Our church has been going through a series in 1 John, and this past Sunday, pieces of our pastor's message just won't leave my mind (sign of a good sermon?).
1 John 1:5 says, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."
Our pastor described several characteristics of light: it is clean, it is pure, it is beautiful and perfect. It drives away darkness and decides just how far it's going to extend. So if God is those things, and in him there is not even a shadow or a hint of darkness, he can only be clean, pure, beautiful, perfect. There is nothing in his character that should catch us off guard. Nothing we should be afraid of. As our pastor put it, we should "hurl ourselves" into his presence without fearing that he'll do something that isn't the best thing for us. I'm not saying that following him is all roses all the time. It's often tough and uncomfortable because we are so far from perfect. But it always leads to joy and to becoming more like him.
I know I've had trouble with this very thing, with being afraid of God. Sometimes I inadvertently picture God as my principal. He's bent on keeping the rules, and when I don't line up, he lets me know. I trudge into his office, head down, ready to hear the list of all the commands I haven't kept. Sometimes I'm afraid to open my Bible because I know that I'll read something that will convict me. It will haunt me that no, I don't live up. No, I can never live up. And in my pride, that really bothers me.
But what I'm missing is the continuation of this passage, the true message of the Gospel: "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
So no longer do I sit in the principal's office, so to speak, hanging my head in shame at every command I've dragged in the mud. Instead, he lifts my head, looks me in the eye and says, "I knew all along you couldn't keep all of these, as hard as you tried. So I gave you my perfect, spotless Son who has kept all of them and I'm giving you his record. You are clean." And I have tears in my eyes because I know this is grace. And it's this hope that I base my entire existence upon.
I am forgiven. Not because he says, "I'll just forget about your sin and that'll be that." No sin can just be forgotten without some form of payment. And Jesus paid. He paid everything. And his payment was enough for every person that has ever walked the earth and ever will - even me, even you. What a beautiful Gospel.