by Vicky Kaniaru
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) — "When God begins to work in our lives, he brings about a confession that is costly. If we publicly confess Christ, publicly admit that there's an issue in our life that we need to deal with, we move from the fear of man to the fear of God," said Michael Catt, senior pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church, Albany, Ga.
“How much can I [sin] and still be a Christian?” said Michael Catt, pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church, Albany, Ga.Sherwood is known for producing popular Christian films such as Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and its highest grossing film, Courageous. Catt spoke March 22 at Truett-McConnell College's weekly chapel.
Drawing from 1 Kings 8, Catt said sin afflicts the heart, and that believers will never see a great move of God if they refer to sin in general, impersonal terms.
"The plague and the affliction of sin is not an accident," Catt said. "It's an intentional willful act of disobeying God in some area, even a small area of my life."
Christians don't see sin as sin, but as problems or issues, said Catt, warning believers that the fault in generalizing sin is that people do not recognize the need for a savior.
Citing A.W. Tozer, Catt said the "strength of sin is in itself. We don't know it's there. It ruins us. Hardly anyone admits it's there. We can admit it en masse, but not personally."
"We like to think that the world is full of sinners," Catt continued. "But the reason we don't see a work of God, the reason we are dry-eyed with empty altars in our churches is because we are not broken over what our sins did to Jesus. We are not broken by the sins in our lives."
Stating that God always calls believers publicly, Catt said many churches have abandoned the public invitation or altar call. But that's not the model of Jesus Christ. "Everybody Jesus called, he called publicly," he said. "There are no secret agents in God's army."
"When you quit falling on your knees and crying out to God, you begin to die inside," added Catt, who warned believers of "the serpent coiled up in the heart" who "will lie dormant until you get to the highest point of your influence, then he'll bite you. ... He'll wait until more people will fall and more people will be disappointed and more people will walk away from the Gospel until he has you at the highest point of your ability to influence. Then he will stick his fangs out, and the world will know."
The only way to deal with the affliction of the heart is to love Jesus, said Catt, who stated that trying harder and making resolutions will not change a person's heart.
"I have to die to myself and confess my sins to God, not in general but specifically," Catt said. "And sometimes the affliction of our hearts is so painful to admit because we realize we're speaking them into the ears of a holy God. But, it is in the admission and the confession that there is freedom."
The pastor stated that people have to take responsibility for their sins and stop passing blame. The lack of responsibility is the reason modern churches are debating "how much can I [sin] and still be a Christian?" Catt said.
"You are asking the wrong question. What you're really asking is how much like hell can I be and still go to heaven?" said Catt, quoting the late Southern Baptist revivalist, Vance Havner.
"God is trying to protect us when he says not to do something," said Catt, who recounted the story of a church praise team member who committed suicide after his wife found receipts under the bed for flowers he had sent to other women.
"Rather than crying out to God in confession and repentance, and facing his family with his sinful choices, he thought it easier to kill himself," Catt said.
There's a serpent we're not dealing with, added Catt, noting that the only reason believers will not deal with sin is pride.
The remedy for such pride is revival, noted Catt, who cited Evan Roberts of the great Welsh revival fame, and his four principles of revival: 1) confession of all known sin; 2) repentance and restitution; 3) obedience and surrender to the Holy Spirit; and, 4) public confession of Christ.
"It's really fearful to get God-honest, but God knows us from the inside out," Catt said. "The fear of man is a snare. The fear of man is that I care more about something or someone I could lose than the God who could bless me in ways that I could never lose."
"You can have it all, you can have gifts, you can have talents, and you can have abilities, and not have the blessed presence of the power of God on your life," Catt said. "Is there an affliction in your life today?"
Vicky Kaniaru is senior staff writer at Truett-McConnell College.