If there was one mistake, one thing that you did wrong that you could erase form your life, what would it be?
It’s different for all of us.
Sometimes, that one thing changes depending on our current life situation, because depending on our situation, we may regard certain mistakes as having a more (or less) long term formative effect on our lives.
I guess for me, thinkimg about this reveals that our God given consciences do not measure sins in the same way as the society around us often does. This leads me to wonder if our own ‘ranking of sins’ as a wider community is anywhere near remotely how God looks at sin.
I say this because for many people, my biggest regret may not seem that bad a thing. But for me, in my life it’s been huge. You ready? here it is:
I once stole 10, maybe 20 dollars. I lost count because I spent it as I was stealing it.
Let me explain: One day when I was about 9 we had our annual Church fete. I was just at the age where a) a fiver looked like a hundred bucks and b) I was more useful as an extra pair of hands than a talking mouth telling everyone; “I’m bored.” So I was entrusted with responsibility. I was put up on the ice cream stall with another older guy from our church. He handed out the ice creams while my job was to take the customer’s cash and drop it into the ice-cream container whilst handing back the change.
You can probably work out what happened. Obviously a certain percentile of the loot never made to the little ice-cream container, because that exact percentile ended up in my pocket, and I guess, in my mouth via some extra vanilla choc wedges.
If you think I’m trying to make heavy something that’s light (C’mon; 20 bucks!) you’re missing the point. I stole from the church which means (and boy did I know it in my soul);
I stole from God.
You have no idea how much the story of Annanias and Saphira haunted me.
That day I learned some things that stayed with me for the rest of my life.
1. Sin turns God’s word from beautiful to terrifying.
In the Garden, when the first couple sinned, they ran from God simply saying ‘where are you.’ Whenever we’re running from the bible in our lives, you can be sure it’s because we’re struggling with un-confessed sin.
2. Things are/go wrong especially if you don’t get caught.
You may have seen the t-shirt “it’s only illegal if you get caught.” Here’s the irony; that only exists because everyone knows it’s not true. Otherwise, why would we need convincing? I didn’t need anyone to remind or tell me that I had sinned I knew it in a deep and almost inexpressible way. I felt utterly awful. For along time. I wished for years that I had gotten caught. We know, that there’s right and wrong, we have to learn indifference.
3. Shame is one of the most powerful emotional forces we ever encounter.
My Dad was the senior pastor of the church. I literally had nightmares over what his church would have thought of him if everyone found out that his son was the reason the books didn’t balance after the proceeds were counted.
Bur praise be to God, that I have also learned a few more things since:
1. God’s Word turns our sin into hope.
The core of the Gospel is; you are more sinful that you ever dared believe but more loved than you ever dared hope. We can ‘press-in’ to God’s word and follow his direction for restoration because only the Christian god is a God who hates sin enough to do something about it. That, by the way, is the lesson of Genesis chapter 3. In short, it’s message is: ‘There has been a monumental screw up, But it ain’t over till I, God, say it’s over.”
2. God sees everything, catches us every time….and still loves us.
This is the God who waits for the prodigal son to come home knowing precisely the sort of things he was probably getting up to while he was away.
God’s love does not give us permission to sin, but it certainly gives us permission to come to him when we inevitably do.
3. This one may surprise you: confession is the most powerful evangelism.
I believe that everyone has two things in common. a) Everyone is ashamed of something. b) people hate, HATE being advertised to, especially when it’s some religious thing.
The desire to save, whether form sin or poverty or exploitation, is one of the most damaging motives in ministry. -Henri Nouwen
He’s saying that we’re often so busy trying to convert, that we completely forget how to have meaningful relationships. On the other hand, to be a confessing Christian or Church is to confess that we are sinners saved by grace.
We sometimes forget the first part of that equation.
I’d rather have one good conversation with a person than a box of 10000 tracts.
I’d rather connect with a person than convict them.
I struggle to think of a connection point deeper to all of us than our shame. But who simply talks about what haunts them? Faith is embracing the awkward, going first and owning the status of a sinner saved only by grace in eyes of the other.
Everything else in the process of salvation is 100% God’s job.
We all struggle, we all have regrets, we all once did something that we never thought we’d do. Let’s talk about it. Let’s explore what God can do with it.