There isn’t anything wrong with that, I suppose, but sometimes the victorious life for me is just keeping my nose above water. “Victorious” applies to Jesus, not to me. But with that being said, I want you to change the world and make a difference…but in a way you’ve never heard before.
Make a difference by sinning.
Wait. That’s not exactly right. I’m not encouraging you to sin (you’re already doing pretty well on your own). But since your sin is already paid for, why not own it and use it?
The apostle Peter is our model here (and he’s a good one). We love Peter, not because he’s so good, but because he’s so human and sinful.
When the fisherman Peter was a disciple of John the Baptist, Jesus told him that he would become a fisher of men. Peter immediately left John and ran after Jesus.
When Jesus went away to pray and be by himself, Peter wouldn’t leave him alone, found him and said, “Everybody is looking for you. Where have you been?” Jesus said, “Oh, Peter…Let’s go and preach.”
When Peter and the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, Peter said, “If it’s really you, let me do it too.” Peter walked on water until the waves became big, and then he started to go under. Jesus had to pull him up from the water, wet and scared. I can hear Jesus say (again), “Oh, Peter…”
Peter said to Jesus, “I’ve had it. I’ve forgiven my brother seven times and that’s enough.” Jesus said (again), “Oh, Peter…Not seven, but seventy times seven.”
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James and John went up where Jesus met with Moses and Elijah. Peter was blown away. He didn’t know what to say, so he said it, “Let’s build a church.” Jesus said (again), “Oh, Peter…”
Peter’s arrogance was astounding. He said to Jesus, “I’m your man. These other guys will run, but not me. Jesus said (again), “Oh, Peter…You will deny me.”
In the garden when they arrested Jesus, it was Peter who cut off the servant Malchus’ ear. As Jesus put the ear back on, he turned and said (again), “Oh, Peter…”
At the Last Supper when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, Peter became agitated and mumbled under his breath. When Jesus got to him, Peter said, “There’s no way you’ll wash my feet.” Jesus said (again), “Oh, Peter…If I don’t wash you, you have no part of me.” Then Peter said, “Oh, spit. Then go ahead and wash everything.”
When Peter denied Jesus, horror of horrors, Peter realized that it was the third time and Jesus had heard it all. Their eyes met across the courtyard. Tears welled up in Peter’s eyes. And in his look, Jesus said (again), “Oh, Peter…”
Then when the dead Messiah got out of the grave and appeared to the disciples while they were fishing, Peter recognized Jesus cooking breakfast on the beach. Peter got so excited he put on his clothes (most folks would have done the opposite) and jumped into the water. Jesus looked up, smiled and said (again), “Oh, Peter…”
In Galatians, Paul recounts Peter’s hypocrisy. When the Pharisees came, Peter didn’t defend grace. He joined them. I’ve done that.
We love Peter, not because he’s so good, but because he’s so human and sinful.
We really struggle with sin. Frankly we wouldn’t be so shocked if we didn’t already have such a high opinion of ourselves. Since we choose our sin the way we buy something in a store and we can’t just return it, why not use it? The spin comes from Martin Luther’s “Sin boldly.” How to own your sin and use it.
Run to Jesus.
If you’re a sinner, run to Jesus. That’s called salvation.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
A while back, we interviewed Philip Yancey about his book, Vanishing Grace. He made the point that Jesus did two things. First, Jesus raised the standard really high. You don’t commit adultery, but what about lust? You don’t kill people, but what about anger? Second, Philip said that God sets grace at a very low level. It’s a safety net that anybody can jump into. Jesus was attracted to and attracted by bad sinners. But Jesus really ticked off the Pharisees and the religious folks. What we do is reverse that. We lower the standard and raise the safety net.
That’s not the Gospel. If someone told you it was, they lied to you.
There is a holy God whose demands are unbelievably high and impossible. But the Gospel is from Jesus, “Y’all come. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done. Don’t waste your sin or your guilt. Own it and run to Jesus.”
Run to other sinners.
If you’re a sinner, find other sinners and run to them. That’s called church.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people…” (1 Peter 2:9-10). “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).
Once you get to know us Christians, you won’t like us a bit. We are not very nice. We get in cliques. We will sometimes talk about you behind your back. We will sometimes do bad things. But if you stick around long enough, you’ll also find a wonderful, supportive family. Messy…sinful…and tight in ways no one else or no other organization can even begin to be.
If you’re a sinner, find other sinners and run to them. That’s called church.
I smoke a pipe. I once walked out of a hotel to smoke my pipe and ran into two other smokers. I said, “Hey, we’re the only three smokers left in America. The others died.” They laughed and immediately we bonded.
The church is like that. If you become a part of the church and proclaim your own goodness, the church is no longer the church. It’s just another religious organization. But take your sin and own it. We can be friends and maybe help one another. And it will be nice not to hide anymore.
If you’re a sinner, proclaim it to the world of sinners. That’s called witnessing.
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15).
The most powerful witness for Christ you can make is not your faithfulness, your compassion or your knowledge. The most powerful witness is your sin.
Don’t cut the legs off the Gospel. Don’t tell people how good you are. Tell them how bad you are…and then point to Jesus.
Don’t brag about your righteousness. Name your unrighteousness…and then point to Jesus, the only one who is righteous.
Don’t use yourself as an example of a good and faithful Christian. Use yourself as an example of a not very good or faithful Christian…and then point to Jesus.
Sober folks can’t witness to drunks. Pure people can’t witness to impure people. And good people can’t witness to bad people. Your sin is paid for. For God’s sake, use it.
Let Jesus make you better.
If you’re a sinner, be still and let Jesus make you better if he wants to. That’s called sanctification.
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8).
When I’m struggling and in pain, I need someone with skin on. Do my brothers and sisters know I’m hurt and struggling, how hard I’ve tried and failed, all the sleepless nights, and my guilt and shame? No, they don’t. I have to tell them. I have to take off my mask and you have to take off your mask. We have to take off our masks. Once that happens, then we can sometimes help one another be better, but we can always hug one another and cry together, tasting the salt of one another’s tears.
If your sin is paid for, own it and use it to do church.
Don’t ever waste your sin. God doesn’t.
Time to Draw Away
Read Romans 5:20 & Romans 8:1
Do you identify with Peter—struggling, sinning and constantly trying to get it right? The Good News of the Gospel is that your sin is covered. When you run to Jesus (not a bad place to be), you are forgiven, loved and accepted. And once that happens, you’re in the very position to change the world and make a difference. And it’s all him.