Friday, August 3, 2012

The Blackened Landscape

"As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us."
(Psalm 103:12)
     A few weeks ago, we had a fire, which I talked about in a previous blog.  It’s funny—every time I round the corner, as I am driving down the old highway, the destruction comes into view and I am shocked how ugly it is.  The scorched earth, the blackened trees and all the plants that didn’t actually burn but are brown due to the fire’s heat, hit me like a thunderbolt.  I can’t get over how ugly it is. 
     I love trees and even though we are in high desert, and I accept the lack of trees here, I still love what grows.  Now, some of it is gone.  The blackened earth and skeletal trees will be with us for a long time and are a reminder of the drama earlier in the summer.  Yet, the other day I explained to my granddaughter that the black stuff  will provide food for the soil—it’s interesting how carbon renews soil and how the fire cleared away all the dead undergrowth, allows now for new growth.  After I explained it to her, the fire didn’t seem quite so destructive.
     Sin in our lives is really no different.  Long after the fires have been put out—we are forgiven of our sins by Christ--we still bear the scars of sin.  We have removed ourselves from the sinful situation, we are committed to not letting that sin rule our lives any longer, or we have done things that still cause us to shudder—yet the scars of past sins are there.  The evidence of what we have done is still apparent, or we still may be battling with that sin daily. 
     Why is it that God forgives and forgets our sin and puts it far away from Himself, and yet He doesn’t allow us to forget?  The landscape is going to remind me of the fire for a long time—and so does sin’s consequences remind me of what I did in the past.  What is God trying to teach us with this paradox of His forgetting and our remembering?
     Here’s what remembering sin should not do:
     Shame us:  Shame renders us immobile spiritually and we cannot move forward.  Remembrance of sins past should not be tantamount to a ball and chain forever wrapped around us.  We feel we have done wrong, yes, but Christ has given us His forgiveness.  Why do we cling to what has been and not lay hold of the cross?  Our guilt lead us to repent, but continually bearing shame will steal our joy in Him and make us forget the power of the cross.
     Frighten us:  We are set free by the truth of Christ.  But, fearing that we may fall into sin, keeps us from living life abundantly.  We stay away from the world, terrified that the world will grab us again, and yet, His makes provision for our sinning, even after we have come to Him:  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1: 8,9)  Yes, we need to be diligent, but not hiding away.
      Doubt Him:  I am not good enough…true, you’re not.  But the cross forever should put “paid” to the lie that His death was not sufficient and that He doesn’t love us.  The cross was the ultimate form of His love:  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)
      So, what should remembering sin do for us?
     Keep us humble:  That fire reminds me how fragile the landscape is to the heat of fire and how so much can burn so quickly.  We must remember our fragility in the face of sin, and partner with Jesus daily for strength, wisdom and obedience to Him and His word.
     Keep us fervent:  The fire took away so much, so quickly—sin can burn through us in a similar way, so we must be daily following Him, and keep Him first and foremost in our lives.
     Keep us aware:  Another fire could hit these hills, so we cannot be complacent.  It’s the same with Jesus—it doesn’t matter how long we have followed Him, we must stay by His side and stay on task.
     The fire will scar the landscape for many years to come, and sin scars us as well.  But, the remembrance of sin can draw us ever closer to Him:  He loves us and He will be the food for our souls. 
Precious Lamb of God:  How easy to dwell alone on the blackened landscape of sin, and not walk hand in hand with You to freedom and forgiveness.  Yes, the blackened trees are there, but under Your hand, I can bloom and I can praise You for restoration.  Thank You for the cross—if I ever doubt Your love, let me see it again in my heart, and doubt not.  In Christ’s mighty Name, amen.

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