Once upon a time I was at this college ministry retreat where the speaker drew a diagram that I’ve never forgotten. He drew a horizontal line on an overhead transparency – remember when that was cutting edge technology? Then he wrote the words “God’s holiness” above the horizontal line, and the words “My Sin” beneath the horizontal line. He then explained that when we first come to Christ we have a new sense of God’s holiness and a new sense of our sin. At that moment he placed a dot about a half-inch above the horizontal line, another half an inch beneath the line, and then he drew a cross to bridge those two points as he said, “The work of Jesus on the cross bridges the gap between God’s holiness and our sin.” He went on to explain that as we grow in our faith we become that much more aware of God’s holiness, and that much more aware of our sin. Then he drew a dot 4 inches above the horizontal line, another dot 4 inches beneath, and then an even larger cross to cover the gap. He finished saying, “The great news is that Jesus work on our behalf is always sufficient to bridge the vast gap between God’s holiness and our sin.”
There’s just something about that image that continues to be an encouragement to me. I, like all new believers, lacked the full awareness of my sin and God’s holiness. I just thought that because Jesus was now on my side I wouldn’t need to face anymore ugliness within me, or face anymore of the vast difference between who I am and who God is. So as I continued in my faith, getting closer to God, I inevitably saw more in my life that was uncomfortable to see. This led me to think that maybe something was wrong with me – “How is it that the more I grow in my faith, the more ugly I realize I am?” But that simple diagram has helped me rest in the reality of what God has provided each day through Jesus. Of course, as I grow in my relationship with God I will see the greater evidence of my sin and brokeness. When you draw really close to radiant light you see everything, but Jesus work completely covers my sin and keeps me safe before God the father. There’s nothing wrong with us, or our journey in faith, when we discover how much more holy God is, and how much more desperately sinful we really are. The discovery becomes yet another opportunity to celebrate the work of Jesus, and then find our rest in the shadow of the cross.