While on the phone recently with my wife, I noticed drops of water coming down from our kitchen ceiling. Needless to say I had to end the conversation and figure out what was going on. Not being a handyman, I reached out to our handy neighbor. He immediately saw that the ceiling was drooping. (How did we not see that?) As he poked a hole in the ceiling, the little drops of water became a downpour.
In order to find out where the leak originated a larger hole had to be created in the ceiling. Once the leak was found, an even greater hole had to be created in order to fix the leak. Eventually, after going through all the home insurance protocols, our pipes and ceiling are now fixed. At the time of this writing, we were still waiting to repair the bathroom where the leak came from. At least the hole in our ceiling is gone.
Some people believe it was Blaise Pascal who said that there is a “God-sized hole” in all of us. If so, where did that hole originate? It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. When they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, a “hole” was created in their souls, and in their relationship with God and one another.
As Blaise Pascal did say, everyone tries to fill the hole with “everything around him or her, seeking in things that in themselves cannot help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
As a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, they could not approach God. However, God came to them. That is the picture of grace. Now, because of their sin, we are all separated from God. None of can approach God on our own. However, nothing prevented God from coming to us, which He did in Jesus Christ. That is the gift of grace.
Unfortunately, like Adam and Eve, pride, or perhaps guilt, makes us all want to hide from the presence of God. We may try to hide from Him by convincing ourselves that there is no hole – no problem – nothing to be fixed. Pride can also convince us that if there is a hole, we can fix it – we can find happiness, value and purpose without God. Turning to other sources, or relying upon our own ingenuity, we attempt to fix ourselves. All we do though is temporarily apply band-aids in an attempt to hide our deep holes and eternal wounds. Instead, what we need is life-transforming surgery that only God can perform by His grace and through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In order to begin the healing process, to allow God to begin restoring and healing us, more often than not, let me suggest that the best place to begin is the Bible:
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged
sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and
attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4.12)
In the Bible, you will encounter the Truth regarding the source of your brokenness, your emptiness, your void, your lack of purpose and value. You will also discover the solution, the promise by God to bring healing and restoration to you through the gift of life found in His Son Jesus Christ. As you read the Bible, the Holy Spirit will indeed convict you, not just of your sinful nature, but also of your inability to make things better on your own.
The Holy Spirit will then begin drawing you out from your hiding, out from the shadows, out from the darkness of your guilt and shame. The Holy Spirit will then prompt you to confess your broken and sinful condition, not in an attempt to please God, but as a response to the God’s being poured into your soul by the Holy Spirit as you feast on God’s Word. You will then begin seeking God in your time of need, asking Him to forgive you, heal you, save you, redeem you and restore you. His Word is true:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins and
purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1.9
No band-aids will bring the healing we all need. No band-aids can permanently fix the hole in each of us. Only the grace of God can restore us and reunite us with our Maker and one another. Unfortunately, many preachers today continue to offer band-aids to people when what they need is the Great Physician. Sermons often end up providing self-help solutions, offering a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” that only compound the problem. As a result, many people leave church on Sunday mornings filled with guilt instead of overflowing with grace.
Here is an interesting thought: Could that be why so many people then inflict pain on others, judging the behavior of others, and in turn creating a bigger hole in that person’s soul? After all, “hurt people, hurt people”. Is that why even Christians are quick to point out the flaws of others? I’m not sure that’s what the Apostle Paul meant when he referred to “speaking the truth in love”.
Yes, people need to hear the truth – they need to confront and acknowledge their own sinful nature. They also need to know that we are all equal at the foot of the cross. We are all flawed, broken, sinful people in need of grace. People also need to know that they will never be able “to-do” enough on their own to please God. As the saying goes: “There is nothing you can do that will cause God to love you any less. There is nothing you can do that will cause God to love you any more.”
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life
has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8.1-2)
Even though Christians have been saved by God, they continue to live with a hole in their hearts because of the ongoing guilt and shame, self-condemnation and self-loathing that resides within them. There is an emptiness that lingers in their souls because they know they will never live a perfect life. They will never be able to do what the preacher tells them to do, or stop doing what the preacher tells them to stop doing.
It’s the same battle the Apostle Paul faced:
“For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7.15
I know: “no one is righteous, not one”. We are all guilty of sin, and we need to come before God with a contrite heart and humble spirit and confess our sins. Yet, we are also invited, because of the blood of Christ, to come before “God’s THRONE OF GRACE with confidence, so that we may RECEIVE MERCY AND FIND GRACE to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4.6) The church should be the one place where people are able to remove their band-aids and experience the presence and life-transforming power of God. Church should be a place where flawed people love other flawed people, where broken people offer healing and forgiveness to other broken people, where grace is given and received in the name of Christ. Sadly, that is not always the experience.
So why then do people go to church on Sunday mornings? It could be they are well aware of their brokenness and shortcomings. They show up to church with an awareness of the hole that exists within them due to their sin. They show up on Sunday mornings, perhaps wanting to then stand in the presence of God, lifting their broken hearts to Him, asking for His mercy and grace to cover them once again, not just for the moment or for one day, but so that they can continually walk, and run and dance in the outpouring of God’s love and grace on a daily basis as the Holy Spirit continues to transform them, setting them free, creating within them a new heart. It’s a process, a journey, and something that Christians should celebrate on Sunday mornings.
Yet, people leave Sunday mornings dejected and heavy burdened, because once again, from the pulpit, and sometimes by their encounter with others, they have been reminded that they are a horrible wretch – and they are told what they need to do, or what they need to stop doing, in order to fix the problem and become a better Christian in the upcoming week.
On Sunday mornings people do not need to simply be reminded of their sin, as much as they need to be reminded about the Good News of Christ. Jesus is the One who dealt with their sins and their brokenness on the cross. They need to know that the answer to their problems is not found by doing more or being better, but by trusting in God’s unrelenting and everlasting love, and by receiving the outpouring of His mercy and grace in their time of need. God did not come to Adam and Eve in the garden to shame them or condemn them. He came calling them to come out of their hiding, out of their guilt and their shame. He said to them: “Where are you?” He knew where they were. Adam and Eve certainly knew where they were. God’s question was an invitation for them to come out of the shadows and embrace the light of His love and grace.
Into our darkness, into our sin, God came to us in Jesus Christ and invited us to follow Him. Jesus came “not to condemn the world, but to save the world”. (John 3.17) Through Jesus, God invites each of us to come out of the shadows, out of the guilt and shame of our sin, and to walk in His life-transforming marvelous light. The Truth is that there is nothing we can do that will separate us “from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8.39) NOTHING! Jesus proclaimed from the cross, “Father, forgive them.” And by His death, “It is finished!” Our sins have been forgiven. We have been set free.
Unfortunately, although we are no longer a slave to sin, it is the sting of sin that continues to linger in our world. We still live in an imperfect world that is filled with imperfect people. The effects of sin and evil still exist: Death, divorce, sickness, cancer, unemployment, poverty. The list goes on. While in this world we will always long for something better. Fortunately, as Jesus promised, we have been given the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit not only convicts us, but He also comforts us and guides us and protects us. By the Holy Spirit we can now live in the presence and power of God every day.
However, this world is not our home. Neither is death our end. The resurrection of Christ assures us that we will be in the presence of God for eternity. For now, we live in the “already/not yet” realm of our lives, between the two advents of Christ. So, until Christ returns:
NO MORE BAND-AIDS.
Preachers, stop offering self-help sermons; stop giving some cute alliterations or crafty acronyms. Preach the Gospel, “in season and out of season”. (2 Timothy 4.2) Let’s deal with the hole in our lives by trusting in the one who created us. Let’s trust God to get rid of our sin and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us and sanctify us as we become “new creations” in Christ. Let’s stop trying to cover up, excuse, justify or even blame our behaviors or predicaments. Let’s own up to our failures and our shortcomings. Let’s confess our sin. (Dare we even, according to James 5.16, “confess” to one another?) Then, let’s cling to the promise that God will indeed “forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1.9)