I'm still reading the book TrueFaced, written by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch. And, I'm still sharing concepts and illustrations that come directly from that book. This is not original stuff of my own. You should buy the book and read it. Why am I doing this? Writing it helps me to further process what I am reading. I want these things to go deep down inside of me and become a part of who I am. Second, just in case somebody is reading this who would not have bought the book: well, I want to extend the ripples of the good stuff these men have written just a bit further.
I'm in chapter 3 now, and here's the illustration that I read today that grabbed me. Imagine yourself standing in front of a lake. On the other side, maybe a hundred yards or so across, stands a person that you are longing to see, to talk to. The lake is wide enough that there seems no possible way to walk around it, and besides, all around the shore of the lake grow bushes, teeming with thorns, preventing you from finding a path. You have no boat, and just in case you're thinking of wading or swimming, you discover that the water is disgustingly polluted and filled with poisonous snakes. What can you do? Your only recourse is to yell, back and forth across the lake, resulting in flawed communication, and ultimately, complete frustration.
The lake represents your sin, and the person to whom you long to be close is God. And this is an accurate picture of how we were before we came into belief in Jesus, and we were adopted into the family of God. Yet, disturbingly, this is also the way so many of us who have been adopted into the family of God still feel. Because we continue to sin on a regular basis, we see our sin as just adding to the poison of the lake, and deepening the impossibility of living in relationship with a holy God. It's as if God declaring us to have His righteousness never took place.
Primarily focusing on Pleasing God rather than Trusting God leaves us chained to our unresolved sin and immaturity. If we are living in the Room of Good Intentions, we see the piles of our sin, (to modify our analogy a bit), that separate us from a holy God, who is supposedly on the other side of that pile. And if moral striving can save the day, then we chip away at that sin pile, all the while shamefully aware that the sin of today only adds to the pile that lies in front of us. If we manage to knock off a chunk of bad behavior, well, then, we think that we've done something pretty big! And we rejoice in what our effort has accomplished, and in so doing, add a lump of pride to the sin pile in front of us.
Now, though, here is the change in the picture that resonated deep in my heart, that I wanted to share. What if I am all wrong in that picture I have created in my mind of how that sin pile separates me from God? What if what He says is true: that I have been adopted into His family, that I am connected to the Vine - remaining in Him? What if I really am IN Christ Jesus, like He says I am? What if He's NOT on the other side of that sin pile? What if He's standing right there beside me, with His arm around me, looking at my sin with me, and wanting to enjoy His relationship with me, ready to address my sin that is right out there in front of both of us?
Here's a quote from the book, of the Believer, talking to God, as they look at the sin pile in front of them: "Once, I thought that this particular sin would fulfill and satisfy me. But, Father, as we look at it together, I am learning to trust your assessment of what will satisfy and fulfill me. So, what do you want to do about this sin? I am not going to try to manage it or throw it to the ground. I trust you for the next step." "In the Room of Grace, Jesus Christ is honored, depended upon, and submitted to for the resolution of our sin issues."
"What if our sin doesn't affect how close we are to God? What if God meant it when He said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'?"
What if God could walk around that impossibly high mountain of our sin, walk right up to us, put His arm around us, and enjoy us right now - no matter how much unresolved sin we have in our lives? What if we could stand there together and look at my sin together, not for the purpose of condemnation, but for the purpose of solving it together in relationship?
Grace changes everything.