I was eating a meal bar this morning when I noticed a bit of chocolate on my shirt. I tried to remove it, but, as you can see, I only made it worse.
Now I have two spots where there had been one, each of which is larger than the spot of chocolate that started the problem.
I have no idea how the physics of this work, but that was the result.
It seems to me there’s a spiritual parable here: when we sin against the Lord, we can try to remove the spot, but we typically only make it worse.
That’s because only a perfect, sinless God can forgive the sin of an imperfect, sinful person. That’s why David could say to the Lord in Psalm 51:4, “Against you, you only have I sinned.” That’s why the Bible calls us to ask God to forgive our sins because we really can’t forgive ourselves. And we really can’t forgive each other to the degree that God can forgive us.
In Isaiah 1:18, the Lord says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” This is the grace of God by which he cleanses what we cannot cleanse, removes what we can’t remove, and gives us a purity we could never have.
I believe that this transformational grace of God works backward as well as forward.
How grace works backward and forward
There may be some sins in your life from your past that you’re still carrying with you as though they were in the present. It may be that you’ve even confessed them to God, but you still carry the guilt of that.
Know that grace is greater than guilt.
If you’re not certain you’ve confessed the sin that’s bothering you today, do so now. Stop even as you’re reading this article. Name that sin and ask the Lord to forgive you for it. Ask him to cleanse you by his grace. Claim 1 John 1:9. He forgives all that we confess to him. Then claim the fact that he separates your sin from you “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), buries it in the depths of the deepest sea, and remembers it no more.
Now, the next time that guilt surfaces, remember that you have confessed it to God and say to that guilt, “I have confessed that to God and grace is greater than guilt.”
You may have to do it one hundred times today and ninety times tomorrow. But, eventually, the guilt will leave.
However, this is a decision we have to make. Guilt is how we punish ourselves when God won’t punish us. It’s how we try to somehow level the field or pay what we think we owe. If God won’t inflict guilt, we often do it to ourselves.
So decide with me right now not to live in guilt. Don’t live in that pain. Don’t live with that stain on your spiritual shirt. Confess that to God. Ask him to forgive it and cleanse it. Claim that forgiveness and that grace, and then go forward in his love.
Now, one way you can pay forward his grace is not by allowing guilt from the past but by sharing his goodness in the future. It’s sharing with others what God has given to you. It’s paying forward the grace that you have received. It’s giving the gift that the Holy Spirit has given to you, not in an attempt to earn God’s favor but in gratitude for his grace. We’re all beggars helping beggars find bread. But as we share what has been shared with us, we’re helping other people experience his grace.
That is God’s transformational gift for us.
The bottom line is this: If you’re anything like me, you have stains on your spiritual shirt. If you attempt to rub them out or do your best to remove them, you typically make them worse. Stop right now. Confess them to God, then claim his grace and share his mercy.
Know that God’s grace is greater than sin.
Even yours and even mine.
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