This is the second entry in a series titled, “Combating lies of the devil with the Gospel.”
At the start of my junior (2/C) year at the Naval Academy, I was selected to be the Brigade Sergeant Major which is the highest-ranking position that a 2/C Midshipman can obtain. Right after I was selected, my long-time mentor and friend, Justin Woods, gave me a book titled “Humility” by Andrew Murray. I must confess, in my busyness, I did not take the time to read this entire book…maybe if I had, I could have avoided the trials I went on to face in the Navy. I have read the entire book since then though!!
Though that is a funny story to look back on, this blog entry is going to be heavy. However, I find that in the heavy moments, I desire the light of Christ more and find myself clinging to Him.
So here we go. My challenge to you:
Write down a list of sins you would never commit, indiscretions you would never fall into, situations you will never find yourself in.
If you need help creating a list, here are some things to consider:
Would you ever murder? Commit adultery? Sell your wife to another man to save your own life? Send your Sailors out to battle while you stayed at home? Laugh in the face of God? Have an abortion? Persecute someone for their skin color or ethnicity? Sleep with your father or father-in-law? Covet? Worship idols? Sacrifice your child to an idol? Consider killing yourself? Curse God’s people for money? Deny that you know the Lord? Ignore a brother or sister in need? Watch pornography?
This list may shock us when we read it, but the people of the Bible found themselves entangled in these sins – Abraham, David, Sarah, Cain, Paul, Balaam, Peter (to name a few).
Maybe, deep down, we are still convinced that we would never commit these sins. But then I ask you to consider this -doesn’t Jesus say that lusting after someone who is not your spouse is the same as adultery? And whoever does not forgive his brother will be liable to judgement just as the one who commits murder? (Mt. 5)
Yucky, heavy stuff. Well, I had a list. I did not consciously create it, but during my youth through my time at the Naval Academy, I was creating a list. I looked at other people’s sin and read the offensive and obscene things that even God’s people did as recorded in the Bible, and I thought to myself that “I would never do that…”
In 2018, I was deployed for a third time and I spent four additional months away from home, on a ship, for various exercises. During my time away from my Christian community, I became enslaved by some of the sins that I previously thought “I would never” commit. I was trapped and the devil left me feeling alone in my struggle and powerless to fight it. I fell into a vicious cycle of sinning, feeling immensely guilty and depressed, and then seeking out the sin again because at least it made me feel better for a short time. Though I repented of my sins through confession, I was unable to accept God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those that I had hurt. My depression consumed me. At a critical moment, my friend Grace (no coincidence there) stepped in and told my boss about my depression, and my boss sent me home early from deployment in order to seek medical attention.
When I arrived home, in my moments of reflection, I (for the first time in my life) contemplated the depths of my own sin. I did not deserve God’s love and there was nothing I could do to EARN forgiveness. I was devastated by this realization. I didn’t know what to do. I questioned who I was as a person. I felt worthless and I pitied myself for the realization that I was a sinner who could not save myself. My pride crumbled.
A couple months after being sent home early from deployment, my Pastor preached on Mark 14:66-72. This passage of Scripture covers Peter’s denial of Jesus after Jesus is arrested and tried. This sermon cut me to the core. I realized that I AM PETER. Prior to Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s strength was his boldness and willingness to speak openly about his belief in Jesus Christ. However, Peter became overconfident in his strengths and failed to rely on Jesus in this area of his life. Consequently, Peter went on to fail in this exact area – he denied that he even knew Jesus when questioned by a servant girl! Satan is more than happy to help us succeed in our strengths, building our pride, so that when we inevitably fail in these areas, not only have we sinned against our Lord, but we are completely distraught and left feeling worthless. Oh how I could relate to this story. I became overconfident in my strengths, became self-reliant, and then fell into sin and incapacitating shame. BUT this story reminds me that while Peter was denying Jesus, Jesus was on the path toward his own death on the cross – a death that Peter and I deserved and yet Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to die in our place. Jesus lived the life of perfect humility; throughout his life on earth he remained completely reliant on his Father despite being God. But Jesus gave up his right to display these strengths and died a humiliating death so that I wouldn’t have to. And praise God that the story doesn’t end there. Three days after Jesus’ death, he rose again! And because he rose again, I can be free from my sin and shame! And not only that, but I am free to love others and display the fruits of the spirit to all. If I am not deserving of God’s love, then who I am to judge others because of their sin and withhold my love from them?
The more we understand the depths of our sin and selfishness, the more we realize our need for Christ. The love of God is the most spectacular, refreshing, and joy-inducing to the person who most realizes their need for it. So we can repent of our sins and then relinquish all shame, rejoicing in our new-found freedom in Christ’s love.
One final note before we pray – while I have been convicted that it is extremely important to appreciate the depths of my sin, the intent of this blog is not to lead you to dwell in shame. Instead, my hope is that when you rightly view yourself as a sinner, you will be able to call out sin in your life, repent, and face true freedom in Christ. Also, you will be free to love other sinners as you reflect on how much you have been forgiven and loved by the Father. For he (or she) who has been forgiven much, loves much! For more on the topic of shame, I encourage you to read: http://wofv.org/my-greatest-battlefield-the-mind/
I ask you all to now join me in the following four-part prayer, based on the A.C.T.S model:
Let us reflect on how gracious, merciful, and holy our Lord is –
O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth. (Ps. 8) Lord, in your infinite wisdom, you sent Jesus to Earth as the God-man to overcome the world! (Jn. 16:33) Lord, you have disarmed the devil and put him to open shame, by triumphing over him in Jesus. (Col. 2:15)
Second, a prayer of confession –
I have sinned greatly and I need you. I find myself constantly doing what I do not want and not acting in obedience to you. Save me from the wretched man/woman that I am! My heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9) and a battle rages within me, between the Spirit dwelling in me and the desires of my flesh. I constantly choose my flesh and I am so sorry. (Rom. 7:15-25) I know ultimately, my sin is against you, and you alone (Ps. 51:4), and I have no valid excuse for my actions. I have allowed my pride to blind me to my sin and lead me to believe that I am “above” certain sins and better than the people around me who commit these sins.
Thirdly, let us give thanks that this is not where the story ends –
God, thank you that while I was still a sinner, you died for me! (Rom. 5:8) Thank you that you are patient and loving and you will not let your chosen one see corruption. Thank you that your grace is sufficient for me and that your power is made perfect in my weakness. (1 Cor. 12:9) Thank you that nothing can separate me from your love (Rom. 8) and that for those who have Christ, God will bring about the good work He has started in us to completion. (Phil. 1:6) Thank you Jesus that you not only are our great High Priest but that you can also sympathize with us in our weaknesses and you know what it is like to be tempted by the devil! Yet you did not give in to temptation, and therefore, by your sacrifice on the cross, Jesus, I can receive mercy and approach the throne of grace during my time of need. (Heb. 4:15-16)
Finally, we will finish with a prayer of supplication –
Oh God, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me! Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Ps. 51) God, I do not want my witness to be ineffective because I fall into sin! Help me to be sober-minded and watchful as I know that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to get me off track. Through the Holy Spirit dwelling with in me, give me the strength to resist the devil and remain firm in my faith. And may all glory be given to you, the God of all grace, who will personally restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish me at the end of the age!” (1 Pet. 5: 8-11)
Post by Brynn Gray