If there’s one thing that is missing in protestant churches, it’s holy water.
I’m not talking about the kind that Catholics put in a bowl in the back of their sanctuary. I’m talking about a different kind of water all together. The kind that Jesus commends.
“Blessed are the pour in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:3-4 (ESV)
Tears. They are the holy water that grows in a heart that is broken before God. They make up the holy water that pour from the eyes of those who are truly broken over sin. And not just the sins of our friends, co-workers and countrymen. Our sins. God is pleased when we are broken over our own sins.
But we have grown comfortable. Our sin isn’t sin anymore. It’s love. Or a medical condition. Or a misunderstanding. Anything but sin.
A while back my son had something in his eye. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. Judging from the way he was crying, I’m guessing that there was a Lego in there somewhere. The tears kept coming. They didn’t stop until they had done their job. In the process of crying, my son’s tears had cleaned out whatever foreign object was in his eye.
That’s how brokenness over sin works. Tears clear our spiritual eyes of all of the self-righteous clutter that’s been blocking our vision. They are evidence that we are beginning to see the gospel more clearly.
It’s not that Jesus wanted us to cry as an end in itself. Anyone can cry. And it wasn’t his aim to convince his people to live in a state of continual depression over their sin. Jesus knew that we would never see the beauty of the gospel until we first saw the ugliness of our sin. In him, our tears of brokenness over sin are transformed into tears of joy because we have been forgiven.
But we have no tears because we have convinced ourselves that we have no sin. And as a result, we have no genuine forgiveness. Who needs forgiveness when all that we’re guilty of is a misunderstanding or a medical condition? Oh, what good Pharisees we make.
Jesus didn’t just die for sins.
He died for your sins. And mine.
The cross is not a giant plus sign reminding us of how awesome God thinks we are. The fact that it took the death of God’s Son to take care of my sins, should move me to tears of horror over my brokenness. That fact that God’s Son willingly took my place on that instrument of torture to change my identity from sinner to saint should move me to tears of joy over God’s love and grace.
Sin is not what separates genuine followers of Christ from all others. Sin is the common link that all natural men share. What truly separates Jesus’ followers from his enemies is the reaction to sin.
The self-righteous choose to ignore their sin, looking only to their qualifications and the shortcomings of others. And they miss grace.
Those who truly trust in Christ’s perfect righteousness, cry out to their Savior, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13).” They are well aware of their sins. And they are well aware of God’s grace.
In Jesus’ story, things are upside down. The good, religious man misses grace. The bad guy goes home justified. But that’s how things work in God’s economy.
The broken are blessed with the gospel of grace.
Those who have it all together are the ones who are really broken. And they don’t even know it.
Which are you?