A Thorny Problem

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.
(Genesis 3:17-18)

Let’s face it, Church. As a body, we have become far too flippant about the horrors of sin.

Oh, we see the evil of the world out there and shake our heads. We scan headlines filled with riots and shootings and stabbings and mutter clichés about hell and handbaskets. We think of the Mansons and the Dahmers and keep that odd character in our peripherals while we shop. It’s no trouble for us to recognize the myriad ways our society is sliding faster than every on its downward spiral.

What does seem to trouble us is recognizing our participation in the descent.

The longer I’ve walked with the Lord, the more I’ve realized how great the gulf between His holiness and my depravity truly is. Early in my walk, I came to Him fully armed with a compliment of justification for my crimes:

  • This isn’t gossip; it’s venting. Or a prayer request. Or concern for the subject of the discussion.
  • What I think about doesn’t really matter, only what I act on.
  • My actions aren’t holy because it’s impossible to act holy all the time. After all, I’m only human.
  • My words don’t honor God because the pain wrenched something odd out of me, or I was startled, or I was careless…

But the truth is, all this and more is mere flimsy fakery.

  • Gossip is gossip, no matter how much you try to fancy it up.
  • My thoughts are a reflection of me, and every action has roots in the thought life.
  • With man, it is impossible to act holy all of the time, but all things are possible with God – and I have been set apart by Him and for Him.
  • My words are a reflection of my heart. Circumstances don’t cause, they reveal.

Et cetera.

Once my eyes were open, a flood of realization threatened to drown me. My crimes against my Creator infested every facet of life. The evil in the world made sense as I realized how much evil each one of us harbors inside.

How much evil I harbor inside.

For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me...

I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.

Psalm 38:4, 18

Too much for me, but not too much for my God. Though I cannot even stand up beneath the weight of my own crimes, my Lord and King bore not only mine but everyone’s on His death march to the cross.

And He did it all crowned with the first symbol of the curse humans unleashed upon the earth when they chose to strike out on their own rather than living in accord with their Designer and the way they’d been designed.

And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

John 19:2-3

I’ll never look at a thistle the same way.

Lord, so great is Your magnificence that even in the emblems of our rebellion, You crafted things of strange beauty. Please forgive us our crimes and our cruel and selfish hearts. Change us so we can appreciate Your grace and mercy and fully recognize our own sorry state. Please open our eyes to see how very far we are from what You created us to be. Thank You for sending Your Son to offer us a way back to You! I pray that each one who reads this and all the names I’ve lifted to You before this moment will submit to Your Way, love Your Son, repent, and follow Your Spirit as He leads into eternal life, amen.

PS – Look around and stop by my Patreon page if you like what you see!

Broken and Restored

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
(Psalms 51:4)

Ah, the tale of David and Bathsheba. This story from 2 Samuel 11 and 12 is certainly not rated G…

But if you’re wondering why I bring it up after opening with a verse from Psalm 51, it’s because this unseemly saga is actually the back story of the psalm.

Here’s the nickel version:

At some point during David’s reign over Israel, his troops were off to war. For some reason, he was not with them but instead was walking on his rooftop (think of a structure more like a balcony, not peaked roofs or shingles). From this vantage point, he saw a beautiful woman bathing.

Though he knew she was the wife of one of his soldiers – a man who was out fighting for his king – David sent for her. And impregnated her.

Attempting to cover his indiscretion up, he brought her husband home from battle, got him drunk, and tried to entice him to go home and sleep with his wife. When the honorable man refused because his fellow warriors were still out in the field, David instead conspired to have him killed and make it look like he was merely a casualty of war.

Lovely story, isn’t it?

Eventually, David was confronted with his sin and he did repent. But there were consequences. Many people suffered for this one selfish act of lust – including King David himself.

And this is what I wanted to share from my reading of Psalm 51 today. Notice in verse 4, David cries out to God, “Against you and you only have I sinned…”

I don’t know about you, but at first glance, this claim seems a trifle insensitive. After all, adultery was committed (and possibly rape, though we aren’t told whether or not she went willingly), a man was murdered, a child died, and much later, a kingdom was torn apart by a prince’s rebellion.

The collateral damage from the king’s evil choices was enormous.

Nevertheless, he did write truth. His sin was primarily against his Creator.

Without fail, sin and its consequences wreak destruction, often bringing pain and devastation to our own lives and the lives of others. Despite this fact, the offence is first and foremost against the One who gave us life.

No matter who suffers for it, sin is ultimately between each one of us and our Creator.

When I began to first understand this concept, it was both the most freeing and the most frightening thing I had learned.

Freeing because it means that whoever may hurt me, no matter how close they are to me or how grievous the wound they inflict, it really has little to do with me at all. Each person’s sin is a matter which will be addressed by God – in His time and in His way. And since I know He is a just Judge, I do not have to worry about vengeance. I only have to manage my response – including making sure I do not repay sin with more sin.

Because of this – and because of the enormity of forgiveness I have received – this fact makes forgiveness much easier for me.

For the same reasons, it is also frightening because it means whatever sin I commit is between me and the Almighty Creator. And once again, because He is a just Judge, He will see justice done.

However…

The most amazing part is, God actually exacted the penalty for my sin – for all our sins – from His Son. Justice has been done, and in place of my well-earned destruction, I am instead offered forgiveness and eternal life. We all are.

No matter how horrendous our crimes have been, we can receive forgiveness. This fact, too, makes forgiving others much easier.

But first, there must be a true heart change which begins with a truly broken heart. It is called repentance. 

To be honest, if we truly see the gravity of what it is the Lord Yeshua (Jesus) did on our behalf; if we truly feel the loathsomeness of our rebellion against the One who created and loves us, our hearts will break. Like David, we will find out the truth behind these words:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(Psalms 51:17)

And once we feel honest sorrow and begin to despise our sin, longing to imitate our Father instead; once we understand the rift our crimes have created between us and the One who loves us so much, He offered Himself as ransom in order to purchase our freedom from sin –  well, David’s agonized plea pretty well sums up the appropriate result of this understanding:

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
(Psalms 51:9-12)

Not a bad prayer to start our year with, eh?