BY ED ELLINGSTON
“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” -Genesis 3:21
This is a word to those with a troubled conscience. Those tormented by their failure to conquer that secret sin, or those who have screwed up so horrifically and publicly that they are in danger of losing all hope. When the good news of the gospel seems so distant in comparison with the deafening thunder of shame that cracks and wakes you up in the middle of the night (if you can find sleep at all.) And for those falling further into sin, against the still small voice of wisdom or the discordant harmony of warnings from friends and family.
Maybe you struggled and lost but most likely you dived right in at some point, and continue to. Perhaps you’re a teenager who made a mistake and the whole school was snapchatting and instagramming about it (and still are.) Or a wife or husband hiding something significant from your spouse and the longer it goes on the harder it gets to confess. Could be that your mug shot is all over the web and you’re facing jail time, or you’re screwing up so bad at work you’re about to be fired. Has your spending gone out of control and is threatening your security or your marriage?
Bear with me while I tell you the bad news: it’s worse than you think. Way worse. First of all, your efforts to do things right were filthy rags. A load of bull. Weren’t you just trying to keep up a carefully constructed seesaw of righteousness that lifted you above your peers? You probably once thought that Christian witness was showing people how much better your life was than theirs – your lifestyle more pure, your kids raised better, your peace a reward for your piety. Or you did like the Galatians and thought that having been saved by Grace, somehow it was now up to you to climb the ladder of sanctification and so every spiritual discipline you worked on or virtue you aimed at was an implicit rejection of what Christ had done for you and a desire to do it on your own; trying to be a little more Christ-like so you need Christ a little less.
If you never did any of that, you were wild as hell and didn’t even think twice about how bad your sin. Either way, left behind you is a trail of damage and hurt to other people that you couldn’t bear if you could remember the half of it. The people you made feel more sinful than you, the people you led on romantically or sexually and then ditched, the parents you didn’t honor and those people you murdered.
Now it’s all come crashing down. It needed to and here’s the good news: you are in that very wonderful, special and blessed place where Jesus Christ meets sinners with nothing but compassion and forgives them by virtue of his own death. Where he gives them his own righteousness; a perfect one and the only one you ever needed. Your unraveling train wreck of a life was a gift of preparation so that you might see that you have nothing to offer, and Christ comes to you with everything you need to make up for it. Forgiveness of all of your sins – even the worst, most horrific and monstrous ones that you’re still doing. He takes all your shame and guilt by hanging beaten and naked and condemned as a criminal upon a cross. Your conscience is tormented? He wears a crown of thorns. You can’t find comfort? There is no rest from the pain of those nails. Everything you did wrong He takes the punishment for and everything He did right you get credit for. Comfort yourself with this: it’s all gonna be ok because of Jesus.
What does that mean for all us murderers and prostitutes? Is there no fight against sin anymore? Should we continue in sin that grace may abound? Your fight against sin was like a steaming drunk taking on a bouncer at a nightclub. Here’s your fight: drown the old Adam in your baptism and drown all the accusations curb-stomping your conscience in the blood of Christ. Tell the accuser YES you are a total wreck but Christ is a total savior so there’s no condemnation. Take that bloody cross and swing it at any sense of shame and guilt that torments. Jesus paid it all and you owe nothing. Your fight is die to yourself, all your self-sufficiency and to believe in Christ and Him crucified, for you.
You’ll mess up at this fight. Every day you’ll take the puny little good things you think you do and try to apply them to your conscience, like covering your huge sins with a little fig leaf.
God disregards your fig leaf – like he did those of Adam and Eve - and because He loves you, covers your sin completely in the death of another.
The more we hear this, the more we’ll believe it and just might finally become free enough to love our neighbors with no strings attached.
We are a Law & Gospel collective of creative contributors, dedicated to proclaiming to people how Christ remains faithful even when we are faithless. We provide a voice for Christians who are both Sinner & Saint. We promote the bad news that you are a greater sinner than you think and the good news that Christ is a greater savior than you can imagine.