I can think back at all the horrible things I’ve done in my life. I feel like I could watch them like a movie playing in my mind. Stealing, lying, cheating… lustful thoughts, murderous thoughts, you name it, I can see it, can you see yours? If you answered yes to this question, it’s hard to believe that you would answer yes to the question: Are you a good person?
I am a pastor at a church. I’ve been in ministry, volunteer and paid, since I can remember. I’ve been obsessed with the Bible and religion since I was 11 or 12 years old. I’ve led worship at big churches, small churches and everything in between. I toured with a metal band in the secular market and preached to drunks who needed Jesus as much as I do. With all that I’ve done, I echo Paul… I’ve accomplished nothing. Jesus is the only good that is in me. Apart from Him I am ugly and worthless.
Inside of me lives a nasty, awful, disgusting creature called SIN. If you were to begin reading your Bible you would only make it 6 chapters before you see man’s wickedness overpowering his good. God goes so far as to say he “regretted” creating man (this means he experienced emotional pain, not wished he had done something different).
I’ve been saved for two decades, yet I am face-to-face with that monster on a daily basis. When I wake up, he is there urging me to neglect my duties as a father and ignore my son to satisfy my own selfish desires. He wants to watch Dinotrux? Too bad… I want to watch Gotham. At midday his putrid head pops to the surface trying to place thoughts of lust into my mind. At night when that phone calls comes from someone who needs to talk to someone before they go insane, SIN is there… he tells me to lie. “Tell them you are going to bed. Better yet, just don’t answer!”
“Why pay for that? You can get it for free! Just sneak it into your pocket!”
“Just hit the magnet button on that torrent… no one pays for movies anymore!”
“You know what would be good right now? A glass of wine. You’ll feel better. You’ve had a hard day. You know what? Forget wine. Whisky… the whole bottle.”
Your sin nature is always speaking to you. Honestly? It’s not even the devil. He doesn’t have to get involved. You already think like a wretched sinner. He just shows up to drive that final nail in the coffin. You see, your sin nature wants you to die and burn in hell. The good news for Christians is this: You are no longer a slave to it. It no longer has to control you. You can say no. You can ignore it’s voice. You can tell it to shut up. You can make better choices!
Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
What great news! All I have to do is ask Jesus to be a part of my life and I am free of sin? NO! I wish it was that easy! The first problem is that we don’t just ask Jesus to be a “part of our life”… He needs to take it all. As my pastor (parkeycobern.com) always says: “Jesus is either Lord of all or He isn’t Lord at all.” He gave it all for you and He wants the same in return. All or nothing. Hot or Cold. Never lukewarm.
The second thing is that we need to be able to learn to exchange our old ways for new ways. The desire to sin doesn’t always just go away. As a Christian, the thought of sin should repulse you… but that doesn’t mean the thought isn’t there. We have to train our ears to hear the voice of our Lord.
We have all seen the image of a man standing with an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, right? Although this isn’t a very good representation of what truly happens in the supernatural realm there’s a level of truth to it. You are the prize in a battle that has been waging since the day you were born. Truly, even before then. For generations the Kingdoms of light and darkness have been warring for your soul.
We must be careful to discern the difference between God’s voice and the voice of our Sin nature. SIN can sound like God if we don’t know what God’s voice actually sounds like. The Bible says that God’s sheep know His voice and they will not follow the voice of a stranger. How do we learn God’s voice? We have to talk to Him, but more importantly, we have to listen to Him. Prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue. You are supposed to talk and then listen, talk and then listen. God will speak to you in a multitude of ways.
Have you ever had a relationship that was strictly Internet based? I have had a ton of friends throughout my life who I only knew through gaming. You eventually get to know that person so well by the way they form sentences that if someone else was on the other end of the keyboard you would know that it wasn’t your friend. When we read our Bible, we learn God’s way of speaking. We don’t need to hear His voice audibly in order to know what He is saying. We learn the way He thinks. We gain wisdom to understand His desires.
W.W.J.D.? It would be hard to know what Jesus would do if you didn’t have any understanding of who He is. The abounding problem with those old bracelets is that the majority of people who wore them could only guess what Jesus would do… so the answer was usually “What would the best version of me do?”. And remember, by nature, we are not good. Good is defined by God, not man.
When reading scripture, our SIN nature tries to get involved. Have you ever read Philippians 4:13? You’ve probably seen it on a shirt, or tattooed on someone’s arm. It’s plastered all over Under Armour’s Steph Curry shoes. It says this:
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Man! I can do anything I put my mind to. I can be anything! That’s encouraging! Except, that’s not what it really says. That’s what our SIN nature wants us to walk away with. Here is what the rest of Paul’s thought actually says:
Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
What it really means? No matter what trouble I am facing, because Christ is in me, I can endure. I can face times of hunger, because I don’t live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth. When I am poor, I am still rich in the love of the Father. Any time, any circumstance, God’s strength in me prevails.
In these modern times, it’s hard to believe that God is up there in heaven for any other reason than to make us happy. But God would rather you be Holy than Happy. Happiness is a by-product of holiness.
Let me leave you with this thought, Jesus said:
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Everything you will ever go through, Jesus went through first and defeated it. You may still need to walk it out, but He has already overcome it. So by Christ’s strength inside of you, you can do it. You may get beat up and look like death when it’s over, but every battle has it’s pains.
When your SIN nature rises up, do what I do: Tell it to SIT DOWN, SHUT UP AND WATCH ME WORSHIP JESUS.