I mess up from time to time.
Whew! I'm glad I'm not alone.
The truth of the matter is, everyone messes up now and then. Everyone makes mistakes. As Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Sometimes our messes are pretty small and insignificant. Often we--and God--are the only ones who know it even happened. Those are the kind of messes that clean up pretty easily without too much trouble. We learn a lesson and move on, unharmed.
But other times our messes are big, and ugly, and hairy, and stinky. Sometimes they are so big they affect other people in our lives. That's when things get difficult. Cleaning up this kind of mess isn't so easy. It's not impossible to clean, but it usually takes a lot of time and hard work to get things back in order. And sometimes we've messed things up so badly, we actually have to start over again.
Paul made that kind of mess when he chose to oppose the new Christian movement. We first meet Paul, known as Saul at this point, in Acts 7:58 and 8:1. Stephen, "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (6:5) had just been stoned to death. Saul, though apparently not in charge of the stoning, stood by and watched with approval. One chapter later (9:1) we find Saul "breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples."
Saul messed up. Big time! And the funny (not "haha" funny) thing is, Saul thought he was doing God's work when he messed up!
(Hmm. Me thinks this is a good time for personal reflection. Can you think of a time when you thought you were in God's will, when in fact you weren't? I can!)
Saul believed the Christians were going against God. He thought they were blasphemous by referring to Jesus as the Messiah. Surely God would want those people destroyed before they infected the entire Jewish population. Surely it was justifiable to imprison them and murder them. Right? Right?? Wrong!
God doesn't like messes. He makes this abundantly clear all throughout his Word. Every mess a human being can possibly make has been talked about within the pages of the Bible. It is full of instructions of how not to make messes, but also what to do when messes happen anyway.
But the beautiful thing about messes is that they don't have to stay messy. They don't have to stay ugly, and hairy, and stinky. We don't have to wallow in the mess we've made. We can be made clean! Jesus died for our messes!
"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." Isaiah 1:18-20
Saul surrendered his mess to God in Acts 9. He was willing and obedient. He realized how wrong he'd been, and he paid the price through guilt for the rest of his life. Many of his letters are sprinkled with references to his sorrow over his decisions, but thankfully he didn't wallow in it. He sought forgiveness from the Forgiver of messes.
Some of you are still living in your mess. The choices you've made, the actions you've taken, the beliefs you've accepted. My prayer is you will let God clean it up for you!
This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, United Kingdom, Bermuda, China, India, Netherlands, Germany, Colombia, Australia, Russia