two obstacles: out of the cold, into the warmth

i’ve come across two general obstacles that many people face. obstacles that keep people from the loving arms of their Heavenly Father. there are many other obstacles, of course. many other reasons that keep people from Him. these are merely two i have been considering as of late.

in both of these examples, the person has recognized the mess of their lives. they have realized they’re not living the life they should be. they recognize that something has gone terribly wrong, but something keeps them from coming to Him for help.

first things first
the first obstacle occurs when someone recognizes their own sin (i.e. turning to drunkenness time and time again for escape, adultery, pride, materialism, etc.), but rather than approach their loving Father as they are, they feel they must first get their life in check. they recognize their own sin and shame, they recognize His holiness, and they recognize that they could never possibly approach Him, in His infinite righteousness, in their current state.

and, in many ways, these people are totally right. they recognize their own dreadful attire, if you will, and that it simply is not appropriate for the formal event being put on to celebrate His majesty. surely they will stand out from everyone else, they believe, and they will be looked down upon. even shamed by others. so, they tell themselves that they will wait to go until they are better dressed. until they can find for themselves a more fitting, formal outfit.

and rather than ever getting to the point where they are dressed as they should be, in an outfit that would be appropriate for His presence, they try on outfit after outfit, only to find that the filth that stained their previous attire is now on their new outfit, just as it was before. and, where they to realize it, they would see that the problem isn’t with the outfit at all, but the problem is with them. and that the filth is spilling forth from them, staining every outfit they try on.

and what this person fails to realize is that everyone else attending this event, all of those people dressed in beautiful splendor, is just like them. they too were once dressed in filthy clothes, and yet He welcomed each one of them and clothed them in perfection, in His righteousness. He exchanged their filthy rags for His white robes and riches, and they are now celebrating His glory in His presence. He touched the root of the problem – their sin – and washed it in His holiness. quenching the stain spilling forth from their souls in a way that allowed them to approach His presence. and He did this by the blood of the Lamb, His Son, Jesus Christ.

this example, of one who thinks they must clean up their own life before they can approach a Holy God, is a bit like someone realizing they have a cavity, but then refusing to go to the dentist until they have taken care of it themselves. and then hoping that if they brush their teeth enough, that the cavity will simply go away. it won’t. not by that route. and soon they tire of trying, and they give up. without realizing that were they to simply go to the dentist, just as they are, that he would be able to take care of their tooth. and He wants them to. He wants to take care of that cavity. but they won’t let Him, for they are ashamed.

yes, in many ways, this person is totally right. we cannot approach a perfect God in our current state. we have sinned. we have messed up. our lives may very well be in ruins. but it doesn’t have to be that way. it doesn’t have to remain that way. it can change. He wants it to. He wants to help. but He cannot help someone who refuses to accept His gift as the way out. the gift of His Son. it’s the only way. there is no other. try as we might. we must take it or leave it. so that we too can join in the celebration, so that we can be clothed in His righteousness.

too bad
the other obstacles is a bit more dark. it is a bit more sinister. and it prevents so many from approaching Him and receiving the love He desires to pour out into their lives.

this person, like the first, recognizes their own sin. their own faults. they admit that their life has not been lived in an honorable way, but it goes much further than the first person. where the first person feels as though they must simply do a bit of housekeeping before coming to God, this person believes that there is no amount of housekeeping (not by themselves, not by Him) that can help them. these people believe, deep down, that they simply cannot ever be forgiven for what they have done. no, this person somehow feels as though their sin is much worse than anyone else.

this is a very dark place to be. and, unfortunately, i’m afraid it’s all too common. for, after hearing the whisper in their ear for so long: “you’re a sinner. you’re never going to change. there’s no way anyone could ever forgive you for what you’ve done,” they begin to believe it. they begin to give in to these lies. and, before too long, they live this way, as though it doesn’t matter what they do today, or tomorrow, because there is nothing that could ever undo what they have done. and that is a terribly sad way to live. forever trapped and handcuffed by past decisions. and i can’t help but believe that this deeply pains a loving Father who has done everything, even sending His own, perfect, holy and loving Son to pay for this person’s sins. to provide a way out.

and the greatest mistake this person makes is that, perhaps unknowingly, they don’t believe Christ’s death is enough. not for them. they don’t believe that Christ’s sinless life, undeserved death, and holy resurrection is enough to pay for the mistakes they’ve made. it might be enough for others, but not for them. and that is a slap to the face of their Holy Savior. it is nothing less.

this person, too, is right in seeing their sin. in acknowledging where they’ve fallen short. but they are absolutely wrong in thinking there is no way out for them. they are absolutely wrong in believing the lie that somehow Christ wasn’t big enough, or good enough to overcome the sin in their lives. this sort of pride will always stand in the way of their loving Savior’s life-changing work. unless that pride is broken, unless they recognize that His light is greater than their darkness, they will remain trapped in the lonely solitude of their mistakes. and that pains me. that pains Him. His desire is their rescue. and so i pray that this person’s pride would be broken. to a million pieces. so that the curtains can be pulled back. so that He can shine through in a way that brings light and life to the darkest parts of their soul.

the blood on your hands
the truth is, the blood is on all our hands. it’s on mine. it’s on yours. whether you see it or not, it’s there. we’ve all fallen short of the glory He desires for us. and until we recognize the blood on our hands as the blood of the risen Lamb, we will have very little appreciation for, or understanding of, what He has done.

do we go in

we’re all dressed in our filthy rags, with our blood-stained hands, standing on the manicured lawns of a vast mansion, peering in through the great windows while the light and music of the celebration inside comes streaming out. and, as others go in, making their way in to join the celebration, their own dreadful attires, much like ours, begin to change. and all of a sudden their rags are exchanged for suits and gowns of brilliant whites. and their faces, at once touched by the light of His presence, pouring out from the open doors, are filled with inexplicable awe and joy. and, seeing this change take place before their eyes, others who were standing on the lawns make their way inside, only to experience the same sort of change. until more and more and more make their way into the event. and the celebration grows. and the music grows. and the light grows.

and there you stand. on the outside. in the darkness. in the cold, as you watch your breath swirl from your mouth, around your head and into the deep, dark blackness of the sky overhead. hands in your pockets. waiting. wondering to yourself. “will the same happen for me? will they let me in, too? will the same change happen in my life? or will i simply walk into a party of infinite splendor dressed in dirty, filthy rags? staining the carpet and leaving a mess wherever i go?”

i assure you, you will not. He is enough. He is enough for me. He is enough for you. and He is waiting for you to come inside. He is waiting to replace your filthy rags, the filthy rags you have become used to, with robes of righteousness. He is waiting to warm you, from the inside out, with His presence. He is waiting for you to join in the celebration.

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