I was nineteen when I decided to give Jesus a chance. I started going to church, making Christian friends and studying the Bible. I never had a particular awareness of ‘sin’, though I knew I was a ‘sinner.’ I knew that I was not living a ‘Christian’ lifestyle but I never claimed to be a Christian, so I didn’t care. However, I did see my lifestyle as the root of all of my problems.
When you change your friends, habits and influences, it’s absolutely impossible to not see a significant life change. I was a an acid tripping pot smoker. All of my friends were on drugs and barely getting by. I had given up on dreaming about a future and being somebody. I changed my life because I got pregnant. My childhood was really bad and I wanted to create something better for my own daughter. That’s why I became a ‘Christian.’
It was easy for me to make the changes. Christians love newbies. They love teaching people how to be a good Christian. I was a clean slate. I didn’t care what the life required and I jumped in head first. I was likable and my enthusiasm was charming. I really wanted to be the best Christian I could be. I was extreme and uncompromising. For nine years, I never knew I was missing something.
My life hit a crossroads when my uncompromising stance and desire to be a good Christian weren’t enough to keep me from making bad choices. I was comfortable and confident in what I had created. The idea of me doing anything wrong was ridiculous.
Something has happened since then and I’m consumed by the need to explain it.
I did everything right. I had all the desire in the world. But it wasn’t enough. I knew how to talk and I wasn’t faking it. I knew how to act and I wasn’t forcing it. I was just like everyone else I knew and I counted myself in with the one’s who weren’t struggling. I was beyond that.
I didn’t realize I made Jesus a lifestyle. I didn’t know that I wasn’t ‘alive’ because I felt alive. Doing good feels good. Having a cause to sell out to is an adrenaline rush. ‘Sold out for Jesus.‘
Falling changed everything. I learned something through my own sin that nothing else could have taught me.
I thought I was on the right path, but it was just a religious path. It felt right because it was so much better than where I came from. The affirmation I got from fellow Christians told me it was right. If I was aware of committing a sin, I would beg Jesus to forgive me and start all over. I’d tighten the reigns on myself. I did everything I could to not have to revisit the cross.
I had a conversation with someone over the weekend about Hebrews 6. Particularly this passage:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. -Hebrews 6:4-6 NIV
This person is feeling the overwhelming guilt of repeating a sin that they have had to ask God to forgive in the past. Their preacher taught on this passage and they looked up other teachings and it confirmed their fear that they are beyond forgiveness.
My spirit groans at the horrible misuse of scripture to condemn the fallen. I know that false teaching is prevalent, but when I actually see it burying people in their mistakes, it makes me want to scream.
This passage is not about repeating sins for which you have been forgiven. It’s about not believing in the power of Jesus sin conquering death in the first place. You can hear it, accept the clean slate, practice morality and still fall. If you’re aware of your sin and someone tells you that you can start over, you’re going to take it. This doesn’t mean that your spirit has been ‘enlightened’, it means that you can try really hard to not do it again.
I talk about the ‘enlightening’ that my own experience has taught me and the continued ‘enlightenment’ that I receive through the Holy Spirit every time I write.
So, I’ll write this to that person I had the conversation with and to the rest of you who feel like you are beyond forgiveness because of your sin. Your sin, because of Jesus, does not have the power to sentence you to death. You will fail in numerous ways for the rest of your life. Those of us who have been ‘enlightened’ never preach about ways to keep yourself from sin, that is preaching ways to keep you from needing Jesus. If you reach that point of awareness, then you are further from Jesus than any moral failure can take you. We preach about Jesus and Him crucified. Period.
The power of believing in who Jesus is and what He did does not give you the power to not need Him. It gives you the assurance that:
The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture. -Romans 8:34-35
Not even the worst sins listed in scripture….
Being ‘enlightened’ is through the power of the Holy Spirit who comes in and assures you that though you will fall, because of your faith in Him, He is sticking up for you in the presence of God.
Sin is not the deal breaker, your lack of faith is.
So many people are walking around in their self-righteousness and preaching the condemnation of Hell to those who are not as ‘good’ as they are. They don’t know what to say to the fallen. They fear for them. Fear is the driving force behind judgment. Fear is the driving force behind affirmation for those who have managed to keep their sins hidden. Rewards for morality is horribly damaging to the spirit of freedom. When you point out the ‘goodness’ of someone you deem good, you are always alienating those who know they are flawed.
So many people are walking around with the weight of their sin because they don’t feel like Jesus will want them anymore.
What have we done to the Gospel?
The same people who preach the unfailing love of God put stipulations on that Truth and put the power back in the hands of the believer. Measure up or get kicked out. We remove the ‘bad influences’ and make examples of the sinners. Salvation by self-control is the message. Prosperity by visualization, self-indulgence and self-satisfaction in moral sweat are what is killing the spirits of those who refuse to fake their ‘arrival’.
Jesus wants your flaws, He wants your brokenness, He wants the displaced, dissatisfied and the disillusioned. He never had time for the self-righteous rants of the religious. If you’re a failure, then He’s your best friend. Jesus had a reputation and that reputation is your best ally at this point.
By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” -Luke 15:1-3