Monday, May 11, 2009

East From West

East From West

"As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:11,12.

This verse is cooling for someone sweating under the intense heat of sin, it is freeing for someone struggling under the oppressive weight of guilt, and it is refreshing, like a gust of cool air, for someone suffocating from shame and embarrassment.

How far is the east from the west? Well, that can’t be calculated. The distance is impossible to measure. Not only is the east far from the west, it runs in a different direction, meaning the two can never meet. "East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet."

That means that when God removes our sin, it is so far away from us it can never entangle and ensnare us again. It is gone and traveling in an opposite direction from us. Never shall we meet that sin again.

Of course, we may, and likely will, sin again. That is why we keep a penitent heart. That is why we keep crying out, "Lord, forgive me (us)." In his kindness God keeps forgiving! "He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities." (103:10). In his grace he removes our sin as far away from us as the east is from the west.

There is another angle to this verse. In the original language of the Old Testament the word for "from us" also means "from himself." (Holladay, Psalms Through 3,000 Years, p.325). So, not only does God remove our sin "from us," he also removes it from himself. Our forgiven sin is as far from God as the east is distanced from the west. Our forgiven sin is completely and irrevocably removed from God’s presence. Do you realize how powerful that reality is?

Personal shame is a constant companion to many of us. Shame is the realization that deep down inside ourselves we are much more sinful, evil and despicable than the image we cast to the world outside ourselves. Shame is what causes us to turn our head and avoid eye contact. It is what makes us cry in private rather than share our sin and pain with someone else lest they reject us. Shame is that feeling that we are dirty and will never be good enough for ourselves, others, or God. Shame is one of the most potent self-destructive secret attitudes.

There is a good reason for shame. Shame is the realization that we are sinners. It can be the motivating factor that drives us to our knees before a trusted friend to pour out our hearts. It is the driving force behind our cry for mercy before the throne of God. But once we have poured out our hearts to a brother and God, shame has served its purpose. The sin behind the shame has been sent east as we travel west. We need to send shame packing with it.

Because of shame a husband could not look his wife in the eye and beg, "I am sorry for my sin, please forgive me." He left her instead. Shame caused an abused 14 year old girl to abort her baby and begin a run of dangerous relationships for ten years. A young drug addict whose baby ate some of her drugs was driven to the brink of insanity by the shame of her irresponsibility.

I wish I could go back to all three of these people and say, "Hey, guess what! God can remove your sin. And with that, he can remove your shame. He removes it from you and he also removes it from his presence. That means God welcomes you into his presence. There is not one sin, not one bad decision, not one instance of abuse that you have suffered, that has to keep you from the loving compassion of God."

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from himself. That means we can lift our heads, look God in the eye, and say, "Thank you." It means we can live again.

Warren Baldwin


  1. Shame has been a constant companion. Thanks for telling me how far removed from me that sin is.

  2. i needed that this morning. thank you.

  3. Rejoicing with you in the joy of forgiveness! Thanks for teaching us from your wisdom and life. Looking forward to exploring more of the jewels hidden in this blog.

    Blessings from Costa Rica,
    Sarah Dawn

  4. Barbara - sin, and the shame (2 separate things) are removed from us! Now the challenges if for us to be able to accept that. That can take a lot longer.

    Reborn1995 - thank you.

    Sarah Dawn - Thank you for the kind words. "Wisdom and life" means we have made a bunch of mistakes from which we can learn forgiveness!! Hope you enjoy the blog.


  5. Warren said: "Now the challenge is for us to be able to accept that".

    Ah. The difference between 'information' and 'revelation'. If only the gobs of information I consume traveled south every time to hit my heart. I'd be so free I'd be floating.

    Revelation hit me not long back when He told me "I cannot disappoint Him". Not wont, but CANNOT. ..... because of His Grace. That has to be because of the the east to west direction our rotten stuff is now traveling. Amazing, Warren how He reveals the same truths to so many at once. I love it. It's like taking a journey together ... and I've always loved holidays :)

    Revelation is amazingly soooo tasty. The satisfying way it soaks into the core of my being ... nothing like it. Think I'll sit here a little long and just bask in that truth for a while ..... :)

  6. Thank you so much for this extra insight into a familiar scripture "So, not only does God remove our sin "from us," he also removes it from himself" That is a truly beautiful thought!

  7. SanDe - good point about information and revelation. We are overwhelmed with information. Does it necessarily make us better people? It is what we do with that info.

    twofinches - Thanks.

  8. Warren-- what exactly then is the difference, do you think, between sinning before being saved and sinning while being saved?

  9. Reborn - Great question! I think the difference in sinning before and after salvation (and during our sanctificiation) is RELATIONSHIP.

    Sinning before a relationship with Christ means we bear the full consequences of our guilt. Sinning afterwards means Christ bears it for us.

    Can we become hard-hearted and not care about our sin and lose our salvation? Oh, the debate on this question through the years!! I would say in brief that we can separate ourselves from the love of Christ; we can intentionally repudiate and reject it.

    But, if we keep sensitive hearts to the relationship we have with Christ, and keep feeding that with worship, I believe the Bible teaches we still stand in solid relationship and salvation.

    That is what 1 John is largely about - giving believers the confidence that we are still saved! Many Christians struggle through live with the horrible weight of shame over sins committed even long ago. "Can God really forgive me of that?" We also carry the shame of sins committed as Chrisitians. "Can God forgive me after I confessed his name?" The answer to both of those is - YES.

    Good question. WB

  10. So then do you think that i may have sins in my life i'm not aware of and haven't corrected, yet they do not sever my saving-relationship with Christ?

    Is it possible for me to have sins i'm aware of and have yet to correct (or fully correct) yet those do not end my saving-relationship with Christ?

    i'm certainly not trying to see how much i can get away with--if that were my motive, then something much deeper and more systematic is wrong that whatever sin is in question. nevertheless, i think these are rather relevant questions many disciples struggling with confidence have asked in one form or another.

    What do you think?

  11. Reborn - to both questions I say, "Yes."

    There is a difference between a stubborn and rebellious attitude on our part that refuses to submit in anyway to the will of God and a penitent spirit that wants to obey God but is flawed.

    Can any of us ever "perfect" ourselves so that we have no sin? No. We will be forgiven, saved, redeemed, taken home, flawed and scarred. That's what I think it means to be saved.

    If we can only have a saving relationship with Christ based on our sinlessness, why do we need Christ? The "saving" part means he does it!

    Good questions.