STRENGTH FOR THE WEEK: Flood Church’s Weekly Devotional
SERIES 2: The Sin Also Known As
“Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.” – Jeremiah 2:22
Sin makes us unclean. We are stained with guilt because of it.
Sometimes we actually “feel” unclean because of sin. We feel dirty on the inside, and some sins make us feel dirty on the outside. You had too much to drink, or you crossed your boundaries of sexual purity, or you said something you knew wasn’t true, or you looked at someone with envy, or you slipped up on your decision to not look at salacious images anymore, or you realize you still have that item you were meant to have returned, or you lash out in anger at someone beyond what was deserved. Many of these acts of sin tend to leave us feeling stained and unclean. This feeling is called Guilt. On such occasions, our first and natural inclination is to wish we could go back and have another chance to do things right. This feeling is called Regret. For many, this is followed by sorrow at the effects and consequences the sin has brought, though not necessarily sorrow for the wrongfulness of our actions. This feeling is called Remorse. None of these stages remove any of the filthiness with which sin stains us.
The only thing that brings us to the cleansing mercy of God is Repentance, which involves mourning to God for the sin and its effects, as well as asking God for forgiveness and valuing that forgiveness enough to walk away from the sin that made it necessary. However, because repentance is something God himself enables us to do, it is not our natural inclination. Our natural instinct is to look for ways of making ourselves feel clean without actually getting clean. Our first urge is to look for a carpet under which to brush our dirt and keep it from being seen by others. This sense of having a stain you do not want others to see is called Shame. Our own efforts to make ourselves feel clean only succeed in turning our regret into shame, not repentance.
In some cases, the stain can get decidedly worse and go beyond shame. The dirt under the carpet can pile up so much that it becomes difficult or impossible for us to keep it hidden from others. Eventually we give up hiding the staining sin we have, not giving up on the sin itself as a repentant person does, but giving up on the secrecy of the sin because of a sense of despair that tells us there is nothing to be done about our stain and there is neither any point in hiding it or trying to clean it up. So with the encouragement of sinful peers and the enablement of a sinful culture, our shame turns into shamelessness. Essentially, the repentant person and shameless person have one thing in common, namely that they have each reached the inescapable conclusion that the filth of their sin is a stain they are powerless to remove. However, while this realization causes the repentant to mourn to God and hope for mercy, the same realization causes the shameless to even be proud of their sin because they have no hope that any cleansing mercy is available.
Shamelessness comes when our sense of the filth and uncleanness of sin comes from our experience of the sin itself, a sense that offers no hope and no mercy. By contrast, repentance comes when our sense of the filth and uncleanness of sin come from seeing God as He is and as He intended us to be, a sense that offers hope through mercy. It is not seeing our sin that produces repentance, but seeing the holiness of God from which we have fallen and the mercy of God by which he still offers us hope. Until then, all our efforts to get clean by looking better than we are or looking better than others only leave us as stained with sin at the end as we were at the beginning.