When I posed the questions last week (Checking into the Hospital), inviting close friends and family to identify the “blind spots” of my faith and where the Gospel still (yes, until the very end) has redemptive work to do in me, the responses varied. The initial questions about the exercise itself that came in e-mails in conversations included dismay that I would want to focus on the negative, make people tell me what they didn’t like about me or point out my imperfections when “you have so much that we all love about you” and besides, we all have flaws so no need to drag one another through the mud. Whats the deal with all this sin talk anyway? Lets just focus on God’s grace and love!
Hearing the discomfort with acknowledging sin reinforced how little we are comforted by grace. The “ouch and ahhh” of the Gospel, (thank you Anne) includes “Ouch! My SIN!” and “Ahhh…His grace flows down and covers me.” The need to avoid talking about the specifics of my flaws only exists because I am not convinced that the person and work of Jesus really is sufficient to relieve me (or my love ones) of the guilt and shame of my sin AND to bring about the progressive transformation into His image.
So, what if we think of it differently. What if we begin to hear talk about sin not with the goal of condemnation but as opportunity to believe this Gospel more than we honestly do. Consider this example: A man is on a cruise which cost him every penny of his savings. Because he has no more money, he sits in his cabin during all the meals eating the crackers he packed for the trip. Would it be negative, shaming or mean spirited for another passenger to let him know the lavish meals in the dining room were included in his fare? Would it be “nicer” for them to leave him alone to his sorry, stale, dry crackers when he could be feasting on every delicacy known to man and already paid for by his boarding ticket?
When my specific sins are identified, my specific areas of unbelief are also identified and I am invited out of my lonely room with “stale crackers faith” into the dining room feast of more delicious, mouth watering, belly filling belief in the true God. For example, my sin of anger usually comes when I can’t control something. The Gospel reminds me that God is in control so I don’t have to be. When I start to believe the outcome rests on me and what I can see, I start to sink in the water and curse at everyone as I am going down. My sin exposes my unbelief and the Gospel shows me Who better to believe in than myself, to trust in than myself, and to feast on rather than my stale crackers. Why would I not want more of that?
Let me give you an example from one of the responses:
5. Where do you see that I am trusting myself for my well being more than trusting my Father?
I think that you want to “embody the gospel”, which is a great aim, but sometimes you try too hard to make people see the gospel, rather than trusting that God is working on them in his own time.
The ouch of the Gospel (the bad news) is that I try to hard to make people see the Gospel. I am not believing God can do it without my help. I am not trusting that He will do more and better for His Kingdom to come than I can. Rather than loving the people in front of me, they feel attacked, feel patronized, feel stupid, feel unloved, feel like a project, feel like an obstacle to my agenda, and who knows what else. My unbelief is exposed by the fact that I am trusting my own ability, my own sheer will “rather than trusting that God is working on them in his own time.” The Ahhh of the Gospel (the good news) is not only that His grace is sufficient to cover over my offenses against people in this respect, but it then invites my faith to grow in trust that He is able to draw men to Himself, to open eyes, give sight, wisdom and understanding. Its His story, they are His people, and I am invited to trust Him to effectively work it out in those I love rather than believing it depends on me and must happen this very minute. Ahhh, I can rest in that trust and then love freely because the outcome is in His hands, not my striving.
Until I am shown my blind spots, I am missing out on those opportunities to believe more about His person and work. I want to know where I am settling for my own person and work (where my dry cracker meals expose my sin and unbelief) instead of enjoying and filling up on the feast that has already been provided!
If we claim to be without sin, we decieve ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Gal. 3:23-24
So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful…For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7: 13, 22-25
I do believe in the person and work of Jesus on behalf, but I still need so much help with (and awareness of) my unbelief!