Yesterday a reader left a comment on my post Feeling Sorry for Sins that raised a lot of good questions/points for which I had no immediate clear answers. I had to sit down and think/write my way through them all, and once I did, I thought my “reply” was awfully long for the comments section so I decided to use the questions and my thoughts on them as the springboard for this post.
The reader began,
I found your post interesting as I have not thought about the connection between sorrow and confession, or lack there of. However, in your 7th point you say that God is not hurt when we sin and this seems to make light of the sins a person commits.
Me: How can saying that God is not “hurt” make light of our sins? Sins that God sent His beloved Son to pay for, and for which the Son went to the Cross and died a horrible death, so that we could be permanently reconciled with God. I would think, if anything, to insist that God is still hurt by sins already judged and paid for by Christ is to make light of what Christ accomplished on the Cross.
Reader: In a relationship with God we are free to come to Him through Christ, but if I just spent the whole day defying Him does that mean that because Christ has already paid for that sin that God feels no betrayal or grief at my refusal to obey Him?
Why would He feel betrayed? He knew exactly what you were going to do before you did it. He already paid for it. This is maybe the point that we struggle to really embrace – the total and complete efficacy of Christ’s death on the Cross for every single sin and act of betrayal against God that was ever committed. Judged then and there, once and for all. If His death was enough to satisfy the wrath that God’s righteousness ‘experiences’ in the face of sin and the demands of His justice that the perpetrator of the sin be removed from His presence … and if He’s already given us Believers His own righteousness and declared our old nature to have been crucified with Christ… what does that mean but that no, He’s not going to feel “hurt” when we do the very sin He knew we were going to commit and that He could have stopped if He chose to long before we ever do it. A sin that He already poured out on Christ. It’s not I who sin, but the sin that still dwells within me. The dead, old nature, which has been crucified with Christ, ie, judged with Christ.
Reader: I agree that He is not surprised, but (and this is a human argument) just because you are not surprised when a nurse stabs you with a needle doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. If a God-fearing man and wife choose to have a nasty divorce in which their children are emotionally wounded for the rest of their life are you saying that God does not hurt because of their decision to disobey Him?
I don’t think you can use the human argument to explain this part of God. Humans are by nature physical, limited, time-bound, changeable, self-oriented, legalistic. God is none of those. Moreover, we don’t easily foresee the blessing that can come from pain and sorrow, life experiences that God uses to mold us into the image of His son. Or that He uses to draw unbelievers to Himself. To use your example, if a couple get a nasty divorce, do you really believe God cannot heal the wounds of both the couple and the children should they choose to turn back to Him?
In fact, if even one of those people, coming out of that circumstance decides to follow God and let himself be molded into the vessel God desires to mold him into, one full of love and joy and peace and patience and forgiveness… the nasty divorce now becomes the black backdrop against which God’s own glory can truly shine. Man, left to himself, could never make that kind of turnaround. But God can do it in us if we let Him, and that is a big way in which we can bring glory to Him.
Reader: Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you. It just seems that according to Eph. 4:29-32 it is possible to grieve the Spirit by our actions, even though they have already been paid for.
I think He’s grieved because He knows our stupid actions in rejecting His guidance will only lead to pain and sorrow and loss for us and those are not what He desires.
I think He’s grieved because of the loss of intimacy He desires to have with us, where He can guide us and comfort us and lead us into all truth. He’s grieved not out of hurt, but because we’re living as if we haven’t been forgiven, as if our Daddy isn’t the God of the universe who loves us more than we can imagine, and that we really aren’t the apple of His eye after all.
He’s grieved because we’re living in a dead place, a place of unbelief (our crucified old nature) stumbling around with our eyes closed, when if we’d just open them we’d see the light and walk in it, or better yet, swim in those rivers of living water He has for us and having an amazing life.
And that, I believe, is what He wants, not for us to apologize or confess or spend any time mourning our idiocy — we’re all weak and silly sheep, and if we really believed that, I don’t think we would spend one moment in mourning our inevitable failures, but rather in rejoicing over all that our Father has done for us despite the fact that we are weak and don’t deserve any of it.