Saturday, April 23, 2011
The Unstoppable Flood
Strike from your mind any of the negative images connected to the word flood. You might have first imagined the devastating tsunamis in Japan or the torrential flooding in the South after Hurricane Katrina. Imagine the force and sheer power of those events, but not the negative consequences. The flood I'm going to discuss is as far from that as the East is from the West.
There is a flood. A raging, surging flood. Picture a pristine white mountain where the snow and ice are melting…sending a pure, powerful torrent down the mountainside. And, oh yeah, this flood is moving right through your back yard. Through everyone's back yard, really.
And you've heard some things about this flood. People are finding life there. It's something like the Fountain of Youth, only better, they say. There's safety in the flood. There's nourishment in the flood. There's cleansing in the flood. There's even forgiveness in the flood.
And, from the sounds of things, this flood is unstoppable. It flows on and on and on. No dam will hold it, no blockage will divert it, no effort of human imagination can cut off its flow. And people are *willingly* jumping into this flood. They say you can too.
But you're not so sure.
There are many reasons why people may choose not to jump into this flood. Maybe you're refusing to believe the flood exists. Maybe you're a little afraid of anything that powerful. It might even be that you don't believe that the benefits offered are something you want…or even need. Those reasons, for the most part, go beyond the scope of this post. I want to address one reason in particular, an obstacle that keeps a lot of people from jumping into the flood. It's something that has plagued me for a long, long time. It's no simple hurdle: part intellectual, part psychological, many parts emotional, and perhaps, even a part that is physiological.
There are some who linger on the edge of the flood who won't jump in because they believe their debt is too great to EVER be washed away. We all have our sins, but not all of us believe the same things about those sins. For some of us, we see them as malignant black stains that won't ever be erased. No matter what spiritual chemo we try, there's always a trace left behind that soon grows to full potency and eats away at us once more.
The flood may cleanse some folks, but nobody like me. No way. My sins go deep. Paul may call himself Chief of Sinners, but shoot, Paul doesn't hold a candle to my history. For this person, the guilt for many years of wrongdoing haunts like a vengeful spirit. No need to mention specific sins. You know what they are. It may well be that you've never told ANYONE about these things in your entire life. But they are hideous, gouging, deviant things.
For some of these folks, jumping into the flood is just way too simple a cure for what ails us. We wish it were more us-centered. Maybe we could spend our lives digging a trench for the flood. Maybe we could get out there with shovels and pickaxes and, by the sweat of our brow, just tear up the earth so that the water could flow. Maybe then, we might jump in. Because honestly, there's something in us that screams that we just CAN'T be declared not guilty. We have to pay. And the more dearly we have to pay, the better. In fact, to gain forgiveness by simply jumping in the water…well, honestly, it just doesn't seem right. I am Hitler. I am Jeffery Dalhmer. I am Elizabeth Bathory. I don't deserve an easy rescue. And…really, there just can't be anything powerful enough to save me.
Picture every one of your sins, mainly the worst of the worst. Now, what would be due punishment for those? I mean, if each and every one of them were exposed in a very public fashion, what would be the due penalty? Maybe, if the sins are really bad, maybe you should be captured and imprisoned. Would that do it? And surely, if these things were known about you, you'd be abandoned by family members, friends, those who "used to love you" until…they found out. So maybe that would be just punishment, as well. Still not enough? Let's add public humiliation to the sentencing. You'll be stripped of everything that gives you human value--even your clothing. You'll be slandered, insulted, and viciously criticized--all while those who knew you laugh or spit.
For some of you, that might just be enough to pay for your crimes. But for others, they go even deeper. All of the above, plus some. Your sins, your hideous evil thoughts and actions, would demand agonizing torture. Maybe something where your body is torn to shreds or stabbed through with blades. And honestly, you feel it wouldn't be right for your consequences to end in anything short of death. All of that---it's all what you deserve. And…maybe…maybe you're right. Maybe you do deserve the massive list of penalties listed here. I'm not going to argue with you. Maybe you are that awful. I know sometimes, I've felt that way about myself.
Take another look at that list of consequences. What if the flood we were talking about was unleashed when someone else took all of those horrible penalties--ALL OF THEM--but he himself had never done anything at all to deserve them. What if he endured even worse, but he did it on your behalf. Truth is, someone did. Jesus of Nazareth was captured and imprisoned. He was ridiculed, spat upon, and mocked. He was abandoned by his twelve closest friends. He was presented publicly as something worthy of scorn and stripped of his dignity--even his clothing. And the public who claimed to have his back chose to have a murderer set free, rather than free this innocent man. Jesus was then whipped and scourged to within an inch of his life. And finally, Jesus was murdered in cold blood, killed in a public execution fit for a criminal. Worse still, and perhaps maybe something we can't begin to understand, Jesus was abandoned by God the Father.
Whatever your past, whatever your history, whatever your addictions, or sins--whatever penalty you think would pay for it--Jesus bore it ALL. And He did it to pay for you, to buy out your contract, to release you forever from bondage. The sins were great. The penalty was great. But Jesus paid it--IN FULL. That's what Jesus meant when He said, "It is finished."
So what about the flood? Could it possibly be powerful enough to wash even you clean? Why not? The penalty, the due penalty, the worst you can imagine, was endured and paid.
But then…there was Sunday.
Jesus didn't stay dead. That's an incredible line, isn't it? See, the flood wasn't unleashed when Jesus died. The torrent was launched when Jesus rose from the dead. See, anyone who has the power to come back to life is someone who can help you out. We're talking about the power of God. The power that created the universe and all the life in it. We're talking about the power to create life from nothing and the power to bring dead things back to the living. This is the Unstoppable Flood. There is nothing you could humanly imagine that is so great a sin that Jesus couldn't beat it down. You might be a bigtime sinner, but sorry, you aren't that special. You cannot out-sin God's grace. If you step into that flood, you will be cleansed. The penalty you were due, will be washed away forever, marked PAID IN FULL. This flood will give you life. It will nourish you. It will grant you everlasting forgiveness. And one day, it will give you a chance to hold the nail-scarred hand of the one who took your penalties.
There's only one catch. You need to jump into the flood. You need to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who paid for your sins, who suffered and died for you, and rose again so that you could see that HE beat the snot out of sin & death once and for all. Jesus is the Unstoppable Flood.
Come on in. The water's good.