Monday, February 21, 2011

It's Not Me - It's Him

It seems like most of the time, life involves trying to prove something to someone.  There are tests, requirements, standards which must be met or exceeded.  We go to first grade and our efforts begin to be graded - not based on our actual abilities, but on the way our performance adheres to certain standards. 

Truth is, it's exhausting.  And it contaminates our thinking and beliefs regarding our God.  At least, it contaminates mine, and I've seen the contamination in the words and actions of so many others that I've lost count.  Maybe it doesn't impact you.  Maybe it doesn't carry over into your faith, into the one thing that will matter for eternity.

It seems like we look at our lives, and see the short-comings, and think either one of two things:

 -"I have to try hard, do more, be better, or I will never make heaven and God will never accept me."
 -"I cannot possibly succeed, cannot possibly be good enough... I've already messed up so much, what is the point of even attempting to do any better?"

Okay.  I know what a lot of you are saying:  "No, it's not that black and white."

And you are right.  It isn't that clear-cut.  At least not on the surface.  We rationalize.  We tell ourselves we aren't being extreme so it must be right.  Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

 -"I know He forgave me for lying yesterday, but today I did it again.  I'm out of chances."
 -"I am worthless."
 -"I won't actually make it to heaven."
 -"I cannot continue this way.  I am done."
 -"I can't do this.  What is the point of even trying?"
 -"I know this is wrong, but I am already condemned so why does it matter?"
 -"I give up."
 -"I will never win."
 -"I am captive."
 -"I am not really saved.  If I was, I wouldn't really (insert the thing you battle most)."
 -"I have to do (insert ideal that you hold in your mind and/or heart) so that I can be accepted by Him."

I don't know.  Maybe the emails, the questions, the comments that I have received represent a dramatic minority of those who trust Christ for their salvation.  I doubt it though. 

Read Colossians 2, verses 11-14 with me:

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve.  It's not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws.  No, you're already in - insiders - not through some secretive initiation right but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin.  If it's an initiation ritual you're after, you've already been through it by being baptised.  Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as He did Christ.  When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God.  God brought you alive - right along with Christ!  Think of it!  All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant cancelled and nailed to Christ's cross.

Look at these words.  Just look.  Do you know what they mean?

They mean it isn't up to you to earn salvation.  You don't have to earn your way into favor with God.  There isn't a test or a set of standards that you have to conform to before He will love you, before you can become part of His kingdom.  It's already been taken care of.

It isn't you.  It's Him.

**Disclaimer: I am not suggesting, not even remotely, that sin in our lives does not need to be addressed.  Our actions and thoughts are to conform with the Word of God, and we are to try our hardest to make that happen.  What I am saying is that our failure to be perfect isn't what we're going to be judged or charged by.  The thing that will determine our guilt or innocence for eternity is Him and what He did.  Not us and what we did.**

But what about those things that consume us?  What about the sin that we vow every day to never repeat, and then the next day, it happens again?  What about the thoughts we can't seem to capture.  The intentions that are not pure, the fear, the anger, the hurt? 

What do we do with the things that our adversary, the devil, has stacked against us?

Colossians 2:15:
God disarmed the principalities and powers that were ranged against us and made a bold display and public example of them, in triumphing over them in Him and in the cross.

Did you catch that?  The devil, and his minions, those powers and principalities that are out to destroy us, have lost their ammunition.  They are disarmed.  No war can be won if one side is armed and the other is not. 

But wait.  Yes, this says the other side is disarmed but if we have no weapons, then how can we win?

Read Ephesians 6:17
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

The principalities and powers get disarmed, and we get a sword.  Seems like we will win.  It may take us a while to figure out how to actually use the sword.  We might not remember we even have it sometimes.  But we do.  We are armed; they (it, he, etc.) are not.

We win. 

The fight is hard.  We take hits.  We fall down.  We fall short.  Our technique is flawed and our courage sometimes fails.  We may wave our white flags and we may fall to our knees, believing we are defeated.  It can hurt, it can be overwhelming, it can be terrible and frightening sometimes. 

But He (Jesus) said to me, "My grace, my favor and loving-kindness and mercy is enough for you; it is sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully (successfully and with strength).  For my strength and power are made perfect, fulfilled, and completed, and show themselves most effective in your weakness.
(2 Corinthians 12:7a)

He can handle our weakness.  He planned for it.  He paid for it.  It's already been dealt with.  Those areas where we simply can not, He can.

It's not us.  It is Him.

So what do we have to do about it?  What's is expected of us in response?

Hebrews 4:14-16 answers that:

Now that we know what we have - Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God - let's not let it slip through our fingers.  We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.  He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - all but the sin.  So let's walk right up to Him and get what He is so ready to give.  Take the mercy, accept the help.

I'm running out of steam for tonight.  So I leave you with this final statement:

Yes, I believe we are required to act upon what He did.  I believe our faith isn't truly faith without actions to back it up.  I believe we should live the best lives we can and strive to be free of sin.  But I also believe that when we stand before God Himself, the thing that matters most isn't going to be us, but Him.

Because it's not me.  It's Him.

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