We’ve Gotten Ourselves Into Quite A Pickle!

How should we respond when we contemplate the eternity of God? That’s the question I began to address in my last post. The doxology says: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen. Amen.” Our lives are like a single raindrop falling in the ocean compared to the vastness of God’s life. That fact should make us humble. But it isn’t the only way we should respond.

It should also make us repentant. We don’t talk much about repentance anymore. In fact, the very word may convince a few to put this post aside and wait for me to address a more positive and upbeat topic. I understand that. Repentance has never been a popular topic. For one thing, it forces us to think about our sins, which is apt to bring feelings of guilt, failure, and shame. And who wants to wallow in emotions like that! Furthermore, it reminds us that God is not only a God of love, He is also a holy God who cannot tolerate sin in His presence. Moses refers to this in Psalm 90:7-8 where He continues: “For we have been consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.”

That’s an unnerving thought. Isn’t it? The bright light of God’s holiness is this very moment shining on all your secret sins, the ones no one else knows about, exposing their ugliness. Hebrews 4:13 confirms this: “For there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” What makes our condition even more frightening (Hang in there! It gets worse, but it’ll get much better in a moment.) is that it’s an eternal God we’ve offended who vows to repay each one or us according to our deeds. For those of us who love God, that’s comforting because it means we’ll be forever blessed. But for the person who finds himself estranged from God, that’s a terrifying fact because it means His wrath will never end. Jesus warned: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; but he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

Charnock, the Puritan theologian, described our pickle like this: “That the Judge and Punisher lives forever is the greatest grievance to a soul in misery and adds inconceivable weight to it, for while God’s power makes our punishment sharp, His eternity renders it perpetual; ever to endure is the sting at the end of every lash.” Or to say it another way, if no one can love with the intensity of our eternal God, imagine what His wrath is like! Hebrews 10:31 warns: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” What a motivation to pray for and tell everyone we know of the love and forgiveness freely available to them in Jesus!

If you can bear it, here’s one more reason why we need God’s mercy. Not only does He see our sins, both visible and secret, but they are always before Him. You  and I are forgetful creatures. We walk into rooms and wonder what we’re after. So we tend to forget the sins we committed 10 or 50 years ago. But God doesn’t. God is eternal, which means our sins are ever before Him as if they took place just moments ago. What’s more, that’s where they’ll remain until: 1) We turn to Jesus as our Savior and the slate is wiped clean. “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins.” (1 John 1:7) 2) We confess our sins to Him, which keeps the fellowship sweet. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

I know. It’s taken me awhile to get to the good news. But here it is: You don’t have to stay stuck in your sinful habits and addictions, nor do you have to be estranged from God. Like the father of the prodigal son, He’s out on the porch looking for you, eager for you to come home. How do you do that? It’s simple but not pain-free. Agree with God that you’ve sinned by trying to live life without Him. That shouldn’t be hard. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that been working for you?” It hasn’t worked at all. But now you have a chance to start again. So why not take it. Turn from the failed solutions you’ve tried in the past and ask Jesus to give you the power to live as He’s always wanted. And He will!

Moses prayed like this in Psalm 90:13, “Return, O LORD! And have compassion on Your servants. Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” God never ignores a sincere request like that, for He is infinite in mercy and forgiveness, just waiting for us to recognize our need of Him. Sure, there will be temptations to drift back to the old life. That’s a part of the recovery process. But stand firm. Surround yourself with others who’ve made the change and trust God to do for you what you could never do for yourself, for “God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.” (Phil. 1:6 CEV)

(Next time: God’s eternity calls for wisdom.)

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