“It is a terrible thing to keep a wound of some great sin upon the conscience, for it makes a way for a new breach; because when the conscience once begins to be hardened with some great sin, then there is no stop, but we run on to commit sin with all greediness.” (Richard Sibbes, The Tender Heart, 35)
What Sibbes is saying here, with his Puritan language, is that we must be quick to root out sin because once it takes root it will only make way for more hardening and more sin.
Earlier in this text Sibbes gives the example of King David. When he spiraled out of control with Bathsheba he had to numb a part of his heart. A smaller sin, like taking a census, David was able to deal with and his conscience was still able to bring about his repentance. But there are some things that we simply cannot deal with and so we harden ourselves.
Once this hardening (perhaps you could say hiding) takes place it opens up a door for more and more sin to enter in. Look at David. He committed adultery. He kept it in the dark. It turned into lying. Which eventually manifested itself in murder. And worse yet it shut off a part of David’s heart to the LORD. When Nathan the prophet came David was so “hardened” to this area in his life that he was not even able to see himself in Nathan’s parable.
The only solution to this sick spiral is the gospel of Jesus.
I say the gospel is the only cure because it is the only thing (or should I say Christ is the only One) powerful enough to uproot the cause of the hardening.
We are unable to face these “big” sins because we all too often attempt to face them on our own. Just like David and Adam and Eve before him, we attempt to fix our mistakes with our own efforts and our own righteousness.
But there are certain sins that seem much bigger than our own perceived sense of righteousness. When the magnitude of the sin outweighs the level of our perceived righteousness we shut down, hide, and try to find covering. Perhaps if we wait long enough God’s statute of limitations will run out. So we harden ourselves either until we can gain enough “righteousness” to merit come out of hiding—or we think that God has forgotten about our transgression.
Hiding in the bushes is never neutral, though. Something happens. Part of our humanity has to die to live behind a bush of hiding. You and I were not made to live in the dark. And when we do it destroys our humanity. This is what Sibbes is talking about.
But the gospel changes things.
The gospel says that I do not measure my perceived righteousness against the magnitude of my sin. I measure Christ’s true righteousness against the true magnitude of my sin. Jesus wins every time. His righteousness is greater than my sin—no matter how great, no matter how vile. And whenever this truth goes deep in my heart I don’t have to hide anymore. I am hidden in Christ.
Even though he did not fully know how; David got that his only hope was the cleansing and covering of God. Read Psalm 51. He realized that if the Lord cleansed him then he would be whiter than snow. Once God used Nathan to pull David out from hiding David came to realize that his only hope was the Lord’s covering.
May we learn the same today. No matter how BIG your sin is, know that Christ’s righteousness is infinitely BIGGER. Hide Away in the Love of Jesus.