Today, I was reflecting on some of my past sins. Ever had those days, when you’re driving, or talking with a friend, or praying, and all of a sudden you’re reminded of all that you’ve done in the past? All the shame you’ve carried because of your secret sin with that girl? Or all of the guilt that’s condemned you because of your words to that friend? All the self-hate you’ve incurred on yourself for being a monumental screw up with that life decision?? Or even all the anger and frustration at why you had to suffer as a result of your parents’ sin (or someone of the like)??
Today was one of those days. When I get these feelings, I want so badly to shove a dagger deep into my heart and wish I were never born. When I think about the life I’ve lived, and the past sins I’ve committed, I often feel like Paul, that I am the foremost of sinners (1Tim 1:15). I feel like Judas, when Jesus says “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (Matt 26:24). I feel like the man of whom Jesus says “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt 18:6).
As a shepherd to other children of faith, a visible example of faith in the church, sometimes it’s so hard to think back on my past and stand before God without feeling condemned, or having a guilty conscience. And almost every time I get these thoughts, my initial reaction is that I am going to try as hard as I can that this will never happen again in the future. My first mental response is that I gotta do all I can to safeguard against this sin, or this behavior, or these actions again. And almost all the time, I ask God why the heck that had to happen, and I wish none of my past sins had ever occurred.
But as I was driving and listening to Colin Smith, of the Gospel Coalition, talk about “Preaching a Christ to whom we can come,” God reminded me of something: He reminded me that all that had happened in my life, was meant for my good – whether a result of my sin or not. I heard the words of Randy Alcorn ring in my head, “What would you know of the grace of God if sin and evil and suffering had not entered the world?” and I realized that were it not for my sin, I would not have such a deep understanding of God’s grace and mercy as I do today.
Obviously, this is not a warrant to sin, for Paul quells that argument in His letter to the Romans, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1,2). But rather, just as Paul declares, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” our lives are not a cycle of screw ups and clean ups, or of sinning once, learning from it, and trying harder. Every little bit of our lives has been orchestrated by God (yes, even the sin and suffering – for in the words of Piper, why should I believe in a God who is not powerful over and has control over sin and suffering???), and even our personal sin is part of that promise, that “All things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose… to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:28-29). Or simply put, everything in the lives of the redeemed, are in fact redeemed in Christ for the purpose of bringing glory to Christ.
The Gospel in life is that no matter how hard I may try to not screw up in one area, some screw is going to happen in another, or even that very area. The Gospel in life is that Christ not only atoned for those screw ups, but that He redeemed them for His purposes!!! Amazing Grace!!! To think that my screw ups, my sins, my poor life decisions, my disobedience to a Holy and Wrathful God, are not only paid for, but redeemed and use for His purposes!!!!
That’s the Gospel in life, and that is what is so dang amazing about grace. Now instead of simply saying,
“Despite my sin, I am doing better than I deserve,”
I can say,
“Because Christ has redeemed my sin, I am doing better than I deserve.”
Praise be to God that the Gospel is not conditioned upon my obedience. Praise be to God that my acceptance is not based on my performance. Praise be to God that my sinful performance and lack of obedience is redeemed for His glory. And praise be to God, that His Spirit enables me to live a new life of obedience – where grace may abound all the more.