I have a hard time watching dramatic television. In truth, I have a hard time watching goofy television. My wife makes fun of me because I have to get up and leave the room so often during episodes of television shows. The reason is because I cannot stand to watch people do things that will lead to awkward or humiliating consequences, even in a comedic situation.
Unfortunately for me, I have 1,000 such scenarios stored in my memory banks. Not from silly things on TV, but episodes from my past that I have grown to regret. I regret them because of the shame they have brought to me and to my Lord; I regret them because of the selfish sin that prompted the actions. Yes, I am forgiven, but that doesn't stop the squirm when a fresh re-run of my iniquity passes through my mind.
I have come to see these episodes as chances at rehabilitation. Instead of immediately switching channels in my mind, I allow myself to remember the humiliation that sin brings. I try to feel the remorse now that I should have felt then, and I repent that I ever did such a deed or thought such a thought. I believe that this can be a healthy exercise, as long as we remember in view of Christ's atonement and our justification.
Augustine did this, and one particular thing he remembered was a vivid picture for me of the pre-salvation love of sin for sin's sake and the remorse and repentance of the born-again Christian. Augustine recalled a time in his youth when he and some of his friends had stolen some fruit out of a neighbor's tree. Augustine said that he stole the fruit despite the fact that he had better fruit at his home. He wasn't even hungry when he did the deed. Indeed, they wound up feeding most of the fruit to pigs. So why had he stolen the fruit? He could only conclude that he stole the fruit because he loved sin. He stole the fruit, not for the sake of fruit, but to satisfy his craving to do evil.
Sometimes Christians feel overwhelmed by past sin. For the record, I think that this can be a good thing. Anytime we begin to realize that we are unworthy of grace and are, at heart, brazen sinners, we have arrived at a pivotal, life-changing truth. When we realize that grace can reach us there, even in the slop-pit of our own making, we begin to see the beauty of a crucified Savior.
So when those embarrassing re-runs pass through my mind, I feel the shame afresh. This helps me in two ways: It reminds me of the shame of wickedness, thereby cautioning me against committing the same wickedness. Secondly, it reminds me that I have a great Savior. When I committed those foul deeds, I relished my sin. Now, I am ashamed, deeply ashamed, and I pray to be even more so. That, my friends, is a work that only grace can bring.
I remember my iniquity, but I do not linger on it. I leave that valley of shadow as many other have before me. I'll let my thought on the matter be expressed in the words of Horatio Spafford, who said it much better than I ever could:
My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
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