This is the last of our series looking at some of the Why questions we all struggle with. This week, Why Do I Feel Distant From God. We've all struggled with this question before, there are times we feel very close to God, but other times we may feel we need Him desperately, but He seems distant.
This is the last of our series looking at some of the Why questions. We started just wondering Why God love us – we don’t deserve it, what did we do? And we found out we didn’t do anything, God loves us because He created us. Period. Unconditional Love. And since we didn’t do anything to warrant it, we can’t do anything to stop it. God loves us. Then we looked at Why Doesn’t God answer my prayers, and we saw the difference between no and not yet, and we saw some things to keep in mind when it really is no. Last week we looked at Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, and we saw some good reasons for that, too. We live in a fallen world, sometimes our choices are contradictory to God’s Laws, and sometimes God is just trying to grow us.
That brings us to this week’s message, “Why do I feel distant from God?” There’s not a person in this room that hasn’t asked that question at one point or another. And it not unbiblical to struggle with this, the Psalms are full of this question. And in our reading this morning, even Jesus asked this question. He struggled with the question, “Why, God have you forsaken me?”
I think there might be a couple of reasons why you can feel distant from God, and understand the way I worded that, you feel distant from God. Feeling distant from God doesn’t mean you’re actually distant from God. Make sure you understand the difference. Even when you feel distant from God, He still loves you. Remember we saw that the first week of the series, and that’s why I made sure to tell you that none of the answers to these questions we’ve been looking at these last four weeks make sense unless we understand that God loves you. He always loves you. We don’t always feel it, but He always loves you. And sometimes you feel distant from him, but that doesn’t mean you are. There are a couple reasons we might feel distant.
One reason might be silence. Sometime silence feels like separation. Sometimes we pray, but don’t get an answer. We we feel that God is silent to us, He’s not answering and we begin to wonder if He’s listening, we begin to feel distant. If we are silent toward God, if we don’t pray, we will feel distant. You know from experience it’s really hard to stay close to someone you don’t talk to. So we’ve got to talk with God. An active prayer life can help you feel closer to God.
But I think the primary reason you might feel distant from God is because maybe you are distant from God. Sin is real, and sin will separate you from God. That’s what the Bible says. Jesus took our sin to the cross for us. But we’ve got to confess it and seek His forgiveness. If we don’t, our sin isn’t forgiven. Unconfessed sin can cause you to feel distant from God.
Some of you today are not walking with God the way you know you should. You know there is unconfessed or unrepented sin in your life. And as a result, you’re not feeling very close to God. Sin can cause separation. Closeness with God is possible. We can have a personal relationship with Jesus. But unconfessed sin will keep that from happening.
This is the reason we see in our reading today. Jesus felt distant from God because of sin. Now Jesus didn’t sin, but He became our substitute. He bore our sin on the cross. He died in our place, to pay our penalty for our sin. He was our substitute.
So Jesus took our sins to the cross, as our substitute. What do you think of when you think of substitutes? I think of teachers. Substitute teachers are like the Rodney Dangerfield’s of our education system. They don’t get any respect. The students don’t pay any attention to them. They don’t listen to them, they play pranks on them. They don’t always know the system, and yet, sometimes they can be the most creative, the most innovative, the most interesting. So sometimes, substitutes can be good. And Jesus was the ultimate good substitute.
Because Jesus, who had never sinned in his life, became sin for us. He took our sins to the cross. But sin separates us from the Father, and Jesus, on the cross, bearing our sins, felt separated from the Father. For the first time in His life, he felt separated from His Father. We saw in verse 45, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.” What do you think that means? I think it means God looked away. He couldn’t bear to look on the sin. He had to look away.
That word darkness is the Greek word Skotos, it literally means a moral or spiritual darkness. It can mean privacy, or being alone. And Jesus, feeling this spiritual darkness for the first time, literally overwhelmed at our sinfulness, screams out. He’s rejected, forsaken, abandoned, alone, nothing hurts like being abandoned. Nothing hurts like being rejected. Maybe you have felt rejection.
In the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life he was abandoned again and again, by those closest to Him. He was abandoned by Judas. He was abandoned by the disciples; every one of them had left him except John, and now, even the Father turns his back. The Father cannot look at sin, and on the cross, Jesus took your sin, my sin, the sin of the world, on himself, and the Father has to turn his head away. He can’t look. And Jesus had never felt that kind of darkness before.
So why does sin separate us from God. What’s the big deal? Why is sin such an issue? There are three reasons, really. Three reasons why our sin had to be dealt with. Three reasons why Jesus had to take our sin upon Himself. Why He was ultimately abandoned by God. 1) God is Holy. 2) Sin is Ugly. 3) Forgiveness is costly. Let’s look at these.
First, God is Holy. That’s what John said in Revelation 4:8, “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stopped saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” God is Holy; He is 100% perfect. And he can’t let even ½ of one sin enter into heaven. You’ve broken the law and I’ve broken the law, and the bible says, in Habakkuk 1:13, speaking of God, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.”
In heaven there’s no wrong, there’s no sickness there’s no sadness because in heaven everything is perfect. There is no sin in heaven. We’ll never get there if we’re sinful. Jesus came to take your sin and my sin to the cross, he came to take all of our sins, everyone’s sins, every act of injustice, every lie, every betrayal, every murder, every rape, everything that’s ever gone wrong that the bible calls sin – Jesus is bearing on that cross. God is holy. That sin can’t get into heaven. It has to be dealt with. So Jesus took it upon Himself. He dealt with it, so we can have the chance to be holy.
The second reason why sin has to be dealt with is that sin is ugly. Galatians 5:19-21 show what sin is like: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealously, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” These are attractive things. They are ugly. Sin is ugly. And it’s dangerous. Sin is serious.
Society tells sin is cool. There are books and movies and songs that make it look like sin is attractive and popular and appealing. And the world makes us, people who go to church and who belong to God and try to be holy, look like we don’t fit in. They want us to think everybody’s doing it. They try to tell us that if you follow God’s commands you are a fuddy-duddy. The world laughs at sin, it’s no big deal, its fun. That’s the plot of the enemy.
Because if he can get you to laugh at sin you’ll never take it seriously. These books and movies that show how fun sin is are never going to show you the reality of sin, they’re not going to show you the ugliness of sin, they’re not going to show the alcoholic who drank so much he beat his wife, they’re not going to show you the wino who passed out in his own vomit. They’ll show you a James Bond movie with all of his sexual escapades, because that looks fun, but they won’t show the broken hearts of all the women left behind, or the broken families that result from adultery. They’re not going to show you the sexually transmitted diseases or the pregnancies or the heartbreak of abortion. They won’t show you that. They want you to think sin is fun. They don’t want you to know the truth.
Sin is fun. Everybody’s doing it. No. Sin is ugly. Sin separates. Sin can separate us from friends, from family, and it always separates us from God. God is holy. Sin is ugly. And Forgiveness is costly. That’s the third reason.
God’s gift is free, but somebody has to pay for it. That somebody was Jesus. Romans 6:23 tells us that “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
There’s a well-known story, I’ve heard it several times. It’s a story of two friends who grew up together, they were best friends, they even went to law school together. After they graduated, they took very different paths. One became a respected federal court judge in the state of NY. The other became hooked on cocaine.
To support his drug habit he became a criminal. And sure enough, one day the man was arrested. He got caught and was brought before a federal judge because it was a drug charge. And you’ve probably guessed it, he was brought before the very judge that was his college roommate and his best friend. People wondered what the judge would do, if he would show leniency to his best friend.
The judge heard the case, and when the verdict was read, he did two things that surprised everyone. First, he banged his gavel and handed down the largest fine that was permissible by law. He assessed the biggest fine the law would allow. Then he took off his robe, and he walked down the stairs, and he took out his billfold. And he paid the fine. That’s what God did. God said, because of your sin, you’re going to die. And then He sent his own son to become the substitute, to die for us, to atone for our sin, to pay that death penalty.
We feel distant from God, often because we are. Because sin in our life has separated us from God. But God has come to our rescue. He paid the penalty for our sin. So we can be made right again.
So how do we respond? How do we respond to a love like this? First, God’s Word is clear that we have to make sure that we have personally received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Secondly, we respond by living a state of gratefulness. Be genuinely thankful for what Jesus has done for you. Don’t get bent out of shape if He doesn’t grant your next prayer just the way you want it, because, to be blunt, it’s pretty inconsequential compared to what He’s already done for you. And thirdly, remember the next time you’re tempted to sin, remember what it cost. And if we do fall into sin, confess that sin and repent, get it out of the way, deal with it so you can get right with God.