Chapter 5. Getting in Position - The Turn
Review the four responsibilities to which God promised to respond.
"Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place." (2 Chronicles 7:14-15).
(1) Humble yourself, (2) Pray, (3) Seek God, and, here is the last one, (4) Turn from sin. Each are directed actions urged and enabled by God's Spirit within the believer that compose the positional basics you are learning to incorporate into your life.
I was presenting this material in a group not long ago and was asked, "Which of the responsibilities is most difficult for you?" Then the questioner asked speculatively, "Is it the last one?"
After thinking about it for a moment, I answered, "No, not the last one. For me, the most difficult responsibility to actually accomplish is the first one, humbling myself. The last one, turning from sin, is the one I least want to try to accomplish." Apart from the presence of God, sin can be very alluring.
At its base, sin is a revolt from God...the desire to live independently from him. Yet, this book presents to you as a believer who desires to experience the effectiveness of God's promise, to conduct your assigned responsibilities on Jesus' terms...to play the position in close surrendered obedience to him. The presence of sin interferes with all that, and the allurements of sin to satisfy your independent self-driven human nature are varied, strong, powerful, subtle, and constantly encountered.
I write with the assumption that you have experienced the spiritual transformation of salvation referenced in Chapter 1. If that is the case, you are saved from the eternal consequences of sin...the promise of heaven is yours. You are also in what theologians call the process of sanctification...the process that will continue through your physical life on earth as you learn to be ever more compliant with God's expectations.
You are introduced into a way of living that is empowered by God through his Spirit in you. Long term, sin is defeated; short term, it continues as a factor with which you are learning to deal effectively by God's power...a critical part of playing the position. Thus, the great importance of adjusting back into position when distracted from it...the turn from sin to God's promise.
The Bible speaks directly to the tension between love for God and love for the allurements of sin.
Take a few minutes to set a baseline. Reflect upon these two scriptures. Honestly identify where you are right now between loving God and loving the world's offers. Peg where you are, not where you think you should be.
God (5) (4) (3) (2) (1) ... (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) World
Do two things. First, make note of your answer with the date and time. You will come back to this measurement tool later. Second, use your prayer ramp and tell Jesus your ranking. Ask him to move you toward himself. He will begin to do so, and his action will challenge you to turn from sin that he will reveal.
This chapter will focus upon the process of turning from sin to the forgiveness of God. You will need to lock onto four pieces in the process.
So, let's get started.
"Jesus was asked one day what he considered to be the greatest commandment. He answered, 'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.'" Matthew 22:37
"Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world." 1 John 2:15-16
Have you ever thought about how many shades of white exist? I was working on a do-it-yourself home improvement project that required that I paint-match some white trim. After hours of guessing, I never did get that match exactly right. When I look at that project now in the light, I can see the difference between the original pure white and the one-off shade I thought was close enough. Had I submitted to the eye of an expert, the choice would have been quickly resolved. But, I was pridefully determined to do it myself and have lived uncomfortably with off-white since.
It is a lesson on sin. No matter how hard you work to clean yourself up or how good you try to be, compared to the pure holiness of God, you are going to be, at the very least, tainted off-white. Pure white will always reveal anything less.
When you honestly move through the responsibilities of the position...humble yourself, pray, and seek God...God will stop the process when you attempt to come into the purity of his presence with un-resolved sin...be it an off-white stain or something considerably darker. Something beyond your ability must occur to clean that stain. God's Spirit in you begins the process by bringing to your realization the presence of sin. It will be specific and identifiable. You will know exactly that to which he is pointing.
"For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard." Romans 3:23
"If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth." 1 John 1:8
The Bible records a prayer in Psalm 51. It is the poignant expression of a man faced with God's confrontation of a specific and grave sin. The man is King David of ancient Israel. The sin is infidelity and murder to cover it.
Take a couple of minutes to soak on the words and emotion of David's prayer. Now, apply David's expression to yourself. What does God reveal?
David is the only person referred to in the Bible as "a man after God's own heart." He was experienced in the concepts we covered in the previous chapters, humility and seeking God's face.
Yet, here you see him desperate to regain that which had become lost to him because of sin...the presence of God. It is clear that David was acutely aware of his separation from God and what caused it. What about you?
Once you are made aware of a specific sin, you will be faced with two decisions for which you are responsible and must be addressed in order to get back in position. Here is the first one...admit the sin.
When confronted with his sin, David had a choice to make. He could admit his guilt, or he could cover it and proceed with unresolved separation from God. You may be living with that same choice. It is a miserable place for a believer to be.
David was accustomed to a constant, ongoing intimate relationship with God by which he received comfort, protection, guidance, and love. All that was deprived from him because of sin. He was desperate for reunion with God...to regain that which had become lost to him. He chose to admit his sin.
"Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion, it haunts me day and night."
"And when he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment." 1 John 16:8
These first two pieces of a believer's reconciliation with God, realization of sin and admission, are often referred to with the words "conviction" and "confession." The complainant seeking remedy is God's Holy Spirit in you who refuses to coexist with sin.
Think of conviction and confession in the context of the first three responsibi-lities...humble yourself, pray, and seek God...virtuous engagements designed to put you in position, in the presence of God. In the process of so engaging, God will make you aware of unresolved sin, something that cannot be present if you are to be in position and play it effectively. His Spirit in you becomes the alarm that alerts you to a problem that must be resolved.
It is like the alarm system in your home. When triggered in the middle of the night, it alerts you that a security breach has occurred. It is unmistakable and designed to spur you to immediate action to protect your family and yourself from a clear and present threat.
The alarm system is designed to instantly gain and hold your full attention. It forces a choice...(1) identify and resolve the threat or (2) ignore it. We will circle back to the first choice shortly. Right now, it is important that you deal with the second one...ignoring the warning.
It is a dangerous thing to do. It involves desensitizing yourself to the sound of the alarm. I know...dumb as a rock, right? Yet, desensitization will happen by degrees as it is practiced repeatedly over time.
It is unlikely that you will choose to ignore the warning with your family at risk from fire or an intruder intending harm. But, it is entirely possible that you have made that choice spiritually, ignoring the clear prompting of the Holy Spirit that a specific sin has interrupted your relationship with Jesus.
Here is how that dangerous process plays out in the life of a believer.
You will have realized the sin. It will be specific, and God's Spirit will have brought it to your conscious attention.
STOP AND GET THIS PART! It describes a process that can endanger everything you hold precious in your life. Bring to mind what you learned about humility and pride as you work through the next several paragraphs.
Once sin is revealed, a wrestling match begins between your flesh nature and your spirit nature. The object of the conflict is your will to admit the sin and agree with God that it must be remedied and removed.
The enticement of sin is powerful and subtle. It draws at your flesh nature, and it feels good...so good that the danger of being separated from God...living out of position, can be rationalized and gradually accepted as a reasonable option.
As the wrestling continues, rationalization becomes more deeply entrenched and desensitization to the Holy Spirit's sin-alarm advances. You think of guarding the sin and the behavioral/emotional patterns that surround it as essential to your life. Further, you begin to rationalize that somehow God will understand and overlook it. That thought evolves even more dangerously as you convince yourself that the sinful act is actually God's will for you. Once again...dumb as a rock.
Wrestling matches as just described are common. I am aware of instances in the lives of believers that have gone on for years. The individual, living out of position, desperately clinging to an unresolved sin, separated from the blessing of God, accepting ineffectiveness or even destruction of specific areas of life in order to hold to it, incredibly presuming to hide the reality of unresolved sin from God. It is a miserable existence, and it is completely unnecessary.
Here is the other option. Respond immediately to the alarm; admit the revealed sin; agree with God that it must be remedied and removed.
Stop just a minute and allow me to remind you of something very important. Go back to Psalm 51 above. Put yourself in David's shoes and read it again. Then the invest a few minutes to absorb these scriptures. If God has revealed a sin, you are not on your own. He will provide the wherewithal to admit that sin and guide you through resolution.
As a believer, you were; now you are. That simple fact is the anchor of your life and of your uninterrupted relationship with Jesus.
When you discovered and embraced belief in Jesus, you inherited something that only occurs by his grace and promise…his indwelling Spirit. You died to what you were and became newly alive gaining a new nature, something about which you learn more each day of your journey with him.
Because of his indwelling presence, you may consider yourself to be dead to the power of sin and alive to Jesus, his way, his authority, his provision, his forgiveness, and his love. Yes, the enticements of the world are real and powerful. Yet, because of his gift of grace in you and the unfathomable power of his Spirit, you may effectively resist that which pulls you away from him. In fact, Jesus will stand between you and temptation. All you need do is ask. You were; now you are. Stand with courage upon that fact.
So, when a sin occurs and, at the Holy Spirit's prompting you realize it, you have the option to admit the sin and ask God to remedy your desire and cancel out the sinful act or thought. He then brings you to the second decision.
"For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:3
"Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him." Colossians 3:10
"So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus." Romans 6:11
"And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father." Colossians 3:17
Turn from it
The first decision you face when made aware of sin is to admit it. Here is the second decision, do a 180...stop it and turn from it.
It is called repentance. It is a conscious turning away from wrong actions, attitudes and thoughts that conflict with a Godly lifestyle and biblical commands, and an intentional turning toward doing that which the Bible says pleases God.
In the New Testament of the Bible, the word "repentance" is from the Greek word metanoia. It carries the meaning, "to think differently after a change of mind." That concept...fresh thinking after a change of mind is at the heart of the turn. Changing direction...turning away from that which pulled you out of effectiveness is essential in the process of recovering your position of effectiveness. How's that for stating the obvious?
So...what if you do not make the decision to turn. Consider the example of the player on the field. The player's position effectiveness is dependent upon knowledge and consistent practice of specific responsibilities. When the player fails to meet those responsibilities, the coach will make a point of informing the player that he is out of position..."awareness/conviction". If the player is smart, he will submit to the coach's authority, instantly agree with him, and adjust action to comply with position responsibility..."agree/confess" and "turn/repent".
"Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away."
“God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him." Acts 17:30
"Peter replied, 'Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.''' Acts 2:38
But, let's say that player is proud, headstrong, and has convinced himself that his way is more important than that of the coach. The player decides to ignore the coach and continues to play out of position. You can be sure that the coach will stop the game, remove that rebellious player from active play, and park him on the bench where he will remain until he reaches a decision to comply with the coach.
That is a word picture of a believer entrenched in an unresolved sin. The relationship with Jesus remains, but fellowship and all its benefits is interrupted...out of the game, out of
fellowship with his team and his coach ...spiritually benched.
Let's make this personal. If you have honestly worked your way to this point, it is very possible that God has dealt with you regarding a particular sin in your life. My writing of this chapter was delayed for the same reason. I had to get honest with God about unresolved sin...admit it and turn from it before I could return to effective writing. The bench is not a fun place to be. So, I will remind you again of something exceptionally important...embrace the fact of God's love and grace.
Now what? Consider a prayer from the bench...Psalm 51. Go read it again...this time, as your personal prayer. You may be exactly where David was. He had been made aware of the sin, He agreed with the accusation. He accepted the consequences of his sin. He turned from it, and he was restored to fellowship.
The same Holy Spirit who made you aware of the sin provides the strength, courage, and determination to turn from it. Once you agree with him in the decision to turn, he will guide you through the process of extraction from sin and from the complicated emotional and behavioral patterns that often surround it. Remember...he has defeated the power of sin.
Here is what happens next.
This is the best part. When you realize, admit, and turn from sin, God forgives and restores. It is that simple. The question of God's forgiveness is answered firmly. Believe it. Accept it.
The highlighted words of 1 John 1:9 in the side bar are so simple. Twenty-four words that can be read in less than three seconds and contain the most profound message of love, freedom, and forgiveness you will ever encounter. Read them aloud. Personalize it. "If I confess my sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all wickedness."
Forgiveness is a grace-act of God...a gift, underserved yet powerfully real that opens the way for you to enter his presence and return to the position for which you are designed. It matters not that you "feel" forgiven. It is a fact to be accepted by faith in the reality of God's promise.
I could write a lot more about the miracle of forgiveness, but it would just be a rehearsal of the last paragraph. So...rather than more words, how about you grab it, believe it, accept it, and play the position for which you are designed!
"If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." 1 John 1:8-9
One last thing. At the beginning of this chapter, I asked you to identify where you are regarding loving God vs. loving the world's offers. Score it again and compare to where you were. See if an honest look at the process of turning from sin has changed things.
Remember, peg where you are, not where you think you should be.
God (5) (4) (3) (2) (1) ... (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) World
Make note of your answer with the date and time and compare it with your prior result.
Now you know about the turn...absolutely essential and often difficult. Like the P-51 instructor said, "I know this feels unnatural, but the more you do it, the more natural it becomes." Practice the turn. Psalm 51 is your instruction manual.
A Brief Conclusion
With the turn, the responsibilities are a complete set...humble self, pray, seek the face of Jesus, turn from sin. These four responsibilities are not boxes to be checked and done. They are continually interactive elements in the life of one who longs for the effective integration of God's promise with real life...to play the position for which you are designed.
As these responsibilities become your focus; as you grow in understanding and with their incorporation into your life, you will realize that the promise with which we began this exploration is being enacted..."Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place." (2 Chronicles 7:14-15)
Thank you for reading "The Follower's Position". Though we may not know one another, please know of my prayer for you borrowed from the Apostle Paul recorded in Ephesians 3:16-20.
"I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."
Enjoy playing the position.