Friday, March 16, 2007

Gloriously Liberating and Terribly Devastating

Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.
John 8:11

These words of Jesus are gloriously liberating and at the same time terribly devastating. They are gloriously liberating because the smallest offense I can commit against an infinitely holy God who is infinitely worthy of my worship and affection and admiration makes me deserving of an infinite punishment for the sin I have committed. There is no such thing as a small sin. I deserve condemnation so when Jesus says that He doesn’t condemn me that is gloriously liberating.

But at the same time these words are terribly devastating. They are terribly devastating because Jesus then tells me to stop sinning. And I know that no matter how hard I try, I cannot stop sinning. If the Lord would be pleased to grant me another day, I will sin tomorrow whether I like it or not and not only in ways that I will recognize but also (even more so) in ways that I won’t even be aware of. I CAN NEVER in this life love Him the way I ought to: with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind as He deserves and commands (Matthew 22:37). This is sin.

And so these words from Jesus, like almost everything for me in the Christian life, feel paradoxical. He says that He doesn’t condemn me for the sin that I have committed, but then He tells me to stop sinning as if to say my not being condemned is somehow dependent on my not sinning.

I don’t condemn your sin provided that you don’t continue to sin.

I don’t know if I believe that this is what Jesus is saying. But I do know this: If I continue to sin, I will be condemned by Jesus. And anyone who doesn’t think so probably isn’t saved because the apostle John later said that nobody who is “born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 John 3:8).”

So how do I live in glorious liberation rather than terrible devastation? Well it seems to me that if Jesus didn’t include the second half of the verse and had only said “Neither do I condemn you”, I would have no clue that sin is hideous, repugnant, and to be hated. Sin would be no big deal to me. And if I didn’t see sin as being so serious, I wouldn’t see it as something that should bring condemnation. So Jesus’ words would be unintelligible to me and would really amount to nothing more than nonsense. They wouldn't be gloriously liberating. So the answer isn't to eliminate the second half.

But when I see how ugly and devastating sin is because Jesus has told me to make war on it, then I am able to see the condemnation that comes with it. And when I feel the condemnation that I deserve from Him because of my sin, then and only then can I feel the wonder of being set free from the condemnation that I deserve.

I'm not ultimately saved from a life of insignificance. I'm not ultimately saved from a life of unhappiness. I'm not ultimately saved from a life of loneliness. I'm not ultimately saved from a life of stress or anxiety or boredom or brokenness or even the condemnation of man. I'm ultimately saved from the one thing in this world that I need saving from more than anything else: God's eternal, just, exceedingly terrible condemnation.

He doesn’t condemn me! He doesn’t condemn me! Even though He should! I deserve His wrath! But He lavishes me with His grace! I deserve the eternal torments of hell! But my inheritance is fullness of joy in His presence (Psalm 16:11)!

And so I sing …

How great is our God … sing with me … how great is our God …

Name above all names Worthy of our praise my heart will sing how great is our God

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me …

And so my thoughts, energies, meditations, and affections are directed towards God as I am caught up in worship. I am caught up in delighting in God’s infinite beauty, infinite power, infinite love, infinite goodness, infinite mercy, infinite righteousness, infinite wisdom, and all of His manifold perfections as much as I can throughout my day because there is nothing more wonderful to me.

And you know what the result will be? I will sin less. I will be so Godward in my orientation as I am consumed in Him that my sin will be consumed and I will cease to sin. As I am brought further up and further in to the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God (Romans 11:33), I will be unable to exalt myself in pride because I am caught up in exalting God. I will be unable to think lustful thoughts because my mind will be contemplating the wonders of His grace. I will be unable to commit idolatry by making a god of lesser things in my mind because I will be too busy making a god out of the One who alone is to be God! This will even affect how I interact with those I come into contact with throughout the day, making it harder for me to become angry with or judgmental towards them.

Thinking about my sin isn’t going to make me sin any less. I could literally spend entire days contemplating the depths of my sin and its ugliness and I wouldn’t be making it to be more serious than it is. The truth is that there is more sin in me than I even know about.

So my only hope for sinning no more is to direct all my energy, affections, and thoughts with all the vigor that I can to be fixed on the One who alone was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), the One in whom there “is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5)” so that I might become like Him in His sinlessness. Beholding the Holy One, I will become holy.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Father, thank You that the words Your Son spoke in John 8:11 are both gloriously liberating and terribly devastating. Indeed they are gloriously liberating only because they are terribly devastating. We know that in this life we will never be without sin. But oh how we long for that day when we will finally be delivered from this body of death to be perfectly conformed to the likeness of Your Son! We ache for that day when we will without blemish stand before You face to face and experience the fullness of what we can only taste in part here in this life, that day when we will finally be able to love You the way we ought to. Come and make our joy complete so that we may no longer dabble with the suicidal pleasures of sin. May You be most glorified in us by making us to be most satisfied in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

1 comment:

Adpet said...

Dude you don't mess around with this blogging thing. Damn! Those were some serious words.

Burke Shartsis