Lay it down...

Romans 6:10, "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God."

Christ died, "once for all." When we read this passage we know it is saying something important but it seems very theological, very abstract. In context Paul is saying since Christ died for our sin and then rose again he cannot die again. The life he lives is with God. He's pointing this out because Christ is a prototype for all of us who have placed faith in him. If it is true for Christ it is true for us. We who are "born again" (John 3:3) have died to sin to be raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). We died to sin so that we can be alive to God (see Luke 15:24). But there's something else I want you to see. Christ died, "once for all." It may be clearer in Colossians 2:13, "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins..." All our sins... "All." That's a powerful word. It includes the sins of your past. It includes the sins of your present. It even includes the sins of your future. OK, enough theology. What does it mean?

Steve Brown relates it this way: "Early in my ministry I counseled a woman who, some twenty years before, had been unfaithful to her husband. For years that sin had haunted her. I was the first person she had ever told about it. After we talked and prayed for a long time, I recommended she tell her husband. (That, by the way, isn't always the advice I give. In this case, I knew the woman's husband and knew that her revelation, after the initial shock, would probably strengthen their marriage.) It wasn't easy for her, but she promised she would tell him. "Pastor," she said, "I trust you enough to do what you ask, but if my marriage falls apart as a result, I want you to know I'm going to blame you." She didn't smile when she said that, either.

That's when I commenced to pray with a high degree of seriousness. (I pray best when I'm scared.) "Father," I prayed, "if I gave her dumb advice, forgive me and clean up my mess." I saw her the next day, and she looked fifteen years younger. "What happened?" I asked. "When I told him," she exclaimed, "he replied that he had known about the incident for twenty years and was just waiting for me to tell him so he could tell me how much he loved me!" And then she started to laugh. "He forgave me twenty years ago, and I've been needlessly carrying all this guilt for all these years!" [Steve Brown, When Being Good Isn't Enough (Lucid Books, 2014), pp. 10-11.]

Unconfessed sin is like a weight hanging around your neck. Whether we realize it or not it drags us down and blocks our relationship with God. We may not want to face it. It may seem too raw or painful to have to look our failures in the face and name them. Yet, when we finally take it to God and confess it before Him; when we lay our sins at the foot of the cross, we walk away feeling younger and free. The irony is that the sin has already been forgiven, paid for, punished on the cross in Christ and all we have to do to lay that burden down is ask for what we already have—forgiveness. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Lay down that burden. God is waiting to tell you He's already forgiven it and He loves you despite any and all your failures.

Father: We confess to you we fail and make mistakes. We accept the forgiveness, paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross when he died, "once and for all." You have taken our sins away, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and we are free. Help us to live like it. In Jesus, amen.