Damned or Loved
Yesterday I was traveling with my wife to an appointment when I suddenly had a question that I shared with her. What does damnation or damned mean? I know that we hear people say, 'Damn you' as an expletive many times, but in reality what does this word actually mean? If we knew what it meant we might have a much better idea of what we might be saying to a fellow human being when we use such terms in moments of passion.
This term comes from the Bible, at least the King James version of the Bible. I decided that next time I had a chance I would look it up and find the root word and see how it was used elsewhere which often gives a much clearer understanding of what a word really means. Meanwhile I left the question hanging as I often like to do to give God time to offer me insights that help me better know His ways and the terms we use to explain them.
So it was not a great surprise when this morning upon opening up today's reading from My Utmost that I found myself confronted with a rather clear discourse on this very topic. I suspect that God planted the question in my mind ahead of the answer so I would be more interested and receptive to what He wants me to learn for some reason. This reading also has many other very profound truths in it that affected me deeply, so much so that I had to thoughtfully read it all over again slowly to let it sink in deeper and try to absorb it more thoroughly. I have highlighted some of these things for emphasis.
The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin; but that the disposition of sin, viz., my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race by one man, and that another Man took on Him the sin of the human race and put it away (Heb. 9:26)—an infinitely profounder revelation. The disposition of sin is not immorality and wrong-doing, but the disposition of self-realization – I am my own god. This disposition may work out in decorous morality or in indecorous immorality, but it has the one basis, my claim to my right to myself. When Our Lord faced men with all the forces of evil in them, and men who were clean living and moral and upright, He did not pay any attention to the moral degradation of the one or to the moral attainment of the other; He looked at something we do not see, viz., the disposition.
Sin is a thing I am born with and I cannot touch it; God touches sin in Redemption. In the Cross of Jesus Christ God redeemed the whole human race from the possibility (I think this means the inevitability) of damnation through the heredity of sin. God nowhere holds a man responsible for having the heredity of sin. The condemnation is not that I am born with a heredity of sin, but if when I realize Jesus Christ came to deliver me from it, I refuse to let Him do so, from that moment I begin to get the seal of damnation. “And this is the judgment” (the critical moment) “that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light.” (My Utmost for His Highest, October 5)
I took time this morning to look up these words in the Greek and found that there are two words used, one for damned and the other for damnation. Both are similar and have to do with judgment and condemnation or sometimes simply the making of a decision about another. The last verse quoted above comes from John 3:19 and uses the very same word as is sometimes rendered damnation or condemnation. In my opinion this verse is one of the best explanations for the real cause of damnation that can be found – refusing to embrace light because of a love of living in darkness apart from God.
Chambers really exposes the core issue of sin in this reading like I have seldom seen it done elsewhere. It also convicts me strongly of how much I am trapped in sin myself. For as I look inside and notice how much my own actions and motives are based on self-realization, seeking to be spiritual for my own benefit rather than filled with selfless love for others, I realize how hopeless and helpless I am to change myself, to escape my own sinful nature. He is so right when he says that I cannot touch it. I am in total need of a supernatural intervention from God through the power of redemption when it comes to having new motives and a right disposition.
When sin is described as a clinging to my rights to myself, I cannot escape the indictment that I am a sinner full-bore. Like those described in this reading who are clean living, moral and upright, I fit that description all too well. It makes me squirm to realize how much of my life has been spent trying to be a good Christian so that others will believe that I am, while inwardly I fiercely cling to my 'rights' and will lash out in a flash of rage at anyone who tries to deny me my rights. Yes, my lashing may remain hidden internally if the ones taking away my rights by force have overwhelming superiority and advantage, but my internal hatred and anger and rage only highlight the fact that my heart is still firmly rooted in desires to protect myself and my rights more than any desire to live to bless others.
I find it very helpful to see these problems in my heart. I have been aware of them for some time and I also know that unless God implants into me a new heart with new motives and feelings and desires that there is no hope of me escaping damnation. But I do want to be a new man, I do want to live selflessly and reflect the kind of character that empowered Jesus to forgive all those who were abusing and stealing His rights all the way to the point of death. By doing that He established the reality of redemption and somehow that mysterious power is the secret key that can unlock every heart like mine that chooses to accept His revelation of the alternative way to live life.
Father, You know far better than I the power of selfishness that still keeps my own heart fighting for my rights to myself. You know how impossible it is for me to escape this power through any means of my own. The only possibility that I know of to become free from this tyrannical control of selfishness and self-defensiveness that rules inside of me is deeper exposure and clearer understanding of the profound revelation in what really took place at Calvary.
This event that so many others talk about with such passion and say is central to everything that Christianity stands for has remained shrouded in darkness for me most of my life. People's explanations of what the real meaning of the cross is have been so intertwined with lies about You – that Jesus appeased Your desire to torture sinners, that You don't love people as much as Jesus does – all of these lies have caused me to be baffled as to the real meaning of what happened there.
But I have not been content to accept these confusing versions of the cross and of redemption. You have put it into my heart to keep looking, searching, asking hard questions and challenging the assumptions of religious people that give falsely represent You. And as You have allowed me to see little glimmers of the real truth of Calvary I am beginning to both appreciate the consistency of what You are revealing to me and am becoming more aware of how pervasive my own sinfulness permeates every part of my being, feelings and thinking.
Father, please deliver me from this body of death and dwell in me like Jesus promised. I give You unlimited permission to do whatever You want and whatever it takes to transform me into the man that You designed me to be, a reflector of the kind of man that Jesus demonstrated while He was here on this earth. I know that what I am asking is going to cause me a lot of pain. Much of that pain comes from my resistance to what You want to do and part of me is totally incorrigible as far as this goes. That part of me must die and dying is never easy but is absolutely necessary if I am to enter into the new life that You have for me to live.
But go ahead and finish the work that You have started in me. Remove my intense passion to protect myself and my rights at any cost to others around me, and fill me with the Spirit that empowered Jesus to redeem everyone else at any cost to Himself. You know that this is impossible with me so I have to trust You fully to do this in and for and through me because it is Your glory to do just exactly this very thing.
Thank-you for hearing me, for loving me, for drawing me to Yourself and for Your perfect goodness, faithfulness and Your passionate and unwavering love toward me even though I have repeatedly resisted Your advances. Transform me into a lover that treats others the way You relate to me so that they too will come to want to know the love that is impossible to quench. Cleanse me of all resistance to You so that my heart will become intimately identified and bonded with Your heart as You begin to use me more effectively to draw others into the same intimacy with You and increase Your glory that will fill the whole earth.