SINETICS – CRACKING THE CODE ON SIN
April 16, 2000
Several weeks ago, my friends took Lisa and me scuba diving. Although neither of us was certified, a local dive master in the area assured us that he could give us a crash course. He told us over the phone that we would begin this whole process with a shallow water beach dive, then after we got comfortable, he would take us into the deep water and do a fifty-foot dive. I knew we were in trouble when we boarded the boat because the dive master, Keith, and his dive master girlfriend, Casey, didn’t even entertain the thought of doing the shallow water thing. Keith just thrust the throttle forward and headed out to the deep blue sea. Lisa and I were looking at each other like, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”
Finally the boat stopped. Casey, the dive master girlfriend, threw the anchor overboard. Keith got up and began to give us the Reader’s Digest version of scuba diving. Keith is a great guy with a very interesting personality. He had a deep, dark tan, multiple body piercings, tattoos everywhere. It looked like he was naked because his belly pretty much eclipsed his Speedo. Anyway, between drags on a cigarette, he began to talk to us about the hazards and the adventures of diving. He stopped mid-sentence, looked at me and said, “Hey, by the way, what do you do for a living?” I looked back at him and said, “Keith, I’ll give you a multiple choice. I’m either in radio, commercial real estate, or am a pastor.” He said, “Well, you’re definitely not a pastor, so I’m thinking you’re in commercial real estate.” “No.” “Radio?” “No.” “You’re a pastor? Whoa, I’ve never taken out a pastor!” I could tell it gave him confidence, like, this is going to be a great dive, everything will be safe, and we’re blessed!
After hurrying through all the ins and outs of scuba diving, we strapped on the gear and jumped overboard. Keith and Casey then jumped overboard, and Keith instructed us to swim to the front of the boat, to grab the anchor rope, and to descend. He told us to take two hand motions, then stop, pinch our noses, clear our ears…two hand motions down, pinch our noses, clear our ears. He said, “When you get to fifty feet, we’ll take on the reef together.” My friends descended. Lisa descended. I was last. Everything was going perfectly until I hit twelve feet of water. My ears wouldn’t clear. The left side of my head was pounding, and Casey, his dive master friend, was looking at me and doing the hand signals. You know, the dive hand signals. I was pointing to my left side. She tried to work with me, and that didn’t work. I looked down below, and Lisa and my friends were enjoying the reef. I was frustrated, my head was hurting. Dejectedly, Casey and I kicked towards the surface, and I just hung there, watching my wife and dive master Keith and my friends just having the time of their lives.
What I just described to you is a snapshot of the lives of most of the people who are represented in this place called Fellowship Church. We want to go deep, we want to experience the beauty and the adventure of swimming with God and doing life in the fathoms of faith, but most of us are stuck on the surface because our lives are clogged with sin. We’re having a difficult time clearing out the sin and the rebellion in our existence.
Sinetics is simply that southward, downward, gravitational pull within us all; that tendency to transgress, to fall short, to miss the mark of God’s standard of goodness. No one taught me how to sin, I just know how to do it. No one tutored you in the subject either. You just understand how to rebel.
Last weekend we did some location work. We went sub-surface, and we identified seven deadly sins that are responsible for most of the hurts and habits and difficulties in your life and mine. We talked about pride, anger, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, and slothfulness. We said these sins keep us from really cruising. We located them. Well, today, we’re going to see what we actually do with the sin. Okay, I’ve found it. I see it. I know what’s hanging me up. I know what’s keeping me from going deep. What do I do with it? What do I do with it?
In John, Chapter 5, Jesus was walking through the streets of Jerusalem. And when Christ walked, people followed. Galleries hung on his every word. They watched his every movement, kind of like people do when Tiger Woods is playing a round of golf. Jesus saw a pool. He noticed some people lounging around the pool. They weren’t working on their tan. They weren’t swimming. These folks had problems; many were physically challenged. John 5 tells us that Jesus walked up to a man who’d been crippled for 38 years. He knelt beside the man and he asked the man a question that on the surface seemed odd. But if you really contemplate it, and glean the depths of it, you see it’s a fair and poignant and powerful question. Here’s what he said. He said, “Do you really want me to make you well? Do you really want me to heal you? Do you really want me to change your life?” Jesus asked a man who’d been crippled for 38 years that question. Why? Because he knows how human beings have the tendency to set up systems in our lives around our difficulty, around our defect, around our problem. Who knows, maybe this man liked the fact that he could hang out by a pool 24×7. Maybe he liked the fact that he did not have to go find a spouse or a house or a career. Maybe, just maybe, he was into it. Maybe he set up systems to help his difficulty.
I want to kneel beside you and ask you the same question that Jesus asked this man. Do you really want the Lord to make you well? Do you really want him to heal you? Do you really want to deal with that sin that’s tripping you up, that’s holding you back, that’s keeping you stuck on the surface? Do you?
Now most of you are saying, “Yeah, Ed, I want to deal with it. That’s why I’m in church! Yes, I want to deal with it.” But oftentimes, when you really confront someone with sin—when the Holy Spirit begins to work—a strange sort of sadness envelopes our lives. For example, purging pride sounds good on the surface: “Yeah, I want to get rid of pride!” But you might miss that feeling of superiority, that feeling of belittling others. Ousting anger? “Yeah, I want to do that!” But you might miss that adrenaline rush when you rage on your spouse or your coworkers or your children. Greed? “Oh, yeah, I want to get rid of that.” Until it begins to cut in on your spending habits. “Ed, I want to leave lust. I’m ready to end it.” Really? You might miss the thrills and chills of those sexual fantasies, of surfing the net on those adult web sites, of the secret life of going from topless club to topless club. Envy? “I’m going to end it.” But what’s going to happen to you when you discover your neighbor has just sold his dot-com company for millions? Gluttony? “I want to get rid of that.”
The truth of the matter is most of us are going out for brunch after this service. And when the menu is given to us, we’ll have a test. Gluttony or not? Are we going to be a saint or a sinner? Slothfulness. “Get rid of that sin.” Until you have to start waking up earlier…until you have to start really dealing with discipline.
Don’t you see? Don’t you see what happens when we’re confronted with these seven deadly sins? Don’t you see what a lot of us do? We play games. I had an intense conversation with a middle-aged man years ago; and while we were talking, he shared with me a sin in his life. And we talked about it and brought it to the surface. As we were dealing with it, he suddenly did the pushback. He suddenly said, “You know, Ed, to be honest with you, that’s just the way I am. That’s just the way I’m wired up.” What was going on here? This man was identifying his identity with his defect. This man had spent years and years building his life around his sin. It became part of his persona, part of who he was.
Instead of dealing with sin biblically, we play games. Here’s one of the games we like to play, and I’ve played it before. It is the “Focus on the Fantastic Failures” game. Here’s how we do it. We channel surf and watch programs like VH1’s Behind the Music, or Jerry Springer, or E!, or whatever. We focus on the fantastic sinners of our day by reading People Magazine, or National Enquirer; and we say to ourselves, “Oh, I would never, ever live life like Howard Stern. I would never do what Dennis Rodman does. I would never, ever contemplate using the language that Tom Cruise or Nicole Kidman do. Not me, I’m much better than them.” Oh, man. We love to compare ourselves with others.
I’ve even heard people say this to me. They say, “Well, I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites.” Last time I checked, I’m a hypocrite and so are you. Being a hypocrite is simply saying you’re going to do something one way and doing it another, and I do that all the time. I mess up, I miss the mark, I sin. So this church is a place—a harbor—for hypocrites. If you aren’t a hypocrite, get up and leave. We’ll see you later. Those spectacular sinners somehow make us feel good. We’d rather read about them than Billy Graham.
Another game we play is the “Cosmic Sin Spin Doctor” game. We reinvent God. We say, “My God doesn’t really care about sin. He just loves everybody. Everybody’s going to get into heaven. It doesn’t matter the way we live our lives. Everything is cool. I can tip my hat toward him and put some money in the forgiveness slot machine. It doesn’t matter if I keep sinning and doing the same thing over and over again. Everything is cheap. That’s my God.” That’s dangerous.
Some play another game called the “Delete God Game.” We want to delete God off the screen of our lives, off of the laptop of our lives. A lot of people I meet these days have a vested interest in keeping God at bay. Usually around Easter, Time, Newsweek, or US News and World Report will have a front cover story about Jesus. They’ll have a picture of Him, and they’ll say, “New evidence about Christ.” “Doubts about the resurrection.” And on and on and on. You never see Buddha on the front cover. You never see Mohammed on the front cover. You never see Confucius on the front cover. Why? Because Christ is the man. He is the way, the truth, and the life. The media and a lot of people have a vested interest in deleting him off the radar screen because the cross is messy. It’s terribly messy. People know that if Jesus indeed died and rose again, if he indeed paid for our sins on the cross, then the implications are staggering. And they don’t want any part of that. The cross is messy.
We play these games. And the danger is, when we play these games, we begin to feel like David felt in Psalm 38:4. “My guilt has overwhelmed me, like a burden too heavy to bear.” David went for about 12 months without coming clean, without dealing with the sin. He tried to play all those games, and he said, “God, my guilt, this burden, this sin, is too heavy to bear.” And when something is too heavy to bear, I’m talking about a sin, it begins to freak us out. Maybe right now you’re worried about getting the letter, receiving the phone call, being found out. Maybe right now you’re saying, “Ed, I feel heavy. I feel burdened. I feel guilt.” And if you’re heavy and you’re guilt-stricken, it leads to a jumbled judgment. You can’t make good judgment calls anymore. You can’t make a clear read anymore. You can’t see what’s going on anymore. Maybe right now you’re saying, “I can’t believe I’m involved in this. I mean, five years ago, I would have never thought I would be involved in this, but here I am. What do I do? What do I do?”
I’ll tell you what we can do because there’s hope. I’ll tell you what we can do. If we’re stuck on the surface, clogged with sin, I’ll tell you what we can do to move from the surface to the depths. We can appropriate and apply I John 1:9. One of the most positive and freeing and uplifting and sin-clearing texts in all the Bible. Let’s read it. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
It’s your option. It’s my call. If we confess. The word “confess” means “to say the same thing as”. So when I confess my sins, I say the same thing about my sins that God says about my sins. God calls it pride; I’ve got to call it pride. God calls it anger; I’ve got to call it anger. God calls it lust; I’ve got to call it lust. When I confess, I’m transparent with myself, I’m transparent with God, and I’m transparent with others as well. When we sin against anther person, oftentimes we will do the end-around. We will circumvent forgiveness and confession by only doing confession work between ourselves and God. Yes, we sin before God. Every time we mess up, it’s before God. But if another party is involved, the Bible encourages us to confess our sins to them too. And all you have to do is go through that drill a couple of times, and you’ll think long and hard about sinning against another person.
The moment we step over the line of faith and receive Christ, we’re forgiven. Isn’t that good news? All of our sins past, all of our sins in the present, all of our sins in the future are forgiven—gone. The slate is wiped totally clean. You might be asking this question: “Well, okay, once I become a Christian, once I walk with Christ, do I still need to confess?” Yes. We don’t confess for acceptance. We’re already accepted once we receive Christ to our lives. We confess because of community. When I sin before God, there is a barrier that is erected between myself and God. And when I confess, it opens up lines of community again. For example, when one of my four children does something against me, I’m still related to them. I’m still their father. I still love them, but the communication is blocked. The barrier is up until we get it right, and then community is open again. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just.
Now, He—who is He? That’s Jesus—He’s faithful. Why? He did the work. He paid the price. It doesn’t say to confess our sins to a priest. It’s not in there. It’s doesn’t say to confess our sins to a pastor. It’s not in there. Confess them to God. The book of Hebrews says—and I love this—that Jesus is our high priest. In theological terms, it’s called the priesthood of the believer. Every time I pray, when I conclude my prayers, I’ll say—listen to me—“In Jesus’ name, Amen.” He’s my high priest. Even when I don’t know how to pray, He’s interpreting my prayers, and even my groanings, to God. So once again, if we’ve sinned toward a fellow man or fellow woman, we’ve got to confess it to them also. We’ve got to add them to the loop.
James 5:16, “Confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.” Pick someone in your life who can hold you accountable. Pick a trusted friend. They could live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, or they could live in Fiji, for all God cares, but share your heart with them. Share what you’re struggling with. And when you find someone like that, they’re not going to say, “Oh, I can’t believe you’re struggling with that. I’ve never struggled with that.” They will empathize with you. And if someone has chosen you as an accountability partner, please do not do the radio-free thing and blab it to someone else. Do not say, “Oh, my accountability partner is struggling with this. They’re messing around with that.” Don’t. It’s between yourself and that person.
But this confession is not some cheap deal. It’s not some low-fat deal. It’s not Christianity “light”. Because intrinsically woven into the nature and fabric of confession is a commitment not to sin any more. We can’t play games. We can’t say, “God, I’m just going to ask You to forgive me. I confess this to You,” knowing that we’re going to do it again. We might do it again, but when you say, “God, to the best of my ability I’m turning from this sin,” you’re committing not to do it again.
Sin is serious stuff. Confession is serious stuff. It’s not cheap. It’s not some Wal-Mart or K-Mart discounted deal. It’s expensive because it cost the blood of Jesus, spilled on Calvary for our sins. All I’ve got to do is contemplate the cross and what he did for me, and that should rush me to confess and to commit that I’m not going to do the sin again. This text says that God will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I don’t care what you’ve done, what you thought, how bad you think your deal is—confession will occur. And remember this too: God forgives all sins.
But he does not remove the consequences. There will be consequences to sin. Tomorrow morning, I could go to a local bank and rob the bank. I’d get arrested very soon after that. And I could say, “Lord, forgive me for robbing the bank.” He would, but he’s not going to take away the time I’d serve in jail, the consequences of the sin.
Well, you might be saying to yourself, “How can I make this operative in my life? How can I make 1 John 1:9 real? Because, Ed, I keep on dealing with the sin, and sometimes the same sin, over and over.” So do I. So do I. If sin was not so tempting, and so fun, we would not participate in it so enthusiastically. But when we have victory over it—when we get it unclogged from our lives and do I John 1:9—we can go deep. Well, how do we make this operative? How can we understand it and get a grasp on it? How? How? How?
I want to quickly define some terms that I want you to take home with you as you go deep. The first term is: Extrapolate. It means, “to infer by projecting or extending known information.” In our staff meetings around here, we do a lot of extrapolation work. In the winter, about 400 yards from this facility, we’re going to build a 150,000 square foot training center. And we’re fired up about it. It’s going to have unbelievable classroom space for adult training and seminars and small groups. It’s going to have state-of-the-art preschool areas and Children’s Church space because right now, we’re busting at the seams. People are meeting in hallways and overflow areas. Why are we building? Because we did some basic extrapolation work and we said, “You know what? We’re already busting at the seams, and if God continues to bless Fellowship, we must build.” Do the same thing with your sin. Extrapolate your sin.
Okay, take for example, pride. If pride is left unchecked, what will it do to my marriage? What will it do to my career? What will it do to my relation ship with God? Slothfulness. Extrapolate it. Because once you do, you’ll go, “Whoa. I better 1 John 1:9 it. I better deal with it. I better keep short accounts with God.”
The second term we’ll define: Concentrate—“To draw toward a common center.” Focus. Concentrate. Here’s what most of us do who know Christ personally. Let’s say that we’re dealing with a sin. The first of the seven deadly sins is pride, and let’s say that we’re having a pride ride. I know you’ve never had this, but let’s just say we’re dealing with it. Here’s how we usually deal with pride. We pray a broad-brushed, spray-paint type prayer. We say, “God, I’m dealing with pride right now. It’s one of the seven deadly sins—one of the top ones—and right now I confess that to you, God. Help me to deal with pride. I want to be free from pride. In Christ’s name, Amen. Whew! Glad that’s over with.” That’s good. I’ve done that many times before. That’s a good thing. But it’s not a concentrated thing. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Well, how do I concentrate 1 John 1:9? How do I do it? How do I pray concentration-driven prayers? Let’s say that tomorrow morning, you’re going to be in a business meeting from 9AM until 11AM, and you know you’re going to be tempted to be prideful, to elevate yourself, to show your superiority. Well, at about 8AM, why don’t get on your knees and say, “God, I know in this meeting from 9AM until 11AM, I am going to deal with and be tempted to be really prideful. God, help me to have Your humility, Your grace, and Your attitude.” That is a focused prayer.
Or maybe your deal is envy. You might want to say, “God, take envy from my life.” Pray a focused prayer. Maybe you know that this Friday night you’re going to be invited over to a friend’s house, and your friend’s house is double the size of your house because he makes double the amount of money. And you know those envy engines will get revved up, vrrrroom, vrrrroom. Why not, Friday morning, say, “God, I know when I take a tour of this house, I’m going to be tempted to be envious. Help me, God, to be content with my content. Help me to be a ‘Teflon’ believer.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pick up last week’s tape. Do that.
Okay, let’s say your deal is lust. Hey, man, maybe you know you’ll be on a business trip Thursday night in Phoenix. You know you’ll be by yourself in a hotel room, and you know that, as most hotels do, they will have adult movies available for you. And you know that you can order an adult movie without the adult movie appearing on your hotel bill. Instead of saying, “God, take lust from my life,” just say, “Lord, I’m going to be in Phoenix, and between the hours of 10:30PM and Midnight, You give me Your mind, Your read on sexuality. Help me to concentrate on the purer things of life.”
Here’s what will happen when we pray concentrated, driven prayers. After the business meeting, when you reflect the nature and character of Christ, you’ll say, “Yeah!” Throw yourself a party. Say, “Man, I’m getting victory over my pride!” After you’ve taken a tour of your friend’s mansion, say, “Lord, thank You. You gave me contentment. I appreciated the stuff without having to own it. Thank You.” After you check out of the hotel room in Phoenix, say, “Lord, thank You. You gave me victory.” Pray concentrated, driven, highly focused prayers. It will change your life. It will take you from the surface to the depths.
Let’s define another one: Renovate—“To restore to good condition.” That is the focus of the Christian life. That’s what it’s about. To restore to good condition. That’s what confession and forgiveness will do. It’s amazing how hip it is these days to renovate houses and to renovate bedrooms and bathrooms. And when you renovate, you’ve got to do a lot of work. And if you do renovation yourself, you’re going to take out a lot of trash, a lot of garbage.
Several years ago, Lisa and I lived next door to a family that had two Rottweilers. These dogs were penned up in this privacy fence, they were never walked or taken out. There was a six-inch gap underneath the fence, and these dogs were so mean, they used to get underneath that gap and show their teeth at me and go “hnkgrrrr,” like that. One afternoon I was shooting basketball. I took a shot with my brand new Michael Jordan basketball. I missed it. It went over the fence, and I heard this sound, “hnnrk grrr grrrrr….shhhhhhhh….” They ate my basketball! Several weeks later—I had forgotten about the gap at the bottom of the fence—I was dragging out the trash. I had six hefty trash bags and was dragging them out to the street. All of a sudden, I felt something start pulling at me. I looked, and the Rottweilers were grabbing at the trash bags. They were trying to pull them underneath the fence! I was in a tug of war with them. Finally, I overpowered the dogs, took the trash out, and put it on the street.
When you begin to deal with the seven deadly sins, when you begin to take out the trash regularly in your life, the evil one, that Rottweiler, will go, “Don’t! Don’t do it! It’s not worth it. You’re not strong enough. Christ is not able. Don’t take out the trash. Don’t take out the trash!” But I challenge you to take out the trash, to deal with the seven deadly sins. Because when you take the trash out to the street, here’s what will happen. You’ll go back inside, you’ll look out the window, and you’ll see a white pristine Waste Management truck drive up. And on the side of this truck it’ll say, “God and Son Waste Management: Taking out Trash in Believer’s Lives for 2000 Years.” And you’ll see Jesus nod to one of the angels, and the angels will pick up your trash, throw it in the truck, and vrroooom, it’s gone. You don’t take the trash out, though, once a year. You take out the trash regularly and systematically. Because that truck is just picking it up and taking it away, picking it up and taking it away, picking it up and taking it away.
I kind of left you hanging on the scuba story. You’re probably thinking, “Well, Ed, did you just float on the surface, with Casey, Keith’s dive master girlfriend, for thirty minutes?” No, I didn’t. She worked with me, and slowly I began to descend, clear my ears. And slowly but surely, I began to go deep, and then I found myself swimming with Lisa, Keith the dive master, my friends, and Casey, exploring this beautiful reef. It was incredible. God does not want any of us to be stuck on the surface. He wants us to deal with sinetics, because when we do that, we’ll go down from the surface, and we’ll really go deep.