Recently, I took one of the most refreshing phone calls I’ve received in a while.
To you, it may not seem so refreshing. But I’m a guy who values honesty and transparency, and this was nothing short of both.
A couple weeks ago, a good friend called to confess a failure. To him, this was a big time mess he had made. Something that drove him to go to another brother and get it off his chest.
My friend called to confess a sexual sin. A “one night stand” kind of sin. Something that Biblically, he knew was wrong, and by the sound of his voice, was shaken and burdened by the choice he made.
The call was refreshing because I know that God calls us all who believe in His grace and have given our lives to Him to take sin very seriously — and that’s exactly what he did. He didn’t hide it. He didn’t excuse it. He recognized it, and confessed it.
It’s my belief that God fully intends to clean out the places and areas of our hearts that aren’t of Him — and that’s exactly what sin is.
Unconfessed sin clouds our hearts and keeps us from seeing God and experiencing Him in our lives. Matthew 5:8 tells us: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
God is after the purity and surrender of our ENTIRE heart — all for His glory. That was the Psalmists cry (Psalm 51:10), and should be ours as well.
Has grace overcome the power of sin? Yes. I truly believe that. But I do know that when we seek things that are NOT of God, He’s not the first to bless that.
Back to my conversation...
Our talk made me think a lot about sin — particularly which ones we focus on and struggle with the most. From my point of view, I consistently see how particular sins live in the spotlight more than others.
Sex outside of marriage, getting drunk, and foul language have always felt like the “Big 3” in the Christian community. If you avoid them, you’re winning. If you fall to them, you feel like a failure.
But does God categorize or rank sin? Does He keep score? Do some sins weigh heavier on our “loss” column than others?
When was the last time someone confessed to you their struggle with pride? What about envy or selfishness? How often do we hear about people battling with greed or unbelief?
It’s easy to point the finger at external sin, because it’s what we see. External sin isn’t hidden or masked. But what about internal sin?
Jesus (go figure) was an expert on the root of our sin. On several accounts, he calls out the most religious leaders of his time, accusing them of acting “righteous” and “clean” on the outside, but being “dead” and “unclean” on the inside (Matthew 23:25-28).
He knew that there was a source to what is seen on the surface — and that’s our heart.
While the “Big 3” may catch a really bad rap, what would it look like if we took ALL sin seriously? We may do well at controlling our external behaviors, but there’s a much bigger war going on inside that can’t be ignored.
Things like greed, anger, selfishness, or envy are guests that if we let them stay long enough, have the power to trash our house.
What about you? Do you naturally lean towards “ranking” or “categorizing” sin? Are there external areas you work hard to maintain, but internal ones that go ignored?
To my friend — thank you for your honesty and desire to pursue a pure heart and mind.
• Colin Noonan serves as the director of youth ministry at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. Continue the conversation with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @cnoonan3 on Twitter.