“It is finished!” What blessed words they are. Before Jesus breathed His last on the cross, He said, “It is finished!” His suffering had come to an end, yes. But not only that. With the end of His suffering on the cross came the end of our need to pay the penalty for our own sins. The end for any need for guilt and shame. Our death penalty was paid. Our sin record was expunged. It is finished! Amazing grace indeed!
Look at the cross. Listen to the cross. It’s crying out to a lost world, pleading Isaiah 1:18-19: “‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’”
It is our privilege and our duty to carry that beautiful message to a lost world. It is also our privilege and duty to remind ourselves of that message.
When my children were little, I took them to visit a friend who raised sheep. I was surprised that her sheep had covers on them, as they had plenty of wool to keep them warm. But the covers had nothing to do with keeping the sheep warm. They were to keep the wool clean and unmatted, so it was easier to work with once it was shorn. I could see the wool around the cover was tangled and mixed with mud, pieces of hay and who knows what else. But when my friend lifted the covers, I was amazed to see beautiful, white, clean, unmatted wool.
The difference was astonishing. It’s what Jesus did for us. Left to our own devices, we are soon dirty and tangled with the filth of this world. But covered by Jesus, we remain as white as snow, forgiven once and for all. “It is finished!”
When a co-worker shared an invitation to join in Lenten fasting and prayer times, I said I was going to fast from guilt during this Lent. It sounded funny. But I was serious about my desire and need to fast from guilt. You see guilt and fear have been close companions of mine since childhood. And though God has released me from the prison of fear, I still struggle with guilt. I still bow under the weight of the condemning lies Satan delights to whisper in my ear or, at times, scream in my face. I know that I am forgiven by God and that my slate has been wiped clean. Why, then, do I often feel so guilty? Why do I think of God as looking at me through the often displeased eyes of man? Why do I care what man thinks when my Savior, the only perfect person to ever walk this earth, loved me enough to die for me and calls me His pure, white, spotless bride?
And so during this Lenten season, I intentionally stopped myself each time I felt guilty about something. I analyzed whether I was hearing a loving God convict my spirit about something I had said or done or whether it was an overriding condemnation. It’s relatively easy to discern between God and Satan’s voices.
Satan spews condemnation.
God offers loving correction.
Satan speaks degradingly. (“How could you be so stupid?” “And you call yourself a Christian!”)
God speaks in specifics. (“Daughter, you know you need to make this right.”)
Satan spews hopelessness. (“You’ll never be good enough!)
God gives hope. (“Walk more closely with me the next time. I will help you to stand.”)
Satan reminds us of our imperfections.
God points us to the perfect one who covers all of our imperfections.
Satan is the father of lies. Lies can only be conquered with Truth. And so I reminded myself of His Truth every time I felt guilt. I recited Romans 8:1 repeatedly. I refused to allow myself to wallow in guilty feelings, bringing each matter before the Father immediately, making any amends I could for things I did which may have hurt others, etc. It was a very good practice. I did not do it perfectly. But it was a blessing to remind myself over and over again of the robes of righteousness I wear, of the Rock on which I stand.
I have always loved Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But I love it all the more when I remember that were no chapter breaks when Paul originally wrote Romans. It is one, long letter. Isn’t it beautiful to consider that Paul, probably the most effective teacher and missionary ever (and his work goes on!) shares honestly with us about his struggles with himself? Just like me, he struggles to do what is right. The good he wants to do, he doesn’t do. The bad he doesn’t want to do, he finds himself doing. He recognizes that there is a war going on inside of himself. He calls himself a wretched man and asks who will save him. And then the glorious truth, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” And he goes on in Chapter 8 to remind us that there is no condemnation for us.
For Jesus has covered our wretchedness! Hallelujah!
I wanted to use this time to seek freedom from guilt not only because it is a burden I would love to be free of. I also want this freedom, because I realize that when I allow myself to feel condemnation, I call Jesus a liar.
I say it is not finished. His payment was not enough. I look in the precious face of my savior and call him a liar. That is something I never want to do again.
As we approach the celebration of Resurrection Sunday, I invite you to ponder with me:
Do you ever call Jesus a liar by your actions?
Do you fear that all won’t work out for good for you?
Do you fear what man can do to you?
Do you make idols of worldly leaders, allowing them and their actions to determine how much peace you will have?
Do you condemn yourself or any other person God has already called guiltless because of Jesus’ covering?
Do you see something or someone as hopeless?
Is there something that causes you to despair or fear?
Is there something that causes you to beat yourself up?
Is there someone you struggle to love with His kind of unconditional love?
I invite you to leave all fear, all shame, all condemnation, all judgment at the cross.
It is finished, my friends!
“God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel” Colossians 1:19-23a.
–Penny J. Hood
cross picture Flickr David Michalczuk; sheep picture freefoto.com