I came across an article of John Piper’s recently in which he listed five besetting sins with which he struggles.
I chuckled bitterly. If only my list were that short.
Not that Piper claimed only five besetting sins, but I don’t even know how he could tier them. Mine certainly don’t lend themselves to such stratification.
They cling. They bite at my heels. They relentlessly pursue, like a dog who will not yield the chase, or the zombie who knows nothing but the taste of living blood.
The battle is intense. I am not rolling over. One could say that I am winning more skirmishes, making more progress, than I used to be. But something in my heart refuses such encouragement. Total eradication is the goal. If I content myself with anything less, I will inevitably accomplish something less.
And there are days in which I do indeed accomplish much less. Days that seem dominated, marked, headlined by sin.
Then, this evening during repentant prayer, I read these words of Jesus to his disciples:
Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him. (Luke 17:3-4)
These words trigger a great tsunami of hope within my soul.
And it’s actually not because of the context of the verse – the hope that I might be forgiven by a brother or sister against whom I have continually sinned, though that is certainly an immense joy.
It’s the knowledge that if Jesus is commanding his followers towards a thing, he himself is most certainly doing that thing. Whatever Godlike qualities we are commanded to strive towards, he already possesses in greater abundance than we ever could. Christ asks nothing of his people that he would not do himself – to include, gloriously, death.
Which means God forgives me when I sin seven times in a day.
My eyes blur as I read those words. The knowledge returns that my sin was foreseen and provided for on the cross.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)
I can never out-sin God’s grace. It is an ocean I could never hope to expend. For the one whose heart has been made God’s and whose name is written in the Book of Life, all sins have been covered. Like an infinite line being only a small part of an infinite plane, when my sin seems endless, God reveals a new endless.