I am a schmuck. So are you.
It’s easier for me to think of myself as a bad guy because I know every thought and temptation that goes through my head. I don’t see, hear, or feel yours unless you choose to act out on them and they involve me.
Why am I mentioning this?
We have an enemy who wants us suffering and dead. One of the tactics that the Enemy employs is to point out the difference between the people who fit in at church and those of us who don’t.
WE sin. But we don’t see THEM sinning. WE battle with temptation, and we don’t hear them mention diddly about it.
Some of us can’t hide our sins if we tried. We are murderers, adulterers, practicing homosexuals, thieves, criminals, outcasts, angry people… our faults lie on our outsides.
It’s simple for the Devil to tell us that means we don’t belong in the circle with the nice, clean, neat people with their 2.5 kids, their neatly pressed Churchianity wardrobes in place, and everything in order.
It’s a lie. That circle you feel outside of was created for you. If you were the only person in the world it would still exist so that you could be part of it. Your place was reserved there before the first star shone, and the Maker of the Universe is holding your spot for you, because it would give him such great joy to hang out with you forever.
You are wanted there. You may even be NEEDED there, since all the nice and polite gifts are over-supplied. And you belong there. You don’t see the sins of the people there like you see your own? Big deal.
1 Timothy 5:24 states:
The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgement, but the sins of others appear later.
Did you notice that there was no third category of sinless people? If your sins hang out on your face or scream in your ear, the only difference is that maybe their sins are crouching like evil Jacks in the boxes to spring out and announce themselves.
I know of a church elder who turned out to be in witness protection for being a drug dealer. I know another perfect Sunday School person who is liked and respected by those who don’t know he was at one time a violent rapist (God does recycling like you wouldn’t believe). Those are the big ones compared to the family man who masturbates to porn with his perfect-seeming teenage son, the youth director who embezzled six figures from a church, and on and on. I have listened to the most popular, fashionable, fit, and respectable Bible Camp counselor weep wracking tears over his failures into premarital sex.
[These examples are not drawn from my current church or any current relationships, specifically to deliver people from the temptation to gossip or wonder.]
Maybe their deadly, evil sins are like slow poison. Perhaps they are the gossips who separate close friends, or their unforgiving hearts hold a hatred of someone they can see (1 John 4 puts this in a hell-risking category). Perhaps it is simple idolatry of status, or worshiping their family as holy instead of cherishing family as a good gift from The Divine. Perhaps it’s the sins of omission, not reaching out, not loving when we have the chance, not believing or trusting in God when we have the need.
Big sins or little sins, you would not believe the ones that I know of. Sometimes you can see it. Much more often it is hidden. I have one friend who has never confessed a single sin in my presence, and he has never committed any sin of commission that I have ever seen. Do I think my friend is perfect? I know that he is not. But those details will come out in time, perhaps on Earth and for certain in heaven when we all stand in front of the kingdom of God.
The point is that you are equal at the foot of the cross. You are as guilty as this murderer I once knew, and as guilty as the nearly perfect woman or man who is blinded by their admittedly good deeds to their need for a savior.
We are all equally condemned at the foot of the cross, from the people who stick needles of drugs in grade-school kids’ arms to the Honor Student who has yelled at their parents. Sin is sin. Secret or obvious, it earns us nothing but death.
And for all of us, Jesus Christ, who was and is God come down and made flesh, died in our place so that we could be forgiven (and in English I need to say “and reconciled”), so that forgiven, we could be his mother, father, brother, sister, and friend, so that we could be made clean, pure, holy, immortal, and belong with him forever.
The difference isn’t whether your sins are obvious or not, not to God it isn’t. He’s seen everything we’ve ever done and knows our every thought. ALL our sins are obvious to God. He does not excuse them, or wave them away. Instead he embraced them and suffered them unto death so that we could live. Check out how the great and nasty sins and the subtle heart-killing silent ones mix together in this passage:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” -1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV
That circle that the devil wants you to feel you can’t enter? It exists so that the things you feel dirty about can be washed away. You know you’re not holy? Wonderful! It’s true. That circle has a place just for you, where you can be made holy by God. If a judge, a jury, or just your thoughts tell you that you’re guilty, that’s all right. You can be made not-guilty because Jesus took your guilt on his own innocent self and paid the death sentence you and I have earned.
The circle is for you. The church is for you. God’s Word is preached there for you. God’s Body and Blood are there for you to take part in, to be one with him and each other, to be made holy, to be saved. Water waits there to baptize you, to start drowning your old nasty self and filling it up with a terminal case of Holy Spirit cancer, which will grow within you until an entirely new person, bright and shining like the sun will rise to heaven to stand before God forever.
It is for you, sinner. It is for me, a sinner. It is for the gross and nasty evil people and the subtle and silently evil people. It is for us all.
And yes, people will not tell you this to your face. And yes, people in church will sin against you by what they do and what they fail to do. They may look down on your obvious sins compared to their secret ones, but take heart. That just puts them in the openly sinful category that needs a savior.
And the church is there for them as well.
Come and be saved. Come and be clean. Come and be immortal.
Come and be loved.
Jesus has paid the cover fee, he’s reserved your ticket, he’s booked your room. The reservations are made. Come and be free once and for all, dirty sinner, secret sinner, one and all.