Background Passages: II Samuel 11:1-17 and 12:1-13; Isa. 43:18-19; Psalm 51:19 and Heb. 12:1-2
My brother celebrated one of those milestone birthdays years ago, determined to scratch parachuting from an airplane from his bucket list. With the appropriate time in the classroom, he strap a parachute to his back, climbed into a perfectly fine airplane and took off for his first…and only…static line jump.
In my mind a static line jump fits a on an insanity scale at a level slightly less than skydiving simply because it reduces operator error. Rather than jump, fall and pull your ripcord before you die, you climb out on the wing onto a metal platform with your parachute’s ripcord attached to a static line inside the plane. When you jump, you get two or three seconds of freefall until the line pulls the cord, automatically deploying the parachute. Blind panic assisted by old school technology. Once the canopy fully inflates, you enjoy the magnificent view from above as you glide to a soft landing on the good, green earth below.
My brother found himself standing on the platform flying at 5,000 feet, clutching tightly with both hands to the strut underneath its wing. Buffeted by the wind rushing past him. He waited for his instructor to give him the thumbs up to jump. At the appropriate time, the signal was given. He executed a perfect three-point jump. His feet lifted from the platform and one hand released its death grip. His fourth point, his right hand, refused to release the strut. He flapped wildly in the slipstream underneath the wing, unable to will himself to let go of his hold on that last vestige of safety.
Let’s leave him hanging there and come back to him in a minute and see if I can draw a point from this story.
David, God’s chosen king of Israel, did some pretty horrible things in his life. One particular incident would have spawned a salacious investigation in today’s news cycle. An affair with a married woman left her pregnant. David attempted to manipulate the situation by recalling her husband, Uriah, from the front line of battle to create the impression that the baby was a result of her husband’s leave. Her husband unknowingly thwarted the king’s maneuvering by honorably refusing to go home while his brothers were at war. David then compounded his sin by quietly ordering Uriah and his soldiers on a suicide mission where he would most certainly die, giving David the chance to marry the hero’s widow. David did some despicable things.
When God’s prophet challenged the king’s actions, David recognized his sin, feeling the heavy burden of remorse for his actions. He fell on his face in repentance, asking God to forgive him for everything he had done. David’s felt the sting of his guilt, but he would never now release from that heavy burden until he let go of his failed past and accepted the ever=present reassurance of God’s grace and forgiveness. Only then would his relationship with the Father be reconciled and restored.
Two things happen to us who feel genuine remorse when faced with our own sin. We can seek God’s forgiveness and start anew within the grace he provides, much as David did. Too often, however, we never move past remorse to repentance, clinging to our failure with loathing and self-pity, certain that God could never forgive anyone so unworthy.
I was reminded of that fact not too long ago when I visited with a former pastor who had walked far from the path God intended. He was certain he strayed so far that God could never use him again in kingdom work. The work of Christ on the cross cleared the path for forgiveness, but this man could not bring himself to let go of the past and find a new way of serving him. It’s a journey most of us have made at some point in our lives.
When we refuse to accept the grace of God and forgive ourselves, we tend to drag the past behind us like an anchor. Instead God tells us the same thing he told the people of Israel in Isaiah 43:18-19…
“Forget (let go of) the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
The instruction is so clear. Let go of our sin. Release it into God’s forgiving hands. He makes a way in the wasteland of our lives to restore us for a new thing. A new work.
Let’s not leave my brother hanging on the wing.
Though it probably seemed like an eternity bouncing around in the slipstream, my brother eventually let go of the strut. The static line pulled the ripcord. The parachute opened. He enjoyed “a new thing.” For minutes on end, he floated lazily on his descent to earth 5,000 feet below with the wondrous panorama of sky and earth laid out before him. He called it “exhilarating,” and “adrenaline rush.” Yet, he only experienced the joy when he let go.
There may be nothing as miserable for a Christian who desires to walk the walk than to fail to do right. Walking in that shadow of guilt is debilitating, affecting not only our relationship with God, but our relationships with others. We can fall on our knees earnestly seeking and intellectually accepting God’s forgiveness. We will never experience full release until we let go of the past and accept the next new thing God prepares for us.
David got his life back on track by asking God to “Create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:19) It is a simple prayer of a fully repentant heart that says, “God, help me set aside my past and stay focused on you.”
The writer in Hebrews puts it another way by telling us to “throw off” or let go of everything that hinders us from serving God to the best of our ability. And, he even tells us how. Look at that remarkable passage in Hebrew 12:1-2.
“…Let us throw off (let go of) everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
Guilt effectively destroys grace-filled living. Keeps us from believing God can use us in any significant way. I’m convinced when we let go of our guilt we will find life laid out before us in a wondrous panorama of God’s exceptional will for each of us. Exhilarating. An adrenaline rush of eternal proportions.
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