There’s a problem I see in my life that I feel contributes to the stagnation of many Christians’ lives. This in turn poisons the Church and leaves us, well…where we are now in a large part. The problem is that I know I am great many times at recognizing when I have slipped back into the all too comfortable ways of rebellion against God. However, I then refuse to take the next step. Instead, I wallow in my own self-deprecation and filth until God picks me up out of my mire and cleans the muck off me once more. This doesn’t seem like a great way to endure life, and it’s not what God has planned for mine.
Even before Christ’s assurance of salvation through His death on the cross and resurrection, God desired to cleanse His people. In Isaiah 1:18, to a wayward people who had broken their covenant with Him for umpteenth time, God says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” God even then wanted us desperately not to be separated from Him for any reason. In light of Calvary, how unforgivable can our sins be now? The work has been done, our sins paid for two milennia ago. Saint, you have been set free for freedom’s sake! Let us not pretend that the price Christ paid at the cross was not enough! Let us not act as if sin is our master still!
I see room for skepticism, so allow me to illustrate and please forgive in advance my honesty. I could show you multiple examples throughout the Bible of screwups whom God gave integral roles in bringing glory to Himself, but instead I will give you a few personal examples which feel more appropriate in this setting.
My parents separated while I was in high school, and being a high schooler, I did what came naturally which was to run from my problems. Yes, there were many deep-seated problems, but all I knew at that point was to run. I ran from them, my parents, my family, but most importantly God. In retrospect, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of seeing as He’s infinite! I ran straight into alcohol and marijuana, basically the party scene. To clarify, we’re not talking about needing to go to AA meetings or rehab, but it was a real problem in my life at this point. There were many blackout nights and waking up wondering where I’d ended up from the night before, yet there is a bone rattling realization I had to come to. God had already forgiven me for all this. I just needed to come to Him and accept this gift. No gimmicks, no strings attached.
I have sought acceptance all my life, certainly all of it that I can recall. Right around the time of high school, this seeking took the form of getting into dating and random hook-ups (fitting right in with the partying I already mentioned). I’ve spent the past six years dealing with this. Between the couple miserably failed relationships, the drunken hook-ups and the other random stupidity I found myself getting into in this realm, I became an empty shell at one point in particular. Acceptance, unwavering acceptance, is only found in God I’m just now coming to fully grasp. Seeking to find it anywhere else is just…sinful. Once again, enter God and his reassuring call that I am still forgiven.
Finally, I may say that I haven’t murdered, but Matthew 5:21 clearly states that even the thought of malice or hatred carries the same weight of murder. Therefore, I think that suicidal thoughts also would be counted in this category. It’s not something I’m proud of, none of these sins are, but God has used this as well for good. I reached my lowest point after being dumped by my girlfriend of nearly 2 1/2 years and seeing every hope I had left of a “happy” existence flushed down life’s drain. I had no “perfect” family, I was not doing well in school and now I had the girl who I actually thought I was going to marry, have 2 kids with and the house with the picket fence ripped right out of my life. What more did I have to live for? Yes, I went there. Even in this time, God showed me that my family did love me and would be devastated by my absence and that’s what saved my life. And still, God assured me there was nothing I could do to overcome or invalidate His love.
So great. I’m forgiven. Whoop-de-do. Here’s possibly the biggest part of this process. Next, comes the heart transplant. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) What this means in this case is that we are not subject to sin’s tyranny over our lives and we are able to repent or to (in the literal) turn from. This is a gift from God, because as I’m sure your experiences have told you, sin is more powerful than man. This is why it is so easy to succumb to. There is no 5 step process here, but I bring back the word community. We in this setting must seek to find the root of our sin which usually is easier for uninvolved parties as they have the luxury of being more objective and therefore insightful. Community also helps with the other components of this step which are prayer and a steeping in God’s word. Psalm 119:11 illustrates the purpose of memorizing Scripture particularly in this context, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The need for prayer here is because of what is said in James 1:5–6, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” As a side note, pay specific attention to the “with no doubting” part. When we seek wisdom, God’s wisdom, we should have every assurance that He will provide. “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9–11). When we ask for a changed heart, we should fully expect it. Just remember that we are expecting it at God’s pace and in His time, not ours.
In summary, despite my chronic affinity for rebellion, Christ’s work on the cross was in fact complete as Jesus Himself attested to in John 19:30, so our sin (all of it) was forgiven at that very moment, and now because of that victory we are called to repentance to continue the striving toward sanctification which is the calling of God’s chosen ones. Happy, it will not be, but glorious is the reward. Do not be fooled, the God of all the universe would never reward His followers with anything less than abundant wealth and joy that cannot be measured by earthly standards!