If you have been around church long enough, you have likely heard these analogies of God’s forgiveness: Sins removed as far as the east is from the west, stains washed whiter the snow, and transgressions remembered no more.
For most of us, it is this lavish grace and forgiveness that attracted us to the Cross in the first place, and is likely this continual forgiveness that keeps us there.
It is easy to say we believe this truth, but if we are honest, we often do not always live with the freedom and liberty such forgiveness was intended to give.
This past week, much of the country was hammered with snow and ice. Even areas that rarely see such cold fronts were affected.
In the south, which is where I live, snow that actually sticks to the ground is a rare treat. For as little as half an inch of a snow (a dusting for some regions), we cancel schools, close businesses, and frantically line up at grocery stores for milk and bread. We celebrate snow days and fill our Facebook feeds with pictures of melting snowmen, bowls of snow cream, and snow angels.
For this last storm, the kids and I piled into the car to drive north a few hours to my mother’s house in Cookeville, Tennessee, where the ground was covered in white. On the second day of our cabin-fever adventure, an ice storm knocked out the local power lines in the middle of the night. We awoke to a dark, chilly house and temperatures were dropping rapidly. The power would briefly flicker on, and then quickly go off again for hours while crew members worked on the lines.
My mother’s living room has a large panoramic-sized window that showcases her backyard. In the darkened room, the snow outside appeared brighter than usual; even with overcast sunlight, the entire room was illuminated by the reflection of light off of the snow. As I sat quietly on the couch, God brought a scripture to mind:
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NLT)
There is so much to love about this passage in Isaiah; but personally, I love that God agrees with the weight, heinousness, and ugliness of our sins. Can you relate?
God doesn’t minimize what we have done; He agrees that we are deeply stained.
We do not ever have to try to make our sins less then what they are; God realizes the ugly mess of our sinfulness… and still offers complete cleansing. We never have to hide what we have done or try to make it look better then what it is; we do not have to excuse it or even attempt to justify it. The deal we have received in His offering of forgiveness and grace is almost too good to be true!
God is looking for us to be honest about our souls depravity, not to pretend it doesn’t exist.
As I pondered this promise, I gazed out the window and realized that, though I believe in Christ’s forgiveness, there are still parts of me that felt forever stained.
Have you ever felt like things you have done or have been done to you have forever tarnished your heart?
If I may be genuinely transparent: I have done some awful things — unspeakable things. There are parts of my past for which I have not yet fully realized His complete forgiveness and still bear an incredible weight of shame.
David Guzik said in one of his commentaries, Intro to Isaiah, “Our good works can’t clean the stain. Our best intentions or promises can’t clean the stain. Our suffering or pain can’t clean the stain. Time can’t clean the stain. Death can’t clean the stain. Only the work of Jesus can make us white as snow!”
As I continued to stare out the window at the snow covered landscape, I became enamored with God’s word to His people in Isaiah.
You see, the beauty outside the window was solely a result of the blanketed covering of the white snow. The landscape underneath the snow did not cease to exist, it didn’t magically disappear, but it was covered in an all encompassing blanket of white.
Cookeville has special significance to my life. I graduated from college there, met my husband there, and even got married in that city.
Like many, my high school and college years were quite turbulent. I lived a lifestyle of obnoxious rebellion to God, running hard and fast into whatever trouble I could reasonably get into. The result of these years is a closet full of skeletons that I have spent years trying to forget, bury, and pretend do not exist.
I would be deeply ashamed to let anyone know the closet existed, much less open it up and examined the pile of bones behind the door. But, maybe you have a closet, too.
I realized I had never allowed the extravagance of God’s forgiveness to settle in my soul. I had given it lip service, talked the talk, memorize the verses, and even encourage others to walk in the truth, but the weight of shame of those years had never lifted from my soul. I could not outrun it, could not numb it, and sadly could not lock the door to those memories tight enough to keep them from escaping without warning.
“Come now, let’s settle this…”
That afternoon, I felt God was personally issuing an invitation to settle this shame in my soul. I took a drive around Cookeville. I went past my old apartment, past the coffee shop where I worked, and up and down many familiar streets. As I drove, I allowed the shocking reel of memories in my head to play and I agreed with God about the extent of my dreadfulness and depravity. I agreed with Him about the repulsive nature of many of my actions. I agreed with Him about my pathetic attempts to cover my own sin and my inability to move on and let them go.
The beauty of Christ’s forgiveness is very similar to blanketed snow because Jesus offers to cover the sins marked by stains in our souls with the purest of white.
The years of our rebellion will never cease to exist, but God wants to change the way we see them. We must focus on the beauty and provision of God’s grace instead of living in the shadows of our failures.
If there is something in your life that has haunted you, Jesus is offering you the same opportunity. He is inviting you as He invited me.
You are offered an all-encompassing forgiveness that will change the way you see your past.
You do not have to live in mourning under the weight of shame and regret any longer.
You do not have to wish away the mistakes and memories, and you certainly do not have to barricade closet doors in the hopes that your mess is never found out.
The precious blood of Jesus is enough and the blood covers it all.
It changes a hideous crimson stain to pure, white snow.
Jesus is willing to take the ugly of your life and cover it with the stunning beauty of grace. The invitation is yours; will you accept it?
“Come now, let’s settle this… Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.”