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Identity – Justification. Coming Clean, Kicking Our Ghosts in the Rump and Really Going Free…

April 16, 2016

Sam, a friend, had life nailed. Getting a late start on college, he blasted through everything finishing with a high GPA and a smooth move into a career he loved. One day a single complaint brought police detectives to his home where they found questionable pictures in his computer. His name splashed across the front page of the newspaper, his mug shot as well. He did time and tried to make the best of it. On a visit, Sam showed me the homemade Monopoly set he and other inmates made. He wore a cross made from a mop strand. One night, the other men in the cell with him found out why Sam was there and beat him up. Upon getting out, his dream job would be gone forever, his education largely trashed. He could never own a computer or any device with online capability. Nor could he live within certain distances from schools or other buildings where children might be.  He would be subject to inspections without notice. Any attempt to find a job would inevitably arrive at the application question, “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?” Background checks would confirm that. Sam will walk through, breathe the air of and live in this terrain the rest of his life. Ten seconds in a computer will lay bare a life no one might suspect on the outside.

Stuff follows us like ghosts and shadows. We hear about people losing jobs in colleges because years before, they lied about degrees they’d said they’d earned. We might say and think we’re moving on but stuff lingers and resurfaces – often at bad times and in bad ways. These things don’t include the junk other people dump into us from their mess (read “sin”) that turn our souls into landfills. I mean things we work hard to shut up, sit on and squelch that we’ve done to ourselves, other people and, more importantly, to God. Things we cringe and wince at when they pop up unbidden even after years. Conscience used to be our guide but now our compass has a bent needle. Culture and society find the whole idea of anything being sin to be a nasty inconvenience except for the sin of not getting our way.

Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, Paul wrote, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Justified – it’s a legal word meaning not only to be declared to be not guilty, but that the record of our offenses has been wiped clean. When Jesus Christ steps into our lives and makes the call as to who and what we will be, we walk through the story He writes without ghosts or shadows stalking us. That’s huge. It’s very difficult to expunge criminal records. Decades can pass but they lurk in a computer somewhere.

But the peace in Romans 5:1 isn’t a license to skate or blow off the damage to others as if nothing’s happened, nothing to revisit. My phone rang and a stranger in a local motel wanted to talk. He’d spent a lot of years ignoring and hurting his family. Now Jesus Christ ran the things of his life and he’d come back to apologize and reconcile. What about the things we’ve racked up in the memories of people we’ve hurt? What about the pain we’ve inflicted on the heart of God? If God kept score and held grudges, who could stand? Peace with God because Jesus died in our place on the cross frees us to make peace with others both for their sakes and our own.

We can also make peace with ourselves. Since through the cross of Christ, the penalty for our sin is paid and the record of our sin wiped clean, we don’t hide from ourselves or anyone else. Someone attempted to blackmail the great preacher C.H. Spurgeon, threatening to end his ministry. He said, “Take everything you know and write it across the skies. Jesus knows it all and has paid in full.” A professor wrote up his Christian story to be included with others in a book. The editor came to him and said, “Professor Jones (not his real name), are you sure you want to write it this way?” The editor thought the prof might regret later that he’d revealed so much of himself. The prof took back his copy and revised it being even more explicit than the first draft had been. His record was clean and so he was free to tell his story to draw others to Christ.

One person (Hearts and Minds Books – 20% off if you say you saw it here.) wrote, “Guarding tombs is a joyless job, as anyone who has sought to keep the past from the future can attest…Is shame standing watch over any dead things in your life?…[Stop] guarding that tomb. Let an earthquake or an angel roll away the stone so that you can see that nothing is there anymore. Jesus conquered it. Jesus removed it. All that remains is light and hope.”

Maybe you have a question about God or the Christian faith. I do. If you’d like to throw yours out there, send it to You don’t even have to give your name. I do reserve the right to ask clarifying questions so I can dignify your question with a respectable answer.

If you think something here might encourage a student or someone who loves students, then subscribe, share, Twitter and all those social media things. If you already subscribe, maybe you need to check out Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, pastors, artists, writers, musicians, composers, business people, broadcasters, booksellers, theologians, artisans, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, a few campus rats and a Goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. Take a look. It’s a sharp bunch and you will only make us better.

Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at



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