Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Meditation on Sin and on Christ

I sit here and I do not know what to write. It is as though, having failed to exercise for a month, one attempts to run again and finds that much of one's endurance has faded. Like the body, the mind requires exercise. And mine has been exercised much, of late, about many things, but it has not gotten much exercise at all when it comes to writing. Much as I have longed to write, the time has simply escaped me. And I can feel it: I can feel the ways in which my mind, now a bit unused to creating with words in the same fashion, has altered, step by step and day by day.

And I see in that truth a metaphor for a greater truth. So it is with our walk with Christ, as much and more as it is so with our physical bodies and with our minds. We can so easily let our spirit atrophy, let our pursuit of Christ falter... and it is a slow creeping thing. The backsliding that we tragically see occur even in strong members of the body of Christ is never an instantaneous event: it is the consequence of a long and slow, a terrible and tragic slide that begins with one seemingly-small choice. The moment we choose to ignore a sin, to let it slide - the very moment that we have decided that one sin, no matter how seemingly trivial, is inconsequential or irrelevant or even simply not that important: that is the moment in which we begin a terrible fall.

If we do not repent of our sin, if we think it a light thing, if we call the destruction of it a pursuit for some other time, we fail to recognize sin for it actually is. The simplest "white lie" or the most heinous of human butchery alike defile the image of God in us; alike in kind though not in order, every varied kind of sin has at its heart - indeed, is at its heart - the disregarding of God himself, the failure to count him as being as worthy as he is. Each time we who are believers refuse to seek the active destruction of sin in our lives, we devalue the work of Christ on the cross; we devalue Christ himself, for it was his worth, not the cross itself, which makes his sacrifice so powerful. And to be scorning that sacrifice in any measure, no matter how - to human eyes - great or small is to be scorning Christ himself, to be calling him of little worth, to call the temporary pleasures of sin as being greater than the worth of God himself.

And this is a heinous crime. The worth of God is infinite, the worth of Christ, the image of the invisible God, is infinite, the worth of the Holy Spirit who has come from the Father to teach us all things is infinite; we scorn all three when we do not take deadly seriously sin itself - not merely its effects or consequences in our lives, but the sin itself. For we defile the image of God and refuse him the glory he is due for our lives; and we desecrate the worth of Christ as displayed in the incarnation, his life, and ultimately his death and resurrection; and we reject the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, without whom we would be blind to our sin and dead in our trespasses. It is no small thing to be grief to the God of all, the one who made all things and for whom all things were made, in whom all things find their purpose and their end.

So we dare not let sin take hold, we dare not let it have an inch. As the Puritan theologian John Owen wrote, centuries ago, if we are not killing sin, it is winning. That is - or certainly should be! - a truly horrifying thought. If every moment we are not vigilant and on guard against that insidious creeping, if we are not ever standing firm in the Lord and the power of his might, fully armored with the tools he has given us for the overcoming of sin, we will fall and fail. And it will be an invisible thing until the day in which we see that thing which we have coddled, nurtured, or simply ignored come bursting forth in all its terrible horror - and the ruin of our lives will be not merely consequence but also picture of the magnitude of the grievance that is sin. The destruction of our lives is not the reason we ought to fear and avoid sin: sin itself is the reason we ought to flee it. Its consequences in our lives are but the shadow of the great evil that it is - an evil so great that the only remedy was the death of one person of the Trinity. Sin is infinitely evil, for only a sacrifice of infinite worth could destroy it.

But praise be to God! We are not left to ourselves or our own devices, and we are not condemned to lives utterly foreign to their original design. We may be restored to grace: we may be restored to our purpose: we may bring glory to God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Father in Heaven has sent his only Son in human form to redeem for himself a people, and that Son took on flesh and counted the humiliation as nothing and obeyed the Father even to the point of death, and in His resurrection he purchased our souls with his own blood. And now we are being made again in his image, the dragon-scales being ripped from us by lion-claws as the Holy Spirit penetrates our hearts and minds and sets us free from the overwhelming power of sin.

Rejoice, oh you who believe! You have been set free from the bondage of sin and death. No more are you a slave to the sins that you have committed; no more do you wear the shackles of your great shame. Christ has come and now lives forevermore, making intercession before the throne of God on our behalf! The Holy Spirit now indwells you, fills you, makes you increasingly like Christ so that you may rightly be a mirror of the light of God in this world. You have been chosen and saved to be a part of bringing the Kingdom of God into a world that has known only hell, to be an agent of the coming of light into a place of utter and grievous darkness, to be an ambassador of the King to a world that has rejected him. And by the power of the Holy Spirit you can and will cast aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles you and run so as to win the prize that awaits you: the prize of the upward calling on your life of Christ Jesus! You have been redeemed, bought with a price incomparable, and now give glory to your God and King! Be holy, as he is holy, not of your own power or ability but by the power of God in you, as the Holy Spirit sanctifies you and sets you apart. Be obedient, for to believe in Christ is to obey him. Love one another, for in this the world knows that we are his disciples.

And praise Him every day, every hour, every moment: with your words, with your thoughts, with your deeds, with your life. Praise him for all he has done. Praise him for all he is doing. Praise him for all he will do. Praise him most of all for who he is: the righteous and mighty God is does save, the wrathful judge and merciful redeemer, the humble brother and the great king!

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