My four wisdom teeth were pulled yesterday. It was about as fun as it sounds and I’ll need a few days of recovery just to get back to living a normal life where I can eat food with texture.
I have, as my wife would say, ignored my dentist for over 13 years. Every check-up, every cleaning the refrain is the same, “We should take those wisdom teeth out.” And my response has been the same, “I’m not taking them out until they give me trouble.” Well friends, the day of trouble came two weeks ago, when every dentist was closed due to the snow.
In my discomfort I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I get these teeth taken out when I was a teenager? It would have been so much easier back then. Recovery would have been a breeze and it wouldn’t have interrupted anything. It still would have been unpleasant, but not nearly as unpleasant as it is right now.”
So it is with hidden sin in our lives -- the actions, thoughts, and deeds that destroy our relationship with God and damage ourselves, but remain hidden from the normal interactions we have in life.
A Hidden Decay
The dentist needed X-rays to see that my wisdom teeth would one day cause me trouble, but rather than dealing with it when it was first brought to my attention, I simply hardened my heart and stayed the course that lead to greater pain and suffering down the road.
Many of you have had a sort of “trip to the dentist” where someone in your family, community, workplace, or church shone a light on a sinful addiction and practice you’ve kept hidden. You maybe even rejected the opportunity to be free from it because you viewed it as “manageable” or not a big deal. I invite you to listen to the words of John Owen, an English reformer who lived in the 17th century:
“Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”
Unlike wisdom teeth, our hidden sin, addictions, and impulses wreak havoc on our souls and emotions and will quench our relationship with God (1 Thess 5:19). God hates sin for the exact point Owen makes: because it kills the thing he loves -- you! Sin takes good things God made for flourishing and turns them towards death and decay. Its effects ripple into our lives in ways we’re not even conscious of until the decay begins to show up and we can no longer ignore it.
It might be an addiction to pornography, to flirting with inappropriate relationships, to taking what is not yours, to gossiping about other people, to vanity, to substances, to anything that is controlling you and killing your soul.
An Unexpected Response
You know what I got after finally facing the music and having my wisdom teeth taken out? More suffering? A mark to shame me? Public ridicule? No. I got a prescription to eat ice cream.
Yes, getting my teeth out was painful, yes confessing and repenting of your sin will be painful too, but you’ll get something even better than ice cream, you’ll get grace. Grace from God who abounds in steadfast love, who is desirous of you, who pursues you in your sin and reveals it again and again and again so you might be free from the very thing that is killing you; not to be left on life support but to be given abundant life.
“How can this be?” you might say. Through faith in Christ, the life we now live is in him alone (Gal 2:19-21). He died taking the punishment for our sin upon himself, paying for it in full (Rom 3:23-25), so we, who have faith in him, can be adopted as sons and daughters of God (Gal 4:4-7), who made a promise to make us into the very image of the glory of Christ (2 Cor 3:18). Ice cream on its own is good, but grace from God is sweeter than any created thing.
Confront your hidden sin today and turn from it; there is grace greater than all of your sin in the love of Christ.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive? - Julia H. Johnson c. 1910