I see the veins of sin deeply planted in our lives. Not outright blatant sin but the more difficult brokenness’ that stem from our hearts. I look back on my own life, seeing what I now know to be unhealthy decisions, manners of being that led to no good thing, and I see these same subtleties within my children and if I could fly back over the generations I would most likely see many of the same things in the years gone by.
There is as corporate and communal an aspect to sin as to anything and I am quite aware that this brings us to either deeper humility or compounding condemnation.
The latter, this place of heart and soul whereby we place our own sense of condemnation onto others only serves to make matters worse.
Thing is, we’ve all sinned. We are sinners.
Yet because of Jesus Christ this need not bring us to personal despair or to condemnation of our fellow human beings. Condemnation simply reveals our still sin-riddled consciences. Why else would we lash out at others?
Grappling with our sin-state and sin-habits and sins-past we have two choices. We can remain in horror and regret or we can come into the grace of Christ. We can’t do both. The cross demands that we choose.
As a minister of prayer it has been my privilege to stand alongside many, many brave souls as they bring their lives into the grace of Christ. It is hard but liberating work and this opportunity of witnessing freedom and love poured out from God’s heart to theirs has changed me as much as my own personal healing prayer.
I’ve seen healing. I’ve seen freedom. I’ve seen regrets washed away in the blood of Christ. I’ve seen burdens of guilt and shame brought to the cross and heaved off and left there. I’ve seen condemnations changed into compassion.
What we don’t readily realize is that dying to ourselves is as much about dying to our regret as anything. Have you died to regret? Have you brought your shame and guilt and regret to the cross?
These things, regret, guilt, shame, are their own addiction. If we do not loose them off at the cross of Christ then we will go on to worry over them, to fret over them and to nurture them in an odd sick way. If we do this they grow and compact and it won’t take too many years until their poison will seep out into every single other area of life.
It shows up in condemnations and control of others; where we have not yet met the grace of Christ we will demand others to a higher standard than we ourselves have lived. It shows up in pride and an inability to relax, to give way, to allow the Lord his gifts in our lives.
When we live or minister out of compounded regret we become toxic people incapable of the truth of the gospel.
We will sneer at the flirting women. We will reject the beggar man. We will avoid the prostitute.
It shows up in our pride of effort, our beliefs in disqualifications; instead of being innocent till proven guilty we assume guilt until proven innocent. Suspicions rise based on the state of our own hearts.
Wherever our hurt has been this will become our condemnations. Fathers will demand their sons to be perfect. Women will demand their daughter to get their act together. Pastors will demand unity and make purity an idol.
The cross of Christ, however, cuts through all of this. Cleanly. Wholly.
If we will allow it. If we will come under it and receive it’s work in our lives.
I’ve been thinking about Barabbas lately. Because of Christ Barabbas walked away a free man that day.
The worst of all of us walked away. The worst in all of us, freed.
Now Barabbas would have known that he deserved the death penalty and I wonder if he allowed this extravagant gift of life to penetrate his heart, his regrets, or his shame.
If he did allow this Christ-exchanging-grace to penetrate he would have gone on to live a different kind of life. If he didn’t allow it to penetrate he would have gone on to live an even worse life.
It is the same exact choice we all have every single day. Will we allow the grace of Christ (a grace that transforms us from the inside out) to penetrate our hearts and minds, spirits and lives?
To do so we must lay down regret, shame, and condemnation at the foot of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We then take HIM on, God in all his glory and presence, we enter into the fire of God and allow the dross of our hearts to be burned away.
Condemnations get burned up in the presence of God. Defiling assumptions of others cannot stand the heat.
We find compassion, we live in compassion, we give compassion to everyone around us.
We find forgiveness, we live forgiveness, we give forgiveness to everyone around us.
Christ brings to our communal experience of sin this communal experience of grace. To live out the gospel of Christ is to also bring this communal experience of grace into all of our interactions and relationships. We extend the same manner of God himself, understanding (Isaiah 1:18), compassion (Galatians 6:2), forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32), a generosity of heart and mind (1 John 2:6).
“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.” Isaiah 1:18