Archive for March 2016 | Monthly archive page

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This Easter season our children brought home an Easter Devotional Kit created by our wonderful Children’s Ministries staff. In it there was a grapevine wreath, meant to represent the crown of thorns worn by our Suffering Savior, and a stack of little blank cards. The purpose? To teach our children about what to do with their sin.

It was pretty remarkable to see this great news from my little children’s eyes. It’s rare that all four of these crazy kids is fully engaged in what we are discussing around our messy dinner table. Typically, there is at least one who is hanging upside down in his/her chair or talking about unicorns while Josh and I try to redirect back to the subject at hand. But these words brought these kids to attention.

We read 1 John 1:5-9 and talked about what it means to be in the light, what it means to be in the darkness, and what we do when we sin even though we’ve said we believe. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

As we talked about the darkness and the light, that the one who says he has no sin deceives himself, and the one who professes the truth but walks in darkness is a liar, our kids grew increasingly nervous. Hands were popping up (thank you, school) with questions about what we’re supposed to do. What if we sin?? What happens? Are we in darkness? Our kids immediately recognized this for what is is: really bad news.

But then that good news of confession and you could see the relief. Ok, so we sin, but we can tell God and He loves us and forgives us and changes us! He, through His son’s death, has given us something to do with all of this yucky sin.

To make the process a little more tangible for the kids, there was the simple act of writing (or drawing a picture of) your sin on a little notecard and pinning it to that “crown of thorns.” I told the kids I was sorry I had gotten angry with them before gymnastics, wrote it down, and pinned it to the wreath. They eagerly followed suit (well, one had gone back to his/her dinner with gusto but that’s ok). They all had immediate examples of things they’d done wrong, little sins they’d been carrying around with guilt.

What struck me in that moment is that the gospel is so simple a little child can understand it. But interestingly, I think they often understand it better than we do because of it’s simplicity. It made complete sense to them. “I feel guilty about sin. But you’re telling me I can bring it to Jesus and be free? Yay!”

We adults have a harder time with this truth. Of course, as a new believer, it often has that blissful ring to it, but the longer I’ve walked in the faith, the more difficult this simple transaction – our sin exchanged for His holiness – seems to become. I believe this is one of the main ways our enemy, Satan, targets us to derail our faith and effectiveness. He complicates our simple understanding of what we are to do with our sin, and teaches us to converse in the language of regret and shame, the very thing we left behind when we believe.

Add to this a culture that has glorified the pursuit of personal happiness above all else and we are left with no room for confession and humility. But, of course, we all go on sinning. And if we have imbibed this message from the enemy, from the culture, we will feel paralyzed by the weight of our own sin and we’ll look anywhere but the gospel to try and absolve ourselves and get rid of that feeling.

Thursday morning – just days after going through that very devotional – found me sitting on the couch at 5:30 in the morning with Bible in hand, but heart in complete turmoil. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t pray. I was wallowing. I was overwhelmed with all of the ways I’d failed and sinned this week and that language of regret and shame had crept in.

A missed evangelism opportunity, anxiety over counsel I’d given, frustration with my children – all came rushing in and I felt burdened under the weight of it all. After almost an hour of this I gave up, threw on some work out clothes and went for a walk, choosing a worship playlist over my current workout music of choice (the Hamilton soundtrack, in case your curious, which is surprisingly good running music).

As I made the mile loop around my street I began to pray. I let words of truth (through song) penetrate my guilt-ridden fog. I remembered this is Easter week. I remembered the gospel. God made flesh, death to life. I remembered that we do NOT believe in a God who asks us to come cleaned up with our many good works to lay at His feet. Instead we come messed up and He does the cleaning and willing and working for His good pleasure.

And as I neared the end of my walk and the sun was coming up over the horizon there were these words coming through my earbuds and reaching my heart:

Oh, death, where is your sting?

Oh, hell, where is your victory?

Oh, church, come stand in the light!

The glory of God has defeated the night!

 On that dark day a Savior died, and three days later He arose with the sun, and His light penetrated the darkness. Our sin, that great darkness in our hearts, exposed to the light and made powerless with His victory. “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Resurrection. Life.

If you, like me, feel weighed down by your sin, your failure, your weakness, I encourage you to go back and read those words from 1 John with the eyes of a child. Do not forget that, in fact, He told us to come to Him like little children. Weak, needy, desperately grateful that He has taken our punishment for us.  Stop trying to clean yourself up. Stop replaying it all in your head and walking in condemnation and shame. Confess your sins to the one who is faithful and just to forgive, and walk in newness of life.