“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold all things have become new”. (2 Cor 5:17)
This article is not for the brow beating of the saints. It is not meant to condemn or diminish the Lord’s children by suggesting they should wallow continually and eternally in the past affairs of their flesh. When we are born again, we are new creatures in Christ, and the feats of the flesh are the dead memory of our old self, our “old man”. This article seeks to look at a rare occurrence where a Christian’s standing in Christ may not be on as solid as they had presumed. And as such, is intended to cause reflection as to whether we conform to this odd spiritual malignity, a holdover from our past that has no place in our present or future.
“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush”. (Jer 6:15)
The more accustomed we are to observing or partaking in sin, the more desensitized we become to it. As a consequence of our cultural affinity we are steeped in a world of iniquitous indulgences. As such, I suspect this dynamic is what deadens the regret we should feel when we recall unholy relationships we’ve shared in. So it begs the question, what is the appropriate response to the blatant sinful activity that surrounds us? Well, it should be disgust. Otherwise it will consume us. For if we have any attraction to it, we have lost our ability to effectively repel it.
Sin and sinful exploits are biblically disgusting. I repeat this to accentuate the mindset of the holiness we seek. If we are born again we should feel nothing but shame when we defile God’s holy temple: His temple being our bodies. Horniness does not lead to Holiness.
“...so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done... You will bear the consequences of your lewdness and your detestable practices... This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you as you deserve... Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed..." (Eze 16: 54,58-61 NIV)
Yet, and this is what troubles me, I have noted a lingering affirmational sentiment of past sin in some professed brothers; A semblance of evil acceptance within the confines of their past lives. A nostalgic memory of something or someone they had `done’ that was wicked. They no longer indulge in this iniquity, but cling affectionately to the memory of it: to a memory predating the surrender of their lives to Christ. I wonder how this is possible. Yet time and time again I stumble upon Christians that have no misgivings for experiences that tarnished their souls: that have no regrets for moments of absolute rebellion against God. And oddly, many look glowingly at those times with pleasant memories. It’s nauseating. The insistence that they have “no regrets”, or “wouldn’t do anything differently” is bad enough, but many have openly bragged to me about their evil past exploits. Now this takes a moment for reflection. For the question arises, how can repentance be genuine when we are not sorry for our sin? Feeling shame regarding our sin is one of the defining characteristics of what repentance is. And since repentance is needed unto salvation, how can such a person be saved?
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance (1 Peter 1:14)
An additional concern is with future temperance. Are we truly temperate now because of our transference of self to Christ? Or do we have a false temperance based on our life’s current local? Meaning, are we only temperate because we are un-tempted: because our life circumstance has changed and we no longer are not exposed to vice? I know we affirm the gospel and admit sin is sin, yet given the opportunity, would we erase the sins we `enjoyed’ in the past? On this intellectual level, we all readily nod in acceptance, “yes we would”. Yet, if I took a man that lost his virginity to a girl in high school, would his memory of having sex with her be stimulating and satisfying for him? Would he fondly remember their sinful relationship as a good memory? If he lived with her in college, and they shared happy times and frequent laughs in the midst of their defiling relationship, would he wish it never happened? That they never met? Does he have shame for the orgasm he remembers giving her? If not .. something is amiss.
Case in point, a computer illiterate Christian brother asked me to set up a facebook account for him. I complied. Two weeks later he told me that some old girlfriends he used to fornicate with (from his pre-saved life) were friending him. Now forgive me for this, for I say it to illustrate my point, but he was enamoured by memories of sexual intercourse with them. “She was so hot and was such a fantastic lay” (though lay wasn’t the word he chose). He was steeped throughout his youth in a frat boy culture of sexual promiscuity and open sexual rebellion against God; trained as a boy that plucking virgins was a noble `humanitarianly’ hedonistic badge that validated his self-esteem. Now older and married, this lifestyle was behind him. Yet, it apparently left a residue on his soul, and he still hid the badges deep within his heart. A week later, he told me to erase his facebook account. Apparently his wife wasn’t too pleased with these women re-affirming their past influence upon him anew. He had no shame, yet his wife was ashamed for him. She was a smart woman.
“What a wretched man I am!” (Rom 7:24 NIV)
I remember visiting a church with a pastor that exemplified this sentiment. It was a smaller church, so after the sermon he zoomed in on my unfamiliar face. He was a flamboyant individual and shared a friendly smile and manly handshake. With a toothy grin he asked me several questions about myself. He then felt the need to share with me his testimony, if that’s what you’d call it? You know how some people have favorite stories that they incessantly re-tell at every get-together? Stories that are meant to entertain and stimulate laughter. This seemed more like one of those.
Apparently this pastor used to be a private investigator and had lived a very unbiblical lifestyle prior to his conversion. Yet, his “testimony”, which is supposed to be about the drawing of his life back to God, started to take an unusual turn, as he began bragging about a bar he frequented (back then), and the fights he was in, and the women he had sexually conquered. Oh, those good ole days!!! He actually stomped the ground as he pretended to punch an imaginary guy. Apparently, he was drunk a lot too, and awoke with women he faintly knew. “I slept with so many women back then”, said as if it was a happy memory. There was no point to the sharing of this shameful past … and he wasn’t ashamed. He seemed proud of it. There is something marvelous about a spirit filled testimony that traces a life from broken to healed, of a lost sinner being reconciled with the Creator. The story glorifies God and speaks of His loving mercy. But how could one feel joy in memories that hurt the Father? Do they truly understand what transpired on the cross? That the Son of God died for their sin? For their lascivious living? That that fondly remembered love affair was snake’s venom to their soul? That Jesus bled red droplets of blood to atone for this guy’s sexually sinful frivolity? The venom’s poison still lingered …
“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed”. (1Peter2:24)
I used to attend a church where the pastor would frequently re-tell a story about when he was in high school. I suppose the purpose of the stories original intent was to show us his journey from lost to saved, from sinner to pastor. Yet somewhere along the re-tellings, the laughs elicited from the absurdity of the pastor acting badly, became the focus of the tale. This is a worthy type of memoir, yet he seemed to lose site of the reason for the story. And the juxtaposition of the two lifestyles was apparently only used to amuse. Long story short, the pastor (pre-saved) went to buy some drugs from a dealer and was arrested by the cops. He was handcuffed and charged. (However, when he tells it, the tale’s a lot longer, and it’s filled with humour and the grin of a proud Cheshire cat). I would often look over at the youth that watched this exhibition. They laughed and readily absorbed the narration. But what was the purpose of this narration? Of this sermon supplement? Was it to instruct the youngins to indulge in a wild sinful life so that they could someday tell similar yarns? Before they were forced to double down on Christ and leave behind the `fun' of sin? The pastor seemed to be pacifying sin, and perhaps subliminally encouraging it. Why do the good hold to the bad?
What is it about the “bad boy image” that is so prevalently steeped in our societal ethos that even Christians seem enamoured by it? That even some pastors try to elevate themselves up to this odious standard? I suspect Hollywood is the principle culprit and can think of James Dean as an early provocateur. Yet a “bad boy” is someone that delights in being bad, or, in doing evil. It is someone at animosity with God. It is someone destined to hell. Yet there is an apparent attraction that some girls have in regards to the bad boy image. I understand this with evil women, but how can a Christian girl be attracted to an evil man? I ponder this at times, but never seem to find a satisfactory answer. It seems to me she can’t be. That there must be something fundamentally wrong with her Christianity .. or to put it another way, something terribly wrong with her relationship with God.
I remember partaking in a television series called “Buffy the vampire slayer”. The earlier shows told of how Buffy was commissioned to purge the earth of a great and growing evil (vampires). The leader of the vampires was a monster named Spike. Episode after episode he killed and maimed to his evil delight. Eventually the show took a twist, and they captured Spike and implanted a microchip in his head to modify his behaviour. With the chip now in his brain, he was unable to kill people anymore despite his desire to do so. Of course, drama demands that our protagonist blond (Buffy) had to fall in lust/love with this quintessentially dangerous bad boy. They had sex, or is it called love by today’s standard? Yet, I was confused. He was a sick and twisted mass murder. He was the killer of innocent children and teenagers and adults. He killed for fun and for hunger. And now he was sleeping with Buffy. How could she give up everything she believed in to have intercourse with a debase monster? Now I must admit, if this was a tale of how this sick demented sinner found God and repenting and now walked in the light of Jesus, it would be a moving narrative of God’s mercy. But this vampire still held a deep seated desire to murder and kill. It epitomized evil. It was merely suppressed by the microchip, not by a change of heart. It wished to kill again. I understand that thought process with a vampire … but I don’t with a pastor or a Christian brother. Ours is a new heart. Let our `fond' sinful memories and experiences be replaced with shame, and then with Grace.