Posts Tagged sin
I’m going to do a psalmist thing and complain for a minute.
Everything is broken. I’m surrounded by malfunctions, glitches, short circuits, cracks, wear, tear, and all-consuming entropy. Can I just give you a brief list? My dishwasher leaks, my clothes-washer is making a loud grinding noise, there’s a gutter falling off the side of my house, the front storm door is warped and can only stay closed by being locked, the power locks in my van’s door don’t work, the CD player in my car is broken, the speedometer/odometer in my car is broken, my acoustic guitar neck is warped and it’s “fretting out”, our laptop runs too slow, our home stereo speaker has a short and cuts in and out, even my dog has a malfunctioning pancreas and he has to have enzymes in his food or he would get “the runs” so bad that he would starve to death…you get the picture. I bet you have a similar list in your head that you can review of everything that’s broken in your life.
Of course, people are broken as well. We have fears, anxiety, pet peeves, grudges, prejudices, blind-spots, disorders, dysfunctions, and disagreements. Our hearts seem to constantly go back to the same sins and the same idols. We can’t ever seem to get over these persistent dysfunctions and move on with our lives.
Our culture also has systemic brokenness that we live with everyday and take for granted. The problem of racism, the system of prejudice and inequality based on race, comes to mind as a brokenness that many of us passively endorse without doing anything to fix it. We let the brokenness remain and throw up our hands in defeat as if to say, “I didn’t break this, so why should I have to fix it?”
This morning, my complaint about the little things that are broken in my life (the locks, appliances, etc.) made me think about why we allow brokenness like racism to persist, year after year, without doing anything to fix it.
- It’s too expensive to fix. My family has a lot of broken stuff but the most frequent response to the problem is that it would cost way too much to fix. The solution is there but we don’t have the resources to put the solution into action.
- It’s permanently broken. Usually, this is a cheap toy that happens to become one of our kid’s favorite things to play with. Then inevitably, it breaks so bad that no super-glue or tape or whatever could fix it. It has to go in the trash forever because it’s just too far gone. Just get over it!
- It doesn’t bother me, so why should I fix it. We have a light switch in our bathroom that is wired wrong. It turns on when it’s down and off when it’s up. Of course, this is not really a problem to me at all. Why risk electrocuting myself when it’s not really an issue?
- If I’m honest, I prefer the brokenness. My CD player is broken in my car and that really was a bother at first. I couldn’t stand rolling around town in silence listening to the weird engine noises (probably more brokenness). Then I started listening to podcasts with an iPod and little portable speaker. I found that I much preferred this to listening to the radio or my CD collection. Let the CD player stay broken because now I have “This American Life” whenever I desire.
These excuses for brokenness are also at the root of why I allow sin to persist in my heart or we allow oppression to persist in our culture.
Now, it’s time to stop complaining. I can stop complaining because in Christ, all things are being made new. The brokenness will not become LORD over all because there is already a LORD over all who is in the business of restoration and redemption. The promises in scripture are the antidote to all our excuses to allow brokenness to persist.
- There is nothing that is too expensive. I can’t change this because I don’t have the resources. I can’t even stop my own sin, so how can I ever expect to bring cultural change. However, we have in the riches of Christ all that we need for life and godliness. He has paid the full price, and in him, we have access to resurrection power. We have an overflowing bank account of grace and peace that we can access at anytime. We might have to give up our life in the process but even in that, to die is gain because of the riches of Christ.
- There is nothing that is permanently broken. I want to give up on the brokenness. Many times, I would rather throw away a broken relationship rather than do what is necessary to fix it. But, Christ will never give up on any brokenness. We have a promise that there will one day be a new heavens and a new earth. There is nothing in this world that Christ cannot redeem by the power of the gospel. The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. Jesus is the ultimate in “green” living. There’s nothing broken that he won’t recycle into a new creation. There’s no trash in the kingdom.
- There is nothing that I can ignore because it doesn’t bother me. I might be able to close myself off from oppression or down-play my sin through denial. But, the Lord promises to discipline those that he loves. He has promised that though injustice seems to go unchecked, there is a righteous judge in heaven who will bring vindication to the meek and reckoning to the wicked. The Lord is committed enough to righteousness and loves me enough as his child that he will not allow me to remain comfortable with my sin or comfortable with oppression. Any branches that do not produce fruit will be pruned and thrown into the fire.
- There is no brokenness that will actually benefit me. I can’t always say that I despise my sin. There are times when it feels so easy and right to give my heart over to sin. Also, I can’t always say that I despise oppression. In fact, as a white person in the US, I receive many benefits that I didn’t even work for as a result of racism. This brokenness appears to benefit, protect, and advance my personal well-being. However, I can trust that the Lord Jesus has promised that his Spirit will transform and renew my mind to be able to discern his perfect and pleasing will. He has promised that he will lead me into paths of righteous for his names sake. In the light of His word, I will know all truth and wisdom and the scales will fall from eyes to behold the wretched vanity of sin and glorious beauty of grace and peace.
Everything is broken, but in Christ all things are made new.
Harvie Conn taught that everyone is both a sinner and the sinned against. If we preach the gospel to sinners and leave out the sinned against, then we are only speaking to half of the problem. Christ died to save me from my sin, but he also died to save me from being sinned against.
I asked the question of my pastor, how do we bring this element back into worship services which have become so individualistic. My colleague, Anthony Johnson, spoke up and reminded me that gospel music is full of the response of the sinned against to the power of the gospel. (I was a little embarrassed that I missed that.)
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21
Joseph and Mary were commanded to give their child the name, “Jesus” as a sign and a symbol of his appointment to the role of Messiah. The Law of YHWH clearly stated that failure to remain faithful to the covenant at Sinai would result in exile and death (Deuteronomy 28) . God’s people had strayed from the covenant and had become idolaters and oppressors (Jeremiah 2). However, the promises that YHWH had made to Abraham would not fail. He would remain faithful even when his people were not (Jeremiah 31).
Our present-day understanding of the phrase, “save his people from their sins” is a little clouded with “alter call” rhetoric. We read into it a personal application that basically says, “I will get a clean record and clear conscience.” However, this would have a much larger and more powerful meaning to 1st century Jews like Joseph and Mary. Instead of thinking of metaphysical absolution that would result in an after-life paradise they would be thinking of the salvation from the oppressive rule of Rome and the false kingdom of Herod and the return of YHWH’s presence to the Temple in Jerusalem. Salvation from sins was understood to mean the end of the curses that came from the covenant unfaithfulness. So as the Savior, Jesus would save (restore the kingdom rule of YHWH) his people (Israel, the chosen instrument of YHWH’s righteousness and justice to all the earth) from their sins (their covenant unfaithfulness to fulfill God’s purposes in the earth.) You can see this understanding of salvation especially in the songs of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79).
This means a lot to me today because I’ve been struggling a lot with sin lately. Not just my own sin (that’s definitely been a struggle), but also the power of sin all around me. That power looks like the brokenness in the community, my kids’ inability to just obey, the way that sin gets woven so strongly into our hearts and lives that it seems impossible to remove it without destroying everything else. Why does sin hold such power? Why can’t we just obey? You feel the same cry when you read the prophets. A desperate longing to see people turn from their sin and repent, to return to their Father and his gracious embrace.
The name of Jesus stands as a symbol of the zeal of the Lord to accomplish his redemptive purposes with his good creation. His name means, “No, sin will not win the day. No, death will not be the victor. No, the power of Rome and all other empires that are built on injustice and exploitation will not prevail. The curse that was laid upon Israel for her unfaithfulness to the covenant would be lifted by the mighty acts of Abraham’s son. Jesus came to fulfill the fullest expression of the covenant faithfulness that would redeem his people from the power of sin.
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel’s strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart
Joy to those who long to see Thee
Dayspring from on high, appear
Come, Thou promised Rod of Jesse
Of Thy birth we long to hear
O’er the hills the angels singing
New, glad tidings of a birth
Go to Him, your praises bringing.
Christ the Lord has come to earth.
Come to earth to taste our sadness
He whose glories knew no end
By His life He brings us gladness
Our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend
Leaving riches without number
Born within a cattle stall
This the everlasting wonder
Christ was born the Lord of all.
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a king
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Did you ever have a day when you felt like a porcupine? Yesterday was a day like that for me. Every interaction I had with people my spikes were out ready to strike. I pouted around the house last night trying to be nice to my wife. I wanted so badly to let it go and be a fun guy. But, I was a porcupine last night.
There is a great scene in the movie Spanglish where a woman finds that her own foolishness and sinful lifestyle has sabotaged her life. She is completely broken and helpless. Her mother is there with her and she tells her, “you cannot trust yourself right now.” Basically, she goes on to tell her daughter that any natural impulse you have right now is wrong. It is an amazing scene for Hollywood to portray: a person actually telling someone they love that they are a bad person and they have no one to blame but themselves. The writer director, James L. Brooks, was so close to the gospel in that scene that it completely blew my mind.
Last night I felt that way. “I can’t trust a single thought in my brain or a single emotional impulse in my heart right now.” I felt my sin raging in my heart wanting to lash out.
I still felt that way this morning when I woke up at 5:00am. I got out my bible (“O.K. Lord, gimme that quick-fix verse to realign my heart.”) I ended up reading the entire book of Ephesisans during the early hours of the morning. Almost in the dead center of the book is this verse:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Easier said than done Lord! But the context for that verse flows out of this doxology:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through-out all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
He’ll do more than I ask or imagine. No wait…immeasurably more! The power of Christ Jesus is at work in me bringing HIM glory.