April 2024 Devotional: Sinful

By Major Beth Desplancke

Recently, while stopped at a stoplight I noticed the vehicle’s license plate in front of me. It was a personalized one – people pay extra to have a personalized plate that says something about them. Well, this one was kind of shocking. The license read: SNFUL (sinful).

Why would someone pay for that? And then to add to the sinful state of the person in the vehicle ahead of me, the tabs expired 2 1/2 years ago!

I chewed on the message of the license plate all the way to work that morning. I guess it is good that the person who owned that vehicle acknowledges the fact that he or she is sinful. But how many of us like to acknowledge the fact we sin. It isn’t a label we like to claim.

If we have received Christ as our Savior, we are saved from our sins. We love to wear the label that we have been saved by His grace, and we are. But we need to remember that we are still sinners, we are still sinful. The Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst” (1Timothy 1:15).

The Apostle Paul had an amazing encounter with Jesus on his way to Damascus (Acts 9), and he was forever changed. He knew that God’s grace saved him from the sin he committed (before his conversion with Christ he was helping to round up followers of Jesus and take them to prison).

Yes, Jesus does save us from our sins. We have gone from being dead to alive and become new creations in Him (see Ephesians 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 5:17), but we are still sinners. We are still capable of and will continue to struggle with sin this side of heaven. We must never think that we are beyond the lure and grasp of sin. Yes, I am a sinner saved by grace – Hallelujah! Yes, I have been freed from the power of sin, but the struggle with sin is still there. I can never take for granted that I am still sinful. As I have grown in my walk with Jesus (for the past 46 years – yes, I am old), my desire to sin lessens. Those sinful things that I thought were fun when I was younger, no longer have an appeal or pull to me. I am not sinless, but I desire to sin less.

Seeing the license plate and the word “SINFUL” emblazed in front of me that morning was a great reminder to check myself and examine my own heart for where sin is present in my life. In her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun writes this about the discipline of confession and self-examination, “Self-examination is a process whereby the Holy Spirit opens my heart to what is true about me. This is not the same thing as a neurotic shame-inducing inventory. Instead it is a way of opening myself to God within the safety of divine love so I can authentically seek transformation. Confession embraces Christ’s gift of forgiveness and restoration while setting us on the path to renewal and change (p. 101).”

I need to not run away from that label. I am a sinner and I sin. 1 John 1:8 states, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. I need to acknowledge that I sin. I need to admit my sin to God. Admission is not all that I must do. I need to then confess my sin to Him. In 1 John 1:9 we read of this beautiful promise that comes with our confessing our sins to the Lord: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. The confession isn’t just admitting the sin. True confession includes a sorrowfulness for sin, and a desire to not do it again.

I don’t know why a person chose that license plate, but it was a great reminder for me.