I have no guilt or regret over my sin for three reasons: first, while I do have godly sorrow, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Secondly, God is taking all that sin, shame, and sorrow from my story and redeeming it, giving it actual value for the Kingdom (where sin abounds grace that much MORE abounds). He is actually turning my sin itself into a spiritual gift whereby I have something worth sharing, something with which to love others and after all, that’s why and how I was designed in the first place, as a lover. And thirdly, that He does all that proves He has victory over the presence, penalty, and power of sin. This is all to His glory as He is essentially telling the enemy “I see your evil and I raise it a redemption! It doesn’t scare me. It doesn’t catch me off guard. Watch me use it for my glory and their good.” We have a good Father who doesn’t give bad gifts to His children.
It has dawned on me that “honor Him as God” and “give thanks” from Romans 1:18 is literally “worshiping Him in spirit and in Truth” from John 3. If spirit (“pneuma” which means wind, direction) is about movement, and Truth is about foundational character/nature, then worshiping in spirit is about thanking God for His movement and action (it’s what God does) and honoring Him is about reverence for Who He is. Truth is about Who God is and His spirit is an outflow, or overflow if you will, of His Being.
Now, map that onto Matthew 11:28-30 where the concept of burden/yoke will makes all kind of sense. Burden (character) and yoke (movement) inform what I carry and how I move with it. In other words, if I am blind to who I am (my “truth,” if you please) then I’m going to be under heavy burden (heavy laden, no rest) and that will cause me weariness (hard yoke, inability to move). My trying to earn an identity is too much to bear: I was never designed for it. That’s hard work, an impossible struggle. But His burden (who He is and how I am a reflection of Him) is a light burden, I “learn” rather than “earn” who I am. Now i can move freely, easily, out of the abundance of this “rest.” So my “spirit and truth” is a reflection of His “spirit and truth” because I am the image of God, the reflection of His glory on earth.
Let’s take it a little farther, and understand I am always of the precipice of heresy…so fair warning.
God is YWHW. God is “There.” God shows up as “I Am That I Am.” So, if I am to reflect Him properly in who I am then I am a reflected “I am that I am.” “Those who come to God must believe that He is.” So…God is, in His “thereness,” an emotional, volitional, intellectual God, supporting the fact that He is a relational God, always moving toward Someone. Throughout eternity He moved within the Trinity. Then He created us and moved toward us that we might reflect His glory, to walk in righteousness. We are in those ways like Him; as His image. But we sinned; we fell short of that glory. We stopped “walking with Him in the cool if the day.” We stopped reflecting those characteristics of Him. The shekinah glory faded and we were no longer bathed in that light. We “saw that we were naked and were ashamed.” And that equals confusion in who were are, who we’re designed to be.
What to do?
Rather than increase our burden and make our yokes harder by trying to run, hide, cover, and blame (fight and flight) to avoid our shame, we need to stand naked, exposed, in the fact that something’s very wrong with us. We don’t “have” a problem, we ARE the problem. There’s nothing we can do to get that glory back. Not on our own. Sacrifice is necessary to “fashion garments.” Fur over fig leaves! But a sacrifice of death must occur for that righteousness to be worn. There’s a penalty for that din. So when we get dressed every day we are to be reminded, no matter how pretty our shirts and shoes…Light it ain’t. Glory’s coming but not now. And that leaves (no pun intended) us with the existential reality that life as it is is not life as it should be. Groan! We will one day be bathed again in His glory but now, in the “already, not yet,” we wait in “faith, hope, and love.”
So now what to do with our sin?
Watch it get redeemed!
If there’s “no condemnation to those who are in Christ,” then we do not wallow, ever, in guilt or regret. In fact, quite the contrary. That very temptation, that issue where we succumb to idolatry, immorality, or individualism becomes Sacred Space, Holy Ground. With that as context let’s look at why it took Israel 40 years to take a trip that should have taken only a few months.
Why? What was God’s purpose?
God showing Who He is to His people is infinitely more important than getting better, fixed, or repaired. In other words Revelation trumps resolution.
God’s purpose now, in time, is to reveal Himself. Show Himself off. To absolutely everyone. He is, according to the first chapter of Romans revealing both His wrath and His righteousness. Everyone is a recipient. Of either one or the other. Never, and hear this well, never both. We either move from wrath to righteousness or remain in wrath. To be teleologically theological (our overriding purpose for life must be centered and founded in God Himself) we have to get this: that if we are made righteous through Christ then we are not and cannot be objects of wrath. So everything, including our past and present sin, shame, sorrow, and suffering, takes on new perspective. Looking at when Israel journeyed through the desert we find that God took each struggle, each bit of suffering, each sin, as an opportunity to reveal more of Himself. They were a redeemed people and that’s what He does. Remember that Israel really didn’t know much about who God was. Oh, they had some stories, some oral tradition from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; even from Joseph, but they didn’t KNOW Him. Moses was chosen for this purpose. He spent 40 years earning an identity, becoming “somebody.” Then he killed that Egyptian and in his shame and fear he ran away. He spent 40 years becoming “nobody.” Now God had him right where He needed him. Posture informs perspective. A posture of desperation creates a perspective of “I am the problem.” And that’s when and where God shows up. He told Moses to remove his shoes for he was on Holy Ground. And then he gave His Name. Now, Israel going through the desert, got the same procedure. God would reveal Himself as YWHW Jireh (God the Provider), YWHW Nisi (God the Banner, our Warrior), YWHW Rophi (God the Healer), etc. Israel, knowing God better could now build a monument to this newfound understanding of God, worship appropriately and move out accordingly. They’d continue, not by sight (knowing where they were going), but by faith in Him who sent them. He wanted them to know, love, and worship Him well before they crossed the Jordan.
For us, now, the same thing: each event of suffering, sin, shame, or sorrow is another opportunity for God to show up, revealing more of Who He is, that we might worship
appropriately and move out accordingly. We get on the altar as living sacrifices. And this makes each trial and every temptation holy ground, sacred space, because He is giving us His name and His grace. We walk now by faith as well which grows more each time We’re humbled by pain-filled circumstances. “God gives grace to the humble.” Our rest is that He is our “light burden.” As we grow “in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” our “need” to perform, to please others, to perfectionism decreases. We know ourselves better (as defined and designed by Him) and can move in delightful freedom. Knowing that He in fact uses it all to redeem us, set us apart, create spiritual gifts, allows us to love others even better, and therefore gives us the peace, joy, etc. that we are hungry for. In other words: the fruit of the Spirit.
The 4 Es in the sanctification (setting apart, making holy) process: expose, entrance, engage, and embrace.
Exposure: this is about grace. Exposure is grace. It hurts so I know it goes contrary to modern evangelicalism, but it’s a vital component to our story of redemption. While it’s humbling i must realize that “God gives grace to the humble.” God was us to come to the awareness that we have no help, no hope in ourselves. We do not just have a problem, we, in fact, are the problem in our total depravity. “My people have committed two evils, they have forsaken Me, the Spring of Living Water and dug for ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns that don’t hold water.” In other words, we are very thirsty but we are drinking sewage to quench that thirst. Jesus exposed the woman at the well to her immediate thirst, her relational thirst (all those husbands) and her deepest thirst (worship God in spirit and in truth). So for us, we need to be brought to such an existential reality. We are in need, we cannot meet our own need, we are weak. It takes grace to let us in on that. That awareness is spiritually discerned, it takes outside help. It takes grace, agift from God, because without that understanding we’re doomed. It starts the process of redemption. Grace is exposure; exposure is grace.
And grace sets us up for receiving faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” There is no aid to our condition without knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him for what He does as God. Faith is worship. Worship is faith. The understanding that God is worthy is how I come to God, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11:6. The two are inseparable. I must have faith which means I must know something about God and rely on it. What must I know about God beyond all else? That God is worthy. It’s His glory from which we have fallen, which is primarily the belief that He’s not worthy…but I am. My faith, my worship, is either in me or in Him. This is the “assurance of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen.” All of Hebrews 11, in talking about what happened to these people of faith, is revealing why they moved into their worlds as they did. They believed in, relied upon, depended on the worth of God Himself. Through that faith, the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:17), which is nothing more than the extensions of Who God is and what God has done. That faith, that foundation of God’s worth, allows me the courage to risk
entrance into my exposure, my deepening awareness that I am the problem and He and only He is the solution. Grace gives me faith, more of Jesus Himself. And this faith is the free gift from God. So grace is a gift which informs my faith, which is also a gift.
Now that I have faith, I get to engage not just my behavior, but the “wicked way,” “the way that seemed right” that got me to where I am. My direction of life was two-fold: self protective and self-exaltive. This is where i am demanding control over my own life because I have believed that God is not there for me (God is not YWHW), good to me (God is not Love), nor in control over me (God is not Sovereign). I’ve got to trust my own sinful strategies because God is not worth relying upon. He’s not worthy. That is faithlessness. It is my commitment to a direction of life that moves away from God, His glory, His Truth, and eventually God Himself, Romans 1:18-32. “Metanoia” is turning away from that direction, informed by faith (which is informed by grace), toward God, toward His worthiness, toward loving Him. It’s a movement. I repent of wrong directions, not just the behavior produced by them. While faith is free, this E is a killer. It costs everything: my whole life. That’s why it takes faith, I’m not going to do this directional exchange if I don’t believe God’s worth it. Dying to self (protective and exaltive) is my spiritual worship, Romans 12:1. Spiritual is the word “pneuma” and means movement (wind, aim, direction) and worship is where I attribute worth to God. It comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “worthship.” So my faith, my worship, is both directional and relational. I “keep on presenting my body (being) as a living sacrifice” in the way I move, direct my life, how I live. And what’s great about this repentance is that it, too, is a gift from God. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, repentance is “an evangelical grace,” it’s a gift of God. It’s not so much something we have to do, it’s something we get to do. So this is how I engage with faith in how I move into my world. Grace upon grace!
When I practice this grace-drenched, faith-controlled, repentance-filled movement toward worshiping and loving God, it lets me in on the fact that God is using my sin, shame, sorrow, and struggles for His glory and my good. Jesus’ fingerprints are all over the pages of my story. It’s called “redemption.” “Walking in a manner worthy of the Lord” is synonymous with “walking by faith” and “walking in the Spirit.” “Manner” is not “mode,” it’s all about movement, not just behavior. It’s about living intentionally, teleologically, to worship and love God by faith. As I see more clearly how God has designed and defined me and I see that He is worthy of my obedience (my new direction in life), I will also see how valuable I am to Him, how much worth I also have living as a reflection of Trinitarian glory. When I get the glimpse of this profound and powerful redemption I can then, also by grace, embrace my story because I have been clearly embraced by the Author of my story.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.
God loved story so much He invented humans. – Eli Wiesel