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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Grace Like Snow

I experienced grace in the most powerful way I ever have yesterday. After a day of wrestling with sin, of dealing with my complete inability to deal with my issues on my own, I felt the urge to go on a run. Outside. In the 10 degree weather. So I threw a crewneck sweatshirt on, edited my worship music playlist, and ran out the door. About half a mile in as I ran past the high school, the cold stopped seeping through my inadequate clothes. The wind stopped biting at my face and neck. The song “White Flag” by Chris Tomlin played through my I-pod as jet streams lit brilliant orange from the setting sun streaked across the sky.

We raise our white flag, we surrender ALL to You, ALL to You. We raise our white flag, the war is over, love has come, Your love has won.

The words rang true. Love had came, Jesus had already dealt with my sin.

I ran on to Moore Park. The pinks and oranges reflecting off of the icy pavement darkened to purples and reds. I stopped seeing my breath for a moment as the beauty, not the cold, took it away. I had this incredible feeling as I ran through the park. I felt like God was running with me. In between breaths and strides He was telling me He still loved me. He was telling me that He wanted me, He fought for me, He died for me.

I ditched the path and started bounding through snow banks to the highest place in the park. There I watched the sun dip below the horizon as God spoke through Matt Maher’s “Alive Again.”

I want you…I’ll do whatever I have to just to get through ‘cuz I love you, yes I love you.

I stood with my hands stretched towards the sky. I must’ve looked like a fool to the other people walking in the park. Then I went to my knees in the snow. Come Thou Fount came on the I-Pod. I sang those words to God as a response to His grace.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

I felt like Jean Valjean from Les Miserables up there. There’s a beautiful picture of grace in that story. Jean Valjean, a just-released criminal on parole, is turned down at every inn but is welcomed in by the priest at a church. He takes the gift of a night’s stay and then steals the church’s silver. That morning, he is apprehended by the authorities who bring him before the priest whose church he has just plundered. The priest has the chance to bring justice to Valjean. He had stolen from the church and was guilty. But he doesn’t. He says that the silver was a gift to Valjean and even tells him that he forgot the silver candlesticks on the table. This rocks Valjean’s world. Grace transforms his character.

I, Valjean, am guilty. Jesus, the intercessor, the intervener, God on Earth, is the priest. He doesn’t just forgive, He doesn’t just love me just the same as before I stole the silver. But He offers me something way better.

He offers us love. In the experience of grace, we find the ability to love. We find the ability to no longer need to love others with strings attached but unconditionally the way Christ loves us.

I hope we take His offer. I hope we choose it every day of our lives. And I hope we proclaim his grace. It can find us anywhere, even in the snow.

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:16-18