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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

What Won't Atone. And What Will.


When I sin- deliberately, rudely, brazenly- and know that I've sinned, I often decide that I'm going to go on a mission to make up for it.

The first means of atonement I tend to try is time. Once I become aware of my guilt, I just decide I'll sit it out. I decide that as time passes, I will become less guilty. Of course, as time passes- I may feel less guilty. But I won't be less guilty. Guilt is a legal status, not a feeling. And time can't make the act of lawlessness go away. 

If time won't do, I have to find another means. So I think about things that I can do that will be especially selfless, especially pure, especially wonderful to fill in the gaping hole I've ripped open by my rebellion. It doesn't take much effort before it's clear that my acts of selflessness can't plug the gap. Firstly, they're not really all that good themselves, so they just exacerbate the problem. And secondly, they can't take away the original act of sin. It's still there. 

Once I've surrendered to the reality that my goodness won't make up for it- on account of the fact that it's not really that good, I then opt for beating myself up. If I tell myself that I'm useless, and insist on pursuing misery (for what I deem to be an adequate amount of time), then I reason I will make up for my sin. But lurking at the back of my mind is the knowledge that the offence against God is eternal: my few days penance are a pitiful drop in an oceans' worth of debt. 

By now, I'm almost out of excuses. But I then try one last gasp of legalism, and offer up my circumstances as justification. Oh, but it was such a hard week. Oh, but I'm so tired. Oh, but I'm sad. Oh, but I'm in pain. But when you've turned away from the God of all comfort to find counterfeit comfort in sin, this excuse doesn't wash as a justification- and it doesn't atone for sin. 

All of my time, all of my goodnesses, my excuses, my self-inflicted punishments- even my most finely crafted apologies cannot atone for sin. 

I am guilty. I am stained. I am wretched. 

And Christ died for my sin. 

Christ. Died. For. My. Sin. Five words to blow the mind! 

Starting with his humble birth, through his obedient and completely pure life, and by his death, he knew my need and met it. He knew my weakness, and became my strength. He knew my guilt, and gave me his innocence. God's chosen King humbled himself, even up the point of his death in my place- and dealt with my sin. 

He came to me in my utter helplessness- and where I couldn't remove a single stain, he removed it all. Where I was too weakened by my own sinfulness, where I was steeped in my own brokenness, my own wretchedness- he reached down, he became my strength, he lifted me up. He washed away my sin, by his own blood. He became my refuge; he shielded me from the wrath that should have fallen on me. As the weight of my debt crushed him, he loved me, and as he was condemned, he said to me: "I forgive all your sins." 

"The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger, 
In all our trials, born to be our friend: 
He knows our need! Our weakness is no stranger! 
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!" 

I cannot atone for my sin. But Christ can. 

What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus. 

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