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And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”  Luke 19:8-9

Jesus did not say to him, “You don’t have to go back.  You don’t have to face your past.  That’s water under the bridge.  This is all about grace, right?  So you can just move on.”  No, Jesus said, “Today salvation, the real thing, what the Bible is talking about, what I came to accomplish, has come to this house.  Get after it, man.”

Glib slogans like “That’s water under the bridge,” “I’ve moved on,” or misquoting the Bible with “Forgetting what lies behind . . .” – these are not evidences of salvation.  They are strategies of denial and self-justification.  We might as well scream out, “The cross means nothing to me.  I must establish my own rightness.  So I cannot face myself.”

But real repentance, filled with a wonderful sense of Jesus, has the courage to go back and make wrongs right again in honest, humble, creative ways.  John prepared the way for Jesus by preaching, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).  Paul preached that “. . . they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20).  The latter passage is especially significant, because Paul is summarizing his message to the world.  Practical repentance is gospel follow-through.

Water under the bridge is peaceful, calm, even beautiful.  But going back and confronting our sins and doing all we can to re-create the positive conditions our sins destroyed – that is disturbing, embarrassing, costly, and liberating.  A conscience finally freed is the power of salvation.  And commonly the breakthrough point for revival.

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3 thoughts on “Water under the bridge?”

  1. Debbie Howerton says:

    A powerful word. Thank you.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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