the weblog of Alan Knox

But they seem so much more holy than me…

Posted by on Mar 26, 2013 in discipleship | 11 comments

But they seem so much more holy than me…

We are having a great time discussing Romans together. (Well, at least, I’m having a great time studying Romans with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I’m assuming they’re having a great time also based on what I’m hearing and learning as we gather.)

Last Sunday, we worked our way through Romans 3. You know chapter 3, right? That’s the famous chapter in which Paul emphasizes that everyone is sinner, no one seeks God, no one is righteous – not the Jews, not the Gentiles – no one.

Of course, he also tells us that while we are not righteous on our own, we are righteous in Jesus Christ – apart from the law, apart from works, apart from ourselves, apart from anything other than Jesus Christ. Period.

The discussion moved in the direction of talking with people about our own sins.

While visiting his daughter, one of our brothers recently spoke to a college student who is a new believer. That night that they spoke, the student had been smoking marijuana with some old friends. He told my friend about this, and they talked for several hours about the student’s struggles with past sins and habits. Of course, my friend also shared some of his own struggles and how God’s presence, power, and grace continues to help him through those struggles.

At one point, my friend asked the student if there was anyone among the church who he could talk with, who he could share these struggles with, and who would help him through the temptations.

The young man replied, “No way! They are much more holy than me. They never do anything wrong. They make me feel so unclean.”

Now, I would assume that those brothers and sisters would be surprised to hear this student say this about them. I’m sure they would admit that they sin and that they rely completely on the grace of God through Jesus Christ for righteousness – not their own good works or life.

But, here’s the problem… regardless of what they may think about themselves, they’re obviously projecting a completely different vibe. From hanging around them, this student feels that they would look down on him and judge him because of his sin.

This tells me something about these brothers and sisters in Christ: they don’t talk about their own sin. They don’t admit their own failures. Even though I’m sure they know they sin, they present themselves to others as if they don’t.

This is a big problem… huge problem.

And, this story (true story, unfortunately) with my friend and this young believer demonstrates exactly what this is a big problem. You see, that student needs to turn to his brothers and sisters in Christ for help, for prayer, for example, for discipleship, for teaching, for admonishment, for counsel, for love, for forgiveness, for mercy… but he won’t because he thinks he will be judged (whether he would be judged or not).

Do you do the things you don’t want to do? Do you not do the things that you want to do? Do you recognize that the only help for you and this body of sin is the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord? Then, admit it openly and publicly to your brothers and sisters in Christ. They need to know that they can turn to you for help with their own temptations, struggles, and sin.


11 Comments

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  1. 3-26-2013

    Christians need to know that we are delivered by the words of our own testimony….We should not hide behind the verse we are all born in sin..of course that’s true… some Christians have not done much sinning in there life …but some of us really have a sorted past…I know we must expose the devil by telling others what we have gone through because so many people are bound up thinking no one could have gone through what they have and no one could get out of the situation that they are in…but if they knew we were delivered from the same situation it would help them..

  2. 3-26-2013

    Spot on post, Alan. It is so good when you are among brothers and sisters who are transparent and approachable and exemplify real life in Christ where Jesus is all and that is enough even in inevitable faults and failings.

  3. 3-26-2013

    The only way that that type of fellowship & sharing can really happen are in ‘safe’ places of communities. the only way we have safe places is a foundation of trust. the only way to have trust is to have spent a lot of time & effort building the relationship. the only way to spend time & effort building relationships is to have time & effort as a Church. The only way to have time & effort for relationships as a Church is if relationships are the priority. The only way to have relationships be a priority is if it is the predominant ‘feature’ of the Church. The only way relationships can be the predominant focus/feature of the Church is to not have a show to put on or a business to run. The only way to not have a show to put on or business to run is if you meet regularly like normal people do in real life. The only way to meet regularly like normal people do in real life is to meet regularly like normal people do in real life and not focus on putting on a show. When you are *not* focused on putting on a weekly performance but instead just meet regularly with people, then you can focus on relationships. When you focus on relationships, then you can give them time & effort. When you give time & effort to relationships, you will see that trust is being built. When trust is built, you will have a safe place to truly be REAL & open & honest about your journey. When you can be real & open & honest about your journey…. God’s LOVE & GRACE will wash into all those areas you tried to keep hidden and He will REDEFINE how you see yourself as you are healed. and YOU WILL BE TRANSFORMED as you see yourself in God’s eyes. God’s love will wash over every wound & scar you have and you will know you are LOVED. You will be able to trust Him and you will be able to SURRENDER to Him because you trust Him. In your surrender, you will learn how to lay down yourself in His hands and HIS LIFE will be able to be lived through you and you will become LOVING & will help others know His LOVE that saves & heals!

    It all starts with relationships.

  4. 3-26-2013

    “Then, admit it openly and publicly to your brothers and sisters in Christ. They need to know that they can turn to you for help with their own temptations, struggles, and sin.”

    If a community of saints is to become “safe,” then, in appropriate ways and times, someone must take the dangerous step of being the first (or second) talking about their sins and struggles. Yes, they might be judged and ostracized.

    If a community of saints is to become “safe,” then when someone talks about their sin, some other doesn’t shrink, some other doesn’t pretend to have no sin, and that other affirms their love. Yes, they too might be judged and ostracized.

    Husbands and wives get through this. They cannot hide all of their sin. Yet a great many still find love and their relationship is unbroken and undamaged. They are bonded in marriage. We are bonded being birthed into the same family by the same means that included not a thing we did ourselves.

    Like all of Christian paradox (die to live; serve to lead; confess to find forgiveness, etc.), the more we own our sin–and the less we try to conceal it–the lighter our burden becomes, the greater His sufficiency is revealed to be, and the more we grasp the depth and width of His love. For us, and for others.

    Sin doesn’t defeat us. Sin is like great rocks in the road. With “Father, forgive me yet again,” we climb up, over, around. It is not easy going. But despite the road not being the least bit smooth, we do make progress, we do go forward. It doesn’t get less rocky, but some of the rocks become different. The superficial sins we fear being exposed over give way to deeper and more substantial levels of pride and arrogance, of runaway lusts for power and pleasure and gain and notice and position. Thinking we can do things apart from Christ, for Christ, because, well, we are special!

    Our Father is faithful and just to expose us and to forgive us. We can become a gracious community of sinners enthralled by Him who saved us together by grace.

  5. 3-27-2013

    This is such an important topic. Personally, Joe and I have had times where we have shared a struggle or sin or ‘something’ we are going through and it is met with uncomfortable silence or uncomfortable small talk to somehow cover over the nakedness.

    Of course, there seems (seems) to be a time and place. Even unspoken at times. But, even in relationships, there seems to be a line that folks (Christians) aren’t comfortable crossing.

    I hate to admit this, but there have been times when folks ask how we are and we are ‘just fine’. All the while, yearning for…prayer, insight, wisdom from a brother or sister, comfort, help. Quickly trying to decide if that person truly cares, truly wants to know, will stop and listen and pray and reach in. It isn’t trying to be holier than but more just not wanting to ‘dump’ on whoever that poor person is. Almost wish folks wouldn’t ask if they REALLY didn’t want to know! Now that I write all of that it makes me realize how much we are thinking of ‘us’ and how much we need to trust God with that timing.

    We want to be those people who do stop and listen & encourage but also stop and share and be transparent as the Lord leads.

  6. 3-27-2013

    “…met with uncomfortable silence or uncomfortable small talk to somehow cover over the nakedness.”

    Ouch. Heart breaking.

    What is missing in our thinking, training, study, prayer, journey, understanding of holiness, sin, forgiveness, maturation, and the Christian life together, that we do act like just as you described?

    This is the elephant in the room that no one will bring up or is silenced if they do. Everyone gets the message, and all are isolated from the very community they need.

  7. 3-28-2013

    “…met with uncomfortable silence or uncomfortable small talk to somehow cover over the nakedness.”

    I will admit to having a hard time oftentimes trying to figure out what to say when people are so raw honest…especially when it comes “out of nowhere”. I feel that it really does take knowing the person closely to be able to know what exactly to say. Sometimes they just really need some grace in the form of a hug & prayer and an “I’m with you”….. and sometimes they just really need some tough truth in the form of “have you openly talked about it with the Lord?” Sometimes, I discern that I have to dig deeper and ask questions about why they are really bringing it up. Are they looking for justification, somebody to make them feel better about their sin because they are still carrying guilt because they are afraid to go to the Lord & confess? Do they need to be reminded that God knows *all* and that He desires us to have a clear conscious by running to Him with our brokenness! It’s hard to find the right words to make sure we don’t “excuse sin” or try to make it a smaller deal than it is or tell an “I’ve done worse than that” story and gloss over it.

    Many times, people really *are* just complaining and don’t want to DO anything about their sin/struggle! They just want to vent…and we have to know what to do in those times, too.

    I guess my point is.. there’s no formula in relationships. Every person & relationship & interaction is so different. Thank you Lord for your Spirit to lead us!!

    Also – back to the “I’ve done worse” example — often when people admit sin or a struggle…somebody meaning to give grace will jump with a “that’s nothing…*I* have done this” type answer…… and redirecting the focus on somebody else’s sin (your own) is SO NOT appropriate… but I know I’ve done it before and that’s how we (women) are trained to make others feel better! To compare them. We think that taking the focus off of them is what they need, but that’s not true!! The focus, the Light shining bright as can be directly on them is what they need! Instead, we want to make others *feel* better IMMEDIATELY by comparing them to others – which is the last thing the Lord would want us to offer them!

    Looking at the HEART and the molding the Lord is doing for the long term…looks SO different than trying to make people feel better right then!!!

  8. 3-28-2013

    A brother very dear to my heart who lives following Christ and is well known as someone gracious and open by those who know him told me just this week that a co-worker who was seemingly a solid guy, married, and doing well, went home early and committed suicide. No one saw it coming and he reached out to no one. Didn’t even leave a note.

    Randi, you’re right about needing God to lead us in our relationships and reactions. Sometimes, He doesn’t ask us to intervene, doesn’t reveal the troubles in those around us. We don’t have to second guess Him.

    Sometimes he does. We are told to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Down deep, there is no one we know who doesn’t have struggle, scars and pain right now, and there are few who do not also have joy or thankfulness in other areas. When He reveals a situation to us–whether through someone opening up, or by cues and signs of evidence we should consider, or by overt expressions of joy and thankfulness–we can safely come alongside and share in their emotions.

    Sometimes He asks us to participate in other ways according to “the molding the Lord is doing for the long term.”

  9. 3-28-2013

    I’m sorry I haven’t been around to respond to comments. As usual, the comments here are much better than my original post. Thank you all for the discussion here!

    -Alan

  10. 3-31-2013

    My Simple Prayer

    O Father, Lord of all creation,
    From your unfathomable Love You have created us.
    Let Your Light guide our steps.
    Let Your Grace further our growth.
    Let Your Love fill our hearts.
    Let Your Power sustain our life.
    Let Your Peace seal our souls.

    O glorious and triumphant Son of God,
    In Your deepest Love You have redeemed us.
    Open our souls to Your Holy Spirit.
    Open our eyes to see Your Light.
    Open our hearts to receive Your Love.
    Open our ears to hear Your Call.
    Open our minds to know Your Will.

    O Holy Spirit, Lord of all created souls,
    In Your Mercy You have given us life.
    Help us to conquer our bodily temptations.
    Help us to overcome our attachment to things of the world.
    Help us to grow humble as the seeds of God’s Wheat.
    Help us to perfect the beauty of our souls.
    May Your Fire of Love consume our lives forever.

    O Living Christ, Lord of Redemption from sin.
    In Your Mercy and Love, You have bestowed Your Spirit upon us;
    Help us to live in Your truth and be worthy to Your Love.
    Help us to open our hearts to understand the struggle of other people.
    Help us to bend our ears to listen to the agony of our brothers and sisters.
    Help us to be ready to share the suffering of our brethren.
    Help us to be very human as You were, to part take in Your Sacrifice for the salvation of the world.

    Amen

    Duc Minh Bui
    Monday, 1st of April 2013

  11. 4-2-2013

    Duc,

    Thanks for sharing your poetry with us.

    -Alan