“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
We saw around fifteen teams come to RTS Missions per year, and though the trips looked a little bit different from each other, this end result is always the same: an increased awareness of how blessed they are. All of the teams that came to Haiti were from the United States of America, and a large majority of them have never wondered where their next meal was coming from, nor have they had to take a bucket shower. We saw big life changes happen time after time after time because of one simple thing: the individuals’ eyes are open to the real world. Awareness of a situation is the beginning of change. Before I saw what life was like in a developing country, I took so many things for granted. I took running water, health care, and even my friends and family for granted, because I didn’t know any different. After living in Haiti for a year-and-a-half, my world perspective has changed dramatically because my eyes have been opened to how blessed I am.
We live in a world of cropped and edited photos showing our best selves on social media. Our pictures are littered with likes, hearts, and comments that tell us how good we are. If we are not careful, we will start to believe it. When this happens, pride starts to slip into our lives and we start to elevate ourselves over God, believing that we do not need him because we are judging our “goodness” by earthly standards. Satan wants this to happen because once it does, we devalue what Jesus did and stray away from God to build our own kingdom. I pray this chapter convicts both you and I of how sinful we are and makes us aware of how much we need Jesus in our lives.
Johnny was turning twelve on Tuesday. For his birthday present, his parents took him to the local pet store to get any pet he chose. They piled into their 1990 brown Honda Civic, and drove to Chameleon Pet Shop in downtown Sand Springs. Johnny, full of energy, jumped out of the car and ran in the front door before his dad could even turn the car off. As he walked down the aisles, passing dogs, cats, lizards, and frogs, he came to a cage with a baby python in it, only twelve inches in length. With his face pressed up against the glass, he yelled out, “I want this one!” Hesitantly, his parents agreed. The store owner boxed up the snake, and they took it home.
Every night before bed, in the safety and darkness of his room, Johnny had the same routine. He would feed and play with his pet python. He would feed it a baby mouse, then let it slither between his fingers and around his neck, and after that, he would put it in its aquarium and close the lid tightly. He did this for years, and as he fed the snake, it grew and it grew until it was more than five feet long! One night, Johnny was running late getting home, so he rushed up to his room to play with his pet python. His mom was yelling to him from the bottom of the stairs that it was bedtime, lights out! He scrambled to put him away, and because he was in a hurry, he did not get the lid securely closed. He went to bed just like every night before, but as he slept, the snake pressed up against the tank and pushed itself toward the opening between the lid and aquarium. He pushed his head through, then the rest of his body until he fell to the floor. He slithered across the green and brown shag carpet over to Johnny’s bed and crawled into it with his master. The snake gently wrapped itself around Johnny, and before he could react, the snake had already shut off his air supply. The very thing that Johnny cherished and loved killed him that night.
I tell you this fictional story to demonstrate that just as the python was following its natural instincts to kill, sin does the same thing. The Bible tells us that sin gives birth to death. We all struggle with something, and we have a tendency to act on these sins in the cover of our room or in secret, not wanting anyone to know about them. We think,“It’s not like I am murdering someone.” We try to justify our addiction to porn or drug usage by comparing it to other things. We might think that it’s no big deal because it’s not hurting anyone, but in all reality, it’s hurting the heart of God and some area of our life whether emotionally, spiritually, or physically. Every road marked by sin leads to death in some area of our life. The Bible says that God will bring into light everything that is in the darkness. The sin that you are hiding will eventually get out and destroy you unless you starve it by doing the things of God. The natural process is: what you feed grows and what you starve dies. Stop the sin in your life before it stops you.
We, Like Sheep
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us have turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6). The comparison between humans and sheep is a common theme throughout the Bible. This analogy is so popular because there were a lot of shepherds in this time that could relate, as well as the fact that we humans are a lot like sheep in many ways. In this section, I would like to highlight a few of these similarities.
It is very common for a sheep to wander off while grazing. They have a very poor sense of direction, thus needing a shepherd to guide them and to keep them out of harm’s way. In the same way, as humans, if we do not pay close attention to God’s Word and voice by writing his commands on our heart, we will wander away from the protection of the Shepherd, which is Jesus Christ. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105). As you listen for the voice of God, remember what my pastor told me: “God’s voice will never contradict God’s Word.” -Chad Stewart
If a sheep falls down, it is not able to get back up on its own. If a shepherd is not there to help it up, the sheep will lay on its back flailing around until it eventually dies. Life has a way of knocking us down, and no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to get back up on our own. We need the Good Shepherd to help us to our feet so that we do not just lay there in our hurt and sin flailing around. Because of this similarity to sheep, it is very common for people to come to know Christ when they fall because it reveals our need for a shepherd. “I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” (Psalm 118:13-14)
Sheep are filthy animals and they have a problem – they can’t clean themselves! They stink and their wool turns brown if the shepherd does not wash them. We are drawn to sin, and this makes us unclean in the sight of God. Just as sheep cannot clean themselves physically, we can’t clean ourselves spiritually without the covering of Jesus Christ. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). If we are found in Christ, his blood washes away our sins and makes us white as snow on the day we meet God face to face.
We, like sheep, are directionless, helpless, and unclean without a shepherd. God saw that we cannot do this on our own, so he sent Jesus to guide us with love, help us get back up when we fall with his unending grace, and clean us before a holy God through his blood that was spilt on the cross. In the same way sheep need a shepherd, we need a savior – Jesus.
Like almost everything in our lives ranging from cars to cooking, we love to compare with others. We do this with our sin just as much as we do with our homes. We look at worldly punishment for sins and say that some are really bad and some are no big deal. The problem I have with this is the fact that, in the Bible, you see hate for brother in the same category as homosexuality. I believe we do this because we are in need of confirmation that we are “doing good.” The danger of this is that we are using the wrong answer key to grade ourselves. We are adding a curve to the score. You might say, “But God’s standards are so high that we will never be able to meet them.” We say to ourselves, “Well, I’m not as bad a Jamie.” (Sorry to all the Jamies, it’s the first name that came to mind.) This will cause pride to swell up in our lives, and we can begin to think it is by our works that we are saved. When we start operating in this mindset, we are saying that we no longer need Jesus to obtain salvation. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Salvation is far too heavy a weight for us to carry. If it were possible, then Jesus would not have needed to die on the cross. This is perfectly described in the gospel of Luke:
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
God is not looking for perfect people, and I thank him for that because I’m not perfect, and neither are you. He is looking for humble people. You can fool others by your works, but God does not look at the same things humans look at. He looks at the heart. So put the mask down and stop comparing your sin with others. God longs to see us come before him like the tax collector, beating our breast saying,“Have mercy on me, a sinner.” If you “fake it until you make it,” at the end of the day, you are still a faker. Be honest with the fact that you don’t have it all figured out because it’s okay to not be okay.
The truth is that we all fall short of the glory of God. As long as we compare ourselves to others rather than God’s standards, we will never understand the good news of Jesus Christ. Pride will cover our eyes, and we will be blind. It’s time to stop looking at other people’s sins and start with the man/woman in the mirror.