Sin. One huge problem.
It affects all of us. The consequence is death and everything we touch is tainted with death.
All the time we’re surrounded by this problem and if you think about it, it’s the problem that is the root cause of all the other problems.
This tiny word is the reason people trample each other on black Friday. This is the reason behind load shedding. This is the reason behind state capture and corruption. This word is the reason behind every heart ache and every tear that has fallen.
In my last post The Problem we started unpacking this crazy little word, and the equation we used was this:
The mark of God’s standard. God’s standard of perfection, and as I mentioned previously that when we do that, God warned us the consequence is death.
With The Problem I was hoping that we had a bit of a perspective changed. Remember the two things I said I wanted to achieve?
A change in perspective;
Where did I get this from? From this statement:
With the first post we looked at perspective. Today I want to unpack the first part of the solution.
The moment you become really aware not only of a problem, but also its size, you’re going to see things differently and take a step in the right direction.
You’re riding an escalator, when somewhere in the middle it al of a sudden stops. And your perspective is that these stairs are supposed to be moving. So you’re just going to stand there and scream for help.
If a husband doesn’t see a problem in his marriage, he’s not going to sit down with his wife, never mind the pastor. He might think she’s just going through a phase. Let me buy her a handbag. It should pass.
If you’re sitting in the back of a game-drive truck, unaware that an elephant is approaching. You keep looking at the birds, and the buck, and the Zebra. Surely it’s not such a big problem? Maybe you tell the driver, “Well I’ve got some peanuts here. Will it help if I try and feed him?”
How do you work on discovering a solution, if you’re not even aware of the problem or its magnitude?
What I hoped to achieve with my previous post was that you would realize the magnitude of the problem, and that this is really, really bad!
They had a survey done, almost 100 years ago by Time magazine. They sent out a question to the top minds across the world, asking this question; to which G.K. Chesterton replied:
He got this perspective right.
Let’s discuss now discovering a solution.
Now this is where I was stuck with a bit of a delema, because the solution has got two important parts.
One part is really tough. Really difficult.
And the other part, I don’t even really have words for it. It’s incredible, it’s amazing, it’s unbelievable. It is so unbelievable that some people battle to believe it.
And I’m sitting and thinking which part should we do first?
I know you don’t like to hear this, but I thought let’s do the tough part first.
It’s something you don’t often see in the 21st century. What is that?
That is the part of the solution I want to unpack with you in this post. A raised hand.
What could it actually mean?
We’ll, you could be waiving back at the queen. In the court of law in the states, you could be taking an oath. You could raise both hands, finally we’re done with 2021.
It could mean, I’m part of the answer.
But what does a raised hand mean across the world?
It is all saying the same thing. It’s me. I have a confession. I want to repent. I want to change.
I always try and have one point. People take home different things as I unpack a subject, but here’s the one take home for all of us:
The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm. – Swedish proverb.
You say from whom? I think that is a rather good question to ask.
From three whoms the way I see it:
You need to raise your hand to yourself.
You need to raise your hand to others.
And you need to raise your hand, to the most important of all – to God.
So I want to unpack those three. Let’s start with that first one.
Remember this is why I’m saying if you’re not aware there’s a problem, you’re not going to pursue a solution.
When you think, “I don’t need help.” You’re not going to look for a solution. Or sometimes we say, “Listen I’ve got this.” It’s not going to happen again, besides the fact that it happens multiple times a day.
I want to share an illustration with you.
From time to time Pastors are phoned by husbands, wifes or parents, asking them to speak to their partner or kids. Not because they are sick or need prayer, but because they are experiencing the problem.
Do you know what a pastor’s default answer is to a question like that?
You say what? Why?
How do you think pastors protect the one working day a week policy they have?
The pastor might say no, but here is what I want you to do:
I want you to give the contact number of your pastor, mediator or therapist to your husband/wife or teenager which you are having the problem with.
To see if they will raise their hand.
Because if it is the other way around, it means that they are not interested in pursuing a solution – there isn’t a problem.
And if you’re not willing to put up your hand and confess to yourself, I need help, freedom and breakthrough is not going to arrive.
You’ve seen it in the movies, at the AA meetings. What happens in that circle?Each time someone has a turn to speak. This is the culture. This is the rule that they implement. They’ve got to say, “Hi, my name is Francois, and I’m a cofeeholic.”
What are they getting those people to do?
To speak out your name, your problem, your ears to hear that. It’s a line that is forcing you to raise your hand.
I want to share with you a verse from James. Such a small, powerful book at the end of the new testament.
Raise your hand each to the other. What is James saying?
In the 21st century context what is he telling us? Is he saying, tell the world?
No, that’s foolish.
Is he saying, tell a priest so that you can reconnect with God? No, that’s not what he’s saying.
Here’s the principle about raising your hand:
Raise your hand to those who you’ve failed.
Raise your hand to those that can help you go forward.
Let’s look at those two quickly.
Let’s reverse the roles here for a second. Why does God want us to do this?
Let’s just pretend someone has really hurt you. Someone has really failed you. Someone has missed the mark for you, and has sinned against you.
What does God expect us to do? It’s not a suggestion, it’s a commandment.
Forgive them. Bottom line.
How much easier is that to do when they come to you with a raised hand and say, “François, I blew it. I’m sorry, I need help.”
Does that mean you only forgive people that come and say I’m sorry, and raised their hand?
No, that’s not scriptural, that’s not what I’m saying. What am I pointing out? It’s just so much easier.
God is teaching us:
Do you want to fasilitate peace in the marriage?
Do you want to fasilitate peace in the home, in the workplace?
Raise your hand. It just makes forgiveness so much easier.
Some of you have been married for thirty, forty years and not once have you gone to your husband, not once have you gone to your wife and said, “Love I’m really sorry, I blew it, forgive me.”
And you stand amazed as to why your marriage is dead. Because the consequence of sin is death.
When you keep on experiencing sin. When you feel like you keep missing the mark, doesn’t it feel like you’re in a hole that you have fallen? Doesn’t it feel like you’re so cold and so isolated? Doesn’t it feel like a battle that you’re battling to win?
Where do I get those metaphors from?
From a verse that I’m almost certain you’ve read before:
Teenagers, believe it or not, your parents want to help you.
Business people, your small group leader wants to help you.
Wifes, your husband wants to help you.
Husbands, in fact your wife as been created to help you.
God’s grace, grace for forgiveness, grace of power to overcome sin, is a gift. He doesn’t shove it in your lap, He doesn’t shove into your face, He respects your freedom.
Remember what I shared in THE Problem. The perfection He created gave us freedom. We had the freedom to say we’re in! This is awesome! Or no, we want to do it our own way. Our freedom has not gone away. We can still look at God and say, “I’m not interested.”
Or we can say to God, “Please help me. I need you”
God is saying if you raise your hand, I want to forgive you and I want to help you.
At the beginning of this post it was with a bit of tongue in cheek when I said it is difficult to do, but it’s true.
It is difficult for us to raise our hand and to admit that we need help. To say, “I’m sorry.”
Because we protect something we think is a little treasure. Something that’s my little asset called:
I want to look good. I want to feel good. I want to be perceived as good.
It’s not an asset, it’s a liability. So instead of putting up our hands and saying, “Help me.” What do we do?
We shift blame;
or we hide, hide ourselves, hide our mess;
or we downplay.
We’re doing this all the time, in fact somewhere somehow you’re doing it right now.
Let’s look at that first one when I say:
Let’s go back to Adam and Eve and that crazy story. God gives them one instruction. And we know they messed that up.
And God stands in front of Adam. I find this so incredible. What does Adam say?
He pointed to Eve. “This woman You gave me. She was naked, I couldn’t think straight.” – It’s a modern translation.
This woman YOU gave me. It’s not my fault. It’s Eve’s fault, and in fact God it’s your fault.
I find it so fascinating, because what did Eve do? She in turn pointed to the snake.
This is exactly what we do. We blame something. My personality, my boss, the government, myself.
Or someone. One of the saddest days in South African sporting history was when a loved captain of a cricket team tells the whole world, “The devil made me do it.”
But that’s what we do. We shift the blame. Well if my husband treated me better then I (fill in the blank). If she respected me more then I (fill in the blank). If my parents were there for me I (fill in the blank). If my government used our money properly then I (fill in the blank). If I just took that chance then I (fill in the blank).
We hide our mess, we hide ourselves. Let’s go back to Adam and Eve. I find this so incredible. Before even speaking to God what were they doing?
Hiding themselves physically! I think that is so funny, and so tragic at the same time. That’s like two children trying to play hide and go seek with Sherlock Holmes in the telephone booth. What were they thinking!?
But we do this all the time. In fact there’s a story in the old testament where we see this play out in the life of David. Here’s a man after God’s own heart, but he goes and commits adultery with one of the general’s wifes. His friend’s wife.
You know the story. She falls pregnant. So what does he start doing? Comes up with a clever plan. Tries to bring his friend home, gets him drunk and tries to explain. That plan backfires. Plan B, let’s bump him off, everything’s covered. Let’s move on.
And along comes Nathan the prophet. And he unpacks a little parable that when we read it in the twentfirst century, we know it’s just a parable, but it gets our blood boiling.
And he says to king David, here’s this poor family with one little lamb. This is the family lamb, they loved this little thing. It would sleep with them and eat at the dinner table with them. But the neighbour, who is a multi-millionaire who has got hundreds of sheep. He decides to have a braai with his mates one day. He doesn’t touch any of his sheep, he steals the neighbour’s lamb and uses it for the lamb chops.
Go check. What does David do? He literally jumps up in fury and asks who is this millionaire? Who is this man?
What does he say?
As I read this story I’m thinking, you’re so right David, because the consequence of sin is death.
And I can imagine Nathan. I wish I was there that day. He’s got his crooked little finger in David’s face and says, “It’s you.”
We try to play hide and go seek with the Creator of the universe. We’re doing this all the time. Let me quickly clear my browser search history so that she doesn’t see, click, click, click, click…
Let me just do this, or have a quick puff of that, a quick peek at this, a quick sip of that, because nobody is watching.
We say things, and this comes out of all of our mouths, “Well I’m not perfect you know. I’m just human.”
Jesus shares a parable in Luke chapter 18. Well a lot of parables. Awesome chapter to go and read, and this is one of them.
He says to his audience. He says, “One day a pharisee and a tax collector walk into the temple to pray.”
For you and I that doesn’t really mean much, but for a first century mind, that story would’ve been a huge disconnect. A huge shock. Because for them a pharisee is someone you look up to. But a tax collector is the bottom of the barrel.
So let’s put it in a 21st century context. A nun comes to church and a pedophile. And the nun comes to church and says, “Thank you God for who I am. That I’m not a sinner, I don’t steal and I don’t cheat, and I’m not like that pig pedophile sitting over there.”
But the pedophile sitting at the back of the church. His head is down, he’s crying his eyes out and says, “God, I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t even deserve to be alive.”
We all think we’re nuns. I’m not as bad as that guy. I didn’t do something as bad as she did.
Okay, I booked off one day sick leave, okay I wasn’t sick, but it’s not like I’m hi-jacking cars here.
Okay, I got a bit drunk. We’re watching inapropriate movies, but no one is getting hurt here.
We’re doing a couple of cash deals, not letting it go through the books, but do you know how many people I’m employing?
We down play.
What are you shifting, what are you hiding, what are you down playing?
Whether you miss the mark by a millimeter or a kilometer, a mis is a mis.
The consequences are huge. How does Paul handle sin? How does he handle the problem? He said something in the book of Timothy. He writes something that is totally ridiculous.
What is he saying?
I am so aware of the problem in me, I can’t even conseve that there is anyone worse than me. His perspective is pretty accurate.
Let’s have a look at the first half of that verse. Let’s see how he unpacks that in the beginning.
He is saying, this is my perspective on this problem, and I’ve got some news for you, I think it should be your perspective too.
I’m not down playing anything, I’m not hiding, I’m not shifting.
For goodness sakes, put up your hand.
Put up your hand and say, “God, I am a problem. God, I am causing a problem. God, I have a problem.”
Because you know what Jesus was highlighting in that parable? The nun wasn’t putting up her hand. The pedophile was.
Who can He help? The pedophile, not the nun. Find a helping hand at the end of your own arm.
As you’ve been reading, what have you been thinking? Where have you been shifting, down playing, hiding? What individuals in your life do you need to go and put up your hand to, but you’re to arrogant or scared to say, “I’m sorry.”
What problem have you been battling with, but you’re keeping it secret, in the dark, because you’re too embarresed to go to someone and say, “Help me.”
Where have you been avoiding God, the creator of this universe. Playing hide and go seek, but He stands with a truckload of grace.
We’ve only dealt with the hard part of the solution. There is still an unbelievable part I would like to unpack for us, but first I would like to pray for us.
It’s an uncomfortable illustration God, but I want to walk into your presence going into 2022. Not like a nun (self-righteous), but like that man who was so lost. With a right perspective, and a hand raised to myself, to others, and most importantly to you. Because God, I need help. I need your grace, I need your mercy, I need others around me to help me. Whatever you’ve said, whatever you’ve spoken, may I do that in 2022. Give me the strength Lord, give me the courage. I don’t want to protect this pathetic little treasure called pride anymore. Amen.