We, like Isaiah in chapter 6 of the book of Isaiah, are a fallen people. When Isaiah saw the throne room and was face to face with God he cried out in fear and said “Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the Lord!”
Isaiah knew that what should happen next was judgment and that he deserved to be condemned and his sins deserved punishment.
When we become aware of our sin, we recognize what Isaiah recognized. God should punish me for my sin. I should be cast out from his presence. Sometimes we know that what we really deserve is hell, in whatever form it truly exists.
The moment I am aware of my sinfulness I need to understand grace. I need a vision of God’s redemptive plan. At this very moment I teeter between a vision of why I love God–Father, Son, and Spirit, or why I am lost. If I focus on my lostness I teeter toward hopelessness.
On the one hand my sin leads to a richer understanding of the blessing of redemption and on the other it presses on me with such a weight of condemnation that I am prone to give up.
I think it is an issue of life or death to understand what will push me to one side, and what will push me to the other. As I swing between knowing my Father loves me, and feeling like I face eternity under His condemnation I think it is possible to move toward Christ.
The question I think at the heart of this is what does my sin do to me? What does it do to my relationship with God?
Bear with me for a moment, but the movie Groundhog Day has helped me to recognize a something helpful. In the movie the main character is a news channel weather man who is full of himself and incredibly self focused. He hates the fact that he has been assigned to broadcast the farce of Punxutawney Phil and whether or not he sees his shadow. He can’t wait to get out of town, but is forced to stay due to a storm. When he wakes up the next morning it is actually yesterday and he is the only one who knows this. He is not only forced to stay in town, but he is forced to repeat the same day over and over and over and over and over. For what seems to be forever. Everyone else is blissfully unaware that life is on an endless loop.
At first he tries to take control by killing himself. He simply wakes up from death and it is the same day. Again.
Then he decides to use this “gift” to pursue his selfish desires. He has a blank slate. No one but the main character realizes what has happened the day “before”. He fully expresses his selfishness. Over a very long time he becomes bored with the meaninglessness of his experiences. He is a very selfish man and he uses the “opportunities” he has to live very selfishly. He comes to realize that, as the Westminster catechisms say, this place of selfish sin is really miserable.
The next phase of this life is that he decides to make a difference. He learns medicine to save a homeless man’s life. He learns to play the piano to entertain. He does many small things to help others because he has learned the bad things that are going to happen and he prevents them. Slowly he changes from his selfishness to becoming more selfless.
The story presents a worldview that man is good, and that even a bad man, given enough opportunity will become good. At the end of the story the main character finds love, makes a difference in the lives of the people in the town, and then finally wakes up and it is the next day. Now that he is “good” life can go on.
The truth I mentioned above of which this story reminded me, is that we are given continually new opportunities. We do not live the same day over and over. Each day is a new day. Lamentations 3:23 tells us God’s grace and love is new every morning. We do not depend upon ourselves to get better. We are brought to new life by God’s redemptive love. He has paid the debt of my sinfulness, and has made me a new creature.
But as a new creature I have sinned. What do I do now? Have I lost my relationship with God?
This is the razor’s edge upon which I believe that we balance.
Scripture makes clear that we have not lost God. 1 John 1:9 points out that we are sinners and that we need to deal with the reality of that sin, but there is a way to deal with it. I confess and repent.
Scripture also makes clear that I am not a prisoner of my sin. Sin is not my master. Romans 6:14 tells me that I am not under law, but under grace. When I confess my sin and repent of it, I am free to live in the new grace that God gives me.
When I believe that God cannot accept me because of my continuing sin, I will be tempted to give up and live in hopelessness. When I believe that I am so far into my pattern of sin that I may as well just give in to it fully and give up, I will live in hopelessness. I am believing the lie that because I have started to sin I am already a lost cause.
I am also believing the lie that sin is pleasant, at least for the moment, and that I am as guilty for starting as I would be for finishing. So I believe that fighting against my sin is not worth the pain.
The truth is that God loves me, redeems me, and is holy. He is worthy of everything I do to fight my sin and to live out my love for Him. He has saved me, no matter what. He loves me no matter what. He is giving me growth in holiness, no matter what. And I can live in light of that truth.
John 14 tells us that those who love God will obey Him. We may be tempted to interpret that as saying that I have to obey God in order to love Him. If I work hard enough I will love God. Luke 7 tells us that those who are forgiven much love much. When I recognize how good God is, how much He has loved me and demonstrates that love, then I am moved to love Him. Because I love Him I act out of that love and grow in my obedience.
This is what I need to know in order to swing to the side that says I confess and hate my sin, but I love God and with renewed energy and strength I start anew to love Him by living to please Him. I am free to love and obey because He has paid the debt of my sin and given me a clean slate, no matter what I do, and now I can battle my sin patterns and love my redeemer. I have eternity, beginning now, to grow my love, to live in obedience, and to please my savior.
If you are living in hopelessness look at how Jesus loves you in spite of your sin. He says that He will never leave you nor forsake you. If you are teetering on the edge and battling the slide into hopelessness, look to Jesus and see that He gives you new grace every moment. Do not work to obey to build confidence that you belong to God. Focus on the love God has showered on you. He created. He redeemed. He holds on and never forsakes. He promises you heaven and will fulfill that promise.
And for now as you know Him, love Him. Your love for Him will give you all you need to act and to love Him in return. Loving Him moves us to serve.