The beginning is easy to go with, fun, feels good, and alleviates the momentary pressure of natural desires. The beginning also fits in well with what is trending in the community of the world. It is chic, daring, bold, and feels free. It is defining for the individual and an in-your-face statement to any who would limit the possibilities of a person who is truly liberated. And it does feel liberating. Instead of being held back by the sense of duty, responsibility, or acceptability, it soars into the air of self-expression, new experiences, and unlimited horizons. Its face is an audacious smile, its aspect is bold, and its carriage is unashamed. This is the front side of sin.
The back side of sin is different. Even in its beginning there are shadows. The conscience is not asleep. It may be flung away for the moment, but don’t get quiet, for it will inevitably steal across the visage as an unwelcome cloud. There is that little ache, deep inside, that if acknowledged, will ruin the happy atmosphere. At all costs it must be squelched. If that little shadow stays long it will grow. So the best thing to do is walk out quick into the noon day sun. Make the excuse, re-visit the excitement, re-state the liberation. More freedom and new horizons await. Don’t allow that little three cornered sharp thing in the heart to turn. Get the mind in a better direction.
But the back side of sin continues to be challenging. Things keep interfering. There are those people who show up, unexpectedly, who are reminders of what things “ought” to be. They not only come with quiet confidence, but their very presence destroys that feeling of liberation, somehow tarnishing the shiny image that has been so carefully polished. Why do they have to show up and darken the atmosphere? If they would just keep away, the new ways would feel perfect. When they come, they bring all the baggage of the past with them – the shame, the guilt, the condemnation. They are the problem. They are so stodgy, so restrictive, so confining. Yet they act as if it is no affliction to keep the rules. They even seem happy about it, saying something like “the yoke is easy” or “the burden is light.” Or even worse, “His commandments are not grievous.” What does “He” have to do with it anyway? Isn’t “He” about love and acceptance? Isn’t unconditional love available to everyone? Why do they have to keep up those appearances as if those old rules are actually good? “Oh, how I love thy law.” How can they still say those things when liberation movements are the “in” theology?
Another challenge is the quiet. That act of liberation, pushing the envelope, yielding to the inner self, is haunting when things are silent. The daytime is not so hard. There is the music, rock, country, classic, which can always be there, and a thousand artists who have done the same bold things, felt the same inner feelings, and sing about it with ten thousand clever and lascivious lyrics. And if that doesn’t divert the inner being from a sense of angst, snap chat someone you know has also spread wings and flown into the bright blue sky of freedom. Or download a movie whose script was written by a fellow hedonist, and acted out by a cast of those who are very well acquainted with these tantalizing ways. But don’t let it get quiet, because that’s when the mental pictures of the sin creep back, now not as the liberating adventure it seemed, but as something dark and shameful. What seemed like such a grand experience that was savored under the tongue as a sweet morsel turns to gravel in the mouth when it is quiet and the conscience awakens like a storm in the night, flashing recollections that would better be left hidden. Quick, get something to dull that inner ache. A drug, a drink, a pill. But allowing that deep, dull ache to go on will drive a person crazy, or to repentance.
Repentance? Now that may be an idea. Perhaps that is why the “Hound of Heaven” has kept on the trail, why the barely perceptible baying of conscience during the day turns to a roaring in the night. Maybe that explains why when it seems like everything is right where it should be, something happens that shows up that evil deed for what it was –ungodly, depraved, selfish, sin.
The backside of sin doesn’t go away unless such depravity has set in that there is now the inability to blush. But that is not how it is for most, at least at first. The back side of sin is not happy, or liberating, or free, or good, or new, or exciting. The back side of sin is depressing, gloomy, heavy, malicious, and debilitating. Heaven will not allow it to go on in its glitter and allure. Heaven is too loving and kind to let sin go forever without uncovering it. Sin will be found out. Hence, the sound of that “Hound” in the night, in the quiet times, and unexpectedly sometimes out of the clear blue sky, baying, nudging, even growling, to push not to the false freedom of the world and its deception, but to the true liberty of the cross of Christ.
But how can a cross be a liberating thing? Its victim suffered cruelly, first beaten until his back was lacerated. Then a crown of thorns was crushed onto his head. Next, nails pierced his hands and feet, and then the cross stood upright, with the Christ’s hands spread wide, his visage marred, and his life’s blood ebbing away. How could heaven bring anyone here? Why the relentless pursuit to this place. Did heaven look on this sight with anything but revulsion? But, there is this: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” This was pleasing? In a way that is almost incomprehensible. Here is where the back side of sin can be dealt with, those miserable moments ameliorated, the guilt taken away from the conscience, the night turned to day. Here is forgiveness, cleansing, blessing, and reconciliation. “Christ died for our sins.”
The back side of sin is not in the devil’s purview. He wants sin to be always seen from its alluring front side, with its glitz, glamor, and daring. But this is not the truth. Sin’s back is always worse, longer lasting, and more powerful than its forefront. And it is where God is at work. Getting in the way, pursuing, nudging, pleading, until this confrontation with the Christ of the cross. This is where, finally, there can be peace. That is what William Newell found, and he wrote about it in verse:
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
No matter how hideous, shameful, cruel, or evil the deed, sin is no match for Calvary. There is a strong power emanating from that cross, a fountain open for sin and uncleanness. Here can be the end of the hard trail of the back side of sin. It need not go on. At the cross, it can be cleansed, the heart can be free, and a new Master can take over. So, here, in the words of Moody and Schram, are how sin can end:
Kneel at the cross, Christ will meet you there
Come while He waits for you
Listen to His voice, leave with Him your cares
And begin life anew.