If you have ever made wrong turns and poor choices you know they eventually lead to consequences. The road of sin is paved with fun & excitement in the beginning, only to carry its passengers to a place of darkness and despair. It’s here where most people decide they don’t like where they are. They want a better life, but wonder how they can get out from under the fight they find themselves in. The consequences of sin can mount up quickly – how can this thing be turned around? Like any good fight, eventually you have to defend yourself by throwing the first punch.
You have to fight back to take control of your life.
Growing up in the church and becoming a Christian at the age of 11, I have heard this phrase (or something similar to it) a lot when people are experiencing hard times, “Give it God or just turn to Jesus or God is only a prayer away” Though well intended I am sure, that always felt like some algebraic formula where you really don’t know what to do next. While that advice might work when facing certain situations, when it comes to correcting a wrong turn and overcoming sin, it’s incomplete. How do I give it to God? How do I turn to Jesus?
God can seem so distant from those who have wandered away. It is worth remembering here, that whatever distance there is between someone and God it must be asked: Who left? Who walked away? And if the solution to my problem involves going to God and turning to Jesus then the first thing I have to do is shrink that distance between me and Him. And the longer the distance, the more intimidating it can be.
What is the first step? What is the first punch we throw when fighting to regain our lives?
It is usually the obvious that is denied. Stop what led you to where you are! STOP the pattern that got you to where you are. For the alcohol or drug addict it is getting off alcohol and drugs. For the one who cheated on their spouse – stop cheating. For the one that lies – stop lying. If habitually getting in wrong relationships has led you where you are – be relationship free for awhile! If going into debt – first stop spending.
It’s amazing that this seems so simple yet it’s the #1 reason why people get deeper and deeper in their own mess. They simply cannot stop what led them to where they are.
The Bible has a word for this first punch: repentance. What is repentance? I like this definition: ‘Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved’. (Charles Spurgeon)
What does it mean to ‘love what was once hated’? I think a pattern of wrong choices not only leads us away from God – but it leaves us with enmity (which makes us an enemy) towards God. A few weeks ago I had dinner with a guy who was facing a felony prison sentence on drug charges. Since the initial crime, he has turned his life back towards God. As we talked about how we see God in the midst of our own failures, he commented to me that he was so angry with God in the years he was on drugs. As the words: angry with God” came out of his mouth he shook his head “which is ironic considering how I was living”.
But it’s just like that isn’t it? In the middle of this sin and hardness of heart so many times we are the ones angry at God! The first thing to do to get over this anger is to accept His plan for your life and that involves turning towards Him and away from your sin.
There is no other thing ‘first thing’ to do when making a comeback from failure other than to throw the first punch. Repent. Don’t let the word intimidate you. Going to church isn’t needed. Talking to a pastor or priest isn’t required. Praying a prayer isn’t enough. It is accepting the fact that Jesus gave His own life so that you don’t have to pay for the wrongs you have or are doing. That’s half of it. But there’s more to overcoming failure. The other half is the hard part: you need to stop whatever led you to where you are.
Get help if it’s needed. Do whatever it takes to remove the obstacle that will keep you from the life you want and the God that loves you. The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t want! You can’t hang onto the habit and hope to do better. You can’t reach for a better life with one hand while you are hanging onto what brought you down in the other. Throw the first punch. Push away from you the things that want to destroy your life. No matter how hard or embarrassing it may be to get help.
Following Christ is not a declaration of our perfection, but of HIS perfection. It is because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness.