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Living in the Light

 

 

Filtering by Tag: sin

Blank Slate

Jessalyn Hutto

Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to push the reset button? Or have you perhaps had one of those moments where you thought to yourself, oh dear, if I could just rewind a few minutes and take back the words I just said... the face I just made... the bad attitude I just betrayed...? 

I know I have.

In fact, sometimes it can seem like my life is made up of an ever flowing cascade of regrettable moments. Times when I should have been quiet rather than opinionated. Days when I should have slowed down and resisted the agitation of rushing. Moments where I should have chosen peace over pride.

My husband and I have often looked at one another, as tempers begin to rise and the agitation begins to fester, and called an audible, "whoa," to our galloping emotions. "Can we just start this over? Forgive each other and start over? Can we give each other that grace?"

And in those blessed moments when we are able to deny our flesh and seek unity above selfishness, we praise God for the gift of forgiveness.

Because forgiveness -true forgiveness - frees you to live joyfully and abundantly without the guilt of the past failures holding you captive.

It gives the paralytic the ability to walk.

I think that's why we relish the idea of a new year. Realistically, nothing changes between the second that splits December 31st and January 1st, but mentally,  as a culture, we've signed a communal agreement saying that in the click of a clock's minute hand we are all allowed the grace of beginning a new chapter in our lives.

There is a metaphorical turning of the page.

A new door opened.

A previous year's slate wiped clean.

And it is this idea of a fresh, blank slate that is so appealing to us as we set about making our new year's resolutions - this feeling that we can somehow wipe the sins of last year from our memories. There's a joy found in packing up all those sins and mistakes into a little box labeled "past" and exchanging them for a fresh, empty box that shines with the excitement of "endless possibilities."

Who knows what we can accomplish in the new year - what demons we may slay? 

And so, the new year provides a "reset" option for many of us. It gives us the feeling that we can begin again with a blank slate, and that blank slate gives us the motivation necessary to scale the intimidating mountains on the new year's horizon.

It's remarkable.

In a sense, we are offering ourselves absolution for our past failures and the freedom to live unhindered by them in the future.

The problem is, the absolution we grant has no actual meaning.

It isn't real and it isn't lasting.

Poor creatures that we are, no sooner has January faded into the mist of our memories than we find ourselves reverting back to the overeating, the disorganization, the negative attitude, or whatever other vice has plagued us over the years. We come down from our New Year's high and realize that we are still the same sinners who struggle every day to deny our sinful tendencies.

We find that the guilt from our past continues to cripple us and we're forced to stare again and again into mirrors that betray the broken, messed up people we've always been. 

Sadly, after all the hype and optimism of January 1st fades away we are left with little but a renewed sense of our own weakness.

For as long as we seek absolution (and therefore, motivation) from within, we will never find true rest and lasting joy.

Abundant life will continue to allude us.

But this is not to be so for the Christian, because the Christian's absolution is not found within, but rather, it is found in Christ.

It is real; it is concrete; it is eternal. 

In Christ, we are not weak and weary sinners who've been overcome by our iniquities, but rather, we are triumphant, risen saints. We are declared righteous and holy. In Christ's strength we are made strong.

What joy is experienced by those who've been saved by the blood of the cross, whether it is 11:59 p.m. on December 31st or 12 a.m. on  January 1st! What freedom there is for the sinner whose hope is not in what she can accomplish, but instead in what her Savior has already finished! She is not enslaved by her past because the Lord has wiped all of her sins away. Truly, it doesn't matter to her if it is the the crisp, hopeful morning of a new year or a disillusioned  summer afternoon when all of her well-meaning resolutions have gone to pot.

Her hope is not in herself, but in the Lord.

She knows that her Redeemer came so that she might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Every. day. of the year.

"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." -Romans 4:7&8

Can we say this enough?

Blessed are we, dear sisters!

Our sins are not tallied against us.

Our slates are clean - forever!

All because the Clean One made himself dirty with our sins. 

Let us not look inward this year, but instead, let us look upward toward our God in Heaven who loves us, cleanses us, and teaches us to walk in his ways by the power of his Spirit.

"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." -Hebrews 10:14

For by a single offering, we were made free.

Let us live in the joy and the hope of that freedom.

Happy New Year... Happy eternity!

When Sins Go Public

Jessalyn Hutto

There was once a king.

He was admired by all for his wisdom, courage, and devotion to the Lord.

He was an accomplished musician, a brave soldier, and a spiritual leader to his people.

And then one day he found himself caught in a terrible web of sin.

He became infatuated with another man's wife and almost before he knew what had happened, he'd used his power and influence to take this woman as his own. Enjoying the taste of this fruit as much for its forbidden nature as for its beauty.

Fearing that his sin would come to light and that all would know of their king's disgusting fall into sexual immorality, he began to grasp at ways to keep it hidden. When nothing else seemed to work - no lie and no clever scheme - he foolishly multiplied his guilt by doing the only thing he believed would secure the safety of his secret: He used his station as sovereign to secure the death of his mistress' husband.

And so the king became an adulterer who became a murderer.

If not for the grace of his God, he would have continued on this dark path: for leaving it would have meant being found out for what he truly was.

But the Lord was kind to the king and did not allow his sins to remain hidden - rotting away at his soul.

The Lord loved him and reproved him just as an earthly father would his own child.

The king was disciplined severely and forgiven completely

This king continued his rule for many years afterward, his image forever sullied by his sins, his character forever humbled by his fall, and his soul forever cleansed by the mercy and forgiveness of his God.

And we, the children of his King (Psalm 110:1), hold both his sins and his redemption close to our hearts.

We read his story and remember that this king was a man - a man who loved God, but simultaneously loved his sin.

We look to his tremendous fall as a humbling monument to our own fallenness, and we look to his restoration as a brilliant example of our God's abounding grace.

Never has a man's private sins been more public - passed down in the recorded history of mankind from generation to generation - and yet at the same time, never has a man's private sin been more of a blessing to the generations to follow as his. For they serve to warn and humble us. 


Peddling Shame

We live in an age of connectedness. Somehow, as if by magic, the internet takes the entire world and smashes it into one small device, no bigger than a king size Hershey's bar. In this new reality we find that we are able to know details about people and places that we would never have dreamt of knowing just 10 years ago.

Indeed, in our handheld devices, it is as if we are given little windows into the most intimate details of strangers' lives. These are people we wouldn't previously have known about, much less shaken hands with or muttered a "good morning" to as we passed by them in a coffee shop. But now it is not unusual to know their children's names, their political stances, or even the gritty details of their divorces. The internet, has taken the place of the greasy grocery store tabloids. Its unending nature has given us the ability to look into more people's lives in more countries of the world than ever before. 

But not all details are created equal in our consumer-driven economy. We've all heard the phrase, "there's no news like bad news," and at times it truly feels as though news outlets and blogs survive on one thing: revealing the horrendous sins and failings of others. Painful, shocking, and scandalous stories produce more clicks, and more clicks produce more revenue.

If our media is even a slightly accurate barometer, we humans seem bent on destroying ourselves and those we love, while simultaneously paying to be entertained by the ensuing devastation. 

Indeed, at the rate these stories attract digital traffic, we can only surmise that we have an unhealthy obsession with our own brokenness. We can't help but be curious about the horrifying carnage of each train wreck. Perhaps because deep down we have a terrifying hunch that we're all traveling on similarly defective trains.

The digital news media serves its consumers' curiosity like a Chinese buffet serves the bellies of it's guests: with an unending supply of soul-deadening MSG. There is no lack of scandal to be served. On the contrary, the more we consume, the more they dish out. And the more we consume, the more we slumber through the beautiful, good, and honorable things of this world.

Our pallets become unrefined.

We salivate over each new scandal to cross our Facebook feeds.

A famous family values advocate's entire life was built on a disgusting lie.

A mother absentmindedly left her helpless child in a locked car on a hot summer day - how could she forget? 

A "conservative" senator is revealed as a homosexual.

An ordinary parent finds out their son just became the latest mass murderer - was is something they did or didn't do?

Thousands of "normal" husbands are exposed as having sought out affairs through an adultery website. 

A child accidentally kills his sibling because his parents didn't properly store their loaded gun.

A celebrity pastor's marriage and ministry is ransacked by an affair coming to light.

The list goes on and on...

Before the internet and cable news outlets came into being, these people's failures would have been limited in their publicity. Those in your family, your city, or your church, would have been the primary audience for your sin. Your shame - while still severe - would have been limited to those immediately affected by your failings.

But now, when sin comes to light, its ramifications often include national and global attention. When you err in our infinitely connected world, you run the very real risk of suffering the shame of the entire human race.

Scripture warns, "be sure your sin will find you out." In a world where your sins can bring a monetary profit to media outlets, this truth has never carried more immediate ramifications.

In the School of Failure

I've thought about this often as I've seen the headlines of ordinary people who've made grave mistakes. To be sure, I'm absolutely horrified and disgusted by their sins, and yet a part of me can't help but sympathize with them. Their public image has been forever altered; their name forever connected to the scandal. For these people there is no going back to before the incident. More heart wrenching still is the truth that their sin has forever altered the lives of those closest to them. Their spouses, their children, their parents, and their friends are all brought into the gross lime light of a salivating public ready to consume a new scandal.

It sends shivers down my spine.

Their failures serve as ominous danger signs for my soul. They reminding me of the true and often tangible, here-on-this-earth wages of our sin.

Death takes many forms in this life and the sin that brings it should never be underestimated.

I must be vigilant to guard my own heart from impurity - to continually seek to abide in the Savior's purifying embrace. For as John Bradford is credited to have said upon seeing a criminal walk to his execution, "there but for the grace of God [go I]."

Rather than reveling in these people's failures and seeking to fish out the grittiest of details, I must instead encourage my heart to take careful notes as the Holy Spirit faithfully uses their shame to instruct my soul. This moment of their lives is meant to be a parable of warning to me.

Like David's horrendous fall and subsequent restoration, these people's sins provide an opportunity for Christians like myself to rehearse the gospel message. 

Lesson 1: Our Common Shame

As their sins are tantalizingly dished up for hungry consumers, I can't help but be reminded of the utter depravity of God's created beings. We are all so hopelessly lost apart from him. I'm reminded that I am one of those broken people. For "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

Our sin runs deep, to the very core of our being, and affects every aspect of our lives. I can't look at another human's sins and not be reminded of my own, for the same sin sickness that made their great fall possible runs through my own veins. I suffer from the same fallen condition that they do.

We are all capable of sinning greatly, because we are all great sinners. 

Therefore, I must be sober-minded and watchful. For our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) 

Lesson 2: Our Common Shame-Taker

But at the reminder of this horrifying reality, the Spirit also assures me of his unending love and grace. Yes, my sin runs deep, but his grace is more.

He is the forgiving God, and the one who will stick with us when everyone else gives up hope. To those who are currently being destroyed by their choices, he offers salvation. To those who desire purity and holiness, he offers sustaining grace. Though I am affected in every way by my sin, I am simultaneously being affected by something much, much more powerful - the blood of the Shame-taker. 

This Shame-taker took the place of his filthy, scandalous, and corrupt people. He was perfectly pure and holy, but in love, willingly took on our filth so that we could be counted clean.

The blood he poured out on Calvary is full of powerful, healing stuff. It is full of forgiveness and justification. It is full of purity for me and you.

Yes, there is a lion, prowling about, looking for ways to wound and kill the Savior's blood-bought sheep. Yes, my sin-nature makes me vulnerable to his attacks, but the Spirit reminds me of this world-altering reality: there is a faithful Shepherd who holds that devil's leash.

This Shepherd has made a promise: "My sheep will never perish; They will NEVER be snatched from my hand." (John 10:28)

"You, daughter, will never parish. You will never be snatched from my hand."

Can I not trust the one who holds the planets in their orbits with the safety of my soul?

Yes, I can rest in him.

Beauty for Ashes

Somehow, all of these years later, the story of David and Bathsheba is made beautiful by God's inconceivable grace. But in the midst of David's sin, it was anything but.

Consider the disgusting nature of his adultery and of planning out the slaughter of an innocent man. Consider what must have been Bathsheba's experience. Was she complicit? Was she coerced? Was she forced? How devastating were the consequences of their sin! Her husband's death, their baby's death, his nation's military security, David's wives being taken from him, familial unrest...

And yet, ultimately, their is great beauty in God's forgiveness of David, because it reveals the beauty of God himself.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness
— Psalm 86:15

Let us pray for each new scandal that crosses our newsfeed. Let us pray for the repentance of every sinner whose failures are splashed across our television screens. Let us beg the Lord to reveal his grace to them - our fellow fallen brothers and sisters.

May his salvation be sweet in the midst of their bitterness, and may their stories not end in failure, but in beautiful displays of gospel victory.

Let us learn from their mistakes. Let them warn and humble us. Let them drive us to the Savior.

For one day all of our sins will be laid bare before creation. In that moment, when our private sins go public, the only thing that will matter is whether or not they are covered by the Holy One's blood. 

Will yours?

Our Expectations and Our Reality

Jessalyn Hutto

Jasmine Holmes was so very kind to review my book, Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb, at The Gospel Coalition today. In her review, she quotes a paragraph from one of my favorite sections of the book entitled, "What to Expect from a Sin-Broken World."

I say that this section is one of my favorites, but it is not because I got to explain a happy thought. Rather, it is because I had the opportunity to express an essential truth that every Christian must lean on in times of great disappointment and pain in order to find hope and peace in the gospel message. I will post the entire section below in the hopes that it will bless all who are currently struggling through trials, but especially those dear sisters who have lost little ones.

For many of us, the effects of this fallen world seem like distant theological concepts that carry little weight in everyday life. As a result, we live with expectations befitting a pre-fall Eden, rather than a sin-broken Earth. We expect to live healthy, fulfilled lives. We expect to have marriages in which we perfectly understand and communicate with our spouses. We expect to become pregnant easily, carry our babies full-term, and deliver them in perfect health. Our hearts yearn for the creation to function as God intended it to, and thus we don't naturally expect pain, discord, or death. Yet, this is exactly the inescapable inheritance we've received from our first parents.
The daily manifestations of God's beautiful grace, which we are blessed to experience despite our fallen state, are like windows into a world we do not yet fully inhabit - a world where God's goodness flows, unhindered by sin, to his created beings. A world with no more pain or suffering or death. In short: heaven.
Yet we tend to believe that we deserve such comforts and perfections in this world. We picture ourselves living out our lives in peaceful delight, doing work we always love, serving in churches where nothing ever goes seriously wrong. We buy pregnancy books, fully expecting our babies to grow according to each chapter's description. Rarely do we consider the awful truth that our babies are conceived in sin-infected bodies walking around in a sin-infected world. Indeed, even our babies' genetic make-up is subjected to the same futility as the rest of creation. Though pregnancy books may encourage us to put off distressing thoughts such as miscarriage and stillbirth, a biblical worldview demands that we have a realistic view of what pregnancy can and sometimes does look like in a post-fall world.
It certainly isn't my aim to pain a hopeless picture for those already experiencing grief. There is real, good, credible hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ for every daughter of Eve. I want to encourage you - if possible - with the knowledge that miscarriage is indeed a terrible thing. Women who experience miscarriage rightly feel as though something horrific just happened to them and their child. They need not feel obligated to treat the event as something common that they should simply "get over" and "move on" from. It is common, but that does not lessen its horror! Miscarriage, like every other manifestation of the fall, is the opposite of what God intended for our world - it is not good, it is very bad. Knowing this is essential to our finding encouragement in Christ.
For many women, miscarriage will be one of their first experiences with the serious physical effects of the fall. I distinctly remember the emotions that surged through me when we lost our first baby to miscarriage. Suddenly, the idea of death took on a whole new meaning. As my womb was robbed of the life it once carried, the groaning of creation became terribly personal. Later on, when I delivered the lifeless body of another of our precious babies who had died at 15 weeks gestation, my soul yearned like never before for Christ to return and do away with death forever.

You can read more about Inheritance of Tears here.

Is Miscarriage Divine Punishment from God?

Jessalyn Hutto

In the third interview question I received from Rachel at The Purposeful Wife in regard to my book, we tackled a very important question:

"You discuss how miscarriage is never God's punishment of our personal sin, because of our standing in Christ. While I am 100% in agreement here, I couldn't help but think of David and Bathsheba's infant dying as a result of their sin. How do you understand this story within your theological framework? How could we give Gospel hope to a woman who brings it up in concern that her miscarriage was divine punishment?"

Inheritance of Tears is a short book, and purposefully so. We wanted it to be resource that could easily be handed out to grieving women--both to those who have a theological foundation and those who do not. For this reason, many of the topics I cover in its 100 pages, can certainly be studied in greater depth. This topic is one of them. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to further explore this idea with Rachel: that while death and suffering are a result of sin, we shouldn't immediately link a specific sin to a specific trial.

You can read my full response here.

Let His Love Cast Out Your Fear

Jessalyn Hutto

During a recent family get-together, I was sitting in my grandmother’s guest room rocking my baby girl in silence. As I swayed gently in a rocking chair, admiring my sweet Roseveare, my mind flipped through the many memories I have of nights spent within that room's four walls. Much about the room has changed since my childhood, but the feelings of comfort that have so long characterized my grandmother’s home were just as potent that night as they were decades ago.

A particularly memory rose to the top of this marvelous flood of nostalgia. I remembered sitting on the once plush, white carpet before me as a young girl painting my nails a bright red. As little girls are prone to do, I accidentally spilled the bottle of nail polish. The glaringly red hue seeped into my grandparent’s carpet and great tears of fear began to seep from my eyes. I tried desperately to get as much of the polish out of the carpet’s fibers myself, but it was of no use.

Through great sobs of fear, I explained to my grandmother what had happened. Of course I felt terrible about what I had done, but more than anything my little girl heart was so afraid of her being mad at me for messing up her floor. After all, she was a particularly neat and tidy grandmother. 

In my fear, I forgot who my grandmother was. I worried that she would be angry with me and that her opinion of me would be forever altered due to this accident. I didn’t trust that she loved me infinitely more than her white carpet.

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These Fallen Wombs

Jessalyn Hutto

In her morning devotional Free Grace and Dying Love, Susannah Spurgeon made this extraordinary statement: “tears are the inheritance of Earth’s children” (emphasis mine).

Who would dare to question the legitimacy of this claim? Who is there that has not felt the sting of sin’s consequences in one way or another. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, chose to rebel against the Creator, the repercussions of their sin were not confined to them. Rather, it affected all of creation and every human who was to come from their fallen line. Their rebellion brought devastation to the world both physically and spiritually.

We quickly see this reality spelled out after Adam and Eve sin. God judges them for their rebellion by decreeing that Eve will now bear children through pain and suffering and her relationship to her husband will be volatile rather than peaceful; Adam’s work will be difficult and unpleasant and the ground itself will be tainted and bring forth less food; death will come to their bodies, and ultimately they will return to the ground from which them came.

The Bible’s continuing narrative reveals a world far different from the paradise of Eden God originally created for man. Generation after generation is marked by evil as men seek after their own pleasure and are overcome by selfishness, anger, and hatred. The creation itself works against man as creatures, weather, and the human body seem to war against the ones who were meant to exercise dominion over all the Earth. Today we look around us and see the effects of a fallen world: earthquakes killing thousands, wars taking countless lives, and women executing the babies within their wombs.

Indeed, tears are the inheritance of all Adam’s children... 

Read the full article at Credo Magazine

No Distinction

Jessalyn Hutto

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:22-25 ESV)

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:6-9 ESV)

There is no distinction among the wicked.

We were all so very different. We came from different families, different nations, different upbringings. Some of us were brought up in Christian homes while others were brought up in godless families. Some of us felt the weight of our sin like a ton of bricks, while others naively walked through life unaware of our great offense against the Lord. Some of us wallowed in the very pit of sinful immorality, while others dallied in the deserts of self worship. Our lives were so very, very different; each of them unique in their relationship to the world around them...

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Stains

Jessalyn Hutto

Once again I find myself on my knees, spraying and scrubbing these blasted carpet stains. One after another I spray, let sit, then scrub. Little ones, big ones, light ones, dark ones; I move meticulously through the living room taking care not to miss a single spot. This is my effort to bring the carpet back to life–back to its once pristine whiteness.

Unfortunately no matter how hard I scrub, some of these stains will never come out. They may get lighter, but their mark will remain forever. Others will pretend to be gone and then reappear in a matter of days (sneaky, sneaky stains). Only some of them will actually “disappear” like the label on my carpet cleaner claims.

Aren’t you glad that Jesus’ atoning work on the cross isn’t as hit and miss as carpet cleaner is?

We all have stains on our lives called sin. Some of our sins are darker than others, some are bigger than others, but they are all dirty, impure things that separate us from the holiness of God. Yet, the beautiful truth we live in as Christians is that our Savior has wiped us completely clean with his powerful, atoning blood. In one single moment in history, Christ laid his life down for his sheep, and forever made them clean and holy...

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Filthiness

Jessalyn Hutto

Cleaning the toilet is always such a glorious task isn’t it? Out of all of the household chores I would have to say it is one of my least favorites. I mean who really enjoys getting nice and cozy with a dirty, disgusting toilet?

Today as I went about this lovely task my little Hudson appeared at the bathroom door with the hymnal we use during Bible time. He has gotten into the habit of bringing it to me whenever he wants to sing, and who wouldn’t want to sing while cleaning toilets? As I started to go through the melody of “Holy, Holy, Holy” I found myself giggling as the hilarity of the situation set in on me. Here I am singing about God’s perfection, his utter cleanness, his purity, while the paper towel I am holding sweeps away accumulated filth from the past week. The two subjects on my mind could not be more diametrically opposed to one another. But the stark contrast found in that ordinary moment reminded me of my own filthiness before a holy God, the unimaginable grace shown by the Savior Jesus Christ to this poor and lowly sinner...

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