I’ve said it before— I can’t stand sin. It’s this unruly condition that chips away at our intended design. It stings and it leaves a stain and ultimately, it separates us, keeping us us far far far far away from a good and perfect God. The God that made us, that we were in fact made to be around. But a perfect God can not sit beside what is imperfect, lest His perfection be at risk. What’s perfect is tainted in the company of what’s not, so God must isolate Himself from a sinful you and me. So we come to grips with the dirt and the distance–it’s all we know. Sin is familiar, it’s all around us and has whirled deep in our DNA since the Fall. It’s the subject of capital letter newspaper headlines in foreign countries and right down the street. It tears families in two and breeds guilt and shame that weigh heavy and unbearable, and gives us names that we aren’t proud to wear. Slave chains and a slave name: sinner.
We wear the name slapped across our chest, like a scarlet letter—and by our own accord, there’s nothing we can do to escape this identity. We are all sinners, having fallen short of God’s perfection and glory. Jesus Himself said so, You who are sinners are enslaved to sin. Sin is our master; we do just what it tells us to. Old sin, new sin, secret sin, newspaper headline sin—our hearts are bent towards rebellion. We feel its gravity, pulling us further downward than we knew existed. No amount of our labor and striving, or attempts at clawing our way back up can cure it, unwind it or undo it. Sin’s unbearable yet inescapable. It’s killing us slowly, eating us alive. We’re left screaming for freedom, for a new name.
Scripture says that the wages of sin is death. The wages we’ve hard-earned for our perpetual disobedience is death, of a two-fold kind. It’s a death far worse than the grieving and grave-burying we’re familiar with. Instead, we’ve merited the scariest unknown there is: eternal separation from the Father. Kept far far far away from the Father we were made to be around. Kept dirty and at a distance, stuck wearing slave names and slave chains.
So I hang my head low and hide my face, reading and rereading these names sin handed me. I start to memorize them and believe them until He shakes me and locks eyes with me and says loud and clear: “I see these names. I see them, but oh how I love you, Layne. I love you anyways. I’m going to prove it. I’ll take care of this.” I get the feeling that He means it. And He’s riled up a holy anticipation in my spirit–I’m eager to watch Him fix me and do what He swore He would. The God that comes close–so I’d know Him–isn’t up in heaven pacing back and forth, scared of a sin condition running rampant and out of hand. Our mess and our newspaper headlines don’t shake Him, He knows just what to do. In fact, He’s already done it.
It was all part of the plan. God handed our little world his Jesus, initiates a wild rescue mission to fix the problem and set things straight. For God is not a God of distance. He’s about proximity and it’s you and me He’s after. His son Jesus spends 33 years learning, growing, preparing, readying to make His big move. What came next didn’t surprise Him or catch Him off guard–He came to the world to do this thing exactly. All part of the plan.
When God said so, sinners like you and me threw a spotless, sinless king Jesus sprawled out in front of governor Pilate. He was declared innocent by trial yet the crowd grew unruly. The ones He came after to set free turned, and came after Him to do just the opposite. They whipped Him, mocked Him, spat on Him, threw Him around until He was left battered, beaten and threadbare. They hung Him up, nailed to my cross–unknowingly pinning every speck of my sin and old ways to it too. This was all part of the plan. And while His raw back ripped open rubs against the raw wood of my cross, He faced my wages, my punishment. Wore names that were all mine to wear. Bore a death that was all mine to bear. He hangs there, hours upon hours and expels a dying breath, His last words: It is finished.
Sin of yesterday, today and all the tomorrows: finished. The separation between a good perfect God and his messy, sinful people: finished. These names sin stuck on me: finished, peeled right off. It is all finished. “God made Him who knew no sin to become sin—to take our punishment–that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (1 Corinthians 5:21) God made Jesus to take on the whole gravity of sin. All part of the master plan–to rescue and redeem, to win us back. To set us free and rename us. He’s whispering I told you so’s. And I’m wearing new names.
J, this is the craziest! You did this for the liar, the rebel, the addict, those battling envy and eating disorders, the prideful and the prodigal. While wearing those names, You died for us. For me! In my furthest wanderings, my deepest depravity–You met me. You locked eyes with me and saw more than the hundred names I hate wearing. You say I’m so loved and so cherished and all-the-way forgiven and so important and Your very own daughter and so enough and You did what You promised. You always do what You promise. You set me free from sin and stain and slave chains. I sure like my new names!
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
| Romans 5:8 |
For we know that our old self was crucified
with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be
done away with, that we should no longer be
slaves to sin—because anyone who has
died has been set free from sin.
| Romans 6:6 |