What a Privilege!

As I was walking to class the other day, a thought crossed my mind. I walk a considerable distance every day to class, carrying a backpack laden down with my laptop, charger, notebooks, homework papers and other odds and ends. By the time I reach my destination, even on cooler days I am warm and sometimes a little tired! But how much easier would my walk be if I need not take that extra weight on my back? It would probably not feel like much exercise at all, but the extra pounds on my back make the travel just that much more difficult. Most college kids wouldn’t hesitate to call their backpacks weighed down with homework and supplies a “burden.”

I thought of the story of Christian, in “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and how Christian goes through much of his life with a heavy burden on his back, and then he begins his journey to the Promised Land and along the way, loses the burden off of his back and rejoices at the cross that takes away that burden. Now imagine we all carry a heavy, tiresome burden, a burden much heavier than even the most dedicated college kid’s backpack. This burden of sin, sorrow and pain weighs us down, makes our travels difficult and we soon become weary. However, we can have that burden removed!

As I thought of how much easier my daily walk across campus would be without my backpack, I thought of how much easier my walk through life would be without my burden of sin. Without my backpack, I could walk more freely, I could enjoy the sights and sounds of early morning campus life, and I would probably enjoy the walk much more! Likewise, without this burden of sin, would we not enjoy life much more, the beauty of the sights and sounds of God’s world? Our sin, though, distracts us, and we want nothing more than to have the trials, the pain and the tears taken away.

The shocking thing is we can! In fact, we HAVE had this burden taken away. When we find ourselves bending under the strain of our burden, we (as Christians) turn to the cross. The cross of Christ and the marvelous work He performed there takes that burden away, just as it did for Christian in “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” Christian was overjoyed and astounded by the removal of his burden, and how coming to the cross took the burden away! We should remember this.

One of my favorite songs is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” because we are told that it is an incredible privilege to bring everything to God in prayer. It speaks of the peace we forfeit when we do not do so. Christian learned this when he came before the cross, and we can too. Our burdens can be removed, and we can go through life happier and full of the joy of Christ. We can have this simply by coming to the cross, coming before our Savior, bringing everything to God in prayer.

How incredible. This burden that is so much more tiring than any physical burden that we carry, heavier than any schoolbag can be removed. “Oh, what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!” That pain can be removed, completely disposed of by taking everything to God, by going to the cross, dropping our burdens and picking up the joys of Christ and amazing Christian living.

There will always be sin in the world. This life will never be perfect. The very world we live in is under the curse and is corrupted with sin. But our personal burdens often cause us so much pain, and we can have that burden removed. Even the most painful, sorrowful, broken heart can be healed. God will remove the burden of sin that often brings us to our knees in tears and agony, and He will replace it with the true joy of His love. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

Suzie Kuiper

Addressing our sins

“Please don’t touch that knife, John. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

These words echoed faintly in the back of the little five-year-old’s mind as he reached into the drawer for that forbidden object.  He needed something sharp to cut open his new toy, and the freshly sharpened knife was definitely the tool for the job. He would just make sure to be quick and then put it back exactly where he had gotten it, and mommy would never even know.

Moments later the boy was running to the bathroom for a Band-Aid. He had indeed cut himself with the knife. He covered the bleeding wound on his palm and threw on some mittens to hide the Band-Aid. Then he scurried back to the kitchen, rinsed off the knife, dried it, and set it right back where he had grabbed if from. When his mother asked him later about his mittens, he just shrugged and said he was “playing Eskimos” and had to keep his hands warm.

John, this young boy, had done something that he knew was wrong, but had justified it in his mind because it looked good and profitable to his desires (opening his toy). Nobody had seen him, but that did not make the disobedience any less real and wrong, and John now bore not only the guilt of the deed, but also physical consequences–a cut on his hand. Also this one sin and failing to confront it became the foundation for multiple sins, as John lied and deceived to cover it up.

A very similar story happened long ago in the Garden of Eden. Eve, when no one was around but the serpent, rebelled. In that one defining moment Eve had been filled with self-indulgence, and that fruit looked to her very good and pleasing. It wouldn’t be that bad, and nobody was watching. Eve took the fruit. We all know what happened next. Adam ate as well, and then still trying to hide, they covered themselves. And they were left with the grave consequences of their sin.

How true can this same process be in our own lives? We do something that (whether we consciously want to admit it to ourselves or not) we know deep down is wrong. We try to cover up our sin perhaps by only indulging in it with people who won’t “accuse” or by doing it in secret or by keeping our sinful thoughts and desires to ourselves. Maybe we only say things in sin behind others’ backs or in company that won’t “judge us” for it. However we may try to hide our sin we by our old sinful nature are so easily prone to swallow the lie that for some reason sin is pleasurable, okay, and can be kept a secret.

But let’s look even more personally at this. We, who bear the name “Christian”, so often walk around wearing masks. These masks are the masks of “righteousness.” We may go to church. We may even be very respectful or diligent or what have you. We don’t ever do anything “wrong” per se, but our relationship with our Lord is lacking. We don’t trust Him in every aspect of our lives. We find ourselves “too busy” with life to hear what He actually has to say about our lives. We forget to be thankful for all of the things we so often take for granted, and we try to think we can go through life on our own strength. We make for ourselves other gods, whether they be our status, wealth, toys, studies, desires… any obsessions that steal our constant focus and desire away from the One for whom we ought to be doing this all anyways. We like Eve have our own personal secret sins that we try to hide, deceiving perhaps even ourselves as we are deluded by the lies and excuses we give for them.

But no sin is kept secret. And in the end the One who we are really sinning against is the One who always sees us anyways. We may hide and escape detection here on this earth, but sin always has consequences. No mask that is worn can “undo” a sin. When we continue in sin and fail to address it, we like John find ourselves getting caught in a pit that is just being dug deeper and deeper.

And we are no longer children of this world. Though we may have to deal with the consequences of our sins, we have the wonderful blessing of knowing that in Christ we are no longer in bondage to our sin! What goodness there is in throwing off our masks and facing our sins–exposing them! Sure, assuming responsibility for them is daunting and demands humility and meekness. But when we address our sins, we can deal with them. Our relationship with God is worth so much more than our pride! When we humble ourselves–when we recognize our weakness and dependence on God–when we accept our wrongs and repent of them, then we can grow in the strength of our Lord. We can find forgiveness. We can find hope and move forward in our lives with dependence and comfort in God, being built up and building others up in faith. As it is written in II Corinthians 12:9, “And He said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

John’s mother later found out about the knife. John was sorry. He was punished. His mother addressed the wound so that it wouldn’t get infected. John felt sheepish, but the worry and the weight of trying to keep the secret felt good to be gone.  And though the tears of the brief punishment still sat on his cheeks, John knew his mother still loved him.  Just the same the Lord loves His children.

May we go forward in life, eschewing sin and the lies that go with it, carrying with us the prayer of Arthur Bennett:

“I bring my soul to thee;

break it, wound it, bend it, mould it.

Unmask to me sin’s deformity,

that I may hate it, abhor it, flee from it…

Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin

Lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed

As in the greatness of the Person sinned against…

All these sins I mourn, lament, and for them

cry pardon.

Work in me more profound and abiding repentance;

Give me the fullness of a godly grief

that trembles and fears,

yet ever trusts and loves,

which is ever powerful, and ever confident;

Grant that through the tears of repentance

I may see more clearly the brightness

and glories of the saving cross.

 

 

ADV

Peace for the Troubled Heart

I have been reading through Peace for the Troubled Heart by Rev. Herman Hoeksema in the RFPA’sjh Reformed Spirituality Series. Don’t let the name deceive you. You may or may not think that your heart is troubled. You may not be in a state of depression or feel the weight of heavy affliction such as the loss of a loved one or an illness, but as children of God, believers in Christ, our hearts are troubled for we are not home but sojourners. Constantly we are beset by temptations. The devil and the world and even our own selves according to our old nature would rather see us destroyed in hell than saved in Christ. Furthermore, we are weak. We are subject to death, and we will die, unless we are still alive when Christ returns (and if that is the case rest assured we will suffer greatly for his name’s sake). Yes, our hearts have good reason to be troubled. But we have a heavenly Father who knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows all of our afflictions and trials. In the following passage Rev. Hoeksema reflects on Psalm 103:13,14:

What fervent love and tender compassion glows in this poetic expression of Father’s attitude toward his children in the world!

‘Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust.’

The Lord never forgets the weakness and frailty of our frame. And mindful of our frailty he is always compassionate and deals with us in delicate tenderness, always careful never to overburden, always filled with tender mercy and sympathizing with us as we bear our burdens…

He is not hard and cruel, but tenderhearted and merciful to them. Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him, for he is their Father and they are his children. With a love, deep and constant and eternal as his own heart, he loved them, adopted them, redeemed them, and transformed them. And with a compassion as profound, fervent, and constant as his love, he remembers their infirmities, is mindful of their weaknesses, acquaints himself with their griefs and sorrows, tenderly considers their sufferings and afflictions, longs for their final deliverance, and hastens to their redemption. Nor is he forgetful of the frailty of their frame. He remembers that they are dust, for he made them. Out of the dust he formed them, and dust they are, he knows. And in all his dealings with them and in every way he leads them, with a view to all the tasks he requires of them and regarding all the burdens he makes them to bear, he constantly remembers that they are dust-children – tender and delicate, limited in strength, easily overburdened, needy and weak, and soon overcome, as the tender grass and the flower of the field. (pg. 32,33)

You can find the book for purchase at this link:

http://rfpa.org/collections/books-by-herman-hoeksema/products/peace-for-the-troubled-heart

JH