“Why God?” Welcome to our new blog series where we dive in and answer that question! In this first post, we are reminded to rely on His power, not ours, to get our act together.
In his book The Imperfect Disciple, Jared C. Wilson writes that even now, nearly 40 years later, his spiritual state often feels akin to his trembling, 6-year-old self, when the notes of the church organ thundered around him as he waited on the “welcome to get clean.” His baptism (which he repeated several years later, just in case) didn’t squash the shadow of guilt that still overlays his thoughts.
Perhaps, he wonders, the blame is his? Despite being saved by grace, and a committed Christ-follower, perhaps he’s spiritually dysfunctional? “I have that ominous organ playing inside of me,” notes Jared. “My heart is a haunted house — broken, ramshackled, weathered and boarded-up and filled with the mournful sound of the Hound of Heaven howling through the slats.”
Should we carry such a heavy burden about not having our act together? Let’s discuss.
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He Gets Our Act Together
Let’s admit it: some of us find the Christian walk a challenge. Walking in defeat on some days can do a mind job on us.
Are we, as Jared wonders, somehow spiritually defective? Is our material that God has to work with subpar? Like, we think we’re sleek sports car material … but perhaps the best we’ll ever be are carousel ponies, continually circling but going nowhere? Should we be devastated that our good so often feels defeated by our bad?
Oh, friend, put your focus on God’s grace!
How comforting it is to read that the apostle Paul, the world’s greatest evangelist, also struggled with our internal “careening,” as Jared calls it. In Romans 7:18-23 Paul writes:
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
But Paul doesn’t leave us in the dumps. After pointing out the sin that undergirds the human condition, he quickly jumps to our hope: God’s unending grace! We need to daily remind ourselves that Jesus knows that we are rascals — but we’re His beloved rascals, fully understood and fully accepted, no matter what.
God already knows our individual struggles to be changed to look like Jesus. But God’s response throughout our sanctification isn’t condemnation, but grace. And His patience is endless! This promise in Romans 8 should be our comfort when we’re flailing in self-blame and shame:
There is there now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.
>> Lean Into God’s Grace
It’s hard to wrap my mind around the magnitude and magnificence of God’s nature. So I always go back to what the Bible tells me about Jesus, to grasp how much God loves me. Jesus sought out the sinners who sought Him — and He loved them into change. Imagine those face-to-face encounters!
I try to picture myself as the woman caught in adultery, whom the Jewish leaders wanted to stone. I feel her awe in my own chest at her bewilderment at His grace. I feel her mind-blowing gratitude at being offered respect and worth, despite her sin.
Why did Jesus focus on the sinners, the outcasts, the misfits, the criminals? Those that the pharisees and other religious elite viewed as “losers”? Because they gave Jesus access. They didn’t bolt their doors, they invited Him into their mess, recognizing how much they needed Him. They trusted Him, captured by His amazing grace and love.
“What Jesus has done is good news only for losers,” asserts Jared. “If you’re not a loser, in fact, you can’t have Jesus.”
Let that sink in.
>> Lean Into the Gospel
God is not impressed by our self-reliance or our pretense of perfection. He wants us to get real and to admit that we need His help. Our own power is not enough, not even if we follow the guidelines of a thousand self-help books.
In Jesus we gain the freedom to fully expose our messy selves to His tender care. He already knows every bit of our mess, and how He wants to work in us to get our act together. Make no mistake: you and I have to do the hard work of becoming the people He wants us to be. But our focus shouldn’t be on how long the process takes — or how often we fail — but on the promise of continual God’s love and acceptance as we trudge onward.
Jared puts this perfectly when he writes, “My soul is not much to look at, but it is safeguarded by my loving Heavenly Father.”
“I take a look at my messed-up soul every day,” he adds. “I feel completely overwhelmed and under equipped. And so I hold on to the gospel. I pour some gospel into my soul. I am good to go another day. I might be crawling that day or I might be balled up in my bed, unwilling to charge the Valley of Elah that is my life, but the smile of God is over me continually. Day and night His steadfast love sustains me.”
I love that! It gives me hope for the days I beat myself up. (Note to self: why do I allow Satan to suggest that God’s grace can’t be trusted?!)
As a fresh year opens up before us, friends, let us commit to cease making our fumbling attempts at getting our act together the gauge of our spiritual walk. Let’s drop the shame, the blame, the pressure for perfection. The truth: we’re all imperfect disciples fully covered by God’s grace. That’s the Good News that should give us daily hope, relief, and joy.
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