While probably not the most efficient solution, I tend to use my e-mail inbox at work as a to-do list. Things needing action are tagged in the Inbox, until I (or someone else) resolves the question or problem. Then, both the initial e-mail and the resolution e-mail (along with other interim notes on that same topic) get filed in a folder.
When I return to work after some time out of the office, this allows me to match up questions (often sent to a group) with colleagues’ replies, and then move resolved conversations to another location. Only issues that remain open should still be in my Inbox when I’m done, as a reminder to address them.
One nice thing about this process is that I don’t have to worry about conversations that have been resolved. Once the customers (internal or external) have what they need for a given situation, there are really only three main reasons why I’d need to go back to a closed conversation in my files:
- To prove that something was resolved. If someone wasn’t aware that a solution had been found and implemented, this record would confirm that things had been taken care of.
- To learn from what has gone on before. When similar questions surface in the future, old notes can be pulled up and previous solutions can be evaluated to see if they will also resolve new problems.
- To document and celebrate achievements. Whether for a weekly or annual report, I may go through completed tasks, just to record them so that my manager can evaluate what I’ve done. (I will sometimes keep others’ accomplishments on file, too, in case anyone asks me how they have been doing.)
Now, you might not be beholden to an e-mail Inbox. However, regardless of where we are employed (or aren’t employed), we all have a problem. It’s called sin, and it shows up whenever we choose to do what is wrong, based on God’s straightforward standards (which are built into our consciences and described more fully in His word). As Romans 6:23 tells us, the consequences (“wages”) of sin is death. This isn’t limited to the fact that humankind was condemned to die physically when our ancestors sinned (and when we follow suit), but it also includes us making ourselves “dead” to God when we choose to rebel against Him.
That’s a real problem, and it stares at us from the “Inbox” of our lives while this sin problem remains open. We may push it down or try to ignore it, distracting ourselves with other things. However, until our sins’ “accounts payable” balance is resolved, we know that it will eventually have to be settled. Payment terms are extended to us as long as we walk this earth, but that bill comes due when we die.
Hopefully, you have already heard the great news: Jesus has paid for the debt that we took on when we sinned. After He lived a perfect life, His death (given up for us of His own accord) took the place of our own. So, if we accept this gift, our account is cleared. We can take the confirmation of our salvation (the seal of the Holy Spirit – see Ephesians 1:13-14 and 2 Corinthians 1:18-22), and file that away with the problem of sin in our lives. Of course, followers of Jesus are expected to continue in obedience and gratitude, serving the Savior and Lord who loves them and has instructions for a better life, but we no longer have to live with the fear of an outstanding sin-debt staring at us every day. Those sins are gone.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
Psalms 103:11-12 NLT
However, some of us haven’t closed out that issue. For readers who have not yet accepted Jesus’ offer (i.e., receiving His payment for their sins), and then repenting of those sins and turning to a life that follows Him, I invite you to do so right now. Get that account closed, and stop looking at it every day as something that still needs to be addressed.
Even for those who have accepted Jesus’ salvation, though, we may still be tempted to get out our list of accounts, and see how much we owed. We have the confirmation of payment, but we keep re-reading how sinful we were and what condemnation we deserved.
Like my own business filing system, I maintain that there are really three main reasons to look back at this holy “transaction”: both the accounts of our sins and how far away we were from God, as well as the payment in full that Jesus made for each of us.
- To prove that our sins are taken care of. Through God the Father’s promises, the certainty of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we can be confident – certain – that our sins have been paid for. No false claims from the accuser (Satan) or other people can stick, when we know that we are no longer liable for the eternal consequences of our sinful decisions.
- To learn from our mistakes and God’s love for the future. From time to time, it’s good to step back and appreciate just how much Jesus saved us from. When our gratitude starts to wane, we can remember how hopeless we were without Jesus, and contrast that with the abundant life that He gives us today. This reminds us to stay on the path of obedience to Him, too.
- To celebrate Jesus’ gift. Here, since we didn’t save ourselves, we can’t really brag about following Jesus to anyone else. However, we can continue to praise and glorify Him for what He did, and tell others about it – as long as the offer remains open.
So, get that sin-debt paid off, and don’t keep dwelling on it, except when that great payment can serve a better cause. Your life’s “Inbox” has plenty of new opportunities today for you to glorify God and serve others in Jesus’ name.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.