Waking Up to Sin
Just the other day, I had a friend confront me about an area of my life that needed confrontation.
I didn't like it one bit. My first reaction was to be defensive. I thought he was way off base. But a few minutes into the conversation, the Holy Spirit began working in my heart, telling me truth I didn't want to hear:
Dan, he's right.
Honestly, I hate rebuke. I don't like being told when I'm wrong. Because my natural inclination as a sinner is to just think I'm right all the time. It's to think that everyone else is out of line. But I'm learning (slowly), that a huge part of growing up in the Lord is having the humility to say, "I am wrong." This doesn't come easy.
The Bible tells us that faithful are the wounds of a friend. A good friend has the courage to speak up when he feel that perhaps you've crossed the line. If we're smart, we'll let those "wounds" sink in, we'll think about them and work on changing our approach.
Sometimes long-time Christians like myself, who have been in church their whole lives, tend to think they have arrived. We won't articulate it that way, but we see God give us a few successes in the ministry and we suddenly think we're above criticism. I am prone to this condition.
1 John was written for people like me. I find it interesting that the bookends of the famous "confession verse" of 1 John 1:9 are two convicting verses. 1 John 1:8 says, "If you think you have not sinned, you are deceiving yourself" and 1 John 1:10 says, "If you think you have not sinned, you're calling God a liar."
I used to think this was pointed at unbelievers, trying to convince them of their sin. I no longer think that. It think John is writing to long-time, settled-in-their-ways Christians like me.
Most of us would readily admit, "Yeah, of course, I'm not perfect. I'm a sinner." I'm not sure that's what John is getting at. I think John is saying, "Hey, the next time you are confronted, consider that you might be the problem. You might have sinned and be prepared to confess it and open up the floodgates of God's radical forgiveness."
For some reason we've convinced ourselves that becaue we're Christains, we have to sort of act like we're perfect and not admit weakness or sin. Especially those of us in leadership positions. Especially those of us who are young.
But when we do this, we shut the door to God's grace and mercy and slow His work of sanctification in our hearts. In fact, a mark of Christian maturity is the willingness to admit sins and the need for God's cleansing grace. The godly men that I know all are keenly aware of their flaws, way more aware than I am of mine. Consider Paul's testimony in Romans 7-8, where he is candid about the real condition of his heart.
I'm praying that this will be the year I listen to those friends willing to give criticism. I'm praying that I won't let the hurt keep me from examining my heart and coming to God in confession and repentance.
Because these friends are a gift from God.
Daniel Darling is an author, pastor, and public speaker. His latest book is Crash Course, Forming a Faith Foundation for Life. Visit him on Facebook by clicking here, follow on him on Twitter at twitter.com/dandarling, or check out his website: danieldarling.com.