outreach: God’s windows

dusty-window-2

i’ve recently been struck with a thought about God’s work in my life, and the point of such work. and, as often is the case, a picture has come to mind that has helped to illustrate this point.

dirty windows

the image is of a dusty, dirty window pane. it’s sunny outside, but inside it’s still dim, for the sun cannot shine through the window in its current state. the result is a stuffy, hot room full of dust.

and i see now that this window pane is me. it is my life. and i see that, while i am not nearly as dusty as i once were, there are still significant splotches of dust, dirt and grime that He desires to cleanse so that He can shine His light through me, and into the lives of others.

about sin

sin is one of those words that people in the church are pretty used to. maybe even ambivalent toward, you might say. but use this word with someone outside of the church, someone who is not used to hearing it on a regular basis, and you will more than likely be met with a cringe. why? because by using the word sin, you’re implying that i am doing something wrong. and, in order for something i have done to be wrong, there have to be rules by which we know the difference between right and wrong. now, without going down a road i have no intention of walking in this entry, i will say that if there is no right and wrong, then everything else i am about to say makes little difference.

with that being said, this image of a dirty, dusty window has taught me something about the sin in my life. it has taught me that, as long as sin persists to remain in my life, then God cannot shine as brightly through my life as He desires, which, i believe, was the entire reason i was saved, so that He can shine through my life and into the lives of others. specifically, those who are waiting to see Him for what He is: the ultimate fulfillment of all we have ever wanted and needed, whether we realize it or not.

it is all too easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees when it comes to the sin in my own life. “if only i could just beat this whole pride thing, if only my thought life were where it should be, if only i would treat others as i treat and care for my own needs and desires…” those are the kind of thoughts i have when it comes to the sin in my own life, and i feel as though God is trying to tell me that i am sorely missing the point. i feel as though He is trying to tell me that my relationship with Him is not about my pride, or my sinful thoughts, or my lack of charity, but that it is about my walk with Him. that, if only my heart would be tied so intimately to His, that the dust and dirt of pride, sinful thoughts and selfishness would fall by the wayside. that, as long as my focus is on these things, then my focus is not on Him, where it belongs, and He cannot work as deeply in my life as He could were my focus to remain on Him.

barricades

there’s another analogy i have found helpful when it comes to the topic of sin, and that is comparing God’s commandments for our lives to that of road barricades. you know, those concrete walls in the medians of the freeway, or the cables that stretch tight to prevent wayward cars from crossing over into oncoming traffic. these barriers are there for a reason. they’re there, ultimately, to minimize the damage of traffic collisions. they’re there for our safety.

you could make the same comparison to police officers and traffic laws. there is little else in this world that makes me as nervous as that of a police officer when i am driving. i don’t even have to be doing anything wrong and i can become extremely nervous that i am going to be pulled over for something. and yet, the real reason police officers exist and traffic laws are in place are for my personal safety, and for the safety of those i share the road with.

in the same way, God has placed ‘traffic laws’ (if you will) in our lives for our own protection, and for the protection of those we share this walk with. we may not always like them, and they may (at times) seem constricting, but we must never doubt that He desires our own good, and that, knowing all things, He has shared these precepts with us that will lead us away from a life of pain and destruction and into a life of living in His goodness.

does that mean that if i obey God and His commandments at every opportunity i will not have trials and pain? absolutely not. we know better than that. the apostle paul, for example, went from living a life of wealth and honor as he sought the execution of Christians to a life of imprisonment, loneliness and, ultimately, death, as he was used by God to bring Christ to many.

no, we cannot expect a pain-free life for following obediently after Him. we are on the same roads, after all, of people who are driving by their own rules, and who, from time to time, will nudge and bump our lives. and yet, if taken on an individual basis, our decisions to follow Him, rather than our own sinful desires, will bring us greater good than the alternative.

shining clearly

my point in saying all of this is that it is not about the sheen of dust on the windows of our lives, or that spot of dirt, but it is about living our lives open and receptive to His call.

is sin bad? is it wrong to be selfish, prideful, lustful, greedy, etc? absolutely! so bad, in fact, that it took the life of a perfect, holy and blameless man to pay for each of your sinful choices (and mine). but rather than being about focusing on what we have done wrong in the past, the Christian life must be about coming to Him in humble, daily obedience, so that He can shine His light through us as He desires. as He has always desired.

there are people in my own life who i know God desires to reach, and who i know He wants to shine through me to reach with His own goodness, and His light is being dimmed by each sinful choice i make. as i (and as you) strive to make deliberate choices each day to turn toward Him, we are turning away from ourselves and closer to the clear windows that He desires for each one of us. we will not get there in this life, but each and every act of obedience for Him turns us more and more into His likeness, into the crystal clear windows He desires to shine through.

i pray that you would not lose sight of the forest for the trees. i pray that you would not be so hard on yourself about the mistakes you have made, or that you continue to make, about your heart that turns so naturally to selfishness and sinful choices, that you lose sight of Him. i pray that your vision would rest firmly on His love and His grace, on His face that desires your heart of obedience. and that, through your steadfast fixation on Him, that He would shine through you in such a way that His grace, love and compassion is made known to all of those who know you and who are being made known to you.

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