Follow The Leader
(Romans 6:15 – What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”
Forest Gump says, “life is like a box of chocolates,” but I tend to think it’s more like a game of Monopoly. We set out to play the game, thinking winning is determined by how much stuff we accumulate and how much money we have at the end of the game. We all draw our cards from a seemingly random deck. We all get to choose which character we want to be and determine for ourselves how we want to play the game. And the one thing that everybody wants to have in the game, and nobody wants to give up, is that coveted Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card. Because if you have the Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card, you never fear landing on that, “Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail” space. The grace of the Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card takes away all fear of going to jail, causing us not to worry so much about landing on that “Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail” space anymore. I can’t help but relate this to something I’ve noticed going on today in the real game of life. It seems to me like “Not under law, but under grace,” has become somewhat of a Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card for us as well. People seem to be more comfortable with holding on to sin in their lives than letting it go, confidently relying on that Get-Out-of-Jail, Free card to allow them to do so and bail them out. But just because you get out of jail for free, doesn’t mean the game is over. You still have to play the game, and there are still rules to follow. If we don’t follow them, the outcome of the game for us might not turn out as well as we hoped.
Without any sincere repentance or contrition of heart toward any specific sin in our lives, we want to huddle ourselves together under the, “we’re all sinners, saved by grace” blanket, and snuggle comfortably and companionably there. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, writes, “A person will easily say, “Oh yes, I know I am a sinner,” but when he comes into the presence of God he cannot get away with such a broad and indefinite statement. There is never any vague sense of sin, but a focusing on the concentration of sin in some specific area of life.” Sin is like sickness. Sickness is sickness, but there are different types of sickness and some are worse and more threatening to life than others. I’m not encouraging comparing sins here, I’m simply saying there are different gradations among sins. Kevin DeYoung, author of The Hole in Our Holiness points out, “there are two confusions about sanctification that need to be cleared up. The first is the mistaken notion that every sin is the same in God’s eyes. We’re all born sinners,” but “there is a difference between sin and gross sin. The Bible teaches that some sins are worse than others. Sacrificing your children to Molech was probably worse than losing your patience with them.” The problem with blanket grace mentality is that, “when every sin is seen as the same, we are less likely to fight any sins at all. It removes the impetus for striving against our personal sin.” (DeYoung). It causes indifference of heart toward a specific sin being committed, and where there is no concentration upon a specific sin, there is no confessing or forsaking of that specific sin. And forsaking of sin “through” God’s grace, not embracing of sin “by” God’s grace, is what we’re called to do. If we never acknowledge a specific sin we are committing, God’s cleansing grace cannot purge that sin from within us. We can be set free from the penalty of sin, and still be a slave to sinful behavior. We are all under the blanket of God’s grace for the atonement of sin through Jesus sacrifice, but there may still be specific sin in us that needs to be purged from us, and must be acknowledged by us.
After receiving a revelation of the holiness of God, Isaiah was able to see his sinfulness and cried out in despair, “Woe to me!” “I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:1-6). Once God revealed His holiness to Isaiah, and he acknowledged his sin unto the Lord, God sent a seraph to touch his lips with a “live coal,” saying “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away; your sin purged.” God concentrated Isaiah’s heart upon a specific sin because the sin could not be purged until it was concentrated upon. Oswald Chambers writes, “The cleansing fire had to be applied where the sin had been concentrated.” It still does today. We, like Isaiah, must have a revelation of the holiness of God before we can see our sinfulness. Only then will God be able to reveal our sin and purge it from us. One of the definitions of purge is: “The process of removing.” The Holy Spirit within us gives us the revelation of the holiness of God. No place for comfort will be found for sin in the one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. He is constantly in the process of revealing and removing sin in our lives. It is only through the convicting, concentrating power of the Holy Spirit, that we can even acknowledge our sin and allow God to begin the process of removing it from within us. Acknowledging sin in our lives is necessary to move forward in God’s purpose for our lives. “The painful cleansing process was necessary before Isaiah could fulfill the task to which God was calling him.” (NIV Commentary, Nelson Study Bible). Isaiah was being called to speak for God, therefore the words of his lips had to be pure. So too with us. We are called to represent the nature of Christ to the world, therefore our conduct must be pure. If we are being led by the Holy Spirit, we can be sure He will concentrate his convicting power on anything in us that is not pure. But once he does, we, like Isaiah, must acknowledge it, confess it, and repent of it. If we hold on to it, we become its slave and it our master. In Psalm 86:11, David cried out unto the Lord, “Give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.” I think David was speaking of more than a divided heart toward sin here. I think David realized that it runs much deeper than that. I think he realized that if he had a divided heart toward sin, he had a divided heart toward God. Isn’t that what unrepentant sin really comes down to? A divided heart between ourselves and the reverence of a holy God? Psalm 51:17 assures us, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” God will never despise a truly broken and repentant heart toward any sin, but I think he does despise an indifferent, insincere one. One indifferent to the cost of his grace that provided that coveted Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card for us. One that is insincere and seeks merely to use his grace to enable them to continue in sin.
There is a difference between messing up and just giving yourself over to your mess, missing the mark, while not attempting very hard to hit it, all the while knowing you have that Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card to pull out of your back pocket that reads, “Not under law, but under grace.” We quickly whip that card out of our pocket, totally forgetting the caveat written on the back of it, that says, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.” (1 Peter 2:16). To me, that’s kind of the same thing as saying, “Live by grace, but do not use God’s grace as a convenient Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card for your sin.” The key word here being “use.” As in the definition: “Act of being used; taking advantage of.” We abuse God’s grace when we misuse God’s grace. We can all relate to being used or being taken advantage of by someone to serve their purpose, and nobody likes it. I don’t think God much does either.
In John 21:22, Peter asked Jesus about his plans for a fellow disciple’s life, to which Jesus answered, “What is that to you? You must follow me.” We live in a world that tends to compare itself to others in rationalizing the sin in our own lives. In Matthew 15:14, Jesus warned, “If the blind follow the blind, both will fall into the ditch.” Not everyone clearly sees God’s truth and are following it, and that goes for ministers as well. We need to be very careful who we are following today. The commentary in the NIV Life Application Study Bible cautions, “The health of a body of believers is far more important than playing favorites with someone who is not meeting the standards set forth in God’s word.” That’s good advice. II Peter 2:12 warns, “There will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies” – “many will follow their shameful ways and it will bring the way of truth into disrepute. They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” We are under grace to deliver us and enable us from the power of sin ruling over us, but we are not to abuse God’s grace by deliberately attempting to use it as a means to enable us to continue in sin. If we truly love Christ, his grace will mean more to us than a simple get-out-of-jail free card. We need to stop trying to justify what we need to rectify. We might get away with trying to use people, but we will not get away with trying to use God. “Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-10). We have to get out from under blanket grace, and wrap God’s grace around the specific sin the Holy Spirit concentrates our hearts upon. And when we mess up, and we will, don’t justify, just rectify. As for who to follow, I think Jesus made that perfectly clear. “You must follow me.”
FOLLOW THE LEADER
There’s a little game called Follow the Leader that I used to play
In which all the children would follow whatever the leader would say
Wherever the leader would go we had to follow along
But sometimes I would change direction, and set off on my own
I didn’t like just following the leader, it seemed somehow to be wrong
To trust someone to chart a course for me, where I might not belong
Sometimes I didn’t want to go where the leader was leading me
I wanted to decide for myself where I wanted to be
Nothing much has changed since I played that childhood game
I’m still a bit of a rebel and that I will remain
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned I wasn’t wrong
To question where I was being led, rather than just blindly following along
The rebel in me then has served me well today
Because I’m still not willing to follow someone, who’s going the wrong way
I might end up on my own sometimes, but with that I am okay
Because I’m following a leader now who won’t lead me astray
He’s the only one who knows the rules of how the game of life is played
And he’s the only one by which the road to heaven for me is paved
He’s the only reigning champion of life’s game of Monopoly
And he’s the only hope I’ll ever have to get-out-of-jail for free!
There are many leaders in the world today
But there is only one who is himself The Way
So if you, like me, hesitate to play along
Just following a leader who might be leading you wrong
Stand your ground, look around, open your eyes and see
When it comes to following a leader
Jesus said,”You must follow Me.”