They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. 2 Peter 2:13-16 (NIV).
Peter doesn’t have kind words for people who have willfully indulged in their sins. I was one of them, for a very long time. I think about that now, and I’m ashamed. Even as I’m so imperfect now, I’m ashamed of who I was, what I said and did, ashamed to have hurt others. Ashamed to have dishonored God and my family and myself.
Here’s the kicker: even though I haven’t done such things in years, I did them. I sometimes still think of them. Sometimes, the lust creeps back into my mind. Sometimes the bad language still seeps out of my mouth. Sometimes I’m still immature and intolerant and angry. I’m still sinful. On my own, I still don’t deserve Jesus’ forgiveness. I recognize it, am sorry for it, wish I could make amends for it.
But I can’t. And neither can you. And, best of all, Jesus knows it. He recognizes it. He and only He makes you and I righteous. On our own, we aren’t righteous, but with Him covering us, He makes us worthy, makes us righteous. On our own, like Peter says, we’re like Balaam, who led the Israelites astray only to be rebuked – and saved – by his donkey. We’re foolish, pursuing our own brand of wisdom until reality smacks us in the head to get our attention. With Balaam, it was a donkey, swerving off the road to avoid God’s avenging angel, who Balaam couldn’t see.
Yet with us, it’s that righteousness. Jesus forgave us. He took away our sin and the death-consequence for it. We won’t spend eternity apart from Him, and that eternity begins now. More, when taking away our sin, He took away our shame, our guilt, our self-punishment. When those bubble up, He beckons us to think of Him, of the nail marks in His hands, of all He did to build up His church, of His solid love.
In the long run, it’s better to cling to that than the sadness of what’s passed.
For further reading: Numbers 22:4-30, Deuteronomy 23:4, Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 11:20-21, Ephesians 2:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:7, James 1:8, Jude 12, Revelation 2:14, 2 Peter 2:17
Lord Jesus, always remind me of Your unfailing love and sacrifice for me. Welcome me home when I forget these things.
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