Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sin Stickers

Dear Friends,

I've got these little stickers in my back yard. I hate them. My dog hates them even more. They’ve got a long spike as sharp as a hypodermic needle. Step on them and it hurts. It hurts even more when you pull them out. When my dog and I are outside and I see her freeze in place and not take another step, I know that she's just picked up a sticker.  

For years, when she got a sticker, I'd immediately go to help her, but she'd limp away from me as fast as she could. A sticker in your paw is painful, but she knew how much it would hurt when the sticker was pulled out. And she associated me with the pain of its removal and not with the absence of pain that would occur as soon as the sticker was gone. She'd be terrified and tremble as I lifted her paw. 

But over the years she's learned that when she has a sticker, I can make that pain go away. Now when she gets a sticker, she just lifts her paw and stands there on three legs and waits for me. I grab the sticker and it's gone. One second she can hardly move because of the pain and in the next, she's running and dancing around the yard again, instantly healed. In her mind, it's a miracle.

Kind of like the process of sanctification. So many times we are limping around with sin stickers stuck in our soul. We can't avoid them. We are imperfect humans falling well short of the glory in this life that will be ours in the next. So one moment we're running joyfully through life and the next moment we've succumbed to a temptation, picked up a sin sticker and we're skidding to a stop. If we fear the painful removal of that sin sticker, we will find ourselves settling for a flawed and compromised relationship with God. The process of sanctification can be uncomfortable. It can be confrontational. In fact if we're being honest about it, many of our real encounters with God are somewhat painful. And knowing that the Holy Spirit will confront us and convict us of our sins, we too often limp away as fast as we can to avoid Him.

Many of us just pretend the sin stickers aren’t there and we’ve learned to limp so artistically that none of our friends have noticed. And some of the best “church-going” Christians have become experts in “sin management.” We walk painfully through life and know that we’ve fooled others. And, we can only hope that we’ve fooled God as well. So in our whispered nighttime prayers, we hide the sins that our lips tremble to name because we cannot bear to bring them before Him.

We find ourselves running from God instead of running toward Him. We tremble at the approach of the Lord and fear the pain of removal when He reaches down and pulls those sharp little sin stickers out of our soul. But when we submit to God and allow Him to do so, as soon as we have been cleansed of our sin, we are now running and dancing and joyfully thanking God for pulling out our sin stickers.

The word "Sanctify" means to be set apart and made holy. Sanctification is the process of growing in Christ through divine grace following salvation. Once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we begin to spiritually grow as we learn how to live and love like Jesus. And in our humanness we stumble, fall and pick up a sin sticker and once they’re there, they don't fall out on their own. They have to be pulled out. Sanctification is the process where both you and the Holy Spirit are working to remove the sin stickers. God will reach down and pull them out for you. But you can't be pretending the sin stickers don't exist or try to run away from God. You're going to have to stand still and lift your paw so that He can get to it.

Be honest with God. Remember, you’re not telling Him anything about you He doesn’t already know!  Don't ever be afraid of deep and abiding intimacy with God. When your Heavenly Father looks at you, He sees right through your mask. (Psalm 139:1-7) He knows who you are. And He loves you unconditionally. At the end of each day, ask Him to show you where you’ve missed the mark. (Psalm 139:23-24) Name the sin. Take responsibility for it. Own it. Confess it. Then ask Him to show you what you need to do to change that habit or avoid that temptation. (John 14:13-14) And finally, receive His forgiveness (Isaiah 43:25) and thank Him for His mercy and grace. Amen?

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