Let’s settle this.

Have you ever made a mistake that took over your life? I have. It was in the moment when the inappropriate thing I was just “thinking” about became what I was “doing”. The problem was, it wasn’t just that one moment. It became 2 moments, then 10, and before I knew it months had passed where I had strung together too many moments to count. Each time I came to the choice of whether or not I would do it again, I battled with the conviction of the Holy Spirit. You see I was already a Christian, I knew right from wrong, and yet, I chose wrong…for an extended period of time. It was only by the grace of God that I did not tear down my own life. When I finally came to my senses, I begged for forgiveness. And I received it! The mercy of God is unfathomable and yet, I saw it with clarity the day I was able to stand with a clear conscience in His presence for the first time in months. How marvelous are His mercies? We cannot know until we have needed them so badly we would not survive without them.

But, I am also learning that being cleansed of our sin happens in stages. The first stage happens immediately upon repentance. God casts our sin as far as the east is from the west and remembers it no more! It is a miracle that only works in His universe. How can He know all things and yet forget the times when I have insulted Him so completely? It is beyond my comprehension. The day I repented I was cleansed of my sin. While I knew that HE had forgotten it, I had not. To me, the sin was a black mark on my life that I would never forget. As a result of His forgiveness it had faded but the intensity of the stain was still visible when I examined it.

Nevertheless, I moved forward into the next stage. I pressed into God’s word in a new way. I prayed, I journaled, and did everything else I could think of to prove to myself that His promise was sure and I was forgiven. During this time God restored my mind through His word and I had great victories in other areas of my life. I was being renewed through the washing of the Word; cleansed of the thought patterns of the past. This was crucial to making it to the next stage, I would not even have the strength or understanding to move forward without the power of His word and the Holy Spirit. You see, no matter how far removed I was from this broken period of my life and no matter how many times I prayed, I still saw this black mark when I looked back over my Christian walk. It was an unredeemable string of moments, without any value. Maybe I could use them as an example of “how not to be a Christian” in a teaching someday…but even then, I just knew I would always feel condemning shame.

Just this week I finished the Bible study children of the Day, by Beth Moore. This verse by verse study of First and Second Thessalonians was excellent. Along the way I learned new things; His promises and my calling were confirmed in my heart, and I felt His presence through my study time. I was moving along unaware of His intention to reveal to me the next stage of His cleansing. In week 7, Beth talked about how God can use darkness to get our attention and sift out of our hearts the things that will keep us from fulfilling the purpose He has created us for. She used the example of Simon Peter. Jesus said in Luke 22:31-32 (NET), “Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”* Satan was trying to attack all of the disciples but Jesus allowed only Peter to be sifted. Jesus knew that if Peter was to accomplish all that God had planned for him, he would need to be free from pride. Peter was quick to claim he would go to prison or die with Jesus, unlike the one who Jesus had said would betray Him only a few moments before. But, that same night he denied Jesus 3 times, and just like that a lighted mirror was turned on the pride in his heart. He saw himself for what he really was and it was life changing. Peter went on to be an influential servant leader in the early church, ultimately giving his life for the cause of Christ. Satan intended to use the sifting for the destruction of Peter’s relationship with Jesus, but God used it to expose and tear out a root of pride in Peter’s heart leading to a deeper, more meaningful relationship.

Suddenly, my perspective began to shift and I saw my black mark as a season of sifting. I clearly had a root of sin in my heart that was going to drive me away from God’s plan if He did not expose it. So He did! I was brought face to face with what I was really capable of and it was horrifying!

“Sometimes we have to experience an onslaught of the enemy to realize we want God. The mask of Satan peels back enough for us to realize we have been flirting with a monster, snuggling with a murderer, and dancing with a devil. God can allow someone to go through hell on earth to keep from going to hell for eternity. It’s a gift of bright grace in black paper.”* (Emphasis mine)

That last sentence is my favorite line in the entire study. It was God’s grace and love for me that allowed satan* divine access to trip me up for a time, so I would be forced to look into the mirror and see my sin in all its horror. Only after seeing its ultimate result would I stop “flirting with the monster” so God could tear it out of my heart. Until then I had justified my thoughts as having no long term effects. How ridiculous! But the reality is that all of us are capable of self-delusion.

Sifting causes exposure; exposure cures delusion.

When I began to consider that my season of sifting could have value in God’s economy, I was floored yet again by His grace! What a miracle that He could redeem my sin and snatch the power to shame me out of satan’s hands! I can’t tell you what a difference this has made in how I feel about my past. I am looking back at the season of sifting without the overwhelming shame. Was I wrong and in need of forgiveness? You bet I was! I made the choice to sin. Did God hijack satan’s plan to destroy me by using it to change me and make me useful for His kingdom? YES!! My black mark has become a sign of God’s grace in my life. He loved me enough to go deeper into my heart and pull out something that was holding me back from my calling. THAT is the next stage of His cleansing: when we can look back and see His brilliant grace streaming out of the black paper surrounding the times of our life we have brought shame on ourselves. Only then can we fully understand Isaiah 1:8…

“Come now, let’s settle this”, says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them white as wool.” (NLT)*


Be encouraged my friends, God is ready to reconcile your black marks and make you white as snow. ~ Keri Lee






Notes: 1. NET, New English Translation (Biblical Studies Press, LLC, 2005).
2. Beth Moore, children of the Day (Nashville, TN, LifeWay Press, 2014) 181.
3. It is my personal choice to not capitalize satan.
4. NLT, New Living Translation (Tyndale House, 2007).