My passion for Christ, the glory of Jesus in me AND my pathetic selfishness, my ugly darkness within, are both true about me.
If I am honest, I must admit that I have both.
I shared a quote in a Sunday message from Edna Hong in her book, The Downward Ascent, wrote, “My self does not live in a sweet, sunny, one story rambler but in an old ancestral Gothic house of many floors and rooms and hallways, of dark passageways and spiral staircases, of damp and gloomy cellars and cellarages. The maze of subterranean corridors go downdowndown and eventually converge in one dizzily winding and descending th that dead-ends at the Room of Riddle, the Fall, Original Sin, Original Guilt.”
Deep down inside, we are messed up!
Are you willing to take a long, honest look at your dark side? Am I? Oh, we know we are flawed. But we want to ignore it, minimize it, or dull it somehow.
When we are most deeply aware of our fallen nature, it’s not a bad thing. Perhaps at that moment, on this side of heaven, we are never closer to true joy and a sound mind.
Around Cuyahoga Valley Church, we say we want to live new. If that’s to be true, we must recognize that darkness, that fallenness, that depravity that still lives in us and we must constantly stand at the foot of the cross and receive the gift of forgiveness through the precious blood of Christ that flows so that we can be born again and again and again.
Edna Hong writes, “I feel quite cheerful about my cheerless view of me.”
See, that’s what makes us run to Christ. Forgiveness of sins is why Jesus came. It’s what the gospel is all about. It is good for us to sense the guilt of sin. Because without sensing the guilt of sin, we will never humble ourselves and repent. It’s repentance that makes forgiveness possible. And when we receive that forgiveness, our gratitude for Jesus will grow. And that gratitude to Jesus will arouse in us a desire to serve, sacrifice, love, and work for justice.
If we can’t be sorry for not being sorry for our sins, we are in trouble. If we cannot sorrow and bring ourselves to say “Wretched man that I am!” then we cannot rejoice and say, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
We must maintain this tension – the conviction that our fallen sinfulness is far worse than most of us realize AND that our redeemed humanity is more amazing than we will let ourselves believe.
Let’s be equally distrustful of our fallen selves AND thankful for our redeemed humanity. Let’s be equally sorrowful for our sinful pride AND rejoicing in our great salvation.
This is what it means for us to die to self and live new.
Don’t get used to the grace of God in Christ. Be amazed by grace. Bruce Marshall in Vespers in Vienna wrote, “What one really needs is a new little conversion every day, a fresh bright light inside oneself to make one anxious to like fresh bright lights in other people.”
Yes, I am a forgiven son. I rejoice in my reconciliation with my Father. I’m newborn, a new creation, a new Adam. I can live new. But I am still a human fallen son of a fallen Adam, as well as of a heavenly Father. And my chief enemy is still the I of myself. The I of myself as my own worst enemy, for in the self of me there is still a fallen sinner.
I will break my loving father’s heart again and again. As I live out this life in Christ, I will understand His will more and more. And I will also see more and more subtle and secret ways in me that I disobey. I will have to face the consequences of the symptoms. At the same time, I will recognize that he loves me just like I am. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more and nothing I can do to make him love me less. Therefore, how could I not continue to run to Jesus. Again and again.
There is no sin that cannot be forgiven when we come to the foot of the cross. When do we know that we have found and have rested in forgiveness? Soren Kierkegaard said, ” A person rests in forgiveness when the thought of God does not remind him of sin but that he is forgiven, when the past is not a memory of how much you trespassed but how much he has been forgiven.”