Sitting in the second pew, sandwiched between my mother and my husband, bookended by love, I listened as the pastor spoke on sexual purity from Song of Solomon. I sat there praying for the hearts in the room that needed this specific encouragement, and then the pastor said a handful of words that didn't settle right in my spirit. "If you've remained pure up to this point, keep going. And if you haven't stayed pure, (I know that life happens), commit to starting now."
Those words, cased in parenthesis, were meant to be a gentle hand extending grace, "I know that life happens." However, in his attempt to offer grace, our pastor missed the doorway through which grace always makes her triumphant entry. That door is sin.
...where sin increased, grace abounded all the more
"I know that life happens."
Life is many things, but it is not a lazy river moving us gently one way or another. Though it winds and bends and forks often, we are rarely at the will of the river where sin is concerned. Life doesn't just happen. Sin doesn't just happen. Falling off the wagon...
doesn't. just. happen.
Sometimes psychosis or generational abuse leading to mental illness have made men and women unable to stand firm - without a miracle it is impossible to stay on the wagon. For those who suffer under such duress there is a measure of grace I cannot fathom.
However, for the rest of us with ears to hear and eyes to see and minds to perceive and the will to respond right, though life throws us sideways at times, we always have a choice. There is always a choice which way to go. So often I have made the wrong choice, an actively aware, sinful choice.
I've fallen off the wagon over and over again.
Goodness, y'all, I know it's just a Sugar-Fast that we've been doing together, but I believe there's application for us here. Because the Lord convicts us how we are to act and which way we are to go, and so often we start off strong. However, 16 days into our fast, 16 days into your sobriety, your purity, your commitment to spend time in the Word each day. Nearly five months into New Year's Resolutions, and a few weeks after our Lenten season, abiding at His nail scarred side, and we've fallen off the wagon.
Life isn't to blame - though we do try to cast blame. No, life didn't push me over. Not even the enemy of this world can push us over when we are committed to standing firm.
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Is there any conviction that you have felt in your spirit about the way you are living, the choices you are making? Yelling at your children, unforgiveness in your marriage, alcohol in the afternoon to get you over the hurdle in your day, fantasizing about another man, other kids, another life? Are you binging and purging, though God has said, No More? Are you spending hours each day online, though the Spirit has whispered, Unplug? Eating sugar for comfort? Looking at pornography, coveting your neighbor's belongings or your perception of their life, spending more than you are making...?
Is there any area of your life that God has said, "This... I want this! Don't follow the lazy river that opens up wide and accepting. Though it seems like a pleasure cruise at first, it leads only to death and destruction. Stay the course! Return to me."
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13)
Sexual purity is just one of the many narrow gates that leads to life. Committing to stand firm within the boundaries, those blessed hedges the Lord wants to protect us within, requires us to be on guard in all areas of our loving, serving, married or single, parenting or childless lives. We must be on guard and stand firm, because we have an enemy.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
God is so faithful to speak to you, tell you what He wants and doesn't want in your life. Then He goes so far as to give you the power of His Holy Spirit to help and guide you. But we have a choice to follow through.
I had a friend years ago who was always so quick to sense God's conviction in her life. It amazed me the way she'd communicate how God was speaking to her heart about various things He wanted to refine in her. I'd never heard someone talk out loud about this stuff before. And yet, what I learned from her example was that we can be open to conviction, repent even, and still not follow through with change.
Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. (Mark 4:15)
Just because we heard the Lord's conviction, and experienced His lifting us out of the mud of sin and sadness, putting us up onto the steady wagon, headed securely in the right direction, doesn't mean we're going to stay on that wagon. The Christian life takes muscle and self-control - and we often have to swim upstream against that lazy river pull. Am I right? But we can! We can. With Jesus Christ we can.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)
If you fall, choosing sin again and again, know this: Where Sin increases, grace abounds all the more! Let His Grace meet you there, extending her own hand, and pulling you to your feet again, lifting and guiding you back to a firm foundation... then stand firm. And when you have done all you can to stand... Keep Standing! Experience the power of His Grace, perfected in your weakness, and keep standing, Friend!
We are 16 days into our 40 day Sugar-fast, and some of you keep stopping and starting, falling off the wagon. If God has spoken to your heart, convicting you that something needs to be taken out of your diet, out of your life, then climb back on friends. Just this morning my husband announced that he's doing a "25 day sugar fast" for the rest of our 40 days! And you can too.