Do You Have A Problem With Red Dye #3?


April, 2002

Dear Disciple of Jesus,

"Are you the Queen of the house?" That was the first sentence I heard one Saturday morning many years ago when my wife and I lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There had been a knock at the door, and Judi answered it. I could hear a conversation going on with some man and I wondered who it was. When I finally made it to that end of the house, I saw Judi peering out the front door at a young man with a spray bottle who was vigorously scrubbing with a toothbrush at the engine oil stain on our concrete driveway. When he saw me also leaning out the door, he suddenly exclaimed, "You must be the King!" and came running up to me with enthusiasm wanting to shake my hand. It turned out that he was a college student working summers to pay his expenses. He was selling a concentrated cleaner for almost $30 a bottle that you could mix with water which he claimed would clean better than anything on earth. He said his cleaner would even get the baked on "carbon-black" off the drip pans under the burners on our kitchen stove. With a quick request for permission, he sort of politely pushed his way past us and headed for our kitchen. There he proudly cleaned one of our drip pans in nothing flat, and was really pumped up from his success so far. He asked, "Do you have any other really tough stains I could clean for you?" I immediately thought of the red Koolaide stain on our living room carpet that the previous occupants of the house had left behind. When I pointed it out to him, he quickly pounced on it with his spray bottle and flying elbows as he worked that toothbrush like his life depended on it. After a little while, and noticing no progress on the stain, he began to slow down. A little while longer and he slowly sat down on the floor with a look of sad defeat on his face. Staring thoughtfully at the carpet, he said, "You know, that looks like red dye #3. NOTHING takes out red dye #3!" He seemed genuinely depressed, so we tried to encourage him and thank him for the other things he had cleaned. We asked a few questions and discovered his father was a Pentecostal pastor, and the young man had a partial basketball scholarship. Feeling like he was "good soil" after all, we bought a bottle of his concentrated cleaner which encouraged him a little. He thanked us and slowly started down the street, his shoulders slumped, trying to work back up his energy and enthusiasm after being so soundly defeated by a Koolaide stain.

After reflecting on this, I realized that many Christians are like that young man. Some particular flavor of sin has been defeating them and they don't know what to do about it. They feel like they should not have that particular problem or fault, they know they should get the sin out of their life, but for whatever reason they have not been able to succeed. They have tried most every brand of "cleaner" or spiritual formula trying to get their life right and the sin out — but nothing has worked so far. As a result, they are discouraged or depressed, just trudging through their Christian walk with no energy or enthusiasm. But it doesn't have to be this way!

The first important key is to understand the difference between conviction and condemnation. God has placed within each person a basic awareness of right and wrong (Romans 1:20, 2:14-15, 1 John 3:2, etc.). While it is true that people can practice sin to such a large degree that they get self-deceived or even "sear their conscience", most people do not get to such a drastic condition. So when most people sin, they feel a slight "burning" feeling on the inside that we call guilt. Unbelievers keep trying to get rid of that "guilty feeling" through self-justification, blaming others, or perhaps substance abuse — not realizing that spiritual guilt serves the same healthy function as pain. The normal purpose of pain is to alert us that something is wrong, such as when a person touches a burning stove or is accidentally cutting a finger with a kitchen knife. Those who ignore guilt will bring about their own harm the same way as a person who ignores pain. But guilt, called conviction in believers, is very different from condemnation. Basic guilt or conviction is from God and is designed to turn us to Him for salvation or forgiveness. However, condemnation is from Satan and is designed to pull us down and destroy us. Most people have a hard time embracing conviction while refusing condemnation. They think they should feel "bad" because they sinned. But the Bible says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus..." (Romans 8:1). This is not a license to sin, just a license to not go into depression when we have forgiveness available. In fact, the famous passage of Nehemiah 8:10 which says "The joy of the Lord is your strength" was written to people who had been greatly sinning and just had the scriptures read to them which convicted them! They had begun weeping and feeling so overwhelmed with guilt that Nehemiah had to encourage them because of the forgiveness available from the Lord before they sank down into depression.

This brings up the key to getting rid of the feeling of guilt or conviction. 1st John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This is addressed to Christians, and the context is restoring fellowship with God (the word fellowship is used three times in that section). You don't get born-again by confessing your sins (that could take days for many mature adult sinners). You get cleansed from those feelings of unrighteousness (guilt) by confessing the sins committed after being born-again. This is one of the most neglected spiritual practices among Protestant Christians in America. And it is the major reason why most Christians are out of fellowship with God! They are cut off from the joy, inner peace, and spiritual energy that flows from God when we are in fellowship with Him. You don't have to confess your sins to some priest, but you do need to confess them to God. (Don't feel He will be surprised — He knew before we were born that we were going to commit the sins that we have done.) Someone once said that the confession of a sin should be as public as the sin was. If you sinned publicly against a number of people, you should apologize to them. But if you and God are the only ones aware of a sin, then confessing it to God alone is enough.

What if you commit the same sin again? Confess it as sin to God again! Satan tries to get people to drag around for days "moping" and denying themselves enjoyment in an attempt to "pay" for a sin. This is literally blasphemy. It is implying that Jesus Christ did not pay enough for your sin to be forgiven — it is acting as if Jesus failed. The correct name for this behavior is "penance" and it is not of God. Some people even crawl through broken glass or have themselves nailed to a cross trying to "pay for their forgiveness". This is "religion" — man's efforts to appease God. God is against religion. (The word "religion" is used five times in the King James translation of the Bible, and four of the five times it is in a negative context.) The resulting condition of not having the "joy of the Lord for your strength" results in being even weaker when temptation comes around again. It is a vicious, downward spiral. Don't let Satan steal your joy through this deception.

I am not saying there are no consequences to sin. What people sow, they reap. "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption" (Galations 6:8). But sowing mercy is using God's "trump card" to deliver yourself from previous "sowing mistakes". I have a powerful, complete teaching of how sowing and reaping works in a believer's life. This is one of the most misunderstood areas of modern Christianity. You can be forgiven while still reaping the physical consequences of disobedience. (But it sure beats going to Hell for eternity!) I am not implying that you lose your salvation every time you sin, but people who practice sin do have the potential to harden their heart so much they could renounce their Savior and give up their salvation. (God doesn't make anyone get saved, and He doesn't make anyone stay saved.) I have a four tape teaching series full of insight and revelation where I cover these issues much more completely than this short space allows. Why not invest in some spiritual meat this month and request it on the enclosed Response Form!

Removing Stains for God,

Dale & Judi Leander


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