Scarred For Life
Meeting Christ, Jacob experienced this also, but in a good way. “Because He touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank,” (Gen. 32:32) and for the remainder of Jacob’s years, the damaged tendon and gluteus muscle never returned to full life. It was the spanking from God that he would never forget. From that day forward Jacob walked with a limp. From that terrible wrestling match between Christ and self, Jacob came forth a victor and a cripple. “And as he passed over Penuel, the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.” Gen. 32:31. Yet in spite of the pain, he was content. The clouds of sinful unbelief that had hid God from his awareness swept away, the sun of righteousness had finally arisen in his heart, long tortured by pride and love of self. Jacob finally had what he had longed for all his life, a heart surrendered to God.
If we ever have victory over sin, and God declares us “Israel,” which means, “overcomer,” (Gen. 32:28) then we must expect pain and permanent damage. The eye that is plucked out and the hand that is cut off, which allegory Christ used to attempt to represent the surrender of self (Matt. 5:29, 30), are the result of tremendous struggle and the cause of horrific hurt. No one ever surrenders self and bows to the will of God without many difficult lessons in life and tough consequences of their weaknesses and faultiness. That surrender requires an admission; not a flippant admission, but a heartfelt, tearing of the heart and rending of the mind, accepting the full responsibility and the blame and the guilt,despising the very thought of the aloofness from our heavenly Friend, loathing the sinful self-sufficiency, that had been the scourge of life. This is following Christ. Jesus could not have endured the cross without hating the sin that encased this world in rebellion. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Heb. 12:2.
Christ didn’t require us to cut off the evil hand or pluck out the wretched eye, without Himself having done so, treading the same path ahead of us. “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people, there was none with Me.” Is. 63:3. He didn’t sit back with His sinless nature and enjoy a life of ease. If He had not spent His entire life pressing upward, higher and higher into the perfect character of His Father, He knew that He would arrive unprepared for that day in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, when He would come under the fiercest attacks by Satan, and when He should feel His Father’s full wrath against the effects of sin and taste eternal death for every man.
Preparation for that day was His whole life’s burden. When led out into the wilderness, driven by the compelling will of the Spirit, He furiously determined to not overstep His liberty as the only Son of God, until He received permission from His Father, even if it would kill Him. Finally, at long last, the war cry against Satan declared and the battle initiated, He would eat, but only fed by what angels would bring to Him from His God. Out of the desert He came, disfigured and permanently scarred. “Many were astonied at Thee: His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” Is. 52:14. Speaking to the serpent of His own work and woe in fighting this usurper of His Father’s throne, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her Seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.” Gen. 3:15.
We cannot expect our war against sin and the tempter to be waged without leaving us permanent damaged. Thus, before we even begin the eternal venture, Christ says that we must “count the cost.” (Lk. 14:28). And His warning is, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me let him follow Me.” Jn. 12:25, 26. “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath,” “yea, and his own life also,” “he cannot be My disciple.” Lk. 9:33; 14:26. “Let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily.” Lk. 9:23.
But we are not saved by our works, not saved by stuff-denial. The power of God’s grace doesn’t happen because of the things we have given up, but rather in the surrender of self, of our willfulness and rebellion. Self-denial is where the real test of discipleship is found, here is where the real battle is begun. Its in the surrender of the control of the will to the power of divine love; the bowing before the sweet influence of God’s grace as revealed in His Word, in nature, and in the experiences in life. And then a miracle happens, once self is conquered by God, all of our stuff doesn’t belong to us anymore. We are conquered, subjugated by love. It is mutually agreed upon that everything is on loan to us for our stewardship, all we have is a gift from a God of love, all are objects to call forth our thanksgiving, and to promote the life of service. Our heart is new again, selfishness cannot be harbored, and the life is all for Him.
And we bear the marks of the struggle over sin. It wasn’t easy. Like the casting out of the devil from the young boy, “The spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.” Mk. 9:26. After our Gethsemane, after the Holy Spirit of God casts out the devils that torture and tempt us, we will have a memory of our true condition and tendency. Our pride has been called out, and we’ve seen it in all its exceeding ugliness; we have humiliated self before God and all heaven, inspired by grace with the determined oath to ever afterward avoid that display of our nakedness before the eyes of heaven. Out of our intense humbling is born a natural and permanent revulsion for those items of temptation that promoted our life of diffidence and pride. If it was overeating, we will choose the mellow tasting food, we will avoid the large helpings, and fasting suddenly becomes easy. If it was vanity, we will hate the magazines and the jewelry and the mirrors that had us trapped in a love/hate relationship with our appearance and reputation. If it was greed, we will sell all that we have and give to the poor; we will happily return our tithes and dispense offerings; we will restore all that we stole or took by force. If it was a certain sport, we will deny all sports and competitiveness in any facet of life, for fear that that sin return and separate us from Jesus, and our last state be worse than before Christ freed us. While some of these forsaken items may have been enjoyed in the right relation to Jesus, because of our weakness to them, they are summarily discarded. The bad memory of the enslavement to self-pleasing and self-sufficiency will never go away and we will avoid, at all cost, the things that made us separate from God. The peace with Jesus will be too much to sacrifice to temptation. The past life of pride will always brood over our thoughts and shout its faithful warnings. The justice and mercy of God perfectly blended, the sole components of divine love in all Their work to bring us out of our perversity, provide for us a trust and love as nothing on Earth can create. We are scarred for life by our Father’s justice, and happy to be so.
“Whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken.” Matt. 22:44. Before falling on the Angel’s breast in humiliation and surrender, Jacob had been all about saving himself. Now his soul hoped in God in full faith. Complete in Him, any loss sustained to self was well worth the prize obtained.