A friend of mine's world came crashing down this week. I don't know who was blessed by it more -- him or me.
Here's what happened: He'd been living for over a year in the shadows of sin and deceit. Exactly what he was doing doesn't really matter. Substitute in whatever garden variety sin you can dream up: embezzlement, adultery, gambling, pornography, substance abuse, etc. etc The bottom line is that eventually the truth always comes out. Whether it's next week or next decade, eventually the chickens come home to roost and usually it ain't pretty.
By the way, even if you're not plagued by these "major sins," keep reading. The blessing of this story applies to all of us who are plagued by the "minor sins," too. Things like worry, love of comfort, anger, lust, pride, impatience, gossip, judgmentalism, fear, selfishness, hard-heartedness. I stand guilty as charged as I am sure you do. These minor sins may not lead to public embarrassment like they did for my friend, but they eventually lead to despair of some sort. And don't forget, "sin" means "to miss the mark" of the best life God has for us -- the "small" sins eventually bring us to our knees just like the big ones do.
Back to the story. When the word came out on Monday about his missteps, the pain, shame, fear and sadness was crushing. The type of sobbing that involves hyperventilation. True, rock bottom brokenness. The beauty is that within 48 hours, he was a new man with a fresh start and renewed outlook on life. The stress of leading a double life was relieved.
He was blessed to receive the compassion and grace extended to him by his friends, family and God. He was truly free, redeemed, and excited to once again walk in the light of full integrity. The type of integrity where you never have to cover your tracks or stress about trying to remember what you said to whom or fret about when the truth will come out. .
Imagine the freedom he is experiencing just six days after the worst day of his life.
I was blessed by this situation for two reasons:
1. As my dad used to say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." For whatever reason, so far at least, I haven't had an experience like this since my high school years.
2 God revealed a 4-step pattern of Truth to me. It goes like this:
Idolatry - It all starts here. Idolatry is not about building shrines and graven images that we worship. It's about building shrines in our hearts where God is not our number one priority. We crave something more than we crave God. The approval of people. A physical buzz. Material comfort. The illusion of financial security. The list goes on.
Brokenness - The folly of giving lip service to God, but actually focusing on, enjoying, and trusting in something other than Him eventually becomes apparent and painful.
Redemption - This step is so simple it's almost unbelievable. All we have to do is confess (admit our mistake) and repent (earnestly turn away from the sin.) If we do this with God and others -- and we do it in Jesus' name -- we are instantly righteous in God's eyes and back in full unity with Him. The "in Jesus' name" part simply means this: You acknowledge that your sin must be punished and you thank Jesus for taking the heat in your place.
Freedom: The humility and gratitude that flows from our acquittal is a game changer. We start anew. Fresh. Free. Everyday in fact.
My friend's pain served as a powerful and timely reminder for me.
My 10th grade English teacher (a hero of mine) once gave me and my classmates a slip of paper that said: "Integrity is like a rocky edged island in a tempest: Once you leave, you can never return." I used to believe that. Until I met Jesus.
"There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (I encourage you to read that one more time. Slowly)