Welcome to our series called Soul Care.  In this series, we are addressing the mental health issues people are facing today.  What is disheartening today is that mental health seems to be tearing people apart while at the same time, no one seems to have real solutions.  And that is why we are addressing it.  There is a clear connection between how you care for your soul and your mental health.

We started this series with the big picture of life.  God created you in His image.  That means God placed a soul inside you, breathed life into your soul, and brought you to life.  Your soul is the place that contains all of you.  It contains your unique God imprint.  It’s filled with your dreams, hopes, and desires that are unique to you.

This is very important to understand so I want to say this clearly.  Because God created you and breathed life into you, that makes you, spiritual.  That means your soul was created to be in a relationship with God and only God can bring your soul to life.  Only God can bring you the rest, healing, and joy you are looking for.  That’s why Jesus invited us into a relationship with Him.

Let’s read Jesus’ invitation.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. MSG Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus knew as we lived life, our souls would become worn down, defeated, and wounded.  So, Jesus offers us a relationship.  In that relationship, we find rest and healing for our souls.

Let’s quickly review where we have been.

Discouragement is how our soul processes the circumstances in our lives.

Depression is how our soul processes regret.

Anxiety is how our soul processes fear.

Our self-worth is how our soul processes God’s love and acceptance of us.  I have to stop and say that Sam’s talk last week was the best talk I’ve heard on self-worth.  If you wrestle with seeing your value and feel like you have little self-worth, Sam’s talk last week is a must-read or a must-see on YouTube.

Today we talk about sin.  I realize today isn’t a ‘Hug Me Sunday.’  When we talk about everything God wants to give us like God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, or God’s love for us, people love it.  It’s so meaningful that people come up to us, hug us, and say thank you for that.  This probably isn’t one of those Sundays.  When we talk about what is expected of us like sin, or choices we make to surrender in giving, or serving, people don’t normally run up to us, hug us, and say thank you for that.

That being said, we are jumping into the huge subject of sin.

Sin is how our soul processes who we trust.  Think about it.

If I don’t trust God, I will trust myself, pull away from God, and do life my way.  That’s called sin.  If I trust God, I will surrender my life to God and follow after God.

What does sin do?  Sin does tremendous damage.  It damages us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Let’s read what King David wrote about how sin impacted his soul.

1 Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be – you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. 2 Count yourself lucky – God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. 3 When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. 4 The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. 5 Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll come clean about my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone – my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. CEV Psalms 32:1-5

That’s what sin does.  It spiritually separates us from God and leaves us feeling a weight that seems unbearable.  Sin makes us emotionally feel unclean and unworthy.  Sin physically drains our energy.  Sin feels like constant spiritual, emotional, and physical pressure that we can’t do anything about.  And that is why forgiveness brings us to life.  Where sin separates us from God, forgiveness connects us with God again.  Remember we said, we are spiritual and only God can bring us rest, healing, and joy.  That’s why asking God to forgive us is so powerful.  It puts us back into that relationship with God.

So, let’s start with a couple of questions.  What do you think of when you hear the word ‘sin’?  To you, what sin?  Do you remember when you first sinned or when you told your first lie to your parents?

I think most people view sin the way we view cops and speed limits.  We know what the speed limit is, but we don’t want to obey it.  We want to drive the speed we want to drive, so we do.  When our apps show that there are no cops, we drive as fast as we want.  We complain about the speed limit.  We think the speed limits are too slow.  And somehow the speed limit, shouldn’t apply to us.  We all know if you drive 5 mph over the speed limit, chances are, we won’t be stopped.  We want to know the limit so we can drive a little faster.

Isn’t that how we view sin?  We know what the rules are, and we try to get around them.  We want to live the way we want to live, so we do.  When no one is around us, we do exactly what we want.  We talk about how hard it is to follow God’s commands.  In fact, God’s commands seem so outdated.  We see God’s commands as holding us back from having more fun.  Over time we become comfortable living outside the lines of God’s commands.  Why do we do this?  Because somehow those rules don’t apply to us.  We know better.  We can handle it.  We rationalize why the rules apply to others but not to us.  We tend to view sin as a set of rules that we try to get around.

What is funny about life is how it repeats itself.  When you are younger, you want to live outside God’s commands.  Then you get older and your kids ask you how you lived.  Questions my kids asked me.  Did you have sex before marriage?  Did you and mom live together before you were married?  Did you smoke marijuana when you were in high school?  Did you ever drink and did you get drunk?

Listen, this is very important, if we view sin as a set of rules we struggle to follow, we don’t fully understand sin.  The Pharisees in the Bible didn’t understand this.  They were spiritual leaders.  They were educated in religion.  They were paid to study the scriptures.  They thought sin was about the rules and living out the rules perfectly.  They tried to live out every rule passed down through the generations, but they were hypocrites.  It’s why Jesus confronts, argues, and purposely offends the Pharisees.

Let’s read what Jesus said about them.

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. So obey everything they teach you, but don’t do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else. They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. CEV Matthew 23:1-5

Jesus explained that the Pharisees understood the rules and how to live out the rules, but they failed to give their lives fully to God.  And because of that, that made them religious fakes.  Jesus called them hopeless frauds.  Do you know people like this?  They want more information, deeper teaching, and complex theology while at the same time, they refuse to fully surrender their lives to God and live out the simplest commands of Jesus.  Things like, love.  Forgiveness.  Serving.  That’s a picture of a modern-day Pharisee.  If Jesus was here today, that’s who Jesus would confront and argue with.  He would call them hopeless frauds.  There is nothing wrong with more, deeper, and complex things, in fact, they are good.  But what is most important is living out the simplest commands of Jesus.

Here is my point about sin.  Sin isn’t just about the rules, it’s bigger than that.  It’s about trust in God.  It’s about our relationship with God.  If you think sin is about the rules, you will ask yourself, ‘Did I break a rule or how can I get around that rule’?  You rationalize, ‘What is the rule, it probably doesn’t apply to me but I can see how it applies to others.’  If you think sin is about your relationship with God, you will ask a better question, ‘Have I done anything to break God’s heart?’  Do you see the difference?

To prove my point, assuming you grew up in a loving family, answer this question.  When you were a kid growing up in your home, what was worse?  Was it worse to be punished for breaking a rule or was it worse to hear from a parent you liked, ‘Because I trusted you, what you did hurt me and I’m disappointed in you’?

The problem we have with sin is we don’t fully understand it.  We can think it’s about rules when actually it’s bigger than that.  It’s about trusting God.  Today, I want to share three things we don’t understand about sin.  To do this, I want to read a few stories from scripture and then talk about them.

Story #1

Numbers 13:25 After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country – a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”

But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”

But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”

14:1 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel. Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua and Caleb, tore their clothing. They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!” Numbers 13:25 – 14:12

This was a painful story in the Children of Israel’s history.  They had a front-row seat as they watched God destroy Egypt through the plagues.  God frees the Children of Israel from slavery.  They walked on dry ground through the river.  They watched that same river destroy the most powerful army in those days.  They drank water that came from a rock.  They saw God with them in a cloud and a pillar of fire.  They heard God’s voice at Mount Sinai.  They tangibly experienced God, His rescue, His provisions, and His protection, and a few months later, they refused to trust God.  God wants to take them into the promised land.  All they had to do was trust Him.  But they refused to trust Him even after they experienced Him.  After everything God did for them, their lack of trust, and their complaining, wore God out.

The first thing we don’t understand about sin is this, not going further with God is sin.  We tend to get what we think we need from God and go back into our lives never thinking much of God.

Have you noticed that when we need something from God we can passionately go after God in prayer?  Have you also noticed that when we get what we want from God, we tend to stop passionately praying to God?  We still believe in Him.  We still go to church now and then, but when the pressure is off, when we get what we want, we tend to be okay not going further with God.  Life goes back to normal and we go back into our routines.  That’s how the Children of Israel treated God.

God was angry with the Children of Israel’s lack of trust and constant complaining.  He didn’t become angry with them because they broke a rule.  He was angry with them because they wouldn’t follow Him into the promised land.

Hear me.  God is leading you and you need to follow.  For some of you, that means today your next step is to give your life to Jesus to start your journey.  For some of you, that means you need to stop complaining about your situation, place your trust in God, and move forward.  For some of you, you need to stop fighting God and stop wanting to go back to your old life of slavery where you didn’t have to follow God.

Are you following God or have you stopped?  Where is God leading you?  Are you fighting God after everything He has done for you?  Do you trust where God is leading you?

Story #2

1 Samuel 15 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has again refused to obey me.”  Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard what God was saying, that he cried to the Lord all night. Early the next morning he went out to find Saul. Someone said that he had gone to Mount Carmel to erect a monument to himself and had then gone on to Gilgal.

When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “Hello there,” he said. “Well, I have carried out the Lord’s command!” “Then what was all the bleating of sheep and lowing of oxen I heard?” Samuel demanded. “It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep and oxen,” Saul admitted, “but they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God; and we have destroyed everything else.”

Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! Listen to what the Lord told me last night!” “What was it?” Saul asked. And Samuel told him, “When you didn’t think much of yourself, God made you king of Israel. And he sent you on an errand and told you, ‘Go and completely destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, until they are all dead.’ Then why didn’t you obey the Lord? Why did you rush for the loot and do exactly what God said not to?”

“But I have obeyed the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I did what he told me to; and I brought King Agag but killed everyone else. And it was only when my troops demanded it that I let them keep the best of the sheep and oxen and loot to sacrifice to the Lord.”

Samuel replied, “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him. For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. And now because you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he has rejected you from being king.”

“I have sinned,” Saul finally admitted. “Yes, I have disobeyed your instructions and the command of the Lord, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded.” LB 1 Samuel 15:10-24

The second thing we don’t understand about sin is this, not doing what God asked, all of it, is sin.

Have you noticed that we can do what God asked, maybe halfheartedly, and think, I did exactly what God wanted?  And yet we didn’t do what God wanted 100%.  We have a way of rationalizing things, don’t we?  All Saul needed to do was trust God, obey God, and follow through.  But Saul couldn’t trust God.  Saul was more afraid of what others thought.  Saul was a people pleaser.  Saul knew exactly what God wanted but lived in a way where he refused to do it because he was afraid of what people would think.

Why was God angry with Saul?  Because Saul didn’t trust God. Saul put his trust in other people’s opinions.  Saul got nervous about what others would think of him so he did some, not all, of what God asked.  Samuel called that, ‘stubborn’.  Being stubborn is like idol worship.  Knowing what God wants and stubbornly saying, ‘No’, you might as well get a piece of wood, whittle an image of Baal and worship Baal.

What has God asked of you?  How many years has God been asking you?  Have you been stubborn refusing to surrender to God?  Have you been halfhearted in doing what God asked of you – rationalizing why it doesn’t apply to you?  Are you a people pleaser to the point where you do a little of what God asked of you?  Do you trust God?

Story #3, is actually a parable.

This next scripture is a parable that Jesus told.  It’s a parable called The Talents.  A man going on a long trip gave one servant $5,000, another servant $2,000, and another $1,000.  The man comes back to see what the servants did with the money he gave them.  The first two servants doubled their money and this is what happened with the third servant.

Matthew 25 “Then the man with the $1,000 came and said, ‘Sir, I knew you were a hard man, and I was afraid you would rob me of what I earned, so I hid your money in the earth and here it is!’

“But his master replied, ‘Wicked man! Lazy slave! Since you knew I would demand your profit, you should at least have put my money into the bank so I could have some interest. Take the money from this man and give it to the man with the $10,000. For the man who uses well what he is given shall be given more, and he shall have abundance. But from the man who is unfaithful, even what little responsibility he has shall be taken from him. And throw the useless servant out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ LB Matthew 25:24-30

The third thing we don’t understand about sin is this, hiding what God gave us to build His kingdom, is sin.

Did you see how Jesus described the servant who took everything given to him and buried it?  Jesus called him, ‘Wicked, lazy, and unfaithful.’  That’s strong.  Did you ever think that being lazy and not doing anything to advance God’s kingdom was a sin?

Why was the master angry?  Did the servant break a rule?  Because the servant didn’t trust his master, in fact, he was afraid of him.  What does he do?  Nothing.  He hides everything the master gave him.  The other two servants took what was given to them and doubled it.

Have you noticed how busy life gets?  How distracted we become?  How many obligations we have?  How tired and worn out we are?  It’s almost like life pushes against us so hard, that the last thing we have time for is to think about God, or God’s church, and His kingdom.  And yet, to God, the kingdom of God is His priority.

Jesus explained how we are to live.

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. MSG Matthew 5:14-16

Do you see what I am saying today?  Sin isn’t just about the rules, it’s bigger than that.  It’s about trust in God.  It’s about our relationship with God.  If you think sin is about the rules, you will ask yourself, ‘Did I break a rule or how can I get around that rule’?  If you think sin is about your relationship with God, you will ask a better question, ‘I have done anything to break God’s heart?’

Here are three questions you should wrestle with.  Am I following after God, or did I stop?  Am I doing 100% of what God asked of me or am I more afraid of what others will think?  Am I taking what God gave me to build His kingdom or have I hidden what God has given me?

Sin is how our soul processes who we trust.  And scripture is clear, we all have sinned.  We all struggle to trust God.  We have a tendency to trust ourselves and pull away from God.  We all break the rules.  We don’t follow God all the time.  We all struggle to do what God wants 100%.  We all tend to want to be lazy.  It’s all true.  So, what do we do?  As King David said, ‘you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean’.  If you feel you have sinned or are walking in sin, there is a solution.  Let me read it for you.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. NIV 1 John 1:9

Today, right now, in prayer, tell God everything.  Come 100% clean.  By the way, God knows everything anyway, so you aren’t surprising God.  Ask Him to forgive you and God will give you a fresh start – every time.  Experience forgiveness that impacts you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Let’s close with this.  If you want to walk in freedom from sin, answer the question, ‘I have done anything to break God’s heart?’  And if you don’t know, that’s probably a sign you need to spend more time in a relationship with Jesus reading the Bible and praying.

Think about the different areas of your life and apply that question.  In your relationship with God.  In choices you make in how you live out life.  In your relationship with your friends, spouse, kids, and parents.  How you treat people at work, church, and home.  What is your involvement in church?  At work, what would God say?