"Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, but if let along" Puritan John Owen wrote, "if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins...It is our duty to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1); to be “growing in grace” every day (1 Peter 2:2, 2 Peter 3:18); to be “renewing out inward man day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).
"Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness." Owen said, "who does not walk over the bellies of his lusts. He who does not kill sin in this way takes no steps towards his journey’s end.
"He who finds no opposition from it, and who does not set himself in every particular to its mortification is at peace with and is not dying to it. Be killing sin or it will be killing you," Owen concluded.
God's love in forgiveness
In every step our striving, God loves us through and through. He stands with us and empowers us to kill sin. Larry actively battles consequences of a complex web of sins as an inmate at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. We meet twice a week, usually Monday and Friday. Occasionally, he is cast down in depression. Thankfully, he doesn't stay there. We looked at Psalm 130.
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
God's character is marked by steadfast love and plentiful, or abundant forgiveness. In the original Hebrew, this hesed is steadfast love combining His forever faithful grace, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness.
Larry's thoughts play like an active DVD as he sits in his cell and lives day-to-day in his unit since December of 2011. With his legal process in motion, he held his hand six inches from his face, sharing a sense of an accusing lion staring "in his face."
Together, we called out the lion. What are you hearing? See those accusations for what they are. They are accusations based on what he doesn't know and driven by fear. Separate fact from deceiving accusatory attacks at your very soul. Who is leveling these attacks? What is the Lord saying? Consider the source of what is being said very carefully, with godly discernment.
Here are the accusations:
"First, my life will never be the same. I lost my church ministries, friends, and jobs I loved so much. I was serving in awesome places I loved. All that is gone.
Second, my friends deserted me. We spent time together. It was so good. Since I entered jail, the church pastoral staff never even contacted me. There have been no visits from them. To them, it is like I don't exist.
Third, my path is really hard. When I am released, I will go to work, attend required meetings, and go back home. That is it. I have my family and that is wonderful. For the next five years, I am locked into this life.
Fourth, my guilt is overwhelming. I feel great remorse and guilt for what I did. I know God has forgiven me. I repented. I dug a deep hole. I feel like I am in a dark place I will never get out of. I feel dirty. I know I am clean in Jesus and that he forgives me."
He won't go back to the places and other circumstances where he engaged in very destructive things while, yes, he was serving in places he really enjoyed. Critical parts of his life were a disheveled mess. He can choose to not go back there. He trusts his lawyer. He trusts God, prays, and reads and studies the Scriptures. His different life will be a good thing.
A few people outside his family visited him, two he did not expect who were tremendous encouragements. A few from the church he attended write letters but clearly are guarded, at least for now. Pastoral staff have not contacted him.
There are two very strong mentors he calls regularly and who are standing with him through the entire ordeal. His family visits him weekly and he calls them. Many inmates get no visits while they are incarcerated.
His journey will be restricted. Many fail in the way assigned to him. Until he is engaged in the new path, he doesn't know what the "hard path" looks like. It will be hard. God is providing a very strong support system. Some things will be harder than he knows, now.
The consequences of a litany of charges are real. Jail is real. In context, now, God's love and forgiveness shines brightly. He requires solid counseling and support around whatever the next phase of his life is. We looked at several critical passages--Zechariah 3:1-9 and Revelation 12:9-14
Brands plucked from the fire
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”
Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.
And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.”
And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”
And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”
So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. ~Zechariah 3:1-5
Larry's lion accuser is Satan, here. Joshua the high priest here represents you and me who are in Christ Jesus standing before this angel. This taking off very real sin and putting on new vestments and even a turban on our heads is the work of God for every believer.
Joshua was clothed with filthy garments. Sin isn't make believe. Joshua, Larry, you and me are filthy dirty before God. The removal of these garments represent the taking away of iniquities. Joshua didn't put on these clean garments. Those standing before the angel, presumably other angels, put them on him. This is Larry, for sure. Believers are "brands plucked from the fire." Glory to God. Larry, you and me, are "plucked from the fire" of destruction and the eternal wages of sin which is separation from God.
|brands in fire|
Joshua was also given a clean turban representing renewed and transformed thinking. Our very thinking is changed through the working of God. Why do we have new garments and a clean turban? Because the Lord Jesus ordered it for us. Our sins are forever removed and we are changed by the authority of Jesus Christ.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” ~Revelation 12:10-12
Miraculous great exchange
Larry's accuser is again our arch-enemy, Satan. So, we are battling sometimes waves of daily sin and the evil attacks and accusations of the devil. We conquer by the blood of the Lamb, the once for all, finished work of Christ--died, buried, risen, and ascended, and now seated at the right hand of God.
This is referred to as "the great exchange." Christ died and took our sins upon Himself on the cross. All our sins, forever, past, present, and future are placed on Jesus on the cross. In return, He covered and clothed us with His righteousness. When the Father looks at us, now, He doesn't see our guilt and filthy garments but miraculously He dwells on the righteousness of Jesus.
We also conquer by the word of our testimony, the Good News Gospel of salvation. Satan exercises great wrath against all these things because, we are told, he knows his time is short.