[Originally written in 2008]
God doesn’t send people to hell, they volunteer.
The names in the lamb’s Book of Life are written in God’s handwriting. The names on hell’s members list are written by the sinners’ own handwriting.
As human beings, our self-preserving gene is famous for magnifying the accusing finger. We are known through-out the universe for transforming ant-hills of guilt into mountains of blame. But the truth is simple; we practice sin, literally. I mean we really do practice sin;
We work it out and work on it.
We meditate on it and mediate for it.
We dwell on it and allow it to indwell us.
We have invited it into our homes and given it a pillow for the night.
Some of us have enrolled to the Sin Gym and are faithful members.
We wake up early to jog down Sin Street and stay up late dancing to Sin Songs. Sin is not a sudden impulse, sin is a discipline. We meditate and ponder upon sin before we do it. We plot and plan our best sinful moves.
We don’t experience sin, we are experienced sinners.
That sounds a bit too harsh Cornell, don’t you think? Come on, aren’t you just being a little too strong? Too negative? We are supposed to be thinking positive thoughts and edifying one another Cornell, not stamping on the little self-esteem we’ve got left. We are supposed to encourage, not discourage. Have you forgotten the cliches? Too anointed to be disappointed? Too blessed to be stressed? What happened to being blessed beyond the curse?
Yes, sir, madam, I see that hand. I share in your concern. I feel your pain. But the truth is, the more I have experienced God’s love and pondered upon the cross, the more I have come to realize just how sinful and unworthy of His love I am. It’s true, I tried to think positive thoughts. I contemplated complacency. I flipped the Bible for some flattery.
But every time I opened my bible expecting, “Then the disciples got into the boat with Jesus, and a bright rain-bow arched over their skies”, I was met by Mark 4:37.
Every time I flipped the pages of my bible seeking, “Blessed are you when they praise you and respect you and say all kind of nice things about you,” I only found Matthew 5:11
Every time I assumed the bible says “In this world, you might, may, or could face persecution…” I bumped into Christ telling me, “In this world, you WILL face persecution…”
You get the picture.
Here’s an example of how a deep-rooted sin gave birth to the epic repentance chapter that is Psalm 51:
King David is on one of his evening strolls. Taking time off to clear his head. Time to regain his focus and just meditate on God’s marvelous creation. Stepping onto the roof, he sucks in the fresh, crisp night air. This is the life! The thought flashes across his mind. It is so great to be King! The soldiers are away at war. My wife is asleep below, no more royal duties to take care of. I can finally have some “me” time. David is taking in the beauty of the stars and marveling at the expansive heavens. But the devil is punctual, for David went outside looking for beauty, and that’s exactly what he found. Naked beauty: bathing beauty.
Instinctively, the King is interested. First, he inquires about her, and even after learning that she is someone’s wife, what does he do next? He sends for her. Perhaps he just wanted to find out how bathing Bathsheba was doing. You know; with the husband at war and she having to worry about his safety every day. She must be stressed. Perhaps David just wanted to encourage her. Re-assure her. Give her that much needed glimmer of hope. Come on, one night with the King is enough to make you forget all your worries, albeit temporarily.
Or maybe that’s stretching it. Perhaps David just needed someone to talk to: a distraction. His advisers were bland and boring with all their legal talk and regal drab. How about a beautiful stranger to spice up the talk? What harm could possibly come out of it?
OK, I see a few eye-brows going up again. Don’t worry dear reader. Sometimes I tend to drift. Sometimes I tend to speculate. Sometimes I tend to let my thoughts get carried off miles away from my current context. We are all curious beings, aren’t we?
And I think that is what David was, curious. So, he inquired, he sent for, and he sinned.
But forgive me. We miss the mark if we say that David sinned because he fell into temptation. We miss the point concluding that David simply gave in to the ancient deadly force that is sexual sin.
We miss the mark, because we miss the verse.
The verse that explains it all. The verse that is the genesis of his sin in this story. We miss 2 Samuel 11:1, “In the spring, at the time when Kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the King’s men and the whole Israel army…”
At the time when Kings go off to war, this King decides he is too old for war. At a time when men should be defending their country among fellow men, this King decides he is too busy for the battlefield. This King decides his life is too precious to risk for his subjects. The rest is a domino effect. That’s where King David missed his mark.
And I believe that’s also where Peter the apostle missed his mark.
Not when he denied Jesus the first time.
Not when he denied Jesus the second time.
Not even when his guilty eyes locked with Christ’s compassionate eyes at the crack of the cock crow.
When did Peter miss his mark?
When he fell asleep in the garden,
When he decided to snooze as Jesus prayed.
When he decided to fall sleep instead of staying up in the spiritual battlefield.
When Christ told his disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation,” he had such moments in mind. He had you and I in mind. He had Peter in mind. That’s why the first person he thought of when he resurrected was Peter, “Tell the disciples, and Peter, that Jesus is risen…” [Mark 16:7].
You see, Peter’s denial of Christ was not instinctive, it was inspired. His denial of Jesus was premeditated and prepared, albeit unconsciously. Peter’s denial of Jesus was not a knee-jerk reaction; but a product of a knee-less lifestyle; a result of prayerlessness. His actions were the remains of remaining back and stealing away from fellowship.
Is it a wonder then that, when he denied Christ, he was in the company of the enemies and enjoying the enemy’s fire? How did he get himself there?
Perhaps you always have the same questions whenever you find yourself compelled to deny Christ. How did you get yourself there?
I urge you my friend, in your quest for holiness, to look back, look deep and look hard. But don’t ever forget to look up.
In His service and for His glory,