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Control Z

Over the past few weeks I have been working on a project for a friend, putting photos of her mother’s life into a video format as a keepsake. It’s been a lot of fun, and I have learned some new things about my photo editing program – and relearned some that I haven’t used for quite a while, and had forgotten.

Editing the photos, and adding embellishments to make the whole production more interesting, is painstaking and detailed work, often involving pixel-by-pixel manipulation of the images. It takes a steady hand on the mouse, and even then there are inevitable slip-ups.

That’s when my very favourite computer function kicks in: “Control Z.” “Control Z” (hitting the “Control” key and the “Z” key at the same time) is the shortcut for “undo.” Erased a bit of the photo that you didn’t want to erase? “Control Z,” and suddenly it’s back the way it was. Put a line where you didn’t mean to put one? “Control Z.” Accidentally deleted a paragraph of text (as I did just a moment ago?) “Control Z.” No matter how stupid, clumsy or unthinking your action has been, “Control Z” and everything is fixed, the consequences removed, and things returned to the way they should be. “Control Z,” and suddenly it’s just as if your mistake never happened.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life came with a “Control Z” function?

The good news is, it does. The bad news is, it doesn’t.

Confused? It all depends on whether we are looking at things from an eternal or a temporal viewpoint.

From an eternal viewpoint, the good news is that life does come with a “Control Z” function. Except that, in life, the two “keys” we have to hit at the same time are not “Control” and “Z” but “Faith” and “Repentance.” By “Faith” I don’t mean the wishy-washy kind of fantasy faith that just believes that somehow everything will pan out ok, but faith in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the fact that He died in our place to pay the penalty of our sin. And by “Repentance” I don’t mean just being sorry that we got caught, but a genuine sorrow for our disobedience toward God and a willingness to be changed by His Spirit.

When we come to Jesus in faith and repentance, He receives us and forgives our sin. Not only that, but He “justifies” us. That is a theological term that means simply that He declares us not guilty. Think of a court of law. If someone has committed a crime, but appeals for clemency, he might receive a pardon. That is like forgiveness: it says, “You are guilty, but you do not have to suffer the consequences. You are free to go.” On the other hand, if someone has been wrongly convicted of a crime, he might appeal and eventually be exonerated. That is like justification: it says, “You are not guilty.”

Now in our case, we were thoroughly guilty. Yet because of the death of Jesus, when we come to Him God declares us to be legally “not guilty” – it is as if all our sins and errors had never happened. No matter how bad, stupid, ignorant or thoughtless our actions have been, God says that legally is is as though they had simply never occurred. The consequence of that sin would have been eternity in hell, but because God declares us “not guilty” we will never have to face that consequence. That’s waaaaaaay better than “Control Z.”

From a temporal viewpoint, however, the bad news is that life does not come with a “Control Z” function. Our actions have consequences, and every time we choose an action we automatically also choose its consequence. For instance, I can choose to jump off a 20 storey building, but that action comes with a consequence – a splat on the footpath below. I cannot choose the action without also choosing the consequence. So every choice we have ever made in our lives has had consequences, both for ourselves and for those around us – and sometimes even for people we don’t know and will never meet.

Even though the eternal consequences have been removed for us if we have come to Jesus in faith and repentance, the temporal consequences remain for us to deal with. Yes, God will work with us as we seek to put right the effects of our past actions on ourselves and on others, and occasionally He will even intervene miraculously to deal with some situation that is beyond our efforts. For the most part, however, cleaning up our messes is something that takes time, effort, and some degree of pain on our part. There is no “Control Z” instant zap and everything is back the way it was.

It has to be that way, otherwise we would never learn from our mistakes. We would just go right out and do the same things all over again.

In working with computer graphics, the fastest and easiest way to get things done is to be careful to do them properly in the first place. Likewise, in life the best way is to walk with God from the outset, and to rely on His Spirit to keep us from making the mistakes that would leave us with nasty consequences that have to be faced.

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