Last time, I wrote this:
The landscapes of our lives are forever altered by our sins,
but God can still make meadows blossom across them,
even in the aftermath of shameful failure.
This is the miracle of grace.
It is what redemption is all about.
God takes what was broken, sick, deteriorating, even totally wrecked, and He restores it to something of beauty, health and value.
This is incredible.
I remember the day I was reading Romans 8:28 -- And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them (NLT) -- and I realized that "everything" even includes our sins, our failures, our trip-and-fall-and-land-smack-on-your-face-in-the-filth-of-degradation behavior. God uses those things for our good, too.
How? How can God use sin to accomplish good purposes?
Well, He used the greatest sin of all time, the cruel crucifixion of the perfect Son of God, conducted under completely unfair circumstance -- this grievous sin, our Lord took and used to accomplish the greatest miracle of all time: the gracious provision of salvation for humankind.
If He could do that, why would I doubt His ability to use my sins to accomplish good purposes in my life?
How does God use my sins to accomplish good?
He uses my sins to humble me and break me. God used the sin of Peter's denial of Christ on the eve of the crucifixion, used it to to break Peter's pride. God brought Peter to the point where he could fully appreciate what it means to be forgiven, and from there Peter grew in ways he never was able to grow before, becoming strong, courageous, and truly effective for the Kingdom of God. God does the same in me. When sin trips me up, God redeems the situation by growing my humility, so eventually I can become more useful to Him.
Related to this, it becomes clear that God uses my sins to help me understand and appreciate His great forgiveness. How could we appreciate forgiveness and grace if we never knew the tremendous relief and release that come when we are forgiven from our sin and made free? If we never sinned, or if we failed to recognize that we have sinned, we could not perceive what a glorious miracle it is to be washed clean and filled with the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, as we understand the depth of what we have been forgiven, it helps us turn around and forgive others, passing on the grace.
When we have experienced the weight of sin, it makes us compassionate toward others who are struggling under sin. God uses our sins to make us compassionate towards others who are caught in sin. This doesn't mean that we condone or excuse their sin (or our own). No! It means that we ourselves know the pain sin has brought into our lives, and therefore we feel deep sympathy and an urge to help others who are suffering from the effects of sin. We develop hearts that know the beauty of forgiveness, the wonder of escaping sin's clutches. As we experience God's grace, we long to share it with others.
God displays His glorious redemptive power when He brings me back to Himself after I have sinned. There must be sin in order for the light of grace to shine in victory over it. There is no rescue if there was never any danger. There is no salvation if there was never any threat. There is no grace if there was never any sin. The triumph of righteous love over sin is God's pinnacle victory, and we all need His grace applied to our lives. Nobody can get to heaven without His grace, His victorious triumph over the power of sin. Our sins allow God's glorious grace to be showcased so we can understand what He has done for us, so we can worship Him in His glory.
When God redeems us from our sins, He shows His power to transform a life from something useless to something supremely useful for all eternity.
The danger, of course, when we understand this, is that we might think it is a good thing to sin, to provide God with raw material for the display of His glory.
Paul addresses this thought in Romans 6:
Romans 6:1-2 says, "Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?" (NLT)
Romans 6:15 says, "Well then, since God's grace has set us free from the Law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!" (NLT)
There is something particularly evil and insidious about an attitude that says, "Cool! I can sin as much as I want, and it gives God more and more opportunities to show His grace, power and glory each time He forgives me . . ." Such a sentiment arises in a supremely selfish heart and demonstrates no respect for the suffering of our Savior on the cross. Such a sentiment does not love God as we are commanded to love Him, with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
We must guard against being casual about our sin. Sin is a very big problem, and it is why Jesus had to die. He died to save us from sin, so we could be free from the bondage of sin and the death wherein it culminates. We must never go around sinning wantonly, simply presuming upon the grace of God to save us afterwards.
At the same time, when we do stumble into sin, even after we have been saved, we must not despair. God always extends grace and hope to us. He stands ready to forgive and cleanse and purify (1 John 1:9). It can be tempting to think, "Now I've done it. I messed up again. This time, I'm sure I've wrecked everything forever and always." That simply isn't true. God is constantly working miracles of redemption and restoration. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (see Romans 8:35-39).
It's a tightrope walk, and it all depends on Jesus. We need to turn our eyes toward Jesus and trust Him to lead us, care for us, and work all things together for good in our lives, as He promises He will do.
For the wages of sin is death,
but the free gift of God is eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Romans 6:23 NLT)
(I've been pondering this idea. Last night in our Bible reading, Shawn read me Romans 6 before I went to sleep, and what do you know? Out came this post.)