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The Sting

Will Penner

I hate talking, singing, hearing, and even thinking about sin. When I was younger, every devotional, sermon, and Sunday school lesson seemed to focus on sin; and they all seemed to have one person in mind: me. The truth is that I felt bad about myself, and I was pretty sure people in positions of authority wanted me to feel that way.

The Band-Aid

Bandaid cross FTR TSP 163744690As I got older, I explored a variety of faith systems, New Age philosophies, Eastern mystical perspectives, secular agnosticism—anything that would make me feel better about myself. The idea that the problem might be my priorities, decisions, or behavior never dawned on me. I wanted to act in particular ways, and I searched for a religion or philosophy that would make my lifestyle possible without my feeling guilty.

Looking back, I realize that wandering into other belief systems did little more to heal the infected parts of my life than a Band-Aid does for an infected wound. At the core of my being, the infection was growing. Life became more difficult until I reached a point at which all of the façades were gone and I saw myself as I was—frail, broken, and sinful.

Savior

Some of my friends have always felt a strong connection with God. They grew up in Christian homes and have tried to follow Jesus.

For me, dying to self—giving up control of my priorities, choices, and behaviors—has been agonizingly difficult. But ultimately, I realized that my lifestyle needed to change to match a solid belief system.

As I asked God to relieve me of the burdens of the awful choices I had made, I began to understand what sin is. I also realized that my parents, preachers, and youth leaders had been trying to help me develop a relationship with a God whose love for me was so great that my sin had already been forgiven.

Lord

I have other friends who made quick conversions to Christianity; their lives changed immediately and drastically. For me, following Jesus has been a continual process rather than a singular event.

Notice that I didn’t open this devo by saying that I used to hate talking, singing, hearing, or thinking about sin, but that I hate it even now. I hate the fact that I continue to sin even though I know better. Like St. Paul, I still do things I’m not proud of and fail to do things I should (read Romans 7:7–25). Some of the sting is still in the sin, and that sting is a reminder that I need Jesus to be both my Savior and my Lord. It pushes me to allow Christ to bring my attitudes and actions in line with his will.

The beautiful thing is that no matter how poorly I may follow Jesus or how many times I fail, God’s grace is, as the old hymn says, “greater than all our sin.” That is good news!

 

DIG DEEPER

devozine Reflective Guy FTR TS 80467216Take a few moments this evening to reflect on where sin cropped up in your life today. Focus on one particular shortcoming or character defect. Ask for forgiveness, and know that God is gracious and forgives you. Then ask God’s guidance in eliminating that particular sin from your life. Begin tomorrow with prayers of commitment to being more like Christ.

Try going a step further: Continue this daily practice throughout the season of Lent as you prepare to receive God’s ultimate gift of love this Easter.

Will Penner is a husband, dad, teacher, speaker, author, editor, and minister. He is grateful that God has removed many destructive addictions from his life and marvels at how faithful and gracious God continues to be.

—from devozine (March/April 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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