August 18, 2020
Have you found yourself saying these things at some point in your walk with God?
“Lord, I can be generous to the poor, but I just can’t forgive this person. What she did was too painful.”
“Hay, ang hirap talagang hindi mag-judge.”
“I know I should stop but I can’t seem to help myself. It’s just too addicting.”
“Gusto ko talagang gawin ang tama. Pero ang hirap lang, lalo na kasi alam kong may mga gumagawa ng mas malala pa.”
As we grow and mature in our relationship with God, we find ourselves wanting to obey God in everything, except when it comes to our favorite sin.
Some days, you seem to drown in condemnation, accusation, and guilt, especially when everything seems to fall apart. And you have a stinking suspicion that it’s all because you fell short or made a mistake. You feel like the blessing of God will leave you because of your failures and shortcomings.
On the other hand, there are days when you feel puffed up with your “goodness.” You’ve mostly done well in obeying God—you served in church, encouraged someone with a verse, read your Bible for a month straight, and even preached the gospel. So what if you’ve had a temporary lapse of judgment and fell into sin? At least you’ve done more good than bad. Furthermore, compared to other people’s sin, yours is not too serious.
And so you find yourself on a roller-coaster ride of wanting to obey God, failing, feeling guilty, and trying harder, only to find yourself falling short again. It’s frustrating. At some point, you wonder if you’re really cut out to be a follower of Jesus Christ or if you should just give up altogether.
Frustration can be good for us, though. It is when we reach the end of our rope that we start to look for a better solution. Frustration brings us to our knees in humility before God, asking for His help. This passage in Paul’s letter to the Galatians illustrates how Christians have struggled with the same dilemma for centuries.
Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? . . . If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?
Galatians 3:2–4, MSG
It is clear from this passage that we can never be strong enough nor smart enough to do things perfectly. Yet, it’s funny how often we try to obey God based on our own wisdom and strength.
We think that maybe we will change if we just read enough of the Bible or know more theology. That maybe our hearts will transform if we only get up earlier in the morning to do our devotions or if we pray longer or if we become more active in church activities.
Certainly, these activities have roles to play in our spiritual growth; but in and of themselves, they have no power to stop us from sinning (Colossians 2:23).
But what can?
Are we supposed to just give in to strong temptations? It’s okay to fail sometimes, but are we supposed to just accept our weaknesses? Can we ever change the things we badly want to change but have a hard time doing so?
The beginning of transformation is when we acknowledge that we cannot change ourselves in the same way that we cannot save ourselves.
If we can trust God’s grace through Jesus Christ to save us from the eternal consequences of our sins, how can we fail to trust His grace to enable us to live righteously every single day? Our sins have been forgiven through the death of Christ and the spilling of His blood. At the same time, sin lost its power over us through the resurrection of Christ.
What are we to do, then? Should we sin to our hearts’ content since there’s no law to condemn us anymore? What a terrible thought! Don’t you realize that grace frees you to choose your own master? But choose carefully, for you surrender yourself to become a servant—bound to the one you choose to obey. If you choose to love sin, it will become your master, and it will own you and reward you with death. But if you choose to love and obey God, he will lead you into perfect righteousness.
Romans 6:15,16 (TPT)
Grace gives us the freedom, not to do anything we want and be slaves to sin again, but to choose the better Master–one who has our best interest in mind and is committed to see us live the life He originally designed for us so that His purpose can be accomplished in us.
But what will help us choose the better Master every single day? What will lead us to surrender and to obey Him?
Love compels us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. Love causes us to zero in on the other person and on pleasing them. Love motivates us into action—no longer for our own good, but for the other.
But human love falls short. At some point, we expect to get the same attention and concern that we shower on another person, and we are disappointed when we don’t. Eventually, the devotion wilts and the feelings die.
But God never disappoints. He showers us with love, mercy, and grace without end. He patiently pursues, ardently protects, and is unfailingly present—even when we are unfaithful. That kind of love is meant to melt our hearts and lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4, TPT). That kind of love compels us to live not for ourselves and for our desires the way we used to, but for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14,15).
So the next time I’m tempted to judge or not forgive? I remember my worst sins that God has forgiven because Christ took on the judgment for me.
The next time I’m tempted to follow my addiction or my heart instead of God? I remember how they are the worst of masters that can give temporary pleasure, but will eventually only lead me to destruction.
And the next time I’m believing the lie that I’m in this alone? I remember that He has promised never to leave me nor forsake me and that He has placed me in a church community that can pray powerfully and effectively with me (James 5:16).