In 2009, a well-known attorney in Pennsylvania pled guilty to corruption charges. All the details of his case, trial, and eventual sentencing were widely covered in the media. I am not going to mention his name or cite the sources online where you can read about his crime because it is not my purpose to focus on his failure. What I want to do is highlight portions of a letter he submitted to the judge just prior to his sentencing:
“Your Honor, I take full responsibility for my actions and inactions. When I [got involved with the other guilty parties] I knew instantly that was wrong. I had the responsibility to say no and not to assist them in any way . . . I knew better and I lacked the courage to say no. . . . I had the responsibility to refuse them. . .. I had the ability to do the right thing and say no. I was wrong for giving in . . .. I was also wrong not to report this to the authorities . . .. I was both scared and selfish and I will forever regret that decision.
Thank you. Respectfully submitted, [Name].”
These are just some of the penitent words in his letter to the judge. Again—I am making no judgment as to whether the accused genuinely meant what he said or not. But it is worth noting that he chose not to solicit letters from community leaders, friends, family, or others who might have spoken on his behalf. He chose to face the music without appearing to try to influence the judge with others’ support.
Others and Our Sin
There is a general rule that counselors use regarding the acknowledgement of sin: It needs to be confessed, and forgiveness sought as far as the circle of damage extends. If one-person sins against another, that’s a small circle of damage. But if, as in the case I just cited, a man commits sin at a public level, then confession and forgiveness must be sought as far as the sin was felt (family, workplace, community, court, and so on).
Of course, it goes without saying that every sin by an individual is first a sin against God. So even when an individual has sinful thoughts or activities that involve no other human being, he still must own his sin before God. That’s why King David, in his psalm of confession for the sins of murder, deceit, and adultery, said to God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4).
Obviously, David didn’t mean that he hadn’t sinned against other people by saying to God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned.” David was responsible for the death of one of his trusted officers and committed adultery with that man’s wife. He couldn’t make things right with the dead man, but we have to assume that he owned his sin before the man’s wife given the context (2 Samuel 12). What David meant by “only” was “ultimately.” Every sin on earth is first and finally a sin against God in heaven. The effect of our sin is like the ripples spreading out across the surface of a peaceful pool. Once we toss the pebble, we must follow the ripples as far as they go and make things right.
Owning Our Sin
There is no more contrite record of confession in the Bible than that of King David following the revelation of his sins in Psalm 51. The only thing he didn’t ask God to forgive him for was not coming forward on his own to confess his sins. It was only after Nathan the prophet confronted David, nearly a year after his sins, that David confessed (2 Samuel 12:1-14).
He confesses not as the King of Israel who might have made excuses or asked for allowances, but as a guilty sinner who was finally willing to own his sin.
Overcoming Our Sin
Only sin that is owned can be overcome. Sometimes the consequence for the sin cannot be reversed. We have all learned that grievous lesson. But to the extent that relationships can be repaired, reparations made, and reconciliation enjoyed, owning and overcoming are prerequisites. Make the decision to be responsible—and to have victory over your sin!
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God, and serves as
Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.
When Clerow Wilson turned 16, he was ready to get out of foster homes and reform school, so he lied about his age and joined the U.S. Air Force. Blessed with a non-stop personality, he entertained fellow airmen with so many funny stories they claimed he was “flipped out.” The name stuck. Leaving the Air Force, “Flip” Wilson found work as a bellhop and started performing between paid acts at the hotel’s stage show. Before long he was a successful comedian. One of Flip’s most popular characters was Geraldine Jones, whom he portrayed in a dress, a copper-colored wig, and with exaggerated facial expressions. Geraldine was constantly misbehaving, crossing the line, and violating her conscience. But she had a one-sentence explanation for her behavior: “The devil made me do it.” The phrase, “The devil made me do it,” became part of entertainment lore.
I wonder why. On its surface, it’s not a particularly funny line. Perhaps it struck our funny bones because it struck a nerve. We know we’re sinners. We’re bewildered at how easily we do wrong and how hard it is to do right. We need a rationale for our evil habits, or at least an excuse. It’s as good an excuse as any. In some way, this tagline became an expression of national self-justification: “The devil made me do it.”Everything Is Different, but Nothing Has Changed
Steve Jobs didn’t have a lot to say. He didn’t give a lot of speeches, except for a famous graduation address at Stanford University. He was a private man. He didn’t take to the podium to advance his causes except when unveiling his new products.
Yet Jobs changed the history of communication. He made the world accessible to us, and us to the world. He turned “I” into a lower-case phenomenon and squeezed all our bulky entertainment systems into portable devices. Jobs’ mission was delivering as much content possible, to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and as portably and affordably as possible.
Steve Jobs wasn’t a perfect man. But perhaps his commitment to his own mission will remind us of our commitment to ours. We’re to rededicate ourselves every day to deliver the Gospel to as many people possible, as quickly as possible, and as portably and affordably as possible.Bible Prophecy
The military operation that killed Osama bin Laden was dramatic but fairly typical: soldiers, helicopters, and guns. The Navy SEALs that carried out the mission represented centuries of military strategy: armed men, on the ground, seeking to take out the enemy.
But later, when another Al Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed, the operation was one that armies of past decades wouldn’t have believed. Al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen, but there were no Americans or materials on the ground at the scene of the attack. An armed drone was flying silently thousands of feet above him. The pilot was thousands of miles away at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada using this small, computer-controlled plane deploying a laser-guided bomb.
Yesterday it was called “science fiction.” Today it’s called “technology.” But the Bible calls it “prophecy”!
When your priorities are in alignment with God’s and you live in obedience to Him, you have all you need for a fulfilling life. Dr. David Jeremiah illustrates this truth in the Old Testament account of the rebuilding of the temple, as God’s people learn to stop making excuses and start living in obedience.All Sermons by Dr. David Jeremiah