I got my first pair of glasses at age nine, and hated them…along with every pair I was ever doomed to wear. Not only did they hide what I considered my best feature, they also fogged up in winter (half the year where I grew up) and made gym class even worse. I stumbled through high school without glasses (except to read the blackboard), prizing vanity over facial recognition. If a genie ever appeared to grant me one wish, I was ready: Give me perfect eyesight! In those years, such a wish was as likely to come true as wishing to grow several inches taller overnight.
Contact lenses were a short-term solution. The first time an optician slid a pair of hard lenses on my eyeballs, I had a grand mal seizure in his office chair. This didn’t deter me from wearing so-called ‘gas-permeable’ lenses for several years, until my eyes refused and turned red each time I wore them. It was back to glasses, even more onerous now that I’d become athletic and taken up running and cycling. Once again, I was dealing with foggy lenses and the clunky feel of hard plastic on my nose. Plus, they hid my already-kind-of-small face. Especially those outrageous 80s frames.
In the late 90s, LASIK surgery became available, which sounded too good to be true. Yes, it was expensive and seemed riskier back then, but in 2000 I was fortunate to know an experienced eye surgeon and have the procedure. Within an hour, my vision went from blurry to better than 20/20. My doctor had the foresight to correct one eye for long vision and the other for short. That way, he said, I wouldn’t need reading glasses quite so soon. My eyes would automatically adjust to the two viewing options.
He was right. 20 years on, I can still function well without glasses, except for fine print and night reading. But some part of me must have always questioned the permanence of my new vision, because I’ve had recurring dreams for two decades that my surgeried eyesight is failing, and I can’t find the eye doctor to fix me before I go blind. (There must be some deep psychological meaning behind the dream that has nothing to do with my physical eyes, but we won’t go there.) My point is this: It’s been hard for me to grasp that this miracle—the gift of good eyesight– is permanent. Or at least as ‘permanent’ as my aging body is!
Our Hebrew writer, referring to the endlessly repeated daily and yearly sacrifices in the temple, says this about Jesus:
But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once and after that to face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once for all to take away sins, and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Heb.9:26-28)
Wow. Here’s the power and longevity of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross: ONCE FOR ALL.
Unlike almost everything else in life, there’s no expiry date on his gift. No need to sign up for a five-year renewal. No fear that his gift won’t cover our Sin Bill. No maxing out, on God’s end, on how many sinners He’ll cover, or for how long. Not even any spending—or sinning—limit on his forgiveness, as long as we continue in the faith, confess our sins, and walk in the light, as he is in the light (I John 1:7).
I remember how light and transcendent I felt for weeks after my baptism, newly aware of God’s grace and delighting in my new state of forgiveness. I don’t remember when that feeling wore off, but of course it did, even though God’s grace was just as abundant as ever. Awareness of my sinful nature and the voice of the accuser, reminding me of my failings, eventually dampened my initial joy and confidence, dimming the light in my heart.
We each have mountaintop moments—right after our baptism, or alone with God in nature, or during an especially rich prayer time, or worshipping God in song. What usually happens next? We interact with a spouse or loved one or any other person in our orbit, and crash back to earth. We sin. We argue or envy or judge or get angry or…any number of ungodly responses. And it FEELS like sin is ruling again, as if God’s boundless grace is a little less boundless, and our sin/redemption account is running low.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The blood of Christ is powerful enough to cleanse us from all past, present, AND future sins. As long as we’re not deliberately and willfully sinning, using God’s grace as a license to sin, we’re utterly covered by his sacrifice. The death of God’s only, eternal Son is worth that much.
What a staggering thought! Have you ever tried to imagine what the sins of the entire world would look like? It’s hard enough to picture our own lifetime of sins being put on Jesus, let alone the entirety of mankind’s sin. But that’s what the Bible teaches. God made him, who had no sin, to BE sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor.5:21) Or, as Isaiah puts it,
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa.53:5-6)
His once-for-all sacrifice is sufficient and complete. That’s why any attempt to add our own feeble efforts to Christ’s sacrifice is wrong, and offensive to God. We cannot earn or add to our salvation by fasting, self-flagellation, wearing hair-shirts, praying endlessly, or giving everything we own to the poor. We do good works BECAUSE we are saved, in gratitude to God. We show love to others BECAUSE He first loved us. Appreciating and trusting in the fullness of Christ’s sacrifice is what pleases God.
20 years after LASIK, my eyes are showing their age. I have floaters and blurry spells, and sometimes they’re just plain tired. My night vision is compromised with light halos. I’m getting by, but I know my eyes aren’t perfect, nowhere near the crispness of my post-surgery eyesight. I could develop cataracts, or wind up needing fulltime glasses again.
My salvation, however, is just as intact as it was at my baptism, many decades ago. In spite of my sins, I’m covered with Jesus’ righteousness, made pure and holy as my Saviour, and blameless in God’ sight (see Col.1:22-23). His once-for-all and once-for-all-time offer is more than enough. This is reason enough to rejoice…though He gives us so much more in His personalised, everlasting gift!