I couldn’t think of a thing.
Recently, at the end of a good sermon about Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac (Genesis 22) and how Abraham had obediently left all behind to follow God in the first place, the pastor called people to come up front who prayerfully had something “they wanted, needed to leave behind.” It’s a common altar call to help people replace the snares and despair of today with the hope of Christ in the future.
I thought and thought and – I do not say this boastfully – seriously couldn’t come up with anything to leave behind.
I’m big on memories, pretty good with trivia, and am very sentimental about people and things past. It’s not like I forget where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. But the Bible is pretty clear that life in Christ is about the future (2 Peter 3:14).
I encounter my own sin and guilt on a daily basis. But I also deal with it on a daily basis, with repentance and extreme thanks that I’m forgiven. Sometimes it takes a lot of prayer to redirect my gaze from something I’ve done that was hurtful, stupid, or just generally short of God’s glory (hey, that hardly ever happens …), but eventually I’m looking forward. And while that may be the greatest, most comforting truth of the Christian life; regrettably, you have to be careful who you share it with.
Many Christians come unglued if they can’t feel bad about their sin, and are indignant if someone they meet isn’t feeling bad about theirs.“Something bad has happened in your life? Well … you’re a sinner and a just God is punishing you!”
I’m a sinner, yes, but thankful for and praising a just God who forgives anyway.
My walk with the Lord is joy. But when you tell some people, “Hey, I really ‘get’ this Christian thing and God is great and Jesus is not just mine but the whole world’s savior, and the Spirit is here if you’ll just listen,” they can’t share your joy if they can’t first indict your sin. And then they wonder why people won’t follow them to church.
Journalism school taught me that it is always more valuable to tell someone what’s going to happen than what has already happened. (Would you rather have tomorrow’s lottery numbers, or last night’s?) You want good news? Find a future in Christ. You want old news? Try to earn salvation by dragging around your own sin, guilt, fear, and anger.
It hasn’t worked yet.