On Being Haunted

BY ZACK JAMES COLE

I am often haunted by my past. I am daily haunted by what I should be doing. I am frequently haunted by what I should do tomorrow. I am haunted by my failure to act like my exhortations, duties, and responsibilities expect me to. I often struggle with looking at myself and observing how I am lacking in living right. My sin, failures, shortcomings, and insufficiencies seem to follow me around like an unwanted phantasm. A ghost who constantly reminds me and haunts me with who I am outside of Christ.

In light of the full value of God’s Law, I observe that my good works are surely nothing more than kindling for the flames. Everything I do (even the good that I do) is tainted in some way by my sin. A harsh but helpful reminder comes from what I write next.

My feelings and the knowledge of my sin are only partial. There are surely other sins that I fail to observe and ask forgiveness for. This haunting horror is the reality that even after all of my torn-up-ness over my sin, I am still far worse than I think I am. I need a substitute to count as me, to take my place, and trade places with me. If you were to tell me to hope in me, to emphasize my actions for Christ, it would be the worst news for me to hear. If I am my only hope, that is frighteningly bad news.

This is why I need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ every day.

I need to be reminded. I need to hear that my sin does not move the needle of his love for me. I need to hear that he loved me while I was a sinner, that he died for me while I was a sinner, and that all of my sins—past, present, and future—were paid for already with his blood.

I need to be haunted by these promises from Jesus:

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”[1]

“The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day. For my flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”[2]

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”[3]

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”[4]

“It is finished!”[5]

As well as these promises about Jesus:

“Baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the body but the guarantee of a good conscience before God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[6]

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?”[7]

“But to the person who does not work but believes in the God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness.”[8]

“So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”[9]

“Indeed, it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”[10]

Even when I find myself looking at me and feeling hopeless in my sin, the promises of Jesus and his love for me still hold fast; outside of me, independent of what I have or will do for Jesus. The good news is a proclamation and not a practice. It is dependent on who Jesus is and what he has done for me. He is the Lamb of God who is slain for my sins and he calls me his own. My hope is in Christ. He is my identity, for I have been crucified with him and hidden in him.

Maybe you are like me and have similar struggles with assurance. Good news! Christ and his promises are for you as well. Hope in Jesus for he is faithful and true to his word.

The Holy Spirit reminds us of who we are in Christ: reconciled, adopted, and beloved by God. For Christ’s sake, may this good news haunt us instead.


[1] Matthew 11:28-30

[2] John 6:54-56

[3] John 10:28

[4] John 14:3

[5] John 19:30

[6] 1 Peter 3:21

[7] 1 Corinthians 10:16

[8] Romans 4:5

[9] Romans 8:1

[10] Ephesians 2:8-9



A rare Native Atlantien that still lives in the Atlanta area, Zachary James Cole grew up in the Bible Belt of the American South. He became a United States Marine in January of 2004 and served on Active Duty until January of 2009. He was deployed to Iraq twice during Operation: Iraqi Freedom. While in the desert conducting convoy security and nighttime security patrols, Zack was overwhelmed with the nearness and love of Christ. He has a love of history, the outdoors as well as an unwavering love of his favorite local sports teams. He earned his M.Div in Theological Studies from Liberty Theological Seminary. Zack is a co-host of the podcast: The Liberty Tree. After coming home from the Marine Corps he found a Church home at Suwannee Station Family Life Church in Suwannee, GA where he now serves as an Associate Pastor. Zack lives in Sugar Hill, GA with his wife Bonnie and their two sons, Cade and Knox.

 

Twitter: @ZackJamesCole