Monday, December 2, 2013

Of grace and freedom: A letter to my sons about sin

Dearest Cam and Scott

Wow. Last week was tough. Not without its wonders and victories – but also full of record-breaking incidences of Stuff Going Wrong in significant and insignificant bits of our lives and too much news on a scale of zero to devastating, about people we know and love. Dad and I felt dazed – saddened – by it all. I’m super optimistic, mostly, so it’s not often that I find myself asking God if he really is still in control and, like, what’s happening to believers who seem to have stopped believing and can we be desperate but not hopeless?

I hope you guys will read these posts and letters when you’re twelve or sixteen or twenty-two – whenever God quickens it in you to read what I was writing when you were little. I don’t know what this shifting world will look like when you’re bigger. But I know some things will be the same – like human hearts, grace and freedom.

I’m so very sorry that you’ve inherited our wickedness. It sucks – seeing our instinctive me-me-me rebellion manifesting in you both. So I’m writing to you tonight because I desperately want you to understand this thing called sin. It causes death. I mean – obviously – eventually – we’ll all physically die because of a decision involving two people and some fruit long ago. But there’s more to it. Death follows sin – every time. It’s always the wage you pay. The death differs, depending on the sin. It could be the death of your health. Or the death of a relationship, or someone’s trust. Maybe it’s the death of a job, a dream, your finances, your waistline, your reputation, or your desire for what’s natural and good.

And don’t think that you’ll see death coming. That’s the terrifying thing. Sin is insidious. Even beautiful. It promises you’re not hurting anyone. It starts with a thought. That lingers to nibble. And will come back for bigger bites if you let it.

It’s not cool or trendy to talk about sin much at all anymore (or judgment or hell or any of the other uncomfortable topics). But I so want you to get it that if we weren’t in dire need of redemption God would not have sent a Redeemer. In which case, why Jesus? Our faith would be lame and laughable and we might as well just join a country club.

I want you to cling to Jesus because he’s holy and you need him more than air. I want you to see how he holds grace in one hand and freedom in the other. Grace says he owes you nothing but he calls you beloved and offers you forgiveness and eternal life anyway. And freedom says that sin is no longer your master. You’re liberated from its grip. Released so that you can stop trying so hard and failing even harder, and let Christ live his life through you. For sure, sin comes with consequences you may not be able to escape, but grace cuts the tripwire so you can run free.

It’s like, we’re not just recipients of a no-worries, mediocre kind of lenience – left to live by whatever floats our boat. Grace is so much more than benign tolerance. It doesn’t leave us trapped. It brings radical heart change – life change – world change. Grace said to the Pharisees who caught the woman in adultery and challenged Jesus to enforce the law that would stone her, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ (John 8:7) Freedom turned to the woman, once her seething prosecutors had turned sheepish, and said, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more. (John 8:10-11)

Jesus didn’t say, ‘You’re alright, love. Carry on!’ He loved this woman far, far more than that. He lavished upon her acceptance, cleansing and hope. And then because he wanted her to be free he said, ‘Sin no more.’

Which he wouldn’t have said if it wasn’t possible.

So tonight my prayer is that you’ll grow up to rest in God’s unthinkable, unmerited favour and that you won’t be bound by sin or religion but rather that you’ll enjoy Jesus-freedom – abundant life – for your good and his glory. I pray that you will always have the courage to love and to say the hard things when they need to be said.

To answer the questions I started with: God is still in control. He will build his church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it (Matthew 16:18). And yip, sometimes we feel desperate. But we are never, never hopeless.

Walk in confidence. He reigns in glory.

All my love, 



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