I often find myself grieving over my own depravity, counting all the ways I’ve failed as a Christian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, youth leader… Then I remember that, in reality, even when I feel like the biggest loser ever, I’m far WORSE than I realize; I do not have enough hours in the day to recount my sins. I’m vastly unaware of how much I have failed; I may know many ways I have missed the mark, and my list may be quite long, but that is still only a drop of water in the ocean of my sinfulness.
And yet there is enough grace to cover me through Jesus’ death and resurrection; actually, there is abundantly more than I could ever need.
Unsplash/delfi de la rua
As often as I can, I come to God with a heart of repentance; Psalm 51 shows us how to respond to sin.
We cry out to God for forgiveness and to be cleansed – and yet we believe that through Jesus’ death and resurrection it is finished. In this Psalm, David was looking forward to and trusting in God’s Promise; we are looking backwards to that same Promise and it covers Believers throughout time just the same.
I don’t need to be surprised by my sin or condemned by it. God isn’t surprised by our weakness. Jesus took the penalty for us – to purchase, adopt, and redeem His people. It is offensive for me to condemn myself for my sins because then I am adding to what He already paid in FULL. There is nothing left to be done. What Christ did was sufficient – which should lead us to our knees in worship.
I am reminded of Romans 7. The law shows us what sin is and how we fall short. If in Christ, we belong to Jesus, live according to the Spirit, and bear fruit as we are shaped into His likeness. We are no longer captives to sin…but we are still battling it.
I can relate to Paul when he says:
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:15-25, ESV, emphasis added).
As my mind sits in the land of Romans 7, I need push myself to let it continue on into Romans 8 for the whole picture.
Here are a few notes:
- “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4, ESV, emphasis added).
- We now want what the Spirit wants – life and peace (5).
- The Holy Spirit dwells in us and gives life (9,11).
- We are led by the Spirit. We are adopted children of God and therefore co-heirs of Christ – so we share in suffering and glory (14-17).
- We wait longingly, patiently, and faithfully for God to finish what he started (21-25).
- The Spirit helps us in our weakness to be more like Jesus and live out our new identity (26, 27).
- God works all things for our good (28). (More on that if you click here.)
- God foreknew, predestined, calls, justifies, and glorifies His people (29, 30).
- “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (31-39, emphasis added).
With help from the Holy Spirit, I will battle sin all the days of my life in the process of sanctification, but the war has already been won through Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross; God will not fail to complete my sanctification. If I am in Christ, the debt of my sin is paid in full; if there is nothing owed then there is no condemnation…
So WHY do I continue to condemn myself?
Is my memory no better than that of a goldfish? Do I need to remind myself of God’s great grace AGAIN? Yes.
“Every day you drift naturally into Romans 7. You don’t need any help with that. It’s just that your wheels are naturally out of alignment. You’re just wobbly, okay? You’re going to get where you want to go eventually. So here’s what you do. As early in the day and as often as you can, you turn on the light of Romans 8. You bring Romans 8 into Romans 7 and you say, ‘Look what I found, everybody!’ You’re the gal who’s brought your fiancé home to meet the family, and it turns out he’s a much better catch than anybody, including yourself, ever thought you’d end up with. He’s a rich doctor-slash-fighter pilot who spends his summers digging wells for orphans in the Congo or something, okay? And Aunt Bitterness is sitting over there in the corner of the living room stewing away, ready to take you on a trip down angry memory lane, and you’re like, ‘Aunt Bitterness, I’d like you to meet my fiancé, Dr. Gospel. Isn’t he dreamy?’ And there’s Uncle Lazy sitting at the table medicating his feelings with three Egg McMuffins, and you bring Dr. Gospel over, and Uncle Lazy instantly perks up and realizes how embarrassing he looks in the face of such accomplishment. And there’s your twin sister Pride sitting there in the middle of the room, like she owns the place, but when Dr. Gospel walks up to her, she gets up and offers him her seat without a word. It’s a little like that. You introduce the truth of Romans 8 to every corner of the room, every dark place in your heart, as often as you can, as much as you can, as fiercely as you can” (Jared C. Wilson, The Imperfect Disciple, 26).
I turn my eyes away from myself and the depths of my depravity and intentionally set the gaze of my heart upon my Risen Lord. He loved me first and drew me to Himself. How could I resist such a great love for a great sinner? Where else could I go? Whom else could I praise and chase after with all my heart? I seek to honor Jesus. I beg God to transform my thoughts, words, and actions because it is through my REDEEMER alone that I can be more like Jesus. He will complete what He started.
I’ll close with this:
Spurgeon says, “Do not sit down and try to pump up repentance from the dry well of a corrupt nature. It is contrary to the laws of your mind to suppose that you can force your soul into that gracious state. Take your heart in prayer to Him who understands it and say, ‘Lord, cleanse it. Lord, renew it. Lord, work repentance in it.’ The more you try to produce penitent emotions in yourself, the more you will be disappointed. However, if you believingly think of Jesus dying for you, repentance will burst forth.”
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