Sin is the Smoke Pointing to the Fire of Woundedness

Many believers discuss their sins and problems in very specific terms like anger, worry, doubt. They think these sins are at the core of their struggles, but that usually isn’t true. Our sins are more often symptoms of deeper heart issues. When we wrestle with a sin over and over without victory, it’s almost always because we aren’t getting to the root of the problem.

Many believers discuss their sins and problems in very specific terms like anger, worry, doubt. They think these sins are at the core of their struggles, but that usually isn’t true. Our sins are more often symptoms of deeper heart issues. When we wrestle with a sin over and over without victory, it’s almost always because we aren’t getting to the root of the problem.

Gary Wilkerson: Hi, Gary Wilkerson here on the Gary Wilkerson podcast. I'm excited about today's podcast, I think we're going to see and hear some amazing things. We're going to be talking with Doug Welbourn today.

Doug, welcome. Glad you're here and looking forward to talking to you about some deep issues, some things that are really deep in the heart.

Doug Welbourn: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Gary: We’ve talked here before in this podcast about the two elements that seem to help or hinder us from that Zoe life, that life of God in us and one is sin obviously, you've been addressing that. And the other is woundedness. I've heard it referred to as like when a house is on fire, the firemen come, they don't point the hoses at the smoke and say, “Boy, if we just get that smoke out.” They actually shoot it through it. Even when they don't see the flames inside the building, they shoot it through the window, knowing that’s where the flames are even if they don't see it.

Then eventually the smoke will-- And the smoke is secondhand, the smoke is the result, the cause is the flame. Sometimes in our Christian life, we are trying to address the smoke, like, “Oh, you're angry, oh, you're lustful, you look at pornography, oh, you tell lies to make yourself look better.” We're addressing the sin, which is so important to do and Jesus spoke of that so much and so did of all the other writers. Sometimes in church, we don't deal with the wounds, to me, I think the fire is-- I look at somebody who is saying, “Okay, well, I'm struggling with lying, I continue to try to do self-promotion through lying.”

That's actually the cause, self-promotion, you're trying to promote yourself because you feel bad about yourself. You feel little, so you're trying to make yourself look big. Let's not just deal with the fruit or the result, let's look at the cause, what's causing this? I think that gospel message you’re sharing today is so cool because it deals with both, it deals with both the smoke and the fire. It deals with the wounds and the fruit of that wound of the sin.

Doug: Yes, I agree 100%. I've been talking in one direction but another direction is, most sins that people tell you about is not the real sin. The presenting problem is not usually the real issue. Likewise, when someone says this is my sin, that's not the real issue, that's a symptom of the real issue. It's good that they are willing to talk to somebody because just as you-- That example you used is very good. Why people lie, anger is always a secondary sin so you want to help them find out what's going on. The problem is a lot of time, people don't know why they have issues because it comes from their parents. Tons of issues come out of their family of origin and they're hurt, and they buried it and they don't even remember so.

Gary: The moralism you were talking about will, or legalism, will almost always present itself publicly through dealing with the secondary issues. Now I'm not saying sin is secondary in the sense of its importance or need to be dealt with but I'm saying in a sense it is-- We're both saying it is a result of something that is working underneath the surface inside-- And Jesus called it inside the cup. You can clean the outside, you can get rid of-- “You don't look very angry to me.” Like-

Doug: Matthew 23.

Gary: “Yes, I've got it under control, I'm not angry,” but inside you’re seething, inside is dead man’s bones and so-

Doug: Eventually it’ll come out by itself.

Gary: Or it'll come out another way, it'll come out through too much drinking or to try to cover the anger and stuff like that. It just pops up some other way. Moralism tends to treat the symptoms and so a moralistic counselor, behavioristic counselor or a behavioristic pastor will always be speaking towards behavior modification. “Don't do this, stop doing that,” and then if they can't deal with it, there's almost a frustration in the leadership, “You're not towing the line, we're going to have to bring church discipline, we're going to have to even kick you out because you're still drinking or you're still looking at pornography.”

Doug: Unfortunately.

Gary: They don't know how to deal with the heart issue and that's what Jesus came for all these religious systems were doing all this externals and Jesus came for the internal and turned things around. That message you're bringing when-- I've been with you, when you do these pastors conferences, we were in Ireland together and I heard your message there and it really does go to the heart. I think that's so important that you're not dismissing the… and we're not dismissing that behavior.

We’re saying that if you get to the heart, your behavior will change. That seed planted on the ground, will blossom a different kind of fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit. Letting yourself be yourself rather than letting something else come take the place of that.

Let’s just say we put another chair at this table and we brought in a guy named Bill and Bill said, “Okay, you help people who are struggling, hurting. I'm stuck in this habitual pattern of sin, addiction, hatred, unforgiveness.” This is a really big question, I'm sorry, as far as this is so broad, you may not be able to unpack it but what goes through your mind? How can I help because, again, in this podcast, I want to help people? I don't want to just give good theological insight, I want to help people that listen, they're saying, “I can't seem to stop-

Doug: Bitterness.

Gary: -bitterness. I hate this person and I know I'm not supposed to and I want to, but I can't stop it." I hear you saying, there's something about Christ living in us. What would you say to Bill who's who's struggling with those kind of things?

Doug: Well, if there was someone who is way down the path and there aren’t many—

Gary: You're going to believe what you want, is that what you mean?

Doug: Well, they're living the Christ life. They're living the cross and the cross has killed a lot of the flesh. I haven't used that term yet, but selfishness, and they really are in love with Jesus, and he's their all. If it's one of them. One of them [crosstalk]. There's not many of those people. They would be able to handle that fairly quickly. Because their life is not in this world, it's in Christ, but for most of us, even fairly mature Christians, if they’re really hurt, I'm not talking about they have an argument or-- like my wife and I.

We rarely really hurt each other, we do hurt each other, but not enough to have a big deal, but what you're talking about is someone like I was stabbed in the back in a church by someone I thought was my best friend and that was a monumental hurt. The two things that go through my mind first are, one, this is really important to Jesus, he talks a lot about forgiveness so I cannot take it lightly.

Number two, this has got to be a process, because just say to someone within a week, you're going to forgive this person. The Holy Spirit can do that, but that's not going to be the norm. How I would address it with them is, I would want them to feel the pain more than anything. I would spend a lot of time with them in their pain.

Gary: What do you mean you want them to feel the pain, you want to feel worse?

Doug: If that's what it takes.

Gary: The opposite of that would be denial, depression and emotions.

Doug: The opposite of that is I'm a Christian, I shouldn't feel this. Maybe it was my fault. I call certain people over gracing. They're good people. They love the Lord so they over grace, they give people a break, but really down inside they're seething. I really want to get at that if that's the case. Some people aren't, they're just mad, but I want to go over it. I really want them to go over it and over it and I want to get all the pain out. That's hard for them, but I want them to write a letter to the person which will probably not be sent, but that's a tool to get them to personalize it. In many cases, that is a catharsis moment.

Gary: I think I'd add to that. Excuse me for interrupting. One of things I did in a process similar to that of needing to forgive somebody that hurt me, it was to be clear about how they hurt me and how I felt about it, but then also how I reacted to that. It put me more on equal ground with them. Before that I thought they were so much lower than me because they were monsters. How can they act like that? Are they really even Christians? Could a Christian do that?

They were so below me. When I started to… and I wrote that down in a letter to them, and it was full of-- I just let it go. I was just writing, “I think you're an idiot, you're so stupid, you say stupid things.” It just felt good writing it. In the same step, I took a look at my own heart and said, "Oh, what I hear myself saying has a lot of bitterness to it, has a lot of anger to it." Then I realized, wait a minute, I'm kind of in the same thing.

What helped me was to realize I can't change them. I can't make them come into understanding their sin or their lack of grace. I can't change them and I can't control that, but what I have opportunity to do is look at my own heart, and see where there's areas for growth so I can see in there, because if I allow resentment and bitterness and unforgiveness to remain in my heart, I'll probably end up-- Bitter people create bitterness, so it set me free from that. I wasn't spreading bitterness. Probably for them, they never overcame their own anger and bitterness, so it hit me. It's almost like Satan just to try to multiply his impact.

Doug: Sometimes they don't even know what they did, so I agree with that, but for me, that's a little bit later because I want them to-- I think it's important first, if you don't feel it, you won't deal with it. I want them to feel it, okay? I want them to have some time with it and I keep in touch with them so that it's not turning into something sinful. I tell them that along the way, my goal for you is forgiveness, all I keep telling them that. I'm not trying to give you permission to sin but if you bury any of this then that part will not get healed or forgiven.

I let them have that for a period of time which I feel they need and they will be surprised in many cases if they're Christians and fairly mature Christians by how mad they are because they're not used to being angry, real angry. They'll tell me they're really angry at this person. I said I understand. That's how we're not built or we were not designed to be treated like that, we were designed to be treated with love and with affection. God made us to be just-- Put His arms around so this is not normal. We continue on and then in time as that begins to just wear off a little bit, because it does after a while, without looking at them yet I say, "Look at the letter and I want you to discern what of those sins do you do?

Not just every couple years, but what sins do you do and I want you to write them down, and then I want you to go to God and I want you to go to the Holy Spirit with an open heart." The next step… that is a lot of talking going on, before this, I'm just giving you this. What you said which I give you a little props here. I learned this from you. I say, "I want you to look at these guys and I want you to say do you think they really like monsters like a black lagoon? Do you think they're just guys that are broken and they got issues? Do you think they're way better or worse than you? Can you think stuff that you do that they do or maybe worse?"

What I've learned in the couple of times and I've used it as they say, "Yes, they're no worse than I am." In a couple times they said there are a couple people they feel are evil, really evil.

That's worth pursuing, but in most cases I don't think they're worse than I am. That doesn't mean all the anger goes away right away, but that allows them if they're willing to go with the Lord and they will forgive those people.

Gary: That's true.

Doug: Dealing with evil people is a whole other-- They still need to forgive them but it's just [crosstalk]

Gary: Yes, that's a whole other conversation about that with boundaries, and stuff like that. Yes, unsafe people.

Doug: You know, people that are-- maybe Satan's involved, and stuff like that.

Gary: Yes, that happens a lot.

Doug: I think that's just condensed to something that really takes half a year.

Gary: Right. As we just track with what you're saying there, you're saying something that's unsaid and that you're walking with somebody over a six-month period. It's relational. The person is not doing this on their own. It's not just sort of me in my secret closet.

Doug: I don't think a person could do this on their own. [crosstalk] The key thing is not that I'm an expert. The key thing is I'm telling my story. I think I've discovered that the most important thing for a counselor is they're telling their story, so I'm telling my story about how hard it is to forgive and how deeply I've been hurt. That just helps people, "You've been hurt this bad. I've been as hurt as deeply as you have."

Gary: Somebody to relate to.

Doug: "Have you forgiven them?" "I have," and I tell the story then when I have lunch. I had lunch with the guy recently. Will we be best friends again? Probably not, but I've totally forgiven him and he's totally forgiven me. That's very important.

Gary: When you're hurt, it can turn out in two different ways. One is you hold onto your bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, or you can be healed and set free from that and forgive the person. Again, you may not be ever trust them again or be close to them-

Doug: The thing is if a person is not trustworthy-

Gary: - but you'll feel free. Right.

Doug: It's not wisdom, like Jesus said in one place. He did not entrust Himself to them. He loved them, obviously-

Gary: It's a good thought.

Doug: - but he was smart.

Gary: Yes.

Doug: You know who they are. You can love them again, but you don't necessarily have the same relationship with them.

Key Questions from the Podcast

  • What are the things that hinder the power of God from operating in our lives?
  • How can we break free from habitual patterns of sin?

Notable Quotes from the Podcast

Most sins that people tell you about is not the real sin. The presenting problem is not usually the real issue. When someone says, “This is my sin,” that's not the real issue. That's a symptom of the real issue, so you want to help them find out what's going on. – Doug Welbourn

The moralism you were talking about will, or legalism, will almost always present itself publicly through dealing with the secondary issues. Now, I'm not saying sin is secondary in the sense of its importance or need to be dealt with, but it is a result of something that is working underneath the surface inside. Jesus called it inside the cup. – Gary Wilkerson

The two things that go through my mind first are, one, this is really important to Jesus. He talks a lot about forgiveness so I cannot take it lightly. Number two, this has got to be a process, because just to say to someone within a week you're going to forgive this person, the Holy Spirit can do that, but that's not going to be the norm. – Doug Welbourn

About Doug Welbourn

Doug Welbourn has served in ministry for over 30 years. He has pastored in several states and in churches of all different sizes from 60 to 1100. Doug served in Abidjan West Africa as an International Pastor. Doug’s experience also includes working as a consultant for the western churches of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He specialized in the revitalization of unhealthy and dysfunctional churches. He has served on the Spiritual Care Team of Samaritan's Purse where he traveled internationally to minister to the rescue and developmental workers across the globe. Doug has been a speaker at workshops and conferences here and abroad and writes for Christian publications. He has three grown children and three stupendous grandchildren. He loves to ride his bike, follow everything Boston sports and even dabbles in interior design.

About Gary Wilkerson

Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

Facebook | Twitter