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Failure To Admit Personal Sin: An Obstacle To Growth

The Statement of Faith for Small Church Connections states the following:

“We believe that each member of the human race is fallen, sinful and lost; that salvation is possible only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and is received on the basis of faith alone apart from works and is characterized by regeneration by the Holy Spirit.”

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada states the following in its Statement of Faith

“The salvation of lost and sinful humanity is possible only through the merits of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, received by faith apart from works, and is characterized by regeneration by the Holy Spirit.”

One of the many evangelical churches in Canada states this in their Statement of Faith:

“The salvation of lost and sinful humanity is possible only through the merits of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, received by faith apart from works, and is characterized by regeneration by the Holy Spirit.”

I could go on to list hundreds of other examples in which an evangelical statement of faith includes the biblical fact that because of the fall of Adam and Eve the human race is sinful needing a Saviour to provide an answer to sin in this world.

As individuals and as churches we agree that at the core of our being we are sinners who need to believe in the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross if we are going to experience forgiveness for our sins.


General sins versus specific sins

Actually in broad terms, it isn’t that difficult to admit that we are sinners. After all, everyone else in the world is a sinner too, so that just groups us with the rest of the world’s population.

When problems start to arise is when we have to acknowledge specific sins. A preacher can tell us that we are sinners but just let someone get specific and start naming the sins and that becomes a different story.

We can handle being told that we are sinners but don’t say that we have a bad temper or that we gossip or that we are lazy or that. . . . . (insert whatever sin you wish). When you get specific, we don’t handle it nearly so well.

I watched one of my favorite sports movie this week. Rudy is the story of a young man trying to make it into the University of Notre Dame. Once he becomes a student, his goal is to make the football team. He asks a priest if he can help him and the priest replies by saying that after all his years as a priest, he has come to two conclusions. The first is that there is a God. The second is that he isn’t Him.

I want to suggest a slightly different take on those two truths. The first is that God is perfect. The second is none of us are God. As much as we hate to admit it not only are we sinners in general terms but we are guilty of specific sins as well. We failed to meet God’s standard in general terms just by being part of the human race. We are born sinners like every other person on earth.

We fail to meet God’s standard in specifics because we are guilty of specific sins. We lust; we gossip; we lie; we hate; we seek revenge; we covet.

I sin and you sin. I fail and you fail. I make mistakes and you make mistakes. We are not God, which means that we sin in very concrete ways.


A personal application

When I was a young man I had a bad temper. I would get angry over the stupidest things and more often than I like to admit my wife would be the recipient of my anger. I never never have physically harmed her in any way but I was not very Christ-like when I yelled at her and failed to listen to anything that she tried to say.

For a long time I shrugged it off as merely a personality trait. Some people were lazy. Other people were undisciplined. I got angry. It was just who I was. People just had to take me that way, temper and all.

One day I got into an argument with my wife and as I did so often I became angry over the fact that she didn’t agree with me. As was normal in such situations I stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind me and went for a walk. As I walked down the road, I entered into a conversation with God. The conversation was in my mind but I knew that God was speaking to me.

It was a very one-sided conversation in which I did very little talking. God redefined my anger. He made it very clear that my anger was not a personality trait. It was sin. What I had just done to my wife, yelling at her and then storming out, was sin. There was no other way to describe it.

That was a turning point in my life. I could easily live with a personality trait. I couldn’t live with blatant sin. A transformation started that day that took years to complete. From that point on I would still get angry but I never again viewed it as an acceptable part of my life. Today God has given me almost total victory in that area. For me, it is proof positive that over time, the Holy Spirit can and does transform us into the image of Jesus Christ.

At the heart of that transforming process is a willingness to accept the reality that we all have areas of sin in our lives. We need to accept the fact that we are not only sinners in general. We are guilty of very specific sins that can be identified.

One of the greatest gifts that God can give to any of us is a person or persons whom we trust who will identify those sins. We need someone who will help us identify reality in our personal lives. It isn’t easy to have someone point out our sins and weaknesses but it is essential if we are going to experience transformation at the core of who we are.


Corporate application

What is true of us as individuals is also true for us as churches. Far too many church leaders don’t want to hear about those areas in which their church is failing. They don’t want to have the specifics pointed out to them.

Just as there are no perfect people, so there are no perfect churches. That shouldn’t surprise us in that churches are made up of imperfect individuals. How can we expect that a corporate body made up of sinners will be perfect.

One of the greatest gifts that God can give to a church, is a person who will question and challenge the decisions that a church leadership team makes. I imagine that many of you right now are reading this and questioning my sanity. The last thing that you need is another person who questions everything that you do.

I am not talking about the chronic complainer. I’m not talking about the person who simply criticizes everything that a church might do. Those people are a burden that leadership must bear.

I’m talking about the person who raises thoughtful, concerned questions for leadership to consider. I’m talking about the person who is concerned for the good of the church and is concerned that the decision that has been made could result in problems down the road.

A leadership team, consisting of redeemed sinners, should welcome anything that is going to help them get a firmer grip on reality. They should welcome those questions that are going to force them to rethink their decisions and possibly avoid future issues that could arise.

Remember, as a leadership team, the two truths that I mentioned earlier.

There is a God who is perfect and you, individually or corporately, are not He.

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