“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Previously, I warned against a form of presumption–against tolerating the idols of the heart. Well duh! To warn against such is as if to say, “watch out, you might be a human.” But if this is not a problem of yours, please feel free to email this to those friends of yours who you think probably do suffer from bouts of sin.
It is helpful to recognize that these idols often first appear merely as ‘goods which we desire’. The danger is in our persistent belief that such desires cannot lead us astray, or that if they do, we can be certain of our repentance.
Goods (including marriage, health, finances, etc.,), when they become absolutes, divide us from God. Anakin Skywalker’s decent in Revenge of the Sith is a fantastic example. His commitment to protect his wife at all costs sets him on a path to become Darth Vader. King Saul’s idolatry finally separates him from God and ends in suicide. Such idols are deadly and difficult to abolish from our hearts.
But let it never be said that God’s mercy is insufficient. Deep and persistent sin is an occasion to discover the depth and breadth of his love–the meaning of his friendship while we were yet sinners. It is an immeasurable grace to experientially know God’s love, not simply in our success and attainment, but in and at the very point which we fail to attain. It is then that we approach Him as creatures, because a creature is by definition that which is not its own source.
To experience God’s acceptance, forgiveness and presence as creature, as moral failure, insufficient, broken, abandoned, as stuck, is to begin to heal.* But to know God this way, it is often important and necessary to avail ourselves of the fellowship of the saints.
Left to our own counsel, confronted with the persistence of sin, the extent and gravity of our disobedience, the damage it has wrought, or the insouciance with which we commit ourselves to it, we might but despair. It is not enough, at times, to remind ourselves of the scripture or the cross. Though we might begin there, even at that we need help to make a beginning.
We are not our source: in creation, repentance, or restoration.
It is important to remember that our is the religion of incarnation. Our religion is not something simply of the mind, but of the body; not simply of the individual, but the fellowship. Neither faith nor forgiveness is some form of hypnosis, self-help, or positive thinking. We have sinned with our flesh, let us be restored with, not by, it.
It not the one who knows God’s word, but the who knows and does that Word. This is after all our problem. This is one meaning of sin; to know the Word, and yet to do otherwise. Therefore we need to do more than to ADMIT WE KNOW BETTER!
We must walk in the light as he is in the light
1st John 1
The meaning of this verse, in part, is confession. In the recognition of sin, we are called not only to make an admission to God and ourselves, but also to our fellow members. Without this last part, we are liable to depend on ourselves in a way which is… sinful. But when we bring our sins before our fellows (not in the middle of church, but in right ways), what we can experience is lifegiving.
It is not that this is the only way to experience forgiveness, but without the interpersonal experience, we lack the healing and acceptance we are called to receive. This particularly the case regarding persistent and serious sin, or that of which we are deeply ashamed. We often attempt to be forgiven through an effort of believe, but in doing so, we act as if we are the ones responsible for the removal of guilt and shame.
In vulnerability within the fellowship, the responsibility is taken off our shoulders. The burden is born by another, and the restoration of communion (which sin had done violence to) is enacted.
*This also teaches us
a. to recognize and delight in His glory rather than our own
b. to mistrust and flee ourselves
c. to abandon the project of the self
d. to be grateful for that comes from his hand.