The first hint of the bad news was when my mechanic asked, "Have you had a good day?" I was merely stopping by to check on his diagnosis of why my car would occasionally run rough for no apparent reason. The next big clue was, "You may come out better if we can find you a good used engine to replace the one you have." Huh? What in the world! It wasn't a major problem I was experiencing ... just random and quick episodes with the engine. I'm thinking surely it's only a loose wire, bad connection, bad spark plug, or something else simple like that. The news of a blown head gasket wasn't what I was expecting (or wanting) to hear. Sure enough, he runs the little camera down the 3rd cylinder and shows me water pooled up on top of the piston. Not the "joy to the world" or "peace on earth" I'm looking for this time of year!
This gasket has only one very simple job - to seal the area where two parts of the engine come together, the block and head. It doesn't have to move or provide any power to make the car move, but the entire health of the engine depends on that one skinny little part. Sure, it has to endure a lot of heat, pressure, and potential corrosive effects of the coolant but so do other parts and they all seemed to be holding up okay. And was this really that big of a problem anyway? Like I said, it was only acting up occasionally and corrected itself rather quickly. There was no smoke coming out of the exhaust ... the car was not overheating ... nothing else was problematic.
But like most serious matters, the real problem tends to be deep within. The more visible things like a dented fender, burned out headlight, flat tire, etc. are only superficial, can be easily and quickly fixed, and really don't impact the performance of the vehicle. But one simple, essentially hidden, seemingly insignificant part that fails can cause immense trouble. Though often that trouble starts slowly and doesn't look that big at first, it's like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and bring utter destruction.
The sin in our hearts is very much like this. A good bit of the visible stuff that we see isn't always the most serious; often it can be addressed and handled with relative ease. It's that sin deep in our hearts (that resides there often unnoticed, that doesn't seem like that big of a deal) that can bring us down. As we think about our capacity for sin, let's ponder a few questions:
- do I really believe sin is serious and can/will bring destructive consequences to myself and others in my life?
- am I willing to have that deep sin exposed?
- am I spending time in Scripture and asking the Holy Spirit to probe the depths of my heart in order to expose my sin?
- am I in fellowship with other believers in the church who the Spirit can use to help me see this sin?
- do I think I can manage my sin on my own?
- am I looking for an easy fix and not willing to invest what's necessary?
- do I realize that Jesus came to rescue me from this sin? that the power of the cross saves me from its penalty but also is freeing me from its power?
- do I believe that the Spirit is not just patching my old sinful heart with duct tape and super glue, but rather has given me a new heart?
I know Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, peace, parties, celebration, etc. and I hope it becomes that for all of us. But talking about sin doesn't feel very peaceful. Yet the greatest joy is not found in pretending our sin doesn't exist or just isn't that serious ... rather true and great joy comes in embracing the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One who came to rescue us from our sin! "Joy to the World, the Lord is come!"