Handcuffs and Holiness

I used to love playing with those fake plastic handcuffs. My brother would put them on me and I’d act like I couldn’t break out of them. Somehow, we incorporated that toy into just about every game we played. I think we played with them so much my mom started using them as a way to get rid of us for a few minutes. Our basement would be jail and the sentencing was fifteen minutes down there in those flimsy cuffs.  We knew those cuffs didn’t actually have any power to keep us down there but we role-played the prisoner.

Subtract the fun and games part and I think those plastic handcuffs describe our struggles with sin far too often.

I never realized before this semester that God wants to make me Holy. I’ve believed that God looks on us with love and that He sent His perfect son to die for us, His perfect life, death, and resurrection a blanket of righteousness covering our sin. And that is absolutely true. But I never really believed God wanted to and will make me Holy. I just wanted to stay in bed with that blanket of grace covering me rather than boldly and confidently walking in the footsteps of my Lord and Savior who has given me new life.

…we died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Romans 6:2

There are certain sins that feel inevitable. You expect to commit them. You might change our screensaver to a helpful verse, write a reminder on your hand, or even get an accountability partner. But honestly, you don’t think that sin is going to leave your life anytime soon. You believe the lie.

The lie is that you are powerless. The lie tells you that those plastic handcuffs hold power over you so you better stay down in the basement. This is what God’s Word has to say about the lie.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 (emphasis added)

There’s no handcuffs for those who Christ has made new. We are no longer slaves to sin. We are free. We are His. Our chains are broken and we can walk freely.

It’s time to live like that. Let’s make bold declarations in Christ that we are done with that sin. Let’s treat sin as sin, something defeated by Christ and defeatable in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. We are His, and He will make us Holy.

My cousin Caroline, blogger extraordinaire, put it this way:

“The progress of my holiness is His alone to claim. He receives the glory for every victory over sin and He will not fail.”

 

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Do you know where my dad is?

Mission Mondays is a weekly series of reflections written as I learn more about my city, the poor, and the Kingdom of God.

This week’s journey into the other side of Waco was full of brokenness and redemption. I saw the depth of those two contrasts during a conversation at the apartment complex playground on Wednesday.

Do you know where my dad is?

The words from this kid that I had met moments before stuck like a knife. I didn’t know what to say back. “No I don’t know where your dad is.” “He’s in Florida,” he replied with words drenched in remorse, “he went there for work I guess.” And then words started spilling out like he had kept them inside far too long.

“I really miss my dad. I cry every night because he is gone. My dad is the only one that can keep me from being afraid at night and now he’s gone.” 

What do you say to that? How do you respond when the frankness of a child makes the reality of our broken world so much more tangible? I motioned Brandon over to me, “Hey let’s go sit down and talk.” I asked him some questions about his dad leaving and then asked him what he knew about God. He replied, “He walks on water!” “Yes he did Brandon! And guess what else He did?” I pulled up an app on my phone and drew this picture.

photo

 

I drew the bridge diagram. I tried to explain that we are broken people separated from a Holy God by our sin. I told him sin is why his dad is gone. Sin is why he’s afraid at night. Sin is why he lies and “disappoints his mom sometimes.” And then I told him there’s hope. Jesus, son of God, lived a perfect life and died the perfect death to atone for our sin. I showed him my cross necklace;

They nailed him to one of these. He hung up there for you and me, Brandon. He made it so we could be made right with a Holy God.

I finished by telling him that God calls Himself our Heavenly Father. He doesn’t have to be afraid at night because God is always there with him.

Today, I don’t know what Brandon believes about God. But I do know is that any worldly consolation I could have offered Brandon would have fallen so far short of the Gospel. What could I have told him?

The Idealist answer-“Don’t worry Brandon. Your daddy will come back soon. Until he does, just think about the happy things.”

 

The nihilistic answer-“It’s no big deal, Brandon. It doesn’t really matter.”

 

The American dream answer-“Brandon, just try really hard in school so you can get a good job. Be the dad for your family that your dad hasn’t been for you.”

Those simply won’t do. The answer has to be this.

The Christian answer-“Brandon, your dad is gone because this world is fallen and broken. But in the brokenness, God wants to father you. God wants to be the dad that your dad isn’t and give you new life in Him. God loves you, God loves your dad, and He wants to redeem you both so bad that he sent His Son to die for you.”

This world has a lot of questions. Let’s hear the questions of the people around us and let’s answer them with the only news that is truly good:

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

It’s also true that we can’t answer any questions that we don’t hear. Going to people and listening to them is the first step towards love.