Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Seeing, and Stopping, Sin

A big welcome to those of you joining me from "We Are His Daughters"...it was a joy to share Truth that has been powerful in my life. Jesus is the "Prince of Peace" and He left us with His peace; if you want to learn more about how to acquire and experience peace I'm asking God to speak to you through these words and the ones that follow...

Peace, definitely something we hear about this time of year. Something we long for every day of our lives. It's easy to admit it's something we want and need, but harder to understand how we get it. 

Read the familiar verse on the top of this post again. Who receives peace? The ones on whom God's favor rests. Who is that? I've studied this verse a bit and there is some debate over the final phrase and who truly receives peace. Some versions say "On earth peace to those on whom His favor rests" while others say "On Earth goodwill to men." Many have much to say about this, so if it interests you I'd encourage you to dig deeper yourself. The debate basically boils down to - is this peace for all men or just believers in Christ. 

I'm not going to tell you what to believe, but as a disciple of Jesus, I know God gives me and wants me to experience peace. This peace comes with accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior, but it's more than peace about my eternity...it can and should be peace in my day to day. 

Sometimes that's more true than others and as I've been pursuing holiness and studying sin, I have an idea why. God calls us to be holy, to be set apart for Him, but our sin separates us from Him. When we are apart from God our relationship is broken and our peace is too. 

In my last post I talked about studying sin...we can't overcome it until we know what it is. (If you'd like to read more, click HERE.) And friend, as we study sin, seek God and His will, we will see sin. We will see it in the world around us, but more importantly we will see it within us. And just because that is important, it doesn't mean it is easy. 

Remember Jesus' words in Matthew 7:5? He says, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Accountability is important and powerful, but before looking out the window we must look in the mirror!! So, that is what God has been leading me to do...

Psalm 26:2 says, "Test me Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind." Psalm 139:23-24 says something similar - "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting." Friend, if you pray this prayer...God will answer it! And then He will expect us to do something about it. 

I don't feel the need to explain the personal sin He's been revealing to me, but I do want to share a bit about the process He's walking me through. Being confronted with and convicted of sin is hard...it can lead to guilt, shame and condemnation, but remember that is not God's intention, but instead Satan's desire. So pray about that and be prepared for it. When it comes, recognize it and turn from it. 

I'm also learning it's powerful to pray and ask God to help me see sin the way He does. Friend, we live in a world that sees sin much differently than God; so much so that often times we don't even see it. We categorize it and classify it as bad, really bad, not that bad and so on, but in God's eyes - sin is sin. James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just on point is guilty of breaking all of it." God sees no small sins and He is serious about all sins; it would be good for us to do the same.

As God helps us see sin, we must remember who we sin against. It's true my sins hurt others, especially those I love, and even bring consequences on myself, but we must not forget David's words in Psalm 51:4 - "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge." 

Friend, God sees sin and has created a sentence for it. You and I commit sin and suffer for it. Sin comes in two forms - omission and commission. We are either guilty of doing the wrong thing or to blame for not doing the right thing. Think back on yesterday...was there something you should have done, but didn't? Something you said, but shouldn't have? I encourage you to write that down and ask for forgiveness. Be specific and name your sin...it will help you see your sin and plays a part in helping you stop the sin. 

Don't rush through this process too quickly, though that's exactly what your flesh will want to do. I know, mine often desires the same. We tend to be people who want the problem fixed quickly with as little mess or pain as possible, but overcoming sin is a problem that takes time and work. Remember sin breaks the heart of God; it should break ours too. When a heart is broken, feelings get hurt and grief takes place. Sit with your pain for awhile and allow God to heal. Take some time now and write a prayer to God...share with Him your broken heart, the sin you see, pain you feel and change you desire. 

After praying your own prayer, turn to the book of Ezra and read the opening of his prayer in chapter 9 verses 5-7. What are your initial thoughts?

How did he react to sin? How did he feel about sin? How did he see sin? 

When his eyes were opened to sin, Ezra was affected deeply. Ask God for a heart like Ezra's; we don't necessarily need to tear our clothes at the sight of sin, but we must be aware that God's heart is broken when we do what seperates us from Him. 

This place of brokenness is a hard place to be, and though it's necessary it must not become a place of permanency. Sometimes God breaks our hearts so He can change our hearts. He doesn't want us to stay broken or full of guilt and shame. He created us for more and change will come when we remember who He is and healing will happen when we allow Him to work. Let's continue reading in Ezra 9:8-15. As Ezra acknowledges sin, what do you notice? What have the people done? How has God responded? What attributes of God stand out to you?

The people of Israel had disobeyed and they didn't trust. They had acted on their evil desires and were experiencing great guilt, but God was merciful and gracious. He didn't leave them in their pain, but instead gave them a second chance. Friend, God does not change; Hebrews 13:8 tells us that "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow." The God who forgave and restored the Israelites years ago can do the same for you and me today. 

God is faithful and will do what He promises, but we must do our part as well. Like Ezra and the Israelites we must confess our sins, turn from them and trust God's timing. How does Ezra 10:1-2, 11 and 12-13 encourage you to do just that?

When we are broken over our sin, confess it and repent of it God will work. He will be faithful, merciful and forgiving. It may not look like we expect or happen as quickly as we want, but His plan will unfold. 

A big part of that plan is often discipline. We find powerful insight in Hebrews. Read chapter 12:4-11 and make notes of what you learn about discipline. 

I always remember my educational psychology professor saying to us future teachers, "Discipline shows you care" and a former basketball coach encouraging the team with this - "When I stop yelling at you is when you need to start worrying." Good teachers, coaches and parents care about the young people they are responsible for and want what's best for them, which means discipline is something they must do. It's part of the process of training and preparing. Do you remember a time of discipline from your childhood or teen years? How did that make you feel in the moment? How about now as you look back? Why did the individual discipline you? What was the result of the discipline?

Friend, discipline isn't something we seek out or sign up for, but it's part of growing up. Your days of being disciplined by your parents may be long gone, but we will forever be a child of God and He is the perfect parent who will always discipline us rightly. With that let's return to Hebrews, read 12:4-11 and answer a few questions - How should we respond to discipline? Why does God discipline? Does God's discipline differ from man's? How?

I have walked through discipline myself and know it is hard. It's not something we take delight in, but it's something we need. It's a tool God uses to humble us, change us and make us holy. Expect it, endure it, embrace it and perhaps even learn to enjoy it. 

I'd like to wrap this up with a parenting moment that put it all into perspective for me. The other night we had a battle between a couple of siblings...our preteen daughter was upset and a bit dramatic when she couldn't find her brush. She was interrogating and accusing everyone, but no answers were found. It came time for bed, I encouraged her to use one of the other 10 brushes we have in the house, get some sleep and we'd find it the next day. 

She initially agreed, but upon telling her little brother good night, she asked one more time. He claimed to know nothing about it, but suggested looking in a laundry basket. With this, I was on to the family trickster and asked, "Did you put Joy's brush somewhere?" He shook his head and I decided to pray and allow God to work instead of me accuse. 

An hour later, Jed came to me as I prepared for bed. He was sobbing and shaking and the boy who prefers wrestling to hugs fell into my arms and wanted to be held. I immediately asked, "What happened? Are you sick?" Again he shook his head, but this time whispered, "Sorry for lying Mom. Me took Joy's brush. Do you forgive me?" 

Friend, as a Mom this was hard at first. It broke my heart to see my little guy feel so bad. Part of me wanted to just hold him and tell him everything was Ok, but I knew it was a teachable moment and required so much more. So, we talked about sin, holiness and what would happen next. 

My little guy still struggles to read, but this made sense. He knows God is a God who hates sin and he knew his actions created consequences. As I spoke with him about discipline, the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart about it as well. It is necessary, serves a purpose and helps us mature.

As we finished our conversation, Jed calmed down, received my forgiveness and made things right with his big sister. I was given a glimpse of things from God's perspective...He is the perfect parent who sees and knows all. As a Mom, when it comes to discipline I've said the words - "This hurts me more than it hurts you." That night with my little guy left me wondering if God ever thinks the same. 

Friend, He loves us, sees our potential and wants what's best for us. He also sees our sin and it breaks His heart. He disciplines us because He cares and desires for us to be more like Him. 

My little guy needed more discipline the very next day and so will you and I. This pursuit of holiness and battle with sin will never end until we walk the streets of gold. So today will you join me in praying for eyes to see sin the way God does, a humble heart willing to receive the discipline God gives and the strength to do what God asks. As we do our part, God will do His - He will show us our sin, equip us to stop it and bless us with peace.

Dear Heavenly Father, I say it again, "You are holy and I am not." Yet, You've called me to be holy, so I pray for a filling of your Holy Spirit so that is possible. Help me surrender my desires and selfish thoughts. May I put my self and sin to death. Help me see sin rightly and respond to it deeply. Break my heart for what breaks yours Lord. Once I see sin, help me turn from it and break the stronghold it has on my life. On my own this is impossible, but You are the mighty One and I trust you Lord. Father, when you discipline me, help me accept it and remember it's because you care and have more for me. Father God, you are the Potter; may I be the clay. In Jesus' precious and powerful Name I pray...Amen

May you experience peace this Christmas! Pray this song from Laura Story blesses you today!

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