Pastor's Pen: Dilemma of sin and separation from God
There is a poignant scene in the magnificent 1939 film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in which Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer, is overtaken by the beauty of Esmeralda the gypsy dancer played by Maureen O'Hara, whom he has saved from the gallows.
Quasimodo, portrayed by Charles Laughton, feels compelled to cover his face with his hand as he comes toward Esmeralda in the tower above the cathedral, and tells her, "I never realized till now how ugly I am, because you're so beautiful."
This is an illustration of a picture we see portrayed different times in scripture. Any time we, as finite, created beings, come in proximity to the majesty and holiness of God, we respond with immediate awe and reverent fear as we become painfully mindful of our shortcomings and frailties as sinners.
In a sense, like Quasimodo, we become aware of our own deep flaws and the ugliness of our sins in light of God's radiant glory.
When the Apostle John was in exile on the Isle of Patmos late in his life because of his faith in Jesus, he testifies in the book of Revelation chapter 1 that he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day" when he heard a voice behind him. John turned and saw the Lord Jesus but in a far different, more magnificent way than John had ever seen Him before.
This was Jesus in His glorified state, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The hair of Jesus was "white like wool, as white as snow," with "eyes like a blazing fire," feet like bronze glowing in a furnace and a voice like the sound of rushing waters. "His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance."
When John saw the glorified Jesus, he "fell at his feet though dead." Jesus then placed His hand on John and told John not to be afraid.
In the Old Testament, we read the account of the prophet Isaiah's vision of the Lord. In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet describes how he saw the Lord "high and lifted up" and seated on a throne with the train of His robe filling the temple.
Isaiah also saw angels around the throne. The sound of God's voice was so majestic and powerful that the doorposts of the temple shook. The cloud of God's glory permeated the temple.
For Isaiah, even though he was one of God's greatest prophets, this was too much to bear. The vision of God's glory so impacted this holy man that he cried out "Woe is me!" The prophet confessed to being a man "of unclean lips" and living among a people of unclean lips. This was his immediate reaction because his eyes had seen "the Lord, the King Almighty."
God graciously sent an angel with a "live coal" from the altar to touch Isaiah's mouth and purge Isaiah of the guilt of his sins. After that, Isaiah was revived and able to receive God's commission to go and speak God's words to the Jewish people.
What we see in the reactions of John the Apostle and Isaiah the Prophet to the glory and majesty of God is the recognition and confirmation that it is literally unbearable for us as sinners to be in the Presence of God. The light of His glory exposes the darkness inside of us, and we become suddenly and acutely aware of our unworthiness.
This is what happened to Adam and Eve when they sinned in the garden. They became aware of their nakedness and were ashamed. When God came to the garden, they tried to hide from His presence.
We, as fallen beings who have inherited our nature from Adam, do the very same thing. We try like Adam and Eve to somehow cover our sins with fig leaves of our own making, but it is woefully inadequate.
God sees and knows everything about us and ultimately there is no hiding from His presence.
But that doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, an awareness of our hopeless sinful state could be the best thing that ever happened to us if it leads us to the arms of the Savior.
That's what God desires. That's why He sent his Son Jesus to die in our place and pay the penalty for our sins on the cross.
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:17
On our own, we can't stand before a holy God. We are completely unworthy to be near Him.
We are unable to go to heaven. If we die in our sins, we are separated from God for all eternity in a place of outer darkness where Jesus said there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
It's not what God wants! God longs to be our Father and not our Judge. He adopts us into His family and becomes our Father when we realize we're sinners and we're genuinely sorry for our sins.
The path to forgiveness for us is through Jesus, who took our sins upon Himself on the cross. His blood will cover our sinfulness and make us worthy to be in God's Presence. When we ask Jesus to be our Savior, He cleanses us and comes to live within us by His Spirit, transforming us into new people.
We have the assurance at that point of eternal life. He was resurrected on the first Easter, and so we who put our faith in Him will also be resurrected when we die.
Rev. Mike Dunn is pastor of the South Evart Free Methodist Church