Often, it’s the slow learners who make the best teachers. I should know. Ten years after being a Christian, I was still seeing prostitutes. Twenty years after being a Christian, I was still in the grips of pornography. I’m free of that now. But realistically, what if I went back to it all tomorrow? Would I be happy about it? Of course not. But would it ruin my walk with Jesus? No way.
I had to learn the hard way what it means to be a mess in progress. What it means to be in the thrall of sinful addictions and yet to rest in God’s righteousness.
Red Light Red Light 123
The event that changed my life started with lust and a total defiance of the Living God. That day around midnight, I set out to an illicit establishment in a popular red light district. I had no car at the time, and just getting there was a twenty minute walk. So I had plenty of opportunity to change my mind.
Lust won out. But I promised the Lord that if the establishment asked for an ID, I’d walk away and not return. They did ask for my ID. But that didn’t stop me. In total defiance to my promise, and against everything in Scripture, I walked the 20 minutes back home, got my ID, walked the twenty minutes back, and then did what I came to do.
Afterwards, I was in anguish. I had 60 minutes of walking to and fro where I could have changed my mind and honored our Jesus. But instead I defied Him.
Despair sat like a weight in my stomach. As I trudged back home through strip joints and unlit sidewalks, I cried out in helplessness and fear. I knew I was despicable. I knew I had crossed the line. Was I doomed to be addicted forever? All that was left for me was punishment. So what would God do to me now?
But then something happened. As I was moaning and navel gazing in my wretched sins, suddenly I got angry. At that instant, I became tired of my complaining. Sick of my incessant lamenting. Something had snapped.
If I could never escape from my sin, then so be it. LORD, IF I STAY LIKE THIS FOREVER THEN FINE. BUT HELP ME LOVE YOU AND DO GOOD. I CAN’T STAND THIS USELESS SELF-CENTEREDNESS THAT CONSUMES ME. ENOUGH OF THIS WORTHLESS SELF PITY.
The Lord heard my prayer. And five minutes later, he answered it. I was just about home, when I saw a black homeless man approach me. Suddenly my New York shields were up. “Lord, if he asks me for money, I won’t give him any.” But to my surprise, the man never did. He simply asked for food. So I took him to the nearby Big Lots and watched as he chose Ramen noodles and other cheap stuff with no nutritional value.
Here I was ravaged by my own sin. But I knew this was not right. I looked at him and said, “No, you need more than this.” At that point I got him Chunky soups and other things that could help him. He was very grateful. And surprisingly quite lucid for a homeless guy wandering around the streets at 2am.
In the midst of my sins, God had sent me just the right person to help at just the right time. Somehow Jesus was bigger than my sins. MUCH BIGGER. And He was using my bad choices to write straight with crooked lines!
When I left for home, I was stunned. LORD, I DON’T UNDERSTAND. I JUST DEFIED YOU IN THE WORST WAY, AND HERE YOU ARE SENDING ME TO HELP A HOMELESS MAN? YET I CAN FEEL YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING IN MY HEART. YOU’RE HEALING IT. BUT WHY? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE LORD?
But even while asking Him I knew. Jesus was showing me that my “big sins” were chump change. I was already forgiven for these. It was time to take Him at His word and start trustng Him on that.
But my navel gazing over my sins was far more serious. It showed that I didn’t really trust that He had truly forgiven ALLmy sins- past, present and future.
And so He sent this homeless man to get me out of my rut and show me what was truly important. I must love God and love others, even when I am sinning. And after I confess, it’s time to stop navel gazing and do the two greatest commandments. Anything else is an even greater sin!
Addicts: When You Stop Being a Pharisee You Can Know What God Wants of You Even While in the Grips of Your Addiction!
I got the message. Perhaps because my sins were great and there was no escaping it. Or perhaps simply because God was being merciful and knew that someday I would share this experience with others.
But so many of us are still in the dark. It’s time to start thinking like God thinks. And to stop thinking like the pharisees think.
Just like the pharisees, we rank our small sins big and our big sins small. We strain out the gnat and swallow the camel. OK, you have an addiction. OK, you don’t see an end to it. FINE. Grow where you are planted.
God can take away your addiction in an instant. This is what He did for me after two decades of being addicted to online porn. I had struggled for so long. Then, one day my computer broke, and when I got a new one, my desire for porn was virtually nil! The sin that consumed me was suddenly gone!
You may ask why God took so long to free me. The answer is that He had bigger things in mind. Just like He did when He healed a blind man who was over 40 years old and blind since birth. God uses us to write HIStory. And He wants us to delight in Him, even during our addictions.
So get over yourself. Fight back in the ways that make God smile. Don’t define God or yourself by your sins. He’s bigger than that. God writes straight with crooked lines. And that crooked line is YOU.
Other Crooked Lines in HIStory
- Moses the Man God Spoke To Face To Face
Murdered an Egyptian (Pre meditated) and then fled for his life.
Grabbed God’s glory for himself when he refused to ask the rock for water and struck it instead.
Blamed the people for his own mistake.
- David- Greatest King of Israel and A Man After God’s Own Heart
Betrayed his loyal army officer Uriah, first by sleeping with his wife, and then by murdering him so he would never learn David got her pregnant.
- The Apostle Paul
Approved of Stephen’s stoning and guarded the clothing of his murderers.
Ruthlessly imprisoned Christians, no doubt leading to many of their deaths.
Received a thorn in his flesh because God knew that without it, Paul would be so full of conceit it would ruin what God was doing in him and through him.
- Peter The Rock of the Church
Betrayed Jesus three times even though he witnessed the Transfiguration.
Sabotaged the early church by directly disobeying the vision he knew God gave him, when he refused to eat with anyone but the circumcised believers. Paul had to read him the riot act and publicly expose his hypocrisy.
- John and James (Jesus’ closest disciples along with Peter)
Opportunistically approached Jesus with their mom, so they could be greatest among the disciples in Heaven.
Showed a lack of mercy to the Samaritans, by asking Jesus to give them the power to ruthlessly roast them into ashes. (my paraphrase)
- Woman at the Well (Sinful woman used to reach the whole town in Samaria)
Divorced 5 times, so full of fractured relationships and disgrace, she would draw water at noon when no one else was around. (a strong inference but not stated)
Argumentative: Chose to pick a fight on where to worship while talking to the very messiah she was looking for!
Alcoholic, anorexic, full of anger or fear? Someone who has dad, mom or marital problems? Our Lord is bigger than your sins. Trust Him and He will use you to write HIStory.
For more see When God Turns Your Mess into Your Message
Finding Jesus at the Dollar Store
Are we asking God the wrong questions when we pray to Him? Is it any wonder we’re not getting the right answers?
The Top 3 Reasons Why Christians Remain Small
Are you growing in knowledge but never really maturing? Do you panic whenever there’s hardship in your life? Perhaps the reasons why are here.
Songs About Growing While You’re Still A Mess
I’m Becoming (Jason Gray)
On the way…UP (Apollo LTD)
I Just need U (Toby Mac)
(When you hold me closer…I come to life)
Singing Over Me (Building 429)
It’s OK (Not to be OK) (Josh Wilson)
Slow for me, but great lyrics