I have a confession to make: I’m lazy when it comes to shaving my face. I am not the guy who will rise and make shaving a part of the daily morning routine. It’s not uncommon for me to go a week or two with a short beard before finally growing tired of seeing it in the mirror.
I have another confession: My Christian life is not clean, either.
I don’t mean that I have things that would make others look at me with disgust, or a life filled with harmful addictions. I’ve managed to keep, what I consider, those things that destroy out of my life for some time now. There are the little things that I have a lax attitude toward, much like my hairy face.
Several years ago, there was a great awakening that took place. I can honestly say it was the same Spirit that descended upon Jesus all of those years ago. It was a power that opened my eyes to sin. It was a force that had not been a possession up until that time. You see, sin had no consequence within my life. It had no dominion over me and it never placed any sort of culpability within my attitude towards life. In fact, for many years, my attitude was very loose and very turbulent. I did not care. I just did whatever was pleasing at the time.
Sin was just a word.
By the age of twenty-five or so, I had developed a very simplistic attitude towards life and everything in it. My mundane view of the world left me with a, “you can kiss my …” attitude, and that was completely fine. I was so fed up with drama, torture, being kind with little return, not finding peace, being used and hating my life. It was time to be selfish and proud of myself. My world was mine, and it was going to be filled with great things.
I filled it with tons of alcohol, loud music and more marijuana than I ever could have imagined. I was cultivating some of the best bud around and loving the payoff. My group and I were living a life that included all-night parties, wild times and hangovers that were so worth it! I was making good money at my daytime job and partying in the evening. What a life!
Then, all of that ended.
My relationship with my wife-to-be was falling apart, I lost my job and laid in bed for a month because of the depressive state that I was in. I had to shut down my precious cultivation operation. On top of that, my best friend died. My depression and will to care at all was quickly taking hold. The season was over, the life was gone and the strength to carry on was diminishing. A huge cloud hung over my head. I was losing and so incredibly lost. All that I had been living for was disappearing.
I decided to pick myself up and move forward. My fiancé and I were done, so I moved out of the home that we had worked so hard to make for ourselves. I took a few belongings and set up a life, for myself and by myself, in a different part of town. It was time to get busy living again. I had found another job and was actually making more money than the previous one. I had a lot of money and was living the single life. A new life that turned into an adventure with that same looseness and turbulence of the life before. This time, I was killing myself with all sorts of blindfolded immoralities. I still didn’t care! The “not caring,” just like the attitude towards life before, took me through yet another season of falling hard. Real hard. I was on the edge of filing for bankruptcy, had multiple drug problems and acquired an injury at work, leading to surgery. After the recovery, I lost my job. On top of all of this, I was living with my mother again.
I met my wife, began to attend church and really, for the first time, recognized all of the undefined and unrecognizable sin that was within me and my life. I began to see just why those seasons of my life had always ended with a hard, flat on my face, fall.
In a little restroom, on a very dirty floor, I hit my knees and asked that God would enter my life. I asked, “If you are real, Jesus, enter my life.” I am not completely sure, but it seemed as though a great change manifested from that point on, which later led me to believe Holy Spirit had descended upon me that day. I wanted it. I was ready.
He was willing!!
A great veil was lifted, revealing the things that had ailed me. Giving me a clear view of the devil within. The Lord was willing to rescue me from this sinful life I had been living for so long. But, within my corrupted flesh and unlike the Lord, I was not willing. My will to serve the Lord was now being attacked from all sides by the angel of the darkness. The ruler of my heart. Prior to the point of inheriting His Spirit, I was never a threat to the darkness. His work in me was easy. The light of Christ had not yet illuminated. Now, the devil had to work in order to bring me back to his place of discord. He loved the control he had over me while I unheedingly fumbled through life without the Lord. He now had to work hard to keep me bound, and he did exactly that.
The devil was taking the things of God and manipulating them. He was using the very thing that I held dear to manipulate and hinder me from becoming more like our King. I was constantly running to the church and buying into its institutional aspects. I was living as the Pharisee because of the manipulative ways the church was practicing and promoting. I was placing the same self-righteousness I had possessed before asking the Lord to reign, in front of His righteousness. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the same pride I had so greatly revered throughout all of those years of being separated from the Lord, was a possession that I still carried. My experience with religion, and not relationship, was aggressively allowing that old devil to obscure my peace with the Lord. The same Lord I had desperately asked to cleanse me of those, now recognized iniquities. A poor understanding of what Jesus had truly done for me was sending me through many passages of angst. I was almost to the point of giving up because I was never able to cleanse myself of all that I was reading and learning about. The church was constantly preaching about all of the rules that I couldn’t keep, no matter how hard I tried. They were always promoting ways to work for the Lord that would please and appease Him. With that foundation being laid, in the manner that it was, I interpreted the Bible with the same manner. So many rules, always being broken. I sincerely began to believe that I had a one-way ticket to hell. I was no better than what I had been in years passed.
I later learned what Jesus had truly done. I learned that He had washed me clean, for good. No matter what. It was by faith I had been justified. Faith alone, in Him alone. Christ paid the price. No amount of “work” could ever add or take away from that.
That simple realization has made my life of religious works a thing of the past. This realization has helped me to, progressively, let go of the pride. It has allowed me to step aside and let the Lord work within me, instead of thinking that I have to work for the Lord. It has allowed me to let His voice be heard over my own. It is teaching me things that I never would have realized apart from Him. It is the way I truly began to understand Holy Spirit. The realization of the FINISHED WORK Christ had done was the beginning of understanding why sin has no place within my life. It was the beginning of understanding what His grace truly is.
Shaving my face is something that I don’t find to be very important. The outward is not nearly as important as what is on the inside. Within the week, or possibly two weeks with the long stubble, I eventually get tired of seeing what is in the mirror. I then remove my mess. That’s my decision. It’s a small part of who I am that I recognize but don’t find important enough to tidy up daily.
I have sins like this.
There are still so many things within my life that are sinful that I give into. Unfortunately, we all do. Whether we realize them or not, we are all laxed in our desire to fully serve our Lord. What we deem to be, “not really all that sinful” is, indeed, sinful in the eyes of the sovereign, flawless, righteous and just Lord of all creation. You’d better believe it! But God, ever since the fall of man, knew that our troubled heart and mind would rebel against Him. In love, He sent His Son to die in our place. I sincerely pray this morning that anyone reading truly understands what that means, and just how fortunate one is to have an opportunity to live in His grace, made possible through Christ alone.
As I look into the mirror and see the inner man, I know that the Lord will eventually, in HIS time, show me other things that need to be removed. Mysteriously, that’s His decision, laced with my free-willed decision. I know that His lessons of nurturing sometimes involve my laxed attitude towards what I regard as the harmless sins. I’ve seen it before. I’ll experience it again.
Maybe, in time, I will see the stubble in my reflection and make it priority to remove each day?
‘We never truly live until we understand that sin is what keeps us from living.’