Monday, July 18, 2011

Tormenting Righteous Souls


A few weeks ago another one of our states registered into the written law of the land an official determination that what God has called evil is actually good.  By human decision, it has been decreed that this evil will be sanctioned by the government, elevated to the status a sacrament has in the church, and taught to children as a higher good.

I had already been grieved by a much more individual sin – the discovery that a person who calls himself a Christian, and believes he is both in relationship with God and seeking God, was directly and blatantly lying to others about a particular event.  Instead of repenting when confronted, he justified his actions and made clear his determination to continue in them.

It was when my heart was grieving over the number of Christians who don’t obey Jesus (or even the rules of basic morality) that New York announced its decision.  One scripture kept running through my mind.  It defines the saints’ predicament, as we live in such an upside-down world, and is actually about Lot, “for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.” 

That is so.  I don’t know how you’ve been feeling, but every day I read the news I torment my righteous soul.  Not only are terrible things happening, terrible things are being done.  Humans are setting themselves above God, actually thumbing their noses at Him – intentionally!  Almost worse, evil is not only rampant in our nations, it has infiltrated our churches…so that if we could see the spiritual realm with our natural eyes, we would fall on the floor and weep over the sheer number of those around us who are being crowded and poked and pierced by demonic spirits of witchcraft and perverse sexuality and rebellion and the like.

This weekend my state of grief was intensified, when I came face to face with yet another instance of real sin and bondage in the life of a true believer.  When I was younger I would have grown angry – self-righteous and angry.  Today I grow sad.  Sad and begging for God to do something supernatural (for that’s what it will take) and douse us sinners with grace to be free, and mercy to cover; with desire for holiness like His, and with compassion strong enough to help one another limp into that throne room to receive these gifts. 

There is evil all around – everywhere wickedness.  To me it feels like the noise of a piece of modern, dissonant music turned into its physical equivalent - shrieking shards of sound and glass coming from all directions, swelling inescapably louder and sharper, piercing my ears and mind and eyes while I moan and crouch and mourn over the cacophony, over what it feels and sounds and looks like, over how painful it is when it hits my ears and how perverse it is when it hits my eyes.  This is what unrighteousness feels like to the righteous soul. 

We feel all this, and our souls are simply righteous because He gave us His own righteousness. What must it be like for Him, the Original Righteousness?  If I curl on my basement floor to the music of "Heaven & Earth" and weep, praying for the church to be made pure and brought near, for Him to return and make everything right and holy - to banish evil - what must He be feeling?

I did weep like that.  I couldn’t help it.  I am that grieved.  I keep praying for mercy, that in mercy He will pour out grace to escape temptation and deception and sin.  That our holy and love-filled God would be honored by how we think and what we do, not maligned by it. 

During worship this morning I remembered the phrase “as far as the east is from the west” and began seeing the distance from here to the exact opposite side of the globe, for that would be the farthest east-west distance possible.  Once forgiven, I could go looking …walking, searching, seeking… for one of my sins, and at that distance, it could take me years to find one.  Just one!  Then the Spirit prompted my mind to step back a little and stop being so myopic.  How far is east from west, in all of the created order?  As far as the far east of the galaxy is from the far west of the galaxy?  Wait, no – as far as the far east of the universe is from the far west of the universe.  I would never find that sin.

I see you Jesus, so big, so big - so big that my very important, very evil sin is absolutely removed from me (and certainly not worth a million-year-quest to re-find).  Since this is the case, since you are so capable and I can be so righteous, can’t you change our hearts so that we WANT to simply bring our sins to you so you can hurl them that vast distance?  It has become very apparent - our own hearts keep evil cyclical and recurring.  Our own hearts.  Our own hearts love our sin more than they desire You.  Have mercy, Lord!

Corey Russell preached on the knowledge of God, and summing it up, at the end of the service, with every hand over every eye, he led the entire congregation in a real and corporate prayer of repentance and renunciation of a certain kind of evil – of looking on perversity and wickedness with our eyes and in our thoughts and through our hearts.  My soul was trying to burst out of my body, as I heard the sincerity in my fellow believers, and in my own voice...as I watched a tidal wave of forgiveness and righteousness wash through and past us, leaving the entire thousand of us standing just as solid and immovable in the same spot, but entirely clean, while the flotsam and jetsam of degrading passions and sins went floating away behind.  We are righteous!  We can be righteous tomorrow!  We will be righteous forever! 

Jesus is right.  He is much, much bigger than one sin or than our millions of sins.  Oh, that we would seek his kingdom and his righteousness.  And then, someday when he has come back, the righteous soul will never be tortured again.

“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.  He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities.  You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea…”  Micah 7:18-19