In the Bible it is written, “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” (Ja 4:9) What a strange command! Strange indeed … at least to those who do not know, from practical experience, the beautiful rhythms of God.
But why would God command His children to be afflicted? Is God, in fact, giving us a specific command to do this? Are we to do it all the time? If not, when and how? How is this related to humility, as He follows with here: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (vs 10)
There is, actually, an annual command to afflict our souls: it is given to God’s people in Leviticus 16, which describes the annual Day of Atonement. “And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you.” (vs 29) As Gentiles are grafted into the body of Messiah along with Jews, we are all called together to afflict our souls on this day, the tenth day of the seventh month, in every year — forever, as an annual reminder of sin. We no longer have a temple and a priesthood with us to carry out the physical details, but in the Spirit we are called to do what we are able to do.
This day is not, we must initially observe, a day for us to repent, as our Jewish brothers have suggested for quite some time now, for to set aside any particular day for repentance is to lessen the urgency and immediacy of the need for repentance on any other day. As if we, who are prone from time to time to ingest poison, should designate a day to take an antidote. Let there be no such day! Let us take the antidote whenever we are in need of it, immediately, as promptly as it is needed. If you ever find sin in your heart, even the least tincture of it, do not wait for one second to repent and turn away from it. Never, ever say, “I will repent tomorrow,” or “I will repent if such and such,” or “when so and so.” Nay, do not let the poison of sin dwell within you unchecked and untamed for even an instant. Root it out with all sincerity whenever you notice it within … never, ever ceremonialize holiness, or compartmentalize it. Do not even think this way, for true holiness cannot be ritualized in any manner. If repentance does not spring from the heart as a gift of God at the very instant of sin, then the soul is wretched indeed.
Secondly, this annual reminder of the dreadfulness of sin is a shadow of things to come. “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Co 2:16-17) These annual seasons are given to us by God to get us into a rhythm of thinking about Him and of His ways. There are seven of these times in every calendar year, and they are, He says, “shadows,” bearing some small likeness to a mysterious reality which God would have us ponder every year.
The first four of these holy times, which occur in the spring of each year, were evidently literally fulfilled by Jesus Christ, each on the very day of their observance, exactly as He had prescribed. Those Jews who were being obedient to congregate together in Jerusalem at the temple on these occasions, as God had instructed them, observed the literal fulfillment of these three shadows in their reality: Jesus Christ. He was crucified on Passover, raised from the dead on Firstfruits, began the perpetual cleansing of His Bride from deceptions, ignorance and worldly affections during that first week of Unleavened Bread, and sent His Spirit to empower His people for the global harvesting of souls on Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks.
Now there are evidently three holy times in the year which remain unfulfilled … being shadows of things still yet to come. The fall season begins with the blowing of Trumpets on a day of shouting, followed by a day of affliction and Atonement, judgement and cleansing, and finally a week of dwelling in Tabernacles with God in joy. It is not really much of a stretch for the instructed believer to begin to see God’s pattern of future things here, and to begin to align himself with them. “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1Th 5:4) Might we do well to keep these appointed times, as well as we are able to keep them, asking God to align us with His paradigm, with His plans and with His ways? How could we be amiss in this, so long as we do it for the purpose He intended, and with a humble, hungry heart?
God’s ways are good, very good. “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Ro 7:12) “His commandments are not grievous.” (1Jn 5:3) We must be taught this and reminded of it constantly, for our “carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Ro 8:7) Any soul that begins to understand this concept will begin as well to obey whatever laws of God that he can. It is the Law of God that exposes our carnal mind, so to obey the Law is to agitate the flesh and starve it.
This obedience is not, make no mistake, so that we may earn our way into God’s favor, for that motivation is a despicable one as well as an infeasible one. Should the vile wretch stumble into the presence of the King after merely dousing a little perfume? Ah! the filth and the putrefying sores reek to high heaven, and we would daub them with a little superficial disguise! The flesh knows no depth of depravity… and will thus fall in proud ritual as far and as completely as God will let it. No! Away with such nonsense! Anything but the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ as the ground of approach to a holy God will put one into a most serious danger. As the sons of Aaron were destroyed in offering strange fire before the Lord, so do those who presume to come into the very Holy of Holies without the blood of a spotless Lamb, the Lamb which takes away the sin of the world, find themselves drunk with the flames of the wrath of almighty God. No, such foolishness is not of the chosen ones.
But the elect are indeed chosen unto obedience (1Pe 1:2), not in order to gain God’s favor, but because they already have it and want to walk worthy of that calling. God’s Law is constantly converting the soul (Ps 19:7) of the elect, converting it from the image of the earthy to the image of the heavenly, renewing the spirit of the mind so that we might prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Ro 12:1-2)
So, let us, with the help of God’s Spirit, afflict our souls as He has commanded. If it is for you now, today, as it is for me, the seventh day of the tenth month, so much the better. If so, then we may ask in faith, because we have a command to follow and we can be sure that as we ask God to help us obey His command that He most surely will, in the best way, according to our current frame and weakness. He is good, all the time, even when He calls us to afflict our souls.
The first step in afflicting our souls must be to draw close to God in prayer. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.” (Ja 5:13) As we proceed to afflict ourselves, and thereby actually be in a state of affliction by definition, we must immediately move toward God, for to be afflicted apart from God is to experience the sorrow of the world, an unhealthy sorrow, which produces death. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2Co 7:10) We do not want to be sorrowful as the world is sorrowful, brooding in unhappiness because we have been inconvenienced or wronged. This kind of sorrow produces a kind of death: an alienation from God and others, separating us from wholesome community, and an extinguishing of the light of our countenance. God says that wholesome healthy sorrow leads to and promotes repentance, or the changing of the mind about sin and its nature. And such repentance leads to salvation or deliverance from the power of sin, a setting of the heart free from the lies of the enemy to walk in truth and joy. Thus, godly sorrow tends to expose the lies that hold us in bondage and leads us to reject them and find God’s freedom. This is the renewing of the heart in the ways of God. So, godly sorrow leads to repentance, but is not in itself, as we have noted, actually the same as repentance.
This which we pursue now, a godly self affliction, thus evidently involves a godly sorrowing. The Day of Atonement, a special day in which we are commanded to afflict our souls, is also a day in which we are acutely focused on God’s dealing with our sin. It is natural then on this day that we sorrow over sin, sin in ourselves and in others.
Sorrowing over sin in ourselves ought to be, for the healthy believer, in the context of sins over which we have no evident control. It is not some ongoing willful disobedience in our hearts over which we will afflict our souls now… for there is to be none of that in us already. If, perchance such sin actually is there for us, then moving ourselves in this manner will very certainly expose these kinds of sins first, and we ought by all means sorrow after a godly sort until we be done with it. It is then that we as believers will be more or less on a common plane in our affliction, we will sorrow over the rest of our sin … sin over which we are unable to repent — that inner corruption in the heart of every man that constantly resists the will of God and spews forth all sorts of blasphemy and rebellion and perversion. This is the flesh in us, and in it dwells no good thing. (Ro 7:18)
We will not stop with our own sin though … we will draw close to God and sorrow with Him over the sin we see all about us, all of the brokenness and suffering and corruption that permeates and fills the entire world in which we live and breathe every day. Let us, as God has commanded us, take the time to hate this sin in ourselves and others, to loathe it, to contemplate it until we are afflicted in it along with our God
Yes, let us, very briefly, for at least one day every year, draw close to the suffering heart of God and ask Him to let us taste His immense suffering with Him. Let us set apart a special time, as God has appointed us, to feel the abomination of sin, the weight of it, the loathesomness of it. Let us taste its bitterness along with a pure and holy God, while we are close to His breast and protected by His Spirit, Who on this day, as well as on every other day of every single year, for now anyway, must endure Sin’s bitter presence. Only in the bosom of a loving Father dare anyone go here… for it is insanity to try it from anywhere else. Let me explain.
Many years ago I was called by a friend to repent of something that he thought was a sin, but I did not think so at the time. Though I disagreed with him, there was certainly a lot of sin in my life that I could recognize, though it was not of a willful sort over which I knew how to repent. I therefore thought to use the occasion to ask God to show me my sin in a deeper way: I opened my heart to God and asked him to show me what sin was, to help me see it from His perspective. He did. The following is an account of what happened.
The first thing that happened after committing myself to focus on my sin in this way was that I began to see that context would never justify any sin before the Lord, though this is not the natural way with Man and Man labels this … “unfair.” Sin is sin … period. I could see that if this perspective was right, it made no difference whether I was capable of avoiding such sin, or whether it seemed unfair for the Lord to require me to depart from it.
Immediately after making this mental assent, I began to feel the Lord at work in me in a unique and precious way as a concern whelmed within my soul that I, my old man, was indeed corrupt, polluted, and exposed before my God in a way I had never imagined. It was evening, and as I lay down to pray myself to sleep, I felt a mild sadness come over me as I contemplated my sinful nature. It was not a deeply unusual sadness, yet I felt it was a new and wholesome thing in me and I began to work with it in my spirit, cooperating with it and meditating on thoughts to promote this mild sadness in my soul.
It was not long before the sadness deepened in me and I was moved to sleeplessness for well over an hour. Quiet tears flowed freely as I thought about several occasions where I had “missed the mark,” a haughty glance, a heightened temper, fear of man, murmuring, lazy indulgences, loving the things of this world, dwelling a little too long at the sight of a beautiful woman … that relentless insatiable, implacable appetite for anything but God. I felt that God was at work, in my ignorance, in my feeble attempt to obey: my willingness to yield to Him beyond my own understanding was the occasion for God to work something profound in me.
About midnight I felt compelled to rise and spend the remainder of the night in prayer, hoping that God Himself would do a real work of revival in me. I rose, dressed, and left the house to take a walk with the Lord. By about 1:30 a.m. I began to feel hopelessly tired and began to think about my responsibilities for the next day. I wanted to stay up all night and pray, somehow perhaps to earn this gift from my Father by some sort of self-inflicted sleeplessness, but I knew it was no use. I went back home and fell asleep on the floor, setting an alarm to wake me in time for a 6 a.m. prayer meeting the following Tuesday morning.
I awoke at 5:30 with my alarm, my heart still heavily longing for a work of God in my soul. I knew this was not something that I would be able to produce in myself and I was not sure my Father was willing to give it to me. It was only a matter of mechanical obedience to Him at the time, but it was right—I knew it was right—and I wanted it.
I arrived at the prayer meeting with a feeling of vulnerability and shame … my friend would be there, thinking I was in sin. I also now sensed more than ever that I actually was, but not of a willful, arrogant sort… I was beginning to taste my sin on a new level.
I entered the prayer room and sat down around a large table with the others who had arrived, unable to shake the melancholy—wanting to at first, but then accepting it and resigning myself to it. I sat quietly, while the others talked and joked, as we waited for the rest of the saints to arrive. My friend was not there at first but arrived shortly after I did. His presence troubled me as we greeted. I kept my head down much of the time, not wanting to look at my brothers and sisters, and wished that we would just begin praying. They left me alone pretty much, except for one question about my continued interest in coming to the prayer meetings (I could no longer attend church and remain at peace with a particular congregant, who was seeking to turn the church against me), which I answered affirmatively but with some obvious hesitancy. My soul was grieved and they could sense it. They all knew about the conflict, about the accusations, but I had been normally quite cheerful, thankful, and positive through it all—not troubled like this.
I was relieved when we began to pray and I followed along in my spirit, though I did not feel much like praying aloud. I thought I would be functional in the meeting even though I felt burdened and sad. Seconds after the first prayer began, however, a more powerful sense of sadness came over me. The pain and humiliation of having such a struggle manipulated by brothers in public began to touch me deeply. This surprised me, but the sadness was manageable and I felt it was healthy somehow. There were no words or past events particularly connected with the emotion; it was a pure, disconnected sort of sadness and I felt like releasing myself to it and going along with it for a while as I focused on the prayers of the others.
Perhaps a minute or two passed and the sorrow became more intense. I became unable to follow along with the others in their prayers and began to focus on the wrongs that I had committed, the lack of dignity and self-control, on the pain of my loneliness, and on the apparent hopelessness of the situation. The sadness quickly overwhelmed my spirit and I began to weep quietly in my seat. It was easy to control my body — I was not making any noise so I felt no one would notice. With the sadness there was a quiet stillness in my soul before my God and I could not speak to Him: I just sat in His presence and hurt, looking for His face and longing for His touch.
The sadness continued to deepen and it moved me to the point where I began to breathe in a labored, heavy sobbing. My sinuses began to fill and drain and my body began to shake. The sorrow came in waves and I would tense every muscle to keep control of my body as the sadness peaked in me. Doubtless, everyone in the room was aware of my pain at this point, and several began to pray out loud for me. The waves of sorrow would come and go almost rhythmically as I would alternate between focusing on my sin and feeling startled at the depth of my sorrow. I was so taken by this turn in my soul that I was beyond embarrassment. The sorrow was so deep, pure and full that it occupied all of my senses when it peaked in its rhythm.
This rhythmic, powerful sadness continued for the rest of the prayer meeting (perhaps 20 to 30 minutes), with each wave of sadness apparently getting stronger and deeper—like labor contractions in the process of childbirth. I very nearly got up and left the room several times during the time of prayer as I felt that I would be unable to keep from groaning out loud and I did not want to disturb the others any more than I already was. I was just barely able to keep a lid on it. My whole body was shaking at times, my face buried tightly either in my arms or in my hands, sometimes rocking up and down in my chair to try to disperse the pain.
Finally, the others finished praying and began to chatter quietly. I felt like I was just beginning in my time before the Lord and I had no intention of leaving. I could not move or speak: I kept my face buried in my arms on the table, continued in a quiet weeping, and waited to see what would happen next. I felt a strong hug about my head and arms from one of the brothers as he asked me what was going on. I said, quietly sobbing, “I don’t know.”
“Do you want to join us for breakfast?” he inquired (as was our usual custom after prayer meeting).
I responded, choked with emotion, “I can’t.”
He asked again, “Will you be alright?”
I said simply, “I don’t know.” I really didn’t know.
He gave me a big squeeze and backed away. The others began to leave and soon the room was quiet. I heard their voices moving down the hall and out toward the front door of the building. The sorrow continued relentlessly and I struggled to manage it, considering that I might be able to compose myself enough to join the group at our customary restaurant when I finished praying.
As soon as the building emptied I found I could no longer control the longing to groan out loud before the Lord. I began to moan and groan; the sadness and grief and pain were startling and overwhelming. I began to feel worse and worse about my sin and I could see plainly that it was sin against the Lord as well, in fact I began to see that all my sin was primarily against Him. The intensity of the sorrow continued to increase until I literally had to cry out at the top of my lungs in order to accommodate it. I began to sweat profusely, gripping my chair madly and tossing about in it. I could see my sin in all of its blackness and it was breaking me.
The sorrow was a clean sorrow, a healthy sorrow, a godly sorrow. I knew it was from the Lord and that His presence was very real in me and about me. I suppose that I would have seemed to an onlooker to be completely insane, but my mind was alert, sharp and clear. Had anyone approached and asked me if I was OK, I would have nodded a hearty, “Yes!”. I was not grieving about the consequences of my sin, I was grieving over the very sin itself: sin against others, sin against my Father.
For the first time in my life, I could see sin as a distinct entity in me. I could sense the flesh, the old man, as a detestable thing before the Lord. I felt no kinship to it, no acceptance of it, no toleration of it, no room for it. I could not escape the sin within me and I became violently and passionately loathsome of it. It was so absolutely intolerable to be attached to it in me that all I could do was scream, yet there was a wholesomeness about the whole experience that made me want to experience more. This continued for the better part of an hour, I suppose, with no relief whatever.
Finally, it seemed as if the Lord stepped back and asked me if I had had enough. I boldly protested His retreat from me and demanded that He give me more and work it more deeply in me. I had much more physical strength left and was reminded of David weeping until he had no more power to weep. I wanted this.
The sorrow came again as a second season began in me, but this time there was a sharpness to it that I simply cannot describe. I could feel God’s hatred for sin in a way that deeply startled and awed me. I sensed at once that I might easily break or snap mentally, becoming insane under the weight of this hatred, and begged for His divine protection of my mind and spirit. Yet, I wanted more. This He did: He covered my spirit somehow and began to pour out in me His hatred of sin.
My whole being—my body, soul, and spirit—began to writhe in an utter abhorrence of my sinful self and all that is sin. It was all I could do to remain seated. I was yelling with all of my strength and sweating profusely. Tears literally poured out of me, coursing down my face and neck. I reeled under the awesome weight of it in a way that I simply cannot describe. Waves of liquid sorrow flowed over and through me in an utter hatred of the sin within and about me.
At one point I remembered the testimony of Norman Grubb, which I had previously received with much delight, that he gave when asked if he ever thought about himself much. As I was told, his response was that from time to time he would consider himself, laugh lightly for a moment, and then go back to thinking about the Lord. Now, however, this thought deeply appalled me. For the life of me, I could not imagine how anyone could take their sin so lightly that they could do anything but weep desperately over it, much less chuckle and laugh. The thought moved me repeatedly to a desperate wailing before my Father.
Sin is so ugly, so devastating, so… so vile, so abominable, so loathsome, so sick. It was my sin, it was your sin, it was everyone’s sin, it is all so detestable. No place in the universe could be found to put it, no place far enough away, no place to hide it or cover it up. I felt bad and broken that God had to put up with me, interact with me, tolerate the presence of sin in me or in anyone else. I felt so badly for Him … I groaned for Him. He is so beautiful, so pure, He ought not to have to endure this—to be grieved like this in His dealings with me, with us. God’s pain in tolerating the presence of sin in His universe, especially in His bride, was overwhelming to me.
When those who had left for breakfast began to return about 8:30 or 9:00, I was again startled. I thought for sure that the presence of others in the building would quench my spirit and that I would be embarrassed to continue on before the Lord in all this wailing, yelling, and groaning. The opposite, however, occurred.
When I heard the door squeak and someone enter the building, I was immediately moved by the presence of more sin nearby. To be aware of the physical presence of another sinner in my vicinity was absolutely unacceptable and intolerable. I did not want to accept the presence of sin in me or in anyone else. I did not want to nurse it, tolerate it, deal with it, interact with it, or let it live.
I would contemplate my own sinfulness before Him and I would be moved to a screaming yell under the weight of it. I would also contemplate the sin principle in the church, and it seemed to move me just as deeply and strongly. I sensed from within that what I felt was the Holy Spirit’s grief toward sin, or some small measure of His grief. It was as if He were groaning and grieving through me, as if I were His body, His flesh, His bones — as if He were one and the same with my spirit. I continued to yell, to cry out to God, and to call out to Him in this manner for about another hour, near as I can tell.
Then my physical strength began to fade, and the screaming faded again into groans. At this point I was hoarse, damp from sweat and tears, and very hot. I finally noticed that my arms and legs were numb and I became concerned for my physical well-being. Amid my groaning, I tried to rise from my chair to let some circulation into my legs but I could not stand. I propped myself up with both arms on a table near my chair and then laid my torso across it for a minute or two. This did not help, so I felt behind me for a couch against the wall, my eyes remaining closed as I continued to groan, cry, and yell weakly before the Lord. I felt that I had but little strength left to cry as my body was beginning to fatigue severely, but the emotional intensity remained in my soul and spirit. I collapsed on the couch behind me and continued to cry out to my Father in a deep, lively pain.
I began to speak with Him, finally, asking Him how He managed to put up with us sinners and yet to love us so. I could not put the two ideas together in my mind at all, and was completely stunned by His ability to do this. He then gently reminded me that He not only loves me, but that He became sin for me!
I cannot tell you fully what this did in me. My whole body jerked and stiffened at the realization of it as my back arched and a long, loud cry gushed out of me. I literally thought that I was going to die and I did not care.
How could GOD ever do such a thing as to become this… this detestable, violently twisted, perverted, gruesome, hideous, grotesque, abominable…! Oh! I cannot express to you how this tortured and turned like a knife in my soul! I reeled under its relentless cataclysmic significance. How could Jesus Christ, this pure, majestic, awesome and infinitely holy Being, ever become … SIN! How could He take this into His bosom and internalize it as His very essence for even a moment?
The ripping, shattering, and disarraying of my soul was indescribable. I finally became afraid for my sanity and began to hesitate momentarily in my desire for more revelation. I was stunned, undone and speechless. I began to understand the context and impact of, “My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1, Mt 27:46) I could feel it in the darkest and most hidden places of my being — I was completely filled with it.
I had had enough: I sincerely asked God to kill me. I could not live any more with such intimate knowledge and keen awareness of my sin and what it had done to my beloved Christ Jesus — what He became because of me. I knew that He would either have to kill me, or He would have to release me from this stunning perception to my dullness again. I would never be able to function normally as long as I was aware of my sin with this type of intensity. Yet, I preferred death to callousness toward the true nature of my sin again; I requested death sincerely before Him. I knew He would eventually deliver me from the presence of sin, and I felt that this was as good a time as ever: there could be no better way to die.
I also realized that when God touches a man, the poor little guy smokes. I was being consumed before God by His gentle, simple revelations to me. We are so fragile, so pitiful, so senseless, so wretched, so miserable, so poor, so blind, so naked before Him! All of our pomp and pride and vanity and conceit is such nonsense! Such utter nonsense! Surely every man walks in a vain show. We are altogether vanity; in our best state we are less than emptiness and vanity. None of us has any righteousness of our own before Him, nothing to boast of, nothing to be proud of, nothing to hide behind, no excuses to present, no alibis, no context to justify or ameliorate the depth and blackness of our sin! We are all as an unclean thing, and all our “righteousnesses” are as filthy, detestably filthy rags. Death seemed like an appropriate closure for me and my pitiful life right then.
Finally, I found no more strength to cry; God did not seem interested in taking me home just yet, and so I began, somehow, to laugh. Intense emotions still ran fervently through my body but the sorrow had blended with a bittersweet joy. I laughed and reveled in the awesome purity of our God, and in His incredible ability to tolerate the presence of sin in His creation as He has through these ages. I laughed in utter scorn at the absurdity of sin, at the deception of it, at its irrationality, at its unreasonableness. I finally had to laugh at myself in scorn. It seemed so ludicrous that I, such a sinner, could ever be proud, self-righteous, arrogant, think myself strong, demand any supposed rights, or complain in my aloneness because I felt chained to some sort of sex drive. Disgusted, I turned my thoughts again to the comfort of my Father’s presence in me, thanking Him for His work in me, His toleration of me, His indescribable love for me, and began enjoying an exhilarating cleanness of spirit in Him that I had never known before.
I began to love Him, to caress Him in my spirit, to worship and magnify Him, to warmly rejoice in His love for me. We were one and we would always be one. I was safe, secure, lovingly scourged into a broken wholeness, and planted squarely and eternally in the bosom of my Father.
I began to relax deeply and to feel my soul move strangely and restlessly in my bosom, as if I were about to sleep in death. This instinctively alarmed me at first and I tried to sit up, but I could not. I did not fear death, and I had asked for it just moments before, but somehow when I was face to face with it, I could not just lie there and let it take me. The keenness of the revelation had already begun to dissipate to the point that I could function mentally again and I began sincerely to struggle to recover myself and to regain my strength. Soon I felt safe again in my vitals, beyond the sleep of death, and released myself to a quiet, wakeful stillness in the Lord.
The pain and sorrow had been displaced by worship. A gentle, peaceful rest had come over me and I lay completely motionless and quiet for some time more. My mouth was completely parched, I felt feverish, aching, and weak. After feeling some little physical strength restored, I tossed and turned periodically to further revive myself. Finally, I was able to sit up enough to get my watch and glasses (which I had obviously removed at some point, but I could not remember when). It was 10:30 a.m. or so, as best I remember. After feeling somewhat more of my strength return, I rose, got something to eat, and drove to my lodging to take a nap.
I feel God is pleased for me to share this with you in order to encourage you to ask Him to show you your own sin, to help you obey Him in afflicting your soul at least one day every year, on the Day of Atonement, the day which He set aside for us to do this. Your sin is bigger, blacker, and more hideous than you can ever imagine in your own strength … but you should try to imagine it, to behold it, when He bids you to. If it’s now out of season on the biblical calendar, perhaps God would be pleased to call you to it anyway… just to bless you. But be careful… this is not for us to wear like a badge, to brag about: if God is pleased to enable you here, He just might bring you to the end of yourself — you simply cannot function when He opens your eyes to see yourself in all of your sinful depravity. Once you see it, you will not take sin lightly again. I do not know if I really saw my sin in all of its fullness or not. I do suppose that it would probably have literally killed me if I had. I saw enough of it to change me. I want this for others as well.
We ought not to take sin lightly. We ought not to justify it with any context or excuses that would try to make it seem less than it really is. When I feel tempted or provoked to sin, it only becomes apparent that sin has been in me and part of me all along. That does not make my sin any more tolerable or any less grievous.
There is no context for sin, there is no excuse for it, there is no way to make it pretty, there is no way to take the ugliness out of it: it is ugliness.
I am forgiven; I have known this for a long time. Yet I had no idea that I had been forgiven of so much! In Jesus Christ I feel whole and pure before my heavenly Father. Continue to work in me, Father, and to reveal Your lovely Self to me. I have so much more to learn from You and in You … in You — what an awesome privilege to be in You, for You to accept me into Your own holy Being as a very part of Yourself!
Oh! You are so incredibly awesome! I can see now how far I have fallen; I want to see how far I have been raised in Christ—how much I am loved by You. Those who see more accurately how much they have been forgiven, the same love You and others more deeply, earnestly and intensely. I hear that when You reveal Your love to a man, that revelation can bring a soul near death too. Our little frames of dust and clay cannot bear the full weight of Your love any more than they can bear the weight of their own sin. I want this as well, Abba … Papa. I want to see your love as I have seen my sin; I want them both—side by side.
The spirit of revival begins with a spirit of prayerful repentance, a genuine seeking of God’s Face and Heart. He is grieved every day with sin, mine and yours. Let us not forget to suffer with Him in this. It is my desire to continue with the Lord in similar experiences of brokenness over my own sin, and over the sin in His church, and to see Him bring more of His children to an entrance into this marvelous and mysterious grace: godly sorrow over sin working repentance and holy affliction in us to the glory of our loving, sinless, holy God.