Ruined

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Ruined2The other day, a friend and I were talking about marking our Bibles. We’re both terrible perfectionists, so we were lamenting how easy it is to feel like we’ve ruined a Bible. I don’t know about you, but if I misspell something in a margin or if my underlines get a little squiggly, my knee-jerk reaction is, “Great, let’s just throw the whole thing out and get a new one, because this one is ruined forever.”

That’s such a heavy word. Ruined. There’s only one thing you can do with something that’s ruined, and that’s throw it away. It’s not really good for anything else.

How did your Passover prep go, by the way? I’m betting we all saw some pretty unsettling things. If you’re like me—if you’re like every other follower of God on this planet—then when you took a good long look in your spiritual mirror, you saw weakness. You saw failure. You saw God’s perfect standard and you saw all the times you fell short of it.

That’s the nature of the beast, unfortunately. That’s what we have to grapple with every year right around this time: our own human nature. And it’s in those moments, when we catch that glimpse of who we are and how far we still have to go, that it’s very, very easy to begin to convince ourselves that we’re ruined.

A little over two weeks ago, we took of the bread, and we took of the wine, and we were reminded: He was bruised for us. He was beaten for us. He was scourged, He was mocked, He was spit on and abused—for us. He was nailed to a tree and run through with a spear for us.

We were reminded of all those things, and then we had to look at ourselves. At our shortcomings. At our woeful inadequacies. At the hidden imperfections no one else can see, and we had to wonder: Me? He did this for me? But I’m not worth it. I can’t possibly be worth it. Look at me. Look at all the stains and the bruises and the scars. I’m ruined. Worthless.

But here’s the secret:

In the eyes of God, you are not ruined. Stained, maybe. Bruised, maybe. But not ruined. Stains can be removed. Bruises can heal. Scars can fade. That’s not ruined.

David understood that. He wrote the 51st Psalm at his absolute lowest point. He had lusted, he had lied, he had stolen, he had committed adultery, and he had intentionally sent an innocent man to his death. Until Nathan the prophet jolted him out of his apathy, David was about as far from God as a person can get. He was, according to every conventional standard, ruined.

Thankfully, God’s standard is far from conventional. David repented, and he wrote,

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

(Psalm 51:6-12)

Because of God’s mercy, David was not ruined. In the New Testament, Paul affirms that David was a man after God’s own heart. Ezekiel prophesies that David will once again reign over Israel.

David understood a fundamental principle: If God washes you, you are clean. And not just clean, but whiter than snow.

Paul writes, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). I guess for me the real question is why. What did Christ see in us that made Him willing to go through what He did? That made Him willing to commit to it from the foundation of the world?

We can find some insight in the book of Hebrews. The author encourages us to be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Here’s a question: What was the joy set before Christ? We’re told that He did what He did for the joy that was set before Him. What was it? Eternal life? Did He give up eternal life for the joy of receiving eternal life? Did He give up sitting at the right hand of the throne of God for the joy of sitting at the right hand of the throne of God?

That doesn’t make much sense, does it? He already had those things. The joy set before Christ was something He didn’t already have. What was it? What did He gain when He gave up His life on the cross?

You. He gained you. And me. And a multitude of other potential brothers and sisters. We were the joy set before Christ. He had eternal life, He had the right hand of the throne of God—but He didn’t have us, and for that, He was willing to come to this earth as a human being and die the most humiliating, most painful death the ancient world knew how to administer.

For you. For me.

It’s easy to look at ourselves and feel ruined. But a ruined thing is worthless. A ruined thing is beyond hope. A ruined thing is not worth the effort.

The Son of God did not die for ruined things.

He died for brothers and sisters. He died to open the door to eternity and forgiveness, to give us a chance, to clean us up and present us to His Father as His brethren.

It’s hard for me to look at myself and believe that. It’s hard for me to know the things no one else knows about me and still believe Jesus Christ is willing to love me.

But it’s true.

The Church members in Corinth didn’t exactly come from the most pristine backgrounds. Paul reminds them of this in his first epistle to them. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Whoever you were before this—whatever you were—you were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified. You’re different now. You’re a child of God now. Not because you deserved it or because you were somehow necessary to God’s plan, but simply because He loved you. He still loves you, and He began a good work in you, and He is going to finish it (Philippians 1:6).

David once asked God, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). And the answer, of course, is nowhere. There is nowhere we can go where repentance and the blood of Jesus Christ is not enough to make us clean.

You were washed.

We’re reminded of that truth at every Passover. We wash each other’s feet, we eat the bread, we drink the wine, and we reflect on the price that was paid to make us clean.

The Days of Unleavened Bread come with a different reminder, though. These days remind us that we’re not done yet. There are still sins to root out, to repent of, and to overcome. It’s a work in progress, but we can do it—because our older Brother is in our corner, helping us make it happen.

So now what?

Earlier, we were in Hebrews 12, but we only read half a sentence. Let’s go back and read the whole thing now, because that sentence ties together the themes of Unleavened Bread and Passover, and gives us the marching orders we need to move forward:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

You were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified. And now, brethren, it is time to run. The Kingdom of God is ahead, and the example of our older Brother has paved the way.

Run, and don’t stop till you’ve reached the finish line.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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