If you come to our church, you will find I probably shout the loudest “Hallelujahs!”, “Praise the Lord!”s and “Amens!” than anyone else. If we were talking in the natural, this state of affairs could be attributed directly to the fact that in the tribe which I come from we yell instead of speaking. In our village it is perfectly normal for two people to talk across a valley while they are a good 3 or 4 nautical miles apart. If a neighbor is passing by your house, he prefers to greet you from the other side of the road so he can express himself more satisfactorily. That means the whole village will know so-and-so is passing by. The favorite evening activity in our village is young men letting out great war cries which can be heard several villages away.
When members of my tribe come to the big cities we are a real problem to the cultured people there because we cannot talk quietly. One man from my tribe can silence an entire bus when he is talking on the phone.
But my tribal heritage really has little clout in my spiritual walk with the Lord. The real reason I shout and sing so loudly in church is simply because I love the Lord, and it is always in my heart to want to express my love and gratitude to Him with all my strength. During worship I will clap my hands and sing with all my might, telling of the goodness and love of God to me, and declaring my love to Him in return. And once the preacher begins preaching I shout “Amen!” regularly, assenting to his every word with all my heart. If I am in a quiet church I have to be quiet, of course, but I feel restrained! That does not mean I consider quiet people less spiritual, no! It is simply that I feel I want to express myself in a certain way, and I do.
Apart from my loud proclamations of love to my God in church I am also the perfect Christian, and it would require a long shot for anyone to point an accusing finger at me. Of course, there are small imperfections even a few brethren are aware of, but the bulk of the people whom I come into contact with would be forgiven to think I am perfect, considering the ‘perfect’ carriage I proffer!
And yet… even though I make such vocal declarations of love to my God, and in spite of my perfect conduct on the outside, I know the many areas in my life where I have failed the Lord and where I continue to fail Him. And they are not the small areas like anger against my wife or kids, but even in really big things.
Consider the fact, for example, that there was a time in my Christian life where I found myself looking at other women apart from my wife with a lustful eye. Now, looking is a different thing, but I went even further and actually began thinking about them. The Bible calls that sin adultery. You know, there are some things in the Bible that Jesus or the Apostles talked specifically only to men about and there are others that they talked to women about (For example, there are women who want to take charge at home or in the church and they are more than a thorn in the flesh, and they bring a dishonor to the gospel of Jesus Christ). With men, I believe they have a bigger problem with sexual sin in church than women.
These were sins that I would hide deep in my heart, and I would not allow the slightest hint of them to be known by anyone. The fact that I had not physically touched any woman gave me a sense of relief; but on the inside I knew it was a false one.
But I will tell you something more important that happened. The Lord knew what was going on in my heart and one day, by His grace He showed His light into my heart. When He did that I cried out. When the Lord showed me the rotten nature of my heart, I remember saying, “Lord, what have I done? How could I do this to you?” I did not ask God “How could I sin against You?” because I am always sinning; but it was more like, “How could I be so ungrateful as to go this far from You?” I felt helpless and dirty.
But an even more important thing happened. I repented of this sin. I tell you I repented. It was not in my power to stop this sin, but it was in my power to repent, and repent I did. I poured out my heart to God and asked for forgiveness and strength.
If you ask me how what happened after happened, I will tell you I do not know. But I do know something deep and tangible happened in my heart. And I do know it was a work of the Holy Spirit. After I had repented, I felt a cleansing, and I experienced total victory in my life. By ‘total’ I do not mean that I have not been tempted since, no. What I mean is that today I can go anywhere, and I can be away from my wife, and every day and in whatever situation I feel that victory in my life, strong and alive. I can look at any woman, and I can see beyond the outer sheen of her beauty and see the need in her heart.
That, my friend, whatever you call it I call it victory. And I tell you, there are many women out there who desperately need spiritual help, and we can only help them if we are walking in victory over the flesh. Otherwise, as is so often the case nowadays, we will take advantage of them. Or we will keep away from them, which is not much help!
You see, women will always be there, and if you are a carnal man you could waste your entire life moaning about why God put women on earth, etc. But I tell you, we must face the Cross and allow Christ to strip the body of sin from us. The Bible says clearly in Romans 8:3 that “God (in) sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”.
It is when we come into contact with the right gospel, the gospel of the revelation of the Cross of Jesus and what it came to do in our lives, that we are set free. When we hear the right gospel, we will have victory over sin. That’s a fact. The true gospel brings us to a place of true repentance. And true repentance brings true victory, be it a ‘big’ sin or a ‘small’ sin. Why? Because it allows the Holy Spirit to come work in our hearts, to transform us and give us that victory. Paul tells Timothy: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” 1 Tim. 4:16. What is that about? He is talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is able to deliver men and women from sin’s power.
How can we be born-again believers and continue to live under sin, or to walk under the power of sin? It is totally unacceptable to God. Probably it is acceptable to us and that is why we spend so much time wringing our hands about this or that. But Christ came for just one purpose: to defeat the works of the enemy, which works are sin.
The whole problem with Christianity today lies in the fact that we want to have victory over the devil but not over sin.
We conclude tomorrow.