Open Your Bible
Acts 3:19-21, Romans 2:3-4, Lamentations 1:16, 2 Corinthians 7:5-12
Text: Acts 3:19-21, Romans 2:3-4, Lamentations 1:16, 2 Corinthians 7:5-12
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,
that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…
– Acts 3:19-20a, ESV
“It is not repentance that saves me;
repentance is the sign that I realize what God has done in Christ Jesus.”
– Oswald Chambers
I’m an avoider. I avoid uncomfortable topics and decisions. I avoid unfortunate feelings and situations. I avoid watching the news when I can get away with it, and I’ve been known to avoid eye contact with the homeless vendor selling newspapers on the corner.
I avoid grief and suffering because I don’t want to experience grief and I don’t want to experience suffering. I can’t solve them, can’t explain them away—I can only enter in, and most times I’d rather not. The only way to get to the other side of these unavoidable mountains is to walk through them—over, under, and around are not options.
I avoid acknowledging my sin for the same reason. It’s uncomfortable, it’s painful, it’s something I can’t solve or explain away. I fall deathly short, just like we all do (Romans 3:23, 6:23). The darkness I am capable of is shocking to the senses. Who wants to admit such a thing? Like it’s the nightly news, I look away and wait for it to disappear. If I don’t see it, it must not exist.
You and I might be tempted to skip over this next book of the Bible we’ll read together for these same reasons. Some of the language in Lamentations is uncomfortable, the images are upsetting—it puts a magnifying glass up to a reality we’d rather ignore. Written in response to the capture and destruction of Jerusalem, the book of Lamentations is exactly what its name implies—it is a book of 5 poems, or songs, of lament. It is a book dedicated to mourning, weeping, and crying out to God. Some historians believe it may have even been used for worship within the actual ruins of the destroyed temple.
Originally named for the Hebrew word for “Alas!” or “How?”, Lamentations reads like an unedited exercise in how many ways a person can describe destruction, devastation, and despair. But the writer’s words don’t just apply to Jerusalem—they are a picture of our life without Christ. No comforter, no hope, no life—only death. Lamentations provides a revolting visual of the destruction our sin brings.
Acknowledging sin and its consequences is a difficult, achy, and emotionally invasive procedure. But a beautiful thing happens when we take that hard road through the mountain: we do not travel alone. Jesus is with us as God’s Word convicts our hearts. Jesus is with us as the Holy Spirit reveals our desperate need. Jesus is with us as our knees buckle at the devastation around us and the devastation within us. He is by our side to administer the salve of grace the moment each sin-wound is revealed.
Somewhere in the thick of this ongoing heart surgery we begin to understand: only in seeing the depth of our sin can we see the unmatched grace and glory of the Cross.
Think back to that image of God’s people standing among the temple ruins, singing out painful poems of lament. The holy city—their lives, their families, their futures—destroyed. Imagine them there in the wreckage, crying out to God asking all the appropriate questions. Why, Lord? Where are you, Lord? How long, O Lord? The first two chapters build like a musical crescendo, leading up to the climax placed purposefully, meaningfully in the center chapter of the book:
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
– Lamentations 3:21-24, ESV
Standing there in the rubble, they worshiped. They repented. They claimed what they knew to be true — God is faithful, even here and even now.
You and I stand in the midst of wreckage today—broken churches, broken families, broken bodies, broken hopes. The consequences of sin are ugly and painful, and it hurts to look full at the darkness. We grieve our sinful state with honest questions and hot tears and loud lamenting—but this is the kind of godly grief that causes the apostle Paul to rejoice! Not because grief is painless or petty—it is anything but—but because godly grief leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
Friends, we venture into the coming two weeks ready but not ready to face the sin in and among us. We take a somber step forward knowing only a bit of what is to come. But we walk ahead nonetheless because our Savior goes with us. Let us look on our sin, and let us look long at the Cross of Christ. Look to the One who does not avoid our suffering but enters in, who does not despise our brokenness but redeems it.
May our tears of grief lead us to repentance, and may we receive refreshment for our souls. Amen.