Our Mistakes Are Not the Problem

…at least, not for those who’ve trusted in His grace. I’ll explain.

You may not know this.

Did you know what “Satan” translates to?  Some say the “adversary,” or the “accuser.”   He’s not just the “King of Bad Guys” who likes when people sin.  But he’s the one who levels accusations.   He’s the one who constantly lays reproach against God’s children and says, “Look!  They are not righteous.  They are weak, they are failures, they can’t belong to you.”
That may sound obvious, but I don’t think it is.  That means that the will behind the voice of temptation is not: “If I could just get them to sin, then I win!”  The will of the tempter’s voice is the despair that comes from sin, the resulting identity crisis in the child of God.   How crafty is that voice then, that weaves its will through many righteous and holy sounding words.

If the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him… the enemy looks to shift glory away & thereby destroy joy altogether.
The devil can’t fight God; he’s not God’s adversary, he’s ours.  He is our accuser in the courtroom of life; but who then is our advocate?

The work of evil in tempting the believer is not focused on causing the believer to “stumble.”  Christians often are led right into the trap, by means of trying to prevent their capture.  Temptations are not dangerous because if we have missteps then his grace is lost;  they’re damaging because in witnessing our own failures, the Christian takes their eyes off Christ’s perfection and onto their personal imperfections.  Ready for something radical?  Even our missteps can be a fortunate thing in the life of a believer if they serve to drive us deeper into affection and joy in Christ.

The tragedy is when our sin takes our eyes onto our performance.  Then the constant flood of joy at who God is is replaced by a despair for who we are.  The love we felt from his embrace is obscured to our awareness at the coldness of our own heart and hands.

The Devil is the Voice of Accusation.

INSIDIOUS!  Damn that voice!  I see kids I care about, youth I talk to through struggles, and I hear that voice speak through their parents and their friends.  They hear it so much, that before too long it comes naturally from their own lips.  It shouts at them that God could never love them, that they are too broken, too contemptible, too sinful, and too unchangeable to ever be worthy enough for his love.  I hate it and it breaks my heart.  I will not stand it any longer to pander my words to the legalist and the pharisee – but to speak of reckless grace and only reckless grace!  Too many voices speak of accusation… I want his kids who wander to listen from the streets, and through the tide of condemnation hear that clear and quiet song above the rooftops: that they ARE loved, because of His awesome goodness.

Listen to me.  If you see things in yourself that are messed up: I’m not going to tell you they aren’t there.  I’m not even going to tell you that they’re okay, or normal, or actually healthy perhaps.  You see, there’s a bunch of people out there who will tell you that:  it will bandage over an infection continuing to grow in your veins until it bursts out in full force and the knowledge of your own brokenness will be too much to bear.  I know… because I’ve been there.

I’ve had well meaning folks just tell me I am worthy of love, just because.  But that rings false.  I know it’s wrong.  It’s dead wrong and I can’t just avoid it for the sake of feeling better.  The tempter has a point: I have messed up.  I can’t just pretend and ignore the nagging truth in my awareness: that it’d take a miracle to love me.  I don’t mean tolerate me, or like parts of me and overlook other parts, but to take all of my shit and and full awareness of who I am and completely and thoroughly enjoy me.

I’ve also had well meaning folks tell me I need to just take a stronger grip on myself, develop some discipline, try harder, fast longer, pray deeper, worship louder, study further, love better, and then I’ll finally slay this sin.  Wouldn’t changing yourself solve the problem?  But that rings false too.  Because constant and repeated attempts to grow and struggle toward holiness have told me that I always run out of steam eventually.

Am I just worthy of love?  No…
Could I try hard enough to become worthy?  Nope.

The answer comes when we look away from us, and onto Jesus.  You’ll always think you’re too messed up to be loved, until you realize just how far and deep his love truly goes.  The saving reality of grace lies not ultimately in our nature but in his, not in our efforts but in his on our behalf.

Am I loved, though?  Yes. Completely.
Could I try hard enough to ever stop being loved?  Nope 🙂

His love for you is beyond your power to change.  It’s not based on your worthiness, it’s based on his.  His faithfulness to you is not a condition of your perfection, it is a condition of his.  You’re not his child because of who you are, and that’s good news.  We become his children because of who He is.
And who He is, is the most unshakable thing in the universe.

The answer is a complete focus shift.  The Lord is not the God of Employees.  He is not looking to see if we’ve performed well enough in order to have earned his favor this quarter.  He is God to his Children, his kids.  And we have his favor and affection in the highest degree at all times, win or fail.  God doesn’t help those who help themselves… the bible says the opposite is true.  He says it’s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.  He says blessed are the brokenhearted for they will be comforted – that he is near those brokenhearted not “the strong,” and he saves those crushed in spirit.

Temptations – passed or failed – are not the end themselves, but are the means.  They are the means to despair in the accusations of the tempter, or a fortunate fall and reminder of the Lord’s steadfast love through every sorrow.  The latter is reality — regardless of our understanding it.  That’s the beauty.  God will be glorified in us.  It’s a fixed thing.  The Accuser’s focus then is on destroying our joy in that reality.  The hope for growth then, is in remembering and resting in that reality.

Sanctification is not about avoiding a loss of grace.  The issue is not looking at our victories!  We look only to His, and His power alone is strong enough to make us who we now want to be.
It’s not about ignoring when we stumble, or struggling toward salvation.  It’s about deepening an awareness of just how saved we are, and how great a Savior is our advocate in heaven who keeps us eternally safe.