How do you deal with brokenness?
What is your response to failure? What happens after you fall short of what’s required of you? When you hurt someone. When you regret a word said or an action done. When you explode with anger or implode with bitterness. When you passively forsake that which He has called you to do. When you judge another. When you compare yourself and drown in insecurities or well up in pride.
The list goes on. And on. And on.
Sin and brokenness may or may not be the loud and obvious sort. It may be the quiet, unnoticed kind. Introverted self-absorption is just as volatile as extroverted self-absorption. Either way, it’s impossible for any of us to claim that we have lived a life without falling short, hurting another, or resonating with this broken world in some form or fashion. Sin has affected us all. We live, not as we were created to live – in communion with God, free from the corruption of sin – no, we live in a fallen state, broken in every way, shape, and form. The world around us testifies to this reality.
But what do we do with this knowledge and heaviness? With this brokenness we see and feel? With the brokenness of our own heart?
Three different men and their sinful actions and following responses are recorded in the Passion narrative. (Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19)
The first is Peter. Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the morning. “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” (Matthew 26:34) Peter reviled in unbelief. He could not imagine himself doing such a thing. But Jesus’ words never prove false, and Peter denied Jesus three times, each time more forcefully than the last. I cannot tell you the range of specific sins occurred in his heart – whether it was fear of man, unbelief, betrayal, or others that motivated his words – only God knew. But it is clear that Peter lied. At the sound of the rooster crowing, Peter was reminded of Jesus’ words, “and he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75)
The second is Judas. Judas plotted to hand Jesus over to the chief priests and elders of the people. (Matthew 26:14-16) Jesus, the God-man with whom he spent the last three years in intimate fellowship – following, learning, watching, and living life. He chose to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver – this he did by night with a crowd with swords and clubs. But Jesus would not be taken by force. Submitting to the Father’s will in loving obedience, the Son of Man surrendered Himself over to sinners. (Matthew 26:45) Though Judas’ sin and planning began before Peter’s, we see the culmination of his response following Peter’s in the Gospel accounts. Judas, filled with guilt and remorse over his sin, attempted to return the thirty pieces of silver. The chief priests and the elders refused to take the money. Judas, ill with regret and crushing weight of sin, “went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5)
The last man is Pilate. Pilate reigned as the Roman official (prefect/governor) over Judea. By human’s standards of government, Pilate was the sole man in that region who had the power to put a man to death. The Jews rallied for this option, but without the consent of Pilate, they had no authority to kill Jesus. But in reality, we know that Pilate “would have no authority over [Jesus] at all unless it had been given [Pilate] from above.” (John 19:11) As Jesus stood on trial, accused, mocked, and slandered, He gave no answer. Jesus endured suffering and extreme vulnerability with honor, scorning the shame that his accusers intended to befall Him. Pilate “was amazed.” In response to the shouts of the people, Pilate handed over Jesus to be crucified. In an attempt to be freed from this act, he washed his hands in fear to declare his innocence. (Matthew 27:24-26)
Each of these three men acknowledged their sin and responded to it in different ways. We, like these men, respond to our sin in different ways. We hide in shame. We wallow in guilt, or we punish and condemn ourselves in accordance with the pain inflicted or felt. We commit to working on it, trying harder, or doing better next time. We ignore it, not wanting to face the reality of our own self and the hurt we may have caused others. Or we cling to it in fear, reminding ourselves never to do something of the sort again. We weep deeply or we move on quickly. We buy gifts to repay for damage done. We think ourselves clever or we hate ourselves.
In light of the weight of our sinful brokenness, how do we, how can we respond??
Jesus’ act on the cross gives the final word on sin and our response to it. His death on the cross is the atoning, once-for-all sacrifice needed to satisfy God’s wrath against our sin. His holiness cannot allow sin in His presence. Yet His love desires for us to be in His presence. What His holiness demands, His great love supplies in the giving of His Son to bear the consequences of our sin through the most wretched death. In this, Jesus satisfies the wrath of God that kept us from Him. There is no longer any payment needed for our sin! Hallelujah! Sin’s power over us was broken at the cross.
Our first response to this news is to repent and be saved! Turn from any other “payments” – any other responses to our sinful brokenness – as insufficient. Confess your inability to bear the weight of sin and ask for forgiveness from the God who loves you and desires that you trust in His perfect way. Those who trust in Jesus’ sacrifice as the payment necessary for sin – the only acceptable payment – God receives as His children. What an incredible wonder! We get the joy of intimate fellowship with the God of the universe! How great is the love that the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
But what about the sins committed once we become children of God and followers of Jesus? Are the sins committed before we were saved “more” forgiven than the ones after we become believers? I’m afraid we, myself included, often live like they are.
But our response here must also be repentance. “God’s kindness leads you to repentance.” (Romans 2:4) Here is the heart of the matter in my own life. I often live as if it’s God’s anger that prompts me to repent. That He is disappointed and turns His face away from me. If I believe this, I respond with my own “atonements” – wallowing in it for some time until I’ve learned my lesson, saying sorry (to God and others) over and over again, or making myself “work off” the debt I now owe. I want to condemn myself and suffer for my own sin to earn God’s forgiveness and favor. I live in fear and with guilt instead of in the grace that Jesus bought for me at the cross. I choose to trust in my own “payments” for sin rather than in the perfect payment given on my behalf.
Judas responded with guilt so heavy that he ended his life to end the misery of sin. Pilate responded with fear and trembling. His simple act of washing his hands likely led to insecurity and greater fear.
But Peter. He responded with a broken heart because of the pain he caused the One he loved. It’s in John’s Gospel that we see the fullness of Peter’s repentance. Oh I love Peter’s example of repentance! Upon the news of the empty tomb, he eagerly runs to it to see for himself. Upon the sight of Jesus on the shore in John 21, Peter jumps out of the boat and swims with all his might to Jesus. His heart yearns for restoration and reconciliation! And Jesus, full of grace and truth, gently restores Peter back to faith and asks him to commit to following Him whole-heartedly.
This is the beauty of repentance. Knowing our God. Knowing His great love for us – proven at the cross. If there is no longer any payment acceptable for sin – nothing that we can do – then we can and must go to Him, standing on that firm foundation, placing our hope and trust in Jesus’ payment alone.
Knowing God’s great kindness to us – convicting us of sin by the Spirit that we might not live in a destructive way and out of fellowship with Him. He brings repentance in the believer’s life because He loves us and desires what’s best for us.
Knowing His incredible assurance – “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This blessed assurance breeds not fear or guilt but godly sorrow that leads us to repentance. Jesus bids us to come to the throne of grace in full assurance and receive mercy and grace.
So knowing this love, this kindness, this assurance – go to Him my brother and sister, He will forgive and restore you to fellowship. He will not condemn you or turn you away in disappointment or anger. He will receive you when you come in the name of Jesus. He is glad to and He must, because Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice on the cross is the only payment necessary for sin.
Grace & peace,
For just a few resources on repentance -
Rock of Ages - http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/r/o/rockages.htm
Oswald Chambers - http://utmost.org/repentance/