 Paul lists a number of sins, among them sexually immorality, greed, drunkenness and slander. Is the believer ever trapped? Paul writes: And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

There is hope which begins with our standing before God. We are a changed people in His sight - we are washed (cleansed), sanctified (set apart, made holy), justified (given a righteous standing before God because of Jesus). It would seem strange that someone who struggles with sexual immorality would never be able to grow in holiness and therefore, never grow more and more conformed to their standing before God. This gives the believer great hope because the change will not ultimately come because we change ourselves but simply and profoundly, because God will change us. God within us through His Spirit will grow us in holiness. This change is often gradual and therefore the believer must continually come back to the cross, being reminded of God's work in us. God will mercifully and graciously discipline us so we become more like our Father in heaven.

Second, Romans 6 tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. The good news here is not only is God working on our behalf, but humanly speaking, God gives us means to strengthen our resolve to walk in holiness. We are not powerless and the grip of sin is never stronger than the grip of God. And so the person struggling with porn, words, envy, greed or anger is able to bow before a sovereign God pleading mercy and then rise, using God-given resources to battle unrighteousness.

And so, is there hope? Absolutely. It is an amazing paradox that in the glamour of porn we find death and in the horror of Christ's death we find life.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Christians As Icebergs

What do you mean "Christians as icebergs"? Sounds harsh doesn't it? Do you mean that they are usually cold and unwelcoming? Well, no. Generally I have found believers in Jesus to be the exact opposite - warm and welcoming.

However, I have heard that when you see an iceberg you are really only see 10% while the remaining 90% is submerged from view. It is only when you come closer do you realize what lies underneath.

I expressed to the people at church recently that when I look out from the pulpit, I view them as icebergs - what I see is the 10%, with another 90% underneath. This is not a paranoid pastor speaking, nor is it trying to find issues when there are none to be found. Instead, it is to be honest with the circumstances of life. We are taught to wear a happy face as worship for worship is really only for those ready to praise God and give their all to Him. But what about those found in Psalm 55.1-5: Listen to my prayer O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught ... my heart is in anguish within me ... fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed. me.?

That is the hidden 90% the "iceberg" brings into the church as she quietly sits in the back row - trapped in a sin, filled with guilt and desperate. However, recognizing the hidden spiritual struggles allows us to minister God's powerful, personal Word AND deal honestly with people's lives - the 90%. It is here we will see God revealed in the Psalm and conclude God is the only place to cast all our cares. Suddenly the 90% finds hope.

How do you view those coming into church? How do we get past the superficial? How about beginning to view believers as icebergs - it will impact preaching for the pastor and fellowship for all, creating a deeper level of true ministry.