In Two Ways

“Our sin ruins us in two ways. It makes us guilty before God, so that we are under his just condemnation; and it makes us ugly in our behavior, so that we disfigure the image of God we were meant to display. It damns us with guilt, and it enslaves us to lovelessness.”

– John Piper

Yesterday I finished reading John Piper’s The Passion of Jesus Christ. It was reissued in later years as Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die, but I believe the content is essentially the same. Pam over at By The Waters gave me the motivation to finally take this book off my shelf and read it. It runs 128 pages and is a good companion for Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. Pastor John begins each of the 50 chapters with the statement “Christ Suffered and Died…” and then completes it with a specific reason and short meditation. This book has really helped me in seeing the Cross in a new way…

One chapter that stood out is “Christ Suffered and Died…To Free Us From The Slavery of Sin”. As noted in the quote above, the problem of sin often takes shape in two ways. First, it leaves us guilty before God, and second, it makes us vile in our behavior, which consequently, as Pastor John notes, “disfigure(s) the image of God we were meant to display.” I’ve been thinking about the second reason and how often there is an imbalance in my own thinking about this. So often, the guilt I feel regarding sin can lead me into a frenzy of “Christian” activity that I hope might balance the scorecard and remove the guilt. I might immediately take to an extended time of Bible reading or spend extra time in prayer pleading for forgiveness. Neither of these things are wrong, of course.

I think the problem occurs when I feel that a completed checklist of these types of activities helps to remove the guilt in God’s sight, when in fact I’ve not given any thought to the second part of the problem, and how ugly I am portraying the image of God in my actions. In Colossians 3 and Galatians 5, Paul explains what our new self in Christ should look like and what fruit should result from that new identity. When sin rears its ugly head, it’s as if those qualities are scribbled over with a Sharpie. The self we were made to display is all wrong, and we have weakened our witness and testimony with those around us. I don’t think I give enough thought to that. Jesus should be made to look glorious by my words and actions. The flurry of activity that I often use to attempt to make up for my guilt does not take into account this fact first and foremost, sadly. I do not rest often enough in the power of the Holy Spirit in my sanctification, and certainly do not focus on the Cross enough during those times. As Pastor John reminds us, “We are not passive in the defeat of our selfishness, but neither do we provide the decisive power.”

I’m so thankful to Pastor John for reminding me of that this week.

Heavenly Father,

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalm 19:14)


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