Spiritual Crack

Addiction specialists tell us that one hit of crack or meth can cause a rewiring of the brain and a lifelong addiction.  One moment the individual is enjoying meaningful relationships and pursuing their goals in life.  The next moment nothing matters but finding that next fix.  Family no longer matters. Friends no longer matter. Dreams no longer matter. Pleasing God no longer matters. Before and after pictures of addicts show the devastation of drugs as users experience accelerated aging, hair loss, sunken cheeks, hollow eyes, and rotted teeth. Addiction is not a pretty picture.

Most Christians will never face the risk of domination that comes with taking that first hit of crack or meth, but they do flirt with a spiritual drug just as dangerous and addictive.  That drug is called strife.  I have witnessed solid Christian people make the decision to take a hit of this spiritual crack to nurse a wound or offense not realizing they will spend perhaps the rest of their lives serving that strife. In many ways, the drug of strife is the worst drug of all because it becomes more potent the longer it is in your system.  As illicit drugs make a person look hideous on the outside over time, the drug of strife makes a person look hideous on the inside.

To be in strife is to be at war with another person in one’s heart characterized by conflict, discord, antagonism, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Paul warned Timothy about the dangers of strife declaring, “The servant of the Lord must not be in strife” (2 Timothy 2:24).  The person in strife is actually taken captive by the devil to do his will. He captivates our lives, our hearts, our time, our thoughts, our energy, our faith, our perception, our relationships, and our destiny. James said, “For where envy and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16). Strife, just like crack or meth, opens our lives to a world of destruction and devastation.

It is, however, possible to protect yourself from spiritual crack.  First, count the cost of potential addiction because no one expects to become a strife addict.  Second, guard your heart so that when the opportunity to get in strife comes, you have the power to just say no. Third, reject your pride because pride, not a pipe, is the delivery system that gets strife into our system. Fourth, practice mercy and forgive quickly because slow forgiveness increases the likelihood of strife. Finally, stay away from strife pushers or those who peddle strife like some peddle drugs.  It is hard to believe that any Christian would want to get another believer addicted to spiritual crack, but it happens all the time.  My college roommate kept a bag of various drugs in his closet to sell to students who knocked on our door all hours of the night.  I couldn’t move out and away from the pusher fast enough.  Believers need to do the same with the peddlers of spiritual crack.

 

 

The Sin Killer


To sin is to miss the mark and fail the standard and expectations of God.  Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 warns us that “The wages of sin is death.”  The good news is God didn’t leave us in our sin, misery, and future destruction, but in his rich mercy, he sent Jesus to be a sacrifice for us all (Ephesians 2:4).

Mercy is not just a simple religious platitude or concept, but a spiritual force that when released impacts and changes us by mitigating the punishment for sin, and by moving to alleviate the distress that sin caused.  Sin is a killer, but sin has a mortal enemy.  Mercy is the sin killer, and that sin killer is available in unlimited supply and renewable daily (Lamentations 3:22-23). God’s mercy provides power to help the believer to do three very important things regarding sin.

First, the mercy of God gives us the power to admit our sin. Like the thief on the cross, or the woman at the well, or Zacchaeus the tax collector, the mercy of God empowers the individual to admit sin and repent. The desire to admit the failure and repent is a privilege and indeed the mercy of God because it is the pathway back to the Father and because there is no healing in denial. Like the Psalmist, we should be completely honest and transparent: “I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” (Psalm 32:5).

Second, the mercy of God gives us the power to quit our sin.  Jesus granted mercy to the woman taken in adultery saying he would not condemn her. Unfortunately, many people today stop too soon in the story forgetting that the same Jesus that refused to condemn her also made a demand on her to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11).  When Jesus grants us mercy from sin’s punishment or consequences, that very same mercy provides the power to quit the sin. That’s why Paul told Titus to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:12), and why Paul urged the Romans, in view of God’s mercy, to offer up their bodies as living sacrifices, holy land pleasing God (12:1).

Finally, the mercy of God gives us the power to forget our sin. The Scripture says Paul was extremely zealous in persecuting the church until his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). His reign of terror against believers included arrest, incarceration, and even murder.  As a result, Paul was plagued with regrets stirred up repeatedly by a messenger of Satan.  But the accuser of the brethren is no match for the mercy of God that gave Paul the ability to forget what was behind and press forward in his life and calling without a sense of condemnation, guilt, or shame (Philippians 3:1-14). Mercy alleviates the distress caused by sin, and part of that work is the Lord scrubbing our consciousness of our sins and failures so that we can walk in righteousness mentality instead of sin consciousness and condemnation.

Hi, Peter

The Bible says, “And Simon he surnamed Peter” (Mark 3:16, KJV).  The name Simon means a piece of grass, a reed, weak, and easily pushed or manipulated. Peter, in contrast, means a rock, stable, fixed, established, and strong.  It seems like such a minor piece of Scripture, but in reality it is an explosive revelation about the heart of God.  Just like Jacob called his son Benjamin (son of the strength of my right hand) refusing to allow his dying wife Rachel to call him Benoni (son of my sorrow), Jesus named Peter not for what he was, but for what he would become.

Despite his new name, Peter often reverted back to Simon moments throughout Scripture, including proposing the building of three shrines in honor of the transfiguration, sinking in the water after taking his eyes off Jesus, being rebuked by Jesus for saying he would not die, refusing initially to allow Jesus to wash his feet, boasting he would never deny the Lord, cutting off the ear of Malchus in the garden, and then ultimately denying the Lord three times.

The truth is we all, despite the new birth in Christ, stumble and have our own Simon moments.  But Simon moments do not change the Lord’s mind about our potential and destiny.  Jesus has mercy when we act more like a Simon than a Peter. After Jesus’ resurrection, the angel of the Lord told those at the tomb to tell the disciples AND PETER to meet Jesus in Galilee. This simple statement made it clear that Jesus had not given up on Peter.

But Simon had to do a few simple things to get the Peter back.  First, he had to show up.  Too often condemnation and shame keep us away from God’s love and mercy.  We don’t need to give up, we simply need to show up (John 21:1-14).  We don’t know what Jesus said to him that day, but I can imagine (as Leslie Hale suggested) Jesus walking up to him and saying these simple but powerful words, “Hi, Peter.”  Believers may fall seven times, but they get back up (Proverbs 14:26).  As Micah 7:8 says, “when I fall, I shall arise.” Our victory comes in just getting up and showing up even when we don’t feel like it.  Showing up means we receive the mercy that is available to us.

Second, he had to grow up.  Our Simon moments are really just a developmental and maturity issue. Jesus challenged Peter to focus on loving, caring for, and feeding his people (John 21:15-22).  The Simon moments in our lives become scarce when we mature and begin to focus on the needs of others. We all have Simon moments, but God help us if we are not merciful to others when they have them too. Growing up means we share the mercy we have enjoyed with others. Peter would eventually say that growing up would keep believers from being unproductive and ineffective, and would keep them from falling (2 Peter 1:8-11).