Why was Joel's quip about being able to sin with his eyes closed so significant? Because in the story of the pastor we see an image of a man who wishes to see the face of God by following the law. (See yesterday's post for context).
When the pastor in Joel's story clenched his eyes shut and started repeating " I want to see God, I want to see God" as a way to avoid lust he was trying to force himself to the very tight mold that the law of the Bible has set. Unfortunately the Bible does not say "those that don't look at girls in bikinis will see God's face" it says "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God". This mans very reaction to do all he could to avoid looking at a beautiful woman already shows the state of his, and every man's heart. His, and my, and our, hearts are lustful! They are greedy, coveting, jealous, lustful, lost hearts that will never meet the standard of purity required to see the face of God.
I am positive that this pastor's reaction to the woman was one out of love for God and a desperation to know Him better. So it's not my intention to brow beat him at all. I only intend to point out where this sort of thinking has led, and can lead for Christians.
Joel's admission that he can sin just fine with his eyes shut comes from a heart that has encountered the true grace of God. Joel knows that the grace of God extends beyond all his sins (Romans 5:20-21), and that the righteousness that he relies on is not his own but that of Christ. Romans 8:3 and 4 "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit"
Christ died so that the righteous requirement might be met in us! My pastor, Dan Cormie, once said that Jesus did not come to "show" us a solution but to "be" the solution. He also commented once that we do not receive a blank slate when we are born again, but one filled in with the righteousness of Christ!
Anyone who has come to this understanding of grace can look truthfully at their own destitute sin and know that we are closer to be Judas then we are to being John. Paul talks in the book of Romans in Chapter 7 about how he desperately wants to do right, but he does what he knows he shouldn't, and fails to do what he should. Chapter seven climaxes with Paul exclaiming "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?". Paul knows the truth of who he is, but even after this self examination he is able to proclaim "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!". If you have the time when you leave this post read from the beginning of Romans 7 through Romans 8:11.
Joel's point was this: even if I can get it right on the outside, my heart and mind are still full of sin. That is why I didn't laugh immediately, because I was swept up by the extreme grace that Joel relied on even to admit his sinful nature as he preached!
Even if you could manage the mechanics of religiosity, it would serve only to fool yourself into believing that you are climbing a ladder of righteousness, but even in the attempt you have shown yourself to not know how far that ladder extends. You will climb forever, never satisfied, and never righteous enough. And in doing so you will lose the significance of one of Jesus' beautiful promises: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). Rest, rest for our souls, an easy yoke and a light burden. This is found through Grace and not law.
More on this tomorrow. Thanks for reading.