Last night Scott and I had to get ready for Sunday School and youth bible study tonight. I normally teach Sunday School but was really tired last night and not up to studying. I asked Scott to do Sunday School and he said sure as long as I did the bible study. No other leaders were going to be there so it was up to us. Fine, that gave me another afternoon to prepare. Lately we’ve been using the Youth Link song sermons. I stopped by the youth room this morning to look through the book and pick a CD to take home. I mentioned hearing the song East to West last week on the way home and was pleasantly surprised to see this song as one of my options. I barely looked to see how the lesson was laid out and took it home. Honestly, I didn’t think the lesson did justice to the song and taking what’s been on my heart lately and tying in what our speaker from Wednesday spoke about, I came up with my own thing. I’d like to share it but it’s going to be long…it took about 45 minutes to get through. So if you’re up for it…read on.
I played the song upfront and handed out the lyrics. I read the following excerpts from the song:
“The chains of yesterday surround me, I yearn for peace and rest.”
“Keeps me awake tonight”
“I start the day, the war begins
Endless reminding of my sin
And time and time again
Your truth is drowned out by the storm I’m in.”
“But today I feel like I’m just one mistake away
From you leaving me this way.”
Does this sound like someone is having a great time being a Christian? They just can’t stand all the joy and peace they are receiving? Nope. This seems like one tortured soul. And it seems like the root cause is the consequences of his sin. They’re being thrown back in his face. He can’t concentrate on his day and can’t even sleep at night. He feels like he’s on the edge, getting ready to topple over. He has no peace. He has guilt. Maybe even some shame. He’s depressed.
David describes this feeling after committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband murdered.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me
When I kept silent,
My bones wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
Your hand was heavy upon me;
My strength was sapped
As in the heat of summer.
If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, you’ve felt this. You’ve done something you shouldn’t have and then you just feel awful. Sometimes you even get physically sick. You feel all the wrongness of it straight down to your bones. You KNOW you’re wrong and it makes you groan. You can feel the weight on your shoulders. It feels just like he describes..your strength sapped as in the heat of the summer. Ever gone running or participated in sports mid-summer? It drains you. To your very core, where you can barely breathe. What you did is all you can think about. And if you’re considering doing it again, that’s all you can think about. Ever felt that? I sure have. I’ve gone on for weeks like that. I lost weight, I couldn’t think straight. It was bad. I’m sure you’ve been there too. Our sin does that to us. But that’s not the type of life we are to live.
There is a road to peace and forgiveness. When you start there’s guilt and shame and a lack of peace but at the end there is forgiveness and freedom. From my experience, there are three steps on this path and if you veer off the path anywhere, you are going to experience guilt or a lack of peace.
Most of the time when we’re feeling this, we are still wrapped up in some type of sin. If you’ve been there or are there now, you know what I mean. It’s that thing you just can’t quit doing. It’s that addiction, that hobby or maybe it’s so engrained, it’s considered a habit. And guess what? The Holy Spirit will not let you get away with doing wrong. Wednesday night the pastor talked about this. Before, we were chained to sin and didn’t even know it. We just had to pick which sin we were going to do. When you become a Christian, it bothers you if you do something wrong. And if you continually doing something wrong, you’re going to know it at some point. Sometimes it takes time to realize you are sinning. If it’s so engrained as a habit and you are a new Christian and then you hear a sermon or read something in the Bible and you suddenly realize that it’s wrong. That guilt is the Holy Spirit convicting you.
“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”
I had to look up an official definition of reprove. m-w.com says:
reprove: to scold or correct usually gently or with kindly intent
He’s there whispering “don’t do this”, “you don’t need to do that next time”, “you shouldn’t have done that”. Eventually, if you really want Him to, He’ll go away if you ignore Him. But that will immensely hurt your spiritual life and eventually lead to more guilt, shame, depression, etc. To really start the process to peace, you have stop it. Plain and simple. Do what it takes. If it’s stuff you do with a particular group of friends, don’t hang out with them. If it’s things you look at on the Internet, put the computer in a public place where you’re less likely to look stuff up in front of people. If it’s bad enough, go to rehab. Find a counselor. Get an accountability partner–and be honest with them. Whatever it takes, you have to stop it. And God promises there is always a way out. He doesn’t put any temptation in front of you that he doesn’t give you a way out.
If you don’t stop the cycle, you may as well not go forward.
Our pastor from Wednesday used an illustration that fits this although this isn’t the same lesson he taught. Our sin is like cancer. And the Holy Spirit is like a Doctor diagnosing us. Sometimes a person doesn’t realize we are sinning but eventually we start seeing symptoms or the doctor finds it unexpectedly at an appointment. And the first goal after that is to stop the cancer. Before it affects everything and kills you. It’s the same thing with our sin. The Holy Spirit is there to protect your relationship with Christ. You have to listen to Him. He’s trying to help you not die spiritually.
If you’ve realized what you’re doing is wrong and stop it, you may still feel that guilt/shame/heaviness if you haven’t completed the next step.
And that’s confession.
David went on to say in Psalm 32
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
And did not cover up my iniquity
I said, “I will confess
My transgressions to the Lord
And you forgave
The guilt of my sin.”
Only when he acknowledged his sin and confessed it did he find forgiveness and experience the peace. James and 1 John also speak to the power of confession.
James 5:15 God’s word translation
So admit your sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you will be healed.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all righteousness.
God’s way to our cleansing and healing is confession. Whether it be to God or someone else you wronged or even to an accountability partner. You have to get it off your chest. That’s the way God works. I can’t express the importance of making sure relationships with other people are in a peaceful state. If the sin you’ve been involved in wronged someone else, you should make things right with them.
This step in the cancer illustration is beating the cancer. This is the surgery, the chemo, the radiation, the dr’s visits, the meds. This is getting it out of our system. Working so hard at it so it won’t spread. In the spiritual life, this is us falling on our face before Christ and admitting what we did. And standing there in front of our friends and saying I hurt you when I said that and I know it. If you’re a teenager, it’s going up to your mom and saying you know what, I disobeyed you last night and I’m sorry for that. It’s like a cleansing.
However, some people even after stopping and confessing still feel that weight of their sin. I believe the author of the song East to West was there. It kept getting thrown back into his face. He felt like crap. Worthless. On the edge of being erased out of God’s book if he screwed up one more time. Which leads to the third step.
You have to accept that forgiveness. He WILL forgive you but you have to accept his offer.
Psalm 103: 11- 14 says
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is his love for those who fear him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassions on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
For he knows how we are formed,
He remembers that we are dust.
This is where the song came from. He has removed our transgressions. Ya’ll, He KNOWS we’re not perfect. He does not expect us to be perfect. He knows we are human. That’s why he sent His Son. The song says
‘Cause you know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other.
God wants us to leave a free life. We are not meant to live under guilt and shame. Yes we are meant to have that pang of guilt when we sin. That’s is designed for us to get “back on track”. But to have stopped and confessed and continue to feel the heaviness of our sin…that’s NOT meant for us. Christ wants us to have that free, joyful, abundant life out from under the burden of sin. Satan tries to tie us down and make us remember our faults. We can feel that guilt and shame for so long after the sin is committed. If we don’t ever accept his forgiveness, we will feel that lack of peace. Our freedom from sin is through Christ. His hands spread on the cross is how far the east is from the west. He offers that kind of forgiveness so we can live in freedom but we have to accept it. I haven’t done Beth Moore’s Breaking Free bible study but I’m guessing she devoted an entire series to this concept.
Continuing with the cancer illustration, it’s like finding out you have cancer, doing the surgery, the radiation, the chemo, the dr appts, the meds and getting a clean bill of health. And then instead of rejoicing, you go to the hospital, hook up an IV to yourself and do another treatment. And then go home and take some more unprescribed meds. It’s not accepting the fact the cancer is taken care of and acting like a cancer patient. It’s having that burden of being a cancer patient and not able to think of much else. God doesn’t want that! He wants you to accept the fact that your sin was taken care of at the cross. That if you’ve done you’re part, He’s already done His. His grace is sufficient!
So where are you? Are you even on the road? Do feel nothing when you sin? Never felt his gnawing, guilt feeling I’m talking about? Maybe you need to first switch to the straight and narrow path and accept Christ’s forgiveness for the first time. Maybe you are currently bound in a continuous rut of a sin you haven’t committed to stopping yet. If so, reach out to someone for help. I’ve found a lot of times, this is the hard. Sometimes you don’t even want to quit. It feels too good to quit. So pray God changes your heart. Maybe you’ve committed to stopping but you haven’t confessed it to God or anyone. It’s that hidden secret you don’t want out. I’m telling you. Even if it’s only out loud to God in a closet. Confess it. Are you at the point where you’ve done all the right things but you haven’t yet accepted that God’s grace is enough. You feel you deserve to feel bad for the rest of your life for what you did. No. God does not want that. Accept his forgiveness and concetrate on what He needs you to be doing right now. Throw all these Scriptures at Satan’s way and trust me, it will stop.
God means for us to live in peace and settled in His forgiveness. Go ahead, travel the road. I know I’ve done it lots of times. I’ll join you there.