A Dickens of a Problem
by Alan Allegra 12/28/2012 / Salvation
You know how certain lines from songs or shows stick in your mind? We quote them for comedic or emphatic effect. "Sorry about that, Chief!" "Que sera, sera!" "Here's lookin' at you, Kid!" "Go ahead, make my day!"
During Christmas, I saturate myself with many versions of A Christmas Carol. I pour out quotations from Dickens like egg nog and Smoking Bishop. I don't try to find Christian content in every movie, but that plot line somewhat parallels Christian experience.
When Jacob Marley confronts Scrooge with the sins they shared, he is covered in shackles and money boxes, symbolizing the weight of greed they accumulated in life. Jacob reminds Ebenezer that they forged their own chains, with Scrooge's having seven more years to accumulate. "It is a ponderous chain!" Marley moans.
The writer of Hebrews uses a similar analogy when, in view of faith heroes of the past, he encourages believers to remain faithful: "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (12:1). Sin keeps us from living the good life God wants for us. Sin also produces guilt that weighs heavily upon us, whether we admit it or not.
We find dozens of excuses to keep from surrendering to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. When persuading individuals to receive Christ, R. C. Sproul challenges them with the question, "What do you do with your guilt?"
All of us feel guilt; it is one of the top reasons people seek psychiatric help. We just deal with it in different ways. Paul, speaking of unbelievers who attempt good works, said, "They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them" (Romans 2:15). There is a moral code within us, and a conscience we often battle. Even while being "good," we cover up our guilty consciences by trying to balance the scales with good works or other means. Led Zeppelin addressed this as they sang about a sinning woman, "When your conscience hits, you knock it back with pills."
The more we ignore or fight conscience, the less effective it becomes. False teachers mislead others, while "Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2). Bemoaning the sinful condition of Israel's leaders, God warned, "'Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,' says the LORD" (Jer. 6:15). Do we know how to blush?
No matter how society and government justify, sugarcoat, and encourage bad behavior, God's moral standards and consequences never change. The Bible reveals our inner selves: "For the word of God is alive and active . . . [I]t judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
The only cure for a stricken conscience is the forgiveness of God. "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Heb. 9:14). Paul sets the standard for righteous living: "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man" (Acts 24:16).
In 1981, when I asked the Lord to save me, I, like Pilgrim in Pilgrim's Progress, felt the weight of sin lift off my back. I could say with Scrooge, "I am as light as a feather!"
What do you bear today? Is it the ponderous chain of a plagued conscience or the feather of the Father's forgiveness?