3 Strikes and Still in the Game!

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3 strikes

It was a week for sinning.

Not that I set out deliberately to sin against God and my neighbor.  But God removed some Holy Spirit restraint that operates in those moments when I refrain from saying, doing, or writing something hurtful, self-aggrandizing or unnecessary for building up one another.

First, I wrote a response to a family member’s email to me in which I assumed her motivation.  And I got it wrong, both confusing AND hurting her with the words I chose in my reply.  Had I THOUGHT a bit more and put 2 and 2 together, I would have realized the more likely cause of her reaction.  Actually, the BEST and SAFEST response for me would have been simply to ask her the reasons for what she wrote me.

I asked God’s forgiveness and then hers.  Both granted.

Second, I was in a church meeting and it went longer than I thought it was supposed to.  Irony of ironies. I’ve been writing about how God has been teaching me that delays are part of his sovereign plan to exercise my faith in his promised provision. Yet when the pop quiz came, I blew it. Though I did in fact consider my choices:

  •  I could bank on his ability to stretch my time beyond what my eyes could see.
  •  Or not.

I chose to count on my own pre-set time boundaries.  So I abruptly and obviously left a table of 7 other praying women in the middle of one of them praying out loud and took matters into my own hands.  I knew it was wrong and rude.  And I did it anyway.  Drove home convicted and knew while I was talking to God that I had to contact each one and apologize.

He forgave me and so did the 6 of the 7 women I was able to speak with personally at church today.

Third, the very next day after this second sin, I was talking on the phone with a friend who is coming to visit soon.  She mentioned the possibility of adding an extra day to their trip to visit a mutual acquaintance if he were willing to invite her and her husband to dinner at his house. Instantly savoring some anticipated pleasure in the nasty comment that formed in my mind, I blurted out, “Oh, you don’t want to go to his house for dinner…”  As I was uttering these words, Bam!, God convicted me through the Holy Spirit. But I chose to indulge and finish with the intended mean reason.  I did try to back pedal by tacking on something mealy-mouthed. And furthermore, I certainly did not get the jolt of satisfaction I had imagined.  (isn’t that the way with every sin?)

I knew what I had to do.  I called back my friend to ask her forgiveness (as soon as I got ‘off the line repenting with God!’) She didn’t pick up so with some relief at not having to humble myself personally with her I left a lengthy message.

How EASY and quickly the urge to sin comes on us!

As I’ve thought about these 3 instances: one with my writing, one with my feet and the last one with my lips, I am reminded of 2 verses and an application:

  • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.     1 John 1:19

With this first scripture, we have God’s promise that we (who are believers) can be cleansed from each and every sin when we turn to God and confess it.  When we do he restores our judicial righteousness (that we have legally, forensically by faith ever since we placed our confidence in Jesus’ death in our place).  Therefore we don’t have to WALLOW or keep asking and re-asking God to forgive us.  Once sought, it’s granted.  We’re restored straight away.

The real-world application comes from Jesus’ unusually humbling washing of his disciples’ feet. His explanation when Peter remonstrates and almost refuses the Lord’s service is the prompt for how seeing a principle that can be used when we sin. Here is the setting: 

feet washed

  • He (Jesus) came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.

What strikes me, is that believers who have been justified at the cross are clean.  Each time we sin, we get our feet dirty, so to speak.  When we repent and confess to God, he cleans our feet. Fellowship restored. Peace with God renewed.  Relief and joy felt and burden lifted!

But what about ‘the next time’ the urge to sin strikes?  Is it a matter of having to double down and CONTROL my natural impulse to say and to write and to do what is wrong?

If that were the case, I’d have no hope.

No, I think the key is found in Paul’s prescription in the 12th chapter of his letter to the Christians in Rome:

  • And do not imitate this world, but be transformed by the renovation of your minds, – (Romans 12:2a) 

My hope and yours in sinning less is to soak in God’s powerful and living Word, which is infused with Holy Spirit supernatural power. The more we meditate on and look into scripture, the more our minds are renovated or renewed.  Our desires are then changed and out of changed desires come changed behaviors.

The ‘Miracle Gro’ of the Christian life IS the Word of God.  And in Jesus and His word, I rest and place my hope.

Miracle Gro

God’s constant provision as seen in the Wizard of Oz

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Scarecrow from Oz

The local movie theater shows kids’ classics for free in the summer.  Accompanied by my granddaughters I relived this childhood favorite for the first time on the big screen. Startling were the illustrations of how God provides in the moment. I don’t mean to say that He is actually invoked and evident in L. Frank Baum’s cinematic version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  But seeing the scarecrow use brains he didn’t think he had to guide Dorothy and the others in escaping the Wicked Witch of the West and her winged monkeys and guards brought to mind life lived walking with Jesus. One could almost call this film a parable of the Christian life.

I’ve been meditating this summer on the stunning promise from our Jehovah-Jireh in Romans 8:32 – Since He (God) did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  That’s enough provision to settle anyone’s heart.

Yet……I perversely WANT to see – ahead of time – all the provision I’ll ever need, IN PLAIN SIGHT!  But that is not the way God has set up this world. He is training us to trust Him, to lean on Him moment by moment, to live by faith in who He is, to treasure Him as our greatest provision.  Time and time again, God exhorts us to be content with Him as our greatest good.

Viewing again this vintage film drove home in a gentle and nostalgic way the futility of worrying about the future.

The lion, tin man, scarecrow and Dorothy had NO idea what circumstances would be like just around the corner.  How could they have anticipated that the guards who worked for the evil witch would rejoice to see their tyrannical sorceress melt away?

Witch melting

And when the ‘Wizard’ inadvertently departed Oz without Dorothy, she had no need to worry about what to do next.  For Glinda, the good witch, appeared with all that was necessary at the opportune moment.

So, too, is our God and Father always with us, to provide just what we need in the kairos moment.  Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not lack a thing! 

Isn’t our God amazing in how He uses EVERYthing to teach us.  That’s a love that never stops!

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