When it comes to my walk as a Christian, I had to come to understand a few things in order to move forward. It’s not just a matter of believing in God in Jesus Christ, but also a matter of overcoming the flesh. When you realize that each sin you commit adds a stone to the load you carry in life, it begins to occur to you that wow, life would be so much easier if you could just dump all of it off somewhere or find someone else (an “enabler”) to help you carry it.
Sometimes it’s not just a single “sin” you committed once and while you never let it happen again, you still carry the guilt. What I’m talking about is the sin you keep going back to. This kind that draws you back no matter what you do to stop it. It’s the kind that keeps drug addicts committing crime to keep their habit going, those who have affairs and so on. The kind of sin that ruins not just your life but affects the lives of others around you. It’s when you realize you’re not just hurting yourself but also those who, because they love you or have some other kind of bond to you, keep assisting you by helping carry your burden whether they know it or not. When you suddenly realize this, you then have a choice: Stop it forever or Self-Justify it and keep on keepin’ on.
Even worse, we tell ourselves, “I’m working on it, but I need time.” But what if you knew you didn’t have any more time? What if time is a luxury that is now being taken away from you?
It’s hard for us to focus on what’s wrong in our lives unless we’re willing to look ourselves squarely in the mirror and admit it. You tell yourself, “But I’m a good person. Look at all the good things I do for people. That has to count for something, right?”
Another common excuse among people who take things from others is this, “I’ll just borrow this for now, just this one time and pay it back/repent later.” But then you never do. Why? Because you rationalized away the reason you did it. You self-justified it. You said, “Well, they had it coming because they’re ripping off other people.” The things being taken can range from money, to coveted objects or even time. Yes, there is a way you can steal time from people. A multitude of ways, in fact.
It’s even more difficult if you see yourself as the guy or girl in the white cowboy hat, a Dudley or Doris Do-Gooder, the person who has sacrificed their time and money for others, often the one riding in to rescue other people. In your mind’s eye you see your “good” as outweighing any “bad” you might have done, so you’re allowed to mess up a few times, right? Especially – and I see this one all the time – if what you do is done for the “greater good.”
I hear you. I was there, too. Been there, done that, got the “Emotional Martyr” T-shirt.
It’s like that old adage: “If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Or how about this relatively new one: “I can do whatever I want because while only only God can judge me, He is also a God of Love and He will forgive me before all is said and done.”
Well, hate it to break it to those people, but they kind of have to repent first in order to receive God’s Grace. Oh people love to accuse each other of wrongdoing. It’s the all-time favorite mode of self-justification. “Yeah, I messed up, but it only happened because of what YOU did.”
Is it possible to completely give up sin? Not just struggle with it, but stop it forever? As Jesus told the woman who had committed adultery, after her accusers picked up their stones and walked away:
…10Then Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared. “Now” go and sin no more. 12Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:10-12
He forgave her and made it clear that the forgiveness came because He knew that she now believed in Him, had learned a valuable lesson in nearly losing her life over it and would honestly stop. There are sins you must immediately stop doing – mainly because sin destroys you.
But what about the little bitty sins, the ones you do when no one’s looking? You know the ones. The things we look at online that we shouldn’t, the half-truths or “white lies” we tell each other because we can’t bear to tell someone the truth and hurt their feelings. The shoplifter who stole the food because she has three hungry kids at home. Then we use that famous line of self-justification, “I’m not hurting anyone, so what’s the problem?”
The bottom line is that there is Someone who sees and hears everything you do. (And it’s not just the government [insert “LOL” here]). This same Someone knows the number of hairs on your head. The same Someone who formed you in your mother’s womb, already knowing even before you took your first few baby-steps where those same feet would take you later in life. He sees all of it because He walks right beside you. People who forget this don’t truly believe there’s a God. Or worse, they know and don’t think God’s standards apply to them.
A couple of verses on that, which apply not just to the dark worship going on that was shown to Ezekiel, but to anything we do while we’re on our own and think no one sees or cares:
“Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.” – (Ezekiel 8:12)
“Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.” – (Ezekiel 9:9)
There are sins you struggle with daily, the ones that keep haunting you, the ones you keep giving to the Lord to take from you, yet they still persist. Why? Sometimes these are things the Lord allows us to live through just to keep us humble. Even the apostle Paul struggled with a “thorn” in his side and was constantly buffeted by evil spirits. He never stopped trying, though. He kept giving it to God, always having the faith that one day the Lord would deliver him from it. In some ways, this is a way of teaching you to find your own conscience and feel the conviction by the Holy Spirit. When you honestly feel that conviction, then you realize that yes, you DO have the power to stop. God’s power.
You can remit that sin to God in Jesus Christ, whose burden is easy and whose yoke is light. And you realize that Repentance is the process by which you lighten your load. Once you lighten your load, get rid of all those stones you’re carrying (not throwing them at other people, mind you). You walk a lot lighter, life is a lot brighter and you are free. Truly free.
The Woman Who Stole Time
There once was a woman who stole time. She squirreled away minutes and seconds, and when those weren’t enough, she took half-hours. These, she thought, are such small amounts… no one will miss them.
And she was right, no one did miss them. No one noticed when the half-hours became hours, and hours became days. She stole it by coming up with excuses for it – and great excuses they were, too.
Then one day the woman began to notice that the people from whom she stole Time were losing money. It wasn’t just because Time is Money, but because she realized she wasn’t the only one stealing time. Other people around her were following her example and were stealing Time, too. Meanwhile, the man who owned the business was quickly running out of Time to give.
She sat down and added up all the time she’d taken. She tallied the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days…and the months and the years. She realized that so much time had been taken that she could never pay it all back. The weight of the guilt of this incredible amount of time crushed her.
As days passed, she noticed fewer and fewer people around her. They were sent away because the man had no more time to give them. He simply didn’t have enough to go around. And she, the biggest time-thief of them all, still remained. And no one knew, except her. And God, who kept time better than any other time keeper that ever existed. But He knew that time isn’t just money.
She’d also been taking time from everyone she knew. She monopolized it and felt it was owed to her. As she realized this, too, she came to see that unlike money, time could never be paid back. Once it was spent, it was gone forever. Even then, when she knew it was wrong, she still didn’t stop. After everyone around her had gone because they no longer had any time to give her, she kept on.
And so God began to rightfully take time back from the woman. He began to carve off a few minutes here and there. Then those carved-off minutes became hours, then days, then years. He showed her that time could speed up and slow down as He willed it. It could be quick and painless or long and agonizing. And He showed her that while Time may be never-ending, for her it was only going to last for a season. Though the man from whom she’d stolen time knew nothing about what she’d done, God knew. And God took recompense for the man, because vengeance truly belongs to the Lord.
She began to lose parts of herself. Parts of her body and parts of her soul. And she kept losing them until she finally went to God, threw herself at His feet and the feet of His Son, and begged for forgiveness. Then she left the place owned by the man, who managed to save what little time he had left. The only way to stop hurting him or anyone else was just to stop. She had to stop, because if she didn’t, there wouldn’t be enough left of her to survive.
And, she stopped because she Believed, and because she believed, she learned, And because she learned, she loved. Lastly, because she loved, she was Saved.