Ending the summer with a prayer from the Puritans, whose words always seem to resonate with my heart.Read More
I can't imagine many worse things than being buried alive. Fortunately, this isn't something you encounter every day. Even though I've escaped being buried alive for four decades now, I've not been as successful in keeping from being buried alive spiritually. I wonder, have you?
I went on a walk recently and began praying and asking God to reveal hidden sins in my heart. What things are so familiar to us that we can't really see them? Or at least see them as actual sins? These are the things I was asking God to show me.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139: 23-24
As sins were revealed to me, I cringed inside. And, I began heaping upon myself guilt, condemnation, shame, blame, and just about every bad thing you can name. I realized, as my walk was ending, that I had spiritually buried myself alive!
Now, there is great benefit to seeing our sin and hating the filth of it. This is a must if we are to turn from it. If I didn't despise my sin, I would continue wallowing in it. With that being said, though, we can't bury ourselves alive with loads of condemnation. All that does is paralyze us, stunt us, from moving forward in victory over those sins. We must identify our sins and abhor them, but we also must press on. If we stay in the shame of our sins, our focus is there and not on the Savior.
Once we turn our eyes upward, our confessed sin takes on a whole new take. Now when we see our sins, we also see hope. We see Christ's righteousness covering up those sins. We see the crimson stain of sin being cleansed as white as snow. The guilt is replaced by forgiveness. While we know we've sinned and our flesh wants to continue to sin, we can move forward in the hope of Christ and His victory on the cross. And with that, we can be buried alive with the overflowing and amazing grace of God!
As I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, a story grabbed my attention. Last year, in Cleveland, three kidnapped women, who were found in a man's home, were released after being tortured by him for eleven years. The news outlets are now interviewing the women after one year and seeing how they're functioning. One of the women, Michelle Knight, said this on the "Today" show: Knight, 33, interviewed Monday, said Ariel Castro deserves forgiveness because she'd want to be forgiven if she did wrong, and "that's the way of life."
Many commenters stated that this forgiveness is helpful because if she were to hold on to bitterness or anger, it would only harm her. And, I agree with that. But, I'd like to draw attention to the "deserving forgiveness" part.
As I've shared with my kids several times, grace is "getting what you don't deserve" and mercy is "not getting what you do deserve". In this news story, Castro, the kidnapper and torturer, deserves significant jail time and severe repercussions. While he's getting those things, the thing that he does not deserve is forgiveness. He is getting it, though, from one of his victims...and that's grace.
The point I want to make here is that he's getting grace. He's getting forgiveness. But, he doesn't deserve it.
Why is this such a big deal in my mind? Because this is a perfect illustration of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf. Because of our great sin against a perfect holy God, we deserve hell and the wrath of God. Jesus took that upon Himself in our place. That's mercy. Through Jesus being our substitute, He was able to give us forgiveness for our sins and His perfect righteousness. That's grace!
When I begin to view anything as "I deserve this" then I've lost the concept of grace. I don't deserve forgiveness, yet Jesus has given it to me. I don't deserve eternity in heaven with God, but Jesus secured that for me. I don't deserve to be called "holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation"; however, this is exactly what Jesus has done for me through His death and resurrection.
How are you viewing Jesus' work on your behalf? Do you think it's deserved? Or are you filled with great thankfulness over a gift we could never have warranted? We will live accordingly.