Day 11: Sin Pollution

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done. 1 John 1:9 (The Voice)

North of Los Angeles and south of San Francisco lies the central valley of California. Rich in agricultural heritage and a leading fruit producer, it helps California boast the fifth largest economy in the world. It’s also rich in pollution. According to one CBS News report, the span from Los Angeles to San Francisco has six of the worst air polluted cities in the united states.

I remember talking to a friend after he got back from a run on a particularly bad day, he pulled his sock sown and you could see a line of dirt that had built up around him. The air was so bad, you could literally see it sticking to him.

Sin Pollution

Internally, we suffer from sin pollution as John points out here. Every moment of strife, bitterness, anger, hatred, word of gossip, thought of jealous, pursuit of greed, abuse of power, and quest for dominance blots our soul a little bit dirtier. Soon, like the thick valley air that blocks out the sun, our own souls are dark and dingy. Day 11: Sin Pollution

“But” is John’s interjection. If we own up to our sins, those moments of strife, bitterness, anger, hatred, gossip, jealousy, greed, and corruption, God wipes away that pollution.

Solving the valley’s air pollution problem is a long and complicated journey. Thankfully, solving our sin pollution is not. If we own up to our sins, admit that we cannot solve the problem on our own, God is faithful and forgiving. He cleanses us from our sin pollution and makes us clean, fresh, and new.

Advent’s waiting invites us to examine our lives. To own up to our sins. To admit our failure and shortcomings. It relieves us of the pressure to fix it on our own. God’s coming child will reconcile the world back to himself and make all things right. Justly forgiving and deeply purifying us from self-destruction and sin pollution.

Advent Series Previous Posts

Introduction

Active Forgiveness

Ocean Depths

Emotional Baggage

Compassion and Forgiveness

Those Who Forgive

Repentance Requires Action

Learn To Do Good

Dirty Clothes

Toward Certain Destruction

Day 10: Toward Certain Destruction

Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction. John 3:17 (The Voice)

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

One of my biggest frustrations with God is that he never goes with my ideas. I love being in charge and making decisions. I think I’m at my best when I’m in control and set the destination. If he would only go with my ideas, we (or and least I) would be so much better off.

But this passage is a firm reminder as to why he doesn’t put me in charge. Truth be told, I’m actually pretty terrible at it. I make self-destructive choices. Worse than that, I make choices that hurt and harm others. I’m inclined to make sure fair benefits myself first.

I make choices headed towards certain destruction. Rarely do I make choices that deny short term pleasure for long term gain. I’m capable of wasting an entire day trying to discover how to have my cake and eat it too. And if I can’t, I’m totally willing to steal your cake. Day 10: Toward Certain Destruction

My point? Despite my best efforts, to date, I have been unable to save myself. More troubling, the more I have found out about myself, the more I have discovered just how incapable I truly am.

There is a lot I can do for myself. One of the things I am forever unable to accomplish is my own salvation. I need something else…someONE else to do it for me.

Toward Certain Destruction

We’re all in the same boat. It doesn’t take a long glance at the nightly news to know our world is deeply troubled. Wars, famine, disease, conflict, political division, all are wreaking havoc in our society and around the world. The end result of people looking for something besides Jesus to save them.

In fact, these are all forms of people looking to save themselves. Because I’ll be good if my political candidate wins, my team wins, or my country becomes the world’s leading superpower. It is a belief that “might makes right.” I’ll win when I have enough power to keep you from harming me.

And along the way, I’ll make whatever destructive choices I need to. We are a world headed toward certain destruction.

Advent’s waiting is a time of examination. It opens us up to all of our self-destructive habits, all of our worst behaviors, all of our selfish choices, and invites us to repent. To go from “toward certain destruction” and go “toward life abundantly.”

John, today’s author, even ends his observation this way.

Light, sent from God, pierced through the world’s darkness to expose ill motives, hatred, gossip, greed, violence, and the like. Still some people preferred the darkness over the light because their actions were dark. Some of humankind hated the light. They scampered hurriedly back into the darkness where vices thrive and wickedness flourishes. Those who abandon deceit and embrace what is true, they will enter into the light where it will be clear that all their deeds come from God. (1:19-21)

 

Advent Series Previous Posts

Introduction

Active Forgiveness

Ocean Depths

Emotional Baggage

Compassion and Forgiveness

Those Who Forgive

Repentance Requires Action

Learn To Do Good

Dirty Clothes

Day 9: Dirty Clothes

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

Just as I have taken away your dirty clothes, I have taken away your guilt from you. In place of those clothes, I will dress you in pure, expensive garments. Then you will be ready to serve God and lead the festival. Zechariah 3:4 (The Voice)

Day 9 – Dirty Clothes

As a family of six, every day is laundry day. Four rambunctious kids who like to play outside, a steady supply of gym clothes, and the inevitable winter sicknesses leave us scrambling to have clothes clean consistently. It seems like just as soon as I have taken away dirty clothes, more appear. An unending mound of socks, towels, and pants are cascading down our hallway.

From a very visceral level, I get the analogy God is using. My selfishness and deceit have piled up in the corner of my life like an ever-growing pile of dirty clothes. The mess we find ourselves in is one we cannot escape on our own.

Despite all of that, there is God, as a patient parent, cleaning everything up for us. More than that, he has also given us new clothes. Clean clothes. Dressed-to-the-nines clothes. In his lavish generosity, God has replaced our worn out, dirt ridden clothes with luxury items of the finest quality?

What did we do to deserve this? Day 9: Dirty Clothes

Well…nothing.

More difficult is that there is nothing we could’ve done. This is all God. The creator of the universe, not content to let us stay dirty, has taken away our rags and given me riches.

Deep Cleansing

Like Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. His selfishness left him a dragon covered in scales. Unable to cleanse himself and transform back into a boy, he must let the lion-king Aslan do his work. Eustace describes the experience as,  The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

Eustace walks away transformed. He’s a boy again. More than that he is kind and generous and brave. His external transformation from a dragon to a boy led to a deeper transformation of character and heart.

That is what God offers us here. A chance to experience deep, real, and lasting transformation . A chance to experience a new life direction and purpose.

Advent reminds us to wait expectedly. A new hope is coming. A Messiah will be born. Coming into this world is a Savior-King longing to rid us of the filth we put on ourselves and give us a new purpose.

 

Advent Series Previous Posts

Introduction

Active Forgiveness

Ocean Depths

Emotional Baggage

Compassion and Forgiveness

Those Who Forgive

Repentance Requires Action

Learn To Do Good

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

Eternal One, public and open shame is our due, for we have sinned against You, all of us, our kings, princes, and ancestors. But You, O Lord our God, still show us compassion and forgiveness even though we have openly rebelled against You. Daniel 9:8-9 (The Voice)

Day 5 – Compassion and Forgiveness

As a young college student, one of my leadership course requirements was to undergo a “Friends and Family assessment.” In essence, the assignment had me interact with those closest to me to see what kind of leader and person I was. I gathered several responses, but only remember one from the assignment. My mom’s perspective was, “Justin, you’re really good at speaking truth to people….but really bad at speaking it in love.”

I love speaking the truth. I also love justice…except that what I’ve discovered is that I’m only a fan of those when they favor me. My sense of justice and fairness is decidedly skewed in my favor. Day 5: Compassion and Forgiveness

Daniel, the author of this passage, makes no such pretenses. There’s no defending or justifying the sins of God’s people here. The only right option is an open and public shame. Yet that’s not the way God operates. Instead, even though shame would be completely warranted, chooses mercy and forgiveness.

We like choosing justice when it favors us. We love fairness when we get the long end of the stick. My kids practice great fairness as long as they get twice as much as anyone else. God, thankfully, doesn’t operate like that. Another writer, recounting a similar story even said, “but you are not like us.”

He is decidedly different. He is gracious and abounding in forgiveness and compassion. Even though he has every right to act with vengeance and justice, he chooses neither.

Advent’s waiting is a chance for us to practice a similar examination. There are those that have wronged us and those that we have wronged. We have even wronged our sense of right. But as God draws closer, we realize that this is just yet another act of compassion and forgiveness. For us. To us. On behalf of us.

May our waiting produce a similar heart of compassion.

Advent Series Previous Posts

Introduction

Active Forgiveness

Ocean Depths

Emotional Baggage

Advent Cover Title: "Emotional Baggage"

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

When I finally saw my own lies, I owned up to my sins before You, and I did not try to hide my evil deeds from You. I said to myself, “I’ll admit all my sins to the Eternal,” and You lifted and carried away the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5 (The Voice)

Day 4

Forgiveness is messy. Processing emotions can take years. Deep offenses and transgressions can feel like they will never heal. I once spent months in denial that I wasn’t angry about a former coworkers offenses.

“I’m over it.”

“It doesn’t bother me anymore.”

“I was mad, but I’ve moved on.” Advent Cover Title: "Emotional Baggage"

All of them were untrue. It’s not that they were lies, at least not in any sort of intentional way. Instead, I was unaware of some of the deep residing issues and hurts that were in my life. It wasn’t until months later, under different circumstances, that I saw how hurt I still was. Feelings of bitterness and anger resurfaced and fractured my false facade of security.

The psalmist in this passage is also dealing with issues of forgiveness. These, however, are of a more personal nature. These are the internal lies, deceptions, and personal failures that are always present.

Emotional Baggage

Personal moral failures are often much harder to shake than relational slights.  The unending burden of emotional baggage can get exhausting. 

As we have already seen in this series,God’s greatest delight is the forgiveness of sins.

But here, it goes one step farther: the leader must forgive themselves. The weight of their own emotional baggage has been removed. The guilt of the sin is atoned for. The stain has been removed, but the emotion of the psalmist is also one of relief. The nagging, self-loathing, how-could-you-do-that, inner critic is silenced. When we own up to our sins, our failures, and our shortcomings, we find freedom. When we express remorse we experience freedom. By being honest with ourselves about guilt, we find that we are freed from the guilt and shame of our failures.

Advent reminds us to wait. While we wait, we worship. While we worship, we examine. When we examine, we discover all the falsehoods we’ve told ourselves-the lies and self-deception. The failures and setbacks.

So we confess. Openly and freely to the God who discards them, carries them away, and abandons them.

Advent 2019 – A Journey Towards Forgiveness

Day 1 – Introduction

Day 2 – Active Forgiveness

Day 3 – Ocean Depths