A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in church listening to my pastor talk about the cross. His message was one of a series he has been teaching leading up to Easter titled, “This Is Not The End.” Somewhere near the middle of his message I got lost on a tidbit of information he presented. My mind began wandering and chewing on a thought that I couldn’t seem to shake and even still, some three weeks later I am still pondering/meditating and now blogging about it. Here is the unraveling of those thoughts:
We tend to lie to ourselves and believe that our sins, our wrongdoings are not that bad. That we can get away with them. That they won’t eat away at and eventually destroy our lives. We carry their burden around with us as if there is no strain or tugging or pulling at us. Yet, as Romans 6:23 says:
“For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Imagine that, to work at something in order to be paid with death. This is macabre. This is horrifying and twisted, yet we continue on, turning a blind eye to the final outcome of our sins.
Why does our brain tell us to stand back from the edge of a cliff? Because it knows that the outcome of an accidental fall would be death.
Why does it tell us to drive on our side of the road? Because it knows a head on collision could likely end in death.
Why does our brain tell us to avoid certain parts of town at night, to stay out of the ocean when there has been a shark sighting, to not fool around with a loaded gun, and not stand outside when there is a tornado? Because it knows that each of these things could end in death.
How can we get to this point with sin and what can we do to remember the gruesome outcome of being a slave to it so that we can avoid it like the plague it is?
What if our sin was found out? And not just found out by someone we considered worse off than ourselves, but, what if we were caught in the act of our greatest sin by someone who was blameless? Someone who had never done us wrong? Someone, whose affection and attention and love we craved? What if that person made eye contact with us at that moment of sin? Would we then see our sin as it really is?
That feelings that I imagine most people would have with this thought are most likely guilt and shame.
Shame- the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
Guilt- a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc.
Some may be squirming as they read this. Some may be weeping. Some may be hardened. Each of us responding to the way we have viewed and treated our sins.
As I sat in that church service, a few weeks ago, I listened as my pastor read out of the book of Luke about the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. It was right in the middle of the verses he was reading that I stopped. Three verses, about Peter’s denial of Christ, jumped out at me as they had never before. Luke 22:60-62
“But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ And instantly, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter recalled the Lord’s words, how He had told him, Before the cock crows today, you will deny Me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly [that is, with painfully moving grief].”
Would we have the same response to our sin as Peter did if this verse said “And the Lord turned and looked at [insert your name]?” You may be thinking, yeah but, Peter was denying Christ, surely my tiny sins don’t compare to that. Timothy Keller says this,
“The first commandment is foundational to all the other commandments. We will not break commandments two through ten unless we are in some way breaking the first one by serving something or someone other than God. Every sin is rooted in the inordinate lust for something which comes because we are trusting in that thing rather than in Christ for our righteousness or salvation. We sin because we are looking to something else to give us what only Jesus can give us. Beneath any particular sin is the general sin of rejecting Christ’s salvation and attempting our own self-salvation.”
Even what we think are the whitest, tiniest sins are still a rejection, denial of Christ and His salvation.
Think, once again, about having someone find out about your greatest sin. Think about what you imagine your response would be: shame, guilt, anger, sorrow, fear, blame, repentance? Now think about why you hide and make excuses for that sin. Do you fear losing someones respect? Losing your job? Would you fear that you would have to give up that sin and you can’t imagine life without it and as a result you would burn with anger and bitterness? Is your excuse for that sin that some person or some other action or some other time wounded you and as a result, this sin of yours is your consolation? Your shield? Have you forgotten how to have relationships with others without that sin?
Think on all of these feelings and know that Jesus has seen your sin. He has found you out. He has turned and looked at you right in the dirty, horrid middle of it, covered with the infection of your attempts at self-salvation, just as He did with Peter, and instead of turning away repulsed, He grabbed a hold of that sin, wrenched it and all of the shame and guilt and fear and anger and victimization and bitterness from you and carried it away with Him. To a cross. And upon that cross He died bearing your sin, the huge weight of it, so that you could live free from it. Sometimes I wonder what the hardest part of the cross was for Jesus, the nails in His hands and His feet? The crown of thorns pushed upon His head? The lashing? The spear shoved into His side? Hanging there with all of this abuse and waiting for death? Or, was the torment of our sins upon Him worse?
Eye contact, with us and our sin, was made some 2000 years ago and the wage of death, for our sins, was paid by a man who was blameless, who didn’t deserve it but who bore it so that we could live free from it. Thomas Chalmers said,
“The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one….The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”
This Easter, quit looking for life among the rubble of death. Quit your attempt at self-salvation. You will never be able to raise yourself from the dead. Turn to and trust the only one can be our salvation. Grab onto the only real source of life, who displayed the greatest act of love the world has ever seen. Turn to the true Savior, Rescuer, Reliever, Justifier, Free-er, Death-Destroyer, Redeemer
who has risen from the dead.