Some Thoughts on Justification.
In the days before my iPhone, I once experienced a hard reset. My cell phone had been progressively becoming more neurotic and inconsistent, due, I was told, to an ever-increasing engorgement of its internal memory with various data files which ate up its ability to perform routine functions and clouded its memory tasks.
My Sprint guy, Joseph, helped me a little by exorcising over 500 e-mails that I didn’t even know had found a home in my inbox (the result of an inadvertent “automatic download” function which was enabled). That helped a little bit for a little while, but then the pesky “free memory” data error messages began to reappear…gradually at first, then with increasing rapidity.
I visited Sprint again, and he reassured me that two things needed to happen: I needed to HotSync my phone with my computer to backup important data. Secondly I would need to perform a “hard reset” which—in effect—wipes the phone clean of all stored data and resets all the default functions of the phone. Any customization which I had made to my phone would have to be restored to the phone by means of the aforementioned backed-up data.
No problem, I thought. However, after trying to do the HotSync on three different computers, I was unsuccessful and so it kept being postponed. And all the while the frequency of error-messages increased dramatically. The phone began to freeze up. I had to repeatedly do “soft” resets by removing and replacing the battery to get the phone to reboot. This happened almost daily.
Finally, after about a week, the phone got stuck on a call and wouldn’t let me disconnect. Frozen. Soft reset: battery out, battery in. Nothing. Tried it again. Its little grey LCD screen stared back at me lifelessly. OH, NO. I killed it! Finally, after another try a most encouraging thing happened: Its little orange message light flashed. Yesss. Then the keys flashed momentarily. Hallelujah. Then the screen flashed on with the ACCESS splash logo, indicating imminent reboot. Gloria in excelsis deo.
Not quite. The screen darkened. The orange light flashed…followed by the keys, then the screen. Dark. Orange. Keys. Screen. Dark. Repetitively. My phone was having a psychotic break with reality. I had given it a nervous breakdown!
When in doubt, battery out and try again. Same chaos and confusion. Over several days I repeated resuscitation attempts with the same catatonic results. My phone…with its stores of data (good and bad) was over the edge. No recovery possible.
I let it lay on my dresser for a few days, with its battery out, hoping that it would forget that it was mentally incapacitated. But it didn’t.
How like me! (Not the mentally-incapacitated part—though a case could be made—but the “piled up data” part.) In God’s redemption, we are supposed to keep short accounts, clearing out all the “old business”—the data, if you will—of our lives so that our minds do not become clouded and choked by it, prevented from operating freely in the now.
I so often go through my days, accumulating mental and spiritual data through ingrained habits, disobedience, failure, success, worries, frustrations and the general grind of living in a hostile land—trying to be at home here, yet demonstrating daily that I am not in my true element. And that includes living in a body which is at war with the Spirit. And the unceasing enemy who resists our progress, never failing to remind us when we don’t measure up.
That is my greatest vulnerability: a morbid tendency to “store”—in evermore voluminous amounts—the data of failure, of shame, of weakness. I do confess my sins, and reckon that He is faithful and just to forgive me, because He promised (1 John 1:9). But it has been very much the equivalent of “soft reset” for me a lot of the time. It gets me unstuck, I begin to function again, but there is often a residue of failure, a lingering shame, an underlying fear. I become hugely disappointed with myself and am a ready target for accusation and condemnation through the tireless prosecution of the enemy. In some sense, the “data” of failure has not been completely expunged from my conscience on that “near-subconscious” level where much of our sense of well-being and wholeness weaves itself into our conscious life.
Like my little phone, when such useless data attains a sufficient footprint, it begins to trample useful data and disrupts normal functions. In my life, I have experienced such shutdowns in the form of depression and extreme anxiety. In years past, some of these periods were quite debilitating, lasting for months—deep pits of hopelessness. At other times, they have been a protracted plodding though seemingly unending winter of the soul. More recently, they are shorter, more punctuated affairs, like stones strewn on the road, causing one to stumble, to twist the ankle, to have a destabilized feeling.
To be sure, some of these experiences are standard issue for all of us, part of God’s providential training program. But for others, it can be exacerbated by temperament and both the factors of heredity and upbringing, making it a more recurrent problem—one which left unaddressed and unconfronted can become a self-defeating snare and greatly hinders our testimony and fruitfulness in the Kingdom—as well as our enjoyment of the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11: 3), of being His beloved (Eph 1: 3-6). This has been a big component of my life story.
I finally decided that having my phone lying in state on my dresser wasn’t the way it was intended to be, and my communications and productivity were being hindered. So, though useful data would need to be reconstructed, a ton of worthless electronic “baggage” had to go to set my phone free.
I held down the power button and inserted the battery. The startled little phone regained consciousness sufficiently to ask one question: “Are you sure you want to erase all data?” Like the chattering red lust-lizard in C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, the little prompt offered the fear (and hope) of change or the futility of the status quo. In Lewis’ tale, the permitted demise of the lizard transformed it into a steed which carried its former victim off in glorious liberty. In the case of my phone, confirming the “hard reset” restored it to free function and productivity. Blank, to be sure, but ready to receive input and give service. To connect.
Abba, Father-God, in Jesus Christ dealt our sin a hard reset. There’s some data He doesn’t want backed up for later restoration. For those of us “in Christ Jesus” it doesn’t exist on legal record or in judicial memory. That is the miracle of justification. It is finished. If our heart still condemns us (and we know the enemy still accuses us), there is One greater than our heart Whose plea of righteous substitution on our behalf—and our inclusion in Him—is an enveloping fortress of acquittal, rest, divine satisfaction, and gifted righteousness. It is Abba’s embrace.
This little sacrament of the “hard reset” is God’s reminder to me of the certainty and sufficiency and finality of Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sin. Along with the bad “data” of shame and condemnation, however, my thoughts, opinions and feelings must also be sacrificed on the altar of God’s Word, where the Precious Blood is, silencing every accusation, every protest, every opposing view. The Blood says “Righteous” and brooks no argument.
“I will remember their sins no more (Heb. 10: 17).”
I believe, Lord; help Thou my unbelief. Thank You for sacramental moments like this which speak Your love, Your grace, Your truth to me when my theological ears become unhearing, too complicated, overwhelmed, and frozen within by my subterranean chaos of “data”. Thank you for your extreme mercy of “hard reset” which sets us free in Christ Jesus, our Redeemer and Lord, and effects the possibility of a renewed mind. I love you, Lord. Thank you for first loving me. >mow