The biggest dilemma we face is our inability to recognize sin when it comes so subtly and so innocently, that we have very little hope of resisting it because we wouldn't even see it with a flashing neon sign.
Many months ago I wrote about the realization that I had acquired a decent amount of Biblical knowledge through the years, but had no idea that throughout my quest to quench my thirst for Jesus, I had been missing Him the entire time. I described how I had Scripture coated my life to the point that I never dealt with any emotions, I just put a band-aid with a verse on it and just kept going. I had no idea how this happened or why, I just knew it to be my condition.
Slowly but surely God began revealing many things to me through His word that helped me to see my way out of this very dark tunnel. And while I am certainly not out of it yet, I can at least see a light in the distance that has shown me I am headed the right direction.
The most incredible part of this journey has been the patient way God has revealed snippets of what put me in this pit to begin with so as to make me more aware of what I will need to guard against in the future. The resources beyond the Bible He has brought my way through book launches, recommendations, and sheer grace, are nothing short of miracles in the things they have helped me understand about Him. Now I am all for Biblical literacy, but these books have been like printed sermons that have given me a greater understanding of the concepts we read but don't necessarily understand what they look like covered in flesh and put into motion on feet that walk.
The latest book, Gospel by J D Greear teaches something he started praying called The Gospel Prayer. This short prayer is broken in four parts that are written almost as affirmations to remind you of what you know to be true.
In Christ, there I nothing I can do that would make You love me more,
and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.
Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.
As You have been to me, so I will be to others.
As I pray, I'll measure Your compassion by the cross
and Your power by the resurrection.
Now, Ann Voskamp in her posts is famous for using the hashtag #PreachingTheGospelToMyself. I always thought that was intersting and sweet. But that's because I didn't understand why she was doing it. Not that I've had some conversation with her, but I think I get it now.
In a facebook post by Life Lived Beautifully, Gretchen quotes Tim Keller as writing, "The gospel is this: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope." She says this is why we need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day, because we are in desperate need of His grace every moment.
But we don't do that. We read John 3:16, we recite a sinners prayer, start reading our Bibles, join a study, get all the behaviors down pat, start telling others about how Jesus has changed our lives, and forget that (a) He is still changing them every single day and (b) that we need to start fresh every day because His grace and mercy are new every day because we fall short every day.
It is so easy to tell others about Him and want them to have what we think we've got, but the reality is more often than not we are preaching a message that has become so familiar to our ears that we don't even understand how desperate we are for it ourselves! This is why when J D Greear asked How can anyone who is truly saved be as messed up as I am? I wanted to beg for the answer. And then he goes on to remind us that "My identity and my security are not in my spiritual progress. My identity and my security are in God's acceptance of me given as a gift in Christ. And that's good, because if anything, I am more, not less, aware of my sin than I was ten years ago."
So, why the James reference in the beginning? At least for me, it explains a lot of how all this happened. I got so on fire to read God's word, to understand more of who He is, to be able to say that I had this Christian life down pat with all the right behaviors, (espeically that one about turning the other cheek) that I missed the entire point of the gospel, became my own mini-savior, and have been working to save myself from myself since. That is idolatry.....the root of every single sin we will ever commit. And God in His infinite wisdom gave me over to this depravity so that when I was ready and sick and tired of being exhausted all the time, we could start over.
Again, this might just be me, but I really don't think it is. I think we need a reminder and a refresher course every single day that the gospel is the only reason we woke up and have another opportunity to walk in the freedom Christ died to give us. I think we have to preach this message to ourself as often, if not more often, than we preach it to the ones we know who aren't believers. And I truly believe that if we got this, and let it do what God intended the gospel message to do in our lives, the church would be exploding just like it did in the book of Acts because we would truly stand out in the world the way we were always intended, as holy and set apart.
Father, I have traded the message You gave me years ago for a version of Christianity that has been based on works. And in your grace and mercy, You let me live this way until I was ready to see that something was wrong, and then you slowly pulled back that veil to show me part after part as I was ready to see and accept the truth and reality of my sin. You are truly nothing short of amazing. I pray that you would instill the message of the gospel in each of our hearts deeply and help us to preach it to ourselves daily so that it will manifest itself externally and impact everything we do and everyone we encounter, because nothing that is touched with Your presence is ever the same again. We love You. Amen.
~Gospel Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Possible by J D Greear
~Life Lived Beautifully facebook post by Gretchen Saffles, quoting Tim Keller in his book on marriage.
~A special thank you to Michelle Myers of sheworksHisway for mentioning the book by J D Greear. Your passion and dedication to serving the Lord and influencing women for Christ (especially me) is something I can never thank you for enough.