Tag Archives: sin

The Swivel Chair

When you hear the words “sin” and “repent”, does it make you want to run screaming in the other direction?  That was me.  I was an atheist for the first 22 years of my life and I had absolutely no interest in anything having to do with God or Christianity.  Thankfully, that all changed in 1994 (you can read that story here: Joshua the Prophet).

After following Christ for about 20 years, I felt like God gave me some clarity on the words “sin” and “repent” and I wrote a very short post about them last year.  Have you read it?  If not, you can check it out here: Two “churchy” words

For the past year, every time I read the Bible, I read it in the light of what those words now mean to me.  And it’s brought such clarity that I want to share more with you.  How can I make it crystal clear?

The Swivel Chair in my mind
The Swivel Chair in my mind

How about this?  I have a swivel chair in my office.  I can choose to turn it in all different directions.  I can turn toward the computer, the printer, the file cabinet or the hallway.  It’s my choice.

Imagine that there is a swivel chair in each of our minds.  We have the choice of which direction we turn our thoughts.  But unlike the swivel chair in my office, imagine that this chair can only face one of two directions.  It can turn toward God or away from God.  And, just like in my office chair, we have the choice of which way we turn.

If it were up to God, there would be one moment in every human being’s life when we realize that we are not the king of our own universe, but that He is the King of the universe.  In that moment when we turn to God, acknowledging that He is our creator and the ultimate authority in our life, thanking Him for sending Jesus to take on our sin, we are what Christians call “saved”.  That decision is called “salvation”, when we are “born again” (John 3:3).

But it’s not up to God.  That’s not the kind of world He created.  Instead of creating robots,  He created human beings with free will.  Why?  Because He created us to be in a love relationship with Him.  If He demanded that we love Him, that wouldn’t be love.  Love requires choice.  And the choice is up to us.  He already made His choice.  He loves us no matter what.  But His desire is that we would choose to love Him back.

And when we choose to love Him back, accepting His love and forgiveness, we’re “saved”, as the Apostle Paul explains in his letter to the church in Ephesus:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

But God speaks in the Bible over and over again about “repentance”; changing our mind and turning to Him.  Why do we need repentance if we’ve already turned to God?  Isn’t once good enough?  Are we unsaved and then we get saved again and again and again?

Nope.  Salvation happens one time.  But we are human.  The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 7 that our fallen human “sinful nature” draws us back to our own devices over and over again.  Probably a million times each day, our thoughts turn away from God and back to our own selfish desires.  And that is “sin”.  That is turning away from God.  That is “missing the mark”.

Think about that swivel chair in our mind.  There are only two directions:

  1. Sin (pride, “missing the mark”) = trying to figure out life on my own
  2. Faith (humility, repentance, “changing one’s mind”) = turning to God for His direction

Romans 14:23 says that “everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

From the swivel chair, that makes perfect sense.  There are only two directions: Faith or Sin.  We can look to God and see the world through His eyes (Faith) or we can look at the world however we think is best (Sin).  “There is a path before each person that seems right,
but it ends in death.”  Proverbs 16:25 (NLT)

God created us to have a relationship with Him.  Intimacy with Him is the goal.  Not following the rules, but following Jesus. Not perfection, but following the Perfect One.

In Beth Moore’s “Living Free” study, she quotes a friend who was far from God, depressed and broken.  Her friend said, “I thought I couldn’t come to God with this sin in my life.”  When I read that, my heart broke for her.  I wanted her to understand that not coming to God WAS the sin in her life.  Turn around.  Come to Him.  That is repentance.  That is faith.  That is humility.

In “Living Free”, Beth goes on to say that “prayer keeps us in constant communion with God, which is the goal of our entire believing lives.  Prayerless lives are powerless lives, and prayerful lives are powerful lives; but, believe it or not, the ultimate goal God has for us is not power but personal intimacy with Him.”

He loves us.  He created us.  He wants us, warts and all.  He knows we’re messed up.  He knows we’re broken.  But that brokenness is not sin.  That is part of being human.  Our sin is our turning away from Him.  Repentance is turning back, confident that He is waiting to receive us with open arms.  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

Beth Moore continues her study with the question, “How is intimacy with God different from the goal of being good enough to be acceptable to God?”  Here is my answer.  And my prayer is that it can be your answer as well.

Intimacy with You, my God, is knowing that, because I turned to Jesus who took on my sin, my “turning away”,  and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, I’m already good enough, covered in Your grace, reclining at Your banqueting table, resting with You, my creator, enjoying Your presence and knowing that You enjoy me, just as I am.

Go ahead.  Read that again.  In the swivel chair of your mind, turn to God, seeing the huge  smile on His face, and read those words to Him.  He’s so happy to see you.

“For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
-Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

Advertisements

Turn Around

It’s been 7 weeks since my miracle occurred.  Now that all of those accusing voices of guilt and shame are finally gone, they’ve made room for a new voice that says, “You’re a heretic.  It can’t possibly be that simple.”

I feel a little like Bart Millard from MercyMe in his song “Wishful Thinking“:

But now my eyes are open wide
If this is wrong
I don’t wanna be right

But I do want to be right.  I know you can be sincere, but still be sincerely wrong.  I get that.  But I want to be accurate.  I want to be Biblically accurate.

My post called “Moment by Moment” was about how I had turned away from God.  I was so convinced that He was angry with me, and trying harder wasn’t getting me anywhere, that I had turned away and stopped asking for forgiveness.  At the beginning of the post, I said that nothing in my life had changed, but yet EVERYTHING had changed, leading me to ask “what changed?”  I concluded the post with a Henry Ford quote and the answer to my question:  my mind was changed.

It didn’t strike me until after I had posted the blog, but that’s exactly what God told me about sin and repentance.  My “sin” was that I had “turned away” from God.  And “repentance” means “to turn around” and “to change one’s mind.”  That’s exactly what happened.  My mind was changed and I turned around to embrace the God who loves me and is not mad at me.  And all of those condemning voices were silenced.

I heard it explained this way before.  If I am walking against a strong wind, I may feel that “the wind is against me.”  And if I turn around, I may feel that “the wind is now with me.”  But the wind didn’t change.  I was the one who changed direction in relation to the wind.  God doesn’t change either (Psalm 55:19).  But we have the ability to change our direction in relation to Him.

The problem comes when we’ve turned away and we think He’s angry with us and that He’ll punish us if we turn back to Him.  Or that we have to somehow “make it up to Him” and “do better” before He’ll take us back.  Our pastor, Chris Zarbaugh, explained it this way.  Chris said that no matter how far we have traveled from God, how far we have gone in the opposite direction, even if we’ve walked 10,000 steps away (or 10,000 miles away), it only takes one step to turn around.  Even though we walked away, God didn’t go anywhere.  He’s always been right there, longing for us to turn around.

God is always pursuing us, but He’s too much of a gentleman to tackle us.  He wants real love, not robotic love.  So He’s patient with us.  The Apostle Peter said that is why God hasn’t sent Jesus back yet: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

He wants us to repent – to change our minds about Him and to turn around.  He’s waiting for us.  He loves us.  He’s not angry with us.  Maybe we had an earthly father who was  angry with us, so we figure our Heavenly Father must feel the same way.  But He doesn’t.  If you haven’t read “The Face of Grace“, check it out, especially the picture that Jordan Rose drew last year.  Every time I sing “Christ is Enough“, I think of that picture:

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back
The cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back

And if you’re concerned about the “He does not want anyone to be destroyed” part (what kind of a Good God would destroy people?), I was too.  Check out Reconciling Wrath.

And what about that voice yelling “heresy!”?  Jesus redeemed that.

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
 the Holy One of Israel, says:
 “Only in returning to me
 and resting in me will you be saved.” Isaiah 30:15 (NLT)

 

 

The Whole Story

In 1994, Jesus saved my soul, but in September 2014, he saved my mind.  I posted the story as a 6-part “series”, but I want to respect your time.  I know you probably can’t sit down and read the whole thing, so I included a line about each part below.  Please feel free to read whatever jumps out at you.

Here are all of the parts, including the “prologue” and the “afterword”, in order:

Prologue: Urgent Questions/Deepest Needs (this is VERY long – please feel free to skip it)

#1: Redeemed – Part 1 (where it all began – Beth Moore & Third Day on 9-13-14)

#2: Redeemed – Part 2 – He’s Greater (God speaks thru coupon codes & MercyMe songs)

#3: Two “churchy” words (what Dave W & Chris Z taught me about “sin” and “repent”)

#4: The Tyranny of the “Should” (trying to “pay back” Jesus for all he’s done for me)

#5: The Face of Grace (Do you think God is angry with you?  Check this out)

#6: Reconciling Wrath (“Good God” or “Wrathful God” – will the real God please stand up?)

Afterword: Moment by Moment (what does it mean to “Let Go and Let God”?)

If you remember my very first blog post from July 16th, “If they asked me, I could write a book“, I think this “series” could be the beginning of that book.  If any of this speaks to you, I would be so honored if you would share it with others.

Just a side-note.  If you’re reading this on a desktop or laptop computer, you can probably see links to all of my other blog posts along the righthand side of the screen.  However, if you’re on a phone or a tablet, the links probably don’t show up.  But if you scroll to the bottom of the post, you can most likely get to newer posts to the right and older posts to the left (it should give you the title and an arrow to click on).  I’ve also included a link at the bottom of each post to bring you to the next one.

Thank you so very much and happy reading!