White As Snow

Winter 3 I woke up the other day to our first, freshly fallen snow of the season. It wasn’t much, just enough to cover the roofs and the ground, but it was wonderful blanket of crisp, gleaming white. From the balcony of our 5th floor condo, it was a beautiful sight and an exciting preview of things to come. I always get excited for the change of seasons here in Minnesota but those first few snowfalls are always a special treat and, perhaps, my favorite of all.

It may be hard for those unaccustomed to living so far from the equator to grasp, but there’s nothing quite like the incomparable beauty of seeing everything covered in a bright, glowing tapestry of pure white. Especially after the beautiful fall colors have faded away and left us surrounded by a dreadful, lifeless brown and gray. For by then the days have grown short, the temperatures have dropped, and things have started to feel rather gloomy and bleak. But then one morning, we wake up to that first, freshly fallen snow and it’s like new life has been breathed into our whole environment!

And the cycle repeats itself throughout the winter months. Snow falls, bringing its refreshing newness to the land, only to fade to a brownish gray as repeated exposure to sun, wind, and dust takes its toll. And then more snow falls, once again delivering its sparkling rebirth to the landscape. My favorite snowfalls are those where the snow sticks to everything, coating the tree branches in a glistening white powder that sparkles and shimmers and brightens the day. You forget the harshness of the cold as you revel in the splendor and beauty before you.

Such is the effect of freshly fallen snow. Not everyone I know enjoys the bitter cold the way I often do, but few deny the beauty winter brings. And I think the revitalizing effect that freshly fallen snow has on the landscape is a perfect metaphor for the cleansing effect God’s grace has on our souls.

One of my very favorite verses is Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”  The colors scarlet and crimson reflect the darkness of sin, the hopelessness of guilt. Depravity and perversity pull people down and create a chasm from which we cannot escape on our own.

But Isaiah uses the white associated with snow and wool to portray the opposite of sin: forgiveness, mercy, cleanliness, new life. And he acknowledges that it is only God who can bring us from one to the other, only God can bring us from guilt to grace. And David does the same in his psalm of repentance where he asks the Lord to “purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)

It doesn’t matter how far we’ve fallen, or how deep the crevasse our human condition has cast us into, God can and will get us out.  Paul teaches us in Galatians that “Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.” (Galatians 1:4) And again in Galatians 3:13: “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing.” So we can be confident that whatever we have done, whatever darkness surrounds us, no matter the stain of our sin, God, through Jesus, can and will lift us up and wash us clean and give us new life. Just like the freshly fallen snow brings new life to the scenery around us.

But how do we avail ourselves of this? First, we must repent. We read in Matthew 4:17, “From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” This truly is the first step we take. It really means, in its most simple form, that we come to agreement with God that we truly are sinful. (And if you think you are not sinful, just ask your spouse or your parents or someone else intimately close to you and you will learn the truth!) We accept what the Bible says, that “we all have sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). Then we ask for His forgiveness and place our faith in Him.

Romans 10:9-11: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

Romans 3:22: “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”

Galatians 3:11: “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

1 John 1:9: “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

So, if you haven’t already, please avail yourself of God’s great and endless mercy. Let Him make you as clean as the freshly fallen snow, that you might sparkle in the newness of life that comes by faith in Christ. And if you have already made that decision, but feel you sometimes still struggle, know that just like the snow refreshes itself throughout a winter season, God will bring constant refreshing to your soul as you abide in Him.

If you are lucky enough to live where the snow falls, may you enjoy this winter season. And if you live closer to the equator, let me suggest a visit to a wintry destination soon!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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