Proverbs 21:6 – The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.
I am a white collar criminal. Most of my professional career was spent helping a great company grow its impact in spreading the gospel through video. I worked at this company for nearly 11 years after becoming its first hire. I loved working there and yet I made some devastating decisions that hurt both myself and the company. Personally, I was ensnared in gambling and had given my heart over to that sin. The worst part of this dizzying sin spiral is that I regrettably and shamefully committed various significant financial indiscretions ranging from inappropriate use of the company credit card to fraudulent check writing. For 7 long years, I lied, stole, manipulated, schemed, and deceived my company, friends, and family.
I became a shell of the man I desired to be and was nothing like the godly man that God intended. This path most definitely led my to death, namely spiritual death.
2 Corinthians 7:10 – For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
This seven year wandering started in 2008 when I turned 30, yet it was partially a result of never fully dealing with the effects of my past sin. Left unchecked, these past mistakes produced lingering guilt and shame. Thinking myself unable to crack the cycle, I gave in to the cycle. I was sorry for the devastation sin had wreaked in my life, but as the verse implies, I did not let God into my sorrow. So the cycles would only grow worse and worse. Before long, I was stuck in a Psalm 40:2 pit of destruction, with seemingly no hope for help.
Finally, when I had had enough, I cried out to God. He heard my cry and paved the way to set me free (Psalm 102:20). Though I had started following Christ at age 13, I had long left his Proverbs 12:28 path and felt the clutches of death for veering from the way He intends life to be lived. Luckily, God is a God of deliverances. And to Him, belong escapes from death into glorious life (Psalm 68:20).
As I say now, I am still sorrowful for what I did during these 7 years. But now, instead of letting that sorrow lead to further sin in efforts to numb my personal pain, the Spirit uses that pain to drive me back to daily repentance and dependence upon Him.
Ezekiel 33:15-16 – if a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has stolen, walks by the statutes which ensure life without committing iniquity, he shall sure live; he shall not die. None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has practiced justice and righteousness; he shall surely live.
I cling to this promise. I’m not trying to work my way back to Heaven. Instead I live in light of Heaven, trying to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8, Acts 26:20c). Of course, I still fail and sin. Now though, my faithfulness is defined by how I respond to that sin: recognize it, confess it, forsake it, make amends and accept forgiveness for it, then find freedom from it.
As my journey of repentance has continued, God and my former employer graciously gave me the opportunity to pay back in full what I stole. So I did. In addition, I have sought amends with others whom I have harmed, asking for forgiveness for my actions. Each conversation is a sweet reminder of the forgiveness that God has already extended me and how I’m ultimately free from my sin even while I faithfully deal with my sin. Ultimately, the best part has been the full restoration of my relationship with Christ. He has renewed my hunger for His Word, which helps me yield further to His Spirit all the while being surrounded by His people that spur me on to love and good deeds. God has been so, so good to me.