This post is for anyone who has messed up over, and over, and over again.
I don’t know about you, but the person who disappoints me the most in life is me. There have been many people who have let me down in the past, but I have no real control over them — no control over their choices. It’s easy to dwell on my frustrations with others — but the truth is that the only person I have any control over is myself. And yet, I find that I don’t often take control of myself. I just do what I feel in the moment. I let my flesh take the lead and it almost always leaves me with regrets.
Disappointment in myself is a frustrating feeling — but I’m learning that I’m not alone. Paul famously wrote in Romans 7:
For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is is not ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do , but I practice the evil that I do not want to do…
When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner-self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am!
-Vs. 15-16;18-19; 21-24
In the last post we followed the thinking of David in Psalm 119 and we were encouraged to walk in the ways of God and to diligently keep His Word. The pursuit of holiness is a good and right thing — but I think the next verse reflects what we all likely feel when we consider holiness:
If only my ways were committed to keeping your statutes!
Then I would not be ashamed when I think about all your commands.
Has disappointment in yourself ever thrown you off course? Has the shame of messing up kept you from pressing-on in holiness?
I know that it’s happened to me over and over again. Like Paul and David, I agree with the law of God, I delight in it, and I believe that it’s the path to take if I want to be a truly happy person. In these verses it’s like David is saying, “if I would just keep your law then I would be happy instead of ashamed!”
Oh shame — it’s a heavy burden to bear.
I have to say though — I love the consistency of God’s Word. One encouraging we see over and over again in God’s Word is that agreeing and delighting in God’s law, in His Word, doesn’t equal piety. Loving and delighting in the Word of God doesn’t make us good people. It’s doesn’t make us self-righteous. If anything, loving and delighting in God’s Word will always lead us to the Gospel.
When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him.
And what is the Gospel? The Gospel starts with the disappointing, shame-loaded fact that we don’t measure up — not even to our own standards! Not even to the standards that we believe are good and right. The Gospel starts with our great need for a Savior.
The longing of the text is prompted by admiration of the blessedness of holiness, by a contemplation of the righteous man’s beauty of character, and by a reverent awe of the command of God.
Seeing beautiful things in the Word will illuminate the ugly things within us. Maybe that’s why many of us have a distaste for the Word. Maybe it’s just too hard to face just how impossible it is to live up to God’s good and beautiful standards.
But if we stop too soon, we miss out. If we keep going, the angst and devastation of Romans 7 always leads to the relief and celebration of Romans 8.
There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus…
What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did.
This beautiful and wonderful law could never fix what was broken in our flesh. On our own, no matter how hard we try, we could never attain the happiness of the holy. But God desires this happiness for us. And so He provided a way.
God is no Pharaoh, to require brick where he gives no straw.
The ultimate happiness of holiness is ours in Christ. Jesus died to cover us in His holiness — and to encourage us to keep pressing-in to His ways even when we mess up. Messing-up is still frustrating and disappointing, but by God’s grace it’s no longer deadly — it’s no longer final.
What does this mean? To me it means that pressing into holiness is now an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to take the path of happy people without worrying about whether or not I’ll make it on my own. It’s an opportunity to taste as much as I can right now of what I will fully be later. It’s an opportunity to grow in intimacy with God every single day. It’s an opportunity to throw off that heavy weight of shame so that I can run towards what I really want.
Don’t let shame weigh you down. And please don’t avoid seeing the beauty of God’s law just because you don’t measure up. A way for you obtain the happiness of the holy has been given to you. Help in walking the path of the holy has been given to you. Jesus became our curse so that we could gain this blessing. Let’s encourage each other to receive His gift and press on.