Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day 8

I've been talking about sin a lot lately with my 8 year old nephew. The really neat thing about these talks is that he get's it. As I share with him and show him scripture about our fallen nature and rebellious hearts and need to accept correction and walk in obedience, I can see it clicking in his head. He sees the truth in it. He can apply it to what led to that particular moment of correction. He communicates, in his 8 year old way, how powerless he feels in combatting his own sin and his desperate need for a Savior.

I feel his pain.

In our talks, I use the analogy of a fence. I take his bible and trace the perimeter of it and say: "Imagine this is a fence. God tells us that in His word is everything we need for life and godliness. So within this fence is safety and blessing and nearness to God. But when we sin, we put ourselves in danger. We serve the enemy and separate ourselves from God. You know that sometimes when the bible talks about death it doesn't just mean we physically die, it means separation from God. Jesus died that we might never have to know what that feels like. But we sin and, in a sense, jump over the fence and away from Him. He is still God and all powerful and sovereign (which means that His will is done no matter what) but He also allows there to be consequences when we jump over the fence so we won't do it again. Just like when Mommy or Daddy punishes you or takes a toy away sometimes. They aren't trying to hurt you, they are trying to help you to learn what is right and what is wrong. God is the best teacher and has given us His word that we might not sin against Him, though He knows sometimes we will. The great thing is that He also gives mercy and grace to those who call upon His name, so if you find yourself in sin, across the fence, you can jump back over. The bible calls this repentance. It is when we acknowledge that we have sinned, confess it, ask forgiveness and turn from it to God."

What we haven't talked about yet is the reality that, sometimes, we sin the same way, so often that we can no longer hear God. In fact, the Word says that there could come a time when God will not hear our prayers (Isaiah 59:2) or where we find no chance to repent though we seek it with tears (Hebrews 9:17).

The verse that drove me to begin the online study I've been doing was Hebrews 9:17. It is about Esau being rejected by God and finding no chance to repent. I was shaken at the thought and determined that so long as there was a loving spark in my heart towards God or a hint of fearful reverence, I was going to run towards it and pray that God would meet me there, forgive my rebellious heart and heal me. But I'd never been struck by the Isaiah verse quite the way I was yesterday when I read it in my lesson.

The verse says:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

Let those words sink in a minute.

Your sins have hidden His face from you...He will not hear.

Even now, the thought of that is like the ground beneath me opening up and swallowing me whole.

Have you ever felt like your prayers weren't being answered? Have you ever begged and pleaded and cried out to God to remove something or move in a situation or change you only to come away feeling like you were talking to yourself? Or, if not that, to see no change or hear no word of encouragement to help you press on? That is how I have felt many times over the past few months...like my prayers were futile...like, maybe, I wasn't even really praying.

God's word tells me that this was because I wanted to not want to sin more than I wanted to not sin. I wanted the easy road to sanctification. I wanted the Lord to just flip a switch in me and turn my sinful tendencies off and then everything would be easy peasy rice and cheesy.

He doesn't work that way. But He does work, and work all things together for our good and His glory.

He is also faithful though we are not.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Deut 7:9)

To a thousand generations! I love that!

I love that, though there are warnings in scripture about habitual sin and God not hearing, there are also verses like this about our Faithful God who keeps covenant to a thousand generations!

Friend, if you are like me and discouraged by sin. If you feel that resigning yourself to the way things are is the best way to deal. If you are just tired of going around that same mountain. Be encouraged today. So long as it is called today there is Hope! God gave His only Son up for us...will He now also now give us all things. He dealt with our sin up front...before we came to Him...while we were yet sinners. Will He now hold our tendency to sin against us? He opened the way that we might come, come boldly, come in our sin to Him who alone has power over sin and death. He is the sovereign God who will have mercy upon those He chooses and has given us His spirit that we might know that He is...that we might hear His voice and run to Him! If you hear that voice today, do no harden your hearts...RUN! And received grace upon grace upon grace!

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