Acts 16:16-18 16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
I have often heard the phrase, “Love the sinner and hate the sin.” I believe it is based on how Jesus views us in our sin. I also believe that we as Christians should treat each other according to this statement as well. I’ve tried, as best I can, to follow this philosophy. I was recently teaching from this area in Acts and this passage stood out to me as a reminder of how to love the sinner and hate the sin.
As I was studying the passage, one of the commentaries mentioned how Paul addressed the evil spirit and not the girl. The commentator went on to note that this was the common way that Jesus and his disciples dealt with evil spirits. He spoke directly to the spirit and not the person bound by the evil spirit. When Jesus was dealing with the demon-possessed man of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:8-13), He spoke to the demons.
This passage reminds me to separate the actions or choices from the core of the person. Like this picture above, the storeroom is cluttered. Is that the reflection of the storeroom? The storeroom is a storeroom. The clutter is what needs to be rearranged. We don’t destroy the storeroom because of the clutter. Now, if the clutter remains too long, then the storeroom may be damaged in some way by the neglect of the clutter and therefore be destroyed or remodeled.
Our life is a lot like this. My sin is based on my choices. I choose to follow my flesh, believe the lies of suggestion by the evil one, succumb to temptation, and/or blatantly decide to be self-serving. When I choose one or more of these, I clutter the storeroom of my heart. Now, the storeroom of my heart was built by God. God created me good. When my choices do not follow God’s plan, I begin to fill my storeroom with other things besides what God has for me. This does not make me bad at my core, but it does reflect badly on my character and image as a man of God. If I continue to fill my storeroom with this “junk”…and…leave it unattended, I can endanger my storeroom. Is there a point of no return? Truthfully, only God can decide that. However, I really do not want to get to that point in my life.
One thing I have discovered while working with others around the choices in their lives is that when I “speak to the sin” or choices and separate out the core of their being; I see the beginning of transformation for them. When I guide them to see the truth of who they are versus their choices, they begin to have hope. This is not to say that we ignore the consequences for their choices. Those consequences may stay with them in some way for the rest of their life. David’s sin with Bathsheba is an example. However, despite the consequences, God can still use their life for good. They can still draw on the power within them guided by the Holy Spirit.
For me, the biggest challenge is to believe in my own goodness…the goodness that God used when He created me. When I look around, all I see is the clutter in my storeroom. One thing I have found is a group of men who can help me see my core goodness and in turn help me clean out the junk in my life. These men help me to separate the sin from the sinner. These men help me to see my choices, how the choices affect me and others, and walk along side of me as I make better choices. For me, this group has come from my work in The Crucible Project. For men, I highly recommend this Christian organization. Even if you are not able to connect with this group, I challenge all to find a group of people that will be authentic and able to speak truth into your life. Choose a group that can both point out what is good about you as well as help you de-clutter your storeroom. This action will create a more authentic walk with God. It has for me.
1. When observing the choices of others, how often have you judged them as a bad person?
2. What keeps you from looking at the choice separate from the person?
3. What has this type of action done for you in your relationships with these you have judged?
4. Explain how hard it is to practice loving the sinner and hating the sin as it applies you and your heart and life?
5. What makes is difficult for you to see your own God-given goodness?
6. This week, pay attention to two things: First, notice how you see others in the light of loving the sinner and hating the sin. Where do you need to improve here? Second, notice the same for yourself. Where do you need to hear the truth about your from God (especially around your goodness)?
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